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Things I Learned: November Edition

A simple cone filter really does make the best coffee. Better than a French press!

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I need not be afraid of butter. It makes everything taste uh-mazing.

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Well, almost amazing. I also need to double and triple-check recipes. Adding twice the amount of butter to a bread recipe will leave you with a flat, dense, and crusty loaf.

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But there are always ways to redeem myself and turn a #bakingfail into a #bakingwin :)

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Ham & cheese can make anything taste good!

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Fish tacos, where have you been all my life??

Jack Russell Terriers may be small, but I think they can out-run me.

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Blog friends are the bestest.

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I agree with Janetha, we all need to move to an island together.

Do not drink a giant mug of coffee before a yoga class. And if you do, make sure you have access to a washroom close to the studio.

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Working at a running store has become a great way to unload unwanted sweets from my kitchen. Give a group of hungry runners 20 chocolate chip cookie dough balls, and they will have them demolished in less than two hours.

You can never have too many running shoes.

Especially when a pair of Saucony Progrid Ride 2 & Brooks Ghost 2 shoes only cost you $25 each. Did I mention I love my job?

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Turkey + cranberry + stuffing makes for an awesome sandwich filling…

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…but only when using real leftovers. Sliced turkey, mayonnaise and stuffing that isn’t my mom’s just doesn’t have the same flavour.

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Working 7 hours on your feet and walking a mile to work still doesn’t equal 10,000 steps.

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But little things, like walking to the grocery store and getting off the bus a stop early surprisingly add up!!

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Yoga, in my humble opinion, is one of the best ways to experience a new city. Better than a tour bus, and more relaxing too.

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Chinese food really is better on the West Coast.

Six months is too long to go without travelling home. I miss my hometown, no matter how small, ugly or boring it may be.

Toronto really does stink. I still haven’t adjusted to the air quality here and find running in the pollution much harder than expected. I miss the fresh air!

And I miss the snow. I wake up every morning hoping to see a white winterland outside. I had no idea I was so attached to the stuff!

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Finally, I learned that while I may not have left my heart in San Francisco, I definitely left it on the West Coast. This East Coast gal still has some exploring to do.

Question of the Day: What did you learn in November?

Don’t forget!!
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Fish Tacos: Rediscovering Seafood

The first 18 years of my life were spent just a stone’s throw from the ocean. I grew up just a 20 minute drive from a real beach. Summers were spent on the water surrounded by farmlands. I’ve built more sandcastles than I can remember and stung by jellyfish I’ll never forget.

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For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. I always clarify this as just north of Maine so people don’t think I grew up in New Jersey.

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I didn’t wander too far for university (100 miles to be exact). And these past five months have been the first time in my life I haven’t been a short drive from salty air.

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I have to admit, I have not bought fish since moving to Ontario. I grew up next to the Lobster Capital of the World where shellfish was literally eaten right off the boat. Fried clams, lobster rolls, fish n’ chips, clam chowder, mussels dipped in butter. These are things that Maritimers take a lot of pride in. They are things I grew up eating on the regular and never really thought twice about.

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However, it seems my Maritime upbringing has failed me.

I unknowingly was missing out on one of the greatest seafood dishes of all.

Fish tacos.

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I blame the British influence in the East. It wasn’t until I travelled to the other ocean that I learned there was a whole culture of seafood I was missing out on. Namely, Mexican.

Canada, we have got to get into this Mexican thing.

While at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, I attended a breakout session hosted by Alaskan Seafood. Susan Milliken, of Border Grill fame, demonstrated a couple varieties of her famous fish tacos. I was immediately hooked.

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I got to try the fish tacos at the Tasting Pavillion and fell in love. The soft tortilla, flaky fish, chunky and spicy salsa with the cool sour cream. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. Not to mention an utter mess to eat.

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Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of these fish tacos ever since. I’m no longer in the Maritimes, or on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little spice to Mid-Eastern Canada.

I started with the above taco…

Haddock Fish Tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa.

We were given recipe cards for the tacos and I totally lost them. No bother. It made recreating them even more fun. I had to do it from just one tantalizing memory!

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I began with the salsa:

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium orange, segmented and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, minced (I’m sure Susan used a different pepper, but regular grocery stores in Canada don’t carry many choices!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro

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I didn’t want a whole bunch of salsa leftover, so I started small. Since all I could remember was the cucumber and orange from the recipe, I just went with what sounded like usual salsa ingredients for the rest!

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But I need to work on my segmenting skillz. And a sharper knife.

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I prepared the salsa the day before as these things usually taste best when they’ve had time to sit and mingle flavours.

The fish however, I was not on the ball with.

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The Alaska Seafood people encouraged buying frozen fish. It’s usually flash frozen at its freshest, whereas the stuff in the fish market of your grocery store could be up to two weeks old! I went for Wild Pacific Haddock. Rather than defrosting it slowly like you’re supposed to, I let it thaw in hot water.

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Then pan fried until just cooked. I do not like my fish overcooked at all so this is a step I’ve actually gotten pretty good at.

The key to my homemade fish tacos were the tortillas. I made those too!

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I’ve actually done this before and it’s super simple. I really don’t know why more people don’t do it. Three ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup hot water

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Some people let it sit for a little bit. But by this point I was hungry and got to rolling.

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Apparently, something else I need to work on.

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Cooked in a medium-heat pan until brown and bubbly.

Here’s where some of Susan Milliken’s tips came in handy. To soften the tortilla before eating, quickly dunk it in water to make it more pliable. Then, when assembling your taco (or whatever you may have) put lettuce on the bottom to prevent the juicier ingredients from soaking through the tortilla.

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I lettuce-d like a good girl, placed my flaky fish down, spooned a heap of salsa over top, and finished with a dab of plain yogurt.

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First, the tortillas. Best idea ever. You could taste the better quality and they really brought the whole thing up a notch.

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The salsa turned out fantastic. I am so proud of this little cucumber citrus salsa and can see myself making it time and time again! It’s so simple, versatile, and sounds way fancier than it really is.

The fish? Weellll, it’s not quite “off the boat” good. But not too shabby for my first inland foray into seafood. I can say fish tacos will definitely be added to my regular rotation of seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for all my fellow fish lovers back home. Chased down with mussels drenched in a butter sauce of course ;)

Speaking of which – 29 days until I go home for Christmas.

Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.

 

Question of the Day: Let’s talk fish tacos. Have you had them? Favourite kind or combination?

Reflections of a Festival Gone By

I have yammered time and time again on this blog about the trials and tribulations of living a healthy and sane life while dealing with a social anxiety disorder.

I do this because I believe it is an important issue to address. There are tons of people out there who are shy and nervous, and feel like outcasts because of it. Some of these people suffer from debilitating panic attacks and don’t even know why. I just want to give a head’s up that yeah, it happens, but it can be perfectly okay.

I have come a long way from my diagnosis nearly ten years ago. I’ve learned to challenge myself socially waaaay more than I ever thought possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes still struggle with some these challenges.

Case and point: The Foodbuzz Festival.

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I met and talked to a gajillion amazing bloggers over my weekend in San Francisco. But going into it, I was scared shitless.

So many people-filled events were on the schedule. Day after day I found myself lost in crowds, talking to new faces, and trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.

I arrived Thursday excited and ready to take on the city.

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That enthusiasm spilled into Friday, where I also met up with my fabulous roommates.

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Danica, husband Jay, Elise, Janetha, Holly.

And settled into our presidential suite.

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Most certainly nicer than any apartment I’ll ever live in.

Friday night, I was pumped to mingle and meet all the bloggers I’ve been reading for so long. Fuelled by perhaps a little liquid courage ;)

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Saturday, I was so excited to try out the long line of tables at the Tasting Pavillion, I hardly noticed the crowds I had to fight through!

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But by Saturday evening, I lost steam. I’d have enough of the crowds. I started to feel nervous. My eyes began to dart around the room and my hands trembled. I didn’t want to be there.

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I know many people described this as their favourite event of the Foodbuzz Festival, but I just wasn’t into it. For beginners, they only served wine with dinner. I hate wine (like, legitimately, all kinds). So I stayed sober with water.

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I will say, the food made up for the lack of drinks.

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Golden beet tart. I’ve never thought of pureeing beets as a filling for something. I love beets, and really enjoyed this dish.

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Seared scallops with fennel.

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These were hands down the best scallops I’ve ever had. Not chewy and overcooked like all my other scallop experiences. Perfectly mild and flaky with a creamy fennel sauce that I loved.

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The “meat” of the meal was just meh.

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Rosemary infused rack of lamb. I like lamb kebabs or chops. But I do not like giant hunks of lamb. Plus, it was overcooked. In case you haven’t noticed, I prefer my meat on the rare side ;) Bonus points for the sides though – the wild mushrooms and butternut squash puree in this dish were fab.

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The most lacklustre part of this meal was… dessert!! I know.

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Cake? With fruit? Really? Tarta de Alemandras with oranges. Essentially a tiny round of dry cake with fruit I can get in Canada. Thumbs down. Where’s my Ghirardelli chocolate?

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I will say, my anxiety did slightly subside once we were seated. I was sharing a table with fabulous food bloggers after all.

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But it took three hours to serve all four dishes, and by the end I just wanted out. No more noise, faces, people to talk to. Just some peace and quiet, and maybe a beer.

I heard many people talk about what they thought of other bloggers while at the festival. Some were a perfect reflection of who they are on their blogs, while others seemed more reserved, or even “stuck up.”

As someone who is at times painfully socially awkward, I often get labelled as being a snob because I can be cold and quiet. It takes a while for me to warm up to people, and even then, I don’t always have something to say. I rather hear what you have to say. That’s why I went into journalism, duh :P

I will give props to Foodbuzz for making the festival as welcoming as possible. Perhaps it’s the foodie nature, but I found the atmosphere to be a lot more relaxed and jovial than my time spent at the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago. Perhaps it’s because it was bigger, or maybe because they served more liquor ;)

My point is, Foodbuzz was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change. But it taught me that I can’t just throw myself into these social situations and expect to completely own them. And I especially can’t beat myself up about it when I don’t. I am who I am and can only try to be the best version of myself I can be. I’m incredibly lucky to have such beautiful people and experiences in my life at all :)

 

To see some of the festival in live! action! watch Lynn’s stellar video on the weekend below:

 

My other Foodbuzz Festival/San Francisco recaps:
California Dreamin’
The Bakery That Changed My Life
All Good Things Come To An End
A Food Lover’s Paradise
A West Coast Story
Grateful for Cafe Gratitude

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