Homemade Onion Pancakes… Now With Less Junk!

by PenRei

I have a problem.

I LOVE green onion pancakes. They are SO delicious! I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack. I usually buy them frozen from T&T since they’re easy to fry up when you have a strong craving or just need to eat something and soon. There is one major problem: at 13.5% of my daily fat intake, 22% of salt, and a whopping 414 calories each, well… let’s just say they don’t like me back. But still, I must believe that somewhere out there is a solution to this conundrum: continue occasionally eating onion pancakes without sacrificing my health and figure.

The answer was so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found it earlier: make them from scratch! After all, once upon a time, they didn’t come from the frozen section of the grocery store, but from your Chinese mother’s hands in the kitchen. It was time that I continued my love for green onion pancakes without compromising my figure.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 3-4 stalks of long green onions
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (if you’d like to add flavour, but it’s not necessary)
 
Mix the salt and flour into a large bowl.
 
 
Add the hot water two tablespoons at a time while mixing.
 
 
Mix until it becomes a dough. Drop the spoon! It’s time to get your hands dirty. Knead that dough!
 
 
Once the dough is soft and even (leave no clumps of flour behind!), ball it up, place it in the bowl, and cover it with a damp towel. Let it sit between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
 
 
Separate the dough into lime-sized balls. I was able to make 10 with my dough.
 
 

Roll out the dough as flat as possible. It’s very thick, so be prepared to use those arms muscles (which I don’t have). A rolling pin comes in really handy here!

Sprinkle on the green onions (and sesame seeds if desired). Squish the green onions into the dough to lodge them into place and squeeze out some of its juices to help seep it into the dough while cooking.

 
 

Roll back up into a ball.

For maximum tasting experience, repeat the last two steps. Roll out, sprinkle green onions, squish in, roll into ball.

Flatten out your pancake! The thinner the better (about 4 inches across)! That thick dough can be mighty difficult to cook all the way through if you leave it too thick.

Cook! With olive oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Flip occasionally.

 
 

Cook until both sides are slightly golden and solid.

Are you ready now? It’s time to eat!

Consensus?

 
 

HOORAY! That is one stamp of approval I can trust!

So, to recap what we talked about at the top, the frozen onion pancakes I buy at T&T have 414 calories each, while the homemade version only has 130 calories. Surprisingly, even though the homemade ones are smaller, they are MUCH more filling than the store bought ones. Success! Less calories for more hunger satisfaction! I brought one as a snack to work this week and it kept me surprisingly full for 3 hours before lunchtime.

As an added bonus, I know everything that went into my food, versus questioning half of the ingredients on the package. Preservative free!

GREEN ONION PANCAKES RULE!!!

 

Making Truffles with Chocolate Tales

by PenRei

A little while ago, bestie Douggy Fresh and I participated in a truffle making workshop offered by Chocolate Tales. We heard about it a few months ago when a Groupon emailed showed up in both of our inboxes. “Learn to make chocolate and eat it after? Uh… YES!” The answer was obvious.

Chocolate Tales

All in all, it was a good experience. I would have liked to have gotten my hands a little dirtier and gone as far as crush the beans myself, but that’s just me. The website clearly stated that it was a truffle making workshop. Plus, considering that I have never made any form of chocolate in my LIFE, I was most likely over-reaching in my expectations. (I don’t count melting baking chocolate.)

The workshop was comprised of 3 sections: learning, making, eating. I think we all know which part was decidely favoured by PenRei and Douggy Fresh (cough:: eating ::cough), but that does not undermine the other 3 sections.

LEARNING ABOUT CHOCOLATE

We had the pleasure of having a workshop lead by David, the chocolatier du jour! He didn’t have a chef’s hat, but that can be forgiven since I don’t know if chocolatiers wear those hats. David was very articulate and explained the process from beans to chocolate in a very charismatic way. Honestly, if I had the money, I wouldn’t mind following a lesson on how to make chocolate from scratch with him. Everybody wishes that at least one of their high school teachers was more charismatic… like David!

Anyway, stuff that I learned?

Did you know that cocoa beans are actually white and not brown? I had NO idea. When you open the pod collected from the tree, you’ll see white beans at the centre. CRAZY!

Cocoa Pod

Cocoa Pod

This also led to a fascinating discovery about white chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought, “chocolate is brown and milk is white, so white chocolate must be chocolate with a lot of milk”. Despite the fact that this logic didn’t make sense as I grew up, I didn’t question it too much since nothing in my life had proven otherwise. UNTIL NOW!  White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids (it was separated from its brown counterparts), but is instead just cocoa butter, the fattiest, creamiest, and richest part of cocoa. Chocolatier Dave called it “the junk food of the chocolate world”. And so it is, with its delicious addictive properties. Yum yum!

Something else I learned about chocolate is that it is made up of 4 unstable molecules and 1 stable molecule. I’m not talking unstable to the point of explosion, but in the sense of culinary cuisine (don’t ask me more than that, I’m guessing it has to do with taste, texture, and combining in the end). To help turn the 4 unstable into the 1 stable, you have to heat your chocolate (always heat in a metal bowl over boiling water to heat evenly and avoid burning), pour 2/3 onto a slab of granite (granite always stays at 10 degrees celsius below room temperature) and mix it using a scraper that can be found at your local Home Depot or Canadian Tire (but please wash it first!). By using the scraper to mix the chocolate over the slab or granite, the mix between cold and hot creates a “chemical drama” (in Dave’s words) that we can’t see, but that stabilizes the molecules.

Also, random fact for you, cocoa and cacao are the same thing. It’s just different pronounciations of the same word… in case anyone was wondering.

Health benefits of chocolate:

  • Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Flavonoids are naturally bitter, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
  • Continuing with your cardiovascular system, it also improves your blood vessel function and lowers blood pressure. The flavonoids slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one we all try to fight or deny). It’s when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it can clog your blood vessels.
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants, which strengthen your immune system to combat free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage) in your body.

History of chocolate:

  • History says that chocolate started in Latin America where the cacao trees grow naturally. The Olmec, living in southeast Mexico around 1000 BC, called it “kakawa”. I think you can see the similarity to our “cacao”.
  • Mayans who inhabited the same general area between 250-900 AD also ate chocolate. Mayans used cacao beans as currency in a trading culture. “I’ll give you 2 rabbits for 6 cacao beans.” Unfortunately, slaves cost a mere 9 beans. Luckily, this is not the case anymore. Boo to slavery!
  • Mayans didn’t eat chocolate, but drank it.  Essentially, they had thick hot chocolate for many religious rituals, such as weddings. They didn’t add sugar though, so it was a lot more bitter than the hot chocolate we know today.
  • Since cacao beans were considered currency, only the rich, who had them in abundance, ate chocolate. The rest of the population used it as money. After all, if you were poor, would you eat your money?
  • After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they continued the tradition of drinking chocolate. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought chocolate down to earth to share it with man. Quetzalcoatl was then cast out of paradise, for only the gods were allowed to drink chocolate.
  • In 1519, Cortez (a Spanish conquistador) tried hot chocolate, but disliked it for its extreme bitterness. With all of the conquering and ruling happening around the area, the Spanish eventually discovered the Caribbean islands where sugar cane grew. One guy decided to mix the two together and then BAM! instant awesomeness happened.
  • It wasn’t until the 1850s that an Englishman named Joseph Fry created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter to the mixture instead of hot water.
  • 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle (you know which chocolate company he founded) added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating the milk chocolate bar.
  • 1879, Rudolphe Lindt (another name dropped, boom!) invented a machine called the conch, which rotated and mixed the chocolate into a perfectly smooth consistency. Remember the hot chocolate mixed on a cold granite slab with a scraper? Think that but with a robot doing it! Okay, not a robot, just a machine. Still a big deal!
  • 1907, Milton Hershey (you all know this guy) had a factory that produced 33 million Hershey kisses per day. That’s a lot of kisses!
  • Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.

MAKING THE CHOCOLATE

There isn’t much for me to say in this section. The hands on portion of the workshop is something more so experience. Essentially, we made our own truffles by cutting or rolling the ganache block we got into the desired shapes, dipping them in delicious milk chocolate, and decorating them with white chocolate, coconut shavings and cocoa power. For practice, we got to use marshmallows to fine tune those… uh… natural?… skills we came into the workshop with. Everything was edible and VERY yummy. Chocolate Tales even provided us with lava cakes for us to decorate. They had a small oven with them to cook so the cakes would be ready by the end of the workshop.

EATING THE CHOCOLATE

What do you want me to say? It’s clearly the best part, but unfortunately the shortest one. I miss chocolate! *tear*

chocolate tales truffles

chocolate tales truffles

Chocolate Tales doesn’t just do open workshops to the public. They also do corporate events, kids parties and bridal showers. I know what I’ll be planning for Douggy Fresh’s bridal shower when the day comes. Knowing her, you won’t have to bring a gift, just give her all of your chocolate at the end. Ahahaha! I unfortunately found the initial price (about 70$ per person) to be quite high, but the Groupon deal I got meant that I only had to put in 37$ for the 90 minute experience. I didn’t feel that the workshop was worth 70$ (for 70$, I’d want to grind my own cocoa beans), but if you can find a Groupon deal or a group discount price, it’s a fun experience where you get to learn a lot about one of your food best friends: chocolate.

 

For more information, visit their website: www.chocolatetales.ca or contact them at 1-800-905-2858. Chocolate Tales can provide services and workshops at any location between Ajax to Niagara.

Sticky Rice: My Ultimate Comfort Food

by PenRei

For many people, comfort foods while being sick or upset include:

  • Mac ‘n cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Chicken potpie
  • Meatloaf
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Anything chocolate
  • Ice cream

I definitely agree with this list, but there is one food that comforts me more than anything else: savoury sticky rice. Mmm mmm mmm! So good!

Having grown up with a Chinese mother, Chinese food wasn’t only for special occasions in my house. In fact, when it came to the homemade stuff, it wasn’t referred to as Chinese food, but simply as food. Lucky me for growing up with the delights of two food cultures in my house (my dad’s pretty good too).

Zong Zi

Zong Zi

But on to the subject at hand. Sticky rice! There are two kinds available: sweet and savoury. The sweet kinds that I know usually contained red bean, lotus, and occasionally peanuts. The savoury ones often have pork, egg, chestnuts, or many other varieties of deliciousness. In Chinese, it is called Zong Zi (粽子).

Since I love sticky rice so much, and an entire country loves it a well, let’s find out where they came from. Food journey time!

Zong Zi are usually eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated between late-May and mid-June pending the lunar calendar year.  It is a celebration of one of China’s most famous poets, Qu Yuan (屈原), from the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States period (from about 475 BC to 221 BC). During this period, China was in fact comprised of many countries who were in a constant state of war for reasons of expansionism, resources, wealth, and politics.

Qu Yuan was born in an aristocratic family in the Chu state. He served as the chief assistant to the king. He carried out political reforms, set a

Qu Yuan Portrait

Qu Yuan Portrait

strict legal system, and gave full opportunity to the able. These decisions of his were met with strong opposition from the aristocrats. (R) Qu Yuan had tried to warn his king of the growing menace of expansion from the Qin neighbours, but the king did not believe him due to a plot derived from the Qin to bribe the king’s brother into speaking ill of Qu Yuan. As a result, Qu Yuan was exiled from his state. It was during his exile that he wandered the countryside and wrote his poems still known today.

The day the Qin army took over the capital of the Chu state, Qu Yuan, having loved his country so much, threw himself in the Miluo River and died along with his country. According to legend, villagers raced out on the water to try and save him, but were too late. They then splashed their paddles and beat their drums to keep the fish and evil spirits away from Qu Yuan. They also threw rice into the river to nourish his spirit, helping him passover. That night, Qu Yuan’s spirit visited one of the local fishermen and told him that the fish were eating the rice, thus they had to wrap the rice in silk to protect it. Eventually, the silk was replaced with bamboo leaves.

In another version, the fishermen were throwing rice packets into the river to distract the fish away from his body so they wouldn’t eat it. I’m not sure which version is the true one, but either way, that is where the idea of rice wrapped in bamboo leaves come from.

Jolly Rancher, Where Art Thou?

by PenRei

So I have now officially been sick for a whole week with a very slow progression to better health. Unfortunately it hasn’t been fast enough. For a cold, this virus is kicking my ass… and then some.

Perhaps some of you out there will be familiar with the dilemma I am about to share. It often happens that when I am sick I crave very specific foods. These foods might not be the best thing for me based off of nutrition, but my body physically rejects the idea of any other kind of food with extreme nausea. Therefor, until that rejection subsides, I will ingest the food my body chooses.

Last weekend, that food was Jolly Rancher candies. Not just any! Oh no! Specifically, I wanted the soft (but could accept hard) green apple and watermelon

Green Apple Jolly Ranchers

Green Apple Jolly Ranchers

candies. Starbust was unacceptable; it had to be Jolly Rancher. During one of my hazier moments (and being unable to sleep), I decided to venture out to the stores nearby to buy a bag of Jolly Ranchers to slowly devour while watching the 4th season of Battlestar Galactica (borrowed graciously from Johnny-Be-Good). I went to No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, a Rexall and two corner stores. NOTHING! I couldn’t find one bag of Jolly Ranchers. The closest thing I could find was a bag of soft tangy mixed flavoured Jolly Ranchers. That wasn’t at all what I wanted! Worst of all, none of the flavours were green apple.

If I really wanted to, I could have gone out even further to other stores nearby. Alas, my energy levels were wavering and the warm comfort of my bed was the only thing that could save my weary soul. I decided to head back home and settle for some Campino soft candies and Vitamin C halls (my throat was too soar to handle any kind of citrus, so I was lacking that extra Vitamin C punch required to up my immune system).

Luckily, I remembered that Nomes would be over in about an hour. I texted her with her mission: bring me some Jolly Rancher candy. She accepted her mission. I prayed that her luck would be better than mine since she was coming from a different area of the city.

After a short not so restful rest, I heard a key slide into the lock of my door. Hark! ‘Tis the sound of Nomes coming through the door filled with good spirits to cheer me up and maybe even a bag of goodies. Alas, she couldn’t find any Jolly Ranchers either. ‘Twas as though the city had been emptied of them simply to spite me during my time of need. I thanked her for her efforts and resolved to opening my bag of gummy Campinos (which by the way, aren’t very good, kind of like overly artificially flavoured marshmallows). Very unsatisfying!

Soft Campinos

Soft Campinos

The Plan To Counteract the Holidays

by PenRei

If you’ve read my previous post about the consequences the holidays have had on my weight, than perhaps you’re either waiting to hear how I have already failed (as most resolutions’ failures happen within the first week), or how I’ve managed to stay on track. Lo and behold, I am definitely ON TRACK! It hasn’t been ridiculously hard, but it definitely required motivation on my end.

Taking a page from my friend Gretchen, I’ve decided to announce to the internet that I’ve decided to drop the approximate 10-15lbs I’ve gained between September and December to get back to my happy weight. Sure, it’s hard to keep track of my progress since I choose not to weigh myself. So I’m going to keep it on a more personal level and just work on it until I am back to my happy weight and my clothes no longer fit with that extra tightness around the arms, thighs, or waist. Gretchen has been right so far: once I announced to a few of my friends that I wanted to loose that extra flab, not wanting to fail in their eyes has been that extra push I needed on a few nights.

So how exactly am I planning on doing this? It’s pretty simple actually. I’m not even planning on counting calories. It just takes willpower.

WATER
Ever since I started working in the control room of the studio at the television station, I have been drinking A LOT less water. It’s mostly because we’re not really allowed any food or drink in there, and it’s my desk for 8 hours everyday. Guh! So, I’ve taken to bringing a 500ml bottle of water and found a place near my desk that can’t accidentally cause a technical problem if the cap pops open and it spills. I’ve been drinking minimum 1L during my work hours, and now it’s slowly becoming more.

At first, it was really hard. I didn’t think that drinking so much water would actually be a challenge. On Monday, when I tried to drink that whole liter, I felt like I would accidentally drown myself from the inside. It was SO uncomfortable! This was the period of transition. My body wasn’t used to getting so much water at a time and had to work its own mechanics between the new amount of water that was coming in and the water that was already stored. Luckily, by Wednesday, my body was getting the flow of it and drinking 1L-1.5L of water in a work day felt normal. Now, constant hydration is welcomed. Plus, if I’m ever feeling peckish, I’ll drink water first and that might curb my appetite from unnecessary snacking.

If you’re interested in knowing why water can help with losing weight, check out this article that I read.

FOOD
Essentially, I’ve cut out all non-fruit related sugars from my diet at the exception of my Mini-Wheats (the extra fiber in them is welcomed by my bowel movements), honey, and the few little snacks that are already in my apartment. After all, I am a firm believer in not wasting food. Luckily, I’ve been good with not indulging in those sweets. I have three chocolate bars in my kitchen and I haven’t touched any since I’ve been back.

Foods that I’m temporarily avoiding:

  • Sweets
  • Junk
  • Root vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, ect.)
  • Corn
  • White pasta and bread
  • Cheese (EXCEPT when I’m with Nomes, but in very small quantities)
  • All pastries (CRY)

The hardest part of all is to stop my nasty habit of overeating and shrink my stomach back down to a normal size. As previously mentioned, every time I go back home to Ottawa, I overeat because my parents’ food is just too tasty. After four (or ten over the holidays) days of stuffing my face, my stomach expanded. Once I came back, I was faced with having to shrink it back down to its original size. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than expanding with too much food.

For the first three days, I was always hungry. Even if I ate a full meal, carefully portioned to be enough, but there was this deep hunger in my stomach I couldn’t get rid of. It was so frustrating! Still, I told myself that a large wrap and salad is enough. Luckily, after four days of always being uncomfortably hungry, my stomach started shrinking to its original size. Now I’m back to a healthy portion of eating. Hello sandwich accompanied by pita chips and a filling Bolthouse juice!
DISCLAIMER: Please don’t misunderstand this section as potential anorexia. I fully believe in eating and fitting in your 4 food groups as much as possible in every meal (at least 3 times a day). This is simply about knowing the difference between overeating and eating a healthy portion.

EXERCISE
Many of us have a problem with this frenemy, but exercise is essential to maintaining that balanced lifestyle we all want, and to losing weight. Luckily, I don’t hate exercise… I just hate the gym! I have always found ways of exercising without the gym. The only problem was my motivation to really keep it consistent.

So how did I do last week?

  • Tuesday: Various stretches and short exercises (like sit ups and jumping jacks) to wake up my dormant muscles. I didn’t want to start my week of exercising by shocking my system.
  • Wednesday: Pilates for 30 minutes.
  • Thursday: Brisk 7km walk. My abs were in too much pain from the previous night for any hard exercise, and I was too tired to run. But luckily, I still found a way to do something.
  • Friday: 50 minute run + 2 hours of sports and dance Kinect with my friends. Maybe you don’t consider the Kinect to be exercise, but it’s definitely physical activity.
  • Saturday: Yoga class with Nomes for 1 hour and a half at Yoga Sanctuary.
  • Sunday: Day of rest. I was in too much pain from yoga in my upper back and arms to do anything. The last thing I wanted was to push myself too far and cause an injury.

I’ve been pretty good so far. The most important thing is to keep up the motivation, because the only person who will be stopping me is myself. I don’t want to make excuses to not do anything. On a positive note, having exercised almost every day has made me feel very good. My energy levels were surprisingly higher and I was glad to find things that didn’t involve sitting in front of any kind of screen.

Perhaps I shall go to Yoga again tonight. We’ll see how my arms and back fair throughout the day. More on our (Nomes’ and mine’s) yoga experience in the future.

If you’ve got a goal or a resolution, don’t give up! That’s the easy way out.

Peace!

Note: This post is about my personal experience. I am not a certified nutritionist, dietitian, doctor, or trainer. Losing weight and maintaining a balanced lifestyle can be different for everyone. If you’re serious, consider speaking to someone first to ensure minimal injuries and proper nutrition. Most importantly, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

Why I Get Fat Over the Holidays

by PenRei

There are many reasons why people tend to gain weight over the holidays. For most people, it’s because they over-eat so much delicious holiday food. As much as this is part of the reason for me, I found that there was a deeper level.

Ever since I can remember, I love to cook. I just don’t like to cook for myself. What’s the point of putting so much effort into cooking a meal if it’s only for you? I’m generally happy if I can fit my 4 basic food groups in and have leftovers for lunch. Safe to say, living along is not the greatest motivator to be lean-mean-cooking-machine. I do, however, like to go big if I have a friend over. It suddenly becomes fun! I believe that food always tastes better when you have someone to share it with.

About two years ago, after a lengthy conversation with someone about how grapes and pies are amazing, I found myself with little to do on a Sunday afternoon. Out of nowhere, I decided to put my hands hard at work towards making a grape pie. It turned out to be quite good, although better cold or room temperature than hot. It took a surprisingly long time, due to peeling every single grape carefully whilst watching the anime Samurai 7. During the pie making process that took the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening, I found myself to be strangely calm.

Time went by and I discovered that making pies was a really great way for me to release stress. Yes, running has always been a good way, but when it’s -40 celsius, your lungs freeze from taking in so many deep breaths. When it’s 40 celsius (104 Farenheit), with humidity, you’re basically dehydrating yourself and possibly bringing on heat stroke instead of relieving stress. Sure, I could solve this problem by running at the gym, but it’s SO BORING! If I’m not running in a ravine or a nature trail, I feel like I’m back in middle school in track and field as I lagged behind with the other nerds while the sporty kids whizzed by, occasionally overlapping us, as our teacher yelled to push through the pain.

All right, this is starting to get off track. While I made pies at home and fed them to my friends at work, it occured to me that cooking can not only be fun, but a good way to help deal with stress. To each their own, right?

Now, when the holidays come around, it’s only natural that some families have certain members who become a bit more controlling, nervous, or perfectionist than usual. This is something that I don’t deal with very well, especially since Christmas’ are the only vacations I’ve known for the last 6 years. For me, a vacation is not about running errands between cooking and cleaning… but that’s what Christmas time is like. So, whenever I start to feel the annoyance bubbling inside, the only thing that truly calms me is cooking food. I’m not talking about any food, I mean the whole Christmas meal, pies, sweets, stuffed artichoke, stuffed duck, you name it. It’s the type of cooking that takes time, patience, and a wallet to make.

So, the more that certain annoyances come up, the more I cook, and the more I cook, the more everybody eats. It gets to the point where we find ourselves eating not because we’re hungry, but so that the food doesn’t go bad… and because it’s delicious.

Back in Toronto, my fridge is near empty about 90% of the time. The reason being that I am only one person and I have taken to buying my groceries in small quantities on a daily basis for freshness and to reduce waste with expired foods. This means that I can’t really eat out of boredom. If I’m bored and want to eat, I have to go out to buy a snack, and let’s face it, you only do that when you’re at work. When I’m at my parent’s home, with a fridge full of delicious foods, I eat when I’m bored. What a nasty habit!

So, why do I get fat over the holidays?

  • Families stress people out over the holidays, so I overcook
  • By overcooking, the family can end up overeating
  • I overeat one step further out of boredom

I try to make myself feel better by using the treadmill at home to exercise. But let’s be honest! The 500 calories I burn every two days on that treadmill are nowhere near the 400 million calories I probably ingest a day. At this point, those treadmill runs are just there so I don’t feel so guilty.

Once I get back to Toronto, my habit of eating out of boredom will stop, and I will only be cooking enough to feed myself, and not expand my stomach. Lastly, I bought some winter running gear on Saturday, so until it hits -40 celsius, I’m going to run instead of bake pies.

Care to share why the holiday season can be a difficult time for you to control your weight?

Cereal For Children

by PenRei

Lately, I’ve been on a real kick with visiting cereals that are dedicated to children. Don’t ask me why! Maybe it has something to do with me refusing to admit that I am an adult with adult responsibilities and an adult lifestyle (I kind of had an emotional breakdown about this a month ago). I’m really not sure, but there appears to be a kid in me who wants to eat cereal that isn’t healthy muesli or bran buds.

Mini-Wheats

Mini-Wheats, Original Frosted

It all started with Mini Wheats. I remember having Mini Wheats back when I was a kid and I DID NOT LIKE THEM. I would get upset with my chunks of cereal as they soaked up all the mild and became soggy bran squares. Yuck! Now, I’ve been eating them every morning for two weeks straight and it really does feel like a great way to start the morning. I am loving this cereal more than I should. I actually get upset if I wake up and my box is empty. Sad! Luckily, it’s a pretty healthy cereal choice! It’s high in dietary fiber, iron, and manganese.

Uh… what’s manganese? I know what magnesium is, but manganese? Honestly, I never really thought about it. Let’s have a look shall we!

So what’s the deal with manganese? Trace minerals of manganese can be found in the bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It helps the body create connective tissue, bones, and hormones and fights blood clotting factors, as well as regulates sugar levels in your blood and absorb calcium. It would also be important to add that manganese is necessary for the brain and the nervous system. Wow! Talk about a multi-purpose power mineral. Other places to find manganese are in various nuts. Good thing I’m an almond fiend, in both the nut and the milk form. (R)

Cinnamon Toast CrunchAnother cereal that I’ve been fawning over is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The really weird part is that I’ve never had any until October this year when I stole a few pieces from Josie at work. There is absolutely not association to it from my childhood, but the few squares I had back in October awakened a happiness in me that could only be explained by childish joy. Considering that you can tell this cereal is loaded with sugar just by the taste, I decided to refrain from ingesting this one every morning and keep it more so as an occasional snack at work or desert after supper.

Perhaps the reason it appeals to me so much is that the mix of sugar and cinnamon reminds me so much of Beavertails. Oh, what a love of Beavertails I have! There isn’t anyone from Ottawa who can deny the deliciousness and amazingness of beavertails. It’s turned into our local food mascot. If you want a beavertail, go to Ottawa. The only one I’ve found in Toronto is at Toronto Place, but you have to pay to get in. Ugh! A few winters ago, they had a beavertail stand in front of City Hall. I was so excited! Beavertails are a special treat. I decided to call up Douggy Fresh so we could go the next day and share in the nostalgic taste of many evenings spent in the Byward Market. But, to our horror, the next day, the Beavertail stand was gone. We were SO UPSET! You can’t just give us hope like that and take it away. Not cool!

Clearly, I have demonstrated my love for beavertails, hence potentially the appeal of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. On a downside, it is very high in sugar. On the plus side, it very high in iron (who knew!), niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Huh! And here I thought it was just fluff cereal for breakfast. Now, I just named a lot of things I don’t really understand, particularly riboflavin. What is that? (R)

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2 helps us get energy from carbohydrates. It’s important in the production of red blood cells, which are quite necessary to the general functionality of any vertebrae organism on this planet of ours. (R)

My quest for childhood cereals isn’t over. I have very fond memories of Fruit Loops. I especially loved that when you were done the cereal, the milk tasted like a really sweet fruity milk, therefor more appealing to polish off at the end. Mmmm! So tasty! I’m thinking I might want to tackle a box of that this weekend.

Another cereal that I want try is Count Chocula. I’ve never had any, but I really want to give it a shot. I mean, it’s cereal plus chocolate. Sounds like a dynamo combination to me!

Lastly, there is one cereal that I will forever remember fondly, but presently feel like it is best kept as a good memory in the past: Honeycomb Cereal. It was the sweetest cereal my parents allowed me to eat when I was a kid and I devoured them. So much tastiness was happening there, but perhaps the memory of it is better than a possible re-enactment. Therefor, Honeycombs, you will remain on the shelf in my head.

Have a great weekend! (I can’t believe I wrote an entire post about cereal. Apparently there is nothing interesting happening in my life.) Having found that YouTube video with a retro commercial made me nostalgic. Here’s a compilation of a few from 1992. Unfortunately, it cuts out at the end just when MC Hammer makes an appearance. Sigh. They just don’t make commercials like they used it.

Update from Nomes: First of all, so much to learn about cereal! Second of all, BEAVERTAILSZOHMYGOD! I’m making that happen this week… yay Ottawa! Third of all, so much to say about the commercials from our youuuth! The most important, I think, is the literal songs: where they basically say everything that’s happening as it’s happening: You can grate cheese, and put mushrooms on it and make a cake with a little bow on it and blow out the fake candle TOOOOOO …CAUSE PLAY-DOH LOVES YOU MORE THAN YOUR PARENTS DO APPARENTLY, SEE YOUR PARENTS DON’T EVEN MAKE YOU A CAKE!… oh no wait… that’s my interpretation and thus does not belong in “literal commercial song”. It’s for kids. It’s magic by its simplicity. OOOH AND ANOTHER NOTE: in the Mighty Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Rock Band (?) commercial at the beginning…one of them has a Flava Flave clock hanging on his neck!!!

Party. Defined.

THIS is the Flava of the 90s!

Nomes-out.

Update by PenRei:
Wow Nomes! If your interpretation of those commercials goes to how much parents apparently don’t love their kids enough, I am deeply afraid to know what you think of commercials these days. Also, loving the Flava Flave clock necklace. Thanks for the still!

Update from Nomes:

What I think of modern commercials… oh what I think of modern commercials. The horror…the horror…

A Post Without Direction, Including Why We Snort, and Nerd Affirmation

by PenRei

Tonight, I had the pleasure to spend the evening after with Nomes and new friend Daria (friend of Nomes for the last 2.5 years). We stayed in at her place, ate food, watched Sex & the City (like good single ladies), and partook in engaging conversation. Within the first two hours, we already began to share intimate and potentially embarrassing stories. Fantastic bonding!

Now the question to ask is: how many girls does it take to crack open a coconut? Apparently the answer is three. Nomes held the coconut and drained. Daria hammered away with a screwdriver and got it open. I was charge of scraping off the tasty white insides from the hard brown outside (that sounded so dirty… And now Nomes and Daria are taking my unintended penis reference to the next level with the famous song “lovely bunch of coconuts song”).

From the S&C episodes that passed by, the cracking took a whole episode, and the scraping took about two and a half episodes. Such a long and dangerous process with coconut oily hands and a sharp knife. By the end, we were fully successful and enjoyed our catch, despite being full from a feast of mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots, pad Thai and butternut squash. So many nums were had. Luckily, the effort it took to open that coconut helped with digestion.

So far tonight, both Nomes and I have snorted (non drug related) while laughing. I’m hoping that Daria will join us at some point and snort as well. But what is snorting exactly?

Freedictionary.com defines snorting as “a rough, noisy sound made by forcefully breathing through the nostrils, as a horse or pig”. Strange, since breathing through the nostrils doesn’t seem like a forceful act. I was hoping there would be a cool scientific fact behind it, but apparently, the answer is very simple.

One reason why we do it is because when we laugh we are unevenly inhaling and exhaling. Sometimes, it happens so fast that our nasal passages haven’t fully cleared before we breathe in, resulting in the noise. Another reason is associated with why some people snore. The sound of snorting can happen from relaxed tissue vibration, specifically the muscles surrounding your nasal passages? When they relax, the diameter of the airways decrease, hence again, more air being breathed in than the nasal passages can take.  But still, laughing doesn’t seem like a time when your muscles relax. Perhaps snorting happens at the very specific moment between your muscle contractions, which is why we don’t always snort when laughing. After all, in order to breathe, our muscles must contract and decontract.

But I still can’t help but wonder why snorting is always associated with nerds instead or everybody. Rude! I guess it’s because snorting has never been seen as a particularly attractive action. But this is the 21st century and nerds are now hot. Geek chic is in! So I choose to reaffirm snorting as a quirky sign that us nerds are a cool and laid back bunch. After all, we are the ones who brought you science, movies, books, technology, and so many other wonderful things.

Well, this post didn’t turn out to be at all what I was planning. Now come on Daria, snort and affirm your nerdiness to the world. (Update at 1:33am, Daria never did snort for us, sigh. NEXT TIME!)

If you feel like watching a great 7 minute animation executively produced by Steven Spielberg about how nerds rule the world, check out this video from a great and short lived series, Freakazoid!.

Have a great weekend!

Could I Have Some Science With My Food, Please?

by PenRei

Hello readers! Welcome to Friday! The exact opposite of Monday!

Garfield Friday
copyright Jim Davis

See! Even Garfield is happy that it’s Friday! And speaking of food, the show I work on made a really interesting segment about molecular gastronomy. It’s a way of cooking and preparing food with some science as the extra spice. Don’t worry, it might look like they’re concocting food in a lab, but it’s not going to make you sick or give you cancer in any way. Here’s the YouTube clip of said segment about a restaurant called l’Atelier in Ottawa.

For those of you who don’t understand French (you can still look at how they make the food), I shall explain what molecular gastronomy is. It’s a subdiscipline of food science that looks to make full use of the physics and chemistry that go into cooking food. In the culinary world, it also has a social, artistic and technical component that clearly has to be mastered (so don’t start dipping all your food in liquid nitrogen, kids). These chefs and food professionals take full advantage of the technical innovations that science has given us. Here’s a list of some of the crazy stuff they use to make their food extra pretty and different:

  • Bubbles and foam out of cardon dioxyde
  • Liquid nitrogen for flash freezing and shattering
  • Thermal immersion circulator for successful sous-vide cooking
  • Gases trapped in bags or inedible tableware for aromatic accompaniement
  • An ultrasound for precise cooking times

Ever wanted to serve your tzatsiki sauce in small fancy spheres to your guests? Well here’s how you can!