Happy Days

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And so this semester has come to an end. Thank goodness. Never looking back! This semester ended with a bang. Literally. I smashed my knee cap (full force) into the corner of a wall. So, I sat the rest of that night with an ice pack on my knee, sobbing in pain. I guess such a semester couldn’t end too painlessly. Haha.

To rid myself of stress and to have a fresh start for the coming new year I am spending this week doing elephantine amounts of cleaning – and will be following advice from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The cleaning will also include spiritual and mental clutter as well. This week also begins the wrapping of gifts and putting up Christmas decorations!! I don’t think I have ever been more excited for Christmas than I am this year.

I never really did the whole “new year resolutions” thing, but, I will try it out this coming year. I know many people sort of scoff at the idea since the common phenomenon surrounding the notion is to list a bunch of goals and never follow through. That said, I think where many people go wrong with any kind of goal is they start too big/vague and get lost on the way (I’ve been there). So, for my “resolutions” I will be making sure to include all the little steps in order to better keep on-track and make each goal easier to begin – essentially, I will make following through with each goal more attainable. I will share my resolutions with you guys (once I figure them all out for myself) and how I plan on carrying through with them, along with background information regarding each of my goals. Maybe one of you will join me in the idea of creating new year resolutions for yourselves and in making 2016 one of your best years (as that is my aim).

On another note, I have been really enjoying the combination of peppermint and chocolate this holiday season. With my new found taste for this combination, I have been searching for the perfect at-home peppermint hot chocolate recipe. I have found one! Let me share it with you, so that you all can join in the deliciousness:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
170 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 drops peppermint oil (the edible kind! not the essential oil…)
Whipped cream (for garnish)

In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt and heat over medium-low heat. When the cream mixture just begins to steam, add the chopped chocolate, and stir, until melted. Stir in the peppermint oil drops. Divide the hot chocolate among mugs and top with whipped cream.

 

I will be posting festive recipes sometime soon! Keep a lookout for the recipes and my new year resolutions post 🙂

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Grilled Eggplant Salad

Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment.

Elizabeth David

Hot weather is a time to break out the grill and enjoy some…salads. You thought I was going to say grilled meat, didn’t you? Haha! Well, this salad is a great addition to your grilled meats of choice. Plus, some days when it has been really hot all day…I just feel like eating a light meal. This grilled eggplant salad goes into my top 5 favorites salads. I hope you enjoy it too! It’s a little more work than your usual salad, but the work does pay off nicely.

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For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1.5 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove

The salad:

  • 1/2 loaf french bread sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • touch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of eggplant (about 1 medium) cut in quarters
  • handful of fresh basil leaves chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into small pieces

Putting it all together:

  1. Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, set aside.
  2. Head a grill to medium-high heat (about 375F – 400F)
  3. Range bread on a baking sheet. Using 1 teaspoons of olive oil, lightly brush the bread pieces and season with salt and pepper. Do the same for the other side of the bread slices.
  4. Place the bread on the heated grill and keep a large bowl close by. Cook until the bread has grill marks on each side – flip only once. Transfer cooked bread onto a cutting board. Slice a sliver off your garlic clove and dip it into some salt, next rub your garlic clove on one side of your bread slices. Next, discard the rest of the clove and chop bread into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Brush the eggplant with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant until softened and sides are charred. About 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. While the eggplant cooks, skewer the tomatoes and grill for about 4 minutes, until softened.
  7. Remove the eggplant and tomatoes from the grill and toss them into the bowl with the bread. Throw the mozzarella in along with the basil.
  8. Give your dressing a quick whisk and pour it over the salad. Add your Parmesan and toss everything until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Crunchy Deliciousness

My fiance makes some pretty delicious nachos! He takes his nachos very seriously. I actually have never made him nachos because that is his domain haha. Today, however, I will be sharing a nacho recipe that I think he will approve of!

nachos

Lana’s Nachos:

Uncooked Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large bag of tortilla chips (I use restaurant style)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Jalapeno pepper, diced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 small avocados (or 1 large one), diced
  • 1.5 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1.5 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Cooked toppings:

  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • other 1/2 of onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cooked 1/2 the onion in some olive oil until they become translucent. Add your ground beef and break it up into chunks. Cook the meat until it is entirely browned. Next, add your seasoning: paprika, cumin, salt & pepper. Stir it all together. Add 1/2 cup of hot water along with your chili beans, stir and let simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the other half of the chopped onion, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice and salt & pepper in a bowl. Now you have pico de gallo.
  3. Construction of the nachos: Place a layer of tortilla chips followed by your ground beef mixture and half of the cheeses (about 1/4 cup of each). Then another layer of tortilla chips, ground beef mixture, and the rest of your cheese.
  4. Next, either microwave the nachos in 30 second intervals or place in a 350 C until cheese has melted.

Serve immediately along with the pico de gallo!

Enjoy!

Burgerrr

Hey everyone! Today, I will be sharing a quick post dedicated to a great burger recipe for a weekend BBQ session. I like to play around with different ideas when it comes to burgers and sandwiches. It’s so easy to customize and make them unique every time.

Here is the burger recipe that I have been meaning to make again but haven’t in a long time. It’s very good though, I promise.

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The Burgerrr:

Patty:

  • minced fresh chives, about a handful
  • 1 egg
  • handful fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal Steak spice
  • 1/2 fresh onion, blended in food processor
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • squeeze fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • black pepper

Toppings:

  • 6-8 slices of Applewood smoked bacon
  • 6 slices Havarti jalapeno cheese
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
  • 5 pickles (the kind that are in brine), sliced
  • unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 buns of choice, I like Brioche
  • Shredded lettuce, if you like (I don’t like lettuce on my burgers, so I never add it)

Directions for the patty:

Throw all the ingredients for the patty together and squish to combine. Try not to over mix, but do make sure everything is well mixed. Then grill on your BBQ until desired doneness.

Directions for the sauce:

Simply mix all ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.

Directions for Toppings:

Cook your bacon in a pan. Once cooked, let it drain on a paper towel. Slices your buns.

Burgers! Assemble!

Take your buns, coat with sauce, throw your patty on, brush some butter on that patty, follow by your toppings. There it is! All done. Enjoy!

Oh Boy, Po Boy!

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Hello dear readers!

Who doesn’t love summer? Sunshine, warm weather, fun outdoor activities, beaches, ice cream, and BBQs. I was born in the first week of June…I guess I am not technically a summer baby, as the summer officially starts June 21st, but I like to think I am! I am very happy being by the water when it is hot and the sun is shining. Something about the water makes me smile. Give me a little beach where I can plop my butt in the sand and stick my toes in the water, and I will be one joyful gal. My fiance did just that! He took me out on a surprise trip to a gorgeous lake outside of the city. He knows me so well :). It was amazing. We had a fantastic time floating around on our floaties together and taking in the scenery. Couldn’t of asked for a better way to unwind and enjoy each other’s company after a long week.

It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both.

– Marilyn Monroe

Aside form sunshine and beaches, what I really enjoy is good food! But that’s no secret. A few days ago, my love and I made a shrimp po boy-esque dish for us and his dad. It was actually a really nice summer dish because it was tangy and a little spicy and it had the crunch of the baked shrimp (we went the healthier route and baked our shrimp instead of deep-frying). So yummy. If you are looking for a tasty and easy to prepare meal, here is the recipe…

P.s. sorry, no photos. They were too tasty and we were too hungry, didn’t get a chance to snap any shots of the meal!

Shrimp Po Boy-Esque Pita:

  • 6 thin style pitas
  • a bag of frozen large or medium shrimp (uncooked, pealed, and thawed) *make sure to remove the tails if there are any*
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 3-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Sriracha hot sauce (or any other kick of heat you prefer)
  • Cajun seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • flour
  • egg
  • milk
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tomatoe, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  1. Make a battering station: 1 bowl with flower and Cajun seasoning + salt and pepper, second bowl with egg and splash of milk whisk together, third bowl with panko bread crumbs.
  2. Dunk your thawed shrimp into the flour, shake off excess and toss them into the egg coating bowl. Last step is to plop the shrimp into the panko and give them a good shake in the bowl to make sure the shrimp are well coated. Next, lay them out on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Bake at 375 C for 15-20 minutes or until crispy and cooked through.
  3. While the shrimp are baking: squeeze your lime juice into a bowl and set aside. Mix together mayonnaise, horseradish, garlic, parsley, and hot sauce. Next, add your lime juice 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition of lime juice has been mixed in. When you are happy with the taste, set aside.
  4. Once done, take the shrimp out of the oven and transfer them to a bowl.
  5. Assembly: without opening the pita, spread some of your sauce onto the pita. Add your tomatoes and carrots, then the shrimp. Drizzle a little more sauce over the shrimp. Fold together to make a “D” shape. Eat.

There you have it! Enjoy and munch away! The awesome thing about this recipe is that it is super versitile. You can personalize this any which way you like.

Happy eating and sunshine soaking!

Cinco De Mayo!

Hello my lovely readers! Hoooly doodle! I have been absent for quite some time – apologies! Let me update you on what’s been happening in the life of Lana:

For all of April I was entirely swamped with school related business. Turning in massive essays, finishing a colossal project, studying for final exams, etc. BUT, on the same day that I finished my last final exam, I was off to Mexico for a week with my honey and we just got back this Saturday night. We missed Cinco De Mayo in Mexico, but since it is tomorrow I thought what a perfect time to up date you guys and talk about my trip!

It was an absolutely amazing experience. It was my first time in Mexico, it was also my first time snorkeling & eating fresh, authentic Mexican tacos (which have ruined me for any other taco, ever). I didn’t get much of a tan, though haha– slathered myself with sunscreen to avoid burning, but I guess you could say I am less pale than when I left.

My darling was so wonderful about teaching me how to snorkel. After about 10 minutes of me learning that breathing underwater is possible and getting used to the mask, he took me out to deeper waters and we saw a turtle! This was a top priority for us – achievement unlocked! We also spotted two sting rays (small ones) and some fish. It was a blast! I am very grateful that he introduced me to this experience. Now I want more!

The hotel we stayed at was very nice – it consisted of a few separate parts: two hotel areas with separate lobbies, restaurants and pools, as well as an entertainment area with a little market and a couple of bars (all on the hotel property, it was massive). We also went out to Playa Del Carmen and explored the city; we found several cool things to bring home, took a few photos. It was a fantastic time! In fact, Playa Del Carmen is where I was introduced to the tacos. We found a little taco place on the corner of a street one night and we actually went back out the next day to get more of them (even though it was an hour or so ride into town)! But then again, oh my absolute goodness, guys…I am never going to be able to fully enjoy any other tacos until we go back to Mexico (I’m sure honey feels the same). There are so many memories and exciting events, I wish I could just upload a “Mexico 2015” file from my brain and share it here haha! I could spend too long writing about the trip, but I will leave it short and sweet. I can’t imagine a more perfect way for us both to unwind and have some wonderful, fun quality time together. Everything about this trip left me glowing with happiness!

IMG_0195That’s them tacos.

I will include a few recipes of things I thoroughly enjoyed (except the taco recipe…that cannot be duplicated).

The Guacamole:

  • 4 avocado
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/8 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (you can adjust the heat level by either omitting the serrano, or adding less of it)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mash two of the four avocados. Add in the onion, serrano pepper (if using), and cilantro. Mix in the sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dice the remaining two avocados into 1/2 inch cubes. Fold the diced avocado and tomato into the mashed avocado mix. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

The Virgin Mojito:

  • Crushed ice
  • Sprite
  • 8-10 sprigs of mint
  • 1 lime (but reserve a couple slices before juicing)
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar

In a glass, break mint leaves with hands and add the sugar. Muddle with a spoon. Squeeze in lime juice and add a couple slices of lime. Add crushed ice. Fill the glass with chilled sprite.

*This was my favorite drink there – it quenches the thirst and is very refreshing*

The Churro:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, or less if you like
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons veg oil. Bring mixture to a boil and then remove from heat. Add the flour, stirring very well, until the mixture forms a ball.

Heat oil for frying in a deep-fryer or deep skillet to 375 F. Pipe strips of churro dough into the hot oil using a pastry bag. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar (or less) and cinnamon. Roll drained churros in cinnamon and sugar mix while still hot.

Devour.

*Fun Fact* Cinco De Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day, contrary to popular belief. It is actually a day of celebration dedicated to the victory at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war.

Spring Inspirations

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I can tell it is getting warmer (closer to summer)! I want to share a recipe with you which was inspired by spring, sunshine, and freshness. I will also be giving a few tips on how to handle final exam period in college. Spring is a beautiful time of year, but for us students it also means the dreaded finals week(s).

I think what I like most about spring is that it is a time of growth for plants & flowers, fruits & vegetables. Everything begins to look beautiful and rejuvenated; the air becomes warmer, birds sing, and colors bloom. For some reason, I have always believed spring to be a time of personal “blooming” as well. A time where we find new energy – a time for growth, much like our plant friends. I find that “spring cleaning” doesn’t only apply to my physical world but also my spiritual world. Spring seems to bring with it some kind of energy that just propels me out of my winter blues and into cheerfulness (even if it rains).

Fresh Spring Rolls:

  • cooked large shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
  • rice paper wraps (can be found in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mint leaves
  • lettuce (optional)
  • rice vermicelli (cooked) (also found in most supermarkets)
  • red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • peanut sauce for dipping
  1. Soak the rice paper wraps in a pan filled with warm water. Let soak for about a minute. Remove onto working surface.
  2. Layer the ingredients on one half of the rice paper wrap and leave about 1 or 2 inches of space on the outer sides. Suggestion: layer shrimp, basil, & mint first. Then add your lettuce (if using), vermicelli and red belle pepper.
  3. Fold the sides inward, then roll the rice wrap up tightly.

Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic (or one large clove)
  • 1 inch fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Plop all ingredients into a blender and whiz together until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl for dipping.

*No measurements for ingredient amounts are given for the spring rolls, as the quantities are dependent on the amount of rolls you want to make*

P.s. Spring rolls are actually a very tasty study snack food 😉 …a little messy, but very yummy.

My Study Tips for Final Exams:

Finals are around the corner! Let’s get crackin’!

  1. Go to your professor’s office hours or find another time to meet. Never leave things you don’t understand for the last minute. Even if you have nothing you need to clarify with your professor, go see them anyway – they may have some suggestions on how succeed in their specific course/how to properly prepare for the exam (this tip should really be followed throughout the semester).
  2. Take your time. Since final exams are normally cumulative, it is important to allot the appropriate amount of study time and energy for each course you take; so start studying early! Final exams are mentally taxing, avoid putting off studying for a time where you have to cram all your studies together. You will feel confident about your knowledge and feel prepared for the exam if you manage your time properly during your study period.
  3. Do all of the practice available. If your professor has practice exams, do them. If you find other resources with practice exams or problems, do them. Basically, do any and every kind of example problems you can. Practice all of the textbook problems along with anything your professor gives out. It is important to feel confident answering any kind of questions thrown at you. This way, on the exam, you won’t be stumped by wording or order. You can also do a timed mock final exam a few days before the actual exam and see how well prepared you are.
  4. 50-10. The average brain cannot and will not stay 100% focused any longer than 50 minutes (normally). Take a 10 minutes break every 50 minutes in order to refresh your mind.This technique entirely changed the amount of stress I felt. I also did a lot better on exams when using this technique because my brain actually absorbed everything I put into it. Concentration and focus are the most important things when it comes to studying (not the amount of time you spend studying).
  5. Eat, sleep, and exercise. The obvious. You must sleep enough hours in a day, otherwise your brain will turn to jelly (metaphorically, of course) before you even get halfway through a study period. Eating well and exercising (even going for a walk) not only relieves stress and mental fatigue but it also helps raise your energy levels while keeping blood pressure down.
  6. Breathe. It is good to be a little worried about finals, that means you care. Just don’t becomes so lost in test anxiety that you can’t concentrate or enjoy your days. If you relax, you can study more effectively. Take some time to breathe and relax!

These are the “basics”, however, I have found these exact things the most helpful when preparing for exams and I hope these suggestions also help you with your finals! 🙂 Good luck to all you students out there!