Historical records have revealed that food and flowers are the quintessential elements of Mother's Day celebrations.
I set out to redeem the previous year's exceptionally moist Layered Mocha Cake (with my newly acquired roll cake knowledge, but also couldn't resist tacking on a few more kitchen undertakings throughout the weekend.
First was a Scorched Shrimp with Fresh Tomato Sauce, crafted entirely from whole ingredients. That's right - Not an aluminum can in sight!
Unashamedly instigated by a sale on frozen shrimp at Loblaws, the package was slowly defrosted in the fridge overnight then marinated as per orangecane's Toowoomba formula. There had been intent to assemble her dish as intended, however divergence was deemed necessary in the face of ample rice. Flavours of gochujang, gochukaru, and soy permeated my protein of choice for at least thirty minutes; cayenne was excluded, as I neither had any on hand nor did I hail from a spice-loving household. The shrimp was then scorched in a smoking cast iron pan, then set aside.
Spring in Ontario is never predictable. At times, we receive gloomy conditions rivalling Raincouver, while others be brazenly bitter and breezy. The unwonted ten-degree-plus greets us as Mother Nature pleases, leading many to seize the seasonal opportunities as they reveal themselves.
Prior to the work-from-home reality - that I pray once more to be temporary - brisk walking consumed my weekday lunch hours. Nowadays, it constitutes a maximum of twenty minutes of any one particular workday, should I be able to escape for such a period at all. Oftentimes, I'll seek an excuse for my outing; more often than not, this excuse adopts the form of an essential service: CoCo, without parking.
I've preached the concept of gratefulness throughout this pandemic, whose concept has only grown clearer with the warmer weather upon us. Navigating this life oughtn't be complicated: mobility in good health, liberty in outdoor saunters, and happiness in creation.
Larry makes a special appearance!
Creations of the week were few, and limited to previously executed cookie prep, strawberry jam, granola, and a Whole Wheat Loaf adapted from the almighty breadmaster.
Since depleting my stash of white bread flour, I've been dabbling in the realm of whole wheat bread-baking, albeit without much success. Most loaves emerge dry to the touch, yet damp at its centre.
The fifty-ninth week of the pandemic pilgrimage coincides with the same duration of work-from-home practices. It's stifling to say, in the least, with only an increasing number of meetings, calls, and "pings" - as they call it - to worsen the unintentional overtime.
"Why do I have so many meetings in my calendar?!"
"It means you're important." I responded dryly, fully aware of the frustrations behind these back-to-back virtual events.
In these fifty-nine weeks, I've requested a total of three vacation days: one for CNY preparations (read: cleaning the house), one for sanity, and one to assist with family activities (read: mid-afternoon Costco run). Quite frankly, I'd love some several weeks more, ideally away from my house and breathing West Coast air.
But those days are denoted with dubiety. While in-person theatre and fansign events can safely occur in other areas of the globe, the same cannot be said for our nation, where those demanding "liberation" proceed to preach their beliefs on the regular.
Creations of the week included:
1) Matcha Almond Cookies
Modified from the buttery, nutty hearts and bears first attempted some few months ago, I introduced matcha powder and straight edges. They were even stamped for additional flair, not that these designs were carried through the baking process. The Lego-sized pieces also failed to align at right angles, and were observed to spread a teensy bit more than the last iteration.
2) Lavender Pound Cake Minis (Round 2)
I awoke to a deceptively sunny Saturday morning with cravings for cake. As with any of my cravings, they were precise, with a distinct image of the final product established in my mind for reference.
Revisiting Sunday Baking's no-fail flour-batter method produced mini pound cakes with crisp edges and a delicate, tender crumb. Rather than milk, I had taken to steeping the lavender buds in cream, contributing an undeniable richness to the batter.
Cross-sectional cuts appeared more uniform than before, which was to be expected given the wire whisk to hand mixer swap. However, given its thickness, I would recommend employing a wire whisk (on a good wrist day, of course) to prevent the batter from wrapping about the beaters.
The formula yielded a consistent deliciousness, albeit a profile eggier and noticeably less floral than the last.
The ongoing pandemic has undeniably resulted in the adoption of new pastimes, from breadmaking to DIY home improvements to nurturing houseplants. Regardless whether they persist in one's current daily routine, such activities summoned great joy in their execution.
It's recently dawned upon me that, while dishwashing and strained wrists are inevitable in the case of excess, seemingly mundane kitchen activities are amongst the few little joys that remain possible. In place of my once-regular restaurant visits, a sense of newness is acquired from recipe experimentation; investment in an assortment of varying local roasters has taken over daily coffee runs and PATH explorations. Active time in the kitchen possesses the duality of providing adequate recovery time from screen exposure and production of sustenance.
Creations of the week included:
1) The Browniest Cookie (Round 2)
Being notoriously known as an all-round cookie aficionado, I recall nodding in agreement to SK's woes of finding a specimen that could be "crowned with the honour of suggesting brownies", while remaining a cookie in the most traditional sense. I had first attempted to stuff the insides with cheese custard, and, while those were delicious, it hadn't been a pure execution of the browniest formula.
I nixed the filling this time around, added in a dash of cornstarch (for I appreciate structure), and topped the mounds with Surfin hexagons (and some flakey salt out of the oven). The rounds spread slightly, but were still very portable - as cookies ought to be and brownies ought not. Crunchy when fresh and cakey once stored, these decadent treats were a truly flawless hybrid.
One could easily consume them at room temperature, though they fare even more delectable when microwaved for ten seconds and plunged into cold milk.
2) Braised Beef w/ Tomatoes and Root Veggies
With a substantial portion of vine tomatoes on hand, I set out to incorporate the seasonal produce with the the remainder of our beef, incorporating some (frozen) root veggies along the way. Minimal chicken stock was used, for the vision was more a chunky sauce than soupy stew.
Two hours later, a soft braise emerged, each element glazed with the essence of butter and red wine
"It was...probably the hardest week in the past three hundred and seventy-three days." (and you bet I NETWORKDAYSed it!)
However easy it may be to fall victim to unintentional overtime amidst lockdown, I can affirm that the seemingly endless hours of screen-staring, spreadsheet-scanning, memo-making, and written/verbal correspondence have the ability to summon more than simply physical discomfort. With the end of each work day, I found embers in my eyes, stinging to the point where headaches would result, then persist for several days. Letters began dashing about the keyboard, while the limbs were left limp from excessive inactivity. For the first time in recent memory, post-work indulgence in K-Pop comebacks and variety shows delivered no delight; I could summon forth no more energy.
Evaluating the unexpected turnout of events, my heart wrenched at the words that been relayed: "You'll get used to it."
But I don't want to. I refuse to grow accustomed to exhaustion and constant fatigue. I refuse to be coerced into workaholicism.
Most importantly, I refuse to surrender the remaining shreds of my social life and social media engagement to duties that oughtn't be shed upon me.
A new degree of despair had been attained. As always, I will purge and continue to purge with elements of enjoyment. Appended to the list, though, is the notion of confrontation.
Creations of the week included:
A heavy handful of olive oil resulted in sogginess unsalvageable even by silica gel packets.
2) Vanilla Bean Pudding (aka untorched crème brûlée), constructed from leftover egg yolks, heavy cream, and artificial flavouring.
3) Coconut Ice Cream
Inspired by Scoops and a desire to nix lengthy ice cream runs, I set out to mimic the household favourite by combining coconut milk into the previously tested no-churn ice cream method. Instant coffee was swapped for lightly toasted fine shredded coconut and an entire can of AROY-D. Future renditions shall see a reduction in liquid, for the final result was more icy than scoop-able. In regards to the flavour profile, it was satisfactory, harnessing the potential to evade Port Credit lineups once success is declared.
A sweetened variation of shredded coconut could also be employed in this formula, however I found the condensed milk to offer a plentiful portion of sugar.
4) Lemon Potatoes
When I had first caught sight of this post, I became intrigued with the idea of introducing liquid into the roasting process. And the arrival of the weekend finally provided an opportunity for experimentation.
With spring being one of the shorter seasons in this neck of the nation, it's not an uncommon undertaking to venture out in search of blooming buds.
The trip had been my suggestion, for the past five days had proved beyond grueling. I had become one with the indoors - ankles chained to desk, fingers to keyboard, shoulders hunched in focus, and eyes drearily reviewing every single email with effort. Fresh air was ever so warranted.
The province's reinstated Stay-At-Home measures discouraged any travel outside the community boundaries. Crossing boundaries wasn't prohibited per se, but the likelihood in obtaining a ticket while doing so wasn't forgoed. Thus, we remained local. Some fifteen minutes away was Kariya Park and its first blossom of the year.
View the full album HERE !
Recently, work has become life, and life has become work. Or perhaps it's been that way for a while, but reality has merely dawned upon me at this very moment.
My perspective seldom shifts, and only from second-floor study views to first-floor kitchen views if at all. Swapping out toast and granola for steamed taro and black sesame buns with condensed milk as breakfast was the extent of introducing variety into my daily routine.
Days of frequenting the downtown core after hours with friends has become a distant memory, an experience that grows more foreign with each passing day.
Spring has sprung, yet COVID cases have bloomed in place of blossoms.
With the primary team member absent for the week, my workload was significantly more manageable. As such, I managed to squeeze in some time in the kitchen - the sole outlet for diversification of the quarantine lifestyle.
Creations of the week included:
1) Rice Krispie Squares that emerged following its sighting at a long-awaited Costco run
2) Grape Jelly, with seeds removed for ease of consumption
3) Sakura Cutout and Lemon Linzer Cookies w/ Grape Jelly
Adapting my go-to sugar cookie recipe to include lemon and lime zest from the freezer (mind you, they didn't smell of anything) and lemon extract, a Lemon Linzer cookie was born. The omission of almond flour and icing sugar to top may raise eyebrows in regards to authenticity, however I quite enjoyed the softer snap.
It's been a long short week - the exemplary oxymoron. ̶P̶r̶i̶m̶a̶r̶i̶l̶y̶ Wholly owed to the unexpected undertakings of the four-day pre-Easter weekend, I suffered a tremendous amount of fatigue, perhaps even greater than I thought possible. With the passing of every call, every email, and every meeting, and every assignment, my contact with sanity grew frailer, till it withered down to but a fine hair-like strand.
My sole release was an escape to obtain lunch takeout. Weather conditions welcoming and clouds minimally present, I switched my status to "Away" and bolted out the door for sustenance acquisition. But virtual barriers are flexible - movable, so to speak - and failed in obstructing incoming messages amidst the period of personal commitment.
The journey to Square One was relatively calm (read: accompanied by minimal traffic volumes). Meal components had been pre-ordered via Ritual to improve efficiency, should an urgent email prompt a reluctant immediate return. To my dismay, however, preparatory work hadn't commenced until my arrival. In addition to the specified wait time, the ordeal involved some ten minutes more of idling about the empty food court, absorbing the cooking fumes of stalls in operation.
It wasn't as if I had received a promotion either; the entire assortment was the equivalent of a Summit Garden supper set for three. Both the Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thais were obnoxiously spicy, albeit the mild rating that had been declared. Neither the Pineapple Rose Soda nor Passion Fruit Lychee Soda bore even the slightest resemblance to the Oakville location, and could easily be described as flat water - something along the lines of a two-day-old SodaStream creation. The Bangkok Meatballs served to redeem the meal, but not drastically. A microscopic portion for $5.95 plus tax, the meaty morsels sported identical toppings to the Pad Thai boxes and offered fire-exempt flavour. The Classic Peanut sauce was, thankfully, completely mild and tolerable.
To soothe our quivering tongues, I suggested popping back into the mall for ice cream. Differing preferences led me to make two stops: Super Kid at Laura Secord, then Maple Walnut and Brownie at Purdys.
I reached out to orangecane well in advance of the Easter long weekend. What ensued was the mention of Issho Bakery's Easter Box and, more importantly, an adventure proposal for fresh air.
Exhaustion from the previous day of errands had delayed our schedule, traffic calming speed bump-style. It was around lunchtime when we finally met, so it seemed only reasonable to acquire sustenance prior to the journey east. At this time, I was gifted a delectable hexad of Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, encased within her signature brown bags; instead of "Jinyoung's Wife" though, I had earned an additional title, founded on the basis of my newfound affection for VICTON's adorable maniac.
Takeout was secured at Roywoods, a name formerly seen only in passing within Union Station's York Concourse. Orangecane had opted for the Jerk Pork Sandwich, a saucy compilation of tomato, shredded lettuce, and not-so-mild meat that I was invited to sample.
My own Oxtail Plate was quite the substantial portion, more so than McKoy's and even more generous than Rainbow. The rice and peas was delicious, topped with just enough of the braising liquid to render it supple, while the segments of oxtail were mild yet absolutely flavourful. I, in particular, appreciated the variety of fleshy finds and collagen-containing crevices. Included in the set was a small container of steamed veggies: a good mix of string beans, cauliflower, and broccoli that was unfortunately coated heavily in pepper. Suffice to say that any leftovers were taken home and doused in hot water afterwards.
As I raised up my napkin in defeat and sluggishly slid my fork to the side, orangecane jumped up and excitedly announced our next course: the Strawberry and Cream Chiffon Sando. In spite of my repetitive declinations, it was deemed an item to be shared. Moka pot Americanos now stationed by our sides, the sandwich was bisected and forks plunged.
Striking was the sturdiness of the chiffon cake, which I had presumed to be structurally frail. It wasn't as airy as I imagined, nor as moist. Encased within was a whipped cream filling with diced fresh strawberries, far sweeter than my taste buds could sustain yet a suitable counterpart to the otherwise bland carrier of a cake. Quite possibly the highlight were the toppings: fresh strawberry slices and a quenelle of (could it be?) Chantilly cream dusted with (again, could it be?) freeze-dried strawberry powder.
The skies persisted a drab grey, emanating a "stay-at-home-and-slaze*" aura. By mid-afternoon, we finally mustered up determination to propel ourselves back into the outdoors.
* slaze = to sleep or laze about
My suggestion of Altona Forest proved closer than Google Maps' prediction. Within thirty-or-so minutes, I was instructed off the highway and into a predominantly residential neighbourhood. The distinctly suburban qualities of the area strayed from my initial impressions. Suspicions were only further raised upon parking in the tiny dirt lot, a bit more upon entering the area, reaching maximum anxiety at the sight of decayed shrubbery along a narrowing path.
With the arrival of long weekends is the customary congestion heading north on the 400. With the exception of minor impediment along the connecting sections of highway, traffic was minimal on the 401. There seemed a surge in slow drivers along Yonge St., but thankfully enough space along the narrower sections of the arterial to loop around those with the potential of endangering my punctual facade. I remained on time, and was welcomed into the exercise area promptly after the inaudible blast of the temperature gun.
It was officially the last class prior to the province-wide "Emergency Brake" lockdown, where memberships and existing class counts would be frozen until the lifting of pertinent restrictions.
We commenced with an anaylsis of existing conditions: incredibly stiff neck and shoulders after a dreary four days of working till the hours of 10 or 11 PM. With the intention of lengthening excessively contracted muscles, I was guided through a series of stretches for the back and neck. Amongst these was a particularly effective stretch which involved gently pivoting to loosen the head of the neck muscles while sitting cross-legged. I was also introduced to smooth massage balls for the sake of release.
Inching towards one end of the Carriage, a familiar bar pull-down exercise was revisited for strengthening of back muscles. The last rep involved a five-second hold.
The first part of class placed greater emphasis on stretching than strengthening, given the overall burden on the body. Mentioned throughout this portion were the scapula and spine, as well as their connectivity/relationship.
Moving onto the Stability Chair was, admittedly, an exhilarating moment. The contraption enabled exercises for both the upper and lower body using tension spring-affixed pedals.
The first exercise involved standing with one foot on the Reformer Box attachment, and the other on the moving platform. While bending and straightening the supporting leg, the pelvis was to remain level. It was harder than it seemed, and served to strengthen via isolating specific muscle(s)/muscle groups. A variation of this entailed standing with the supporting leg bent for the entire duration, but bending and straightening the leg on the platform while maintaing a level pelvis. Significantly easier on my "good" side, the routine summoned awareness towards my prominent biomechanical nonuniformity. Due to flat feet, this also served as an ankle and inner thigh strengthener, along with the Pilates' fundamental of core engagement. Impressive quad strength was noted given the lack of soreness in the stabilizing leg(s).
The second exercise was reminiscent of blogilates' infamous Candlestick Dipper for the obliques. Eliminating the Box attachment, I was instructed to sit on the Chair with one leg positioned 90 degrees to the body and the other outstretched; pointed toes or sole flat did not matter as long as I remained in contact with the ground, as this was to reduce risk of toppling should balance be lost mid-move. Similar to the Candlestick Dipper, the arms were outstretched in airplane mode in the starting position. One arm would be stretched over body, with the palm of the other arm would press down on tension spring-attached platform. The position would be held for a brief moment before returning to the starting position.
Core routines proceeded on the Reformer. A significant advancement from the previous three sessions, a deflated ball was utilized to prompt core engagement - the critical "imprint". The series incorporated a medley of familiar positions, but with equipment to maintain form: hundreds hand positioning with tension cords, elevated ("pilates stance") crunches and tabletop knee outs with the deflated ball.
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.