Julianna Yu's Blog


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My Paleo Diet Experience

I started Paleo on Monday July 30, 2012. Yes, I remember the date. You probably noticed I did a post on Elana’s Paleo Breakfast Bread. I was experimenting with Paleo recipes before I started Paleo. My boyfriend has been Paleo since March and I enjoy trying out new recipes that we can both have. My main motivation for trying out Paleo was because I wanted to see if I would feel less tired, have less pimples and become extremely disciplined with preparing meals. I also wanted to try a diet that would have me cut out soy, dairy and wheat again as my elimination diet had mixed results with these three categories.

The BF does crossfit and has been doing it for well over a year now.  It’s very common for people who do crossfit to eat Paleo. I haven’t tried crossfit yet, but I did go to one of his classes and observed. Brutal. I was pretty intimidated by crossfit and blown away by everyone.  One day, I’ll get my butt in there to try it out.

Anyways, I have been lucky to hear and see firsthand how great he feels when he sticks to eating Paleo and how bad he feels when he goes off it. Compared to my hypoallergenic diet in 2010, it was a lot less restrictive in terms of the veggies/fruits I have to give up . However, it requires giving up all grains and legumes. *gulp* ALL GRAINS. I don’t have legumes that much (except for SOY – Soy Sauce) so I wasn’t SO bummed about it. All grains…yes, even rice. Hmm.. I had significantly reduced my grains since the beginning of the year so it shouldn’t feel too challenging. I did that because I wanted to make more room on my plate for leafy greens and veggies, something I knew I needed to eat more of and so I wouldn’t feel so tired after eating it. Don’t we all need more greens and veggies? But eliminating all grains makes it tough to have baked goods and pizza/pasta/rice/noodles – My favourite foods when eating out. Heck, it’s what weekends are about! lol!

Initially, my intention was to start Paleo when my birthday celebrations were over, then it became after I get back from New York. The week I got back, I couldn’t bring myself to start anything new although I did miss home cooked food. I decided to stop making excuses, life was only going to get more hectic. The weekend after we got back, I grocery shopped and meal planned for my first week of Paleo.

I also decided that I wanted the first 3 weeks to be completely strict Paleo so that I could detox my system from what I was cutting out of my diet (all grains, all dairy, all legumes, processed foods, fried foods, potatoes or other starches except sweet potatoes,). That leaves meat, seafood, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. I’ll be fine.

It was a great test of discipline, time management and organization. I didn’t eat out with anyone for the first two weeks. Every meal was home made. I always had leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day and I didn’t get sick of anything. The more I cooked, the more excited I got about my next meal. Eating paleo encouraged me to rotate my sources of protein, increase my vegetable intake and become extremely diligent about meal planning and execution. Something I struggle with. I’m good at making meal plans, sticking with them is a different story.

I learned that I can cook 4 days a week and have leftovers for the next day. There were times when I would cook vegetables one day to eat with protein the day before but that was fine. I also found myself excited to plan out the week’s meals. I would sort of wing it on the weekend but always made sure that I had enough veggies and protein on hand to whip something up.

I also became better at packing snacks. I started eating an early dinner on days I work out… On Tuesdays that would mean eating dinner (or just sweet potatoes) around 4:00pm, running at 6pm, then eating a snack around 7pm (between my run and exercise class) then eating protein and veggies after my workout around 10pm. Of course this isn’t ideal, but we do what we gotta do and we make it work. it works for me!

In my first week, I didn’t use any sweet potatoes and found myself feeling tired/hungry before a workout. My boyfriend recommended I eat sweet potatoes before I exercise and it was a great tip. It made me feel more full and energetic and not heavy when I worked out. I was previously exercising on an empty stomach because I would find if I ate after 5:30pm for a 8pm class I would get a stomach ache or really feel my food jumping around while exercising. That’s very distracting and annoying and I imagine bad for digestion.

Everyone has different stories on how their transition from non-paleo to paleo was. Some people have had diarrhea, stomach aches, headaches, dizziness, etc. I didn’t experience any of that. I only felt hungrier during the first week. In the second week, I noticed I was eating more often 2-4 snacks a day along with 3 meals and felt more satiated and energetic.

To summarize, there were many benefits I got out of the Paleo Diet

  • experimenting with quick simple recipes and making up my own (SO MUCH fun!)
  • rotating my protein (eating more red meat – something I previously didn’t have much of a taste for except for ground flavoured meat – like hamburgers or dumplings). I use to just stick mostly with fish, chicken and pork.
  • eating more veggies and fruits (when you take grains off your plate, you make more room for greens)
  • a leaner, lighter body. I saw a noticeable physical difference and people have told me as well. I lost about 9-10 lbs.
  • My skin has been very clear – in 2 months, I’ve noticed I didn’t get any pimples
  • I wake up before my alarm
  • less cravings and less headaches

 

I broke my 3 week strict Paleo diet when I went to the wedding I mentioned in the How to Bake Tender Salmon post. I felt like I could keep eating everything on my plate. That was the first time I had dairy, wheat and sugar in 3 weeks and my senses were getting overwhelmed. The week after, we celebrated a birthday and I had 2 slices of banana chocolate cake (I love banana chocolate!!). I got a very bad headache and was dizzy the rest of the day. Man!! Cheating sucks. Was it the sugar? the wheat? the dairy? hmm..Back to Paleo.

I’m not an expert on Paleo, heck I’m still reading The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain. I tried Paleo because I wanted to see how my gut would feel when I eliminated soy, wheat and dairy again. I will admit I missed wheat and rice, the two grains I have when I eat out most of the time, but when my 3 weeks were up and I ate these things, I found that my body felt heavier after bread but rice was fine. I didn’t miss the heavy feeling.

For now, I limit my paleo cheats to a few times a week and in the big scheme of things, it’s no biggie. I’ve started experimenting with baked goods, so I will have something sweet to incorporate in my meal rotation.

The most challenging part of being on this diet might just be when I find myself explaining to others why I’m on it. As with any other diet, I didn’t want to come off like I’m lecturing or sounding like I’m an expert, because I’m not, I’m just speaking from my experience and what I’ve read. The kindest thing that someone can say to me would be “That’s great that you found a diet that you enjoy”, but it’s rare that it’s as simple as that. Usually people will say “It sounds hard”. As with most things, it’s not as hard as you think, it just depends on how much you want it and how committed you are.

Note: When I initially wrote this post, it was 09/26/2012, I was eating mostly paleo. However, a couple weeks ago, I went off the diet and stopped tracking my meals because I was dining out and catching up with friends and wanted to take a break from it all. I’ve decided to publish this post anyways, so someone might find it interesting if they are contemplating going Paleo. I find that when I was eating strict Paleo, I was eating more veggies and meat than I had before and although I didn’t initially think I could feel satiated the way I do when I eat grains, I found that I very quickly did. And so, when I would eat out and have grains (i.e. Thai food, Chinese food, Indian food), I found I could eat lots of rice or noodles and still not be as full because the meal would contain far less vegetables and meat than I had grown accustomed to eating with Paleo. I definitely feel much better when I was on Paleo.

I had pizza this past week as part of a Thanksgiving Potluck at work. The last time I had it was in New York in July. Crazy. I don’t remember going this long without for a while. That’s how much I love me some bread, cheese and tomato sauce. 🙂

Have you gone Paleo? What was your experience like?


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How To Bake Tender Salmon

A few weekends ago, I attended an intimate wedding reception of one of my long time co-workers. Going into it, I knew the food was going to be amazing because this girl knows food. LOL! And I knew she’d probably pick a great combination.

When I arrived, I sat in my chair and took a look at the menu. It was a 5 course feast. LOL! We had chicken, salmon and filet mignon…!! One of the sides was a seafood risotto *melt* It was the first time I had it and I devoured every bite like it was my last meal on earth.

Seafood Risotto & The Most Tender Salmon

The only thing I didn’t like was the potatoes which were too salty. But my utmost favourite part of my meal was the salmon. The salmon MELTED in my mouth as I bit into it. The most tender salmon I ever had. “Well, I’ve never made salmon that tasted like this”, I said to the co-worker eating next to me, she agreed that it was incredible. LOL! I knew I had to find out how, there must be a simple technique. What is surprising for me was that the fish was more pink then I was use to but it tasted cooked through but not dry. So if you’re like me and you don’t like undercooked things, just give this a try. It’s cooked through, it’s just softer than you may be use to.

My issue is that I’m always afraid of things being undercooked because I don’t eat raw meat/seafood (yeah, I’m one of those people). Yes, even smoked salmon… but I finally sucked it up and had a bite of sushi pizza. I could smell the fishyness and I found that offputting but I finished my bite.

Where was I? Yes, the secret to tender salmon. I found it online with a quick google search. The secret is using a PACKET! Yeah, that’s it! Simple!! Create it using parchment or foil (that’s what I used, because that’s what I had on hand). Put some olive oil on the foil/parchment, then put your salmon inside (along with any seasonings and garnishes – I like putting sea salt, black pepper, lemon slice under and on top and squeezing some lemon juice, throwing a generous amount of fresh dill on top) and fold over the parchment or foil and roll in the sides so it is a completely sealed up.

The link says it will take 25 minutes but the cooking time varies because of how thick or thin your salmon is, so I would err on the side of caution and do 15 minutes first. As the link says, use a fork to check if it flakes easily.

My first time I tried this packet method, I got the tenderness I desired and I was ecstatic and wanted to announce it to the world. I thought the best way was through blogging.

If you try this method let me know what you think. It’s a keeper!

Do you have any secrets to baking tender salmon?

Have a great weekend!

– Julie


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My Kitchen Disaster: Sweet Potato and Beet Chips

This is the third post of the Kitchen Disaster series. Start reading this series here.

Last weekend, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. After making a quick shopping list Saturday morning I went up to Wychwood Barns Farmer’s market and picked up lots of goodies. These included orange beets from Footstep Organic and red beets, kale and red leaf lettuce from Everdale Farm.

I decided I’d make a roasted beet and sweet potato dish as well as sweet potato and beet chips. If you’ve ever bought root veggie chips by Terra, then you know how expensive your chip habit can be. Much more economical to make your own.

I use this recipe by in sock monkey slippers.

Orange and Red Beets

Prepping Mixed Beets & Sweet Potatoes

Disaster: Burnt Sweet Potato and Beet Chips

My Second Attempt

  • This wasn’t the first time I was making sweet potato and beet chips. I’ve made it once before and it was fine…How is it possible that I messed it up the second round? Multitasking..and not doing a good job of it at all!
  • I found as I sliced that I couldn’t get perfect circles, no matter what I always ended up with semi-circles. I guess, I’ll just have to practice more trying to keep my potato flush against the mandolin. Even though it’s just an aesthetics thing it bugs me. Yes, but chips are chips!
  • The first batch of beet chips were good. I ate them all as I put the second batch in the oven. The second batch of beet chips and sweet potatoes burned. I forgot about them while I was working on layering the beets and sweets and they overcooked.
  • My mom saw them on the table and asked “Julie, did you make chocolate chips?” Me: “Naw… I burned them”. I still ate a handful of them anyways. LOL! All that time I put into slicing those babies and waiting for them, I was going to have some! And they had a hint of sweet with a lot of BURNT taste. haha

Orange Beet Chips (left) and Sweet Potato Chips (right)

Burned Sweet Potato Chips

Notes for the future 

  • Bake sweet potato and beets separately since beets burn faster.
  • Flip the chip’s at the 8-10 minute mark for beets and the 10 minute mark for sweet potatoes
  • One of them should’ve been to pull out the chips early especially the beet ones because those one burn fast. Also, don’t subsitute foil for parchment. Some of my chips stuck to the foil – perhaps not enough oil. The recipe specified parchment and I didn’t have any. Either use parchment or just coat the beet and sweet potato slices in oil
  • Another good tip would’ve been make sure you have more than one baking sheet or pan to use, it will make it easier to bake more chips at once. What I ended up doing was baking one side. Then flipping them and pushing them to one side of the pan, while putting in more chips on the other side. Thereby staggering the bake times. That didn’t work out too well since the beets and sweet potato baking times vary
  • Set a timer and make sure to check on the chips when it goes off. Waiting can cause you burnt chips. 😦

Have you made sweet potato or beet chips before? What about other veggie chips?


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My Kitchen Disaster: Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

First Attempt at Raw Chocolate Strawberries. Messy. But Tasty.

This is the second post of the Kitchen Disaster series. Start reading the series here

I have wanted to make raw chocolate dipped strawberries since I bought a pack of cacao powder. I’ve mostly just added it to oatmeal and smoothies. Last weekend, I picked up some strawberries and remembered I had everything I needed to try this. A quick search online and I found Gone Raw’s Dark Chocolate Strawberries recipe. I knew I needed a recipe that used coconut oil because I didn’t want to buy cacao butter (an ingredient I don’t have and a pricey one at that).

I’ll post my recipe for this when I get around to making it again and tweaking it.

Disaster

– Chocolate sauce was too thick when I initially made it. It was thick like the brownie picture below (a pic of a brownie I made in November 2011). I added hot water and oil to thin it out. Eventually I remembered to use another bowl with enough hot water to help heat the chocolate sauce bowl.

– Also, end product looked messy (too much chocolate coated the strawberries) and shoudn’t have scooped the remaining chocolate onto the strawberries.

Brownie in the making – Thick texture

First Attempt

The coconut oil was already melted because the weather’s been warm enough. That saved me some time. I mixed in the cacao and at first, I was soo excited because the melted chocolate was taking form. It was slick and glossy like the top right picture in the 4 pic stitched image I shared above. However, once I had all that cacao mixed in, the textured turned thick. Although it smelled like a delicious chocolate brownie, I wasn’t aiming for something that looked like a thick brownie mixture.

This thick texture wasn’t going to allow for easy dipping. I considered smothering the chocolate onto the strawberries. But then I couldn’t call this “dipped” could I? It would be “smothered” chocolate strawberries.

I decided, I needed to thin it out, either water or oil. I tried a bit of hot water. I wondered, if maybe the coconut oil stiffened when the cacao got mixed in (perhaps the temperature of the coconut oil lowered in the process?) and I needed to “melt” it again. So I nuked it for about 15 secs. No dice, I dried it out a bit. GRReat..

I decided to do a double boiler using a bigger soup bowl full of hot boiled water and put my little bowl on top. The steam from the hot boiled water would keep the little bowl from solidifying. At the same time I added a bit of hot water. Nothing. I decided to add more oil since that was the only other option left. So I added more coconut oil and kept adding until I got this slick, shiney, gooey delicious chocolate sauce. By then I had added a total of 8 tbsp of coconut oil (the original recipe is 2 tbsp LOL).

I completely forgot about the tip about leaving some of the red of the strawberry exposed and tried to coat the strawberry with as much chocolate as possible. I had leftover chocolate after dipping them. So I spooned the rest of the chocolate on top of as many strawberries as I could. The result: goopy, sloppy looking strawberries. Incredibly addictive and tasty strawberries. I ate all but maybe 2 of them that night. 🙂

Notes for the future

  • Make sure that I start off with a bowl of hot boiling water underneath the chocolate bowl (double boiler).
  • Add oil to thin mixture – start with 2 tbl and adjust until I get the consistency I want
  • If you add more oil, taste and adjust agave/maple syrup until you get your desired sweetness.
  • Don’t scoop any of the mixture onto the strawberries – results in ugly and sloppy chocolate dipped strawberries.

 Have you made chocolate dipped strawberries before? What was your experience like?


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My Kitchen Disaster Series

This is the first post of My Kitchen Disaster Series.

Last weekend, I had a few mess-ups, screw-ups or disasters which I wanted to share here as I figured other people might find them amusing. I hesitated though, would this paint a negative image of me? HAHA I hope not. I shared my idea with a friend for this post and she said to me “I love when people show me that they make mistakes too. Professionals couldn’t have gotten become successful without hours of practice and they are sure to have made mistakes along the way”. Agreed. I pitched the idea to a few other friends and they were all saying it was a good idea. So, off I went to type.

Although kitchen mishaps do happen, do they get shared in the food blog world? How often do we see a post about a mishap? Not often enough. Sometimes disaster strikes in the kitchen and we manage to save the day. Othertimes, it’s our final product that is the disaster and even after following every step of a recipe, we don’t know where we went wrong.

I come across picture perfect, pristine images of beautiful food all the time. I LOVE them, don’t get me wrong, but I also love it when the picture is a bit more real. ya know, a bit messy, a crumb here or there, splatter, and a dirty fork perhaps. Anything that makes the picture look more REAL rather than … perfect (staged). Makes me wonder what disasters other people have had and swept under the rug instead of sharing. Sharing our imperfections make us more real.

Here are some of my past disasters which I don’t have pictures for as they happend a few of years ago.

1. Attempting Mujadara (lentils, rice and caramelized onions) on stove top. We’ve always made rice in a rice cooker. It was the first kitchen appliance I learned to use as a kid. Naturally, cooking rice on stove top is extremely intimidating (and new) to me and well pointless when the rice cooker is reliable and consistent. I followed a recipe for Mujadara which involved cooking the lentils and rice on the stove top. I hadn’t tried Mujadara before but it sounded tasty. I stood for 2.5 hours only to have burnt rice and undercooked lentils. I remember feeling pretty bummed about all that time I spent and nothing to show for it. It was on a weeknight too. I probably had takeout that night. lol!

2. Attempting homemade pizza with my sister. The oven had food or oil droppings on the bottom which we didn’t really think too much about. The pizza went up in flames. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared and frozen probably flipping out on the inside. Luckily my sister sprung into action. Even after we cleaned up the the oven, I took a break from using the oven for quite some time. The pizza probably would’ve been good if it wasn’t for the strong BURNT taste. I haven’t made a pizza from scratch since.

Maybe disaster is a bit dramatic but I can’t think of a better word so disaster it is. I was really upset in both the instances I mentioned above. But now, it doesn’t bother me as much when I mess up. Maybe the more I cook the less upset I get? Or maybe the older I get the less upset? Haha Doesn’t matter. If it’s still edible, it’s eaten. If I can’t fix it, I’ll make notes of what I did and try it again another time making a change.

My hope is that by sharing these, you’ll laugh and feel less discouraged when things don’t go as smoothly in the kitchen. Especially for people that don’t feel confident in their cooking skills. Keep at it and most importantly don’t lose hope.

What are your thoughts? What are your kitchen diaster stories?

Have a great friday!


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Steamed Brown Sugar Buns

Last week, I had a day off in light of Independence Day (Wednesday). I ended up staying up really late on Tuesday night and found that Wednesday morning, I was feeling sluggish because of the hot humid weather. After my breakfast smoothie (around 11am), I wanted something small to eat for lunch. I opened the freezer and found these buns. I had purchased these with hopes of steaming them the week I bought it. Then weeks went by and I forgot all about it.

Brown Sugar Swirl Steam Buns. The package says “Preservative Free” and “MSG Added”. I’m hoping the “added” is a mistake in translation…

These were delicious! They aren’t stuffed with anything. And aren’t as sweet as most baked goods are. These are imported from Taiwan and taste just like the Taiwanese steamed sweet buns we would buy from street food vendors in Kaohsiung. We ate them almost everyday when we last visited there. Nothing beats freshly steamed! Oh how I miss street food in Kaohsiung. I’ll be posting another time with pics of some good eats I had during my last visit.

Brown Sugar Swirl Steam Buns

These did the trick. I had two of them and they pretty much tied me over until dinner.

What are your favourite steamed buns?

I also love two steamed buns you can find at Dim Sum: the yellow custard ones and the lotus paste ones. MMM.

Have a wonderful Monday!


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Evergreen Brick Works Farmer’s Market

This weekend was a scorcher!! How did you spend it? I spent mine connecting with a couple of friends on saturday and taking it easy most of sunday because I woke up feeling really lightheaded and dizzy. I don’t think I did a good job with liquids yesterday – lots of strolling and chatting but probably not a lot of drinking. I had lots of fluids today to make up for it and stayed in bed for a good chunk of my sunday.

Early saturday morning, I got up around 7am and met up with a friend around 8:30am so we could head out to Evergreen Brickwork’s Farmer’s Market. I’ve heard great things about it and I’m so glad I was able to go this saturday. I was particularly excited because it was my friend’s first time going to a farmer’s market and I was glad to be part of this initial experience. It was a really hot day so we started off with some freshly squeezed juices (ginger, apple, carrot, beet) while we took our time to browse the vendors.

I snatched up some kale and swiss chard from Sosnicki Organics and some magenta lettuce from Everdale Farm. My plan is to use the kale in either in smoothies or stir fries and the magenta lettuce in salads.

There was a lot of vendors to see and a wide variety of produce and products for sale: including kale, chard, lettuce, cucumbers, garlic oil, fresh flowers, lavendar, ice pops, snow cones, mustard, blueberries, currants, radishes, beets, garlic,strawberries, strawberry tarts, cheese, sausages, fish, mushrooms, pies, baked breads, beauty products and much more.

Evergreen Brick Works

Evergreen Brick Works

Evergreen Brick Works

Evergreen Brick Works

Ali’s Catering: Baked goods

There were lots of prepared foods too. Ali’s catering has lots of interesting goodies. Pictured above to the left is a beet baguette. If you are gluten free, dairy free or vegan, she has some baked bread loaves (or mini loaves) that should accomodate your diet. When I was doing my elimination diet, I would regularly go to Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market or The Stop’s Farmer’s Market at Wychwood Barn’s just to pick up a half or full quinoa loaf (when I couldn’t yet have wheat).

EBW Farmer’s Market

Fresh Lavendar

I settled on some Belgium waffles by The Waffle Bar because I’ve never had them before. I’ve seen them in the frozen aisle at my neighborhood grocery store, but they just don’t look as appetizing to me as FRESH belgium waffles. I noticed little spots of white in the batter. I asked the vendor that was making them what the little spots of white was and whether it was white chocolate. He told me that it was pulled sugar imported from Belgium. First time I ever heard of pulled sugar, interesting. Note: You’ll notice in the bottom left of the photo below the balls of batter on the blue lid with the pulled sugar waiting to go into the waffle maker.

The Waffle Bar: Belgium waffles being made

Belgium Waffles with whipped cream and local strawberries

Belgium Waffles with whipped cream and local strawberries

After biting into these, I was certain I’ve never had these before. These had a texture that was chewy like a baguette and not like the pancake batter-like ones we have at dessert places. I thought it was interesting having the little bits of crunchy pulled sugar. I’m not sure if I needed it, but I didn’t mind it. I really enjoyed the local strawberries, the whipped cream, icing sugar on top.

After something sweet, I wanted something savoury. We had seen burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches and empanada’s. But I had seen people wandering around with interesting looking dumplings so I wanted to find this vendor.

My Little Dumplings

My Little Dumplings: Jerk Chicken Dumplings

We found My Little Dumplings which rotates global flavoured dumplings every week. This week it was Morrocan Chickpea, Jerk Chicken or Arctic Chard. All sounded good but we decided in the end on Jerk Chicken dumplings. I can’t help it, I love jerk chicken.

I asked the vendor (I found out today, when I looked up their website, I was speaking directly to the Chef Bashir), what goes into their dumpling skin and how do they prepare the dumpling. He told me that they use ground organic wheat flour and seasoned the flour with spices. The result of seasoning it with spices changes the colour of the skin. SOO COOL!!  I also found out these little guys (at least the ones I ordered) were steamed. One of the other dumplings had black sesame in the skin – I thought the little black specked pattern looked familiar!

When we bit into these tiny morsels we were both exclaiming with how flavourful and moist these were. We were both surprised that the chicken wasn’t ground chicken but diced pieces of chicken covered in spices.

I had a great time at Evergreen Brick Works and can’t wait to go back. Try to make it out to Evergreen Brick Work’s one saturday morning if only just to check out the lovely farmer’s market and the food vendors. BTW, there’s lots more to do there, check out their site, fun for everyone!

How was your weekend?