Monday, November 25, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

A while ago, I went to a friend's place for dinner. Because of health reasons, she is dairy and gluten free. She made this mousse that was absolutely delicious. I was surprised she was eating it because it had all the rich deliciousness of a normal chocolate mousse. Then she let me in on the secret - avocados.

I was surprised and immediately shared the recipe for a friend who was also gluten and dairy free for health reasons. She was delighted because here was a recipe that she could take to a pot luck dinner that everyone would actually eat that wasn't just plain vegetables.

Vegan chocolate mousse
Ingredients
2 Large Hass Avocados, cubed
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Coconut oil
2-4 Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar
Splash of Water  
1-2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Cup Cocoa Powder (un-sweetened)

Method
•       Add all ingredients except cocoa powder into a food processor, pulse until smooth. Add cocoa powder to avocado mixture and blend until smooth. - I just used my beaters and it worked just fine. If it's a little thick, just add a bit more water.
•       Refrigerate in a tighly sealed container for up to a week.
•       Serve with cool whip and your favorite berries and enjoy! This recipe is really rich and you only need the 1/2 cup to satisfy any chocolate craving! Makes 8-- 1/2 cup servings.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

For Halloween this year, we had morning tea at work. I was volunteered to make pumpkin pie and maple cream.

In New Zealand, there is no such thing as canned pumpkin, so I had to start from step zero.

Roasting the pumpkin:
  1. Preheat the oven to 220 C.
  2. Get a pumpkin and cut it in half.
  3. Scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits.
  4. Put it cut side down on a cookie sheet or low sided baking dish and put in the oven.
  5. Bake until a butter knife slides easily through the pumpkin halves (about 45 minutes to an hour).
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool. When it's cool enough to touch, scoop all the flesh out of the skin.
  7.  If it's watery, you'll need to drain the excess fluid. To do that, wrap the scooped out pumpkin goodness in a cheesecloth (or a tea towel if you don't have cheesecloth) and wind it tightly and SQUEEEEEEZE. There are likely other (possibly better) methods, but this works for me.

When you're ready to use it, run it through a blender or food processor or just hit it with the beaters to make a nice smooth puree. A pie typically uses 2 cups of puree. The whole pumpkin I roasted this week produced enough for 3 pies. I baked 2, and I froze the other 2 cups to use later.

The Pie - MAKES 1
Preheat oven to 220 C.
Line a 9" pie tin with pastry. Blind bake for 15 minutes, remove weight and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until golden. Remove from oven and reduce to 190 C. Let the pie crust cool while you prepare the filling:

Filling:
2 eggs
2 cups pumpkin purée
1 1/2  cups heavy cream (375 ml)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp grated cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt

Mix until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-45 minutes, until set, but a bit jiggly in the middle. Cool completely on a rack.

Note: Most recipes use about 1/2 of the spices. I like my pumpkin pie on the spicy side and so go a little heavier. It's up to you.

Serve with cream or ice cream.

Maple Cream
1 cup cream
2 tbsp maple syrup (for flavour and sweetness)

Whip together.

Share and Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canadian Vacation - A Great Beginning

Arrived yesterday after 13.5 hours of flying from Auckland to Vancouver. I managed to score a row to myself and so was able to actually stretch* out for the night. When I arrived in Vancouver yesterday mid day, I was actually reasonably well rested. :)

My awesome sister Nicole was waiting for me when I emerged from customs and collecting my bag, bearing gifts of a chocolate dip donut and a salted caramel mocha. Both were appreciated (and consumed) on the ride back to her house. There's no picture of the first donut as the frosting had attached to the side of the bag. I'll try to snap another chocolate dip when I get a chance so that I can complete the set.

After dropping my stuff off, we went for a walk to the mall near her place to get a SIM card for my phone and to just stretch out my legs from the journey. The trail across the road from her house had that sign you see below. Apparently the bear was breaking into the rubbish shed at her building. I've gotten used to there being no large mammal predators(other than humans) ... I'm not in middle-earth any more! 
Here there be bears!

*as much as you can stretch out when you're limited to three seats on a plane.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

SQL PASS Summit 2012


Only 4 more sleeps until I get on the first plane that will ultimately bring me 12,000 km away to Seattle for the PASS Summit. I'm really looking forward to it. My first two passes through the schedule have seen me squeal with delight as I see so many topics of interest.

In my day job, I don't have a specific focus. I'm not a DBA or a developer or a BI person or a "data scientist" (I hate that title) or any of the usual labels. They all seem to apply depending on the time of day. As a result, I'm just as interested in the half day session on query performance tuning as I am on the advanced PowerPivot and PowerView things. And don't get me started on the SSIS stuff. There are so many things I want to absorb ALL THE INFORMATION on.

I'm sure that if I was able to clone 2 more of me, I could almost go to all the sessions I would like to.

I'll try to post some summaries here of the things that I pick up as I go.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy


Happy.

Such a simple word. Such a minefield.

What does being happy even mean? I looked up happiness on Wikipedia. The definition was listed as “Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” 

The last conversations I had with my ex were about happiness. The first happened on the 6th anniversary of our move to NZ. We’d been separated for almost 3.5 years at that point and he asked me if I was happy. I thought about sending him a flip “yep” and being done with it. In the end, I sent him a slightly longer answer of yes and some of the reasons that I was happy with the life I have. I wouldn’t say that I am living a life of intense joy, but I am content. 

The last conversation was a little angrier (see my previous blog post). His feeling is that every person’s happiness comes at the cost of someone else. And so he wished me joy in mine knowing that it came at the cost of his. 

That conversation rolls around in my head. First of all, he has rewritten a lot of history to come to that conclusion and I can understand wanting to lash out and blame everyone else for your problems instead of taking responsibility for the choices you make. On the other hand, though, is he entirely wrong?

I don’t mean that we need some sort of Schadenfreude in order to be happy. Think about the decisions you make in your life in the pursuit of your own happiness. Do you always take into account how it will affect the others around you? 

It’s something I’ve been wondering lately. I’ve definitely made some selfish decisions over the last 4 years. Some of those choices, I’m not proud of. Others, though, I wouldn’t change at all, even though some people were hurt as part of the decision. At what point do I admit that (sometimes) when I snatch some happiness into my life, I’ve grabbed it from somewhere / someone else? 

Of course, I know that some happiness just comes. If it’s a lovely sunny day and I get a glow of joy from the feeling of the warmth on my skin, nobody gets hurt from that. What about the choices that do / will / could hurt others? If I know in advance, does it make me a bad person to take a little joy where I can find it? What criteria make it less “evil”? These are the things I ponder.

In the end, perhaps happiness is just an illusion. Fortunately, I like illusions.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Irreconcilable Differences

He said: "I gave up everything when you left. I hope you're happy." She said: "I gave you everything when we were together and lost myself trying to make you happy. Now I make _me_ happy." And with that, a story that occupied 21 years of their lives reaches closure. Fin.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On turning 40

My first milestone birthday was 13. I'd truly be a teen then. For my birthday, I got a facial and a makeup lesson. My mom had a rule, I couldn't wear makeup until I'd been shown how to wear it properly. I'm not sure how many years I continued to make myself up every morning, might not have even lasted 1, but I learned that less is more and I didn't look like a whore when I wore it.

And then there was my sweet 16. I had friends over and watched movies IIRC.

Next came 19, when I could legally drink. My mom, 2 aunties and my friend Melissa, who had turned 19 in August, took me to a bar when midnight rolled over so they could buy me my first legal drink. The teacher from my former high school that I had a huge crush on was playing there with his band. They played happy birthday and Michelle by the Beatles. I had a rye and ginger I think (cc dry for my kiwi readers).

When I turned 20, I broke up with my negligent not-really-boyfriend and had the best birthday with by BFF Anthony who invited another university friend Dan out to join us for drinks. We went to the Jolly Friar where a group of old high school mates, including my ex-bf (but still friend), turned up. The evening ended with shots and cake at Casey's on Great Northern Road. Was my favourite birthday so far (and was half a life time ago).

After that, I met a guy, who soon became my husband. We spent 17 years together in total, and none of the birthdays really stand out. As you can guess, that ended in separation (shortly after anniversary 15).

The first birthday post separation - this was an interesting one. My social circle was really small. That birthday, I treated myself to a movie and dinner consisting of popcorn. Went to see 500 days of Summer which I hadn't really researched in advance and thought was a light RomCom. Turned out it wasn't, but I still enjoyed it, while wondering if it would be the first of many lonely birthday parties.

The second one was better. I had friends of the single and married and loved up varieties. I had recently come home from my sister's wedding and gathered some friends to celebrate another year passing and the beginning of my final 30-something year.

Now I'm sitting here on the sofa curled up with the worlds best dog on my birthday eve. I've been reflecting on my existence the last few days and have to admit that I'm actually quite happy with the life that I have. I have some amazing friends and family, I live in an awesome city, and I make money doing something that really interests me. My life may not be perfect, but it is perfect for me.

And so, as my 40th birthday approaches, I just want to say thank you to those who have become such integral parts of my life. I love you and I feel blessed. xx