Kitchen Sink Breakfast Cookies

Most days, I want quick and easy breakfast options that I can throw in my mouth on the way out the door. I get tired of store-bought granola bars pretty quickly. These cookies make a perfect replacement: filled with coconut, banana, oats, chia seeds, and dried fruit to be both filling and healthy. They are super easy to make, and they store well. You can even freeze them if you haven’t eaten the entire batch in an afternoon :).

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My Baking Box

I’ve lived in a house with a small kitchen since I first started to cook. My parent’s tiny galley kitchen makes cooking with more than two people in the kitchen a challenge. My apartments at college always have had a distinct lack of cupboard space, mainly due to trying to find ways to accommodate 5 people’s separate groceries, mostly bulky items. In my kitchen now, I have enough cupboard space, but there’s not a lot of countertop to spread out.

One of the things that has been my saviour is what I call my baking box. It’s my way of storing small quantities of those odds and ends that you need for baking cookies, cakes, pies, etc. It fits neatly in the back corner of my cupboard.

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Presto Pesto!

The market had the most gorgeous fresh basil last week. You could literally smell in from a foot away, in spite of everything else. We’re not talking the handful of stems you find packed in a plastic container at the grocery store either, but a huge bunch that barely fit into my flower vase. And such a steal!

Everyone says once you’ve made fresh pesto, you’ll never want to buy grocery-store pre-made pesto again, and I have to agree. There’s just no comparison to how all the flavours play together in the fresh version, and how much more of a basil taste you get. Continue reading

Escaping the Bubble

I’ve been living in Waterloo for five years now, and I’ve noticed something. Students, myself included, are scared of escaping the university bubble and getting lost. Too many of us are comfortable finding restaurants along King Street or University Ave., and making Fairview Park Mall the farthest we’ve been in Kitchener.

I remember the first time I went on a city adventure. Back in early 2011, My roommates and I kept getting advertisements about a new Sobeys opening up. Pictures of delicious baked goods, fresh produce, and hand-picked local cheeses appeared on our doorstep. The flyers also included descriptions of the major staff members, from the Produce Manager to the Cheese Manager. It became a running conversation in our apartment about these individuals, and how one day, we would go meet them.

Now, this Sobeys was the part of the start of the Ira Needles Boardwalk, before buses really went out that way. We ended up taking a bus through a subdivision, and getting off at a corner with a gas station. No Sobeys in sight. We walked up the side of a barely lit highway without a sidewalk. In the dark. When we finally saw the green sign, we were so excited. Fortunately, the trip was well worth the trek. Even if it wasn’t, the story of getting there certainly was!

There are very few occasions where finding a grocery store feels like finding the holy grail. I miss that. I don’t get out and try new spots as often as I used to, and I can definitely be someone who stays with what’s tried and true. This summer, I want to go off-route and go explore some amazing new spots in Kitchener-Waterloo, and show you some of my favourites along the way.

French Toast Sunday

This morning, I decided to treat myself. I woke up pretty early, made myself a cup of english breakfast, and the easiest french toast ever. Seriously though: 5 ingredients, less than five minutes. The end result is pretty french toast with a hint of vanilla. I topped mine with maple syrup and strawberries. So good!

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Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Quinoa Burger: Homemade Veggie Burger Success!

I had never eaten a veggie burger before. Until tonight.

Tonight, I experienced one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, and I made it myself! This burger is all my favourite foods and toppings, all in one place: quinoa, avacado, and sweet potato (plus a bunch more exciting things).

This recipe is a bunch of firsts: my first veggie burger, my first homemade burger, and my first oven-baked burger (we always use the BBQ at home).

I’ve never had a veggie burger before because I’m allergic to onions, which makes vegetarian anything tricky. Growing up, we were really a meat/potatoes kind of family, mainly due to the allergy restrictions. Now that I have control over my kitchen, I like to branch out and pretend vegetarian- this burger is a great addition to my collection!

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Cinnamon Peach Banana Bread (Even if You Don’t Like Bananas)

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was allergic to bananas. Like any good best friend, I pretended that I was also allergic to bananas (not a stretch, since I didn’t like them anyways). My fake allergy turned into a complete aversion. I spent the last twenty years avoiding bananas in foods. I can tell if a smoothie has even a touch of banana in it, and you couldn’t pay me to drink it. Just the smell used to make me cringe!

Then last summer, I had a bizarre craving for banana bread. It lasted for days, and eventually I just gave in. I stumbled upon this gem: a delicious banana bread that takes sweet, summer peaches and the slightest hints of vanilla and cinnamon. It got me hooked on banana bread (though I still don’t really like bananas that much). This particular recipe uses greek yogurt and very little butter to keep it low fat. The end result is a moist and flavourful bread with a gorgeous golden brown crust. It was love at first sight (and first bite)! It’s my mom’s favourite treat when I’m home.

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I’m Back!: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

And we’re back! I’ve been swamped through January/February with campaigning for the Federation of Students (our student union) Executive, so I haven’t had time to breathe, much less blog. That should change though, now that the election is over. Sadly, my team didn’t win, but we ran a really great campaign, and all the races were close.

Now, I want to talk about the most amazing peanut butter cookies:

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Clubs Days is a lot like Speed Dating

Crammed tight into the SLC, poster boards upon poster boards line the tables. It’s toasty warm inside, especially compared to the winter wonderland happening just outside the door. The heat is probably due to the sheer number of people we manage to pack into the Great Hall and surrounding corridors. The enthusiasm in the room in infectious, and that’s before you end up in the centre of it all.

“We’re planning a field trip to Ottawa”

“We’re publishing research on alternative medicine”

“We usually run one or two big events a term”

“We’re pretty chill”

And my favourite two words “join us”!

I love Clubs Days that happen during the second week of the term. I’m already over-involved with a full class load, society activities, and student union committees, but I can’t help checking out what’s new. Especially stuff that doesn’t include living in the library cramming for midterms or scribbling assignments.

I love it because it’s all about getting involved. All these different groups of people with unique, niche interests, who just want to get together and share their passion. You pass from table to table, as current club members tell you how great and wonderful and fun their club is, and why you should join. Next thing you know your name is on the sign-up sheet: for twenty or so different and interesting clubs.

Every term, I manage to add more and more club announcements to my inbox. I show up for maybe two or three meetings. I know it’s going to happen, even if I tell myself I don’t have time. Maybe it’s from a need to mark my place in the patchwork. Maybe it’s that all these mini-groups are so diverse, and I can’t help but want to learn their perspective. Maybe it’s because I know that club will always be around in case I’m free and I want someone to talk to.

Go to Clubs Day, even if your plate is full. Go because it’s one of the best examples of student involvement on campus. Go because spending your whole day studying makes for a miserable term. Go because you might find a new friend who loves the same causes as you do. Go because this friend may be just an acquaintance, someone to small talk with once in a while – and that’s okay too. Besides, sometimes there’s free cheese. Or tea. Or cookies.

Clubs Days are happening Thursday and Friday next week (Waterloo).  What clubs are you joining or have you been in? Any interesting experiences?

Our Campus is Getting Bigger, Fast: Institutional Growth and How it Affects You

Institutional growth is the buzzword that is used to describe increasing enrolment and the growing number of students on campus. What the data says is that the University of Waterloo’s student population is growing at a rate where the quality of education provided will eventually decrease both in and outside the classroom. This will start to become noticeable within the next few years if something isn’t done.

Total undergraduate growth has been above 2% for over 5 years. This is due to the demand for Cooperative Education programs; the fact that faculties determine their own enrollment; and the lack of a centralized strategy on enrollment caps or growth consistency. Growth isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it’s inconsistent, unregulated, and the University of Waterloo has not been increasing its human and resource capital at the same rate as it has its student population. This means less support for every student, longer waits for services, and growing class sizes.

It gets worse when you look at the data for specific categories like coop or class sizes. Coop enrollment increases, but almost 700 students were unable to find employment in 2012. We are heading towards a projected job shortage in the 2014 winter term, where 900 additional students than the previous year will be looking for placements. Despite increasing enrollment, the number of instructional faculty members has decreased. Waterloo currently has a student to faculty ratio of 30.3, but this doesn’t account for faculty members doing research and not teaching. In the fall 2012 semester only 70.93% of the total classroom space was used during standard class hours, mostly smaller rooms due to larger class sizes and limited teaching personnel.

Enrollment cannot continue to grow at this rate, or we as students suffer. We need to start looking at advocating for more resources to campus services that we need, and finding efficiencies in the ones we don’t. We need to make recommendations for the University in terms of growth strategies, teaching quality, and service level outcomes. Then it’s time for you to follow up with the student leaders that represent you to make sure that we all get the quality of education that we paid for and that we deserve.

There needs to be room for all of us.

There needs to be room for all of us.