Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers
Can you guys believe Christmas is only 9 days away?! This year, especially the past few months, have absolutely flown by for me. Moving to a new city, starting a new job, making new friends (and keeping in touch with old), fostering a puppy… I’ve been insanely busy (in the best way) and I honestly think it’s crazy that mid December has rolled around.
Do you guys still get stockings? I actually was kind of under the impression that everyone did, until I started asking some friends. It turns out that I might be a minority. My stocking has always been one of my favourite parts of Christmas – usually I have some idea of what presents my parents are going to get me, but my stocking is always full of so many fun surprises. I usually spend Christmas morning at my dad’s house, and my step mom (I mean Santa) always puts so much thought into my stocking, and it’s so fun to get to go through everything and compare stockings with my brothers and sisters. My roommate, Kelsea, and I also decided to do stockings for each other this year, which I am super excited about. I’ve never got to fill anyone else’s stocking before!
I thought I would put together a little gift guide, just in case you still have a bit of Christmas shopping to do (I know I do!) These are a combination of favourite little treats that I already own and love, and some things that I’ve been pining after. I hope you like it!
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African Peanut Stew

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If you know me well, or if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that there are few things I love more than a good, hearty soup. Especially when it’s super easy to make, freezes well, is healthy, and has lovely, unique flavours. I actually have to force myself to make foods besides soup, because I remember that my freezer is still full from the last 3 times I made it. But seriously, hand me a big bowl of soup and a chunk of bread, and I’ll be the happiest person.

So it will come as no surprise that this peanut stew is one of the first things I chose to make from the OSG Cookbook. I’ve loved Angela’s blog for years now, and her cookbook does not disappoint. I might just have a few more things to share from it in the coming weeks…

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This delicious stew is insanely simple, doesn’t take forever to cook, and is so, so yummy. Perfect served with some thick, crusty bread on a cold winter day.

African Peanut Stew 

Serves 6 

Adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook 

1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium Sweet Onion, diced

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 Jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 (28 oz/793 g) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/3 cup Natural Peanut Butter

4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder

1 (15 oz/425 g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked Chickpeas

2 handfuls Baby Spinach or destemmed, torn Kale Leaves

Fresh Cilantro, for serving

Roasted Peanuts, for serving

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño, sweet potato, and tomatoes with their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring as needed. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter and 1 cup of the broth until no clumps remain. Pour into the saucepan with the vegetables, along with the remaining 3 cups of broth, and the chill powder. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach/kale and cook until the greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts.

Dancing in Denmark

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a travel post. It takes me a while to really think about things, and they’re long posts, and I’ve been busy. But I realized that I was travelling in July and it is now December and that is way, way too long to save a post for, even for me. I have three more to write, including this one, and my goal is to have them done for Christmas, which sounds a lot easier than it will probably be in reality.

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My best friend, Carley, and I decided that while I was in Europe, we were going to choose one city to explore together, even if it was a little further and a little more expensive to get to than most of my other stops. It was between Prague, Budapest, and Copenhagen, and we chose the latter mainly because it was the most practical option for only 3 days. Hungary and the Czech Republic will have to wait for another trip.

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Copenhagen

We booked a bus on a Friday morning, leaving from Hamburg, which was where I was staying at that point. When we got to the bus station, it became apparent that our bus was overbooked, so after a couple of hours of waiting, we gave up our seats when they offered to pay for a taxi to drive us to Denmark. It seemed more comfortable and we for some reason found it quite funny, so we joined 4 other passengers (mostly people travelling for work, I think) in a van cab and headed to Copenhagen. Our route included a short and windy, but very beautiful, ferry ride across the Baltic Sea. We arrived in Denmark in the early afternoon and eventually found our hostel, despite having nearly dead phones and no map.

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Right away, we decided to go to the Tivoli Gardens. I know this might not have been the best way to explore the city, but we both really wanted to go on some crazy rides. We found out that our timing was perfect, because it turned out that Passenger was playing at the Tivoli that night, and our passes got us free access. We were SO excited. So we spent the day going on the craziest rides we could find, including this one. Ah! We ventured out of the park for dinner, eventually deciding on a cafe called Paludan. It was a lovely coffee shop/bar food kind of place that had walls lined with books, which you were invited to read. It was the kind of place you wanted to hang out at for a couple of hours, but we didn’t really have time. If I remember correctly, we shared nachos, a burger, and had some beers (I know, how lame of us) and headed back to our hostel to change before the concert.

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Passenger was honestly amazing. I hadn’t heard a lot from him before the concert, so didn’t really know what to expect. He was so captivating and honest and seemed ridiculously personable, and I was so impressed by him and his voice and his stage presence (he doesn’t even have a band!)

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The next morning, we rented bikes and then set out to find the most trendy brunch place, Kalaset. After about an hour of riding back and forth and a fair amount of navigational arguments, we found an adorable little restaurant tucked into a quiet corner and ate the most delicious pancakes I have possibly ever had. And if you’re a regular reader, you know the kind of standards I have for pancakes. Afterwards, we headed over to Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid statue for some photo ops, then checked out Christiania (we just looked!) and climbed to the top of the Church of Our Saviour with some amazing views of the city.

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If this sounds like a lot to do in one day, it was. But since we rented bikes, and Copenhagen is actually really easy to get around, we were able to see a lot more than I thought we would. After climbing the church, we rented kayaks and took a little self-guided canal tour. This might have been my favourite part of the weekend. I was very impressed by my ability to stay upright in a kayak, and it was a really great, different way to see the city. Just before it started to pour, we made it to Mother, a delicious pizza kitchen in the meatpacking district, where we sat under a covered patio wrapped in blankets next to heat lamps, eating pizza. It was lovely. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure it was “hygge”; the danish word for “coziness” or “creating intimacy”. Later that night, we headed back to the meatpacking district to hit some warehouse clubs and dance the night away.

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Unfortunately, it poured for most of our last day. We checked out some stores around Strøget and then went to an indoor food market called Torvehallerne, where we ate amazing fish tacos and I bought black liquorice for family back home. We ended up catching a ride back to Hamburg in the late afternoon with a guy in a Mini Cooper who we found on a carpooling website, because we forgot to book return tickets and then couldn’t find any so almost got stuck in Copenhagen. He actually ended up being very nice and uncreepy, which was a nice bonus. Back in Hamburg, we went to the World Cup Final viewing, but couldn’t stay because I had to catch a bus to Brussels and Carley had to head back to Bremen. So even though I can say I was in Germany when they won the World Cup, I actually didn’t see the end of the game… I’m kind of sad about that.

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Bolognese Sauce and Sweet Potato Noodles

Tomorrow is my twenty-second birthday. At this point, I still feel excited about getting a little older; I think because all of the people who I work with and many of my friends are actually older than me, and I sometimes feel a little immature telling people that I’m only 21. I’m a little scared though, that this might be the last birthday that I feel this way. It’s not necessarily that I’m afraid of getting older.  I’m done school, I have a job that I love, amazing friends, a good apartment, and I’m optimistic about my dating life. It’s just that I think I might miss the feeling of unlimited time. Of thinking that I can travel to a hundred new places, all before I have to settle down and have babies, or that I can date a bunch of different guys before I feel like I have to get married to one of them, or that it’s acceptable to make irrational decisions like drinking a bottle of wine to myself or buying a dress that costs more than I should be spending, before I have to start acting responsible.

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Obviously, none of this has anything to do with bolognese sauce. Or sweet potato noodles. I’m pretty sure that in regards to the things that I cook, I act more like I’m 40 with house full of kids.

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But I am on a bit of a health kick lately, and even though I love pasta and carbs more than a lot of things, these sweet potato noodles are a pretty delicious option if you’re in the mood for something a little different. And seriously, what is more comforting and impressive than a good bolognese sauce?

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Bolognese Sauce

Serves 6 – 8 (or use in a 10 x 12 inch baking dish for lasagna) 

Adapted from Calgary Cooks – Ronaldo Coladon from Cucina in Calgary, Alberta 

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 stalk Celery, sliced

1/2 Carrot, sliced

1 Onion, diced small

2 lbs Ground Beef

2 tbsp Minced Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 tsp finely chopped Fresh Oregano (or 1/2 tsp Dried)

2 tsp finely chopped Fresh Basil (or 1/2 tsp Dried)

1 1/2 cups Red Wine

4 cups Canned Tomatoes

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium-high. Add celery, carrots, and onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beef, garlic, and fresh or dried herbs and sauté for 2 minutes.

2. When the meat is browned, add the red wine and reduce until the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, add freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve.

Sweet Potato Noodles 

Makes 2 Servings (depending on size of potato) 

Adapted from Against All Grain 

1 Sweet Potato, peeled & spiralized

Olive Oil to coat pan

Sea Salt, to taste

1. Once sweet potatoes are spiralized into noodles (using either a vegetable spiralizer or a julienne peeler), heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the noodles, in batches if necessary, and cook over medium heat for about 6 – 7 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft, tossing throughout cooking time. Top with sea salt to taste and serve with desired sauce.