Nastasha Alli was born and raised in the Philippines and came to Canada in 2007. For her writing at the intersection of food and diaspora communities, she won a Food Sustainability Media Award from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Her work has been featured on CBC Radio and her recipe published in a “top cookbook of 2018” by the San Francisco Chronicle.
She answers the question “Why is research important in your “Exploring Filipino Kitchens” podcast?” on the Artsy Raven podcast, Episode 12. This clip is an excerpt from the episode.
Recently I saw a Betty Crocker Red Velvet cupcake mix selling on Amazon (couldn’t find at supermarket though) which came with icing, all in one box. I thought I would give this a try since it sounded so convenient.
It surprised me that the box made less cake than the usual box mixes. Instead of 24 cupcakes, you get 12. There are two bags of icing in the box for frosting. To make the cake mix taste better, I made some adjustments – 1) added one more egg, 2) used unsalted butter versus oil, 3) used milk versus water and 4) added a teaspoon of vanilla.
With the cake mix I made 6 Elmo cupcakes (used gel coloring to dye one bag of icing red) and 3 fancy tiered adult cakes. I lost some icing because of the piping process and would have liked more icing. I only took a picture of 4 Elmo cupcakes because 2 of them didn’t turn out as nice. Since I made this around Easter, I added m & m chocolate eggs and fruit to decorate the adult cakes. I think the cakes turned out well and made great Instagram pics!
Sight (20/20): A little frosting and color makes all cakes pretty!
Availability (10/20): You can only order from Amazon, I couldn’t find this set at my supermarket. It was also hard to find the red velvet Betty Crocker mix or the cream cheese frosting in the supermarket as well, though there are other brands available. The common flavors of vanilla or chocolate cake mix and frosting are easier to find.
Smell (20/20): Smells like cake while baking!
Taste (18/20): The cake itself wasn’t very sweet, but the icing was, so the flavors balance. This is cake mix so it’s not going to be as good as the cakes from fancy pastry stores!
Touch (20/20): The cakes were springy when done, baked perfectly! Icing was sticky, which is normal.
Overall score: 88/100
Would I order again? Yes! Recently I have been making smaller batches when baking since I can’t share with office folks because of COVID. Making an equivalent of 24 cupcakes would have been a lot, while 12 was just enough to share with a few other people.
Price point note – this box was around $4 Cdn for 12 cupcakes and frosting, or about $0.33/cupcake. For normal size box and frosting, it would have cost around $3.50 for red velvet cake mix, $3.50 for frosting or about $0.29/cupcake for 24 cupcakes. The normal box is cheaper overall, but for some reason it is difficult to find the red velvet box mix and cream cheese frosting in Canada. I really miss crossing the border to visit the US to buy things at their grocery stores!
The first episode of The Artsy Raven podcast is live! It’s available on Spotify and YouTube at the moment. Anchor will be sending out the podcast to other channels as well, but it’s still early so the computers are all talking to each other and negotiating, I presume. Bonus content about the secrets of success from the guests for each episode is available exclusively on Patreon.
We had a tiny party with myself, my husband and my little one because of COVID and we didn’t feel comfortable asking people over to our tiny apartment. The cake was baked by Ginny who is fighting on Food Network’s Great Chocolate Showdown and it is a chocolate cake. She said all sorts of fancy words like “caramel something” and “ganache something,” I will have to ask her for exact terms before I post about the specifics of the cake! But it was yummy, that’s the important part!
Chris Gorman, the first guest on The Artsy Raven, has been recording the Words with Writers podcast for a while now and he was the most prepared guest. I had sent him questions and he actually wrote out almost every word he was going to say and even practiced reading the entire transcript to note his speaking time! Of course when we actually did the recording, we interjected impromptu things and I had to cut him off from answering three questions or else we would go overtime.
It’s a bit frightening how fast the podcast went up after the files were ready for uploading. With the click of a button, it was live on Spotify/YouTube and I could see it in the search engines when I look for it. Editing the podcast took a few hours in comparison and I hope in the future I can produce these episodes faster as I become more experienced. At the moment I’ve booked a lot of “local” guests and the challenge in the future is asking “strangers” to come onto the show. I feel I need to have a few more episodes up before approaching big potatoes to come onto the show.
Since I am stuck at home during the pandemic, I have been cooking and buying more junk food. Let’s be honest here, comfort food isn’t the healthy stuff most of the time. I’ve been trying new snacks and other random foods so I thought I would share my opinions about them. I’ll compile the reviews onto my “Food Sanity” page since eating is what’s keeping me sane during the pandemic!
The first item I’m posting about is Pizza Pizza’s Superfood Pizza Crust. This was introduced to me by my food conscious sister who said that pizza was an easy way to get vegetables into a kid’s diet. I have yet to have my child successfully eat this, but that’s the theory anyways.
Pizza Pizza’s website states that the curst is “made with antioxidant rich vegetables such as purple cauliflower, purple sweet potato, and butternut squash. It’s vegan, gluten free and contains no artificial flavors or colors, starting at 12.99.”
Ordering the pizza was easy, I did this via the website and paid the delivery man when they showed up. The food was luke-warm but it was a cold snowy day. The pizza cost about $18 Cdn (pre-tax) after selecting medium size, superfood crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, pineapples, ham and mushrooms.
Sight (10/20): The pizza I received looked like a pizza but I was super disappointed the crust wasn’t purple and it was slightly burnt.
Availability (20/20): For Canadians it’s easy to buy online and to have it delivered, if a store is in the neighborhood
Smell (10/20): I didn’t smell much of anything.
Taste (10/20): I really wanted to like the pizza but the crust didn’t taste very good. It felt like I was chewing tough fibre even though the toppings were alright.
Touch (10/20): It felt like a pizza slice with melted gooey cheese and pizza sauce, but the crust was quite tough. A few slices weren’t cut properly and I had to yank hard to get them to separate.
Overall score: 60/100
Would I order again? Sorry, no. I tried this pizza crust twice already because I really wanted to like it but was sadly disappointed each time! Maybe in the near future someone will invent a tastier crust that’s made from veggies.
Feeding the Kraken! is a toddler/children cookbook I made in 2016. It was a successful Kickstarter project and it features over 50 recipes as well as parenting advice. I had hoped that my father (a chef) would be around to test recipes with me, but well, he died.
This book is a big lesson about me being too creative without thinking ahead. I used up a lot of time to make it look pretty and had lots of beautiful nautical graphics in it…which doesn’t translate well in e-book format. In fact it looks really crappy because the coding is very difficult and to make the book commercially viable I have to strip out most of the graphics.
I procrastinated about this for over a year. Good thing I’m not depending on books/writing to pay bills because I would be starving and dead by now!
In the end I decided to put up the original book as a pdf with all artwork intact on the Dark Helix Press website as a download. Since the reader has to do extra work, instead of the usual $4.99 price point, I have dropped it to $3.99. I also didn’t realize that paypal took a cut per transaction, so I learned about being dinged for fees too.
In the future I will make an e-book but it won’t be as nice. As for print book, I have InDesign, but haven’t taken the time to learn it yet. There is a high learning curve, but it is the gold standard for printing software. The print book can have most of the artwork intact but will be expensive to print due to color ink.
Anyhow, if you have any krakens (children) to feed, I think this is a great cookbook to look at. My child actually asks for the healthy red lentil muffins listed in the book! A cookbook is only successful if you use recipes more than once!
(Oops, posted day after Valentine’s – forgot to hit publish button)
Today the landlord and men at my office gave out free breakfast, snacks and roses which was really nice of them. I could not resist the heart donuts at Tim Hortons either. Gosh, it’s been a calorie packed day!
A few weeks ago I had answered some queries about relationship questions and didn’t hear back from the people. Well, today two of the people contacted me and used my advice in their articles!
There has been enough doom and gloom lately to make me depressed for a lifetime, so my husband decided that we should do something fun and plan a kid’s birthday party instead of thinking about death all the time.
Since my offsping is into Thomas the Train, I thought a Thomas themed party would be great. I looked up some parties and thought that this kid Max’s party was the gold standard! You can click on the picture to check out the other fabulous treats served at this party.
I’m going to admit this feels like the time I was just watching exercise videos on the couch with a friend and us commenting on how much work it seems to exercise as we ate chips!
Here are collages of my hack party (certain Max’s party had a higher budget!) which ended up to being lots of fun due to the crazy kids running around the room! The younger kids were more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the presents. Meanwhile, the older kids asked to open presents and acted like wild animals attacking something as they ripped apart wrapping paper with fury…then yelling “eww” when the presents were clothes instead of toys!
The Thomas cake was ordered from Metro supermarket and had a chantilly cream filling with blueberries. The blue/red dyes were really strong and stained a lot of hands!
The adults were civilized, of course, drinking and eating munchies while having polite conversations. Grandma was a bit bored since she doesn’t speak English, but there were a few people who could speak to her and entertain her while I played hostess. We were really grateful for all the wonderful toys given to us as presents! Much more fancy than the toys I had while I was growing up (bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid dolls?)!
The kids I babysat that night (yes, I had to babysit even after the party) wrote on the notepad which I was using to keep track of presents for thank you notes. The word “poo” seemed to render them into hysterics for some reason. I wish I could let loose like that sometimes and not worry so much!
A lot of free resources are available which makes it handy for those who have color printers. To make life easier, I used a 2″ puncher to cut out cupcake toppers which I used to decorate packaged oatmeal cookies.
Here are the links to Thomas party resources for someone else wants to plan a similar event!
I can not eat spicy things, which made eating in Seoul rather difficult for me. We did eat many Korean meals of course and they all came with red spicy sauce, kim chee as well as pickled vegetables. However, there was no shortage of French bakeries in Gangnam, along with European, American, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants. There was a huge coffee culture, so my Viking husband was happy that he could obtain his expensive but available coffee anywhere. Admittedly I have not had so much fatty pork on a daily basis for dinner in my life along with cabbage, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do…for a while anyways and then pizza started looking really good!
For breakfast we usually had tea or coffee with French pastries. We went out a few times and had a pretty god omelette at a French bakery restaurant. Prices were about $5-9 per coffee, lattes or tea, pastries about $2-5 and big breakfast (omelette, eggs benedict) about $15.
We had many lunches of noodles and sometimes had sandwiches, generally it was whatever we could find as we were travelling all over the place.
Lots and lots of Korean BBQ for dinner along with kim chee, pickled vegetables, tofu and spicy soups. We had pizza and chicken wings delivered one night as well, came in 20 min! Pizza in a fancy New York Pizza place was surprisingly pricey at $40-50 for a medium but it was full of people on dates.
Lots of vending machines in the subway, convenient stores on every street corner and my favorite are the French bakeries!
Yes, I am obsessed with toilets. The Korean toilets were similar to sit-up ones in North America, but they had a few heated ones like in Japan with bum washes. There was also squatting ones as well.