Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and Post-Guatemala

chocolate gingerbread cookies

I still haven’t blogged about the last couple of days in Guatemala, but since I already started posting recipes, it’s too choppy to go back and finish it off. So, I’ll end that journey off by sharing my thoughts and feelings post-Guatemala.

My first day back in Vancouver

Woke up in bed today with a sinking realization. It finally hit me that I’m not in Guatemala anymore. I’m back in Vancouver and surrounded by inches of snow. No more palm trees. No more rolling hills. No more rooster morning wake up calls. No more Sheily. And worst part of all: no more SOS peeps.

I’m a bit late to this awakening, since most people already cried and spiritually said their goodbyes on our last night in Guatemala City. 

The whole day, I felt like I was just a shell. Empty and hollow. The essence of me was left behind somewhere on the winding paths in Bueno Vista. 

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1 week later

After coming home from Guatemala, my perspective on the world and how I want to live my life has changed. Though I was only there for a little more than a week, the people and culture of that country have left have a huge impact on me that I don’t think will ever fade. 

I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is having gratitude and carrying that with you through everyday life. 

A couple years ago, I started my happiness journey. What triggered it? A really unhappy year as a freshman in university. Before that, I never gave much thought to my own happiness. I think I just ran on automode all the time. My goal was to just study 24/7, get the grades, then get that dream job and start rolling in 6 figures. My definition of life and “happiness” was really narrow. Sure, I guess I could go through life living like that, but will I satisfied? Will I ever reach the self-actualization phase that Abraham Maslow was talking about?

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When I embarked on my search,  I started a gratitude journal for me to write one liners and reminders about what I’m grateful for. 

“Today I’m grateful for… emotional learning experiences.”

“Today I’m grateful for… feeling needed and loved by my family.”

“Today I’m grateful for… the sis and bro”

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On shitty days, it’s really hard to find something good to write about. Since I’m a pessimist by nature, I have a tendency to revert to negativity, deconstructing myself in the most harmful way as I critique myself for pages and pages on end.

On good days though, I feel a lot more up lifted after I write. 

These observations tell me two things:

1. The gratitude journal is working.

2. I let external circumstances affect me too much. Bad days I’m sad, angry, regretful, and embarrassed. Good days, I’m motivated, inspired and energized.

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This is where I feel kind of ashamed. One of the things that I noticed about Guatemalans is that they are much happier people than we are. They have less than what we would deem as “the bare essentials”, yet they are some of the most cheerful people I have ever met. Despite having so little, they were more than welcome to share and give, asking for nothing in return. Those three actions, according to writer Gretchen Rubin, cultivate happiness and contentment.

On our last day in Bueno Vista, we visited a small church that was located just uphill of the school we were volunteering at. The pastor said something so beautiful that my friend, Yuki, and I silently held each other as we cried. In his best English, the pastor said: 

Life is about spiritual living conditions, not physical living conditions.

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It’s been 4 years since I began my happiness journey and I felt deeply resonated with that quote. I sat there in the front pew, surrounded by a bunch of new friends who are really more like family at this point, and felt this serene energy grow from within me.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I shouldn’t only try to find happiness in one event per day. I should be happy with what I have and find the good in everyday life, not just when I feel like it or when circumstances make it easy for me to do so.

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Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnmon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg)
1 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa (any type will do here, it’s just a cookie!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 tbsp freshly grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used Roger’s best brown)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
7 ounces semi sweet chocolate chunks (I used 8 ounces, just for good measure 😉 )
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Sift flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves nutmeg and cocoa in a bowl. 

Beat butter and ginger on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses, beat until combined.

Dissolve baking soda in hot water in a small bowl.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. 

Beat in all of the dissolved baking soda. Then add in the last half of the flour.

Gently fold chocolate into the dough.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

Remove dough from fridge and roll into balls and cover with granulated sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes and let it cool on the baking sheet before moving. 

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

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Raspberry Chocolate Dutch Baby

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I want to share a personal story with you today. It’s about vulnerability and relationships.

Normally, I avoid talking about debbie-downer stuff on my blog but I feel that I should share the good and bad with you. This blog means a lot to me and I want to give you the chance to know me better. 

To give you some background, I need to take you back to 4 years ago. It was 2010 and I was in my senior year in highschool. I was in great relationship that I thought would never end. I know what you’re thinking, “naive” just popped up in your head, didn’t it? OK, maybe I was being naive, but at the time I felt so much trust in the relationship that I didn’t think we would ever break up. There were no mind games, no jealousy, no pretending to be someone we weren’t. It was pretty easy going and we enjoyed just being in each others company. I guess I also felt really secure because he chose me to share his thoughts and emotions with when he was usually a really reserved guy. 

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As special as that felt, things started to stale. I got sick of always being the one to initiate texts and phone calls so I stopped doing it. A couple days went by and I didn’t hear from him at all. A week went by and we entered the first week of university, still nothing. I packed up my pride and called him. We did a lot of small talk, I crafted numerous ways of asking “how is school and life?” because I was too afraid to bring up what was really plaguing my mind for the last week. He, too, danced masterfully around the topic. After about 3 hours, I bursted it out, “What is happening with us, where are we going?” And to my dismay, he replied, “Nowhere.” 

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When I asked if we could talk about it in person but he said that he was too busy studying for a French quiz. I only wanted 30 minutes of his time, but he couldn’t even give that up to explain things face to face. Afterwards, I sent him an angry text saying that I had the right to hear all of this in person and that he was being a coward. He never responded and we never saw each other ever again, especially since he was so good at darting in the opposite direction every time he saw me around campus. What made me angry the most was the fact that I had to call him to bring it up. If I didn’t call, he probably thought he could just drop everything and leave without an explanation. 

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Long story short, I went through a spectrum of emotions that lasted 2 years. I was heartbroken, then angry, then confused and I held on to the “what if” for a long long time. I finally snapped out of it when one of my bestest friends, P-, spent HOURS talking to me to help me dissect my feelings. She wanted to help me realize why exactly I was holding on, so that I can finally let go. And it worked. 

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After that, I spent 2 more years building walls around me. I told myself I never ever want to feel that heartbroken and vulnerable ever again. And I decided that the only way to prevent that from happening again is to not let anyone get too close and also to be the one who cares less. I got really good at that doing that and slowly I built some indestructible walls around my heart. Don’t know when this next step happened but I went from “self protection mode” to “commitophobe mode”. 

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Recently, a friend has been talking to me a lot about the dynamics of relationships and asked me why I haven’t given dating a serious try again. Then she told me something about vulnerability that I never gave thought to: the strengths of being vulnerable. One point in particular stuck with me and that is being vulnerable means you can feel the good things as intensely as the bad things. “By keeping yourself from feeling and by holding yourself back, you’re also keeping out the good things in life”, she said. To which I responded, “Good point.” 

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This was some very timely advice because I had just met someone. This time, I decided to take a leap of faith instead of looking for exits. The windows in my walls were opening up, making me vulnerable once again. But guess what, he too just walked out on me with no warning and no explanation. Does this remind you of anything? It was like my life just replayed exactly what happened 4 years ago. I’m embarrassed to say this but I was really upset. The first time I decided to put myself out there and feel vulnerable again… and I was greeted with that same awful experience. My windows shut closed and my walls rebuilt faster than ever. I’ll probably spend the next 4 years shutting myself out again. 

For those of you who are also “commitophobes”, what is holding you back?

For those of you who are in relationships, what do you love about it?

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Raspberry Chocolate Dutch Baby

2/3 cup low-fat milk (I didn’t have any fresh milk so I used skim milk made from powder and it worked just fine)
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar 
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (I swear by Nielsen Massey)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
11/4 tsp salt 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degree F.  Place a 10-inch ovenproof skillet in oven to heat.

In a blender, combine milk, eggs and egg whites, sugar, 1 tablespoon of the butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste.  Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt and blend for 30 seconds more.

Remove skillet from oven.  Pour the remaining butter into the hot pan and swirl to coat evenly.  Pour in batter.  Bake until Dutch baby is puffed and golden, 30 to 35 minutes.  Best eaten asap!

Recipe from the Pure Vanilla cookbook

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Kahlua Chocolate Cake Donuts

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I made donuts!

Because I just finished the hardest exam I ever took in my life.

Because it’s raining outside.

Because I’m a chocoholic and I honestly don’t care for bikini season.

Just because. Do we ever need a reason to eat 3 donuts in one sitting?

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These are nothing like your typical old fashioned cake donuts. These have an added kick – kahlua. Bet grandma never added that to her donuts!

I had some kahlua sitting in the cabinet so I decided to add it in the glaze. Probably one of the bestest decisions I’ve ever made.

Normally, I’m not so much of a fan of cake doughnuts. It’s yeast risen, fluffy and tender counterpart always won my heart (and stomach). When I’m at home though, I haaateee deep frying because the smell of oil clinggss to my hair and clothes. So I decided to give baked doughnuts a go!

These did not disappoint! I had 3 in one sitting and now my waistline hates me.

If you normally like fluffier donuts too, I’d suggest giving these a try! The cake had a tender crumb and held it’s moisture out even after hours of sitting out on the counter. The cocoa added just the right touch of chocolate flavour. Kahlua – the star of the show – heightened all the flavours, it was so so SO good. If you don’t have kahlua on hand or you don’t like the taste of it, vanilla extract works perfectly too!

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Kahlua Chocolate Cake Donuts

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
big pinch salt
2 to 4 tbsp milk
2 tsp kahlua or pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325  degrees F.  Spray a doughnut baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Transfer to the batter to a piping bag or use a small spoon to portion batter into the prepared doughnut baking pan.  Fill until 2/3 full.

Bake doughnuts for 11 to 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one of the doughnuts comes out clean.  Allow to rest for five minutes before removing doughnuts to cool completely.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk and all of the vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine.  Mixture may be thick.  Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is thick but still pourable.

Dip one side of each doughnut into the chocolate glaze.  Shake off some of the excess glaze.

Adapted from Joy the Baker 

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