Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

The Benefits of Gardening (and How to Get Started Even if You Live in a Condo)

In Grocery Budget Challenge, Mind Your Cents, Random, Uncategorized on January 29, 2016 at pm

Despite living in a condo, I started gardening two years ago. I started gardening because a concussion left me with lingering debilitation, anxiety, and depression; I wasn’t able to do anything else and, serendipitously, a community garden opened up on my street. At the time, I had no idea that gardening would soon be responsible for a very positive turning point in my recovery process. I later learned that garden therapy, also known as horticultural therapy, is an effective supplemental therapy for all sorts of health problems. In the hopes of helping others, I’ve shared my personal experience, some research to explain the benefits of gardening, and a few tips for how you can get started. Don’t worry, you don’t need a backyard or a community garden to do it! As long as you have a sunny window, you can grow food! Note that although this article focuses on fruit and vegetable gardening, flower gardening can be just as beneficial.

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Alison and John’s Wedding Menu

In Random on December 7, 2015 at pm

Hi everyone,

I’m sorry that I haven’t written in a while. I got married in September, 2015, and am still dealing with some health issues. I have lots of recipes that I can’t wait to share with you. Hopefully, I’ll be able to soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to share our wedding menu. John and I hired the best Chinese caterer in Toronto, ON – Dragon Dynasty Catering – to cook a 10-course meal for our guests (menu below). There was also a 10-course Chinese vegetarian option and a 4-course kids meal. The photos below were taken at the tasting. (For more wedding photos, check out my instagram account @cookingwithalison)

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Cooking with Alison’s Five Year Anniversary!

In Random on February 16, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison was created five years ago, on January 15, 2010!

I can’t believe that it has already been five years since I created this website! For the past few years, I’ve been sharing my dreams and plans of buying a house. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, and it might not for at least two more years. In the meantime, I am reluctantly adjusting to a condo-sized oven, fridge, and freezer, and, my least-favourite, ceramic top cooktop. The saving grace is our community garden which happens to be just down the street. Also, I love the person with whom I share this kitchen. John and I are getting married this year, despite the fact that he’s a picky eater, he doesn’t love my cooking, and he thinks that bacon is “over-rated”. The last one was the most difficult to overcome. 🙂 He supported me and cared for me through a serious concussion when he had absolutely no obligation to. Now, I have a lifetime to teach him food appreciation. 😉 In other news, I’ve recently started writing for Toronto’s Brain Injury Blog. I’m very excited about this opportunity and I hope that sharing my experiences will help others deal with theirs.

Before I share the statistics on the food blog, I’d like to thank everyone for supporting Cooking with Alison. I especially appreciate those of you that have been following me since I started this website! I still love getting comments, likes, pins, and hits, so please keep them coming! All the best to you!

The Statistics

(See the one year anniversary stats here, second year anniversary stats here, third year anniversary stats here, and fourth year anniversary stats here.)

Total number of views:  1,575,753

Total number of posts:  447

The most popular posts to date are:

Four Different Sauces for Mushroom Ravioli

The Best Tiramisu Recipe

Singapore Fried Vermicelli

My personal favourite posts to date are:

How to Make Puff Pastry From Scratch, the Quick and Easy Way

Chinese Mango Pudding Recipe (mango bo deen)

Duck Tongues Recipe

Best Jien Duy Recipe (Chinese Deep Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste)

Number of subscribers*:  405

*Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way of knowing how many RSS subscribers there are.

Thank you, everyone!  Here’s to another five years of Cooking with Alison!

How to Make a Wooden Ring Box (and how to do it without owning the tools)

In How-To, Random on October 8, 2014 at am


When John proposed to me this summer, he presented the engagement ring in this wooden ring box.  I instantly loved the ring box and was even more blown away when I learned that he made it himself.  So I asked him to share the DIY instructions on Cooking with Alison’s first guest post.  Don’t worry if you don’t own any tools, because John doesn’t either.  He shares below how he was able to get access to tools and woodworking help for very little money.


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Introduction to Coffee Tasting

In How-To, Random, Reviews on October 3, 2014 at am

Although we have different tastes, my dad and I share a love for good coffee.  Last summer, I took John and my dad to an informal coffee tasting session at Starbucks in Unionville, ON.  It was very interesting, as I had no idea that drinking coffee could be so complex and sophisticated.  Here is what we learned from that coffee tasting session.


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Cooking with Alison’s Four Year Anniversary!

In Random on January 14, 2014 at pm

Cooking with Alison was created four years ago, tomorrow!  I didn’t post much for about a year, but have been posting regularly again for the past few months.  I hope I don’t have to take anymore breaks from food blogging, because I really missed it.  I still don’t have a kitchen of my own, yet, but I’m hoping to be ready to start looking for my first home this year.  Wish me luck!  With the way Toronto’s housing market has been going, I might be able to afford an outhouse.  😉

Before I share the statistics on the food blog, I’d like to thank everyone for supporting Cooking with Alison.  I still get excited by every hit, every comment, every like, every pin, and every link that’s been shared.  All the best to you in the coming year!  I hope to hear from you soon.

The Statistics

(See the one year anniversary stats here, the second year anniversary stats here, and the third year anniversary stats here.)

Total number of views:  1,118,547

Total number of posts:  386

The most popular posts to date are:

Four Different Sauces for Mushroom Ravioli

Singapore Fried Vermicelli

Braised Beef Brisket, Tendons and Daikon Radish

Number of subscribers*:  309 email and followers

*Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way of knowing how many RSS subscribers there are.

Thank You, Everyone!  Here’s to another year of Cooking with Alison!

Cooking with Alison’s Three Year Anniversary!

In Random on January 15, 2013 at am

Cooking with Alison was created three years ago, today!  I can not believe how quickly this last year passed by.  A lot has happened and I haven’t been able to share as many recipes as I would have liked to.  But I’m hoping to get back into posting regularly, soon.

Before I give you an update on my life and the statistics on the food blog, I’d like to thank everyone who’s continued to support my food blog.  I am truly grateful for every hit, every comment, and every link shared.  All the best to you in 2013!

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Cooking with Alison Published in TAPS Magazine

In Random on November 13, 2012 at pm

I am very excited to announce that Cooking with Alison was referenced in the

November/December 2012 issue of TAPS The Beer Magazine!

TAPS is an international beer publication based out of Toronto, ON.  They’ve published my photo of dulse (see the photo and post here) and referenced this website in their November/December 2012 issue.  Their website also features fantastic-looking recipes for cooking with beer, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson (the husband of the Food Network star, Anna Olson).  Click here to find out where TAPS The Beer Magazine can be purchased.  It is available at many locations across Canada, including breweries, and select Chapters and Indigo locations.

Cooking with Alison’s Two Year Anniversary!

In Random on January 15, 2012 at am

Cooking with Alison was created two years ago, today!  A lot has happened in the past two years, including adopting my dog, Blue, and moving back to Toronto, ON (this very weekend actually).  To the surprise of everyone (myself included), I’ve maintained the momentum of recipe testing and writing.  I’d like to thank everyone for making my efforts worthwhile.  (See the one year anniversary stats and shout outs here.)  Hopefully I can keep up with the cooking and baking for a third year of Cooking with Alison!

The Statistics:

Total number of views:  300, 366

Number of views on the busiest day (January 14, 2012):  991

Total number of posts:  327

The most popular posts to date are:

Four Different Sauces for Mushroom Ravioli

Asian Bread Making Technique (Soft Chinese / Japanese Bread)

Braised Beef Brisket, Tendons and Daikon Radish (Chinese Restaurant Style)

Number of email* subscribers:  96 (plus 27 followers)

*Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way of knowing how many RSS subscribers there are.

Most Importantly, The Thank Yous:

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Cooking with Alison has a New Domain!

In Random on October 15, 2011 at pm

I am pleased to announce that the new domain for Cooking with Alison is:

This food blog was started on January 15, 2010.  (It was called Cooking with Ali, then.  A few months later, the name was changed to Cooking with Alison, but the domain remained  I had been an admirer of other peoples’ food blogs for years and decided to start my own so that I would have my recipes documented and stored in a safe and easily searchable place.  I didn’t think that anyone would ever follow it.  In the beginning, I called or emailed Ed every time my food blog had a hit, to share my excitement and disbelief and to make sure that it wasn’t him.  🙂  I have now had this food blog for 1 year and 9 months, and I have surprised even myself with how dedicated I’ve been to maintaining it.  I have already shared 313 posts and I plan to continue with this momentum.  So I thought that it was time that Cooking with Alison had its own domain.  Thank you to everyone for visiting Cooking with Alison.  Hopefully the shorter domain will make my food blog easier to remember and share with others.

My Detox Diet and Recipes – Day 31 (last day)

In Random on May 31, 2011 at pm

My month long detox diet challenge has come to an end.  (See the Day 1 post here, the Day 7 post here, and the Day 15 post here.)  I must admit that I cheated whenever I traveled.  Over Victoria Day long weekend when I went to see my family in Toronto, I ate restaurant food that had sugar in the sauce, some tofu, and more homemade dumplings than I could count.  Last week, when I went to Montreal, I ate a small slice of banana bread and onion rings with dipping sauces.  As of midnight, June 1st, 2011, I will be free to consume gluten, dairy, refined sugar, soy products, caffeine, and alcohol once again.

When I first decided to do this, I thought that I would have the most difficulty giving up dairy.  I also thought that I would crave bread.  But to my surprise, I only had cravings for refined sugar (ie. dessert and baked goods).  Luckily, the cravings subsided by week 3.  Although this detox diet was slightly inconvenient in terms of meal preparation, and while it placed restrictions on my social life, it was easy to follow and, more importantly, it was effective at improving my general health.  (See below for the health benefits that I saw.)  I’m also happy that I used this opportunity to learn about new ingredients and try new recipes.  Now that I’ve had a glimpse of the difficulties that people with food intolerance face daily, future guests of mine can expect delicious meals that will honour their dietary restrictions without compromising on flavour, texture, or creativity.

The main question now is whether or not I will turn the rules from the detox challenge into permanent changes to my lifestyle and diet.  Here are my plans:

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My Detox Diet Challenge and Recipes – Day 15 (halfway)

In Random on May 15, 2011 at am

I have now been off gluten, dairy, refined sugar, soy, caffeine and alcohol for 14 days.  (See the Day 1 post here and the Day 7 post here.  See the last post here.)  I will likely be off legumes for the remainder of the month too, because I am now sick of them.  😉  Although I still feel like I have a lot of options despite the restrictions, I’m starting to miss having the option of eating out.  It is limiting my social activities, but I’ve been keeping busy with other things.

The food cravings this past week were once again directed towards sweets but were minimal and very easily managed.  In fact, I made carrot muffins with cream cheese frosting for a friend’s birthday and resisted from eating any of them!  The recipe can be found here and no one will be able to tell that they’re made with whole wheat flour.  So far, I am still very happy that I took on this detox challenge.  I hope to see more health benefits soon.

The Foods I’ve Been Eating and Their Recipes

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