The 10 Lessons of Project Food Blog

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When I first heard about Project Food Blog, I was shaking in my boots.

You want me to do…what exactly?

I felt as small as an ant.

For how many months?

My eyes were wide in horror.

I thought about it for a while as I read over the challenge descriptions.

And then it hit me like a ton of brown sugar…

Project Food Blog was an excellent excuse to bake (and eat) more dessert!

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I knew what I had to do.

Project Food Blog also ended up being a wonderful opportunity to push myself far out of my comfort zone and to see just what I was made of.

Three months have passed, and I am absolutely thrilled to be in the final round among such talented competitors. I have been blown away by the incredible level of talent expressed by so many amazing bloggers throughout the competition and I feel so honoured to be here today!

For my last post in Project Food Blog, I thought it would be fun to turn back the clock and share the lessons I have learned for each challenge.

Lesson #1: Know Where You’re Going, But Never Forget Where You’ve Been.

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From hot pink polka dots to hot cross buns, I told you my story in a playful poem for my first entry of Project Food Blog.

I had so much zest for life when I was a little girl, but somewhere along the way I lost myself to an eating disorder that haunted me for over 10 years. As a young adult, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted out of life. I thought a fancy title or high paying career would bring me the happiness that I sought, but I was sadly mistaken.

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I started Oh She Glows on October 31, 2008 as a commitment to beat my disordered eating, connect with other women, and redefine my relationship with food and health. Several months later, I found the courage to quit my unfulfilling research career, vowing to find my true calling in life.

Months later I opened my own bakery and I pursued my blog full time.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Lesson #2: Find Inspiration and Then Make It Your Own

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Inspiration is all around us!

My motto is to find what inspires you and then add your own signature twist to it. I don’t expect you to bake or cook like me, but I do encourage you to find what makes you glow in your own kitchen.

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In Challenge #2, we were asked to tackle a foreign cuisine. I chose to re-create a classic French Tarte Aux Fraises with a fun vegan twist. I actually ended up liking it better than the original tart I sampled in Paris.

Shhh, our little secret. ;)

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Lesson #3: Cultivate New Traditions

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Traditions make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but trying new things can be fun too!

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In Challenge #3, we were asked to host a luxury dinner party. I decided to host my First Annual Vegan Thanksgiving creating 16 Thanksgiving recipes for my family and friends. Initially, I was afraid that no one would want to attend, but some of my guests told me that it was the best Thanksgiving dinner they ever had.

Although, they may have just wanted the last slice of Pumpkin Pie Brownie…

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Lesson #4: Sometimes You Have To Figure It Out As You Go

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I don’t have all the answers, but sometimes I wish I did…

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In challenge #4, we were asked to create a step-by-step recipe tutorial, and I decided to make vegan Gingerbread Caramel Pear and Spiced Apple Upside Down Cakes. After several baking flops, I was reminded that sometimes I need to figure it out as I go!

And besides, successful outcomes are much more satisfying after you fail a few times…

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Lesson #5: Kneading Dough Is Cheap Therapy

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The other working title for this lesson was ‘The Thought of Making Pizza Dough Gives Me A Hot Flash’.

Before the Pizza Challenge, I was terrified of making my own pizza dough.

I don’t know about you, but my stomach always trumps fear, so I poured myself a glass of wine and made trial after trial of pizza dough, testing all kinds of weird and wonderful recipes. Several hours later, with myself and my kitchen covered in flour, I conquered my Pizza Complex and worked out some stress in the process.

The Roasted Tomato, Onion, and Basil Pesto Pizza was a smashing success!

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Lesson #6: Food Can Taste Indulgent and Be Good For You At The Same Time

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In challenge #6, we were asked to hit the road with a cooler full of portable food.

I created a ‘Going The Distance’ Vegan Energy Lunch that fuelled us through a 7 mile hike. As an added bonus, the lunch was waste-free and brimming with healthy energy foods such as homemade fruit roll-ups, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, chili, homemade rolls, energy truffles, apple chips, and cakes in a jar.

We were carbo-loading, after all. ;)

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Lesson #7: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

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I have learned to embrace my inner dork.

I sleep much better at night now.

Initially, the video challenge made me want to run for the hills, but once I decided to just have fun with the video everything fell into place. After 3 weeks of planning and recipe testing, 1.5 days of shooting, and 60 hours of editing video footage, it was very satisfying to watch the video when it was all said and done!

My inner dork is now exposed and there is no turning back.

I’m ok with that.

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Lesson #8: Sometimes You Just Need To Splurge

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For the pumpkin challenge, I decided to create a pumpkin recipe I hadn’t seen before- Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls- and then turn it into a splurge-worthy holiday breakfast that I will be making for my family on Christmas morning.

Let’s face it, sometimes you just need cream cheese frosting and Bourbon first thing in the morning. ;)

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Lesson #9: Sit Back, Relax, and Let Someone Else Cook For You!

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Going out to eat is a rare occasion for us, but when we do it is a real treat. I was so inspired by my experience at The Coup restaurant, I bought their cookbook and adapted several recipes that I could enjoy at home whenever the craving strikes…which has been too many times to count!

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Despite everything I have learned from Project Food Blog, there is one lesson I have known since day one.

In my Project Food Blog Profile I wrote:

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Lesson #10: Never Forget Those Who Have Inspired, Helped, and Supported You Along The Way.

In just a few years time, I have transformed the way I see myself allowing my passion and love for food to flourish after many years of denial. I have unleashed this great passion and fire inside of me and there is no turning back.

In large part, I have all of you- my family, friends, and the wonderful blogging community- to thank. I am so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful group of inspiring individuals and I hope that in return, I can inspire you to find what makes you happy.

As an expression of my gratitude, I decided to incorporate the lessons I have learned throughout the competition and create a new twist on my all-time favourite childhood dessert

Meet: The Nanaimo Bar.

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Speculated to originate in the 1950’s from a woman living in Nanaimo, British Columbia, these no-bake bars are always a staple on my family’s holiday baking list.

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The graham coconut base is a cross between a coconut macaroon and a graham crust, with a chewy, moist, and chocolaty flavour that is impossible to resist. A rich chocolate coating covers the creamy and thick vanilla custard buttercream, making this dessert an irresistible crowd pleaser.

I baked some delicious homemade graham crackers to use in my base mixture.

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The graham crackers have a sweet, nutty flavour with a kick of rich molasses. They were perfect in this bar recipe.

Every Christmas Eve, I used to help my mom and sister bake Nanaimo Bars, sneaking nibbles of chocolate and licks of buttercream frosting whenever my mom wasn’t looking. When I told my mom that I wanted to create a fun take on Nanaimo Bars for Challenge #10, she dug up her recipe that has been in the family for several decades.

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I used her recipe for inspiration and I added my own signature twist, creating three delicious flavours: Classic Vanilla, Mint Chip, and Pomegranate Almond Vegan Nanaimo bars.

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The Classic Vanilla Nanaimo Bars turned out so similar to my childhood favourite, I couldn’t even notice the difference!

I also made Mint Chip Nanaimo Bars with a burst of peppermint flavour and a crunchy candy topping. In lieu of using artificial green food colouring, I used fresh spinach juice that worked out amazing. Don’t worry, you can’t taste the spinach at all. :)

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Last but not least, I made Pomegranate Almond Nanaimo Bars made up of fresh Pomegranate juice (for the gorgeous pink colour) and pure almond extract for a delicious aroma and flavour that blended together wonderfully with the chewy coconut and graham crumb base.

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For all of the Nanaimo Bar recipes, please see the attached PDF file. I will also be posting a step-by-step photo tutorial of the 3 Nanaimo Bar flavours this week. :)

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The bars taste amazing paired with this creamy Peppermint Nog made up of almond and coconut milk, peppermint extract, mint tea, and a touch of sweetener.

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I always assumed that this childhood dessert would be something I would have to miss out on as a vegan, but I now believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to adapting recipes!

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While I learned so many valuable lessons in Project Food Blog, the ultimate lesson I take away from this contest is that anything is possible.

Project Food Blog has changed me forever. My fire and passion for healthy food, recipe creation, photography, and writing is stronger than ever and I now feel like I can do anything if I set my mind to it.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, we must do the thing we think we cannot do.

I am happy to say this girl is in a good place,

Some say you can now see the glow upon her face.

The moral of the story is to never accept what you think is your fate,

For sometimes you must pave a new road and go create.

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I thank you for your amazing support during Project Food Blog and for your constant encouragement, inspiration, and positivity!

Should you wish to support my efforts, voting is NOW OPEN! Thank you so much for your support! :)

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{ 278 comments… read them below or add one }

Mimi December 12, 2010

NO DOUBT that I’ll be voting. You are amazing! (:

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Jenn @ LiveWellFitNow December 12, 2010

What a beautiful post my dear! You have so many wonderful things to share…so many. :)

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Jennifer@ knackfornutrition December 12, 2010

I’m so excited that you made it to the final 3! I really hope you win, as I have enjoyed reading all your posts. I can’t wait to test out some of your recipes! Good luck!

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Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA December 12, 2010

What a great retrospective! You definitely deserved to get into the finals, just look at all the amazing things you’ve made! I love how you went above and beyond the challenge, every single time.

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Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) December 12, 2010

The sheer amount of work throughout this whole process has just FLOORED ME!!! You, and anyone else, who has made it this far has dare I say 100′s if not 1000′s of hours into this thing! From recipe development, groc shopping, preparing/making/cooking, photographing, then blogging about it all…my god woman, you deserve to be where you’re at with this project. It’s like a dissertation..takes on a life of it’s own!

Just this one post..must have taken hours to create. I am amazed by your hard work! And of course, the recipes themselves, the photos, truly beautiful works of art!

Congrats on your achievement!!!!

:)

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Annie@stronghealthyfit December 12, 2010

You are amazing and so inspiring! Love, love, love your blog. best of luck in the contest.

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Allie (Nutty FlexitALLIEan) December 12, 2010

LOVE. You’ve done a wonderful job with the PFB posts (and all the regular ones) and have been so inspirational for me. Good luck, I sincerely hope you’re #1!

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Amber Vs. The Aisle December 12, 2010

Angela! You are awesome! This is amazing! I will be voting for you all week! :) I hope you win!!!!!!!!

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is December 12, 2010

INCREDIBLE! Go Ange!

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kristin @ the expat diaries December 12, 2010

I’ll be voting for you first thing in the morning…you have done such an incredible job and I was so excited to see your veganized Nanaimo bars…I’m from Victoria and Nanaimo bars have also had a place on our family’s Christmas menu for decades. My Mom has a Nanaimo Bar recipe card identical to yours, spots and all!

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Talia Lapid December 12, 2010

Just wanted to warn you that the pdf link just takes you to page that says “oops …..ate your link”! I hope you can fix it before tomorrow :)

Your post–your journey–has been amazing to follow.

Best of luck, I know I’ll be voting for you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 12, 2010

Oops, Should be fixed now…let me know if it works! :)

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Britt December 12, 2010

What an amazing job you’ve done! I can’t wait to try vegan nanaimo bars!

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Kris | iheartwellness.com December 12, 2010

Girl, your gorgeous, your food is gorgeous and your words are gorgeous!! I can’t wait to try your nanaimo bar recipe and see the recipe for these graham crackers!

you have this in the bag!

xxoo

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Julie December 12, 2010

You have helped me in more ways than one. Reading your blog everyday has been such a blessing. You are beautiful and inspiring… and I love how you have reached your happiness. Bravo and Cheers!

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Ritika December 12, 2010

Your post just filled my heart with so much love. Love of your story, your spirit, and how blessed I am to have found this blog. I really feel I can do anything! I have a difficult final exam tomorrow and I’m glad I read this in my study break. I wish you the best for this competition and will definitely vote for you as always! <3

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Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty December 12, 2010

You’re going to do awesome, this is such a beautiful/colorful post!!

YAY for being #1!! :)

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Lauraa December 12, 2010

Can’t wait to vote for you!
And going to make the nanimo bars as soon as I can get to the grocery store (damn freezing rain)
Good Luck! Hope you win!

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grocery goddess jen December 12, 2010

Angela, you are amazing! You know I’m hoping for you to be the big winner :)

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Katie @ Healthy Heddleston December 12, 2010

Loved this post.. can’t wait to place my vote for you — good luck Angela, you are truly and inspiration!

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Emma December 12, 2010

Gosh Angela you are too good to us readers. MORE recipes and of course beautiful words of hope and inspiration.
You have to have to win :)

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Little Bookworm December 12, 2010

It has been great to follow all your posts for Project Food Blog! Good luck for the last challenge! :)

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Bronwyn Coyne December 12, 2010

Absolutely amazing. Looks delicious. Good luck with the final project food blog test!

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Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul December 12, 2010

You’ve blown me away in this competition. I’m so glad that you have grown personally from it as well!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 12, 2010

thanks everyone!

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Agnieszka December 12, 2010

jesus christ your food is pulling me to the floor. it looks amazing . you are definitely magician

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rebecca lustig December 12, 2010

you are such a talented, beautiful person and i really hope you are able to see this through!

good luck— youre a rock star,
becca

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'Dee December 12, 2010

Yayyyy, love this post! I am so proud of you.

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Holly @ couchpotatoathlete December 12, 2010

Congratulations on making it to the final round Angela — I will definitely be voting for you :)

I love your creativity and the passion you obviously have about your cooking and baking! It inspires me to find what I am most passionate about.

Good luck!

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Gloria December 12, 2010

Amazing! You definitely have my vote :D

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Emily December 12, 2010

Incredible Ange! Sooooo amazed at all that you have created over the past few months…best of luck, I’m sure you’ll do incredibly well!

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Lauren December 12, 2010

All your posts have been wonderful! I love these lessons and those bars look amazing and so colorful. One of my favorite things is how you make different versions of the recipe – I always want to try all the versions right away.

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Faith @ lovelyascharged December 12, 2010

What an awesome post and even more awesome lessons! Thank you for all the time and effort you put into sharing what you learn and what you create with us…your blog was the first I ever read and I absolutely love seeing new posts of yours pop up in my Google Reader. Keep up the amazing journey with health and best of luck with the last round of voting!

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Healthy Chocoholic December 12, 2010

What an awesome challenge!!!!! I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder, and this blog has been so great to read! I have downloaded the PDF for the nanimo bars and plan to make them very, very soon!

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Emily December 12, 2010

This made me cry. Really, you are so inspirational.
I’ll be voting for you again for sure!

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aubrey December 12, 2010

No, thank you. You’re my idol!

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Jessica @ Jessica Balances December 12, 2010

Girl, you’ve got my vote! :) I can’t imagine how hard it’s been keeping up the bakery while coming up with new recipes each week — you’re amazing. I hope you win!

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yasmine (mypurplegrape) December 12, 2010

what a beauitful post! you are my ispiration! Im so amazed at how creative you are with your food.

I’ve only just started reading your blog, but I already feel so proud of you! definatly voting for you!!
X

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Jes (Self Motivation) December 12, 2010

You are an inspiration!

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katrina m December 12, 2010

What a great post Ang!! I haven’t been here the last week or two (I just had a baby girl!! (: ) but I came to check today and am so glad I did!! Those bars look FABULOUS, like everything you make. Good luck with the final challenge!!!!

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Kris December 12, 2010

Wow! Thses are incredible! What an ORIGINAL idea! The amount of time, effort and creativity that you put into these challenges is nothing short of amazing! Voting for you from the start and all the way to the end! You deserve this! Cheers!

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