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 }

Amber K December 13, 2010

I absolutely loved the look back and your recipes and pictures are amazing. While I don’t make a lot of them (trying to determine how to make everything gluten-free is certainly a pain!) I love the ideas you have and the inspiration it gives me to explore new things in the kitchen.

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Madeleine@ Stepping to the Brightside December 13, 2010

Gorgeous, absolutely stunning. Thank you again for everything you do :)

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Marta December 13, 2010

wow Angela. these look gorgeous. good luck! I don’t know that I could be as committed to veganism as I’ve been able to be if I hadn’t stumbled upon your blog (I don’t know that I’d ever think of being a vegan if it weren’t for you and your blog for that matter!). you are truly an inspiration! you deserve to win this!!

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Becki December 13, 2010

You’ve got it in the bag girl! You’ll be the winner!!

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Sara December 13, 2010

You are so awesome. Thanks for sharing yourself & all of your adventures with the rest of us!! :)

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Mhel B December 13, 2010

You deserve to be the new Food Blog Winner. You show so much enthusiasm and inspiration to all of us. No pretensions, and full of inspiration, love and joy! I am looking forward for more of your posts! I am congratulating you in advance! Cheers!

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Rachael @ Mrs. Adventure December 13, 2010

What an amazing post Angela you continue to inspire me… thank you!

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candace best December 13, 2010

I found your blog after you had completed most of the challenge but it has been So Much Fun following your posts and back tracking your past entries. Seriously, this is one of my most favorite blogs of all time. You are Amazing and I look forward to what is coming next on Oh She Glows!

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Danielle December 13, 2010

Hi Angela! Good luck with the competition =) I just wanted to tell you that your blog has inspired me to start my own! I am currently struggling with calorie counting and I’m hoping that by blogging I can battle the numbers game, just as you did. I love the photography you add in each post…have to say that my mouth always waters whenever you post a new dessert recipe! I may just have to try them over winter break! =)

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Danielle December 13, 2010

Didn’t realize that my other comment showed up on a different post you did recently! This just goes to show how blog savy I am! lol still so new to it all! :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 13, 2010

haha that’s cute!

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Nichole December 13, 2010

I think you deserve to win Angela, you put so much effort into your posts and it really shows. I have been voting for you all the way!

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Stephanie December 13, 2010

I used my featured publisher vote for you!! I was sure that I wanted to make biscotti for my Christmas cookie this year…until I saw these bars. YUMM!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 13, 2010

thank you!

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Belinda @zomppa December 13, 2010

A big hearty congratulations!! Wonderful lessons and it’s been such a pleasure learning about you through this contest. I look forward to learning more!

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Stay-At-Home-Chef December 13, 2010

Wow – can’t believe PFB is coming to an end! What an incredible journey, you should be proud. Loved following along. Good luck :)

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Lindsay December 13, 2010

Wow! Great final post! GL!!!

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Melissa December 13, 2010

You got me again..Nanaimo bars are my FAVE!!

I love that quote at the beginning as it says it all..you put yourself out there and created a magical experience for us readers! Your dedication and hard work have definitely paid off..I’m hoping in more ways than just confidence if you get my drift:)
All the best and thanks, as usual, for sharing the recipes with us!!

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Jen December 13, 2010

Do you mind sharing the exact proportions for that peppermint nog please? Looks amazing!

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Dee December 13, 2010

Hi Angela! I am loving all of your entries for PFB. :) I just voted!

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Audrey Kim December 13, 2010

awesome last post! i totally love bakers!!
just voted for you^^ good luck!

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Paula Laurel December 13, 2010

You simply ROCK!!! I am most impressed and inspired by your authenticity!!!
Truly amazing work and I look forward to following you in the future!
I certainly put in a vote for you!!!
Cheers and congrats!

Paula

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Mary (A Merry Life) December 13, 2010

Great job! I’ve loved all your entries so much! I hope you win! :)

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Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life December 13, 2010

I’m in complete awe of everything you’ve done for this project. You’ve got my last, and final vote…hands down.
Good luck, Angela!

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Bridget December 13, 2010

Each round, I get so excited to vote for you! I just voted one last time and will wait excitedly to hear that you won :) I look to your blog for inspiration, recipes, thoughtful posts, and beauty. You have it all. Thanks for opening your kitchen up for us each day.

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Melissa Daams December 13, 2010

This is my favorite post so far :) and i’m definitely making that chocolate torte for my birthday this year. i voted for this entry! You Rock!

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Brandie December 13, 2010

I absolutely love your post and learned so much about you. Very well done.

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Natasha December 13, 2010

You got my vote! You are such an inspiration Angela. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us!!!

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Wendy Roorda December 13, 2010

Done!!! Good luck!!!! I have really enjoyed the ride!!!! Congrats for getting this far! Merry Christmas to you!

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Alison (Fueling for Fitness) December 13, 2010

Great post! Good luck :)

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Cailins December 13, 2010

You are an inspiration. Thank you for your enthusiasm and wonderful recipes!

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katalina December 13, 2010

I am making ALL 3 varieties to take as for Christmas to my family in Moldova!!!! (Eastern Europe) do you know how long they last, and if they will endure the 16 hour flight??? because you mentioned to serve the chilled! Please let me know!!!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 13, 2010

I don’t think they would last on a flight because they get very soft at room temperature and the filling starts to move around.
Do airplanes let you take on coolers with ice? haha ;)

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katalina December 14, 2010

I have so much luggage that a cooler will be over the top :) but well I can make them when I get home for my family, with some Christmas music playing!! THANKS for your answer!!!!! :)

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Narda December 13, 2010

I just LOVE your website. I am voting right now and I am 100% sure that you will be the only one Winner :)

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Élisabeth December 13, 2010

Wow! I’m for sure making these for Christmas. Thank you for all your good recipe and « merde » for the last turn!

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Jenna December 13, 2010

I just managed to squeak my vote in! Congratulations on such a major accomplishment! You really inspire me to go out and create my own path along this wonderful and crazy little journey we call life :)

I’ll be making your mint nanaimo bar for Christmas this year! And I can’t wait for the peppermint nog recipe! Thanks for sharing your journey with us Angela.

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Joanne December 13, 2010

This is amazing Ange! You’re in the home stretch now…fingers crossed!!

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Stephanie @ Laugh and Cook December 13, 2010

Beautiful post! :D

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retro sweets December 13, 2010

You’re simply the best of the rest Angela. With this magnificent post you will definitely win. God bless you! :))

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Jessica M December 13, 2010

You got this in the bag! All of your posts have been incredible! Congrats!

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Embodying Freedom December 13, 2010

Your posts are always so beautiful, both in what they say & the pictures! Thanks for writing :)

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Jenny December 13, 2010

Not sure how I could NOT vote for you after this post.

Fellow Canadian. Fellow lover of cooking and baking. And um, Nanaimo bars? Ohh, you hit my heart with this one. :) Nanaimo bars were the FIRST thing I baked successfully, ever. I’m SO happy to see them veganized!

Additionally… This post was just beautifully written. Just fantastic. Love, love, loved all of your entries. ALL the best, truly!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 13, 2010

aren’t nanaimo bars the best??? I still think they are my fav dessert to this day!
Thanks for your vote! :)

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Cassie@ sunkissedwithlove December 13, 2010

Wow, wow, wow.
I can’t even begin to explain how every one of your posts impresses me, drives me closer to veganism, and fuels my own passions. You deserve to win this competition, but by the looks of it- you’ve already won so much and won OVER so many who look up to you.

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rebecca lustig December 13, 2010

it was an honor to vote for you! you’re incredible. good luck!!!

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Dawn December 13, 2010

Hi Angela,
I’m so happy for you, this last post was the best!! Good Luck, my fingers are crossed for you, and I think I already said this, but you really do deserve the win. There’s no other food blogger who puts everything together quite the way you do. Your passion for the food shines through in every post. You really do have the most descriptive instructions, they are so easy to follow! Also, your photos are so gorgeous that it makes me want to make every single recipe you post about!
Congratulations!!
Dawn

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