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 }

Jacquelyn December 15, 2010

You had me at “inner dork” – anyone that can refer to themselves in that manner and yet produce some of the most beautiful dishes and photos – has my vote, again!

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April December 15, 2010

You must be extremely organized. Beautiful and polished! :)

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Lou December 15, 2010

It’s been like reading the most beautiful and perfect cookery book I could imagine, every week. Well done Angela, amazing work, I am in huge awe and respect of your abilities, :)

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Danielle December 15, 2010

You’re amazing, Angela. I really hope and truly feel that you will win!!

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Jazz Rules December 15, 2010

Wonder job over the challenge! How can you keep up with all these comments?!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 16, 2010

i love the interaction I guess!

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Kaitlin December 15, 2010

Wow Angela! Absolutely Amazing as always! I love how your blogs always get me even MORE excited for the holidays! These look delicious!!! I really hope I can make my family drool over these this Christmas because this is there favorite dessert!

-Kaitlin :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 16, 2010

hope you enjoy them!

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Elena December 16, 2010

I just wanted to let you know that I came across your blog not too long ago and love looking at your posts for occasionally needed inspiration. Your food-ography is constantly getting better and better too, so kudos and thanks!

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Heather December 17, 2010

I don’t comment often but I just adore this post. I voted for you & know it’s about half hour away from the big announcement.

Please, Angela, keep doing what you are doing. Great blog, great food & it’s all worth while knowing that you are someone I’d easily call friend.

Good luck & thanks for sharing your world!!

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Ffion December 20, 2010

I LOOOOVVED(!) this post. To see everything you have created in the past couple of months is just awe-inspiring! And the fact that everything is vegan just blows my mind! I’v not tried any vegan baking as of yet, and probably would never of thought of doing so if it wasn’t for your blog, but it is definitely something I would love to tackle in the future! You are so happy and bubbly, and come across as such a positive person, and as someone who is completely lost in life (graduated this summer, can’t get a job due to recession, don’t think I even want to be a graphic designer anymore(!), plus I’m trying to loose quite a bit of weight and get healthy, which can sometimes be a huge mental strain!), to see how far you have become, and being able to do that on your own terms, gives me hope that maybe a year or two from now, I’ll be in just the same position, happy and fulfilled :)

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Ffion December 20, 2010

I LOOOOVVED(!) this post. To see everything you have created in the past couple of months is just awe-inspiring! And the fact that everything is vegan just blows my mind! I’v not tried any vegan baking as of yet, and probably would never of thought of doing so if it wasn’t for your blog, but it is definitely something I would love to tackle in the future! You are so happy and bubbly, and come across as such a positive person, and as someone who is completely lost in life (graduated this summer, can’t get a job due to recession, don’t think I even want to be a graphic designer anymore(!), plus I’m trying to loose quite a bit of weight and get healthy, which can sometimes be a huge mental strain!), to see how far you have become, and being able to do that on your own terms, gives me hope that maybe a year or two from now, I’ll be in just the same position, happy and fulfilled :)

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Katie December 26, 2010

Made these for Xmas – big hit!! I used real butter though and I think I could have used about half the butter I did, because I had pooled frozen butter on the bottom. Also made your blondies in a jar as gifts, very appreciated by people. I made the cinnamon sweet potato chickpea onion salad for xmas dinner and the vegan chocolate chip cookie sandwiches (way ADDICTING). Thanks for all the wondrous recipes – can’t wait to make more!

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