In-a-Hurry Lunch/Dinner/Workouts/Life

I have worked a lot of jobs in my life (barista, waitress, tap dancing instructor, teacher, au pair, web designer, researcher, marketing consultant, etc.) but until this week I had never actually worked in a 9-5 office environment. But bright and early Monday morning I started a dreamy dream job working for an non-profit I really believe in doing work that I love. But the hours behind a desk, the office culture & my ears popping every time I take the elevator? All that will definitely take some adjusting…

This week I was far too busy getting mentally prepared for my new job to do much planning for things like food or fitness but I’ve been just barely getting by by cutting corners wherever possible.

1) Workouts

I’m currently between gym memberships so it’s been all about the outdoor running lately. For cardio I have lovingly found my way back to this pyramid interval run because it is super quick and always leaves me panting. And while I’ve been pretty light on strength training due to my lack of gym access, circuit workouts like this one (jotted down on a random envelope?) are definitely doing the trick.

Repeat this circuit for 10-15 mins for a short and sweet (and by sweet I mean suprisingly hardcore) workout!

2) Dinner/Lunch Combo Prep

 Seriously people, even if you don’t have time to do an epic weekly meal prep on Sunday afternoon, you can always prep your lunch while you make your dinner. Such a simple idea but one that has totally saved my dress-pant-wearing butt this week.

Tonight, for example, I whipped up a quick little dinner of one-pot curried cauliflower & pumpkin stew (topped with some pan fried haddock, basil & lime)

This isn’t a full on recipe but in case you’re interested…

Directions

Sauteed a handful of chopped carrots, a chopped celery stick and 2 cloves of garlic in sesame oil. Once fragrant add 2 cups cubed fresh pumpkin, 2 cups cauliflower & 2 cups of veggie broth  then simmer until all the veggies are very soft and you can lightly mash them with a fork. Finally season to taste with curry powder, soy sauce, ginger and a little squeeze of agave…then top with basil, lime & siracha for the perfect one pot dinner!

And now on to lunch…

Since those ingredients were already out of the fridge and handy I decided I would whip up a second dish that I could use as the base for my lunch tomorrow…

You’re shocked, I know. It’s a kale salad. What can I say? I’m easy to please! This salad is dressed in sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, flax oil & agave then topped with sunflower seeds and chopped carrots. All the ingredients used in the previous recipe just repurposed with lunch in mind! A simple way to save time prepping lunch (or money buying it!)

Do you work in an office? How do you usually prep for the busy week? 

Honey Lemon Tahini Dressing (Aka. Everything Sauce)

I don’t know what it is but I have been obsessed with this dressing lately…and it’s one you’ll have to trust me on. I threw it together one day when a particularly bland meal was begging me for flavour with little regard for the sad state of my fridge contents/condiments. However, I was beyond pleased and found myself recreating this dressing time and time again, dubbing it “Everything Sauce” or…because some people like to know what they’re eating…

Honey Lemon Tahini Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (Use fresh or Lakewood Pure Lemon)
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (OR 1-2 tbsp agave OR 1/8 tsp stevia)
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular almond milk with a couple drops of vanilla extract added)

Directions

Place ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree on high until smooth and well combined. Store in a glass jar or plastic container for up to a week. Note: dressing may thicken over time, but you can always thin it out again with a little extra almond milk.

Serving Suggestions

This dressing is absolutely delicious on salads, with tofu and greens in a rice bowl, massaged into raw kale (for about a minute or two until softened) or served as a tangy sauce over chicken or fish. It can also be stirred into a scoop of all natural mayonaise or veganaise then used as a sandwich spread…

Starting to get the “everything” angle?

Do you make your own dressings from scratch?
Is there one you love could eat on everything/possibly by the spoonful? 

Lovely Lunching

I must admit that when it comes to meals, I always pick favourites and breakfast typically wins out.

But for some reason this week I’ve been all about eating/packing/buying big, elaborate lunches.

Happiness is the soup & salad combo at Hibiscus.

The trick for me is that on any given day I crave a massive-bowl-of-salad more than just about anything but even I can find that tiresome after a while. So I’ve been using a few strategies to continue enjoying my salad bowl while also making my midday meal just that little bit more exciting. Here are some of the tactics I’ve come up with so far:

Kale salad with roasted carrots and broccoli, marinated tempeh cubes, toasted pepitas and about 1/2 cup cooked millet. Topped with a simple dressing of tahini, lemon, agave and tamari.

1) Switch up your greens.

Used to light, crunchy romaine? Swap out for a heartier green like collards or kale. Bored of bland spinach? Top it off with a handful of peppery arugula. Personally I’ve been enjoying kale salads like its nobody’s business. The trick with kale is that you need to rub your dressing right onto the leaves with your fingers before eating. Sounds weird but it works!

2) Roast your veggies.

I always forget that I can use roasted veggies in a salad but I never regret it when I do. It’s as easy as making a double (or triple) batch of roasted zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, fennel, broccoli or cauliflower the night before. Then just toss with a little olive or flax oil and seasonings and refrigerate for use the next day.

3) Pump up the flavour of your protein.

Whether you’re topping your salad with tofu, tempeh, tuna, eggs or chicken remember that lean protein sources like these tend to lack in the flavour department…but that’s where you come in! Tandoori Tofu? Barbeque Tempeh? Curried Egg Salad? The options are endless.

4) Don’t skimp on the toppings.

Sure it’s easy to dig into a salad once you’ve got the bare bones together but topping off a salad with toasted nuts and seeds, chopped up fruit, a handful of edamame et. al. will enhance the flavours of the whole meal not to mention adding healthy fats and fibre-loaded fruits that will keep you feeling full and satisfied!

Extra tips: 

  • Always pair with a delicious beverage aka. tasty kombucha or…say…an almond milk misto courtesy of Capitol Espressso

  • Don’t forget a hot lunch date…

Clearly my bestie knows his way around a smoothie…
And yes. There are two pink straws in that strawberry mango masterpiece cause we’re adorable.

And there you have it! The perfect recipe for a happy, healthy midday meal! 🙂

Healthier Tapas-Style Meatballs

For a lot of North Americans, enjoying a “tapas” or “small-plates” meal means going to a bougie, overpriced restaurant that bullies you into ordering 3 unsatisfying micro-entrees rather than 1 (less expensive) meal-sized one. However, after living in Spain for quite some time, I can assure you that authentic tapas is a lot less fussy…

Tapas began as salty snacks (like olives, potato chips or cured meat) given out for free  at bars to encourage…well…heavy drinking. Nowadays it still serves that purpose, but has expanded into a small but tasty late night meal eaten hours after the Dionesian Feast that is Spanish lunch. Believe me, if you ate the way we did between the hours of 2-4pm (lunchtime where I lived in Oviedo), you wouldn’t have much of an appetite by “dinner hour” either.


Tapas bar culture. Nothing opens until at least midnight and you’re lucky if you find a place to lean. 

When in Spain I definitely encourage you to sample all the delicious deep fried, sodium-laden tapas fare you can get your hands on. But in the meantime…here is a recipe that is similar to the traditional Spanish albondigas, but lightened up by using chicken instead of pork and even adding a little green for good measure. Serve with a side salad and roasted potatoes for a healthier take on albondigas and patatas bravasDon’t skimp on the glass of red wine though…For the antioxidants of course 😉

Tapas-Style Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 package extra lean ground chicken
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  •  1/4 cup egg whites OR 1 whole beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup oat bran (or rolled oats, ground coursely in a coffee grinder)
  • 1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast (or parmesan)
  • 1 heaping tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 heaping tsp dijon
  • a few dashes of soy sauce/braggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry OR white wine
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients and seasonings for the meatballs in a very large bowl and mix well with your hands until combined.
  2. Scoop meatballs using a 1/4 cup measure (you wont need to fill it all the way) and roll into balls.
  3. Fry meatballs over medium heat in a very large skillet until just browned then set aside until you’ve gone through the whole batch.
  4. Add 1/4 cup or so of cooking sherry or white wine to the bottom of the pan to scrape off any brown bits then add meatballs back to the pan along with 2 cups broth & 1 cup crushed tomatoes.**
  5. Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

    **If your pan isn’t big enough you can transfer wine, meatballs, broth and tomatoes into a large pot instead.

Recovery Food & Ottawa Roundup

While the last week of my life brought a whole new meaning to the phrase Spring Fever I seem to have finally made it through. Hooray!

As I was recovering, I received some lovely emails wishing me well (you’re all so sweet!) as well as a few asking me to post about my nutrition choices while recovering from an illness. I’m not sure if I follow any hard fast rules, I usually just give myself what I crave. This week that meant a lot of green smoothies, soups (lentil, butternut squash, tomato, etc.) and Ezekiel Toast Sandwiches with either almond butter, banana and honey or avocado and egg. I definitely favour starchy vegetables like carrots and potatoes and I can’t seem to get enough of oranges and kiwis (which also happen to be extremely high in Vitamin C).

Here’s a little cheat sheet:

In celebration of feeling a zillion times better, I am (finally) sharing some lovely shots from last weekend’s road trip…Broken down by category of things I love.

1) COFFEE. Bridgehead. Mandatory in Ottawa.

2) VEGAN EATS. 3 Course Lunch @ Zen Kitchen. I’m obsessed.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pepitas

Organic Greens

Vegan Reuben with smoked tempeh, house fermented sauerkraut & thousand island dressing on rye bread. Side of house made frites. 

3) CHEAP MANICURES.

4) Shopping BROWSING JEWELLERY.

5) DANCE PARTY!

Primping ensued… (We kept it real classy with beer cups….)

NDMA Live @ Fall Down Gallery (Accompanied by Live Model Body Painting)

Rafter Brews…

Hot date.

I don’t know why but something about this trip got me excited about summer and more summertime road trips…Look out Montreal 😉

Sweet Satisfaction: Managing Your Sugar Cravings

Hope everybody has had a super-sweet humpday because today we’re talking Sugar.

20120209-003254.jpg
No, not you sassy best friend from the trashily amazing lesbian British teen drama Sugar Rush

More specifically…I wanted to chat about a few ways that you can deal with those pesky, insatiable, binge-inducing sugar cravings.

The reason I’m bringing this up is not because I want to be a total buzzkill right before cinnamon heart season (which I fully intend on participating in…with reckless abandon) but because of an interesting article published last week by group of researchers working at the University of California, San Francisco. Basically they argue that the addictive properties and heath risks associated with refined white sugar are so damaging that we should tax sugary beverages in the same way we tax alcoholic ones. I won’t go into the details of the article but The Guardian provides an excellent summary of here.

As someone who strives to find balance in my everyday diet and lifestyle I found this article to be a little problematic. I hold fast to the belief that deprivation only begets deprivation and can often become its own addiction. For this reason I have no desire to eliminate the sweet pleasures from my life, even when they take the form of say…the aforementioned mountain of cinnamon hearts. On the other hand, I hate the idea that I am in anyway reliant on sugar, that I may be craving its addictive properties instead of my body truly desiring it.

So as a bit of compromise these aren’t ways to eliminate sugar completely but rather to manage sugar cravings on a day to day basis by enjoying it in smaller, more satisfying doses.

Top 3 Ways to Get the Best of Your Sugar Cravings!

1) Learn to love licorice & fennel.

Okay so I know licorice isn’t for everyone, but anise and fennel have a natural sweetness that I can’t get enough of. When purchasing tea, always opt for something blended with licorice or fennel because this will ensure the tea has a sweet aftertaste. Vanilla or fruit flavoured ones tend to be dissapointingly sour or bland on their own.

I have also been all about raw fennel lately and have been making this “recipe” as a snack almost every single day.

Cinnamon Sugar Fennel Sticks

  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar, stevia or sucanat (omit entirely for a completely sugar-free version)
  • 1 tsp coconut, almond or walnut oil (I often use the top runny layer of my nut butter for this…SO GOOD)
  • 1/3 bulb of raw fennel, sliced into sticks
  1. In a large mixing bowl, lightly toss fennel sticks in oil & use your fingers to make sure they are well coated
  2. Combine cinnamon & sugar if using.
  3. Sprinkle about half the cinnamon sugar over the fennel, toss & cover with the rest. Sometimes I pop these in the freezer for a few minutes before i eat them to add a little crunch

2) Combine the savoury and the sweet.

One of the best ways to avoid feeling deprived of sweets is to enjoy a little bit of sweetness with your savoury dishes. I find this almost always satisfies my sweet tooth and I rarely crave dessert afterwards.

Sweet & Savoury Curried Egg or Tofu Scramble

  1. Sautee up some onions, garlic and veggies in a little oil, then add your tofu or eggs just as you would with a normal scramble.
  2. To add the sweetness mix in curry powder, cooked squash or sweet potato and top with about a tbsp of chopped raisins and some toasted nuts. I also like to add a little cinnamon but that’s maybe not for everybody 😉

3) Enjoy naturally sweet, high-fibre fruits alongside healthy fats.

This is definitely my go-to recipe for caving into a sweet tooth the right way. I like to enjoy a midday sweet treat that includes a high-fibre fruit like bananas or dried figs alongside a healthy fat like dark chocolate (made with pure cocoa butter), coconut or nut butter. The fibre and fat will help to keep your hunger at bay and slow down the absorption of sugar into your system. Which means you can enjoy all that sweetness without the crashes or cravings.

Banana Almond Bites
Carob, Coconut or Cocoa-Covered

Directions

1) Slice 1/2 banana into 3 large chunks. Then slice these chunks in half again.
2) Take 1 large scoop of almond butter and spread it evenly over three of the banana pieces.
3) Sandwich the nutbutter between another piece of banana.
4) Roll in carob powder, coco or shredded coconut.

Serve as is or on top of crunchy crackers.

Do you ever struggle with sugar cravings?
What tips do you have for striking a balance ?

First Snowfall & Dutch-Inspired Comfort Food

The first snowfall of the year always seems to take me by suprise, but this icy rose looked even more shocked than I was when big fluffy flakes filled the sky around 11am this morning.

Never fear, little rose. I have a winter-friendly comfort food recipe ready and waiting to perk you up and get you excited for (or at the very least resigned to) the chilly months to come.

This recipe is inspired by the time I spent living in the Netherlands. Dutch food is often very simple – consisting of potatoes, greens and some kind of protein (usually pork) that is flavoured with some combination of vinegar, mustard or kraut. Perhaps one day I’ll post one of the more “authentic” Dutch recipes I still cook up once and a while…but for today I’ll just pass along the Dutch inspired meal I whipped up this evening.

Me on my old street in Utrecht overlooking the Dom Tower. I was such a baby! Also why on earth don't I still have that trenchcoat...

Dijon Chicken (or Tofu) & Greens with Rutabega Mash

Rutabega Mash:

  • Peel, cube & steam for approximately 10 minutes or until tender
  • Mash with 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1 tbsp coconut oil/butter/earth balance, salt and pepper

Dijon Chicken (or Tofu) & Greens
Sear and Steam Technique

  1. This is not so much a recipe as a preparation method. I like to sear my protein and steam my veggies in the same pan to save time and dishes. Its also a great way to infuse the whole dish with slow-cooked flavour without the time commitment!

First up…SEAR

  1. Slice chicken breast or tofu into 2 inch slices (1 serving of either will make about 4 slices)
  2. Coat your protein in salt, pepper, paprika and creamy dijon mustard. Allow to marinate if possible.
  3. Add a small drizzle of oil or cooking spray to a non-stick skillet bring to medium-high heat.
  4. Add chicken or tofu to the heated pan and sear until browned on all sides but not yet cooked through (2-3 min/side).
  5. Add 1/4 cup onions and 2 cloves minced garlic to the pan and cook an additional 2 minutes until fragrant.

And now…STEAM

  1. Add in a few handfuls of greens (collards, chard or kale would work nicely) along with 1 bay leaf, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup veggie broth. Cover pan and reduce heat to simmer. Steam for a few more minutes to cook the greens and finish your protein while infusing flavour.
  2. Use kitchen tongs to remove greens from the pan. Toss just the greens together with a scoop of the cooking liquid and an additional spoonful of dijon.
  3. Serve greens on top of rutabega mash with chicken on top and a side of your favourite saurkraut (I use an apple cider vinegar variety common in Dutch cooking)

So good. Already looking forward to the leftovers! 😉

How are you feeling about the transition to root veggies & savoury winter eats?

DIY: Fancy Brunch (In a Hurry!)

 

While this visit to the coast was short it was, as always, very sweet.

I enjoyed many sips of coffee out my grandmother’s china…

And spent a lot of quality time with the lady herself.

What a cutie, right? Its a little ridiculous.

Anyways I’m back in the city now and what better way to celebrate my return than with a luxurious stay-at-home brunch with my bestie.

WHAT’S FOR BRUNCH?

Sweet potato homefries, swiss chard and mushroom frittata & mixed greens with bosc pear, pepitas and a blueberry balsamic emulsion. Served with a side of this cornbread.

Sounds ridiculously complicated? Not so much!

Here are some tips I use to save time come brunch hour

No-Bake Frittata (Omlette-Style)

 

Directions:

  1. Sautee veggies of choice in a medium saucepan, well coated in cooking spray or oil. I used onions and mushrooms. Add greens like chard, spinach or kale last so they don’t cook down too much.
  2. Whisk together 2 eggs, 4 gg whites, 1/4 cup milk of choice, salt and pepper plus a heaping scoop of nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese (optional).
  3. Pour egg mixture over sauteed veggies and reduce heat to low. As the frittata cooks, tip the pan to redistribute the uncooked egg on the top to the sides of the pan.
  4. When egg lifts easily from sides of the pan use 1 or 2 spatulas to FLIP the egg. Cook for 1 more minute, slice and serve.

 

5 minute Sweet Potato Hashbrowns

Directions:

  1. Poke a medium-large sweet potato a few times with a fork and microwave around 7 mins (or use the ‘baked potato function) until cooked through.
  2. Cut cooked potato into cubes and toss in about 1/2 tbsp of coconut or olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle with herbs and sea salt (I used Kirkland’s Organic No-Salt Seasoning, Pepper, Herbamare & Old Bay) and toss again.
  4. Fry on a skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tip: To make your potatoes extra crispy, prepare them before the rest of your meal. Then just reduce heat on the skillet to the lowest setting and leave them there while you cook the rest of your breakfast. This will dry them out and crisp them up even further.

No-Cook Balsamic Fruit Emulsion

Directions:

  1. Place 1/4 cup frozen berries in the bottom of a microwave safe dish and cover in 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar.
  2. Microwave for 2 minutes.
  3. Muddle together balsamic and berries with a fork then return to microwave for another minute.
  4. To make a dressing, add in 1 tbsp coconut oil (heat of the balsamic will melt it) or your favourite oil. Serve while warm.
What’s your favourite Stay-At-Home Brunch? 

Weekday Brunch: The Breakfast Tortilla

Think this looks way too elaborate for a Tuesday morning? Not so much. This breakfast only took me 6 minutes from fridge to plate (just a few more minutes than your standard eggs on toast breakfast) and the result was a mid-week-brunch of epic proportions.

The Breakfast Tortilla

Directions:

  1. Heat a large, ungreased skillet to medium high heat.
  2. Chop up a few handfuls of your favourite veggies: onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, peppers (note: the smaller you chop, the quicker they cook!)
  3. Toast a whole wheat or brown rice tortilla on the dry skillet for about 30 seconds/side or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Add 1 tsp of oil and all of your veggies to the skillet. Salt, pepper, garlic and chili powder are some other tasty additions. Stir fry until just cooked and still crunchy. If you’re adding greens do so right at the end.
  5. Eggs**: EITHER microwave 1/2-3/4 cup egg whites for 2-3 minutes at 80% power OR add 2 whole eggs to the pan after the veggies have cooked and scramble.
  6. Spread your tortilla with base of choice: I used hummus, dijon and a piece of laughing cow cheese. Layer on veggies and eggs. Top with anything you like: salsa, greek yogurt, olives, jalepenos, nooch, crunched up mary’s crackers or tortillas, etc.
**You could easily swap eggs for tofu in this recipe to veganize/tofu scramble-ize it. 
Use the crunchy toasted tortilla base to scoop up your eggs and enjoy this cheaters version of huevos rancheros any day of the week!

Easy Transitions: Summer >> Fall

I once had a therapist tell me I have “trouble with transitions.”

My first reaction to this professional insight was to feel terribly offended. I mean I revel in change and I hate for my life to feel dreary and predictable. But as I thought about it further, I realized that while I appreciate change I despise the process of getting there.

I just want things to be different, already.

This weekend Toronto experienced near perfect weather and the whole city seemed to respond with the same combination of excitement and discomfort. Excitement because sunshine = lazy saturday afternoons in the park. Discomfort because our autumn jackets and sweaters (while terribly fashionable) were also boiling us alive under the unseasonably hot sun. Not quite summer, not quite fall weather apparently makes for a city of sweaty grumps.

Nevertheless, I’m on a mission to appreciate transitional periods for exactly what they are. Awkward and elusive, but also exuberant and unexpected.

I snapped a shot of this building as I wandering somewhere along Dundonald near Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighborhood. The perfect blend of neon green ivy, early autumn leaves and bright end-of-summer blooms. 

Summer >> Fall

First cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. A strong Americano at Ideal Coffee on Ossington.

 Sleep >> Wake.

And of course…a Summer >> Fall Recipe! This snack mix combines fresh shelled edamame with a comforting autumn staple – toasted pumpkin seeds. The result is a high protein, satisfying snack that is as unexpected as this unseasonably warm September afternoon. Enjoy!

Roasted Edamame & Pumpkin Seed Snack Mix

  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame (thawed but not boiled)
  • 1 cup raw, unshelled pumpkin or squash seeds (I used the seeds of a buttercup squash)
  • 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • around 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger**
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
**I always store my ginger in the freezer and use it as needed. Not only does this extend the shelf life of your ginger, but it makes grating far easier. 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine tamari and oil in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in soybeans and pumpkin seeds and toss to combine.
  4. Grate in ginger and add a sprinkle of garlic powder, toss once more.
  5. Spread out soynuts and seeds on a piece of parchment paper and roast at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until they are fragrant and crispy. (The edamame will not become as crunchy the seeds but they should dry out significantly)
Try not to eat them all straight off the pan.