Eating out on weekends: 80/20 Redux

For most city dwellers eating at restaurants is a daily practice. Most people don’t want to rush out of the house in the morning lugging a bpa-free Tupperware of lentil salad with pockets full of cashews and a bamboo fork in their purse. For me, these things are a comfort. I love feeling prepared for my day and a big part of that is knowing that my nutrition is covered and I don’t have to rely on others for healthy, inexpensive food.

That said, on the weekends I think it’s important to release my micromanaging tendencies and let someone else do the cooking for a change.

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There are so many benefits to eating out now and again, either at a friends house or your favourite neighborhood takeout spot. There’s nothing like taking a bite into something you didn’t prepare and having the flavours be a complete suprise to your palette. It’s also a great way to enhance the meals you eat day to day, by inspiring you to enjoy new ingredients and combinations. Mostly its good for your mental health and happiness to vary your routine now and then. After all, diversity is the tastiest spice.

This past weekend I had the chance to try a few spots in Roncesvalles -one of my favourite Toronto neighborhoods. The first was La Cubana, a sweet Cuban restaurant with a 50s diner vibe and the best lighting in the city. I wasn’t super hungry so I ordered a grapefruit and avocado salad with a side of coconut shrimp. Heaven. Next time I definitely want to try one of the platters with rice beans slaw and spicy fish.

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I also got to try one of Toronto’s best polish restaurants called Cafe Polonez. Apparently this place is so good it’s attracted the likes of Anthony Bordain. Obviously I ordered the Borscht, which was served ice cold on a hot day with an egg on top and baked potato on the side. Filling, delicious and hot pink.

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While some people may believe in the 80/20 rule when it comes to healthy eating, I’m not totally convinced. I’d prefer not to label food as good or bad unless it’s past it’s expiry date. But I think it’s a great approach to eating out! Making the majority of your meals in your own kitchen is cheap, rewarding and delicious, but grabbing tacos with a pal on a Saturday afternoon is a simple luxury that you well deserve.

Love Muffins

It’s no secret that I’m a breakfast person. Almost compulsively so. I jump out of bed in the morning and usually have a piece of banana or a fistful of cereal in my mouth before my iphone alarm has finished its first strum.

But I realized a few days back though that while I’m always posting ideas for 5 minute breakfasts like my gluten-free egg and avocado wraps, tofu scrambles, green smoothies and oatmeal bowls, I virtually never mention my favourite grab and go morning meal: MUFFINS!

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Back in university I was all about the bagel and cream cheese breakfast but these days when I want to grab something on the run reach for a vegan, high fibre, whole grain muffin smeared with earth balance or almond butter. It’s basically cake-for-breakfast but in like a socially acceptable grown-up way.

So when I had the opportunity a few weeks back to taste a whole range of vegan baked goods prepared by Lesley Black, owner of the Love Muffin Bakery, I was more than a little excited.

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The Love Muffin Bakery delivers vegan and gluten free baked goods made with high quality, healthful ingredients right to your doorstep (free delivery in many areas within the downtown Toronto core). Vegan muffins are prepared using almond milk and applesauce to cut down on processed oils and lightly sweetened with agave.  

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Lesley is the cute-as-a-button baker putting the Love into Love Muffins.

I had the chance to try the gluten free apple cinnamon muffins, peanut butter squares, double chocolate oatmeal cookies and a banana chocolate chip muffin loaf.

The verdict?

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While I enjoyed all of the goodies, for me the vegan banana chocolate chip loaf was the superstar of the bunch. It was moist like banana bread and fluffy like a muffin, with an ingredient list so simple it made me wonder whether or not Lesley might dabble in the dark arts. If you’re craving something small and decadent, the double chocolate chip oatmeal cookies were also a delicious alternative to those highly processed, sugar-laden cake pops or two-bite brownies. The only treat that got mixed reviews was the gluten-free apple muffin which I asked a few of my wheat-sensitive pals to taste test for quality control. We all enjoyed the flavor but found the texture a little crumbly when compared to the perfection of the banana chocolate loaf. So I’d definitely suggest sticking with the standard muffins if you aren’t strictly gluten-free.

Thanks so much to Lesley for letting me try her stuff! If you live in the Toronto area I highly recommend you make an order and try out these treats for yourself. I’d love to hear what you think. Order online at The Love Muffin Bakery.Com

Are you a young chef/baker/fitness expert/artist/entrepreneur who’d like your business featured on The Healthy Hipster? Get in touch on twitter @healthy_hipster or by email at healthyhipster@gmail.com.

Something old, something new!

Hey lovelies!

Even though I only just started my 6 x 6 plan I am already full of updates on how it’s been going for me and what I’ve learned so far.

1) Trying something new.

Diversity is a big part of my plan so I thought now would be a great time to talk about a new style of yoga I had the opportunity to try out earlier this month. It was called mysore yoga and it was a new-to-me practice that is actually the traditional way of learning Ashtanga yoga. Instruction is given on a person by person basis by an instructor who works with your level of strength and flexibility. You move through the poses in a set series that you learn in short pieces and memorize as you go, building on as you get stronger and more comfortable.

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The studio I practiced in was run like the pop-up shops that seem to be taking over our city, only open for a single month but tempting us with the potential for permanence down the line. The instructor David was everything you could ask for in a yoga teacher. Adorable, approachable and incredibly picky. Every breath I took and movement I made was under his watchful eye and while he wasn’t shy about corrections, never once did I feel uncomfortable or judged. I felt safe and confident, unlike those busy, intense flow yoga classes where my movements go unnoticed and I know that if I was injured no one would come out of upward dog long enough to notice. While the pop-up was short lived, it is well worth the trek north to check out Ashtanga Yoga Centre in Toronto. If you live in another city, try switching up your standard practice and giving mysore a try!

Do you stick to one kind of yoga or do you like to switch it up? I’m interested to hear which styles people prefer and why!

2) When you fuel am active lifestyle but dont have a lot of time, simplicity is key.
Sometimes I get in the habit of only posting or talking about my food when I have had the time to carefully prepare it but since so many of my meals lately are eaten on-the-go I figured it was about time I posted about those too. For example, this simple egg wrap doesn’t dirty a single pan and comes together in about 5 minutes. Lately I have been enjoying it for breakfast, lunch or dinner almost every day of the week.

The 5 minute Healthy Hipster Breakfast Wrap

Ingredients

1 brown rice tortilla
1 wedge laughing cow cheese or a spread of veganaise
1 spread of Dijon mustard
1/4 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup egg whites OR 1 whole egg & 2 whites
Sprinkle of spinach
(optional leftover roasted veggies)

Directions

Pour eggs into a microwave safe container and cook at 80% power for 3-4 mins.

While eggs are cooking prep the rest of your ingredients and remove tortilla from the freezer (heat for about 20 seconds or so to thaw)

Layer cheese or veganaise, dijon and avocado first. Top with cooked egg and spinach plus cooked veggies if using.

Wrap and place on a heated grill pan or skillet for about 2-3 minutes per side. Slice in half and serve.

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Flaky, satisfying perfection!

What’s your go-to five minute meal?

TRENDING: Singapore Streetfood at Hawker Bar

If you live in the west end of Toronto and have a pulse you’ve  probably heard some kind of buzz about Hawker Bar, a new addition to the Ossington strip where you can pull up a salvaged wood stool and enjoy Singapore-style street food at reasonable prices while listening to Little Dragon. I know, I know. I had you at salvaged wood.

We chose to order a bunch of things off the menu and share but I was pleasantly suprised that all the portions were a perfectly reasonable size, so you could also opt for a single $12 dish and be totally satisfied.

As we took our sweet time deciding on the perfect order our server offered us some complimentary ginger tea. They’re still working out their liquor licence so it’s all mocktails and tea for the moment, but this didn’t bother me or my date one bit. I mean…cocktails don’t come in teacups this cute.

After a verbal tennis match of possible sharing combinations me and my ladyfriend decided on the vegan laksa, 2 sides of soy broccoli & the sea bream special (who doesn’t love a whole fish on a plate?).

The laksa was pitch perfect in my books, filled with rice noodles, veggies & puffed tofu flavoured with a rich coconut cream (not too much coriander) and enough spice to break an early evening sweat. The sea bream, however, was what really shone for me. It was flaky and tender inside with crispy skin and paired perfectly with the delicious sweet soy sauce that accompanied it. I also asked for a side of sriracha and was pleasantly suprised with a homemade garlic chili sauce that should really come standard with the dish.

I must admit that unlike some of the Toronto foodie hotspots popping up in Roncesvalles lately (which seem to me to be 70% hype 20% inflated prices & 10% hollandaise) this spot actually lived up. Definitely worth checking out during this brief but precious interrum after the peak of Ossington strip fever but before the Queen West Gentrification/Condo Monster has fully taken hold. Get it while you can.

Fitness Apps: Help or Hindrance?

What a beautiful morning it is here in downtown T.O! The sun is shining brightly, the skies are a vibrant blue & I am double fisting coffee and kombucha like a post-rehabed, pre-weirdfaced Lindsay Lohan.


Peculiar beverage combinations aside, I wanted to take today to nerd out a little and discuss Fitness Apps. 


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For a good long while I thought that using applications on your phone to track fitness goals was a waste of time for someone like me, considering I am not in training for anything in particular nor do I have a desire for either weight loss or a substantial amount of weight/muscle gain. However I realized over time that certain apps actually would make my life a little easier and (just like everything in the health/finess world) I could take advantage of those good helpful bits and ignore the other stuff.

So I’ve compiled a little list of the apps I really do use on a regular basisand the ones I haven’t found so useful…

First up…THE HELPS

1) Standard Stopwatch.

No downloads necessary. Just use the straight-up stopwatch that comes with your phone to measure cardio, interval or strength excersizes that go by time as opposed to reps.

2) RunKeeper

Don’t be scared off by the name, I use this free app all the time even though I’m not a “runner” because it has some really useful functions including:

  • GPS to map your runs or walks when and if you do run outside.
  • Detailed information about your distance and speed (much more accurate than you’d get on a treadmill)

  • And (my personal favourite): The  Coaching function. It lets you set interval workouts  in advance, then gives you verbal cues about when to switch as you go. I use this for indoor and outdoor cardio as well as during strength training as an easy a hands-free timer!

3) Fitness Pro

I recently discovered this app but so far I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s totally free and has a massive library of exercise suggestions AND instructions so you can put together a customized plan that works for you. Customization is crucial because your workouts will vary a lot based on what equipment you do (or don’t) have access to.

It also has a whole anatomy section where you can choose which muscle groups you want to work and it will provide you with suggestions for what to incorporate into your routine. Very informative. A great way to break out of a workout rut and mix things up a bit!

THE HINDRANCES: 

1) Calorie Counting Apps. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Food tracking is a slippery slope and one that I don’t recommend for anyone, even those with weight loss goals. I genuinely believe food restriction is an addiction and one that we are all highly susceptible to. Becoming mindful of serving sizes and enjoying balanced meals and snacks made with unprocessed foods is a much healthier and infinitely more sustainable approach…And sadly there ain’t no app for that.

2) One Size Fits All Workout Apps. 

These include things like the Women’s Health Magazine app, the Nike Fit App & basically anything preset. In my experience the suggestions are good but too rigid and don’t take into account what your personal needs are. Plus you usually pay for workout apps like this and there are typically a limited number of workouts to choose from. And you guessed it….new workouts come at a cost! Better to find your workout inspiration online (for free!) then manually input it to a customizable app.

So…what do you think about fitness apps?

Do you have any faves? Would you consider trying one of these?
Or is the whole thing just too nerdy and not worth the effort? 

Some Sunday Staples.

Hey folks!

Considering how intermittent my cooking abilities have been lately I thought it would be the perfect time for another product roundup, a little like what I did back in this vlog (when my hair was long and crazy!). I’ve been relying on prepared and on-the-go foods more than usual lately and it’s given me the opportunity to try lots of new things, some of which I’ll definitely keep buying even after my kitchen is back in working order.

I’m not messing around today so let’s get right to it, going clockwise from the top…

1. Gypsy Cookies from Bunner’s Bakery. 

These bad boys are vegan, gluten-free & the perfect snack for getting past a midday slump. They have a brown rice flour and oat base but are chock full of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, cranberries, vegan chocolate chips & just enough cane sugar and molasses to sweeten them up perfectly. I’m obsessed and you should be too. If you live in Toronto they are available directly from Bunners (and can be shipped!) or at many cafes around the city including Te Aro, Crafted & Crema.

2. Simply Bars.

I’ve talked about these before on the blog but they continue to be my go-to protein/snack bar so they were worth a second mention. At about 2 bucks a pop they are definitely pricier than a granola bar but much more satisfying as a mid-morning or after work snack. I opt for the low sugar versions (about 3 grams a bar) like lemon coconut & cinnamon pecan.

3. Lakewood Pure Organic Lemon Juice. 

Just some lemon juice I’ve been adding to my water in the morning as a natural detoxifer & pick me up. Simple. Tasty.

4. Sprouted Grain Bread. 

For a while there I was in this headspace where bread was unofficially officially off limits. I still ate loads of grains just avoided them as processed flours and generally cut down on my gluten intake. In hindsight I think this had more to do with what I was hearing in the media and from friends than my own body’s needs. So while I’m glad to be a more conscientiousness consumer, nowadays I happily eat whole grain bread products on a regular basis. Seriously you guys bread is crazy convenient, not to mention delicious! When it comes to the loaves I buy at home, I opt for sprouted grain varieties because they incorporate a broader range of grains and legumes than your run of the mill grocery store brands and (because they been minimally processed) maintain more of the healthful benefits that whole grains have to offer. So enjoy your toast. Moving on…

5. Sun Warrior Blend Protein Powder.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sun Warrior is the jam and their new blended varieties are perfect for protein powder newbies & skeptics. They are subtle in flavour (vanilla or chocolate), easy to digest and don’t contain any creepy sounding ingredients. I enjoy a half or whole scoop of sun warrior in a smoothie, mixed up with almond butter as a high protein spread for toast or stirred into a bowl of oatmeal. A Monday-Friday staple.

6. Soynut Butter.

Why soynut butter? It’s higher in protein and lower in fat than peanut butter, yes. It’s allergy-free, sure. But the real reason I got turned onto this stuff? It was on sale. But what a pleasant suprise! It’s really tasty and I’d definitely buy it again. Plus it’s a great option for little kid lunches in peanut-free schools.

7. Oats/Almond Milk/Yogurt (Aka. Overnight Oats in the Making). 

I’ve started to work really early mornings and this combo is a no fail, no brainer breakfast that I rely on more often than not. This week I bought 2% greek yogurt because the store was out of both soy and coconut varieties…Dairy and me aren’t close friends but now and then I still give it  a shot, for old time’s sake. I’m definitely enjoying the texture of real yogurt without all the starches, gums and fillers present in non-dairy varieties. Really delicious.

  Have you tried any of these products?

What staples have you been leaning on lately to get through these busy Springtime days? 

The Right Demographic

A word of warning…if you could care less about shopping or interior design feel free to breeze on past this post.

Alright so you know how sometimes a new film/product/store comes out that is so transparently targeted to your demographic its embarrassing? If you’re struggling to think of an example, just look at the the following ad campaign produced by everybody’s favourite Soybean Oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup-based mayonnaise alternative…Miracle Whip:

 Jeez Miracle Whip is so much like me! I mean when I’m in a panini or crostini…you definitely know it! Ahem…

The only thing more embarrassing than a failed attempt at capturing the hearts and minds of young people (or, more specifically, hipsters) is when it totally works. When your advanced liberal arts degree makes you completely aware of the marketing ploys being used to capture your attention, but you still can’t help becoming obsessed with it? Like how I felt about that movie Garden State back when I was in college, or Miranda July movies now. American Apparel Henleys. The New Yorker App for Ipads. Fjällräven Backpacks. Portlandia. Jason Schwartzman…just generally.

Well this afternoon I had the opportunity to check out CB2, the DJ-on-the-weekends-but-mostly-just-freelancing younger brother store of the Crate & Barrel franchise and the newest addition to Toronto’s Queen St. West neighborhood.

The building was recently converted from a dirty bar we used to call The Big Bop.

Before:

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After:

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Suffice it to say this store had my number.

Allow me to demonstrate using this visual checklist of Stuff Toronto Hipsters Like. Starting with (of course)…

Vegan Food

Ironic T-Shirts 

Vintage Toronto Nostalgia AND Dirty Bars (2 for 1!) 
That’s right, they preserved the original Big Bop sign and displayed it in-store.

Canadiana, Racially Insensitive “Native” Themed

Canadiana, Sports & Mountie Themed.

Needless to say I’ll be returning to this place as soon as I have the money/time/space/patience to redecorate. So basically when I’m in my 30s and no longer find this stuff cute. Siggggh.

Does interior design make you drool or do you still store your records and clothes in milkcrates?
Are there any products/marketing campaigns you hate to buy into…but just can’t resist

I’ll Have What She’s Having…Dressing on the Side: High Maintenance Foodies

My sister asked me yesterday if I considered myself high maintenance. I thought about her question for a minute and then replied, “Well…not in relationships. But definitely when it comes to food.”

Allow me explain.

Am I a “picky” eater?
Not at all. I love to experiment with crazy foods and new flavours, which is a real bonus in a city like Toronto because fusion cuisine is everywhere right now (korean tacos anyone?)

Am I a health food junkie?
Not even! In fact I find that even with my healthy foodie/flexitarian preferences I can almost always find something I enjoy at restaurants, family functions and friend dinners. Plus I never stress about it because my fridge is always loaded and I am more than happy to supplement my meals with extra protein and veggies when I get home. Easy peasy.

Here’s the thing…
I’m cheap.
And not in an “I refuse to ever eat at a restaurant or only eat fast food” kind of way. I’m happy to pay for quality restaurant fare. Its just that I hate overpaying for food and beverages that are either subpar or not at all what I expected. When this happens a bubbling rage begins to burn inside me and trust…its not a pretty sight.

So here’s the high maintenance part…I tend to be very…particular…about my choices when I order. I ask for things on the side, siracha on top, my eggs poached rather than fried, an additional sweet potato here, a few crispy shallots there…whatever it is…if I’m really craving it and I see it on the menu I am never afraid to ask. Of course it is the perogative of the cooks and service staff whether they wish to accomodate, and I definitely don’t push my luck during a breakfast or lunch rush, but I figure why not ask? The worst they can say is no and I’m always perfectly accepting of that response also. As long as I ask for what I want, no matter what they say, I avoid the dreaded menu remorse and remain happily rage-free.

All of this to say, its the holidays. I have houseguests. And I’ve been eating out a lot. However, I seem to be mastering the art of the perfect order because I’ve been more than satisfied with all my choices. Here are two highlights from the past week:

1) Monster Salad Bowl from Urban Herbivore.

The Specs: 
Spinach and arugula base
Roasted potatoes and root veggies
Shredded raw carrots & beets
Sauteed Mushrooms
Marinated tofu cubes
Pumpkin seeds
Tahini/Lemon Dressing 

Why it was the best: 
A good balance of protein, starchy carbs, healthy fat and fibre-licious veggies kept me full. No messing around.

2) Korean BBQ Bibimbap at Bi Bim Bap Stonebowl Riceteria.

The Specs
Brown rice base (crisp and caramelized on the bottom due to the heat from the hot stone bowl)
Korean Radish
Spinach
Bean Sprouts
Shredded Carrots & Zucchini
Cucumber
Burdock
Sweet Potato Stems
Dried Seaweed & Sesame Seeds
Marinated Korean BBQ Chicken
Fried Egg
Hot Sauce & Soy Ginger Sauce

Why it was the best
See above.
Seriously though these toppings alone made the meal well worth it since I would never have so many specialty ingredients at home. Not to mention Korean food is so darn tasty what with all of its sauces and marinades not to mention the mother of all condiments (kimchi!!) Oh yeah and remember that part where I said it was made with brown freakin rice. I remember. This place was the best. 

So…are you a high maintenance patron or do you just roll with restaurant punches?

 

Northern Getaway

As a Canadian who has spent time abroad I often have to convince my foreign friends that I don’t, in fact, live in an igloo. That I use a subway car to get around, not a canoe. That the view outside my window is far more concrete-grey than it is evergreen.

But this past weekend all of that fell to the wayside as I headed North, to a place where just about every Canadian stereotype becomes a reality.

Secluded cabin in the woods? Check.

Eat your heart out, Tom Thomson. 

Cottage meals were simple and hearty, including a cup of homemade parsley soup  – a first for me, but something I can’t wait to try and recreate – and a dinner of roasted vegetables, sweet corn, green beans, baked potatoes and grilled chicken.
Okay fine let’s call this what it was: a summer feast. Especially paired with a half glass of raspberry wheat beer from the local Amsterdam Brewery.
And for dessert…an ICE COLD SWIM!
SPLASH!
While most of our time was spent lazing on the dock, hiking, reading and playing board games, Poppa Hipster and I decided to do some road tripping in the Muskoka region as well, making a few delicious stops along the way.
First one was at a the Lake of Bays Brewing Company a small microbrewery where we sampled some delicious pale ale. I highly recommend you look for it at your local LCBO and pester them to start carrying it if they don’t already. Local entrepeneurship is the jam, people. Especially when it tastes this good. 😉

Next was a cafe we read about called The Deli Lama (located in Bracebridge at the back of the Muskoka Natural Food Market).

I mean who doesn’t like to chase their beer with a wholesome vegetarian lunch? 😉

A whole plate of delicious.

All in all I was pretty pleased with my visit to Northern Canadian cottage country. And while I was pretty vehemently anti-cottage when I was a kid (purely becuase I didn’t have one and was totally jealous) I must admit I was pretty smitten.

Did you have a cottage growing up? Have you visited one as an adult? What are your favourite ways to unwind, wilderness style?  


The All American Vegan Diner

As we drove into Chicago the other day one of my travel buddies commented it was “the most American of American cities.” I’m still not entirely sure why that would be but I imagine for many its because of the city’s All-American baseball team, industrialization and industry or its towering skyline…

For me? I think the real test is the food. Thus began my search for delicious, healthy hipster approved All-American grub.

First stop on the Chicago food tour:

The Chicago Diner is an all vegetarian restaurant but don’t let that throw you. This ain’t no hippie health food restaurant. Sure you might find some epic salad bowls and kombucha tea on the menu…but you’ll also find a healthy hefty dose of for reals diner food like wings, fries, burgers & shakes.

We started off with the Veggie Wings which were doused in a deliciously smoky, spicy sauce but would have easily stood up on their own. They had that elusive mix of crispy outside and soft chewy inside that is hard to achieve even with actual chicken!

Next up were the heavy hitters (baseball metaphor…i’m in the spirit):

  • Seriously meaty seitan & tofu bacon burger
  • Blackened tofu Mexican quinoa bowl
  • And the piece de resistance…the vegan reuben sandwich
Did you just die a little? 
While I loved every bite of my burger and my sister demolished her tofu before anyone could try it (I’m still bitter) the dish I am most excited about recreating is this final sandwich. It looks the least appetizing but its smokey sour savoury deliciousness was beyond.
What is one classic diner dish you’d love to see veganized/healthified?