Healthy Hipster Holiday Gift Guide 2012

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It’s no secret that holiday shopping can be stressful no matter who you’re buying for. But when you’re hunting for hipster-friendly fare this process can become downright panic-attack-inducing…

“They already judge me so harshly,” you will cry. “Will they be able to mask their disdain if I buy them something lame?”

And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the answer is no.

Upon receiving that edition of Sh&% Girls Say: The Book or that package of magnetic poetry or that Instagram-Filter-Shaped Picture Frame you found at urban outfitters and thought was SO THEM, they will be absolutely incapable of acting like a normal grateful human being. They will say or do something douchey. Guaranteed.

So…in order to avoid such catastrophic Christmas mornings….To give both you and your Ativan a break…Here goes my list of suggestions for the Healthy Hipster in your life.

Unique & Non-Lame Gift Ideas for the Hip and Healthy Urbanite

Things in a stocking

Wool Socks
Loose Leaf Tea & a Bodum Mug

Bottlehook Key Chain

DIY Things

Stamps and Ink
Yarn and Knitting Needles
Cross Stitch Patterns

Tasty Things

High percentage dark chocolate
Whole nuts with a metal cracker
Preserves (check your local farmers market!)

Things they can wear

Moccasins
Black North Face Fleece
Geometric Jewellery

Tshirts or other swag from local businesses in their neighborhood (check out bars/restaurants/coffee shops/libraries)

Things you can make for cheap (and probably put in a mason jar!)

DIY Terrarium Gift Kit



Homemade Granola

Whipped Coconut Body Butter

Hope you enjoy the tips, pals!
Any additions? What’s on your list this year?

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.

Wednesday à la Mode: Fashion Forward Accessorizing

It is an absolutely glorious day here in Toronto. The sun is shining and it’s so warm that I am not only thinking about spring…but summer. Remember summer? That season with the bikes and the babes and the babes on bikes? I’m definitely getting ahead of myself. But what better day than today to dedicate an entire post to one of my favourite topics to think/dream/obsess/yammer on about…FASHION.

My style is effortless and eclectic and I strive to create outfits that are expressive and a little unexpected. When it comes to shopping I love to stay up on the latest designers, brands, lines and stores but my budget certainly doesn’t allow me to hog wild at Acne or Jonathan and Olivia? Hells to the no. So true to Healthy Hipster form I’m going to offer up some friendly advice for how I stay fashion forward without resorting to my evil credit card thee-who-shall-not-be-named.

Today’s Budget-Friendly Fashion Tip?

Shop the trend…but only in the accessories aisle.

Nobody likes a trendwhore…but a girl’s gotta get her fix now and then. I do it by closely monitoring my trend intake and indulging in moderation. Accessories are much cheaper than a whole new outfit, not to mention smaller (less wasted closet space) and more tasteful. And as an added bonus trends tend to be cyclical…so yesterday’s boho feather earrings or mod studs can be repurposed as today’s aztec revival and colour blocking. Trust.

Here are a few of my suggestions for ways to shop some of the hottest spring trends without buying a single piece of clothing…

Shop the Trend: Accessories

CUTOUTS & MESH: Leggings
$16 – forever21.com

TYE DYE: Tights
$20 – topshop.com

NEON: Ankle Socks
$6 – topshop.com

AZTEC: Clutch
$27 – forever21.com

CHEVRON: Knuckle Ring
$6.80 – forever21.com

GEOMETRIC: Necklace
$7.80 – forever21.com

90s REVIVAL: Turban
$3.80 – forever21.com


Would you rather avoid trends altogether or do you love to freshen up your wardrobe with quirky new items?
Wanna see more fashion posts like this one in the future? Let me know!

Finding Stability: At-Home Yoga/Strength Fusion Workout

This was just one of those weeks for me where everything felt like it was in upheaval. I’ve been apartment hunting, job hunting (I love what I do but am searching for something more permanent and stable), spring cleaning and even re-evaluating friendships. My family members, though loving and endlessly supportive, are each facing their own set of transitions right now, which leaves me without that “home base” feeling that others rely on in times of change. In other words life, as of late, has lacked any semblance of stability.

Oh and then I cut off all my hair…. 

Ignore my pouty expression, I actually love it. 🙂

In times like these, developing my physical strength, flexibility and balance reminds me that these are qualities I inherently possess and I can trust that (with a little patience) my life will manifest them as well.

So today I am sharing a stability-promoting, at-home, equipment-free, totally empowering and energizing Yoga/Strength Circuit Workout. It takes around 20 minutes and is structured in a pyramid, “superset” format.

  • Pyramid because you work your muscles hardest in the middle but begin and end with lower impact yoga postures
  • Supersets because you complete two excersizes in the same muscle group back to back with no rest between.
  • Fusion because each superset is made up of one yoga-inspired move and 1 strength-inspired move

If you require instruction on any of the exercises I mention here are some useful links:

Basic Sun Salutation
PlankBicycle Crunches
Side Plank
Warrior 2
Lunges
Donkey Kicks
Bridge 

Do you find comfort in physical activity when life leaves you reeling?
What are some of the most “empowering” yoga poses or strength training exercises you do? 

Wholesome Pancake Wednesday: Savoury Blinis

I apologize for being a little late for Pancake Tuesday but since I’m not much for Lent maybe you can forgive me? In return I’m giving you a totally guilt-free (not to mention allergy-free) recipe for savoury pancakes that you can enjoy on Pancake Tuesday and then every day after that since they are free of animal products, fat, sugar and pretty much anything else you might want to give up! As for me, I’ll be enjoying these with a big slather of earth balance, a side of caramelized onions & some freshly smoked salmon…plus a few squares bar of dark chocolate for dessert. To each their own. 🙂

If you’ve never had a traditional blini the concept of a savoury buckwheat pancake might sound a little strange. But when you think of it as chewy, warm, fresh cooked pan bread…things start to sound a whole lot more delicious. I even managed to sneak some extra veggies into this recipe too…cause I just couldn’t help myself.

So go ahead…try something new for dinner this week! Who knows? You might just want to eat them for 40 days straight…

Savoury Blini Pancakes
(Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp buckwheat flour, ground fresh from buckwheat groats for a lighter flavour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup mashed cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned sea salt like herbamare
  • 1/2 cup + 2tbsp hot water

Directions

  1. Stir dry ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add water stir until well combined.
  3. Scoop batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fry on a lightly oiled/sprayed griddle or pan for 2-3 minutes/side.

Optional Substitutions:

– if you don’t have coconut flour use extra buckwheat or gluten-free flour
– swap out whatever leftover veggies you have on hand for the cauliflower: mashed potatoes, squash, pumpkin or carrots would probably work well

Check out this post for more information on the nutritional benefits of inexpensive, high protein, whole grain buckwheat…it’s definitely one of my all time favourite grains when prepared correctly. Even more reasons to eat pancakes for dinner! 🙂

Weekend Meal Prep: Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde

The crockpot doesn’t always get a lot of play on the weekends as it has a reputation of being used exclusively for Monday-Friday (aka. boring) dinners. But I think it’s actually a great idea to prep yourself a simple crockpot meal on a Friday so that you can something wholesome and delicious in the fridge before the busy weekened hits. For me, having food like this prepared at home helps me avoid mindless spending on lunches and dinners so I can save your pennies for the fun stuff like cocktails, movies, galleries, concerts and general weekend fun and/or debauchery.

As an added cost-saving bonus, this was a great way to turn my two organic, free-range, locally sourced and ridiculously expensive chicken breasts into 4 meals rather than two by adding vegetables and protein-rich white beans.

Chicken and White Bean Chili Verde

Ingredients

  • 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 2-3 tbsp flour (unbleached white, spelt or GF rice flour)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of tomatillos, mashed very well or quickly run through a food processor
  • 1.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp chili seasonings (1.5 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, .5 tsp paprika)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked white beans

Directions

  1. Dredge chicken breasts in flour mixed with a little salt and pepper. Add to a slow cooker.
  2. Cover chicken breasts with veggies, beans, seasonings, vegetable broth & crushed tomatillos.
  3. Cook 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low.
  4. Remove chicken about 30 min- 1 hr from the end of cooking and shred in a bowl using two forks. Return to crockpot.

Yield: 3-4 servings.

Serve with nachos, on brown rice or on a bed of lightly steamed kale. Top with salsa, greek yogurt, hot sauce, fresh cilantro or cheese.

Dickensian Stem & Split Pea Soup

If you’re anything like me by the time Saturday hits your fridge looks pretty bleak. All the showy vegetables like asparagus and bok choy were the first to go,with boring but reliable cruciferous veggies making an appearance mid-week and by Friday you barely made due with a few sprigs of kale some wrinkly mushrooms. Saturday is, in other words, shopping day…Or at least it should be. But I often like to push things just a little bit further by bringing together my two great loves: saving money and making soup.

This soup is downright Dickensian but it is comprised not of vegetable remnants (ie. the last few sprigs of this or that) but the seemingly unusable scraps or…in this case…stems of hearty cruciferous vegetables. These stems, along with the split peas, make for a nice thick soup without the use of a roux or additional potatoes. A perfect meal or snack that will last you all the way through the weekend and maybe even to your Monday lunch hour.

Refrigerator Remnants:
Stem & Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 3 broccoli stems, sliced into discs. Make sure to use only the top 3/4 of the stem and discard the very bottoms as they are too “woody” and won’t blend well. 
  • 1 cauliflower stem, roughly chopped. Avoid leaves and the “base” of the stem but use everything else. 
  • 1 cup dry split peas, rinsed. 
  • 9 cups water (divided)
  • 2 tsp all  natural, low sodium vegetable boullion
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, adds a little depth to the flavour)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk (optional, replace with more almond milk if you don’t have it on hand)
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup/honey/agave
Directions:
  1. Sautee onions and garlic in coconut oil over medium heat until fragrant
  2. Add chopped stems and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until just softened
  3. Add dry, rinsed split peas and coat well with the oil in the pot
  4. Add 6 cups of water and boullion. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Since much of the liquid will have absorbed, add an additional 3 cups of water and return to a boil. Then continue to simmer on low for an additional 20-30 minutes.
  7. Add almond milk, coconut milk, turmeric, nutritional yeast and sweetener.
  8. Blend.

Serve soup with extra coconut milk on top, chopped chives, smoked nuts or paprika. 

Yields: 4-6 servings. 

Do you save your refrigerator remnants? Or do you have a favourite pauper food? 

Monday Meals.

Hey folks,

Not sure if you were aware of this but today was blue monday which, if you’re not familiar, is otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year! A buncha researchers somewhere apparently decided that today has just the right combination of failed new years resolutions, holiday debt and wintery weather to make today the official worst day ever. Obviously this can only mean one thing…

You made it!

Bring it on 2012, its all uphill from here…. 😉

On that note I’m continuing on with my EAT MORE series by posting my basic meal plan for today, which I’ve pretty much followed to a T except for my standard grazing on cereal, dark chocolate, frozen berries, nuts, etc. But I have definitely stayed true t the ingredients from my Sunday Shopping List. I’m really excited about how much healthy fat I’ve managed to incorporate and with how balanced all my meals and snacks have been.

Monday
Breakfast Chia Oat Bran + Green Smoothie
Lunch Salad with Ezekiel Croutons, Carrot Ginger Tofu Salad & Avocado
Dinner Corn Grits with Chicken & Collard Greens
Snacks Brown Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter and Sliced BananaCarrots & Raw Fennel

Egg Wrap

Chia Pudding (Before Bed)

I can’t tell you how great it felt to make all my meals at home for a change. I swear that between holiday meals, having visitors stay with me and travelling I’ve spent way more time (and money) in restaurants over the last month than I’d like to admit.  It also felt really good to start off the day with a plan and then actually have all the ingredients I needed to follow through with it. So let’s get on to two recipes from this list, shall we?

First up….BREAKFAST

Thick and Chewy Overnight Chia Oat Bran 

Sure it ain’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever eaten, but since you prep this recipe the night before it is fast, delicious and crazy filling. Clearly these factors trump aesthetics when it comes to Monday morning breakfast.

Directions

Stovetop 
1) Mix together about 1/2 cup oat bran with 1 cup almond milk & 1 cup water and cook on medium heat for around 3 minutes. Add 1 heaping tbsp chia seeds. Cook an additional 2 mins.
Microwave
1) Mix together 1/2 cup oat bran, 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup water and 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Microwave in a LARGE bowl for 3 minutes. Stir vigorously. Microwave for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir again.
2) Add mix-ins of  your choosing – I like cinnamon, vanilla extract and sweetener (maple syrup/brown sugar/stevia/whatever you like) – pop it in the fridge overnight.
3) Remove from the fridge in the morning and eat it either cold or reheated, covered in more toppings. Strawberries and Peanut Butter for me, please! 

If you’re like me and you want an extra protein boost in the am, you could serve this with a small green protein smoothie for a complete energy packed breakkins.

AND THEN COMES LUNCH…

I love to prep lunch salads like this one a Monday so I can snack on them all week long. They are perfect in salads, sandwiches, wraps or even eaten on-the-go with a pile of crackers. I make endless variations (like my curried lunch salad)  but today I opted for tofu salad.

Carrot & Ginger Tofu Salad
(to be exact)

Ingredients:

½ cup roughly chopped carrots
2 inch piece of fresh ginger (or sub for 1 tsp ginger powder)
1 clove garlic

1 package extra firm tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast (optional, but tasty!)
2 tsp oil (I used sesame and flax)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp vegetable boullion (this  natural, reduced-sodium variety is what I use)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha
juice of 1 lime
almond milk (as needed, around 1/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Process carrots, fresh ginger (if using) and garlic in a food processor. You don’t want them turning into mush, just a few pulses should do. Add tofu, oil, lime juice and seasonings to the processor and pulse to combine.
  2. Add almond milk as needed until the mixture becomes smooth but remains thick.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.Makes about 4 servings.
And no I am not showing what my final lunch salad actually looked like today. It was actually far too ugly to photograph. But tasty as heck. No complaints here.
Whoof….that was a big post. Time to kick back and catch up on Project Runway All Stars while painting my nails with my favourite new Chanel nail polish (this ridiculous colour). Have a great night! And congrats again for making it through the worst day ever. How do we feel about making tomorrow to FUCHSIA TUESDAY?

EAT MORE Sunday Shopping List

My mother has this theory that once its cold enough outside you can’t get sick. She says that not even germs can survive the antiseptic powers of Canadian winter and proceeds to huff the -20 degree air like the poster woman for Vicks Vaporub. While I’m not so sure I agree with her logic on this one (my annual winter flu provides me with a pretty strong case to the contrary) I will say that when I returned home to Toronto this weekend I sort of understood what she was talking about.

Stepping off the plane and onto the icy tarmac I took a deep breath of frigid air and didn’t feel any of the post-holiday/post-25 degree weather letdown I was anticipating. Instead I felt a rush of excitement, of detoxificaton, and a boundless enthusiasm for all the possibilities of a fresh new year living in a city that I love.

The same feeling hit me when I walked into my kitchen and realized that I had not a scrap of food in the house. Normally this would send me into an IMSOHUNGRYFOODRAGE but instead I felt AMBITION! Faced with this clean slate I did something I never ever do: I made a grocery list. Which I actually stuck to. The following is what I came up with based on the Cheat Sheet I created earlier this month. I’ve even included my (very crumpled) receipts to prove I really did stick to it!

Umm I find it oddly hilarious is it that chia, tahini and tempeh all come up as spelling errors…My spellcheck needs to get with the times. 

All in all I was pretty satisfied with the cost of this trip considering I had zero food in the fridge or freezer and I bought some of the pricier items in bulk (chicken, salmon, frozen berries). Because I have most of my bread, grains, beans, nut butters, oils, etc. already on hand the final cost balanced out I think. Either way this is only a very general guide. My budget/list varies a lot week to week based on where I shop and what I happen to run out of.

Anyways I plan on posting breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas all week long that focus on the ingredients from this list. I’m excited to get cooking, hear your feedback and see how it goes! 🙂

Vegan Mini-Quiches with Quinoa Crust

If you’re anything like me, cooking for a crowd these days can seem like a daunting task. Not only is there the pressure of making something delicious and presentable, but everyone and their shelter-saved puggle seems to have some sort of special dietary requirement.

Don’t get me wrong I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to make their own decisions when it comes to food without fear of judgement or criticism. And I try my darndest to support my friends as they follow their hearts and tummies, making the choices that work for them. Back to my first point, though…it isn’t always an easy task.

But not to worry, I’m here to show you that there are delicious recipes out there that can accommodate even your most discriminating friends and family…I promise.

Today I whipped up a lunch that was just perfect for this sunny-but-cool November afternoon. Warm and savoury, balanced out with a fresh arugula salad and some crisp fruit. This whole batch would be ideal to bring to a holiday potluck, as it would please both vegans and meat-eaters alike. Or you could always do what I did and freeze them in packages of 2 for a quick heat-and-go lunch or snack.

 Spinach and Herb Mini-Quiches
(Vegan and Gluten Free)

My mini-muffin take on this recipe

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, prepared in veggie broth
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of gluten-free rolled oats, ground in a coffee grinder to make flour (or you’re welcome to substitute for any GF or wheat flour you have on hand)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tbsp salt-free herb blend (Kirkland Organic, Mrs. Dash, Spike, etc.)

Directions:

  1. Combine ground flax seeds with water and allow to set for around 5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime mix together cooked quinoa, seasonings and oat flour.
  3. Add flax seed “gel” and stir well to combine.
  4. Scoop mixture into a well greased muffin tin – approximately 1 heaping tbsp per quiche – and make sure to press quinoa firmly to create a solid base.

For filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of liquid

Directions:

  1. In a food processor or blend, puree all ingredients except spinach until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add spinach last and pulse a few times until well combined.
  3. Scoop quiche mixture into each base – just shy of 1/4 cup per quiche. Try your best not to eat directly from the food processor with a spoon. It will be that good.
  4. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

And there you have it! A fresh, hearty, inexpensive lunch you can proudly serve to just about anyone.

What are your favourite recipes to cook for a crowd?