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Happy Hump Day 10/08/2011

10 Aug

Remember my Happy Hump Day post of a couple weeks back? Well, I liked the idea, and, given all the negative things going on in the news these days (markets crashing, troops getting killed, people rioting), I figure we can all use more excuses to smile, right? So in an effort to spread the joy, I plan to share with you things that have made me smile lately on most (if not all) Wednesdays. So here’s the list for this week.IMG_2469

Smile# 1: Pre-boiled beets. I know, I know, a little odd to be on this list, especially at the top. What can I say? I’m a nerdy locavore food blogger. But just stop and consider the happiness made possible by the convenience of having this gorgeous purple gems ready to go in your fridge. You can make this pizza in about 20 minutes.

IMG_2483Doesn’t strike your fancy? How about using the beets in a salad as part of this summer-licious salad, ready in under half an hour, perfect for those Sunday nights when you’ve got caught up in finishing the scrapbook for the trip you went on over two months ago. The gloriousness to your left is a salad of spinach, chopped mushrooms, red pepper, and onions, topped with loads of beets (minus the few chunks I ate…can’t help myself), balsamic vinaigrette and feta. Then of course you see beautiful, fresh, local sweet corn on the cob (delicious enough to be a Smile in and of itself), and a turkey sausage on a bun with mustard, sauerkraut and pickled red onions.

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Still not sold on the pre-boiled beets? Throw ‘em in an unconventional slaw, along with broccoli slaw mix, onion, a crunchy baby cucumber and some fennel. Make your dressing out of PC Blue Menu Tzatziki, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Thank you, pre-boiled beets, for making all of this deliciousness possible in relatively little time. All kidding aside though, I really did beets a lot more accessible if they’re pre-cooked and ready to rock.

Smile #2: An hour of FREE personal training. Yep, you read that right. My workout week got off to a great start Monday morning when, after my run and breakfast, I went to the gym for a 9 AM body sculpting class. The gym was pretty quiet, and I was the only one who showed up for class. The instructor offered me an hour of personal training, or we could still do the class…I went with the training. I told her I liked to focus on my upper body, and that’s exactly what we did! I was feelin’ the burn after in the best way. We chatted away while working my arms and abs, and before I knew it, the hour had flown by. Thanks Evelina!

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Smile # 3: The Month of August. It’s easy to get sad thinking about summer being over this time of year, but I refuse. Here’s why I love August:

  • it’s the month of my birth, and celebrations will be extended this year because it falls on the day I leave for Philly
  • speaking of Philly, I am going to HLS in only 8 days!Open-mouthed smileThis is my excited face…and I found out Monday that the opening night cocktail party is being held at a farmers’ market…SO COOL!
  • August brings the yummy produce you see above (peaches, plums and blueberries) and so much more, it makes eating so delicious
  • I’ve been able to re-connect with lots of friends this month due to time off from school, which also puts a smile on this girl’s face

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Smile# 4: Summer Sundays involving the things pictured at right. In this case, a cold drink (two Source creme caramel  yogurts blended with coffee, sugar-free caramel syrup and ice), a bowl of fresh local fruit, sunglasses, ipod with summer music playlist, sunglasses and Food Network Magazine. Not pictured, but also essential to the smiley face: lounge chair with comfy cushion and sun in the sky. Only thing that could have made it better? A little less sweat going on (TMI? Sorry.) and/or easy access to a pool. Oh well. You can’t have it all.

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Smile #5: (sort of related to #4) Local Peaches and Blueberries. They make such a delicious flavour combo, always remind me of my birthday (since both usually find their way into a birthday breakfast), and make healthy, delicious eating just SO easy. Peaches and blueberries have found their way into (among many other things)IMG_2405:

This decadently delicious peach blueberry cobbler (crisp if you want to be culinarily correct, but always a cobbler in my family) at my long weekend BBQ Fiesta.

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This beautiful breakfast (many times over, this was just one of the prettier ones), atop a breakfast thin (digging the cinnamon raisin ones I got State-side) with sweetened vanilla light ricotta. Looks like some blackberries tagged along here, with cherries on the side, and either an iced coffee or cafe mocha to drink, depending on my mood (speaking of iced coffee, I feel like I should own shares in Almond Breeze. I am tearing through that stuff!).IMG_2495

A new twist on the bubbling berry biscuit bake. This time, used brown sugar twin and added sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg to my fruit – peaches, blueberries and two little plums. I also used regular skim milk, not buttermilk (didn’t have any that needed to be used up). Don’t worry, I did everything else the same – right down to the vanilla ice cream and mint on top. Winking smileIMG_2494

Smile # 6: Make your own Peanut Butter Magic Shell. Check out the link from the wannabechef. I haven’t tried it yet, but doesn’t it look so fun, so good, and like it contains so many less ingredients than any other “shell” ice cream topping out there?! And I LOVE the idea of pairing it with banana soft serve. If you try it, let me know!

So, in an even greater effort to spread the happiness around, I will close every happy hump day post by asking you to share something that has made you smile lately (you can have more than one thing, you know). What has made you Smile lately?

Happy Hump Day

27 Jul

Happy Hump Day all! And, going with the post title, this post is all about things that made me happy/smile this week (I’m writing this on Monday night, doing double posts since it’s such a busy week ahead). It’s a bit of a random collection, but I promise, at least one of these things will make you smile too (contact me if not and I’ll see what I can do IMG_2288about that).

Smile# 1: This cream cheese. What is it, you may ask? It is garlic, feta and dill cream cheese, and it’s about the easiest thing ever to make, but seriously delicious (although if you are one of those strange, I mean, unique and special, individuals who doesn’t like garlic, you might want to skip this one.IMG_2287

My mom made this for our pool party Friday, and my Aunt requested it for the party I catered for her Monday. The ingredients are (are you ready for this?): garlic, feta, dill and cream cheese – that’s it! I found this on allrecipes.com back in the day for my mom’s birthday and it has since become a family favourite. It only gets more garlic-y as it sits (NOT a bad thing). And the beauty of this recipe is that you can use more or less of any one ingredient depending on your preference, and it will still turn out beautifully. Here’s the basic recipe:

Garlic, Dill and Feta Cream Cheese from Allrecipes.com

  • 2 packages (light) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (mine was 400 g) (light) feta, crumbled
  • 3 (or 4 if you’re me) cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons (I used a bit more) chopped fresh dill (or substitute about 1 tablespoon dried)

Beat all ingredients together until combined. Allow to sit at least a few hours for flavours to blend.

Mmm….when I had this last Friday, it was one of those “Why haven’t I made this in so long?” moments. So easy. So good.

Smile #2: Dance Party Class at The Athletic Club Brantford. My cheapie $19 one month membership ends Wednesday, and I’ve been about 9 or 10 times – I think that’s getting my money’s worth, right? I’ve been to this class 3 times, and it’s SO MUCH fun. First of all, the instructor, Trudy, is fantastic. She really does make it feel like a party, she’s all smiles and a ton of fun. And we do all different dance moves – everything from Lady Gaga to Britney to Michael Jackson to Line Dance, Swing, Bollywood and Irish Dance, and it’s pretty easy to follow.

It’s also a good cardio workout. I was sceptical before my first time, and although there are some more “mature” participants, it really is easy to pump up the moves and get your heart rate going. If you are a member at TAC Brantford, and are available at 9:30 Monday mornings, go party with Trudy, and just try not to smile!IMG_2282

Smile # 3: Crackerjack Sundae. Put a scoop of light vanilla ice cream in a bowl. Crack open a box of Cracker Jack. Pour over the ice cream. Enjoy, with a smile on your face, at the sweet and crunchy treat you’ve created (these boxes are under 150 calories, and 3 for a dollar at Walmart….go get some…NOW)!

Smile#4: This article on Serious Eats. The author goes to the Cold Stone creamery and discovers what happens when you order every mixin. It’s good for a laugh. If you haven’t visited seriouseats.com, you really should. It’s a fun food site, with lots of whimsical and light-hearted articles – great for procrastinating/time wasting when there’s something else you should be doing. Although the site is called Serious Eats, they don’t take food too seriously. But it is a seriously awesome website, and a seriously hilarious article.

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Smile #5: Getting all this from my garden in a single visit: 2 zucchini, fresh sage (which I used in a tasty pasta dish), kale and my first yellow pepper (which took FOREVER to ripen). I just love summer and all the garden goodness. It makes healthy eating so easy (and delicious).

#6: Being featured in the Simcoe Reformer. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag, and I know it’s not all that big of a deal being featured in a small town paper, but it’s exciting to me. And I was really happy with the way the article was written. Today the Reformer, tomorrow?

What has put a Smile on your face lately?

Summer Start-Up and Shape-Up Sum-Up

30 Jun

June 29 2011

So yesterday was the start of my summer vacation (okay, okay, I’ll shut up) and I took the time to do stuff that needed doing – like weeding my garden. But then I was out there, and, as happens every time, I can’t believe how big it’s all getting (I sound kinda like a proud parent, no?) and realized it had been a while since I gave you all an update…so here you go!

Just look how big that pepper is! I just need it to turn yellow and it’ll be ready (I could eat it green, but I MUCH prefer the flavour when fully ripened). I also have a poblano almost ready to go. The tomatoes I have are small and green, but they’re comin’. And there are tiny zucchinis that I think will be ready in a matter of weeks (maybe even days)….expect a boatload of zucchini recipes/experiments to appear in the days ahead. Bean and pea plants shooting up nicely, and big bunches of kale. And a prize goes to anyone who can tell me what that funky-coloured bug in the bottom right of the collage is…I saw it laying in the dirt when I was out weeding/picking.

I used something from the garden as part of the first (of many) at-home summer lunches. Any guesses? I’ll tell you in a bit, but first it’s time for (drumroll please):

THE OFFICIAL SHAPE UP FOR SUMMER SUMMARY!

I created this challenge to last for the month of June, in a large part to help motivate me to get back on track after my Vegas vacation and look good for the months ahead. Well, June has come, and as of tomorrow, it will be gone…so, how did I do? I’m posting my original goals, and below each one I’ll comment on my progress.

– eat low-carb, mostly whole foods, one day a week (I felt so fabulous after doing it last week that I want to continue)

I achieved this for each week in June (and even this week, which was just a partial week). I definitely don’t regret this. It pushed me to choose more whole, filling foods and get a bit more creative in the kitchen. I’m also a big believe in switching things up (both diet and exercise-wise) so your body doesn’t get used to things, and this dietary change helped me accomplish this. I don’t plan to make this a weekly feature in July, as it’s summer, and I just want to enjoy and not be so strict…but I will likely have a couple low carb meals (as there are some I just really enjoy) and treats now and again.

– use self-control and make smart choices at food functions in June (showers, graduations, birthdays, Father’s day) and bring a healthier option wherever possible

I’m pretty proud of myself on this one. In June, I had my grandma’s birthday, a day out with BBQ tour and frozen yogurt, Father’s Day, my cousin’s grad party and a church potluck. I wasn’t perfect, but I was pretty smart about what I made/brought, and used self-control around all the “special occasion foods,” and, most importantly, didn’t leave feeling totally stuffed….this is huge for me!

– push myself in my workouts, especially in strength training, to increase intensity and feel the burn

So-so on this one I’d say. I did get a new workout from my trainer, which was good, but not as killer as I’d hoped (I measure based on how sore I am afterward). I got in a couple of good workouts (one AWESOME interval session on the treadmill), and of course, a couple of Military Tone classes (when they weren’t cancelled). But I think my month-long Athletic Club Membership will REALLY help with this goal, even though it will be mostly in July. If the soreness I experienced from TRX class (even 2 days later) is any indication, then good things are ahead!

And, my late addition:

– try to fit in 10 minutes of at-home hula hooping 4 days a week

I’d say this was more like 3 days, but hey, that’s still 30 minutes of exercise I wasn’t getting before, right? I’ll admit, I haven’t done any this week, but I’ve been a little more consumed with exercise due to my new membership and all the classes and stuff I’m trying out, so it’s not like I’m just sitting on my butt. I don’t think all be as faithful in July, and it’s getting a bit old to be honest, but I’ll try not to let that hoop collect dust, and still get out there at least once a week.

I do feel like I’ve taken off the vacation pounds Smileand I think I mentioned before that one of my pairs of “tight pants” weren’t so tight as I remembered…yay! Smile As you know, I’m anti-scale, so I didn’t do any weighing, and didn’t take any measurements either.

I just want to thank all of you for making me accountable. You may not think that you’re doing anything just by reading my blog, but by your simple act of checking in and following along, you push me to succeed. I’ll admit, this little challenge was in the back of my mind when I felt like blowing off a hoop session or caving to unhealthy cravings…so THANK YOU!

And if you took me up on the challenge and shared your goals with me (or even if you didn’t), I wanna know how you did! Please leave comments on this post and/or email me to let me know how it went (Donna, didn’t we say we needed some lululemon to celebrate? Winking smile).

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So, in case you didn’t guess, the garden ingredient I used was kale to make kale chips (shocker, I know). The kale chips went along side one of my absolutely delectable homemade veggie burgers. I served this burger on a toasted thin bun with some grainy mustard, a melted cheese slice, a baked (at the same time/temp as the chips) portabella, salsa, a nice juicy tomato slice and a slice of Vidalia onion.

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This guy was SO MESSY! I can’t even begin to describe how messy it was. I think next time if I didn’t toast the bun it would be a bit easier to eat. But the combo of toasted bun, kinda mushy burger, ooey-gooey cheese, juicy mushroom and tomato and crisp onion made for a burger that dripped and oozed (in the best possible way) everywhere. I needed a paper towel for this bad boy. I think I’ve heard Food Network celebs say that the best burgers are messy. If so, this one would certainly qualify!!!

I’m leaving today to go to Buffalo for an overnight shopping (and grocery) trip with my mom (yep, Canada Day spent in the US…aren’t we patriotic?). Expect to see updates on the food shenanigans over the weekend…I’m planning to splurge a little bit on some 80/20 treats after the success of the Shape Up challenge (hopefully I won’t go TOO crazy).

And, since this is a summer post, I just HAVE to share with you a song that I am absolutely LOVING, and I have decided will be me theme song for the summer. I shared it with my BFF and she is as equally enthralled as I am. I heard it on CBC radio (I know, random), and it is called You, Me & Optimus Prime, sung by someone named James Struthers, who also happens to be Canadian. Basically, it’s about not wanting to grow up, and just enjoy the simple things in life…which is kinda where I’m at right now. I urge you, DOWNLOAD IT NOW! I’ve been listening to it over and over and I’m not sick of it yet…and it’s great to support a Canadian artist, right? Let me know your thoughts if you check it out.

Thanks again for your accountability on my Shape-Up journey. What are your plans for the Canada Day long weekend?

Sweet and Salty Salads

28 Jun

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It’s no secret that I love all things sweet and salty. Pretzels and peanut butter, salted caramel…I could go on (and on and on)….but sweet and salty salad? Seems a bit more unlikely, but trust me, it’s good! In the last week, I’ve tried 2 sweet ‘n salty salad combos, and both have worked out delightfully.

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My first attempt was for a lunch last week. It seems like in the food world (blogs, magazines), I’ve been seeing the watermelon feta combo EVERYWHERE for the last few summers. It’s always intrigued me, but I’ve never tried it, and since I had watermelon in the fridge leftover from Father’s Day, I decided the time was right to give it a go. My base was spinach leaves, which I topped with watermelon and feta, fresh mint, tomato (I feel like I’ve seen those 2 in many of the recipes I’ve come across), Vidalia onion (because I love ‘em, and WHY NOT?) and steamed asparagus (because it’s in season, and I put it in practically everything I can this time of year).

I made a fruity vinaigrette with one of my schmancy wine vinegars from Niagara to top it all off. The verdict? Yum! Perfectly cool and refreshing…could be a new summer classic! I love the salty feta paired with the sweet watermelon, and the mint added a nice freshness. I will definitely do this one again (although, since asparagus season is drawing to a close, it sadly may not make an appearance).

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SSS (sweet salty salad) # 2 was created for last night’s (low carb day of the week….last one for June) supper. I was home later after signing up for my one month cheapie membership at the Athletic Club and trying my first class which reduced me to a quivering pool, and wanted something quick and cool (and of course, low in carbs) and that used up stuff in the fridge.

This salad’s greens were lettuce, chives and parsley FROM MY GARDEN (sorry, didn’t mean to shout at ya there, just lovin’ the local). I topped them off with “normal” salad veggies for me (cucumber, mushrooms, red pepper, Vidalia onion), then some grapes that had been in the fridge since, as Katie would say, “Jesus walked on water,” sliced fresh strawberries (I would have gone all berry, but my desire to use stuff up won), diced ham (had some in the fridge, also leftover from Father’s Day, that needed to be used) and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds for crunch. I mashed a couple of strawberries into my dressing, created with another one of my fancy wine vinegars (maple this time).

Results? Also delicious. Sweet and salty wins every time. Now, it’s no peanut butter and pretzels, I’ll admit, but still incredibly fresh and delicious.

Two side notes:

1. I am STOKED about my one month membership at the Athletic Club. And although my Shape up for Summer challenge officially ends as of Thursday (full summary/recap to come), I think this is just what I needed to push myself more in my workouts, if my soreness from my first class (TRX, a totally cool weight class which uses this crazy harness thing, your body weight and resistance) is any indication. Just glad they also have a pool so I can use that to recover!

2. I am also STOKED about the huge bump in my site stats the last 2 days. I don’t know if I’m done anything in particular to draw in new readers, but my numbers went WAAAAY up Sunday and yesterday. So a big thank you to everyone who stops by to hear my ramblings and follow my journey. I truly appreciate you all and I hope you enjoy reading this little blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

Question: What’s the most unusual salad combination you’ve ever created?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

You’ve been (soft) served!

3 Jun

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Happy Friday everyone! It’s the weekend. It’s getting close to summer (18 days, but who’s counting?) and the weather’s getting warmer. You want a cold, creamy, treat, but there’s that bathing suit laughing at you from the back of your closet (or maybe you’ve decided to join me for my Shape up for Summer Challenge). You need to whip up some fruity soft serve – stat!

There are so many delicious variations. If you’re new here, or have missed a few posts, maybe you haven’t seen them all. Have no fear! I am linking you to all the ones I’ve tried (so far). The procedure’s basically the same for all of them: put frozen, chopped fruit in a food processor with a touch of almond/skim/soy milk if needed, then process until smooth – that’s it!

So, you can try:

By no means do I think I am the originator of the banana soft serve idea. I’ve seen it on the Rachael Ray show, and on Tina’s blog. I’ve just taken it, and given it my own spin (like I do with most recipes Winking smile).

Now for a couple of updates on the Shape up for Summer challenge:

  • I checked off my one “low carb day” for this week already on Tuesday – yay (again, it was fairly painless – included all kinds of deliciousness, like a smoothie in a bowl with mango chunks, and even steak for dinner)
  • I want to add one little post-script to my workout goals: hoop at home for 10 minutes at least 4 days a week. I think this will really help whittle my middle back down to where I like it, and the hoop I paid $20 for has been collecting dust in my room! I’ve done this 2 days in a row so far, and since the weather’s been nicer, I’ve been taking it outside…the time goes SO MUCH faster when I’m walking around my yard in the sunshine. Smile
  • I’m trying my best to bump up the intensity in my workouts, but it’s just been so-so this week. Tomorrow I’ll do military tone class, which is always good, and I need to schedule a session with a trainer (I have a half hour left that’s paid for, I just need to get around to it!)

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Another update: this time on the rhubarb front. I used some of my stewed rhubarb to make a strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake shake! Sadly, it wasn’t quite as good as it sounds. I mean, I liked it, and (no surprise) I obviously finished the whole thing off, but it didn’t WOW me…and the cheesecake flavour didn’t come through like I’d hoped. In any case, I’ll tell you what I did and then you can repeat and/or improve on it.

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Nice overhead blender shot, eh? Into a blender, I put 1/3 cup of the rhubarb, 3/4 cup frozen strawberries, 3 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese, a touch of Splenda and 1 cup almond milk and blended away. It seemed a little thin, so I added a couple ice cubes right at the end. Again, still good, but not particularly memorable (I sound like an American Idol judge or something). Since Ontario strawberry season is fast approaching, I’m trying to finish off the end of last year’s stash in the freezer: less than 1.5 bags to go!

Hope you have a great weekend…enjoy the sunshine! Any exciting plans?

Rhubarb Love and a Challenge

31 May

IMG_1585I’m not sure which part of the title to start with, so we’ll go with the rhubarb first. I love rhubarb – always have, probably always will. It is a sign that spring is well underway, and this time of year, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I used to have my own patch, but it had to be moved, and is now QUITE small. But after some blog-envy at Katie’s strawberry rhubarb muffins last week, I knew I had to get some – stat!

Thankfully, the farmers’ market that I stopped at last Friday had some, so I proceeded to buy $9.87 worth (6 HUGE stalks), and that night I got to work on one of my favourite ways to use it: stewed rhubarb.

Stewed rhubarb is SUPER-easy to make, and it is delicious and versatile – can be IMG_1586used in breakfast, lunch, snacks or dessert. To make it, all you need is rhubarb, water, and your choice of sweetener. For mine, I chopped 6 cups of rhubarb (this yield 4 cups of stewed rhubarb), added water and Splenda, and heated on high until boiling. I reduced heat to medium, then simmered until all the rhubarb had broken down and it was nice and mushy (in the best way). Next time, I ‘d add a bit less water, since it was a bit more liquidy than I wanted.

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Let cool, then store covered in the fridge (add more sweetener of your choice if necessary. I had to. Rhubarb is delicious, but it’s pretty sour on its own). The above picture is a close-up of what the rhubarb looks like when it’s done, so you can see the texture.

So far, I’ve used my stewed rhubarb in breakfast:

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mixed with pineapple and yogurt

 

 

 

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mixed with thawed, frozen strawberries and yogurt

 

 

IMG_1604And as a dessert/snack:

– a sort of rhubarb "cheesecake" concoction: 3 tbsp each of light ricotta and fat-free cream cheese, a splash of vanilla and Splenda mixed together, topped with some stewed rhubarb and a sprinkling of cacao nibs for crunch.

 

All have been delicious, and the best part is, I still have more left!

Now onto the challenge (don’t worry, it’s nothing TOO hard Winking smile ). I’m really excited to be hosting my first official blog challenge to my readers.

It’s no secret that I’ve been trying to take off a few inches since getting back from my indulgent Vegas vacation. I made it 4 and 1/2 days on my low carb-ish plan, have been eating loads of fresh fruits and veggies, and getting in a good amount of cardio and weight training. It’s amazing how good those things can make you feel in only a few short days.

Since tomorrow is the first day of June and summer is just around the corner, I’m proposing a challenge to you, my dear HHH readers: Shape up for Summer (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “where did you come up with such an original name?Winking smile). Maybe, like me, you’ve packed on a couple of extra pounds from winter or vacation, and bathing suit season doesn’t leave you much room to hide. Or maybe you absolutely love the shape you’re in now (lucky you)! It doesn’t matter – either way, you can join in the challenge.

What I’m asking you is to pick one (or more) healthy changes you can incorporate in the month of June that will help you meet your health goals, whether they are to drop a few pounds/inches by the end of the month, stay in fabulous shape, get more exercise or eat healthier. I have several steps I want to take, but one is just fine! I know the challenge seems a little open-ended/vague, but I designed it that way specifically because if I’ve learned one thing over the course of my weight-loss journey, it’s that weight loss/healthy living are very personal, and what works for one person may not work for the next. We’re all at different points in our journey, and the Shape up challenge can be done no matter where you are or what you want to achieve.

So, here are my goals for June:

– eat low-carb, mostly whole foods, one day a week (I felt so fabulous after doing it last week that I want to continue)

– use self-control and make smart choices at food functions in June (showers, graduations, birthdays, Father’s day) and bring a healthier option wherever possible

– push myself in my workouts, especially in strength training, to increase intensity and feel the burn

I could go on, but I’ll stop at 3…if I stick to these goals (or even sort-of do), I know I’ll like what I see. If you’re like me, you don’t need a scale to tell you if you’re at your happy weight, you know what it looks and feels like. Everyone has their own idea of “skinny” – for me, it’s not being a size 0, 2 or 4; it means reducing the size of my middle, being able to see the definition in my waistline (even just a tiny bit), and that my pants fit with no muffin top and blouses/sweaters fit without buttons or zippers pulling at the chest.

If you’d like to join me and share your own goal(s) (and I really hope you do), you can either leave them in a comment on this post, or email me at: hilarymawiebe@gmail.com and share with me. I hope to post weekly updates on my successes (and failures) and you can let me know how you’re doing too! I look forward to hearing from you!

The Wynn Workout

15 May

We woke up early yesterday. As in, before 6 AM early (blame it on the time change). IMG_1114We spent some time in our room, but wanted to have some food in our tummies (and my mom wanted coffee). so we got a fresh fruit and yogurt platter (and coffee for her) from room service. I’m not even going to tell you how much it cost, because it was ridiculous. Let’s just say it made Pearson International Airport’s $4.99 fruit salad look like a bargain.

Now onto the workout. I was stoked to see the amazing-looking gym at our hotel. Less stoked to find out that it costs $15 per person, per day to use! Sad smile Wicked bummer! So it was either skip the workouts, or pay through the nose to stay in shape. The pool, while amazing, does not open until 8 AM. And on our first day here, my mom and I attempted to take the stairs….also a fail. They are CLEARLY not meant for anything other than a fire escape, as our wild goose chase to a sketchy exit door we had no idea where it went so we turned around and climbed up back to our floor escapade proved (I found the whole incident kinda funny…my mom, not so much). So, I was feeling a little bummed on the exercise front.

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BUT, thanks to my memory (of personal training/other exercises I’ve done, my ifitness app on my ipod touch and a little ingenuity, I came up with a pretty AWESOME workout. I wanted to share it with you, because you could easily do it anywhere you have stairs and no access to fitness equipment. It’s great for at a hotel, but it would also work well at home too, for those of you who like to work out but can’t make it away from home. Start to finish, it took me about 50 or 55 minutes, but, you easily increase or decrease that time by adjusting the amount of cardio you do. Most of the exercises came from past personal training sessions/SHAPE magazine workouts, and a couple from the app.

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So for the stairs, I just went to the previously mentioned sketchy staircase (which conveniently, is next door to our room) and ran up and down one floor. It sounds incredibly boring, but with my music, it went by surprisingly quickly. I’m not gonna lie, my pace slowed down a bit on each set, but I managed to keep up fairly well. I did 2 sets of each exercise listed, and between 1o to 20 reps of each, depending on the exercise (after the running crunches, I held for almost a minute, I held the wall sit for 1 minute and the side planks for 45 seconds on each side). If you want more specific instructions for any of the exercises, just ask!

I was a sweaty mess by the end (just ask my mom!) so a dip in the pool felt GREAT! I did lengths for about 1/2 and hour (alternating between breast stroke and front crawl). I love to swim, and since I graduated and no longer have free pool access, I don’t get to do it very often. You may be thinking that’s a pretty big workout. Well, yes, but….

Then we went to THE BEST BRUNCH I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE! Seriously, it was UN-BE-LIEVABLE!

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You know how usually you go to a buffet, and the food is good, but it’s not really superior quality, and some or all of it is just so-so? Not at the Wynn! Yes, we paid dearly for it, but it was SO worth it….and we got our money’s worth, let me tell you! And, I will sheepishly admit that all of that food is mine! Embarrassed smileBUT, I focused on things that I couldn’t get elsewhere, and, other than dessert, I left something on my plate from each course. It was all good, but the highlights were: corn succotash, homemade granola (but I’m sure it’s not as good as yours Katie), pulled pork and coleslaw on corn bread, Mexican chilaquiles frittata, thick-cut slab bacon with lots of pepper (seriously, all other bacon will never be the same again), fresh salsas and naan bread, and the AMAZING bread pudding and apple cobbler! Mmmmmm!

Since it was our first full day of vacation, we opted for the $10 extra “champagne” option, which includes unlimited mimosas (champagne and orange juice), champagne or bloody marys. I went for the mimosas – whew, I am such a lightweight! I was definitely feeling the buzz….or something. I said after the fact that if I was doing it over again I would skip the Mimosa, as it didn’t really do that much for me…oh well, live and learn.

We really didn’t eat again until later on, and then it was just a slice of pizza before our show and Ben and Jerry’s after (and I even got fro yo)!

This place is like nothing else….seriously! I’ll leave you with a few more shots.

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I still plan on trying out the gym though, by the way. What do you do when you can’t do a workout as you’ve planned? What’s the most creative workout you’ve come up with?

Saturday Speed Post

24 Apr

Saturday was a busy day….and today is Easter (happy Easter!) filled with IMG_0864church, food and family. Long story short: I’m going to make this quick. More detailed posts about all of my Easter baking and eating adventures to come, I promise! After a delicious hot and cold breakfast (apple cinnamon oatmeal and a cold vanilla iced latte) and a quick round of baking, I headed to the gym for a good sweat session….just under half an hour on the stair master and then Military Tone class. Never underestimate the power of a good sweat! No matter what my problem, I almost always feel better after working out. It was the perfect chaser to all the food I ate on Friday.

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After a shower, it was off to Hamilton to help sister and brother-in-law with the move again. Saturday was mostly cleaning. We went out for both lunch and supper. Lunch was an heirloom beet salad (you can’t see them in this photo, but they’re in there, I promise) with arugula, feta and sunflower seeds. It was yummy! Lightly dressed and perfect for a warm spring day (and I think my body was craving veggies after the previous night’s meal)IMG_0866. I also enjoyed a piece of my sister’s cheese/greens/olive (minus the olives for my piece) pizza. More lunch than I would consume if I was at home, but all things considered, I’d say a pretty healthy meal.

After a day of cleaning and moving, we were all tuckered out. We chose another restaurant for supper, and were more than ready to sit down. IMG_0867

Of course,  after all that hard work, I couldn’t resist the bread basket. Winking smile For my entree, I had this whole wheat spaghetti with an olive oil and garlic sauce, grilled vegetables and goat cheese. It was good, but not really out-of-this world. I feel like I could re-create a more flavourful, and less calorie version at home. IMG_0868But it was still pretty good. I ate all the cheese and veggies and left some of the noodles behind. I also had a few bits of my sister’s Caesar salad.

After dinner, we headed home. I would like to say I went straight to bed….but I had two baking projects for today’s Easter to begin. I’ll leave the photos below to keep you guessing and then fill you in in a post to come. I snacked on an apple, as well as some tastes of my “projects,” and a few other things here and there when I got home.

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Food-wise, it wasn’t the best day ever, but it could have been a lot worse. I was thinking on the way home, that I need to get better at ordering what I really want at restaurants. I have it in my sub-conscious that I need to order the healthiest thing on the menu, so I’m always looking for that item, instead of going for what  I really crave. Then, as I eat my meal, I’m wishing I ordered something else. Does that ever happen to anyone else?

Anyways, that’s it for my quickie post. Once again, happy Easter! I hope you’re all enjoying lots of food and family, and if you’re celebrating, being grateful for what Easter’s all about!

Friday, Faspa, Fun

23 Apr

Most of you are probably reading this title and wondering, “what on earth is faspa?” Well, according to this article, faspa is “a low-German, Mennonite term used for a typical late afternoon lunch that for generations has been served in Mennonite homes.” My Dad’s family is both German and Mennonite, so faspa was a concept we grew up with….it was typically a Sunday night meal after a big Sunday night lunch.

This year, my grandma opted for a Good Friday faspa get together instead of a big Easter dinner (the whole family will get together in a few weeks anyway for my grandpa’s 85th birthday, which I will sadly miss because I’ll be in Vegas).IMG_0858

What do you eat at faspa? Glad you asked! Here’s my plate: cold ham and salami, potato salad (lots of mayo, lots of eggs), marshmallow salad (with oranges, pineapple and coconut), paska (a special sweet yeast bread with dried fruit and icing that is ONLY made at Easter….so that makes it ok to have 3 pieces in one sitting, right?) and grammy buns (the two buns in the background….that’s a nickname that our family has given them). Wish I could say that was all that I wait, but I had second helpings of almost everything! Embarrassed smile….80/20, right?

So after faspa, there was an “after party” (not at all in the traditional sense of that term). My grandma’s get-together conflicted with my Aunt hosting her family, so my aunt and uncle and cousins and their adorable, fun kids weren’t at fospa Sad smile, but we were invited to stop by after the fact, which we did. My little cousins (ages ranging from 1.5 to 8) are so much fun, and it was great to catch up with their parents. I also ate more chocolate eggs than I choose to admitEmbarrassed smile (let’s just say there were 3 different kinds of eggs….your basic foil-covered chocolate ones, Lindor eggs and mini eggs….and I ate more than one of each kind) and an absolutely delicious, rich fudge-y square of some sort…I certainly did not need any of it, but Easter only comes once a year, right? Winking smileIMG_0852

On the plus side, I started my day with an 8 mile run (went pretty well, finished my audiobook, got out before church and got it done). I also had a healthy lunch (portabello and goat cheese panini and kale chips….classic). I did try new seasonings on the chips though: mix of garlic salt, cumin and smoked paprika – winning!

Another food and fun-related event that happened yesterday? Making these guys! You are looking at peanut butter cake and cupcakes with Skor on top…oh yeah! IMG_0857And the cupcakes are in Star Wars cupcake papers and toppers. My friend is having a family dinner for her husband’s birthday today, but doesn’t have a full oven at her apartment, and knows how much I love to bake, so she asked me to help make the cake/cupcakes for the big event….of course, I was only too happy to oblige. Winking smileMmmm…..this combo is so dangerously delicious, it’s a good thing these left the house right away! Of course, I had to sample the batter and icing and Skor pieces, just to make sure everything was ok, right? And one cake wasn’t quite flat, so we had to cut off the top….we had trouble figuring out what to do with it, but we managed to get rid of that excess cake somehow….any ideas what we did? Winking smile

So, if you were looking for healthy eating inspiration today, sorry, you’re out of luck! Yesterday (and really, most of this weekend, let’s be honest) aren’t going to be banner days in terms of self-control and healthfulness….but that’s what a healthy lifestyle is all about….healthy eating and good habits most of the time, so days like these don’t derail my efforts to achieve a healthy balance. And starting the day with a long run doesn’t hurt either!

Before I sign off, one thing to share. I thought this was a really good post, called Lessons in Self-Love from Oh She Glows. Self-confidence and acceptance are still things I struggle with and I’m learning to live with myself and love the skin I’m in, so I need all the inspiration I can get. Hope this article inspires you too!

How is your Easter weekend so far? Enjoying the time off? Any notable food splurges? I’m looking forward to Sunday’s cold ham dinner! Smile

I came, I ate, I conquered

17 Apr

So I’ll make you a deal. I promised a full recap of the delicious eats at Eat Drink Norfolk on Friday. I will deliver the recap, and you don’t judge me for how much I ate! Embarrassed smile….it was a 20% night, to be sure, but I enjoyed every bite. And everything was small, so I can eat more, right? (Please say yes to enable me in my rationalizations).

Eat Drink Norfolk is an event that is a fundraiser for our local fair that celebrates the delicious and diverse food and drinks grown and prepared in Norfolk County and surrounding area.  You pay an $8 admission, then buy food and drink tickets for $1 each. All the vendors are serving something that costs 1, 2 or 3 tickets, so you take your tickets to various booths to get small plates of food or a drink. So are you ready for the LONG list of what I ate? Brace yourselves! Since many of my readers are not from Norfolk county, I won’t list the vendor names…but if you locals (or anyone else) want specifics…let me know and I’m happy to oblige.

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I started with local fingerling potatoes with pesto. My mom really liked these, but I wished that the pesto flavour came through a bit more. And before I continue, if you are thinking that my photos aren’t the greatest, you’re right. Try juggling a plate, glass, food, tickets, camera and a wristlet and see what kind of pictures you can take! Smile with tongue out

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Next was some AWESOME mushroom soup! It was cream of mushroom, but made with several different kinds of mushrooms, and mushroom pieces throughout. I could also taste a hint of wine or some sort of alcohol, which added great flavour. I especially enjoyed this since I almost never eat cream soups when dining out…so this small cup was really delicious!

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Pulled pork came next….oh so good! I made the observation that pulled pork was really popular this year – it was part of a dish served at 4 booths! I got mine from an authentic BBQ place, with extra sauce, YUM! I ate part of the bun, but left some of it, because it was nothing special, and really, the meat was the main event.

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This little beauty is a slice of perfectly-cooked steak on a seasoned potato slice, topped with sour cream, chives and bacon, from a local butcher. It was simple, but delicious. When you do it right, you don’t need all the bells and whistles to make great-tasting food.

Now, I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed in you guys. No one made any guesses as to why I was up on stage. IMG_0780You guys are no fun! So I guess I’ll just have to tell you – I volunteered to compete in a grilled cheese challenge using all local ingredients with the Two Fairly Fat Guys. For those of you who don’t know, the Two Fairly Fat Guys are “Norfolk County’s official volunteer ambassadors of local food and agriculture.” The challenge was to work with one of them to create several original grilled cheese sandwiches in three minutes, then plate them however you wanted and describe them to the crowd. IMG_0784I made 3 – smoked cheddar, pear and prosciutto topped with apple/hot pepper jelly; honey goat cheese and mixed berries topped with strawberry pie in a jar and bacon, cream cheese and extra old cheddar cheese topped with hot pepper jelly. The contest was declared a tie – both of us won a Norfolk County oven mitt filled with white chocolate popcorn and  an official map and local food guide. It was so much fun – I felt right at home up there! IMG_0785

Check out the plating – I think the Fat Guys were impressed! I got to eat my creations. I ate the bacon one and gave the other two to my companions for the evening.

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You’re probably wondering where are my drinks? After all, the event was called Eat Drink Norfolk. Fresh-squeezed lemonade was my drink of choice for the evening (as well as an undocumented cup of Earl Grey tea later in the evening). Wine and beer don’t really do it for me. The lemonade was really good. I used to get this kind at the fair when I was younger, so it was a nice flashback – not too sweet and very lemon-y.

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Now dessert starts. Of course I couldn’t limit myself to just one dessert when there were SO MANY delicious options! Dessert # 1 was apple strudel with maple caramel sauce. YUMMY! The strudel was good, but the sauce just put it over the top. I could have drank the stuff! No matter how much had been on there, it wouldn’t have been enough, it was just THAT GOOD.

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I shared this next photo with you yesterday….but not the back story that went with it. All night, we saw people walking around with these cute and delicious-looking cheesecakes. I finally made my way over to the booth and saw that most of the flavours were crossed out, and asked what they had left. I found out that there was ONE CHEESECAKE LEFT – a single cinnamon dolce! I didn’t hesitate, I nabbed it (what can I say, I’ve got killer cheesecake instincts). My mom had also wanted one, so to make up for it, I got her a caramel pecan brownie and we shared both. Both were absolutely out-of-this world! Knowing how good that cheesecake was, I am so glad I didn’t arrive a moment later.

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Dessert continued with a tiny little dark chocolate cupcake with Irish cream frosting. Meh…it was nothing special, actually not even really worth the calories. Not to sound snobby, but I could have made better at home. Oh well, at least it was small, so I didn’t waste too many calories.

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We’re nearing the end! This is a mini-cone (it’s small, really!) of peach melba ice cream. For those of you who don’t know what peach melba is, it’s a dessert with raspberries and peaches. Normally fruit-based ice creams don’t really excite me if there’s no chocolate to go with the fruit, but this one was outstanding. I didn’t even miss the chocolate!

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Last but not least, some chocolate-covered bacon. I just couldn’t say no. It’s been a food fad for a while now, so I decided to try it for myself. The ladies at my table refused when I offered them though. The verdict? I liked it. I’m a big sweet and salty girl, so it definitely hit those notes for me. I don’t think it’s something I’d crave/eat on a regular basis, but I didn’t find it disgusting.

I had a few extra tickets at the end of the night, so I used them to purchase some cookies/tarts for a lunch I was making for yesterday (post to come). Full disclosure: there are a few things I ate that don’t have pictures here – a bite or two of my mom’s pulled pork and jalapeno poutine (SO good – I went back for my own, but they were out…maybe for the best!), some free samples at a couple of booths, a couple slices of cheese, and a chocolate cake ball from the same place as the cupcakes (again, sadly, I could have made better).

At the end of the night, I was stuffed! But it was all local (mostly) delicious food. I love this event, but I’m glad it only comes once a year! I was suffering a bit fro m the “well, the day’s a write-off anyway” mentality when I got home, so I was nibbling a bit more….but, one day at a time, right?

I started the next day with a trip to the gym for my weekly “long run” (didn’t feel like drowning in the rain). I just did 6 miles instead of the planned 8 since I had a busy day ahead, but I held a 5.5 mph pace for the whole time, which I was happy about. IMG_0792 I returned home for a healthy breakfast (yogurt, mangoes, strawberries, cereal and a cafe mocha)…so back into the healthy routine right away.

What local foods are your favourite? Does your region have any specialties that are a must-eat?