Tag Archives: healthy eating

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?

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Child’s Play

9 Aug

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My cooking is a lot of things. I like to think it’s healthy, delicious, fun, creative….(no, this is not a post dedicated to self-flattery, just in case you were wondering)….but kid-friendly isn’t always one of them. You all know how much I love fruits and veggies now. Well, really, I always have, but back when I was a kid, there was a list of ones I didn’t like, including squash, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts (I’m sure there were many more but I can’t think of them as of right now). Needless to say, I have embraced them and am trying to make up for lost time with those under-appreciated veggies.

So when my little cousins (it should be noted that their ages are 14 and almost 12, so at this point they’re not really “kids,” and certainly not “little,” but since I was the youngest until they came along, they’ll always be my “little” cousins) accepted my invitation for a sleepover Saturday night, I racked my brain that would make us all happy: tasty, kid-friendly, and veggie packed. The answer?

POTATO BAR! My family got the idea for this meal from a summer camp that my sister attended growing up (I went one year, suffered terribly from homesickness, and never went back). Basically, everyone gets a baked potato and loads it up with their choice of toppings. I served the potatoes with salad on the side. Although the above two photos just look like a plate of veggies, I PROMISE there is a potato under there (I should have taken pictures of my cousins’ plates, as they were much more “conservative” with the veggies than I, and you can actually see the potatoes). The toppings we had to choose from were:IMG_2478

  • butter spray/butter/margarine
  • fat free sour cream
  • light grated Tex-Mex cheese
  • light feta
  • bacon
  • ham
  • chopped mushrooms
  • chopped green onion
  • salsa
  • lightly cooked broccoli
  • chopped tomatoes

I started with butter spray, then added all of the above (minus the bacon). As you can see, I had a heavy hand with the veggies. In my somewhat limited experience in cooking for kids and/or people with dietary restrictions/people you don’t know well, I’ve found that self-serve, build-your-own meals work best. That way, if there’s something that some like and others don’t it’s easy to leave out. I was happy with my ham, cheese and veggie extravaganza, my cousin was equally satisfied with bacon, cheese, a touch of salsa and some broccoli. This is a great meal to feed a crowd too. It’s fun for all, and, other than chopping, pretty low-maintenance in terms of prep.

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I promised my cousins that if they came to sleep over this summer, we could make ice cream in my new ice cream maker together. Once again, I wanted to find a recipe that would satisfy my desire for something healthier but also meet the taste criteria for younger tastebuds. So when an allrecipes email came into my inbox with a link to this new recipe for Strawberry Freeze by “Laurie” that contained only three ingredients – buttermilk, strawberries and sugar, I was intrigued. The local strawberries available sealed the deal.

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from Laurie at allrecipes.com

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar, or to taste
  • 3 cups buttermilk

Place 1 cup buttermilk, strawberries, and sugar into a blender. Cover, and puree until smooth. Pour in the remaining 3 cups buttermilk and blend until combined. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze or if using an ice cream maker, freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

*Obviously, I went the ice cream maker route, not the ice pop way. The recipe ways it makes 8 servings, but I’d say more than that or you’ll have 8 really big servings!

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Blending up the strawberry goodness.

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The finished product. I know it looks like we added food colouring, but I promise we didn’t – it’s 100% all natural. This “freeze” was quite delicious – not too sweet at all (thanks to the buttermilk I think). Although, it did suffer the same problem as many of my healthier frozen treats. It got quite hard the second day. Still delicious, just needs a bit of microwaving before serving.

Do you have any go-to menus/recipes when cooking for kids?

You say tomato…

8 Aug

IMG_2463Happy Monday all! So I promised you yesterday that I would show you some of what I’ve been doing with the tomato goodness from my garden. Just a quick refresher on the varieties I’m growing: golden cherry tomatoes, Roma/plum, beefsteak, and 2 kinds of heirloom tomatoes: Brandywine and Japanese Truffle. I seem to have a little blight on some of my plants, but happily, not all of them. I’m not in peak season yet, the tomatoes are coming slowly but surely. However, within a week or so, I’m sure I’ll be overloaded (and ready to share).

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Today’s spotlight is mostly going to be on the Romas. Last year was my first year growing plum tomatoes, and I LOVE them. They are perfect for cooking, making sauces, and roasting. Oh, how I LOVE roasted tomatoes. Confession: when I was out in the garden harvesting tomatoes on Saturday and thinking about roasting them, I *may* have made a rock fist and declared aloud how much I love roasted vegetables….that’s normal, right?

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The tasty lunch you see here is a salad of sorts. I roasted plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onion with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper and olive oil (confession: I was actually running out to get a few groceries, and put these in the oven before I left (on a lower heat than I normally would), then turned them up when I got home. But I do not condone/recommend having the oven on when you’re not home, for obvious safety reasons). I tossed the warm veggies with some fresh spinach and spritzed with my fancy truffle balsamic vinegar. The spinach wilted slightly, but not all the way – it was just perfect. I also tossed in about 1/4 cup black beans (all that was left from the can I opened for the chili), some feta cheese, and a piece of chopped lunch meat chicken (seasoned with lime and an herb – I forget what).

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A close-up of the grilled goodness

On the side, as you can see, I enjoyed 2 slices of fresh local muskmelon wrapped in ham (my nod to the classic prosciutto/melon combo). Mmm! Such a perfectly delectable summer lunch. I mean, I love salads and vegetables, but roasting them just takes the flavour to a new dimension. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for?!IMG_2468

The other Roma/plum tomato usage I’m highlighting is in my Neapolitan green beans that were an accompaniment to my pizza Friday night (if it looks like a light meal, that’s because I was heading out to go to Costco and eat samples and then head to Starbucks with a friend). I made the beans the same way as I did when I first told you about them, only used fresh plum tomatoes. Garden fresh tomatoes + basil + beans = delicious side dish and happy Hilary.

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And the pizza? Ok, it does not contain tomatoes, but it was so simple, fresh, delicious, and AMAZING that you’re just going to have to hear about it, okay?

Goat Cheese, Beet and Arugula Pizza

Crust – by now, you’ve got the idea (click the link if you’re new here).

For sauce, I topped it with a smear of red wine onion relish (if you haven’t made it yet, WHY NOT? Seriously, so good) for a little added flavour and so that I wouldn’t be putting my toppings on a naked crust.

I topped that off with 3 beets that I cooked earlier in the day (it’s my new thing with beets. I LOVE them, but they are a pain to cook, so when I know I want some, I just boil the whole basket and put them in the fridge, then they’re good to go when I want them), sliced.

I sprinkled the beets with some crumbled PC Blue Menu goat cheese, and added salt and pepper, then popped it in the oven.

Now, to get all fancy and “restaurant-y,” I topped the baked pizza with arugula that I lightly dressed in a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing (basically my standard here). I’m really liking the fresh, cool salads on pizza thing lately (as in my spicy BBQ chicken pizza). Something about the contrast in flavour, texture and temperature just works.

Mmmm…this pizza was incredibly simple (as long as you’ve got the beets pre-cooked) but the flavours of summer produce really stood out in a delicious way. It’s so light that it would work for lunch, or cut in wedges it would make a great summer appetizer too.

Speaking of summer-fresh eating, head on over to Nourishing-Flourishing and check out her recipe for Garden Green Goddess Dressing. It uses avocado, fresh parsley, and a load of other delicious ingredients. I’ve really been digging the fresh parsley this summer. I’ve always planted it, but it took a backseat to Basil and my other fresh favs. But this year, I’m loving it’s fresh, grassy, herbaceous-ness and throwing into all kinds of salads (and dips – like that asparagus hummus and of course, cowboy caviar).

What is your favourite kind of tomato/favourite way to use fresh tomatoes (or you a hater, like I used to be)?

In a pickle

4 Aug

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I’ve wanted to get into canning/making preserves for several years now. It just seems like such a “lost art,” and with as much as I love summer produce, it seemed like something I should do.

But there were always so many reasons not to – I didn’t know how, it seemed scary and time-consuming, and I lacked the proper equipment. However, I have now ventured into the canning world (well, technically not, as I did my pickling in rectangular glass storage containers) and my recipes come from a surprising source – Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes.

Mr. Flay has a whole section devoted to condiments in this drool-inducing volume. Two of which caught my eye – the homemade dill pickles and the pickled red onion. Both require minimal time (think about 20 minutes each), no fancy equipment, don’t require you to know how to properly seal a jar (that’s one thing that’s always scared me about canning), and don’t make ginormous quantities – how could I go wrong? I figured last weekend’s burger party was the perfect venue to try these recipes out.

Homemade Dill Pickles – from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 1 quartIMG_2340

  • 4 Kirby (or large pickling – that’s what I used) cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill (this is the time of year to make these – that mega bouquet was only $1.50 at the market!)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

*Spice note: I remembered that I had some pickling spices leftover from another recipe, so I just used 2 teaspoons of those instead of the mustard and coriander. Pickling spices include these anyway, plus Bobby says to feel free to experiment with spices, so I did!

Slice the cucumbers into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the cucumber slices into a medium bowl or other container with a fitted lid that is large enough to hold them.

Combine 1 cup water with all remaining ingredients in a small non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the sugar and salt dissolve, about two minutes. Bobby says to let this cool to room temperature before the next step – but I didn’t!

Pour the mixture over the cucumbers, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to a week, stirring the mixture at least once during this time (I found they had plenty of flavour after 48 hours). Drain before serving, discarding liquid and aromatics.

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Water, vinegar and aromatics in a pot all ready to boil! When this mixture was boiling, I thought my house smelled like Burger King. Smile

 

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Vinegar/aromatics mixture poured over the cucumber slices and into the fridge it goes!

 

 

 

These pickles are SO yummy – perfect for topping burgers and sandwiches all summer long (or just for straight-up snacking like I sometimes do). I like them so much that I made another batch yesterday (hey, I’ve gotta find something to do with all that dill).

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The pickled red onions I made are also quite tasty. Basically, they still taste onion-y, but don’t have that strong bite that fresh onions sometimes can, and the lime juice and flavourings give them an added dimension of flavour, or, as Bobby says, “they add a level of intrigue that raw onion slices could never do.” And this recipe is even simpler – no boiling! I really like the sort-of neon, pinkish hue they take, but be prepared for curious guests. To quote my friend Heather: “What are those things and why are they that colour?”

Pickled Red Onions from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 2 cupsIMG_2360

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (I used a mixture of bottled and fresh – sorry Bobby)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher (or sea) salt
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 whole serrano chiles or jalapeno chiles, slit down the center (optional)

*Spice note: I used 2 small jalapenos, and didn’t find the heat overpowering at all.

Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium nonreactive bowl and let sit until the salt and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and halve the onions, and then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add the onions, oregano, and chiles, if using, to the lime juice mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, stirring the mixture at least once during this time. Drain before serving.

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Everything’s diced up and ready for action – let’s pickle some onions!

 

 

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Soaking up the lovely lime liquid.

 

 

 

If you, like me, are experiencing preserve-a-phobia (that’s a very scientific term meaning fear of canning), you should take the plunge with these recipes. Another bonus of pickled vegetables? Since they use very minimal sugar, calorie content is basically the same as fresh veggies, which = guilt-free snacking and topping! And while I have not done an official/scientific/nutritional comparison, I feel like the homemade versions would be lower in sodium than store-bought.

Both my grandmothers canned a lot (my one grandma still does), so I grew up eating homemade canned deliciousness, so maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a desire to do it. My dad’s mom makes delicious canned peaches (always a favourite growing up) as well as many other fruits. My mom’s mom’s repertoire wasn’t as varied, but my personal favourite growing up were her homemade sweet pickles. It took me years to realize why they were such a deep emerald green – she added food colouring! It was a days-long process that I, regretfully, never got to learn.

What is your experience with canning/preserving? Have you done it? Do you have a mother/grandmother who did/does? If so, any good tips/tricks/recipes for me?

Corn to be wild

2 Aug

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I made a lot of corn on the cob for Sunday’s BBQ. So much so that I had to cook it on the stove in our HUGE roaster. See these bags of corn? That’s *almost* all of the leftovers (minus the one cob I used for lunch today).

My mom informed me that she’s kind of tired of corn on the cob right now. I told her it’s a bad time to be tired of corn. So what to do with it all? Here’s what I’IMG_2424ve come up with so far….

For lunch yesterday, one cob’s worth of corn kernels made their way into a tasty salad, along with the teensiest bit of leftover “cowboy caviar,” red pepper, green onion, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pickled red onions, fresh basil and parsley, and a tasty dressing made with chardonnay peach vinegar.

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What are those herbaceous cheesy topped veggies beside the salad? SO glad you asked. They don’t contain corn, but they were so tasty, I just have to share with you! I grilled a slice of eggplant and a portabella mushroom. Then I topped them with a couple of tablespoons of light ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, chopped thyme, basil and oregano, and lemon zest and juice. Mmmm! Summer deliciousness to the max. All the flavours worked SO well together and made a great light bite.

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Lunch was good. But more corn still remained. What to do, what to do? Then I thought, “I bet if I made cornbread with fresh corn kernels, it would be really good.” Then I thought, “I bet I could find a recipe that uses buttermilk, since I still have buttermilk kickin’ around in the fridge after making these biscuits.” Then I looked in Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and found her recipe for buttermilk cornbread. Then I though, “I bet I can make this healthier.” And here we are.

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I think that Pioneer Woman would be disappointed in me if she saw what I did for her cornbread. And this is why: 1. I sweetened it. I think I’ve heard that southerners DO NOT like their cornbread sweetened…but I do. And not only did I sweeten it, I used Splenda (the horror!). 2. I cut out the shortening and used a reduced amount of oil. You know how PW loves her ranch food. Since my long runs can never come close to the rigors of working on a ranch, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, ya know? I also used a square pan since I don’t have a cast iron skillet. PW, I love you, and hold you in highest esteem. Please don’t hate my northern cornbread, ok?

Fun fact: It took me three tries to get my “ingredients” (or cast of characters, as PW would say) shot since I kept forgetting things! The things I do for the blog!

Northern Girl’s Healthified Corny Cornbread

  • 1 cup Yellow CornmealIMG_2430
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While oven is pre-heating, put a 9 inch square stoneware pan or other oven-safe pan in the oven to get nice and hot. MAKE SURE YOUR PAN IS OVEN SAFE SO YOU DON’T HAVE A TRAGIC ACCIDENT AND HURT YOURSELF!!!!

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and Splenda in a bowl. Stir together.

Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.

Slowly add vegetable oil to the batter, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in fresh corn and jalapenos (if using).

Remove the hot pan from the oven and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Edges should be crispy! Cut into 12 pieces.

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Dry ingredients.

 

 

 

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Plus milk/buttermilk/egg/baking soda mixture.

 

 

 

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Add in the jalapenos and the corn kernels.

 

 

 

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Mix it all up, and ready to go in the oven.

 

 

 

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My pan is nice and hot. It’s really fun to pour in the batter and hear it sizzle.

 

 

 

 

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Now what goes good with cornbread? Can’t you tell what I’m going to make with olive oil, MORE CORN, zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cauliflower, black beans, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, canned black beans, and leftover outside-in tamale pie (a little freezer burned after almost 4 months in the freezer, IMG_2441but not much worse for wear)? Don’t those leftovers just look SO appetizing in the photo? Smile with tongue out 

What? It’s not obvious? Ok, I’ll tell you: chili! And a darn tasty chili too! I just combined the above ingredients (well, sautéed the fresh veggies in the oil first) with a bit of water, salt, pepper, spices and Epicure seasonings, simmered away, and voila!

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The chili was delicious, and even better topped with Greek yogurt and leftover pickled onions, with a side of a cool cucumber salad, and of course, cornbread! I picked a pretty hot day to have chili, I’ll admit, but it did use up a lot of leftovers, so mission accomplished. At the end of the day, I said I felt like all I’d done was cut corn off the cob…do you understand why?!?!

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I was literally sweating after eating the hot chili for supper, so this chocolate cherry sundae (low fat vanilla ice cream, fresh sweet cherries, fat-free biscotti, light chocolate syrup, fat-free Reddi-Whip) cooled me down nicely.

 

I’ve still got a big bag o’ corn left. Any bright ideas to use it up?

Fajita Fiesta

30 Jul

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Happy Long Weekend fellow Canadians (and happy Saturday everyone else)! I hope you are enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

Last night was our first round of entertaining for the weekend, so I decided to do a BBQ version of fajitas. I love fajitas. They’re actually one of my go-to choices at restaurants when there’s not a lot of healthy stuff to choose from, as it’s easy to pick and choose which toppings you want. And it’s a great meal to feed a group for the same reason – you put what you want on your fajita, so it suits a variety of preferences.

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But since it is summer time and grilling is practically an institution when entertaining, I decided to take things outside and do the meat and veggies on the BBQ instead of in a skillet on the stove (bonus: saves calories because you don’t need oil).

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I decided to do a “mixed grill” of chicken and steak (but I marinated all the meat in the same bag – I don’t know if that’s a no-no or not, but you know me, always the rebel).

The marinade was pretty simple, and, not to toot my own horn, but it turned out really well. The meat was tender and super-flavourful. I used 2 Mesquite-marinated steaks from M&M, so they added a bit of their seasoning, then I added:

  • lime juice
  • red wine vinegar
  • Ancho chile powder (Ancho is great because it’s not as spicy as a lot of other chiles, but still adds great Mexican flavour)
  • cumin
  • Epicure salsa seasoning
  • a few cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • salt and pepper

IMG_2336I put my steaks and chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and marinated in the fridge for several hours, turning the bag several times to distribute the marinade.

I grilled the meat over high heat, then removed, covered with foil and let it rest while I grilled the veggies (red pepper, Vidalia onion and zucchini), which I sprayed with PAM for the grill and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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After the meat had rested for about 10 minutes (this helps keep all the juices in), I thinly sliced it (along with the veggies) and plated it all up. For tortillas, I went with Dempster’s whole wheat Body Wise tortillas (I know corn is more authentic, but the grocery store didn’t have them and I wasn’t in the mood to go hunting).

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We had a wide variety of other toppings, which included:

Our sides were delicious, local corn on the cob and red cabbage slaw (same recipe I made for my mom’s birthday, only with the addition of a Granny Smith apple I had leftover) .

I think it was safe to say that the meal was enjoyed by all. This is a pretty easy meal to put together for summer entertaining, and a nice change from the usual steaks or burgers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Speaking of burgers, we’re hosting a build-your-own-burger bar supper here tomorrow night for between 12 to 18 people! It’s going to be epic, with lots of decadent toppings and some seriously delicious 80/20 style desserts! So I may or may not make it on to HHH to update you tomorrow, but I plan to do NOTHING Monday, so for sure I’ll be back by then.

Since in my town on the August long weekend, we celebrate Friendship Festival (yes, one of the advantages of living in a small town, we are cool enough that we have a weekend-long festival devoted to friends), I would like once again to wish you, my blog-friends, a happy long weekend. May it be filled with food, family, and FRIENDS!

I did something stupid

29 Jul

…I’m not sure what. But somehow, I had a post almost completed, meant to press “ctrl B” to make something bold, evidently pressed something else, and DELETED AN ALMOST COMPLETED POST!!!!!!! Crying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying faceCrying face Lame!

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But I am not going to cry about it (except through my crying face emoticons above), I am just going to move on, re-type everything (while obsessively hitting save) but probably do so in a less wordy fashion, to save precious time.

First up: shoe review. Yesterday was my first run in my new Asics. I completed a wet 13 km (last week, extreme heat, yesterday, rain) in these guys. I actually don’t mind running in rain, as long as it’s not a torrential downpour (although I’ve done that too). I’m happy to report no soreness today, and no blisters from “breaking them in” (I’ve done that before – not pretty). I can tell these guys are way more supportive than any shoe I’ve had before. So far, so good!

It’s been one of those weeks where I feel like I’ve barely been home or eaten in my own kitchen. Observe: Monday: cater pool party for Aunt. Tuesday: Lunch with Lynne the Landlady in London (like the alliteration there?). Wednesday: Help with funeral food at church, lunch with sister, quick gym workout, then get-together for dinner with family friends. Thursday: market, lunch/pool party with friends, then Bible study. So that means Friday morning is being spent at home in pyjamas, putting off my workout until lunch. Smile

IMG_2318So, my Wednesday lunch was with my sister at Boo’s Bistro, one of her and my brother’-in-law’s favourite restaurants. I had a Wagjag coupon for $50 worth of food for $25, so it was a no-brainer! Since I’m trying to save on words this time around, I’m just going to give a brief description and let the food speak for itself. But let me say this – while a heavy meal and 80/20 splurge, I can summarize the meal in one word: YUM!

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Appetizers: mango salad (mostly me) and crabcakes (sister. I had one bite – not bad for crab).

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Main course: burger (both) with apple, gouda, bacon, caramelized onion marmalade. Mixed greens (me), frites (sister, but also me a bit because she shared).

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Dessert: chocolate pot de creme over top of a sweet cherry compote (shared). Delicious and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, before the next food fest, I made a visit to The Athletic Club to go to UFC class, as it was the last day of my $19 one month membership. UFC is basically a high-intensity circuit class of weights and cardio. Example: burpees with a medicine ball: epic. I felt the burger at times (I am NOT used to eating such a big meal at lunch), but was glad I did the class afterward – I felt great!

No pictures of dinner – but it was a typical summer meal – beef on a bun, salads, corn on the cob, veggies and dip, cake, cake pops, fruit and ice cream. The amount I ate actually wasn’t a lot, and would have been fine if I hadn’t had such a huge lunch. I couldn’t resist a cake pop, ice cream and fruit for dessert. Needless to say, I was full when we left. Thank goodness for yesterday’s long run!

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My girlfriends and I potlucked for lunch yesterday. Nicky made tasty wraps with lettuce, tomatoes, corn and cheese in a dressing that was half Ranch and half salsa – yummy! Heather made a deliciously summer-y salad of cucumbers, peas, and onions in creamy cucumber dressing (which I haven’t had in forever and forgot how much I loved).

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I did dessert (naturally) and brought fresh cherries from the market and a quickie mini chocolate raspberry trifle I made (perfect size for a small group). Although trifle is usually a feed-a-crowd kinda dessert, you can easily make a smaller one if you have a small bowl (or do in wine glasses for individual servings and a cute presentation). And, as you know I was short on time this week, you can whip something like this up in 15 minutes if you’ve got the right stuff on hand (that’s all it took me). Here’s what I did:IMG_2314

Quick Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Grab a bag of 5 chocolate zucchini muffins from your freezer (they may or may not have been there since last summer, but if you can’t use slightly freezer-burned muffins in a trifle for your girlfriends, where can you use them?).

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Thaw muffins in the microwave. Remove papers and crumble them (and please, eat any crumbs left on the paper liners like I did). Set aside.

 

 

IMG_2316Make a package of Jell-o fat-free chocolate instant pudding mix with just over 1 cup of skim milk. Gently whisk in about one cup of fat-free Cool Whip. Optional: add a couple teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I just like the added depth of chocolate flavour.

In a small glass bowl, layer half the crumbled muffins, fresh raspberries from your garden (ok fine, a store if you have to) and half the pudding. Repeat the layers, top with more Cool Whip, garnish with strawberries. Put in the fridge – you’re done!

This can easily be made with any combo of pudding/cake (or muffins)/fruit. And trifle (especially when it contains chocolate) is always a crowd pleaser!

The weekend is full of a LOT more food and fun – but thankfully, it’s all home-based, so I don’t have to go anywhere. We’ve got company coming tonight, and then we’re having a HUGE BBQ party Sunday.

Canadian friends – what are your plans for the long weekend? Whatever they are, enjoy. Hopefully, if you’re lucky (like me) you will be surrounded by good food, family and friends!

Tea for Two

28 Jul

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I had an awesome landlady for the 3 years I lived off-campus during university. As in, free parking in the driveway, drive you to the hospital and wait with you for 5 hours and pay the parking ticket when you needed stitches kind of awesome. So when I bought a groupon to Dishington’s, a tea room just outside of London, I called her and asked her if she wanted to get together for lunch to catch up (she’s an avid HHH reader…Hi Lynne!). Thankfully, she accepted, and Tuesday we had lunch.

When I thought tea room, I was thinking creamy salads, sandwiches and baked goods, but thankfully, I managed to find some healthier options (since this week/weekend are PACKED with food-focused occasions, I didn’t want to start 80/20 –ing too early Winking smile). I ordered the “soup, salad and biscuits” with a garden salad. The soup of the day was tomato vegetable, so pretty healthy. I didn’t snap a picture of the biscuits, but I only ate one (no butter). I LOVE biscuits, but rarely eat them, so it was a nice treat. The salad was your average salad, and the soup was good.IMG_2306

Lynne and I decided to share a dessert. Given my love for peanut butter and chocolate, when we heard that peanut butter chocolate ice cream cake was the feature, that was our choice – YUM! It was pretty much just as delicious as it looked and sounded. The tea was good, but I was a little disappointed that at a fancy tea room, it was just Lipton! I was hoping for something a little more special.

All-in-all, it was a great lunch though. So nice to catch up with Lynne, who is no longer my landlady, but a dear friend. And I treated myself without going too overboard.IMG_2313

After saying good bye to Lynne, I headed downtown to The Running Room to get new runners. My current pair have been through a marathon and a half marathon with me, so they were well past their prime. After consulting with the helpful staff, I came away with the most expensive running shoes I’ve ever owned – these Asics. The guy told me that the shoes I have now weren’t supportive enough for my arches (I expected as much. I have flat feet and was in MAJOR pain when I crossed the finish line last fall at my marathon). I’m planning my “maiden run” in them today, so I’ll keep you posted!

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I was really hungry by the time I got back home (around 6). Although my lunch included some yummy treats, what it didn’t include was very much protein. I wanted something that would be satisfying and filling, but still pretty light. Enter: zucchini “pasta” with meat sauce.

Not only does zucchini “pasta” IMG_2309have way less carbs and calories than the usual stuff, it also cooks up WAY quicker ( a great benefit when your stomach’s eating itself). All you do is use a vegetable peeler to make thing strands from the zucchini. As long as it’s not too big and seedy, you can use the whole thing (one medium zucchini makes one serving).

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I cooked my “noodles” in salted water in my microwave cooker for 4 minutes, drained, seasoned with salt and pepper and that’s it!

 

 

 

 

For my quick meat sauce, I sauteed ground turkey, onion, garlic, mushrooms, IMG_2308red pepper and yellow pepper (from my garden!) in a teaspoon of olive oil until browned. Then, I added part of a can of San Marzano tomatoes, a splash of red wine (because it was sitting there, I was feeling rebellious, and I like the taste of wine in sauces, just not to drink)and salt and pepper; brought to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered for a few minutes.

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Right at the end, I stirred in a generous handful of chopped fresh basil and oregano, simmered for a few more minutes, and we were good to go. I poured the sauce over my “pasta,” added some Parmesan, garnished with more fresh basil, and dinner was served!

 

Thank you to those of you who submitted questions to me earlier in the week. I plan to answer them in a post to come – it’s just been a bit crazy this week. Stay tuned for the rest of my eating adventures (and a shoe summary).

If you are a runner (or any other type of exerciser for that matter) have you shelled out the big bucks for shoes, and was it worth it?

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?

Sorry….salads!

26 Jul

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Just to clarify the title, these are not sorry salads, as in, salads that have seen better days. More like, sorry…I’m posting salads AGAIN! But it’s hot, it’s summer, and this really is what I’m eating these days. So if you’re a salad hater like my cousin Jonathan, my apologies.

But before I give you the down-low on my latest salad sensations, some exciting news: I WAS FEATURED IN MY LOCAL PAPER YESTERDAY! Check out the article here. I called the paper to tell them about my blog and upcoming trip to the Healthy Living Summit, and to see if they wanted to write an article about me…turns out they did! As a Canadian blogger in a small town, there are many strikes against me when trying to promote HHH, but there are also benefits (ie, if I call up the paper, I get an interview and an article. Also, my stats jumped way up yesterday, so I guess even the smallest media feature helps. And if you are a new reader who found me via the Reformer, welcome!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled salads.IMG_2285 When I tell you the main ingredients of my Sunday lunch salad, it’s going to sound sort of like a weird casserole your hippy-Aunt would make.

  • kale
  • beets
  • quinoa
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • portabella mushroom

….see? But it’s really good, I promise! This was my first time eating raw kale, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was actually pretty good. I mixed the kale with arugula and spinach for my IMG_2286greens, and tossed in some beans and peas from the garden as well. Then, I grilled a slice of zucchini, Vidalia onion and a portabella mushroom cap; sliced them up and tossed them in. I topped it all off with a cup of cooked, sliced beets (I pre-boiled and chilled them so they’d be at the ready when I needed ‘em), half a cup of leftover, cooked quinoa, fresh thyme and basil, and feta cheese. My dressing was made up of fancy cranberry wine vinegar, grainy mustard, oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing.

Oh. Wow. This salad was seriously yummy, and not in a weirdo healthy way at all. I love beets, and the sweetness of them and the cranberry vinegar in the dressing worked perfectly with the saltiness of the feta. The mix of grilled and fresh veggies provided a nice mix of textures as well. Mmmmm! And, as seen in the last close-up, one thing I love about beets is how they colour everything around them – I think it’s just so purdy.

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Salad number two is another grilled veggie wonder – grilled corn and zucchini, tossed with fresh spinach, onion, cucumber, red pepper, tomato and a bit of broccoli slaw. I put a bit of ham and feta in the mix, along with fresh dill, salsa, red wine vinegar and fat-free Italian dressing. Another winner! This salad was nice and light, and was the perfect pre-pool party lunch for Friday when I knew I’d be nibbling all afternoon.

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This is not a very good photo (I only have two hands, and I don’t have my own personal photographer), but I am attempting to show you a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray: when stripping corn off the cob, stand the corn up inside your bowl vertically, and run your knife down the cob – then all your kernels will end up in the bowl!

This may seem like a lot of salads, but starting today, it won’t be like that the rest of the week. I’ve got two lunches out planned (thanks groupon and wagjag), a BBQ/dinner planned with family and some friends visiting from BC, a potential girls’ pool party (rescheduled from last weekend), and we’re hosting two BBQs on the long weekend….so wish me luck! This is going to be one of those weeks when the 20% of the 80/20 rule won’t be enough for all of the splurging I want to do!

Do you like eating salad all summer, or do you get sick of it?