Sunday, 28 April 2013

MIMM: Running for Cupcakes


I thought that Marvelous Monday would be an appropriate time to share the marvelous trip I took to Ottawa last week to visit Chelsie.

The 8 hours in transit that it took to get there was a little daunting, but by a complete fluke, I ended up sitting next to an old roommate of mine for 5 of those hours, so the time flew as we got caught up. Once I stepped off the bus and saw Chels waiting for me, it was all worth it anyway :)

We spent our first night just making a good dinner, catching up on each others' lives and indulging in a little Sex and the City. Fun fact: I probably hadn't eaten a bagel in 5 years, but totally blissed-out as I munched one down with dinner. Other fun fact: blueberry bagels are a fantastic invention.

The next morning, Chels had to work, so I took the opportunity to have brunch with my favourite choreographer from my dance days who also lives in Ottawa. After reminiscing over a long meal, I still had some time before Chels got off work, so I got some tea, wandered around downtown a bit and started to seriously question why I didn't live in this city. It is absolutely gorgeous and definitely somewhere I could see myself living.

Another Ottawa perk? McDonalds gives out very large free smoothie samples on street corners.

They may do this in other cities too, I was just looking for more reasons to pack up and move there :)

Chelsie had this great plan to give me a tour of the city and take me to her favourite cupcake place with me on a bike and her running alongside me (since she runs faster than the speed of light). I had been to Ottawa several times, but had never gotten a tour from a local, so I loved the idea. Well, her bike had a flat tire so she pitched the idea of both of us running from her house to downtown... which is 11km away. 

Now, I would not call myself a runner, at all. The most I ever run is 6-7km just to get in a bit of cardio, so this idea terrified me to my very core. However, we took it at an easy pace, chatted the whole way and it flew by. We even decided to go a little farther and loop the flame on Parliament Hill before going back to the cupcake place.

The Peace Tower

Looking out over the canal

We ran a total of 13km before sprinting into Thimble Cakes to get what we came for. 

That's right, we actually ran 13km for cupcakes. 

Then, I opted to carry the cupcakes safely back to her house on the bus, while she ran back (seriously, this girl's a little machine). I figured that since I had already run double my average distance, that trying to do a half marathon without training might leave me unable to walk the next day, so I made a judgement call.

Chelsie beat me back home and started putting together a delicious dinner for us. She makes these really good waffles by blending oats, corn, egg whites and flax. I topped mine with melted frozen berries and peanut better. Mmm...

Then of course we couldn't wait to dig into the cupcakes.

The top one is gluten-free sweet potato pie and the bottom one is carrot cake with cream cheese icing. We decided to share them, and they were both unreal. It was the perfect cherry on top of a beautiful, carefree day. I fueled my run with a cookie and recovered with a cupcake and didn't feel an ounce of guilt, just the way it should be.

I was bummed to have to leave the next day. I could have stayed forever, but sadly we both had to get back to our busy lives.

One last fun fact: Chelsie never drinks tea, but seems to have acquired a massive tea stash that she never touches. The result, I went home with the best goodie bag ever! 

Thanks Chels! I'll think of you every time I drink it!
Well, it was a fabulous week, my recap probably didn't even do it justice.

The takeaway, anytime you have a chance to go to Ottawa, do it! Make sure to enjoy a cupcake for me too ;)

Have you ever been to Ottawa?

What's your favourite part?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Just To Tide You Over...

Hey Y'All!

Well I'm back in Guelph after spending a fantastic few days with Chelsie in Ottawa. I have lots to write about, but not a lot of time this weekend so I will fill you all in on Monday.

Here's a little sneak peak, just to tide you over until then...

Yeah, that happened. See you Monday!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

WIAW: Salt Nazi

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

So far, it has been a lovely and productive week for me. I have been relaxing with TV shows, blogging, sleeping in and going on sunny-weather runs. I has been great. I also got this in the mail yesterday:

I haven't been able to find Banana Nut Muffin Quest Bars in any stores in my area, so I took matters into my own hands and ordered a box! I also stocked up on peanut flour so I can make lots of stir-fries and peanut butter banana pancakes. Mmmm...

I have also been using my time to get some things done. I have been tying up loose ends with my student government stuff and yesterday, I drove to Kitchener to get my parking pass sorted out for the summer and pick up my transponder. Plus my roommate and I took a full carload of empties back to the beer store and received a whopping $16.70 to share amongst our whole house. Shopping spree? I have also been looking into Masters programs for Fall 2014 (I know, that's a long way away, but I like to be prepared!) and contacting professors. Go me!

So overall, I have been really getting back on track and working on being happier and feeling like myself again. The one thing that has been bothering me the most lately is that I have been really bloated. It seems to be all the time, especially after I eat. This is definitely not helping with my self-esteem issues and making me feel better about gaining weight, so I would really like to figure it out.

I didn't eat dairy for a very long time and that didn't seem to make a difference to the way I felt. I have also tried temporarily cutting out wheat, but frankly, I don't eat very much wheat anyway, so I never noticed any changes. I also expected cutting out artificial sweeteners to help a lot, but it didn't have a huge impact on the bloating. I know that I have a bit of a problem with soy, so I avoid the processed stuff as much as possible, but still eat tempeh and edamame sometimes.

One thing I know I need to cut down is my salt intake. When I was in Asia last year, I got very used to eating highly seasoned, salty foods and I never bothered to readjust my taste buds when I got home from traveling. I definitely use too much soy sauce, hot sauce and mustard and I am probably too liberal with the salt shaker sometimes. This all adds up, so I am going to try to be very careful about salt for the next few weeks and see if the bloating is reduced. Already, I have been using less hot sauce and soy sauce and substituting vinegar, lemon juice and spices. I'm going to be a bit of a salt nazi until my taste buds get used to having less of it!

If I don't notice a difference, I may go to a doctor and get some advice. Beans and legumes may be something I need to cut back on, but I'd like to keep as many healthy foods in my diet as possible!

Anyway, I have rambled too long, and since it's WIAW, I'll show you some of my more delicious bites from the past few days.

I've been way into the hemp hearts lately, so they tend to accompany every breakfast.

Oat bran with frozen cherry berry mix and hemp hearts

I tried to make an apple cinnamon omelette the other day and the presentation totally failed, but it was still delicious, especially topped with vanilla protein sauce and hemp hearts.

I'm still in the midst of a love affair with avocado that I don't expect to end soon. I had it on top of a salad in the picture below, along with the last of my white bean and pumpkin French onion dip.

A hefty portion on top of yet another nasty looking omelette was also in order. Seriously, have I lost my touch? My omelettes are usually beautiful!

As usual, I have been making stir-fries a lot. Below is broccoli slaw, zucchini and mushroom stir-fry in peanut sauce with coconut curry tempeh on the side. Followed by cabbage, mushroom and shrimp stir-fry in sesame oil and soy sauce, served over rainbow quinoa.

Of course, I still snack like a fiend. Mostly those consist of fruit, greek yogurt and peanut butter, but I also treat myself to more decadent things on a regular basis.

In honour of Earth Day, I bought chocolate in support of endangered species. Just doing my part for the planet! ;)

I'm also a bit of a sucker for pudding. This is no sugar added vanilla pudding. I know it's not the healthiest thing on earth, but it hits the spot sometimes :)

Well, I am off to Ottawa to visit my girl Chelsie today and I could not be more excited!! I won't post again until the weekend because I will be having too damn much fun, but it won't be too long, I promise! 

Have a great rest of the week!

Have you ever had issues with bloating?

What are your tips for de-puffing?

Monday, 22 April 2013

Product Review: Alter Eco

Hey Friends,

I have a wicked product to review today. I haven't done a product review in ages and I have been sitting on this one for a long time.

The company is called Alter Eco and they are committed to producing sustainable, fair trade, organic food. The co-founders of Alter Eco started the company in order to help to create a better quality of life for farmers in developing countries and promote social justice.

Their main products are chocolate, quinoa, rice and sugar. Given my chocoholic status, I sampled a lot of their dark chocolate and it was out of this world! The quality was evident in the taste and they had such unique flavours. I am thrilled to promote the company and give this review, I just wish I could sample these again and again ;)

Dark Coconut Toffee:

Pure bliss. That is the only way to describe this chocolate. I knew I would love it right off the bat because I am a coconut fiend and I never met a piece of toffee I didn't like. The coconut pieces could have been bigger, but the toffee chunks were nice and big. It was the least dark of all the bars at 47% cocoa and was the sweetest of all of them, which I don't tend to like in chocolate. However, I ate it at the end of a tough week when I was really feeling like indulging, so I didn't mind at all.

Dark Mint:

This was definitely one of my favourites. I have really been digging the chocolate mint combo lately and this chocolate is about as good as it gets. It was smooth and dark, but it had these cool, crispy little minty bits in it. It's hard to describe, but it took the minty-ness to another level. I'm just head-over-heels in love with it. I will need to be restocking soon.

Dark Quinoa:

This is the one I was most excited to try because I had never tried anything like it before. Quinoa in chocolate?? Works for me! It was a lot like the chocolate bars with puffed rice in them, except that the little quinoa puffs were a bit smaller and crispier than puffed rice. Personally, I love it. I love blending different textures, and this bar did it right.

Dark Almond:

This one was 60% cocoa, just like the mint and the quinoa flavours, so the chocolate itself was just as smooth and decadent as the other two. It had nice big almond pieces, that created just the right amount of crunch to contrast the chocolate. It can't beat dark mint, but it was still damn good.

Dark Blackout:

I often say that when it comes to me and chocolate, the darker the better. That ideology did not fail me here. This bar is 85% cocoa, and it is smooth and intense. I love the bitter edge that it has. It makes it much more satisfying than sweeter chocolate that makes you want to eat the whole bar in one sitting.

It is hard to choose a favourite from the chocolate, but if I have to, I will call it a tie between Dark Blackout and Dark Mint. I absolutely loved the flavour of the crispy mint bits in that bar, but I think that the only thing that could have made it better would have been a higher cocoa content. If these two bars were joined to make one, I think it would be my favourite chocolate bar in the world.

Rainbow Quinoa:

I also got to try their rainbow quinoa, which is very similar to the regular stuff, it is just a blend of the yellow, black and red varieties.

I am a big lover of quinoa, and have always preferred it to rice. It has a great flavour, is high in protein and fibre and takes much less time to cook than brown rice (I am way too impatient to wait 50 minutes for rice to cook, seriously).

This stuff has a great flavour and I love the tricolour effect. There is something about eating this stuff that is far more satisfying than the typical beige hue of regular quinoa.

I have always liked quinoa with vegetables and soy sauce, so for dinner last night I served it underneath a cabbage, mushroom and shrimp stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. It was delicious, filling  and beautiful :) 

If anyone is interested in trying Alter Eco products, you can check out their website (the link it at the beginning of this post). I have seen their stuff in lots of health food stores in Canada and I know it's available all over the U.S. too. I would highly recommend their chocolate, in particular. I'm embarrassed to admit that those 5 bars only lasted me about a week... I had a lot of exams and assignments; I needed the fuel! ;)

Until next time. xoxo

What would be your favourite chocolate from the Alter Eco line?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

MIMM: Time to Relax

Hello Friends!

Well, I can't even tell you how nice this weekend has been. I went from a week of pure studying hell to having absolutely no obligations! Normally, I get really antsy when I have too much time on my hands, but given how crazy last week was, I am perfectly content to have a few days to chill out. 

I mean, this is what my fridge looked like by the end of the week:

Beer, and not much else. I had no time to shop, it led to a pretty dire situation. You learn to get creative with canned pumpkin and frozen edamame when you have no other options...

Anyway, I had a whole weekend of bliss. I went out to parties (hence the beer), slept well for the first time in a while, had a delicious dinner out on Saturday and watched way too much TV and movies. I finally watched Shakespeare in Love, which was romantic and heartbreaking and made me wish I was sleeping with a poet ;) Then, I started watching Girls because everyone and their grandmas have been talking about it and I wanted to see what I was missing. Well, I'm totally addicted and I love Lena Dunham.

That girl is just so fearless and comfortable with herself. She is a true role model to me. She is sassy and witty and even though her body is nowhere near the media's depiction of "perfect", she is totally unashamed of showing it off. What. A. Babe.

I also had time this weekend to work out on my own time and put a bit more effort into my food. I bought a gigantic cantaloupe at the farmers market and cut it up to have on hand for the next few days. Too bad it's already gone...

I also experimented with some dip that I am now totally addicted to. I had this dip mix in my cupboard, which you are supposed to mix with sour cream. 

Instead, I pureed it with white beans and leftover pumpkin and then threw in a bit of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour. It looks awful, but I've been eating it with a spoon and it's fantastic!

I also plan on using the next week and a half to continue relaxing and enjoying myself to the utmost. On Wednesday, I'm heading to Ottawa for a few days to hang out in the city and visit the beautiful Chelsie :) I am so. Damn. Excited! This girl has planned an awesome couple of days for us including: Thai food, a bike tour of the city and a trip to her favourite cupcake shop! Can you say best hostess ever?? I will be sure to give you all a full update when I get back.

Anyway, I hope you are all having a marvelous Monday. I know I will!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Summer is Here! (Sort Of)

Well, I'm back!

It was a stressful couple of weeks, and I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted to, but I made it through exams and now I'm free!! Thank god for coconut ice cream. It got me through a few study sessions :)

I guess my summer has technically started, although it doesn't feel like it. It was 25 degrees on Thursday (when I was stuck inside studying for my last exam) and today it is supposed to snow and reach a high of 1 degree. What is happening??!!

I guess I will start filling you in on the past two weeks, starting with the week I spent at home last week. I went to my parents' house to pick up my brand new (old) car!! That's right, I finally got her and she's a beauty!

It's a 2009 Nissan Sentra, but it only had 65000 kms on it, so it will have good resale value at the end of the summer. I still can't believe I bought a car, I feel like such a grown-up; I have never spent that much money on one item in my life. It hurt a bit watching it leave my bank account but I'm pretty much in love with this girl. I named her Lucille 3. High five to anyone who gets the reference ;) (Her?)

Unfortunately, I got stuck in the country a little longer than I had wanted to. I was supposed to drive back to Guelph last Thursday, but I ended up getting delayed until Saturday due to some crazy weather. I was really not eager to drive Lucille 3 around in freezing rain. 

I have a bit of trouble focusing and being productive when I'm at home, especially when I can't drive anywhere, so that definitely derailed my study schedule a bit, but my parents are pretty good to me, so it wasn't so bad. Since I didn't go home for Easter, I found this hiding in my room:

My mother knows me too well. I got to try some new (to me) bars and I already adore Quest and Simply bars. I was also pretty damn excited to get more chocolate probiotics.

While I was at home, I also grabbed one of my favourite kitchen tools that I hadn't used in ages. My yogurt strainer!

This thing basically allows you to make your own Greek yogurt by putting in regular yogurt and straining out the liquid. After I decided a couple of years back that I didn't eat dairy, I gave this to my mum because I had no use for it. However, now that I've come to my senses, it's back in my life! 

Somehow, the stuff I make doesn't taste quite as good as Oikos, but it's soooo much cheaper! One 750g container of yogurt for $2 makes almost 500g of Greek yogurt, which usually costs $5 per tub. If anyone is interested in out of these bad boys, it's a Donvier Cuisipro Yogurt Strainer and they sell them on Amazon.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have also been working at my goal of buying foods that I don't usually buy and incorporating them into my meals. I think I told you in a previous post that I bought avocado for the first time in years, and as soon as they turned ripe, I went to town. I ate them on salads...

Shredded carrot and broccoli slaw with shrimp, avocado and spicy peanut sauce.
 Ate them with raw veggies...

Yellow pepper stuffed with salsa and avocado

 And put them on top on omelettes...

This was the best combination ever! A mushroom and turkey bacon omelette with salsa and avocado on top. I also beat in some hot sauce and liquid smoke with my eggs to give it a smokey and spicy flavour. De-freakin'-licious.

I also bought some edamame, which is something I have always loved, but never seem to buy for some reason. It makes a killer addition to stir-fries or just eaten on its own.

While I am normally a faithful buttercup girl, my mum gifted me with an organic butternut squash last week, so I have been switching it up. Butternut squash fries are a new favourite :)

The last new item I bought was a bag of hemp hearts. I have been loving these things on top of oatmeal, cold cereal or fruit. I have been trying to get as many healthy fats as possible lately, and I have really been loving these.

My only issue is that they are really expensive. I bought a pretty small bag in bulk and it was about $7! I 'm very glad I didn't take an extra scoop, it would have bankrupted me...

So now I have a week and a half to do as I please before my job starts. I plan on sleeping, running, seeing friends who have just graduated and are leaving my life soon and also visiting a very special blog friend who lives in our (my) nation's capital. Any guesses? She doesn't blog anymore, but she is a running machine, a cupcake lover and one hell of a girl ;)

Talk to you all again soon :)

What would you do with a week and a half off?

Any new foods you've incorporated into your diet recently?