Workin it, Y Stylez.

Well we’re right in the thick of it folks. August. Or as I recently heard it referred to, the Sunday of Summer. And since I am still rockin the brief interlude between work and yet more work, that means lots of long and lazy days in the park, cool breezy weather and a little extra time to get active and try new things!
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(dufferin grove park = the cuteness)
While for many this might mean trying new activities, I do that stuff all the time. For this gal the biggest news is that I actually joined a real, live gym. Well sorta…its more of a community centre with workout equipment aka. the YMCA! (for more on that check out my post on why I love the Y).

Since I am just beginning this process I thought I would share some of my personal goals from day 1 so you can follow along as I try my best to achieve them.

Goals:

  1. build muscle, especially in upper body and legs
  2. strengthen my heart (its a muscle too!) for general health and increased athletic endurance
  3. increase flexibility

After checking out what the Y had to offer in terms of equipment and meeting with one of their personal trainers I came up with the following workout plan, which I like to call THE TRIFECTA.

5 days a week I will try to do 1, 2 or if im feeling crazylike 3 of the following:

1) 30 minute Full Body Weights Workout + Core (on the mat, in between sets)

2) 20 minute HIIT Training (on the treadmill, elliptical or my fave – the pavement)

3) 1 hr Yoga

+

2 days a week of active rest

I try to give myself plenty of rest days since I already have a pretty active lifestyle. Rest days can include recreational sports, walking, grocery carrying and general schlepping around the city but nothing organized.

Obvz this plan is totally flexible and leaves me lots of room to mix it up…stay tuned for an in-depth look at each of the components of THE TRIFECTA.

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How are you enjoying the last days of summer?

Gloriously Gluten-Free Goodies

The older I get the more I appreciate my family of choice. You know the folks I mean? The friends who adopted you with open arms when you were all alone in a new city. The ones you have thanksgiving with when you’re too broke to afford a bus ride home. Who help you carry your obnoxiously large book collection when you decide to move in with your significant other…then help you move them out again 6 months later. Those friends.

So when one of the most incredible ladies in my own FOC has a birthday…a 65th birthday to be exact…I don’t just show up with a bottle of wine. I show up with a basket of goodies tailored specifically to her gluten-free, dairy-free, low sugar dietary needs.

And for a bit of a change up I’m going to do a little link love since these recipes were taken more or less directly from other blogs I love!

Recipe 1: Elena’s Almond Flour filled Cupcakes

You can find the exact recipe in her cookbook which is available for purchase here (I just added apricots  to the filling and swapped eggs for a mix of chia seeds and water to make them vegan) OR you can find a very similar cake recipe here which I’m sure would work very nicely in cupcake form.

Recipe 2: Mama Pea’s Tempeh Tamale Pie

This recipe was delicious and a total crowd pleaser, but be forewarned that its a little more like cornbread and chili than a traditional tamale…Stay tuned for my adventures with masa flour later this week!

And here’s some more photos of the whole spread which included burgers (veggie, beef, bison and turkey) as well as a SERIOUS array of salads (its like they knew I was coming).

 

cutest heirloom tomatoes i ever did see

The only fail of the day was this butterball turkey burger.

Sorry butterball...watch me feign excitement for possibly the saddest looking patty of all time.

 I’d take Sol veggie burgers over THAT nonsense any day of the week, flexitarian or no. 

Back to the deliciousness…what birthday would be complete without made to order…CREME BRULEE!!!

the best part is the moment right before the sugar cracks

or maybe right after...

Look at that sassy redhead enjoying her birthday serenade! She looks absolutely  miserable;) 

What have you done for your FOC lately?

Rustic Primavera Pasta with Vegan Rose Sauce

Dinner tonight was inspired by my lovely afternoon spent at the Power of Women conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Okay to be honest most of it was a bit of a yawn and at points it was downright offensive BUT I went because the keynote speaker was none other than gay icon/heartthrob/superhero Ellen Degeneris.

let's all let out a collective swoooooooon

I have been a huge fan of Ellen for a long time now. In fact when I was in elementary school I wrote a book report on Ellen’s autobiography. The assignment was to choose a piece of non-fiction writing that we felt inspired by. Other children chose to write about key historical figures like Nelson Mandela, Marie Curie and Ghandi. But for me, a sassy 4th grader who spelled women with a “Y” (because the word men in our name when they don’t define who we are…obvz) and spent most of my life living on an organic farm/hippie commune, Ellen’s unique brand of spunky, self-effacing joi de vivre seemed to strike a chord. I saw her as a woman who had experienced alienation as a young person and bigotry as an adult but still managed to muddle through it all with compassion and a crooked half smile the world can’t help but love.

I’ll stop gushing. Really I will. But not before passing along the recipe I used for my dinner tonight. And in honour of Ellen’s kind animal lovin’ heart, it has a little vegan twist.

Vegan Rose Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup (or a little more) of unsweetened almond breeze or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup fire roasted diced tomatoes (or use regular but add a little smoked paprika or liquid smoke)
  • Salt (I used lightly seasoned herbamare)
  • Pepper
Directions: In a small saucepan heat non-dairy milk and hummus until just boiling, reduce heat and add in the remainder of the ingredients. Stir until smooth and heated through.
**To thin out the mixture you can always add a little extra milk or broth OR to thicken combine 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 3 tbsp of water, add to the sauce and simmer for 1 minute.
Rustic Grilled Vegetable Pasta Primavera
Instructions:
  1. Boil 1 serving of your favourite whole grain noodles according to the package. I used Japanese buckwheat (soba) noodles.
  2. Toss 1/2 yellow pepper, 1/2 zuchini, 2 large handfuls of spinach, and 1 floret of broccoli in a little olive oil, salt and italian seasoning (oregano, thyme, garlic powder) until well coated.
  3. Grill or stir fry until they blacken a little and are cooked through.
  4. As the veggies are cooking prepare your protein of choice. The options are limitless here but my suggestions are: 1/2 cup shelled edamame or 1 serving of herbed tofu (either of which you can just toss in with the veggies) OR 1 fillet of steamed, grilled or broiled fish – ideally fatty varieties like salmon or tuna.
  5. Drain your noodles and place them at the bottom of a large bowl, covered in about half your sauce. Then add veggies, protein and the remainder of sauce.
  6. Top with chopped scallions and a handful of toasted pepitas (this is an essential component. don’t skimp on the smoky crunch!)
Am I the only one out there who loves me some Ellen?

Lollapalooza: Hot Bands & Organic Food Stands

So after a whole day of exploring the history, sights and sounds of downtown Chicago it was time for the culmination of my Midwestern vacay: Lollapalooza. Now I’m not usually one for big stadium or festival shows, preferring cheaper smaller shows at divey eclectic local venues. But as I was already planning on being in the city at the time, I felt like I pretty much had no other option.

Now I’m not gonna lie…every time I think of Lollapallooza I have a hard time not picturing this scene from the Simpsons featuring a bunch of disaffected 90s overall wearing teenagers swaying lifelessly to altrock jamz.

And sure there were a few of those folks who turned up…and a DEFINITE nod to the 90s as far as fashion was concerned (neon crop tops and chunky boots anyone?)…but largely the energy of the day was positive, upbeat and mope-free.

With the exception of Wye Oak of course…who rocked the grouchy, self-effacing indie-rock underdog archetype in a big way, and we obviously ate it up.

Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak announced that she wore black despite the heat just so we'd know how sad she was. Crush!

Toronto natives Crystal Castles were definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me and I was lucky enough to catch them twice. The first time at an intimate, sold out gig at the House of Blues which we managed to sidle into somehow…

Crystal Castles levelling the House of Blues and making a sweaty electro danceparty out of the remains

Alright now onto the biggest pleasant suprise of the Lollapalooza experience: the food!

I was beyond impressed with the event organization in general, but when it came to the food it was above and beyond! There was a huge selection of local, organic and vegetarian/vegan options amidst the standard deep dish Chicago pizza and burger fare. They even had a booth available encouraging folks to sign up for CSA boxes in the Chicago area! What the whattt? 

Heres a few snapshots of our slightly overpriced concert snacks:

lettuce wraps with mango salad, shredded jicima and local free-range chicken

paad thai salad wraps with tofu, peanuts, basil & tofu (doused in siracha, obvz)

Hitting up the Soy Ice Cream Station in a BIG way

DOUBLE FISTING! My sis rocking the Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip & Cookie Dough Cones

What a weekend! DEFINITELY glad I went!

Have you ever attended a festival concert? What was your experience of the bands/food/parties? Worth your time or better to stick with smaller shows?

The All American Vegan Diner

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

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

First stop on the Chicago food tour:

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

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

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

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

A Foray into the American Midwest

As I mentioned the other day I decided to take a short vacay this week to visit family in the Midwestern United States. Despite travelling pretty extensively throughout the US, I am a total newb when it comes to this part of the country.

So here goes… TOP 5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED since arriving in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (pronounced Wis-caaaan-sin)

1) The food is tasty and there are a lot of healthy options that don’t involve beer or cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) and the portions sizes are MASSIVE. Its a little overwhelming at times!

These raw vegan tamales at Cafe Manna were delicious but HUGE and seriously filling for an appetizer!
2) A dive bar here is what dive bars everywhere should be. A dive. They are smelly, dank and most importantly unironic
(PLUS I got to play DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION aka. DDR aka. the best game in existence at this bar. WIN!)
3) Beer is a way of life. People drink a lot here. If you look close enough, even the cute group of grandmothers sitting and chatting at the table across from you are drinking tallboys of Pabst. 4) The coffee is bad 90% of the time, but there are a few exceptions. Cedarburg Coffee was one of that 10%. Americannnooo with soymilkkkk…..5) I have absolutely zero willpower in the presence of a yuppie, bougie American clothing and housewares store. Seriously EVERYTHING in this place was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.
(And before you judge me for the flip flops & yogawear…reck-a-nize that I juuuuust finished an incredible power yoga class over at Core Essence Yoga Studio. Thanks for the awesome class, Shayna!) 
Look forward to some more travel posts to follow…I have a feeling Chicago might be offering up some pretty good eatz too but lets just wait and see!
Have you ever been to the midwest? What was your take?  

Guest Post: Meg’s DIY Grain-Free Vegan Sandwich Bread

Today I will boarding a plane to Chicago as part of my August vacay, so as a special treat to you here is another guest post from my magical gluten-free baking bestie Meg! As I mentioned back in Meg’s first guest post, she is the master of cooking for special diets. Plural. Gluten-free, dairy free and diabetic friendly if you’re keeping score! Despite my gluten-free bread skepticism but I am absolutely enamoured with Meg’s version. Obviously it is great for those on low glycemic, low sugar or gluten-free diets but most importantly its absolutely delicious, has no hard-to-pronounce additives and has a texture that is truly…magical! Enjoy!

Hey everyone, Meg here!

This bread is technically a loaf rather than a true yeasted bread but you would never know it from the way it makes my house smell. It bakes up perfectly with a nice golden brown crust and a hearty center.  It is completely grain free (so by default gluten free), egg free, soy free, and sugar free. And more than that it packs a good wallop of protein, healthy fats and fibre. 

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 7 tablespoons chia seeds 

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup natural apple sauce 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (NOT almond meal!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 

Directions: 


  1. In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup coconut flour with a fork, allow to sit for 10 minutes then ‘fluff’ again with fork
  2. Measure 7 tablespoons chia seeds into a coffee grinder (if you don’t have a coffee grinder give up on life now) and grind until the chia seeds look like a flour. In a medium sized bowl and whisk ground chia seeds vigorously while slowly pouring in 1 cup of boiling water. The end result should strongly resemble snot.  Pahaha! See why I love this woman?
  3. Add 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar to chia seed snot and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. To the large coconut flour bowl add 2 cups almond flour, 1 cup ground flaxseed (I grind them myself in the coffee grinder, but you can also buy them ground in most health food stores), 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon sea salt, beat with electric beaters until well combined and uniform. 
  5. Knead chia snot mixture into the dry ingredients. I like to get me hands in the bowl to make sure the mixture is even and binding well. 
  6. Form into a log/loaf and place in a bread pan or on a cookie sheet (whatever you have) 
  7. Bake at 325-350 for 55-65 mins, until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Ovens vary greatly, luckily it is almost impossible to burn  or overcook this bread. Low and slow will make a nice crunchy crust and fully cook the insides. If you have a browned outside rather quickly, simple lower the oven temp slightly for the remainder of the time. If you don’t let it bake long enough you will get a soggy middle.
  8. Allow to cool and cut into slices. Freeze sliced loaf in an airtight container for freshness(but make sure you try a warm straight from the oven slice before you do!)

Serve toasted for best results. Tastes delicious as sandwich bread or on its own topped with a little honey.

Does anyone in your life live on a gluten free or low glycemic diet? What are your thoughts about the products on the market today? 

Coffee (and Ice Cream) of the Day

20110801-084358.jpgJust Us Fair Trade Coffee & Sugar with Soy, Cinnamon & Nutmeg

20110801-084406.jpgNon-Dairy Earl Grey Tea & Pistachio Ice Cream @ Hibiscus Restaurant in Kensington Market

 

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