Springing Forward & Falling Back…

Waking up this morning I was shocked to realize that I actually slept in to a reasonable hour…Or at least I thought I slept in until I realized it was daylight savings time. Whatever, I was still pleased with myself for waking up past 8…even if it was just a technicality. Small victories, folks. ;)

I’ve got to admit though that despite all of this sunlight and springy weather, I’ve actually been falling back on some of my not-that-bad-but-still-not-great vices to get me through the past few stressful weeks….

Exhibit A: Trashy Reality Television

Downloading Legally purchasing multiple seasons of The Rachel Zoe Project during a period of high-stress is wickedly dangerous territory. This picture is an accurate portrayal of my life recently between the hours of 9pm and…ahem…  <—– infinity.

Exhibit B: Comforting Food

Scoff all you like but for me a piping hot mess of steel cut oats is comfort in a bowl. And during a stressful time I get weirdly fixated on eating the same thing at every meal. Instead of judging myself for this, I try to roll with my cravings and eat my oats at whatever time of day I darn well please….

I ate this as a snack somewhere between breakfast and lunch… Half bowl of oats + a mess of berries + pumpkin seeds with a poached egg and spinach on the side for protein and veggies. Worked for me

I’ve also been enjoying more than my fair share of restaurant meals… including this delicious brunch at The Junction Eatery.

Cornbread, blackened catfish, bacon, eggs & smokey baked beans. 

Chopped salad with chicken, fresh peas, cashews, avocado & apples

Not at all easy on the wallet but definitely low stress and comforting.

Exhibit C: (Discount) Shopping

I blame She Does The City for inviting me to this ridiculously adorable sale event at The Gap. I mean…25% their entire spring line? So dangerous for a bargain hunter like myself.

Liquoring us up with free pinotDownright lethal.

They were really hocking these coloured pants…even the DJ was wearing some (hidden under his macbook…hehe). I left with a pair of cropped black jeans that weren’t part of the sale but were already marked down 50%…. Pahaha. So predictable.

Exhibit D: Old faithful…

What addictions/habits/crutches do you fall back on when you’re feeling stressed?

EAT MORE Shopping List 2

Thought I would follow up with another shopping list based on my EAT MORE meal planning series. This week I ended up buying mostly produce and a few odds and ends to fill out the standard pantry items listed in my cheat sheet. I also listed some of the items I already had in my pantry/freezer in italics just to refresh your memory.

Click to Print

This is what my groceries looked like when I got home. Basically a forest.

And I was pretty proud with the sum total of this epic grocery haul…

Not too shabby…

I’ve already busted out the crockpot and I can’t wait to share some of the recipes I have planned with you later this week.

In the meantime, here is how I’ve been fueling up lately.

 This was the a meal I made at home using the dregs of my last grocery shop: 

1/2 smashed Japanese sweet potato (love these)
tofu & broccoli stem scramble
small mixed green salad with pepitas & pecans

Some restaurant fare at Sadie’s Vegan Diner

Mixed bean chili served on greens & topped with a poached egg and a bottle of hot sauce
…and yes I ordered the poached egg on the side, then put it on top. Reminded me of the Pisto with Egg I used to eat in Spain…I should really whip up a batch of that…SO good. 

Valentine’s Day dinner, anyone? 

I went to to town at Sushi Shop . My plate (pictured at the back) included veggie sushi, avocado/bbq eel dragon roll, salmon sashimi & bean curd/shitake mushroom sushi. Plus an unpictured green salad & half a bowl of miso soup.
SUSHI COMA BLISS.

I’m off to make some lunch with all these new groceries then heading over to Social Media Week, Toronto for some really great sounding workshops geared towards the uber-nerdy media savvy. Hope you all have a happy, productive Thursday! :)

Friday Round-Up: A Week of Highs & Lows

This week my life has sort of mirrored the weather…as in…I’ve seen some pretty crazy ups and downs…

1) HIGH: Went to my very first NHL hockey game!

It was amazing and the fact that I chugged a gigantic grey goose caesar right before the game only improved matters…

And yes that is a piece of pepperoni in my beverage. Ha! Gross/mazing. My dad thoroughly enjoyed snacking on it before the game. 

2) HIGH: Mac & Cheese at the Hogtown Vegan

In a recent conversation with my sister we got to talking about the holy grail of vegan dining: the perfect Mac & Cheese. There are loads of recipes out there involving all the usual vegan suspects like daiya cheese, earth balance, cashews and nutritional yeast as well as some less conventional additions like butternut squash. But we both agreed that whatever the combination, it is seriously tricky to emulate the creamy comfort food magic of mac & cheese…Unless of course you’re a chef at The Hogtown Vegan.

Source: BlogTO

To say I was impressed would be an understatement, I was utterly befuddled. Normally when I go to a vegan restaurant I am secretly plotting how I could recreate the dish at home but with this baked platter of goodness I had no idea whatsoever how I would go about making it…Which was probably the same reason I liked it so much. It was pure pleasure. Ignorant bliss. I paired it with a lovely dinner salad they had on the menu that came loaded up with marinated tofu, a scoop of the best guacamole I’ve had in years, sunflower seeds and fresh crispy vegetables. Sadly my own pics didn’t turn out very well due to the low lighting…But now I just have another reason to go back :)

3) SERIOUS LOW.

On Monday one of the worst car accidents in Ontario history resulted in the deaths of 11 migrant farm workers from Peru who were on their way home from working at a poultry farm just North of Toronto. While this was, on the surface, just a very tragic accident, it has caused many to rethink the current treatment of migrant workers in this country.

As someone who consciously supports Canadian farmers by purchasing local fruits, vegetables and meats, this accident served as a wakeup call and a tragic reminder that “local” does not always mean “ethical.

I thought immediately of the families of these individuals living in Peru who not only lost their loved ones but their livelihood. Migrant workers in North America often send large portions of their wages back to their native countries to support friends and famlilies there (this money is called remittances). While this process occurs informally, it often serves as the primary income for many families in developing countries.

The Real Price of Sending Money Home from on Vimeo.

What I did about it: 

Bundled up in my long johns and woolies and got my butt out to the local farmer’s market. I figured there must be others like me who wanted to support for the families of these workers, so why not give them the opportunity? The response was incredible. I raised about $300 in 3hrs (it is a teeny tiny market, so this is a SERIOUS chunk of change) plus I handed out a zillion donation cards to folks who didn’t have money on them but wanted to donate online.

And that’s all for now, folks.

Care to share your highs and lows from the week? What are you looking forward to this weekend? 

Thrifted Duds & Vegan Grub in Austin’s North Loop

The past few days have been all about getting my bearings in Austin. And (no surprises here) the first thing a gal notices when she’s making her way through this city is its sheer size. After visiting Chicago last summer, I knew what it meant to be in a car city. But this, my friends, is a truck city. Massive 4-5 lane streets plow through every inch of the urban landscape, even the downtown core. Yesterday my cab got on the freeway for a minute as a shortcut… I barely even noticed a difference.

The upside to all this size and space is that when you hit a new neighborhood it feels as if you’ve stumbled upon an oasis of cool in the middle of a truckstop. It feels special and all your own somehow. Or maybe that’s just Austin in general?

The North Loop seems to exemplify this experience best of all. From afar the shops in this area don’t look like much. For the most part they’re just tucked away on the side of the road.

But upon further investigation you’ll find a treasure trove of thrift stores, cafes & of course the long awaited (by me) Austin food truck.

We started our afternoon off with a little thrifting. Snagged a great chair for my friends place at Hog Wild for just $45 (and they deliver!)

And obviously I couldn’t help but try on a few clothing items as well. Basically if it had fringe or a Southwestern print I wanted to wear it. Sadly didn’t snag anything that fit but you better believe I’ll get something before I go. So much turquoise & suede!

And then came the real good stuff…VEGAN FOOD TRUCK! I had heard about Counter Culture before arriving here but had no idea where it was. But apparently I had traveler’s luck on my side because we just happened to stumble across it in our wanderings! I suppose I just hang in areas where the vegan food trucks gravitate…ahem…

Obviously the whole menu was amazing and it was super difficult to make a decision…All healthy comfort food inspired vegan dishes with some healthy raw food options mixed in for good measure.

My choices? Once my friend talked me down from ordering the Almond Butter and Pickle sandwich (you always have my back, Cait) I think I made the perfect choices: BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with a side of PacMan Kale Salad & a donut hole for dessert.

Jackfruit BBQ Sandwich with PacMan Kale Salad


No seriously there were PacMen in my salad.

Never having had jackfruit before I must say I was pleasantly suprised. The texture was a lot like a mushroom and really worked with the smokey barbeque flavours. Plus it came with pickles…so I got my fix after all. The kale salad was simple but flavourful and offered a nice savoury balance to the sweetness of the sandwich.

Oh yeah and then this …

Raw vegan “donut hole” made of almonds, dates & coconut. Definitely had the crumbly texture and even the flavour of a Tim Horton’s timbit. I might be the first one to make that comparison though seeing as we are in the middle of texas.

Then we ended the day with a stop into Epoch, a 24/7 coffee place that was jam packed with people even in the middle of the day. But it was obvious why as they served up some seriously tasty espresso as well as offering free wifi & outlets literally hanging from the ceiling for plugging in. Oh yeah and they had almond milk for my americano. Best way to close out the day.

That’s all the updates for now! I’m off to catch a random vinyasa yoga class then maybe do some gallery hopping.

Basically my dream Sunday. :)

Austin, Tacos…I mean Texas.

When somebody asks me about countries I’ve lived in or traveled to the United States will probably be the last place I mention. Not because I haven’t enjoyed my travels there but because, as a Canadian, a trip to the States just doesn’t feel very adventurous. I mean its a domestic flight for goodness sakes.

Still, when I really consider all the notches I’ve racked up on my US State bedpost – California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina – I realize that I have had some honest to goodness (mis)adventures across the border. And now that I’m here in Austin, experiencing Texas for the first time? Well there’s no question about it, I am not in Canada anymore.

War history makes me feel all kinds of wrong but even I gotta give it up to the Texans at the Battle of Gonzales
Why couldn’t Canadians have come up with a catch phrase when they stormed Vimy Ridge?

As for my daily eats? Tacos.

20120107-102302.jpg

Like all day every day….

Corn tortillas come standard here as do delicious toppings like the tequila marinated shrimps, freshly made guacamole and perfectly spiced salsa pictured above. I’m sure you’ll see many more incarnations of this in the days ahead…

And because I’m saving my pennies I’ve also been eating at home once or twice a day, a nice balance for my “out” meals.

This salad consisted of some locally raised roast turkey, crunchy edamame, roasted squash, apples, red onion, zucchini, greens & carrots. Plus a poached egg and some Dijon balsamic dressing.

I intend on hitting up the North Loop, the farmers market and terribly trendy South Congress in the coming days… Can’t wait to share more of my Southwestern adventures with ya!

I’ll Have What She’s Having…Dressing on the Side: High Maintenance Foodies

My sister asked me yesterday if I considered myself high maintenance. I thought about her question for a minute and then replied, “Well…not in relationships. But definitely when it comes to food.”

Allow me explain.

Am I a “picky” eater?
Not at all. I love to experiment with crazy foods and new flavours, which is a real bonus in a city like Toronto because fusion cuisine is everywhere right now (korean tacos anyone?)

Am I a health food junkie?
Not even! In fact I find that even with my healthy foodie/flexitarian preferences I can almost always find something I enjoy at restaurants, family functions and friend dinners. Plus I never stress about it because my fridge is always loaded and I am more than happy to supplement my meals with extra protein and veggies when I get home. Easy peasy.

Here’s the thing…
I’m cheap.
And not in an “I refuse to ever eat at a restaurant or only eat fast food” kind of way. I’m happy to pay for quality restaurant fare. Its just that I hate overpaying for food and beverages that are either subpar or not at all what I expected. When this happens a bubbling rage begins to burn inside me and trust…its not a pretty sight.

So here’s the high maintenance part…I tend to be very…particular…about my choices when I order. I ask for things on the side, siracha on top, my eggs poached rather than fried, an additional sweet potato here, a few crispy shallots there…whatever it is…if I’m really craving it and I see it on the menu I am never afraid to ask. Of course it is the perogative of the cooks and service staff whether they wish to accomodate, and I definitely don’t push my luck during a breakfast or lunch rush, but I figure why not ask? The worst they can say is no and I’m always perfectly accepting of that response also. As long as I ask for what I want, no matter what they say, I avoid the dreaded menu remorse and remain happily rage-free.

All of this to say, its the holidays. I have houseguests. And I’ve been eating out a lot. However, I seem to be mastering the art of the perfect order because I’ve been more than satisfied with all my choices. Here are two highlights from the past week:

1) Monster Salad Bowl from Urban Herbivore.

The Specs: 
Spinach and arugula base
Roasted potatoes and root veggies
Shredded raw carrots & beets
Sauteed Mushrooms
Marinated tofu cubes
Pumpkin seeds
Tahini/Lemon Dressing 

Why it was the best: 
A good balance of protein, starchy carbs, healthy fat and fibre-licious veggies kept me full. No messing around.

2) Korean BBQ Bibimbap at Bi Bim Bap Stonebowl Riceteria.

The Specs
Brown rice base (crisp and caramelized on the bottom due to the heat from the hot stone bowl)
Korean Radish
Spinach
Bean Sprouts
Shredded Carrots & Zucchini
Cucumber
Burdock
Sweet Potato Stems
Dried Seaweed & Sesame Seeds
Marinated Korean BBQ Chicken
Fried Egg
Hot Sauce & Soy Ginger Sauce

Why it was the best
See above.
Seriously though these toppings alone made the meal well worth it since I would never have so many specialty ingredients at home. Not to mention Korean food is so darn tasty what with all of its sauces and marinades not to mention the mother of all condiments (kimchi!!) Oh yeah and remember that part where I said it was made with brown freakin rice. I remember. This place was the best. 

So…are you a high maintenance patron or do you just roll with restaurant punches?

 

Salad is Lame: How to make it slightly less so.

The strangest thing happened to me the other night. I was out to dinner with friends and just as our food arrived, two women sitting nearby stopped their conversation and (in all sincerity) complimented my salad. Not the chef. Not the farmers who grew the produce. But me…as if ordering that salad for dinner was some kind of noble act worthy of public praise.

While I laughed it off in the moment to be honest the whole thing made me feel downright icky. Fortunately they then proceeded to compliment me on my dress, which was a thrifted find that I was more than happy to take credit for! ;)

Still, this scenario got me thinking…perhaps it is time to dedicate a post to one of my all time favourite meals: The Salad.

In my experience no matter who you’re talking to ordering a salad is lame. If you’re with a girl: its lame because it looks like diet food and she feels judged so she’s judging you. If you’re with a guy: its lame cause its green and…I dunno I guess dudes hate fibre. BUT I accepted long ago that sometimes the stuff that makes me feel good and happy also happens to be super lame and nerdy. And the things that make me feel like crap (crapst?) like drinking, blowing my money, eating trashy food, not participating in sports/physical activity/anything new or different etc. are always gonna be cooler.

So when I finally made peace with that and put all the criticism/judgement aside I realized that I don’t order salad because I want to “limit my this” or “control my that”….I still want to eat a full and satisfying meal. When it comes right down to it I order a salad because

    I love vegetables

And salads are a very efficient delivery system. Simple as that.

SO after that long winded intro here’s a few tips on how to I make the perfect salad order to keep myself full & fueled while mowing down on rabbit food.

20111203-203919.jpgHarvest salad from The Beet Cafe: mixed greens, shredded beets end carrots, grape tomatoes, roasted organic chicken, seeds and nuts, avocado slices and quinoa topped with citrus cilantro and flax oil dressing

The key is to use the veggies as a base but I always try to include
- a protein source (from eggs, chicken, tofu, tempeh, fish, etc.)
- healthy fats (from avocado, seeds and nuts, cheese if you enjoy dairy as well as the olive/flax/nut oil in my dressing)
- a complex carbohydrate (potato, squash, whole grain bread, cooked grain, chickpeas or other beans)

20111203-204028.jpg
Nicoise Salad from Boom Breakfast: Mixed greens with tuna, grilled asparagus, sweet potato, olives, topped with a poached egg and balsamic dressing.

Trust me. Keep your veggie quotient high but don’t skimp on these additions and you’ll never be left feeling like you “just” ordered a salad again!

Halloween Roundup

Hope y’all got yer tricks n’ treats on this Halloween, I know I did.

First thing: a quick apology for my intermittent posting lately, but my attentions have been geared towards teaching, writing and (most of all) serious life strategizing. This is gonna sound so quarter life crisis of me but I swear, the day after I celebrated my 25th birthday it was like I looked up in the sky and there was a gigantic ACME ANVIL of self-imposed life-pressure  plummeting towards me and I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out creative ways to dodge it.

Anyways I’ll go into more detail on some of my Pre-Holiday/Quarter-Life-Crisis-Avoidance November goals at some later point. For now, let us take November 1st to celebrate our collective HALLOWEEN HANGOVER.

FIRST UP: THE TREATS

While I didn’t cook up anything too exciting this Halloween, these two recipes will definitely be finding their way into my chocolate-crazy kitchen this week:

These dark chocolate sunbutter cups from Healthy Green Kitchen

These Mexican pumpkin spice brownies from Making Love in the Kitchen (totally appropriate considering today is el dia de los muertos)

NEXT: THE TRICKS

Since I’m sure you were dying to know my Halloween costume this year was inspired by the 90s (obvs), more specifically I was a member of a Wiccan Girl Gang inspired by the 1996 teen horror flick The Craft.


Now I’m not one to boast about my Halloween costume (ahem…) but I think I’d fit right in

As for the trouble I got into? Where else could I spend the evening but at one of my favourite queer-positive west end party spots: The Beaver  for HALLOQUEEN. The costumes were BEYOND. Futuristic Sci-Fi Drag Queen Explosion. There are no words…Photo evidence, you ask? All I got is this blurry bad boy…though I think it may encapsulate the debauchery of the evening rather well come to think about it.

THE HANGOVER: 

Nothing wrong with a little debauchery now and again, but don’t forget to REFUEL the next day with loads of water and of course a big ol’ healthy breakfast. Thanks to Clinton’s on Bloor St. for the Halloween brunch (notice the festive mug??)

Soy bacon, poached eggs, multigrain toast, mixed greens with balsamic dressing on the side n’ a pile-o-fruit. 

And that about sums it up right there, now doesn’t it?

How did you trick, treat n’ recover this Halloween? 

PARTY LOCAL.

Hey folks -

Sorry for the mini hiatus but it was birthday week in these parts and I have been busy PARTYING MY FACE OFF.

whatever maybe that was me partying my face off when I was 4…

Here’s a rundown of what the party really looked like this year…as I celebrated my 25th:

  • Bought 2 grey autumn sweaters with my mum (this and this)
  • Picked up an incredible pair of hiking boots at Mountain Equipment Co-Op – courtesy of the backwoods ranger (aka. my mom’s partner in crime)
  • Drank a few too many whisky sodas at the Holy Oak, one of my favourite little cafe/bar combos out on Bloor St. West

Photo Source: Blog TO

  • Ate delicious trail mix birthday cookies from Cool Hand of a Girl thanks to the Magical Megginz
  • Enjoyed a locally sourced birthday dinner at the Keriwa Cafe. I will review this restaurant soon but let’s just say it couldn’t have been more Healthy Hipster approved. They had birch on the walls and bannock bread on the menu. It was simply beyond.

Photo Credit: Toronto Life

MacIvor still gives me chills.

It was a show called His Greatness, about Tennessee Williams living in 1980s Vancouver. These tickets were courtesy of my pops, whattaguy!

A Young Tennessee Williams: Sass & Swagger

  • I also got to enjoy a delicious birthday brunch at Zocalo, a foodie hotspot in the Junction Triangle I’ve been meaning to try for ages. (A friend tried to explain where precisely the J.T. is but don’t ask me to explain…I let him lead the way. I like the feeling of not knowing where to go until I get there)

Photo Source: Blog TO

In Sum: I spent the day with the friends and family I love, supporting the businesses, restaurants and artists that make my community so wonderful. Sure I do these things every day, but on my birthday it felt special. Simple. But it suited me.
How do you like to celebrate your birthday? Home Cooking or Restaurants? Do you like to go adventuring or do you enjoy staying local?  

Untraditional Holidays & A Harvest Meal

As the Thanksgiving long weekend approaches here in Canada I’m sure many of you are getting ready to head home for the holidays.

Well for me, this is not always a straightforward endeavor…To be honest my family is less than traditional (remember a few posts back when I mentioned I grew up on a hippie organic farm? You get the idea…) This year I decided to do my trip “home” the week before Thanksgiving, visiting my mum and her fella (the Backwoods Ranger) for a little hiking, camping and general adventuring in the North. Then on Sunday I will have my “traditional” Turkey day meal with the folks I like to think of as my friend-family (or my family of choice). While I appreciate tradition as much as the next gal, I kind of love my plan this year because it works for me and the people I love.

I was also glad I chose to go North when I did because the leaves are right in the middle of changing and the colours were breathtaking.

One night I was invited over for dinner at our family friends Jim and Carolyn’s cabin home in Massey, Ontario.
We sipped Chardonnay on the porch as the sun went down.
 I roasted up some fennel, onion & asparagus…Plus some unpictured buttercup squash.

Carolyn showed off her new quilting fabrics to Mama Hipster.The Backwoods Ranger (+ his brother Jim…who is…also a ranger) fired up the BBQThen we feasted on a delicious pre-holiday Harvest Meal. (Those squash seeds were roasted up using this delicious recipe)The next day we woke up early to go for a hike. We grabbed an on-the-go breakfast from Tim Horton’s. I opted for plain mixed berry oatmeal with a side of peanut butter mixed in and a plain egg patty on the side for some added protein.

Not to get down on the ol’ Canadian maple…but I think birch trees are my favourite.

Oh yeah that wasn’t terrifying…

I’m back in the city today and so excited to spend the holidays with my friends here. But I can still smell the campfire on my clothes….and that’ll definitely keep me smiling all weekend long. ;)

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