Thursday, September 30, 2010

Friday Favourites* – Volume 1

I’ve decided to start a weekly round up of 5 of my favourite things from the week! They may be recipes, blog discoveries, music, books, fashion, entertainment.. who knows!

Here it goes for Week #1.

In no particular order:

Homemade Twix Bars from Gingerbread Bagels!

I need to make these. Stat. The recipe uses saltine crackers! I love me some salt and sweet!

Kooza by Cirque du Soleil!


Cirque du Soleil is back in Calgary, and I’m so so glad I got a chance to see it this time. I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish! If it happens to be touring through your neck of the woods…. GO! You won’t regret it!

Friday Socks by drywell on Etsy


This print adorable little print made me laugh out loud. Are you wearing your Friday socks?

The Happy Poet


This is an endearing movie about an out of work poet who opens an organic food cart. Paul Gordon, who wrote, directed and stars in the movie does a wonderful job of creating quirkly, lovable characters. I was smiling the whole way through. It’s here as part of the Calgary International Film Festival, but there are dates on the website for further screening information.

Caramel Apple Surprise Cookies from Hot Polka Dot


Hot Polka Dot is quickly becoming one of my favourite blogs! Lindsey keeps posting these amazing recipes that she comes up with on her own! Thank heavens my boyfriend has a Bake Sale fundraiser for work this week, or we would have to devour these beauties all on our own.


* This spelling of favourite might look strange so some, but this is how we spell it in Canada! Blame the Brits! ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brownie Pizza!

For my brother’s birthday in April, he had an ‘E’ theme. So, along with my Elmo shirt,  I decided to make some Extreme Cupcakes… I think I’ll keep the exact details of the recipe under wraps until they make another appearance, but let’s just say I had several strangers approach me in the bar to complement me on them!

This is another one of those recipes. Every once in a while, I like to throw caution to the wind and do something a little ridiculous when I bake for my friends.





Step 1:  Bake your favourite brownie recipe into a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Be careful not to overcook the brownies, as they will take less time than if they were in a baking dish. I started checking mine after about 20 minutes, and ended up taking it out after about 25 minutes.


Step 2: Add a thin layer of cream cheese icing. I would recommend a bit thinner than you see here… this was REALLY sweet. Almost too sweet for me!


Step 3: Add pecan Turtle pepperonis!


Step 4: Add Skor bits!


Step 5: Drizzle with caramel sauce.


I got this idea after looking at this recipe from Betty Crocker. I can’t wait to try that recipe as well. This would be amazing with fresh fruit on top!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The ‘Boyfriend’ Salad

I’ve noticed a trend as of late for oversized or comfy clothes being classified as the ‘boyfriend’ blazer or ‘boyfriend’ jeans.

boyfriendblazer boyfriend-jeans

The idea is that you’re taking items your boyfriend would wear and pairing them with more feminine pieces to create an eye catching outfit.

How does this relate to cooking in the slightest?

I don’t know about anyone else, but my boyfriend likes steak. Likes is probably an understatement actually, he would be glad to eat red meat for every meal! Throw in some garlic toast and potatoes and he’s in heaven!

I definitely enjoy the odd ‘steak and potatoes’ meal, but most of the time I try to mix things up.  In order to maintain my healthy weight, I try to sneak in as many vegetables into any meal as I can.

The best of both worlds??? …… Steak Salad!!

Or…. as I’ve lovingly dubbed it:

 The ‘Boyfriend’ Salad*

Grilled Steak Salad with Balsamic Blue Cheese Dressing



2 small grilling steaks (cut of your choice) – We used one giant Brontosaurus steak from Costco and cut it in half.                                                                                                              

6 asparagus stems, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup snow peas, trimmed

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled


2 tbsp. low-fat balsamic dressing

1 tbsp.  blue cheese, crumbled


Season steaks with salt and pepper (or steak spice). Heat a pan to medium-high heat and drop in the steaks – you should hear a sizzle.

Heat a second pan to medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add asparagus. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until asparagus becomes slightly more tender. Add mushrooms. Cook for 3 more minutes until mushrooms are sautéed, adding more cooking spray if necessary.

Divide the baby spinach onto two plates. Distribute the bell pepper, snow peas, asparagus and mushrooms.

Once steak is prepared to desired doneness, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice into strips and place on top of the salad.  Add feta cheese.

To make the dressing, combine balsamic dressing and blue cheese into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Note: This dressing is strong. I recommend that it is served on the side.

Boyfriend Approved!

* This salad can be enjoyed by most anyone. Consumption is not limited to boyfriends. :)



Monday, September 20, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Two Ways

Last night was another 'on the spot' meal, and my first experience with spaghetti squash. I have to say.... I LOVE IT! It kept a nice texture and wasn't at all mushy like I was expecting!

To cook the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and place it in a glass baking dish with 1/4 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 7-8 minutes. Once it's done, you should be able to pull the squash into spaghetti like strands with a fork. My smallish squash yielded a surprising amount - easily enough for me and my hungry boyfriend!

Always one to keep it interesting, I made two different sauces to accompany the squash.

They were both very simple, and a great excuse to use my new Magic Bullet!
Once again, these recipes are approximate as I made it up on the spot!

Parmesan Garlic Sauce
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 1cm x 1cm x 6cm block (approx. 1/4 cup) of Parmesan Cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food process until the cheese is broken up. Add more olive oil as necessary, but this is more of a dry sauce.

(Note: This was pretty garlickly. If you're not as much of a garlic fan, I would stick to one clove)

Red Pepper Feta Sauce 
1 small red pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp chipotle chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor until well blended. This should make a runnier sauce.

Unfortunately the picture doesn't do the meal much justice. I'm looking into getting some proper lighting for these foods shots! :)


Friday, September 17, 2010

Maple Pecan Cupcakes

These cupcakes are yummy. They ended up coming out with a more dense texture than a standard "cakey" cupcake. I'm not sure if this was the recipe or the user, but it was a nice change!

These are definitely one of those indulgences in spoke of in my Live Your Life post. I've been on a baking kick lately, but I'm still getting used to the amount of butter and fat that goes in to regular  (less health conscious) baking recipes. Of this 1 1/2 dozen batch, I had two and promptly shipped the rest off in a care package for the rest of my family! :)


Maple Pecan Cupcakes 

For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature 
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3 extra-large eggs
scant 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

For the frosting: 
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. maple-flavoured extract

Pecan pieces for garnish. 

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Place 18 medium size baking cups in muffin pans. 

Beat the  butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture, then fold in. Add the pecans and fold in. 

Add the mixture to the prepared baking cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and well risen. 

Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat until creamy. Beat in the maple-flavored extract. Spread the frosting over the cupcakes and add pecans pieces for garnish. 

Makes 18 cupcakes. 

Every day I find so many baking recipes that I want to try, that I've found myself with a dilemma. Who is going to eat all of this? Although my boyfriend is more than willing to help out with the treat consumption, it's still not exactly healthy to consume an entire batch of cookies between two people! I'll bring some treats in to work, but my office is super tiny with other 3 other co-workers. 

Do anyone else have this problem? So much to bake and not enough people to eat it! What do you do?

I have an end of season potluck for my Ultimate Frisbee team tomorrow, and I've requested to bring dessert. After all, I'm going to jump on any excuse to bake for a reason! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Last night, the Aussie and I had my parents over for dinner. We had just bought a new roasting pan, so what better time to test it out! 

The whole dinner ended up having a 'maple' theme (appropriate for my French Canadian father), and it was great success - as Borat might say! 

Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes and Butternut Squash
adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary plus 4 sprigs
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
One 4-pound boneless pork loin (about 12 inches long)
6 pieces maple coppalino bacon 
6 small baking potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), quartered
1 small butternut squash, chopped into medium size chunks
Salt and pepper

In a resealable plastic bag, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the mustard, maple syrup, chopped rosemary and garlic. Add the pork and turn in the mixture to coat; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the rosemary sprigs in the center of a roasting pan.  Place the marinated pork on top of the rosemary. Lay the bacon slices over the pork loin. 

Place the potatoes and butternut squash in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper; toss to mix. 

Scatter the potatoes around the pork. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 150°, about 1 hour. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the potatoes and squash.

I'll be back later this week with another maple inspired recipe. This time, it's dessert!

A little teaser, because I'm rude like that. ;)


Friday, September 10, 2010

Drunken Scallop Fettucini

Drunken Scallop Fettucini*

4 servings of whole wheat fettucini
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 medium sized scallops
1 cup white wine
1 small red bell pepper,sliced
3 large white mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup marinara sauce
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

Cook fettucini according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

As the fettucini is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes or until onions start to become translucent. Add scallops and the 1/2 half cup of white white. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they have turned white. Remove scallops from the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Add sliced vegetables, marinara sauce, oregano and parmigiano reggiano and the second 1/2 cup of white wine. Stir in cooked pasta (and reserved pasta water if  necessary). Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with scallops. Serves 4.


*The measurements are my best estimation, as this was an on the spot creation!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Live Your Life!

This long weekend, we ventured out to the Rockies to attend the annual Canmore Highland Games.

To many, this is a time to wear your Scottish pride on your sleeve and catch some of the events such as hammer throw, caber toss, sheep hearding, band competitions etc.

For my group of friends, it has been a long standing tradition to attend the games.... to drink. A lot.

The view from the patio of the Rose and Crown.

I ended up keeping the drinking fairly pretty tame this year (getting too old for this stuff!), but I had fully planned to spend the day drinking, eating, dancing, laughing and drinking some more.

This brings me to a point that I have been meaning to address for a while.

For the past year, many "challenges" to my weight loss goals have surfaced. I've had to plan for birthdays, vacations, going away parties and countless other events throughout the year.

A few tricks which have helped me:

1) Eat before you go.
This one is kind of common sense, but it's much easier to resist a place of nachos if you're full!

2) Don't even try it.
It's also much easier to resist a plate of nachos if  you don't succumb to the "just one bite" mentality. Having one bite only makes you want more.

3) Decide before you go.
Since I usually have some notice before the event, I try to check the menu of the restaurant online to see what healthy choices I can decide on before I even go to the party. This trick is especially helpful because, for me at least, the more time you have to think about a meal, the more you want it!

The fourth step is what I believe to be the most important:

4) Live Your Life
If you really want a cheese burger and fries, have a cheese burger and fries! Nothing will curb a healthy lifestyle faster than feeling deprived. The key is to make a conscious decision to eat something less than healthy, enjoy the heck out of it, and resume your healthy eating habits right away! Spending your time feeling guilty for being "off plan" is contrary to the whole idea of losing weight in the first place.

I don't worry about saturated fat when I'm on vacation in Jamaica. I don't count calories on my birthday. 
The way I see it, if you can't enjoy your life and indulge every so often, then what good is being fit and healthy? 

Of course, this has to be within reason. On my all-inclusive vacation a few months ago, I didn't count calories, but I did make a full lap of the buffet to check out the options before reaching for a plate. I ended up filling up half of my plate with salad most of the time, not because I felt I had to, but because that is what I wanted! That shift of habits in itself has been a great victory of mine over the last year. Even on vacation, I don't usually want the greasy fries, the creamy scalloped potatoes, the too sweet dessert... but if I do, I have it!!


5) Plan Your Indulgences.
Each week, in planning my meals (which I plan to detail further in an upcoming post), I allow for one lunch out and one dinner out per week. It is surprisingly easy to maintain, and makes it easier to pack a lunch on Wednesday when I know that I have plans to Korean food with friends on Friday. Same goes with dinner, if I have an event to attend on the weekend at a nice restaurant, I plan my healthy meals for the week and treat myself on the weekend! It's always nice to have something to look forward to, and it's even more rewarding when the time finally comes!

So this year at the Highland Games, I drank cider, ate fish and chips and a steak sandwich among other less than healthy choices. I don't regret it for a second, but I also can't wait to get back to healthy food!

Just for fun, a before and after... Canmore Highland Games Style!




Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fun Workouts!

I have a confession to make. I lost 65 lbs. in one year without entering a gym. 

Now, that's not to say that I didn't do it healthily or without any physical activity. On and off throughout the year, I played Volleyball, Dodgeball and Softball . I did Muay Thai Kickboxing for a couple of weeks before realizing it was beyond what my budget and time would allow. These activities were are fun, but they are not what I would call a workout, with the exception of Muay Thai - the ULTIMATE workout.

Now, my goals for the coming year of weight maintenance are:

1) Increase cardio ability
2) Increase muscle strength/definition

Let's get one thing off the out off the bat. I am not a runner. I've tried running for exercise, and I always end up feeling like I'm going to die at the end. I count down the minutes until I can stop the treadmill and move on to something else. I've heard that some (most?) people feel an endorphin after they've pounded the pavement for a while, but I have yet to experience this elusive rush.

Strength training comes much easier to me. I enjoy the muscle ache. I get a sense of satisfaction when the exercise starts getting too easy and I get to move up in weight/reps. The only problem is, I don't do enough of it!

 So here's my plan:

1)  Keep myself busy with physical activity that I enjoy and look forward to. I think like is too short to spend    my time miserable on a treadmill.  
2) Work more strength training into my weekly routine.

So over the past little while, I've been thinking about activities/sport that are a good workout (cardio wise at least), but that I might actually enjoy!

On my quest so far:

I've been to a couple of Zumba classes. I've really enjoyed it so far.

I've played some Ultimate. I played for the past two summers, but took this summer off as our team had disbanded. The past couple of weeks I have played on my friend's team, and newly discovered why I love Ultimate! It's just what I'm looking for... a cardio workout that is FUN!

My quest still continues for fun workout activities! I love to mix it up and keep it interesting! I am looking to try trying swimming (though I might need a refresher on the basics!), spin classes and dance classes.

I'm up for any suggestions anyone else might have!


Late night meal cookies!

I've found recently that whenever I'm chilling out or winding down from a long day, I get the urge to bake!

This urge usually doesn't hit me until it's "too late" to start anything, so I usually ignore it. On Thursday night; however, I decided to go with it! So at 9:00 p.m. on a work night, I started baking these yummy and healthy cookies, adapted from Dreena's Vegan Recipes. These cookies are so filling, they're almost a meal! 

Meal Cookies 

1 cup quick oats
2/3 cup whole wheat flour 
1/4 tsp (rounded) sea salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp chocolate chips
2 tbsp sliced almonds1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup Psyllium husk 
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter 
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). 

In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, raisins, chocolate chips, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined. 

In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Stir in oil. 

Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix). 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon batter onto baking sheet evenly space apart, and lightly flatten. 

Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). 

Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Of course, I had to have a taste of the maple syrup before it went in to the mix, I am Canadian after all! ;)