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I’m Back (Again)!

Just got back from four days at a cottage up in the Haliburton Highlands, right near Algonquin. Our cottage was remote enough that we had no cell service but close enough to a small town that we could  rejoin civilization in about a ten minute drive.  It was perfect.  There’s nothing like being forced to unplug for a few days because no matter how often you say you won’t check your phone or the internet, you know you will given the opportunity.

So how did we fill our days without electronics? 

I woke up every morning, had en entire French press of coffee and read for an hour in blissful silence. After I was fully caffeinated (and then some) I’d throw on my running stuff and run beside the lake, up a few hills and into (and through) that small town and back again. There was a hike to High Falls in Algonquin, a whole lot of swimming, more reading, an agricultural fair on Saturday, bonfires and roasted marshmallows and many bbqs.  The girls ran pretty wild and it was great to be able to give them freedom to be more independent than they’re able to be in downtown Toronto.

We got back late Sunday evening and I was up and at work first thing Monday. Ian meanwhile has taken the girls and Riley camping for the next few days which means I have our new apartment all to myself. It’s definitely an adjustment be in such a big space after living in my little place for so long.  It feels kind of empty without anyone else there but I also loved the downtime last night. Binge watched a few episodes of Fringe and went to bed at 9:00 just so I could stretch out our king size bed all by myself.  After sharing a double with Ian and Riley at the cottage it felt downright luxurious to have that much space! The rest of my week is going to be spent having catch up dinners with some girlfriends and lounging on the back deck. I might even have a glass of wine. I KNOW!

I can’t believe we’re in the middle of August already! Fall is right around the corner and I’m nowhere close to ready for it.  How about you? How’s your summer going?

Killer Bodyweight Circuit

I haven’t posted a workout in a while. I’ve been splitting my time between running and various weight circuits, but haven’t done anything that’s more than just a mash-up of other routines I’ve previously posted. I may have even settled into the dreaded rut. Still hitting the gym hard, but not really mixing it up at all or challenging myself beyond working up a decent sweat. 

I received the following body weight circuit in an email from one of the many health/workout/food mailing lists I belong to and decided to try it out. For the first time in a long time I had muscle soreness that lasted for more than a day. In fact, I was still feeling that workout in my calves three days later. It’s deceptively simple looking and you don’t even need to leave your house to do it. If time is a factor, you can be finished in 20-30 minutes depending on how many rounds you complete. Basically there is NO reason for you not to try this routine. Do it and thank me for it later!

The recommendation was for 7 rounds of 10 reps each with 30-60 seconds of rest between rounds. I decided to do 10 rounds of 10 reps because I am an insane person. Yes, this meant 100 reps of each exercise other than the push-ups which equaled out to 200 reps.  I may have spent a couple of minutes sprawled on the gym floor afterwards. 

Burpees
Squats
Push-ups
Jumping Jacks
Jump Squats
Mountain Climbers
Push-ups

Doesn’t look like much, right? Try it out and let me know how you did. Remember both speed AND form are important here so do it fast but do it right. Good luck!

Some Cooking Help!

Chicken liver. It’s an incredibly healthy food but I just can’t figure out how to make it taste good.  

3.5 ounces of the stuff is only 174 calories with 26 grams of protein and a whopping 71% of your required daily iron. Both vitamins A and B-12 are both well over 200% and copper and zinc are both over 50% as well. The one caveat is the cholesterol level per serving which is fairly high and wouldn’t be good for those with heart disease. Overall it’s a nutritional powerhouse and something I should include in my diet since I battle low iron levels.

All that being said, this stuff tastes like despair and the tears of kittens. I know it’s good for me, I’ve tried to cook it and it’s just one big fail. I’ve pan-fried them with onion and garlic along with bok choy and pepper. I’ve tried using sweet chili Thai sauce. Ian’s tried them with a spicy curry paste. NOTHING makes these things edible. I’m at the point of trying to batter and fry them but then I figure what’s the point? I might as well smother them in cheese and call it a day.  

On the bright side, Riley really enjoys them. Good thing too because he ends up eating our leftovers.

Any help out there? Is it possible to actually enjoy these things?

Chicken Pineapple Kabobs

Last day of vacation today and back to reality. Arrived home yesterday and spent today running errands and getting ready to head back to work tomorrow. As always I feel like I could very quickly get used to NOT having to work for a living. I wish I played the lottery so I had a chance of winning a ridiculously large jackpot. 

Inspired by my favourite person in Ottawa, I cooked up some awesome chicken kabobs for dinner today. These taste like summer on a plate. 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Two chicken breasts, cut into six pieces each
  • Two slices of bacon, cut in half
  • One red pepper, cut into quarters
  • One green pepper, cut into quarters
  • Two thick slices of pineapple, cut into quarters
  • Half a small red onion, cut into slices
  • Four small mushrooms
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Heat up your BBQ or flat top grill. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper and garlic powder then get to work building the kabobs.

You’ll need four long skewers – each person will receive two.  Each kabob will have three pieces of chicken, a piece of bacon, two pieces of each pepper, four pieces of pineapple, some onion and a couple of mushrooms. Try to put the pineapple next to the chicken and/or bacon for extra goodness.

Grill these bad boys until the chicken is cooked through. Depending on your grill it will probably be about 20-25 minutes. Turn them a few times during cooking to develop that beautiful bronze colour on multiple sides.

Serve with a big baby greens salad with berries. Eat outside. Love summer.

Ottawa Update

Nearing the end of my annual Bluesfest trip and finally have a chance to blog. It’s funny how busy you can get when you’re trying to relax.

Highlights:

My favorite moment by far has been seeing Slash in concert. I’m not a huge Guns n Roses fan, but wow. Slash and The Conspirators completely blew the roof off that open air festival. Their original songs were hard rockin’ and showcased Slash’s skills and the few GnR songs they performed didn’t suffer for lack of Axl Rose. In fact I’d say they were better. The crowd ate these guys up.

One of the things I love about music festivals is discovering new bands. I had that “holy crap” moment with a band called Paper Kites from Australia. The lead vocalist sounds like the singer from the Cranberries and they have just the right mix of folk/rock to make me swoon. A little awkward on stage but it was an endearing quality. Planning on downloading some of their stuff when I get home.

The weather has been absolutely perfect. Sunny and mid twenties all week and cooling down at night so it’s easy to sleep. You couldn’t order up better festival weather.

Unlike previous years, we haven’t all dived off the clean eating bandwagon. It’s been a healthy week with just a couple of indulgences. I even managed to find a decent salad at Bluesfest yesterday amongst the poutine, burgers and other deep fried options. It will be a nice change to finish the week not feeling the need for a food detox.

I spent yesterday morning lounging in the sun and reading a book. We had nothing on the agenda and it was glorious. Threw on my bikini, grabbed a coffee and put a big dent in one of those great pulp novels you only read on vacation.

Lesser Lights

An hour after landing, I was on my way to a dentist after the temporary crown from my root canal broke. Not the best start to the trip but at least the fun has gone up from there!

I miss Ian and Riley. I’m having a blast of course, but every now and then something will happen and I’ll want to turn to Ian and comment and of course he’s not there. Looking forward to his arrival tomorrow for the final day of Bluesfest and our road trip home on Monday.

So that’s it so far! Have a pool party/bbq this afternoon and need to prepare some food. Thinking chicken, sweet pepper and pineapple skewers and just maybe some of that bacon guacamole I mentioned last post. Delicious!

Happy Saturday! Hope your week has been treating you well even if you’re not on vacation!

Completely Appropriate

July

And I fell off the blog bandwagon AGAIN. So hard to keep it up in the summer when all I want is to be outside, but I’m going to make a concerted effort this month to stay on top things.

Lots going on this month too! Ian and I are moving into a new place. He moved into my apartment, which is perfect for one person, tight for two and very, very crowded when you add in two kids and a dog. Luckily we found a huge apartment in an old Victorian house a few blocks away. Three bedrooms, two floors, two decks and a fireplace. Oh my! We’re painting and moving slowly over the next couple of weeks and will be fully in place by August. I’m pretty excited, but kind of melancholy at the same time. I’ve lived in my apartment for almost five years and have a whole lot of memories here. It’s going to be strange going somewhere different when I head home at the end of the day. But home is where your family is, so I’m sure it won’t take long before we’re all settled in the new place.

Also headed to Ottawa on Wednesday for my yearly Bluesfest adventure. This is the fifth year my Ottawa crew and I have done the festival so we’re going all out. Full festival passes, tons of bands, BBQs, hot tubs, cigars and sun. I absolutely can’t wait. Expect some updates from the trip! Do not however, expect any healthy recipes because you’re more likely to see something about BBQ ribs, pulled pork omelettes (oh yeah – that happened last year) or the merits of adding bacon and pineapple into guacamole. 

And last but not least, I graduated my Intro to Horseback Riding course this past weekend! It was so much fun and, if I could afford it, I would take ongoing lessons in a heartbeat. Maybe one day.

What’s going on with you this month? Festivals? Races? Cottaging?

 

 

Balsamic Beef

So I spent the vast majority of my morning and early afternoon at the dentist getting an emergency root canal. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard that the inside of your tooth is “necrotic” even though it looks perfectly fine from the outside. It would explain the steadily increasing pain in my jaw the past few days though! On the bright side, I got to watch Jaws while the dentist worked AND he gave me some nifty painkillers. At least I’ll sleep tonight.

Anyway, needless to say I was not really up for cooking anything that required a whole lot of effort this evening so I threw together a few things that somehow turned into a delicious meal.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people)

  • 1 cup uncooked red rice (you will have leftover rice)
  • 2 cups no sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 package fast fry beef strips
  • Balsamic Coleslaw
  • Raw Honey
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Garlic powder

Cook rice with veggie broth and water as per usual.

Meanwhile, add the last five ingredients into a bowl and adjust levels to your personal taste. Once well mixed, add the beef strips and stir to cover. Let the strips marinate for at least an hour.  When they’re ready, throw them into a pan on medium heat and cook for just a couple of minutes. Strips should still be red when you remove them from the heat.

Drain off the majority of the excess fat, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pain. Put a bunch of coleslaw into the pan (I used about 3/4 of the leftovers from yesterday) and cook down for about ten minutes. Add the strips back in and cook for another couple of minutes.

Place rice on your plate then add the beef and veggie mixture on top. I used a half cup serving for myself and a full cup for Ian then split the beef and veggie mixture between the two of us.  BOOM. Dinner in as long as it takes your rice to cook.

Speaking of rice, any rice will work with this recipe.  I just like the red rice for the nutty flavour. Of course you could also skip the rice altogether and go with quinoa or anything else that floats your boat.  Yum!

 

 

Basic Chicken Burger & Balsamic Coleslaw

Burger time! I made this one today in honour of Canada Day…it’s probably the simplest burger recipe I have, but it’s a good standard. It takes literally ten minutes to throw together and you’re ready to grill.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • Half medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • Cloves
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper

Put your onion and celery into a bowl and hand mix in the ground chicken. Add the spices and continue to mix until just combined.  Use either a half cup or one cup scoop to measure out the meat, form into balls and then patties. Cook on a pre-heated flat top grill. THAT’S IT!! I serve these on big Boston lettuce leaves with some salsa on top.

For a quick and yummy side, try this incredibly healthy coleslaw filled with vitamins A and C and iron:

Ingredients

  • Half head green cabbage, chopped
  • Half head red cabbage, chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 beet, grated
  • Glug of EVOO
  • A few shakes of red wine vinegar
  • A few more shakes of balsamic vinegar

Put all the veggies in a large Tupperware tub and pour the EVOO and vinegar on top. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. BOOM. Done. Depending on how many people are eating, you’ll have a bunch left over for a couple of lunches or dinner again the next day.

It honestly doesn’t get easier than this.

 

Seafood Pasta!

Sometimes you just need pasta. Or something with a vague resemblance to pasta. And that’s when you pull out the spaghetti squash. Yes, I know it’s a winter squash and your guess is as good as mine as to how I can buy it in June. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth!

Seafood “Pasta” (serves 2)

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bag uncooked seafood mix (mussels, calamari, squid, shrimp)
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • No sodium chicken or veggie broth
  • Havarti, shredded (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut the squash in half length wise and scoop out the guts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, place cut side down on a baking sheet and throw in the oven for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, add a glug or two of broth to a large frying pan and cook the seafood in it for about ten to fifteen minutes then remove from the heat and place into a bowl. Pour the majority of the broth away leaving some coating the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and stir until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes only (no juice) and the chard. Cook until the chard is wilted, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, add the seafood back into pan and turn the heat to low.

When your squash is cooked, shred one half into a mixing bowl.  Add the seafood mixture, toss to combine, then plate and move onto the other half. Sprinkle a bit of cheese on top if desired before serving.

Done and done! Perfect for a rainy day like today. Enjoy!