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Cold Salads, Hot Date!

Because I now work mostly in the afternoons and evenings, I find myself doing all my food preparation in the mornings. Things that I can quickly zap when I get home, or will carry well in a tupperware container to work with me.

Even though it’s the dead of winter, I find myself cravings salads. The kind that get better after a day of sitting in the fridge. Even better, the kind that can be frantically eaten cold in between training clients or my second job.

Because I am the Queen of Wasting Time on the Internet, I went through 101 chicken recipes on the Cooking Light Website. Yes, this is how I make use of my not-so-spare time.

Of all 101 recipes, this Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh recipe was one of the few that really stuck out.

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Grains, protein, vitamin-packed parsley and feta for a little kick. Perfection.

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh
from Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 3/4  cup  uncooked bulgur
  • 1  cup  boiling water
  • 2  cups  chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast 2 chicken breasts, boiled in water to cook
  • 1  cup  chopped plum tomato 4 regular tomatoes
  • 1  cup  chopped English cucumber
  • 3/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3  cup  finely chopped green onions sweet onion
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh mint omitted because I couldn’t find any!
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon bottled minced garlic  
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper

Preparation

1. Place bulgur in a medium bowl; cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. (I always cook bulgur like I do rice – add to boiling water then let simmer covered until cooked. The above method never works for me!)

2. Combine chicken and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add bulgur to chicken mixture; toss gently to combine.

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It looks like I made a lot of changes to the recipe, but I actually kept the key steps intact. It’s got the perfect amount of parsley and feta so that it doesn’t overpower everything. And it’s got way less oil than most tabbouleh recipes, without feeling like it could have used more.

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I of course ate it on top of a giant bed of spinach, as I do with most leftovers. Plumps up the dish to make me feel like I’m eating a lot more!

For my next salad, I was inspired by this mango slaw I made over the summer. Except this time I really want to bring out the “Asian” flavours.

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Pork & Mango Slaw
Ingredients:

  • 3 small boneless pork chops (around 8-9 oz)
  • 2 small mangoes (or 1 large one), cut into thin strips
  • 1 bag coleslaw mix (they’re all the same size, right?)
  • 1/4 cup slivered red onion
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Braggs (or soy sauce of your liking)

Directions:
Cook the pork chops in a frying pan until no longer pink in the centre (they’ll turn white as they get more cooked). Be sure not to overcook them – they cook quickly and dry out easily! Meanwhile, assemble everything else in a big bowl. Chop up cooked pork into little pieces and toss together. Tastes best after sitting in the fridge overnight.

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Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I make really good coleslaws. Or maybe I just really love coleslaws. You can’t go wrong with this flavour combo, and it was a total cinch to make at 10am!

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Yup, I even eat my coleslaw on top of spinach. Gotta build up those Popeye biceps.

Even though my meals have been cold lately, I’ve been keeping toasty with lots of warm drinks!

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Warming up in coffee shops with friends!

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When Morgan and I decided it was high time for a coffee date, I immediately suggested Te Aro. A cafe in my ‘hood of Leslieville that is always being listed as one of the best in the city.

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Plus, y’all know I can be suckered with the promise of handsome employees ;)

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They roast they’re own coffee here. A neat concept to me as back home local roasters are hard to come by.

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Nothing overly exciting on the menu board, just the classics. So I decided to find out just how well they do a classic.

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I ordered what they call a “Flat White.” A long espresso with a dash of steamed milk and foam.

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As I told Morgan, I like to judge the quality of espresso based on how much sugar I want to put in it. Good espresso is rich and caramelly and doesn’t need a hint of additional sweetness. And this stuff went down smooooth. Thumbs UP!

By the bye, Morgan is hosting a Vegan For A Week challenge next week. Click here to read all about it and even join the facebook page. I won’t be participating fully as I’m traveling to Ottawa next week. BUT I will be featuring some stellar vegan recipes just to show that you don’t need animals to make a healthy, satisfying meal. And FYI: most beers are vegan too ;)

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite thing to order in a cafe? I think I’ve asked this question before, but I want to know again! I always love long espressos or espresso macchiatos. I don’t have an espresso machine at home so it’s always a treat!

A Downtown Lunch

A while back, my roommate told me about this amazing lunch place downtown with wraps and soups. She gushed about how delicious it was and I was left wondering what was so special about a simple soup and sandwich.

I stand corrected.

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Ravi Soups is a bit of a Toronto institution located on Adelaide in the Entertainment District. After a rumour that one was opening up in the East end, I did a little research and discovered this was a favourite downtown lunch spot. I caved and made a lunch date with my roommie. You know me, I had to see what all the fuss was about!

I loved the creative flavour combos for both the soups and wraps. I want to try them all. So I opted for the wrap + soup combo for 12 bucks. But you can also get a GIANT bowl of soup for the same price.

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The Roasted Pork Shoulder wrap immediately caught my eye – with RaviSlaw, spicy tamarind ketchup & fresh herbs.

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The pork was perfectly cooked and paired well with the tangy slaw which included big hunks of mango. Easily one of the best wraps I’ve had in TO and for once better than one I could assemble at home.

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I almost opted for the daily stew with ham and white beans… but the butternut squash special sounded like the perfect compliment to my meaty wrap.

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Loved the bacon on top for a little smoky flavour to the otherwise sweet soup. The Asian pear was a good choice as it maintained its crunch in the hot dish. I wasn’t as “wowed” by the soup as I was with my wrap. I’ve had some pretty darn good butternut squash soups before, and this one was a little bland and forgettable.

Roommie Megan meanwhile got the stew.

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And the Curried Lamb with roasted yam, baby spinach, pineapple mango salsa & mint cilantro chutney.

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Sounds like an amazing flavour combination, no? I couldn’t try it as I’m allergic to pineapple, and Megan said there were big hunks of it in there.

I can finally see how a simple soup + wrap combo can turn into something people rave about. This was unlike any other deli lunch place! I also kind of liked the seating arrangement – one GIANT table. It’s such a “big city” way of doing things and a nice opportunity to get up close with your fellow lunch-goers. No picture of this seating arrangement though in order to protect the innocent.

After saying goodbye to Megan (she’s got a real job), I continued my downtown wanderings in search for the perfect end to the perfect meal.

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Another Toronto institution I’m always hearing about. More for their cute male baristas than their espresso, but I’ll still take it.

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What I really wanted was a chocolate-y sumthinsumthin to tame that post-meal sweet tooth. Instead I opted for an espresso macchiato. Good thing too, as the espresso here is just as sweet as their cute baristas!

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Oddly enough, this cafe also uses the one-giant-table method as opposed to smaller individual tables. People watchers would love this. I eavesdropped on some very entertaining conversations whilst sipping on my espresso.

I ended my downtown lunchtime wanderings at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Not for a drink, but something even more exciting.

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That would be tickets to my favourite highschool band. I know all the words to all of their 3-minute pop-punk hits. Can’t. Wait.

With a full belly and caffeinated spring to my step, I left downtown behind and travelled North to my job. The one where I hang out in a gym all day torturing people. It’s probably for the better that I work next to a treadmill and not a RaviSoups anyways ;)

 

Question of the Day: What are your favourite things to put in a wrap? I was anti-wrap for a long time after working in a deli where I assembled what felt like hundreds a day. But my all-time fave is curried salmon with sweet potato and spinach.

The Manliest Cupcake

I’m not sure about you, but I am relieved to no longer be accosted by moustaches everywhere I turn.

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November turned Toronto into a city of scuzzy moustaches. Also known as “Movember,” men grew ‘staches over the course of the month to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer.

I was happy to see it end. There comes a time when a moustache is no longer entertaining, but, well, makes me uncomfortable.

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I got wind of a fundraiser last week that combines the “Manly Moustache” with one of the most girly treats there is: cupcakes. Bakers were challenged to come up with the manliest cupcake they could. They were judged on things like taste, creativity and “manliness.”

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The event was held at Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters on Spadina and Adelaide. Their menu looked fantastic, including things like “Richters Mocca Latte” and “Turkish Latte.” I was tempted, but knew mass quantities of cake and icing were about to be consumed.

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I brought my roommie Megan along. We posed for badly-aimed self-portraits in the espresso machine while gearing up for cupcakes.

Unfortunately, two of the bakers couldn’t make it, so we were left to taste-test only two kinds of manly cupcakes.

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Kate Robb’s “For My Mo Fo’s.” A spiced chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, white chocolate disk and moustachioed faces made with jujubes, sculpted caramels and toostie rolls.

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The Cupcake Place’s “Monday Night Football Baby BOOYAH!!” A chocolate stout cake with cream cheese frosting, bacon bits, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, a pretzel and chocolate ‘stache.

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I had one of each. You know, for charity ;)

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The chocolate stout cupcake was rich. And while I love me some bacon, I wasn’t a huge fan of it on top. Too savoury. I actually couldn’t even finish this one!

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Now the spiced one was my kind of cake. A little more dense, mega cinnamon-y and just the right amount of spiced buttercream frosting (ie not a mountain!). Plus, it had candy on top!!!

I guess my tastes just aren’t manly enough, as the other flavour won.

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Moustachioed cupcakes may be kind of awesome, as is raising money for a good cause. But please… no more moustaches until next November.

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Now, Decembeard? That’s something I can look forward to.

conanob

 

Question of the Day: What’s you’re favourite kind of cupcake? I’m admittedly not a huge cupcake fan. They’re too messy, too sweet, and gone too quickly. With that said, I will never turn down anything carrot cake flavoured.

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