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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.

A Foodie Kind of Day

Why hi there! Hope everyone had a wonderful hump day and Waffle Wednesday. My mother unfortunately did not have the means to make my fave protein waffles. And to be honest, I didn’t feel like churning out a Susan-sized waffle feast on her teeny waffle iron. Belgians are where it’s at ;)

I did however find this in the back of the pantry closet:

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Bob’s Red Mill Scottish oatmeal. I suppose you can’t really see what’s in the bag, but it looked just like oat bran to me. I cooked up 1 1/2 servings on the stove with 1/2 scoop vanilla whey powder and 1 1/2 cups water.

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Topped with almond butter. Surprisingly, this wasn’t like oat bran at all!! More like a “smaller” version of steel cut.

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I loved it. It’s got the creaminess that regular steel cut sometime lacks, yet the same little chewy grains (which I would compare to the texture of quinoa). I may just have to pick this stuff up. It’s necessary to have four kinds of oatmeal in your house, right? :P

My mom’s boyfriend is in charge of the coffee buying, and he never disappoints. He pointed me toward several tasty-looking varieties, in the end I decided on the Down East Sumatra organic.

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Brewed strong with a splash of chocolate milk. 

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Delicious! I’m not always the biggest fan of Sumatran coffees. I find its “earthy” flavour can sometimes be a little too literal, and taste like wet leaves ground up in dirt. But this stuff had a sweeter-earthiness to it (don’t worry, I taste-tested pre-chocolate milk). And yes, that’s Google Reader in the background. I get a bajillion news subscriptions in there that must be perused through in the morning before I make it to blogs :P

After digestion, my mom and I went to her gym, Nubody’s. This is an Atlantic Canadian-owned gym that was just bought out by GoodLife Fitness, which is my gym. So I didn’t have to pay extra to use it!

I opted for a treadmill workout. Their treadmills are set up right in front of a big window facing Main St, so it makes for good people watching.

On a 1% incline:

2 min @ 3.3 mph
3 min @ 3.7 mph
5 min @ 5.6 mph
10 min of 1-min intervals @ 5.8 mph & 6.2 mph
10 min of 1-min intervals @ 6.0 mph & 6.4 mph
10 min of 1-min intervals @ 6.2 mph & 6.6 mph
1 min @ 6.4 mph
1 min @ 6.2 mph
1 min @ 6.0 mph
1 min @ 5.8 mph
1 min @ 5.6 mph
3 min @ 3.7 mph
2 min @ 3.3 mph

This is one of my favourite ways to pass time on the treadmill. Changing it up every minute makes the time fly, and it helps me slowly run faster and faster. Except today, this didn’t feel fast enough! Last spring this would have killed me. This fall? No problem. Will go faster next time ;)

Afterwards, I did some ab stuff with my mom and then we parted ways for my lunch date with my dad :)

Guess where we went?

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Calactus!! The best vegetarian restaurant ever. Okay, maybe just the best restaurant ever. I also love that I got the telephone tower in the back, it’s like the “landmark” of Moncton.

My dad was starving, so he ordered a chocolate banana soy smoothie right away.

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For his main, my dad got, what else, the Big Marc veggie burger.

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I still maintain this is the world’s best veggie burger. I spent my whole high school years eating those things though, so I’ve been trying to branch out lately. Today I got the Extravaganza pizza which had tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, falafel, red onion, green pepper and cheese. 

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On the side was a beet & goat cheese salad. SO GOOD. All of it. Every last nibble. Even the salad dressing was amazing. I asked the waitress about it and she said it was a homemade blend of fresh raspberries, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. If you look closely you can see the little bubbles on it because it’s fresh from the blender.

Then I said goodbye to my dad and met up with my mother again for Costco!! We don’t have a Costco in Fredericton, so this was a very special treat for me! You can only find certain brands at Costco, and they also have amazing deals on some things.

Case and point – almond butter.

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That right there is a sight for sore eyes. And $6.99 for 24oz! Half that size is one dollar more at the Atlantic Superstore.

The other great thing about Costco is the abundance of free samples. As my mom put it “we ate our way through the store.” For the record, I had a piece of chocolate truffle biscotti, Stacey’s pita chips and Kozy Shack rice pudding. Nomnomnom.

I ended up with a pretty good haul:

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Not shown are some tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms and apples. I’m most excited for:

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Sabra roasted red pepper hummus. I thought I’d never tried Sabra before. But upon picking this up, I realized I had the red pepper kind once at a friend’s place in Halifax after a night of heavy drinking. Even in my sick, hungover state, I could not stop eating it and thought it was the most delicious thing ever.

Also excited for my beloved fontaine tofu spread.

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Two jars of cheap-o MaraNatha almond butter 

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$11 3lb bag of espresso roast coffee (my fave roast for regular brew) and a giant bag of my favourite cheesestrings. 

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I also got some Nana-time in before hitting the road back to Fredericton. Now I’m in my messy apartment, with a certain Christopher sitting next me. Not looking forward to the work week ahead, but finding some comfort in knowing I only have five weeks left.

Question of the day: Are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker? What flavour or roast? I will always choose coffee over tea, preferably an espresso roast or Middle Eastern blend (like a mocha java). I’m super sensitive to the caffeine in teas and don’t really care for herbals besides peppermint.

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