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The Sandwich Queen

Anyone else out there obsessed with the Food Network as much as I am? The Iron Chef and Good Eats will probably be my two favourite shows of all time, but newer favourites include The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Top Chef, and surprisingly, The Next Food Network Star.

One thing that really intrigued me about the latest season of The Next Food Network Star is that the guy who won pitched the idea of creating a Food Network show all about sandwiches. And no, this is not Joey Tribbiani we’re talking about.

Who doesn’t love sandwiches? They are hands down one of my favourite foods ever. There is so much you can do with a sandwich (or pita, or wrap). But the components always remain the same: bread, sauce, filling. These days I find myself craving sandwiches more than any other food thanks to the chemotherapy. My body wants bread, more bread, and a yummy protein in between.

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This first sandwich is brought to you by my crock pot. My first foray into making homemade pulled pork. Up here in Canada pulled pork isn’t as widely consumed as with our friends to the south.

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This turned out to be SO incredibly easy. I started by slicing up an onion and put it in the slow cooker. Poured in 1 cup chicken broth I had leftover in the fridge (some people use water or soda) then placed a 4-5lb piece of pork butt in there. Set on low and cooked for 8 hours.

After the 8 hours are up, I shredded the meat with two forks and liberally dumped in my favourite President’s Choice Smokin’ Stampede Beer & Chipotle sauce (available in Canada only). I like it better than Diana Sauce now!

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Some recipes will tell you to dump in a whole bottle. Well, this is a 2L bottle, and I’m honestly not that big of a fan of too much sauce. I like the taste of the meat better!

Let the shredded pork and sauce cook on low for another two hours. After 10 hours total of patiently waiting, you can finally dig in.

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See? Nothing to it! And the result is amazing!! I served mine with coleslaw, of course.

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Served on top of a bun. I used the leftovers to make a pulled pork and coleslaw pita and that was even better!

I’ve also been experimenting with the classic grilled cheese sandwich lately. You may remember I went to a specialty grilled cheese restaurant when I was living in Toronto. Suffice it to say I think of that place every time I make my own grilled cheese. It has inspired me to ask myself “How can I make this grilled cheese better?”

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We had some leftover brie in the fridge from making stuffed hamburgers. I started with that flavour and ran with it.

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Adding some raspberry jam and pieces of roasted pecans, then grilled on the ole’ George Foreman.

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Heaven!! It may seem like an odd flavour combo, but it reminded me a lot of a baked brie you’ll see at parties.

Today I am off to the cottage to relax after receiving my fourth chemotherapy treatment yesterday. So far just feeling really tired and a little nauseous. I am also celebrating some FANTASTIC news I received on Tuesday. An x-ray taken two weeks ago showed the mass in my chest “significantly decreased” from 14cm (5.5 in) to 8.8cm (3.5 in)!!! That’s just after three treatments! Hopefully the cancer keeps responding well to the chemo and we’ll have this sucker blasted in no time.

Oh, and also, I don’t have smallpox. That was just me being dramatic. It’s an allergic reaction to something. Apparently my sensitive skin has become even more so while on chemotherapy. It’s clearing up with a steroid cream and some over the counter allergy pills. Another fun side effect to add to the growing list I guess.

Now I ask you – what is your favourite sandwich combo??

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!

Goal Oriented

Happy Waffle Wednesday!!

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Favourite day of the week? Maybe. Just maybe ;)

Started with this protein pancake recipe. I use pancake recipes for waffles and vice versa – the two are interchangeable!

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For the toppings, I started with almond butter smeared into all the little squares.

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Then slathered on blueberry yogurt and added a few black grapes for fun. Black grapes are my fave kind of grape. I put more thought than necessary into grapes. Including my extreme distaste for wine grapes.

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Speaking of grapes… see the condensation on that one in the front? That’s after being out of the fridge for about one minute. It’s HOT here today!! Well, I think it’s hot all over North-Eastern North America, no? Excruciating.

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So hot that after an hour of being in my apartment, this ($2.50) jar of coconut oil liquefied. Because of its saturated fat content, it’s normally partially solid at room temperature.

It should come as no surprise then, that as my roommie and I were tossing around ideas of things to make in the food processor last night, she jumped at the mention of frozen banana soft serve.

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She immediately grabbed a bundle of bananas out of the freezer and tossed them in the food processor.

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Two minutes later, we had a healthy (albeit, still sugar-filled) frozen dessert to cool us off.

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This dessert has been floating around the foodie blogosphere for a looooong time now, but this was my first time trying it! At first, I thought I would top it with marshmallow fluff. But after tasting a little off my finger, I realized it was already very sweet.

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It really had the consistency of soft serve! It wasn’t nearly as “banana-ey” as I was expecting it to be. If that makes sense. I think because it was frozen, it cut some of that distinct flavour edge off. I topped this with a little dollop of almond butter. But my roommie and I then proceeded to spend the next several minutes discussing all the fun mix-ins we could include next time.

Thanks to the heat, I’ve also been craving very simple meals. Simple is what I do and enjoy best :)

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Like this pita with sliced boiled eggs, baba ganouj and veggies. Eggs + baba ganouj is yet another killer flavour combo!

I’m digging these Pita Gourmet high protein pita pockets.

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140 calories, 20g carbs 10g protein per pocket. Only downside is the sodium – 480mg for one pita?? Whoa. Must be why they’re so tasty :P

Many cold salads have also been had. This is the one I had last night that was so good I replicated it tonight.

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  • lots of baby spinach
  • red pepper
  • tomato
  • red onion
  • mango
  • Trader Joe’s corn salsa (although, I ran out the second time around, so just sprinkled on red pepper flakes for a little spice)
  • 1 pork chop, grilled and cubed

For the dressing, I whisked together 2 tbsp hummus, 1 laughing cow blue cheese wedge, and a little bit of water to thin it out. Tossed all together and it was one of my best salads of the summer! I think the produce and meat were of especially good quality, the flavours and textures were fantastic.

 

Goals for September

It’s that time again! First day of the month, which means a new set of goals to focus on over the next 30 days. I encourage you all to do the same. One month is the perfect time period to complete new goals. Writing them down and checking in on them is a great way to stay motivated! Here are mine…

1. Get organized. I’ve already been working towards this and have made some progress. The time management session at the Healthy Living Summit made me realize that I need to get my butt in gear! I will (hopefully) be working two jobs, volunteering my time, freelancing, and working on many other projects this month. I need to get all that crap out of my head and start putting it on paper!

2. Professional development. I’m taking my course in Nutrition & Wellness this month, but I also want to put more hours into reading studies, fitness literature, shadowing trainers, and basically learning all I can to better my own training.

3. Turn on the oven. I haven’t done it in two months!! If the heat ever ends, I would like to start baking again and making more dishes in the kitchen.

4. Love my workouts. I no longer work out to look a certain way or to keep my weight down. I work out because it’s what I love to do. Exercises will be chosen not by how many calories they burn or what sort of results they will give me. I’m doing activities I love to do and look forward to :)

 

And with that, I leave you with a new workout! Click here to check out one of my many full body circuit workouts. You’ll get your full-body strength training in, while moving quickly and keeping your heart rate up. More to come!

 

Question of the day: What are your goals for September? Write them down and remember them – we’ll be checking in weekly!

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