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Toronto Restaurant Tour: Round 1

Aaaaand I’m back.

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!! Mine was action-packed, which would have been fabulous if I wasn’t coughing up a lung. After two months of living out of suitcases, sleeping in strange beds, and literally traveling across a continent, my body is finally saying “enough.” Okay body, you win. Instead of exercising, I’ve been feeding it. There seems to be no better way to celebrate moving to Canada’s biggest city than a weekend of testing out all the wonderful food it has to offer.

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There’s a lovely place down the street that serves cheap big salads. I don’t use the term “big salad” loosely, it is definitely Susan-sized.

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They also have a wood-fired stove and have really good pizza. Lots of toppings, amazing crust. Good price. I can see myself coming here a lot :)

Also close by is this quaint little coffee shop, where I currently sit, filled with comfy chairs and a welcoming staff.

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Pictured is a chocolate cinnamon pastry of sorts. It tasted much better than it looks. Their pastries are all dense, but super flaky, which in my opinion is the best way to have them. Apparently they come from a popular bakery in Toronto called Miss Cora’s Kitchen.

Remember that giant enchilada from our first day here?? Well Sara and I got two more meals out of it.

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For breakfast on Saturday, we cut the leftovers in half and topped each with a fried egg. Voila! A Mexican breakfast! This was SO filling. Eggs + beans + cheese = no hunger signals for five hours.

Once again, the sustenance was required, for we had another long day ahead of us.

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Shopping!! Sara and I had big plans of starting on Queen West and making our way to the second-hand shops in Kensington. But we never made it off the first street!! I picked up some very cute items which I’m sure you will see over the course of the summer. My wardrobe was reduced to one suitcase before I left New Brunswick, so my circulation these days is pretty small :P

We eventually started to get the hunger tickle around 2pm. Sara mentioned there was a great place called Fresh around the corner and I jumped. I’ve heard all about this place from Angela!

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It’s a pretty popular vegan restaurant in Toronto that also offers up great juices. I highly suggest you peruse their menu. It was so hard deciding on something!!

I started with a juice.

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I’m not a huge juice person, but I thought it couldn’t hurt with my wicked cold. Went with the Immune Boost: carrot, beet, apple, ginger, vitamin C, echinacea.

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It was actually really good! Only complaint is that it was warm, could have used a few ice cubes.

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Sara started with a carrot coriander soup.

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Which I had many bites of, for the sake of “the sickess.” The toasted coconut on top was a nice touch.

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Sara also ordered a big salad, but I can’t for the life of me remember what kind it was. The crispy tofu on top was really good though!

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Fresh is famous for their “bowls” so I knew it’s what I had to go for. I settled with the Jerusalem: hummus, grilled spinach, tomato, cucumber, parsely, red onion, sunflower sprouts, olive oil, tamari, mixed herbs, lemon & chili powder.

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I asked for it on soba noodles, but they brought it rice. I also asked for marinated tofu cubes for extra protein. It was a huge bowl!! I couldn’t finish it. Which is saying a lot.

The waitress asked me if I wanted hot sauce and I thought why not…

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I have no idea what this hot sauce was, but it was good!! Fresh will definitely be a re-visit for me :)

The eating didn’t end there though, ohno. By 6:30 we’d made our way to Lemongrass too meet up with our Aunt Heather. Apparently it was the first Thai restaurant to open in the city!

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We all started with a spring roll appetizer, I went for the “non-crispy” kind with chicken.

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That peanut dipping sauce was to die for. Omg. It took everything I had not to stick my finger in it and just eat it that way.

The three of us then split three dishes:

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Holy Basil Crab. Delicious, but super messy to get into. The crab wasn’t shelled but covered in sauce. Tricky!!

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Bok choy. The token green.

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Pad thai. With chicken and shrimp. I’m not a huge noodle person, but really enjoyed this!

My plate:

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My plate, times two. 

Dessert was honey ginger tea, again, for the sake of “the sickness.”

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This tea was SO good!!! Not my usual kind of flavour, but I would get it again and again. I have a feeling they made it themselves with real honey and ginger, and not from a tea bag.

Me and Heather!

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Thank you for everything Heather!! I’ve already promised to take her out to “Toronto’s #1 gelato place” when I get my first pay check :)

The family bonding didn’t stop there. We then rushed off to meet up with my two cousins, one of which was my bestie growing up.

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Some of my best childhood and teenage memories were shared with Ellen! I’m super excited to be in the same city as her again. We’re amidst cooking up a stellar fitness plan, so I foresee more fun times in our future :) I may be leaving some family behind, but it’s pretty nice to be close to other family now!

In all, Sara and I were out and about for 12 hours yesterday, leaving at noon and returning at midnight. Thanks to a newly bought eye mask, I conked out for a solid 8. I could have slept longer, but alas, we had more eating engagements to attend.

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Sara was super excited about brunch today at the Free Times Cafe. As soon as we arrived, I understood why.

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The owner started chatting with us and said she started the Sunday brunch years ago as a nod to a huge brunch your Jewish grandmother may have made. Everything is made at the cafe, including the breads and smoked fish. Yesplease.

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First trip included pita, hummus, beet salad, a pickle, some crab cake thingy.

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Challah french toast and smoked salmon scrambled eggs. The french toast was my favourite of this plate. I’ve been told that challah is the best bread for french toast and I am now a believer!!

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Potato latke topped with an apple sauce and a cheese blintz topped with a berry sauce. The latke was amazing because it was deep-fried. And let’s face it, deep frying things makes them delicious. The blintz I could have gone without. The texture was weird and I didn’t like ricotta. Not for me I guess!

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Did I mention there was live Klezmer music?? There was live Klezmer music.

Second plate!

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I missed some of the breads the first time around, so I grabbed two pieces. One topped with a homemade smoked salmon cream cheese the other with havarti and smoked herring. In the back was my second favourite thing from the buffet – a beet and smoked herring salad. Sounds strange but it was dreamy!! I think the base for it was cream cheese or sour cream or something. Awesome.

The desserts!

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Not entirely sure what all of these are. The thing in the back is an apple streudel of sorts. The pinwheel in the front had a date puree. The chocolate square was like a chocolate mousse cake (excellent). That brown clump was pretty interesting. My first thought was that it was a butterscotch fudge thinky, but it had little sugary pieces in it reminiscent of cotton candy!! Sara said it could have been halvah, but I’m not sure if it fits the bill. Anyone out there know??

 

Well, that just about wraps up my first weekend of eating in the city!! I’ve already been exposed to so much new food, and it’s only just a small microscopic dent in what Toronto has to offer. However, once I hit publish, I’m walking down to the closest store to pick up a giant bunch of kale to make a green salad the size of my head. I am then going to lay in bed reading a book for the rest of the night. It would be nice if I no longer sound like I smoked a pack of cigarettes and downed a pint of Jack Daniels before my job interview tomorrow!! Operation: Get a Job is now in full swing. Wish me luck – I might need it!

 

EDIT: Don’t forget! There’s a Toronto meet-up happening next Sunday. E-mail me at thegreatbalancingact@gmail.com for details!

Goals and Reader Challenge!

A thought just occurred to me as I was uploading my food photos from today. Ever find it strange that other food bloggers say calorie counting is too much work? Or that it’s obsessive and makes them think about their food too much? Um, I don’t think anything requires more work or is more obsessive than taking pictures of what you eat and posting it on the internet. Just sayin’!

So last night I slept for 8 hours for the third night in a row. I had three people tell me that I looked good today, including my boss who asked what I was doing in Saint John because I looked “healthier.” Well jeez louise. Perhaps there’s something to this “sleep” thing after all? :P Okay, no more telling myself 6 hours a night is sufficient – 8 hours every night this week. If I blog about it, I have to do it. Anyone else with me??

All the sleep helped me power through a stellar spin class this morning. I was on my ‘A’ game and it felt gooood. However, realizing I forgot my post-workout iced coffee in my fridge at home was not good. Had to make a mad dash to the cafeteria for the hot stuff as soon as I got there.

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I love the taste of coffee, but I have to admit, I really don’t care for hot drinks. I think I may actually prefer it iced now!

Breakfast was odd but super filling!
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That would be a Maple Nut Clif and two boiled eggs.

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I really dug this breakfast. I’ll have to recreate it with my own bars ;)

Speaking of my own bars – I had a Cherry Dark Chocolate as a snack.

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Lunch was leftovers from last night.

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My hamburger/bean/tomato sauce mix was super duper filling and I didn’t even make it to the carrots. Beans are the most filling food ever. No contest!

After eating at my desk, I did the impossible. I drove to the grocery store, picked up a week’s worth of food, drove to my apartment and put it away, then drove back to work, all within my hour-long lunch break!! Phenomenal. I love grocery shopping on the weekends, but hate doing it on weekdays. I think I may have spent less money too because I didn’t have time to scour the aisles and buy random products :P

My poor office mate, I then subjected her to the stench of canned smoked herring this afternoon.

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On top of a couple rye crackers. The smell of boiled eggs seems to go away pretty quickly, but the fish smell definitely lingered! I eat and drink like an old man.

Came home to a fridge full of fresh ingredients, so a big ole’ salad was the natural choice.

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  • spinach
  • red onion
  • tomato
  • bell pepper
  • mushrooms
  • pickled beets
  • green olives
  • feta cheese
  • grilled pork chop (cut into pieces)
  • tzatziki

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My new favourite thing is pickled beets! Try ‘em! Beets are so sweet that they aren’t as “pickly” tasting as cucumbers. Also, you hardly need any dressing if you add them to a salad (although tzatziki never hurts).

I’ve been buying pork chops lately as my weekly “raw meat” purchase because they’re one-third the price of chicken breasts. Crazy! $3 for two chops, $9 for two breasts. I was asking my dad about the price difference, because he knows the answer to everything. Well apparently, he asked his dad, my Grampie the same thing. He went into this big thing about how the pork industry in Canada is in rough shape. They can’t compete with the high production of corn-fed pork in the States.

I’ve been doing a lot of research into the Canadian meat industry ever since watching Food Inc. Surprisingly, there are a lot of differences. For example, it’s illegal in Canada to use hormones or steroids on chickens to make them bigger, which we know is not the case in the States. Also, the Atlantic Superstore gets their beef from the US, which means it’s subject to all the things cows in the States are allowed to ingest. Instead, we deport all of our great Albertan beef! Boo.

 

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes! Monthly Goal Check-In!

1. Work on getting my car sold and apartment subletted. My subletter was here just an hour ago to sign an agreement!! Consider that one MAJOR check on my to-do list :D The car thing is going slower, I may have to get my mom to sell it after I leave in June…

2. Apply for a bazilion jobs in Toronto. Fail. But I did make some good contacts this week in terms of freelance writing work.

3. Take more initiative at work so I can finish my contract knowing I made a mark. This is proving harder than I thought! I already have so much on my plate, it’s hard to bring new things forward. I did knock off a kick-ass recruiting video last week which I’m pretty proud of :)

4. Learn as much as I can about personal training. I clearly did the best at this one! I already feel a gazillion times more confident AND excited about personal training after just one weekend of classes. I talked everyone’s ear off about it today :P

5. Run outdoors again. Check! Got my second outdoor run of the season in on Wednesday. A 4-miler in the beautiful evening sunshine. Unfortunately, the weather here as taken a turn for the worse. I woke up to snow this morning and it’s going back down to freezing this week. What a tease of spring!

 

Question of the Day: Anyone else in for a sleep challenge this week? I’m thinking a giveaway might be a nice motivator for this one. Pledge to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, then next Monday I’ll take giveaway entries by asking how many hours you actually got. It’ll be fun! Well, in a sleepy kinda way ;)

Old Soul

Can I just start off this post by saying I have the awesome-est readers ever? Yup. Even those of you that don’t comment, but keep coming back every day. You’re all awesome. I continuously spill my guts on a regular basis, and I continuously get great feedback. On top of that I get feedback that makes me think and challenges my established set of opinions and attitudes. Totally awesome :D

Guess what!? I woke up with the sun again today! Evening shifts will do that to ya. Except now that my body is used to being up later, I’ve got to go back to the middle of the night early morning shifts this weekend.

My oats were happy basking in the sunlight this morning.

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  • 1/2cup oat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • cinnamon
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 chopped dates
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • unsweetened shredded coconut

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Yummmm. A big ole’ bowl of oat bran is one of my favourite comforts :)

I was all excited for Body Pump class this morning. I’m trying to get more weight training days in my week, and I think including a weight class at the gym is a good way to switch up my usual routine (and keep those muscles guessing!). Anyways, I arrived at the gym to find they were halfway through the class! May-jah confusion on my part. Until I realized the 10:15 class I was looking for was at the other gym across town. Boo. So I wandered out to the machines and weight area and just sort of made it up as I went along:

T’was a good time! I wish I could go on the rowing machine again, but the last time I used it, my hips hurt for days. Now I’m kinda iffy about getting back on, and I loved it so!

After my gym sesh, Chris and I went out for lunch again. We both agreed anything downtown was out because eating down there at lunch time is a pain. Somehow we ended up across the river at my second favourite 50’s diner

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(Steve’s 50’s Diner in my hometown will always be number one). You may recall I ate here on the day of my triathlon, when I had a very well-deserved slice of recovery pie for dinner. However today I looked past the dessert menu and ordered an actual meal.

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The roast chicken special. C’mon, say roast chicken and you know I’m there. I may also be an old lady. It happens.

Chris was all over it too.

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These were HUGE pieces of chicken breast! Holy moly. I ate most of mine because it was delicious, but didn’t make much of a dent in the sides as a result. Digesting 1/4 of a chicken is hard work, but it was worth it :)

Plus, it’s real food!

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I’ll be back for that chocolate pie on the top right. Perhaps after my half marathon next time ;)101_0209

As a result of my giant lunch, I wasn’t very hungry for dinner. I tried to put together something small, but I was still stuffed to the brim with carrot sticks when I was finished (isn’t that always the story?).

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The pita is just a can of smoked herring mixed with a little laughing cow cheese and capers. Simple, and absolutely delicious. I love smoked fish. See? Old.

 

Today also wrapped up one full week of calorie counting. I promised I would share my thoughts on doing it again. At first, I was really into it. I was again fascinated by my stats and numbers. I get a real kick by seeing how much sodium I had, or how much sugar I consumed on fruit alone. The graphs are fun to peruse through, and it makes me feel very much in control.

Three days into it, i was so over it. Firstly, logging every bit of food I eat into a website takes a long ass time. Livestrong is a great site, but it takes a while to load. I had to do a lot of calculating to figure out I ate .424 of a serving, and weighed even my dates.

The worst part, for me, was the calorie “limit.” I felt like I had to reach it every day, even if it meant eating slightly less, or slightly more. I would see that I had “x” amount of calories “left” and think, hey! I can have a big piece of chocolate! when I wasn’t craving it. I was just eating because I could. On the opposite side, if I was calorie heavy in the morning, I found myself eating lighter in the day to make up for it, even though I was still hungry!

I think this part of it goes very much against the way I’ve been trying to eat. Ever since giving up calorie counting last spring, I’ve been working really hard at listening to my body and eating intuitively. Throw numbers and stats into the mix, and all that goes out the window.

With that said, stepping back and taking a look at what I’ve been eating for a week has been really helpful. It gave me the little kick in the butt I needed to clean up my eating, and get rid of the little bits of food here and there that were beginning to add up. I also realized that I’ve been eating too little fat and that I could use to cut back on my added sugars, and even natural sugars.

I will not be logging my food religiously after today. But, I will continue to use calorie counting in the future as a means to “check-in” once in a while. Make sure I’m listening to my body properly, and not getting too complacent with my food choices.

So there you have it! I’m definitely coming off this “experiment” feeling much better than when I went in :)

Oh! And I got an interview at Starbucks! Monday at 2pm :D It’s the location that’s managed by an old co-worker, who apparently no longer holds a grudge that I once took the store manager title from him. I’m hoping the interview is just a formality and I’m as good as hired. I was clear with him that I’m looking for a seasonal job to get me through till I find a more permanent position (whatever the hell that may be). Did you know Starbucks employees get a free pound of coffee a week? That’s worth it alone!

Question of the day: What’s your “inner age?” I’ve always been mature for my age, my family has always called me an “old soul.” I’d say I’m a solid 75 on the inside. Give me my knitting, fuzzy slippers, 9pm bedtime and candy dish and I’m good to go ;)

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