31 Dec

Getting Ready for NYE 2010

Yesterday I had a terrible run. I’ve been doing almost all my marathon training runs on the treadmill at the gym because of the snow, or the cold, or just because I happen to be at the gym.

Anyway, I was scheduled to do a 4 mile with 5 minutes total uphill time (TUT). I was so exhausted after each of the 1 minute uphill intervals (I used a 5% incline) that I had to completely stop to catch my breath! And a spent a good part of mile 4 walking. I was thoroughly disappointed.

I did the run with my vibrams. Granted, I haven’t worn them in a while, but my ankles and calves were feeling good. The run was hindered more by my exhaustion than my soreness.

At least I ended my workout on a high note, with a great Vinyasa Yoga class. That’s 4 hours of yoga so far this week! Chalk it up!!

When I got home Matt and I wolfed down some leftover Manhattan Clam Chowder and headed to FreshCo to pick up some items for tonight’s wine and cheese. Matt had already taken care of buying the cheese during the week so we set out to get the ingredients for our appetizers: baba ghanoush, guacamole, and stuffed jalapeno peppers.

We did whatever advanced prep we could last night. I made some dough for pain a l’ancienne. Then I whipped up some of my famous baba ghanoush (okay, so it’s not really famous, but it’s Matt approved)

Matt, of course, made his own speciality: Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars!

And we also put together some killer Jalapeno Pepper Bites. I find Jalapeno peppers to be hit or miss. At times they’re almost mild and other times they are burn-the-roof-off-your-mouth spicy. These were burn-the-roof-off-your-mouth spicy. Yowzas! Lucky I love spicy stuff.

Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

Ingredients

16 jalapeno peppers
1 pkg light cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. manzanilla olives, chopped
2 t. apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Directions

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, olives, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Cut the jalapeno peppers in half, lengthwise, and remove the stems and seeds.

Smear about 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into each of the pepper halves. Refrigerate and serve chilled.


I’m going to spend the afternoon weightlifting – I better make it good since it’s my last workout of the year! – and preparing for our party tonight. I also have to plan my outfit. I think I see a blazer in my future!

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year. Please stay safe. If you drink, don’t drive.

30 Dec

flour girl: holiday wheat thins

Matt and I are hosting a wine and cheese party at our place on New Year’s Eve. I’m going to baking some bread for the event as well, but I decided to start with something easy that also complements the cheese: Crackers!

Don’t forget the crackers, Gromit!

(source)

Any other Wallace & Gromit fans out there?

The recipe called for milk and honey, but since I had some egg nog in the fridge I thought: It’s milky and sweet. Score! You can, of course, just sub in 3 oz. of milk + 1 T. honey for the nog and drop the ‘holiday’ moniker.

Holiday Wheat Thins

Adapted from Peter Reinhart

Ingredients

1 c. whole wheat flour (+ extra for adjustment)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 oz. egg nog
3 T. vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and form a ball. Place the ball on a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes adding extra flour as necessary to create a smooth, shiny dough that is neither tacky nor sticky.

Set the dough aside for 10 minutes to rest. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat and sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll the dough out as thin as possible on a large floured cutting board. Cut into squares with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.

Using a spatula, transfer the crackers to the baking sheet. They can be close, but should not touch.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan if necessary, and then bake for 5-10 minutes more.

I baked the first batch on my industrial baking sheet and the second on a standard baking sheet. The second batch burned 🙁

Make sure you keep an eye on the crackers in the last 10 minutes of baking because every oven and every baking sheet is different.

29 Dec

Back from a Holiday Hiatus

I had a glorious 5 day weekend complete with all the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. Matt and I were lucky enough to be off the hook for any Christmas breakfast get-togethers, so we just slept in and enjoyed the morning to ourselves.We did attend 2 Christmas dinners and a Christmas Eve cocktail event. Lots of food. Lots of drink. Lots of family. Lots of gifts.

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Now I’m back in the usual swing of things, that is, for the next 2 days until New Year’s. Matt and I are going to be hosting a New Year’s Eve wine and cheese at our place. I’m baking fresh crackers for the event and they’re in the oven as we speak! (More on those another time)

Now that I’m back at the (oh so quiet) cubicle farm I’m getting back into the swing of things with my eating and I’m actually getting dressed in the morning rather than just bumming around in PJs. I’m slowly easing my way into getting comfortable in my body again.

In Fitness, I hit the gym this afternoon for a lower body workout at the gym. In and out in 45 minutes. My legs were nice and loose after doing some Bryan Kest yoga with my friend Sarah last night which helped, but still a bit sore from a 6 mile run yesterday and an 8 mile run (8 miles!! Wahoo!) on Monday.

In Fashion, this morning I resisted the urge to just throw on a frumpy sweater and embraced a tailored blazer. I’m digging the blazers because I think they can be pretty figure flattering. Does my outfit today even match? If not, I’ll blame the fact that I did get dressed in the dark. Seriously.

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In Food, I chowed down on some leftover pureed rutabaga for breakfast. Not quite the same without the caramelized onions, but the warm and creaminess made a good breakfast.

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Lunch was kippered herring, a pear with peanut butter, and some soup that I threw together with arame and maitake mushrooms in homemade veggie broth.

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Dinner was scavenged at my dad and nonna’s place. Some hummus with pita and carrots, some leftover Chinese, a banana. I did find this winner. I think they were a Christmas gift to my dad.

Candied Chestnuts! Has anyone ever had these? They’re delicious. Soft, nutty, and very sweet. Mmmm… I ate 2 too many Smile with tongue out They made me happy.

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24 Dec

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies Re-Cap

Happy Christmas Eve everybody! There’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas 😀

(source)

If you’re still getting your sugar fix on this holiday season, check out this 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies Re-Cap. I’ve spent the last 12 weeks packing on the pounds baking delicious treats for Christmas. None of which actually lasted more than a couple of days in my house. Oy.

I’m going to just look at the pictures and swoon over all the deliciousness I’ve consumed in the past 12 weeks.

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies


Double Chocolate Chunk Biscotti

Chewy Ginger Chocolate Cookies (Vegan)

SuperHero Balls (raw & vegan)

Apple Pie Squares (vegan)

Candy Corn Cookies

Oatmeal Reese Cookies

Ma’amool B’Jowz (Lebanese Walnut Cookies)

Peppermint Bark

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dates

Mulled Pecans

Fudgy Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

Bailey’s Shortbread Cookies

23 Dec

get comfortable

Wow. Thanks everyone for your major support after my last post.

I got a lot of really sweet supportive comments from everyone. A lot of you are going through the same feelings about your body which makes me feel better in the sense that I know I’m not alone in my feelings, but worse because why do so many of us feel that our body is failing us?

A lot of you commented on how my weight training and running is probably causing my weight gain. Added exercise always makes me ravenously hungry, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case. I have been reflecting on this and trying to remind myself of all the great things that my body can do and how that added weight helps me do that.

My body is pretty. damn. awesome.

I can do a headstand in yoga practice. When I see a reflection of myself in triangle pose I’m amazed at how my body looks simultaneously graceful and strong. I can leg press 450lbs and do 3 full chin-ups. I can run 7 miles at a time. I can take my dogs for walks that are so long that she tires out before I do. I can hike the White Mountains.

So yeah, in spite of my weight, my body is pretty damn awesome. This is my new mantra to keep in mind so I don’t stress out about how I look as I try to get back to a comfortable weight. When I stress about my weight it only climbs higher.

I’ve also devised a plan to get comfortable in my body again (I work best when I have guidelines). My plan involves Food, Fitness, and Fashion (yes, fashion).

Get Comfortable Plan

Food:

While gaining weight from weight training and added mileage is a very real possibility, I’m willing to wager that much of my gains have been a result of not quite eating optimally. I’ve shifted to a primarily vegan diet and I know that I have not been getting in as much protein as necessary. I’ve also stopped taking B vitamins (my last bottle ran out months ago) which aren’t readily found in plant foods and are essential to maintaining metabolism. And I’ve been eating lots of Christmas sweets to boot : S

I’m going to keep eating a primarily vegan diet but cut back on refined carbohydrates and sugar. I don’t want to nix sugar completely so I’m going to limit myself to one dessert per week. I’m going to include a vegan protein powder on weightlifting days and I’m going to start taking B vitamins again.

Fitness:

I found that I was actually at my lowest weight when I was lifting heavy weights for fewer reps at the gym. This is awesome because I love lifting heavier rather than lifting light because, mentally, it makes me feel more powerful and confident in myself. I’m going to set up a new 3-day weightlifting routine (2 days upper body and one day lower body) that involves some heavy lifting again 🙂

Even though everyone says that marathon training makes you gain weight, I think being able to run 26.2 miles is much more of an accomplishment than losing a few pounds, so I’m going to stick with the marathon training plan.

Fashion:

I’m not very stylish. I spend a total of 30 seconds getting dressed in the morning. Not gonna lie, sometimes I wear the same shirt to work as I wore to bed the night before. Most days I dress like a schlup and I don’t particularly feel great about it.

I got the idea from Virginia who suggested that I wear clothes that fit properly so I’m not feeling down on myself every day because of my muffin top. I think it’s really a great idea. Now I’m not going to become Stacey London overnight (I have neither the know-how nor the means), but I’m hoping that if I use what I have to dress to impress I’ll feel a bit better about how I look and regain my confidence again.

So armed with my new mantra and my get comfortable plan I’m thinking that I can get back to a place where I’m comfortable in my body again. Here’s hoping.

21 Dec

confession time

Remember how I bulked up 3 pounds in 3 weeks with my drop set routine? That routine really was killer. I felt sore (in a good way) after each of my workouts.

Well, my plan was to shed that weight with my fat burning schedule by:

-more cardio
-weightlifting supersets
-watching calorie intake

Also a couple of weeks ago I started a marathon training plan to get more cardio inoporated (and of course to prep myself for a potential marathon in 2011).

4 weeks later and I’m even 2 lbs heavier. Major fail.

2 lbs doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you add that to the 3 lbs that I gained doing drop sets and the 10 lbs that I gained after my Bikini Birthday and I’m suddenly:

The heaviest I’ve been in years. YEARS.

You couldn’t pay me to wear a bikini right now. Bikini Confidence: gone.

I’ve been avoiding the topic of weight on the blog as I’ve been watching the scale slowly creep up every week. I’ve been in denial. I’m just bloated, I’m gaining muscle, This scale isn’t accurate, blah, blah blah.

Truth be told, I don’t look or feel comfortable in my body right now at all. I’m truly sad about it. I almost feel at a loss of what to do.

It feels better to come clean with how I’m feeling. I’m going to have to re-examine what tactics worst best for me to maintain a stable weight and determine where to go from here.

This is going to be a hell of a lot of work.

20 Dec

Gingerbread House

Last night I should have been wrapping presents. Normally I love wrapping presents, but this year I just keep procrastinating.

Part of my procrastination was productive: I headed to the gym for a 7 mile run! It’s my week 2 long run as part of my marathon training plan. It has been a really long time since I’ve run 7 miles so it was nice to know that I’m still able to do it, albeit 15 minutes slower than I used to :/ It took me 71 minutes to pump out the mileage.

I would have run outside since the weather wasn’t too cold, but I’m not a fan of running outdoors in the dark. Mainly because my favourite run routes aren’t lit, so unless I plan on sporting a headlamp, I’ll stick to the treadmill at night.

The other benefit of running on the treadmill is being able to watch bad rom-coms to pass the time.

Continuing the trend of bad television I came home and kicked back to a bowl of leftover chili from a chili cook-off that Matt and I hosted on Friday (Matt’s chili came in second place out of 8) while watching some Netflix. I turned on the first episode of Drop Dead Diva, having never heard of the show I thought the description sounded interesting. I expected it to be dumb but it was sooo good!

Does anyone watch this show? The premise is “A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty” according to IMDB. I was really intrigued after just the first episode and I wanted to watch more… but it was bed time. Some of us have to work this week. (I’m jealous that my teacher husband is on Christmas vacation, staying up late, and sleeping in)

On Saturday night Matt and I went to a friend’s house to decorate gingerbread houses and play “Things”.

Matt and I decided to deconstruct our gingerbread house into a gingerbread village. There was a lot of rainbow involved in our village which was reminiscent of our old digs in Church-Wellsley in T.O.

I hadn’t decorated a gingerbread house in ages! It was a lot of fun 🙂

Did you do anything Christmassy this weekend?

17 Dec

bailey’s shortbread

My sister Vicki and brother-in-law Sean went on a kick-ass vacati0n to Ireland last month.

Cue picture of adorable sheep:

(source: my sista)

Her culinary experiences there set her on a kick of cooking Guiness pies after returning home. But, for me, Ireland really brings only one thought to mind. Butter.

I’ve never tasted Irish butter before but I hear good things. Great things, actually. Apparently the cream that Irish butter it’s made from is better. Maybe because the cows are grass fed and the grass is greener on the Emerald Ilse. Or maybe it’s the magic of hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers and blue moons. . . But my guess is that it’s because Irish cream is 40% fat. Here it’s only 35%.

They even have a museum dedicated to the butter in Cork City. No lie. That’s some serious stuff.

So with Ireland and butter on the brain I set out to make the perfect Irish cookie: Bailey’s Shortbread. They are melt-in-your-mouth shortbreads iced with a Bailey’s glaze.

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If you have access to Irish butter by all means use it and tell me how the recipe goes. I just used whatever I had on hand for lack of access to the good stuff. (Where does a Canadian buy Irish butter anyway?)

Bailey’s Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Lucy Waverman’s shortbread

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Ingredients

Shortbread

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1?2 cups icing sugar
2 T Bailey’s Irish Cream

Icing

1 cup icing sugar, approx.
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4 1?2 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl.

Combine butter and sugar in a separate large bowl and cream together until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Roll 1 tbsp dough at a time into a small ball. Flatten with your fingers until ¼ inch thick. Place 1/2 inch apart on buttered baking sheets.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until creamy coloured and firm to the touch. Cool on wire racks.

Stir together icing sugar, butter and milk in a small bowl. Add a little more icing sugar if necessary to make it spreadable.

Spread icing over cookies. Let cool completely before serving*.

*Note: I tasted one of these cookies while it was still warm and the flavour of the liqueur didn’t shine through as much as I had hoped. Once the cookie cooled to room temperature the taste improved. Hat tip to my friend Jasmine for pointing that out to me.

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This recipe is part of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies being hosted by Abby Sweets.

Week 11: Fudgy Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars
Week 10: Mulled Pecans
Week 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Dates
Week 8: Peppermint Bark
Week 7: Lebanese Walnut Cookies
Week 6: Oatmeal Reese Cookies

Week 5: Candy Corn Cookies
Week 4: Apple Pie Squares (Vegan)
Week 3: Superhero Balls (Raw & Vegan)
Week 2: Chewy Spiced Ginger Cookies (Vegan)
Week 1: Double Chocolate Biscotti

16 Dec

How to Make Dulce de Leche

Something inside me has been craving 2 terrible terrible things. Butter and sugar. (I know, I know, aren’t I supposed to be eating healthy for my Holiday Health Challenge?) In my baking frenzy on the weekend both of the cookie recipes I made were shortbread types (read: butter and sugar heavy) and I must admit that a LOT of cookie dough was eaten in the process. (Yes, I’m a stress eater.)

One of my kitchen creations was Millionaire Bars (aka Twix bars in some circles). After seeing Estela’s dulce de leche bars I was inspired to make something with the sweet, milky, caramelly gooeyness of dulce de leche.

Dulce de Leche is ridiculously easy to make at home but in a fleeting moment of laziness at the grocery store I carted a jar of the pre-made stuff. Matt reminded me why I shouldn’t buy it. “Oh just make it at home! What’s really in that jar anyway?” He was right. The prepared dulce de leche was full of preservatives so I came away with condensed milk instead.

Just four lonely ingredients.


How to Make Dulce de Leche:

1. Take an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk and peel off the label.

2. Place the unopened can into a pot and fill it with water until the can is submerged by at least 1″ of water.

3. Bring the water to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer for 2 hours, making sure the can is always covered with water.  (Keep some extra simmering water nearby to add to the pot in case some water evaporates.)

5. Let the can cool completely in the water bath.

6. Once cooled you have Dulce de Leche!

Creamy, sweet, caramelized milkiness.

15 Dec

flour girl: falling flat

Sunday evening I was caught up in a baking frenzy. Frenzy.

It was mostly to bring down my blood pressure after driving all across the city on terribly snowy roads to get all my Christmas shopping done. When you hate driving in snow, detest shopping, and loathe the mall at Christmas it makes for a stress-inducing afternoon.

So I set to whipping up 2 different types of cookies and my favourite sprouted grain bread. Maybe it was the cloud of flour in the air that hindered my awareness, or possibly the fact that the oven was working overtime and the kitchen was heating up like a sauna but before I knew it my lovely rising dough fell flat 🙁

Flat as a pancake.


Normally this wouldn’t worry me all that much, but Matt was bringing this bread to a staff party and I was hoping to impress with my baking skills. An over-risen dough bakes to be tough and gummy– not very impressive.

So if you ever get yourself in the situation where you forget about your dough and come back to find it looking like it was steamrolled, never fear it can be saved.

How to fix an over-risen dough:

1. Punch down the dough.
2. Knead the dough by hand for ~2 minutes to remove all air bubbles.
3. Shape the dough into the desired form, spray with oil, and cover with a clean tea towel.
4. Place the dough into a oven warm oven to proof. (Pre-heat the oven to the lowest temperature setting you have and then turn it off before placing the dough inside. I like to keep the oven door open a crack so that the bread doesn’t get too warm.)
5. Depending on the warmth of the environment, the dough should rise again within 1-2 hours.
6.
If the dough doesn’t rise then the yeast is dead and it probably can’t be salvaged. Roll out the dough thinly onto a floured surfaced, cut into squares, and bake. Congratulations you have made crackers.

Luckily I was able to salvage this dough. After only 20 minutes in a warm oven it rose beautifully once again:

And after 45 minutes of baking voila, a beautiful loaf of sprouted grain sandwich bread.

Ezekiel, eat your heart out.