31 Dec

The 2012 Holidays Recap


I ate a lot of food and cooked even more.

Christmas Eve was the main event hosted by my sister and I at my dad’s place. We made sushi, spring rolls, pulled pork sliders, mini grilled cheese sandwiches with shooters of tomato soup, baked brie, and a bunch of other tantalizing appetizers.

Turns out, these Pear, Blue Cheese, and Toasted Walnut Salad Spears? Seriously good.

Pear, BLue Cheese, Toasted Walnut Salad Spears

Lots of Hot Yoga and Weightlifting

I started up my new 5/3/1 weightlifting routine of presses, squats, and deadlifts. It has been keeping me in the gym slightly longer than usual with all the reps on the accessory exercises.

My friend Jasmine got a pass for the hot yoga studio while she’s in town for Christmas so we went together a couple of times and I went without her too. Ahhh… I’m loving yoga.

I got what I wanted for Christmas

. . . a tea infusing travel mug from Matt.

Christmas Morning

It has a lid I can use to rest the mesh insert when my tea is done steeping and better yet, this one is a thermos to keep my hot stuff hot.

I also scored some gift cards to SportChek (I see hiking boots in my future!) and a nice cash-infusion.

I Experienced the Awesomeness of Fondue, again.

My girlfriends and I got together for a FUN-due evening while everyone was home for the holidays. We hit up The Melting Pot for the cheesy, meaty, and chocolatey goodness of fondue.

I love going here for dinner. It’s makes for a nice, long night out where you can chat while your skewers of meat simmer away in the pot.

Me and Cristina at the Melting Pot

The Melting Pot

I saw my cousin get hitched

I went to the bachelorette party last weekend hosted by my cousin’s seriously fun friends and then came the rehearsal on Thursday where I met more of her seriously fun friends, and finally this weekend was the wedding. . . which did not disappoint.

And I’m so happy for my amazing cousin and her new husband, whom I very much adore.

Jenn's Wedding  Jenn's Wedding

I filled up on cake and a lot of cookies so I couldn’t even try the late night poutine bar (umm. . . how cool is that?!) and then I literally danced for hours.

Jenn's WeddingGettin’ low is my specialty.

. . . And it’s not even New Year’s yet!

Oy. What a jam packed holiday.

19 Dec

5/3/1 for Women

I’ve been working on the same workout programme for about 3 months now, incorporating lots of Olympic style lifts and high intensity, cross-fit style lifting into my daily workouts read more about it here and here. It’s been great so far because my workouts have had a tonne of variety and I’m completely spent after almost every session (all that intensity!). I’ve been noticing more definition in my traps and biceps, and my legs are stronger than ever. All in all, it’s been great.

But I rarely stick with the same programme for more than 3 months. I like to keep a lot of variety in my workouts to keep my body guessing. My focus for the next programme is strength and body building. Normally I put together my own thing but this time I figured I’d try someone else’s programme: Wendler’s 5/3/1

5/3/1 Programme

This programme created by powerlifter Jim Wendler uses the basic principles of strength training and has been getting lots a good feedback on the internet for being a great plan for increasing strength. Says Wendler about the programme: “I want be able to do a bunch of different activities and still kick ass in the weight room. I want to be as mobile, flexible, strong, and in as good a condition as I possibly can. That’s how I came up with 5/3/1.”

5/3/1 revolves around the basic multi-joint lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press.

The theory is to start with weights lighter than what you’re doing now which gives you more room to progress slowly and build strength.

I’m concerned that my inflated ego will bust and lifting less than I’m used to might bring me down and psych me out of wanting to lift. But eventually I’ll be hitting will be better than what I’m doing now, so that’s what I’ll have to look forward to.

The plan is based on slow progress. You can’t progress quickly. It just doesn’t happen. I know this.

I had delusions of grandeur in January when I published weight training goals to increase my squat by 70lbs (to 225lbs) and my bench press by at least 50lbs (to my body weight). Umm . . . yeah right, Sam.

So I’m hoping this programme will allow me to progress a little more reasonably while still seeing some motivating improvements.

Here’s how it works:

You can do as many cycles of the programme as you like. You could practically cycle this programme forever.

Each cycle is 4 weeks long and you’re training 4 days per week—one of the major lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press) each day. The sets and loads used for each of the major lifts are:

Week 1: Warm-up, 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 85% x 5+

Week 2: Warm-up, 70% x 3, 80% x 3, 90% x 3+

Week 3: Warm-up, 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1+

Week 4: Warm-up, 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

+On the last set each week means really push for as many reps as you can get.

The base number used in your calculations is actually 90% of your 1RM (one rep max).

So if your 1RM is 100, then you’re calculating based on 90 so 65% would be 58.5lb(=65%*90%*100lb) not 65lbs. I calculated my 1RM from here.

Use this lovely spreadsheet to calculate your daily lifts for 3 cycles of 5/3/1: 5-3-1 Training Calculator

After 4 weeks, you repeat the cycle adding 5lbs to the 1RM for your presses and 10lbs to the 1RM for your deadlift and squat and then recalculate your loads. (again you can use this spreadsheet to calculate your daily lifts: 5-3-1 Training Calculator)

For a more detailed explanation check out this link

Accessory Lifts:

The core lifts aren’t the only thing you work on though. You also do additional exercises that supplement the major lifts and assist with your goals with plans like these:

Boring But Big. Main lift, the main lift again @ 5×10 (50% 1RM), and another accessory exercise for 5 sets.

The Triumvirate. Main lift, and two assistance exercises – 5 sets each.

I’m Not Doing Jack Shit. Main lift, and nothing else.

Periodization Bible by Dave Tate. Main lift, and 3 exercises – 5 x 10-20 reps each.

Bodyweight. Main lift, and 2 bodyweight exercises such as the pull up, sit ups, dips, etc.

For myself I wanted a “bodybuilding” style so I planned:

– Main lift

– Main lift in a different form (eg. squats + front squats, bench press + dumbbell bench press)

– 3 accessory exercises with a higher rep range (10-15)

What I’m digging:

I like the specificity of it. I know exactly what I should be lifting before I even get into the gym (or I should know, otherwise I’ll be hauling a calculator with me to the squat rack every day) and there is clear progress every week.

Lately my progress has been stalling a bit, especially on squat and bench, so I’m excited to see what happens on this programme even if it means starting lighter to get there.

What concerns me:

Wendler seems very specific about using 90% of your 1RM as a base for calculations but I’m not convinced. The loads that I calculated for my last set in week 3 (the one rep set) are weights that I can crank out for 4 to six reps of right now. What’s the point? Even after 12 weeks I won’t hit my current one rep max even once.

So instead I tried calculating my lifts based on my 1RM alone but the result seemed a lot more difficult in the second and third cycle of the programme and I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to hit the numbers.

95% of my one rep max looks like the magic number here. It’s offers the most reasonable progress. I’m going with that as the base of my calculations, at least for cycle 1, and then I’ll reassess from there.

My Variation of the 5/3/1 Plan:

Click the thumbnail for a Workout PDF of my 5/3/1 Variation.

P.S. It prints best as a booklet.

Cycles: At least 3 cycles (ie. 12 weeks) to start with. I’ll reassess from there.

Schedule: Mon: Bench Press, Wed: Push Press, Fri: Squat, Sun: Deadlift

Load Calculations: Base cycle 1 lifts on 95% of my 1RM then reassess the base number for my calculations (maybe I’ll drop to 90% of my new 1RM for cycle 2).

Accessory Lifts:Main lift , main lift in a different form (eg. squats + front squats, bench press + dumbbell bench press, etc.), 3 accessory exercises of the same muscle group with a higher rep range (10-15) varying from week to week.

Cardio: Tue & Thu: HIIT (sprints on the treadmill, spin bike, or in the pool)

I plan to start this week. I’ll keep you updated with my progress after cycle 1. (added: Read my cycle 1 recap here)

P.S. I called this 5/3/1 for Women because I am a woman and I couldn’t find a tonne of info online on women using this programme (here’s one and here’s another). It’s identical to the 5/3/1 plan because the programme isn’t for men only. Women can lift like the best of them.

Need More Info?

5/3/1 How To

Cycle Recaps

Cycle 1
Cycle 4
Cycle 5
Cycle 6 & 7
Cycle 8
Cycle 9
Cycle 10
Cycle 11
Cycle 15

17 Dec

Zucchini Rösti

Zucchini Rosti

It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.

So far I’ve done:

(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta

(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)

(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)

(G or H)White Chicken Chili with Hominy

(I or J)Juniper Berry Bechamel

(K or L)Kamut Brioche

(M, N, or O): Caramelized Onions

(P, Q, or R): Pomegranate Glazed Eggplant (Favourite)

(S or T): Fattoush Salad with Sumac

(U, V, or W): Food for the Gods – Date and Walnut Squares (Favourite)

This month we are at the end of the challenge with letters are X, Y, or Z. My ingredient of choice this month was Zucchini.

I’ll admit that what I really wanted was Yuzu, a tart Asian citrus fruit used as flavouring in Japanese dishes. I’ve never tried it before (at least not that I know of) so I wanted to give it a whirl in my kitchen. Unfortunately my local Japanese grocery store didn’t stock any and the clerk told me she didn’t know where I could get any this side of Toronto.

So I had no choice but to go with my fallback ingredient: Zucchini.

Also known as courgette, marrow, or summer squash, the zucchini is one of the many fruits-eaten-as-vegetables. It can have many culinary uses, but my favourite by far is in zucchini bread (preferably with chocolate chips!).

But I decided to stick with a healthier, and nearly as delicious, option this time around: Zucchini Rösti

Zucchini Rosti

Zucchini Rosti

A rösti is the Swiss answer to hash browns. It’s a big pancake made out of shredded potatoes, cooked slowly in a pan so it is crispy on the outside and soft in the centre. In this version I added some shredded zucchini to the mix to ramp up the flavour and the nutrients of this typically potato-only dish.

I served this one with a mushroom ragout and it was a totally delicious vegetarian dinner.

Zucchini Rosti

Zucchini Rosti with Mushroom Ragout

Zucchini Rösti


2 large russet potatoes

2 zucchini

2 T butter

2 T canola oil

1 t kosher salt, plus more to taste


Peel the potatoes and place potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boils and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain potatoes, and set aside until cool. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Grate potatoes using the large holes on a cheese grater.

Meanwhile, grate the zucchini into a sieve using the large holes of a cheese grater. Sprinkle lightly with a little salt and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the moisture. Gather the grated zucchini into a cheesecloth and wring out as much moisture as possible. (Alternately you can squeeze out the moisture with your hands, but it’s a little more difficult).

Heat butter and the oil in an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add potatoes and zucchini, sprinkle with salt, and mix well, coating potatoes with fat. Using a spatula, gently press potatoes, molding them to fit the skillet. Cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until edges are golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.

Cover skillet with a large inverted plate, invert the rösti over onto plate, then slide it back into the skillet, cooked side up; cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, sprinkle with salt, and cut into wedges to serve.


(Click for more info on Eating the Alphabet)

16 Dec

Plum Cake

It’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for this month was Christmas Cake.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

There were 3 cakes to choose from in the challenge. I passed on the Brazil Nut Cake and the Neapolitan Cake because they both were frosted and pretty-looking and as you know, I don’t bake pretty things.

So I went with the Plum Cake which, curiously, has no plums in it. The ingredients included lots of dried fruit and nuts so I was expecting (and excited for) a really dense fruitcake (I honestly love fruitcake).

This cake is actually a bit lighter than I expected it to be so if a super dense fruitcake isn’t your cup of tea, then this might be a better option. It has the texture of a dense muffin instead of a dense fruitcake.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

All the booze, dried fruit, and nuts in the cake make it a pretty expensive endeavour so it’s a ‘once-in-a-while’ treat instead of a regular one.

Matt was a fan of it, surprisingly; I didn’t think fruitcakes were really his thing.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

I took this cake to a house-warming party at the beginning of the month and got quite a few compliments on it. But, then again, almost everyone there was wasted and doesn’t everything taste good when you’re drunk?

So I liked this cake, but next time I might make a panettone or even Food for the Gods instead.

If we’re being frank, I still prefer a really dense, loaded fruitcake that’s been regifted 18 times. But, that’s just me.


Plum Cake


1 c Raisins
1 c Chopped Dates
1/4 c Candied Orange/Lemon Peel
1/2 c Brandy or Rum
1 c Unsalted Cashew Pieces
6 T Sugar
3 T Water
Lemon Juice ( a few drops)
1/2 c Boiling Water
8 oz Unsalted Butter, room temperature
2 1/2 c Powdered Sugar
3 Eggs, separated
1 t Vanilla Extract
2 c All-Purpose Flour
1 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t Ground Ginger
1/4 t Ground Clove
1/4 t Ground Nutmeg


In a medium pan, add Brandy/Rum, Dates, Raisins and Orange Peel. Cook for 1 minute on
medium heat. Add Cashews and continue to cook for 1 minutes until heated through. Keep aside.

In a small pot, add 6 Tbsp Sugar and 3 Tbsp water and few drops of lemon juice. Swirl pan to
mix – do not use spoon. Heat until sugar changes color and becomes caramelized. (approx 7-8 minutes). Add 1/2 cup boiling water and swirl pan again to mix well. Keep aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter and powdered sugar and beat with hand

Add one egg yolk at a time to the mix and blend well. Add Vanilla Extract and blend.

Combine all dry spices, baking powder and flour and sift it into the bowl, adding little at a
time and blending.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 9×5” loaf pan with spray cooking oil or regular oil.

Add caramelized sugar syrup a little at a time into mixing bowl and blend. Add fruit/nut mixture into mixing bowl and mix with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they are fluffy and soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into the cake batter.

Pour batter into greased baking pans and bake for approx 1 hour at 325 dgrees F. For
smaller pans, baking time may vary.

13 Dec

Regroup, Refocus, Reflect

Get Your Workout On – from Etsy

I’ve been feeling a bit bloated lately in a way that always makes me totally uncomfortable with how I look and how I feel.

It makes me start to second guess myself and all my healthy living progress and think things like

I’ve probably been eating too many cookies

I must be slacking in my workouts

I shouldn’t have cleared my plate at that restaurant

So before I start on a downward spiral toward fat talk and bad self-esteem I need to regroup, refocus, and reflect on all my healthy lifestyle habits as a reminder that, hey, I’m doing ok!

I eat breakfast every day.

I load my cart with vegetables at the grocery store.

I cook dinners from scratch at least 4 days per week and I eat leftovers for lunch every day.

I eat out once and maybe twice per week.

I prioritize exercise and do it regularly and consistently.

I keep variety in my workouts with heavy weightlifting, interval training, yoga, and steady state cardio.

I life-hacked a standing workstation at my office to reduce my sedentary time.

Given all that, I think I’m doing a pretty good job at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, no one is perfect and some bad habits have been starting to creep up that might need to be nipped in the bud:

I have been drinking a lot more caloric beverages lately– lattes, sweetened coffee, hot chocolate, or beer (umm… ’tis the season?)

I haven’t been taking the dog for as many long walks.

My fat consumption lately has been more bad fats (mmm. . . butter) than good ones (still mmm, but not quite so much. . . avocado)

Slowly I’ve been incorporating more processed grains into my diet whereas I was trying to focus on solely unrefined ones.

It makes me feel better to pause and say, this is what you’re doing right and this is what you’re doing wrong, rather than just flying off the handle and telling myself I’m a failure at being healthy just because I feel a little bloated. I’m not a failure. I’m doing a lot of the right things.

11 Dec

All I Want for Christmas 2012

My 2012 Christmas Wish List:

1) The Great Scandinavian Baking Book – I have an attraction to all things Scandinavian in a way that might suggest that I probably lived in Norway in a past life, so naturally I’m intrigued by this collection of cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Plus it`s a James Beard Foundation winner, so it must be a good book.

2) Bouchon Bakery – Recipes from one of the best bakeries in America. I’ve made some of Thomas Keller’s cookies in the past (like Oreos and Chocolate Chip cookies) and they’ve all turned out phenomenal.

3) Back to Baking – this is essentially a cookbook version of Anna Olson’s tv show Bake, which is my favourite foodnetwork show right now. She focuses on teaching a concept and basic technique and then gives you options to apply it to more complicated recipes.

4) Something Plaid – like this shirt, dress, or skirt from Tommy Hilfiger. I love plaid. Love. I walked into the Tommy store a few weeks ago and the place was covered in plaid. I pretty much wanted to buy everything in sight.

5) A Cute Dress – like one of these from Dorothy Perkins. I like the 1950s style, especially the fit ‘n flare cut which seems to flatter pretty much everyone.

6) A Waffle Henley – so warm, so comfortable, so perfect for pairing with yoga pants to hang out at home.

7) Deerskin Slippers – because I will put some variation of moccasins on my Christmas list every year until I get them.

8) CBC Radio-Canada Bag – is this not the coolest bag you’ve ever seen? I saw it at Pearson airport before our flight to Greece and I was SO tempted to buy it. Later, I cursed myself for not buying it because Matt’s tote ended up breaking while we were on the trip.

9) Soufflé Dish – I’m going to need one of these if I plan on making a soufflé

10) Tea Infusing Travel Mug – I like this Aladdin one because you can pop the mesh bag up when your tea is steeped. I have an old tea mug and I have to take the whole mesh insert out or deal with really, really strong tea.

What do YOU want for Christmas this year? Maybe I’ll buy it for you!*

*Under no circumstances am I obliged to buy you anything for Christmas.

10 Dec

14 Days of Hot Yoga

I mentioned that two weekends ago I picked up a 2 week unlimited pass to the new Moksha Yoga studio that opened up on Ottawa Street in Windsor.

The pass is for people to try out hot yoga before committing to a membership and was only $30 so I figured I’d give it a go.

The pass came with a stamp card with incentives every few classes you completed, so obviously when faced with a challenge I have to complete the entire thing.

2 weeks later, I’ve completed 14 consecutive days of hot yoga.


Hot Yoga

I haven’t been that into yoga in a while and it feels great. I feel all loose and limber now.

I like the classes a lot and all the instructors are awesome, so I picked up a 10 class pass as well.

But I probably won’t do all 10 classes in a row. Winking smile

05 Dec

My Walk

My husband’s new work schedule means I get to see him at the gym during the week now. This works out nicely for me because I have an automatic spotter. Last night he helped me crank out four 135lb bench press reps, three of which were solid and ‘all me’.

Matt’s usually easy to find at the gym because 9 times out of 10 he’s wearing bright yellow (the man has an curiously large collection of yellow t-shirts).

Unfortunately he never wears his glasses there, so him seeing me is an issue. Except apparently yesterday when he was running on the treadmill on the second floor:

“I saw you go get barbell clips* from the front desk downstairs. I knew it was you because you walk like a Muppet.

A Muppet? Really?


Matt later demonstrated my walk: chest sticking up, arms swinging wildly, strides short and quick. I concede that it could be somewhat puppet-like.

But that’s cool, I’ll take it as a (weird) compliment. It just makes me the most adorable person in the gym.

*Our gym keeps barbell clips under lock and key and it drives me insane having to ask for them every day. They must be the sterling silver kind or something because nobody can be so cheap that they can’t afford to replace a few barbell clips from time-to-time, right?

05 Dec

Winter Bucket List

A fall bucket list is easy to make because there are so many fun things to do in the fall.

I was scrounging for things to put on my bucket list for Winter to the point that I almost didn’t want to make one at all. But I thought forcing myself to do something fun this winter would be better than just tucking in and waiting for April.

Bake a Panettone (Check!)

Like This:

Panettone (5)

It’s everyone’s (read: my) favourite Italian yeast cake!

Maybe I’ll try a slight variation on the usual recipe: Coconut? Chocolate? or Gingerbread, perhaps?

Go Ice Skating

I’m a terrible skater but I still like skating. I haven’t gone in years and I think I need to remedy that.

Make a Soufflé (Check!)

Like this:

I’ve never made a soufflé before but I’ve always wanted to. It seems like it would make a good weekend dinner on a winter night.

Maybe I’ll try this recipe from Joe Pastry.

Or one of these recipes from NPR.org.

Or maybe Julia Child’s Cheese Soufflé

But first I need to acquire a soufflé dish.

Enjoy a Warm, Crackling Fire

Preferably outdoors, like this:

I don’t exactly know how I’m going to manage this one. But hopefully at some point this winter I come across a fire that I can warm up with. Maybe with my hands wrapped around a mug of coffee or mulled wine.

My dad has a woodburning fireplace inside. It may come down to me building a fire there.

Build a Snowman (check!)

Yes, really.

Watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (check!)

It’s my favourite Christmas Movie. I try catching it on TV every year, but two Decembers ago Matt bought me the DVD so now I can watch it whenever I want!

03 Dec

Changing Body Size Preferences

There was a psychology study done recently in England to learn more about people’s preferences for certain body types.

At the beginning of the study, all participants preferred images of ‘thin’ bodies. Then in the experiment, participants were shown series of images of women’s bodies in plain grey leotards. Researchers determined that participants preferred ‘thin’ or ‘large’ bodies when shown a series of images of thinner or larger bodies respectively. This preference shift toward the body type being shown occurred even if the images were extremely thin or extremely fat.

Basically, we like what we see.

So these images of thin women that are dominating every visual media form from advertising to Hollywood are just making us all like thin bodies even more.

Especially since those media images are of women who are made up to look their best. . .

Next participants were shown pictures of glammed up women. They always preferred these well-dressed bodies, fat or thin, regardless of the perception change that had already been determined by the series of grey-leotard bodies.

Our attraction to thinness has been learned: being constantly fed images of a single body type in the media is narrowing our preference to that body type. And it’s making all the rest of us feel undesirable and inadequate.

This study is not such a stretch. Body image advocates have been encouraging more variety of body types in the media for years in order to increase tolerance for bodies that are outside of the dominant ‘thin ideal’. Now there’s research to back us up.

Can you imagine if the fashion and entertainment industries embraced fuller figures? If we saw beautiful plus-sized models share the runway with their thin counterparts or if we saw glamourous but soft-around-the-edges actresses playing leading ladies with a thin supporting cast?

We just might appreciate the beauty of all different body shapes a little more. And we just might have girls grow up without hating their bodies.