31 May

Good Food: Soup & Sandwich

Good Food: Notable bean dishes that I’ve made recently.

It hasn’t felt much like spring lately, but the cold and rainy weather has let me stretch out soup season a little longer. Here are a couple of delicious recipes for soup and sandwiches that I’ve discovered recently.

Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup

Recipe from MarcusSamuelsson.com

I’ll double or triple the recipe next time I make this soup for 2 reasons: 1) it’s good. 2) it doesn’t make much.

I modified it by first toasting the spices in a hot pan until they were fragrant enough to make my house smell like an Indian restaurant. The result is a really flavourful, creamy soup.

Don’t leave out the lime, and don’t skimp on it either. It’s true of any bean soup recipe: the sourness from citrus juice is really what makes the flavour pop.

Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup

Udon Noodle Soup with Pork

Recipe from Williams Sonoma

I can’t get enough of thick and chewy udon noodles, but I think the thing that really made this soup fantastic was the broth that I used.

Back in January for Matt’s birthday we went to the restaurant Roast in Detroit. I didn’t feel ashamed to ask the waiter to wrap up the leftover bone from Matt’s phenomenal roasted pork shank dish, which I brought home and made into a really flavourful stock.

The foundation of Japanese cuisine centres around good broth, and the’re definitely onto something.

Udon Nood Soup with Pork Tenderloin

Pan Bagnat

Recipe from Food52

I very loosely followed this recipe for this Nicoise-style tuna salad when making sandwiches for my family this week. My dad’s cupboards and fridge always seemed to be filled with all kinds of olives and marinated vegetables so I put my access to good ingredients to good use.

Since I didn’t have a big loaf of French bread to squeeze all the ingredients between, flatten out under something heavy, and get ‘bathed’ in the juices from the salad, I served it on toast. So technically it wasn’t “pan bagnat” in the definition of the term (bathed bread) but it was still pretty good! A nice (or should I say Nice?) change from the typical tuna & mayo sandwich.

If you make your own variation of this, don’t skip the fresh basil. It makes the whole sandwich taste awesome.


27 May

New York City Cookies


I fucking love cookies

Matt and I stopped twice for cookies as we toured around New York on Friday because I really, really love cookies.

First stop: Levain Bakery.

Levain Bakery Harlem

Levain’s cookies are widely known and their CCCs even one of the 10 chocolate chip cookies worth travelling for according to National Geographic.

We bought 4 cookies for my cousins who we were staying with for the weekend and ate one ourselves: a Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie from Levain

The cookie is huge! And for $4 it damn well better be. You could easily share it 3 ways. Maybe it has to be that big to get the amazing consistency that they manage to achieve: a very thin and crispy outside layer with a chewy fudge-like inside that has more in common with cookie dough than cookies (mmm… cookie dough).

I wish I bought some to take home with me. In the meantime I’ve been researching Levain bakery copycat recipes. These ones looks promising.

Next stop: Bouchon Bakery.

The cool thing about Bouchon Bakery is that they have their own cookbook so you can make a lot of their recipes at home and save yourself some dough (pun intended). But if you’re like me and everything you make looks ugly, then maybe you’d like to indulge in a pretty macaron or cookie from time to time.

Bouchon Bakery Display Case

I’ve made Bouchon’s homemade oreos before, multiple times in fact because they are so good. I’ve made Thomas Keller (the genius behind Bouchon)’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as well and I’ve had the recipe for their homemade nutter butters pinned for far too long now without having made them.

So when we found ourselves in busy Rockefeller Centre in need of hydration and a snack we stopped at Bouchon Bakery which was also on my list of bakeries to visit in New York (yes, I literally have a list).

Better Nutter Bouchon Bakery

I ordered a Better Nutter, their take on the nutter butter, for $4 (apparently $4 is the going rate for a cookie in the Big Apple).

The Better Nutter was even bigger than the Levain bakery cookie (though, functionally, I can’t see why) so even sharing it Matt and I only managed to eat half. It was really good though. The peanut butter frosting is tasty and the oatmeal/peanut butter cookie is soft and delicious.

I’m definitely going to get another cookie at their Las Vegas location when I’m there this fall.

Which is better?

If someone offered me one or the other I’d choose Levain. Though I love Bouchon’s twist on the classic store-bought cookies, I really like cookies with chips in them and the cookie dough texture of Levain’s cookie. I wish I had one right now.

24 May

Red Rooster – Harlem

Our first stop in New York on Friday was lunch at Red Rooster Harlem.

Red Rooster Harlem

Actually, that’s a lie. Our first stop was eating cookies at Levain bakery but let’s just pretend that we didn’t spoil our lunch with dessert first, k?

I made reservations for Matt and I to have lunch at Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant in Harlem. The menu is pretty eclectic and you can tell it has a lot of influences from his Swedish and Ethiopian backgrounds with a bit of soulfood flair that fits with the Harlem locale.

Menu - Red Rooster Harlem

I was a fan of the casual, eclectic decor in the place, especially near the kitchen where recipes blown up and written all over the walls. There seemed to be a lot of personal touches everywhere including the bathroom walls which were covered in old framed pictures.

Red Rooster HarlemDécor in the front dining room

Red Rooster HarlemThe loo

Red Rooster HarlemIf I zoom in I can read the recipe for Swedish Kringle on the wall.

The place was bumpin’ for lunchtime (mostly tourists, I think). I was surprised by how busy the bartender was too. She was dishing out really delicious looking and sounding cocktails like it was happy hour. But it wasn’t, so I didn’t order a cocktail because drinking in New York is way out of my budget.

Mr. Samuelsson himself made an appearance during the lunch hour. He stopped to talk with and sign autographs for some really crazy enthusiastic fans at the table behind us. He passed over our table which was a slight disappointment and I didn’t try to catch his attention– I figured the poor guy probably never gets any work done.

I did manage to snag a creepy stalker photo:

Marcus Samuelsson

Matt ordered a burger. Patties are boring; I like my meat as balls.

I got Helga’s meatballs from the lunchtime prix fixe menu which got me a salad and dessert too for $25 (pretty good deal, IMO).

Red Rooster Harlem - BurgerRed Rooster Harlem - Helga's Meatballs

I didn’t try the burger but but the meatballs were pretty dang good. Granted, my experience eating Swedish meatballs may be insufficient to provide a good comparison, so I couldn’t say whether their namesake Helga would’ve been made proud. But I liked ’em.

The mashed potatoes on the side were awesome, which I can say with authority because I have significant experience eating mashed tubers.

Red Rooster Harlem - BurgerRed Rooster Harlem - Helga's Meatballs

I loved the salad greens which had these crispy, fried slices of garlic on top and a thick pistachio yoghurt underneath.

Red Rooster Harlem - Mixed Greens

I was a bit disappointed that the Cupcake of the Day was red velvet when I was told it would be coconut (I freakin’ love anything coconut, even cupcakes). That said, it was a really, really good cupcake. It was moist but dense (I much prefer a dense cake to a light one) and the cream cheese frosting was to die for (isn’t it always?). I just wished there was more frosting on top…and maybe on the side…and maybe in an IV drip.

Red Rooster Harlem - Cupcake of the Day

All in all I thought Red Rooster was really good. I’d definitely go back because the food was only slightly expensive but everything was very well done so it was worth it. I appreciated the comfort-food menu that coupled simple dishes with good execution.

Red Rooster Harlem

Red Rooster Harlem

22 May

30×30 Nature Challenge Week 3

Spending 30 minutes a day in nature for the 30×30 nature challenge was a bit difficult this weekend seeing as I spent 3 days in the most concrete of jungles – New York City.

I’ve never been to New York before and it’s not a place that I would place anywhere near the top of my must-see list (I prefer quieter spots to big cities when it comes to vacations) but the point of the trip was for Matt and I to visit my cousins who live there.

On Friday we explored Harlem and Midtown, naturally neither area is very green. We came across pockets of greenspace here and there in Morningside and the Columbia University campus but we never stopped in any of them long enough to relax. We were go-go-go on Friday with lots of sights to see an little time.

MorningsideEarl Hall Gate at Columbia University

Saturday we did a little better. We made the trek to the Northern tip of Manhattan to The Cloisters museum which is surrounded by a beautiful park and heather gardens. Not to mention all the greenspace in the museum itself.

I really liked The Cloisters. It was quiet (by New York standards), and had some really cool medieval architecture assembled from parts of buildings acquired from Europe. I especially loved how they recreated cloistered gardens and filled them with typical medieval plants.

Bonus tip: Admission to The Cloisters (and The Met, it’s affiliate) is $25, but that’s just recommended and technically admission is by donation. Being cheap we gave $10 per person which was much more reasonable.

Heather Gardens

Fort Tryon Park

The CloistersThe Cloisters

Sunday we got zero nature time since it rained all. day. long. It put a damper on our day in general but especially on any potential time spent outdoors enjoying whatever piece of nature we would have managed to find among the concrete.

Frankly we spent most of our weekend in New York eating delicious things: eating in Harlem. eating in Morningside, eating in Midtown, eating in Brooklyn, eating in the Lower East Side.

I hope to write a bit about all the deliciousness that was consumed over a 72 hour period.

16 May

How Heavy Weightlifting Works for Me

After posting my last waist goals update I’ve pondered the fact that I really haven’t been putting much effort into my diet. Yet gradually (very gradually) my body shape has been changing.

So I went back through my old blog posts to see if I could answer the question: “what’s changed?”.

The answer: my workouts.

From Fall 2011 (when I was training for my marathon) up until this past August when I started my waist goals, I wasn’t doing a lot of training with heavy weights and I wasn’t focused on building strength.

I really need a picture of me actually lifting weights…until then, The Beast will suffice.

March-May 2012 – Full Body Circuits

I put aside strength building to do full body circuit workouts. I had goals to increase my strength too, but I didn’t put any concrete focus on them. So I made myself a 3 day full body circuit which got boring fast so I switched it to a 6 day full body circuit.

I was also incorporating lots of conditioning workouts as cardio to get away from running (I had little motivation to run after the marathon in January).

June-July 2012 – Slow Tempo, Light Weight, High Reps

I decided to start working with high reps (8-12) and pushing less weight around. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I wanted to fatigue my muscles in a different way so I worked on this Tempo Weightlifting Routine which focused on slowing down my weightlifting and increasing the amount of time my muscles were under tension.

It was so. fucking. boring. I hated it.

Looking back I believe the combination of having just come out of marathon training and then choosing circuits with low weight and high reps is really what shaped my body in a way that I was uncomfortable with by August.

This is when I started to make some changes to my workouts and decided to set a goal to lose size from my waist.

August 2012 – Olympic Lifting

After watching the badass women’s weightlifters at the Summer Olympics I was inspired to start an Olympic Lifting routine.

I would hog the squat rack for my entire workout so it was the kind of routine that I could only pull off during the summertime when people forget what the gym is.

Olympic lifting opened me up to a whole new world of high intensity lifting. It made me sweaty and hungry and tired so it basically emphasized my 3 favourite things (sweating, eating, and sleeping). It was fun and tiring and although I wasn’t lifting anything very heavy I felt like I was making improvements every week.

It was about 2 weeks into a 4 week Oly lifting routine that I set my Waist Goals although I didn’t post about them for a few weeks after that.

September-December 2012 – Crossfit Football

I didn’t have a specific workout routine which is really weird for me so I had to look back at my Fitocracy profile to figure out what I was doing at the time!

It was Crossfit Football. These workouts start off with Olympic lifts or big multi-joint exercises and then end with a high intensity conditioning component.

I really liked this style of workout because it incorporated heavy lifting with high intensity in a way that worked better than anything I had tried to come up with up to this point.

…and then I learned about 5/3/1.

December 2012-May 2013 – 5/3/1

When I heard about 5/3/1 I knew it would be great for me because 1)It focuses on strength building and multi-joint lifts, 2)There is room for creativity with the accessory lifts, 3)Having my loads pre-determined really forces me to improve my strength.

I’ve completed 21 weeks of this programme so far and it is awesome. By adding a high intensity conditioning component to the end of my workouts, I’ve set this programme up to be just like Crossfit Football but with a stronger focus on strength improvement which has helped me blast through PRs.

Now I think if I put even a little effort into my diet I think I could whittle my waist faster but it’s tough-going to cut calories when your workouts make you hungry all the time and when all you really want to eat is cookies.

I could probably make some healthy substitutions in my diet without sacrificing my quality of life in the process. This is something I need to work on.

13 May

Waist Goals Update 5

It’s been 2 months since my last waist goals update, ie. my September resolution to lose 6cm from my waist.

Goal: 77cm waist; 85cm belly.

Right now I’m feeling awesome. My weight had been spot-on 170 the last 2 months but has gone up a pinch in May as my waist size has gone down.

I’m only 2cm away from my belly’s goal now but my natural waist is thoroughly enjoying an 82cm girth. :-/

Progress: (the measurements are waist/belly/weight)

Aug 15: 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/88cm/170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
May 15: 82cm/ 87cm/ 170.8lb

Since March I’m down 1cm in both waist and belly. Fab!

Aug 31Aug 31Aug 31

Taken Aug 31

Jan 28 (1)Jan 28 (2)Jan 28 (3)

Taken Jan 28

2013-03-17 (1)2013-03-17 (2)2013-03-17 (3)

Taken Mar 17

2013-05-14 (2)2013-05-14 (3)2013-05-14 (4)

Taken May 14
. . . why hello there, shoulders and triceps.

As a refresher, my game plan was to increase my protein, cut out white carbs, plan out my late night snacks, include a cheat meal every week (with dessert and/or white carbs), and opt for high intensity exercise.

How I’m Following Through with my Game Plan:

So, umm… basically I’m not. I haven’t been following any sort of protocol in April and May.

I’ve easily decreased my protein consumption to about 50-70g per day (~15% of my calories) and my calorie intake dropped naturally (though not significantly).
As I mentioned in my March recap, I feel and function better with more carbs in my system.

Those carbs that I like so much are usually in the form of beans and vegetables, which make up most of my diet. I’ve continued to limit my intake of refined carbs, but not to the point that I’m only eating them once a week. It’s more like 3-4 instances per week of either pasta or bread or rice. . .

. . . as for dessert though, I’ve been eating it daily, so there’s that.

For me exercise is easy to follow through with. I’ve added a tonne more yoga to my weekly exercise and, of course, I can’t say enough about the awesomeness of the 5/3/1 programme that I’m working through right now.

I’m making some ridiculous strength gains and weirdly I’m not bored of doing the same exercises all the time. . . likely because I switch it up with all the high intensity cardio-style lifting I’ve been adding to the programme.

Going Forward . . .

I really think I have to rein in my sugar consumption. Maybe I’m not getting enough calories so I go for the quickest, easiest source? Or maybe I just have a sweet tooth (…it’s probably that).

Waist Goal Recaps:

My Waist Goals
Waist Goals Update 1 – October 2012
Waist Goals Update 2 – November 2012
Waist Goals Update 3 – January 2013
Waist Goals Update 4 – March 2013

09 May

Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska

I love me some soda bread.

Finnish Rieska

Finnish Rieska is a flat quickbread (ie. leavened chemically with baking soda and powder instead of yeast) made in Finland that can be similar to soda bread, depending on how you make it.

Though Rieska is a traditional Finnish flatbread, its preparation varies across the country. Often it’s made with barley flour, sometimes it’s oat or rye, and even potato is popular. The thickness of rieska can vary too from cracker-thin to thick-and-bready.

I’ve never been all that interested in making it until I saw a version containing oats on the King Arthur Flour website. I love oats! Their flavour imparts a nutty quality that I absolutely adore in pretty much anything.

Finnish Rieska

Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska

From King Arthur Flour

This was my first rieska attempt and it turned out awesome! Instead of spreading my rieska batter thinly out over an entire baking sheet, I piled it up in a 9″ round cake pan to garner the “thick-and-bready” texture that reminded me of a muffin. This bread tastes fantastic with a robust cheese and if I sandwiched a fried egg in there too it made the perfect breakfast.


35g (1/2 c) rolled oats
113g (1 c) rye flour
128g (1 c.) all-purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
25g (2 T) sugar
57g (1/4 c) butter
1 1/2 c buttermilk (or 1 1/2 c milk with 1 1/2 T vinegar)


Preheat the oven to 500°F (high temperature is good for a wet dough like this).

Grease a baking pan or baking sheet. The original recipe calls for a 9×13″ baking pan which would make a thinner bread than the 9″ round pan that I used. I’ve seen some recipes where the dough is spread very thinly on a whole baking sheet too, so the choice is yours. Just remember that the thinner the dough the quicker it will bake.

In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.

Crumble the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until it is thoroughly distributed. Stir in the milk or buttermilk to get a very sticky batter.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and, using wet hands, pat it out so it fills the pan.

Bake the bread for 15 to 17 minutes (for a 9×13″ bread), until the top is light golden brown and springs back when gently touched.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack before slicing.

08 May

30×30 Nature Challenge – Week 1

This challenge definitely hasn’t been much of a challenge at all. We’ve been blessed with really great weather– warm, sunny, generally gorgeous– and with the endless rains we saw in April it’s been nice to finally enjoy the spring weather.


During the week I’ve been taking my lunch outside to eat at the benches we have under the trees at work. There’s my 30 minutes right there! I usually do this when the weather is nice anyway, so it hasn’t changed my usual pattern.

Lunchtime Eating SpotLunchtime eating spot

What has changed is that I’ve been trying to bring the dog to the park more often. I usually just walk her around the block, but this week, in an effort to get a little more nature, I took Bagigis to the parks nearby and spent a bit more time outside with her.

Bagigis!Bagigis has been benefitting from the 30×30 too!
(P.S. those are Matt’s hairy legs, not mine)

Also I did a few fun activities too. Matt and I went to Amherstburg for some ice cream & froyo took a walk down by the Detroit River.

Fro Yo at the WaterfrontNavy Yard Park

And one day this weekend I took my book onto the front porch to read; a tall Greek Frappe and a book about a spruce tree read while sitting by a spruce tree.


It doesn’t get much better than this.

. . . okay, maybe it does. . .

Zipline!Ziplining at the playground

So far, this is the coolest challenge ever.

02 May

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 5 Recap

I’ve finished 3 of 4 weeks of cycle 5 in the 5/3/1 for Women Training Programme, which means deload time!

If you’re unfamiliar, the programme focuses on building strength in the big multi-joint lifts– squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press–by increasing weight and decreasing reps each week (5 reps/ 3 reps/ 1 rep/ deload, hence the name 5/3/1).

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 Training

Main Lifts

Cycle 5

I set a personal record in each of the 4 big lifts this cycle. Every. Single. One. Guys, do you understand how awesome that feels? I dare you to try this programme and see what kind of badass you can be.

Deadlift: 230lb for 1 reps
Push Press: 120lb for 3 reps (that’s a small person I can hoist over my head)
Squats: 215lb for 2 reps
Bench Press: 140lb for 2 reps (without a spotter!)

But if we’re being honest I missed my goals for bench press (145lb) and push press (125lb) neither of which I even attempted, out of sheer fear of dropping so much weight on myself.

The push press is most terrifying. Just attempting 120lbs was making my heart race before I even grabbed the bar. What if my shoulder gives out? What if this thing falls on my head? I had lots of thoughts, mostly alarming ones, that kept me from trying for 125lbs but I’m still happy with what I did do.

Cycle 6

Since I missed my goals for push press and bench press I’m going to take two steps back before taking one step forward. I will redo the cycle 4 loads in cycle 6 and then go forward from there using the normal load calculations.

My squat and deadlift goals for cycle 6 are: 225lbs and 240lbs respectively. Yikes! I’m nervous already.

Accessory Lifts

As I mentioned in the cycle 4 recap after my big lifts I’m doing variations of complexes and circuits that I make up myself or steal from crossfit football. And that’s my cardio.

Deload Week

Finally! Week 3 really exhausted me and I was easily sleeping like a log for 9+ hours a night. It’ll be nice to take it easy this week and get outside more for my 30×30 Nature challenge.

Deload week means doing the same big lifts but with much lighter weights, so I may put two workouts back to back and lift 2 days this week instead of 4.


What cardio? I call that my accessory lifts.