18 Feb

Fat Tuesday

I definitely got my share of fat in today. I started out with paczki at work then had bacon for dinner, and rounded off the day with homemade beignets!

I cheated and didn’t make the beignets from scratch.

Beignets (2)

Instead, I made it with Cafe du Monde beignet mix I got from my dad and his fiancee when they went to New Orleans last fall. I figured there probably could not be a better time to use it than Mardi Gras.

The beignets turned out really tender and fluffy but not as sweet as I was expecting (a liberal hand with the powdered sugar was a must, and a sprinkle of cinnamon was a nice touch).

Beignets

I think my oil was a little on the hot side, so next time I’ll have to do a better job of regulating the temperature. But next time won’t be for at least 40 days because I’m giving up sweets for Lent. Again.

I have a monster sweet tooth, so this will be tough as usual but I’ll do my best. It’ll just make Easter all that much sweeter.

17 Mar

Nutella Banana Rolls

So I haven’t been doing too well with my Sugar Free Lent these last couple of weeks. My sugar cravings have come back and I’ve been sampling more and more desserts. Also I’ve been caving completely on Sundays (because, technically, Sunday’s don’t count). Today for instance I had a piece of pie and ice cream, and I sweetened my coffee with cinnamon sugar.

It’s rough.

Last Sunday I ate these:

Nutella Banana Rolls

Nutella Banana Rolls

This is one of Matt’s favourite types of bread that I make.

Use a soft white bread dough (like this one)

Roll it out with a rolling pin into a big rectangle

Spread nutella and mashed banana on top

And then roll it up like a cinnamon bun.

You can either bake it as a loaf or cut it into buns (cinnamon bun style) and bake it that way. 350F for 30min or so should do the trick.

Spread nutella on top after it’s baked for extra luxuriousness. It totally hits the spot.

Nutella Banana Bread as a loafThis version was made as a loaf

01 Mar

Lent Update

We’re over 2 weeks into Lent and I figured I’d give a little check in.

No sugar and no judgement. I’ve somehow decided it would be a good idea to remove from my life the keystones that my whole self is built upon.

no sugar

On my Sugar Free eating:

So far so good. For the most part.

I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t been checking that everything I eat is completely sugar-free but my focus is more on ensuring that I stay away from obvious sweets than the sugar in my crackers or my nonna’s pasta sauce.

But I have been staying away from desserts. My dessert cravings may have decreased a little (a very little) but not my sugar cravings. I’ve been eating tonnes of fresh and dried fruit to keep my taste buds satisfied . . . but I could really, really go for a cookie right now. I miss cookies hard.

On Being Judgmental

Also, for Lent I’ve been trying to better myself by attempting to be less judgmental. I know it’s not exactly a switch that you can turn off, but at least I can be more aware of times that I’m being judgmental and I try to let it go.

So when a girl beside me in the change room at the gym spritzes perfume and lint rolls her yoga pants, my initial reaction is to roll my eyes in annoyance at the necessity of a pre-workout beauty routine. But then I think

“Let it go. Why is this your business anyway? There’s nothing wrong with her wanting to look good.

Besides, she’s probably thinking you’re a smelly slob who should put on deodorant anyway.”

I guess being less judgmental is making me self conscious by thinking other people are judging me. . .
hmmm . . . I don’t think that’s how this thing is supposed to work.

20 Feb

Date & Peanut Truffles

Date & Peanut Truffles -sugar free, super easy, and just 4 ingredients

Since Lent started last week and while I < em>been craving sugar, it’s not as much as I expected to.

. . . perhaps because I’ve been substituting sugar with more than my fair share of nuts and dried fruit. But in an attempt to stop myself from just eating them by the handful I decided make little truffles.

These are similar to the rosemary sea salt larabars that I’ve made before. They’re super easy. It’s just dried fruit and nuts in the food processor and formed into balls.

You can really do any fruit and nut combination. You can add spices or herbs or cocoa or flavour extracts. Anything goes.

For the nuts, I really like peanuts because they process smoother than almonds or other nuts. But any nut will do.

Apricot & Peanut Truffles. . . this version was made with apricots instead of dates

For the dried fruit, dates work best because they are sticky and smooth and hold together well when processed. I made this same recipe twice, one with dates and once where I subbed apricots for the dates. I preferred both the flavour and the texture of the date balls better so that’s the recipe I’m putting here.

Date & Peanut Truffles -sugar free, super easy, and just 4 ingredients

Date & Peanut Truffles

makes about 15 balls

170g/6oz pitted dates
85g/3oz unsalted peanuts
a dash of sea salt
28g/1oz unsweeted shredded coconut

In a food processor, blend the dates, peanuts, and salt for 3-5 minutes until the mixture comes together into a smooth paste. Form with wet hands into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the shredded coconut.

13 Feb

Lent 2013

It’s Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras, aka Paczki Day, aka Shrove Tuesday, aka one of my favourite days of the year.

Our social committee at work gave away paczki which was amazing because I wasn’t planning on buying any but I wanted one really badly. It was a good start to my day.

Dinner, naturally, was pancakes and sausage. I made these Swedish Pancakes from the NY Times. The recipe uses whipped egg whites to leaven the batter which made for some really light pancakes, but I found that they collapsed and lost a lot of their lift when I put them in a low oven to keep warm. They’re at their most delicious right out of the pan, which makes it tough to prepare them for more than one person.

So with today being Mardi Gras that can only mean tomorrow is Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent, the annual Christian 40 day diet fasting period.

As with last year and the 2 years before that I’m giving up sugar for Lent.

No more cookies or jam or candies or vanilla spice lattes. No more sugar at all. Not for the next 40 days at least.

I find giving up sugar extraordinarily hard. Harder than going vegan (’cause vegans can eat sugar) but I’m going to do my very, very best to stick with it.

Also for Lent I want to work on being less judgmental. I catch myself judging others a lot. I’m not a very empathetic person and I want to change that (or at least be more aware of it). I want to try to be more open-minded to what makes people do whatever it is I’m judging them for. I think it could make me a much more understanding person.

What are you giving up for Lent?

11 Apr

Sugar-Free Lent

My sugar-free Lent went fairly well. I cheated a few times with hard candies if my sugar craving was really bad and I started to get lax about the sugar-laden condiments, like ketchup or plum sauce, the closer it got to Easter but for the most part I did okay.

I broke my fast at my family’s dinner celebration on Good Friday. Actually, that’s a lie. I broke my fast on Holy Thursday when someone at work offered me a mini cinnabon and I thought, “eh, why not? I’ve never had one before” and gave it a try. Oh heavens! That frosting they use is delicious.


So I broke fast again on Friday with my sister’s homemade birthday cake (that I somehow neglected to take a picture of, I swear I took one!)

2 layers of delicious chocolate cake

filled with strawberry curd

and frosted with white buttercream

Mmmmmm…cake.


And I also had some of the Colomba di Pasqua that I made.

Colomba di Pasqua means Easter Dove. It’s an Italian yeasted bread with candied fruit and raisins that is shaped like a dove and served at Easter. My favourite part is the topping which is a sweet paste of ground almonds, egg whites, almond extract, and sugar that makes the colomba taste like it’s covered in amaretti cookies.

Colomba di Pasqua

I tried to make my colomba tropical by adding in shredded coconut and candied pineapple that I soaked in coconut rum straight from the Philippines. I thought it turned out quite good!

And I actually learned to properly shape the colomba so it actually looks like a dove.

Sort of. Kind of. You see it don’t you?


dairy freez

Saturday I broke my fast again with Matt when we drove all the way out to the Dairy Freez in Cottam for ice cream. I haven’t been to the Dairy Freez since I was a kid.

It may be blasphemous to say but I think I prefer the sundaes at Dari DeLite on Howard Ave.


On our way home from the Freez we stopped at Schinkel’s in Essex where I found the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten (and yet another way to break my sugar fast):

Speculaaspasta

Speculaaspasta!

What is speculaaspasta you ask? It’s a creamy, smooth spread made from speculaas, you know, the Dutch gingerbread that I deemed to be my new favourite cookie this year. Yes, a spread made from cookies. It’s genius.

It’s a little on the pricey side at $6.50 for this wee jar, but it was definitely worth the money to taste it. I’m not entirely sure how to use it. Mostly I’ve just been eating it by the spoonful out of the jar. I tried some on my colomba and it was heavenly. I can imagine it being very good stirred into vanilla ice cream. My Dutch friend Heather said that her grandparents ate it on thick round crisps.

Speculaaspasta

Matt said he like it, but he is still firmly rooted in Camp Nutella, whereas I might be a Camp Speculaaspasta convert. I apologize to my Italian heritage.

07 Apr

Happy Easter 2012

My favourite part about Easter is the Lebanese food. I spend all year waiting to eat these:

Kabeb

Kabeb courtesy of my Aunt Randa. It’s like fried kibbeh but isn’t made with meat and it’s stuffed with onions, raisins, and nuts.

I devoured two for breakfast this morning.

My aunt also made us a big batch of makhlouta, a Lebanese bean soup with bulgur and little dough balls inside. That was my lunch this afternoon.

Another Easter favourite of mine is bukho (or m’jaddara) which is a lentil, rice, and caramelized onion dish which I made for Matt and I a few times already during Lent.

Easter is the best time of year for Lebanese food. : d

I hope everyone has a great Easter this weekend!


Oh, and happy birthday to my older sister Victoria who turns 29 today!

DSCF6794

Vicki at Creemore Springs

20 Mar

Running Pains and Other Updates

DSCF7432

I’ve been having some shin and calf pain lately when I run. It’s really weird. Besides the occasional muscle soreness, I’ve never had any pain from running before.

Last week on a 3-miler my legs were sore enough for me to make a mental note not to run on the weekend. My mental notes are hardly reliable, so of course when Matt asked me on Saturday morning if I wanted to go for a run with him I forgot immediately. (Running with Matt rarely happens and I always jump at the chance when it does.)

About 5 paces into the our run, I remembered my mental note.

Matt is a pretty fast runner, so luckily we were keeping the pace slower than normal otherwise I might have been limping back to the house. I spent the rest of Saturday icing my shins and calves, hoping for the best, and wondering how the pain happened in the first. I haven’t even been running all that much, maybe 10 or 12 miles a week. Could it be my circuit training?

In any case, I plan to not run at all this week. Instead I’m going spend my cardio days in spinning class at the gym, and maybe take an extra yoga class if I can find the time. It’s been a while since I’ve taken spinning and it will be nice to do a group exercise class again for a change of pace.

In other news, my sugar-free Lent has been going alright. I have had a few candies here and there and once I ate some strawberry yoghurt without even thinking about it, but otherwise I’ve been eating a lot of fruit and dates to satisfy my sweet tooth. My favourite sweet snack has been a frozen banana blended with cocoa powder in the food processor until it gets to an ice cream consistency. It’s almost as good as ice cream.

On the guitar-playing front, I recently picked up an electronic tuner so my music sounds tolerable, and a capo so I can sing along with the right pitch. It’s made a huge difference and now I’ve moved on from playing just Wonderwall.

I’m learning Turn the Page by Bob Seger and Hurt by Johnny Cash. My fingertips are starting to get callused but not so much that I can play for longer than about 40 minutes without  them hurting too much. At which point I just give up, eat my chocolate banana ice cream, and call it a night.

22 Feb

Visit to the Shedd Aquarium

For the long Family Day weekend Matt and I visisted my sister Vicki and brother-in-law Sean in Illinois. It’s been about six months since the last time visited.

We brought Bagigis with us to play with her little doggie cousin, Ruxin. In retrospect, that might have been a mistake. Aside from one night when my sister fell asleep on the floor with the pups beside her, the dogs were terrors in the middle of the night– chasing each other and fighting in the middle of the night and scratching at our doors keeping us awake. Lesson learned: sleep on the floor next time. Or, ya know, bring the crate.

(source)

We spent the better part of the weekend watching almost all of Season 1 of the Game of Thrones. I read the book last year and thought they did a really good job with the casting and the settings, keeping it true to the book (for the most part). The books are long though so I’m not sure if I’ll read the rest or just watch the series.

Saturday afternoon the four of us went to the gym. Vicki teaches group exercise classes and she set up a circuit of 8 exercises in the aerobics room:

We followed up by playing a bit of basketball (which I haven’t done since I was 14) and stayed at the gym until it closed.

Sunday afternoon involved heading into Chicago, eating Jimmy John’s subs, and visiting the Shedd Aquarium.

Shedd Aquarium
Vicki and Sean in front of the Shedd Aquarium

It’s member appreciation month and since Vicki is a member she got to bring Matt and I for $5 each. A steal! We had to cut our visit short though since Sean got a call halfway through our visit from his landlord complaining about the dogs crying. That was all Bagigis, I’m sure. She’s a big suck that cries whenever we leave her somewhere.

Chicago
Matt and I in front of the Shed Aquarium

At least we got to see most of the exhibits- the jellies and the sea otters were my favourites- though we missed out on the sharks and the coral reef.

(Click for Larger Pictures)

JelliesShedd AquariumShedd AquariumJelliesJelliesShedd Aquarium


Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

In typical Fat Tuesday fashion, tonight’s dinner included oatmeal pancakes with maple syrup :-d

I used a combination of oats, oat bran, and flour in these pancakes.

Pancakes

Every Lent I practice some form of self denial. This year I’m giving up sugar starting tomorrow.

It’s going to be tough. I always always have cravings for sweets and I think those cravings will be tough to quash. Here’s hoping I can make it through all forty days : /

21 Feb

day 26: cinnamon buns and solid food

Sunday means brunch at my in-laws. Brunch means solid food.  I was very excited to have brunch today: an english muffin with pb, cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, and couple of home-fries.  Mmmmm.

I also brought my homemade cinnamon buns to share with the in-laws at brunch today. I got this recipe from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice baking book as I’m trying to bake my way through the whole book for the BBA Challenge put on my Pinch My Salt‘s blog. I didn’t frost them because I forgot to buy powdered sugar, but Matt’s mom prefers them un-frosted anyway.


On to the green smoothies:

Breakfast Smoothie:


  • 4 c. red swiss chard
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 3 Medjool dates
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tbsp greens powder
  • 2 c. water

Verdict: The dates add a great sweetness to this smoothie. The cucumber gives a cool, refreshing taste but it’s a bit overpowering. I think I would use less cucumber and maybe add more chard or a more neutral tasting green vegetable, like celery.

Dinner Smoothie:


  • 4 c. spinach
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 clementine, juiced
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 tsp psyllium hulls
  • 1 tsp greens powder
  • 2 c. water

Verdict: Too watery. I always add 2 cups of water but for some reason this “smoothie” was more like a juice. The taste was predominantly ginger and cilantro, so if you don’t like cilantro (which, apparently, many people don’t) then you might want to substitute something else. A few sprigs of mint, perhaps?


Lent weekend 1: complete. I think I did really well with my green smoothie drinking this weekend. I didn’t ever feel full but I never felt like I was starving either. I definitely had cravings, though. I hated how the liquid meals affected my bladder that I was almost wishing for a catheter. Honestly, I’m holding it right now, just so I can finish writing this blog post!

I’m already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning! Eggs, or oatmeal? I can’t quite decide. That’s okay, I have all night to dream about it! (Yes, I do dream about food, as a matter of fact.)

That’s enough blogging for tonight. Back to the hockey game. Come On, Canada!