Fresh Fortifying Summer Salad

I try my best to participate in “Meatless Mondays” and consume plant based protein sources on a weekly basis. While I do enjoy barbecued chicken or baked salmon, you’ll hardly ever find me consuming red meat. Growing up if I didn’t like the way something looked, I wouldn’t try it! Vegetables never turned me off, however pork, ham and red meat never made their way into my diet. Thankfully the blog world (Pinterest!) is full of healthy vegetarian and vegan recipes. Unfortunately for me, common ingredients in these sorts of meals are nuts. “Napa Almond”, “Coconut Cashew”, “Maple Walnut” are all appealing flavour combinations, but are also off limit due to my allergies. Angela, from Oh She Glows, (The first food blog I ever read) recently created a “Rad Rainbow Raw Pad Thai”. The second I saw it, I knew I had to try it, but after looking into the recipe I saw that there were a few small problems. Firstly, I don’t own a spiralizer. Secondly, red cabbage is one of the only vegetables that upsets my stomach. Thirdly, and most importantly, I can’t enjoy the salad dressing as it is a “Peanut Lime” sauce.  Lucky for me, I’m used to modifying recipes, so I decided that I would create my own version. While Angela considers hers to be a pad thai (the zucchini strings really do resemble noodles), I’d call mine a salad. Regardless, the recipe  is nutrient dense, extremely flavourful and very filling. Enjoy!  ♥ Molly

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” – Fran Lebowitz

IMG_5836 IMG_5840 IMG_5846Fresh Fortifying Summer Salad

Makes 6 generous cupsIMG_5854

Salad

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 cups loose kale leaves, stems removed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 1.5 cups frozen endamame, thawed
  • 1.5 cups chickpeas
  • 3 green onions, chopped (or 1/4 cup red onion)
  • 1 bell pepper, thinely sliced
  • 4 tbsp. sesame seeds

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
  1. In a food processor, pulse kale leaves until coarsely chopped. Change the blade to grate, and grate in carrots. If you do not have a food processor, finely chop and grate the ingredients by hand. Transfer to a large serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Using a mandolin, peeler or spiralizer, prepare the zucchini so that it is julienned. Transfer into the serving bowl, adding with it the endamame, chickpeas, onion and bell pepper.IMG_5831 IMG_5834
  3. In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Pour over salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.IMG_5858
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MIMM #1

This summer I am not working, so I am able to live a more relaxed lifestyle. While I do love a schedule to keep me on task, it has been nice to make last-minute plans with friends. Despite not having a set routine, I still seem to be keeping pretty busy. From the upbeat “Color Me Rad” race, to low-key Strawberry picking, I’m so thankful for everything that I’ve had the privilege of doing this summer. My life has been pretty “marvelous” so in appreciation, I’ve decided to participate in Katie’s “Marvelous In My Monday” link-up.

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Marvelous is sitting down for a family meal, cooked by someone with love. It’s learning about what is going on in the lives of your parents or siblings, because you are truly interested in hearing what they have been up to.

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Marvelous is for the moments when you wake up to the sound of birds chirping in time to see the sunrise and for the times when you sleep in unexpectedly. It’s for falling asleep while reading a good book, but also for the times when you wake up energized for the day ahead.

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Marvelous is being able to get together with a friend who you haven’t seen for a while, without it being awkward since you share so many similar passions and interests. It’s for having friends like Chelsea, who you can ask for good recommendations when it comes to television shows, books, restaurants and foods.

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Marvelous is trying a new restaurant or a new dish, and eating until you are completely satisfied. It’s being able to pick an item off of the menu that you truly want or are craving, able it’s being able to enjoy every mouthful without regret.

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Marvelous is staying active in your every day life, whether walking to get the mail, biking to the library or completing a workout video. It’s being able to go to the gym five days in a row because you enjoy exercising, but it’s also being able to take several days off without guilt.

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Marvelous is catching up on a TV series with a cup of tea in your hands. It’s being able to watch an uneducational show without feeling lazy, because you find yourself entertained by the humour and suspense.

Marvelous is spending time smiling and laughing with family. It’s watching your niece learn and grow, as she discovers new things each and every day.

photo-95I have so many great adventures to come this summer, but already, I’ve managed to make my day to day life pretty marvelous. Thank you Katie and everyone else, for reminding me how marvelous my life truly is. Be sure to check what other bloggers find marvellous in their life, as it is a great way to find favourite products, DIY projects, new recipes, motivating quotes, fun songs and of course fitness tips. I bet Katie has had a lot of marvelous moments this past week, as she recently delivered a handsome and healthy baby boy named Rocco. He is definitely a bundle of joy and my best wishes out to their growing family.  ♥ Molly

“It is always the simple that produces the marvellous.” – Amelia Barr

“Jam” Packed Wednesday

On Wednesday, I had a “jam” packed day (Pun intended). After we finished picking strawberries, I was dropped off at the pool. Normally I have a swimming buddy, but my lack of company actually made me a bit more productive since I had nobody to chat with during breaks. I ended up swimming 4km, which is the furthest I have swum since starting to track my lengths. It was also in record time, 1 hour and 10 minutes. I probably could have done it faster, but I did take a couple of water breaks. Also, I targeted my arms and legs, doing flutter board kicks (Which I am terribly slow at) and swimming just with my arms. I chose to work on endurance rather than speed, which is why I did not swim continuously in a freestyle motion.

Freezer Jam

When I got home, my sister, mom and I made jam. Not only did we have a ton of strawberries to use up (fresh local strawberries don’t keep very well), but we wanted to give some jam to friends as housewarming gifts. We all agreed that they’d be cute wedding favours as well. Emma printed off some cute labels that really helped to make the jars presentable. The recipe called for 8 cups mashed, 3 cups sugar and 2 pectin crystal envelopes. We got a little bit carried away, and ended up slicing a few too many strawberries. Thankfully I had been craving something sweet, so I decided to use the extra in a strawberry sauce. Has anyone read “If you Give a Moose a Muffin” or “If you give a Pig a Pancake”? My situation fell true to these childhood classics.  When you make strawberry sauce, you need to make something to go with it! Scones immediately came to mind, and since I had used lemon juice in the sauce, I opted to make a buttermilk lemon zest recipe, courtesy of Canadian Living (The only substitution I made was using 2 tbsp. of lemon zest instead of 1 tbsp.). With my luck I was missing a few essential ingredients, so I had to run out to grocery store. Finally, I returned home, with an hour and a half left before I had to meet up with some friends! Talk about “jam” packed! Check out my two Instagram video (First ones yet) that features me forming the dough and stirring the syrup! The scones were delicious and quite pretty. It is neat to cut them open as they feature speckles of yellow zest inside!

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I quickly cleaned up my mess and headed off to Whole Foods where I was meeting two of my favourite people, Chelsea and Joyce! The three of us have been meaning to get together for quite some time, but our schedules are always conflicting. Eventhough we are only a half an hour drive apart, none of us meet up as often as we’d like. Of course, you can’t go to Whole Foods without being tempted by the hot and cold food bars, so we pre-arranged to have dinner there. While it isn’t cheap, there is no denying that it is tasty. I plan on posting about my Whole Foods trips tomorrow, but for today I’d just like to share my simple sweet strawberry sauce recipe! I hope you are able to enjoy it as a topping on pancakes, swirled into oatmeal, drizzled on ice cream or even sandwiched between these lemon scones! It is simply delicious (and slightly addicting). I could probably even eat it by the spoonful as a source of vitamin C (provided I omit the sugar). Did you know that 8-10 of these strawberries pack in 160% of your daily vitamin C needs? Yum! ♥ Molly

“Indulge, Life is Sweet” – Unknown

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Sweet Strawberry Sauce

Makes 3.5 cups IMG_5588

  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup sugar (Optional)
  1. In a small pot over medium heat, combine all ingredients.
  2. Bring to a boil whisking gently.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes.
  4. Serve plain or as a topping.

Strawberry Fields

There is nothing sweeter than picking strawberries on a warm summer morning. On the way home, the delightful aroma filled the car, bringing with it fond memories of childhood trips to the strawberry fields. My sister and mom decided that it was time for a summer adventure and the idea of picking fruit sounded tasty, affordable and fun! We woke up extra early to beat the heat, and have a fresh selection. Of course, you can’t just pick a few strawberries when you go, because it is far too much fun. We ended up leaving with two full baskets, plenty to be eaten fresh, baked into a pie, blended into smoothies, sliced on top of yogurt or turned into sauces and jams. ♥ Molly

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

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Fresh Spa Food

There is no denying in my mind, that soup is delicious. From creamy potato leek, to homemade chicken noodle, I love everything about soup. Hot or cold, chunky or smooth, the smell and flavour never fail to satisfy my needs and taste palette. It is a versatile item as it can be an appetizer, starter, snack or main course. There are even dessert soups!

IMG_5274Typically people think of soup as a rich, heavy substance so whenever summertime rolls around, it usually gets removed from our menus. Thankfully, there are variations of chilled soups that can be lighter options. Take for example this chilled cucumber soup, it reminds me of spa food! One of the great aspects of this chilled soup is that it is easy to cook. With a little bit of slicing, chopping, mincing and blending, this cucumber soup takes very little time to prepare as you don’t have to patiently boil a broth. Did you know that greenhouse cucumbers are not pollinated, so they are seedless? This recipe disposes of the seeds so why not pick up this type! When picking out my cucumbers at Longos, there was an Ontario Greenhouse fact sheet where I learned that the best cucumbers typically are bright in colour, fresh in scent, and firm but not too firm! Apparently cucumbers also thrive in cool, dry places so be sure to keep them in a crisper.

IMG_5259While my creation was a source of calcium and vegetables, it lacked protein, fats and carbohydrates and wasn’t substantial enough to be served on it’s own. I created a balanced meal by whipping up an adaptation of Tosca Reno’s “Ladies’ Lunch Quick Shrimp Ceviche Stuffed Avocados” and toasting whole wheat tortilla with garlic butter. In all, the meal was light but kept me full throughout my post-meal swim and evening. When I was fixing these dishes, I couldn’t help but notice that Shrimp is a great source of protein, as 8-10 of those little things pack in 15g and only 65 calories! On the other hand, avocados are great sources of lutein (a carotenoid that promote eye health), insoluble and soluble fibre (slows digestion keeping you feeling fuller), monosaturated fat (blood sugar stabilizer, heart heart, can lower blood pressure), folic (important during pregnancy) and oleic acid (lowers cholesterol). The subtle hints of citrus in both recipes were also sincerely enjoyed.

IMG_5285… But if the health benefits of the meal don’t interest you, I sure hope its flavour does. Enough information already, here are the recipes! ♥ Molly

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Serves 6, 1 cup servings, generously IMG_5271

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tbsp.)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ cup 2% Greek plain yogurt
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped (4 cups)
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, stirring constantly. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup water, reduce to medium low heat, and cook until onions are soft, about 2 minutes.
  2. Place chopped cucumber and sautéed onion mixture into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add in remaining ½ cup water, lemon juice, sea salt, and 1 ½ cups Greek yogurt. Process until smooth. Stir in ¼ cup parsley.
  3. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until cold.
  4. Serve, garnishing each bowl with remaining ¼ cup yogurt and ¼ cup parsley. You may wish to season with salt or pepper.

IMG_5260Avocado Shrimp Salad

Ingredients and Directions adapted from Tosca Reno’s “Ladies’ Lunch Quick Shrimp Ceviche Stuffed Avocados”, The Eat-Clean Diet

Serves 6, 1 cup servingsIMG_5258

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled
  • 1 red pepper, seeded, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, halved (Or tomato, chopped)
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed (1 lime)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Remove shrimp tails and discard. Chop each shrimp piece into quarters.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together pepper, salt and both juices. Add in all ingredients, except avocado.
  3. If making “Shrimp Avocado Salad”, peel and cut both avocados into ¼ inch cubes. Refrigerate salad for a half an hour, allowing flavours to combine. Serve with a fresh slice of lime or orange and enjoy.
  4.  If making “Shrimp Salad stuffed Avocado”, slice avocados in half and remove peel. Scoop avocado halves out of their skins. Spoon the shrimp salad into the center of each avocado half, allowing overflow. Refrigerate for half an hour, allowing flavours to combine. Serve and enjoy!

IMG_5286 IMG_5293“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virgina Woolf

Summer Solstice

Yesterday marked the first official day of summer. Hooray! I can’t say I enjoy any other season more than this one. Here in Ontario, Canada the rhyme  “April Showers” came true for the entire spring season. While May brought flowers, it also brought torrential downpours. I am hoping that summer brings warmth and sunshine so that those threatening clouds get the memo to head elsewhere. (I am thinking positive thoughts for those currently struggling in Alberta that search to find dry land and  escape the flooding.)

I love summer for so many reasons. It tends to be the warmest season, the days are longer, it’s the perfect time for summer “reads”, clothing prints are always brighter and the materials are lighter (Hello Summer Dresses), my birthday falls within it, bike rides are more enjoyable, popsicles become more popular, as a student I get it off from school and it is typically the month in which my family travels. My parents must have had a hectic job coordinating summer day trips and weeklong vacations when I was younger. As one of four, not only were vacations expensive but very busy! I have fond memories of driving to the east coast, visiting Montreal and touring Ottawa. As I have gotten older however, we’ve caught the “Travel bug” and have gotten out of Canada more often! I’m fortunate to have ventured through California, gone to New York City, and have even seen a fair bit of Europe. Last summer we spent a few days in Paris France before heading to the South of France where we rented a house. It was the perfect opportunity to experience french living and culture.

I wonder what is in store this summer!  My hope is for a sandy beach covered in seashells, warm water for swimming and interesting boutiques. I think I’ve had my fair share of museums and site seeing these past summers, so my wish is to go to a relaxing location with minimal walking. Lazy? Maybe! Peaceful? Definitely! To be truthful I don’t know if I am the type of person that can read by the ocean but I am definitely willing to test my patience and try! Someday I hope to stay in a resort in Hawaii so in the meantime I will have to work on lounging by a pool (coated in SPF 50 sunscreen of course).

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Officially 4 months old!

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Emma and Lottie!

Of course the first day of summer wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t swim in our pool! Yesterday was also special as it was Lottie’s first time swimming. She was so brave and loved the water. I think it reminded her of a big bathtub. She is already following in my footsteps and becoming quite the water fish. Summertime is just asking for memories to be created. ♥ Molly

“Some of the best memories are made in flip flops.” – Kellie Elmore

Friday Fitness

Even as a child, I loved to swim. My brother and I would race to see who could be the first one in the water and of course the last one out. (We thrived on competition!) I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents in the summertime as they had a pool. I don’t think it was heated much, but I didn’t mind. While the adults conversed on the deck eating cherries, crackers and pâté, the kids would become shriveled up raisins. My siblings and I would dive to get rocks, pretend we were lifeguards, talk under water and help each other float. Remember that game Colours? We were all over it! Our imaginations would run wild as we called out shapes and foods (Such as spaghetti and meatballs) for someone to reenact as they jumped into the pool. Noodles, Floating devices and goggles were part of the drill.

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Over the years my swimming has been less about games and more about fitness. I never would have realized how great it can be for your physique. Swimming firms almost every muscle in your body without straining your joints. The water neutralizes gravity making humans virtually weightless, again minimizing any potential stress on your joints.

While lifejackets and water wings aren’t part of the drill anymore, I still have my favourite gear. Goggles make it possible for me to swim in a lane without running into anyone else. My H20 Audio device is a recent purchase, but one that I truly value. It’s neat to be motivated by music while you are underwater. Not only do swimming caps keep your hair from absorbing chlorine but they also reduce resistance created when hair drags against the water. Of course you can’t swim without a bathingsuit. My favourite one that I currently own was created by Speedo. At the recreational centre that I belong to, we are allowed to bring water bottles to the edge of the pool. My Camelback allows me to stay hydrated and gives me a valuable excuse to take a break! Lastly, I use a pool buoy when I am focusing on working my arms, a flutter board when I am improving my kicks and flippers when I am trying to increase my speed. I am fortunate to be able to borrow the last three items from the centre but you can find them for reasonable prices at your average sport store.

These photos were found through Google Images.

These photos were found through Google Images.

I usually try to swim for about an hour to an hour and a half. Here is a sample of what one of my workouts might look like.

Swimming

While I am no expert, I am definitely enjoying the learning process of swimming. I find that I swim alongside a lot of trained athletes and personal coaches. They are always willing to give me suggestions and feedback. I am also considering purchasing a book to spark some new training ideas. Given that I only completed swimming lessons until I was in Level 4 or 5, I think I am doing all right. Maybe one day I will learn to do the dolphin kick.

For my body, swimming is definitely a “no pain, plenty of gain” type of workout. It is a place where I can “Sweat” without actually “Sweating”. I am hoping to be swimming (and tanning with sunscreen) in my own pool soon, when the weather finally heats up. A streak with “no rain” would be nice don’t you think? That’s all for now. Happy Friday! ♥ Molly

Fun Fact: When my dad would drive me to swimming lessons, he would play “Every Breath You Take” by the Police because I got nervous about dunking my head under the water. Whenever I hear that song it reminds me of my dad and swimming lessons!

Tropical Treats

As a nutrition student, I read cookbooks like an individual majoring in English would devour a Shakespeare play. While most of the time I search for inspiration through Pinterest and Blogs, I probably flip through a recipe book at least every other day. Call me addicted, but the terminology is fascinating.

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When I am creating a recipe of my own though, I often seek guidance from my Nutrition textbook.

One of my favourite bloggers and good friend is great at informing her readers about great sources of various nutrients. This year, Chelsea completed her undergraduate in Food and Nutrition and received a dietetic internship for the upcoming year. Whenever I am in need of a new place to eat, I always ask her since is great at discovering new restaurants and shares similar nut allergies as me! Often she will do a breakdown of a certain vitamin or mineral and this week it just happened to be Iron. Something I should be more conscious about consuming within my diet.

When assembling a meal, I don’t simply cater to my taste buds; I also try to incorporate nutrients that I know I need. My blood work consistently shows a lack of Iron and since I don’t eat red meat, I am conscious about choosing leafy greens, legumes, tofu and of course occasional heme sources such as mussels and shrimp. Chelsea mentioned that seeds and molasses are also great sources for iron, so I might just have to whip up a batch of cookies!

Similarly, I don’t often drink milk, so I choose calcium rich and vitamin D dense foods such as yogurt, fish and eggs (the yolk included). Recently I took up an interest in swimming and since then, I have found that I am getting muscle cramps during the night. This can be a sign of a potassium deficiency as potassium is responsible for balancing water and acid in blood and in body tissues. Potassium is a trace mineral, which means quantity wise, I don’t need as much as a macro mineral. This being said, someone over the age of 14 should be ingesting 4700mg of potassium each day (Canada’s Food Guide). Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium as are lima and white beans, potatoes (with skin), squash, dairy (yogurt and milk) and apricots (fresh or dried).

Today, when creating a healthy snack, I decided to incorporate both Potassium and Calcium. While this recipe isn’t exactly a source of iron, Vitamin C does enhance non-heme iron absorption when eaten at the same meal. Last week my sister and I made yummy orange creamsicles, but to be honest, they weren’t exactly nutritious. In hopes of maintaing their flavour but cutting back on the fat and sugar, I created a delicious yogurt variation. I call them “Better than Tropicana” because they remind me of a childhood favourite; Tropicana “Strawberry Banana Orange Juice”.

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Better than TropicanaIMG_4644

Makes 6, 3oz Servings

  • 1 cup of Orange Juice (Freshly squeezed or Organic).
  • 1 cup Strawberry Yogurt (Greek or Regular, 0% or 2%)
  • 1 banana (Fairly ripe)
  1. Blend all ingredients together and pour into popsicle moulds. Let freeze overnight.

Note: If you wanted this to taste more like an Orange creamsicle, substitute vanilla yogurt instead of strawberry, and omit the banana. You could even add in some fresh orange zest, but beware it sinks to the end of the popsicle. To compensate for the missing banana ingredient, add an extra half a cup of vanilla yogurt. To pack in even more protein, you could add in 1 scoop of protein powder, decrease the amount of yogurt and increase the ratio of juice so that it isn’t too thick.

I think that the reason I enjoy making popsicles is because they aren’t messy (hello blender and spatula) and are very easy (only three ingredients). I am hoping to create Pomegranate Blueberry, Strawberry Basil, and Mocha flavoured popsicles in the near future. Making popsicles is similar to making a smoothie, only in solid form. The hardest part is definitely waiting for them to freeze and seeing them disappear quickly. You’ll be surprised at how filling they can actually be! ♥ Molly

Fun Fact: I fell in love with popsicles during the 2003 summer power outage. Everyone brought popsicles and ice cream out to the park since there was no electricity to keep the freezer cold!