Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie

They cancelled the full Montreal marathon this weekend because of our current heat wave—but people still got to run the half!  Since Sundays are my long run days, I also got my badonk outside to power around the city in the hot weather, which meant seeing some of the runners in action. Watching all of the different participants supporting each other and wearing their numbers got me pretty excited about my own impending doom half marathon on October 22nd. (Week 9 of training officially begins on Monday!)

It was a tough run. The humidity made everything twice as hard. I poured about half of the water I was carrying straight down my back, and the last couple of kilometres were uphill. BUT, when it was over and done, and I forced myself to stretch—it was time for a recovery smoothie!

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This smoothie is a green dream! It’s on the lighter side in terms of taste and texture—there’s a time and a place for your double chocolate peanut butter mayhem, but for me, it’s not after hustling my butt around in 30 degree weather for two hours. The lime juice makes it refreshing, and the cucumber is re-hydrating. There’s also protein powder and banana to replenish your carb stores and help aid muscle recovery! Good stuff all around!

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You could even swap half the milk for coconut water and refill those electrolytes, and add more ice to up the chill factor. Side note: I ran Saturday and Sunday this weekend and made this smoothie after BOTH because I liked it so much. GET BLENDING!

Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie
Serves 1
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1 c. almond milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. spinach
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 pinch sea salt

Optional: greens powder, 1 tbsp. maca powder, other add-ins of your choice!

1. Measure out almond milk, frozen banana, cucumber, and spinach into blender and run until smooth.

2. Add in the protein powder, lime juice, sea salt, and any of your other add-ins! (I used maca powder and a greens powder to stay on colour theme.)  Also add ice here if you feel like it!

3. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass, and enjoy!

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Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa

The best thing about bowls is either their no-frills name or their simplicity to prepare—it’s a toss up. A few ingredients can combine to make a satisfying meal, as long as you follow a few rules. The perfect bowl will have a grain, a protein, a few vegetables, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.

…Wait. That last part was just the script of The Breakfast Club.
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While this is not technically a breakfast bowl, I approve of any and all veggies in the a.m., as per Dr. Robynne Chutkan’s simple 1-2-3 rule for a healthier microbiome and general wellness. (TL;DR: eat one vegetable at lunch, two at lunch, three at dinner.)

This bowl is more than prepared to meet your greens n’ veg needs. It’s got kale and romaine lettuce, onions, peppers, and fresh tomatoes. It’s got fluffy quinoa simmered in taco seasoning spices… That last one isn’t a vegetable, but it’s so delicious it warranted mention.
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The best part is that you can mix in whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge or cupboard. Sautee fresh or frozen corn in with the peppers, sub your lettuce for spinach, or top with your favourite salsa. You can even make it vegan by omitting the yogurt and/or cheese! Don’t you forget about cheese.

Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa
Serves 2
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed*
1 tbsp. chili powder**
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 can beans, black or kidney

1-2 hearts of romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/3 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream

Optional toppings:
Salsa
Jalapeno hot sauce
Cheddar cheese
Green onions
Tortilla chips

1. Rinse your quinoa and put it in a medium saucepan, sprinkling with all of the spices. Turn heat to medium, stirring the quinoa to toast it for about a minute.

2. Add 2 cups water. Cover with a lid and let the quinoa gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Taste and add additional salt or chili powder if needed. Set aside.

3. In a medium frying pan, add olive oil over medium heat. Fry garlic until golden. Add onion and stir until soft, about two minutes. Add in the bell pepper and any other veggies, tossing them in now and sauteeng until soft. Add in the beans, stirring until warmed through.

4. Add in the tomato paste, stirring to to distribute with the veggies, until everything is warm and mixed together! Season with salt, pepper, and additional spices from the list above if desired. Remove from heat.

5. Assemble your bowls! Start with a good handful or two of lettuce and greens. Add 1/2 c.  each the quinoa and the spiced tomato/bean mixture, and sprinkle with diced tomato.

6. Top with your extras! This time around, I used Greek yogurt, jalapeno hot sauce, a little extra old cheddar and green onions… (Pro tip: take your Instagram photo first, and then mix everything together for more delicious bites!)

* This will make more cooked quinoa than you need, so get ready to add it to salads, tacos, soups—the possibilities are tasty!

**  You can use a packet of taco seasoning to sub for all of the spices in a pinch. Cook the quinoa with half, and add more after cooking as needed! Just look out for sodium!

Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu

It’s been an anxious week, y’know? The kind where being mindful is interrupted by just being in your skin—a discomfort with existence. When anxiety haunts me for no particular reason, I cling to the familiar—wearing a favourite t-shirt, watching an old reliable movie, or cooking a well-loved dish.

Cooking is an amazing escape. It engages your senses, and you usually need focus and finesse to make it happen. Meal prep is almost active meditation, and this curry adds a layer of velvet to that feeling. It’s spicy, creamy, and warming, especially as August runs head first for September and cooler nights are on their way.

I’ve been cooking this recipe—and variations of it—for years. The original was one of my favourites against the damp in Scotland, and I’ve tweaked it and changed it many times—I even adapted it when I was doing the Whole30. It’s simple, crave-worthy, and always open to interpretation. Sub chicken for tofu, forget the tomato paste and use canned tomatoes, or add other veggies for a finish. Don’t be afraid to branch out and trust your instincts—you’ll be noshing a delicious bowl of comfort in no time. (Legal disclaimer: it will actually take several minutes.)

Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
Serves 4-6

1 package firm tofu*
2 tbsp. coconut oil

1 can tomato paste (6 oz., 180 ml)
1 can coconut milk (14 oz., 400ml)
3/4 c. roasted cashews
1/2 c. water

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp. dried ginger
2 tbsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. curry powder
1/2-1 tsp. turmeric
Salt (to taste)

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 generous handfuls baby spinach (optional)

For serving:
2 c. cooked brown basmati rice
Naan bread

1. Press tofu by wrapping the drained block in paper towel and setting some heavy books on top for 30 minutes. After this, cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes. Heat 1 tbsp. of coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Spread the tofu in an even layer in the pan, turning when each side is golden brown.  Set tofu pieces aside on paper towel, reserving the skillet.

2. In a blender or food processor, add cashews and cover with coconut milk, running until combined. Then add tomato paste and water, blending until smooth. Set aside.

3. Add the second tablespoon of oil to the skillet from step 1. Sautee onions and garlic until fragrant. Add the spices and stir to toast them, about one minute.

4. Add the coconut cashew blend to the pan, stirring to distribute the spices. Add salt to taste. Raise heat to simmer. Stir in broccoli florets and then reduce heat slightly, allowing them to cook for a 3-5 minutes to desired tenderness.

5. Stir in tofu cubes until evenly coated and warmed through. If adding spinach, stir it in here, cooking until slightly wilted. Remove from heat.

6. Serve with fluffy basmati rice or delicious naan bread! Enjoy!

* If you have a soy allergy or sensitivity, this recipe is also great with paneer or chicken!

The Whole30 Pt. III: The Bread is Nigh!

It’s the LAST DAY OF THE Whole30 EXPERIMENT! YES, ALREADY! I’ve come a long way from trying to huff cake and hoping to taste tiger blood (whether it’s on the plan or not)! At the end of it all, this was an experiment, and while I could yell about how excited I am about eating peanut butter for an entire post, but there’s information here and ready… So let’s get to the juicy stuff.

Some of the good things I’ve experienced on the plan:

• I stopped counting calories. Some years back, I was a fastidious (obsessive) calorie counter. That’s not the case anymore, but I still usually take mental tallies over the course of any day—like a weird hobby. This all but stopped the deeper I got into the Whole30. Even richer foods such as coconut oil, nut butters, dried fruits, or sausage, no longer have me reaching for a calculator.

• I started reading MORE labels. Label checking during my vegan experiment was small-time compared to the ingredient-scanning terminator I’ve turned into now. I can spot sugar almost in an instant. Soybean oil? Forget it! Corn? Back to the shelf with you! As a result, I’ve eaten less food with ingredient lists, and more dishes with ingredients

• My tastebuds have changed.  I won’t be able to confirm this until I eat something with refined sugar in it (something I’ll be putting off as much and as long as I can), but I think I’m currently experiencing natural sugars as the peak of sweetness. Yesterday I had few dried medjool dates, and I stood in my kitchen, chewing and marvelling over the the fact that I was sure they tasted EXACTLY caramels. Insane, I know.

My boss also says my skin has been looking amazing, but I still have some blemishes on my jaw, a recent problem area of mine… So either she’s biased and pro-program, or the rest of my skin looks good?

Some other observations about the body & mind:

Body stuff: Program protocol says you’re not supposed to weigh yourself at all, which I understand, and actually agree with (despite hating a lot of the Whole30’s website with a passion). I think the less people stare at the scale, the better.
HOW. EV. VER. This was an experiment and so weigh-ins became part of the data. I’ve been losing at a steady, healthy pace of about 1lb a week, so not all that different from my regular routine.

I didn’t use a tape measure, but it’s totally possible I smoked an inch or two off, between the leafy greens and ramping up my running mileage. My clothes do seem to be fitting better, but I’m not certain if that’s a by-product of the work or the diet changes?

Mind stuff: The Whole30 didn’t give me an endless wellspring of energy, but that could also be because I usually don’t get enough hours of sleep during the week anyway (and the one day that I drank egg coffee). To be fair to the program, I’m in the middle of tapering off of anti-depressants, so any lows could be linked to that.

It DID get me to examine lots of the food systems that exist in my immediate surroundings. The fact that sugar is everywhere, in everything, or that buying sustainable free-range, antibiotic-free meat is privilege. It opened conversations with friends about food—friends who I didn’t know would be interested in the topic in the first place.

Lastly, it showed me that temptation is basically nothing, and I’m capable of maintaining whatever food decisions I choose to abide in the future. That’s a great feeling, powerful feeling. While I wouldn’t say the Whole30 changed my life, that’s a bit too assertive and sweeping. I would say that it changed my mind—for the better.

Plus, now that first bite of off-plan pizza is going to be A-MAZ-ING. I can’t WAIT to start cooking with more variety again!

Chickpea Pepper Burgers feat. Red Cabbage Slaw

Since I’ve taken on the #AVeryVeganApril challenge, my meals have been mostly bowls of noodles (whole wheat rotini, brown rice vermicelli) with vegetables and sauce. After awhile, I started to mouth-crave something different—burgers.

They had to happen. Homemade, spicy, flavourful, sink-your-teeth-in chickpea burgers. I wasn’t going to share this recipe, but I took one bite and knew it had to be DONE.

…Okay, fine, I took like three bites to reassure myself it was as good as I thought it was. Also, these are kind of small (burgs not burgers!), so if you’re looking to feed a whole bunch of people, double the recipe.

Chickpea Pepper “Burgs” feat. Red Cabbage Slaw
Makes approximately 6 cute burgers or 3 dope double burgers

For the slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1-2 broccoli stems, shredded
1/4-1/3 cup hulled, raw sunflower seeds
3 tbsp oil (olive, grapeseed, etc)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. If you don’t have a mandolin or a fancy food processor, this is your biggest step.  Finely chop cabbage, carrot, and broccoli stems in a bowl. Add the sunflower seeds on top.

2. In a small separate bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and cumin. Whisk together and pour over the shredded veggies, tossing to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or another splash of vinegar if the flavour is missing “zing.” Set aside to marinate. The secret ingredient is TIME.

For the burgers:
2 cups chickpeas, boiled
1/2 red pepper, seeds removed
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot, (or 2 tbsp yellow onion), chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2½ tbsp water, stirred)
2 tbsp whole wheat flour (or bread crumbs? I didn’t have breadcrumbs. SO.)
Juice from 1 lime

For serving: whole wheat buns, avocado slices, veganaise, aioli, whatever-you-want…

1. Make your flax egg by combining water and flaxseed meal in a small dish. Set aside to “activate” for about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a food processor*, combine chickpeas, pepper, garlic, and onion. Pulse until the mixture is finely diced but not smooth. Add in spices, salt, flour, and the flax egg and pulse to combine again. The mixture should keep shape fairly well but may seem a bit dry.

3. Empty bowl of food processor into another bowl and fold the lime juice in until it’s absorbed. Measure a third of a cup of the mixture for each burger, and then use your hands to form patties and leave them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You should get about 6 or 7 patties.

4. Heat up a small amount of oil in a frying pan, and cook the patties over medium heat, until each side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. (They are fairly sturdy, but flip with care!)

5. To assemble, spread slices of avo on the bottom bun, plunk a patty on top. I’ve been eating these as double burgers—second patty, a few healthy spoonfuls of slaw, and then the bun. Slather mayo or queso or whatever you want (I used vegan Mexican cheese from Minimalist Baker ) on the top bun**, cap that burger!

6. NOSH!

*I made this by using my tiny handy chopper and literally grinding the elements one batch at a time. If you’re feeling determined, use a potato masher for the chickpeas and chop everything else as fine as you can!

**I realized looking at my pictures that I put this beauty together upside down. Learn from my mistakes, peeps. Also top bun sounds like the gay remake of “Top Gun” ohwaitTopGunisalreadygay.

#AVeryVeganApril

Okay that title isn’t accurate, but #AVeryVeganFortnight didn’t sound as good. (Also, have a picture of a Highland cow, vegan creature and unofficial mascot of this post… because I like Highland cows.)

The challenge: eat vegan for two weeks, from April 1-14. No using recipes I’ve tried before to make it happen. (I could eat peanut noodles with tempeh forever, soooo…)

Why: For fun! I like cooking, and I eat a lot of cheese, so this is a good way to change things up and try new dishes and ingredients.

How’s it goin’, eh?: I eat vegetarian about six days a week, so this maybe isn’t as hard for me as it might be for someone who eats more animal products. THAT BEING SAID,  friends came from out of town and wanted to meet for the best smoked meat in Montreal so, at least ONE lunch was a delicious bust.

My kitchen has changed up too! I’ve tried new recipes, ventured into tapioca starch, and made vegan queso. (I also screwed up Veganaise by using almond milk instead of soy.)

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m taking care to read a lot more labels. I look at ingredients to scan for animal products, and in the process, I’m noticing all the additives and preservatives that are even in the healthy foods that I eat (especially things like breads or tortillas). Here’s to nosh with less additives?

What are you eating, dude?:

Uhm, basically whatever I want, without the cheese? It has been a lot of curious comfort food and some indulgent bites, but I’m always trying to add more vegetables to everything, and I’ve got a veggie burger recipe coming that BLEW. MY. MIND. So stay tuned for that!

Avo Nice Day Guacamole

Homemade guacamole speaks for itself and literally needs no introduction. I’ll just say if you’re a fan and you’re not making it from scratch, you haven’t truly LIVED!

I like my tomato and onion rough-chopped for more texture. If you like yours smoother, just chop up the ingredients more finely before incorporating them.

Guacamole toast is like avocado toast with a soul. There, I said it. 

Avo Nice Day Guacamole

2 small, ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 heaping tbsp. flax seed meal (optional)

1.  In a small bowl, mash up the avocado flesh with a fork, reserving at least one of the pits, and setting aside.

2. Stir in crushed garlic, as well as tomato and onion, mixing thoroughly.

3. Add lime juice and stir to combine. Taste, then add salt and pepper to your personal preference. If you’re adding flax seed meal, stir it in.

4. Enjoy immediately with nacho chips, toast, or however you usually eat your lame grocery store guacamole… just better. If you want to save yours for later, put it in an airtight container and add one of the pits to keep it from browning quickly.