Friday, June 15, 2018

Back to Blogging - My year of Shame, Self-Doubt & Transition

My last blog post was on July 14th, 2017, which makes this almost an entire year without blogging. Just writing that forces me to let out a long, aggressive sigh. I've been writing my blog for almost ten years now (!!) and this is the longest break in blogging I've ever had in that time.

I'll admit, I feel a sense of shame having not blogged in such a long time, but truthfully, shame was one of the predominant reasons why I stopped blogging in the first place. At first I just kept finding excuses not to blog. Just a few months prior to my blogging hiatus, I had accepted a new role at the company that I was working for, and was determined to excel at it. I kept using this new (very part-time position) as an excuse for not blogging. Every time the thought occurred to me to write again, it felt like there were so many other "things" that I had to prioritize, and taking the time for myself to write again just kept getting pushed farther and farther down my to-do list. First were the excuses, then came the shame, and with those two negative forces working together as a unit, it wasn't easy to rise above it and block out my head to listen to my heart.
Why the shame, you ask? *I exhale another long, aggressive sigh* I was ashamed of the almost ten years of blogging without reaching my goal. Instead of looking at my most recent work and feeling proud of it, I kept looking at all of my almost ten years of work combined, and felt so ashamed of the early yellow and grainy photos, the long and rambling self-indulgent posts (which this just may be as well!), the lack of design in terms of the layout and look of my blog, the past embarrassing and sometimes even offensive things I have written, and so much more. It felt overwhelming. I wanted to overhaul everything and start fresh, but I didn't know where to begin, who to ask for help, and if this was even worth my time anymore. The more time that went by without a blog post, the harder it became to jump back in, or even dip a toe in.

I also mentioned that I was ashamed of not reaching my goal after all this time. Even just saying my goal aloud made the wave of shame envelope me, because I was worried it would sound stupid or egotistical to other people. My goal was to have my own food show. I know you might be chuckling over the audacity of me having that as a goal, or maybe that's just my shame kicking in once again, but I feel deep down that it's my calling and will lead me to a larger purpose in life. Chuckle away! I'm ready to say it aloud with conviction! This is what I want, and this is what I feel I am on the path for deep down in my gut.
Despite me feeling like I've failed by not having reached my goal yet, I've come to realize (thanks to the help of an awesome psychotherapist) that I actually have reached some pretty incredible goals and milestones that I should be proud of. Guess what, folks? You can have more than one goal at a time! Just because you haven't reached one goal, doesn't mean you haven't accomplished others! Getting the job that I previously mentioned as my excuse for not blogging was a major accomplishment for me, among many others. For years I've been searching for "my people", the people who have the same interests, thoughts, beliefs, and passions as me, and who who I felt I could work with as a true collaborative team. It's in my current job that I am so grateful to have found those people, the people who I now know as my work family.

No, I don't have a perfect job. I'm always seeking out additional opportunities that will allow me to grow and reach my many other goals, but I really do love my job, and I absolutely adore the outstanding group of passionate, talented, smart, kind, generous, encouraging, and hilarious women I get to do it with. You know who you are, and I admire you all more than I could ever express.

So here I am again, almost one year later. Here I am writing again, being vulnerable again, and writing another very long and self-indulgent post once again. I'm back in the water, wading in the shallow end, and getting up the courage to walk further into the deep end. I'll get there, but I'm not going to beat myself up about not being there yet. I'm proud of who I am and what I've accomplished, and am ready to kick shame to the curb. Easier said than done, I know it'll take a lot of time and effort, but I really do want to get there and I know that this is step one in that journey.

The above Images were created in collaboration with Registered Dietitian and one of my Dish Cooking Studio team members, Olivia Cupido. 

Listening To:
Lykke Li - Last Piece 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Making White Peach Sangria with Polar Ice Ontario Peach Vodka

The Spring and Summer seasons in Ontario are most definitely my favourite for more than just the beautiful weather, but for the incredible abundance of fresh and local produce available. Ontario produces some pretty spectacular fruits and vegetables during our warm months, but the one item that I look forward to more than anything is Ontario peaches. 

If you've ever had a ripe and juicy Ontario peach in August, you know that we make some of the best! Insanely sweet and flavourful, with juices that run down your chin, Ontario peaches are a treat in themselves, and an ingredient that I love to take advantage of in both sweet and savoury applications. 

With a few more weeks to go before I can get my hands on some Ontario peaches, I was delighted to get to try Polar Ice Vodka's new Ontario Peach Vodka! Made with 100% Ontario-grown peaches, and quadruple distilled and triple-filtered for a pure and smooth taste, this vodka is delicious on its own with some soda water and ice, but is taken to new heights when made into a fresh summer cocktail. 

On a beautiful summer day there is no beverage that I crave more than sangria! I love how refreshing and easy-drinking sangria can be (particularly for someone like me who doesn't drink a whole lot!), and I love catering the flavours in my sangria to the season. Polar Ice was kind enough to also provide me with a few recipes for using their new peach vodka this summer, and low and behold, they included a White Peach Sangria recipe! 

The most recent long weekend was the perfect opportunity to try the recipe out with some friends on my balcony in the sun. With Ontario peaches still a few months away, I chose to use frozen peaches for this batch, as well as some other berries that I had on hand in my fridge. I also added a little bit of ginger to give the sangria a bit of a zing, and some mint from my balcony garden for more freshness. The sangria turned out absolutely delicious! I loved how the Ontario peach flavour shone through the cocktail, making me even more excited for peach season. 

I will definitely be making this sangria again and again throughout the summer, but am also looking forward to playing around with different cocktails using Polar Ice Peach Vodka. I love the idea of adding a shot of peach vodka to a peach or ginger kombucha for a lil' kombuchatail, or making a boozier version of a bellini by adding both the peach vodka and Prosecco to peach nectar. As someone who's not a big drinker, Polar Ice Peach Vodka was a great option for me! I loved the smooth taste and the natural peach flavour, as I think we all know (and hate!) when an infused liquor has that awful artificial taste to it. This product is a limited edition flavour, sold exclusively in Ontario, with a limited number of bottles produced, so get your hands on it while you can and let me know what you think in the comments below. I would love to hear your suggestions for what other cocktails I can make with it! 

White Peach Sangria
Ingredients:
fresh or frozen peaches (and any other fruit you have on hand that you may want to add)
2 Tsp. fresh ginger, grated (optional)
a handful of fresh mint leaves (optional)
1 cup Polar Ice Ontario Peach
1 750 mL bottle of Pinot Grigio
1 L ginger ale

Directions:
  1. In a large pitcher/vessel, gently muddle the fruit with the ginger and mint (optional).
  2. Add Polar Ice Ontario Peach, Pinot Grigio, and ginger ale. Stir, add ice, and enjoy in the sun! 
Listening To:

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Snack Hacking with Nosh & Co. and Devin Connell

Snacking and food hacking are two things that I have a lot of experience in. As you may know, a couple years ago I was Kraft Canada's Official Food Hacker for their Food Hacks campaign, which meant scouring the internet for every possible food hack I could find. I learned so many different food hacks during that time, some good, some not so good, and it was clear to see that the best food hacks were those that were simple, convenient, and made cooking more enjoyable. Having ended the Food Hacks campaign a couple years ago, I still love coming across new food hacks that I haven't yet discovered.

I was super pumped to have the opportunity to add a few more hacks up my sleeve, when I was invited by Rexall Canada and Nosh & Co. to join TV personality, entrepreneur, and recipe developer Devin Connell as she led a mini cooking demo on her favourite snack hacks. What I loved about Devin's snack hacks was that they were not about utilizing gimmicky methods or kitchen tools just to be "hacky." Devin's type of hacks were about real life tips and tricks that make healthy and guilt-free snacking easy! 
The first recipe that Devin led us through was how to make the dry mix for her Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Banana Bread. The banana bread, which Devin baked into mini, individual loaves (perfect for those snack cravings!), allowed us to understand how we can utilize other healthy ingredients in our kitchen to sweeten up and add flavour to healthy treats. The banana bread contained zero added sugar, allowing the natural sweetness from the overly-ripe bananas to sweetened the loaves. The addition of Nosh & Co. Unsalted Roasted Shelled Sunflower Seeds and Roasted & Salted Pumpkin seeds added a fantastic crunchy texture to the loaves, with the pumpkin seeds adding just a hint of saltiness. 
The second recipe that Devin led us through was how to make her Fruit & Nut Mix Power Balls. Not only were the Power Balls insanely simple to prepare, they were also delicious, and actually very filling! This was definitely my favourite hack of the day, and one that I can see myself using all the time! I've been turning to those Power Balls ever since the event, as my new favourite late-afternoon treat to sustain my appetite before dinner. 
The final hack of the day allowed us guests to prepare our own signature trail mix using a selection of Nosh & Co. nuts and trail mixes, as well as some other healthy and tasty ingredients. Devin loves to layer her ingredients into a mason jar, shake it up to disperse, and keep the jar in her car for snacking emergencies. More than just sweet ingredients, Devin also gave us the great idea of creating our own savoury trail mixes. With ingredient such as spiced chickpeas, shredded seaweed, and salty pumpkin seeds available, the savoury trail mixes were just as satisfying as the sweet ones! 

I had such an awesome time at this event, and more importantly, I really loved the tips and tricks I learned from Devin that I can actually see myself applying to my daily routine! I have included the recipes for you below and encourage you to try them! Let me know what you think in the comments! 
Pumpkin & Sunflower Seed Banana Bread
Ingredients:
Dry Mix: This mixture can be kept in an air-tight container at room-temperature for up to one-month. Double or triple the recipe to have some on hand for last-minute muffins
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Nosh & Co. Unsalted Roasted Shelled Sunflower Seeds
1/4 cup Nosh & Co. Roasted & Salted Pumpkin Seeds
Wet Mix:
4 very ripe bananas (like really ugly and brown)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for greasing the tin
2 extra large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pan or muffin tins with melted coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Push any remaining kosher salt through the sieve. Stir in sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, mash bananas very well with a fork until very soft and almost liquidy. Whisk in coconut oil and eggs until well incorporated.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir with a large spoon until just mixed together. Do not over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan or muffin tins until 3/4 full.
  6. Bake 45-minutes for the loaf or 20-minutes for muffins. 
Fruit & Nut Mix Power Balls
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Nosh & Co. Raw Fruit & Nut Mix
1/2 cup dried coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (may sub almond butter)
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup rolled oats

Directions
  1. In a food processor, combine the fruit & nut mix, dried coconut, sunflower seed butter, honey and water. Periodically stop the machine, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Once blended, the mixture should not be chunky, but still have some texture to it.
  3. Place the mixture into a large bowl. With a large spoon, mix in the chia seeds and oats. The mixture will resemble a loose crumble.
  4. Grab about 2-Tbsp. of mixture and, using your hands, form into a ball. Continue with remaining mixture. Power balls can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. 
Listening To:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Adelaide Eats 2017

The Adelaide Eats food market is BACK for it's third year in a row, and I'm here to give you the inside scoop on what you should be checking out! Located right in the downtown core, on the second floor Terrace of Adelaide Place, Adelaide Eats is the perfect destination for those working in the financial district to grab a quick bite on the go. With over fifteen restaurant options to choose from, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the delicious choices. Having visited the market last year, I knew to try and come up with a game-plan this time around, so that I could be sure to taste as much as possible, without getting too full! 
After trying (almost!) all of the tastes that Adelaide Eats had to offer, I of course had a few favourites. Momofuku was a welcome addition to the market this year, serving up their famous pork belly and chicken steamed buns. Though I've had Momofuku's steamed buns before, they were just as wonderful as always, and stood out as one of my favourite tastes of the night. 
Though I'm generally pretty skeptical when it comes to brisket sandwiches, I was curious to try Toben Food By Design's Brisket Sandwich. I'm so glad I did, because it turned out to be one of the best brisket sandwiches I've ever had! It was particularly lovely when paired alongside their refreshing Compressed Watermelon Salad with corn, black beans, and feta. This duo is definitely a must-try! 
After enjoying two fairly heavy options, I was ready for something lighter before going back for more gluttony. Though I had never heard of Cassia before (they do Thai pop-ups throughout Toronto), I really enjoyed their Thai Papaya Salad. Not only was it delicious, each dish was prepared to-order, with our chef taking out a pestle and mortar to grind the herbs and spices right before serving! I highly recommend checking them out, as it may be tricky to find them anywhere else! 
I was a little shocked at how much I enjoyed Wahlburgers burger. I'm pretty picky with my burgers, and have been talking a lot of smack about Marky Mark daring to bring his burgers to Toronto to rival our dear Burger's Priest, Stockyards, Holy Chuck, The Drake, and more. I gotta give Marky Mark some credit, he does make a good burger (though no, it ain't no Priest!), and what's more, he completely won me over with his crunchy on the outside, and soft and tender interior tater tots! Man, were those ever addictive! 
Of course, no market would be complete without some refreshing beverages! While I chose to sip on a little sangria (they were serving both red and white sangria), my sister Justine chose to enjoy a few brews from The Mervchant Tavern, trying both the Goose Island IPA and Mill St. Organic. Fear not, wine drinkers, The Merchant Tavern has you covered as well, serving Peller Estates Chardonnay and Cabernet-Merlot. 
I'm really glad to have had the chance to try out all of the delicious offerings at the market and am looking forward to coming back throughout the summer! Be sure to check out the market from now until July 28th located at 150 York St. 

Listening To:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Raw Shaved Asparagus Salad Two Ways

Being such a food-focused province, the winter months have a way of taking its toll on us Ontarians, having to endure months and months of minimal options and repetition when it comes to local produce. There's no better sight than the first discovery of local asparagus at the market, as it has become a signifier for the beginning of Spring and all of the seasons big, fresh flavours for Ontarians.
With asparagus at its peak in the Spring, there's no better time to turn off the heat and play around with different raw preparations for this healthy and flavourful green. Serving asparagus raw allows its true flavours to shine through, as well as taking advantage of its fantastic  crunchy texture. This recipe lets asparagus act as the star, dressing it in a light vinaigrette that highlights asparagus's natural flavours, without overwhelming it. More than that, this recipe gives you the option of serving the salad two ways; standing along, garnished with pistachios and parmesan cheese, as a light accompaniment to lunch or dinner; or as an appetizer, using it as a topping for goat cheese crostini.

This article was originally posted in Fredi Magazine. CLICK HERE to check out the spread!

Tip: Save any remaining dressed salad to add into an omelette the next day!

Ingredients:
2 lb thick asparagus spears, trimmed & peeled into ribbons
Salad Dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp mint, cut into very fine ribbons
salt and pepper to taste
Salad
2 Tbsp. chopped pistachios, lightly toasted
shaved parmesan cheese, for garnish
Crostini
8-10 thin slices baguette, cut on a bias
olive oil
about 1/2 cup goats cheese

Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, and mint, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium bowl, add asparagus ribbons. Add 3/4 of dressing and toss. Taste, and add remaining dressing as needed. 
  3. Divide salad in half. Plate half garnished with pistachios and parmesan cheese shavings and serve as a salad.
  4. Use the remaining half of the salad for topping the crostini. Lightly brush baguette slices with olive oil and lightly toast or grill. Spread evenly with about 1-Tbsp. goats cheese each, and top evenly with remaining asparagus salad. Serve immediately. 
Listening To: