Recipe: Creamy Vegan Coffee Ice Pops (Low Calorie)

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Summer is right around the corner! Even though today was windy and chilly, the weather has been trending towards the sunny and warm here in Toronto. So in honor of the slowly descending mid-spring, and soon-to-be-summer, I made these coffee ice pops.

love a good popsicle, and I love coffee. So combining the two came naturally! Usually, I’m partial to mango or strawberry-flavored smoothie pops, but these were so different—in a good way. They have a rich coffee flavour that, combined with the sweetness of the banana and dates, makes for a great low-calorie Netflix dessert option  (do you know what I mean?).

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Side Salads for Weight Loss (My Story)

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It wasn’t too many years ago that I found myself at a weight that made me really unhappy. I had tens of pounds to lose to get back to where I was before and where I am back to now, and I knew I didn’t want to follow any specific diet. I recently watched an interview about why despite the majority of Americans now finding themselves overweight, fewer of them than ever before are dieting.

One subject very aptly put it this way: “dieting is a four-letter word for failure.”

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Recipe: Vegan Cowboy Caviar Quesadillas With Pepper Jack Daiya and Guacamole

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I have been on a Mexican food kick lately, as you’ll know if you read my attempt at recreating Sugar Taco’s vegan beef tacos. Well, I was looking at one of my favourite food blogs (Budget Bytes) and I was inspired to make a quesadilla version of the Cowboy Caviar, the classic southwestern bean “dip.”

Well, I made them, and they turned out beautifully, which is why I’m sharing here. They are super easy to make and great with a little bit of guacamole! Scroll for the recipe and some process photos (these really help me when I’m cooking).

Continue reading “Recipe: Vegan Cowboy Caviar Quesadillas With Pepper Jack Daiya and Guacamole”

Things That Make Me Happy

A few weeks ago, I stopped my job hunt and decided to settle into a routine with my remote work and to take on a larger course load with school. Having spent so many months in limbo, often overexcited or worried about one interview or the next, and feeling as though my entire life routine and even place/city of residence could suddenly change, I didn’t take a lot of time to just enjoy life. Now that I know that for the next year or so, this will be my life, and I will not need to look for another job, I can just settle into this and focus on everything good.

I can’t describe what a relief this realization has been; I feel like I can stop waiting to live and just live now. And this post is a list/celebration of the simple, accessible things that bring me joy.

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— A good hike with friends. I stipulate “with friends” because I recently had an awkward experience with a member from a Meetup hiking group—generally things were fine with them, though, so this is not meant to reflect badly on the website. I love hiking and getting out in nature. Depending on the season, the same trails can look completely different, and the Bruce Trail in Ontario has over 880 Km, so exploring new sections is a favourite hobby. Winter hiking is an especially satisfying experience. I feel twice as adventurous going out when it’s snowing outside (though if you plan to do the same, please read about safety and don’t go alone).

— Writing dates with myself! I’m genuinely surprised I like this one so much, but it’s true. I feel so, so good going to a coffee shop and working on my creative writing project. I am working on a story outline, but it’s been getting pushed back because it seems like there’s always something else to do. Home is just not a place where I can leverage my focus when it comes to things I don’t have to do, unlike studying or work. Well, it turns out that going to a coffee shop does the trick; it’s just so official, and once I’m there, I can focus on my project with abandon, without feeling like there’s something else I should look up or do. It feels like I’m taking time for myself, even though it’s productive time, and finishing this project would be a win professionally and personally.

—Meditating after a Tone it Up workout (and the Tone it Up workout). Hear me out! I don’t have a gym membership, and no fancy exercise equipment (I own a Weslo bike I bought two years ago for $120 CAD and some dumbbells and a yoga mat). The Tone it Up app subscription runs at about $12 CAD per month, and it offers so much. There are daily workouts that are 20–30 minutes long, and daily and weekly schedules. In addition to that, there are guided meditations available. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without working out with my TIU trainers, and I forget how amazing I feel after one of their workouts. The combination of the vocal encouragement and the exercise moves leaves me feeling like I’ve taken a plunge into a pool of endorphins and drank it all. To turn on one of their 10-minute guided meditations after that and enhance that feeling is amazing. It’s definitely the type of thing that can turn the day around for me; the hardest part is convincing myself to actually go for the workout on those days (they’re not always easy!).

—Salads and protein smoothies because they represent the purest, truest form of self-care to me. It’s true that positive/constructive self-talk and a good attitude are realistically even more important to me, but I feel a nagging sense of pride eating a salad. And as someone who eats a lot of salads and drinks a lot of smoothies, it’s weird that I STILL get this feeling every single time. But it’s been years, and the magic is still alive. That probably has something to do with why I keep going back to my super green, super “earthy” tasting smoothies. I feel like I’ve won a competition when I eat well, and that’s a positive feeling of joy that nothing else other than winning an actual competition can give me.

—Mindful Youtube or Netflix watching. That little adjective at the beginning of this is SO important. Here’s a little tid-bit on me: left to my own devices, I fluctuate between over-control and eventually, after a crash and exhaustion, under-control. So it’s important that I intentionally create balance between work and “life,” times when I put in concentrated, hard work and times where I can take it easier and live more slowly. One way I genuinely enjoy taking it slowly is watching TV shows or my favourite videos. But that can easily turn into a binge if I’m not careful, and not only is that potential lost time that should have been dedicated to other things, but it also makes me feel really guilty. So instead, I like to plan exactly what I’m going to watch before I do: is it two episodes of Lucifer? Five Youtube videos I can chuck into a playlist? Whatever it is, I make a plan for when to stop and what to do after. And then after that,  I grab a blanket and a mug of tea and rid myself of every distraction and just relax. This can be so therapeutic if done with intention and mindfulness!

I’d love to know what everyday parts of your life you find joy in. I think sometimes it takes looking over our day and finding out where we can make space to do the things we already do a little more intentionally that can make the difference between a meaningless routine and a space/time of joy. Would you agree?

 

The Only Way I Can Eat Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are nutritious and a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and protein. But for me, they’re not easy to eat. You could put them in a glass of water or juice and then quickly down the whole thing before the seeds soak and form their gelatinous shell. But a much better way is to make a chia seed pudding bowl.

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This is a great breakfast option, especially if you’ve done a workout beforehand—since it can be just a tad high in calories. It’s crunchy, thanks to the granola, and the fruit is sweet and nutritious.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 cup plant milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (I doubled this because I love vanilla!)

Note that 1/4 cup of chia seeds contains 280 calories. So if you want to (or need to based on your dietary habits) save on some of those pesky little things, consider halving the pudding recipe, or even cutting a quarter (3 tbsp of chia seeds blended with 3/4 cup milk).

Once you have your ingredients, go ahead and blend them for a minute or two. You’ll want to blend on the highest setting possible. And that’s it—that’s your chia seed pudding! But that’s not where the magic starts (or ends) for me… I personally don’t love the texture of chia seed pudding. So the toppings make all of the difference for me, and the most important, non-negotiable one is about a 1/4 cup of granola. Getting a bit of the granola crunch with every spoonful makes all the difference.

[If you do not have a blender, you do not need one! Put the ingredients in a container and shake, then place in the fridge for a couple of hours; the seeds will expand and absorb the milk. Just make sure to mix everything really well before leaving it to set in order to avoid clumps.]

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Today, in addition to the granola, I added cup banana and thawed wild blueberries. But you could add any combination of complementary fruits that you would like. And then to finish, you can top the whole thing with just a little bit of sweetener. I used one tablespoon of maple syrup.

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This bowl was seriously such a treat! Even though chia seed pudding is one of those uber healthy, health-nut type snacks/meals/foods, incorporating the proper textures and flavours can make a world of difference.

There are so many ways of making the pudding and this is by far my favourite. I’ve seen lots of recipes that recommend simply blending everything together, including the fruits. But having the fruits as a topping just makes this less of a boring meal and provides some variation with each spoonful.

In whatever way you can, consider adding chia seeds to your diet. They are considered a “functional” food, thanks in large part to their fibre content, which can help lower cholesterol and improve digestion. You deserve to protect yourself against cardiovascular diseases while warding off gastrointestinal problems (and remember that simple irregularity can increase your chances of developing colorectal cancers!).

It would make me so happy if you tried this recipe and then let me know what you think! Do this for you.

Friday Favourites

ONE: The Price of Free Youtube has acquired the award-winning documentary called “The Price of Free.” Incidentally, the documentary is FREE, and I really recommend you take an evening to watch it. It’s about child slavery and labour, particularly in India. I was appalled to see HomeSense wares are made through child slave labour. HomeSense of course carries products of individual companies, but they should have a much better vetting system in place than one that allows malnourished, imprisoned and abused children to work for free for 16 hours a day to make discount goods. One of the main messages of the documentary is that the price of cheap and discounted goods is paid by someone even if it’s not the consumer.

TWO: Uber Eats I have only used Uber Eats twice before, but it’s not until today that I realized what a total life saver it can be. Even though I’m pretty good about making frozen entrees and meal prepping for those just-in-case days where I don’t feel like cooking (or I’m too busy) even defrosting and plating a ready frozen meal can take 15 minutes or more. So today, I had a few things that needed taking care of urgently, and I decided to use Uber Eats, and it just took away that little bit of stress because it was just one less thing to take care of.

THREE: Uber Simple Meals See what I did there? No, not the company uber, just the word. I’ve learned how to make a microwave Thai rice curry soup, and it’s amazing. Instead of steaming or sautéing the veggies (one cup shredded kale and 1/2 cup shopped red bell pepper), I put them in a bowl with one tablespoon of water, covered, and microwaved until they were soft. Then I added 1/2 cup of black beans, one cup of rice, and 1/3 cup of coconut cream and water to make it into a soup. For seasoning, I used 1/2 tbsp of thai curry powder and salt (my curry powder is unsalted). So good!

 

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FOUR: Spinning With Netflix It’s a little over a year ago that I bought the tiniest Weslo stationery bike (see it here). It’s amazing what it’s done for me in that time, and how much I’ve used it. Recently though, I’ve been wheeling it out to the TV and watching Netflix while cycling. Right now, I’m watching a mix of shows. My last watched is Cable Girls, but I’ve also been trying to get through a boring spot in Wanderlust (which started with a fun premise, but has sort of come to a halt now). With Netflix, you could easily go on for 20+ miles within two episodes, so it’s a great way to make an indoor cycling workout a lot more fun.

FIVE: The Global News Podcast by the BBC I have been listening to this podcast nearly daily for over a year now. It’s amazing because I really feel that they curate some of the most important breaking news from around the world into two 25-minute (or so) episodes on weekdays, and usually just one on each weekend day. It’s extremely informative, and it makes me feel connected to the issues that matter most. While much of the news can be negative, I try to detach myself from negative emotions to keep my day (or morning) from spiralling. Self care is still important! I use the Pocket Casts app to listen.

 

 

 

Four Things I Wish I Had Known Before Thrift Shopping

I love going to Banana Republic or Aritzia or J. Crew as much as any other girl. I love finding that perfect shirt or dress, and buying something brand new; there’s just something about the shopping experience I love. But with the awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and the people it affects along the supply chain, it’s become clear that I need to make better decisions.

Consider that an article from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, an organization dedicated to studying how we can create a sustainable circular economy, estimates that the garment industry produces the equivalent of more CO2 than the emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. But while the awareness of pollution from air transport has become so accepted that some airlines, such as British Airways, allow fliers to contribute to a carbon fund by buying offset credits when they purchase tickets, most fast-fashion giants are doing little and sharing even less with the consumer.

Two of the main environmental problems with most conventional (price-focused) fast fashion garments are that their production consumes an excessive amount of natural resources (namely, water) and it releases toxic chemicals into the environment at many stages of production, putting people and entire ecosystems at risk.

One way to mitigate these and other problems in the short term is to buy thrifted items. At this time, more environmentally made garments tend to be significantly more expensive than their conventionally made equivalents. So to stretch your budget, and make responsible decisions when you buy new, it’s a good idea to buy used clothes whenever you can. Here are some things I wish I’d known before starting to thrift.

[Consider watching the documentary The True Cost to learn more of the detailsof the environmental and human impact of the fast fashion garment industry. Rent it on Youtube or find on Netflix]

KNOW what you like: // This is my most important tip. When you enter a Club Monaco or the Gap or any other store, you’re presented with items that fit into a semi-coherent style. The company carefully curates their seasonal offerings and their garments wouldn’t look out of place side-by-side in your closet. But thrifting doesn’t offer that luxury! When you’re thrifting, you’re exposed to all sorts of styles; so it’s really important to know—before going to the shop—what you will be looking for.

Thrifting shouldn’t be about sacrificing your personal style; it just requires a little more effort. So, know your colours, which cuts suit you best, whether you prefer skirts or dresses, and be completely at peace with not finding anything sometimes—because that will happen!

If you have trouble envisioning what style might suit you, consider finding a fashion blogger that inspires you or look at the cut and colours of the garments at your favourite shops. I recently wrote a blog post about Carly, a style blogger I like.

Ditch last minute shopping: // If you know you’re going to be invited for a baby shower in two months, or you have to go to a friend’s birthday next month, start planning for an outfit now. It’s a good idea to have seasonal, occasion-appropriate outfits at the ready, but if your wardrobe is incomplete, act on it as soon as possible. Thrift shopping takes a lot more time and effort than conventional mall shopping. You might need to visit more shops and flip through more hangers than you’d like to. That’s why you need to give yourself time.

But if you do find yourself in a pinch, why not consider a rental service like Rent Frock Repeat? They are a Canadian designer dress rental service. You will pay a fraction of the cost of the dress, and you will look absolutely fabulous, without having to make an often unnecessary addition to your closet. This service is great for weddings and other big occasions.

Find a seamstress: // This tip can take you a really long way. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or skirt, or shirt, that is almost perfect, but not quite. Maybe it’s a little loose in the chest area, or maybe the shoulders sit a little funny. Ask the thrift store about their return policy, and take the garment to a seamster/tress you trust. See if they can fix it!

If you can find a place that offers well-priced alterations, then you will still save money on your shopping while ending up with an outfit that is tailored to your body, something no ready-to-wear item offers.

Follow the care instructions: // Yes, you may have only paid $8 for your newest thrifted item, and it may make little sense to now dish $10 to dry clean it. But if the wash instructions ask you to only wash cold with light items or dry clean, then you need to do that. My personal experience has been that thrifted items are much more prone to disintegrating than new buys. Treat them as well as you possibly can, and part of that will include following the care instructions to a T.