Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

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Anther vegan recipe on the blog...who am I with this fake detox where I still get to drink wine and eat Girl Guide Cookies?!

This soup is great on its own, but its also great as a base recipe that you can play around with.  So, sure - get trendy and use kale instead of spinach!  Substitute chicken broth for the beef broth if it makes you feel like a free-wheelin' babe!  YOLO it with chickpeas instead of canellini beans!  You can do what you want, and the main idea would be similar and delicious.

Look at the rainbow of beautiful vegetables in mine!

On a completely different topic, it's been a year since I became a runner and I've never really mentioned it on this blog because I guess I was scared it wouldn't stick.  But, it has stuck and I guess I'm a runner now, and here are a few of my thoughts on it.

I was never a runner.  I was the girl in high school that got winded and nauseous and felt like I was going to keel over in Physical Education class when we had to run a lap of the track.  But back then I didn't really have to have any physical activity in my life and could eat whatever the heck I wanted and still be twig-like.  I still think that Nutrition should be a semester-long class taught in today's high schools.  Nowadays, in the words of my childhood orthodontist, Mother Nature's goal is to "turn a pretty girl ugly."  I found out the hard way that if you don't wear your bottom retainer every night your teeth will go crooked again, and also that as it turns out metabolism becoming slower with age is a thing.  And here we are.

It all started for me because the location of my office building in downtown Vancouver is right on the most gorgeous stretch of seawall in North America, and right beside the 2014 Best Park In The World (according to Trip Advisor).  From my office window I can see hundreds of runners every day just running all the time - before work, on their lunch breaks, and as the sun is going down.  Seeing this every day (even on Vancouver's rainiest days) was enough to make me feel like I should be doing something like that too.  After all, it can't get any easier than throwing on your runners (Canadian word for sneakers; I've been told it's not used in other countries?!) and walking a block.  The only problem was that, just like when I was back in high school, I 'could not' run.

So, back in May 2014 I downloaded the '5K Runner' iPhone app by ClearSky Apps.  In 8 weeks it promised to take me from the couch to a 5K race.  I was doubtful, but decided to give it a try.  The app gets you doing a combination of run/walk intervals three times a week, until eventually on the last day of the eighth week, you can magically run for 35 minutes without stopping.  I couldn't believe that it worked, but it did.  From there, I wanted to keep going with their program and so I downloaded their '5K Forever' app, which helped to improve my time with walk/run speed intervals over the next eight weeks.  I was on a roll at that point, so I downloaded the '10K Runner' app, and six weeks later I was able to run for an hour without stopping.  After that I participated in our local 10K Terry Fox Run in September 2014 (with my mom, who is my role model in many things, including running), the 10K Turkey Trot for Thanksgiving 2014 (with my friend Ashley and a horrible head cold), and coming up this weekend I'm participating on my office team in Canada's biggest 10K run, the Vancouver Sun Run.

There were a few things to overcome along the way, namely the following:  the wobbly feeling of my butt always running a few steps behind me (catch up, butt!), the commitment to run three times a week in rain or shine or snow (and when it rains and snows, that promise to myself that I can't break totally sucks), Netflix, the amazing smell of popcorn being sold along the Stanley Park Seawall as I run past and can't eat it, knee issues resulting in multiple trips to the physiotherapist, and an Imposter Syndrome that I've been harbouring since my youth.  But I did it.

Nowadays I trail run with my mom, I run the Vancouver Seawall with friends, and I run on my treadmill at home.  I'm proud (yes, proud!) to say that it's now a very healthy part of my life.  Some wonderful side effects have been a 20 pound weight loss over 12 months, finding strength and feeling good, muscle definition in my legs for the first time in my life, and an amazing feeling of self accomplishment.  I run for these things, but I also run for wine and cheese and pasta and health and vanity and better fitting jeans. But the best side effect of running so far has been the ability to completely silence my mind to almost everything else and just concentrate on the matter at hand - running.  Some people think when they run; for me it's the only time in my life when my head is totally clear, and I have found that I crave that.  There is a wonderful piece from The Oatmeal that totally speaks to me on this topic, with my favourite line being, "I run very fast because I desperately want to stand very still."  It's not about the butt, it's about the brain.  If you are a runner and have some time, click on the link and have a's worth the read.

I recently went back to my high school track, and ran around it 28 times without stopping, just to prove to myself that I could.  The high school version of me would have been impressed.

OK, back to the soup...

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One Year Ago:  Classic Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Two Years Ago:  Chicken and Broccoli Casserole in Creamy Curry Sauce
Three Years Ago:  8-Layered Greek Dip

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Serves: 4

  • 1 (15 to 19-ounce) can canellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or use 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves (or use 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium broth (beef or chicken or vegetable broth is fine)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves

In a small bowl, mash 1/2 of the canellini beans with a potato masher, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice, then bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the beans (whole beans and mashed beans), and the spinach leaves, then cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.


Recipe Source: Tuscan Vegetable Soup Recipe - Food Network

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kale, Shrimp, and Chickpea Pitas

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So I'm officially in Detox Mode 3000.

Actually make that 6000.

Actually let's amend that to 2000 (I forgot that I drank a bottle of wine last night).

First a trip to San Francisco to visit an old gal pal for 4 nights (so fun!  why doesn't she live closer!  damn geography!  all we did was eat and drink and repeat!)

The Hubby was whooping it up in Phoenix with a friend at the same time.

Then with less than 10 days turnaround, we took a trip with my parents to New Orleans for 5 nights (so fun!  why is my next vacation so far away!  all we did was eat very deep fried food, and drink, and repeat!).

It was our fourth time in New Orleans in the past 4.5 years, so I guess you could say that we are basically Southerners now.  Because Southerners usually like to spend an entire afternoon in New Orleans watching two Canadian hockey teams play against each other in an Irish bar with the afternoon's climax being when the entire bar sings the Canadian National Anthem in unison.  True story.  It was a great day.

Anyways, I'm basically 700 pounds heavier than I was a month ago (well, remove two zeros, but STILL), and I want my pants to fit again!  The Hubby must feel the same way because the lunches he has taken to work this week have consisted of the following:  raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, ranch dip, banana.  Exciting!  We also have a new evening ritual three times a week when Big Brother Canada is on, where we go into his Man-Cave in the basement and he rides the stationary bike and I walk or run on the treadmill beside him.  It's quite quaint.  Couples who play together stay together?  Ha!

I thought these healthy Kale, Shrimp, and Chickpea Pitas would also help us on our quest to remove the unwanted poundage.  The Hubby freaked out a little bit at the idea of eating kale, but in the end even he was gobbling these pitas down.  I used prawns, but the original recipe from Food Network called for shrimp.  The filling has grape tomatoes and some finely chopped red onion, but you could really mix it up however you wanted, and it would be great.  The lemony-garlicky dressing really makes these pita pockets delish!  Everything tastes very fresh and healthy and nom nom nom!  Oh, and I think they took me about 11 minutes to make, which makes Megan and happy girl on a weeknight when the hangry-ness tends to settle in quickly.

I'm going to keep the detox train going with a healthy Tuscan Vegetable Soup coming up on the blog later this week.  Choo choo!

For a printer-friendly version of any recipe, simply click 'Print' below the title of any blog post. Voila - a clean recipe without my ramblings or any pictures!

One Year Ago:  Curry Coconut Chicken Vegetable Soup
Two Years Ago:  Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Bars
Three Years Ago: Classic Creamy Hummus

Kale, Prawn, and Chickpea Pitas

Serves: 4

  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt (don't accidentally buy vanilla!)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bunch kale, stems removed and leaves thinly sliced (or use baby kale)
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp (or prawns), peeled and deveined
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 pieces pita pockets, halved
In a large boil, whisk together the yogurt, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Add the kale and toss with tongs to coat.  Set aside at room temperature while you make the rest of the filling.

Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the shrimp, sprinkle with some freshly ground pepper, and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, red onion, and shrimp to the bowl with the kale, and toss gently with the tongs to coat everything well.

To prepare the pita pockets, stack them on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds until warm.  This will also make them easier to open.  Fill the pitas with the kale-shrimp mixture.  Enjoy!

Recipe Source:  Food Network - Kale and Shrimp Pitas

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Vegetarian Yam and Black Bean Stew

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It's been nice and warm in Western Canada, but on the eastern part of the country they haven't been so lucky.  Why must it unfairly snow all the way into April over on the east coast, while on the west coast we haven't seen snow all year (and crocuses have been out of the ground and cherry blossoms in bloom since February)?  I don't know, I don't know.  This comfort food recipe is for the east coasters (you're welcome).  Of course, you can still enjoy it in Spring weather too!

I love when I'm eating something and I know that not only does it taste good, but it's wholesome and nutritious.  This Vegetarian Yam and Black Bean Stew has chili and soup-like components, and I love the chunks of fresh yam.

This recipe came to me from a girl who I work with named Jenna, who you may remember from Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad fame.  Jenna eats a dairy-free and gluten-free diet, so her recipes follow the same dietary restrictions or can be modified easily (for instance, in this recipe you can substitute the all-purpose flour for gluten-free flour, or just eliminate it altogether). What they aren't missing is taste, flavour, and colour.  I've told her to keep the recipes coming, because they are keepers!

Happy one week belated Easter!

For a printer-friendly version of any recipe, simply click 'Print' below the title of any blog post. Voila - a clean recipe without my ramblings or any pictures!

One Year Ago:  Curried Coconut Chicken Vegetable Soup
Two Years Ago:  Spinach Quinoa Salad with Grapefruit
Three Years Ago:  Greek Quinoa Salad

Yam and Black Bean Stew

Serves:  4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper (seeds and stem removed), chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red chili flakes
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed yams
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and green pepper and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, until tender.  Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and chili flakes, and cook for 3 minutes longer. Add the yams, beans, tomatoes, tomato pasts, broth, flour, salt, and pepper, and bring to a gentle simmer.  Simmer 10 - 15 minutes, until yams are tender.  Adjust seasonings as desired.  To serve, sprinkle with sliced green onions.


Recipe Source:  Jenna!

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