Summer Couscous Salad

I meant to post this recipe yesterday but I ended up just having one of those days … you know the ones, where absolutely nothing goes your way? It was one of those days that not even chocolate could cure (I know!). Luckily, my grandma came to the rescue – as she always does – and everything is fine now.

I made this salad this week because I was in the mood for a different way of cooking veggies. I wanted something with a mix of flavours that tasted good and I think I found it!

Summer Couscous Salad

Mix of veggies for grilling (I used an eggplant, two small zucchinis, and one bell pepper)
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp pesto (store bought is fine)
1.5 tbsp olive oil
dash of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 cup boiling water
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Slice veggies into 1″ pieces and grill until tender on a barbecue or indoor grill. Stir balsamic vinegar, pesto, oil and pepper together to combine. In a large bowl, mix couscous with boiling water; cover and set aside for five minutes. Combine couscous with grilled vegetables, chickpeas, green onions and tomatoes. Drizzle on dressing and allow to sit; stir in before serving. Enjoy!

You can definitely serve this cold, right from the fridge if you make it ahead of time, but I actually prefered it to be warm or at least at room temperature so I would let it sit until slightly warmed-up before serving. This salad would also be amazing with quinoa instead of couscous and/or with the addition of a few fresh herbs! It requires very little prep work and is super easy to make. You can have fun with the vegetables as well: try experimenting with grilled corn or asparagus for a different flavour combination.

July 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm 2 comments

This Week’s Crush

Happy Wednesday! I’d like to introduce you to a new feature for my blog called (obviously) “This Week’s Crush,” which will give you a run-down on what I’m crushing on in any given week.

This week’s crushes:


Hello, darling! I have been housesitting for a friend of my dad’s this week and let me tell you ladies and gents, this here is paradise. We’ve been having quite the heatwave here in Toronto (although the past two days haven’t been so bad) so swimming in a heated pool = yes please. I have been swimming/floating in this pool at least once a day since Saturday and I won’t lie: I’m a little sad that I have to go back to real life after today. Such a tease! (But D&J if you’re reading this, I’ll housesit ANYtime. No, really, I insist.)


Everyone, meet Finnegan. Finnegan, meet everyone. Fin is a good boy and he lives in the house I’m looking after. I have honestly never met such a quiet dog in my entire life. He never barks! Quite a change from the loudmouth punks I normally look after :)

Sadly, I only have two crushes this week. But what they lack in numbers, they make up for in beauty. Don’t you think?

July 27, 2011 at 1:29 pm 1 comment

We Interrupt this Program …

I know, I know. I said I’d be back with recipes and I haven’t been. I’m almost embarrassed by the lack of healthy food in my house right now so unfortunately you’ll have to wait just a little longer. But since it’s already been months I’m sure you’ll be ok with that, right? Right. (See, one of the benefits of having a blog is that in my mind I can just have you agree with whatever I say.)

Anyway, I came back today for something MUCH more important than recipes. I know what you’re thinking – “is there anything more important than food? Say it isn’t so!”

Alas, it is so. And the thing that’s more important than food is helping other people. Do all of you know Susan? If not, head on over to her blog and say hi. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Susan and I don’t know each other, but we do have some bloggers in common and I’ve been reading her blog for many, many months now. Susan is a very talented writer and all-around great lady, who has also just been diagnosed with lymphoma. I won’t even try to give you the whole story … but I urge you to read it on Susan’s blog, The Great Balancing Act - she is truly inspiring. Susan had to leave her job as a personal trainer after an injury to her elbow and therefore has no medical insurance. Although many health-related expenses are covered here in Canada, many are not.

Now, do all of you know Janetha? Go say hi to her too … don’t be shy! I don’t know Janetha and her blog is actually new to me, but I can tell that from here on out, I’ll be a faithful reader. Janetha has started a fundraising page for Susan called The Great Fundraising Act.

Here are the deets, copied from Janetha’s site:

Blogger Live Auction & Bake Sale:

On Monday, July 25th, we will be having a live auction and bake sale from 8:00 AM (EST) to 11:00 PM (EST).

There will be over ONE HUNDRED items to bid on!  Several companies have generously offered amazing gift baskets and packages up for bid.  Some of these blogger-favorite companies are:

  • Annie’s
  • Attune Foods
  • Aurorae Yoga
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Bondi Band
  • Chobani
  • Dave’s Killer Bread
  • Great Harvest
  • Handful Bra
  • Larabar
  • LeSportsac
  • Love Grown Foods
  • Marx Foods
  • Nasoya
  • Nourish Tea
  • NuNaturals
  • Peanut Butter & Co
  • Physique57
  • ReNew Life Probiotics
  • Stonyfield Organic
  • The Simply Bar

In addition to the generous donations from these companies, there will be also be several donations from fellow bloggers.

Items will include delicious baked goods, a professional blog makeover, a lifetime recipe hosting service, autographed books & cookbooks from published bloggers, kitchen gadgets & dishes, clothing, accessories and much more.

It’s kind of ridiculous how much amazing stuff there will be for you to bid on!

All bids will start at $10.  All proceeds from the auction will go directly to Susan.

This is an event not to be missed!  Please join us in The Great Fundraising Act live auction on Monday, July 25th!!

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Direct Monetary Donations:

The second part of The Great Fundraising Act is for those who would like to make a monetary donation.  Many of you have expressed interest, so we have set up a direct donation account.

You can use PayPal, a bank account or any major credit card to donate to The Great Fundraising Act.  If you would like to do this, simply click here.

*********************************************************************

We would love it if you could help promote The Great Fundraising Act!  Please feel free to use the image at the top of this post if you’d like.  Spread the word!

If you would like to find out more about how you can promote The Great Fundraising Act, please click here!!

If you have any questions or would like to offer an item for the auction, you can email Janetha directly at mealsandmoves (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Please remember to visit The Great Fundraising Act on Monday, June 25, 2011 — and place your bids! It is always shocking to hear of someone so young and so healthy going through a battle like this, and it is a reminder that none of us are exempt. All we can do is to take care of ourselves, and take care of each other.

July 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

Stand Still Workout

This weekend was hot, hot, hot! And I really hate saying that because I don’t want to be one of those people who says, “hot enough for you?” in the summertime. But I am. So I guess I’ll have to deal with it.

On Saturday night, my brother and I went to see a Courtyard Hounds concert. Love, love, love. I’ve seen them live before as The Dixie Chicks (for those not in the know, the Courtyard Hounds make up 2/3 of The Dixie Chicks trio) but I loved seeing them in a smaller venue … such a different vibe and much more interaction with the audience.

The show was so great … and so HOT. The venue didn’t have any air conditioning (or it was off or it was broken) and it was crazy hot in there … for me. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be onstage trying to entertain in that heat.

Which leads me to the question … is it possible to work out while you’re standing still? Ok, so I didn’t exactly stand still all night – it was a concert after all, so there was some minor dancing involved, but I could swear to you that I lost about 2 lbs just in sweat (lovely image, that) on Saturday. Possible?

It was so much fun to hang out with Shaun (yep, little bro has a name) that night. It was our first concert together! I totally introduced him to the Courtyard Hounds when their CD came out (I’ll cop to being mildly obsessed with The Dixie Chicks so I practically ran out to get it on release day) and he’s loved them ever since. Just like moi. They have a very different vibe from the Chicks, but I really like it … and I really liked the new songs they performed as well.

I can’t wait until their next album comes out … and the next time I get to see them live, I’ll be sure to bring a camera instead of just a cell phone!

July 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

I’m Back!

Wow I kinda disappeared on you there, didn’t I? I often would come back here and think about posting, but my heart wasn’t in it. It’s time for me to get you caught up.

My mom passed away on June 11, 2011 at the age of 54 after a long, hard, brave battle with Mitochondrial Neurogastrointestinal Encephalophalopathy Disease (MNGIE) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1179/ , a genetic disease that is very difficult to describe in summary … but it essentially attacks your muscles, particularly your gastrointestinal tract, causing the body to become unable to absorb nutrients. Other effects include hearing loss and paralysis of the eye muscles. It is an extremely rare genetic disease, and people with it typically show symptoms in their twenties to thirties. My mom was in her early forties when she lost her hearing, and although they were unable to diagnose the cause at the time, it is possible that it was as a result of MNGIE. She started to have gastrointestinal problems following this.

In October of 2009, she had an outbreak of shingles (the same virus as chicken pox). Following this, her gastrointestinal symptoms continued to worsen … she was prescribed medication for acid reflux, but would often vomit several times per day, causing her to be unable to eat for several days at a time. We tried everything – including liquid nutritional supplements – to get nutrition into her, but she was unable to absorb it. We saw so many doctors and specialists that it was unreal. They finally thought it was a gallbladder issue, so she had her gallbladder taken out in May of 2010. The symptoms did ease for a time, and she was even able to return to work, but they came back within a month. Her weight dropped dangerously low, to below eighty pounds. She tried to eat – she really did. She was not anorexic, but simply could not physically handle any food in her body. She got weaker and weaker, first using a cane, then a walker and finally a wheelchair to get around. She had to be helped out of the car, then off the couch, then even off of the toilet. We took her into the hospital in April of this year, and even then she knew she would not be coming home. At this point, not only was she not able to absorb nutrients, but she had lost her ability to swallow due to muscle deterioration. The Friday before Easter, they started her on anxiety medications, and she became very drowsy. I was assured by the nurse that this was normal. However, on Saturday morning (I was sleeping in the hospital every night at this point), I was unable to wake her up. They ended up calling a code blue, a moment I will never forget, and putting her on a breathing machine.

Over the next several weeks, she was tested for every disease possible at one hospital, then moved to another for an experimental treatment. At this hospital she was finally diagnosed with MNGIE, and we were told that her condition was irreversible. She became weaker and weaker until, on June 6th, she would no longer respond to us. We made the very difficult decision to cease life support on June 10th, seven years to the day after her father had passed away. She was a fighter, and hung on for more than twenty-three more hours, passing away at 12:44 pm on June 11, 2011 with her mom by her side, holding her hand.

The past few weeks have been very difficult for me. Unless you have lost a parent, you cannot possibly imagine the emptiness it leaves inside of you – the huge, gaping hole that now resides in your heart … it’s an emptiness that follows you, no matter where you are or what you are doing. My mom and I were incredibly close – the best of friends – my whole life. I miss her more than I can possibly express. It’s odd, the things you miss. My first day back at work was one of the more difficult I have had. For so long I had been rushing out at the end of a work day to see her, to help take care of her or to visit her in the hospital … and at the end of that first day back it hit me: I didn’t have anything I needed to rush home to. I’m lucky in a way, though … I have no regrets with her. I know how much she loved me, and she knew how much I loved her. Beyond that, what else is there?

My family and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our friends, family and complete strangers. We are still coming to grips with our loss, and dealing with all of the things that come with it, but I know that my mom would be so grateful for the love and support we have been shown. We are very lucky people indeed.

On a happier note, I promise I’ll be back with recipes, stories of my silliness and some wonderful reviews for you. Until then, thanks for sticking with me.

July 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm 7 comments

Pasta Belly

This weekend I was craving carbs like whoa … specifically, I was craving pasta. When I started losing weight I all but gave up pasta except for the very rare indulgence. For me, there are just some things that aren’t meant to be healthy and pasta is one of them. Pasta is meant to be smothered in cheese or cream sauce or, occasionally, tomato sauce. It’s not meant to be low-fat or heart-healthy. Call me crazy, but this is what I believe. It’s like trying to make a low-fat cheesecake. Sure it can be done, but why? With certain things, I think, it’s better to just reserve the real thing for special occasions.

This weekend was one of those special occasions. Why? Because. It was cold out. And also it was a long weekend. And let’s not forget the fact that I was out running. Twice. For about forty minutes each time. And I was house sitting. Those things deserve rewards, don’t they?

First up, I made Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi a la Pioneer Woman. This stuff was no. joke.

I stopped by Whole Foods on Friday to pick up some random cheeses in anticipation of this dish. If I was smarter, I would have written down the kinds of cheeses I bought, but as it were all I can tell you is that one was goat cheese and one was some kind of Swiss cheese. The other two … well … they were orange.

This dish took so little time to prepare which is something that makes me incredibly happy when I’m hungry.

What I ended up with was a deliciously rich pasta. I may or may not have had two huge helpings of this stuff.

Craving satisfied? Welllll … sorta. The pasta was amazing, but you know what? There were TWO days of house sitting that happened this weekend and TWO runs (let’s not forget, forty minutes each).

My dad’s dog was mildly amused by the crazy lady taking pictures of her food.

Now it’s time for my confession of the day: now and then I get an irresistible urge to go to culinary school and to make a career of food. Every now and then I share this urge with my mom who gives me a completely disapproving look. Don’t get me wrong, nobody in the world loves me more than my mom or believes in me more … which is precisely why she disapproves of me going to culinary school. She worries that I will come home missing body parts.

She may have a point. This is what happens when I’m left alone with sharp objects.

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Again.

Next up was Angela’s 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta. I’ve never tried a recipe from Angela that I didn’t like so I knew this would be a hit. Can you believe that this was my first time zesting a lemon for any reason?

(Ahem, the above accident may or may not have happened when trying to open my new lemon zester. Scissors are the enemy.)

This pasta was  a different experience from the cheesy pasta above – it was light and refreshing. The only thing I’d do differently? Angela mentions that you can use 2-3 cloves of garlic … I used 2, next time I’d use 3. Garlic is the awesomesauce.

My craving for pasta has been properly satisfied. For now.

What’s your favourite way to prepare pasta?

February 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm 4 comments

Unhealthy Habits: Part One

Probably my unhealthiest habit is diet pop/soda. I drink way too much of this stuff, and it’s the number one thing about my current diet that I would love to change.

Last year I made a mission to give it up for two weeks. I had withdrawl headaches for the first week (which should have been a clear sign that it wasn’t good for me) before I finally got used to it. After the two weeks are up, I thought I would be able to go back to just having “the occasional” can, but like any true addict, I was never able to control my cravings.

(Don’t you love the wood panelling in my office? Yea, I know, the ’70s called and they want their decor back … it’s not my fault. I work in a heritage building and as much as I’d love on a daily basis to change things, I’m not allowed.)

I go back and forth between Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper, and although I drink lots of water as well, I don’t get the same amount in as I would if I were to stop drinking the bubbly stuff.

Have you ever had a soda/pop addiction? How did you finally kick it?

February 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm 3 comments

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