How Do You Macaron?

I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my entire adult life. In my ideal world, I would be able to eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight, but in reality I’ve tried every kind of deprivation known to man to lose weight. I don’t want to get into specific diets because for the most part I don’t recommend any of the ones I have tried, save one, but it suffices to say that I never intend on eating cabbage soup or drinking grapefruit juice again.

When I first started this blog, I thought it would be a way to force myself into making healthy recipes and eating proper portions. I thought it would be a site that would show my dedication to healthy eating and exercising. If I’m honest, that’s not honest. I am dedicated to healthy eating and working out – but I’m not there yet. I’m not the girl with the perfectly balanced meals who runs several miles several times a week … and why would I want to be? Those girls (women) already exist, and as much as I try to tell myself several times a day that that’s who I am, it’s not. Maybe someday – but for now I’m still a girl who stumbles, who tries to eat healthy but eats dessert way too often, loves cheese a little too much, and finds way too many excuses not to work out.

My overeating doesn’t happen in a slightly larger than normal piece of cake – it happens in days of eating pasta and cake in a row, followed by days of never wanting to look at another carb as long as I live. I know this kind of lifestyle isn’t the greatest – but it’s mine and until I can change it, I’m going to own it. As I train for my first half marathon, and then my first marathon, I’m going to do my best to do better with my nutrition … but until then I’m sure I’ll still stumble. I know I’m not alone in this, and I feel that it’s better for me to be honest about that so that people who struggle with the same things that I do know they’re not alone.

And speaking of stumbling, please allow me to introduce you to my newest stumbling block:

The macaron.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did eat all of these. Just not all at once. I just discovered French macarons a few weeks ago, and fell instantly in love. So in love, in fact, that I made it a mission to find the best macarons in Toronto. So far I’ve only tried two places, and the ones above, bought at Pusateri’s and made by Sweet Definition, are my favourites. I was particularly in love with the raspberry and café au lait varieties. So beautiful.

A French macaron is not something I can describe, it’s just something you have to try for yourself. Trust me. I also tried macarons from Moroco which were quite good but a little too sweet for my taste – although I was a huge fan of their chocolate ones as well as the vanilla – with specks of real vanilla bean in them. I’ll have to go back and try out the rest of the flavours someday.

One at a time. Of course.

Yesterday marked my first official running day of half marathon training! I actually started on Monday with cross-training but yesterday was my first run. I only took up running in the spring of last year, completing three official 5Ks and an unofficial 10K … this year I have an incredibly busy racing season planned, starting with an 8K for Harry Rosen and ending with the Chicago Marathon. Somewhere in between I’ll be racing a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon and a 30K … and just because that isn’t crazy enough, I’ll also be participating in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers.

I get tired just thinking about it! But I can’t even express how much I’m looking forward to all of this.

In the meantime, I’ll try to stay away from the macarons.

I said try. Not necessarily succeed.

What advice would you give to a first-time marathoner?

February 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm 3 comments

Hello, Cupcake!

Is there anything better than a cupcake? I think not. You get all the cake and all the delicious icing in one perfect, compact little package.

Yes, please.

I picked this one up at Pusateri’s for a little Valentine’s Day treat for myself. Hey, don’t judge – a single gal’s gotta do what a single gal’s gotta do.

Oh. my. gosh.

I love cake – and cupcakes. And basically anything with sugar in it if you must know the truth. I loved this cupcake so much … the cake was super chocolate-y and the icing was smooth and creamy and not overly sweet. It was a little bit of heaven in my mouth I’m not gonna lie. The thing I like best about Pusateri’s is that you can often get treats made by local bakeries … and since it’s about a 10 minute walk away from my work, it saves me from trekking all over the city in search of the perfect cupcake. And you know I’d do it, too! I believe this one came from Sweet Definitions but I’m not linking you to them because I’m not absolutely sure — when I went back to check the name of the bakery the cupcakes were all gone.

I thought it might be a good idea to do some food reviews on my blog as well. I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat, but often there is nothing better than having a meal cooked for you. Ok, so a cupcake might not be a meal to some weird people but there’s also nothing better than having cupcakes made for you. I judge restaurants/bakeries/all other food places on four things: quality, cost, service and atmosphere. I’m not an expert when it comes to food by any means, but I know what I like.

I also know that I’ll be heading back to Pusateri’s for more cupcakes soon. I see an expanding waistline in my very near future.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm 1 comment

Best Laid Plans

I had such a great weekend planned! I had a ton of exercise planned, some cooking and, if all went well, some cookies to bake.

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans, right? Friday afternoon at work I started to feel sick and by the time I got home in the evening I was sick. Sicker than I’ve been in a long, long time. I was up all night, resulting in my cancelling my plans for Saturday morning (BOO) and spending pretty much all weekend laid up on my couch. Not exactly what I had planned. I did, however, manage to take Grump to the vet on Saturday because it looked like her eye had been bothering her.

It turns out she has an eye infection, the poor thing. But that didn’t stop her one little bit from enjoying our new snowfall!

She loves the snow. Bulldogs are not typically very active, and she is no exception, but whenever the snow falls she runs around like a crazy person canine, soaking it all up. She’s fearless in the snow. (Typically, she’s afraid of plastic bags and her own shadow, but that’s a story for another day.)

Today I’m feeling a little better and I’m hoping to actually get some healthy food going in the next few days in order to fend off any looming viruses that might be coming my way. I plan on being armed and ready for them!

January 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm 3 comments

Wait … a Marathon is HOW FAR?

Hello, hello, hello! Long time, no see, bloggies! I hope that everyone had a great holiday season — despite getting off to a rocky start I still have high hopes for this new year. I think it’s going to be great.

I celebrated Christmas with family, as always … and I must say, SANTA ROCKS! I got a ton of clothes (which I was desperately in need of), some movies, a food processor, a banjo which I’m totally in love with and … a lot of running gear which is good because I have registered for my first half marathon.

Now, let me just make a few confessions here: I just started running last year and have never run more than a 10K. It’s been more than two months since I’ve run anywhere. And I’m overweight. This should make for a very interesting half marathon in May. People keep telling me that anyone can do it with the proper training, so I’ve decided to take them at their word and train for it. And do it. And I’m so nervous!

What’s more, I have agreed to run a marathon this fall with a group of friends. Even. more. scared.

I haven’t officially registered for the marathon yet because registration isn’t open yet but I haven’t chickened out completely so that says something. I’ve given myself strict instructions to pay attention to my body, to not have time goals for any of the races I’m participating in this year, and above all, to not get injured. I’m not a hard-core athlete by any means and I’m not going to win any of these races … so there’s no reason to kill myself getting to the finish line, amirite?

I was chatting with a non-running friend of mine the other day and I told her that I was planning to run a marathon. She first asked how far a marathon was, and when I told her that it was just over 42 K, she said, “well, that’s not bad. So, what, you complete it over two or three days or something?” Tee hee. When I told her it was a one-day shot and that there was a limit of hours, not days, her response was “THAT’S INSANE!”

And it is. Really, really insane.

I can’t wait!

January 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm 1 comment

Happy Holidays!

Wow, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been busily preparing for the holidays! I cannot believe that Christmas is on Saturday! Do you know what else I cannot believe? I’m not finished shopping yet!

I love to give gifts more than anything in the world, but even I’m finding it incredibly difficult to find just the right thing for the people I love this year. At first I thought it was a money issue, but after thinking about it some more I realized that even if I had an extra few thousand dollars to spend, I still wouldn’t know what to buy! Some years are just like that, I guess.

This year I did a lot of taste testing baking for gifts. I made everyone in my office a little tin filled with holiday cookies for them to enjoy! I think it was the perfect amount – I put less than ten cookies in each which would be great for one person over a couple of days, or perfect to share. I hope to be able to post some of those recipes for you guys soon!

2010 has been a very trying year for me and I can’t say that I’m sad to see it end. I am, however, looking forward to ringing in 2011! I don’t know why but for some reason I just have this feeling that it’s going to be a great year. My mind has been racing with all of the goals that I want to accomplish next year and this blog is a major one!

I can’t wait to develop this site and add things to it and just take it where it goes. I’ve been working through ideas and designs and one thing I know for sure – I need to build a light box, or perhaps clear a nice spot and get a little table for my currently overcrowded balcony.

This Saturday I’ll be enjoying Christmas dinner and my grandmother’s house – and I’ll be heading over suuuuper early to help her cook. I can’t wait!

I’d like to wish you all an incredibly magical holiday season!

December 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

Getting It Going

You didn’t think I had forgotten about you, did you? Actually I’ve been pretty busy with blog-related things, even though I haven’t posted for a while. I decided I should take my own advice, so I stopped along the way to do a little planning.

You see, the reason I named my blog “Start with a Nibble” is not just because it’s a cutsie name for a food blog, but because it’s how I’d like to encourage people to start thinking about healthy living. I have found that, as I’m sure so many people can relate to, my unhealthy cycle starts when I try to do everything all at once. For instance, when I was going through my diet-a-month phase I would alternately try to cut out all carbs from my life, then I would subsist on vegetables alone, then it was giving up soda and coffee altogether. It was one fad diet after another but the one thing that they all had in common was zero margin for error: it was all or nothing. I no longer live this way. I’m not perfect by any means, but I no longer believe in diets: what I do believe in is making small changes each day to live a healthier life. It’s about doing a bit better than you did the day before. It’s about making changes that are small enough so you can maintain them, but big enough to make a difference.

Rather than doing everything all at once, it’s ok to just start with a little nibble!

I’ve spent some time thinking about exactly what I want my blog to be about … and the one thing I came up with right from the beginning is that I don’t want it to be like everyone else’s blogs. I’m sure any blogger will tell you the same thing. I also don’t want to meal-by-meal posts of everything I eat because frankly, some of my foods are pretty boring. You really don’t need to know that I have the same breakfast five days of the week, do you?

So what I’ve come up with is that I want this to be an honest blog of my daily adventures in trying to lead a healthier life. I’m going to be making some changes around here! Firstly, I’ve decided that the layout of this blog isn’t exactly “me”. It kinda looks prim and proper don’t you think? That’s not me. I’m ridiculously sarcastic, sometimes messy and I always think in bright colours. Martha Stewart, I’m not. You’ll be seeing some changes on this site so that, hopefully, it will match my personality a bit more and will reflect what I want my blog to say: healthy eats are awesome, but sometimes you gotta have a little sugar … making mistakes is fun and very necessary in life … you win some, you lose some (hopefully you just win a bit more) … and most importantly NOTHING makes cooking more fun than if you do it with a bit of humour.

What have I been up to lately, you ask? Well, I’m so glad you did! I’ve had some adventures in cooking. I’ve had my first adventures in vegan baking, pepper roasting, tofu cooking and potato chip making. I’ve given myself a few burns and cuts but thankfully the food hasn’t suffered. I’ve read food blogs like a mad woman because, really, how else would I learn? And last but certainly not least, I’ve been eating.

(… and taking pictures of hot food on snow-dusted benches …)

The above picture is my attempt at replicating the Hard Rock Cafe‘s Twisted Mac and Cheese. YUM! I couldn’t tell you if it was perfect, but it was pretty darn good. I may have to bring a bowl to the restaurant and do a side-by-side comparison … what do you think? 😉 Recipe to come soon – I promise.

I just really wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you – I’ve been a busy girl preparing to make Start with a Nibble an amazing blog that reflects exactly what I want it to reflect. Plus, seriously, what better time to get a food blog rockin’ then just before the holidays?

November 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm 2 comments

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I shared a deep, dark secret with a friend of mine this weekend and I think it is time that I shared it on my blog as well.

I am a mess in the kitchen.

There, I said it. I don’t mean that my food is a mess because despite everything, it always seems to come out alright. I mean me – I’m the mess. I cannot bake or cook or even prepare veggies without somehow injuring myself. My family takes this for granted now – they both expect it and accept it when I injure myself in the kitchen. I’m almost positive that if my mom had her way, I would not be allowed to use anything that is sharp or hot. Or heavy. Or liquid. But since the food turns out well, I still do get requests to cook (always with a first aid kit on standby).

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

Now for the food! I have become obsessed with these apple chips that they sell at the grocery store near my work. Ob. Ses. Sed. They are delicious bits of dried, crunchy apples that are a bit sweet, a bit salty, and entirely delicious. They are also four dollars a bag, and you don’t get all that many apples. I decided this weekend that I would try to make them at home. I was so excited to see so many delicious apples at my local farmer’s market (the last one until spring – so, so sad!) and I decided that I’d try a couple of different kinds. I tried an ambrosia apple and a honey crisp apple. There were some pears sitting next to them and I thought, “why not?” — pear chips? Yes please!

I also may or may not have had a couple of apple fritters with maple syrup before I left the market.

It is very important to core and slice the apples (and pears!) thinly. I used a mandolin, but if you’re a rockstar with a knife (which I am not) feel free to use your talents! It is also very important not to slice your thumb open with your new apple corer (don’t ask). Remember – do as I say, not as I do. If the slices aren’t the same width, it will be difficult to get your cooking times right.

You basically want to dehydrate the fruit, and then cook it slightly more so that they are crunchy instead of chewy. The pears took quite a bit longer then the apples to cook, but they were ah-mazing and so worth the wait.

Toss your fruit in 2 tbsp lemon juice so that it will not brown too much. At least this is what all the recipes I read over before attempting this said … I thought mine browned anyhow, so if you’re not opposed to eating golden-brown fruit, you could probably skip that step altogether. I also tossed in a little sugar (1 1/2 tbsp) and two teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

Lay the fruit out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Very important, otherwise they will stick to the baking sheet as I learned the hard way. Even if they do stick, however, they will taste amazing. They just won’t look as pretty.

Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon, and pop them in the oven at the very low temp of 225*F until dehydrated and slightly browned – mine took about two hours.

It is also very important, if you will be taking some pictures of your fruit chips, that you not start these too late in the day, otherwise the sun will go down and you will miss your opportunity for natural lighting.

Of course, if that fails, you could always stick some in a reusable container and bring them to work with you the following morning. That works too – trust me 🙂

I’ll be honest with you – these aren’t quite as good as my store-bought chips. They’re lacking the salty flavour, which should come as no surprise since I didn’t actually add salt to the recipe (will do for next time!), but they were REALLY good, and at less than a dollar per piece of fruit they made a lot more for a lot cheaper. I also think it could be fun to experiment with more savoury spices and different fruits. I will definitely be making these again!

November 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm 2 comments

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