Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spooky Popcorn Pumpkins!

Halloween is upon us and I am getting ready for a spooky weekend!
Today I made some yummy Halloween Popcorn Pumpkins for a party I am going to tonight! You can find the recipe here.

All the goodies (popcorn, peanuts and candy corn) ready to go!

Margarine/butter, mini marshmallows, red and yellow food coloring.

All mixed together and ready to be shaped into pumpkins! This mix is really easy to work with!
Using the muffin tin is key- put your mix in, then the licorice in the centre and form the mix around the licorice stem.


The finished product ready for spooky party people to enjoy!

This recipe was super easy and the little pumpkins turned out great. I do have some notes on my experience to share:

  • I doubled the recipe.
  • You need more yellow food coloring than the recipe calls for. 
  • I also put the pumpkins the the fridge for about 20 minutes (kind of like rice crispy squares.) 
  • I managed to find everything I needed at Bulk Barn (I already had popcorn, peanuts and margarine.) I especially love their licorice... so fresh and delicious. If you ever get a chance to try this licorice you may convert to Bulk Barn just for it... that is what happened to me anyway.

Tonight I am also going to try this pumpkin beer:

St. Ambroise Citrouille (Pumpkin Ale) from Quebec.

Happy (and Spooky) Halloween Everyone! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance, Gotta Really Really Dance!

Hi everyone,

Today's blog post is brought to you by belly dance. I haven't been blogging much lately.  Partly because I've been so busy; partly because I've had issues with my wrist and neck again; but mostly because I have been reconsidering why I blog and what I blog about.  This blog began as something for myself, then sort of transformed into a food and fitness blog.  I feel like what I was missing from the equation was the living part.  Eating happy, moving happy and living happy.  On that note, I bring you my first official living happy post!
I've mentioned that I dance on my blog a few times, but I've never devoted a whole post to one of my most favorite things and one of the most important aspects of my life.  Hopefully after you read this post, you will have a better understanding and appreciation of the dance form.

My own personal story: I started dancing in 2008 with two friends.  We decided to take a dance class and since I had just recently had knee surgery we thought belly dance would be fun and not too hard on the knees.  Like most people, we didn't know much about the dance form.  We knew there were shimmies and belly rolls and that the women wear bright costumes! I'll be honest, that is pretty much all I knew! (Thankfully I now know, understand and appreciate the complexities and varietes of belly dance.)  After one session of belly dance we were hooked.  Partly because it was fun, partly because we got to spend time together, but I think mainly because of how it made us feel. Dance inherently feels good.  Humans can't help  but tap their feet or nod their head with the beat of the music. Belly dance provides an opportunity for women to feel beautiful, authentic, and connected.  It reminds you of the abilities and power of your body.  It brings women together.  How can you say no to that?

Not only that, we had an awesome teacher: Donna Cucheran (Hala).  Donna continues to this day to be my mentor, teacher, and, most importantly, my friend.  Donna did more than just show us the moves; she broke down each movement and asked us what muscles we THOUGHT we were using and then explained which muscles we SHOULD be using. Plus, she always explained the history of the movement and where it was from.  Donna asked if our class would like to perform at the spring halfa (recital) and for some reason the three of us said yes. We danced to this song.

Tarkan will always have a place in my heart!

The rest is history.  I've never looked back, and never stopped dancing.  After taking beginner classical classes, we moved onto Tribal (improvisational group dance) and Folkloric (a variety of different styles of dance, often considered the more "earthy" and "grounded" compared to other styes. Think of it as the "dance of the everyday people.")  Safe to say, explaining in depth the differences between the all the styles of belly dance would consists of MANY blog posts.  The point I am getting at here is that the dance form allowed me to explore and figure out what I liked.  I've also met some of the most amazing women and made lifelong friends.  Currently, I am the newest member of the local dance troupe Nomadic Tapestry.

Sarah, Donna and I (Nomadic Tapestry) in Calgary!

I mainly study the Jamila Salimpour Format (the mother of belly dance in North America) and her daughter Suhaila Salimpour`s format.  The reason for their formats and school of belly dance can best be summarized in this quote from the website:

"Suhaila realized the necessity to create an organized system for teaching and training. Rather than trying to integrate Middle Eastern Dance with Ballet or Jazz, she wanted to create the respect, knowledge, mentorship and training methodology she experienced in her studies to preserve the quality and longevity of the dance form."

If you are super interested, watch this fantastic documentary from the 1970s about Jamila and her troupe Bal Anat.

I'm not writing this blog post in the hopes that you jump on the belly dance wagon (although I think its a great idea).  I'm really writing this to expand on a bigger idea: the importance of passion in life.  My blog focuses on food, exercise and life.  When I joined Nomadic Tapestry, I had a realization of the importance of following your passion. For years I limited myself: diets, exercise regimes, lack of confidence, pre-conceived notions of what I thought I was supposed to do.  Dance has so altered my own understanding of myself, my life, my possibilities and my future.  Thanks to shimmies, back bends and finger cymbals, I have a new perspective and life.  Find your passion.  Or at the very least, do what Ellen has her audience do everyday: DANCE! (right now!) 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mexican Lasagna Bake

 Here is a simple recipe adapted from Kraft that my sister made a few weeks ago. This is exciting for a three reasons:
1. It was super easy, healthy and delicious.
2. Leftovers!
3. My sister made it. My sister making dinner, especially following a recipe, is a rarity, so when such events happen, I celebrate and make sure to acknowledge this behaviour with a blog post about it (in hopes it happens again! *hint hint Cathy!*)

3/4 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 tsp chili powder
1 1/4 cup salsa
2 cups frozen corn
3 large whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup (fat-free) sour cream
3/4 cheddar cheese

Oven at 375 F
Cook up meat with veggies on medium heat. Add chili powder. After a minute add salsa and corn and mix. Simmer for 5 minutes.

In a square baking dish, spread one cup of the mixture on the bottom. Then make like lasagna- layer tortillas, meat sauce, sour cream and cheese for the next two layers. Do no put cheese on the top layer. Save some cheese for later (about 1/4 cup) Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Put on last 1/4 cup cheese and bake for 5 more minutes- until melted.

Enjoy! We topped ours with guacamole and sour cream!

Find the original recipe here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Move of the Week: Home Gym Update

Hi everyone!

Life has been hectic and crazy busy! Finding the time and energy to update Chomp has been difficult. I thought with the end of summer, I would be back to a routine, but so far that has not been the case. I think it won't be until mid-October before things calm down.  Not only that, I continue to deal with my neck/wrist issues... possibly a future post on my adventures with that!

Lucky for me, (and you since you are reading this!) its Sunday morning and I am being lazy.  If you remember my post from a few months back about quitting the gym, I purchased a TRX.  Well,  in early September the kettlebells I had ordered finally arrived.  I already had an 8kg (17.6 pounds). I purchased a 12 kg (26.4 pounds) and a 16kg (35.2 pounds).

Aren't they pretty and colorful!
Swing baby swing!

 So my little home gym is basically complete. I can pretty much do everything I like to do in it.  You can see my TRX is attached to the wall (ideally you want it on a ceiling in a space centered where you can anchor behind and in front.) This set up limits some of the movements I can do, but given that the TRX allows you to do hundreds of exercises, I'm not complaining.

As you can see, I don't have much space, but it works. My sister and I workout together sometimes and lately Ryan has been working out about once or twice a week with me too! You can see my foam roller tucked away in the corner by the couch too.  Starting today I am doing the 21 day kettlebell swing program again. This time, however, I will not be doing 21 consecutive days of swings because the next two weeks I am away in Calgary. Don't think I'm backing down- I'll be at a dance workshop with one of the world's best belly dancers and it is going to be extremely challenging, so I'll give myself a kettlebell break!

Quitting the gym hasn't been easy.  I had some weeks during the summer where I only worked out at home once.  There are times where it is difficult to get motivated.  The thing is, these same problems would come out if I had a gym membership too.  At least with my home gym, I can workout and be showered and ready to go before I was even half way through my workout at the gym.  Certainly not bored yet either.  Besides my home workouts I also dance twice a week, go to Bikram and sometimes go boxing with Ryan. Not bored in the least!

Here are some of my favorite kettlebell and TRX moves: (remember that you don't need a kettlebell or a TRX to do these moves, its just the tools I use. Free weights or bodyweight moves also work!)
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
TRX Suspended Lunge
Kettlebell Turkish Get up (I have done these with as high as a 35 pound kettlebell! woo hoo! However, when starting, I would just do this without any weight and build up slowly. It takes practice because at first its an odd movement.)

Anyone else getting back into their exercise routine as summer winds down? What are you upto this fall- trying new classes, looking for new inspiration or just glad to be back to the usual routine? Let me know!

Happy Moving Everyone!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chicago- Pequod's Pizza!

Chicago: The Windy City, home of the Cubs and White Soxs! Also home to some of the most delicious food in North America!

Chicago in July is a busy place... its high tourist season, and its HOT. I can't say enough good things about this city. The people are nice, the architecture is brilliant, and the food... oh the food!

Which brings me to talk about PIZZA! You can go to Chicago without eating some deep dish pizza!!

Pequod's Pizza in Lincoln Park
I had researched a few pizza places in Chicago and Pequod's was our choice since we had spent the morning nearby. 

 We chose not to really eat before we went. I think we had coffee and a few almonds. It was also close to 100 F that day, so we deserved pizza and beer. We got the Goose Island Beer (its Chicago's beer!)- We got the Summertime Ale and the classic 312.
Refreshing! (And maybe a little tipsy by the second beer and no food...)

The Pizza! I essentially got a Hawaiian Pizza (Pineapple and Canadian Bacon!)

We each got a small (10") pizza- around 11 bucks each! We both ate 3/4 of the pizza and saved a piece for a snack later on in the day...

 Kierstin go tomato and pineapple!

Big thumbs up for Pequod's Pizza! 
I have seem deeper dish pizza's, but for us, this was perfect. The crust was caramelized and flavorful. I can see why it is such a favorite of locals and tourists alike!

Pequod's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recipe Roundup

You may think I'm being lazy here... I think I'm actually being quite nice because I am providing links of my favorite recipes I have discovered from the past little while! Sweet and simple post for ya!

Honey-Rosemary Chicken: Made these at my friends place. We ate it up! Plus, like most RR recipes, its ridiculously simple. Note: for cheap(er) pine nuts, try Bulk Barn!

Slow Cooker Fajitas: I am shocked to discover I never shared one of my main go-to recipes of ALL TIME. I often make this when I want to have fajitas over a few days (lunch and dinner) or for a lot of people for very little cost. Also, its ridiculously easy because all you do is put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, and walk away.

Curried Pumpkin Hummus: How exciting is this? My favorite things hummus and  pumpking- TOGETHER!

Curried Millet and Chickpea Stuffed Peppers: I haven't made this yet, but I am super excited to try it out.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vancouver Trip 2011

WOW! Summer is flying by! I realized its been a few weeks since my last post. Early July Ryan and I drove to Vancouver and I thought I would blog about a few of the best food experiences we had out there...

Sushi California (Coquitlam)
I always get Sushi when I go out to Vancouver and after a long day of walking around Stanley Park, we made a quick stop at Sushi Calfornia for dinner!

Yam Tempura Rolls and California Rolls!
Salmon, Tuna and Red Snapper (disliked the Snapper, I couldn't finish it.)

Edamame- so much edamame for so cheap!
More Sushi! 

Ryan got vegetable tempura. He really liked all of it except for the zucchini and eggplant tempura.

Sushi California was packed when we went in there to pick up our food. But they were quick about placing our order (think we waited around 10 minutes total.) So we were in and out really fast. All our food came to under $25 and I had leftovers for lunch the next day. If you are looking for sushi and are in that area, I'd recommend it!

Next up....
TACO SHACK!! (Kitsilano)
Ryan and I spent the day in Kitsilano and after wanding around the Museum of Vancouver got really hungry. We walked down the street and discovered Taco Shack. So happy we did!


Ryan is HUNGRY!

3 tacos is actually 6 tacos (Boy was I full after that!)

Huge portions but seriously fresh ingredients! I got one chicken, one fish and one veggie taco. Tons of fresh onion and cilantro included. And as much hot salsa as you can handle!

Fun little place for a great lunch or dinner. Clearly it was a favorite by a lot of locals who came by while we were chowing down! It was nice to have tacos that were a little bit more authentic than your usual American-Mexican places that are so typical. This was fun!

Sadly, I have no pictures, but Aphrodite's Organic Cafe (Kitsilano) was also fantastic. I got stuffed french toast, while everyone else opted for the many delicious egg dishes. We finished brunch with pie. It was great.

Sushi California on Urbanspoon

Taco Shack on Urbanspoon

Aphrodite's Organic Café and Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Move of the Week: Quitting the Gym

So I quit the gym... Its been a long time coming. We weren't feeling it anymore. I felt obligated to be there. I had moments where I would go and be so happy and have fun. But plenty of moments where it was more of an obligation and I felt rushed. I felt money flying out of my bank account for no reason. Basically, my relationship with the gym was unhealthy and not cheap! An expensive date!  
My decision led me to go out and purchase a TRX and two more kettlebells. I've been so busy lately, dancing 3 times a week, going to yoga and just trying to have fun, that I only managed to get to the gym probably 6 times in the whole month. Those visits to the gym were also partly an obligation because I had the membership, not because I necessarily wanted to go. Plus, at the gym I was pretty much only using kettlebells and the floor. Why pay 400$ a year for that, when I can invest in some equipment now for the long term and put my money to dancing and yoga? Plus I'll save time from commuting to and from the gym and I can workout with my boyfriend (yay!!)

Its funny how as much as I knew that me and the gym were drifting apart, how much over the past few months I held onto it for dear life. Then, this past week I just sort of realized that it wasn't giving me what I wanted anymore.
I will miss some of the fantastic staff at the YMCA and some of the classes. I'll also miss working out with my sister. I realize that for some people, this seems strange. Most people join the gym to get healthy. I on the other hand, need to leave the shackles of the gym so I can have more fun and actually move more! I'm excited!
What about you? Have you quit the gym? Do you only go in the winter time? Can you workout at home? 

For those of you that want to know what a TRX is...

Expect a TRX post soon!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taste of Ukraine

Friends Dinner Club went to Taste of Ukraine a few weeks ago!
Before we get to the food, check out the ambiance and decor!



My favorite part of my dinner was the Borst.  Really liked the texture and flavor of it. I am easy to please :)

My entree: Shashlyk (skewered and char broiled seasoned chicken), pyrogy and potato pancakes.
Everything was good, but nothing blew me away. When it come to pyrogy, I still prefer my neighbours homemade pyrogies or the ones I get at the Ukrainian Church dinners! 

Chicken Kyiv, pyrogy and nalysnyky (cheese crepes)

After we had all had plenty of pickles, garlic, pyrogy and other such goodies, we moved onto dessert!

Walnut Torte- clearly a hit!

Chocolate Nalysnyk- vanilla ice cream inside a crepe with caramel and chocolate sauce!
There were multiple of these at the table- and the plates were licked clean... 

All in all we enjoyed our experience at Taste of Ukraine. The service was fantastic. The price point was around $20 per entree (my whole meal, including tip was under $40.) We all loved the garlic, the pickles (except me- its one of the few foods I dislike) and the atmosphere was lots of fun. 
I know for myself, I probably won't return to Taste of Ukraine in the near future with so many other options to meet my pyrogy needs, but its nice to know that in the centre of Edmonton, you can find a little taste of Ukraine.

Taste of Ukraine on Urbanspoon