Other People’s Recipes I: Dinner Party

If you’ve ever taken a look at my Tried Tested & Tasty board on Pinterest, you’ll quickly be able to see that I really enjoy cooking & baking – especially other people’s recipes. I’m planning on doing regular installments of these kinds of posts to take a glimpse into what I’ve made recently, what I liked/didn’t like about a particular recipe, and what changes I made or would make again.

Mac and I had friends over the other night for dinner. I always like when we do this because: 1) catching up with friends over a great spread of food is never a bad thing & 2) it gives us a reason to clean. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not messy people – our apartment is generally fairly tidy. But I’m talking about a deep clean. Complete with vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, the whole works. After said dinners, our place usually stays clean enough until we decide to have people over again and the whole process repeats itself. Friends = food = clean apartment. Win, win I’d say!

For dinner this time, I started off with a Corn & Blueberry Salad from Phoebe’s Pure Food (recipe here). I was really excited to make this salad because I had just bought a whole bunch of corn & blueberries from the local farmers’ market.


Farmers’ Market Haul

I opted to sauté the corn kernels in coconut oil before adding them to the salad. This is probably one of the best ideas I had that day. It smelled amazing!


I didn’t have any chives or parsley so I left those out & I used roasted sunflower seeds instead of the walnuts. For the dressing, I opted to make my own by combining orange zest & juice (leftover from the segmented oranges that were in the salad), balsamic vinegar, maple syrup & a bit of olive oil. I really enjoyed all the different flavours & textures in this salad! Corn, blueberries & oranges are not something I would have come up with on my own, but they turned out to marry quite well together!


For the main course I made Andrew’s Portobello Carpaccio with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe here). The thinly sliced mushrooms spend a few hours marinating in a mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce, miso and red wine vinegar before they’re baked & served. I didn’t have the herbs listed for the chimichurri sauce, so I just used a mix of salad greens instead. The sauce was still good, but next time I’ll try to use the herbs and a bit less red wine vinegar – I found it to be very acidic. Having never tried traditional Carpaccio before, I can’t make a true comparison to the likeness of the dishes, but these mushrooms were outstanding! The hours of marinating really allowed the flavours to infuse and the result was so flavourful! This is definitely one I’d make (and serve to others!) again and again.


For dessert, I pulled a classic-Tracey move and snuck in a lot of vegetables. I used Dearna’s recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Pudding (found here). Not only is there zucchini in this pudding, but there’s also avocado! The combination of the avocado & banana makes this pudding so rich & creamy. I swear you couldn’t taste the veggies at all! I didn’t add the walnuts called for in the recipe, but I did add the chia seeds which helped to make the pudding ultra-thick. This is definitely a dessert I can indulge in without feeling the teeniest bit of guilt!


PS: is there anything better than cutting into a perfectly ripe avocado? I am notorious for using them either 3 days too early (read: too hard), or 5 days too late (read: brown & mushy). So it’s always a big highlight of my day when I twist open the fruit to reveal a wonderfully green colour staring back at me! (Note: small things amuse me…)


All in all, an excellent meal with good food, great friends & full bellies Smile

Ottawa Food Adventures at Zen Kitchen

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of our many activities during our Ottawa Long Weekend included having dinner at Zen Kitchen. This fantastic restaurant is completely vegan, as well as GMO-, preservative- and chemical-free. They also make it a priority to source their ingredients as locally and organically as possible. This initiative was certainly seen in the quality of their food, which I’ll describe below.


Shortly after we were seated, our server came over with a few complimentary starters from the kitchen. The first was a cashew cheese spread, sprinkled with sesame seeds on a homemade tortilla chip. This bite was very good and I was impressed with the flavour of the cashew cheese as well as the texture of the homemade tortilla.


Our next starter was a navy bean & sun-dried tomato dip with fresh bread. The dip was really flavourful and is something I definitely want to try to recreate at home.


In addition to the complimentary starters, Mac and I couldn’t help but order another appetizer. The Lettuce Wraps with Mango-Mushroom filling and Pad Thai Sauce caught our eyes and they did not disappoint. I was half expecting the mushrooms to be sauteed, but they were raw. Aside from that, the wraps were really good and had an abundance of different textures that all complimented one another.


While we waited for our entrees, we were treated to some live jazz music. This is a regular Sunday night treat featuring guitarist Tim Bedner with guest Tom Denison on the upright bass. This duet totally added to the cozy atmosphere.


Along with the appetizers, our entrees did not disappoint. Mac went with the Thai Style Curry: With Kafir-scented rice, seasonal vegetables, vegetable pakora, chutney, & cashews. He let me have a bite (or two), and I really liked it. Definitely not a traditional heavy curry, but tasty all the same.


I ordered the Royal Zen Burger: Crispy Mushrooms, smoked onions, house relish, veg. With hand cut fries with house ketchup, & seasonal slaw. Oh wow. This was fantastic. The burger patty was a lentil & mushroom combo that was coated in cornmeal. The hand cut fries were a bit cold, but the flavour of the homemade ketchup made up for it.


I really enjoyed dining at Zen Kitchen. Not only was the food superb, but the atmosphere was so welcoming and comfortable. The chef even came over to introduce himself and asked how we liked our meals! Unfortunately we were too stuffed for dessert, but I guess that means that we’ll just have to go back again!


Ottawa Adventures

This past weekend, Mac & I were able to make use of a vacation day and treat ourselves to a long weekend. My parents had given us some money to go White Water Rafting in Ottawa for Christmas, so we decided to make that a part of this long weekend. We started on Friday by going to Quebec actually where we camped for the night at Esprit White Water Rafting‘s lodge. We arrived just in time to see a live country band and a HUGE-ass bonfire. Seriously – this thing was piled high with 3 skids.


We woke up bright & early on Saturday morning and, after a quick breakfast at the lodge, we boarded a bus to take us to the put in on the Ottawa River. The cool thing about rafting with Esprit is that they are the only company that rafts both the middle AND main channel of the Ottawa River. Our boat had 4 people plus our guide. I had never been rafting before, but I can honestly say now that it’s one of the most exhilarating things that I’ve ever done. We rafted the middle channel in the morning before breaking for a great lunch spread provided by Esprit. Then we hopped on the bus again BACK to the put in and rafted the Main Channel. There was a stop along the route where we could cliff jump off the BFR (Big “Fun” Rock). My last cliff jumping experience didn’t end so well, so to say that I was scared is a little bit of a huge understatement. BUT! I did it (eventually) and I survived! I even lost a shoe in the process – that current was strong!


R.I.P Left Watershoe

I loved this experience and I’m really happy we finally got around to making the time for rafting. I’d also highly recommend this company for anyone looking to go rafting. All the guides were great & very passionate about their jobs. I never once felt unsafe or overwhelmed during the trip.

After rafting was over, we hopped in the car again and headed towards the Ottawa suburbs where we went to our friends’ housewarming party.

On Sunday morning, we drove into the city centre where we had a hotel booked for the night. We spent some time walking around downtown before making it to our reservation at Zen Kitchen (more details to come in a future post!).


After dinner, we spent more time walking around Sparks Street Parliament Hill and Byward Market. I’ve been to Ottawa a few times before, and each time I’m reminded what a great city it is! We finished up our night by stopping by a pub for a pint and I couldn’t believe how many people were out and about on a Sunday night!!! We really enjoyed being a part of the vibrant hustle & bustle.





On Monday morning (hallelujah for a vacation day!) we went down to the Rideau Canal and rented bikes!


We biked all the way up to Carlton University before turning around and biking all the way back. I was super impressed with how well maintained the pathway was along the canal.


We had gorgeous weather too – the sun was shining and there was just enough of a breeze that cooled us off while biking. Unfortunately, we had to check out of the hotel by noon, so we returned the bikes and started on our long journey home.




All in all, it was a fantastic (and very active!) weekend!


Date Day

As it always tends to happen in the summer, most weekends are booked up with cottage activities, road trips or vacations well in advance. So when it happened that M & I didn’t have any concrete plans for this past Civic Holiday long weekend, I jumped on the chance and organized a whole Date Day for just the two of us. Since M has been on a work rotation for the past year and a half, weekends are usually spent catching up with friends, seeing our families or doing general busy work. The the time that we actually get to spend in just each other’s company is sometimes few and far between. I knew when planning this Date Day that I wanted it to be relaxing, but also as local as possible to avoid spending countless hours in the car.

To start off the day, we had a fairly standard breakfast of oatmeal, but made all the more fancy by serving it with a green smoothie! We enjoyed our breakfast on the balcony with the early morning sunshine promising a gorgeous day.


After cleaning up breakfast, we hit the road to our first adventure of the day – Great Falls in Waterdown. I often forget that Hamilton is known as the City of Waterfalls, boasting over 100 waterfalls in the city & surrounding area. Great Falls was cool in the fact that you could explore both the top and the bottom of the falls.


To get to the bottom of the falls, you can take a blazed trail through the forest that takes you down to the rocky creek below. We spent a bit of time exploring the area before heading out on our next item on the agenda.



A short drive away from Great Falls was Kerns Cliff Park. Having never been here before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The park is located on the Niagara Escarpment and has several trails (for both walking and biking) weaving throughout the woods. We managed to find a little spot outside of the forest between to paths that was just big enough for us to lay out a blanket and have a picnic.


I threw together some bean patties (kidney beans, oats, frozen veggies, BBQ sauce, mustard & a few spices) and we had them on bread with more BBQ sauce & pesto for some very filling sandwiches. I also made up some of Richa’s Sour Cream & Onion Granola (recipe here). This was such a fun change from a traditional sweet granola. And it actually tasted like sour cream & onion too! It’s definitely a recipe I can see myself making again. To cap off our meal, I served Susanna’s Lemon & Chia bread recipe made into muffins (recipe here). These were also really delicious. I loved the fact that there was only 2 tablespoons of maple syrup in the entire recipe, yet they turned out plenty sweet for my tastes. The chia & flax components in the recipe made for a really light and airy dessert. With full bellies, we packed up the car and headed to downtown Burlington for a special treat.

Since M & I are what you might call frugal people, we don’t often splurge on treats to ourselves. But since this day was all about us, I decided it was time to change that and I went ahead and booked us a couples massage at Spa in the Village (located in Village Square downtown). The experience started out with a relaxing sit in the sauna followed by hors d’Oeuvres before heading into the massage room. It was quite a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.


To round off the day, I made us reservations at the Red Canoe Bistro for dinner. As it was the last day of the Taste of Burlington, they still had 2 full menus for us to browse. They even had a Vegetarian/Vegan Menu! I was overwhelmed with the amount of choices! Before our meals came, we were served homemade bread with a white bean & vegetable dip with oil & balsamic. Very delicious. For an appetizer, I ordered the Exotic Mushroom Salad and M had the Local Duck Carpaccio. My salad had really good flavours (from the mushrooms), but I found it to be a tad too oily for my tastes. For entrees, I got the Lentil Pilaf and M got the Short Rib. My dish was good, but I felt it might be something I could potentially make at home. Regardless of the meal, I would definitely go back to the Red Canoe Bistro to try some of the other meals off the Veg Menu.











All in all, it was a fantastic day. I loved that we were able to experience so many fun things, and they were all within the city. It really makes me appreciate where I live and I can’t wait to keep exploring!


Heel Toe Express

There’s something about walking that just resonates with me. I’m one of those people that is tends to get caught up in trying to do the ‘latest’ work out to try and fit more exercise into my mostly sedentary life. I can hardly count the number of times I’ve ‘started running’. It all starts by finding a seemingly easy Couch to 5k or similar plan online. I’ll get really into it and start thinking how I’ll be SUCH an awesome runner. I can even start seeing marathons in my future! Then I go on that first run. And it’s awful. But I persist. And I go on more runs. And I try to convince myself that I’m loving it! But in reality, it hurts, I can never seem to control my breathing, I only look forward to stopping and I generally end up finishing frustrated. Inevitably, the time will come where I’ll hang up my compression socks and go on to something else.


Easy to spot in a crowd, that’s for sure!

After running, it was hot yoga. It started with a Groupon deal and ended with sweat-covered EVERYTHING. But I bought a month-to-month membership at my local studio and again, convinced myself that I loved it. Meanwhile, my limbs were constantly slipping off each other, sending sprays of sweat in every direction. There was never enough water to drink and it was always SO hot! Similar to running, I soon threw in the towel on hot yoga. (Though I must say, I do have an appreciation for non-hot yoga).

I’ve even done off and on bouts of Jillian Michaels’ workout videos. I did enjoy those, but it was so hard to motivate myself to do them in my living room.

Amid all of these attempts at finding my fitness niche, there was walking. Indulge me as I now ascend into an Ode to Walking.

Walking never leaves me frustrated, sore or drenched in more sweat than I knew my body was capable of producing. Aside from a decent pair of running shoes, walking doesn’t require any equipment. It can be done almost anywhere provided there’s a stable surface beneath your feet. I’ve walked in all sorts of weather too. Most notably – in what must have been a lapse in judgement – during the polar vortex we experienced this past winter. I don’t think ‘frigid’ can quite describe the temperature.



My scarf was frozen by the end!

While it may not be considered the most physically exhausting method of fitness, I think there’s something to be said for a good walk. In fact, Dr. Mike Evans sums it up to a tee in this video. Essentially, a simple 30 minute walk a day has nothing but a positive impact on our lives. It’s just plain good for the body, mind and spirit. Period. I do some of my best thinking on my walks. It’s a time for me to unwind and reflect on recent going-ons. I can connect with my neighbourhood in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if I were going just a tad faster. I enjoy seeing the responses to my “Hi!”‘s and waves to passers-by (I’m currently doing a mental tally of this – I’ll try to report back later as I think it’s interesting. *Nerd alert*).

I think ‘just going for a walk’ is too often under-rated. With the pace of life moving at ultra-speed these days, it’s nice to simply disconnect and do nothing else but put one foot in front of the other and just walk.

Escaping the City

I woke up early on Saturday morning and went on a glorious walk downtown. It was so quiet and peaceful at the waterfront. Walking through downtown was an equally calming experience as many of the local shops were just starting to prep for what was sure to be a busy day for them.

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When I got back I made Deliciously Ella’s 10 Minute Mango Pancakes for breakfast (recipe here). I served them with a bunch of local berries from my latest spree at the Farmer’s Market. I loved making these pancakes because you can just throw all the ingredients into the food processor and whir until combined. I halved this recipe and it still made ~12 1/4 cup-sized pancakes. I also used almond milk instead of water. I don’t have pancakes for breakfast often (I’m an oatmeal kind of gal), but I could see easily switching up a few ingredients to customize the recipe to whatever fruit I have on hand.



After finishing up, I made my way 2 hours out of the city to visit my Nana and Poppa for the day. I don’t see them as often as I should, so I always try to cherish these times. I cut their lawn (no easy feat as they live on a farm – doing the ditches by the road was terrifying to say the least!) & cooked them dinner. I made the Roasted Cauliflower & Pesto salad from Terry Hope Romero’s latest cookbook, Salad Samurai. I really enjoyed the mix between the roasted cauliflower and the fresh peas & greens that I served it with. I also added a few sunflower seeds to the pesto recipe to add some more bulk.



For more of an entree I made Suzanne’s Avocado, Tomato, Grape Salad with Crunchy Potato Croutons (recipe here). The potato croutons were probably some of the best tasting potatoes I’ve ever had. Despite all the random ingredients in this dish, I loved the way the flavours all went together. The leftovers didn’t last long.


My Nana is a stellar baker – her specialty being homemade pies. Growing up, no meal was complete without a serving of one of her pies with a big scoop of ice cream on the side. I knew I couldn’t compete with her pie talent, so I went in another direction: chocolate cake. I used McKell’s Flourless Blackberry Chocolate Cake with a few tweaks (original recipe here). I didn’t have any blackberries, so I used some cherries that I picked up at the Farmer’s Market. I also ran out of almond flour, so I used oat flour instead. After all was said and done, this cake turned out SO well! It was super fudgy, but not too rich. I loved that it’s only sweetened with dates and roasted sweet potatoes too.


After dinner, I snuck away to quickly take some pictures of their garden. Though it’s been scaled back in the last few years, it’s still so amazing to see. In addition to a ginormous flower garden featuring flowers of every colour of the rainbow, they also have a fairly large vegetable garden. Something that I hope I’ll be able to mimic when I have an area larger than my current balcony. I just love the idea of growing your own produce and being so amazingly rewarded for your efforts throughout the year.

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Another treat of going up to visit my grandparent’s is seeing all of their furry companions. A few weeks ago, a tiny kitten showed up on their back walkway and Saturday was my first time meeting her. The kitten, Katie, now joins the crew of a grumpy-looking, but sweet & kind Himalayan cat Webster; a rambunctious cat named Squeak; another calm & gentle black cat Toby (not pictured); and loving dog Kelsey (also not pictured). My aunt also came up for the day and brought her very energetic Shih Tzu pup Max (check out his eyes!). So needless to say, there was never a shortage of entertainment!

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I definitely want to make these visits more often. It’s always such a joy escaping the bustling city life to spend time with my grandparents in their country home with such simple pleasures.