Archive | March, 2012

Corn = A Grain?

28 Mar

Sorry for my absence lately, folks; I’ve been busy prepping for the wedding, working out, training clients, taking care of my boys, and *trying* to fit in a couple blog posts when I can.  Sadly, I’ll only be getting busier for the next 3 weeks, so please forgive and bear with me.

Speaking of working out, I’ve completed 1.5 weeks of my new German Body Composition Training and am LOVING it!  My toughest workout so far has been 3 exercises, 10 sets each – deadlifts, barbell curls, and skull crushers (or “lying tricep extension” for those of you who find the previous name disconcerting).  I’ll tell ya, I had an interesting walk out of the gym after all those deadlifts.

As I’m writing this, it occurs to me I have no topic in mind to post about.  I had hoped something would come to me, but it hasn’t.

Quick!  Do a Google search!

My first search is for Ancient Grains – I’ve been working on a post for quite some time now, where cook 7 different meals using a different ancient grain.  The idea is supposed to be “7 Grains, 7 Days”, but it looks more like 7 weeks now :S

Anyhow, upon my search I find a site listing all the grains – kamut, millet, quinoa, rice, corn…… wait, corn? Call me crazy, people, but I always counted corn as a vegetable!  Why on earth did I think that?  Do another Google search.  Oh, here’s why:

Maize, known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated byindigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable or starch.

It seems so perfectly obvious now that I think about it.  Huh.  Well, I learned something new tonight thanks to this blog, which always makes me look for new ideas and information.  I hope you learned something as well 🙂

-Tess

1 Dish 2 Spoons: Grilled Cheese

25 Mar

So a couple of weeks ago we asked you to decide what we should do for our next 1 Dish 2 Spoons segment and one reader recommended grilled cheese.   Though we opted for the burgers last week, we loved the idea of grilled cheese so much we just had to do it too! One of life’s great comfort foods from basic to gourmet, grilled cheese is as versatile as they come.  Here are two variations, we guarantee you won’t be reaching for those Kraft singles ever again.

Jess’ Take

Recipe and photos are from my recent trip to Paris

For my rendition, I tried to keep this as “French” as possible, having just been to Paris and all.

Brie and apple go together like peanut butter and jelly, in my opinion.  The crisp tart apple just pairs so perfectly with the buttery mellow brie, and when you get it all gooey and melty, it’s pretty much the best thing ever.   The one aspect to Parisian cooking I truly appreciate is their long standing tradition with marchés.  Super markets, while in existence and common, are nowhere near as fun. Plus, the prices are usually cheaper and the produce fresher.

My Mom and I visited a bakery to get the baguette, a fruit and vegetable stand for the produce, and we tried to visit a Fromagerie for some Brie, but it was closed. So we actually did get this camembert from the super-market across the street from where we are staying.

Since the French are famous for their grilled-cheese style sandwiches such as the Croque Madame and Monsieur, I thought I’d play around with some classic French ingredients and give you a French open-faced inspired sandwich of my own.

You will need:

1 traditional baguette

2-300 g camembert or brie cheese, sliced

1 green apple, thinly sliced

1 sweet onion, finely diced

1 tsp sugar

¼ c. butter, divided

Directions

Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Add in onions, stir for a few minutes until softened. Reduce heat, add sugar and allow onions to reduce and caramelize.  Set aside.

Slice your baguette in half length wise and butter both sides. Spread the caramelized onions on the bottom, then top with green apple and camembert slices.

Heat your broiler and broil for 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted slightly and bread is toasted.

Bon Appetit!

Jess

Tess’ Take

Grilled cheese was one of the first “meals” I learned how to make; preceded by canned soup, and followed by omelets.  To me, there’s a distinct flavor and texture to grilled cheese that I’m just not willing to sacrifice, even in the name of health.  But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t try to clean up a classic!  In my version, I tried to minimize unnecessary calories while maximizing nutritional value.

For the ingredients, I started with a low-calorie, whole wheat bread.  Weight Watchers makes slices so thin they cost only 110 calories per two slices.  To me, that’s perfect for getting the full taste and experience out of a grilled cheese while saving a cool 100 calories.  Next, a low fat cheese will easily save you another 50 cals.  I skipped the butter altogether, though if you really really must use something, just go for the butter and not the margarine – there’s no telling what’s in that stuff :S  Then, to boost nutritional quality I added a few slices of tomato and baby spinach, and added some turkey bacon for protein.

The preparation is the key here.  Because I didn’t use any butter, I had to toast my bread by other means than a skillet.  Sure, I could have used Pam cooking spray, but there’s an even cleaner method than that.  First, I set my oven to broil.  Next, I toasted the bread in the toaster.  By pre-toasting the bread, I was able to keep it crispy despite the addition of tomato afterward.

As the bread was toasting, I cut up my tomato and cheese, and started cooking the turkey bacon.

When the toast was up, I topped it with my spinach, tomato, then cheese.  Spinach should go on the bottom to protect the bread from the tomato; cheese goes on top so that it gets nice and melty 🙂  It was then popped into my now heated oven.

By the time my bacon was done, so was the toast.  I put it all together, and voila!  I guess my grilled cheese actually resembled a BLT once I was through with it.  If you’re a purest, keep in mind that you can skip the extra fillers and just stick with the classic bread and cheese.  Just stick to the cooking instructions.

And of course, a grilled cheese is not complete without Ketchup.  Some indulgences are required 😉  Dip freely, and enjoy!

Tess

Paris: Days 6 & 7

22 Mar

A picture is worth 1000 words.  So here are 15,000 worth from our trip to Versailles from Day 6 and Day 7 that was a leisurely trip to les Galeries Lafayette.

I may or may not have purchased 2 pairs of shoes.  I may or may not have a serious problem.

I don’t want to leave.

Jess

German Body Composition Training

21 Mar

As I mentioned the other day, my new training regime has included lots of circuits in an effort to bring down my body fat for the wedding.  I was looking for some inspiration the other day when I came across this article by Charles Poliquin on German Body Comp Training.

The take-away lesson here was that lactic acid may be the key to fat loss, moreso than aerobic exercise.  This is because as lactic acid levels increase in the blood stream, pH levels decrease, which in turn accelerates the production of growth hormone in the body.  And higher growth hormone = more fat loss.

The way to increase lactic acid levels through this program is to incorporate very short rest periods, allowing the body insufficient time to flush out the lactic acid that’s built up over the exercise.  What is lactic acid?  In short, it’s a source of energy.  When your body doesn’t have enough time to use oxygen as energy (for example, going from standing still to sprinting in less than 3 seconds), it uses lactate.  You can tell when lactate is building in your muscles when you start to feel a burning sensation.  Sounds painful, but in this case it hurts so good 😉  The program also incorporates lots of multi-joint exercises, again increasing the potential for production of growth hormone.

Today was Day 2 of the program and I’m liking it so far!  The workouts are very short – 30 minutes – half the time of my usual workouts.  But I tell ya, there’s not one second wasted those entire 30 minutes.  I come out drenched in sweat 😀 😀

Today was also Day 2 of my diet, and I actually woke up today 3 lbs lighter than yesterday morning.  Water weight, to be sure, but it sure is nice to see that scale move.

Happy training everybody!

-Tess

Paris: Day 4 & 5

20 Mar

Culture.

That would be the word to sum up days 4 and 5 in Paris.  These past few days, Mom and I have immersed ourselves in the Parisien culture as much as possible- from the sights, to the wine, to the food.  It’s been pretty awesome, actually.

Following our visit to the musée L’Orangerie on Sunday, we decided to put in our dues and pay a visit to the Louvre.   For those of you who have yet to experience Paris or the Louvre, I will forewarn you that it is an overwhelming one.  The Louvre is so damn big, it is next to impossible to visit everything and enjoy it at the same time.   Since Mom had never seen the Mona Lisa and all its underwhelming glory, we did make sure to put in a visit to that one. However, mark my words that when I return to Paris, the Louvre will most likely not be on my agenda.  It’s too big, and far too crowded.  The only upside was that I was able to see one of my favorite paintings: Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa.  Gruesome to be sure, but oh so beautifully and dramatically painted, I can’t help but enjoy it.

Following our visit to the Louvre, we decided to check out the Opera House. This was one of my favorite attractions when I visited Paris when I was 15 and it failed to disappoint me again.  This building literally takes my breath away in its ornate beauty; it truly is a must see if ever you plan a visit to Paris.

The start to day 5 was somewhat similar to day 3 where I kicked things off with  brisk run along the seine.  Pure heaven!

Following my morning exercise, we ventured on over to the musée D’Orsay.

This was the art museum I had been most looking forward to.  Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art is among my favorite with Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir being at the top of my list.   Though I have been to this museum before, I was more than happy to be able to experience it again.  Word to the wise: buy your tickets in advance as the “general visitor” line gets long, fast. When we visited the L’Orangerie on Sunday, we were given the opportunity to purchase a 2 for 1 pass granting us entrance to L’Orangerie and D’Orsay for 14.50 Euro to be used within 4 days.  This saved us, no joke, 1 hour of waiting in line for the D’Orsay as we were able to breeze through the “pre-purchased” ticket line within 5 minutes.

Following our visit to D’Orsay, we experienced the worst service at Le Solferino, a nearby café in the Quartier St-Germain.  I know I haven’t gone much into the food portion of my trip, this will come in a later post; for now, I will just say that I will never again visit this café and I would recommend you do the same.  After lunch, we strolled around St-German, which is a beautiful part of town with interesting boutiques, shops and home to the infamous Café Flore.

Some of this chocolate may have made its way home with me 😉

Overall, I cannot believe how much ground Mom and I have covered in just 5 days.  We literally have seen just about everything touristy there is to see in Paris.  I have loved every minute and I think Mom has too.  Plus the wine and cheese ain’t so bad either 😉

Tomorrow we make the trip to Versailles and all it over-the-top-gilded glory!

Bon soir mes amis!

-Jess

Beast Mode

19 Mar

Every now and then we have to change gears and go into our own personal “beast mode”.  You know the one – it’s the mind-frame you go into when you’re totally focused on achieving a goal; it’s the pressure you feel when there’s a looming deadline and you can’t procrastinate anymore; it’s the last mile of the race.

For the past 6 weeks I’ve been eating pretty clean.  There’ve been small nibbles of things here and there (honey in my oatmeal, a couple chicken wings) and a cheat meal or two per week.  I’ve been changing up my routine in the gym to incorporate more cardio through circuit training, but I’ve still only been going 3 times per week.  So far, this approach has served me well;  I’m feeling great – very energetic, rested, and strong – and I’ve lost about 4lbs.  Pretty good!  I picked up my dress yesterday and it fits well, but it’s just a little snug.  My goal is to lose 5-7 more pounds by April 14th so that the dress will allow some eating room on the big day 😉

So, considering the wedding is in just 4 short weeks, I’m going into Beast Mode.  My close friends and family all know what this means – it’s the same mode I go into for competition training: perfect diet (no cheats), perfect gym attendance (no excuses), and lots of rest (= boring social life).  Total focus.

My plan this week is to start following the diet from my first show (1,250 calories = 164g protein, 84g carbs, 29g fat.  5L of water per day).  I’ll power walk every morning for 45 minutes, do a circuit style workout in the afternoon, followed by another 25 minute of HIIT cardio.  I’m hoping to lose 3 lbs.  I’ll keep you all posted on progress!

Oh, and here’s a sneak peak of wedding photos 😉

Veil is a plastic table cover, bouquet is a bunch of branches. My sister Kim helping me down the "aisle"

Paris: Days 2 & 3

18 Mar

This weekend has been one of ups, downs and sore feet.

While I had every intention of going for a run Saturday morning, my body was having none of it.  We ended up going to bed at 9:30pm on Friday evening and didn’t get up until 9:30am on Saturday.  I think we were tired?

Rather than push myself, I decided to post-pone my run for another day and take it easy.  Saturday’s agenda included a trip the Marché aux Puces Flea market for which we had to brave the Metro.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Paris metro system, upon first glance it seems more than a little daunting. But I was  soon struck with how similar it was with the Montreal system, just on a larger scale with more lines.  Soon enough, I became more comfortable with it and we went on our way.

Sadly, Marché aux Puces was a bit of a bust.   It was dirty, cluttered and more than a little sketchy.  I managed to find one gem of a vintage record (I have a few framed at home already), but that was it.  If you’re a bargain hunter and enjoy a good scavenger hunt, by all means give this place a whirl. If you’re more of a passive browser, like me and my Mom, you may just want to take a pass on this one.

Fortunately, all was not lost that day, as we managed to head over to the Place de la Bastille as well.   This monument, the July Column, commemorates the events of the July Revolution in 1830.

All in all Saturday was not the greatest day, but we’re glad we got to experience all we did nonetheless.  Sunday, on the other hand, rang in bright with promise.  Having recovered from my jet-leg, I woke up bright and early and embarked on a 10k run along the Seine.

Move over Ottawa canal, this girl’s got a new favorite running spot!  Running along the Seine was such a great way to experience this part of the city- the architecture, the contrast from the buildings to the river, all beautiful.  So far, this has been my favorite experience.  One I will be repeating on Tuesday and Thursday, that’s for sure!

Following my run, we went on the world’s longest walk.  My feet are officially killing me.  We saw everything from the Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tour-Champs Eysee – L’arc de triomphe- Musee L’Orangerie and everything in between.  I kid you not, you name it- we probably saw it.  I’d give you a run down, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Tomorrow we take on the Louvre and maybe a few more sites.  We shall see.

Bonne nuit mes amis!

-Jess

Paris: Day 1

16 Mar

Bonjour tout le monde! We have made it- safe and sound!

Following a very long flight, we landed in Paris at 9am their time to warm sunshine and breezy French accents.  Despite the advice of many, we decided to take a taxi from the airport to our apartment rather than brave the metro system.  Sleep deprivation, little caffeine-intake and 2 large suitcases do not make for ideal travel companions on a foreign public transport system.

Our taxi driver, Alain, was very helpful and taught us some helpful hints to navigating the city of lights for the next week.

After unpacking and getting the essentials sorted out, we hit the streets both in an effort to become acquainted with our neighbourhood and to fight off the jet-leg.  Our walk turned into a 4 hour sojourn across the 1st, 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris.  I now truly understand how French women are so skinny, these people just walk (or bike) everywhere.  My run should be very interesting tomorrow.

It has been 11 years since my last visit to Paris, and already I have fallen madly in love with this city.  But it’s funny; having lived in Montreal these past 5 years, I feel as if I’m visiting the Old Port in Montreal.  Perhaps when I’m back, I’ll feel as if I’m back in Paris whenever I visit the Old Port?

Our first order of business was the café.

We selected a quaint café in the 3rd: Le Comptoir Turenne and were lucky enough to score a spot on their patio to people watch and sip on café crème. We each indulged in an entrée: Mom got a Tartine, I ordered a Turenne, which was a massive salad topped with three crusty pieces of bread smothered in goats cheese and honey.

We then proceeded to walk, and walk, and walk some more. Some highlights included :

The Cathédrale Saint-Eustache:

A really unique kitchen supplies store with all kinds of interesting knick-knacks and possibly the largest ladle known to mankind:

Despite all this, I think this just may be my absolute favorite sighting so far:

It’s like they knew me or something 😉

To say today was a full day, would be an understatement.   We’re both fighting to stay awake and beat the jet-leg as I type this.  If I can make it to 9pm, I’ll be very impressed with myself.

Tomorrow, I head out for my first run in Paris and then we will be visiting the city’s largest flea market: Marche Aux Puces. 

Wish us luck 😉

À bientôt!

Jess

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip

15 Mar

As I sit in the terminal at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport with my Mom, waiting to hop on a plane to take us to the city of wine, cheese and baguette, I thought I’d share a little recipe with you all.

This has got to be one of the simplest, easiest, and one of the most delicious dips I have ever made.  And you only need three ingredients to make it!

As you can probably, tell, I’ve been on a bit of a roasted red pepper kick.  Probably because I’ve really embraced the gas stove and roasted a few peppers whenever I’ve had the opportunity to do so.

Plus I really like making Dustin peel the skins off when he’s in town. It saves my manicure.

Aren’t I, like, the best girlfriend ever?

Anyway without further ado, I give you:

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip

2 Red Bell Peppes

150 g Feta Cheese

1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

Roast / broil your red peppers until the skins are blackened.  Place in a bowl and cover in a plastic bag.  Allow the peppers to cool and allowing the moisture to pull the skins away.  Peel the peppers, rinse then cut the tops off, slice into thirds and remove all the seeds.

Place the peppers, feta and lemon juice into a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Serve with cut-up veggies, pita chips and amaze your friends.

Time to board, see you on the other side of the pond!

À bientôt!

-Jess

FAJO: cardio article

14 Mar

Check out our latest article in FAJO magazine:

Proper Workouts: Focus on Cardio