Masala Chicken Burgers

This is a simple homemade chicken burger recipe – with a kick of Indian-inspired flavour! The burgers are gluten-free and dairy-free, and the recipe requires only 4 ingredients, plus a few spices. These burgers taste great on a traditional bun, but I usually enjoy the burgers bun-free, with lots of veggies on the side and a few slices of avocado. The recipe makes 8 burgers, and prep and cooking time are both short, so this is a great recipe for meal prep. 

masala chicken burger

chicken burgers on pan

Homemade chicken burgers have been one of my go-to sources of protein lately. The past few weeks of school leading up to reading week have been incredibly busy, so it’s nice to make a quick recipe at the start of the week, and have something to throw in my lunch bag each day. When I’m taking a chicken burger on-the-go I’ll usually have it with a couple handfuls of spinach, other chopped veggies, and maybe a little salsa or tahini on top.

Lately I have experimented with a few different spice combinations for the same base recipe. This Masala Chicken Burger recipe was the most successful combination I’ve created so far, but I have plans to try out some other flavours in the coming weeks – I was thinking Mexican or Asian-inspired flavour combinations might be delicious!

chicken burger overhead shot

The base of the recipe uses 1 lb. of ground chicken, 1/2 an onion finely chopped, 1/2 a cup of almond meal, and 1 egg. Then the spices I added to this version of the recipe are Garam Masala, cumin, cayenne, salt, and turmeric.

Almond Meal

In order to keep this recipe gluten-free, I opted to use almond meal (also known as ground almonds) in place of the breadcrumbs used in many other chicken burger recipes. I got my almond meal from Bulk Barn, but it’s also available from many health food stores. Almond meal is a great option because you get the health benefits of almonds (healthy fats, fibre, and vitamin E to name a few) incorporated into your burger; however, one drawback is that almond meal is a little pricier than breadcrumbs. So if you don’t require your recipe to be gluten-free, breadcrumbs would likely be an effective alternative.

Making the burgers

The burger recipe is as simple as it gets – throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them thoroughly until the egg is well combined with the chicken, almond meal, and onions.

finely chopped onions

Then, put about 1/2 a cup of almond meal on a plate. Form the chicken mixture into patties, coat both sides in almond meal, and place them all on a baking sheet to cook for 15 minutes on one side and 7 minutes on the other at 375°F.

uncooked chicken burgers

Serving your chicken burgers

In terms of serving options, the chicken burgers are incredibly versatile. Even though they have an Indian flavour combination, it’s not an overpowering flavour, so they still taste good with toppings that you wouldn’t typically have with Indian food (for example salsa). I highly recommend enjoying them with avocado, as the mild flavour and creaminess of the avocado combines with the flavour and texture of chicken burgers perfectly. For the images above, I ate my chicken burgers with avocado, sweet potato and onion (although the onion was mostly for garnish). This was a great combo not only in terms of flavour, but also because it was a good balance of carbs, healthy fats, and protein. You could also try the burgers with broccoli (or another green veggie) and rice, sliced onto a salad, or with more traditional Indian dishes, such as dahl or naan bread.

Pin for later:

masala chicken burger pinterest graphic

Print Recipe
Masala Chicken Burgers
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Servings
burgers
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Servings
burgers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, add ground chicken, 1/2 cup almond meal, onion, and egg. Mix well until all ingredients are fully combined. Add spices and salt and mix thoroughly.
  3. Form chicken mixture into 8 patties.
  4. Place remaining 1/2 cup of almond meal on a plate and press patties into the almond meal to coat both sides.
  5. Place burgers on baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers and cook for another 7 minutes.

Spiced Black Bean Omelette

This recipe gives a traditional breakfast dish a delicious Mexican twist, plus some extra protein and fibre. Instead of filling up the inside of your omelette with cheese, this omelette is stuffed with Mexican Seasoned Black Beans. Then the omelette is topped with avocado and salsa for a flavourful and balanced start to your morning. 

Black Bean Omelette

As much as I love to whip up oatmeal recipes (some of which will be showing up soon on the blog), I’m really more of a savoury breakfast fanatic. After I started reducing the amount of cheese in my diet, but before I discovered beans as a filling for omelettes, my omelettes were pretty unsatisfying. For me, something flavourful and salty stuffed inside my eggs is a must-have. That’s why my recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans is a perfect fit. If I make the black beans and use them for a Sweet Potato Breakfast Platter or in a taco bowl, there’s always some left over for a couple omelettes.

Black bean omelette

The black beans are so quick to make that I just whipped them up this morning before I made the omelette, but they can easily be made earlier in the week and stored in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. In addition to the black beans, the recipe comes together with a few simple ingredients; I used baby spinach, red pepper, and red onion as the vegetables in my omelette, but you could easily sub those out for other veggies, depending on what you have in your fridge. Any colour of bell pepper or onion, cherry tomatoes, broccoli (boiled in advance), mushrooms, or even some boiled and diced sweet potato would taste great in the omelette.

red pepper and spinach

spinach, red onion and pepper

When it comes to toppings, you can get as creative as you want! I chose to top mine with avocado and salsa. Other great additions include cilantro, a few sliced cherry tomatoes, salsa verde, alfalfa sprouts and taco sauce. And if you like a little kick of spice, some red pepper flakes taste great as well.

Look at this beauty:

avocado cut in half

Once the beans are prepared according to the instructions in this post, the omelette is quick and easy to prepare; first, chop your veggies and beat your eggs. Then, lightly saute the red pepper and onion. The spinach is added directly to the beaten egg. Once the pepper and onion have cooked for a few minutes, add the egg to your frying pan and cook until the top of the omelette has begun to firm up. Then – the moment of truth – flip your omelette! Then spread the black beans on one side of the omelette and fold the egg in half. Finally, top with your choice of toppings.

onion and pepper in frying pan

cooking omelette in frying pan

Enjoy your Mexican-inspired breakfast!

Pin this recipe for later:

spiced black bean omelette pin

Print Recipe
Spiced Black Bean Omelette
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
omelette
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
omelette
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prepare Mexican Seasoned Black Beans in advance (link to recipe in post).
  2. In a small bowl, beat two eggs with a fork. Add baby spinach to the eggs and mix together.
  3. Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add bell pepper and red onion. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
  4. Pour egg and spinach mixture into frying pan and and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook egg without disturbing until the top of the omelette starts to become less runny.
  5. As the egg starts to firm up, check the bottom of the omelette with a spatula. When the egg is lightly browned, flip the egg to allow the other side to cook.
  6. Spoon Seasoned Black Beans onto one side of the omelette. After 2-3 minutes of cooking, fold the omelette in half, closing the beans inside.
  7. Remove from frying pan and top omelette with salsa and avocado. Serve immediately.

Saturday Sweat Full Body Circuit

I always try to get a couple of solid workouts in on the weekend and save my rest day for the week in case I’m busy with school and can’t make it to the gym. This morning I had a later start than usual because I decided to sleep in. When I woke up, I made a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, and a frozen banana (I forgot to snap a pic though – so the image below is some oatmeal inspiration from the internet), and planned out a full body circuit workout .

oatmeal with orange and kiwi

The Workout

Before today, it had been a couple days since my last trip to the gym; since we’ve been having slightly warmer weather, I decided to go running outside this past week, instead of walking to campus for an indoor workout. Since I wanted to jump right back in and get my whole body moving, I put together a full-body workout, with a focus on combining strength moves with cardio intervals.

What You’ll Need

For this workout you will need a medicine ball (I used 15lbs), two small dumbbells (I used 7.5lbs), a larger dumbbell (eg. 15 lbs), and a skipping rope. Alternatively, you can just use the larger dumbbell in place of the medicine ball for the move that uses the medicine ball.

How it Works

The workout is made up of three circuits – one targeting lower body, one that focuses on upper body, and one that emphasizes the abs. Each circuit has 5 exercises, with the number of reps indicated in brackets beside the exercise. Set a timer for 5 minutes and begin with Circuit 1, moving through the exercises as many times as you can within that 5 minute period (you’ll likely be able to get through each exercise once, and the first 2 or 3 exercises a second time). The reason I often set up my workouts like this is that I get bored easily when I have to repeat exercises too many times. Once the 5 minutes are up, set a timer for 2 minutes and skip until the time is up. Next, move on to Circuit 2, again, performing that circuit for 5 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of skipping. Do the same thing for Circuit 3, ending with a final 2 minutes of skipping. In between each circuit try to rest for just long enough to catch your breath.

red skipping rope on blue background

The Exercises

Beside each exercise I’ve included a brief description of how to perform the exercise, or a link to a page that demonstrates the exercise. If there is any exercise you’re confused about, it’s fairly easy to do a quick YouTube search and see someone doing the exercise.

Circuit 1 – Lower Body

  1. Medicine Ball Squat and Press (15 reps) – hold medicine ball in front of chest and perform a squat. As you return to a standing position, raise the medicine ball above your head.
  2. Split Squat Jumps (10 each side – 20 total) – this one is easier just to watch someone perform, so here is a video showing this move.
  3. Glute Bridge w/dumbbell (20 reps) – lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Hold your larger sized dumbbell across your hips. To perform the move, raise your hips as high as you can and squeeze your glutes at the top, before lowering to the ground again.
  4. Jumping Squats (15 reps) – perform a squat, but as you stand up from your squat jump in the air. Land softly, sinking down into your next squat.
  5. Fire hydrants (15 each side) – Here’s another that is easiest to watch – link. Do not alternate between legs – perform 15 on one side, and then move on to the other side.

Circuit 2 – Upper Body

  1. Walk out push-ups (10 reps) – from a standing position, reach down to touch the ground, and walk your hands out until you are in a push-up position. Do a push-up, and then walk back to the position you started in.
  2. Burpees (12 reps) – I think most people know how to do these ones…they’re a killer. If not, just do a quick Google search. There are a few variations, but I do mine without a pushup.
  3. Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension (15 reps) – see this webpage for a demonstration of how to do this exercise. Perform this exercise using your larger dumbbell.
  4. Commandos (10 each side – 20 total) – this video shows how to perform this move.
  5. Bent-over Dumbbell Row (15 reps) – check out this page for pictures of how this exercise is performed. Use your two lighter dumbbells for this move.

Circuit 3 – Abs

  1. Spidermans (15 each side – 30 total) – start in a high plank. Bring your right knee up towards your right elbow, then, return leg to plank position. Next, bring your left leg toward your left elbow; return to plank. Continue to alternate.
  2. Plank Jacks (20 reps) – in a high plank, jump legs out to both sides, then jump them back into the centre (a jumping jack movement with the legs).
  3. Jack Knives (12 reps) – lie on your back with your arms extended above your head and your legs extended out straight. Raise your legs off the floor and simultaneously raise your arms, reaching your hands towards your feet. Here’s a video that demonstrates this move: link.
  4. Mountain climbers (20 each side – 40 total) – this one is fairly common, but in case you haven’t heard of it before, here’s a video.
  5. Bicycle crunches (20 each side – 40 total) – this is another exercise that’s fairly well known. Here’s a video.

Post-Workout Eats

When I got home from the gym, I made this delicious mixture:

poached eggs on veggies

It looks a little random, but the combination of flavours is amazing. I started off by boiling some broccoli and sweet potato. Then, in a frying pan I heated some coconut oil and cooked a clove of garlic and a quarter of an onion. To that I added some cabbage and kale mixture, plus the sweet potato and broccoli I had previously boiled. I stir-fried that for a few minutes, adding a little pepper and garlic salt. Then I put the mixture onto a plate and topped it with with two poached eggs, some goat cheese, a few dried cranberries, and some cilantro. I also had an apple on the side.

Then for dinner, I brought this bowl with me to work:

zucchini noodles, chicken, sweet potato

Included: poached chicken breast, cabbage and kale mix, spiralized zucchini with tomato sauce, the rest of the sweet potato I boiled earlier in the day, and some tahini for extra healthy fats. Another strange mixture (I realize the tahini looks a bit odd) – but it was good! Random bowls of nutritious foods are one of my go-to meals, especially when I’m taking food on-the-go.

Now that I’m home from work I’m headed off to bed so I can have an early start and get some school work done tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

In case you want to pin my workout for later:

Workout Graphic to Pin Later

Note: This workout is quite challenging and might not be suitable for everyone. If you have any health concerns, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting High Intensity Interval Training.

10 Tips for On-The-Go Salads

When I’m packing lunches to take to campus for busy school days, salads are one of my go-to options. They’re easy to throw together last minute, they help you get plenty of veggies into your diet each day, and they are incredibly versatile. However, when you’re having a salad as your main dish and bringing that salad on-the-go instead of eating from a giant bowl at home, there are a few things to take into consideration so that your salad fills you up and satisfies your cravings.

salad with pumpkin seeds

The most nutritious recipes generally consist of a combination of protein, fat and carbs. With salads, I usually follow a more specific formula: something leafy, 2-3 different kinds of chopped veggies (or fruit!), a source of lean protein (which can be either meat or plant-based), a source of healthy fats, delicious add-ons (for extra flavour, crunch, and nutrients), and a dressing.

lettuce and toppings

Below I have outlined the top ten tips I follow so that my on-the-go salads are delicious and nutritious every time.

1. Use the right containers

I find that the best way to transport my salads is a BIG container with a clasp lid to hold the main salad, and a small container for the dressing  (also with a clasp lid, to prevent leaks). I use a glass container like this one, although I have a few different shapes and sizes. You’ll want to use a really good sized container when you’re bringing a salad on the go, because it will generally take a large volume of veggies to keep you full until your next meal. If you skimp on the container, your salad may end up being a snack before a bigger meal (and usually a less healthy one) that you purchase while you’re out and about. I also like to use a lunch bag with an ice pack in it to keep my salad cold.

2. Pack the protein

Including a source of protein is an important part of preparing a nutritious and filling salad. If you don’t have any meat prepared, a hard-boiled egg is the perfect option! Just place your egg in a small pot, cover it with water, and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat and wait for 10 minutes before draining the pot. Then, peel the shell off your egg and add it to the salad! I like to boil a few eggs at once and then store them in the fridge so I can easily access them for snacks and salads later in the week. The other easiest source of protein I use is canned tuna. Other options include poached and sliced chicken breast, or some baked fish, broken into pieces.

3. Dress with Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Tahini

If you’re taking your salad dressing in a separate container and adding it while you’re at work or school, dressings that have a lot of oil can get messy. When I bring salads to school, I love dressing with apple cider vinegar because it’s healthy, tastes great, and helps minimize the mess. Tahini is also great for a creamier dressing. If you drizzle it on top prior to heading out the door, it won’t make your lettuce soggy by the time you eat it, like many other dressings do. Plus, it’s a great source of healthy fats and with a little effort you can transform it into a healthy Cesar dressing like this one from Naturally Ella.

4. Put rice on the bottom of your salad

Now, this may be heading out of salad and into nourish/macro bowl territory, but putting a layer of rice on the bottom of your salad adds some carbs to help keep you full. It’s also great because it soaks up any excess apple cider vinegar that reaches the bottom of the container. And, if you are in need of some extra protein, add black beans to the rice and you’ve got a complete protein!

5. Top with healthy fats

Did I include this tip just so I could add a picture of an avocado? Possibly. But aesthetically pleasing avocados aside, adding healthy fats to your salads will help you stay full (and they promote glowing skin!). Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, they’re full of fibre, and they contain more potassium than bananas. Other sources of healthy fats that are great on salads include walnuts, and salmon.

avocado

6. Mix up your greens

While lettuce salads are great, experimenting with different leafy greens is a great way to add some variety (and some extra micronutrients) to your salad. While I occasionally make my salads with lettuce, most of my salads contain baby spinach, which is a great source of vitamin A and antioxidants. I also like to use kale, which is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can consume.

7. Get colourful

There’s nothing better than a beautiful rainbow salad. Not only will adding a variety of vegetables improve the taste of your salad, different colours also come with a whole host of valuable micronutrients. To create your colourful salad bowl, I recommend adding cherry tomatoes, corn, cucumber, celery, any colour of bell pepper, blueberries, purple cabbage, or red onion.

8. Use fresh herbs

Chopping and adding fresh herbs to a salad is the ULTIMATE secret for taking a good salad to a fantastic one. Honestly, this piece of advice completely changed my meals. My favourite herb to add is cilantro, but mint, basil, and parsley are other great options.

cilantro

9. Add sweet potato

Sweet potato is a miracle vegetable in salads. It adds colour, helps to balance savoury flavours with sweet, and is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates. It tastes great boiled or roasted, depending on the texture you prefer. If I prepare a batch of roasted sweet potato at the beginning of the week, it is easy to add a little to my salads each day.

10. Add-ons for texture, crunch, and sweetness

Last, there are so many options for delicious toppings that will add a little extra flavour and texture to salads. You can mix and match your add-ons depending on what flavour profile you’re going for. Options include: raisins, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, goat’s cheese, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

What are your favourite salad ingredients? Any favourite dressing options?

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Platter w/Poached Egg

This plate of delicious Mexican flavours would be perfect for any meal, but I’ve decided to call it a breakfast platter because of the poached egg. The recipe has a few different components, but they’re all easy to prepare, and the dish is assembled simply by stacking all the ingredients. With a combination of complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, this meal is the perfect way to start a busy day.

Sweet potato platter

sweet potato platter top view

Lately I’ve been a fan of savoury breakfast recipes, particularly eggs. When I start my day off with a combination of protein and fat, it usually keeps me full until lunch. Although I wake up early, my earliest class doesn’t start until 10:30, so I like to take some time to make a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast. Ensuring that I have breakfast and that my meal is healthy sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Most days, I use sweet potato as the source of carbohydrates in my breakfast, whether it is in wedges with scrambled eggs on the side, with a poached egg on top, or in the form of a breakfast bowl (like this amazing Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl from Healthy Liv). In addition to their delicious taste, sweet potatoes are a good source of iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Avocados are another one of my favourite breakfast foods; they are a great source of healthy fatty acids, as well as potassium.

breakfast platter ingredients

The sweet potato in this recipe takes about 30 minutes to bake, so it’s best to make this recipe when you’re just doing work at your house in the morning, rather than rushing to class or work. This breakfast platter is also great for a weekend brunch. When I make this recipe, I wake up, peel and slice half a sweet potato into thin rounds, and put it in the oven. Then I go about my morning routine of washing my face, drinking lemon water, and making a cup of green tea or coffee. As the sweet potato cooks, I drink my coffee and lemon water, and get started on the first task on my to-do list.

sweet potato on baking sheet

If you haven’t prepared the black beans in advance, you should start preparing them about 15 minutes into the cook time of the sweet potato so that both components are finished at the same time. This recipe uses Mexican Seasoned Black Beans, which can be prepared a day or two beforehand (the beans do not have to be warm for this recipe – the platter tastes great warm or cold!). The black bean recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of beans and this recipe only uses 1/4-1/2 cup, so the black beans can be stored in the fridge to whip up another breakfast platter the next day (or to be used in another recipe).

cooking black beans

spoonful of black beans

Once the sweet potato is cooked, place the sweet potato rounds on a plate, slightly overlapping. Then, stack the other components on top – black beans, then salsa, then sliced avocado. Finally, poach an egg and place it on top of the breakfast platter. I usually season my platter with a little black pepper sprinkled on top, and if I have cilantro around, I’ll chop that up and add it to the top of the dish as well. If you want to pack this dish full of some extra greens, you could also put a layer of baby spinach underneath the sweet potato.

sweet potato platter side view

Print Recipe
Sweet Potato Breakfast Platter w/Poached Egg
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place rounds of sweet potato onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Cook in oven for 30 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and the tops are brown.
  3. If you have not prepared the black beans in advance, follow recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans.
  4. Poach an egg (link to poaching instructions provided in Recipe Notes)
  5. To assemble the platter, place sweet potato slices on a plate with their sides overlapping slightly.
  6. Add Mexican Seasoned Black Beans on top, followed by salsa.
  7. Next, add avocado, and top with the poached egg. Season with black pepper as desired.
Recipe Notes

The recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of beans. As this recipe only uses 1/4-1/2 cup of beans (depending on preference), the extra beans can be covered and saved in the fridge to use in another recipe.

For instructions on how to poach an egg, see this post.

Mexican Seasoned Black Beans

These seasoned black beans are the perfect addition to any Mexican-inspired dish. They taste great in burritos, tacos, and as a side dish for a Mexican breakfast platter with scrambled eggs. Only a few ingredients are required for this quick and easy recipe, and the spice mix used for the beans is also perfect for seasoning taco meat.

seasoned black beans

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a wonderful time celebrating. I just spent a quiet night relaxing with my family and watching the last few episodes of one of my favourite TV shows, Bones. School started back up again today, so I drove back yesterday and immediately started cooking. Whenever I go home I always anticipate that I’ll do lots of cooking since the kitchen is bigger and I have more free time, but usually I end up keeping busy with other activities. There’s something about being back in my little kitchen at school that makes me want to cook!

I made two recipes yesterday. One was a Coconut Chickpea Curry from Jessica in the Kitchen. A friend came over last night so I made this recipe for the two of us, since I’d made it once before and it was absolutely fantastic. It’s also easy to cook and comes together quickly. I served it with some rice, so now I have a few extra servings of rice and curry that I’ll be able to take for lunches at school for the next couple days.

The second recipe is this recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans!

I would estimate that 50% of the meals I make involve Mexican flavours. I’m a huge fan of taco bowls, guacamole, and adding salsa to everything. As a result, a lot of these recipes will show up on the blog. I love this recipe for black beans because it is incredibly versatile – it’s the perfect addition to almost every Mexican dish. It would even taste good with just a little rice and salsa (and actually, it tastes delicious on its own by the spoonful – these beans don’t last long in my fridge!).

The recipe comes together in about 15 minutes, and the ingredients are minimal – just canned black beans, garlic, a few spices, and some water.

black beans in a colander

cooking black beans

The first step is briefly frying a minced clove of garlic in cooking oil. Then, you add the black beans (drained and rinsed) and the spice mix, and stir to coat. Last, you pour in half a cup of water, and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes. And that’s it!

spiced black beans

These beans taste great in a ton of recipes, so you can get creative. But in case you need some ideas for how to use them, the next two recipes I post will include these spiced black beans as an ingredient!

spoonful of black beans

Print Recipe
Mexican Seasoned Black Beans
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups black beans
Ingredients
Spice Mix
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups black beans
Ingredients
Spice Mix
Instructions
  1. Heat oil to medium heat in a medium-sized pot. Add garlic and fry for 1 minute, or until garlic becomes fragrant. Be careful not to overcook garlic.
  2. Add black beans and spice mix. Stir to coat the black beans in the spices and to evenly distribute the garlic.
  3. Add water to the pot, bring the water to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed/boiled away.

Healthy Holiday Habits

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is over already! I finished my last exam in the evening on the 21st, so when I got back home on the 22nd I had to jump right into buying some last minute Christmas presents and making holiday treats. I didn’t have time to experiment with any of my own dessert recipes, so I made two of my favourite recipes from Running on Real FoodOatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls and Double Chocolate Raw Vegan Brownies. Both recipes were a hit! It was mostly just me and one of my aunts who enjoyed the desserts, but we got one of my uncles, whose favourite phrase is “gluten-free, taste-free,” to try the brownies and he said they were very tasty. Success!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Balls

Yesterday we had a Christmas party with my dad’s side of the family, and one of my cousins is vegan. With the treats I made from Running on Real Food, I used honey as a sweetener (rather than the maple syrup called for in the recipe), meaning they’re not technically vegan. So a couple days ago I decided I’d give myself a little recipe creation challenge. I had a ton of dates left over from when I bought ingredients for Christmas, so I wanted to create a vegan Chocolate-Orange Energy Ball recipe, inspired by one of my fave Christmas treats, Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I was hoping I’d be able to share the recipe in the first few days of the New Year…but unfortunately it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped. The flavour was good, but the texture could use a little work. Maybe I’ll give it another shot once I get back to school. I don’t think I’m going to try out any more dessert recipes for a few weeks. I never thought I’d say it, but my sweet tooth has been completely satisfied after the past week of celebrations.

With sweet treats everywhere and endless holiday festivities, it’s definitely been a challenge to keep up with the healthy habits I try and maintain while I’m at school. Coming into the holiday season, I had the best intentions to work out regularly, keep the treats to a minimum, and cook plenty of healthy recipes. It was a good plan, but somehow I still ended up elbow-deep in a giant bag of Jelly Bellies on Christmas Eve…

Christmas Cookies

The combination of having an abundance of less-healthy foods nearby, being home at my parents’ house, and on top of that being sick for the past few days, has thrown me off track with healthy eating and fitness – it’s been way too long since I last did something active, and I’m pretty sure there is liquid chocolate running through my veins.

But that’s okay! Taking a break is healthy, and enjoying sweet treats is part of the holiday season. However, it has been a good reminder that when I don’t eat well and stay active, I don’t feel very good. So while I’m not upset that I indulged a bit over Christmas, I’m definitely ready to finish out the rest of my holiday by getting back into some healthier routines.

Add, not subtract

Even though I’m eager to get back into ~health mode~ it’s not realistic (or enjoyable) to say something like “Starting tomorrow I’m not eating any more sugar and I’m going to stay away from all salty snacks.” Making a statement like this cultivates the kind of all or nothing mindset that makes it challenging to get back into a pattern of consistently healthy choices.

Instead of strictly “subtracting” all unhealthy foods from my diet, I’m going to get back into my healthy routine by adding beneficial habits back into my day. I’ll still have some chocolate and an afternoon snack of popcorn, but I’ll also be having some extra fruits and veggies.

New Year’s Resolutions

Usually I don’t set any definitive resolutions for the New Year. I like to set goals throughout the year on a rolling basis, so I don’t think it’s necessary to have one specific date to start working towards my goals. But this year, while I was spending some time with my cousins over Christmas, we all sat down and wrote out a list of our goals for 2018.  When I set goals, I love to make a BIG list. We’re talking 80+ items on this list. And something that extensive may seem a little overwhelming, but I like having everything compiled in one place. That way, as I’m going through my day, I can pull out the list and ask myself, “What am I doing today to work towards my goals?” If my schedule for the day doesn’t align with my goal list, then I re-evaluate my schedule. So while I don’t think you need a New Year to embark on new goals, it’s as good a time as any to start working towards things you’d like to accomplish. Many of the healthy habits that I’m trying to put back into my routine are also on my list of goals for the year. I’ll carry these habits into the New Year, and I plan to continue them throughout 2018.

Healthy Habits

Here are five of the healthy habits that I am adding back into my life as the holiday season draws to a close.

1. Stop hitting the snooze button

Ideally, I want to be getting enough sleep that I don’t feel the need to constantly hit snooze when my alarm goes off. But even when I do get 8 hours, sometimes I still wake up a little groggy and want to roll over and go back to bed. If I’m going to get 30 minutes of disrupted sleep during the time I’m hitting snooze, I really should just set my alarm 30 minutes later and get some extra uninterrupted rest.

I find that when I spend time snoozing it’s harder to get a productive start to my day when I do get out of bed. Also, with a simple Google search I found many articles describing the negative health impacts of hitting snooze in the morning. They didn’t all give the same reasons, but the consensus was that it’s a habit you should kick. Here’s one interesting article from The Independent that provides a behaviourist perspective on the subject (I found this one interesting because it related to some of the psychology concepts I studied this past semester).

alarm clock

2. Drink at least 3L of water each day

When I’m away at school, I drink a lot of water each day, but for some reason I get out of the habit when I come home. When I’m being extremely diligent with my water consumption I probably get closer to 4L a day, but 3L is usually enough to keep me feeling hydrated and refreshed. Everyone’s water needs differ, so if you’re going to try this one out, don’t take 3L as your magic number. You may have to experiment a bit to see how much water you have to drink for your body to feel its best.

3. Stop eating after dinner

Whenever I eat after dinner, it’s not because I’m hungry, it’s usually just because I feel like snacking on something as I complete the last few tasks on my to-do list for the day. When I eat too close to bed time I don’t sleep as well, and I’m also more drawn to sugary foods at this time of the day. So it’s definitely a better choice to eat a filling dinner and then avoid food after that.

4. Drink lemon water

Lately I’ve been trying to get in the habit of drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning, before I have my breakfast. Adding lemon to your water in the morning provides an extra boost of vitamin C, is beneficial for digestion, and some studies have shown that it boosts metabolism. Drinking a big glass of water in the morning as soon as I get up will also help me meet my goal of having 3L of water each day.

lemon water

5. Do ten minutes of body weight exercises each morning when I wake up

This is a new habit I want to try out to see whether it helps me shake off some of my sleepiness in the morning and start the day on a positive note. Each day when I get out of bed, before I make breakfast or start the coffee machine, I’m going to set a timer for ten minutes on my phone, and do a few basic exercises until the timer goes off. This will consist of body weight moves like push ups, crunches, planks, squats, and lunges. I haven’t decided whether each morning of the week will have a different focus (like arms and abs one day and legs another), but I’ll play around with it a bit until I find a routine I like. Out of the five habits I’ve decided to add in to my day, this is the only one that I haven’t tried out in the past, so I’m interested to see how it will work out (pun intended).

bicycle crunch

If you think any of these habits would help you improve your health in the New Year, give them a try! And let me know in the comments how it goes.

 

Paleo Nacho Casserole

This nacho casserole is packed with delicious Mexican flavours and a ton of vegetables. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a healthier way to satisfy your craving for nachos, and you can load it up with plenty of toppings, including salsa, avocado, and green onion. I considered calling this recipe “Not-yo’ Typical Casserole” but decided that was a bit much…

I made this casserole on one of the last days of the Whole30. Although I don’t plan on sticking to a completely Paleo diet now that the Whole30 is over, I was inspired by a recipe for Paleo Spaghetti Squash Casserole, created by Alysia at Slim Sanity, and wanted to create a similar version with a Mexican twist! This recipe is a great meal prep option if you make it at the start of the week. I had three exams this past week, so I made the casserole on the weekend and ate it over the course of several busy days of studying. It’s easy to get into a pattern of unhealthy eating when you’re stressed during exams. Having a pre-made dinner in my fridge is helpful because it makes it less likely that I’ll go grab some take-out when I want to get back to studying quickly.

Spaghetti squash provides the bulk of the casserole. This squash is great because you can eat a large serving without adding a ton of extra calories. It also has a nice neutral flavour so you can enjoy it with different sauces or spice mixtures. For this recipe, the squash is mixed with taco-seasoned ground chicken, red pepper, onion, spinach, cherry tomatoes, olives, and a little salsa. I’d recommend choosing a squash that is on the smaller side – around 1-1.2 kg – so each bite has a balance of different flavours rather than being overpowered by squash.

If you want to keep this recipe paleo, you’ll have to find a sugar-free salsa. The salsa I’ve been using lately is this one by Herdez – I was surprised when I found it at the grocery store because it’s not full of additives like a lot of other salsas and it still tastes amazing! The only ingredients are tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, salt, and cilantro.

When you’re making this recipe, there are a few different components to prepare before everything gets mixed together and spread into a casserole dish. The spaghetti squash has to bake, the veggies need to be sauteed, and the ground chicken needs to be cooked. I recommend using three pieces of cookware to prepare everything: a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, one large pot, and a large frying pan.

Begin by preparing the spaghetti squash and putting it in the oven at 375°. Although a spaghetti squash can be baked whole, it saves cooking time if you cut it in half first. But I’m not going to lie, this can be a bit of a struggle. Usually I get my knife stuck in the squash and then I’m left trying to yank it out sword-in-the-stone style. Not ideal. I told my housemate the other day that if I ever get a cooking-related injury it’s probably going to be when I’m trying to cut a squash in half. So, that being said, be careful! Use a sharp knife and go slowly. I’ve had a bit more success starting at one of the ends and cutting it open from there. Also, if anyone has any hacks for easily splitting a squash in two, please share!

Once you’ve got the squash open, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the squash in the oven in the casserole dish with the fleshy side down (in the picture below I’ve just flipped it over after removing it from the oven.

While the squash is baking, you can prepare and cook the other ingredients – stir fry the veggies and spices in the large pot, and stir fry the chicken in the frying pan until brown.

After 40-45 minutes, the spaghetti squash will be cooked and you can remove it from the oven. At this point, add the chicken and squash to the big pot with the vegetables, plus an egg and some salsa, and mix everything to combine. I actually don’t have a giant pot in my student house because there aren’t too many occasions where my housemates or I need to make a large recipe. So instead of mixing all the ingredients together in a pot, I used a large bowl to combine everything before baking. Then, pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish (the one that was already used to cook the squash), and bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

When the casserole came out of the oven I topped it with green onion and added some avocado and salsa to each serving.

Pin for later:

Paleo Nacho Casserole

Print Recipe
Paleo Nacho Casserole
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut open the spaghetti squash lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash face-down in a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Bake the squash in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a fork goes through it easily. While the squash is baking, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a frying pan. Add the ground chicken, and stir fry on medium heat until brown - about 15 minutes. When the meat is cooked, add taco seasoning and stir to coat.
  4. Heat cooking oil in a large pot. Add garlic and onion, and stir fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper and all spices and continue stir frying for a few more minutes, until the pepper begins to soften.
  6. Add black olives, cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Stir until the spinach begins to wilt. Remove from heat.
  7. When spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the oven, and turn the oven temperature up to 400° F. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl.
  8. Put the spaghetti squash, chicken, salsa, and egg into the large pot with the cooked vegetables. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  9. Pour the mixture into the 9x11 inch casserole dish used to cook the squash. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. When the casserole comes out of the oven, top with green onion, and serve with avocado and salsa.

Garlic-Tahini Rainbow Trout (Whole30)

It doesn’t get much better than a rich, creamy garlic sauce – and this one is dairy-free! The recipe is also gluten-free, Paleo, and Whole30 compliant. The sauce comes together with a few simple, wholesome ingredients, and is spread on a fillet of rainbow trout before baking. I love to pair this dish with roasted veggies, but it would also taste great with some pasta or zucchini noodles on the side!

Well my friends, exam season is here and that means I’m craving warm, hearty comfort food. I had my first two exams today, and I still have two more before I head home for the holidays. The good news is, I’m finished the Whole30 tomorrow, so I can stuff my face with pasta to numb the pain of studying! Just kidding. Today is the last day of the elimination portion of the Whole30, so I’m starting the reintroduction phase tomorrow. I’m planning to reintroduce gluten-free grains first, so tomorrow I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast, some quinoa on my salad at lunch, and gluten-free pasta with turkey meatballs for dinner. Then I’ll be back to the full elimination diet for a few days to see if the newly-introduced foods have any effect on my body.

This rainbow trout recipe has been one of my favourite dinners over the past 30 days. It’s so easy to whip up and so delicious! Also, I’m a huge garlic lover so the creamy sauce is PERFECT. All you need to make the sauce is tahini, a clove of garlic, lemon, onion powder, and salt – then you simply mix it all together, spread on your fish, bake, and enjoy! This recipe makes enough sauce for two fillets of trout, so if I’m just cooking for myself, I’ll cover the leftover sauce and save it to make more fish the next day.

Tahini

If you haven’t used tahini before in your cooking, it’s a creamy condiment made of ground sesame seeds that has a nutty taste. I use it as a base for a lot of my salad dressings and lately I’ve been using it in stir fries too. It’s a great ingredient to have on hand, as it’s incredibly versatile, and a good source of protein, healthy fats, and B vitamins. Lately I’ve been experimenting with energy ball recipes using my food processor, and tahini has appeared in a few of them. I’m still trying to get the ingredient ratios just right, but if you buy some tahini now, hopefully I’ll have another recipe posted soon that uses it!

Side Dishes

In the pictures for this post, I paired the recipe with some roasted carrots and boiled broccoli. If you haven’t tried roasting your carrots before, I highly recommend it. I never used to be a big fan of carrots until I started tossing them in a little olive oil and garlic salt and roasting them. I find them much more flavourful when they’re cooked this way, rather than boiled. When I’m not following the Whole30, I’ll likely have this recipe with gluten-free pasta and tomato sauce, or some rice. If you’re looking to get more greens in your diet, try serving the rainbow trout on a bed of spinach, or adding the fish to the top of a salad!

 

Print Recipe
Garlic-Tahini Rainbow Trout (Whole30)
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat a conventional oven (or toaster oven) to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, tahini, garlic, onion powder, and sea salt. Mix thoroughly until a smooth sauce forms.
  3. Place the fillets of rainbow trout onto the baking sheet. Spoon a generous portion of the sauce onto each fillet.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is golden brown and the fish is flaky.

Race Recap: Tannenbaum 10K

On Sunday I ran my first 10K race – the Tannenbaum 10K! The race was in Toronto and it was a lovely route along the shore of Lake Ontario. Unfortunately it was a very foggy day so there wasn’t a great view of the lake, but it was still a great path to run on.

Here’s what race day looked like for me:

7:00am – Woke up

8:15am – black coffee and baked sweet potato with a poached egg on top for breakfast. This has been one of my favourite breakfasts lately – simple, but delicious! I just pierce the skin of a sweet potato with a fork, and bake in the toaster oven at 400° for about 45 minutes (or until a fork goes easily into the potato). Then I slice the potato open, add a little coconut oil, garlic salt, and pepper, and top with a poached egg. Usually I’ll have two poached eggs for breakfast, but I didn’t want to feel weighed down during my run, so I just stuck to one today.

8:45am-9:00am – I got dressed in my running gear and packed up. I wanted to bring as little as possible to the race, so I just stuck my bus pass, my phone, and some gloves in the pockets of my running jacket. I meant to put a LARA bar in my pocket for after the race, but I ended up forgetting it at home.

What I wear for cold weather running

I love running in the cold weather because it lets me get dressed up in all my favourite running clothes! When running in cold weather, layers are your best bet. I like to wear a long sleeve with a cotton t-shirt on top, and occasionally a quarter zip on top of that, followed by my running jacket. Other most important thing: gloves – always wear them, even if you step outside in the winter to test the temperature and think you might be able to get by without them. If you don’t actually need the gloves you can throw them in your pockets, but if you leave them at home there will likely be some REGRETS.

Here’s what I wore for my race:

  • Nike running headband – absolutely love this one. I’m not sure if they sell this particular style anymore because I couldn’t find it on the Nike website or on Amazon, but it’s a reversible headband that says “Run” on one side and has the Nike logo on the other.
  • Long sleeve (not pictured) – I layered this under all my other clothes.
  • Cotton t-shirt (not pictured) – this was another layer on top.
  • Quarter zip – the purple shirt in the picture above. It’s from Old Navy’s active wear line, and I got it last year during their 50% off active wear sale.
  • Running Room Jacket – ie. my favourite piece of clothing EVER. I love this jacket. It’s just the right length, it’s roomy, so you can put lots of layers underneath, and the pockets are huge. It also has zippers in the side of the jacket for ventilation, so I’ll open those up if I’m running on a warm rainy day.
  • Leggings – I love this pair of Old Navy leggings because they’re warm, and they stay on properly! I find that so many other leggings tend to slip down, but these always stay in place. I think it’s because the material has a softer feel to it, rather than the smooth, slippery texture that a lot of leggings have.
  • Stretchy black pants – I layered these over my leggings for extra warmth. I think they’re from the Forever 21 active wear line.
  • Under Armour Socks
  • Gloves – nothing fancy, just got these at Dollarama.

The day of the race wasn’t that cold, and I was a little overdressed, but I’d rather be a little too warm than too cold. And I was glad I had the layers after the race was over and I wasn’t generating as much heat.

9:00am – drove to the race.

9:20am – 9:40am – checked in and picked up my race kit. Inside was a long sleeve shirt, a Clif Bar, a single serving packet of hemp protein powder from the brand Manitoba Harvest and a variety of coupons (free tea from David’s Tea, free class at a nearby yoga studio, etc.)

9:40am – went for a slow jog to warm up, did some leg swings, high knees, and calf stretches.

10:00am – the race started! I took the first 5K at a slow pace because I didn’t want to burn out. I tried to keep an eye on the “pace elves” ahead of me that were holding signs with their time on them, and worked towards catching up to them. My legs started to get a little tired around the 5K mark, but once I pushed through that I got going at a faster pace. I worked on looking at people ahead of me and slowly catching up. I wasn’t really treating it too much like a race because I was just in it for the challenge of running a 10K, but I still wanted to push myself.

Just before 11:00am – finished the race! My time was a little over 58 minutes. I ran the first 5K in a little over 30 mins, and the second 5K in just over 27 mins. When I crossed the finish line I got a medal for finishing, and I headed to the re-fueling station, where I had a banana and some water.

While I was standing in line waiting to check my time, one of the race volunteers came up to me and said I’d been selected to win a prize! I got to choose from a table of prizes, and got a little bag with the name of the race on it. Here’s a picture of the long sleeve shirt I got, my medal, my race bib, and the bag I won:

I spent the rest of the day relaxing and EATING LOTS OF FOOD (which I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of). Before I took the bus home I stopped at a nearby grocery store and found these Pressed by KIND Fruit Bars. I’d never had one before, but it was delicious! The only ingredients are pineapple, banana, apple, kale and spinach, so they’re Whole30 compliant.

Training

Honestly, I didn’t do any specific 10K training for this race. I signed up on a bit of a whim because running a 10K has been one of my goals for a while. I usually run 2-3 times a week for about 30-45 minutes, so I didn’t actually run the race distance during training. But in addition to my runs, I also go out and play basketball for an hour or two once a week, which is a TON of running, and I use HIIT training when I go to the gym, which definitely helped me develop my endurance. When I started the race, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to make it through the whole thing without taking a walking break. But I had an awesome playlist that I made the night before, and once I started, I just wanted to keep pushing myself.

Now that I’ve run one 10K, I really want to do more! In 2018 I definitely want to run another one and try to improve my time. Every aspect of the Tannenbaum 10K was an amazing experience – it was really well organized, the volunteers and the other runners were so kind, and the route was fairly flat, with a nice view. So if you’re in the Toronto area I definitely recommend trying it out next year!

If you’re a runner, what’s your fave pre-run meal? What about a post-run snack?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin