Festive burrito lunch wrap with raw zesty taco “meat”

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Guys, all my wistful blogging was right! Spring is finally here! Well, technically it won’t be here until Saturday. But as I walked through Toronto in just my sweater and a military jacket yesterday, I really felt it. “It.” Spring! There was sunshine beating down on my face through the window of La Hacienda on Queen (near Bathurst) and dogs walking out without booties on. I mean, that’s the true sign of spring, isn’t it?

Okay, so, two major developments in my life to share. One — I finally own a DSLR camera. Thanks to my amazing friend Lance, I am the new proud owner of a Cannon Rebel XSi. I’m still experimenting with it and will likely take a long time to figure out all my settings, not to mention how to compose photographs so elegantly like all my favourite food bloggers. But learning is a process and I’m a proud lifelong learner, so there you have it.

Second, and one I’ve been bursting at the seams to share, in five days time I will be reunited with my darling cat, Benny!

For those who don’t know me personally, Benny was my cat last year. He is a five-year-old black and white Norwegian forest cat with large paws, a love for brushings and a dislike for being told what to do. Benny came into my life in an amazing way. My roommate last year got him from the Toronto Humane Society rather impulsively. She had never owned a cat before, so I was worried about how she’d handle him. Now, without getting too into the drama that was my old roommate and I, I can safely say that her ownership of Benny didn’t work out very well. After she lost her fascination with him, she basically stopped taking care of him, which included emptying his litter, brushing him and even feeding him. Benny is very affectionate and he quickly became “my” cat, which I didn’t mind at all. Then in March my roommate took a two month trip to Europe and did not pay her rent, nor did she tell our landlord she was leaving the country. I was pretty eager to get out, so I took the eviction notice as a sign. However, I couldn’t leave poor Benny alone, so he came along with me to my parents’ place.

Months later when the time came to move out again, Benny had become well-acquainted with a) my Mom, b) her cat and dog, Maggie and Tessie and c) the back yard. My Mom thought it would be cruel of me to take that all away from him, so I moved back to Toronto without him. I have Lucy (Chris’s cat), but I miss Benny every day.

Well, now that my Mom is selling her house, she’s eager to get Mister Fluffy Pants out of her hair (more specifically, to get his hair out of her hair). It’s time to transition Benny back to living with me… and living with Lucy. How will this go? Only time can tell!

Spring is all about rebirth, that first breath of a renewed life and energy. And that’s what Benny will be bringing to our home.

In the meantime, I’ve been switching up my eats lately. Not so warm and hearty — more cool and light. I’ve been looking at recipes for a raw zucchini lasagna lately, and in general look forward to having to use my oven less as the months warm up (especially because our place isn’t air-conditioned, and our windows get the direct sunset light).

This raw taco “meat” that I made for my burrito is a nice change from just beans in my burrito (although as you can see, there’s beans as well — I tossed on some of my festive fresh bean salad). There’s a crunch and crumble, but the vegan mayo also adds a creamy texture that goes against type.

Raw zesty taco “meat,” makes three servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw unsalted walnut halves/pieces
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 5-6 tomatoes), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise (I used Wildwood Aioli for a garlic zing, but if you want a soy-free variety, Earth Island makes soy-free Veganaise)
  • 2 green onions, copped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely copped (use less or none if using aioli)
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds removed if that’s not your thing)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are crumbly without being dusty (like regular ground taco meat) and set in a medium-sized bowl
  2. Once your tomatoes, green onions, garlic and jalapeno are chopped, add to the bowl
  3. Add the mayo and the spices and mix thoroughly until everything is coated and even.

In case you’re wondering what I had on my burrito, it wasn’t a 100% raw or GF wrap — but you could totally go that route if you’re trying to be conscious of both (or if you’re just looking for a good cooking challenge). Maybe try a lettuce wrap (way more fun and tasty than a gluten-free wrap).

My wrap consisted of:

  • A whole wheat burrito wrap
  • Roasted garlic hummus
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomatoes
  • My bean salad (yum!)
  • Raw taco “meat”
  • Avocado!

Even though today is dreary and cloudy, I’m still just really feeling this spring weather. However, now that I’m no longer wearing tall boots all day, this was a terrible way to realize that ALL MY PANTS ARE TOO SHORT. I love skinny jeans, but I’m a long-legged lady, and this simply will not do. Time for shorts/skirts weather to come back into style. QUICK.

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Homemade salted caramel Clif Bars (no bake!)

Processed with VSCOcam I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — give a climber a Clif Bar and we’ll be your friend for life. So when I show up to the gym or crag with these bad boys, I’ll have a million friends for life. Unless I haven’t eaten them all by then. There are a million different ways you can make homemade Clif Bars (or any snack bar, really). But the salted caramel flavour of this makes it unique, something you can’t buy in the store. I’ve actually had a hard time finding a vegan caramel that’s not date-based, since dates are not exactly a fructose-friendly food. But this mix of 1/2 brown rice syrup and 1/2 peanut butter with just a small bit of virgin coconut oil makes a pretty convincing dupe.

Salted caramel Clif Bars (makes 8 large bars)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crispy puffed rice cereal (I used 365 Organic)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if celiac)
  • 1 cup crushed nuts (I recommend a mix of nuts; all I had was walnuts, but almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamia, whatever, man, they all sound great!)
  • 1/2 cup seeds (I used a mix of sunflower and pepitas)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life, which are vegan, gluten-free and nut-free)
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup (or coconut nectar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, softened
  • A dash of fine grain sea salt

Instructions

  1. If not already crushed, run the nuts through a food processor quickly to get them into crumbs.
  2. Mix the oats, rice puffs, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, chocolate chips, coconut and cacao nibs in a bowl. Shake around to get it nice and even.
  3. Meanwhile, soften the coconut oil. To make this a truly “raw” recipe and avoid zapping your food, simply fill a medium-sized saucepan with hot water and sit the jar of oil in it to soften.
  4. Fill another large-sized saucepan with hot water from the kettle and sit a large pyrex measuring cup (at least 3 cups) in the hot water. Add your peanut butter, brown rice syrup, soft coconut oil, vanilla and sea salt.
  5. Mix the liquit thoroughly, as quickly as possible — that’s the only way you can get it nice and soft without having to zap it.
  6. Line a deep rimmed baking dish with parchment paper. Once your “caramel” mixture is soft enough, pour it into the dish.
  7. Add your dry mix and use a fork to move it around, incorporating everything.
  8. Put in the freezer for about an hour to really solidify, then transfer to the fridge. And try not to eat it too quickly!

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I Love My City: Freedom Clothing Collective

You know what’s funny? I’ve been perpetually going over the East/West debate in my mind in Toronto. While most of the time my tastes swing East (I’m an in-bed-by-10-up-by-6-even-on-a-Saturday kind of girl), every time I find myself in Kensington Market, Parkdale, Dufferin Grover or on the Ossington strip, I find myself saying, “West is best.”

Magenta from Grassroots recommended I check out Freedom Clothing Collective, a local co-op shop near Bloor and Ossington showcasing local Toronto fashion and accessory designers. I’ve never been much of a fashion girl (she says draped in a too-large hoodie and generic Old Navy jeans) but I’ve always looked at locally-made clothes differently. It feels like I’m not just buying/wearing clothes — I’m buying/wearing art! I’m showcasing creations made by individuals working hard to make this world a funkier place, and who wouldn’t want that?

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetOwners and curators Karen and Jelena are both designers in their own right and, much like their store, have equally funky and dreamy creations for body and home.

Here’s a bit about my experience at Freedom Clothing Collective: First of all, I was pleased as punch that Freedom is not just about clothes — in fact, I was far more enthralled with the accessories and sweet home accents. With sweet earrings, nifty printed cards and big ticket items like tables and lamps, I was legitimately close to outfitting my life with items from this shop.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetBut alas, here’s what I walked away with: A locally-made (vegan!) glossy botanical lip balm, two pairs of earrings (they have a two-for-one sale, so I picked up some sweet black rose earrings and some great green button earrings, as seen on me here) and, of course, a chocolate bar. I’m sorry, but I can only walk by those things so many times before I cave.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetMuch like my time at Grassroots, I felt really relaxed in the store. Jelena was not only really friendly (to be expected in a place like this) but she didn’t do the whole retail-pressure thing. We mostly talked about vegan cheese, socks, and why Bloor and Ossington rocks.

I may or may not have taken a foray into Bloomer’s a block away for some vegan muffins and even a coffee with a shot of vegan Bailey’s. Yep, I’m shameless.

You can find Freedom Clothing Collectige online, on Facebook or on Instagram to check out all the latest pieces of amazing fashion and accessories they carry. If you’re looking to get into local and want to showcase some real art through your clothing, this is the place!

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Fresh bean salad with creamy sriracha dressing

Processed with VSCOcamWow, it really has been awhile. Or at least, it feels like it has. I did post on Thursday! But I can’t lie, I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump the last little bit. I’ve got smoothie after smoothie after smoothie, but haven’t come up with a cool main in awhile.

I can safely say that that’s about to change. I am starting to feel very inspired by the world around me again. We just pushed the clocks forward, meaning there is more sunshine in my life — and that’s good for anyone’s soul. I’m also still holding out for some good news with regards to a major change in my life, but I don’t want to jinx that, and I’ll only post more if I hear more. I’m starting to become inspired to create some more summer-y recipes that make me feel light and cool, and this bean salad is one of those things.

Now, this is the kind of salad that can be a simple side or it can be mixed in with some greens and grains to pack a protein punch as part of a bowl. Either way, you’re getting well-fed without feeling like lying on your back afterward. The creamy sriracha dressing might not seem appropriate for this salad at first (it seems like more of a vinaigrette kind of salad, I’ll admit), but it actually goes surprisingly well — coats everything without seeming so heavy and saucy.

Fresh bean salad, serves… a whole lot (seriously, I’ll be eating this all week)

Ingredients

  • One 19 oz can black beans
  • One 19 oz can mixed beans (ours was a six-bean medley of chickpeas, black-eyed peas, white beans and a few different kinds of kidney beans… feel free to put in whatever kind of beans you want, save for squishy lentils)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn (we used canned)
  • One small to medium red onion, diced
  • One English cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro!)

Instructions

  1. Drain the beans and corn if using canned (or prepare if using dried/cob corn) and mix in a large bowl
  2. Add the diced onion, cucumber, garlic and parsley
  3. Mix together and let sit for at least 1/2 hour to let the flavours develop

Creamy sriracha dressing, makes about one cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Pulse all ingredients in a small blender and shake before serving. This is a very viscous dressing, so it’s best spooned onto your salad (or burrito! This would be AMAZING on a burrito).

Woah, what a simple recipe, right? And yet, it was so damn good, I could eat it as a main. I’m not kidding when I say I will be eating this for a week. That’s the great thing about “summer” recipes — rarely are they complicated, but they’re so, so good and satisfying. What are you doing to celebrate these longer sunshine hours? More popsicles? More patio drinks? It’s going to be above zero almost all week — so someone is going to be looking at cleaning up her balcony (hint: it’s me!)

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Citrus green tea smoothie

Processed with VSCOcamThere’s such a nice feeling knowing that the sun won’t be long behind you when you wake up. It’s so neat to think that soon I’ll be waking up with the sun again. It’s also so cool to not even have to turn my car lights on when I leave my work parking lot (I mean, they’re always on by the time I get home, but still).

I feel a lot healthier overall lately, which I owe largely to my decision to leave the gym and pursue yoga and dance with more dedication. The way I pushed myself at the gym was not as gentle and healthy as I normally advocate for. While I did enjoy lifting a lot, I gain just as much strength and empowerment from dance, yoga and climbing. Now I just wish I could fit it all into my schedule!

I wanted to celebrate my current uplifted attitude with a very fresh-tasting smoothie, but I also wanted this smoothie to leave me feeling full and energized. So get ready for this citrus green tea smoothie — it’s such a packed smoothie I had to make it in my larger blender and pour it into a bigger mason jar!

Citrus green tea smoothie, serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spinach or kale
  • 1/2 a frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut water*
  • 2 peeled navel oranges
  • 1 skinned kiwi
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp avocado
  • 1-2 tbsp matcha powder**
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder or 1 tbsp hemp hearts (optional, for added protein)
  • A few fresh mint leaves (optional)

Blend all ingredients on the highest setting until they are very smooth.

*This made the smoothie more juicy. If you want a more substantial, heavy smoothie, go all milk.

**Matcha powder can be found at most tea shops — I got mine at Teavana. It’s also great for a latté!

This was the perfect blend of a nice, morning zing kind of flavour that still managed to taste mellow. Definitely made me smile to drink, as silly as that sounds.

I saved my orange peels so that I can have some fun with orange zest and matcha later on in the week — there may be a cool new muffin coming your way!

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Things I’m loving lately: February edition

I was going to remark about how February just flew by and then I realized, duh, of course it did! It’s the shortest month! Apparently February 2015 was the coldest single month in Toronto’s history. Who’da guessed? Probably everyone. And as a chronic forgetter of my gloves, I admit I had a few uncomfortable walks to and from the yoga studio. But it just makes me want to walk faster!

There’s a lot of obligations coming up in March, but I’m excited for the month to get into swing — because that means that it’s over sooner! Winter officially ends in less than three weeks. Once the month is over with, I’ll be getting a new tattoo, house sitting for my parents and, of course, breaking out the bike. There’s a “winds of change” feel to the air, and I may have some exciting news to share on the blog very soon. But until that day comes, here’s my list of ten things that I’ve been totally obsessed with lately.

  1. I’ve fallen back in love with Oxford shirts, a mild obsession I had from high school (blame the fact that I wore a uniform). I recently purchased this light blue Oxford from Old Navy and I’ve tried to find any excuse to wear it. Such a classic choice. It’s made me feel inspired to maybe start a little fashion posting on this blog. Not that I’m claiming to be an expert or anything. I just like showing off what I wear!
  2. I’m a classic Converse girl, but as the spring thaw approaches and I consider my new casual shoe, I’m eying these classic Vans in Port Royale Red/Black.
  3. I re-organized my room! My project is almost complete and I’ll be sharing my makeover story with you soon. There are a few tasks left — hanging my Star Wars poster, putting up my shelf, my special wall hanging project that will remain a secret. All will be detailed on the blog once my work is complete. Anyway, I think it goes without saying that trips to IKEA count as a current obsession.
  4. I used to really, really hate ginger aside from Canada Dry Ginger Ale, but I’ll admit that it’s grown on me. My favourite way to enjoy ginger is in fresh green smoothies, like the Oh She Glows Happy Digestion smoothie!
  5. Another context in which I’m ejoying ginger ale? Blue Sky sodas. I’ve never had sodas made with real cane sugar before and had no idea that made such a difference. You need these in your life.
  6. The Financial Diet, a blog by Chelsea Fagan, has been a wonderful resource so far that has helped me make some great decisions with regards to my new apartment, job and lifestyle. Seriously, if there’s a “lifestyle blog” you can subscribe to, make it this one.
  7. Possums. Okay, I’m just obsessed with possums and have no damn idea why!
  8. I am in love with this plate set from ModCloth. I’d love to hang these on my wall. Hey everyone, my birthday is in June!
  9. I am going to Camp Kate in July! Camp Kate is an amazing opportunity for dancers of all ages (there’s camps for dancers age 5-7, 8-12, 13-18 and 18+) to learn great technique and choreography. I’ve been preparing like crazy all winter with ballet, contemporary and yoga classes. As a result, I feel friggin’ great!
  10. I’ve been on a new music kick lately and came across the album Things We Carry by Blue Water Highway Band on Noisetrade. Noisetrade is a great platform for downloading music free and legally and discovering new tunes — give it a look!
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Pumpkin Vindaloo Pasta

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A few days ago I took a venture in to Leslieville, a neighbourhood I’ve admittedly never known too much about. I always knew Leslieville as the place where the hipsters in the East end lived. Anyway, I was there with my friend Drew to buy some yarn and learn to knit. I’m happy to say that the whole learning-to-knit thing went quite well. Of course, I found myself continually distracted by the shop next door, a cute little market called Raise the Root. I explained to Drew, I have a bit of a problem with independent markets. By “a problem with” I mean “a problem with staying away from them.”

When I went in, I was lucky enough to see a demonstration from a local Toronto food business, Good Food For Good. I think it’s not only really important to support local businesses, you find things you wouldn’t normally be able to find anywhere else. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to take home a jar of the Vindaloo sauce.

Of course, I couldn’t just make a standard stir-fry with this. Being me, I had to do something different.

I love a good pasta, so I thought, “How can I incorporate this into pasta without seeming too weird?”

I give you, Pumpkin Vindaloo Pasta — it’s sweet, it’s smoky, it’s tangy. You can add any veggies you like to this (I bet it would be good with some shredded carrots), but I went for my classic, tomatoes and spinach.

Pumpkin Vindaloo Pasta, serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup penne or other small pasta (I used a gluten-free brand)
  • 1 whole tomato
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp Vindaloo sauce (more if you’re really into spicy!)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 cup spinach
  • Sunflower seeds, shelled

Instructions

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large nonstick pan on low heat. Add the chopped garlic and the tomato, also chopped (I kept it in large wedges). Let this simmer on low for about 15 minutes to get really soft and fragrant.
  2. Cook the pasta according to directions. Before it’s finished, ladle out about 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Mix the sauce — add the pumpkin puree, garam masala, allspice, nutritional yeast, cilantro and vindaloo sauce and mix thoroughly. It will still be very pasty, but worry not!
  4. Once the pasta is finished, add it to the pan and mix in the pumpkin sauce. Gently add your pasta water to make it a little more sauce-like and coat the pasta.
  5. Add in your spinach and cover the pasta for a few minutes. Once the spinach is wilted, it’s ready to serve.
  6. Top with sunflower seeds and whatever else you like — though honestly, this dish doesn’t need many other flavours!

This dish turned out to be such a wonderful, unique, smokey flavour! You’d never expect that from sweet, pure pumpkin. What’s your favourite unconventional pumpkin dish?

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