Healthy Pumpkin & Honey Bran Muffins

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Autumn is my most favorite season, the colors (especially back home), the crisp fresh air, comfort food etc. Every year around this time I start my pumpkin craze, and this year is no exception and last night I made Pumpkin Bran Muffins. They make a great option for a healthy breakfast on the go, they freeze great, just wrap each in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. These delightful pumpkin treats are moist and pack a nice little punch. Since they are made with bran it means full of fiber. The recipe calls for dried cranberries or raisins, I didn’t have either of these ingredients and I think they turned out just fine.

Each muffin, 218 calories, 5 grams of fat

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
  • 1½ cups honey
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 egg whites 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups wheat bran
  • ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins  

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper liners for easy clean up.

2. In an electric mixer or in a large bowl mixing by hand, add pumpkin, honey, applesauce and oil.

3. Stir in egg whites, eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

4. Add wheat bran, oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt and mix until combined. Stir in cranberries or raisins and mix until blended

5. Fill each muffin cup just about to the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.

Makes about 16 muffins (each serving, 1 muffin)

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Source: Skinny Kitchen

A taste of Spain: Ox & Angela

One of the best experiences in my life was spending six weeks in different areas of Spain. The people I encountered and culture I witnessed were beyond what I ever expected.  I was especially impressed by how they use lunch and dinner as a way to create community.  Rarely did I go out for dinner with a large group and be done in less than 3-4 hours. People don’t rush to order their meal, rather multiple people order small plates throughout the night to keep the options lighter and the conversation flowing. It was a refreshing experience.

I am always on the hunt for a great tapas restaurant. I’ve been obsessed with that style of meal ever since my European travels. My good friend was the one to introduce me to Ox and Angela here in Calgary.  I thought it was too good to be true that my new city had not only a tapas menu, but a dedicated Spanish menu! I was in heaven.

I have waited to go there again and had the luxury of taking my sister who came to visit me. It was the perfect atmosphere to catch up and enjoy every bite of food.

We heavily relied on our lovely server to lead us through some of the best dishes on the menu.  We also used him for an amazing wine recommendation.

Pan con tomate with fried goat cheese

Pan con tomate with fried goat cheese

We knew we needed fried goat cheese in our lives (fried cheese is a no brainer) and as much as we were confident we could eat it by itself, we were told to get an order of the pan con tomate to accompany it.
This combo is perfect for sharing with up to four people. Luckily it was only my sister and I so we could each have two toasts. The goat cheese flavour was not too overpowering, so if you aren’t normally a fan I would encourage you to step out and give this a try. I’m still dreaming about it.

We then moved onto the pan-friend mushrooms on toasted bread, poached egg, and truffle. It was a flavour experience to say the least. You cannot miss out on this. We tried our best to eat it slowly, but no luck!

 

Next up, the spicy merguez lamb sausage sauteed with apricot, sherry and mustard. We did not grab a shot of this one since the picture could not do it justice. It had a good kick to it, but it was best paired with a little bit of the apriocot with each bite.

 

Of course we made room for dessert.  This was a dark chocolate salted almond torte. It was rich, but the dark chocolate was the perfect balance of sweetness that we needed to end this delicious meal.

 

El Porron - The Spanish Wine Pitcher

El Porron – The Spanish Wine Pitcher

 

I can’t leave out the wine. From his recommendation, we ordered the Borie de Maurel Esprit d’Automne. I could have butchered that name, but I’m hoping you’ll be able to find a way to order this smooth red wine.

The coolest part is how they serve it in the Spanish version of a decanter! Our server explained it is used a lot at festivals or gatherings where caring is sharing!

 

Do yourself a favour and check out Ox & Angela.  Perfect for a first date, small gathering, or a unique food experience.

http://www.oxandangela.com/

Love xox

 

 

 

 

On top of the world – Hiking in Alberta

It is no secret that I enjoy escaping the city to go hiking, which makes sense since I’m blessed to live near the Rocky Mountains. Hiking is probably one of my favorite summer activities, nothing beats spending a day in the fresh air, hiking to a spectacular view only to enjoy lunch and cold beer. I remember how intimidated I was my first hike; I didn’t know where to start or really what all I needed to carry with me. Like anything hiking is one of those things that gets easier with time and experience. The more you do and the more people you talk to the more tips and tricks you’ll pick up along the way. Living in Calgary we have a lot of trail options that it’s sometimes hard to decide which one to do. I tend to go off recommendations from other hiking enthusiasts, or check Trail Peak. I decided to put together a small list of hikes I’ve done to get you started.

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Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes – This hike is beautiful! It is family friendly and good for all fitness levels. We wandered off the path a little bit so we could get closer to the waterfall which was worth it. On a nice day, you will probably see some rock climbers.
Directions: From downtown Canmore. Take the route to the Nordic Center and follow the signs to the Grassi Lake parking lot where you will meet up directly with the trail head

Heart Mountain – I tried this one for the first time this past weekend. There are a couple variations to this hike. Heart Creek Trail; which a super easy family friendly hike good for all fitness levels. As you enter the 20140804-152927-55767517.jpgtrail head you’ll walk until you come to a sign then make a right towards Heart Creek Trail. The trail ends at a small waterfall where you can sit and relax. This trail is busy. We made it to the waterfall in no time and realized we went the wrong way and back tracked to the sign where the trail splits and went left to Heart Mountain. This one was not for the faint of heart. Lots of loose rock and with a fairly difficult scramble. Overall it was a great workout with a good view, so I’d do it again especially since it’s so close to Calgary.

Directions: take the Exit 105 for Lac des Arc. From Calgary, take exit 105 then turn left, go over highway, turn on gravel road that leads to parking lot. From Canmore take exit 105 & turn right onto gravel road into parking lot. Now you even have washrooms. It’s recommended NOT to park on the side of the highway as many people have been ticketed.


Ha Ling Peak
– This was my very first hike! It has an amazing view, and is definitely worth the effort. It’s pretty steep, and feels like a continuous incline with very little flat spots. The last bit to the summit is a scramble, and is a little scary when you come down as there is a lot of loose shale. Once you make the summit, there are quite a few nooks with outstanding views of Canmore which makes the grind completely worth it.

Directions: Drive to Canmore Alberta. Drive up highway #742, the Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lakes Trail towards the Canmore Nordic Centre. Continue past the turn-off for the Nordic Centre, keeping to the left. Continue on the gravel and park in the Goat Creek Parking Lot

 

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Entering the cave at Crypt

Crypt – My favorite hike to date, it blew my mind and lived up to expectations. We headed to Waterton for a camping weekend with the sole purpose of doing this hike. This hike has everything you could ask for in a hike – several waterfalls, a beautiful lake, cave and scaling a cliff. I am not going to lie I found the cave and scaling the cliff to be a little scary. Doesn’t help that I am terrified of heights, but there was no way I was going to let my fear keep me from reaching Crypt Lake. You access the trail head by taking a ferry, round trip tickets are $20. There are two ferries that run daily. This is a full day hike so be prepared, the day we went was quite warm and we ran out of water on our way down, which is never good. Definitely pack a bathing suit, we didn’t know that you could swim and were surprised to see everyone else seem to have gotten that memo and were jumping in to cool off.

Directions: From Calgary take highway south 2 to Fort MacLeod (183 km/115 mi.). From Fort MacLeod, go West on Highway 3 (50 km/31 mi.). Head south through Pincher Creek on Highway 6 (56 km/35 mi.).

A couple things you should check prior to heading out:

  • Weather conditions; you’ll want to make sure you pack plenty of water for warm weather especially if the trail is exposed to a lot of sunlight. Layering your clothes is never a bad idea, the weather can change quickly and you want to be prepared.
  • Trail report; it is a good idea to check the trail report for a couple reasons. Post 2012 flood some of the trails are still damaged or being worked on. You’ll also find wildlife warnings and potential trail closures due active wildlife activity in the area (bears & cougars). It’s not a bad idea to pack bear spray.
  • What you take up, take down with you. Do not leave your trash!

Have fun & be safe out there
Crypt 2

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Koi: Funky & Delicious

At one point in my life I equated healthy food with less than delicious food, and use to be so perplexed on how someone could possibly be full without a mound of potatoes or ample servings of bread with their dinner. Obviously I couldn’t have been further from the truth. This journey from eating whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like, to being a bit more conscious about what I eat has been a long and challenging one. By no means am I a clean eater and will probably never be and for me I think that is ok. Growing up I played a lot of competitive sports so between that and being blessed with a fairly good metabolism I could crush burgers, garlic fingers and ice cream without much thought. Now, the more I get into multi sports and endurance racing I’ve been trying to change my set and look at what I eat as fuel. Which can make eating out tricky especially when you love going for dinner with friends as much as I do. Luckily I’ve found a couple places in Calgary that offer nutritious guilt free menu’s.  

I first stumbled on Koi about two years ago, and have been going back regularly ever since. Koi is a funky gem along 1st SW. Supporting the Calgary Arts scene in a big way. They offer local artist their wall space to exhibit their work. Looking to shake up date night? This spot is perfect, as they offer a variety of off the beaten path entertainment, check their schedule for more details.

 

Buddha Burger with Yam Wedges

Buddha Burger with Yam Wedges

While all the above is sweet it’s the food that keeps me going back. The menu is filled with Asian-fusion dishes that blend the culinary flavors of China, Korea, and Japan. Many items offer the option of Vegetarian, Vegan or Gluten Free. My latest kick is the Buddha Burger. If you would have asked me two-five years ago that I’d be drooling for at veggie burger I would have probably laughed in your face, but this handmade black bean patty with caramelized onions, beets, spinach and peashoots is out of this world. I dip it in the sauce that comes with the yam wedges which sends this dish right into flavor town. If your mouth is watering I suggest checking it out during happy hour where you save on bowls or during ‘Vegelicious Monday’ where you save $2 on vegetarian / vegan entrées.

Happy Eating!

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Oh what a morning… K-100 race recap

K-100This past Saturday I raced K-100, which has to be one of my favorite races. It is a 100-mile relay consisting of 10 legs between Longview and Kananaskis. I think one of the reasons I have so much fun is because the race allows support vehicles for many of legs and the energy they provide is infectious.

This year my leg got off to a rocky start to say the least, this was my second time racing Leg-1 so you think I would have a few things down for my 6 a.m. start (yes, you read correctly 6 a.m. start) but you’d be incorrect. I thought I was a rock star the night before, set not one but two alarms; went to bed early, and had my stuff relatively organized for the morning. What I failed to do however was ensure those two alarms were set for the correct time. The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and I was pumped and couldn’t wait to hit the road. I checked my phone, returned a couple text messages and then it hit me… Shit, it’s 4:45 a.m. NOT 3:45 a.m. and I needed to haul ass in order to make Longview in time for the start. I brushed my teeth, grabbed my pile of race gear and hit the road.

Realizing I didn’t eat breakfast but conscious of the time, I made a decision to stop at McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin and a coffee, not the best race fuel but better than nothing right?

Finally we make Longview, 10 minutes after the race started, I literally hop out of the car run to the check-in point grab my bib and book it to try and catch the pack. About 1-2km’s in I catch the first person, and am relieved to see the line of support vehicles ahead. One car in particular was dressed up and had the music pumping. Every time we’d pass one another I couldn’t help but smile.

By the 11th km the McMuffin was not agreeing with me in the least. I had two options, take my chances in the woods and risk a run in with a bear or do my business in my Lulu’s… I decided not to risk my Lulu’s and headed to the woods. Not wanting to lose any more time I pick up the pace to finish strong. Just before the 14km hill one of the other teams support vehicle that had been leapfrogging me for the majority of race offered me some water and a hi-five, talk about sportsmanship! I happily took the water and kept on trucking.

Overall despite my sloppy start and self-imposed obstacles I am pleased with how I finished my leg. Our team ironically named “we’ve got the runs” finished 57/180.

Here are some basic race tips so you don’t find yourself in a similar situation:
• Double and triple check your alarm
• Eat a nutrition breakfast
• Print directions and ensure you arrive with plenty of time before the race
• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

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Summer Lovin’

Being new-ish to Calgary from Vancouver, I knew I was walking into a colder climate and a much longer winter. I try my best to embrace it, but I blame my mild weather upbringing on not being able to adjust that smoothly. Not that it was all horrible, because it was pretty easy to pick an outfit all winter: black boots, leggings and a large jacket.

To get in the summer mood, I wanted to talk about some things I’m most excited for! I also think I really love lists…so just amuse me and let me know what you are most pumped for!!

1)      Tanned skin. Not just for me because, let’s be real, we don’t swoon over tall, “dark” and handsome for no reason.

2)      Sangria on the Patio. I adore the question us girls ask each other every time, “should we just get a pitcher?”

3)      Stampede. This is my second year. Last year we contemplated wearing go-pro cameras on our hats…glad that didn’t pan out.

4)      Hiking and exploring. Lake Louise, Waterton, drives to Vancouver and many other places I want to go. Open to suggestions!!

5)      Long weekends at the cabin. Lakes, boats, summer games, and meeting new friends. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Love xox

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For the love of: Mascara

As I was putting this post together I constantly kept thinking how weird it is that we paint eyelashes in black most days of the week?
With makeup being a new hobby, I’m always curious how high end compares to makeup from the drug store. I love browsing Sephora and talking to the girls there…mainly so I can geek out about products. I wanted to see if any high end mascara could top my favorite $12 L’Oreal Telescopic.
So I conducted the ultimate experiment and used my face to demonstrate.

First up: Lancome Hypnose Drama mascara $32
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In doing my extensive research (I asked 3 Sephora employees?) I discovered this mascara has been Lancome’s best seller for many years. This is specific for creating and building volume in the lashes. Lemme say, it can definitely build volume…but it is not user friendly: Exhibit A:

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Maybe I just suck at putting on mascara (c’est possible)? It was tough to use I got a nice little clump I had to brush through with another wand and it got all over my eyelid.
Verdict? I returned it. I don’t need stumpy, clumpy lashes.

Next contender: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara $31
This was the other suggestion that I not only heard from the Sephora crew, but have been seeing it in YouTube tutorials lately. And who doesn’t like a racy name? I was intrigued.
Exhibit B:
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THE CLAIM IS TRUE! Man, I love this mascara!! User-friendly and it makes my lashes truly feathery, full and gives them length. The first photo is when I applied just ONE application and the last photo is putting on the absurd amount I prefer.

I hope you found this somewhat informative and if you have a favourite mascara you can’t live without…let me know!
LOVE xo
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Chocolate: A love story

I am confident in saying most of my friends associate me with chocolate. Immediately you must think it’s because I’m super sweet. I assure you, while true (toot toot! – tooting my own horn?) mainly it’s because I grew up with a father that worked for a chocolate company for my whole life. Good choice Pops. It really helped my lunch bartering when I was in elementary school.
Then to help the association really stick, I decided to follow in his chocoatley footsteps and work for a chocolate company as well. I will post another time as to why I’m now more associated with mac & cheese…tbc.
Are you wondering if you are a choco-holic? Have you almost gone into work with chocolate smears on your forehead?
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It’s okay, I’m a special breed. However, I have created a list for people who join me in that specific breed!

1) You can name the top 5 chocolate bars in Canada (HINT: no one ever guesses right)

2) White Chocolate is dumb. You know this is not real chocolate, right?

3) Dark Chocolate is extremely healthy. I mean, I couldn’t even link all the articles to support this. Mix it with red wine? Anti-oxidant overload?! You’re welcome body.

4) You know 75% is the best percentage…and 85% when you are feeling daring

5) You know Cadbury chocolate from the UK is vastly different than Cadbury NA – Please note you can find Curly Wurly’s at your local Walmart.

6) You know when you diet, chocolate is the only cheat that doesn’t really count

7) You know a bowl of fruit for ‘dessert’ is beyond laughable.

8) “Girl, give me a square” is a super cool way to ask for chocolate

9) You have woken up from a nightmare where you are floating down Willy Wonka’s river uncontrollably

10) You know, you + chocolate = happiness and whoever doesn’t get that, just doesn’t get you!

Love xox!
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Burger love

canvas1We were hoping to be among the first to take advantage of ‘Burger Week’ here in Calgary, but in true Amy fashion, I mixed up the start date and we found out that it doesn’t start until May 2nd – whoops. Already seated on their patio, we decided to give Canvas a shot (it helped that Calgary finally blessed us with a gorgeous day).

Sensing our disappointment, the waitress did us a solid and asked the chef if we could still take advantage of their feature burger. Sunshine AND advance burger week screening? Not today it seems. They did however mention a special lamb option forcing our hand to select the intriguing offering.

Ordering the bison burger with rainbow carrot fries, this messy contraption was the bomb! There was zero worry of me going hungry after devouring the hefty portion. It  was surprisingly very moist and flavorful. The rainbow carrot fries were ok. Tossed in a lime dressing, they really just tasted like carrots covered in a lot of oil, yet somehow I didn’t feel as guilty as if I had ordered the fries.

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Ken, ordered the lamb burger with a cesar salad, which I obviously had to try… you know quality control. As with the bison, the lamb was incredibly juicy and packed full of flavor. The use of fresh herbs really elevated the taste and paired with the light aioli, made for some tremendously satisfying bites. I mean quality control checks.

Canvas has been re-opened for about 3 months now, so it isn’t overly busy – meaning less wait times and cheaper bill totals. You can get in and out in decent time without damaging the pocket book too much. The patio at Canvas Bistro is a great gem that gets lots of sun light, if only they lost an umbrella or two, this might become a fantastic summer lunch option.

Ps: Did I mention they have wine deals on Thursdays?

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How have I never eaten here before?

Going out for breakfast is probably one of my top 3 favorite activities. I love it! Today I got a bit of a late start on the day today (I blame birthday celebrations for our Betty Amanda), and as most know trying to get breakfast in our fair city is like playing battleship – veeeeery strategic. Most places don’t take reservations so you need to go into breakfast here with a solid game plan, how long are you willing to wait? How far are you willing to walk/drive? How many people do you expect to eat with? (larger numbers are tough) and so on and so forth. I have a couple of places that I can’t get enough of , the problem is the secret on these places seems to be out and the wait times can creep up to an hour in no time. On days like today, when I wake up late these little gems automatically get scratched from the list and I have to be a little bit more creative with my options. I was so hungry but couldn’t make up my mind so we just started driving west and then it dawned on me what about Cassis Bistro, that little French spot off Crowchild? My initial concern was, will they seat us if I’m wearing a sweater and lulu’s? It sounds a bit too fancy for my current attire. My indecisiveness wearing on my boyfriend and our options dwindling we agree to chance it.

We walk in and are quickly greeted, her kindness eases my mind on the terrible outfit choice. I was excited not to be turned away, the place was oozing of culture and French charm. Thankfully we are seated within minutes, order our coffees and try to decide what to eat. I had my heart set on eggs bennies and when I didn’t see them on the menu I was a little disappointed. That feeling of disappointment quickly subsided though, when our food started to arrive. We ordered the fresh baguette with jam, Croque Madame, and the Omelette du Jour. I have never ever in my life had a Croque Madame like this, so delicious! It definitely is not the healthiest option but oh my, the flavor. Cheesy deliciousness and the bread still had a bit of crunch to it. I will go back to Cassis for that sandwich alone. We substituted the Soup du Jour for our side; today’s soup was Tomato served with a cheesy crustini on top. This soup was so creamy with the right tartness to it.

Today’s omelette was spinach and mushroom, served with sautéed potatoes and side mixed green salad. I was happy to discover the omelette was made with brie cheese. This large three egg omelette was cheesy deliciousness.

Despite being quite full when asked if we were interested in dessert my stomach spoke for me in saying, of course. We ended up getting the chocolate cake with caramel ice cream. I knew we didn’t need it, and that it would probably result in an afternoon nap but I couldn’t resist. As soon as it arrived though I was happy with the decision, who can resist a warm chocolate cake, need I say more?

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I loved the atmosphere here. Small, but doesn’t make you feel crowded. The décor had a bit of a French influence, with a little local or sustainable flare. People all around were relaxed and most enjoying a glass of wine while they waited for their food immersed in conversation. It was nice to see people actually enjoying one another’s company and not playing on their iPhones. The table beside us was speaking French the entire time and I couldn’t help but ease drop from time to time to see what they were saying. Our waiter a transplant from France, sported the perfect French accent I wanted to break out my best choppy French to talk with him but was a little too nervous, the best I could conjure up was “Merci, bon après-midi”. I can’t wait to go back, I am a sucker for delicious food made with fresh ingredients. My only regret, not taking more pictures.

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Ps: For those who can’t read French, “Il” means Boy. A vital tidbit of information for         those that require the restroom. I received a nervous text message from my perplexed boyfriend who would have guessed wrong had I not intervened. Sometimes, those are the breaks.

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