Gluten Free Goodness, Tea and an Awesome Giveaway Courtesy of Wild Earth Bakery

I love tea.   SANY2290

And all things related to tea.

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My dear friend Charis introduced me to the goodness of tea. My first tea love was Bengal Spice. I loved the spiciness and warmth and now enjoy it with a bit of almond milk for an extra special treat. I’ve since expanded my tea repertoire and it’s incredibly rare for me to go without tea at some point in the day.

A couple weeks ago Joey, Lori and I stopped by Wild Earth Bakery again and I was absolutely thrilled when we found this:

SANY2284 A pink to-go mug with a loose leaf tea strainer!! While I do have a lot of bagged teas, I adore my loose leaf teas (including rooibos, organic mint and licorice) especially because many of them have incredible health benefits and healing properties. Joey saw my excitement and bought it for me. I was so excited to be able to easily take my loose leaf teas on the go with me in a pink cup nonetheless!  Not only is it cute, but it’s functional too and keeps my tea warm for 2 (sometimes 3) hours! It’s so perfect for rehearsal, work or my meetings.

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Mug aside, I was once again excited to be enjoying a baked good from Wild Earth. They have such an amazing selection of delicious treats, even (and especially) for those of us who are gluten free and/or vegan.

SANY1827 SANY1828 They also have a pretty amazing selection of teas.SANY2271 When I went back there this week (everything in moderation, right?) I treated myself to a gluten free vegan berry square and creme au caramel rooibos tea – such a lovely duo!

SANY2270 I love that the berry square had quinoa in it. Such a great touch and it was absolutely scrumptious. The baked goods are made in house and extra precautions are taken to ensure that there is no cross contamination between the gluten free and traditional baked goods. Wild Earth also offers gluten free breads, sandwiches and have recently added soup to their menu as well. Everything I’ve had so far has been delicious and it’s just so refreshing to be met with so many options in the gluten free AND vegan baked good department.

~~~Giveaway Time~~~

SANY2296 I’m so thrilled that Wild Earth sponsored this giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a clear BPA free, eco-friendly, Trudeau Tea-riffic (sorry no pink, this one was the second to last one in the store!!) and a bag of the Creme Au Caramel Rooibos (delightful!)

There are a 6 ways you can win:

  • Leave me a comment and tell me your favourite kind of tea (1 entry)
  • Go to the Wild Earth website and tell me one of the precautions they take in order to prevent cross contamination in their gluten free baking (1 entry)
  • Subscribe to my blog (1 entry)
  • Link to this giveaway on your blog (1 entry)
  • Follow me on twitter (1 entry)
  • Re-tweet this giveaway (1 entry)

Please leave me a separate comment for each entry so you don’t miss out on any of your chances. The giveaway will close on Sunday October 11 at 9:00 pm at which point I will select 1 winner via random number selector. I will post the winner on my blog on Monday October 12, and the winner will need to email me with their address so I can send them their goodies! Giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents.

Here’s an added bonus if you’re in Toronto (or will be in the next 31 days) If you go to Wild Earth Bakery (2142 Queen Street East) between now and Saturday October 31, 2009 and mention the code dancing through life, they will be happy to give you a free cookie! Free cookies and a chance to win an awesome prize? I think that’s TEA-riffic if I do say so myself!!!

A huge thank you to the wonderful folks at Wild Earth Bakery for not only sponsoring the giveaway, but also providing our community with delectable options for those of us with food intolerances. I hope that more local businesses follow suit.

October Activity Accountability

Where did summer go? It blows my mind that September is nearly behind us!

How have you been doing for
activity in September? (Please feel free to send pictures of your activity chart with your recap to me by the end of this week!) I have to say that my biggest victories for September came last week when I got up early not once, but TWICE to go the gym before work!



It's cold and dark at 6:30am these days! (hence the really happy face on the subway...)
I surprised myself by doing it two days in a row, but after feeling incredibly energized after doing BodyFlow and a 15 minute run on Thursday morning, I decided to do another class with
Jess on Friday. I'm excited to keep rolling with this momentum for the end of September heading into October!

october

My October plans include:

  • Getting to the gym at least twice in the morning each week
  • Zumba at least once a week
  • Bellydancing once a week + practicing at home
  • Riding my bike whenever possible
  • Strengthening my core through yoga, pilates, dance and planks!
  • Aiming for at least 24 stickers on my chart by the end of the month!

What are your goals for the month? Do you have any plans for Halloween?

Vegan MoFo 2009 & Yummy Eats This Week

3930562108_f07c8dec17_m I have joined the ranks of over 240 food loving vegan bloggers for Vegan MoFo III!

What is Vegan MoFo you ask? (from this post)
For the entire month of October, blogs from all over the free world and Alaska will be writing about vegan food and the awesome power of veganism. Vegan MoFo started in 2007, when
Isa Chandra thought it'd be a good idea to give NaNoWriMo some stiff vegan food related competition.”

I’ve been brainstorming ideas over the last few days and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to post more for you guys as well as get lots of ideas from other vegan bloggers. I’m really excited! Not vegan? Have no fear - my posts will still have an Ashley-friendly-Weight-Watchers-gluten-free-Crohn’s-dancing-through-life look and feel. (I could never pretend to be something I’m not!) While they will all relate to the goodness of vegan food, the topics I’m planning will have a wide spread appeal, which I think is great since I’ll be able to spread the Vegan MoFo love across the board!

Speaking of yummy vegan eats, here are some food pics from this week:

SANY2192Leftover snobby joe’s, mexican millet, brussel sprouts and a peach

SANY2224 Incredibly delicious pad thai! This was a recipe I was testing for jae steele’s upcoming cookbook. We really really enjoyed it and I will definitely be making it again (although not any time soon because it made A LOT!)

SANY2226Another delicious recipe from the tests – curried split pea soup. You might be seeing a lot of this soup on the blog because I think I’m going to be making it all the time. As I said in my last post, soup is such an easy, inexpensive, rewarding meal to make!! ‘Tis the season to get out the big soup pot and snuggle up with someone you love and a big spoon!

This dinner had a lot of good things going for it – baked falafels with tahini sauce, sweet potato kugel

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and steamed broccoli.SANY2237 This meal was totally inspired by my cooking classes and I was in serious foodie heaven. I definitely had some kugel for breakfast the next morning and have been eating baked falafels like cookies – I am not ashamed!!

SANY2229Last but not least, here I am with some All Green juice from Fresh. I need to get myself a juicer so I can make these things at home. I’ve had my eye on this little guy for awhile now. I love fresh juice and my only hesitation has been the cost and adding another appliance to our kitchen. I think it would be worth it though… We’ll see what happens!

I’m really excited for the weekend! Tonight I’m meeting up with some Weight Watchers gals for dinner, tomorrow I’ve got 3 action packed WW meetings planned and then tomorrow night I’m having a special friend over for dinner before heading to a belly dancing show! I will definitely be posting details on the blog.

Not only will next week mark the beginning of Vegan MoFo,  but there will also be a spooky new activity chart (how’s September looking?), a date with Byron Katie, and another giveaway (because this marks my 200th post!) I’m really excited about this one and hope that you will be too!!

And What’s More, Baby, I Can Cook

While it may look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen in my weekly meal recaps, it hasn’t always been that way!

oldies_1I did a lot of cooking and baking with both of my grandmothers when I was younger. My Nana (dad’s mom) was Ukrainian and during the holidays we would make perogies, cabbage rolls, and borscht plus tonnes of cookies, cakes and sweets in addition to the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables!

Nana was always in her kitchen and I have a lot of fond memories of us chatting away while we cut out circles of dough for perogies or kneaded dough for bread.

oldies_4With my Nanny (mom’s mom) I did a lot of baking. We would put on little cooking shows in her kitchen while making every kind of cookie imaginable! Every time I went to visit, Nan would make me a lemon meringue pie because it was my absolute favourite! We always laughed a lot in her kitchen and I have a lot of funny memories of us acting silly together and singing while we did the dishes (like in this picture she made me hold for – I was putting butter in that bowl and when I went to flick it off the spoon it ended up on my face instead)

In my teenage years I didn’t do a ton of cooking. I have to hand it to my dad for feeding my brother and I. I didn’t become particularly maternal after mum died, and he did the best he could to put meals on the table for us. I fell into the habit of buying my lunch and the dining out trend continued when I was in high school and constantly on the go.

oldies_3By the time I was in college, I was eating in restaurants all the time and I really think that it contributed to my weight. I made my lunch sometimes and brought some snacks with me, but most of my meals were eaten outside the home.

This really changed when I joined Weight Watchers and met Joey. I realized when I joined WW that I needed to change my habits and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to figure out the Points values for everything so I just started cooking.

I met Joey the week I joined Weight Watchers and sometime in those first couple weeks I invited him over and made him lasagna.He was impressed! When I moved into his house, there was a box of leftover pad thai, and some vinegar in the fridge and some cereal and ramen noodles in the cupboard – boy, did that change quickly! I began getting ideas from websites and magazines and then I started to amass my cookbook collection. I experimented with meals; most were successes but there were definitely some failures in there too. After I reached my goal weight I treated myself to some cake decorating classes with the amazing Bonnie Gordon and since then have made a lot of celebration cakes including two wedding cakes.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come in the kitchen and it’s really become a place where I feel at home again. Since going gluten and dairy free, and ultimately vegan, I’ve worked to keep things interesting at our table. I bring my lunch almost every day and make dinner most nights so I love trying new recipes and reading new cookbooks. It has been fun to experiment with new techniques and see my progress from that very first lasagna. Joey often sends me messages at work to tell me how much he loves his lunches and that brings me a lot of joy. I look forward to trying new recipes and nourishing people with delicious, healthy eats. SANY2232I still consider myself a work in progress and have areas where I would like to improve. I would like to work on my confidence in the kitchen. I’m not always sure of myself, so I just need to work on trusting my instincts. I would also like to use this confidence to create more of my own recipes. While I adore using cookbooks and other people’s recipes, I want to be more experimental and try some things on my own.

I know that getting busy in the kitchen can seem like a daunting task for many people, so I’ve compiled a list of tips that helped me:

  • Take baby steps– Don’t start out with a huge meal with lots of unfamiliar equipment and complicated steps. Keep it simple!
  • Take a class – There is so much to learn from the experiences of others and gain knowledge from other people’s passion for food!
  • Use your favourite foods – Do you have a favourite food item? Maybe a dish from your childhood that you can’t live without? Use the things you love, and your enthusiasm will shine in the meal
  • Make soup – Before I started cooking regularly, the only soup I knew came out of a can or carton. I’ve since learned that making soup is not only incredibly easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding dishes you can make
  • Get the right tools – While I do advocate keeping it simple, proper equipment can make your life so much easier. Start with the basics (a good knife, cutting board, measuring cups/spoons, bowls of different sizes, spatula) and work your way up to the big guys (I don’t know how went on without my food processor and I really love my blender, mixer, and slow cooker)
  • Cook for someone you love – There’s nothing more rewarding!

Julia Child is quoted as saying, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate” and I totally understand! I feel like I lost out on a ton of cooking years, but finally woke up around age 22 and got my butt back in the kitchen. I’m so happy that I did and can’t wait to see what culinary masterpieces are around the corner.

How did you learn to cook? How would you like to improve in the kitchen? Do you have any tips for people starting out?

Lose for Good Launch

On Friday I headed down to Nathan Phillips Square for the Canadian launch of the Lose for Good campaign. I was excited to catch up with some of my favourite Weight Watchers co-workers including the amazing Mary, my amazing Weight Watchers leader trainer.SANY2196 as well as Lindsay (who trained with me to become a leader)

SANY2199Weight Watchers Canada has partnered with Food Banks Canada to raise awareness of 2 significant issues facing Canadians: obesity and hunger. I am really excited that beginning September 27, in meeting rooms across the country, Weight Watchers will hold a series of food drives to benefit Food Banks Canada as well as make a donation of up to $50,000! Because we don’t have a ton of space at Carrot to house food donations, I’m devising a competition between the three meetings to see which group can raise the most money. More details to come!

The launch was attended by local media including Monica Matys from CTV. Five members from meetings in Toronto, representing 450 lbs lost on the program talked about their success on the program and their excitement about Lose for Good.

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In honour of the launch, they each donated their weight loss amount in food – 450 lbs total!!

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One of these members was Mary, from my 8:15 meeting.

SANY2207SANY2198Mary did such a great job in her speech, I was so proud! Mary has lost 40 lbs with Weight Watchers and has been maintaining her weight successfully for a couple of years. Last December, 2008 she was faced with a new challenge: breast cancer. All of the members in the meeting were incredibly supportive of Mary through her treatments and she has been quite an inspiration for everyone. I was so excited that she was able to be part of the Lose for Good kick off and have the opportunity to share her success on the program.

I am thrilled that Weight Watchers Canada will be participating in Lose for Good this year and really believe that the efforts will help to make a difference. I love being a part of an organization that is really make an effort to give back! There are more than 700,000 people in Canada who rely on food banks each month, which is a pretty frightening statistic. The holidays are just around the corner, making it an even more important time to give back. I really believe that these events are going to help raise awareness and provide a lot of assistance to those who need it most.

Lose for Good launches in Canada on September 27. You’ll soon be able to visit www.weightwatchers.ca/loseforgood for more details.

Who Needs 5 Days Vegan?

When you can have every day vegan?

Buckwheat pizza with steamed sweet potato, zucchini-tomato-chickpea curry, carrot ginger soup, snobby joes & Mexican millet, apple cinnamon muffins; all brilliant recipes from Eat Drink & Be Vegan, Veganomicon and of course, 5 Days Vegan!

Lunch yesterday rocked!

SANY2186 Spaghetti squash mexicana with tropical avocado salsa fresca, grapes from the farmers market and an apple cinnamon muffin – who could ask for anything more??

I also had another great dinner at Live with Melly. She chose the black bean wrap

SANY2172 And I went with the *delightful* rainbow kale salad

SANY2173 Mel had never been, but really enjoyed the meal! Especially since we shared some awesome desserts

SANY2175 Almond butter cup and peanut chocolate brown rice crispie square. Two of my childhood favourites made even better!

In the spirit of passing on the vegan love, here’s the vegan chilli I made last week that was inspired by the vegetarian chilli in Eat Clean cookbook.SANY2145

Easy Vegan Chilli

1 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 zucchini, grated
2 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
pinch salt
pinch cayenne
1 can each: black beans, white kidney beans, red kidney beans (rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp oregano
1 c. corn (thawed if frozen)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp agave
juice of 1 lime

In a large pot, heat up the oil.
Add garlic, peppers, onion, carrot and zucchini and sauté until onion soft and smelling delicious (about 4-5 mins)
Add cumin, chili powder and salt, turn down heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and mix everything together. If too thick add 1/4 cup of water until you reach your desired consistency (I didn’t add any) Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Serves 6

Great on its own, with tortilla chips, over rice or other whole grain or in a wrap. It tastes even better the next day.

Joey’s response, “Honey, you’re getting really good at making healthy food taste great!” Mission accomplished.

It’s been more than two months now and I am feeling so great eating this way! I have lots of energy, no pain, great skin and I’m sleeping like a baby.

In other news, I got twitter this week. I found myself reading people’s twitter pages and didn’t have a good way to keep up with them so I got it. I also thought it would be a good way to keep in touch with my readers as well as maybe get some new ones. We’ll see how it goes! You can follow me at www.twitter.com/ashleydtl (Clearly my name or dancing through life weren’t options because that would be too easy, so I went with ashley with the initial dtl for “dancing through life”)

What are you up to this weekend? I’m heading down to Nathan Phillips Square today for the Canadian kick off of Lose for Good. I’m so excited that we’re participating in this amazing event that is going to help donate lbs and lbs of food to those who need it. I’m also looking forward to being back to my meeting on Saturday and then having a “creative date” with Joey – more details next week! For those of you participating in 5 Days Vegan, I hope you enjoy you last days of the tutorial and I can’t wait to hear about the recipes you discovered this week and whether or not you plan to continue with the vegan goodness!

Who Do You Look Up To?

Growing up I always looked up to my mom, but what little girl doesn’t?

My mom was only 22 when she had me and in my mind she was always so young and hip. I remember bopping around to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and watching my mum in awe. We were always incredibly close and in December 1993 she wrote in her journal “I’ll be glad when Ashley is grown up. She is a very open child and I feel very close to her, maybe she’ll be the one I will open my whole heart to. Time will tell”. I wonder if she looked up to me then for my ability to talk about my feelings and emotions.

When my mum died, a lot of things changed for me.  I learned a lot about her and her struggles in those last few days and I feel like I grew up overnight. The women that I looked up to changed so much in the span of 48 hours and I had no choice but to find a new role model for my 13 year old self.

I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing guidance counsellor in junior high. We had met in the 7th grade when I was brand new to the school. We bonded instantly because it was her first year as well. The year my mum died, I spent a lot of time in her office talking, crying and working to figure things out. I was so lucky to have such a great support system, because given the situation, I really believe my life could have taken a different path.

On my first day of drama in high school, we played a game where we had to stand in a line and shout out different facts about ourselves. One such fact was our birthdays. When it was my turn I called out April 8th to which the teacher (Kathy) replied “That’s my birthday too”. We had an instant connection that grow over the the next 4 years as she came to call me her third daughter. Not only was she was a fantastic drama teacher, she really was a surrogate mother to me in those years. I assisted in her classes, spent time with her before and after school, and consulted her on my decision to attend musical theatre school after OAC. Kathy was my biggest cheerleader, but was also there during the more challenging times. I am eternally grateful for all the love and encouragement she provided me in those years.

In my final year of high school, I was the assistant manager for a local children’s choir and it was there that I met my dear friend Charis. Her daughter Zoe was in the choir and Charis was on the Board of Directors. I can’t exactly remember how it came to be, but I began spending more time with Charis and Zoe outside of choir. We would go out for lunch together and go on shopping trips together. When they found out that my family didn’t have a big Christmas ritual, Charis invited me to spend Christmas with the two of them. I remember going over to their house with small presents for them and spending a wonderful afternoon around the tree enjoying good food and feeling like I was a part of their family. I loved the sense of security and “normalcy” that Christmas had and this tradition continued every year after. In the last couple of years Charis has gone away to Newfoundland each summer and I miss her so much while she’s gone. She is coming back at the beginning of October and I really look forward to catching up. She is such a strong woman and her daughter is such a bright, talented gal and I love having them as a part of my extended family.

While some people collect Barbie dolls or trading cards, in the years that followed my mum’s death, I began collecting role models. Each of the women mentioned in this post have played such a huge part in my development and I know that I was blessed to meet them and have them in my life. Since high school I have “collected” other role models including those in my work, acting, weight loss journey and healing who continue to play an incredibly important role in my life.

I think it is integral to have people you look up to. While I don’t suggest that you follow that person’s path exactly nor do I expect you to turn to them for guidance with every decision, you can look to them for support and knowledge and apply their philosophy or life strategies in ways that are a good fit for your life. I believe that we all have the ability to choose our own destiny. That being said, I also think that the universe gives us the tools and influences we need to get there, including the people to guide us along the way. I know that these people were put in my life for a reason, but it was up to me to find them and let them in. 

I don’t think I’ve ever alluded to the fact that my mother’s death was a suicide on the blog. I know that there were a lot of contributing factors and outside influences, but her death was at her own hand. I look back to that journal entry from ‘93 and wish that my mum would have sooner found the courage to open up to me or someone else. I don’t know that things would have necessarily turned out any differently, but it might have given me more time with her.

It’s been more than 10 years, but I think about my mum every day and there are countless moments when I wish she was still here to give me encouragement, inspiration, love and a shoulder to cry on. I wonder what my life would be like and what kind of person I would have become if things had been different. In her absence, I am grateful for my role models, as they have helped me to become the woman I am today.

And now for the question that started this all off…
Who do you look up to?

Disappointed by the Lack of Vegetables at the Vegetarian Food Fair

I wish I was kidding.

On Saturday I hit up the Vegetarian Food Fair with Meghan to assist with her demo “Doing it Veggie Style”. Meghan’s demo focused on healthy vegetarian cooking that doesn’t center itself around soy, grains, potatoes or corn. SANY2147

In Meghan’s exuberant style she showed a packed crowd how to make baked falafels with cilantro pesto, quinoa salad and chocolate truffles as well as discussed the benefits of eating seaweed and demonstrated the simplicity of sprouting. meg demoIt was an action packed hour and the crowd seemed to really enjoy themselves and rushed to grab some samples of the food! Everyone was excited to talk to Meghan afterwards and check out her tutorials (including the Green Smoothie Cleanse, Lunar Cycle and Five Days Vegan – which starts on Tuesday!) meg demo 2It was really fun to help out and get things prepped and make sure she had everything she needed to keep the demo running smoothly. We were both pooped afterward and decided to scope out the rest of the Fair in search of some lunch. SANY2162

That’s when we came up empty handed.

There were tonnes of vendors at the Fair selling everything from cookware, baked goods, and slicers with a mix of people promoting their services and causes. (I picked up some amazing products from
Living Libations) There were also tents with vendors selling vegetarian food where Meghan and I hoped to pick up some fuel. Everywhere we turned there was tofu in many shapes and forms: Deep fried, tofu “duck”, tofu “lamb”, tofu “chicken”, tofu “turkey”.

I want to say that I don’t have a big issue with tofu, but I do try to limit my consumption. As a vegetarian/vegan it could be very easy to consume tofu multiple times at every meal in the form of tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy margarine, soy cheese, soy ice cream, not to mention the addition of soy hiding in other foods. We don’t need to be eating soy (or any food for that matter) that frequently! There has been a lot said about soy both negative and positive, and personally I try to stick to the basics (organic tofu or tempeh) and only eat it once in awhile.

I personally can’t understand the heavy reliance on faux meats. As a vegetarian/vegan there are so many options for foods and sources of protein, why try to replace them with fake versions of meat? A vegetarian or vegan plant-based diet can be an incredibly healthy one, but on the flip side it can be incredibly easy to choose faux meats/pasta/bread/cheese/ grains. In order to maximize the benefits of a plant based diet, one needs to be conscious of what they are putting into their body and focus their choices around the good stuff!

In addition to all the tofu there was a lot of bread and seemingly processed foods. Where were the vegetables? Rather than focusing on the benefits of a plant based diet, there seemed to be booth after booth of deep fried items, tofu and fake food. Add into that my gluten intolerance and Meghan’s black pepper allergy, we definitely had a problem. Meghan and I opted for cookies from Sweets from the Earth, bananas I had in my bag, some leftover quinoa from Marni Wasserman’s demo and thai young coconuts.

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While I am sure there were other things we could have eaten (Ricki found vegan sushi) it was so packed that it made the booths challenging to navigate and asking questions just wasn’t an option. When we mentioned a couple people about the lack of vegetables more than one person pointed us in the direction of the Live Food Bar booth. The line was long and they seemed to have a lot of snack-type items rather than lunch. Many of the demos had healthier options (Marni made a quinoa salad and jae steele had some kale chips and raw granola rocking) but samples were a hot commodity!
SANY2157I’m sorry if I’m coming off as so negative about the event. It really was a beautiful day with beautiful blue skies and lots of sunshine, Meghan’s demo went really well and I had a lot of fun hanging out, but the lack of emphasis on vegetarian/vegan nutrition really bummed me out. As someone who recently became vegan I really enjoy cooking and finding joy in this plant based diet without a ton of soy or processed food. As I was writing this I was talking to Joey about the foods we eat and he agreed that he has enjoyed the variety of foods we eat and said he doesn’t feel bored or deprived at all. This conversation had just taken place following our dinner of a chickpea-zucchini-tomato stir fry over quinoa – yum! There is so much more to vegetarianism than tofu and deep fried stuff and I wanted the Food Fair to share that with everyone who attended.

Packed Lunch Essentials

When I joined WW I made a concerted effort to pack my lunch for work. Not only did it mean that I had control over what it was that I was packing, it also meant that I had snacks for the day (which kept me away from the freshly baked croissants and pastries at the Holt Renfrew cafe downstairs) but it also meant that I was saving a heck of a lot of money. With my food intolerances, it has become an even more regular practice because my lunch choices are limited, and it would be far too expensive (and boring) to eat at Fresh everyday. So with this being the first week of the kids going back to school I thought it would be fitting for me to talk about the basics of packing your lunch.

The Inspiration
A packed lunch doesn’t have to be boring. Just like with all of your meals, the creativity of your lunch is only limited by your imagination! Think about your favourite foods, the season and scope out what other people are eating if you’re searching for ideas. If you like the structure of bringing the same thing every day, so be it. If you’re like me and you need a little variety, get to it!

One of my favourite sites (and one of the first blogs I started reading) is Vegan Lunch Box. Jennifer has hundreds of ideas for adorable themed lunches and while they were created for kids, they really make lunch seem fun. And while you can’t hire Jennifer to start making your lunches every day you can check out her blog or one of her books for a little extra inspiration for your noon hour nosh.

The Vehicle
Vegan Lunch Box introduced me to the Laptop Lunch system, which I adore!!SANY1579SANY1253

This sounds so corny, but whenever I open up my little pink bento at lunch I get really excited.

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I love how everything looks so cute and compartmentalized and the boxes encourage me to add variety.

While I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out and buy a Laptop Lunch (although I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to), I think that everyone should have a great vehicle for their lunch. There are tonnes of great containers out there that make bringing your lunch to school or work so easy. And since it’s currently “Back to School” time at retail, it’s the perfect opportunity to find some functional containers for your lunch.

Another helpful idea is to have a plate or bowl at work so that you feel like you’re having a proper meal. I did that with my lunch today

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It made lunch time feel like more of a meal by simply putting my chili in an actual bowl. Using proper dishes with real cutlery will cause you to slow down, eat consciously and allow you to actually enjoy your food.

The Goods
A little planning and preparation is required in order to have yummy, nutritious lunches to bring with you to work/school. I like to get the bulk of the work done in one chunk of time, so I’ll spend a few hours making soup, chopping veggies and preparing snacks. It makes the rest of the week a lot easier and means that I have things I can easily pick and choose from during the week. Your slow cooker can also be your best friend when preparing for lunches, especially now that fall is on its way and a bowl of soup can provide an extra little bit of warmth midday. My favourite slow cooker site is
A Year of Slowcooking. Stephanie has a ton of great ideas and many of them require very little preparation, making it really easy to have delicious foods for your lunches!

One of my favourite things to have for lunch is leftovers from the previous night. It makes my life so easy because when I’m tidying up after supper I put the leftovers into lunch containers, into the fridge and then they’re ready to go for the next morning. Voila! I’m also a big fan of the “combination platter”. If you’re short of time or “proper lunch foods” you can put together a great lunch by simply combining some of the things in your fridge or pantry – like fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, crackers and a dip or spread of some variety.

I also like to make big batches of things to have in the fridge or freezer. This week I made a big pot of lentil soup, veggie wraps, veggie chili, homemade larabars and buckwheat apple butter muffins. It means that you’ve always got options and things you can easily grab even if you’ve only got 5 minutes in the morning to pack your lunch.
SANY2129Packing my lunch also usually means that I have snacks throughout the day, which helps tide me over until the next meal. Some of my favourites include: fresh fruit, veggies (on their own or with hummus), tortilla chips with salsa, homemade bars or muffins, nuts and seeds, dried fruit or rice cakes with nut butter.

I generally just feel a lot happier when I bring my lunch! It sounds so cheesy, but I like knowing what’s in my food and I don’t like spending an arm and a leg for food that I don’t want to eat and isn’t going to leave me satisfied. So if you’re looking to be more in control of what you’re eating, want to be eating healthier options and want to save a few dollars, bringing your lunch even a few days a week could be a great opportunity for you to accomplish any (or all!) of these objectives!

How often do you pack your lunch? What are your favourite things to bring?