Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Is Soup a Meal? (Ginger Carrot Red Lentil Soup Recipe)

Whenever I write out the weeks meal plan and one of the dishes on the menu is some type of homemade soup, I always wonder how Maeghan will react. It's not that she doesn't like soup, it's that my father (who isn't a picky eater either), has a funny reaction when my mom makes soup for dinner. To be fair, my mom is a big soup fan and it does feel like each time I call home during the colder months - which in Northern Ontario is basically 7 months of the year - she is making soup. So for the longest time, I've had a funny memory stuck in my head of my dad trying to bail himself out of a sticky situation by explaining to my mom that he does like her soup it's just that soup isn't a meal. 

Since going vegetarian years ago and recently floating back to somewhere on the "flexitarian" spectrum, I've spent a great deal of time researching and learning about different kinds of protein, fiber, carbs...basically all of the components of a healthy balanced meal. When I plan out our weekly meals - remembering that they will not only be dinners but lunches as well - I make sure each meal is not only balanced, but also has enough protein. With that being said, I think the answer to the my parents debate is: if your soup is hearty and packed with nutritious veggies and proteins that will keep you full and energized, then it is definitely a meal!

I've been on the hunt for new soup recipes since the rainy, damp season has arrived here in Victoria. Recently I came across this delicious recipe for a ginger carrot and red lentil soup from My Kitchen In The Rockies and I can tell you it will definitely be a staple in our winter menu.

Of course Maeghan ate it with a side of 3 English Muffins covered in melted butter, but she was a fan and never once questioned my decision to serve soup for dinner. We highly recommend tossing in your favourite nuts and seeds along with big globs of goats cheese!

Click here for the recipe and cooking instructions, and let me know what you think!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Your Backyard is Beautiful

(Ferry Ride - Vancouver to Victoria)

Someone's going to say I'm cheating since I've recently moved and my backyard is new and therefore more exciting...but just hear me out, okay?

My iPhone is only about six months old and it's already out of space. I have next to no apps, and I only have about 10 songs on there. It's out of space because it's full of photos. The other day I decided to go through them... delete what I don't need, and move whatever I deem precious memories to my laptop. While going through my over 1,600 photos, I smiled, I laughed, I had my eyes fill with tears, and I realized how much I've jammed into the last six months and how fortunate I am. I needed that; I needed that kick in the pants, that reminder that life is (so) good and we need to get out there and enjoy every second of it.

What I also noticed during my walk down memory lane, is that I have seen and done so many amazing new things in the last couple months...probably triple what I did the entire two years I lived in Ottawa. Yes, BC is totally new to me; it's a place I have always wanted to visit, but until two months ago, never had. So it makes sense that my phone is full of beautiful photos of the amazing things I have seen and done here so far; but what I started to wonder is, why didn't I have this many photos of the things I had seen and done in Ottawa? I quickly opened my laptop to the folder of photos from my old iPhone, scrolling until I found evidence of my first few weeks in Ottawa. Again, I smiled, I laughed, and I had my eyes fill with tears; but this time for very different reasons. The photos were all of me and my enjoying a beer on a patio, us eating an Italian deli sandwich in the Market, or us cuddled up on an apartment floor after too many glasses of wine. Those first few months in Ottawa were some of the best months of my life, simply because they were spent surrounded by people that I love. But what I realized is, although Ottawa was brand new to me, I didn't treat it the way I am treating BC.

(Hatley Castle - Royal Roads University Campus) 

During my first week at work here in Victoria, I asked my coworkers to give me a list of things to see and do in town. I told them to give me the same suggestions they would give to a tourist while I noted that I was even considering the hop-on hop-off tour bus. With each person I asked and with each time a new "local" discovered that we were new to town, the list grew. It's been three months since we arrived in Victoria, and from my iPhone full of photos, I can tell you that we're quickly checking things off that list. We've been to the downtown harbour, we've seen the parliament buildings and the oldest hotel in town, we've done a tour of one of the most famous castles on the island, we've been to see the floating homes and fed the seals, we've window shopped in each different neighbourhood, we've hiked countless trails up to the summit of (small) mountains and through some of the island's oldest forests, and we still have so much more to see and do.

(Fisherman's Wharf - Downtown Victoria) 

What I'm getting at here, is that I think we too quickly become "residents" in the cities and towns that we live in and we forget to take notice of all the great "touristy" things our own beautiful backyards have to offer. Don't get me wrong, when I think travel or adventure I think of an international destination - somewhere totally new and different from wherever I call home. But back in Ottawa, when my friends were busy on my days off or we didn't have enough time or money to jet off to somewhere exotic, I would become discouraged - believing I was destined to a boring, adventure-less life - and wind up binge-watching reruns on Netflix from my bed. When in reality, there was lots that my own city - my own backyard - had to offer that I hadn't seen or done yet.

So next time you find yourself wishing you could getaway for the weekend or that you had enough time or money to hop on a plane to somewhere new, try hopping on the internet and finding out what your backyard has to offer! Or better yet, blindly hop on the bus and hop off somewhere you've never been. I guarantee you that you'll find beauty (and adventure!) that you never knew existed...all in your own backyard.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Meal Plan Your Way to an Extra $2600

I'm sitting here thinking of all the things I want to do with my $ go on an extravagant trip or a massive shopping spree. But in reality, that extra cash will go towards something grownup like tuition or a down payment on a house - still good things, but a $2600 trip to somewhere exotic like Fiji or Bora Bora just seems so much dreamier! 

Back in Ontario, Maeghan and I were spending about $120 a week on groceries for the two of us. We always bought food to make breakfast at home each morning, snacks for lunches, and supplies to make a large dinner each night so we would have leftovers for our lunches. Even though our fridge was always stocked with fresh ingredients just waiting to be turned into a delicious meal, each night I always found myself scouring Pinterest for dinner inspiration while staring into the fridge and whining, "we have no food". Not only did this waste endless hours of my time, but each week we would end up spending more on food by running out to get "just one ingredient" - paying a premium price for it at a corner store and ending up coming home with things we didn't need - as well as wasting food that went bad as it never seemed tasty enough to be included in that week's meals. Since moving to British Columbia (where everything is significantly more expensive), we've been spending just $70 a week on groceries and our food wastage has decreased significantly. 

How, you ask? One simple change: we started meal planning. 

Each Saturday, while enjoying my morning coffee, I get out my computer and a pen and paper. I spend the next 15-20 minutes compiling a list of seven different meals as well as all of the ingredients needed for those meals. To save time, whenever I see a recipe or meal idea I cut it out or Pin the link for later. Come Saturday, I can look back on those recipes to quickly build my list without repeating any meals. From the ingredient list, I make a shopping list of all of the items I don’t have in my pantry, and then add to it any extras we’ll need for breakfast and snacks. At the grocery store, I’m in and out in less than 30 minutes with only the items on my list (and maybe an extra treat since it is the weekend after all) and I’ve spent only $70 to feed two people three meals a day for seven days!

When you break down the numbers, the savings will blow your mind!

$120 multiplied by the 52 weeks there are in a year is $6240 that we were spending on groceries (with so much of it going in the trash)! Our now $70 multiplied by 52 weeks is $3640
The original $6240 we were spending, minus the $3640 we spend now, leaves us with $2600 in SAVINGS.

The benefits of meal planning speak for themselves; I have more of my evenings back since I never have to wonder what to cook each night, I spend significantly less time in the grocery store, our food wastage has nearly stopped, and we have an extra $2600 a year in the bank! Now…what snack should I bake tonight?