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Monday, July 12, 2010

Summerlicious Part Two: A Little Greek in Little Greece

Sunday afternoon, after an unsuccessful attempt at open-house viewing on the Danforth (apparently all real estate agents are avid soccer fans), mama, TS and I settled in at Ouzeri for an early Greek dinner/lunch. Being both starving and deprived of an authentic Greek meal since we have been separated by a city from our Greek family friends, I was extra excited for this meal. We all were, actually, mama had been talking about her excitement for moussaka (and reminiscing fam-friend Paola's rendition of it) all week.

For starters, Mama got the classical Greek Salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, lettuce, onion...all topped with quite a spectacular feta cheese. This was not your grocery feta--much softer and not as salty. My naivety has me convinced it's shipped here straight from the mother land (especially since the salt and bottled water are products of Greece, too)


I meant to ask our server where it was supplied from, but my overwhelming hunger pangs were telling me to just shut up and eat.



TS and I both opted for the Artichoke Lemonata. It almost felt as though we were eating a pasta dish. We both agreed that the artichokes had a noodle-y texture. The egg-lemon and dill sauce was fantastic..but only if you are a big fan of lemon and dill as both these flavours were equally intense in the dish.

We all went separate ways when it came to entree selection. Can you guess what Mama had?


If you picked Moussaka, you win the prize. It's almost like a Greek version of lasagna, or Sheppard's Pie (two dishes close to Mama's heart): layered spiced ground beef, eggplant, zucchini topped with béchamel sauce and mashed potatoes. She claimed to taste a spice she couldn't quite put her finger on, that she wasn't too crazy about. I couldn't taste it, but TS could. (She was happy, but said it didn't compare to Paula's version, which is slightly different, with sliced potatoes dispersed throughout the layers)

 TS took the vegetarian route with the Spanakopita: spinach, feta cheese, leeks baked in buttery filo pastry. Cooked veggies, salty cheese and crusty bread (essentially)...can you go wrong? Well, they definitely didn't. It was delicious.

I tried the Lamb Rosemary Pie, which as a dish, is new to me, but ingredient-wise, they all rank in most-used-and-loved for me (except for the lamb...red meat is not a regular visitor to my palate). Everyone agreed my dish was their favorite--it had the most "pop" as Mama put it. It was a lamb shank pie, with feta cheese, rosemary and mushroom sauce, obviously wrapped in butter filo. My plate was bare crumb-less by the end.

All the dishes came with a side of lemon potatoes, which were amazing (not too lemony, skin-on for that extra flavour), and pilaf. We found it odd that we got two starches with our meal and would have preferred a veggie selection (skip the rice though, and save the potatoes).


Feeling a lot more stuffed than last night, I almost forgot dessert was coming. Mama and TS both opted for a traditional Greek dense pressed yogurt, Yiaourti, topped with honey, roasted walnuts and cinnamon. I've never had pressed yogurt, so I was surprised by the heaviness of the dish, it almost tasted cheesy to me (at least in texture). It was tasty, but with a full stomach, I was happy I didn't go that route.


I, instead, chose the Bailey's Creme Caramel. Although I could not taste the Bailey's (sigh), it was still the better choice. Light and silky, cool and refreshing...I had no problem sliding it all right off the plate, and into my mouth.

Two for two at this year's Summerlicious. We all left quite satisfied, but stuffed. In an attempt to burn off even a minor amount of calories, we went out in search of a Greek bakery selling some baklava only to be disappointed with an unsuccessful outcome. Instead, we decided to make plans to embark on another Summerlicious adventure (of ethnic choice, of course) for closing weekend.

 I'm already doing research...what's your favorite type of food? Do you have any Summerlicious picks this year?


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Dare I? Summerlicious 2010: Part One: Middle Eastern Fun

Summerlicious started this weekend in Toronto, and despite being warned by several fellow foodies that it would be in my best interest to avoid any restaurant participating, I decided to try my luck. So I booked  two reservations. Since my bank account has been less than cooperative this past little while, I figured, why not take advantage? I've been reading a lot of books by chefs and food critics lately--currently I'm working my way through The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner  by Jay Rayner and my cravings for something exotic have been extra ravenous. I ended up going for Middle Eastern at Tabule on Saturday evening and Greek on Sunday afternoon at Ouzeri (as a result of an already-planned trip to the Danforth)--two cuisines that my dinner plate is graced with rarely.

I must say that I was thrilled with the outcome of both my experiences. The service was not as bad as I was told it would be--although it was opening weekend and I'm sure that the servers had not had sufficient time to hate the world just yet.

My choice to go to Tabule was based on some spectacular reviews I read online. I was comforted immediately upon arrival, when the diners behind me were discussing how great the food was, as they too, waited to be seated. I interrupted to ask for their advice on which dish to pick, and they reassured me even more, not only by telling me that everything was tasty, but also adding in that they were Lebanese, and so probably tougher critics than most. Our server was not exactly the quickest at getting our drinks to the table, or coming back to take our order, but I didn't mind: for one, I'm a server, so I always tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, I understand that as a human being we are incapable of being a million places at once; and on top of it, I was enjoying the beautiful weather on the patio and was in no rush for the night, or the meal, to be over. She was more than friendly, informative and sympathetic to our lack of knowledge concerning Middle Eastern food--especially since I could not pronounce any of the menu items without looking like an blubbering idiot.



We started with the Combination Plate of humüs, babaganüj, tabülè and falafel which came with some tasty warm pita bread. I realized we missed the point afterwards, as I  watched a young boy at a neighbouring table open the pita and stuff it right up before indulging (I had simply ripped pieces of the bread to dip it). I had tried everything before, except for the tabülè, which we both found extremely tasty and refreshing.


We also shared the Kubbeh-cracked wheat shell stuffed with ground lamb and beef, onions and pine nuts which was my favorite of the appetizers, especially enjoyed with a dab of the garlic yogurt sauce (or a slathering mixture of every dip...)















For mains we had the Kefta Banadura, which was a combo of lamb and pork served in a tasty tomato stew with fresh pink onions, and the lemon garlic Salmon kebab.

I, being the seafood lover I am, preferred the salmon (don't get me wrong, the Kefta Banadura was great too).



 My BF, GF, being the meat lover he is, preferred the Kefta. So instead of sharing, like we usually do, we stuck to our own dish, which I was completely content with.



I must say that one of my favorite parts of both dishes were their accompanments: the charcoal grilled veggies and rice. The vegetables were grilled to perfection. One of my favorite flavours, ever, is the taste of crispy black skinned red peppers. They immediately bring back memories of Daddio bbqing at our house on Flushing, with the Spalding umbrella of course, as he was cursed with rain every. time. he went out there.The grilled zucchini, yellow peppers and fried onions were amazing too. The perfect forkful came as a result of a combination of all the veggies, a dab of the delicious rice seasoned with a definite Middle Eastern flare, and a slice of salmon: heaven. Thank god GF was full before I was--my serving of veggies just wasn't enough...

Our dessert picks ended off our meal on an even sweeter note: the burnt honey gelato had such a beautiful consistency (although the flavour was more along the lines of vanilla than honey).


But the real star was the Knaffa Ashta. We asked our server to pick our second dessert for us, so I barely read the menu description. I was expecting something dense like baklava, but was surprised and suddenly in love with what I experienced instead. The written description tells you it is an "angel hair filo layered with custard and topped off with rose water syrup", but it should really say that it is, in fact, a cloud of heaven, because that is exactly what it was.



We both chuckled like children when it was placed in front of us, as we agreed that it almost resembles a lightly battered white fish, but fishy it was not, and creamy, fluffy perfection it was.

Overall, our meal was perfect. We usually end up preferring our appetizers, as we are both naturally pick-ers, share-ers and combine-ers, but this time we were proved otherwise--favouring our entrees and desserts.

My fear slowly slipped away with the sun and I was more than anxious to indulge in another Summerlicious venture the following afternoon...

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

When Push Comes to Shove

I've put up a couple posts about Lithuanian cooking, but not many people know a lot about Lithuania: the culture, the history, the people. I heard an interesting story yesterday and thought I'd share it with you, something you can read while you work on any one of their labour-intensive recipes.

Hill of Crosses-Šiauliai, Lithuania

If you're feeling tired and sorry for yourself, read this story.

(Reader's Note: Although this post is published on Saturday, it was written on Friday, on my BB Memo Pad)

 It is Friday night at 10:30pm. And I'm home. I'm 23 and home and this is how I spend most of my Friday nights now. I wasn't home all night though. I had myself a pleasant little evening. I took a trip to the mall with my mom (standard practice for us, shopping, that is...we are seasoned shopping experts) and then we went to visit my aunt, Teta Sylvia, TS we call her, at her home in Port Credit. Another standard practice for us, a trip we have always enjoyed ever since we were little. Somehow, on the way down the 407, we ended up discussing our distaste for the Catholic Church. Not Catholicism, though, the Church, the building, institution. Somehow, the topic of religion got reintroduced at Teta's, but the aspect of religion that doesn't stir your intellect but ignites your soul: I'm talking religion outside institution--spirituality, faith...more importantly determination, perseverance, unhindered belief in something, someone maybe.

My aunt is an incredibly, incredibly talented artist. That statement is a huge understatement. You have to see it, really. On our visits, I love the trips we take around her house to see her work: of the new stuff first, found in her basement work area, which usually ends taking us back around the rest of the house to see stuff done earlier.


"Blessing II Laminas II by Silvija Saplys: Encaustic, photo transfer, oil"

Tonight, I saw something new and so unbelievably interesting and touching. It was a collection of work done in Encaustic--a style of art done in a wax that preserves forever (unless faced with any extremity of heat or cold). Art work from the Egyptian Age still exists in this form. But the eternal life of these works was not all that caught my attention. This particular collection all shared one theme: they were all photos of the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, Lithuania. I've heard of the place before, I've seen the beautiful replica at St. John's Cemetery at the Anapilis Lithuanian Church, located just down the street from TS, a million times. But I did not know the weight of the story behind this famous Hill before tonight.

Hill of Crosses-Šiauliai, Lithuania

Lithuania suffered as an occupied state for much of its history--in Medieval times and during and after World War II. Since it stood as a symbol of national strength against invaders, this Hill of Crosses was bulldozed repeatedly during Soviet Occupation in Lithuania. However, after every bout of destruction followed a night of regeneration: the Lithuanians would go right back and rebuild the Hill, cross by thousandth cross, until all tens of thousands of crosses were standing tall once again. Every. Time. Eventually the Soviets got tired and gave up. The Lithuanians never did. So many times when I tell people I'm Lithuanian, they look at me puzzled. It is indeed a small Baltic nation, but small-willed it is not. If such a small power-less nation, at a time when power was so frightening, could win against a force so strong that it is responsible for one the greatest tragedies in human history, who says you can't win your battles? Think twice before you give up on your task or goals, think three times before you succumb to the power of someone elses words or actions, think four times before you give up on yourself.


"Let There Be Peace in Lithuania-Tebūna Lietuvoje Taika" by Silvija Saplys: Encaustic, Photo Transfer, Charcoal


I insist you check out my Teta Silvija Saplys' website, especially if you are a lover of beauty and art (aren't we all?). Her work inspired me tonight--just as she has inspired and motivated me countless times in the past, and I'm sure, will continue to do so in the future. xoxo (Sorry Teta, I stole a few photos from your site)

http://www.silvijasaplys.com/

Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression.- http://www.sacredsites.com/europe/lithuania/lithuania.html

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot Child, I mean, City..in the City

There is currently a heat wave sweeping through Toronto. The air conditioning was broken at work today. The only pool I have access to is located in a sauna-like-tempered-room.

This means a few different things:
1) I spent the majority of the day with a higher-than-normal body temperature.
 2) My desire to turn on any form of appliance which produces heat makes me literally sick to my stomach-dinner tonight may be a problem.
 3) I'm thinking of Italy again (it is an illness) but it has a purpose...I'm trying to recall how I survived the insufferable heat there..it's giving me an idea
4) My new favorite song at the gym right now is called "We No Speak Americano" by Be Cool Yolanda...guess what I'm thinking about again...
5) I'm thinking about my trip to Sicily this summer, they're famous for granita.
6) The idea that I have been given is this: tonight, I am going to make a granita.

Being the curious femme fraîche that I am, I did a quick Google search on the history of Sicilian granita. Anyone who has been to Italy in the summer knows that granita ('little grains') is abundant pretty much in every cafe and gelateria you step into...but tales are told about the superiority of Sicilian granita. Its rivaled for its freshness, its "pure, crystalline texture". Whereas most Italian shops serve their granita with a straw, Sicilians eat their granita with a spoon, as an actual meal: literally, it is eaten for breakfast, often with brioche.


In search of an easy and tasty recipe, I went first of course to visit  some of my favorite food bloggers. I'm a lover of classics so I wanted a simple lemon granita. But I'm also never satisfied with a one-ingredient dessert (my sweet tooth is always so demanding!) So the recipe that won over my heart was one I found on a blog that hits close to home: Cream Puffs in Venice. It was a post dating back to July 2008: Sugar High Friday #21: Granita al Limona con Fragole Ripiene di Mascarpona. I was drooling by the time I got to the end of the title, never mind the recipe part.



I, too, used regular lemons, as Meyer lemons were nowhere to be found at Fortinos (why am I not surprised). The end result was everything I expected (well, maybe I forgot to accommodate for the tart lemons I had and ended up with a slightly sour aftertaste). But I was still satisfied. I'm by no means skilled in the kitchen, so I always get excited when my creations pan out as the recipe dictates they should... I was happy that the liquid turned to slush at all..I would have been happy even if it was tasteless.

As I slowly but surely juiced my lemons (simultaneously burning the cuticles I neglect on all my fingers), I had Giada at Home casually playing in the background. Listening to her create some amazing Northern Italian classics (and the sound of my rumbling stomach growing louder) somehow reminded me of a recipe of hers I have wanted to try for a while but never got the chance: Open Faced Tuna Sandwich with Arugula and Pickled Mayonnaise. I knew had a tuna steak stored somewhere in one of the over packed freezers in my house, and a loaf of one of my favorites, Ace Bakery olive bread, so I was extra excited. I swapped my lemon zester for my garlic masher quicker than you can say...well, any word that Giada says with an Italian accent. Unfortunately the steak was no match for the evil Freezer Burn and didn't look too appealing after I dug it out. So instead I opted for a not-too-shabby substitute of shrimp. I made a few changes due to several cravings I've been having but kept Giada's general recipe idea.



As you can see, I there is definitely no albacore tuna there. As I mentioned, turning stove-top burners or grills on was on my Not-To-Do List this evening, so I opted for the pre-cooked deveined shrimp. Instead of the pickled mayonnaise, I used the recipe I always do when I think of aioli, lemon garlic. (This is also another recipe I got from Giada--part of her recipe for swordfish panini--something you must must definitely try at least once. Click here!) I also decided to add cucumber and yellow hot house tomatoes to compensate for the loss of substance when I made the switch from tuna steak to shrimp. I topped the sandwich off with an extra bit of the aioli (just because I love it that much).

I must say as much as I was disappointed by the bad-tuna-fiasco, this dinner was everything I had been excited about and more. It was the perfect amount of crunch from the bread, without being too top-heavy, thanks to a light protein choice, with just the perfect amount of creamy. This will definitely be repeated in future lazy sticky summer days to come!

And as for the granita, full satisfaction of my craving will have to wait for my summer a Sicilia...but this will do just fine for now.



I'd like to shout out, once again, to EC, for opening my eyes to this amazing song (coming to her courtesy of Paolo's spinning). Intensy, it made me think of dancing in the streets of Positano (and by dancing I mean, ding ding ding happy women free-wine-bar-hopping)

Granita Info Sources:
http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/sicilian-granita-the-real-deal-in-italian-ice.html
http://pinchmysalt.com/2007/07/05/granita-and-brioche-for-breakfast/

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Canadian in Paris: Patisserie Queen Silvana Colosimo

Since I am extremely sentimental and emotional, I am inspired easily. I love the high it gives me so I constantly look for ways to refuel on that energy. There is one particular person who has inspired me greatly over this past year, and she does it each and every time she updates her status on Facebook or adds photos to her profile, and that person is my friend and a past co-worker Silvana Colosimo. Silvana and I worked together at Moxie's a few years ago. I always remember a first impression of a person and that image will always stay with me, even as I grow to learn the person on different levels. Silvana is the type of person that always made me smile--and that's because hers was so large it was impossible not to be infected by it. Her positive energy, constant encouragement and bubbly personality were all things that made me like her as much as I did. Since online social networking allows us to always stay connected even when we are apart, and since her close friend and soul mate SB still works with me I stayed in touch with Silly even after she left us at Moxie's. I had heard her speak of her dreams to open up a bakery, but they always seemed like the type of goal someone talks about as if they could only achieve it in a fairytale version of their lives. So when I heard that Silvana had gotten accepted to Le Cordon Blue in Paris, France, I could not have been more excited for her. She was about to embark on what will probably be the greatest experience of her life while proving to the rest of us that it is never too late to achieve our goals and we really can live our dreams. Since my interest in travelling is feverish,  I have spent much time creeping her on Facebook and I must say that, being a lover of la belle ville of Paris, I have found myself both extremely jealous. In order to satisfy my curious appetite, I asked Silvana if I could do a short profile on her on my blog, because I a)am so ridiculously inspired by her and am dying to show the world her passion b)to be filled in on all the details of her adventure. We had ourselves a short little interview-styled-chat via FB and I've posted it below for you. So read up, and dream on my friends...
When I first met you at Moxie’s, I remember you talking about your dreams to be a pastry chef as something you believed in just as much as you believed in Santa Claus...what made you change your mind and turn those dreams in a tangible goal you were ready to achieve?

I grew up.. it took a while, but somehow one day I saw things a lot more clearly. I realized that there is no reason to be afraid to pursue any goal no matter how difficult it may seem. Instead, I should be afraid of missing those opportunities,and the regret looking back on what I could have achieved. I took a hope-full leap of faith I guess .


Usually, when people make such a big change in their life to move to a foreign country, to change a profession, to essentially start over, there decision is inspired, whether it be from a person or a life experience...was your choice inspired, and if so, by what or whom?

I have been blessed in my life with many life learning "inspirations" as you may call them. When I was younger I had a brain tumor, and it was a difficult time in my life. I realized at the time that there is no purpose in living in this world unless you are going to make the most of it. I call this a blessing, because after overcoming that difficult time in my life, I see things differently, and choose to look at life as a "sweet" adventure.. so right now I am on a baking one! Also, my family is and always will be my backbone.. and inspire me always to strive for the best!

What was the toughest part of leaving?

The toughest part of leaving was embarking on the unknown. I was starting from scratch.I didn't know where I was going to live.. how to get around, how to speak French, and I didn't know one person in Paris... leaving my family and friends behind was also tough.

What has been your favourite learning experience so far?

I have learned so much.. I realized that Patience is a great virtue in life,and in the kitchen. I compare a lot of things in life to baking.. like for example chocolate. It needs to be "tempered". It needs to be handled and melted gently and slowly until it reaches the proper temperature so that it can be molded and shine. I guess in life we need the same patience in order to mold our lives and shine!


Your pastries are beautiful and seem so expert...what is favourite masterpiece to date and why?

I think this is a funny question because I feel far from expert at the moment! In France there are so many exquisite chefs..artists is a better word for them. Just when you think you can't see or taste anything more delicious, you find something even better. I am learning more and more each day. I will be experimenting with my own flavors and textures when I get back to Canada. In the meantime I'm just an eager student trying to absorb as much as I can!

Is Paris home to you now or do you still plan to return home once you’re done your studies?

Right now I am living in the South of France in a town called Nice. I left Paris to come here to do my "stage". I'll be working for well known patisserie here. Saying good-bye to Paris was tough. It was home for me, and will always have a place in my heart.

What is your favourite part about living in Paris?

It feels like you're living in a storybook everyday...

In your expert opinion, what is your favourite patisserie in Paris?

My palette loves Pierre Herme. Their macarons are mysteriously perfect. Something I think they hold the secret to. A slight crunch on the outside, moist and melt in your mouth on the inside. Many shops have tried to compare, but I don't think any can. I also adore Ladure.

Pick your favourite French pastry, dessert or dish and why? Is there a reason for your choice besides taste, for example, the story behind the creation of the dish or perhaps the person who created it?

This is a toughy! I guess when it all come down to it, the croissant will always be my favorite. When made right, with really good French butter, and just out of the oven, they are heavenly!! when I get back to Canada I will try to import the French butter!

You are currently moving to Nice for the summer for an additional program...what will you be learning there?

I am working in a gorgeous Patisserie called Canet. They make everything from gelato, to chocolate, to entremets, to cakes. I will be learning how to make all of these things there.

Once you finish up at Le Cordon Blue, what will you do with all the knowledge you have gained and the skills you have enhanced?

I graduated with a patisserie Diplome at Le Cordon Bleu Paris this past June. I started with only minimal baking skills. They taught us slowly with the basics, and worked us up to more complicated techniques. Everything we learned was done without electronic equipment, so all whipping, beating, turning, rolling, cutting,etc. was done with my very own hands and arms. I think my right arm is now stronger than my left, haha.

What are your dreams for the future?

I have dreams of owning my own Patisserie one day soon.

What has been the toughest part of your experience? The most rewarding? The most discouraging?

In a big City like Paris it is tough not to feel lonely at times. I missed my family a lot, especially on those cold, damp, winter days.Big cities can make you feel very small.


This whole experience has been the reward. I loved every minute of this adventure, and still am. The most discouraging part was learning another language. When I got to Paris I didn't speak a word of French. Everything I learned in grade school had faded. I was shy all over again, just like a child. I now have a better grasp of it, but it's funny to see people's facial expressions when I speak to them. I instantly know when I have said something that doesn't make any sense.

What advice can you offer other people starting off in your field?

I think it's important to know that even though baking seems fun, and sweet there is so much hard work involved. It is far from glamorous behind the scenes. there are some crazy hours involved in some very hot kitchens. If you love it though, your passion for it will keep you going regardless of all the work. Do it, follow you dreams!

Also, people in the same position as you, who may be starting out a bit later?

In my opinion, age should never be a deciding factor on pursuing ones dreams. There is a certain confidence that comes with starting out at a later age. I know myself better now than I did when I was twenty. I have very few doubts about what I want to accomplish.

If you could do it all over, would you change anything you did?

Nothing at all, I am very thankful these days.







Thank you Silly, for being such a willing candidate for my first ever blog interview, and also for being the amazing person that you are! Congratulations on all your accomplishments and I can't wait to come visit your Patisserie in Par-ee!!

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've posted a few shots of Silvana's amazingly decadent creations...it was tough to pick which ones to post but there are many more!


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Saturday, July 3, 2010

For my dear and fellow work-out-aholic-friends

Reader's Note: Although this may be a food blog, this particular post is not about food, because as much as I think and dream about the stuff constantly, indulgences do not come without a price and us fraîche femmes sometimes need to work off our Camembert and wine binges.

Hi, my name is Liana and I am a work-out-aholic. For those who work out regularly (or obsessively) like myself, you know just as well as I that we have our ups and our downs, our highs and our lows. I find my self having the same frustrated conversations with fellow work-out-aholics EC and M-Sac every couple weeks: we've gained weight, we're tired, we're bored, etc etc etc...just to be followed by some very passionate conversations about how incredible our run was the other day and how lean we feel just a few short days later. Looking at us from the outside, you'd probably think we're psychotic, but being the work-out-aholics that we are, we get each other, we get it. So in lieu of the fact that my morning consisted of two back-to-back frustrated convos, my recent obscene amount of sodium intake due to a soupy diet, and a shortened work day courtesy of a painful mouth, I have compiled a list of how I deal with those ruts that get us all so down, that make us feel like work-out-amateurs all over again, that bring out the previous heavy self-conscious version of our self we thought we were rid of for good. So here are my tips, from one addict to the other. By no means do they have any medical significance, they're just what work for me and keep me sane when I'm about to pull my hair out strand for strand.

Neurosis #1: OMG I gained weight. I can feel it, I can see it. I give up.
fraîche advise: If you work out regularly, as in multiple times a week every week (breaks saved for vacations or surgeries) than chances are you did not gain weight over night. Consuming an extra 100 calories the odd couple times a week and/or being a bit more lax in your workout for a few days will not ruin your progress. If you gained pounds on the scale chances are you're bloated, retaining water, or eating too much salt.

that leads me to my next tip:
Neurosis #2: I am both bloated and dehydrated all at the same time. I feel like a giant puffy whale.
fraîche advice: Rule #1-do not try to flush out your excess salt by drowning yourself in water. In my experience, it only makes the situation worse. Instead, consume your regular amount of water and schedule in a trip to your favorite cycling class. I promise you if you stop drinking water, you're body will be able to rid itself of all the build up, especially by sweating it out. Spend the rest of the day (or next couple days, if necessary) avoiding diet Pepsi splurges (that might tempt you during lunch rushes), avoid eating red onions raw in your salad, and try to stay away from any form of packaged food.

Neurosis #3: OMG I suck at working out. I can't even run my regular run, my legs are so tired and my feet are dragging. I will never recover I should just give up at working out because I'm an unfit sloth.
fraîche advice: Relax, you don't suck. There's a couple reasons for this usually. a) If you're legs are too tired to do your regular run, chances are you're the exact opposite of lazy and you've in fact been working yourself a wee bit too hard. Shorten your runs for a week and try switching it up with something like swimming (my current obsession, which has actually lasted me since the early winter so I think it's an obsession that's here to stay), or the elliptical, or spinning. b) My legs feel bulky and heavy when I do leg weights so I try to save those for the end of the week when I won't be running for a couple days. c) I also usually go through a mid-week bloading feel, where all my workouts seem to build up into my muscles and I feel like I've gained a few pounds despite watching my diet religiously and having great workouts. I've come to recognize this is norm, though, so I don't sweat it--it's nothing a good Saturday morning spin class with Paolo can't fix. d) I usually run on a treadmill, but sometimes in nice weather I take it outside to switch up the scenary. The impact on pavement is much more intense that it is inside, and my body isn't used to running inclines or against elements, so usually by the end of those weeks or runs I find my body feels quite sluggish. Just rest it out, take it back inside for a few days and you'll be golden.

Neurosis #4: (this one inspired by my convos this morning, in particular) Weights make me bulky and mannish. That's it, I'm cutting them out for good now.
fraîche advice: Although I am no expert weight lifter, and many say any work I do with dumbbells is reversed by my 45 minute daily runs, especially friend and personal trainers MG and DJ, I do recommend that weights, even if it is a weak effort, be included in at least half your sessions. Breaks are acceptable and definitely necessary, however, cutting it out completely has led to quite a few collisions at work as I walk with my head down, transfixed on the cottage cheese ripple that has appeared on my right thigh. I prefer circuits with high reps and relatively low reps--always keeps me motivated and doesn't kill my energy.

Neurosis #5: I hate food. I especially hate salad, canned tuna, salmon, veggies, light cool whip and yogurt. I am so bored of everything so I just won't eat anymore until I can't take the hunger pangs anymore and I consume a whole box of sugary cereal in one sitting (or a whole tube of ice cream, or peanut butter, whatever your thing may be)
fraîche advice: I do not judge those who count their calories, in fact, I do it myself. And yes, I watch my carb intake too, limiting it to earlier meals. However, I save at least, one to two days a week for my indulgences. Anything goes on these days, my diet journal is shoved away, resos are usually made and lots and lots of bread is consumed. Somehow, when the next day comes I don't feel gross or fat, but I usually feel just as good as I did all week, if not better. I've read some articles on carb-cycling, I like the way those people think. We need breaks, often ones, too, to remain sane (and to enjoy life)

I'm going to stop here, because my posts always seem to end up being so ridiculously long, even when I intend for them to be short and sweet. And also because my paranoia are creeping up as I continue to think about them. But I will leave you with one last parting note. Sometimes I will go through an entire week feeling gross. How do I deal with it? I just do. It's happened so many times now (and I've recovered through each and every scenario) for me to know it's just a bad week. The more you think about it, the more you'll believe it, the more you'll be hard on yourself, the harder you'll work, the more tired you'll feel, the more inclined you'll be to give up, the more likely you'll be to feel even more gross and disgusting than you did to begin with. Just relax, give yourself a break, cut your body some slack, and I promise next week will get better, you will learn to run again, those couple pounds you've convinced yourself you've put on will be gone soon enough. Remember that you're body is not a foreign object but a part of you, so treat it with the same respect you'd expect someone else to treat you with.

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Magich in the Kitch: RDL Part 1

Cooking has always had a mysterious element to me. The raw ingredients are the white rabbits or the deck of the cards or that impossibly long multi-coloured silk scarf, the chef is the magician--creating something so unique out of his original, unexceptional  tools. I think it's supposed to be that way, magical, I mean. Isn't that why the term "secret ingredient exists"? Isn't that what a chef is supposed to be? Mysterious, creative, energetic, imaginative, a master with his hands, with a knife--an inventor of sorts, but the one that copyrights his secrets in his mind, rarely passing them on, only to those that have earned and deserved them. That is what intrigues me about cooking: wondering how one art can be both so simple, or so complex, can evoke so many different emotions, can effect so many moods, can extend to so many different parts of your life--and most of the time, with you having no idea how it is done. It brings out the little girl in me (albeit, she is not very hard to find)

I have recently had the pleasure of meeting a true magician in the kitchen. My bf, GF, and I rank having slumber parties consisting of cooking and watching bootlegged movies as our favourite idea of a "date night". We usually spend Saturday night experimenting in the kitchen of his basement and then Sunday immobile on the couch. We always save ourselves some leftovers in anticipation of hunger pang's around noon the next day, which would of course come accompanied with no desire to go shopping for a new creation. Whenever I'm going over for the night (and cooking is not on the agenda) he always tells me to pack myself my dinner, a snack, etc..."we got nothing here, eh, my mom didn't go shopping". And trust me, he's not lying. I've opened the fridge and the cupboards in curiosity, I've seen the bare shelves with my own two eyes.

But I am absolutely convinced that they have a secret cupboard, or at the very least, a factory of elves somewhere in the house that work silently over night to whip up some crazy delicious dishes. Because after every night I've spent there, I wake up to some amazing aroma of garlic, or tomato sauce, or stewing rabbit, or sauteed rapini, even despite the fact that front door hasn't been unlocked yet and the cars are still cold from not being moved. However, alas, I have searched high and low and have found no hidden cupboard and no trace of worker elves. No no, this is indeed the work of one lady, the magician herself, Anna, GF's mama.

A brand new nonna herself to beautiful baby Ella, Anna has spent much of her life in a kitchen. And not a professional one either. (I even learned this weekend that her mother and sister don't quite possess the talent she does) Her techniques have been learned through her lifelong passion to feed her family only the best and freshest food (and through her husband, another excellent cook, and through owning a small family-run bar for several years). Every occasion at the Lisi household is celebrated with a big feast. The first time I met the family was over a Sunday lunch in celebration of his older brother's birthday. My boyfriend and his brother always received their birthday presents in form of their favorite dish, and unwrapping presents from under the Christmas tree? That didn't happen, simply because wrapping up snails and quails with bows and tissue would be less appetizing or sanitary. (My mom and I were shocked when we learned Santa never existed for them and gifts were always edible and never a surprise, but he was perfectly content with his tradition) They are one of the only families here, that I know, that still make homemade sausage (which are unbelievable, especially ground up in sauce and served with polenta), their own jarred tomato sauce, their own pizza dough, pasta dough and lasagna noodles. I can guarantee you that any meal made at the Lisi household is made entirely from scratch, well most of them, which is more than many of us can say.

I owe a lot of my recent passion for rustic food, simple ingredients and meat to Anna's cooking. I'm always anxious to wake up on Sunday morning to see what she's got going on on the stove or in the oven. I of course love the Sunday celebration feasts that happen for birthdays, holidays, baby showers and newborns. They have opened my eyes to the world of tripe, rabbit, osso buco and quail. But my favorite Sunday's are the ones that come every week, the regular ones, when my plate seems to be filled with a incredible creation made from the ingredients of Neverland.

My favorite dish so far, which I don't have a picture of, obviously, as it came to me out of nowhere, from left field, was the orecchiette with rapini. That's it, that's all it was. A bowl of cooked orecchiette and sauteed rapini--but it was outstanding, really, I was blown away by the flavours.

This Sunday we woke up to another surprise, and this one I was ready for:  


Homemade fettuccine (yes, the noodles were homemade), with tomato sauce and meatballs, sauteed green beans in garlic (and something else I'm sure which made them quite extra-ordinary) and chicken barbecued in a marinade created by my boyfriend, actually. (I'll spare you the ingredients, as you may lose your appetite, but I promise it was very tasty)

So, if you ever are craving a magical adventure, and Disney Land just isn't quite in your budget, let me know and I'll take you on a culinary tour through the Lisi Land of Wonder. Trust me, Mickey will not be missed.

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