Catering by Chef Cugini

IMG_6092I’ve said it before and I will say it again, my boyfriend has mad skills in the kitchen. He is like Midas with food, every food he touches turns delicious. Obviously I am not the only one who has realized this because this weekend he was hired to cater for a private, in home, dinner party.

The party had 20 guests. Everyone was standing, moving around, socializing. There were no tables. So there was no main dish, instead it was 5 small courses that made up a one big meal. The theme for the food had a home cooked feel with fancy presentation, I like to call it “familiarly fancy”. As Lucas going to be very busy preparing, cooking, and plating 5 courses for 20 people he let me be his sidekick. I helped to plate things and I served the food and cleaned up. I must say we made a pretty great team.

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I have no idea how each meal was made but I can tell you what each dish was called and show you some drool worthy pictures. Maybe if there is some demand I’ll get Chef Lucas to do a guest post.

Course One: Martini Spaghetti & Beef Meat Balls

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Course Two: Roast Tenderloin Sandwich with Au Jus, Horseradish and Dijon. 

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Course Three:  Grilled Balsamic Portobello Mushroom, spinach and red pepper Sandwich 

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Course Four: Woodland Mushroom Risotto with parsley and Parmesan cheese

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Course Five: Mini-Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Sweet-Potato Fries

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It all looked and tasted AMAZING!!! I broke my no-dairy and no-deep fried food rule for the day because it was all too good to pass up. The guests seemed to enjoy the food and the atmosphere that an in-home catered event provided. Hopefully this is the first of many paid gigs that he gets. Now just for fun, some more pictures of Chef Lucas and his creations!

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Flash Back Friday – 2 Year Time Hop

Tomorrow is one of my best friend’s birthdays and in just under a week and a half it will be my birthday! When Taylor and I lived together we would celebrate together every year. Now we live very far away from each other in different cities but that doesn’t mean we can’t sort of celebrate. So today I am flashing back to two years ago when we made our very own “Feelin’ 22” music video in honor of our 22nd birthdays and our never ending love for Tswift.

Kitchen Experiment: Dairy Free Tuna Salad

Yesterday evening I came home to an empty house. This is a very rare occurrence for me. In fact I cannot even remember the last time I was alone for an extended period of time (other than yesterday) and that is exactly the way I like it.

When I am alone I only have 3 possible states of being: Antsy, depressed, snacky. Being antsy isn’t so terrible, sometimes it can result in uber amounts of productivity. But feeling sad and sorry for yourself is not pleasant at all. And being snacky totally defeats the purpose of all the hard work I’m doing at the gym.

Last night I was feeling antsy. I am in the market for a new pair of sunglasses so I thought about going to the store and trying some on. But the store isn’t exactly close and with no one home I’d be using public transit which is slow and frustrating. Then I tried to convince a friend to come with me (she has a car – I know I’m a terrible person), but she wasn’t up for it. So I scratched that plan and moved onto fitness!

After perusing the group exercise schedule I decided that if I had a quick dinner I could make it to the 7:30 pm BODYPUMP class. This is a weight class based on the concept of lighter weights and more reps. I decided to try it out because weights training is being hailed as the best way to get strong and lean ect. ect. But I am clueless when it comes to anything other than the treadmill so attending a class seemed like a good idea. Well let me say this, that class was a challenge but I loved it (except for the squats – nobody likes squats)! I used the lightest amount of weight possible but my body was still aching! This obviously means that I am not strong and I must continue to go to this class.

Anyway, the title of this post is Kitchen Experiment so let me get to that (finally – gosh I love to talk). As I said I needed a quick dinner: Leftovers! Except NO! The only leftovers in the fridge was pizza which is delicious but covered in cheese (which I am not allowed to eat anymore) and it is not good pre-fitness food. Eventually I decided to make a tuna salad sandwich. Normally this would mean mayonnaise and cheese and tuna, not this time, healthy Alex is here to stay. So I made a healthy, dairy free, tuna salad.

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Most exciting part?! I didn’t follow a recipe. This baby was all me. I just did what felt right. Usually this heads disastrous results but my tuna salad was a huge success! Creamy, healthy, fueling power food.

Dairy Free Tuna Salad

Ingredients

1 can of tuna

2 table spoons of olive oil

1/2 tea spoon Basil flakes

1/3 tea spoon Garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from 1/4 slice of Lemon

1/2 an avocado

 2 slices of your choice of bread

Instructions

  1. Open your can of tuna and drain. Place in a medium sized bowl and mix using a fork.
  2. Mix in the olive oil, basil, garlic power, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. There is no need to follow the measurements exactly, adjust according to your taste buds. For a creamier tuna salad, add more olive oil.
  3. Toast your bread, I used 12 grain.
  4. Mash the avocado in a bowl using a fork. After the bread is toasted spread the avocado mash onto the toast. Pile your tuna salad on top of the avocado and enjoy!

Notes: From here you can do whatever you’d like. I added hot sauce to one of my slices and it was fantastic. Next time I am going to experiment by mixing the avocado in with the tuna. I also toyed with adding some little baby tomatoes. Also, eating the tuna on its own is an option. The opportunities are endless. In total this mean only took about 5 minutes to put together. Enjoy!


How would you dress up your dairy free tuna salad? Share in the comments!

Run Boy Run

Those of you who keep up with my little blog probably know that I am gearing up to run my very first 5k at the beginning of May. This is a very big deal for me because running (or any type of athleticism for that matter) is not something I am “good” at. One of my new years resolutions was to change that by challenging myself, so I signed up for a 5k. Since late January, (when I signed up) I have been making an effort to train. People who run on the regular might think it sounds silly to need to train for a small 5k, but I am the definition of a beginner and train, I must. Also I want to make sure that I can enjoy my race experience and not feel like death by the end.

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Getting Sweaty on the Treadmill

So I’ve been training with an iPhone app called Couch to 5k. It is exactly like it sounds it, going from nothing to something. The format is this: 3 runs a week for 10 weeks. For the most part the runs are timed intervals, alternating between running and walking. Each week the running time gets longer and the walking time gets shorter.

I am so pleased to share that so far my training is going super well. Obviously some days are better than others but I am managing to increase my speed and distance while following the timed intervals as indicated.

As someone who suffers from asthma, keeping control of my breathing is one of the most challenging parts of running for me. I must constantly focus on in through the nose and out through the mouth if I want to be able to keep going. I have found that music with a heavy beat helps me stay focused on a regular breathing pattern.

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This week the first run looked like this [5 min warm up walk, 5 min run/jog, 3 min walk, 5 min run/jog, 3 min walk, 5 min run/jog, cool down]. The first two runs/jogs went well but the last 5 minutes was exceptionally difficult. Surprisingly the difficulty was in my leg muscles. I think I have finally reached a place in my training where I have figured out how to breathe and manage my asthma (which has been my biggest problem in the past) and so my leg muscles are finally being pushed and challenged for the first time. I am thrilled that my body is finally starting to benefit from the training! Usually my lungs quit long before my legs feel remotely fatigued, so reaching this point is a huge accomplishment! Way to go lungs!

That being said, I still have a long way to go. Due to Canada’s never-ending winter, it is too cold for my asthmatic lungs to do vigorous breathing outside. Therefore I am stuck inside on the treadmill. Obviously the treadmill training is working/helping/making a difference but it isn’t comparable to running on pavement. Treadmill running has forced momentum. By this I mean that whether you like it or not that track is going to spin and you just need to keep up. Whereas outside the momentum is all you. I expect that when I start running outside my muscles will become fatigued faster and that I will run at a slower pace on average. That is okay with me, the main goal is just to finish the race, but I if I can do a decent job at the same time that would be nice. I am hoping that spring will spring into Toronto soon. I’d like to get at least two weeks of outdoor running under my belt before the race day.

Anyway, that is my progress update. Check back in a few weeks to see my progress & to see the result of the 5k event! Maybe I’ll get one of those cool running action shots!

Have you ever run a 5k? Got any good advice about training for a run? Share in the comments!

PS. The title of this post was inspired by this great song of the same title by Woodkid. The video is rather dark but it has a great beat. Check it out!

The Kind of Rain.

When I was eleven, Samantha and I rode our bikes to the corner store almost everyday.  The place was run down and smelled strongly of dust but it was our favourite place in the summer time.  The corner store had a slushie machine and an entire aisle of 10 cent candy.  As long as we could fit it into our pockets, we were free to buy as much candy as we wanted.  Each with our own crisp 5 dollar bill.

We rode back and fourth to that corner store all summer long.  I wish I could say each ride was memorable and meaningful but most of them are blurred together now.  Sun on my back and wind in my hair is as vivid as it gets.

Except for that one day when it rained.  The clouds had been growing darker throughout the morning but it was hot, stiflingly hot.  It seemed that the only way to quell the heat was to drink an ice cold slushie.  So against my mothers warning we set off, me and sam, on our bikes.

Samantha got a red slushie and I got a blue one.  As we guzzled them back, the ground shook with the sound of thunder.  Loud.  Frightening.  Exciting.  I’m positive that I have never peddled faster or harder in my entire life, bent low over the handle bars we raced against mother nature. Just not fast enough.

The skies opened up as we turned onto my street. Laughing and squealing we made for the garage but we were drenched and no amount of shelter was going to change that. It was the kind of rain that feels warm when it touches your skin. The kind of rain that starts heavy but quickly becomes gentle. The kind of rain where the sun turns the droplets orange. The kind of rain where you can see rainbows if you look hard enough. The kind of rain that entices you to dance and splash and run and play.

And so we did.

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This is a fictional piece of creative writing based on a real event from my childhood. While I do not consider myself a “writer”, I do enjoy experimenting from time to time. Thanks for reading!

Alex

ONCE; A New Musical

Happy hump day! I hope everyone is feeling alive and well in the aftermath of St. Patrick’s day. When I was in university St. Paddy’s was a big deal. Anyone and everyone busted out their green and went overboard on green beer. It was fun while it lasted but out in the real world that type of behavior is totally inappropriate for a weekday, weekends are still fair game though.

This year, instead of celebrating the luck o’ the Irish with booze, Lucas and I decided to celebrate with Irish music by seeing the musical production ONCE, at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. In addition to being a fun St.Pat’s date night activity, tickets to the show were one of my birthday gifts for Lucas.

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SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this post may contain spoilers. Similar to how granola bars may contain peanuts. Basically I can’t make any promises…

Before the show Lucas and I decided to go for a nice dinner, because #datenight. We selected a restaurant called Baton Rouge. IMG_6045Lucas got a super delicious looking burger and fries. It had onion rings on it! Mmmmmm! And I got a grilled veggie sandwich and a green salad (eating out isn’t as fun when your not allowed to eat deep fried foods but it was still very delicious).

Then we went to the show! The Ed Mirvish Theatre is one of my favourite places to see theatre. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house (as long as you’ve got your glasses) and the architecture and design is just stunning! High arched ceilings, elegant stair cases, ruby red carpets and curtains! I’ve now seen 6 shows there!

Just for some context, here is the show description from the Mirvish website:

Set in modern day Dublin, ONCE is the story of a Guy who gave up on his music—and his love—and the Girl who inspired him to dream again. This irresistibly breathtaking production is performed by an extraordinary all-Canadian cast of actor-musicians who sing, dance and play their hearts out live on stage. Directed and choreographed by the brilliant team of Tony Award winner John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett, ONCE will dazzle you with its originality, wit and unforgettable music.

IMG_6041The stage was set to look like an Irish pub and during pre-show and intermission audience members were allowed to get beer and water from the working bar on stage! How neat is that?! While people lined up for drinks the performers danced around singing popular irish folk tunes. Talk about audience interaction! It perfectly set the mood for the show!

The music was excellent. Absolutely beautiful! Unlike traditional musicals the instruments were played by the singers/actors on stage. There were 2 violins, a cello,  multiple guitars, percussion, and a piano. All these instruments were onstage the entire time and always played by the cast. In many productions this would have been unsuccessful but it worked really well in the Irish pub atmosphere and it showcased the talent of this cast excellently.

Speaking of the cast, it is entirely Canadian! This is a big deal for me because I am extremely passionate about the growth of Canadian arts and culture. I strongly believe that the best way to grow our artistic scene to a larger scale is by having Canadian artists shine on Canadian stages. Because if Canada doesn’t showcase our talent why would anyone else. Annnnyway, the leads of ONCE were Ian Lake and Trish Lindström (Photographed below). They both did an excellent job of portraying their characters. A heart broken Irish man and a spunky, single mom from the Czech Republic.

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Photo from http://www.mirvish.com

 The downfall of this musical for me was the plot. ONCE is advertised as the love story to end all love stories and that is how it began. It had me getting all emotional and sappy. And then… the end happened. And while it was still beautiful it wasn’t at all what I expected. In fact it didn’t really feel like the ending at all. I was left with questions and confusion and a need for more. But I suppose that makes this musical more realistic than most. Instead of providing a clean cut happily ever after it provides an unsatisfying ending which is lacking closure, which is an accurate description to how most real life relationships are. That being said, it was beautiful, exceptionally beautiful. Even if it didn’t give me the cookie cutter ending I was craving.

For the record, Lucas also really enjoyed the show. He didn’t focus so much on the plot but rather the music. He said it felt more like a folk concert than a musical and he loved that. I wouldn’t be surprised if I come home to find the soundtrack on my iTunes.

All in all it was a fantastic way to access my inner Irish on St. Patrick’s day and it was a super fun, out of the ordinary date night. My final review: 4 Stars out of 5. If you are in the Toronto Area and you enjoy good music, I suggest going to see ONCE!

ONCE is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until May 31st.

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Photo from http://www.mirvish.com

Kitchen Experiment: Raspberry Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, me and the kitchen are not good friends. Wow that rhymed! But seriously when it comes to cooking, baking and making food, I am not in my element. But that doesn’t stop me from experimenting every now and again. Sometimes my kitchen experiments are a hit (check out my awesome protein balls, or my salad in a jar trick) annnnnnd sometimes they are a big miss (learn from my guacamole disaster).

Today my kitchen experiment falls somewhere in between, it’s good but some refining is needed. So what did I attempt to make this time?! Well it’s in the title… Raspberry Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding! Please keep in mind that I am not a photographer or a food blogger and so the pictures do not do it justice. In fact the whole thing looks rather gross in the pictures. But I swear it is actually delicious!

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I follow a lot of fancy food bloggers (who are much more kitchen savvy than myself) and chia seeds are all the rage right now. They are rich in anti-oxidants and are super-duper nutritious, despite their tiny size. Because chia seeds are essentially flavourless you can add them to basically anything for added protein and fiber. Salads. Smoothies. Baked goods. Or you can make into a pudding!

Actually, I think pudding is an inaccurate description of what this is. It sort of has a jelly consistency. So I am more inclined to call it textured jell-O. Bottom line: No matter what it is called it is healthy and pretty darn good.

I’ve seen a ton of chia seed pudding recipes online but this morning I decided to wing it instead of following any one particular recipe. See the recipe below!

Raspbery Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding (textured Jell-O)

Serving Size: One

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of Chia Seeds

3/4 cup of plain Almond Milk

1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 a table spoon of sweetener (I used agave nectar) *optional

1 cup of frozen raspberries

Instructions:

1. Mix together the chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla, and sweetener in a small mason jar

2. Let sit, covered, in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes

3. Add the frozen berries and let sit for an hour or so. I let mine sit in my bag while I was on my commute to work. This allowed for the berries to thaw out and for the seeds to create the jelly texture. But, you could also let it sit in the fridge, just be sure to leave it be for at least an hour.

Note: Some people prefer to have their chia pudding sit overnight but I think that might be overkill.

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I think my experiment turned out pretty well! I feel full and I it tasted good. That being said I add too much vanilla. I must have added nearly a full table spoon which made the vanilla flavour very very overwhelming. I adjusted the measurement in the recipe above. I also think other frozen berries would work out quite nicely. Next time I think I’d like to add some chocolate chips to the experiment. Just for kicks!

Have you ever tried chia seed pudding? How did yours turn out? Share in the comments!

PS. Have you seen the google image today?! It is st. Patrick’s day themed! Adorable!

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Weekend Recap: The Boyfriend’s Bday Shinanigans

I’m going to start today’s post by wishing my very favourite person in the whole world a very…

HAPPY  22nd BIRTHDAY!!!

I love birthdays! I’m not sure which part I like best because there are so many awesome aspects. To name a few:

The cake – Everyone wins when there is cake involved.

The gifts – Whether your the gift giver or the gift receiver there is nothing more fun then gifts. Personally I enjoy the gift giving. Selecting the perfect thing and presenting it in a fun way is what I am all about.

The balloons – Decorative and traditional.

Time with family & friends – Its always nice to have an excuse to bring people together. Especially when it is a happy occasion.


Even though Lucas’ actual real birth date is today we used the whole weekend to celebrate. On Friday we went out for dinner, just the two of us, to a great little restaurant called The Pump. Normally I HATE it when two people at the same table order the same meal but we decided to be those people and we both got the seafood pasta, which was delicious! When we got home from dinner Lucas got to open his gifts from me. Check out Wednesday’s post to find out what I got him. Then we spent the rest of the night watching movies.

On Saturday we enjoyed a much needed sleep in. I woke up around 11:30 and went to the gym. I’m still running inside on the treadmill because even though things are finally starting to warm up in Canada the air is still too harsh for my asthmatic lungs. I’m onto week 4 of my Couch to 5k training program and so far so good! The runs are challenging but not impossible, so I can finish them and still feel like I have accomplished something. In the afternoon Lucas and I had to go over to my parent’s house and deliver my little brother’s weekend paper route. The rest of my family (minus me) is on vaycay in Cuba so someone had to do his job. On the way home we grabbed some delicious burritos, our pre-night out food of choice.

After the sun set our friends came over and we played some drinking games, listened to music and had an all around good time, as you do at birthday celebrations. We made a last minute decision to go to a pool bar near by. By pool I mean the table game, not the water. I’m not too great at pool but Lucas and his friends love it. It was great because a friend who lives really far away made the trip down for Lucas’ bday night and it was so great to see her!

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Kev, Me & Tay (the far away friend).

Sunday was pretty much exclusively devoted to sleeping off my hangover. I’m only 23 and I already feel like I can’t drink as much as I used to and still be alive the next day. Thank goodness for costco muffins. In the evening Lucas’ sisters and their husbands came over for a fancy meal, home cooked by his mum. The birthday boy picked the classic steak and potatoes for his birthday meal. I don’t eat steak but the potatoes and veggies were to die for. Topped off with a mint chocolate ice cream cake. Technically I’m not supposed to be eating anything cream based but I figured a sliver of cake wouldn’t do me any harm.

The night came to a close after the rest of his presents were opened. Lucas got a cook book and a multi-use drill tool thing… Obviously I’m no expert on tools. But he was thrilled! I wish I had more pictures to share but I didn’t take too many this weekend. I was too busy!

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What is your favourite part about birthdays?! Share in the comments!

How to Get Out of a Slump

This week has been challenging. For absolutely no good reason at all I’ve been in a stressed, irritable, impatient mood. Its not fun for me or anyone around me but sometimes rain clouds appear and getting rid of them isn’t easy.

Now that the week is coming to a close (T.G.I.F. am I right?!) I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel but believe me I had to put some work to get here. I don’t think this list would work for everyone but it certainly worked for me so I thought I would share.

How to Get Out of a Slump; by Alex Folkes

  • Go to a yoga class and get your stretch on: Personally I prefer hot yoga as it allows me to go deeper into my poses and it also makes me sweat out all the toxins (emotional and physical)
  • Read a book and get lost in the pages: Sometimes escaping into storybook world is the best way to press pause on life. This week I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is a fantastically written novel that is funny, serious, inspirational and eye opening all at the same time. Although normally my go-to escape life books are the Harry Potter series because magic.
  • Get some sleep: Go to bed early and sleep in if you can. If your feeling down then your body is obviously craving something. For me this something is almost always a little more shut eye. 
  • Exercise: Run, walk, bike, swim, whatever. Just move around! As Elle Woods says “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t kill their husbands”. Can’t argue with that logic. 
  • Cry it out: If you feel like crying then go ahead and cry. Sometimes the tears just need to fall. Think of it like rain, it is frustrating but at the end of the rain fall the grass is greener. In this metaphor lets call the grass personal sanity. 
  • Enjoy some fresh air: If it is warming up in Canada then it has got to be warming up in the rest of the world. Even if it is only 5 minutes on your lunch break, get outside and breathe in some fresh air, let the sunshine touch your face. Being still with the sun on my face is when I feel most at peace. 
  • Talk with someone you love: For me, that person is my mum. I called and she let me rant about all the silly annoying things about the world and I instantly felt just a tiny bit better. 

How do you pull yourself out of a slump? Share in the comments!