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Foodie Swellness: From Italy with Amore at Loblaws

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Can’t we all use #moreamore in our lives? More specifically, more Italian cuisine made with authentic Italian ingredients?

I say sì! And I recently had the chance to learn to learn how to make some dishes from Chef Massimo Bruno at Loblaws. Bruno is from Puglia, and has lived in Toronto for about 16 years, and he said that when he first moved to Canada, it was hard for him to find the Italian ingredients he needed to make his dishes. This is not the case anymore because Loblaws carries more than 350 authentically Italian — they’re certified by the Italian Trade Commission — including many of Bruno’s favourites such as Lupa cheese.

Chef Massimo Bruno at More Amore

It was such a treat to get to learn from Bruno; I’ve been keen to go to one of his monthly supper clubs for ages but now I was getting to learn to cook alongside him. We made a few dishes: fettuccini with tuna and lemon, and a fresh pasta with tomatoes and garlic.

I learned a lot from Bruno over the course of the evening about Italian cooking:

  • When cooking with pecorino romano, be careful with how much salt you add to your dish as the cheese itself is quite salty, so add salt sparingly (if at all).
  • Don’t cheap out; spend the extra $5 on authentic pecorino romano (he likes the romano lupa) as it’ll really make your dish sing. When you buy a bottle of olive oil, go for a quality one, such as the President’s Choice Extra Virgin Olive Oil From Tuscany.
  • When making a sauce using ingredients like fresh tomatoes and garlic like the one we made, prepare it and let it sit so that the flavours come together.
  • There are two types of gorgonzola, dolce and piccante. Dolce is sweeter. Bruno recommends using Dolce if you’re cooking since many people find gorgonzola to be quite strong, so Dolce is a safer choice given it is more subtle.
  • There is no such thing as too much parmigiano reggiano.
  • There is also no such thing as too much fresh basil. Pile it on, says Bruno. He says you’ll never get a complaint, “Oh there’s too much basil in this.”
  • When using tomato purée to make your pasta sauce, add a little bit of water. If you don’t, your passata will cook off and become too thick and paste-like.
  • A quality dried pasta will have a slightly rough texture to it before you throw it into the pot of salted boiling water. (And don’t be shy when salting the water, Bruno threw handfuls into the water; he says it’s essential to cooking the noodles that the water be well salted).
  • You can trust in the imported Italian food products with the DOP label. This label is the product’s certification, which means you can be confident the product has been locally grown and packaged in Italy using traditional methods. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which translates to Protected Designation of Origin.

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Besides all of these foodie lessons, we ate so well (above is a beef dish Massimo prepared for us) and that fettucine we all helped prepare? It’s so simple to make and you can be eating in about 10 minutes, which is exactly the kind of recipe we all need when we get home and it’s late and we’re too tired to cook, right? Here’s the recipe:

Fettucine with tuna, lemon and basil

Fettuccini with tuna, lemon and basil

In a large bowl, add one can of Rio Mare tuna, drizzle with olive oil. Add the zest and then the juice of one lemon. Add some fresh basil (you can just tear the leaves with your fingers) and season with pepper. In the meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water as per the package. Take about a half cup of the starchy water the pasta has been cooked in and add to your tuna mixture (this will make the sauce easier to mix with your noodles). Drain the pasta and add the noodles to the tuna sauce and mix to combine.

And you’re done! Dinner is on the table. So simple yet so good.

Here’s to more amoré in your life! Buon appetito!

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Leave a Comment November 3, 2017

Healthy Swellness: Q&A with Olympian Michelle Wingshan Kwan about P&G’s “Love Over Bias”

Watch this “Love Over Bias” film and tell me you don’t get a lump in your throat.

 It was just released yesterday by Procter & Gamble, and is the latest installment of their “Thank You, Mom” campaign. Focusing on what the world could be if we saw one another through a mother’s eyes, the film comes now with less than 100 days to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony.

 The theme this year of the campaign is about the prejudices and challenges athletes face as seen through their mom’s perspective, and is meant to encourage looking at what brings us together as people rather than what divides us. It pays tribute to the important role a mom plays as her child’s biggest support system and celebrates how a mom can see and believe in her child’s potential.

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Two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Wingshan Kwan is one of the athletes whose story helped inspire the campaign, and right before my phone call this week with Michelle to discuss “Love Over Bias” and the “Thank You, Mom” campaign, I watched the film and we immediately started talking about it.

 What was it like when you first saw “Love Over Bias”?

Michelle Kwan: “I was crying, I had the same reaction [as you], had a lump in throat. It really hit home for me, seeing this incredible ad and this incredible campaign, “Love Over Bias.” shared Michelle, “Being able to partner with pg and being able to share my story, and for the athletes to share their story of obstacles and challenges depicted in that film…”

“My mom was there through thick and thin for my skating career and I saw how much sacrifice and how much my mom gave up to make my dreams come true, I’m talking financial means, too, Juggling multiple jobs, putting a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and then to dream of Olympic ice skater? There’s no task too large for my mom. Mama Kwan was like, ‘If you want to be an Olympic ice skater, let’s do it.” That’s what my mom instilled in me, if you want something, you go after it, so this campaign is that chance to thank all moms out there for believing in our dreams and being our number one fan.”

What were some of the challenges you faced?

“Looking back to the early years, not being able to afford fancy costumes, and my mom sewing my costumes, making them because we couldn’t afford them. I felt extra special, actually, not that I couldn’t buy this amazing custom costume but because my mom made it. I was very fortunate to have a costume at all.  Even making it to national level with a used pair of skates because that was the only thing my parents could afford; competing in a borrowed dress. I could go on and on about the financial shortcomings of my family’s situation but my mom, both parents, were like, “If this is what you want, we’re going to be a little scrappy along the way but just keep dreaming, keep doing it, keep working hard.”

As a teen, you understood all of that, rather than feeling like, “why do I have to use secondhand skates?”

“I understood it, I saw the lack of sleep, my parents driving to and from ice rink at 5 in the morning, us skating for three hours, for them to be watching us for three hours and then us going to school and picking us up, and meanwhile they’re juggling finances. I remember my grandparents asking my parents, like almost criticizing them, “Why are you wasting time and money on figure skating, it’s silly,’ and, you know, my parents never wavered, they let me have the opportunity to participate. I remember many times I thought it would the end of any skating dreams, and it would’ve been devastating–that’s the thing that I look back on and my mom was always “Ny baby girl wants to do this. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen.’”

Can  you share any particular struggles that come to mind from when you were competing and how your mom was your biggest support?

“Different times of wanting to give up, and having won a world title and saying how am I going to win again, moments that you think you can’t improve. That was when my mother was always there. Even when I fell three or four times at a national championship, she said, “I’m so proud of you,” and I was like “What?!” “Yeah, you couldn’t have tried harder, you couldn’t have done anything different.’ That is something that is so special, when you have the mom touch, telling you to hold you head up high, that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

How would you say this has contributed to making you into the person you are now?

“There are so many life lessons you learn through sports. Over 90 percent of women i CEO positions, over 90 percent have participated in sport so these it’s transferable–to be a good athlete, working with a team, having that grit, focus and determination, those are things that you need to excel at sport but also a way to succeed outside of sport,”

In case you’re wondering, when I spoke to Michelle on Tuesday, her mom had not yet seen “Love Over Bias.” “I can’t wait to watch it with her. She’s going to love it,” said Michelle.

Kudos to P&G for helping to shed light on the biases and struggles that many of us face and how that can hold us back from reaching our potential. Bringing these issues to light and inspiring discussion can only help to move the world to a better place. Want to learn more about the campaign and the athletes involved (including Gus Kenworthy, Aja Evans, Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones, all pictured below with Michelle)? Visit www.loveoverbias.com.

I know for me, after watching the film and chatting with Michelle, my mom coming to my childhood dance recitals and gymnastics classes  came rushing back to me, and, like Michelle’s mom, my mom sewed me outfits, not skating costumes, but the most stylish coordinated outfits (there were a lot of fun pink prints—my mom always let me choose the fabric)…

…and there’s that lump in my throat again…

So, who else is calling their mom right now after watching “Love Over Bias”?

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Leave a Comment November 2, 2017

Fitness Swellness: 5 tips for the travelling runner — Reebok Canada x Health & Swellness collab on ElleCanada.com

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Running. Travel. Food. Those are definitely big passions of mine. So I was especially thrilled to partner this season with Reebok Canada on an article that you’ll find at Elle Canada focused on tips and tricks for running while you travel—two of my top reasons for living (did I mention I also enjoy exaggeration?). (And as for food, well, when it comes to running and especially the travel/running combo, food is naturally part of the picture, too—one must fuel and reward, after all!).

I’ve been running in the Reebok Floatride for a few weeks, and I virtually forget what’s on my feet because they’re so lightweight. Dubbed “cushion without compromise,” the Floatride makes my runs feel effortless thanks to the cushioning and responsiveness of the sole, and a knit upper that’s very breathable and gently hugs each foot as I train.

Check out my article at Elle Canada for travel and running tips (think packing and find-a-route ideas) and see you out running, ‘k? Whether that’s here in Toronto, or somewhere around the world because, yes, I am more often than not in training for a race. And in the meantime, you can discover more (or tag your own Floatride runs) on social media with the hashtag #feelthefloatride.

Photo: Sean Pollock

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Leave a Comment October 31, 2017

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