Tag: Cooking

Foodie Swellness: The ultimate hibernation meal, homemade “Hamburger Helper”

Homemade hamburger helper

Is this dish full of veggies and fibre? Nope. Paleo? Nuh-uh. A rainbow of ingredients chockfull of vitamins and minerals? Not really. It’s pretty beige. But sometimes, like when it’s colder than -30C out and a bomb cyclone is hitting the east coast, you just crave plain old comfort food.

I didn’t grow up eating Hamburger Helper. I actually am not sure if I’ve ever had it. I have always thought it looks delicious in commercials, though. Meaty, creamy, carby. So I suppose I should state that I am not sure if this tastes at all like the boxed HH.

In any case, my recipe is inspired by this one from Dinner Then Dessert, except I added milk to make it creamier and some spices. And the result is everything I wanted for my winter dinner (warm and hearty), eaten tucked under a blanket all cozy, while watching The Mindy Project. It’s the ultimate winter hibernation meal.


Homemade Hamburger Helper

  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups beef broth
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (depending on how cheesy you want it!)
  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, brown the beef in a large skillet.  Remove beef from skillet.
  3. Add butter to the beef fat in the skillet and saute onion and bell pepper for about five minutes.
  4. Add beef back to the skillet.
  5. In a bowl, mix the beef broth, milk and cornstarch together.
  6. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika and beef broth mixture into the skillet.
  7. Cook about three minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
  8. Add the macaroni to the skillet and mix together gently.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in grated mozzarella.

I’d love to hear from HH fans if this is at all what the boxed variety tastes like. I like the idea of making it from scratch versus using the powdered ingredients and am so pleased with this stick-to-your-hones results of this meal. I rounded out my dinner with a glass of Cabernet but a nice crisp green salad would be a nice side (I just didn’t have anything for a salad in my refrigerator at the time).

Happy hibernating!

2 Comments January 5, 2018

Fitness Swellness: How I get stronger with protein


My schedule is always pretty full. Sometimes too full (I think it’s just my nature to try to pack in as much as possible) and then, yes, I take a step back to find more balance. But I’ve accepted that it’s just my personality to maintain a busy, demanding schedule. I’m often rushing from meetings and lunches to hopping onto conference calls and then over to events. Besides work demands, I also am working out whenever I can—I’m trying to fit in more dance classes, more workouts like yoga and Pilates, and to learn how to play tennis during the warmer months. And you may also know that I’m a runner. The fitness in my life gets way more intense when I’m training for a marathon since this calls for running up to five times a week.


(And we haven’t even touched on a social life yet. I also cram in movies and dinners with friends and hikes and play time with my dog, Billie Jean, too).

This post isn’t a humble brag about how busy I am, I promise! It’s about how I power up to have the stamina for all of this. After all, to power through my workouts and life, I have to make sure I have the energy and feel strong enough and so what I eat is really important—and getting enough protein in my diet is a crucial part of that. Many of us know that protein is essential to our health (it helps boost the immune system and helps to build and repair muscle tissue). And while meat is often what comes to mind when you think protein, dairy is an excellent source of high-quality protein, too.

How do I get my dairy, which contains two kinds of protein—whey and casein, to help power me through my day? On a regular weekday, I don’t have time to have a huge breakfast, but I do need something satisfying and filling. The solution? One of my favourite breakfasts is Greek yogurt topped with berries and something for a bit of crunch (that might be hemp hearts, nuts or granola). For an everyday snack, I need something I can prepare quickly, so I’ll often just grab some cheese (I always have cheese in my fridge!) and either an apple or some whole-grain crackers. And 50 grams of cheddar contains 12 grams of protein.

When I am training for a marathon, the most satisfying post-workout replenishment, especially so in the summer, is a smoothie with yogurt in it or an ice-cold chocolate milk. I swear that during a long run, it’s probably around the 15k mark that I start craving and salivating about the smoothie or chocolate milk that I plan to have right after that run. Besides being thirst quenching, the protein in these drinks help your muscles to recover more quickly. Research has proven that. And besides protein, milk products also contain up to 16 essential nutrients.

An interesting fact about protein: Did you know that your body benefits most from protein when you spread out your consumption over your meals throughout the day? It should break down roughly into 30 grams per meal. Which I think works well when it comes to getting your protein from dairy, since I find it easier to incorporate milk products into my meals than meat. The right cheese can top most any dish, for example; I can easily cube some cheese to throw into a salad at lunch or with my eggs in the morning compared to having to cook up some chicken or fish (which I wouldn’t have on hand at home anyways; that’s not how I personally stock my fridge).

Roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata

What’re some of your favourite ways to power up with protein through dairy sources? I know I mentioned chocolate milk after a run in the summer, and I’ve now found an option for lunch to warm me up after a run on a cold winter morning: roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata. You can find the recipe on dairygoodness.ca (but I’ve also included it here in this post). Round out your lunch with a leafy salad and you’re all set! I’d love to hear about your favourite recipes for fuelling up on protein, please share!

Roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata close up

Roasted Broccoli Mushroom Mozza Frittata

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes. 4 servings.


2 cups (500 mL) small broccoli florets
1 cup (250 mL) quartered mushrooms (halved if small)
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter, melted
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper, divided
1/8 tsp (.5 mL) salt, divided
6 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried basil or thyme
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided



Preheat oven to 425 °F (220 °C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) glass pie plate or 6-cup (1.5 L) shallow baking dish.In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, mushrooms, melted butter, and half each of the pepper and salt. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes or until tender and browned. Let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350 °F (180 °C).In the same bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, basil and remaining salt and pepper until frothy. Stir in half of the Mozzarella.Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate Sprinkle broccoli and mushrooms evenly into eggs, pressing to immerse slightly.Bake for about 25 minutes or until evenly puffed and almost set. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining Mozzarella on top. Broil for about 3 minutes or until cheese is until melted.



Pilates photos shot on location at Misfit Studios in Toronto. Photographer, Sean Pollock.


Leave a Comment December 18, 2017

Foodie Swellness: Delicious Olives from Spain

Olives from Spain 1

Although I did not grow up eating olives from Spain (I actually was probably an adult before I tried them for the very first time), but they’re now something I can’t live without. I’ll regularly crave them (coincidentally, one of my cats loves tapenade, she is so much my spirit animal!).

I don’t see how one can’t love olives from Spain. They’re so versatile, for one. A simple bowl of them with your cheese and charcuterie boards. Or add olives from Spain for a brine-y bite to your salads or pasta dishes (pasta puttanesca is a classic favourite!). Baked into a focaccia so that each doughy bite has a bit of olives from Spain. And what about chicken? On it’s own, a pretty bland protein. Incorporate lemon and whichever variety of olives from Spain you can find at your local supermarket into your sauce, though, and you’ve got one mouthwatering, flavourful main course.

The different ways you can enjoy olives are practically endless when you also consider that there are so many wonderful varieties from Spain. I’m not an olive connoisseur but I try to pick up a variety I’m unfamiliar with when I’m shopping at the market.

And did know they’re loaded with antioxidants that research has shown to be anti-cancerous, and they also contain iron and inflammation-reducing oleic acid? So many good reasons to incorporate them into your snacking and cooking repertoire  if you don’t already.

Next time you’re adding olives from Spain to your shopping list, some you might want to try out: hojiblanca, gordal and manzanilla. I feel like most people I know are partial to black olives, and while I do gravitate to them, I do love gordal, too; These large, fleshy green olives from Spain have a great bitter-salty balance, making them great for snacking. The same goes for manzanilla olives when it comes to snacking; they’re nice and round and plump and since its pit is easy to remove, you’ll often find them stuffed (think anchovies, peppers or cheese)—delicious! And hojiblanca? These olives from Spain have a slight fruity and nuttiness to them, which works well for stews and marinades.

Olives from Spain 2

With the versatility of olives from Spain, I started dreaming of Canadian dishes where I could incorporate them, and bannock came to mind. Let’s face it, I dream of carbs so it’s not shocking I thought of bread. I’ve never made bannock before, a bread that comes to us from our First Nations. I did a little research about it and discovered that bannock can be baked or fried, and although traditionally prepared and enjoyed quite simply, modern versions include cinnamon bannock rolls and bannock breakfast sandwiches  Light and fluffy bannock with some chopped olives from Spain warm from the frying pan sounded like it’d be the ultimate savoury treat…and it was! Here’s the recipe:

Fried Bannock with Olives from Spain

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • chopped olives from Spain to taste (I used about a ¼ cup of Hojiblancas)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in olives (I used Hojiblancas) and olive oil, and add water, until almost combined.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead a handful of times but do not overwork.
  4. Divide into 6 balls and flatten with your hands. Fry at medium heat in a frying pan generously oiled on the bottom of the pan until both sides of the bread are golden brown.
  5. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. Enjoy warm!

Given the simple ingredients and method, I’m thinking this could be a great bread to make the next time I go camping or for brunch. Although, it’s not camping I’ve got on the brain now, it’s escaping to Spain I’m dreaming of!

For more recipe ideas for olives from Spain, be sure to check out olivesfromspain.ca


1 Comment December 14, 2017

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