Happy #Canada150! For those of you not in the know, today is widely celebrated as Canada’s 150th anniversary. Today we celebrate all things Canadian: hockey, poutine, apologizing, and, of course, Tim Hortons. This coffee and donut chain is basically the hallmark of our Canadian identity. You might already know that I work at Tim Hortons Corporate, so it’s no surprise that I’m a Tims superfan. But even before I started at the company two years ago, I was already living that Timmies life. So today, in honour of Canada, I want to share with you some Tim Hortons tips to help you have the best experience next time you pick up your double double. Continue reading
This is it: the last day of the Tone It Up Bikini Series!
For those of you who haven’t been following my TIU journey, the Bikini Series is an 8-week nutrition and fitness challenge leading up to summer. Daily workouts are a combination of cardio and light strength training. There are free and paid exercise videos, plus self-led session suggestions. Nutrition is guided by the mantra, “Lean, Clean ‘n Green”. Following the final week, there’s a more intense challenge called the 7 Day Slim Down. And you share the whole thing on Instagram to join in on the beachy fun with thousands of other #TIUgirls. Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous. But with all of the hardcore alternatives out there for women looking to get in shape, this is my favourite option. Continue reading
Hello, dear readers! I’ve been AWOL again for a while, but between work and the Tone It Up Bikini Series beginning last week, I simply haven’t had the energy for my poor little blog. I have mentioned Tone It Up on this page before (check that out here). But you might be wondering, “What the heck is the Bikini Series?” Friends, six months ago, I would have been asking the exact same question.
Here it is in a nutshell. The Tone It Up Bikini Series is an eight week fitness challenge with an optional nutrition component, leading up to the first day of summer. Every day you have an assigned daily workout, some or all of which you complete first thing in the morning for your “Bootycall”. (Cheesy, I know — but hey, I didn’t come up with the lingo.) Then, if you’re a nutrition plan member, you also follow along with the meal plan. That means planning out and prepping “Lean Clean’N Green” meals every Sunday for eight weeks straight. And also trying not to eat Timbits. Which is basically impossible. Continue reading
Imagine this: you’re at one of your go-to restaurants. You take a look at the menu and skim past your usual favourites because tonight, you want to try something new. You order something you’ve never tried before. And as you’re waiting for your food to arrive, someone at the table next to you receives something that looks (and smells) fantastic. Immediately, you’re thinking that you wish you’d ordered what they did. Finally, when your meal arrives, you take a bite – and it’s simply not as delicious as what you imagine your neighbour’s meal tastes like. Now you’re regretting your dining decision entirely. This phenomenon is what I like to call Eating Out FOMO. Continue reading
Hey friends! If you’ve been following along on Flinntrospection recently, you’ll know that I joined the Tone It Up 2017 Challenge two weeks ago. It’s a six week healthy living challenge with both a fitness and a nutrition component. (Oops, I joined two weeks late!) I’d been following along with the Tone It Up workouts for a few weeks beforehand. So in spite of a crazy work schedule, I’ve been keeping up with the fitness portion. The nutrition, on the other hand, has been a struggle. There is a ton of planning, effort, and time that has to go into preparing healthy meals for the week. But this week, for my third round of Sunday Tone It Up Meal Prep, I’ve settled into a routine. If you’re on the TIU Nutrition Plan — or even if you’re not — this method might work for you!
Note: I do Steps 1-4 on Saturdays, and 5-6 on Sundays!
Step 1: Choose Your Meals
The 2017 Challenge edition of the Nutrition Plan includes a full six-week meal plan breakdown. But you’re fully welcome, and often encouraged, to choose your own meals. Plus, once the challenge is over, you’re on your own with choosing meals for the week. For Week Five of the challenge, I’m loosely following the schedule, but making lots of substitutions.
The TIU Nutrition Plan has some helpful printables for filling out your weekly meal schedule:
Obviously, you can make this for yourself too. Just type one up in Word, or literally draw it on a blank sheet of paper. (Or you can grab one of these — not an affiliate link, just a cool find.)
Once you have your template, write in all the meals and snacks you’re planning to eat for the week. I’m following the Nutrition Plan’s lead in making each weekday M3 (lunch) the leftovers from the previous night’s M5 (dinner). More complex recipes will show up on weekends, when I have time for them. I’m also loving make-ahead meals for weekday breakfasts, like Overnight Oats.
Step 2: Make Your Ingredient List
This step takes a bit of cross-referencing with your fridge or pantry. I pick a meal, look at the list of ingredients in the Nutrition Plan (if necessary), and write down whatever I don’t have in my kitchen. It’s also important to include quantities for the week, so you can aggregate them later on in the process. If you’re making enough for leftovers, make sure you’re duplicating quantities in single-serving recipes! After each meal’s ingredients have been accounted for, check it off everywhere it appears on your meal plan template. Keep going until you’ve listed ingredients for all of your meals, even if the ingredients overlap. It will look something like this:
Step 3: Make Your Grocery List
Now you walk through your Ingredient List and consolidate it into a grocery list, sorted by product category. Cross them off on the ingredients list as you go, and don’t forget to add your quantities. I have one of those “All Out Of” grocery checklists, so that helps the process!
Why did I separate these two steps? Because it’s hard to look at a huge list of meals and flip back and forth between recipes to put together a list of, say, all the veggies you need for the week. I find it much easier to work by recipe. And once the ingredients are all on one page, consolidation is a breeze.
If you’re thinking of using the pre-made Challenge grocery list, a word of warning: it lies. (Okay, maybe not on purpose.) I followed it to the letter in my first week on the Nutrition Plan. I ended up missing some ingredients I needed, and having lots of things that weren’t even on the meal plan docket. For the sake of the environment and your wallet, I’d recommend making your own list!
Step 4: Write Your Meal Prep Checklist
The 2017 Challenge booklet also comes with a simple checklist for your meal prep adventures. It’s pretty reliable, but because of my volatile work schedule, I have to prep beyond the suggested list. Feel free to prepare whatever works for you. Pre-chop your veggies, make your frozen smoothie packs, cook your Monday night dinner, prepare your proteins, whatever! Make a list of all the tasks you’re going to tackle on Sunday.
Step 5: Grocery Shop
In the TIU world, Sunday has two purposes: Sunday Runday, and Tone It Up Meal Prep.
With your list in hand, head out to the grocery store and shop till you drop! But don’t drop. You have work to do.
Step 6: The Real Deal — Tone It Up Meal Prep
Organize your groceries, pull out your checklist, and start knocking those things off one by one. Try to prioritize oven tasks, especially with long cook times, so you can maximize your efficiency. This is where I find it was the most helpful to have my Nutrition Plan printed out for easy reference, especially for new dishes. I have tried fifteen new recipes in the past two weeks, which is absolutely insane for me! It also helps to clean up as you go. Prepare for high volumes of dishes, food waste/compost, and Tupperware filling up your entire fridge! (And don’t forget to share #tiuteam photos of the process and the delish food on Instagram!)
That’s how I do my Tone It Up Meal Prep! How do you prepare your meals for the week ahead?
The weather has been sunny and sweltering for weeks now in Southern Ontario, but thanks to our (ahem, Joe’s…) diligent gardening, the zucchini plant in the backyard has been going crazy! Just like last year, we’re starting to get a little creative with how we use up our zucchinis while they’re ripe.
And what better place to seek out culinary inspiration than the blogosphere?
Today I’m sharing some of my favourite zucchini recipes from fellow bloggers that are going to help us make the most of our home garden harvest. Hope you enjoy some of these recipes as well — click the images to find them!
Lasagna Zucchini Boats
This past Friday night, our fridge contained some leftover ravioli and an abundance of zucchini. Rather than cook everything separately, Joe put his thinking cap on and created this masterpiece:
I’ll let Joe elaborate a bit here:
Hello, this is Joe and I’ll try to explain what I did.
You’ll need leftover pasta, zucchinis, cheese, oil (I used olive) and seasoning (garlic salt for me).
- Preheat your oven to 350 F
- Hollow out your zucchinis with a spoon or knife. You don’t want to hollow them too much or else they won’t support the filling. Save the zucchini you carve out if it isn’t too seedy.
- In a saucepan set to medium heat, put your pasta, the excavated zucchini, and enough oil to coat it lightly. In my case it was about a tablespoon. You may want to add a splash of water as well if your pasta wasn’t very wet. In my case our ravioli had plenty of watery sauce so it was fine.
- As the pasta cooks, season it with whatever you have lying about. I recommend including a bit of salt here. Break up the pasta with your mixing implement — it’s not super important, but try to get it to a consistency you like. It may end up looking like mush, but don’t worry! It’ll dry out when we bake it.
- Load the hollow zucchinis with your pasta mix. Cover them with as much cheese as you can justify.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove when cheese and pasta are turning a nice golden brown.
- Let cool and serve to your girlfriend.
For a different take on this concept, check out this one from Jaclyn at Cooking Classy:
I love making these both as a meal and as a snack. They’re cheesy and delicious! I definitely recommend serving with light sour cream. Here’s the recipe from Chungah at Damn Delicious:
My love for pasta is legendary, but it’s not always the healthiest obsession. Plus, I’ve always got ripe zucchinis lying around. Why not combine the two? Here’s how to turn zucchini into zoodles, courtesy of Scott at I’d Rather Be a Chef:
Note: I use a julienne slicer instead of a spiralizer to make my zoodles, like Elana over at Elana’s Pantry. Either way works, so use what you have!
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
So basically, if you combine something healthy, like a certain summer squash, and something unhealthy, like tons of chocolate, it all evens out, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks to Jamie at My Baking Addiction for the scrumptious recipe!
I’m all about kale chips, but unfortunately, my kale isn’t growing as well as my zukes this year. Instead, I found a recipe that essentially swaps out one for the other to create a similar snacking experience. Please note that I haven’t actually made this one yet, but it looks good and I’m excited to try it! Here’s Julie’s recipe on Table for Two:
Whether you’re growing your own or picking them up at the grocery store, it’s time to break out the zucchini and start cooking!
What are your favourite zucchini recipes?
Pinterest is a fantastic tool for finding inspiration, ideas, and information about pretty much anything. Over the past couple of years, I’ve shifted my pinning focus from style and weddings to home and garden to blogging and career. (And yes, I still call it pinning. Apparently they recently made the switch to calling the function “save” because of translation issues, but in my mind, Pinterest is for pinning.)
While it’s fun to browse around for images and find links to articles, it can get a bit tedious to sift through the many tabs I open by opening up every single pin. That’s where super-helpful infographics come in. The beauty of infographics is never having to leave the page to get all the information you need. Plus, they’re usually nicely laid out. Here are some of the ones I’ve found most helpful recently.
Nutrition: Green Smoothies!
There are lots of smoothie infographics out there. This one is my favourite right now because it provides portion sizes, to ensure your green smoothie doesn’t end up tasting too much like straight liquid spinach.
Career: Excel Tips
My Excel experience in school was very minimal, mostly because we used more science-focused programs instead. Now that I’m in a corporate setting, Excel is everywhere — so these advanced tips come in handy! (For an infographic containing more basic Excel tips, click here.)
Nutrition: Snacking in Moderation
I’m not a big snacker in general, but when I do take a snack break, I have trouble with portioning! This infographic makes things plain and simple.
Garden: All About Herbs
So helpful for home gardeners, and for home chefs!
Beverages/Lifestyle: Coffee and its Effects on your Body
This one is more of an FYI, and a way of making myself feel better about my 2 (or more) cups of Tim Hortons coffee a day…
Getting Crafty: Knitting Stitches
In my opinion, the best way to learn knitting online is via Youtube. However, when you’re looking for a quick reference for a particular, one-step stitch, infographics like this one will do the trick.
Lifestyle: Beating Stress and Boosting Happiness
These infographics are often half research findings and half advice. Either way, they can be a fun and light read.
What are your favourite infographics on Pinterest?
P.S. If you enjoyed these infographics, feel free to follow me on Pinterest! 🙂
Happy Easter Monday to all! I hope you had a fabulous long weekend and were able to spend time with friends and family. Joe and I made the rounds yesterday, visiting all sides of our families. And the food… Don’t get me started on all of the food. Actually, do get me started on the food.
Brunch (11 am — 1:30 pm)
Easter Brunch was our first meal of the day. Joe’s grandparents hosted, with an attendance of around 25 people. The potluck included:
- Breakfast Sausages
- Marmalade and jams
- Chocolate (obviously)
While the food was excellent, the highlight of this get-together was seeing and playing with Joe’s cousin’s kids (a toddler and a newborn). So sweet.
Lunch (1:30 pm – 3:30 pm)
Moving on to Joe’s dad’s side of the family. Coincidentally, this meal was held just a mile from the first! The problem with the short travel time, though, was that there was more food to be had right away! Such as:
- Cheese platter
- Meat platter
- Beef bourguignon with noodles
- The best Caesar salad ever
- Chocolate cake (for a birthday celebration)
Okay, so at this point, Joe and I were stuffed. But there was no time for a food coma! On to the next one!
Dinner (3:30 pm – 7 pm)
This was my side of the family. And this was a turkey dinner. For some reason, my family seems to think that turkey is a standard choice for Easter. Do you agree with that? Because I just looked through twenty of Martha Stewart’s suggested Easter dinner recipes, and none of them were turkey. Alas, the following was served:
- Green grapes and salted potato chips (this is our standard family holiday dinner appetizer — it’s kind of a running joke at this point)
- Turkey (as I mentioned)
- Cranberry sauce
- Stuffing (i.e. my favourite thing about the holidays)
- Assorted vegetables
- Mashed potatoes
- Butterscotch layered dessert
- Lemon meringue pie
I was not in the mood for a dose of tryptophan at this point (not to mention the extra calories), so I skipped over a lot of the offerings at this one. Joe actually didn’t eat anything. (Oh wait, he did eat half of my dessert. I guess he got hungry after all.)
Regardless of the quality and quantity of the food, of course, we were very happy to celebrate and spend time with family.
How did you spend your Easter weekend?
Tim Hortons may be my one true love for coffee and donuts, but when it comes to tea, my go-to is David’s Tea. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, my infatuation with the store only began about two years ago, when I finally realized that there’s more to tea than Tetley Orange Pekoe with milk and sugar. It’s taken some experimentation, but I’m pretty happy with my current, albeit rather small, tea collection.
Traditional with a twist: Cream of Earl Grey
A friend introduced me to this tea, and it was one of my first forays into the world of not-Orange-Pekoe-but-I-actually-like-it. It’s essentially Earl Grey, but with vanilla. I’ll drink this either with milk and sugar, as is my standard at home, or black, as was my standard at school. If you’re looking to tiptoe out of your comfort zone, this is a good starter blend.
Unique flavour (and caffeine): Chocolate Chili Chai
Chocolate Chili Chai is slightly spicy, but it’s one of the first I will recommend to friends and family, especially those that aren’t crazy about herbal teas but want to try something new. I remember getting really excited when I first saw that the blend actually contained mini chocolate chips. This is what I’ll make for myself in place of coffee if I’m working on something and need to stay awake. (Or when I’m binge-watching something on Netflix and need to stay awake.)
I’ll also mention here that a similarly-named tea is the Coco Chai Rooibos, which I don’t like very much. It’s a lot spicier and the spice is the focus of the flavour, from what I can tell. To each their own!
Pre-bedtime relaxation: Mother’s Little Helper
So far, this is the only herbal tea I actually like. It’s slightly lemony and slightly minty, but neither flavour is overpowering. Also, it contains Valerian root, which is supposed to put you to sleep. This tea does make me sleepy, but I’m guessing it’s the placebo effect from drinking a hot, relaxing beverage that’s supposed to put you to sleep. So there you go. Come to think of it, I actually haven’t been ill in the 8 months since I purchased this tea, but I imagine it would probably be great to have around for when you do get sick and need to rest.
Calm productivity: Moment of Zen
I’ve just started experimenting with green tea, and I’m pretty happy with this one so far. I like that it’s fairly basic. It also has blackberries, which is nice since I’m not sure I would be as excited about a straight-up green tea quite yet. I’m drinking it right now!
Unfortunately, Moment of Zen was discontinued! (That’s why I got it at 50% off, haha.) So unfortunately I can’t recommend it to you. I’ll let you know when I find a suitable replacement!
I’ll keep collecting tasty-looking teas as I see them, but these selections will probably be my staples for a long while! Or at least until I run out. We’ll see. 😉
What are your favourite teas?
My family’s a little weird. I know pretty much every family can claim that in one way or another, but I’ve also noticed that my family’s particular brand of weirdness has permeated into other parts of my life. It’s resulted in a number of quirky habits that I can only explain by saying, “My family’s a little weird.” For example…
Breakfast foods are only for breakfast
At first I thought that this habit of mine was just a preference. Breakfast foods like pancakes, eggs, and bacon just taste better in the morning! (The exception to this, of course, is Pancake Tuesday.) But when Joe and I started eating meals together (or even in the same vicinity), I noticed that I was judging his meal choices. Cereal for dinner? Leftover pizza for breakfast?! Preposterous!
I’ve since realized that Joe isn’t the weird one. Apparently, other families break my family’s implied “rule” all the time. But I still feel funny eating leftovers before noon. Unless, of course, they’re breakfast leftovers. Then it’s okay.
Putting the toilet lid down
I understand wanting people to put the seat down. But we also put the lid down every time, no matter where we are. And we correct people who don’t. That’s weird, right?
Dreading family events
From what I can tell, everyone has some good family events and some not-so-good ones. There are the ones you look forward to and the ones where you’re just like, “Meh.” I’ve now found that my family is generally inclined to dread these events, either for the effort involved, potential awkwardness, time spent…even if the event itself is something about which we would normally be excited. This is one habit I’m actually trying to break, since I’ve noticed it bleeding over into pessimism about events with Joe’s relatives, which is unfortunate because they end up being a lot of fun!
Expecting everyone to have a basic knowledge of astronomy
I’ve mentioned before that astronomy is one of my dad’s hobbies, and that led me to an introduction to the fundamentals at a young age. That exposure led me to studies in physics for my undergraduate degree, and also a general interest in physics news (Higgs Boson, Planet 9, pop culture stuff like that). So I always find it a little strange when I start talking about exoplanets and am met with a look of utter confusion. Doesn’t everyone know what an exoplanet is? In fact, my desktop wallpaper at work right now is the Horsehead Nebula, just to have something pretty on my second screen, and I’ve had a number of people ask me if it’s real. I’m so used to seeing astrophotos like this, that it’s a no-brainer for me. Not to mention hearing a first year astronomy class being told that the universe is almost 14 billion years old and is expanding. It blew me away that people could get to first year university without knowing that sort of thing. But I guess that makes me (and my family) a little weird.
This is but a smattering of the many quirks of the Flinns. What weird habits and qualities make your family stand out?