We are two individuals, sister-in-laws, and friends who are striving to thrive and be our personal best as well as making our surroundings a better place to live! Connected by faith, family, friendship, photos, and writing, we just want to share our journey with you!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pre-Wedding Choco-Filled Cookies?

Sounds delish!

No... not my wedding. I had a fabulous weekend travelling to Thunder Bay, Ontario to see my good friend Shay get married! She's been such a close friend from when we were LITs (Leaders In Training) together at Camp Cedarwood at the ripe age of 17 and last year she moved to Thunder Bay to be closer to her boyfriend (and now hubby! Yay!). So I was so excited to get to be a part of her special day. We had a little informal gathering of all her out-of-town friends the night before her wedding... and why not contribute some cookies?

Honestly, I love baking. Ha ha, I think I should be constantly invited to parties just so I have the excuse to bake and try new recipes. I was feeling a little chocolate craving come on, so I thought this was the perfect recipe to try.

Chocolate Agave Trailmixers

(Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero)

Makes: 2 dozen (mine made 21, but mine were large)

-1/2 cup nondairy milk (I used Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze)
-1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
-2/3 cup canola oil
-3/4 cup agave nectar
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
-1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
-1/2 cup cocoa powder
-3/4 teaspoon baking soda
-a generous ¼ teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup whole roasted peanuts, toasted walnut, or roasted cashews (I used toasted walnuts… toasted on baking pan at 350 for 10 minutes)
-1/2 cup dried cherries or raisins (I used dried cranberries!)

-Preheat oven to 325F and line baking sheets with parchment paper
-In a large bowl, whisk together nondairy milk, flax seeds, oil, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract until combined (about 2 minutes)
-Sift in all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and mix to form a soft dough
-Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit
-For each cookie drop about a tablespoon of dough, 2 inches apart from each other
-Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until firm (mine took 14-16 minutes) and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks for the remaining cooling time
-Store in a tightly covered container
Variation: stir in 1 tablespoon of instant espresso powder to the liquid ingredients before adding the dry stuff (enhances and deepens cocoa flavour)

Honestly... they are amazing. I've never baked with nuts before (I tend to stay away from them because of my brother, he's allergic to all nuts, but because I was already using Almond Breeze... why not try to bake with some walnuts?) and I've never even liked nuts in cookies myself... but wow... what a great combination!

My mom says they are her favourite vegan cookie that I've baked so far! Although I really do think these are the best fresh from the oven, I was told they still tasted delicious the next day (and a plane ride later) at the get together!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Who doesn't love summer?

I'm not sure where everyone else is from... but here in Winnipeg... well we treasure our summers. We're often known as "Winterpeg" and spend our winters under the covers, next to a space heater, drinking tea and with a heating pad on our lap (oh wait, I think that's just me, but it's pretty cold!). I hope to learn to be more active outside in the winter (it really is hard though... I'll often get out for the sporadic walk or tobogganing session, but nothing that is a regular activity outside), but oh how much I love summer. It is just so easy to get outside for a walk or bike ride.

My summer has ranged from going surfing (or attempting surfing) in Tofino, BC....

... to striving to be hard-core 7 am surfers....

... and failing (no surf plus creepy empty parking = no 7 am surfing)

I spent countless hours on the beach (from The Oasis in Winnipeg to Victoria Beach to West Hawk Lake to about every beach in Victoria to Tofino)...

...and spent every minute that I could with my impossibly cute nephew (who phoned me the other day to ask "Where's heaven aunty Ally?" because we always tell him that that's where Danny the goat, Noah's favourite goat, from Dan's Farm in Victoria went after he passed away.... impossibly cute? yes)

A workout at the playground? Don't mind if I do...

I ate some AMAZING food (this was the delicious Miso soup from Sobo's in Tofino)...

... and drank some delicious chai's (the infamous Tofitian chai I enjoyed while searching for a coat hanger to break into our van so we could try our first surfing adventure!)...

Back in Manitoba, I had some amazing bike rides to hidden beach in Victoria Beach, around our neighbourhood in Winnipeg.... and on the trans-Canada trail at West Hawk Lake with my family...

And one of my favourite annual events (since I was born and since my mom was a child)... adventuring on the Beauty Walk at West Hawk Lake! (an amazing scenic walk/hike)

Oh summer... why do you have to end? What do you love about summer?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Grouse Grind! Do it for the kids!

Hello! I know it's been way too long but I have been taking some time off to explore Vancouver and enjoy some quality time with my beautiful family before Dan's first year of med-school starts! EEK! We have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to spend this summer not working and have had an amazing time! I am sure that the summers to follow will be filled with reality (working), so we have really just cherished every moment spent together as a family!

Now that we are all settled into our Vancouver life, I have been running lots (a great way to explore a new city), and have even ventured into hiking! I haven't just done a leisure hike either! I had heard about Grouse Mountain (located in North Vancouver), from friends before and I had heard a lot of hype about the Grouse Grind which is a trail that takes you through a steep terrain up to the Grouse Mountain peak! I am used to running longer distances so when I read that the trail was only 2.9km long I thought "Piece of cake"...just to let you know: it's NOT! In fact, hiking the Grouse Grind is the opposite of a walk in the park! I loved every sweaty minute of it of course! There are 2,830 stairs along the way and an elevation gain of 2,800 ft!!!! I was told that the hike takes on average an hour and a half to complete but of course the crazy competitive nature in me kicked in and I was determined to hike at a continual, brisk pace.

While Noah was napping one afternoon, I drove to the base and began my hike! I started faster thinking that it was only 2.9km and I think that the runner in me was thinking that I should sprint!!! HahaHA! I quickly realized that I was no pro-hiker (I run and walk a lot carrying a 32lb toddler but I don't hike), so I slowed to a power-hike! I passed this older man who was in wicked shape and learned at the end that he is an avid hiker from Seattle who comes here every year just to hike the Grouse Grind! With the crazy terrain, I spent the entire hike looking down to make sure that I didn't fall (especially after seeing paramedics and firefighters, carrying down a woman who had injured herself, and then I saw a memorial set-up)...this was serious! I didn't stop once, although there were many people (much saner than I clearly am), who were enjoying their hike much more and basking in the mountains' beauty). My reasoning for not stopping was more fear that if I did, I might not start again!

I finished the hike in 48 minutes and instantly felt this feeling of pure happiness and fulfillment! I had wanted to hike the Grouse Grind since I learned about it and felt really proud of the time that I did it in! Of course there were expert hiker/runners who completed it in 28 minutes (male best time for that day), and 33 minutes (female best time for that day), but I was so proud of myself for my time and don't think that I could have possibly gone any faster!!!

It was recommended that you take the SkyRide back down the mountain which is their gondola ride (for a cost of $10 down), because during the summer, the Grind is so busy with hikers and it's so steep that it would wreck havoc on your knees! I was so happy to just relax and take the SkyRide down! The view from the top of the mountain is truly breathtaking and I just felt so thankful to have had that opportunity! I instantly fell in love with Grouse Mountain and the Grouse Grind so I chose to pay for an annual pass which allows me to ride the SkyRide and take Noah to see the two orphaned Grizzly Bears and wolves in the Nature Sanctuaries they have! There are also shows that you can watch (such as a sweet Lumberjack show and Birds of Prey show), and in the winter they have reindeer sleigh rides (Noah will LOVE that)!!!! So I bought my annual pass and now have fallen in love with a new sport that challenges me physically and mentally: hiking!

A few days ago, Dan and I took Noah up to Grouse Mountain so that Dan and I could take turns hiking the Grouse Grind! We could have put up road-blocks and said that it was too hard and complicated for us both to take turns hiking but instead we looked at the day as an adventure! Sure Noah missed his afternoon nap, and Dan and I didn't get to hike the Grind together which would have been amazing, but we both hiked it and completed it and we both felt that endorphin rush that you get upon completing something so crazy-cool! The feeling was exemplified for me the second time around because I knew that my husband was sharing the same experience that I had too! Since I am the annual pass-holder, I took Noah up to the top of the mountain in the SkyRide while Dan hiked first (that way we only had to pay $10 for Dan to ride down the mountain compared to $20)...so while Dan hiked, Noah and I rode the gondola (which he LOVED), and then walked over to see the Grizzly Bear sanctuary. It was the most incredible experience to see these amazing animals (although I wish so much that these two males were free to roam), especially because Noah's nickname is 'bear' and I have so much respect for these creatures! I wrote a previous blog about the Grizzly Bear trophy hunt that happens ironically in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and I just hope that by seeing these magnificent animals up close (these two bears were orphaned and deemed unable to live in the wild), people will become more involved with their well-being and be their voice in protecting these animals from inhumane treatment!
While we were there, Noah and I watched as one of the grizzly bears came to the river and submerged himself in the water to cool his 900lb-self from the 30 degree day! He was completely underwater with the exception of his head and one front paw which he often rested his head upon! His nose twitched as an annoying fly pestered him. Finally, he opened his massive mouth and tried to bite at the fly! It was incredible!

Dan and I forgot our camera charger in Victoria so our camera is currently dead and unable to take glorious pictures for posting!!! That being said, I captured a few pictures of the bear and Noah of course (our 'bear'), with my new phone! keep in mind, I don't think that I have 'zoom' and so you might have to play 'where's bear' (like Where's Waldo)!!!! We were really close and obviously these following pictures do no justice to the real thing!

By the time Noah and I finished admiring the Grizzly and walked through a few sprinklers, Dan was finished the Grind (he completed it in 55 minutes), and it was my turn! Dan and Noah settled at the top for some lunch while I rode the SkyRide back to the base to start my hike. It was too hot for a vigorous hike and I was feeling dehydrated from carrying Noah in the heat. I should have consumed more water before starting my hike and hiked at a more leisure pace (preferably later when the temperatures cooled), but it was a now-or-never decision, as Noah wouldn't have lasted too much longer. So I hiked (in 48 minutes again), and was EXHAUSTED and HOTTT by the time I finished!!! Luckily they have a cool mist-tent at the top so I hung out in there and quickly cooled off! My energy soon returned ten-fold and I was so happy for Dan and my accomplishments!

We all rode the gondola to the base and Noah did a mini-hike up this hill to the wolf sanctuary where we all saw our first glimpses of wolves! They were beautiful and it was a neat experience!

My goal is to continue to hike the Grouse Grind at least once/week while the weather is dry (once the rain starts it will become too slippery).

One thing that is really great if you're a local and wanting to hike the Grind a few times, is to consider signing up for the Grind for Kids. You can check-out their website at http://grindforkids.com/
Basically what you can do is get everyone you know to pledge $1 or more for every time you hike the Grouse Grind between June and October and the money raised goes to B.C.'s Children's Hospital! I think this is such a fabulous idea and I only wish that we lived here sooner so that I could have taken part in hiking the Grouse from the beginning of June!

But I am inspired and have decided that it's better late than never so I have signed up for the Grind for Kids!

My goal is to raise $250 for the B.C. Children's Hospital and I am making it my personal goal to hike the Grouse Grind a minimum of 10 times before October! I have hiked it twice so far! If you are interested in pledging $1 or more for each time that I hike the grind, then you can contact me or go to my grouse for kids web-page where you can make a donation and it will show my progress! The website is here: https://secure.bcchf.ca/GrindForKids/main.cfm?GrindForKids=4543

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So it's been a while... but who wants some peanut-butter and jam cookies?

I do!

I was in a little bit of a craze today... and what fixes a craze the most? How about some baking! I promise you blog readers (those of you who haven't given up on us already) that I am not gone for good. I do have something keeping me busy until the middle of September, and I've pretty much been awol (out of the city) most of the summer (or had some awesome out-of-town guest! Yes... you Jayanna... and I guess your husband, my lovely brother, and my sweet-sweet nephew). I will be back though! I have SO SO many recipes (baking and cooking) that I'm excited to try, but it'll mostly have to wait until the middle of September (unless another craze hits ha ha). Anyways, I bookmarked many cookie recipes and let my mom decide which one I should make... she chose the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies from my cookbook The Vegan Table (by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau). This is a great cookbook, but this is my first time trying one of the recipes! It's based on the idea of cooking meals for others. They have seasonal menus, menus just for two and even holiday menus.

So, as I don't have a lot of time... let's get down to business...

The dough gets kind of flaky, but as long as you're able to roll them into a ball then it should be good (if not add a little more dairy-free milk)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Makes: 2-2 1/2 dozen cookies (mine made 2 1/2 dozen)

-1/3 cup non-dairy, non0hydrogenated butter (I used Earth Balance)
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
-2 tablespoons non-dairt milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-2 to 3 tablespoons strawberry (or any) jam (I used saskatoon berry jam)

-Preheat oven to 375 F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper
-Beat butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, milk and vanilla in a large bowl
-Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and add/mix into wet ingredients
-Add extra moisture/non-dairy milk if needed (if you can't roll into balls)
-Roll batter into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet
-Use your thumb to make a well in the cookie (the edges will crack a little, so try to put them together as best as you can and patch as you go)
-Fill each well with 1/4 teaspoon of the chosen jam
-Bake for 10-11 minutes (be careful. I'm used to baking with bigger cookies and the bottoms of these cookies burn very quickly, I would say they took 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 minutes, but just watch them closely)
-Remove from oven, let cook on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer them to cooling racks

And delicious! Seriously, these are AMAZING... go make some...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Hey everyone!

So for the next five months I will be posting from Vancouver, B.C...we moved into this cute lil' character house on Sunday and it's been wonderful so far! Dan and I don't really know Vancouver so it's been an adventure to wander the streets and stumble upon new discoveries! We brought our dog Maggie with us and she has enjoyed exploring too!

The first day we spent getting settled and walking to a local park. I also took Maggie for an hour and a half walk in search of food!!! We didn't bring very many groceries and when Noah was napping I thought that I would sneak out for a mini exploration and try and find a good vegan restaurant for some take-out! Well because it was the Sunday of a long-weekend a lot of cafe/restaurants were closed early but I really had fun walking down the city streets which was such a different feel from our Victoria neighbourhood! I did find a Whole Foods which we don't have in Victoria..it's only a 5 minute drive from our house or a 30 minute walk! It is so cool! We went back and bought groceries later that night and Dan and I were so giddy and excited by how vegan-organic-friendly they were! Not only were we able to buy lots of organic produce, but they also support local growers too so we were able to buy some local produce! YAY! We also bought our favorite tofu which is made on SaltSpring Island along with Ezekiel wraps and much, much more! The guacamole that I bought was amazingly delicious with a bit of spice!!!

When I got home I checked out their website and found that not only does Whole Foods have a lot to offer when you are looking for healthy food choices, but they also have a lot of FREE courses/classes!!!! Dan and I were STOKED to find that every Thursday evening, starting at 6:30pm (Whole Foods at Cambie Street), leaving from Whole Foods is a free run clinic. The clinic is put on by Endorphin Junkies which consists of local fitness trainers! You can learn more about Endorphin Junkies if you're living in Vancouver and/or interested by visiting their website: http://www.endorphinjunkies.com/ . Dan and I are going to take turns running on Thursday nights because it will be a great way to meet people, and explore the city!

While visiting the Whole Foods website and searching under Calendar I also discovered that they offer many free cooking/health seminars and they also have stuff for kids!!! Noah was so excited to find out that he can go and plant a sunflower seed there and take it home to help it grow!!! So cool! If you want to visit the Whole Foods on Cambie Street's website then you can by clicking here: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/storesbeta/cambie/

I found that some prices were more expensive than Victoria stores while others were cheaper. I like how they have special sales and how if you're needing a quick meal, they have a beautiful salad bar as well as ready-to-eat food (raw options too), which can all be bought by paying/weight! Although it's much cheaper to make your own salad and meals at home, let's face it: sometimes it's just lovely to go out and have something made for you that tastes delicious and won't compromise your healthy way of being either!!!!

After reading about the running clinic, I was inspired to venture out on my first Vancouver-run (since moving here)...so yesterday I embarked on an adventurous run! I ran from my house to the seawall which takes you on a beautiful run (as long or as short as you'd like), along the water! I ran about 15km which was longer than I usually run but I felt free and adventurous and wanted to explore while Noah and Maggie were with papa! The weather was hot and I couldn't believe how many fit and active people there were! Victoria has a very health-conscious community don't get me wrong...but I guess because we're now living in the heart of the city which is so much bigger than 'home', I was surprised to see so many people active among the big buildings! I also found that Vancouver has a huge artsy vibe! There are so many pieces of artwork placed here and there! It was fun to run through the different parts of Vancouver and feel different cultures and vibes!

So there you have it! My first post of our life while living in Van! More to come! xox