healthy eating

Frugal February -Week 4 Menu & Shopping List

Week 4 of my Frugal Challenge is finally here and I can’t wait to see February go!  It’s been a cruel, cold month up here in Ontario and I am longing for spring flowers and playing outside!

Last week I wasn’t as organized as I wanted to be so this week I made a menu, selected recipes, and made a shopping list.  This one is vegetarian and has simple meals that are easy, healthy, and delicious.  It does take some time to do this kind of planning but I find it leads to less food waste (and money waste) and saves time during the week because I’ve already decided what I’m eating which makes packing lunches easier.

Check out my menu for the week:  Emily’s Menu – Week 4

Stay warm! Spring is on its way!


Vegetarian Contest Prep

One of my fitness goals has been to be in a fitness show again – I hesitate to say the word “compete” because for me personally just getting on that stage is success.  So about 3 weeks ago I decided to sign up for a local show on June 21st.  I sat down and planned out a “show prep diet” using logic, math, and counting macronutrients in foods.   I created a rotating carb/calorie cycling diet and made sure to fuel my workouts.  Most of my friends who compete in fitness eat meat so I thought I was doing it right to include a lot of meat in my diet plan – even though I know it’s really bad for the environment.  The result?  I couldn’t eat all of the food, felt sick, and got constipated (despite a fibre supplement and lots of veggies).  I was seeing results from the diet in terms of my body composition but I felt terrible (morally and physically).

Thinking there must be a better way to do this I searched for vegan fitness competitors and found out that there are actually starting to be more and more of them.  Alas, hope!  The interesting thing I found was that most of them eat a pretty balanced diet that includes lots of legumes and starches, as well as high protein supplements like Vega protein powder which is much more nutritious than plain old whey protein and also provides lots of iron.  So anyway, on the weekend I decided to ditch my carefully planned carnivore diet for a vegetarian one (I still eat eggs and some dairy) and use the principles of Lean Eating (i.e. listening to my body instead of eating by the clock or based on a strict menu).  Only a few days later and I feel a million times better and I am leaning down as well.  While I am excited about the show and achieving my goal, it is also important to me that I feel good and have energy to play with my son and write papers, etc.  After all, fitness is part of my life, not my whole life!

Things I eat include: lentil stew with brown rice, squash, yams, tempeh/tofu stirfry, tofu pad thai, toasted chickpeas, oats, protein pancakes & shakes, fruit, almond and peanut butter, hemp, quinoa, and of course lots of veggies!   I also eat eggs and some Greek yogurt here and there.   I also don’t keep track of calories or count anything because it drives me insane (which is interesting considering that I am a quantitative researcher who loves stats).  For me, listening to my body has been much more successful and is a lot less stressful.

Here’s a few progress update pictures from this morning (1o weeks out from the show) – note the amazing tan…just kidding.   Not sure how I will look in 10 weeks but so far this has been really interesting and I’ve learned a lot about my body and myself.

Front pose - 10 weeks out

Front pose – 10 weeks out

Back pose - 10 weeks out

Back pose – 10 weeks out

My Sketetarian Ways

I have been an “on again, off again” vegetarian for at least the last 10 years.  Like so many things, I used to be pretty hard on myself about it but have come to accept that things aren’t black and white all the time (though even that is up for debate, depending on the way you see things/life).

At any rate, one of my friends (who happens to be a vegetarian) recently pointed out to me that there is a big difference between a “meatless” option and a vegetarian or vegan one.  This might seem obvious, but I started thinking about how this plays out in my life.  Unfortunately there tends not to be vegetarian protein options at many restaurants.  Not that I eat out very often but it is discouraging when your only option at Subway is a veggie sub that only has vegetables and sauce on it (or cheese if you are into that).  I guess if you eat eggs and don’t mind drowning in mayo, you can opt for the egg salad or one of the breakfast wraps (which are delicious BTW). Don’t get me wrong, I love Subway – it is actually one of the few fast food joints I will actually eat at but do I need to bust out a Tupperware container with my own tofu or tempeh to make it a complete meal?

On the flip side, I also don’t understand why people who eat meat need to eat it at every meal.  There are plenty of vegetarian meals that everyone enjoys regardless of their overall food choices.  Minestrone soup, bean salad, baked beans with rice, tabouli salad, curry with rice, oatmeal, toast and peanut butter….you get my point.  Unfortunately, this only adds to my frustration when I am on the road or out with friends and I am forced to choose between a processed vegetarian burger on a white bun, a garden salad, or something smothered in cheese.

My solution (for now)?  Order something healthy that has lean meat.  I would rather have something healthy and fresh than something processed or heart-attack worthy, regardless of the meat situation.  I realize this makes me a pretty sketchy vegetarian (aka sketchetarian) but I never said I was “perfect” at anything.  My main motivation behind eating a plant-based diet is lowering my carbon footprint and being healthier.

Living in a culture where eating meat is still the norm can sometimes make it challenging to be a vegetarian or a vegan.  I think it’s getting better with the recent gluten-free, raw food, cleansing, fasting, local food, organic, etc. trends because people are starting to think more about what they are eating and are trying to eat real food (which should not be a luxury or a challenge).  But for those of us who do not live in Toronto (or even a city at all) where options abound, it can be even more challenging to find suitable meals unless you make them yourself.  You may not agree with me but I would much rather eat a salad with chicken than without it and in all seriousness, I don’t run around with Tupperware containers in coolers anymore – instead I’ve got a diaper bag and a boatload of academic papers to read.  I don’t eat out that much anyway.

Anyway, I really hope that it does become easier to be a vegetarian and that people realize it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice all the time, especially if you are just beginning your adventure into plant-based nutrition.

~Live Inspired~!


Beef, Ricotta & Spinach Stuffed Peppers


Now that I’m entering the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I am again showing signs of slowing down and being extremely tired.  My blood work showed that I have low levels of B12 and iron so I started taking a few more supplements and trying to incorporate more spinach, clams, and red meat into my diet.  This stuffed pepper recipe is one of my new fave’s – it’s full of calcium, iron, and all kinds of goodies for your cells!  It’s also low carb and very delicious!

Serves 4


  • 4 green peppers (try to get ones that are flat on the bottom and will stand up on their own)
  • 4 white mushrooms
  • 500g extra lean ground beef or ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 250g of low fat ricotta cheese
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees C.
  2. Steam spinach. 
  3. Cook meat in a frying pan.
  4. Chop up onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  Place these in a medium-sized bowl.  Mix in ricotta cheese and spices.
  5. Cut the tops off the peppers and take out the seedy parts.
  6. Drain spinach and rinse with cool water.  Chop it up and add to mixture.
  7. Place paper towel in another bowl.  Place cooked beef on top.  Use more paper towel on top to sop up the extra grease.  Discard paper towel and add beef to filling.  Mix through.
  8. Now line a baking pan with tin foil.
  9. Fill your peppers with the mixture and replace the lid (top of the pepper).
  10. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until browned on top.

Let cool 10min and enjoy!

Optional: for cheese lovers, you can add a few tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese on top of the mixture before replacing the top and sticking it in the oven. YUM~!

~Live Inspired~!


Cherry Bomb Chicken Mole

Recently while shopping for produce, I happened to spot a new addition to the pepper section at my local grocery store.  Cherry bomb peppers are bright red medium-hot peppers, about 20% less hot than jalapeno peppers.  They are full of antioxidants and lots of pep!   Today’s recipe is brought to you by the color RED and Vitamin C. Enjoy!


  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cherry bomb peppers, roughly chopped
  • 10-ounces of chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 ounces cacao powder
  • 4-6 chicken breasts


  1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat
  2. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes
  3. Add garlic and spices, continuing to stir
  4. Next add diced tomatoes, peppers, broth, almond butter, and cocao
  5. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, transfer to a bowl and let cool 10 minutes before placing in a food processor (NOT a blender – it will just get stuck down in there!)  Puree mixture until smooth.
  6. Sear the chicken in a frying pan over medium-high heat until browned on both sides – use more coconut oil if needed.
  7. Place chicken in crock-pot, pour pureed sauce over it and set on low for 6 hours
  8. About 5 hours in shred the chicken by pulling it apart with giant forks (careful, it’s hot!)

Note: If there is too muchliquid you can drain some of it (though some of us like it extra saucy). Serve with a side of veggies or on a whole grain bun like a pulled chicken sandwich.  Yum!

~Live Inspired~!