How to Survive Wedding Gluttony!

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With the weather in Toronto getting warmer and with summer right around the corner, more and more weddings are taking place. My family receives about one wedding invite per year. Raj’s family, on the other hand, receives numerous wedding invites every year, especially during the spring and summer. Although all these wedding reception parties will differ in number of guests, catering, decor, time schedule and/or venue, one thing remains constant… There is always an excessive amount of indulgent foods! The first wedding of the year that Raj and I attended this past Saturday at Whistle Bear Golf Club was certainly no exception! Here are some tips I used to keep the eating at a wedding party clean and lean:

1. Have a healthy breakfast and a light lunch beforehand in order to not fill up on hors d’oeuvres and to avoid the fried and unhealthy ones.

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Greasy hors d’oeuvres I avoided (from top left, clockwise): samosas, breaded and deep fried calamari, deep fried risotto balls, beef satay.

 

2. Inform your server well beforehand of any food allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, and/or avoidances you may have. Bring digestive enzymes if you are concerned about cross-contamination. I informed my server that I was lactose intolerant, so all of my courses and beverages were dairy-free. For instance, my salad came without any cheese, my soup was dairy-free, and my coffee was served with almond milk. I also got a healthier fruit sorbet for dessert instead of the cheesecake. Just in case though, I brought and took some digestive enzymes containing lactase before dinner commenced.

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Dairy-free menu options that were offered due to my lactose intolerance (from top left, clockwise): potato and leek soup with crispy potatoes and truffle oil, fruit sorbet with fresh berries, coffee with almond milk, young kale and arugula salad with currants, roasted almonds, and lemon vinaigrette (no parmesan).

 

3. Four your main course, opt for a lean protein with complex carbohydrates and lightly prepared vegetables. I chose the baked chicken breast instead of the prime rib, the roasted potatoes (with the skin on) instead of the potato gratin, and lightly sautéed seasonal vegetables.

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Instead of the roast prime rib entrée with yukon and sweet potato gratin, seasonal vegetables, and red wine jus, I chose the baked chicken breast entrée with skin-on roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables and truffle jus.

 

4. Nine times out of ten, these weddings will have open bar service. I definitely enjoy this, but I enjoy in moderation. I use the open bar service at wedding receptions as an opportunity to try a variety of drinks without having to drink all of everything. For instance, I ordered four different drinks throughout the night, but I only drank about a quarter glass of each drink.

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I only drank about a quarter or less of each glass. So I got to taste everything I wanted without going overboard!

 

5. After dinner and dancing at wedding receptions, there is almost always a late-night snack table. If you are hungry then, choose the lighter and healthier menu options. It should not be too hard to resist the indulgent foods, if you had a well-balanced, healthy dinner earlier. At this wedding reception in particular, the late-night snack table had an assortment of fresh cookies, sliders, a make-your-own-poutine station, and a variety of fresh fruit. Figuring out which one of these four options was the healthiest was not rocket science.

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I passed on the sliders, the make-your-own-poutine station, and cookies. Instead, I went straight for the fresh fruit at the late-night snack table! Tip: fresh pineapple contains the protease enzyme, bromelain, which helps you to digest protein!

 

If you get invited to a lot of weddings like Raj and his family, I hope these tips help you enjoy and get through wedding season healthfully!

XOXO,

Addy

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What a blast at our first wedding of 2015!

 

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Healthy Dining at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

Cluny Bar

While we were waiting to be seated, we each enjoyed a glass of NV Champagne Piper Hiedsieck Brut in the bar area near the entrance.

When people think of French food, many think of fattening foods such as baguettes, croissants, cheese, butter, foie gras, French pastries, etc. So when my friends and I were invited to the soft grand opening of Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie, I was expecting mostly rich and indulgent menu items. I was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of light and healthy dishes (besides salads) on their menu. Here is a recap and review of the lighter and healthier menu items we tried…

Cluny Interior

The interior decor and ambiance are gorgeous. Cluny even has a raw bar and seafood counter off to the side of the dining area (bottom right picture).

Our Server (Penny) & Gazpacho

LEFT: Our awesome server, Penny! RIGHT: Spicy Chilled Watermelon and Tomato Soup with Firm Tofu, Basil, and Oven-Dried Tomato ($9).

The first dish was the Spicy Chilled Watermelon and Tomato Soup (with firm tofu, basil, and oven-dried tomato), which ended up being my second favourite dish of the night. I loved the flavour balance between the sweetness from the watermelon and the tang from the tomato. Although this vegan dish is technically not a gazpacho since it is made with oven-dried tomato and not raw tomato, it was just as refreshing! This chilled appetizer would be even better during the summer. However, as a big fan of spicy foods, I do wish this dish was spicier. Next time, I will ask them to add extra chilies or chili sauce in mine.

Scallop Ceviche with Watermelon

Qualicom Bay Scallop Crudo with Watermelon, Chili, Peanuts, and Cilantro ($14).

My hands-down favourite dish of the night was the Qualicom Bay Scallop Crudo (with watermelon, chili, peanuts, and cilantro). It was also my favourite dish presentation. The colours of this dish were so vibrant and the flavours complemented each other so well. Like in the soup, the level of spiciness from the chili was very mild, but I enjoyed it in this dish, because the flavour of the raw scallops was so delicate. Also, the textures of this dish were so enjoyable on the palate. The texture of the raw scallops balanced well with the slight bite from the watermelon and the crunch from peanuts. This dish was perfection! I highly recommend it.

Tuna Tartar

Tuna Tartare “Niçoise” with Egg, French Beans, White Anchovy, and Niçoise Olives ($17).

The next dish was the Tuna Tartare “Niçoise” (with egg, French beans, white anchovy, and Nicoise olives). With the anchovy and olives, I was worried that this dish may be too salty for my taste buds, but it wasn’t! This was a delicious French twist on the classic tuna tartare. The tartare itself was creamy enough that I didn’t need the white cream sauce that was provided on the side.

Moroccan Stew with Couscous

Moroccan Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew with Couscous, Harissa, Almond, and Apricot ($18).

If you are vegan, you will enjoy their only vegan main course, which is the Moroccan Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew (with couscous, harissa, almond, and apricot). This was such a hearty and comforting dish that I didn’t miss meat at all. Before digging into this dish, I recommend mixing the couscous with the stew and letting the couscous absorb some of that delicious stew sauce. It was so yummy!

Housemade Bread

There is a bread bar in the middle of the restaurant and it is fully stocked with a variety of breads that are baked daily on site!

Also, there is a bread bar in the middle of the dining area. It is fully stocked with a variety of their breads, which are baked fresh daily on site by Head Chef Paul Benallick. Unfortunately, there are no gluten-free options yet for those sensitive or allergic to gluten. My favourite bread was this one containing small chunks of apple in it. I really enjoyed that small touch of sweetness in the bread.

Me & G Post-Dinner

When the food is so delicious (and light) that you just want to jump up with delight post-meal!

All in all, it was a very enjoyable night filled with great friends, great conversations, and of course, great food! Our server, Penny, was very knowledgeable about the menu and very welcoming. I highly recommend this restaurant for romantic date nights, especially since it is located in the heart of the Distillery District. If you are looking for great modern French cuisine in a beautiful French-inspired setting, then you must check out Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie!

XOXO,

Addy

Healthy Asian Dining with Raj and My Parents

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Trying to order healthy at Asian restaurants can be hard, especially when their menus are typically very extensive and overwhelming. However, I’ve come up with a few tips that help me stay on the healthy track. A few days ago, Raj, my parents, and I went to a Chinese restaurant called Asian Legend. Their menu was very large, but I managed to pick out some healthy dishes for everyone using these guidelines:

1. When it comes to vegetable dishes, opt for minimally cooked ones that are lightly dressed with light sauces. Raw, pickled, blanched, steamed, and lightly stir-fried vegetables are more nutrient-dense than stewed, boiled, and deep fried ones. Just make sure they’re not drenched in sauces. We ordered their “Sweet and Spicy Cucumber” salad (slices of raw cucumber lightly dressed in a light sweet and spicy sauce). So good & refreshing!

"Sweet and Spicy Cucumber" salad - This is my new favourite Chinese vegetable dish! The raw and perfectly marinated cucumber slices are such a nice change from the usual  stir-fried vegetables at Chinese restaurants. So refreshing!

“Sweet and Spicy Cucumber” salad – This is my new favourite Chinese vegetable dish! The raw and perfectly marinated cucumber slices are such a nice change from the usual stir-fried vegetables at Chinese restaurants. So refreshing!

2. Request for less oil, less salt, less soy sauce (low-sodium soy sauce, if possible), and no monosodium glutamate (MSG) in your dishes. If you like your food spicy, kick up the flavour with extra spice instead! For instance, we ordered the “Steamed California Bass” with chillies, less soy sauce, less oil, and no MSG. It was still full of flavour and it turned out to be my favourite dish!

"Steamed California Bass" - One of my favourite Chinese dishes that my dad makes is actually a very similar variation of this. It tasted just as delicious as my dad's version, so it ended up being my favourite dish that day! The fish was perfectly cooked!

“Steamed California Bass” – My dad actually makes a very similar variation of this that is one of my favourite childhood dishes. It tasted just as delicious as my dad’s version, so it ended up being my favourite dish that day! The fish was perfectly cooked!

3. Opt for lean proteins that are prepared in light sauces and not battered. My dad was craving their battered, deep fried, and sugar-laden “Sweet and Sour Chicken” that day, but instead, we ordered the “Jellyfish Salad” along with the steamed fish. After our meal, he was glad we went with the lean seafood dishes that are high in protein and healthy fatty acids, because he didn’t feel heavy or weighed down afterwards.

"Jellyfish Salad" - It was our first time trying jellyfish. Like tofu, it doesn't have much flavour on its own and relies on marinades/dressings for flavour. Also, it has a very unique texture that is somewhat similar to that of seaweed salad. I liked it and would reorder this dish.

“Jellyfish Salad” – It was our first time trying jellyfish. Like tofu, it doesn’t have much flavour on its own and relies on marinades/dressings for flavour. Also, it has a very unique texture that is somewhat similar to that of seaweed salad. I liked it and would reorder this dish.

4. Rice is a staple in the Asian diet. So if you must have rice with your meal, opt for plain steamed rice instead of fried rice.

5. Watch out for the condiments! If you are using soy sauce as a condiment, be aware of how much you are using and ask if a low-sodium soy sauce is available. Also, the chili sauce condiment that Asian restaurants provide are typically heavily oil-based. Ask if a vinegar-based chili sauce or red chili flakes are available instead.

6. Stick with water or tea for drinks. Avoid the sugary beverages, which are full of empty calories and inhibit optimal digestion.

7. If you’re sensitive or allergic to gluten, avoid mock meat as it’s likely made of wheat gluten.

8. Soups at Asian restaurants are generally high in sodium and may contain MSG. Since they are prepared ahead of time, chefs cannot reduce the salt content or remove the MSG that they may contain. Thus, if having soup, enjoy in moderarion (perhaps as a small appetizer).

Everyone digging in and Raj impressing my parents with his chopstick skills!

Everyone digging in and Raj impressing my parents with his chopstick skills! I devoured most of that fish!

These tips were written with Asian restaurants specifically in mind, but they can be applied to any kind of restaurant. We had a wonderful time at Asian Legend and the food was amazing! Thanks to my parents for selecting that place for Raj and me. Hopefully, you found at least some of these pointers helpful. Happy dining!

XOXO,

Addy