Archive | July, 2011

Things We Like

29 Jul

Hello friends.

Are you as excited about the long weekend as we are?

Michelle is off to her family’s cabin for some sun and relaxation, and Chris is off to Ottawa for a month-long working vacation — more work than vacation, likely. Do send your Ottawa recommendations, please! She needs running routes, shops, sushi spots, delicious pizza and sandwiches.

We’ll be back blogging on Tuesday. Till then, here’s what we’re digging this week:

  • Long summer weekends = many summer cocktails. Keep ’em healthy with these delicious recipes.
  • Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo Spray. On the days Michelle has used it to pump up her post-workout hair, she’s received more compliments than when her hair is squeaky clean. She may never wash her hair again.
  • So here’s the problem with our yoga poses at that time of the month.
  • Philosophy Hope In a Jar moisturizer. So lightweight and luxurious.
  • Did you know that you can make your own Crave Cupcakes at home? They’ve posted their favourite recipes.
  • With a float down the Bow River, a lunch catered by the Main Dish and all proceeds going to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, the inaugural Float To End Cancer on August 21 sounds like a blasty blast. Michelle’s friends, Shawna and Murray Heber — married chiropractors and owners of Elite Sports Therapy — are the wonderful people behind the cause.
We leave you with this picture, which was taken on the August long weekend last year. We were at Michelle’s cabin and coerced all our girlfriends to wear toques for some blog-friendly shots. Good sports, they were.
Happy long weekend!

~The Toque Girls


Erin Kleinberg Fall 2011

28 Jul

In my dream world, summer lasts year round.

But I’ll be okay with autumn as long as I can wear this:

It’s from Erin Kleinberg, a Canadian designer who is based out of NYC. She’s also a co-founder of The Coveteur, a dangerously addictive blog which peeks into the closets of some of North America’s most stylish.

I’m a huge fan of Kleinberg’s clothing. She makes T-shirts that drape just the way T-shirts should. She’s known for adding little embellishments to clothing — things like gold zippers and sequined epaulettes — that make the pieces stand out.

I saw her fall 2011 collection this week. It’s my favourite yet. So, dear readers, have a gawk below.

How fantastic is this coat? I could use this on my October San Francisco trip.

And a few more…

(Dear husband who made me to walk through snow in the middle of July when we could’ve been swimming, take note. I happily accept presents.)

The line is available in Canada at Holt Renfrew and in the US at Barneys New York, Nordstrom Via C and Saks Fifth Avenue.


The Lunge and Grab

27 Jul

Someone came up to me at the gym the other day and said, “I always see you doing the craziest exercises. Where do you get them?”

Over the years, I’ve amassed some unique exercises. I’ve taken them from books, like Making The Cut by Jillian Michaels and The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, and from countless classes, boot camps and personal training sessions.

The move that prompted the question at the gym was something I call “the lunge and grab.” I’m sure there’s an official name for it, but my trainer didn’t fill me in — he just gave me the rundown on how to do it and off I went. I’ve been incorporating it into my own workouts ever since, because it works a whole bunch of muscles at the same time.

Here’s how you do it: Place a weight on the ground in front of you, slightly to the right of where your right foot would land if you lunged forward.

Now, let’s all pretend that my can of black beans is a 15-pound weight, which is what I typically use at the gym. Cool? Cool.

(And I’m smiling not just because of the beans, but because my fabulous friend Jen was taking the pictures and making me laugh. Now, on to the exercise.)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lunge forward with your right foot.

Lean down and grab the weight with your left hand.

While you’re holding the lunge, lift the weight up and across your body. At the top, your arm should be straight and your eyes should be on the beans, er, weight.

Lower the weight and place in the same spot on the ground.

Push yourself back and up out of the lunge. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on the same side and then switch.

You’ll know it works because, for a couple of days afterwards, your legs and core will have that great post-workout burn goin’ on.

And if someone stops you to ask where you got the crazy exercise, feel free to tell them all about the Toque Girls blog.


Going To The Sun Road

26 Jul

Have you ever heard of the Going To The Sun Road? It’s a 50-mile road that winds up through the mountains of Glacier National Park with incredible scenes of waterfalls, glaciers and forests on either side. Completed in 1933, the road is edged by an old masonry wall — a wall which is undeniably low for anyone with a fear of heights.

It’s one of my favourite road trips from Calgary. It’s too far for a day trip although it’s a comfortable day trip from Fernie.

Two summers ago, we hiked from the peak down to Hidden Lake where we ate lunch with mountain goats and cooled our feet in the water.

This weekend, we went back. And horror of horrors, look what we found!

I wanted to turn around immediately and scurry back down to summer. Unfortunately, the boy — who grew up at the base of a ski hill and believes snow makes everything better — still wanted to hike into the lake.

There are times in marriage you just have to suck it up and compromise. So off I went, slipping across the snow, glowering at the boy’s back and sending telepathic messages that I deserve diamond earrings from Tiffany’s for this one.

Note the lack of a toque and pants. I did, however, have a bikini in my bag.

We saw plenty of winter fiends who were prepared for the day. Skiers, snowshoers and this creative family who brought ski pants and garbage bags relished the snow.

And we saw this guy on our way down!

We’ll definitely go back. Next time, though, I will check the snow conditions.


My New Army Green Jacket

25 Jul

Happy Monday, readers.

It’s late Sunday afternoon and I’ve just returned from a fantastic mom/daughter weekend in Banff. (I feel so lucky to have had her all to myself for the weekend. We had great talks, ate fantastic food and laughed harder than I have in a long time.)

It’s hot and sunny outside and I’m itching to go for a run, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet and introduce you to my latest purchase: a Kill City army green jacket. Here it is on my post-spa, blissed out self, while waiting for a cab outside The Rimrock Resort Hotel on Saturday night:

And here it is from the back:

I also found this cool vest version on the Kill City site:

I picked up the jacket at Primitive a few weeks ago and plan on wearing it all summer. Come fall, it will be the perfect way to toughen up my girly dresses.

Right now, though, all I have on my mind is running. My toe isn’t painful anymore — just hideous — so I leave you now to hit the trails.

Have a lovely day.


Happy Birthday To Us

22 Jul

One year ago today, we started a blog. We thought we’d try it out, explore a few designs and writing schedules, get input from a few friends and then decide on a format. Somewhere between step 3 and step 4, we found ourselves with a daily blog and hundreds of supporters. Thank you, all, for your encouragement. We’ve both been surprised at how happy this blog has made us over the last year.

We’re finally getting onto that last step — settling on a format that we’re happy with. Expect a few changes at Toque Girls over the coming weeks. We’ll be updating the design and blogroll, and adding a few user-friendly features. We’ll continue to update every day. Do let us know if you have any suggestions.

Here’s to an even better Year Two!

~The Toque Girls

A Quinoa Feast: Part 2

21 Jul

On Tuesday, we discussed the healthy quinoa dishes that were devoured at Chris and Martin’s place last Sunday, like salad and casserole. Enough healthy talk. Let’s get to dessert!

Martin made three amazing treats: caramel and pecan pie, pumpkin ice cream and the quinoa chocolate cake. Here he is with all three:

Martin uses a KitchenAid to churn out his own ice cream concoctions:

After tasting the delicious pumpkin creation, I can see why the guys never venture past their own kitchen to get their ice cream fix. The pie also looked fantastic, but I passed because of my allergy to pecans. That was A-OK with me, because it meant  more room for the quinoa chocolate cake.

Let’s have a closer look at this masterpiece of a cake:

People, this cake is unbelievable. It’s chewy, moist, chocolatey and tastes amazing with Martha Stewart’s dark chocolate frosting, which is what Martin used.

Let’s have an even closer look at the deliciousness:

Here’s how you’re going to make the cake. Because there’s no question — you must make it.

Like Tuesday’s recipes, this one comes from the Quinoa 365 cookbook. (I’ll be adding the book to my next Amazon order.)

Moist Chocolate Cake

  • 2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups white or cane sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 8-inch (20 cm) round or square cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.

Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and the butter and continue to blend until smooth.

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake on the centre oven rack for 40 to 45 minutes or unil a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely in the pan before serving. Frost if desired.

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month. (**Or, take Michelle’s suggestion: invite Michelle over, who will ensure you have no leftovers.)


To repay Chris and Martin’s kindness — and to try out some new recipes — I’ve offered to make a  lunch for them in the near future. But how I will ever live up to last Sunday’s culinary prowess, I do not know.


What to Pack for Folk Fest

20 Jul

Subtitle: Ways To Procrastinate Yet Appear Constructively Engaged

Sub-Subtitled: I’m excited for Calgary folk fest to start!

The boy and I are going to tomorrow evening’s show to see City and Colour and Joel Plaskett. Huzzah! And our littlest nephew is coming, too. More huzzahs!

Plus, there’s the whole food thing. I expect to find hundreds of new good things to eat from local vendors, restaurants and farmers. I’m readying now by drinking loads of water and expanding the stomach. (That’s how speed eaters train. I’m serious. I read a book about it once.)

Want to waste some time with me today and get our folk fest kit together?

Packing for folk fest is a delicate balance, you know. Bring too much and you’re stuck in one spot, don’t bring enough and you could be stuck standing. In the rain.

Here’s my folk fest collection 2011:

Includes sunglasses (not pictured), rain jacket, bug spray, camera, sunscreen, an old suede bag from Mexico and giant blanket originally bought somewhere on the California coast.

Note the water bottle.  CFMF and its vendors will not be selling any bottled water on the island but will have free H2O refilling stations for reusable water bottles.

I’ll be wearing my Birkenstocks, my hippie top from a tailor in a mountain village in Cyprus and my old comfy jeans. They’re perfectly worn in and good for things like dancing in mud and dripping baba ghanooj onto.

Who else is there Thursday? Come see me!


PS- Tickets are sold out for Saturday and Sunday but are still available for Friday night. It’s a great show with City and Colour, local stars The BRAIDS and Matt Anderson.

A Quinoa Feast: Part 1

19 Jul

While Martin and Chris were nursing me and my big toe back to health a few weeks ago, we got to talking about food. Specifically, quinoa.

Martin said one of his favourite cookbooks, Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, is all quinoa, all the time. I was intrigued, because I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. This is how last Sunday’s quinoa feast came to be.

Martin and Chris, pictured below, offered to have me and a small group over for a quinoa-themed lunch:

After countless Stampede meals involving beef on a bun, a healthy lunch was just what I needed. And it was amazing! We feasted on potato salad and green salad with berries and toasted chia seeds (the only non-quinoa dishes), quinoa and cucumber salad, as well as a hearty chicken and broccoli casserole.

The “healthy” portion of the meal went out the window at dessert time. We had not one or two, but three homemade treats.

There were too many outstanding dishes to include in just one post, so here’s what we’re going to do, my quinoa-loving friends. Today, I’ll share two recipes: the Fresh Cucumber and Toasted Almond Salad with Dill and the Chicken Broccoli Casserole, both of which come from Quinoa 365.

On Thursday, we’ll get to the standout dessert — Moist Chocolate Cake, which was quite possibly the most amazing homemade chocolate cake I’ve tasted. Not only that, but it’s made from quinoa (yes, the recipe is from Quinoa 365) and has no flour whatsoever. That means the cake is practically a health food, right? That’s what I told myself in order to justify adding more chocolate icing to my piece, anyway.

Let’s get to these fantastic dishes. The salad is wonderful, but, with gooey cheese, tender chicken and a hint of curry — something I often crave — the casserole is the dish that pulled me back for seconds.

First, the salad.

Fresh Cucumber and Toasted Almond Salad with Dill

  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar or white rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chopped English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake on the centre oven rack for 5 to 7 minutes, until the almonds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the quinoa in a large saucepan over medium heat. Toast the quinoa for 3 to 5 minutes, until it is fragrant but not browned, shaking the saucepan from side to side occasionally to turn the quinoa and toast it evenly. (Note: if you use a saucepan with a larger bottom, it will toast faster.)
Add the stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for an additional 4 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a large bowl to cool completely.
Whisk together the oil, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Add to the cooled quinoa and mix thoroughly. Add the cucumber, green onion and dill, tossing well. Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted almonds.
Best if enjoyed immediately but can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh basil (or a pinch of dried basil)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch (3.5L) casserole dish or spray with cooking oil.
Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 6 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cool. Evenly spread the cooked quinoa over the bottom of the casserole. Set aside.
Cook the broccoli in a steamer or medium saucepan until just tender or al dente. Arrange the broccoli over the quinoa in the casserole dish.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken breasts until cooked and the juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. Cool the chicken slightly, then slice into 2-inch-wide strips and place evenly over the broccoli.
Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, curry powder and basil in a small bowl and mix well. Spread evenly over the chicken and top with shredded cheese. Bake on the centre oven rack for about 25 minutes, until the casserole is hot and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Enjoy Part 1 of the quinoa feast and get ready for the chocolate cake. It’s ridiculously good.


Miso-Glazed Trout and Other Favourite Things

18 Jul

Hi! Chris here.

I just walked in from a wonderful weekend. I’m walking a bit straight-legged, as my quadriceps are attempting to mutiny from my body after all the hiking. Otherwise, all systems perfect.

This weekend, we did all those things that make Alberta wonderful on a sunny summer weekend — a combination of patios, friends, mountains and muddy legs that require major scrubbing.

Friday kicked off with a dinner with dear friends on the patio at my favourite restaurant, The Living Room.

We burned off those calories Saturday with a leg-burning hike up and down Mount Lady Macdonald, and drinks on the patio at the Iron Goat. Then, Sunday was my nephew’s baptism, a great family brunch (along with margaritas) and a recovery road bike ride in the mountains. We hobbled into Canmore’s Grizzly Paw Brewery for quesadillas and sandwiches for dinner.

Now I’m home, trying to write a blog post before my eyes slam shut on me. So how’s this? I’ll give you one of my go-to dinners — very good for girls who have been out of the house all weekend long and are in need of a dinner at home — and then I’m hitting the hay.

Miso-Glazed Trout

From Alive Magazine, April 2011

  • 4 rainbow or steelhead trout
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 Tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 sheets nori, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
  • Black sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Rise trout filets and pay dry with paper towel. In bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, miso, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and chili flakes.

Place trout on 4 pieces of parchment paper; brush with miso mixture, and top each with an equal amount of nori slices. Place fish packets on baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before opening and garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

Serves 4.

PS – A few photos from our hike…

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