Warming the Soul with Soup and Paying it Forward

Good morning all you lovely souls! I have to say the last couple of days have been pressing for me and at times I found it difficult to stay positive. With the freezing cold temperatures, car troubles and a crippling migraine, I was feeling quite defeated! I decided to step back, take a deep breath, re-examine everything that had unfolded and in doing so, I could appreciate the beautiful that had come from my struggles. From a generous and compassionate stranger, to kicking my migraine with a big bowl of my Rustic Cabbage Chickpea Soup, I am looking forward to sharing both with you!

It all started with my car having a flat tire on a -25 degree Celsius kind of day, topped off with a too close for my comfort, near car accident. Don’t you worry, I averted the accident somehow and I pride myself in being able to change my own flat tires (due to being a stubborn and bad ass woman) and having had several flat tires in my short lifetime already. The experience is certainly elevated in hypothermic temperatures! As I slowly, but surely, gathered my tools to change the deflated tire, out of nowhere appeared a young gentleman! Before I could even blink he had my tire changed and walked me through the whole thing! This act of kindness brought a massive smile to my half frozen face and I couldn’t find words to thank him enough, he simply smiled back and I felt through his eyes that perhaps all he needed me to do was… pay it forward.

I was the lucky beneficiary behind his good deed that day and I truly believe in paying it forward elsewhere to show appreciation. I was reminded that one simple good act may go an incredibly long way for someone, whether it be small or substantial. Will you join me in showing gratitude through a random act of kindness today? Let’s make our world feel a little warmer, I’d love to hear how you payed it forward! I think we need it now more than ever, especially with all the negativity around us lately.

I was then hammered with a migraine to top it all off! After some much-needed rest, I was starting to feel better and an appetite started to arise! You know when you dig through the fridge and forgot you had cooked up something divine two days prior and you cry for joy when you find those left overs? No? I most certainly do. I stumbled upon one last, much-needed, warming and comforting serving of my savory, Rustic Cabbage and Chickpea Soup! This soup is so easy to make, it is full of comfort with hints of sweet leeks, crunchy cabbage, bursts of sweet tomato and a rich broth, it brings heart warming flavors and it certainly was migraine soothing!

In the last couple days I was beautifully reminded that in every random act of kindness there is a deeper meaning and that act can impact someone in such an indescribable way. It is more important now than ever to pay it forward and show our love and appreciation in everything we do. Thank you to the amazing individual that changed my tire and got me home safe, I will certainly be paying it forward.
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Lasagna With Love, From Venice

I’ve been dying to share my Venetian inspired lasagna with all of you! What better day to cheer you all up with a comforting, nourishing and love filled lasagna than on this snowy Monday? Let’s close our eyes and transport ourselves to the canal lined streets of Venice, Italy, where smooth sailing gondolas glide through the water, mysterious passageways are around every corner and the quaint cobblestone streets are filled with mouth-watering aromas of fresh-baked pastries and hints of espresso. I was truly inspired by the culture, cuisine and back streets of Venice, this is how my Butternut Mushroom Lasagna came alive!

The best way to see Venice is truly just to get lost, throw that map in the air and explore! My husband and I decided to veer off the touristy walk ways, burrow ourselves into the culture and a whole new enticing and enigmatic Venice was unveiled. We stumbled upon shops full of ornate, bright Venetian masks, inspiring and eclectic art galleries, traditional family run restaurants, charming cafe’s and of course stunning Venetian glass pieces. Our unexpected expedition and grumbling tummies led us to experiencing symbolic Venetian dishes around every corner.

My Butternut Mushroom Lasagna was inspired by a variety of flavors and ingredients that I devoured while in Venice. I can still taste the flavors of woodsy mushrooms layered on a crostini (Venetian Cicchetti) and how could I forget Italy’s famous, fine, sharp Asiago cheese. Italy is obviously is known for it’s delectable lasagnas, Venice offers lasagna made with a nutmeg infused, white bechamel sauce instead of a tomato base. Um, let’s not forget dessert (or the too many desserts!) the lemony and sweet Fritellas (donuts) were to die for. I asked myself, how do I create a healthy and wholesome Venetian inspired meal with all of these delights that hit my mouth?!

Let me introduce you too my tasty and grain free lasagna. My Butternut Mushroom Lasagna has layers of sweet butternut squash in place of heavy pasta, meaty mushrooms, savory leeks and onions, fresh thyme, juicy chicken, lemony ricotta with a hint of nutmeg, fresh spinach and lasagna isn’t lasagna without some sweet tomatoes! Top this gorgeous lasagna off with Italy’s finest Asiago and Parmesan shredded cheese. You will be transported to (a healthier) Italy with one bite of this delicious dinner recipe, try it tonight! Buon appetito!

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Scrumptious Superbowl Eats

Hello to all of you on this gorgeous winter wonderland kind of day. I’m here to assist you in planning your Super Bowl menu with healthy and scrumptious eats! This weekend, as many of you know, is Super Bowl Sunday! The Super Bowl is a time to entertain friends and family for that thrilling game day gathering or it leaves you wondering what appy to bring that everyone will love. Now I have to admit, I don’t follow football in the least, but any excuse to whip up delectable cuisine, capture laughs and game spirit, sounds tremendous to me! I have the perfect trio of sweet with heat meatballs, crunchy cheesy chickpeas and a hearty and warming chili for the big day!

I want to share my favorite nutritious finger food appies and game day chili that won’t leave you feeling heavy and perhaps allow for another beer or two! I created my Sweet With Heat Buffalo Meatballs specifically for occasions like these and they are always gone in a flash, so make extra. These meatballs are incredibly simple to make, the sweet green apple with the spicy buffalo sauce are such a yummy flavor combination and easy to serve with a toothpick in each!

Instead of grabbing that bag of chips at the store, grab a can of chickpeas instead and transform them into a crunchy garlicky and cheesy treat! My Roasted Cheesy Garlic Chickpeas are a great alternative to those empty calorie chips and they pack an impressive amount of protein and fiber as an added bonus. You may have to practice a little self-control with these guys… they are very addicting! They are a great option for those who are vegetarian or vegan too.

I don’t know about you, but the Super Bowl screams hearty chili to me… especially on these winter days! After snacking on yummy finger food, whip out this delicious chili recipe, my Butternut Black Bean Crock Pot Chili will for sure be a hit! Throw your healthy ingredients in that crock pot tomorrow morning and your chili will be waiting to serve those hungry (perhaps slightly buzzed!) guests on time for game start. I hope I’ve inspired you with a well-rounded menu for the special game day, remember to enjoy this gathering with family and friends, grab a drink and get cheering! Happy Super Bowl everyone!

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The Ancient Spice, Turmeric

Can you believe it, February 1st is suddenly upon us! I’ve always seen February as a transition sort of month, leaving the old year behind and looking ahead to what the next eleven chapters of this year will bring. Although our surroundings are still clutched by snow and ice, we can feel a shift starting to evolve and a promising hope that perhaps Spring is just around the corner. Now I know it’s been a tad chilly the last few days, so my premature hopes of Spring might just be a dream, but these brisk days had me craving revitalizing, warming, rich soup and mysterious golden lattes. Thank you cold winter days for revitalizing my love for the warming, golden and beautiful ancient spice, turmeric.

I do tend to use turmeric powder in my curry dishes or I add it to a dish that could benefit from its stunning golden hue. But last week as I was bustling through the farmer’s market, I saw out of the corner of my eye a vibrant orange root calling my name. For those of you that know me, know that I smell everything… (yes I’m that weird person smelling fresh produce, I’ll admit) so my first instinct was to sniff this gorgeous little root and I was pleasantly surprised how different it was from the bitter powdered version. Hints of orange citrus, muddy earthy tones and gingery spice hit my nose – like sun showers in a magical forest, I was exhilarated! That night, no word of a lie, I woke up at 3 AM and a recipe idea hit me square in the face for a heart warming turmeric soup, I needed to use this magnificent root!

This wee vibrant root inspired me to create my, Sweet Potato Carrot Turmeric Soup and fabricate Golden Lattes! The flavors developed in this quick and easy soup are mind-boggling and I had to jump on this strange idea of turmeric lattes and see what all the hype was about, boy am I glad I did, it was HEAVENLY! I am warning you in advance, turmeric stains like crazy… before I could get my hands under water I had fallen victim to its yellow powers and I was asked shortly there after, by my loving sister, if I had an accident with self tanner… Thanks J 😉 I will take the yellow stained hands if it means reaping the many benefits of this spice! Turmeric has mood stabilizing properties, it aids in wound healing, encourages balanced blood sugars, is an impressive aid in digestion and of course… it looks pretty and tastes so inviting! SO, try these recipes out and let me know what you think of this ancient spice!

For this heavenly latte, I warmed up unsweetened cashew milk on the stove top, added 1 tbsp pure pumpkin puree, 3/4 tsp fresh grated turmeric, 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp coconut sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of cardamom and salt. I let it heat up until just boiling, added it to my blender to froth up and sipped away on this weirdly amazing latte!

Have an amazing night everyone, xoxo!

 

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Weekends = Crock Pot Dinners!

Rise and shine everyone, it’s Saturday morning and the weekend has just begun, time to get going! I know the weekends can be quite the frenzy, trying to pack in as much as imaginable into 48 precious hours, so who has time to cook dinner? This is why I have a true deep love for my trusty crock pot that has never failed me. When i need a scrumptious dinner to be prepared at the end of the day, it comes through for me every time. Let me save you some time this weekend to focus on the meaningful moments; making beautiful memories, laughing, loving and consuming hearty and mouth watering, Butternut Black Bean Crock Pot Chili!

Butternut squash is a such a gorgeous, versatile and easy to work with ingredient, it beautifully absorbs any flavors you throw at it. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and has found to be an anti-inflammatory super food! I recently educated myself on picking the perfect butternut squash, you want the squash to be: heavy for its size, stem intact and firm, skin matte (not shiny – means it was picked too early), and when you tap it, it should have a “woodsy” sound. That should lead you to the perfect squash… now go tap away on those squashes… haha. I adore butternut squash and had to incorporate it into a chili recipe, I let the ingredients shine and this chili is truly scrumptious.

There is nothing better than digging into a hot bowl of chunky, veggie loaded chili, with smokey and sweet flavors that are so inviting and comforting at the end of a busy day. I recently made this for a very special and significant family gathering in my life, we shared many laughs and tears and the bowls were wiped clean, literally! I more than anything wanted to create a chili recipe that encompasses love and leaves you feeling delightfully satisfied, I think this is it! Try it out this weekend, gather your family and friends, share beautiful food and smile! Sending much love, Xoxo.

 

 

 

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Let’s Listen & Talk, Conquering Mental Illness

Let’s LISTEN to one another, TALK about, bring initiative too and break the chains of stigma surrounding mental illness once and for all. Today holds a lot of significance for mental health awareness, as many of you are well aware through social media initiatives that it is Bell’s, Let’s Talk mental health day. Bell started this conversation in 2010 to bring awareness to mental health in Canada and it has blossomed into something truly incredible. Bell’s total donation to mental health programs now stands at $79,919,178.55 and they are close to donating at least $100 million through 2020 as per Bells website. This number is staggering and makes me feel hopeful for the future, it also reflects that many have clearly either struggled with mental illness or have been affected by it in their lives at one point or another.

One in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives,  this statistic was truly astonishing and eye-opening to me, even as a nurse. It is a sobering reality, we just can’t sweep mental illness under the rug any longer, we need to tackle it head on and have support in place for those who acquire it. One of the largest struggles surrounding mental health illness is the stigma and negativity that is associated with it. If we can get past being ashamed, opening up and talking, being supportive and listening to someone in need, I think we can kick ass in creating a world where mental illness is treated like any other medical illness!

How do we do all this? I cannot express how necessary it is to educate yourself on mental illness, get to know the facts and through that we will break the barriers of myths and stigma. Education is the key and sharing the actual facts and not being afraid of talking will help our mental health initiatives tenfold! Don’t be afraid to ask and listen. Asking can be tough, I understand that, but asking someone in need can be monumental in them opening up and receiving the support/help they deserve. Listening shows you care and can be one of the most supportive actions for those that are reaching out for help and battling their struggle. Of course, as Ellen has taught us, be KIND! From a simple smile, a light squeeze of someone’s hand, a hug, making time for one another, let’s be kind and show our love.

There is a crucial need for action and it starts with you. Let’s join together, be advocates and make mental health awareness an every day journey. Let’s break down the stereotypes, educate ourselves and love one another. Let’s create a world where those struggling with that internal battle are not ashamed to reach out and are provided with timely and appropriate help. I know we have all been affected in way or another by mental health, so what are we waiting for!

Now, my way of starting to spread the love and bring a smile to your heart is through a big ol’ piece of healthy, creamy pumpkin pie… why not bake this for a friend in need?! My Crustless Chai Pumpkin Pie is luscious with restoring and comforting spices, it is always a huge hit with those I’ve served it too! Even better, it is packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals and comes in at only 50 calories a slice. Now to bring this pie to the next level, I whip up some coconut cream and smother it on top, or check out the recipe page for a product recommendation, real coconut whipped cream I found in grocery stores! Um, you’re welcome!

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Gratitude – The Quality of Being Thankful

  grat·i·tude

noun

the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

It’s a snowy, crisp Monday which means the beginning of a new week, which I know holds endless opportunities for all of us! I know Monday’s can be difficult, as a new work week begins and the weekend of adventure is behind us, but let’s re-create Mondays, in fact every day, through one simple action, let’s practice gratitude. I will start by sharing that this Monday marks one week of my blogging journey and I want to focus on my feelings of gratitude and extending my thankfulness to each and every individual who has supported me and  jumped on board!

In starting this food blog venture, I hoped to maybe inspire a handful of individuals to get into their kitchens and create food that is whole and nourishing – not just for the body, but mind and soul as well. I hoped to have perhaps sparked a creative outlet for your lovely souls in the kitchen, to bring love, warmth, vitality and comfort to your tables at home. I hoped my blog and posts would transport you into a different world temporarily and perhaps bring a slight smile to the corner of your lips. I truly wasn’t sure what to expect the first week of my blog, if my hopes would become reality and what would transpire, not even remotely!

Well, I am speechless, (for once in my life) by all the love! This is where I want to humbly express my absolute gratitude to each and every of of you (yes you!) for your unwavering support, endless positivity and transpiring my dreams into reality. During the last week I have graciously received countless encouraging messages and phone calls, had beautiful, deep and inspiring conversations regarding body image, nourishing food choices, and how to balance every day real life with a maintainable healthy lifestyle. I’ve been continuously inspired by your feedback and comments, your confidence in my abilities and encouragement of my recipes/pictures and blog posts drives me. Your outreach has been immensely appreciated and know I genuinely thank you and appreciate each and every one of you. Your feedback, big or small, is a stepping stone in the foundation of A Pinch of Nurse! I’d more than love to stop and chat, answer any questions and I’m always up for a discussion surrounding recipes/health/lifestyle/travel at any moment, please contact me!

These feelings of gratitude in my heart fuel and fill me with happiness, which led to me thinking, I need to hold onto and cherish these emotions somehow! Then a light bulb went off and well… I realized these feelings transpired from being grateful and thankful for the people and relationships in my life, not things in my life. So, I decided to write you all a gratitude letter and I hope to practice gratitude daily to continuously find happiness in such simplicity. I would be elated if you wanted to join in on this daily practice!

Now… let me show you my love the way I know how to, through food!  Uh huh, finally, food talk! This recipe came to my mind and heart immediately when I pondered what recipe to share next and express my gratefulness through. It is the epitome of warmth, comfort and pure bliss! I aspire to bring to your table tonight my, Guilt Free Butter Chicken, a recipe that is packed with soul filling flavors, without the hours of labor. I spent many nights perfecting this recipe and filling it with authenticity, I hope you fall in love with it as much as we do in our home!

 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

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It’s Weekend Time, What To Eat & Do?!

It is Friday everyone, this means weekend time is around the corner and I always relate weekends to perhaps getting a little more sleep, getting out and doing something adventurous and creating delicious breakfasts that you can indulge on (with that giant cup of coffee in your hand)! Most of you know that I am a nurse, which entails working weekends, so when I get a weekend off I make it count! Let me introduce you to my perfect weekend breakfast of creamy vanilla oats, caramelized bananas and crunchy energizing almonds. After a great morning work out, I love to treat myself to my creamy Brûléed Banana Nut Oats. With this nourishing breaky, you can take on the weekend!

After you inhale your scrumptious bowl of Brûléed Banana Nut Oats, it’s time to get exploring the city. I am always looking for different activities to do around the city and I thought I would share with you some events in and around Calgary that you can go check out, especially during these gorgeous winter days. There is a lot going on in and around Calgary this weekend, here are a few to check out, make time for you this weekend!

Feeling like you need your musical fix? I recently heard about BIG Winter Classic 2017 January 19th-22nd, it is an event full of arts, music, local craft beer and includes over 60 bands, 5 stages being featured at 3 different venues.

I love to immerse myself in new cultures and experience traditions other than mine, I hope to be able to get down to the Chinese Cultural Center to celebrate the Chinese New Year Festival! Experience Chinese culture through food, games, activities and performances over the next couple weekends.

Now that we aren’t experiencing sub zero temperatures, it’s great to get outdoors this weekend. Last winter i decided to tie up my skates and show off my ridiculously amazing skating skills… let’s say I remember being A LOT better when i was younger, but it was such a blast! Gather up those skates, mittens and toques and hit up the numerous skating rinks in Calgary open this weekend, click here to get skating!

After your day of skating why not go check out the pros? Calgary Flames vs Edmonton Oilers, this Saturday at 8:00pm, Go Flames Go!

Want to get out of the city and enjoy the mountains, without hitting the slopes? This is a must do on my list and I hope to go next weekend to take in all the excitement at the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise! I mean just your surroundings are breath taking and then add in an ice carving competition celebrating and honoring Canada’s 150th birthday, I can’t wait!

So take some time this weekend for delicious and nutritious eats and go try out a new experience! Happy Weekend everyone!

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Get Out Your Sombreros, it’s Fajita Night!

Hola everyone, well it’s a gorgeous winter day , sun is out and shining bright which brings a smile to my face and a hop in my step! The recent warm weather and golden rays of sunshine have me thinking of summer and beach vacations… in fact, the Mexican topic/theme has come up in my life several times in the last couple days, so I took it as a sign and I’d like to introduce to you your dinner for tonight! Drum roll please… I know you are going to LOVE my Zesty Fajita Squash Boats with my Cilantro Avocado Drizzle! They are a low carb and healthy twist on fajitas, not to mention so much fun eating out of a squash bowl!

 

Let me take you back to some of the best fajitas I’ve had and how that sizzling plate of deliciousness inspired this recipe! My husband and I took a summer trip to Whitefish, Montana a couple of years ago for a golf couples getaway. If you’ve never been to Whitefish, you absolutely have to experience this small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, it has an old historic rustic charm about it, abundance of boutique shops, multitude of outdoor activities and of course a variety of culinary experiences!

Anyways, back to the golfing getaway and food inspiration… there we were golfing away in Whitefish, almost completed our 18 holes and famished, when all of a sudden a giant grizzly bear barreled past our golf cart and down the fairway! Before we even knew what happened, I armed myself with my golf club (smart and quick thinking, I know!) and unsure of what to do next, we just sat in our cart and let that bear do it’s thing! We skipped the last hole, too terrified to keep playing and decided with all that excitement we needed a darn good meal (since we didn’t end up being meals ourselves). You know when you are so hungry you don’t really even have the slightest care where you eat, that you just stop at anything that resembles a restaurant and hope it’s good? Well that was the case that day! We saw a small, old, barely visible sign for Mexican food and decided Mexican sounded darn good. We got out of our car and couldn’t really make out where this restaurant actually was, we were in some isolated parking lot… then we spotted a door to a very sketchy looking building, we weren’t turning back now! Well, I’ve determined over the years of travelling that these restaurants are typically the BEST and usually authentic, haha… usually.

We were seated at a cute little table, in a dimly lit small restaurant that was surprisingly full (I still wonder to this day where these people were parked). Faint Mexican music played in the background and the mouth-watering smells of Mexican fair filled the air. Now I’m sure you can guess what we ordered… yep, FAJITAS! So, you know when you are waiting for your food at a restaurant and someone else’s food goes by looking damn amazing and you think… wow I wish I ordered that. Well for once, that was our sizzling, bright, beautiful skillet of fajitas! I felt everyone’s eyes jealously peering over at our table. Now these fajitas were simply incredible, the flavors were so balanced, the vegetables cooked perfectly, the lime juice on top with that zesty kick, the subtle smokiness to the dish was the key. I still to this day don’t know what the name of the restaurant is or even where it is located, I keep intending to go back and find it one day. I decided that day that I needed more fajita in my life and I was going to create a spice mix and recipe that rocked my fajita world. Over the last couple of years I have, what I think, come up with a pretty darn good fajita recipe and I’m going to share that with you tonight!

For the recipe click here!

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In the Beginning…

 

Well today is the day and my food blog dream is no longer a dream, it is officially existent and very much alive! I am embarking on this crazy and wonderful food blog journey and I am shaking with excitement, motivation and perhaps a tinge of nervousness. I am so delighted to have the opportunity to share my creativity with and passion for healthy, wholesome delicious food with you through my blog! My recipes are inspired by my travels, my cravings and remembering to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle.

So let’s go back to the very beginning, now I can honestly say a lot of my childhood I remember yearning to help my mom or grandma in kitchen, I remember thinking I was such a help but I’m sure I was a nuisance… (right mom?) Whenever i heard the “click” of the whisks being released from the hand mixer, I scurried over and hoped I’d get that silver whisk handed to me to lick off after the hard work was done (back when nobody made a big deal about eating raw dough!) I am fortunate enough to have had incredible culinary influences in my life through my mom and grandma, both exemplifying exceptional cooking skills, creating authentic tasty Czech dishes frequently! This is where my passion/creativity for ingredients and food was ignited!

Things got really interesting in the kitchen when I wanted to get cooking independently. I still remember sauntering through a Scholastic Book Fair (yes, remember those!!) at school when i was a mere 8 years old and my eyes were immediately drawn to cookbooks for starting chefs! I begged my mom right then and there as I had decided I absolutely had to have these in my life, no questions about it. Well guess what, she said no… my tiny dreams were momentarily crushed. Don’t worry, low and behold I received, “Starting Cooking” and “First Cookbook”, the next day for my birthday! Phew! Did you feel bad for me temporarily? Haha.

I was on my way to becoming a master chef! Sort of.. I chose to make “Eggy Bread”, it doesn’t even sound appetizing… but it was a recipe in my book I decided to bestow upon my family members frequently, i never did hear bad reviews though! So fast forward 21 years and here I am, with more experience, a seasoned traveler, culturally inspired and through this I have created my own recipes for you to try out. I truly hope you get the enjoyment out of cooking my beloved recipes (and devouring them, duh!) as I do! Put love into every wholesome ingredient, turn up that music, and let’s get cooking!

 

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