Surgery Suppers

There are certain times in life when I’m especially thankful that I’m a chef and able to help others in times when they need it most.

As a personal chef, I’ve had clients contact me for a variety of reasons: to help with senior parents who find it difficult to cook for themselves anymore, a single commuter who doesn’t have the time to prepare proper meals at the end of a long day, or families with a child facing a new food allergy or special diet. Whatever the reason, it feels good to be able to help them and their loved ones get through a tough situation.

But the one situation I can relate to, and that touches me most, is the call to help someone who is facing a surgery and a lengthy recovery period. This is what I began to call my ‘Surgery Suppers’ service. I’ve had to put this service to the test on myself and for my family more than once, so maybe that’s why it touches me more than any other service.

Planning Ahead

So what exactly is Surgery Suppers? It’s a meal plan that lays out weeknight dinners, with daily instructions on not only what’s for dinner, but how to cook it, thaw it, heat it, serve it…whatever the client needs. It can simply be supplying a binder with a personal plan of recipes for the client to prepare ahead of the surgery date, or it can mean having me cook the dishes and stock the clients refrigerator and/or freezer before the big day.

Thai-Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Orange Curry Sauce

In our situation, it’s been me as the patient and my husband and kids as the clients. Because my girls were quite small when this happened to us the first time, I put together a binder with a monthly calendar in the front that had nightly meals listed on it for each day so they could see meals-at-a-glance. Then, a section behind that gave detailed instructions for each day. If something needed to be pulled from the freezer and thawed, those instructions appeared in red as a gentle reminder. Instructions for thawing and cooking appeared below that. Everything was spelled out to make the process as easy as possible for my husband. I had filled the refrigerator with several days of fresh meals, and stocked the freezer with enough food to keep them going for about three weeks. Honestly, it was the one thing that allowed me to rest easy and focus on my recovery.

I tend to just focus on dinners for the meal plan, but I did also prepare muffins, scones, pancakes, and other items, and had them in the freezer for my family. My kids were taking their lunches to school, so this was again one less stressor for everyone – they could just grab something from the freezer and throw it in their lunch bags.

Sadly, we had to go through it again a couple years later, but this time the girls were older and able to help, so the meals could be a little more complex. Many of the meals this time meant just having the ingredients on-hand so the girls could start cooking dinner themselves while they waited for my husband to finish work each day.

Every client and every situation is different, but the feeling of knowing something big has been taken care of is the same.

It doesn’t have to be a surgery…maybe you’re undergoing a kitchen renovation, or it’s final exams coming up and you don’t have a lot of time. Whatever the occasion, how do you prepare? How do you plan ahead to keep you or your loved ones on track and eating well?

Happiness is a Cup of Tea

One of our must-do’s when we visit Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, is the Garden View Tea Room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

The elegant tea room, with it’s views of the magnificent resort grounds, serve to instantly put us in a relaxed state of mind in the middle of what can be a crazy busy vacation. Sitting there sipping our tea and enjoying the beautiful plates of sandwiches, scones, and sweet delights, we feel almost like royalty. Sadly, it’s the one thing our girls said they were really missing from our recently cancelled trip.

Campbell’s British Foods & Tea Room

Trying to make the best of a sad situation, I decided to take everyone to the closest and next best thing to try and cheer them up. In this case, Campbell’s British Food & Tea Room here in Barrie (you can find their website here).

I was smart enough to phone a couple of days in advance and made a reservation for the four of us this past Saturday morning. The tea room is small and popular so it can fill up quickly and reservations are recommended.

As much as my little family loves all things tea, we’d never been to Campbell’s before, but you can bet we’ll certainly be going again in the very near future. When you first walk in, you’re on the edge of both a shop filled with an incredible assortment of British goods to your left, and a quaint little tea room on your right. We were quickly greeted with a warm, friendly smile, and directed to our waiting table.

Now we went for breakfast, but they also serve lunch and high tea, and their menu of specialty teas is extensive. I think our girls had gone into the shop expecting a very limited selection of teas having been spoiled by the Grand Floridian experience several times, but they were pleasantly surprised (and maybe even a little overwhelmed) at the 25+ options.

Thankfully, we never felt rushed…in fact, it was completely the opposite. We had a lovely chat with our server more than once throughout our meal, and we were encouraged to take our time. We were able to walk around the shop to look at their fresh pastry display, browse the showcase full of fresh meat pies and sausage rolls, and view the selection in their freezer section.

Everyone eventually made their own tea selection, and when our tea arrived, everyone had their own teapot with (more or less) a matching tea cup. Shortly after that, our food arrived and all of it was hot and terrific.

Being gluten-free, I did ask as soon as we arrived about my options, and unfortunately, Campbell’s does not serve gluten-free toast or pastries. Having done my research and looked at the menu beforehand though, I was prepared for that so not surprised. It didn’t matter – the point of this trip was to give our girls a positive tea experience in place of our missed vacation. However, they did offer to substitute grilled tomato in place of the toast that would normally accompany my meal of choice and I happily accepted that and was not disappointed. Everything was delicious!

After our meal, we finally hit up the shop side of Campbell’s and had fun picking out chips and chocolate bars in flavours we have never seen here in Canada.

Oh, and of course we had to pick out some fresh pastries and meat pies from their display cases as we paid for our meal at the counter on our way out.

Needless to say, we will be hitting Campbell’s again soon to try their high tea…and no doubt pick up a few more British goodies.

Life Seldom Goes as Planned

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? I mean, whack you over the head to get your attention type of tell you something? That’s how I’m beginning to feel when it comes to running. Or more specifically, to runDisney events.

It’s the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World, and we were on the plane…. we were so close… but we had to get off of the plane before it had even pulled away from the gate in Toronto. And cancel our vacation.

If you recall, I had an accident and had to cancel my solo trip to run the Star Wars Rival Run Challenge back in April. Yes, charma reared it’s ugly head again and now I’m out of the Wine & Dine 10k as well.

Down for minimum of six weeks with a broken radius.

We’re Off…the plane!

After we arrived at the airport on Wednesday and made it through security, our daughter suddenly fell ill. We thought she had bounced back while waiting to board, but as soon as we got her on the plane, she deteriorated quickly, and after talking to the flight crew, we pulled her off of the plane.

From there, it was a crazy escorted ride through the back hallways of Toronto Pearson International, to baggage claim (they had to search for and pull our bags off of the plane), and out of the airport to the emergency room. I should say kudos to the WestJet flight crew – they were fantastic and extremely helpful through the whole event!

Thankfully, our daughter is ok, but not knowing what was wrong with her at the time, we had to make the call to cancel our vacation. Obviously it was the right thing to do and we did it without hesitation, but yes, it hurt (hours later, after we knew she was ok).

Cancelling your trip the day you’re due to arrive at Walt Disney World means it’s 100% non-refundable. But that’s what travel insurance is for, right?

But…having an incident while travelling with travel insurance means that you must make the call to them AS SOON AS you know you have a problem. When you book your trip, you sign your paperwork and agree to that statement, but let me tell you, when you’re in that situation, it’s VERY difficult for one of you to stop, pick up the phone, and let the insurance people know what’s happening.

Meanwhile, back in Canada..

First snowfall. November 1, 2019

So here I am, back at home in snowy Canada, living vicariously through everyone who made it to Walt Disney World to run this weekend, and asking myself….dare I try again?? Is the third time a charm? Or do bad things come in three’s?

I’ll have to think on that for a while.

In the meantime, best of luck for a fabulous and magical run to everyone participating in the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend!! I’m with you in spirit!

Meal Prep Sundays

Meal preparation, sometimes referred to as “meal prep”, is the preparation of meals for a period of time.

Along with my training and running schedule has come a few necessary additions to my routine: strength training, Pilates, and of course, meal prep.

Every Sunday I set aside a few hours to prepare food for the coming week. Honestly, my new schedule is too hectic not to. It’s either that or eat junk, and I’m not going through all this exercise and training to blow it all in the kitchen.

So what is meal prep? Meal prep is blocking out time each week to prepare meals for the upcoming week (at least in my case). Everyone’s version or approach is different I’m sure, but mine consists of preparing a few basics every week, plus a few “specialty” items for variety. My goal is to have the fridge stocked with enough items or dishes that I don’t even have to give what I eat a second thought.

For starters, I try to follow the advice ‘eat a rainbow’. I chop and cook a variety of fruits and vegetables: raw in the form of veggie sticks or salads, and cooked in the form of grilled veggies, fruit compote, salads, etc. These are my go-to basics. They end up as side dishes, or as toppings on salads, in a breakfast hash, on top of scrambled eggs or oatmeal, whatever.

Second, I cook batches of quinoa and rice and keep these on hand. These are the beginnings of hot breakfasts, lunch bowls, and dinners.

Tuna Cakes, Chef at Heart
Gluten-Free Tuna Cakes, Chef at Heart

Thirdly, protein. My favourites are grilled chicken or flank steak, turkey sausage, and tuna cakes. Another good option is hard-boiled eggs.

And lastly, I prepare items for my kids school lunches: soups, scones, muffins…even frozen pancakes and French toast. And I try to squeeze fruits and veggies into whatever I can (but don’t tell them that).

Many of these items will be kept fresh in my fridge, but some are frozen so there’s always something to grab, prepare quickly, and eat. I don’t think I could stay on track diet-wise if I didn’t take the time to meal prep. I know I suffer for it if I don’t take the time out: mentally and physically.

Does anyone else do meal prep? I’d love to know how often you do it, and what your favourite items are. Please share. And happy (and healthy) eating!

My First 10k is Looming on the Horizon

Two years ago, my hubby surprised me with a trip to Walt Disney World to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

Our 15th Wedding Anniversary at the Magic Kingdom.

We’re not there today, but I’m excited and nervous to say we’re just one month away from going ‘home’ and enjoying the Magic Kingdom all decked out for fall once again.

Excited because we are taking our girls on this trip and will get to watch them trick-or-treat at their very first Mickey’s Not-So Scary Hallowe’en Party on Hallowe’en night. You can read all about the party here.

Nervous because that means my first 10k is all too close, and while everyone else here is busy putting together Hallowe’en costumes, I’m trying to find training time and am focusing on a running costume.

Now it’s not the distance of the 10k that has me worked up, it’s the conditions. Heat. I hate heat. I’m one of those Canadians that revels in the long cold months of winter and dreads the heat and humidity that comes with summer. I’ve put in time strength training, doing Pilates, and of course the cardio and the running shoe miles, but the heat gets me every time.

Oasis Zoo Run at Toronto Zoo 2019

This past weekend, our family ran the Oasis Zoo Run 5k at the Toronto Zoo and IT WAS HOT! Like REALLY HOT! It was perfect though to test out some of my costume pieces and some new socks, and I had no choice but to run, hot or not. So glad I did! Yeah, socks didn’t work and my feet suffered in the heat (I now have my first black toenail to prove it), and I was nowhere near hydrated enough.

BUT, I did learn a lot. I now know Nuun is a great option for me for hydration. The fabulous volunteers were handing out both water and Nuun at the one and only hydration station along the route (ummm, which we felt came a little too far into the run, but whatever..) so we got to sample. Sadly, I’m one of those people who cannot stomach Gatorade and generally avoid it at all costs, but having started the run on the weekend already thirsty (please stop yelling at me – I know, I know), I eagerly accepted the Nuun solution. Loved it! No horrible taste and no stomach churning. Even my big kid commented after the run that she loved it too.

I also learned that my shoe/sock combination will not work when my feet get overheated, and I’ve learned to make sure my toenails are all well trimmed. Thankfully, I have time to test out new socks and will switch to my other alternate running shoes (am I the only one with more than 1 pair of running shoes?) for the remainder of my training and for the run which are slightly bigger and still my preferred shoes for longer runs.

Now, all this being said…it could pour rain and be cold for the run. I’d prefer the cold but not the rain. Still, I’ve read up on that and will have plenty of newspaper handy to stuff my shoes should they end up soaked, and I’ve got layers ready, including a light warm-up sweater to wear while in my corral before the run begins. I picked it up at a second hand shop and am prepared to toss it aside should I want to ditch it once the run starts. I’m happy to say that Disney collects any discarded clothing along the route and donates it to families in need. Knowing this, countless runners actually purchase clothes to wear and toss aside on the runs. It’s a total win/win!

So, with fall and cooler temps now settling in in Ontario, and the days to the 10k growing short, my runs grow longer and hopefully I’m better prepared for what lies ahead.

Motivated to Train and Ready to Run

Did you see it??

Today was the big reveal by runDisney of the 2019 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend medals! In case you missed it, you can see the medals and read the entire article on the Disney Parks Blog here.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of this event and I am so excited, both as a chef and as a runner, to be there. After an accident and having to cancel my solo trip back in the spring when I was supposed to run the Star Wars Rival Run Challenge, I have regrouped, healed and rescheduled my trip. I’m crazy excited for what will be both my first Wine & Dine runDisney event and my first 10k.


Edible Options Gluten-Free Bakery

Every year my husband participates in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer here in Ontario and joins about 4500 other cyclists in riding from Toronto to Niagara Falls in the name of raising funds for cancer research.

While he cycles in whatever weather Mother Nature throws his way, I travel with our daughters and my sister to Niagara Falls so we can camp out at the finish line and cheer for the riders as they cross the line.