Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tips to Hosting A Stress-Free Dinner Party + Our Latest Dinner Party Menu

September 23, 2015


When Clark and I moved into our new place a few months ago, we knew we wanted to use our space to host our friends more. We now have the space for a larger dining room table (you can see our dining room here), and with my dietary restrictions sometimes making it difficult to eat out, hosting friends for dinner seemed like the best idea!

The thought of having a real “grown-up” dinner party sounded fun (I mean, we are in our 30’s), but I knew I didn’t want to spend the whole night in the kitchen, even if it is open to the dining area. I wanted to talk and laugh at the table with my friends! I was determined to figure out how it could be done! Here’s what worked for me


Start with a group of 6-8, including yourself. It doesn’t have to be big. I think 6 is a perfect number for an easy, stress-free party. You dinner party doesn’t need to be 12 people, and if there are more people you’d like to invite, just have two small parties instead of one big one! It’s much easier to manage! We invited two other couples, our friends Matt and Amber, Zach and Megan. 

Dinner Party Guests


When I started to plan our party menu, there were a few things I needed to keep in mind: 1) It needed to be “aqua-vegan” for me and gluten-free for my friend Megan. 2) I wanted to take advantage of local seasonal produce and play on Fall flavours 3) As much as possible needed to be able to be prepped ahead of time so the day of the party it could just go in the oven (I had to work until 5pm and the party started at 6pm). 4) The dishes needed to be easy to cook, so I could just throw them in the oven and sit with my guests.

Here’s what I decided on for our menu:


VIRGIN APPLE CIDER GINGER MIMOSAS (from In Sonnet’s Kitchen) – the recipe we used (here) called for orange juice and clementines, but to go with our fall theme, we subbed the orange juice for apple cider from a local orchard, and the orange slices for fresh, local, thinly sliced apples. We sliced the ginger and apple before hand (toss apple slices with a little lemon juice to prevent browning) to make the drinks fast and easy to assemble when guests arrived. 

Virgin -Ginger-Mimosa


SWEET POTATO & CHICKPEA SALAD WITH CRISPY SHALLOTS & LEMON TAHINI DRESSING (from The Simple Veganista) – the recipe (here) was delicious. I made the dressing the night before and just tossed it in the blender to smooth it out right before the party. I also chopped the sweet potato and rinsed the chickpeas and stored them overnight in the fridge so I just had to toss them with oil, salt and pepper and slide them in the oven. I also sliced the shallots, so I could just thrown them on the stove when it was time to cook them. 

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad


ROASTED PUMPKIN WITH BLACK RICE & TANGERINE TAHINI SAUCE (from My Darling Lemon Thyme) – the recipe (here) was really simple. I made the sauce the night before and also pre-chopped the pumpkin and parsley. 

Roasted Pumpkin with Black Rice

Salmon with Almond Caper Garnish


OVEN BAKED SALMON WITH TOASTED ALMOND PARSLEY & CAPER SALSA (from Food Network) – the recipe (here) was fast and really easy to make. I really love the “salsa” garnish! The almonds and capers gave it such a great flavour that brought the whole dish together! I pre-cut the salmon fillets and pre-made the salsa beforehand. Because it only takes 12-15 minutes to bake, it a great 2nd course that won’t keep your guests waiting!





CIDER CARAMEL APPLE CRISP WITH VANILLA COCONUT ICE CREAM (from One Lovely Life) – the recipe (here) is one of the better vegan apple crisp recipes I’ve tried. I made this entire dessert before hand and just popped it into the oven to bake while we were eating dinner! It doesn’t get much easier than that! I also made a really simple coconut milk ice cream by mixing coconut milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and almond milk, which was the perfect compliment to the apple crisp. 

Caramel Apple Cider Crisp


When it comes to minimizing stress and maximizing time with friends, organization is key. Make a quick list of each course and what still needs to be done for each. Note the cooking temperature and times as well as any garnishes you need at add. I also kept my Ipad handy to refer to pictures when it came to plating. I made a few quick notes to keep myself organized while the night unfolded:

30 minutes before party: Slice ginger and apple for drinks. Toss sweet potato and chickpeas in olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400. Cook black rice on stovetop.

5 minutes before party: Cook shallots in olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes (place on paper towel until served).

Appetizers: Plating order: Mixed Greens, sweet potato & chickpeas, crispy shallots, lemon dressing, pumpkin seeds. Prepare Main Course: Toss pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400. Clear plates and put salmon in the oven for 15 minutes at 450.

Main Course: Plating order: Black Rice, pumpkin, tangerine sauce, parsley, salmon, almond salsa. Prepare dessert: Bake apple crisp for 50 minutes at 375. 

As long as you know what you need to do at each course, you can rest easy and have fun!



There’s really no need to create elaborate tablescapes with expensive centrepieces, although, if you’re good at that, go for it! If you’re like me and your pass time isn’t arranging floral displays, focus on the food and the friends and create a simple, but beautiful, setting for the evening to unfold. I set our concrete table with a simple white linen table runner, vintage brass candle holders that I picked up this summer for $4 at a garage sale, and a few branches from the willow tree behind our condo. So simple. So beautiful. Sometimes less is more!

Simple Table Settings

Hosting a dinner party might be less work than you think! So go extend an invitation and spend more time with the people you love without spending all your money on a restaurant bill. The total of our dinner bill was easily less than $50 for all 6 of us!


Vegan Pumpkin Scones

September 21, 2015


It looks like it’s officially fall, at least on the west coast! Warm scarves, boots, and pumpkins everywhere! I’ve talked before about my love for carbs, and nothing makes my heart dance like a warm pastry right out of the oven. What better way to welcome pumpkin season than with vegan pumpkin scones!

Vegan Pumpkin Scones

I’ve tried to “veganize” a few scone recipes, but I haven’t had great enough success to share it with you, until this one! These scones are pretty delicious. 

I’ve recently started subbing in spelt flour in some of my recipes. I have to limit my gluten intake, so I don’t like to use regular wheat flour very often, but I’ll often play around with different flours to try and achieve a good gluten-free recipe. While spelt is not gluten-free, for those who are simply trying to eat less gluten, or are gluten sensitive, it can be a great option. 

Pumpkin Scones

When trying to “veganize” baking recipes, I’ve learned a few tricks that help to get fairly good results: 1. Butter/margarine – coconut oil often works as an adequate substitute, 2. Buttermilk – I mix 1 cup of almond milk with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, 3 – Eggs: I make a “flax-egg” by mixing 1 Tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 Tbsps of warm water.

When you’re making them, mix the dry ingredients first, then form a well and pour in the wet ingredients. Once you’ve got your dough spread out, cut it in eight equal pieces, like a pizza. 

Pumpkin Scones - vegan

Place them on a baking tray, but keep in mind they will spread slightly, so leave an inch or two between triangles. 

To maintain my dignity, I’m not even going to tell you how long it took us to completely devour this entire batch. No honestly, it’s embarrassing. Hope you enjoy! I know I did!

I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favourite fall treat? 

Vegan Pumpkin Scones
Yields 8
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
  1. 2 1/2 cups spelt flour (you could sub for any all purpose flour)
  2. 2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  4. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  6. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  7. 1/4 cup coconut sugar (you could sub brown sugar)
  8. 3 Tbsp raw cane sugar
  9. 1/2 cup cold, hard coconut oil (place in fridge for 30 minutes to harden if needed)
  10. 1 flax egg (mix 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp of water)
  11. 3 Tbsp almond milk
  12. 2 tsp lemon juice
  13. 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  14. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  15. 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  1. 10 medjool dates, pitted (or regular dates soaked in hot water for 20 minutes to soften)
  2. 2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
  3. 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  4. 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  5. Pinch of sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a small ramekin, add 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed to 3 Tbsp of warm water and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coconut sugar, and cane sugar until combined.
  4. Using a pastry cutter, add in hard coconut oil.
  5. In a small bowl whisk together almond milk and lemon juice. Then add pumpkin puree, vanilla, maple syrup and the flax mixture you prepared at the beginning.
  6. Create a well in the centre of dry mixture and pour the wet mixture into the middle of the well. Mix under combined.
  7. Dust surface with flour and place the dough in the centre of your work area.
  8. Pat and shape dough into an even 8-10 inch round.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in 8 equal pieces, like a pizza.
  10. Transfer scones to a parchment lined baking sheet (place at least an inch or two apart as dough will spread).
  11. Bake at 425 for 13-15 minutes.
  12. Cool for 10-15 minutes before adding glaze.
  1. In a blender, blend together dates, coconut milk, syrup, coconut oil, maple syrup and salt until smooth.
  2. Add warm water to thin if needed.
Adapted from Cooking Classy
Adapted from Cooking Classy
In Everything

Built-Ins to Hide Your TV

September 19, 2015


A few months ago Clark and I moved into a new-build condo. It’s so fun to move into a new place! Everything is fresh and clean and new! But along with that comes boring plain walls, basic finishes, and a very blank slate. We decided the first area we were going to tackle was the main living area, which included the dining room and living room, because that’s where we spend most of our time! (You can see our dining room makeover here.) 

The wall had an existing ledge about a foot of the ground and an electric fireplace on the right side. The electrical for the TV was already installed on the left side, but I was really struggling to find a way to make the wall come together. 


Our place isn’t huge, in fact it’s 1000 square feet, so the living room needed to function as our main hang-out space, reading area, movie watching space, and entertaining space. I knew I didn’t want the TV to be the focal point of the room, but I couldn’t figure out what to do. Then one day it hit me, “why don’t we hide the TV??!” And that’s just what we did!

As I shared my vision with Clark, he drew up pictures and pitched the idea to our friend Evan, who’s a little more handy than Clark. We made plans for Evan to come visit for a few days from Vancouver Island, and our dreams of built-ins in to hide our TV started to take shape! The guys spent about 24hours together building, painting, and singing and dancing to Dance Mix ’93, but when they were finished, this was the result! 

built-ins before and after

Great job guys! They were able to take my vision and make it appear right before my eyes. The projects started by purchasing  4 – 12″ x 30″ white doors from ikea that would create the bi-fold doors. The biggest job was constructing the vertical partition that would separate the TV side from the fireplace side, then building the shelves that would go above the TV. 

Built ins to hide the TV

When it was all in place they attached the doors and added used magnetic latches to keep the doors closed when it was time to hide the TV. We mounted the TV on a mount that come out from the wall about a foot so it’s easy to see from any part of the room, but it also works just fine when it flat against wall too!

Built ins to hide the TV

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It really helped to make the space multi-purpose and I think it provides a great focal point for the room!

Builts in - doors opened and closed

I also love having shelves to collect and display some of my favourite little things! It really helps to make it feel personal. 

Built ins to hide the TV

We never could have pulled this off without the help of our friend Evan! Evan, you’re the best! Thanks for your friendship, expertise and willingness to make my vision a reality!

Sources: Doors  |  Knobs |  Hinges (similar) | Magnetic Latch  |  Poufs | Swivel TV Mount 

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream – With An Unexpected Secret Ingredient!

September 10, 2015


I love ice cream. There’s no other way to say it; I just love it. Especially in warmer weather, nothing makes me more excited that a scoop of creamy ice cream on a waffle cone while walking along the ocean. I can taste it now!

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

When I changed my diet as part of my management of MS (you read more about that here), one of the things I missed the most was an ice cream cone. Have I mentioned I love ice cream? I’ve been trying to recreate my own dairy-free/vegan ice cream for the past few months and I’m finally starting to get some great results! I know summer is almost over, but those people who say ice cream is a summer treat don’t know what’s good for them! 

I made this Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream a couple weeks ago and decided to let Clark taste it before I told him the ingredients. He instantly started “Mmmm-ing,” followed by a “Babe, this is amazing!” I knew I hit the jackpot. As soon as I’d seen that I won him over, I knew I could tell him what was in it! In a “haha-I-tricked-you” kind of tone I blurted out, “IT’S MADE OF AVOCADO!!!” I think we were both kind of surprised how great it tasted. 

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

Honestly, the blend of avocado and coconut milk make this ice cream so, so creamy! Just blend all the ingredients together in a blender, freeze, and scoop! It’s that easy! If you’re planning on eating it the next day, or a few days later, you may need to let it sit out for 30 minutes before it’s soft enough to scoop up! 

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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
  1. 2 Large Avocados (or 3 small)
  2. 1 can of coconut milk (use full fat for extra creamy, but low-fat will work)
  3. 1 cup almond milk
  4. 1/3 cup of liquid sweetener of your choice (honey, maple syrup, agave)
  5. 1/4 cup cocoa power
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1 tsp sea salt
  8. 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  1. Add all ingredients to blender.
  2. Place in freezer safe container and freeze for 3-5 hours* (stirring every hour if you can).
  3. Once mixture is frozen, scoop it up and enjoy!
  1. If you freeze it for more than 5 hours you may have to let it sit on the counter for 30-40 minutes to soften before scooping.
In Everything
Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear if you’re able to trick anyone into eating avocado!  


TRUST + free download – TECH TUESDAY

September 8, 2015



If I had to choose one word that has really defined my life so far, it’s Trust. Learning that I really need to lean on God and not my own strength, or the strength of others. 



The first time I was really challenged by this word was in 2009. I was discouraged, heartbroken, and frustrated. I was doing my best to keep going,  despite the obstacles in front of me, but I was ready to throw in the towel. 

I was on staff at a church just outside Toronto, and it was evident that my role as a female in ministry was difficult for others that were in leadership with me. I wasn’t invited to the same meetings the guys were and several things had been said about my inability to lead in certain ways because of my gender. I did my best to stay focused and continue to serve the students in our ministry, but I knew at my core I was becoming angry, bitter, and resentful. 

Near the beginning of 2009 I found myself in Jeremiah 17. It was like the words jumped off the page when I read them,

“Cursed is the man who trust in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant.” Jeremiah 17:5-6

I knew that’s what had happened to me. I had put my trust in people. Trusting that my pastor would give me opportunities and believing that my husband would stand up for me and defend me. I had made “flesh my strength.” When you really study that word “strength”, it means someone, a shoulder, that you lean on. I knew that the more I leaned on people and trusted in them to make a way for me, the more I became like a bush in the desert. I was dried up, brittle, and unable to yield fruit in my own life and in my ministry. 

But the next part gave me hope. It said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

That’s who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a person that no matter what season I was in, I wouldn’t be afraid or anxious because I was rooted next the source of life. I knew that if I chose to trust that God would take care of me, fight for me, defend me, and provide for me, that regardless of what the people around me were doing, my life could still be fruitful. That’s what I wanted. 

I made a choice that day to trust. To trust that God is who He says He is in every season, no matter what my circumstance might look like. It’s not been the easiest journey, but I know that as long as I stay planted by the water, letting my roots go down deep, I’ll make it. 

The writer of Proverbs knew what he was taking about when he wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 

I don’t always understand. I don’t always know what to do. I don’t always feel like trusting, or even know how to at times; but I choose daily to Trust Him instead of leaning on my own understanding or on the strength of others. He can always hold me up when I lean on Him. 


You can download this graphic for FREE for your desktop, iphone or ipad as a daily reminder to trust Him in everything. 




September 6, 2015


Easy Fish Tacos

This time last year when my diet changed pretty drastically (read more about that here), I knew it was going to mean big changes for Clark too. I wasn’t going to try to force him to eat all my new food, but I also knew that making 2 meals every night would get old pretty quickly. I have been blown away at the way he’s embraced “our” new diet and rarely chooses to eat something different than me, at least while we’re at home! He’s been amazing. 

Knowing that tacos are one of Clark’s favourite meals, I wanted to create a taco recipe we would both love. I have basically adopted what I call an “aqua-vegan” diet. All vegan (no meat, eggs, dairy etc) + fish. Since Clark and I both love fish, we probably have fish 3 nights a week! After a couple months of a simple fish meal with veggies several times a week, I knew we needed some variation! 

Easy Fish Tacos

This recipe is super easy and really quick to make! I hate when food takes forever to prepare, especially when I’m starving when I get home work, so quick and easy works for us!

We use tilapia as our fish because the flavour is subtle, it doesn’t smell too fishy, and it’s pretty affordable to buy fresh! We buy ours fresh from the Superstore in a small package with 3-4 fillets in it for less than $8. I begin prepping the fish by rinsing it under cold water, patting it dry and rubbing the seasoning over it. I then set the fish aside while the grill is heating up and prep and chop up the rest of the ingredients for the coleslaw and salsa, and guacamole. The last thing to do is toss the fish on the BBQ, cook for 4-5 minutes on each side and viola! Okay, so that sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s really quite easy I promise. Each step only takes a couple minutes! It shouldn’t take much more than 20 minutes from start to finish! 

We’ve tested this recipe out with a few friends now and it always gets great reviews! Hope you enjoy! 

Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
For the Fish
  1. 3-4 small skinless white fish fillets (we use tilapia)
  2. 1 tsp of cumin
  3. 1 tsp of paprika
  4. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional: if you want a little kick!)
  7. 8 Corn tortillas (you could use wheat if gluten isn't a problem)
  1. 3 cups of shredded cabbage (You could use of pre shredded bag of cabbage & carrot coleslaw mix)
  2. 2 green onions
  3. 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  4. 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  5. 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  6. Pinch of salt
  1. 4 small tomatoes
  2. 1/4 red onion
  3. 2 jalapeños
  4. Juice from 1/2 lime
  5. Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. 2 ripe avocados
  2. 1/4 red onion
  3. 2 jalapeños
  4. Juice from 1/2 lime
  5. Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Mix together the cumin, paprika, sea salt and pepper and rub it all over the outside of the fish.
  3. Pre-heat the grill and set aside.
  4. Cook fish as on medium to high heat for 4-5 minutes per side as soon as your other prep (coleslaw, salsa, guacamole) is done.
  5. Throw the tortilla shells on about 3 minutes before fish is done to warm them up.
  1. Shred the cabbage (or empty your pre-shredded bag) and place in a medium sized bowl
  2. Slice 2 green onions and add to the cabbage mix.
  3. In a small ramekin, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon and salt.
  4. Add dressing to cabbage and onion mix and stir.
  1. Dice tomatoes, onion and jalapeños and drain the excess liquid.
  2. Add lime juice and salt & pepper to taste.
  1. In a small bowl mash avocado.
  2. Dice onion and jalapeños into small pieces.
  3. Add lime juice and salt & pepper to taste.
In Everything


September 1, 2015



Clark and I recently moved into a new condo and we’ve been working hard to take it from a plain builder-basic space, to a home that better reflects our style and personalities. We didn’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for a huge reno, so we knew we needed to be creative in our approach! I had a vision for a wall in the dining room that was clean and simple, but I wanted something a little more interesting than a simple, painted wall. I settled on a grid created with simple trim and I was convinced we could do it ourselves! I mean, why not! Right?

This probably seems like a relatively simple project, but for two people who don’t own a single power tool  (well, that’s not entirely true, we do own one drill)  it might be a bit more challenging! Determined not to let our lack of power tools stop us, we developed a plan!

Here’s what we used to complete this DIY project:

  • pre-primed white trim 
  • hammer
  • 1 1/2 inch nails
  • wood filler
  • level
  • hand saw
  • miter box
  • measuring tape
  • sanding block or sand paper

DIYTRIMWALL- toolsneeded

Here’s the step-by-step instructions we followed:

  • Decide on the grid pattern you want. I recommend drawing it out on paper first.
  • Your first piece of trim should go along the entire length of the wall at the very top (this is assuming that you already have trim along the bottom – if you don’t have trim along the bottom, put trim there too.)Use your saw and miter box to cut to exactly the right size. Place it flush against the ceiling and use the nails and hammer to attach it to the wall.
  • Next measure from the bottom of the top piece of trim to the top of the bottom piece on the far left side of the wall, and the far right side of the wall. (Did you catch all that?) Cut it to size and again, nail and hammer away! This should create a box framing the entire wall.
  • Next add the vertical trim. You might need to put those math skills to good use here to figure out how far a part each piece should be. It’s totally up to you! We added 5 vertical pieces, each with a 21.5 inch space between them. Make sure you use your level here!
  • Next you’ll add the horizontal pieces. We decided to create a square, rectangle, and square, which meant that we cut 2 21.5 inch pieces per vertical box. 
  • Once your grid is in place you’ll need to use the wood filler to fill the nail holes and any small gaps in the trim seams. Once it’s dry, sand it smooth and paint in the colour of your choice! (We used Benjamin Moore Cloud White)

DIY Trim Wall

Here’s our plain wall before, and the trim wall after! Such a transformation! I LOVE it!


In addition to our dining room wall, we also decided to do the small wall inside our front door. Because we don’t have a ton of storage in the condo, hooks inside the front door seemed like the best option to catch our bags and coats. We found these 3 brass and leather hooks at anthropologie, and I love how they work in the space!

DIY Trim Wall

Here’s a closer look at those hooks!

Coat hook

In the dining area we changed the light fixture, and styled the space around a Craigslist find, this ridiculously heavy, 72 inch concrete table! Our existing chairs and the bench we had in our front hallway of our old condo worked perfectly! The brass candle holders were a $2 garage sale score. 

Dining Room with DIY trim wall

I was so rattled when I discovered that this place didn’t have a linen closet! It must have been some kind of design flaw, but there was literally nowhere to put towels and linens. Since the main bathroom was just to the right of the dining area, I thought a sideboard could work to house the extra towels. 

Wood Cabinet

This cabinet serves double duty. It’s the perfect place to drop our keys etc, and it works perfectly to hold all our guest towels! Also, how awesome is that 20 x 30 picture of Clark and I above the cabinet? Luke Liable is a photography genius. 

Wood sideboard cabinet used as linen closet

There are still minor things we need to finish, but this is the front entryway and dining area of our new place! What do you think? Not bad for no power tools, right?

DIY Trim Wall

Now, who’s coming over for dinner?

DETAILS: Light Fixture (Anthropologie) | Brass Candle Holders (Yard Sale Find $2) | Concrete Table (Craig’s List) | Bench (HomeSense | Chairs (Home Outfitters) | Entryway hooks (Anthropologie) | Wood Cabinet (HomeSense)