Canada, eh?

Even before I booked my flights, I knew I was going to fall head over heels in love with Vancouver. A place you can surf and ski in the same day can only be so bad, right?

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Lions Gate Bridge

The raw natural beauty of the British Columbian coast blew me away. Majestic snow-covered mountains rise up from the shimmering ice-cold Pacific Ocean, both vying for the dazzling golden rays of the sun. The city itself is beautiful, with Stanley Park extending out into the ocean, the surrounding sea wall pathway always bustling with joggers, cyclists and walkers.

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Stanley Park sea wall, Vancouver

Nature undeniably plays a huge role in the lives of most British Columbians (I’ve never met a more outdoorsy bunch!), as well as the obvious things like ice hockey (just ‘hockey’ to them, of course), amazing seafood, native history, maple syrup and wild bears, but they’re also concealing a few unexpected hidden gems…

  1. PUREBREAD (a.k.a. Heaven on Earth)

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This bakery takes bread and cakes to a whole new level of interesting. As a purveyor of baked goods, I can say I have never been to a better bakery.  There’s two in Whistler, and one in Vancouver city itself, so all our bases were covered – phew!
We tried potato, gruyere and rosemary bread and a deadly chocolate brownie, but by far the best was their ‘crack’ bar. Half flapjack-half butter tart, this decadent treat may look small and uninteresting, but never judge a book by its cover! I will eventually succeed in recreating this recipe *watch this space*.
http://www.purebread.ca/
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  1. SCANDINAVE SPA, Whistler

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The Scandinave Spa in Whistler is the definition of relaxation. We went fairly early on in the day and it was deserted. The rigidly-enforced silence rule was the best part (normally something I find challenging!) and really allowed you to drink in the spectacular mountain views. Go from hot jacuzzi to cold plunge pool, stay warm in the large wooden sauna, or read a book in the solarium. Bliss.

Trust me the $60 entrance fee is worth it. http://www.scandinave.com/en/whistler/

  1. SPECIALITY BEERS 

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Microbreweries have really taken off over the past few years, not just in Canada, but the Whistler Brewing Co. made me fall in love with beer. Having always thought I disliked the taste, only ever drinking the occasional acceptably girly bottle of Peroni with a pizza, I discovered that beer can be delicious! We filled up a couple of enormous growlers (yes, that is really what they call them) of Bear Paw Honey Lager and Chestnut Ale. Not to be missed. http://whistlerbeer.com/

  1. FLYOVER CANADA

Remember those awesome simulators at the Science Museum which made you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster zooming through an alien planet? Well, Flyover Canada is a 21st Century upgrade which suspends you, feet dangling, in front of a spherical 20-meter screen which guides you over the incredible sights of Canada. You will feel the wind in your hair, the spray of the ocean and smells of the forests – you really do feel like you’re flying!
Best to book in advance and go early in the day to avoid the queues. On the upside, the queue line has a fantastic view across the bay towards Stanley Park, with quirky Gastown behind you. www.flyovercanada.com 

Nectarine, burrata & prosciutto summer salad

Although you wouldn’t know it’s summer in London right now, soft fruit is starting to fill the supermarket shelves – strawberries waiting for cream, raspberries ready for jams, and blackberries for fruit crumbles.

The sweetness of the nectarine mixed with the saltiness of the prosciutto and creaminess of burrata is a mouth-watering combination, a worthy rival of any high-end deli counter! Oh-so-simple and quick to rustle up after a long day at work, this recipe is great light dinner idea for the warm summer evenings to come (hopefully!).

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 Ingredients (serves 2)
200g burrata
1 ripe nectarine, sliced
100g prosciutto
1 bag of baby leaf salad, washed

For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
Squeeze of lemon
Salt & pepper

Although it’s perhaps tempting to add other ingredients to this salad, simple is best in my opinion – the flavours are already exciting enough!

Cookie Dough Protein Balls

These homemade protein balls are little life savers when you need a taste of something a bit sweet and satisfying but still healthy – after dinner, post-workout, 3pm slump pick-me-up ; )

Packed with protein and all-important healthy fats, they are easy to make and fun to customise. Most importantly, they have none of the stabilisers and chemicals that the shop bought ones all contain. They will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge so great for those who like to meal prep for the week.

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Ingredients (makes about 10)
50g brown rice protein powder
2 tbsp ground flax seed
60g almond butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
20g raw cacao nibs OR dark chocolate chips
50ml unsweetened almond milk (if needed to combine mixture)

Method
1. Mix together the rice protein and flax seed in a large bowl.
2. Add the almond butter, melted coconut oil and vanilla. Combine until mixture becomes a sticky dough.
3. Add the cacao nibs/chocolate chips.
4. Using damp hands, divide the mixture into about 10 equal sized balls. If too dry and crumbly, add the almond milk and stir well before rolling the balls into shape.
5. Store balls in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if they don’t all get eaten before!).

Tip
: These balls can be adjusted to taste! Try peanut or cashew butter, roll the balls in desiccated coconut, or if you fancy them a bit sweeter, add a tbsp of coconut sugar or agave syrup.

Nutritional content per ball (approx.)
90 calories; 7g protein; 2.5g carbs (1.5g sugars); 5.3g fat; 1.7g fibre

Healthy Rice Pudding

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Not all carbs are created equal! This delicious brown rice and almond milk pudding is packed with fibre, and has absolutely no added sugar or any of the other nasties you find in even the most luxurious shop-bought varities. It’s the perfect warming treat, and it’s guilt free!

Ingredients (serves 4)
200g short grain brown rice, uncooked
1 litre carton unsweetened almond milk
1 vanilla pod, deseeded
1 cinnamon stick
Optional toppings: coconut sugar, coconut flakes, cinnamon, nuts, dried or fresh fruit, etc.

1. Add all the ingredients to a medium sized saucepan, EXCEPT for approx. 250ml of the almond milk (hold this back for later).
2. Bring to the boil, stirring often, then turn down the heat to allow the ingredients to simmer gently. Cover pan with lid.
3. Check and stir regularly until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice has softened. This will take about 1 hour.
4. Finally, stir in the remaining 250ml of almond milk and serve hot.