3 Foods Your Need To Include In Your Long Weekend

We’re a bizarre species. Gifted a three-day weekend rather than spend the extra day sleeping-in or phoning mom, we pack up and drive off to the middle of nowhere. And it can take as many as three days to organize the whole ordeal including, of course, meal planning. Now a long weekend camping trip is its own beast. I don’t camp, so I can’t advise you what to pack. I don’t even regularly go away for long weekends—I serve brunch to the sad souls still left in the city. Nonetheless from my few weekend-away experiences, I share with you a list of unlikely pantry staples to toss into the cooler or tote bag. Note: I trust that you’re smart enough to load up on seasonal offerings from famers’ markets and roadside stalls on your long, boring drive to wherever.

long weekend foods

Canned chickpeas

No, I don’t classify anything “canned” as a summer food, but pantry staples are staples for a reason. Canned chickpeas save you the trouble of overnight soaking and cooking, yet still offer a filling source of protein that can bulk up any dish or tide you over from one meal to the next. Not based on any official survey, chickpeas are the most beloved of the legume family. They can form the basis of burgers, dips, salads or, when roasted, trail mix. Just don’t forget the can opener!

Jam and chutney

Like canned goods, preservatives shine throughout the winter months. However, also liked canned goods such as chickpeas, a quality jam or chutney can wear numerous hats on a summer weekend away. In the morning, it can top oatmeal or toast. At lunch it can add a subtle sweetness to sandwiches. Meanwhile at night-time, warmed and thinned out, it can dress a bowl of ice cream or serve as a layer in a smore. While you should refrigerate your jam over the long-term, it’s sturdy enough to survive at room temperature for a day or two given a malfunctioning cooler or non-existent cottage fridge.

Tea bags

Solid coffee requires too much paraphernalia. Why substitute lousy instant espresso, when you can source your caffeine from respectable bagged tea? I know, I know, I just sent a shudder through the spines of the entire coffee community. But in my books tea is tolerated by more than coffee is. And not only does the easily pack-able alternative to the loose leaf variety still deliver on flavour, it can also fill out your weekend meals in other ways. Brew ten or so bags in a jar and chill for homemade iced tea. It’s perfect on its own with a squeeze of lemon, splashed into a salad dressing or mixed into a cocktail. Toss a bag or two into anything you braise, boil or steam over the course of your weekend for added flavour without the hassle of packing your entire spice rack. Best of all use any leftover bags over your eyes upon your return to the city to ease irritation or redness from the weekend.

Three (And A Half) Summer Foods We’ve Been Craving All Year

We made it! Whether it was too short, too long, too mild or too cold, we survived winter. As our reward, we welcome summer and its joys: constant boredom, failed beach bods and lack of employment. Well, at least you can gorge yourself on traditional summer eats. Yeah, sure, you can eat ice cream anytime of year, but there’s nothing like a late-night impromptu Dairy Queen run. (I blame the later sunset.) Here’s my five crave-worthy summer favourites.

 summer foods we've been craving

Iced drinks

Come June, steamed milk seems cloying and heavy and brew coffee induces excessive sweating (thanks to the heat, not the caffeine). Cue every restaurant and coffee shop’s summer lifesaver: the ice machine. With the first iced tea and coffee of the season, comes endless “aha” moments. It’s certainly far more refreshing than a forgotten cup of joe lost amongst the clutter of your desk.

Barbeque and picnics

At Boost Life we celebrated National Grill Month back in May, but now the perfect barbeque weather has arrived. Whether you take to the grill for the first time or as many times as you can, summer is the time to light up. (Your barbeque that is.) Given students’ inherent lack of access to quality stovetops—if one at all, here’s looking at you, dorm room—a barbeque is an affordable way to infuse your cooking with smoky flavour. For the less daring, summertime is also picnic time. It’s as easy as throwing whatever sharable snacks live in your cupboards, a bottle of wine, couple cans of beer or sparkling water in a backpack and venturing to your nearest green space. A pack of cards or board game add to the outdoor fun.

Ice cream and smores

Across the country, your favourite local ice cream shops turn the closed sign over and open their doors from Victoria Day weekend through to Thanksgiving. Wherever or however you fill your summer days, there’s always a moment for ice cream. Given the bounty of opportunity, it’s the chance to experiment and try as many flavours as possible. (Not all at once though.) And there’s no reason not to mix-up another classic summer dessert, smores. How about switch your graham crackers for chocolate chip cookies, milk for dark chocolate or white for coloured marshmallows? For city slickers, thankfully you can achieve the same melty gooiness of a campfire via the oven or microwave.  

Patios

Okay, no, you can’t eat a patio, but suddenly doesn’t everything taste a million times better on one? Dine al fresco and something about the summer air turns a burger and fries into a starred meal. Even if you don’t have one at home, take advantage of the likely numerous restaurants cashing in on patio season with a set-up of their own. Strive to be extra considerate to your serving staff though—speaking from experience, patio season tends to make you hate your restaurant work life more than usual. Cheers to a summer of patio-appropriate weather.

How To Build A Better: Salad

If you have a shred of fashion sense, you have the ability to build a respectable salad. If not…there’s always Freshii.

Like fashion an understanding and respect of the basics—the rules so to speak—is required before variations on them can occur. At its most basic a salad is composed of four elements: foundation, additions, dressing and garnishes. (Note: I have just self-coined each element for the purpose of this post.) Don’t let my technical read on the salad scare you though. Let it empower you to build a better one. Understand the function of each element and you’ll never be bored by greens again.

 how to build a better salad

1) Foundation

 

To most a salad’s identity lies in its foundation. At this very moment in some substandard restaurant a dissatisfied server just dropped a mess of iceberg lettuce drizzled with pre-made dressing and called it salad. It’s essentially just some iceberg on a plate yet it can be defined otherwise. Because of its foundation. And depending on the foundation’s characteristics it’ll drive the nature of the remaining elements. My advice? Choose your foundation based on what looks freshest at the grocery store. For something delicate and lighter, go for red leaf, Butter, Bibb or Boston lettuce, spinach, arugula or your classic spring mix. If you intend to pair it with heavy additions and an even heavier dressing, try kale, Swiss chard or romaine lettuce. Should the produce section look barren or blah, then stick to grains be it rice or macaroni, root vegetables like carrot or potato or legumes from beans to lentils.

2) Additions

They’re the supporting stars to your salad, providing variation in colour, texture and flavour. Take inspiration not only from the foundation’s structural integrity as noted above, but also its own flavour and traditional pairings. For example, fill out a pile of black beans with finely diced jalapeno, tomato, avocado and corn kernels for a Tex-Mex take. As your own palate develops (i.e. as you eat more) your pairings will grow in complexity. No addition is wrong as long as it adds colour, texture or flavour.

3) Dressing

Ultimately the dressing is where you can impress. While almost unidentifiable in appearance, it permeates each bite. Let’s put an end to the mythology that salad dressings are hard to make. I proudly have never succumbed to pre-made dressing—even in my weakest grocery store moments. Start simple with a classic 2:1 oil to vinegar vinaigrette, using good quality options for each. Season with salt and pepper and my favourite secret dressing ingredient: citrus zest. Once you master the vinaigrette, delve in the wild (and typically wacky) world of most “advanced” dressings from 1000 Islands to Caesar.

4) Garnishes

Arguably the most beloved element of the salad, there’s a reason garnishes have the top spot. Croutons, am I right? In my books, a garnish must pack a punch in one of two arenas: flavour or texture. Don’t overindulge and keep the portion just right. And it’s not just croutons. How about seeds or nuts? Toasted corn tortillas chips or bagel slices? Heck, you could even pull off pretzels or potato chips.

What Dad Really Wants To Eat This Father’s Day

by David Kitai

On every Father’s Day for years I tried to get my dad to eat a conventional “manly” meal. He keeps strict kosher, so a bacon-laden breakfast was out of the question. He doesn’t drink, so I certainly couldn’t pour us some scotch. And his disdain for red meat meant that steak was completely out of the question.

So what’s an uninspired child to do? Shouldn’t all dads want a T-bone and a bottle of Napa Cab? Shouldn’t we sit down with our dads and force conversation about a sport neither of us actually understands? Shouldn’t Father’s Day be a strained, stilted experience as father and child squeeze into familial conventions they never inhabit the other 364 days in a year?

 

No! Please, just—no. Absolutely not.

 

Let me share three principles to follow for an unconventional Father’s Day dinner. And maybe by foregoing conventions you’ll end up repairing that oh-so-broken relationship.

what dad really wants to eat this father's day

 

Consider dad’s tastes

It’s not as simple a suggestion as it sounds. You’ve been away at college or university, focusing on yourself for much of your adult life. And before that you were a teenager, focusing even more on yourself. So if you’re making the effort to prepare a meal on Father’s Day, ask the guy about his favourite food and restaurant. You may uncover a dish he loves, but hasn’t eaten in years. Who knew you share a love of curried eggplant and respectively frequented the same cheap Sri Lankan spot as students?

 

Cook dinner WITH—not for—dad

Surprisingly, many a dad can cook. In fact he might know a few things he can teach you—as might you for him. However, if he hates cooking, show him something easy you like to make. If he’s already an avid cook, combine your skill sets for a legendary dinner. You’ve probably had a tough time describing your major in intersectional equity studies to him, so why not show dad that you’ve learned something practical during university.

 

Don’t make steak—unless dad requests it

Steak on Father’s Day is boring and clichéd. If he’s a big time meat-eater, why not mix it up with carne asada or smoked pork shoulder? If like many fathers of university-aged children he’s watching his red meat intake then skillet-bake chicken thighs or grill a whole fish. Better yet, make the whole meal vegetarian. Damn the heteronormative Father’s Day meal. Be progressive—and don’t forget about mom.

How To Find The Best Recipe Inspiration

You’re a regular reader of Boost Life and other food-related blogs. You’ve likely worked through countless recipes, and even put your own twists on a few. You’re an accomplished cook who’s ready for more. But when you’re flying blind, without cookbooks, cooking shows, or recipe apps to guide you, how can you find inspiration? Follow my tips and you’ll be shopping and cooking like the improvisational pro that I—and your last exam grader— know you are.

First, however, I should lay out four rules for improvising in the kitchen:

where to find recipe inspo

Rule #1: Don’t be afraid

Experimentation in the kitchen is risky. You’ll screw up. And, that’s okay. Just allow yourself to learn from your mistakes (see Rule #4).

Rule #2: Keep it simple

When you’re first trying out unfamiliar ingredients, cook them as simply as possible. As you become more comfortable with them, then you can start messing around.

Rule #3: Taste often

I only recently learned this surprisingly easy rule: taste your food as often as you can while cooking. And in doing so, discover what a dish needs and how you might balance out and improve its flavour during its preparation.

Rule #4: Be reflective

When you’re eating your meal, consider what could have been done better, which ingredients worked together and which didn’t. Not only will this make you a better cook, it’ll make you a better eater.

Now, my tips for inspiration:

Tip #1: What grows together goes together

In an Ontario supermarket you can ignore season, climate and even perishability. You’re left, however, with too much choice. If you spend time learning what vegetables tend to grow together, or visit farmers’ markets and see what local producers are currently bringing in, you’ll be able to narrow your focus, and cook with a manageable range of ingredients that work together surprisingly well.

Tip #2: Eat widely and wildly

The best chefs are the best eaters. They can taste a dish or a raw ingredient and tell you why it works and why it doesn’t. There’s no innate talent to this—they’ve just eaten a lot of great meals. Never miss a chance to eat somewhere special because the inspiration one meal will bring you can last a very, very long time.

Tip #3: Trust your gut

If the idea of Nutella and aged cheddar makes you excited—and actually it should— combine them in a crêpe. If you long to cook pork belly in pomegranate juice, then do just that. Maybe it won’t work out, but you won’t know if you don’t try. By now, you’ve internalized so many different combinations of flavour that you might not even know where the inspiration comes from. But if it comes from within it’s certainly worth trying. And hey, who knows, you might come up with a truly unique—and delicious—dish.

 

How To Snack Smart

To snack smart is to snack period. I mean it. To most, snacking is a bag of potato chips on a Friday night (sober or not). But that’s not actually snacking though. It’s a meal—maybe two.

Without recesses and the after school grace period (that hour between 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm), as college and university students we don’t practice snacking. Our schedules are no longer regulated, so our eating habits aren’t either. We eat as much as we can whenever we can. Lost for free time, we maintain our hunger at two extremes: starving or stuffed. Likewise, our snacks are either plain boring or over indulgent. But when smartly done, snacking, in combination with regular meals, levels out your hunger, satisfies it and keeps it satisfied.

snack smart

 

Keep it thoughtless

Time is the enemy of many—snacks included. A snack should be neither time-consuming in its preparation or consumption. Consider the classic: milk and cookies. When it comes to preparation, pouring and plating are the only requirements. Furthermore snacks that are thoughtless to prepare often pack easily, like cheese and crackers or a piece of fruit and some yogurt. Yet even preparation-heavy snacks can be whipped up on the weekend or during a break from late-night studying to allow for minimal preparation when snack time itself strikes. Bars, cookies and cake come to mind—nothing overly indulgent of course—candied or seasoned and roasted nuts, or even homemade fresh cheeses and cured fish. The time you put in in advance will pay off in flavour.

Keep it composed

High school health class and government marketing has imprinted the image of a balanced meal in our minds—or mine at least: half a plate’s worth of fruit and vegetables, a quarter (or slightly less) of protein and another quarter (or slightly more) of grain products. So if we know the image so well, why don’t we apply it (on a smaller scale) to our snacks? Like a well-thought-out outfit or layered composition, snacks should be multifaceted. Take the rice cake, for example. On its own it’s flavourless, boring and flat—akin to cardboard in multiple respects really. However, smear a dollop of peanut butter on top with some peach slices and a sprinkle of cinnamon and now—thanks to composition—you have a snack both filling and flavourful.  

Keep it tempting

Smart snacking shouldn’t induce yawning—it’d be against the very nature of snacking itself. When we snack, we’re tiding ourselves over—treating ourselves—between meals. It’s the carrot at the end of the stick. However in keeping with the carrot imagery, if raw carrots bore you, you shouldn’t force yourself to snack on them. Season and roast them. Puree them into a dip and serve alongside crackers. Grate them and blend them into a cookie, cake or muffin. Keep nutrition in mind, but don’t let it dictate every snacking choice. Let moderation and your personal tastes instead. Milk and cookies or the snack cake wouldn’t exist otherwise.

 

What Your Favourite Starbucks Drink Says About you

Not gonna lie, Starbucks drinks have always baffled me. I’m the girl who orders a black English breakfast tea and took years to say “grande” instead of “medium.” And I’m okay with that. It probably says something about me, something along the lines of: “spent too much time in the UK”, “thinks she’s too good for anything more complex than straight tea,” “student who can’t afford a real drink from Starbucks and loves that a grande tea is the same price as a tall”.

You get the picture.

Curious about the most common Starbucks stereotypes, I asked a few friends who work there and received a whole slew of detailed responses. I edited the list down to student-specific favourites to help you make (largely unfounded) judgements on your neighbours in the library:

What your Starbucks drink says about you

Bone-Dry Cappuccino

For the clean-cut medical or law student with high aspirations. Likely paired with an (almost) edgy briefcase or shoulder bag and well-styled hair.

Caramel Macchiato or Plain Latte

For the average student clinging to a B-average. Think the university equivalent of the real-world commuter who can’t quite afford a mortgage yet thinks one day will and for whom a daily Starbucks is a sign that they’re part of that comfortable yet precarious millennial middle-class.

Soy No-Foam Anything

For the gal always in her leggings and running shoes ready to burst into exercise whenever the desire calls. Probably ordered in a personal cup, or better yet a mason jar with silicon lid. Likely the indulgent addition to a packed lunch of quinoa salad and homemade energy balls.

Cold Brew

For the student in peak exam season. Red-eyed, slightly manic and just—trying—to —pull—though. We’ve all been there.

Earl Grey Tea Latte (with optional bran muffin or whole-grain banana bread, to be nibbled at in unreasonably small bites)

For the totally on-top-of things, well-dressed female business student—the girl always in fantastic shape without doing any real exercise who’s going to land a high-flying, high-paying consultancy job straight out of university. (Basically, everything I’m not.)

Dark Roast Caffè Misto

For the all-round nice person. Look out for this one, my friends, they may just have notes to share or, at the very least, smile at you and move their books so you have room to squeeze in beside them.

4 Outdoor Activities To Keep You Moving This Summer

Your school year gym routine failed. Utterly. It wasn’t even a routine. You went a total of two times—the second time because you forgot your (rented) calculus textbook in a locker. But now you have a whole summer ahead of you and the time and weather to allow for more rewarding, enjoyable forms of exercise. Remember fitness isn’t limited to treadmills, free weights or 175 BPM playlists. You don’t even have to remain within the confines of four walls. Get outside and repair your relationship to physical activity. You might just even establish a routine that sticks past September through to the first signs of winter.

outdoor activities for summer

Finder’s keepers

A phone is now as much a necessary piece of workout equipment as gym shorts, running shoes or deodorant. And it too can play a role in outdoor activity. One word: geocaching. It’s the scavenger hunt you don’t have to invest any energy into setting up. For an introduction to the real life version of treasure hunting, check out geocaching.com or earthcache.org. Be prepared to invest in membership fees, or alternatively apps, and, depending on if you fall for it, possible acquisition of nerd status. Yes, geocaching is nerdy. Very nerdy.

Green thumb

Gardening, it’s a summer classic. And no bountiful backyard is required. Perhaps your back at your parents’ digs for the summer where green space is plentiful, but window boxes or an allotment can satisfy dorm and apartment dwellers. Even without endless space, it still takes physical activity to establish and maintain a small-sized garden. In the case of allotments, your gardening days could be both social and physical. You may become friends with folks on neighbouring plots or pair up with a buddy on a membership fee, splitting maintenance duties and sharing your produce. Be warned though, obtaining an allotment can be competitive, but often it’s then yours to keep in years to follow.

Good deed doer

Where chores were once, well, a chore, during the summer months the outdoor variety of such mindless tasks gets you moving and perhaps even helping. Consider offering to walk a neighbour’s dog, mow their lawn or repaint their porch. Keep your ear to the ground and listen out for opportunities. You could charge for your services, but why not consider the exercise and appreciation thanks enough—just save time for a summer job if some income is a necessity.

Game on

I often wish to time travel back to my childhood where I managed to live in the present—without the aid of mantras or self-help guides—and carried practically no responsibilities. We may have outgrown Oshkosh overalls and Saturday morning cartoons, but games aren’t off limits. My personal childhood favourites? Manhunt and capture the flag, of course. As an adult, they lend themselves perfectly to Friday night socializing masked as physical activity. Round up some friends, choose a large outdoor area—a public park being the most obvious—and pack some snacks and beverages to refuel over the course of the evening. Wikipedia has disturbingly detailed description of the rules to each and variations for seasoned pros.

5 Summer Swaps For Your Favourite Drinks

Spring classes are ending, and summer classes are beginning, so it’s time to celebrate, or console ourselves accordingly. That means a shift, from the big, heavy, warming drinks of winter into the light, refreshing, but no-less potent libations of summer.

Summer swaps for winter drinks

White wine fans should drop the oaky chardonnay and pick up some Sauvignon blanc. Where a big, buttery chard might feel nice in the wintertime, summer is all about refreshment. Sauvignon blanc, grown in the right places, will do just that. If you like a bit of coastal influence and a touch of salinity, go for New Zealand. If, like me, you want stony minerality and a straight shot of acidity, check out Sancerre. Produced deep in the Loire valley these wines can be gorgeously tart and grassy, perfect for park sipping.

Craft beer drinkers might think about trying a Basque cider or two. Most Ontario artisanal ciders focus on gimmicks, using raspberries or peach, maybe aging in champagne casks or adding hops. These can be delicious, but often taste overly worked and sweet. Fans of craft beer, especially fans of funky barnyard-y Brett beers, will get a little more refreshed, but equally intrigued by these “apple and apple only” ciders (i.e. fermented apple juice) from the Basque lands. The best will balance earthiness with light sparkle and super refreshing juiciness. It’s a drink you can think about or simply crush back.

Red wine drinkers might want to trade their Cabernet Sauvignon for Beaujolais. Long considered Burgundy’s lesser cousin, Beaujolais is becoming known as France’s most underappreciated wine region. Thanks to the magical innovation of carbonic maceration, the past thirty years have seen a group of organic and natural growers making fantastic glou-glou wines with the region’s signature gamay grape. These are certainly wines you can glug back. Often served chilled and almost inevitably refreshing, Beaujolais are wines best described as just damn good juice.

If you like something stronger

For gin drinkers, trade your martini for a Negroni. Where the dark nights of winter lend themselves to a boozy forget-your-woes martini, summer patio weather calls for an equally boozy, but refreshing slow sipper. Mix equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and dry gin with an orange twist over a few fat ice cubes. Your new pal Negroni will take care of you through the heat of the afternoon to the cool of the evening.  Fans of rum and tequila are in luck—summer is your time.

Whiskey drinkers, however, might find themselves overheated on the patio. My answer is the Sazerac. A classic New Orleans take on an Old Fashioned, the Sazerac combines rye with rich brown sugar syrup and Peychaud’s (or Creole) Bitters in a chilled, absinthe-rinsed glass. Certainly boozy, the bitters and absinthe give the drink a bit of lift, while a peppery rye will refresh more than a cloying bourbon or smoky scotch ever could.

Why You Should Take Your Lunch Outside

by Hannah Lank

I’m writing this from New York City, where taking lunch outside is practically a prerequisite of living in the city for the summer. (If you don’t picnic in Central Park, did you really even go to New York?!)  Wherever you find yourself, get out and eat your lunch outside. Munch on your sandwich, salad or other lunch item and see if the wind in your hair, the light touch of the sun on the back of your neck and the chirping of happy birds doesn’t improve your day.  I have reasons for saying this, but honestly don’t take my word for it—try it!

 

What’s that smell

Your workplace, house or classroom probably smells bad at lunch, namely it smells like everyone else’s lunch and not in a pleasant way. For example, I recently went into an elementary school and was immediately struck by an overwhelmingly olfactory experience. Currently, I intern in a one-room, carpeted office and the olfactory environment is very much the same as that elementary school.  To maintain the integrity of your own nasal receptors, get outside. Remind yourself that the world doesn’t smell like your co-worker’s week-old, garbage-bound banana peels. In fact, sometimes the outside world can smell pretty darn good.

 

Another hundred people

If you’ve never just watched people go by—alone or in company—you’re seriously missing out.  Get out for your lunch break, find yourself a comfortable vantage point, in a park or other public area, and observe the many unique characters that populate this earth.  You’ll be surprised by what you see—both good and bad, but nonetheless interesting. It’s up to whether you talk to the strangers you spot.    

 

Remember to breathe

Shocker: air and sun are good for you; recycled air and no sun aren’t.  It’s basic science.  Of course, please wear sunscreen and seek shade as necessary, but just stretching your legs, breathing in some real O2 and seeing the sky is beneficial for both your body and mind.  I almost always feel better after a dose of fresh air. They say a change is as good as a rest. (By “they” I mean my mom, but she is usually right about these things.) So pre-order your lunch and change up your surroundings—even for just half an hour—and see how you feel.