Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 30, 2016

(Sponsored by Wayfair) Mornings at the Lake + My Healthy Grain-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Zucchini Protein Brownie Recipe

When Wayfair invited me to share my ideal morning with readers, I welcomed the encouragement to get a little personal on the blog - plus I was excited for a chance to share a recipe I recently developed for a grain-free, refined sugar-free zucchini brownie.

Over the years I've been asked by readers to share more personal posts, but I've actually shied away from that a little and have become more project-focused.  Recently I've been asked to write posts about living in Northwestern Ontario, life on the lake, why I don't want kids, what I'm doing with my PhD, etc., but I just find it's so much more comfortable to write about projects and crafting.  If I'm being honest, though, my favorite posts on the blogs I read are ones where I get to know someone better and can catch a sneak peek into someone's life.  I don't know how some bloggers can bare all on the internet because even sharing something so trivial as our morning routine felt outside of my comfort zone, but this has been the nudge I needed to start incorporating more personal posts, here and there. 

Morning at the Lake

An Ideal Morning on the Lake

So what does our ideal morning look like?  That question really ties into some big life changes we've made in the last couple of years, since moving from a city with a population of nearly a million, to a rural municipality of only a couple thousand country-lovin' folk. 

Hubby and I have made it our mission to stop glorifying busy-ness, and have instead learned to live life on "lake time": when the weather is good, you enjoy it, because when you have free time it might be so foggy that the lake disappears!  The weather can turn in an instant and we've been known to drop our rakes and lawn mower in the summer and hop in the lake, mid-task, for a swim - something we've learned to do after finishing our chores in time for a sudden thunderstorm!  You learn to enjoy the good weather here, even if it runs contrary to your plans for the day!

We're pretty suited to "lake time" because neither Hubby nor I work a traditional 9-5 job, so our days vary wildly.  Sometimes we eat breakfast together, sometimes we're apart for every meal of the day.  Some mornings see us up at 3am or the crack of dawn - but don't cry for us, because sometimes we don't roll out of bed until 9.  I've lamented that I wish I could be one of those people who wakes up early naturally, instead of being jolted awake by the sound of my shrieking alarm clock.  But I'm the kind of person who will get a second wind at night and end up rearranging my closet at midnight, which makes sticking to a routine tricky; it's just not in my nature.  I've been craving more routine, though, so I've been working on committing to some kind of schedule because I have to admit that even though my body fights my desire to be an early riser (I have turned off my alarm in my sleep!), my brain loves being up early.  It's especially peaceful on the lake in the early morning and I love being awake before the sunrise - it's so invigorating! 

Hubby's unusual work schedule means that we're apart more than the average couple but then there are major perks and we see each other for huge chunks of time.  Because of this irregular schedule, when everyone else is fighting traffic or terrible weather, sometimes we're parked at our dining room table, watching the lake and eating a leisurely breakfast.  Because we don't get to eat together every day, I savor the moments when we can be together.  In the winter and spring we curl up inside, with a fire roaring, but soon we'll be having breakfast on the deck and I can't wait!  In the summer we often grab our plates and head out there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So these days, that 's my ideal morning: slow, leisurely, relaxed.

Sunset on Lake Superior
  
I've stopped feeling guilty about reading a magazine when the house is messy, or enjoying some quiet time when I should be busy.  The lake has a calming effect that lulls us into laziness and I don't mind one bit - which is a major change for a type-A person like me!    
 Reading Cottage Life
Cottage Life Magazine and a Brownie!

The other day I took this video, which is pretty much the view from the dining table:


video

Even Szuka sweetie appreciates, and is captivated by, the lake view!  She spends a lot of her day staring adorably out the window.  Sometimes she's on guard, but other times I swear she's just blissed out, taking it all in.

Komondor Watching the Lake
Lake Superior

Refined Sugar-free, Grain-Free Zucchini Brownie Recipe

Our new approach to slow(er) living has manifested itself in what we eat, too.  I definitely still indulge, every now and then (mmmm, matcha shortbread!), but both Hubs and I have taken Sarah Wilson's lessons to heart and upped our daily veggies, seriously reduced our fructose intake, swapped sugar for brown rice syrup, and I've even experimented baking with coconut and almond flours.  I've also started adding whey protein to baked treats (to make them more diabetic-friendly for my Dad). 

There has been a lot of trial and error and my poor family has bravely eaten batch after batch of gritty, squishy, baking bombs.  My experimentation has been worth it, though, because I have an arsenal of delicious, healthier treats to show for it now!  Among the winners is this zucchini cake, made with wholesome ingredients like coconut flour, zucchini, shredded coconut and cocoa powder.  The only hint of sweetness is from the brown rice syrup and chopped dates. 

Zucchini Brownie Recipe Made with Coconut Flour

There's also some whey protein powder hidden in there and, with healthy ingredients like those listed below, I feel completely justified in eating this for breakfast once in awhile!  These brownies are really filling and so moist.  I'm drooling just thinking about them.

I Quit Sugar Inspired Brownie Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup softened butter*
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates (pits removed)**
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/4 cup whey protein (unsweetened, unflavored)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

*This recipe would definitely work with only 1/4 cup butter or with a healthier substitute, like coconut oil. 

**In her breakdown of sweeteners, Sarah Wilson highlights which "natural" and "healthier" sugar substitutes - like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar - actually have almost, if not as much, fructose as plain old white table sugar.  She singles out dates as well, because they contain nearly 30% fructose.  BUT, dates are high in fiber (which promotes digestion and heart health), magnesium (a natural anti-inflammatory), selenium, and potassium so I feel slightly less concerned about tossing them into this brownie recipe.  There's only a 1/2 cup in this entire recipe but if you're really concerned about the sugar intake, you could cut back on the dates and this would still be a tasty treat.

Kitchen Accoutrements (I wasn't asked to provide Wayfair links but I couldn't resist because there are some cute kitchen gadgets available):

Instructions:
  1. Sift the protein powder, cocoa powder, coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and set aside - don't skip this step because it keeps the protein powder and coconut flour from globbing together into lumps
  2. Beat the butter and brown rice syrup with a hand mixer until creamy
  3. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla
  4. Gently stir in the sifted dry ingredients, combining thoroughly
  5. Mix in the shredded coconut, dates and zucchini until well combined
  6. Spread batter into a greased, 8" x 8" pan
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes
  8. Let cool 5-10 minutes
  9. Enjoy!

Slow Living
Brown Hair with Teal Dip Dyed Ends
Healthy Brownie Recipe
Life on Lake Superior
Teal Hair - Joico Peacock Dye
Grain-free Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe
Healthy Brownie Recipe with Whey Protein Powder
Dog Wants My Chocolate Cake!

So that's a little sneak peek into our life on the lake.  It's not terribly riveting, but that's exactly how we like it!  

Thanks to Wayfair for sponsoring this post.  I was not required to link to any products or try to sell you anything at all (although I did decide to link to a few cute products to help bake the recipe I've included).  I'm so thrilled to partner with such a great brand that has a special place in my heart now that they ship to Canadians, too!
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26 comments

  1. That's a great peek into lake life, Tanya . And those photos, esp the pinkish one is just breathtaking! I enjoyed the post because like you said, personal posts are just something I really enjoy reading, and I don't think I realised it.

    And the brownies look yum! I will have to show it to my husband though, he's the chef around here :)

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    1. Would anyone mind if I turned the blog into a catalog of Lake sunsets, lol? I am going to try to get more personal but it's scary! I don't mind my kitchen getting torn apart on the interwebs, but I don't relish the thought of my life getting critiqued! But there are things I'd like to chat about so I'm going to steel myself and go for it! This is my first baby step because, seriously, there's nothing super personal about our laid back mornings, haha!
      Definitely try the recipe - you'll love it and I'm so proud of my little creation because these alternative ingredients are so new to me.

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  2. This was interesting, thanks : ) . As a fellow Canadian who's always looking for more shopping resources for our house, I'd love to hear more about Wayfair. Do they have a good selection, good quality, and what about shipping costs, duty, etc.? I'm always so reluctant to use a company I'm not familiar with because the cost of getting dinged can be so high, especially with the exchange rate not at all in our favour. Thanks for any insight you can give.

    Rebecca, Edmonton

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    1. Wayfair has an amazing, dizzying selection of products! I'm always in awe of the selection and you'll find lots of quality brand names in their inventory. I do think the Canadian site has a much smaller inventory than the American one, though.

      In terms of shipping, I have to admit that I cheat because I live so close to the border, I do have most things shipped there from American sites and then I drive across to pick them up. I never pay duty this way and, if the bill is under $100, border guards normally let you cross without paying HST. I pay a small fee to the company that handles the packages over there, but it's a pretty good deal!

      But my Canadian readers can't all do this and I've been asked to collaborate more with brands available to everyone (interestingly, my readership is sometimes 50-70% US-based) . So although I have happily purchased from Wayfair personally, I haven't used their Canadian shipping option myself - I just appreciate that it's available. From the looks of it, it's a good deal. If you spend over $75, shipping and duties are free right now. Even if you spend less than that, I think shipping is only $8.99 and everything is spelled out so there won't be any duty surprises to pay on delivery - you'll know the total cost before check-out, which is amazing. I have been dinged with outrageous duty charges at the door, shopping with other companies that supposedly ship to Canada, which is why I totally understand your concern.

      Here are the shipping details if you're curious:
      https://www.wayfair.ca/customerservice/shipping_info.php#ordership

      The prices seem reasonable as well. I was casually looking at dog beds, for example, and they're really nice but way less than what I've paid in USD on eBay. Our lousy Canadian dollar isn't in our favor, but I don't find that Wayfair prices ding us for that - it's no more expensive than what you'd pay at HomeSense or the Bay, but of course the prices depend on the item (brand, quality, construction, etc). You'd have to take a moment and peruse the site yourself to assess if it's a good deal - there are always items on sale, too.

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  3. This was a lovely post! Just reading about your calm, unhurried, placid life on the lakeside had a calming effect :) Did Szuka get any of the healthy brownie for looking on so sweetly?

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    1. So happy to hear you enjoyed the post! I'm really passionate about slowing down and although we're not really the New Year's Resolutions kind of people, we did commit to relaxing and de-stressing more this year.

      Szuka did NOT get a taste, lol. When we were in Toronto last year, dealing with a family emergency, we stayed in a relative's home and Szuka hated being there so we let her be loose in the house to ease her anxiety. In that time she learned to table surf and ate my Uncle's sandwich and also a chocolate muffin. I spent a terrified evening on the phone with the emergency vet but, luckily, other than being a little hyper and then tossing her cookies, she was okay. But now she is obsessed with chocolate and is always WAY too interested when I'm eating a brownie of muffin. She's got a taste for the good stuff!

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    2. I've been having some "why do we exist" weeks, so this post was inspirational, thanks!

      Awww poor Szuka! I don't blame her for falling in love with chocolate :D Luckily as a big dog, I guess that one muffin isn't too dangerous. How does one deal with such a cute table surfer, though?!

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    3. I have those weeks too, so I know exactly what you mean. I don't always find meaning in things most people do, so I spend a lot of time thinking about it.

      Yes, her size saved her! The vet wasn't too worried because she's such a big girl. I am often tempted to feed her table scraps but half the time she spits them back out at me, so it gets a bit easier to say no, lol.

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  4. I loved this post! I've been reading for years but know almost nothing about you except you love turquoise ;-) Can I ask about that beautiful plate? I love it! P.S. Your view is to die for!

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    1. Oh no, I've been even more of a closed book than I thought! Well, I hope to remedy that moving forward! I'm so happy to hear you liked this post. It's a lighthearted, kind of fluffy topic, but I had such a fun time photographing and writing it.

      Isn't that plate the prettiest? It's vintage Villeroy and Boch, in the Acapulco pattern: http://www.classicreplacements.com/china/villeroy-and-boch-1/acapulco.html. I've only thrifted a piece or two, here and there, but some folks avidly collect this pattern. I saw a whole set once at an Estate and it was priced fairly but I really didn't need it, but I regret not scooping it up! It's so cheery and I just love the quality of Villeroy & Boch.

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    2. Thank you for the info! I'll have to be on the hunt for one or two. It's perfect for a cherry breakfast!

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    3. Happy to help! It's definitely a pick-me-up in the mornings, with it's bold colours.

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  5. I love reading what the person behind or in front of the blog is up to! It's a lot more personal than showing a how-to. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Amy in MN

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    1. Thanks, Amy, I'm so grateful for the feedback and I'll definitely delve more into some personal topics now that I know readers are game!

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    2. Ditto to what Amy said. No doubt it is hard to get too personal, I am waiting to get just the "right" pictures of the oh so polarizing open shelves in my new cabin kitchen!

      Btw - I just might order that dansk baking pan as I don't like the look of the ones I have now. I knew of Wayfair but never explored it until this post so tell Wayfair it was sponsor money well spent.

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    3. Oh, I can't wait to see photos of the cabin!! I hope you'll share with me - I've been waiting such a long time :) Open shelves ARE polarizing but I think they're so perfect for a cabin or cottage setting, so hopefully no one will give you a hard time.

      I am obsessed with that Dansk pan! I've stalked a few vintage Dansk pieces on Ebay but I either missed out or they were just too beat up, so I started to consider the new ones. I didn't even know Wayfair had them until I fell down the rabbit hole (I'm actually ordering some down pillow inserts from Wayfair - no idea how I got into the baking section, lol).

      I try to choose the brands I work with very carefully, and I say no to a lot of paid gigs that I don't think you'd be interested in, so I'm happy to hear you didn't mind this sponsored post. The parameters were so fun and relaxed, and I personally like shopping with Wayfair, so I thought it would be a good fit.

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  6. Awesome:) have a good wknd!

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  7. Those look nummy and those mixing bowls link are too cute!! I was curious if you still had the color in your hair, and here it is in pictures. I wish I had the nerves to do it, but I am chicken lol.

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    1. Aren't those bowls the cutest? Every Pyrex collector has gone nutty for them! I definitely do still rock the teal and I recently chopped it all off and went even brighter. It's maddening addictive - this was not supposed to be a permanent change! But gosh, does it ever make me happy! You can test the waters with temporary hair chalk... No commitment!

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    2. That's a good idea. What does hubby think of the color? And the cut?

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  8. Oh I was also gonna say I kinda live lake life in the suburbs, or maybe I am just stubborn, I do things when I feel like doing them and not a minute sooner lol. *sigh* Drives me crazy sometimes. I also get a second wind at night..... or more like all my creative energy at night. I think I might be ADHD so I think towards the end of the day my thoughts calm and it lets me focus easier on what I want to do or create. And I have been a night owl since I was a kid, begging to stay up later and then sneaking out after my mom went to bed to watch tv lol. It's 3 am as a write this lol.

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    1. I was reading somewhere that people who are night owls are smarter and more creative. I think that's pretty harsh to the people who just have their shit together enough to get to bed on time, but it's a study that I keep in my mind whenever I feel lousy about staying up late writing, making, reading or binge-watching TV, lol. I'm doing this because I'm so damn smart, lol.

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    2. So what are you saying? Night owls don't have their shit together? Buahahaha. j/k. I don't know how being a night owl would make one smarter, I know I'm sure no genius. I actually did horrible in school.... probably because I was always focused on the arts and that's what I put my effort into lol. I think I might use that excuse when I am up late at night now too and not feel bad about it lol.

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    3. I think the study said that being a night owl was a symptom of being smart and creative, not a cause. But I sometimes think my late nights make me less smart - I'm always forgetting things! I don't dare question the science behind the theory, though, because, like you said, it's a good excuse, lol. Let's just accept it as fact! :D

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