Thursday, 29 December 2011

What's Mine, What's Yours and the Marriage of the Two

I was raised by a single mom.  I have a dad but he wasn't around a lot.  They split up when I was two.  I have little to no memory of them as a couple.  I have memories of the house that we lived in when they were together but my dad lived there for a while after my mom and I left so I am not sure if the memories are of visits after the split.

All my grandparents were divorced too although my maternal grandfather had remarried before I was even born and was happily married until he died when I was 18.  Of my aunts and uncle, all divorced but one.  My point being that I have had very few role models on happy marriage....I am not sure what one looks like, smells like, how it functions!  I was raised with role models who taught me how to take care of everything myself.  Function best alone and depend on a coupling for almost nothing but companionship.  Not lonely but more than capable to do it alone.

In other words....I have no fucking clue what I am doing!  The first couple of blow out fights Big Daddy and I had I thought it was the end of our relationship.  I figured he would leave but instead he carried on like nothing happened....we had a fight...that's all.

I am a woman, so I am inherently a problem solver/discusser/worrier.  When we argue I want to figure out how to solve the problem so we don't argue about it anymore.  I loathe having the same argument over and over and I will never just settle with the short end.  I don't meant that I have to 'win' but I will never just accept some huge blaring defect as 'the way it is'.  I am constantly trying to improve myself, as a mother, a friend, a writer, a wife and I expect everyone else to try do the same.

The problem with this sound logic do you know whose luggage/issue/problem it is? when do you know if it is your *BS (luggage) that is causing the problem or theirs??  When do you know if it is yours to work on or theirs? Or if it is a communication issue and it is about HOW you talk to each other.

Now please no reason to get your feathers in a ruffle.  There are no huge issues here in this house....just thinking about  what 'makes' a happy marriage. We attended a bunch of friends and family gatherings over the holidays and I watch as different marrieds dealt with each other over the high stress holidays and was interested in what was acceptable for each of them.

Because even the happiest marriages are constantly being worked on...but is 'happy different for every couple? or have different couples just set the bar lower or higher for what a happy marriage is? What can you expect from your marriage?  How much can you expect your partner?  What is fair? And how different it is for everyone!  What do you think 'makes' a happy marriage?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dinner Last Night - Beef Bourguignon/Stew

I was recently diagnosed with low painfully low iron.  The kind of low iron that alarms the doctor when he reads the labs.  The kind where he starts writing prescriptions, suddenly seems busy, looking at you concerned and sifts through all the other lab work you have had over the last few years. Low iron might be the answer or at least part of the answer to some on-going health issues I have had.  That is a topic for a different post!!  But now with this new piece of information it has given me a job to do.  One of the great frustrations of having health issues is when you don't feel like there is anything you can do about it...when you start feeling like a victim.  I am a strong believer in 'victim' being an attitude....but oh boy does feeling like shit all the time SUCK! So now I have a assignment, a job......iron iron IRON!!

There are two different kinds of iron - heme and non heme.  Heme is a blood source (Meat) and non heme is a vegetable source.  Both are excellent and valuable to good health but when your iron is as low as mine is/was they recommend Heme to get it up fast.  The strange thing is...ever since I found out I have an iron issue....I have been craving red meat like crazy!  It isn't something I want often....don't get me wrong, I love a good burger as much as the next guy (maybe not as much as Big Daddy) but we eat quite a few vegetarian meals here a week. We really aren't that 'meatcentric'. Now I want beef!! A hot beef injection!!........what?  name the movie!  I decided that some beef stew might help.

Remember in Julie & Julia how the Julie character talks about Julia Child's coveted Beef Bourguignon? It is true that it IS that good. But not really all that kid friendly and I like more broth than what is yielded in her recipe. My 'stew' is a much easier version with much the same taste spectrum.  It is as rich a broth but more of it and mine has potatoes like a stew.  Also I am not a fan of using flour as a thickener and not just for the gluten reasons but I don't like the floury taste it adds.

6 strips of good bacon, sliced into small strips (organic $2)
1 1/2-2 lbs stewing beef ($16, organic and I didn't get it on sale this time), patted dry and salt and pepper'd
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into bite size pieces (organic $1.50)
1 lb of mini potatoes, cut into quarters (organic $3)
2 yellow onions, diced (organic $2)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (organic $0.50)
1/2 bottle of full bodied red wine ($5.00)
2 tetra packs of beef stock (organic $6)
1 1/2 cups sweet peas (organic frozen $1.50)
2 tbsps or 1/2 can of tomato paste (organic $1.50)
1 tbsp dijon mustard (organic $0.25)
2 bay leafs, crumbled
1/2 tsp thyme
1 cup of water
salt and pepper
TOTAL - $39.25, approx 6-8 servings depending on kids appetites, so between $6.54-$4.90 a serving.

Optional - mushrooms

This is one of the few dishes that I recommend doing all the mis en plas (prep) for before you start cooking because once you are cooking there is no stopping.

Over medium high heat brown your bacon in a large soup pot.  Cook it until crispy letting much of the fat render out of the bacon.  Remove to papertowel with a slotted spoon leaving the fat in the pot. Turn the heat up to high, you want the fat to start to smoke, then in batches brown the meat.  If you cook too many pieces at a time it creates too much moisture in the pot and some of the meat will not brown but steam.  They shouldn't touch each other.  When browned remove with tongs to the plate with the bacon.  When all the meat is browned, turn heat back down to medium high.

There should at this point still be some fat in the pot but if there is very little add a little oil.  Now saute the onions and carrots.  When they are softened and browned a little add the garlic.  You add this last to ensure it doesn't burn and get bitter.

When the garlic starts to soften and you can really smell it add 1/2 the called for wine.  I recommend half because you want to de-glaze the pan of all the crispy bits of meat stuck to it.  The brown bottom also adds the dark rich colour to the broth that we know stews to have.  Add back in the beef and bacon and the rest of the wine. Add the beef stock, water, mustard, tomato paste, the thyme and the bay leaf.  Let this come to a simmer.

Let this slowly simmer for an hour or two.....or longer really.  Stewing beef needs that slow simmer to soften and get melty.  If it seems the broth is getting to thick and cooking down too much add in another cup of water. Add in the potatoes about an hour before you plan on serving it and let them cook in the low heat.  Add in the peas for the last 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

50 Momths

Dear Bea and Gabe.....Chicklettes, Twinnies, Littles, Loveys....

Every reason I wanted to have a baby...every reason I wanted to create a family was all about the holidays.  It was the holidays that I dreamed of when I was going through IVF.  It was the craziness of Christmas morning that I wished for.  This year, at four years old, was the first year when the excitement of Christmas....of Santa was palpable. It made the shopping for presents more fun, decorating more fun, setting it all up more fun. It made everything ...magic! And even through all the chaos I made a point to stop and take mental snap shots and some real pictures too.

We started the holiday celebrations with Uncle Spenny's Birthday.  We went down to the Danforth with Grammy and Papa.  We had a great meal and I let Gabe take a few pictures of our evening....some of which were taken from under the table.

The dessert plate
The Birthday Boy


The view from under the table

And then Christmas - you got to pick out what you wanted to wear to the Christmas eve party....Bea came down in her Halloween costume

Gabe brought home an ornament he made at school for the tree. It looks like a glittery turd and I LOVE it

And then there are the wonderful things that you said and did
Four year old out smarts his Dad

Big Daddy and Gabe singing What A Wonderful World together -
"I see skies of blue.....clouds of white
Bright blessed days" Mike on his own......"the dog says good night"
Pause..."No Daddy, it's Dark Sacred Nights!"

Gabe, you're obsessed with checking the traffic cameras on the CP24 app on my phone so you have been walking around with my phone more than me. Some how you managed to start texting. You sent a text to 'yhsspjug'......that said "Caesar dressing".

Last night Gabe crawled into bed with us just before 5. Bea has a terrible barking cough and we thought maybe she was keeping him awake until he barfed all over bed

The kids have been real interested in street signs lately, asking what they mean. Today at an advanced green left turn Bea asked "Daddy why is the light doing green green green? Why does it keep greening?"

Gabe while pushing the not plugged in vacuum around "Sorry Honeys I don't need help with the vacuuming"

Flipping around looking for a family friendly movie on a Sunday night. We stop for a few minutes on The Love Guru. Gabe sees Troy Verner and asks "Does that angry kid not have toys at home"

Thank you for making not just Christmas special but everything magic
Love Mama

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The wild seduction of FOOD

I am blessed with amazing friends.  I am surrounded by amazingly talented, funny, crazy, loving people.  People who have traits that I wish I had - so I surround myself with them in hopes that I will somehow, through osmosis, leach some of this talent from them....thats not entirely true...I don't want them to have 'less' of I am not really leaching it...but maybe like some Monsanto GMOd seed some of their 'ness' can blow over on to my willingly fertile fields and propagate.....WAIT!  This took a sexual turn I wasn't intending.....

The point is, these amazing people (Christopher, Meaghan, Dana, Darlene and Jeanette)...we all have something in common....our love of FOOD!  Our love of the beauty of a perfectly balanced meal, when sweet, salty, sour and hot all mingle perfectly.....when wine pairs make perfect marriages......when every ingredient doesn't just add it's flavour but makes the others better, just like a good friendship...another friendship over food.

This past weekend one of these friends took me out.  He does this 3-4 times a year and SPOILS me rotten.  He takes me out for the meals I am currently not in a position to afford but certainly deserve :-) and we always about food and love and our love of food.....all while enjoying too much wine.  And we laugh...a lot - laugh at our lives because we realize how lucky we are to be there eating this food and drinking wine with each others company.

I have happily embraced the word 'foodie' when describing myself.  Like all other 'foodies' we wish there was a better word to describe our obsession.  Instead of one that sounds like something we have been inflicted with and are taking the necessary medication to get over.  But like any disease, we all fall into different parts of a spectrum.  My dinner companion knows the technical, the science, the to make perfection.  While I fall into the 'meal maker' category with a dash of health and the benefits of different food combinations, which I was introduced to by Jeanette.  But mostly I sit soundly in feeding a family, meals that everyone will enjoy without the adults feeling like flavour has been compromised, no kids pushing it away and no diner being run out of your kitchen.

The thing is, the reason we are all so attracted to each other is because those of us inflicted with this disease know something the rest do not.....the joy of perfection.....we are the same people who eyes water or get excited over a perfectly executed piece of art, something painfully beautifully acted or anything done with absolute passion and focus.  We are people who will read the same book again and again because it deserves that much attention and praise. We linger over these things, enjoy them and worship the 'gods' that created them.

This perfect meal with my dear friend got me fired up.  After a year of learning Indian cooking (yes I realize I haven't posted much but I was learning so now you will see more) I am ready for the next challenge and maybe I will take you on this trip? I was sidelined temporarily by needing to go gluten free but now that I feel confident in that....just which thing is next

Pork belly?

There are so many thing to get excited about....that's one of the things I love about my never run out of things to learn and get excited is an on-going love affair where cheating is encouraged.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Homemade Chai

Chai tea made it on the trend scene a few years back with Starbucks bringing out a Chai Tea Latte.  I have to admit I loved that $5 cup of tea until they reformulated it.  Now it is sweeter and almost thicker and cost over $5 if you want it with soy much as I don't approve of soy as a beverage, cow milk gives me a stomach ache so it is my only Starbucks option.  Considering I buy about 2 of them a year, almost always while we are at a hospital doctors appointment, I don't worry too much about the soy and its pseudo estrogen but I don't recommend it for daily drinking.

But I digress......since the reformulation I miss the old spicey one and I am not a fan of the premade tea bags you can buy.  I find them flat and not very flavourful.  So not only do I have the gift of an amazing friend (xoxJeanette) but she came back from India with the amazing gift of a home made Chai recipe.  Chai is made in the streets in India and you can buy it cheaply from carts.  Jeanette said it is very sugar sweet in India but they love their spices so it also packs a punch.  I use this recipe all the time and have stained many a pot simmering Chai on the stove for days.  This smells wonderful and there is a bit of Christmas in the smell which is why I am reminded to make some.

Chai Tea

2 regular tea bags
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 slices of fresh ginger
10-12 cloves
6-8 all spice balls
5-6 cardamon pods
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

*There are numerous health benefits to some of these spices

Add all the ingredients to a pot of about 10 cups of water.  Let it all simmer on the stove for about 15-20 minutes.  Then serve with a teaspoon of honey and a little milk or cream.  The longer you let it simmer the spicier it will be.  I make smaller pots without the tea bags or with a caffeine free tea for the kids.  They like a little more honey and milk than I do but even all dressed up it still has less sugar than a cup of hot chocolate. So it is a great cold weather warm up.  And because it is full of so many of the spices that go in those delicious Christmas cookies it is a great pairing.

**Strange cooking tip - keep fresh ginger in a zip lock bag in the freezer.  Not only will it last and not dry out but you can cut pieces off as needed and it makes it super easy to grate into recipes that call for 'minced' ginger

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Breakfast this Morning - Cheesey Potato Torta

Now I am not sure if I can legally call this a Torta or sue me.  My only experience with Tortas is layers of bread but now with me being 'the gluten free' and gluten free bread being what it is.....well layers of bread this Torta was not going to be.  Don't get me wrong...there are many perfectly good gluten free breads....but none of them are great.  None of them are the ingredient to build a meal around....none of them are an 'anchor'

So I decided to make it with potato...besides I love the combination of eggs and potato.

Pre-heat oven to 350
3 yukon gold potatoes, peeled, sliced
8 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup grated cheese, best if it is a blend, one sharp and one creamy cheese or try feta
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp basil, fresh minced or pesto (scoll down to March 2011 article)
1/2 cup of sliced, diced vegetables (optional) sliced peppers, tomatoes etc
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

In a medium size pot bring potatoes to a boil in water.  Parboil them until they are starting to have a little give if you prick them with a sharp knife.  Then drain and let them steam dry

Whisk together the eggs and milk.  I like to add salt, pepper and pesto to the eggs at this point so that they are evenly spread once cooked

Meanwhile, in an oven safe pan saute the onion and vegetables in 1 tbsp of the butter until they are soft.  Remove pan from heat and remove onions and veg.  In the still warm pan melt the other tbsp of butter and spread it around letting it coat the pan.  Lay out the potatoes in the pan almost creating a 'crust' with the potatoes.

Sprinkle the cooked onion and veg back in on top of the potatoes, pour egg mixture over and top with cheese.

I used a ceramic pie plate

Put pan uncovered in the oven.  Bake until middle is no longer runny.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving

I have a better finished picture somewhere.  I will replace this when I find it

Sunday, 27 November 2011

49 Momths

Dear Beatrice and Gabe

This month was full of preparations for Christmas, family house guests and the Santa Clause Parade. We are in a great school routine and you guys really love it.  We have had wonderful fall/winter weather so we have been spending a lot of time outside especially after school.

Developmentally you just are going as fast as you have in the past so I don't have beg news.  It is mostly the funny things you say or the crazy views you have on the world at large.

Gabe told me over breakfast all about how next week he is going to get his vagina so he can have babies

Gabe - "mummy remember last week when I fell in the driveway and my legs and arms didn't break into pieces? All my pieces stayed together"

A proud moment in parenting - Gabe pushing away the pasta dinner to have his third serving of salad

Gabe you and Gertie have really bonded.  The two of you cuddle up together and I often have to ask you to stop letting her kiss you.  She is officially more your dog than mine.

Why is it that you guys who have always been great sleepers and not early risers decide that 6:20 on a Sunday morning is a good time to wake up...after mummy was up until 2:30 chatting with cousin Noah?

Bea you are a terrible nose picker....I am trying to instilled the rule that you are only allowed to pick your nose if you have a tissue to put it in (Seems easier than trying to make you stop altogether). Today, tissue in hand, you started pickin. You pulled out a slightly bloody booger, and showed it me. "Look Mummy it's a blueberry booger"....You also informed me that the 'dry ones are yummy and the sticky ones are yucky'.....when I had a mouthful of oatmeal.

Today I told you that you had to be extra good kids and be extra helpful while Daddy is away. Be like 'grown ups' and pick up after themselves to which Beabea replyed "But we aren't grown ups Mummy, I don't have a fuzzy 'gina and Gabe doesn't have a fuzzy todger"

Bea after much practice you have figured out how to snap your fingers. You are very proud of yourself.

Bea'ism at the mall- "just give me your wallet mum"

Bea, you told me the horn on your unicorn named 'Horsey' is a 'Corn' and it's for holding donuts

I got a hair cut yesterday and Bea asked me if I chose to sit in the rocket ship or on the horsey 

Bea your people now have hair
How the bears fly in our house

And like every month - I can't believe how much I love you

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dinner Last Night - Chili

Not only did we recently have house guests but we are slowing rolling into winter too.  This year has been a particularly slow roll with record breaking warm weather the last couple of weeks.  It's not impossible for us to have had some snow at the end of November....this year I been walking the kids to school in a hoodie most days.  Yes there have been a couple of COLD days but they are usually followed by an unseasonably warm one.

Now unseasonably warm does not mean T-shirt weather and it is still nippy at night so I have completely fallen into my winter cold comfort food cooking.  This usually means richer, carbier and more often than not fattier....or creeeeemeeeeeier.  'Stick to your bones' as your Gramma would say. This was particularly true while our guest were here - making Shrimp and Corn Chowder one day and rich cheesey Potato Torta for breakfast the next morning.

Since they have left I have been trying to dial it back a bit (well within reason....i mean come on you have to still love the food) and make 'stick to your bones' food without it being stick to your butt food....

Chili doesn't have really fixed ingredients...I probably have a slightly different version every time I make it.  This week black beans were on sale so this chili was with black beans instead of kidney beans and just as yummy


1 lb organic ground beef ($6)
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced ($0.50 organic)
2 cooking onions, diced ($1.50 organic)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.25 organic)
3 tbsp olive oil ($0.25 organic)
2 jars or cans of whole tomatoes (used my home canned $2.00)
2 cans black beans or kidney beans ($3.00 organic)
1/2 can of tomato paste ($1.00 organic)
3-4 tbsp chili powder, I find the quantity in this completely depends on the quality of the spice, $0.25)
salt and pepper to taste
total-$ 14.75 for probably close to 8 bowls making it $1.84 per serving plus topping

Heat a large soup pot over a medium high heat.  Saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil until they are soft.  Add the garlic and left it start to soften but don't let it burn.  Add the ground beef and stir it around to ensure it is evenly browned.  Stir in the chili powder. Lower the heat to medium and let the chili powder completely combine, flavouring everything and even cooking a little before adding the tomatoes and tomato paste...maybe 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and let it all come to a simmer before turning the heat down to a low medium.  Let this simmer for 45mins - 1 hr before serving.  after about 30 minutes taste it and see if it needs salt and pepper or more chili powder.

I serve mine with grated cheese and a dollop of yogurt.  Garlic toast or tortilla chips are nice too.  Left overs can be used for making nachos

Friday, 25 November 2011

How a snowball starts an avalanche

I have had this blog post title sitting in my drafts folder for months.  I typed it with one subject in mind and then as I started to write realized it wasn't right.  I have held on to it knowing that it would be appropriate at some point....loving the visual....but what was it for?  A snowball starting an avalanche is not a positive experience and very much about loss of control.  At least that's the feeling I always got from the image.

Maybe that's what I am feeling and why I have chosen to finally use this title.  I was recently interviewed for an article about vaccines for a parenting magazine....I have no fear around my knowledge on the subject and I am confident on the info I provided.  I also have not, for one second, had second thoughts on our choice.......but now my image, my 'street cred', how people view me is left in the hands of another writer (a very talented one at that).  I do have a small fear that this snowball may in fact become an avalanche.

Early in my mothering days I vented to a good friend about how some friends of mine were responding to my choice to not vaccinate the twins.  Some of the horribly abusive and unforgivable crap people will unthinkingly say
--you can read more about it in a two piece article I wrote for Modern Alternative Mama--
Part 1 - The Delicate Ego of the Modern Parent
Part 2 - The Delicate Ego of the Modern Parent  

Her advice although excellent was not easy to take at the time.  Like any new parent I was looking for thoughtful conversation and maybe some camaraderie in the challenges of being a parent to babies.  That is not what I received.....  Her advice was to keep our decision 'sacred'.  That maybe it isn't something I discuss with friends or anyone for that matter.  The hard part about this is that parenting, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent, is a social job.  The play groups, playdates and drop in centers are social events.  Well checks, vaccines, illness and feeding/sleep schedules are the main topic of conversation with mothers of babies.  I needed (and need) a sense of community so to exclude myself from a common conversation was difficult.  Especially when it is a conversation you want to have.  I wanted to know other parents views, the research they had done and how they came to their decisions and how they felt about the results of the most recent study but that was never what happened. More often than not I left with my feelings hurt. 

As the twins have gotten older, the more educated I got on the subject and as a result more confident in our choice, the less I need this sense of camaraderie.  I will never be the same parent as someone else much like I have never wanted to be the same as someone else.  And no matter how hard I try there is no 'safe' conversation to have on the subject without someone feeling judged.  My reasons for not vaccinating become the reasons you are a horrible parent and vise versa.  It is a dangerous game to play and (I will say it again) I do not attend every argument I am invited to.  That being said.....being interviewed for this article could quite possibly open up a huge can-a-worms and turn this snowball into an avalanche.  I will post links to it when it comes out but I may just be setting myself up to have my feelings hurt again.

Monday, 21 November 2011

quantity and quality

I have been going to seminars and conventions and blogging workshops and marketing thingies and one of the things that has been said over and over when it comes to blogging is 'Quality over Quantity'.

I keep this mantra going in my head as days pass that I haven't posted hoping that my readers would prefer to wait and read something with *some value* than the endless ramblings of my over active brain, huge ego, low self esteem and need for approval.  I could start writing posts about my relationships with my friends, the tv shows I watch, or the consistency of my most recent bowel movement and maybe in some land and in some circles that would be least as some voyeuristic laughable joke to watch as someone self implodes into a puddle of narcissism.  Not that I am not fully capable of being that writer, but I am not that type of blog reader and take no enjoyment in schadenfreude.  From everything I have learned, those devoid of content are short lived and I plan (hope) to be here for the long haul. So I will not be that blogger either.

*I use the term 'some' very loosely....and 'value' even more loosely

So I apologize that I am not that regular (regardless of fibre intake) but promise to not inundate you with any of my senseless self absorbed BS (I will save that for my husband)  Life is busy enough and I would prefer to spend it with my family and in my kitchen than read that so I refuse to contribute. 

That being said, I am using the excuse of QUALITY over quantity for my lack lustre performance here and hope you can appreciate my goal or at least pretend to agree with my excuse.  I hope as time passes that I will be able to 'create' quality more often but until then I won't waste your or my time.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dinner Last Night - Spicy Shrimp & Corn Chowder

I will start by admitting that this isn't the healthiest of meals, although all real food.....and it is really yummy and the perfect cold weather warm up feed up.  I only make this maybe twice a year, always on cold days and I love that I can throw it together with ingredients that are almost always already in my pantry and freezer.

This is for a huge batch.  You can cut this in half

2 lbs of 31-40 shrimp, deveined and peeled (My grocery store sells frozen bags for $10.99 but they often go on sale for 1/2 price or 2 for one. $10.99)
8 slices of bacon, cut up into lardons (about 1/2 a slab $4 organic)
2 398 ml cans of fresh corn (I did not get these on sale this time and they were $1.99 each - $4.00)
2 1/2 cups of whipping cream ($5.00 organic)
4 1/2 cups of chicken stock ($2.25 organic) or 2 jars of home made
4 medium size potatoes, cubed ($2.00 organic)
2 medium yellow onions, diced ($2.00 organic)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.50 organic)
3 limes, juice of all three, zest of one ($0.50)
Salt to taste...the amount will vary depending on how salty your stock is
1 tsp cayenne (optional but you will need some pepper so if you leave out the cayenne please add some fresh ground pepper)
1 tsp dried parsley
Total $ 31.24 for probably 3 dinners for 4 or $2.60 a serving

In a large bowl coat the shrimp with the juice from 2 1/2 limes and all the zest.  Set aside but don't let it marinate for more than an hour.

In a large soup/stock pot over medium high heat brown and crisp up the bacon.  Once nice and crispy remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain. Turn the heat down to medium, in the hot bacon fat add the onions and let them soften and sweeten but try not to let them brown then add the garlic.  You really don't want the garlic to burn or brown or it will get bitter.  Once it has softened add the chicken stock, cream, corn and potatoes. Let it all come to a simmer.  Let the potatoes cook through.  When you can easily squish one against the side of the pot it is time to add the cayenne and shrimp.  Drain the shrimp of its marinade and discard it.  Add the drained shrimp to the soup.  Only let it cook long enough for the shrimp to be cooked.  Over cooking it or letting it simmer on the stove will make the shrimp tough.

Serve with a little squeeze off fresh lime juice.  It is particularly good with corn bread.  If you add the cayenne it does have a bit of spice to it...a little heat but my kids ate this no problem.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Breakfast this Morning - Pumpkin Oatmeal

Ever wonder what to do with all the leftover pumpkin after Halloween.  In the immortal words of Weird Al  'Just Eat It'.  Making pumpkin puree is relatively easy and it can be frozen for later use.  I haven't 'done' my puree for the year yet.  Big Daddy composted our jack-o-lanterns before I got a chance to get to them but I do have two small 'pie' pumpkins on my mantle as decoration at the moment....soon they will be so much better than pie.

How to Make Puree
Pre heat oven 400 degrees F.
Remove the stem and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and fiber (try using a ice cream scoop. Save seeds for roasting.
Sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a parchment paper-lined pan. Roast until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the pumpkin, 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness.
Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool the pumpkin for 1 hour. Scoop the roasted flesh of the pumpkin and process in a food processor until the flesh is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

I haven't done this yet so I am going to show the lazy way
I was craving pumpkin oatmeal and couldn't wait until I pulled my finger out and roasted up my pumpkins.....besides the cans went on sale after Thanksgiving :-)

So I have written in the past about 'how to' make oatmeal so I don't want to do that again. This time is just a little different. Along with the cinnamon I added a tiny bit of nutmeg.  Then when it is cooked stir in a tablespoon or two of the pumpkin puree

We ate our with a little bit of honey and some almond milk.  Nice little blast of vitamin A in the morning and easy enough to do before school.  The kids call it Pumpkin PIE oatmeal.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Gluten Free Cheesecake

I am not a huge junk food person....I think I have mentioned that before.  I am not a fan of low quality anything.  I am a terrible snob that way.  It isn't a matter of fact the cheaper the better.  It is purely a matter of quality.  You can keep all your shitty chocolate bars that are made mostly of carnuba wax, I don't want a tube of potato chips and no thanks to overly sweet baked goods filled with even sweeter jams.  I like the taste of food not just the taste of the sugar or salt.

The problem is that quality usually means crazy expensive....think fast food restaurant.  Super low-quality...super low prices.  I can't afford fancy stores and restaurants so I have turned my kitchen into one of my favourite restaurants.  Now I have control over quality and ingredients.....and like any good Virgo...I love that

I love really good cheese cake and only really ever had it as dessert in restaurants.  I remember learning one recipe for it in my early twenties that involved using a pack of powdered Kool-Whip...I'm sorry...or is it Kol-Whip? or Cool-Whip? In any spelling it is an edible oil product and contains no dairy at nutrients and is packed full of heart disease, free radicals and diabetes....yum

Yes this is a dessert, yes it has some sugar (less than a cup for the whole cake) but it is whole real  foods.  There is no ingredient you won't recognize or be unable to pronounce.

Gluten Free Cheesecake
preheat oven 350

The Crust

1/3 cup white sugar (I always by organic to ensure that it is from sugar cane not GMOd sugar beets)
1/2 cup Gluten Free Baking Mix**
1 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped.  Put just under a cup of whole almonds in a food processor and process until no bigger than pea size pieces are left.  Use 1/2 a cups worth
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pats

**I use either Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit and Baking mix or a mix of my own.  I mix equal parts Rice flour, Corn Starch and Sorghum flour with a pinch of baking powder, salt and xantham gum. This is not a combination that you would want to eat exclusively or bake as bread....this is used as a binding agent and is essentially undetectable as a flavour.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add cold butter and crumble through the dry ingredients with your fingers.  You can do this with the pastry blade in the processor but it is fast and easy with your hands and you don't have to be as careful about warming up the butter as you do when making a flour pastry crust.  Keep crumbling until there are no bigger than pea size pieces of butter and the mixture stays together if some is squeezed in your hand.

Press into a spring form pan.  It's easy and it easily sticks to the side of the pan.  Once evenly pressed in put in the pre heated oven until it starts to turn brown.

Let it cool


3 250g blocks of cream cheese, room temperature and cut into dice size cubes
4 eggs
1/3 cup of sugar
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

With a mixer, whip eggs and sugar together until it is pale yellow and fluffy. On a medium high speed slowly add in the cream cheese letting it become almost completely incorporated before adding more.  Once all the cream cheese in creamed in add the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Once they are mixed in turn the mixer up to high and let it all get whipped and completely combined.  There maybe very small chunks of cream cheese but you want it as blended as you can.  Pour into cooled shell and return to oven.  Bake until firm and the top starts to brown.  Approx 40 mins

I served it with the Strawberry Balsamic Sauce I made earlier this year.  It is simple and rich and not too sweet.  It is exactly the way I like cheese cake.

*I didn't do a 'how much did this meal cost' on this because it is a dessert and because bulk products like almonds and almond flour can vary greatly from one area to another and the time of year

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Dinner Last Night : Butternut Squash Soup

I like to cook local 'in season' as much as I can.  In Canada, although I am almost as south as you can get in Canada, most of the winter months in local are root vegetables and squash.  I have no objection to this and have found some wonderful ways to enjoy the crap out of some squash.  You might remember The Spaghetti Squash dinner.

There are millions of different recipes for squash soup and some of them are lovely. Than there are a million of very strange, in some cases perfumey, in some cases oily or flavourless ones....this is one in the first category.  This is inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe from 'Jamie At Home' that I was just too lazy to make properly.  And it was delicious.  I have since made it to his spec and didn't like the soup as much as when I made it my lazy maybe this is a 'Lazy Squash Soup'

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (maybe $0.25 cents)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced (I used organic so more expensive than most $2.00)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (maybe $0.50)
  • 1 medium to large size butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (They are in season right now and I think I paid just over $3 for a pretty large organic one)
  • 2-15 fresh sage leaves (free from my garden)
  • 2 200 mL tetra packs of chicken stock ($3.00) or 2 jars of homemade
  • salt and pepper
  • Fresh Parmesan, grated (we are pretty generous with this so I would say we used about $4 worth of a good quality block)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
Total: $12.75/I would go so far as to say that this could be dinner twice and a lunch for a family of four.  Especially if served with toast/bread and/or vegetables. So it could be as little as less than a dollar a serving for a fully organic healthy soup!!

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, drop in the sage leaves.  Let them fry for around 30 seconds or until they are crispy and have darkened in colour. Then quickly remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon to some paper towel.

In the pan you now have some yummy sage oil.  With the heat still on add the onion and let it start to soften.  Add the garlic and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Let cook until everything is soft and sweet.  Add the squash and the chicken stock.  (If this amount of liquid doesn't completely cover the squash add a cup or two of water but if you need more liquid than that use more stock.  This is completely dependent on the size of your squash) Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking grate your Parmesan and crumble up sage leaves with your fingers.  Mix them together

After 30 minutes, the squash should be soft (test this by trying to squish a cube against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon)  Whiz it up using a hand blender.  Serve with sagey parm sprinkled on top.

I love this soup and I love the sagey cheese even more.....this soup freezes beautifully and it is almost impossible to not make a huge amount at a time.  If you have littler kids serve over left-over rice

Thursday, 27 October 2011

48 Momths - The tale of two parties

And then we were four.......