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