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
Mama

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

Chili

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 interesting....at 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.

Ingredients
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 price...in 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 all...no 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





 
Filling

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 way.....so maybe this is a 'Lazy Squash Soup'

Ingredients
  • 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