Sunday, 27 May 2012

Healthy Dinner in 20 Minutes

Dear Me,

I usually get mad at me for cutting it so close.  I shake my fist at the sky and curse (or feel cursed) for having days with 'to do lists' this long (I wanted to get all the outside gardening etc done today because tomorrow is suppose to be a 'frog strangler') was too busy, over booked, and me exhausted and in desperate need of a healthy dinner (yesterday was the schools fund raising Carnival - it was fantastic!! - read - more junk and less sleep than usual) But today, instead of getting frustrated, I just relaxed and let myself be more spontaneous.  It is in this state of mind I can step back and be more creative.  It was a day filled with green houses and gardening and it reminded me it is summer (spring) and to get out of the pantry and remember that there is so much to eat from the fast food restaurant called 'the back yard'. SO instead of getting all stressed out, I reinvented simple. Lesson learned me!!

Harvested from the yard
3-4 handfuls of salad greens
some dill, finely chopped
some tarragon, finely chopped

It didn't come out of the yard by the handful or already finely chopped....I don't have that much of a green thumb

1 lbs of baby yukon gold potatoes from the market
1/2 lemon
4 small fresh haddock filets from the fish monger, patted dry and salt and peppered
a few cloves of the roasted garlic I packed on olive oil, squished with a fork
a couple of glugs of olive oil
and some buddah....

I am being vague about quantities because this really is a 'throw together whatever you have' kinda dinner and I hope to inspire the idea that even in the huge city you can grow a few things and those few fresh things from the garden can make any thing a meal

  1. Wash and dry the salad green and set aside
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the juice from 1/2 a lemon and a little of the squished up roasted garlic.  Once combined, keeping whisking while slowly drizzling in olive oil (approx 1/4 cup) It will become a slightly creamy pale yellow sauce.  Add the tarragon and some salt and pepper and set aside
  3. Rinse potatoes.  In a medium size pot, over medium low heat, melt a knob of butter.  When bubbling add the clean and still slightly wet potatoes and a pinch of salt. Put the lid on tightly.  Believe it or not the potatoes will slowly steam as the water content of the butter and the water that was on them from being washed slowly cooks off.  Every 3-5 minutes take the pot, holding the lid on, and shake the pot redistributing the potatoes. The potatoes on the bottom of the pot brown nicely.  Just before they are done, about 10 minutes, add the dill and squished garlic. Do a final 'shake'
  4. Meanwhile in a medium size fry pan over medium high heat melt another knob of butter.  when nice and hot add the haddock fillets.  Let cook on one side until brown, about 4 minutes and turn, letting the other side brown.
  5. Plate by topping a bed of greens with the haddock and drizzling the lemon tarragon sauce over top and yes the kids ate every bite.
Simple and ready in just a few minutes. Maybe we need to wash it all down with some home made ice cream.....ahhhh but that's for another day

55 Momths

Dear Beatrice and Gabe

This month wasn't just busy it has been insane.  I like to be busy but this the kind of busy where even the fun things seem like too much.  I kept searching the calendar looking for a day with nothing planned but couldn't find one.

The month started out with a bang with a huge surprise 40th birthday party for Big Daddy.  You guys weren't there and were home with a sitter but it is worth mentioning because it took up much of my time and brains for weeks.  Not only did I have to hide it from Daddy but I had to hide it from you guys too.  Remember the baby blanket for Meaghan?  That secret last about 30 seconds after her arrival. Well we couldn't repeat that

And I think we surprised him

I won't do a day by day replay because that would bore all of us but here are some highlights

We finally got organized and got all the plants for the garden.  It is really satisfying to me to have the garden in.  While Daddy and I dug and weeded and got dirty Bea noticed that our strawberry plants were covered in tiny strawberries. You came running around the corner to tell us.  We spoke briefly about how cool it was and how if we give them a little more time we will have some strawberries to eat.  But for now, don't touch them.  About 15 minutes later I knew you were up to no good.  You had been quiet for too long.  I found you ripping all the little strawberries off and throwing them over the fence.....

Bea, you love lady bugs and have killed several hugging them to death

Bea, you drew an amazing picture of me

Bea you asked if we could watch Tim took a little while but we figured out you wanted to watch Horton Hears a Who

Me to Bea - "how did you get such pretty eyes" (they are REALLY blue) Bea - "I went to painting eyeball world"

I had a nice Mothers day.

The three of you played chef and made me a nice breakfast

Over dinner last night Gabe started to daydream with a big grin on his face. Me - "What are you thinking about Gabe?" Gabe "How I like bums and how funny they are".

And you started soccer.  A Thursday night game every week all summer.  You guys seem to have fun, especially with some of the props

Your first game I had a strange experience. I was sitting on the grass beside the field. Behind me on lawn chairs was a mom (lets call her bitch face) and (I think) the Gramma. With them was another mom who brought snacks for one of the teams (we take turns). Beside me on the grass were Bitch Face's 3 girls, her son (on the black shirt team) was playing. I not sure which kid belonged to the snack bringer. After the first 'shift', snack bringer laid out the snacks and yelled to the kids coming off the field "There are snacks here everyone!!" Gabe (on the red team) and 3 of the black team players ran over and started to eat. Bitch Face immediately told the Snack Bringer that a 'red team player' was eating the snacks (I only became aware at this point that the snacks were for the black team only) Then she began to talk loudly (for me to hear) to Gramma "I would NEVER let one of MY kids do that.......I can't believe the nerve.......THAT is EVERYTHING that is wrong in the world....." etc etc. The more she talked the more I let Gabe eat. She then got up and put the lids back on the tupperware and told Gabe "The buffet is closed". Gabe, a little upset came over and sat on my lap. "Why she say I can't have snacks". Me loudly enough for her to hear "Because her Mommy never taught her any manners or how to share. She is being rude and when it is our turn to bring snacks we will be nice and share with both teams". I am pretty used to bumping heads with other parents but I found this a difficult situation to deal with.  If she had been polite I would've made Gabe stop eating the snacks but the fact that she was so rude made me want to do nothing, that and I couldn't believe that she was doing in front of her other kids.  It put me in the position of really needing to deal with it properly so that all the kids involved saw that there was a much classier way.  That and I really didn't want your feeling to get hurt Gabe.  Hopefully the rest of the games this season are easier.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Coconut Raspberry Muffins

My kids are being a real challenge right now.  I am kinda at a loss.  I have seen many parenting experts talk, I own and have read various books on the many different styles and I have a great mom but I'm finding that I am spending an awful lot of time mouth-open stunned.

My daughters behaviour seems so dramatically crazy to me that I am concerned for her sanity!  SO much drama and histrionics.  Bodies being flung to the floor, arms flying, hitting, biting, blowing raspberries, screaming the scream that makes your ears bleed.  I try to 'mirror' her like according to Jennifer Kolari but she is so deep into her 'episode' that she can't even hear what I am saying.  I give her time to cool down so that we can have a productive talk but even then she squirms around and I know I barely have her attention.  She promises not to be 'naughty' or 'rude' anymore, says she is going to be 'nice now' (these are all her words).  I don't force an apology but ask that she says she won't do it again like Alyson Schafer recommends, giving her the responsibility to live up to her word.

And my son....well he has currently decided to play the role of door mat.  Ever the victim in all group play.  Some of this he comes by honestly - the kids in his class have been pretty brutal about giving him time to finish his thoughts and say what he wants - he stutters and is easily distracted.  His input in group play almost never gets heard.  Yes his wonderful teacher is working with Gabe and the class but kids are kids and they can be pretty cruel.  It doesn't help that he is the 'baby' (youngest, he was only a couple of months into being 4 when some of the kids were turning 6, which is terribly noticeable in the boys) in the class even though he isn't the smallest.  With him a broken block castle is 'everything is ruined forever', if he doesn't get what he wants he will 'never have it forever'.  His is pretty heavily laced with drama too but while Bea is hitting, he is laying on the floor taking it.

I am going through all the motions, doing the 'moves', saying what I am suppose to say and truly getting no where forever and ever......(geez where does Gabe get it from?)

It is when I hit these walls that I get in the kitchen.  Being able to successfully 'finish' something.  To start at a beginning and see it through to a satisfying end calms my nerves.  When the kitchen is clean and the cooling rack is full - I feel a sense of accomplishment that I just am not feeling as a parent right now and who can't say that eating something truly yummy doesn't make everything a bit easier.  The last few days I have been baking....probably more than I should but I have needed to.  The kids are still getting the attention they need but so am I.

My latest favourite.... This is adapted from a couple of different recipes - one being the gluten free raspberry coconut muffins they sell at the local health food store which calls for almond flour which although yummy would mean that I couldn't include them in the kids school snack (has to be nut free) and the other being a gluten free coconut raspberry muffin recipe from the unbelievably obnoxious Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Her cookbook (which I own) is "Deliciously G-Free" (thank god she saved me that extra time not having to say 'luten'!!)

I have tried both recipes a bunch of times and I think mine is best, besides...mine has NO refined sugar

Gluten Free Sugar Free Coconut Raspberry Muffins
makes 24

1 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 stick or 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 eggs
2 cups milk (dairy or nut)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups fresh or defrosted raspberries
1/4 cup coconut sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the three types of flour, baking powder, guar gum, salt, baking soda and set aside
  3. Place the coconut sugar and butter in a large bowl and whisk until well combined (I use my mixer)  Whisk in eggs one at a time until well combined.  Add the milk and whisk until well combined.  Now add the flour mixture and fold in.  Don't over combine.  Add the coconut and raspberries and stir until evenly incorporated.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin cups until about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle a bit of the left over coconut sugar on the tops.  Bake until firm to the touch - about 20-22 minutes.
  5. Let cool.  Store in an airtight container
Now eating one of these makes all the 'pain' go away.....the kids being in bed for the night and the glass of wine helps too.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An argument for EGGS

Excuse me while I climb up on my soapbox for a minute (or two)....

The more I study nutrition...and I don't mean Canada Food Guide/American Food Pyramid "nutrition"....but what I can best describe as a Holistic Traditional Nutritional approach - one based on Holistic Nutrition and Traditional Diets, the more I find we are now being sold a load of bunk.  Like many of the other soap boxes that I dare to climb atop, they all involve large industry telling us what will keep us healthy, when really all it does is keep them profitable. Like most things these days, it is all about the bottom line.  Food processing is the largest manufacturing industry in the country (Canada and US) and hence the most powerful.  The industry uses its financial clout to influence and slant university research (oh it sounds so much like the pharmaceuticals doesn't it?) and dictates what conclusions come from government agencies.

So we are continually sold the idea that low-fat diets are the way to go (the recommended daily intake being very small), telling us to eat huge quantities of grains and carbohydrates (the base of the food pyramid), a heavily subsidized crop.  The 'experts' make little to no distinction between whole grains and refined, between foods grown organically and those grown with pesticides and commercial fertilizers, between unprocessed dairy products and meats from pastured-fed cows from confined animals raised on processed feed, between traditional fresh fruit and vegetables and those that have been irradiated or GMO'ed--between the traditional foods that nourished our ancestors and the now highly refined, GMO'ed, sugar laden, highly processed foods we are now offered.

I will now climb down - and comment on eggs.

I have never been a huge fan of breakfast foods and going gluten free made it all a little more of a challenge. So, and I have mentioned this before, I often just put on egg on what was for dinner the night before. "OH THE CHOLESTEROL!!" you holler at me, "OH THE FAT" you worry for my health (that's sweet really) but here's the thing......eggs are good for you - it's about how you cook them.

Eggs Contain - (may I add that this is farm fresh pastured eggs not grocery store egg mill caged birds - lacking in the macro-nutrients and completely devoid of all the micro-nutrients)

Lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) is fairly concentrated in the yolks.  This substance is vital to the body's cell membranes.  Because these membranes include the ones surrounding nerve cells in the brain, memory and other cognitive processes appear related to the lecithin supply.  Its function in the body is to emulsify fats, and enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A. Nearly 1/3 of your brain is made of lecithin - 30% of your brain's dry matter is lecithin and it is vital to proper brain function, increasing mental activity and enhancing memory. Lecithin also exhibits a calming effect and can be helpful in reducing hyperactivity. What’s more, lecithin protect against gallstone formation, high blood pressure, and is known to lower LDL cholesterol (bad) while preserving HDL (good) cholesterol, decreasing our risk of heart attack. (wait weren't you concerned about my cholesterol?). Lecithin is a very delicate nutrient and is destroyed with heat so you have to eat the eggs with runny yolks. Poaching and soft boiling are therefore your best choices for preserving the many health benefits of that precious lecithin.

Vitamin K - a fat soluble compound needed for blood clotting and plays an important role in bone formation.

Sulpher-containing amino-acids - methionine, cysteine and cystine - Important to the health of the brain and nervous system.   Sulphur aids in many biochemical processes.  It helps protect the body from infection, blocks the harmful effects of radiation and pollution and slows the aging process.  Sulphur containing proteins are the building blocks of cell membranes and sulphur is a major component in the gel-like connective tissue in cartilage and skin.

Vitamin A - This vitamin is the catalyst on which innumerable biochemical processed depend.  No protein, mineral or water-soluble vitamins can be utilized by the body without vitamin A.  Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body against pollutants and free radicals like cancer.

Vitamin E - This fat-soluble vitamin needed for circulation, tissue repair and healing.  It seems to help in the treatment of fibrocystic conditions, sterility, PMS and muscular dystrophy.  It seems to retard the aging process.  A vital role of vitamin E is the deactivation of free radicals.  With some trace elements it prevents cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin B - All the water-soluble B vitamins work as a team to promote healthy nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, muscle tone and cardiovascular function; they protect us from mental disorders, depression and anxiety

and some calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. They are also a decent source of protein.

For my science geek readers (like me), eggs yolks contain very-long-chain fatty acids that have 20 to 24 carbon atoms.  They tend to be highly unsaturated with four, five or six double bonds.  Some people can make these fatty acids from their essential fatty acid intake but others, particularly those whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, lack the enzymes to produce them.  These people must obtain elongated fatty acids from animal foods like organ meat, butter, fish oils and egg yolks.  Many of these very long fatty acids including dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are used in the production of prostagladins and AA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) play important roles in the function of the nervous system.

So with all that being said - I put poached eggs on top of dinner left overs.  Grilled sweet potatoes and asparagus.  Not only did it satisfy my hunger but it held me for hours.  Must be all that nutrition.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Why Should I be Taken Seriously?

My Grandfather ("Papa", one of the smartest people I have ever known) used to say that the really smart people are the ones that know they don't know everything and see how much there still is to learn....they recognize that there are life times worth of learning. A 'smart person' approaches life and other people with a 'what can I learn from this' attitude not a 'what can I teach/tell you' mind set.

I try to live by this but today I struggle.  Today I am trying to write a seminar/talk on food preservatives (to teach people) and all I can see is how much I don't know.  How much my school'n education and my personal interest/passion education are not really connected.  How I am now being asked to give talks based on my personal interest/passions not what I have a academic education in - it is insecurity in the making!!.  I have no credentials to back up what I am talking about and imagine someone in the audience blowing a raspberry or booing while I am mid-sentence.

I know that I know more than the average bear on this subject but it doesn't mean that the 'smart person' part of me doesn't recognize how much there still is to learn. When you are being asked to 'teach' on a subject, how do you weigh that against still being a student of it.  How can I ask to be taken seriously if I am not sure I take me seriously?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

the garden, whats in it and why

We have lived in this house for 5 years now and every year the garden takes on a different shape and form.  Every year it grows a different variety of foods. We move things around to maximize the space, the sunny areas used for the tomatoes and hot lovin' herbs and the slightly shadier spots for lettuces and strawberries.

I love this ever changing piece of performance art that my back yard has become but the year long cycle makes it hard to remember what did well where year to year.  I try to draw maps and make detailed notations but the slip of paper get lost from one year to the next.  I dearly wish the Virgo me had not so a Taurus and Scorpio family when it comes to organization but this is my wonderful 'lot' in life and so I need to learn the ability to relax among the chaos and embrace the the nuts (I am not actually growing nuts but raising them).
One thing I do know and remember year to year is that my back yard does not get enough sun during the day to grow large variety tomatoes like Beefsteak (we tried Kellogg's Beefsteak).  We end up pulling in huge green tomatoes to save them from the first frost of the fall.  They are still delicious but they aren't half as good as if they could ripen on the vine.
My garden is crazy with Raspberries and Blackberries.  These were already planted when we moved in and we have reaped the benefit of these bushes every year

Raspberry bushes will spread like weeds and we do heavily prune them every other year. Our silly little cat makes a little summer nest in the raspberries every year from where she rests in the shade and hunts the birds.  The blackberry seems to be growing more up then out so it hasn't needed to be cut back much but the berries are getting higher and higher and harder and harder to reach.

Black Plum Tomato
This plant is loaded with clusters of plum shaped reddish brown fruits.  These did well but I wasn't a huge fan of the flavour the the fruit.  They would also fall from the vine and rot quickly if we let them get too ripe
Blondkopfchen Cherry Tomatoes
It produces clusters of 20-30 very, very tasty gold/yellow 2 cm cherry tomatoes. The productivity is astounding and I replant these every year.  Gabe likes to pick them right off the vine and eat them.  Everyday there are more to eat.

Break O'Day
This bright red heirloom tomato is the result of a cross between Margobe and Marvana made in 1923 and released in 1931. It has very high yields that rival many hybrids. Tomato expert Dr. Carolyn Male calls it "a workhorse of a tomato" Smooth, round, blemish free fruit have that tangy old fashioned tomato flavour.  I really like the taste of these but we didn't get very many (I think this was our fault because of placement - too close together.  We should try again this year

Matt's Wild Chery Tomatoes
A very old tomato, possibly an originator of the modern tomato. Very tall vines can grow to
300-400cm. Harvest an immense amount of delicious, very small tomatoes right up to frost. I loved these crazy spidery vines that grow clusters of the sweetest and possibly the cutest tiny tomatoes.  Again yummy to snack on right off the plant. I will plant these again but remember to plant them beside the fence so they have something to hold on to.  We lost to many clusters because of sheer weight dragging the long skinny tentacles to the ground and the fruit rotting. (Red Current Cherry Tomatoes are similar)
Roma or San Marzano
These are both wonderful plum tomatoes with good yields.  I have had success with both.  For eating raw I like the Roma better but I like San Marzano more for canning.  These plants just need tomatoes cages and don't 'spread' out like some of the others.

I have hoped year after year to plant some Green Tomatillos but it has just never worked out and really I don't have enough full sun room once the tomatoes go in.

We have had great success with Alpine Strawberries in the dappled sun in the very back.  These are perennials and come back with more every year.  There are never enough to make jam (I have to go picking for that) but we can eat warm berries right off the plant all summer.

I have many perennials that come back every year - Sage, Tarragon, Chives, Oregano and Mint (both will take over your garden if you let it) and every year I plant Basil, Cilantro, Italian Parsley, sometimes Cat Nip.  I never plant enough Basil or Cilantro and plan on remedying that this year....I want to have homemade pesto all year!!!
These truly are the easiest thing to grow.  You can keep reseeding as you cut to eat.  I always have a 'batch' growing that I can cut almost daily salads out of.  I love a spicy lettuce mix (Arugula, Mustard and Radish) mixed in with a mild (Red and Green Leaf, Beet, Kale) 
Things I never seem to have much success with - and I am not sure why yet
Beans - My mom grows beans like no bodies business but I can't seem to get this happening.....I think it is the limited amount of full sun they get. I have tried Golden Wax beans, Bush Beans, and Hariot Vert
Peppers - Hot or Sweet....I have grown a few hot with success....but not even a great yeild

Carrots - We seem to only get stumpy short but thick carrots.  They taste great but never get long.  I think our soil is too clay....? I think we will stay away from them in the future, we just don't have the room

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Mother's Day Prayer

I am not a pray'r...not really anyway.  I do bow my head occasionally.  I do give thanks and I do chant.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (Numb Meyoho Ren-gay Key-yo) I chant to calm my nerves, I chant to calm my try to bring back my reason when there doesn't seem to be anything reasonable.  I chant when I am at a loss and I chant when I am thankful.  I chant for peace, in my own heart and the heart of others.  I chant for hope, to give me some or to fulfill what I am hopeful for. I chant for others. I chant when I am in pain, physical or emotional. I chant when I don't know what else to do. I chant because it makes me part of something bigger...and makes my challenges feel small.

I am not religious but I have great faith. I don't believe there is some old man with a beard looking down and judging, deciding where I get to go after this life but I believe we can decide which energy we want to be part of.  Whether we want to participate in the positive or the negative. And I believe in karma.

Today I chant in thanks.  To be honoured with the custody of these little souls. The gift of their company for the rest of my days. And thanks that my 'prayers' were answered when many doctors said I would never be able to have children

Today, with everyone else I give thanks for my mother,  and today, most of all, I give thanks that I got to be one.

The Mother's Day 'Chef's taking my breakfast order

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

lern'n new stuffs

I had the great honour of a 'schoolin in takin food fotos' last weekend.  I do know and occasionally recognize what is missing and needed here in Life: A Study Land and the quality of photos was/is glaringly bad.  I can come up with many many excuses - one being I have 4 year old twins, another being that many of the photos I take are taken within seconds of it being put on the messing with lighting and props is a little out of the question.......that being said....I suck...really... because she can do it  - Beatrice at La Tartine Gourmande and Shawna at Gluten Free Girl (who freakishly both have girls named Lu) and a million really as my photo and food stylist teacher pointed out...I am fat and lazy......(he didn't say the fat part)

So here is where we are going with this.....

To this.......


to this...

I have been doing a bit of experimenting since and I am still learning the ropes of how I will be doing this at home but maybe you can come on this crazy journey with me

Here is one of my first this isn't for a recipe post because who doesn't know how to fry an egg or two or make homefries??....and if you don't, I invite you over so I can give you kisses and all the failings of your terrible parents......  this was more so I could play with my camera, play with the lighting and then with my new photo editrix (editors are stinky boys) program

It's not perfect but it is a start and I am sure I know a couple of people who will have comment on it - Bob and Christopher