Monday, 29 October 2012

November 11 2012

Guess where I'll be on November 11th??


I'll be at The Gluten Free Garage....IN PERSON!!

I can't believe it!  Meeting me in person and maybe even getting one of my business cards??'s a dream come true!!  And all the while finding great sources of Gluten-Free Foods.  It's a day of legend making really.  Meet me there.....and then.....we'll both be there!!

Allowed out in Public

Parenting Article November 2012 edition
an article written for another publication

Me and the cousin in Time's Square's bleechers

My twins turned five in October.  It has been a long five years that has also flown by.  I still remember, like a dream-like-state, that first year.  The endless nights full of sleep deprived hallucinations, and the days of feeling completely ill-equipped and under-qualified for this new job of parenting not just one new baby but two. My husband took four months off work after we brought them home.  We would take turns with who was in charge of which baby every night. Gabe, Bea, Gabe, Bea……you got a better night sleep if you had Bea except for the two weeks she was colicky… you were guaranteed a better night every other night.  They seemed to wake up within 20 minutes of each other for the night time feeding.  We would find ourselves in our regular spots every night, me on the big cozy brown chair that fit the massive twin breast feeding pillow and had the breast pump beside it and Mike in a little nest he created on the couch, each with a baby.  At the time these 3 am meetings were painful. Now I look back on them with sweetness. We watched the entire series of LOST during those late night clandestine rendezvous’, we talked, we bonded….and we cried a little all while feeding our new little ones.    

In the five years that have followed, everything has changed – not just my babies becoming school age kids but my needs as a Mama.  Gone are the months full of nights that need more sleep, or never getting to eat a meal while it is still hot, or the desperation to eek out a few seconds to shower to put on clean clothes jammies that are then spit up on at a record speed.  We have moved into a new state of chaos, one of tiny toys to step on, elbow high individuals that have awfully big opinions and a Mom that just needs to finish a thought without it being interrupted.  Yes the 2 ½ hours a day they are at school has given me a moment to breathe but as a freelance food writer, I have to fit an entire 8 hour work day into that 2 ½ hours….that and to be frank….having a moment alone in the bathroom without someone banging on the door has done wonders for my bowels.

All very much first world problems but I think it is universal that the mom is the first to sacrifice for the kids. We are parents nine months before our husbands. As soon as that second line shows up on the home pregnancy test and we put down our glass of wine, we are Mamas and how we carry ourselves in the world changes.  I happily made those sacrifices and would do it all again but (and I have a pretty big butt) the twins are now old enough that they are claiming some independence and that gives me some room to claim a little more of my space in the universe back.  Not just my space as their mom (the space that packs their school snacks and wipes the pee off the wall beside the toilet – I would like to blame this on Gabe and say that potty training a boy is gross but I have been doing this since I married a man that is 6’4.  I can only assume that the toilet is a very small target from way up there) but the ‘my space’ that loved to go to movies alone or spend hours upon hours wondering a museum.  The me that adores nothing more than to spent hours over dinner gabbing and drinking wine, enjoying every bite.

Sure my husband and I have had date nights and I have had many nights out with ‘the girls’ (no I am not talking about my breasts). I counted that we (my husband and me, not me and my breasts….although to be fair, they were there too) have been to 14 weddings since the twins were born….. which is crazy to me because I don’t think I even like that many people!!… but all these events were leashed in by the fact that we had kids to get up with in the morning. In the last 5 years we have had very few mornings to ourselves and that’s ok but it doesn’t mean I don’t need one.

My husband Michael has a standing, yearly, long weekend away with ‘dah boyz’.  Historically they camped but as they have aged, had more children and exhaustion has set in, they have resorted to renting a cabin……and I use the word ‘cabin’ very loosely. This is a monster of a house with a ‘games’ room and lake front property and I have always hated and resented him (jealous much?) on those weekends.  Lucky bastard I say. 

I always wanted one of these weekends but the friends that I would do this with just kept popping out babies like we have a clown car.  There was always someone too pregnant, a new born, a still breastfeeder, or a sick kid. We finally all gave up, knowing the kids would leave for college eventually…..

Then an opportunity came to join a cousin of mine while she was on a business trip in New York City.  It was just a seed of an idea but it grew…Porter had a seat grew into 5 days, 4 nights in the financial district.  It grew into another mom joining us who also hasn’t had a get away since her two were born.  It grew into an event I anticipated so much that it could never live up to the hype.  It grew into being the Most Perfect Weekend Mom Get Away evah!!

Now the details of this trip are private….I mean, what happens in NY, stays in NY!! (or is that Vegas?) and they can remove tattoos now but more importantly than what I did there… what I learned there.

I learned that I am still me.  Even after all this time of absolute focus and attention being on the lives of others it took less than an hour after the plane took off to slip right back into my narcissistic, self involved only-child me!! It was fantastic!!  To be reminded that under the ‘mom fa├žade’ I can still successfully be self indulgent, lazy, eat the occasional junk food, and day dream.  That I haven’t forgotten how to sit in a park with a cup of tea and make fun of people people watch without going through the check list of ‘to-do’s for the day.  That I actually let go of the fact that I knew my husband was probably feeding the kids too many grilled cheese sandwiches and not enough vegetables and that had to be ok and was ok.

I needed to learn that the kids are a bit older now and I can let go of controlling everything.  That my day is not longer run by 3 hour segments of feeds, pumping and naps.  That I can let go of the anxiety that having preemies left me.  That I can take a deep breath.

It was nice meeting this Emily person again.  She is funny, knows how to put on make up and loves to do shots of cheap tequila. She has some great heels that she has forgotten how to walk in, can stay up past midnight and if she takes her hair out of the mom ponytail it is getting pretty long. And she hasn’t forgotten how to sleep in. She is pretty cool and I think I’ll introduce her to the kids

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Creamy Zucchini Soup

The weather is getting cold, the seasonal vegetables have changed and the budget is thin. 

After beautiful summer weather all through September, Fall rolled in with a vengeance.  It got cool fast and everyone got sick.  The last week has been cool rainy days that are overcast and dark.  My least favourite kind of weather.  Getting up in the morning is difficult at best for all of us.  My kids have never really been bright and shiny risers.  As infants they were up early but once they were in the pre-school age category the wake up times got to be fairly reasonable.  Now with it so dark in the mornings the wake up for school involves my alarm going off and me waking them up.  They flop around and groan a lot.....well Bea flops around and groans a lot....and then they finally come down stairs, bleary eyed and barely functioning.  At this point I have already made coffee and packed their snacks.

We have just enough time to jam breakfast down, get dressed and run the second half of the walk to school or else be late. It isn't ideal but it is kinda working for us. 

This time of year also moves us into cooler weather vegetables.  The hardier stuff, nothing delicate. Now we eat the larger zucchini not the delicate flowers, woodier beans and endlessly wonderful squash. I have mentioned before that I love cooking when the cooler weather hits.  It opens the doors (metaphorically) to casseroles, bakes, roasts and all the creamy foods that are just too heavy to eat in the summers heat.

We are also tightening our budget belts.  This month hits us with some extra expenses.  We have the twins 5th birthday at the end of the month and my 5 day New York trip that starts TOMORROW!!!  I have been trying to arm Big Daddy with some healthy meals that he can just pull out of the freezer while I am gone but life has been getting in the way.  He will have some spaghetti sauce and a couple of soups, including this one.

Over a year ago I wrote about going to to see Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (of Vij's and Rangoli fame)  talk about food while we were served dishes from their new cook book.  They were terribly charming and the food delicious but every time I have tried one of the recipes from their cook book Vij's at Home, the one they were promoting that night, I have found them flat, missing something, oily and terribly salty (and I like salt!).  I have ended up using the book as a great jumping off point to something different than what they intended and better than the result they recommend.

Here is their recipe with my alterations

Vij's Kitchen Staff's Zucchini Soup

1/3 cup cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped jalapeno (I recommend 1/2 tsp, or more, of cayenne instead)
1 1/2 tsp garam masala (I used a full 2 tsp, this is necessary because of my substitution of cream over milk, more spice to cut through the creaminess) 
1 tbsp salt (I would recommend 2/3 tbsp)
1 tsp turmeric
2 lbs zucchini cut in 1/2- inch dice
1/2 cup water (I doubled the water and used half and half cream instead of milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk (1 1/2 cups of half and half)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

**I stirred in a cup of plain yogurt just before serving.

In a soup pot over medium heat, heat oil and add cumin seeds.  Allow them to fizzle and slightly darken, about 30 seconds and then add the onion.  Saute until browned but not burned.  Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minute until browned and then stir in ginger, jalapeno, garam masala, salt and turmeric.  Saute for 3-4 minutes stirring regularly, then add the zucchini and water and stir well.  Cook the zucchini for 3-4 minutes until tender then add milk, stir and bring to a light boil.  Then remove from the heat and stir in cilantro.

The original isn't bad but mine is better.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What I am up to and Roasted Tomatoes

I have been 'Up to' too many things.  Recipe development, Parent Council business, my own research, catching up on columns for other publications, planning the twins birthday party and preparing for my 5 day trip to New York (more on that later) So busy with so many big things that I am being pulled in a million different directions at the same time.  So steep a learning curve in so many different areas that I am actually feeling brain dead at the end of the day.

This has all been exacerbated by the fact that I have been busy finishing up my tomato canning for the year.  3 bushels (150lbs) so far.  I say so far because I may buy another 1/2 bushel for roasting and canning.  I can't believe how completely obsessed I am with roasted tomatoes. It has been such an intense love affair that I have been going out of my way to cook dinners that involve the use of them.

I canned 1 1/2 bushels of peeled and slightly chopped tomatoes, used 1/2 a bushel to make a years worth of ketchup (recipe to be posted soon) and roasted another bushel that I made pasta sauce with and canned that......and then preceded to eat 1/2 of it this week........we don't generally eat pasta that often but with my current schedule some nights it has been impossible to make an alternate healthy dinner.  It also makes it easy for Big Daddy to throw a healthy home made dinner together if there is a beautiful home made sauce ready.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Wash tomatoes and cut them in half. Pile your now halved tomatoes in the middle of a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Drizzle oil over the pile and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  Toss and then lay them out cut side up.  Don't pack them tightly. Roast in the oven for 45 mins to an hour depending the the size of the tomatoes.  They will grow richer in colour, the skins will wrinkle and the bottoms will brown a little. Let them cool for about 20 minutes before handling.  You could send them through a food mill now but I don't have one and I actually love slipping my thumbs under the skin and 'releasing the tomato from the skins' (said with your best Julia Child accent).  Use this to make a rich amazing sauce.

In my testing I have been trying out other developers recipes.  I have had a real interest lately in the Paleo diet and have been reading quite a bit about it.  I not only find diets in general fascinating but Paleo is a Gluten free/real food friendly way of food so it opens my eyes to a million more recipe ideas and ways of looking at meals.  That and it is a incredible healthy way to eat.  I found this food blogger

Against All Grain

And then my head exploded.  I thought I was doing a good or at least interesting job at eating well with my food restrictions but this woman blows my mind.  Even with the numerous foods she is unable to eat, from her recipes I am not sure she ever feels deprived.  I don't think I would notice the missing but common items with meals like these.  I tried her grain free waffles recipe.

And whatever part of my head that hadn't already exploded enough....exploded!!! And I flew into a jealous rage of "How dare she?", "How can she?" and "I'm not good enough"'s. And had a temper tantrum. Then I insisted that Big Daddy feed me the rest of my waffle while I lay on the floor feeling sorry for myself (see why I am so exhausted?)  I highly recommend checking her out and I plan on eating more of these waffles. Thanks Danielle!!

I also finished preserving some hot peppers and have more about to ripen.  I packed them in oil and I will keep them in the fridge.

Its been a big week really

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sweets from the Earth

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of being invited to join the Food Bloggers table at The Gluten Free Expo - Toronto.  I got the invite from Jax at Gluten Free Ontario which was a surprise and flattering.  And Oh Boy am I glad that I went!!  Not only is Jax super nice (she did lose her voice early in the day so maybe I just couldn't hear how she really felt about me) but I got to meet tons of 'my community' (yes I am totally doing gang signs and posing all gangsta like)

One HUGE bonus is the free stuff I got sent home with! I was sent home with a huge bag of breads, flours, chocolates, baked goods, baking mixes and snacks.  All gluten free and mostly delicious. One of the really nice swag givers was Sweets from the Earth who offered me a couple of different loaves of bread including this one

The Harvest White Baguette
I have tried many of the gluten free bread options on the market here and in the US.  Most of them are lousy, some are ok, and very very few are good.  Gluten free bread will never be like regular 'glutened' bread and maybe we just need to stop trying to make them compare.  Every once and a while you stumble across a brand that is so good it stands alone.  That is true of this white baguette from Sweet from the Earth. No it isn't just like a french baguette but it has all the attributes that make a baguette good.  It is chewy with a nice crunchy crust.  And no I never feel deprived....not when I can eat like this....

I cut the baguette in half and toasted it well, smothered it with salted ricotta, a smear of the home made pesto, tomatoes from the garden, salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Low-Grain Granola

I have been slowly reading and 'digesting' (see what I did there?) more and more of Wheat Belly and the concepts behind the Paleo Diet, GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet).  The need to go gluten free first opened my eyes to diets beyond Atkins and low-cal to ones that cut certain carbs, only eat raw foods, traditional foods, etc. It has been a steep learning curve and has made my gluten-free-ness seem simple and completely do-able. I haven't found that I need to be anything but gluten free (so far) but the more I learn, the more I feel it important from a health stand point to 'ungrain' us a little bit.  It is engrained (see I did it again!) in part of our North American culture and diet, part of our food pyramid, part of our lifestyle to think that grains need to be a major player on our plates. More and more recent studies have shown this to be absolutely untrue, and in fact, not only has the human race's digestion not evolved fast enough to keep up with the industrialization of grain farming but with the now over processing of the huge quantities of grain that are force into our diets, we just keep getting sicker and fatter. I spoke to that a couple of weeks ago with 'How Healthy is your Healthy Diet?'

I have no plans on going completely grain free, at this point, but what if we only ate about 50% of the grain that we generally consume?  I can only assume the further into learning about this I get, the lower I will want that percentage to be, but for now getting down to 50% doesn't seem impossible.

I have posted a granola recipe in the past and I stand behind it.  In fact my low grain version is based on the same concept of 10 cups of dry ingredients with coconut oil and maple syrup cooked at a low roast.  If there is an ingredient you aren't particularly fond of just up one of the seeds you like more.

Low Grain Granola
2 cups oats
4 cups nuts (prepared same as other recipe)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup golden flax seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cinnamon

1 cup puffed quinoa

Prepare the same way as previous granola recipe adding the puffed quinoa as you would dried fruit.  With this granola I haven't been adding dried fruit and eating it with fruit salad and some yogurt.  We all lerv this and eat it for breakfast and snacks.