Monday, 27 August 2012

Potato and Leek Soup


I have pretty much recovered from the Swine Flu and the strep throat my body decided would be a funny addition to the summer of hell.  I am still a little tired and taking a few of the supplements to fight the good fight.....it hasn't helped that it was my birthday and our college reunion this past weekend....stealing the extra sleep I probably still need....the kids haven't been 100% either and with the stress and viral level of this summer I am not surprised.

I haven't felt like cooking.  I haven't been inspired.  I have been counting down the days until the kids are back to school and I can actually have two minutes of my own thoughts, uninterrupted.

I have resorted to comfort foods.  Not necessarily wintery heaviness but the easy meals that you know will be eaten, don't challenge my brain and don't make a huge mess of the kitchen.

Last night was another solo parenting night and both kids had been running on and off again fevers.  I just couldn't imagine anything fancy, rich or particularly heavy.  I also knew that an early bedtime was needed.  The decision was easy when I found leeks on sale at the market.

Ingredients

  • 3 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separate, clean. Use only the white and pale green parts, chop.
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)*
  • 2 lbs potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces (I don't peel my potatoes)
  • Marjoram - dash
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 4-6 slices of bacon, crispy and chopped

  1. Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Check often. Do not burn
  2. Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Using a hand blender, puree to your preferred texture. Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme. Add some freshly ground pepper, 1-2 teaspoons salt or more to taste.
  3. Serve with crumbled bacon on top 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Perception of Joy

I have been thinking a lot about this NY Times article 'The 'Busy' Trap' lately and it's observation that
"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."
The article touches on parents that feels the need to over schedule their children.  That this busyness that makes them feel 'worthy' in the world is now being projected on their offspring.  Busy kids, of course, has it's benefits (tired kids at bed time) but also makes for very tired parents and, usually, a lack of time for some of the truly important moments (emotionally, physiologically, and healthfully) for the kids - home made healthy meals, meals not had in front of the tv so conversation and family time happens, bed time stories or even just the child's ability to entertain themselves instead of having an organized activity.
"The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it."
So not only is this something that we have chosen but then we have surrendered to it.  I would like to add an additional thought......not only are we 'busy' but we also have a negative attitude about the busyness that our children have added to our lives. I can't tell you how often other parents complain to me about the limitations that having children has created in their lives. Or how 'hellish' certain aspects of their lives have become since having kids. Now as all parents know - having children is life changing, having children is hard work, having children makes for a life that is no longer just about you.....but is that a bad thing?

And this perception that it is a bad thing....where did that come from and why?  Is it just like the article says - that by creating an atmosphere of a life of busyness and over-burden that it validates us? Makes us feel more important in the world?.....excuses us from meeting the made up societal standards of success? or justifies our on-going feelings of not being qualified for the job of parent? Or do we just feel more comfortable expressing ourselves from a place of negativity?  Is it funnier? More relate-able?

I am not completely guilt free on this one, I am not writing this from high on a horse.  I need as much support and camaraderie as the next mom but I do try to make a point of never talking about the challenges and struggles in front of my kids. Those conversations are to be had separate from them.  It is not their business or burden to hear how much work they are or how they are challenging me.  That's my problem and children are only literal so it all directly affects their self-esteem in the world. I pay my husband the same respect and not talk about my challenges with him to others in front of him.

I try to greet them everyday with a smile and attitude that I am happy to see them....because I am happy to see them.  I am the creator of this life and, in fact, I worked really hard to have this life, I am not a victim of it and I try to focus on the blessing that I got what I asked for, no matter how challenging it may be.

I am not interested in sighing and huffing and puffing about my challenges.  I don't want to give them that much of my energy, waste any more of my time, or drag myself down in it.  I know how to swim so it shouldn't matter how deep the water....my challenge in life is learning how to ask for help if that water gets too choppy.....and that isn't my kids problem either.

Have we forgotten what joy is? Or what are we waiting for that is going to finally make us happy? Why do you think we 'like' to complain so much?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sunflower Seed Butter

Originally published in June 2012 Bulletwin without photo


‘Spread’ Thin
It seems to be allergy season in my house.  My kids are allergic to listening me. I spend my days repeating everything over and over and bedtime has turned into over an hour of herding cats.  They are allergic to wearing ‘weather appropriate’ clothing and can often be found running around the school yard in t-shirts in non t-shirt weather.  You can find me by following the ‘what a bad parent’ gazes from the by-standers. 
My husband is allergic to actually getting his dirty clothes into the laundry hamper even though he seems capable of taking them off his body.  They can be found in a pile beside his side of the bed (I told him if they don’t make it into the hamper they won’t get washed). He is also allergic to remembering the days that I have evening plans (ie POM meeting) and looks surprised and abandoned as I walk out the door.  I always have to remind him that if I don’t have a suitcase in my hands, I am probably coming back.  He can’t make the same threat, because he doesn’t have any clean clothes to pack.
I am allergic to the long delays between tv episodes. Of the very few tv shows I actually watch there will be weeks of no episodes because of the airing of some ‘reality show’ (whose reality really??) that apparently everything in the world has to go on hold for. I have also developed an allergy to anything with an ‘elimination ceremony’.
I have been struggling with other allergies too. Since September and I have been called forth to come up with a nut free snack daily for the kids to take to school.  I realize that this is a serious allergy and I don’t mean to be disrespectful but it is driving me CRAZY! 
Our house is a dairy milk free house, for our own dietary reasons we don’t drink cow’s milk. I make almond milk every 4-5 days that we consume on cereal etc but we don’t drink milk.  Because we are a gluten free house, again out of necessity, much of the baking I do involves nut flours.  They are a great protein flour alternative. And because I don’t buy anything processed, I don’t buy the premade snacks.  So in other words, other people’s food allergies are getting in the way of our food allergies.
Yes I have sent them off with the stand bys – Apple and cheese, crackers and hummus…all the fruits and veg you can imagine but at the rate that my kids eat, there has to be some protein in the mix or they will never stop eating to learn anything. So this has pushed me to get creative……no nuts eh? (sounds like a Bob and Doug McKenzie sketch….or maybe some low budget Canadian porn) but seeds are ok…..
How about some Sunflower Seed Butter? Lower in saturated fat than peanuts and higher in iron and fiber…..
2 cups roasted sunflower seeds (buy them raw and roast yourself)
1-2 tbsps a neutral tasting oil like flax or a more refined coconut.
Salt to taste
And if you want (we don't) sweetener to taste, you can use stevia, agave, brown rice syrup, honey, sugar (avoid)

Place sunflower seeds in a high speed blender or food processor and start blending.  Stream in oil a tablespoon at a time, until the seeds go from a chunky paste into a creamy blend.  Adjust salt and sweetener to taste.  Transfer to a jar or resealable container

I was amazed how good this is….I was amazed how many different ways I could use it.  Not just as a nut butter replacement but as a dip for apples, in smoothies, in baking, sweet and savory – think veggie burgers with sunflower seed sauce (if not sweetened).

I know the food allergies will never go away, ours or theirs but fingers crossed some of our other allergies are just going through a ‘season’.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Iron tonic


I have been trying to write a post on my health issues that led me to going gluten free but it is such a long story that I am afraid that everyone will loose interest before getting to the point....if there even is a point!!?!?

Maybe the point would be the amount of sheer research I have had to do to even get to this point....and I am not there yet.  I am not to the point where my body is reacting normally to 'what I do to it'...Soon I hope...there is a light at the end of this tunnel .....if it isn't a train comin at me.

About 6 months ago I was diagnosed with dangerously low iron.  Like crazy low iron. That and crazy low B vitamins.  It was a great huge puzzle piece to my full health picture.  My doctor got my B vits up with a couple of vit B12 shots but also with heavy supplementation.  My body responded great to this and my next blood draw my B was right where it should be......but the little bugger iron just wouldn't budge.  I managed to get it from 9 (it should be in the 70s for a menstruating woman) into the low 30s but no matter how I supplemented it just wouldn't get any higher.

One of the very few high-lights of our southern vacation last month was a visit with old friends, Rebecca and Brad, who now live down there.  We spent the day trashing their house and eating their food while our collective four children ran around like manics.  It was fantastic!!  While I love them equally, I am particularly fond of Rebecca.  She is a Naturopathic Doctor and we have endless things to talk about.  During this visit the topic of iron levels came up and she had a great suggestion to help bring it up - An Iron Tonic!! She gave me a recipe to make when I got home.

A really dumb thing about it is that when I got home I realized that I own the bloody book the recipe came from!! I had just never made the connection between my iron issues and some of the other resources/tools I have in my arsenal. Of course I added iron rich foods to my diet because I am all about food being medicine but then I stopped thinking.......

So with no other additional changes I added this into my daily routine

Iron Tonic
2 ounces dried Yellow Dock roots
4 tbsps honey (I actually replaced this with 2 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp molasses)
2 tbsp brandy (optional)

Put the roots into a quart jar, fill completely with boiling water, cap well.  Infuse for 8 hours or over night.  Strain plant material out and discard.  Steam liquid over a very low flame until it is reduced to one cup.  Do not boil or simmer.  Add honey (or molasses which increases the iron content) and stir until it dissolves.  Turn up fire and bring mixture just to the boil.  Pour boiling hot into a very clean jar.  Add brandy or other liqueur if desired.  Cap. Cool. Then store your tonic in the refrigerator

Yellow Dock roots concentrate iron from the earth and offer it to us combined with minerals and vitamins needed for best iron absorption in our bodies.  Rises in the hematocrit (a measure of iron) of as much as a point a week are reported by women taking this iron tonic during pregnancy and after hemorrage

The dose is one or tow tablespoons daily
*Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susan S. Weed

Now I haven't had any new blood work since I started taking this daily but even if I am in the 40s it is making a slow difference that nothing else has been able to do.  I have noticed a little more brightness in my vision and a quicker recovery of my muscles when I do physical activity which are all good signs.  It is pretty easy to take and doesn't taste terrible at all (although it smells like it might)  My Yellow Dock roots cost $10.00

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Summer sucking and Pesto Pasta Salad

Here I am, up all night tryin' to get the work done.  Trying to find a quiet moment to myself to put thoughts in a row.  A quiet moment to pay attention to one thing for any stretch of time without being interrupted by a 'watch this Mummy', 'Gabe did', or a loud crash.  These have been rare this summer and I don't see much improvement until the kids are back in school. (in 30 days and counting.....but who's counting right?)

This summer just gets weirder and weirder.  I can't say that it has been a great one.  I hate to even put that out there but we have had a good bout of bad luck or bad karma..or bad something.  This has been a summer of ruined holidays, unforeseeable expenses and endless solo parenting.  We tried to have 'Holiday 2.0' to make up for the 'The Poison Ivy Debacle'.  A nice long weekend of camping and spending time at my parents house ended up being our car almost over-heating on the highway there (forewarning some major trouble) one night of camping (on what ended up being the hottest night of the summer so far, down the lake from a bunch of teenagers who stayed up all night drinking and "woot" "wooting" into the wee hours only exacerbating my already brutal headache from the sun and heat stroke I had gotten from the outrageously hot day and the 947,000 mosquito bites), to being dropped off by Big Daddy at my parents house the next day for him to rush back to the city to leave for a sudden week long business trip.......the idea being that if I am going to be solo parenting it would be easier if I spent some of it with my parents....until my mom got 'the flu'.....and then I got a sore throat...

I will pause here for your laughter........

No please, laugh...someone has got to.  Oh I forgot to mention Big Daddy calling to tell me the car needs a ton of work and how I need to find some magical money to pay for it (we are still reeling from the medical bills from the 'PID' (poison ivy debacle)  Yeah life is good.

Anyway, life is getting in the way of writing, and I am trying to keep a positive outlook, for the sake of the kids, and writing is usually my outlet.....this. is. me. trying. to. put. a. positive. spin. on. things....there is no emoticon to smiling through gritted teeth is there?

Let's now get to the point and the happiest part of this week for me....this salad....this pesto.


Pesto is something that I have experimented with numerous times and have never really gotten 'right'.  Truth is, I think very few people every get it 'right' and I have had many a terrible bland oily pesto in restaurants too.  One of the few that I have truly appreciated was a pea shoot pesto  made by Bob at The Beech Tree Pub that topped a beautifully grilled and sliced steak.  That's the kind of pesto I can get behind.  I think I have finally gotten one 'right'

2 cups Basil leaves, washed and dried
3 cups Arugula and Spinach combo, washed and dried
4 tbsp Sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parm
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx 2 tbsp)
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste.

Add the basil, arugula spinach mix and sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse 5-6 times until the leaves are mostly broken down.  Add the garlic and lemon juice and pulse a few more times to incorporate and break down more.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it gets a sloppy consistency but before it gets runny.  Add the parm and only blend to combine.  Add more olive oil if needed to get 'sloppy' again.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss with cooled room temp pasta for a nice salad.  In this case we added sliced steak and cherry tomatoes for a school yard picnic with friends


I truly hope that you are having a better summer than me.....that maybe by some fluke we are sucking all the ridiculous out of the universe and leaving some serenity behind for everyone else......ahhh but dare to dream..