Monday, 11 November 2013

Of all the Gluten Free events I have been to this is the best and I can't recommend it enough.  I will be there hanging with pal Jax from Gluten Free Ontario

Toronto Peeps - Check it out


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What Now Mama?

Today is day 12 of my kids being in full day school.  I have been ‘released’ from my duties of being a full time mom.  There are now 6 ½ hours a day that the kids are in school.  6 ½ hrs to get things done.  6 ½ hours!!!

6 ½ hours to tackle this enormous list of ‘to-dos’.  6 ½ hours to focus on more non-mom pursuits.  6 ½ hours to be called Emily and not Mummy.  6 ½ hours to finish the projects that I started 6 years ago before the twins were born.  6 ½ hours to write, cook and photograph.  6 ½ hours to repaint the house and the 3 pieces of furniture I am refinishing. 6 ½ hours to work……

And yet I am frozen.

And I don’t mean I am procrastinating.  I am actually standing in spot frozen with anxiety.  Part of me feels like I have 6 years of catching up to do.  6 years of mental health days, naps and bad indulgent tv.  But I also have 6 years of ‘career’ catching up.  I need (we need) me to get back into being able to contribute more to the family income.  I need to focus more on healing this body that is still struggling with badly managed thyroid disease.  I need to figure out who I am now that isn’t just a mom…weird? 

All this just makes me tired.  I am not inspired.  I am not energized.  I am not feeling all ‘lets go!!’  I am tired like I ran a 6 year marathon.

The same thing happened when the kids spent a few days with their grandparents this summer.  I had big plans!! But really I ended up getting very little done.  I think I have forgotten what I do with myself. Does that make sense?  Do I really have no sense memory of how to be alone?  How to be productive without it being in service to my kids or the household…..I dunno.

Big Daddy asked something the other day that under any other circumstances would have been answered with a quick jab to the throat.  But now?  While rushing around to tidy up before guests arrived he asked “Why is this place such a mess, what are you doing all day?”

He had a point.  What am I doing? 

Well.....mostly kinda half ass starting things and kinda sometimes sorta finishing some of or part of some of it but not before vaguely kinda starting something else that will remain in a pile unfinished….sorta?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Real Mama Life : The Cupboards are Bare!!!

There are some very real benefits to all the preserving and canning I do.  Not just because of the health benefits of eating food that is preserved while it is in season but because very rarely are the cupboards really bare.

Tonight was one of those nights.....we have been in and out of town so much over the last two weeks that any big grocery shop was pointless.  I managed to scrap this together mostly with cupboard finds and was happy to see the whole family enjoying it.  I was kinda stressed to pull something together and with another possible trip on the horizon there isn't going to be any grocery shopping soon.

Note:  I have not been eating a 'clean' Paleo diet lately.  I am still gluten free (that's for life) and dairy free but with recent test results forcing me to cut out eggs and almonds, both Paleo staples, I have let small amounts of grains and beans back in.  A girls gotta live a little!!

Maybe Minestrone Stoup
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
A good size dollop of my roasted garlic I pack in EVOO 
1 tin kidney beans**
1 jar home canned tomatoes
1 jar home made chicken stock (you may not need the full amount if making the Paleo version)
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
2 cups uncooked small size noodles**
2 fresh bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried chillies
bunch of fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper

**for Paleo exclude the beans and noodles and add diced zucchini

Put the chicken stock on high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling add the noodles and cook until slightly under done.

While noodles are cooking, in a soup pot over medium heat saute the carrots and onions in olive oil, coconut oil or butter (diet dependent) until soft.  Add the garlic, beans, bay leaves, chillies and the jar (or tin) of tomatoes. Stir to combine

When the noodles are done pour the whole pot - noodles and stock - into the soup pot. Stir to combine. Add cooked chicken and combine

Serve with basil

Paleo Version
Bring stock to a simmer.  You may need less than what the recipe calls for because zucchini has quite a bit of liquid in it

In a soup pot over medium heat saute the carrots, onions and zucchini in refined coconut oil until soft.  Add garlic, bay leaves, chillies and the jar of tomatoes. Stir to combine.  Let simmer for 10 minutes before adding chicken stock and chicken.  Then combine.

Serve with basil

Monday, 15 July 2013

Dairy Free Butter Chicken

This has become a stand by dish around here.  It ain't pretty, it's easy, fast and the kids love it.  The best part is I can eat it and these days it feels like there isn't much I can eat.  I know boohoo poor me but the list of forbidden foods has grown....again!

It started with gluten and has grown to dairy, eggs, almonds, and yeasts.  This is extremely limiting but for sanity sake I have to see it as liberating.  It also helps that many of these exclusions are probably temporary while my gut heals and my body stops the inflammatory habit.

This is one of those meals you feel denied nothing.  It isn't heavy on coconut flavour and could stand up to any butter chicken made with dairy.  I also promise the kids love it!!

Dairy Free Butter Chicken
6 skinless, boneless organic chicken thighs
2 med to lg yellow onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp of ghee (or coconut oil)
1 can of full fat (not light) coconut milk
1/2 cup good quality tomato paste
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cayenne (more if you don't have to be kid friendly)
salt to taste
optional, handful of chopped cilantro leaves

Cut chicken into strips and collect the dried spices together in the small bowl

In a medium pan over medium heat, caramelize the onions in the ghee.  When almost done add the garlic and ginger.  Keep cooking until garlic and ginger are fragrant and softening.  Add the bowl of spices and mix well into the onions, garlic and ginger. Let the spices toast about one minute then add the chicken and combine well.  Before the chicken starts to cook and stick to the pan add the can of coconut milk and the tomato paste.  Turn the heat down, cover and let simmer until chicken is cooked, stirring occasionally.

Fragrant Rice
This is one dish that makes me hate eating Paleo.  If I 'cheat' it's with this dish.  Because of the recent restriction of almonds and eggs, Paleo staples, I have allowed a little rice back into my life......and almost all of the rice eaten has been this dish.
3 cups basmati rice, brown or white (I use brown)
2 tsps cumin seeds
5 black cardamon pods or 8 green cardamon pods
2 bay leaves
6 tbsps ghee (or coconut oil)
4 cups water (4 1/2 if using brown rice)
2 tsps salt
Thoroughly wash the rice in a large mixing bowl.  Gently swirl the rice in water letting it sink to the bottom and pouring off the cloudy water.  Repeat 4-5 times until water is reasonably clear. Fill bowl again and let rice soak for half an hour.
Drain rice and rinse one last time.  Let it drain well.  Collect all your spices and bay leaves together in a small bowl. Put a large sauce pan on low heat and add the butter.  When butter has melted and is just starting to sizzle, add the spices and stir them around. When you can really smell them gently add the drained rice.  Stir-fry for a minute so that all the grains are lightly coated in the spicy butter.
Pour the water onto the rice and scrap down the rice caught on the sides of the pot.  Add the salt, stir and turn the heat up to bring it all to a boil.  As soon as it starts to bubble turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover with a sheet of tin foil AND the lid making a tight seal.  This will help stop any steam from escaping.  Cook like this for 25 minutes (30 if using brown rice) then turn the heat off and let stand for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove lid and foil and ‘fluff’ with a fork. You don’t eat the cardamom pods or cloves.

Today I had a visitor to worship the sun that was lighting my shot shoot
introducing Mini Cat

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Beet Noodles Salad

I can always tell when my auto-immune is being mismanaged because I can't focus.  I can't see projects through and I feel easily overwhelmed.  Motivation is absent, exhaustion is present and my brain doesn't work.

Remember my last post about June and it's attempts at homicide?  Well there are a few days left and it has about done it's job.  I would like to say that my 'to do' list is getting smaller but that would be a lie.  Our calendar has been so busy that I have barely been able to keep up with the day to none of the weekly, bi-weekly or monthly this month has happened.  I still have a whole garden of my own to put in that has been completely ignored because of my commitments to the school garden and 'Le Grande Installation' trade we did for a friend (more on that later).  Super lame I know but holy cow give me a break eh?  I am hard enough on myself.

So I haven't been cooking up a storm but I have been able to play a little so this is the result of some experimentation on my more energetic of evenings.  It might have also been a desperate attempt at dinner that worked

Remember my beet noodles?
and my Pickled Onions?

Mix them with toasted walnuts and a little goat cheese.  I would recommend adding a little arugula which I would've done if my garden was in.  Then add a dressing

Simple Balsamic Dressing
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp balsamic
1 tsp dried mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, 17 June 2013

#RealMamaLife June's Chaos

Am I delusional?

I must be delusional to think I can do all the stuff that I sign up for.  I am delusional to think that someone can keep sane with this many balls in the air.  Let's face it, I have truly, irrevocably, ambitiously, insanely, signed on for a REAL #RealMamaLife and lost all the marbles to my Hungry Hungry Hippos along the way.

Why do I think I can 'do it all'?

Good question......

June and September seem to be the hardest months of the year.  The beginnings and endings of the school year comes with huge transitions - not just the school transitions for the kids but a huge endless list of 'To dos' that start and stop in June and September and could be called "My Fiscal Year" - although it has little to nothing to do with finances. Spring and Fall bring with them
  • Canning Season - In the spring, all the jams, jellys and chutneys for the year.  In the fall, the canning of tomatoes, ketchup making and pickling of vegetables.
  • Spring Cleaning - I know it would be smart of just keep the place clean all year round but if you live in an area that gets 4 complete seasons like I do, you too would be amazed by how filthy the place looks when the new brighter sun of spring shows up.  Even just the windows!!
  • Wardrobe Change - The swap out of season appropriate clothes - this is a whole different undertaking for parents of growing kids. For the adults in this house it means using different drawers in our dressers that stock the lighter wear.  For the growing beasties it means packing up the out grown last season stuff for donation/sale/give to friends, putting aside and packing away the stuff that might still fit next year, dragging out the stuff from last year that you thought might fit this year, sorting through it to find that very little of it does fit, dragging out the stuff you have purchased too big (usually because it was too good a deal to pass up) over the last couple of years, sorting through all of it and then filling in the blanks with a couple of shopping trips.
  • The beginning and year end of two major volunteer positions.  Chairing the Parent Council at the twins school and the work I do with TPOMBA (Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Asso) all fall within the school year and take some work to get rolling in the fall and then put to bed in the spring.
  • The Gardens - cleaning up the 3 garden plots I work in. Our back yard, the school's garden and a city plot all need to be clean up and planted in the spring and then harvested and put to bed in the fall.
  • June and September have hang overs - Any spring programs the kids are enrolled in either through the city, private or school, run until the end of June. Any summer programs they are enrolled in start in June.  There are usually a couple of weeks of everything......meaning that there is some extra-curricular activity everyday and some days there are two.
  • Birthday Parties - I am a summer baby (Aug 26) and I hated that most of my friends were away on holiday during my birthday.  I don't know if parents have just wised up to this disappointment or if my mom just never thought of it but now parents of July born babies are having birthday parties in June and August babies in September.  So now not only are we insanely busy these months but eating huge quantities of party food...oy vay!!
  • School Events - In June it is the end of school celebrations, parties, play days and field trips.  In September it is club sign up, set up and new routines.
And none of this includes day to day, the laundry, the blogging, the cooking and recipe development, the being a Mom, a wife, a friend....or some one who bathes with some regularity.

We’re linking up our #RealMamaLife stories every Monday…check it out or join in!

Find this weeks edition here.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Shrimp with Asian Style Beet Noodles

Some recipes come easy and others take real thought, effort and experimentation.  This is one I have been working on for a couple of weeks.  It has taken more work, effort and experimentation than any of the other recipes I have ever done.  There is no research I can do on beet noodles and how others have cooked them and then try their versions to see which works best for my recipe....this is totally my own and I have had to figure it out at every step.

As a result I have never been prouder.

Please try these.  It really is so yummy and really really healthy

Asian Beet Noodles
2 cups cooked shrimp**
3 large beets, peeled and 'noodled' on a spiral slicer, or cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and 'noodled' (pic below) or cut into matchsticks (like pic above)
1/2 a sweet pepper, thinly sliced
pickled onions to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup gluten free tamari
1 tsp garlic puree (I grate one lg clove on my microplane)
1 tsp ginger puree (a small knob grated on a microplane)
a handful of washed cilantro
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

** I lightly sauteed mine in a little garlic and oil but you can also boil them with your noodles and it will save you a pan to wash
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, throw in the beet and carrot noodles and bring the pot back up to a boil.  Let boil for 3 minutes (add shrimp for the last 2 minutes if cooking them this way), drain and quickly cool down with cold water.  Once cool really let them drain as much water off as possible
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the oils, tamari, and garlic & ginger purees
  3. This is a good time to cook your shrimp if you aren't including them in the boiling water
  4. Combine all ingredients but the shrimp in a large bowl and toss until all ingredients are equally covered in dressing.  Let sit for 10 minutes (this also give the sauteed shrimp time to cool).  The salt in the tamari will release some of the juice from the beets which finishes off the dressing.
  5. Toss again and put in bowls to serve, top with shrimp and toasted sesame seeds.
I made this so many times I got some shots of the kid friendly version
This time I 'spiralized' the carrots and left out the pickled onions

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Perfect Pickled Red Onions and Why I need them.

I have been on a quest.  I have been so in love with my new spiral slicer that I have been on a creative high finding reasons to use it almost every day and inventing dishes or variations of old classics just to have another reason to use it.  Well I have done it this time.... .and I had 5 kids taste it and they all loved it.......but this post isn't about that recipe but about something I had to make for that'll have to wait for the good making this stuff first.

I have been working on this one recipe for a while now and something was needed something sharp to cut through the unctuousness of the oil and it couldn't be more needed onion but not a raw onion flavour and it needed needed pickled onions.

I sifted through what was probably 25 different pickled onion recipes.  It needed to be vinegary but not super sour if that makes sense.  It couldn't have a dill taste or any other heavily flavoured pickling spices and I had to pay attention to the type of vinegar...because they all taste so different.  So this is what I came up with and it was so simple it feels stupid that it took me as long as it did.

Pickled Red Onions
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (surprisingly I didn't use the spiral slicer but I suppose I could've)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Using a large glass jar like an old pickle jar combine the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.  You can whisk them in a bowl but that seemed like a waste of time to me so I shook them in the jar.  Add the thinly sliced onions.  You can pack them in tight because they will start to break down and shrink in volume by 1/3 over the next coupe of hours.  Here is an example

First packed

2 hours later

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Head Lice Repellant

YAY!!!  Another thing to bring home from school!!  If it isn't the endless list of colds, viruses and illnesses, the pockets full of wood chips or sand to clog the washing machine, the bags full of unfinished art, it's the dreaded note that YOU have a child with head lice!!

OH the shame.....

Here are some facts about head lice
  • they prefer CLEAN hair.  So contrary to popular belief, the grubbier your kid, the less likely they are to get them
  • Lice cannot survive off of a human host longer than 24 to 48 hours. If a louse did come off an infested individual and hide in a pillow or hat, it is possible for the louse to infest another individual who uses the pillow or hat
  • Head lice are most commonly found on the scalp, behind the ears and near the neckline at the base of the head. 
  • Lice eggs (often called nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear.  
  • Lice do not carry or transmit any disease
  • Head lice have been around for millions of years, and dried up lice and their eggs have been found on the hair of Egyptian mummies!
  • Lice have a season and you are more likely to get them in the spring and fall
  • Lice hate the smell of tea tree and lavender
  • Yes I did get itchy while writing this piece
Getting rid of lice naturally is for another post but how to avoid them seems almost more important.  Here's what I did

Head Lice Repellant
Reusing a 100 ml blue glass spray bottle
1 tbsp witch hazel
8 drops tea tree
8 drops lavender

Add the Witch Hazel and Oils to the bottle and top up with water.  Shake well before every use.  Spray generously before school everyday letting it mist the shoulders of their shirts and inside of hoodies. Try to keep long hair pulled back.

So far we have avoided an infestation....thank god because this family has really thick hair and lots of it!!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Real Mama Life = Humiliation

In the on-going struggle to reclaim my health after years of illness with an auto-immune disease I am now subject to this kind of humiliation....apparently best served by the deft hands of my children.

My doctor has sent me for 'stool testing' (bare with me, it gets worse) to be collected at home (thank god) and sent FED EX to a lab just outside Chicago IL (Yes America I am shipping you a box of shit and it ain't for political reasons) Yesterday I prepared the label for the box while waiting for FED EX to pick it up.  It had to be addressed to a 'Dr. Poonam' (I'm not kidding)

When the nice FED EX guy arrived for pick up, the kids ran to the door as I answered it.  We all said our pleasant greetings, he scanned the bar code on the box and looked to make sure I had included the correct 'customs' paperwork.  As he looked, Gabe cackled and announced loudly "It's a box of Mommy's POOP!!" and then laughed like a maniac.

Real Mama Life is right...........

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Tomato, Capers, and Olives 'Pasta'

Remember this recipe for zucchini noodles?

The point of that recipe was for this kind of recipe to follow......

I love olives....mostly I love kalamata olives.  I know in the olive world this is the most common and but a small portion of the many to choose from. I do like others but kalamatas are one of my favourite- they are easy to get, and the kids like them.  Although good Spanish green olives are a major ingredient in one of my favourite dishes of all time - Chicken Marbella

When I first starting making zucchini noodles this was my go to recipe long before I considered putting them in a classic tomato sauce.  I guess my thinking was that the kids (and the grown ups) would be less likely to compare them to noodles if they were served this way instead of a classic Italian pasta way.  This recipe has shown up regularly over the last couple of months.  It also straddles the line on Paleo, not completely obeying the rules so depending on how strict you are, limit how often you make this dish**

Tomato, Capers and Olives 'Pasta'
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups *cooked* zucchini noodles (already 'sweated' of excess moisture)
approx 1/2 cup home made chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dried chillies (optional)

In a large skillet over medium heat saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until they start to caramelize.  Add the noodles and 1/2 the stock, saute for 3-4 minutes.  Try a noodle and see if it is 'el dente'. If not, continue to saute.  If the stock has completely cooked off and the noodles start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a  little more (2-3 tbsp) stock and continue to saute.  Once noodles feel done quickly add in the olives, capers and tomatoes, toss and serve.  I like mine with some spice and add some dried chillies on top.  If you can tolerate dairy, I recommend a little Parmesan

**Olives and capers are not usually considered Paleo.  The reason for this is the amount of sodium, not because of blood sugar.  Because of this we eat this, it is suggested to eat them in moderation 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Chocolate Salty Balls

I am more of a savory girl than a sweet.....(all puns intended) but there is a certain time of the month that sweet is needed.  Maybe I crave sweets in some attempt to replace the sweet part of me that goes missing around the same time I start to crave it.....maybe in every life a little chocolate must fall.

The tough part is trying to stick with eating right when you have cravings. These are easy.  I mean it

These are my Chocolate Salty Paleo Chocolate Salty Balls.  They are a little misshapen -  I rested them on a hot stove too long.

Nutty Chocolate Salty Balls
1 cup roasted almonds
Approx 18 pitted dates
4 tbsp pure cocoa powder
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
pinch of salt

Chocolate Drizzle
1/2 cup pure coco butter
1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
3 tbsp raw honey

Place the almonds, dates, cocoa and salt in a food processor.  Blend until dates are creamed and almonds are the size of rice grains or smaller.  Slowly add in the coconut oil pulsing after every addition.  Add just enough to make it tacky.  Roll into balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until your balls have firmed up.

You can go ahead and eat these tender delicate balls now but adding a chocolate drizzle adds the 'glisten'.

For the drizzle - melt the coco butter in a double broiler or place a bowl on top of a pot of boiling water.  Whisk in the cocoa powder.  Once completely combined add the honey slowly

Stealing kid hand

I like to set up the balls on a cooling rack that is on top of a silpat or parchment.  I am not fancy about this and just pour a spoonful over the top of each ball letting it drip down. Once done put them back in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.  Then eat.

I have made many versions of this dessert.  Just stick with the ratios and you can be as creative as you want.  Here is a nut free school treat/bake sale version

Nut Free Chocolate Salty Balls
1 1/4 cups toasted Sunflower seeds
Approx 18 pitted dates
4 tbsp pure cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
pinch of salt

or how about Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls?
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
8-10 pitted dates
Blend 1/2 the peanuts first until they are peanut butter then add in the remaining peanuts, dates, salt and the cocoa powder 

or Chocolate Cherry Balls ?
replace dates with dried sweet cherry
Cherries are pretty sweet so I prefer these rolled in cocoa powder

or Chocolate Hazelnut Balls?
replace almonds with hazelnuts

Well, there's no beating my Balls (you could make these into cubes or smalls bars but it just isn't Alec Baldwin enough for me)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Real Mama Life: Mother's Day

This Mothers Day was a mixed bag.  The good, the better, and the ugly.

The Good
Mother's Day flowers
The Better
Bea made this.  I got teary

The Ugly
And the wind did this....

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Zucchini Noodle - A Paleo Staple

Ready to be added to sauce

OH what a steep learning curve this going grain free is.  There have been some serious challenges to keeping it up....the biggest being that I am a mom that signs up/volunteers/says yes and takes on more than I should.  I can actually hear Big Daddy's eyes roll as I write this because although I sign myself up for this stuff, it ultimately becomes part of his to do list too.  Whether it is another night of the week that he is 'single dadding' while I am fulfilling some obligation or the days he chauffeurs me all over town to events, a certain grocery store or some such.  I know it sometimes drives him crazy but he is also very proud of how I dedicate my time and is certainly thankful for a wife that can cook (and likes to).

He was asked recently how he felt about having a gluten free/sugar free/soon to be grain free house (because really he has no real health issues that demand this strictness) He shrugged, "I don't really notice.  Emily cooks food, it's yummy, so I eat it"

This is my pretty much the same attitude my kids have.  We don't sit down to meals that are obviously missing something.  There isn't an attitude of 'where's the'.  The meal stands up to the status of 'dinner' all on it's own without the need for gluten, sugar or grains to make it complete.

That being said, it has been hard work learning how to do that.  You cut out grains and there are some real staples that kids love that get crossed off the list....noodles being the first.  What is more fun for little hands than the learning how to twirl spaghetti around a fork.  Noodles are fun food and almost all kids love them so it was one of the first things I had to learn to replace.

Luckily there is a quick and easy replacement that the kids aren't objecting to.  I started by adding the zucchini noodle to rice noodle spaghetti and then have been slowly weaning us away from the grain based pasta.  It is a change, but not a painful one.

How to make Zucchini Noodles
This is one of few dishes I will give a recipe for that really needs special kitchen equipment.  You need either a Mandoline, Spiralizer or a tool that looks like a peeler but actually juliennes.  

You need:
6 medium size zucchini, try to get ones that are as straight as possible
2-3 clean fresh tea towels
a cookie tray or roasting pan

Wash the zucchini and cut the ends off.  You can peel them if you want, they will look more like wheat noodles if you peel them.....I don't
My sexy 'Spiralizer'
'Noodle' them using what ever tool you've got just avoid trying to make noodles with the seedy center  (this is why I really like the Spiral Slicer because it removes that part for you.  It also gives you long continuous noodles while the mandoline and peeler can only give you noodles the length of the zucchini.  The Spiral Slicer will also give you some funny half slivered moon cuts that aren't noodle like at all.  The more awkward shaped the zucchini the more of these will occur..  I like to put them into a container and throw them into everything from eggs to soups to stir frys all week)

Lay your noodles out on your roasting pan or cookie sheet that has been lined with the tea towels.  Sprinkle with salt and gently toss to distribute the salt.  From here there are two ways to go forward -

1. Set it aside for an hour letting the salt pull some of the moisture out of the zucchini
2. Put the pan in a preheated 200 oven for 30-45 minutes to force it to sweat out some of its moisture.

Removing some of the moisture not only gives the noodles a more 'noodle like' consistency but if you didn't and added these noodles to any pasta dish they would really water down your sauce as they cooked.

Once they have sweated for a while (and cooled if you put them in the oven), roll up the tea towels creating a log with the noodles in it and gently press more liquid out.  The tea towels will get surprisingly wet.

I feel the best way to cook these is to add them to an already simmering sauce but some people put them in a covered microwavable dish and nuke them for a couple of minutes.  Either way these will satisfy those noodle cravings

Monday, 6 May 2013

My Face Lives a Real Mama Life

The realities of motherhood can hit you like a cement head to your nose.

and in my case, breaking it in two places

We’re linking up our#RealMamaLife stories every Monday…check it out or join in!

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Monday, 29 April 2013

Can't Have Nuttin' Nice if You're Living a Real Mama Life

My mom's (or should I say 'Momma') family is all from the Southern US.  I have a gaggle of aunts, uncles and cousins strewn about North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  You might remember me mentioning our house in the mountains of NC here, here, and here.

One summer when I was about 11 the family sat on the long wrap around porch admiring my uncle Wray's new truck.  It was a big deal because it was his first brand new vehicle. This truck was the symbol of a lot of hard work.  Uncle Wray had started his own company years back and was just starting to reap some reward from all his hard work. It was heavily kitted out with all the extras.  I remember, even at 11, being rather in awe of this fancy truck. We walked down to the drive way to have a closer look and rub it with a diaper (I am totally sort of kidding)  While doing a turn around the truck I noticed a sizable scratch on the back bumper.

"What happened here?"

(read with your best in your head southern accent) "I don't even know, happened in the parking lot while I was in the store."  Shaking his head "Can't have nuttin' nice"

Even at the time I could relate.  Only a few years earlier my cousin Noah had broken my newly opened Barbie Bubbling Spa on Christmas morning.  I had barely had a chance to play with it when he broke the mechanism that made the bubbles.  My dad did fix it but had to crack open the back leaving it less than perfect.  I got closer to forgiving Noah after I punctured numerous hole in his new bongo drums with the Christmas nut pick but I never fully did and still carry a grudge to this day.

Really some of the worst damage to my 'stuff' has been done by pets.  This use to be a beautiful couch.  I had it professionally reupholstered about 7 years ago with a beautiful linen I found on sale.  Within 6 months of it being covered our dog barfed on it during the night.  By the time it got cleaned up the next morning the barf had bleached a lighter spot into the fabric.  Nothing that couldn't be fixed by flipping the cushions over but nothing could fix the damage the cat unleashed.

Then the kids took their toll - Spit up, barf, spilled drinks, dirty hands, dropped crayons.  Those poor cushion covers were getting more than their fair share of getting washed.  It wasn't long into the sleep deprived world of twins before Big Daddy accidentally put the covers in the dryer shrinking them to the size of doll house slip covers.  It was at this point that we gave up completely and bought a sheet and some large pillows, completely replacing the back cushions and covering the seat cushions. The one nice thing about this conclusion was that we could colour code the couch to the season - blue base and blue and orange pillows for fall and winter and a taupe and pale blue combo in the spring summer   It helped make it tolerable until a new couch could be budgeted.  But then this happened

This is our old dog's new trick and has taught us that until we are empty nesters we can't even have something that is vaguely nice.  This is a Real Mama Life

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Tuna Salad Boats

I wish the weather would finally decide weather it is going to be winter or spring (see what I did there?)  This year the seasons have felt particularly weird.  More and more of us are getting sick as the temperature fluctuates 10-12 degrees in one afternoon.  Yes I know that temperature or wet hair in the cold doesn't make you sick but it certainly taxes your immune system.

One particularly grim day after rushing the kids home from school in the rain I asked what the kids would like for lunch.  Expecting to hear hollers about guacamole and stuff to dip in it (a current favourite around here) I was surprised when Bea said "A Picnic!!"  Picnics seem so far a distant dream of dappled sunshine and wafts of honeysuckle, light weight clothes and toes twiddling in the grass.....and then the music swells and I burst into song.....see how fast I got carried away?  That's how badly I need the weather to get on with spring...

I agreed.  A picnic was needed. So instead of guacamole I sliced the avocado and we ate it along with tuna salad boats and a make shift fruit salad (what we had cut up)  I lay a blanket on the floor, we drank out of canteens and I even dragged out a couple of Lara Bars for dessert.  It made me feel a bit better but not about the weather.

Do you need a restorative picnic?

Tuna Salad Boats
3 tins of tuna (wild caught, dolphin and turtle friendly, no BPA lining and they sell it at Costco)
1/2 sweet pepper, minced
1 1/2 tbsp caper, minced
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp homemade mayo or to taste, I go pretty light on mayo.  (To make this a true Paleo recipe the mayo could be made with avocado or macadamia nut oil.)
fresh ground pepper

Fresh whole romaine leaves, washed and dried

Mix ingredient in a bowl.  Spoon into lettuces leaves creating boats. Eat.  Pretend you are outside

Where to be on Sunday

The place to be on Sunday

I'll be there sitting with Jax at the Gluten Free Ontario Table (cause she's cool like that) See you there!!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Lets be honest, let's talk Real Mama Life

Do any of us actually live the life we blog about?  Or take Instagram pictures of? Or Tweet? A fellow blogger friend Selena over at Le Petit Reve pointed out this blog post to me.  What Shauna writes about there seems to be part of the current collective unconscious (or shouldn't it be 'collective subconscious'?).  Now that the original rush of constant self promotion/social media frenzy is wearing thin.  Now that we can follow such brilliant tweeters as


Or the endless depths of deep thoughts from Kim Kierkegaardashian

I think many of us are craving for something real.  For real connection to a real community.  It is easy to sell the best parts of ourselves but often much harder to feel safe putting a more fragile self out there. The self that maybe couldn't live up to the projection.

Our projected selves have some how become more available than the real thing....almost more fully developed and yet, so much harder to live up to....and damn near impossible to connect to.  I pride myself on not projecting a supermom here but I also haven't let you see the greasy underbelly of making the life choices of being a real food mama.  Sometimes other things get left.

And sometimes they get left for a couple of weeks.  This is the pile of clothes that has been sitting on our dining room floor for over 2 weeks.  It isn't laundry but winter stuff the kids have grown out of.  As the weather has been slowly getting warmer I have been slowly cleaning out closets adding to this pile as I have dug things out.  I would like to say that I keep a spotless house but the truth is - I am way too busy to be able to keep up and the last few weeks have been worse than usual.  I know a pile of clothes on the floor doesn't seem like much but I need to stress the has been sitting there for almost 3 weeks and I'm still not sure when I can get to it.

So Selena has a great idea to start a blog link up.  Every Monday we all write posts on having a Real Mama Life and write reality, snap reality and tweet reality.  Every Monday we are getting honest yo! Every Monday we are reaching out to connect with other moms and find a place 

Where we embrace the glory and humour in the chaos. Un-staged and imperfectly beautiful.’

Care to join us? 

Link-up your own blog-post every Monday on the RealMamaLife blog post at, or share bits of your mad and lovely life on Instagram or Twitter – by simply by using the hastag #RealMamaLife.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I will come clean right from the start.  This recipe is not my that it is a very slightly altered version of the absolutely amazing Apple Spice Coffee Cake by Danielle at Against all Grain.

My kids will often say over a meal they particularly like "YUM! Mummy is the best cooker".  I won't give myself that much credit but I will say "I'm a pretty good cooker".  There is a saying that 'cooking is an art, baking is a science' and this couldn't be more true than when you are dealing with food restrictions. I am a pretty good cooker but I'm not a great baker.

This has forced me to look to other food bloggers better than me at the science of Gluten free and Paleo baking.......and it doesn't come better than Danielle.  I have tried a bunch of her baked goods recipes and been overly impressed every time.  Her Apple Spice Coffee Cake is one of our favourites. So much so that I needed a travel version.  Crazy I know ........

Now not all cake recipes can just be poured into muffin tins. Some need a little wigglin'.  And that is the case for this recipe.

The changes are
Add 2 tbsp of coconut flour to the dry ingredients
turn down the heat on the oven by 25 degree

Now I don't recommend changing anything in her baked goods but if a couple of minor changes means I can eat it more often I am all for it.  Thanks Danielle

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal

Even though my household is slowly moving toward a mostly Paleo diet we are struggling with breakfast for the kids.  I can happily eat dinner leftovers but the kids are fond of breakfast foods.....and don't want eggs everyday.  I have been making huge batches of low-grain granola that is eaten with either almond milk or some fruit and yogurt but no one wants to eat that everyday.  On weekends I can make some grain free waffles but school days are difficult.  It also doesn't help that they have reached an age that they are acutely aware of foods that are being marketed to them.  I talk to them, usually in the grocery store while looking at the ingredients list, why we don't eat those foods.  I explain what certain ingredients are and how they make us sick.  I explain how lucky they are to have a Mummy that knows this stuff.

They are really good about understanding why we don't eat it and rarely really fuss or complain. It helps that I always promise to make a healthy version and more often then not they kinda forget these promises......but there is one they haven't let go of.....that some kids get to eat chocolate for BREAKFAST!!!  They bring this up fairly regularly.  Reminding me that I promised to make a chocolate breakfast.

So here we are.  Not Paleo, not grain free, but it is gluten free, dairy free and sugar free.  It is terribly simple and simply delicious.

Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal
Follow the instructions on your gluten free oatmeal. Just before it is done stir in a couple of tablespoons of dairy and sugar free cocoa powder (I also like to make sure it is free trade real cocoa) Combine until creamy.  This might require the addition of a tbsp or 2 more of water.

Gently fold in fresh or frozen raspberries just before serving.  Serve with a tsp of coconut oil, honey and some almond milk.  And make sure you make a suitable fuss, so they think it is a big treat.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vapour Rub

Have you ever watched that show My Strange Addiction?  Yeah me neither.....but did you see the one episode where the woman would eat tubs of Vick's Vapor Rub?  She said that she loved the smell so much that she had to eat it........I guess it makes more sense than eating the stuffing out of throw pillows.....did you see that episode?....yeah me neither.....

But it got me thinking of all the damage that petroleum jelly is doing to her body.  Petroleum jelly (ie. Vaseline), in some form, can be found in every house.  From chapstick to creams to vapour rubs to sexual lubricants.  We think it moisturizes, protects, and lubricates......and we think it is safe.  Do you even know what Vaseline is?

A Brief History of Vaseline

The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 on some of the country's first oil rigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing.  Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist, took the unrefined black "rod wax", as the drillers called it, back to his laboratory to refine it and explore potential uses. Chesebrough discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, he could create a light-colored gel. He later patented it and open a factory in 1870 in Brooklyn called Vaseline.

TA-DA!!  Yes it is the by-product of the oil drilling process!!

Why is that ok for you or your babies? How is that safe?

Well there are some real dangers -

  • It may shock you to know that despite the unquestionable popularity of petroleum jelly when it comes to dealing with dry skin, this compound is not really a skin moisturizer. On the contrary, petroleum jelly acts as a barrier when applied on the skin, and by itself, it has no moisturizing properties. What it does is, it reinforces the moisture that is present in the skin by trapping it within.
  • Petroleum jelly forms a layer on the skin, it does not allow the natural toxins to escape from the skin. So, it may actually hamper the rate of elimination of toxins in the form of sweat and sebum.
  • Petrolatum's varied and unregulated manufacturing procedures make it very vulnerable to contamination. It is both unregulated and untested.
  • The European Union's Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004) lists petrolatum as a "probable human carcinogen" and is banned for all personal care products.
  • There is no way to know if the ingredient is high or low in the carcinogenic PAHs. PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are common contaminants in petrolatum.
  • PAHs are also known to cause reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, persistence and bioaccumulation
  • The product is banned for use in cosmetics in both the European Union and Canada - but not in America.
  • Most auto mechanics are warned that longterm exposure to petroleum products can cause skin cancer. But we are told it is safe to put on babies
  • It is made from fossel fuels!!
  • Studies reported by the Chemtox website show the side effects of toxic petroleum ingredients as "causing significant attritional effects to the nervous system and immune system after prolonged exposure. Illnesses identified in the medical research include adult and child cancers, numerous neurological disorders, immune system weakening, autoimmune disorders (and more)."
So I like the feeling of Vavour rub as much as the next person....and Bea loves it.  She is also the person in the house that is most likely to have a cold move into her chest (Astragalus Tea helps clear that out) and a good rub on her chest does help her sleep but there is no way I am smearing refined 'rod wax' on my little here is what I did.

How to make Home Made "Rob Wax' Free Vapour Rub

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp grated bees wax
25 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
20 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
15 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil (optional)
The cinnamon oil is what creates the warming effect.

Melt the coconut oil and bees wax in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add olive oil.  Let it all cool down to warm but not cool enough to start to harden.  If it is too hot it will destroy the beneficial properties of the essential oils. Add the oils and pour into container.  Because of the low content of bees wax, making it rub into the skin easier, it needs to be kept in the fridge or cool place.  It won't melt to a liquid but be too soft depending on the temp of your house.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Roasted Bussel Sprouts

Everything is yummy cooked in bacon and onions....EVERYTHING!!

One of my New Years resolutions for 2013 was to try foods I have always claimed to not like.  I have never been a really picky eater (does being gluten free, dairy free and mostly sugar free count as picky?  I think not) but there were a few things that I tried as a child, didn't like and just stuck with. Mushrooms were one of these things and over the last few years I have slowly been introducing them into my diet.  It wasn't a flavour thing but a texture one....I always thought they had the texture of a kitchen sponge or a bug body.  The thing is I always liked the earthy flavour of them and would happily eat the beef in mushroom cream sauce pasta one restaurant job would make as a staff meal.  There was a salad at my favourite Italian restaurant - Salad Fungi - that I loved!!  Very thin ribbons of mushroom breaded and deep fried topped a pile of greens.  So why did I still claim to not like mushrooms?? In these two meals the texture aspect had been removed by either pureeing them or breading and deep frying.  I needed to get brave. The last year as been a clincher.  I have been buying mushrooms regularly and incorporating them into almost every meal....every day....period.  I got over the texture problem pretty fast. 

I have big plans in food for the coming year.  My goal is introduce offals (sooooo good for you).  I will start by letting Bob at The Beech Tree Pub make me this. I have always said that everyone would probably eat everything and enjoy it if it was prepared and cooked properly. I need to start this mind opening experience by eating it cooked properly .... I don't think I can 'do it' if I am dealing with the meat myself or if there is any possibility of screwing it up.  I want the kids open to eating these cuts (which I think over time will be some of the only affordable cuts available with any regularity) and with our already limited (and limiting) diet I really shouldn't be leaving out whole groups/cuts/possibilities because of a possible 'ick' factor.

I have taken on the very few unlikable/unknown vegetables first.  Trying to find ways I would like them.  Brussel sprouts are one.  Ocra is another. My childhood memories of brussel sprouts are of horrible mushy cabbage like fart balls and ocra small hairy bags of snot and seeds.  A challenge was presented when I found a 2 lbs bag of brussel sprouts on sale. Challenge accepted.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts                                                              Preheat oven 400
2 lbs brussel sprouts trimmed, cutting larger ones in half
8 slices of bacon (preferably all natural sugar free), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup 1/4'd brown mushrooms
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
Salt and Pepper

Toss all the ingredients in a roasting pan making sure the bacon is evenly distributed.  It is the fat rendered from the bacon that everything else is going to be cooked in.

Roast until the bacon is crisp and brussel sprouts are tender.  Eat with a roast or grilled meat.

Review: I really enjoyed this and will be making it again.  The brussel sprouts weren't mushy at all but slightly crispy.  They also got sweet during the roasting process.

Do you have a brussel sprout recipe I should try?

**I will be getting allergy tested for Clams, Oysters and Mussels soon because I have a feeling I would love them but I always been worried I was allergic after one weird experience.  Fingers crossed I'm not.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Salad Nicoise

With babies, there is a period in between spoon feeding puree foods and efficient finger food eating that is particularly troublesome.  It is usually during this period that the little nuggets figure out that throwing food on the floor is fun....this I loathed.  I hated that all the effort I had made to feed them these beautiful meals was thrown on the floor.

It also made our dog very fat.

I figured out very quickly that coordinating our meal times so the whole family ate together kept them better focused on the task at hand, and kept less food hitting the floor.  Also feeding them essentially the same meal we were having not only got them eating better but lowered my general stress level when it came to preparing food.

It might seem strange but this was one of my 18 month old twins favourite meals.  Big Daddy and I ate the salad and they ate the salad ingredients.  What toddler doesn't like green beans, potatoes, boiled eggs and tuna?  My guys also loved bits of olives (and Gabe loves tomatoes).

This is also one of those meals that I often make when I find I have left over beans and potatoes from meals earlier in the week and every time I do make it Big Daddy asks why we don't eat it more often.

There are a million variations on the classic Salad Nicoise and I have tried many of them.  They are all good and almost all deserve a blog post of their own (and if I am still doing this in 20 years I may need to do that) but here I give you one with ingredients you probably have in your house and probably the most family friendly version

It's not much of a recipe but here you go

Salad Nicoise

Fresh washed lettuce leaves, broken up
Boiled Potatoes (leave out for Paleo)
Boiled Eggs
Steamed Green Beans
Olives (preferably 'Nicoise' Olives)
Canned Tuna

**Trick - if you are making this from scratch, boil the potatoes and eggs together and steam the beans on top - voila, one pot

Arrange on plate

One of the yummiest parts of this salad is the dressing.  I like to use ingredients that intuitively go with the other ingredients (why make things complicated)

Shallot Dressing
2 shallots, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat.  Allow to brown but not burn. Remove from heat and set aside.  In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice and mustard powder, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil.  When cooled add the now caramelized and sweet shallot/garlic mix into the dressing. Don't be stingy when dressing the salad

Monday, 11 March 2013

Vegetable Stock and Curry Sweet Potato Soup

We have now come out the other end of 'tag you're it' stomach flu.  I always think I have somehow managed to avoid what ever the kids have brought home but oh how the mighty do fall.

Auto-immune diseases and all I actually fared pretty well.  Everyone else in the family spent at least 12 hours actually tossing their cookies along with 5-6 days of iffy tummy, cramps and general aches and pains....I just stuck to the 'iffy' portion of the program....but it was very iffy.

Now that we are all back on track, all have our appetites back, I am back in the kitchen and cooking again. It was nice to sit down this week and make a meal plan and feel excited about food again.  This week also marked 2 months of being dairy free.  I will admit to small quantities of butter and twice I have had a small amount of cheese. Once accidentally and once because there was literally nothing on the menu at the hockey rink while we watched Big Daddy play that I could eat and I was starving - the only thing that had no gluten was a ceaser salad if I asked them to hold the croutons.  That being said, I am now at that tipping point where I should start to see/feel/notice the difference/change/improvement.  I will report back at another time.

I decided this week to make vegetable stock instead of chicken or beef.  I am big believer in healthy protein everyday but also a big believer of consuming as many vegetables as possible and make sure the kids understand that vegetables are part of every meal.  This is a nice way to get even more....and very quickly.  This is vegetable stock in just a few minutes.

Vegetable Stock

2 onions, grated or finely diced
3-4 large carrots, grated
3-4 celery stocks, grated
1/2 cup brown mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the kettle on.  While waiting for it to boil saute all the vegetables, garlic, herbs and peppercorns in the olive oil in a stock pot of medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let saute for about 5 minutes or until the veg have softened slightly.

Pour in the kettle of boiling water (approx 8 cups) in with the vegetables. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then turn it down to a simmer.  Let simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes or 20-30 minutes if vegetables are cut in larger chunks, strain and use, or let cool. refrigerate or freeze.

I used my stock (or at least some of it) right away.  I have been trying to steer our diets more and more towards a Paleo menu but without being incredibly strict or making meal time a drag for the kids.  If there is anyone in the family that needs to eat this way it is me but I feel really strongly that I am teaching my kids with every mouthful what food is, portion control, nutrition, health and what should be on their plate.  We also talk about nutrition, whats healthy and whats not, regularly.  This will arm them, when they do start having their own spending money, to be better able to make smarter choices. With this knowledge I don't believe they will binge on junk as soon as they are out of my sight.

This recipe is adapted from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe to be healthier and Paleo friendly

Curry Sweet Potato Soup

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 lg onion, diced
a knob of ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
3 lg sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tin of coconut milk
a handful of minced cilantro
the juice of one lime
salt and pepper
enough stock to cover, approx 6-8 cups

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium low heat.  Once softened add the garlic, ginger and spices.  Stir to combine and heat through, about 1 minute.  Add the sweet potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.  Decrease heat to simmer and let cook until the potatoes are tender.

Now blend the soup until smooth.  If you need to use your blender wait until the soup is cooler but if you have a stick/hand blender you can do it right away.  Blend until it is very smooth. Add the can of coconut milk, cilantro and the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve it like this or top it with a bit of Vegan Sour Cream