It's that time of year! The jolly old elf himself will be making his grand entrance tonight. There's still plenty of time to do a bit of last minute baking though, just in case. Here's a few ideas of our favourite last minute easy to make Christmas cookies.
For Your Information
- [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
- [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
- Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!
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Thursday, December 24, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Summer has past, the kids are back in school and Hallowe'en is just around the corner. That can only mean that folks will soon be gearing up for holiday baking. I'm sure many are looking for healthier homemade snacks for kid's lunches too. A little chocolate added to homemade granola bars, snack bars or cookies is always a tasty treat. Chocolate chips is the usual standby for this purpose but for some uses the biggest problem is chocolate chips are too big. The second problem is finding organic, high cacao dark chocolate chips. I came up with this simple solution.
You can use any plain chocolate bar of choice including the white milk chocolate. Add a couple of drops of peppermint oil for mint flavoured chocolate chips. Store in the refrigerator then use as desired. You can even sprinkle a few over ice cream, plain vanilla yogurt or oatmeal. The high cacao content adds a lot of flavour so you don't need to use a lot. These homemade mini chocolate chips are a win win!
Monday, July 27, 2015
The primary purpose for my foodie road trip along the shores of Lake Erie was finding cherries for my husband's coveted cherry jam. That didn't stop me from taking advantage of some of the other great finds. I was elated to find green beans, one of my favourite vegetables to can. They are also one of our favourite home canned vegeables to enjoy during the winter months. I even take several jars of home canned green beans to our vacation home.
I bought an 11 qt basket of tender green beans. The beans appear to be Blue Lake, one of the best beans for canning. Blue Lake green beans are long, tender and uniform with a lovely flavour. Kentucky Wonder beans are also a good green bean for canning. At the end of the day, I had a yield of sixteen 500 ml jars of beautiful green beans ready for the pantry. There were enough green beans left over to enjoy green bean foil packets with our grilled steak for dinner and a few for snacking.
Green beans are pressure canned at 10 lb pressure for 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level. Green bean foil packets are lightly seasoned with butter and sea salt then sealed and cooked on the grill until al dente, about 10 minutes.
Friday, July 24, 2015
We are incredibly blessed to live in beautiful southern Ontario, home to an amazingly diverse culinary opportunity. There is an abundance of locally grown and produced foods in our region. In fact, eating locally within 100 miles of our home is exceedingly easy. The vast majority of our food is actually grown and produced much closer to home!
I left the house early in the morning to make a shorter version of my normal foodie run route. This time I made a couple of stops before heading to the lake to enjoy a bit of the beautiful scenery while enjoying a cup of coffee. The sky was so blue! The air was already turning warm so I headed onto a couple of orchards to the east. My stash of goodies grew with each stop! On the way home, I stopped at the mushroom farm. I have been buying my mushrooms from them for about 30 years! At one time they were less expensive than store bought but now are about the same price. The big difference is they are fresh picked. I only bought two 5 lb boxes this time. My final stop was at the Dutch Market for coffee and fresh baked goodies. I came home with a lot of fresh produce - apples, plums, blueberries, green beans, strawberries and mushrooms. I even bought a bottle of sparkling apple cider. All-in-all it was a very successful foodie road trip!
Sunday, July 19, 2015
It has been a cold, damp summer thus far which has given me a bit more time indoors. Late last week it suddenly turned very hot and humid, bringing a few nasty storms with the change. I wanted to do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen but didn't want to use the stove or oven. I came across a recipe for no bake treats and immediately thought it could be tweaked to use hemp hearts.
Hemp hearts are about the size of sesame seeds. They have a nutty flavour with a firm yet somewhat chewy texture. Typically they are used to boost the protein content as they contain just over 3 g protein per 10 g (1 tbsp). Hemp hearts are also high in omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fats. They can be stored at room temperature but for best taste, they can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
I buy Canadian grown hemp hearts at our local health food store. They are on the expensive side at $14 for a 454 g (1 lb ) container but it lasts a long time. I like sprinkling a teaspoon of hemp hearts on top of plain Greek yogurt for breakfast.
recipe by: Garden Gnome
113 g (4 oz) cream cheese
140 g (3/4 c plus 3 tbsp) hemp hearts
1/2 tsp homemade vanilla extract
40 g (1.4 oz) 90% cacao dark chocolate
Soften the cream cheese at room temperature in a small bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Stir in hemp hearts until well mixed. Roll into 20 equally sized balls. Place balls on Silpat lined baking sheet. Flatten balls with fingers. Cover and place baking sheet in refrigerator for an hour. Melt chocolate in small bowl place over slightly larger bowl containing boiling water. Carefully tip the bowl with the melted chocolate and dip each chilled cookie, replacing the dipped cookie onto the Silpat. Chill. Remove from Silpat for serving.
Note: These cookies should be kept in the refrigerator. I put them in a container to enjoy as desired.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
While I home can year round and have even taken to doing a bit of canning at our vacation home, this time of year through the end of September tends to be busier. The canners (water bath, pressure) are going almost daily often several times in one day quickly putting up various fruits and vegetables as they are in season. Unfortunately, I missed asparagus season. There is still local asparagus available but the price is too high for preserving. Strawberries just started. We were on a road trip Saturday so I came home with a flat of local strawberries and fresh, free range eggs.
I also used a secret ingredient (non-alcoholic) to enhance the flavour of the jam. I am pleased with the flavour and texture of the jam. However, there is a bit more floating fruit than I would have liked. Floating fruit is common with jams even when following the guideline to stir for five minutes before jarring. This does reduce but not eliminate floating fruit. The easy remedy for floating fruit is simply stirring the jar of jar when first opened. Floating fruit does not affect the texture or flavour of the jam but it is not a desirable visual element for competition.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
It has been an unsettled yet interesting year thus far. Life has thrown a few curve balls but in our true spirit, we have lobbied them back successfully. We still managed to spend most of the month of May in Florida and Aruba so I'll share some of those foodie adventures. Earlier this month, my husband had his gallbladder removed. Despite all of the horror stories folks managed to share with us about this procedure, the only problem was a nasty reaction to his pain medication. Other than that, the healing process was problem free. He is back to enjoying food and is quite pleased that nothing seems to be bothering his stomach!
Each stir fry was made with spaghettini and seafood (shrimp or scallops). I added vegetables into the stir fry for the third dinner. The shrimp stir fry pictured was incredibly easy to make. It was a tasty, low calorie, high protein meal. The jumbo shrimp was frozen precooked so I thawed and removed the tails while the pasta was cooking. When the pasta was cooked, I drained then heated a little olive oil in a non-stick fry pan. I tossed in the shrimp and frozen Asian vegetable mix, stirring until warmed through. Then I added the pasta, a small pat of butter (about 1 tsp) for extra flavour, and a light dash of garlic pepper. This delicious stir fry, like most stir frys only took 15 minutes to put together.
The beauty of stir frys aside of being delicious is they are very quick to put together. They are versatile too. While rice and pasta are often added to stir frys, quinoa or potatoes can be substituted. Any meat or seafood can be used as well. The choice for vegetables is endless. Although I seldom add a sauce to my stir frys, it is easy to do so if desired. A thin sauce adds another element of texture and flavour. Worchestershire sauce, liquid aminos (soy free, low sodium) or soy sauce are all great ingredients to add extra flavour to stir frys in place of a thin sauce. All the way around, stir frys get two thumbs up in my book!
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Just to keep things a bit more interesting while I was under the weather, our kitchen was torn apart once again for a full weekend in preparation for the granite countertop installation making it the third year in a row the kitchen has been torn apart. While the main installation only took a day, it actually took a full week to get the kitchen back functional. The new sink could not be plumbed for 24 hours but hubby couldn't get to it for a couple of days. Then, the installers had to return to add the backsplash as we decided to keep the old tile on the wall. During the first install date, they installed new sinks and granite countertop in the upper bathroom as well but plumbing went a little south. Hubby was able to get one sink fully functional but we had to have a plumber in for the other.
We replaced the microwave oven, faucet and sinks at the same time. There are still a few smaller projects to finish in the kitchen but this should be the final time for any major renovations. The only remaining features of the old kitchen are the floor, wall tile and refrigerator. Everything else has been upgraded or changed in some way. This past week the kitchen joined our home automation network adding to both function and aesthetics. All in all, we are pleased with the kitchen renovations thus far!
Monday, March 16, 2015
Despite being Canada's favourite, I have never been a fan of Kraft Dinner aka KD. Years ago our youngest who was about seven at the time, came home from a friends and proceeded to tell me about the wonderful macaroni and cheese his friend's mother had made. It was in a 'really neat' blue box! After I pulled my eyes out from the back of my head and picked myself up off the floor, I carried on making dinner while listening to him go on and on about this fantastic 'meal in a box'. Occasionally, cave in and I would buy a couple of boxes of KD for the kids but our staple macaroni and cheese has always been from scratch, oven baked. KD did find its way into our pantry during the y2K scare as part of our emergency preparedness
I did not follow the Todd and Diane's recipe exactly nor did I do an actual one-to-one. I started with 1½ cup of half & half because I was out of milk then stirred in 1½ c of uncooked elbow macaroni and 1 tbsp butter. I heated this mixture slowly while stirring adding in just enough extra half & half to keep the mixture runny while cooking. When the macaroni was al denté, I stirred in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Once the cheese was melted, the creamy macaroni and cheese was ready to be enjoyed!
Any milk can be used although milks with a heavier cream content will give a bit creamier flavour. The butter really is optional. I know it is supposed to be added to boxed macaroni and cheese, and I added it as well but the butter is really just for added flavour. Any shredded cheese or combination of shredded cheese can be used. I have it on good authority, aspiring chefs Little Miss C and Little Master A that aged white cheddar is the cheese to use!
Friday, March 06, 2015
Last week I excitedly wrote about our new Bunn My Café MCU that replaced our failing Keurig B60. The new Keurig 2.0 will not allow you to brew any other coffee except that packaged in their Keurig licensed K-cups despite their original hoopla that you could have the convenience of a single brew while enjoying your own coffee by using their My K-cup filter. Unfortunately, that decision has turned a lot of faithful users against Keurig. It doesn't help that the old machines are simply refusing to brew. It also doesn't help that Keurig is getting a lot of negative publicity from the manufacturers of K-cup like pods and environmental groups. At any rate, the Bunn My Café MCU has a drawer designed to use K-cups and off brand cups meant for Keurig machines.
The cup drawer for the Bunn is easy to use. Open the lid but do not try to remove the lid from the hinge. Place your desired K-cup or similar into the cup holder (1). Close the lid down onto the K-cup (2) then give it a firm push to puncture the lid on the K-cup (3). When seated properly, the lid of the cup drawer will rest neatly against the bottom of the cup drawer. Place the cup drawer onto the Bunn, snapping firmly in place (4). Add water to the Bunn then press brew (5). When finished brewing (6) remove the cup drawer and empty. Rinse so that it is ready for the next time you want to brew.
I took this short video to show how the Bunn brews slightly different than the Keurig. There is an option of the Bunn to use a pulse when brewing. This is used when brewing loose tea or if you want a stronger flavoured coffee. When the pulse is turned on, the bottom light is indicated by red. I didn't use pulse for this cup of coffee. Once the cup drawer was in place with the desired K-cup, I hit brew. The most notable feature about the brewing is the final burst of hot water. This results in a more flavourful cup of tea or coffee. It does cause a small amount of splattering. The important thing to remember is to not add too much water to the reservoir. Make sure you leave enough space to account for this final blast of water! This final blast of hot water occurs with all of the drawers although it is not as pronounced with the plain water drawer.
I remove the brewing drawer and rinse out after each use. This way, the Bunn is ready for the next use. Unlike the Keurig, there is no issue with your tea having a little coffee off-taste. The reason being, the only time the puncture needles come into contact with coffee is when using the cup drawer. Everything else is brewed using a different drawer. I was concerned that there would be a bit of coffee off-taste in my herbal teas using the ground coffee drawer but so far that has not been a problem. If you switch to the Bunn and have the My K-cup or other reusable filter meant for the Keurig machines, there is no need to use them. Simply use the ground coffee drawer. It is a lot easier to clean than the reusable Keurig filters!
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Food like fashion follow trends. Currently there is a trend towards healthy eating with a strong emphasis on anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants reduce or eliminate the damaging effects of free radicals in the body and the best source for anti-oxidants is your food. The superfood for 2015 is capers!
Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial bush indigenous to the Mediterranean. The dark green buds are sun-dried then packed in vinegar brine. Their tangy, briny, pickly flavour is best balanced against smooth, buttery or velvety flavours and textures. My favourite way to enjoy capers is with cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bagel.
Capers are salty due to the brine. This can be reduced by rinsing the capers in water before using if desired. Capers pair beautifully with salmon as pictured in this simple buttered caper sauce we recently enjoyed.
Method: Melt about 2 tbsp butter in fry pan. Stir in 2 -3 tbsp chopped red onion, and cook until just translucent. Stir in 1 - 2 tbsp rinsed capers. Warm through. Spoon over baked salmon filets as desired.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Like many people we embraced the concept of a single cup coffee
brewer. A single cup brewer can save a significant amount of money. We bought our first single cup coffee brewer, a Melitta One:One that took special coffee pods. At that time, the only place we could buy the pods was Zellers and Sobey's but then Zeller's discontinued them. We found Sanka pods at Meijer's in the US so were still able to use the Melitta when Sobey's closed. Finally, we bought a Keurig Special Edition (B60) to replace the Melitta. The selling feature of the Keurig was we could use our own coffee rather than relying on the environmentally unfriendly K-cups. In fact, I was so impressed with Keurig that we bought a mini for the office, and another larger unit for our vacation home. All was well until, the only four year old Keurig B60 started acting up!
During our brief three weeks home in the fall between our two longer stays at our vacation home, the Keurig would say it was brewing but nothing happened. I cleaned it and all seemed fine. We arrived home in the early morning of December 22 after being on the road for eighteen and a half hours. With only four hours sleep, I needed coffee! The Keurig failed but after a lot of opening, shutting, and restarting I finally got it working. From there it worked sporadically. I went online and found a site with instructions how to fix. I cleaned the Keurig with vinegar then cleaned it again, then cleaned the heads with the special K-cup cleaner then cleaned again only to be rewarded with half cups of coffee if and when it would brew. I repeated including adding in the spanking. The problems persisted.
In the meantime my temper was rising. I checked the new Keurig 2.0 ready to buy on the spot only to see it will only take Keurig licensed K-cups and not allow you to brew your own coffee. This renders the Keurig 2.0 completely useless if you should move to an area where Keurig licensed K-cups are unavailable or Keurig goes out of business. The one that does allow you to use your own coffee has almost zero features and looks cheap. We were visiting our kids in January where we used their Bunn My Café MCU marveling at how good the coffee was. We came home where I cussed at the Keurig a few more times before ordering a Bunn My Café MCU.
The Bunn My Café MCU is a four in one brewer that uses ground coffee or loose leaf tea, K-cups (or similar), soft pods or tea bags and hot water. There are four drawers designed for each specific usage (bottom left). There is an internal water storage tank but water you need to add water each time you use it. This is not a huge change for me since I always poured water into the external water reservoir of the Keurig with each use.
The Bunn has a slightly smaller footprint than the Keurig (bottom right). There is no on or off button, simply brew with optional pulse for stronger coffee and tea. There is no clock on auto-off. The Bunn brews at 200°F which is 8°F higher than the Keurig. The higher temperature does give a better tasting coffee, full flavoured without bitterness. After 6 hours idle, the Bunn temperature drops to 140°F and enters sleep mode after 26 hours.
A final word on Keurig: I was a happy Keurig user until my brewer that was only four years old stopped brewing properly. The funny thing is, one of my friend's had her Keurig quit the same week except she could not even coax a final cup of coffee from it. Keurig's selling feature was being able to use your own coffee meaning you did not have to contribute to the landfill. They took that feature away with the Keurig 2.0 at a time when there is growing pressure as to the damage the K-cups are doing to the environment because they are not recyclable plus their failing brewers will end up in the landfill as well. To me, that is not good business. Keurig has lost my business!
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
We have had a rather busy and exciting February thus far! We have been focusing on eating meals prepared from our pantry and freezer overstock for home prepared meals. Despite eating out on average of three times a week, we are still making a bit of headway in paring down the overstock. We also dramatically reduced buying any groceries other than fresh produce for the month. I bought some gourmet teas and macadamia nuts too, but other than that only produce. It helps that it has been extremely cold so I really don't feel like going out to shop and even considered cancelling a couple of social events because it has been so cold!
I cooked long grain rice then stirred in about a quarter cup of Kraft Herb & Garlic Shredded Cheese and finely chopped broccoli. I cleaned the mushroom caps and placed top-side down on a Silpat lined baking sheet. I brushed about a tablespoon of home canned pizza sauce in each mushroom cap. Then, I spooned the rice filling into each cap mounding nicely. I sprinkled lightly with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and baked at 350°F until the mushroom caps were cooked (about 40 minutes). A fresh garden salad with citrus vinaigrette completed the meal.
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I am a firm believer in using food to heal the body. I'm am fighting arthritis much the same way I do with other health problems, using foods that heal, avoiding foods that harm and exercise. Two foods that are currently being used to treat arthritis are NEM (natural egg membrane) and curcumin (turmeric extract). NEM takes about 7 days to notice a reduction in pain. I specifically use Curcumin C3 Complex (1,160 mg/serving) in addition to turmeric.
Turmeric is the ribosome of a perennial plant in the ginger family native to South Asia growing in temperatures of 20 to 30°C. It is considered the Indian saffron, a cheaper alternative to regular saffron. Turmeric it's commonly dried and powdered then used as a spice and curries as well as a dye for foods like mustard. Turmeric will stain just about anything it comes into contact with, hence the yellow kitchen syndrome.
Turmeric is not only used for its culinary properties but also it's medicinal properties. It can be made into a paste then used on the skin to reduce hyperpigmentation. There has been a lot of interest in turmeric specifically the active ingredient, curcumin. Turmeric is antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect cells in the body by fighting free radicals to help fight against aging and prevent cancer. Turmeric also reduces inflammation so eases joint pain.
I generally have a whey protein smoothie mid-morning. This was the perfect target for turmeric. I used a BCAA (branch chain amino acids) 100% whey protein powder, cottage cheese, unsweetened almond milk, 1 tsp turmeric. 1 tsp fresh ginger and a dash of black pepper to make a yummy smoothie. Turmeric is pungent so the flavour dominated the smoothie but not in an unpleasant way. One teaspoon of turmeric is 3 g, a good booster for the curcumin. I liked this combination enough that I've made it a few times now. It comes in at 235 calories and 33 g protein per 12 oz serving.
recipe by Garden Gnome
1 c unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp stevia
Warm almond milk slightly. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl then pour just enough warmed milk in to make a thin slurry. Pour the slurry into the remaining milk and mix well. Continue heating until mixture comes to a low boil. Remove from heat. Pour into mug and enjoy.
I was concerned that the turmeric would be overpowering in this hot beverage but surprisingly it isn't. I actually prefer the Golden Milk to the smoothie. It has a warm, pleasant flavour. I have been enjoying one of these hot drinks in the afternoon. My arthritis pain has lessened. The visible signs (redness, swelling) especially in my hands is significantly reduced. This one is a keeper and it's only 53 calories!
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
One of my goals with using up the pantry and freezer surplus is creating minimal left-overs. This differs from my normal cooking where I intentionally cook extra for planned left-overs for the freezer. Despite this, there has been a few left overs just enough to use up the following day for lunch or as a side dish for dinner. On the whole, I have been rather pleased as small pockets of space appear in both the pantry and freezers but there is a long ways to go!
It was an easy, tasty meal using what was on hand and while it doesn't seem like much, two more items were used up from the pantry and freezers. Just as in any type of decluttering, baby steps can make a huge difference when done consistently. And so the pantry and freezer decluttering continues...
Monday, February 02, 2015
We spent Saturday preparing for our Superbowl party on Sunday. Sam's Club was the perfect place to pick up a large container of sour cream, shredded cheese, pork loin, rolls, buns, veggie tray and cream cheese. This weather is really playing havoc with my arthritis so my husband suggested a couple of short cuts like the veggie tray. It was a much appreciated lovely gesture! After shopping, it was time to make the pulled pork and chili while my husband set-up the games room. I used one of my pressure cookers for the pulled pork so all that would be needed the following day was warming in the slow cooker. We finally sat down for a breather. My husband checked the weather forecast which quickly became cause for concern! By 6 AM game day, the snow had started and it continued causing our number of guests to drop from twenty to nine. Luckily we had tracking the weather so put out less food to begin with then adjust from there but we are still left with extra food. Despite the weather, a good time was had by all!
I settled on making a brown butter sauce. Then I added jumbo shrimp and scallops. Both are tasty, low calorie sources for protein. The dish was almost ready when my husband suggested adding in a little Kraft Herb & Garlic shredded cheese. This cheese has a nice flavour with a creamy texture when melted. The end result was an tasty seafood pasta. There was enough of noodles left over for the following night's side dish that warmed nicely and still had a lovely seafood flavour.
Friday, January 30, 2015
It's that time of year! The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the NFL, first played on January 15, 1967. Super Bowl parties have been part of the tradition. Typically, finger food type snacks like chicken wings and chips with dip are served at these parties. Super Bowl XLIX will be played on February 1, 2015. We are hosting our annual Super Bowl party, expecting about 20 guests so preparations are underway.
My husband requested the deviled eggs. I put out a tray for game day last week and they last all of about two minutes. They were a huge hit!
Deviled eggs are inexpensive and easy to make. The only problem with making deviled eggs is peeling. The fresher the eggs are, the harder they are to peel with the shell pulling off chucks of the egg white. The reason being, fresh eggs are more acidic than older eggs so the shell sticks. The good news is you know your eggs were fresh. The bad news is, the resulting peeled eggs are aesthetically unappealing for deviled eggs. The easiest way to get perfectly peeled eggs with no sticking is to add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water when cooking the eggs. Baking soda will reduce the acidity of the eggs so the shell doesn't stick.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
I'm doing some basic cooking as the pantry and freezer cleaned out continues. It's basic by choice because we are working on a couple of projects on the house so creativity is out the door. So far I've used up the rest of the moose meat, made a lovely meatloaf (ground beef) and quick stew in the pressure cooker. In addition to the meats from the freezer, I've used up a few jars of home canned foods (stewed tomatoes, green beans, whole kernel corn) as well. While the meals have been basic and easy to prepare, they have been delicious. There is no real plan of action as to what to use. It has been more or less I pull a piece of meat from the freezer look around in the pantry to complete the meal. Tonight made bacon wrapped scallops and spaghetti squash from the freezer, and steamed fresh spinach and potatoes. Funny story about the bacon ~ I had $50 worth of coupons for Maple Leaf products that had to be used by the end of December 2014. Since we had away, I hadn't used them so had no choice but to use them all at once when I did my groceries for New Year's Day. No Frill had Maple Leaf bacon on sale so that's what I bought. Even after giving the kids a couple of packages, I still have several in the freezer!
Overall, I have made a slight dent in the pantry and freezers. There's at least a bit of wiggle room now so if I keep up at this pace, both storage areas will be under better control in no time! The past week's progress has been encouraging. Even though there is still a lot to be used up, it is quite doable. We are hosting games night and a Superbowl party so that will help reduce a few things too. Next week, I plan to get a bit more creative with both the slow cooker and pressure cooker. It's time to put a bit of fun into the cleaning out process!
Friday, January 09, 2015
Cookbooks have always been my favourite gift to give as well. I've had an interest in food since I was knee high to a grasshopper! I grew up in small town Canada, population less than 2,000. There were no fast food restaurants or take-out but there was a variety store with a very small lunch counter. My Mom, like all the ladies there knew how to cook and can. I likely borrowed every cookbook our small library had, often begging my Mom to make one of those fancy recipes. To make a long story short, I loved cookbooks especially my Mom's old Betty Crocker. I can remember being so excited when I got my first copy of Betty Crocker cookbook, the first Christmas we were married. It's still my favourite cookbook!
Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it and I can find a suitable cookbook as a gift! Every bridal shower I have gone to, I have gifted the Joy of Cooking. It has always been a cookbook I wanted but never bought for myself. This Christmas, one of our kids gifted me with The Joy of Cooking (2006), 75th Anniversary edition. There are 4,500 recipes to discover, 500 new recipes and 4,000 classic recipes. I am so excited!
Thursday, January 08, 2015
We are in food crisis mode here! Our pantry is overflowing, both chest freezers are stuffed and things are falling out of the refrigerator freezers. Part of the problem stems from us being out of country for three months last year so we are using our pantry stores in the manner we were accustomed to. My husband wants to extend our time at our vacation home to four months this year so for the foreseeable future, we will not be needing a full year's supply of food at home. The bottom line is, I need to pare down the pantry and freezers so that means meals from both supplemented with fresh produce and dairy combined with reduced stocking. I have a plan so we'll see how successful it is.
The sodium came from the puff pastry and soup, mainly the soup. This is a problem with all commercially canned soups, one reason I seldom use them. However, cream of mushroom soup is a pantry staple I use for quick sauces. I will have to rethink that plan once I've exhausted my supply. Thank goodness I only have a couple more cans left!
Nutritional information per serving: 518 cal, 47 g carbs, 17 g fat, 34 g protein, 1,046 mg sodium, 8 g fiber
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Here we are a week into 2015 so raise your hands if you, like many made a New Year's resolution to lose weight? According to University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology losing weight was the number one new year's resolution in 2014. This resolution dropped to number 3 in 2015, right behind spending more time with family and friends (1) and getting fit (2) according to most sources. Many folks will jump onto the newest fad diet, join gyms, buy exercise equipment and go all out for all of about a month if that before they return to their normal diets and activities.
A year ago today, I was two months into my fitness journey which by default led to weight loss. I have maintained my weight loss hovering within 0.5 lb of 108 lb. During my weight loss phase, I heard over and over again that for every 6 lb lost, 5 lb of those are from dietary changes and only 1 lb from exercise. The rule of thumb is: dietary change is for weight loss, exercise is for fitness. I think it is more complex than that because exercise can reduce stress with reduces cortisol so you lose weight, especially fat easier. You also sleep better with exercise, another factor that is important for weight loss. However, the primary factor in losing weight is your diet.
That does not mean you cannot enjoy good food or your food has to be bland. It doesn't mean you have to give up bread or eat a steady diet of salads. What worked and continues to work for me, may help you achieve your New Year's resolution. Here's are a few things that work for me:
- set goals - Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) then eat 20% less for weight loss. Do not eat less than your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the amount of energy expended while at rest. Females should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories; men should not eat fewer than 1,500 calories.
- calorie tracking - There are numerous calorie counting apps, websites and software. It becomes a matter of personal preference. I like and still use My Fitness Pal (MFP) for tracking calories consumed and burned. MFP feeds into Health (Apple) in addition to a number of fitness apps that I use. I'm also testing Lose It!
- fitness - You do not need to spend a penny to get fit. Search for "you are your own gym" for ideas. I do a lot of walking with a goal of 10,000 steps per day. I highly recommend a pedometer (under $20) or a fitness tracker. My current fitness tracker is Misfit Shine ($120). Many of the fitness apps I use are free with upgrades to low cost, feature enhanced paid versions. I really like the Runtastic apps, Sworkit, Hot5 and 7M Workout. I also use fitness videos on YouTube.
- carbohydrates - A lot of diets put an emphasis on cutting carbs. Carbs are not the enemy because your body requires a certain amount for fuel. However, many women find they lose weight quicker on lower carbs. The default MFP setting is 50% carbs. I reduced mine to 40% which made a huge difference in my weight loss without me feeling deprived. Simple sugars can be a problem in that they cause insulin spikes and water retention. I tend to limit simple sugars.
- fats - Fats get a bad rap but fats do not make you fat, eating too much makes you fat. You need fats as part of a healthy diet. The recommendation is to get 20% to 35% of calories from fat. I have my fat macro set to 30%. Fats are calorie dense at 9 cal per gram. Choose unsaturated fats, minimize saturated fats and avoid trans-fats.
- protein - Recently there has been a huge emphasis on the importance of protein. Protein minimizes the loss of lean muscle when losing weight and it keeps you full longer. I eat protein with every meal and quite often snacks include protein. I eat a lot of clean protein, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs and cheese. I continue to use protein powder but gave up on commercially made protein bars except when traveling. Many commercially made protein bars are too high in carbs so I make my own.
- artificial sweeteners - I don't use artificial sweeteners but there is new research that indicate they can actually prevent you from losing weight. I use stevia if I want to reduce the calories in something sweet. In general though, portion control works well for me for sweets.
- diet foods - In general, I avoid anything labeled as 'diet' like the plague. These foods tend to be highly processed, over priced and poor nutritional value.
- whole foods - This is nothing new for me but I really push whole foods especially fruits and vegetables.
- grazing - I am a grazer, from about 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM seldom eating before or after that time period. This is my natural eating pattern which actually falls under intermittent fasting, a successful dieting method for some.
- the apple test - Am I hungry enough to eat an apple? If the answer is no, then I'm really not hungry. That means I'm reaching for a snack for any other reason besides hunger.
Monday, January 05, 2015
I have been wanting a smoker for quite some time so in 2013, I borrowed a friend's small electric True North smoker for The Great Smoker Experiment Part 1 and Part 2. I prepared a batch of sliced beef for jerky. Half was prepared in my traditional method using my dehydrator and the other half prepared in the smoker. I liked the results so set out to find a suitable smoker. While another friend is getting excellent results with a variety of smoked meats especially summer sausage using the True North smoker, I decided I did not want an electric smoker. The price of electricity in Ontario is the highest in Canada and threatening to go higher plus electricity is not the most efficient way to cook anything to begin with.
This propane gas smoker has a 15,000 BTU burner, heavy duty enameled steel wood chip box, heavy duty steel water bowl, 4 adjustable smoking racks and electronic ignition. The temperature can easily be adjusted. There is a thermometer making it easy to keep an eye on the smoking temperature.
The smoker was assembled on our old deck. Two days after I seasoned and experimented with this smoker for the first time, my husband moved it to the garage where it sat during the tear down of the existing deck and construction of the new deck. The main portion of the new deck is 20' x 30, the attached lower pool deck is still being worked on as are portions of the main deck. It has been a huge project!
I rubbed a 3.6 lb rump roast in garlic pepper. It was an easy prep, simply making sure the roast was well covered. As I get better at smoking, I will be experimenting with rubs but first things first. My goal with this roast was putting the smoker through its paces and getting an edible result. Don't laugh! Sometimes, a goal of edible is all it takes to get a bit creative in the kitchen.
I seasoned the smoker then it was ready for its maiden run. Smoking differs from other methods of cooking in that you really do need to keep an eye on it. There's no running to the store or leaving the smoker unattended for any length of time. It is important that the water bowl does not run dry. If it does, the meat will be dried out instead of moist and tender. It is also important to keep the smoker at the proper temperature. Too high of a temperature will result in dry, over cooked meat while too low of a temperature will allow pathogens to multiply that can result in food borne illness.
Once the smoking begins, the smoking chamber is left closed tightly. The lower chamber houses the burner and water bowl. It can be opened briefly to add water if necessary. While it is called a water bowl, you can actually use other liquids like stock to impart more flavour to the food being smoked.
The resulting smoked roast had developed a lovely, hard crust with a nice smokey aroma. I thought the crust was a bit dark but checking online saw that it was fine. I wanted nice slices for lunch meat. Once the smoked rump roast was cooled, it was ready for slicing. Cooled meats always slice nicer than warm meats.
Hometrends Food Slicer on sale at Walmart while waiting for the smoker to arrive. I have also wanted a food slicer for homemade lunch meats for quite some time. This food slicer is premium coated steel and die cast aluminum housing featuring a heavy-duty 130 watt motor, adjustable and removable 7.5” (19 cm) hardened blade, adjustable thickness control knob, removable carriage system for easy cleaning and suction feet for stable, non-slip operation.
I adjusted the thickness to quite thin then placed the smoked rump roast on the food slicer bed. The slicer made quick work of slicing the meat into thin slice of uniform thickness perfect for lunch meat. My only complaint is the sliced meat falls onto the counter at the back of the slicer so it is necessary for the counter to be squeaky clean before using the slicer then cleaned again after but other than that, I'm pleased with the results.
The smoke rump roast slices were a hit while camping. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more experimenting with smoking. Smoking a roast for lunch meat is a definite keeper! I'll experiment with rubs but really the garlic pepper gave good results. I will be careful to not let the water bowl run dry next time but other than that I am very pleased with the results.
Sunday, January 04, 2015
In November of 2013, I embarked on my ever evolving fitness journey. One of the first things I learned was the importance of protein. It is important to have clean protein at every meal but no more than 30 g per meal as your body cannot utilize more than that at one time. Yogurt is typically recommended as a good source of protein especially Greek yogurt that double the protein per serving as regular yogurt. The problem with commercially prepared yogurts is the added sugar regardless of the type of yogurt you buy. The work around is to buy plain yogurt, plain Greek yogurt or make your own yogurt. I love plain yogurt but aside of substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, my husband insists on his flavoured. He also doesn't like the texture of Greek yogurt. Over coming both the flavour and texture of plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt usually involves adding fruit and/or a sweetener like honey. The problem is this increases the carbs which may not be desirable for many reasons. I came up with a tasty alternative.
Chocolate Delight Yogurt
100 g (1/2 c), 0% Greek Yogurt, Plain
1 tbsp (6 g) , Powdered Peanut Butter
1 tsp (5 g), Premium Cocoa
1/2 scoop Body Fortress 100% Premium Whey Protein - Vanilla Creme [optional]
Measure ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Serve.
This is a very basic recipe that you can easily tweak to your liking. If you are counting calories, use the powdered peanut butter. If not, you can use a tbsp of regular peanut butter. If you are following a low sodium diet, then substitute peanut flour for the powdered peanut butter. If you want a higher protein serving use protein powder. Mine came in at 25 g protein per serving but that will vary depending on the brand of protein powder used.
Saturday, January 03, 2015
Apparently there is a call to ban the word foodie. Foodie by definition is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages . The term began in the 1980s giving rise to the Food Network, celebrity chefs, and specialty cookbooks and periodicals. The interest in food as a hobby has been instrumental in the rise of specialized kitchenware stores and more importantly the food blog. You seriously cannot be a food blogger without enjoying food! Despite criticism of the word being childlike, it does no harm and has brought an undeniable awareness to food. The word aptly describes how many of us feel about food. As a result of the influence of foodies, folks everywhere are discovering and experimenting with new foods. They are getting to know local food producers. They are demanding greater food safety, organic foods, improved labeling, and putting pressure on the food industry to remove harmful food additives. They have brought social awareness to how our food is produced, how our growers are compensated, improved how animals are treated and how our food production affects our environment. Foodies are passing their love for food to their children as well. In short the foodie movement has been nothing but positive. To those wanting to ban the use of the word foodie, I say hogwash! I'm a foodie and proud of it!
1. Foodie definitionhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foodie
Friday, January 02, 2015
Thanks so much for baring with me during 2014. It was very much a year of change that oddly affected my desire to blog. It wasn't like I didn't have anything to blog about it was more that my focus was elsewhere. I've seen so many food bloggers go down the same path but after much soul searching concluded that this blog is a fundamental part of me. It is written for my enjoyment and the fact that others enjoy it, is reason enough to keep writing. So, here I am ready to start another season of sharing our culinary adventures with you. I have a lot of ideas but in the meantime it is back to the kitchen...