Friday, December 28, 2012

Service Canada is Responsible For My Feelings of Domestic Inadequacy

I could just go on, at great length, about how today unfolded, but I won't. No one wants to know the bitter details of a day gone horribly wrong, so considered yourself spared. For the moment at least. I will endeavour to keep to the point and NOT diverge into a rant about how unfair the universe is, and why, OH WHY is nothing simple? EVER? No, I'll keep to the point. I'm quite sure that I have a point, so let's press forward, shall we?

The day began simple enough. I needed to get a social insurance number for my daughter so that we could start an education savings plan for her. It completely unraveled from that point on. Fast forward FOUR HOURS LATER, and I finally find myself standing in line at a Service Canada office waiting for my turn to be seen. The young lady took my name and then told me to wait AN HOUR AND A HALF for someone to call my name. I essentially stood a line so that I could stand in ANOTHER line. Deep breaths.

The waiting area had many chairs, disgruntled people in said chairs, and a coffee table. On the coffee table there was nothing. I cringed and the unfairness of expecting people to wait hours on end, but provide nothing to read. Why was the table even there in the first place? Would they be serving coffee momentarily? I think not. It was taunting us. There was, however, a pharmacy near by where I could, in theory, buy and magazine. I didn't want to do that. One, they should have magazines anyways. Why should I have to go spend my money on one? Two, I don't read magazines. Terrible waste of time and money. Fluff. A few minutes passed and I went and bought three magazines and nail clippers. (The nail clippers aren't relevant to the story, but I needed them anyways).

I bought one magazine on simplifying your home, one on living naturally, and one on storage for small spaces. No, I'm not a Cosmo girl or a People person. I've been trying to simplify my home and life, live more naturally and generally find some sort of inner peace. I'm not very good at it though. So far. Our home is wonderful and perfect in a lot of ways, but it's short comings are more apparent now that there are four people living here than the former two. Space is at a premium forcing us to live smarter because, lets face it, no one is going to build an addition onto the house. I was hoping that a magazine supposedly dedicated to organizing small spaces would be perfect. Apparently our definition of "small space" is vastly different than that of the magazine.

For starters, their shower is the size of our bathroom. I do not own a "master suite" with an office that I can convert into a dressing room. The kids do not have a dedicated play room that I can custom build and hand stencil. The builders also seem to have forgotten to include the walk-in pantry in our "small space". All the areas that I actually need help in are glamorized to the point of being utterly useless. Who needs a special container for corn cob holders labeled "corn cob holders" in a drawer whose only other companions are a  spatula and whisk? I'm guessing you don't have a space problem or you eat out a lot. Seriously? People, DO NOT READ COSMO! If a magazine about storage solutions for small spaces can make you feel this inadequate, think of the damage Cosmo (or any other women's magazine) will have! IT WILL DESTROY YOUR SOUL AND WILL TO LIVE!

I'm not sure if there was a point, other than me being anti-magazine, to this. However, I didn't rant about my day as much as I could have. So mission accomplished, really.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redemption and Forgiveness

A couple of months ago I watched an awful lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It was completely obscene the amount of time I devoted to finishing them both. Not everyone is going to like those shows, and I get that they may take a bit of warming up to. That being said it's totally worth it. They're funny, clever, poignant, and you often become very attached to the characters. The episode when Buffy's mom dies is heartbreaking! I'm talking totally snotty tears inducing. I don't have the colouring to carry off getting that upset. Redheads turn all pink and it ends up clashing terribly with our hair.

As much as I could go on and on about how much I love the shows and Joss Whedon's genius (as I often do), the point I'm trying to get to is one of redemption and forgiveness. That seemed to be a running theme through both the shows. Can you be and do horrible things in your past and still find redemption? Two of the main characters, Angel and Spike (vampires),  have done horrendous and truly evil things in their pasts. They hope that they can make amends for their past actions by doing good in the present. Buy their way out of Hell by having more black than red in their ledgers. This raises a lot of big questions about forgiveness, identity and human nature. The answers, I'm guessing, are not black and white. In fact, I'm not sure if any of the Big Questions have black and white answers at all.

I suppose the main question is whether it's even possible to redeem yourself for past actions. What's done is done. You had free will, you made a choice and are responsible for it. Any amount of good deeds isn't going to erase the evil you've done. The past can not be rewritten. Not in your heart or in any one's eyes. Maybe that's not the point though. Some things may be unforgivable, but maybe redemption doesn't need forgiveness. Maybe it's not about everyone else, but about the person who did the deed. Maybe redemption isn't a end but a journey. Doing good, or making the effort to, for it's own sake. Doing it because it's the right thing to do even if it means you're going to Hell anyways. Your redemption is your punishment and  your gift to yourself every day. I think that Angel kind of figured that one out in the end. There is no get-out-of-Hell-free card. He (spoiler) signed away any possibility of becoming human again because he knew he couldn't erase who he was. The evil that he did and was is still a part of him, and because of that he can't undo it and regain his humanity. His "reward" will forever be out of his reach.

Even if all that is true, and who knows if it is, it gets really complicate when you throw ideas about identity into the mix. As soon as these characters (spoiler) gained their souls back it was like they were disassociated from their pasts. Repeatedly we and other characters were told the were different and OK because they had their souls now. It seemed through that and their present determination to act of the side of Good, they were no longer the persons they were in their pasts. Well if your actions shape your identity and who you are, could you argue that someone is a totally different person, and therefore not accountable for their past self's actions. I recall an episode of Babylon 5 (yes shut up! I'm a total geek, I KNOW) called "Passing Through Gethsemane". In this episode a serial killer who was sentenced to death of personality is confronted by the family of one of his victims. He is now living as a monk and has no memory of his former life or actions. It's complicated isn't it? Is he, who physically committed those crimes, still responsible for his actions? Should he still atone for them? Has he? Are Angle and Spike different people now that they have a soul and are on the side of Good? Can they and are they being held accountable for their pasts? It's a very grey area, but probably a lot clearer for the victims involved.

In both Buffy and Angel, everyone always seemed to be lying, double crossing, heck sometimes even trying to kill each other, and then down the line they would be working together. I kept thinking what is going on with these people?! Did you forget that five episodes ago he/she was trying to kill you/bring about the apocalypse/steal your boyfriend?? How can you forgive someone like that? Then I thought about it some more and realized that if they hadn't worked together they would have failed. The apocalypse would have happened, or someone would have died or something else terrible. They had to work together because it was what was needed to be done. That didn't mean they had to forget or forgive, but they still had to exist and interact with each other. That's how the world works. Sometimes you have to work and live with people who are less than perfect or have wronged you in some way. Chances are everyone has screwed over or hurt someone else in their lives. Sometimes an acquaintance, sometimes someone you love and trust and totally didn't deserve it. Nobody is perfect and we've all done things that are less than admirable. However, you can't push everyone away that has wronged you. You'd find you were alone pretty darn fast. You might find that you need those people in your life, that they still have an important role to play. It's not about Good and Bad, or about being perfect, or even forgiveness. Maybe it comes right down to playing the cards you're dealt as best you can.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Something on Pintrest Worked!

Today I tried one of the kid's activities I found on Pintrest. It looked simple enough and I had all the ingredients, so I figured I'd give it a go. I'm always keeping my eye out for an activity that both the girls will equally enjoy. This particular one is called "Cloud Dough" and is super easy to make.

 



It's just 8 cups of flour to 1 cup of baby oil. Mix it up with your hands and ta-da! It keeps it's shape and isn't gooey or sticky at all. The smell of baby oil is nice too! The girls love the sandbox, so this is a great alternative on rainy days. Of course there's nothing stopping you from taking it outside. In fact it can get a bit messy so that's not a bad idea. I suggest a big tub if you have one, and lots of newspaper on the floor. That being said, it is very easy to sweep up, so clean up isn't the huge task you might think it would be.


Miss. A loved making shapes and burying things. She pretended she was a paleontologist, burying plastic onion rings and pretending they were apatosaurus bones. Each time she dug them up it was a new discovery!


Miss. K (Formerly known as Baby K who has now had a birthday), loved exploring the feel of the"sand". She filled little bowls, poked things with straws, and generally made a huge mess!

They both had lots of fun with it and enjoyed it in their own way. It also keeps well if you store it in a zip lock bag or sealed container. Yay for pintrest!



Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

In an ever evolving quest to be healthier, I've started experimenting with smoothies and juices. I've discovered a few things already. The first is that my blender isn't very good. We've had it for nearly ten years, so that's part of the problem. Somethings just get old and dull over time. Also, it wasn't really made to do smoothies in the first place. As a consequence, all my smoothies thus far require a small amount of mastication on the part of the drinker. That's OK though. When I think of all that went into making them, I'm impressed by the amount of fresh fruits and veggies I'm actually eating! There's a lot of goodness in that glass, even if it looks a bit dubious.

That's the second thing I've learned so far. Looks can be deceiving! That's an understatement when it comes to making and consuming "green smoothies" in particular. Who would think a drink made of banana, blue berries, peaches, cucumber, watermelon, and spinach would be any good? Actually many of the weird combinations I've tried have been very good! I'm looking forward to experimenting with new combinations and seeing how they play out. The other deceptive thing I've discovered is that you need a heck of a lot of oranges to make fresh orange juice! It tastes fantastic but is very labour intensive! Also, we need new orange peeling technology, asap.

I haven't been at it very long, but I plan on sharing anything I find that is interesting and/or tasty. Hopefully both.

Friday, July 6, 2012

All Days Should End Like This

Some days are just good days, no two ways about it. Whatever doubts you had yesterday are banished to the back of your mind along with your increasingly long "to do" list. Everything is put on hold while you live in that perfect moment. It's often a very difficult thing to do. To just live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is. It's something more people should consciously try to do; it does wonderful things for your well -being. A friend and I sat in the shade sipping lemonade while our kids played in the pool. They squealed with laughter as they chased each other, pouring buckets of water over each other's head. It was a hot day, but really I don't think they noticed. They were having way too much fun.

Later, while I was cleaning up after dinner, Baby K came in to see what I was up to. I was playing music while I tidied and she danced with a big smile on her face. She loves to dance! Miss. A joined us, and before I knew it, we were all dancing in the kitchen. If anyone looked in, they would have seen us dancing like wolves, the wind, and occasionally Miss A broke out her "cool moves". It was so much fun! In a way, I'm kind of thankful for all those trying times because it makes moments like that so much more rewarding. I didn't realize during those many, many, hours of rocking a colicky baby, that I would be later spinning and dipping a feisty four year old. It would have seemed so very far away, but was totally worth the wait.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

...Because It'll Be Even More Ridiculous When I'm Sixty

Do you know how hard it is to find a photo of red heads (or gingers if you must) with coloured streaks in their hair? Damn near impossible! Apparently red heads don't dye their hair. Sometimes I wish I was born a mousy brown so I could dye my hair different ways all the time. But no, I'm a red head and have impossible hair. It's hard to dye and style. I've tried and failed many times. When I was younger I made homemade dyes, which worked in all my friends' hair, but never in mine. I even tried bleaching it and it didn't change one iota. If I braided or put my hair in curlers over night, the waves and curls went flat my lunch. A few times I got a perm out of pure frustration. I looked like a poodle! Even then, the perm turned into frizzy hair within a couple of weeks. Just FYI, don't do something stupid like that a few weeks before your wedding. Trust me, it's a bad decision.

Usually when I get bored of the same old routine, I feel a need to do something to my hair. I don't know why that is exactly; probably because it's the easiest and most visible. Since I have so much trouble styling it, I often go and just get it all chopped off. My husband hates that! I don't know why husbands are always so possessive of their wife's hair. I guess he just doesn't want me to come home with a "mom" haircut. Which frankly, I don't either. Maybe that's why I went to the drugstore yesterday and bought a tube of purple hair dye. It's a total "anti-mom" hair style.

There were lots of different colours, but I chose purple. I have no idea what colour would look best because, as I said, red heads don't seem to dye their hair. I guess we are much too serious a people to be caught up in such silliness! It's really not that daring, it washes out in one wash. Ideally I'd like to find a few different colours that work and have a number of streaks going at the same time. I've tried the purple and I can kinda see it, but my hair is dark enough that the colour is fairly muted. Maybe subtle is a good thing, really.  Yeah, sure, I'm getting a bit old to be doing stuff like this, but I don't feel old. Isn't it better to be silly now than wait until you're a grandparent and embarrass your children with such silliness? Wait, that's not a bad idea! Maybe I'll have two mid-life crisis!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pranks - Catching Santa In His Web Of Lies

The writing prompt for today is "pranks". What is the best prank you've ever pulled off? At first I thought I wouldn't be able to come up with anything. I don't pull pranks! That's ridonkulous! BUT, the more I thought about it, I came to realize that I've done more than my fair share in my youth. I would have just classified them as something else. So would my family, I'm sure. You say "prank", they say "cruising for a bruising". Potato, potato. OK, that actually doesn't make sense if you type it. Po Tato, Po Tate O. That's better.

So there has been a number of different pranks perpetrated by me in the past. When I was young I watched a dreadful movie with Fred Savage in it. He and some monsters would pull pranks and jokes on everyone. If Bill Murray regrets Garfield I'm sure Fred Savage regrets this one. As awful as it was I came up with some "A" list prank material. I personally liked the clothes peg on that pull-up shower thingy. (what the heck is that called?) Someone goes to turn the bathtub water on and BOOM! Sprayed in the head with the shower! I'm not sure why my dad automatically thought it was me. He does have a son, too.

Probably the one I remember most was the time I set a trap for Santa. I had serious doubts about this Santa character and was pretty sure he didn't exist. The year before I had found a gift in my parents closet and then later found the same gift under the tree. "From Santa". Uh huh. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, I'll sent a trap and catch you in the act" Do not underestimate the patience of a seven year old.  On Christmas Eve, once everyone had gone to bed I got to work. I strung skipping ropes across the upstairs hallway. I braced Christmas wrap tubing between my parents bedroom door frame. I topped it off by stringing packing tape, sticky side in, across their door as well. If anyone left that room during the night they would walk into a sticky mess. If only I had feathers!

Of course, if Santa did exist, no one would leave their room and risk ruining Christmas. If they did go out, well that would seal the truth that he didn't exist. They were leaving to sneaky sneak downstairs and put out the gifts! It was a perfect plan. Now I can only imagine the conundrum my parents faced when they eventually walked into that mess. If they came into my room to confront me they risked waking me up, proving my theory, and thereby ruining Christmas for everyone. OR, they could go on with their task and pretend it never happened. I couldn't possible get in trouble. I don't think they ever called me on that one; at least not when I was a kid anyways. I know they set the trap off, I was listening for it. I was totally OK with going along with the charade though, for the sake of my naive little brother.

I totally disproved all childhood holiday myths, sometimes painfully (re: Tooth Fairy), by the time I was in second or third grade. Except the Easter Bunny. I didn't bother with that one because it was obviously ludicrous.

All Kid's Shows Should Include Jon Hamm

There are a lot of things right with how wrong this story is. Or rather, this story is wrong in all the right ways. Or something like that. Now you're probably looking at the photo to your left (no your OTHER left) and thinking, "Why do you have a photo of Jon Hamm?" Well, let me tell you a story about how a grown woman's decent into SAHM-ness is now complete.

After lunch Miss A and I decided to watch a little PBS. We had already done a few crafts that day, so I didn't feel guilty thought she earned a little tv time. As long as it was educational, of course. As it turned out Martha Speaks was on, which is a cartoon that teaches new words and their meaning to preschoolers. The dog, Martha, eats some alphabet soup and can now speak. Hence the title. Sure why not? It's not like preschoolers are going to suddenly force Fido to eat can after can of alphabet soup, right? That's ridiculous; they'd never get the cans open.

So we're watching and I'm thinking, "Hey, the voice acting is pretty good! Actually, the writing is too. Weird." Kids shows are usually not known for their award winning writing and voice talents. Then I think to myself, "Hey, I recognize that voice! OMG, that's Jon Hamm!" Important to note, I actually say O.M.G. with a slight hint of valley girl. I'm not proud of this. So I watch the whole thing and it was awesome!




Seriously, is that not funny stuff? So that sad part of this is, and it's also the fantastic part, is I don't even watch Mad Men. I've never seen a single episode despite much goading from friends. I recognized his voice from Chris Hardwick's Nerdist podcast where Jon was a guest. He was super funny and geeky, and that's why I like him! So it's not "OMG you're Jon Hamm from Mad Men!" But, "OMG <insert valley voice> you're Jon Hamm from that podcast I heard once!" So yes, I got excited about a kid's show and started Googling the crap out of it. AND, I reaffirmed my geeky place in the world. Both of which were kinda wrong, but kinda right in all the best ways. Now if you'll excuse me I have another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Favorite Joke

I love jokes and it would be pretty hard to come up with just one favorite. Usually they involve funny voices, hand gestures and impersonations, so don't necessarily translate well written down. I remembered one from high school that I thought was pretty funny so I'll tell you that one.

A fighter pilot is flying over enemy lines when he is shot down and captured. He is badly injured and his captors are forced to amputate his leg.

He begs them, "Please! When you are flying over my home country during one of your raids, would you toss my leg out, so that a piece of me might rest at home?"

They agree to do this and when they next flew over his country they returned his leg. Later he had to have his other leg removed and he asked the same question of them. They agreed once again and returned his other leg to his home county. Yet again, the doctors discovered they had to amputate his arm! He asked them if they could do the same for his arm as his legs. This time they refused.

"Why not?" the pilot asked? "You have done this many times before!"

The commanding officer turned to him and replied, "We think you're trying to escape!"

And we all roll on the ground laughing! Well maybe not, but it could have been a lot worse!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NaBloPoMo - A Cure For Blog Neglect

NaBloPoMo July 2012
 I had been kicking myself lately because I hadn't been regularly posting anything to my blog. There was always something else more pressing to do. Cleaning, watching TV, Pintrest, Facebook...er, well, maybe there really wasn't anything that pressing actually. I guess the problem was I just wasn't making time for it. Even when I had a good topic and partially written it in my head, at the end of the day I just let it drop. I'll do it tomorrow, or the next day, but those days came and went and I wrote nothing. Writing for me was like jam. Jam yesterday,  jam tomorrow, but never jam today. The only thing that got me writing was NaBloPoMo.

I thought that maybe I'd head over the BlogHer and check out the theme for July. I had never used the writing prompts before, but thought I might give it a try this time around. I was pleased to discover that the theme for this month was Kids. Great! I have kids, I even was one once. There should be a wealth of experiences to pull from. Most of the stories told around the family dinner table involve the poorly planned exploits and misadventures of parents, aunts, and uncles. I've heard these stories so many times that they practically write themselves!

The other benefit is that the writing prompts are posted ahead of time. I do have vacation time at some point this month. Ok, not so much a vacation but a change in location. With a view. I can write a head of time so that I don't miss a day or am forced to find a Wi-Fi connection in the woods. Ta Da! I really have no excuse this time. Well, except cleaning, TV, Pintrest, Facebook....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life is Like a Zebra

Something occurred to me the other day. Life is like a zebra. Now that sounds kind of cryptic, and it is, so I'll explain. We all have good days and bad days. Sometimes we might want to rename those "bad" days "challenging" days, because a part of us is totally aware it could be a lot worse. However, while we're in the thick of that can be hard to acknowledge. Whatever the case, those moments in time pass, as many have before, and we have a "good" day. With a certain amount of reflection we realize that we were able to get through the rough spots and they weren't all consuming as previously felt. We overcame and triumphed! Those "good" days, or perhaps even moments, are little islands of positivity. I love my home. I love my perfect kids. I love my life. We are at peace with our lives and our place in them. That's where the zebra comes in.

Depending on your perspective you can see a zebra as a white horse with black stripes, or a black horse with white stripes. How you choose to see the zebra has everything to do with your perspective. Neither is right nor wrong, but illustrates how perspective influences your experience of the same thing. Do you see white stripes or black? Good days come and go, and so do the bad ones. Which stripes do you see? Do you have a happy life with some bad days, or do you have an unhappy one with some good days thrown in? Choosing your perspective and what you focus on really changes how you define your life and the world around you. Do you choose to see good or choose to see bad? I think we all need to shift our focus and acknowledge that we have a much larger and more complex role in defining our own lives and happiness. The world we live in doesn't start outside ourselves, but from within.

Miss. A and I were playing with some tigers and zebras the other day. She sees a black horse with white stripes, I see a white horse with black stripes. Neither of us is wrong, just different. Maybe we can learn something from each other.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

VegChallenge Done. NEXT!

For the month of May I decided to challenge myself and eat vegan for a month. The reasons behind that decision were many and varied. I wanted to improve my health and diet. I'm not an unhealthy person by any means, but there's always room for improvement. Incorporating a more plant based diet into your own eating habits has a huge positive impact on your over all health. I wanted to see this first hand, eating vegan for a month would force me to experiment with foods that were entirely new to me. I also wanted to use it as a learning opportunity. For those that choose a vegan lifestyle what challenges do they face? Our society and culture is very single minded and I suspected there would be many roadblocks that would need to be overcome along the way. Lastly, I wanted a personal challenge and see it through. Not so much as a test of ability but of character. I, and anyone else, has the ability to eat vegan for a week or month or forever if they choose. What I wanted to know was would I, when no one was looking, cheat or cut corners? Like Plato's Ring of Gyges, what I did when no one was there was perhaps more important than the content of the test it's self.

The Internet is a wonderful thing! I found so many fantastic recipes online and I've collected my favorites in a binder. Yeah, I wrote them out in pen on actual paper. Occasionally people still use this medium. I also have a VCR. I use that too. What was really nice about last month was all the variety on the table. I ate lentils, black beans, black eyed peas, bok choy, spinach, and so many other things I don't normally eat. The food was full of colour and flavor. I also found that I didn't waste as much food as I thought I would. We all, at least from time to time, have a fridge full of healthy food that just sits there until it wilts and rots. I found that because I was relying on plants wholly, not just as filler or a side dish, nothing was going to waste. Also a large amount of food was dry, such as pasta, rice, beans, nuts and seeds. These things keep forever. Basically anyways. A lot of what I made was from scratch as well. Only a handful of ingredients and everything easy to pronounce. I made big batches and what I couldn't freeze I ate the next day for lunch. As long as I planned my meals ahead of time everything went smoothly. When I didn't, I paid for it. I learned leaving things to the last minute resulted in a very grouchy me! On a few of these occasions I had trail mix and popcorn for dinner.

Did I feel my health improved? I'd say "yes" for sure. Initially I had headaches and was very hungry, but by the second week that had passed. Normally by 2pm I was worn out and wanted a nap. By the second week I found I had more energy and wasn't tired in the after noons. Lately I also found that my hair and skin looked dull. I chalked it up to being tired and starting to look my age. I just looked and felt tired all the time. By the third week I found not only did I feel better, but I looked better too. Now I'm not one to give myself any sort of compliment, especially physical. I am pretty hard on myself most of the time. However, I found that my hair seemed shinier, my eyes brighter, and my skin had a healthy glow. I suspected that I'd  feel better but I didn't think I'd look better. An unexpected but totally welcome benefit!

I found initially that it was difficult to find foods that had no animal products in them. There was a lot of label reading and wandering around looking lost. Eventually, especially when I found a few meals I liked, it was easier. Most of what I ate was fresh and homemade, not processed. That saved me a lot of time at the store. Eating away from home was probably the hardest. A lot of salads even include meat and dairy! You don't really realize this until you're trying to avoid these foods. They are EVERYWHERE! I can totally appreciate the need for vegan restaurants, bakeries and shops now.  You totally take for granted being able to just sit down at a restaurant and order whatever you want without dissecting the menu. I also felt bad that I had to turn down food while visiting friends and family. I felt like I was insulting them. There's a lot of pressure to accept what's being offered because you don't want to seem rude or difficult. I imagine that this might cause some friction between friends and family and really test your commitment to veganism over the long run. Those who do decide that a vegan lifestyle is best for them don't do so lightly. There is a lot of pressure to undermine those efforts and it take a real commitment and hard work to maintain it.

Ultimately I DID manage to eat vegan for a month. I was pleased to see that I didn't cheat or take any short cuts. My family, especially my husband, kept me on the straight and narrow. I feel that I learned a lot and am much more conscious of what I put in my mouth. I feel more knowledgeable about food and what our bodies need to be, not just healthy, but thrive. I'm definitely going to ensure my diet is mostly plant based in the future because I see what positive changes occur when it is. That being said, my decision to eat more vegan like is more based on health than any ethical leanings. Vegans don't eat anything from an animal, but also avoid any products from an animal. No leather, wool, makeup, even some medicines tested on animals. It's an ethical stance to ban all animal sourced products from their lives. So when I say I was "vegan" for a month, I wasn't really. I feel like there really needs to be two different definitions. The "vegan" that chooses a plant based diet, and the "vegan" that chooses the whole lifestyle and accepts the ethics and morality behind it. They're so very different and not acknowledging that difference seems misleading.

Anyhow, I'm being told I'm typing too much so I'll stop now...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Veg Challenge Week Two

It has been officially two weeks since I started the Veg Challenge! So far so good! There have been a few ups and downs, but those have been relatively minor. I found that the headaches didn't return and nor have I been overly hungry at all. The first week I tended to snack on this and that between meals; this week I've found that I didn't need to do that. My husband has been super supportive and has made sure I kept on track. Just today he was going to make some rice cooked in chicken stock and then, realizing I couldn't eat it, started over again. I wouldn't have made a big deal of it if he hadn't, but he obviously wanted to make sure I reached my goal, so I'm thankful he's keeping me on the straight and narrow.

One of the questions I've been asked since I started is whether I've lost any weight. I suppose the assumption is that you eat mostly salad and rabbit food, but that certainly isn't the case! I may have cut out a number of things from my diet, but I've also added in a number that wouldn't have normally been there. I eat a lot more rice, beans, nuts, potatoes, bread and a handful of other things I wouldn't have previously eaten. I doubt anyone has ever lost a ton of weight eating those on a regular basis. Previously, I would have eaten a small amount of lean meat, fish, veggies, fruit and no fat yogurt. I would have rarely eaten bread, and certainly not white bread, rice maybe once a week maximum, and potatoes maybe once or twice a month. I'd have a better chance of losing weight on my regular diet! I'm more surprised I haven't gained weight! Although, I'll admit, my percentage body fat is down, which definitely counts for something. So unless you have absolutely dreadful eating habits to begin with, eating vegan isn't going to be some magic weight loss plan. As well it shouldn't! Vegans eat this way all the time. Can you imagine being on a diet for the rest of your life? That would be crazy and certainly not healthy!

The highlights of the week included completely botching a huge batch of chili and having dinner at my parents and in-laws where, of course, I wasn't able to partake in what everyone else was eating. My first instance of social "I can't eat that" awkwardness. But no worries, everything worked out.

Well, except the chili. It died a horrible death despite my repeated attempts to resurrect it. It takes a few hours to make, so I decided to start it after the kids were in bed. That meant staying up late, but it would make about six meals, so I figured it was worth the investment of my time. I had made it once before and it was really good.  While it simmered for two and a half hours, I diligently checked on it to ensure it had enough liquid and give it a bit of a stir. Wouldn't you know in the last seven minutes I burned the damn thing! How it happened I don't know. I blame the Internet for distracting me. R.I.P. Chili. I didn't know you well, but you stole three hours of my life I will never get back. And you tasted like crap.

My parents apparently don't read my blog *wink wink*, because they had no idea I wouldn't be partaking it those delicious burgers and delectable lemon meringue pie...drool...sorry. I made myself some roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes to go along with the salad. Lemon meringue pie is my favorite. Insert frowny face. The next day at the in laws I planned ahead better and brought some homemade soup to go with the salad and Italian bread they had. It was a delicious sweet potato, green apple, carrot and leek soup. So good! I'm glad I have more of it in the freezer. The peach pie *may* have had a teeny weeny amount of butter in it, but I can't be held accountable for my own ignorance. Ignorance truly is bliss.

So week two is done like disco and we're on to week three!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Hope Babies Bounce

My cousin just had her first baby yesterday, and Miss. A has been obsessed with it! She LOVES this little baby already. I think it has sparked an interest in babies in general. She's been particularly intrigued with where babies come from and the fact she and her sister were once babies. After mulling it over for a while, she seems to think she's got it all figured out. At least this is what I gather from the conversation we had at bedtime.

"When I'm one I'll be a baby and I'll have one candle." She said firmly.

"You were already one, and you did have a candle. You just don't remember because you were a baby." Tenses are not her strong suit.

"When I was a very small baby I was in your tummy."

"Yes"

"And  <Baby K> she was in your tummy too."

"Yes"

"I was in your tummy and then I popped out"

"Er...yeah, pretty much."

"And <Baby K>, she popped out too. And you caught us"

"No, the doctor caught you"

"And <Baby K> ?"

"Yes, her too."

"He caught us and lots of babies and he juggled us"

"Yea..er...no! You don't juggle babies!"

"Yes you do. In Megamind, Metroman juggled babies."

"Yeah, but that was a cartoon, and HE was a SUPERHERO. Regular people don't juggle babies."

She seemed to think about this. "Yeah, it's too noisy. The doctor should put them down gently."

"That's a much better idea."

The bonus to this odd conversation was it allowed me to skip a few pages of Alice in Wonderland without her noticing. I'm glad we had this conversation now and not once she was kicked out of Med School.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Veg Challenge Week One

A week ago I took my oldest daughter, Miss. A, on a bus ride downtown. Our goal was to have a little adventure together and check out Vegfest. The festival is only in it's fourth year, and one of the most popular attractions was the Cupcake Challenge. So of course it wasn't there the one year we decided to go. Instead it was replaced with the Veg Challenge. The goal of which is to eat an entirely vegan diet for the whole month of May. Right, who wants cupcakes when you can have tofu? However, there would be points awarded and prizes won. Being a SAHM for a good four years now, I'm running out of ways to entertain myself. So, naturally I decided to do this because it would just be to easy to read a book or take up needlepoint. For the record I have a needlepoint pattern in a drawer right now. What the heck do all those symbols mean?

I figured it wouldn't be that hard anyways. Last month we mostly ate what would qualify as "vegan" at dinnertime with the exception of Saturdays. Saturdays my husband cooks, so if it can't go on the BBQ or picked up through the drive through, it isn't eaten. Sure, it would be an adjustment, but hardly a drastic one. I was curious to see if I could successfully go a whole month without slipping up. I like a challenge and was willing to give it a try.

 I've completed the first week and it's gone pretty well.  I'd have to say it isn't as easy peasy as I thought it would be. Here are some of my observations so far:

Plan Ahead!

I never really had a chance to plan what I was going to be eating. I had meant to, but life gets busy and I completely ran out of time. On the first day I figured I'd wing breakfast and then pick up a few essentials at the store later. I had counted on toast with peanut butter and a side of fruit to get me through the morning. As it turned out there was milk in the bread so berries, bananas and water were the only thing on the menu. Not exactly filling!  I was lucky that I had made a few vegan meals earlier in the week and froze them. If I had planned ahead properly I wouldn't have been wandering through the kitchen hungry and wondering what to eat.

Grocery Shopping Is A Pain In The A$$!

Once I did make it out to the store I discovered what a pain it was to find things to eat. You really have to read those labels carefully! I was amazed and frustrated with the number of things that had dairy, eggs, or some sort of meat based product in it. It was sooo hard to find a box of crackers that didn't have milk. Many of the vegetable soups had beef stock. Bread often had some milk, though the usual 12 grain bread I liked was ok, thank goodness! Shopping is much easier if you stay away from processed foods and focus on natural ones. Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and the like. I also found that a lot of the foods in the Asian section were ok too.

Withdrawal Is A Cruel Mistress!

I have had awful headaches for days now! Apparently, as best as I can figure, it's my body detoxing. Or so the Internets have told me. Or it's a tumor. Mind you I feel fine right now, so maybe I'm over the worse of it. Also I am always hungry! I eat around six times a day. Regular meals with snacks in between. If I don't I get super grouchy. You wouldn't like me when I'm grouchy. You must feed the beast! (PS if anyone calls me a beast they will pay dearly!) I assumed I wasn't getting enough calories and/or protein. Which brings me to my next revelation.

Stay Away From Imitation "Regular" Food!

I thought I would make a stir fry for dinner one night and through in vegan chicken. I don't know what the heck is in there, but it's foul! Ha, did you catch that? Fake chicken being "foul"? Sorry. Honestly, if you can't eat meat don't eat imitation meat. It just doesn't taste good and there are plenty of other foods that do. It tasted the way cat food smells. Of course I'm sure there are some people who can pull off miracles, but I'm not one of them.

Things I've Discovered So Far:

I like soy milk. There I said it.
Cashews are the food of the gods
Weekly menus are essential
I'm a better cook than I thought
Life would be easier if there was a vegan grocery store
Make extra everything and freeze it so you're never left stranded wondering what to eat.
Don't freeze salad (I didn't actually do this btw)

So we're on to Week Two now...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Downtown Adventure

This past Sunday I decided to take Miss. A on a little adventure downtown. She spends all her time in the 'burbs, so I thought it would be an exciting treat to explore the Big City for the afternoon. After all, due to my poor planning skills, we would be downtown anyways for her soccer and t-ball class. I mixed up the locations, instead of going around the corner, we in fact had to go twenty or so minutes into the city. We decided to keep going because it doesn't hurt to get out of your backyard every once in and while. After class we boarded the bus that would take us to one of the more popular and busy areas of the city. She was very excited because this would be her first bus ride! Not everyone has her enthusiasm for public transportation.

Loving the bus ride and the fact there's no car seat! Living on the edge!

The area of Ottawa we were journeying to is called The Glebe. The main street that runs through it is full of interesting shops and places to eat. It was bustling with people of all kinds enjoying the cool but sunny weather. Our main excuse for traveling there was to check out Vegfest, a local Vegetarian/Vegan Festival held by the National Capital Vegetarian Association. We're not vegetarian or vegan, but hey, good food is good food. Also we had been trying to eat more health consciously, so this might be a good resource for new menu ideas. Plus I heard that vegan cupcakes had zero calories. I haven't verified that, but it has an air of truthiness about it, and that's good enough for me.

One of Auntie Loo's delicious vegan cupcakes.
We arrived at lunchtime so it was super busy! The line to get in was very long. I guess everyone was looking to fill up on free samples. Great minds think alike, I guess. We decided to adjourn into the next building were a guest speaker was about to start. I sat down at the back, gave Miss. A some water and snacks, and hoped that she would sit still for a decent length of time. Three minutes in she was shuffling and squirming. Four minutes in she asked about half a dozen questions within a breaths time. Five minutes in she loudly proclaimed her need for ice cream. Ah well, it was worth a try anyways!

Everyone sat outside to talk and eat together. This is only a fraction of the people outside.

The line had shrunk quite a bit while we were making a nuisance of ourselves, so it wasn't long before we had made it into the community centre. It was wall to wall people! Poor little girl didn't get an opportunity to see much at first. We made our way to the back and looked at some interesting non-food related tables. She loved the hand made jewelry and tried on nearly every bracelet the woman had on display. Eventually we made it to some of the tables hosting local restaurants and caterers. Miss. A  of course tried all the cookies and treats and thoroughly enjoyed them. We bought two cupcakes, one for each of us, and I also bought some carrot and ginger soup. We took our food outside to enjoy in the sun with the rest of the crowd.

She made many new friends that day. (friends not pictured lol)

There was a fenced in park that belonged to a co-operative daycare where a number of kids were playing. Miss. A got to know the locals while I enjoyed my soup on a bench near by and watched. There were lots of kids of all ages that attended the festival. That being said, it really wasn't an event that had children or families in mind. Sure there were some people who painted faces and made balloon animals, but they were hidden in a corner and absent when I twice went looking for them. I feel the organizers missed a real opportunity to promote their cause to a wider segment of society. Promoting change in an individual is one thing. However once that person is part of a family you need to make it appealing to everyone as a whole. Though I'm sure it's not impossible, I imagine it's much more difficult for one family member to be vegitarian or vegan, while the others are not. It would certainly factor into the decision process if one considered making a change to their own diet or lifestyle. That being said, all the families that did attend were happy and having fun in their own way. I didn't see one fussy short person or temper tantrum. Just a lot of happy people, big and small, enjoying the day and each others company. Miss. A didn't want to leave! She was having so much fun with a special friend she met at the park. They promised each other they would meet again the same time next year. Sooo dramtic!


Alice wanted to say good-bye to the cow, and somehow I got roped into a group shot.


After we said our good-byes it was back to the bus! I think it was a great day out and it was nice to spend some one on one time with Miss. A. We'll have to bring her little sister along in a few weeks to check out the Tulip Festival. I promise there will be ice cream at that one.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pull Apart Dinner Rolls

I don't think I've ever bought dinner rolls before.  I've always made them at home from a number of different recipes. Normally I'd make the dough in the bread maker and then bake them in the oven. The dough cycle takes an hour and a half, plus the dough rises twice before baking for around 12-15 mins. So though the bread maker does a lot of the work, it's still takes quite a bit of time before you're chowing down on warm dinner rolls. Somewhere between two and a half to three hours. They're good, but that's a long time to wait for dinner rolls!

This recipe for pull apart dinner rolls doesn't take anywhere near that long to make, and they taste fantastic to boot.  The bread maker sits and watches while the whole thing is done by hand. I'd say it takes maybe around an hour and a half to make them. The recipe was found on Oh She Glows, a vegan recipe site that has many great ideas in addition to these easy to make rolls. So far I'd say it's my favorite go-to site for recipes that are very accessible, easy to make, and tasty.


Once the dough is made, and it doesn't take long, you let it rise in it's bowl in the oven with the light on. Then you shape the rolls, place them in a greased pie plate and let them rise one more time.  Easy peasy.


After they've risen for the second time they fill the pie plate. The longer you let them rise, the fluffier they will be. If you don't let them rise enough, say nearly double, then they will be a little on the doughy side. Well I thought so, Scott ate three the first time I made them, so maybe I'm just being picky.


Afterward you bake them until they are a golden brown and make your mouth water. It's best to eat them right away, once they've cooled enough of course. They're great on the side with a spread of Earth Balance, butter or margarine. They're also excellent for mopping up stews and dipping in soup!

Here is the recipe from the site and a direct link to it as well. Her photos are terrific and do more then any of the lame photos I post up. Enjoy!

Vegan Fluffy White Dinner Rolls (or Pull Apart Dinner Rolls which I call them. Because I have to be different)


Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or regular)
  • 2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Stick
  • 1 egg replacer (1 tsp egg replacer + 2 tbsp warm water)

Directions:
1) Proof your yeast! In a small bowl mix 2 1/4 tsp of Active Dry Yeast with 1/4 cup of very warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F). Stir and let dissolve. Now add 1 tsp of sugar and stir. Let it sit for a good 5-10 minutes. You will know the yeast is active when it is slightly foamy and smells like bread.
2. In a stand mixer or by hand, add 1 and 1/4 cup of flour, remaining sugar (1 tbsp + 2 tsp), salt, and yeast mixture. Mix briefly for 10 seconds or so. Now, add the remaining very warm water (3/4 cup), slightly melted Earth balance, and egg replacer and mix until smooth. Slowly add in the rest of the flour (1 cup) and mix until smooth.
3. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. I put my bowl of dough in the oven with the light turned on (but not the oven itself!)
4. Grease a pie pan and set aside. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the oven and knead with hands for a few seconds. Divide the dough into 12 balls with hands and place the balls into the pie pan (see image below).
5. Cover pie pan with towel and place back into the oven with light on for another 30 minutes. The rolls will expand and fill the pie pan during this time.
6. After 25 minutes, remove from oven and preheat the oven to 400F. After 5 more minutes, it is time to bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes until golden and fluffy. Makes 12 pull apart rolls.
7. Serve with Earth Balance and enjoy!






Saturday, April 28, 2012

Healthy Recipes that Don't Suck and I Didn't Screw Up.

Part of my "it's-not-really-a-New-Years-Resolution" resolution was to be more healthy. That meant being more active and eating healthfully. So far I think we've been doing pretty well. As such, I've compiled a few of the recipes that have worked out for me. (see the Recipe tab at the top) Or to put it another way, healthy things that tasted good and I didn't totally screw up. Strangely enough, I'm seeing an improvement in my cooking lately. Maybe it's because we are using fresh ingredients more or healthy just tastes better. Of course it could be that I'm actually following a recipe as opposed to making stuff up and not actually caring how it turned out. Hmmm. The more you put effort into something and the more you care, the better things turn out. I should remember that. The vast majority of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan. Frankly we just feel better after we've eaten them. In our old age *cough, wheeze* too much meat and dairy makes us feel kinda yucky lately. My days are too busy to stop for a nap after every meal. I've scoured the internets looking for tasty food and linked back to where I found them so you can explore further if you like. Any how, I hope you try some of them out I'm sure you'll like them.

#7SuperShots: Photos that I love, that mean something to me

A friend of mine, Karen, asked if I would participate in #7SuperShots. You basically post seven photos that are important to you and why. It's apparently a new meme that's been going around and she thought it would be fun for everyone to participate in. Did you see how I used the word meme like I had some idea what that was? Yeah, I'm pretty hip in the ol' blogsphere. Did you catch that one too? No? Hey, we can't all be rock stars. It's ok.


A Photo That...Takes My Breath Away


This was the first time I saw the little girl that was going to turn my life upside down and make me somebody's mother. Up until that point it was still hard to believe that it would actually happen. If someone had told me "sorry lady, we made a mistake, you're not actually pregnant" that would have made more sense to me. That day it really dawned on me, "we're actually doing this!"

A Photo That...Makes Me Dream


This was a photo taken with said little girl during a walk. She's no longer a baby but a little girl looking out to face her future. I wonder what the world holds in store for her and what sort of person she'll be? I dream of a confident young woman bolding going...wherever she wants.

A Photo That...Makes Me Laugh



I get this expression all the time. She's dead serious and frustrated with me, but I find her expression hilarious! I can't help but laugh and it just makes her so mad! Body language says so much, doesn't it?

A Photo That...Makes My Mouth Water


I'm not super good in the kitchen, but I am getting better. These were one of my first successes and were delish! I can't recall, but I really hope I didn't eat them all.

A Photo That...Tells A Story


This is a photo of my first daughter giving me a hug while waiting to meet her sister for the first time. I believe I was in the tenth hour of contractions at that point. Only fifteen more to go! She knew something was up and she would get to meet her soon.

A Photo That...I'm Most Proud Of


This is a photo I took of my husband and daughter number two while on a hike. I'm not a skilled photographer by any means. I have a whole album of photos I took of my thumb. This turned out really nice even if it was pure luck.

A Photo That...Makes Me Think


This is a photo of my daughter on her first day of school. She was so excited to go! I can't help but think if she'll always be this confident and outgoing? She's a very social, kind, and enthusiastic person. Always willing to reach out to those who are more shy or having trouble fitting in. I don't think she'll have trouble "fitting in" as she gets older. I think she'll create her own path and invite everyone to follow her.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup


This as an absolutely fantastic soup! It has a wonderful sweet taste to it and a warmth that is perfect for grey rainy days or crisp fall ones. Normally when I've made butternut squash soup I've blended everything. In this soup the only thing pureed is the squash. The rest of the vegetables are diced which makes it seem all the more hardy. It is probably the best butternut squash soup I've made thus far.


I thought cutting and peeling the squash would be hard. That's a pretty tough skin! Once I peeled a portion off with a knife, I was able to use a regular peeler to finish the job. Of course I didn't figure that out until I tried to peel nearly half of it with the knife first. That took for ever! I'm a slow learner.


After I cut it up into small chunks I boiled it for about 30 mins. Which is good because I've been trying to avoid using the oven. Over ten cents a kwh during peek times, which of course includes dinner time, I don't think so.


Of course I don't have two big pots. No that would be too easy. After putting aside the boiled squash, including the liquid, I cleaned out the pot and cooked the rest of the veggies. Here's a top tip, have two big pots on hand!

After the squash was pureed and added to the rest of the veggies everything smelled great! The combination of fresh vegetables and spices was very inviting when you walk into the room. The recipe I used was from The Green Door Restaurant. Vegetarian Cookbook. It is a local restaurant in Ottawa that has a great reputation for making tasty food. I guess then I shouldn't have been surprised that this soup turned out so well. Other than the obvious point of me being the cook in this case. If you would like to try it, and I recommend you do, here is the recipe. Better yet, why don't you head down to the restaurant and save yourself the dirty dishes?

Ingredients

  • 5 cups butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 1 large diced celery stalk
  • 1 large diced carrot
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger root. (I used half a tsp powder and it still tasted great)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • pinch of cayenne (optional but I used it)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 bay leaves.
Cook squash in water until tender, approximately 30 mins. Do not drain.
Heat olive oil in soup pot on medium high heat. Add onions and cook until transparent Add celery, carrot, leek, ginger, and cayenne. Add 1-2 cups of liquid from cooked squash. Cook on low heat until vegetables are soft: 20-30 minutes. Add salt to taste.

In a blender, blend the cooked squash with remaining liquid and combine with soup in pot. Add bay leaves. Adjust seasoning. Bring to a boil again on low hear. Serve.

Serves 8-10






Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mac N' Cheese, Hold the Cheese.


Lies, all LIES!



 I've been trying lately to get our meals on a healthy footing. This has meant researching different recipes and making weekly meal plans. Oh so much fun! I've had a few successes and a few failures. We don't need to talk about the gluten free skillet cornbread. It's best if we all forget that ever happened. I think it made Scott feel sick and I actually refused to eat it. That was probably the only sound judgement made during the whole affair. Oh well. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right? Scott would have disagreed with that I think.

Ideally I would LOVE if the kids ate what we ate. Especially seeing as we've decided to improve our diet. So far they've ate every new thing I've feed them! What? No, you read that right. Miss. A, the worlds pickiest eater, has eaten everything I've presented her with so far. Baby K? Well if it is even technically classed as food she'll eat it. Thank goodness for that! Now don't get me wrong. We've never eaten poorly. As a whole I'd say we are pretty healthy eaters to begin with. Most things have been whole foods as opposed to processed, and a lot of things have been homemade. Where we've fallen short is in the variety department. There is always room for improvement. The goal is now to add more variety to our diet. There is a whole world of healthy foods out there to benefit from.

A kid friendly staple is of course Kraft Dinner. With that in mind today I made Mac n' Cheese for the family. It contains no actual cheese though. Which is the sneaky part. Just lots of healthy things I wouldn't normally be able to get the kids to eat.  Potatoes, onions, cashews, carrots and a few other things all mixed together. As soon as I put it on the table in front of them I held my breath. Would they eat it? OMG! THEY'RE EATING IT! I tried to look all nonchalant about it like why wouldn't they eat it? They had NO IDEA! It was awesome. Any who, I found this recipe on a food blog in case you are interested. It's called The Brazen Kitchen, and there are definitely a few other recipes I'm going to check out.

Here is the recipe that I used. Enjoy!

Mackin’ Cheese

(Ersatz and Enjoyable all at the same time)
Serves 6 but I ALWAYS double this. Because, well, why not?
Based on VegNews’ Macaroni and Cheese
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt
8 ounces macaroni or penne pasta
4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup water
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance soy-free)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.
Gourmetzations:
- drizzle with truffle oil right before serving
- Add some finely chopped spinach or kale when you toss the sauce and noodles together
- Add chopped garlic and some garlic powder to the breadcrumb mixture to make a garlicky topping
- Top with minced chives and/or parsley
- If you want a smoky flavor, add ¼ tsp of smoked Spanish paprika to the sauce mixture
- Saute leeks AND leek greens and fold into the sauce and noodle mixture

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener. Except on our lawn.

This fantastic topic is brought to you by my darling husband Scott! I imagine it is inspired by the realization today that our lawn is...umm...total crap. Honestly it looks dreadful! You know the grass you walk on after a concert or on a school playground? Well ours looks only slightly worse than that. I think the only way to save it is to rip it up and re-sod the whole thing. It's a pity really, we have a nice corner lot and lots of space, but the grass is just not showing it off like it could. So we went to Canadian Tire today and bought grass seed; like we do every year. It won't grow; like it doesn't every year. I asked why do we bother doing the same thing if we know it won't work? "It works a little, we just have to do it every year." It doesn't work. The grass looks like a balding man trying to grow a few straggly hairs on his head. Or better yet, Scott trying to grow facial hair. Patchy and thin. Bazzinga!

However, it's not just the lawn. Scott has proclaimed this year The Year Of Home Improvement! (Best read in a monster truck announcer voice.) The hedge will be reclaimed from the wild. The lawn made thick and lush. The garage painted. The gardens landscaped and less weedy. The counter tops will lose their pink complexion and take on something in keeping with this century. Curtains would be nice; very nice. At the very least it would be nice to lose the forest green blinds. Yuck! The deck needs tending to, but it will have to wait until next year. Hopefully no one will fall through between now and then.

I admire his can-do attitude! It would be nice to see a few positive changes around the house.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yummy Treats That I Didn't Screw Up

The other day I was looking for something to do with Miss.A. It was a rainy, cold, I-don't-want-to-go-anywhere kind of day. I had been lurking around on the Internet, as I often do, and came across an amazing looking recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies. It happened to be a vegan recipe that used an egg replacer instead of eggs. Which was great because I only had one egg in the house. They looked super yummy and there wasn't a whole lot of calories in them. Which is good, because I'd probably end up eating twelve of them.  After a whole day of fiddling with it, I came to the conclusion I was using the wrong egg replacer (well I think I was), and gave up for the day. However I'm not defeated, I'll eat you at some point my pretties.

Instead I found a recipe that used most of the ingredients I already had out. At Cooks.comI found a recipe for Paula's Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies. I'm not a big fan of chocolate cookie but these turned out really well! I think it was the mint that really made them. Miss. A had no trouble helping me make them and it didn't take very long to do. We were enjoying cookies for dessert fresh out of the oven. The best way to eat them, and my Dad had the same idea, was with a big cold glass of milk. The mint and the cold milk together just made the whole experience. Baby K now knows how to say "cookie" with very little problem!
Here is the recipe from the site:

Paula's Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies

1 1/2 sticks of butter or 3/4 cups
1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspon peppermint
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Cream butter, sugars, beat in eggs and spices. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F on a greased cookie sheet


ream butter, sugars, beat in eggs and spices. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees on greased cookie sheet.

The next morning I found that we pretty much had NO food in the house. I had no idea what we were going to eat. No milk. No bread. No eggs. No fruit. We also had to eat quickly because we had places to be that day. I thought I would see if we could make muffins, maybe add some frozen berries in or something. I looked through a cook book...wait let me stop and explain. A "cook book" is a book that people used to look up recipes and how to cook them before the Internet. If you're still not sure what I'm talking about just Google it. Anywho, I found a recipe in The Joy of Cooking that I thought might work. "Basic Reduced-Fat Muffins" didn't use milk but yogurt instead. I just happened to have some non-fat strawberry yogurt left so I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try. The turned out really well! Two recipes in a row? What were the chances? And apparently each have only 4 grams of fat! Though I'm sure you were supposed to use plain yogurt, the strawberry added a nice subtle flavor to the muffins. It also had big chucks of berry throughout which baked in nicely. Usually when I add berries  the muffin around it doesn't cook evenly. This time no problems at all. It was a very quick and easy recipe. You could easily buy different flavors of yogurt to use depending on your taste. They were very moist as well and perfect for a quick bite for breakfast. I'll probably make them again. Here is the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I used:
Basic Reduced-Fat Muffins


Position rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the over to 400 degrees F. Grease or line a standard 12-muffin pan with paper cups.
Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:
2cups of flour
1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda if using yogurt instead of milk
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional. I didn't use it)

Whisk together in another bowl:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or 3 1/2 tablespoons warm melted unsalted butter (I used butter)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of non-fat milk or 1 cup of non-fat yogurt (Obviously I used yogurt)


Add flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix; the batter will be light but fairly stiff and will not be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with:
Cinnamon and sugar (optional. I didn't but I think it would be really good)


Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, about 12 minutes. (or longer for variations with fruit.) Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. If not serving hot, let cool on the rack. Serve as soon as possible, preferably within a few hours of baking.