Reflections on Christmases past

Holidays mean different things to different people.

You may be a part of the camp that cannot wait to have every relative you know (and a few you never knew you had) under your roof to take part in food and conversation for days on end. Your home is decorated from top to bottom before December starts and you may have eggnog pulsing through your veins.

You may be in the camp that these festive times cause you great stress and feelings of inadequacy because you aren’t decorated like Martha Stewart and goodness knows your family situation is nothing Norman Rockwellesque at all and you would prefer to just be left alone until December 26th, pleaseandthankyouverymuch.

Is either one right? Is either one wrong? Can you belong to both camps?

Growing up, I recall putting our tree up on Christmas Eve while listening to either Nana Mouskouri or Elvis Presley. We would watch Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol and head to bed not long after that movie ended. As the old handmade ornaments came out of storage and found a spot on the tree, the stories filled the room. I always wondered why my parents never threw away the styrofoam ball covered in green glitter and stabbed  mercilessly with toothpicks. It resembled a crude sputnik.

My grandmother would be in baking mode for weeks, maybe even months, before Christmas, making sausage rolls, meat pies, nuts n bolts snack mixes, rum balls and so on. All these baked goods were off limits until all the relatives were under our roof. Truthfully, I was not a fan of the meat pies or the sausage rolls, but because they were a limited run, they were somehow more desirable and I would stuff them in like they were providing me with life itself.

My parents gave us a beautiful tree the year we were married. It was 7′ tall and so full, I could not wrap my arms around it’s circumference. I used to decorate our tree in different styles every year when my kids were young. One year, it was wrapped in wide ribbons. One year, it was done up with only lights. There was probably close to 1500 lights on it. Yes, it gave off warmth because this was pre-LED bulb days. One year, I made chocolate chip cookies and hung them on the tree. As guests came over, they were to remove a cooky on their way home, thus helping me undecorate. No lights were turned on that year, as they melted the chocolate chips (lesson learned the hard way).

Many cats later, my tree has seen better days. No, they did not pee on it or the skirt, but they did find themselves up inside the tree, bending the support branches. My majestic 7′ tree, which used to fill a room, now resembles a Dr. Suess tree, as almost all the branches are in a downward sweep with visible bald spots.

As the ornaments get hauled out, we too share the memories of the toddler fashioned decorations. The first year we had a child-made decoration for our tree, I got it. I understood why my folks did not chuck out the green glittered sputnik or any of the other things my brother and I had made. These signified milestones in our lives. Looking at the toilet roll Christmas cracker that is covered in scrap pieces of foiled paper and fruit-smelly markers, I recall the teacher they had and the friends that were a part of our lives that year. These associations are not unlike the ones an archeologist makes when unearthing  traces of civilizations. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have at least one glitter macaroni ornament or a paper Santa on their tree.

In my gluten-filled days, I baked like a fiend. I was often up until the wee hours of the morning, washing dishes, making dough, decorating snowmen and all kinds of other stuff. It was common for me to make 10-12 different types of cookies and gift them to friends, everyone getting a variety of each type. I made sugar cookies, gingerbread dudes, candy cane twists, fudge, pfeffernuise, rum balls, snowballs, lumps of coal and on and on. I would buy New Year’s Eve party hats, line them with parchment paper and fill them, cone-style, with treats for the kids who lived on our street. Each kid got their own cone of cookies, so no one had to share their goodies with their mom or dad.

I would spend hours and days shopping at the malls finding lots of things for everyone on my list. I was there on Boxing Day, getting a jumpstart on the next year’s shopping requirements. I never dared tally my spending as I knew it was ridiculous. Wrapping the presents took me days. Each wrapped gift was a work of art. I didn’t like to use the same paper on any two gifts. Everything was wrapped in a box. Sometimes, a box within a box. I used to made custom bows for each package, a lesson from one of my many awesome aunts. I was supporting our economy almost single-handedly.

My gifts have shifted to ways to share time and memories instead of something from a store. My baking template has also changed. I no longer do these things in excess because it is expected of me. I’d rather spend that time reminiscing with family over a coffee, wine or kombucha. Wrappings are trappings and we are better off without them.

Perhaps that ol’ Grinch knew something after all.

 

 

 

 

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Because who doesn’t want another cooky recipe?

Are you part of Team Pumpkin Spice Everything? Or do you give it a wide berth?

Pumpkin Spicers.

They are a breed of their own. Those who support pumpkin spice this and that are like people and certain actors. I think you know what I’m talking about here. Take Adam Sandler for example. You either love him and his movies or you can’t stand him. The same goes with Andy Samberg. It’s love or hate. Hey! I just noticed they have the same initials. Hmmm, coincidence? Me, I am not a Tom Cruise fan. I enjoyed his character in Tropic Thunder, but that is one of the few roles I can think of that I liked. But, this isn’t about actors I like, this is about the Great Pumpkin debate Charlie Brown.

I’ve made pumpkin soup. I’ve made pumpkin spice chia pudding. I’ve made pumpkin spice fat bombs. I’ve made pumpkin spice bread. I’ve made pumpkin spice coffee. You get the idea. I am a card-carrying member of Team Pumpkin Spice.

From my sugar consuming past, you know that I love me a cooky. Armed now with a bit of understanding of how refined sugar is processed by the body, if I can make said cooky  with stuff that is better for me, well, that is a win. Enter these pumpkin spice macaroons. There are almost as many variations of said pumpkin spice blends as there are pumpkin spice goods. All you have to do is google it to see what I mean. Find a combo you like and make your own. Then you are free to sprinkle that magic dust into everything.

At first, I thought, hmmm, coconut and pumpkin spice? How will this pan out? Will there be too many conflicting tastes? So as with most things, once the house was empty, I started pulling stuff out of the pantry and went to work. If they didn’t turn out, only the compost bin and I would be any the wiser. Seeing as I have this post, you know these did not disappoint. They are not sweet, but they do hit the spot when “a little something” is needed. Those tiny chips do the trick.

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip macaroons:

  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 4 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey, pure maple syrup or molasses (molasses will make for a darker cooky as pictured above)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips ( I use Enjoy Life but cacao nibs would also be amazing)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the spices into the coconut shreds. Stir the melted coconut oil into the shreds and set aside.

Process the pumpkin, chia seeds, coconut milk, honey (or maple syrup/molasses) and vanilla in a blender until everything is well incorporated. Add to the coconut mixture and stir well. Mix the chocolate chips in last to minimize any potential melting or smearing of chocolate.

Line a cooky sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. I use my trusty 1/4 cup cooky scoop and pack the “dough” well. If you don’t pack them tightly, they are likely to fall apart on you either during the baking or removing from pan step. These do not spread out at all during baking so you can place them as close together as you like.

Bake 22-25 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack (carefully!) to let them finish cooling completely. They are very fragile at first, but firm up more once fully cooled. Again, this is why it is important to really pack the dough.

I get 12 big cookys, (because that is how I like my cookys – BIG!) but feel free to make them whatever size you like and adjust baking times accordingly.

 

Cauliflower, Mother Nature’s blank canvas 

Cauliflower.

It is finally getting the spotlight it deserves. This crazy versatile veg can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. The trick is the prep.

When this is in season, you can get a head for a decent price. The last one we bought was crazy, stupid big. It was probably a 12-14″ in diameter. I’m not exaggerating. This was a huge ball of cruciferous goodness. It was like siamese triplets of cauliflower, if that can be a thing.

We almost forgot it in the fridge, if you can believe it. It got pushed to the back, behind some turkey leftovers and bags of kale. Now, if you have read any of my other posts, you are aware of my feelings towards wasting food. Even if the cauliflower was only $2.99, that is $3 I am not willing to throw away.

I spotted the behemoth and yarded it out. With my trusty Shun knife in hand, I went to work and performed some veggie surgery. After washing, peeling and coring, there were a few small dark spots that had to be excised.

I split the florets into three bowls. One for those florets that were still flawless for making buffalo style cauliflower bites. One for the limp bits and core pieces for making the mash and the third bowl for the pieces I intended to rice.

Cauliflower mash:

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into uniform pieces (use the core too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (to consistency)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place a steaming rack into a large pot. Add the cauliflower and whole garlic cloves, cover and steam til fork tender.

Process the garlic, cauliflower and salt using the S-blade in your food processor and drizzle the EVOO in via the feed tube until it all comes together in the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower rice:

Save your knuckles, use your food processor with the large shredding attachment. I spread my “rice” on a parchment lined cooky sheet and froze it like that. Once all the individual pieces are frozen, I store them in a large freezer ziploc bag and can pull out a handful or two as I need it.

 

How to enjoy liver

Liver? Enjoy? Do those words belong in the same sentence?

Yes, yes they can, should and do go together.

My early memories of eating liver saw it dredged in flour with paprika, salt and pepper. My mom would fry up some bacon in our cast iron skillet first. Once the bacon was cooked, it was put on a paper towel covered plate then into the oven to stay warm. The sliced onions went into the bacon grease to carmelize. Onions out, plated with the bacon to keep warm and the pieces of coated liver in. Back then, I didn’t care for the smell of cooking onions, so I was scarce in the kitchen but I recall being slightly horrified at the smells.

I remember being told it was good for me. The texture and flavour did not strike the chords of my young palate but I ate it nonetheless. Does that make me an obliger?

A lot of time and life was spent eating less than ideal foods. Stupid amounts of chocolate cereals with chocolate milk poured on them. Daily trips to the bakery when I was in junior high school to buy cannolis and other pastries. Fast forward to now. The quest to eat food rich in nutrients, respecting my wallet, supporting local economy when I can, all compete for the forefront of my decision making process.

Quality organ meats can be hard to come by.  My solution? I bought a quarter of a steer. Again, my thoughts went, “what have I done? A quarter of a steer? That is a LOT of meat. Will my freezer hold it all?” Sometimes I do crazy stuff. I got really excited as the day approached to get my delivery. Thankfully, I had a back-up freezer. my parents conveniently decided to buy a new upright freezer. Needless to say, it is chockablock full with the beef I couldn’t store at my place.

Which quarter did I get? My meat-dealer did a combination where she mixed up the front and hind cuts so I got both in my order. I let her know that I was willing to take the liver, heart, kidneys, tongue and bones if no one else was interested in them. Guess who hit the offal jackpot? Yep! This gal. I honestly am pretty excited to have these pieces in my possession.

I’m here to tell you beef liver is huge. I figured it would be, but I was surprised at how many packages I got in my order. Thankfully, it was packaged into one pound parcels for me. My tastebuds flashed back to the texture of pan fried liver and are voiced their concern about consuming this without disrespecting the animal (insert gagging and retching noises here).

Camouflage!

There are a few extra steps involved in making these, but the end result is totally worth the effort and ooky mess of liver purée in your food processor. You need to have some mashed cauliflower handy too. Again, worth the effort to shoehorn some veg in an unlikely location. Since I do not use breadcrumbs, the mashed cauliflower prevents these from being heavy and dry.


Meatballs delivered:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound beef liver
  • 1 cup mashed cauliflower
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried mushroom powder (I pulse mine in the food processor or blender)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350

Pulse the liver in your food processor using the S-blade. It will get quite liquidy and that is ok. You want to make sure all the liver is broken down to help with the camouflage maneuver you are about to execute.

In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, liver purée, cauliflower mash, dried mushroom powder, onion, garlic, parsley, coconut flour, salt and pepper. Mix well and let rest 5 minutes for the coconut flour to absorb some of the moisture.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. I usually make mine about 1 1/2 – 2” in diameter raw. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, flipping them over at the halfway point.

I freeze leftovers individually on a cooky sheet then put them all together in a freezer ziploc bag. This way, I can pull out as many as I need at a time.

Stock it to me, baby

Bone broth.

In the good ol’ days, it was simply called stock. Bone broth is a way cooler. Makes you sound tough. You drink liquid made from steeping animal bones. Yeah, bone tea.

Modern life and our self imposed sense of being “too busy” to make food for ourselves, saw the creation of stock powders and concentrates. Flip a cap or crumble a cube and voila! Stock is made. The flavour is there but often a long list of ingredients is on the label. Plus, have you ever noticed how salty store-bought stuff is?

On my Leaky Gut journey, I learned that quality stock, rich in collagen, is very healing. So I’m all for drinking it on its own and using it as a soup base. Buying good, ready made stock in the store can be a bit pricey, so a quick bit of research on the big beautiful world wide web (aka: google that shi!t) and I figured it was something I could do.

There are many iterations of crafting this liquid. Some methods will have you roast the bones in the oven first. Others will call for damn near every vegetable in the fridge. Both of these versions sounded way too complicated and involved for me. Remember, this is a lll about being easy and tasty. If it ain’t easy, I’m not likely to do it ever again.


Dig out your big crockpot for this.

Easy bone broth:

  • Couple pounds of quality beef bones
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (you won’t taste it)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Ready for this? Dump everything into your crockpot and put on high for 10 hours. Turn it to low for another 14 hours.

Strain and portion to freeze. Repeat the 24 hour cycle with fresh water, fish sauce, ACV, garlic, salt and pepper.

Don’t chuck the bones yet! Some folks like to freeze stock in glass jars, some prefer big plastic containers. I freeze mine in my silicone muffin pan. This gives me 1/4 cup measures of broth, perfect for recipes. Once they are frozen, I pop out the golden pucks of goodness and store them in heavy duty freezer bags.

The type of bones I use will dictate if I can run them through a second or sometimes third time. Beef bones with marrow and knuckles should be good to run through three times before they are tapped out. Pork bones are usually good for two runs. Turkey and chicken bones tend to be much finer in composition and usually give up all their collagen-y goodness after the first 24 hour run.

Lard have mercy

I bought half a pastured pig earlier this year from a local farmer.

After placing my order, my first thought was, “Ohmygosh! What have I done? That is a ton of meat! I’ll never get through all of it without being sick and tired of pork.” Then, there was the money I was going to shell out at one go. I was getting panicky. I almost called to cancel my order.

I have learned over time, that what something costs and what it is worth are often two vastly different things. After my journey to heal my Leaky Gut, I learned how much food quality matters. I decided I was willing to make this investment. I am so happy I did. She asked what cuts of roast I wanted, how thick I wanted my chops, what size packs of ground pork would work for me. The quality of meat is above and beyond what you buy in the meat aisle. The fat in the meat is divine. Everything just melts in your mouth. The money I spent went into the pocket of an actual person that I know, not a faceless corporate conglomerate. Investing in local farms helps support your local economy too. It cuts down on the carbon footprint needed to move goods across the country. Win-win.

To honour and respect the animal I was going to consume, I asked to be given bones for pork stock (which produced really good flavour in case you were wondering. Lighter than a beef stock but more depth than chicken or turkey stock) and some leaf fat so I could try my hand at rendering lard. Working my way up to nose-to-tail.

Making lard was really easy to do and I am pleased with how well it turned out.

I cut the sheets of raw fat into smaller strips and pieces to help speed up the cooking process. In hindsight, I should have run it through the meat grinder attachment on my Kitchenaid stand mixer to get smaller, uniform pieces of fat. Next time. . . (and yes, there will be a next time)

All the fat went into my large, oval crockpot. The lid went on, temperature set to high and walk away for 8-10 hours. I gave it the occasional stir if I found myself in the kitchen. As the fat cooks down, the pieces darken and begin to settle to the bottom of the crockpot. To quote Porky Pig, “that’s all folks.” (sans stutter)

I let the hot lard cool slightly and then strained it through a cheesecloth covered sieve. Don’t throw those bits out! You’ll see why soon. The lard is a deep, honey colour when it is hot. I set my glass mason jars on a wire rack to help the liquid cool. Once it was room temperature, I put the lids on and popped them in the fridge to finish solidifying. The finished lard is a beautiful, creamy white bit of heaven.

What do I use it for? The question is, what don’t I use it for? This takes my fried eggs to a whole new level. Kale chips get kicked up a notch. Sautéed meat and veggies never had it so good.

Let’s get back to those little porky bits in the cheesecloth. I threw mine in the cast iron skillet to really crisp them up. You want those bad boys to be crunchy. Be sure to season them well with some salt and pepper or whatever your go-to spice blend may be. These made for some happy snacking while they lasted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate un-recipe recipe

Truth time.

The first time I tried coconut butter or coconut manna, I was seriously underwhelmed. I had read so many testimonials about how good it was, how creamy and tasty it was. People ate it by the spoonful. They spread it on apple slices. How it satisfied a sweet craving, blah, blah, blah. It sounded like it was right up my alley.

I bought some of this “magic”. I grabbed a small spoon and tried to dig into the jar I had shelled out some pretty hefty coins for. The spoon stopped dead without making a dint in the product. It was rock hard.  Nothing smooth and spreadable here. Out came a pointed knife to get some chippings to sample. The expensive white stuff flew all over the counter and I damn near lost a fingertip (if anyone has ever seen me wield a knife ~ it ain’t pretty).  After some cursing and swearing and collecting the scattered debris from the counter and possibly a few crumbles from the floor (5 second rule), I got enough to put on my spoon. My heart and mouth were experiencing great anticipation. Drumroll please. . .

Meh.

There was a lot of swallowing to try to get it down. You’ve seen videos of dogs eating peanut butter and all the lip smacking and chop licking that goes on, well, that was the situation I found myself in. It felt like it was stuck in my throat. My palate felt coated. I grabbed my water. Nope. That did not really help things much. Time eventually helped clear the pasty feel from my mouth. Hmmm. I looked at the jar again and thought, well, I won’t be buying that again anytime soon. The jar sat in the cupboard a long while after that day. I eventually found a few recipes that used most of it up.

Even though I was eating a pretty decent template, I was still eating a lot of sugar in the treats I was baking. I have since learned gluten free does not equal healthy. There are a lot of crappy things that are labelled gluten free. Ahhh, marketing and all the sexy buzz words.

Diving into the deep end of the  Paleosphere was probably one of the best things I have done for myself. I refined my food template to be simple, real food. There have been lots of benefits. I have noticed I sleep much better. I experience fewer headaches. My energy is great. I am clear minded. Dare I say, I feel more confident? Yes, yes I do.

My clear and focussed mind reflected back to the coconut manna in the cupboard. I grabbed a spoon and retrieved the jar from behind the butter dish. The warm weather had softened it to a much more thick and spreadable consistency. I was able to actually scoop a spoonful instead of hacking it out.

It was divine. It was smooth and creamy. It was decadent. I savoured it. I had to stop myself from double dipping into the jar to get a second spoonful. Yeah, I’m a believer.

 

I’m also a little on the stingy side, so doling out a lot of money for something I can make at home with a little effort, drives me crazy. Yes, the consistency of the homemade manna is not the same as a store bought one, but, the cash in my pocket is ok with that. Go grab your food processor. You know, that appliance you bought and now store under the counter because you don’t know what to do with it.

Coconut butter/manna:

  • 4 cups of shredded unsweetened coconut (yup, only one ingredient)

Place the coconut in the food processor with the S-blade. Process the coconut, stopping to scrape the sides frequently. After a while, the magic will happen. The shreds will break down and release their fat and oil. The coconut will begin to liquefy slightly. Think of quicksand. This can take a bit of time. The first time I made it, it took close to 45 minutes. The quickest time was 25 minutes. You could add vanilla or cocoa powder if you wanted to change the flavour, but, I am a bit of a purist, so I keep mine as is.

One thing to note, this stuff sets up hard, like concrete. That is the nature of coconut oil and cool temperatures. Cool weather = hard coconut oil/butter/manna. Need it softer? Immerse your jar in a bath of warm water or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds.

When lazy grabs you by the throat

We all have been there.

A day of doing nothing easily becomes two because it seems like so long since you had nothing on your agenda. Day three gently taps you on the shoulder and whispers you back to the comfy chair and another cup of coffee. Days four, five and six of sluggishness coax your hand to the potato chip bag and perhaps a cider or two in the evening. We arrive at the weekend and seven, eight and nine beg you to wring every drop of relaxation out of the weekend. This time, they lead you to the deep freeze for some ice cream. Maybe the evening involves tequila? Suddenly, you fall on your head from your sloth-like perch and realize you have not been productive for weeks. I also blame Netflix, for it too plays a huge role in the distraction game.

Ugh. . . such is my situation.

Lists. Yes. Put pen or pencil to actual paper and write down what you need to do. Write everything down. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you write. Be specific in your tasks though. Don’t just write “clean”. Break it all into manageable tasks. Clean ensuite. Clean downstairs bathroom. Sweep kitchen floor. The Devil is in the details. Then as you knock off a task, tick it off. Scratch it out. Give yourself the credit for completing a chore.

That’s what I did today. I feel so much more in control of my day off. I got a lot of stuff done. Dinner made for tonight. Marinade prepped for dinner tomorrow. Breakfast hash in the fridge for the morning. House vacuumed. Floors washed. Empty bottles and cans collected into large recycling bags. All this completed before 2:00 and I didn’t start until 10:30 this morning.

Having the drudge work done today, will free up my weekend for funner stuff. (Yes, I am aware funner isn’t really a word, but as I have mentioned before, I like to break the grammar rules as I see fit.)

After writing out my list of things to do, I prioritized them. Food first. It had to be in the crockpot for 8 hours, so dinner was task numero uno. After getting food in the crockpot completed, I whipped up a marinade for dinner tomorrow. The chicken has to marinade for up to 12 hours and I did not want to be running my Blendtec at 6:00am. Come morning, I only need to dump the marinade on the chicken and pop it back into the fridge. When I get home from work, into the oven it goes. Boom! While I had all my stuff out, I figured I’d throw a breakfast hash together. Just a little something different to go with my eggs. Or, it may be part of breakfast for the weekend. Oh who am I kidding? This will likely be lunch at work tomorrow.

This definitely fit the criteria of easy and tasty.

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Breakfast hash:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced (the white ones, the orange ones are yams)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of green beans, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 teaspoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon Nom Nom Paleo Magic Mushroom Powder (this is indeed magical stuff, you owe it to yourself to make it)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lard, ghee, coconut oil or whatever good fat floats your boat

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet, breaking it into small pieces. Add your fat to the pan. Toss in the diced sweet potato and carrots. Try to chop your potato and carrot the same size for even cooking. Season with the Magic Mushroom Powder and coconut aminos. When the sweet potato and carrots are just fork tender, add the green beans. They will cook quickly and if you add them too soon, they lose their bright colour and get all wilty. No one likes a soggy green bean. Add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add a nice poached or fried egg on top. Mmmmm, I can picture the yolk oozing all over this. . .

 

 

Let’s talk about manners and some grown up fruit chews

Manners.

Not everyone has them. Ok, maybe that statement is incorrect. Everyone has them, however, not everyone has good manners. Some folks have downright bad ones.

Why?

What sense of entitlement provides folks with the self-proclaimed right to treat others poorly? The art of communication is falling by the wayside. We are so self-absorbed, we no longer hold doors open for the folks behind us. People don’t say “good morning” anymore. Speaking in complete and coherent sentences is a dying art. (Please remember the disclaimer that the grammar manipulations in my posts are intentional. I love me my frags and the occasional made-up word.)

When someone asks how you are, do you answer them and thank them for asking? Or do you steamroll your thoughts out without hearing or listening to the other person? Or worse yet, do you talk over the top of them? Keep it up and pretty soon, folks will stop talking to you.

Texting, swiping, scrolling, tweeting, snapping and storying during a conversation is just plain rude. For goodness sake, put the phone down when you are with another person.

Alright, my disjointed rant is over. Deep breath in, let it out slowly. Let’s move on to more pleasant things.

Berry season is a magical time. Mother Nature supplies us with a beautiful, colourful bounty of bite sized, sweet treats. We gorge ourselves until we start looking like them. (I’m picturing Violet Beauregard, aren’t you? Such a prefect specimen of a spoiled, petulant individual.) Then one day, we have a fridge full, and we aren’t devouring them with the same ferocity we did at the start of the season. Now what? Some folks freeze surplus berries with the intention of making smoothies. Hands up, how many have a freezer full of bags of frozen, freezer-burnt fruit that is biding its time until garbage day?

I have a better idea for using the berries that are getting past the point of tasty snacking. Grown up fruit chews. These definitely meet the criteria of being easy and tasty. Think of jello, but with made real food instead of a box of chemicals and food dye.

Strawberry mango chews:

  • 3 cups quartered strawberries
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup gelatin ( I use Vital Proteins)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water to dissolve the gelatin

Puree the strawberries, mango and lemon juice in a high powered blender. Pour the fruit mixture into a saucepan and heat over medium low. In a small bowl, whisk the gelatin in the boiling water to dissolve. Slowly whisk the dissolved gelatin into the fruit puree and heat to a simmer (approximately 5 minutes).

Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8″ baking dish. I use a glass dish and do not need to grease it. If you want thinner chews, use a larger dish. You could also use a silicone gummy mold to make fun shapes. Pop it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. I cut mine into squares and keep them in an airtight container for about 5 days. Honestly though, they never last that long in my fridge.

Three words that can make your blood run cold, oh and crockpot chicken for days

What’s for dinner?

I’m pretty sure that phrase is said all over the world. It may come over the phone, via text or you may be bombarded by those words the minute you walk in the door from work. It doesn’t matter what language you speak either. The question is always the same. Oftentimes the knee-jerk reaction is anger and frustration because we didn’t prepare in advance.

We know we are going to eat every day, right? Why don’t we plan for it?

If you have mental roadblocks and struggle to create dinner ideas out of thin air, then you need to start adding structure your eating reperatoire. Get some paper and a pen (or pencil if you feel ink is too scary and permanent and smacks of commitment). Grab some cookbooks or grab your mouse and start cruising for meal inspirations. Throw cookbooks at your family and ask them what they feel like helping you make. Food is a two-way street, people. If you eat, you need to help make it or help clean up at the very least. Every cookbook I own has a multitude of post-it notes sticking out from recipes I think sound appealing. Some of my post-its include hand-written notes such as ‘make again’ or ‘this was awful, do not make ever again’. Write out the recipes that spark interest and jot down the ingredients. Remember to write out the quantities needed too. You don’t want to have to run out again for something you forgot. In our technology infused world, I suppose the easiest thing to do is to snap a picture of the ingredient list with your phone camera and you are away to the store.

This summer has been stupidly hot. Plus, parts of our province have been ravaged by wildfires, so the smoke has held the heat in and made it worse. Who wants to spend hours in the kitchen cooking in the heat? Not me! Out comes the crockpot and my life is happy once again. Remember the BBQ sauce from a few posts back? We are going to use that as a base for this chicken dish.

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BBQ crockpot chicken:

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8)
  • 1 batch of BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

Whisk the oil and spices into the BBQ sauce. Layer the chopped onion into the bottom of the crockpot. Place the chicken on the onion and cover everything with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Take the chicken out, shred with two forks and stir in as much sauce as you like.

I like to put this on spaghetti squash as an alternative to a traditional meat sauce. It is also fantastic in a paleo-style wrap like the recipe by Otto’s Cassava Flour or in butter lettuce cups. The leftover chicken and sauce also makes for a damn fine pizza that does not need cheese. Add some leftover chicken to a breakfast casserole or savoury egg muffins. This one minimal effort prep can give you at least 4 totally different meal ideas. If you still have some sauce leftover after the chicken is gone, use it on roasted cauliflower or coat chicken wings with it.

Lazy girl out for now.