MMM, potatoes

Who doesn’t love a spud?

We attended a wedding a few years ago, and late into the evening, as the dancing and obligatory drinking were well underway, a midnight Poutine Buffet was rolled out. Yeah, you read that correctly, a Poutine Bar. There were the basics of hand-cut fries, gravy and cheese curds, but it DID NOT end there. The choices included several types of potatoes, at least 3 types of gravy, mushrooms, pulled pork, bacon crumbles, jalapeño peppers, onions, brie, mozzarella, roasted broccoli and many other items that escape my memory. I think I inhaled 3 large bowls in under 15 minutes. I was scarfing my bowlful of decadence so fast, my esophagus couldn’t keep up to the speed I was shovelling the food in. Utter gluttony. That was a brilliant feature for a wedding reception. The food helped those who were perhaps in danger of over-consuming the open bar, by acting as a distraction. I shall always fondly remember that evening.

But I digress from the humble potato.

There are sweet, white, yellow, red, purple, creamer, new, fingerling, yam and the list goes on. You can prep these magic flavour sponges in so many ways. Boiled, mashed, roasted, fried and baked are the most common methods to prepare the humble tuber.

dsc04316

These Greekified (is that a word?) spuds were a perfect side to some grass-fed, grass-finished lamb shoulder chops I found at a local grocery store. They are so good, you may want to make extra so you have some leftovers for another meal (or bedtime snack). This is super easy and so tasty, you may find yourself keeping them in your regular meal rotation.

Greekified spuds:

Preheat oven to 375

  • 2 pounds potatoes (I used red, peeled and quartered. Yukon Gold or any other yellow potato will be great too)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or ghee
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, peel, quarter the potatoes and place in a 9×13 roasting pan.

Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over the potatoes.

Roast in 375 degree oven for approximately 75 minutes, or until fork tender. The trick to these spuds being amazing is to baste them in the stock mixture several times during the roasting time.

Breaking dishes is optional.

 

 

 

Another reason I’m not a dog person

You remember Sasha? The Lhasa Apso my grandparents owned? The one who ate my Hershey bar and all of it’s wrappings yet lived to tell another tale? Well, she gave me another reason not to think too fondly of her.

52ae5-unknown-3

Sasha used to go to the groomer on a regular basis for a wash, ear clean, nail clip, trim, whatever it is they do there and topped off with ridiculous ribbons and at a healthy price. The upside of her day at the doggy spa meant she wasn’t in the house. A fact the cats and I enjoyed immensely.

This one particular Saturday, I was volunteered to play chauffeur for Sasha. It was decided I was to drop her off at the groomers and then take my grandparents around to do their weekly shopping at Safeway, the green grocer, liquor store and then up to the mall. I didn’t object to the shopping rounds as we would often stop for fries and a milkshake. As a teenager, that’s a decent bribe.

I rounded the dog up and headed to the car with her in my arms. We didn’t have a travel crate for her so she just sat on the seat. As we drove to the groomer she kept stealing glances at me from the corner of her eye. This should’ve tipped me off that something was up. She only ever looked at me to growl when no one was around.

Luck was on our side as there was a parking space right in front of the door to the groomers. I parked the car, shut off the engine and got out. As I walked around to the passenger side to get Sasha, she started jumping up and down excitedly. I thought that meant she was happy to be going to her doggy spa. When I opened the passenger side door, Sasha jumped away from me. No, she didn’t jump out of the car and into the parking lot. She jumped to the driver’s seat.

I tried coaxing her back over so I could pick her up and get her inside. Her appointment time was about to begin. I’m a punctuality nut. I’d rather sit for 20 minutes than be 5 minutes late.

Sasha stayed where she was despite my efforts. Her eyes locked on me and I swear she said f*#k you. She squatted and pissed in my seat. Not just a little tinkle either. She flooded my car seat. Yes, she had been pee before we left. I made sure of that. She found a second bladder and emptied it in my car. Needless to say I wanted to scream. But I was in public and right in front if the groomers so I remained quiet.

I was so mad! It took every ounce of restraint I had not to wring her neck. I shut the passenger door and walked back to the driver’s side. This back and forth nonsense went on for several minutes. She was playing a game of pig-in-the-middle with me and I was losing.She jumped back to the dry seat. I’m pretty sure it was entertaining to anyone watching. Thankfully this was pre-Internet, cell phone and YouTube, otherwise, I’m sure this would’ve gone viral.I reached in and picked her up.  I was clenching my teeth together so tightly I think I cracked a filling. We went into the groomers and I gently sat Sasha down on the counter. “What are we doing for little Sasha today?” the groomer asked ever so sweetly. This was a sweet woman who obviously loved her job. You could see how much she adored dogs by the way she cared for them.

“Drown her for all I care,” I replied (I was mad, remember?). The woman looked as if I throat-punched her. She clutched Sasha close to her bosom and gasped. I explained about the pee and asked for some paper towels or something to absorb the mess. She said no, thst she wouldnt help me and said someone else could pick Sasha up at 4:00. She said ‘someone’, not ‘you’. She picked Sasha up and whisked her away from the evil person who wished the dog to be drowned.

Now I had to contort myself in my seat for the drive home. I moved the seat as far back as it would go and perched on the edge. I could barely reach the pedals. I think I screamed the whole drive home.

I walked in the house and grabbed paper towels, a bucket with hot soapy water, a cloth and the blow dryer on an extension cord. It took a couple of hours to get it clean and get rid of the dog pee smell. There was no shopping done that day. The grandparents were going to have to make do with the provisions they had in the house for another day.

I found a large apple box in the garage, lined it with plastic and paper towels and took that with me to pick Sasha up at 4:00. I figured if she was going to use my car as a toilet again, she’d be the one sitting in it this time. The groomer was rather hesitant to release Sasha to me after my drowning comment earlier in the day.

We drove home without incident. Sasha did not care for the confines of the apple box. It was a deep box and Sasha was a short dog and therefore couldn’t see over the edge. The lid was not on and it had plenty of breathing holes on the sides so don’t get all worried thinking I was depriving her of oxygen. I’m not a monster. The drive home was 6 minutes if we hit a red light. Ten minutes after we were home, the groomer called the house to see if Sasha made it home safely. Really?! She told my grandmother about my comment and disposition when I dropped the dog off. She then went so far as to say that perhaps I wasn’t an animal lover and shouldn’t be left unsupervised with Sasha.

No one ever asked me to take the dog anywhere again.

 

Days of indecision and shepard’s chili-stew

You ever at a loss for focus?

There are those days of complete and utter indecisiveness. You have a day off and you don’t know what you feel like doing or eating or reading or watching? Yeah, me too. You pace about in your housecoat with coffee in hand and look at all the things you should/could be doing (laundry, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting) instead? Yup, me too. Now throw the looming dilemma of what’s for  dinner into the fray. At this point, I’d rather just go get another coffee. Ostrich with the head in the sand choice. If I ignore all the drudge work, maybe it’ll go away.

Winter has been colder here on the west coast than I like. We’ve even had snow. Several times that nasty stuff has hit us. Yeah, I know the midwest and east coast gets it more often and waaay more of it, but I’m a west coast gal who truly believes the word snow is akin to profanity. If we could get Mother Nature to keep it on the mountains and off the roads, that’d maybe change my outlook on it. Until then, I shall grit my teeth and curse under my breath about it.

Back to food.

Part of me felt like shepard’s pie, part of me wanted stew and part of me felt like chili. So I opted to mix all 3 ideas into one. The heat element of chili with the chunky, stick to your ribs factor of stew and top the whole thing off with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes with bacon, that is. The lightning bolt that prompted me to do that made me clap my hands together like an evil genius. One of my better ideas for sure.

DSC04309.jpg

 

What shall recall this? Chili-stew pie? Shepard’s chili-stew? Sure. Let’s go with that for now. If you can think of another name, I’m open to suggestions.

Shepard’s chili-stew:

  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into approx 1″ cubes or slightly smaller
  • 5-8 pieces of thick bacon cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup green beans cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 medium white potatoes (you could swap sweet potatoes or yams for another flavour)
  • 2-3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1/2 cup broth (home-made beef broth is best, but chicken or veg will do well too)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (yes, you read that, sneaking extra veg in under the wire, you won’t taste it)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a large casserole dish

Peel and chop your potatoes and get them boiling. When they are fork-tender, drain and mash them with the ghee and coconut milk. I use my hand mixer as it whips them up in a flash. Less arm wear and tear. Just leave these in the pot until you are ready to top the chili-stew. You are going to add some bacon in this later.

Crisp the bacon pieces in a large pot. When they are done, remove them and put half into the mashed potatoes and stir it in.

Keep the other half aside to top the chili-stew.

Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pot and get all those lovely brown bacon bits from the pan. Add the onion and sauté until just translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the stewing beef and cook until nicely browned. Add the stock and pumpkin puree along with the carrots and cook until slightly tender. Stir in the chili powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir the green breams in last.

Place the meat mixture into the greased casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Layer the reserved half of the bacon over the top of the meat mixture. (bacon layer for the win!) Top with the bacon infused mashed potatoes. You could add a wee spot of butter on top if you wanted, but that’s up to you. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 375.

Now, don’t kid yourself, this has some heat to it. feel free to dial back the spices if you aren’t a spicy food lover.

 

I’ll take skin for the win, Alex

Hey, your epidermis is showing.

Let’s look at our organs for a moment. We care for our lungs by not smoking and trying to minimize our exposure to pollution. We care for our liver by trying to limit our alcohol consumption. That glass of red wine last night was for medicinal purposes, I swear. We care for our kidneys by staying well hydrated. (Don’t worry, I won’t itemize each one.) By eating good, nutrient rich foods and drinking clean water, we take care of and nourish all of our inner squishy bits. Now what about the organ everyone sees? Your skin. What are you doing for that?

It’s not just wrapping paper to all the muscles, blood vessels, bones and other sinewy stuff that makes up a body. Think of your skin as a revolving door. Let that visual sink in. What we put on our bodies is carried inside (to be handled by the inner organs and systems) and what we put in our bodies is excreted through our skin. We often slather all strong scented soaps, lotions and chemical laden products on it without a second thought.

You apply that beautiful lipstick  isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9p(complete with red dye number 666 – I know that isn’t a real ingredient, but you get the message) onto your lips. Not only are you absorbing all those chemicals through your skin, you are also now consuming said chemical cocktail. Mmmm, not as beautiful as it seemed.

Skin is amazing. It breathes. It grows with us. It stretches around developing babies and the occasional keg of beer. It sometimes snaps back. It heals when we scrape it. Skin forgives. Over time, it tells a tale of laughter and smiles (or pain and misery). Skin tells the tale of your health and your life.

You need a good canvas to write a good story. (yes, I know, you paint on canvas, you don’t write on it)

There are many clean ingredient skin care products out there today. Beautycounter is the one I absolutely fell in love with. They are transparent in the list of ingredients they use and those things they will NEVER use. This aligns with my views on food. Just as I want to know what I’m eating, and (ideally) what my food eats, I want to know what I’m absorbing into my body through my skin. The whole reason I started this food and wellness journey  was an attempt to heal some fantastic eczema.

 

dsc02695

I don’t want to cause problems with my skin from the outside in, now that I’ve healed it from the inside out. You can read about that first step here if you haven’t read it already. I chose to act as a Beautycounter consultant to help spread the importance of safer skincare.

 

The FDA recently suggested a reduction in the acceptable level of lead in cosmetics. A suggestion, not a rule. The article states nothing about reducing it from hair dye or other cosmetic products. Beauty does indeed have a price. I get and understand cross-contamination and how it is almost impossible to keep anything completely “clean” in terms of ingredients. I’m not expecting perfection in this, but accountability and responsibility would be a good place to start. So much is up to the consumer to do their due diligence. There is apparently an acceptable level of rodent hair and other unsavoury items in chocolate and that certainly doesn’t stop anyone from shoving that down the pipe (it never stopped me anyway; I used to eat four chocolate bars a day, no exaggeration).

As I move into the second half of my potential century here on this green and blue planet, I’m re-doubling my efforts to care for the meat-covered skeleton I’ve been given the privilege to operate, the best ways I can. Clean, safer food and clean, safer skin products. Years ago, I think it was L’Oreal that had a buzz-phrase “Because I’m worth it”. Now, more that ever, the phrase is appropriate but perhaps should be reassigned to humans in general and their own outlook on quality and ethical choices we make regarding our food and skin care.

 

Floss ~ the other F-word

Do you swear to tell the tooth? The whole tooth? And nothing but the tooth?

We are going to chat a little bit about oral health. That in itself almost sounds dirty, but it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be.

Just a few basic dental facts so we are all on the same page. We’ll keep this simple.

Typically there are 20 baby (or milk) teeth with up to 32 permanent (or adult) teeth. I say up to because that includes wisdom teeth. Not everyone develops these. Now, having stated these numbers, there are always those folks who grow extra teeth and those who never form some. We can chat about this another time.

Teeth are composed of layers:

  • Enamel: hardest substance in your body, mineralized outer layer covering the top or crown of the tooth
  • Dentin: is almost like a bone and makes up the majority of the tooth bulk  and is protected by the enamel for the crown (and cementum on the root, not labelled in this diagram)
  • Pulp or pulp chamber: the middle of the tooth and has the “live” or “vital” connection via blood vessels to your jaws (yes, teeth can die)

normal-tooth_1

Plaque (you’ve heard of that before) is the film (microbial biofilm) that builds on your teeth during the day and at night. It is usually colourless but it is responsible for bad breath (halitosis), red, irritated gums (gingivitis) and if left undisturbed, can harden into tartar. It commonly forms at the gum line and can work it’s way under the gums, down the root of the tooth. Plaque feeds on sugar (from foods we eat, such as carbohydrates) and produces acid in the mouth. This eventually leads to. . . (dramatic pause) cavities. This is why removing plaque daily, is critical.

Removing plaque is a two-step process. Flossing and brushing. Flossers, in my over 20 years experience in the dental/orthodontic world, fall into several categories.

  1. Those who do it daily
  2. Those who do it when they get something stuck between their teeth
  3. Those who do it a day or two before seeing the dentist/hygienist to try to fool them into thinking that they actually floss every day (doesn’t work, we can tell)
  4. Those who do it for a few days after seeing the dentist/hygienist as they feel motivated by a good pep talk/lecture

Those of you who do it daily, congrats! Pat yourself on the back. You are ahead of the game.

Those who don’t floss daily, well, that’s kinda like not cleaning the underside of the toilet seat. It’s gross.

I get why you don’t do it. When you finally break out that tortuous string, it hurts. Even if your technique is good. Your gums bleed. They get really red. They swell up twice or even three times their normal size. They throb (kinda like when you work a muscle you haven’t used in a while). And at that point, you throw that hateful minty thread into the garbage and vow never again! I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. Join the flossers. Drink the proverbial Kool-aid.

The fact your gums bleed when you clean them should cause all the alarm bells to go off in your head. If you washed your hands and they bled, you’d be pretty concerned right? Gum tissue isn’t any different.

Get your floss, waxed, unwaxed, plain or flavoured and get to it. If you opt to use a floss pick, please wipe the little piece of floss before moving on to the next spot, otherwise you are just moving your plaque from place to place. Don’t get me wrong, a floss pick is better than not flossing at all. There are no rules stating you have to floss in the bathroom. If you aren’t offending anyone, do it while watching tv. Do it in the shower (don’t let the floss go down the drain though). Like Nike says: Just Do It. That first time? Yes, it will hurt. Yes it will bleed, maybe even a lot. Yes your gums will puff up and throb. Get over it. It falls under the heading of “suck it up buttercup” and you do it again the next day. And the next. And the next. Keep showing up to your floss date. In a few days, the bleeding settles down and maybe even stops. The puffiness and redness settles down and you may notice your gums are a lighter shade and are hugging your bone more. Hooray! That throbbing or pulsing sensation is likely gone now too. Guess, what? Your breath smells a whole lot better too. Next time you see the dentist or hygienist, you won’t get a lecture either.

 

It’s about loss

It’s been two years since Ernie left us but it still hurts just the same.

Meet Ernie. He had many variations on his name. Ernesto. Ernesto Valenzeulia. Ernst Q. Pussycat. Erniebernie.

Ernie in his backyard
Ernie in his backyard

Pets are really just hairy family members who speak a different language. They have their own agenda, especially cats. Maybe dogs do too, don’t know, never really owned one, except for co-habitting with Sasha the Lhasa Apso my grandparents owned, and well, as the posts about her explain, she and I did not see eye to eye.

Ernie arrived on the scene when he was a tiny wee kitten. He was smaller than the palm of a hand. He was too young to be away from his momma. Somehow, he arrived at the front door at the stand alone warehouse building that was located in a very non-developed part of town. He was brought home and taken to the vet for a check. We were sent home with formula and directions to clean his “little boy parts” . Ernie hadn’t been going to the bathroom and he was getting sick. If he didn’t go the the bathroom, we were going to lose him. We used a warm wet facecloth and cleaned him like a mother cat would. After an entire afternoon and the better part of an evening, he dribbled. Then, the flood gates opened, and Ernie went to the bathroom. We jumped for joy! He lapped at the formula from a dropper and learned to use a litter box. 

Ernie liked to inspect everything. A small renovation was being done in the apartment and Ernie was sitting in the sink inspecting the new tap. A new door was put in and Ernie sat atop the header in the doorway. Ernie also liked to garden. Chives were grown on the enclosed balcony and Ernie liked to nibble them. His onion breath was legendary.

Then came the move. While searching for a home to buy, Ernie was left in the apartment with regular daily visits for food, snuggles and litter box attendance. The time away from Ernie was 1 week. He developed Separation Anxiety and stopped eating and going to the bathroom. 

The move was completed with Ernie right in the middle of all the action. He made it clear he was not to excluded ever again. 

At 7 years of age, it was noticed that he was drinking a lot of water. A lot. So a trip to the vet in the new town. The diagnosis came. Diabetes. The vet told us some folks put their animals down with this diagnosis. This was not to be Ernie’s fate. Blood sugar testing was learned. Injections were learned. Food was changed. An emergency syrup syringe was kept ready. 

At 18 years of age Ernie developed arthritis in his shoulder. He was taken back to the same vet and his meds were adjusted to be in harmony with his insulin. He started to slow down a bit more each day. His meows began to change. He called to be carried down to his litter box. He announced he was ready to be carried upstairs to be with the family. Graduated steps were built to give him independence to get up on beds and chairs. 

At his routine check up, his blood work showed kidney problems and pancreatitis. He was now 19 1/2 years old. The vet said when the time came, he could come to the house so Ernie would not have an awful car ride as his final memory. With heavy hearts, the decision was made. After the New Year, Ernie’s expression said he was ready. The vet and an assistant came to the house, gave Ernie a sedative to relax him and he was helped to sleep. The vet carried Ernie, wrapped in his favourite blanket, away to be cremated. He sat with Ernie in his lap the ride to the clinic. 

They say losing a pet makes it easier to learn to deal with death. No. No, it doesn’t. it’s harder when you have to make the toughest decision.