Like a Scout, it’s good to be prepared

Every good heist has to be carefully planned. Nothing is ever left to chance. If you want to get away with things and be on Easy Street, you need to plan and prepare for any possible outcome.

Food really isn’t any different. You need to plan and prepare. When you don’t have a well-thought out plan, that’s when things start sliding sideways and you find yourself calling for take-out, ordering pizza or whipping through the closest drive-thru. This is then followed by a lot of regret and self-flagellation. These feelings are neither productive nor conducive to getting back on track. Time to get over yourself and get back to the business of feeding yourself good food.

Flip though your stack of recipe books and jot down meal ideas for the upcoming week. Think of all those food videos you share and like on Facebook and Pinterest. (They all have thousands of shares and views but I wonder how many folks have ever made any of them.) Dinner doesn’t have to be a rut. If a recipe calls for bison and well, you are not willing to shell out the dollars for this particular protein, you have permission to use a different red meat. The flavours may not be 100% as the recipe creator intended, but you have a new dish in your repertoire. Same goes for fish. Use cod instead of halibut. Trout for salmon. Just buy the best you can afford. Wild canned salmon on sale? Load up. You can add that to your salads, mix it with some mayo, make salmon cakes and so on.

Like most folks, you probably shop once a week for groceries. If you hit places like Costco, you might wind up with large packs of meats that look a little intimidating. The solution to the party-pak of protein is portioning (ooh, how I love me some alliteration).

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The five pound pack of ground beef has been weighed into half-pound measures and patted flat. By patting it flat like this, it freezes faster, is easier to store in the freezer and best of all, it thaws faster.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are often cheaper than their boneless, skinless counterpart. Be sure to flatten the chicken when you portion it to freeze. Like the ground meat, it will thaw much faster. When dinner decisions are pressing, you want to know things will thaw quickly. If you are paying premium dollar for pastured chicken, you want all the parts. You can debone the thighs yourself as long as you have a good pair of kitchen shears. It really is easy to do. Plus, now you have some bones for stock. Your grandma would be proud. Win-win.

Speaking of stock, or bone broth as it’s called in the trendy circles, portion and freeze that too for quick and easy use down the road.

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I have silicone muffin pans that make baking stupidly easy. They never need greasing. Everything just pops right out as slick as can be. I make my stock and ladle it into my muffin pan in 1/4 cup measures and freeze those bad boys. When a recipe calls for a small amount of stock in a recipe, I pull out as many pucks as I need and melt them in the microwave if I’m short on time.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. Spend the time in the kitchen portioning and freezing. This meal prep step will save you from feelings of self-loathing as you hide the pizza box in the bottom of the compost collection bucket.

Having a variety of proteins frozen into meal sized amounts will provide you with a good rotation during the week. You won’t be condemned to a week of chicken thighs because you bought the warehouse pack and they need to be eaten – stat!

At what cost, beauty?

We begin our chemical christening at a very early age.

Babies are bathed in what is touted as a gentle, all-in-one wash. Powder and moisturizer to finish the cleaning regime. No one wants a stinky kid.

Clean smelling laundry seems to be a hallmark of good parenting. Our detergents and fabric softeners are scented. Dryer sheets are scented. Look at all the smell choices available to us in the laundry aisle of the grocery store. Go walking outside (especially in the evening) and you can smell/tell who is doing laundry. Those chemical blankets are being wrapped all over your person and your little people.

Now, we’re grown up and we are in control of our own hygiene rituals. We use scented soaps and body washes. There are scented shampoos and conditioners. There are the ever-popular deep-conditioning products to help replenish moisture to our dry, over-processed hair. Like most, we apply a liberal amount of various styling products. Mousse, gel, pomade, hairspray, hair colour and perm solutions (yes some folks still go that route) Slather on some body lotion or moisturizer, scented of course, because your skin feels dry after cleaning it in the shower. Anti-perspirant or deodorant, again, scented, because who wants to smell like a monkey?

isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9pNow comes the make-up. Moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil (?), eyeshadow, blush, lip pencil, lipstick or gloss and a spritz of perfume or body spray. Maybe you need to apply your deodorant a second time at some point during the day for the “sure” factor. Perhaps an extra touch of perfume? Before we go out for the night, we definitely redo our makeup and hair.

What little girl doesn’t like to play in mummy’s makeup and perfume? (we won’t even think about pageant or performing kids)

 

Let’s not forget about hand-sanitizer. Scented and unscented, we find it everywhere. Shopping malls, gas stations, public bathrooms, kids play areas, grocery stores, lunch kits, purses, high school backpacks and lockers. We all know an addict for this stuff. This is now frequently replacing hand-washing protocol. People squirt a good blobby dose of this into their hands, rub away and then chow down on the fast-food burger and fries. Mmmm tasty stuff.

We need to wash all that off before we collapse into bed at night. So out comes the makeup remover designed to melt and strip off everything we painstakingly painted on earlier. Finally, grease up with some night cream to combat what we did to our faces during the day. We drift off to try to sleep for the next 6-8 hours in our “outdoor fresh” scented bed sheets. Wonder why you are tossing and turning all night and often wake up with a headache and stuffed nose or sore throat?

This problem isn’t exclusive to the females. They too are pressured to have nice smelling hair, aftershave, cologne and clothes. Men are exposed to the same chemical onslaught, except most aren’t sporting the same makeup as the ladies.

Remember the revolving door analogy for our skin? All the harsh chemicals in each of those products are transported into our bodies. This chemical storm goes on day in day out. For years. One can’t help but imagine of the cumulative effect of these ingredients in our cells. How can our bodies even begin to battle the chemical warfare we willingly wage? Layer upon layer of toxins are applied to the largest organ of our body. (this doesn’t take into consideration our food choices and what we shovel inside our bodies either) And we wonder why we are getting sicker and staying sicker, longer. Feeling crappy is common. Headaches and stuffy noses are just part of being human these days.

Parabens and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Hormones are delicate enough, they don’t need to be assaulted by these things. Sodium laurel/laureth sulfates are common allergen triggers and irritants. These are found in our shampoos, body washes and cosmetics. The best part? They are allowed in our products. Wow.

Be aware of what you put ON your body, the bodies of your loved ones. Read your labels. Make conscious, mindful decisions of the personal care products you choose to use on yourself and your loved ones.

Oh, and if you are that bent on the smell of outdoor fresh laundry? Hang it outside to dry.

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Let’s talk about love

Love.

I’m not talking about the Hallmark stuff. I will not be running out to buy a card which would sit on the table or mantle for a week and then get environmentally put in the recycling bin. My family knows I’m not the card type.

Love is in the small things you do everyday. Love is not February 14th. Love is getting out of bed early on your day off and making coffee and breakfast without hesitation. Love is putting the lid down on the toilet. (this also ends the seat up/seat down debate once and for all)  Love is rubbing someone’s feet or shoulders after a long day at work. Love is filling up the gas tank. Love is making someone’s favourite meal and doing the clean up. Love is a walk. Love is silence. Love is giving away the last cookie. Love is understanding and supporting those around us daily. Love is a journey. Love changes along the way. Love can be for a pet. Love can be for a sibling. Love can be for a significant other. Love can be for a child. Love can be for a parent. Love is vital for yourself. Love overlooks the little things. Love understands we are all different. Love supports the honest endeavours of those around us, even if those trials don’t align with our own views. Love doesn’t mock or belittle. Love embraces and nourishes. Love teaches. Love crosses time and space. Love is global. Love isn’t a card.

Love yourself. Love your family. Love your home. Love your environment, your planet.

Love yourself. Feed yourself well. Good, healthy food. Real food, things you can pronounce. If it has more than four syllables and isn’t cauliflower or romanesco, you probably should skip it. If it was created in a factory, again, you probably should give it a wide berth. The best stuff to nourish and love your precious body with should be recognizable in it’s natural form. Don’t eat “food-like” products. Love yourself better than that. Don’t smoke. Really, don’t do it. Feed your brain. Read. Read for fun. Read to learn. Learn something new everyday. This helps you grow. Laugh. Smile, it’s good for your heart and soul. Rest. Protect your quiet time. Practice deep breathing. Sleep in a dark room. Take time to your own thoughts. Move daily, be it a walk, 8 kilometres on your treadmill, kickboxing, dance lessons or tai chi. Don’t lose sight of your own importance.

Love your family. Put down your phone. Turn off the screens. Put a timer on the router to turn the internet off while you sleep. (no more kids up all night glued to devices.) Read together. Be together. Go out together. Create memories. Too quickly, we get older and our lives take us places other than where we want to be. Talk. More importantly, listen. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from others. Eat at the table. Be the one to offer to pick them up late at night. You’ll sleep better knowing they are safe. Bake with little ones. Give children and teenagers basic cooking lessons so they aren’t condemned to a life of eating Ichiban-style noodles and macaroni and cheese when they move out of the house. Embrace the mistakes and revel in the successes. Plan meals. Everyone makes one meal suggestion. Have dinner for breakfast. That age old question of “what’s for dinner?” will become a thing of the past. Plan, prep and portion your meals on your day(s) off. If you do this, when you get home from work during the week, you just pull out your prepped meals and heat them up. That extra time can be spent doing something important, like reading with a child, walking the dog or meditating. Planning your meals also cuts down on wasted food. You plan your meals, you shop for what you need, (fewer impulse purchases of the warehouse sized jar of pickled banana peppers ’cause you were hungry), and you use what you buy. Get the whole family involved in the planning and prep stages. Shopping online also makes it easy for everyone to help shop without having a meltdown in the cookie and sugar-coated cereal aisles.e5fa0-honest_labels_600

Love your home. Open the doors. Get fresh air inside your home. Declutter. Do you really need that nic-nac? Probably not. Make your purchases count. Invest in real furniture and basic pieces. It will last longer, look better and likely won’t end up in the landfill in two years when the leg breaks or the “wood-like” paper finish peels. Stick with simplicity and your furnishings won’t be out of style. Take pride in your home. Have pictures that make you smile. This is your castle, your sanctuary, be it a 4,000 square foot mansion or a mobile home on a rented trailer pad. Pick up any garbage that blows on your yard. Have pride in your home. Once you close the front door, this is your safe place. Your haven. Keep it clean and keep it safe.

Love your environment. Love your planet. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Take your shopping bags with you to the store. Take your reusable mug to Starbuck’s, David’s Tea or Timmy’s or wherever you get your caffeine fix. Think twice about fast food. Think about the garbage generated from that convenient meal. (remember when McDonald’s had styrofoam containers for their burgers? We’ve come a long way, but the road stretches out far ahead of us.) Pack a lunch in reusable containers. Buy local. A local farmer or artisan feels the impact of your dollar more than the big chain stores. Your purchase can be a difference in his or her livelihood. Your dollars stay closer to home in your community. Buying local allows the farmers and artisans you support, to employ other workers, which in turn reinvests those dollars back into the community. Staying local also can reduce the global shipping of consumer goods. We all know this is better for the environment. Know where your purchases originate from. If you can, choose Canadian made goods. Let’s cut down on as many imports as we can. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Turn the heat down when you go out or go to bed. Put a timer on the furnace. This helps keep the dollars in your pocket. If you need to use the dryer, use dryer balls instead of liquid fabric softener. They are less expensive, and there are fewer chemicals going down the drain. Sunny day? Put the clothes on the line to dry. Let Mother Nature help with the laundry. Plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Don’t use pesticides. Embrace the odd weed in your yard. Grow some vegetables, fruit or herbs if you can. Chilly? Put on a sweater or cuddle up under a blanket. Blankets are far cozier when shared with someone.  Mend your socks. Use your buying power to state that you want local and sustainable goods. Catch and release spiders and flies who accidentally find their way in your home. They too have important jobs outside in this big world. It’s all about love. Love is, indeed, a many splendored thing.

Love.

Maybe The Beatles were right.

All you need is love.



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.

 

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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)

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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 labels

Almost everything (and everyone) has a label these days.

The hard part is deciphering the label we are reading. Especially if you aren’t a scientist (which I’m not). Armed with the research wonder capabilities of the internet, instead of logging hours in a library hunched over encyclopedias or micro-fiche (age drop), let’s look at a typical granola bar shall we?

At a quick glance, one would think this to be a terrific lunch box snack or on the go pick-me-up. Only 80 calories. For those counting calories, that must be an acceptable snack calorie quantity. Granola? We’ve been brought up to believe granola is good for us, a healthy, ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ choice. Naturally flavoured? If it’s “natural”, that means it’s good for us right? Let’s put on the brakes for just a second and read the ingredients label, not the box marked Nutrition Facts.

First ingredient: Whole grain oats. Sounds like we are off to a good start.

Second ingredient: Sugar. Hmmmm, a sweetener as a second ingredient doesn’t sound right.

Third item: Vegetable Oil. A blend of canola, palm kernel and palm oil. Hmmmm again.

Next item: Rice Flour. 

Followed fifth by: High Maltose Corn Syrup. We all know this is another type of sweetener.

Sixth ingredient: Cocoa, a real ingredient.

Seventh item: Honey, real too, but another sweetener nonetheless.

Eighth item: Rice Maltodextrin is a fancy name for a type of, you guessed it, sweetener.

Ninth ingredient: Soy Lecithin, everyone’s favourite emulsifier. If you are trying to avoid soy, good luck.

Tenth ingredient: Salt. I like to think of it as flavour’s magnifying glass.

Eleventh ingredient: Milk, whoo-hoo, another real item here, but let’s think about what the cows are eating, because we eat that too.

Twelfth item: Baking soda, another real ingredient.

Thirteenth ingredient: Barley Malt Extract, would be our fifth sweetener. With that many types of sweeteners, how healthy are these things?

Natural Flavour rounds out our list. That alone just sounds suspicious. They can’t even tell me what I’m about to ingest? Natural flavour exists in everything. It could be tomato flavour, beef liver flavour, apricot flavour, earthworm flavour or any other thing under the sun. I’d prefer some clarification before I nibble on this.

Out of 14 potential ingredients, leaving a huge berth of leniency for “natural flavour”, 5 are sweeteners. (The oats and rice flour will convert into sugars eventually too, but we aren’t counting them this way.) A minimum of 36% of the ingredients making up these snack bars are a form of sugar.That doesn’t sound overly healthy to me, but, hey, I’m no expert.

When did our food stray so far away from being real?

Food in it’s real form needs no label. You hold an organic, non-GMO zucchini in your hand, it contains: zucchini. That’s it. No, “may contain corn, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts” disclaimer. Same goes for any other organic non-GMO fruit or vegetable. You know what you are about to consume. Isn’t that how it should be? I really don’t want to have to research all the unpronounceable ingredients of what I am intending to eat or do some napkin math to add up all the hidden sugars. If I’m hungry, I want to have confidence I am eating something real, something created by Mother Nature and not the Dow Chemical company.

Our chickens and cows and other livestock are ingesting hormones and a slew of chemicals to make them grow bigger and faster. Would it not stand to reason there has to be a trickle down effect with all those chemicals? Our children drink the milk, eat the cheese created from this milk, and consume the meat from these cows. Those same kids are having eggs from these chickens and goodness only knows how many McDonald’s “Chicken McNuggets” (is there even any real chicken in those? I honestly don’t know). Are these chemicals and hormones compounding in our bodies? Then, down the road, when these chemical laden kids have kids, what will their future look like?

Children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages. Girls are developing breasts and starting menstruation well before the age of 13, which used to be the early end of the puberty norm. Boys are getting their cookie-duster moustaches before leaving elementary school. These young, physically mature, children often have all their adult teeth, with the exception of wisdom teeth, by 10 years of age. 

What has this done to our brains? The brains of our children? We all see the rise in Autism, Asperger’s, Tourrette’s, ADD, ADHD, Early Onset Dementia, Diabetes, numerous Auto-Immune Disorders, Cancer, personality disorders, cognitive impairment and the lists go on and on. Have our food-like products harmed us and these generations? And what about the generations yet to come? Did we do our due diligence and read the labels? Or were we romanced by all the sexy buzz-words the advertising world threw at us? Wooing us into believing 1 calorie soft-drinks were ok? Eating without consequence. Yikes!

We need to turn this around. Now. We need to collectively, as a people, spend our money on food that has ingredients we can pronounce. Food should be the ingredients. Food that we recognize in it’s original nature-given packaging. Invest the time to cook with your family instead of stuffing drive-thru dinners (not to mention all that packaging) down their throats. 

Ironically, and sadly, it is often the wealthy who can afford to eat the food grown in the dirt (read organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture raised) and the lower income demographic who can only afford the food-like products made in the hi-tech factories.

Let’s reflect on choices (and banana muffins)

If we are lucky, in our lifetime, we meet folks who leave a good mark on us.

I’m going to take you back a few years, ok, a lot of years, to acquaint you with a teacher from Grade 8. Part of our high school curriculum included Home Economics, which was two units each of cooking and sewing and Industrial Education with one unit of electronics, drafting, woodwork and metalwork. Boys and girls had to complete each class. My Home Ec skills were such that I would offer to complete another students IE assignment if they would make a sewing project for me. (I have been known to hem with a stapler.) The cooking portion, well, I’m here to say I passed, but certainly not with any sort of flying colours. Good thing my homework assignments made up for some of my cooking lab outcomes. My blancmange was just scrambled eggs in a custardy-watery soup like base. Seriously though, why make a kid make that for a cooking assignment? I have never since, nor will I ever, make it in my lifetime.

Back to this particular teacher and day 1 of Industrial Education 8. In walks a large man in a plaid flannel shirt. A big human. He stood probably 6’6″. His plaid flannel shirt was tucked in his belted dark denim pants. His slightly oily hair was parted on the side and was starting to show signs of receding at said part. His hair continued downward in an uninterrupted line merging into his beard. Rather a mountain man looking fellow.

He stood at the front of a room of close to 30 13 year old students on this first day of the semester. He introduced himself and asked us to name one thing we had to do. We looked at each other. Hands began to go up.

“Homework?” No, he shook his head. Cheers erupted in the room. We didn’t have to do any homework? Hooray! This plaid guy rocked!

“Feed and walk my dog?” No, he shook his head again. Wait a second.

“Get a job?” No, once more the bearded man shook his head. Hold on here. What did he mean, we didn’t have to get a job? Everyone has to get a job, don’t they?

He replied no to every offering we had. This went on for several minutes. After we exhausted all our thoughts, we watched him turn and write three letters on the chalk board.

D I E

That,” he said, “is the only thing you have to do.” The room fell silent. “Everything else, you do by choice because you don’t like the alternative. You feed and walk your dog because you don’t want him to get sick, starve or die. You do your homework because you don’t want to fall behind in class. You get a job because you don’t want to live on the streets or in your parent’s basement when you are 50. Get it?” Heavy thoughts to lay on a pack of pre-pubescent teens.

That has stuck with me ever since. I do what I do by choice, because I don’t like the alternative.

Ooooh, back to those banana muffins.

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Doesn’t that look good? I mean, look at the texture of that thing.

Paleo banana muffins:

Preheat oven to 375, makes 12 muffins

  • 4 really ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature, otherwise the coconut oil will harden)
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup banana flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup packed almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • handful of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (optional)

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat the bananas with the coconut sugar until well mashed. Add eggs, coconut milk and vanilla, mix well. Add the liquid coconut oil while the mixer is running.

Sift coconut flour and baking powder and baking soda over the wet ingredients. (I like to save a bowl doing it this way. My Home Ec teacher would be cringing at this lack of second bowl and not following the ‘muffin method’ of stirring until just moist. Oh well.) Add the almond flour and banana flour, salt and mix until well incorporated. Stir the chocolate in last.

img_2305My favourite kitchen hack is to use a 1/4 cup scoop to load the muffin batter? dough? which is it? into my silicone muffin pans. Nothing sticks to these things. The pans I have are slightly smaller in size compared to a standard 12-well muffin pan. I sit the two 6-well silicone pans on a pizza pan to give them stability in the oven. Trying to handle flexible silicone muffin pans filled with uncooked stuff is a nightmare, trust me on that one. You have better things to do than clean your oven of some slopped glop.

 

Bake these bad boys for approximately 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Let them cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before unmolding them. Let them cool a little more before you start scarfing ’em back. Not sure how well these freeze, as they usually only last a couple of days around here.

Don’t be afraid of the banana flour making these too banana-y. As far as the chocolate chips go, use whatever makes you happy. Dairy free, cacao nibs, you get the idea. You could skip the chocolate altogether if you want, but why would you?

 

 

Thoughts about the Grinch and cranberry lime gummies

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I love the Grinch.

There, I said it. It’s out in the open. One of my most treasured books is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. I used to have a copy of the movie on VHS tape (wow-age drop!) and would watch it, rewind and watch it again and again while baking cookies and wrapping gifts and generally prepping for Christmas. Then one year, the VCR ate my tape and I was left with feet of memories spewing from the mouth of that hateful machine. I think I actually cried a few tears watching the shiny black ribbon pool onto the floor.

Thankfully, technology caught up and Santa brought me a DVD version and I have been watching happily ever since. As a child, it was so hard waiting for it to air on tv and hopefully be able to take command of the family boob-tube for that half-hour. One also had to time bathroom breaks to not to miss a single moment of Boris Karloff’s rich voice. The pairing of the visual of the Grinch and that voice is pure magic.

My personal feelings on the Jim Carrey live version of the Grinch isn’t carved in stone. First time I saw it, I was horrified and offended by it. This wasn’t the Grinch I knew and loved. Then, I decided I needed to see it for it’s own creative version. It’s starting to grow on me. I think I’ll need to watch it again a few more times. I do like Jim Carrey. He is one of those guys you either love him or hate him. I fall into the former camp. From early days on In Living Color to a few more serious and somber roles, his expressiveness has always made me feel along with his character.

I used to read The Grinch to the kids when they were little and it is a funny tradition we keep. I still read it to them on Christmas Eve. As teenagers, their favourite lines include (I’m paraphrasing) “he whizzed with his load” and “top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it.” By the end of the book, we are all laughing so hard, my eyes are filled with tears. It’s a good thing I have the words almost committed to memory, because it’s hard to read through those tears of laughter.

Right, back to cranberries.

In one of my most recent Spud boxes, I got some fresh cranberries. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of pairing them with turkey. I know, I know, everyone loves the two together. Not me. I figured I’d use up some limes that were starting to look a little tired to pair with the cranberries and, well, who doesn’t like a chewy gummy-style treat? Gelatin helps heal the gut and as a person who had horrific eczema from a Leaky Gut, I try to consume healthy gelatin when I can. These were not super sweet and had a nice tanginess to them.

Cranberry-lime gummies:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • juice of 4 small limes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon full fat coconut cream (helps offset the tartness)
  • enough water to make a total of 2 cups fruit puree before adding the gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons gelatin (I use Vital Proteins)

I pureed the cranberries with the lime juice, honey and coconut milk and approximately 1/2 cup water in the blender until it was a nice mash. I strained this mixture to get all the skin pieces out for a prettier looking finished product. You can totally skip the straining step if you don’t mind bits of cranberry skin in the treats.

Measure the fruit puree and add enough water to make a total of 2 cups of liquid. Heat in a medium sized pot for several minutes. You want this quite warm to help the gelatin dissolve without clumping. You can either whisk the gelatin in by hand on the stove or pour the warm fruit mixture back into the blender and add the gelatin there. Choice is yours. The blender was already dirty from earlier, so I went that route. Don’t cover the vent holes on the blender lid when processing warm or hot things, you’ll end up with  a hugs mess and a possible burn or two. . . just sayin’.

Once the gelatin is completely dissolved and well mixed, pour into small silicone molds or a glass baking dish. Into the fridge it goes to cool and set completely. If you use a glass baking dish, the bigger the dish, the thinner your gummies will be. You can use small cookie cutters to make fancy-schmancy shapes if you felt so inclined. I usually just cut them into squares and grab 3 or 4 and throw them into my lunch.

Ok, my vegan friends, you can switch out the honey for maple syrup and swap agar 1-1 for the gelatin.

One reason I’m not a dog person

 

I’ve never really owned a dog.

My grandparents had a Lhasa-Apso when they lived with us for a few years. Sasha. This dog did not like me. At all. This dog loved everyone but me. She would piddle on the floor with excitement when she saw anybody. She shook from side to side and was practically turning herself inside out to say hi to everyone. Not me. I swear she glared at me from under the hair that hung in her face. Deep down, I did not like this dog either and I am guessing she picked up on that vibe.

There were several instances in our co-habitation of the same dwelling that cemented our dislike of each other. This was the first.

I had taken a road trip across the border to pick up an American Hershey bar. There was/is a taste difference between the Hershey bar we could buy in Canada in comparison to the ones purchased in the United States. This taste difference often warranted a trip stateside to load up on said bar. I want to believe there was big bar that weighed in at a pound. I could be wrong, but that is my memory and I’m sticking with it.

Hopping across the border wasn’t too big a deal at the time. We lived maybe 45 minutes away so we often would pick up a few grocery items as we filled up the gas tank at the same time. This is going back to when gas prices and dollar values made it worth the drive. The extent of the questions at the border were, “Where you headed? To get gas and groceries. Ok.” The return questions were almost identical. “Where you been? Getting gas and groceries. Ok.” You could actually save money with these trips.

My grandparents were back east for a few weeks leaving us in charge of the dog. My mom was on a business trip, my brother was living in Toronto at the time, so it was just me and my dad holding down the fort. This one particular afternoon/evening, we decided to go on a drive. No destination in mind, just a drive, maybe stop for coffee. . .

We left the house with Sasha having free roam as she was allowed to do. I had left my treasured Hershey bar in the middle of a 3′ square coffee table that was about two, maybe three feet away from the couch. The chocolate bar was still wrapped in it’s foil and paper. I paused and looked at my chocolate bar thinking maybe I should move it. Then another part of my brain said, look at the jump the dog would have to do to get onto the coffee table. Sasha stood maybe 14-16″ to the shoulder. She was a small dog. The discussion in my brain was like that of the angel and the devil on a person’s shoulders when they are undecided about something. Move the bar. Leave the bar. She’ll eat your chocolate. She’ll break her neck jumping onto the table trying to get it. Better safe than sorry. She’ll slide right across the tile table missing the bar altogether. Move the chocolate. She’s asleep on the other side of the house. Move the chocolate. It’s wrapped up, she can’t smell it. And so went the argument in my brain. After all the dithering, I left my prized American Hershey bar in the middle of the 3′ square tile table with a short dog asleep in another part of the house. My mind’s eye pictured her having to manage to jump up onto the couch, which she seldom was able to do, then launch herself horizontally three feet to the coffee table and stop dead in her tracks on tile. Any pet owner or anyone who has seen pets on videos knows they cannot stop on tile. Goes against the laws of physics.

We came home from our lovely outing to find a tiny shred of foil in the middle of the kitchen floor. My brow furrowed as I realized what I was looking at. I called for the dog. She did not come running. No surprise there as it was me who was calling her. She doesn’t like me remember? Why would she come when I called her? I ran to the living room where my chocolate bar was supposed to be. There wasn’t anything on the table. I found the dog asleep in the middle of my parent’s bed. There was a scrap of paper wrapper stuck to her beard by chocolate. Now, I had heard chocolate can be fatal to dogs. By the loudness of her snoring, I knew she wasn’t dead. I looked everywhere for the remainder of my chocolate bar. Could she have really eaten the full pound and the wrapper? The entire house was turned upside down trying to find it. Gone. Completely gone. Sasha woke up during the search for the chocolate bar and gave me a rather smug look as she walked past me to go outside into the backyard. I followed her outside thinking she was leading me to my Hershey bar. Nope. She was in a squat for some time making a bar of her own. She sat in that position for a long time. There may have been a sheepish look in her eyes but I had no sympathy to offer. That had to be her come-uppance for scarfing down my chocolate. Other than this one long squat in the backyard, she came away unscathed from the event.

Me? Well, I did learn a very valuable lesson from this.

 

Never, ever leave chocolate around someone you don’t want to share it with under the best of circumstances. NO matter how unlikely it seems, they will find access to it.

The willing will always find a way.

 


Let’s talk turkey and a word of thanks

Take a moment to think about what you are thankful for in your life.

Maybe those around you see that you have a wonderful family, a beautiful home, a dream job, reliable vehicles, well behaved pets, a time share somewhere exotic, etc. you get the point. You have these things, but what did you sacrifice to get them? For most people, it’s time. Time away from family, friends and loved ones. Missed opportunities of walks, talks and, you guessed it, time. You can’t get that back either. Every day is a fresh start of 24 hours. Take it. Make the most of it.

Thanks to social media, we show the world what we want them to see. How did we ever live without photoshop or beauty filters? Heaven forbid we have a wrinkle or a pimple. We hide our warts and flaws and act as if our lives are perfect. Andy Warhol, and I’m paraphrasing here, said in the future, we would all be famous for 15 minutes. Quite a prophetic statement. Anyone and everyone can put themselves out for the world to see with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Periscope and so on. We don’t show the pictures of our children’s tear-stained faces when they don’t get picked for the elite team or dance production. Nobody gets to see our hand-me-down clothes or failed garden attempts. We don’t post the photos of the boiled over sauce or our burnt pan. Ok, some of us do, with the hash tag #nailedit. Thank goodness some folks have a sense of humour. 

Being thankful should be simple. Live in the moment. Forget about those damn Jonses, stop trying to keep up with them. Maybe all this time, they are trying to keep up to you. Be with those around you. If you have a roof over your head and food to share, you are ahead of many. Too much emphasis is placed on having the latest device, car and so on. Be thankful for the company of those around you. No one has a guaranteed amount of time on this planet we all share. Not every baby has the luxury to grow old. Life isn’t always fair. 

Be genuinely happy to spend time with those invited into your life. Unplug yourself from your device. Stop staring at a screen and look into the eyes of the people around you. Appreciate those who accompany you on your journey. Young faces are blank canvasses. Nourish their minds with well-told stories. Weathered faces have history and tales to tell. Listen to their stories, even if they are often-repeated yarns. This is how family histories and wisdom are passed down. Don’t interrupt. Enjoy the tale. Let the magic of the story unfold the way the raconteur intended. Don’t nit-pick for accuracy, as embelishment is the better part of any story. When the story-teller is no longer with you, you will long for those tales. 

Let’s talk turkey now.

This year, I ordered a fresh turkey from SPUD. (Yes, I know I talk about SPUD a lot) My folks were out of town this year for Thanksgiving so I opted to store the turkey in their empty fridge as mine was full of all the other accroutemants of our dinner. My plan was to have the turkey on the Sunday so I could relax and enjoy the holiday Monday by doing very little. (remember I’m talking about Canandian Thanksgiving, which was in October, but being thankful has no country of origin or time and datestamp) Through a miscommunication, my beautiful fresh turkey was placed in the freezer portion of the fridge. When it was shuttled to my house along with wine and a table top roasting oven, I was quite confused. I didn’t see the bird the day it was delivered, so I began to think the bird arrived frozen instead of fresh. After some questions, I learned how my bird came to spend the night in the freezer. So now my plans of cooking it Sunday went right out the window. Plan B: we had meatballs and spaghetti squash that night instead. 

I woke on the holiday Monday at 6:00 am and placed the still slightly frozen bird in a deep sink with cold water to thaw. I knew if I cooked it unstuffed, it would cook faster. That bird was given a lovely ghee massage and a jacket of bacon. Don’t judge me. It was amazing!  I threw some frozen poultry bone broth pucks into the roasting pan. The bird had some seasoning and garlic cloves tossed into it’s cavity and the lid was closed. The resulting gravy was rich and needed no further gussying, except to reduce and thicken. While the bird was roasting, I prepped the rest of the dinner. The beautiful thing with using a table top roasting oven, I was able to cook everything else at once in the regular oven without a game of Tetris to make all the dishes fit. Plus, the house stayed a cool temperature as the oven wasn’t going all day. Basting the bird was easy as can be, just lift the lid and go to town. 

By having dinner a night later, we had the privelage of having some of our teenage kids friends join us. It was a casual meal. Everyone grabbed a plate, picked what they wanted, buffet style, and found a place to sit. Some went downstairs and some stayed upstairs. Stories were shared, including the tale of the frozen-fresh turkey, and laughter echoed thoughout the house.

Listening to the conversations and watching everyone enjoy themselves, I was very thankful the turkey was inadvertently frozen, forcing a reschedule of dinner, to allow us such great company.