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.

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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.

 

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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 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. 

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.

Chicken, quinoa and chickpea salad

If you can find a way to make a little food go a long way and make your tummy happy in the process, you win. If you can do the same things for a fairly inexpensive price tag, you win again. Make it flexible for almost everyone to enjoy, well, I think you get the idea.

This “salad” came about out of a lack of time, a few pantry staples and hungry bodies sharking about in the kitchen.

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This is a great way to get lots of bright coloured veg into people who may not like eating cucumber spears, or pepper circles on a regular basis. Add in the healthy fat in the avocado oil, some protein and boom!

Now, chickpeas or garbanzo beans have bean/been known to contribute to a rather gassy factor for some folks. They may not be strict Paleo but lots of folks eat them without suffering ill effects. Think of hummus. Same goes for quinoa. Not strict Paleo but, some rules are meant to be bent. Food shouldn’t be dogmatic.img_0429

When you open a can of garbanzo beans, one thing you will notice is an outer hull that resembles dead skin or fingernails. Not overly appetizing to look at. You can gently slip the skin off. Yes, this will add some time to your food prep, but trust me, your salad will look far more appealing. My grade 8 Home Economics teacher would be proud I gave visual presentation any thought whatsoever.

So, let’s poke around in the fridge and the pantry and get “cooking”.

Quinoa, chick pea and chicken salad:

  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans, (really well rinsed, drained and skinned)
  • 1 can of cooked chicken (I like the ones from Costco, or leftover cooked chicken)
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (the seeds make everything too wet)
  • 1 red pepper, diced (by all means, use yellow, orange or green instead if you like)
  • 1 cup feta (optional)

For the dressing:

Whisk together

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil (extra virgin olive oil is another choice)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything together and mix well. Add the dressing just before serving.

If you eat gluten, paint the inside of a pita pocket with tzatziki, hummus or baba ganoush (or all three) and stuff this inside. I opt for a gluten free wrap or a just a bowl and spoon. (to get every drop of the dressing)

Vegan? Skip the chicken and feta and it still is pretty darn tasty.

Strict Paleo? Skip the garbanzo beans and quinoa, and well, the dairy is up to you.

Let’s talk about breakfast

Who skips this important meal?

C’mon, hands up. What’s your excuse? For most breakfast skippers, it’s a time thing. “I don’t have time to make it”. Well, I’m going to poke a holes in that excuse right here and now.

I bet you set the timer on your coffee machine. It’s there to save you time. Pat yourself on the back, you are one step ahead already. You know the importance of time saved. You wake to the smell of the elixir of life coaxing your brain to a wakeful state. As easily as you program the coffee, you can prep breakfast.

The word breakfast splits into break and fast. Break the fast of that occurred while your body was resting, healing, repairing and growing. Now it needs energy to get you through the day. Time to put some gas in the tank and you may as well put something worthwhile in there too while you are at it.

I used to be borderline addicted to Count Chocula cereal. When I could no longer buy it in town, I had it shipped to me, by the case (because one box at a time was just silly), by a friend who lived in Toronto. Sweet marshmallows and chocolate crunchy bits, what was not to love? This, to me, was a food group. Yeesh! Now, if I can change the way I eat, anybody can. I would eat multiple bowls at a sitting. It was not uncommon for me to mix up chocolate milk to use in my cereal for breakfast. I wanted the milk at the end of the bowl to be super-chocolatey. The regular chocolating (is that even a word?) of the milk was not enough for me. How’s that for a dirty little secret? Let’s add more sugar to the sugar party shall we? My teeth hurt just thinking back to that time.

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Back to that whole “no time for breakfast” business. I work, I have a family and I like to binge watch Netflix as much as the next person. Do I want to get up an hour earlier to make a healthy breakfast every morning? Nope. Those polar fleece sheets are too cozy for that. I try to keep my life as easy and uncomplicated as possible. So, one learns to prep.

Breakfast for the week is ready to go in less than an hour of your time. Honest. Easy and tasty. You can seriously change the stuff in this crustless quiche to suit whatever you have on hand. Tomatoes (I seed them to avoid the soggy factor), bacon, ham, spinach, green beans, cheese if you eat it, cooked shrimp, fresh herbs . . . you get the idea. No wasted food and a happy tummy.

This is so crazy easy and so leftover friendly it’s fantastic. Grab some veg and anything that looks appealing from the fridge. I used some leftover gluten free sausages, yellow pepper and asparagus for this version.

Let’s make some breaky:

Preheat oven to 375

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan with ghee, butter, coconut oil, bacon grease, or whatever fat you love

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, cut into bite-sized piecesimg_2242
  • 6 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 cooked gluten-free sausages, cut into bite -sized pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Chop everything and dump into your greased dish. (One less thing to wash for the win.) Whisk your eggs in a separate bowl and gently pour over everything.

Bake 30-35 minutes. Let it cool and cut into 6 pieces and store in the fridge.

 



More cookies

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When you bring together a few simple things together in just the right proportions, magic happens. These macaroons are a wonderful example of that magic.

Today, I tried my hand at making my own egg nog. Because, well, egg nog. Goodness knows, I love me some of that stuff. I like it on it’s own, in my coffee, with or without a shot of rum. I think you get the message. I love this stuff. I look forward to egg nog latte season at Starbucks. Doesn’t everybody? The cheaper side of me has a hard time shelling out a small ransom for one when I could buy the stuff to make my own for about the same cash outlay. Plus, let’s not forget about all the things contained in that egg nog you buy. I can’t pronounce more than half of that stuff.

I’m happy to report, the egg nog was easy and pretty tasty. I’ll post it and the steps another time. This is all about cookies, remember?

The nog required egg yolks, leaving me with 3 egg whites. What is a person to do? I scanned the pantry shelf and grabbed the shredded coconut, coconut flour and some honey. One of my grandmothers used to make macaroons when I was young. I recall them being like delicate birds nests. The first bite caused the cookie to crumble. I mean, totally break apart. I recall wearing most of the cookie and crumbs all over the table and floor. Such a waste.

When it comes to food, especially cookies, I don’t like wasting anything. These are quality ingredients and they aren’t hitting the floor anytime soon on my watch. These are bite sized flavour bombs that aren’t too sweet. A couple of these guys with a faTT coffee would make a great little breakfast.

Coconut macaroons:

  • 3 egg whites (pastured eggs are best if you can get your hands on them)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until really frothy with a handheld or stand mixer. Add vanilla and honey and continue mixing until well combined.

Add the coconut flour and mix well. (it probably looks like gruel at this point) Stir in the unsweetened coconut shreds.

Grab your 1 tablespoon cookie scoop and pack it really well with the cookie mash. (this doesn’t really resemble ‘dough’ in the sense of most other cookie dough).

smallcookiescoop

 

Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, watching they don’t burn. Let them cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 18 bite sized cookies. Start to finish was maybe 30 minutes, including cleanup time.

 

To make them more exciting, you could melt some chocolate chips and drizzle on the tops or dip half the cookies. Change the flavour by switching the honey for maple syrup or coconut nectar. Add a few cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips and you really got something fancy.

If you need me, I’m heating some of my egg nog up for coffee and grabbing a few cookies to go with it.