Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mulligatawny Soup

I don’t normally buy convenience foods with one exception – prepared rotisserie chickens. They’re just so good and when you’re pressed for time, especially at this time of the year, they’re just the ticket. They’re also the meal that just keeps on giving: first you get to enjoy the delicious, tender chicken, then the carcass and any leftover chicken can be used to make this delicious soup. Mulligatawny soup, or “pepper water” from the original Tamil, is a very “British” soup, but originated in India during colonial times. It was made famous during the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode. Here is my version, and although the ingredient list is long, it’s very simple and pretty much makes itself in the slow cooker. If you have a leftover chicken or turkey carcass you must try this soup. It is extremely delicious. For vegetarians, just use the two boullion cubes (but no additional salt) and add some short grain brown rice or pearl barley for a complete protein.
one chicken or half a turkey carcass
cheesecloth for wrapping the carcass
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 package creamed coconut, (coconut oil reserved for another use) chopped finely to help dissolve it
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup of short grain brown rice or pearl barley (optional)
2 Tablespoons good quality curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 bouillon cubes (2 if the soup is vegetarian)
1 1/2 litres of boiling water
1 Tablespoon honey
salt to taste
1 wedge of lime
1/2 bunch of cilantro, washed well and chopped
leftover chicken or turkey meat, chopped into 1″ cubes

Take an 18″ long piece of cheesecloth and add all the bones to the middle of it, reserving the meat for later.
Take a 4″ piece of cheesecloth and add 1 Tablespoon of mixed peppercorns to the middle of it, then tie it into a little bundle with a bit of string. Add this and the bay leaf to the bones, then tie it all into a tight little bundle.
Place into the slow cooker.
Add all the rest of the ingredients except the coconut cream, honey, salt and lime.
Cook on high for 4-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker. My small one takes 4 hours, my large one takes 8.
When there is one hour of cooking time left, remove the cheesecloth bag into a bowl. (When it is cool, put the whole thing into the compost) then add the chopped up coconut cream, the honey, and the meat, if using. Allow to cook for another hour or so. Taste for salt and sour and add the salt and lime if desired. At the end of the cooking time, add all the chopped cilantro. Serve with love and watch the smiles.
If you don’t have a slow cooker just use a pot on the stove. The whole soup can be made in an hour after it comes to the boil. It takes about 45 minutes simmering with the bones, then remove them, add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and simmer for a further 15 minutes, then add the cilantro. It’s absolutely just as tasty – guaranteed!




Image of chicken carcass in cheesecloth

Make a packet of the chicken carcass, the bay leaf and peppercorns



Image of cheesecloth bundle in slow cooker

Place the bundle into the slow cooker


Image of the ingredients for Mulligatawny soup

Ingredients for Mulligatawny Soup


Image of Mulligatawny soup ingredients in the slow cooker

Just pile everything into the slow cooker except the coconut cream, honey, salt, chicken meat and lime


image of Mulligatawny soup in slow cooker

Add boiling water to just cover


Image of coconut cream and honey

An hour before it’s done, add the coconut cream, honey and chopped up chicken or turkey meat


image of carcass bundle

BUT remove the carcass bundle first!


Image of a package of coconut cream

Reserve the coconut oil (white substance at the far left of the coconut cream package) and use for sauteeing, etc.


Image of chopped coconut cream

chop the coconut cream finely


Image of cilantro and lime


image of chopped leftover chicken
Image of Mulligatawny Soup

Unbelievably delicious Mulligatawny Soup


Holiday Floral Arrangement

Image of seasonal floral arrangement

Make this Seasonal floral using some old ornaments and a some fresh florals


Well, I still had a whole bunch of leftover Christmas ornaments so I decided I was going to upcycle them into a couple of floral arrangements. I had the picks left over from last week’s wreath, so I decided to use them as picks for my large pine cones. I cut out the centre wire, making a sort of cup which I hot-glued to the end of each of the 9 pine cones. Then I spray painted all the pine cones plus some old holly berry picks in a metallic chrome colour and let them dry overnight. I had a couple of metal containers leftover from last Christmas. One of them had a plastic liner but the smaller one did not, so I made a waterproof flower holder by putting a soaked floral wet foam into a plastic zipper bag, taping it down into the container with electrical tape and making a few slashes through the plastic at the top to allow for the flowers and pine to be poked through. The large square container had just the soaked floral foam held down with electrical tape. I then raided my backyard for white pine and juniper. In case you think I have denuded my white pine tree, rest assured I have 3 large ones in my backyard, so all I did was a light pruning. The reason I love using white pine for my floral arrangements is that the needles are so soft, even the tiniest fingers won’t get prickled. Anyway, I harvested a large bunch of the white pine and just a few juniper branches, which were arranged in the containers using the tallest and largest in the middle and the smallest ones towards the outer edges. Then I added the juniper in the middle. I purchased a dozen small red roses and a bunch of green fuji chrysanthemums. These I arranged rather haphazardly throughout both containers, 9 roses and 5 fujis in the larger container, 3 roses and 3 fujis in the smaller container. The chrysanthemums came with a couple of stems of Salal, so I incorporated these into the larger arrangement. What I was trying to do was fill out the container, but without it looking too stiff and formal. Lastly I added the silver painted pine cones and holly berries throughout. Since I had intended from the beginning that the larger container would be a table centrepiece, I made sure to add all the elements right around the container, by walking around the table whilst putting them in. The smaller one will go onto a hall console table, so is more one-sided.
Finally, to make a nice gift presentation, I wrapped them with cellophane and tied them with festive bows. Total cost: $20 for the fresh florals for two floral arrangements, $5 for the silver spray paint. I hope you are inspired to make some floral arrangements yourself. It’s really very easy.

image of wet floral foam soaking

soak the floral foam before using. Make sure it’s “wet” foam!


image of leftovers of floral pick

Leftovers from last week’s wreath project


image of secateurs cutting the floral pick

Use secateurs to snip off the main “stem”


image of pinecone stuck onto leftover pick

Hot glue a pinecone onto the leftover pick



image of leftover ornaments in a box ready for spray painting

Leftover ornaments ready for spray painting


image of leftover ornaments after spray painting

After spray painting with Krylon “chrome”


image of containers packed with floral foam and taped

Use electrical tape to secure the soaked floral foam into the containers


Image of adding greenery and fllowers

Just keep adding greenery and flowers from the inside to the outer edges


image of floral in progress

Keep going! There are no real rules – just do what looks best.


image of finished floral

Add the silver pinecones


Image of almost finished floral

And the hollyberry picks at the corners


Image of finished floral

Eh Voila!




Image of wrapped floral

Add some cellophane and a bow and it’s ready for giving!


Re-cycling ornaments

Every year I struggle with the sheer amount of Christmas decorations I have. Over the years, despite myself, I have gathered huge amounts of ornaments, mostly plastic. Although I really try to utilize all that I have, there is always a box of ne’er do wells – tired-looking ornaments with bits missing, dusty looking, crumpled, and just sad. Rather than putting them in the landfill, I thought I would try to re-use them by freshening them up a bit.
For my outdoor wreath I used a plastic (sigh!) wreath form which is 30″ in diameter. Every year I take all the ornamentation off it and store it in a bag. When I take it out it has been quite compacted, so I spend a few minutes pulling on every one of the needle branches until they stick straight up. Then I added a string of LED mini lights, tucking the wires in very well and hiding them by bending down the needle branches. I then added a handful of real white pine branchlets all around the wreath going in the same direction. This makes the wreath look a lot more realistic, plus it smells real too.
Just inside the larger wreath I used a plastic laurel wreath, 18″ in diameter that’s looking a little worse for wear, as a base to glue other ornaments onto. I used the wired needle branches of the outer wreath to secure the inner wreath so it wouldn’t move.
Then I pulled the dusty pomegranates off 18 picks I have had for years but hadn’t used. These I sprayed lightly with clear lacquer as I wanted them to be shiny looking. I also spray painted some little plastic apples with a light coat of lime green spray paint. I wanted the original red and gold to come through, but brighten them up a bit.
I hot-glued the painted apples in a ring around the centre of the laurel wreath, and then hot-glued the refreshed pomegranates around them.
Then I pushed any remaining picks and berry branches in around the perimeter to fill in the wreath. I did not use every sad-looking ornament I had. You just have to judge for yourself when there are enough.
Lastly I added a few real berries (rosehips from my garden) around the wreath and a bright red paper bow.
It’s amazing what you can do to recycle ornaments and have them look new and fresh. It takes no time at all really, and you end up with a really festive wreath.

Wreath form

Pull on each of the branchlets until they stick straight up



assorted tired-looking Christmas ornaments

Some pretty sad-looking ornaments from past years



image of real white pine stuck into artificial wreath

Stick some real white pine branchlets around the artificial wreath going in the same direction. Use the wired needles to hold the real ones.


image of laurel wreath inside larger wreath

Affix the smaller wreath inside the larger one by using the wired branches to hold it in place


image of small crabapples hot-glued onto the smaller wreath

Hot-glue the refreshed crabapples in a circle around the smaller central wreath


image of pomegranates glued around the crabapples

Hot-glue the refreshed pomegranates in a circle around the crabapples


Lee Valley brick hanger

Lee Valley brick hanger



Image of completed wreath

Add a festive paper bow and hang it outside using a Lee Valley brick hanger. They work great and are very strong. This wreath weighs around 7lbs.


Propolis Hand and Heel Salve

Do you or someone you love suffer from painful cracked fingers and heels in the winter time? Consider making this incredibly healing Propolis Hand and Heel Salve. It will take you less than 10 minutes in your kitchen, and will provide pain relief and healing of cracked heels and those awfully painful cracks you sometimes get next to your fingernails. It is also really good for eczema, psoriasis and diaper rash.
In this recipe, I have used 100% pure jojoba oil, because it doesn’t go rancid and is very easily absorbed into the skin. It also has its own healing properties.
I have also used pure yellow beeswax, which also helps heal, and is available from apiaries as well as many health food stores.
The magic ingredient is Propolis extract. Propolis is a natural resin made by bees to glue shut any cracks around a bee hive. It has very powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which is what enables this cream to be so healing. Propolis-based resin was also used as a wood finish on Stradivarius violins, providing protection from moulds, mildew and insects.
I am very lucky to get my Propolis extract from my Aunt Helena in England. She has her own hives, and harvests the raw propolis by scraping it off the honey frames. She then soaks it in water to clean it, freezes it completely in a deep freeze, blends it into a powder in the blender, then soaks it in 70% ethanol (Polish Spirytus) for 3 weeks. After it has extracted she then filters and bottles it. You can make your own using Vodka, it is just not quite as powerful. Alternatively, Propolis extracts are available online at

The method for making the salve couldn’t be easier:
Chop 10g of beeswax as small as you can
Warm 75ml of pure jojoba oil in a glass measure for 1 minute in the microwave. (Measuring cup will get hot).
Using chopsticks, stir the chopped beeswax into the hot oil and stir until it is completely melted.
Keep stirring until it starts to set up a bit, then add 5ml of the Propolis extract. Stir very well until it has incorporated, then immediately pour into small jars. The salve will harden in a matter of minutes and then it’s ready to use.
At bedtime, pack the heel or nail cracks full of the salve. If possible, wear gloves or socks, or just cover with a bandaid. The cracks will often heal overnight. Use a very thin layer on skin to relieve eczema or diaper rash. It can also be used as a handcream that provides relief from the itchiness of dry hands.

image of ingredients for Propolis Hand and Heel Salve

Just a few ingredients form a wonderful, healing salve


image of wax melting in Jojoba oil

Keep stirring until all the wax is melted


image of Propolis extract being stirred into salve

Stir one teaspoon of Propolis extract into the beeswax and Jojoba oil mixture


Image of pots of Propolis Hand and Heel Salve

Pour into small pots and allow to cool completely












































































Decorate Your House for the Holidays!

image of holiday urn insert

It’s so easy to make this gorgeous urn insert!

Year-end celebrations are upon us again. For years, while my children were small, Christmas was very stressful for me. There just seemed to be too much to do and, unfortunately, I got right into the thick of the mass media messaging so prevalent: “buy, buy, buy – no, that’s not enough!, buy more!”
It’s the type of thinking that just overloads your home with “stuff” and plastic. For the last few years, however, I have definitely had a more sane approach, by sticking to one gift per person, and by allowing myself to spend only $10 on new Christmas decorations, not counting the tree or items that can compost or be recycled. I certainly have enough decorations, collected over the years, and I know how to recycle them effectively so that everything looks fresh and new, without having to buy more and more. Over the next couple of weeks I want to share how I do this, starting with this week, where I show how incredibly easy it is to make a stunning urn insert to dress up the outside of your house.
The first thing you need is a couple of plastic pots which fit right inside your outdoor urns. You probably have some left over from the summer. Fill them with garden soil, which hopefully is nice and wet at this time of the year. They will be heavy, so bend your knees when you lift them and spare your back. It’s easiest to bring them indoors and work on a newspaper lined table. Next gather greenery – from your backyard if you are lucky enough to have some growing, or from the garden centre. Buy or gather a lot more than you think you will need. More is better in this case.You will also need 6 each of pomegranates and red apples, wooden chopsticks and some decorative wired burlap for making a bow. This burlap is weather proof and can be re-used for years. For this urn I used white pine boughs, cedar, larch, dogwood, red berries and green hydrangea flowers, all of which grow abundantly in my backyard.
Starting with the tallest boughs, stick them into the soil, starting at the centre and working your way, using smaller and smaller branches, out to the edges in concentric circles.

image of plastic pots filled with garden soil ready for the greenery

Plastic pots filled with soil and ready for the greenery

Keep adding more, working in circles, until your urns start looking really stuffed. Then add more! Add the cedar and larch boughs, filling in any spaces, then finally add a few branches of dogwood and red berries right around the centre bough.

image of pot getting filled

Keep adding greenery until you think you can’t possibly stuff any more in!

Stick the wooden chopsticks into the bottom of both the pomegranates and apples and insert them into the centre as well. Make sure they are propped up by the surrounding greenery as they can be heavy. Finally, gently add the hydrangea flowers around the centre bough.
Then, make a big bow out of the burlap, (and I used some decorative ribbon as well). Use a bit of wire or black twist ties and securely wire it to one of the larger branches in your insert.
Water every day until it is completely frozen and it will last right through until the Spring. The squirrels will eat the apples, but not the pomegranates.

Festive Salad

As we enter this season of year-end celebrations, we are often too rushed to think about our nutrition, although it’s often when we need it most. Sometimes we feel stressed, we might be fighting a bug that’s going around or our bodies are trying to adjust to the colder weather.

This salad, courtesy of my niece Pia, in England, is unbelievably rich in anti-oxidants, which help our bodies to adapt to stress. It also helps to transition our palates from the fresh-tasting Summer and Fall salads to the “meh!” Winter salads. Please don’t leave out the olive oil (or other substitute oil) as it helps to release the anthocyanins – the anti-oxidant compounds responsible for the red colours) from the beets and cabbage so that they are available for our bodies to use. It can be made ahead and it’s also fabulous the next day.

image of festive salad

Festive Red Cabbage and Beet Salad

1/2 small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 raw beets, peeled and coarsely shredded
1/2 cup of frozen green peas or edamame beans, defrosted by pouring boiling water over them in a sieve.
2 green onions, chopped
2 oz. creamy Feta cheese or Halloumi
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or substitute oil of choice)
Juice of 1/4 lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix the cabbage and beets together with the oil and put into a nice bowl
Arrange the peas, beans and green onions in the centre
Sprinkle the cheese around the beans or peas
Salt and pepper the top and sprinkle the whole salad with lemon juice.
Allow to sit for about an hour for the flavours to develop.
Serve with love.

image of festive salad ingredients

image of shredded red cabbage

shred the red cabbage with a knife


image of beets shredded on top of cabbage

shred the raw beets right on top of the red cabbage



image of using lemon quarter to get beet stain off your hands

Use the leftover lemon quarter (after squeezing) to clean the beet stain off your hands.