Monthly Archives: May 2013

Junk food woes

20130528-205749.jpgMy life has been so busy in the last little while, with lots of driving and traveling and if I am on the road and unprepared with food brought from home I am sorely tempted, because I am hungry, to indulge in – let’s see….what tempts me? French fries!
So then I think “well, they’re just deep fried potatoes, what could be wrong with that?”
Here’s the problem: they have been so incredibly processed that they really don’t bear much resemblance to a potato at all. Peeled, coated with a sweet and salty brine loaded with artificial flavour enhancers, colour enhancers, anti-browning agents, stabilizers, preservatives and texturizers, they are then deep fried and frozen to be distributed to the fast food outlets. Then they are deep fried and salted once again before you purchase them to eat.
They’re so good when they’re freshly hot and crispy and usually get gobbled up in minutes. But have you ever let them get cold, even just for about 8 minutes? They become inedible, they’re so bad. And if you bring them home and try to reheat them in the microwave the next day, then you realize they’re not really food at all. In fact they don’t even resemble food in smell or taste or texture. This is because all those chemicals that are used to process the potatoes have a very limited time that they actually “work” after which they degrade into other chemical components. All these chemicals and their derivatives really take a toll on our bodies as our livers and kidneys try so hard to detoxify them.
Also, when you process, then freeze, then deep-fry what used to be food, you end up with a weird substance that, although it has calories so you won’t starve to death, has no nutritional value whatsoever, and, in fact, robs your body of valuable enzymes and vitamins as you’re trying hard to digest it.
So, my poor liver and digestive system, clogged with the by-products of the fast-food phenomenon, when I’m really not used to it. What to do?
Drink lots of water, be kind to myself, and try to eat better. In fact, as a result of feeling so “McCrappy”, I have gone on a no sugar kick, which means that of course I can’t have any more junk food ‘cos it’s loaded with sugar, and I feel SO much better! After only about a week!
Maybe you should try it too. Don’t, for goodness sake, be fooled by those TV ads that show vegetables exploding out of the wraps showing how good they are for you – they’re not, not at all. Even the miserable vegetables that are in there are also processed so they will last longer during shipping and in the restaurants. And don’t forget, even though they are supposed to be healthier, they are loaded with sugar and salt. It only takes a few minutes to prepare your own “healthy wrap” made with real chicken and real vegetables and wrapped up so it’s portable. I hear you: “dial your own extension!” and believe me, I plan to from now on, because it’s just not worth feeling “mccrappy”.

 

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Honey sweetened chocolate cake with chocolate avocado frosting

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Honey sweetened chocolate spelt cake with chocolate avocado frosting,
makes 16-18 servings

Expanding on my success at using overripe bananas to sweeten spelt cakes I thought I would try making a fancier birthday cake. However, I needed something a bit sweeter than bananas to balance the bitterness of the unsweetened cocoa powder. Just a half cup of honey in this whole 2-layer cake does the trick. It’s just sweet enough, but not too sweet. The absolutely decadent chocolate-avocado frosting has a wonderfully smooth and rich texture and is also sweetened with 1/3 of a cup of honey for enough frosting to generously frost this 2-layer cake. The texture is torte-like but very light. If you love dark chocolate, you will love this cake.

Ingredients for cake

3 overripe bananas

3 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil

3 eggs

3/4 cup plain, fat-free yogurt

2 cups light spelt flour

1/2 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional

1/2 cup honey, heated until very hot

Ingredients for frosting

2 large or 3 small ripe but firm avocadoes, (the peel will come off easily but they’re not mushy)

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional

Method

Mash overripe bananas with coconut oil, then add in eggs, yogurt and vanilla.

Place a sieve or strainer over the mixing bowl and measure in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and coffee powder. Sift directly over the wet ingredients, working in batches if your strainer is small.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being very gentle.

Then add in the hot honey, folding very gently to combine.

Pour batter evenly into two parchment-lined, greased 8″ cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Remove cakes to cooling racks, allowing them to cool completely, and then refrigerate until cold before making the frosting.

For the frosting:

Peel, pit and quarter the avocadoes, placing the quarters into the bowl of a food processor.

Add in the rest of the frosting ingredients and pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Then process for a couple of minutes, until very creamy and glossy.

Use this frosting to frost the middle, top and sides of the cake.

Garnish as desired – with edible flowers, fresh raspberries or leave it plain.

 

 

gather all your ingredients

 

 

mash bananas with coconut oil

 

add eggs, vanilla and yogurt and mix well

until well combined

sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and espresso powder  (you may have to do this in 2 batches if your strainer is small, like mine) and stir very gently

then add hot honey and stir gently until combined

divide batter evenly between 2 parchment-lined 8″ round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes

until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean

turn cakes out onto cooling racks and peel off parchment paper. Refrigerate till cold.

when the cakes are cold, gather the frosting ingredients

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Put peeled and quartered avocadoes into the bowl of a food processor.

 

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add in the honey, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt

 

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and pulse-process to combine,

 

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stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl,

 

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until the frosting is very smooth and creamy.

 

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put one of the cakes onto a serving platter

 

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and cover the top of it with about 1/4 of the frosting.

 

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place the second cake on top,

 

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and frost the top of it with 1/2 of the remaining frosting, then use the rest to frost the sides.

 

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add any extra frosting to the centre of the cake, smoothing out as required.

 

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decorate with edible flowers, if desired.

 

Barbecue Roasted Beets

When the weather starts getting really warm, all I want to do in terms of cooking is barbeque. I love the simplicity of barbequing whole meals and the fact that it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.
This is one of my favourite barbeque recipes – earthy, sweet, and it tastes wonderful. Even people who hate beets like them prepared this way.

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Barbeque roasted beets – serves 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients

2-3 large or 6-7 small beets
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1-2 oz. feta cheese (optional)

Method

Wash and peel beets and slice into 1/4″ slices.
Place on a double piece of aluminum foil.
Sprinkle with the olive oil and kosher salt.
Place the sprig of rosemary on top of the beets, fold up the foil into a package and grill, covered, over medium heat for 20 minutes.
While the packet is still on the grill, tear it open with tongs and, using the tongs, place each slice of beet directly on the grill to mark it with grill marks, about a minute or two per side.
Remove to a serving plate, sprinkle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some feta cheese crumbles, if desired.
Serve as a side dish with love, of course!

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Just a few simple ingredients result in such flavour!

 

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slice peeled beets 1/4″ thick, place on doubled aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil

 

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sprinkle with kosher salt and tuck a sprig of rosemary in

 

 

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fold the long edges together in a double fold, then fold the short edges over

 

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place packet on a barbeque grill and cook 25 minutes from cold or 20 minutes from preheated grill

 

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use tongs to open up the foil. Steam will have built up so be careful.

 

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then “mark” the beets by placing them directly on the grill for a few minutes per side.

 

 

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remove to a serving dish, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and cut into smaller pieces.

 

 

Planting Time!

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A gorgeous Persian tree lilac in my back yard

Plant peas in your garden when the daffodils bloom.
Plant tender plants in your garden when the lilacs are in full bloom.
I grew up hearing these phrases from my Grandfather and then my Mother and always followed this advice, with great success.
Although it’s basically an old wives tale, there’s actually a science devoted to studying how cues from nature can tell us when to plant, harvest and when to watch out for insect invaders. It’s called phenology and it’s based on the fact that even tiny changes in climate can affect plants, insects, etc. and their behaviour. Long ago our ancestors would have noticed that there isn’t usually a frost after the lilac blooms so it’s safe to plant out tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather crops.
Phenology is a very old science and has been useful in showing the general trend of global warming. For instance, records of the exact date of the pinot noir grape harvest in Burgundy have been kept for over 500 years and so meteorologists were able to very accurately track temperature trends during spring-summer-fall for those times before we had instrumentation (like thermometers!) A more advanced science of phenology using weather satellites in orbit around the earth which pick up tiny changes in climate over whole ecosystems is now commonly used to track changes in the weather resulting from global warming.
This year, however, my own gardening efforts will have to be limited to a cherry tomato plant and a few herbs in a pot due to the house sale and build. Next year, however – a BIG garden, I hope!

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My “garden” this year – a cherry tomato plant and a couple of herbs. C’est la vie.

 

And so it begins….

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And so it begins…….the build of our dream home.
It started about 5 years ago when we purchased the property that this house will be built on. The original house that was standing on the property was a lovely little house, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room and kitchen and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was cute and cozy, but, if I ever wanted my (large) family to come and visit, we had a problem: the place was just too small. Luckily, a guy who’s in the house moving business agreed to take it and move it to another property about 10 km away so we didn’t have to demolish it. In fact, we would not have demolished it under any circumstances – the thought of such a good little house going into the landfill was just not acceptable.
The design process started with me doodling little drawings in my myriad notebooks. Just thinking about how it would be best to lay out the house considering the views, the usage of the rooms as well as the number of rooms we needed. My husband, of course, had a lot of input as well as contributing many special design features which he will be making himself.
Then it was time to make an actual plan. For this stage of planning an architect is required as they know all the building code details as well as the structural elements that are needed. The picture above shows a more-or-less final elevation which was produced by the architect of what the front of the house will look like.
After the small house was removed, it was time to build a foundation.
Two weeks ago a backhoe removed the excess soil and rocks and made a very large hole. Then concrete footings were poured which sit 4 feet below the foundation. This is necessary so that the frost which occurs to 4′ down doesn’t shift the house.
Last week the foundation was constructed, which is made out of concrete blocks. Once the foundation was constructed, it had to be parged (smoothed all over the outside with a cement mixture). This waterproofs the blocks. On top of the parging, the foundation was painted with tar, and then a plastic platon was screwed on. The tar and platon are two more layers of waterproofing.
This week the concrete slab will be poured.
Stay tuned…………oooh, this is SO exciting!!

 

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The old house “going down the road”. Picture from the local paper.

 

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the forms for the concrete footings are made

 

 

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the block foundation starts to grow!

 

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Here’s me sitting in my future living room (well the basement under it)

 

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the foundation wall keep growing

 

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The foundation is “parged” to waterproof it

 

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the bottom 4 feet are painted with tar and then a dimpled plastic “platon” is affixed to the blocks

 

Sugar-free Spelt Banana Bread

Sugar-free Spelt Banana Bread

This makes a very light, slightly sweet loaf, perfect for peanut butter sandwiches or a thick slice with apple butter for breakfast. Makes 12 thick slices.
When you let bananas get really overripe, their natural sweetness intensifies, making them a good substitute for sugar in baked products. You can leave out the coconut oil as well, I just added a bit because it’s such a good fat.
This recipe is also very flexible in that you can flavour it with anything you like: cocoa, nuts, coconut, dried fruit, fresh fruit such as blueberries or cranberries, or just leave it as is. Make sure you don’t use any more than about a half cup of extras though, as the loaf won’t rise.

Ingredients

4-5 small overripe bananas, or 3 large
1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil, optional
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt, buttermilk, or milk soured with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups light spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

Mash bananas in a large bowl
Add in the coconut oil and mix well
Add in the eggs and mix well
Add in the yogurt and vanilla and mix well
Place a sieve over the bowl and put the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon in it.
Sift this mixture into the wet ingredients, then fold it in lightly until incorporated.
Scrape the batter into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely before slicing.
Enjoy!!

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gather your ingredients

 

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peel the bananas into a large bowl

 

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mash with a fork

 

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add in the coconut oil

 

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and mix it in well

 

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then add in the two eggs

 

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and mix them in well

 

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add the yogurt and vanilla

 

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put flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon into a sieve over the bowl

 

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and sift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients

 

 

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until there are only a few lumps left. Push those through the sieve with a spoon

 

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the batter will start rising right in the bowl

 

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scrape the batter into a parchment paper lined loaf tin

 

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and bake at 350 degrees 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean

 

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tip the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack and peel off the paper

 

 

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Makes a lovely, light loaf which is not too sweet

 

A Mother’s Love

20130507-205121.jpgIf you’re lucky enough to have a Mom still, then make sure to give her a big, big hug on Mother’s Day. If you’re lucky enough to be a Mom, hug your children and thank them. If you know a Mom, give her a hug too. Mom’s just deserve hugs all the time, and a whole lot more.
A Mother’s love is just such a very special and powerful emotion. It’s almost indescribable to someone who has never felt it before. For myself, I never felt any such emotion until my firstborn was about 3 months old. Before that I really didn’t think I had any maternal instinct whatsoever. If anyone handed me their baby I passed it back instantly. I didn’t think babies were “cute”, “adorable” or any such thing. Well, what a surprise when my maternal instinct finally kicked in the first time my daughter looked up at me and smiled. It was like a lightning bolt of love. Suddenly I was a lot like a Mother Lion. Try getting between me and my baby. Roaaarrr!! Not gonna happen!!
In the years that have passed my love for my children has never lessened one iota, which again surprises me as I thought it would wane a bit when they grew up.
What surprises me even more is that I feel the same kind of love and protectionism for my Grandson.
To me the absolute best example of Mothering, by far, is that shown by my friend Diane for her two extreme special needs children who have both passed away. Her daughter, Carling, passed away in 2004 at the age of 7 and her son, Colton, passed away just this March at the age of almost 15. They both suffered from a very rare genetic condition called NCL (Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses) which strikes a child from the age of 3 onward and is often fatal by age 7. The fact that Diane, and her team of caregivers did so, so much for both Carling and Colton and managed to keep them as healthy as humanly possible is nothing short of miraculous. The photo below shows Diane dancing with Colton at his Grade 8 graduation last year. Unbelievable! She also has a third child, Jarrett, who is not affected by NCL. The struggles – physical, financial and emotional that the family have gone through would have finished me off for sure. But not Diane. She is not only the strongest person I know, but also the most giving of herself, and always with a big huge smile. I have been lucky enough to know Diane since she was just a high school student. Even back then she knew that somehow she would change the world. Well, she has changed it, and for the better, as, despite her grief at the passing of her children, she once again selflessly looks outward to see how her experience can change the world for the better by leaving a legacy of helping others through the well known charity Free the Children. We could all, each and everyone, take a lesson from her.

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Colton Gill dances with his mother Diane Wilson at his Grade 8 graduation from Charles R. Beaudoin school last June.