The Cat Came Back.

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Our neighbour’s cat went missing last week.  A very friendly marmalade cat whom everyone in the community loves.  It was sad.  It was very sad for me, because he is the reason I don’t need to get a cat for the kids.  He is in our backyard.  He is in our home.  He loves to be cuddled by small gentle hands. Curls up on our couch when the door is left open (or scares the crap out of my husband by rubbing against his feet while he’s working…we don’t have any animals so when my husband is working and something silently starts brushing up against his toes he jumps.  A lot.)  And the best part is, we get to enjoy him without ever having to clean a litter box or pay a vet fee.

The cat was gone for almost a whole week.  And then, right before my neighbour’s birthday someone who had taken in the friendly “lost” cat saw the missing poster and returned him home.  Such a happy story.  Which reminded me of our story, when our cat went missing:

She was also a marmalade cat.  A little spunky girl whose name suited her: Shiraz.  And we loved her. (Did not love the litter box, or hair, or vet bills…but that’s beside the point)  We went away on vacation with someone coming in twice a day to cat-sit (or feed rather).  And when we got back, she was gone.  So we did what all good-people-who-love-their-pet do: we put up posters.

The first phone call was at 10pm at night from up the road, at a fast food place with an outdoor service window (which had our poster in it.)  A man had seen our cat!  And on his cell phone he told us where she was.  Huddled under a car in the parking lot.  Oh, wait what colour was she?  Because it was dark and he couldn’t see.  We held the line as he fumbled for a flashlight.  And then.  Low and behold!  A black cat.

Sigh.

The next was a voicemail.  A woman saying she found her!  Only her collar was green, not black with ID tags as we had left her with.  And then, despite us returning the call (repeatedly) no further response or contact.

Weird.

Did I mention at the time we lived on a tropical island with a large feral cat population?  One island on which a do-gooding organization set up cat feeding stations with actual cat food. (Granted they also trapped and spayed/neutred the cats and re-released them into the ‘wild’.  Guess it did help control the mice/rat population…) Anyways we sort of figured this is where our cat ended up.  Figuring out she could live just fine without us. And still get her fix of kitty food.

And then we got the last phone call.  A lady.  A very kind lady.  Who described our cat to a tee.  Down to the little black collar (ID tags lost).  We got VERY excited.  We made plans to come up to where she was (an area not too far away) to pick up our little ball of love.  And right before we hung up the phone she asked:  “How many legs does your cat have?”

Crazy.  There is a whole lot of crazy in this world.  And it is enough to make me laugh (and cry somedays).  But without it, life would be boring.  Because who would put up a lost cat poster and not mention if their cat was missing a leg?  And who would call people to say they had found a cat, well a mostly-whole cat, when the picture in the lost poster clearly indicated our cat was whole?  The lost limb was not a fresh injury.  This lady was crazy.  (But in a do-gooder type way.)  And now I can smile at all the good memories of our cat, and the crazy story of her being lost.  Likely in a forest, being well fed.

Speaking of being well fed.  Now a days we certainly are.  Tried a new recipe I will share with you.  It. Is. Amazing!

Shiitake Mushroom and Smoked Tofu Dumplings

And also a weekend project.  When you have an hour to do nothing but seal dumplings together.  But trust me, totally worth the effort.  AND better still, you can freeze them and prolong the food-love.

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First the making and draining of the filling: cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, smoked tofu and so much goodness.

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Then the putting of said filling into tiny little wrappers.  It’s like Christmas over here I swear!  Only the little presents are edible.

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Then the actual eating of said dumplings.  Unless you are my children.  In which case you unwrap them first.  For full mess effect.  Either way it was a whole lot of yum, with kale chips and wild rice on the side.  I highly recommend you give this a go.  Even if it means inviting yourself over to my place for dinner so I can pull some out of the freezer for you.

Happy week!

By the way, I have a big surprise in the works for December.  Something I’ve been working on all this month.  Can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet. (Sorry bad joke.)  Stay tuned!

And as always with my posts: if you like it, share it (or like it!) and if you don’t, don’t.

 

 

Fall.

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My yoga series this season was “fall into yoga” and my heart feels like falling in love with everything!  So I am in my kitchen this week falling into everything the season has to offer, loving the crisp air, the honeycrisp apples, and the colours of change.

This week’s meal plan:

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  • Spinach Salad with tempeh bacon and egg. (Like a chef’s salad – for a vegetarian!)

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  • Red Lentil Rotini with Pumpkin Sauce (easy as pie to make!!)  And yes the red lentil pasta is pricey…I was hoping to give it a go and then buy in bulk at Costco.  Which we will now be doing.  We LOVED this!  Did not love the $8.99 price tag for the 12oz box…but love the 21g of protein per serving.  And no, the picture does not do this dish justice.

 

  • IMG_4506Broccoli and Cheddar Soup with crusty whole grain and seed bread (This was pulled out of the freezer from when I made it 2 weeks ago – LOVE freezer days when I don’t have to cook!)

 

 

  • Butternut squash soup and crusty whole wheat bread

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I wanted to give you a better idea of how to speed things up in the kitchen (or at least my kitchen) and also a good idea on pricing…(since I’m starting to spend a little more gearing up for Christmas). Soooo….

IMG_4507I bought a butternut squash from our local grocer. Buying it whole meant saving quite a lot of cash ($0.79/pound).  I also bought some pre-cut, and on sale ($2.99/pound)  I call it the *time saver, money spender*!  The squash cutting requires a fair amount of effort, and a sharp kitchen knife.

I think it’s worth it, considering the extra effort yields a substantial amount.  I still go back and forth, as this is one of the few things I have repeatedly cut myself doing.  And it always seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  I did not cut myself today.  Hence why I have time to write about it!

I bought about 1.5lb of pre-cut butternut squash (rang in at $4.50) and then about 3.5lb of a regular squash (rang in at $2.75) So I got more than twice as much for less than half the price.  You can see the difference in the picture of my hard work of cubed goodness compared to the store’s boxed.

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I also have started adding lentils to our butternut squash soup recipe.  We are all very active in this family and being vegetarian I try to get protein in where ever I can.  This is a no brainer here, as the red lentils don’t add much flavour to the soup, but add a good amount of protein, which I feel rounds out the meal nicely.  It also keeps us full for longer…if vegetarian fare (or soups in general) are a cause for complaint in your home. (Hi Dad!)

IMG_4509To make the soup I start by heating up the butter or oil in my large stock pot.  I saute the onion until translucent and then add the cubed squash, IMG_4514lentils, boiling water, broth, salt, and pepper.  I simmer for 20min.  After simmering I use an immersion blender to process the soup into a fine puree.  Alternately you could transfer back and forth from a countertop blender to puree.  I keep the heat on low until we are ready to eat and serve with a hearty toasted bread.  Alone this recipe can feed 8.  We split it up and freeze half so it makes a freezer meal for later.  And the kids LOVE it.  Tonight my 4 year old ate two full bowls and my 2 year old ate three full bowls (plus their bread).  And yes, three toddler-bowl-fulls is more than what I ate.  It is that good.

Pumpkin muffins also made an appearance this week.  Yeah for fall!!  They are filled with a cream cheese icing of sorts and are amazing.  Worth that little bit of extra effort.

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Like what you see?  Let me know (or share).  And if you don’t, don’t.

Happy Week!

 

 

The Pint Size Snack.

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Welcome back to the school year!  And with it, the volunteer activities and necessity to pack lunches and snacks.

Enter the preschool helper.  The position of prestige in the eyes of my child.  And a good place for a parent to see their child flourish amongst others.

Along with the helper part also comes the lunch part.  (We take turns providing lunches for the classroom.)  When it comes to feeding my kids all is well and anything (or just about anything) goes.  But being a classroom of pint-sized people, many lunches have been a flop.  Some parents have resorted to bringing in delivered pizza…yet I have persevered to find something healthy AND likeable.  Not an easy feat. Especially when one of the considerations is that it is easy to prepare – remember this is a whole classroom.  And as much as crackers and cheese seems to be a lunchtime staple, the lack of nutritional fruit and vegetables kinda drives me nuts (nuts – which we are also not allowed to bring.)

Now that it is the beginning of the school year I can finally say I have found the perfect  snack, having worked at it all last year.  And usually everyone finds something they like out of it.

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Bring in the skewer!  Toddler style (or rather pre-school style) with the sharp skewer ends clipped off and a colourful display of vegetables.  This seems to be the best accepted, nutritional hit I’ve managed to conjure up.  And it’s great to have a preschool helper to prepare it!

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And speaking of conjuring…here was this weeks meal plan:

  • Chickpea Stew with Naan bread

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  • Mushroom Broccoli Quisotto (think risotto, but with quinoa!  And this dish can be fully ready in 20-30min…chopping time included!)

 

 

  • Daal with Cauliflower yogurt and Naan bread
  • Tomato Basil Pasta (with cashew cream sauce)

 

Go-Beta-Carotene!

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So what does one do when we are trying to pack in a punch of nutrition?  Get the most out of what we put in?

Try something new!

Still not sure I’m totally convinced of all the benefits. But after seeing all of what goes in, I’m happy with how I feel.  What am I referring to?  Juicing of course!

IMG_3262For the past 2 weeks I think we’ve juiced everyday.  Kale, cantaloupe, cucumbers, carrots, apples, melons, celery, ginger, oranges, mint.  You name it, we juiced it!  Another way to try and push in the iron content.  And for all us of taking iron supplements (3 out of 4 in the family) a great way to get a natural source of vitamin C to help with the absorption.

And I thought I didn’t like parsley.

Turns out all I had to do was drink it.

Direct from the garden - KALE!

Direct from the garden – KALE!

Now don’t misunderstand.  This is still juice.  I am not a regular juice drinker, or advocate.  I use this as supplementation to me and my family’s dietary needs.  Most of the juices are vegetable based (less carbs and sugars) and all are either focused on our need for vitamin C (to help us absorb iron supplements) or iron nutrients (like in the kale and parsley.)  We drink one cup a day (less for the kids).  And it is great!

Also made Costco shopping fun.  12lbs of carrots, a box of oranges, a ridiculous bag of apples (heavier than my son), and a ton of cucumber.  Okay so not exactly a ton of cucumber, but you get the picture.

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Being summer it also helps us to stay hydrated. As juices usually went along with snack and our usual water.

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My favourite was this morning.  I want to call it my “Go-Beta-Carotene!” 3 carrots, 3 oranges, 2 tbsp ginger, and about 1 cup pineapple.  Simple and yet so good.  Split 5 ways.  What a great start to the day. AND wow the houseguests.

Almond butter and beet juice breakfast.

Almond butter and beet juice breakfast.

That’s what I’ve been up to.  How about you?

Why juice? Read here.

Melt My Heart.

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I had to write about just how good our pizza was tonight.

It was so good, I think my heart melted a little with the cheese inside the oven. (Cheesy, I know…oh c’mon laugh along with me!)

So here are my mushroom pita pizzas, and an impromptu margarita pizza…it just happened, almost by itself!

It all started out with some amazing fresh pitas that we can only find at a local fruit and vegetable stand near our house.  They are extra big, and perfect for pizzas!  Fresh herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms.  Shitake, oyster, portabella, baby bella – how I love mushrooms!

IMG_1896The a light layer of olive oil on the two mushroom pizzas, and a layer of pesto on the margarita.

Melting a pad of butter, adding a shallot and a whole lot of mixed mushrooms to the pan, smells started to waft through the house.

The fresh herbs, oregano (for the mushroom) and basil (margarita).  Oh how I love fresh herbs!

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First the layer of mozza cheese, then the “meat” of each pizza.  Mushroom pizza mixed with fresh oregano and margarita layered between red, ripe tomatoes and fresh, green basil.  And finally parmesan to top it off.

IMG_1902Drizzle each of the mushroom pizzas with truffle oil.  Liquid gold on pizza.

Voila! Dinner!

So good!

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A Sad Story.

I posted on Valentine’s Day about how I made these beautiful chocolate bowls.  Filled with strawberries and love.

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What I didn’t share was the how-to.  Or in my case: the how-NOT-to

It all started out with a fabulous and very easy looking tutorial sent by my sister.  Which escalated into me buying twice the amount of chocolate required, because you just never know.  I also bought some pretty balloons, strawberries, and had a ton of good intentions.

First Step.

Melt the chocolate.  Only…my chocolate kind of had a seizure.  And I am a fully trained nurse – so no problem right!?

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No, not so.

After madly googling what happened (wtf? Why is my chocolate lumping and solid and not-stirring) I realized my chocolate had seized.  This is the kind of thing that happens in my kitchen when, instead of using an actual double boiler; I put a glass container in a pot of boiling water and expect the same results.  Steam (or maybe a drop of the water that wasn’t supposed to be boiling) got into my chocolate and BAM seizure!

Being resourceful and quick on the google reflex, I found that magical trans-fat Crisco could save the day.  And I had some still in my cupboard (after last year’s Christmas cookie adventure when I realized that my family recipe for cookies had *gulp* trans-fats in them and I boycotted them for good.)  Oops.  That was 2 Christmases ago. This was some old trans-fat.  But I tried it out anyway. Note to self: another reason NOT to use it in recipes…this stuff never goes bad.

I love experimenting.

But the experimenting failed.  Maybe more of the not-supposed-to-be-boiling water got into the chocolate in the “double boiler” glass dish-in-a-pot.

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Only here’s the sad part.  I had to throw the WHOLE batch of chocolate away. (Made me feel better that at least at this point, with the added trans-fats, it might live forever clogging up the garbage dump instead of living forever, clogging up our arteries.)

So I repeat.

Step One (the second time, thank goodness for over-purchasing of the chocolate).

Melt the chocolate.  Following very specific, tested instructions from google.  No water or sudo double boiler. I used the microwave, heating and stirring in 30 second intervals.  And it worked beautifully.  Smooth, creamy, chocolaty goodness.

Step Two.

Blow up the balloons.  I bought the medium sized balloons.  Mostly because that’s all I could find in my rush with two kids at the store with only one snack left.  So I blew them up only a little (small bowls = less chocolate = reasonable dessert size).  Better, I thought.  Besides with the latex being thicker, the hot chocolate wouldn’t be as likely to burst my balloon (pun intended!)

Step Three.

Roll balloons in chocolate and place on wax paper. (Side note the balloons were placed on blobs of chocolate on the wax paper, to stabilize them from rolling and give the bowls a base.)  My rolling technique left something to be desired.  Especially with the last balloon, and the little chocolate left in the bowl.

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Step Four.

Refrigerate.  Then POP balloons and voila! Perfect Bowls.

Well, remember the first part of this blog about intentions?  They were well meaning and good.  Only the *POP* left me lacking, once I began to try and peel the THICK latex off the chocolate.  Thick latex happens to also pull off chocolate, in chunks. And make holes in the bowls.  Lucky for me only one bowl was completely destroyed.  The others I could make do by plugging holes with large strawberries.

It still makes me sad to think of the chocolate that was harmed in the making of the bowls.  It is a sad story that I will try not to repeat.

A Love.

IMG_1819Someone a long time ago named St. Valentine sparked a holiday, which then was marketed and marketed and marketed.  To celebrate love. I don’t buy into the ‘stuff’ but do make treats to show my loves I love them…cards, sweets, gestures. So I guess I buy into the love. (Not that love can be bought!)

I LOVE celebrating love.  This day is no different than any other.  And I have a lot to celebrate.

I am in awe of all that I have to be grateful for.  All the love in my life that I receive, and all the love in my life I am able to share with others.

IMG_1817I am in awe that anyone even reads these posts (and then *likes* them!) It makes me so happy that I get giddy.

And the love notes from my four year old left for me to find on my nightstand.

And the abundance in my life that allows me to eat when I’m hungry, stay warm under my roof and watch my family grow and flourish.

So on this day, I will share with you what I did to make it just a little bit more special for my loves. (The ones I live with anyway…I just love so many people!)

We made cookies!! (And then gave them all away to loved ones – neighbours, friends, babysitters) Best sugar cookie recipe EVER right here. (Thanks Mom!)

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A fancy candlelit dinner (photo overexposed in hurried anticipation of eating said dinner):

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Complete with roasted heart beets (because my heart “beets” for those I love).

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And to top it off, a special dessert for my loves.  Homemade chocolate bowls, strawberries (and champagne of course (for the adults)!)

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Happy Valentine’s Everyone!

Meal Plan Mondays. (1of4)

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So in an attempt to keep the organizational side of me happy, and limit my trips to the grocery store with small children (aka: stay sane). I master-list my main meals and groceries once a week.

This is a quick way to save time, money and a great way to plan for success for your health.  If the bad stuff isn’t in the house, you likely won’t eat it.  And if you plan to have good, healthy food around you won’t be tempted.  Impulse shopping is expensive.  So stick to your list and meal plan.  The more you go to the grocery store, the more you test how successful all the marketing in the stores really is (and they aren’t paid big bucks for nothing!).  If you can, stick to the outer isles – those are where the whole foods are located.  And avoid end-caps and the little nibblies that taunt you whilst standing in line.  And eat a good meal before heading out.  Hunger is your worst enemy at the grocery store (unless you have a small tantrumming child…then hunger is the least of your worries.)

I am starting a “Meal Planning Mondays” for the next month.  You can follow along and try out some recipes…or just see how we eat.  I will include at least 3 of the meal recipes for you.  We eat whole, healthy, organic foods as much as possible and limit sweet/savoury treats.

Each Monday will include my list for the week with at least 3 recipes for you.  There is usually at least one leftover day, so you will notice that the recipe lists usually only include 5-6 meals, depending on what I have calculated for leftovers (which make up the remaining meals and lunches to send to work with my husband).  The meal plan does not include our side dish of salad, which we have almost every night.  It’s a large garden salad full of lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, green onions and avocado.

Here is the first of the lists!

Meal Plan:

International fare.

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Off to cold weather Canada, as if in a dream

To make vegan lasagna a family cuisine.

When in through the cold, there rose such a clatter

of warm air and sunshine, I sought what was the matter.

imageAnd out of my window I saw a great arch

the chinook had returned, I smiled, my throat parched

so on with the cooking, I hastened with speed

to bring nutritious, delicious fare to the carnivore breed.

They liked it! They loved it! My shouts filled with glee.

Success!  That this holiday could be fun and healthy.

Kitschy. (Attention grandparents: spoiler ALERT)

IMG_1585A new recipe.

Not the eating kind.

Ornamental tree-decor kind.

2cups baking soda, 1cup cornstarch, 1 and 1/4cups cold water.

Step one

Step one

Mix the dry ingredients in a pot, then add water. Consistency will be pasty.

Step two

Step two

Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring continuously until a dough-like ball forms.

Step three

Step three

Then turn out onto a plate and cover with a wet paper towel.  WAIT for it to cool. (about 30min)

Heavily “flour” the working surface with cornstarch and roll dough out to 1/4″.  Use cookie cutters and get creative!  Use a straw to make ribbon holes. Allow to dry on a flat surface for 2 days, turning occasionally.  Leave white (they sparkle a little!) or paint/ lacquer.

Voila!  Instant stocking stuffers!  Not homemade, they’re handcrafted!  And if too kitschy, blame the small hands.

And no I don’t have 6 kids (if you counted the prints).  Just a backup plan in case of breakage!