The Cat Came Back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

IMG_4602 IMG_4601

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

IMG_4600

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

IMG_4605

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.

IMG_1462

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:

IMG_4496

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

IMG_4489 IMG_4487

  • 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

IMG_4511

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.

IMG_4508

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.

IMG_1342 IMG_1347

 

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

Happy Week!

 

 

Pain.

IMG_3594

I sat down to write this blog tonight, and frankly I just don’t know where to start.  So I’ll begin at the beginning and when I’m done will be the end.  First things first.

Pain.

The most constant thing on my mind since having my braces adjusted.  (Yes, I have braces.  19 months now.  But who’s counting right?)  And every month with an adjustment comes pain.  And soft food.  And soups. (My husband hates soups, so in effect my pain causes him pain.)

Me and my better half...and the braces.

Me and my better half…and the braces.

The kids too.  Have you ever noticed that being in constant nagging pain makes you kind of a painful person to be around?  I think if you asked my kids, and they could articulate how they really felt about me, I’m pretty sure my braces being adjusted causes them pain too. (If only in the way that the constant ache makes me less resistant to noise, like drums and whistles and screeching – in joy or not.)

So this week might be a painful read.  But I promise to give you some really good recipes out of it.  The one thing that makes me happy is filling my family with healthy food, bursting with love and joy.  And also softness (literally and figuratively) as I try to be gentle to myself (physically and emotionally).

These type of weeks are effective tools in helping me to ask for what I need (quiet please…and maybe an Advil). Also hugs.  Compassion goes a long way in the road to dealing with what’s bugging you. Even when it comes from a 2 year old.

And now the recipes! (Excitement over these is also a from of pain-escapism!)  This week’s meal plan is amazing!

  • Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (adapted from The Vegetarian Bible).  I would have taken pictures of this as I made it.  But it is ugly.  Really truly.  Boiled broccoli can have this beautiful green colour, but when you boil it down to be blended…let’s just say it’s not the same green.  Also for this recipe I do not recommend making it unless you have a food processor.  Unless you just love grating potatoes and cheese by hand for extended periods.  The end result keeps me coming back for more.   Which is good because this recipe makes a LOT.
  • IMG_4019White Bean and Kale Soup.  I know I know, I keep posting this.  But honestly it is only because I KEEP making it.  And the husband kinda sorta likes this one (as much as a soup hater could ever love soup.)  It is very easy, and hard to mess up.  Oh an freezes so well!  Yeah for leftovers!  This also uses up the GIGANTIC kale in my garden.  My kale “tree” is over a year old and now a tiny bit taller than my four year old.  Makes for a lot of great soups, smoothies and juicing.
  • Sweet Potato and Spinach Lentil Curry served with rice.  Yes, again.  I think when in pain,I lose brain power to the “dull ache void”.  So I’m less creative.  And go to old standbys (and comfort food).  And it’s soft and easy to eat.
  • Chickpea Stew.  Yum!  Seriously folks I got over my aversion to chick peas with this meal.  Packs in protein and is really really REALLY easy to make.  And freeze.  And eat.
  • Vegan Spagetti.  I have to hope that soft pasta is in my future, at least nearing the end of the week.
  • Mexican Salad in Tortilla Shells.  New recipe!  I will let you know how this goes and post if it’s good.  Very basic.  And will hopefully be at a time where my salad fantasies can be fulfilled with the ability to chew properly.

The end.

26. Sous chef

IMG_1424

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

So you already know that restaurants hire people specifically to do meal prep in the morning so they are ready to go for the lunch and dinner crowds…today’s tip is just that.  Take a few moments in the morning to pre-prep your evening meal, and it goes ten times faster!  Not to mention the delay of the ‘witching hour’ if you also have small, hungry humans to contend with at the days end. (Or a hungry husband, or hungry hippo…)

I spend my son’s morning nap chopping and prepping.  Some days I even go ‘french style’ and put everything pre-measured out on the counter so all I have to do is dump it in a pot or pan and voila! dinner done like a cooking show.

I used to also do this when I worked close to full time hours with a family…  Before work prep meant the world to me at the end of a tired, long work day, with a cranky hungry kid in tow.

So however your life looks, cooking with whole, healthy foods doesn’t have to mean aggravation in the kitchen at the dinner hour.  Break up the prep.  If you are chopping onions, why not also dice one up for tomorrow.  And having everything at the ready sometimes is the inspiration needed for cooking up a healthy meal.

Bon appetite!

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

15. Spring Cleaning

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

IMG_2131

Today’s tip sounds simple.  Spring cleaning: get rid of junk.  All those sweets, hidden halloween candy (okay does anyone even have any left?), chocolate stash, chip bags.  Get rid of them!

 Have a sweet-release party and invite your friends to eat everything up and make your pantry healthy again.  The fact is, if it’s not in the house and accessible you won’t eat it.  You won’t have a niggly voice in your head tempting you saying “just one chip”.  You will have newfound willpower! (Likely because you won’t have the choice of bad food!)

Once your stash is cleaned out, don’t buy it or bring it into the house.  If you are craaaaaving something, then go out for it.  Only buy a small portion that you can consume on the spot.

Fill your home with fruits and veggies and healthy whole food options.  By replacing everything with healthy options you are also more likely to only eat when you are hungry…i.e. when did you last overeat on apples?

You’ll have no choice but to eat healthy (at home anyway).  And sometimes that’s half the battle.

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

8. Rainbows and Unicorns

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

IMG_2014

A quick way to pack in nutrition; eat a rainbow! And poop unicorns! (Just kidding.)

Honestly, the more colourful you can make the food on your plate the more nutrients and assortment of vitamins and minerals you can ensure you are consuming.  The brighter the whole food is, the more antioxidants it tends to contain.

The goal of the rainbow isn’t to get everything in every meal, but to get all the colours into your system throughout the course of a day.  Try it out – see how well you can do!  Some examples are below.

Red – raspberries, tomatoes, pomegranate, cherries, bell peppers, rhubarb

Orange – oranges, tangerines, butternut squash, bell peppers, pumpkin, carrots

Yellow – bananas, loquats, cauliflower, lemons, pineapple, corn

Green – spinach, broccoli, limes, chard, kale, zucchini, peas

Blue/Purple – blueberries, plums, beets, spanish onions, blackberries, eggplant, grapes

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

6. Don’t Label Yourself

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

IMG_1997

Read the labels on your food and pay attention to what they mean.  Or don’t.  Sometimes I think that’s half the problem.  If your food has labels that means it has been altered in some manner.  Altered enough that nutritional content has to be put on a label.  When is the last time you’ve seen a label on an apple?

Stick to whole foods and not only will you be healthier for it, but you will consume more nutritionally dense food, and less calories.

If labelled food is unavoidable watch for the following:

fats – try to keep serving sizes under 3g of fat (unless you are buying something as the fat content for your meal: aka yogurt or coconut milk.)  Don’t buy anything that contains trans fats.  Why? You ask.  Click here.

sugars – do a quick calculation in your head, 5g of sugar is approximately one teaspoon.  Know how much sugar is in a serving size.  Opt for none or as little as possible.  And if possible buy an unsweetened version (then you can see what you are adding and opt for a healthier sweetener like honey rather than high fructose corn syrup.)  Watch the label for added sugars in things like canned fruit or applesauce.  Fruit already has enough naturally occurring sugar in it!

sodium – this is horrible in processed foods.  Mostly because we crave salt (our body needs a little). Opt for the low sodium or no sodium.  Less than 2300mg per day for an adult is acceptable.  Less than 1500mg is even better (and recommended if you have high blood pressure, or are over 50).  To give you perspective: one teaspoon of table salt contains 2325mg of sodium.

These are very basic breakdowns.  I could go on about the breakdown of a label all day.  Easy solution.  Don’t buy it if it has a label on it!! I know, I know, easier said than done.  But one can always try.

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

Closer to the Source.

IMG_1910

One of the things I aim to do is make our meals and snacks out of ingredients that are as close to the source as possible.  I believe that the closer we get to the source of our food, the healthier it is.  It has spent less time in transport (or storage, or being handled) which means it is fresher.  The fresher something is, the more nutrients we get from it.  And if we are able to go directly to the source (our garden) or close to the source (say a farmer’s market) then we might even be able to know much more about our food.  How is is grown, where it is grown and what is in it.  Or more importantly what is not in it (pesticides, antibiotics, herbicides etc.)

Recently I started using dry beans.  I buy them at the same store as the canned beans I used to buy…but they are closer to the source as they are less processed.  And less processed means less meddling with my food (and potential to add things like preservatives, and salt).  I don’t like the thought of “extras” in my food.  Especially when they are unnecessary and an alternative is readily available.

IMG_1911

A recent article was published stating that there are over 4000 intentional food contact materials (FCM) used today.  They do not know all of the ramifications of what those packages leak into our foodstuffs but they are concerned about the side effects of long term exposure.  So my question is then, why wait to find out what the side effects are?  If you can choose to get closer to the source, use less packaging on your foods and cook with less processed item why don’t you?

Digging a little deeper many of the FCM include formaldehyde (remember high school science class…the stinky stuff that pickled the frogs you dissected?), BPA (much media has been put forth on this on being linked to possible hormone disruption…cancer anyone?), amongst many others I don’t even recognize.

I was adamit to only use glass bottles of expressed milk for my baby (for the few times I wasn’t around to actually feed her.)  I was terrified of the BPA in plastic bottles and links to hormone disruption.  Only to find out that the canned goods I has been using my entire life were coated on the inside, with BPA.  And even more scary, that acidic things (like tomatoes) were more likely to have the BPA leach into the food.

Fear mongering?  Maybe.  There is a lot of that in our society already.  But why be scared when we can just choose to eat whole, recognizable foods instead?

When I lived in Bermuda one of my mantras was “If the bugs don’t eat it, neither should we.” (Bugs including mould…) And there were a lot of bugs there.

Luckily we’ve moved since then and don’t have to battle too many bugs.  But the philosophy is the same.  And everyday I get a little bit closer to cutting out processed foods.  Maybe we’ll even get some chickens so we can have our own backyard eggs…on second thought I’m not sure if I’m there yet.  But I am trying.

To get closer to the source.