Rolling Storms & Tomatoes

What a week it has been here in the Niagara Region of Ontario. The heat and humidity have been unbearable with  most days this week over 100 degrees with the humidity. It’s been draining working outside and quite irritating to hear those that work indoors complaining about the heat while sitting in their air-conditioned splendor. It’s unnerving how heat and humidity can turn the gentlest of souls into cranky bizatches at the snap of the fingers, myself included. I was teetering on the verge of insanity a few times this week…it was not comforting, let me tell you.

 

 

Thankfully, the rains finally came last night helping to rid us of some of the humidity and the accompanying suffocating heat. Although it came at a price. We had rolling lines of powerful thunderstorms, severe winds, and tornado warnings. There were a few times we ran to the basement for cover when the rains pelted down so heavily that we couldn’t hear each other speaking and the winds contorted the trees like seasoned yogis. We had just sat down to dinner when the first wave of storms rolled in with huge dark clouds, whipping winds and rain that hit the windows like rocks. At one point the rain ceased between storm surges and a flock of seagulls took to the sky above our neighborhood, circling overhead like a warning.

 

 

Throughout the night my mind kept going to my garden. Hoping my tomato plants were holding up. I had noticed while closing up before the first rainfall that one of the plants had been bent by the winds, putting it in jeopardy of snapping off. A few stakes were strategically placed to try to stop the toppling of the tomato cages in hopes of preserving the easily snapped stems. Early this morning there was a clap of thunder so loud that I sat straight up in bed. What was my first thought? My tomatoes. I was thrilled that the gardens were getting a thorough watering but at what expense? I certainly wasn’t about to trek out into the storm and it was still dark outside so I couldn’t see if there was any destruction in the veggie patch.  I am definitely a gardener to the core…or perhaps just anxious for homegrown, plump and juicy tomatoes.

 

 

First thing this morning before the neighborhood started to stir, I tiptoed barefoot out to the garden with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand to check on my little lovelies. Phew! Everything had weathered the storm far better than expected. One of my Brussels sprout plants had been partially uprooted but was easily re-positioned. Two tomato plants were tipped but not broken, thankfully. One of my potato plants’ top growth was flattened by the pelting rain but all-in-all everything looked happy to have been saturated and refreshed. I took this time to get cracking at pulling weeds while the ground was soft and still have loads more weeds to pull today since they are easier to pull out of mud than dry, compacted soil.

 

Interested in what it looked like around these parts? Check out this link on The Weather Network. There is a brief video and loads of pics sent in by Ontario residents.

 

 

Today has turned out to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

“In all things in nature there is something of the marvelous.”  – Aristotle 

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Garden Goddess Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again! The annual planting of my veggie garden. My green thumbs are twitching and I’m ready to get dirty…again.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I made the trek to the “local” heirloom plant sale and stocked up. There were a few things that I couldn’t get my hands on like kale, so I am still on the hunt for a few items. Fingers crossed that I’ll find good quality heirloom plants. The garden centres seem to be either picked over, sold out, or they lost mass amounts of plants due to the frost we had last week. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

 

 

 

In order to prep the garden, I needed a rototiller. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to ask the neighbour that helped me last year. This year I wanted to do it myself. It looked like to fun of an opportunity to pass up. Who doesn’t like crazy, loud engines attached to tines that clutch hungrily at the soil? I just couldn’t resist the temptation. The last time I used a rototiller was in Horticulture college. It was not a positive experience, although I did laugh like crazy when a friend of mine wanted to be the first to take a crack at it. Having no clue what she was doing she quickly lost control and was dragged along behind it. I seem to remember that being the last time I ever saw my beautiful, off-white fisherman sweater…she had borrowed it. This year’s garden prep was the perfect opportunity for me to have at it. Luckily, I have a fan-flippin’-tastic boss that just happened to have a rototiller I could borrow. I was in luck! This machine kicks butt! I seriously need one!

 

 

 

The Machine That Won My Heart

The Machine That Won My Heart

*if you look to the right of the rototiller you can see my new spade mentioned in a previous post (that I did not dance late into the night with).

 

 

 

The only problem with me having a rototiller of my own would be that I would feel the need to dig up every bit of unused space on my property. Plus, I’d like to be less petrol-dependent so this would be seriously counter-productive.

 

 

 

Let me just say that the time I spent rototilling the garden has been the most fun I’ve had all week. And I’ve had a good week so far. Is that sad?

 

 

 

I worked up a serious sweat working in this crazy heat we’ve been having. It’s been above 32 degrees Celsius the last couple days. I thought it would be great to go with  breezy, wavy beach hair this morning which was not well thought out. My hair is super thick as it is so this made it even thicker feeling. Looked great before I started gardening though. I tried an easy  beach wave spray recipe that uses sea salt, coconut oil, water and hair gel. Oh…my…gosh. Why this is a good idea while hot out I won’t ever understand. It made me even hotter. I will not be hanging out on a beach after spraying my hair with this concoction, let me tell you. Mind you, I don’t normally hang out on beaches anyway since sand in my bathing suit makes me cranky.  This hair technique must be reserved for days when I will be trying to sport a carefree look while in air conditioning.

 

 

 

Soft soil after rototilling

Soft soil after rototilling

 

 

 

 

It took me all of about 15 seconds to figure out proper tilling technique and get serious. The soil in the garden is now so fluffy that it is simply dreamy. I was able to smooth it flat(ish) with a leaf rake afterward. That’s how soft it is. This is temporary since soon enough it will be tamped down by rain, walking around in it, and settling. I must get my vegetable plants in the ground when the soil is perfect. Not only does it make my life easier but the plants get a great start at getting their roots going with as little resistance as possible. I guess you know what I’ll be doing later this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

Food for Thought

It happened again. I was sucked into the world of documentaries. I had heard about Farmaggedon (the documentary) a little while ago and my interest was piqued. However, my enthusiasm for educational and informative viewing material is not shared most days by those that compete for viewing time in my household. It is usually “fluff” viewing or MMA that is being watched in our home which I also love. I enjoy MMA immensely to the resounding gasps of my friends. I guess I don’t seem like the type. What is the “type” of woman who likes MMA anyway? Why must we be a certain type to have interest in MMA, documentaries, musicals, dramas, action flicks? I enjoy all of the above. Does this make me well-rounded? I decree that yes, it does make me a versatile viewer. However, the aforementioned documentary Farmaggedon was what got my attention today and has tumbled around my thoughts to the point that I have something to say on the subject.

 

 

The documentary really got me to thinking, yet again, about the source of our food. Where it comes from, how it’s processed, and the regulations and laws surrounding our food industry. Of course, each country has their own laws regarding the food industry. My main points will be focused on North American food industry practices since the documentary that I have most recently watched is American. There is definitely a difference between the U.S. and Canadian food industry regulations and practices but there are many overlapping practices as well. I do not declare that I am an expert on the food industry, processing, or laws of such. I am seeing this from the standpoint of a human being. We all need to eat. From a stance of an individual that wants to know what is in my food and that the food I choose is safe, healthy and what it is labelled as being.

 

“Why should conservationists have a positive interest in …farming? There are lots of reasons, but the plainest is: Conservationists eat.” – Wendell Berry

If you have not had the opportunity to inform yourself on our food industry, I would highly recommend doing so. Perhaps you may learn a thing or two that you were either unaware of or didn’t really want to acknowledge. The need for awareness is not going to turn you into a die-hard activist (unless you choose to do so). It will merely give you an idea of what you are consuming – good or bad, healthy or not, whatever, that’s your choice. Not knowing what’s going on in the food industry than bashing those trying to make a difference is sheer ignorance and close-mindedness. I for one want to have the option to choose my food, not be dictated to and only given choices that will essentially make me a lab rat.

 

 

I have always had a strong sense of  personal choice from an early age. My sisters will attest to me (the youngest of three girls) brazenly spouting the phrase, “I have the right to…!” That seemed to be my most well-known tagline. I am still that same feisty girl with the desire to declare my free choice in all scenarios. However, I do not feel the need to shout it any more but firmly state my view when necessary. I know where I stand. I won’t be bullied into believing something just because I am told that I have to or believe every advertisement that appears before my eyes. I am smarter than that, thank you very much.

 


“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

 

While watching Farmaggedon it really hit home about the state of North American agriculture. I applaud farmers worldwide for what they do. Farmers are definitely some of the hardest working people on the planet. They toil each and every day in all   weather conditions to put food on the table – our tables. We have allowed our farmers to be manipulated and bullied by the likes of the FDA and large corporations that are driven by profit, not supplying healthy food to folks like you and me. The small-scale farmers that want to supply people with wholesome food choices are fighting a huge battle and taking a massive hit while we stand idly by with our hands in our pockets not knowing what to do. It is essential that people start speaking up to create change in governmental practices and laws that are strangulating the only people who really can provide good food to our tables, other than ourselves – the farmer. Factory farming is a practice focused on profit and creates many issues I won’t get into. Factory farming, in my eyes, is not farming. It is mass production of an item. How easily people forget that the chicken living its life in a restricted area sitting in its own waste becomes that piece of fried chicken on your plate. All for the sake of saving a couple of dollars at the grocery store. Shudder.  Simply put, for me factory farming has taken the personal touch out of agriculture. If you happen to be a factory-farmer I apologize if my words offend you but I, like you, am entitled to my opinion. I am not vilifying you per say, but the practices involved in mass production of living beings. Feel free to voice your thoughts. Just please do so respectfully. I am saddened by the thought of so many living beings treated like they are merely a dollar sign. I feel sickish inside. Moving on.

“I don’t understand the notion that modern farming is anything to do with nature. It’s a pretty gross interference with nature.”  – Peter Singer

 

In review of the documentary, I felt it weighed in heavily on the subject of raw milk farming and legislation. Perhaps I was hoping for a broader subject matter since I don’t consume milk personally but it was very eye-opening none-the-less. It comes right down to the fact that as consumers we should have the ability to purchase foods of our choosing. Of course there must be stipulations such as nothing that is endangered, for instance. If one really looks at the source of food from a family run farm as opposed to a large-scale factory operation, I think most of us would choose the former. I prefer produce from my garden over produce from a greenhouse sprayed with several rounds of insecticides and fungicides. It’s common sense, really. It is frightening that it has gotten to the point that small farms are being raided and their livelihood seized by the FDA. Why does the government feel so threatened by these small farms? Is it really in the name of consumer safety? I, for one, highly doubt it. My guess would be that the government is so tied to Big Ag giants that the government is no longer “for the people” but instead for the profit. We are at a point in history where we have all screwed up royally by trusting large corporations to dictate to the masses, myself included.

 

 

Standing up to the Bully (Big Ag/government) where our food is concerned is now at our doorsteps. Being aware makes a difference.  Simple steps like voting with our food budget is a great place to start. Local markets, farmers and small businesses can make a big impact. We are already seeing many large food companies trying to cater to certain markets by diversifying. It’s a small step in the right direction but it is still supporting large-scale operations. Picture yourself as a farmer trying to support your family. You want to supply people with an exceptional product that you give every waking minute to producing. The FDA steps in and claims some bogus law made in the 1930’s and seizes your animals/crops. How would you feel? Who would you turn to? The red tape is so restrictive for many small businesses that even making a profit can be a very difficult task. To sit at a desk in a cubicle somewhere and  sneer at those that want to have access to real food that is grown and produced with passion and care or at the farmer themself  is hypocritical. The next time you eat a burger or a salad or drink a milkshake remember that someone somewhere had to get those items to market so you could stuff your face with them. Changing our thinking process to bring us closer to the food we consume and the reality of food production may just open our eyes and our heart a little bit more.

 

 

 

 

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.  – Harry Truman


 

Peruse Before You Partake

I have always been interested in food. Not just what I ingest, but what others choose to consume as well. I admit that I am a discreet food snob and I am okay with this characteristic. It’s not so much that I would judge another on their choice of food but will judge the food itself against my own standard of quality. For instance, I will always choose a creamy smooth piece of spiced gouda for instance over a processed cheese slice. To me this is common sense. So maybe I’m not necessarily a food snob as I am a seeker of quality. That sounds much better.

 

 

All of this interest in food consumption has led me down many different eating paths over my lifetime . I am presently a lacto-ovo vegetarian and have been most of my life. I am presently not consuming wheat or sugar as well. I go through phases where I cut out eggs and dairy and abide by a strict vegan diet. I have even gone for a period of time as a raw food vegan and felt fantastic. I was breastfeeding my second child ( my last) during this time and she flourished and is still incredibly healthy. It just wasn’t the right diet choice for my lifestyle after a while. I find, and I’m not sure if this is just me, but living in the climate I am in I felt cold constantly in the winter months so I added some cooked food back in to stoke my internal fire up again. Twelve and a half years later I have had a huge epiphany in terms of eating habits. It is not so much about “belonging” to any one eating regime as it is about providing ourselves with food that our body will be thanking us for.  I always knew this, I just seemed to need to identify with a particular lifestyle to feel like I was doing the right thing. Not so much anymore. As you are aware, I have ventured down the road to whole food eating. This, to me, is where it’s at. There is no need to call this lifestyle choice anything but common sense eating. No need to belong to a diet plan title. This is about choosing foods that are not processed and are from the original source be it a fruit, vegetable, oil, or animal product. The further our food gets from the source the more unrecognizable it becomes to our body.

 

 

There are many within the whole foods methodology that subscribe to the Paleo diet. I am going to give my opinion now so please don’t get your knickers in a twist. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this. Like I said, this is my opinion. I don’t profess to be perfect or have all the answers. I only do the things that make sense to me and that feel right. I am a live by my intuition and heart type of person. Here goes…I like the idea of so many people trying to make positive change for their health. I am speaking at present of one of the newest crazes called the Paleo diet. The concept of eating what our systems were originally fed and powered on is very noble. There is one key point missing – is this really how Paleolithic humans ate? Probably not.

 

 

Common sense would suggest that eating large quantities of meat is probably not the best thing we could be doing for our bodies. Most meat is acid-forming for starters. On the topic of our Paleo forefathers and mothers diet, I am convinced that there was a heck of a lot more starchy vegetation/fruit  consumption than the Paleo ideology subscribes to. As I read blogs and articles as well as “studies” regarding Paleo eating it is very evident to me that this diet is an excuse for many folk to eat tons of meat – especially bacon.  How does this coincide with our Paleo relatives? Bacon is a form of food preservation/processing that was unknown to humans of old. This is just an example of ideas twisted to suit our desires. If my own vegetarian diet was controlled by my favorites, I would quickly become off balance consuming only aloo gobi and red wine!

 

 

I read a blog post last week regarding Paleo eating that actually made me sad. The author put the Paleo diet on a pedestal while slamming other lifestyle choices. She went on to flog vegetarianism as unhealthy and extremist. Hmmm….how very unfortunate. There are great ideas at the base of almost all eating styles however, things can quickly veer off course. The Paleo diet is a great idea at its core but has been reworked and altered to compensate for our desires.  However, to get right down to the nitty-gritty of eating perfectly Paleo the participant would need to investigate more than just a book written by one person about their idea of the perfect eating regime. In my opinion, the participant would need to first dig into their own personal ancestral past to find out where their origins started. This would give a great place to start whittling down the food choices. If they originated from an ancestral background that resided by the ocean, their diet would be composed mainly of fish and probably sea vegetables. If that aforementioned individual originated from a forested area they probably would have consumed predominantly berries, insects and game such as deer or small birds.  I venture to suggest that probably a majority of our ancestors within temperate climes ate with the focus largely on plant matter and enjoyed meat sporadically, not the other way around. This makes sense to me. Just sayin’.

 

 

Chasing down the animal content of the diet would make a huge difference as well. There is great physical exertion in hunting Paleo-style unlike walking into the grocers and picking up a nicely packaged portion of meat. Then there is the carbon footprint issue. Eating a large quantity of meat in the diet creates unnecessary waste of resources and a higher carbon footprint. If a family of four skips steak one day a week, it will have  the same impact as taking your car off the road for three months, supposedly. Not sure how accurate this fact is but it is definitely food for thought.

 

 

Do you know what your Carbon Footprint is?

Alternate Carbon Footprint calculator.

 

 

I am not simply spouting off about the Paleo diet and I am not suggesting vegetarianism is perfect. I am using this as an example due to the blogger that made me question why people make the  food choices they do.  This goes for all methods of eating as far as I’m concerned. No diet is 100% perfect. Suggesting such is foolish. When a new diet calls itself “the perfect diet” my alarm bells start ringing. The human body is a complex “machine” that relies on us to fuel it appropriately. Each of us has different needs. It can only accommodate so much before we start to see and feel inadequacies. I think if we all just stopped listening to the hype and started listening (really listening) to our bodies we could enjoy a better state of health.

 

 

 

 

” The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food.”  – Mark Hyman

The Menu

To follow-up the Thanksgiving themed posts, I will wrap it all up with one last post…the menu. Sadly, I have no pics to add to this delicious food bonanza except a photo of the last piece of gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie. I think I will be making another pumpkin pie in the near future since this was such a hit.

The  Menu

Butternut Squash Soup

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

Rutabaga

Homemade Stuffing (no boxed stuff here!)

Vegetarian Gravy

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken

Vegetarian Baked Beans

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

Real Whipped Cream sweetened with Maple Syrup

Butternut Squash Soup

I never use a recipe for squash soup. Or most of the soups I make, for that matter. I start by heating up a couple tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot and add in a couple of medium-sized, chopped  onions. I saute the onions until they are just starting to brown slightly to give some added flavour. At this point I toss in an entire butternut squash (medium size) that has been skinned and cut into large pieces of about an inch or so cubed. Drop in one large sprig of fresh rosemary (you will remove the stem before blending soup) or remove leaves from stem and chop finely. Pour approximately 8-10 cups of vegetarian stock into the soup pot and simmer for approximately 45 minutes to an hour until the squash is very tender. At this point, puree in small batches in the blender until very creamy and smooth or use an immersion blender. The silkier the soup, the better. This soup can be made to serve immediately or even a day prior to serving. I think the soup tastes better the longer it rests.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

I really love Brussel sprouts. They have always been one of my favourite foods but until recently I have always had them served boiled. My sister made them a couple of years ago sautéed and caramelized with brandy. Oh…my…GOSH! I learned to love them even more!  I have made them since then a few times following her method but for Thanksgiving dinner I simply steamed them in a saute pan then removed the lid, added a bit of ghee and let them do their thing until they were nicely golden and sweet. Mmm, mmm,mmm.

Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

Early on the morning I would be needing the roasted garlic I sliced of the top off of  a head of garlic, set it  on a square of foil, poured a bit of olive oil over top and sprinkled with  freshly ground black pepper. I then wrapped the foil tightly around the garlic and popped it in the toaster oven until it was fragrant and soft. I set it aside until dinner prep time when I squeezed all of the luscious soft cloves from the bulb and dropped them into the pot of cooked and drained potatoes.   I got busy and whipped the potatoes and garlic  with vegetarian stock instead of milk and butter to make them lighter and much easier on my figure.

Rutabaga

Yummy, sweet rutabaga…how I love thee. Usually I hear mass rebellion at the presence of rutabaga at our table so I don’t serve it often. I decided to go “old school” and boil and mash it but with the twist of real Canadian maple syrup and ghee added instead of butter and brown sugar as my mom prepares it. The kids decided that rutabaga can be delicious so I will no longer have the entire bowl to myself. For this, I am grateful.

Homemade Stuffing

Of course the recipe for stuffing that I have made in the past that I love had conveniently disappeared right before I needed it, so I had to wing it. A loaf of crusty, day old bread was ripped into bite-sized pieces and put into a 13 x 9 Pyrex dish. In a frying pan I sautéed cubed celery and onion until translucent then poured them over the bread.  I also added in herbs (dried thyme, marjoram,  as well as fresh chopped rosemary) , one egg, salt/pepper and some hot stock until it seemed moist but not sloppy and drowned. Stir everything around gently so the bread doesn’t turn into mush. The pan was covered with foil and put in the oven at 350*F for about 40 minutes. I then took off the foil to crisp the stuffing slightly for another 20 minutes or so. Watch that it doesn’t burn.

Vegetarian Gravy

Sometimes I add onions or mushrooms to gravy but I opted for no-fuss good old plain gravy that is certainly not boring. I start with either coconut oil or ghee and add about a tablespoon of quinoa flour into the hot pan and stir so as to not burn the flour. Once the flour starts to colour slightly, I add about 2 cups of vegetarian stock and stir with a whisk to remove any lumps. Stir until the gravy thickens. Voila…easy homemade gravy!

Herb Roasted Chicken

After acquiring a whole chicken, which wasn’t an easy task at a time when turkeys are all the rage. I am rather squeamish when it comes to dead animals so this was the tricky part for me. The bird was rinsed under running water then a mixture of dried herbs (fresh lemon thyme and rosemary), about four slices of lemon, and a couple of cloves of garlic were put into the cavity. I brushed melted butter oven the outside of the chicken for an extra layer of flavour. The chicken was lovingly placed into my cast iron casserole with lid and placed into the oven at 350*F for about and hour and 20 minutes. I had to hunt down the proper amount of time for cooking a whole chicken since it is not something I do regularly. I learned that a chicken needs to be cooked for 20 minutes per pound for a perfect roast chicken.  After the allotted cooking time, I removed the lid of the casserole dish to brown the skin slightly. The house was really smelling amazing at this point.

Vegetarian Baked Beans

After reading a fantastic post with a recipe for homemade baked beans by a fellow blogger, I knew I had to try her recipe. Wow, I’m so glad I did! It was scrumptious! You can check out her recipe here: Homemade Baked Beans.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

This was another “first time” recipe for me and I am so glad I decided to give it a try! It was excellent and has already claimed a place in our Thanksgiving meal for next year. I highly recommend this recipe – Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie.

Real Whipped Cream Sweetened with Maple Syrup

Is there anything more nostalgic than pumpkin pie and whipped cream when it comes to Thanksgiving? Not in my mind there isn’t. To make my life easier I always use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do whipped cream. This way I can do my usual ten other things while the cream is being fluffed full of air. Pour the whipping cream into the mixing bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of real maple syrup (no fake maple-flavored crap here)  to the cream as well as about a half teaspoon of real vanilla extract then turn on the mixer and leave your hands free for other tasks. Once the whipped cream is the desired thickness turn off and place in a bowl for those around your table to serve themselves their desired amount instead of dolloping it on top of the whole pie before serving. I find the amount of whipped cream varies from person to person so allowing others to do their own is not only fun for the kids but for the adults too.

I have always found it curious that Canadian and American Thanksgiving celebrations are so far apart on the calendar.  I am looking forward to hearing how our friends to the South celebrate their Thanksgiving once it rolls around.


“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” ~Voltaire

Snippets in Time…Thanksgiving

I think this year’s Thanksgiving weekend ranks at the top of my Thanksgiving memories. The weather was incredibly beautiful and autumnal. One evening being cool and rainy was a great excuse to bundle up inside with a glass of red wine, a cozy blanket and an interesting documentary. What? I love a good documentary! Monday morning  the sunshine and crisp air beckoned us outside to get the garden prepped for winter. There was raking to be done and the removal of the veggie garden plants. The whole family chipped in on the task which made it so much more enjoyable. We had some good laughs while working as a team to accomplish a goal. Things went slightly awry when the kids thought it would be fun to chuck green “grounder” tomatoes at each other. They quickly realized it wasn’t as intelligent as originally thought once put into action. A learning lesson was had – being pummeled with green tomatoes is like having rocks thrown at you! Those shenanigans died down without me even having to pull out the “safety first” speech.

 


We indulged in our quiet Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday evening and reported to each other something we were thankful for. I stated that I had a few things on my list and was quickly shut down after three. Well! (Insert huffy breath here.) I was trying to keep it brief. I didn’t even ramble. I guess everyone was just incredibly thankful for the good and plentiful food set before them that waiting to consume it was a hardship.  I had prepared everything  healthier and  lighter with a  whole food mindset although I don’t think anyone even noticed that all the “unnecessary  stuff” was absent. All I heard was a resounding “thank you for a great dinner”. Chalk one more up for eating clean.

 

 

After mentioning in my last post that I would be making a wheat-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie there was some interest shown as to how it would turn out. Truthfully, it was delicious. I have made pumpkin pie in many variations over the years and I think this has to be one of my favourite methods. I didn’t feel that drive to overeat or the icky feeling from too rich of a dessert. I have tried everything from store-bought to tofu pumpkin pie to made from scratch using local pumpkins. This year’s was the winner! A co-worker/friend of mine came across the recipe and thought it looked like something I would be into so she posted it on my Facebook page. So glad she did…thank you.

 

 

There seemed to be a lot of kitchen activity this weekend and I even managed to stock the fridge with lunches and snacks for the next few days. We started the day yesterday with quinoa crepes with fresh, hot applesauce and real Canadian maple syrup… Mmmm. Yesterday I whipped up another new recipe to me – Banana Prune Cake. Very yummy and not too sweet. The prunes were supposed to be dates but I only had prunes so I substituted. Last night’s kitchen adventure was a speedy home-made hummus with extra garlic. Sorry to every one of you in advance that I am in close proximity to over the next few days. I pumped up the garlic amount in an effort to try to rid myself of the lingering sinus/ear annoyance I have been fighting for the past week.

 

 

All in all, this Thanksgiving was wonderful and reaffirming of the blessings of Life. Sharing healthy, delicious food, enjoying nature, and being with those I love has made beautiful memories and a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.

 

“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”   – William James

Giving Thanks

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving weekend has arrived. I love this time of year. After Christmas I would have to say that Thanksgiving is my favourite “holiday”. The chill in the air, the delicious smells wafting from kitchens and the incredible autumnal colours. This year, Thanksgiving is shaping up to be different from in the past. I have decided to lie low this year and simply take it easy at home with my kids. No huge dinners, no crazy running around, and definitely no travelling on jam-packed highways for hours only to spend a few hours at a table stuffing ourselves silly. We are enjoying each others’ company and loving the simple things like raking the leaves together, choosing a pumpkin, and cranking the tunes and singing like lunatics. Good times.

Our Thanksgiving dinner this year is veering slightly from the traditional. After starting a healthier way of eating at the beginning of September, I am shaking things up a bit by losing the mass amounts of unnecessary sugar, wheat and dairy that usually accompany large meals.  Our Thanksgiving meal will start with a butternut squash soup followed by the main entrée. Instead of turkey, a whole chicken has been requested so I will be making a herb roasted chicken as well as homemade vegetarian baked beans for us veg-heads. The side dishes will be plentiful – carmelized Brussel sprouts, whipped garlic potatoes, rutabaga,  and homemade stuffing.  For dessert I have decided upon a gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie that my mouth starts to water at the thought of.  It sounds as though I will be busy in the kitchen slaving away. To me I am content and happy making healthy food to nourish my family. I have always felt that when we cook for our self and our family with love and kindness in our heart the food we prepare will be nurturing and full of love.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I won’t bore you with my list that goes on, and on…and on.  Instead I will turn the corners of my mouth up into a smile and let my heart be wide open with love and gratitude for the goodness that I have been blessed with.

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”  – Henry Van Dyke

Beginning My Clean Food Journey

photo: agricultureresource.com

An incredible woman who is a dear friend of mine decided it was time for her to go further on her quest for great health through clean eating. She put it out there to the Universe, and her Facebook friends, that she was hoping that someone would take the journey of the Whole30 plan with her. In support of my friend, I offered to join her. I am so glad I did. I wasn’t the only one though that decided to rise to the challenge as a great group of people joined together to support each other and share ideas and experiences along our one month challenge. My friend started up a group page on Facebook called The Whole 30 Clean Month Poutine Detox. What a perfectly fitting title since poutine had become a bit  like a magnet for me (and her too by the sound of things) over the summer. I hadn’t had poutine in years since  it is prepared using gravy (which = animal product) and I am vegetarian. I decided to make my own poutine so my kids could taste this delicious Canadian treat. A poutine monster was reborn. Lo-and-behold a new poutinerie opened in my city which makes vegetarian gravy for their mouth-watering poutine and an addiction of sorts was formed. I am normally pretty careful about what I choose to eat but for some unknown reason when it came to poutine it was like I went into a hypnotic state and my will to resist vanished. I didn’t like this new addition to my thought (and eating) pattern. And here is where the Poutine Detox comes in! I must say this challenge could not have come at a better time. I was ready for positive change.

Each of us in this support-type group are dealing with our own food demons or lifestyle choices that could have been better surrounding food. We all start at different levels in our dietary choices with the same goal – to be healthier. Who doesn’t want better health? So it is the Whole30 plan that is the base to our month-long clean food poutine detox. It is interesting to hear how others are doing on their journey. My journey feels a bit unique as I think I am the only vegetarian in the group. If I’m misinformed, feel free to tell me. I have had to make my own plan due to the fact that the real Whole30 is basically a paleo-type eating style. I will not under any circumstances consume another Being. Unless of course I am ever lost in the wilderness with nothing else to eat or I would starve to death. Hopefully I will never experience this. So, instead of consuming meat I have included legumes and beans which I eat a lot of normally with no ill effects. I have also discovered a love for nut butters and tofu as alternatives to meat.

A few things I have learned along my journey thus far:

  • I no longer gag involuntarily at the thought of tofu.
  • Eggs are not my friend.
  • Sugar is nasty stuff that can control your mind until you break free of the cycle. I no longer crave anything sweeter than a fresh piece of fruit.
  • Processed food is not our friend. I knew this going into this journey but the past couple of weeks has really amplified this point.
  • The detox process (Day 2 and 3) were like having the flu. I seriously hate that feeling.
  • Exercise is not evil but fun! Yup, I said exercise is fun. Strange but true. Although I draw the line at certain forms of exercise.
  • The clothes in my closet are quickly becoming baggy. I don’t like saggy-bummed jeans. They are not at all attractive.
  • I don’t feel gnawing hunger like I did a month ago come mid-afternoon. I feel great when I eat small snacks throughout  the day that are fresh and wholesome.
  • I am losing my taste for coffee! I’m not so thrilled about this one. I always filled my mug about 1/3 of the way with soy milk and now I’m drinking it black. It is tasty but I don’t feel the need for cup after cup all day long.
  • My energy levels are pretty stable unlike they used to be. I would feel up and down in my energy all day prior to eating clean, whole foods only.
  • Eliminating wheat has been a God-send. I wish I had done this years ago! It is ridiculous how many things our society eats that are centered around wheat. It was a difficult process to break the habit of wheat-based meals such as sandwiches or bagels with cream cheese. I feel so much healthier not eating wheat.
  • Not eating dairy has been the easiest adjustment for me since I didn’t eat a lot of dairy anyway. Organic hormone-free dairy is a budget-buster for a family and I have no interest in the alternative of  funding the corruption of factory-farmed business and the propaganda of the dairy board. I love to support farmers and what they do but ethics trump all else on this issue for me.
  • I enjoy having curves, not jiggly bits. Being comfortable in my own skin is a great bonus to eating “clean”.

So I must give a big thank you to my wonderful friend over at Change My Body, Change My Life. Without her little push I would still be scarfing down poutine and pastries without a thought to how it affected the way I feel over the long-term. I found this approach of  “cold-turkey” elimination of offending foods easier than removing one thing at a time. This isn’t for everyone. Removing something as simple as one soda per day or the sugar in your morning coffee will make a difference to your overall health. I would like to clarify something. This lifestyle choice to eat whole clean food is NOT a crash diet. It is not all about losing weight or being brainwashed. I think it is just the opposite. Eating food in its original whole form is the origins of nurturing or bodies and feeding our need for sustenance. Our body will adjust accordingly and will find its true weight. We have all been brainwashed to believe that convenient non-food items are good nutrition. That because a package states that the product inside has less fat or sodium than it used to makes it a healthy choice. Our taste buds have been primed to want things taste a certain way; saltier, sweeter, or just more of whatever we happen to be consuming.  If we just stop to think a moment about the rates of obesity and illnesses that are diet-related it would become very clear that real food is superior to fake food.

“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” ~ English Proverb

The Seasons They Are A Changing

Can you feel it? The seasons are starting to shift. I love the coming of autumn, before it starts to get too chilly. Usually I would agree with the Staples commercial that “back to school” is the most wonderful time of the year. This year, I’m not buying it. I have loved having my children around for the past two months just relaxing and going at the easy pace that is a big part of summer. The chaos of scheduling is set to begin. I will not let it control me. I will stay calm in the face of the somewhat frantic pace.

 

I will enjoy the lusciousness of autumn. The sound of the leaves blowing on the trees in the breeze. The crunch of leaves under my feet. The smell, ah the wonderful fragrance of autumn air. I think this is one of my favourite smells- up there with fresh cut grass, fresh baked bread and freshly ground coffee. I’m sensing a pattern here – fresh is best.

 

It’s still hot and humid here but the change is in the air. The early mornings are cool and earthy smelling. Nature is giving signs of the changing seasons. The squirrels are starting to stockpile food, the Canadian geese are flying in formation, and the flora is in the transition to dormancy or one last hoorah before their life comes to an end. For me, the changing of seasons is upon me when I start to want heartier, warming foods such as homemade soups and stews. Apples seem to beckon to me from the orchards to come and get them. My mouth waters at the thought. There is a strange drawing out of one season as the next one begins at the moment. Summer’s bounty is still ripening while autumn’s is just starting. Amazing. Tomatoes and apples…I’m in heaven.

 

Autumn is bittersweet in a way. I love so many aspects of the season, especially the beautiful warm tones of colour variation – reds, oranges, and golds. The plumpness of pumpkins. The crispness of biting into a fresh apple. On the other hand, it is time to start winding down in the garden. The growing season for so many wonderful crops, like tomatoes, is coming to an end. I always feel a bit deflated when it is time to start pulling out the tomato plants from the garden and begin the prep for winter. I guess the upside is that autumn brings it’s own bounty. Of course, after autumn comes winter when I can get a roaring fire going in the fireplace and pour myself a glass of gamay or pinot noir to sip while watching the flames dance. There is something to celebrate with each and every season. I must remind myself not to get too far ahead and just enjoy the “now”.

 

 

“To be interested in the changing season is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”   – George Santayana

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Brassica oleracea

Kale, beautiful kale. This year was the first time I have grown kale in my garden. To be honest, it’s the first time in my life that I have ever eaten kale as well (to the best of my knowledge). I love leafy greens such as chard, spinach and those delectable dainty salad greens such as arugula, but had surprisingly never been enticed by kale. Now I love it!  It is such an incredibly lush looking specimen with its large blue-green leaves. I am fascinated by its natural waxiness that makes water bead and roll off its leaves upon contact. Yes, I enjoy the little things in my daily life to the extreme. Makes me appreciate the world around me more when I take the time to notice the minute details.

Solanum melongenm

Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant.

I have learned so much this season.  I knew that the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family – a relative of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. I knew this because, according to a naturopath I consulted with years ago, I was to avoid all members of the nightshade family. Guess I don’t follow advice very well, eh?  I am nutty for nightshades but try to keep my consumption moderate. I used to eat tomato sandwiches every day for a period of time when I was in my 20’s until I realized this was a reason I felt “off”.  Everything in moderation.

Yes, that is an arm in the background not part of the plant. This is an eggplant, not an arm-plant.

I recently learned that the eggplant is not actually a vegetable, but a fruit. I was aware that tomatoes are fruits but never considered the eggplant anything other than an intriguing  veggie. Not only is the eggplant a fruit but (wait for it)…it is a berry! Say what?  The plant world is fantastic, isn’t it?

The lovely eggplant is not a powerhouse of nutrients but does contain fiber and antioxidants.  Plus, it’s nice to shake up the variety of vegetables on offer at the  dinner table.

Cucumis sativus

My cucumber plant is going berserk. It took a bit to get going at the beginning of the season then just took off. I would normally have pinched it off but since it seems to be doing so well on top of the pergola I think I’ll just let it do its thing.  My daughter asked me recently if the cucumber was in the same plant family as squash. She was “bang on”. Squash, melons and cukes are all part of one big happy family.

Useful for so much more than munching on or slapping on your eyes when they are puffy or tired, cucumbers are very versatile.

– cucumber can be used to quickly shine shoes and repel water
– tightens collagen in the skin for instant firming action
– it is suggested that cucumber skin can erase pen, marker or crayon – I haven’t tested this one so try at your own risk
I love cucumber in a glass of water on a hot day instead of lemons or limes. 

Capsicum annuum “Tequila Sunrise”

I am so excited to taste this variety of pepper. It looks so spectacular against the green leaves.

Lycopersicon esculentum  

The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We have harvested a couple of bowls full at this point with a plethora left to pluck upon ripening. I have been enjoying the “chocolate” variety over the past week. I love the subtle differences between the varieties. The distinguishable tastes, acidity, texture differences…oh my!

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”     ~Hanna Rion