They had me at bacon

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I have two words for you – carrot bacon.  Coming from a professed meat lover, I know these two words will shock and amaze you but I have just made my first batch today and will continue to do so.  It was delicious!

My foray into more of a vegetable and plant-based world has been encouraged by a friend who has recently decided to eat a Vegan diet.  I am supportive of his decision and I am hoping that his food choices will help him alleviate some of his medical anomalies.

In his quest to research his new eating style, he has sent me several videos on the topic and they have been very interesting, to say the least.  For a woman somewhat shy of fifty, I have noticed my body does not react well to the foods that were once digested without a second thought.  Bloating is a common complaint so I decided to investigate a plant-based diet and give it a try.  I am not confessing to becoming a Vegan but I am going to give this new lifestyle a fair shot and see how I feel after a couple of weeks.

Food plays a huge role in our lives.  In our twenties, we could eat whatever we wanted.  In our thirties, we became a little more conscientious and made better choices.  In our forties and fifties, we become sadly aware that we are no longer in our twenties and thirties and our lifestyles have to evolve.  I am excited to venture into this new chapter of healthy eating and thankful that the internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recipe ideas.

The carrot bacon is done.  The pistachios, walnuts and almonds are toasted.  The breakfasts and lunches are prepared for the next few days and I am eager to find out how this journey evolves and how my body adapts to the changes.  My first two plant-based dinners were a huge success and I felt full without feeling sluggish.  That to me is a huge step in the right direction.

I am not committing 100% to the Vegan diet.   I may have the odd meal that may not be entirely plant-based but  I am willing to commit to taking this new journey one day at a time.  If it improves my health and well-being, I’m willing to give it a try.

 

 

Time is running out

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I have been blessed over the last six months.  Not only have I been able to work full-time at a job I enjoy, I have been able to focus the substantial increase of my spare time into the things that I am truly passionate about.

I have always been a creative person.  As a child, arts and crafts were my go-to hobby and when I reached the age of eleven I was introduced to the art of writing.  My grade six teacher urged us to express ourselves in ways that I had never thought about and from that moment, I was hooked.  I began to write poetry and short stories.  I was so addicted to words that I got my library card and became a voracious reader.

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I was also introduced to cooking at an early age and, under the tutelage of my dad, learned to create meals that did not come from a recipe.  I learned to experiment with flavors and was able to create some impressive dinners with simple items found in any pantry.  And I made a point to commit his cooking faux pas to memory – NEVER make scrambled eggs with Egg Nog!

I have been able to take all of my spare moments over the last few months and really focus on the things I love – cooking and writing.  This past weekend, I added three thousand more words to my novel-in-progress and spent some time in my own kitchen creating some fantastic and creative soups for myself and my family.  The time is slowly running out for me to have the time to focus on the wants instead of the needs.  Soon the resort will be back in full swing and my spare time will be a dim memory of my past.

My email address is a glaring reminder of how I will spend my remaining days and nights before my world changes – “carpe diem – seize the day”.

It was never just a muffin

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I am addicted to Pinterest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  But Pinterest has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opened a few doors to my past.  Today is a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our house on Foreman Road.  I was 10 or 11 and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

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I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would all eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of the bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven.  I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I am back in that kitchen mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries in syrup and making sure I am careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  And now that I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins.  It was about making memories…..moments that will help my parents be with me forever.

 

I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

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In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

To Paleo, or not to Paleo….that is the question

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Along with aging comes change…..in everything!  Some of that change is welcomed, like a new sense of self and not being concerned with what others think.  And some is not so well-received, like white hair, bags under the eyes and the digestive system constantly changing the rules for our metabolism on a daily basis.

I never had a care in the world when it came to food.  I suffered no allergies.  I was not a victim to food sensitivities.  I had absolute freedom in my culinary world.

But something has drastically shifted over the last couple of years.  I have heard of this phenomenon but never thought I would have become a statistic in this game of “what do we cut out of the daily diet today”.   Choosing what to eat has become more like Russian Roulette.  One misfire and that bullet of discomfort is going to rocket through my intestines.

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I’ve been looking at the Paleo Diet and it seems to cut out all the components that could potentially cause inflammation or general malaise without necessarily cutting out the options for a very tasty selection of meals.  I have already become the person who puts beets and turmeric in my breakfast smoothies, so I think I’ve pretty much taken the first step in admitting that I’m not the girl who is able to eat what she wants anymore.   And that recipe in the photo looks delicious!   Wish me luck…..I’m goin’ in.

 

 

Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

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If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank.  We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food.  The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes.   It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.

After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well.  We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations.  The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to  help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.

I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.

After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals.  Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry.  I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.

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I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college.  Before I went to college I worked in restaurants.  And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage.  Hospitality staff are trained in food safety.  From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines.   Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves.  This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.

Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on.  One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down.  I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.

 

 

 

The Wooden Spoon

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There are a million wooden spoons.  I’m sure I could go to any store from a Walmart to the highest-end Kitchen gadget store to replace the one I have.  But the one I have has a special function that none of those other spoons would have.  The spoon that I have is able to transport me back in time.

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This wooden spoon is the spoon my mother used to stir her brownie batter with and, when I was being good, I would be allowed to lick the leftover batter from that spoon.  When I become old enough to help in the kitchen, I was entrusted with the spoon and left on my own to make the brownies without my mom’s help and, as a teen is wont to do, I still licked the spoon.

This wooden spoon has had an epic journey and has lived in many kitchens but it now finds its place in my home.  It was one of the only kitchen items I chose to keep from my mom’s vast collection of kitchen gadgets after she passed away. It shares its space with the shiny stainless steel utensils, in just as shiny a container, on the counter in my kitchen.  It looks like a misfit toy lost in the pristine surroundings of Santa’s workshop but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are times when I am afraid to use the spoon for fear that it will break and I will lose that tangible part of the past that I shared with my mother.  It feels like the last piece of her that I can physically hold on to and be six years old again in our kitchen.

This inanimate object is far from lifeless and its spirit will continue to fill my kitchen, and my heart.