Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Taste of (sour) sunshine

I am on a roll with the posts ladies.

J has really long shifts. I mean 13 hour long shifts, and to distract myself I've been cooking and baking a whole lot more lately. Along with that comes the gift of food to others (as in the lentil soup from the previous post), but I've found that when its a sweet something gift, I really enjoy making it pretty for the eyes. I mean, I just spent a couple hours making these darn cakes, why not take the extra 5 minutes to make it look appealing? It makes people feel special, and although I wont say I do it all the time (and honestly, people are grateful no matter what that cake/those cookies/etc look like), I like packaging the whole thing up. Its like I'm saying, hey you, I love you and I made you something delicious and wanted it to look as pretty as I could just for you! So why not?

With the first real lasting warmth of spring in the air, of course my thoughts turn the deliciousness that is summer baking, and that for me always involves lemon. Dear God, I could write poetry to that oval-ish yellow ball of goodness and happiness and sunshine. I put that sh*t in everything. And I put alot of it in these little cakes. The smell, colour, taste made me happy and put me in mind of sweet sweet summer. Here is the recipe (warning, its not a sweet desert, despite the amount of sugar in it, its definitely more on the sour side):

Lemon raspberry strawberry cakes with lemon glaze

Cake ingredient

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • zest of one lemon
Mix those together, set aside
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
Cream those together, then add
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • lemon juice from that zested lemon
Slowly alternate between adding the flour mixture and
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
It will make a thick batter. Incorporate by hand 
  • 2 cups of berries (I used raspberries and chopped strawberries, feel free to use whatever combo you want/have on hand)

Spoon into muffin tins or mini loaf tins (it made 14 cupcakes and 6 mini loaves for me), bake at 325. The cupcakes took 40 mns, and the loaves 50, top was golden. They are just so moist and delicious and lemony without the glaze, but I added it since it looks cooler lol!

Glaze ingredients

  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • a tsp of milk
Just mix all that in a bowl and drizzle over completely cooled cakes. I got the original recipe from Pintrest, just changed a couple things.

Drizzzzzzzlllleeeeee dat glaaaaaze
 So to wrap it up, I just used wax paper and wrapped two mini loaves or 4 cupcakes to a package. Taped it like it was a gift, then stuffed it gently in a ziplock. I had been using paint swatches for another craft project so I had a few extra in hand, I cut out a yellow shade that was actually called pale lemon (made me chuckle), cut the words off, wrote a cute little message, and affixed it with a felt heart sticker I had from scrapbooking. Took two minutes. <3

That +5 roll card is a DND joke... I'm a nerd and proud of it :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lentil Madness

Guyssss I desperately need a good large stockpot. Currently scouting the second hand stores for something suitable.

In the space of  a week, two of our close friend couples (completely unrelated) told us that due to extreme financial difficulties, there would be major changes in their lifestyles. Not being able to do much, I still wanted to help, so I offered to share what I learned along the way about cooking on the way low end. This always being a very touchy subject, I just threw it in there and let them choose to do what they wanted. Meanwhile, I made one of the cheapest meals I know to make, and that would be lentil soup. Seriously the entire batch cost about 5-6$. I made two kinds, vegetable and curry.

The basis for any lentil soup, I think, is pretty similar. Celery, carrots, onions, garlic. Which is what I chopped up and divided into two large measuring cups, I didn't really measure each but I think 4 large onions (that, btw, I cheated and threw into the food processor because I hate chopping those), 1 1/2 cups each of carrots and celery (it was a bag each, didn't check the weight), and a head of garlic. I added a red bell pepper and half a jalapeno pepper without seeds to the curry cup, because I had those lying around in my fridge, and I figured it would add a little kick. Oh and a few spring onions into both for the same reason as the peppers.

Vegetable cup on the left, and curry on the right.

Got both of those started in different pots to sweat out with olive oil. After about 10 minutes, added 4 tbsp curry to one of the pots, mixed that in. Then I added a can of tomato  and let both cook an extra few minutes. I then added to each 12 cups of liquid (water in the vegetable pot, and chicken stock in the curry), and 4 cups of green lentils each (that i had thoroughly rinsed and drained prior). I also added a can of chickpeas that I had rinsed to the curry pot. Simply let that cook down, I think 1 1/2 hours, maybe more, until lentils are cooked through. I then took my hand blender to each for a few whirs to give it a thicker consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Veggie on the left, curry on the right.

It gave me that much. I don't know exactly how many portions, but I gave away to 6 families, plus the two original friends I had mentioned before (with the recipes), and a good lot of leftovers for myself. Fibre and protein and deliciousness and cheap. Doesn't get any better.

PS - 8 cups of lentils is how much 1 pkg of lentils in Super C (cost is 2.50$) is, if you don't eat them enough to buy in bulk.

Ingredients for vegetable lentil soup: 4 cups rinsed/drained green lentils, 12 cups of water (might need more, adjust accordingly), 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups each of carrots and celery, half a head of chopped garlic, s&p.

Ingredients for curry lentil soup: 4 cups rinsed/drained green lentils, 12 cups of chicken stock (might need more, adjust accordingly), 1 can of rinsed chickpeas, 1 1/2 cups each of carrots and celery, half a head of chopped garlic, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 jalapeno pepper, 4 tbsp yellow curry powder, s&p.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Food through love and grief

I'm feeling very contemplative this morning. Much has shifted in the past few weeks and my spirits are a bit low, and as a consequence it seems my activity level and quality of food that I put into my body has lowered as well. Its really amazing how everything is connected, and once that is recognized, all that one has to do is improve one thing, whichever is easiest, and the rest seems to follow. I've always had difficulty with mood shifts, its easy for me to feel depressed. After a few years, I've learnt to recognize those signs, and talk about it, and know to act accordingly immediately, instead of waiting to see if it was 'just me feeling lazy'.

So I started today with this gorgeous breakfast, I just sauteed veggies until semi-cooked, then put it into a small glass cooking pan (that I put in the oven while preheating at 425 so the veggies could continue cooking when I transferred them), cracked an egg over it and set it to cook for 15 mns. Near the last few mns I added some sharp cheddar. Greek yogurt with raspberries and a piece of multigrain bread completes. Simple, country, delicious. But it feels luxurious, and that's precious, because I am precious, and worth it, and the sweet life in me is even more so. After this, I am going to do some laps at our public pool, which I stopped doing for a couple weeks. Being in the water is just so wonderful, both for my body and mind. I used to go daily, and will do so again.

A month and a half ago, my sister, having broken up with her ex, was between apartments and asked to stay with us until the new lease, 3 months later. Of course, we immediately accepted. Its a joy to have her here with me and I love seeing and talking to her daily. But food wise, it brought along major shifts, I now had 3 adults to cook for and make sure there was enough leftovers for lunches, as well as fresh produce for snacks. My sister is an extremely active person, and being a dietitian, is very conscious of what she was eating. So I had to make that shift in our groceries and food budget to accommodate her (and follow in her footsteps as well). I quickly learnt what fruits and veggies would get eaten up real fast and which would hang out on the counter until almost too late. I also developed strategies for quick food: in the freezer, I have the breakfast shelf. In there are different quick pull options for them like smoothie packs, frozen sliced oatmeal banana bread, waffles, etc. For snacks and lunches I make snack bags of fruits and veggies already sliced and pre-assembled so all they have to do is grab. I also make one big batch of protein at the start of the week, like a bowl of hard boiled eggs, or a whole chicken de pieced just for that purpose. I can steam a large portion of a couple veggies and make a large portion of carbs like brown rice or mashed potatoes so they can just pre assemble. All these things help out with supper so that I am not desperate to have leftovers. It was a shift, but very interesting and I think helpful towards the future when baby has outgrown mama milk. Its like a trial session for feeding more than just J and me, and although I screwed up at one point (J's work schedule changed so that he worked during the weekend when we would usually stock up. For about three-four days there were no fresh produce and had to rely on frozen/canned), it was a great learning experience. Food through love.

Last week, my dog passed away. She was 15 years old and a source of love and trust that I had relied on without realizing how much she impacted my life. When my father passed away when I was young, my mother bought me Ivy a month later, and she became a greater blessing than anyone could have figured. I couldn't begin to count the days and nights I just held her when I was feeling strong emotions I couldn't, at that point, express otherwise. A few years later (I was 15), when I reached one of the darkest moments of my life, I felt like there was no reason to being. I was alone in my home, everyone had gone out, and I had stolen my mother's meds and had lined up the pills one by one on my bed. I can say without a doubt that I would be dead had I taken all of those. I was 4 down when she ran into my room, jumped on the bed, sat on the pills and put her front paws on my chest and just gave me kisses all over my face. I just picked her up and held her and cried into her fur, and stopped what I was doing. She saved my life. Whether she felt it, or was moved by a greater power, I don't know, but I owe my life to her. I don't feel like I have to explain my love for her, or debate it with anyone who believes an animal is just an animal. She was precious. I had a 'last supper' of sorts with my family who had raised her with me. I didn't take any pictures but everything turned out perfectly and effortlessly. My step-father insisted that he wanted to buy her a Big Mac, and everyone fed her tidbits from their plates. It was a meal of love and support and sadness and grief. Food through grief.

Not wanting to end on a sad note, a week later, Im feeling better and started my day with that awesome breakfast I told you about. Im about to leave to go swim and my heart heals itself, and like all deep sadness, it doesnt forget but finds it easier bit by bit. I am lucky to have people that love me so around me, and especially, I am so very grateful for the miracle that is growing within me. Life is death is life, and grieving is just as beautiful as living, in a different way.

Love and light to you, my LG sisters! I am grateful for you, too!