Sunday, August 30, 2009

CT Decade 4: Ze bonz.


Clean and organize your recipe or cookbook collection, making sure that what you're likely to use is what's handy. If you do not have recipes to support your preferred level of culinary effort, it's time to go find some!

Would you believe I just re-read Wende's instructions only to discover I didn't follow them at all! Yet, I did what needed to be done and I'm really pleased. It didn't take very long, either. And it was just the task for a sleep deprived brain.

These are my cookbook shelves.

I did not, actually, deal with the cookbooks at all, per se. I've weeded these out many times and I'm currently happy with what's there. I generally use only the ones on the lower shelf. Some of those on the top shelf belong to the husband and I don't have his permission to get rid of them.

So, what did I do?

See those binders?

The black ones next to the Milk bones box?
(Yes, it holds Milk bones. They're kept here, kitty corner to the stairs to lure the puppy down should he dodge the gate at their foot.)

The skinny black binder is my printout of weekly housecleaning chores from Motivated Moms.

The other is MY "recipe box."

But the binder had become dysfunctional. You can see it bulging there on the shelf. Very little was organized--and I had recipes in there which pre-dated my computer that I hadn't probably made more than twice, ten years or so ago. So, it was time to sort through this collection of recipes.

I love keeping my recipes this way. I sort of fell into this format over time, but it's just so sensible. First, I can photocopy a page from a cookbook, three hole punch it and put it into the binder. I can also, naturally, print out recipes from on-line. I can type recipes into a word document and print them. The 8 1/2 x 11 format is by far the easiest way to capture a recipe. Why bother with writing everything out on a 4x6 card? The sheer amount of work: even with a program for it, smothers all desire to even have recipes on hand.

The second advantage to this format is that should I ever be bothered by the mish mash of styles and formats I could stream line the whole thing into some sort of attractive work of art with Word and artwork and pictures and what not. I may do something of the sort as a "going away" gift for the kids when they leave home, but I can't think I'd bother otherwise.

The third best feature of this format is that I can use page protectors. I'd like to get those extra-wide page dividers, though. Right now I can't really "see" the dividers I've already got in there.

I now have my recipes categorized like this:
1) Salads
2) Entrees, beef
3) Entrees, Chicken
4) Entrees, vegetarian
5) Soup
6) "Cooking Lessons" from Canadian Living
7) Holiday menus and recipes. (Here is where the stuffing recipe goes, the Carrot and Yam dish, the Bacon wrapped Shrimp, Turkey Pot Pie.)
8) Recipes focused on one ingredient, like Rhubarb.
9) Miscellaneous. (How to make Chili five ways, type thing.)

Nonetheless, even though I weeded out a lot of old recipes and retyped one to fit on one page instead of two, I decided to create a second binder for Baking. It's the blue one, now on the shelf.

This one is much simpler:
1) Muffins and quickbreads
2) Cookies
3) Other.

At the very least, I can now send the kids to get the Brownie recipe and not worry that everything else is going to fall out. At most, we might even eat a bit more variety around here. We'll see how the monthly menu planning goes this weekend.

Decade 4, La Tete.


* Decide whether you're the sort of person who comparison shops for the best deal among grocery stores or whether you prefer to stick to one favorite store.

A long time ago my husband told me that since he works for a major grocery chain here out West, that we would shop exclusively at that grocery store. I was pleased. It isn't the cheapest in town: but then I don't have to bag my own groceries: and I can actually find clerks who will help me locate items. Coupons and what not are an entirely different thing here: and running to different stores for the "best deal" takes a lot of time and gas. I'm happy to stick to the one store. That being said, our food bills are very, very high. (A lot of that has to do with where we live: we're a long way from everywhere, so it all just costs more--but I can do much, much better when I cut down on our meat.)

* Construct a list of staples that need to be kept on hand and routinely replaced as the supply runs low. If you are a solo cook accustomed to shopping for specific cooking projects (and eating a lot of Toast), you will be shocked at how much food you need on hand to get through a week at a reasonable level of variety. Roll with it. There is a sense of security that is achieved only by possession of that second can of Great Northern beans.

I did this a long time ago, a la Flylady. It really wasn't that hard. I saved a few weeks of grocery lists (we weren't doing the once a month thing, then) and just typed up the recurring items. Then I added stuff I'd be likely to buy every week (the produce and bread, mostly) and saved the thing on the computer. I print it off every month and whatever I don't need, I simply strike out. I "need" something when, for example, my recipes call for 4 cans of 19oz tomatoes and I have 4 (or even 5) on hand. I'll simply buy one more: just to keep that pantry stocked and retain that sense of security Wende mentioned. (It's my bounty, my security and my largess when there's a food drive for the local food bank.)

I recently re-vamped it and added a second page to keep track of the meat we have on hand. It sits with me when I do my menus--and since Tuesday is the First Tuesday of Spetember, I've already printed it off to do my menus today and tomorrow.

The ideal, of course, is to have this laid out according to the aisles in your grocery store--and I tried that once. But, after the store underwent renovations, I didn't bother to change things and it just seems overly fussy to me. Still, it may be helpful to some to whip it into store-order.

Next up: Recipes.
Can I say I am looking forward to getting my recipes sorted and organized?
I've been waiting for this since Day 1.

For SCB fans everywhere.

How to be Special is so Mundane...

(Note: I changed the title after I'd posted. Sorry for any confusion).

So, in order to try and make good on this "something special" idea, I started looking at volunteer opportunities in my area. This is surprisingly easy to do on-line. There are all sorts of sites, and a few excellent ones, which list opportunities available in the city. There's also a helpful questionnaire posted here and there to help figure out what you would like to do.

One of the first questions is this:

If you had all the time and money in the world, what problem would you solve? What would you change or create?

Hmmm. Let's see.

1) I would try and change the current crazy industrial food system we have here in North America. Of course, no one could live in this particular city anymore as we haven't locally grown food--all the agricultural land has been swallowed (and what's left continues to be swallowed) by urban sprawl. (What is grown here in our ridiculously short season is done in greenhouses--but what do I know? In our effort to keep our gas consumption low, we have only one vehicle. The Farmer's Market here is only open on Saturday's--so I'd need to get up at 5 am and take the hubby to work so we could get there. What about public transit? or bicycles, you say? Um. See below.)

Of course, that means our back yards are perfect places to grow veggies and what not. How do we prepare to store our bounty for the winter? Who knows? Who cares? Do we really want to give up oranges from Florida and apples from New Zealand for raspberries and blueberries? (Does it become unethical to freeze them for winter use?) Do I simply get that blasted garden going next year or do I do something more? How do I even begin to find people with the same concerns?

2) Urban Sprawl. Yes. I live in a city notable for many things, but chiefly: there are eight people per square mile here. We probably have, by necessity, the most inefficient public transportation system in North America. There's just over one half of a million people here. You can imagine how spread out we are--and I live close to downtown. Except that there is the largest urban greenspace in North America between me and it, too, a river valley with steep sides.

Urban sprawl leads to great inefficiencies--think about all the water pipes laid out to each house on lots 50 feet wide, the gas pipes, the sewer lines. I don't think I can even begin to talk about the automobile without going into a choking fit.

3) Alternate fuel energy technologies. I'd happily volunteer to put a windmill on my house. Can I even do that? I don't think we'd need to worry about the prairie chickens.

4) And here's something I would change if I could. It has more to do with values concerning citizenship and nationalism than global survival and so doesn't feel quite so, ahem, important, but I am rather concerned there is no decent Canadian History book for children out there.

I have no idea what the schools do, nor do I really care. I've been reading opinions about Canadian History--what it is and isn't, how it should be taught, how, frankly, it just isn't. We aren't even talking about how to teach it yet. Nasty, complicted business--yet I just want to do something about making Canadian History accessible to little folks. Does that mean I should hole up and write it (how?) or should I go volunteer at our local "historical reenactment" site--which, frankly, could be fun.

Of course, none of these show up as "opportunities" on those web sites.
But I want to do something.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

With respect for Justin Haythe

What Justin Haythe actually wrote in Revolitionary Road, as opposed to my butchered paraphrase:

Shep: You wanted out.

April: I wanted in. I wanted us to live again.

For years I thought we shared this secret: That we would be wonderful in the world. I didn't know exactly how; just the possibility kept me hoping. How pathetic is that? So stupid. All your hopes in a promise that was never made.

See, Frank knows, Franks knows what he wants. He's found his place, he's just fine. Married, two kids, should be enough. It is for him.

And he's right. We were never special or destined or anything at all.

Shep: Oh yes you are. You're the Wheeler's. You're a terrific couple. Everyone says so.

April: I saw a whole other future. I can't stop seeing it. Can't leave. Can't stay. No damn use to anyone.

C'mon, let's do it.

(And they go dancing. Which is an amazing performance in and of itself.)

Truly, one of my first thoughts about this speech was that April, as a character, was far too young to have made it. It's the speech, more properly, of someone at mid-life: someone who begins to think that if one had been destined: surely destiny would have arrived by now?

Did we all grow up thinking we were "special?"
Why would we think that? Where does it come from? Four hundred years ago we would have we were sinners.

And I hate to do this, but Wende, I must disagree. "What would I do?" in such a situation is interesting, I suppose. But I can't see that it would in any way be meaningful. Meaning really doen't exist without community. I'm not sure if I could defend that notion or where exactly I've picked it up, but language is not a one person affair.

If I were on a Desert Island--I would not, could not be "special." The word, as I am thinking of it here only has meaning in the sense of the greater community as a whole. I know this seems contrary to the dialogue above and perhaps that is a clue I am misconstruing this and warping it into my own thing: but I would simply argue that Shep's "everybody thinks so" is simply the wrong "everybody." She wanted Paris--something outside the norms and the boundaries in which they lived. She wanted to transcend them, somehow. She certainly wanted to transcend the boundaries of her own life. And you can't do that without a dream, without the belief that it is possible. She gives up the dream, gives up the belief and there's really nothing left.

As in all properly written tragedies, there really is no choice for the character but self-destruction, unfortunately. But as a catharsis and release for the audience member--the viewer can say, "No. Stop. Wait. There. That's where a choice could have been made." Maybe. Maybe she could have chosen to be "the housewife" she felt Frank deserved. Whatever else she could have been, this at least she would be.

But, I'm afraid I'm truly speaking only for myself, here.
I made this choice this past year.

And now I think I'm asking: "And what else?"

Friday, August 28, 2009

All is Well--Thanks to 1GB of Ram!

Oh--and a new power thingy. You know the gizmo in the computer where you put the wall plug? --that had blown. Once it was fixed, the next thing to do was speed up the beast. Et Voila. I have a functional work horse and communication device back at my fingertips.


The house stayed clean and tidy. Instead of sitting down "to check something" on-line, I put something away, or washed a dish, or swept a floor. The house was enjoyable. I was bored silly: but the house was restful, peaceful.

The husband and I watched a movie together. "Body of Lies." I realised I know nothing, nothing about the Middle East. I'm embarrassed by my ignorance, frankly.

We had picked up "BoL" to watch because I'd been quite taken with Mr. DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. I wondered if it might be similiar. (I know nothing about movies, either!) It wasn't, but it was still a decent movie though I had to watch it twice to keep track of the twists and turns. Impressed with it, I decided to rent Revolutionary Road.

I am still reeling.

It reminds me of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor which I saw when I was far too young to understand what I was seeing. It reminded me of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" which, though I was even younger, I did understand.

When I was in my mid-twenties, my cousin and his girlfriend, only four, five years younger than I, went to see "Dead Poet's Society." Does anyone remember it? It was an exuberant film about a crazy professor (Robin Williams) who turns on the young boys under his tutelage to the freedom from social stricture and the expression of life in all its fullness--simply from the reading and appreciation of poetry. Very romantic. And not something of an epiphany for the sophisticate I had believed I had become: but it certainly was for my younger cousins. Then living in Niagara Falls, Ontario, they decided to leave everyone they knew behind and start a new life together in Vancouver.

"Revolutionary Road" may be, could be my Dead Poet's Society.


There is a line Winslett, as April, says to her neighbour, the man who worships from afar, late in the movie, (if I pop in the dvd to quote it exactly, I may be overwhelmed, so I am deliberately paraphrasing, here):

"how did I ever think I was special? Where did I get that idea? What if I'm not? What if I'm really not? Nobody promised anything. How could I have believed in a promise nobody made?"

--and in the subtext-- how can I be so devastated by something that was never there, never real?

And, of course, I was pierced. I hate to be overdramatic. But it really did feel like something pierced me in the chest and held me very, very still.

What if?

Can I accept the fact that I'm really nobody special?

(Can anyone?)

What would it mean to accept I'm really nobody special?

Of course, that's a choice, an existential choice. So the opposite question must also be asked: what if I am special?

But because an existential choice is always about process--think becoming, not being, (there is, really, no "being"--ack watch me trip over language I haven't bothered to use in over 20 years!) the real, the only question is:

What would it mean to live as if I were somebody special?
What does "special" even mean?
What could it mean?

Could I make it mean something?

And I wish to hell this dialogue were not so solipsistic.

(My husband, ever the pragmatic soul that he is, does not like to watch "depressing" movies. He did not watch it with me.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


My computer is down.


I'm typing from the library, at the moment. I can't believe how hard it was to find my blog on google.

No matter. No culinary therapy at the moment, I'm afraid.

It's only been two days and so far, I've been enjoying the, well, dare I say it, freedom that has arrived with the tower's departure.

So far.

In a week, I'll probably be twitching.

I've already got about a million things to do while I have this terminal at my fingertips, so I'm not staying to chat.

See ya soon, I hope.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Wish All Weeks Had Ten Days.

We have been at school all week. Up at 8, 8:30 and into the books by 9:00. The kids did ask me if they could please have breakfast before we started. Geesh. I reluctantly agreed. So, now we have Hot Chocolate and an egg and some fruit before we open a book: and I've found that things really run much more smoothly--even with significant sleep deprivation which worsened as the week progressed.

The playground program is still running and that has helped us finish in decent time every day. The city hires a bunch of University students to provide supervision at local parks in the summer. Grace and Megan have managed an excellent program and my daughter has met so many of the neighbourhood children that it has truly been wonderful! My social butterfly is thus also highly motivated to get her work done quickly so she can get to the park.

Today we made a balloon model of the Solar System. It's designed to show relative size--NOT distance. We had an extraordinarily hard time blowing up balloons only 2 1/4" or so. You'll notice that our Solar System is missing Venus and Mars. Somehow, even though they were teeny tiny, they popped. (Earth, is, unfortunately, pink.)

So, we have been doing school by day...and by night I have been planning. Lots of planning. Tons of planning. So much planning, I don't really even want to talk about it.

Oh and did I mention, it is Birthday Week? It isn't enough for a child to have a family party on the day of his or her actual birthday, you know. Not anymore. No, you have to offer something on the weekend as well. For children. From 1 to 4 pm tomorrow, we'll feed seven little eight and nine year old girls lots of sugar and then do our best to corral that energy into lots of games and activities. And that's why these balloons are up.

Of course, for me, whose living room furniture has been topsy turvey and in the middle of the room for the last month until this morning, this last week also saw the ceiling painted...and the coving touched up with the same paint as before. (Someone suggested doing something like this in the comments, and I thought, hey, I already have that and it looks half decent, so why not?) The profound and exciting change happened, though, with the first swath of the lighter ceiling paint. That's what lifted the room and completed its metamorphosis from dark and cave-like to airy and open. I am so happy with my vanilla walls and cloud white ceiling that I want to take some time selecting the artwork for the walls and other doodads.

And yes, I cooked. Every night but tonight. Tonight I caved and let the local pizzeria provide dinner.

They do it well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Menu Planning

I plan my menus a month at a time. I plan for 6 days in a week. I do this, as I have mentioned before, because the grocery stores in our city offer 10% off the entire grocery bill the first Tuesday of every month. That means Sunday and Monday are spent frantically meal planning and (since I decided to save money by eliminating waste) taking inventory of the pantry and freezer.

This month I decided I wanted the following per week:
1 Roast or crock pot dish for Sunday evening supper.
1 meal with ground beef.
1 meal with pork
1 meal with fish
the rest I would fill in with Chicken and whatever.

As I mentioned, I love Leanne Ely's cookbooks. So, I sit down with her books and a blank calendar and start scribbling. If you enlarge the monthly chart below, you'll notice I've written in the page numbers of the recipe I'm using (or otherwise indicate how to find it.) (This month, since I knew I would share it with you, I re-did it on the computer. Inspired by zooza, I applied coloured highlighters to indicate the meat. (Orange is chicken; pink, fish; green, ground beef, and yellow, pork, though I don't think any but the yellow showed up from the scan.)

My challenge--in addition to all this work (and believe me, it is work)--is the weekly grocery shop. This is supposed to be for the fresh ingredients we need: you know, the carrots, celery, spinach, milk, yogurt and eggs. This morning, because CT is fresh in my mind, I actually sat down with the menu, the cookbooks and a piece of paper and made a grocery list. Then I went shopping. I was so proud.

Oh--and just a note. These are not set in stone. For example, on Thursday we went to the mall and had supper there. (The first time this year, I think. There was a Grand Opening. They had a circus act. It was extraordinary.) So, on Friday, since I was somehow in the midst of cleaning the oven--making it unavailable for the planned fish, I made one of our favourite dishes, the Pork Diane we would have had on Thursday.

So. That's my menu planning process.

Here is what I've planned for supper this coming week:

Shrimp and Snow Peas on brown rice.

Tuesday (my daughter's ninth birthday--the menu was requested.)
Roast Chicken
White potato, carrots, and sweet potato. (Could be a yam. I don't know. The orange one.)
Yorkshire Pudding
Chocolate cake and ice cream.

Crock Chops with potatoes and coleslaw.

Greek Turkey Burgers with side "greek" salad.

Citrus Fish, brown rice, orange & kidney bean salad.


Roast Ham, veggies.

I am, when all is said and done, a fairly simple cook.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Week 2: CT, Catching Up

Before I tackle the hard questions and "simple" tasks of CT Week Three, I want to tackle Week Two. Fortunately, for me, there really wasn't much for me to do to satisfy the requirements of this week. The real week, however, was quite full. And so, for the record, here is (part of) CT: Week 2.

Rummage through your brains (or your recipe books) for a dish you used to make "all the time" but have neglected in recent months (or years). Acquire the ingredients and make it! And photograph it (we like to see proof around here*). While you're at it, you might as well share the recipe. And tell us what the dish means to you. In fact... dish.

After much rumination, I am going to claim the Bran muffin recipes I posted for Mella. I could talk about how I used to make Lentil soup--but don't much anymore. (But then, I never made it much when I was single, either. It simply stands out because when I did make it, I ate really well that week!)

And that's the crux of it, right there. Until I had a family, I had no need to cook. I have no idea what I ate as a single person except the muffins, lentil soup and spaghetti sauce. (A recipe I've since resurrected. We have it once a month, now) Then (likely the result of years of severe sleep deprivation), when I did have a family, I've no recollection of cooking anything at all (unless it involved a spice mix) until I discovered Flylady--and through her--Leanne Ely.

Hers are my go-to-cookbooks. So much so, that it was with profound relief and joy when I discovered that Ely had broken down her recipes into diabetic exchanges--and thus would be ideal for my weight loss plan. In other words, I would have had to have found them if I hadn't already had them. (However, interesting thought: I believe that Leanne Ely's style of cooking is what Wende calls "Euro-trash Chicken." Personally, it was liberating to me. I really cannot overstate how much.)

I have these two:

This one is in the library.

I found a few recipes in it which we loved back when I decided that we needed to eat two (or more) vegetarian meals a week in order to save some money. I would have continued, except that eating vegetarian is heavily burdened with carbohydrates: nothing wrong with that except if you are me and trying to lose weight. The dishes used up practically all my carbohydrate portions and very few of my proteins. My challenge in life is getting enough solid protein, the carb part is ridiculously easy. So, vegetarian and losing weight do not go together for me at all, unfortunately.

So, the long and short of it is, I really can't recall anything I used to make that
1) I would make again
2) I can make again, and
3) I never made anything, anyway, so how could I make it "again"?

  • If you've ever taken dietary supplements, go through the stash and toss any that are past their use-by dates or that you know you wouldn't take again. (I do take a multi-vitamin, as well as fish oil pills for strong, shiny hair and hooves.)

I threw out some vitamin combination recommended for stiff joints (I actually typed in monosodium glutamate, but that's obviously not it) outdated by two years and some B vitamins which expired earlier this year.

  • If you have any sort of unused or disliked "how to eat better" materials hanging around the house, dispose of them. It's especially important to dump the stuff that you feel you should use but don't want to. Whatever you're trying to achieve with your eating habits, there has to be a source written in a tone and at a level of detail that works for you.

Strangely enough, I do not have any books like this in my home--oh, well, except one which has to do with feeding children. I took it out and skimmed through it a month or so ago. Really, the fellow was quite revolutionary, suggesting that diet could handle things like sleeping problems (the section I was most interested in) and attention difficulties.

My mother, on the other hand, read all of Adele Davis when I was a child and still has all her books. Brewer's yeast brings back bad memories.

Since all of the CT participants are women, we're going to take "bones" literally, and this is the one place where I'm going to push nutrition: check to make sure you are getting your full daily allowance of calcium. If it takes a supplement, take a supplement.


Or at least I'd thought so. I used to take two. Each one contained 300mg Elemental Calcium (Carbonate and citrate forms), 150 mg Magnesium, Zinc (5mg) and Vitamin D3 (200 I.U.) Turns out, apparently, that your body can only absorb 300 mg of calcium at a time: so it is best to take the pills at different times of the day. So, now I take one a day....and almost never remember to take the second one. Perhaps right before bed might work. The good doctor, in the book recommended above, recommends both calcium and protein before bed as a falling asleep enhancer. (So, a slice of cheese, which the sister of a friend of mine used to eat every night before bed is ideal).

I also take 1000mg of Omega 3, 60 mg CoEnzyme Q10, and a formula of B vitamins called "Stress B." (I don't eat fortified cereal and B vitamins help with depression as well as stress).

Menu Planning

This will have to be another post.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Week 1: The CT To Do tasks: Ta Da!

Our assignments for the first week were:

Rummage through your food storage and dispose of:

1. Food that is officially expired, according to the date on the package.
2. Food that may or may not have gone bad, but you're not going to risk eating it and finding out.
3. Food that you know in your heart you're never going to eat, regardless of whether you ought to want to.

Before we left for our vacation, I emptied the fridge. All that remained upon my return was the pantry, the freezer and my designated food cupboards upstairs. It's difficult to clear out the pantry as the husband is in charge of putting out the garbage and he tends to get grumpy when he sees meat leaving uneaten. I'm going to have to face the wrath or sneak it out, somehow. The pantry is pretty good. I have too many packages of Jello--I took them off my Mother's hands when we cleaned out her pantry--but it's reasonable, other than that.

That leaves the two cupboards upstairs. I elected to clean the top one. I try to keep just what I need on a daily basis in here: everything else is supposed to be in the basement. Unless it's been opened. Then it needs to find a home.

I managed to get rid of several boxes of various crumbs. No, really. There were graham crackers, vanilla wafers, chocolate wafers and, yes, pre-crushed and boxed cornflake crumbs. I also tossed a box of rancid triscuits.

I am stymied by this however.

(Yes, that box once held a Walkman. Some of its contents likely date from that era.)

They are "spice" mixes. I've seven, count them, seven packets of chili spice mix. There's also one package of Yorkshire pudding mix my daughter got from her grandmother for Christmas. They never expire, as far as I can tell.

But I know I haven't used anything from this box in over a year: maybe two....or three (or ten).

It just seems like "too much waste" to throw them all out, whoosh, just like that. But they need a better container and I really cannot justifying buying something.

Oh Woe.

But, except for a few matters, (I'm not going to touch the whole spice buying, storage, and retrieval issues) I am done. And I confess, I read Wende's Week 1 post just before we left, so I knew this was coming. I took photos of the cupboards, therefore, before we left on vacation.

(You can see how trying to find the olive oil or the butter in a split second while the egg newly cracked by my budding children-chefs begins to stick to the beat-up non-stick frying pan could be a bit of a challenge.)

(Sorry about the blur.)

And, now, it's all clean and (mostly) organized. I should have laid paper, but the task was daunting enough without fussing with all that.

(Yay, no more stuck eggs!)

Give your refrigerator, stove, and most important one or two cooking appliances a good wipe. If there's something that needs to be fixed on any of them, this is the time to do it.

Blech. The oven needs a wipe.

Baking Porn

These are the most wonderful Raspberry muffins, ever. Of course, I'm not terribly experienced in the ways of raspberry muffins, but when I was forced to borrow i Tablespoon of baking powder from my neighbour, I was happy to send her back two of these in return. I sent them over with Aurelia who reported back that Mrs. D said she'd never had a Raspberry muffin before. Never? She has twice as many bushes as we do: does it all become jam?

Anyway, here they are.

The recipe is from this blog. I made a few modifications, as noted.

Beat together:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. yogurt-- I didn't have any plain, so I used 7% M. F. sour cream, instead.
  • 2-3 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1 t. vanilla

In a separate bowl, mix or sift together:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour --I used 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat, as I usually do.
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1-2 t. lemon zest
  • 1 t. salt

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until thoroughly moistened. Then fold in:

  • 2 c. raspberries (frozen is fine, just don’t thaw them too much before mixing them in, or you’ll end up with bright pink muffins)

Pour into 12 large muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

This made quite a stiff batter, and required fourteen muffin cups: not twelve.

I actually used a real lemon. I thought it was time to introduce Aurelia to the concept of "zest." (I didn't know anything about it until my twenties.) And I knew she'd have fun working with the zester. She did--but she asked me, "Why is it called zest?" I had no good answer.

Raspberry-Banana Loaf

I wondered how this Raspberry Banana Bread would turn out. The reviews on the web site were mixed. First, I reduced the bananas to two. Unfortunately, mine weren't as ripe as I like them to be. The resulting dough was much too stiff to fold raspberries, so at the last minute I quickly mixed in two tablespoons of apple sauce and 1 tablespoon of canola oil. That helped immensely. I also made a sugar and cinnamon/nutmeg crust. It took only 50 minutes in the oven.

The recipe is from here. As I won't make it again and don't recommend it, I won't cut and paste. However, my son, who is an extraordinarily picky eater, pronounced it "not bad."

Nonetheless, I'm anxiously waiting for more berries to ripen so I can try a Raspberry-Orange Loaf/Muffins and the Zesty Raspberry Loaf mentioned above.

Oh dear. This diet may be well and truly lost. I just found a recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Bundt cake. And it is Aurelia's ninth birthday on Tuesday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heart: Week 1.

For your culinary late night reading: this site is amazing.

I can't wait to try the Zesty Raspberry Loaf. I just wish I'd seen it before I baked the Banana_Raspberry loaf currently in the oven. If it works out, I'll let you know.

PS: It seems I love to bake more than I love to cook. But perhaps it is only that baking is a novelty, while cooking happens every day.

A Day of Good Eatin'

My "diet" is a portion controlled plan based on 1600 calories per day. I've made up a chart based on old Weight Watcher's food diaries from the 80's. I try and ensure I eat everything on my chart.

Just for fun, I took pictures of everything I ate on Wednesday. I love eating this way.

(That's a one-egg omelette. Honest.)

(The wrap unwrapped).

Snack the First
(More about this incredible book, later).

(with milk)

Snack the second.
(That's 1/2 cup of blueberries hiding under that yogurt. And those are raspberries from our very own bushes.)

That's all the boxes ticked but one portion of a "grain." Since I went over by one portion in that category by eating a home made Lemon-Raspberry muffin on Tuesday, I figured all was good. A pint of water accompanied me to bed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Muffins for Mella*

As I was reading Mella's post about menu planning, it struck me that a good home-made muffin is the work horse of the single gal's food life. Or, rather, it could be; if one likes muffins and doesn't mind baking.

It's a wonderful "on-the-go" quick breakfast food. A glass of OJ, a slice of honest cheddar, and a bran muffin and you've eaten "the most important meal." It's the proper pick-me-up at 4:00. Eat a properly proportioned muffin and you save money and add to your daily total fiber intake. What could be better? I love muffins. I'd forgotten how much, really. I make muffins every week: but they are strictly for my husband's snacks and lunches. When I'm out of losing mode and in maintaining mode, I'd like to reintroduce muffins back into my diet.

Especially these. They are from Jane Brody's "Good Food Book." It's one of those tomes you buy when you are a single person and realise you don't know anything about food or how to cook it. It has chapters on food like "Wheat and other Grains of Truth" and "Full o' Beans? You Bet" with helpful illustrations identifying various legumes. In the "Helpful Hints" section we have an introduction entitled "Cooking From Scratch Effectively" and for the unititiated, "How to Equip Your Kitchen."

With sub chapters called "Milling, The Rape of the Wheat Berry" you get a sense of the "slant" of this cookbook. Nonetheless, it was my Bible of sorts. It's in rough shape. I have lost the front cover and all publishing and copyright information. It has split in two in a most unfortunate way: the top half of pages 385 to 388 belong to one half of the book and their bottoms to the other. I hold it together with an elastic.

I actually have two favourite bran muffin recipes from this book. One makes the best muffins in the entire world. The other makes more: but you can store the batter in the fridge (though it takes up a lot of room. That wasn't a problem when I was single, but it is now, unfortunately) and bake them as you see fit.

I wish I could make a batch of either for you and post a picture but I don't make these anymore for chiefly four reasons.
1. My husband does not like raisins. They are part of what make these so good.
2. I don't like dealing with molasses.
3. These are quite moist and wonderful. The husband prefers his muffins dry.
4. See the above storage problem.

Nonetheless, I offer these with my best wishes for healthy nourishment.

Best-Of-Bran Muffins
This recipe makes 24.

3 cups shredded Bran cereal. (e.g., All Bran, 100% Bran, etc.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs, lightly beaten.
2 cups buttermilk**
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired.

1. In a large bowl, combine cereal, egg, oil and raisins, and pour the boiling water over them. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly.

2. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, the buttermilk, and molasses. Add this to the partly cooled cereal mixture.

3. In another small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the cereal mixture, stirring just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, wax paper, or a damp towel and let stand for 15 minutes, preferably for 1 hour.

4. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 24 muffin cups and divide the batter among them, filling each cup about 3/4s full. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the muffins from the oven, and, when they are slightly cooled, take them out of the tin and place them on a rack to cool completely.

Refrigerator Bran Muffins

This batter will keep for three weeks , tightly covered, in the fridge. This recipe makes enough batter for about 3 dozen muffins, but if you have the refrigerator space, Brody advises, "you could easily increase it."

3 cups whole-bran cereal (e.g., All-Bran or Bran Buds.)
1 cup boiling water
2 cups buttermilk**
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, preferably stone ground
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
1/2 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit (optional). (Note: I have used chopped dried apricots.)

1. In a medium bowl, soak the cereal in the boiling water. Set the cereal aside to cool, and then stir in the buttermilk.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter or margarine and the sugar until they are well blended. Beat in the eggs, and then mix in the bran-buttermilk mixture.

3. Sift or stir together the all purpose and the whole wheat flours, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the bran mixture, stirring the ingredients just enough to combine them. Add the raisins or other dried fruit if desired.

4. Either refrigerate the batter in a tightly closed container for later use, or divide it among 36 well greased small muffin cups, about 2 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches, or 24 large muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3rds full.

5. Bake the muffins in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove them to a rack to cool down to warm (they are best when eaten that way).

** prepare buttermilk by mixing 1 cup of skim milk (it must be skim or non-fat. I make this with 1/3 cup skim milk powder and 1 cup water) with 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes before using.

*actually, these are muffins for everyone. And I don't even know if Mella likes muffins. But, I do like alliteration.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Week 1: The Questionaire

So, here we are: finally able to spend an hour or so catching up. I'm afraid I've really nothing to say about fish.

  • Is there a chef/cook, real or fictional, whom you admire? If so, what's the appeal of this person?

  • I had a great deal to say about absolutely nothing to this question, but I seem to have lost it all when trying to post. Short answer: I see nothing, I know nothing, I say nothing.

  • Is there a chef/cook, real or fictional, whom you find annoying? If so, what's the offense by this person?

  • I'm sure there are some who are annoying. I've no idea.

    Personal history

  • What's your earliest memory of cooking--or assisting with cooking--yourself?

  • Making brownies. I must have been about ten. I turned on a burner --who knows why--and a glass plate holding pieces of Baker's chocolate exploded all over the kitchen floor. I got my mother up out of bed to help me cope and she took a spatula (around here, I actually call it the "fry pan flipper" to distinguish it from a bona fide spatula which is a thing you use to get the last bit of mayonnaise out of the jar or to definitively remove the very last of the batter from the sides of the bowl.) and beat the pieces into the floor. We lived in a trailer. The burn marks were still on the floor when we moved from the trailer.

  • What do you consider to be comfort food?

  • Kraft Dinner.
    My grandmother's apple pie. (And no one else's.)

  • What piece of cooking advice would you never take again?

  • oooh, interesting. If I'd ever been given any advice, I'm sure there is some I'd never take again.

  • What do you enjoy about cooking?

  • I love creating something. I really enjoy eating, too.

  • What do you dislike about cooking?

  • Dull knives.
    It takes time.
    My kids don't like complex flavours though I have decided to more or less ignore that and just make sure they come to the table really hungry.

    What is cooking anyway?

  • What animal best summarizes your current cooking and/or eating habits?

  • Currently? I am eating extremely well.

    A monkey, maybe? though I've no idea why. Perhaps because almost every time see one, it's eating something. Though, for the record, I don't eat nits.


  • What is bothering you about your current eating/cooking habits?

  • Since I have changed my diet to something sensible and I'm eating more fruits and veggies than I ever thought possible (and fewer starchy carbs) there really isn't anything bothering me. Lunch used to alternate between frozen battered fish prepared in the oven with some sort of frozen potato (not fries, I never could justify that--but tater tots made too many appearances) and Kraft Dinner. From that we graduated to frozen battered chicken and genuine potatoes (cut into eigths and brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic. Roasted with the chicken at 400 degrees, the kids actually asked for them) and Kraft Dinner. I make wraps for myself for lunch now. Today I made the rest of the family grilled cheese. (Wich, zooza, doesn't involve the grill, neither Anglo nor American. It simply refers to a pan fried a cheese sandwich. Oh, so good but so full of fat it's off-limits at the moment.) Kraft Dinner has been banned from the house for about a month, now, as has the chicken. I have no idea what I've been feeding the kids.

  • What do you want to be able to say about your eating/cooking habits at the end of eight weeks?

  • That I've become a bit more courageous.
    That I'm not afraid of batch cooking and making meals ahead of time for those nights when I just can't cook.
    I'd like to make more cookies and pies and dessert type things for the family...but not until I've switched from losing mode to maintaining mode.

    Sunday, August 2, 2009


    We're back!

    In short, it was hot, hazy and absolutely wonderful.

    I am swamped for the next few days unpacking, setting the living room to rights, getting ourselves ready for a new school year--and catching up on CT, too, of course.

    Here, though, are a few pictures to encourage deep restorative breaths.

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