Category Archives: Food

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I really should of been a baker. Not a fancy sort with funky icing designs, or cake too pretty to eat sort of baker, but a practical, every day healthy food consumption kind of baker.  Stop at my little corner bakery on the way to work for your breakfast to-go.  I could do it.  Maybe I should do it…

Sixteen years ago when my son was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) I started paying attention to ingredients in food. Up until then I had the grab and shove in cart mentality.

That many years ago there wasn’t a large variety of peanut/nut free foods or even strict allergen listing requirements that is available today. So, if my child was to enjoy a cookie, or a muffin or at that point, bread, I had better get the baking ingredients out and get’er done.  Besides, I started to notice this food in EVERYTHING called ‘Soy’ and labeled in many different forms. Soy lecithin, soy flour, hydrolyzed soy, soy soy soy. After much research into the world of soy, we avoid all soy in this home and if you buy anything premade/boxed etc., you will more than likely find it in the ingredients list. Anyways, this post isn’t about the deteriorating ingredient list in foods, its about super refreshing delicious Lemon Blueberry Muffins.

When it comes to blueberries and baking, the type matters. The small wild blueberries, won’t give you the blue bleed. The taste of biting into a juicy blueberry isn’t as prominent in the small blueberries, so I recommend Blueberries. You can use wild blueberries, just not my fav when it comes to baking.

If you are lucky like us, you will have a Mennonite Blueberry Farm around the corner. I can pop in anytime of year and grab a bag of frozen big juicy blueberries.

Chances are you can buy blueberries in your local area in the late summer when it is in season. The good things about this farm is they don’t use pesticides or harmful treatments so you can just plop them in a freezer bag and have on hand all year around. No washing. (Fantastic for smoothies too).

I also got a wonderful gift recently from a friend who went to Mexico and brought back vanilla.  The good stuff!

Like most of my recipes they have happened by accident and the measurements are my critiquing over time. Ok, here we go.

Side Note: I never advocate for the use of margarine in my baking.  It has a different outcome and really, if you are using margarine, do yourself a favour and don’t.  Seriously, don’t believe all the crap the agencies tell you.  Hydrolyzed anything and soy is not for human consumption!

Ingredients

1/2 cup melted butter
2 large farm eggs
3/4 cup of milk
1 cup of organic cane sugar
2 cups of blueberries (frozen is best for the addition to baking)
Zest of 2 organic lemons (zest of anything should be organic to avoid crop sprays)
2 tsp of vanilla
2 cups of AP flour, plus more for blueberry dusting
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt

See that ingredient list?  Wonderful!  Okay, lets get ready to bake!

Preheat your oven to 375 – I use convention oven, but any oven will do.  Line your muffin tray with paper cups.

In a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, add your melted butter (room temperature so you don’t scramble your eggs), vanilla, sugar, milk and mix until all incorporated.  Add in your lemon zest.jUNE 2017 058
(yup, those are pretty blue eggs from a friends farm)

Put the frozen blueberries into a bowl and cover them with flour and make sure they are all dusted.

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After your wet ingredients are all mixed well, add in your dry ingredients slowly with mixer on low.  Let it mix for 1 minute on medium speed.  If your batter looks too dry don’t be afraid to add a splash of milk to get the desired texture seen in the picture.  Some flours, especially depending on age, can be more dry than others.  A bit more milk never hurt anyone.

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Remove bowl from mixer stand.  Add your frozen flour dusted blueberries (not all the flour in the bottom of the bowl, just the blueberries) to your batter.  Fold the blueberries in gently.

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Once completely mixed, scoop into lined muffin tray.  Fill them up!

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Put the trays in your preheated oven.  Turn 1/2 way through cooking.  Watch your muffins as they can easily overcook in the matter of 2 mins.  Then you’ll have dry I need a drink of coffee kind of muffins.  Look for a bounce back when gently pushed in the middle to see if it is done.  Cook for 15-20 mins depending on your oven and elevation.

Remove from tray immediately and place on a bakers rack to cool.

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Bakers tip:  Baked foods always continue to cook for a few minutes while cooling.  So its OK to pull from the oven when JUST done, that extra minute you would wait in the oven, let it do it on the counter.

This is such a great ‘summer’ muffin that can be enjoyed at anytime of the year.  The lemon is fresh and the blueberries are juicy!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Never Spare Me The ‘Sparagus

Yes, I know, I know;  I disappeared from the joys of expressing ones self in blogging.  A lot, and I mean a lot has been going on in my life, which I will get to writing as the days and weeks go by, but for now I am looking forward to getting my feet wet again with a simply delicious season-appropriate recipe.

Each seasons brings out natures finest in fresh food offerings.

Summer is probably best known for the berry season.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries.  Then we have juicy plump tomatoes that are warm from the sun and we promise ourselves as we slurp the tomato we will never eat a tomato in the winter again.  And what do we do?  Buy tomatoes in December.  A friend grows heritage tomatoes and I got a bunch off her last spring and I ate one like an apple in the car on the way home.  O M G!  It is amazing how they taste like, well like a tomato should.
Falls’ crisp cool air is symmetrical to the crisp bite into an orchard apple or pear.
Fall also gifts us with beautiful squash, potatoes, garlic, leeks and the every delicious versatile cabbage family that doesn’t hold anything against the baby cabbage aka Brussel sprouts.

And then we have spring.  You know what is one of my favourite spring foods? You guess it.  ASPARAGUS!  Never spare me the ‘Sparagus.

Oh as an interesting FACT, did you know this about asparagus?

“Depending on which study you read, between 22% and 50% of the population report having pungent pee after eating asparagus. But that doesn’t mean only some people’s bodies generate that smell. Researchers believe that, during digestion, the vegetable’s sulfurous amino acids break down into smelly chemical components in all people. And because those components are “volatile,” meaning airborne, the odor wafts upward as the urine leaves the body and can be detected as soon as 15 minutes after you eat this spring delicacy.

But only about one-quarter of the population appears to have the special gene that allows them to smell those compounds. So the issue isn’t whether or not your pee is smelly; it’s whether you’re able to smell it. If you smell a funny fragrance in your urine after you eat asparagus, you’re not only normal, you have a good nose.”

Ref: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/why-pee-smells-funny-eat-asparagus

Good news (or is it), I have good nose.

Asparagus is also said to be good for Kidney stones.  I get stones and as soon as I feel them, and trust me YOU KNOW, I eat a bundle of asparagus and within 24 hrs I am feeling much relief.  I just make a point of eating asparagus 2-3 times a week when I feel the stones reappear (and hold my nose when I pee).

Ok, enough chatter, lets get your fork and knife ready, this is a doozy!

Chicken Breast stuffed with Asparagus & Provolone Cheese

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts
1 bundle of asparagus (always tastes best from your own backyard or a friends)
2 cups of bread crumbs – add garlic powder, basil, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.
2 eggs beaten
4 slices of Provolone cheese
Olive Oil
Cooking string

Put olive oil in pan.  Add enough to cover bottom of fying pan plus a little more.

Lightly steam your asparagus for 1 min.

Cut your chicken breasts in half but leave joined – butterfly.

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Add a slice of provolone and 3-4 asparagus pieces to the middle of your butterflied chicken breast.

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Tie up your chicken breast, but not too tight.  Just enough to hold it together.  Dunk the stuffed breast into the egg and roll it around to make sure it is good and covered.  Put in bread crumb mixture and cover completely.

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Turn on oil in pan to preheat while you do the rest.  med-high should work.
Place all your stuffed breast in the preheated pan and turn all 3 sides when browned.

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Preheat oven to 425 while your stuffed chicken is cooking.  Line a flat sheet (cookie sheet) with tinfoil.
Flip chicken breast to cook all around.

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Here they are, all browning up and ready to transfer to oven.

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Place in pre-heated oven, uncovered for 10-15 mins.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. **Remember to remove the string before eating**

Because I love asparagus, I also made a steamed batch of asparagus with fresh garlic and shredded lemon rind and a Greek themed salad.

Dinner is served and what a fine feast it was!

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Delicious!

And my 2 delicious sides!

Hope you give this recipe a try, it does not disappoint.

Cheers!!!

Sandy

Be Good To The Senior In You ❤️

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

Ingredients
1 cup of 100% Wheat Bran
1 1/2 cup of 1% buttermilk
1/3 cup sunflower or safflower oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of AP Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (more or less) raisins

Directions:  Preheat over to 375 (convection bake). Line muffin tin with muffin paper or silicone inserts. My preference is non-bleached muffin paper that is biodegradable. Top that Starbucks & Tim Hortons!!

Bowl #1
Wheat bran and buttermilk. Mix and let it stand for 5-10 mins.

Bowl #2
Oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix with a blender on medium until creamy and smooth.

Mix bowl #2 into bowl #1. Make sure they are incorporated into each other fully.

Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into mixture and mix with spatula until smooth and mixed well.  Stir in raisins.

Scoop into prepared muffin pan. Fill to the top of the liner. Not halfway. All the way to the top (see picture).

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Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Easy right?v
Use the ‘spring back’ test to check for readiness.  Remove promptly from pan and place on cooling rack.

Enjoy warm and cooled.

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The Juice Reviewer Is Fired

Yup, that’s right, I’m fired. I fired myself from being the juicing reviewer I wanted to be. Let me explain why I have decided I am not a good candidate to promote or demote juicing as a whole.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that juicing can be an integral part of ones healthy diet. It doesn’t need to be the only type of meal you have, but it definitely can be supplementary and increase your nutrition intake.

The hardest part of juicing is the lack of convenience. I respect that not all of all life’s good choices can be about convenience, but there has to be a way that it can be somewhat attainable for the average person. I am fortunate that I work from home, but I am not home a lot. I’m often doing errands for work, volunteering or just running like a chicken with my head cut off. I do not have a refrigerator in my car to hold the large amount of produce required to juice. Nor do I carry a generator in my car to operate my juicer. I also don’t have a kitchen sink in my back seat to clean it all up afterwards. How would you juice when you’re gone from home, for your job let’s say, for 8-10 hours a day?? I’m sure there are alternatives such as one day I put my juice in a thermos for consumption later, but if you read like I did everywhere about the nutrients leaving very shortly after the produce is juiced, and if you believe all that hype why bother drinking it 6 hours later at work? It’s lacking a level of convenience to help make it a successful journey.

If you worked in an office, I hardly think it would be acceptable or tolerated if you took over the top 2 shelves in the kitchen fridge for your produce for the day, and hogged the counter for your monster juicer that you lug back and forth each day to work. I really do wonder how one would and could do an only juice regime in an office/work environment, or a construction job site etc.

Juicing would absolutely be tolerable for a weekend or a weekend detox. Beyond that for the average person it would be hard to accommodate long term, like let’s say for those 60 days in the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. If you watch the documentary, they didn’t work during the 60 day juicing fast and I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have 60 days to take off work and excuse myself from my family and all responsibilities. Unless I get Cancer and need chemo and/or radiation. See how that works? Ugh!

Prepping the produce for juicing, in my opinion, is a lot of work, mostly because it’s 5-10 times more produce than you normally would consume in one meal and you’re likely doing this 3-4 times a day. The time it takes to clean the produce, juice it and then clean up after would break my 30 minute lunch break in an office environment. Sure you could prep it at home and lug it all to work, but some produce won’t tolerate pre-prep, like apples, pears etc. Prepping isn’t time friendly but most could and would tolerate that portion of juicing.

It’s also hard to prepare meals for the family and walk away with only a juice in your hand. If you are the meal preparer in your home, it is likely best if you have someone take over this while you do your juice program, if possible. You might even want to excuse yourself from the dinner table during meals, it helps to reduce the cravings and enticement around whole foods. For me it was extra hard to make it work. I make most of our own bread and buns for lunches, bake often and prepare our foods box free, a lot of the reason why is Flyp has food allergies and I prefer to make most of our breads and snack items from scratch. Health wise. While I juiced and removed myself from the responsibility of most meals, it ultimately meant Flyp and Einstein ate less healthy. Let’s face it, not cooking out of a box is more time consuming and when they get home at 7pm at night, the last thing they felt like was starting to cook. They ate way too much pizza during that period.

The excessive obnoxious waste. I blogged about the excessive waste from juicing and how much it bothers me. It’s amazing to me how much produce you need to make a ‘meal’ in a cup or two, but the pulp (left over produce sucked dry) that is left is very disappointing and frustrating. There really isn’t a solid way around this waste. There are some ideas online on how to use the pulp into meals, but really, if you’re juicing and only juicing there isn’t a ‘meal’ in your schedule. The point of juicing is the machine sucks or wind whips the nutrients out of the produce, so isn’t this pulp basically a dead nutrient at this point? And putting it into another meal, essentially nutrient free and feeding to your family should be questioned. If you have backyard chickens they could eat it all up for you, but if you don’t, your composter will definitely be full!! I find juicing an excessive waste program and for that reason, it is not an attainable in my books.

Financially it would be hard to tolerate juicing for a long period of time. It is very expensive to juice. We all know produce costs more than nutrient deprived convenience in a box and when you are juicing only produce you will need to purchase a substantial amount of produce to fulfill ‘meal’ requirements. I juiced primarily organic and my costs were through the roof!! It was on average, $30/day, making it approx. $900 month, for one person. I’m sure you could drop that cost by almost half if you purchased non-organic produce, but you will find most of the produce ingredients you juice on the dirty dozen list. If you’re not going to buy organic, you should definitely avoid the items on the dirty dozen. Most of us juice for the health benefits and/or a detox, both which are very hard to obtain when the produce is ladened with pesticides and herbicides. Financially speaking, organic juicing is not attainable by the average person/income long term.

Health wise, make sure you have your ducks in a row. On the documentary, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, he did say to consult your doctor prior if you have ANY health issues. The average person who tries juicing does it because they have health concerns and/or issues. My experience with juicing says, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU START!!

I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 pre-diabetes. I didn’t and still don’t have a good solid understanding of how it all works. I was struggling each day to keep my blood sugar down while juicing, and also having some of my highest readings during juicing. It was those damn dessert juices I would make with pineapple, mango and strawberries oh my!! This is all likely due to the fact that I don’t have a good understanding of the glycemic index and wasn’t even aware of the index until a few days ago. All this produce, that all has an index number associated with it, will ultimately effect your glucose levels. Just because it is fruit and vegetables doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be indexed. Who would of known right? You’d think unlimited fruits and vegetables should be a wonderful thing. It is definitely good have a lot of vegetable produce and some fruit, but quantity should be monitored in some cases. (Like diabetes) Lesson learned!!

I can’t give an honest review for the energy and feeling great while juicing. Within a few days of juicing I got a sink-my-battleship cold that Flyp brought home, unfortunately over a week later I’m still battling this beast. As soon as I started juicing the cold was introduced into our home and within a few days my insides were invaded!! So I didn’t feel the benefits of extra energy and feeling great as I was busy fighting off a nasty virus. This is not the juicing programs fault obviously, just makes any input I might have in this area null and void.

I also had what we are assuming was a gallbladder attack during juicing. This has lead to an ultrasound and blood work for the pancreas, liver, kidneys and gallbladder. I have had issues in the past with the gallbladder, where I thought I was having a heart attack and rushed myself to the hospital, thankfully to find out it was my gallbladder. If you’ve ever had you gallbladder bite back, you’ll know it is an experience you’d rather not blog about. It’s painful and until you know what it is, it’s scary!!

There are many reasons a gallbladder attack could have happened, but a sudden drastic change in your diet is usually the culprit to an already temperamental gallbladder. With an extreme change 2 things could of  likely happened. My liver may have dumped all kinds of bile into the gallbladder and without (good) fatty foods to release the bile, it builds up, causes inflammation and can cause stones, infection and better yet, death if ignored. Nice right? Alternatively my liver, when a drastic change in diet is introduced, could of dumped a shit load of cholesterol into the gallbladder causing inflammation and the possibility of stones. When the results from the ultra sound and blood work return I will have a better understanding of what happened.

My recommendations: if you’re going to make a change in your diet that you want to be beneficial and healthy do all your homework first. Make sure you have a full understanding of the pros and cons. It will help you be successful and complete your personal goals. If you have ever had any issues with your organs, talk to your doctor prior to juicing. Don’t be the wild rodeo cowboy with your health like I was. If you have any health issues or concerns, consult your doctor BEFORE juicing, I’m sure it will increase your success rate two-fold.

I am still making a juice in the mornings.  Cucumber, green apple, celery and spinach or romaine lettuce.  It’s nutritious and delicious and a great way to boost me for the day. I’m still getting my walks in, even dragging Einstein to the lake last night with me.

With all that has gone on, it would be very hard for me to preach the positive of long term juicing.  Although I’m not sure I would or could recommend it to the average person beyond a weekend due For many reasons like the inconvenient, high waste and cost factors, I still think juicing is a great addition to any diet for any period of time.  A lot of people make smoothies with fruit, this would be along the same lines.

Most of the positive for my juicing was absorbed with a cold and gall bladder issues.  Better luck (for me) next time!!

Juicing. Day 1

I’m writing in a fog with a major headache, so I can’t be held responsible for the words that come off my fingers😁

Yesterday was a day of juicing but with a farewell latte for breakfast. I certainly can’t expect to call that day 1. I’m looking at yesterday as the prep for the bigger challenge and I expect to play by the rules and accept today as my Day 1 of juicing, not yesterday.

After weighing the pros and cons and getting some feed back, I bought a scale yesterday. After Flyp & Einstein goofed around like kids with a new toy, the scale has been placed upstairs in my bathroom for regular weigh ins. I figure I’ll weigh myself in the am and pm. I stood on the scale this morning. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s not a horror show either. My goals are totally attainable and I will continue to work towards them.

Yesterday while working at the food bank, I got hungry. I had only had a ‘juice’ before I left and that was breakfast. By the time I got home after grocery shopping and volunteering it was 7pm. I WAS HUNGRY!! I stayed true to the program and made a mother of a juice and had 2 big glasses of juice. Next week, I’m taking a ‘juice’ with me when I go in for my shift. It can be very physical at the food bank and it’s easy to work up an appetite, especially when you have only juiced for meals.

I’ve been juicing twice a day for a week and eating a balanced dinner each day, until yesterday. I think my food awareness is heightened in the last week. I’m so aware of what people are eating, their choices and I can almost identify the foods I can’t see by their smell. Everywhere I look food is being advertised. It’s astounding and it’s a killer!! It definitely has the ability to make you crack under the constant reminder of delicious food everywhere. We definitely are a fast food nation and are always looking for convenience to our busy lives. What ever you do if you ever do this juicing thing, stay off pinterests food board!!

While I was at the grocery store yesterday I found myself examining peoples cart items. Weird eh? Ya I thought so too. Well that was totally me yesterday. Then I would look at the person and decide if the contents suited that person. Working mom with 2 children, some produce, a lot of pre made or pre cut (like frozen vegetable stir fry type foods, frozen french fries etc.) in her cart. A plus size woman with a very cute baby, I didn’t see any fresh produce, but a lot of pop, pre-made and boxed foods and don’t forget the diapers. A young couple with nachos, cheese, salsa other chips, and pop and a few other random items. They weren’t overly chubby, but not fit either. 100% of the time the items made perfect sense in relation to the persons with the cart. If you looked at mine, full of juicing produce and then looked at me, for now, I would of been my own exception. I could smell the rotisserie chicken and the food from the hot counter. I could smell the bread as I walked past the fresh crisp delicious bread section. I felt like I had a gun to my head and if I even turned slightly to look the bullet was going to take me down.

Oddly enough I noticed, for the first time, that the produce section is smaller than the boxed, prepared section in the grocery store. A lot smaller actually. Still a big section, but nothing compared to the freezers that are required to hold all the pre made foods, the isles full of canned and prepared food. I then took my memory to the other stores that I sometimes shop at and the same prognosis; the produce section is substantially smaller than the remainder of the store.

On my drive home I thought of places like Italy. Market visits are daily and it’s all fresh produce, fresh foods and local community support. I lose my shit when I see garlic from China in a store when we have some of the best garlic growers in Canada, right here in our backyard, Ontario. Being industrialized has not done us any favours, that I have always known.

While I was in the lineup at the grocery store I saw some pretty unhealthy people with some very unhealthy choices. I kept telling myself to STOP thinking. Then I continued to wonder if they had any health concerns that they were aware of. Do they just ignore them? Or are they like me and waiting for the obvious to blind side them?

When I got home I couldn’t unpack quick enough and juice me something to nurish myself. I threw in kale, spinach, carrots, lemon, pineapple and green apples. I had 2 huge glasses. I was starving. Einstein even had one and half glasses and drank it willingly and said it was good. But then he proceeded to make his lunch and eat half of it while making it. Haha!

I was a bit bitter or tainted, maybe frustrated last night. When I got home I was sore from the work at the food bank and very hungry. I complained to Einstein while I was juicing my produce.
– I know a lot of people who are way more over weight and claim to have no serious health issues. How is this fair?
– People who smoke and drink seem to be trucking along just fine. How is this fair? I don’t smoke or drink. Ever.
– People who eat fast food often and prepared foods more aren’t dealing with diabetes etc.
Why is it I’m stuck with this bullshit. Of course I dropped the F bomb every other word and I was totally raunchy and crunchy all while fighting tears. He doesn’t get to hear me wallow in my own shit very often so he was a bit taken back. He also knows he’s included in one of the lists from above. He eats like he is a teenager and I’m constantly reminding him he will have a big consequence coming his way one day. I try not to harp, but if I’m honest I get on him pretty good, he loves fast food and it really pisses me off that he is very privileged to eat my cooking with organic meats and box-free ingredients. He’s getting better as more and more he would come home to an empty table for dinner with a note at his spot; Pizza is down the road. Eventually he can take a hint, after I smash him over the head with it.

He was kind and gentle in his response, as usual. He said ‘this isn’t like you, drink up.’
I did. Then he said ‘things happen for a variety of reasons’, as he filled up my glass for round 2.
‘You’re the matriarch of our family and maybe Josh and I will be healthier because your strength and determination really does inspires us.’
Hmmmm, not sure I buy that but ok. I felt more human-like with 2 glasses of juice in me and went for a walk with the dogs to try and shake off the grumpies.

Today I wake to the smell of Flyp, our teenager who is always up before the sun, making maple syrup sausages and eggs for breakfast. Pretty sure I wanted to shoot someone right in the face after I kicked them in the face. That’s the stomach talking, not me. I normally wouldn’t smell or even notice it before but today I swear I am canine like in my senses and I could taste each ingredient through the smell. I obviously can’t get angry at them for eating, but it would be so much easier if they didn’t. Lol.

My head is pounding but I’m determined to ride this out. I’m actually very tired and feel lethargic. I think I might feel like I have a hang over. I haven’t been hung over since I was a teenager. My stomach is making the most odd noises that I wonder if it is calling E.T.

My understanding is the headaches, tiredness and BLAH moodiness is part of the detox that will be at its worst for 3 days. Hopefully by Monday it will give me a bit of a break. I’m counting on it because feeling like a bag of shit for consuming healthy foods won’t make sense for long 😞

Morning Juice – kale*, spinach*, carrots*, tomatoes*, green apples*, pineapple, lemon

*-organic

Dammit Bacon!!

Bacon, o bacon, why do you taste sooo good!

Sometimes you just jump off the band wagon willingly and have something that you normally wouldn’t because it’s that good, you also know, it’s not good, which is why its that good, if you Know what I mean. Although this one was pre-meditated by adding smoked cheddar cheese to my grocery cart earlier this week, sometimes it’s a spur of the moment fling with a particular food ingredient, like pickles.  Long story.

Today I have a crazy day ahead of me. So much to get accomplished that I am typing like I have bionic fingers. Faster than fast! To be able to focus on something other than what’s to eat in that fridge of mine, I needed something that would fill me and satisfy that extra hunger or cravings that comes along with PMS syndrome. It’s a syndrome, back off!

I demolished the grilled cheese. But not just any grilled cheese. A grilled cheese with smoked cheddar cheese and loads of maple bacon. Do you have any idea how yummy that is?!!!

Yup, I’m ready to take in the day! Cheers!

Popeyes Twisted Spinach Salad

Popeye was definitely onto something when he liked spinach so much.  Thankfully we don’t have to eat it out of a can (gross)!

This salad holds its own all day, every day.  It’s a meal, or its a side dish.  It’s absolutely delicious is what I know for sure.

Check it out!!

Ingredients

3 cups of cleaned organic baby spinach

3 hard boiled organic eggs

Paper thin purple onion slivers – to your liking.  Onions are always a preference thing for me when it comes to recipes.

Real Bacon Bits (left over bacon from breakfast – takes discipline but you can do it)

Place spinach in a flat-ish bowl.  Cut up eggs and sprinkle on top of spinach.  Sprinkle with bacon bits.  Crack some fresh pepper over the top.

Are you looking to a tasty dressing to compliment this? Here you go..

Honey Dijon Dressing

1/3 cup of honey (I use local unpasteurized honey)

1/4 cup of Dijon mustard

1/3 Organic Unpasturized Apple Cider

1tbsp of Non-GMO reduced sodium soy sauce

1/3 – 1/2 cup cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (depends how much you’d like to yield)

A few cracks of fresh pepper

Place all ingredients (except Olive Oil) in bowl in order listed. Whisk until well mixed.  Add EV Olive Oil and whisk until creamy texture is achieved.

Drizzle over dressing when ready to eat.  Refrigerate left over dressing.

**Start with adding only 1/2 of the apple cider vinegar and taste.  Add more to your liking.  Some people don’t like the strong vinegar taste, others don’t mind.**

Happy Birthday Dandan

My grandfathers birthday is today. Jack Dickens. Born March 11th 1923. He would be 92 years old if he was here with us today. My sister who ‘knew’ him before me (long story) declared his name was Dandan, which is what all his grand children and great grand children have called him.

Today in his honour I’d like to share a bit about him. This was my grandfather. Dandan.

He was tall with dark hair, pleasant features and he tanned so well in the summer. As I child I remember thinking boy I’ll never be as tall as Dandan, he’s a giant. Not really, but you know how kids think.

My family is crazy and loud and full of superstars who love the spotlight. I don’t think quiet conversations ever has been a ‘thing’ when the family gathers. Dandan was always confident and quiet. He could sit in a room full of family conversing and carrying on with loud laughter and just watch the conversation flow and be more than comfortable not saying one word. Magically he was a part of the whole atmosphere without really taking part in it. I remember at times, often actually, the abundance of noise was overwhelming for me, probably the beginning of my introvert life, and he would give me a nod with a tug of his head and I’d crawl up on his lap and soak up his soothing calmness. After a few minutes I couldn’t resist my wild and crazy cousins any longer and rejoined the pack rejuvenated.

His calmness is forever remembered with me. My life has been crazy, like most and I wish I could find what I assume was his submission to all of life’s chaos. As an adult I admire his strength to exist amongst such strong personalities, hold his own and he did it with such class. You never felt unwelcome or it was a bad time, or that you were taking up too much of his time. I admire that he didn’t need to be the clown or the jokester, the drunkest, the chef, the smartest or the loudest. He would just putter around or read his books or listen to the rooms conversations.

During the period of my life with the most memories he was a math teacher, assistant head master and then head master of an all boys private school. He was fun and active. Once in a while he’d be cheeky and in my older teen years I would take a double look at him and he’d give me a wink. He played cricket, squash and I think tennis and I have thought deep, but I don’t really have memories of him swimming. My Nannie (his wife) swam a lot and taught my sister and I how to swim and to not fear but respect water. My sister and I would go and watch him play cricket and as we got a bit older we went to check out the boys. Haha! ADMIT IT SISTER!! Cricket is terribly boring by the way, but I thought he was famous or something cause they would all clap when he took the bat thing. Ok, my cricket lingo isn’t up to par. Is par in cricket? Do I get a point for that?

I remember him playing squash with my dad. I think I can even remember it was typically Thursday evenings, but a twinge of a memory also tells me it was twice a week for some time. We would normally go to my Nannies for dinner and my dad and Dandan would head to the courts and whack it out. Sometimes my sister and I would go watch but it was usually the freedom to walk around the campus that we were after. It was exactly what my dad needed with his long hours and stressful job. I always remember the difference in my dad’s mood after playing squash and they would joke about who kicked whose butt back at the house. My dad took a beating sometimes haha – or so he says he did, but for both of them I’m sure it was never about the score. In my adult perspective maybe it was a bit about my Dandan taking a somewhat of a fatherly role, one that maybe my dad lacked a bit of as a child. And/or It could of been Dandans way of inviting my dad into the family and my dad accepting the invite. It’s exactly something my Dandan would do. Good times regardless.

My grand parents took my sister and I to Florida. At least once. I don’t have many memories other than having to do school work in the back seat while we drove down south, battling car sickness. It was horrible. If I signed up for a second trip I’d be surprised at myself. I do recall that is where I discovered Filet-O-Fish from McDonalds. My sister and I would be given money and told to go explore and gather our own lunches. It was their way of allowing us to be independent, make choices and feel in control. I lived for lunch hour!!! The Sand Dollar Cafe has just surfaced as a memory, with our sun dresses .. I’m thinking we must of ate there for dinner a lot too. If you know me, you’d know that to remember food is characteristic of me haha!

It would be hard to pick out ONE favourite memory with Dandan. I do have one that is very true to the type of man he was…

Approximately somewhere between 1976-1978
My grandparents took my sister and I to an island. Not just any island, an isolated island on a warm lake were we stayed naked almost the whole time. Rabbit Nose Island.  We were instructed by my grandparents to not lie about being naked but we didn’t need to offer certain details. Yes we had a naked vacation. Being as young as we were, we understood the message and giggled about it to ourselves often. We figured our parents would lose their minds at the thought of their 2 daughters being naked all day every day for at least a week. I loved that we were doing something with permission but that they would hate. Defiant from the beginning. My sister threw her clothes off almost immediately and was in a naked state long before me. They didn’t pressure me just said it was an option if and when I was ready. It took me about 2 days but once I was naked that was it, no turning back. If I’m honest I can tell you I have no idea if my grandparents were naked with us. That tells me the age was perfect because it didn’t matter. Well done Nannie & Dandan.

Karen, do you remember the bunny shed?? Some big pink floppy eared bunny on the shed or cabin off to the side? We spent a day crammed in with dolls and books when it rained for one day. We could barely turn around with the 2 of us in there but we managed a whole day. Ha! Good times.

So during this time frame I struggled with number 6 and 9. 9 was 6 or 6 was 9 and it wasn’t seeming to sort itself out. Being a math teacher I’m sure it drove my grandfather bonkers when I said they were the exact same and it didn’t matter. (And you can bet I said it with a lot of arrogant conviction lol) I tried for hours to convince him they were the same and he was wrong. Why would they make the same number look different? It’s the same just turn it around. See? I told you so Dandan. Oh boy I was stubborn. He never lost his cool over it, I can’t say the same for me.

Anyways, while I was naked on our Gilligan’s Island, I spent most of my time in the water. I would build forts for the fish in the shallow part and capture them, put them in their safe home (so they wouldn’t get eaten) and name them all. I even had one for some little cray fish or whatever they were with their little lobster like bodies and legs. So I would count them as I caught and added them to their new Fort. 1, 2, …5, 9, 7, 8, 6 and Dandan while reading would gently correct me. I’m sure I told him he was breaking my concentration or something snippy, but he didn’t flinch or give up, just corrected me while he obviously pretended to read. Nannys rule was I had to let them go every night because they had family to go home to. I said I was their new family and what if they weren’t there in the morning bla bla bla. She said you must take one wall down and if they want to leave they can. Fine. The next day I’ll get them all this time and they can all be a family in the Fort but that was mission impossible I learned as the days went on. I’m assuming after a few days of my collection obsession Dandan must of come up with an idea. He told me he had a new game he wanted to play and asked me if I would play with him too. I asked what it was, he said either you want to play or you don’t, but once you say yes you have to keep playing until the game is done. Fine. As long as I could keep catching my new family and hugging them and naming them all. I had to count, 10 fish allowed in each Fort and if I got 6 and 9 confused (he never said wrong) I had to release them all and start back over. Challenge accepted!

I first had to build more and bigger Forts cause I was about to win a lot!! 1 fish. 2 fish. 3 fish. 4 fish. 5 fish. 9 fish. He would gently remove the rock wall on one side and the fish would swim away. I would huff and puff and storm around before settling back in to recatch my new family members. He said Sandra listen to me. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. He would repeat it a few times but me being me, I was always right (not so much) and just knew I would get it right next time. So the capturing started again. 1 fish. 2 fish. 3 fish. 4 fish. 5 fish. 6 fish. 7 fish. 8 fish. 6 fish. There goes the wall. This went on for days!!! He would write the numbers with a rock sometimes on another rock (you know, the chalk like mark it makes) and we would read together and he would wash it away. I would start my capturing again. Failure. He didn’t give up, but neither did I.

The next day he cut our toast for breakfast into soldiers, to dunk in cracked boiled eggs, and would count out loud my sisters portion and mine, making a big deal out of #6 and #9 and where they belonged. I’m pretty sure back then I even rolled my eyes.

Back out we all went to the lake and my forts. There was obviously some rough waters during the night and my forts were ruined. We decided to build some new forts and he helped. We counted the rocks together me always mixing up 6 and/or 9 and he didn’t make a big deal, he would just keep going. That day we went through the capture and release again. Not getting my numbers right at all. That night by the Bon fire I sat on his lap and cried while I told him I was dumb and we should just leave 6 and 9 alone. We don’t need them anyways, they are stupid. He cuddled like Dandan did and assured me I wasn’t dumb, and he said besides one day you need to be 9 years old and we aren’t giving up.

The next day we started the damn fishing again. Those nets where the best investment Nannie made haha! After a few errors about half way through the day I started counting my next attempted batch. 1 fish 2 fish 3 fish 4 fish 5fish 6 fish 7 fish 8 fish 9 fish 10 fish. Then I moved to the next Fort and it was 1 fish all the way through to 10 fish correctly. He didn’t say a word. I didn’t notice. I filled up the next fort counting correctly again. I continued to play and count oblivious to my accuracies. After we ate dinner we had our Bon fire and he asked me if I noticed that I got them all right for the afternoon. (You have to understand how long it took me to catch 1 fish, never mind fill 3 exotic resorts of fish!!) I said noooooo I didn’t and started half giggling and crying at the same time. He said yes you did!! What are you talking about Dandan ? I never get it right. And he took me through the recall of filling all 3 forts. How did you fill all 3 if you didn’t count it correctly? Humpfff I thought to myself still half giggling and crying. I might be smart after all.

The next morning we played 1 fish 2 fish…I got it wrong a few times but it wasn’t that frustrating anymore because now I knew I could and have been correct. By the time we left the island I had made up a bazillion counting songs. I’m surprised my sister talks to me after listening to all those numbers for almost a week. By the time we left naked-ville I had conquered number 6 and 9 but I will always give props to Dandan for being persistent, constant and holy patient batman.

The best part: For the longest time when we saw each other we would whisper or mouth the numbers to each other. It was like our very own little secret.

That is the most in-detail memory I have with him. I can even see his hat and the orange folding chair he sat on day after day with his feet in the water at the shoreline. I can even picture him, the age he must of been at. When he got up from the chair his back had the lines from the horrible plastic stringy fabric on his chair. It’s amazing. It’s a memory that has never been lost on me. I’m sure my childhood feelings today, as an adult would translate to the acknowledgement of unconditional love from him and a feeling of accomplishment for me. Amazing.

He is missed a lot and often I think of them both. I’m fortunate to have had him in my life. It wasn’t because of blood linkage that brought him into my life. Was it luck? The stars lining up? Whatever it was, it is obvious I needed him.

My goal in life is to leave a print of the same magnitude on my own children. I’m still working on it.

Creamy Homemade Cesar Salad Dressing

Slaughter vampires with one breath! It’s that good!

This is what good stuff is made of.  My sisters family has shared this recipe with me and it is a staple in our home.  We never buy salad dressing of any kind anymore. If its not Cesar Salad dressing its just wonderful olive oil with balsamic.

You can adjust to your own personal taste.  More garlic, less garlic. My sister uses an anchovy paste I believe, but I leave that out.

Recipe

1 cup of mayonnaise (or homemade if you’re that swanky)
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
Cracked Fresh Pepper to taste
2 gloves of fresh garlic

Put mayo, mustard and olive oil in a bowl and mix with a fork until well combined.  Grate garlic gloves with hand held grater into the may mixture.  Mix well.  Add cracked pepper to taste.  Let flavours blend for 15-20 mins in fridge before use.  Apply to your favourite version of Cesar Salad.

Devine!  Cheap!! Creamy and a healthier option than most store bought.

Oreos In The Pantry

Definition of Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to, such as a peanut or the venom from a bee sting.

The flood of chemicals released by your immune system during anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock; your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting. Common triggers of anaphylaxis include certain foods, some medications, insect venom and latex. Anaphylaxis requires an immediate trip to the emergency department and an injection of epinephrine. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated right away, it can lead to unconsciousness or even death.

My son, Flyp is an anaphylactic. He’s anaphylactic to peanuts. Most recently he has dropped tree nuts, but we will still be avoiding them for 2 years until we have a second negative test. Simply put a peanut can kill him.

Flyp is 15 years old. Over the years the availability of peanut and nut free foods has definitely been increasing. It’s wonderful. Other allergens such as gluten, milk/dairy etc. are also getting the spot light and allergens are being respected. The FDA has strict labelling laws to help protect anaphylactic persons. This makes a big difference for families living with allergies and/or anaphylaxis. Some big restaurant chains have allergen listings which helps as well. Real progress over the years.

I won’t get into the emotional and physical stress that comes with allergies today. I’d like to just keep it simple in this write.

Dare Foods is superior in peanut and nut free foods in my opinion. Crackers, cookies, jelly beans, June jubes, Melba toast. I just got an email today/press release from Anaphylaxis Canada that Dare has partnered with Cineplex for a safer environment for all. Wow. Impressive. But we also have other companies like Enjoy Life, Nabisco, Quaker, Presidents Choice, Natures Best, to name a few, who have made a lot of peanut/nut free (and some other allergens too) alternatives for families that live with allergies.

Although Flyp does gets some store bought cookies every once in a while…thank you Dare, Nabisco and Presidents Choice, he has always wondered about the famous Oreo. The one everyone loves. The one his friends say ‘man it must suck to have an Oreo free life’. Everyone loves an Oreo. I do prefer to make our own cookies, just way less junk in the ingredients list and we have become used to it with his allergies. However once in a while Flyp wants to have a store bought box of cookies.

Today I was out doing errands before the snow storm hits tomorrow and I noticed a bag of mini Oreos. The bag looked like it has the very recognizable peanut free symbol on it. I did a double take. It is!! Oreo Minis are peanut free. I read the label. Yup. Looked at the other Oreo bags, they all have peanut free symbols on them. I get my phone out and call the 1-800 number on the bag and ask all my relevant questions. They pass the test and make it into my cart. I grabbed a carton of chocolate milk and said today will be the day. A question answered. Yes it’s not the most important question in the world, but it’s one of his many questions in life.

I wish I videoed his first Oreo taste. Flyp is definitely on the Oreo band wagon. Best cookie ever. Being the good mother I am, I didn’t put him in the spot and ask him whose is better, mine or the scrumptious Oreo. I can’t handle the truth. Hahah! He’s a teenager whose never had an Oreo until today. I’m totally cool with taking the back seat for a bit.

It’s just a bag of Oreos to most, but to us it’s been a forbidden item for 15 years. That bag of Oreos is gone less than 4 hours later. I’m ok with it. Everyone needs freedom to eat a whole bag of Oreo minis once in a while.

So, today a bag of Oreo Mini’s made it to the pantry.