Garden Plans

I’m really, really sick of winter. I’m tired of the ice chunks that surround our driveway. I’m tired of the extra time it takes to get out the door in the morning. I’m tired of the dry skin. I’m beyond tired of scraping my windshield. Sadly, this is Canada, and it is only February. Luckily, the time changes soon and that will give us an extra hour of sun in the morning (at least I think, I really have trouble wrapping my head around Daylight Savings).

The temporary cure for this feeling of never-ending winter is thinking forward to Spring. That beautiful season of sun, relative warmth, and green things poking up outside (though when it finally arrives I will probably be complaining of the mud….we live in a very muddy place). With Spring comes garden planting. I’m so very excited!

We’ve already started planning our garden out this year. Kurt has been reading books about seed saving, and such. I’ve been writing up lists of plants, and drawing out plans. We would like to have: tomatoes (a variety or two), hot peppers, kale (red and blue), radishes, carrots, beets, broccoli, garlic, zucchini, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, as well as a few herbs. Our garden space isn’t huge right now, so we try to be economical with how much a plant takes up versus how much it produces. We are also trying to plant mostly heirloom varieties suited for our region. Hopefully this will increase our changes of healthy plants. We are lucky to have a few options for seed producers local to us.

We will be starting some plants early from seed in the house, starting some outside when the frost is gone and we will also be buying some plants. We will have to wait and see what works best. Hopefully we have a good crop of beauties!

(Last year’s tomatoes)
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What I Learned from My Diet

My elimination diet is officially over. Here are the things I learned about myself, food and life in general though the process:
– flax milk is horrible and should not have ever been invented
– despite what everyone else seems to think, Bob’s Gluten Free All Purpose flour was, in my opinion, gross
– surprisingly with all of the restrictions, what I missed most was eggs
– also surprisingly, I did not crave anything
– life without an after school snack is almost not worth living
– when offered a donut, I am capable of saying no
– the time and money needed to eat healthy on a restricted diet is really shocking
– gluten-free products are almost all rice
– the second ingredient in Rice Crispies is sugar (silly me thought they were just rice)

And the most important thing I learned (the entire point of this endeavour):

– from what I can tell I have no food allergies or sensitivities, other than those I already knew of (whole wheat flour, pork and high fat foods).

I wish there were an ending to this story, but currently there is not!

Sushi Bowl Recipe

So it turns out one good meal idea came out of my highly restrictive, not at all fun elimination diet.

This recipe is super quick, easy and adaptable to what you like/have around.

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Cook short grain rice (sushi rice); you could also use regular old rice if you prefer. I mixed mine with a little red quinoa that was in the fridge. Once cooked add a splash of rice vinegar and a tiny bit of sort of sweetener (honey, agave, sugar, etc.) to the rice and stir it in.

While the rice is cooking chop up some of your favourite sushi ingredients. I used avocado, cucumber (cut out the seeds), green onion and canned tuna. I left the chunks fairly big.

Dish up your rice and add your toppings. Add any ‘garnishes’ you want. I added sesame seeds. Then cut very thin pieces of nori (the seaweed wrappers used for sushi). I just used scissors for this and it worked great. Sprinkle on top. Add soy sauce, wasabi or ginger if you so desire.

Dig in!

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Super healthy, quick and easy, what’s not to enjoy?

Elimination Diet Update

Well it has been a little over a week and the results are in. I don’t feel better at all. My hives are still there and my tummy troubles haven’t subsided. I’m keeping it up for now because maybe something will change, but I’m also going to the doctor’s to see about an allergy test.

I was really hoping I’d have some great recipes to share with you. The trouble is with so many restrictions, making anything is really hard. Kurt made one thing that was really good. We were going to try to make tortillas, but they just didn’t work, so he somehow magically turned it all into pie. The crust was a lot like cornbread, but made out of sorghum flour. I wasn’t there when he made it though, so I don’t know what else he used.

I did make squares yesterday that turned out pretty good. Here’s the link. They are grain, dairy, egg, refined oil, and refined sugar-free. I’m pretty sure they fit in the restrictions of any diet, except a nut or coconut allergy.

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I had to use walnuts instead of almonds for the crust since I made them on Family Day and nothing was open. I slightly overcooked it, that it why the crust is so dark, opps! I also have been keeping them in the fridge, otherwise they are just a gooey mess. They really satisfy my desire for dessert though, and that makes me happy!

Here are some other things I’ve been eating:

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So, I will probably keep it up for at least another week, unless my doctor says otherwise. We will have to wait and see.

Elimination Diet

I mentioned last week that I am doing an elimination diet. For those of you who don’t know, this isn’t a weight loss diet. I am doing it in order to (hopefully) figure out what foods I am sensitive/allergic to.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had tummy troubles. I’m usually able to control it for the most part by being very careful about what I eat, drinking a lot of water and trying to keep stress down. This isn’t always enough though. Sometimes I still get really bad pains and gas after eating. This sometimes lasts for days. I also get hives. They used to just pop up every one in a while, usually on my back. For the past 3 weeks, though, I’ve had many and as they go away more just pop up.

So the plan is to follow a strict diet for 21 days. This time is to heal my body and allow everything to sort of settle and calm down. Basically I’m not eating: soy, dairy, eggs, red meat, wheat, gluten, citrus and sugar. After the 3 weeks I will introduce one food every day and pay close attention for any symptoms. This should help me pinpoint what the problem is.

Supposedly once you’ve figured out what it is, if you avoid it for 6 months you can generally re-introduce the food with success. I’m really hoping that will be the case if I find out it’s something that’s a staple to me.

So far I am feeling fairly crummy, which I’ve read is to be expected for the first few days. I’m really hoping it gets better soon.

Here are the sources I’ve found useful:

http://www.balancenaturopathic.com/resource/Elimination%20Diet.pdf

http://www.cleanprogram.com/media/files/elimination-guide.pdf

http://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780195371109/pdf/00_Mullin_Appendix_3.pdf

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup

I love pancakes. When I travel in the States I always check if there will be an IHOP near where I am going. I once stayed at a place in New Jersey for 3 days and ate breakfast there every single day. I have requested birthday pancakes for two years in a row now (birthday cake pancakes, and red velvet pancakes: both wonderful).

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I was going to save this recipe for my birthday next month, but I couldn’t wait.

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The verdict. I actually wasn’t overly impressed with the pancakes themselves. I didn’t think there were enough poppyseeds or much of a lemony zing. I did alter the recipe a tiny bit since I didn’t have buttermilk I just added to milk in with the lemon juice first and let it sit for 5 minutes. I also added some more milk at the end since the batter was super thick. So, next time, more poppyseeds, more lemon and more milk! The sauce was the saving grace though. I didn’t actually follow the recipe at all on this. I just pureed one of our jars of preserved strawberries, put it on a pot with a bit of sugar and corn starch and heated it up until it was thick. Yum!

You could also use jam and just add some water to thin it, or obviously, the recipe in the link.

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It was so special we put it in this guy:

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And we only save him for special occasions.

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In all I will make them again, but now I am on the hunt for another recipe for my birthday. Any ideas?

Bibimbap

This is one of those foods that make me wish we lived in a bigger city. I’ve looked and looked, but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere near us that sells bibimbap. For those of you who don’t know, this is a Korean dish that has vegetables (fresh, cooked and pickled) and sometimes marinated meat, rice, sauce and an egg cracked on top. It is served in a hot rock bowl. The bowl makes the rice crispy and makes the flavours all meld together. It is delicious.

I wanted to recreate it as best I could at home. I checked a bunch of recipes and then (like usual) made do with what I had.

We cut up carrots, zucchini and cabbage. I lightly stir fried them with a wee bit of garlic. We also soaked some dried wild mushrooms to hydrate them, and steamed some spinach. Carrots, zucchini, cabbage, mushrooms, spinach, some bean sprouts and sauerkraut (to stand in for anything pickled) was added to a bowl.

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We cooked some brown rice and then left it on the stove for a bit to get crispy on the bottom. This was added to the bowls. We poached two eggs until the white was set, then carefully put one on top of each bowl. I finished it was a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

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Then we stirred them all together and dove in.

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It was delicious and fun to make. I only wish we had stone bowls, but I checked some websites and they are very expensive, also I can’t imagine how one would go about washing such a thing. So I guess our interpretation will have to do for now.

5 Ingredient Curry

I’ve been trying to use up some of our dried goods. I’m going to try to choose two things each week to make a dent in. This week I chose mung beans (which I’m sprouting for later in the week) and green lentils. I searched for recipes to try, and this one caught my eye. We had it with homemade naan and a salad. It only took a couple of hours in the slow cooker. It took almost no actual prep time, and it is a very inexpensive dish.

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It turned out fairly good and it was super simple. This was actually my first time cooking with coconut milk. I’ve avoided it in the past since I hate coconut. On its own I thought it tasted like sunscreen, but it worked well in the recipe and I think it would be a good thing to have on hand for curries.

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The only thing I changed about the recipe was to add chili powder, and more cumin. I also added in some leftover roasted sweet potato. I would definitely recommend adding in a vegetable to this, since it is pretty bland. The sweet potato worked great, but I think zucchini, peppers or some greens would be good too.

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If I were to use this recipe again in the future I think I would just use it as a base and then add some more things to it. I do think it is good to have some good slow cooker recipes in your arsenal and this is great for that.

Magic Minestrone Soup

Hopefully you had a wonderful, relaxing holiday and are still enjoying food, family and quiet time (while I brave the roads yet again to see more family). I thought I would share one of my current favourite recipes with you today in case you are already bored with leftovers and looking for something healthy to make for dinner.

This recipe is magical because you can make it using whatever is in your fridge and it will warm your soul with goodness. Seriously.

The only thing to remember, however, is that this is not a 30 minute meal. This is a sit on the stove (or slow cooker) all day, gently simmering and making the house smell great. The time is what does it.

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To start I chop one or two onions (depending on the size). The dribble some oil into a large pot, turn the heat on medium and toss in the onion. As it cooks I peel/wash and chop some carrots, celery, potato and either beans or zucchini (but you can really choose whatever veg you want). Once the onion is starting to brown I throw in the rest of the vegetables and give it a stir. I leave everything for a couple of minutes to soften. Then I add two bay leaves and a handful of greens. I pour in two jars of tomatoes and their juice (if using whole canned tomatoes just run a butter knife through them either in the can or pot, but they will break down, so don’t worry too much). I add broth (usually chicken, but vegetable broth is great too). Depending on what kind of broth you use you may want to add salt. I always add in a generous pinch. I throw in white beans, but again, you can use whatever you have or want, as long as it isn’t overpowering. Put a lid on the pot and bring it to a gentle boil for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to low. Leave it for as long as you can (I usually leave it about 5 hours).

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About half an hour before we are eating I add is some pasta or Isreali couscous. If you plan to have to soup for leftovers or to freeze I would cook the pasta separately and then add it to your bowl, otherwise it will continue to thicken your soup and suck up all the liquid.

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Before serving remove the bay leaves (it may take a while to find them), serve and then sprinkle parmasan on top.

This soup is great with a good crusty bread, or biscuits, but can stand on its own also. Perfect for a cold, wintery day.

Gingerbread Cookies

These are definitely one of the more fun holiday treats to make. I’m not actually going to link to the recipe I used because I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the cookies. It was supposed to be a ‘soft gingerbread’ but came out more chewy. Here are some pictures of what we made though.

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Some decorating tips:

-if you decorate before baking, lightly spray the cookies with water to help the sprinkles stick, also don’t expect everything to look exactly the same when you take it out, our chocolate candy sunflower seeds melted and cracked making everything look slightly demonic
-if you decorate after baking and use icing make sure it is sticky enough for the sprinkles to stick, but thick enough to keep its shape
-if you buy a cookie decorating kit and it comes with a squeeze bag of icing put it in a bowl of warm water first, it makes it way easier to work with
-if you let husbands help you decorate, don’t expect cookies that you can give to people, or show children