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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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tin

Festive containers for festive cookies

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to share some holiday love with some girl friends. We had a holiday bake-off. The idea was that rather than getting together for some gossip and goodies we would spend an afternoon together, baking, gossiping, and eating. I know it sounds like almost the same thing, but it was really nice to work together.

sandwiches

Cres-sandwiches, the perfect light lunch

We’re bakers of all shapes and varieties: my friend W, who wasn’t able to make it, is an excellent creator of traditional treats. My friend A  is an excellent creator of vegan treats. I’m more of a free-form baker, and I am often disappointed that creations don’t work out. Then we also had a couple of girls who don’t bake at all.

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

I remember the character of Marilla Cuthbert telling Anne Shirley that she and Rachel Lind could live together, provided they didn’t have to share a kitchen. While I agree that sharing a kitchen day in and day out is too great a trial for even the best and most adaptable cook or baker, I see the value in sharing a day in the kitchen. You get to see how other people manage their time while their baking, how they complete different tasks, and how they manage to keep their counter-tops clean so that they can keep working. We shared kitchen wisdom, recipes, tips and tricks, as well as new products.

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

We had all of this knowledge sharing, a nice visit, and some of the most delicious treats. We started our afternoon with cres-sandwhiches, vegan chocolate cupcakes, and vegan butter tarts—no Christmas would  be complete without butter tarts. We ate this while my free-form peanut butter cups cooled in the fridge.

Candy cane cupcakes--yum!

Candy cane cupcakes–yum!

After lunch we helped J make one of Martha Stewart’s recipes: Lime Melt-aways. These ultimately became the hit of the party. J isn’t much for baking, but she’s a good sport, and she’s a hoot so it was fun to watch her bake. So with a little help from A she was able to get the dough prepared, and into the fridge to chill, before finally slicing the rolls and putting them in the oven.

Lime Melt-aways, I'll bet you can't eat just one...

Lime Melt-aways, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one…

While we were waiting to move on to the oven stage of J’s cookies Penelope, J and I started assembling the empire cookies. She had pre-baked the sugar cookies, so that all we had to do on the day of was combine two together with jam in the middle, and top with icing and a chocolate square.

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

We all had a great day, and we each walked away with a tin full of delicious, vegan, holiday treats. Now I just need to learn how to stagger out these goodies.

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Ottawa Ontario Canada  March 2011 — Rideau Can...

I used to run a lot when I was in my 20s, at least 3 times a week, and sometimes more if I need a breather from school, or if I felt that I had over-indulged. Running gave me such a nice, weightless feeling. It was a place where I could escape and just feel free. I remember my hair streaming out behind my head while my breath came in regular puffs of white mist. These were the days when I loved running, when I pitied anyone who couldn’t run. I felt strong, and independent and healthy, and I loved those feelings.

Those were the good runs, but there were also bad runs: runs that were fuelled by a broken heart, or crushing disappointments. These runs always seemed to end in hyperventilating, extra-stiff muscles and lengthy delays as I tried to regulate my breathing so that I could continue on my way.

My coach

Still, when I think back to my running days all I remember is the good: the runs where I felt invincible, where I knew I was young, healthy and strong, and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. There was the time in Ottawa when my run was fuelled by a broken heart and had been delayed by crying fits and hyperventilating. But I managed to get myself going again, and when I reached the end of my route and set my first foot on Laurier bridge the sky exploded into bright greens, reds and blues as we started the annual Winterlude celebration. There was also the Christmas morning when I decided to head out for a run before the festivities began. The sky was so blue, the trees so bare, and the earth covered by a thin layer of crystallized frost. The memory of that run is so idyllic to me that I sometimes forget that I was running down service roads, past empty factories and warehouses. I can’t remember anything else from that Christmas day, but I relive that run regularly.

Me, out for a rare run.

My running days are well and truly behind me now. A back injury and worsening asthma make if difficult for me to commit to a running routine, though that hasn’t stopped me from going on the occasional run. These days the bulk of my exercise has to happen in the pool. I don’t love swimming, not yet; I haven’t created the kinds of memories and the emotional bond that I had with running. In the pool I feel weak and uncoordinated, and I hate these feelings. I routinely find myself clinging to  the side of the pool gasping for air,  or clutching my side, waiting for the cramps to pass. So I find myself looking for more and more opportunities to skip out, to tell myself that I’m too busy, that I can’t get in the pool because it’s too cold outside, etc. But I know that this isn’t who I am, I know that I am a fighter at heart, and that I just need to commit myself to improving my skill, to becoming a stronger swimmer, so that I can find my stride, and feel strong after each workout. Then, maybe I could love it as much as I loved running.

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Wishing you all the best for 2011. May all of your Christmas dreams come true.

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A couple of years ago I was helping my mum move all of her decorations from her tattered cardboard boxes to some of the nicer Tupperware kinds. As I’ve hinted, Christmas is a big deal in my home, and the work was exhausting. As we approached the bottom of the second box, and we could see the untouched third box sitting in the corner of the room, I looked down and saw that there were just a few scarps of paper sitting. I sighed and put the box down. Then, and I have no idea why, I picked the box up again, and took a good look at the paper. It was mostly receipts so old and worn that they were illegible, but mixed in with them was a tiny newspaper clipping. It was my first letter to Santa Clause, and at the risk of great embarrassment, I am sharing it with you today.

 

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Dear Santa,

Do you have enough candy canes and gingermans made for all the kids? I would like to have a gingerman, oranges; grapes, starfish and a big, big new dolly. I want the biggest candy cane in the whole world.

How are the reindeer and Mrs. Santa. Can you bring a little Bert and Ernie doll for my little brother Matthew. He’s too little to write a letter. I want everything big. Give him everything little. I can’t wait to see you Santa at our party with all the kids. My Mommy helped me write this letter.

Love and kisses
Circe, age 4.

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This has been the most depressing Christmas week I’ve had in a long time. No one seems to be aware that Christmas is coming on Saturday. But then, maybe that’s the problem; maybe if Christmas was coming on Sunday or Monday it might be a little different. Everywhere I look I see people busily working away on their day-to-day stuff, many people don’t even mention Christmas. My office doesn’t have a single cookie or festive sweet.

Then at lunch time, as I ventured out with my friends and co-workers for a slice of holiday pizza, I heard the theme music (Christmas Time is Here) from the Peanuts Christmas special. I stopped and looked up, smiling because I intend to surprise my mother with a CD/DVD copy of her favourite Christmas special; as I was standing there I saw a group of people skating on an outdoor rink. That’s right, I stepped into the Peanuts Christmas special. I stopped and gave myself a moment to enjoy this one perfect moment where pop culture and Christmas collide in the parking lot of a business park and outdoor shopping centre. The song soon ended and I came back to reality

It was the perfect way to push me out of my funk. It was a brilliantly sunny, (reasonably) warm day. There’s no reason to feel depressed, in fact, I should be elated. I decided that this week could still be magical, and from there I took matters into my own hands, and created my own Christmas magic.

I decided to take the dog for a big walk, so that we could enjoy this glorious weather. When we got home I made a big batch of mincemeat tarts. Yummy, and super festive. The only problem is that I put too much filling in each pastry, so I didn’t enough to make all 24 tarts.

Oh well, I guess that means that I’ll have to make more for New Year’s Eve…I may also need to do some skating to burn them off.

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, and to all of you too!

 

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Yesterday was a bad day. I mean it was a good day, I got a lot done, but it was a bad day in terms of nerves. It seems that I had completely forgotten that it’s Christmas, a time for celebration. Since today is Friday–also a time for celebration–I am going to take it down a notch, focus on festivities and try not to stress.

You may recall that my mother decorates the front of her house with a giant blow-up Homer Simpson. I live in an apartment, which doesn’t have a yard, so my homage to the Simpson’s (probably the most commercial family tradition I’ve ever heard of) is a small decoration on my tree. You might notice that I’m also so lazy that I haven’t even hung this ornament properly. That’s because perching him on the branches, I believe, allows him to stroll through the tree at his leisure.

I was so eager for Christmas this year that I broke all of my rules and started decorating the second last weekend in November. Sadly though my apartment is so warm that I haven’t really had the lights on. Still I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy before I plunge into my work.

 I can’t really tell you what was going through my mind when I decided that I should put up a tree dedicated to gingerbread. Sometimes–most times–I seem to forget that I should be watching what I eat. Funnily enough most of these ornaments have a story. There’s one there from my trip to Quebec City in 2004; that’s a nice memory, Quebec City is beautiful and it was a fun trip. There are also a couple of ornaments given to me by the kids I used to babysit when I was in high school. That’s also a nice memory, they were the best kids, and that was the easiest babysitting gig ever.

If you look hard you can also see gold and silver apples. They’re from the dollar store. It’s not much of a story, but I will tell you I was humming that “Silver and Gold” song from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer while I was buying them–that’s like half a story right? One quarter of a story?

I bought this tree my first year away from home;  it was the perfect size for a residence room, and it was the perfect size for my bachelor, but now I am beginning to feel that I’d like a much bigger tree. I mean I do have 2 trees and 2 boughs already, but it’s not the same as having a nice tall Christmas tree right?

Happy Friday

 

Alright–deep breaths–I think I’m ready. I think I’ve had a good dose of Christmas spirit and I’m ready to take on the day. If I need any other encouragement I can remember Friday’s traditions too.

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