Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tradition! (Please pass the eggs.)

Wait... is that the Easter bunny?

I love Easter. This is my favourite weekend of the year. (You might hear me say that more than once throughout the year, because I'm allowed to have more than one favourite, right?)

Easter is the pinnacle, the high point, of our faith life, and it is also one of those celebrations that invites every sense to get involved. 

We fast and pray on Good Friday, which makes the celebration of the
Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night  - and the eating and drinking and celebrating afterwards -  THAT much more exciting. We take a basket of items to our little country church to be blessed, and each item has meaning in its own right, even though they are just simple things like eggs and bread and cheese that we will be consuming with our Easter brunch. Our church traditions through this weekend involve the strategic use of light and darkness, hunger and fulfillment, the beauty of song and the scent of incense... I love it all so much.

Symbols of new life are everywhere, from the tradition of the Easter bunny (I mean really, what is a better fertility symbol than a rabbit?) and eggs, the budding pussy-willows that adorn the table... I could go on and on and on! Spring is exciting even for those who aren't celebrating any particular faith. Life, newness, rebirth, all that is happy stuff.. 

I'm looking forward to a delicious meal shared by my family (23 of us, today!) - Jim is smoking a turkey on the Big Green Egg, and I'm roasting one with a rosemary-garlic-lemon butter. I'll do some brussels sprouts, and everyone coming is going to bring a food item, too. It is going to be fabulous.

In the week ahead, I'm going to be using some of the ideas I've saved on my Spring Pinterest board - how to use up turkey and boiled eggs, for example. (Two turkeys for 23 people means we are GOING to have at least a little left over, right? And I have 4 kids, who each decorated a dozen boiled eggs...) 

Thanks for letting me share my excitement with you.  What are your special traditions?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is it a Chili Day?

It is, here. 

The sun is shining once again, filling me with hope. However, I've been feeling chilled since I cooled down from my morning run... so I resolved that it would have to be chili night tonight. 

I have a fantastic recipe for chili, initially shared by my bestie Jeannie and modified a little every time I make it. Hers wasn't specific on seasoning, sometimes she would throw in a concoction of her own, and sometimes just the Old El Paso Chili seasoning, and that works well when you're rushing to get 'er done. 

This chili has it all: hearty lean beef and lots of beans to fill you up and keep you full, the bursty flavour of tomatoes (I used my own canned ones which are even brighter than regular ones), and all the warmth of the spicy southern seasonings.

I wrote up the recipe for a cookbook, and that includes my own mixture for chili seasoning. Note that this recipe leaves you room to spice it up. We like ours a little bit spicier in this house.  

Want a bowl? 

TL's Top Chili

This recipe has evolved over the years. I usually pop it into the crockpot to simmer all day, but it can be completed on the stovetop in about an hour, depending on my schedule. Makes a big pot or large crockpot full - it gets even better the next day, and it freezes well.

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 T cumin
1 T coriander
1 T chili powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 T dried parsley
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can each black beans, white beans, and kidney beans
1 can Heinz Chili Style beans
1 can pork & beans (optional)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T molasses
2 T red wine vinegar

Brown the ground beef and drain it, adding garlic, onion, celery and all seasonings. (You may use a packet or two of Chili seasoning mix if you prefer, depending on your taste preference and time constraints.) Add to crock pot with the tomatoes and beans. Simmer on low for at least 6 hours - the longer, the better. In the last half hour, add the Wooster, molasses, and vinegar. 15 minutes before serving, turn off the crockpot and leave the lid off, to allow it to thicken. Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring ain't all that Springy (and that's OK with me)!

Breathe in the crisp air, feel the warm sunshine, listen to the soft swish of your skis gliding over the drifts...

It seems that Mother Nature threw in the towel on Spring this year. That, or maybe she's just vacationing somewhere tropical and we need to wait til she gets back before we hit a thaw. Yes, it's the last week of March, but there are still drifts out there that are over my head.

Yesterday was a very relaxing day, and I decided to dig out my cross country skis and explore the back 40. I had not skied in years, and only recently found some new-to-me 3 pin boots for my old skis. 

The snow out here is deeeep. The wind has polished most of it to be hard enough on top that I could glide over it, but there were quite a few spots where I broke through, and had to work to get my skis back on top of the snow again. BIG workout!

I even found a hill to slide down, which was exhilarating. Getting to the bottom, though, I broke through into a very deep drift, my skis caught, and I wiped out. It took me almost 5 minutes to get UP again, and involved removing a ski and floundering around, laughing at myself. 

It couldn't have been a lovelier day for getting outside. It was cold enough that I didn't overhead with the exertion, it was gorgeously sunny (and I was glad to have my sunglasses!) and it was peaceful and quiet. The air was so fresh and the sun so warm on my face it just filled me with total joy. 

After coming in, I settled down with a mock hot buttered rum - my dear husband Jim thoughtfully measured a half a tablespoon of Splenda Brown into a mug with cinnamon, nutmeg, dark spiced rum and hot water. Jim is a great cook, but when he knows I'm tracking calories extra carefully, he will measure, just for me. My Hot Not-Buttered Rum was so good I didn't even notice there wasn't butter in it. So yummy. I think I'll try making it with Truvia and molasses next time, to give it some potassium, not to mention nothing artificial. 

A little while ago, Women's Health said that alcohol can slow your metabolism down by 70%. That's so huge, so I've been seriously limiting my intake. I know that skiing ramped it up for me, so I'm hoping I kinda broke even.

Last night's supper involved deep frying. My 9 year old son found whole squid in the freezer section at Superstore, and he is a nut about all things ocean-related. Of course he used his own money and bought this 2lb box of squid. And of course, since it was his idea, I made sure that it was his job to clean them. (Gutting slimy squid isn't all that appetizing to me.) That became a fun educational extra for the boys, though, and we ended up looking up all kids of things about squid and other cephalopods. Then I battered them lightly in a quinoa-flour based dredge, and we fried them up. Delicious!

Today is another gorgeous, bright and sunny day. I would still classify it as a "Winter" day and not a "Spring" day, but I'm counting my blessings. 

With the last 5 days of snow storms all across the prairies, complete with lots of car accidents in the news, my Facebook newsfeed has been flooded with news stories and photos. There's the snow plow drifted almost completely over (with a rescue snowmobile alongside), photos of cars in ditches and of that passenger train that was stuck in the snow for more than 24 hours... I've got absolutely no complaints. Actually, it was kinda nice; Jim came home early from work on Thursday due to bad weather, and stayed for a nice long weekend, which was just lovely, and we didn't go anywhere or fill our weekend with things-that-have-to-be-done. 

To inspire you embrace your plate for today, I'd like to share one of my favourite breakfast/lunches with you. It is full of flavour and energy, and keeps me full through a busy day.  I welcome your comments - let me know what you think. See you soon!

TL's E.A.T. Sandwich 
  • One or two slices of toast, or english muffin (I used half a gluten free muffin, here)
  • an egg
  • mayonnaise (Hellmann's!)
  • a vine-ripened tomato 
  • half an avocado
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fry the egg until your desired doneness (I like mine runny), layer everything on your bread and sprinkle liberally with seasoning (I put S&P on each layer, actually). Enjoy!

The view out my living-room window. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fresh Bread

You open the oven door reverently, allowing the moist heat to wash over your senses. The aroma of fresh bread fills the air, carrying you away to a giddy peace...

Some delectable homemade hamburger buns that recently graced our table.


It is the foundation of civilization, isn't it? I mean, it has been the most basic staple of our diet for so very long. Bread is comforting, it is cozy, it is that sense of coming home.

Yes, many of us have cut back on our bread intake, have set it aside in favour of a diet higher in whole foods, or have even abandoned bread entirely and replaced it with a gluten free or maybe paleo diet.

This blog is going to celebrate bread. It is also going to celebrate whole living - enjoying life to the fullest while taking care of our bodies so that we may continue to enjoy our lives.

I've come to a great realization over the past years, and that is the need for balance. A balanced approach to life gives us the freedom to enjoy good food, because that balance leads us to not abuse anything. In a "white-bread" society, we certainly know that too much of any one thing is not healthy. In a first-world that is struggling with obesity while others starve, we are very conscious of the need for balance.

My blogging up to this point has been un-balanced, but in the other direction. I've restricted and I've counted calories, I've stressed over everything I put in my mouth and everything I haven't eaten when I perceive I should have eaten it. And some time around the first week of January, when I was lying awake trying to shove my stress into the background, I realized that this needed to change. What I really crave is a healthy life. A healthy body, certainly, but also a healthy mind, a healthy spirit, and a healthy lifestyle.

What is health? Webster's Dictionary defines health as the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit. 

I want to create those ideal conditions for myself. And in this blog, this haven of peace, I want to promote health in a positive way. So no more berating myself for a "failure", no more nit-picking over every calorie (I've got other ways to worry about that, like And no more giving up, because this is a way of life. I am a whole person, and I need to live as if all of my elements are fully integrated.

So, I am leaving behind When Winning = Losing, because even just the title is a reminder of stress and failure. The content of that blog did too much to make everything a competition, to always remind me to compare myself to the world, instead of comparing myself to myself.

I now choose to Embrace the Plate, and I invite you to join me.

And as a housewarming celebration, I share my favourite recipe for dinner rolls:
This is probably the best dinner roll recipe we've found. Soft as clouds, buttery and just the right flakiness. Melt in your mouth amazing.
Makes 12-15 rolls:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (70-80 F)
1 large egg
4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons melted butter (for buttering the tops after baked)

Make the same way you make other bread, be it in the bread machine with the dough cycle, or by hand. After punching down, form into 12-15 balls and allow to rise in a 9x13 pan until doubled.

Bake in a 350° oven about 12-15 minutes until golden brown. After removing from the oven, brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter.