Friday, January 17, 2014

Cashew Craze

We're doing a food experiment in our house. We've long suspected that Big Sister has some allergies (or, at least, intolerances - these are not life threatening). But we've been too tired and lazy to change much, other than limiting the amount of cow's milk that she drinks. She still consumes most other dairy products.

We recently embarked on a strict diet with her, cutting out all dairy and any trace dairy in other foods (including casein). Lo and behold, we saw an improvement (but perhaps a future post on some ongoing issues we're seeing, and our decision to seek allergy testing).

Despite the positive changes, I was finding the new diet a struggle. Big Sister's favourite foods include: cheese (all types), yogurt, sour cream and butter. She eats fruit, veggies and protein as well, but not with the same gusto :)

So, my challenge has been to find some alternatives that are both tasty and don't break the bank. So far our one success has been fake butter. And no, I'm not talking about chemically-laden margarine laced with milk products; I mean this stuff - Earth Balance. Dairy-free AND soy-free, and given the thumbs up by picky kiddos everywhere!

Other products have been a giant failure. She hates Daiya "cheese," although we haven't tried to make pizza with the shredded variety yet. Another score for the garbage was coconut "yogurt." Blech!! It was jelly-like, a weird pale grey colour and FULL of sugar and additives. She also shunned my homemade almond milk, and still prefers the store-bought variety.

Soon, the holiday season arrived. We gave up for a couple of weeks and let her eat whatever she wanted, because food was everywhere, and I was tired of having nothing to offer her for snacks and/or lunch. There's only so much fruit, nuts and vegetable with hummus you can offer a kid before they ask for cheese and crackers.

Christmas day came, and Santa surprised me by leaving a big wrapped box under the tree. Inside I found a Blendtec blender, a kitchen gadget I've been swooning over for a while now. Other people spend hundreds of dollars on hair treatments, gym memberships, Ipads, Iphones and giant TVs. My weakness is kitchen gadgets.

Can I just say, this blender has truly changed my culinary life. Things that I've always dreamed of doing, I can now do in a matter of minutes!! I can make amazingly healthy smoothies, without all the floating chunkies that my hand-held blender used to leave. I can make all my own coconut milk and almond milk, and I can even blend up my favourite drinks (mmmm pina colada!!)

I've also discovered CASHEWS!! Almond milk is totally yummy, but a bit of a pain to make because you have to squeeze it through a nut bag (no, I'm not making this up). But cashews don't take any time at all. You soak them overnight, whiz them up with water, and voila!! Yummy, creamy, awesome milk. And the more digging I did, the more I discovered what I could make out of cashew milk.

In this post I'd like to share my successful Cashew Yogurt, adapted from this recipe at The Spunky Coconut.

First Step

Make the cashew milk! Soak nuts in water overnight, and then drain and rinse. Put them in your food processor or blender. Add 4 cups of water, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1tsp honey. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Second Step

Bring the 4 cups of cashew milk to a simmer in a saucepan.

Third Step

Whisk in 2 tsp of Gelatin dissolved in boiling water (one packet of Knox Gelatin worked for me). The instructions of how to dissolve the gelatin are on the packet. The Spunky Coconut mentions a substitute for vegetarians, but I haven't tried it, so not sure if it would work.

Fourth Step

Let the milk cool until it reaches about 90-92 degrees F (having a good book nearby to wait while it's cooling is a good idea, or just put the whole pot in the sink with cold water)

Fifth Step

Whisk in 3.5 tsps non-dairy probiotic. I used Inno-Vite DDS Original powdered probiotics. Basically, you need about 30 billion colony forming units, so just read the label on your favourite probiotics.

Sixth Step

Put the yogurt into a yogurt maker, oven with the oven light on (I have a "proof" setting on my oven), or in a cooler with something to keep it warm in water bottles etc. I've heard the yogurt maker is the easiest, but it's one gadget I don't own. Leave the yogurt overnight.

Seventh Step

In the morning, pour the yogurt (it will still be quite runny) into a container and refrigerate. When it is completely cool, it should have set and be thick and yummy. Sweeten with maple syrup, add fruit, vanilla, whatever!! Enjoy!

Stay tuned for blog posts on Cashew Sour Cream and Cashew Cream Cheese!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Becoming a Better Person

I follow many great people on Facebook, but one of my favourites is Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. Her most recent post read:

"Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I'm not asking this rhetorically. I'm wondering if there's a time when you reach it, when you say "I can no longer think of any way to be a better person." (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say "better person" I don't mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I'm very aware of the ways in which I could've done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called "balance" (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I've failed in many of these areas. It's not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, "Well done, Strayed. You've got it down." I'm reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking "Well done, Strayed" but thinking instead, "Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed." Happy new year, my friends. I hope 2014 is a revelation and a firecracker for you." 

I'm one of those people who ponder every day how I can be a better person. I reflect a lot on my words, actions and emotions (sometimes this gets me into trouble, as I fall into rumination when I think I've been less than stellar). I'm always striving to better myself, and I'm always making resolutions - New Year or not.

But in reflecting on Cheryl's post, I've come to a realization. When I think about myself as a "better" person, I see someone in the future - someone more organized, less flighty, in shape, eating well and taking time for herself.  But this future version of myself is not really me. 

The only me that exists is here, right now. Sipping on black tea (dammit, I'm supposed to be drinking green), eating a muffin (it's homemade, so all good), perusing my financial statements (all bad, VERY BAD), reflecting on the friends I forgot to call over the holidays (I'm so sorry), and trying to gather the energy to go for a nice walk - given that it's my lunch break, and I resolved to do more exercise on my lunch breaks!

And yet I also have...

- travelled the world
- overcome personal challenges
- born two children
- received a graduate education
- become (if I may toot my own horn) a pretty darn good chef; in my own kitchen, that is!
- purchased a home that keeps us warm
- landed a solid job that supports my family
- married a man who is also supporting our family by being at home
- time and money to stay healthy and grounded

Maybe 2014 is the year that I say goodbye to the woman I see up ahead in the distance - the me I always imagined I could be. Because the person I've become is pretty darn amazing.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 29, 2013

25 Days of Christmas

I love this holiday tradition, started by Andrea from A Peek Inside the Fishbowl. This is like an advent calendar, but instead of eating chocolate, you get to do a fun activity each day (and by the way, we of COURSE have our regular chocolate advent calendar - Fair Trade! The girls were also given 2 other advent calendars by our cousin, so I think the whole family will enjoy a daily dose of chocolate this holiday season).

This is a bit tougher for me, as I'm not home with the girls all day. We'll have to sneak in some small activities during the week, and bigger activities on the weekend.

So here we go...

1. Decorate for Christmas

2. Read "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus"

3. Write a letter to Santa

4. Movie Night!

5. Listen to Christmas songs

6. Holiday Mini Lights Session

7. Make Christmas cookies

8. Tobogganing (if there's snow!)

9. Christmas craft

10. Make our charitable donation to Plan Canada

11. Make a paper snowflake

12. Make a Christmas tree ornament

13. Visit to Cumberland Heritage Village

14.  Annual Stacey-Pratt Christmas Chocolate Making

15.Visit the Ottawa Farmer's Market Christmas Market

16. Wrap some gifts

17. Paint a homemade Christmas card

18. Sing some carols

19. Make hot cocoa and a bowl of popcorn

20. Christmas dinner out with friends!

21. Go and cut down our Christmas tree! Decorate tree.

22. Christmas potluck with good friends

23. Family arrives. Share an eggnog (mixed with rum for the older kiddies?)

24. Prepare snacks for Santa and the reindeer; Christmas Eve service at church

25. Celebrate family, love, happiness and peace

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Here Piggy, Piggy, Piggy

Is there anything better than pork? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe butter.

In my vegetarian days, I tried my best to shun the salty, fatty breakfasts of yore, reassuring myself that I was changing my diet for the greater good of our planet and food system.

Until I realized that it's not the pig I'm opposed to eating; it's actually the system in which the pig is raised. Our modern industrial farmlands (if you can call them "lands") raise pigs in a completely unnatural environment. The more I hear, the less I'm inclined to have anything to do with participating as a consumer in that system.

Which is why we purchase our piggie from Donegal Heritage Farms. The meat tastes far superior to anything I've ever tried from the grocery store. We also buy lamb and the occasional dozen eggs from Donegal - oh my little lamb, where have you been all my life?

To use up some ham we ate the other night, I threw together this lovely soup. Not surprisingly, the whole family gobbled it up!

Creamy Ham and Rice Soup

2 tbsp butter (or pork fat...mmmmm)
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of carrots, chopped thinly
1/2 tsp dried dill (or fresh if it's available)
1 cup chopped cooked ham
2 cups cooked rice
4 cups stock (anything but beef)
1 cup heavy cream (to lighten this up, I used 1/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup milk)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan. Saute shallot and garlic for 5 minutes until soft. Throw in carrots, dill, ham and rice. Stir and coat. Add the stock. Bring the whole thing to a boil, and then let simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add 1 cup of cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh bread!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just Write

When you're staring at a blank page with serious writer's block, the best advice given is usually:

Just write. Write about anything. What's your dog doing right now? How messy is your kitchen? What's the weather like outside?

It's windy, actually. Sometimes I worry about the giant tree in our front yard uprooting in the wind and crushing us in our beds. Just, you know....the normal, everyday worries we have as mothers. Oh, and fires. I worry a lot about fires. And what about Radon? Apparently we should all be testing our house for radon levels, but do you think I've managed to get out at any point in the last two years to purchase a testing kit?

So there you have it. Writer's block banished by anxiety-ridden commentary.

I haven't written anything of significance in over a year on this blog, mainly because I think I've lost my mojo. I often feel as though bloggers write for attention (look at me! I'm special! And my house is clean!!), but I've recently been reminded that the majority of us write because we love to write. To share, to tell stories, and to reach out to others in this lonely world. And given that all of my other creative hobbies are sitting in dust (my piano, guitar, paints, canvases), the least I can do is write. There's always something left to say.

So I'm coming back. I don't know what you'll find on this blog, but I hope it will be a welcome creative outlet for a frazzled mama.

Which reminds me of a song....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stay Tuned...

I know I've been absent from this space. Life with Two is wonderful and chaotic, and not the most ideal environment for quiet contemplation and writing.

I've finally gotten around to signing up with Bloglovin, so follow me there if you have an account! New posts are coming soon, and I'm excited about a new direction life is taking...

From the Nest,

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Getting Sick: Before and After Kids

Getting sick in my pre-kid days was a simple, three-step process:

1) Get sick

2) Lie in bed. Moan. Coerce loved ones to take good care of me, bringing cool cloths and ginger ale.

3) Get better.

Getting sick with kids is slightly more complicated:

1) Feel the onset of sickness. Panic slightly.

2) In anticipation of sickness, rearrange all plans - find alternative rides to school, reschedule appointments and cancel all extracurricular activities.

3) Get sick.

4) Keep taking care of kids and cleaning house, despite horrible sickness. Lie on the couch only when children are occupied by the television, lest they try to destroy the house. Carry plastic bags with you for school drop-offs, just in case of sudden bout of vomiting.

5) Husband stays home and lets you lie down. Baby needs to be nursed every 2 hours, and 3 year old bursts in on you several times throughout the day asking for random shit. "Where is that pink shape I cut out yesterday?" To which you answer, "I don't know, asshole, go away!" Or if you're a really Good Mother like I am, you say "I'm not sure, sweetie, why don't you go ask Daddy?"

6) Continue to nurse throughout the night, while running out of the room several times to get sick. Wake baby more often by running out of room.

7) Begin to feel slightly better.

8) Get a sore throat instead.

9) Get woken up in the night by vomiting 3 yo.

10) Seven days later, your family is finally healthy...

Until next week of course!

Hoping your family is happy and healthy this Spring Season!