Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking with Cookbooks

I mentioned in earlier posts that I almost never follow recipes that are written, and will rather go off in my own way and transform the recipes, all depending on my mood and on what I have on hand. The problem with that is that most of my recipes (the ones that I make often for supper and the such) are in my head, I haven't written them down anywhere and when family and friends ask me how to do a certain recipe, Im a little cut short. I would much rather show them then give them a list of quantities and the order in which to mix them. So is it so weird that I have been thinking of writing a cookbook?
For one of my closest friends, I had the idea to make her a cookbook from all my tried-and-true recipes, and she gave me great feedback on it, which leads me to think this is not so crazy an idea. Now dont get me wrong, I have in no way the culinary skills that most of the cookbook authors have. I have never been to cooking/baking school (a dream of mine) or even attended a workshop. I learned from my family, from watching shows on youtube and on the Food Network, and read articles. But who am I to believe I would be good enough to write up a cookbook?

Well for one, I love to make food. Not only to make food, but I love to entertain people with my food (aka having friends over for supper) and I leanrned what I do know because of my passion. No, I dont have any special techniques or special tools (that come with ridiculous price tags) or special skills. But what I do have is my love of food, and my love of sharing what I know. I would think that combined with a few more years of experience and expanding my repertoire would be enough to validate my wish to write an actual book containing my knowledge and showing that you don't need to go to any fancy school or own expensive ingredients, or use tools you have no idea what to do with.

So I do think that I will add writing a cookbook on my bucket list. If I had one that is. :D

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

They call me the love doctor

God Almighty knows that Holiday Time means delicious food. Tons and tons of yummy delicous food. I always look forward to our traditional meals which always involves lots of dough, meat, fat, sugar, etc. All those things I usually try to limit myself or avoid eating during the year are laid out in abundant quantities for a couple of days, and I am far from complaining! However, on the 26th, the 27th, when the leftovers are eaten, my system starts complaining and I need to give it a break. How do I do this? By making oh so delicious (and nutritious) 'Salade de L'Amour' aka The Love Salad, as much for your taste buds as for your digestive tracks.

There are many variations to this salad, and its basically a 'pif' recipe. Au pif is a slang french term which loosely translates to basically adding in what you have on hand without need to measure (and this is mostly how I do my staple cooking). I give measurements in this recipe, however, I usually just throw in the package worth of whatever ingredients is needed (ex. 1 pkg of mushrooms rather than 1 cup)

Salade de L'Amour

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups cooked rice of your choice (I like Bazmati)
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/2 cup nuts (of our choice, I like cashews)
1/2 cup raisins
Dressing : Mix 1/2 cup virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup soya sauce, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 garlic cloves minced, salt and pepper

Wash and prepare above ingredients and mix toguether. Mix in dressing. Serve. MMM.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of Advent and Army Wives

Christmas has come and gone and to be honest, it went by so fast I had no clue what the heck was going on most of the time. This year has been a very strange holiday time to be honest, I never really felt the whole Christmas spirit descend on me, never really felt that excitement or optimism for this season that I usually get in one way or another. And I think I sabotaged myself, to be quite honest.

In my eager state of havng my own home to decorate for the first time (I have been buying Christmas decorations here and there for the past three years so it wouldnt come as a huge bankruptcy when I did finally have my own place) I decorated my house and turned on the holiday channel wayyy wayyy too early. As in the first weekend of November early. And I did get that sense of joy when everything was put up, however it wore off, and as the month finished and December started, and everybody went decoration crazy, I just had had enough by then. I mean I love Christmas, but not two months worth of nonstop music and decorations. Get what I mean, jellybean? So that was largely to blame for erroding my Christmas spirit.

As my understand of Advent deepened with observing and seeing, I also think that my early bird attitude kind of messed up the whole feeling of aniticipation I so wanted to create. Next year will be very much different, if I have anything to say about it! I didnt finish my clay version of the crèche, partly because I ran out of time, and partly because I ran out of skills. Maybe I will make this into a goal, to brush up on my skills as a clay sculptor through various projects so that next year my baby Jesus wont look like a macaroni in a blanket. I did keep up with my readings, which I am very proud of, because pacing myself when I read  is not something I regularly do. I read very fast, niot because I am forcing myself, but that is just my regular speed. So to read only certain chapters in the Bible was tough, because I just wanted to keep on going and its so easy to just lose yourself and keep turning the page and before you know it, you`ve finished 50 pages rather than the 2 you were supposed to read. But I was pleasantly surprised at the control I was able to exhibit, and to be honest, restraining myself really helped me feel Advent much better. Reading part by part and day by day helped me be able to meditate on that particular passage throughout the day, and brought me to a heightened state of understanding, and of anticipation. There are many things that I did not or could not do that is associated with Advent that I mean to do in the future (covering up images of His Face, Jesse Tree, hay in the manger etc) but all in all a very satisfying first experience which will only just prepare me better for next year! I think that Advent (and most certainly Midnight Mass) had much more effect on me this year than anything else

I have a new found respect for army wives/husbands. Not that my situation is in any way comparable to theirs (I shudder to imagine it). However, my seperation from Jeff was much tougher than I had imagined. I havent slept apart from Jeff in almost 3 years, and to suddenly be faced with that lack of him for two weeks makes me realize how much he means to me, and what he brings to my life. I am blessed by his presence and what he brings to my life, and maybe I should make a better effort to let him know that (I can be quite hard on him at times, tough love you see), and although simple things like keeping our home clean and homey is a very valid way to show him I love him, it can go beyond that. Like going that extra step to cook him those cookies he loves, or making sure his pjs are underneath his pillow, etc. really does make a difference, and too often lately I have let the stress of work and school bring me down, without thinking of him... Absence makes the heart grow fonder, at least, right? Right!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

De tout et de rien..

I haven't posted in awhile and its not because I have nothing to say (quite the contrary). However, time has completely slipped through my fingers and I simply did not have a second to be able to properly put down my thoughts. So here is a mix and jumble of what's going on right now -

Jeff is leaving (with his family for Florida) for 12 days on the morning of the 26th. Am I being a baby by dreading this? I havent spent one night away from Jeff for about two and a half years now... I was going to go, however my doctor told me that I was unfit for travel, health wise. My asthma has been going down in a spiral, and I have new, more powerful medication to take. However, the amount of meds I have to take simply to get through the day is getting ridiculous, and I am afraid of what will happen, where my health is going etc. I know what I have to do, I just dont understand why its so hard to do it.

I have been praying. Now this might seem very mundane, however I havent prayed in years. Possibly since my father passed away. Its been... wondeful.

I am attempting to make cranberry spice biscotti tomorrow. My very first attempt at biscotti, very much looking forward to it, wish me luck!

I am going to Midnight Mass with a couple of my friends tomorrow night. First of all, I have never been to it, and second, I have friends who want to go to Mass with me. That is ridiculous. In a wonderful, fantastic way.

This is my father. Three years ago, I hadnt even aknowledged his death, but Jeff came along and helped me to start dealing with all that. Although I needed it, of course, it just means that the void he left behind is there, and its huge. Christmas has been real tough these last couple of years, but I wish him a Merry Christmas, wherever he is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wishful Tuesday

I have had my future preoccupying my mind lately. More precisely defining what it is I want/see for myself in the near/distant future, and especially noticing the difference between the goals I dream about now and what I thought I wanted a couple of years ago. I feel its important to define these goals for myself, some simpler than others, simply to be able to bring them up to mind easily should I ever question myself as to the probability of ever reaching them. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...

I hope that I will always be able to somewhere and somehow set some time aside for a cup of tea and a few pages of a good book. It sounds simple and I know some would question why this would even be a goal, but days go by so quickly that one forgets simple pleasures and gets caught up in a vortex of due dates and must do's.

I want a family. With many many little ones.

I think this one is self-explanotory. I want to retain my joy in the greatest gift I have ever received, life. And as corny as this sounds, I feel like I have great challenges ahead of me, and if there is one thing I want to pull through with, its just a feeling of inner joy at life in all its forms.

No, I dont want a pile of quilts, I want to learn how to quilt! :)

My future home will have a warm kitchen, not modern and cold, but inviting and large enough to move around freely yet small enough to be cozy. I daydream about my future kitchen quite often, actually.

I will have a vegetable and herb garden that will produce beautiful and fresh produce that I can use in my homey kitchen. Also a couple of fruit trees. Mmm.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great.  
-    Mark Twain

Monday, December 13, 2010

I have this frustrating habit

of taking recipes for everything that I do, and tweaking it to make it my own. And I mean everything. I cannot remember the last time that I have followed a recipe exactly as it was posted, written, or given to me. That annoying trend of mine has led to much experimenting and I had many less-than-tasty results, however it also gave me much experience and I wouldn't be me without wanting to personalize everything that I cooked and baked for my loved ones. I also tend to build my own recipes off the top of my head, which taught me much about what can go with what, and also that something that works toguether in one dish will most certainly not work toguether in other dishes. Many of my friends jokingly call me Suzy-homemaker  (being french, I had no clue what that referred to at first), and although I consider myself a little more experienced now, they tend to forget that when I first made a grilled cheese, I grilled cheese. Without the bread. On a pan. True story. But I am starting to think that my generation has fallen out of love with the art of creating with ingredients. Not many of my friends bake and cook, and even less, see almost none, want to attempt creating their own recipe. And I don't blame them, why go through all that process if you have something already made one click away? But still, I wonder why most of my generation has steered away from the joy of the oven and wooden spoon?

Back from this philosophical thinking, I have been trying to make the perfect oatmeal and raisin cookie recipe for ages. Why has this particular cookie been so difficult to construct? Because I don't (GASP) like raisins. In anything. And I really do believe that one has to taste their own baking/cooking before serving it. So many people looove these cookies (my future in-laws, for example), and I have been working hard trying to make a 'perfect' recipe, and I finally think that I have it. I made these cookies, and they did not run or harden or flatten. Apparently, they taste fantastic (I wouldnt know LOL). So here is the recipe:

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 3/4 butter (not margarine)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cups oats
  • 1 cup raisin

  1. Soak the raisins in a shallow container with warm water while making the dough. Make sure the water covers the raisins completely and stir them a couple of times.
  2. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until homogeneous.
  3. In a seperate bowl, mix the flour, bakind soda and powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toguether. Add in slowly to the wet mixture and mix until there are no lumps left.
  4. Remove rasins from the water, and add in with the oats. Mix BY HAND until the whole mixture is evenly distributed. Watch out for raisins that tend to hide at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Spoon into a greased baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for exactly 9 minutes. When the cookies just come out, flatten them SLIGHTLY with a fork, just the bring the pouffed cookie down a little.


Sunday, December 12, 2010


While I am still working on those silly recipes for my Christmas gifts, I have been thinking about TV and Internet in our everyday lives. Those two things I personally believe are things that have much to do with the rate of obese children (and adults, certainly) perhaps even more than fast food and unhealthy eating habits. I fully acknowledge the fast food addiction (I used to eat McDonald's at least three to four times a week, and when I decided to stop all fast food, I became depressed, listless, and could only think of a burger. True story.) However, it is possible to refrain from eating those nasty fast foods and improve your general eating habits in a myriad of ways.

However, living without Internet or TV, sounds extremely difficult, see impossible for most. Those two things have become our primary source of communication, of experiencing, of knowledge, and of getting news from around the world. Yet do we ever stop and think about how, for example, your brain literally tends to shut off while watching TV, or how your body becomes immobile for the amount of time you are on the web for whatever reason? And lets face it, for most of us born in the late eighties early nineties, we barely remember a time before TV, and we were present for the debut of the world wide web. If I think back, I remember when the first computer that my step-father brought in to our home, and I remember how slow dial-up was, how frustrating that was (even though I was just a child!), the sound it made when trying to find  a connection. I also remember never ever watching TV, actually turning it off to go play outside no matter the weather.

That was then, this is now, and I can fully admit that I wouldn't turn off an interesting documentary, or delete my blog or Facebook page to have more time to play outside. But, more and more, I have been realizing that TV and Internet have been leeching precious time off of my already busy schedule. Because lets admit it, when we are on the web or in front of the tube, most of us don't stay there for 10 mns. We stay there in increments of hours. A show on TV lasts on average an hour's time, and during that time, we are bombarded with advertisement and commercials that are repeated again and again, targeting our soft brains that are shut off and attempting to brand them with images and suggested desires which we really didn't want. However seeing that delicious looking smoked meat sandwich, for example, makes us want it and think about it, even if we just finished eating a few minutes ago. The Internet is also full of images and advertisement that works a different way. Flashing, beeping, shocking imagery all intended to grab your attention even just for a few seconds just to make you think about it. The media takes control of what we think of, what we want, and we fully engage in letting it by falling into this trap, the poison of media.

Now I am not saying lets all quit TV and the Internet, because I have no wish to do so, and because I fully realize that in our world of today that is quasi-impossible to do. I don't want to retire from our society, I want to be more involved. That is why I had decided at first to limit my TV and Internet use to an hour maximum each day ( this was before the start of Advent) and what would happen is that I would sit to watch TV, then realize after 5 mns the precious time I was wasting when there was so much to be done. So I would immediately switch the channel to a music channel and get up and start doing things. The result was a cleaner house, and lots more baking! When the sink seemed to be always empty of dirty dishes, and that I almost always had something baking in the oven, and that I was actually keeping up with all my schoolwork and extra work for the job, I was happy. Which led to a general lifting of my spirits in general, which in turn led to a better performance at work, better marks at school, and a better relationship with Jeff and my family. I believe that if everyone put such limits on thei concumption of TV and the web, the outcome for our community in general could be wonderful. People would (hopefully) be healthier and be merrier. What could be better for this world?

Monday, December 6, 2010

If I sing while I bake, my food will be happy

So pie-in-a-jar was a great idea, and one I will put in ym back pocket for future references, however, even homemade gifts can be costly, and I just didn't have the budget to buy the jars, fabric, and fresh ingredients for the pie filling (especially out of season, ouch!). So I have had to re-think my Christmas present, and my very first consideration was what did I already have in my cupboards.

I am pretty stocked in various ingredients (where people will spend money on alcohol or video games, I will happily spend on adding new ingredients to my spice collection, for example) and there are certain things that I have that I want to use, because I either have alot of it, or I need to use them soon. The three I narrowed it down to were dried cranberries, coconut, and chocolate squares. So I decided to make little packages of three types of sweets, cranberry-chocolate oat bars, coconut macaroons, and chocolate dipped shortbread. I have absolutely everything that these recipes (tried and true) have, I don't need to buy anything new, and if I may say so, they are delicious and give a nice presention when wrapped up in a clear bag with a bit of ribbon and a tag. I am quite happy with this decision!

I will post the recipes once I work them out!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What the...

I have been making efforts to follow in the true spirit of Advent, and really live the life of a practising Christian. Naturally, going along with this, my urges to go to Church has considerably increased lately. Since I have school from 9-4 Saturday and Sunday, actually attending Mass has been impossible, unless I skip school which would really not be advisable especially considering the end of term projects and exams coming up. However, this morning, we were let off early, at noon, and to be honest, going to Church was not the first thing on my list of things to do. But while being dropped off by my mother in law, we passed the St-Vincent de Paul Church, and I asked her to let me off there. My thought was, I don't absolutely need Mass to just go in Church, light a candle, and sit in the pew to focus my thoughts and pray, do I?

Well apparently I do. The doors were locked, and I was completely surprised. I thought that as a rule, churches were supposed to stay open (at least during the daytime). But right beside the door was a sign with the operating hours. Apparently, the church closes at 12:30pm. How is this even possible? On a Sunday no less? I'm thinking there must have been some sort of mistake, or am I just disillusioned with my romantic notions of old-school churches and their open door policies?

In the end, I didn't get to go in, and the next closest place of worship was about an hour and a half walking distance. Disappointing to say the least.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life is full of good things, like

The smell of baking bread (yesterday was raisin cinnamon, tonight is berry bread)

Finding a new blog to help you become a better bread baker (

The healing process of a loved one being much faster than anticipated and absolutely without complications

Being finished projects you had no hope of finishing, even if the end product is not up to your expectations, it is still finished

A good night of fun boardgames with close friends

Discovering new tastes (like apple ice cider, mmm)

Listening to Oh Emmanuel, and Ave Maria at work to de-stress

Doing, folding, and putting away freshly done laundry (yup)

A clean house, an empty sink, a counter devoid of clutter

Snow falling

(Fill in the blank)

Times were and are pretty stressful lately, and I feel the need to remind myself that I have good things happening every day. They don't need to be great, but really its all the little good things that make life bearable when that one or two awful thing happen. Life really isn't so dreary, and I need to remember that.