Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taking their skin off

Taking the skin off of plums by hand can be a long task if you've got alot of them to do. 10 lbs to be precise, courtesy of my plum/apple jam from last night. So having learned from my peaches the day prior, I decided to look up how I can do this task more efficiently sans having to buy a machine to do it for me. And I found this technique of boiling and ice water which makes it so fast and so easy I am never going to peel large amounts of fruit by hand again! This technique can be used with tomatoes, peaches, plums and basically any type of fruit/vegetable with a thin skin and fleshy soft interior. I'm going to try it on pears tonight and see if it works on those, since they have more of a fibrous flesh.

Wash and take off the stems, then cut an incision in an X shape on your fruit. It doesn't
have to go very deep, just enough for the skin to be marked.

Then you drop the fruit in a pot of boiling water from 30 seconds to 1 minute, enough for the skin to split open and peel off on its own. This particular plum almost instantaniously split and peeled, while my larger ones took a bit longer than 1 minute. You just have to be careful not to stew your fruit and leave them in there too long.

You then deposit the fruit in a bowl of ice water (note: my ice had almost all melted by the time I took this picture) and leave them there to completely cool down for maybe 5 minutes.

And there you have it, an extremely easy to peel plum ready to be used. This is 100% worth the small effort it took to set it up and then wash afterwards, if only for the fact I dont lose any fruit whatsoever, unlike peeling.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I love how... (part 2)

this (mixture of wild and homegrown blueberries, lemon, mint sprigs)

turns into this

to finish into this (blueberry mint jam)

True Love... again :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

I love how...

this (organic peaches, raspberries, honey wine)

turns into this

which then ends up like this (grown-up blushing peach jam)

True Love.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plastic does not make perfect

I have been trying to remove as many plastic based items in and around my kitchen to replace with organic materials as much as possible, and it has been no easy thing! Its only when we really look with our eyes open, that we seriously see just how much plastic is filling our everyday lives (well, mine at least). From plastic utensils to plastic containers, plastic is everywhere. And that makes me shudder.

You see, in almost all cases, plastic does not biodegrade. It photodegrades, and that is a very scary end result. In simple terms, plastic will eventually (and by eventually I mean that the process can take hundreds of years) break down into small plastic pieces, and never move on from there. These small pieces might then end up pretty much anywhere on our planet, resulting in the death of many animals and sea creatures. It’s actually estimated that over  1 million marine animals and birds die each year from ingesting plastic. Eek!

5gyres says it quite perfectly:

‘ Take a look around you- most of what we eat, drink, or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic- a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we then throw away. This throwaway mentality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a generation ago, we packaged our products in reusable or recyclable materials – glass, metals, and paper, and designed products that would last. Today, our landfills and beaches are awash in plastic packaging, and expendable products that have no value at the end of their short lifecycle. The short-term convenience of using and throwing away plastic products carries a very inconvenient long-term truth. These plastic water bottles, cups, utensils, electronics, toys, and gadgets we dispose of daily are rarely recycled in a closed loop. We currently recover only 5% of the plastics we produce. What happens to the rest of it? Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains “unaccounted for”, lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea.‘

We ARE living in a throwaway culture, which absolutely blows my mind. I mean, apart from the fact that we are literally surrounded by people in need of everything everywhere, we North-Americans are killing our planet much quicker than any other culture or place in the world. How ridiculous is that? Plastic, which is basically designed to be with us forever is being thrown out, and even if recycled, only a tiny bit of it is recoverable!  This makes me want to scream every time I see someone buy a bottle of water and throw it out in the garbage two minutes later.

So following this research, I decided I wanted to quit being a part of this vicious cycle as much as possible. I want to literally rid my kitchen as much as possible of anything and everything plastic. For example, I am getting rid of plastic cutting boards and using only my glass board instead, and trying to replace my plastic cooking tools with ones made of metal or wood. This still leaves me with a dilemma or two. One, what do I do with the things I replace? Do I recycle them or donate them? And two, what about containers, and pots and pans with plastic handles? I would much rather use a container than a Ziploc bag, and apart from iron skillets, I haven’t seen any pots/pans with handles made of other material than plastic (apart from the long metal handles). Hmm.. anyone has any ideas?

Be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I am such a NooB sometimes...

More and more I find that there are so many resources all around me that I never opened my eyes to, or took the time to really get to know. These are so wonderful and full of good things, I can only wonder how I’ve been so darn blind!

Coop La Maison Verte ( – Wow! Can I just say this website is chock-full of goodies? This is THE website for Montreal based information, events, and everything else you can think of. They are there to help you in any way possible to become greener in every aspect. For example, they had a very cheap alternative to rain barrels available, made from recycling olive containers from restaurants. Very interesting resource, and I will definitely be using this in the future!

Hellman’s Real Food Guide ( – 11 pages of info on everything local. The original website is also super informative and useful. The entire website is actually pretty useful as well, you can narrow local search by food type, province and area, and season.

Jardin Des Anges ( - This is basically a home delivery of certified organic produce. You choose the size of your basket, the type of basket, and you can add all kinds of fruits, vegetables, dairy etc. and it will be delivered right to your door. Although it is not completely local, they promote local foods first, and best of all they have a complete list of their suppliers, a blog with fresh ideas, and other things which makes it much easier for a very busy person to eat organic foods.

Marches Publics de Montreal – ( This was a pretty big duh. Ive always wondered what the schedules were, what they were selling there, if it would be worth my time to actually go to one of these when I have the Mercier Market right next to me. This website answered all my questions. I can’t believe I didn’t look this up before!

Montreal Freecycle ( – A freecycle is where people put up what they would want to have or want to give away. If you have what they want, then you give for free, and if you need what they have, you get for for free. Its an awesome philosophy. This website lets you pick your region, and lists every person in that community, what they have/want, and how to contact them. Awesome!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Growing a Native American Garden

The following is a conversation excerpt between a dear friend (whom I met while working in Kahnawake) and myself, on gardening. She is a very experienced grower and has a huge garden full of delicious produce.

Me: I’m having a lot of problems with my jalapenos. I don’t know what else to do, you have any suggestions? They just don’t want to grow!

K: You white people. You’re all the same. Instead of growing weird food, why don’t you try sticking to a Native American garden?

Me: What the heck are you talking about?

K: Jalapenos grow down south, so they belong in the soil down south. You trying to grow them is like trying to force oranges to grow up here, or cactuses. It just doesn’t make sense. You have all these dreams of a huge successful garden when you can’t even realize what belongs in our soil, rather than what you want to grow.

True story. I got owned at my own game. I am always talking about eating local this and buying local that, and here I am trying to grow jalapenos in my garden. Instead of dreaming of big gardens, I should probably just research what grows naturally up here in our beautiful country, and learn about them while growing them. What kind of gardener am I if I am not knowledgeable about our own naturally grown produce, and especially in what season they grow? Shame on me indeed.
I realized I have a lot more to learn when it comes to local. Whether growing , preparing, or consuming, I have a long way to go before I can truly say that my household is as local as I can possibly make it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

That evil thing they call the Pill

A few months before (I believe 6) I decided to become celibate until marriage, which came hand in hand with my decision to stop taking the Pill (I had been on and off for a few months prior). I took more time to research what is was exactly I was ingesting once a day every month. I knew what is was supposed to do – regulate my period, help with acne, actually lighten and ultimately lessen the natural frequency of my period (and I was offered a Pill that would stop my period altogether), and the last type that I used, Yasmin, was even recommended to me by my doctor because it would slow down the growth of body hair.
I always had the conviction that in most cases, our bodies are naturally equipped to fight whatever maladies it could catch, and we have God-made remedies for whatever we needed help with. Filling my bathroom sink with hot water and adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil, putting a towel over my head, and breathing in the steam helps me breathe immensely when I feel an asthma attack coming on. So following that train of thought, I always rebelled on the inside against taking a pill every day. But I did it for two reasons, one everybody did it, and two my doctor told me I should.

Well, I began researching exactly what it was that I was willingly taking, what it did, and the side effects that came along with it. I read that tiny print paper that came in the box. And I became quite horrified at exactly what this thing did to us women. Among the facts collected, I learned that this pill increased the chance of breast cance by 23% (!!), will actually worsen acne until 3 months of continued use, and some hormones within the pill causes depression. And that is just the start if it. If you head over to any of the websites, such as this one, they give you a nice long detailed list of everything that could and has gone wrong. And it sure isnt pretty. They include things like: nausea and vomiting, increased nervousness and paranoia, liver problems and an increased chance of blood clots. Wonderful. Its a wonder the doctors prescribe it at all.
Now enough with my rant about how evil this thing is, on to the point of this whole blog entry. Since quittingthe pill, I have noticed some incredible and positive changes. I cannot absolutely link them to the fact I quit Yasmin, but there had been no change in my diet, exercise pattern, or any other break in my life pattern.
  • My period has seriously decreased in flow. I used to be an extremely heavy bleeder, to the point that my doctor told me to eat more red meat and not even think about donating blood during my time. Night-time extra absorbancy pads became my regular hourly use. Now, I am just a medium flow, and thank God for that!
  • My days have shrunk from 7-8 days to 5 days.
  • I am actually regulating myself! One of the intial reasons why I started taking the pill was because I always had a wacky period, and even though I continued being wacky after I stopped taking the pill, a couple of months ago I noticed that I was able to very closely (within a day or two) predict when I was going to start my cycle. AMAZING!
  • My migraines have completely vanished.
  • The intense cramping, bloating, and back pain has severely decreased. Not completely vanished, but I dont need to take pain meds, or be literally sick from stomach pains.
  • I have lost weight.
  • I have an increase in energy

All to say, I will never be going back on the pill. But I also state that this is my own personal experience, and that each woman should research and pray and talk to docors before taking a decision on what to do. There are a million reasons why one would choose to take or stop the Pill, and to each her own. I personally will never be party to screwing up my own body's natural cycles with willfully ingesting hormones again. And if I have daughters I can only hope I do a good enough job parenting them so that they will reach the same conclusion as I in their adult years.
YE BE WARNED – This entire post deals with feminine issues, the noticeable differences that I have experienced since stopping the Pill. Men and prude women, beware!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Lion King and God.

I was lucky enough to be able to go see the Lion King at Place Des Arts. I have wanted to see this show for maybe 6 years, since I learnt about it. I have always been attracted to musicals, music carries me to places that regular theatre wouldn’t. And what a show it was. From the moment I walked to my seat, my eyes started to water because of the finality of this moment, this much anticipated moment. The tickets cost me about a week’s worth of wages, and they were worth every single penny I scrounged for them. The colors, the songs, the costumes, it was so surreal. I cried and cried my eyes out during the entire time.

But my love for the Lion King goes beyond the Disney movie and the play. I see myself in this storyline. At the very basic, this story is about someone who has everything he could ever want, but wants more and isn’t satisfied. Then, death and guilt, and going through darkness to finally come back to his rightful place in the light. Disney just made it child-friendly with lions and baboons. I see myself in Simba, and the pain and guilt he feels when his father died. The shame he feels while living his ‘Hakuna Matata’ is echoed in my teenager years. There is something beautiful that also resonates with faith in the Broadway show, and it personifies in Rafiki, strangely enough.

Now in the show, Rafiki is not a comical character (well, just a little bit). Rafiki is played by a woman and takes on a much more spiritual role, taking over what would be a woman shaman in Africa. She was the announcer of the news when Simba was born, she presided over Mufasa’s death in a hauntingauthentical African mourning chant, she blesses Nala when she goes leaves the Shadowland as she calls it, and she is the one to show Simba that He is in us, no matter where we go.

Yes, I said He. I see such strong symbolism and paraphrasing with the Lord in the play. Am I taking it too far? Maybe. Perhaps I am just seeing way too much into something that was just meant to be enjoyable and not intellectual. But when I hear this particular song, I can’t help but to see my own experience with accepting the Lord as my savior and into my life. I am far from being able to live my life completely as a good Christian should, but I feel like I am slowly emerging from my own ‘Shadowland’.
'There's no mountain too great, hear the words and have faith. He lives in you, He lives in me. He watches over everything we see. Into the water, into the truth, in your reflection, He lives in you.'  --  He lives in You, from the Lion King Broadway Musical

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 things I have learnt about canning

1.       Heating my pot for the hot water bath treatment takes a long time. I will now always start off by turning on the heat even before I have all my things prepared.

2.       That *POP* sound is so rewarding.

3.       Make the dill mixture for pickling (and get all pickling done) prior to jams and other things. The smell of dill stays on you otherwise, and being told you smell like a pickle is not the most flattering of things.

4.       Always treat extra cans just in case. Also always have different sizes available or you will be stuck putting a quarter cup of blueberry jam in a litre jar. But you can always just use it with yoghurt or ice cream as a reward for all that hard work J

5.       Put the cans on the rack and then insert in the water. Duh. Also ouch.

6.       You could can just about everything, so its easy to get carried away (and forget just how little storage you truly have)

7.       Peas, corn, and lima beans expand rather than shrink in the heating process. That wasn't a pretty sight.

8.       You don’t have to process jam, you just have to turn it upside down. Beautiful.
9.    You need to literally stuff peppers until they are so crammed that you cannot possibly shove another piece in or else they will shrink and make you look like a newb with all that extra space.
10.   Canning is extremely addictive. So be warned. Now Im off to make some peach pie filling...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Poem of the Month - Making a Difference

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with children.
He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided their best option in life was to become a daycare provider?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about daycare providers:
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, watch kids."
To stress his point he said to another guest;
"You're a babysitter, Susan.
Be honest.
What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
"If you really want to know what I make,
I will tell you.
I make kids play harder than they ever thought they could.
I make a completed art project feel
like winning the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I make kids share, speak kindly
and be accountable for their actions.

"You want to know what I make?
I make kids wonder.
I make them question.
I make them try.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them understand that if you use your brains,and follow your heart, you can accomplish anything.
I make them know they are important and loved.
I make them know they are special.
I make them know if someone ever tries to judge them by what they make, they must pay no attention because that person just didn't learn."
Susan paused and then continued.
"You really want to know what I make?"

"What do you make?"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I had a productive day

I baked and cleaned and organized. Finished two letters that I had been meaning to get to for a looong time. I did some more wedding things, and stored about half our collection of movies to make room for our couch. Read and made tea. Researched the benefits of honey and how to incorporate this wonderful substance into more of my cooking/baking. And finally, I purchased some (very discounted) seeds for next year, mason jars which were on (super) special, and am planning my canning/pickling adventures.

I am sure that I am once again over-eager and am 'planning' to do much more than I will be able to get done, but that's just the way I roll. Starting this weekend, Les MarchĂ©s Roussillon ChampĂȘtre is happening in Chateauguay, which is perfect timing for getting fresh and local fruits and vegetables for my canning time. And not to mention much cheaper than grocery stores, with question marks as to where the food came from and what happened to it.

So along with the fruit ketchup and the beets I will be doing with my mother and grandmother in a few weeks, I want to pickle cucumbers, onions, and peppers, can some garden salsa, tomato sauce, jams of varied types, and a couple of pie fillings.

I have no idea where I will store all of this, but I will find room and/or donate what I can't store. Perfect gifts!

Monday, August 1, 2011

24 years ago

or so I looked like this

What a miracle human life, development, and growth is. We will never be able to comprehend this complexity, this enormity, this perfectly imperfectly thing that is human life. Just contemplating it staggers me. In another 24 years, I will be 48. What/where/who will I be?