Thursday, 30 August 2012


I know I haven't been posting these lately.  I've been neglect....  Actually, I've just been busy.  I have a full-time day job, and its that time of year when everyone takes vacation time and I've been covering for everyone.  We all know what that's like.  So I've been coming home tired and a little stressed, and I just haven't had the desire to talk about much of anything, and the meals I've been preparing have been very simple, as you will see.  There just hasn't been any new recipes to blog because I haven't really created much of anything.

So here's what we're up to this week.  I know, I know, the week is halfway over already.  But if you're struggling to throw together easy meals, if the weekly grind of thinking up menus for the week is getting you down, know I'm right there with you.  I lucked out that this week, both roast beef and pork shoulder were on sale.

  • Crockpot Pot Roast--I'm even going to boil just a couple of potatoes to go with the carrots in the roast...
  • Crockpot Chicken Divan
  • Crispy Chicken Thighs  with carrot pudding from PaleOMG here
  • Crockpot Pork Shoulder with scalloped veg
  • Offal-ly Good Loaf with saute'ed zucchini and tomatoes
  • Breakfast for Dinner (but we forgot to buy peameal, so we just took leftover roast and potato and sautee'd them, them turned it into a big scramble-up and it was really, really good!)
So that's it for this week.  I'm making smoothies this week for breakfasts, with 2 raw eggs in each one!  Nothing bad has happened yet.  And I'm eating yogurt with home made strawberry-vanilla grain-free granola on the days I don't want smoothies.  Just because.

I'm sending my son off to University this weekend.  Its a bit stressful, too, making sure he has everything he needs when money just doesn't flow freely.  Its ridiculously expensive to send a kid away to University--$20,000/year--did you know that?  Holy money stress there, batman.  Loads of last-second issues keep popping up.  And I've had to deal with my ex- a lot more than I normally like to, in order to co-ordinate this (co-ordinate is a nice word, I won't use the real words that are popping into my head right now).  Needless to say, there will likely be a fair amount more wine this weekend than is normal for me, probably more stress-eating than is appropriate, and maybe even a few non-paleo foods thrown in.  But....I.....will....survive it.....Lol.  

Monday, 20 August 2012


Yes, I did make kombucha.  I made kombucha soda.

Sometimes you just have to try things, to test to see if you can do it for yourself.  

I've fallen in love with kombucha.  Sure, our caveman ancestors did not drink this--but at some point in time our ancestors discovered the beautiful art of fermentation and made other things, great things not unlike this.  In fact, that is how we discovered alcohol.  

So why kombucha?  Kombucha is both sweet and sour.  To me, it tastes like watery beer with juice added to it.  The fermentation gives it a natural fizz a little like soda pop but without all the harmful chemicals.  Kombucha solved 2 issues for me.  1) I had a diet coke addiction, long time ago, and I really missed the fizzy, sweet taste with my lunchtime meal.  And 2)  Motility!  Yes, fermented foods help speed up motility.  Lets just say that you drink a cupful of this stuff, eat your meal, and around a half hour later, you get to use the bathroom.  Nothing painful.  This is not a high-powered laxative, I promise you.  It just...helps my stomach feel much better.  And unlike soda pop, it does not make me feel bloated after I drink it.  Win-win.

If you've never had kombucha before, I recommend you buy a bottle and give it a try first.  Make sure you really enjoy it before you go to the trouble of making your own.  The problem is that kombucha is both expensive (around $3 per bottle) and inconvenient to buy because its not available at your local Mac's Milk--you have to make a trip to your local health food store.  Try to find raw and organic plain kombucha, because you'll need a bottle of it to get this started if you do decide to make your own.

So, kombucha is pretty simple to make.  What makes it daunting to most people is the TIME it takes.  You have to wait for it.  You have to plan for it.  We do like our modern conveniences and fast foods, don't we?  If you're making traditional kombucha and you already have a SCOBY, it takes about a week.  What's a SCOBY, you ask?  It stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  It's your active bacteria starter; all fermented foods need a starter of some sort.  Your SCOBY is a funky-looking creamy off-white disc of weirdness that will freak out your children and spouse if they've never seen a ferment of this kind before.  My teens desperately want to poke my SCOBY with a stick.  But I won't let them.

So first you need a SCOBY.  What, don't have one?  Do you have a friend with one?  Me, neither.  Had to make my own.  Don't worry.  It's not hard.  But it takes extra time (darn).  

I found all my info at Food Renegade.  She makes it really user-friendly so do take a cruise around her website, you'll learn something new.  The first thing I needed to know was how to make a SCOBY which I learned from here.  Basically you boil up some tea, add sugar, let it go cold, add your bottle of store bought raw unflavored kombucha, and then you wait.  It takes anywhere from 1 1/2 week to 3 weeks to grow a SCOBY.  It's summer here, though, and despite my house having central air conditioning, it only took about 1 1/2 weeks. 

This is a terrible pic, I know.  But here's my SCOBY growing in an old pickle jar that I washed out, with a tea towel and rubber band ontop of it to keep the flies out.  Yes, flies love this stuff.  I originally used several layers of cheesecloth and came home to fruit flies one day touching my SCOBY.  So don't do that.

So this step required 
  • a bottle of store bought raw, organic plain kombucha
  • a cup of tea with 1 Tbs plain white sugar stirred into it, and 
  • a clean jar, tea towel and rubber band.
my SCOBY set aside with a bit of the brew
I used ordinary store-bought orange pekoe tea.  I used ordinary tap water.  And you HAVE to use real sugar--it's what feeds the bacteria, and it's almost gone from the end product, so don't sweat it.  Honey will not do.  Yea, I had to go out and buy some sugar too.  My kitchen had been sugar-free for a year until I started with the 'booch.  
So then I waited.  Meantime, I went in search of a 1-gallon glass container for the next step.  I found one at The Real Canadian Superstore.  I think it's a glass cookie jar, but it's perfect.

Then, when my SCOBY was nice and thick, I moved onto making kombucha.  

This required
  • making a gallon of strong tea in my glass jar, then adding 1 cup of sugar into it and stirring to dissolve the sugar
  • I let it cool completely (or the heat will kill the SCOBY); once cooled, I added about a cup of bottled kombucha from the store (this is the last one you'll ever need to buy) and added the SCOBY to it
  • then I covered it again with a towel and elastic and I waited.
My SCOBY sank to the bottom the first time I did this.  It doesn't matter if it floats or sinks.  I let it brew for 7 days, pulled out a straw (and moved the top "skin" out of the way) and tasted it, decided I wanted a bit more sour, so I let it go another day.  The second time I brewed this stuff, I stopped at seven days.  So remember to always taste it on day seven.  Meantime, I went out and bought a bunch of mason jars.  I wanted to make kombucha soda.

If all you want is classic, plain kombucha, then you're almost done.  When it tastes the way you like it, pour your kombucha into the mason jars and seal tightly.  Apparently the metal can taint the brew so don't put so much in that it touches the top.  Always leave an inch for expansion/carbonation anyways or your kombucha could become explosive.  Make sure it's sealed tight to keep the fizz in.  If you want more fizz, simply leave the tightly sealed container out of the fridge for a couple of more days.  Start testing it after 2 days, but some people leave it out up to another week; it depends on how sweet or sour or fizzy you want it to be.  Then put it all in the fridge to enjoy as you like.  Remember to reserve about 1-2 cups of the old brew to store your SCOBY in until you're ready to do another brew.  Store your SCOBY in some of the liquid, sealed tight, in a dark cupboard if you are going to make another batch in a week or two; if you aren't going to make more for a longer period than that, store the SCOBY in the fridge the same way.  It should keep for a couple of week in the cupboard, or several months in the fridge if tightly sealed.

See the skin on the top?  Eww, but important.
If you are moving onto soda, go here for detailed instructions, but simply stated,
  • I used 4x 1-litre mason jars
  • you need juice--pure, unsweetened juice.  Apple and grape work best for this.  I used Welch's Real Grape (100% juice, no sugar added)  Avoid anything with pulp.  Too gross.  
  • into each jar, pour up to 1/3 cup of the juice or chopped up fruit.  I wanted multiple flavors  so I added frozen fruit in the 1/3 measuring cup, then filled all the space in the measuring cup with the grape juice.  As long as it still amounts to about 1/3 cup of add-in.  You could use flavoured tea that you've allowed to cool--but remember to add some sugar again to feed it.  (You don't need sugar if you're adding fruit or juice, it has enough natural sugar to finish the job at this point).  You could use herbal tea for the kombucha once you have a SCOBY-- its up to you.  You could make a whole bunch of single-size crazy flavors  just adjust the amount of juice add-in accordingly to your size jar.
  • top up the jar with your kombucha.  Leave a tiny amount of air space at the top.  Seal it tightly.  Let it sit on the counter, out of sunlight, for 2 more days or longer.  
  • now stick it in your fridge.  Cool completely.  You're done.
Ready for 2nd brew--already there's fizz on the 3rd jar.

Because of the berries in my booch, I poured out mine through a metal strainer each time I poured myself a glass of it.  I just dumped the berries right back in the brew.  I don't know if you can eat the berries--but why not, right?  I'll have to try it.  Maybe its just like fermented pickles.  I'm going to have to try it.  I made whatever fruit flavors I had on-hand, which happened to be blueberry-grape, raspberry-grape, cranberry-grape, and rhubarb-grape.  That's just what I found in the bottom of my freezer.  God only knows how old those cranberries were.  But they were all great.  I have to say that I loved the rhubarb the best.  It had the most fizz and the flavor was only mildly sweet.  The blueberry was the sweetest, and the least fizzy.  I don't know why.  Maybe I didn't seal that jar very tight on the second ferment. 

Sealed jars, to sit for at least 2 days
I drank my booch for the next week, testing all the flavors before I started a new batch.  I shouldn't have waited.  I ran out of booch and had to wait for the ferment to hurry up and be done.  Silly me.  But basically, this time around, I made my gallon of sweetened tea, let it cool completely, then dumped the SCOBY and the juice it was stored in, into the jar and covered it tightly.  No need for more store-bought kombucha this time.  My only costs from this point on are the tea bags, white sugar, and juice or berries if I want soda.

On my second round of kombucha, I read that strawberry and citrus can be very, very fizzy because of the citric acid.  So the amber coloured bottle has a candied ginger slice and a couple of splashes of lemon juice--maybe 2 tablespoons worth, and no grape juice.  Apparently the high-acid ones can be a bit combustible so I'll have to keep an eye on it.  It might require burping so it doesn't explode on opening.  We'll see.

The Food Renegade even has a handy-dandy Q&A page here to help with any questions or problems.  Personally, my booch wasn't quite as fizzy as the store-bought variety, but I doubt I closed my jars as tight as I should have on the second brew.  If that doesn't fix the problem, I hear Crate & Barrel sells those rubber-flip-top bottles that hold the seal better than mason jars.  Because I love my booch.  And I refuse to pay $3 a bottle any more.

So a fast review (if you already have a SCOBY)

  1. Make 4L of tea and add 1 c white sugar, let go cold
  2. Add SCOBY and juices it was stored in
  3. Cover with tea towel and elastic, let sit on counter out of sunlight for 7 days
  4. Bottle and either refrigerate, or move onto 2nd ferment...
2nd ferment (soda stage)
  1. Pour 1 c kombucha into a old jar and put your SCOBY in it, seal and store or return to step 1 above
  2. Pour remaining kombucha into prepared jars, either seal as is, or add up to 1/3 c juice or berries, then seal it up tight
  3. Let sit on counter for another 2-4 days
  4. Move into fridge and enjoy

 Ready on my next batch, this time immediately after pouring out my last batch into its 2nd ferment.  I just have to let this tea cool before adding the SCOBY back in.  Hmmm.  What flavours shall I make next time?  Any ideas?

***Follow-Up:  I've been making kombucha for a couple of months now.  So a few things I've learned/changed since then:

  • I tried making a batch with "lemon zinger" tea and I hated it.  They say that if you're going to use herbal teas, either use half black tea with it, or have a second SCOBY around in case you kill yours by mistake.  The best kombucha is made with black tea, but I hear that white tea and green teas work, even if they do stain your SCOBY.
  • My favorite is still lemon and candied ginger, but for my latest batch, I tried throwing a bunch of mixed berries into the first ferment instead of the second, then strained them out before the second ferment which I sealed tightly and let sit for 3 days.  Fizziest, nicest tasting brew yet (though the berries did stain my SCOBY)
  • The pro's do warn you to not use citrus fruit or ginger with the SCOBY as it can harm or kill the SCOBY, so if you're going to try adding lemon or orange slices to the FIRST ferment (like Kombucharista does--check her out on Facebook) please have a second SCOBY available just in case.....
  • I used to place a slice of waxed paper under the lid rim to keep the metal from tainting the kombucha, but the two never touch each other, so I stopped.  The batches are much fizzier without using the waxed paper because I get a better airtight seal on my second ferment without it.
  • I didn't like apple juice in my kombucha.  I find apple juice has a slightly metallic taste that is just magnified in the kombucha.  I tried it with cherry juice which I found raw at MacMillans Orchards in Ajax (they have loads of RAW juices there, check them out); it was a bit mild for my tastes.  I still want to try pomegranate juice.  

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Classic Stewed Zucchini and Meatballs

Yesterday was one of those "remember why you went paleo" days.  I ate bad things, I suffered.  It wasn't pretty.  Sometimes we need those.  Its a little like hitting a "reset" button.

Did you see the pic of the zucchini I posted on my FB page?  It was HUGE!  Longer than my forearm and more than twice as thick.  That's the problem with buying zucchini local and in season.  Those things get ridiculously huge, and then you have to eat it all week long, because they don't store well either.  But at the local market (I went to Stroud Farms), they were 2/$5.  So I was only going to buy one, but then I saw the yellow ones, equally huge, and thought---hmmmm, could I make a paleo friendly mac and cheese with yellow zucchini?  So now I have two of those beasts, and my "things with zucchini" week began.

Have you made my zesty italian dressing yet (recipe here)?  No?  Have you ever used salad dressing to saute things with? It adds an incredible amount of flavour to foods, a whole new (and simple) level of flavour.  AND you can use the leftover spice blend to sprinkle ontop of meats, too.  It goes great as a spice rub on chicken.  It makes an awesome flavour enhancement to tomato sauce.

This is a really simple recipe.  Its honestly just meatballs, tomato sauce, zucchini and red peppers.  Remember the old formula; meat, veg, and seasoning.  Everything else is just flavour enhancement and optional.

Also, you could make your own tomato sauce for this, whatever way you like yours, but this is the one I use most often on all MY things italian-ish...  And if you choose to consume dairy without fear, then try the recipe with 1/4 c parmesan in the meatballs and skip the hemp hearts altogether.  I made it that way the first time and it was the best meatball recipe ever.  I just don't always love diary.  I was recovering from crap food last night and didn't want to push my luck.

So here's what I did last night.

Classic Stewed Zucchini and Meatballs

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 5-6 servings


1 1/2 lbs ground meat
1 small or 1/3 large mild onion, minced
1/8 c real parmesan cheese (optional)
1/8 c hemp hearts
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp fennel seeds
salt and pepper 

Mix all ingredients and form into 1 1/2 - 2 inch meatballs--no bigger or they will be impossible to turn over in the frypan.

Zucchini and Sauce
1 lb zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small or 1/3 large mild onion, chopped
1 large can (680ml) tomato sauce
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs zesty italian dressing (or cooking oil)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
hemp heart to garnish


So first things first.  Prep.  You already have your meatballs formed, right?  Now, get your zucchini, onions and pepper cut up and ready to go.  Next, heat up a really large frypan over med-high.  Next, saute the onions and peppers in a bit of the zesty italian dressing for 5 minutes.  Add your zucchini and saute for about 2 minutes more.  The zucchini will only be halfway cooked, don't worry.  Now remove it from the pan and set aside.  Let the pan get good and hot again.  

When it's really hot, sear your meatballs in a bit of the zesty italian dressing, or in some cooking oil of your choice.  They don't need to cook through yet.  Don't worry.  Once they're seared a bit, add balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce and spices.  Turn the heat down to just below medium, cover, and let it simmer until the meatballs are cooked through.  If you're in a real rush, skip the searing of the meatballs as they will cook just fine in the sauce.  But searing does impart a better flavour if you DO have time.

When meatballs are no longer pink and sauce is beginning to thicken, add zucchini mix and cook 5 minutes more or until zucchini is al-dente.  Done. Garnish with hemp hearts or additional parmesan when serving. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Creamy Tomato Chicken Spaghetti

Thank you again Kraft Kitchens for giving me so many neat ideas and inspiring this recipe...

Sometimes the best food is fast and simple.  This recipe is creamy and filling, but deceptively easy and fast to whip up.  I love dishes that can be prepared in a half hour or less.  And I love recipes that use only a few ingredients. 

So first things first.  Do you have the Zesty Italian Dressing already whipped up?  No?  Ok, so that's step 1.  Don't worry.  It takes like 3 minutes to prepare.  And its the simplest, tastiest "zesty" Italian dressing you will ever make. 

Zesty Italian Dressing:

1/2 Tbs garlic salt
1/2 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs Cajun spice
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp ground celery seed

Mix spices in a small spice jar.

In a 1-cup mason jar, or any old glass salad dressing jar you have saved from your past life, mix

1/4 c red wine vinegar (purists can use ACV)
1/3 c light-tasting EVOO
1-2 Tbs water
2 tsp honey
2 Tbs of the spice mix you just made

Tastes even better next day.  This will keep in your fridge for a long time, but its so versatile, it won't last that long.  Use the extra/leftover spice blend in any recipe that calls for Italian seasoning.  This blend has a bit more kick; I think you'll like that.

Alright, now onto the real thing....

Creamy Tomato Chicken Spaghetti

makes 5-6 hearty servings
ready in 30 minutes


1 spaghetti squash
1 green pepper, chopped
1/3 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
5 Tbs "zesty Italian dressing", divided
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
small pkg goat cheese
Parmesan, to taste


Stab spaghetti squash all  over and place in microwave-safe dish; cook in microwave for 8 minutes.  Uncover, open up to cool slightly, and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs of zesty Italian dressing in large fry pan over med-high heat.  Saute chicken, onions and green pepper until chicken is no longer pink.  Stir in tomatoes and the remaining 3 Tbs zesty Italian dressing.  Simmer on med-high for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down and begin to turn into chunky sauce.

While your sauce is simmering,  take a fork to your spaghetti squash and separate it into spaghetti threads.  You may need to wear an oven mitt to hold onto the hot squash peel.  Set spaghetti aside.

Reduce heat to med-low, add goat cheese to skillet and stir until cheese melts and sauce becomes a creamy pink.  Stir in spaghetti squash and remove from heat.

Serve with a tiny bit of Parmesan, if you roll that way.

Enjoy the quiet dinner.  Everyone will be eating.  No one will be complaining.  About anything.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Love the Place you Live

Let me tell you a little story about why I love my home, this town, and this province so much.  One of the things I wanted to do when I started blogging was to encourage people to get outside, wherever they are, and enjoy the land surrounding them.  Locals are always the worst at knowing what gems lay in their own hometown.  So to some degree, this blog is purely gratuitous.  Its me talking about what I want to talk about.  But I'm also hoping to inspire you to get outside and DO ANYTHING.  Here in the Toronto region, we get warm weather from about June 1st to mid-September.  By August, you can already feel the cooler evenings settling in, start to wake up to darkening mornings and see the sun going down faster.  Any weekend in September that's hot enough to swim is a precious gift.  last year summer only lasted for 1 month, but then our Thanksgiving in October brought weather back that was warm enough to swim in (so we did).  Summer is short here, it's intensely hot and humid, and winter is always just around the corner.  So get outside already, and savour the last few nice days while you still can.

Ahem, still with me?  Along that line, let me tell you what I did on my last stat holiday (this past Monday)...

Throughout all of the province of Ontario, there are approximately 250,000 bodies of water that are classified as lakes, more than 4,000 of them considered to be navigable by boat.  So you see, Ontario is a land of water almost as much as it is land.  Most of this water is in the distant north, many hours drive away from the Toronto region where I am.  But within an easy 2 hour drive heading north and east is the whole "Kawartha Region" which includes about 16 very large freshwater lakes all of which are settled with hundred and hundreds of cottages.  Every single one of these 16 lakes are within a 2 hour drive of my home.  And running through this cottage country is the Trent-Severn.  At some point in history, someone had the brilliant idea of connecting most of these lakes using existing rivers within the watershed, and some man-made canals.  They are connected through a system of "locks" that accomodate the varying water levels and eliminate any un-navigable rapids.  You can take a boat, even a 35-40 foot cruiser, all the way from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay 386 km, or 240 miles). 

So for those of us with a boat, cruising the Trent-Severn is a popular hobby.  And there are a considerable amount of us with boats.  Maybe not cabin cruisers, no, but motorized boats nonetheless.  When I go jogging in my neighborhood, in fact, I pass at least 6 boats just within the 5 km radius of my run.  And those are just the boats that are stored on driveways.  There is a whole boat-storage industry out there making a mint off of people just like you or me, who can afford NOT to store it on their driveway.

This is my picture-story of our last cruise.  For those of you without a boat, it is a perspective you just won't see elsewhere.  Just because I love the water, I love this province, and and hopefully everyone in the GTA will see this and appreciate what we've got.  (And maybe also so that everyone else who thinks its all snow and cold, crappy weather here gets to see otherwise...)

Add caption

So this is the whole Trent-Severn.  From Lake Ontario, which is so huge that you cannot see the other side due to the curvature of the earth, all the way to Georgian Bay.  My hometown of Ajax is on Lake Ontario somewhere off this map due south of Beaverton.  I'd say its a 2 hour drive to Trenton, its a 2 hour drive to Bobcaygeon, and a 2 hour drive to that part of Georgina Bay from my house.  Roads don't go straight, or over the water for that matter.

We put in at Port Perry on Lake Scugog, on the far side of the "island" (so the second south tip on the map), and we went up to Bobcageon and back.  That's all you can accomplish in a day. 

On the right, I took this shot just as we pulled out of the marina.  The water channel goes all the way up into the farthest point of sight, then turns left down a river.  This is looking due north on the map to the northernmost tip of the lake.
See all the cottages on the shoreline?  They absolutely cover the whole perimeter of the lake.  Scugog has a brownish tinge to the water because even though its around 68 km square, it's average depth is only 1.6m (5').   It is all sand under there. 

Who knows this saying, "Red, right, return?"  The waterway is channel-marked with red and green buoys.  Its like driving on  a highway sometimes, there are so many boats.  This was taken on the way out, so the red buoy is to our left side.
 Now, I don' know about you, but if I lived on the Trent-Severn, where property values are through-the-roof expensive, I'd have some house-pride.  Not this guy on the left.  He has about 30 fish heads nailed to his boathouse all around the Canadian flag.  Ugh.  This is on the canal leading into Lindsay.

 Coming into the first set of locks in Lindsay.  This is where it gets neat,  if you've never seen  locks.  One of my favorite things about Lindsay?  Clock tower chimes.  There are about 4 in town that all chime on the hour and half-hour, each slightly out of sync with the next one.  Most towns don't let you sound the church chimes anymore.  But Lindsay does.  I lived here for a couple of years while I was in college.
 This pic was taken from inside the lock, looking back behind us at the next boat that is following us in.
 Looking forwards, through the other side of the lock, you can see how much lower the water is.
 So this is a manual lock.  Many are hydrolic now, but this one is still manual.  So they have to crank the gates closed by hand.  What a summer job to have, cranking locks all day in the sunshine...  Nice, cushy government job...  You can see the cables that run down into the locks for boats to loop onto while being lowered down so we're not all playing bumper boats.
Steve's just holding the rope and waiting for the water to drop. The man behind him is cranking open the water channels.  See how cushy her job is?  She gets to watch him open the water channels.
 When the water drops, it exposes all kinds of guck.  Here, slime and zebra mussels.  Totally invasive species all over the Trent-Severn.  Do you have zebra mussels where you are?  They suck.  They're ridiculously sharp and they'll cut your feet open if you step on them.  But apparently they also filter and clean the water, so we can't totally hate them. 
 See how far down we had to come?  Opening the locks on the other side.
 Just us and one other boat this time.  Check out the water and sludge line.  Ewww.  We drop about 8-10 feet on this lock.  The one in Fenlon Falls drops almost 20 feet.  Its a pretty freaky view from the bottom of the locks.
Ok, so coming out of Lindsay onto Sturgeon Lake, you see  all kinds of these--cottages built on stilts in the middle of the cattails, no where near the land.  So many of them are crumbling, rotting, and falling back into the water.  I don't know what posessed people to build in the middle of the lake here... right on the channel...
But two cottages got it right; houses on stilts with floating docking.  Miles from land.  That's all cattails and marsh behind them.
 Coming into Bobcaygeon.  Sturgeon is deep and cold and choppy water, but very, very blue.  Here in the bay, its a lot calmer (but there's a breaker wall just in case).  You're getting into Canadian Shield here, so you start to see nothing but rock further north of here.  Still, there's a sandy beach on the right.

 I had to make this one big enough to see.  In the distance is the next lock at Bobcaygeon, and on either side of the channel, dozens and dozens of boats waiting to come and go from the lock system, boaters who just cruised into town to shop and get ice cream, and even to camp on  the lawn and continue on their journey tomorrow.

Ah, cottaging done right--on the island, just 100 meters from the locks and the centre of town....

So that's my tour of a day's boating on the Trent-Severn.  We've had a really great, really hot summer this year.  Monday brought a slightly cooler day-- 26 degrees celcius most of the day, a light breeze coming off the water.  Not a cloud  in the sky.

Not a bad day to put the boat in the water.

So, now its your turn.  What did you do in your hometown or region this past weekend?  What do you love about the place you live in?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Can't Believe it's Eggplant Bake

The original idea for this recipe came from the US version of Kraft's "What's Cooking" online.  I know, its surprising that they came up with anything that included a single whole food; they are the epitome of processed foods and all that is wrong with the foods we eat today.  But lets not be so mean to Kraft.  They put out a lot of recipes that look so tasty that I have to look up what the original idea was behind their recipe and try to duplicate the thought with whole ingredients.

Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of eggplant.  I could take it or leave it.  I like it more than brussels sprouts, but less than zucchini.  But I'm on a mission to get as much variety of fruits and veggies into me and my family as possible.  In this day and age, there is no reason NOT to try something new and raise your family with a broad range of tastes and food knowledge.  So there it is; you could use zucchini in this recipe, and it might be totally delicious, but I already cook a lot with zucchini, so I used eggplant.  Sometimes it feels like all we eat is this rotation of zucchini, cauliflower, carrots and squash.

This dish is a bit like a lasagna, but not nearly as time-involving nor as cheesy.  It is definitely comfort food, and (if doubled) looks pretty enough to serve to non-paleo guests.   If you really wanted to make it special, you should try roasting your eggplant (or zucchini) slices first for a richer flavour.  For me, at least on a weekday, that would add way too much time to this, but it would certainly make it even more delicious.

So here's what I did....

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking Time:  45 minutes


1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
1/3 large sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbs italian seasoning
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large can tomato sauce
3 sundried tomatoes, chopped
splash balsamic vinegar
1 pkg mushrooms
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced thin
4 giant olives, sliced
3/4 c mozzarella
4 Tbs Parmesan
garlic powder


This is easier than it looks, I promise.  Throw your beef into a fry pan with the chopped onions and saute until no longer pink.  While this is cooking, prep everything else; whip out your mandoline and slice up your peeled eggplant.  Slice your mushrooms, chop your sundried tomatoes and olives.  Shred your mozzarella.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

When your meat is cooked through, add tomato sauce, italian seasoning, fresh garlic, splash of balsamic vinegar and sundried tomatoes.  Simmer on med-low for a few minutes while you whip out a large lasagna dish and grease it with some kind of fat.  I like to use bacon grease for this.  Layer in 1/2 of your sliced eggplant, 1/2 of your meat sauce, 1/2 of your mozzarella, 1/2 Parmesan and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder.  Now layer on ALL of your mushrooms.  Repeat with rest of eggplant, sauce, cheeses and garlic.  Carefully sprinkle your olives overtop of everything evenly.

Cover with aluminum foil (or lid).  Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover.  Bake for 15 minutes more.  You're done.  If you can stand it, let it sit on the stovetop for a few minutes before serving.  I can't usually wait, so I don't.  But I know I SHOULD.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

This is MY Paleo and I'll Rant if I Want To...

Today is my 1-year paleo anniversary.  The date is a little ambiguous.  I recall at around this time last year telling my husband that "I found this really neat website--you gotta look at it--called Mark's Daily Apple."  And so it began. 

When I commit to something, I jump in with two feet.  There was no hesitation, or waiting for a nice round number to roll around.  There was no marking of the calendar.  I liked what I read.  I threw us all into it together.  And I have never since stopped reading, no, devouring, everything that I can find on the subject.  Every science article, every blog, every book I can get my hands on. 

And I have only once in the past year looked back and wondered what I'm doing here.  It was in the recovery aftermath of my burst appendix.  But the surgeon, that anonymous and worldly man, heard my question about how that came to happen to me and said without a second of hesitation that "no, avoiding grains and processed foods did not do this.  Years and years of constipation did this.  If not eating grains is what ended this problem for you, then I'd say you're doing exactly the right thing now, and its just bad luck that it only came to a head now when you've resolved the problem."  Ok, I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.  And so I ploughed forward, never again hesitating.

So buckle up your seat belts, folks, this is gonna be a long one....

I'm one of those people that has to question everything.  Everything.  I was that annoying kid in school with a million questions.  And over this year, as my body has healed, it has also allowed to bubble to the surface new issues and challenges that maybe were always there, but went unnoticed with all the louder, more apparent problems that got dealt with first.  So my experimentation continues, and will likely continue, forever.

I hear it a lot.  The ominous question, "Is this paleo?"  I understand the confusion with a lot of the more unusual foods out there, the desire to walk the 'straight and narrow' and follow some invisible set of clear-cut guidelines and either be 'right' or 'wrong'.  But what if there is no right or wrong, and only a lot of 'not great' and 'it depends' and 'better'?

What, really, is paleo?  The longer I live this lifestyle and the more I read about it, the more I have come to understand that paleo is not a clearly defined thing.  It is organic and changing.  It is by far the most miss-labelled "diet" to come into being to date.  Is paleo only eating the foods that our ancestors ate?  I think not.  In fact, I know not.  That would rule out cows, chickens and pigs, lets be honest here.  It might include bison, though, and small game similar to rabbit and wild fowl.  In truth, most of what our ancestors ate does not exist today.

Nothing opens us up to more ridicule than trying to define paleo to someone as "Eating what our ancestors ate."  The idea that we want to eat just like cavemen did is ludicrous.  I certainly did not sign up for a lifestyle that includes a morning walk to check my snares for small game, followed by adding water to last nights stew and scraping out the leftover bits, followed up digging around in the dirt for some tubers to add to the pot tonight while the men go hunting for something bigger.  No, that's not the point of paleo at all.  But all the labels "ancestral" and "caveman" and "paleo" and "primitive" draw up this kind of imagery that the non-paleo world can't help but sneer at.

Why, oh why, did we have to call this a "paleo" diet?  Ok, so the "leptins will cause cancer and grains are the root of all evil" diet won't do us any justice, either.  But how about calling this the "whole food movement", or a "grain-free clean eating" diet?  Heck, even the "only foods without ingredient labels" diet would garner less ridicule from the outside world.

There's a lot of science out there right now about food and nutrition , about insulin and leptins and leaky guts and inflammation.  What the whole paleo movement is trying to do is teach us now to eat for health and healing ourselves, to fix what we've broken with our modern-day diets.  The paleo diet teaches us that all the foods we eat will either heal and nourish, or they will harm.  It advocates eating only the things that we know will nourish, and the only way to know what is in any food we eat is to eat like we did before food processing became rampant, to eat whole foods with known origins.  No matter what kind of diet a person follows, its hard to argue that sugar and over-processing should be avoided.  Any nutritionist will tell you that whether or not they agree with the paleo ethos.  Heck, any vegan or raw foodie will also tell you that.  Because of the commonality of those points, we really aught to be starting our explanations of our diet with those points--whole food, clean food, locally grown food, humanely raised meats.  There are so many aspects of this paleo thing that are just intuitive and sensible that we can save the no-grains slap in the face for the end, don't you think?  How about how we advocate more sleep and less stress, functional exercise movements and getting outside to play?  And how about that fat is now known to be good?  I don't know a man out there that can't be sold on that point alone.  But all these other things get completely lost in translation as soon as you say "we don't eat grains".  I think we really dropped the ball on that one.

When it comes to food, many of us are as guilty of this definition as laymen are.  We still feel the need to ask the burning question, "but is this paleo?"  When we really should only be asking ourselves, "Is this healthy?"  Even we are getting caught up in that translation and can't see the forest for the trees.

Mark Sisson does this great series called "Is it Primal?"  (Am I about to bash Mark Sisson?  Hell no--I LOVE this series!)  Despite the catchphrase title, he's really just asking "Are these unusual foods still healthy?"  In it, he dissects the nutrition behind a lot of confusing foods.  There are so many foods out there that in no way fit under the paleo banner, but are also not terribly harmful, either.  The idea that we can't eat it just because our ancestors didn't is crazy, and terribly limiting (and variety is they key to life, isn't it?)  Take raw milk, for example, or natural yogurt.  It's pretty unlikely paleolithic man had it.  But their gut-health-promoting and immunity-boosting benefits makes them hard to ignore.  Recently, Mark took on edamame.  You'd think that one was a no-brainer. ( wait a minute--why is soy a no-no food?  Read the article and see why edamame gets an "ok on occasion" pass from him.  He similarly recognises cashews, which are neither nut nor legume, and mead, cod liver oil, V8 juice, agave nectar and other foods that we are either erroneously including or excluding from our diets just because of our narrow-mindedness and naivete.  

I personally just want to eat foods that make me healthy, and avoid those foods that I understand to be unhealthy.  That is my paleo.  I want to eat yogurt and kefir, kombucha and maybe a potato now and then (because paleolithic man not only had tubers like potatoes, but the potato is so incredibly sustaining that it fed a nation throughout a famine, so lets not ignore this awesome food, ok?)  I will do my best to avoid grains and processed foods and hidden sugar.  I will eat my weight in non-starchy vegetables and I will continue to fight my sweet tooth with every ounce of my being.  Because these are the things that I have found make me feel healthy inside.  They make me feel this way not because someone has told me so, but because I have tested every theory, included and excluded every food that I could think of.  I know through experimentation that I do not have any FODMAP sensitivity.  That I do not get bloated from eating eggs but that too many nuts is a bad thing.  I know that too many fruits makes me lose control and stuff sweetness into my mouth until I feel sick, but too few carbs makes me lethargic and cranky and head achy.  I know that dates with almond butter is gateway food for me that leads me down the rabbit-hole and I know that despite being lactose-intolerant, I can still tolerate yogurt (in fact, it helps me) and small amounts of cheese still make some foods taste better.

The truth is that the people who are the most successful on this diet are the ones who take nothing at face value and instead question and test everything.  Because paleo is personal and even though we've all come here to finally heal ourselves, we've all come here with different kinds of damage and different requirements.  There are people who are following paleo with the SCD diet, or are trying an autoimmune protocol, or restricting FODMAPS because the foods that paleo has given a green-light on are still causing people issues even though we've declared these foods to be healthy.  There are people who are restricting carbs trying to lose weight, and people who are finally experimenting with adding carbs back in because now we understand that for some people, carbs can help with weight loss, or help keep one fuller so we don't have the sugar cravings, and many other conflicting and confusing facts that just remind me that paleo is a personal thing, that it is different for every person, that we can all just agree to disagree on how much, how strict, how excluding we can or can't be and still call ourselves paleo.  Built-in cheats?  Occasional rice consumption?  Pseudo-grains?  There are so many grey areas out there.  There is so much more to be said, but not enough hours in the day to do it.

There is only one truth that we can all agree on, even if it is kitchy, "Let Medicine be thy Food and Food be thy Medicine."  Hippocrates was clearly ahead of his time, or maybe behind his time because the caveman knew this first and we seem to have just forgotten this very basic truth with all the modern advances of science.  Eat to heal and eat to sustain first and foremost.  Always get that taken care of first.  Then negotiate dessert.