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Strange times

In a world where social distancing seems to be prevalent, how could it be so difficult for people to actually distance themselves from one another? Social media highlights the standards that seem to exist… people not actually interacting, but insisting on spending time on Facebook , Instagram or other sites where you don’t actually have to spend real time with real people. How then is it possible for the current state of global affairs? The exponential increase in the number of confirmed cases of Covid19 would appear to disprove the fallacy that people are less social. Admittedly, it is challenging to spend copious amounts of time confined to your home. Normalcy involves freedom to interact with others. Whether we choose to do so or not is a different matter. The frustration sets in when you observe people trying hard to stop the widespread transmission of a global virus and then witness scenes of ignorant individuals partying in close proximity. It’s disheartening. On the other hand, all of us who are abiding by the current rules should remember that we can still reach out – through social media or (Gasp!) by telephone – to approach and contact those who have no one. Additionally, we can pass on our thanks to those essential workers who are diligently helping with services. Thank you.

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Happy Canada Day!

As Canada is a melting pot of cultures, our meals today have involved different nationalities. From the French quiche for breakfast to the blend of Canadian veggie dogs, Italian-inspired portobello mushroom, and Asian-influenced Bok choy with mushroom stir fry, we didn’t stick to traditional for this year’s celebration.

Our weekend has been a celebration of all that is Canadian – including a visit to Almonte, Ontario (birthplace of James Naismith, inventor of basketball) and a cruise down the Ottawa River. A lovely weekend with family and our beautiful capital city. Happy Canada Day!

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My Asian Addiction

I have been contemplating how to broach this particular subject, but the title really does apply. I am addicted to Asian dramas. I use the generic term “Asian” because it is not limited to one specific group, but to several: I’ve watched Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese and even a few of the more “colourful” such as Thai.

For the most part, I love the old-fashioned values and the focus on family and food. There is seldom an episode that does not revolve around preparing a home-made meal with fresh and appealing ingredients.

As a result of this fascination with other cultures and values, I have begun incorporating various cooking techniques and flavours into my food preparation. Breakfasts may include hommage to Bibimbap (Korean), adapted to my vegetarian needs, or Chinese egg crepes (with green onion, of course!). I have not yet attempted a sweet potato porridge, but I am only waiting for a decent recipe to find me.

Unforunately, I am forced to read the (usually) awful English translations provided as I watch these programs unfold. I have often been tempted to provide to the producers edited versions of the sometimes lacking dialogues. If only I could translate from the original, I believe I could greatly improve the viewing experience for other Anglophones who enjoy the Asian viewing experience! Alas, I will continue feeding my addiction to these lovely dramas filled with love, beauty, comedy -and food- until something else grabs my attention.

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Happy Easter

Easter is a challenging time for a vegetarian married to a Polish man. There are many Polish traditions that include meat. One such tradition is the blessing of the food for Easter Sunday.

On the Saturday of Easter weekend, Polish families bring their baskets of food to be blessed – en masse – by the priest. Everyone packs their baskets with ham, sausage, bread, cakes, salt and eggs so that their morning meals will have been blessed. As noted, there isn’t much in the way of vegetarian food in the baskets. Another challenge is preventing the foods from touching. It wasn’t so bad when the kids were younger and separate baskets for each child were used, but this year, we only brought one.

I gingerly suggested to the kids to wrap the underneath of their meats with plastic wrap, to minimize contact with the eggs. We did not bring the “sałatka” for blessing this year.

I know other families who are both vegetarian who don’t have this struggle, but trying to balance the tradition from my husband with consideration for my choice to be vegetarian is one of those tightropes I have been navigating for over twenty years now.

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Healthy pancakes with taste!

https://simply-delicious-food.com/easy-healthy-banana-oat-pancakes/

A few years ago, while on vacation in Arizona, my family and I wanted pancakes without all the fuss (read flour, etc.). At the time, we found a recipe that only called for bananas and egg. They were okay, but were nothing to get excited about. Recently, my eldest daughter led me to the Simply Delicious (link at the top of this page) recipe for banana/oat pancakes. These are phenomenal! They are so quick and easy, and the ingredient list is manageable – 2 bananas, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt in the blender. The texture is great and the taste is really good. It’s so much like original pancakes, that we have also started experimenting with typical add-ins such as blueberries (I add a splash of lemon juice or zest to keep the flavour authentic) or chocolate chips (maybe not the most keto add-in, but they are delicious and fun for the kids).

I enjoyed this recipe so much that I often will check out other recipes from the Simply Delicious site. I particularly enjoy anything that I can adapt and use for my own needs.

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Mi Casa Es tu Casa

My family recently bought take out from https://casa-mexico.ca/ Casa Mexico. I had the opportunity to visit in person with a friend and we loved it!

From the whimsical (slightly cliché, but fun!) decor, including sombreros and “Nacho Libre” style masks on the wall, it is not the most elegant restaurant, but it doesn’t need to be.

I knew that I would enjoy the meal when I found horchatas by the pitcher on the beverage menu. (Perfect accompaniment to any traditional spicy meal, horchata is a spiced milk beverage served on ice. I’ll admit a curiosity as to what horchata would taste like as a hot drink, frothed? Mmm…).

There was almost too much selection for the vegetarian palette, so I went traditional and had the vegetarian enchiladas with both green and red sauce (divorciada). A perfect balance between spice and flavour.

My least favourite part of the meal was dessert. The dulce de leche was tasty, but a little dry.

Overall, the service was great, the food wonderful and the decor a lot of fun. It isn’t the cheapest, but it is reasonably priced.

Next time, I hope to go on a Friday (mariachi band!)

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Roll over bread!

A friend recently shared a keto recipe for a bagel replacement and, as a result, I’ve found a lovely new resource for keto recipes. (https://www.wholesomeyum.com/)

The recipe called for almond flour, but one of my daughters has nut sensitivities, so I substituted tapioca flour – maybe a little less keto, but delicious! We also chose to shape them as rolls instead of as bagels. Very fast and they paired well with the family meal. I love coming across fast and easy recipes that take traditional food outside the box. I’ll try some of the other recipes and certainly will write when I get the chance.

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Instant Pot – I’m sold!

As I mentioned earlier, I had not heard about this before Christmas. Moments ago, I finished making my family’s recipe for baked beans. Usually, with soaking time, rinsing, and a solid eight hours in the slow cooker, this was a weekend event! The anticipation was excruciating! I made a few adaptations based on recipes I read online and they were cooked in 45 minutes! Amazing! Clean-up was fast and I had to stop myself from starting another recipe (the butternut squash soup recipe included in the Instant Pot recipe booklet looks so good!) so that I could express my appreciation and wonder at this time-saving device. (Seriously, you can make yoghurt in this thing?)

I suspect I’ll be experimenting quite a bit in the coming year! Happy New Year!

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Instant pot… or not?

One of the gifts I received for Christmas is an Instant Pot. I have heard many people extolling their virtues, but I wasn’t familiar with them and was somewhat less enthusiastic perhaps than my husband and daughter expected. It didn’t help that, upon opening the box, we noticed a big dent in the side. It wouldn’t have bothered me, but I did not want to take the risk that the pressure could cause serious damage with a corrupt exterior. Back in the box it went and a visit to Canadian Tire has replaced the damaged product. I have done the preliminary test with water and will try it today with my late parents’ baked bean recipe. I’ll keep you posted whether I’m successful or not… wish me luck!

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Christmas preparations

So, today marks clean up day after weeks of preparations. Some preparations were successful, others… not so much. I really enjoy Christmas and I tend to go overboard. I buy too much, I eat too much, I cook too much and I want everything to be perfect. To be fair, this is only the first year since all of my kids have been old enough to know our truth about Santa Claus and I may have had a small jolt of acknowledgement that I won’t ever have that responsibility of maintaining the myth for a child again. A mildly unsettling thought for someone who doesn’t consider herself old, but… I guess I’m reaching that part of the spectrum.

Back to preparations though: this year saw many batches of fudge (somehow, not as many as my children and husband could consume?), favourite Weight Watcher recipes (https://www.weightwatchers.com/ca/en) (No, I’m not advertising, but I don’t believe in mentioning organizations without giving credit where credit is due.) such as crisp rice macaroons, dark Christmas cake (with my sister participating heavily in the baking of this one!) and sugar cookies.

Christmas Eve day involved cooking food both for Wigilia (the Polish tradition my husband’s family introduced to me and maintained for him and our kids), with a careful accounting for twelve courses of no meat (they accept fish, but no land animals), including barszcz, paszdeciki with mushrooms and cabbage, sałatka, uszka, pierogi among the various dishes served. In addition, I try to jump start Christmas Day by making ahead a breakfast dish (this year was a French Toast bake casserole adapted for my family), and pre-cooking a cowboy hotpot casserole and scalloped potatoes. (Remember my “not-so-good” comment earlier? These were the guilty dishes that failed! Still reeling over those – they usually are so good!)

A few mishaps, some rolled eyes (maybe filling the stockings after wine and honey liqueur was not a good idea?) have humbled me that I am not perfect and I can’t think of everything in advance. However, with family and friends, it’s okay.

The day- and the celebration- has come and gone for another year. On to the next challenge!

Here is wishing everyone – no matter what their faith – a wonderful holiday season and all the best for 2019!