Curing Congestion: The Wonders of Chipotle Peppers

I’ve gone almost the entire winter season without a cold. This is huge for me. Usually I’m this disgusting mess of snot, loud, irritating coughs, and runny eyes, shuffling around, wheezing with every step. 

But not this season. Nope, not me. Who had time to be sick? Not me! And I sure don’t have time for that nonsense now.

It could have something to do with the mild weather we started with early this week which turned into a freak blizzard on Wednesday, returning to mild temperatures shortly after. I get that Mother Nature has to do her thing, but is it too much to ask to leave me and my sinuses out of it? Probably.

Because I’ve been congested and gross, I’ve also been grumpy and pouty (I know, I’m probably such a treat to live with right now). I haven’t really felt like eating, which meant all we’ve had today is an Ikea hot dog and diet pepsi, which totally counts as a balanced meal. Right? Right.

Despite all of this, I decided I would put in some effort tonight: enter chipotle peppers smothered in adobo sauce. James adores spicy food. We have at least 10 bottles of hot sauce at home, and the other 12 he keeps at work. Do you know anyone who likes spice that much? No? Not surprised. 

I like gnocchi. A lot. But I’ve never prepared it myself. Mostly because when I say gnocchi, James says grossy. Yep, real mature. But how could he not love gnocchi smothered in an adobo chipotle cream sauce? Who could walk away from that? NO BODY.

So I steamed some green beans, and I grilled up some steak, whipped up a sauce… and voilà!

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I maybe made this a little too spicy for my taste. And by that I mean my nose was running so fast I could barely keep up (see what I did there?), I was starting to sweat (how attractive), and my ears started to burn. Yeah. My ears

But it was so good. So if you’ve got a cold, this might be just the thing for you. Or you know, if you like delicious creamy sauce with a kick.

Adobo Chipotle Cream Sauce

3 tbsp butter 

2-4 tbsp flour

Heavy cream (I used an entire 250ml carton)

Chipotles in adobo sauce (usually in a can)

 

I eyeballed this. Like I do for all sauces I make. I threw some butter in a saucepan, waited for it to melt, then threw in some flour. Whisk to get a thick paste. Add your heavy cream, whisking constantly to achieve a smooth sauce. Add as many chipotles as you think you can handle (I maybe used 1/4 of the can, if that). Keep on medium-low heat whisking constantly. If you like a thicker sauce, keep whisking. Like it runny? Stop whisking when you’ve achieved your desired consistency. 

Enjoy over gnocchi, steak, pasta… whatever! You can even start to eat it with a spoon (if you have a death wish). 

Spring: Lakeside

The past couple of days have brought warm (read: not -20 celsius), and with it, a brief respite from the cold. This is the first time in a while that the wind hasn’t cut through our jeans, biting through the coarse material to our skin. The winter winds on Lake Ontario have been especially brutal this winter. Going out for long walks with Molly have been cut down to fleeting outings – in and out – zipping up the lake path just as quickly as we came down. 

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We’re expecting a blizzard tomorrow (the only benefit being that maybe by some miracle we’ll have a snow day) and just like that, the glimpse we had of cracking ice and melting snow will be whisked away. But at least the two days of nice weather we did have were enjoyed lakeside with Molly. 

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If you find yourself fleeing the outdoors and this harsh Canadian winter, might I suggest a good book? I’ve been losing myself in Jo Baker’s Longbourn. I don’t often enjoy books based on Austen’s work, but this is a delightful surprise. Smart, well written, and engaging, I find that I’m dragging out the reading process simply because I can’t bear to leave Sarah behind (but more on this in another post).

I’m back… I hope!

I’ve been “away” for months. From my previous post, you’ll know that my grandma’s health was less than great. We managed to have a wonderful Christmas at home as a family, and we even rung in the new year together.

I haven’t been able to write, or do much of anything, because my life has been consumed with caring and worrying about her, about my mother. They are two of the most important and most influential people in my life. I called them constantly, checking in, making sure everything was still okay.

But these past months also left me with a void. I felt in many ways very supported by close friends, by my wonderful partner. However, slowly saying goodbye, losing someone, always hoping you have more time, it’s lonely and terrifying. It’s something that people don’t often want to talk about.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t maintain my blog, a gym routine, a social life. My entire focus became that beautiful woman. When I sat with her over the course of her last day, none of it felt real. Sleep deprived and stressed, my mother and I took turns sitting with her and holding her. Making sure she knew she was not alone.

This was a month ago. A month ago I said goodbye to a woman who taught me everything I know about baking, healing, living. Whenever I felt alone or sad, she would sit with me and tell me it was going to be alright. She would tell me that she loved me, that it would look better in the morning. Most times it did.

In the month since, I haven’t been able to get back into a routine. I still eat my greens, hydrate, go for walks with the dog. But I struggle to maintain relationships, to do something as simple as go to the gym. I feel raw and exhausted. Most of all I feel frustrated that I can’t get back to what my life was, but more so to what my life was with her in it.

As they say, time heals everything. So I’m left waiting, trying not to punish myself for grieving. And that, my friends, is where I’ve been.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

November. And only November. 

I’m not trying to dash anyone’s holiday cheer, but it is still only November, and I wouldn’t mind it staying that way for a while longer. 

With the (amazing) return of my grandma to her coveted lazy boy, I’d be happy to enjoy some quiet time before the holiday craze begins. With three families to visit during the holidays, things become hectic (and by hectic, I mean my annual temper tantrum usually makes an appearance). 

But the one thing I adore about the holidays? The food. I know, I know – so does everyone else, so we don’t need to talk about it, right? 

WRONG.

Because this holiday season, I’m making a sincere effort to truly enjoy all the food I can. 

I’m sure I’m not alone when I tell you that most holidays (where it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) can be stressful, especially if your surrounded by people constantly talking about their weight, and not over-indulging. They talk about portion restrictions, or cutting certain holiday favourites out all together. And while I do my absolute best to lead a healthy life style (I pack as many fruits and veggie as I can stomach into everyday), I am also trying to do my best not to obsess about my size or my weight.

Being a curvy woman, this doesn’t always come easily. Self acceptance is hard, and so is self love. I’m notoriously bad at both, but I am trying desperately to improve. Part of what I’m working on is not beating myself up about my size. My broad hips and bust often make me feel self conscious, especially since I don’t fit the typical “ideal” female mould. 

So I try to be compassionate with myself by acknowledging that I eat well, and that starving myself of things I love, isn’t a solution. I try to tell myself that I look good, even though I’m not a size two. 

This holiday season is going to be about enjoying the things I love (hopefully) guilt-free. And this extends to more than just food. I plan on indulging in sleep, over indulging on books and cuddling with my puppy. 

Because when was the last time anyone really focused on self-care and pleasure? I don’t remember the last time I did, but it will start now, with a good read and a cup of tea. 

It’s been a long, long time…

Lately life has taken me for a few unexpected turns. I recently was hired and have started working (yay for income and semi-adulthood!). I had roughly a month off from my MA before starting, which, in all honesty, was probably the perfect break. 

This company treats their employees very well, compensates more than fairly, and goes out of their way to make their employees feel valued – so far, so good. I have no complaints there. 

However, a week into my job my grandma suffered a heart attack. At the time, we were lead to believe it was a minor heart attack, she was recovering quickly and well, that she would soon be back home with my parents. This past week, still in the hospital waiting for some tests, she suffered another heart failure. Finally her results came in, and to our surprise, her first heart attack was in fact not minor, but a massive heart attack. 

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The doctor’s told my mom this over the phone, explaining that they didn’t know how my 97 year old grandmother survived such a cardiac experience. On Monday she’ll be transferred to a different hospital, and possibly under go a very risky surgery. So needless to say I haven’t really been reading, or cooking, but instead focusing on her.

Because despite the fact that she is infuriatingly stubborn, and sometimes a little bossy, she is the best grandmother I’ve ever had, and one of the strongest women I know. She’s lived through two world wars, the Cold War, the internet, multiple economic crisis, the death of her husband, and multiple siblings. She’s optimistic to a fault, at ease with her condition, convinced that fate and God will intervene if that is what’s meant to be. 

Unfortunately these traits weren’t passed on to me. I don’t have faith in God, and if one does exist, if the situation worsens, I’d say he’s taken the wrong moment to take a break. No one in this world deserves health, happiness and peace more than my grandmother, for all that she has already endured. 

So that’s where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing. Once things settle down, or just… are not in such a state of anxiety and flux, I’ll be back to my usual, baking, reading, self. But for now, I’m offline, at her side and the side of my incredible mother, clinging to these moments with a fierceness that is startling. 

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No-Bake Snack Bites (aka heaven)

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I snack. A lot. I’m that person who eats an entire meal, has second (sometimes third) helpings, and is still hungry. 

The expression of having a hollow leg doesn’t even begin to describe me. 

I wish I could say that I’m a conscientious snacker. That I choose healthy snack options, drink only water, lift weights while I marathon watch Murder She Wrote  and Murdoch Mysteries, but that isn’t always the case. 

But I at least probably 80% (sometimes 75%) of the time make good choices. Recently I’ve been eating apples like no body’s business. They’re crisp, sweet, and they take me a long time to eat. But today I was craving something different. Something chocolatey, but without a lot of effort: enter How Sweet Eat’s no-bake snack bites. I alter the recipe only slightly – I use what I have on hand, and usually leave out candy coated treats (why? because if I bought them they’d never make it into these delicious bites). Check out her recipe here

I find that it’s easier to form the mixture into balls if you refrigerate them. If you don’t mind getting your hands sticky, there is no need to wait. 

The chia seeds in these snack bites adds extra fibre, and the nuts means that mister has to keep his hands off of my treats! Not that they last long enough for him to try to sneak one…

Great Aunt Marie’s Chocolate Brownies

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Last year my mom generously gave us a Costco membership. I never would have gotten this for myself, especially considering the love/hate relationship I have for Costco.

Shopping at Costco is simultaneously the most joyous and most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced. In a concrete warehouse filled with hundreds of people, screaming children, and the elderly shuffling about, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. It’s hard to navigate a cart, so I usually try to have a game plan before I head into the depths of Costco wholesale. Typically this involves knowing that I only need five items, grabbing these items (usually too much to carry, but when has that ever stopped me?), running like mad to a check out, and then trying to get to my car with my groceries and my sanity in tact.

But sometimes, I don’t have a plan. Sometimes I grab a cart and wander around and actually look at all of the deals. Like, did you know you can buy six heads of romaine lettuce for like $5? CRAZY. Can I eat six heads of romaine by myself? NOPE. Yet somehow, on more than one occasion, I have left with an enormous bag of lettuce. Or, what about the time I bought mister shaving cream at Costco? Who actually needs 8 jumbo cans of shaving cream? Especially a man who doesn’t even really have facial hair?!

Needless to say, sometimes I go a little crazy. So an entire month ago, I went Costco crazy. I bought a lot of eggs. And we don’t even eat that many eggs. Ever. I have a weird aversion to them (and by aversion, I mean I only eat the yolk, because that’s super healthy), and why would mister eat eggs when he can sneak breakfast Pogos before biking off to work?

It’s the abundance of eggs that led me to make my great aunt Marie’s chocolate brownies. They are my favourite brownies. They are in no way healthy, but they are perfectly moist, and especially good with frozen yogurt and hot fudge sauce (and maybe a sprinkling of peanuts).

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I used the “I have too many eggs so I guess I’ll have to make these brownies” excuse, but you don’t need an excuse… it just makes me feel a teensy less guilty. Sort of.

Great Aunt Marie’s Chocolate Brownies 

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup milk

Combine ingredients in order given, beat at a low speed until smooth. Line a 13×9 pan with parchment paper (or use cooking spray or butter). Pour batter evenly into pan. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Banana Cookies

Banana Cookies

I was feeling peckish today, and, like usual, I had bananas that I needed to use or toss. I hate tossing bananas in the trash. It feels wasteful, especially when you can make so many great things with them. Muffins, bread… but cookies?

These cookies took two minutes to prepare and put in the oven, and it’s a snack you don’t need to feel guilty about (not that I ever feel guilt when I’m shovelling icing into my mouth with a spoon).

So, how do you make these wonderful bundles?

Mash two bananas. Fold in one cup of quick cooking oats. Add other ingredients as desired.

In this batch I added chia seeds for additional fiber, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 until golden brown, enjoy!

Check out the original recipe by clicking on my photo.

Marco’s Rhetoric

We recently moved to a new city, new neighbourhood. We’ve been there about a month now, and while it may not be perfect, I have so far enjoyed living here. Recently, however, what used to be peaceful walks by the lake have turned into unwanted and uncomfortable social situations.

For the most part, these situations involve a stranger (read: white male) who assumes that I would like to spend half an hour to an hour being lectured on a range of topics. This week, the topics have been on how to properly control and train my dog, to today’s lovely lecture on the evils of society, how we are all brainwashed, and how, my chosen field (rhetoric) is the root of that evil. 

You’re probably wondering how today’s stranger knew my field of study, or why I told him. Why didn’t she just walk away? Because every time I am confronted on a walk, I feel that I have to be nice, I have to be polite. If I am not, what will the consequences be? Could I be making things worse for myself? Should I actually be afraid of every man who tries to speak to me on the street? 

Well, I am. I am nervous, and sometimes afraid. I don’t know how to extract myself from those situations for fear that I will make the already uncomfortable situation worse for myself.

So today, for over an hour, I listened to Marco tell me how my field was evil. That, in teaching, working, even having studied rhetoric, I was worsening society. Obviously this is to be taken with a grain of salt – Marco appeared to be in his late 60s to early 70s. I didn’t try to correct him. Because even though he is older than I am, and very misguided on the subject of rhetoric, no matter how angry I felt that this man was not only telling me how awful my field is and I am for choosing it, I was angry that I felt powerless to leave, powerless to tell him that he was wrong. 

I read so many posts that circulate on tumblr (and online in general) explaining how women can get out of uncomfortable or dangerous social situations. And Marco was, most likely, harmless. But being a woman should not be an open invitation to being lectured. I should be able to enjoy my walk with a passing “Good morning,” or a “Have a nice day.” These posts on tumblr do not actually make me feel as though I have the confidence or ability to walk away from these situations. Perhaps this is my problem. 

On the other hand, the feminist in me rages at that suggestion. You? How could it be you? And I remember that I shouldn’t have to be nervous or scared while walking my dog. That I shouldn’t have to be wary of every man who speaks to me, but that I also should not have to endure lectures from men because I am a woman walking down the street. 

But the question still remains: Why me? Why you?

I love you, I hate you, “Murder She Wrote”

Sitcoms from the 1980’s tend to feel tacky, cheesy, and well, just plain dated. The feminist in me always cringes as women are repeatedly undermined, told to get home (or worse, back to the kitchen). But “Murder She Wrote” is different, if only slightly. 

Although the show is decidedly sexually conservative, the position articulated about women and their “place” is, I think, progressive during it’s beginning in 1984.  The episode I want to focus on is “Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs. Fletcher’s Chowder?”

In this episode, Sheriff Amos Tucker places an ad looking to hire a new deputy. In walks Marigold Feeney, played by Coleen Camp

When Feeney walks in demanding the deputy’s job, Amos stumbles over himself, unable to articulate that she wasn’t what he was looking for because of her gender. Feeney helps him along, indicating how disappointed she’d be to find out Amos was biased (what I think was meant here is sexist, but in ’87 “biased” might have been a “kinder” word). 

“Murder She Wrote” has continuously (at least until ’88, I haven’t seen the episodes from the ’90s yet) created strong female roles such as Jessica Fletcher’s tact for solving crime and swiftly navigating dangerous situations, and now, Feeney as deputy. In this episode alone Feeney manages two collars, draws her gun twice, and flips a man on his back to bring him into custody. 

Despite all this, we are still given a healthy dose of male opinion, especially from characters such as Amos, Seth and the ever changing string of macho male detectives Jessica butts heads with. So what are they doing there, and why do they keep telling us where women ought to be? 

In many ways the benevolent sexism articulated by characters such as Amos and Seth act as reminders of popular opinion. Both nice, friendly guys, you don’t want to hate them, but you can’t help but notice the latent sexism in their behaviour, not to mention the (blatant) sexism in what they say. 

In many ways, Jessica Fletcher can also be seen as a benevolent sexist. She always tries to be open minded, but when confronted with issues of sexuality, or a woman who is described as “controlling” or “strong minded” (despite being described this way herself), ideals of how women ought to behave begin to shine through. In “Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs. Fletcher’s Chowder?” the audience is confronted with Amos’s sister, Winnie, who has fled from her abusive husband, Elmo. Despite Winnie’s reluctance to see or speak to Elmo, Jessica coaxes her into having a dinner party, convincing her that  things might reach an understanding if they could only talk it over after a nice meal. 

Although Elmo ends up dead, it is very clear what Winnie (and women in general) are encouraged to do in this situation. Winnie, despite being terrified, should be willing to give Elmo a second chance, or at the very least, talk it over with him. 

While yes, “Murder She Wrote” takes important steps concerning female roles in ’80s television, it’s clear there are still boundaries which are not only concerned with gender (I haven’t even begun to discuss problems of race, religion, sexuality, etc.).

So, for these reasons, I love you, and I hate you, “Murder She Wrote”.