Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Happy 9th Birthday, Thomas!

Having a birthday in a pandemic-induced quarantine is probably not anyone’s first choice for a 9th birthday. But that is the situation that we find ourselves in, so for my nephew’s 9th birthday today, we decided to have a group video chat to share birthday cake. My niece baked a tie-dye birthday cake at my sister’s house, my mom baked a cupcake at her house, and I baked a cake at my house, and then we all got on video call, along with my nephew’s other grandparents, aunt, and cousins, to sing “Happy Birthday” and wash our hands eat birthday cake.

In order to build some extra excitement, I made a movie trailer for the event. This may be because I had to fire up the old iMovie to add some intros and outros to some videos I’d made for an online course I’ve been working on and I noticed that iMovie has templates to make movie trailers. Clearly, an online birthday cake eating party warrants an action-movie trailer, right?

I had to improvise a bit with the clip of the cats, as that part of the trailer required a video clip for slow motion, but I don’t have any video clips of my nephew. I also have almost no photos of my and Thomas together, so that’s something that I need to rectify the next time I see him!

Also, here’s the cake I made:

Pokéball birthday cake for my nephew’s 9th birthday

Thomas and I like to play Pokemon Go together, so I though the design was appropriate.

For the record, this cake adds three new things I’ve never made before for this year’s goal of making 20 foods or beverages I’ve never made before1:

  • vanilla buttermilk cake – I usually make cakes from a mix because it’s easy and I’m lazy, but I wanted to make a small cake since it’s only Scott and I here to eat it, so I decided to try a new recipe from scratch rather than using just part of a cake mix.
  • caramel sauce – surprisingly easy to make. Surprisingly easy to ruin as well, but my second batch was perfect. And I needed caramel sauce to make:
  • caramel buttercream icing – this was tasty, but sooooo sweet. I mean, caramel is mostly just melted granulated sugar with a splash of butter and cream, and then buttercream icing just butter and a tonne of icing sugar, so I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this.

So the cake was a vanilla buttermilk cake with caramel buttercream filling. It was decorated with regular buttercream icing because I didn’t want the caramel to mess with my colours. Also, I used a bucketload of gel food colouring to get that vibrant red and black. Totally worth it.

While we were on our video chat, Thomas told us about how his best friend, Jack, and Jack’s little sister and brother drew a birthday cake and wrote Happy Birthday Thomas in sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk outside of my sister’s house. I thought that was really sweet.

Thomas also reminded us that in just 10 years it will be his champagne birthday and we will all be drinking champagne. Here’s hoping we can do it in person!

  1. Which I’ve already surpassed, because what else are you going to do in quarantine? But that is for another blog posting. []

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Sourdough Starter

And speaking of pandemic baking, I finally did something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages: make a sourdough starter1!

Well, I’m attempting to make a sourdough starter, at least. I won’t know for several days if it worked out or not. I decided to go old school and create it from just flour and water and whatever wild yeast are floating around. It takes a bit longer – and I’m sure has a higher failure rate – than making it from packaged yeast, but I figure I have time to spare, so may as well go for it.

My plan is to make this sourdough starter and maintain it and pass it along to others, so that generations from now people will say “This sourdough starter was created during the great pandemic of 2020!” And maybe people will search on the Wayback Machine and find this blog posting and say “So that’s what my sourdough starter looked like on the day it was born!”


The recipe is literally to just mix together and 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water and then let it sit on the top of your fridge for a day, and then you feed it over several days and hope the yeast start doing their yeast thing.

Here’s what it looked like when I mixed it together today:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

The consistency at this stage is thick and sticky:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

And here it is, sitting on top of my fridge:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

I’ve set a reminder to feed it after 24 hours have passed. Very excited to see what happens over the next few days!

Also, like a good scientist, I decided to make a lab book to document my process:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1 - Lab Book

My friend Paul informed me that if this batch doesn’t work, I should try using pineapple juice instead of water, as it’s the right pH to favourite the good wild yeast. So I have a plan B if this batch doesn’t work.

I promised my friend Heather that she will be the first recipient of my sourdough starter once it is ready to be shared. Heather is a public health nurse on the front lines of the pandemic – translation: she’s a freaking hero! Thanks for everything you do, Heather! You are a rock star!

  1. Since sourdough starter something I’ve never made before, it counts towards my 2020 goal of making foods that I’ve never made before. And then when I bake my first loaf of sourdough bread, it will be another thing I’ve never made before and will count towards my 2020 goal of baking 20 times. And I also have “bake sourdough bread” on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so really this is like the most efficient goal achieving act I’ve ever done! []

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Cyberbaking – It’s Not Just for Christmas Anymore!

As you may recall, my family and I love to bake. And sometimes at Christmas, if I’m not in Ontario visiting, we cyberbake: I bake in my kitchen in BC and my mom and my sister bake in my sister’s kitchen in Toronto and we videochat while we do said baking1.

Well, I’m really missing my family while everyone is isolating in our own homes during the pandemic. I know it’s kind of silly, because I often only see my family at Christmastime anyway, but (a) before the pandemic hit, I was planning to go to a conference in Ottawa in June and was planning to see my family then (but of course that is now not going to happen), and (b) it’s different when you don’t have a *choice*. Back in the old timey days where we could just hop on a plane whenever we wanted to, I at least had the option to go see my family. Now, since non-essential travel is a no-no, that choice is taken away, so it feels harder. I know it’s important that we all hunker down at this point to manage this pandemic, but I’m still acutely aware of missing my family. AnywayI digress…

A few days ago, I suggested that we all get on our webcams and bake together today. My mom in her house, my sister and her family in their house, and me in my condo. It really is fun to just chit chat and bake and be “together” even though we are apart.

My sister made cinnamon rolls and two loaves of bread shaped like turtles. She also taught my about “parbaking” – where you bake bread to about 80% of the way done and then freeze it. When you want to eat it, you bake it the rest of the way. So that’s a pretty great idea for when you have the urge to bake a bunch of stuff but you are stuck in a condo with just two people who shouldn’t each several loaves of bread in a day. I also realized that since “parbaking” means “partway baking”, that “parboiling” just means “partway boiling”. I would face palm, but touching one’s face is frowned upon these days.

My niece made snickerdoodles and my nephew made chocolate chip cookies. Last Christmas I gave my nephew a “virtual reality” baking set because I knew he likes baking and apparently he only wants to use the measuring cups from his set when he bakes. So nice to see that he likes his present!

My mom made a modified shepherd’s pie, using up some things she had around the house.

I decided to make carrot cake. I’ve never made carrot cake before, so it counts towards my goal of making 20 new foods this year). Plus I have a giant bag of carrots from the last time we went to Costco, so it seemed like a good way to use some of them up! I got my mom to send me my Uncle Stephen’s carrot cake recipe and I have to say, it is delicious.

I posted that before I made the cream cheese icing. Mmmm, cream cheese icing!

As always, the down side of cyberbaking is that you can’t taste what each other are baking! Fortunately, I have a bunch of carrot cake with which to console myself.

  1. As aside: this past December was so busy that I didn’t do any Christmas baking at all. None! That’s the first time in my life that I can remember not doing Christmas baking. I think maybe I upset the balance of the universe and that caused our current apocalypse. If so, sorry about that! []

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The Rest of the New Foods I Made in 2019

I last blogged about the new foods and beverages that I made this year in July. At that time, I’d made 10 out of the 19 items that I set as my goal for this year. Well, I’m pleased to report that it was merely my insufficient blogging this year, and not my lack of cooking new things that I’d never cooked before, that made it looked like I was failing on this goal. I completed the goal of 19 items on August 11 and ended up crushing my goal with a total of 26 new items made this year. Here are the ones that I did after my first two blog postings on this topic:

Pasta with herbs and parm
Lemon, herb, and parm pasta
  • I made some mint tea with fresh mint leaves from High Garden (also on July 16, 2019). At the end of the growing season, I dried1 all the remaining leaves and now can use them to make mint tea
Mint tea made with fresh mint from my herb garden
Mint tea from fresh mint leaves
  • My friend Kim, her boyfriend Tad, and I made teriyaki salmon at their place. I made the teriyaki sauce and carried stuff between the kitchen and the patio (where the BBQ was) as both Kim and Tad were too injured (ankle and knee, respectively) to do much walking (July 26, 2019)
Dinner at Kim & Tad's place
Teriyaki salmon, potatoes, grilled vegetables, and watermelon salad
sesame chicken, ginger beer glazed carrots, and steamed asparagus
Sesame chicken, ginger beer glazed carrots, steamed asparagus
  • I made my first gluten-free baked good: gluten-free zucchini muffins, because someone at my office doesn’t eat gluten and I wanted to make some regular zucchini muffins (one of my go-to muffin recipes), but I didn’t want her to be left out. (July 28, 2019)
Two types of zucchini muffins (gluten-free and gluten-ful)
Two types of zucchini muffins
  • After a trip to the Okanagan, I made a bunch of stuff with produce we bought there: peach crisp (Aug 9, 2019), roasted pattypan squash with red onion and zucchini (Aug 10, 2019), spicy plum sauce (Aug 11, 2019) and peach-jalapeño preserves (Aug 11, 2019) and chimichurri sauce (Aug 11, 2019), which we had with Linda and Casey would brought over some super delicious steaks!
Patty pan squash
A patty pan squash
Roasted patty pan squash
Roasted patty pan squash, along with some chicken
Making plum sauce
Making spicy plum sauce
Steak with chimichurri sauce
Steak with chimichurri sauce

As I’m sure you can tell, I like making new things that I’ve never made before, so I’m sure this goal will appear again in my list of 2020 goals!

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On the eleventh day of donating…

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank supports 22,000 people per week and share 4.4 million pounds of food per year. Giving them money allows them to get $3 of food for every $1 you donate, because they can buy in bulk – and they can buy the specific things that they need, rather than randomly receiving whatever food you happen to donate.

Their mission is:

Building strong, connected communities through the power of food.

https://foodbank.bc.ca/get-involved/donate-funds/

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That Time We Totally Made Dinner

Hot off the heels of our skydiving adventure, Dr. Dan and I decided that we should tackle another thing that is on our list of very important goals: make a meal that we haven’t made before. I mean, he has a goal for 2019 to cook things he hasn’t cooked before. I have a goal for 2019 to cook things I haven’t cooked before. And he’s visiting this week. And we need to eat dinner. So what could be better than making some delicious dish that is new to both of us?

At least, that was This-Morning-Beth and This-Morning-Dan’s plan. But those guys are always making plans and expecting This-Evening-Beth and This-Evening_Dan to do all the work. Screw those guys.

Instead, we decided to follow the time-tested recipe of (1) order pizza, (2) let someone else deliver said pizza, (3) enjoy!

Untitled

I highly recommend you try this recipe sometime.

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A bunch of stuff I cooked

Ever since I posted about my progress on my goals for 2019 (or lack thereof), I’ve been on the look out for new foods to make. Last weekend I made:

German red cabbage:

German cabbage

Roasted cabbage wedges:

Roasted cabbage

And this weekend I decided that I should make something to use up the some of the fresh herbs that are growing my balcony because they are growing like crazy:

High Garden 2019
High Garden 2019 is doing quite well
High Garden 2019
More of High Garden 2019

So I posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, asking my tweeps, FB friends and, (um, what’s the demonym for people on Instagram?) for recipe suggestions. And they did not disappoint!

My friend Karen suggested this recipe: Smashed potatoes with herb vinaigrette. Smashed potatoes are one of my go-to recipes, but I usually put apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper on them. So I was intrigued by this recipe, where you make a vinaigrette with a tonne of fresh, along with olive oil, lemon juice, chili peppers, and Dijon mustard.

Here’s the smashed potatoes, prior to the vinaigrette (basically, boil little potatoes until you can stick a fork in them, put them on a cookie sheet, smash, drizzle with oil, and bake):

Smashed Potatoes

And I found this recipe by the power of Googling: Fresh Herbs With Corn, Asparagus, and Chickpeas Recipe. Though this recipe called for a slightly different mix of herbs than the other recipe, I’m lazy, so I just chopped up a big bowl of thyme, parsley, mint, and oregano1, mix it with olive oil and lemon juice, and then split it in half and used it with both recipes (with the addition of the Dijon and chili peppers for the potatoes).

Bunch of herbs
Big bowl o’herbs

Smashed potatoes with herb vinaigrette:

Smashed Potato Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

Fresh Herbs With Corn, Asparagus, and Chickpeas Recipe:

Fresh Herbs With Corn, Asparagus, and Chickpeas Recipe

And those two dishes comprised my dinner tonight. Super delicious.

Also, while uploading these photos, I discovered a photo of avocado toast that I made on June 25. I’d never made avocado toast before, so that totally counts as a new thing!

Avocado toast:

Avocado toast

So that brings me to a total of 10 new things that I’ve made this year (out of a goal of 19 new things), and since it’s July, that’s about right on track. I’ve also tentatively invited a couple of people over for dinners (for my goal of having people over for dinner 5 times – pending me sorting out my calendar to figure out when such dinners could occur), so that will be an opportunity to make new things too.

Also, I’m going to put the other suggestions I got from people about things I can make with my herbs here, because right now they are scattered between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram replies and I’m totally going to forget what they all are and they’ll get lost down the memory hole that is social media if I don’t post them here.

From my friend, Linda:

  • a zucchini, lemon and herb pasta to use up random herbs – saute some zucchini with thinly sliced garlic (use olive oil, salt and peper), add in cooked pasta (penne/rotini etc, not long noodles), zest of one lemon, a bunch of random chopped herbs and some parmesan cheese. Dill, chives, parsley and mint would be good choices from your garden. Add lemon juice plus salt and pepper to taste.
  •  freeze your rosemary whole and use it to roast stuff in the future.
  • Make herb butter and freeze it for future use – dill butter is delicious on fish, rosemary and chive would be yummy on potatoes, etc. [This sounds amazing and I’m totally going to do this]
  • salad with parsley and mint (and chickpeas, cucumber, onion, maybe some chives, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and zatar).
  • Make Greek salad with your oregano and thyme. [we do this all the time because I’m slightly obsessed with Greek salads]
  • heat up some sage until it is crispy and top what ever you want, it’s yummy!
  • Make taboouli with your parsley and mint (I usually do it with couscous – much quicker and easier than using bulgar).

From my high school drama teacher (because Facebook):

  • Make herb packets, dry them, grind some bigger leaves and put in small cheesecloth packets. Drop in soups, stews etc and when ready scoop out packets and toss.

From my friend Paul:

  • Makes for great flavour with new potatoes bbqed with butter in tin foil packets. Make sure to boil or steam them first. Cuts down cooking time on the bbq. Me being the neanderthal man that I am I went straight for the fire and had to wait a long time.

From my friend Stephanie:

  • Mix chives, oregano, thyme, parsley with feta or other cheese and use to stuff mini-peppers (cut in half lengthwise). Bake at 375 for 25 minutes until peppers are roasted and cheese melted. This is summer potluck go-to recipe for 2019.

From my friend Cath:

  • I’ve been making tea from my mint, with a little thyme and rosemary thrown in. Excellent hot or cold

From my friend Nancy:

  • I literally just cut mine , put in baggies & freeze them.

So I’ll think I’ll be just fine for using up those herbs!

  1. My savory had weird white spots on it, so I didn’t use it. []

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Half Way Goals Check-In

So, the year is half over. I know that every year I, like most people, marvel at how fast the year is going by, this year it’s way worse than previous years. Like, the year is half over and I haven’t really done anything… and I haven’t even planned stuff.

Anyhoo, I thought that maybe I’d do a check in on how my goals for 2019 are going since the year is half freaking over, but honestly doing this just made me feel like I really have done nothing with the first half of the year! Correction: this has motivated me to get going on my goals!

Anyhoo again, of my 19 goals, I’ve completed a grand total of 1. So yeah, I’m a wee bit behind. But the one that I did complete was monumental:

I TRAPBAR DEADLIFTED 100 KG!

The goal was actually just to deadlift 90 kg, and I did for 2 reps of a 90 kg trapbar deadlift on Jan 13, and then again for 2 reps on Jan 20, and then I did a single rep of 100 kg. For those of you who prefer to think of weight in pounds, that’s 220.5 lbs. Trapbar deadlift is easier than regular deadlift, but it’s still technically a deadlift!

I came close to one of my other weightlifting goals: I back squatted 85 kg on Jan 24, just 5 kg shy of my goal of 90 kg (i.e., 198 lbs).

I have made some progress on a few other goals. For the goal of making 19 new foods and/or beverages that I’ve never made before, I’ve made 5:

So I’m 26% done that goal – behind schedule, but I can definitely catch up.

For the goal of read 20 books, I’ve read 7 (5 of which I’ve already blogged about), and I’m in the process of reading 5 other books right now. So I feel like I’m on my way with this goal, although I wonder if I should focus my reading to get some of these books done, rather than sporadically reading from all 5 of them, just to make myself feel like I’m accomplishing something! I should also try to pick a few shorter books – most of the books I’m currently reading are quite long, which doesn’t help in the feeling-like-I’ve-accomplished-something department.

A number of my things on my list are home improvement-y/organization-y, so I probably should just make a plan to get some of those done, as some are the type of thing I can get done in a weekend here or there.

I haven’t sewn anything and I have a goal to sew 5 things, so I really should decide what I want to sew and get cracking on it. I have a goal of sleeping an average of 7 hours per night and though my Fitbit tracks my sleep for me, I can figure out how to find out what my average since Jan 1 has been. Looking at the graphs by month, I can see that I haven’t hit the 7 hour mark for any single month, so I know I’m not meeting the goal, but I guess I’ll have to download the data to calculate the yearly average myself. I have a goal to write in my journal once a week and I have written 23 entries, so I’m 44% done that goal. And I have a goal to have people over for dinner 5 times, and I’ve only hosted one dinner, so I should do some planning for that (anyone interested in coming over for dinner? Hit me up!)

As for my blogging goal, which was a *very* modest 78 blog postings, as soon as I hit “publish” on this one, I’ll have published 23 for the year (or 29.5%). Perhaps another thing I can spend a bit of time on!

 

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Summertime!

OK, so it’s not technically summer until Friday, but you’d never know it from the weather we’ve been having. It’s sunny and warm and the sun is up until nearly 9:30 pm.

Things I’m excited about for the summer, in no particular order:

  • The New West Grand Prix – watching professional cyclists ride around and around and around and around my home is actually a lot more exciting than one might expect. Plus my gym will have beer and snacks
  • playing tennis – Scott and I bought some tennis rackets that were on super duper sale at a sports store that was closing down, right before I sprained my MCL. And while the MCL healing has been going slower than I would like, it’s definitely getting better. So much so that I’ve been able to play hockey with a knee brace – so I think I’ll give tennis with a knee brace a try too!
  • the New West Farmers market – while the Farmers Market in New West runs all year, the winter market is uptown on Saturdays and somehow I never manage to get all the way uptown! But the summer market is at City Hall, which is just a short walk (up a very steep hill) from me on Thursday afternoons/evenings. I haven’t gotten out there for the first few weeks, but I’m planning to go soon.
  • canning/jamming more stuff – my friend Patricia has some pear trees near here that have those most amazing tasting pears EVER. I can’t wait until they are ready because I’m going to pick some and can them!
  • tackling stuff from my 2019 goals list – I am VERY behind on my goals for this year (I blame teaching too much in the January semester), but now that that is behind me (along with all my work travel for May), I can actually do some of that stuff
  • Fridays on Front Street and the New West StrEAT Food Truck festival – two New West traditions. I have a couple of friends who are moving/have moved to New West this year, so I’m excited to indoctrinate them into our New West ways
  • hiking – every summer I say I’m going to do more hiking. Hope springs eternal!

I also have a bunch of vacay that I need to book, but I don’t really want to go away when it’s so nice out and there’s so many fun things going on. Perhaps I’ll take some days off to do stuff around here (especially if a certain friend of mine comes to visit and wants to jump out of a plane with me, as we may or may not have previously discussed).

And maybe I’ll look at the fall for a trip somewhere…

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All the rest of the new foods that I made this year

I’m back dating this posting to yesterday because I had it mostly written but didn’t quite get around to finishing it before I had to leave for a New Year’s Eve party last night.

When I last wrote about the new foods I made this year as part of my goal to make 18 food items or beverages that I have never made before, I’d only made 5 foods. Of course, that was back in February, and I’ve made a lot of things since then. Thirteen things, so be specific.

  1. a saison beer
  2. olive tapenade
  3. beer battered fish tacos
  4. salmon cakes
  5. balsamic vinaigrette
  6. peach-bourbon jam – made this from peaches I got in the Okanagan. And it was a huge hit with those who I shared it with1
  7. mint juleps – made these for my friend Kim and her boyfriend when they came over for dinner with mint from my balcony garden
  8. pickling spice – made this so I could make spicy pickled carrots
  9. spicy pickled carrots
  10. cream of asparagus soup – made this with my sister’s Vitamix for my aunt who came over for lunch when I was at my sister’s place over Christmas
  11. Godfather – a delicious beverages that is made from whiskey & amaretto
  12. sugar pie – made this for Christmas dinner
  13. Irish soda bread – got this recipe from a friend of mine who tweeted their grandmother’s recipe. It is so simple to make and very delicious!

So there you have it – the remaining 13 new things I made this year to complete my goal of making 18 new foods and/or beverages this year. 

And I’m already looking forward to making even more new things in 2019. The list of ideas so far include: sourdough bread, plus sauce, ginger beer, pickled asparagus, and, inspired from our trip to Scotland: Scottish tablet and Cullen skink.