Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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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.

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Merry Atypical Christmas

Typically I spend most of my Christmas break catching up on writing the eleventy thousand blog postings that I was too busy to write during the year, along with reading books for fun and maybe watching some movies, and definitely Christmas baking. But this year has been a bit of an anomaly, mostly because I was asked to teach a couple of new courses next year, so I have spent most of my Christmas break developing course materials rather than doing all of those things. And my family did two different cookie exchanges before I got to Ontario, so my sister’s place was so well stocked with cookies that it was unnecessary to do our usual Christmas baking extravaganza.

In lieu of Christmas baking, I made some chocolate hockey sticks and pucks for friends and colleagues, and today for Christmas dinner dessert I made a sugar pie. Sugar pie is a French Canadian delicacy that I’ve always wanted to try making, so today seemed like a good time to do it.

 
 
 
 
 
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I made Sugar Pie for Christmas dinner dessert.

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on

In lieu of reading for fun and blogging, I’ve read 1.5 textbooks!

But don’t feel too bad for me – Christmas was spent with my family, eating delicious Christmas dinner, and giving each other a crazy amount of presents (translation: I was spoiled as usual). 

And now I have 14 more days to get the first new course ready to go! Wish me luck!

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On the eleventh day of donating…

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank provides assistance to nearly 30,000 people every week! That’s a lot of people. And that’s just to support people in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and the North Shore (Other food banks serve people in other suburbs around Vancouver). 

And apparently the demand has increased 30% in the last 4 months. So now seems like a good time to donate to them.

22% of the people using the food bank are children. Another 22% are seniors.

Source: https://foodbank.bc.ca/about-us/

And while you can donate food to the food bank, the food bank actually really likes it when you give them money because (a) since they buy in large quantities, they can get deals so that $1 will get them $3 worth of stuff, and (b) they can buy what they need to have a variety of food available to people, rather than ending up with a thousand cans of the same stuff.

In addition to the traditional services that one thinks of when they think about a food bank (i.e., providing food), the GVFB realizes that “emergency food as a stand-alone is not a long-term solution. [Their] goal is to build strong, connected communities through the power of food, and [they] employ the principles of sustainability, education and training, and quality nutrition to achieve this goal.”

Some of their programs include:

  • Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food: “an experiential, curriculum-based school program aimed at children in kindergarten to grade seven that teaches students about healthy food”
  • Community Kitchens
  • Workshops
  • Rescuing Food from local businesses to distribute to individuals and organization.

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The Return of High Garden

One of my favourite things about summer is growing food on my balcony – I like to refer to my little balcony oasis as High Garden (as my condo is on the 10th floor and I’m a Game of Thrones fan.)

And my garden seems to get bigger and better every year. This year we actually are fertilizing on the regular and, who knew?, fertilizing really helps the plants grow1.

This year we decided to plant a few vegetables:

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • spinach

and some herbs:

  • rosemary
  • chives
  • thyme
  • marjoram
  • savory
  • mint
  • oregano
  • dill
  • parsley

and, of course, the cat garden:

  • cat grass
  • cat mint
  • cat nip

Planted on May 15, 2018:

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

High Garden - 2018

June 16:

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

June 26:

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

Starting to see some flowers on the cucumber plant

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

High Garden 2018

Potato and tomato plants looking quite full of leaves!

June 28:Savory & Oregano

Cucumber flowers

Cucumber flowers

Potato flowers

Flowers on the potato plant

We’ve been eating herbs all throughout the summer – I use them in homemade salad dressing, scrambled eggs, with various meats on the BBQ, etc. We managed to get enough dill to make a delicious dill dip, but then the dill plant died. The savoury plant looked pretty grim from the time we planted it and never really took. The parsley, which I planted from seed (all the rest were seedlings), didn’t grow at all.

The cucumber plant ended up only yielding two cucumbers, but they were big:

Cucumber that grew in High Garden!

The spinach plants yielded enough to make a small spinach salad for each of us (I’m not convinced it was more than the amount of spinach leaves on the seedlings we originally planted!):

Spinach salad - made with spinach from High Garden!

Last week when my friend Kim and her boyfriend Tad came over for dinner, we made mint juleps with mint from High Garden:

Mint juleps
Yes, I realize that those are Moscow mule mugs, not mint julep cups. I don’t have any mint julep cups, so the mule mugs had to suffice! And suffice they did – they were pretty darn tasty – a very refreshing drink on a hot day!

Tonight’s dinner included these three potatoes (which popped up above the surface – there are still more to harvest):

Potatoes

and this onion was sautéed to go with our steaks:

Onion

All in all, I’d say it was a successful growing season for High Garden. I’m kind of sad that summer is coming to an end though (as evidenced by leaves on trees changing colour and Halloween candy appearing in the local grocery stores) – I’ll have to enjoy the last bit of my garden while I can!

  1. The answer is everybody. Everybody knew. []

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Five New Foods, Two Books, and One Hell of a Deadlift

After last year’s pathetic display of accomplishing so few of my goals, I’ve decided to come out of the 2018 gate strong. In fact, I’ve already made 5 new foods/beverages that I’ve never made before (of my goal to make 18 new things year), finished 2 books (of my goal of 18), and deadlifted my body weight!

The foods are:

  • chicken florentine – I had a bunch of spinach I needed to use up, so I picked this recipe.
  • grog – this was the house drink at my birthday party. It was pretty tasty!
  • slow cooker lasagna – made this for my birthday party. I’ve made lasagna a million times before, but never in a slow cooker.
  • kale salad from a recipe from Savio Volpe – Scott took me to Savio Volpe for my birthday and since the reservation said it was my birthday, there was a birthday card waiting on the table and in that card was a recipe for their kale salad. Which is delicious. And which I’ve made several times since then!
  • herbed goat cheese-stuffed chicken thighs – I had a bunch of goat cheese, leftover from my birthday party, that I needed to use up (do you see the trend?), so I google “goat cheese recipes” and found one for stuffing chicken breast with goat cheese that you’ve mixed with herbs. But I did it with chicken thighs. Pretty good stuff.

Making slow cooker lasagna

Making lasagna in the slow cooker

Kale salad

Kale salad

The two books I’ve finished so far in 2018 were:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker – I started reading this massive tome last year and it took me about eleventy billion years to get through it, but I finally did. The gist of the book is that violence has decreased over human history and Pinker puts forward his theory as to why. Often people think that we are living in particularly dangerous times – probably at least in part because we hear about violent events on the news on the time, but that’s actually a skewed perception, as the news covers the most sensational events (If it bleeds, it leads). Overall we are at much less at risk of being a victim of violence than in any other time in human history1 There’s a tonne of data illustrating the decline in violence and we can see it also in what is considered acceptable – e.g., it used to be legal and considered acceptable by society for people to keep slaves, for a man to rape his wife, for parents to beat their children, to people to brutalize animals, for example2. Pinker presents a pretty extensive theory as to why violence has declined and I’m not even going to try to get into describing it all. You’ll just have to read the 800+ pages to find out for yourself!
  • Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – {SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read this if you don’t want the book to be spoiled for you!} After reading such a long, dense book, I decided I needed to have a quick and easy read as a bit of a palate cleanser for my brain, and Ready Player One fit the bill. Plus, there’s a movie version of it coming out this year and so I figured I should read it in case I decided to see the movie. I know a lot of people *love* this book, but I thought it was just OK. I mean, I enjoyed reading it but I got the exact same feeling from reading it as I did when I read the DaVinci Code – I was compelled enough by wanting to see how the various puzzles would be solved to keep reading, but the writing is so flat3 that it was kind of a painful, if easy, read. He does a tonne of name dropping of 80s games (game dropping?), movies, and music. Having grown up in the 80s, most of these were familiar to me (especially the movies and music), but the excitement of “hey, I remember that” gets pretty old pretty quick and then it just becomes annoying. And most egregiously, the Deus ex machina of Og showing up to give them a completely impenetrable fortress from which to complete the end of the game was just too much.

And then the one that I’m most excited about: I deadlifted more than my body weight! One of the challenges to doing this was that my body weight has increased due to the muscle mass I’ve put on from all the weight training4. I’d thought I’d lifted my body weight one time last year but then when I got home and weighed myself to confirm, I found that I’d been just shy of my weight.

In this month’s training program, one of my exercises was to do bar bell deadlifts where you start with a weight you can lift for 12 reps, then you up the weight and do 9 reps, then you up the weight again and do 6 reps. Then you start over at 12 reps, but with the weight you used for 9 reps the first time through, then you do 9 reps with the weight you did for 6 reps the first time through, then you do 6 reps at a higher weight. As you can see from my record sheet, on Jan 30, 2018, I did 6 reps of 67.5 kg!

Untitled

Since I’m of the generation of Canadians that still thinks of our body weight in pounds instead of kg, I had to do the conversion to confirm that this was, in fact, more than my body weight:Untitled

And I do, in fact, weight less than 148 lbs, so hooray for me – goal achieved!

  1. Of course, this is not to say that there is no violence or that the violence that does happen is not horrific. []
  2. Again, this is not to say that these things don’t still happen or that they aren’t legal in some societies still today. But they are legal or accepted in far fewer societies today than in the past. []
  3. Full disclosure: I saw the description of the writing in this book as “flat” in a GoodReads review and it totally fit with the feeling I had about the writing that I couldn’t find the right word for, so I totally stole the word! []
  4. Also, it’s kind of cool that after several years of setting, and failing to achieve, a goal of losing the 15 lbs I put on during my MBA (I’d get part way there from half marathon training, but never quite lost it all), I’m now actually happier with my body size despite weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, because it’s all been muscle mass gain. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some fat mass I’d like to lose, but I’ve got some kickass muscles that I’ve never had before! []

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New Foods I Made in 2017

So I guess now is that time of year where I do all my year-end wrap up postings! Decided to start with one of my 2017 goals that I actually accomplished: Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.

In fact, not only did I achieve this one, but I surpassed it by 8!

  1. chicken parmesan casserole
  2. pork tenderloin in bourbon – this was bourbon-licious
  3. cedar planked salmon – thanks to cedar planks that I got from Costco
  4. cedar planked chicken – because I got the cedar planks from Costco, there were eleventy billion of them
  5. oat fudge bars
  6. BBQ pizza
  7. zucchini chocolate chip muffins – these were a big hit when I brought them into the office
  8. maraschino cherries – I made these from cherries I picked up in the Okanagan and a cherry liqueur that I also got in the Okanagan1
  9. amaretto cherries – I decided to try making these in the same way that I made the maraschino cherries (i.e., soak berries in booze). When I tried then after about a week in the booze, the maraschino cherries were delicious, but the amaretto ones didn’t seem like they’d absorbed any of the amaretto yet, so I’ve now left them for
  10. tarragon vinegar – with fresh tarragon from High Garden
  11. BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze – I had some fresh peaches and made a pretty delicious glaze to go with BBQ chicken
  12. cauliflower tots
  13. broccoli tots
  14. Garlicky Butter Chive Parmesan Pork Chops – not gonna lie, I did not leave these
  15. pita bread – my friend Steph made these when I was at her place and they were so good that I asked for the recipe. And she was like, “these are so easy, I don’t even use a recipe.” So I tried making some (with a recipe I found) and they were, in fact, really easy!
  16. raspberry jam
  17. figs pickled in balsamic vinegar – with figs from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party
  18. fig infused balsamic vinegar – this may or may not have been the left over balsamic vinegar from when I pickled the figs
  19. pickled spicy beans – sooo good
  20. pickles – nor these
  21. pickled beets – haven’t actually tried these yet
  22. sautéed beet tops – since I had the beet tops from the beets that I pickled, I tried sautéing them, because I read that was a thing to do. Didn’t love them, but they weren’t terrible, so would probably make them again should I be in possession of beet tops
  23. jalapeño jelly – nor these
  24. bitters – from the “make your own bitters” kit my sister gave me last Christmas
  25. vanilla sugar – from vanilla beans that had previously been making vanilla extract

My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, pickles

Making jalapeno jelly

Making jalapeño jelly

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar Planked Chicken

Cedar Planked Chicken

Oat Fudge Bars

Oat Fudge Bars

BBQ Pizza

BBQ Pizza

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze and grilled peach and veggies

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Sauteeing beet tops

Sauteed beet tops

  1. So they aren’t technically maraschino cherries, which should be made with maraschino liqueur, but I figure they are close enough. []

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Christmas Baking 2017

This year’s Christmas baking was a low key affair. We’d decided to do our baking on Friday, because we had a party to go to on Saturday and wanted to bring some baked goods with us. But then my sister got booked into a meeting all afternoon because Friday was still technically a workday and we were already scheduled to go to see Star Wars that night, so me, my mom, and my niblings just did the baking without my sister1.

I made my old stalwart, shortbread cookies from my Great Granny’s recipe that was taught to me by my Aunt Wendy:

Shortbread Cookies

And then I made fudge because (a) it’s easy, (b) who doesn’t love fudge?, and (c) it involves sweetened condensed milk, which means that I get to lick the lid of the can of sweetened condensed milk!

Chocolate Fudge

My niece made peanut butter snowballs, from a family recipe that she got from her grandfather:

Peanut Butter Snowballs

My nephew made Rice Krispie squares with festive rice krispies:

Rice Krispie Squares

My mom was the most prolific baker, as usual. She made butter tart squares:

Butter Tart SquaresApricot almond squares:

Apricot Almond Squares

And Eggnog Meltaways:Eggnog Meltaways

  1. Sucks to be her because baking >>>> meetings. []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Canning Edition

And speaking of stuff I learned through books I read: this year I learned about home canning!

Last year, I made some jams. But this year, thanks to a book that my friend Linda gave to me, Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More, I actually learned more about the science behind making jams, jellies, and pickled things. This also allowed me to add seven new food items to my list of new food items that I made in 2017 (this year’s goal was to make at least 17 new food and drink items that I’ve never made before):

  • raspberry jam
  • figs pickled in balsamic vinegar1
  • fig-infused balsamic vinegar2
  • pickled spicy beans
  • pickled beets
  • pickles3
  •  jalapeño jelly

Making spicy pickled beansScott and I just opened a jar of the pickled beans yesterday and they are super tasty, if somewhat sour. I gave Kalev a jar of the jalapeño jelly, but haven’t tasted it yet myself. The raspberry jam, of which I made a tonne thanks to buying an entire flat of raspberries at one of the local farms, has been enjoyed by many as I’ve given it out to a number of people. The pickles and beets and figs have yet to be tested.

There’s still a number of things that I want to try canning – blackberry jam comes to mind as, for the second year running, I failed to go out blackberry picking again this year. But that book has a number of other cool recipes that I’d like to try, such as peach-bourbon jam, mulled cider jelly, red pepper jelly, pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, roasted tomato-lime salsa, spiced figs in syrup, Dijon mustard, and applesauce. Not in the book, but which I want to try: plum sauce. Looks like I have a good list of potential new food items to make for my 2018 goal of making 18 new foods that I’ve never made before!

My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Beans, beets, and pickles.

  1. Yes, the figs did come from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party. []
  2. Yes, the fig-infused balsamic vinegar is the vinegar that was left over from when I made the pickled figs. []
  3. Why don’t we call pickles “pickled cucumbers”? Everything else we pickle, we use “pickled” as the adjective followed by the name of the thing we pickled. []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Growing potatoes on my balcony edition

Last year when I made my herb garden, I learned that one could grow potatoes on their balcony. I didn’t get to try it out last year due to travel and balcony power washing that happened, but decided I would do it this summer. Fast forward to the May long weekend – Scott and I set out to buy some seedlings to plant this year’s herb garden and while at the store, I remembered the potato thing! I hadn’t remembered early enough to actually sprout some potatoes on my own, but fortunately one can purchase “potato seeds” (which are little potatoes that have been sprouted).

Potato seeds

Basically, you cut a bit off of the potato, put some dirt in a bag, and bury the potato cut side down.

Potato seed

Cutting the potato seed before planting

Growing potatoes on my balcony

Growing potatoes on my balcony

After about a week, you see the plant sprouting above the surface, and then you dump more dirt on it to cover the sprouts and let it grow another four weeks. And then you have potatoes!

As you can see, my potato plants are sprouting quite nicely:

June 4:

Potato plants are growing!

June 10:

Potatoes

June 14:

IMG_5865

Also, the bag that I bought to grow the potatoes in has am opening, which I’m assuming is to make it easier to harvest the potatoes when they are ready. However, such a bag also doubles as an excellent astronaut costume (as long as it is before you put the dirt in it):

Potato growing bag doubles as a spacesuit!

Since I still had more potato seeds, so I decided to get myself another bag to grow a second batch. But since the space suit potato bag appeared to be made out of the same material as Ikea bags, we decided to just buy an Ikea bag for less than $1 and cut a hole in the bottom of it!

Planted on June 4:

Planting balcony potatoes - second batch

June 10:

Potatoes
June 14:

Potatoes
In addition to growing potatoes, also picked up a bunch of seedlings to make this year’s herb garden1. For the record, this year’s garden consists of:

  • chives
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • jalapeño
  • strawberries

Balcony Herb Garden

First strawberry of the season

Strawberries

Balcony Herb GardenDoes anyone know why this tomato is called a “mortgage lifter?”

Also, while we were picking up seedlings, we discovered that the garden store was selling  cat grass seedlings. And seedlings of variegated cat grass. And cat nip seedlings. So guess who got their own little garden?

Watson & Crick love their new cat garden

You can’t see it in the photos, but the cats are wearing harnesses and leashes because I don’t want them falling off the balcony!

I also toyed with the idea of growing a hipster garden when I saw that you could buy kale, quinoa, and stevia seedlings, but decided that the cost in money, effort, and space on the balcony would outweigh the joke. Of course, if I had, I would have to have bought the “craft” compost:Hipster dirt

Anyhoo, like last year, I’m enjoying having fresh herbs to cook with, as well as enjoying watching the garden grow! And I’m really excited to get to harvest some potatoes!

  1. I didn’t find a way to bring last summer’s herb garden inside, given that my cats would eat it all and that I really don’t have anywhere to put it all, so I had to make a new garden from scratch. []

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Pokémon – Now In Candy Form

Look what I made!

Pokemon candy making

I’d been dying to make these Pokémon candies since Scott sent me the video of how to make them. Well, it was Cath’s birthday the other day and that seemed like the perfect excuse to try out the recipe!

Really, all you need to make these are some candy melts and silicone half-sphere mould. The former were pretty easy to find (I got them on sale at Michael’s craft store, but later discovered you can also buy them in bulk at the Bulk Barn), whereas the latter were more difficult. We checked every kitchen store in the area, plus Michael’s, Canadian Tire, Winners, and London Drugs and found silicone moulds in every shape other than half sphere. In the end, I had to resort to ordering it from Amazon!

Candy melts

Candy Melts are available in just about any colour you can imagine!

Pokemon candy making

Silicone half sphere mould

Then all you had to do was melt the appropriate colour Candy Melts, coat the mould with it and stick it in the freezer. In ~15 minutes, they popped right out and were all beautiful and shiny!

Pokemon candy making

We made two yellow half spheres to make Pikachu, two blue half spheres to make a Polliwag, and one red & one white half sphere to make the Pokéball! Then we made some ears for Pikachu1 and then, using food safe paint brushes and melted Candy Melts of various different colours, decorated them up. Then you use the remaining melted Candy Melts to glue the two halves together and you are good to go!

Pokemon candy making

The original video shows you how to make them as piñatas, but I didn’t think it would be nice to smash a poor innocent little Pokémon! Well, at least until you are going to eat it.

Pokemon candy making

Pokemon candy making

They are Pokélicious!

  1. Sadly, one of the ears fell off on the way to the party! []