Archive for the ‘Cooking & Baking’ Category

This may be a bit of a rant, and perhaps it’s a good thing that I no longer have regular readers — sadly the only people that seem to come to this blog are those who find it from an online search that happens to pull up a particular post.  Perhaps I should start publishing posts to my facebook and twitter. I’ll think about that for a bit… Step one is getting back to posting regularly…

So on that note, onto the topic at hand. Potluck Etiquette…

I have noticed in recent months, when a potluck food party is being planned and the ‘event’ is posted on Facebook there are comments posted such as…

“this house is now gluten free, please plan accordingly” … or …”guests, X, Y, Z are following the paleo diet so please only bring food sanctioned by that diet”… or … “the host is lactose free so please don’t bring anything with lactose”…


Now, I want to note, I am not discussing this from a perspective of whether a host should have alcohol or not at a party. That is their prerogative.  Alcohol is a controlled substance, and there exists legitimate addiction to this substance.  I am also not talking allergies, legitimate allergies, that is!  If a person’s allergy is so severe that they experience an anaphylactic reaction, then I am all for keeping them away from the product!  If their reaction is so severe that they cannot be in the presence of the item, then let’s keep it out of any house they visit.


What I’m talking about are those people who are choosing to follow a particular diet, or who choose to cut out a particular product from their diet (perhaps due to preference, a sensitivity or intolerance or even an allergy -YES, allergy – that they only experience if they eat an item). I certainly believe that it is important that they be given the information they need to make appropriate food choices – so let’s plan to label food we bring to potluck items so people know if a product contains meat, diary, wheat, eggs, soy etc…


But with the caveats I have mentioned is it really necessary to limit your guests when it comes to what they bring to a potluck? Sure, for balance it’s nice to make sure not everyone is bringing a dessert, but is it really necessary to state that for all items that are being brought said food must be wheat-free, or dairy-free, or even meat-free? I’ve been finding that most potluck-related invites I have seen lately have been that way.


Conversely, When my family has our annual family christmas gathering, it’s potluck and there is all sorts of food there. DF (who doesn’t eat red meat) doesn’t request that everyone avoid their favourite red-meat recipes. Rather, he sees that there is (for example) meat in the chili and when he finds out that it is beef, he just doesn’t take any, and reaches for the chicken instead. Likewise for the meatballs.


Yet, I’ve seen invites where people will post “I have a dairy allergy, please don’t bring dairy” and another person “I don’t eat wheat, please don’t bring wheat”.  Are people okay with this? Is this the new normal? Again, I can understand “I will have an anaphylactic reaction and will not be able to breath, please don’t bring nuts anywhere near me”, and I can understand “I am allergic to dairy, please label your food with an ingredient list so I can see if it’s safe to eat”.  But to put an all out ban on something for a large party? That seems a little extreme.  If I am cooking dinner for DF, myself and another couple and the other couple is vegetarian, I am not going to make a roast chicken.  Likewise I wouldn’t use dairy in a similar context. But if I am having a party with a group of people, I think it’s fair to make sure there are alternates arriving that everyone can eat (by perhaps having the people with food restrictions bring food that they are able to eat) and to ensure people are prepared to write up a little note card outlining what’s in the item.


I was invited to a party recently where wheat (actually, all grains containing gluten), diary, eggs and meat were on the “do not bring at all” list.  So, fine, we can respect that but it made me realize how odd it was to watch as different people piped up with their food preferences and how that increased the ‘do not bring’ list.  So my proposal is this: Let’s have a ‘potluck item labelling station’ and a party where anything goes for food.  Anyone with a specific diet restriction can plan to bring something that fits in with their diet plan, and those who don’t have restrictions will do what they like and we can all just enjoy ourselves.


And for the record I have a bona fide dairy allergy. It’s been tested and documented and it isn’t just me choosing to have a food restriction because it seems to be the cool thing to do. I hate this allergy, LOVE dairy, and am terrible about limiting dairy, so I face the consequences on a daily basis.  ALSO, I never expect that anyone will cater to my diet needs. Good grief, I don’t even expect DF to avoid having cheese in our home just because I *SHOULD* avoid it.  I am an adult, I can make my own choice about what I eat, no one forces it down my throat.  If I am at a party and the cheese looks amazing I choose if I take it or skip it, and if there is pasta with a cream sauce I say ‘no thank you’.  I never expect that anyone will set up a party that is 100% dairy free just for me.


So, friends… for the next potluck party I am attending… if there is a unilateral ridiculous food ban (that isn’t alcohol or due to a severe anaphylactic allergy as some can be)… I may just bring an amazing-tasting item that contains whatever is the item of protest. It will be in my own serving dish – with utensils (so it doesn’t contaminate anyone else’s dish/utensils unless it’s by choice), it will be well-labelled and it will be up to each adult present to make their own choice as to whether or not they should choose to eat said item.  That is if I don’t just skip the event entirely out of the insanity of this trend!

<End Rant>


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Okay, so, I’m supposed to be working on a paper, packing for Seattle and cleaning my house. Not to mention Sleeping. BUT I had to share. I was craving chocolate tonight and have none in the house. NONE. Well, except for cocoa powder.

I was desperate so I looked on the internet to see if there were any recipes for tiny chocolate cakes. There are. Many. But, all of them call for lots of oil. And since I want to indulge but not be crazy I decided to try modifying the cake.

And let me tell you, it was delightful! I even took photos. Here’s what I did:

Individual Chocolate Cake:

4 TBSP Flour
4 TBSP Sugar
2 TBSP Cocoa (I’d increase this the next time to 3)
1 Egg
3 TBSP Water (You can also use milk soy or rice milk – I used water as I don’t drink Milk and I’m out of soy)
3 TBSP Applesauce
1 tsp Vanilla
2 TBSP Chocolate Chips

Mix the dry ingredients together well. Add the water, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a mug (I mixed it in a mug, but would use a measuring cup next time and transfer it I think). Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

Let it cool a bit. Enjoy!!

It was wonderful. The applesauce I used was homemade with lots of cinnamon in it, so next time I’ll use plainer applesauce and increase the cocoa powder. But, it was intense, rich and very yummy.

This may become a dangerous exam-time habit.

It's rich and decadent...

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This week has been nuts at work. It seriously has me second-guessing myself. It makes me pause because I don’t know how to broach my plans with those who need to know. Or if I even want to go through with parts of them. Maybe I should just go through with the other plans and deal with the debt later. Maybe that would be better for my sanity? I know I’m being vague right now, and for those who don’t know me personally (or who do know me but haven’t asked what the heck I’m talking about), I’m sure it’s frustrating and confusing to read.  Sigh. Anyhow, as soon as I have explained it to those who should hear about it from me, I will explain it in more detail.

Anyhow, after the last couple of days, I needed to decompress.  I’ve been planning on a berry run — to make jam and to freeze berries. Since doing things like this help me relax, I decided to skip running and make jam instead.  So, I made the jam tonight and now have 19 cups of jam. It may not make sense that I’m spending a lot on berries now when I have a lot of expenses coming up. But, this will hopefully stock me up so that I don’t need to spend as much on fruit for the next year, or two (two years might be stretching it).

So that’s me. Stressed but dealing with it by making 19 cups of jam and now it’s yet another night of being up much too late. Bootcamp’s going to hurt in the morning. Time to get ready for bed.

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It’s a small consolation for not going to a blues party in Portland tonight. I’ll admit that driving 10 hours for a short party (there and back) is not my favourite idea of fun — especially with not sharing the driving.  But I was prepared to go, but my gut said ‘BAD IDEA’ this morning. Fortunately my passenger felt the same way so we called it. Instead today, after my last long run before the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon I came home and relaxed a bit and convinced myself that a $0.50/Ib savings is worth it to drive to Langley for Strawberries rather than staying closer and going to Richmond.

So I did went and got a flat of strawberries, grabbing another bundle of Rhubarb while it’s in season too. Maybe I’ll make more Strawberry Rhubarb muffins like these from last week:

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffin

There are a few places to get berries around the lower mainland. I’ve done some pricing. It’s always cheaper to do U Pick but that’s pretty time consuming and more fun to do with friends. So I just bought a total of two flats. Besides my time is worth more than the $0.50/Ib savings it is to do U Pick. So I’ll have just under 30 Ibs of strawberries frozen which will hopefully be a wonderful treat in the dead of winter while I’m busy and stressed (I’m not going to make Strawberry Jam this year — I still have lots from last year — not to mention blueberry and blackberry. I think this summer I’ll plan to make two batches of raspberry jam. I think that will get me through, at least until next summer)!  Plus, buying these local berries is much cheaper than the individually quick frozen berries sold at Costco (my fallback if I run out before this time next year), so I think in the interest of planning for what’s next, this is a fantastic way to save money. I’m trying to stock up right now so that I have a deep freezer full of basics I can use. Frozen local fruit (in season), chicken, veggies, and lots of soups and freezer meals. I want to be ready for the busy-ness of the fall, the inability to find time or the energy to cook — and I want to be ready to keep myself from eating out too much.

My strawberry adventure took me to langley — last week’s flat was from Krause Farms, this weeks from Driediger Farms. It would have been delightful to share that with friends and make a fun adventure out of it, but alas, this time it was just me. Quick in and out, but this farm had a lovely picnic area, a place to get fresh fruit smoothies, the chance to get tours of the farm and it was very pretty!! I’ll be going back for blueberries and for raspberries later this summer (blackberries I’ll pick at the cabin as always), and hopefully the upcoming Blueberry and/or Raspberry Adventures will be shared.

Speaking of eating out. Yesterday I ended up eating out twice, and need to nip that in the bud. It can’t keep happening — I need to limit that to special occasions, there have to be other inexpensive ways to hang out with people that don’t involve restaurants!  So I’m spending a lot of time thinking and planning and am trying to find tips and techniques that will help me to save funds. What are your tips and techniqes to save money and reduce your budget? What do you do with your friends that are cheap or free so that you’re not constantly spending money to be social?

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Baking Disaster

I’m heading to Whistler this weekend. It’s midnight, I haven’t packed yet. But I did manage to go to the Army and Navy Massive Annual Shoe Sale — where I bought seven, yes seven, pairs of really cute shoes. All leather (except for the denim pair), and beautiful. Afterwards I came home and went for a great run. It’s my first run where I felt like myself — in months. I’ve felt good when I’ve been running with groups but when alone I’ve been draggy and slow. Tonight I still wasn’t up to speed but was strong.

After, I needed to do the baking that I’d promised for this weekend.  Yesterday I made cookies and today I was making pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, lemon merangue pie and grated apple pie. Mid baking, I had the lemon merangue pie on the stove — cooling. I opened the cupboard to get my cinnamon out, and some spices fell out — onto the merangue. So I had to re-make the merangue. Then I was ready to put the muffins in the oven and went to pick up the muffin tin. And dropped it everywhere. Almost on the Lemon Merangue Pie. The pie was safe, but the muffin batter was not. So alas, no muffins for the weekend. But there are three kinds of pies, and ginger snaps. That should be good for two days.

I’m not usually this spaztic, I know I’m thinking through information I received today, but really it’s nothing particularly deep or shocking but I have no idea why I managed to almost destroy a pie — twice — and sent muffin batter all over the kitchen.

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I’m doing better; Feeling like myself, but feeling a bit fragile.  It’s not that I care about situations and the like, but I know that I can’t take anything more. So that means I am paying careful attention to what I do, where I go etc. Because I don’t want to put myself in an unsafe situation. I’m not talking about personal safety. I’m not a hermit and inappropriately afraid. I’m referring to situations of crap, hell, that I’ve been dealing with. I’m at a point where I don’t care. It’s not worth my time.  I’ve learned that the lost friend isn’t lost — I never had the friendship I thought. What is lost is my friendship. That friend can no longer count on my good will. I don’t hate, I don’t wish any bad: I just don’t care, don’t respect. I’ve lost nothing: I’ve gained truth. The lost friend, has lost greatly and doesn’t know it.

But whatever, after the crap I’ve gone through, issues that I need to post about eventually that I’m dealing with, and my grandma’s death, I am fragile. I badly need something, anything, good to happen. So I’m carefully deciding if I’m ready to go dancing. Right now I’m not. Right now I need to be in emotionally safe situations: time spent with real friends, new friends, running, caring for my health.  So last night I skipped a blues party to go out for drinks with friends.  It was great. I enjoyed it, got to know a friend of a friend a bit better (we’ve met a couple of times before).  Today I ran with my running group, had coffee and then ended up at a spontaneous lunch at a friend’s house. I wished I could stay longer – but I had a great time and I hope for more times like this with genuine good, solid, normal, interesting and smart people. But I was so tired after little sleep, running early, and going all day. So, I came home and passed out for a few hours on my couch.

Tonight I baked. I made my grandma’s carrot cake.  I’ll take photos once it’s finally ready — including the Easter Jelly Beans. I want to use to decorate the cake and add it to the carrot cake recipe page.   I also made some banana bread. It’s therapeutic to bake, and I’m trying to be productive to make things that I can freeze in preparation for the future.

And now, for the rest of the evening — what’s left of it — I’m going to get back to my spring cleaning. It’s also therapeutic to do spring cleaning. It feels like it’s something I can control. That’s good. Accomplishing something within my control. What a relief!

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I am sitting near my kitchen, it’s late and the water’s boiling. I’ve just finished making blueberry jam. As I can my jars (I follow the information that’s found here, oh except I process them for 10 minute), I’m catching up on some blog posts. I might even post Canada Day. That may be stretching it though.

Tonight was belly dance, more cans, a pause by the lindy hop dance studio then errands and home to making jam.

I’ve started taking a belly dancing class because I find that I really want to work on my movement and body isolations. I also think it will help with self and body confidence. My friend Jools and I are doing it (I’m still searching for nicknames for everyone… Jools for one friend and Jules for another works… I hope..) and tonight was week 2.  I’ve found that I can get the motion with the hips going, the upper torso body isolations are a challenge and combining things… well that’s like patting your head, rubbing your stomach and walking while chewing gum combined. Awkward. But I think I’m learning a lot.

Afterwards I came home and am making jam. again. One of my activities these past few weeks has been to make jam. Likely for gifts, so hopefully by the time I give them away, those people who are reading this will have forgotten… 😛 I realized that I love local berries and enjoy jam and I’ve really started to prefer natural, local foods and I prefer to know what’s in my food. So I’m making jam. I made two batches of Strawberry Jam the other week (17.5+ cups of jam later… plus frozen berries), and I will make 2 batches of Blueberry Jam. Plus more of who knows what…

It’s satisfying me the way that baking satisfies, and it has the bonus of not being something I’m tempted to eat right away (other than to mop up the drippings because it is very very yummy), plus it might end up being a homemade gift, so it’s all good…

I think I also like it because there’s a science to making jam, and it gives me time to think and process and after this past week, I definitely need that.

So I’m having fun. Tomorrow I’ll make batch #2, and maybe I’ll even take photos, and then I have to sort out how to can tomatoes because in a few weeks I’ll have 1000’s of them. My tomato plants are huge…

Enough random chatter. My canning’s done.

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