April 24, 2022 · 8:42 am
Back in my working days, I used to think of myself as the king of batch cooking. On any given weekend, I would roll up my sleeves and slice, dice, chop, fry, bake, roast or braise any number of food items in preparation for the work week ahead.
I would place the completed meals into small microwave-safe containers, label them and then freeze them. It often felt like cooking for a platoon, preparing two or three recipes at the same time and ending up with 12 to 15 prepared meals, but it worked for me. As a result, during the work week, I barely had to think about lunches and dinners. To me, it was a pretty efficient system for cooking for one.
During those marathon sessions of cooking, I picked up the habit of cleaning the kitchen as I went along to avoid a mountain of dishes and a bad case of “kitchen claustrophobia”. Just the same, when food prep day was done, I could do one final kitchen clean up and then toss whatever I was wearing into the laundry hamper.
The reality is that despite my meticulousness when cooking and cleaning up, I often ended up wearing some of my ingredients. Call me an enthusiastic chef!
After moving to the country with my partner, I quickly adapted to cooking for two, as we took turns in meal preparation. Continue reading →
Filed under 50+, food, home
Tagged as aprons, baking, chef, clothes, clothing, cooking, efficiency, fashion, food, foodie, preparation, style, sustainability
March 27, 2022 · 8:50 am
Am I the only one who suffers from kitchen claustrophobia… or is it acrophobia? Whatever the clinical term might be, I am referring to a fear of mountains of dishes, leaving little room to navigate.
It’s not a fear that causes me sleepless nights but I will admit that it does trigger a compulsion for keeping the kitchen as clutter-free as possible.
When I first moved out on my own, I always kept a pretty tidy bachelor pad. However I was a bit more lenient in the kitchen area. Without a dishwasher in my modest little galley kitchen, I sometimes let dishes go for a day or two, until there was enough to warrant pulling out the rubber gloves. After all, it was just me producing dishes, and I admit I became pretty frugal in my use of dishes (i.e., eating out of napkins or over the kitchen sink) to avoid accumulations.
But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that this approach was not entirely practical with a kitchen that was just slightly larger than a postage stamp.
Plus, when consuming all three meals at home (I lived just a couple of blocks from my office so I could easily dash home at lunch time), some pile ups came quickly. Continue reading →
Filed under food, home, Humour
Tagged as apartment, baking, chef, condo, cook, dishes, food, foodie, kitchen, preparation, small
October 31, 2021 · 7:56 am
By the time I moved into my first apartment, I can’t say I was ever really daunted by the prospect of cooking for myself. Armed with a variety of secret family recipes and a natural curiosity to explore more exotic food options, I think I had the right mindset to experiment in the kitchen and to discover new favourites.
At that time, as an entry-level employee, without huge responsibilities on my shoulders, I had free time and headspace to play in my first kitchen. I clipped and collected recipes from newspapers, magazines and even the TV Guide, and I slowly built up a repertoire of favourite recipes.
However, in 2005, developing an intolerance to wheat products was a serious game changer as I pretty much had to toss out my recipe book and start over. Regrettably, switching out regular flour for gluten-free flour was not a recipe for success. It’s not always that simple.
Fortunately, at that point, I still had the energy, time and headspace to “play with my food” to rebuild the repertoire.
However, it was around 2012 that I started to feel a certain ambivalence toward the kitchen. Whether it was the faster pace at the office, my increasing level of responsibility, my increasing level of stress or just an overall fatigue about cooking for myself, my interest in experimenting with recipes was on the decline.
By that time, I had developed a pretty decent repertoire of gluten-free recipes that froze well. That way, I didn’t have to cook for myself (or repeat the same meals) every day. As long as these go-to recipes continued to perform well, I didn’t need to stress myself out in trying new recipes that may or may not work.
During my limited vacation time, after enjoying some time to rest and to decompress, I felt glimmers of interest in putting new recipes to the test. With varying degrees of success, I was able to slowly add to the repertoire. Continue reading →
Filed under 50+, food
Tagged as baker, baking, bucketlist, cooking, dessert, desserts, eatlocal, farmfresh, farmtofork, farmtotable, food, foodie, glutenfree, hobbies, hobby, homemade, kitchen, organic, pastry, pies, pizza, retirement, shoplocal, supportlocal
September 19, 2021 · 8:46 am
For years, I avoided it.
The few times I experienced it were beyond stressful.
When I was forced to switch to a gluten-free diet, it became the impossible dream.
I am referring to pie crust… specifically, making pie crust.
Pie crust was one of those life skills that I just never seemed to pick up.
Back in the pre-gluten-free days, I did give it my best shot on a few occasions trying to make normal pie crust. I would get all the ingredients ready and clear off plenty of counter space for the rolling process. But somewhere along the way, I never really got the feel for it.
To me, it seemed that there was such a narrow window of opportunity to bring pie dough across the finish line. The dough couldn’t be too wet. The dough couldn’t be too dry. And you couldn’t roll it for too long or else risk overworking the dough, resulting in a crust the texture of cardboard.
These three factors, combined with my uninspiring results, were enough to keep me away for months at a time.
Rolling the dough was the part that challenged every ounce of patience within me.
The dough would stick to the rolling pin, the counter, my utensils and my hands… everything except the pie plate to which it was supposedly destined.
I would try a light sprinkling of flour on the counter and on the rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking, but by the time I had something resembling a fully rolled out pie shell (if I got to that point at all), it seemed like the entire kitchen was covered in a light dusting of flour.
My pies would not be complete without a side order of anger, anxiety and high blood pressure. Continue reading →
Filed under 50+, food, home, Humour, stories
Tagged as bake, baker, baking, crust, dough, food, gluten-free, kitchen, pie, pies, practice, recipe, rolling, skill, tourtiere
March 3, 2019 · 1:40 pm
1. Baking can be an “in the moment” experience. It is difficult to ruminate over an issue, when one is busy measuring and following directions, while keeping an eye on the clock and the oven.
2. To me, baking can be a relaxing experience.
3. Baking is an opportunity to develop new skills or to work on existing ones.
4. I love that baking can be broken down into many individual disciplines and learning opportunities.
5. I love that I have succeeded in folding egg whites without completely deflating batter.
6. I love that baking is something for which I am passionate enough to make the time to keep trying.
7. Baking is an opportunity to develop intuition for what will work and what won’t.
8. Baking is an opportunity to experiment with different ingredients.
9. Baking is an opportunity to take a favourite recipe and to try to “embellish” it with different flavours.
10. Baking is the closest I will ever get to becoming a scientist, meticulously combining different ingredients and relying on their chemical properties to achieve grand results.
11. I love baking because I know exactly what goes into a recipe.
12. I love baking because I don’t use ingredients that I cannot pronounce. Continue reading →
Filed under food, Lists
Tagged as baked goods, baker, baking, cakes, connection, cookies, food, foodie, fun, generational, gluten-free, hobby, ingredients, journey, joy, learning, love, pleasure, reasons, recipes, seasonal, simple pleasures, tradition, wheat-free
April 15, 2018 · 9:00 am
“A place for everything and everything in its place” was the advice I was given as a child when I misplaced something, which I have to admit was often enough.
But whenever I had a chance to put things in order and to give things a designated spot (and I made sure to return the objects to their designated spot after use), it seemed that losing, misplacing and hunting for things became a rare occurrence. Mom and Dad’s advice was proven right, again and again.
I was working in the kitchen a few days ago when I realized that my kitchen was not following that mantra. I had teas scattered in three different cupboards. I had bags of bulk store products piled on top of one another and sliding off each other. Even my cat’s cupboard was becoming an avalanche-waiting-to-happen.
My spring cleaning instinct went into overdrive. It was time to tame these cupboards and get the kitchen organized once and for all!
It’s not like I’ve never done this before. A few years ago, I containerized the different kinds of gluten-free flour I needed, just to keep them clearly identified and organized. Gluten-free recipes were a breeze when I could tell my tapioca starch from the potato starch, and the white rice flour from the sweet rice flour. Every time I baked or brought back more flour from the store, I was so thankful that I had this section so neatly organized.
It was time to apply the same makeover technique to the rest of the kitchen. Continue reading →
Filed under food, How to
Tagged as baking, budget, closets, containers, cooking, cupboard, cupboards, efficiency, ingredients, kitchen, makeover, organization, pantry, recipes, space, spring cleaning
December 3, 2017 · 8:22 am
Regular readers probably know that I have my moments where I might be considered a bit of an oddball, especially when it comes to my borderline-obsessive love of fruit cake. It hasn’t always been that way though.
When I was younger I would have a couple of pieces from the overflowing tray of treats passed around the table at Christmas, and I’d be set for the year.
But it was in my body’s rejection of gluten a decade ago, that I had to stop all foods involving wheat flour including fruit cake.
For something that I only ate once per year, it wasn’t a catastrophic loss, but with each passing Christmas after that, I grew to miss the tradition that much more. I also grew to appreciate it as one of life’s simple pleasures at the most wonderful, most festive time of the year.
A few years ago, I even wrote a poem about my hunt for the perfect gluten-free fruit cake. It wasn’t easy. The hunt, not the poem.
Around here, not a lot of stores sell gluten-free fruit cake and for the ones that do, I found the experience to be a very pricey one and sometimes a disappointing one. I remember one in particular that lived up to all of the hype and negative connotations about heavy and dry fruit cakes, and added a few more.
Then inspiration hit. How hard can it be to make gluten-free fruit cake for myself? Continue reading →
Filed under Christmas, How to
Tagged as allergies, baking, Christmas, dessert, easy, festive, food, fruit, fruit cake, fruitcake, gluten, gluten-free, holiday, holidays, human interest, intolerance, Noël, nuts, recipe, recipes, traditions, treats
November 16, 2016 · 7:30 pm
It’s November and we all know what that means… I’m cold! And if history repeats itself, that also means I will stay that way until mid-March.
I sometimes think it is Mother Nature’s way of telling me that it goes against nature to be out and about over these frosty months. But then reality kicks in, along with the realization that I still need to work for a living, which then sends me outside, grudgingly braving another winter.
Over the years, friends and family members who may have had an accidental run-in with my permafrost hands or glacial feet suggested that I bring the condition to the attention of a doctor, before they contact a mortician to confirm that I am in fact alive.
I have to agree though. My hands can get so cold sometimes, even the cat won’t play with me.
To the disbelief of my inner circle, the medical community has concluded that everything is actually normal with me.
With that verdict in, I have had to adjust and to find ways to get warm and to stay warm, even if it means a commitment to a life of layered looks and thermal wear, outdoors and indoors.
Here they are, the top 10 remedies for when “I’m cold” Continue reading →
Filed under 50+, Cats, Humour, Lists
Tagged as baking, blanket, Canadian, Cats, chill, cold, cold feet, cold hands, fireplace, frost, funny, furnace, heat, heater, housework, how to get warm, humour, icy, nordic, observational humour, poor circulation, remedy, snow, snowy, sweater, thermal, tuque, vacuum, vacuum cleaner, warm heart, warm up, weather, winter, working out
December 15, 2013 · 10:00 pm
Back in 1995, one of our local newspapers, The Ottawa Sun, held a contest in which they asked readers to send in their best “Holiday Horror Stories”. Despite the title, they were just looking for lighthearted stories recounting when holiday festivities didn’t go as planned. I knew exactly which story to tell, and that was the holiday of 1992 when Murphy’s Law was alive and well at my apartment! I decided to put my true story to prose to give it a little more of a comedic lilt. Sure enough, I made it to the winner’s circle and the Sun published a few excerps from the poem. My prize was tickets to a fabulously swanky New Year’s Eve bash. Unfortunately, Murphy wasn’t finished with me yet, and I came down with an ear infection and couldn’t go.
I still get a chuckle when I read this one, and I hope you enjoy it too!
A Christmas Story (written in December 1995)
T’was the morning of Christmas in 1992,
When I woke in the morning with a lousy flu,
“What rotten timing, oh please go away”,
I thought to myself as I started the day. Continue reading →
Filed under Christmas, Humour
Tagged as baking, Christmas, cold, comedy, family, freezing rain, funny, gifts, humor, humour, irony, Murphy's Law, poem, poetry, preparations, sick, snow
November 19, 2013 · 10:37 pm
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was punctual in every sense of the word. It didn’t matter if it was for an appointment, for assignments that were due, getting renewals done on time, paying bills and taxes… I was always, always, always on time!
The fact is that I am not the kind of person who works well under the pressure of a short deadline. I like advance notice. Frankly, the more the merrier. I like the time to organize, plan, think it through, give it time to “ferment”, execute, review and to try to make it my best work possible.
I have always been like that even as far back as high school and university and it still applies in my day-to-day work life too. Unfortunately in today’s reality, you don’t always have the luxury of time to provide your absolute best work when you have 50 other things to do before 5 pm. I never feel that the last minute stuff is my best work, but I am often told that my “good enough” is pretty good! So compromise can be good, at least I am not spending days working on something that can be “good enough” after a couple of hours’ effort.
Anyway, this applies across the board, including Christmas. You would think that with a set date every year, it should be easy for me to pull out a templated project plan, reset a few dates and voilà, I should be ready for Christmas long before the date… Unfortunately, that USED to be the case. Continue reading →
Filed under Christmas, Humour
Tagged as baking, balance, blessings, busy, Christmas, decorations, energy, gift wrapping, gifts, holiday, last-minute, Lists, planning, preparation, procrastination, rush, time, traditions