April 23, 2023 · 8:51 am
Shortly after discovering a pretty major food intolerance about 15 years ago, I quickly realized that I needed to brush up on my cooking and baking skills. A person can get bored pretty quickly on a rotation of just three “safe” dishes: shepherd’s pie, chili con carne and grilled chicken breast with a tossed salad.
I consider myself a pretty good short order cook with a natural curiosity for trying different food combinations. That being the case, removing wheat from my diet was not a catastrophe to me. In fact, I think it just spurred on my curiosity even more.
I just had to make time to practice more, to locate recipes that appealed to me and to test them until I got the desired results.
At first it was a bit stressful to explore a world without wheat and flour, especially when some of the resulting dishes didn’t look anything like the picture and tasted like cardboard. But eventually, some reliable go-to recipes emerged and things fell into place.
But along the way, I made another discovery. During that incubation period of trying new recipes, I found that cooking and baking can have a relaxing effect on me. Continue reading →
Filed under food, home, Humour, stories
Tagged as baking, cooking, cuisine, curiosity, curious, happiness, hobbies, joy, kitchen, mindful, mindfulness, recipe, recipes, relax, relaxation, serenity
July 10, 2022 · 6:40 am
After nearly four decades of cooking for myself, I can’t say that there is much that scares me in the kitchen. I have no problem following a recipe, word for word, in the hope of achieving the expected results.
I will even go so far as to say that I am pretty confident when keeping my eye on two dishes at once.
But it’s when a meal has three separate components (or more) than my anxiety can potentially boil over. In those moments, I start wondering how the talented jugglers I have seen on TV could spin multiple plates on the end of tall sticks, and keep them spinning beautifully.
To me, cooking is very much the same thing. It is the variability of variables that can potentially spoil a meal that keeps me on edge.
Let’s start with the essential work tools, the stove and oven:
I’ll never forget the stove that came with the house in my last place. At 15 years old, it wasn’t an antiquity, but by today’s standards for appliances, it was getting old… and increasingly unreliable.
It didn’t take many under-baked goodies for me to figure out that there was a problem with the oven. After a while, I bought an oven thermometer to get a second opinion on the temperature. Sure enough, the oven was almost always 25 degrees under the temperature I requested. Continue reading →
Filed under food, home, Humour
Tagged as course, dishes, food, logistics, meal, planning, preparation, recipe, stress, success, time, timing, variables
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
February 7, 2021 · 8:48 am
I don’t think we realize how much we appreciate an appliance until it isn’t there for us.
And when the option to replace it quickly is not there either because microwave ovens are backordered everywhere due to supply chain issues resulting from Covid-19, that is when the reality check sets in.
A few months after we arrived in our new place, we were sitting in the living room, watching TV, when we heard the microwave making beeping noises. We weren’t cooking anything, we hadn’t left anything in it, and frankly there was no reason for it to be beeping, but it was. We dismissed it as just a random incident and didn’t think much of it.
But in the days that followed, it happened again and again. Not just one or two beeps, but a series of beeps like our microwave oven was receiving Morse code from somewhere, and for prolonged durations. Even in the quiet of the night, from our bedroom we could sometimes hear the beeping competing with our cat’s nightly choir practice.
We just chalked it up to another one of our house’s “stories of the unexplained”.
A few weeks later, without being asked, the microwave’s screen started showing us random recipe instructions and maintenance instructions, or going into “demonstration mode”. We started wondering if the microwave was slightly haunted. But we took the scientific approach and unplugged the microwave, waited one minute, and then plugged it back in. It seemed to work fine… for a while. Continue reading →
Filed under food, Health and Wellness, home, Humour
Tagged as adapting, appliance, appliances, broken, cooking, food preparation, freezer meals, gadgets, gluten, kitchen, make-ahead meals, microwave, oven, preparation, recipe, tools
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 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
April 11, 2015 · 10:11 am
It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that the nutritionist said, “I think we found our culprit: it’s the wheat product family”. At first, the news brought instant relief in that we finally knew what the problem was. A moment later, the relief turned to panic in terms of “How the heck will I live without wheat products? Wheat is in everything! Where do I begin?”
Ten years does not seem that long ago, but in the wheat-free/gluten-free world it was a lifetime ago. The awareness and popularity of the products over the years have paved the way for greater competition and for companies to try to outdo each other and to have clients reaching for their pocketbooks.
However, back in 2005, some of the first gluten-free cookies I tried were… well… bad. Frankly, the packaging they came in might have been tastier. It wasn’t easy, but I survived on a lot of salad, grilled chicken and home-made shepherd’s pie in that first year. I am so thankful that times have changed.
What led me to the doctor and nutritionist’s office in the first place was a series of digestive issues that were seemingly getting more intense as time went on. In the months that preceded those visits, my stomach was often bloated, distended and often so noisy when it came to post-lunch digestion, to the point that I was embarrassed to attend afternoon meetings. I tried to drink as much water as I could to help drown the sound, but then I just had an orchestra of digestion noises AND gurgly, bubbly noises.
It was the month I turned 40 that things took a turn for the worst. At first, I thought it was just a little overindulgence Continue reading →
Filed under Humour, Inspiring
Tagged as adversity, anecdotes, cooking, family, food, generosity of spirit, gluten-free, gratitude, ideas, kindness, products, recipe, tips, treats