Fresh food, fast: kale a la Gwyneth Paltrow

I am really trying to be charitable here….but when someone names their kids Apple and Moses and they don’t live in a commune, extract juice from a tree,  or make their own clothes out of hemp; –it is therefore difficult for me to take the beautiful, love-child Gwyneth seriously.  I will admit that she is a good actress, o’k and she is an Oscar winner and I am more like an Oscar weiner, but none-the-less whenever I hear her interviewed she sounds kind of silly(unlike me of course!).

All this has changed as of last night, when I decided to take her advice and crisp up kale like a potato chip.  We eat a lot of kale in this house because it is deemed a superfood, packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, is a natural detoxifier, and allows for greater absorption of Calcium.  I heard Gwyneth interviewed and she said that she makes kale chips all the time for her family.  I decided to try it because Pat and I love chips and I was hoping that this might be a really good alternative…and it is!!!

Simply pull the leafy part away from the stem of the kale and wash

Toss in olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet for 10-15minutes at 350(depends on your oven).  When done add sea salt and serve.  They are really yummy, even my dearest Pat said that he would like them regularly as a snack.  So there you have it, I am expanding my world view on food and  of Ms.Paltrow.  I am officially humbled by kale and Gwyneth Paltrow;)

Sidney Crosby and Ben Johnson, the same old story…

Wow!  I was blown away listening to the CBC report that Sydney Crosby is still working on returning to hockey.  O’k maybe the biggest shock was the interview with his neurosurgeon who is completely supporting Crosby going back to the game…which it is!  It’s a GAME!

CONCUSSION:  ” med. a violent injury to the brain caused by shaking or jarring,..” Oxford Dictionary. How many concussions has Crosby had in his hockey career?  Probably a half-dozen diagnosed, and then a few more that went un-detected.  Who is fooling who?  When a sport (and I get that it is his profession), compromises your immediate and long -term health, what part of the brain turns off to allow you to tell yourself that it’s o’k to continue?  If he suffered a broken leg every season, he probably would find a new profession.  For some reason,  many take our brains for granted, yet it is the most important aspect of our make-up…if our brains don’t function well, we don’t function well.

When I was a member of the Canadian Track Team as a junior, I was at many of the same meets as Ben Johnson.  Johnson was always in the top 3, but never the winner.  One spring he came back from training and the track world saw a different person.  It was widely suspected that he was juiced.  He also starting winning and setting records.

A friend of mine,  was a middle distance runner, and on the team with me.  She found herself in the same place as Johnson.  She wanted to win at any cost.  She left Kingston to train with Charlie Francis and Ben Johnson, while I went on to university.    She never reached the top 3 in the country, but for years she participated in steroid use.  One year after we went separate ways, I came across her.  She was once a beautiful, leggy athlete…she turned into a course, awkward version of herself…she didn’t look or sound right…a bit freaky, really (but drugs do that to you)

Eventually Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and my friend faded away.  Their bodies abused and their minds altered.

Sydney Crosby seems to be affected by the same desire to push himself regardless of known health problems….in this case,  associated with frequent concussions:

headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental health concerns, anger, depression, sleep disorders, mood swings, early onset dementia….

What does it take for someone to take a step back and assess their life in totality?    I am baffled as to what makes playing hockey so alluring when day in, day out Sidney Crosby is experiencing problems associated with brain trauma.  Sometimes I think it is simply the fact that he doesn’t know anything else.  He doesn’t have a Plan B.  Admittedly, he doesn’t need one at least in terms of financial security.  If he could step away from his perceived sense of self, he might see that there are many ways to contribute to the world that don’t include adulation, stardom, and truck loads of  money.  What happens to people like Sidney Crosby and Ben Johnson when you strip away the labels?  Heck, lets throw Tiger Woods in there too!  They show themselves for who they are… Human.  Mere mortals like the rest of us.

That seems to be their biggest challenge and greatest fear.




We all participate in the kill

In the car yesterday I heard an interview with Jian Ghomeshi of the CBC.  He spoke with an American woman, Danielle Martin,  who is trying to persuade the world to eat bugs…crickets, larvae, beetles…Take a peek at her cooking video.

So here is what bugs me!  Beyond the obvious!!!

Some of her critics are vegans and vegetarians who are concerned that she is killing.  That killing insects is no different than killing a cow.  I will agree that killing is killing.  However, can I point this out to all the vegetarians and vegans out there….when you eat beans, soy products and fish for example, there is massive amounts of killing involved.  Most commercial fish are hauled in and asphyxiated.  They lay on the boat in the hold until delivered to the processing plant.  For all commercial harvesting of fruits, vegetables and legumes untold numbers of insects, mice, voles, raccoons etc. are also caught up in the combine or run over by the equipment.  If you live in farm country, which we do, you can’t help but notice this.  Last year during haying, I saw a rabbit caught up and killed.

Stop reading now, because I may just offend a whole group of people.

This is the real world.  Lets just all get the stories straight.  If you don’t want to eat meat because of large feed lots, that is one thing.  To say that you won’t condone the kill, is naive.  We all participate in the kill in order to survive, carnivores, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians and vegan

Fresh food fast, summer lovin’

If you are up for it, here is a little fun video to get you in the mood;)

It is not hard to create inspiring and delicious meals.  Until recently the art of cookery was passed down through generations by hands-on work, verbal instruction and sometimes, though rarely, written.  Exact recipes is a new phenomenon considering human history.  In my food posts, I am honouring that humble tradition of rote.  Learning through repetition and simplicity. This is a weekend dinner with friends.  Peaches from Niagara…blueberries…corn…tomatoes…onions…smoked ham roast, greens and apple pie from local Mennonites… Becomes glazed ham, caramelized onions, grilled peaches with blue cheese, all on a bed of greens; slow roasted new potatoes, and boiled corn.

Voila a humble and delicious feast!

Here is my no- recipe/recipe!

GLAZED HAM: oven set at 325.  Ham glazed with maple syrup, dijon mustard, and orange juice…. for about 2 hours, or until thermometer reads 165…tent with foil to let juices relax within the roast…if you cut too soon, the juice will immediately run from roast

CARAMELIZED ONIONS:easy!  slice up two medium onions(or whatever you have), with heat on med/high, throw a little olive oil in fry pan,  add onions, let the onions start to colour, then stir regularly to brown evenly…turn stove down to med. heat and slowly let onions come to colour and you will notice they will be rich and somewhat glazed looking…this is the natural sugars of the onions being released..caramelizing is a slow process(about 20 min.) where as frying is very fast at a high heat…caramelizing gives a softer texture and milder flavour, frying is crispier and more intense.

GRILLED PEACHES: wash and cut peaches in half.  To remove pit simply twist the peach halves in opposite direction and it will release…be sure to cut length-wise.  Lightly cover flesh with olive oil and place on hot grill.  When peaches scored nicely,(about 8-10 min) on 450 grill, remove and place on platter.  Crumble blue cheese on top..this will melt nicely!

CORN: I like to boil for 4 min., then turn off heat, let sit in boiled water until last minute and ready to serve. (the peaches and corn are ready at the same time!)

ROASTED NEW POTATOES: Simple, simple, simple!  Wash, cut in quarters or leave whole if baby new, toss with olive oil and fresh sea salt(helps to crisp the skin:), in oven for final hour as ham cooks.  If you have some fresh herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme or chives, by all means throw some in! Food sustains us in so many ways:  it is art, it is a spiritual connection to our land and those that grow our food, and it is a way to honour our bodies and family.  Cooking is  best when shared with those you love:) 



o’k I love corn, but either he gets corn that I haven’t come across yet, or his sex-life is a bit weak;)


Much better….until next time!

walking meditation among the chaos

Grass thick with dew.  The moon grudgingly holding the sky  in the west as the sun rises lazily in the east. I walk our dog Cally on our trails.  Crickets, birds and even squirrels calling.  I use my morning walk to set the tone for the day.  Gratitude extended to our Creator.  I stop periodically to stretch or to enter into a yoga pose.  Nothing beats yoga off the mat.  Feeling light.

Reverie interrupted as Cally lurched  forwards to what had previously been an unseen ground-hog.  Cally had a bad run in with one last year, where upon his face was clawed, just missing his eyes…resulting in a vet visit, rabies shot and meds…We were perilously close to another go-around, I instinctively yelled “Aaaahhhh!!!” then “Cally, NO!”..maybe more like a battle cry or demonic wail than a clear command! It worked though because  both Cally and the ground-hog stopped in their tracks…I laughed inwardly at the absurdity of the situation….where is my camera?!  Both animals staring at me now, apparently waiting for the next instruction…to which I accommodated with”Cally, Come!“.  He did come, was treated, and the ground-hog waddled off looking periodically behind him (and I believe he would have scratched his head if his arms were long enough)  Perhaps thinking…“what the?”!

My heart returned quickly to its pre-surprise state.  As did my state of calm.  This is what walking meditation does for you.  You may enter into a situation of stress in your day, but are able to respond clearly and quickly.  The event  resolved as soon as it began.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and scholar.  I have read many of his books and apply many of his lessons to my life, daily, easily.  From his book Happiness, he says:”Our mind tends to dart from one thing to another, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch without stopping to rest.  Thoughts have millions of pathways, and they forever pull us along into the world of forgetfulness.  If we can transform our walking path into a field for meditation, our feet will take every step in full awareness.  Our breathing will be in harmony with our steps, and our mind will naturally be at ease.  Every step we take will reinforce our peace and joy and cause a stream of calm energy to flow through us.”

If I can do this, so can you…walking to the car, in the grocery store or mowing the lawn.

Life: Non-verbal communication recognized

“Although most of us are rarely aware of it, our sensory receptors are designed to detect information at the energy level.  Because everything around us–the air we breathe, even the materials we use to build with–are composed of spinning and vibrating atomic particles, you and I are literally swimming in a turbulent sea of electromagnetic fields.” Jill Bolte Taylor from “My Stroke of Insight”

I read this book after the explosion a couple of years ago.  I became hyper sensitive to energy of all kinds; people, light, noise and even places and things.  Prior to the explosion I easily moved through the world.  I could just as freely enjoy a canoe trip down the Maitland as a big fundraiser in Toronto.  Today however, I need to pay attention to how and where I direct my energy.  I don’t mind this.
A significant shift came when I accepted “the new me”….nothing exciting like a facelift or boob job!, but I now have a Before—and an After.  I no longer even wish to be my old self.   What happened is that my life, and therefore my family’s life, became much more calm as we slowed down.  Obvious, I know.   We didn’t buzz from one activity to another.  We stopped the frequent travels.  We moved to a farm where we walk more, tend our gardens, care for  the animals and maintain the land.

By pulling back from the frenzy we are in fact, engaging more in life.  You can live in a big city and do the same thing.  Making the conscious decision to do less, and live more is the paradox, but one that delivers a greater quality of life.

You can do this right now by changing buying habits for example: buying better quality food will be more expensive, but you will be less inclined to throw away as much and certainly feel better inside.  The energy that you fuel your body with has a direct impact on how it performs and how it feels and looks.  Investing in good quality clothes and furniture not only looks and feels better, but means that you have them longer.  Quality over quantity.  Just like our friends!

I became very aware of the “things” in our lives as well.  Jayme Barret reminds us in her book “Feng Shui Your Life” that each item in our home ” either nourishes or depletes you”.  “You might ask yourself,  which objects bring me joy and warmth?  Which ones upset, annoy, depress, infuriate or frustrate me?” .
I recognized that in being mindful of how we put our lives and home back together, it was imperative to decide what was worth keeping and what should go.  There is balance now between our physical world and our inner one. Each supports the other.  

Whether you watch “The Hoarders,” or “What Not to Wear”, the message is the same:  what is on the outside, is reflecting what is going on inside.  What do you present to the world?  Do you laugh freely?  Do you have happy people around?  Does your home reflect joyful, healthy people?  Get rid of the clutter, physical and otherwise, and find the ever-present peace and calm that Creation intended.  It’s not as hard as it sounds and the payoff is worth it.

Parenting: Keeping it simple, fingers crossed

I remember when I first got the news that I was pregnant, my family doctor offered sage advice: “Don’t read too much….the problem with your generation is that you have access to too much information, too many books. Pick one or two and then leave it at that, if you read too many, you will get overwhelmed or anxious.” And, he added:”always trust your intuition”.   I agreed with him.  Someone loaned me the old standby “What to expect when you’re expecting” and I bought Penelope Leach’s book, “From Birth to Age Five”.  Later, Barbara Colorosa’s book “Kids Are Worth It”

So, we kept our parenting strategies simple. Obviously, all parents say that they love their children, and we are no different.   Our goal was to remember that Emily was only on loan for a while.  We gave her life, but did not own it.  I have always believed that we are simply the guardians of their souls until such a time, when they take on the responsibility for themselves.  If we have done our job well, then we will continue to have the blessing of her in our lives.  So far;) this seems to be the case.  We didn’t go through a rough patch.  We have an open, respectful communication.  We really enjoy each others company.  I will always love our daughter, but most of all, I admire Emily.  I admire her innate calm, her intellect, ability to keep secrets, patience, discipline, loyalty, humour and big, big heart.This is a poem that I received as a newspaper insert the month that she was born.  I stuck it on our fridge and it stayed there for years.  It is in my office and I still look at it.

Children Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with sharing, he learns generosity.
If a child lives with kindness and consideration, he learns respect.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.
If you live with serenity your child will live with peace of mind.  Dorothy Law Nolte.

So with fingers crossed, we are entering into a new chapter.  Our child is clearly a young adult.  She is as eager to learn and participate in life right now, just as when she went to daycare.  The issues are more complex than when I held her each night with a good night read, but somehow, I know, that all the good stuff that we encouraged her to know about herself and the world is what guides her.  Above all, to look within, and with Dr.Thomsons good advice….trust your intuition.

friends, souflees and grace

When we moved back into our home after the explosion,  the first people that we invited out were our dear friends Scott and Mary Jo.  I was still not in the best of shape, but wanted to bring some normalcy to our lives and much needed laughs.  I wanted our dinner to be special, so I chose one of my all-time favorite recipes; “Twice Baked goats cheese Souflee”.  I served it on top of a bed of fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette.  It takes no more that 15 minutes to prepare and it is a winner.  Chef Chris Squire of London developed this one.  I have included a “post-script” at the end of this post to sum up the evenings blessings.

2 TBSP unsalted butter
4 TBSP hazelnuts, finely chopped

5 TBSP bread crumbs
3 TBSP all purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 pound chevre
salt and pepper to taste
8 egg whites
1TBSP lemon juice

1. Butter eight ramikens
2. Combine the finely chopped(or grind them) hazelnuts with the bread crumbs and coat the ramikens
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the flour to make a roux(thickening agent) and cook for 2 minutes.   Add the milk and whisk to combine.
4.Remove the mixture from the heat and beat in the egg yolks…it will take on a nice glossy sheen

5.Add 3/4 of the cheese mixture and season with salt and pepper

6.Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice and gently fold into the mixture.
7.Half fill the ramikens.  Sprinkle the remaining goats cheese over the mixture.  Cover with the remaining souflee mixture.

8.Bake in bain marie(hot water bath) at 375 for 10-15 min…until risen and a light brown top forms.  Remove from oven, cool and un-mold….just take your time, use a knife to loosen and spatula to lift out.
9. You can either refrigerate to use the next day or, pop back in the oven and cook for another 5 will rise again in the oven.  Serve on a bed of greens.  Enjoy!

Substitutions: you can substitute almonds for hazelnuts and other cheese like blue or cheddar.  This recipe is best served as a light lunch.  For dinner I like to serve it with grilled lemon chicken.

We had a great dinner with Scott and Mary Jo, but it never occurred to me to offer anything else to eat; there were no hors d’oeuvres, nothing to accompany the soufflees!  Not even any dessert!  Many months later,  as my brain started re-booting, I realized that they certainly would have gone home hungry. Grace, that night, our hands held and heads bowed, delivered not so much for the food before us, though that is always a blessing; but Grace, that night, revealed by the presence of our friends.

not yo’ mamma’s ferns:an ode to Dee Dee

Sundays are a special day.  It has always included some sort of bacon breakfast, plenty of coffee and a long read of the newspaper.  Pat and I save the Saturday Toronto Globe and Mail for a good read on Sunday.  I go through pretty much the whole paper, but the fun is in The Style section…o’k and Tabatha Southey.   My husband and I routinely discuss/banter and always laugh at Russell Smiths piece.  I enjoy Dee Dee Taylor Eustace’s column as she is a well-regarded interior designer and architect:  two professions that I would have loved to have done, if I had been told there was more to choose from than teaching and nursing…neither of which  I would be good at….O’k, maybe I would have required to study harder too.  Anyway..

I developed a migraine today when Dee Dee(we are on a first name basis, though she doesn’t know that), slammed my beloved ferns!  Crushed my deep love for plants big and small!  Threw out to the millions reading her column that, …wait….I am hyperventilating….paper bag….breath…o’k….”the houseplant as decor is a dated idea.” !!!!! It gets worse!  ” As for ferns, keep them in the garden.” GASP!  Oh mon dieu!  I will allow that Dee Dee never grew up with Dr.Joseph Aloysius Kearns as her grandfather, but if she had, she would know that plants not only beautify a home, but clean the air too.  Literally, plants breathe life into a room by taking out the carbon dioxide, and replacing it with oxygen! Just a little old fashioned advice dedicated to my Grandpa:)  Saying that ferns have no place in your home, is like saying that parsley has no place in the kitchen! to make gremolata? how to finish most European dishes? ..and I don’t mean with a sprig.   How to make tabbouleh?  Parsley and ferns…. provide a pop of fresh colour, improves your health and is beautiful in a humble and classical way.

I am having a flash-back to just over a year after the explosion and we had moved back into the house; I invited a well known interior decorator from Toronto to help me put the house back together.  I was struggling with scale, colour, and lacked focus…among other things, effects that the blast had on my brain.

When I had the decorator come into our home to help put this humpty back together, I certainly wasn’t anticipating yet another crack up side the head.  Cruella, (my pet name for her) came in, scanned the entry and open space before her, dropped her coat on the hall chair, then pronounced : “No Plants!  Plants are passee.  Fresh flowers yes, plants no.”  Admittedly, she was looking at my trio of “snake plants” or  ” mother-in-laws tongue”, and I later agreed.  Not because the plants were not appealing, but because even symbolically I didn’t want a sharp mother-in-laws tongue in my house;)  Bad feng shui!
She then decried : ” animal prints are out, furs are out, and PLEASE change that china cabinet!…or at the very least cover the glass. ”  Well, as you can see, I did not heed her advice, nor take kindly to her brutal criticism of my home; my fragile nest.  What I thought I needed was guidance to make our house a home again.  The underlying lesson was that no one could do that, except me and my family.  Sometimes life delivers you the lessons that only you can learn.  We needed to step up to the plate and not look for someone else to fix things.
We all know people whose homes you walk into and there seems to be no scent of the inhabitants.  Sterile or messy it doesn’t matter, they evoke the same impression:  who are the people that live here?  I wanted, craved to have our home reflect our lives….not the lives or views of someone else.  If I want to put zebra on my chairs, I will!  If I want to put a fur (yes, real) throw on my bed or chair, I will.  If I want to put china in my china cabinet…say it’s not so!….oh yes,.I will!  Each gesture pointing to philosophy and interests.  If the antlers on the wall are from the previous years hunt by my husband, then not only will that happen, but you can bet that we will be gushing with pride as we serve you beautiful, luscious venison on our wedding china!
I don’t want to join our local Mennonites in their colony, but I do want to support them and enjoy their offerings.  I don’t want to be a vegan, but I do support a thoughtful approach to eating.  I really don’t want to be a decorator, but sure want to support the good ones.  Not all decorators are condescending, controlling people.  In fact, there are fabulous, thoughtful, intuitive designers out there that can guide and challenge you to find your own vision.—then help you execute it.  Great designers are a blessing; they skillfully and sometimes dramatically help you to reflect in your home, external manifestations of your self.  This is spiritual undertaking fit for those ready to exhume and dispatch of the old and unnecessary, and then seek out and embrace your present, conscious realization.
This I wish for you.  Living in a home that reflects your family is transformative and energizing.  Just as you should surround yourself with people that bring beauty, authenticity and support to your life, so should you surround your self with ” the things”  in your life, that honour, support and uplift you.  

love what you do

I love people that love what they do!  It can be the woman at the MAC make-up counter who is clearly excited to show an old gal like me some new tricks, the plumber that hooks up the latest water feature for our bathroom, or someone like Stacie Constantine.  Stacie opened The Kimberley General Store last year in the hamlet of Kimberley, On….population 92.  This includes the dozen or so seasonal residents like us!

Residents and seasonals to this area were so excited about this that you would have thought that we were collectively launching a mission to Mars.  You see, Kimberley is the little spot on the hwy that you slowly drive-through on your way someplace else.  I mention the speed because there is an unspoken respect for this little place that seems to encourage people to slow down, smile and get in their groove.  Transports slow down well before so as not to use air brakes, as do frenzied parents carrying car-loads of excited children to nearby Collingwood for ski races.  We are fortunate to have a small ski house close by.  We are especially fortunate to have Stacie among us.

Why am I so enamoured with The Kimberley General Store?  It could be that my own cookshop and cafe was housed in a similar 150 year old building, it could be that Stacie is stocking her shop with food grown by local purveyors, or it could be simply that Stacie’s warm nature and heartfelt enthusiasm for her store, is what makes us all want to buy every grocery possible just to support her.  She is as her store reflects; earthy, interesting, welcoming, whimsical and attractive;)

This was my beautiful lunch made by Stacie…..dessert was spectacular!

While you are out-and-about this weekend…hell, every day….make sure to take the time to visit the small independent businesses that continue to bring beauty and authenticity to our lives.  We are privileged to live in a country that allows and encourages free expression and whether it comes in the form of the written word, the clothes we wear or those shop-keepers and restauranteurs that continue to remind us of the importance of what is real; they deserve our support.

Look past the big box stores and you will find the experience of shopping is much more gratifying.  Suddenly, you go back in time where people really do matter.  Every penny spent in an independent shop is money well spent.  You are in fact, saying with those pennies that you care about their business, about them and for the effort to facilitate genuine human interaction.  Their presence in our communities enriches us.  In return for their efforts to live and work in a way that matches their philosophy; please drop by, buy something:), say something encouraging and spread the word!  Stacie Rocks!  Pass it on!!!