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the blog that will answer all the questions you didn't know you had

Month

September 2015

Nature Mesmerizes Me!

Hi Society!

I just wanted to let you in on a little something I was thinking about: fascination! I went to Greece earlier this year and contemplated quite a few temples. I like history and knew a bit about what I was seeing. Despite my greatest efforts I couldn’t help but think of the historical ruins as… piles of rocks. I know. I’m terrible. At least, that’s what my husband says. He was very interested in them and not impressed with me. Oops.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be outside at the right time to witness the Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse. I’m 100% sure I once again offended someone by not remembering the proper name of what I saw (remember, I’m a French Canadian). It was cool to look at the moon, but again to me it wasn’t a huge deal, even  though we won’t see something similar for another decade and a half.

I’m I incapable of fascination? I didn’t have to dwell on that for long. This morning I remembered I was able to be mesmerized when I came across this guy:

funny carrotHow cool is that? This I find impressive! I can spend hours looking at plants when I go for walks in the woods or when I garden. I’m especially impressed at how nature adapts to what is thrown at her.

Anyways, I should get back to cooking my millions of chicken pot pies which are using parts of my potato, celery and carrot harvests 🙂 I’m making freestyle hand pies because I don’t want to use pie shells to reduce waste. Once again, saving some green!

Have a fascinating day!

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Just Put Baking Soda on It

Hi Society!

Without counting The Genesis, this should have been my first post. If you’ve read my introductory post, you know that this blog was a friendly suggestion. Baking Soda was supposed to be a big part of it, where I would share all the things you can do with baking soda. I feel there are already so many great lists out there on the Internet; I don’t think this is the way I should approach this fantastic ingredient.

To me, baking soda is an epiphany. It’s actually about rethinking what, how, and why we do things. For example, for a lot of people, if your stove is dirty, you’ll use your commercially bought stove cleaner and clean the stove. Why? Because that’s what your parents did or that’s what advertisements and society lead you to believe you need. You don’t really think about it and just use the product, because ”everyone” does it. But you could also make a paste from baking soda and a bit of water and it would create a great scrub. A frugal, non-destructive, and environmentally-friendly solution I might add!

If this was not something you grew up with, it’s something you’d have had to learn. Something you could have taken the time to think about: there are always other possibilities. If you can use it to clean your stove, what else can you do with baking soda? Do I really need all those cleaning products? This big house? The stress? Two cars? Warming up the car for 15 min? All my gadgets? Buying everything from the store? Bragging about my lack of sleep? Using strong antiperspirants? Buying new and tossing old? Being okay with having debts? Following trends?Lighting the porch when no-one is expected? Why have I always followed blindly what others did without questioning or even thinking about it? You get the idea. Baking soda is an alternative. Instead of ”going with the flow”, I want to reflect on what I’ve been doing and thinking while on autopilot. I want to know why and fully comprehend what I’m doing from now on.

And when in doubt, just put baking soda on it!

This is Strawesome!

Hi Society!

Have you ever heard about this glassbulous company? My pun might not be as great as theirs but hopefully you were still able to put 2 and 2 together. Strawesome is an American company that makes glass straws. They are lifetime guaranteed, toxic free, dishwasher safe, designed and handmade in the States and kid friendly. Super cool! I had a $15 off coupon so I ordered two straws for extremely cheap. I got a tall skinny one for my water cup and a smoothie one (shorter and larger) and received them last week; they’re amazing! You can also order cleaning brushes and cases to carry your straw with you. Worried that you might mix up your straw with someone else as cool as you because they also have a glass straw? Strawesome got you covered. They have artsy straws and personalized straws too. They even have bubble-tea straws! Short, long, skinny, regular, large, straight, bent… They thought about everything!!

At roughly $8 a piece (for generic ones), lifetime guaranteed glass straws are definately a good purchase if you usually prefer drinking from straws at home and/or when you’re out and about. They are safer and could help reducing waste, that is, if you currently use plastic or paper straws. Otherwise, it’d just be another ”thing” you now own that required resources to be created. Think about it 🙂

Substitutions in the Kitchen

Hi Society!

This is not a list of acceptable substitutions in the kitchen. This is my cooking style.

I grew up cooking with my mom who would never follow recipes. She just made stuff up. Most of the creations were palatable, but some weren’t exactly. Having the exact same thing twice (whether you liked it or not) wasn’t an option. It could have been frustrating, but it wasn’t. I only have good memories from cooking with my mom. She taught me to trust myself and not be afraid to experiment. Challenge accepted mama!

Of course, this type of cooking doesn’t work for everyone. My husband for example will follow recipes to the letter. If the recipe says to heat the pan on high, it will be on high; regardless of the fact that the content might be burning. I still encourage him to cook. It’s usually very tasty. But it makes me laugh (and occasionally cough or cry). Substitution or cooking with your gut feeling (not cooking actual guts) also doesn’t work if you don’t understand what basic ingredients do in recipes, especially in baking. I once lived with a friend who was very passionate about baking but…. it just wouldn’t agree with her. Burnt rocks were a staple at our house. It’s important to be able to listen to your recipe and be willing to learn from experience.

Once I moved out (from my mom’s, not my baker friend), Chef Michael Smith helped me broaden my cooking horizon following the same relaxed mindset. In one of his cooking shows, he always starts by saying that a recipe is a mere collection of words, a canvas, and that it’s basically just a suggestion. I like that. He doesn’t impose but proposes possibilities. He’s also really good at teaching techniques and explaining how to achieve a certain result. And he’s Canadian. Just saying, eh! 🙂

With this background, I continue inventing and substituting a lot and it’s been a real confidence booster and a life saver! Sometimes, you just have to make do with what you have. In those moments, I pretend I’m on Chopped, the cooking show what forces you to come up with great food from weird ingredients that you wouldn’t think to combine. I also know that if I don’t have a specific ingredient, let’s say evaporated milk, I can simply make it from scratch. Same with vegetable broth: I can make it from vegetable scraps that I stash in my freezer until I have enough. Or miso paste in water. If someone doesn’t like cilantro, parsley can be used. If I don’t have a pie crust for a quiche, left over cooked rice will do. Enough seasoning and good techniques will go a long way!

What are your favorite substitutions?

Origanum Vulgare

Hi Society!

Today we’re talking about the joy of the mountains, also known as oregano. It’s a popular herb in my house, but not for the mediterranean culinary reason you might be thinking of. Of course I love pizza! But I love staying healthy even more 🙂

Oregano ”has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, it aids digestion, and helps prevent gas. Oregano stimulates blood flow in the uterus and so helps treat menstrual pain and irregularities. It supports healthy liver function and perspiration. Supplements of oregano essential oil are a popular treatment for colds, fevers, fungal infections, indigestion, parasites, and menstrual problems. Use topically as an antiseptic or as a liniment for its warming qualities. It is a well-known kitchen remedy for toothache. The oil is strongly sedative, so use moderately.”, wrote Rebecca Wood in The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.

My mom used to give me a few drops of oregano oil to put under my tongue for a few seconds when a cold was approaching. It would always scare it away (it’s very potent, have a glass of water ready!). I just harvested all the oregano I could find in the garden because fall and its frost is upon us. Making essential oil is a little too daunting for me at the moment but simple oregano oil isn’t. Google it if you are curious! Basically, you steep the fresh oregano in equal amount of oil in the sunlight for two weeks, and then you strain the liquid and put it away in a dark cool place. It’s obviously not going to be as strong as an essential oil but I bet it’s going to give your immune system the extra kick it needs! I’ll let you know over the winter if it helped me.

P.S.: Did you know that drying oregano actually intensifies its flavor? You’re welcome, society!

Radish Seeds

Hi Society!

This spring, I planted my second garden ever. I made it big thinking I would have much more time than I actually had. Oops. I also planted my radish seeds the beginner way: scattering them (in the wind) on a cramped spot, ALL AT ONCE. I’m not sure what I was thinking. What I’m thinking now? Never again!

Next year, I’ll definately sow seeds in neat rows, giving them proper space to grow, and only sow 1 or 2 rows at a time so I can stretch the radish season and, most importantly, not be overwhelmed at the quantity of cherry bells! I’m really happy about my learning experience though. Because I had so many radishes, some plants started bolting and flowering. I let them be because I was curious. Seed pods then started to grow and then it occured to me “that’s how radish seeds are created!”. I guess I never took the time to think about those things. I feel a little dumb, but I’m so glad to be gaining all this knowledge right now.

Credits to gardenbetty.com
Credits to gardenbetty.com

Discovering seed pods made me realize that I could start saving seeds. One more step towards self-sufficiency and one more life skill being learned! I just read that you simply pick the pods at the end of the growing season (pretty much now for Alberta) and you let them dry. Then, you split the pods open and transfer them to a cool and dry location. I’m thinking in an envelope inserted in a glass jar. I read some people advise to freeze, some advise against… I still have some learning (and blind experimenting) to do before I can pick my own method. I’ll use some of the seeds during the next gardening season but I’ll also save some (in case something goes wrong), and sprout the rest! Radish sprouts are really refreshing and make a great addition to salads and sandwiches. They also make interesting stir-fry garnishes. Apparently, you can even pickle or stir-fry the entire fresh pod. Food for thought 😉

Clutter and Tiny Houses

I’d love to own a tiny house on day.

Lots of people imagine a 100 sq.ft. box when they hear about the term ”tiny house”, but not me. To me, it’s not about the size but more about the functionality of the space you live in (and yes, the carbon footprint). We currently live in a 740 sq.ft. bungalow and it’s unfortunately cramped because of the terrible design. So much wasted space! I bet we would be happier in a 500 sq.ft. house built to maximize space. My husband hasn’t warmed-up to the tiny house idea yet, but I’m determined to show him that he could like it!

Until that day comes, I’m focusing on housing problem #2: clutter. When I look at what we own, it’s hard to find a space for everything (which I read is what you should aim to do in order to properly declutter). This post is not about telling you how to live clutter-free as I haven’t yet mastered this principle.

Clutter can mess with your emotional health (yes, pun intended!). As George Lucas wrote in Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Declutter and Organize Every Facet of Your Life, “Living a cluttered life will fill your life with more stress than you can deal with and this often usher in depression.” No need to go there! Reading the beginning of this book made me think about my mental clutter. Getting rid of useless thoughts and stress is something I can act on!

Have you ever heard of a Brain-Dump? Google it if it inspires you! I can’t remember how I came across the idea but I thought it was exactly what I needed. I read an how-to guide but haven’t done the exercise yet; just thinking about the possibility is, I find, already therapeutic. This will be one of the steps of my decluttering journey! Another step, which I’m currently working on, is electronic clutter, aka, my emails. I had over 14,000 emails in my inbox when I started and I got rid of 71% of them. Yay me! It feels liberating.

Happy baby steps to more meaningful living everyone!

Wax to Do with Beeswax?

Hi Society!

Last night I went to our local farmers’ market and I found a block of beeswax. I was so excited that I bought it (a whooping $3). I had a vague idea of what I could do with it but I was sure it would be great 🙂 It’s such a versatile product! Here’s a non-comprehensive list of things you can do with beeswax:

  • skin care products: moisturizer, lip balm, soap, hair pomade
  • tool care
  • leather care: shoe polishing, furniture restoring
  • waterproofing: fabric, shoes, outdoor furniture, matches
  • wooden care: furniture polish, restoring kitchenware (spoons, cutting boards)
  • sinking construction nails
  • ”greasing” furniture (aka stuck drawers)
  • candles!!!
  • fire starters
  • coating cheese
  • chewing gum
  • strengthening threads: sewing, shoe laces, cordage
  • making a bow?
  • seal stuff…

Oftentimes it has to bee be combined with other ingredients. This video is gives you a cool overview of some uses! Happy Friday 🙂

Milking my Coconut Milk Cans

Hi Society!

When I went through my pantry to assess its content, I noticed a bunch of coconut milk cans. I had bought them because they were on sale and because I was convinced that my husband and I both liked coconut. Turns out I like coconut milk and oil (not shredded coconut) and him: nothing! Coconut milk in curried or butter chicken is soooo delicious… but he also doesn’t like curry. Difficult man. Don’t get me wrong. I still force him to eat it. I keep pretending that I forgot he doesn’t like it. I also pretend the same with spinach.

I was going to write a post about chickpeas this morning (mostly because we had this amazingly simple italian classic soup yesterday) but this morning, I found a recipe combining chickpeas and coconut milk and I just had to go in that new direction instead.

Someone else posted 17 Absolutely Delicious Ways to Cook with Coconut Milk. There, I found recipes for creamy soups (potages en français) which I’m probably going to use. I currently only have one small sugar pumpkin (which made its appearance in this post) and I bet it’d make a tasty soup! I also found recipes for convenient slowcooking, puddings and other desserts, and even whipped cream! Cool. You can also, of course, make coconut milk ice cream (this post contains 30 different recipes!).

Finally, coconut milk screams, not for ice cream, but for thai food. Here’s a recipe I love.

Thai Shrimp Noode Bowl (from frame>by>frame, quick & easy) 

For 4 servings, you need:

  • scallions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 200 g rice vermicelli noodles
  • 2 Tbsp peanul oil
  • 1/2 C peanuts
  • 1 fresh sliced Thai chile (or not if you don’t like spicy)
  • 1 crushed lemongrass stalk (I use lemongrass powder to taste)
  • 1 3/4 C fish or chicken stock
  • 1 C coconut milk
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (I use 2 Tbsp because I like it!)
  • 350 g peeled shrimp
  • salt and pepper
  • cilentro to garnish (I use parsley because of my difficult husband)

In my words, diagonally slice the vegetables. Cook the noodles according to the package (usually just resting in a covered hot bowl of water until tender). Fry the peanuts in the oil for 1-2 min and set the peanut aside. Stir-fry the veggies for a couple minutes. Add chile, lemongrass, stock, milk and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the shrimp (cook until pink if using raw), add noodles and seasoning. Serve hot with garnishes.

Happy cooking!

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