Category Archives: good food

A weekend retreat

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Tai Chi Man and I are away for the weekend, leaving the three young men at home to eat, sleep and play unhindered! They are all adults now and can fend for themselves. Husband has classes, so I’m seeing him for short bursts of time in between. When I am alone, I am bingeing on Netflix (latest TV series watched is The Five), crocheting, computering, and this morning I hit the gym and the pool right here in the hotel. Gosh, it’s a tough life! I’ve also been out for a few short walks.

The view from our hotel room is very lovely and very changeable. The weather yesterday was low 20s (Celsius) and sunny, today it’s low teens and showery.

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That last one is today’s. Please excuse the dirty window. Nothing I can do about that!

I’m pleased to have a Ta Dah moment for the Spill Shawl. It’s not blocked, as I just finished it last night. I did try taking photos at the time, but a dimly lit hotel room is definitely not the ideal location so I took it out with me this afternoon. I found a nice stretch of beach to walk along and an interesting bit of fallen tree to drape the shawl on.

The last couple of rows are not the Lion Brand Mandala yarn, they are Deramores Studio DK in Jade. It was big enough by the end of the skein (and 67 rows) to call it quits but I thought a brighter/darker colour than the grey would finish it off better.

The other FO I have to show you is one I started and finished this morning, while drinking tea after my workout.

The pattern is from the book in the photos. It’s a sunflower to add to the pumpkin wreath in my kitchen. I used Stylecraft Special Aran in copper for the centre and lemon for the petals. It’s got great texture from all the popcorns.

I had checked Google Maps for getting a bead on the area and how to get to where I needed, but after the beach my aim was to find the large supermarket beside the Trans Canada highway. I did find it, just by a somewhat roundabout route. We have a small two-burner stovetop in our hotel room, and yesterday I threw together a very simple dinner from a can of kidney beans, a can of tomatoes, part of a bag of frozen vegetables, some salt and some chipotle flakes. OMG, I love chipotle. Smoked jalapeno, for those who don’t know, and I have the powder at home but forgot to bring any condiments or seasonings with me. So when I found the jar of flakes at the supermarket yesterday I just had to buy it.

Tonight I think we’ll have avocado and tomato on toast, and tomorrow night it’ll be pasta with olives, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers – and maybe some more of those chipotle flakes!

Brrr! I actually had to put a sweater on.

Hope your weekend is awesome. Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Monday

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It is most definitely a marvellous Monday! The mail carrier brought yarn!

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These beauties are Lion Brand Mandala which I ordered online from Herrschners.ca. I wish Canada Post wasn’t so darned slow but I suppose it makes for more excitement when something fun does come in the mail. They are BIG. One hundred and fifty grams each. I couldn’t tell you what the colourways are – I have already recycled the packing slip and filed the yarn away in my sewing room.  But they are pretty!

I blitzed the house today. Tai Chi Man is off work this week (I think they call it a staycation, though he has so many jobs to do around the house that it’s not much of a rest)! Ds1 was at work and the other two went off to catch the bus for their afternoon job skills course, so it was an exceedingly rare few hours when the husband and I were home alone…together. And he was doing exciting things like fixing toilets and I was vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms and overhauling my sewing room.

My sewing room was a mess. I’ve been sewing curtains this week. The bedrooms finally have curtains, as does the kitchen. I still have to customise some clearance panels I bought from work, as they need a different header to fit the Ikea tracks, but when those are done the rooms downstairs will all be curtained too.

I had a complete review of everything, pulled it all out, made a pile of craft books to donate, a huge bag of upholstery odds and ends to take to a thrift store for rags, a bag full of projects that I finished and don’t want to keep. A partially completed afghan had the tails woven in and will go to the SPCA.

This week, I do have an FO. A market bag for a friend. I like the stitch pattern but I underestimated the stretch!

The stitch pattern is called Marielle and is from a book that I own, The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet. Very easy one row repeat. Unfortunately when I put some local Glohaven peaches and Sunrise apples into the bag as part of the gift, it stretched WAAAAY too much. Lesson learned!

There was one tiny celebration this week too. My Birthday! Sort of a milestone – 55 years young. It was pretty low key. I considered organising a party for myself, but decided I’d rather be alone at home during the day with my sewing machine. I did attempt a bit of sunbathing in the back garden but it was just too hot. Dinner was simple – a pasta salad for the whole family followed by banana splits. Let me tell you, cake has nothing on banana splits. Bananas, fresh peaches, cashew-based ice cream, coconut whipped cream, walnuts, chocolate chips and berry sauce. Awesome!

Maybe the party would have been a good idea. I do like a BIT of fuss to be made. I still love having birthdays and it’s so low key in this household that if you blink, you miss it! A few Facebook friends sent messages, Tai Chi Man send me a Jacqui Lawson e-card, I got to add $50 to my birthday money fund (and another 100 pounds from my dear mum), and ds1 gave me a bar of chocolate and $20 to “fuel my yarn addiction.”

The Groovyghan WIP is still sitting across the living room from me, waiting patiently for me to give it some attention. If it didn’t take up three large bags, I could have taken it out with me this morning. Ds3 had a dentist appointment. Instead I took my colourful Katia yarn that a lovely Raveler in the UK sent me, and started a Tunisian Simple Stitch scarf. Haven’t taken any photos yet.

Have a great week, friends, and talk to you again soon.

 

The aftermath…

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Well hello folks. I hope you have had an enjoyable few days. If you celebrate Christmas, I trust your day was awesome, filled with family fun, good food and warmth.

Christmas Eve was a quiet one, with my commitments including bread-making (so that I had wholewheat and white bread for the Brazil Nut Roast the next day) and pastry making (again for the nut roast). I did a quick search online for rough puff pastry as the commercial frozen pastry has crappy ingredients, and I found this one which turned out brilliantly. Making it a day early and refrigerating overnight probably helped it to be flaky and delicious.

Christmas Eve dinner for the five of us was a very basic nut roast made from almonds, cashews and pecans, plus scalloped potatoes from a recipe from the very wonderful Silver Hills vegetarian guest house recipe book, and salad. I got a bit carried away and made two desserts from the same book – a pear coconut pie and chocolatey pecan squares.

Day 1 – stuffed!

Entertainment involved watching The Nightmare Before Christmas (creepy, Jack Skellington reminds me of the pin men on an old British TV show that gave me nightmares) and Cards Against Humanity, played in front of a real fire for a change.

Christmas Day morning was relaxed as we decided to have dinner rather than lunch as we planned to go to the movies to see Rogue One in the evening. I crocheted most of these slippers that day, which I am very pleased with…

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They have non-slip fabric on the bottom which I bought from work. These took most of a skein of Red Heart With Love in Mallard, two strands held together, and a 7mm hook. The pattern is Slipper Boots by Erika Knight. It is an ingenious design, easy to understand and execute. I think it will be simple to adjust it for bigger feet too and I’m thinking of making another pair for Tai Chi Man’s uncle (he visited last year and absolutely loved and appreciated the slippers I made him).

So the prep for Christmas dinner was pushed back to the afternoon, and that involved assembling the Brazil nut roast (while watching Love Actually for the tenth time on my laptop), parboiling the potatoes for later roasting, cutting up the Brussels sprouts and carrots and broccoli. I roasted the sprouts along with the potatoes, steamed the carrots and broccoli, and made a simple gravy. Plus of course we had hot apple cider as always. Dessert was Bananas Foster without the rum, which basically means simmering them briefly in a sweet caramel sauce. The recipe is in my Betty Goes Vegan book, which is always over the top on sugar, and I cut the maple syrup quite drastically. We had it spooned over plain cashew So Delicious ice cream.

Day 2 – stuffed!

The movie, Rogue One (a Star Wars prequel to Episode 4)  was good, full of loud explosions and storm troopers and rebels of course.

We rounded off the day with hot chocolate and vegan marshmallows.

Tai Chi Man and I didn’t have to work today so it’s been another day of relaxed vegging on the couch, finishing off the slippers, checking out my new Twitter account (I am now on Twitter @nicolaknits) and eating leftovers. The kids are still in bed at 1.30 in the afternoon. We have horizontal snow blowing past the house which doesn’t exactly inspire me to get outside.

I am thankful.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

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Christmas buttons are 50% off at work this week so I snapped up a packet of these ‘Christmas lights’ and made some earrings to wear to work the next couple of days with my hot pink Santa hat!

 

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And Christmas just isn’t Christmas without gingerbread people. A home day today in which I did eleventy-bajillion loads of laundry, vacuumed, cleaned bathrooms and the kitchen, baked bread and the aforementioned cookies.

Wishing you all a Cool Yule, Merry Christmas, Super Solstice, Happy Hannukah or just a nice end to 2016.

 

Blocking

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I have a huge pickle jar that I’ve been keeping rice in that’s just the right size for the bag. I put some plastic wrap over part of the jar as there’s still part of the label on the outside of it and I didn’t want dye or bits of paper sticking to the inside of my bag.

The strap was finished tonight, as I was sitting out on my deck until it was too dark to see. Just four stitches wide, Tunisian simple stitch, 32 inches long. When the bag’s dry, I can add the wooden beads to the drawstring, snip any sticky-outy ends, and call it done.

It was a pleasant day today, of grocery shopping, lending my car to ds3 so he could have a driving lesson, and mid-afternoon deciding that it was hot enough (over 30 degrees) to head to the lake for a couple of swims and some sunbathing on the dock at a little beach access. The boys weren’t interested so I went on my own, and Tai Chi Man joined me when he finished work.

Dinner included freshly dug potatoes from our garden and even a lettuce, though it looked like a deer had chomped half of it. We only occasionally see deer around here, we know they are there, but not usually in our garden. However there have been telltale footprints through our vegetable patch this summer. Thankfully it seems that potatoes and green beans were a good choice, as it looks like they have been left alone.

The boys asked why I wasn’t taking food photos for Facebook tonight! As if I do it a lot!! I did try out a new recipe from one of my cookbooks, Betty Goes Vegan. It was the Denver Omelette which is made with a tofu mixture and filled with a mixture of sauteed veg, faux meat or tempeh, and vegan ‘cheese.’ The omelette part certainly didn’t hold together in the way the recipe implied, but looked quite realistically like scrambled eggs. And instead of filling and folding, I just put the sauteed tempeh and mushroom mixture on top plus some smoked Gouda-style Daiya. It tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t photogenic.

I made a meal plan for seven days plus a shopping list today, which ideally I like to do every week. Sometimes I make it generic, like pizza, pasta, rice etc. Sometimes I’ll look through a few cookbooks to get inspiration. And other times, like today, I pick a few recipes out of one book to challenge myself to try new things.

You never know which ones will become family favourites.

Have an awesome weekend and talk to you again soon when the bag is 100% finished.

 

 

 

A new project and a new recipe

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My new project is a free Ravelry Download – Agitator Mitts. Fingerless mitts crocheted with worsted weight yarn (I’m using Stylecraft Special Aran in the colour Denim) and a 4.25mm hook.

I have learned a new stitch – extended single crochet (I suppose that would be extended double crochet in the UK).

I am making the smaller size as the recipient I have in mind has very small hands, but if I have any doubts about them I may also make a pair in the larger size.

The rawfood diet is going well, though of course we are only on Day Two. I feel better already, except for the stiff neck, which was worked on again by my chiro today. It’s always good to have nutrient-dense snacks so that you don’t feel hungry and go and fall off the wagon at the first tummy rumble. Here’s what I made tonight – they are good!

CLADs (coconut lime almond date balls)

You’ll need a food processor for this. Blitz one cup natural almonds (fully raw if possible, but if you’re in N America they will probably be pasteurized) until they look like breadcrumbs.

Add one cup desiccated coconut and mix briefly.

Pit some fresh soft Medjool dates and pack them into the one cup measure until full. Tip into food processor and blitz again.

Finally, add the juice of one lime and mix again.

Use wet hands (to minimize sticking) to form mixture into small balls, store in an airtight container in the fridge. Will probably last for a few days if you can resist them for that long.

 

Home-made soymilk

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I’ve recently been thinking about cutting back on the expense of commercial soymilk and becoming less reliant on the supermarket. Making one’s own ‘milk’ is so easy and relatively inexpensive too. In fact there was a great link on Facebook this week about making your own ‘milk’ from all sorts of nuts and seeds, even buckwheat, of which we have an abundant supply, as Tai Chi Man eats it regularly for breakfast. image

I tend not to go overboard on vegan stuff here on the blog, so suffice it to say that plant milks are beneficial for

(a) people: nutritious  and delicious without the suffering, antibiotics and hormones inherent in commercially produced dairy milk

(b) animals: they don’t need to die for us to eat well

(c) the environment: cutting down on intensive cattle raising, with its huge use of water, ginormous piles of cow poop and clouds of methane, has to be a good thing.

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I used to have a soymilk maker, where you soaked the beans and then put them in a metal basket inside the jug with water, where the blades blitzed the heck out of them and created the ‘milk.’ When I bought my Vitamix, I gave away the other machine, and finally, after a few years of buying cartons of soymilk, I have started making my own again.

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The Vitamix book said to soak the beans overnight, steam them for five minutes, then use a cup and a half of beans to three cups of water. I actually pressure cooked mine for the five minutes, let the pressure come down naturally, and then froze the beans in yogurt pots so that I could just defrost a small amount at a time.

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Well, the first batch was really sludgy. Way too many beans.

So I cut it down to one cup. Still too thick. Then three quarters of a cup. Much better. I add a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan salt and a tablespoon of organic sugar, and it tastes great. The true test, to me, was that I can use it in my Yorkshire tea and it is actually fine. I don’t strain it, and I give it a shake before pouring any out, but it can still get a bit thick at the bottom of the jar, so my latest batch is two thirds of a cup of beans to three cups of boiling water, blitzed at high speed for up to a minute with the salt and sugar, and the resultant quantity fits perfectly into a large mason jar.

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It’s great that there is way less stuff going into the recycling bin too.

Good Monday to you

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I admit it! I’m procrastinating. I have one of my famous To Do lists written out but I am trying to ignore it. I promise I will get to it after this blog post.

 

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The Road Trip scarf is nearly done. I have finished the 32 rows of the body and now just need to do the edging. I had more done last night, but realised that the stitch count didn’t work out at the point so had to rip back. I’m not sure about the pooling with the colours but when it’s being worn it won’t be so obvious.

It’s mild (7°C) and sunny out there today, which is making me feel I should wash and vacuum my car. It’s a mess, with lots of dirt and road salt on it, and grit on the mats, and as I’m taking it in for an oil change on Wednesday I would rather it was clean! Of course, the dealers may wash it themselves, though they stopped doing that during last summer because of the water restrictions.

Eh, I need to stop being lazy!

I experimented with making soymilk in my Vitamix last week, but it was too beany and thick. I have frozen lots of soaked and partially cooked beans so I can have more tries at getting something usable. It was ok in cooking (and in the ‘butter’ – see below) but I wouldn’t have used it in my tea.

I also made some ‘vegan butter,’ the recipe for which I found a long time ago on veganbaking.net. I’ve had this slip of paper magnetised to my cooker hood for months now, and I finally got around to it because we were running out of Earth Balance. It’s mostly coconut oil, plus some grapeseed oil, soymilk, apple cider vinegar, salt, soy lecithin and xanthan gum. I find it tastes fine, but I don’t think the boys have risked spreading it on their bread yet so I haven’t had a review from them. I used a virgin coconut oil but you could use a more refined one for less coconut flavour.

I need to make bread today too. We are completely out and I have been going the lazy route and buying it from Cobs or getting the Silver Hills sprouted wheat bread at Costco. It’s so much cheaper to make your own though, and so easy. No excuse!

Enough of this talk, I am inspiring myself into action. Have a great week!

Christmas is done for another year

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Well, it’s all over. We pulled it all together on Christmas Eve. I had done the shopping, we had sorted the kids gifts, but there were no decorations up. Ds1 found free trees at Superstore and brought one over in the afternoon, by which time Tai Chi Man was home from work and I had started prepping food.

Most of the work was done by two of the boys. The tree was decorated and strings of lights were put up everywhere. A LOT of lights! Just for fun, ds1 attached his GoPro to the window and took a time lapse film of the proceedings.

The food was mostly yummy, though the steamed veg was probably a little firm. Better for you that way, eh! I referred to my new cookbook from Silver Hills and made cashew rice loaves, scalloped potatoes (thinly sliced and baked in a cheesy sauce), veg and salad. Dessert was apple crumble and vanilla soy ice cream though there was also fruit cake and mince pies available for scoffing.

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That’s non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juice in the bottle but we still get out the fancy wine glasses.

Today we had a brunch that incorporated more Silver Hills recipes, like granola, waffles and muffins. I made a fruit salad with pink grapefruit, oranges and kiwis. I made pear cream and whipped coconut cream and also put out coconut yogurt, and blueberry sauce for the waffles.

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We walked off our brunch in the snow and even saw a bit of sunshine.

This evening, after a grab-it-yourself kind of supper, we went to see the new Star Wars movie, which we all enjoyed.

Tomorrow I have to work so that’s that! There is still some fruit cake left, and some mincemeat in the fridge to use up, so the carb-loading will undoubtedly continue. Plus we have an event to go to on Sunday. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (those of you who celebrate it). And I almost forgot to say that my day ended on a yarny note. I was browsing the Deramores sale earlier today and had put some items in my cart, when the server got overwhelmed and threw me out. Obviously I wasn’t the only one spending Christmas money! Tonight I was able to place the order and I will be sure to show you everything when it arrives. I have ventured into DK territory in a big way. Usually I like worsted/aran or thicker but all the yarn I ordered today is DK. Which of course meant I had to get a new 4.5mm Addi Swing crochet hook too. 🙂

Silver Hills

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I have just had the most relaxing and rejuvenating week. The blog was neglected, not because I didn’t take my iPad with me, but because I was out of town at a health spa right here in the province of British Columbia.

Silver Hills guest house has been operating as a health spa for over 30 years. It’s set in rural countryside surrounded by hiking trails and unpaved logging roads, with its own garden which produces much of what is later served in the kitchen.

The food is all vegan, except for the honey, abundant, and beautifully presented at three set times per day. Snacking between meals is discouraged (and really unnecessary)! There is very little caffeine available, only decaf coffee for the diehards, and a little cocoa powder in the zucchini muffins.

The schedule incorporates two walks per day, one after breakfast and one after lunch. Health lectures each night explain the importance of correct nutrition, water consumption, deep breathing, exercise etc. It’s run by Seventh Day Adventists and therefore there is a spiritual component, saying grace before meals, and a short gathering each morning, which you can embrace or not as you wish. The morning gatherings did include a lot of laughter as well as inspirational readings.

The spa is beautiful,  with a steam room, infrared saunas, hot tub, and treatment rooms where you can enjoy salt scrubs, massages with or without hot stones, detox wraps, reflexology etc. What a treat.

When I initially heard about Silver Hills I looked up their website and thought it sounded expensive but now I think otherwise. You get a beautiful room with en suite bathroom, three enormous meals a day, spa services, guided walks, cooking classes and health lectures. And at the end of the week, you leave with the feeling that you are part of a bigger family (the staff eat with the guests). It’s actually a non-profit organisation and the cost is worth every penny.

While there, there was some downtime, so I worked a little on my crochet blanket which attracted a lot of attention. So far, 122 squares out of a possible 180 have been added. So 67% unless I decide to do more or fewer. In the photos below, the newest squares are at the top.

I hope your week has been awesome too. If ever you feel the need to destress, I strongly recommend a visit to a place like this, even if it’s just for a day. But a week is better!