Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Being Sugar Free

When I announced my intention to spend 10 days consuming no added sugar, I was surprised how many of you - my lovely readers - were actually interested and curious in my experience with this experiment. My head-space is currently uninspired, so the post felt a lot like filler, a tidbit of my life that I exploited for the purpose of a blog post.

But really, aren't I exploiting every single aspect of my life for the sake of a blog post, for the sake of a topic, anything, to write about? Here I am, exploiting the tidbit just a little bit more. Since so many of you seemed interested in the experience, I decided there was no harm in sharing a little more.

This evening, I went grocery shopping. When you're carefully paying attention to what you eat, grocery shopping becomes a far more complicated but, perhaps, a far more rewarding experience. Ingredient lists and labels become crucially important. Because I am focusing my elimination diet on sugar, specifically added sugar, I read every single ingredient list before an item made it into my cart. I knew bread was a tough one, and it was. Turns out, I will not be consuming any soft fluffy bread for the remaining seven days. I can, however, eat wraps, and, tucked in the corner of the bread section, I found a crispy cracker-like bread with sugar blissfully missing from its list of ingredients.

I stopped in the canned tomato sauce aisle for a moment, purely for the purposes of conducting a mini experiment. I shuffled through every brand, every variation. All but one featured sugar quite prominently. And that one? $4 versus the $1.50 of the rest. No wonder obesity plagues the poor and marginalized among us.

I feel like this is supposed to be harder than it is. You know? I mean... I learned today that they use sugar as a pain killer, a drug, for babies when they give them their first needles. So, if sugar is a drug, if sugar is supposed to be addictive, shouldn't I be feeling some kind of symptoms of withdrawal? Perhaps it's possible that I'm not as addicted to sugar as I thought I was. Perhaps my every day diet is cleaner than I believed it to be. Perhaps I'm not as out of control of my food choices as I have always assumed myself to be.

Does that mean I shouldn't even bother with this 10 day thing? Is this whole thing silly and pointless? Maybe. But I don't believe that. Maybe cutting out sugar won't actually accomplish much for me in terms of weight loss, but that's ok - I don't need to lose weight. What it will do, is heighten my sense of awareness about what I'm putting into my body. It will make me think about each choice I make, about how my food is fueling my body.

If nothing else, I'll enjoy the chocolate that's sitting in my freezer far more once I'm all finished this silly sugar-free business.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Peach Crumble

August is peach season. Peaches have this way of pulling me into the heat of summer, of reminding me of sticky days, and the fan rotating around my tiny bedroom in the farmhouse in which I grew up. They remind me of burying peach pits in the sand pile, hoping they would grow into trees. And peach juices dripping down my chin and my hands and all over the place.

Peaches also remind me of breakfast in the depths of the winter. In August, my mother lined the jars up, filled with peach wedges and a sweet syrup, bright orange in the dark of the concrete basement. In the mornings, well into winter, I would carrying one of those jars upstairs to the woodstove-warmed kitchen, pop the top off and scoop the syrup-sweetened fruit into a bowl.

It was good. But it was never as good as the fresh fruit.

I feel kind of the same way about this crumble as I did about those canned peaches. In order to save the 8 or so peaches that had begun to wrinkle in the fridge beyond the point of enjoyability, I peeled, pitted, and chopped them, cobbled one recipe with another, made a bunch of changes to accommodate what I had in the house and, an hour later, scooped this out of a casserole and onto a pretty dish.

It was delicious, but I have to be honest: it's not as good as a fresh peach. But, let's be fair: is there anything as good as a fresh peach?

Peach Crumble


8 peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped.
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar


1 and 1/5 cup granola
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter

This recipe couldn't be simpler. Mix together the flour, sugar, and peaches. Spread out in a casserole dish of your desired size. I used a smaller, round one. I tried an 8 by 13, but found the layer to be way too thin. If you're using a square casserole, try a 9 by 9 or something equivalent.

In a separate bowl, mix together the granola and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until the mix is crumbly. I like to use my hands for this step. Spread the crumble topping liberally over the peaches.

Bake in a 375* oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the top is a gorgeous golden brown and the peaches have been cooked and heated through.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cabbage and Beef Wraps

Sometimes, I'll throw something together for dinner, find out it is absolutely delicious, take pictures in order to share the recipe with you, sit down at my computer to start writing and be hit with the realization that I have no idea what I put in it.

Case in point: these cabbage and beef wraps. This is what I know:

  • There is some beef in it. I think it was leftover steak, or a really cheap blade steak that the husband picked up at the grocery store for 50% off. Cut into edible chunks and sauted in oil and onions and probably garlic. 
  • There is either a whole whack of spices or not very many at all. The main base for this is a barbecue sauce, and not a homemade barbecue sauce either. It was an addition, thrown in when the spice concoction I was putting together was proving neither saucy, nor flavourful. BBQ to the rescue!
  • There is cabbage. Lots of lightly sauteed, but still a touch crunchy, cabbage. 
  • It was delicious. Even if it didn't look particularly beautiful.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

In all honestly, I don't have a lot of recipes that I can call favourites. I don't like to repeat, so I don't tend to discover the joy in the rhythm of a recipe, or the fond delight of a long-time favourite. But if I did have one, something like these would be it.

Or basic spaghetti, cooked noodles smothered in ground beef and Hunts tomato sauce, just like mom used to make and I used to make as a student.

These meatballs are at once comfort food and close to elegant, each one a delightful bite of tangy meat. I could eat a dozen, but I definitely recommend keeping your consumption to 3 or 4.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp pepper

Simple to make.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. I always take my rings off, set them in the window sill and tackle the mixing with my hands. It's gross, kinda slimy, but worth it.

Roll the mix into balls 1 - 2 inches in size. 

Brown the balls in a single layer on a skillet.* Transfer to a casserole dish.

1 cup BBQ sauce of your choice
1/2 cup vinegar, again of your choice. I used red wine vinegar, but I've also used balsamic and plain white.
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar

In another bowl, mix all the ingredients for the sauce together.

Place the meatballs in a casserole dish. 

Pour the sauce over top. 

Bake at 325* for 30 minutes or in a slow cooker on low for approximately 8 hours.

* I forgot this step this time 'round. We neither died from food poisoning or spent any time consuming raw meat. Just increase the cooking time to 45 minutes or so and make sure you cut one in half to make sure it's cooked all the way through before serving.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: Curry Slaw on My. Daily. Randomness.

Today, I'm guest posting for Brittany at My. Daily. Randomness. I was happy to step up when she needed a little help filling the week with posts while she is away.

There, I'm sharing a delicious slaw I made for a picnic with my bestie a couple weeks ago.

Do check it out and let me know if you try the salad!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

S'More Squares

This is the perfect s'more:

The chocolate is hot and melting. The marshmallow cools just enough as you squeeze it between the graham crackers that its delicately browned shell becomes just slightly chewy, adding to the texture. Marshmallow goo escapes out the side of the crackers as you bite down the the chocolate and cracker and marshmallow mix in a perfect threesome of taste.

If a s'more cooled before it was eaten, it would be nearly as perfect. Not quite, but nearly. These made up for their cool nature with the pure amount of rich chocolate and the addition of peanut butter that coated each marshmallow.

I was inspire by Jessica's recipe for a camping trip a couple weeks ago. It seemed appropriate, to bring a s'mores inspired snack to Bon Echo. I didn't really use her recipe - I didn't want to use a whole bag of chocolate chips didn't have enough graham crackers, instead, I simply turned them into a crust, laying 9 squares on the bottom of my 8 inch glass pan. It was perfect, better, I might suggest, than the result you would get by including them in the mix.

Peanut Butter S'more Squares
adapted from How Sweet It Is and Edna Staebler's Funeral Cookie recipe

2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 a bag of mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips
9 graham crackers

In a pot, mix together the white sugar and the margarine over medium-low heat on the stove, stirring constantly to avoid burning the sugar. Once the sugar and margarine have melted beautifully together, mix in the cocoa, milk, salt, peanut butter and vanilla, and slowly bring to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring every so often to develop its slightly fudgy texture. 

Lay the graham crackers in the bottom of an 8 by 8 (or 9 by 9, whichever you have) square pan. It's ok if they overlap or have cracks between them. It's no exact science! 

Check your chocolate mix for temperature. If you can comfortably dip your finger in for a taste, it's ok for the marshmallows. Mix them in carefully until the marshmallows are well coated in chocolate. Add in some chocolate chips for added richness. 

Pour the chocolate and marshmallow mix over your graham crackers in the pan. Spread it out smooth and pop it in the fridge to cool. 

At This Dusty House, I've shared our garden's amazing progress. Be sure to stop by the check it out!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Out of the Pan

There is nothing like fresh fish, straight from the lake, into the fire and consumed with four others, huddled around a picnic table, picking the pale white flesh from among the translucent bones, careful to avoid to guts. Perhaps we could have gutted and filleted it. But this experience felt so simple, so basic, it was perfect in its lack of preparation.

This is what you do:

Fresh Buttery Bass

  1. Get your fishing license. I cannot endorse illegal fishing.
  2. Take your canoe up to Bon Echo park during bass fishing season. Fish for approximately three hours and catch one 1 lb fish. Bring it back to your friends who await anxiously with the fire roaring at your campsite.
  3. Slather the fish in butter. By slather, I truly mean slather.
  4. Douse the fish in salt and pepper. Both sides. Completely.
  5. Wrap well in two layers of tin foil.
  6. Place among the coals in your fire. Wait approximately 5 minutes. Flip. Wait another five minutes.
  7. Remove from the fire with a couple of sticks. 
  8. Scrape off the skin and nibble at the flesh. Be careful to avoid those bones. They're very thin, but very sharp and pointy.