On Being a Dog Mom

Wow, it’s been a year since I’ve filled this space with my usual nonsense. I apologize to those of you who were coming here often for my tardiness! But the cool thing is that I can take a moment to reflect on what a year it’s been since my last post.  I like to think that I’m constantly shifting and expanding but week by week, and even month by month you don’t see the same progress that a whole year provides. It’s neat!

So much has changed in my life since my last post, so I’ll start with letting you all know that I can now officially touch my toes!  Sounds weird right, but a year ago I was the loser that had to crouch down to tie my shoes or pick up the piece of mail I dropped. Now, I am a yogi goddess (well at least that’s how I like to think of myself).  Yoga has calmed my mind, brightened my spirit, and it’s slowly letting my inner hippie out. Ooommmm

In September I went back to Iceland.  Yeah you’re reading that right, back to ICELAND, for the second time, where it’s cold, rainy, windy and full of vast nothingness and elves. Why go to Mexico and sit on the beach sipping margs when you can freeze your ass off on the side of a glacier. Man, I love Iceland, it’s so rad. I’ll post some more photos of that at some point…promise!

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Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland

And the highlight of the last year for me was the addition of Walter White, our mini labradoodle (yeah I’m that horrible person who bought a designer dog) who we have both become completely obsessed with. He arrived just before Christmas and threw a major wrench in our holiday plans requiring my mom to fly up from Portland for a week, but I just love this little ball of fluff so freaking much!

So since things have been a little slow and repetitive in the kitchen since his arrival I thought I’d share some thoughts on being a dog mom.  It’s a whole lotta work, even more for P who is a stay at home dog dad, having no office to retreat to. But when I come home and he rushes up all wiggles and wags with his tail hitting his face I just melt. Any amount of stress from my day goes right out the window, and then the work starts, ha ha.

Going from a two person DINK household where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want without a ton of consideration for anyone else to adding a small puppy that needs essentially constant supervision is a big change.  After the first couple days we looked at each other and said “what the hell have we done, he’s a monster”.  But after a few weeks of 1, 3 and 5am pee breaks, constant worrying about my un-vaccinated puppy catching some terrible disease just from going outside, and a lot of no’s we started to see progress.

Living in an apartment with really slow elevators isn’t a great place to raise a puppy. Unless like me, you have a large patio where you can install a Porch Potty!  The Porch Potty is a genius invention, that you could totally DIY, that enables your pup to do its business without having to rush it down 26 floors every time it has an accident. And let me tell you, puppies have A LOT of accidents!  Like more than I imagined possible. Bottom line, if you have outdoor space and you live in a condo, shell out the $300 for one of these things and you will thank yourself every day thereafter!

I would also recommend bell training your puppy. It’s about as lame as it sounds. You hang some overpriced bells on your door (or you get a bell and some rope from the $$ store) and then every time the pup has an accident you take it to the door and say something corny like “ring your bells” and then rush it outside to pee in hopes that said pup will actually make it. I was a skeptic at first but then 2 weeks in Walter started ringing the bells!  It was really magical.  What’s extra magical is that now he rings the bells when he needs to do business, AND when he just wants to sniff around, which conveniently is usually when I’m brushing my teeth, about to hop in the shower, making dinner or trying to relax. Special!

He’s almost 7 months old now…my baby…still growing and losing teeth all over the place. Our house now runs on a ‘sit’ based economy while we transition away from the former ‘treat’ based regime. His curiosity annoys me sometimes, as does my inability to find a pair of socks that matches, but having a dog of my own is so much fun and really rewarding. There is nothing better than a puppy snarffling around your bed on Saturday morning.

I’m sure if you’re reading this and have kids that you just threw up in your mouth a little, but I’m serious.  And hey, you can’t shove your kid in a cage on Friday night and run off to yoga and then grab a beer with your better half. I know Walter will never make me crappy stick figure drawings of our family, or tell me he loves me back, but when he looks up at me with his sweet little eyes I feel an immense amount of satisfaction.  He needs us and he will always need us, and the flip side of him not being able to speak is that he can never tell me he hates me, so for now, this works and our pack is complete.

And since I should probably offer a recipe after my very long hiatus, here’s Walter’s favourite stuffed kong filling:

  • all natural peanut butter, unsalted
  • plain full fat yogurt
  • chopped up apple
  • venison dog jerky bits or beef liver treats
  • 2 dried sardines

Dab a little bit of PB on the bottom of the kong to close the hole, then layer in yogurt, chopped apple and the dog treats. Wedge the sardines in so that the fish heads poke out of the top and seal it off with more PB. Freeze, and then give it to the pup to enjoy!

Yeah, I’m a dog mom, and I’m proud of it. We work hard to train Walter and make sure he’s happy and having fun. We also spoil him rotten, and I love every minute of it. Especially when I’m listening to jazz, trying to enjoy a glass of wine in the bathtub and he barrels in and tries to hop in the tub with me.  Those are really special moments!

Love ya W and the big boy you’re becoming!

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2013 in My Kitchen

As I sit at my desk, counting down the minutes until I can legitimately leave the office on New Years Eve, I can’t help but think back on everything that’s happened in 2013.  It has been a year of change, adventure, and reflection on life; all positive!

At the very end of 2012 I bought a bike.  It changed my life, I love it and it has made my carless world so much bigger.  I’m healthier, more active and so happy I got to start 2013 with new wheels!

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My husband and I started the year off realizing that we could use my mom’s US Netflix account, so we began watching documentaries of all sorts.  After getting depressed about the state of the world from too much Zeitgeist, we started watching food docs…and decided to become vegetarian. The husband has been stricter about this than I have, but since last February I can count the number of times I’ve eaten meat on both hands.  For him it would be meat and fish on one hand.

I’ve learned to cook wonderful new foods and our diet now consists mostly of beans, lentils, kale (and other dark leafy greens), cauliflower, squash and pretty much any veggies that can be oven roasted.  I’m no longer afraid to try new things in my kitchen and I’ve hosted several successful dinner parties with brand new recipes.   I’ve also embraced new flavours to the point where my spice drawer is completely over flowing.  At the suggestion of my mother, who wouldn’t touch a lentil if her life depended on it, we both went to the doctor to confirm that our new diet wasn’t killing us.  I’m happy to report that we are both healthy and getting all the required nutrients from vegetarianism, and our cholesterol is fine, despite a more than modest increase in cheese consumption…HOORAY!

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I spent my birthday this year on a plane to Reykjavik, where upon arrival I was wished a happy birthday by a very nice Icelandic customs official.  I showed my passport to about 20 other people in the Vancouver and Seattle airports and got no love, so Iceland was off to a good start for me!  We spent 2 weeks in Scandinavia having a wonderful adventure. The highlight was the first 3 days in Iceland, which started at the Blue Lagoon, included numerous waterfalls, the cute seaside town of Reykjavik, walking between the continental plates, and a hike on a 1,000 year old glacier.  After that we spent a week in sunny Denmark, fell in love with the beautiful, cyclist friendly island of Bornholm, and experienced the beauty and expense of Norway.  No joke people, $15 for a pint!

Blue Lagoon

We ate great food throughout the trip, 90% of which was in simple cafe style restaurants where you order at the counter and your food is brought out when it’s ready.  We developed an obsession for Icelandic hot dogs (all bets are off on holiday!), had an amazing roasted celery root veggie burger in Copenhagen, bravely tried pickled herring, and had one of the best Indian meals of our lives in Oslo.

After an amazing trip, I  came  home to a beautiful and long sunny summer in Vancouver that was filled with bike rides, picnics on the beach, and just about every other weekend spent in Whistler with various friends.  I realized the importance of just saying ‘yes’ sometimes, and not over thinking how much something will cost, or what it will involve. Sometimes you have to just do things!  I also was reminded that my backyard is pretty awesome!

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I also discovered a love for all things bitter this year.  Move over IPA, ESB is now my brew of choice.  And although I do dearly love an Aperol spritz on a hot summer day, I have a new appreciation for the broader spectrum of Italian bitters.  My favourite new cocktail of 2013…the negroni!  Who says your palate can’t change!

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After a busy fall, I’m ready to enter 2014 energized and open to new experiences and challenges.  My resolutions for the New Year include reading more (and playing Candy Crush less), continuing to try new recipes and experiment with new flavours in my kitchen, and taking up photography as a new hobby (with my sweet new Canon EOS camera!). So look for great new photos, which I will no longer have to pinch from google for my posts, new recipes as I start to formulate my cookbook, and tales from another adventure that will likely happen mid year (destination TBD at this point).

I hope you all have a Happy New Year, and will leave you with one of my favourite recipes from 2013.

Spaghetti Puttanesca 

  • 1 package spaghetti, spaghettini, or penne (or really any pasta that makes you happy)
  • 1 jar strained Italian tomatoes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced (or 1 T anchovy paste)
  • 3 T capers, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 T dried chili flakes (or less if you can’t take the heat)
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Cook the onion in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until soft, then add the garlic and simmer for 1 minute (don’t burn the garlic).  Then add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients, except the basil.  Let the sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes over low heat (or longer if you have time).  Add the basil right before you serve it over your cooked pasta. You can finish it with a little Parmesan cheese if you want, but I don’t think this is traditional.

Buon Appetito!

 

Going Veg (for a week)

I recently got access to my mom’s US Netflix account and it’s like documentaries on demand; which is a problem for me.  So we started watching food docs…

It started with Forks over Knives and ended with Vegucated on Friday night.  We’ve been making more conscious food choices for a while now; eating organic dairy & veggies, scaling back our meat consumption and only buying Ocean Wise seafood.  But what we didn’t realize was that all this stuff we thought was uber healthy actually might not be.  The link between meat consumption and certain cancers is shocking.  Organic milk (or dairy products in general), well that’s not great either!  And then there’s the treatment of the animals 😦

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Did you know that in order to produce milk, cows have to constantly be pregnant?  It’s kind of a no brainer when you think about it, but I guess I never did.  And it breaks your heart when you see their babies taken away from them.  I could go into more detail but I won’t, because we all make choices, and the choice to educate yourself on these matters is yours and yours alone.  But be prepared, the industrial food chain is a real bitch.  It’s one of the most dangerous industries to work in and I can only imagine the psychological impact.  You think those save the children commercials are bad, well what you’re eating is much much worse!

So because there is no way I could commit to going vegan, we’re taking baby steps and going vegetarian for a week.  We already eat veg 3-4 times a week, but need to get over the idea that meat is required for protein.  So far so good, although I have found myself wanting to snack more, and it’s only day 2.

Do I think we’ll actually go vegetarian?  Probably not, but I know that after we eat up all the mass produced industrial farmed animals in our fridge that we’ll be making decions based on the quality of life what we’re eating had.  We all have to die at some point, but humans receive dignity in death and so should animals.

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We’re prepared for the extra expense, and figure that by eating less meat in general the cost will even itself out.  And we’re switching to almond milk, because I’ve known for a long time that humans shouldn’t be consuming milk in the quantities we are (or at all).  I’ll still buy a bit of milk for my coffee and for cooking, but I’m getting the Avalon Dairy stuff now, and gone are the days of the gallon and in are the days of the 1 litre bottle.

Why I love…my ergonomic peeler

So the second in my new series of posts about things I love is about one single item.  It may be small, easy to store and inexpensive to buy, but I love it all the same.  It’s a simple item that everyone should have.  It’s my ergonomic peeler.

I’ve suffered from mild carpel tunnel in the past, and I mouse like a crazy person at work all day, so when I get home and it’s time to peel potatoes, my hands often hurt.  I can’t exactly tell my employer, ‘ oh, I can’t do that today, I’m saving my hand for my veggie peeling’ or they’d really think I was nuts.  So thankfully the nice people at Cookworks in Vancouver solved the problem for me about a year ago.

For a whopping $6 I picked up Swissmar peeler.  Mine is turquoise so it’s easy to find in my cluttered utensil drawer, and at the end of a long day, using it is like cutting through butter.  It keeps your hand at just the right angle, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to peel stuff way faster than with the oldschool version.  But be careful.  The Swiss know what they’re doing and the blades on these things are sharp.  I almost had a bad accident whilst peeling a turnip.  It looks like Williams Sonoma has a package with the regular one, as well as julienne and serrated versions.  Perhaps not a bad purchase!

Anyways, I love my Swissmar ergonomic peeler almost as much as I love Toblreones!  Hooray for Switzerland and their pure genius!

Swissmar

NOLA Style Superbowl

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it’s on the hit list for sure.  Crawfish, creole cooking and bourbon all sound pretty good to me.  So I’m preparing a feast, on what to me is one of the best days of the year, to honor the great host city of Superbowl 2013.

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Let’s get it out of the way before we get to the really good stuff.  Sadly, because my New England Patriots and my second husband Tom Brady were brutally ousted by the stupid birds, and my other favourite team had a heartbreaking loss in the divisionals to Atlanta, I’m cheering for the 49ers today.  They’re a great West Coast team and their QB knows how to do it right, so I’m feeling pretty good about this whole thing.

And we all know that you need great food to go with a great game, so today I’m pulling out all the stops; and leaving all the calories in!  I was originally going to do something in honor of the teams (Maryland crab cakes etc.), and then I decided that I couldn’t pass up an excuse to go NOLA style.  It’s a joint effort today, my better half is quarterbacking the ribs and I’m pulling everything else together.

Yesterday I made homemade BBQ sauce, compliments of the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Foolproof.  I love the simplicity of Ina Garten’s food, and although I usually slim down her recipes this one didn’t appear to need any modification.  The end result was about 5 cups of the most delicious, vinegary, thick and rich BBQ sauce I’ve ever had.  I was ready to take a bath in it!  The main ingredient is not ketchup as one might think, rather it has Dijon, hoisin, tomato paste, honey, cider vinegar, Worcestershire and soy sauce to name a few.   It cost way more to make than buying it off the shelf, but it will last for a long time in the fridge.  So move over Sweet Baby Ray, my sauce is the boss!

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So with the ribs all rubbed down and doing their thing in the fridge for now, I spent the morning making the game-winning touchdown of the meal.  Sticky toffee bourbon cake (also from the Barefoot Contessa).  If that doesn’t scream NOLA I’m not sure what does.  I modified the recipe only slightly, to integrate some espresso.  BC doesn’t seem to like coffee flavoured things, but in my humble opinion you can’t make sticky toffee anything without a little kick of beans.  We have a few bourbons in the house at the moment, but I opted for Buffalo Trace.  Basically you make your cake, loaded with dates, and then as soon as you pull it out of the oven you poke holes all over it and smother it with a rich caramely bourbon sauce.  After it soaks in I’ll flip it and pour the rest on top.  So as you can imagine, my apartment smells pretty freaking fantastic right about now!

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I figured we should get some veggies in with this amazing meal, so at half time (cause I actually care more about the game than Beyonce) I’ll be making sweet and spicy mashed yams (BC recipe), and a brussels sprout and kale slaw.

Can’t wait to get this party started!  Regardless of whether you’re watching the Harbowl or the Superbaugh let’s hope for a great game.  And if my team loses I’m expecting to see quite the victory dance from good old Ray Lewis so I guess either way I’m happy.

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Why I Love…the single use kitchen gadget

I’m starting a new series of blog posts, all about the things I love in my kitchen.  And for my first one, I’m taking on the ‘single use gadget’.  We all have them, our significant others hate them because they take up too much space, some of them are expensive, and some don’t last very long.  Some get purchased off infomercials, others catch your eye at Bed Bath and Beyond, and the really good ones usually get lusted over for a long time before they’re purchased.

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My definition of gadget includes just about everything in your kitchen that really only serves one purpose, so I include electric items.  I have tons of them, and I’m constantly having to rationalize buying new ones with my husband.  I like being able to make fun things you’d get at a restaurant at home; quesadillas and waffles to name a few.  I also love my zester, my mushroom brush and crepe spatula.  Sure, I occasionally use things for purposes they’re not explicitly intended for, but really, I could also totally get by without these items.

I’m not a big consumer when it comes to buying things.  But when I do buy something, I want it to be top quality, and nothing upsets me more than having to replace an item and throw the old one in the land fill.  So yes, I do get a bit weary when it comes to these single use gadgets, because they’re sometimes cheap, and made in god knows where of some toxic plastic.  But I figure that if I take extra good care of them then we’ll all live a long and happy existence together in my kitchen.

So here’s a few of my favourites, that I would highly recommend you add to your kitchen collection:

Quesadilla Maker

  • Why I love it?  It melts cheese for one, and smashes it together with whatever other great things you want to include.  Although I’m a big fan of the traditional cheese, I like to add grilled chicken and veggies, or brie, mango and red onion, or spinach, mozza, pesto and sun dried tomatoes.  I think I paid $12 for mine in the states…you can’t even get a quesadilla at Cactus Club for $12 these days, so I think of it as a sound investment.

Waffle Maker

  • Why I love it?  Who doesn’t want to wake up on the weekend to freshly made Belgian waffles?  You can make all different kinds, and you can even make savoury dinner appropriate ones.  Chicken n’ waffles anyone?  Need I say more…

Mushroom Brush

  • Why I love it?  I eat a lot of mushrooms and since I’m too lazy to peel them, and actually washing them just water logs them and makes them mushy, it’s a great way to save paper towels (which is how you should clean mushrooms if you don’t have a brush).  

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Taco Salad Shell Maker

  • Why I love it?  These are a relatively new addition to my kitchen.  Introduced to me by my brother who made the initial purchase late at night while watching an infomercial, I had to have them.  So in the good old US of A I found them for $10.  Everything tastes better in a crispy non-fried tortilla shell right?

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SodaStream Machine

  • Why I love it?  Got one for Christmas this year and had been wanting one since I was 16.  First discovered when I was living in Germany, I love the idea of being able to have freshly carbonated sodium free on demand.  I’m already saving money by not buying Pellegrino, and I’m reducing my environmental footprint because my water is just as fancy but doesn’t come from Italy.

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The list could go on and on (pizza stone, garlic baker, ravioli cutter, etc.), but those are my favourites of the moment.  And although I do love a good single use item/appliance, I’m really not a big fan of a lot of the other ones on the market.  Some of my dislikes are:

  • The Corksicle
  • Cake pans shaped like castles, trains, boats, and pretty much anything but a cake
  • Grapefruit spoons
  • Pineapple slicers
  • Cake pop makers
  • Popcorn makers
  • Pannini makers (ok totally the pot calling the kettle black because I have a freaking quesadilla maker…pick your battles, what’s more fun?)

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So stay tuned for more ‘why I love…’ and leave me a comment about what you love most in your kitchen because I’m always up for trying new things!

A Bike is a Foodie’s Best Friend

Living and working downtown makes it pretty pointless to have a car, so my husband and I decided to sell ours 5 years ago.  People thought we were nuts to be carless, but we joined Modo, a car sharing non-profit cooperative, and were pretty stoked on saving a ton of money every month.  It enabled us to travel more and just live better in general.  But I did feel like I was missing out on the ability to quickly run out for groceries.  There’s a IGA in my building, but their produce selection is lacking and the meat is questionable.  But this week, my world changed.  I bought a bike!

Bike

I’ve ridden a bike a handful of times in the last 15 years.  But my husband started commuting to work on his bike in the fall and I started thinking about how cool it would be if we both had bikes and could go places together.  Everyone knows that an outing on a bike is way more fun than one on the bus.  As he said, our world just got a whole lot smaller.  And it’s true!

As a foodie having a bike is a beautiful thing.  Want to go to Granville Island, no problem. Get take out from Rangoli and not have to wait for the bus, yes please!  And today, on an impulse I decided to ride my bike over to the old Bosa Foods on Victoria Drive.  I picked up some fiore de latte mozzarella, prosciutto and my favourite castelveltrano olives. Everything is suddenly within reach now that I’ve got wheels.  I guess I could have gone to all these places on the bus before, but it just seemed like such a hassle.  And now I get to go where I want while getting fresh air and exercise.

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I can’t wait for summer, the farmers markets, brunch on Commercial Drive, long rides to Spanish Banks and who knows where else.  We’re already planning a trip over to West Van to the Savary Island Pie Company.  Can’t wait for that one!

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So a week into owning my new bike, I’m totally smitten.  I can’t wait to explore more of the city I’ve lived in for 10 years and uncover new foodie delights that I’m sure are hiding around every corner.

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