Thursday, December 28, 2017

My New (Old) Favourite Kitchen Item

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My husband has had a cast iron frying pan for years, even before we met, and it has been sitting in the back of our kitchen cabinet for 22 years without being used much.  I was intimidated by the cast iron because it requires more maintenance than a non-stick pan.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled out the cast iron pan because I was becoming concerned about cooking on a non-stick pan and the potential chemicals that could be getting into our food. 

Because the pan hadn't been used in years, I rubbed some olive oil onto the whole interior of the pan.  I then fried some bacon in it and it cooked very evenly.  A few days later, and after a few Google searches, I became adventurous and cooked a pork roast in the pan.  Here is the beauty of cast iron:  you can sear your roast on the stove top then immediately transfer the cast iron into the oven!  This would also work for roasting vegetables.  The pork roast came out very moist.

I have figured out how to clean the cast iron and season it after each use.  I wash it in soapy water and rub it with a scouring pad.  I then rinse it and dry it with paper towel.  Once it is dry, I buff the pan with olive oil (or canola oil) to season it.  Seasoning means to make it non-stick.  After the oil is applied it can be placed in the oven for about 30 min at 400 degrees.  You do not have to put it in the oven every time you use it but it should be buffed with oil each time. 

Please keep in mind that when cooking with cast iron, you will need to use an oven mitt when touching the handle because it will get hot as well.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Reducing Stress This Christmas

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This Christmas, I am giving myself a gift by reducing stress of the holiday season.  Firstly, I started by shopping early this  year (about a month ago).  I still have a few things to get but hope to get everything wrapped up soon.  I am also going to grab stocking stuffers tomorrow night so I am not heading out at the last minute on Christmas Eve.  

I also opted out of a couple of gatherings.  I did not attend my office holiday party because it usually causes me some stress because I have to book a hotel room and stay overnight after the party because I live too far from work to take a cab (about 1 1/2 hour drive).  My firm does not pay for the room and I didn't feel like paying for it, packing and preparing to be away from the family for one night.  I heard it was a great party at a wonderful venue but I am still glad I didn't attend.  

Also, my family will not be going to a family dinner on Christmas Day.  We have been invited but declined the invitation.  I do most of the Christmas shopping, decorating, etc. so by Christmas day I am exhausted!  I enjoy staying at home and cooking and baking throughout the day and watching the kids enjoy their gifts.  Our lives are so busy and this is one of the only days of the year that we do not have to go anywhere.  I love doing that!  I hope to stay in my pyjamas the whole day.

I feel that the holiday season puts a lot of pressure on everyone - financially and emotionally.  This is not what the holiday season should be about.  Do you like to stay at home on Christmas day or do you prefer to go to family gatherings?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bacon Wrapped Dates With Goat Cheese

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Last week, the staff in my department went out for our annual Christmas lunch at an Italian restaurant in the downtown Toronto. We ordered bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese.  I was a bit skeptical at first, bacon with dates?  But then again, anything wrapped in bacon is great!   They were delicious and disappeared immediately.  The sweetness of the date blends perfectly with the saltiness of the bacon.  I am going to make these over the holidays.  I am sure my kids will devour them!  This is the recipe:
  • Medjool dates
  • thin sliced bacon
  • goat cheese
  • toothpicks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice dates lengthwise down the middle and remove the pit.  Spoon a small amount of goat cheese in the opening.  Cut a slice of bacon in half and wrap around the date. Then secure it with a toothpick.  Repeat these steps for as many dates as you wish to serve.  Place the dates on a baking sheet with raised edges (you don't want the grease to drip on your oven).  For ease of cleaning, you can line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake for about 10 minutes, remove from oven and turn the dates so the bacon crisps evenly.  Bake for another 5 to 8 minutes and check for crispness.  If they are all evenly crisp, remove from oven and place on a paper towel for 5 minutes, then serve and watch them disappear!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How To Properly Wash Towels

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I am in need of new towels and will soon be replacing my old ones with nice quality towels.  Since good quality towels are expensive and an investment, I want to keep them in good condition for as many years as possible.  This led me to do some research on how to properly care for towels and I discovered the following tips:
  • Wash white towels in very hot water and colored towels in cold water with about 1/2 the amount of laundry detergent that you would  normally use.  Too much detergent can make your towels stiff;
  • If you like to bleach your towels, use only non-chlorine bleach as chlorine will damage the fibres;
  • Place 1/2 cup of vinegar in the wash to remove soap buildup and keep your towels fluffy;
  • Avoid using dryer sheets because they coat towels with a waxy residue that affects how towels absorb water.  You can use a dryer ball instead;
  • Ensure that you dry the towels immediately after being washed so that they don't develop a mildew odor.
I can't wait to buy my new towels and try out these tips.
I think I will get white ones as they feel spa like and can easily be bleached, if necessary.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

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I recently heard the Polish proverb, Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys and had a revelation about how people tend to be worried about other people's problems and try to fix them or worry about them.  I thought about how I worry about what's going on mainly around my workplace.  I don't get involved with the gossip but I do get upset that I have such a heavy workload and a lot of my co-workers do not have a heavy workload and they come in late, take long lunch hours and leave early and never offer to pitch in to help the "workhorses" in the department.  This proverb has made me take a step back and realize that other people's workload is not in my control.  I cannot force these people to work their specified hours or make them help others.  I do not have to pay these co-workers - it is the company I work for who pays them so its their problem if these people are slacking off.  It is the company who is losing money and production - not me.  

I think this proverb can trickle into other areas of life as well such as social media, family, and friends.  Worrying about other people's problems that doesn't directly affect you is a waste of time, depletes your happiness, and adds unnecessary stress to your life.

Now, when something bothers me that really isn't my problem, I say this proverb in my head, forget about the issue that isn't mine and move on.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Happened After I Stopped Eating Refined Sugar

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About 6 six years ago I stopped eating refined sugar because after doing some research, I discovered how toxic refined sugar is and how difficult it is for your body to process it.  It was a custom growing up that we would have something sweet after lunch or dinner.  Even in my 20's and 30's I would eat chocolate everyday.  I decided to stop eating sugar to see how it would change how I felt. Here is what happened:

  • I stopped getting headaches;
  • I had a lot more energy and felt less lethargic;
  • I lost some weight;
  • I was less moody;
  • My skin cleared up;
  • I slept better;
  • I no longer "crashed" in the afternoon;
  • My craving for sweet things disappeared after a few weeks
I cut out refined sugar by not putting it into my coffee.  I stopped eating desserts, baked items and chocolate.  When I see something sweet now I don't even think about eating it because for one, it doesn't appeal to me anymore and two, I think about how bad I would feel after eating it.  It's almost like having a hangover.  

I have more energy now than I did in my teens and up until my late 30's.  I am now very conscious about the amount of sugar in foods and I always read the nutrition label to check for the amount in products.  Children should have no more than 3 tsp (12 g) of sugar a day, men no more than 9 tsp (36 g) and women no more than 6 (24 g).  A can of pop can have 40 g to 60 g of sugar!  Sugar can also be in places you wouldn't think of such as condiments and salad dressings.  

If you are craving something sweet you are better to have a piece of fruit.  You can also sweeten coffee and tea with real maple syrup or honey.  I know it sounds hard to give up eating sweets but after a couple of weeks your body will be used to not having the sugar rush and you will feel amazing!