23
Aug
16

Summer Squash & Bison Taco Soup

I had to turn the furnace on yesterday… in August!  Yikes.  Last year August got damp too.  And it has been raining quite a bit this year.  Definitely feels like Fall is here even though there is still a month of Summer left.

They are cute, but these pattypans aka sunburst squash are plentiful right now, and best to use them when still fresh!

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I had a package of ground bison thawing in the fridge so when I got home tonight I decided the two could go together to make a nice meal.  I hadn’t intended it to be soup to start with but part way through decided to add some homemade stock and other things.

I am allergic to beef so I use ground bison (which is extremely lean) or pork or lamb when I want ground meat.  I watch for the 50% off stickers at the store and grab the bison and lamb when it is marked down and freeze it.  It is pretty expensive otherwise.

I just grab things and toss them into the pot.  No measuring.  Aside from the squash – I had five of them – I had fresh onions, green onions, green pepper and in the freezer diced celery and homemade stock.  And a can of diced tomatoes from the pantry.  I also used my homemade taco seasoning mix.

Soup is a great way to use up vegetables that are left over or getting a little limp, or just stuff that you need to use before it is time to throw it out.  The green onions were pretty dead looking that I used.

The celery in the freezer was the diced scraps from cleaning stalks of celery – the leafy ends and centres that weren’t “stick” material for my munching.  I have bags of it in there!  I put it in soups, stews, casseroles, in the bottom of the roaster to set the meat on, etc.

I also freeze chicken carcasses and bones from roasts and steaks – I just keep adding to a large Ziploc freezer bag.  When I have a substantial amount I roast them until they are well-browned (much better flavour that way!) and make stock in my crock pot to freeze.

I used my dutch oven for this soup but you could do it in a crock pot if you wanted.  I browned the bison in some peanut oil, then added the chopped onions, green onions, green peppers and the frozen celery and let them sweat down a bit.  Then added the cubed squash.  Even though the squash were still fairly small I needed to remove the seeds before cutting them up.

I stirred it a few times and once the squash was starting cook I added about three to four tablespoons (well, I dumped about a third of what was left in the bottle in actually) of my taco seasoning mix.  Then I added a 12-ounce can of diced tomatoes and approximately two cups of stock (I’m guessing – it was a frozen container that could have been three cups.)

Once the pot was starting to boil, I put the lid on and put in the oven at 350F for about an hour and a half.

I find finishing soups in the oven works really well, and you don’t end up with a splattered stove top.

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It turned out great!  A bit spicier than I was expecting due the amount of the taco mix I’d added, but still excellent. I am developing a taste for spicier things lately.

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Eat it as is, or garnish with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc.  I added shredded cabbage to the bowl and put the soup on top!  It was very good that way.  I’m all about getting in as many vegetables as I can in a meal.

The rest will be frozen in serving sizes for quick meals.  I like having things ready to grab and heat once theatre season starts – which is in less than a month – as I don’t have much of a break between work and call times.

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I make my own spice mixes – that way I know I am only getting what I want in them.  Commercial taco seasoning mixes usually contain flour or cornflour and sugar in some form – so I don’t use them.

Shannon’s Taco Seasoning

I make big batches (this makes around 2 cups) and store in recycled spice jars – those industrial sized ones from Costco.  It keeps a very long time.

1/2 cup of chilli powder

1/3 cup of dried minced onion OR you can use 2 tablespoons of onion powder instead

2 tablespoons of garlic powder

2 tablespoons of salt (your choice – table salt, sea salt, etc.)

1.5 tablespoons of ground cumin

1.5 tablespoons of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons of ground coriander

Combine all of the ingredients either directly into your storage container, or in a bowl.  Shake or mix well.  Put in sealed container and store with your spices in a cool, dry, dark place.

 

 

 

 

20
Aug
16

Zucchini Pizza Pie

I was inspired by the posts and recipes floating around for “Zucchini Pizza Crust” knowing full well that it would NOT be as described but liking the sound of it.  I mean, what could be bad about zucchini, cheese and eggs with pizza toppings added?  Not a damn thing as it turns out!

I’m calling this a “Pizza Pie” as it does taste like excellent pizza but is not able to be eaten with your hands (unless you really enjoy being messy!) – knife and fork all the way.

So first off… it is zucchini season, and as anyone who has grown them (or has a neighbour, relative or friend who is growing them) knows, finding things to do with them is always a late summer challenge.

I decided to use my biggest one for this.  It was either grate it up for this or stuff it and bake it.  I scooped out the seeds and grated it up while watching Casablanca… damn, that movie makes me cry every time.

So got it all grated and sat it in a sieve in the sink, sprinkled liberally with salt and let it drain for an hour while I grated up some aged cheddar while watching Dark Passage (it was Bogie day on TCM apparently.)

I turned the oven on to 450F to pre-heat.

Yes, I sit on the chesterfield, watching television, while I grate things… so what?

I mixed up the grated zucchini (after squeezing out all the moisture I could) – I didn’t measure it… probably 2-3 cups total; the cheese (maybe 2 cups of grated;) and two eggs.

I then dumped the mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out to about half an inch thickness.  I pushed up the sides a bit to make them straight and not touching the edges of the pan.

I put the sheet in the oven on the centre rack.  The recipes I saw said that it should bake for 15 or 20 minutes.  My oven runs hot and it took closer to 40 minutes!  I checked it every 10 minutes, and then reset the timer.  The edges were brown and the top of it was just barely starting to get a hint of brown, and the surface looked dry when I took it out.  Maybe I had it a lot thicker than the recipes intended?

The recipes said to let it cool before turning it into a pizza.  So I slid it onto a clean piece of parchment on a room temp baking sheet to speed that up (I was hungry!)  I trimmed the edges and ate them – YUM!  It was really excellent all by itself – like a soft zucchini fritter.

I increased my oven temp to the highest it would go which was 550F.

I prepped a bunch of veggies by dicing very small – 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  Needed to be very small to cook through quickly.  I used green pepper, green onions, fresh tomatoes, and a small can of chopped black olives. I also had some parmesan salami and mozzarella cheese.

When my zucchini base was cool-ish (it was still pretty warm, but like I said before, I was hungry) I spread leftover spinach/artichoke/cream cheese dip that I’d made the other day over it, then sprinkled all the fresh veggies and olives over that, then laid out the salami, and slices of mozzarella over top of the whole thing.

It then went into the 550F oven for 8 minutes. I kept a close eye on it as I didn’t want it to burn!

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It smelled divine!  As you can see in the next photo, it was too sloppy to eat like a pizza.

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I think I’ll make a few batches of the zucchini base and freeze to use later on.  It is one way to use up the zucchini and have something on hand to make a quick dinner.  Although, I need to use the food processor not the hand grater next time.

I now have leftovers for a few days, and am looking forward to them!

 

06
Aug
16

Summer thoughts and deeds

Last weekend I was face painting at Grizfest Music Festival in Tumbler Ridge, BC.  I have been there every year since 2005!  It is a nice weekend in a beautiful little town in the mountains.  We get to paint and listen to great music while we work.  We drive up there Saturday morning (three-hour drive), paint for five hours on Saturday and Sunday, and drive home on Monday.  I always enjoy the trip – even driving through blinding rain and thunderstorms, forest fires, and snow – depending on the year.

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This year Tom Cochrane was the headliner on Saturday (we ran into him in the lobby of the hotel!) and Simple Plan was the main act on Sunday.

On July 13th my crew and I face painted at Municipal Government Day at Muskoseepi Park (which had been rescheduled from June due to a massive storm!)  This photo by William Vavrek Photography is of the line-up of people waiting for face painting.  The City events at the Park are always busy!

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We were there on Canada Day too.  And so was William Vavrek Photography!  I am too busy to stop to take photos so thankfully someone is there to take some!

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Next weekend I will be face painting at the Debolt Festival & Fair on Saturday.

The weather has been really damp here – thunderstorms, massive rain.  I actually put my furnace on yesterday as the damp was making it quite chilly and I needed to warm up the air in the house.  Yesterday there were thunderstorms for 10 hours straight… one after the other rolled in.  Everything is nice and green… but too wet to mow!  On the positive side I don’t have to haul the hose around to water the garden.

In other news things are progressing – still dropping weight as a result of removing carbs and sugar from my diet, blood sugar is staying in the normal range and I am still receiving injections in my eyes to treat diabetic retinopathy (apparently it is working and once it it fixed the injections stop.)

This is of me in 2000 and me last Saturday.  The change was really gradual, and in spurts due to various things.  The big changes due to the diagnosis last December resulted in a 50 lb drop, which is continuing.  I am assuming I will plateau once my body finds it’s preferred level as I am not dieting, per se, just don’t eat things I can’t.

BW before after

I’ve reached the stage where I can actually shop in “normal” stores and buy off-the-rack large and medium clothing… and it FITS!  I’ve never done that.  When I was 10 I was wearing my mother’s clothes.

I keep ending up in the plus size areas – habit I guess.  It is hard to look at things to judge size, but I am slowly getting the hang of it as I have to shop for new things every month I am getting lots of practice.  I’m doing most of the shopping at Giant Tiger or Goodwill – no point in spending a lot when I’m going to be donating things in a month!  I was searching for heavy leggings (heavy as they need to hold things in, like loose skin) and ended up at Bootlegger. I’ve never bought anything there before!

I culled my closet again and dropped off a load at Goodwill this week.  I need to start making sure to wear all the things that fit, WHILE they fit. I get annoyed with myself when I pull out something I bought a couple months ago, never wore, and now it is too big to look nice.

I’m a little sad my Spider-Man and Hulk shirts are too big now.  I’d inherited them from my brother Neil when he died.  I’ve only been able to wear them lately.  The Hulk is just hanging off of me and Spidey probably will only be wearable until the end of this month.  I really love those shirts.  I’ve been looking for similar ones but just don’t see them anywhere.

Oh, and this is exciting – I bought cheap sports bras (two for $12) in large, and they fit!  OMG, they are so comfortable!  There are some things you NEED a bra under and the only one I own is black – and that just doesn’t work for light summer tops!  As I am less than an A-cup I don’t need much.  One of the first things to disappear was whatever bosom I had (which wasn’t much to start with.)

This is 2013 vs this week … anyone interested in a medieval reversible bodice and blouse?

2013 vs 2016

 

 

 

 

 

27
Jul
16

A new venture – Name Art

I am now taking commissions for one-of-a-kind hand created Name Art.  I find it very therapeutic to create these unique pieces and have a lot of fun coming up with the designs.

I set-up a Facebook business page yesterday for this new venture  Face Art by Shannon Fennell.  You can contact me about it via message from that page.

I can work on them at anytime and anywhere so it is a portable activity (and it fills the time spent sitting in waiting rooms.)

I can do work suitable for framing, postcards, invitations, birthday cards, announcements, certificates, gifts, signs… pretty much anything you might want a name done decoratively for.  And they can be shipped worldwide.

I use good quality artist’s paper and pens, felt pens, art markers, watercolour pens, pencil crayons, watercolour paints, pastels or a combination of more than one.  Depending on the theme certain methods are a better choice to create the desired results. If you would like the Name Art done in another medium contact me to discuss it as I may be able to tackle it!

I have decided on three levels/categories (I am still deciding on the terminology I want to use.)

The first category is “Freeform” in which the customer chooses one of six general themes:

  • Organic: will incorporate stylized forms of flowers, leaves, etc. in a flowing manner. See “Allison” for an example.
  • Sharp Edges: will incorporate angles, squares, and/or triangles, lines, etc.
  • Outer Space: will give the impression of stars, galaxies, planets, spaceships, etc., in a stylized manner.
  • Bubbles: will be predominately rounded shapes with shading, resembling bubbles.
  • Clouds: soft background giving the impression of clouds.
  • Swirls: Lots of swirls, curved lines, coils, flowing shapes.

And then they choose up to five colours to be used.  The rest is up to me – I start with the name based on the theme chosen, and the rest just happens!

Freeform

The second level is “Specific Font/Letter Style” where the customer tells me the font or style of lettering they want used.  I can use a pre-existing font, copy something from a title, etc.  whatever is desired.  Again, they can choose up to five colours to be used.  The background will be done to highlight and compliment the font and name.  See “Colin” for an example of this level using a popular video game style of letter.

Specific Font

And the third category is “Fully Customized” where the customer tells me the font/lettering style and can specify the background and/or a border design, and/or the inclusion of a character or figure to be included in the design.  See “Justin” below for a sample of this level using a Star Wars like font and character as his choices.

Custom

Prices are based on size and complexity of the design.  If you would like more information on pricing check my Facebook page Name Art by Shannon Fennell and message me for a price list.

If you are interested in something other than a name and with multiple words contact me to discuss.

All work is freehand – I don’t trace or transfer – so every single piece will be unique.

 

10
Jul
16

A little rant about my pet peeves

Everyone has their own pet peeves.  I have several.  Um, actually, I have a lot depending on the day of the week or phase of the moon.  You know… the usual variables.

I am a list maker so I’m going to categorise some of mine by topic/theme.

Recipes

WHY do people use fractions of items in recipes?

I’m not talking 1/4 teaspoon; I’m talking about 1/5 of an avocado for heaven’s sake! Who the hell would cut up an avocado to use only 1/5 of it?  Really?  You couldn’t manage to use ALL of it?

Or how about 1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk?  I don’t know about you, but when I open one of those I only have one thing to make and what the heck am I supposed to do with the leftover half a can?

Or recipes that call for 3 egg yolks and 5 egg whites?  What’s up with that?  Either figure out how to use 5 egg yolks or cut it back to 3 egg whites.  How hard is that?

Or 1 tablespoon of diced onion?  Sure you can put the rest of the onion in the fridge or freezer to use later, but… I’d have just included the whole “small” onion in the recipe.

And for baking – why on earth would anyone want to use margarine?  BAKING… you know, sugar upon sugar, usually containing other sweets like chocolate and fruit… use butter or lard or shortening – REAL food.

Driving

Turn signals.  When did they become optional?  They are either not used at all or only turned on half-way through the turn.  I was under the impression they were for indicating your intention to turn, in advance.  Silly me.

Rolling stops.  A stop sign means STOP.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve just about been t-boned, or as a pedestrian, was just about clipped.  These same people complain and wail when they get a ticket for not stopping (a $275 ticket!)  My heart bleeds.

Tossing butts out the window. I can’t even describe the stupidity of this.  Given the fires we have had you would think anyone with a single brain cell would know how stupid this it, but, daily, I still see it happening.  That or flicking their ashes out the window instead of into an ashtray.

Make-Up Pricing

As a professional make-up artist I buy a lot of products.

Many “brands” buy their items from the same sources – private label companies.  You can order anything with your own name and logo on it: brushes, liner pencils, eye shadow, etc. You can buy their stock items or order custom colours or packaging. You then can create your own price point.

I recognize a lot of these products and the price variation is ridiculous.  Personally, I go with the lower prices on many items – price is no way to judge make-up quality.  It can be a factor (i.e. stuff made in China for example, which I try to avoid) but all being equal, I’ll go with price.

I was looking for individual/single false lashes – the store I was in had one store brand package left at about $8.  I asked the attendant if they had anymore.  She checked the drawer, but had none of that brand left.  So she went and checked two other brands… in the “designer” section… $20 for a Borghese package.  Keep in mind these are tiny individual fake eyelashes… why would I want to pay $12 more for the name brand?  So I just got the one package.

Things like moisturizers have a wide variety of pricing – essentially ALL contain the same ingredients, in slightly different proportions with different scents, etc. There is no point, in my opinion, in spending on the higher priced brands when a $10 or $20 brand will serve the same purpose.

Brushes are something that really annoy me.  I have literally HUNDREDS of brushes for face painting.  I refuse to buy face paint brand’s labelled brushes.  They source their brushes just like any other company would, and have them customed coloured and stamp their name on them.  If you look around an art/craft store you can find the same, and usually better, brushes.  I’ve also discovered sets of cake decorating brushes work excellently – a set of 7 for $14… can’t beat that.  Quality of brushes is often judged by price, particularly artist brushes, so this is often a “get what you pay for” item.

Trying to get a price without having to talk to a salesperson

I’m curious to find out what solar panels would cost to install on my house.  I just want a ballpark – I don’t really have any intention to do it in the short term.

Couldn’t find any pricing on the interwebs that could be figured out by a layperson.  I do NOT want to talk to a salesperson, I just want a general idea of costs.  So I filled out one of those “get a quote” things – that sends to local outlets (I used one before to get car insurance quotes – and didn’t have to talk to anyone.)  They keep contacting me wanting my phone number – I told them I prefer email.  I just want to know what the price range is and that I can answer questions by email.

Just give me an average cost for this city. Then I know what I need to aim for if I want to do it.  I know they want to push a sale, but I just want information.  I hate hard sales pitches.

Well, that made me feel better.  Here’s a photo of my clematis.

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04
Jul
16

Summer Beauty

My flowers are coming along nicely this summer.  My perennials are all back and transplants from this year are doing well.  The usual petunias are looking great and starting to put on some size.

In the Fall of 2014 I harvested hollyhock seeds from the flower beds of an old church – it had been converted to offices and I worked there at the time.  There were about six different colours and I collected seeds from all the plants, hoping for a variety.  Last year several plants grew, but stayed small and did not produce any blooms.  This year I have six good sized plants (and some smaller ones) and today I discovered my first bloom!

As far as I can tell only two of the plants have buds to this point.

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My Prairie Mallows are prolific as always.  They are aggressive self-seeders so I remove a lot every year.  They really are pretty.

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This bee thinks the Prairie Mallow are great too!

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This patch of lilies started as one single plant in 2010 – I’ve started to divide them and plant in other parts of the beds.

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These next two I need to research to find out what they are exactly – a friend gave me the plants out of her garden a month or so ago.  They are doing well!

My clematis are lush as usual, with the pots of petunias to complement them.

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It is still early and the petunias in the beds will soon be spilling over the landscape ties.  I really love Wave Petunias.

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30
Jun
16

Now I wait…

I had my “procedure” of injections into  both eyeballs yesterday afternoon.  I was really nervous.  Many people who’ve had that type of treatment said the anticipation was worse than the process, and they were right.

While it isn’t exactly fun, it certainly wasn’t that bad.  Much easier than a root canal… once you get past the whole needle in your eye thing.

I asked the doctor if this will fix the issue and he said that it could resolve the eye problem if my blood sugar and blood pressure stays under control (which they have been.)  But we won’t know if there is an improvement until my next scheduled tests on July 22.  They’ve already scheduled me for another set of injections at the end of the month, if needed.

I flinched when he injected the first eye, more from anticipation than anything else.  It was actually rather interesting – as the drug was injected I could see it!  All swirly like spin art, and looked like jelly fish swimming around.  Then the black floaters appeared which was the stuff pooling.

My eyes were really dry after, and all gooey around the lids.  Had drops to put in which helped as my left lid was sticking open!  And other drops to put in four times a day.

The floaters are almost completely gone now.

So now it is just wait and… SEE (ha ha…)

 




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