Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, the joy of home ownership and the occasional rant!

jan-to-sept-2016


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Never before have I been here

Well, Saturday was a milestone day for me.

I was out shopping and ran into Costco to look for a waffle iron.  Why, yes, I can actually go to Costco for just ONE thing and leave with just that ONE thing!  But, not this time.  LOL

They didn’t have any waffle irons (they had the one I wanted on the website but I was hoping it was in the store – but that’s not important) so I went through the middle where all the clothing is, to head for the baby wipes (the coupons I was handed at the door had boxes of Huggies at $6 off!)

I spotted yoga pants for $19.99… hmm… I do need a pair that fits better for the gym.  They were sized 8, 10, 12, L, XL etc.  I picked up the L and held it up.  That was bigger than the Large pair I currently wear.  So grabbed the 12… well… it looked like it would be okay.  And they are stretchy, right?

Also picked up a pair of pyjamas in Large as I have no winter ones – all of my old ones went to Goodwill or the trash several months ago.

Went and grabbed two boxes of wipes and headed for the till.

I did get my waffle iron at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

When I got home I tried on the yoga pants before washing them… I left the size label on for effect.  HOLY CRAP… They fit perfectly!

I have NEVER EVER been a size 12 as an adult.  When I was 10 I was wearing my mother’s clothes which would have been size 12… yes, at 10 years old.

So this is pretty exciting!

I’ve gone from a maximum of a size 28 to a size 12.

Since December 2015 I have dropped 60 pounds after changing to LCHF (low carb, high fat) way of living to control my diabetes.  It is controlling my diabetes very well – I am staying in range for all my blood sugar readings. And this side effect of the weight loss is exciting, as well as good for my overall health.

jan-to-sept-2016

Left to right: January 2016 – size 16; August 2016 – size 14; September 2016 – size 12


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Bison Stroganoff… Yum!

For dinner I made Bison Stroganoff.  And it is YUMMY!  Extremely rich so only a small portion was able to be consumed today – and I have dinner for the next several days. Which is always a good thing.

Stroganoff is one of those easy dishes that doesn’t require exact measurements – I hate using measuring cups and spoons as it is just more stuff to clean up.  When I give a measurement it is more of an approximation – I eyeball everything.  But don’t worry, I am accurate!

Bison Stroganoff

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil (or any kind you want) **Note – I added the oil as bison is extremely lean, if you are using regular ground beef you could probably skip the oil if you prefer.

1 medium sliced onion

2 cloves of chopped garlic

1 pound of ground bison (or any meat/protein – I’ve done this with soy “ground round”)

1 pound of sliced or chopped mushrooms (any type – I used 1/2 button and 1/2 crimini)

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cream (coffee cream or whipping cream)

8 ounces of cream cheese

1/2 or 1 cup of sour cream (to your taste.)

To a large skillet or dutch oven add the oil and butter. Heat up on medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until it is starting to brown, add the garlic and the ground meat. Stir and watch until meat is starting to brown well – you want it to be browning on the bottom of the pan because that’s all the good flavour!

Add the mushrooms and all the seasonings and stir well.  Turn the heat down to medium. Add the water and put a lid on for five minutes or so.  Stir, make sure to scrape up any brown on the bottom of the pan. If the mushrooms still need a bit more cooking you can add more water if needed, and put the lid back on for a few more minutes.  (The crimini mushrooms stay a lot firmer and hold their shape, compared to the button mushrooms.)

Then add the cream and the cream cheese (cut it up into chunks to make it easier to work with) and stir until blended in and melted. Let the mixture start to bubble.

Last step is to add the sour cream and stir it in.  Let it start to bubble, and immediately remove from the heat.

In keeping with LCHF, I served it over steamed cauliflower.  It would also be good on zucchini, spaghetti squash or steamed cabbage.

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Pumpkin Pie time!

I am not on the pumpkin spice bandwagon but I do like pumpkin pie.  And seeing as we had frost last night and my tree decided to start dropping its leaves last week it feels like time for pumpkin pie!

I had found a couple of recipes for pumpkin pies without carbs or sugar… but they used things I didn’t want.  So, as usual I messed around and came up with my own version using what I had on hand and substituting or leaving out what I didn’t want.

This is a low carb, no added sugar recipe and it turned out really nice.  Sweetish rather than sweet, but if you want to add sweeteners go for it.  I used unsweetened apple sauce to add a bit of sweetness which was enough for me.

Low Carb, No Sugar Pumpkin Pie

Preheat oven to 350F.

Base:

1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal*

1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or hazelnut meal*

3 tbsp melted butter

Melt the butter and stir in the ground nuts.  Spread and press evenly and firmly in the bottom of a 6-8″ pie plate.  I used a small casserole as I only have one giant Pyrex pie plate and didn’t want a pie that big!

* Use any kind of ground nuts in any ratio you want – I just had a half cup of almond meal left in the bag, so mixed it with the hazelnuts.  Pecans would be excellent with pumpkin!

Bake for at least 10 minutes in a 350F oven. It should be starting to brown on the surface, then remove from the oven.

Filling:

1 1/2 cups of pureed pumpkin (I used canned)

2 eggs

1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce (one snack size container)

1 cup whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon (go with 1 1/2 tsp if you like cinnamon)

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Optional: if you like add 1/8 tsp nutmeg and/or 1/8 tsp ground cloves for a stronger spice hit.

In a bowl combine all the filling ingredients and whisk to blend well.  Pour into the pie plate on top of the baked nuts.

Place it in the 350F oven in the middle rack for 35 to 40 minutes.  Check for doneness by inserting a knife in the middle.  If the knife is coated, leave it in the oven for another 15 minutes.  Check again.  Once the knife comes out clean (only the odd speck of pumpkin on it) it is done.  I actually had to bake mine for almost two hours – it was a lot deeper than a pie plate would have been so needed a lot longer!  (Another indicator that it is done is that the surface of the filling forms cracks!) As long as the filling is set, it is done.

As I had decided to make this after 9 p.m., by the time it was done I was heading to bed!  I sat it on a rack to cool and left it there until morning.  I had a piece for breakfast and it was excellent.  The base was dry and almost crunchy even though it crumbled getting it out of the dish.  If it had been in a proper pie plate I think I could have got it out intact.

Cover and store leftovers in the fridge.

I am pretty happy with this recipe!

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**UPDATE:  After refrigeration the crust stayed together and lifted out beautifully.  And it tastes even better cold!

 

 


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LCHF My Way

When my doctor told me I was diabetic just three days before Christmas 2015 he reviewed my test results with me, then gave me prescriptions for the required equipment for blood monitoring and for Metformin (at the lowest dose – starting on half of that to make sure I didn’t react to it.)  Other than that, I was left to figure the rest out myself.

I already knew carbohydrates were my nemesis. I had been informed I was pre-diabetic back in 2002 and at that time had gone to “diabetes school” at the hospital and routinely tested my blood sugar for a month.  That showed that carbs were not my friends.  I went for regular blood work (every four months) for a number of years and was always in range so I stopped going for the tests.

In hindsight, that wasn’t my best idea.  If I had continued with the tests I could probably have stopped the progression to full-blown Type 2 diabetes, the diabetic retinopathy and the other issues.  But… it is what it is.

So I started my prescription and pricking my finger half a dozen times a day while researching diets and meal planning.  I have to say there are a lot of really bad diet plans being touted as “diabetic”… and by the diabetic organizations which shocked me.  Even with my limited knowledge I KNEW I could NOT eat carbs at every meal and every snack and still manage to lower my blood sugar.

In doing my research online I skimmed over different diets like Paleo and Ketogenic.  The no carb aspect made a lot of sense to me, but there were aspects of both I wasn’t interested in.

Right away I cut sugar completely out of my diet.  It wasn’t difficult for me.  While I liked sweets I never craved them.  I preferred savory treats most of the time – like potato chips! I didn’t use sweeteners in my coffee or tea, didn’t add sugar to anything, etc. so it wasn’t really something that caused me any problem.  And I haven’t been tempted at all.

And sugar includes pretty much all fruit as well for me.  The only things I seem to be able to manage are Mott’s Unsweetened Apple Sauce – it is the only brand that doesn’t cause a spike in my blood sugar (I think it is the type of apple they use) and a tablespoon of mashed strawberries mixed into plain full fat yoghurt that I make frozen yoghurt pops with.  I tried other fruit and I can’t manage it.  I do miss watermelon, I admit.

And I can eat one square of a Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate Bar without any effect on my blood sugar – that is my occasional treat.

I also do not use sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners.  A lot of things are actually quite sweet once your taste buds adapt – like milk and cream and cream cheese!

For the first couple of weeks I TRIED to keep carbs in my diet to a certain extent – a piece of whole wheat toast with my egg for breakfast, Wasa bread with cream cheese for lunch, six potato chips with dip… Unfortunately they all caused significant spikes in my blood sugar.

To me, increasing the medication was NOT an option.  My goal is to get off of medication, not increase it.  So, as I did not want to go blind or worse, with regret I cut out all the carbs.

I went through the house, removing all the food that I could no longer eat.  I gave it all away – pasta, popcorn, chips, crackers, canned soups, canned beans, flour, rice, tortillas, noodles, bread, buns, frozen peas/corn, potatoes, carrots, frozen fries, frozen dinners, breaded chicken/fish, sauces, juices, candy – there was a LOT of stuff.

I did try to use brown rice flour, amaranth flour, rye flour in place of white flour – but nope, still caused my blood sugar to spike.  I tried to make “low” carb versions of oatmeal cookies with no sugar – they were really excellent (recipe is shared on the blog here) but two cookies caused a 6 point spike!

I spent a fortune buying coconut flour, almond flour, etc. to make carb-less “substitutes.” What a waste of money and time! Practically all of the recipes in no way resembled what they claimed to be.  One was sort of okay, but barely.

It only took me about a month and a half to give up on carbs and the so-called replacements for them.  I just accepted that those things are no longer part of my life, and moved on.

I read about the LCHF – low carb, high fat – diet, or rather, lifestyle.  That made a lot of sense to me.  I was already pretty much eating according to that description by then.  I don’t follow it exactly, but it is the closest to how I am eating.

My intake of vegetables increased substantially, and with every meal. But no potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, parsnips, beets, yams, etc.  I eat very little tomato – it is a fruit and therefore high in sugar. Celery and cucumbers became my best friends.

I kept all the dairy – full fat as always: butter, cheese of all types, yoghurt, sour cream, 18% m.f. coffee cream.  But never pre-grated cheeses due to the cellulose that is added to it – I can’t digest it.

Protein with every meal and as snacks – pork (ham, bacon, roast, sausages, chops, ribs, etc.), lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs (lots of eggs), bison, cured meat like turkey pepperoni and European wieners, fish, etc.  I can’t eat beef due to an allergy.

And after over eight months of eating this way it is completely normal for me.  I have no interest in eating carbs or “cheating” in any way at all.  I’ve even made cookies and things for other people without the slightest interest in licking my fingers.

That’s not to say I don’t miss potatoes, I do. But I’d rather be healthy.

I like to try out interesting food combinations and spices. I make my own spice blends. I eat a lot of frittatas and omelettes with various ingredients, I coat pork chops and chicken with seasoned ground almonds, I make lots of stir-fries.  I cook with butter, olive oil, and peanut oil.  And I don’t miss the carbs that would usually accompany things anymore.

I get inspired by recipes I see and experiment. You can take the carbs out of recipes and make them anyway – like, no breadcrumbs in meatloaf, or no flour or cornstarch as thickeners in sauces.  Some work well, others need adjusting.  That’s why I call it experimenting.

My next experiment is a low carb, no tomato, vegetable lasagna this weekend – stay tuned for a post if it turns out!

For snacks I eat things like nuts, hard-boiled eggs, baked parmesan chips, celery with unsweetened peanut butter or cream cheese, seaweed, cheese, veggies with dips like tzatziki or guacamole and turkey pepperoni.

What I’ve discovered is that I am not hungry anymore.  I don’t need a snack during the day, and lately I don’t have anything after dinner most nights either.  This apparently is because my blood sugars aren’t spiking and plummeting due to eating carbs and sugar any longer, based on what I’ve been reading.

It is all interesting and quite amazing how this is changing my life.  My blood sugar is in range all the time – I am still on Metformin but hope to get off it (I see my doctor in October for my next check-up.)  And since December I’ve lost 57 pounds.  My goal was not to lose weight, although it was a desired result given my situation, but it is a side-effect of the low carb, high fat way of eating.

I’ve also been going to Curves since January which increased my activity level and am feeling a lot healthier and have a lot more stamina.  I recently started adding the treadmill to my workouts and each day cover a longer distance.  I’ve no plans to pump iron or run races, but would love to tighten up the sagging butt!  The loose skin from such a big drop in weight at my age is quite… um, let’s just say I will never wear shorts or sleeveless tops in public – not that I ever have, but, you know…

This is me in 2002 vs 2016 – over 100 lbs difference.

2002 vs 2016

 

 

 

 


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Vegetable and Sausage Hash

I really hate it when I buy something that sounds really tasty and it is totally tasteless and the texture is unpleasant.  Even more when I bought the package at Costco and have more of it to deal with!

Case in point:  Sausages.  I bought a pack of three vacuum sealed packages of sausages (brat or smokey sized style) at Costco, and I separated them from each other to put in the freezer, in the process I threw out the cardboard sleeve that was wrapped around them.  The individual packages of four sausages have no label.  So… I can’t remember what they were supposed to be.  I would not have bought something that didn’t sound like it would be good.

Last night I decided to have sausages and salad for dinner.  They were awful.  I baked them in the oven and there was a lot of red oil coming out of them, and they were quite red colour (I suspect “sun-dried tomato” may be involved?)  I cut them up and inside were green bits of something I couldn’t identify.  There was no discernible flavour to any of it.  The stuffing was quite loose and the meat crumbled out of the casing.

I ate part of one and stuck the rest in the fridge to figure out what to do with them.  I hate wasting food.

My sister suggested they might be mild Italian sausage.  Possibly, but I normally don’t buy Italian sausage – so maybe it was a flavoured version?  Whatever it is I hope I NEVER buy it again.  I do remember the packaging at least, so I should be safe.

So, what did I do with it?  I made Hash!

Hash is easy and is a great Sunday brunch.  And seeing as my fridge is full of all sorts of vegetables I had lots to choose from.

I  diced up some celery, green pepper, onion, cauliflower, pattypan squash, mushrooms, and chopped up all the leftover sausage.  I had about a half a cup to a cup of each vegetable and three chopped up sausages – it is hash, the amounts don’t really matter.  This amount made two meals for me.  One this morning and leftovers for tomorrow.

I heated up my pan and added peanut oil then started with the onions, peppers and celery with a teaspoon of diced garlic (I have a big jar of diced garlic in the fridge).

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Once they were sweating down I added the sausage meat and cauliflower.  I let that start to brown a bit and put a lid on to get the veggies cooked.

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Then I added the mushrooms and squash, and some Montreal Steak Spice and salt, stirred and put the lid back on.

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It needed quite a bit of salt actually.  I added it three times!

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I topped it off with a fried egg (fried in butter of course.)

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It was good.  And thankfully the sausages didn’t ruin it, so I have a way to use up the rest of them

It would be even better with sausages that taste good, or left over roast, chicken, etc!

 

 


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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.