Shannon Fennell's Blog

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

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I love Jars!

Where I live we don’t currently have a glass recycling program so, being a responsible recycler, I try to reuse and re-purpose as many glass containers as I can.

I’ve been ramping it up lately by reorganizing my kitchen and craft areas – the more glass jars I end up with, the more plastic I recycle.

A friend takes the recycled jars and adds handles to the lids making them quite decorative. I have a couple in my guest bath.

And another in my kitchen (I know what will be going in it, I just don’t have any right now.) And that pasta is just a decoration!

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I use jars for small things like buttons and beads.

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And as everyone in the world must, the Danish Butter Cookie tin!  This one is full of zippers.

I use them to hold tools in my studio.

I used a decorative jar to save my graduation corsage in – these types of jars work really well for keepsakes.  I think this one came with candy in it, but you can reuse candle jars too.

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And I love mason jars!  They are perfect for food storage. The ultimate recycled jars – people give them to you full and you have them forever!

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I store my nuts and baking supplies in the mason jars – it is so much neater than a bunch of bags or other containers.  I can see everything clearly in the cupboard.  I also store tea bags in jars – I cut out the name from the box and stick it in the jar.  The jars help keep the tea fresher longer.

I’ve also have some larger jars for things in bigger amounts – my almond and coconut flours, my homemade nut cereal mix, and snacking peanuts.

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I also reuse spice jars of all sizes: glass and the larger plastic ones.  I like to make my own spice mixes so it is handy to have some spare jars on hand.

I have some can shelves and a large spice rack mounted in the stairwell to the basement, this is right off my kitchen and really convenient for me – I just take a step or two down and all my spices are at eye level!

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I just stick labels on the recycled jars.  I buy bulk to refill the commercially labelled jars. And yes, the bottom four shelves are in alphabetical order…

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I’ve discovered a really excellent sauerkraut, Bick’s Bavaria-Fest – and it comes in a nice squat wide-mouthed jar!  And it was on sale with bonus Airmiles… I have stocked up and have a plan for the jars once I’ve emptied them all.

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If you’ve got a glass recycling program available by all means use it, but also remember that glass containers are extremely reusable, and in many more ways than I’ve mentioned above.

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Aw Nuts!

Sometimes I just want a bowl of cereal…

But as I no longer eat grain of any description that means Vanilla Almond Crunch or Mini-Wheats are out of the question.

I saw some recipes for homemade grain free “granola” but there were a lot of ingredients I wasn’t going to bother with like coconut, hemp and chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, etc.

I have nothing against coconut – I am just not on the coconut oil bandwagon.

And I wasn’t going to process it in a food processor either.

But in reading the various recipes I decided I would invent my own mix.  I have to say it is bloody fantastic!  Crunchy, nutty, satisfying and with cream you really think you are eating a bowl of “cereal.”

When my sister was here looking after me after my surgery she ate a bowl of it everyday and asked for the recipe.

The amounts are approximate, basically adjust to suit your tastes – use your favourite nuts and seeds, increase/decrease the spices, use other spices, etc.  If I buy the nuts in bags, I just toss in the whole bag.

This makes quite a big batch of 4 cups and keeps in the cupboard in a sealed container.

Cinnamon Ginger Nut “Cereal”

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

  1. Put all the nuts in a mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the butter and add to the nuts, stirring very well to coat all the nuts.
  3. Add the vanilla to the nuts and stir well, making sure that the nuts are all evenly coated.
  4. Add the cinnamon and ginger and stir really well, making sure that everything looks evenly distributed.
  5. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the nut mixture onto it. Spread out evenly on the sheet – ideally the nuts should be in a single layer with gaps.
  6. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes – then check and stir the nuts.  Return to oven as necessary to have the nuts starting to turn golden brown – you can really start to smell them toasting at this point.  Keep a close eye on them as it is a very fine line between well toasted and burnt!  It will depend on your oven how long it will take to get them where you want them.  Taste one to check!
  7. Once the nuts are as toasted as you prefer, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.
  8. Once the nuts are cool, place in an airtight container to store.
  9. Eat as is, or add cream or milk of your preference.

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One year

It has been a year of huge change for me – for the better.

It was one year ago today, December 22, that I was told I had Type 2 Diabetes.

I was left to figure out what to do by myself – my doctor prescribed Metformin and sent me off to the pharmacy to get that and the rest of the paraphernalia required.

In order to get my blood sugar under control I changed my diet. I immediately cut out sugar (which was not an issue at all for me.)  Then I had to deal with the carbs, ultimately discovering through trial and error that my system could not handle them.  So I made the change to Low Carb High Fat which enabled me to get my blood sugar numbers down.

As a side effect of the diet change I have lost over 70 pounds, so far .

I started going to Curves to improve my fitness level which helps with the diabetes control.

Unfortunately it was discovered my eyes had deteriorated due to Diabetic Retinopathy requiring injections into my eyeballs to clear up the bleeding.  As of this month my left eye has cleared up, requiring no further attention, but my right eye continues to need treatment.

I now have normal blood sugar levels – normal normal, not diabetic normal.

My blood pressure is also normal – I actually was 120/80 at my last doctor’s appointment.

I took a watercolour painting class and spend evenings painting for fun.  Watercolour is so much less effort than other mediums (for set-up and clean-up) and a relaxing activity.

I visited family in Toronto and got to see Niagara Falls…

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…and go indoor skydiving!

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Making inroads on the hypothetical bucket list – although I don’t think skydiving would have been on mine.

I am in a good spot with my health and keeping busy, finding new interests, doing different things and planning for next year’s adventures.  So overall it has been a positive year – even though events were triggered by bad news.

 

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Cookies!

I’ve been missing cookies quite a bit lately – it being the season and all.  And my sister is providing a play-by-play of her baking which makes me miss them even more.

Just something about the crisp crunch with a cup of tea, ya know?

I check out recipes all the time for low carb cookies – they invariably contain sugar substitutes, which I don’t use.

A recipe for “gluten free” cookies showed up the other day – which looked like something that I could alter.

I adjusted things to suit myself and I am so happy!  They turned out really well – like shortbread.  I’m really hoping they stay the texture they are and don’t soften up.  I have to stop eating them for the day though – as I added 70% chocolate chips to them and don’t want to go over on that!

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Pecan Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

1 cup butter (8 oz.)

1/2 cup cream cheese (4 oz.)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla (or any flavour extract you like, almond, etc. – next time I am going to use lemon zest!)

2 cups almond flour (16 oz.)

1/2 cup coconut flour (4 oz)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans (4 oz)

1/2 cup 70% dark chocolate (or higher if you can find them) chips (4 oz)

Cream the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time.  Continue beating to incorporate each before adding the next.

Add in the combined dry ingredients a cup at a time, beating well between additions.

The dough will be pretty sticky.  Lay out some plastic wrap and dump the dough onto it, shape into a roll, wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours (overnight is good.)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut the roll into slices a little less than 1/2 inch thick – thinner tended to break-up due to the nuts and chocolate chips.  Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.  They won’t spread so you can fill it up pretty tight!  If any break or crumble just press the dough together to shape it.

Bake for 10-12 minutes – the edges should just be turning brown.

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Let them cool on the sheet, then move to a container, or eat them.  They stay together to hold in your hand but crumble when you bite into them!

Next time I am leaving out the chocolate as I really like the ones that ended up with only nuts in them.  Then I can eat more of them without worrying about spiking my blood sugar levels!

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My Christmas Present Arrived!

I ordered myself a new up-cycled sweater coat from Bramble Hollow Fiber Arts.  I ordered a custom made one from Angela last year, but since then I’ve lost 70 pounds so I sold that one to a friend who loves it and wears it daily!

My new coat was already made – not a custom order.  I loved it and the measurements of it were right!

It arrived on the weekend and I’ve been wearing this week.  We are in a deep freeze here and I have worn it in a -32C windchill and it is pretty warm.  I wouldn’t stay out for an hour in it, but it works for walking from the car to the office or store!

The bodice and hood edge is made out of an amazing embroidered sweater – just gorgeous. The two pockets are like having a Tardis strapped to you – I keep putting stuff in them but they never fill up!

I am being stopped constantly by people asking if I made it or who made it.  One cashier commented “Pink must be your favourite colour.”  Actually it is green, but I like pink.

I found lots of coordinating items at Giant Tiger (a Canadian discount department store) – earmuffs, turtlenecks, mittens, etc.  Which was surprising as I hadn’t seen these colours around for quite a few years.  But hey, great timing!

Photos by my friend Maj at MAJ Photography.

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Healthy. I’m getting there!

Today I was recognized at my Curves club as having won the Healthy category of the Curves Strong Women Challenge  at our local level!

I chose to enter the Healthy category (description below) – the other two were Inspiration and Transformation.

Healthy Curves Strong Women of the Year – A Curves member who, during the period 01/01/2015-11/11/16 has overcome a health ailment(s) and has maintained healthy living with Curves Complete and/or regular exercise at Curves*. Members must have 10 consecutive weeks of 3 workouts per week.** Curves may require proof of pre-existing medical conditions and current health in order to validate the entry. A full body before picture must be submitted, along with an after picture taken by a coach in a designated area of the Curves club.

My entry  now moves on to the national level where there are three more rounds of judging with the grand prize winners being announced at the end of the month.

http://strongwomen.curves.com/

I am pretty happy and pleased with myself.

I’ve lost 70 lbs since last Christmas (by switching to LCHF,) I have my blood sugar at normal (non-diabetic) levels consistently, my blood pressure is perfect (120/80), my eye treatments are working and one eye is “fixed” and I’m hoping the other will be after the next treatment, the gall bladder is gone and I’m feeling great.

Here I am (on the right) this afternoon when the winners were announced, with my Curves coach Debbie.

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It’s just cauliflower!

This is a rant.

But let me start off by stating that I like cauliflower.  It is a great vegetable.  But no matter what you do to cauliflower… it tastes like CAULIFLOWER!

Now… to the rant.

I am so completely done with the spin that’s put on Low Carb recipes where cauliflower has been used instead of a multitude of other ingredients.  You don’t need to hide the cauliflower – be proud to use it.  Make it the star!

Here are some examples of what annoys me:

  • Potato Salad.  Really? If there are no potatoes in the salad calling it a potato salad is WRONG!  If you used cauliflower, then, by definition is is a CAULIFLOWER SALAD.
  • Mashed Potatoes.  See above.  If you pureed cauliflower, it is pureed cauliflower no matter what else you add to it.
  • Mac & Cheese.  If there is no “mac” it isn’t Mac & Cheese, it is cauliflower with cheese.
  • Chili Cheese Fries.  When “fries” are generally made with potatoes this is misleading – using cauliflower stems instead is misleading.  Interesting, but misleading.
  • Bread Sticks.  Um, no.  Just no.  Cauliflower mixed with eggs and cheese and baked is NOT BREAD!  It is tasty cauliflower with cheese that you can dip in sauce.
  • Cauliflower Rice.  It is not rice!  In this context “riced” would be a verb and the cauliflower could have been processed in a ricer, but you would then called it Riced Cauliflower.  And using a vegetable as rice makes no sense and frankly, cauliflower it too strong to play nice with most dishes I would prefer rice with (if I could eat rice.)
  • Cauliflower Couscous. NO.  Couscous is pasta.  Cauliflower can’t be pasta (in a low carb recipe.)
  • Hashbrowns.  See previous references to potatoes above.
  • BBQ or Buffalo Wings.  No actual wings.  Therefore, NOT wings.  Cauliflower is not developing the ability to fly. (Um, unless Monsanto is up to something new?)

I just get annoyed with all of it.  Cauliflower tastes good, but it is a strong flavour and I have never had a dish where I wasn’t able to identify it as an ingredient.  And recipes that tell people “and you can’t even tell” lie.