Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking 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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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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Low Carb Almond Flour Baking Powder Biscuits

I have mentioned, often, how disappointing low carb recipes for “bread” have been.  I gave up trying for the most part.  But I saw some recipes for baking powder biscuits that might be okay… and I still miss baked goods.

I had the ingredients so… what the heck.  Worse case I would have crumbs to use with other stuff to make a crust for a pizza (like I did with my crumbled waffles!)

I scoped out a bunch of different recipes… some had stuff in them I don’t use or want to use, others added sweeteners.  A lot used butter and seasonings to brush on top after they were baked which I didn’t think was needed.  Lots included cheese and garlic to replicate biscuits from a restaurant chain.

I just wanted plain old baking powder biscuits. I used to just whip them up in the old days – no recipe needed.  But for this first attempt I looked at several of the ones I found and took what I wanted out of them and left out the rest.  I adjusted the measurements a bit too (I see no point in leaving 1/4 tablespoon of left over something!)

As I had sour cream in the fridge I used that.  Some recipes I looked at used cream cheese instead.

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Low Carb Almond Flour Baking Powder Biscuits

Preheat oven to 400F.

1 3/4 cups of almond flour (flour, not ground almonds)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (heaping) of baking powder (I use Magic Brand)

4 tablespoons of melted butter

2 large eggs, beaten

1/3 cup (heaping, not level) of sour cream

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl – mix them well, the almond flour can be clumpy.
  2. In another dish beat the eggs and add the sour cream and melted butter.
  3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.
  4. Using two spoons, shape batter into loose “balls” and drop onto a parchment lined baking sheet. The batter is very light and once you drop onto the pan it is difficult to shape it. They will spread a bit so leave a fair amount of space.
  5. Place baking sheet on the centre rack for 10-15 minutes.  Start checking at 10 minutes as ovens vary!  I like mine fairly browned so left them in for a longer time.

This recipe actually made ten decent sized biscuits. (I ate two before I took the photo – wasn’t sure if it was a photo worthy recipe!)

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The came out pretty flat but OMG!!  They ARE baking powder biscuits!  Taste like them, act like them. I am so happy!  I didn’t bother slicing them open to eat, just slathered butter on top of the hot from the oven ones I ate.

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They fit in the toaster perfectly and were great over the next four days!  Just put the toaster at the lowest setting – it is nut flour so it burns fast!

I ate them plain with butter; with an over-easy egg; with scrambled eggs and cheese; and with ham and mustard!  They held up great for a sandwich – didn’t crumble.

I am making a couple batches to freeze.  As they toast up so well that will be great to grab for a quick meal or snack!

I’m also going to try to make a larger “crust” out of this recipe to use for a pizza crust or maybe a pot pie topper?  Oh the possibilities!  I though about dumplings but don’t think it will stand up to the liquids.  I’ll post about what works out!

 


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What the Fudge?

Last night I was having a craving for peanut butter cups.  I don’t often have cravings, and if I have one for something I usually just have one square of a Lindt 85% Cacao bar and that takes care of it.  But just smearing P.B. on the chocolate wasn’t doing it for me.

So I decided to see if I could make fudge.  I don’t use sweeteners and sugar substitutes by personal choice (no sugar due to my diabetes and no artificial sweeteners/replacements as I find them horrible – aftertastes, headaches, etc.)

I decided to use 85 & 88% chocolate bars, unsweetened peanut butter, butter and peanuts. Pretty simple.

I had Lindt and Purdy’s chocolate on-hand (a staple in my cupboard!) so broke them up into a microwave safe bowl, added 1/4 cup of butter and nuked on high for 35 seconds, then removed and stirred until the chocolate was almost completely melted.  I had to stick it back in for another 20 seconds to get the last of the lumps melted.  Then I stirred in 3/4 cup of peanut butter and stirred briskly until it was completely blended.  Then tossed in about a cup of roasted peanuts.

I poured in into a parchment lined square pan and put in the fridge overnight.

This morning I took it out and it sliced easily into small squares and tastes great!  I might increase the peanut butter ratio next time.

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I can only eat one square at a time as a treat (to avoid blood sugar spikes) so I am storing in a sealed container in the cold part of my fridge.

Shannon’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

125 grams of dark chocolate (85-88% cacao – or whatever you prefer, any chocolate will work) broken up into small pieces

1/4 cup of butter

3/4 to 1 cup of unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup of roasted peanuts (optional, or use different nuts, or add dried cranberries!  There are lots of options)

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl on high for about 35 seconds, remove from microwave and stir until it is melted – may need to put back in microwave for a few more seconds if the chocolate isn’t completely melted.
  2. Stir in the peanut butter.  It needs to be completely blended in.
  3. Add the nuts, stir.
  4. Pour into a parchment or foil lined square pan, and refrigerate for a couple hours (overnight is good).
  5. Remove from pan by lifting out the parchment or foil, and cut into pieces.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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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.

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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.