Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


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Final Project for Contemporary Drawing

The final assignment in my Drawing 4 – Contemporary Drawing class was “We are what we eat – a self-portrait.”

This is the assignment:

Our relationship with food is pronounced. Studies have shown that not only does food effect our bodies, but there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut. The bacteria in our gut effects our minds, moods and emotions.

What we consume can nourish, stimulate, depress, bring focus, numb, nurture, confuse, poison, or refresh. We use

food to empower or sabotage ourselves, have fun with, show resistance, exude control, make political stands,

celebrate milestones, follow traditions and express joy etc. Think about your relationships with food. (we have many!)

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Draw a self-portrait which incorporates your likeness with food/drink in some way. You must be recognizable, and must cover 3/4 of Composition – meaning you must be the main focus of the piece, but also there must be some connection with food.

Portraits are NOT my thing, definitely not self-portraits. But I have a lot to say about food!

Food is a huge issue as I am a type 2 diabetic and strictly follow a low-carb/protein emphasis diet to control it. I have managed it so well that I am off medication and have completely “normal” blood sugar – normal meaning, my levels are considered “non-diabetic.” If I had known earlier in life that sugar and carbohydrates were so damaging I could have cut them out decades ago and avoided the mess I am in now. So… yeah, I have strong opinions on food.

I wanted to incorporate my food choices into my design. We do brainstorming to get our ideas sorted out and our professor checks us on each stage of the process.  I did a quick written list of ideas while in the middle of the last project as we were still heavily involved in it.

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Professor needed more descriptive written ideas or thumbnails, so once I was done with what I was doing, I did some really fast thumbnails. At the time I was partial to “my relationship with food” hence the conversation with the cow sketch! But, professor wasn’t impressed.  She zoomed in on the food crown/Byzantion Icon idea. 

I started out to do a detailed thumbnail working on the food crown idea… but it went so well, I actually used it in my final project instead of re-doing it. Micron pen drawing and coloured with pencil crayons. Did stippling with the microns for shading. The foods I drew in the crown and collar are what I eat. I included pretty much everything, or examples like the unidentifiable fish, of what my LCPE diet consists of.DSC07904

Then I rough sketched out how I wanted to work it into the look of a Byzantine icon. I was also thinking of doing it as an Incan crown or even Ukrainian and Russian crown/headdresses. I googled a lot of reference images before deciding to stick with the Byzantine icon style for the finished work. The food crown looked very like the Ukrainian headdresses without me having looked at an image at the time I drew it.

Then… the worst part of the whole thing… self-portrait. In the assignment she wanted us to use a mirror, but no. Not happening. I would have to change my glasses constantly, and it wouldn’t work. We were allowed to “refer” to photos… so I used a headshot I had from a couple years ago. I sketched it out in pencil and then used microns to do a really basic outline drawing of the head and features. I then used watercolours – did an underlay of grey shading, then went over with a muted flesh colour and some pink in the cheeks, and of course, tried to get my eye colour right. I wasn’t trying for a hyper-real look or solid colour – this is in the style of a very old painting so the colour is very faded looking.  I had thought about trying to do it in the style of the old icons but that was beyond my confidence – it was stressful enough trying to make myself look like me without trying to stylize it and make it still be recognizable as me.

Then I got a large sheet of heavy watercolour paper to be my base. I traced a large circle (used my trash can!) that was larger than my food crown, traced in the shape of my head and painted in the halo, leaving the white space for my face to fit in.  Then I used my large ruler to outline the “rays” out of the halo and painted them black, and filled in with red in a splotchy wash. I created texture using black acrylic paint in a small squeeze bottle to outline the halo and rays – it is essentially the same as piping icing and stays the shape you squeeze it out in. Then using Mod Podge I added goldleaf over the black. It is deliberately blotchy to look try to look aged like so many of the icons that are still around.

The rest of the project was assembling it. I use Mod Podge – it is my version of Frank’s Hot Sauce! I put that ***t on everything! I used it to attach everything, then sealed it all with a couple more coats.

After it was all assembled and touch-ups done, I removed the tape and trimmed the edges. Final dimensions are almost 12″ x almost 18″. I could crop to make it almost 12″ by 16″ if I needed to, but I’ll just leave it for now.

I showed it to friends and one dubbed it “Saint Shannon”… that had never crossed my mind during this whole process! Damn… not really what I was going for. Oh well… Now I’m thinking I should add in a hand waving a blessing! A low carb blessing.

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Cinnamon Swirl Muffins

It has been quite some time since I posted a recipe! This morning I made some muffins.

I’ve been thinking about coming up with a recipe that would satisfy my craving for cinnamon buns and be quick and easy. I’m all about the quick and easy.

I used to make muffins all the time for my mom – bran, wheat germ, six fruit muffins – which were awesome, and made cornmeal muffins to go with dinner, etc. Very easy to do. But since I changed how I ate, I hadn’t made any.

For about two months I’ve been thinking (dreaming?) about cinnamon buns. I don’t have the patience to make a dough that would roll out of the ingredients that I could use. So muffins seemed to be a way to do it.

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I already ate one!

I got up this morning and wrote down my ingredients – trying to guesstimate ratios using cassava flour. It tends to be more absorbent than regular flour so a little more liquid is needed.

I have been making great pancakes with cassava flour! It is not super low carb, HOWEVER at 28g per 1/4 cup the carbs are diluted it in a recipe. And if you have ONE serving of whatever you have made it will be much lower than that. I don’t eat it everyday. Once every week or two, as a treat – and only a small portion. I do get a higher blood sugar reading but I am still in range as a T2 diabetic.

This is the flour I have – I get it at a local health food store where I get my heavy cream. Like I mentioned above, I do not eat this regularly as it does contain more carbs than I normally eat, but as an occasional treat I figure it is okay, for me.

 

Shannon’s Cinnamon Swirl Muffins

LCHF, Keto, Paleo friendly. Diabetic in moderation.

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Makes six regular sized muffins.

Preheat oven to 325F. Baking time: 20-25 minutes

Prepare a muffin tin – use paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  I used liners as I wasn’t sure if this would stick to the pan or not.

Ingredients:

Dry:

1 cup of cassava flour

2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Wet:

1/2 cup of melted butter

3 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup of heavy cream (may need extra to thin batter if it thickens too much)

Cinnamon swirl:

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of vanilla

*6 dissolved saccharine tablets (use about a teaspoon of boiling water to dissolve them) *feel free to substitute your preferred sweeteners.

3 tablespoons of butter

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them well.
  2. Melt the butter in measuring cup, add the eggs and cream and beat together.
  3. Add the wet to the dry and mix just enough that it is consistently mixed (no dry ingredients left). Lumpy is okay. If the batter gets stiff, add more cream. Batter should fall off the spoon in loose clumps, not pour!
  4. In another bowl or measuring cup add a small amount of boiling water and the saccharine tablets, stir until they are completely dissolved (crushing them first makes it quick.) Add the vanilla and the cinnamon, and mix until no dry cinnamon is left – it is okay to add a little more hot water. Add the butter and blend until combined smoothly.  This should be slightly runny/drippy as you want it to run when you add it to the muffins.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin/cups. Add about a tablespoon, then drizzle the cinnamon over that, then add another tablespoon of batter on top, and more cinnamon drizzle. Use the spoon, or a knife, or a stick, to swirl the batter and cinnamon together and even out the batter. (* another way would be to add the cinnamon mix into the batter, swirl gently then scoop into the muffin tin – your choice of method!)
  6. Place in the centre rack of the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Check them for doneness (firm and dry looking, toothpick comes out clean, etc.) May need a little longer depending on your oven and how wet the mix was.
  7. Remove from oven. Let them cool for a few minutes then remove the muffins from the baking pan and place on a rack to cool.

Eat warm with butter! Store in an airtight container once completely cool. If you don’t manage to eat them all in a couple days, they can be frozen.

DSC06917And… they definitely hit the spot! Really yummy and cinnamon-y – the saccharine just took the edge off without being super sweet.


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LCHF Naan-Style Flatbread

When I switched to eating LCHF I struggled a bit with carbs as I missed them.  I experimented with recipes for “substitute” items made with nut and/or coconut flour but was supremely disappointed with the results.

However, time, as they say, heals all “wounds.” After 19 months of no carbs I have now discovered that my toleration level of these replacement items has improved drastically. Sure the textures are sometimes not quite right, but I haven’t had the real thing for long enough that my taste buds are accepting them. And mentally, I have adapted too – I’m not expecting an identical replacement item.

I’ve also learned what I need to do to recipes to make them suit my tastes and expectations. There is a definite learning curve to baking with nut, coconut and seed flours but once you’ve tried a few different recipes and processes you get the hang of it.

And one very important thing – keep your nuts, flours, seeds, etc. in the fridge! I went to use my psyllium husk powder to discover it was going rancid! The mason jars I keep them in work great in the fridge or the freezer.

I saw a recipe for LCHF Flatbread – the photos looked good (but we all know those can be staged!)  As I am home today (had eye injections, again, this morning) and it is hotter than heck outside (so not mowing or gardening!) I decided to give it a shot.

I messed around with the ingredients and have to say that I am pretty impressed with how it worked out.  Coconut flour isn’t my favourite as I find the flavour too strong, but in this recipe it works.

LCHF Naan-Style Flatbread

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Coconut Flour

2 Tbsp Psyllium Husk Powder

1 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

Optional: Garlic powder, herbs, other flavours to suit you preference (in this batch I added a couple of shakes of garlic powder.)

1/3 Cup melted butter

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Cup BOILING water

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Directions:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Add the melted butter and olive oil to the dry ingredients and mix until it starts sticking together – it should be starting to clump up at the very least or resemble nut butter texture at the most (I would add a bit more olive oil if it isn’t starting to bind up.)
  3. Had HALF (1/2 Cup) of the of the boiling water and mix until it forms a ball of dough. It will seem to be a good dough at this point and you may wonder if you need the rest of the water BUT YOU DO!  Remember, coconut flour is so freaking absorbent that it will end up too dry if you don’t!
  4. Add the rest of the BOILING water and mix, again, until a dough ball forms.  Work it a bit (you can use your hands if you want, but it isn’t necessary) to a smooth consistency.
  5. Divide into four portions – I just cut the ball in quarters with a knife.
  6. The dough is not sticky and you could just shape it with your hands, or you can roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper – which is what I did as I wanted them fairly thin.
  7. Dry fry in a large non-stick frying pan over med-high heat.  When placing in the pan, do it carefully so you don’t get creases or tears – the dough does hold together but using both hands and laying it down from the centre keeps it flat!
  8.  The top will start to look dry and that is the time to flip it over.  It takes around 2-3 minutes each.

I ate one warm with butter and it was really very good!  (It was my first one… which was crumpled up as I didn’t put it in the pan carefully enough.) The other three I will eat over the next day or so – I am looking forward to a wrap, and maybe a hot dip, or curry!

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The texture is spot on, the bread tears like a “normal” Naan-type flatbread, it holds spreads and dips well too.  The olive oil and the bit of garlic powder counter-acted the coconut flour flavour enough for me to not notice it.


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Easy Ice Cream, literally – it is frozen cream

I really have missed ice cream.  But last week saw a recipe for Mason Jar Ice Cream so I tried it… O.M.G.  (Here is that recipe… Low Carb Chocolate Mason Jar Ice Cream)

I changed things a tad (of course) and used a quart jar instead of a pint, but I found the jar to be annoying to eat out of.

I substituted dissolved saccharine tablets for the sweetener called for.  This was the first time I used artificial sweetener in anything – I don’t get an aftertaste with saccharine, so decided to try.  I used too much so scaled it back a lot when I did this second version.

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I decided to make a bigger batch and use a hand mixer, and to freeze in a container that was convenient to scoop out of!  I also changed the proportions of ingredients a bit to suit me.

So this is the way I made it today…

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LCHF Chocolate Ice Cream

Put your bowl and the beaters in the freezer while you assemble your ingredients – you’ll get quicker results when you start beating!

You’ll need a lidded container of at least one quart capacity to freeze this in.

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp of SIFTED unsweetened cocoa (I will be increasing this for future batches to probably 1/3 to 1/2 a cup – I like rich dark chocolate.  But this batch was made with 3 tbsp.)

5 saccharine tablets completely dissolved in less than 1/2 tsp of BOILING water

2 cups of whipping cream (33% or higher m.f.)

Add all the ingredients to the cold bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer (or use a stand mixer.) Start low as the cocoa powder will want to fly around, once mixed in put on high and beat until it has doubled in volume and is stiff.  Add any extras at this time and mix just enough to blend through.

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OPTIONS:  finely chopped 85% cocoa dark chocolate, toasted nuts, unsweetened peanut butter (drop into the cream in tiny bits), etc.  You could also skip the chocolate and use other flavour extracts or, if you aren’t worried about sugar content, you could add fruits.

Using a rubber spatula transfer to your quart container and smooth out the top, put on the lid and freeze for at least three hours.

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You could also put into a popsicle mold to make fudgesicles!  That’s my next batch.

I’m not sure how long this keeps in the freezer… I haven’t let it stay in there long enough to figure out.

I don’t have an ice cream scoop so dug it out with a teaspoon and made a bit of a mess! Could have waited for it soften a bit… but, well…  I had it with one of my Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes that I made on Saturday.

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YUM!

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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes! Oh yes I did!

It has been a while since I posted a recipe.  I do have a couple to share but will start with the cupcakes I made today!

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As always… a recipe caught my eye, but I changed it a lot.  Added, removed, increased, etc. until it bears no resemblance to the original version.

The recipe that I saw was for a cake with walnuts… I hate walnuts.  Also, didn’t want a cake, cupcakes keep and store easier in the freezer.  I also don’t use powdered sugar substitutes.

Up until last week I wasn’t using ANY sugar substitutes at all, but I discovered that saccharine is available in the pill form here.  My granny used to use it and as kids we would try it… never had an aftertaste for me.  So… I bought a bottle of Hermesetas tablets.  The only thing I’ve used it in so far has been ice cream I made last week (I will post about that later!) and this recipe.

I just dissolve a few tablets in about 1/8 tsp of boiling water and add to the recipe for a touch of sweetness. Each pill is equal to a teaspoon of sugar.  I am not adding the amount called for in the recipes as I don’t need it to be really sweet, but felt the ice cream could use a some, and then this recipe was an experiment to see if it would work.  It did.

So here is the recipe I came up with today for Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes.

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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes – LCHF, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Makes 6 large cupcakes (or one 8″ cake if you prefer.)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 eggs

4 saccharine tablets dissolved in 1/8 tsp of boiling water (you can substitute whatever sweetener you want and increase to make this more of a regular sweetness level.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup almond flour

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup cream

1/4 cup of chopped pecans (or any kind of nut you like) – completely optional BTW.

Topping: Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate bar – 6 pieces.

Instructions:

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease an 8″ cake pan in your preferred manner.)
  2. Measure all the dry ingredients together and stir, except for the nuts.
  3. Cream the coconut oil (I did not melt it first) and the cream cheese with an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, and dissolved saccharine, and continue mixing on high.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and the cream about a third at a time, alternating between additions.  If the batter is too thick add a little more cream.  It should be thick but pourable like regular cake batter.
  5. Add the nuts and mix until combined.
  6. Divided batter between the six cupcake liners.
  7. Bake at 350F on the centre rack for 20-25 minutes.  They are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Ovens vary so it might take a few minutes more or less.
  8. Take them out of the oven and immediately place a piece of the Lindt chocolate on top of each cupcake, when it has melted spread it around.
  9. Let cool completely.

I like to freeze them once cool and eat them frozen!

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I am very pleased with how these turned out!  Ate one and the rest are in the freezer. Tomorrow I am making more ice cream and intend to have cake and ice cream!  Who said you have to give up treats when you are a diabetic who follows LCHF/HP??? Not this girl!

 

 


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It is June… again

What happened to May? I don’t remember it happening. Time flies by so fast and it gets faster and faster as it goes by.

Remember when you were a kid and waiting three whole sleeps seemed like years and years? There will come a time when you really wish time would move that slowly again.

I’m sitting at home right now waiting for my eyes to clear (nice thing about computers is you can set the zoom to 200%.) Had injections in both this morning – they were leaking again.

I had originally been scheduled for an injection in my left eye for June 12 and lasers in my right on June 9.  I woke up Tuesday morning last week and had no focus ability in my right eye.  I had been at the eye doctor’s on the prior Thursday and everything was fine, by Tuesday had sprung a very bad leak.  So they bumped up my injection to the next available date, for both eyes.  No lasers now.

I asked the doctor about the prognosis – I was wondering if I needed to make long-term contingency plans for having minimal sight left or blindness at some point.  He assured me that as long as I am controlling my diabetes and blood pressure that eventually the treatments will eliminate the constant leaks and that in 80% of patients the injections stop and the sight is improved.  Just hope I am not one of the other 20%.

 

So, since I am keeping things under control everything should eventually stabilize.

It has been a nice Spring so far – warm and periodic rain.  Which means mowing the lawn every five to seven days.  Which is a pain.

My apple tree bloomed on ALL branches this year for the first time!  Each branch is a different variety.  It is called a 5-in-1 and all varieties are hardy to the climate up here. It is a dwarf stock so will stay small.  I pruned it quite well last Fall to keep it easy to reach.

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And lots of blossoms too. I did not see a single bee on it though, thankfully it was crawling with ants (and ladybugs) so they will have pollinated it. Should get lots of apples this year if the weather cooperates.

Plantings in the front are doing well too. I decided to cull out the Prairie Mallow as some of were massive and choking out other plants.  As I wanted to give the Hollyhocks a chance to colonize the west bed in front of the house I killed all but two of the Prairie Mallows. Yes, I am a horrible person.  But I let the Prairie Mallow keep the back corner of the backyard.

The perennials I planted last year (got from friends around town) are doing great!  Both clumps of day lilies started blooming this week, and two of the other things are growing well – still haven’t found out what they are called though.  My clematis plants are growing about a foot a day.

This was taken a week ago – the petunias are twice this size at least now. And I’ve been harvesting the herbs already; it is so nice to have a fresh herb omelette for breakfast!

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This is the final weekend of the last show of the season at Grande Prairie Live Theatre. It is the “family show” so the weekends are three matinees – two on Saturday and one on Sunday, and a Friday night show. “Robin Hood and the Heroes of Sherwood Forest” is the show.

Next weekend I will be face painting in Dawson Creek, and Summer season will officially be kicking into full gear. I was ordering supplies last night to restock the essentials. When I have a crew of 10 working we go through a lot of rainbow cakes!

 

 


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Cake… Chocolate Cake… I’m in Heaven

I am sitting here trying NOT to have a third piece of my happy accident of a chocolate cake.

It actually started out as a recipe for Brownies – I saw a recipe for Almond Butter Brownies that was described as Paleo and I had the main ingredients so figured I’d throw it together as there was nothing really on television I was interested in.

Of course I left out the maple syrup that was in the original recipe (I don’t use any sweeteners) and then misread and used baking powder instead of baking soda, also added marscarpone cheese to add some level of sweetness.  I was also a bit short on the almond butter  so figured the cheese would compensate for that.

O.M.G.  I did not make brownies… I made a moist, tender, fluffy DELICIOUS chocolate cake!  When the toothpick came out clean I took it out – it had risen quite a bit more than I expected but I anticipated it would fall as it cooled.  It didn’t.

When I cut a piece to try, the texture was perfectly cake like, not brownie like at all. It was so good!  The marscarpone and the almond butter had a sweetness and the added 70% chocolate chips also added some.

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LCHF Gluten Free Almond Butter & Marscarpone Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup Almond Butter

1/3 cup Marscarpone Cheese

2 tbsp Coconut Oil

1/2 cup Whipping Cream (33% fat)

3 eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

1/2 cup Chopped Pecans or other nuts (optional)

1/2 cup 70% Cocoa Chocolate Chips (or higher if you find them) (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the Almond Butter, Marscarpone Cheese, Coconut Oil and blend them together till they are smooth.
  3. Then add the Whipping Cream, Eggs and Vanilla and mix well with an electric hand mixer.
  4. Sift the Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder and Salt together, then add a bit at a time to the wet ingredients mixing well before adding more.
  5. Continue to mix, increasing to the highest speed on the mixer for a minute or so – ensure there are no lumps in the batter.
  6. Stir in the Pecans and Chocolate Chips by hand.
  7. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick spray and dust with a teaspoon of coconut flour, shake the flour around to coat the pan and then knock the excess out.
  8. Scoop the batter into the pan and spread out evenly.
  9. Put on the centre rack of the oven for approximately 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean it is done.
  10. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.

I didn’t top it with anything but I’m sure a drizzle of melted chocolate and/or whipped cream would be awesome.

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p.s. It is great for breakfast too!