Wheat and Dairy Free Adventures — comfort food edition


It’s been a long while since I posted about food finds.  This is mostly due to the fact that it is summer, and it is so hot that I have not wanted to turn on my oven or use any heat of any kind, so I’ve been living off of wraps with lunch meat, hot dogs on the barbecue (I love hot dogs…. please don’t judge me… I know… I get it.  Just…. forget you read it, lol you won’t change my mind.)

I have stored up a few for you over the last few weeks… only two of which actually requires using an actual oven.  Which, if it’s as hot where you are as it has been here in Southern Ontario, I beseech you — keep the oven use to a minimum.  More actual recipes, rather than just products, will come in the fall.

First of all — pizza.

Almost two weeks ago now, I was at a friend’s house, and there was vodka involved, and I ate pizza.  Real, delicious pizza.  With real wheat and real cheese.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time……… It wasn’t.  I’ve vowed that I will not be that foolish again, and finally caved and tried Daiya’s pizza.  I haven’t tried it yet because it’s typically fairly expensive, and they only have a few varieties.  Since I’m one of the pickiest people I’ve ever met, the idea of having to eat Supreme, Spinach and Mushroom, Margherita, Fire Roasted Vegetable, or Mushroom and Roasted Garlic pizza… just to get pizza… makes me sad.

So I bought a cheese lovers pizza.  And I put chicken on it.  I would have also put bell peppers and bacon on it, because to me — that’s a pizza.  But we didn’t have either of those options while I was at my parents’ house.  So I put chicken on it.  I’ll try it again, and I’ll dress it up exactly how I want it, but I will not try one of their ready-made flavour options because there’s just too much mushroom, onion, and tomato involved.  No thanks.

Anyway, here’s my cheese lovers + chicken.
Know what’d be awesome??  If Daiya made a Hawaiian!  All you haters of pineapple on pizza… your comments will be deleted 😉

Verdict:  It was tasty.  I’ll buy it again — and I’ll put ham and pineapple on it!

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Daiya Cheeze Lover’s Pizza
Purchased at:  Sobey’s
Price: 8.99 (on sale)     *note:  I find this expensive.  However, since my alternative anywhere else is ordering a pizza on a cardboard-like gluten-free crust with no cheese, I’ll take it.  It’s a good special occasion type deal.

For Dessert — Peach Crisp

I love peaches.  I know I shouldn’t love inanimate objects, and there’s something deeply disturbing about overthinking the concept of loving something you’re about to destroy.  Death by chewing sounds like love to me.  But at any rate… I love peaches. But out of season, I do not love peaches.  I get that other regions in other countries can grow them for longer than a month.  I understand that thanks to modern transportation and shipping techniques, I can get peaches most months of the year.  But I don’t buy them, because there is NOTHING on this Earth like a fresh, juicy, local, in-season, Niagara Region peach.  Thank you, Lord, for Vineland.  Concord Grapes and peaches arrive in grocery stores and farmers markets at the same time, and I am in fruit oasis.  My two favourites, all at once.  Pretty much all I eat for a month is peaches and concord grapes.  And then they go away in early September and I’m left to hope for August to come around once again.

Since it is that time, I am currently on a mission to do everything I could do with other fruit with peaches instead.  That leads me to peach crisp.

This is my mother’s recipe, adapted from an apple crisp, and I made it dairy free.  To do so, I used Becel Vegan margarine.  Now — hear me clearly, I don’t love margarine.  I don’t find it tastes amazing, and when cooking or baking, I typically substitute coconut oil instead.  However, for ease for everyone, I have left a tub of vegan margarine at my mother’s, and at my grandmother’s, and that way whenever they would use butter in a recipe, they just grab my margarine and no one is afflicted by my being complicated.

Please note the addition at the top of the recipe — I found I needed to bake this way longer than my Mom did.  I’m not sure if it was that I used more peaches than she did, or that the vegan margarine didn’t crisp as well as the butter that she used when she made it the first time.  Either are possible.  Just check on it at the 25 minute mark, then go 5 more minutes at a time until it looks crisp and crunchy and golden, like any good crisp should.

If you’re completely gluten free, make sure you get gluten free oats.  I am more of what we’d call “gluten conscious.”  Sometimes I’m conscious that it’s in my food, and then there are consequences, but I’m not as much of a stickler as I likely should be.

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I went to a friend’s house two days after making my own peach crisp, and it turns out she loves local peaches as much as I do, and she also made us a peach crisp.  She used cinnamon instead of brown sugar in the oat topping, but she added a delightful addition.  She bought me So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

Now, it’s expensive, but not really any more so than a similar-sized tub of Haagen Daaz so I guess it’s all about perspective 😉

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What a NICE touch!

Please note:  The coconut milk ice creams (as well as the cashew ones, I’ve found) tend to freeze REALLY solid.  Even running the ice cream scoop repeatedly under hot water, I was still getting more ice cream slices and shavings than scoops.  I recommend pulling it out of the freezer in advance of serving it to let it thaw a bit so you can actually get the scoop into it.  But it’s delicious.

I’m not sure where my friend got hers, but I have found it at Sobeys, Metro, and Zehrs.

If you’d prefer to use whipped cream rather than ice cream on your crisp, I recommend Gay Lea’s Coconut Cream whipped cream.  Completely dairy free as well.  It has more of a coconutty taste than the ice cream does though, so I’m not sure I’d prefer that on peach crisp.  I didn’t try it, but I did have it on just plain peaches the other day and it was tasty.

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I bought mine at FreshCo, but I’ve seen it pretty much everywhere.

For Another Dinner… Meatball Subs!

Something I’ve missed dearly since going wheat and dairy free are meatball subs.  They were the ultimate comfort food for me.  Crappy day?  Stop at Subway.  Don’t want to cook?  Stop at Subway.  It’s probably for the best that I can’t do that anymore, but the fact remains that I have missed them.  Determined to make them on my own, I made them twice in the last couple days and have some tips to ensure your success.

You will need…..

  1. Gluten Free Sandwich Buns.  I prefer the ones by Promise because they don’t fall apart.

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I’ve only found them at Metro.  They aren’t cheap — 3.99 for 3 buns.  But they’re tasty.  I’m over it.

Tip:  You’ll want to toast the bun a little first.  My initial attempt left me with a soggy seam along the edge of the bun because I put meatballs, sauce, peppers, and “cheese” on the bun then put it in the broiler, and the moisture from the sauce soaked into the bread.  If you toast your bread first, and put your sauce in the microwave to get it warm first so all the broiler has to do is melt the cheese, you’ll have a much more successful and much less messy sub.

2. Meatballs — I have a bunch of pins on my Pinterest board for how to make my own Gluten Free meatballs — but why?  PC Blue Menu has done the work for me.  These are my favourite meatballs since going gluten free, and they cook reheat in the microwave in like a minute and a half.  How do you argue that?

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Note:  I know they’re PC, so that would make you think “sweet, I can get them at No Frills!”  I have not found this to be true.  I have only ever seen them at Zehrs.

3. Spaghetti Sauce.  This is really up to you, it doesn’t matter what kind you use.  This is my favourite, because it’s cheap and delicious.

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4.  Green peppers — diced, not sliced.  Trust me, the chunks of pepper stay in the sub way better than slices.  I didn’t take pictures of the peppers.

5. Cheese.  I used Daiya’s mozzarella style shreds.  I’ve used the cheddar shreds before and I don’t like them, but I have no issue with the mozzarella.  Maybe I will have to give the Monterrey jack a try as well!

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Found at:  Farm Boy or Goodness Me.  I haven’t found it in any mainstream grocery stores.

So here are the steps I used:

  • cut open the bun and toast it (I have a toaster oven — I imagine you could use your oven’s broiler if you don’t)
  • heat the meatballs in the microwave from frozen (about a minute and a half, rotating half way through).  NOTE:  Do not stuff this bun with meatballs.  It WILL fall apart.
  • Put about 5 meatballs on the toasted sub.
  • Heat the sauce in the microwave in a bowl for about 45 seconds (make sure you cover the bowl with paper towel or something to save yourself the splatters)
  • spoon sauce over the meatballs
  • add diced green peppers on top of the sauce
  • cover with mozzarella shreds and put in the broiler until the cheese is melty.  Everything else was cooked and warm, so that is the only thing it needs to be in there for.  If you leave it in for too long with the sauce sitting on the seam of the bun, it will get soggy.
  • Make sure you have napkins ready.
  • If you’re looking a wine pairing for any of my recipes, I hate wine.  I have paired with Jack Daniel’s Watermelon Punch cooler, and with Cherry Coke.  Both are excellent options 😉

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And ….. I found……. VEGAN BAILEY’S

It’s here.  It’s arrived in Canada!  Words can’t describe my excitement to be able to drink Bailey’s again.  Gosh, this post makes me sound like an alcoholic… I promise I’m not.

But…. the possibilities here are endless.

I haven’t opened it yet, I haven’t tried it.  It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, I’m trying to contain myself.  But…. Irish Coffee?  yes, please!

On shelves at your local LCBO now.  Check out The LCBO website to check store availability and see if it’s close to you.  I know it’s just arrived in the last two weeks because I asked about it a couple weeks ago, having seen it in an American blog post, and the staff had no idea what I was talking about.

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Alright!  That’s all I have for you today!  What are your favourite comfort foods?  Can I help you make them gluten or dairy free?  I’m getting really good at that!  🙂

Check out So Delicious, Daiya, and Promise for other products in the same vein as these.

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Wheat and Dairy Free Adventures


I’ve been (mostly) off of wheat and dairy for well over a year now.  What started as a desperate attempt to figure out why I was not feeling awesome… turned into an elimination of wheat, dairy, and sugar (and onions which I already knew I couldn’t eat).  After 8 weeks I got the sugar back, but the wheat and dairy I left out because of how much better I felt.

But that has started a year-long quest to find food that is GOOD, that also doesn’t have any wheat or dairy in it.  For me, I’m not worried about cross-contamination and actual gluten, and I cheat from time to time (though there are consequences).
I’ve decided in that quest, I should share my findings with anyone who will listen/read.  With anyone who wants wheat free and dairy free food that still tastes like food as much as I do.

I’ve found three things to start with in the last couple of days.  Disclaimer:  I’m a terrible food photographer.  I hope that this improves as I go along.  Also — I’d opened the food already when I decided to do this.  And some of it is gone.  So…. you get packages.

1.    Sandwich buns, which I used as hot dog buns.  Promise Gluten Free comes all the way from Ireland!  Since I’m going there for vacation in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS, I can’t tell you how excited I am that they have a company that is successful enough at making gluten free food that they export to Canada.  It means I’ll be able to eat!  I hope.

Overall:  The buns were not bad.  If you’re looking for a bun that still has that chewy, gluten-y texture…. well, I’ve yet to find one.  Let me know if you do!  But this tastes pretty good, it was soft (despite having been frozen and then flown across the ocean, thawed, and then sold to me), and the biggest accomplishment I find with gluten free food…. it didn’t fall apart!  They held together through the whole meal, and did not crumble.  I can’t tell you how many brands of Gluten Free hamburger and hot dog buns I’ve tried, only to be left with one very happy dog, because they’ve crumbled around the meat and I’ve finished my meal with a knife and fork.  Plus one for Promise!  The dog lost out a little bit on that deal, though…

If you’re also soy free or nut free, Promise can meet that demand, too!

Price:  3.99 (Canadian) for 3 buns.
Found at:  Metro

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Also — pro tip!  When you’re used to eating hot dogs and hamburgers bun-less, you fill up a lot faster with the buns on.

2.  Promise Gluten Free Lemon Loaf.

This I could take or leave.  I love lemon cake, so the bar was high.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a bit too dry.  Again, this was made in Ireland, frozen, shipped across the ocean, thawed, and sold to me.  It didn’t hold up to that journey quite as well as the buns did.  I did enjoy the crunchy sugar bits on top!  I probably won’t buy it again, because for the price I’m sure I could make my own, and it would likely be moist.

Price: 4.99 for one loaf
Found at: Metro

3. So Delicious Coconut Milk “Frozen Dessert” — chocolate chip cookie dough flavour.
The closest I can get to ice cream.  So Delicious also makes a spectacular cashew milk dark chocolate fudge flavour, but I was in the mood for cookie dough.  There’s something special about the sweet and salty combination that I have always loved!  It’s perfect for these hot, sticky summer days!

And as an added bonus, the cookie dough bits are also gluten free!

Price:  5.99 (on sale — regular 6.99)
Found at: Metro

Stay tuned for more finds!  I hope to be able to share my favourites out of the Canadian Gluten and Dairy Free market 🙂

 

Find Promise Gluten Free products at a store near you!

Think and Eat Yourself Smart


I’ve become very interested in nutrition in the last year and a half. After a fateful meeting with a nutritionist in April of 2015, it was suggested to me that the way to fix my gastrointestinal upset was a full-out elimination of all the things that could be causing my issues (wheat, dairy, and sugar) for 8 weeks.

8 weeks. Without wheat.  Or dairy.  Or sugar.

Terrible, right?

Short answer…. yes.

But it turned out that wheat and dairy, while I miss cheese, and pizza, and I miss donuts, aren’t something I’m missing because I feel way, way better than I did in April 2015.

This sent me on a bit of a journey of finding out theories and some research on food sensitivities.  Because I don’t have any allergies.

There are so many mixed opinions, theories, studies, whatever you want to call them… it’s hard to find which way is up in all of the science.

So when I had the chance to read this book, “Think and Eat Yourself Smart” by Dr. Caroline Leaf, I grabbed at it.

I have several thoughts, so readers, please bear with me.

My first is this.  It’s very scientific.  There were parts of it I skimmed through because they were a touch lost on me.  That said, if you didn’t expect that from a book with the tagline “a neuroscientific approach to a sharper mind and healthier life,” I’m not sure what you would have been expecting.  I find the science behind nutrition fascinating.

There were some interesting points on waste. There was a very interesting discussion on genetically modified and organic foods — where I’m not sure that I’m completely in that camp.  I’m not totally anti-GMO, and that might make me a terrible person, but having grown up with grandparents in farming, and having had discussions with them ~ I’ll leave that off the table here because it’s not really the purpose of this post.  But.  Take it for what you will.  If you’re full out anti-GMO, you’ll be right on board with that section.  There was also a bit on the antibiotics infused into our milk and dairy products….. which is illegal in Canada and if found in our milk, it has to be dumped down the drain.

What really got me were the parts about choices and mindset, and how the conscious mind — not the subconscious mind — has the power to change and overcome toxic eating habits.

If you struggle with emotional eating, hurry, weird dreams, anything you suspect might be related to your food intake… I recommend this book.  It’ll give you some ‘food’ for thought.

There are tips and recipes at the back of the book, so it’ll give you a good jump start at your healthier eating adventure.  I just caution you that if you’re not as willing to give up every comfort food you’ve ever found as Dr. Leaf is, perhaps take the book with a grain of salt.  But the book has great general ideas and tips if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of the connection between your brain, your mind, and your eating.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

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31 goals


I turned 31 two weeks ago.  It felt just like any other day.  There was no fanfare, no trumpet blowing, no life-changing ‘a-ha!’ moment to signal that another year had come and gone.  Just some loving friends who made sure I wasn’t forgotten, took me out for dinner, went to wander around the local art gallery’s Christmas light display (which was bizarre with no snow…. weird), and then to Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.

It was lovely.

But at dinner, my dear friend Laurel encouraged me to set 31 goals, as I turned 31.  She said it’s something she started doing at around 27, and she’s really enjoyed it.

To me, it seems almost like having to make 31 New Years Resolutions, because my birthday is a mere 3 weeks from the moment when the entire world notices that another year has come and gone, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve decided to take Laurel up on her suggestion, and I’ve decided to set 31 goals.

I’ll check back in around this time in 2016 and let you know how I did

  1.  Read 40 books (So far this year I’m at 22 of the 25 book goal I set for 2015.  I think I can pull it off.)
  2. Write every day (summer 2016 — I’m not going to Camp for the first time in 6 years.  I think writing about SOMETHING every day is a solid aspiration).
  3. Be generous.  I’m not limiting this.  I just want to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He tells me to with the money and time I’m blessed with — things like helping refugees and caring for the homeless.
  4. Actually use my Instagram account.  I just revamped it yesterday.  Follow me if you’d like: @epicwings84
  5. Love deeply.  Who cares if I get hurt?  Hurts heal, but regret takes longer.
  6. Learn to chord on my mandolin
  7. Learn to chord on my guitar
  8. Keep playing the violin
  9. Not hide my piano in its carry-case/bag, but actually play it every once in a while.
  10. Create a music nook in my basement — because 6, 7, 8, and 9
  11. Watch all the Star Wars movies.  I’ve never done it.  I want to know what they hype is about.
  12. Actually read my Bible.  I haven’t figured out what this looks like yet — whether I start a plan or just read, but I want that to be a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 deal, since I already missed my birthday goal start by 2 weeks.  Details to follow.
  13. de-clutter my home.  It’s so cluttered.  I can’t handle it.  I will be removing clutter, filing clutter, giving away and selling clutter.  And if I manage to pull out enough to clutter to have a sale of some sort, I will donate the proceeds to somewhere important — probably to refugees.  They hurt my heart and I want to help everywhere I can.
  14. pray more — not in a “God, this situation sucks please fix it” kind of way.  In a “I lean into the Spirit because the Spirit is in me, and let’s do life together” kind of way.
  15. Start running again.  This is a tentative, hopeful goal.  I don’t know if I can do it, because I wrecked my ankle a couple years ago.  When I stopped running, I then gained a bunch of weight, which leads me to 16….
  16. Lose 50 pounds.  Or more.  But at least 50.  But healthily.
  17. Eat good food.  Goal # 16 does not have to mean I don’t eat good food.  It means I stop eating sour keys and chips.  Seriously — big vices right there.  I just got a Ninja professional kitchen system for Christmas.  And a veggie Spiralizer for my birthday.  And a sweet frying pan.  I seriously feel like I can make anything.
  18. Learn.  I keep saying “if I were to ever go back to school, I would study….” Well, I’m not going to go back to school.  I haven’t paid off round 1 and 2 yet.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t just learn.
  19. do something adventurous and scary.  I haven’t decided what that is going to be yet.  Time will tell.
  20. Play more — do the things I love even if they seem a little childish and like a waste of time.  Like colouring.  Or playing in the rain.
  21. actually stick to my budget.  At the end of August, I created a spreadsheet that’s been really helping me watch where my money is going.  This needs to continue.
  22. Choose love.  Where I can judge, be snarky, be rude, or even just be apathetic… I must choose love.
  23. Practice my French.  I’m not teaching it anymore, and this is the third year in a row that I haven’t been using it regularly.  I don’t want to lose it.
  24. Drink water.  This sounds so cliche and ridiculous, but it’s something I really, really, really need to do.
  25. Take my vitamins every day lol.  See 24.  Also, I’m running out of goals.
  26. Take time to watch the sun both come up and go back down.  I tend to ignore the sunrises, because I firmly believe I should be sleeping, but they’re a part of the natural process, and their beauty is just as profound.
  27. Install a dog door in my back door so Kloe has freedom this summer — something she’ll miss not going to my Mom’s for 2 months.
  28. Road trip somewhere (in Ontario) that I’ve never been.
  29. Write a song.
  30. eat way, way less refined sugar
  31. Choose joy — life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

 

We’ll chat at the end of 2016 and I’ll let you know what I accomplished.  Do you have any goals?

#wewantboth, a copycat recipe, and the reason for a budget.


This is old news.  Gosh, it’s SO last week.  Or maybe even last month.  Maybe I just jumped on the band wagon last week.

You’ve probably heard about this, but Starbucks Canada decided that since the Gingerbread Latte sold better in the Eastern part of the country, and since the Eggnog Latte sold better in the Pacific North West, they would sell their popular holiday drinks “regionally.”

Basically — Starbucks Canada decided that the Pacific North West could have eggnog, and everywhere East of Saskatchewan could only have the Gingerbread latte.  Well, I say ‘only’ with the full understanding that there are plenty of other options, including a peppermint mocha and a new-this-year Chestnut Praline Latte which, to me, sounds lovely, but I haven’t tried one yet.

Naturally, the internet threw up its arms in outrage.  #WeWantBoth they cried!  Starbucks is ruining Christmas, I tweeted!  My tweets of despair were favourited and retweeted, and I gained new Twitter followers.  It was a bittersweet 28-ish hours.

The next day, I received incredible news (that’s right, I didn’t know until a mere two days before the holiday drinks were slated to roll out that my drink of choice, the eggnog latte, would not be gracing me with its presence)!  A friend shared an article from CTV with me that basically expressed, due to the outrage across various social media platforms, Starbucks Canada would be replacing the eggnog latte in the East, and giving the Pacific North West back their Gingerbread.

Part of me felt spectacularly elated that I played a small part in a Twitter Revolution that led to me getting what I wanted (albeit not until November 17th, but alas…), but very shortly thereafter I was faced with a rather sobering thought.  If the country can band together and fight for our rights to have the latte we want, why can’t we do that on issues that matter?

I’m not judging anyone who will buy a holiday latte from Starbucks.  I would be lying if I said I don’t plan to leave 15 minutes early for work on Monday to go snag one for myself, even though I’ve figured out how to make a reasonable alternative.

I just can’t help but think that there are so very many issues in this country that would benefit from an outcry like that, and if we could see it, what kind of change would we be able to affect?  I know this is cheesy since it started as a post about coffee, but could we change the world?  Or do we just care too much about our five dollar coffee to mobilize together?  I get it — we wouldn’t all agree on what would need to be done.  In this case, it was a fairly simple solution:  “Starbucks, #wewantboth and we’re outraged that you made such a stupid decision.  Fix it.”

And fix it they will.

But what about issues that are close to my heart?  Human trafficking, forced sex trade working (both of which happen in our very own country, by the way), forced prostitution, homelessness, hunger…. If a child died of hunger in the cold on the streets, and Canada banded together and screamed #thatsnotok while demanding that our government do something to fix it, could we change the world?

Or is our government not as agreeable as Starbucks?

It all got me thinking.  Money talks, right?

There are places I’d love to be able to give money, but I simply don’t currently have it because I owe too much for various reasons.  I have a mortgage, I have student loans, and I have a line of credit.  Between those three things, I feel like my hands are tied behind my back and I’d love to wriggle them free.  That said, I’ve created a budget, so… I guess we’ll see how that goes.  I know how to create them, it seems to be the follow-through that kills me.

Deep thoughts started by Starbucks though, right?

Speaking of Starbucks, before I learned that Starbucks was going to give me my latte after all, I decided I’d best learn how to make my own, because I certainly don’t want a Gingerbread Latte.  I bought some eggnog (thank you, Christmas season, for giving me eggnog!  The only reason I haven’t learned how to make eggnog itself is because I’d legit weigh a ton.  For real.  I’d chug it in August.  No shame….).  I heated some (about a third of my travel mug) in the microwave and then brewed some Green Mountain Dark Magic on my most concentrated setting into the heated eggnog.  It’s no Starbucks, but it certainly tastes yummy.  I’m a little weirded out though by the fact that the eggnog and coffee don’t mix on their own… I had to stir it up quite well, and the bottom was still much MUCH sweeter than the top (which I didn’t mind so much).

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The Dollarama Incident


Yesterday evening, something happened that I feel I must share with you, my faithful readers.  I was (wrongly) accused of shoplifting yesterday in a Dollarama… of shoplifting chocolate bars.

I hadn’t, naturally.  There are better things I can think of attempting shoplifting on for the first time than a Peanut Butter Oh Henry and a Reese Peanut Butter Cup.

But here’s the story.

I went into Dollarama after a trip to Costco with a friend.  I can’t remember even 24 hours later what I went in for, it couldn’t have been that important, but I went in because I obviously thought I needed something.  I go into this Dollarama all. the. time.  It’s maybe a minute from my house, and teaching means Dollarama is a girl’s best friend.  No joke.  At least once a week.

While I was in the candy aisle, texting a friend, I was kind of pacing back and forth.  My hands were in and out of my pockets because that’s where my phone was, and I kept picking up chocolate bars and putting them back down because a) I couldn’t  make up my mind on what I wanted, and b) I was trying to remember what I went in for, and c) my friend and I were making plans for tonight.  While I was pacing, I caught sight of this woman who appeared to have just paid for her purchase, standing just by the cash register counters.  She was staring at me, and not discreetly.  When I caught her stare, I looked back at her with a “what?!” kind of look, and when she continued to stare, making me uncomfortable, I put the chocolate bars down and turned to leave the aisle.

See, my first thought was that she was fat-shaming me.  I don’t know why I assumed this, because she was about the same size as me, but my own insecurity played out and my inner voice saying “you don’t need this” led me to jump to the absurd conclusion that this woman was judging me for buying candy.

Somewhat thankfully, she was not fat-shaming me.  Instead though, she was assuming that when I put the chocolate bars down, I didn’t put them back on the shelf but in my purse.  She alerted a cashier of her assumption.  I can’t fault her for this, I guess.  I suppose as I look back at this incident that if I was sure I saw someone shoplifting, I’d probably tell someone as well.  After all, when things get stolen, prices go up because the store isn’t making their projected profit.  Also, on the level of my inner Junior Kindergarten student, it isn’t fair that I have to pay for things when other people don’t.  Yup, I’m petty like that.  What I hope I wouldn’t do is stare awkwardly, even after alerting staff to the situation.

This woman did that.

Over the PA system came the alert “Security scan all aisles.”  I didn’t think anything of it.  I hadn’t done anything unseemly.  A cashier I was familiar with (like I said, I’m in there all the time) came down the aisle I was in, and I turned and said hi.  She walked up behind me, and the conversation went like this:

“It’s been reported to us that you were seen putting chocolate bars into your purse.”

“I didn’t, I put two down, back in their box, cuz that lady at the cash counter is staring at me and making me uncomfortable.”

“Would you mind showing me your purse?”

“Sure, I don’t have anything to hide.”

I took my purse apart, showed her the various pockets, and then rifled through the collection of tampons, pepto bismol, advil, lip gloss, hair brushes, bobby pins, and elastics that collect at the bottom.  Satisfied with what I’d shown her, she apologized and thanked me for cooperating.

That should be the end, because like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong, but as I rounded a corner, this woman was still staring at me.  I still couldn’t remember what I was there for, so now I’d taken to wandering up and down the aisles, looking for whatever it was I went in for.

Down to the heart of this…. I feel like I need to share what’s bugging me about it.

Just minutes before all of this went down, and then again just a minute or two later, I had run into one of our grade 8 students from my school.  As a teacher, we’re cautioned very strongly about our reputation, and even more strongly about the perception of our reputation.  I don’t think this grade 8 student saw me being searched in the middle of the store, right in front of the toy section, but I know that it wouldn’t be good if he did.  He’s a lovely student, and so I’d hope he’d be able to see the truth and not spread rumours, but rumours are all it takes before parents don’t trust their child’s teacher because they heard she steals.  I run our school’s book fair, I collect student money on occasion…. if my students’ parents hear that I was accused of shoplifting at Dollarama, why would they have any reason to trust me with their money?

What I would like to have seen is a discreet cashier who gave me the opportunity to show her the contents of my purse in private.  I didn’t think it through in the moment, I just wanted to show very quickly that I wasn’t a thief.  It was embarrassing, though, to have to do that with complete strangers standing watching, and I spent a good deal of time last night fretting about what was going to happen at school today if the student saw anything or said anything…. and I sincerely feel that that was unnecessary.  It was unnecessary worry in the first place, and I know that, and I should have known better, but it isn’t a situation that should have happened, in my opinion.  I sincerely believe that there’s a more dignified way to prove you’re not a thief.

I don’t know what it is, because I imagine if I HAD tried to sneak the chocolate bars into my purse, asking to speak to me in private wouldn’t have helped, because the crowd of witnesses would have been helpful while I refused to open my purse based on the privacy act and blah blah blah…..

I just think there has to be a better way.

Am I the only one?

Has this happened to you before?

What do you think?

After Stares-a-lot left the store and I regained my composure, though I never did remember what I went in for, I finally decided on at least a Toblerone and went and stood in line to pay for it.  The cashier that had searched my purse in the first place came over to me to apologize, explaining that as soon as she saw who they’d accused, she thought it couldn’t possibly be true, because “you’re in here all the time and you always pay for your stuff.”  To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disconcerting.  I mean, I’m glad I’m trustworthy and all, but that might mean I’m in Dollarama FAR too often.  She said she hoped I wasn’t offended, and apologized sincerely again.  I was not upset with her in the least, she was just doing her job.

I paid for my Toblerone and went on my way, but while leaving the store to go to my car, I saw the lady who’d reported me leaning against the wall outside the store with her friends, still staring at me.  All I can say is I think she’s lucky I wasn’t in the mood for a fight and that Gotham was about to start, because I had half a mind to go encourage her to be a bit more certain next time she accuses someone of shoplifting.  But, I guess on the good side for all of us, Gotham was about to start, and I had a Toblerone to eat.

My Key Ingredient


What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?

I’m not a cook.  There is no stretch that could make that true.  Cooking is not my forté.  I’m not bad at it.  When I put my mind to it, I do fairly well.  I am capable of cooking yummy things…. I just don’t enjoy it.  At all.  Star Trek style Replicators can’t come fast enough.

“Computer – Chicken Parmesan, please.”  Amazing.

But since I can’t do that yet… (someone work on that, please?) I will share my little secret.

When I must cook, I love love love to use Club House’s Smouldering Smoked Applewood spice.  I have several Club House spices that I absolutely love to use — Spicy Pepper Medley, Vegetable, Montreal Steak, Blazin Pepper Bourbon, Montreal Chicken, Chipotle Mango, and Citrus Blast.

Now, unfortunately, Smouldering Smoked Applewood was a limited edition released spice… and I don’t really understand creating a ‘limited edition’ spice… don’t get me started… but because it’s a ‘limited edition,’ I tend to use it more conservatively than I do something else like the Spicy Pepper Medley.  When that runs out, I can just go replace it.

That’s it — that’s why my Pulled Pork tastes so amazing.  That’s why my Pork Chops are fantastic.  That’s why my chicken is delightful.

And I can’t believe I just wrote an entire post about spices.

To Be Continued…


“Get our mouths watering with a description of your favorite dish, but make us wait for the recipe.”

That’s one of the several options for WordPress’s Weekly Writing Challenge this week.  I haven’t done one of these in a while, but this topic grabbed my attention.  Mostly… I’m excited because I tried a new recipe tonight and it was delicious, and I will make it again and again, I’m sure.  Easy enough to look up how to make it… but with a twist.

So I made Spaghetti Squash.  I’ve never made it before, and I loved it.

It’s a pretty simple concept, really:  Replace your pasta with a vegetable if you don’t want the carbs that convert to sugar that convert to fat, which I don’t.

Here’s a link to a blog post with pretty similar instructions to mine, but this blogger took much better pictures as she went along, so if you need the visuals, here ya go 🙂

Step 1:  Buy a spaghetti squash.  If you’re like me, and you’re totally useless in the kitchen and by extension, in the grocery store, you’ll want to take a friend with you to show you how to pick out a ripe one.

Step 2:  Cut spaghetti squash in half.  This may actually be the most challenging part.  Use a good, strong knife.

Step 3:  Scoop all the seeds and stringy-ness out.  Like you’re gutting a pumpkin to carve it.  Side note:  Has anyone ever toasted the seeds of a spaghetti squash?  I had no idea its innards looked like those of a pumpkin.

photo 1(8)

Step 4:  In a large-ish, glass baking dish, put a couple inches of water in the bottom, and place your spaghetti squash on the bottom so it looks like you have two yellow domes sticking out of your dish.  The part you just cleaned out should be on the bottom.

Step 5:  Put in an oven preheated to 350 for 45 minutes.

Step 6:  Remove from oven.  Take a fork, and shred all the spaghetti-like but totally vegetable goodness out of the shell of the squash.  Careful!  The baking dish as well as both halves of the squash are VERY hot.

Step 7:  Serve with your favourite pasta sauce, here’s what I did for mine.

photo 3(3)

*Note:  Even though it’s all vegetables (and I added some meatballs), it’s deceptively filling.  I will never presume that I can eat half of a squash on my own again.  I champed it, but I was full.  I either need to buy a smaller squash, or split it into three meals.  I think without the meatballs I’d have been fine, though.  Who knows?  Maybe my portion sizing is way out of whack.  I don’t care, it was all I was eating.

Sauce.

Step 1:  Buy a can of crushed tomatoes.  Not spaghetti sauce.  I’m trying to ditch sugar, here, and this is one of many good places to cut it out.

Step 2:  heat over LOW heat.  Make sure you either cover your pot or stir constantly.  I forgot this step, and had to scrub crushed tomato sauce off my cupboards when I was finished.

Step 3:  Add the most delicious blend of spices I’ve ever concocted…. that I’m not going to tell you about.

There’s your cliffhanger.

To be continued.

The dreaded 2014 budget.


It’s that time of year again.  Even if you’re like me and decided not to make ‘New Years’ Resolutions’ per se, and you’ve only chosen one word, the beginning of the year is still valuable for some things.

Budgeting, alas, is one of them.  I have a tendency to start out strong, and make these beautiful budgets up and determine how many thousands of dollars I’m going to save or put extra onto my debts.  I do it every January.  I calculate, number-crunch… what have you.

And by February, I’m wondering why I don’t know where my money went again.

I’d like to say that I want this year to be different.  It’s my hope that by sharing my intentions (and some of the resources I found today) on here, that people who love me and read this (*cough* my parents *cough* wink wink nudge nudge) will keep me accountable to this goal.  I like the idea of seeing where my money goes.  Knowing where every cent has been spent or used (either well or poorly) makes me happy on the inside…… but this hasn’t always been true.  Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up A LOT this year.  Maybe it’s because I have a plan in mind for all those extra cents (I am redecorating in March, plus I really want a new violin), or maybe it’s even because I am working on getting myself ready to someday be married, and managing my own finances is a huge step toward being able to help manage a family’s finances.  Whatever the reason, I want to be a good steward of what I’ve been given.  It’s all part of valuing myself (see my One Word post), knowing that the time I spend working for all that money is worth something, and there’s an end product that doesn’t need to be squandered at fast-food joints and clothing stores.  That’s right — squandered.

Anyway, I thought I’d show you some of the nifty resources I found while I was perusing the internet (with a purpose!) today.

I made a budget binder.  In it, you’ll find the following things.

First of all, a financial checklist for all the bills.  I find I have a terrible time remembering whether or not I’ve actually paid a bill.  I set reminders on my iCal and on my phone, but sometimes those arrive at inopportune times, and I think it’ll be very helpful to be able to look at this on Saturdays (my proposed budget review day), and go “yup, I’ve paid all those that were due.  Excellent.”

e0def-financialchecklist

Secondly, a printable budget sheet that is broken down into every category imaginable.  I didn’t have to use them all, but it’s fantastic.  And if I need them in the future, they are there!  I printed 12 of these, and they are all labeled with the correct month.  This one doesn’t have an image, it just goes right to downloading the PDF, so check the link out here.

Thirdly, an expense tracking sheet so that I know precisely how money was spent and where, especially in the areas that weren’t budgeted… like my copious trips to Subway and Wendy’s.

found at http://couponsnob.net/2011/12/25/free-printable-expense-tracker-and-instruction-sheet/

Fourthly, a monthly calendar template, which I also printed 12 of, so that I can write down when each bill is due and put a check mark in it when it’s paid.  I’ve also highlighted the bills that DO NOT come out of my account automatically, because I believe there are only 3 or 4 left in my life that aren’t automatic withdrawal.  It may surprise you, but these tend to be the ones I forget to pay 😉

found at http://eprintcalendar.com/monthly-calendar-template-pdf/

Lastly, and this is not budget related, I printed a weekly meal planner.  Well, I guess it’s sort of money related… because I suspect it will save me money at the grocery store, knowing exactly what I need to buy for the week instead of just guessing.  I have a terrible habit of over-buying and then I can’t eat everything I bought before it all goes bad, and I have to throw stuff out.  It disgusts me.  I’d like to stop doing that.  Never mind my hard-earned money, it’s just such a disastrous habit, and the money I save in not doing it could be funneled into a charity that takes care of those who lack enough food to eat on a week-to-week basis… and isn’t that a bigger issue than just “I bought too many baby carrots?”  My meals are planned for this coming week, and I’m going grocery shopping after church tomorrow, buying ONLY what is on that list.

found at http://domestic8d.blogspot.ca/p/printables.html

In completely unrelated news… in an effort to value my health, my life, and the piles of money I spent previously on clothes that used to fit me and now truly don’t, I am dropping refined carbs and sugars like they’re hot …. and I’m dropping them cold turkey.  I can’t see any other way to do it.  I know they’re my stumbling block to weight loss.  Bread, pasta, candy, and chocolate always have been.  I know I need to lose weight — not to ‘look better,’ but because I refuse to buy new clothes again when I can just eat better, and because I know I felt better thinner.  I don’t have a goal weight in mind, I just want to feel better physically.  Sadly, I know the only real and effective way for me to do this healthily is to eliminate the foods that cause me to keep weight on.  Everyone’s bodies are different.  Mine likes to hold on to simple carbs like there’s no tomorrow, and it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try to wean myself off slowly, I also crave them intensely.  It’s not just a sugar problem, though.  I wrote a post a year ago today after I finished reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made To Crave, about how I use food in a way that it shouldn’t be used… and I’ve slipped back into bad habits.  I need to give up these things, and go to God with my cravings when they show up — not the cupboard.  That being said, if we have to cross paths in the next little while, I’m sorry…. because the sugar withdrawal is hard to go through for the first few days.  I’ll do my best to stay pleasant and not take it out on innocent bystanders….  but it must be done.  Pray for me, friends?

Tastes Like Christmas, and other Christmas traditions.


Yesterday I wrote a post from Mama Kat’s Losin It’s blog’s writing prompts.  Sorry, there were a lot of possessive adjectives in that sentence…. woah.  Not fixing it, haha and I only care a little bit……..

**Yesterday I wrote a post pulled from the writing prompts given on Mama Kat’s Losin It, a blog I’ve been following for a while because of the great prompts she gives.**

I feel better now.

Ahem.

A favourite holiday tradition, she says.

I have a few.  And I have a few “tastes of Christmas” to share, as I write this on Saturday, from my Grandparents’ farm.  After lunch, Grandma handed me one of her amazing sour cherry tarts, and with a mouth completely full of deliciousness, I muttered “this tastes like Christmas.”  How can something taste like Christmas, you ask?  Well, read my list, and see if you agree.

Things that taste like Christmas to me:

  • Grandma’s Sour Cherry Tarts
  • Egg Nog
  • Clementines
  • Misty Mints

And finally, I suppose turkey dinner tastes like Christmas, though it also tastes like Thanksgiving and Easter… so… who knows?  What does Christmas taste like to you?

Two traditions that happen every year that I don’t like going without are things that I can’t taste.

1.  The Christmas program that gets put on every year at Grandma’s.  I arrived a day ahead of most of my family due to a pending ice storm.  I was coming from South of Grandma’s, and everyone else is coming from North of here, so I left in time to not get stuck in a ditch somewhere between home and here.

cuz… you know… awesome.

This morning over breakfast, Grandma and I cracked open the Bible, picked the passages we’ll be reading from the Christmas story (in the various Gospels), and then she left me with a Christmas carol book to pick the songs that would go with them.  I finally got my violin in tune… gosh, it’s hard…. and then she played piano while I played piano.  Dad and the rest of the crew are slated to arrive in about an hour and a half, and he’ll bring his guitar, and we’ll have a musical night of praising Jesus and celebrating His birth.  We didn’t do this last year because Christmas was at my house.  I had just bought a house and I really wanted to entertain, so I invited everyone down to my place.  It’s really nice to be back at Grandma’s again this year.  Shout out to my Grandparents, who are more than likely reading this….

2.  Decorating the tree with my Mom.  Ever since I was old enough to do this without busting ornaments, Mom and I have done it together while watching the Toronto Santa Claus Parade on TV.  My brother joined in when he was younger, but it became ‘our thing’ as he got older and didn’t want to do it anymore.  We would eat Voortman’s cookies and clementines, pop popcorn, watch the parade, and hang the ornaments on the tree.  Now that I’m all grown up and I don’t live with my Mom anymore, I feel it’s imperative that I wait until my Mom can get to my house so we can decorate the tree together anyway.  It never seems to coincide with the parade anymore, but we’ve changed the tradition a little bit so that now we watch a Christmas movie while we decorate the tree.  It’s probably my favourite tradition of all, and if I ever have kids, I hope to recreate it with them… though I imagine it’ll be easier with girls past a certain age…. but regardless.  I want to keep it going.  Love you Mom, I know you’re reading this!

This year’s masterpiece
My favourite ornament, bought at the Christmas store in Banff last year