Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I don't recommend the technique that I had to use for several days to feed our cat.   For reasons not totally understood or clear, one of my cats (Elton) developed fatty liver syndrome.   He was losing weight and I had that maternal instinct to know something was wrong.  The first visit to the veterinarian involved blood work, ultrasound and x-rays.  Blood results indicated that something was wrong with his liver but nothing was definitive from the x-rays and ultrasound.  He spent the night back home and the following day went back to the veterinarian for more investigative procedures.  He had a scope put down his esophagus and into his stomach to check to see if there was any obstructions.  Negative results were found.  After consulting with me, my wonderful veterinarian opened him up to see if there was any obstruction in his bowel or if cancer was present or if there was something else.  Elton had been suffering from irritable bowel disease for about the last two years.  I was able to watch the surgery at the clinic and be part of the investigation.  It was interesting to see the large intestine and other body parts.  Once the veterinarian saw the liver, it was evident he had fatty liver syndrome and the liver was also jaundiced.   Elton was experiencing liver failure.  To reverse the damage and get the liver working again you need to force feed the cat.  This involves using a feeding tube.  As the cat was still asleep, a feeding tube was inserted through the side of his neck into his esophagus and then down into his stomach.  I also watched this procedure.  The goal of using a feeding tube is to get the cat to eat again.  He does graduate to eating solid food and the time spent using the feeding tube is dependent on the cat and the desire to eat and keep food down.

While he was at the veterinarian clinic for several days following his surgery, he was fed through his stomach tube and was a real trooper.  He didn't resist being fed by the tube.  Of course he has to wear the cone of shame as he has stitches and he is not allowed to have access to the cut while it heals.

Once we were able to take Elton home, we had to learn how to feed him through the stomach tube plus follow the instructions for mixing the slurry which he was fed and the medications.  He also had to be elevated while being fed so we used a small foot stool for him to place his front paws on.  

Tools and products used in this process of feeding included special cat food, a container for mixing the cat food with water to create the slurry, large syringes filled with the slurry and then inserted into the stomach tubing, pills and a pill splitter which cut a large pill into halves.   The pill was dissolved in water or the slurry and then sucked up into the syringe and slowly plunged into the feeding tube.

I have been lucky with Elton.  For some owners it takes several weeks of feeding through the stomach tube to get them back on solid food.  We were able to introduce him to solid food the following day he came home from the clinic and haven't experienced any set backs.

I likely will never fully know the reasons why Elton got sick and I do appreciate the patient centred care he received at the veterinarian clinic .

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Today was a day that did not have the potential to be one for grilling steaks on the bbq.  With the risk of showers around suppertime, a busy day with errands and appointments, the logical choice was making a chicken dish in the slow cooker.   I have a cookbook by Judith Finlayson called The Healthy Slow Cooker.  The recipe in this posting is adapted from one in her cookbook.    I used the ingredients in the options description and everything worked.  I also used a large can of tomatoes - 28 ounces so I did not use the chicken stock nor wine.   I made pasta shells to go with the chicken.

The first photo is of the tomato mixture cooking in the skillet pan.  The second photo shows the chicken cut up and spread over the bottom of the slow cooker.        
The third photo shows the tomato mixture poured over the chicken before the slow cooker was turner on.  The last photo shows the finished product.  


1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour
½ cup dry or cooking wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes including juices
1 can artichoke arts, drained, rinsed and quartered
3 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 red pepper, diced
½ cup chopped fresh basil

Ingredient Options:

Instead of artichokes : 3 zucchinis, chopped, 5 mushrooms, chopped
Instead of chicken thighs - one whole chicken, skinned as best as possible and cut up into pieces – legs, thighs, breasts, back and wings
Instead of fresh basil - dried basil


In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add the onions.  Cook for a few minutes until softened.  Add garlic, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and cook for a minute.  Add the flour, stir and cook for a minute.  Add the wine, then add the chicken stock, can of tomatoes and the vegetables (except the red pepper).  Bring to a boil and turn the heat off.   

Arrange the chicken over the bottom of the slow cooker stoneware and cover with the tomato vegetable mixture.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.   For the last 30 minutes add the red pepper and basil.  Serve with rice or pasta shells.  Makes 6 to 7 servings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Focaccia bread has become popular the past few years in restaurants and bakeries.  I have never made focaccia bread before but decided to tackle this recipe after I read a great introduction, directions and step by step process at

This bread is easy to make but it takes time as three steps are involved in the rising process and I usually do two steps in my other bread recipes.  The recipe makes a fair amount of bread and I ended up freezing a section, giving a section to friends to enjoy and then consuming the remaining bread.  I will definitely make this bread again.  The following pictures show the bread before baking and then cooling on a rack.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Whenever I need a check-in about not taking myself too seriously or want a laugh I only need to watch my pets.  They have it figured out.  The cats don't get stressed out unless they are at the veterinarian or there are unwelcome guests in the house such as another dog.  The dog is just plain happy and has a great disposition.  It doesn't help that I cater to all of the cats' and dog's whims and wants and I am at their beck and call.   I fully know that spending time with your pet makes you relax and enjoy life.

Last night when sitting outside on the deck, a baby monarch butterfly landed on my head.  I was sitting in the sun so it was stretching its wings and soaking in the warmth.  Of course by the time the DH got the camera it had flown off but I managed to get a photo of it sitting on one of the rails.   It was also enjoying life.
Other ways I get perspective on life is by reading two columns - one in the Globe and Mail newspaper and the second one in the Macleans magazine.   Each weekly magazine from Macleans has on its last page a column written about an individual who recently passed away.  The story is written to paint a picture of this person's life, what mattered to them and how they focused their time.  When I get my copy of the magazine, I always go to the back page to see who is profiled and to read their story.  The second column I read on a daily basis is in the Globe and Mail.   The stories are usually written by a family member or a close friend and it captures the peaks and valleys of life that they have experienced.  Some of these stories are fascinating and some illustrate the hardships, sacrifices and contributions they have made over their life time.  Not all stories are about people who have lived long lives and were established senior citizens by the time they passed on.  There are stories written about youth or people in their twenties and thirties whose lives were cut short.   One recent column written about a women named Doris Grant who died at the age of 85 following a stroke caught my eye.  She was blogging up until two days before she had her stroke and she blogged about what a great family she had.  What her daughter did write about her in the column made me think.  Doris felt there were four essential elements that made successful adults - (1) know how to swim, (2) know how to type, (3) go to the dentist regularly, and (4) vote in all elections.   I think these four criteria for being a successful adult make sense.  Knowing how to swim and type, going to the dentist and voting in all elections are important things for all of us to do.  They all contribute to enjoying life and in many ways staying alive.   Here is to Doris and others who have showed us and taught us about enjoying life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Several weeks ago I tried out a new recipe for baked salmon.  It is quite easy to make and you can make it to fit to what vegetables you have in the fridge to make salad.  The basics required is a filet of salmon and sun dried tomato dressing.   I have listed a number of ingredients that I used in making a salad.  I did not take a picture of this dish, so sorry about that.


2 pounds of raw salmon filet
sun dried tomato salad dressing, about 1/2 cup
mushrooms, sliced
tomato, quartered
red/yellow pepper, chopped
1 carrot, diced
green onion, chopped


Line a baking sheet with tin foil, spray the tin foil with Pam, and lay the filet on the foil.   In a bowl mix the salad ingredients with the salad dressing.  Pour the salad mixture over the fish and bake at 375 degrees F until the fish is done, 20 to 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked.  If you made a lot of salad and have thickly covered the fish, half way through the cooking time, push the salad mixture to the side of the pan so that the fish can cook sooner.   Serves 4 people.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


In the Globe and Mail on June 9, 2010 there was an article about making bread - 'to knead or not to knead?'  The baking community seems to be divided on whether no-knead bread with its shortcuts produces a worthy bread.  One baker has compared the no-knead bread a step-up from Wonder Bread.  I beg to differ.   I think no-knead bread is wonderful.   The bread I make is much better than the bread I can buy at the local grocery stores or even the farmer's market.
The artisans of bread making prefer to knead by hand and make a few loaves at a time.  
They would not be using a food processing system with a kneading paddle such as the one I use here when I decide to make three or four loaves at a time and have bread kneaded, risen and baked within three hours.  I do cheat a bit in helping the bread rise by using a tablespoon of dough enhancer.  Some bakers also prefer to measure out the ingredients by weight versus volume as they feel that using volume (eg a cup of flour) is not as precise and this affects the flavour and texture.  I can not see myself weighing out flour on my food scale.  I can only imagine seeing the flour flying, trying to get the flour into the food scale bowl in order to measure the defined weight.   Last night I decided to make a no-knead bread using a can of pale ale.  It took me a few minutes to mix the ingredients, cover the bowl with saran wrap followed by a tea towel.  I have posted this recipe in an earlier blog.  I hauled out my red cast iron pot this morning in preparation as you need to heat the pot and lid in the oven prior to putting the bread dough in the pot.                  

This picture shows the dough in my favorite yellow bowl that I use for bread making.   This is after the first rise.

These two pictures show the dough before the covered pot went into the 425 degree oven and the finished product 42 minutes later.  Since I use a convection oven, the cooking time is much faster.

And the best part of making bread is eating it.  I can never resist a slice of warm bread smeared with peanut butter and jam.

Let's revisit the issue at hand - should we only use traditional methods for making bread?  Is making a bread a science?  The answer is yes as cooking is a science and it is about chemistry.  Is precision required in cooking?  The answer is yes as adding too much of one ingredient can destroy the recipe.  However I feel you can have some flexibility in cooking food and add or subtract specific ingredients according to taste.   You do have to be mindful of having the right proportions in recipes, especially that of making bread - flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast.   Should cooking be enjoyable, involve experimentation and be flexible?  The answer is yes.   If the recipe is so complicated, hard to understand or replicate, then why bother trying to make it?   Perfection is in the eye of the beholder or should I say the taste buds of the beholder.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My sister-in-law recently sent me this recipe that she had made.  She recommended it to me and after seeing that it contains a number of vegetable ingredients that I like, I decided to make it for supper.  I made only minor modifications.  The original recipe didn't call for chick peas but I added a drained can of chick peas.  Secondly, I used a small can of light coconut milk (about 400 ml) instead of the one cup in the original recipe.  I didn't want to have leftover coconut milk.  I also added about 2 tsp of fresh minced ginger instead of 1 tsp.  Mincing or finely grating ginger can be a chore if you don't have a fine gauge kitchen tool that is designed for this job.  I have a wonderful grater that I bought over six years ago from Lee Valley tools.  It reminds me of a horse rasp or a really big nail file with fine holes in it.  I generally use it for ginger or garlic.

This recipe is also great for freezing one meal portions to take to work for lunch.   I try to freeze at least one container for future lunches when I make soups or stews such as this one.



1 large sweet potato, small cubes
3 carrots, diced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
4 cups apple juice or cider
¼ tsp salt
796 ml can diced tomatoes
half of a small cabbage, diced
2 medium red peppers, small chunks
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 medium onion, diced
1 can of chick peas, drained
1 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 small can of light coconut milk
1 cup peanut butter


Place sweet potato, carrots, cayenne pepper and curry powder in a large pot.  Pour in the apple juice and if needed add water to cover about 2 inches above the vegetables.  Bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the salt, tomatoes, cabbage, red peppers, chick peas, ginger and onion.  Return to boil and simmer about 15 to 25 minutes and then add the peanuts, coconut milk and peanut butter, stirring well.  Cook until the vegetables are tender.  Serve with quinoa or brown rice sprinkled with cilantro or parsley.  

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Jamie Lee Curtis looks good no matter what her colour is.  She has stopped dyeing her hair and has showed off her gray hair for the past several years.   I know that Jamie Lee Curtis also has other fine attributes including a slim figure, good skin, does not have pale features and a nice smile.  There are other women and male celebrities that do look great with gray hair - Toni Morrison, Emmylou Harrison, Meryl Streep in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada", George Clooney, Steve Martin and Anderson Cooper.  Should Jamie Lee Curtis be a role model for those of us starting to get gray hair?  Why do we colour our hair to hide the gray?  Is it because we will look older if we don't?  The fear is that we will look older yet men are considered to look more distinguished with gray hair.

I have been colouring my hair for several decades.  I started to colour my hair as a way of enhancing my image, adding some flair and colour to my hairstyle.  Plus as a typical woman, we can get bored with the way we look and we want to change our look.  There is no doubt that adding hair colour can enhance your appearance and make you feel more attractive.  A good hair cut is also an important and key ingredient to how you look.  In colouring my hair, I have had full colour done, streaks or both at the same time.  Every six weeks, I could be getting a hair colour treatment.   A few months ago, I started to think about whether I should decrease the occurrence of getting my hair coloured.  I am lucky in that my gray hairs are coming in gradually and not in swatches and are more dispersed throughout my head of hair.   I have been streaking my hair but not every time I get my hair cut on the six week cycle.

I happened to catch a segment of the Today Show on June 1st and there was a story about women deciding to stop colouring their hair and going gray.  Anne Kreamer was among the interviewees as she has written a book titled "Going Gray".  At the age of 49 she stopped dyeing her hair, a practice she started at 25 years of age.  Her book is about cultural shift in attitudes towards women and aging.   Some women have stopped colouring their hair because they are tired of the maintenance, applying chemicals to their scalp, the cost and the hassle of fitting in hair colour appointments with everything else and the feeling of liberation.

While out and about in the city I live in, I am taking more notice of women who have stopped dyeing their hair.  Today at the local coffee shop, a woman was sitting beside me who appeared to have gone premature gray and her hair colour was a mixture of gray with black undertones.  She had a great haircut, wore very stylish glasses and did not have pale skin.  She looked great.  I would guess that she  was in her 40's.  Another woman, likely in her mid 60's, also caught my eye.  She had grey hair in front and a bit of colour in the back.  It looked good.  What also helped in making these women look good was that they had some facial colour and were not pale in appearance.   Depending on your skin tone, you would need to adjust your wardrobe colours so that you didn't appear to be washed out.  Wearing the right colour of makeup and jewellery is also important.  

The conclusions I have made is that if you are going to stop colouring your hair or fixing your roots, you need to consider several things.  Don't go cold turkey - use highlights, low lights or other colouring tricks to see how you like the change.  If you are worried that you will look pale or washed out with gray hair,  them make changes to your make up; wear stylish glasses that have colour frames; wear a shorter hair cut and make sure you have a good cut; wear clothes that have more colour and carry yourself with confidence.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Slow cookers can be used to cook a number of different kinds of foods besides stews, soups and roasts.  I use mine to make porridge and I cook it overnight so that when I get up in the morning, breakfast is already made.  The two recipes I have included below both make big batches of porridge and it lasts for the week in the fridge.  I heat up a bowl of porridge in the microwave.  

These two recipes are a bit different from each other and if I had to choose my favorite, I would go for the second recipe - oatmeal with fruit, nuts and spice.  When I made this recipe I did not have all of the amounts of steel cut oats and cranberries so I used old fashioned rolled oats to make up the 2 cups and I didn't have a full cup of cranberries so I added raisins to make up one cup.  It worked out fine.  This second recipe is my preferred choice as I like chopped nuts and cranberries in my porridge.

Crock Pot Porridge


½ cup cracked wheat
1 ½ cups steel cut oats
½ cup rye flakes
½ cup brown rice
¼ cup wheat germ
6 ½ cups water or combination of rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, regular milk
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped dates
1 ½ tbsp vanilla
pinch of nutmeg


Place all of the ingredients in a crock pot.  Cover and cook overnight at the low temperature setting.   Serves 8.

From The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook

Slow Cooker Fruit, Nuts, and Spice Oatmeal
2 cups steel cut oats
2 cups diced apple
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups water
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons butter

1.              Combine the oats, apple, cranberries, almonds, pecans, water, milk, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and butter in a slow cooker. Cook on Low overnight or 8 hours.  Serves 8.