Saturday, January 31, 2015


I have been thinking of making a squash carrot soup for awhile and since I had a bag of frozen, uncooked, cubed winter squash in the freezer, it was not a difficult decision to make.  If using fresh squash, you can use a vegetable peeler, peel the skin and cut the squash up into pieces.  I do have an easier tactic as one of the grocery stores I frequent sells squash already peeled and cut up into small pieces.  If I am not going to use this squash, I end up freezing it.

The soup turned out fine.  I added more broth than what the recipe calls for so it is a bit thinner than what I would have liked.  I did add more ginger after the soup was pureed.

Ready to go into the fridge.


1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 coloured pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled, chopped
3-4 cups uncooked winter squash, peeled, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
6-7 cups broth, vegetable or chicken
salt and pepper to taste


Into a large soup pot, add all of the ingredients.  Cover the pot with a lid and heat to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.   Cook for about an hour, until the vegetables are tender.  Using a hand immersion blender, puree the soup.  Serves 9.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I recently bought a book entitled "the life-changing magic of tidying up.  The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing".  It is written by Marie Kondo and has been translated from Japanese.  Along with the introduction the book has five chapters.  The author's premise is that you don't have keep tidying your house every day.  Tidying can be done once and the tasks that you need to continue for the rest of your life are those of choosing what to keep and what to discard and caring for the things you decide to keep.  Furthermore, by tidying once, you will be able to put your house in order and have the time and passion to pursue what brings you joy into your life.  The author says that when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.  You have to first start by discarding what you really don't need and then organizing your space.

You might be wondering why I bought this book and if I am a messy untidy person.  I think I am tidy and try to not collect too many piles of papers or books at home.  But it is all relative based on who I am comparing myself to.  I am also conscious of not trying to saving everything.  What caught my attention when looking at this book at the bookstore was chapter 3 on tidying by category.  I started to read the pages on how to fold clothes and store socks.  I was intrigued.  The author feels that the inside of your drawers should be organized so that the each item can be seen at a glance, just like seeing the spines of your books when they are lined up on your bookcase.  Clothes in your drawer should be stored standing and it is not the folding that creates wrinkles but the amount of pressure applied that causes wrinkling. The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a smooth, simple rectangle.  Every piece of clothing has its own sweet spot in terms of the number of folds.  I love tee shirts and have written about tee shirts in a previous post  how many tee shirts should you own?   I have several drawers of tee shirts and the tee shirts are separated by whether they are short sleeve or long sleeve and colours.  The tee shirts are all nicely folded but are stacked, and are not stored in the drawers standing up.  You can bet already that I will be rearranging my tee shirt drawers.

Chapter 3 also contains information on storing socks.  Besides tee shirts,  I also love socks.  I store my socks in the drawer by rolling them up and fold the tops back to form a flat ball.  The author write that socks should not be balled-up.  Storing them in the drawer is a time for them to rest.  Your socks are essentially on holiday.  When you wear your socks they endure pressure and friction.  If you store your socks balled-up, the fabric is stretched, the elastic is pulled and they never get the chance to relax.  This make perfect sense to me.  The socks are folded like clothing and are stored with the socks on their edge.  I spent 45 minutes today unwrapping my socks and storing them folded on their edge.  I also separated the socks based on winter and summers weight and whether they were fine socks intended to wear with dress shoes.  I realized doing this that I have a lot of socks, likely too many socks.  And I like every pair of them.  

The book contains other interesting information from arranging clothes in your closet, to arranging books on your book case, to designating a spot for each of your items, to appreciating your belongings, and to learning that you can do without.  Since I have been reading the book in a non sequential manner, I will start to read it from beginning to end.  It is not a big book both in size and page numbers so it should not take me long to read it.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


I do find a difference in taste using freshly made pasta versus the dry packaged varieties.  I was at an Italian restaurant recently and they sell fresh pasta that they make on the premises. You can buy it and take it home to use for your own dishes.  I didn't even have pasta that night at the restaurant.  They have a number of entrees in which pasta is not included.  I bought 8 ounces of uncooked linguine to use for the following evening meal.  Since I had cooked shrimp in the fridge I thought I would create a simple dish using the pasta and the shrimp.  It was well received by the DH and he definitely liked this pasta dish versus the ones I have sometimes created using black bean pasta.  You can make this recipe using dried pasta and it would be just as good.  As I had about two tablespoons of an artichoke dip left in a container in the fridge, I added this to the pasta dish at the end.

Shrimp and spinach in the frying pan.

Fresh pasta cooking away.

I added two tablespoons of this dip to the pasta and shrimp while still in the frying pan.

Finished dish, ready to be served.


8 ounces uncooked pasta such as linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp oil
several handfuls of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp fresh dill. chopped
20 medium size cooked shrimped, shelled
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chunky artichoke dip, optional


Boil a medium size pot with salted water, with enough water to cook pasta.  Add the pasta, reduce the heat to medium and cooked to al dente.  Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water in case it is needed later in the recipe.

While the pasta is cooking, add the oil to a non-stick frying pan and heat on high. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for a few minutes.  Add the spinach and cook it until it is wilted.  Add the shrimp, dill and lemon juice to the frying pan. Cook for a few minutes.  If the mixture appears dry, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to  taste.

Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and using thongs, mix the pasta with the shrimp and spinach.  Add the chunky artichoke dip.  Combine and remove the pan from the stove.  Serves 2 to 3.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


I came across this recipe in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper.  The story wasn't focussed as much on the muffins but the person who makes these muffins - Kathleen Edwards. She is a singer-songwriter who has opened up her own coffee shop.  These muffins are quick to make and you can add items to them based on your preferences - from bananas to nuts to dried fruit to frozen berries to coconut.  The recipe calls for applesauce.  The only applesauce I had was frozen so I substituted cranberry sauce that I had made earlier in the week.  I also added shredded unsweetened coconut to the recipe.  One ingredient made me pause.  The recipe calls for two tablespoons of vanilla extract.  I would think it would have been two teaspoons but I followed the recipe and added the tablespoons.  The muffins tasted fine with that amount of vanilla extract.  Instead of sugar I used 1/3 cup of splenda.  I used regular bran instead of the red bran that the recipe calls for.  The muffins taste healthy.


1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup red bran
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
dash of salt

2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup almond milk. Add a tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let curdle for five minutes before adding to the wet ingredients.


Combine the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula.  Choose one to three of the following items to add to the mixed batter: 2 to 3 ripe mashed ripe bananas; 1/4 cup dried and diced dates, apricots, cranberries, raisins, cranberries, frozen berries, seeds, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.  Combine your choice into the batter.   Add batter to non-stick muffin tin.  I like to use muffin paper liners to make it easier to lift the muffins out of the individual muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes.  Makes 12 to 14 muffins.