Archive for May, 2008

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Summer sports

May 9, 2008

The ice cream picture, as promised:(I like my PYREX). As you can see, I have been enjoying a couple spoonfuls every few nights! There’s not too much left now. The next random food that I make will hopefully be more interesting than a white blob (even successful recipes like my butter and ice cream can look boring and unappetizing, unfortunately. But I assure you that they taste great!).

Tuesday was, sadly, my very last day of bellydancing. I was planning on taking the intermediate classes but they decided to cancel the next course. So no luck there. I was incredibly disappointed but I’m trying to look at it in the optimistic light that now I get to try out something new! The only “dancing” I’d done before these classes was ballet when I was about 4 years old, but I have learned from the bellydancing that even though I’m not all that graceful, I really enjoy dancing. The big decision now is what new activity to take up. Should I try another form of dance? Or should I try out some kind of martial art (something I’ve always wanted to do)? I won’t be starting anything up for another month or so, at least, I think (the combination of boot camp and the Action Hero Workout is quite enough to keep me on my toes at the moment!), but that doesn’t mean I can’t start looking! Hit me up with ideas and suggestions. Anything you’ve tried and enjoyed? Anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t gotten around to?
I was very excited last night when the boyfriend invited me to play tennis with him and his friend. I think I’ve played tennis once in my life, years ago. I hated it. My family used to own badminton racquets, too, which I also disliked very strongly (I seriously lack in hand-eye coordination and when I was younger I found it incredibly frustrating). But he enjoys tennis, and it was time to try playing the sport again and see if I liked it this time around.
They were patient teachers, luckily, and taught me the basics of tennis and how to stand and swing and the angle in which to do so. They explained how to judge where the ball will land, and from their tips and advice I managed to get some rallying back and forth going. I’m not much of a server and I hit the ball a little bit too hard (its surprising how little power and force you need for that ball to go far!), but I had a really good time with it! So when I go to buy my new walking shoes (the current shoes are beginning to fall apart, sadly), I think I will also pick up a cheap racquet and join the boys on some of their games. I’m so happy to discover that I enjoy tennis after all of these years! But I think that I’ll stay away from my other nemesis, volleyball, for a little while longer. I’m not quite ready to give that one another shot.
What will you be bringing from the storage closet now that spring/summer are on the way? Swimming goggles? Bikes? Baseball bats? Share your favourites!
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Butter Recipe!

May 7, 2008

Because I am very fond of sharing, here is the butter recipe that I used, complete with “after” pictures (I didn’t think to do a “before” shot of the whipping cream sitting in the food processor. Maybe next time). There’s a surprising number of butter recipes on the Internet if you start looking around, and this one seemed the most straight-forward. I’m not much of a cook so I tend to go straight for simplicity when it comes to recipes!

How To Make Butter

Fill a food processor with 2 cups of whipping cream and blend for an extremely long amount of time; I blended it for a good half an hour. First it’s supposed to become sloshy, then frothy, then it turns into soft whipped cream, which becomes gradually firmer and more coarse. Mine didn’t get very coarse, but I’m uncertain as to if that’s because my whipping cream had stabilizers in it (the recipe said preferably without stabilizers), or if I didn’t blend it enough, or if I blended it too much. More experimentation on that front will be required to extract the reasoning for the lack of coarseness.
After the cream gets quite firm, the whirring changes to sloshing and you can see a distinct separation between the butter globbed around the outside and the buttermilk in the bottom of the food processor. Drain the buttermilk. Then add 1/2 cup of ice-cold water to the butter and blend it for a little while; drain the water and repeat a couple more times until the wash water is clear. Once that’s completed, dump the butter into a bowl and knead it with a potato masher to squeeze out all of the excess water; drain it in between the mashing. And it’s ready! I rolled mine in waxed paper and keep it in the fridge, but you can also put yours in a butter crock. Mmm, large hunk of butter.
You can also add a few pinches of salt before working it, but I kept mine salt-free. It might add a bit more flavour, so depending on what you’re planning on using the butter for (either as a flavour enhancer or just for use in baking etc), that might be a better option. I don’t eat much butter in the way of on my bread and that type of thing but I tried some of this butter on banana bread and it was pretty good- you could definitely still use this just like regular butter.
The butter slices really nicely and is perfect for baking with. I haven’t tried using it in cooking (such as frying or something), but if/when I do I’ll let you all know how it turns out! So this is what my butter looks like:
All rolled up in wax paper:

A nice big lump of butter:

And (somewhat) unwrapped:

I was running late this morning, or I would have also taken a photo of the vanilla ice cream I made, too. I will be sure to do so in the near future! Unfortunately the no-bake peanut butter cookies are all eaten so the next time I make a batch of those I’ll photograph it for you all.

I was feeling quite camera-happy, so in addition to photographing the butter, my cat Sage and I decided to pose for you all! Enjoy.

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Devouring Books

May 5, 2008

Charlotte is trying to kill me! Just kidding. This month her supercool new fitness experiment is the Action Hero Workout, and as she kindly invited all of us to jump on board I happily opted to join in the ranks. Because clearly doing boot camp three times a week isn’t enough!

Well. I have completed the first two (brutally intense) parts of the workout. I’m halfway through. My body is suggesting that it has done quite enough squats and lunges from earlier today at boot camp, thank you very much. But the day is still young! I am determined to complete this workout by the end of today. And hopefully I will manage to keep it up three times a week in addition to the boot camp. Gotta love a good challenge!

My curiosity is piqued when it comes to the rave reviews that food items such as Kashi products seem to be getting from all angles. I’ve got a “75 cents off!” coupon for Kashi granola bars and so I decided to take a look at the nutrition information for the product that they were promoting; the Cherry Dark Chocolate Chewy Granola Bar. The ingredient list is as follows (from their website):

Kashi Seven Whole Grains & SesameĀ® Blend (Whole: Hard Red Winter Wheat, Oats, Rye, Barley, Triticale, Long Grain Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Brown Rice Syrup, Cherries (Red Tart Cherries, Apple Juice Concentrate), Dark Chocolate (Evaporated Cane Juice, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals, Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Grits, Chicory Root Fiber, Corn Flour, Honey, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Rice Starch, Vegetable Glycerin, Oat Fiber, Evaporated Salt, Molasses, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Peanut Flour, Almond Flour, Whey, Annatto Color.

In terms of nutrients, the packaging boasts 4 grams of fibre per bar and 5 grams of protein. But for vitamins and minerals, all it’s got is a measly 6% of daily iron intake. It’s great to see that there’s no hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup, but I’m a little disappointed by what I’ve learned about these bars. Brown rice syrup is the second ingredient on the list. It’s got even more sugar in the way of evaporated cane juice, honey, and molasses. And the amount of iron is very small, in addition to the lack of other vitamins and minerals.

I must confess that I do not understand the love affair with Kashi. It looks like it’s a slightly less processed version of any other granola bar. But if you think otherwise, do defend the Kashi! (like I said, my curiosity is piqued, and even though I’m doing my best to stay away from processed foods, I’m also somewhat looking for an excuse to give these a small taste-test and see what the fuss is all about:)).

And now, to celebrate the beginning of the week, I present you with yet more books! Books books books:

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
At long last, I have read this book! And now I finally understand why it’s such a bestseller. Not only is his writing style brilliant, but Pollan really knows what he’s talking about and his in-depth explanation of his philosophy (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) is laid out in a very engaging, comprehensive way. If you’re reading Real Food, then this book complements it beautifully. I read them at the same time and much of what Pollan and Planck discuss overlaps. And, as with Planck’s book, nearly the entire time I was reading In Defense of Food I wanted to jump up and down excitedly and exclaim “This is me! This is what I’m trying to do!”. The timing for my non-processed project and for reading this book was perfect.

Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal: An A-Z Guide to Safe and Healthy Eating
This book is an encyclopedia of food. It’s got everything from sections on Shellfish to Food Poisoning to Hives to Mayonnaise to Nectarines. Discussing the benefits and drawbacks of food, and what foods to eat plenty of/limit/avoid for different disorders, this book is a wealth of information. And it’s get pretty pictures too! (Yes, yes I do like my pictures).

Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Living Well While Living It Up by Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS
If you were browsing through the bookstore and saw a bright pink book with a woman perched inside a martini glass on the front cover, would you have been able to resist opening up said book? (Yeah, I have a weakness for interesting covers). This was a cute book to read and made some good points/offered helpful tips for enjoying life while staying healthy. Most of what it recommends is tips that you could find in any health magazine/book, but they’re still useful to know and you get the pleasure of reading them from a glossy pink book with some pretty illustrations throughout. Because it’s a book for the party-girl, it has some very useful information regarding alcohol choices, what to do for hang-overs, a list of “splurge vs. solutions” (such as trading homemade hot chocolate for Starbucks hot chocolate), and advice for when PMS and other ailments hit. However, Blum is very pro-supplementation, which I’m not too keen on, although she does offer a thorough explanation behind different types of supplements and which ones are useful for various problems.

Libations of Life: A Girl’s Guide to Life One Cocktail at a Time by Dee Brun
(I promise I’m not an alcoholic!). This is one of the cutest bartending drinks I’ve ever come across. Silly pictures with tidbits of advice scatter the pages in between dozens of drink recipes- it would make for a cute birthday present. The drinks have interesting names like “I’m going to leave him Martini with a slice of dignity” and “I hope you get caught in a Mudslide” and the “He called me by his ex’s name On The Rocks with a splash of uncomfortable silence”. I have yet to actually make any of these recipes, but next week is my friends 20th birthday so perhaps we will break in the book then! And I will report back on the taste factor. P.S. This classifies as a sort-of health book because it has a “Trim the back fat” chapter, which uses “healthier” alcoholic recipes.

The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl by Shauna Reid
Yes! The book that I won from one of MizFit’s Friday Freebies has arrived at last! This is one of my new favourite books. I loved it. It’s all about DietGirls real-life story about her weight-loss journey over a period of seven years (go check out her blog!). A very inspiring, funny story that I’d recommend to anyone.

So there you have it; that’s it for this slew of books. Now it’s your turn! Any good books to recommend (or to stay away from!)?

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The Butter Experiment!

May 4, 2008

Firstly, to all of you bloggers (especially Workout Mommy, MizFit, Scrumpy’s Baker, and Jay), thank you so much for the many posts that you’ve been writing recently which have encouraged/guilted me into going out and exercising. I’m not sure if I would’ve dragged myself out the door to go for a run yesterday if it hadn’t been for some of your blog posts!

And now: this week my big project was to tackle the process of making my own butter. I went out and bought myself a small container of whipping cream and then plopped it in the food processor and processed it for half an hour, vaguely following the suggestions of a recipe I found on the Internet. And- it worked!!! The cream went all sloshy and gradually became more and more firm just like the recipe said (after I managed to finally get the different parts of the food processor attached properly… which involved a lot of pouring the whipping cream back and forth into the container and re-adjusting the equipment. But at least there wasn’t cream splattering all across the kitchen cupboards this time!).

The next step was to drain the buttermilk, so I attempted this but there was very little to drain. I’m not sure if that was a result of over- or under-whipping the cream. Then I had to pour cold water into it and process it some more, draining it in between, until the water ran somewhat clear. After that I dumped the cream (it looked like the whipped butter you get in restaurants with the bread basket) into a bowl and mashed it over and over, squeezing out the last bits of water. The recipe suggested using two forks or a potato masher to squeeze out the water, and I used a potato masher which worked really well (potato mashers are also good for mashing bananas for making banana bread, by the way… I am very fond of my potato mashers).

Finally, I got out a large sheet of waxed paper and rolled up the butter in that and then stuck it in the fridge. After it had been in the fridge for a few hours it became hard and lost its whipped consistency, and turned a more white-ish colour. It kind of reminds me more of lard or shortening in its appearance than anything else. But it’s actually really good! It doesn’t have a whole lot of flavour because I didn’t add salt or anything, but the texture is just right and it slices very nicely. I tried it on a slice of bread and it was delicious. I also experimented with using it in baking to make biscuits, and it worked perfectly! And after all, that was the main reason I wanted to make the butter, was to use it for cooking and baking purposes.

I am very pleased with my butter-making results! It was an exciting if lengthy process (it probably took over an hour to mix it up in the food processor and then to wash it and then to squeeze the water out). The recipe also said not to use any cream with stabilizers but the only one I could find has carrageenan in it. Does anyone happen to know why its better to use cream without stabilizers?

If you’re a little crazy like me and would like to learn how to make butter for your own amusement, let me know and I’ll send you the recipe that I followed. Warning! It’s a nuisance to clean up afterwards. Everything gets all greasy (naturally, as it is butter we’re working with), but I just soaked everything for hours on end before I even attempted to clean all of the dishes and equipment and that helped a lot. I need to a figure out a way to be more efficient with the clean-up process of my cooking projects… somehow, I always use about 3 more bowls than is necessary and countless pieces of cutlery on top of various other kitchen equipment (not including the bits of ingredients that are adventurous enough to soar all across the kitchen while I mix and measure). But, it’s all in the name of fun and experimentation! A worthy cause indeed.

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Today’s Health Topic: Dealing with Stress!

May 1, 2008

If you ever need a really good wake-up in the morning, one of the fastest ways to do so is to park your car on a busy street between the no-parking hours in the morning. As I discovered today at 7:45am.

Last night I wasn’t sleeping at home, so this morning I woke up and trotted outside to gather up the car and drive home so I could walk to work from there. But as I ventured out onto the street, I noticed something very peculiar: the car I was driving- that is, my father’s car- was not where I had left it.

Cue freak-out: Damn! My yoga mat, 8-lbs weights, new health book and new nutrition/fitness journal are all in the car! (Just kidding. My reaction consisted more of: ohmyparentsaregoingtokillmewhatdoIdonowWHYdon’tIhavethetowingcompany’sphonenumber?!).

I raced back home, dashed up the stairs and tore through the door, very Jason Bourne style. My mum was just stepping out of the shower so I pleaded for my life through the bathroom door and then wailed, “The car got towed!”. Admittedly, not something Jason Bourne would ever have done (he’d be too busy chasing down the tow truck on his own two feet).

“WHAT!” my mum shrieked. Cringe! “The car got towed! I’m sorry! I’ll pay for it all and I’ll pay for a cab if you need to be somewhere I just don’t know how to get the car back so I just need your help with that but I’ll do all the rest!”

She came out of the bathroom looking very much relieved, and explained that she’d thought she’d heard me say that the car had been totaled. “But this isn’t like me! This is something Devin would do,” I said in distress, and then she just started laughing. (Sorry, Devin! But between me and my sister I’m the more “sensible” one- for example, I’ve never randomly bought a one-way ticket from Istanbul to Amsterdam).

I called my dad at work and thank goodness I have a policeman for a father! He managed to track down the car and calmly gave me the address of the towing company, so I called a cab and headed down there. On my way out the door my mum cheerfully reminded me to lock the door behind me at work and turn the alarm on. Ah, a mother’s sense of humour. The cab driver couldn’t hide his amused smile when I explained where I needed to be, but he was very sympathetic and got me there in record time.

There were two very grumpy people ahead of me in line at the towing company, so when it was my turn the man behind the counter looked rather bewildered as to why I had a gigantic smile on my face. “It’s nice weather, isn’t it,” he said cautiously as he sorted out the bill. We chatted happily about the sunshiny warmth and I said how pleased I was that the car wasn’t stolen- my only real concern was that I wouldn’t be able to get the car back.

So now I have paid the fine for my silly thoughtlessness (suprisingly only $75.55! I thought it would have been about five times that amount), and the car is safely returned to my dad’s parking spot. I have now learned my lesson about putting the club on the car so that I don’t have to anxiously wonder if it was stolen and I have also learned my lesson about reading signs before I park anywhere. All in all it’s been an exciting morning- not my first choice in adventures but that’s the thing about adventures; you don’t really have a choice in them! We just have to take the bad with the good and pay more attention to the no-parking zones.