food sourcing.

Huzzah! A blog post!

I was not having a good week last week. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and was feeling really, really run down. My sister, A, happened to call which was very exciting in and of itself, since she currently lives in Melbourne and the time difference makes it hard for us to talk much. When I told her how I was feeling, she didn’t really respond with the usual, you have to take care of yourself and work less etc., she asked me if I was eating properly. I realized that I wasn’t really eating properly. Apparently, sometimes it takes your YOUNGER sister to take care of you!

Though it doesn’t take just eating better to make life better, she totally had a point and so in the last few days, we’ve been eating better. Instead of toast and crackers for every meal: Homemade fish tacos! Mushroom and broccoli pasta! Stir fry! Actual breakfast! And I’ll be darned if I don’t feel better.

The crazy thing about A’s suggestion is that lately, I’ve had sourcing good food down to an art these days, so it was weird that I wasn’t taking advantage. And that’s the real point of this rambling post: acquiring good food. Back when I wasn’t running my own business and N’s wasn’t as busy as it is now, we never worried about what was for dinner much. We’d decided what we wanted between the two of us through texts and either N or I would pick up what we didn’t already have to make dinner happen. Fast forward to a few months ago: it’s no secret that going back to school and starting your own businesses mean budgeting. But, especially because N is in food industry and because we’re sorta tree huggers around here, we want to get food from the best places we can.

About two years ago we started buying an eighth of a cow at once from a farmer outside Vancouver with a group of other people. The quality, and might I add price (in a good way), of the meat was unparalleled. We’d also pilfer my parents’ freezer on trips back to the motherland for any venison they didn’t need. (This year, there’s been no venison because my poor dad spent much of the autumn sick and eventually in the hospital, but I digress and he’s well on the way to getting back to his regular hockey playing, deer hunting self.) N’s mom would also help us out by bringing bacon and other delicious pork products when she came to visit from the local butcher near their cabin. All that meant that we had to buy an apartment-sized deep freeze a couple years back, but I think in the money we’ve saved from buying/acquiring meat this way has paid for it already. We still haven’t found a great source for chicken, but a friend recently mentioned that she’s found someone so that may change soon.

That left the rest of our food. (I’m a good Albertan: meat first.) As our budget has gotten tighter, we’ve taken to buying a large amount of groceries less often. We found that that ultimately brought our grocery bill down because we were planning our purchases a bit better. It also meant that we didn’t have to go to the grocery store often, a place I really hate. A few weeks ago, we signed up for Green Earth Organics, a service that delivers produce to us once per week. N had GEO back when he lived with five other dudes in a house, and though it seemed a little bit decadent to me to have someone bring us produce, I’m now totally sold. Unpacking that box is definitely the highlight of my Thursday (unless, you know, I have actual plans on Thursday night other than watching reruns of Star Trek on Netflix or, gulp, working). One of the best things about having produce delivered is that I don’t have to go to the grocery store very often now at all AND, more importantly, I think we’re saving money because we’re more aware of the food we have and because it’s fresher, it lasts longer, so way less gets wasted. I’m a total convert.

Having a freezer full of meat and produce taken care of has turned me a little bit into one of those extreme couponing people, except without the coupons. Now I’m all about putting a grocery list together throughout the month (yes, the month) and then shopping for the rest of our stuff on 10% off Tuesday (including, OceanWise fish, just in case you were wondering if I’d forgotten that other, other white meat). That’s right, me and the old ladies, with their orthopedic shoes and grocery trolleys, battle it out on the first Tuesday of the month to fill our pantry. Life is better when I don’t have to worry about what’s happening for dinner.* We just open the freezer, pantry and fridge and make something, because we know what we have good stuff. I think our system has saved us some decent cash and has definitely saved me annoying trips to the grocery store. We run out of eggs, milk and cheese more often than monthly, but that’s all available at the drug store two blocks from our place, so it works out to be a pretty good system. So, just in case ya wanted to know, there is the way we do groceries.** Got any tips yourself?

*Truth be told, I’ve never worried much about what we’re having for dinner, since N is the cook in our household. When I’m by myself though, I do worry and since N does a lot of the coking, I don’t really mind being the grocery scout.

**I always feel weird writing posts like these … like who cares about how anyone gets groceries, but I care! For some reason I LOVE reading other people’s tricks for this kind of stuff, so I figured, why not? Now that I’m not blogging here more often, but am updating my professional website pretty frequently, I figure that this blog is going to become more of a diary for me anyway, so you may get more and more stuff like this.

the best pumpkin pie. ever.

I love pumpkin pie. I start thinking about it in September and practically count down the days until Thanksgiving, so that I can eat as much of it as possible.

I’ve made a pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving for the last several and none of them have been quite right. Well, Thanksgiving is more than a month behind us but this year’s pie was finally right, thanks to my friend Eve‘s recipe. I made one little tweak to her recipe, to suit my own taste (see the brandy section), but otherwise the recipe is the same.

Since American Thanksgiving is a few days away, I thought I’d finally post this. We’re doing a Thanksgiving repeat this weekend because some of our friends were away for the meal we had at our apartment and I’m going to make this all over again. I only hope it’s as good as I thought it was last month!

Brandied (or Whisky-ed) Pumpkin Pie (via Eve Rockett, via The Vancouver Sun)

Pastry for a 9 inch single pie crust (I used this recipe to make my crust.)

1 (398 ml) can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 l/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
l/2 tsp. salt
l/2 tsp. ground ginger
l/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
l/4 cup brandy (I used whiskey instead and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.)

Whipped cream for garnish

Line pie plate with pastry. Trim pastry and leave a l inch overhang. Fold overhang under, pinch to form high fluted edge.

In large bowl beat pumpkin, milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg with mixer at low speed. Blend until well mixed. Stir in brandy.

Place pie pate on bottom oven rack; pour pumpkin mixture into shell. Bake at 400 F for 35 minutes. Cover pastry edges with foil if pastry browns too quickly.)

Reduce heat to 325F and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool pie completely on rack. Refrigerate. Before serving, garnish with whipped cream.

Makes eight servings.

P.S. I’m not abandoning, this blog … really I’m not! It’s just that things have been wonderfully busy around here and it’s unfortunately not the priority it once was. I’m hopeful that I’ll be back here more soon, but I’m not really into forcing myself into something that is supposed to be for fun, anyway.

garlic scape pesto.

Ever since I saw this post on reading my tea leaves, I’ve been wanting to try garlic scape pesto, so when I saw garlic scapes at the farmers’ market a week ago I jumped on them. (They were cheap, to boot!) On the recommendation of the guy who sold them to me I added some sunflower seeds which I toasted with some almonds. I also added some basil because it’s delicious! They combined into a delicious paste which I can’t get enough of. Seriously. Best. Thing. Ever.

Update: Um, ya, an actual recipe would be good … (Thanks for pointing that out Megan!)

a handful of almonds {roasted a bit in olive oil}
a half handful of sunflower seeds {roasted a bit in olive oil}
a handful of chopped basil
a half to a full cup of olive oil
10 or 12 garlic scapes
a handful of grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Blend in a blender or similar. Makes enough for a double serving of pasta and a jar of leftovers for anything else you like.

strawberry rhubarb cobbler.

Pretty much the only thing I don’t love about summer is that it’s usually too hot to turn the oven on for any reason. Since it might actually almost be summer now in Vancouver (it has been a cold and wet year) I figured I’d use what could be my last chance to bake something to make a cobbler last night. We went to the farmer’s market on Sunday and bought strawberries and rhubarb, which in my opinion are the best two ingredients for cobbler. I used the Williams Sonoma Blackberry Cobbler recipe, but substituted the fruit, obviously. It was tart and delicious and a great treat on a warm-ish night!

a month’s sabbatical from alcohol.

{Photo via Flickr user Xipe Totec39.}

I mentioned at the beginning of January that I wasn’t going to drink that month. Well, six weeks later, I thought I would let you know how it went. I decided to quit because late last year I read a couple of articles that encouraged me to try not drinking for a month (one of which you can read here). I also had my own reasons. I few too many times last fall, I’d wake up hungover after a night of having a couple of drinks, something that didn’t used to make me hungover. I certainly have never thought that I was in trouble with alcohol, but I did look forward to a drink more than I wanted to. (Especially on Friday after work.) So I decided it was time to re-calibrate myself, so to speak.

Once I really committed to it, it wasn’t too hard not to drink all month. There were challenging points though: when I first arrived at a party and everyone else was opening a beer or pouring a glass of wine, I really wanted to join them. I would fill a glass of water though, so that I had something in my hands, and by the time they were having their second drink, I was fine. It helped that I told most of my close friends and family what was going on so that they didn’t offer to pour me a drink during the month.

In the end, giving up alcohol for a month wasn’t some sort of epiphany or life changing experience for me. I did notice some interesting things during my month off from alcohol though. For the most part, my mood was more even and after a few weeks of not drinking, I noticed that I felt much more well-rested in the mornings. But I didn’t really find anything that could melt away the end-of-week stress like a glass of Malbec.

Lots of good has come out of it though. I’m back to where I was when I started drinking at 18, which is a total light-weight (I was one of those nerdy people who was the designated driver all through high school, something I definitely don’t regret). One drink now makes me very cheerful and I now probably won’t have more than two (I tried three last Saturday and it made me much more tipsy than I’d like). I feel like I’m in control of what I drink and feel a lot more confident about saying no to drink offers at gatherings and dinners.

All in all, I’m really glad that I gave up drinking for a month. It gave me lots of time to think about it, saved me a little cash and re-calibrated my body a little bit. It’s something that I think I’d like to do once a year or so.


If you’re interested in taking a break from drinking, here are a few things that helped me:
• Tell the people around you what you’re up to because they’ll be less likely to rib you about not drinking and won’t offer to pour you a glass of wine on your arrival to their house.
• When everyone around you is drinking, get a glass of water, a cup of tea or anything non-alcoholic in your hand to sip on. It gives you something to do with your hands and helps prevent ever-so-kind party-goers from saying: ‘Oh, do you need a drink? I’m up, I’ll get you one.’
• Hold yourself accountable by being accountable to someone else. It really helped me that Nick was in support of what I was doing. I think it meant that he drank less in January too, but I knew that if I did drink in January, I wouldn’t be the only one who knew about it! Also, though I’m sure very few of you noticed the note on my blog about my intentions, having it out there really helped hold me accountable.