Days 7 and 8: Maple Soy Salmon and Favourite Subject in School

Oy, I have been so busy lately that I didn’t get around to posting yesterday’s 14 Day Challenge Question, so I’m playing catch up today.

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This is a recipe that we use all the time. We’ve used this marinade for salmon, chicken, and tofu. It’s super easy, and makes your protein so tasty.

Mamaetmaman’s Maple Soy Marinade:

2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper (however much you want)
1 clove of pressed garlic (optional)

Combine all of your marinate ingredients in a large closable container. Add your protein of choice and marinate accordingly. For salmon, we usually marinate for up to an hour. For chicken and cubed tofu we often marinate overnight.

After marinating, cover a baking dish with aluminum foil (makes for easy clean up) and place your protein on the foil. Bake accordingly. For salmon, we bake at 375F for 18 minutes. For chicken and tofu, we bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

Serve on a bed of jasmine rice, and garnish with some cilantro. Enjoy!

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Favourite Subject in School

As a kid living in an abusive home, I loved school. School was a place where I was safe. It was where there were adults who treated me with respect and warmth. It was where I had control over what was happening to me. To this day, I wonder if any of my teachers or guidance counsellors knew what I was dealing with at home. As a teacher myself, I wonder if being a survivor would make me more in tune with the subtle clues that a child is being abused at home? I hope so.

Anyways, I enjoyed all of the courses I took in high school, except ONE. I hated Social Studies. For some reason, remembering tedious details about events and dates in history didn’t interest me. Colouring maps and learning about Canada’s young history also bored me. To this day, I get my news filtered for me through DW, who basically reads the news from every single major Canadian newspaper everyday. I got A+’s in everything, except grade 9 Social Studies, in which I got a B+. A “B+” is also known as an “Asian Fail” (that’s a joke by the way). It’s also the type of thing that ruins an entire report card for an obsessive compulsive perfectionist like myself.

My favourite subjects in high school were Chemistry, Physics, Math, and English. Chemistry, Physics, and Math just made sense to me. I loved English because I had a passion for reading and writing, and loved analyzing pieces of literature for symbolism and hidden meanings.

When I got to university, my best subjects were math and physics, because at some point, I started to spend a little too much time chasing girls and being a little riot dyke to study or do my homework.

Oh university. Those were the days.

Day 2: Dinner

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DW and I love good food, but dining out can be kind of tricky with my Celiac issues. Generally, we stick to asian restaurants (less gluten dishes), vegetarian/vegan/raw restaurants (because they tend to be more gluten-conscious), or dedicated gluten-free places. Mostly though, we cook at home. We keep it fun and fresh by making special trips to farmers markets or organic butchers with a meal in mind. I also bake a lot, as trying new gluten-free recipes is a hobby of mine, and I must say, my homemade baked goods are better than anything that I’ve tried in a store. Recently, I’ve been on a cornbread kick.

We both like all types of cultural food too, which I’m grateful for. We have friends who are strictly into “North American” food, and it is difficult to coordinate dinners out anywhere other than at a pub or chain restaurant. There’s this awesome Caribbean restaurant in a super shady part of town and I’m craving their chicken curry with rice and beans right now. We love Indian food, but have to watch out for gluten contamination. I have yet to find an Indian place in Toronto that I can trust to have gluten-free dishes. Damn, I’m craving Chana masala right now.

The last time we went out for dinner was our date night. It was about 12 days ago, and we’re due for another dinner out soon- maybe Valentine’s Day? We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts and special whooing, but it’s kind of fun going out for dinner and seeing all sorts of awkwardness as people in various stages of relationships try to romance each other.

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Juno the Dog’s Adventure in Chocolateland

Juno, our husky/lab/retriever mix is an exceptionally beautiful dog.

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Gorgeous right?

However, being part ravenous food monster Labrador retriever, she is also a gluttonous pig that is fixated on food, despite pretending not to be looking. She has her favourites, of course:

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These items should never be left on the table within reach of the dog!

But generally, she doesn’t go after our food. We can set a plate of dinner on the ottoman in front of the couch (knee height), and leave the room, confident that neither dog will touch it. We can drop food accidentally on the ground, and neither dog will approach it (unless given the “okay” command). Overall, we have very good dogs who we can leave unattended, and come home to nothing missing or destroyed.

That is, until yesterday….

When I came home after a long day of appointments and grocery shopping, and NO DOGS CAME TO GREET ME AT THE DOOR. This is highly unusual, so I knew something was up. (Juno experiences copious amounts of self-inflicted shame when she does something bad, and her guilt causes her to hide and not make eye contact with us.) I looked around, and found a crumpled sheet of used parchment paper, and then I remembered.

I had made a tray of very scrumptious gluten-free fudgy brownies two days before, and because they’re so decadent, DW and I had been chipping away at them slowly.

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You can find the recipe here.

Normally, we place things like this out of reach, but because I was in such a rush yesterday (slept in remember?), I left the remaining brownies on the kitchen table.

Well, she must’ve gotten into them, because not a crumb remained. Even the knife used to cut them was completely cleaned off.

Of course you all know that chocolate is very toxic to dogs, so after the initial shock and disappointment, I started to worry- how much had she eaten? Is she going to be sick? How toxic is chocolate really? And then I found this dog-chocolate-toxicity-meter. And not knowing how much Juno weighs, or how much brownie actually remained, I kind of guessed a bunch of parameters, and input those values. I subsequently called DW, freaking out.

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But while talking to DW, got more accurate values, and got this:

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The dog looked fine. She wasn’t panting, or acting weird at all. Actually, her and her little sister started begging for their dinner… At 3:30pm!

So we left it at that, and took them for a nice off-leash hike at the conservation area. Juno was fine, but no fudge poops to be seen yet.

And then this morning at 6am, she barked at the door desperately (unusual, as she usually sleeps in until we get up). I let her into the backyard, and hoping she had a nice big chocolately poop. I haven’t checked yet though.

So far she seems fine. I think the cocoa threat has passed. She is sleeping like a tipped cow in the living room, still getting up every 30 minutes to bark at someone on the street.

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I’m extremely pleased that Juno doesn’t share her steals with her little sister Clementine. The last thing I need is to try to induce vomiting in a chihuahua-pug with very sharp teeth!

Lesson learned: Don’t leave food on the kitchen counter, especially when in a rush to leave the house! That dog can’t be trusted!

Recipe Trade Off: Thai Red Curry

This lovely blogger , Ms. Bosmalife nominated me for a recipe trade off that she started.

Here are the Rules:
*Once you are nominated by someone for the recipe trade off*

-link the person who nominated you
-then upload your recipe.
-include a picture if possible.
-than link other bloggers (let’s aim for 5-10)

Recipe: Thai Red Curry
The recipe I’m sharing is what I made for dinner tonight. It’s a really easy recipe, that I use whenever I have a bunch of vegetables that I need to use up. I usually have my pantry stocked with a couple of cans of coconut milk, as well as a few jars of this red curry paste.

This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. It can also be made to be vegetarian and vegan by omitting the chicken and fish sauce.

You will notice that I cook my chicken separately from my curry (some people cook it in their curry). This is because I don’t like overcooked chicken, and I have more control over it if I pan fry it separately.

Ingredients:
– a 400mL can of coconut milk
– 2 tbsps of Thai Red Curry Paste
– 2 tbsps of fish sauce
– 2 tbsps of maple syrup (or brown sugar)
– 1/3 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
– a large handful of cilantro, chopped and separated into stems and into leaves
– Any veggies that you have on hand (I used cauliflower, carrot, zucchini, red pepper), cut up into bite sized pieces.
Nice veggies to use are: red peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, broccoli, and onions.
– 6 ounces of chicken (serves two), can substitute tofu or tempeh if vegetarian

Instructions:
1. Cut up your veggies into bite-sized pieces.

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2. Melt the solid portion of the coconut milk in a medium sized pot. After it is melted, add the remainder of the can.
3. Stir in the two tablespoons of the curry paste.

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4. Add cilantro stems into the pot and let simmer for a minute.
5. Add 2 tbsps fish sauce, 2 tbsp maple syrup, and 1/3 of a cup of chicken broth (could be vegetable broth). Stir.
6. Different vegetables require different cooking durations, so add in your heartier vegetables now, cover, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

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While you wait, grease a frying pan and cook your chicken. If using tofu or tempeh, you can add it into the curry pot now. When the chicken is done, set it aside on a plate.

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6. Add the less hearty veggies (red pepper, zucchini) into the curry, and simmer for another two to five minutes, or until tender.
7. Dish out a bowl of white rice, add the cooked chicken to the serving plate, and a generous ladle of red curry. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro leaves.

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Nominations:
My Perfect Breakdown
Reciprocal Love
Solo Mama
Expecting to Be Expecting
Her Egg My Nest

Sorry if things don’t look quite right, I typed this up on my iPhone.

Happiness Cycle Days 17 & 18: Yard Work

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My wife juggling clementines (the fruit, not the dog) yesterday morning.

Today has been unseasonably warm (10 degrees Celsius), so we spent the majority of the day outside cleaning up our yard and putting up our exterior Christmas lights. By “cleaning up” I mean bringing things in for the winter, taking down trellises, pulling up dead summer vegetable plants, sucking up leaves, draining our four rain barrels, and my favourite, harvesting some fall veggies.

Right now, our lacinato and curly green kale, brussel sprouts, Jerusalem artichoke, and leeks are still doing great. Everything else is dead or wilted, and needs to be pulled out of the ground.

I had fun harvesting some baby brussel sprouts which we just had with our dinner. I sauté them with some butter, garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and broth.

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I also dug up some Jerusalem artichoke (or sun choke) tubers, kind of archaeological dig style. They were washed, peeled, and chopped up, then roasted with some bacon crumbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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Sun chokes are very high in inulin, which is a type of insoluble fibre, and is less likely to spike insulin than potatoes.

Speaking of potatoes, I also harvested a bunch of our giant leeks to make bacon potato leek soup.

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These leeks are from seeds from last year’s crop, and DW did a wonderful job getting them started this year. They are super thick, and have gorgeous long blanched stems.

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Bacon potato leek soup- super tasty!

Today has been a high carb day for me, as we started off our day with some gluten-free pancakes. Tomorrow, I’m back to my regular diet, but for now, I’m enjoying the sugar high.

3 more days until embryo transfer!

Grain-Free (and Low-Carb) Almond Shortbread Cookies

These cookies turned out great. The texture is different from traditional shortbread, but if you bake them until they’re golden brown, they have a similar crunch. The dough is very crumbly to work with, so you really do need to chill the dough for a good amount of time. The cookies are very crumbly, so eat them over a plate with a nice cup of tea!

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The original recipe was for a lemon shortbread, and can be found here.

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons of melted butter
2 cups of almond flour
1/3 cup of granulated sweetener (I used Splenda)
1 tsp almond extract
0.5 tsp vanilla extract

How to make them:

1. Mix your almond flour and sweetener in one bowl and melted butter and extracts in another bowl.
2. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
3. Lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap (Saran Wrap or Cling Wrap) on your work surface, and carefully transfer your mixture onto it. Your “dough” will be very crumbly. This is normal.
4. Using the plastic wrap, roll your dough into a long cylinder, with the diameter you’d like for your cookies. Wrap it fully.
5. Chill your dough in the fridge for at least two hours, until firm. If they are not firm, they will crumble as you try to cut them.
6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or bake right on an ungreased cookie sheet), and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (I have a gas oven so I bake a bit higher at 360 degrees).
7. Remove your dough from the fridge, and cut into the thickness that you want your cookies. I cut mine to a thickness of about 0.5 an inch, which yielded 16 cookies. Lay onto prepared cookie sheet. They don’t really expand, so they can be spaced close together if you need to.
8. Pop them into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until you achieve a golden brown colour. Mine didn’t get too golden on top, but when the bottom half did, I took them out because I didn’t want the nut flour to burn.
9. Take them out of the oven and let cool completely on the cookie sheet before handling.
10. Eat over a plate, as they are delicious, but crumbly!

Happiness Cycle Day 10- Good Eats

I love love love to bake and cook. One of my favourite things to do is to “healthify” different recipes. Sometimes I try to make gluten-free alternatives, other times completely grain-free, and recently more low-carb/low-sugar. I find that I have a love-hate relationship with sugar. The more I eat, the more I crave. If I don’t eat any sugar, I don’t miss it, but I can’t ever just have one cookie or just one slice of banana bread. Baking and cooking has been fun and therapeutic for me, but I do have to practice some self-restraint when my experiments turn out well.

Today’s eats:

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Grain-free bacon chive and cheddar biscuits (made with almond and coconut flour).

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Sugar and grain-free almond shortbread cookies (made with blanched almond flour and Splenda).

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Rogan josh chicken- one with rice, the other with “riced” cauliflower.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

It’s getting chillier around here, and since it’s also damp, I definitely feel it in my bones. The leaves have changed, and the ones that have fallen are starting to get all mushed up. I’ve been admiring the beautiful colours and characteristic shapes of all the leaves. I think oak leaves might be my favourite.

Yesterday, we were tidying up the kitchen, and DW brought to my attention a very overripe banana that needed to either “get used or get chucked” (this is her gentle reminder for me to declutter as chaos levels approach threshold levels). One banana isn’t quite enough to make bread with, but we keep a stash of banana chunks in the freezer (for shakes and smoothies), so I microwaved a couple of those, and made banana bread.

It’s been a few weeks since I had baked us any goodies, as I was noticing that treats don’t last very long in our house because we gobble them up so fast! But it was a dark and chilly day Friday, and my poor lover had a full day principal training class to attend the next day, so it felt appropriate for me to make us something special.

Here’s the thing though- I don’t like chocolate (strange I know), and DW doesn’t like walnuts, so this loaf of banana bread had hers and hers sections.

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It baked up real nice in my silicone loaf pan- no sticking at all, and the loaf basically slid right out with little coaxing.

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The texture was perfect. It was moist on the inside, and just a bit crisp in the crust.

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We went wild apple picking in the conservation area that we take the dogs, and made cinnamon applesauce last year. It’s sat in the freezer for far too long, and was finally incorporated into this banana bread.

For the oil, I used a mild-tasting olive oil, and for the eggs, I used omega-3 eggs. Finally, I mixed in a quarter cup of bittersweet chocolate chips for DW’s side, and a similar amount of chopped walnuts for my side.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread from Taste of Home

Ingredients
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (4-5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a small
bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, sugar, applesauce, oil and vanilla.
Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until a
toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10
minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 2 loaves (12
slices each).

Nutritional Facts: 1 slice equals 140 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 35 mg cholesterol, 89 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber,

The recipe is from: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/gluten-free-banana-bread/print

Limbo

Wow, I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been cooking up a storm, adapting new recipes, and washing lots of dishes. Yesterday I made my first gluten-free (GF) turkey meatloaf, and today I made GF turkey meatballs, and tomato sauce with produce from our garden. I plan to serve it for dinner on shredded spaghetti squash (also from our garden). Props go to DW for growing me all of these amazingly gorgeous organic vegetables and herbs!

Time seems to be moving at a very strange pace for me. Being home every day means that my sense of time is dictated by my daily chores, appointments, and the return of DW from work. I have been running errands, hiking on the conservation lands with the dogs, preparing elaborate dinners, and probably not cleaning as much as I should be. We have been relaxing at the cottage on weekends, so my routine is kind of messed up in this way too.

Obviously, in many ways I’m glad that I’m not at work. I suffered from an alarming level of anxiety from being dealt a ridiculously unfair schedule, a lack of support from the people that are supposed to be supporting me, as well as doing my best (and failing) at trying to provide meaningful learning moments for kids that are the most challenging in the district. I was not eating. I was not sleeping. I had fleeting thoughts of self-harm. My family doctor insisted that I take a break from all of it to regroup and grieve our loss. I am currently about one third through my leave of absence, and I am terrified of going back.

I feel like I’m just beginning to heal physically. I’m still spotting daily, and I definitely notice my athletic limitations compared to pre-pregnancy: lower cardiovascular endurance, core strength is gone, and my strength has severely decreased. I have been lifting weights again every other day for the past week and a half, and my energy and motivation has been lacking. Pre-pregnancy, working out has always been a treat and a stress-reliever, but now I feel like I’m dragging my heels and my body just won’t do what I want it to do.

Interestingly, my eyesight has significantly changed as well. I had an eye exam two days ago, and my vision, which has been stable since 2007, has gotten worse by almost 2 diopters in both eyes! I suspect that all of the pregnancy hormones have messed up my body in many ways that I am unaware of.

Emotionally, I am really struggling. Part of me wishes that I was back at work (I really enjoy my career- just not at this particular school and schedule), as I miss the kids, routine, and socializing with my colleagues. In particular, I miss the first two schools that I was at. The kids were amazing, and the staff made me feel like family. Even the administration were very personable and supportive. However, my past two schools have been really difficult- due to the administration (lack of support and disciplining of students), and the particular classes that I have been assigned (the classes that nobody wants because it involves teaching the most difficult content to the most poorly behaved students). Unfortunately, being in a union (don’t get me wrong, I am so appreciative of unions) so much of where you teach and what you teach is dependent on seniority, and being a relatively new teacher in a school board that is shrinking, I am at the bottom of the food chain. So the most experienced teachers can choose to teach the easiest students and their first choice of subject, and the new teachers with the least experience get what nobody else wants. Not to mention that I get paid half what they get paid, and end up working extra hours at home prepping every night.Makes sense right? Ugh.

Look at me. Three weeks off from work and I’m still bitching about it. Now and again I have to remind myself that I am so lucky to have job security and benefits, and an (unpaid) summer off.

In happier news, I came home to a gift today:

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A friend of mine sent it with their condolences on our loss, and for a moment I was so touched but also so frustrated that miscarriages are often such a hush-hush secret. I know they are common, but given the lengths that we have gone to make a baby, our repeated losses seem even more tragic. For example, we can’t just have sex a ton more times and get pregnant (though- this should not dissuade anyone from trying this strategy ;)). We apparently can’t even get an IUI to work. Very frustrating.

In the meantime, I will wait for DW to get home before diving into these:

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I saw a new Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine this week. He lectures annually for the acupuncture program that I used to teach for. He is a fertility specialist, and until now, I haven’t been able to see him because he only treats on weekdays (teacher schedule). The appointment went well. He is very thorough and has a three-phase plan for me. The first phase is getting my natural period to come and flush out all of the stagnation in my uterus (and what energetically remains of the pregnancy). Then, we work on building my yin, which is quite depleted in me, and what likely causes my long follicular phases (eggs need more time to mature because my yin is too weak). Lastly, we will work on lengthening my luteal phase, which is super short. He says that even if I were getting pregnant naturally, my luteal phase is so short that proper implantation can’t even occur. Sometimes, regulating the follicular phase also fixes the luteal phase as well. He’s got me on some herbs right now, which are in the form of high potency granules. While I’m very proficient at acupuncture and general TCM principles, I was not trained in the healing properties of herbs, which can have incredible synergy with the acupuncture treatments. I am glad he is healing me through the use of both. He suggests that I sit this next cycle out, and try again the following cycle. So essentially, I’m in limbo for another 9 or so weeks.

The Best Gluten-Free Muffin Recipe

Hello folks. I’ve decided to interrupt my week of miscarriage posts with a lovely muffin recipe that just won’t quit. Seriously, I’ve made it twice in three days because it produced the most delicious muffins that I have ever tasted. And yes, that also means that between the two of us, we’ve polished off almost two dozen muffins in three days.

So I’m sharing in case any of you would like to join in the gluttony, or enjoy in gluten-free treats that don’t taste like cardboard or cost loads of money.

Muffins, seem to be one of the things I miss most about my pre-diagnosis days. Specialty bake shops often have really obscure flavours, such as sweet potato strawberry pumpkin seed, or zucchini jalapeño chocolate chip. I’m always disappointed because all I want is a simple berry muffin, or a chocolate chip muffin, and if I do happen to find some, they are dry, or simply suck. Also, I am not vegan, and many gluten free bake shops seem to boast being gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, which I get, but butter makes such a big difference in the flavour of food.

So here’s the recipe: http://www.agirldefloured.com/2012/05/16/best-gluten-free-blueberry-muffins/

I recommend that you use the flour blend that she provides, as it produced a texture indistinguishable from wheat cake flour.

Our first batch was a mixed berry blend: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries.

And our second batch was pure wild blueberry. Here are some pictures of this batch. They are nearly half gone!

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Give ’em a try, and let me know how it goes!