Archive for the ‘Tools of the Trade’ Category

Time to start anew

Ok, so after starting a new job, falling in love with my Blackberry only to have two break in the first year, I have upgraded to an IPhone 4 and, yes I am in love.

So the question remains, can I blog more frequently now that I have this amazing tool?

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The Search For Allergy Friendly Foods

Over the course of the past few months, my boyfriend and I have been weeding out foods that aren’t working for us. We both seem to have food allergies, and without going and getting tested for the whole kit and caboodle, we’ve simply kept track of what we eat and how we feel afterwards.

We’ve narrowed out the following foods, much to my chagrin:

  • Beef
  • Processed ham, possibly all pork
  • Cheese
  • Pea’s (Ask my mother, I’ve been “claiming” to be allergic to pea’s since I visited my grandmother at 6 years old)

While this may not seem to be a lot, it was still a bit of a lifestyle change as beef and pork are two of the cheaper meats, and the ones I grew up with as a child. Almost every year, my family would purchase a quarter of a cow, and we would receive a large package of a variety of cuts of meat. This was common for our area, as in the heart of farm country; butchers featured fantastic prices on beef due to its abundance.

So, as much as I love the Better Homes and Garden’s Budget Cook Book, I was running out of recipes for Chicken and Fish, and decided to branch out. I picked up the Cheap. Fast. Good! Cook book by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross.

This book has a ton of great tips and recipes, my next meal plan features all of their recipes and although we haven’t had many yet, what I have tried is quite tasty.

Cooking with the Master

Christmas has always given me some of my most memorable moments; the coming together of family and friends can have that affect.  This year I was able to see so much family, although with two large families to see, I never manage to see everyone I would like on Christmas.  I was also the happy recipient of some pretty nifty Christmas gifts and some amazing cooking insight.

My boyfriend’s family lives in Oliver, a small town in the Rocky Mountains that is home to some of BC’s best wine. We aren’t able to make the five and a half hour drive as often as we would like, but we make a point of going up for Christmas to watch the young kids open their gifts.  I enjoy my time with them.  I spent a large part of my youth as an only child and Christmas with them is very different from what I remember from my childhood.  Everyone in my boyfriend’s family is charismatic, vibrant and ready to laugh. They clearly enjoy spending time together, making it hard not to enjoy time with them.

With eight children and spouses, friends and other relatives to serve, ‘a small meal’ is not in the vocabulary of The Cooking Master (my boyfriend’s mom).   From shopping to breakfast, I’m blown away by how much goes into feeding such large groups of people.  Her level of organization, her eye for how much is needed and the quality of her food, is enviable. This is clearly evident by how many people will rave to you about one of her many popular dishes.

Being able to cook with someone who loves to feed her family is one of my favourite past times.  I like to follow behind a good cook and while watching what they are doing, clean up and prep for them.  You can learn so much just by watching and listening.  Often times they are more than willing to share with you all that they know.

The Cooking Master is no different.   I came home with tips and tricks galore.  She is the second person I have seen whose recipe book is actually an index card box.  This really sparked my interest and I liked how easy it was.  There was less risk of me wrecking the book if I spilled something and it was easier to manage an index card than an entire book.  I think this might be on my list of things to do next week.

The morning I offered to make french toast for breakfast, The Cooking Master chuckled as I pulled out a frying pan. “You’ll be at it forever if you use that,” she told me and directed me towards her counter top grill.  I quickly realized that when cooking for thirteen people, you go through about a loaf and a half of bread.  I was very grateful for the grill.

When Christmas morning arrived and I opened my very own counter top grill, my imagination took off.  When we got home, I whipped out this bad boy and reveled in how easy it was to cook breakfast.  Not having to squeeze bacon, eggs and hash-browns into my medium and large frying pans was heaven and my boyfriend laughed at my oooh’s and ahhh’s.  When I pulled it out for dinner, we were treated to a delightfully grilled salmon seasoned with McCormick Garlic and Herb Seasoning Mix, accompanied by scalloped potatoes and seasoned California vegetables.  For me, not having to wait an hour and a half or cook with any butter or oil, made this a highly desirable cooking utensil.  Cooking with my new grill gave us fantastic salmon in under fifteen minutes; turkey bacon was even faster.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received a silicone pig puppet/potholder and a fresh herb grinder, “for those who shouldn’t use knives”,  my friend said.  I think these gadgets are going to make cooking a lot more fun over the next few months.

The Art of Shopping

Navigating the Grocery Jungle

I’m probably one of a few women who dislikes shopping. While I enjoy new things, I’m too overwhelmed by the shopping experience. I don’t enjoy crowds; and because I am cautious with my money I like to take my time, making me a self-conscious shopper.

So I created some rules for successful grocery shopping. What makes a successful grocery trip? If I leave the store in a relatively short period of time, not ready to tear my hair out, within or under budget, without forgetting a critical item, I consider myself successful.

Rule 1: The early bird survives the experience.

Early mornings are my favourite time to shop. Any time before 9am you should have shorter line-ups, a quieter store, fully stocked shelves, and none of those people who suddenly stop in front of you expecting that you can see their break lights.

Rule 2: Preparation = Success

As with most things in life it’s always best to go prepared. My shopping list is written in a purse sized, spiral bound note-book which is easy to carry and sturdy enough to write on. I have my list on one side and an adding column on the other and a mechanical pencil. Without a list you run the risk of forgetting something or overspending, it is also handy to have on hand for comparison shopping and your household budget.

Rule 3: Who says you would never use math in real life

When counting I round-up to the nearest dollar and add between $15-$30 to my total to account for the taxes. This just helps me to be sure that I am staying within my budget and won’t be surprised by the total when I get to the till. I also like to refer back to these when I’m planning my shopping list so I can budget accurately.

Rule 4: Don’t be rash, use cash

When budget shopping if you have a tendency to over spend, I recommend that you take what you want in cash, and leave all cards behind. With credit or debit cards it’s so easy to ‘forget’ your budget, and nothing is more embarrassing than to realize that you have gone overboard when you get to the till.

Rule 5: Eat first, shop later

Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, trust me. Instead of following your list, you will be tempted by the pre-manufactured dinners, junk food and boxed meals. These are filled with preservatives and while they may be great time savers they are not really worth the money. If you mix some low quality items like these with meats and fresh vegetables they aren’t so bad, but all in all I vote NO.

Rule 6: I used to hate to shop alone

I have a girlfriend who will not go shopping unless her boyfriend goes with her. She dislikes shopping and likes to have him for both company and someone to help her carry heavy items. I learned not to long ago that I prefer to shop alone, if my boyfriend comes with me he does nothing but push the cart and sigh, oh, and ask if we are done yet. I like to take my time, I like to follow my list and I like to be able to back track if I forget something without having to hear about it.

To all of those stressed out mom’s dealing with crying kids in the cereal aisle, buddy up with another mom and take turns shopping, you will be so much more relaxed, and at the end of the day that is so much more important than being Super-Mom.

Rule 7: One is the nicest number

While I like to support local economy and shop at local small businesses, I have to admit that one large shop will save you more time and money than a few or many small shops. Some times it will be cheaper to visit more than one store, but most often than not if you are shopping at multiple stores quality is your main concern.

If you like the one stop shop then I suggest the Real Canadian Superstore. While the produce and meats are not as high quality as Save On Foods or IGA, you will have more options, and a better price point on just about everything. Coupled with the fact that they deal with everything from clothing, health and beauty, home and garden, books, office and automotive supplies, grocery and pet items, you can’t find a better selection anywhere.

Rule 8: Grab you headphones let’s party!

Shopping doesn’t need to be a dreaded event, I like to take my mp3 player with me. I have an upbeat shopping play list that helps me to make this chore fun and relaxing. Give your self a break from the house. If you are prepared, shopping will be a breeze and you can go for a walk, listen to some music and enjoy some time out of the house.

Bon Voyage!

Slowcooker, j’adore

Check out our Tools of the Trade for our new page on slow cookers. More to follow!

GOOD MORNING WORLD!