Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sweet Potatoes

It is amazing how our tastes change as we get older. Take sweet potatoes. As a child I hated sweet potatoes unless they were candied and even then I ate them only grudgingly. Now, as an adult (in age if not spirit), I find them very appealing and look for new ways to eat them. Monday, I made spicy sweet potato fries. If you like sweet potatoes and spicy food, do I have a recipe for you.

We enjoyed these spicy strips with a couple of nicely done steaks. To save on the washing, we baked the steaks at the same time we were baking the potatoes. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
3 sweet potatoes - peeled and cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 Tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp Chili oil
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp powdered cayenne or chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp garlic powder

Place cut potatoes into a bowl and drizzle with oils. Mix by hand to coat potatoes well.
Toss oily potatoes into a bag with spices. Shake to coat heavily.
Spread potato strips onto a cookie sheet and bake 1/2 hr @ 350F.
Potatoes should be tender but not mushy. Scoop onto a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Need: The Mother of...

There is a saying that goes something like 'Necessity is the Mother of All Invention'. This weekend I had the opportunity to prove that saying to be true.

I was flipping through channels and found a cooking show. I'm not generally a fan of cooking shows but this caught my eye because they were cooking Couscous, a Middle Eastern staple that I have only recently discovered. A stew was made in a large stock pot and the couscous was steamed over the pot so that everything was cooked at the same time, and it only took one pot. That along was enough to peak my interest. I tend to be a messy cook and by the end I have a sink full of dirty dishes.

Of course I don't have a steamer insert that will fit my large stockpot, but I was not to be deterred. I wanted to make Couscous and Seven Vegetables, and by golly I was going to make it. So out came the recipe and all the ingredients all layed out neatly on the baker's island. I diligently followed the recipe until it came to steaming the couscous. My electric steamer was to small for the amount called for in the recipe so I looked for another solution.

That solution came to me with a crash as my wire strainer fell, again, off the hook it was hanging from. I layered it with cheese cloth, plopped in the washed couscous and turned to set it on the pot. Not a chance, it was to small along and easily entered the pot. So I took a moment or two to think about and decided to use kitchen cord hang the strainer above the liquid in the pot by tying it off as tightly as possible to the stock pot handles.

It wasn't very elegant but my jerry rigged steamer insert worked like a charm. After two and a half hours of peeling, chopping, and stirring we ended up with a huge dish of couscous, chicken, and seven vegetables. Unfortunately, the recipe said ten servings but they must have been army serving because we ended up with supper and fourteen more servings of a mighty hearty meal in the freezer. Next time, I'm cutting the recipe by four.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Sky is Falling...

Yep, that is what I hear every time I talk to people about the possibility of a collapse in our current socio-economic or political infrastructure. I don't mean the halting of the sanding trucks or an increase in wait times at the emergency room. I'm talking about the complete collapse of one or more of the supporting systems that holds our society at the level we currently enjoy.

Our society is so interconnected that a breakdown in one part of the support structure will cause reactionary ripples to radiate throughout the system, which in itself can cause reactionary ripples. One example is our dependence on others for our food. Walk through the grocery store and you will see what I mean. Most of our produce comes from other countries, even during the most productive local growing season. It isn't unusual to to see fruits from the USA, Mexico, and further south sitting next to vegetables from the same locales.

Now what happens if those places have a bad growing season, experience a political upheaval, or choose to withhold their produce from us. Suddenly, we start seeing signs in our grocery stores stating "Due to XYZ, we will be experiencing shortages." What that means is that we are now stuck until the situation turns itself around. Our own producers have been put out of business so local produce isn't available and those who do have produce use the shortfalls to extort the consumer with high prices for second and third grade product.

As an individual provider for a family, I chose some years ago to be as prepared as possible for such events. We grow and store a lot of our own food, including fruit. We purchase in bulk when we catch a deal at the grocers and store it for future use. We have alternative ways to get our daily required vitamins and minerals that do not rely on getting fresh produce from the grocers.

I believe that each person should look at their welfare and the welfare of their family and make a plan for dealing with such occurrences. This winter it is fruit and some produce, and it is already to late to be prepared but it gives you an idea of a minor event that can occur. Using that knowledge you can look at your lifestyle and figure out what you can do to carry your family through events like we are seeing today in the grocery stores.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


This is Splash. She is obsessed with boxes. She loves to get into them. The smaller the box the more determined she is to get into it. Her favourite seems to be pop boxes. We managed to capture a few shots of her playing with a Sprite box.

Aww look. She's sniffing the box. I wonder what she is going to do.

Hey Honey, come look at this. She managed to get into the box.

Well, now what are you going to do you silly girl?

The box is giving birth to a kitten.

She got out easily enough except her rump. The box was so light that she stood up to exit only to have the box stand up with her. For the next ten minutes she ran around in circles trying to dislodge the box. We were helpless to help as we were both laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

When do you say goodbye?

I have reached a crossroads in my life. All crossroads are hard to navigate. You have to look at every option and decide which one is best for you in the near and far future. Sometimes you have to leave behind people whom you have learnt to love and to call friend. And, sometimes the friendships are more important than anything else.

I have a small circle of people that I associate with on a regular basis whose company I enjoy. I've been known to spend hours in the company of these friends and acquaintances. But, recently I have spent very little time with them. Their regular meeting time are to late or interfere with my own plans. The few times we have gotten together recently have been awkward and uncomfortable. All I can think about is leaving.

I want to spend time in my kitchen, my garden, or now in my studio. There are no petty battles for attention except from the cats. My paints and beads don't care who I spend more time with or what I'm doing. And, there is a great feeling of accomplishment that I get out of doing these things, that I have never truly gotten from the group activities.

So, today I have been sitting here pondering if I should bid adieu to the few people in the group that I care about and just move on with my life? Or, should I swallow my frustration and continue on as I have, unhappy and unfulfilled? How do you know when it is time to say goodbye?