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Shrimp Tomato Pasta

pasta-dishJust a quick recipe to share.  My go to tomato sauce that I use for spaghetti, jambalaya and meat sauce.  Last time I made it I sautéed shrimp and served it on kamut pasta with a bit of Romano   cheese on top.

The sauce itself is simple and I change up the spices depending on what type of dish I am making.  If I am making a shrimp, chicken sausage jambalaya I make it spicier and if it is for a meat sauce a little less cumin and more heat.

I sauté onions in deep pan with a little olive oil.  While they are sautéing I cut up and puree 8-12 tomatoes, I prefer Romano tomatoes.  I don’t deseed them, I am honestly too lazy and I really don’t mind the seeds in my sauce.  I purée them very well in a food processor.  While they are getting puréed, I add some garlic to my onions and olive oil.  Once the garlic becomes fragrant I add some cumin and Chili powder to make a paste with the onions, garlic and oil. Then I pour in the puréed tomatoes and add some salt and some red wine.  I add a bit of cayenne and some dry basil leaves as well.  I will usually thicken it with a bit of organic tomato paste or cornstarch if I want a thicker sauce.  I let it simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how much time I have.

While it is simmering I sauté shrimp up in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper.  I cut up some red peppers and add them to my sauce.  I make the pasta al dente and drain.  Plate the pasta, add the sauce and shrimp and top with cheese.   The best part of this sauce is that it tastes even better the next day.  I usually make enough for a couple of meals.

The best part is that there are no processed ingredients and fresh tomatoes have so much flavour, you do not need much salt.  You may have noticed my lack of measurements, I tend to just eyeball my ingredients based on my preferences.  I love cumin so I put lots in but less chili and cayenne if I am making it for company. The beauty of making fresh food is you can spice it and flavour it to your own preferences.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Tonight’s Supper

Today was a stay home Mom day.  I alternate back and forth between working Mom and Stay-Home-Mom, and today was stay home day.  I trotted the small children off to school bright and early, came home worked out, showered and chauffeured the oldest off to work.  Then it was time for groceries.  I try to make the big meals for days like today when I have a little extra time.  Then I can use the leftovers for my 10 hour work days, and give myself a break from meal prep on those days.  It takes a bit of planning and I don’t always follow through with my grand plans, but today was a success!

I decided on pork tenderloin, it is quick and easy to prepare.  I had everything else at home except some potatoes.  I love baked potatoes.  Back home I went.  I cut the pork tenderloin open lengthwise but still joined and smashed the crap out of it with a meat tenderizer.  Very therapeutic!  I filled the open tenderloin with Haskapa jalapeño relish and goat cheese, then closed the pork tenderloin up and tied it together with twine.  Add some salt and pepper to the outside and then refrigerated it until later.

Time to wake the monster who shall not be named, at great risk to myself…aka, my daughter, and then off to school to get the “wee boys”  Today was dentist day for three of the children, not a very fun afternoon.  After the dentist I decided to throw in some hair cuts as my youngest sons are starting to look homeless, and of course since our local hair shop is attached to a pizza/ice cream shop we also went for ice cream.  Then home to shower and start supper.  Good thing I have all that extra time today!

I put the potatoes in the oven to bake while I showered the boys.  Then it was time to sear the pork.  I sear it at a fairly high heat in grape seed oil for about 5 minutes in total on three sides.  Then I bake it at 425 for 13 minutes then let it rest covered in tinfoil for 3-5 minutes.

In the interim I made a balsamic glaze by bringing balsamic vinegar to a boil and simmering while the pork cooked.  I cooked some thinly sliced brussel sprouts, peppers and sugar snap peas in olive oil, salt and pepper.  When the balsamic vinegar had thickened and reduced, I added a glob of honey and poured it over the veggies.  Supper was done.  The pork was amazing, this was my first time making it like this, but definitely not the last.

Total prep time was about 40 minutes but done in stages.  The potatoes took the longest but their cook time can be reduced by cooking them for a short while in the microwave first.  The main show of this meal was definitely the pork and it was so simple to make and a small tenderloin cooks very quickly.

For anyone wondering what the heck Haskapa is, it is a type of berry found here in Nova Scotia.  A local company makes several different products with it but my favourite is the jalapeño relish.  It is a sweet jam like base with a mild kick to it that makes your taste buds say ohhh.  I also love it with crackers and cheese, delicious!  There is a picture above featuring the Haskapa product that I used.  Let me know if you try this, and if you like it!!

 

 

Image: The Monster Under Our Beds

Is it just me, or do you ever read a magazine and then feel totally depressed about yourself?  Or peruse social media and have a sudden sense of inadequacy?

I love fashion, so I like to buy magazines and peruse the ads and pictures for style inspiration.  I love make-up too, and I should probably confess that I am a skin cream-a-holic.  I have a whole drawer dedicated to my cream “graveyard” of products that I bought but didn’t like.

Why then did I buy them…well for starters I am vain.  It has always been a flaw of mine.  Not the “I think I am beautiful” kind of vain, more the “I am never beautiful enough” kind of vanity.  I  have never considered myself particularly attractive, I am, however, the type who would never run out of the house without my concealer and mascara on.  If I was stuck on a desert island I would take my concealer and mascara before food and water, because I would rather die looking good than live long enough without make-up to be rescued.  Sad and embarrassing yet true!

So now that I have admitted my vanity, time to open the closet door on my hypocrisy too.  I am getting older and I love aging.  I have never felt better or been happier with myself, but I hate looking older most days and while I have never resorted to cosmetic procedures to fix my face, I probably would if I could afford it. I despise myself for feeling this way.  I am aware intrinsically that my worth is not tied to my youth or my looks and I value other aspects of myself so much more than looks; yet I still look at myself and see the signs of aging as negative.

This feeling that looking old is not acceptable is heightened by the fact I never see women who look old in magazines, advertisements or even on social media anymore.  Women I know to be my age or older look 20 years younger and even they do not look young enough in many eyes.  Then there is the dichotomy of looking too young or too cosmetically enhanced.  You know those people we see that have obviously overdone the Botox, and those joker lips…how does that happen??  Okay I don’t ever want to be that person.  I want to get old and still look like me.  The best me a vain me can be, but me…wrinkles and all.  Besides, if I am being totally honest my eyes are droopy enough, throw a little Botox in there and my eyelids will end up at my chin!

Advertisements for women in my age group are filled with teenagers and twenty-something’s who have not got a single wrinkle.  Yet somehow they are the image shown with the anti-wrinkle miracle creams, as though this is what I should look like.  And if they do happen to use a woman of an older age group the image is so photo-shopped, they might as well have used the teenager.  No wonder we have this warped sense of what we should look like or what is beautiful.  We are only ever shown one side of the beauty coin. There is no miracle cure or cream for aging, unless of course you count death.  Just great marketing aimed at robbing our wallets and self-esteem.

Add to this imagery the photo-shopped bodies and surgically-enhanced images that are purposed as real women and you are left with a recipe for poor self-esteem.  Well, frankly, I am sick of this imagery.  When did getting old become a proverbial albatross.  Aging is a privilege that is not given to us all.  It is the time in our lives when we come into our own emotionally and when we women hit our sexual prime.  We have gained wisdom, strength and fortitude that comes with aging and life experiences.  We are the most beautiful we have ever been, inside and out.

Every wrinkle, sag and bag has been earned.  We have lived, loved, lost and grown.  We have learned endless lessons and become our best selves, and yet we have no value according to various forms of media.  Even the young are not truly good enough, their butts are not big enough, or they are too big, they are not thin enough, or they are too thin…the criticisms are endless.  The cycle is never ending and it is sending the message to our youth that young women will never be good enough and old women are worthless.

Have you looked at social media lately?  I have seen pictures of people that I vaguely know, and have not even recognized them.  I thought they had plastic surgery or another drastic procedure, only to see them in real life circumstances and they look the same as before the picture.  The selfies are so orchestrated and doctored that no one actually looks like themselves anymore.  We have become obsessed with image and forgotten substance.  We have created images that are not realistic or achievable and presented them as the ideal.  We have created an environment that guarantees our failure.  All based on image.

This is not what I want for myself or for my daughter.  I want my daughter to understand her worth as a person.  I want her to respect diversity, intelligence, kindness and resilience.  I want her to see beauty in every face not just the photo-shopped Barbie images.  I don’t want her to be afraid of or disappointed in her image.

Now the question is how do we change this image oriented monstrosity.  I don’t know the answer to this, and I am only one voice, but this is where I begin.  There is no monster under my bed…there is just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Blue Monday

I have thought long and hard about this post and I am still not sure I want to share it.  Want being the operative word, because I know I should share my vulnerabilities and not just my strengths.  Therein lies my dilemma, I take pride in my strength both physical and emotional.  I have worked hard on both, and being strong is a huge part of my identity.  So I struggle with admitting that I am also weak.

I have never claimed to be perfect, far from it.  I rather despise perfection and see it as boring and unimaginative.  But I do always try to put my best face forward even in my worst of circumstances.  For example when my first marriage collapsed not a single person who knew me, other than my father, had any clue that my marriage was troubled.  It was this crisis that led to my first bout of depression.

It wasn’t the separation per se that caused my depression.  It was a combination of the emotional stress of a custody battle, destroyed finances and having to finally admit to friends and family that my life was a mess.  I was beyond a mess I was emotionally drained.

I dove into work and parenthood and avoided everything else until I had a moment driving home from a week on the road.  A moment in which I relished the idea of just driving off the road and dying.  I realized in that moment I was not just tired, or stressed, I was suicidal.  I needed help.  It was not within my ability to fix this part of me.  For the first time in my life I opened up and told friends and family what I was really feeling.  I knew in that moment that I was going to lose everyone, but I had to ask for help, for my children’s sake if not mine.

And then a funny thing happened…some of my friends rallied around me.  We became closer and they made me feel safe.  Safe is not something I had ever felt in my life…I was 30 at this point.  This was a pivotal moment in my life.  It was the point at which I let myself be not okay.  I gave myself permission to be myself.  I stopped trying to be what I thought everyone else expected and learned to be comfortable in my own flawed skin.

This was my first bout of depression and by far the longest and the worst but not the only one.  I had another bout after my fourth child was born.  The irony was, that I was essentially happy.  I was re-married, we moved to a great neighborhood with a beautiful property, decent house and all the love I could ever imagine in my life.  I had never been so complete.  Being home with my four children was everything I had always wanted.

Yet I found myself slowly withdrawing from the world.  Contact with anyone outside my household became sporadic and when it did happen it was awkward and eventually terrifying.  I retreated into a world of my own and avoided the outside world as much as possible.  I was not unhappy but I was also not the vibrant happy outgoing person most people knew me to be.  This is my darker side.  It is a big part of me, one that I don’t usually share with outsiders.  I have an ugly monster that lives in my head and some days he wins the battle of who is controlling my life.  I have come to accept that this monster is a part of me, but just that; only a piece of what makes me, me.

This is the root of my drive to live a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise became my therapy and my life preserver when I was at my lowest.  It saved me in many ways, and at one point almost became an obsession.  Luckily I have people in my life that care enough and are brave enough to point out the obvious.  What is obvious to the observer is sometimes so hard to see when you are standing in the forest.  Thus my search for balance, a never ending search that keeps me working hard to live my best life.

So when I advocate health and wellness it is for the mind and body.  It is truly about health and not about a size or a weight.  Neither of those will grant you automatic happiness.  I don’t even strive for happiness per se, instead I would describe my journey as a search for inner peace.  An acceptance of my limitations combined with a drive to be a better person and loving myself where I am, flaws and all.  Looking better is a by-product of a healthy lifestyle but it should not necessarily be the primary goal.

But above all my biggest lesson learned in all of this was to be vulnerable.  To let people see the real me.  It was the one of the scariest things I have ever done, and the most freeing.  Not everyone will stand by you, but most likely you are better off without the people who run away.  Chances are they are running from their own monsters too.  In being vulnerable and showing people my darkest self I realized the truest acceptance.  Do not mistake this short excerpt as a flower power happily ever after, I wish it was that easy.  Nothing has been easy, but it has been worth it.  The friends in my life are people I treasure and they know I am not all sunshine and roses yet they love me regardless of my flaws (and there are quite a few).  It is a constant reminder to give myself that same love and acceptance.

So today on “Blue Monday” I urge you to take stock of yourself and your friendships and if there is someone you know who might benefit from a friendly ear or a quiet shoulder, be that friend.  And if the person in need is you, reach out, truly you are not alone.  While no one else may completely understand what you are experiencing, that doesn’t mean you need to be alone.  Whether it is a friend or a local help line reach out, because you deserve to be heard, you deserve to love yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy Tuna Pasta

I love to eat.  I try to follow an 80/20 rule with my diet. That means 80% of what goes in is real food (not processed) and relatively healthy, the other 20% is my wine and desserts:). This is sometimes easier to say than do when time is short, so I thought I would try and share the occasional recipe that is simple and quick.  Feel free to share your recipes or links to your favourites as well in the comments, I am always looking for new things to try.

I don’t love seafood but I try to incorporate it in my diet.  This tuna pasta is an example of me squeezing in seafood without it being too “seafoodish” for me.  There are enough other ingredients and flavours to disguise the “fish” taste for me.  As a side note if you are vegetarian you can leave out the tuna and change the pasta to quinoa for a vegetarian dish.

Ingredients :

  • 2 cans flaked tuna (or real tuna cooked and shredded if you are so inclined)
  • 1/2 package of whole grain rotini (I use Kamut grain pasta)
  • coconut oil
  • red onion
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • cucumber
  • celery
  • avocado
  • goat feta crumbled
  • cumin
  • basil
  • cayenne
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Boil salted water and cook pasta according to al dente instructions.  While the pasta is cooking dice some red onion and heat on low in pan with coconut oil — just enough oil to sauté the veggies.  Halve the tomatoes, chop up the red pepper and some celery and add to the onions and sauté.  Add some salt, pepper, cumin and basil as the veggies heat.

In another bowl add the drained tuna sliced cucumber and sliced avocado.  Once the sautéed veggies and pasta are cooked add them to the bowl.  Add some cayenne, cumin and more pepper to taste.  Add a Tbsp. of red wine vinegar and crumbled feta. Toss and serve.

I can usually throw this meal together in 15 minutes or so.  This makes it a favourite for nights I am home late or in a rush.  It is easy but full of vegetables and delicious warm flavours.  You have probably noticed my lack of measurements, I tend to make these up as I go and adjust the flavours according to taste.  So feel free to play with the flavours and ingredients and make it your own!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

Balance Bites

I am a selfish person, there I said it.  It is true, I am selfish, I think it might be because I am an only child.  I managed to grow up somehow thinking the world is all about me…then I had children.  That changed everything.  Now, not even going to pee is about me anymore, nope now that simple once private act is a group activity to be fit in amongst everyone else’s needs.  While I did perhaps deserve a gentle nudge out of the land of self indulgence, I don’t think I needed to land at the opposite end of the extreme boat and lose myself completely.

It seems to almost be a compulsion with parents, especially dare I say it, mothers.  That is not a slam at Dads by any stretch.  I admire my husband’s ability to close his mind off from everyone and everything and sink into well deserved “him” time.  It is a skill to be lauded not undermined.  I have learned much from him in this department.

I on the other hand have always talked the talk about self care, looking after me and balancing work, home life, friends etc…well you get the picture.  But the truth is when you start adding in all the balls some get dropped, and for me I drop myself first and almost drive myself to the brink of insanity trying not to let anyone else down.

Isn’t it crazy that we never want to let others down but consider ourselves so dispensable?  I will never forget the defining moment for me that I needed to swing the pendulum back towards selfishness.  I was on the phone with the doctor making an appointment for someone in the house and the receptionist asked me my name.  Okay big deal right, so what, right?   I didn’t have an answer for her…that’s right you read correctly.  It had been so freaking long since I had heard my own name that I could not immediately bring it to mind.

Who does that??  Who the f*#k forgets their own name???  Someone who forgot to look after herself, that is who.  I the most truly selfish being in the whole world, who had preached to everyone who would listen that Moms need to look after themselves first to be good mothers, had fallen off that proverbial bandwagon and let myself fade from my list of to do’s.

Finding balance, I have learned, is a constant.  Even if you find the elusive rabbit hole called balance, something somewhere shifts and you are left searching anew.  Balance is a continuous juggling act that demands that you release some of your balls and let them fall.  Many of us would consider that failure and therein lies the problem.  We see failure in lieu of the balance were  searching for so valiantly. But in truth, failure is the true lesson. It is okay to not be able to keep up and do everything and be there for everyone.  Life will continue, and it might even be better – f*#k balance.  But the one ball that we should strive to always keep in the mix is our self.

A little selfish is okay.  It makes us better parents, friends, employees and partners.  When I am happiest my whole family benefits, likewise when I am a miserable b@#* they all suffer.  So now I strive for balance in my selfishness.  It will never be all about me again, at least not in this lifetime, but I strive to put me first sometimes and more importantly to not lose myself because of everything around me.

I can proudly say I remember my own name now.  There was that one time I called my child by the cat’s name, and of course some days I list all 4 children’s names before reaching the one I am looking for, oh and let’s not forget the unfortunate mixing of the 2 youngest boys names that resulted in them being called Nuc and Lic….but really that is an age and too outnumbered by children bent on driving me past the point of sanity issue, not balancing gone wrong..at least I think that’s it.

At the end of the day we all need to live our life in a way that feels right for us as individuals and in our family groups.  But personally, I say sometimes balance sucks and the best we can do is just be the best you that you can be in that moment.  My all time favourite quote feels apropos to this rant;  “when life hands you lemons…go get the tequila and salt”.  Not sure who said it but it has stayed with me for 2 decades, so obviously it works;)