Maine or bust!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blackberry Muffins with Skye!

We were at the grocery store earlier, and they had a pretty decent price on these:

They looked so awesome that I had to pick some up! Skye and I decided to make some miniature muffins with them. I cheated, and used a mix (what? She's 10!) so we made low-fat blackberry oatmeal muffins. Sadly, with a mix, that means no recipe to share, but I bet there are hundreds of great recipes online if you really want one. (Or, go to Loblaws or any of the stores that sell yellow no-name products, and buy the low-fat oatmeal muffin mix - I added two half-pints of blackberries, chopped up).

And then, the final test!

To be honest, I had never baked with blackberries before, so I had no idea they turn red when you cook them! They are just the right combination of sweet and tart to make these muffins mouthwatering. Even her big brother gave them his seal of approval :) (he gets to make blueberry muffins on Wednesday).

Oh, and I know that a couple of people were following my landlord saga here the other day. I came home to a brand new sink AND cabinet today! (granted, the previous landlord had only painted to the outlines of the old cabinet, which was bigger, so there's ugly wallpaper peeking out now, but that can be fixed). So now there's just the window to fix, and then I can get to work making this place homier and more attractive to live in!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Carrot Soup

I've been meaning to make carrot soup for a few weeks now, and I finally had a short Saturday shift, so I was able to come home and get some stuff done (like the carrot soup). It has been simmering on the stove for the last couple of hours and it smells so good! A couple of friends asked for the recipe, so here it is. For my vegetarian/vegan friends, you can replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Simple Carrot Soup

2 lbs carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium cooking onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock

Over medium-high heat, bring carrots, onions and one quart of chicken stock to a rolling boil. Cook 5-10 minutes until onions soften. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Test carrots to see if tender. Add ginger and pepper, stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is almost completely gone. Add second quart of chicken stock, and heat through. Using either a stick blender or a Ninja (my baby!), process soup until smooth. Serves 4 as lunch, or 8 as a dinner appetizer.

©2011 Lynne Toll at

I use grocery store carrots (sob) for this, but if you want REALLY good soup, buy some at a farmer's market of even better, grow your own! I'm a bit too lazy at this point to make my own chicken stock, so I buy the low-sodium option in tetra packs at the grocery store. If you prefer spicier food, you can use fresh ginger instead of the powder, and if you like milder food, reduce the ginger and black pepper to 1/4 tsp each. This really is the easiest soup in the world. There are very few ingredients, little to no fat (none is added, it's just whatever is in your stock, and if you do vegetable stock, there's no fat at all!), and it really wows your guests as an appetizer, especially if you get fancy and serve it with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche and some freshly snipped chives. It's also a fantastic comfort food you won't feel guilty for indulging in :)

I was a good girl and composted all my carrot peelings and onion skins too! Sadly, I was a lazy blogger and didn't take any pictures of the process, or the finished product LOL That's okay, there are a billion pictures of carrot soup served in pure white bowls (which is what I have anyway) so you can just go look one up :P Let me know if you decide to try it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dreaming of spring already!

This past week has been a bit better than the last few in terms of eating and exercise, but any kind of organization has gone right out the window. I have three loads of laundry to fold, one in the washing machine (forgotten from a few days ago... will rewash with vinegar tonight), no clean dishes in the house, and we barely have room to move around. It's time for another big purge/clean. I've done three or four of these since I moved in seven years ago, but I'm hoping to either finally make the place nice enough so that we can move out, or finally render it liveable enough to stay in long(er)-term. I have a broken bathroom sink that I'd like to have replaced, a broken front window that NEEDS to be fixed, and I'd like to replace the carpet in the livingroom/front room with either cheap laminate or industrial-type carpet (the flat stuff). Oh, and I have a stove that has one working burner *sigh*

All these projects require a lot of money. Money I don't currently have. But if I'm a bit smarter about my budgeting and work enough extra hours at the store, I should be able to manage a few of these before spring. I'm hoping to get the sink/window issues sorted before Christmas (Rob and his son are coming up for a visit, and it kind of sucks that you can't even brush your teeth in the bathroom sink). I think Jeff's niece's husband (wasn't that a mouthful) works in plumbing and I used to work with a girl whose husband does windows, so I'm going to chase down those avenues before going public in my quest for home repair. My landlord will be footing the bill whether he likes it or not. He's been aware of all these problems for quite some time, but refuses to have anyone in to repair them.

I also need to bring my vacuum cleaner to be repaired. The ten-year-old vacuumed her freshly-cleaned room a few months ago, and I think she burnt out the motor on it. I thought it was the belt at first, but when I took it apart to poke at its innards, the belt we had put in a couple of years ago seemed brand new (okay, so I don't vacuum often). That will be done tonight, hopefully (we have this fantastic place on Bronson Ave called The Vac Shack that's been around longer than I have, it has a very good reputation for good work and reasonable prices).

As for the dreaming of spring... well, I've recently started reading this blog (Itty Bitty Farm in the City by Heidy Kooy) and I am craving the ability to plant even a small herb plant. Sadly, everything I've tried to grow in my apartment has been devoured by the beast (my cat, George). She ate some lovely pumpkin and squash sprouts I had started, ate all my mint and basil (that made for some interesting stains on the carpet later, let me tell you!) and I've stopped even bringing home the traditional plants my aunt gives all the moms on Mother's Day for fear of inadvertently poisoning her. *sigh*

I have such garden fever right now that I actually requested a seed catalogue from Stokes (the Canadian equivalent of Burpee, pretty much). I don't have a yard. I don't have my own balcony. I have NOWHERE to grow said plants (unless I set up some sort of table or shelves in my bedroom windows, since the cats are NOT PERMITTED in the master bedroom). I don't care!!!! I WANT TO GROW FOOD, dammit! I want to grow herbs so I'm not stuck with flavorless dried stuff. I wish I had unlimited space so that I could grow and process my own fruits and vegetables, but I'd be happy to start out with a small herb garden. I wonder if I could put window boxes over the edges of the (shared) balcony... I wonder if the fact that my neighbor smokes out there would totally ruin anything I tried to grow. I wonder if I actually have the chutzpah to pull this off... (heck, reading Heidi's blog, I even had fantasies of setting up a beehive on the roof, if I had access... I wonder if the landlord would give me access to the roof to start a container garden!)

Anyway... this is what I've been dreaming of for the last few weeks, and it's killing me LOL I raid my mother's garden mercilessly every summer, and I pick the gooseberries that grow on a tiny little hedge at our front door... I'd love to plant a rhubarb patch, but I've never had one take before. Maybe this year will be luckier. (and maybe I can find a spot to plant one that won't ruin my basement neighbors' view out of their windows).