Hope, believe, love

 

August and Everything After

The west, so far, has been very good to me.

I’m slowly piecing myself back together, feeling my heart begin to heal and I finally feel alive again. The haze has lifted and the sun in beginning to shine brightly.

I’ve found a job at a great bar filled with the most amazing people who have embraced me as part of their big, crazy family. They really, REALLY care about each other and after such a short time here, I am secure in knowing there are good people who have my back. I’m spending my time with people who make me feel things again, who make me laugh, who are helping patch up my bangs and bruises, defrost my heart, challenging me and supporting me as I begin to define life under my own terms. I’m settling into a new apartment and making it into my own little home. Every single day I’m mountain climbing, running, biking and camping and letting the mountains work their magic to soothe my soul.

There are moments when I miss my old life like crazy. Moments when I cry thinking about my pups and how desperately I wish I could cuddle with them, have them underfoot, have to sweep 10X each day. There are moments when my family is all together, and my nieces and nephews are giggling, that I would give anything to be with them all. Moments when I miss the familiarity of “my people” and Paisley. But this fresh start and new scenery are what I needed and this trip that has turned into a move (Temporary? Permanent? I’m still operating with no plan…) is proving to have been the best thing I could have done. I’m slowly beginning to figure myself out and enjoying getting lost in exploration along the way.

Nihahi Ridge

Stampede Night Out

 

The Girls

View from the Summit of Temple Mountain

 

Temple Mountain Summit (exhausted, cold, exhilirated and proud!)

Kananaskis Lake

Fernie, BC

 

Arrived (for now)

Well, I’ve arrived, for now. Saturday night I pulled into Calgary after driving 3600 km in 4 days.

At the last minute (literally only a few hours before I left), a friend decided to come along for the drive. Having the company of such a great person made the trip west an adventure and altered it, in a positive way, considerably. My friend flew home bright and early Sunday morning and left me to continue this journey I am embarking on.

The trip was long but incredible. I saw some very cool things along the way, laughed a ton and felt the choking grip on my heart and soul loosen with the passing of every kilometer. Those 3600 km did a lot to put me into a position where I am ready to start healing and moving and growing. They were so freeing. I feel more alive than I have in a long time. I am excited at this new adventure that I have only just begun!

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Heading West

Trip is AMAZING so far! As soon as I get back into Canada I will post stories and photos.

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Beginning of Chapter Three

On Wednesday I will be hitting the road, solo, to drive 3500 kms west to the mountains. I’ve got my mountain bike, camping gear and a backpack full of clothes packed away into my little car. I’m heading out in that direction with no clear direction or plan and have no idea where I will land, what I will do or for how long. What I am hoping is that with each passing kilometre I will be able to breathe deeper, think more clearly, and slowly begin to put the pieces of my heart back together again. Some say I’m running away. I say I’m running forward; towards healing, growth and peace.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new adventure!

Two Months

I know I’ve been missing in action lately. It’s been a difficult, tumultuous, emotional past two months. On March 29th, Lee asked me for a divorce. A few weeks later I found out about his girlfriend. The details of our split are for Lee and I to know and if you care enough to know more, you can give me a call and ask me in person. But for those of you who are wondering, I’m doing well. I’m feeling strong and good and excited about the new life possibilities before me. Of course there is considerable sadness over the demise of what I thought was the great love of my life, but I am walking forward, without looking back and my legs are growing stronger with each and every step. I am making some big decisions on what my next move will be (stay tuned…) and see a beautiful world out there waiting for me to explore.

It has now been two months since my world was flipped upside down and I have begun to think of life in terms of chapters in a book. Chapter one was my childhood and chapter two was my time with Lee. I am only just beginning to write my chapter three and as any avid reader knows, no book truly gets good until chapter three. A wonderful adventure awaits me and I’m steadily moving towards it.

Through all of this, I have realized how truly lucky and blessed I am. I have the most amazing friends and family who have been right beside me. I was shattered and they saw me at my worst. They have held me up when I felt too weak, they have been my shoulders to cry on, my voices of reason, outlets for my anger and frustration, my drinking partners, beach buddies, willing listeners and have patiently been helping to put me back together again. I am surrounded by loving, beautiful people and could not be more grateful for all of them. When you hit the bottom you realize who the true people in your life are and I have been astounded and overjoyed by how many true people I have. You all mean more to me than I could ever express. Thank you. xo

Today I mourn for the polar bears…

Last night I was sitting out on my back deck at 9:15 p.m., drinking a delicious Creemore beer after a day spent outside painting my fence in shorts and a tank top and getting a sunburn. I was also busy swatting at mosquitoes while I checked out my crocuses, daffodils and tulips as they are doing a whole lot more than just poking through the ground. And it’s March. And I’m in Canada.  There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Don’t get me wrong – I am loving the beautiful sunshine and the warm weather ain’t half bad to deal with – but the fact remains, that it’s March. And I’m in Canada.

Please don’t tell me that global warming is a myth.

The warm weather is here and we might as well enjoy it. As Canadians, we are used to getting such a sacred few days of beautiful, warm weather that we have no choice but to REALLY enjoy every one that we get. But while you are outside enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures, reflect for a second on how scary the repercussions of such temperatures are and what they can actually mean for our planet if this becomes the norm. This cannot possibly be good and it’s a rather stark reminder that we all need to be doing things differently and demanding better from governments and large corporations. If we don’t start being better stewards of our planet, we  will end up doing a whole lot more than mourning for the polar bears.

Raw, vegan banana chocolate-chip soft serve

This post very well might, definitely, change your life.

I posted a picture of this delicious treat tonight and was asked for the recipe. You’re going to laugh at how insanely easy (and delicious) this is and you can thank me for introducing you to your new favourite “treat” later!

Ingredients:

frozen bananas (I take perfectly ripe bananas, peel them and cut them into a few pieces, toss them in a container and then put them into the freezer – just makes it that much easier to make the soft serve! I generally make at least 2 bananas at a time.)

raw chocolate nibs (SUPER high in antioxidants – a true superfood. For Bruce County folks – I buy mine at Fine Fettle in Kincardine.)

Directions:

Toss the peeled, frozen banana into your food processor (you can use a blender too but the food processor seems to whip the bananas up better and creates the best texture). Hit the on button and whiz the bananas around for 4-5 minutes, stopping every once in awhile to scrap it down, until they become light, smooth and fluffy. Toss in a teaspoon or two of raw chocolate nibs and whiz it all for another 20 seconds or so (just to break up the nibs and incorporate them into the bananas).

As an alternative to adding the nibs, you can make some raw chocolate syrup by combining 2 tablespoons of agave nector with 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder and make yourself a little sundae. Or throw some nuts in there. Or you can add some frozen strawberries to get banana-strawberry soft serve (but you still need the bananas for the right texture…). Or do all of the above. Possibilities are really endless.

You’re welcome.

Hand-made ravioli

Yesterday I attempted making hand-made pasta for the first time. I don’t have a pasta machine (or the attachment for my mixer) so I was always hesitant to give it a try but I was feeling inspired yesterday! My conclusion: hand-made pasta is HARD WORK! No wonder all those Italian grandma’s have arms like they do! You have to knead, knead, knead, then knead some more and then rolling it out by hand with a rolling pin takes FOREVER and involves the use of some serious muscle. BUT, it was soooo good!

Note: if you’re going to make the ricotta filling, you should start straining the ricotta cheese the day before to remove the extra moisture from the cheese. To do this, just put it in a strainer with a bowl under it, cover it with cling-wrap and throw it in the fridge over-night.

Home-made pasta:

2 1/2 cups Tipo ’00’ flour (a finer ground flour that is great for pasta and pizza dough. I have read that if you can’t find this flour, all-purpose flour will work just fine.)

6 large eggs

Directions:

Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time, until it is all mixed in. Knead the pasta, knead, knead, knead some more until the dough changes from rough and floury to smooth and silky. You have to knead to develop the gluten in the dough so the pasta will be springy and al dente (apparently if you under-knead, it will be flabby and soft). This takes some time and work. You have to really mash the dough around for quite a while but you will feel the difference in the dough when it is done.

Wrap the pasta in cling-wrap and throw it in the fridge for at least half an hour before you work with it (make sure it’s completely covered by the cling wrap to prevent the dough from drying out – it dries out VERY quickly so this is important).

Ricotta filling:

While your pasta dough is hanging out in the fridge, you can go ahead and make your filling.

Container of ricotta cheese

1 egg

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix it all up and throw it back in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Rolling the pasta

If you have a pasta machine, use it to roll your pasta out. Otherwise, throw some flour down on your board, grab your rolling pin, and get ready for a workout! Since I was making ravioli, I divided the pasta into 3 chunks and worked with each separately (I re-wrapped the two I was not working with at the moment in cling-wrap to prevent it from drying out). Start rolling. You really need to put your weight behind it and you’ll notice the pasta retracting on itself so just keep rolling (it took me awhile to get it rolled out – I’m not kidding in the slightest when I say it will be a workout). You want to roll your pasta as thin as possible for ravioli (as close to paper-thin as you can get before your arms give out on you!).

Putting it all together:

Beat 2 eggs in a bowl to be used for your egg wash.

I used a drinking glass to cut out my ravioli (should have taken a picture…), but you can use a cookie cutter or a crimper. I covered my cut pieces of pasta with a damp, clean tea towel (again to prevent it from drying out) until I was ready to use them.

Brush the top surface of each of your ravioli rounds with egg wash, drop 1 Tbsp of chilled filling onto one round and then top it with another round, pressing the edges to seal them (it’s important to make sure they are sealed all around, otherwise the filling will leak out while they are cooking).

Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling, salted water for 10-15 minutes. Use a large pot and lot’s of water to prevent over-crowding the ravioli as it will float to the top when it is ready (mine floated to the top a bit early – after about 5 minutes – and seemed to be trying to trick me into thinking they were done – I tested one and left them in for 5 more minutes and they were perfectly al dente!).

Using a slotted spoon, lift the ravioli from the water, place the pasta on a plate and top with your favourite sauce (I used a vodka sauce – I’ll post that recipe another day) and some fresh grated parmesan.

Enjoy with a glass of wine and salad (and brushetta if you want to completely carb-load!)

B’stilla (Moroccan Chicken Pie with Dates)

I love to cook. I can happily spend hours in the kitchen playing with recipes and random ingredients to create a meal. I experiment and use friends and family as my tasters. Sometimes my experiments don’t work out, but generally (and judging from the feedback of my rather honest and blunt testers), I think I do pretty well and tweak recipes according to taste and comments. Since I spend so much time cooking, I figured I might as well start sharing my creations!

I haven’t made B’stilla in a long time and was craving it today so this is the first recipe I am sharing!

I remember the first time I had this dish. It was at a lovely little Moroccan restaurant in Ottawa and I was having dinner with our Model United Nations (CANIMUM) team, from Laurentian University, after a very successful (and slightly scandalous) conference.

From my very first bite, I fell in love with the delightful and delicious combination of both savoury and sweet flavours.  In addition to the fantastic flavour, this dish looks really beautiful when served. It works great as a dinner combined with sautéed vegetables (beans and carrots) or, alternatively, with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds and orange slices (my personal favourite way to serve and eat it).

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil

3 chicken breasts, bone in

2 ½ cups onions, finely chopped

1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cloves

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp chili flakes

½ tsp turmeric

1 cup chicken stock

salt

pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup dates, coarsely chopped

¼ cup golden raisins (optional)

½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

8 sheets phyllo pastry

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

icing sugar and ground cinnamon for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté chicken breasts until browned on both sides and then remove from pot. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned.

3. In the same pot, add onions and cook until golden (should take about 10 minutes). Add garlic, cumin, ginger, cloves cinnamon, chili flakes and turmeric. Stir.

4. Put chicken back in pot with onions and spices, add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Shred the meat off the bone into bite-size pieces.

6. Stir chicken together with the contents of the pot, add eggs, dates, raisins, cilantro and almonds. Combined well and season to taste.

7. Place 1 sheet phyllo pastry lengthwise on your work surface, brush lightly with melted butter. It does not have to be completely covered. Place second sheet on top of this, sideways to form a plus sign. Repeat this process until the 8 sheets have been layered; the last sheet does not need to be buttered.

8. Place sheets in a buttered 9-inch cake or springform pan. Fill pastry with chicken mixture and spread out evenly. Enclose by pulling the overhanging pastry up and over chicken mixture. Brush the top with melted butter.

9. Bake pie for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden and chicken mixture is heated through.

10. Serve hot with sifted icing sugar and ground cinnamon overtop.