An open letter to my email list

For the past six months I’ve been distributing/posting my blog on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through an email list to family and friends. As well, I have followers who have signed up for my blog on WordPress.

I love hearing back from my friends and relatives who receive my blog via e-mail. But I don’t want to be the person who sends unwanted email. Also, maybe people who are also my Facebook friends don’t want to be on my email list, and see a link to my blog twice. Or maybe they do, especially if they’re not on Facebook regularly. I think it’s time to find out.

So, to my family and friends who are on my list, please let me know if you would like to continue receiving updates – or not.

As well, since my blog has gone in two different directions, let me know if you are interested in continuing to receive only food and/or chocolate blogs, or only my writing/journalism/post-downsizing posts.

I think, instead of sending my four-day-a-week blog to the same list, it might make sense to have a “writing/post-downsizing” list for my Tuesday and Thursday posts, a “food blog” list for my Friday posts, and a “Chocolate Sunday” list as well.

Thanks for your support, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

 

Looking back – and forward – at my food posts

This week, I’m combining my Thursday and Friday blog posts – the post-downsizing/writing aspect that I focus on every Thursday, and the “food day” that I’ve created on Fridays.

When I started blogging in July, Tuesdays and Thursdays had a very specific focus for me: to help me figure out what was next in my life, and to keep a hand in the writing world. Friday, “food day,” was more for fun. In its own way, it was a coping tool too. For me, cooking and food are creative and nurturing – just what I needed after losing my job. In August, I added “Chocolate Sunday” to the mix.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about the type of recipes I’ve been posting. Do they reflect the way I really cook? Are they healthy? Do I like them? Have I included them for the right reasons?

This morning I looked through the recipes on my blog, and for the most part, I’m pleased.

Before I started blogging, I’d thought about writing a cookbook for my kids, so that they would have my recipes in one place. In the meantime, I’m posting to this blog.  Maybe I’ll turn it into a cookbook some day.

I didn’t start with a list of criteria for recipes I would include in my blog. But, based on my analysis this morning, I’ve listed my food blog recipe goals for 2014. They reflect what I’ve already been doing, more or less.

1. For the most part, recipes should reflect the way I actually cook and eat. Mostly meat-free, mostly dairy-free, using “real” ingredients, not overly complicated to prepare.

2. My favourite recipes have included fruits and vegetables, sometimes in new combinations for me – like salmon stir-fry with asparagus and cremini mushrooms, green bean and pineapple salad, and fruity fennel salad. I want to do more of that.

3. I plan to continue including other ingredients that have health benefits – nuts, seeds, spices and certain grains.

4. More family recipes if I can find them. I want my kids to have them, and to know their history. I believe other people are interested in them too. My post about my grandmother’s camisbroit got more hits than anything else I’ve written.

5. Travel-related food stories and recipes are part of my repertoire too, whether I make them once in a while or on a regular basis. I started my chocolate blog with a recipe for brigadeiro, a lovely souvenir of a trip to Brazil and the celebration of a friend’s birthday there. But they’re too sweet for me to make on a regular basis, plus I’m lactose-intolerant (sweetened condensed milk is a key ingredient).

6. It’s sometimes a challenge to come up with healthy recipes for chocolate. I think the criteria for chocolate recipes is that they have to be fabulous, healthy and/or interesting. Ideally, all three!

Feedback is welcome. Best for 2014.

 

Blogging, four weeks in

For the past four weeks, posting my blog has been my priority on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.

Now, almost seven weeks since I stopped working, the blog has become central to my post-work life. In my first entry, I wrote that I was starting the blog as a way to keep writing, bring structure to my day, and figure out – or evolve into – what’s next in my life.

I think it’s done that, and more. Continuing to write on a regular basis is important to me. I didn’t set out to write every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but that’s how it worked out the first week. The schedule suits me, and knowing that I’m not posting at whim reassures me that I won’t let too much time go by without writing.

The type of writing I’m doing for my blog also helps clarify my thoughts – an important part of figuring out what’s next in my life.

Another bonus – because Friday is “food” day on the blog – is that I’m more focused on cooking than I might be otherwise. It’s fun, and we’re eating well at my house.

Lastly, the blog has helped me feel connected to friends, family and others who read what I write and provide feedback.

I’m thinking of adding a fourth day.

 

Wild Rice with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

Now that I’m blogging about food, I’m more motivated to look for creative ways to use ingredients that are already in my kitchen.Image

In recent years – and recent weeks – a couple of things have changed.

1.     Over the last few years, the internet has influenced the way I source recipes and plan meals. Instead of relying primarily on my cookbooks, I often turn to Google, and enter ingredients that I want to use up. I’ve come across interesting food blogs and recipes, and I find it’s an efficient way to use what I have, as well as delay grocery shopping a day or two.

2.     The other thing that’s different is that, as a newbie food blogger, I’m concerned about the risk of breaching copyrights on my blog. From what I’ve read online (which isn’t necessarily authoritative), lists of ingredients are not subject to copyright laws, but recipe instructions may be. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to adapt favourite recipes to make them my own.

The other day, I cooked some wild rice, which had been in my pantry for months. I considered adding red peppers, snow peas, and cashews, key ingredients in a recipe that appears in Susan Mendelson’s Official Cookbook of Expo 86. Unfortunately – or maybe not – I didn’t have the necessary ingredients.

The dish that I ended up making was inspired by Mendelson’s recipe, and by the limited choice of vegetables I had on hand. Her book dates back to the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC, and is a favourite of mine for its appealing pictures and easy-to-follow instructions.

Although the book doesn’t mention it, her wild rice recipe (and mine too) is vegan and dairy-free. It can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free tamari for soy sauce.

I used sweet potato and zucchini, which added flavour, colour and contrasting texture to the wild rice. Not to mention that sweet potato is a  so-called “superfood.” We enjoyed the resulting side dish the day I made it, and ate it chilled the next day as a salad.

Here’s my recipe:

Wild Rice with  Sweet Potato & Zucchini (inspired by Susan Mendelson’s Wild Rice with Red Peppers & Snow Peas)                                                  NB – recipe has been updated to make it gluten-free

1 cup wild rice

4 cups water

canola oil to thinly cover pan

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 –inch dice

½ zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice

1 T. low-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari, for a gluten-free version)

sesame seeds for garnish (and nutrients!)

1.     Cook wild rice according to package directions. Keep an eye on it. Mine was ready sooner than I expected. Drain well.

2.     Heat oil in large non-stick pan on medium high. When one piece of onion sizzles, add garlic and the rest of the onion, and sauté for a minute or two.

3.     Add sweet potato for about a minute, then add zucchini. The sweet potato should be cooked until edible but not overly soft. Taste-test or insert the tip of a paring knife into one of the pieces to check for doneness.

4.     Add soy sauce and vegetables to rice, and combine.

5.     Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

6.     Enjoy!

A bonus today – friends travelling in Costa Rica sent me a link to this blog,  written by teachers from Chattanooga who are on the same tour. Yesterday, they posted food pictures for me! They also have some interesting photos of wildlife, and instructions for choosing a tasty pineapple: http://normalparkfirstgrade.weebly.com/1/post/2013/07/movin-right-along.html

Blueberry sorbet

Blueberries are a staple in my house, but this week we had more than we needed. Sometimes that happens when one person (okay, me) forgets that she already bought a large box earlier in the week and buys two more small boxes, and another family member also picks up some groceries and includes blueberries because they’re nutritious, they taste good, and we’re always running out.Image

Given the oppressive heat and humidity, I decided to use the blueberries to make sorbet.

A few years ago, we cashed in a gift certificate for our first ice cream maker. It seemed to be a dud purchase for a long time – one of those appliances you buy but don’t end up using. However, things changed when our air conditioning stopped working one day.

Since then, we’ve used the ice cream maker to prepare various sorbets. Yesterday, I tried a recipe from simplyrecipes.com, a food blog I hadn’t seen before, and which I’d like to spend some time exploring. It’s not complicated, and the sorbet was creamy and fresh-tasting. I used five cups of berries, and still had enough left over for breakfast.

The recipe is at http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/blueberry_sorbet/