The more time passes, the more I find it’s all about leaps of faith.
Choosing a career, finding a life partner, starting a family, buying a house, all these and so much more depend on us having faith that the future will hold enough of what we need to make any new venture a successful one. And so it was when I decided it was time to sell the house and downscale. It had been a bitter separation, taking close to four years to come to almost closure. The house I lived in with my kids was paid for, though I’d had to put a mortgage on it to build a new well since ours had gone dry (as so many did in 2001 and 2002 in our area). Selling the house meant that the final bone of contention was being removed. The settlement, court directed, gave him 30% of the proceeds, the rest went to my children and myself. Cleared up some debts and made a nice down payment on a new house. Now, I’m self-employed, so the first leap of faith was that I’d have enough work to keep up the payments. We took possession of the house in August. I used some of the proceeds of the sale of the “matrimonial home” to spruce up the new home thanks to my daughter’s talents and we haven’t looked back.
Because the events of 2004 were going to prove to be challenging, I had asked our editor-in-chief, Ronda, to give me a year or so to regroup and then get back to writing. A leap of faith on her part, but she agreed. She’s always been very supportive.
So here I am with my re-entry to what I love best, writing about food.
I intend to occupy this space for some time to come, it’s what I love and I hope in some small way you’ll also come to love what I do here. Please feel free to contact me, either through our feedback forms or at with questions, concerns or comments and I’ll do my level best to answer each and every one.
I’ m not sure yet what shape or format this space will take, there are a lot of different directions I’m thinking about going in and it will likely be different each time you decide to take a peek. Relax and settle in cuz one thing I can promise you is that it’ll be an adventure every time.
Since this column is about new beginnings, this first issue of the New Year, I’d like to tell you about a new beginning that my oldest son Matthew has embarked upon.
Matt is 21 and had been in university working on a BA in Anthropology and Communications for two years when he came home at the end of second year and said he was thinking of a course change. Since that’s not unusual while in the course of a university education, I didn’t think much of it. That is, I didn’t until he told us what he intended to do. You see, Matt had decided that he was going to leave the university and enroll in a course at the community college to earn his chef’s papers. Not so unusual you might think in a household where his mother was so “into” food and cooking but unusual in that Matt, of the four of my children, was the one least interested in cooking and things food related and the last one you might have imagined to have an interest in that direction. So of course we encouraged it, his sister and I both being staunch believers in following your dream. Another leap of faith.
As I write this today, Matt has just come home for Christmas vacation. His marks are in the high 90’s in all his course classes and he’s been encouraged to follow through for a third year (remembering he has just completed his first of four regular semesters) of more specialized training when he completes his basic two year course.
He brought home an assignment he’d got back marked just at end of semester. It was an interesting assignment because it required him to make some of the most traditional dishes into more health conscious ones. The premise was to lower the saturated fat and cholesterol levels while raising the fiber content in dishes that were otherwise traditional and usually calorie laden, Vichyssoise, Beef Stroganoff on a bed of Noodles and Chicken Fricassee with Rice Pilaf. In addition, his desserts needed to take into consideration the needs of diabetics and those with celiac disease.
And so began a solid six weeks of work for Matt. I know this because every so often he would call me, or contact me online and ask me what I thought of this or that substitution or change.
To say that I am always proud of my four children is an understatement in the worst way. However, over the course of the time it took Matt to put this assignment together, I came to a new respect for my son’s talents and accomplishments and my “momma’s pride” in him scaled new heights. So I’m reading over his assignment and I am in awe of how polished and professionally it’s put together. Then I reach the back page, where the marking scheme resides. Presentation – Minimal was 25% of the mark, Matt’s chef’s comment was “Excellent” and his score the full 25%. Presentation – Professional (layout, graphics, binding etc) was also 25% of the mark and his comment here was “Excellent, well done” with a smiley and again the full 25% awarded. The Content was worth 50% of the mark and again the chef’s comment was “Excellent, you deserve this” and Matt’s score was the full 50%.
How did he accomplish all this? In the Vichyssoise, he substituted olive oil for the butter for sautéing, reduced the amount of cream he used by about a third and he exchanged the chicken stock for vegetable stock. Then for added fiber, he stirred finely ground almonds into the soup at time of service. In the Stroganoff he again substituted olive oil for the butter in sautéing. He used a leaner cut of beef and then replaced the egg noodles traditionally served under a stroganoff with spinach noodles made with whole wheat flour, lowering the cholesterol and raising the fiber content. In the Fricassee we find him repeating the theme of olive oil instead of butter for the sauté, and he also used skinless chicken. He used whole wheat flour for his roux to bump the fiber content up a notch or two and used a vegetable stock instead of a chicken stock for the same reason as well as to lower the fat content. He found a repeating theme, olive oil for butter, vegetable stock for chicken stock, then in a stroke of what his mom would call genius, he replaced the white rice called for in the Pilaf with a wild and brown rice blend, reduced its quantity by 300gr and substituted 200gr of millet, then also added 250g each of peas and corn. Seemingly simple solutions to what had started out being a daunting task.
He made a celiac-safe cake with a chocolate and hazelnut gateau that used gluten-free flour and incorporated ground hazelnuts and chocolate for an awesome dessert. And then he turned his attention to the diabetic sensitive dessert. I’ll let him take it from here.
- My mom has diabetes so to make a sugar-free dessert was just a little bit of a memory jog for me. I knew that diabetics are deficient in insulin and can’t process sugar efficiently. Therefore, creating a dessert that was sugar-free wasn’t too difficult.
I decided I would do this one for my mother and made one of her favourite desserts. I chose the Fudge mainly for my mom but also because I feel as though Fudge is one of those things that people associate with sugar. I figured that many diabetics didn’t realize that they could eat Fudge. I wanted to show everyone that, really, anything can be made diabetic safe if you substitute sweetener for the sugar.
I went back to the stock room and made sure we had some Sweet’n Low and some unsweetened chocolate for the Fudge. I decided to put pecans in because I feel that nuts and chocolate go hand in hand. Chocolate by itself is sort of boring, that’s why most chocolate bars have so much other stuff in them. So I chose pecans because they are a good nut and very different from hazelnuts.
- 454 grams (16 oz.) cream cheese, softened
- 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
- 120 ml (1/2 c.) Sweet’n Low
- 5 ml (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
- 120 ml (1/2 c.) chopped pecans
In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, chocolate, sweetener and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the pecans and pour into and 8 inch baking pan lined with foil.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into squares, serve chilled.
- Yields: 16 servings
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus refrigeration time
So there you have it. Leaps of faith, tributes, and life going forward. Look to this space each month for a twist on the ordinary and lots of news, anecdotes and reasons to smile.
Here’s my wish that your New Year brings you everything you need for a happy life in abundance.