Thursday, September 29, 2011

Potato, Bacon & Cheddar Tart (For Sarah and the rest of us bacon-philes everywhere)

The lack of posts has been a really good indicator of the amount of free time I've had in the past week or two.
Lots of extra shifts at work, time in the hospital, and trainings at various work locations.
I have the next few hours all to myself, after having slept until 1 pm this afternoon.
I did my first night shift at the hospital last night!
Despite being terrified that I would pass out from exhaustion in a hallway somewhere, I was surprisingly awake for the better part of the 12 hours. I did get about an hour, maybe an hour and a half of shut eye during my breaks but I didn't fall fast asleep at any point in time.
And what really shocked me was that I left the hospital this morning kind of enjoying working nights.
The night shift is still busy but it's also much quieter.
Between taking vitals every hour and making sure the patient hadn't pulled his ventilation tube off of his trache (three times, each time I panicked because I thought he was choking to death and the machine's alarm didn't help ease my anxiety), I found time to read through 2 nursing articles and even time to browse through a healthy living/organic style magazine.
I gave my first injection of the year (16th ever and no nervous hand shaking!), gave meds through a PEG tube again, set up feeds, and just about scrubbed my hands raw as the patient had MRSA.
I also narrowly missed my first death on the unit.
When I returned from break I learned from one of the other nurses that a woman had come up from another unit and within an hour had gone into cardiac arrest. They tried CPR but she had died. As she told me, I looked over my shoulder towards the area where the woman had died just in time to see her being covered and wheeled off of the unit.
Sort of a weird feeling at 3 am.

But all in all it was a wonderful first evening shift and I'm almost looking forward to the next one.
One of the nurses lives in the building beside me so she picked me up on my walk to the hospital and drove me home in the morning!
So obviously I'm deciding what gift I'll give her at the end of the semester.

On to more pressing matters.
The LCBO goLOCAL blog challenge is almost over as voting ends tomorrow and then it'll be a waiting game to see if I got enough votes to put me in the top 5.
My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I want to thank everyone who has voted for doing so!

There is still today and tomorrow to vote so please click here and click on the vote button 2 last times :)

Lastly, one of my friends (after helping me solicit votes) said that she had recently found this blog and enjoyed the bacon wrapped asparagus post.
So to thank her for helping me with the voting process I give you another amazing bacon recipe - one that I have yet to try but I've been thinking about this one on and off for about 4 years.
The recipe is from Michael Smith (Chef at Home).

You will need:
  • 2 pounds room temperature bacon
  • lots freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups shredded aged cheddar
  • 5 or 6 large baking potatoes (unpeeled)
  • a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly grated pepper
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Carefully arrange the bacon in a radial pattern from the centre of the bottom of a 10- or 12-inch (25 or 30 cm) round non-stick baking pan to the lower edge of the rim and continuing up and over the sides of it. Let the ends hang over. The slices should overlap slightly around the sides of the pan. To reduce the thickness of the bacon in the centre, stagger every other piece, starting it 2 inches (5 cm) from the centre and extending it further than the adjacent slices.
  3. With the palm of your hand, flatten the centre area, leaving no gaps in the bacon. Season the bacon with lots of pepper and then sprinkle on several spoonfuls of the shredded cheddar.
  4. Slice the potatoes as thinly and uniformly as you can, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick.
  5. Arrange a circular pattern of overlapping slices around the inside bottom edge of the pan. Continue arranging overlapping layers of the potatoes until the bottom is evenly covered. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.
  6. Mix together the onion and garlic and sprinkle some of the mixture onto the potatoes. Continue with a layer of the shredded cheese. Cover with another layer of the potato, pressing it down firmly before continuing with alternate layers of the potatoes, onion mixture and cheese, insetting each a bit from the edge of the pan until the top is an inch (2.5 cm) or so higher than the pan’s rim. Fold the overhanging bacon neatly up and over the top of the potatoes.
  7. Trim a small piece of parchment paper and place it in between an ovenproof lid and the bacon. This will prevent the bacons ends from pulling back and shrinking during cooking.
  8. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You’ll know it’s done when a small, thin bladed knife inserts easily.
  9. Pour off as much of the fat around the edges as possible. Let the tart stand for 15 minutes and then invert it onto a cutting surface. Slice into wedges and serve immediately.
  10. You may refrigerate any leftovers and reheat them later it in a microwave.

I'm going to finish off this pot of coffee then print out some more nursing articles before I head to work.
It's almost the weekend!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Inevitable 'Back To The Real World' Exhaustion

Every September I try and ease myself back into the work/school schedule.
Usually I end up just sort of being thrust into it.
Such is the case once again.
This week has been incredibly busy - although I did find time to bake s'mores cookies on Tuesday afternoon AND madeleine's Wednesday night. I stand by my opinion that baking is the best stress reliever.
Monday was work and school and trying to work around that fact that I had double booked myself for both class (it won) and a training for my new part-time job as a swim instructor at a children's rehab hospital.
A glass of wine and the roast of Charlie Sheen on Monday night was the last time I can remember sitting on the couch totally relaxed.
Tuesday I took the day off work to frantically try and work on my history essay outline that's due this Sunday (still not done...) and to complete an online learning module for how to use the electronic patient records at my placement hospital (Passed! Hurray!).
Wednesday was my first 12 hour shift (ever) in the ICU. The nurse I was working with is probably the sweetest person I've ever met. Everyone was so nice and welcoming on the unit. I spent the day observing, learning how to read the machines, and getting familiar with the goings-on in a cardiovascular ICU.
I have to say, so far I'm really enjoying it.
The nurses in the CVICU generally have one patient which means there is more time to really get to know the unique needs of that person as well as build better relationships with both the patient and the patients family. I did my fair share of comforting on Wednesday.
And I don't want to brag (yes I do, I'm exhausted and want praise heaped upon me) but I got a hug from the patient's partner when she left for the night on Thursday.
Thursday was also spent in the ICU but only until 4:30. Then I had to pack up and head over to a training for my job at the children's rehab hospital. I got home just before 11 pm last night and threw myself into bed.
Today I have a meeting then class, then another training for my job with the City.
Tomorrow...another training. 12-9. Then I have to come home and finish this history outline.
Sunday looks like it will be spent back in the ICU to avoid doing 2 back-to-back night shifts this upcoming week.
Wednesday night will be my first night shift. I didn't want to do 2 straight away because I'm fairly certain it's going to be a rough night.

Monday, once I'm home from class (around 6)...

(original picture from this blog)

How strange that I look forward to Monday rather than the weekend...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I recall, Algonquin Park in Fall

I've definitely used that title before...
but it works so well and, don't lie, you're singing right now
"how you tore your dress, what a mess, I confess..."
Thist weekend was spent paddling, layering, eating, and relaxing on the beautiful waters of Algonquin Provincial Park.
The weather was beautiful.The days were filled with blue skies and sunshine and despite the end of summer high of 17 degrees, I was down to just my tank top during our paddling.
Friday and Saturday night got down to about 2 degrees so I was thankful for my winter snow suit.
And the incredibly warm mummy-like sleeping bag my mom bought me for christmas.
And my cousins and aun and uncle who found it for me (I left it at the fam-jam cottage) and safely returned it to me!

I forgot to take pictures of our meals but I can tell you that just about everything tastes better cooked over an open fire.
Cherry tomatoes? Red, orange, and yellow peppers? Steak? Potatoes?

I've picniked some of my photos for you.
Here we have the boys unloading the canoes in preparation for our first portage, from Smoke Lake to Ragged Lake.
This portage felt bad, 240 m half of which was uphill.
After the second portage (590 m, ALL of which was uphill), the first one seemed like a walk in the park.
It literally was - ba doom ch.

Here's a collage of me paddling with (you can't see it but) the paddle that John made me a few years ago, our canoes (the green one John fixed up and unfortunately weighs SO much more than those nice aluminum ones....not fun for portaging, the sunset in Parkside Bay, and our winter wear in contrast to daytime clothing.

My trusty waterproof Hunter rain non-boots. Kept my feet dry and only gave me 4 blisters. That'll teach me to not wear socks.

And perhaps my favourite photo of the entire weekend - I didn't retouch this at all, only rounded the edges of the photo:
John getting in some last minute fishing on Saturday night at our beautiful campsite in Parkside Bay.

Now I must spend the rest of my day writing a history essay outline, doing an online leaing module on electronic patient records, go over IVs, fluids & electrolytes, drugs, cenral and peripheral lines, and all other things I might be expected to know tomorrow when I do my first 12 hour shift in the ICU.
And then I will go on a pinterest binge to reward myself.

And please, if you haven't voted yet today, scroll down to the bottom of this link and click on the vote button!
Your support is very much appreciated!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I entered my humble blog into the LCBO goLOCAL contest and it qualified, so my work is done.
Now I ask you, oh wonderful readers, friends of readers, people who randomly stumble across this, to help me out.
Please vote for my blog entry!
Click here then scroll down to the bottom. See that button that says 'vote'? Go ahead and click on it.

I'm off to Algonquin for a (cold) weekend of canoeing, camping, and (fingers crossed) moose-spotting, so I'm going to leave this first weekend of campaigning in your trusty hands.

Please vote for me!
I"ve won very few things in my life and these prizes are amazing!

...Just in case.

and tell your friends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Thanksgiving" Soup

Yes, I realize it's a little too early for Thanksgiving.
Although when you think about the fact that it's already mid-September, Thanksgiving (Canadian version) isn't actually all that far away.
Regardless, this post has nothing to do with Thanksgiving other than the fact that I named my soup to reflect the ingredients found in it.

Feeling ever-so-slightly stressed on Monday, I posted a recipe for a Comfort Soup. I was missing several of the necessary ingredients so I scoured my fridge to find something else that would warm and comfort me while I tried not to turn every hair on my head white.

Side note: I've been finding the occasional white hair when my hair starts to grow out and the highlights no longer cover the first 3 inches from my roots (I'm cheap and try to go as long as I can in between appointments). There's such a satisfaction in plucking them out, not because I feel like I'm avoiding the aging process but instead because those suckers are as thick as whiskers!
That's how they're supposed to feel, right?


Am I turning into an old man or a cat?

Apologies, apologies, I digress.
Craving something comforting for dinner, I remembered I had ground turkey in the fridge that I had meant to use in the cavatappi gratin.
I decided that turkey meatballs would be both warm and comforting so I started prepping my necessaries.
When I first began cooking I would make meatballs by pulling off a small chunk of ground beef, rolling it between my hands, then frying it in a small puddle of oil.
Then one day I discovered something that changed my life for the better:
The Food Network.

I don't recall which show reformed me and my meatball masacres but I've never made meatballs since without adding in an egg to bind it (One egg to rule them all. One egg to find them. One egg to bring them all and in the darkness bind them...I've had too much alone time this week. Send help), among other things.

This soup was created over the course of 2 days.
I made 10 meatballs on Monday night then cooked up the rest of the turkey in a pot.
I didn't have potatoes or kale so I grabbed some on Tuesday and put it all together last night.
I also should have gotten chicken stock but luckily we had a few packets of beef stock kicking around so I was able to flavour the broth. The beef certinly isn't bad but I'm going to recommend you use chicken broth.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking sheet. In a bowl, place 1 pkg of thawed ground turkey. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, mix in 1 egg, 1 cup chopped green onion, 1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used very finely diced halloumi - needed to use it up and thought it might offer an interesting texture because of it's high melting point), 1/4 cup sour cream (using this in place of ketchup gave the meatballs such a tender consistency), 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs, and salt and pepper. Mix together until combined.
  • For meatballs: scoop about 1 tbsp of meat out of the bowl and roll between your palms to create a ball. Place on the baking sheet and repeat. Bake for about 30 minutes, longer if you make bigger meatballs.
  • If you choose not to do meatballs, brown the meat in a pot over medium heat, stirring every so often to break up the meat and to ensure it cooks thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, set a pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook 3 potatoes until they become tender (stick a fork in them to test this), about 15-20 minutes. It's okay if the potatoes are not entirely tender at this point because the potatoes will cook again later. Once tender, cut the potatoes into large chunks. If you want to remove the skin it should slip off of the potato fairly easily at this stage.
  • Rinse the potato pot and add one of the potatoes, cut up, back to it. Add in 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp milk and mash the potato.
  • To the mashed potato add in 6 cups of water and about 6 tbsp of chicken stock. If you use canned broth use 2-3 cans. Add in the rest of the potatoes and add in the cooked ground turkey.
  • Chop up enough for 2 cups of kale then add to the soup. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer until the kale has wilted. Serve and enjoy!

Now to try and write a history essay outline for this 7 week course...

*I've updated this post with information on how you can support the Ride to Conquer Cancer!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

LCBO goLOCAL Find Your Favourite Blog Challenge

The LCBO is asking for bloggers to share their favourite Ontario Wine Country experiences for a chance to wine some incredible prizes.

I love wine.
I love Ontario Wine Country.
I have a blog!

When my friend, fellow foodie, and fellow wine enthusiast Ginger Rose told me about this incredible opportunity offered by the LCBO, I knew immediately that to pick one experience to blog about was going to be a challenge.
 I have had many incredible adventures in Ontario Wine Country, but after careful consideration, I was able to narrow it down to 2 potential story candidates.
Both have been loving titled for your viewing and reading pleasure.

The first runner up:

In which our protagonists, 4 friends each with an obvious lack of shame, decide that matching shirts are the best way to make new friends on the bus.
While this story is a good one (spoiler alert: we made friends and got several other people on our tour to wear the shirts), it was recently eclipsed by a Wine Country experience that is a story still in the making.

The Winner:

In which our wine-loving protagonists plan their vineyard wedding.
*Ed note: the original title of this tale was 'When a Wino loves a Wino' but upon a more in-depth investigation of the actual definition of the word 'wino', I felt it might have been deemed inappropriate.

Quick back story before we get into the Wine Country Experience.
John and I met when we were 16 and 15 respectively but didn't connect romantically until just before my 21st birthday.
Since then we have moved in together and on June 3oth, 2011,  John got down on one knee on our balcony and proposed.
We had always discussed getting married on a vineyard somewhere in Niagara and I had secretly scoped out venues both online and in person during the great winery bike tour of August 2010.

We spent a few quiet evenings browsing various wineries in the Niagara area, making note of which ones hosted weddings.

Right from the start, one winery stood out.

I found myself coming back to the website again and again to look at the pictures.
I sent off a quick email asking for more information and a speedy response proved that this place was a serious contender.
After crunching some numbers (and directing friends and family to check out the pictures to ooh and ahh over) we booked an appointment to see the winery in person.

Did you know that there are two Ontario Street exits off of the QEW?

After taking the slightly longer but more scenic route, we arrived at our venue and immediately fell in love with it.

Legends Estates Winery in Beamsville, Ontario.

When we walked onto the property we were greeted by a rustic truck with a bed full of barrels and by row after row of grapes.
Overlooking Lake Ontario is a white gazebo. I saw it as the spot where next summer we will say "I do".
Beside that is a tent that houses tables, chairs, and a dance floor. I saw it as the place where we will dine and dance the night away with our friends and families.

We met with the two women who help to make weddings happen at Legends and they told us all about how our day would unfold.
We were sold.
And I became a poet.

We have always loved trying and learning about different wines.
Our guests will be given this experience with a guided tasting of the wines offered at Legends.
Legends also secured itself as our top venue choice when we learned that a percentage of the sales from their Diva wines goes to Women's Place of South Niagara, an organization that provides shelter and services to abused women, children, teens, as well as friends and family of abused women.
Please visit their website here if you'd like more information.

I have had many incredible experiences in Ontario Wine Country. From cycling from winery to winery in the sun and in the rain, to striking up conversation with strangers regarding some very ugly orange shirts. I've come home from every trip with wonderful memories.

The Wine Country experience that has meant the most to me was walking hand in hand with the love of my life around Legends Estates Winery, knowing that in just over a year from that moment we would once again be strolling through those same spots.
Only next time we'd be doing it as husband and wife.

Ontario Wine Country will always be a place of romance for me.
It will always remind me of how lucky I am to have someone who makes me so happy, who is so handsome, so kind, so mature...

...and so perfect for me.

This is an even better Ontario Wine Country adventure in the making.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stressed. Out. Already.

WARNING: This post is a rant with a recipe thrown in at the end. If you're looking for my usual upbeat, more positive ramblings I suggest you come back tomorrow. I'm going to get this off my chest then go give myself a get-over-it pep talk. But for now....

I don't think I've ever been this stressed out during any of the 21 years I've been a student, especially after only having one class so far.
I know that no one person is to blame and I don't like complaining but after the number of confusions and problems I (and the other 499 nursing students) have encountered...well, this year better be smooth sailing from now on.

My school messed up almost everyone's clinical placements. One woman (or so it seems) was in charge of relaying placement information to the students. Unfortunately there was an unexpected death in her family and she had to leave the country. Understandable. I've had to reschedule 2 exams because of unexpected deaths so I do not in any way harbour hard feelings towards this woman. What I don't get is why one woman was given this huge responsibility. She must have been working alone because once she left, Ryerson was left fumbling to get placement information out to the students.
The vast majority of us only learned of our placements this past week. I found out Friday night around 5 pm. Source of stress number one. It was only amplified when I kept getting timed-out of the website where my placement information was posted. Thank goodness one of my friends logged in for me on her computer and gave me the good news. She's a stress life-saver.

I emailed my preceptor and s/he is on vacation until the 25th of this month. I get it, we're all entitled to holidays and I'll be the first one to advocate for well deserved time off. But I'm going to go ahead and assume that my learning was not just SURPRISE! sprung upon this nurse. I assume they asked or were notified of this opportunity. So...I've got another 2 weeks off before I can go into the hospital. I did register for an orientation training on the 23rd so I probably wouldn't have been able to go onto the unit for a shift before then anyway. Finding the positives.

My schedule has my conference time with my faculty advisor (FA) on Mondays from 4-6. We were not assigned to FAs until our placements had been sorted out. I only found out who my FA is about twenty minutes ago. After 4 pm. I emailed various lead teachers trying to make sure I hadn't missed some important email because my name had been spelled wrong or because I had completely overlooked an obvious post on our school's intranet site. If you know me (or my mother, or grandmother, or probably any female from the Woods/McIntyre gene pool) I don't like to be late. To the point where it causes me anxiety. So to not know where I needed to be going until after the scheduled time....I was medicating with potato chips.
Finding the positives: I have contacted my FA and she seems wonderful. There is no meeting this week and information for next week's meeting will be sent out in plenty of time.

I registered for an online history course so that I could avoid having to go in to school. Not because I'm lazy (only partially) but mostly because I need time to work and save money. I registered for the course because it was the same professor I had for the espionage course I took last semester and I really enjoyed posting online every week and discussing the concepts. After not being able to access the online content until this afternoon (stress source 4a) I learned that this course is not a 14 week course but a 7 week course (stress source 4b). That means 2 weeks of material crammed into each week. First assignment due at the end of next week, essay due by week 5 or 6 and the final exam at the end of October/early November.
Oh F*#k.
What have I done?
Finding the positives: I'll be free to focus on practice and theory all of November and December. There's no postings to be done, just readings and 2 assignments to submit. I enjoy, grasping for straws here, need more positives....I've taken numerous WWII era history courses before...?

That's it for now.
I'm going to watch True Blood and try and lower my blood pressure.
But first I promised a recipe!

Comfort Soup
(for the Stressed Soul)
(recipe from here)
  • Place 4 peeled and quartered russet potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and stir in 4 links of hot Italian sausage (casings removed). Break up the sausage and cook, stirring until the sausage is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Remove the sausage to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Stir 1 large onion (diced) into the sausage drippings; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 bunch kale (chopped), and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in 6 cups chicken stock, then stir in the sausage and potatoes, and return to a simmer. Stir in 1/4 cup hot sauce just before serving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cinnamon Cakes with Warm Apple Compote

Today is my future sister-in-law's birthday and we celebrated last night at John's parents' house. We dined on steak and salmon, salads and sweet potatoes and finished the night with a tuxedo cake from Costco (delicious, I highly recommend it).
We got her a gift certificate to a swanky restaurant in the area and to go with it I was going to make profiteroles but didn't have time.
Instead, I turned to a recipe I saw in the LCBO Food & Drink magazine from last fall.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl cream 1/2 cup butter with 1 cup brown sugar. Beat in 1 egg and 2 tsp vanilla.
  • Mix together in a nother bowl 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add into the butter mix, alternating with 1 cup sour cream so that the flour is added in 3 batches and the sour cream is added in 2.
  • Pour batter into a cake pan or other pan of your choosing. Bake for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. 
  • Meanwhile, in a pot over medium-high heat, combine 4 apples, peeled and diced, with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for another 5 minutes or until apples are soft.
  • In a bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp water, and a pinch of cinnamon. Brush this glaze over the warm cakes then spoon the apple compote over each slice or mini-cake. Serve warm.

These cakes are a great fall dessert, especially on colder evenings. The apple is such an autumn flavour and the warmth of the dessert makes it that much better.

In other (less exciting) news I finally rode the new subway! Toronto has one new subway train and I can finally say I've been on it. It's pretty nice...

Well I'm off to bed.
I'll be ready this week with some new recipes for dinner and deserts!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spinach Cavatappi Gratin

I'm still excited about my placement!
It's so much more nerve-wracking than being on a nephrology unit or a post-surgical unit ... I don't know what to expect and I think that's what's making me so anxious to get onto the unit and to see what kinds of skills I will be learning and using.

Last night John and I went to see Contagion and I recommend it.
It's not exactly a happy, feel-good movie but I enjoyed it.
We also ran into two friends just as we were going into the theatre which was a nice surprise!

This morning we're going out for breakfast and to run a few errands but before I go I want to post the recipe from last night's dinner.
We had a pasta dish that I saw in the Milk calendar and wanted to try.
Having tasted the recipe I'm suggesting the addition of bacon or ground turkey (which I bought with the intention of using but forgot in the fridge).

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook 1 1/2 cups of pasta (you don't have to use cavatappi but the curly shape grabs more of the sauce. Cavatappi is also called scoobi-do.....ya, I know). Add in 2 shredded carrots at the last minute of cooking. Drain and set aside.
  • Using the same pot, melt 1 tbsp butter and 3 cloves of garlic minced, 1 tsp paprika, 3/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Whisk in 2 cups of milk.
  • In a bowl whisk together 1 cup of milk and 2 tbsp flour. Add to the pot of warm milk and stir until combined. Stir on medium high heat until bubbling and thickened.
  • Remove from heat and add in pasta and 1 pkg (thawed) spinach. If you're using fresh spinach stir it around until it is wilted. Add in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used marble).
  • *** For added flavour add in crumbled bacon or ground turkey/beef.
  • Spread pasta into a casserole dish and set the oven to broil. Top the pasta with 1 cup of bread crumbs and 1/4 cup cheese. Melt under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the top is bublly and brown.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Challenge: Impossible...?

Recaping the last few days:
Wednesday I got to go to a Jays Game with John, my dad, my sister and her boyfriend. It was such a fun night because I love going to baseball games and, on top of that, the Jays won!
Take that, Boston.

Yesterday I biked to work, then got my hair done, then came home and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. Laundry, dishes, cat litter, picking up clutter...A very productive day.
I have a few more recipes I want to try out this weekend but they will have to wait for the weekend because today I'm all over the place. Interview in the morning, class this afternoon (first day back! Eep!), then work in the evening.
But then it's the weekend!

I was toying with an idea for a challenge in my head for the past few days, wondering if it's actually possible.
I have a bad habit of spending money pretty freely, whether it be shopping, grabbing a coffee, buying lunch, magazines, etc.
I need to be better about saving, especially since I have a wedding to pay for (and OSAP to pay off next spring too).
Here's where I challenge myself.
Starting this Sunday, I'm challenging myself to not spend ANY money for an entire week.
I know.
It's like setting myself up for failure.
But I think I can at least make it Monday to Friday.

Now that I've paid for my hair there aren't many other things I need to worry about.
Except John's sister's birthday (Sunday) (solution? Buy her present tomorrow before the self-imposed ban on spending begins) and an Algonquin camping trip next weekend.
Algonquin will be good because out in the wilderness you can't really spend much money unless you want to throw it at various woodland creatures. 
Or unless you're like me and go into the store right by the canoe launch and buy gloves (in my defense I bought them because I was freezing), warm socks (I don't regret that purchase either), a rain-proof poncho (that one wasn't really necessary...), and candy.
Actually maybe I should postpone this challenge until after Algonquin. 
Not because I'm going to go buy all new camping items but rather because we'll need to buy food (and alcohol) to take with us into the interior. 
John has been fixing up a canoe so we're saving money by not renting one. And we have our own paddles and lifejackets. 

Once I set foot in Algonquin I will start the challenge.
The Empty Pockets Challenge! 

If I'm successful I'll try and allot one week a month to spending no money.
*Bills and rent are exempt from this but I'll try and plan around important dates.
The challenge begins September 17th - September 24th.

Now, if you want to spend some money on good things I'm going to direct you to two very worthy causes.

1. My cousin is participating in the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life. If this is a cause that, like me, you think is incredibly important, please support her here.

2.  My friend, and one of John's groomsmen, is raising money to participate in the Ride To Conquer Cancer. You can donate to this very worthy cause here! We need to get him to $3,500!

In other news - I finally got my placement for clinical!
I will be in the Cardio/Vascular surgery ICU!
I'm very excited as I feel this unit will challenge me and will provide many opportunities to learn a vast array of skills, both practical and human. I'm nervous too, as I've only been in an ICU once before when my grandfather was dying and it was a hard experience.
I can guarantee there will be tears this semester but I'm looking forward to this placement and I know I will walk off that unit in December as a better person.
Ready to start!

In more Martha-esque news, I tried out a new recipe for dinner and it's a keeper! I've made a few changes to it to make it taste a bit better and I will post that tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beer Bread

This post might get cut short because I'm on notice to be picked up for tonight's Blue Jay game against the Boston Red Sox and the game starts in just over an hour, so...

John has been giving me a hard time about not using the bread machine he bought me awhile ago so I've been thinking about making bread for the last few days.
It just so happens that on Saturday, while bored at work, I came across a recipe in the Metro for an easy and interesting loaf of bread.
This morning I decided to give it a try.
I promise you, this is likely the easiest loaf of bread you will ever make.
If, like me, you've spent days cultivating starters, kneading until your arms hurt, and waiting patiently for bread to rise and double in size, this recipe will seem like a breeze.
45 minutes is all it takes to bake and there is no time spent waiting for the dough to rise. This recipe uses no yeast! It doesn't need to be kneaded! The only waiting time is when it's in the oven baking!
The recipe from Metro suggested Molson Canadian 67 Sublime. I used Rickard's White but really you could use just about any type of beer you like best.

Beer Bread

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan. 
  • In a bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt.
  • Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 1 bottle of beer and 1 tbsp honey. The Metro recipe suggests adding 2 tbsp chives (I omitted this ingredient, mainly because I didn't have any chives). Bring the ingredients together using a wooden spoon and stir until thoroughly moistened. Place in the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.

The beer taste doesn't overpower this bread so don't worry about it not pairing well with sandwich ingredients or other toppings.
This bread would be great dipped into thick soups or stews and would definitely work well with BBQ chicken.
If you're looking for a quick and super simple bread recipe, this is an excellent go-to.

Now I gotta go see about a baseball game...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cobb Salad & Jamie's Simple Salad Dressing

Good Tuesday evening!
Having no clinical to attend and only a three and a half hour work shift to get through, I had a nice quiet day. I downloaded another 45 songs onto my ipod (my ipod died so I borrowed my mini back from my dad but the battery life on that one was all of 45 minutes so my sister graciously gave me her old video ipod. Long story short, it's synced up with the computer in my parent's basement and since this laptop is brand spanking new, I have to go over to my parents every time I want to put new music on it) and then went grocery shopping with my dad.
I picked up some tasty things including Cheese Strings! I haven't had a Cheese String in a long time but my good golly miss molly they're still as delicious and as much fun as I remember.
Because I am still 12.

I figured since I had a few bags of food and some spare time that I would whip up a nice dinner for myself and John.
I'd been browsing through last year's milk calendar and came across a few recipes that I want to try. I was going to go for the baked cavatappi gratin but instead went with a cobb salad as my dad had bought us a roasted chicken and it was still so nice and warm.
Inspired by this:

I made this!

All you need is lettuce, corn, chicken, blue cheese (you can substitute in a different kind if you're not a fan of the blue) and some dressing.
I made my own taking heavy inspiration from the recipe in the milk calendar only I switched up a few ingredients.

Jamie's Simple Salad Dressing

(this recipe will make enough for about 3 salads so double up if you want more dressing or are feeding more people)

  •  In a bowl whisk together 1/2 cup milk with 1/4 cup light mayonnaise and 1 tbsp mustard.
  • Finely chop 1/4 cup fresh chives and mix into the dressing.
  • Add in 1/8 cup red wine vinegar.
  • Add in salt and pepper to taste. Give the dressing a final stir then serve over salad.

I gotta go run some late night errands but I'll be back tomorrow with a new recipe!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Carrot Cake Balls

Somehow Labour Day has snuck up on us.
For many kids (and teens and adults, myself and my Vice Principle mom included) tomorrow means back to school.
I have managed to snag the rest of this week off (except for 3 hours on Friday) as the school is still having trouble getting all of our placement information to us.
Luckily I've been able to pick up a few shifts this week so I won't go broke waiting for fall work to start up again (which isn't until the 24th).
To celebrate the end of summer, John and I went down to The Ex to catch the air show.
About 20 minutes after waking up this morning I got my pre-migraine blind spot so I wasn't sure I would be able to suck it up and go with John (who was very excited).
Luckily the meds kicked in and by the time we got down to the CNE my head was fine.
It also helped that it was pretty chilly outside - like a nice big cold compress on my head.
That cold did get a bit too cold though, as we had to snuggle into each other to stay warm right by the lake.
All in all a romantic afternoon spent watching some really cool air shows.

You can check out all the planes we saw at the CNE website but as I indicated in the picture, we saw some awesome formation flying, the Osprey's first show in Canada, a Lancaster from the War Plane Heritage Museum in Hamilton (John particularly enjoyed that one), and lots of aerobatics.

We also made time for some overpriced CNE food, including the largest hot dog I've ever eaten.
To be fair I shared it with John (my half is the one hidden under the pickles). And I made John try to deep fried oreos.
He liked them.

Yesterday I was craving cake and I really wanted to do some baking.
I decided that to stop myself from eating entire slabs of cake I would individualize them and try something I've wanted to try since this time last year: Cake Balls!

Step One: Bake the Carrot Cake
(Martha Stewart recipe - pecans swapped for raisins)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ginger, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
  2. Beat 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 3 minutes. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup water, and 4-5 peeled and grated carrots. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture, then 2 cups raisins.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.
Step Two: Make the Icing

In a bowl mix together 2 pkgs of cream cheese (softened) with 2 cups of icing sugar.

Step Three: Make the Cake Balls

1. Once the carrot cake has cooled, crumble the cake into a large bowl. Use your hands to ensure the cake crumbles into small peices.
2. Mix the icing into the crumbled cake and mix together to form a sort of batter.
3. Grab about a tablespoon of cake and shape it into a ball by rolling it using your palms.
4. Let the cake balls set in the fridge.

Step Four: Decorate

I sort of messed up this step but you can choose to dunk the cake balls in chocolate (I used white chocolate which I coloured orange) to coat them completely, or you can drizzle them with the chocolate. You could also make more cream cheese icing to coat them with.
Or dunk them in an icing sugar and milk (you'll need about 1 tbsp of milk for 2 cups of sugar so add the milk in very small additions) mixture them roll them in chopped pecans or walnuts. The choice is up to you!

This labour day has been sort of bittersweet. It's my last year of going back to school and as much as I am ready to be done with school, I'm going to miss that excitement.
There's quite a bit to be excited about this year though.

Happy Labour Day!