Friday, March 29, 2013

A Quick Update

Well, Bram finally got his criminal record's check completed and his driver's license transferred to Saskatchewan.  It was a big deal to get it done.  He had to have the licence so that he could get the criminal record's check.  He couldn't get the license without his birth certificate.  It finally arrived express post from Yellowknife.  They sent it Thursday; it arrived Wednesday afternoon.  (Not very express, if I do say so.)  Wednesday evening Walter took Bram to the insurance office to get his license transferred.  However while they were in the process of doing it, the power went off.  Nothing gets saved if the computer goes down; and even though he waited until closing time, the power didn't come back on.

So, yesterday I picked Bram up from school in Moose Jaw shortly after 12:00 (he left his class early; his lunch break doesn't start until 12:30) - he knew he'd have to miss his afternoon classes and lab.  We got to the insurance office by 1:30, but the person there wouldn't accept all of his ID (health card, NWT driver's license, birth certificate, tax form) without an additional proof of Saskatchewan residency showing his address; and although he had a letter from SIAST showing that he was accepted as a student there; that wasn't on their list of acceptable ID.  So we had to drive to the bank so that they could print out a bank statement that gave his address, had a teller's stamp and signature on it; and then go back to the insurance office.  (What a pain!)  Once Bram had his temporary licence in hand, we went to the police station to get the criminal record's check.

I actually dropped Bram off there because I had a planning meeting about The Party.  We've lost a lot of the adult helpers lately and you simply cannot run a program for around 40 kids with five or fewer adults.  It doesn't work!  So we brainstormed how to get more helpers and what things could be done differently.

Meanwhile Bram got his criminal record's check and dropped it off and took the bus home.  Unfortunately, not having taken the bus before, he took the bus with the right number but going the wrong direction and it took him two hours to get home. All in all, it's been a bit of an ordeal.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


It's been a busy few days.  Saturday Ruth and I did our regular Saturday cooking and meal planning for the week.  We made three salads, one new one (Ham and Chickpea), plus Lentil Black Bean and Fake-um Potato Salad.  We also made a spinach meat loaf (it was supposed to be a meat roll, but we made it ground chicken instead of ground beef so it was too soft to roll and I ended up making it in a square cake pan.  What else?  Oh yeah, David was wanting some precooked hamburger patties, but we couldn't find any in the store so we put some in the oven and baked them while we were making other things.  Oh yeah, we also made a Mexican Chicken Lasagna.  (It was interesting, ok, but not great).

I had warned Ruth Saturday that we weren't having a crowd over Sunday.  I'm trying to keep it down to once a month, because it's expensive (and I'm currently unemployed), and we'd already had a crowd over earlier this month.  However, Saturday evening, Joyce phoned to ask if she and Robin (and Gideon) could come for Sunday dinner, and then if I could babysit Gideon while they went to Rider Pep Band practice.  Well, sure, of course - so then we invited a crowd over for lunch.  I think we probably had around 20 people, but I'm really not sure.  I have 17 plates and they were all used, plus some paper plates; but some plates were used as serving dishes. We had baked fish with lemon, left-over Mexican Chicken Lasagna, a vegetable frittata (Ruth and I had been wanting to try this and it turned out really very nice - easy too), plus Lisa brought tortillas and made quesadillas.  There was lots of food, and lots of visiting and we all had a good time.

Sunday evening I was feeling a little bored, so I decided to make Easter Bread (Paska).  I mixed up my yeast and then discovered I was really low on flour, so had to run out to the store to buy some; plus some more eggs because we had used them all up making the frittata.  Nicole was happy to help me bake (she really likes cooking).  I ended up making four of the traditional loaves (baked in cans so they're tall cylinders), and 20 buns.  They tasted really good, but I thought they'd be better with some lemon curd on them (traditionally they're iced, but I find that way too sweet), so then I made some lemon curd.  Very good.

Monday I went over to visit with Aunt Alice, and to deliver her some Easter Bread.  Then I went to visit the Steiners.  They're so busy, trying to get their house in shape before they leave, that I ended up inviting them for lunch, and to look after their girls in the afternoon. (Some things are just easier without preschoolers helping). I made a big batch of chicken vegetable soup and we had it with sandwiches and homemade dumplings. While Scarlett slept, Hadasssa and Ahzriel and I made mini muffins (a double batch of cranberry orange muffins and a single batch of gingerbread muffins).  I was wanting to have muffins for The Party last night.

Then I made Pizza Soup for supper (soup twice in the same day isn't generally what I plan to do, but that's the way it worked out last night) and then the usual dash out the door to The Party.  Bram stayed home.  He's had a really bad cold the past several days and also had a big assignment due Tuesday that he needed to work on.

We had around 40 kids for The Party, but were really short on helpers. (Bram was sick, Debbie is home recovering from surgery, Loopie's in New Guinea, etc.) (Did we notice?  YES WE DID!!!)  It was pretty wild and crazy last night.  When I finally got home, I went to bed early.  Bram was a little disappointed; he wanted me to proof read his assignment, but I was already asleep when he woke me up to ask me.  I proofed it this morning.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who is he, really?

Bram needs to have a criminal record's check for his summer coop placement.  They gave him a one-day extension, but he's supposed to have it in to them by Friday at the latest.  In order to have a criminal record's check, he has to produce two pieces of government-issued ID, one of which shows a Saskatchewan address.  Here-in lies a problem.  For ID he has:

  • A Saskatchewan Health Card (is government issued, shows signature, doesn't show address)
  • A NWT driver's licence (won't work for anything because he's lived here longer than one year)
  • a NWT birth certificate (unfortunately it's in Yellowknife and they'll have to courier it down here)
  • A passport (if he could find it, it would solve all of his problems - can't find it here or in YK)
  • A SIAST student card (which is government-issued ID but they won't accept it; it's not on their list of acceptable ID).
He can get a Saskatchewan ID card, but it takes two weeks (too long); and only if he has a birth certificate (coming down by courier) and two other pieces of ID (the health card will count as one - he can use a T4 for the other, I hope).  However there's still the two-week waiting period problem.

We'll try again tomorrow.  This might be a little frustrating.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Today is theoretically the first day of spring.  So we're having a blizzard.  I keep a close eye on what's happening with the weather and the highways because Bram commutes to and from Moose Jaw every day to go to school.  It's only about 65-70 km on an excellent divided highway and should only take about 45-50 minutes, at least in good weather.  At worst it can take up to two hours (and no one should be on the highway if the conditions are that bad).

I wake up to my clock radio in the morning and don't get out of bed until I hear what the weather and the road conditions are.  Too often this winter it's been "travel not recommended" on the No. 1 highway.

The good news is that Bram car pools with several of his instructors, and they are very careful drivers.  Because he (usually) carries his cell phone with me, he can keep me posted about road conditions and where he is and how long he'll take to get home.

Here's a map of a large portion of the province showing what road conditions are right now.  Red means that the highway is closed, white means travel not recommended, yellow means winter conditions exist and black means good driving conditions.

OK, I'll add a link to some photos put up by Sask Dept of Highways - here

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Treaty Drive

My friend Sheena writes a blog called Treaty Walks, where she talks about treaties and social justice.  Back in late January, she set out a challenge, to walk somewhere in our community and write about what they have learned.  See her original post here.  I've been thinking about this ever since I read that posting, and here's my response.

Sheena, this is a treaty drive (because it's close to -30 out and I'm a wimp, sorry).  Every day I drive this route to pick up my son from his car pool to Moose Jaw where he goes to school.  I drive down Lewvan to Dewdney, turn right and drive out of town until I get to the corner of Pinky Road and Dewdney Avenue.  There's a little gas station there where I sit and wait for Bram to be dropped off.  When he gets there, I turn around and drive back.  The entire trip is less than 10 km, and I do it every school day.  No big deal.

However, when we're thinking about treaty relationships and history, it changes my perspective entirely.  First of all, I drive past the RCMP training depot.  It has been here over 100 years.  When the Royal Northwest Mounted Police were first established, this was headquarters.  It was also here that Louis Riel was held for his trial and after the trial until his hanging.  I imagine that when it was first set up here, it was well out of town; it's still on the edge of town.  However there's been a long history between the RCMP and treaties.  They were there for the signing of all the treaties.  The RCMP were originally set up because of troubles between the first nations, settlers and whisky traders.  It's interesting to think that I drive past such a historical site every day.

Then I drive past what looks like an empty field.  Right now, the snow drifts are so high that I can't actually see the field, but it's essentially just a barren field.  However, at one time this was the location of an Indian Industrial School (a residential school), and there is still a grave yard there (unmarked - you can't see any of it).  The news story talking about it is here.  Again, a truly historical spot that I knew nothing about until I read the news story.

Finally, the gas station where I sit and wait for Bram to arrive, is a native-run business, on treaty land.  It's like an urban reserve, only it's not very urban; situated in the middle of a field, at an intersection, with nothing else near it.  The people who work there are very friendly.  It's also a full-service station (which is a real bonus when it's -30 out).  However, this is a also sign of a hopeful future.  People drive out from Regina all the time to purchase their gas here, or to be honest, to purchase their smokes there, as they're not paying taxes.  It's a sign of growth, of employment, of what we want to see as a result of treaties.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sloppy Joes

Ruth and I looked at several Sloppy Joe recipes and none of them had beans in them!  However, I feel that Sloppy Joes should have beans (just like chili should); so our recipe does.  It also stretches the meat further. Because we wanted to make a recipe that Nicole could eat, and she doesn't eat beef, we made this recipe with ground chicken, but we would ordinarily make it with ground beef.

1 lb ground meat
2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce (look for the low salt variety)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TLB cider vinegar
2 TLB chili powder

Cook the meat and onion until the meat is no longer pink.  Mix everything together with the meat.  At this point you can freeze everything until you want it for supper.  You can reheat or cook it all in a slow cooker.  Serve on open hamburger buns.  (If I'm doing gluten-free, I serve on cooked brown rice.)

I use cider vinegar instead of white vinegar because if you're doing gluten-free you don't want white vinegar.

Spinach/Mushroom Quiche

1 - 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups diced mushrooms
2 cups creamed cottage cheese
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

2 frozen deep dish pie shells (optional)

If you're making this gluten-free, place the mixture in a greased 10-inch pie pan (the glass ones work well).  If you're not worried about gluten-free, then you can place this in a pre-made frozen pie shell (yes, I do wimp out and buy these).

Mix everything together.  Divide it between the two pie pans.  At this point you can freeze it without baking, slide each pie pan into a large freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. (You can put a piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture before you slide it into the freezer bag and it won't stick to the bag).

If you've frozen it, you need to let it thaw before  baking.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.


We had made pizza Friday night for supper, so had leftover garlic sausage.  This made me decide to make Jambalaya.  Now when I'm making this gluten-free; you have to be careful about what type of sausage you use.  In western Canada at least, I find that the Grimms brand is gluten-free; but the cheap no-name varieties will nearly always have flour as a filler.

1 onion chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 pound garlic sausage or kielbasa, cut into small slices or chunks (this is a cooked-type sausage)
1/2 pound ham, diced
1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes (go for the low salt variety)
2 cups fish or seafood
2 cups shrimp (optional - but really nice; remove the tails ends)
1 tsp dried chilies
1 bay leaf
2 cups water or beef bullion
1.5 cups brown rice (I prefer the basmati rice)

If you're going to make this in advance and freeze it; you can mix everything together and freeze it now, before cooking anything. Freeze it in a large freezer bag (label the bag with a permanent marker).  Then thaw it the day you want it, and bake it in a covered dish (I used my dutch oven, but you can also use a 9x13 in pan and cover it with tinfoil) for about 1 hour at 350 until done.  (A slow cooker doesn't cook rice very well, it tends to be crunchy.)  You can also cook it in a dutch oven on the stove; bring it to boiling, then turn the burner down to low.

We made this with a bag of mixed sea food because I didn't have fish in the freezer and ring of shrimp that we had bought around Christmas and forgotten and was getting freezer burn and needed using.

Fish cakes

Every time I made fish cakes (also known as fish burgers), I find that regardless of what I put in them, they tend to fall apart when I fry them.  So this time, we baked them.  Much, much better!  They stayed together perfectly!  We don't even have them on the menu for this week, so we froze them all.

When I'm making this recipe as a gluten-free recipe I substitute puffed rice for bread crumbs.  I whir them in the food processor or blender until they're like crumbs.  This is a standard substitution for me.  (I cooked gluten-free for about five years for Bram when he was younger, but was so thankful when he was again able to eat a full diet.)

I always make fish cakes with canned salmon if I'm using canned fish (it's got far more calcium than tuna, which I don't use at all), but I have also made it with cooked leftover fish (which is a rarity in our household because everyone really likes fish and it's hard to have leftovers).

2 cans (213 g) salmon, with juice and bones, mashed up or about 2 cups leftover cooked fish
2 eggs
2.5 cups bread crumbs or puffed rice (see note above)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 TLB lemon juice

Mix everything together.  Measure out with a half cup measure to make burgers.  I find it's good to press them into a margarine lid; it makes a good "quarter pounder" size burger.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  (I always use baking parchment, then I don't have to grease the pan and the pans stay so much cleaner.)

This makes about 10 burgers.

Saturday's Cooking

Ruth and I did an inventory of the fridge Saturday and decided we didn't need to make any salads for this week.  We still had Coleslaw Forever (hardly even touched from the week before), a large four cup container of Warm Winter Vegetable Salad, and a large four cup container of Current Quinoa Salad.  So we made main courses instead.

I'm planning on going on a holiday in April.  Lord willing, I'll be flying out mid month to Japan with my daughter and my parents.  We'll be taking a cruise with several stops in Japan before going across the Pacific and doing the Alaska cruise, ending up in Vancouver at month's end.  I'm excited and apprehensive about this.  What am I doing booking a cruise when I'm unemployed?  Can I afford this?  How will Bram and Nicole manage while I'm gone?  How will Bram get to his car pool every morning?  All of those kinds of questions.

Some of those questions are easily answered.  Leslie W. has generously offered to drop Bram off to his car pool and pick him up again.  Bram's writing  final exams the first week I'm gone and then he's off school until he starts his summer job, so it's only one week that he needs coverage for.

And Ruth and I have made up a menu for the weeks that I'm gone and I'm trying to have meals made up and ready for all of those days.  This also means that I need to have the freezer cleaned out so that there's room for all of those meals.

Saturday Ruth and I made double sets of meals; one set for this week to eat and one meal to go in the freezer for when I'm gone.  So far I've already got lasagna (three different variations - see the previous post), a roast, borscht and the makings for pea soup in the freezer.  Saturday we made Jambalaya, Fish burgers, Sloppy Joes, and a Spinach Quiche.  This means that I've got over half of the meals already made for when I'm gone.  However when we made the meals, Ruth wasn't on a wheat-free diet, so she won't be able to eat the quiche.  I will freeze some of the chicken soup I'm making for supper tonight as well, so that's one more meal.  Most of the remaining meals on the menu are ones that I don't need to have made in advance but that Bram, Nicole or Ruth can make that night.  We have pizza, wonton soup, oven fried chicken, perogy casserole, taco salad, hamburger helper and stir fry on for other nights - none of which I need to have made up in advance.  So here I am, just short of a month before I leave and I have three week's worth of meals planned and made up.

I'll post some recipes for some of these meals though, because they are really good and it's nice to have the recipes on-line; it's easier to find them there than to search through various sheets of paper and cookbooks to find where they were originally.

Cooking for allergies and food sensitivities

I've always had to deal with some allergies/sensitivities.  Since I've been an adult, I've been unable to eat oats, and currently I carry an epi-pen just in case I get accidentally exposed to them.  No big deal with that - my main problem is remembering that the epi-pen can't be frozen, and I therefore can't leave my purse in the car.  Both of my kids seem to have inherited this sensitivity (I feel like I should apologize to them).

I'm also unable to eat potatoes.  This is a bit more of a pain; they taste really good and they're in lots of things.  I do eat them occasionally (mooching the odd french fry, eating perogies, etc.)  I'm usually sorry later, but I can deal with that.  I know it's my own fault, and I remind myself not to do it again.

I'm lactose intolerant as well.  I can eat one small yogurt a day, two is too many.  In the same way, I can eat a little bit of cheese, but need to take a lactose tablet if I eat something like lasagna, which has lots of cheese.  I use rice dream instead of milk on my cereal in the morning (soy milk may be cheaper but it has the same effect on me as milk, not fun).

All of these allergies or sensitivities are almost second nature to me; I've lived with them so long that I don't really think about them at all.  When I cook at home, I don't think of them at all - when I am eating at other locations, I read labels, ask questions, and am a little bit more careful.

However allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common.  When I have the family over for our regular meal together, I'm now doing as many as three different variations on the same meal.  Ruth is trying out wheat free (or maybe it's gluten-free, I need to check) at the recommendation of her naturopath for the next while.  My dad has also gone wheat-free and has found it has really helped his health.  Rachel and Joe are milk product free (I use soy cheese for them).  Nicole (my boarder) doesn't eat beef at all.  In addition, Ruth is diabetic and has high blood pressure (low or no sugar added whenever possible, low sodium whenever possible).

 So, if I'm making something like lasagna  I will make the main casserole for "everyone else" - layers of meat sauce, cottage cheese and spinach, topped with grated cheese.  For Nicole, I'll make a small individual lasagna with soy meat instead of hamburger, but everything else the same.  For Rachel and Joe, I'll make a loaf pan sized lasagna for them to share, with only meat sauce and soy cheese on top.  For Ruth (and Dad if he's visiting), I'll make individual lasagnas with rice noodles instead of whole wheat noodles.  I now make my lasagna with low sodium canned tomatoes or tomato sauce (the regular stuff can have as much as 540 mg per half cup!).  That's four different types to keep straight!

It is easier to do all of this because I do cook most things from scratch.  However, cooking from scratch generally means that I do open cans; cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce or whatever, occasionally canned soups (cream of mushroom or tomato), bouillon, etc.  I'm finding it more challenging all the time though.

Today for supper I'm making homemade chicken soup.  Right now I've got the chicken on in the slow cooker.  When it's cooked, I'll remove the meat from the bones and add them back.  Then I'll add in vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, etc.)  Before all these food restrictions, I would have likely made homemade dumplings or noodles to go in the soup.  However I think I'll add lentils instead.  They'll still add the body to the soup, making it more filling, but no one I know of is allergic to it.