Ale, Hail, the Gang’s All Here!

 

Tomorrow will be my 6th anniversary with my wonderful husband, Andrew. Yes, we were married on Halloween, and no, we did not wear costumes!

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Our plan is to celebrate by dining out at one of our favourite restaurants, Brasa Brasilian Steakhouse in Niagara Falls, http://www.brasaniagara.com/

Since that means an abundance of grilled meat will be on the menu, I thought I’d keep things lighter and meatless tonight. The main dish will be my Sweet Onion and Beer Soup – a recipe that has become a beloved part of our annual St. Patrick’s Day menu, but something equally appropriate on a cool evening like tonight!

Sandra’s Sweet Onion and Beer Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large sweet onions, such as Walla Wall, Maui, Vidalia, or Mayan, cut into thin slices
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 12 oz can of beer, preferably a slightly sweet one such as a Belgian ale or wheat beer, or a hard cider may be substituted
  • 4 cups no-salt-added chicken broth

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Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot (preferably one that’s wide and not too tall), over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely soft. Adjust the heat as needed so the onions do not brown.

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Add the butter, stirring to incorporate as it melts. Increase the heat to medium-high and then add the beer.

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Once it comes to a boil, cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the beer has reduced. Stir in the broth, then cover the pot and reduce the heat so the liquid barely bubbles at the edges.

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Cook for 25 minutes, stirring a few times, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Divide the soup among individual serving bowls and then serve right away (as if you will need to be told that, once you smell this wonderful soup!).

Serve each bowl with a lightly toasted slice of bread topped with melted cheddar on the side, or grilled cheese sandwiches for a more hearty meal.


 

 

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Po-ta-toe, Po-tah-toe

I have come to realize that most adult people have mastered the fine art of making potato salad, where I still have not. Perhaps my late father’s love of ‘all things potato’ made me more obstinate in not learning how to craft this mainstay. He was not a nice man to his family, so why would I learn how to make something he might like?

I actually like a well-made potato salad, and my Mother-in-law has a terrific recipe for it which she was kind enough to share. But ever one to be ‘different’, I figure if everyone else around me can make a fine potato salad there is nothing more for me to add, and I should leave them to it.

Therefore, I decided that I would search for something no one else is making, and make THAT ‘my thing‘. And what did I come up with? Well, this past weekend as we celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada, I unveiled my new recipe for Sweet Potato Salad.

Here is what I did:

Sandra’s Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients

 

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Club House Indian Masala seasoning (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 cup onions diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar substitute
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tsp deli style mustard (I used Maille brand Au Miel sweet honey mustard, but anything other than yellow prepared mustard should work)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

 

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In a roasting pan, combine cubed sweet potatoes, olive oil, Indian Masala seasoning (if using), salt, and pepper. Stir around, coating potatoes in oil and seasonings. Roast for about 30 minutes at 425 F, or until fork tender and golden brown.

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In a large bowl, add potatoes and mix with the rest of the non dressing ingredients. Let cool while you prepare the dressing.

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To prepare dressing, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest, mustard and vegetable oil. Pour dressing over cooled potato salad. Toss.

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Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Toss again prior to serving.


 

 

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Fred – a store – handmade gifts & costume jewellery design

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Bring it on Back!

Last week I was feeling a little depressed with my never-ending hunt for a ‘day job’ as an admin assistant. I was finding it difficult to concentrate on making some new jewellery to complete an actual order I had from my pharmacist. But after stepping outside of my usual day-to-day activities and changing things up a bit, I was finally able to sit down at my desk and apply myself…

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I had a mobile jewellery sale scheduled for last Friday back at my former workplace, and I had been asked for something bright red with gold accents – either a necklace or a bracelet – that my pharmacist could wear with her new red pants.

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After procrastinating for a few days, making other jewellery, and staring into my red bead stash, I finally came up with a few pieces for her to choose from:

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glass, crystal and acrylic necklace and earrings with brass and 18K gold plated earwires 

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crystal, brass and red coral necklace with 18K gold plate

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red lampworked glass heart pendant with brass accent bead and 18K gold plated chain 

I recently embraced new technology and finally got a new cell phone, then ordered ‘The Square’, since I am doing a few mobile sales this fall. It arrived in the mail the day before my sale, so I was able to set it up and figure out how to process credit card sales using my cell phone now, in addition to accepting cash sales. It was a little fiddly to figure out at first, but eventually I was able to get it to work as advertised. A great little gizmo to expand horizons for small businesses like me!

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Things went well on Friday (after slow sales on the last few outings), and it was great to catch up with some of my former co-workers again!

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As for the red jewellery creations for my pharmacist, can you guess which piece she picked?


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Fred – a store – handmade gifts & costume jewellery design

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I’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

Opening up Facebook today, it was serendipity that I was faced with an article in my feed from The Muse.com called 12 Ways to Instantly Boost Your Creativity.

After 10 years at my last job, I have been unemployed for 11 months now, and I am as shocked as anyone that it has been this long and I still haven’t secured a “day job” as an admin assistant. I have sent out plenty of applications and have even had a slew of interviews, but nothing has panned out for me yet.

I have been blessed with plenty of folks who are rooting for me and who have been very supportive during this difficult time, and that has helped enormously. But every so often I get discouraged by how long this is taking, and I worry what will become of the life my husband and I have been trying to build. Today is one of those days.

I have also maintained a home-based jewellery design business as a sideline for the past 18 years since I had to close my brick and mortar shop, Fred- a store, and I have kept busy in between sending out job applications by ramping up my jewellery business, creating this website and blog, as well as creating a social media profile for the business. The thing is, feeling down does not inspire creativity when it comes to making jewellery. Who knew?

I have a mobile sale scheduled for Friday and although I do have a large hockey bag full of jewellery creations ready to go, I did get a special request from my pharmacist.

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have jewellery, will travel!

She told me she bought a new pair of red pants and would like something bright red (with gold findings) to accent them. It could be a necklace, earrings or a bracelet – she’s open.

While I do have a few pieces made already that might fit the bill, I do like to come up with a few options for people to choose from when I do custom work. I did try to make a few red things yesterday, but I wasn’t feeling the love and just made a slew of silver clip-on and lever-back earrings instead. Procrastination rears its ugly head!

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I got as far as taking out the containers of red beads and staring into them, waiting for inspiration to strike. Oh well.

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Then I looked at the infographic on 12 Ways to Instantly Boost Your Creativity. Have a look: https://www.themuse.com/advice/12-ways-to-instantly-boost-your-creativity

In the past 24 hours I have done five of the suggested twelve creativity-boosters:

  • Go on a walk– I walked to the bus stop. And back.That counts, right?
  • Take the bus– Took the bus to the other side of town to run an errand. And back.
  • Listen to music– I have music playing in the background all day as I work. The radio is on now, in fact.
  • Do your thing– Since no one has hired me yet to do their thing, I fill in the days doing my thing – a.k.a. Fred – a store things.
  • Try a new ice cream flavour– I was most excited about trying this idea since ice cream is always appropriate, but then I remembered – I already tried a new flavour last night! Häagen-Dazs was on special at the grocery store on the weekend and my husband and I decided to get some. But since the selection was VERY picked-over, I ended up trying something new – Limoncello Gelato. And it was delicious!
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hey – apparently there was vodka in here! No wonder it was good!

So, I have started down the road toward ‘instantly’ boosting my creativity – aaaand it’s time to start making dinner before my husband gets home. Do you think the creative sparks will hold on until tomorrow? Stay tuned and we’ll see what new red creations emerge from my bead containers!

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I Guac The Line

After spending a large portion of today on a bus going back and forth across town to do a few errands, I finally ended up back at home. THEN the real work began, Monday being laundry day AND the day we put out the garbage for pick-up!

Once my thoughts turned to what would be for dinner, I was reminded of two things: I had already announced to my husband that we had to have leftovers for dinner before they took over complete control of the fridge, so that question was answered; and secondly, there was that bunch of cilantro in the crisper that needed to be used before it got black and slimy.

So, in addition to a hodge-podge of leftover chicken, salmon, pizza, meatballs, pasta, asparagus and brussel sprouts, it was time for something new – guacamole!

My husband and I are partial to my guacamole and I think it is one of the best around, if I do say so myself. It is the cilantro that makes it. If you are a cilantro ‘H8TR’, best turn back now.

Since I am of English & German extraction I really can’t say for sure, but I hear that in Mexico guacamole is most often served on lettuce as a salad or side dish. It can also be used as a garnish for tacos, burritos, tostadas, or flautas, as well as a dip with tortilla chips or raw vegetables. I think it would be delicious no matter how you use it!

Sandra’s Rock-a-mole

Ingredients:

  • 2 large avocados, ripe (should be black in colour and slightly soft to the touch)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (optional, but recommended!)
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 1 canned/bottled jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
  • few sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • salt, to taste

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1. Halve the avocados lengthwise and twist to open. Remove pit and scoop out pulp, then mash with a fork. Since my carpal tunnel is acting up today and one of my avocados was slightly less ripe and soft than I would have liked, I used a sharp knife and cut up the pulp in the bowl first to make it a little easier for my feeble hand to mash the avocado into a smooth paste.

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2. Add lime juice, garlic, chopped onion, jalapeno, a pinch of salt, and cilantro, mixing after each addition.

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3. Add sour cream if using – I think it adds to the delightful creamy texture and makes the finished product a little richer, so it is definitely worth using. I use low fat 5% sour cream for the best of the low fat world, while still having some flavour.

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I cheated a bit today and used bottled lime juice because I forgot to pick up a couple of fresh limes, but use fresh if you can. They are always better!

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oh- needs a bit more lime juice and salt!

Once everything is blended, you must test the final product and if necessary, adjust to taste.

Buen provecho!


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My Little Chickapea

I enjoyed a lovely, breezy walk in the sun today on my way to join a friend for lunch. It was glorious after such a gloomy week! Of course, that didn’t stop me from getting caught in the pouring rain without an umbrella and getting soaked to the skin on my way home. Sigh. I decided to stop off to pick up a bunch of cilantro on my way, so I guess it was my own fault.

Folks either love or hate cilantro, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Luckily, my husband and I BOTH love cilantro, so I don’t have to start looking for a new spouse.

The acquisition of cilantro in our household usually means several things: before it goes black and slimy in the fridge, we will be having cucumber and chickpea salad; mango salad; and guacamole!

First up tonight is the cucumber and chickpea salad which will be a great side to our roasted chicken, and then tomorrow we will have to pick up a couple of mangos, and of course avocados when we get groceries.

This is a recipe in three parts and one should make the chickpeas first since they take the longest to prepare, followed by the dressing, and finally the salad itself.

Sandra’s Cucumber Salad with Roasted Chickpeas:

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1. Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

  • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Preheat oven to 400F.

  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and place onto paper towel. Cover with additional paper towels and roll the chickpeas around until completely dry to help them crisp up in the oven.
  2. Add the chickpeas to a mixing bowl and stir in the oil until coated, then stir in the seasonings.
  3. Discard paper towel and place chickpeas on the baking sheet.
  4. Roast at 400F for 20 minutes. Give the pan a gentle shake to stir the chickpeas and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until golden and lightly charred on the bottom. I roast for a full 40 minutes because I like them on the crispy side, but keep an eye on them as oven temps vary.
  5. Cool for 5 minutes or so before eating them or using on top your salad. They will lose their crispness quickly so these are best enjoyed immediately. You can also freeze the chickpeas once fully cooled and reheat them in the oven for 5 minutes or so to bring back the crispness, or store in an airtight ziploc bag. 

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*Alternatively, I came across The Good Bean All-Natural Roasted Chickpea Snacks, and found them to be a great time-saver if you don’t have the time or inclination to roast your own chickpeas. Use the sea-salt flavour so the seasonings don’t conflict with the flavours in your salad!  Check their website to see availability in your area:  http://www.thegoodbean.com/sea-salt/

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2. Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons sugar (or Splenda artificial sweetener), to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

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Place dressing ingredients together in a cruet and shake to mix. Adjust to taste and feel free to add more sweetener if you prefer. Set aside.

3. Salad:

  • 2 English cucumbers, skins left on
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 small yellow or orange pepper, diced
  • 1 cup diced onion (I like a sweet Vidallia onion, but a red onion looks pretty too)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

(Optional, but recommended if you don’t have nut allergies:)

  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • Roasted spiced chickpeas

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1. Remove plastic and slice off the ends of the cucumbers, and slice in quarters, lengthwise, then cut into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl.

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2. Dice the red, green, and orange/yellow peppers and onion and add to bowl.

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3. Roughly chop cilantro, discarding stem ends, and add to bowl.

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Pour in all the dressing and toss to combine. Let this salad sit for about 30 minutes in the fridge, tossing every 10 minutes or so to help the dressing soak in.

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Portion into bowls and top with peanuts and roasted chickpeas if using. Serve immediately.

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And ENJOY!

With lots of fibre, plant-based protein, low fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, this salad not only looks great, but is great for you!


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Fred – a store – handmade gifts & costume jewellery design

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Rock On!

October already…and there is something that Emma wants to let out of the bag:

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Emma is letting something out of the bag…

it’s the time of year when my bag of rocks (doesn’t everyone have a bag of rocks?) begins to transition from this –

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bag of rocks, don’t you know!

…into something like this…

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…and then this…

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…and then a table full of THIS…

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But after standing up for a moment to stretch my legs and get a drink of water, I come back to find my spot has been claimed:

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What? The chair was free, and it was also warm!

Once Nelson vacated “my” chair, I was able to put the finishing touches on this year’s crop of stone pumpkins…

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And there you have it – the 2014 stone pumpkin patch by Fred – a store!


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Fred – a store – handmade gifts & costume jewellery design

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fredastore
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