A Visit to the Hospital

As a foodie,  I blog about everything food related. Including the good and not so good.  I had a hospital stay for about a week back in January due to my new arrivals at the Foothills Medical Centre. Here is a recollection of what I ate.

The food was Ok. My first meal was lunch which was basically my first solid food in over 24 hours. Tasty when one is starving.

But let’s get back to breakfast.  I could choose my menu some days, when the sheet came around. Just the basics. Toast, egg, usually scrambled,  some kind of fruit, yogurt, milk and juice. Occasional muffin, pastry or hot cereal. Good enough for me. I’m not usually a milk drinker but I did during my stay because I was always hungry.

Apparently they had a small kitchen full of snacks which mostly consisted of peanut butter toast, yogurt and juice. Apparently, as I never made it there; I only asked the nurses for the above items.

The lunches were usually sandwiches with a salad, vegetable or soup. The sandwiches look like they might have been prepared in house.  For dinner, there was always a hot entree. I was pleasantly surprised one night when I got a cabbage roll. I’m not really into the idea of having my meal produced in say, Ontario, freezing it and shipping it here  to be rewarmed as typical in some healthcare settings. This is known as rethermalizing. I was tired of the obviously thawed from frozen peas, corn, carrots and beans, but hey, this is a hospital not a fine dining establishment.

It wasn’t a horrible experience, except for what happened below in the next paragraph. I’ve had airplane food, although not recently and I can say that it is still better than hospital food. I did supplement my diet with fresh fruit from home and some oat bars from Fraiche Desserts. But I can see how if one were used to more culturally diverse foods how one would encourage their family to bring in what they prefer to eat.

My last dinner was clear liquids, thanks to a bout of ileus. I was so hungry and looking forward to some food.  The real (as opposed to plastic) knife and fork that came with it was an additional insult. Thank goodness it resolved by next morning so I could have real food for breakfast.

I wonder what would happen if they let patients order from say, Skip the Dishes? Of course keeping in mind dietary restrictions.

 

Menu 1
Menu 1
Menu 2
Menu 2
Breakfast - Orange cranberry pop tart, toast with peanut butter and jam, hard boiled egg, apple slices, milk and apple juice
Breakfast
Orange cranberry pop tart, toast with peanut butter and jam, yogurt, hard boiled egg, apple slices, milk and apple juice
Breakfast Scrambled egg, toast, bran muffin, mandarin orange, milk and apple juice
Breakfast
Scrambled egg, toast, bran muffin, yogurt, mandarin orange, milk and apple juice
Breakfast Toast wit jam and honey, scrambled egg, cream of wheat, yogurt, mandarin orange and apple juice
Breakfast
Toast wit jam and honey, scrambled egg, cream of wheat, yogurt, mandarin orange and apple juice
Breakfast Scrambled egg, toast, yogurt, apple slices, oatmeal, milk and coffee
Breakfast
Scrambled egg, toast with peanut butter and jam, yogurt, apple slices, oatmeal, milk and coffee
Lunch Deli meat sandwich, beef stew with rice, roll with butter, milk, apple juice, fruit cup and rice pudding
Lunch
Deli meat sandwich, beef stew with rice, roll with butter, milk, apple juice, fruit cup and rice pudding
Lunch Chicken sandwich with side salad, green beans, can, cantaloupe, vegetable soup, milk and tea
Lunch
Chicken sandwich with side salad, green beans, carrots, consomme, milk and tea
Lunch Chicken sandwich with cucumber, peas, butternut squash soup, milk,orange juice and rice pudding
Lunch
Chicken sandwich with cucumber, peas, butternut squash soup, milk,orange juice and rice pudding
Dinner Cabbage roll with mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, fruit cup and tea
Dinner
Cabbage roll with mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, fruit cup and tea
Dinner Poached salmon with green beans, peas, carrots, carrot sticks, berry crumble and milk
Dinner
Poached salmon with green beans, peas, carrots, carrot sticks, berry crumble and milk
Liquids for Dinner Tea, fruit juice and consomme
Clear Liquids for Dinner
Tea, fruit juice and consomme

Spirit of Calgary – Neighbor Day

One year after the day the floods struck Calgary, June 21 has been declared Neighbour Day by Mayor Nenshi.  It is a day to celebrate and get to know your neighbours. For those flood stricken neighborhoods, a day to thank the volunteers properly. I chose to go to the Bowness Boots and Hearts celebration because I spent two full days volunteering there. I was also invited to a party by my coworker, who was away in Europe while volunteers cleaned out his basement.

I got off the bus, near where it used to be Mary’s corner store. The irony is that, the store is now torn down and a new house is going up next to it. But the lot for the store sits empty. I headed towards Bow Crescent where it was ground zero for the flood in that community. Streets were blocked off and a private security guard was manning each blockade. A little extreme perhaps, for the mood of the day? Compare that to police manning blockades a year ago and first responders everywhere.

I walked a few blocks on the crescent, just to take in the festivities. Every house had signage, of which many were large bristol board hearts, with messages of thanks and positivity on them. Nearly every second house had free food on the table for passers by. Ironically, there was a similar situation last year. There were signs on the properties, indicating no power, help needed, or thanking volunteers. The food stands then were run by the volunteers. The roads were closed then.

I kept all the addresses I helped out at, meaning to get to each of them. I only got to one, and the homeowner remembered me! It was a surreal moment. I signed her sign that she hung on her garage door. She is doing well, but has not rebuilt her basement.

I didn’t get as far as the stage, or the park set up for family fun day. I did stop by on Bowwater Crescent to talk to a gentleman with signs on his lawn handing out ice cream. I took up on his offer of an ice cold treat and listened to his story. This truly what today is all about, recalling the stories of last year and seeing how people have moved on with their lives. And thanking the volunteers.

I finally arrived at my coworkers house. There were already a few people there, all of whom I work with. It was a small gathering, but there was plenty of food. Plenty of stories and friendship. This is what I came for.

Calgary, yet again you have impressed me. I am a proud to be a citizen of this fine city.

Bowness wears its heart on its fence.
Bowness wears its heart on its fence.

Crowds on Bow Crescent
Crowds on Bow Crescent
Thank you and love you volunteers!
Thank you and love you volunteers!
Love the custom no parking signs!
Love the custom no parking signs!
Crowds on Bow Crescent
Crowds on Bow Crescent
Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.  Home is where the heart is. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.
Home is where the heart is.
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.

 

 

Salt, Sugar, and Fat. What's Up With That?

Let me put forth a disclaimer. I am not a nutritionist, a dietician, or a health professional. But I love food and I have a lot of experience cooking and eating. I’d like to talk about what I think is wrong with the way we eat today. For example, it just came out in the news that the WHO is recommending sugar intake to 5% of daily calorie consumption. I’ve also read the book, Salt, Sugar and Fat by Michael Moss. The message is clear. You are what you eat and if it’s a whole lot of the big three then you are in trouble.

Let me expand on my last statement. Food today is much different, from even when I was growing up. We are living in a world of convenience, with processed food everywhere we turn. Processed food, has huge amounts of salt, sugar and fat. Why? So it can sit on the shelves longer, which in turn reduces the price. Salt and sugar are preservatives. If you could even call it food. Think of how many times a day you reach for a processed food product?

I am not saying we should ban processed food. A better balance would be a good start. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth and I like convenience too. I think more home cooking would mean healthier eating. Consider if you bought, say a Michelena’s dinner for lunch everyday. Hey, I used to. For example, a package of their spaghetti bolognese has 820mg of sodium. Right on the package, 34% of the recommended daily intake! If you had whipped up a batch of spaghetti at home, there would be much less sodium. What’s in my basic spaghetti sauce? Fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and dried basil. Add some stir fried ground beef seasoned with a little salt and pepper and I’m done. It takes half an hour to make, or less. Boiling pasta included.

If you could imagine, and some people do, eat processed food for every single meal and snack. That is why there is a problem. When I grew up, we used to have family dinner every night. At least one meal in the day that was home cooked. I’m not even sure if people have family dinner anymore.

People need to learn basic cooking skills. Spend a few hours on the weekend preparing a meal and then freeze the leftovers for lunch. I batch cook every weekend (I’m not expecting everyone to) and have a rotation of freezer meals I use for lunch. Even eating 2 home cooked meals for lunch instead of eating out, frozen dinners or snacking from the desk drawer is an improvement. How about finding like minded friends and batch cook a number of dishes to share?

The thing about home cooking is, that you control what you put into it. There are no strange ingredients that you can’t pronounce and you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat.

There are times when I don’t have time. I’ve gone away for the weekend and have nothing for lunches and dinner the coming week. It’s ok, no one is perfect. If you fall off the wagon once in a while, get up again. For these moments, I usually dig into the freezer or order some ready to heat dinners from local suppliers. They are usually much healthier then frozen dinners. I used to buy my ready to heat meals from The Liberated Cook, but they are no longer in business.  The Main Dish sells these types of meals. Also what is wrong with a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner? Nothing, if made with local bread, like Prairie Mill bread and some unprocessed cheese (not processed cheese slices). Add a salad and you’re all set!

Invest in a slow cooker. Nothing like putting in the ingredients before work and having dinner ready when you get home.

Try to buy local and in season. I subscribe to Eagle Creek CSA in the summer for my fresh vegetables. I do a lot of salad, veggie stirfry and BBQ in the summer. Easy peasy.  There seems to be a CSA for everything these days. Eggs, grains and meat.  I used to buy my meat from Ravenwood Farms, but they are no longer in business. These days, I get delivery from SPUD, buy from Master Meats or the Farmer’s Market for locally and consciously raised meats. I do get lazy and still buy supermarket pork and poultry. I only eat naturally raised beef.  Also, Spolumbos makes good sausage!

Slow down. Make the time to cook and enjoy a meal. Not everyday after work am I running off to an evening activity. Make good food a priority. You are what you eat.

20130905_172626

Christmas Dinner 2013

Every year, I venture over to Ottawa to celebrate Christmas with family. This year, no different, well except there were around 27 people this year. A record. We had the luxury of being able to use kitchens of houses right next door to each other. There were two 17 lb turkeys. (to ensure leftovers). Five cooks, over 1.5 days of cooking and prep. Now that’s my kind of gathering. A passion for cooking definitely runs in my family.

Fruit basket
Fruit basket
Navy beans and weights for baking blind
Navy beans and weights for baking blind
Dinner Menu
Dinner Menu
Double turkey time!
Double turkey time!
Dinner Buffet
Dinner Buffet
Dinner Buffet
Dinner Buffet

The deli and fruit trays were crafted by yours truly.

Deli Tray
Deli Tray
Fruit Tray
Fruit Tray
Fruit Tray
Fruit Tray

Canning Weekend

I just finished up my second annual canning weekend. Three of us were busy in the kitchen. We bought tons of tomatoes, onions,apples and peaches. We made a 3 in 1 recipe that makes BBQ relish, sweet and sour sauce and chutney. We then tackled a salsa recipe.

Our biggest limitation was the lack of a large burner so we could use an additional canner. (Wishfully thinking I should have gone for the 48″ cook top during renovations). We also managed to burn two pots. The cheap stainless one from IKEA cleaned up well, but would bubble up out of control when stirred. The enameled Le Creuset pot did not clean well; the enamel came off with scrubbing. But it held heat really well and cooked much faster.

I also had two jars explode.  It was the last three jars of salsa. They were put into the small canner and the bottoms blew out. Not sure what that happened. The rings were still finger tight, so not sure that was the cause.

Canning is a lot of work, but the results are totally worth it.

Broken jars
Broken jars
Boiling down apples for relish
Boiling down apples for relish
Sweet and sour sauce
Sweet and sour sauce
Cooking peaches on the outdoor burner
Cooking peaches on the outdoor burner
Tasty treats for winter
Tasty treats for winter

A Trip to the Chinese Grocery Store

I went to Lambda Supermarket today and found some unusual items that I have been looking a while for. I always thought this store had less selection than T&T and Topps, but today I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m slowly putting together a plan for making ramen noodles. Food grade potassium carbonate, lye water or kansui is used to impart the yellow color and chewiness in the noodles. It’s also used to boil bagels. In stronger concentrations, it’s used in soap making as well as oven and drain cleaner. Sound delicious? Now all I need is a pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid standmixer.

I’ve been looking for fresh ramen noodles too. The fresh package I bought did not look or taste like ramen. The frozen is pictured below and locally made; I have yet to try it. The most authentic I’ve tried came from a local shop in Toronto.

The third item is frozen pandanus leaves. They are used a lot in south east Asian cooking. I had a use for them at one point; now I have forgotten what it was. Oh well, when I remember, I will have them at hand. I own a copy of Thai Street Food by David Thompson and it has all sorts of dessert recipes that use that ingredient.

Potassium carbonate, pandanus leaves and fresh ramen
Potassium carbonate, pandanus leaves and fresh ramen

Calgary Dragon Boat Festival 2013

Today we have another diversion from my usual business of food.  I spent my weekend at the Calgary Dragon Boat Festival, which has been an annual event for me for as long as I can remember. This blog entry is for the benefit of my friends and family who are not on Facebook or Google Plus. Yes, you know who you are. I drop you an email about once a year to catch up. If I remember. This time, all you get is a blog entry.

The sun was shining making for a warm beautiful weekend. I drummed for Bad Tippers which is a merged boat from Monday and Thursday night practices. For not having a full boat for any practice, I think we did pretty well.  I even got to paddle, as a last minute recruit. We had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Nenshi and got a Kodak moment with him. I’ve seen him in person twice this year, he certainly gets around. He could have a second career as a comedian, he obviously knows a good team cheer from one that needs improvement. Yes, ours needed improvement and I’m not going to disagree. I made it up; I’ll take the heat for it. 😉

So I am going to unashamedly advertise for my dragon boat club. If you enjoyed the festival, please join us again next year!

Yours truly, and Uli
Yours truly, and Uli
Paddles up! Literally.
Paddles up! Literally.
Mayor Nenshi and the Bad Tippers
Mayor Nenshi and the Bad Tippers

Spirit of Calgary – High River

Today I decided to go to High River. I headed out with a group of volunteers coordinated by JH Innovations. The company did our renovations a couple of years ago and they are a class act.

The Sunshine neighborhood is a victim of some serious traffic congestion. Between all the commercial vehicles in to help and all the volunteers and trash, it was a zoo.  Faster to walk than to drive.

These guys are awesome. They brought a ton of food and supplies. We setup our home base in a park and donned our lovely coveralls.

Our first assignment was mucking out a basement. Looked pretty much the same as what I did last week, except for one difference. Mould. These basements have been sitting in the water for over two weeks in some cases. The entire town had an odour that smelled not so nice.  I made sure that I got a proper respirator rather than a N95 mask.

A couple of us went to the house next door, which wasn’t too bad, as they were mostly done, just taking down the drywall and insulation.

The third house was really bad. Black mould had permeated almost all of the insulation in the basement.

The fourth house was difficult as we did not have lighting and few had headlamps. I couldn’t see the mould.

We went back to house one to disinfect with bleach. What a difference! I am actually liking the smell of bleach.

It was very sobering to see the amount of damage in this community. They truly need all the help that they can get. If you go, please bring proper protective equipment. Safety glasses. Yours truly had bits of dry drywall fall over her eyes.  A proper respirator with replaceable filters. Suitable for painting. The smell will get to you after a while and this will give you healthier air to breathe. Long sleeves and long pants. Clothes that you can throw away. And rubber boots! Who knows what is in that water.

I made a few more new friends today, Hopefully we can stay in touch. The generosity of Calgarians and Albertans in general amazes me. As long as there is a need, I will try to help.

jhinnovations

Before we get dirty
Before we get dirty
Typical street complete with traffic jam
Typical street complete with traffic jam
Feeding the volunteers
Feeding the volunteers
Oh yeah, bring it on! Bonny is ready to do battle with the mucky basements!
Oh yeah, bring it on! Bonny is ready to do battle with the mucky basements!
Someone must have said something funny.
Someone must have said something funny.
Enjoying the mid afternoon sunshine
Enjoying the mid afternoon sunshine
Mud is a badge of honour
Mud is a badge of honour