Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broccoli Barley Soup

I made this delicious soup the other night and had to share. So good, so good for you!

Broccoli Barley Soup
Recipe By: Dorie, adapted by me!

2 med onions -- chopped
2 garlic cloves -- minced
4 ounce sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoon butter
3 cup chicken broth
3 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary -- crushed
1 lbs fresh broccoli -- cut into florets
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1-2 cups milk (the original recipe called for 2 cups of half & half cream but I wanted a thicker soup and lower in fat, and the milk worked fine)
Salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the first three ingredients in butter until tender. Add the chicken and vegetable broths, barley and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Add broccoli; cover and cook for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into the soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; stir in the milk, salt and pepper (do not boil). Sprinkle with Parmesan & serve.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have to vent. Have you read this article in Chatelaine? If not, read it for a fine example of cobbling together random pieces of information, adding some cherry-picked research, and topping it with a healthy dose of personal bias, and putting it all together as a statement of fact. I know this blog is supposed to be about nice things (I hope) but this issue is close to my heart. My son has a severe peanut allergy- documented, diagnosed and proven to be fact. He's almost died. It's a serious thing. So I have to share this in the hopes that it will further educate somebody.

I responded to the article with the following comment:

"This is a ridiculous article with no real point or apparent value to any reader. Comparing lightening deaths and brain injuries, which are random and sometimes just the result of being in the wrong situation at the wrong time, to an anaphylactic reaction to a common food item, which can be avoided with simple measures, lacks logic. This is just enough information, patched together, to further confuse a difficult and confusing situation.

The truth is that, for those of us who have allergic children, there is no definitive information on how to deal with reactions, other than to avoid having one. When to use antihistamines, when to use an epi-pen, unknown side effects (or even effectiveness) of the medications given once you hit the emergency room- ask different doctors and you'll get different answers. No one really knows why some children are allergic and others are not, whether early exposure causes the allergy or whether it prevents it. You can see from the dizzying array of study references in the article that there is no real agreement on the issue. Reactions can range from mild to deadly, and in my experience, can vary from exposure to exposure. A rash or hives can quickly become something much worse. A reaction can re-occur or even worsen after 6-8 hours. Some are sensitive to the smell of peanut, while others need to ingest a certain amount, before having a severe reaction. Unfortunately we don't really know which type of reaction will happen when. The point is that allergies are variable, changing and sometimes unpredictable. You only need to see an allergic reaction happen to know you never want it to happen again.

I certainly don't consider myself a fanatic, or one that overreacts, nor do I want to make my son feel like he's a 'problem' or make this thing a huge deal in his life. I educate my son (age 4), as best I can, about his allergy, and he likely won't eat anything unless it's peanut free. He's learned to ask at a very young age because he remembers almost dying. And it's just a part of his life now and he seems okay with it. But many children will eat things they shouldn't, or touch things without thinking. Accidents happen.

It seems to me that, in the interest of playing it safe and taking care of the most vulnerable members of our society, and until there is a definitive assessment of the cause of these allergies, we can just err on the side of safety, practice a little kindness and foster a spirit of generosity. All we can do at this point, is to avoid the problem, and that is why there are nut free policies in place, and why other life threatening allergens should probably be banned from places small children are. What does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, if your child can't eat peanut butter, or milk, or soy, or any other potentially life threatening allergen for one meal and two snacks a day? I suspect kids will eat what's available when it's their only option. And you might just be teaching them something about compassion and caring, and doing something for others, just because."

Please educate youself- learn about allergies, know the signs of an allergic reaction, know how to use an Epi-Pen or TwinJect, call 911 ASAP when an anaphylactic reaction occurs. All that information and more here.

Stepping off soap box now...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The foyer

The foyer is finally done. I have no idea when we even started this project- maybe last spring? The start of the project precipitated the installation of new exterior doors and spiralled into replacing all the baseboard and door trim on the main floor of the house. And then, because the new baseboard was too high, we had to re-route all the wall air/heat vents to the floor as the wall ones were too low. And while we were patching holes up anyways, we moved some thermostats and light switches. And that necessitated repainting pretty much the entire main floor. Of course it did-do we ever do anything halfway around here??

Like many 1960s houses, our front door (which was a drafty hollow core) opens almost directly into our living room, and was separated only by a half wall, complete with a copper lined plant trough in the top and shelving on one side. Made of lovely painted plywood and cheaply trimmed, it was hardly a classy welcome into our home. So, since I am totally addicted to organized storage, and lord knows we need it here, I decided to replace it with a built-in dresser which could house all of our hats, mitts, kid shoes, sports equipment and assorted junk like keys and loose change (or rocks & twigs for the shorter members of the household!). So, as you may know, built-ins are not cheap or fast, and I could see that the actual executor of this project (read:Colin) was less than enthused about designing and building a multi-drawer storage unit anytime soon. Apparently a project of this magnitude requires a workshop renovation, and that's a story for another day! Hello Ikea. Hello $400 dresser that met all my needs and dimension requirements. Hello built-in.....




Happiness is....

...a new camera! Our old one (a mere 5 years "old") bit it a while back, has been repaired once and is now dying a slow and unpredictable death. While I'm ticked at having to replace something that seemed a significant investment such a short time ago, I'm happy to have a new toy- one with many new features and manual settings to take advantage of.