Avocado Taco Bowls

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Susan Cooks 

Avocados contains the good kind of fat. Scoop out the seed and fill it like a taco for a tasty and filling meal anytime.

 Preparation time: 20 mins

 What you need:

2 avocados halved

½ minced meat (I used beef)

1 tsp oil

Seasonings – Dash of oregano, black pepper, salt to taste, my fresh seasoning blend of cilantro, green onions and garlic (packaged dried seasonings will do)

4 tbs tomato or pasta sauce

1 tbs lemon juice

 ¾ c grated cheese

1 medium tomato cubed

½ cup salad mix (or plain lettuce)

1 sprig green onion chopped

Sour cream (optional)

What you do:

1. Saute beef in oil in pan on medium heat. Add lemon juice and cook until all pink colour is gone.

2. Drain any excess grease from the meat then add the seasonings, tomato sauce, and salt to taste. Stir, and let cook for about 5 more minutes. 

3. Cut avocados in half and remove the seed by spearing it with a sharp knife. Peel off skin or leave it in.

4. Fill the hollow in the avocado halves with the meat, them layer with tomatoes, salad mix/lettuce and cheese.

I made this for our wedding anniversary prior to leaving for the day. My husband’s plate (below left) was decorative but everything was spilling from mine so I simply sprinkled the layers and it was just as delicious. And it looked great too. It’s a foolproof winner for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a cook, not a chef.  I aim for healthy recipes devoid of bad fats, sugar, and processed ingredients. Please log in and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Trinidad-Canadian Kale Callaloo

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A Trinidadian dish with a Canadian twist, kale callalloo is my most favourite meal. And given that kale ranks as the  “superest” of super food, I am doubly excited to share it with you. And this has been responsible for my hair filling in the bare spot and the reversal of greying roots back to black.

The creamy deliciousness of  green leaves (be they dasheen bush, spinach, kale or other) is only topped by its convenience of cooking in one pot. It’s that simple – all you do is layer the ingredients and take pictures as the conversion occurs through heat.

This dish is a vegetarian one (without the crab) and is as healthy as ___________ (fill in the blank).  I use ingredients I get in my area but the beauty of this dish is that it is versatile and you can add or omit ingredients and still end up with a tasty blend that is filling and yummy.

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 bunches kale (You can substitute spinach, dasheen bush, etc) 

2 small carrots (you can use pumpkin or squash)

½ bell pepper (called sweet pepper to Trinidadians to distinguish from hot pepper)

½ onion chopped

4 cloves garlic chopped

1 sprig green onion

½ teaspoon dried thyme

salt to taste, black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter (I use salted)

1 packet coconut milk powder to be mixed to 2.5 cups hot water, or 1 can coconut milk

1 small tin crab meat (omit if vegetarian)

6 ochroes – (I don’t get ochroes where I live so I leave them out.)

 

METHOD: 

In a medium sized pot (about 6 quarts), layer the onion, garlic, thyme, green onion, carrots, bell pepper and crab meat. Pour coconut milk over the ingredients. Add 2.5 cups water to powder coconut milk and add to pot. (If using a can of coconut milk, add milk then fill the can with hot water and add to pot.) Then place the kale (last).

Place lid on pot and let simmer on low to medium heat.

The kale will boil down quickly and the milk will bubble up. Stir the kale mixture every 15 minutes. After about 40 minutes, turn off the heat and blend with an immersion (hand) blender.  Turn the heat on again and add butter. Stir. Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed.

Cautionary Tip: You can add a hot pepper to the simmering pot but REMOVE HOT PEPPER BEFORE BLENDING. I don’t have hot peppers so I simply add hot sauce to my serving.

Serve as a soup, or over rice, or with roti. 

And watch that hair regrow and the grey go!

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Cornbread & Stew

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What’s for supper? Don’t know? 

Here’s a simple, quick and delicious meal that can be ready in 59 minutes. I used the cornbread recipe found in the Naparima Girls’ cookbook.

Can you read it in the picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the beef is stewed like any regular stew: Add some oil to the pot. Put in a tablespoon of brown sugar in the oil and wait until the sugar melts and rises a bit. Toss in the seasoned meat and turn a few times. Keep the heat on medium. Turn every minutes for 3 minutes to ensure meat does not stick to pot. Add a cup of hot water to the stew, and two tablespoons of ketchup. Cook for approx. 40 minutes. 

 

 

Garden Gift

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After vowing never to plant a garden again I have a garden, and still kept my vow. You see, I did not plant it, my husband did.  Still new at the acreage after 15 months, the landscaping and deck are projects not yet tackled. Instead, a few old planters on lopsided crates form the “garden” on the location of the future deck.  This was lovingly started on July 1st, a bit late in the season.

And the crates? To keep off the rabbits. Well sort of, as I secretly hope they will hop on and sneak the bounty so I can enjoy their presence. Long ears, white tails, cheeky faces, the jackrabbits are my favourite wild animal.

But here’s a secret. He sowed beets for the hares. In the little black pot with the flag? That’s beet all right, a leaf high on the rabbits’ menu. But shhhh, there’s more…the entire perimeter of the crates are seeded with beets.

I can’t wait for the red-stemmed beets to shoot up and call the hares. They come to our yard to nibble on dandelions, but we don’t have dandelions anymore, and I’m not keen on the lovely yellows taking over my yard anyway.

So here’s hoping that beets, and crunchy greens from spinach, kale, mustard, peas and Swiss Chard ring in a happy summer for the rabbits and me.

A garden gift. I didn’t ask for it and couldn’t have imagine a lovelier surprise. Except for the animals it will attract.

Chicken Fettucine

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Now this casserole is sure to please the fussy and the avid eater alike. And anything that is one dish is a winner.

All you need is:

1 small Chicken

½ pound Fettucine

2 cups grated Cheese

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

And

Miscellaneous: ½ onion chopped, 4 small cloves garlic grated, 1 teaspoon black or white pepper, 1 teaspoon flaked chili, seasoning salt or regular salt to taste, homemade marinade, 1 teaspoon oil

 

 

What to Do:

Wash and cut up chicken. To give you an average of how much chicken I used, the little one cost $9.95.

Season chicken with marinade. My marinade is a blend of cilantro, green onions, parsley and garlic. Marinade is non-negotiable for me.

Boil chicken in about 9 cups of water until it is tender for approx. 30 minutes.

I eyeballed the water but had to go back and measure it for this post. I kept the boil on low-medium. High boiling evaporates the liquid too quickly so watch the temperature of your stove. And distractions like the TV.

When chicken is cool, de-bone and shred in bite size pieces. Set aside.

Keep back 2 cups of the chicken stock for the casserole.

Boil fettucine in the remaining stock, adding more water if needed.  Remove fettucine when it is al dente, that is, slightly firm and a bit undercooked. Drain off any excess liquid. Very coincidentally the stock was the exact amount I needed, so there was no need to drain off. How’s that for free-hand cooking!

In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soup, 1 cup cheese, onion, garlic, chili flakes, pepper, and the 2 cups chicken stock. Add the fettucine and toss thoroughly until the mixture is evenly spread. Add salt if needed.

Grease a baking dish with a little oil and pour in the mixture.

Heat oven to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to brown.

I always bake an extra 5 minutes after that to get a crisp, brown crust.

 

Have you tried this dish or done variations to it? Post them in the comments below.

Letter to EU GDPR subscriber

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Dear _____, 

I hope this gorgeous spring day finds you well.

I am writing to you about the newly required Compliance with the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which takes effect on May 25, 2018.

I’d like to assure you of the following: I have a Privacy notice on my website which assures that your privacy is protected. You can read it at https://www.susanharris.ca/privacy-policy/

As a reminder I’d like to say that I am collecting personal data of your name and email address only for purposes of sending you my e-newsletter for which you voluntarily subscribed. Do note that you can unsubscribe anytime by simply clicking the Unsubscribe button at the bottom of the newsletter.

I use MailerLite email platform to publish my newsletter, and therefore it is a third party that will have access to your name and email address. Please let me know if this is permissible. If you are not comfortable with the sharing of your name and email address with my newsletter carrier, please let me know and I will unsubscribe you immediately. (MailerLite has promised its users that they will not be sharing the email contacts with any third party.)

Your data will be stored for the length of time you remain a subscriber to my newsletter. Do note that each time a newsletter is sent (which is currently on a bi-monthly basis), the option to unsubscribe is given. This implies that your data is kept on a bi-monthly basis, which is automatically renewed until the unsubscribe button is clicked. You can also inform me if you’d like to unsubscribe and I will ensure that your data is removed.

I recognize that you have entrusted your personal data to me and for this I thank you. I pledge to be responsible and transparent in its usage, which at this time is for my e-newsletter only.

Since you and I have been friends before the days of social media, and you shared your personal data with me then, I will continue to communicate with you via email and social media outside of the parameters of the e-newsletter.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions. Please also let me know if you wish to remain a subscriber of my e-newsletter or if you wish to be removed from it by May 24, 2018. I would love to keep you on as a subscriber but I will not assume automatic opt-in in keeping with the regulation. Therefore I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Susan

Walking, and Lean

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The horizontal blue line points to our house, and it’s 415 steps to the back door

With a Snowfall Warning of 10 cm of snow to begin falling today I decided to take two walks, one for today and the other for tomorrow when no doubt walking would be an impossibility. A second push for extreme winter will begin on Sunday and into Monday-Tuesday, but I’ll take two days at a time. With a biting wind chill making it feel like 19°C and  discouraging loitering, I’ll do the same with this blog and get to the point.

Walking is  really a leisurely stroll. I do not wear a pedometer because I’ve not changed the batteries in mine, but more so it’s because I’ve found a way around it. I count my steps manually. It sounds kinds of nerdy but it keeps me focused and aware of what I’m doing. I treat it like a Lean exercise, all about improvement, value and productivity. I maintain accuracy and keep it scientific by jotting into Notes on my iPhone.

Here are my stats for Walk 1 today’s walk. (Each has to be multiplied by two to factor in the return trip):

10 steps from backdoor to yard.

405 steps from yard to the blue line in the photo below.

360 steps along blue line to highway. (I stop at the Stop sign.)

That’s a return total of 1,550 steps.

A step or pace measure approx. 26 inches, bringing Walk 1 to  just above half a mile (.513 miles or .82 km).

Walk 2 (for tomorrow)

1330 steps from blue line going north to farm on second photo.

That a return trip of 2660 steps which is just over a mile (1.1 miles or 1.76 km)

Total walking distance is about 1.6 miles or 2.6 km.

My USUAL ROUTE is from back door to farm return, and not going up to the highway. That is usually 3,470 steps or nearly one and a half miles (1.4 miles or 2.29 km) which I usually do in 40 minutes but 60 if I include spending time with the cats.

I had taken a similar count in summer and the results were significantly different. The reason? I take smaller steps in the snow and hence have a higher step count.

Can you spot Eiffel?

The main reason I walk to the farm is to see the cats. Sir Smokey was all furry-purry and happy. Eiffel was his usual crazy wild self, peeping from the rafter nears the planters safe from being touched. As if anyone wanted to touch him! (no sour grapes, right?)

Walking is not about capturing distance. It is the fresh air, the serene fields, the delightful animals (excluding bears and coyotes), the healthiness of being outside in a clean environment, exercising my body and keeping “youthful” in the coolness that preserves the skin. The ability to use Lean to improve my overall lifestyle self as I’ve done in my business practices. I’ve found that walking in the countryside brings thoughts of God more naturally than walking elsewhere and for this I am grateful.

How do you keep your walking fresh and exciting?

White Teeth

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Recently on a visit over coffee my friend commented, “How do you keep your teeth white?”

I replied immediately that this would be the subject of my next blog post. I’ve been asked that question as much as I’ve talked about the weather. And the reasons can be as varied as the weather when one factors in genetics, enamel density, medical issues, habits, lifestyle and such like. But whereas the weather swings in extremes, my routine is simple and stable. They are not really secrets but choices and practices that anyone can adopt. Here’s what I told my friend:

  1. I brush my teeth frequently, but at least twice a day at minimum and always as soon as I wake up. I don’t eat breakfast but getting the “sleep film” off my teeth before I have coffee ensures that added accumulation from coffee does not compound on my pearlies.
  2. Coffee stains. Look at a white teacup immediately after you drink coffee and you’d notice the staining is already apparent. I usually take milk with my coffee and this in itself reduces the staining effects. Further, I always rinse or drink water after having coffee, and even if on the rare occasion my coffee is black, having water immediately after dilutes the propensity to stain.
  3. I’m a Diet Pespi girl and consume lots of it – using a straw. The straw ensures the dark cola does not touch my teeth and hence there is no staining.  ( I tried drinking coffee through a straw but dropped that faster than a hot potato. Hot coffee through a straw has laser-like torment; don’t try it.)
  4. I don’t drink alcohol nor smoke thereby eliminating staining caused through related products.
  5. I use teeth-whitening toothpaste, my preferred choice being the Sensodyne brand. (Any toothpaste with baking soda has a whitening effect.) It is not advisable to use teeth-whitening toothpaste 100% of the times so when one tube is finished I switch to a regular kind and then back again.

The coffee gathering at which the question was asked

There are marketed teeth-whitening products on the market but I don’t use them.

What tips and tricks are tried and true for you?

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Do remember to log in the Comments section below to leave a comment. Thanks for visiting my blog, and have a great day.

Becoming Sir Smokey

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Page 2 of letter sent the to Queen. Words obliterated for this blog.

It all started when a woman with a charming accent approached my book table at the tradeshow in Melville at Christmas.

“My mother’s name was Susan Harris.” Her blue eyes and my brown ones sparkled at each other and an animated conversation broke out. She is British and I knew my name Harris traced back to the Governor of Trinidad (1846-1854) when the island was colonized by Britain.  Governor Harris established the education system there and Harris Promenade is named after him.

The woman and her daughter were duly impressed. As far as they knew, they were not related to Governor Harris but nonetheless wanted to check out the lineage.

“What’s his first name?” asked the daughter excitedly. “I’ll check it out on Ancestry dot com.”

Unfortunately, I did not know. I did not even remember that he was Lord Harris, a Baron  of noble birth. Wikipedia names him the Right Honourable George Francis Robert Harris, 3rd Baron Harris, Governor of Trinidad. I had researched the history when his great grand nephew Conrad Harris passed away in 2015 but the details seemed to have been laid to rest with the body.

“I’ll just check Harris and Trinidad. Something will come up.” The daughter concluded with a smile. The mother purchased her books and we parted.

As a writer and researcher my interest soared to the extent where I wanted to create a publication on this notable statesman, a comprehensive record that would serve as a legacy to the family and future generations, as well as for citizens of the island Lord Harris governed. Finding accurate information proved difficult, so I decided to write to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for help in obtaining historical records and photographs from the British  archives. I was keeping the memories of 3rd Baron Harris alive as I had done for the penny in my book, Little Copper Pennies: Celebrating the Life of the Canadian One-cent Piece 1858-2013, so I decided to send a copy of the book to the Queen to support my request. As I searched for a business card to include with the book, my eyes fell on Smokey’s bookmark. The back of it contains a list of my books and my contact information. Gold.

And that’s how Smokey’s picture is winging it’s way to the UK. Like Pussy Cat who had been up to London to visit the Queen, Smokey’s picture will be seen by the Queen in London. How’s that for a lil ol’ cat on the frozen prairies?

Of course this honour mandated recognition. An update to his name. Sir Smokey.

Knighthood requires touching a sword on the right and left shoulders of the person while they kneel. Forget about pointing anything at Smokey. You won’t find him for days! Worse, don’t point a sword, I mean the steak knife I’d substituted. The only interpretation is butchering.

“Kneel Smokey.” He crouched in his final posture as a commoner. Good. The knife is in my hand pointing downward but he does not see it, so all’s okay. I touched his right shoulder, then the left with my other hand.

“I dub thee a Knight.” Blue eyes pierced my brown ones.

“Rise, Sir Smokey.”

He’s frozen.

“Rise, Sir Smokey.”

Sir Smokey rose and darted back to the heated rocks on the spa.

Kitten Smokey. Born September 1, 2011. Knighted Sir Smokey on January 4, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Case for Xmas

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Our Sunday School Christmas concerts in Trinidad were highly anticipated events that drew large audiences annually. The merrily-decorated church was packed year after year with members and well wishers who came out to enjoy the songs, poems and drama presented solo or in groups. The skit from the Teens Class was the highlight that never failed to thrill, and as the final item on the program, it brought a bright and memorable year to a close.

One December, I donned pink and stood on the pulpit with heels together and toes out, my right hand over my left on level with my waist, my shoulders squared. I bowed to the crowd, and stood upright again. Then with every ounce of energy in my tiny 12 year-old body, I belted my monologue:

 

Here’s a question, tell me pray?
Should we call it Xmas day?
Or is it Christmas we should say?
Is it X or Christ?

The audience waited with bated breath as I replied to the rhetorical question posed by a poet whose name I did not know and which an Internet search in 2017 still did not reveal. Xmas was a short and convenient word of the season. It saved ink and space when signing postcards. Was it really a big deal if it’s X or Christ in the “Christmas” word? But in Christian circles it mattered. It mattered immensely, even to this day (run a search), and I too was convinced by the proof I delivered that night.

Who was He of matchless birth?
Heaven’s glory left for earth,
Coming here with lowly birth,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

Who was He that wise men three,
Travelled from afar to see,
Bringing gifts so liberally,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

A few “amens” had rung out from the senior ladies, their heads and hats bobbing up and down.

Who did travel through the land,
Always with a helping hand,
Healing folks at His command,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

Who did die upon the tree?
Suffered there for you and me.
Bore our sins on Calvary,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

The nodding and bobbing had continued though the church was quiet, conviction heavy as my high-pitched tones commanded the night air. Then the verdict was delivered in crescendo, with passion that still marks my person to this day:

Let us then with one accord,
Honour give unto the Lord.
Call it CHRISTMAS, that’s the word!
For it isn’t X, but Christ.

I had executed the poem with intonations and flourishes the way my principal had trained me for choral speaking when I represented my school at age 9, and it accrued a level of sacredness tantamount to the Holy Scripture. I bowed, acknowledged the thunderous clapping and cheers by making eye contact with the crowd from right to left as he had demonstrated to me, before exiting the stage through a side door.  

Decades later the question resurrected as I wrote my Christmas alphabet books. Words beginning with the letter x are often challenging to find, but it was easy this time. Both An Alphabet of the First Christmas and Christmas A to Z  contain the word Xmas, although the other 25 words used in each book are different.

It was during the research for the books that I came across the knowledge that X means Christ in the Greek language. X comes from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which in English is Christ. Therefore Xmas was derived by interchanging Christ with to give us Xmas. (http://www.dictionary.com/e/xmas-christogram/). In this context then it is not sacrilegious to use Xmas, for it is in fact Christmas in a combination of letters from two languages. The wise men did bring gifts to X.

Friends on social media, teachers, media personnel and adults in general have observed to me that the origin and meaning of Xmas is new to them, and they discovered this knowledge through my alphabet books. I am pleased that “elementary” alphabet books have brought enlightenment to adults and it is my prayer that I will inspire and educate all the days of my life.

It gives me peace to know that the Bible tells us that any who calls on Jesus Christ shall be saved, and this means “Christ” in any language.

I still wear pink but as an adult I have a different and definitive answer than the preteen in the little church. X or Christ is good for me.

Merry Xmas. Christ is born. I wish you a happy and holy season.