Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pantry Challenge Week 4- The Last Squash

So we've made it through 4 weeks and remarkably, the cupboards are not nearly as bare as I would have thought. The freezer definitely has more room in it now but the fridge looks pretty full even if most of it is half empty jars of preserves. Still I'll be grateful when I can hit the grocery store later this week.

We were able to get through last week without any repeats of the previous week's slip ups. We even went to a hockey game and didn't buy any snacks - although the poutine was tempting and the pulled pork smelt divine...

I think we have finally adjusted to making do with what's on hand, and with the nasty late season blizzard hitting midweek it was actually nice to know I didn't have to run out to shop for food. Also the bonus birthday cheese did go a long way in helping me feel less deprived. And the mushroom kit did its thing and produced ten of these beauties!

Pierogies with bacon
Pasta shells with 4 cheeses and dried tomatoes
Oatmeal porridge (me)
Homefries (the Russian)
Pork with apricot mustard sauce (apricots I canned last summer and homemade mustard)
Asparagus Risotto (last of the frozen asparagus from last spring)
Thai beef and rice noodle stir fry
Carrot coleslaw
Pasta with chicken, pickled wild leeks and roasted peppers in an herbed cream cheese sauce
French Onion Soup
Chilled shrimp with tomato horseradish jam
Squash gnocchi with sage, garlic and brown butter
Tortilla chips with salsa and sour cream (last of the sour cream, home canned salsa, homemade chips)
Stuffed pork tenderloin (stuffing made from a mix of frozen herbs and bread crumbs)and boiled potatoes with mustard sauce
Roasted beet salad with cucumber and walnuts and a goat cheese and horseradish dressing.
Crackers and cheese and mixed pickles
Homemade chicken soup
Popcorn with olive oil and titch of butter
Fried bacon sandwiches with maple syrup (we were craving french toast so I fried the bread in bacon grease)
Grilled pork shoulder and potatoes (on the BBQ, for Earth Hour), mashed carrots and parsnips with maple syrup.
Apple cherry rhubarb pie- all from fruit I picked and froze last summer and Red Fife whole wheat pastry
Turkey Lentil Mushroom stew (hooray for fresh shiitakes!)
Grilled chicken breasts with mashed potatoes and baked squash
Roasted squash seeds

We still have 4 days to go to make it through the month and I think we'll be okay. As mentioned I baked the last squash today but we only ate half; we are also out of carrots, beets and rutabaga but we have frozen beans and corn, plenty of onions and now mushrooms. There's still some beef, seafood and turkey in the freezer. Butter is all but gone but we still have plenty of olive oil and other fats- I used bacon grease to baste the squash tonight. Speaking of bacon, there's even a small amount of it left- I'm amazed that we've stretched a pound to last this long considering how often we use it- good thing I dole it out in small portions, more for flavour than anything. For starches there's a few potatoes, some pasta and rice noodles and half a loaf of sour dough bread. We'll be fine and we won't even have to eat all the pickles to do it either!

I'll do a final wrap up when we finish the challenge on Thurs!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring is Sprung!

Inside at least.

Outside however we have been buried in snow again today. At least 40 cm has fallen so far and it's still coming down. I had to wear snowpants just to walk to the store for catfood. If I could find that damn groundhog right now I'd make him shovel my sidewalk!

Back in the house we are all pretending that it really is spring and there is no such thing as snow. The tomato plants that have been living in the sunporch all winter are perking up as the daylight increases- they know it's almost time to go outside even if the weather doesn't.

Some new seedlings are up as well- I planted peppers and more tomatoes last week and many of them are eager to get going too!

I restarted the shiitake kit and it is fruiting again- not as abundantly as the first round but they sure grow fast!

This was yesterday

And this was today

We should have delicious fresh mushrooms ready to pick by the weekend!

In the meantime I'm just going to curl up with a new bunch of library books and some homemade French Onion Soup. It's a great way to use up some of the onions that are beginning to sprout.


* 4 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced. (I used a mix of both)
* Olive oil or butter or both
* 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 4 cups of beef stock – you could use veggie stock if you browned the veggies first and add 1 tsp of soy sauce
* 1/4 cup red wine
* 1 bay leaf
* Salt and pepper
* 4 slices of stale bread, toasted
* 1 cup of grated cheese (Swiss, Gruyere and Parmesan are traditional but any hard cheese works. I used Fruilano, Morbier, and cheddar)


In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil or butter on low heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). (Add the sugar if using, about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.)

Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute- don't let garlic burn. Add the stock, wine, and bay leaf. Simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese.

Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Take that Mother Nature!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pantry Challenge Week 3

I have a confession to make. Last week we failed. Badly. So badly I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. But since part of doing this was to see potential weaknesses in our ability to survive off of what's on hand, I'm going to consider last week a learning experience and talk about it from that angle.

Problem area #1 Poor planning

Last week was the first time in a while that both the Russian and I were out of the house for work all day every day. Because we seldom have access to a kitchen or even a refrigerator at work we don't normally bring a meal with us. I usually bring light snacks and beverages to tide us over but if we are on the job for an extended period we just grab take out. Monday I was not expecting a long workday so I brought a handful of crackers and some cheese. I expected to be home by about 6 pm and had pierogies in mind for dinner when we got home. What actually happened was we finished work at 7:00pm and then still had over an hour of transit travel before we got home. Compounded by a lengthy delay at one of our transfer points that left us stranded for another 20 minutes, hungry and exhausted, and the proximity to a fast food outlet (in the subway station no less!) was too much to resist. Dinner fail.

Lesson learned- I need to plan ahead for food that can be taken with us in case the day goes longer than expected. We did much better for the rest of the week.

Problem #2 Poor Communication

When we set out the rules for the challenge one of the things that was agreed upon with the other participants was that we can still take advantage of food sales for future use but we aren't supposed to consume anything we purchase during the challenge. Last week I found KD (macaroni and cheese, my personal weakness) and canned soup ( the Russian's weakness) on sales so I purchased a number of each. I'm pretty sure I mentioned it to him that these weren't for eating right now but apparently I failed to make that clear. One can of soup was opened and being heated by the time I discovered it. In the interest of not wasting food, it was consumed.

Lesson learned- any future purchases that I make during the month are now being stored somewhere other than the pantry.

Problem # 3- Timing.

As previously mentioned it was my birthday last week. It was also St Paddy's day which meant there were multiple celebrations going on, most of which involved food. On St Paddy's we made the rounds of several local drinking establishments and when there was free food proffered, we took full advantage. On the actual date of my birth, the Russian made me breakfast at home but we went out for dinner- sushi to be exact. On the day after my birthday we hosted a party that involved guests bringing cheese. A lot of cheese. Delicious cheese that did not all get consumed during the party and that will not keep for another two weeks.

Lesson Learned- not much. I'm of the mind that free food should be accepted whenever possible. And it was my birthday.

(Kinda looks like St Patrick threw up on me here doesn't it?)

So this week we will have to be on our best behaviour and I already know it's going to be much tougher than it's been so far. We are running low or completely out of many things now. No eggs, no milk, very little butter. Veggies, both fresh and frozen are in short supply- we still have a lots of frozen fruit however. Only one lemon- yikes! Maybe 5 lbs of potatoes which is practically none when you live with a Russian. Lots of onions but they are starting to sprout so we may have to use them quickly. I'm attempting to get the shiitake kit to fruit again but it's not looking near as plentiful as the first round. Even if we only get a few mushrooms this time they will be very welcome! There's still some meat in the freezer and we haven't eaten all the pierogies yet but we are almost out of sour cream. Still have some pasta, beans and rice, and a decent amount of a couple types flour so I can make both flour and corn tortillas. We won't starve yet but things are going to get a little dull.
(Thank god for the cheese!)

One of my fall back dishes for when were are absolutely ravenous doesn't really have a name. It is loosely based on a German dish that I tried at my friends and loved. I usually serve it as a salad but it can be easily adapted as a main or side dish.

1 carrot, grated
1 beet, grated
2 green onions, or 1/2 sweet onion minced
Optional- other raw veggies chopped fine. (In this version I added some of my white kimchee which included fermented cauliflower and turnips)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp soy sauce or Braggs
1 clove of garlic minced

Grate carrot and beet and add minced onions and other veggies if using. In separate bowl add all dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over veggies and serve. Makes two salad portions.

For a complete lunch I will add a hardboiled egg, cut in quarters. To make it a more substantial meal, double the dressing ingredients and serve over warm cooked potatoes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's my birthday today and although embracing the idea that I'm getting older is no longer quite as exciting as it once was, there's still plenty to celebrate. I love being a March baby and tho the weather can be anything from full on blizzard to unseasonably warm, it will always be spring in 2 days, at least on the calendar!

For my 47th birthday I thought it would be fun to take a look back at previous celebrations and memories. Here are some random birthday moments

Every year my dad likes to tell the story of how he threatened to name me Colleen if I was born on St Patrick's Day and how my mother (of Scots and French Canadian heritage) was so horrified at the idea that she refused to go into labour until the day after and then named me a very Scottish name!

Some years my dad mails me a St Paddy's/birthday card addressed to _____ Colleen Mc_____. (There is no Mc in my surname.) Often they will be mailed from places with Irish sounding names. He did a similar thing to my very Scottish grandmother for years but always signed it with my uncle's name.

Pretty much every birthday cake I've ever had has had Shamrocks on it. Which is fine because I don't like cake anyhow but I do like the colour green and I'm fond of shamrocks, particularly ones made of icing. I'm also partial to birthday PIE!

Every year on my birthday, my mom and whichever small children she can locate (siblings when there were still some at home, now nieces and nephews) call me first thing in the morning to sing me Happy Birthday. (A similar ritual happens at the first snowfall every year at which point they sing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.)

Because it falls the day after St Paddy's I have woken with a hangover on my birthday more often that I care to admit. Sometimes the singing ritual hurts my head but I always answer the phone no matter how badly I feel.

March 18th is the last day of Pisces and the last full day of the zodiac cycle. According to the Book of Birthdays, those born on this day are destined to repeat the same things again and again until they gain enlightenment. That pretty much sums up my life in a nutshell!

On my tenth birthday I had a cast on my arm from a skiing accident. It was my first broken bone (first of many...)
On my eleventh birthday I had chicken pox. Everywhere.(Thankfully I don't have any pictures of that!)

From the time I was 15 until I turned 20 I wrote myself a letter on my birthday to be opened the following year. I still have those letters and they are full of hopes and plans and fun glimpses of my teenage self.( Dear 16, No I still don't have my drivers license. I suck. Love, 47)

The only surprise party I have ever had was for my 33rd birthday and I almost didn't show up because I was busy hanging out with Van Halen at a record store Meet and Greet. (The security guard offered to have Eddie sing me Happy Birthday at gun point but I declined.) I was 2 hours late for my own party but thankfully my friends forgave me - most of them were disappointed I didn't bring the band with me!

On my 40th birthday I was working a concert and the musical director had the entire audience wish me happy birthday. I however was busy off doing something and missed my cue to appear on stage (On purpose- I have total stage fright and am completely happy hiding in the wings.) Colette threw me an awesome 40th birthday party a few days later where we played twister, musical chairs scavenger hunt and had a pinata!

Last year the Russian surprised me with my beautiful pink bike!

So who knows what this year will bring? One thing I know for sure- Spring is almost here!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maple Syrup in the City

Not Far From the Tree held our second annual Sugaring Off Party at Dufferin Grove Park on Sunday and the weather was perfect, which meant this year we were able to have a campfire!

Like last year, we spent the day before cooking down 96 l of sap over the gas stove in the Zamboni kitchen, reducing it to about 20 l.
At that concentration, you can taste the maple flavour and it is quite sweet but still not much like syrup. For the party we were serving small samples of this while further reducing the remainder by boiling it in an open kettle over the fire.

We also expanded our sugar shack (aka the zamboni garage) to included a Maple marketplace where people could taste and purchase lots of yummy treats made from local maple syrup. My personal favourite was the maple cheddar.

Volunteers were out in full force to make sure everything ran smoothly.

Because we've had cooler temps this year the skating rink was still open and inside the rink house the Park staff was serving up a delicious pancake breakfast with beans and sausage. There was also game and crafts and some great entertainment!

The most popular place to be was around the campfire! The bubbling syrup gave off a wonderful scent and visitors were treated to performance of a maple syrup-themed legend by aboriginal story teller Liny Kinoshameg.

Best of all was the sweet taste of maple syrup made from our very own backyard trees!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pantry Challenge Week 2

I'm a few days late posting this- blame my computer which has developed an appetite for works in progress this week (it's eaten two!).

The second week seemed easier for some reason. We were a lot busier last week which might have something to do with it. We are however running low on a lot of things now. We're down to 3 eggs, not much butter and the mushrooms are finished for now although I think I can try to get my shiitake kit to start fruiting again this week. I luckily discovered a can of half sugar iced tea mix stashed in the cupboard which lasted a week and kept me from completely dehydrating. I have been attempting to drink water (ugh) and milk, but we're out of milk now too. Homemade iced tea is my only beverage choice now. Most tragic of all- we have finished all the garlic! I hadn't noticed we were low or I would have picked up some Ontario grown at the Sorauren market before we began this challenge. It's going to be awfully bland from here on.

Daily Menu

Seafood Noodle soup
Spaghetti with meat sauce
Eggs and homefries ( in our house homefries are mainly potato but usually included a lot of other veggies like onions, carrots, turnip or whatever's fresh)
Homemade chicken liver pate and bread
Grilled chicken thighs and stir fry veggies on rice noodles with l/o peanut sauce
leftovers for lunch
Tuna melts with chickpea, cucumber, carrot salad
Crackers and cheese and a pickle tray (dills, carrots, turnips and beets)
Grilled Steak with potatoes topped with sour cream and steamed veggies.
bacon, eggs and homefries
Dinner at my aunt and uncles because we were out of town for a concert- homemade lasagna and salad and tartufo for dessert. Also lots of wine!
Breakfast - we stayed over so my aunt made homemade lemon blueberry muffins served with bacon and fresh fruit. I ate some of the strawberries and grapes but they honestly tasted like crap- the muffins were fantastic tho an made from frozen blueberries so I'm going to get her recipe.
Lunch - hummus and the last of the rice crackers
Dinner- The Russian finally decided to cook one of the frozen sardines for the cats who turned up there noses so we ate them instead. He cooked them whole, lightly floured and baked. They came out very much like the grilled version that is popular with our Portuguese neighbours and were delicious!
Pancakes and beans at the Maple syrup festival (me because volunteers were fed for free)
Chicken and homefries (the Russian)
Poached salmon with rice and stir fry veggies

I made a big batch of pierogies on Sunday so we'd have something quick to make- this week is crazy busy again.



I prefer a potato, onion and cheese mixture and add other thing if I have them- roasted garlic is nice,or a bit of finely chopped bacon. I start with about two cups of cooled mashed potatoes and add salt, pepper and butter to taste - about a tablespoon of butter is plenty. Add finely chopped onion and grated cheddar cheese. Add other ingredients if using and mix well- set aside.

The Russian prefers meat filled pierogies (known as pelmeny in Russia)- I don't use a recipe for this either, just a mix of ground meat(beef or pork or both) and seasonings like onion and garlic. You can also add mushrooms. Brown meat with seasonings and drain off excess oil.

Virtually any filling can go in this type of dough- fruit pierogies are nice if you have cherries or blueberries in heavy syrup (or canned pie filling). Cook as below (minus the onions and cheese) and serve with sour cream and sprinkle of sugar for a dessert version.


3 cups flour
3 tablespoons of melted butter or vegetable oil
1 tablespoons of sour cream
1 egg beaten
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup lukewarm water

Preparation:In a small bowl, beat egg and set aside. Melt the butter and set aside. Mix salt and lukewarm water. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of flour with melted butter and sour cream, add beaten eggs and mix the ingredients with the warm water, mixing constantly. Place dough on table and knead with remaining 1/2 cup of flour until smooth and not too sticky(add a bit more flour if necessary). Divide the dough in half and let stand for about 15 minutes before working with it. Meanwhile fill a large pot with water (add salt as you would for pasta),turn on high and bring to a boil On a floured surface roll out 1/2 of dough into a thin circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut circles using a 2-1/2 or 3-inch circle cutter- I use a glass or jar. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle of dough, and fold over. Press and seal into half-moon shapes. Use a little water to seal each pierogi if they aren't sticking. Cover the prepared pierogi with a cloth so they don't dry out before you cook them. Repeat with remaining dough. Add pierogies to boiling water a few at a time. Cook until they float to the surface (about 1 minute). Remove with a slotted spoon or small strainer and place on a cookie sheet to dry a bit- make sure none are touching and drain the excess water frequently. At this point I fill a cookie sheet full and freeze them; when they are completely frozen you can place them in a bag or container and keep frozen until needed. To eat them, melt butter in a frying pan, add chopped onions (and bacon or other veggies if you like)and pierogies and saute until browned, flip and repeat. Serve with sour cream and grated cheese, or with salsa if you prefer!

Make about 4 dozen.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pantry Challenge Week One Wrap up

One week down, 3 to go.

And in spite of my earlier whining we are actually doing okay. The fridge and cupboards are all still fairly full and we are not in danger of running out of anything quite yet. We don't have as many eggs as I would like but if I can convince the Russian not to eat two a day for breakfast we should be okay. Beverages are still problematic but I'm coping. We've run out of instant coffee but I don't drink it and the Russian has switched to tea without complaint. We have lots of tea and hot chocolate.

Sundries on the other hand are going to be an issue and I forgot to clarify if they were included in the no buy challenge. We are low on dish soap, laundry soap and already ran out of tp which I had to buy at the corner store. This is apparently an area I need to pay attention to and either stock up or find homemade alternatives to (the family cloth however is SO not going to happen).

Here's a brief overview of last week's menu, in no particular order:

steak fajitas with homemade flour tortillas and home canned salsa (red and green)
bacon pancakes
4 cheese macaroni and grated beet salad
homemade chicken noodle soup ( from previously frozen stock and meat)
eggs and homefries x 4 (the Russian)
yogurt and frozen fruit smoothies x 4 (me)
Roast beef and cheddar sandwiches and homemade shiitake mushroom soup
beef and beer stew in the slow cooker (leftover from last sunday's roast)
Oven bbq chicken with potato salad and steamed beans
Canned sardines on toast
Pasta with turkey, shiitakes and roasted red peppers in vodka cream sauce (last of the cream but not last of the frozen turkey)
Gado gado

Gado gado is an Indonesian salad of sorts that is simple to make and easily adapted for what's available at any time of year. I used potatoes, cabbage, frozen beans and cucumber ( thankfully we were able to pick up an Ontario grown hot house cucumber last week) in this version- you could also use fresh tomatoes if you have them.

Gado Gado

2 cups of potatoes, cut in pieces, skins on.
2 eggs
1 cup of cabbage coursely chopped
1 cup of green beans (or carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, etc)
1/3 of an English cucumber, cut in chunks
1/2 cup tofu cut in small pieces and pan fried (or use tvp soaked in a diluted soy sauce)
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 green onions chopped
1/2 cup shrimp chips, broken in small pieces ( optional- they add a nice texture and flavour but I rarely have them at home)

Put potatoes and eggs in a pot of water and bring to a boil. When potatoes are partially cooked (about 5 minutes) add cabbage (and carrots, cauliflower etc if using) and cook for a minute. Add beans and turn off heat- cover and let sit for another minute or 2 until beans are partially cooked but still crunchy. Strain and run cold water over everything until cool. Peel eggs and cut in quarters, set aside.

Meanwhile pan fry tofu chunks in oil until browned on both sides. Or soak tvp chunks in warm water with a dash of soy sauce until softened. Set aside.

Spicy Peanut sauce

2 tbsp canola or peanut oil
few drops of dark sesame oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (chunky is best, can substitute other nut butters)
1 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 tbsp yellow curry powder or red or green curry paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sambal oelek or hot chili sauce (use less if you aren't fond of spicy!)
2-3 tbsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1 cup coconut milk or 1 cup water

Heat oils in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and stir briefly until soft but not browned. Add peanut butter and tahini, stirring constantly until it's all softened. Add the remaining ingredients except coconut milk or water. Reduce the heat and slowly add liquid stirring well. Simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring regularly until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency. If sauce is too thick add more water.

You can adjust this to your taste by adding more or less of the sweet, sour, salty or spicy. This peanut sauce makes a great dipping sauce if you add even more liquid, or can be added to any number of stir fry or noodle dishes.

To make gado gado - on a plate or bowl layer potatoes, cooked veggies and tofu. Place cucumber chunks and quartered eggs around the edge. Top with bean sprouts and pour peanut sauce over everything. Sprinkle with green onion and shrimp chips if using.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pancakes and Self Denial

In the Christian faith, this Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the period proceeding Easter, which makes Tuesday traditionally the last day to indulge in the luxuries that you'll be abstaining from for the next 40 days (actually 46 but Sundays don't count!). Around the world that day will be noted with festivals and food; Mardi Gras (Fat Tues), Carnival, Shrove Tues, Pancake Tues; in my predominently Polish neighbourhood, it's known as Doughnut Day and there's some delicious treats to be had. All of these celebrations come from the same source; one last blow out before a period of self denial and reflection (hangovers are an excellent incentive for the latter).

In my family growing up it was all about the pancakes and although I no longer follow the faith of my childhood I can't help but crave pancakes when Lent rolls around. We happen to have the all the stuff for making some pancakes from scratch in the house so I dragged out my trusty Five Roses Flour cookbook circa 1960.

Basic Pancake recipe
1 1/2 cups Five Roses enriched flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (I omitted this)

Fat (butter, bacon fat etc) for cooking.

The recipe indicates you can substitute 3/4 cup of white flour with graham or whole wheat flour so I used some Red Fife stone ground whole grain flour as well. This made a much stiffer batter than regular white flour so if you like runny batter you may want to add additonal milk. I didn't and my pancakes were a bit dense but still airy.

Mix and sift dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat egg thoroughly and add milk (and vanilla if using).
Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients and slowly add milk mixture. Add melted butter and mix only till smooth.

Using a heavy iron frying pan or griddle, heat fat until melted but not smoking. Pour batter in small circles, allow room for each to spread without touching. Cook the pancakes until bubbles appear through out, then turn to cook the other side. Do not turn more than once.

I wanted bacon pancakes so I partially cooked two slices of bacon, cut in small pieces and added to the batter before cooking. I cooked the pancakes in the resulting bacon fat but I had reduced the melted butter to 2 tbsp in the batter and they were still lovely and moist and slid from the pan easily.

Top with real maple syrup or fresh or frozen fruit for breakfast. Or if you prefer, have them for dinner. It was tradition in my family to have them with a side of maple baked beans that my mom would make for Pancake Tues when we were kids and it was our kick off to Lent. In my case it's been many years since I gave up anything for Lent but as we are currently restricting our normal behaviour (for a totally different reason) I feel a resonance with that ancient ritual. In this case it is the purchasing of food that we are denying ourselves rather than the consumption but it sometimes amounts to the same thing. If it isn't in the house now, I won't be enjoying it for about 3 more weeks.

So far it's been rougher than I anticipated. Not because we are lacking in options- the cupboards and fridge are still pretty full. But it's the idea of choice (or lack there of) that's been causing me to question my ability to see this through. I'm fairly organized about shopping and cooking but I'm also prone to whims in our dietary decisions and often will decide to make something because it appeals to me in the moment. Living within walking distance to any number of options for food shopping makes picking up additional ingredients an every day occurrence if I choose. I found not being able to do that felt really restrictive over the last few days. On top of that I realized that food shopping is a form of retail therapy for me. Often my trips elsewhere are coupled with a stop at a food retailer and even when I'm broke I can always justify spending a few dollars on food. Not having that option made a long week seem even longer. Coupled with a bad head cold and the general end of winter blahs, this plan to restrict ourselves added more misery and made me wonder why anyone would choose to do this voluntarily.

Lent occurs at relatively the same time each year; this year is actually later than usual but it's dependant on the lunar calendar. The earliest Lent can begin is Feb 4, the latest is Mar 10. Which means it inevitably falls in the latter half of winter, when we are already feeling a bit deprived. The original purpose of Lent was to promote fasting and prayer, signifiying the time Jesus spent alone in the desert (pondering his fate, no doubt), but I don't suppose the early Christians had northern hemisphere winters in mind when they worked out the dates. Little wonder that the ritual has evolved into choosing only certain things to abstain from rather than complete abstinence of all things pleasurable. Still it's a long way from total fasting to giving up chocolate for 40 days -something I could do with ease (gingerale on the other hand...). Choosing self denial isn't something we are accustomed to these days, yet in a few short days I have been made aware yet again of how little I know of real deprivation. Maybe I was due for some reflection. Maybe I lose some weight or finally ween myself from sugary drinks. Or maybe I'll just be unbearable by the end of this month. Time will tell. In the meantime, there's always pancakes!