30 Oct

Hallowe’en shots

Doesn’t this look disgusting?

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Almost like a miniature brain contained in a formaldehyde-filled shot glass.

Any other day of the year I’d refuse to drink it, but give it a creepy name like Zombie Brains and serve it at a Hallowe’en party and I’m all over it.

Made with peach schnapps, irish cream, and grenadine syrup these shots are sweet. The curdled irish cream gives is the texture drinking a blood clot. Or a piece of grey matter. Whatever appeals to you more.

This recipe comes courtesy of my friend Zack who supplied the shots for our Hallowe’en party last night. They were a hit.

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Zombie Brain Shots

ingredients

  • 1 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 tsp Baileys
  • 1/2 tsp grenadine

directions

Pour the peach schnapps into a shot glass.
Carefully pour the Baileys on top so it floats.
Slowly add the grenadine syrup, it should sink to the bottom.

Bottoms up!

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29 Oct

Candy Corn Cookies

So after my teaser cookie post I present you with the recipe for the most adorable cookies ever.

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These are for week 5 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies. Granted, you probably don’t want to bake these for Christmas (…unless perhaps you have “The Nightmare Before Christmas” themed festivities. In which case, do have room for one more on the guest list?). I suppose you could Christmas them up a bit by using green and red food colouring instead of yellow and orange. Just a thought.

The original recipe calls for “flour” which means, presumably, the white all purpose stuff. I rarely have all purpose flour in the house since I usually bake bread and stick with higher gluten varieties, so I improvised with white bread flour.

Until I realized that I only had half a cup of the stuff. So I further improvised by using whole wheat bread flour. Bad idea. The white part is more brown than white and they sorta look they have been through the ringer. Stick with the recipe please.

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Anyway, I can’t take credit for these cookies. I’m not that creative. Leave it to Baked Bree whose creativity always astounds me. Be sure to check out hers because they actually look like candy corn. They put mine to shame.

At least Frankenstein likes them.

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And so does Bagigis.

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Candy Corn Cookies

(from Baked Bree)

Ingredients

1 cup butter room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
orange gel food coloring
yellow gel food coloring
sanding sugar

Directions

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, orange juice, orange zest and salt.  Slowly add the flour and baking soda.  Beat until combined.  Divide the cookie dough into three and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Add the first third of the dough to the loaf pan pressing it evenly in the bottom.  Add a few drops of orange to the second third of dough and press that into the pan.  Do the same thing and make yellow and press it into the pan.

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Wrap the cookie dough and refrigerate until firm.  At least two hours or overnight.

Unwrap the cookie dough and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  Slice the dough into triangles.

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Dip one side of the cookie into the sanding sugar (I did not do this).  Arrange on the cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack.

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The 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies is being hosted by Abby Sweets.

Week 4: Apple Pie Squares (Vegan)
Week 3: Superhero Balls (Raw & Vegan)
Week 2: Chewy Spiced Ginger Cookies (Vegan)
Week 1: Double Chocolate Biscotti

27 Oct

legs and tofu

I haven’t written much about my weightlifting in a while. I’ve still been doing it regularly but I haven’t come up with anything new.

Next week, though, I’m going to put together a whole new routine, so stay tuned!

In the mean time, I’m really impressed that I continue to gain more strength in my legs. While my upper body strength has levelled off in the 3 months since my last check-in, my lower body continues to improves.

For instance, today I finally got my leg press over 400lbs. I pressed 410lbs for 6 reps on my final set of the exercise. I was pretty ecstatic.

leg press

(source)

No, that is not me in that picture. Maybe one day I too will hit the gym in a string bikini.

…maybe not.

Dinner tonight was some delicious crispy fried tofu with a warm soy dipping sauce.

tofu

The recipe can be found here. Next time I will cube the tofu like the recipe recommends so that there is more crispy surface area.

While I liked the tofu, I found the sauce to be way too salty for my tastes. I probably wouldn’t make the sauce again, but the tofu was a winner!

tofu (2)

25 Oct

Bikini Confidence: Maria

Maria Overcame an Eating Disorder

It’s been a little while since the last Bikini Confidence post so I’m very excited that another blogger asked if she could take part in the series. Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop. Hers is a story of finding self-love, finding solace in friendship, and finding the courage to overcome an eating disorder.

There are times when I sit in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car, staring at the trees washing by like water colors, that I wonder what college would have been like without an eating disorder.

Sick

Well, three, technically.  When I moved miles away from any family and friends for a college campus in an entirely different country than the one I’d grown up in, I became anorexic, probably in some sub-conscious attempt to control my diet and physical appearance since I had control over little else in my life then.  My most absurd experience may be salting vitamins pills for a “snack” since I didn’t believe in digestion after 8 PM.

Before long, I started binging and purging, and it was only when I blurted to my boyfriend that sometimes I make myself throw up that I realized I had a problem.  I stopped purging after that, but couldn’t help but binge when I felt control over anything—my choice in dinner ingredients, an offhand comment made by a friend, the lack of my favorite toothpaste brand at the store—slip through my fingers.

Few people knew of my disorders and even fewer among those few supported me.  As I avoided social engagements for fear of being judged and of simply being seen, some friends became impatient while still others disappeared from my life.

Feeling Home Away From Home

Then, I studied abroad in Europe with eleven other students who were, at the time, strangers to me.  Because I did not love myself, I could only assume no one on the trip would find anything to love in me, and so I spent most of my time alone in the green foothills of the Alps before anyone else was awake, traveling alone to Assisi and Naples, doing everything as alone as possible.

That was until one night when my towel hadn’t dried from that morning and I went across the hall to ask another student for a towel.  As we chatted in my room, she said, quite matter-of-factly, “You should come hang out with us more often.  The guys think you’re gorgeous but awesome, and I need another girl to hang out with.  No, you wouldn’t be intruding.  All right, now it’s not an option.  You’re hanging out with us from now on.”

I didn’t believe a word she said at first.  Especially the gorgeous part.  I was 140 lbs in Italy, when I’d been 90lbs (and not menstruating) just six months earlier, and a steady, unmovable 120 lbs since puberty ages ago.  I hated the very sight of me in the mirror and couldn’t understand why anybody wanted to even know me, never mind invite me to a trip to Florence, Siena, and Rome.

I wish that I hadn’t been sick in college.  Sometimes, when the mood strikes me (usually during dreaded PMS week), I still cry about it.  I loved Europe but not as much as I loved the memories my new friends and I made there.  I loved being in peak physical shape and being the envy of beer-gut sporting college girls, but not as much as I loved the company of carefree friends I lost because I never told them I was sick.

Fighting Back

Still, it might have been college—the integral part of the environment that provoked my eating disorders—that allowed me to cure myself.

If there was ever anything I was proud of, something I’d never felt as insecure of or imprisoned by as my physical appearance, it was my intellect.  I’d always been at the top of my class, and I used my passion for knowledge to write my senior Honors thesis on the theory that eating disorders are the result of historic gender prejudice and the media.

This was my therapy.  For an entire semester, I raided the Internet, my notes on all my history and politics classes, and the campus library, steadily growing angrier and angrier over all the evidence supporting my theory.  I began to go into rages across the screen of Microsoft Word, typing madly that disordered eaters are not just anorexics, they are not just overeaters, they are not just white college girls looking to fit in, they are not weak-minded, they are not pigs, they are not guilty, they are not greedy, they are not lost causes.  It was into rage that I channeled my insecurity and overwhelming sadness, and for me, rage was easier to conquer than loneliness and despair.

My Honors professor gave me an A for my paper; I graduated Summa Cum Laude and left that campus at relatively the same weight yet in a healthier, more confident state of mind than I had entered it.

But this isn’t a typical success story.  The last thing of disordered eaters to heal is body image.  Mine is good some days, others not.  Am I stronger now than I was then?  Undoubtedly.  Do I care what others think of me upon sight?  Significantly less than before.  Do I wonder what it would have been like to experience college like every other girl?  I learned in researching for my thesis that 40% of college girls are disordered eaters.

Some days, I am still angry.



This post is part of the Bikini Confidence Series. If you missed them, check out the other guest posters:

And, of course, my own Bikini Birthday post!

If you have a story to share about your own struggles with body image or your opinion on how women’s body image is affected by media or society please feel free to e-mail me your idea at samanthaamenzies@gmail.com.
24 Oct

Fall Fun Weekend

In spite of the very warm and sunny weather this weekend that is more typical of early summer than mid-autumn I had a characteristically fall weekend filled with fallen leaves, pumpkin picking, beer and baking.

I was extremely excited when I came across this at the LCBO on Saturday:

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Pumpkin Ale! Last weekend they were all sold out and told me they wouldn’t be getting any more in stock. I was so excited when I saw this one that I dished out $9 of Matt’s money for a bottle just to try it.

And it sucked.

One sip and I was done with it. It was too strong, too bitter, too hoppy. I was expected something more like a pumpkin lambic. This beer was an utter failure and unfortunately most of it ended up down the drain.

On a brighter note, Matt and I also went to pick out some pumpkins from Mr Goodlawn for decoration/eating. I had never been to their farm before (which is owned by a friend of ours) so I was really impressed by the awesome Hallowe’en set-up they have going on there with haunted houses, creepy props, and tonnes of pumpkins. I can’t believe I forgot my camera! I took a few pictures of the pumpkins on the stoop.

Let’s just call the dead leaves on my porch ‘festive’.

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The green one is apparently the best for cooking so once Hallowe’en is over I’ll have to come up with something really creative to make with it (and by really creative, I mean pumpkin pie).

And speaking of baking. . .

My Nonna’s birthday is tomorrow. She will be 87 years young and she’s still going strong. What do you get for an 87 year old who has everything? Panettone.

I spent Saturday baking this beauty as her present:

Panettone (5)

Yes ladies and gents that beauty is straight from the Menzies’ oven (and onto the Menzies porch)

For anyone who doesn’t know what panettone is I feel bad for you. It’s my favourite festive bread (yeast cake? coffee cake? loaf of deliciousness?) . It’s a sweet bread that originated in Milan and is eaten by Italians primarily at Christmas time. It’s made with butter and eggs and a touch of sugar and is filled with orange-peel and raisins that have been soaked in rum. It’s as good as it sounds.

With the success of this bread I think I’m going to be making a lot more loaves for the Christmas holidays coming up.

Nonna certainly liked it.

Panettone

21 Oct

Apple Pie Squares

Apple Pie Squares (4)

The Politics of Pie

Ever notice how pie always seems to get overlooked at holiday parties? Sure, everyone wants a piece but if there are cookies or sliced fruit or pieces of baklava on the dessert table everyone goes for that stuff first.

First, there is the apprehension about being the first person to cut into the pie. You are nervous that you might come across as greedy. You wouldn’t want to cut into a pie and be the only one to eat it would you? And if you are the only one to eat it, then the remainder of the pie is clear evidence for the rest of the crowd of exactly how much pie you ate. People might judge you for wanting a big piece (what a pig!) or even for taking a small piece (that’s all?!) Plus the first piece always ends up looking pretty mangled and who wants that?

Then, of course, if you are slicing the pie on behalf of other people you get caught up in the politics of size. People will start telling you to cut them a small piece, but just how small is small anyway? Are they just being coy and saying that so that when they are dished out a a huge piece and they eat the whole damn thing they can blame you for their gluttony? I remember one Thanksgiving when my sis was doling out pieces of pie. One of my uncles asked for a sliver of pumpkin pie and my sister cut him a piece that was quite literally 1 centimetre wide. We all looked at her and laughed as my uncle said, `What the hell is that?!` Apparently we all have different definitions for sliver.

So my answer to the politics of pie is this: pie squares.

Apple Pie Squares (6)

Remember the 25lbs apples that I picked on Thanksgiving weekend? Well, besides packing away three a day between breakfast and lunch I decided to actually use them in a recipe. And what’s better than home made apple pie? Apple pie in a convenient eat-with-your-hands bar form, that’s what! It’s like a fast food apple pie because you can take it on the run—but it’s better because it’s vegan and McCruelty free.

Oh yeah, and you can put it on your Christmas cookie tray too and expect people to overlook all the other pies on the dessert table. How do you like them apples?

recipe

Apple Pie Squares

Apple Pie Squares (7)

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 3 c. pastry flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 c. vegetable ghee
  • 6 Tbsp cold water

Filling:

  • 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs or bread crumbs
  • 3 large Mutsu apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions

Crust:

Combine dry ingredients until well mixed. Add in vegetable ghee and cold water.  Mix with your hands until the dough just comes together to form a ball. Be careful not to overmix the dough as it will become less flaky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.

Cut the dough in half with a pastry cutter. Place one half on a non-stick mat and roll out the dough carefully until it is large enough to cover a 8×8 inch baking dish. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and then unroll the dough over the baking dish. Trim the edges of the crust knife.

Once you lay the filling then repeat with the second half of the crust for the top of the pie.

Filling:

Preheat the oven to 375*F

In a small bowl combine the sugar and spices.

Cover the bottom crust with bread crumbs or graham cracker crumbs. Place half of the sliced apples on top in one layer. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the apples. Repeat.

Lay the remaining crust over the filling and score the top so that steam can escape.

Bake for 35 minutes or until both the top and bottom crusts are gold brown.

Once the pie is cooled, cut into squares and enjoy!

Apple Pie Squares (5)


The 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies is being hosted by Abby Sweets.

Week 3: Superhero Balls (Raw & Vegan)
Week 2: Chewy Spiced Ginger Cookies (Vegan)
Week 1: Double Chocolate Biscotti

21 Oct

Fat Talk Free Week

I woke up on Monday feeling bloated and bemoaning the indulgences of the weekend as I attempted to squeeze into my skinny pants for work. “Man, I’m fat.” I think that was the first thing I said – what a way to kick off my week. Later on in the day I learned that it is Fat Talk Free Week.

Sponsored by the sorority Tri Delta, Fat Talk Free Week is a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the damaging impact of fat talk and to promote a healthy body and attitude. The idea is that when women critically assess the “thin ideal”, rather than propagate it through fat talk, they will be less likely to fall into the physically and psychologically destructive negative self image and disordered eating.

Sounds pretty great right? I deserve a week without the burden of staring at myself in the mirror and picking out all my flaws. A week without complimenting others on their thinness. A week without calling myself a cow. When I’m overly critical of myself I obviously don’t accept myself, but I also have no motivation for betterment. I usually respond by self-sabotaging with yet another chocolate bar or cookie. Maybe going fat talk free is just the kind of motivation I need.

Steve Siebold, author of Die Fat or Get Tough; 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People apparently disagrees.

Siebold says:

  • Not talking about the problem is only going to make it ten times worse.  People need to hear that they’re fat so they’ll finally do something about it once and for all.
  • Society loves to blame everyone but themselves.  It’s the food manufacturers, restaurants, portion sizes, cortisol and thyroid glands.  The truth is if you’re fat it’s your own fault.
  • Fat people lie to themselves – fit people are brutally honest.  Fat Talk Free Week is another example of fat people lying to themselves.
  • People need to grow up emotionally, make a diet and exercise plan, get mentally tough and stick to it once and for all.

(This is taken from a letter to Virginia over at Beauty Schooled. You can read the rest of the letter here.)

Ouch.

Unfortunately I think Mr. Siebold is missing the point entirely.

Fat Talk Free Week is not about people who are obese and unhealthy who point fingers at McDonalds for causing their emotional immaturity and inability to establish a healthy balance of diet and exercise.
No. Fat Talk Free Week is about college aged women with normal weight who are on perpetual diets, suffering from disordered eating in one form or another, and hating themselves because they don’t look like a photoshopped image Adriana Lima.

Fat Talk Free Week is not intended to get fatties off their asses and into the gym.
No. Fat Talk Free Week is about getting girls away to look in the mirror and focus on the great things about their body’s capabilities. It is also about getting girls to reflect on their character strengths rather than their physical flaws.

So I say YES to Fat Talk Free Week.

In honour of the week I will do a little Unroast (Eat the Damn Cake style, but with pictures!)

Unroast:

  • This week I love my eyebrows because they’re nice and full. I’ve never had to use an eyebrow pencil.

  • This week I love my teeth because I have a tiny gap in the front two that gives my smile character.

  • This week I love my legs. They’re unusually strong. Strong enough to squat 235lb.

  • This week I love the way my derriere looks in my new pair of jeans, even if the jeans are a size bigger than I wanted them to be.
  • This week I love how much energy my body has.

What do you love about yourself this week?

19 Oct

Chana Masala

Since my fridge still isn’t working and my household food inventory keeps dwindling I was forced to head straight to the grocery store after work tonight to pick up the fixin’s for dinner. I’m not one of those people who sits down and plans her menus for the week. I prefer to do my grocery shopping once a week, buy whatever produce happens to be priced well or look good, and then just work with whatever ingredients I happened to buy.

During the day I was craving something hearty. Maybe it had something to do with all the apples I had eaten during the day — an apple for breakfast, an apple for lunch, an apple for a snack, and no I’m not exaggerating. Lucky for you all I’m not one of those bloggers who posts pictures of everything she eats because today’s album would look a lot like an ad for the Ontario Apple Growers.

I ruffled through my Google reader searching for a recipe and I settled on Chana Masala with rice from Smitten Kitchen since I had most of the ingredients at home anyway.

After my grocery run, I was greeted at home by this punim:

Someone needs a haircut.

I left Bagigis out of her crate all afternoon and the entire house was intact. No eaten furniture, pillows, or books! I think she’s better home alone than she is with Matt and I!

Matt came home before I could surprise him with dinner, but I was still able to whip up a nice meal while he got some lesson planning done.

Chana Masala

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot Hungarian pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 green cardamom pods, whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 large can of diced tomatoes with their juice
2/3 cup water
2 large cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lemon (juiced)

Directions

Heat oil in a large wok. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the spices. Cook onion mixture with spiced for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in lemon juice.

Serve over cooked basmati rice.

18 Oct

Buying Pink

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has many corporate sponsors. Sponsorship allows many companies to get their name visible and also generate positive press for their affiliation with the breast cancer cause. Last week when I researching breast cancer risk reduction I took note of the corporate sponsors of the CBCF– something I had not really done before. Some of these sponsors provide products or services that would benefit a healthy lifestyle (like The Running Room and New Balance), others appear to have no real affiliation with cancer prevention (like the title Run for the Cure sponsor, CIBC) and then there were a number of companies whose products, ironically, are carcinogenic.

Revlon

Revlon’s Colorsilk and Colorstay hair dyes score a 10 (for most toxic) in the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety database. They contain over 20 chemical ingredients linked to cancer. Revlon’s Moon Drops lipstick score a 9 with over 10 cancer causing ingredients.

Dole Sparklers, Lipton Green Tea, and Smartfood Popcorn Clusters

These are produced by Pepsico, maker of Pepsi. Studies have shown that soda consumption has been linked to pancreatic cancer. I wonder where these products fit into the recommendation risk reducing diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in fat and sugar. This year the Run for the Cure did away with fresh fruit and instead provided freshly packaged Smartfood to the participants.

P&G (Proctor and Gamble)

P&G is one of the Cosmetic Safety database Top 20 Companies of Concern. Their 2464 products in registered in the database have an average score of 5.8 and include carcinogenic substances. Clairol (owned by P&G) is the top brand of concern in the database with an average score of 8.4 for it’s 283 products in the database — most of which are hair colour.

3M

3M is itself a chemical company with an extensive list of products. They are the maker of Scotchguard– a fabric and upholstery protector found in most furniture and carpeting– which contains known human carcinogens. See the product`s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

Nivea

Nivea is another cosmetics producer on the Top 20 Brands of Concern in the cosmetics database. The average score is 5.9 for all 93 of its products. For example, Nivea Body Sunkissed Firming Moisturizer ranks 7 and contains 7 ingredients linked to cancer.

Pittsburgh Paints

According to the MSDS, their paint contains possible human carcinogens such as 2-butanone oxime.

When so many companies are marketing products that contain cancer causing ingredients while simultaneously funding cancer research and awareness foundations like the CBCF, it really makes me question whether any progress is being made to prevent cancer. It makes me wonder if the research being funded is biased and allows the corporations funding it to maintain the status quo at the expense of our health.

So think critically before you purchase “pink ribbon” products from corporations to see if they are really in the interest of breast cancer prevention.

If you are concerned about “Pinkwashing” and whether all those corporate pink ribbon promotions for are worth the money, check out this website: Think Before You Pink. It is put on by Breast Cancer Action which does not accept funding from entities that profit from or contribute to cancer, including the pharmaceutical industry.


October is Breast Cancer Awarenessmonth. Check out these related posts:

How breast cancer has impacted my family

Be Breast Aware: Reduce your Breast Cancer risk