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We’ve been in the house so long, even the dogs are getting into the baking spirit!

Today I was very pleased to get this lovely video in my inbasket. I have Devin’s permission to post it on the blog and thought it was too cute not to share.

Huey Lewis and Devin make soft pretzels.

Both Huey Lewis and Devin are our neighbours. I have heard lots about Huey Lewis but I have not yet met him. I have met his bigger brother Walt, who loves to play with our labs Ingrid and Nelson. It turns out that Huey Lewis is a great narrator, knows a good pretzel technique and could have a powerful YouTube career if he decides that’s what he wants in life. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy his pretzels! Thanks for sending it to me Devin! Thanks for demonstrating a great way to make pretzels, Huey Lewis!

~ Victoria Sweet

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Keeping the home fires burning – an early lesson from a pandemic

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve refreshed this blog, and if I look backwards, there have been lots of reasons, and no reasons at all why I’ve been away from the blog this long. I’ve moved provinces. I’ve ended one career and started another. Some other pressing needs seemingly took priority – I needed to organize my house. I needed to organize my home office. I needed to get a better camera for pictures of food for the blog. I bought a nice camera, but then I needed some lessons to be able to actually work the camera. The list goes on and on. But here we are – a year since my last blog entry. That time has flown by – but what do I really have to show for it? But now, in the wake of COVID 19, time seems to be going more slowly, at least it does in my house.

If we are listening to the news around us (and unless we work in one of the essential services areas), we are all in our homes, and we’ve been here for about 2 weeks. Life is pretty scary outside right now, but at the same time, the world is filled with an odd sense of tranquility. It’s almost like a holiday season where we all “downed tools” and purposefully slowed down our forward-focused, very busy lives, but this time there’s no real date on the calendar when we expect to spin things up again. Most of us are not used to having this much time on our hands.

I spent the first week or so catching up on long overdue things on my list – some family administration, some organizing around the house, trying to settle into a “work from home” routine. However, in this second week, I will be honest – I’ve felt anxiety, unable to tie up loose ends, and experienced some inability to settle into a routine that I know is so important from the perspective of mental health and resiliency. So as we go into our third week, I’m working hard to fix that. I will establish a routine that looks after my physical, spiritual, creative and professional self. I will also cultivate a practice of reflection and gratitude. And part of this will be to dust off Victoria Sweet, which a mere year ago was a very important part of my creative self, a part that I have let slide off my list of priorities. By establishing this routine, I will be better able to insulate myself and my family from the uncertainty of our present time, and better help myself and my family to be able to weather our current situation for both the short and the long haul. I hope you will join me. It’s been too long since we’ve talked together.

~Victoria Sweet

baking, life transitions, Uncategorized

Cinnamon rolls, small towns and life lessons

My family has finally made our transition to our forever (we think) home, and our forever (we think) town in beautiful Pictou County, Nova Scotia and I recently had occasion to visit a local bakery. This bakery was Cakes and Things, on Provost Street in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Anyone who knows me knows that I will drive 100 km out of my way to visit a bakery, and this one was right beside me as I was walking on the street so how could I not go in? It was later in the day (3 pm, late by a baker’s standards as they normally get up at the crack of dawn to start their bake, what a glorious job that would be..but I digress). So it was later in the day and luckily for me there were still a few of the most amazing cinnamon rolls available for sale. I picked up an especially yummy looking one and took it to the cash. I then struck up a conversation with the baker. He told me that he started the bakery because he really loved to bake. He and his business partner (his mom; how blessed is she that her son is willing to go into business with her!) had been baking for the local markets but that wasn’t enough baking for him so they decided to open a storefront. As our conversation went on, I realized that there was no debit machine on the cash and I said, “are you a cash only business?” I never have any cash in my wallet, it’s a long term effect from raising teenagers. “Yes,” he answered, “but please take the cinnamon roll. I know after one taste you’ll be back.” I offered to run to the bank (there were like 3 in the immediate area) but he insisted, and although I was feeling just a tad uncomfortable, I felt even more uncomfortable abandoning the cinnamon roll and refusing his hospitality. It just felt, well, rude to do so, and I’ll be honest, the cinnamon roll looked delicious! So I took him up on his offer, and guess what? He was right, I will be back. I’m going to order my sister’s birthday cake from him, because that cinnamon roll was great.

My husband and I decided to move back to the Pictou County area of Nova Scotia after our retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces in order to slow our lives down a bit. We had moved our family all over Canada, had done some really exciting jobs, but we were always in a rush. We wanted, we needed, a slower pace, and we hoped that coming back to Nova Scotia would provide that for us. I think we are still finding our way a bit in terms of slowing down, but that one visit to Cakes and Things Bakery and accepting the offer of a cinnamon roll reminded me why we made this choice. The offer of a cinnamon roll from a person who makes his business from selling cinnamon rolls but who didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned that he wasn’t getting immediate return from the exchange is an important life lesson. Life is a journey, success in life takes many forms, and return on investment isn’t always immediate. Sometimes true wealth comes from another source.

So now my next big decision is whether to order the chocolate or the vanilla cake.

Until next time,

Victoria

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Birthdays, well-intentioned traditions and cream cheese

Birthday traditions go better with cream cheese

Today is my dh’s birthday so last night I whipped up his favourite carrot cake recipe and set my finished cake out to cool for the evening so I could get it all frosted before his birthday began. The recipe is one that I have made a thousand times before and it turns out great when you use gluten free flour. As I prepared the batter I started to think about all the birthday traditions that I had grown up with and smiled when I remembered how I tried to bring some of these traditions over to my new family (my husband and me) when we first started out together.

In my childhood family, birthdays weren’t celebrated with a lot of money, but there were certain things that you knew were going to happen when your big day came. I was the middle child in a family of five children, and we were spread out somewhat far in age, so there always seemed to be a bigger sister or brother ready to carry things out if Mom or Dad somehow forgot. I remember well trying to sneak downstairs and get out the door and on the bus before the house remembered that it was my birthday. The first thing one could expect was the inevitable “butter on the nose” trick. Birthday celebrators needed to have a generous glob of butter ceremoniously put on the end of their nose (or worse yet, that hard brick margarine that was popular in the 70s and 80s – it hurt when being smushed into the nose). Because the birthday victim was usually running away from the assailant, sometimes that butter got in your eye (now there’s a good saying, “here’s butter in yer eye – have a happy birthday!”) or sometimes down the side of your neck, or worse, in your hair (and you still had to get on the bus and go to school, just add that grease to an already puberty-inspired oily ‘do).

And let’s not forget the “birthday bumps” or birthday spankings. One swat on the derriere for each year of your life. That’s likely illegal now, and maybe with good cause, as there is nothing that makes a child not want to grow into the double digit years like the fear of double digit birthday bumps.

The final tradition that my family enjoyed that made my hubby’s eyebrows raise a bit is the tradition of putting money in the birthday cake. Our mom would always put change in the cake and you had to chew very slow to avoid choking. Again, through a 2019 lens, likely not the smartest practice, but hey, I’m still here, and it gave the family a chance to practice their first aid choking drills. Unfortunately, I hadn’t introduced this particular tradition to my hubby in our dating years, and the first cake I made for him happened to be for a birthday celebrated while we were in different provinces while he was on a military course. I couriered a cake to him, which he excitedly opened and shared with his friends. Imagine his surprise (and alarm) when he took a big bite and almost swallowed a quarter.

Sadly, as I think back, these traditions didn’t last in my new family, and that’s just a bit sad. I think on the occasional birthday I would sneak into my kids’ rooms and slather their noses with butter and enjoy the yells of “hey mom, come on!” but unless the tradition is embraced with gusto, it dies a natural death. Maybe I’ll make it my ambition to start it up all again with my grandchildren. And as far as my hubby’s birthday goes, the day isn’t over yet.

I posted a picture of my hubby’s birthday cake. I wanted to do a naked cake but it is his preference to have his carrot cake drowning in cream cheese icing. So I offer a compromise – a bit naked on the sides, and party on the top. A reverse mullet if you will, to celebrate the birthday of a 50 something guy who grew up in the 80’s. Happy birthday Tom, and have a great day everyone!

Until next time,

Victoria Sweet

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Canada’s Food Guide is out and it’s beautiful!

Check it out here – https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

If. you haven’t already done so, click on the link to the newly released Canada’s Food Guide and see it in its splendour for yourself. I did that very thing this morning and was not disappointed. The full plate approach is quite striking and a good “measure of thumb” when you’re trying to decide how much of an item to have, say when you’re not in control of what might be going on your plate. One-quarter of my plate for grains and starches, stick to that and you’re in good territory. Fill up half of the plate with fresh fruit and vegetables, limit meat to a small portion, just like the grains, and don’t sweat measuring. Be careful of the ads around you, they are influencing you to eat more or differently. How much easier could it be?

And the future of sugar and fat, those rascals who are lovingly featured in the Victoria Sweet blog? They remain in the “for special occasion only” just like we’ve always said on this blog. Health Canada – you haven’t disappointed.

Stay with me over the coming days as we explore the disappearance of the dairy group and what that really means for those of us concerned about our nutrition, and get your baking pans warmed up, we will be practicing making beautifully decorated heart shaped cookies, to be enjoyed in limited quantities as part of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday!

Until next time, yours in balance, knowledge, and all things baked!

Victoria

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Excited about tomorrow!

The new Canada’s Food Guide will be released tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the long awaited release of the new Canada’s Food Guide! And this baker/blogger/dietitian is so excited that I likely won’t be able to sleep tonight!

Even in light of the changes, I don’t expect this blog to change too much. Unfortunately I don’t think that the new Canada’s Food Guide with have a cookie group, lol. But one of the things that I do hope to see is an emphasis on enjoying food, celebrating food related traditions and eating mindfully. And those my friends, are positive and welcome changes! I’ll post tomorrow after the big announcement! We’ll share a great cookie recipe in celebration!

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Fat Tony’s deep fried Mars Bar…it really is amazing!

Tonight I had occasion to visit a restaurant in my hometown of Pictou, Nova Scotia and experience something that I have wanted to experience for a long, long time – a deep fried Mars bar! I associate the deep fried Mars bar with the Ontario food truck scene so I was excited to hear that they were on a local NS restaurant menu. The NS restaurant in question was Fat Tony’s on Pictou’s waterfront, in beautiful coastal Nova Scotia Canada. I paired my deep fried Mars bar with a Maple Vodka coffee (I so know I have the name wrong on this coffee, which is unfortunate as I highly recommend it), so the night was particularly decadent, and one that I likely won’t be in any hurry to log into my MyFitness app! Oh well, Christmas comes but once a year….

By this time in my new career as a food blogger, I wanted to be well into a rich food blogging streak of an every-second-day blog describing homemade goodies made from my beautiful retirement home kitchen in Pictou, Nova Scotia, but the gods of weather, household power, and all things baking have dealt me yet another horrible and unexpected delay, another cruel twist of fate. A few weeks ago, Nova Scotia had a wind storm which knocked out the power in this neck of the woods, and when the power was restored a day or so later, a power surge knocked out my brand new double banked oven, plus a few other brand new appliances and many of our lightbulbs and wall sockets, so yet again, I find myself without a way to actually bake. So instead I will tell you all about the amazing deep fried Mars Bar as offered by Fat Tony’s in Pictou Nova Scotia.

Don’t count the grams of fat or the grams of sugar….just eat it!

This delectable dessert is entirely homemade at Fat Tony’s restaurant. I thought, reasonably, given the fact that they have a fairly expansive menu (they have great seafood options) that the desserts might be brought in prepared and ready to cook. So I asked our waiter whether the Mars bar was brought in frozen and then deep-fried and garnished. She confirmed that indeed the dessert was made entirely onsite, which in itself gives me a lot of confidence in the products provided by this restaurant. The dessert itself was outstanding! The Mars bar had melted to the just right stage (like it was lukewarm – milk chocolate, caramel and nougat intermingling – covered with a crispy coating, so decadent!). It was garnished with just enough vanilla ice cream, and a side of whipped cream, provided just in case I hadn’t eaten enough fat today. A drizzle of chocolate sauce completes the look and the experience. It’s a good thing I had missed supper! Yum!

When I was a child and young adult, the building that Fat Tony’s is in was a Stedman’s store, one of the red and white themed department stores that typified small town Nova Scotia of the 1970s and 1980s . I used to go into this store to pick up items that I might have forgotten when I was at a larger mall, or sometimes, when I was coming home from the upper Pictou County town of New Glasgow with my Mum, she would say, “let’s stop by Stedman’s and see what they have.” And I always agreed! I remember that they had a great craft section. I’ve always been an avid knitter. During one trip to Stedman’s I got sufficient yarn to make a fisherman’s knit sweater (quite appropriate considering Pictou is the fisher capital of the universe). More exciting to me was that there was a special on yarn that day and I got enough yarn to make a cardigan (which I still have by the way) for less than $10.

When you walk into Fat Tony’s there is no evidence of the old Stedman’s store. The ambiance is great, the dining area spacious, and the wait staff very friendly. The building has also had garage doors installed, to be opened to a patio enjoyed by days much warmer than today’s December weather. But as much as I rave, the highest compliment was paid to Fat Tony’s by my mother-in-law, who looked around at the setting and said, “This is something that you’d see in Halifax!” High praise indeed, and a great deep fried Mars bar! Thank you Fat Tony’s!