Sunday, December 12, 2010

My new relationship with...FISH!

Life has been absolutely INSANE since September started! I introduced some new teaching material that has been a great learning experience for me but has kept me off of blogging among other things. This is a post I have been working on for a while that I finally had the chance to finish!

This is the latest chapter in my adventure into liking all food. I am on a journey to be a less picky eater and enjoy all food that is presented to me. I think that with some amazing recipes and the slow but consistent approach to eating something you dislike, you will start to actually enjoy those recipes and even want to eat those dreaded items.

Foods on my dislikes list include onions, mushrooms, fish, seafood and lamb. So far I have been incredibly successful with onions and mushrooms. Onions were fairly easy because I could tolerate them cooked but what really sold me on onions were the small grilled onions (cebollitas) in Mexico...oh so sweet and delicious in a taco!
Mushrooms took a little longer. It took a year of eating mushroom risotto with the mushroom chunks getting bigger with every time we made it to finally be ok with eating them in other dishes. I am now even eating them raw in spinach salad!!!!
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I have tried scallops...twice...once in 2008 (see the delicious Mexican recipe posted here) and again this past Spring when my parents visited for Easter. I guess I have been slacking on my slow and consistent method here...
In comes the fish. Fish has been on my I really DON'T like at all list for a long time...well except when beer battered, deep fried and covered in tartar sauce...but then is it still really fish at this point? Knowing this, imagine Diego's surprise when I came to him and suggested we buy a half share in the new Community Supported Fishery (CSF - for more info on it see EcoYogini's great post and interview here) called Off the Hook. The idea of paying in to the fishery at the start of the season to share in the bounty and in the hard times with the fisherman was very appealing. Not to mention getting to know the fisherman and supporting a sustainable hook and line fishery rather than the destructive dragging of the ocean floor. Bottom trawling, which is how bottom dwelling fish like haddock, cod, hake, etc. are caught and is THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE way to fish.
Image from:
Image from:
The giant net drags across the bottom catching everything in its path (including deep sea corals, sponges, crabs, and the list goes on) and wreaking havoc on the bottom. Destroying the habitat that these fisheries actually depend on (talk about shoot yourself in the foot)...
...and throwing away anything not in the quota. This deep sea coral grows in the dark cold waters of the Atlantic and took HUNDREDS of years to grow that size and it is just being tossed over the side of a deep sea dragger.
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The critters below are also bycatch and are what most of the fish we are catching eat, so we are at the same time decimating the food source of any remaining fish...any wonder why our fisheries are collapsing...we are taking out too much, destroying their habitat and food supply with destructive fishing methods and near the coasts we are also assaulting their nurseries with our pollution and coastal development...Knowing all of this, I bit the bullet and decided that we would try one season and if I hated least I gave it a fair go and helped the program get off the ground. We had 5.5 lbs of fresh whole but gutted fish almost every week for 18 weeks this Summer and Fall! This translates into fish for at least 3 meals a week!!
Haddock about to be filleted.
I got to fillet my first ever fish and did a decent job of it! Although this ended up being Diego's job most of the time.
We always cooked all of the fish right away since freezing them or leaving them whole for a couple of days added to the fishy flavour that I don't enjoy. The fish were always less than 15 hours out of the water before they hit our pan. The taste was amazing! No fishy flavour whatsoever and once cooked they kept their fresh taste for the three meals!
To ease me into eating fish we started with an old favorite....Fish Tacos! These are essentially battered and fried little pieces of fish that you can put into a fresh corn tortilla with some Mexican Tartar sauce and Guacamole. Delicious! We used a typical beer batter (with Corona of course) and the Mexican Tartar sauce is just mayo, pickles and grated carrots! I will post my AMAZING guacamole recipe soon. :) It is a party pleaser.
After a couple of weeks of fish tacos we ventured to try another Mexican Favorite that I and all of the guests we made it for enjoyed very much and it is very simple...however, I don't remember what it is called! It is fresh haddock fillets layered (in this order) with juliened onions, diced tomatoes, secret sauce (see below) and topped with some dabs of butter. You wrap this all up in a large amount of tin foil and bake it in the oven or BBQ. You want enough foil to be able to flip it often to cook evenly and not have any juices come out. We ate this several times because it is SO GOOD!

Secret Sauce:
75% mayo, 25% mustard

I would make enough to have 2-3 tablespoons of sauce per layer of fish.

Once it is cooked (this will depend on how much fish you have) just slice open the top of the foil layer stick some spoons in and place it in the middle of the table. Spoon contents into a corn (or flour) tortilla, add some guacamole and ENJOY!
Closer to the end, I started to feel a little more adventurous and we made an amazing baked lemon rosemary haddock with a dill cream sauce. I used fresh rosemary from my garden and dill from the farmer's market. I lay the fillets on a bed of lemons then topped them with a few lemons and sprigs of rosemary and baked them in the oven at 350F until the fish was cooked (30-40 mins). In the mean time I made a creamy dill sauce using this recipe. We ate it with a side of Greek style baked sweet and red potatoes with onions (essentially olive oil with a very small amount of dill, and salt and pepper to taste, baked in my cast iron dutch oven in the oven beside the fish). The combination was AMAZING! Neither the dill or the rosemary were too strong. They were subtle and the combination was perfect. I scarfed this plate down pretty fast!
One of the last recipes we tried was the Moist Baked Haddock recipe found here. I did substitute the Pepperidge farm stuffing with Italian style bread crumbs.
We did enjoy this recipe but we really liked the bread crumbs so we would often just bread and bake the fish (no mayo, etc) to eat in tacos (of course with some salsa or guacamole!) or just straight up with some veggies on the side.

We both loved joining the CSF and will join again in the Spring. It is an amazing opportunity to support a truly sustainable fishery and get all the benefits of eating fish while feeling good rather than guilty about it! We also, really got to know the organizers and the fisherman. We met their families and know our money is going to support them directly and not some faceless corporation. If you are in Halifax, the Valley or Digby and you eat fish, you should definitely check them out!

To learn more about fisheries you can watch the documentary The End of the Line or take a look at

Don't have a CSF near are some things that you can do:
  1. There are some fisheries that are being sustainably managed, buy these fish. To know which ones check out the Canadian Seafood Guide and the Canadian Sushi Guide at
  2. When in a restaurant, ask questions about where the fish comes from and how it was caught! The restaurant owners will become more informed and buy what the customer wants but they won't know unless you ask!
  3. Not all fisheries are equally destructive so you will need to arm yourself with information to be able to make the right choices and ask the right questions.
Happy Fishing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How could I resist?

Aren't these gorgeous??? I have never seen any with the red centre. I bought them on Remembrance Day and thought the red was a perfect fit. I have 3 more orchids that have flower stalks growing and I never remember which is what colour so I always get a surprise!

Still no package from CSN, even though I check every day...must have been held up at the border but it can't be long now!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CSN Product Review and a confession

Vickie at Frenchy Addict inspired me to take part in doing product reviews for CSN Stores. They have everything under the sun from pet and gardening supplies, shoes, kitchen accessories and even children's luggage! They even have some eco-friendly options, which may need some research before buying but at least they have potential alternatives.

I always prefer to buy locally but no matter what some things just have to come from away so I thought why not got to a one stop online shopping place! I have to confess that I LOVE shopping AND I have to seriously restrain myself.

Why do I restrain myself? First and foremost the environment. Everything we buy has a footprint and I want to minimize my footprint to keep our home (aka Planet Earth) livable for future generations. Secondly, we have a tiny place so we have no room for just we are always careful considering what we we need it and where can we put it. This is also something we try to convey to family and friends with respect to gifts... However, once a year to satisfy my shopping urge, I will blitz Value Village or the Salvation Army for used clothing and kitchen items...I also always go there (or Kijiji) first before buying anything new.

So why shopping online? Well, I sometimes find it very hard to find exactly what I want here in Halifax. It is the largest city in the Maritimes BUT finding some specialty items can be very time consuming and you are almost always faced with well...they just don't have that this side of Montreal.

I know many of you are thinking, what about the impacts of transportation?? Almost every single product you can buy in the stores comes from somewhere else, so technically the impact of transportation will be the same BUT you get exactly what you want...not something close enough that may end up in the trash because it wasn't perfect!

For you coffee/tea lovers...stay tuned for my review!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Today we remember those who have given their lives and continue to fight protecting the interests of our country and other countries who have been or currently are under siege. Although, we may not agree with war or the reasons for it, the people who were/are there on the front lines truly believe(d) in the cause and were/are willing to die for it. It is this tenacity and strength of conviction that we should respect and pay tribute to. We should also pay tribute to the families who have been left behind or are faced with the challenges of welcoming home a wholly different person.
Flander's Fields - The Great War
War takes huge toll on society and today we are faced with this stark truth more than any other day of the year. We should cultivate the feelings that Remembrance Day stirs in us to support efforts to resolve conflict through more diplomatic, humane and peaceful means to end the cycle of loss and suffering and honour the ultimate sacrifice already made by so many.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Installing a dishwasher was our first large home renovation project... I say large project because we never had a dishwasher in our flat and it took 8 full days from start to finish!!!. If I have never mentioned this before, you need to know this now for you to understand...our house is 109 years old and was divided into two flats likely in the 1940's or perhaps even earlier. Our kitchen was likely the master bedroom since it is the largest room on the second floor and our sink and counter space is located in what was probably a dressing room and is quite small (as you will see in the series of photos).
Being an old house and having been converted into flats means that there are many oddities that adds the character that we absolutely love...but can also cause some headaches with home renos because what is standard in new not in our house!

The first thing we needed to do was determine where we could put a dishwasher. We figured out that the only place we could put it and be able to open the door fully was about 4 feet from the sink. We also found out that the depth of our counters was definitely NOT accommodate the back door (exit is right across from the sink in the above photo) they had to make the counters narrower (19" rather than the typical 25" in North America). So herein lies two problems:
  1. We could not put in a North American made full size dishwasher (they are 24" wide and deep)
  2. To accommodate a 19" wide (20" deep) dishwasher, we would have to not only cut out the cupboard...but also the lathe and plaster wall behind it!
Pilot holes to see what is behind the wall. The cupboard you see to the right (with the tupperware) is the one under the drawer in the first photo and that is the back door immediately to the left. This is avery small kitchen!
Diego had a good time using a reciprocating saw to cut out the wall and cupboard that we lovingly referred to as the "Schwarzenegger" because he had to hold it like a big gun and made a lot of noise!
Cupboard and the wall taken out...notice no insulation on the outside wall...not even paper!
We decided that since the dishwasher was going to be on the outside wall that we would insulate behind it using some pink insulation that we bought and some foam board we had in the basement. We then closed it in with wood that we had in the garage, basement and from the cupboard we removed and plastered the cracks to seal it.

Our first try.
Sadly when we tried the dishwasher, it was sticking out too far to be able to fully open the cupboard beside we decided to carve out 1/2" of the studs you see in the we had to undo everything we had just done, setting us back one day. Time spent on this part so far...3 days. However, when we were done it was all painted and the dishwasher slid in nicely, we were glad we did it.

The eletrical and the plumbing took another whole day on their own! The plumbing under the sink was installed before dishwashers even existed, so we had to redo the whole thing!
Cast iron and copper plumbing under the kitchen sink.
Diego cutting the cast iron pipe with the "Schwarzenegger".
Our beautiful new plumbing!!!
We had a minor set back with the electrical when Diego wired the dishwasher to the light switch...which of course induced panic when we tested the connection by turning on the dishwasher and it didn't turn on!
When we flicked on the switch to see what the problem was the dishwasher came to life and we had a good laugh!!! It took 1/2 a day to re-wire it and get it right! Time spent so far...4.5 days. The next part is what took us the longest...rebuilding the cupboard in the small space beside the dishwasher. Since our kitchen is so small we had to do something to make this space useable and we of course couldn't make it we decided to make a small larder (aka: a drawer with shelves). We also wanted to reclaim as much wood as we possible could, not just to save $$ but to save TREES!!! This of course made it more difficult because the pieces were sometime bowed but also because this old house is a little crooked!!
This was such a technical job. So much finicky cutting and adjustments to get it "straight" in a crooked opening!
It took 3.5 days just to get this built, stained and layer of clear coat!
But now I have space for our cooking utensils and my teas (yes they take up 3 shelves) and we have a DISHWASHER!! This will save on water and headaches figuring out who will do the dishes!!! :)
Even though it feels like we should have lost space, we actually gained some in the main part of the kitchen! With a little re-arranging and purging of items not used in years, we now also have a potato and onion drawer!!!

It was well worth the 8 days! Now we just need to sand and stain all the cupboards the same colour...

Saturday, October 16, 2010


After Earl, out two 55 ft Norway Maples in the back sustained some heavy damage (see previous post). We were also worried that the next strong wind might wreak more we decided to have them pruned.
View from our second floor deck before.
We called 4 different places to get estimates. The prices ranged from fair to outrageous! Luckily, we have wonderful neighbours that helped us with the cost and we decided on a small company with 2 guys who had a number of years experience and boy did we make a good choice (you can click the image to get to their website)!!
They arrived in the morning and worked away all day climbing, trimming, chipping and chopping and always asking our opinion as they went...making sure we got what we wanted.
There were no ladders involved at all! The owner of the company was a real monkey, climbing all over the two trees even up to the tallest and out on the smallest limbs! We were riveted!
His partner waited at the bottom to guide down larger branches and delt with the chipping and clean up.

He even cut the larger branches that couldn't be chipped into logs that he then also split for us for firewood! Now we just need to buy our backyard firepit we have been dreaming about!
Here they are preparing to take down the top of the tree that broke off during the hurricane and got stuck among the branches.
They did such a great job, I sent them home with a jar of homemade jam each! Here is what the trees looked like after the pruning.
Although we can now see our neighbours in the back, we all get a lot more light into our backyards. Not to mention we all feel a little safer during those high windstorms now that the branches aren't as heavy! Thanks again Green Heritage!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Just the 3 of Us

Me, Diego and Earl...Hurricane Earl that is! On Saturday September 4th, 2010, the category 1 hurricane made landfall about 100 km southeast of Halifax at ~ 11 am.
Diego and I lived through Hurricane Juan in 2003, a category 2 hurricane that made landfall in Prospect, NS which is around 50 km away from Halifax and the city was devastated! Diego and I actually slept though Juan and awoke to the state of emergency that ensued, so this time we actually got to watch the storm until it subsided around 3 pm. Juan really devastated the trees in Halifax and we lost power for 10 days!
These two photos were taken just around the corner from our house!

This is the popular Public Gardens in the heart of Halifax, it was closed for months.
So we prepared for the worst.
We brought in most of the plants and what we left out we tied down with the furniture.
This is the beginning of the storm.
We had ample propane for the BBQ and gasoline for the car and generator....yes we bought a generator...for our corals! We have hundreds of dollars worth of corals in our large kitchen tank and we were not about to loose it all...that and we also have a sump pump that we would like to power to keep the basement from flooding...We also had lots of candles (and battery operated fire alarms) and flashlights. The storm howled and we jumped with every bang but after a couple hours we decided it was high time to do something fun as a distraction...
So out came Lord of the Rings RISK and the large bottle of red wine we had been saving and the battle for Middle Earth began.
Four glasses of wine and a knock on the door later, we were out to survey the damage with a neighbour. The top of one of our trees broke off and was (and still is) dangling up high in the tree. We will have to hire someone to come in to deal with it and trim our tree back in preparation for the next one! Many other branches also broke off and we helped the neighbour clear it out.
Luckily, there was no damage caused by our trees...but our other neighbours weren't so least it was their own tree so there won't be any neighbourhood rifts.
All in all it was a mild one compared to 2003...but it is just the beginning of the hurricane season...with the waters off our coast warming and our climate changing we are bound to have a few more doozies, if not this year...perhaps next. Our running joke is that every year from now on will be the worst year for hurricanes on record...lets hope we are wrong!