December 22, 2012

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Raspberry Dutch Baby

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind.  Coming back from living abroad for almost 3 months will do that to you but between work, volunteer work, everyday life commitments and having a home and children to tend to, I've been feeling somewhat overwhelmed and spread thin emotionally.  Christmas time is supposed to be a time for joy, right? Except for me, it's seems to have added more stress instead.

I have always been one to have a lot of things going on and challenge myself to new interests but lately I feel that I haven't been able to meet my own personal interests and goals.  By the end of the day, I have no energy to do things for me.  I feel that my blog has been neglected and I miss snapping pictures for the fun of it.  I often use my own blog to bring up recipes to make and lately when I have done so, I feel pangs of sadness that I haven't been able to put more ME time in to do the things I love.

The other day, this became even more crystal clear to me.  My children have various parties at school and the teacher will send home a note saying it will be my turn to supply this said food.  I've had to bring an assortment of vegetables one year.  Fruit another time and a couple of meat trays another year or cheese and crackers.  I always have wanted to get selected to bring cookies or cupcakes but I never once got that chance until this year.  FINALLY, I got selected to bring COOKIES!! for a CHRISTMAS party!!!  That is a jackpot for someone like me who loves to bake and get creative making some really fun themed cookies. I look forward to the icing or fondant or any other idea that pops into my head.  But, this just never came to fruition and I ended up having to buy cookies.  BUY COOKIES.

I'm sure many of you are shaking your head, thinking what is the big deal?  Lots of parents buy instead of make cookies for school or home.  I get that and don't look down on people who do so but I really LOVE doing it. I get super excited about it and this year when I brought out the cookies to send to school, my son looked at me and said "you bought them?".  "Yes, yes", head down, "I bought them".  Personal failure.  It's not that my kids were upset about it but they even realized something was amiss.

With Christmas being around the corner, things are settling down and  I feel somewhat ready and less anxious but ultimately, these lessons are opening my eyes.  Finding how to balance things in life is hard and a constant struggle for everyone.  But I want to tell you that you MUST carve out time for yourself to do things you love.  If you don't, you get unhappy and stressed out. I've heard this many times before but I can tell you first hand, being overwhelmed, well, I don't like it.  Not one bit.  I'm not sure what I need to cut out yet but the next couple of weeks will have me getting more organized but also cutting out unnecessary.

I'm looking forward to spending time with my family, having Christmas with my extended family and celebrating a new year with bells and whistles on.  I want to get back to my blog, photography and look for something new and interesting to challenge myself in the new year.  I'm already sure my New Year's resolution will be learning to say no, asking for help and saying sorry, but I need to put me before you, as selfish as that sounds.

So with all that, I want to say Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.  I will be back when I'm ready and I wish you all some valuable and fulfilling ME time.  I deserve it and so do you.


PS: the above is a raspberry dutch baby.  I substituted raspberries for the fruit in this Apricot and Strawberry Dutch Baby recipe.

December 10, 2012

Troika Foods & Pasta Time Manufacturing Tour

Troika Foods - Cabbage Rolls

I received an email from Al, owner of  Troika Foods, asking if I would be interested in a tour of their federally inspected & certified plant in Sherwood Park.  Troika Foods is the largest producer of handmade cabbage rolls in Alberta and several years ago, they acquired Pasta Time which specializes in a variety of fresh frozen pastas and sauces.

I was eager for the plant tour.  Many moons ago, I worked in a pharmaceutical plant and so I remember all the ins and outs of production and strict protocols that must be adhered.  Lab coats, hairnets, signing in/out, washing of hands and walking through a shallow water bath or a sticky mat for clean shoes took me back to my days of manufacturing, except in this instance it was food related!

Troika Foods - Pasta Time line

The grand scale of production is truly a sight to behold too.  I was taken through their complete production, starting with raw ingredients right through to packing of the final product. Bags and bags of flour and semolina, large bins of cabbages ready to take apart and fill with delicious fillings and watching the massive industrial machines that prepare the dough.  Though I never mentioned it to Al, the show opening song of Laverne & Shirley was bouncing around my head as I watched his employees work so quickly and efficiently.

I was very much taken with the production of tortellini's   Watching the dough feed through the machine, add filling and then punch out perfectly-pinched tortellini's was just mesmerizing.  I hovered over that machine for quite some time.  How can one not?  Look at how cute this tortellini is!

Troika Foods - Tortellini

Al sent me home with some of the fresh frozen tortellini that day and my family very much enjoyed it.  What I like about the product is that when you look at the list of ingredients, it is very small and simple.  There are no preservative or additives, just natural ingredients that I would use at home to make my own pasta or cabbage rolls.  I find this to be very rare and uncommon in many of the food products found at supermarkets.  If you are a believer of eating local, then you should seek out Troika Foods/Pasta time products at your supermarket as they try to use as many Alberta products whenever possible.  From farm fresh eggs to cabbage from an Edmonton local farm right down to their Alberta wheat and semolina for their pasta dough.

Thanks for the tour Al!  It was lovely being able to walk down memory lane in terms of manufacturing but to also see production of a food plant first hand.

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