Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Here's a Halloween song that I learned in elementary school. But the lyrics clearly say "JOHN" and not "TOM". Regardless... here it is...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween: a most horrible, dreaded celebration

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

On Facebook, Twitter and my blog, I start counting down the days to Christmas beginning in January. It drives people nuts. Most take the bait and leave frustrated and nasty comments -- some of them quite funny.

Now that Christmas is less than two months away, the negative comments are decreasing as everyone is starting to resign themselves to the fact that Santa Claus is in full list-keeping and toy-making modes. The elves are not allowed to take sick days -- not even for H1N1 -- and the reindeer are getting daily steroids shots for that long trip around the world on Christmas Eve.

I wish I could say the same about Halloween, my most dreaded and hated holiday of the year. Why this horrible event even exists is beyond me. A holiday built around passing out free candy to beggars and scaring people out of their wits? Sorry, but I'll take any day of the year over that -- even National Stapler Appreciation Day (hey, even office supplies need some lovin') or Bring a Deceased Loved One's Ashes to Work Day (not recommended if you work in a kitty litter testing lab).

Halloween is to dentists like the week before Christmas is to retailers. If you don't make money that week, you might as well write off the entire year. If it's not the kids coming in with disintegrated teeth from all the sugar, it's teary-eyed parents coming in holding some sort of sticky chewed up treat with a $1,000 dental crown stuck in it.

And don't even get me started on the pumpkins. These honourable gourds sit ripening in fields all summer only to be unceremoniously assassinated in the middle of roads by teenagers throwing them into traffic.

I gave up trying to give out organic treats. I once contemplated giving out some sort of sugar-free whole wheat fat-free organic non-GMO unrefined treats a few years ago, but all I could find to fit the bill were plain old ice cubes. I think giving out ice cubes at my front door on Halloween would pretty much put me right up there in the "weird guy who lives alone with cats" category... not that I need any help in that department.

The straw that broke the camel's back, though, was a couple of weeks ago on Facebook when one of my friends posted that she had just finished putting up her Halloween tree. Yeah... a Halloween tree. I imagine it's some sort of black artificial tree with orange ornaments. Look, I tell ya, I nearly fell off my chair when I read that.

If the Christmas tree has been transferred over to Halloween, what's next? Are we going to start giving out Halloween gifts? Is the mall going to cordon off a big area, decorate it with cobwebs and ghosts and have a skeleton sitting in a coffin holding petrified kiddies on his knee and asking them what they want for Halloween? Half of them cry for Santa Claus, they'll be positively apoplectic and incomprehensible after a few minutes sitting on the Grim Reaper's boney knee.

And why not have a big Halloween family meal, including turkey and all the fixings? The only difference is that you'd have to eat the turkey alive. Should make for some interesting table discussions. "Did Tommy get a drumstick? Oh... I see he's still trying to dig the turkey's angry beak out of his eye! Oh Halloween! What a lovely time of the year! God bless us everyone! Now let's all try and chase the turkey to get Tommy's eye back! C'mon, kids! You, too, Tiny Tim!"

We can't forget the Halloween carols, either: O Little Town of Bat-lehem, Christmas in Kill Arnie, Have Yourself a Merry Little Funeral, I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus, and Rudolph the Roadkill Reindeer.

Christmas has Boxing Day on Dec. 26. How about Withdrawal Day for Halloween on Nov. 1? This would be the formal day of sugar withdrawal, with free diabetes testing given all over the country. Crowds would gather in town squares and watch groups of children going through sugar withdrawal symptoms. "Look Mommy! Little Suzy's eyes rolled in back of her head! And there's Betsy pointing to the sky and screaming at Jesus for the pain she's in. Oh happy day!"

Withdrawal Day festivities actually end a week later with the most sacred post-Halloween tradition of them all, the Apparition of the Holy Vegetable, where a child is shown the first vegetable they've seen in a week. This is sometimes not a pretty sight, as most children have had their heads buried in bags of Halloween candy for days and are just coming up for air then, their cavity-filled smiles beaming.

A family sacrificing their child for this rite is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. The child is bathed in sugar-free soda, dressed in white, and then tied to an apple tree. A covered tray is brought to the child, and each corner of the cloth covering the tray is slowly turned back to eventually show the contents: carrot sticks and lettuce.

The child looks bewildered at first, then screams in terror as their first sight of vegetables in a week causes them to lose consciousness. A few minutes later, the child awakens and all is well. Halloween is over and he and his little friends eat the carrot sticks and lettuce, chewing through the pain of the cavities in their teeth. Mothers dab tears away from their eyes. Fathers excuse themselves curtly, claiming they have something in their eye. Puppies frolic in the fallen leaves. Kittens purr contentedly.

As much as I complain, however, I suppose the excited little tykes who'll be ringing the doorbell this Halloween are kinda cute. Oh well, it beats screaming myself hoarse with, "Get off my lawn!" There'll be time for that when I'm older.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This week's Hump Day column...

... is all about my well-known disdain for Halloween. I despise it. And now it's starting to rival Christmas in decorations and profile.

Read all about it on the editorial page of today's Moncton Times & Transcript, New Brunswick's largest-circulation newspaper.

If it's Wednesday, it's Hump Day! Today's column will be posted online here tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recipe: Low-carb / sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake

This delicious recipe is courtesy of Laura Dolson's excellent low-carb About.com website. Laura always offers tons of great advice. The original recipe is posted here.

(Note: My comments are in italics.)

Pumpkin cheesecake can make a nice change from pumpkin pie. This version is richly spiced. The crust is thicker than the regular low-carb cheesecake, but if you want a thinner crust, the other one can be used. If you want a cheesecake that isn't as rich, you can use lower fat cream cheese, though I haven't specifically tested it with more than 1 package of the cream cheese being low fat.

Ingredients:

Crust:

- 1.5 cups almond meal (I actually used pecan meal and it suited the recipe very well!)
- Half teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 tablespoons sugar substitute (I used granular Splenda)

Filling:

- 3 8-oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 2.5 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/3 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 cups sugar substitute, or to taste (I used Sweetzfree, but you can also use granular Splenda or something else that you prefer)
- 1 can (about 15 oz) pumpkin (use pure pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 5 eggs, preferably room temperature (I used large eggs)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used whipping cream)

Preparation:

Heat oven to 375 F.

Prepare springform pan: I (Laura) like to put a piece of parchment paper over the bottom of the pan -- no need to cut it to size, just snap it into place when you put the tighten the sides. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in heavy-duty foil. You'll be baking the cheesecake with the springform pan set in a baking pan half-full of boiling water, so you want to protect from leaks. (This is a "bain marie". Click here for a photo.)

1) Combine ingredients for crust, and press into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until fragrant and beginning to brown.

2) Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl and beaters. This step will be repeated several times and is important. The mixture will gradually become lighter, and the denser stuff has a tendency to cling to the bowl. You won't be able to incorporate it as well later, so keep scraping. (I was very careful about doing this. Don't skip this step. I did it several times to ensure a very very smooth texture. Trust me, you'll thank yourself in the end.)

3) Add spices and sweetener. Beat again, scrape again.

4) Add pumpkin and vanilla. Beat well, scrape.

5) Add 3 eggs. Beat well (about a minute), scrape.

6) Add the other 2 eggs and cream and beat another minute. Pour mixture into pan over crust.

7) Place pan in a baking pan and pour boiling water around the sides, about halfway up ("bain marie"). Lower the oven temperature to 325 F. and bake for for 60 to 90 minutes, checking often after an hour. When the cake is firm to touch but slightly soft in the centre, or the centre reaches 150 to 155 F, remove from oven.

8) Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, or up to 3 hours. Cover and chill, ideally for another 3 to 4 hours. Remove sides from pan after cooled completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to prevent sticking before you remove the sides.

Nutritional Information for full fat cream cheese, at 16 servings: Each serving has 4 grams effective carbohydrate plus 2 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, and 285 calories.

This is a DELICIOUS recipe and got rave reviews from friends and co-workers with whom I shared the finish product. Try it!

Notice the topping in my photo? No, it's not cherries... it's cranberries!

This is very easy to make and goes as a topping for this cheesecake recipe very well.

- 1 bag of cranberries (12 oz / 340 g)
- 1 cup equivalent sugar substitute (if using 1 cup of Davinci's sugar-free syrup, no need to add water)
- 1 cup water
- 1/8 heaping teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 heaping teaspoon ground cloves

Cook at medium-high heat stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes. (5-6 minutes is usually plenty.) You'll notice the cranberries will pop and the mixture will thicken substantially. Cool and place in refrigerator for several hours until set. You can use this as cranberry sauce for use with turkey or chicken dishes, or use it as a dessert topping. It goes beautifully with this cheesecake recipe!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Check out some of these long-time residents of the Moncton SPCA

Click the pet's name for their profile on the Moncton SPCA website.

Chance



Ozzy



Snoopy



Heidi



For more information on these or any of the other nice pets up for adoption at the Moncton SPCA, click here for their website.

The Fuplers: It's ORGANIC!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some scenes from today's Liberal nominating meeting for the riding of Dieppe Centre-Lewisville

Roger Melanson was acclaimed today as the Liberal candidate in the New Brunswick riding of Dieppe Centre-Lewisville. The meeting was held in front of a packed house of 300 people at the Kay Arena-Crossman Community Centre in Moncton.

Here's the tail end of Roger's acceptance speech. The room was sweltering... but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm. Quite the crowd!



Here's Jean-Pierre LeBlanc's introduction of guest speaker Premier Shawn Graham, who joked that Roger's tie should have been a more appropriate colour.

Only two months to go 'til Ho! Ho! Ho!