Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thank you!

Author Elizabeth Mueller
Thank you, Elizabeth!  I have really enjoyed this challenge!

Z is for...Zucchini

     About a year and a half ago, my 9 year old cucumber-loving son ate raw zucchini by mistake, thinking it was, of course, cucumber....He didn't spit it out, he chewed it and swallowed it and then said, "Mum, is this cucumber?"  I asked him what he thought it was and he said, "I guess it's zucchini, 'cause it doesn't taste like cucumber."  "What do you think?"  "Well, it's okay."
    Poor zucchini.  Veggie trays all over the place, and it always loses out to the fresh tasting water-filled cucumber, at least when it comes to kids.    I have found zucchini to be one of the vegetables that is easier to get my kids to eat as part of a meal.   They enjoy making stuffed zucchini (quinoa, lentils and sausage meat with some curry seasonings...or if you live around here, you can use the currywurst sausage from Pipers meats).  I grew up eating stewed zucchini, made with onions, tomatoes, basil and oregano.  Zucchini also takes its place beside carrots as a great addition to breads and cakes.  One of the reasons for that is the abundance of zucchini at harvest time.  Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows just how productive those plants can be, and of course, they all come at the same time!  Home cooks had to come up with uses for all those green "squash".  While we don't grow them, we know plenty of folks who do and they are all ready to share them with us.  A good tip if you have excess zucchini (which by the way, I am certain few people do right now...have you seen the price per pound or kg at the grocery store??  But come September, there are many many to be had), grate it in your food processor (or by hand if you have strong forearms) and freeze it grated, measured into 2 cup freezer containers.  From here, you are ready for baking or stews or sauces, or soups.

My favourite way to eat zucchini is sauteed with other veggies and served with short pasta.  One recipe that always goes over well in our house is from the book, Dieticians of Canada Cook!  I have used other similar recipes over the years, but this one was a big hit.

Veggie Bow Tie Pasta
2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta (farfalle)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 large sweet pepper sliced thinly (I use yellow because I like the colour combination)
1 cup quartered mushrooms
1 whole zucchini, chopped or sliced
2 tbsp red wine
2 larged plum or roma tomatoes (I remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon)
2 cups lightly packed fresh spinach
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

A good tip: have all your veggies prepared before you begin.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions until soft (3-4 minutes).  Sprinkle with pepper and salt.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so.  Add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened.
Increase heat to medium high.  Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits from the bottom.  Boil, stirring until most of the wine has evaporated.  Add Tomato and spinach, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Pour veggies over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
To complete this meal, add some bbq'd pork tenderloin or pork chops.
Or for a vegetarian meal, add some feta or toss some tofu with the veggies before adding to the pasta.

For a great lunch dish, prepare the veggies (omit the pasta).  Allow to cool and drain away any excess liquid, then add the veggie mixture to a tortilla or flatbread, strips of cooked chicken or pork or slices of tofu, wrap and eat, for some great sauteed veggie wraps.


This is the end of my "A to Z blog challenge", now to move on to more inspiration for the next posts.  To all of you who joined on to follow the Lunch box during the challenge, I hope you found a reason to stay.  Thanks to everyone!  
More lunch box fun to come!

Happy Packing!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for...Yes, Please!

...It is Friday, the last Friday in a crazy month of April (a month that started on a Friday as well!)...A month full of paperwork, competitions, Easter, more paperwork, baseball games, an Audit (more paperwork), a great visit from my Mum, lousy weather, a science project, more lousy weather, less than stellar behaviour and more paperwork.  But today is Friday (again) and the sun is shining and there is promise of decent weather...meaning that the deck furniture will soon be out (like maybe tomorrow)...And it is time for a drink!  So, yes please!
  This is a tasty mixture that you could put in someone's lunchbox, but you would want to leave out the vodka...It is my favourite "Happy Friday" treat and it always tastes best when sitting on the deck with the sun going down.  Here it is...A Sparkling Citrus Sipper
     One glass (highball)
     2-3 ice cubes
     2 oz vodka
     slice of orange, lime, lemon, 2 pieces strawberry, a few blueberries
     2 oz Mango tangerine juice
     2 oz Club soda
1. Put ice and fruit in glass, add vodka.
2. Add juice; add soda.  Mix and enjoy.  Leave out the vodka for a great virgin sipper or Kids drink (my kids love it better than pop).  

Happy Friday!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for...Xerxes

 ...Xerxes was King of Persia, now known as Iran...Noe Rooz is the celebration of Persian New Year, which begins naturally with the beginning of a "new year", on the first day of Spring.  Many years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Mashid, who had emigrated from Iran to Canada with her family.  We worked togther for three years and she became like another Mother to me (she has three daughters of her own).  During that time, she shared a wealth of knowledge with me about Middle Eastern traditions and foods.  She taught me how to make "good" rice and shared many Iranian treats with me.  She also took me to a wonderful Persian Bakery in North Vancouver, Laleh Bakery  because she said that it was more fun to eat sweets than to make them.

  My favourite was and still is Gaz, which you may have seen or eaten, the rich white nougat chock full of pistachios.  Mashid would bring a bag of it with her to work and we would snack all day.  When I can find it, I still buy it and slip it into my children's lunch boxes for a treat.  So far, no one has said that we cannot send pistachios to school!

Happy Packing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for...Wiped out by Wednesday

Wow...What a weekend.  Easter and all that goes with it...On top of that, finalizing audit paperwork to go in the mail (and it is gone!  Yay), visitng (which is always the best part of holiday weekends), and a science project due for Wednesday, that we didn't know about until Friday morning last week.  Well, the science project is finished (good thing, the science fair is today!).  Not to mention all the hockey there is to watch with both Canadian teams still in it...
Today, Wednesday, life should settle back into "normal" (whatever that is!)...We said a teary good-bye to Grandma this morning, as she heads back East, and Daycare gets back into full swing after a very quiet start to the week yesterday.  Tonight?  Just Dance class, and a baseball game...going to relax and enjoy it since the roller coaster of life will only gain speed tomorrow!  The Canucks have moved on to round two, now just for the Habs to do the same!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for...Vegetables!

   Oh yes, I have been saving this one.  It is every parent's concern..."I can't get my child to eat vegetables."   Well, how many grown-ups out there like to eat vegetables?  Really, I mean honestly...And if you like vegetables now, how many of you didn't as a kid?  As a kid (and an adult) we want to eat things that taste good.  Sweet and salty are always right at the top.  Sour?  Bitter?  Not so much.  And yet, vegetables are so important to our diet.  There are more nutrients in a serving of veggies than in a same size serving of fruit.  (Fruit contain a lot of water and sugar, while vegetables tend to be more dense and nutrient packed).
As a new parent, I can remember reading about feeding those first solids..."Offer the veggies first. Don't start with fruit."  Why?  Well, I guess there is some conditioning that goes on and if we can get them to like veggies first, then the fruit will be easy.  My son (who didn't really care for baby food, actually neither of my children liked the "strained baby food from a jar") loved yams and sweet potatoes as an infant.  Of course he did!  I would bake slices of yams in the oven with a bit of margarine on them.  Once they were cooked, I would mash them up in a bowl and he thought they were fantastic.  Of course, these days, he won't touch them (that is why I hide them in spaghetti sauce).  One time, I made plums for him.  Steamed them and then put them through the food mill.  They were a beautiful colour, a lovely purple.  He was eager to try them, but they were so sour!  I finally had to add maple syrup to them to get him to eat them.  Needless to say, I only made plums once.  Nowadays, he will eat three or four plums at one sitting when I buy them.  Who is to know?

The best advice I can come up with for getting children (and adults) to eat vegetables is this:  Get them to eat them when they are hungry!  When my children are milling around under my feet, looking for something to eat while I am making dinner, I always tell them they can have a whole carrot if they want but that is it.  (I can remember as a child being told I could have a piece of raw potato, and being hungry enough to eat it).  On really organized weeks, there will even be prepared veggies in the fridge they can snack on.  The plus to this kind of vegetable eating?  When they sit down at the table, any amount of vegetables they eat there becomes a bonus.  And because they have already had a serving of vegetables, you are not nagging them to "Eat your vegetables!"

Happy Packing!

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for...Unanimous

   When the liking of a food is unanimous in our household, I cheer!  Up until a year or so ago, the list was very short...Spaghetti & meatballs and chicken & black bean stir fry with broccoli and noodles were about it.  Yes, there were other things that my children would eat and loved: macaroni and cheese for example, or baked chicken with rice and peas, chicken quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches...But when I say Unanimous, I mean all of us, and while I will eat those things, they are the foods I make so that everyone eats, not necessarily because I like them. 
   As the parent primarily responsible for the food in our house (I am not saying Mother, because I know that in many homes it is the father or the grandmother, or the big sister who takes on this roll, and not necessarily the Mother), it isn't very often that I make something just because I like it.  I make steak when it is on sale and we haven't had red meat in a while.  Seafood however, I make because I am craving some.  And tonight, we will be having Seafood!  Again though, not because I am craving it or because it is what everyone likes, but because my Mum is here visiting from Montreal and she loves seafood. She is heading home in a few days and it would be nice if we could have it once while she is here. 
    The rest of the week, however, I am shooting for a "unanimously popular"  (where is my English teacher husband?  can I even say that?) menu....
-Spaghetti and turkey meatballs on Tuesday (Turkey Tuesday, don't you know!)
-Caesar salad and baked chicken pieces on Wednesday (I can make both ahead of time and then we avoid the baseball game/dance class/soccer practice rush)
-Chicken Pot Pie (that I am making this afternoon) on Thursday (another silly day: Skating, baseball practice and gymnastics all requiring that folks be somewhere by or before 6pm and then some not home until 7 or 8pm).
-Pizza (frozen for now) and salad on Friday.

 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunches will all take care of themselves with leftovers, which means I really only have to "think" for tomorrow's lunches.  But now, I am off to check the fruit situation for the week...Might just be heading to the grocery store AGAIN before the long weekend comes to an end.

Happy Packing!

T is for... Tuna (in a can)

   Tuna salad is almost unanimously popular in our house.  Only my son doesn't like it.  But, he will eat Tuna casserole, so I have not lost hope that he will one day enjoy tuna salad on a sandwich.  Tuna from a can is so handy to have in your pantry!  It can be supper or lunch and it can be quick or it can be the ingredient in a slow baked casserole, or it can be used to make some yummy Tuna burgers (that if you freeze them first) can be done on the barbeque.
   When buying tuna always watch that you are buying the ecologically friendly can on the shelf.  While most of them are now labelled with the "Dolphin" on the side, indicating that no dolphins were put in danger while fishing for this tuna, it is still not always the environmentally friendly one.  When buying seafood, I try and refer to the Oceanwise list.  For canned tuna, if I can find it, I try to buy Raincoast,  which is sometimes available at Fairway market here in town.  Another company selling wild tuna from the US pacific coast is Wild Pacific Seafood
However, this kind of canned tuna is much more expensive than what we normally find on the grocery store shelves.  Oceanwise lists skipjack as a good choice for sustainable tuna, and you have a better chance of buying ocean friendly tuna if you look for either a packed in the US or packed in Canada on the label.  If anyone knows of some more suggestions, please let me know!

A great idea for quick tuna salad (serves 4-5): 2 cans tuna, drained , 2 tbsp mayonnaise (your choice of), 2-4 tbsp of each: celery, chopped fine, green onion chopped fine, sweet pickle chopped fine, 1/4 tsp curry powder, or cumin or a dash of hot pepper sauce (all optional).  Mix all ingredients in medium bowl with a fork, breaking up any large lumps of tuna.  (other additions to the salad: roasted red pepper, dill pickles and dried dill as the seasoning).  Once you have made your tuna salad, the choice is yours: tuna melts area lways a good choice for a quick dinner, with a cup of soup on the side or some salad.  I make roll-ups by spreading plain cream cheese on one side of a whole wheat tortilla, spread the tuna salad over half of the tortilla, add a lettuce leaf and roll.  Slice roll into two or three or four pieces.  It makes a great lunch!

Happy Packing!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

S is for ...Space

Some kitty space too
  We all need  a space to call our own.  When we are younger, it can be our room (or our side of the room) or a fort or playhouse.  At school it is our desk or cubby or locker in the older grades.  I remember when I moved out and had my first "place".  I rented a lower flat or apartment from my uncle who owned a two story walk-up row house in "The Pointe", an area of Montreal that was built as a working neighbourhood for Railroad and Factory Employees in the mid 1800's.  My uncle bought this property in the early 1980's.  The interesting thing is that when my paternal grandmother's family came to Canada from Germany at the turn of the century, they first settled in Griffintown, the neighbouring community (literally, as they are separated by a short tunnel).  I lived there for four years, one year by myself and then three with the best roommate ever (she continued living there for another three years after I moved out).
   The kitchen has always been "my space" and how I loved the kitchen in that apartment.  It had a high ceiling and wide plank floors, that were painted gray (floor gray that reminded me of my grandmother's summer kitchen).  One wall (called the Fire wall that was the shared wall with the next home) was all brick, and real brick!  I often thought that if I was going to live there "forever", I might learn how to refinish the brick.  I loved the warmth it brought to that cold kitchen!  Really though, if I was planning on living there forever, then speaking to my landlord about putting some insulation in the basement would have been a wiser move!  However, the stove worked, there was plenty of counter space, and quite adequate cupboard space.  I wish that I could find the pictures that I took of that kitchen.

   Twenty years later (wow, really?) and the kitchen is still my space, although I happily share it with everyone else.  I love it when we have family and friends over for a meal and folks can enjoy each other's company and prepare food together.  During our renovations in 2006, when we were planning the kitchen (yes, Mike the kitchen planner was and still is AMAZING!), a big part was how many people could work at the same time, and Mike came up with space for 4 cooks and one spot for the supervisor on one of the bar stools (wine glass in hand, of course).
  I thought I might share a little bit of my space with you.  5 years post reno and I am still in love (and Rob says "Good!  'Cause there are no more renos in sight for a long long long time...Maybe even forever!")
If only spring would come!
Happy Easter Everyone!  And hope that you are enjoying the break from packing lunches just like I am!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for...Recipe!

   ...Because I don't want to wake up tomorrow and still be a day behind.  That and I promised a recipe for Hummus in a "later" post...So, here is the later post!

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
1 can chickpeas (15 oz or 398ml), drained and rinsed
2 TBSP Tahini (sesame butter) or peanut butter (smooth, ideally natural or low salt)
juice from one lemon (as much juice as you can get out of it!)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and chopped fine (optional: my husband loves it this way, but the kids prefer it without)
1/2 cup roasted red pepper (I use the ones from the jar, as they are more readily available than roasting your own)
1/2 TSP Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce
1/4 cup water, set aside
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except for water, in medium bowl.  Using a hand blender, blend until smooth (this may take a while, be prepared for at least 5 minutes if you have never made hummus before), if too thick, add water a few spoonfuls at a time until desired consistency is reached.
You could make this in your food processor and it will be a little bit creamier and you likely wouldn't need the water.  I am lazy and hate washing all the bits that go with the food processor, so I just use the hand blender.
Serve with pita (warmed in the oven is a nice treat), raw veggies like carrots and celery or pita chips!  Or your favourite dip carrier!  It is also delicious on a wrap with fresh veggies.


Happy Packing!

Q is for...Quick!

   And now I am a day behind!  Oh well, there will just have to be two today!
  We all know that sometimes "Quick" is the best thing you can get on the table at suppertime.  No, I am not referring to the chocolate stuff (but my 9 year old sure would be pleased!).  Rather, how quickly can you get a healthy meal on the table (or into the lunch box!)...Stocking a few helpful and healthy staples in your pantry, fridge and freezer can be a huge help, and a money saver...the idea being that you are then avoiding Take Out!  We all know that "Take Out" is a deal breaker...too much of everything: salt, calories, fat, $$ and not enough fibre or nutrients (well okay, you can get that, but then it is $$$$).  A little planning and research can help keep the delivery drivers on someone else's doorstep, or help keep the car out of the drive-thru!
   First, review the freezer, because sometimes a dinner as easy as thawing out spaghetti sauce is right there.  We also keep fresh tortellini (not a bad price from Costco for the three pack) in the freezer...Fresh tortellini and Mr Newman's Own marinara sauce is Rob's Specialty, with a side of "Colander Salad".   Frozen chicken breasts (the kind that come in the 4Kg box), are another time saver:  for some yummy spicy chicken wraps, cook thawed chicken breasts (seasoned with a touch of cumin and chilli powder) for about 10 minutes under the broiler (put the rack on level down, and keep a close eye) flipping halfway through cooking.  Slice cooked chicked and add it with whatever salad fixings are kicking around (leftover bean salad is a favourite, or Greek salad is fantastic) and voila, you have created your own "fast food" your kids can eat in the car on the way to soccer or karate or skating. 
    I guess maybe we should have checked the fridge first!  Leftovers can be remade into a quick supper.  This is something I have become a "planner" of in my years of Motherhood.  I am NOT a fan of leftovers (or eating a repeat of the same meal two nights or two meals in a row), Rob, on the other hand, could eat the same thing four nights in a row.  So, when I make a menu, I try and plan what to do with the leftovers...This week's example: leftover pork chops and one steak, leftover roast potatoes and a big old salad.  With some green onions and a little bit of seasoning (oregano and salt and pepper) and roast potatoes become "fried" potatoes, chops and steak get sliced and warmed and get added on top of the salad on the plates: fried potatoes with steak salad (with sliced pork and beef!).
   The next place to look is the pantry.  Here of course, we are starting from scratch...What do we have?  A can of chick peas and a jar of roasted red peppers...Sounds like some yummy hummus to me!  The quickest way to make hummus is with a hand blender (much like what we used for the "Potage" yesterday).  Most hummus recipes call for Tahini (or sesame butter), but if your pantry doesn't have that, you can easily substitute peanut butter.  I will save the recipe for Hummus for another post.  A meal of hummus and bread or pita and some raw veggies and your kids have had something healthy and quick.  Hummus is a great lunchbox choice, with the same sides as listed here (altho maybe not on the same day as they have had it for supper!!).

Happy Packing!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for ...Potatoes, Pineapples and Potage...

Potatoes are cheap, Pineapples are not.  Potage is what you make with all the veggies left in your fridge at the end of the week (raw and cooked), a little bit of butter, water or chicken stock and (of course), some salt and pepper.
Actually, the first P that came to mind this week was "Price"...(and not because the Canadiens have been winning...the other kind of Price, that comes on a tag)...Why?  Because about two weeks ago, when I went out on a Sunday afternoon to do "a quick shop" (the kind that makes sure there is bread for sandwiches, milk and cream and coffee, and fruit for lunches and snacks), I ended up "stalled" in the cereal aisle for about 5 minutes.  I had heard someone mention that grocery prices were going to go up; including the comment about watching MacDonald's market share rise in proportion (sure enough about three days after that comment, the Macdonalds "coupon" book arrived with the mail).  But up until that moment, I hadn't noticed much going up beyond the fresh produce section.  It was the box of Rice Crispies on the bottom shelf, the Jumbo (2 bag) box, that was on sale for $4.99 again that week.  I had purchased one the week before for the same price.  What was different about it was the REGULAR price...The week before the regular price had been $6.99.  On that day, the regular price was $9.49!!!!!  Now, understand, I was not shopping for cereal that day.  But the startling price change led me to scan the rest of the shelves...Quaker Harvest Crunch that went to $5.99 regular price about 18 months ago...was now ON SALE for $5.99, regular price was $6.99...Cheerios, again the big double bag boxes, were now $8.99 and $9.99, and not on sale...I could go on and on!  But I think you get the picture.
When food prices go up, the way they have, consistently since 2008, then all those little things that you do to shave a bit here and there from your grocery bill become all for naught.  In the end, we all have to eat, and when the price hikes move away from the processed foods (and that is where they start), it becomes harder and harder for the thrifty to continue being so thrifty!
There is however, one way to combat the rise in the grocery bill.  Eat what you own.  According to the "word on the street", the average Canadian family (which I am guessing would be two adults and two children between 7-12?) throws away approximately $500.00 worth of food each year.  Obviously this happens in dribs and drabs, and not like throwing away three free range turkeys, 17 boxes of oreos, 12 gallons of milk,  20lbs of cheese and a standing rib roast to big enough to feed 24 people.  It is the half eaten box of stoned wheat thins that went stale before you could finish them, and the avocado that went moldy faster than you expected it to.  The specialty flavoured ice cream you bought for a treat that no one really liked, and then of course, there is the back of the fridge...Or how about the vegetable "crisper"?  The carrots that now bend, and the limp lettuce, the mushrooms that got a little dry, and then the bag of potatoes that seems to have seeded itself on the bottom shelf of the pantry?  Oh, and those peppers.  They were so beautiful when you bought them and now, well, they would be all right in spaghetti sauce but that is about it.

 Potage (Pureed vegetable soup)

The solution to vegetable crisper "backlog" in our house is "Potage" (pronounced "Poh taj")...
How do you do it?  First, figure out what you want to have some onion family (about 2-3 lbs)...this could be onions, garlic, green onions, leeks...Any combination of these, chopped fine.
Next, root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, about 5 lbs, peeled and cubed (about 1 inch size), any combination.
Third: broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, zuchinni, mushrooms, any of the softer veggies 1-2 lbs, coarsely chopped.
Last: the leafy stuff: chards, spinach, lettuce, bok choy (put the harder parts with the broccoli and such), cabbage.  About 1 lbs, coarsely chopped.

What to do with it?
Take your large saucepan (the one you would use to make a big bot of pasta in, or your stock pot if you have one) with a lid, and add about 4 TBSP of butter (or you can use Earth's Best or some margarine, olive oil is a bit too strong), and melt it over medium low heat.
Once butter is melted, add the onion family and stir until coated in butter, then let cook over medium low heat until soft (the less you stir the onions, the sweeter they will be), stirring only occasionally to keep from burning.
Note: if you burn the onions, start over again, or it will be very bitter...speaking from experience!
When onion family is soft and fragrant, add root veggies and about 1/4 cup of water or stock (veggie or chicken), stir and then cover and cook over medium heat until a low boil.  Remove lid and stir.  Replace lid and continue cooking until all the root veggies are soft.  Add broccoli-cauliflower mixture and continue cooking 5-10 minutes, adding a little bit of stock or water as you go.  Add leafy veggies and another cup of water or stock.  Stir well.  Replace lid and continue cooking until all veggies are soft and fragrant (maybe 20-25 mintes).  Season with salt and white pepper.  Once all veggies are cooked, stir well and thenremove pot from heat.
Using hand blender, slowly pulse through the soup (be careful not to splash yourself, it is HOT!) until it has been well pureed.  If it is thick at this point (too thick for your liking) add more water or stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  You may need to put it back on low heat to increase the temperature if you have to add a lot of water or cold stock.  If you do this, stir constantly, so it doesn't burn.  Enjoy your soup with some tasty bread or some homemade biscuits, and maybe a little bit of cheese.  The trick to getting your children to eat this too?  Get them to help make it.  My kids love that it has lettuce in it!  And the leftovers make delicious lunch!

Happy Packing!

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for ...Oh my!

   I know, it should really be something like Cheeri-Oh's or something witty like that.  But again, all I can think is "You really like me".  Not that I was feeling "unliked" before, as I have never been the sort to think, "Nobody likes me" but I guess as a Mom and childcare provider, if you sit "under the radar" with other Moms and parents at the school or the playground, that always feels like a bit of a good thing.  Recognition is not right there, like it can be in the work force, so it is a very special treat to find it here.
I received this award from Amy at  Recipes that Please with Ease
Thank you Amy!  Now the great part about receiving this award is that it is a "Pay it forward" kind of award and it has some rules that go along with it.
The rules are as follows:

1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award. (Thanks, Amy!)
2. Share 7 Things About Yourself.
3. Award 10-15 Blogs Who You Think Deserve This Award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.

7 Things About Me:
1.  I love siamese cats.
2.  I am constantly fighting the urge to procrastinate.
3.  As a child, I always wanted to live on an island...and now, I do.
4. The Lonestar song, "Let them be little" makes me cry.  (and keeps me from kicking my 7 year old back to her own bed when she snuggles in.)
5.  I stamp and scrapbook, but not nearly enough!
6.  One place in the world I would love to visit is Cornwall, in England.
7. I have a weakness for rugby players with accents, but I married a swimmer who only speaks English.

Bloggers to Award:
1. Jim's Girl Family History Blog...I would love to find the time to do the sort of family research that Kate is doing.
2. =]V[= 
3. Coffee, Teapots and Books, Oh my!
4.  peas and crayons
5. sixty five what now 
6. les reves d'une boulangiere
7.  The Caffeine Coquette
8. Jersey Shore Mom 
9. Live High Live Mighty Live Rightiously
10.  Flash Fiction

To pick up your award, right click and save to your computer.
Thanks for the inspiring reads!

More packing tomorrow!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for ...Nice Surprise!

When I opened my computer this morning, I discovered that someone (Deirdra from A Storybook World)
had given me an award!  I am so touched!  I will be honest, Iwas thrilled with the recognition.  It is a neat feeling to be noticed "out here" where folks only know me from here.  When I see folks in the parking lot at school who have read my blog, some of them will comment, "Oh I like your blog." Or (this is my favourite), "I enjoy reading your blog, looking forward to the next post!".
    No one has read anything that I have written since I was in University, so to know that folks are reading it and liking what they read!  That is a huge compliment!  And so today to discover this surprise was very flattering!
    Thank you to Deirdra for this and for the work she does recognizing bloggers for their work.  (and I love that she shares her lovely art work with us!).
Happy Packing!

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for...Maple Syrup

M is for Maple Syrup!
It is "Sugar Season" in Eastern Canada, and the Northeastern United States.  And oh, does that make me home-lonely!  Of course, tapping maple trees this way (this picture was taken by my Grandfather, in the late 1950's) only happens in very small Sugar bushes.  Big operations use miles (or kilometres) of plastic tubing running from the trees to the cabin.

Okay, well it was Sugar season when I started writing this post!  The season is now just coming to an end, which of course, means that folks all over Quebec and Ontario and Vermont and New York and New Hampshire (and probably parts of Maine and New Brunswick ) are heading to the Sugar Shacks or Cabane a Sucre for a delicious Maple Meal.  The kind where everything on the long table is cooked in maple syrup, eggs, ham, sausages, dumplings.   And then there are pancakes and french toast all dripping in the sweet stuff!  I am feeling homesick just thinking about it!  When I was in elementary school (dear old Julius Richardson's closed now) it seemed that every year we got to go on a field trip to the Cabane a sucre.  And do you know what my most vivid memory is about those field trips?  The grass snakes.  Those dear little garter snakes.  They couldn't hurt you unless they REALLY tried.  However it seems to me that some of the boys took to throwing the poor little things, at the girls!
  I think that was about the time when I made up my mind that I wasn't going to be afraid of those little creatures.  (I learned as a teenager that my father REALLY didn't like snakes when we had a cat who used to bring them home on a regular basis).  It paid off too, later on.  One summer when I was head sailing instructor at a yacht club, I had a group of 10 and 11 year old boys who were full of...let's call it "life"!  And one day, during lunch break, I watched four of them head off down the whart towards the motor boat we used during sailing lessons.  There was much secrecy and glancing over the shoulder and then giggling.  I knew something was up, but didn't let on.  After lunch, as we regrouped for lessons to begin again and the young sailors moved towards their boats, one of the four peered into the motor boat and said, "What's that?!" with fake alarm.  I had already quietly spied the little creature curled up in a sunny spot near the gas tank, so without looking, I answered, "where?"  "In your boat!" he shrieked.  I stepped casually into the motor boat and picked up the poor snake who seemed to have just gotten comfortable, I held it right under the shrieker's chin and said, "You mean this??"  Poor shrieker, stumbled backwards and fell into the lake.  Everyone giggled and then I handed it to one of the other four, who was standing nearby with big eyes, "Maybe you could find him a warm spot on shore before you head back on the water, Hmm?"
And for some reason, the behaviour of the four improved immensely from that day forward...

And I have a Maple Syrup recipe for you as well, with no garter snakes, I promise.
          Ouefs dans le sirop d'érable (Eggs in Maple Syrup)
This recipe is from the cookbook A Taste of Quebec, by Julian Armstrong.  It is a great favourite of ours during sugar season.
2 cups of Maple syrup
3 eggs
one third cup milk
Pinch of salt

Bring syrup to a boil in heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat just until syrup thickens.  Meanwhile beat eggs lightly with milk and salt.
When syrup has thickened, reduce heat to low.  Using a wooden spoon, drop spoonfuls of the egg mixture into hot syrup.  Cook for 2-3 minutes intil eggs are set.  Immediately remove saucepan from heat and place it in larger pan of cold water to cool slightly.  Spoon eggs into serving bowls and drizzle with syrup.
These go great along side pancakes and your choice of breakfast meat (sausage, or bacon or ham).  Yum!  but I confess that I have never tried to pack them in anyones lunch!

Happy Packing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

L is for ...Lists...

    My life is full of lists.  My life would be a mess without lists.  Well, okay, maybe not a mess, but wow!  If I think I forget things now, I can only imagine what would happen without a list or two to keep me on track?
The truth is though, I love making lists.  Anyone else out there love to write lists?  I make the list in my head and then I find my favourite pen and my notebook and I start...Sometimes it is just groceries.  Sometimes it is a menu, or a list of the things I am hoping to make for that week.  I even made (as I am sure some of you did as well) a list of all the things that I wanted to blog about from A to Z.  I found that list today (on the back on an old notebook, underneath a Recreation schedule unde the passenger seat in the van) and realised that except for J and K, I had pretty much kept to the original list.
    Back in December, I made a list.  Not a gift list or a grocery list or a menu (well, I did make those too), but a list for the New Year.  Not resolutions, because I don't really believe in them specifically, it is too easy to waver and fall off and then forget about them.  I prefer to call it a list of promises to myself, that I wanted to keep for the entire year.  And in turn, from that list of promises, I then made a list of commitments for the month of January.  You see, many years ago, I realised something very important about myself.  Throughout my life, whenever I had made up my mind (and I mean really made up my mind, not just thoughts in passing) to do something and commited to it, it worked out eventually.   Not always as quickly as I would have liked, but it did come around to my turn eventually.  The saying "nothing good comes easily" is so true, but hard work and commitment makes it all the more sweet when it finally does work out.
    What does all of this have to do with a list?  Last summer, my husband asked me a question: "So, are you going to keep doing daycare until you retire or are you going to do something else before then?"  (and any of my daycare families who are reading this, need not worry as it won't effect you in the near future!).  I went back to our original plan that I would not be doing home daycare once our children reached high school.  I wanted them to feel comfortable bringing their friends home after school and not having to worry about the house being "full of babies and little kids".  However, I did know that I still wanted to be home when they arrived after school and to be available for driving to soccer games and skating practices and such.  The other thing: I really like being my own boss and working from home.

    So, in December, I made my list.  All the things that I need to do before June 2013 so that I can be working from home, and making enough money that we can stop doing Daycare.
One of those things was start a blog.  I have done a little bit of copy work, and a little bit of English/French translation and a little bit of menu/meal planning, and after doing some research into getting paid to write, I realised that the first thing I could do (that wouldn't cost me any money) was start writing a blog.  This would help to accomplish a number of things: get me back into writing every day (or almost), put my writing out there for folks to see, and help me to organize my writing.
    There are still a whole lot of things on the list but there are still many days left until June 2013.
So here is my chance to say to you, thank you for reading!  Thank you for following!  And thank you for your support!  I had never dreamed when I was making my list, that blogging would bring so much brightness into my already pretty sweet world.  Or that I would find so many warm and talented people out there happy to share some of themselves with me (and so many others!), and to read what I write!

Happy Packing to all of you!  Thanks for stopping by!

Another A to Z blogger to check out: Learning Contentment

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

K is for ...Kim's homemade spaghetti sauce

Yes, I know.  It only starts with "K" because I put "Kim" in front of it.

Kim's Homemade Spaghetti Sauce 
(and please feel free to call it your own, as once you have made it a couple of times, it will be)
1 kg (approx 2 lbs) ground meat (could be turkey, chicken, beef or you could use two packages of Yves Veggie Ground Round , the favourite in our house is half pork with half beef or turkey)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 large onions (or three smaller ones) chopped quite small (but not minced)
3  796ml (28 oz) cans of crushed or diced tomatoes, or a combination.  If you shop at Costco and you can get the HUGE cans of tomatoes, that is what I use and I only use one, usually crushed.
1-2 TBSP dried oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp coarse salt (or less, and if you are using no-salt-added tomatoes, add up to 2 1/2 tsp coarse salt)
From here, the ingredients are up to you.  You can add a zucchini, a few peppers, some carrots, even some spinach.  
Mine tonight was:
10 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 yams, baked and then scooped out to add with tomatoes
3 red peppers, chopped fine
a can of sliced mushrooms, drained (no salt added)
and a handful of spinach, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F
In a large roaster pan with a lid, add canola oil, and warm for 5 minutes in preheated oven.  Add ground meat to warmed pan, break up slightly with wooden spoon.  Add salt, oregano and basil.  Return pan to oven, uncovered, and bake for 15-20 minutes.  While baking, prepare vegetables for adding to meat (peel and chop).  Once your meat has browned (if you are using veggie ground round, heat it for 5-7 minues until warmed through), add onions and peppers and carrots if using, mix well and continue baking in the covered roaster for 20-30 minutes, until carrots are soft (tip: if they don't get soft before you add the tomatoes, they will never get really soft).
Tip: you may have noticed that I didn't drain the meat.  This is because I usually use lean or extra lean ground beef and things like turkey and pork that are already very lean.  If you are using medium ground beef, drain off the fat before adding the onions and such.
Once the carrots are soft, add the remainder of ingredients to the pan and mix well.  Cover and return to the oven to continue baking for at least 30 minutes (if you want to bake it for longer, decrease heat to 300F and continue baking for 45-60 minutes, checking every 30 minutes to make sure the edges aren't burning as this will make the sauce bitter later).
Serve with whole wheat spaghetti cooked al dente, and cheese for sprinkling.  You can add a salad too, but you will find that there are so many veggies in the sauce that you don't really have to.  (not that it stops me from putting salad on the table!).  This recipe is large enough that it is perfect for making 2 lasagnas and you still have enough left for a meal for 6 people.
And of course, the leftovers are perfect for lunches!  My kids love spaghetti in their thermoses!  I send them some grated cheese on the side to sprinkle for themselves.
Happy Packing!

An A to Z Blogger link: Krista D Ball

J is for ...Jicama...

  My apologies for yesterday's post!  However, today, I am feeling slightly more (but still not fully) on track, and on time.  Until I remembered a few other things that I am still behind in.  So, I thought that I would make an effort to keep this one corner on track and on time, and then move through the list from there.
   Something that finds its regular place both on our supper table and in the fridge (for those young lunch packers in our house!) is a veggie tray.  In the winter time, it usually consists of carrots and celery and broccoli.  Round about now, it begins to see some additions to it...the local hot house cucumbers are out at the grocery stores as well as the cherry tomatoes from the same source (albeit not cheap, but they do make a nice treat).  Something I like to add occasionally is Jicama.  For those not familiar with one, they hail from Mexico or South America (at least the ones in our grocery stores do) and resemble the potato, only bigger and rounder.  They are slightly juicy and have an almost (hard) apple texture and flavour to them.  I like to peel them and cut them up into sticks, much like a carrot stick and add them to the veggie tray.  This, by the way, is a great way to introduce your children to something new.  By simply adding some, you are not putting them in the position of HAVING to eat some, but rather giving them the power to choose something new. 
   Another great way to serve them is in a "slaw".  I have an old coleslaw recipe that is my standby: Apple, Jicama and Bok Choy slaw.  A very simple recipe (and even more so if you go with your favourite coleslaw dressing from the grocery store).  Peel the jicama and cut into very thin sticks, place into large salad bowl.  Coarsely chop bok choy and add to salad bowl.  Choose either granny smith or royal gala apple (one large or two small).  Do not peel, but core and slice into thin even slices.  Add apple to salad bowl.  Top with 1/4 cup of your favourite coleslaw dressing (or serve this on the side if you have some slightly fussy eaters, but the slaw will be a bit dry) and toss.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature before serving.  Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 2 days.
The slaw is a great addition to chicken or ham in a wrap.

Happy Packing!

Another A to Z blogger to check out: Jim's Girl Family History Blog

Some more info about the Jicama from Sally's Place :
"...Also called the yam bean root, jicama ranges in weight from a few ounces to 6 pounds. Its crispy white flesh is hidden under a fibrous dust-brown skin, which must be completely stripped off. Like potatoes, jicamas can be steamed, baked, boiled, mashed or fried. Unlike potatoes, however, they can also be eaten raw. Sliced into wide sticks, jicama makes a crunchy carrier for guacamole and highly seasoned dips. Cut up into squares, it enhances fresh fruit salad, absorbing and reflecting surrounding flavors. It is equally versatile as a cooked vegetable -- sauteed with carrots or green beans, stir-fried with chicken or shrimp, or simmered in savory stews. Low in starch and calories, jicama is satisfying , flavorful and nowhere near as strange as it looks..."

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for...I'm late!

And it is all because I ate ice cream and had indigestion and was left without inspiration.  And I would like to inform the instigator of the incident that I am really hoping to win the pjama race tonight and therefore will not be posting more than a few intricate indications of the English language.  And then I will say good night.
And for those of you who know my husband, he is not guest posting.  I am just exhausted, but really don't want to fall behind!

See you all tomorrow!

H is for ...Hungry...

Ack!  Nothing like a weekend of marking and report cards to put a girl behind!  No, not my marking and report cards, my husband's.  He has only left the computer desk to eat all weekend.  And he finally finished last night just after 10 pm.  So, I have been single-parenting and doing Daycare paperwork all weekend.  (and now he is reading this over my shoulder and calling it "the fictional world of Kim's Blog" because he did use his laptop for some of his work, while I was sorting tax paperwork for Daycare, and my dear daughter decided it was time to play on the Webkinz website!)  Needless to say, it has been very difficult to get near the computer!
However, here I am and H is for Hungry!  (If this were a "P" post, it could be Paperwork)
As soon as the kids get in the van after school, I can tell by their voices if they ate all their lunch.  Whiny and impatient means one of two things: 1. They didn't like what was in their lunch and therefore didn't eat it or 2. There wasn't enough of something, either food or time.  "Baby Bear, did you eat your lunch?"  "Well, yeah," is the mumbled response.  "Did you eat all of your lunch?"  And she launches into some sort of elaborate excuse as to why she didn't eat all of something ..."Why not finish it now?"  Some days, when we are running to skating, I pack her an extra lunch or a yogurt-protein shake and a granola bar.  She eats on the drive from the school to the rink.  The key with her hunger (and with most of the members of our family it seems) it ensuring there is a source of protein in that snack.
An oatmeal cookie and an apple is a great snack, but unless I have added some protein powder (or at least a good dose of skim milk powder) to the oatmeal cookie dough, that snack will only hold her through about half of her ice time.  That means we are dealing with a grumpy bear again when we return to the rink to collect her.  And (as all parents I am sure would agree) one of my pet peeves is, "Can I have some money for the machine?  Pleeeeeeeassssseeeee!"  Just like my father, I never have any money when this question is asked.  Or I only have a twenty dollar bill.

Nutrition experts will tell you that your young athlete needs to be eating those complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grains and fruit and veggies.  And yes, that is very true, but my children are both the same, without that added bit of protein at snack time, they won't make it to the next meal (not in a good mood anyway).  I am not talking about a piece of steak!  But rather a whole grain roll-up with a smear of peanut butter and a banana, or a half a cup of cottage cheese, a rice cake and an apple.  This is where those dear little "cheese strings" come in handy!  I cringe at all the packaging, but the serving size and the portability make them a staple in our house, for things like lunch boxes, long car rides or as part of a quick snack before soccer or baseball, or skating.         

Happy Packing!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for...Garden

What starts with G...?  My dear hubby came up with this one.  Although it was with a bit of a snicker.  Not because he thinks I am a hopeless gardner (well, okay, so perhaps I am), but because we really have no garden to speak of!  Not the kind with things planted in it, at least!  We have a huge backyard, and an assortment of wildlife that wander through on a regular basis.  But no garden.  However, there is a beautiful one in my head!  And jotted down on countless scraps of paper, drawn and doodled with notes about "raspberry canes from Jennifer", and rhubarb liking "wet feet".  A couple of blueberry bushes and of course a big ole fence to keep the deer out!  And netting to keep the birds out of the strawberries, copper wire to keep the slugs and snails out.  And a big list of all the flowers the deer "don't eat" (yeah, right, I have found many a daffodil flower head in the grass, and I would put money on it that some little deer took a chomp and then didn't like the taste).
I would love to have a vegetable patch one day and a flower garden too.  There is just one thing that has to happen first...Two HUGE fir trees need to come down.  They sit at the back of our property, along with a third Douglas fir (but that one can stay), and they really need to be taken down.  If we get another heavy wind storm, they will come right through the middle of my kitchen.  One time, my Dad explained to me how to measure with your thumb as to how far the tree might fall, and I ended up laughing, because the top of the tree was WAY past my thumb and Dad just said, "Yeah, it'll hit your house."  But really, who wants to take down a tree?  Especially one that is that big and that old?  "At least a hundred " was what the first tree guy said who came to look at them and give us a quote...That was 11 years ago and the quote was $4000.00 for the three big ones in the backyard.  I don't even want to know what it might cost to do just two of them now.  I will just keep enjoying my "paper" garden and enjoy berries from my friends and veggies from my neighbours, and pray  that the wind blows the other way.

 Happy Packing!

F is for ...Food Network Favourites

I have to admit, I am a bit of a Food Network Fan.  I have three favourite shows: Chef at Home (Michael Smith), Chuck's Day off (love his lobster tattoo) and of course, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (huh, that would have made a fun D post).
What I love about the first two shows, is that they are cooking for their friends and families.  And on Chef at Home, you get to see inside the Pantry cupboards (a secret passion of mine, I love other people's pantries!).
My all time favourite episode of Chuck's Day off, was the one where he made Chicken Nuggets for his little cousins (along with a few other yummy things).  We tried the recipe and they were a hit.   My kids love chicken in all forms, especially nuggets and strips, so it was a nice change to be in charge of the amount of "stuff" going into them and knowing what "stuff" is in there to begin with.  Especially after some of the things I have read and heard about what goes into "other" chicken nuggets and just how little actual chicken there is, nevermind how they treat the chickens!

Make a double batch as they go really well into lunches with rice or noodles and some veggies for a well rounded meal!

Happy Packing!

A link for today: Content for Foodies  so that you can check out more of the A to Z blogging challenge!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for ...Eating Well...

   And no, I am not referring to the magazine (or the website), but rather just that, "Eating Well".  Eating healthy is only one part, one needs to eat well as part of eating healthy.  Life, to which eating is rather important, is too short to live on carrot sticks, celery and plain yogurt.  Well, at least my life is too short to live on that.  It is also how you you sit in front of the TV to eat?  Or do you gather your loved ones or your housemates and share a meal around the table?  Growing up, we almost always ate together at suppertime.  And when I think back to my fondest memories, so many of them are of the table.  In my family, folks have been known to sit down to Sunday dinner at 6:30 or 7pm and still be there at midnight.  Not necessarily still eating, (although you get the occasional person who goes back for that second piece of dessert while the argument gets a little too heated, or they are feeling like they have been sitting too long).  And it didn't matter whose house you were at, my Auntie's , my grandparents, my Dad's or my Mum's.  The party was at the table and in the kitchen.  I remember when my sister and I were young (likely 3 and 6 or maybe 4 and 7), and of course, we had been excused from the table to go and play.  We found "Aunty Hilda" in the kitchen (my grandmother's sister).  I guess she had excused herself to the kitchen for a bit.  I don't remember what we had done or said, but she thought that it was so funny.  She started to laugh, and she laughed and laughed and then she started to snort.  Well, all three of us thought that was just hilarious!  The more we laughed, the more she laughed, and the more she laughed, the more she snorted.  I have tears in my eyes right now, just thinking about it.  And, of course, we were able to enjoy this little exchange, because everyone else was engrossed in whatever was going on at the table.  I remember the loud din of the voices at the long table in the dining room right next to the kitchen.  How every so often one or two voices would rise above the others, when someone was trying to get their point across.  There was so much to learn around that table.  Sometimes what you learned was when was a good time to be quiet .  As I got older, I learned that if I was quiet, I would get to stay at the table long after I would have normally been excused.  This would lend itself to listening in on all sorts of grown up conversation.
   Gathering around the table for a meal helps children to eat well.  The conversation and connecting with family after a day away from each other keeps everyone at the table, and if you are sitting at the table and everyone else is eating what is in front of them, why not eat some too?  I has been my experience with my own children when they were very young (as they are only 7 and 9 now) that once they could join in the conversation at the table, the eating slowly ceased to be a battleground.  And one day, I realised that we had gotten through a meal of chicken curry and rice and salad,  and the food was gone, and no one had been excused from the table early for their behaviour and I didn't have indigestion.  Peace!  Of course, not every meal was like that, and it still isn't, but we are getting there. 

Here are some nutrition experts' thoughts and suggestions on helping your children to eat well: Today's Parent
Good food brings people to the table, and eating well, involves more than just the food.  The sharing of the preparation of the meal, and then the eating of it, and of course, the people sharing the food and themselves with each other.

Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Packing!

Another A to Z blog challenge link: The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for...Dinner!

While I could figure out lots of thing that began with the letter D, I was at a loss for what to post.  So, yesterday, I posted that on my FB account.  Folks had lots of good suggestions, but again no inspiration.  Then, last night, as we were rounding up the "leftovers" for supper, Rob commented, "It sure is a good thing that you make such good Sunday dinners, 'cause there are enough leftovers for more yummy suppers." 
Ah Ha!  A big dinner once a week, is usually the key to a smooth running week of meals in our house.  It usually (but not always) involves a roast, lots of rice or potatoes (or sometimes both),  a cooked vegetable and a salad.  What grows from here: meat for sandwiches, salads to add to wraps, or just a microwaveable plate of leftovers for Rob to take.  It also gives me leftover meat (I have been known to cook two of something, like 2 chickens) for another supper, rice for fried rice.  However, just like everything else, the menu is only as good as the Plan.  If the plan isn't well made (and that usually means that someone else could follow it!), it all falls apart and we end up eating take-out, which just blows the budget.  Plan, however, begins with P.
A big dinner doesn't have to involve a lot of cooking though.  It could be a big pasta dish, a couple of salads and some biscuits or bread.  Again, the idea is that there be enough for another meal.  You may have to inform your family that that is the PLAN, or put half away before they even get to the table.  Otherwise (and I have learned this the hard way) you have just cooked a whole lot, and only ended up with one meal.

Happy Packing!

And a new link for a new letter: Digging with worms

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for ...Coffee

I know.  Most of us don't send coffee in our kids' lunch boxes.  But coffee is so much a part of my day that I couldn't not write about it!  And it is usually part of my "lunch break" (if we can call it that!) as it is the one time of the day when I can usually drink most of a cup before it gets cold.  Besides, we talk about grown up stuff around here sometimes too!
 Really though, I was reading an article in the newest Eating Well Magazine about Coffee, and well, that was that, it was my new topic for the letter "C" (my original one, well, if you follow my Blog, you already know, but if this is your first visit, well, it was supposed to be "C is for our Crazy Cat", but that didn't fit in a lunch box either).
When I became a Mum, coffee became more than a morning wake-up.  It took on a new roll of connecting me to my fellow "Mums".  When our babies were very small (and playdates were sooo easy!) it would be, "Come for coffee, and the kids will play."  Those were the days when we would fill someone's living room with Mums and the babes would sit (or roll or lie) on the floor and look at each other, chew on toys and drool a lot.  There would be coffee and something yummy, like homemade cookies or some sort of cheese (Boursin!!) and crackers, and we would chat and scoop the occasional "scooter" away from the stairs or catch the "cruiser" before they knocked their 9 month old skull on the corner of the coffee table. When I started doing Daycare from home, coffee was part of my "grown-up world"; what separated me from the "masses".  It meant that I could drink something that the smaller humans couldn't, and they understood that, because it was "coffee".
   Something that disappointed me though, while I was reading the article was what they said about french press coffee, or boiled/unfiltered coffee,  (we love our Bodum).  It appears that this way of making coffee means that the coffee has higher levels of cafestol which is a compound that may increase blood levels of bad cholesterol.  However, the article goes on to talk about the other health perks of coffee, such as moderate comsumption (1-5 cups a day) may reduce the risks of dementia and Alzheimer's.  But I won't sit here and re-write the whole article (which is full of tasty recipes as well as other bits of nifty info that will surely be of interest to any coffee lover), just to say that it was some "food for thought" on many levels.

And a little boost for our local roasters here on the Island, and providers of delicious coffee both in store and for brewing at home...
I jsut wish they had a drive through!

Happy Packing!

And an A to Z blog participant that starts with the letter C ....Coffee, teapots and books oh my!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for... Blueberries...Yum!

   It would have just been too easy to use Bananas for day two (letter B) of the A to Z blogging challenge.  Besides, I already have a post called Banana Bread
   We are spoiled here on the Island, where the climate (especially in the area right south of us called the Cowichan Valley, Cowichan meaning "Warm lands") resembles that of the Mediterranean.  This lends itself to an excellent growing season for berries and melons, beans, lettuces and peppers.  Some folks are even growing olive trees, in hopes of being able to make local olive oil.  (The influence of the 100 Mile Diet).   We are fortunate to have blueberry farms (even an organic one) right near by, so during the season, I fill our freezer with those little blue gems, make jam with them and we eat many many fresh ones.  At this time of the year, the kids start to see the fresh ones in the store (mm, from Chile and Mexico), so I kick it back up with frozen blueberry yogurt shakes and German Blueberry Cake and of course, blueberry muffins.  The bear will even eat them frozen for breakfast.  She also enjoys them fresh, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon (last price I saw, 5.99 for about 9 berries in a plastic box, uh uh).
We have a standing favourite Blueberry muffin recipe. It is an adaptation of a recipe from the Joy of cooking, and it makes a great loaf as well (grate a little lemon zest into it and you are all set for a great coffee treat!)

Blueberry Muffins
Preheat oven to 400F, grease or spray 12 cup muffin tin, or line with papers.
3 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl (ideally a glass one if you have one), set aside.

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Place blueberries in a small bowl, add 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients, shake lightly to combine.  Set aside.
3 eggs, beaten,
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (fat content is up to you)
1/2 tsp vanilla
In medium bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix well with fork.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until combined.  If using a glass bowl, check underneath to see that most of the dry has been incorporated.  Fold in blueberry flour mixture.  Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until muffins are golden and tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan, then shake out and serve immediately.  Once cooled completely, these muffins freeze quite well, but we never have any around that long.

A link for the letter B :Brits in the USA , is another Blog from the A-Z Challenge.

Happy Packing!

Some blueberry notes from Canadian Living Magazine:
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 ml): 41 calories, 1.5 g fibre, rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 60 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Blueberries may help lower the risk of developing age-related diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's