Wednesday, August 29, 2012

meat pack

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.  I am very blessed to have met the person that I will spend the rest of my life with, and we both cherish the time we've spent together.

Since we went on our honeymoon around this time of year, for the longest time, we've always felt that NOW is the best the time to pack and get ready to travel.  We travelled Italy, France & Spain after our wedding, and the fall season in Europe is so beautiful...the temperature is still warm but not unbearably hot, and the crowds of kids are back at school.  For the first few years of our marriage, we always travelled at this time of year, I guess more as a default as it was when we had our honeymoon, but we couldn't ask for better weather.  Perfect for exploring or just relaxing and enjoying the sights and culture.

Now with kids, we're now unpacking after a summer filled with beaches, pools and lazing around, and preparing to pack school backpacks and lunches.   Part of me still wants to travel right now, and the urge to repack our clothes and hop on a plane to Europe is fierce.

Well, Europe will have to wait...for now.  I've always dreamed of taking the kids to see Europe, so maybe it's something we can incorporate with our summer travel plans next year? (fingers crossed)

In the meantime, we'll just have to suffice with packing our BBQ with the glorious flavours of what is remaining of THIS summer.

Meat Medley Kebabs
(serves approx. 6 people)

Chicken (Souvlaki style)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed in 1" cubes
  • Red onions, sliced in large slices
  • 1 lemon juiced, approx 3 tbsp
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced.
Mix marinade in non reactive bowl (glass) and toss with chicken.  Marinade at least 3 hours or overnight.  Grill on lightly oiled grate on medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness.

Pork (grilled apple style)
  • 2 pounds of boneless sirloin pork chops (already in strips at Whole Foods, just cut into 1" cubes).
  • 6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1/4 or small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary (or 2 tbsp. fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp.  nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Mix marinade in glass bowl and marinade pork or 1 hour at room temp or 3 hours in the fridge. Add pork, alternating with apple chunks, on skewers.  Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until pork is just done.

Beef (Asian style)
  • 2 pounds of sirloin tip steak, cubed
  • Red, orange or yellow peppers, large slices.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger (optional)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 a lemon (or 1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
Mix marinade in a glass bowl.  Add meat 30 minutes prior to grilling (this is a fairly salty marinade). Add meat, alternating with peppers on skewers.  Grill on medium direct heat for about 4 minutes.

Enjoy the summer flavours!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

short and sweet

We all know someone who has the inability to make decisions.

You know the type...the one is so afraid of making decisions that they just...don't.  I knew someone who  couldn't decide what colour of paint to use in one small room in her house.  She even hired an interior designer to help her but she didn't like the designer's opinion, and continued (for about a year or so) to ask for everyone's suggestions. Everyone.

I often think when people ask for opinions...especially from many many many other people (everyone and their goldfish...strangers, neighbours whomever), then I don't think they're searching for the answer, but really searching to hear their own answer.

They're looking for someone who they can blame if things didn't go well.  They do this to escape responsibility of their own decisions instead owning up to them. Sometimes I wonder if these people go out of their way to be difficult because they have learned that their behaviour keeps everyone "walking on eggshells", or in other words, keeping others off balance, so they can get the upper hand.

Well, we all have insecurities.  No one has a crystal ball...and no two circumstances are the same.  And I've learned that the best decisions are generally made when you go with your first instinct.  It's usually of filters, judgements or criticism.  Just purely what you want.  And although it might not turn out exactly the way you envisioned it, I've learned to acknowledge that my original "vision" might be not have been the right one in the first place. 

But for some reason it just evens out, when you keep it short and sweet.  Once you hold on to a decision and take that leap of faith...the rest is a piece of cake.

Strawberry Shortcake

Adapted from

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder (2  tsp.)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening (1/2 cup butter at room temperature or 1/4cup  butter, 1/4 cup. of shortening)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
  • 2/3 cup milk (half and half or 3%)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon with 1/2 tsp sugar (cinnamon mix)
  • 2 cups whipped heavy cream, 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 cup powdered sugar (during whipping)
  • (alternate, use premade whipping cream and mix with strawberry yoghurt).

  • Slice the strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan. (or make 8 rounds/biscuits...make sure you leave about an inch space between...think mini baseballs or cathead/large biscuits)
  • In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and the salt. With a pastry blender cut in the shortening/butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg, milk and vanilla. Stir until just combined.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.
  • Slice cake in half, making two layers. Place strawberries and whipping cream on bottom layer, then place top layer of the cake on top.   Top with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

a rocky road

Our youngest is finally big enough to go on more difficult biking trails with us.  Although she had her training wheels removed last summer, her bike was still too small to navigate some of the paths.

This summer, with her new bike in tow, a new bike rack for four, and a new trail map, we've ventured (slowly) into biking on the trails.

It's been quite a while since I've been on a bike on full that both kids are riding ahead of me, I now need to catch up to them.  As we were beginning our trek, I started to ask myself, about half an hour into our excursion..."Is it me or are these mountains high like roller coasters? ("They're just little hills, Mom!")

Although we had a map and knew that we were on a safe path, as we pushed upwards to the top of the hill, I couldn't help but feel a little butterfly in the stomach as I peered over to the other side, wondering...will the road to the other side be smooth...or rocky? 

Much like life, sometimes we have to trust the maps we are given that will lead us onto a safe path.  That we can still venture out of our comfort zone and still exercise caution.  Like my kids on this bike excursion...with the right guidance, they rode with determination and strength and discovered and enjoyed the ride on the other side.

Maybe that's the trick.  I just need to remove my prohibitions and just enjoy the moment through the eyes of a child.  So, with my helmet and a (very) firm grip, we went along these trails.  

They weren't bumpy after all.

Rocky Road Bars
(adapted from the recipe on the back of the 
Honey Maid graham cracker package)

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or Oreo cookie crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/12 cups medium shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts (optional)
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 can (300ml) sweetened condesned milk
  • 3 squares of Baker's semi-sweet chocolate or 2 tbsp. of chocolate chips, melted.

  • Preheat oven to 350degrees.  Mix crumbs and butter, press firmly onto the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan
  • Layer coconut, nuts (optional), chocolate chips, and marshmallows evenly over crumbs.  Drizzle with condensed milk evenly over top.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  
  • Remove from oven, drizzle with melted chocolate, cool.

Makes about 36 bars.

{Attending these beautiful  parties...Homemaker on a Dime}

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Brown vs. Blond

With all the hoopla over Marissa Mayer's appointment as CEO of Yahoo a month ago, there have been countless commentaries about whether a pregnant woman should have been appointed to head a large corporation.  Again,  the "Mommy wars" reared it's ugly head again in the media, pitting working moms against stay at home ones...some question her parental responsibilities by abandoning her duties to go back to work, while others tout her as a work place role model.

Honestly, this comparison is just as absurd as the "who has more fun: blond or brunettes" comparison. It's really about appearances...what women portray out the outside, not what they truly are.

A recent study, written in Marketing Magazine, debunks all the media hype about one against the other, saying both working and stay-at-home Moms are not as different as you would think. It states that we all want whatever it takes for our children to succeed.

And I agree...and take it one step further.  I think there are more similarities than differences with all these women.  There is still guilt ("I wish I could spend more with the kids" vs. "I wish I could have more personal time").  We all do dishes after dinner, whether we made it from scratch or ordered in.  We all do laundry, whether it is work clothes or clothes covered in sand.  There will always be resentment, whether a woman resents choosing between her work load and her family, or resentment towards the general lack of respect for women who "only bake all day" as a stay at home Mom.

I think once and for all, we all should agree that we make our choices in the best interest of our own families. Period. What methodology works for one is different than the other and we ALL want nothing more than the best for our children and make choices that brings out the best of ourselves, whether it is earning an income or volunteering at the kids school, in order for our families to succeed. 

I wish there were more articles like the above one, highlighting the similarities between all these women, instead of differences.  Then maybe there will be less barriers, we can learn and work together to pool our resources...and take the best of both worlds.

Marble Brownies
(created by merging two recipes...
Blondies from How to Cook Everything
and using the cocoa from a marble cake technique).

  • 8x8 inch baking pan
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of  chocolate chips (or nuts).
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease the bottom and sides of a baking pan.
  • Place the butter in a microwave-safe container and heat for 30 to 45 seconds on medium-high heat or until melted.
  • Combine with brown sugar, egg, vanilla and water in a large mixing bowl. 
  • Add flour until just mixed.
  • Remove approximately 1/2 cup of batter into a separate bowl, and add cocoa and mix completely. Set aside.
  • Mix chocolate chips into the vanilla batter
  • Gently fold in the cocoa batter, until the batter resembles marble.
  • Transfer to a greased baking pan, and press the batter into the pan firmly.
  • Bake for approximately minutes, or until a dry crust forms over the top of the brownies.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow the brownies to cool completely. Place it on a cooling rack, if desired, to speed cooling.
  • Cut the brownies into 2- or 3-inch bars

Serve....and share.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

a crabby app

Last week, I wrote about a really cool iPhone's app is a little different...less "digital".  It harkens back to a past vacation we had in Prince Edward Island...a place where we unplugged, where the seafood was plentiful and the sun, sand and smiles were even more abundant.

Every summer we head to the cottage and enjoy the beaches in and around the area.  When we asked the kids which beach they'd like to go this summer, the little one piped up "PEI"!!!

There was something very special about that vacation.  Maybe it was the various beaches (white sand like the Caribbean on the northern part of the island, red sand with seafood right on the beach on the southern part).

I think what made it special was the lack of commercialism.  There were no fancy hot dog stands.  No beach towel/jewelry/sunglass stands on or near the beach.  There was just water...and whatever the sea had to offer.   Souvenirs came from nature, not a store.

It brought us back to our primal catch our own food. Unfortunately for some rural communities, the generational tradition of catching their own food has been replaced with the dependancy of foods being shipped to them instead.   And as the world gets more populated, the supply and demand will just drive the costs of food to almost unreachable costs. (here's an article on the prices of food up in Nunavut)

Now while I'm not suggesting that we now start hunting for our food...I think it's important to understand and respect where it came from, and take baby steps towards growing our own garden, maybe even learning how to fish, and enjoy real food made from real ingredients. I was very proud to hear my husband mention after a trip to the grocery store, that our son was reading all the labels and checked if the food "was organic or not".   

Good manners, the understanding of food and how to cook it, and an open mind about trying new things is an important lifelong skill. I hope I'm creating the stepping stones to future health and wellness.

Baked Crab Cakes
(a combination of Ellie Krieger, Paula Deen and Kikkoman's recipes)

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 pound of lump crab, picked over for cartilage (or 2 cans of 120g crab meat and 1 can 213 g of salmon, cartilage and bones removed, if fresh crab is unavailable.)
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup of panko crumbs (or an extra 1/4 cup of bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl mix together the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice. 
  • Stir in the bell pepper and shallot. 
  • Gently fold in the crab, 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Spoon approximately 1/4 cups of crab mixture onto the baking sheet, making approximately 12 mounds/patties.
  • Press the mounds down with a fork, about 1-inch high.
  • Top each with approximately 1 tsp. of panko crumbs.
  • Bake until golden on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Gently flip the crab cakes and cook until the second side is golden, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Serve with mixed greens (with goat cheese, raspberries and poppy seed dressing).