Wednesday, October 30, 2013

sowing the seeds

This has been a interesting school year so far.  I think the kids are starting to come into their own, and find their groove with the rhythm of homework, extra curricular activities and social lives.

Although we are still very involved with supporting their achievements, both academic and social,  it seems like we've started to "let loose" a little.  To let the kids make their own not continuously remind but let them forget on occasion, to bring their homework to school. Or to stop hounding them to complete an assignment and let them scramble and complete it at the 11th hour.

As a parent, the role of "protector" is so ingrained in us, that it's hard to let go of wanting to micromanage our kids.  Let's face it,  it's sometimes unbearable to watch them stumble because in our minds, it feels like we've failed them.

However, I think we really fail our children when we try to protect them too much.  The difficulty is trying to reassure ourselves that it's OKAY to (once in a while) let our kids feel that sting that comes with consequences.

I've always said that the hardest part of being a parent is learning to let go.  As much as it's difficult to do, I will have to keep reminding myself that they need to strive to overcome obstacles and learn from those mistakes.

Right now we're just sowing the they can grow and become stronger.

Sweet and Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a great healthy snack.  This recipe combines both salty and sweet recipes that I've used in the past.  To make these sweet, omit the salt and pepper.  To make these salty, omit the sugar and cinnamon and replace the butter with olive oil.

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds (from 1 large or 2 medium size pumpkins), rinsed.
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar 
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • ½  tsp. pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Preheat the oven to 300° F. 
  • Spread the seeds on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake until dry throughout, 50 minutes. (or you can skip this step if you dry the seeds overnight, spread out on a baking sheet)
  • Increase the oven temperature to 350° F.
  • In a large bowl, toss the seeds with the butter, sugar, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. 
  • Return the seeds to the baking sheet continue baking, tossing occasionally, until the seeds are golden brown (approx. 10 to 15 minutes.)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

all that matters

With the economy still in flux and the general population holding onto work and wages to meet the demands of raising a family, sustaining a lifestyle, or just to make ends meet, there has been a lot of talk about how global economics are changing and how people (women in particular), need to "lean in" to succeed.

I know I'm quite late in the discussion of "leaning in"'s been discussed in countless of articles that either validate or debunk the question if it is possible for women to "have it all".  But sometimes I wonder if there is a bigger question, that's not gender specific, that we really should be asking?

As a society of responsible adults, maybe we should re-examine the idea of what "all" is?  Does having it all mean working exhausting 14 hour jobs to have 90 inch flat screen televisions, luxury cars that outnumber the drivers in the house, and mortgaged-to-the-hilt mansions filled with more stuff?

What exactly are we striving for?  And worse, what message about self worth are we telling our kids?

Sometimes I wonder if "having it all" really means "keeping up appearances".  I remember watching a documentary on the decline of manufacturing in North America, where in one scene, a man who already owned 6 televisions in his house, bought another mammoth one because it was "so dirt cheap". What value are we teaching when we make so many sacrifices (hard work to make these purchases, scarce available space in the house, over consumption of electricity, more time spent in front of a screen and less with each other) just to own a $200 flat screen TV?

I'd like to start a new movement...called "having all that matters". Because I don't think having every single one of those things are definitions of "success".  And while I believe all of us should pursue our own personal goals, whether it's a career or lifestyle goal, we should really be asking ourselves, to what end are we doing this?  At the end of the day, what exactly are we bringing home?

Although I don't have 6 flatscreen TV's, with my own definition, I guess I really "have it all", because I have what matters to me and I know exactly what I have at home.

And that's something we can ALL strive for.

"All That is Sweet Cookies"
(Maple Banana Peanut and Chocolate Chip Cookies)
Adapted from the Kraft Peanut Butter Cookies
(makes about 12-15 cookies)

Trying to name these cookies was a task in itself, as it had all of the yummy qualities of what sweetness means to me.  The Canadian influence of maple syrup.  The peanut butter and banana qualities of a morning breakfast treat...and chocolate.  As sweet and rich as this sounds, there are no refined white sugars, so it's not as lethal sounding as it seems.

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used all-natural peanut butter:  warning, it makes the cookies dough texture more "wet" when mixed). 
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (optional...this makes the cookie more "banana bread" like in texture)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic chocolate chips
  • Heat oven to 325 F.
  • Mix together peanut butter, banana, vanilla and baking soda until smooth.
  • Add egg and maple syrup .
  • Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  • Drop tablespoons onto cookie sheet.  
  • Bake for 20 min. or until lightly browned. (Do not overbake.) 
  • Cool completely.

Pair with milk or enjoy on it's own.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the gift that keeps on giving

During Thanksgiving, we always give thanks to our family, friends and loved ones who have touched our lives in such a beautiful way.

It is always a time of's a time I hope my children will one day, think of when they are having troubles or be grateful that we generally live healthy and happy lives, and there are so many things that we have that many people do without.

Unfortunately October is also a time where consumerism takes over, and the world seems overwhelmed more with costumes and light up pumpkins.  When I was purchasing a few last minute flowers and decorations for Thanksgiving, the sales person keep pushing the sales of costumes and the like...I responded that I wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving first...thank you very much.

As years go by, I have started to notice that Thanksgiving celebrations aren't really celebrated (or "promoted" in marketing terms) as much in the stores any more.  It's like we go straight from back to school to Hallowe'en.  Sure there are some nice fall wreaths, pumpkins and the like, but when I was trying to get a large (to feed my 15+ crowd) turkey, the store managers said they didn't order as many this year, and I was hard pressed to find a turkey that would suffice (and also be large enough to keep on giving after the big day, with leftover turkey for pies, soups etc.).  I was thankful this year I did find one.

I don't know where the fundamental cultural shift occurred, because Thanksgiving is not about religion.  It's about being truly thankful for the opportunities we have.  The fundamental basics of humanity, such as food, water, shelter, clothing, education, safety...things that we ALL should be thankful for, no matter what spiritual path (or not) that one takes.

I am so very thankful for the family and friends that I have.  And even if Thanksgiving celebrations don't appear to be treasured by the "commercial world", I will always treasure this time of year, because it reminds me to be grateful that I am able to share this time with the ones I love.  A love that is the true gift that keeps on giving.

Turkey Pot Pie
(serves 4-6 people)

This recipe can be a bit time consuming, but it's totally worth it and uses up most of the main Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, peas, carrots, turkey stock, etc.), especially if you make more than one pie. I usually double or even triple the recipe to eat the day after Thanksgiving, one or two to freeze for another night.

Pie Crust
  • 2 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (cubed)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (cubed)
  • 3-4 tbsp. cold water
  1. In a large bowl, mix the  flour and salt together.
  2. Cut in with a knife or pastry blender, the butter and vegetable shortening.
  3. Blend together until a pea-sized crumb mixture forms.
  4. Slowly add cold water until just moistened.
  5. Form loosely in a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes while you're making the turkey filling.
Turkey Filling
  • 1 1/3 cups peas and carrots
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped leeks
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup turkey stock (I used the turkey stock I made with the the giblets, onions, carrots, celery and herbs...chicken stock would do here).
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or table cream)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tbsp. fresh), to taste
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)
  • 2 cups diced turkey
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and leek until softened.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook until a thick paste.
  3. Pour in the milk and stock and continue stirring while cooking until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the thyme and poultry seasoning and continue to cook and stir until the mixture thickens.
  5. Stir in the cooked vegetables and the turkey. 
  6. Season with salt and pepper. 
  7. Cook until heated through, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes.
Assemble & Bake:
  • Roll out the pastry dough into two- 9" circles and place one on the bottom of a 9" pie dish. 
  • Place turkey filling into the dough.
  • Top with the other pastry dough circle.
  • Pierce a few holes on the top with fork to let the steam out of the pie. (I usually like to make a "T" with the fork piercings so if I freeze this, I know it's a turkey pie!).  You can freeze at this point, if you're not baking right away.
  • Brush the top pie crust with a little milk.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately one hour. (you may need to cover the edges with tin foil at the 30 minute mark, to prevent the edges from burning).

Serve, Freeze, Eat or Give.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

what's leftover

I think I may have had a slight epiphany these past few weeks.

I have always been a firm believer that preparation is half the battle to success.  And when you plan, prepare and do everything that you can to ensure that everything goes "according to plan", I've realized that there needs to be a point of realization where you need to say, "I'm done, I'm ready, just go". To accept that I've done all the research, preparations, planning and organizing that I can possibly do up to this point, and now it's no longer up to me to determine the end result.

Whether it's inhibitions or predetermined ideals, it is the story that we tell ourselves in our head that paralyzes us to move forward, and I think I've finally come to understand that although we will continue to plan and prepare for life events ahead of us, we will also have to remember to step back and let nature take it's course and see where the path takes us...and start enjoying the fruits of our labour.

With many (many) preparations for overnight trips and parties these past few weeks, I noticed a common thread,  a running "theme" perhaps.  No matter how prepared and organized we were, there were always surprises that made us adjust our plans as we went along, and because we had all the tools necessary, both logistically and mentally, we were able to be flexible with those plans.  And the outcome still turned out great.

At the end of it all...after checking off all those lists and making sure we were "ready to go", what was leftover to do, was just to enjoy.

This Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for...amazing children, a wonderful love and support of family and friends, and this thrilling journey called life. And if there is still anything leftover to do, we'll embrace that new path and have the confidence that everything will turn out alright.  Actually, better than alright.

It will turn out beautiful.

Happy Thanksgiving

Crustless Leftover Turkey Quiche
(6-8 Servings)
This is a great way to use leftover Thanksgiving dinner, especially for a light brunch the next day.  It's not labour intensive, so it gives you a break from cooking and helps clear your fridge with items you already have on hand...or whatever is leftover.  

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used what I had on hand...3% homogenized can use heavy whipping cream for a thicker consistency)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (optional)
  • Preheat the oven at 375°
  • In a cast iron skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. 
  • In large bowl, combine eggs and milk. 
  • Stir in the cooked turkey, cheese, peas and bacon.
  • Pour egg mixture on top of the onion/garlic mixture in the skillet. (if you don't have a cast iron skillet, mix both the egg and onion mixture in the bowl and pour into greased 9-in. deep-dish pie plate.)
  • Bake at  35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. 
  • Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

having a ball

As we start to begin what is known to our family as "party season" with birthdays and Thanksgiving, it's a time of year where it's easy to get caught up with the preparation of guests, food, gifts...and lose sight of how special this time of year really is.

Since one child is going on a school camping trip smack dab in the middle of all these parties, it's just one more thing to pack, organize and be prepared for.  With so much going on, I was hoping I'd take a more simpler route this year and just book a pre-packaged party.  But as I begin booking venues, I realize sometimes what appears to be simple isn't really that simple after all.  One venue only accepted complicated online reservations and couldn't guarantee a party room until mere days before the event.  Another venue  couldn't guarantee there would be a place to store gifts while the children are enjoying the venue's activities (so I'd have to shuttle gifts to the car before they played!). What a circus!

Maybe I'm worried what really will be missing, is the element of the personal touch.  Because at the end of the day, I just want to create happy, memorable moments, and I hope it doesn't get lost in the busyness of logistics.

I suspect that I feel this way because I am watching my older child go off independently on a camping trip, and part of me misses that time when they were really young.  An age before they were old enough to dress themselves.  An age when they had sweet little birthdays with a few select friends and family were invited to eat cake, do a small craft or activity, and enjoy opening presents.  A time that seemed slower, where I  actually got to capture little moments.

As the kids get bigger, maybe I just need to be faster to catch up with them. With all the giggling, smiles and "It was the best trip EVER!" or "I had the loudest, most outrageously awesome birthday party ever!"...I will capture a different, more bigger moment.  When they'll still enjoying being a kid and the world seems like one big circus...and they're just having a ball.

Quick Party Cheese Ball

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) Cream Cheese
  • ¼ cups Sour Cream
  • 1 cup Finely Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • ¼ cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ cups Finely Chopped shallot (or red onion)
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • ¼ teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Place all ingredients in a large bowl. 
  • Beat with a hand mixer on medium-low speed until well combined.
  • Scrape the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Cover with the plastic wrap and shape into a ball or log. 
  • Put the cheese ball on a plate and place in the refrigerator to harden, at least 30 minutes (it's best if it is 1 hour).

Place on a serving plate. Allow to sit for approximately 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers.