Do you have a favourite holiday tradition? My fave holiday is Christmas and what I’ve grown to love most is Christmas Eve. Our family heads down to the market for an early breakfast and we shop for ingredients for our dinner that night. The market has such an amazing energy on Decembers24th, it’s festive in every sense of the word. Our Christmas Eve wouldn’t be complete without baking some tasty treats to leave out for Santa as he makes his rounds. Ending our day by making these gingerbread people has become a tradition in the last few years.
The heavenly scent of gingerbread cookies baking puts a smile on my face anytime of year. It’s like a big, warm hug for your senses.
Are you familiar with the butterfly effect? You know, the one where the butterfly flaps its wings and a couple of weeks later a hurricane results? I’m pretty sure there’s also such thing as the “schoolyard effect”. In this case it’s the one where someone mentioned this great, big corn maze one day while we were waiting to pick up our children – and then two days later I’ve purchase my very first CSA share.
The end of school, camping and strawberry picking – those are the three things that traditionally signal the beginning of summer in our home. Lucky us, we experienced them all this past week. It took us less than an hour to fill our berry baskets, but we will be enjoying those ruby-red nuggets of berry goodness for months to come.
When Rick and I first got married we received a Costco membership as a present. Having no need for industrial sized jars of Nutella or 12 packs of smoked oysters (and still don’t), we let the membership expire without much thought. 12 years, two children, and an opportunity to split a Costco membership with my sister have transpired since that time.
I was a reluctant customer at first – the odd bag of quinoa here and a large jar of almond butter there (which are glass jars now, yay!) Then I found frozen, organic blueberries; ultra-light camping chairs and Roxy t-shirts; hemp hearts and coconut oil; and the list goes on. Even so, I have been slightly embarrassed to fess up to some of the more environmentally conscious people in my life – surely there must be something wrong with shopping at Costco. I’ve tried to find out what that might be, but I’m coming up short. From what I read, they are a pretty ethical company. They seem to treat their employees well, there’s less packaging than in most stores, and I don’t think you can even buy a bag to put your things in if you wanted to.
I wrote most of this article from the oral surgery waiting room, as Rick had his wisdom teeth removed. Thanks to the unsuspecting man who hadn’t secured the hotspot on his Android, my wait was a productive one! If I remember correctly – the recovery from having your teeth yanked can be a long one – and the likelihood of soup in our near future is high. What better base to start from than home made vegetable stock?
This was one of my goals for this year – stop buying soup stocks and start making them. In the past 3 months I’ve only bought one carton, and have made many litres – hopefully a healthy habit has formed enough to stick.
Why make your own stock when there are plenty available at the grocery store, you may be asking. The real answer for me is more about what a home made stock doesn’t have in it – way less sodium than most store bought, no questionable ingredients (from “natural flavour” to MSG to sugar – who needs that stuff?) And, it’s way less work than you may think.
Are you an emotional eater? I would have never classified myself as one, but this morning a light bulb went off for me and I discovered that I absolutely make food choices based on my emotional state. And judging by the many websites out there devoted to emotional eating, I’m guessing that if you’re not, you know someone who is.
Let me set the scene for you. At 7:15 this morning my day was running smoothly. Kids and myself out of bed – check; dressed (them at least) – check; breakfast and lunch making proceeding according to plan – check. 7:21 am: daughter on floor having a meltdown because of some arbitrary thing that didn’t go her way and is now proclaiming the world and her mother are out to get her; son complaining that he only likes green apples and not red ones to be puréed and placed upon his oatmeal and is now refusing to eat the oatmeal but managing to smear it all over his library book nonetheless; me lying back in bed in the fetal position with door closed before I completely lose it on them – check, check and check.
This is a conversation that I’ve had many times with my friends and family. It goes something like this: ”I don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner tonight, I have food in the freezer but I forgot to defrost it. I’m so tired of cooking, I never know what to make and I spend so much money on food. How do you get your kids to eat well and try new foods?”
“We sit down together, pull out some cookbooks and magazines and create a meal plan for the week. Then I know exactly what to shop for and I’m not scrambling at the last minute. They eat it because they helped to choose it.”
The new year officially starts for me on the day my kids go back to school. I can finally say Happy New Year to you! I took a little bloggy vacation this Christmas – deciding to instead focus on having fun with the family. I’m hoping that you all had a super celebration, no matter what you did this holiday season, and that you have some fab things planned for 2013.
This is going to be the year that I make home-made bagels, vegetable and chicken stock, train for a half-marathon and renovate my home (and I will forgive myself if I fall short on any of those goals)!
I have some great new equipment, that I was given for Christmas, to work with: a set of 10 Williams Sonoma glass mixing bowls (so luxurious), a new ice cream maker and my very own grain mill attachment for the mixer. Some incredible kitchen adventures are in store for us!
You know what I love best about food (other than the whole keeping you alive thing)? It’s the memories that go with it. As far back as my brain can go, the big memories are associated with food. One of the first things I can recall is being forced to choke down an overcooked brussel sprout (at age 3 or 4) and then promptly throwing it back up. Of course we all have thousands of more pleasant food memories – from school lunches and holiday feasts to picnics, tasty travels and everything in-between. And the best of them all usually involve friends and/or family.
That brings us to a beautiful day at the end of August when we visited our local apple orchard for some apple picking shenanigans. It was a fabulous time – after picking (and tasting) several varieties – the kids tried caramel apples for the first time and then we went home and made fresh pressed apple juice and crumble. And just when I was wondering how to store all those apples, they were gone.
Confession: I spend way too much money on groceries. Some people buy shoes, I splash out on organic papayas and grass-fed beef. Once you’re aware of the effects of your food choices on your health and on the planet, it’s impossible to go back. But, with the cost of pretty much everything creeping upwards, I’ve been attempting to chop my grocery (and other) bills. Better meal planning, leftover nights and “clean out the fridge” stews are all part of the plan.
That is how I came up with sweet potato/banana pudding. I found myself with 1) bananas that were so ripe they had to be used immediately, 2) an overbuy of sweet potatoes (oops!), 3) the desire to put a nutritious dessert on the table without shopping – voila! I was quite surprised at the almost buttery, yumminess of this pudding. And judging by the empty containers in the lunch boxes the next day, so were my kids.
Do you love corn? I’m slightly embarrassed to say that normally I don’t (it’s just a personal taste thing and I feel very un-Ontarian saying that). So why am I sharing a recipe for corn soup? Because thanks to this recipe, I found a way to really enjoy corn. This is how it happened:
Every week I get fresh organic fruits and vegetables delivered to my back door. The company that I buy from gives the option to customize your default order, but there is a deadline which I usually miss. So that is how I ended up, on several occasions this summer and fall, with fresh corn in my delivery. And when in doubt – make soup, always. This recipe has become a family favourite (yes, including me to my own surprise). It tastes like the essence of corn.
I have big love for all autumn food. The favourite of my faves being the great pumpkin. And my pumpkin love isn’t just about the amazing health benefits (although being a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fibre doesn’t hurt), it’s everything else that comes with it: Thanksgiving feasts, trips to the farm, hikes to be surrounded by the beautiful autumn leaves, and the spices like cinnamon and ginger that often accompany pumpkin in recipes.
This recipe was not part of the plan at all, but I could not resist trying out the carton of Pacific Foods pumpkin puree that jumped off the shelf into my shopping basket. I am expecting a fresh pie pumpkin in my organic food delivery today, so I made a promise to myself to use this pumpkin puree immediately.