Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Write a Review Wednesday: Christmas Delicious

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed A Porcupine in a Pine Tree. This week, with Christmas just days away, we’re reading Blue Apple Books Christmas Delicious, written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.


Raisin and Rice are two mice who were once hungry and poor. But now living in the storeroom of the Zanzibar’s Deli they never want for food, enjoying lamb and ham and cheese and more. With Christmas approaching they decide to celebrate with a feast and set out gathering and brewing and baking. Christmas day arrives and Raisin and Rice dress in their finest ready to enjoy what they had prepared but something is missing. It’s not the goodies or decorations, it was their friends. They went out and invited all their old friends to join them and had the merriest Christmas ever.

Christmas and food go so well together; that’s what appealed to me first about this book, Christmas Delicious. Although I’m not a fan of mice living and eating in a deli my kids didn’t seem to mind. But then they think of mice as humanized characters and Raisin and Rice do share their wealth with their less fortunate friends. Written in rhyme, Christmas Delicious is a very lyrical read, almost coming out as a song. Mice aside, I do love the message of sharing with friends, that no matter how much you have you don’t get the same joy out of it unless you can share that joy with someone else. It’s a wonderful message for Christmas and all year-long.

The illustrations fill the pages with warm Christmas colours. My 3 kids loved the story of the animals enjoying Christmas together, especially Christmas that involves food.

You can add a copy of Christmas Delicious to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 – Tree Decorating for the Birds

I know I’ve said this many times but we really are fortunate to live beside a huge natural park right here in the middle of the city. And even greater, is the High Park Nature Center located in High Park. They offer great programs for kids, families and schools. They demystify nature and bring it closer to kids, the next generation to care for and respect our symbiotic relationship with one another.

In time for winter, the Nature Center ran their wonderful Tree Decorating for the Birds workshop so as part of our 25 Days of Christmas I took all 3 kids over to participate.

I’m always amazed how the program leaders remember my kids by their names. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone and I’m sure they see many kids but it’s a wonderful feeling for the kids and shows the involvement the staff takes with the kids involved with their programs.

When we arrived the room was set-up with 5 workstations on big tables. Each station covered a decoration you were to make for the trees in the park. But these were typical decorations, like paper chains or pipe cleaner candy canes. The purpose of these decorations were to give the animals of the park food for the cold winter that lays ahead of them.

The first station the kids visited had them making Garlands. Long pieces of thread were precut and knotted and a needle hung on the other end. Around the table were bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, apple pieces, Cheerios and orange segments. We quickly discovered that Cheerios weren’t the best item to put on the chain first (they slipped right off the sting and needed something bigger on the end) and that popcorn is harder to string than you think. My 4-year old managed her needle pretty well on her own, carefully pushing it through the different items for her chain. After about 10 pieces she was ready to move on to the next station. My 6 and 8-year-old however  wanted to finish their chains right to the end of the rope.

Each child was given a plastic plate to place their crafts on as they moved from station to station. I took my 4-year old to the next station which was making Seed-Head Bouquets. She clipped a few seed heads and bunched them together. I held her bunch while she wrapped a piece of string around the stems. I tried to let her do the crafts as much as she was able. The idea was for the kids to make the decorations and although I could have done things faster or easier my kids were getting more enjoyment out of doing each thing on their own.

After the Seed Bouquet we moved on to Yuletide Logs. This was a messy one. My e-year old took at popsicle stick (it had to be the purple one) and worked on spreading lard all over a stick, just like painting it. Eventually she decided to copy some other kids and just rub the lard on her stick with her hands. Then she dropped her lard covered stick into a bowl of seeds and rolled and patted as many seeds as she could get to adhere to her stick. Surprisingly she kept herself pretty clean.

My two oldest were still at the garland making table. It seems they were competing with each other to see who could fill their string the quickest. Ah, nothing says family fun like a little competition.

The last activity was to make Pine Cone Bird Feeders. Similar to the Yule Logs, you had to cover a pine cone in lard and then stick seeds to it. Covering a pine cone in lard is a little trickier than covering a flat stick but my 4-year old managed.

After washing up we enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies and then listened to the story Night Tree before heading out for our forest walk. I had never heard of the book Night Tree but it’s a delightful tale about decorating a tree in the woods for the animals, just like we were going to do.

On our walk we stopped to feed some of the birds in the forest. My 8-year old was fortunate enough to have a Nuthatch eating out of her hands 4 different times on our walk. We even had the chance to see a beautiful red cardinal. Some interesting things I learned:

  • Unlike many birds, Cardinals don’t eat things off the ground.
  • To warm up after a night’s sleep birds puff their feathers up to 3x their body size.
  • A woodpecker’s tongue is too big for its mouth. There is a spot in its head where it coils its tongue around when it’s not being used.

In the forest all the kids found spots to hang or place their decorations for the birds and then we headed home. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 8 – Festive Pancakes

On the eighth day of Christmas my mommy made for me…festive shaped raspberry pancakes.

I bought these Santa pancake molds years ago from William Sonoma but have never used them. They’ve been sitting in my cupboard with all the cookie cutters. So for day 8 of our 25 Days of Christmas I pulled them out. I only used the stocking and the sleigh mold (I didn’t think the Santa shape would look right in pancake form; that it would be hard to make out). The stocking wasn’t bad to work with but the sleigh gave me some trouble on the narrow runners. We used fresh raspberries to decorate the Christmas pancakes. I thought about colouring them but I find the liquid food colouring isn’t strong enough, you need to use paste for brighter colours. It seems you can’t buy the Santa mold set that I have but William Sonoma has a new North Pole pancake set.

The kids ate them up, literally.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 3 – The Chocolateria

I love chocolate and really good hot chocolate. I could enjoy these all year round but there’s something about the impending holidays that makes that mug of hot chocolate magical.

For Day 3 of our 25 Days of Christmas I met the kids after school and we all walked over the new chocolate shop in our neighbourhood, The Chocolateria (they were written up in Toronto Life recently for their chocolate dipped potato chips. Yum!). They make delicious hot chocolate which was a nice treat after the cold, windy walk. I also let the kids choose one additional chocolate item to eat with their hot chocolate. This was easy for my 4 and 6-year old, they went straight for the chocolate dipped marshmallow snowmen. My 8-year old was harder to please and who could blame her with the choice. There’s different types of bark, turtles (really good, soft caramel turtles, not the type that stick to your teeth), dipped pretzels and pretzel sticks, dipped fruit, truffles and of course their wonderful dipped potato chips. She grabbed some bark and I grabbed some chocolate covered jujubes. We sat in the small seating area at the front of the store and watched people walking by while we enjoyed our sugar high. That sugar kept all of us going all the way home. Boy do I wish I had some chocolate dipped chips now.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Happy Halloween

Halloween has come and gone. The kids had a great time trick or treating with Nana and Gramps, bring back loads of candy. I love how they sort their candy, my 8-year old daughter had each item right down to the chocolate bar brand sorted out in its own pile, my 6-year old son abandoned his sorting plan after his dad said he could eat some candy, and my 3-year old sorted things into what she would eat now and what she would eat later (you can guess which pile was bigger). I’m just glad the Darth Vader pumpkin my son requested actually ended up looking like Darth Vader, sort of, at least some of the kids in the neighbourhood agreed.

Happy Halloween!

Thanksgiving Tools for Guys

Canadian Thanksgiving just ended for us this past weekend. It was nice to get together with my family and have a big traditional turkey dinner. As I was helping my mom get everything ready it occurred to me that most of the work in the kitchen is handled by women. I’m not saying this is the case in every family but I’m sure most families would find this to be true.

As I was chopping potatoes I found myself thinking that more men would probably participate in the Thanksgiving dinner preparation if it was treated more like a handyman project, a job involving tools and fire and safety gear. Here are just a few ideas.

Forget the frilly apron if you want to get your husband cooking the Thanksgiving turkey next time. Instead try these unlined coveralls; they keep splatter off his good Thanksgiving T-shirt and put him in the ‘lets get to work’ mindset. For added protection he can wear safety goggles, such as these goggles with LEDs lights for seeing inside the turkey when stuffing it or for all-round protection there’s a full face shield. Now he’s ready to tackle the dinner project (and make sure to refer to it as a project or  some other manly word versus cooking dinner).

For starters, those potatoes could be cut with a hatchet and then boiled in a pot heated by a butane torch. Gravy can be added to the final dishes with a grease gun (ideally new and unused).

When it comes to the turkey, your guy can put the final glazing touches on it with a finishing paint brush (obviously one that’s never actually been used for painting) and truss up the bird with these  handy cable ties they seem to like to use on everything. For cooking I’m sure the Beer Can Chicken (modified as the Beer Can Turkey) will be their cooking method of choice.

When the tukey’s ready, this folding worktable can be brought out beside the dining table for carving the turkey. The adjustable table top makes it an ideal vice for holding the bird in one spot while cutting with your handy reciprocating saw.

I’m sure your guy is very handy but sometimes tools in hand can lead to mishaps so make sure to have a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand and ready to go in case of an emergency.

One last thing I should point out, if you are planning on getting your husband more involved with preparing Thanksgiving dinner (or Christmas dinner or any dinner in general) make sure to give him lots of notice. My husband likes to have a plan and sometimes a schematic drawing or two also; these take time to prepare.

DISCLAIMER: none of these cooking techniques or tools have been tested so I take no responsibility if your husband does in fact try to cook using these items.

Watermelon Banana Split

Watermelon is a favourite fruit in our house. My kids can go through a whole one in a day. That said, you can imagine the excitement when the National Watermelon Promotion Board sent along a watermelon with some great watermelon teat ideas. To be honest I didn’t even realize there was such as thing as the National Watermelon Promotion Board until I came across their site while looking for watermelon carvings (an idea we talked about when hosting a tiki party).

We’ve always loved watermelon. It’s inexpensive and a tasty treat my kids love. It also consists of 92 percent water which makes it a great way to keep the kids hydrated. I was also surprised to read that watermelon is a great source of Vitamin C, Thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B6 and vitamin A. And here I just thought it was a tasty fruit.

Usually when we have watermelon we just slice it up and eat it but the National Watermelon Promotion Board has some unique snack ideas, like Watermelon Popsicles, or Snow Capped Watermelon Mountains and loads of other ideas for kids. They even have some tasty drink ideas, like the Watermelon Martini, which I had at Martha Stewart’s Blogger Night Out Cocktail party in New York City. Delicious!

Well who doesn’t love a banana split so my 8-year old took a turn in the kitchen to make one of these Watermelon Banana Splits for herself and her younger siblings.

These were a big hit and there was lots of watermelon leftover to try something else.

Inspired by Martha

I wish I was a better cook. I probably could be better if I wasn’t so lazy. I don’t mean lazy as in lying around the house doing nothing or spending all my free time online. By lazy I mean researching meals that interest me, going shopping for the ingredients, preparing everything and actually cooking. That’s a lot of work. And usually my attempts aren’t successful which can be discouraging, making it harder to keep motivated about trying again.

I think that’s why I like baking. Not that I’m any better at baking than cooking but I find it easier and the results are usually more successful, like those homemade buttermilk blueberry pancakes. Yum! I can’t go back to boxed pancakes after tasting these. And they’re so easy to make.

So when I was at BlogHer not too long ago I had the chance to attend the Martha Stewart cocktail party. It was fun (it was loud). They gave us a bag of goodies at the end with craft items and all sorts of Martha Stewart magazines. Flipping through the magazines how can you not be inspired.

I decided to try the whole ‘make it from scratch’ adventure again, this time with brownies. I had bought this wonderful brownie pan from William Sonoma. I can’t seem to leave that store without buying something, like that pineapple corer. I wanted to try it out but I wanted a good brownie recipe.

That’s where Martha came in. Well not the real Martha but certainly her recipe. I found this recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. I think what I love best about baking (besides eating the results) is that I feel like I am actually a cook. As I melted chocolate and butter in  my makeshift double-boiler I imagined being on one of those cooking shows, adding a dash of this and a pinch of that. I can’t help it; it happens all the time. And now my 8-year old daughter does the same thing, even when she’s getting breakfast together.

So I melted and whisked and folded and poured my brownie batter into the pan and 40-minute later I had Fudge Chocolate Brownie Chocolate Squares (yes I put the two chocolates in there on purpose).

They didn’t make it until the end of the day, which I guess is a good sign. It’s also a reminder to me that although I’m not as domesticated as I (and my husband and children) wish, I am capable of some edible creations.

Thanks Martha.

Happy Simcoe Day

Well for those of you in Ontario celebrating Simcoe Day, this festive holiday greeting is for you. And even if you’re not celebrating or have the day off, enjoy a cocktail on the back yard to celebrate the start of August.

This hollowed-out pineapple drink would be a great addition to a Tiki Party, along with these other cool Tiki finds on EverythingMom‘s Everything Fabulous post. The pineapple corer used worked so easy, left the shell intact and gave the kids a great pineapple snack (and so much cheaper and healthier than processed pineapple pieces). We picked ours up at Williams Sonoma. What can’t you buy there.

Happy Simcoe Day!

Ice Cream

Nothing says summer nights like a sweet, drippy, chocolate dipped ice cream