Archives for January 2011

Ideas and Tips for a Winter Picnic in the Snow

A recent article in my local paper touted a few local shopping malls as great destinations to get exercise in the winter. It claimed one could get a good workout by walking their sprawling real estate. Uh, non merci. Even though I happen to live ten minutes from the largest mall in the province, you could never convince me to go there for any other reason than a quick one-stop-shop and that is it.

Whatever happened to getting fresh air? Exercising and window shopping may appeal to some, but I’m guessing a couple times around my mall would only leave me hankering for a Starbucks, — and six new pairs of shoes.

We’ve had a mild winter so far, and if you dress for it, the cold does much more help than harm. Brilliant sunlight, crisp cool air, and a peaceful blanket of white snow – now that is the mix for an invigorating, yet calming work out. We’ve been getting outdoors every day out of sheer necessity; it’s far too easy to go bonkers when you’re snowed in! Sometimes we go sledding, sometimes skating, but all the kids really need is a snow bank to have fun.

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Food for thought: Meals for others

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about cooking for others and the meaning behind the action. I don’t mean carving up a roast chicken for dinner guests around your table (although that also has its qualities), but meals that are made with care and delivered to someone in need.

It could be someone…

~ in bereavement
~ going through a divorce
~ caring for a new baby
~ moving house
~ fighting in court
~ ill or caring for the ill
~ on bed rest
~ out of work
~ overworked
~ writing exams
~ getting married
~ caring for a special needs family member
~ fighting a long term illness
~ in financial crisis

Think about it. Do you know anyone who is struggling with one of these life situations right now? I know I do. In fact, there are dishes rattling around in my trunk frequently because I’m often making a drop-off.

They say actions speak louder than words.

Two weeks after Mateo was born, I was hit with a nasty post-op infection and ordered to be on bed-rest. Yeah right. I had a two and a half-year-old and a newborn to care for.

Dear friends and neighbors came by with boxes of food, kind wishes and prayers; that sustained us during a particularly rough patch. The fact that they eliminated the need to cook allowed to me spend more time obeying the doctors orders.

Here’s what I wrote about receiving an apple cake :

“After the hospital food (which I barely survived), the cake tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten. I’ll never forget standing in my kitchen with Danny, eating it straight from the pan. It was as though we knew everything was going to be okay now. We have this cake.”

We could have brought home newborn triplets, and I would have felt fully equipped.”

There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of good, home cooked food when you are emotionally and physically low on reserves.

Have you ever received a meal during a difficult time from a well-meaning friend? How did it make you feel?

Have you ever brought a meal to someone in need? Cookies? How was it received?

I’m curious to know if this happens regularly. Please chime in and leave your thoughts.

Healthy Winter Breakfasts (Recipe: Maple Vanilla Roasted Pear Parfait)

Eating seasonally can be difficult in the winter, especially if you live somewhere that is covered in snow for 4 or 5 months out of the year and all that’s available locally are potatoes, squash and apples with a long storage life.

Adding berries and tomatoes is much easier in the summer when they’re available straight out of my own garden, just beyond the back door. At the moment, my gardens are buried under three feet of the white fluffy stuff, and it’s likely I won’t see the dirt until sometime in March. However, even amidst the winter wonderland, there is hope for a healthy, ready-to-start-the-day breakfast that will give you the energy and courage (or is it insanity) to head out and embrace the cold.

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Two Simple Salads for Winter

When I was growing up, having a winter salad required a trip out in the snow to fetch the kale. From just looking at the twinkling expanse of our snow-covered garden, with its gentle lumps here and there, no one would ever guess there was life underneath. I would kick away the snow with my boots and dig with my woolen mittens until the bright green stalks came into view. There, hiding under the snow, was our daily salad and much-needed vitamin C boost during the long Yukon winters.

Over the winter months, do you find yourself craving the crunch of a Greek salad, full of cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers? What about the tender leaves of baby spinach or arugula? When we strive to eat seasonally, and thus sustainably, these are but just a few of the vegetables we give up, even though they are readily available in supermarkets.

Fortunately there are other fruits and vegetables to include in our diets to help satisfy the need for fresh produce on a cold January day. Apples, kale, pomegranate, grapefruit, cabbage, celery root, and brussels sprouts are just a few ingredients that lend themselves beautifully to the salad bar.

Here are two recipes I’ve been making forever. When the cucumbers and sweet cherry tomatoes of July are but a memory, they both offer that much-needed crunch. [Read more…]

Holiday Highlights

Nearly two weeks into the new year, and I’m finally feeling ready for anything. The last few traces of Christmas have been packed up, the remaining cookies sent to Danny’s co-workers, and we’ve hit a comfortable grove.

Now a menu plan is in place, the fridge has been overhauled (good-bye triple cream brie, hello kale), and Noah is back in school. That alone forces a routine into our daily goings and comings, and the rest falls into place.

I’ve been cooking and freezing food for Danny and the boys to eat while I’m gone to Blissdom, (uh-huh, leaving in two weeks for a little blogging conference in the States), brainstorming like crazy for blogging in 2011 and getting out with the boys everyday for walks and sledding.

Since this winter feels like it’s flying by, I thought I better do a holiday recap before Easter is upon us. At first I didn’t think I had anything to recount, as we took our two weeks very slow and laid-back. For once I didn’t invite guests over for practically ever day, and declined to many events with regrets (sort of).

It was lovely. And memories were made, great food enjoyed,

Skimming through iphoto showed that we did do enough to warrant a recap, so here are some of the best holiday moments, in no particular order (because they uploaded all wonky).

The Christmas morning table at my in-laws, bracing for the load of blueberry pancakes, bacon, sausages, fruit salad, bagels & lox, and some 19 guests.

The boy cousins on my husband’s side, sporting handmade vests from Grandma D. My two there on the left.

Homemade gingerbread ornaments that kept the house smelling like Christmas. No scented candles here.

Good times playing with food and cameras with these kind folk on New Year’s Eve. I’m all for simple entertaining on New Year’s.

Our pot-luck menu for eight:

  • Homemade tourtiere (Quebec pork pie)
  • Salad of fennel, pecans, pomegranate, and feta.
  • Potato & parsnip gratin
  • Butternut squash & ancetta risotto
  • Asparagus with lemon-dill compound butter

One of our many NYE desserts, Berries & Cream Pavlova. The perfect finish to 2010.

Midnight came while we were still sipping the last of our coffees and we toasted with champagne, kissed, set off fireworks, and celebrated my double win in the Canadian Weblog Awards. Incredibly, Simple Bites took home Best New Weblog and third place in Best Food Weblog. !

New Year’s Day. 3am. Good times with A and A.

Christmas Dinner at home. (I told you these photos were all mixed up!)
Relaxed and fun. More or less this menu. Should have done away with the hideous candles, though. Cook, I can, dress a table? Not so much.

Admission: we fed the kids, then put them to bed before sitting down to dinner. Aahhhhhhh. Peace, quiet, adult conversation, and the chance to savor hot food.
Best Christmas present ever.

A Christmas day game of Memory, of course.

Christmas Day dessert: Black Forest Trifle with home canned cherries, which seemed like a better idea than it was; I didn’t love it. I think Black Forest is best left in cake form, and one should not mess too much with a perfect, classic trifle.

We also savored the mincemeat tart pictured at the top of the post. Served warm with whipped cream, I could have eaten half of it. Maybe I did.

Sisters. And gifts. The best gift was escorting each other to this spa a few days later, though.

My homemade gifts this year consisted of:

And each child had their own gingerbread man with their initial. Simple and handmade.

Horrible wrapping paper, but it brought such smiles. The gingerbread didn’t last long at all.

Between Christmas & New Years, I took time to make a vibrant batch of pink grapefruit & pomegranate marmalade.

And our outing to Montreal landmark, Wilensky’s, was memorable and fun. Loved all the feedback I got over the Wordless Wednesday post!

So there you have it!