The after school gingerbread project: prepping

Yesterday I introduced our little gingerbread house project, five steps to be broken down into manageable tasks, ideally headed up by the kids after school.

Many of you chimed in on social media with enthusiasm and I was thrilled with the response. Excellent! Let’s get started then.

One list and one shopping trip is about the best thing you can do to start off on the right foot. Having everything ready to go at the beginning of the week will ensure the project goes smoothly. Hopefully, you won’t have to buy much; we made do with picking up a few candy canes and were able to work from a well-stocked pantry for the rest. [Read more…]

How to build a gingerbread house in 5 simple steps

Noah woke up the other morning and exclaimed, “It smells like Christmas!” He made a good point – our made-from-scratch gingerbread house doubles both as holiday decor and a delightful air freshener of cinnamon candy and spices.

This week I’m bringing you a new tutorial for kids in the kitchen. It’s called The After School Gingerbread Project: 5 simple steps. 2 happy kids. 1 edible house.

Constructing a gingerbread house from scratch is an activity my children look forward to all year. This Christmas, I decided to let them do it all by themselves. They had supervision, of course, but I was behind the camera 99% of the time. They did a great job! It was thrilling to see how much pride they took in their handiwork.

We broke the after school gingerbread project down into five steps that can each be done in under 30 minutes.

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Aimée’s 2013 Cookbook Gift Guide

This isn’t going to be a ‘Best of 2013’ cookbook list. The simple reason being that I haven’t cooked from, read through or lapped up every new cookbook that came out this year.

My particular list is compiled with books that have inspired me in the kitchen and homestead and motivated me to learn more about cooking, baking, canning, and more. They have sparked research, initiated conversations on everything from pudding to preserving, and made. me. hungry!

In some cases, they’ve picked me up when I’ve been completely uninspired to make dinner (oh, it happens) and coaxed me back to the stove. Although they are new to my shelves, many of these cookbooks are already old friends.

I was a judge for this year’s Taste Canada Cookbook Awards and that experience really taught me how to scrutinize a cookbook. Before my involvement, I could intuitively separate the solid cookbooks from the weaker ones, but now I’m also aware of how important elements such as the author’s voice, research, organization, originality and food safety play into my choices.

2013 was an epic year for cookbooks. For the home preserving enthusiast to the vegetarian on your holiday gift list, here is my inspired cookbook gift guide for 2013. Happy browsing. Happy cooking.

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Drink well, spend less: 5 fresh ideas for summer sips (Watermelon Agua Fresca)

We packed a picnic lunch on Saturday and spread a quilt over the violets and ferns of the forest floor. There were smoked salmon stuffed bagels to enjoy, along with chocolate pots de creme, but it was a bottle of chilled Watermelon Agua Fresca that stole the show.

Whizzed up in the blender with a few ice cubes, it was thrown together just 5 minutes before we left, while my boys pressed their noses against the screen door and inquired when lunch would be ready.

Our blush pink ‘fresh water’ was enjoyed by even the smallest member of the family, who guzzled her watered-down version before anyone else had finished theirs. I take it she approves of both picnics and summer beverages.

watermelon agua fresca and a picnic box

The season for fresh, fruity drinks is upon us, and will last through September, when it is overtaken by pumpkin spice lattes and spiced cider. For now, however, berries, stone fruits and melon flavor our sips, paired with herbs and other aromatics.

Whether we are picnicking with just the five of us or entertaining a group of guests, we’re drinking homemade, non-alcoholic beverages all summer long. We don’t load up our shopping cart with cases of soft drinks or juice boxes, and wine is reserved for special occasions.

Cocktails? Yes, they make a fairly frequent appearance, but this post is about the thirst-quenchers, suitable for the whole family. Okay, except for the iced tea and coffee.

Making agua fresca, iced tea or lemonade is one way we infuse our summer drinks with seasonal flavors and skip the sugar and artificial ingredients contained in most store-bought versions. We also manage to save a little money in the process.

Drink well, spend less? That works. It also happens to fit into our theme for this month’s Eat Well, Spend Less challenge: summer entertaining on a budget. Read on for my 5 fresh ideas for summer sips and a recipe for Watermelon Agua Fresca.

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How to plan a simple taco gathering: the make, the buy & the do-ahead

Brought to you by Archer Farms only at Target.

Spring has sprung. In a span of a week, our lawn turned green and the forest unfurled into a glimmering emerald panorama. All at once it seems highly appropriate to be eating outdoors, and besides, how can we stay away with the chorus of the bullfrogs and the quacking of the mallards calling us to come and salute spring?

I decided rather last minute to welcome friends over for a meal last weekend. They were in town on short notice and we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see them – and meet their adorable new baby girl.

Everyone in the family pitched in to prepare for our first backyard gathering of the season. The boys power-washed the deck chairs and Danny primed the grill, while I prepped for a simple taco feast.

The day turned out to be gloriously warm; the children ran barefoot and our friends toured the garden and the chicken coop before we ate. And boy, did we eat.

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