Warm salmon & spinach salad with roasted beets, avocado, feta and olives

We did a quick road trip over the Easter long weekend to the coast. Specifically, the East Coast. More specifically, Halifax.

What? That’s faaaaar, you say? Too much driving for a weekend? Naw. We stretched the weekend to five days, and took our time getting there, visiting family in Quebec City and friends in Moncton. Besides, we’re seasoned travellers – especially the kiddos.

We enjoyed a much-needed break in one of Canada’s most charming cities, and spent most of our Easter Sunday beachcombing at Crystal Crescent Beach and scaling the bluffs at Herring Cove. Glorious. We spent a slow grey morning sipping lattes at our favourite café and ate lobster, fish and chips at a dive diner. It felt like a mini vacation.

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Feed a child, nourish a mind (Recipe: Tuna Cheddar Lunchbox Bites)

When my children first started school, I learned a vital lesson in nutrition, communication, and well, Mothering 101.

Here’s what happened: occasionally the boys would come home irritable; falling apart at the slightest grievance, snappy, and unable to focus. I’d power through those tough afternoons, admittedly breathing a sigh of relief when they were down for the night. As part of the evening kitchen clean-up, I’d tidy up their lunch boxes; often so tired or distracted that I hardly noticed what was left over.

Eventually, I connected the dots. On the difficult days, there was considerable leftover food in their lunch. Perhaps they had wasted time during their lunch hour or disliked what I had packed for them, but whatever the reason, their energy hadn’t been sustained for the whole day. It was a humbling moment for me as a mother. Of course. I had blood sugar crashes, so why wouldn’t they?

We started talking more about their preferences (how fortunate we are to have options). I encouraged them to help me prepare their lunch boxes in the morning and they had more of a say in fruits and vegetables. We baked together on weekends: chocolate chunk cookies, oatmeal muffins, and zucchini bread and froze the goodies for future lunches.

It broke my heart to think of them going hungry at school; I should have communicated better. Fortunately those crotchety after-school attitudes are now a thing of the past.

After that learning experience, I’ve had a heart for less privileged mothers who daily see the hunger signs in their own school children (oh, how they watch and ache) but are unable to provide even the most basic of lunch.

Today’s post is a little unusual, but it is one I am proud to share. In short,  I’ve partnered with a group of food bloggers to help provide school lunches for South African children. It’s really exciting! I’m also sharing a recipe for an absolute favourite (and totally simple) lunchbox staple, so please keep reading.

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How I learned to cook whole fish, Sicilian style (and how you can too)

Four months into our round-the-world journey, we’ve wound up in Mediterranean Europe. First mainland Greece, then Naxos island, Rome, and now Sicily, then on to Provence in France, and the south of Spain.

I’ve arrived in the land of open-air markets, and I’m not quite sure how my husband is going to drag me onto the airplane that will take me away from this wondrous place.

For those blessed with access to a farmer’s market, you’ll understand my sentiments when I say the market is an easy place to delightfully lose track of time, sniff aromatic melons, smile at blushing red tomatoes, and fill your cloth shopping bags until you come home with a bounty like the one pictured above (the literal fruits of my first Sicilian shopping trip– local pistachios and almonds, three types of local cheese, salami to die for, and gorgeous seasonal produce).

There’s another side to these markets, however, one that even caught my children’s eyes (or rather, noses) when we first stumbled upon it. The fish stalls.

counter of fishmonger at market

It’s not a sight that we’re used to in North America. My fish usually comes frozen in packages, bound up in cans (for salmon patties), or at the very least, laying clean on styrofoam, shrink-wrapped in plastic.

Not here. Particularly on the islands or in coastal cities, the “pescheria” (as they call the fishmonger shops here in Italy) are prevalent and popular among the locals.

Wanting to challenge myself in each locale we visit, I decided it was high time I make my way to the fish stalls, purchase something fresh and glossy-eyed, and take it back to the kitchen of our rental apartment to prepare it as a Sicilian cook might.

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Bringing back Sunday dinner {new series}: Herb-Roasted Striped Bass

It may have been the children’s book, Farmer Boy, that made me fall in love with the concept of Sunday Dinner at an early age: that main meal at midday, enjoyed after church, with the whole family gathered together. A spread.

Around Almonzo’s table there was Mother’s glazed ham, mounds of mashed potatoes and a sideboard displaying crimped dried apple and raisin pies, but what stuck with me the most was how they honored this leisurely family time every week.

Now, in our home we eat dinner together almost every night of the week, but admittedly it is rushed – hurriedly prepared and eaten in haste, as there is homework to do, stories to read, and boys that must be tucked into bed early or else we risk a follow-up day of The Cranks. Saturdays are often a blur of activities and errands in the morning, followed by a social-something in the afternoon and evening. Not, as this stage of life would have it, the day for a slow dinner where gravy is poured, wine swirled, and custard spooned over preserved fruit.

We need to bring back Sunday dinner.

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How to Grill Whole Fish

Written by Megan of Stetted.

How was your summer vacation? I had the good fortune to spend a chunk of August with my family in a cozy riverside house in Wisconsin, doing all that vacation entails: practically nothing.

One thing I made sure to do while we were vacationing was to have plenty of real food on hand (to help balance out all those fireside s’mores). We weren’t too far away from a couple of cities with farmer’s markets, making it easy to load up on veggies. And of course, we were housed at the perfect location for rounding out the meals – the river was full of fish.

At first I was a little … concerned about cooking whole fish. It turns out, though, that cooking whole fish is a breeze, and only slightly more messy than cooking a fillet.

Grilling is my preferred method for cooking the fish, but if you don’t own one or have already retired your grill for the season, whole fish can also be baked in the oven with similar preparation.

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