The secret is in the sauce…on the side (3 recipes)

We’re a family that dines together for seven dinners a week. This time around the table is important to us and is a crucial step in our journey to build a healthy family food culture.

But? This commitment to the family dinner has its rocky moments. On a nightly basis we’re dealing with spilled milk, tossed food, stormy attitudes and questionable manners. Oh, how our children’s manners are a work in progress (look for a post soon on how we’re working to improve them).

Some nights it would be a whole lot easier to serve up sandwiches on paper plates and then sit down to a hot! spicy! delicious! meal ourselves after we have tucked the munchkins into bed (and on the rare occasion, this is what happens), but we’re committed to that dinner hour.

Today I’m sharing one tip that has brought peace to the table – at least as far as the food is concerned; attitudes and pesky squabbles still need an intervention! This tip has helped to keep everyone happy with their food, especially Danny and I, who love full flavour dishes and are crazy about sauces.

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Spring harvest: what we’re making with our maple syrup

Maple taffy on the snow on simplebites.net

On the edge of our lawn, beyond the garden, and before the forest, tower two immense maple trees. They frame the yard and boldly announce the changing of each season by the coming and going of their lush plumage.

These maples shade us on sweltering July afternoons and have always been my favorite view, admired from the back patio with a coffee in hand. All summer long the boys swing from a tire swing I hung for them ages ago way up in the branches, and the two trees provide resilient anchors for Danny’s slack line.

This week, those maples became infinitely more valuable to our property when, for the first time ever, we tapped into their veins of sweet sap.

The whole experience has been an exhilarating one for me. I guess I didn’t expect our first attempt to be a success. Honestly, urban homesteading has a huge learning curve to it, and we have the gardening disasters and midnight chicken horror stories to prove it.

So, doubtful, I hammered in the first tap, and then the cool sap sprayed my face, tasting sweet on my lips. My stomach flip-flopped in anticipation. Noah hung a bucket under the tap, and the lyrical drip-drip of the sap dancing on the bottom of the bucket began.

“Listen, mom.” he said, “It’s like the forest is making music.”

This. This was spring harvest; one more ingredient we were sourcing from our backyard. I don’t know why I had let my reservations get the better of me.

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What we learned about making maple syrup

making maple syrup at home on simplebites.net

Written by Danny.

Every year it seems like we get one step closer to being a modern version of the little house in the big woods. Our first spring here we constructed a compost pile and fire pit, and foraged for wild ramps from the woods.  The next year was chickens (semi-failed attempt). Last year it was raised beds, rain barrels and chickens (successfully).

This year, we tapped the maple trees, and it is the sweetest thing going. Although campfires and homemade marshmallows are hard to beat, I think that the kids are infinitely more excited about making maple syrup. Maybe a little too much so.

Let’s just say that I’m glad they had the sweet/delicious/sticky/awesome syrup AFTER they wielded the power drill and hammer.

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My 20 favorite edible gifts (Recipe: Maple Spice Candied Nuts)

Today we interrupt our Home for the Holidays week of giveaways to bring you some personal favorites. We the editors of the six SLM channels are dishing on everything we love about Christmas – songs, books, handmade gifts and more.

It’s probably no surprise that I love to bake, package, and give away edible gifts, and so in this post I’m highlighting a handful of my favorites for your inspiration!

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Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

If I look outside I’m greeted by a blanket of white. I’ve taken to wearing one of my husband’s sweatshirts around the house just to keep warm, and I’ve pulled out a pair of fingerless gloves to type in so that I retain a bit of feeling in my fingers as I tap on the keys.

I remember when I was younger. I would beg to put snow pants on over my jeans, hastily donning a hat that I didn’t bother to pull over my ears. I’d wear knit gloves that were soaked in minutes, and still, I’d continue packing the snow together, rolling it into balls and simply falling backwards into it, enjoying the split second of weightlessness that came with falling. [Read more…]