Weekend Reading

It is safe to say summer has arrived here in Canada, at least I think so; we can always get unwelcome surprises. For the time being, though, it’s warm-but-not-to-hot, sunny, and perfectly suitable for sitting on the back porch spooning strawberry sundaes.

Around here, summer is about connecting. With family, with friends, both old and new. There’s something about entertaining outdoors that encourages casual eating, and makes the prospect of drop-in dinner guests so much more relaxing.

Although I can’t cook everyone of you an informal lunch, I’d still love to connect this summer — and beyond. Really quickly I’m going to highlight several of the ways we can do that and then I’ll share my link love. [Read more…]

Simple & Seasonal: Welsh Rarebit with Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms

A recent pledge to Meatless Mondays as well as an abundance of gorgeous local asparagus has transformed our weekday meals. We’ve enjoyed various risotto and pastas with asparagus, asparagus pizza with fresh pesto, and most recently, Welsh Rarebit.

Welsh What?? I know, the name tells us nothing about the dish, but it’s really just cheese fondue, simplified; a creamy cheese sauce, spiked with a light beer, rounded out with mustard, and poured over toast.

Welsh rarebit (or ‘rabbit’ according to Gourmet Today cookbook) is something I remember eating as a child, as it was a favorite of my father. He hails from England, where the dish originated, and no doubt also enjoyed the comforting cheesy-bread as a child.

Now I’m serving welsh rarebit to my children, only the toast is whole-wheat baguette, grilled and brushed with olive oil, and I’ve tucked some greens in there as well to balance out the dish. It’s fast, fun and fresh. Best of all, it’s meatless. [Read more…]

Knife Skills for Toddlers

My kids have been in the kitchen with me from the moment they were old enough to stand, unsupported, on a chair. By nature toddlers want to be where there parents are, so if Mama is in the kitchen, the kids usually are as well.

We only baked together at first. I walked through our steps, having them help tip things into the bowl or even stir. And yes, I let them have some chocolate chips.

Soon enough, though, they wanted to be with me while I ran the race of getting dinner on the table. It wasn’t always easy, and I’ll admit, there were times when Tony Hawk videos on You Tube or that horrible purple dinosaur were brought into play just so I could get the meat cut without fear of little hands getting into everything.

Generally, though, I would rather take longer to get dinner on the table if it means having time with my girls, especially since I’m in the office all day. So instead of waiting until I had a six or seven year old – an age many other moms told me were appropriate for cooking – I set out to teach my toddler some kitchen safety and a few kitchen basics beyond dump and stir.

[Read more…]

The Best Do-Ahead Breakfast Foods

This June, my husband and I are hosting the highly anticipated reunion of my family. Coming from as far away as New Mexico and British Columbia, my two parents, three siblings, three siblings-in-laws, three nieces and two nephews will join our family of four. If you count it up, that’s seventeen mouths to feed, and I couldn’t be happier.

We haven’t all been together since summer of ’07; three years (and several grandchildren later) is just too long to be apart. Obviously, we have much to celebrate.

Since the countdown is actually weeks (2!) and not months away now, I’ve started the menu planning. Yes, I like to feed people. A lot. And I like to be organized. That means stocking the pantry and freezer, jotting down a loose menu plan, and reserving another side of local beef.

The sudden influx of house guests might leave some people feeling overwhelmed, but with proper planning, it can be quite manageable.

I’ve already outlined several ideas for do-ahead dinners in this post on warm weather batch cooking, and most of our lunches will be picnic-style, so all that is left to think about is breakfast. I love a big breakfast, after all, it’s the most important meal of the day!

Here’s what will be joining the strawberries in the freezer in preparation for our breakfasts… [Read more…]

Four Simple Methods for Freezing Strawberries

Strawberry season has just started where I live and I’m already stockpiling the precious fruit! This is the first summer that I have a deep-freeze and it is standing at attention, waiting to be packed full of produce, starting with local, sun-ripened berries.

OK, so you’ve been to the U-Pick or the roadside stand, and now you’ve got more strawberries than you know what to do with. Strawberries are sensitive to both heat and cold and are very delicate, so it is wise to ‘put them up’ as quickly as possible. Yes, they are best enjoyed just as they are: fresh and sweet, or perhaps stirred into a quick Strawberry-Rhubarb Micro-Mini Jam, but the majority of your berries should be frozen so you can enjoy them all year long.

With the recent study on ADHD linked to pesticide exposure on produce, particularly strawberries and blueberries, you may want to stockpile your local berries this spring and avoid the supermarket varieties for the rest of the year. After all, freezing strawberries is about the simplest preserving you will do all season.

While you feast on a bowl of berries and cream, consider your options for freezing the berries. Why yes, there are options! Please don’t lump the ruby jewels together in the bottom of a plastic bag, so that they freeze into an indistinguishable lump that is destined to become freezer burnt. Your berries deserve more than that!

Here are suggestions for a few different methods for freezing strawberries. I use all of them, as they each have their benefits. [Read more…]