Sunday, August 28, 2011

Food Love

Downtown Waterloo is in for quite a treat this afternoon, they are not going to know what hit them! The background event is the Waterloo Busker Carnival. What is going to hit is some Food Love!

Food Love is a Random Act of Kindness on a large scale. Melissa, the brain child behind Food Love, organizes a team of volunteers all intent on making people smile. There are volunteers who bake up goodies and treats, there are people who wrap the goodies and treats and then there is the team that descends on a crowd of unsuspecting people and hands out the goodies and treats. Hitting total strangers with some Food Love! The idea is that a cookie out of the blue might just be the thing that turns your day around and makes you smile.

When I first heard about Food Love I knew I had to be a part of it! It took me a while to narrow down my recipe selections, finally deciding on Chocolate (because nothing says love like chocolate) Of course like most kitchen projects I started out as a team of 1. Once I turned on the oven to warm it up I became a team of 2, Mike knows a lot about Food & Love. Plus he is a fabulous addition to any kitchen mission, he does an amazing job of cleaning up as I go. My measures are always cleaned and ready for the next round, spatulas are reset and my counter remains free of broken egg shells and empty containers.

As soon as I break out the chocolate I can pretty much count on adding to my team. Enter Ethan. Ethan loves to run the mixer and crack the eggs. There are some tricks to being successful with kids in the kitchen. The best tip I can give you is let them crack the at a time into a small bowl where any shells can be removed before the egg hits the main event!

Katelin usually shows up around the time that the 'beaters need licking' of course this is right around the same time I pull the mini sized ice cream scoop out of the drawer for portioning the cookie dough. Cue negotiations. Well, first we have an argument about who gets to scoop the cookies and how it's not fair that Ethan got to help with the mixing and everything already, then we negotiate. It only takes a minute for them to reach a compromise and take turns with the job. It usually only takes a minute longer for the job to fall to me.

Rebecca's offical task is taste testing. All together we make a pretty good team of our own!

So for our contribution to this weekend's Food Love event, my team baked up some love in the form of Fudgy Chocolate Rolo Cookies, M & M Sensation Cookies and Mike whipped up a last minute batch of his fabulous Kettle Corn.

I hope that the strangers who get hit with the Food Love from my kitchen and tiny baking team enjoy the Love and pass their smile on to someone else!

Much Gratitude to Melissa for organizing such a great event and gratitude to my team at home for all their help.

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reality Check in the Pet Food Aisle

We've increased our family permanently by 3 this week. On Tuesday we added Clara and Cooper; two adorable dogs. On Wednesday we added a kitten; Mortimer. Ok, I understand that right now I sound like a fairly unstable individual, but I promise you it's all going just fine. (if you don't count the house full of dog whispers who dabble in feline development, all battling for the alpha position. Someone, some dog or some cat will rise to the top...eventually.) If you are curious as to how we ended up in this position you can get some background by reading Your Motorcycle is My Cat

Clara & Cooper

Beyond the enormous amount of poop that needs to be scooped I am most astounded by the food. We dropped by our Neighbourhood Pet Planet where the owner is super knowledgeable about all things good for animals. We began talking about food. Feeding the animals a healthy diet, in my mind, is just as important as the effort I put into feeding the rest of my family healthily. Just like feeding your family, labels are important. So we got a lesson in reading pet food labels, which is actually just like reading human food labels; the ingredients are listed in order of quantity from greatest to least. It didn't take more than Trevor (our pet store guru) reading through 5 ingredients on the back of the cat food bag before I realized that the similarities in human and pet food ends with the labeling process.

The first 5 ingredients on our bag of cat food...

Chicken, potato, walleye, whitefish, peas....47 ingredients before I reached a 'not real food' ingredient I didn't recognize; thiamine mononitrate (which I do recognise as a nutrient supplement)

The first 5 ingredients in a McDonald's Chicken Nugget....

Chicken, water, salt, sodium phosphates, bleached wheat flour....3 ingredients before I reached a 'not real food'; Sodium phosphates (which I do recognise as another form of salt)

I don't want anyone to think that I am picking on McDonald's exclusively, so how about another comparison to a food kids eat on a regular basis.

The first 5 ingredients in a Quaker Oatmeal to Go Bar...

Whole grain rolled oats, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, oat bran concentrate, rice flour..... 9 ingredients before I met annatto color (clueless) and in fairness, I should have stopped at high fructose corn syrup.

I left the pet store feeling good about what Rebecca is going to feed her new kitten, and good about the canine equivalent that the dogs will enjoy each day. They are lucky little guys, Certainly luckier than a lot of kids.

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dinner on the Kids

We enjoyed a wonderful supper last evening, thanks to the kids! There is something quite amazing about eating something your children have cooked. Few things have the power to make a person feel accomplished as watching people enjoy a meal you have prepared. This pride of accomplishment shows on their faces around the table.

Another recipe page stained with success and love.
The menu was simple...Spaghetti. I pulled ground beef from the fridge before leaving for work and cracked the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution cookbook open to the recipe for Bolognese Sauce. This is a perfect cookbook for teens experimenting with independently perfecting their cooking skills. The ingredients are staple and the instructions fundamental. I shared a few tidbits on timing and temperatures. I appointed Becky 'Head Chef', Ethan as 'Sous Chef' and knew in the back of my mind that Kate would appoint herself 'House Food Critic'

Spaghetti a la kiddos
The results were great...dinner was delish! I was impressed with Becky's adaptation of the recipe, she didn't panic when there were no carrots left in the fridge or when Kate requested the omission of celery. I most enjoyed the banter around the table as the kids played the highlight reel of their cooking adventure, the oops, the arguments, the thank yous and the 'you had to be there' laughter.

They real did pull off fantastic results. Michael even bent his healthful rule of smaller portions and indulged in seconds.

Most of all, in the span of a 30 minute meal I was transported back to those days when I first started cooking for my family. There is no comparison for the warm feeling of accomplishment that spreads through you while you watch the people you love enjoy something you've prepared especially for them. Feeding people is love. Passing the experience along to your kids is a loving thing to do! (not just a clever way to pass the cooking chore.)

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mango & Black Bean Salsa

We returned from holidays and I expected to come home to a harvest of ripe red Roma tomatoes falling from the vine, begging to be turned into homey sauce, piquant salsa or eaten right out of hand. No such luck! the vines are heavy with tomatoes but they are just beginning to blush. I'm sure that an expert farmer would be giving away bushels of tomatoes to their neighbours by now. If they wait for me, my neighbours are very likely to starve!  I'll have to do some research into what brings a tomato to harvest in lest than 120 days.

Whether your tomatoes are ready or not, Friday night with friends comes either way. After a week of indulging lakeside in a place where vegetables are withered but available for a Sultan's purse, my palette was begging for fresh crisp flavour and bright coloured nutrition. Back to my green tomatoes, the ones I was hoping would be salsa to accompany our conversation; time for a trip to the grocery store and a plan 'B'

Plan 'B' turned out to be wonderful!

I diced 2 large mangoes
drained and rinsed 1 can of low sodium black beans
mixed them together with 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion
Hit the mixture with the juice of 1 lime, a handful of chopped cilantro and seasoned with sea salt.

An hour in the fridge, a stir and wow! Fresh bright flavour, sweet, crisp and healthy.

I have to admit that this recipe resulted in a large quantity of salsa, but nobody complained, not until we ran out of dippers! The little bit of salsa that remains in the fridge today, is begging to find its way onto my lunch time salad wrap with some greens and chicken.

We enjoyed a great evening deflating our tires with friends, recapping the week and catching up on some laughter. To my delight, tomatoes were not completely absent from our evening. Despite their refusal to ripen, they were the topic of some discussion and planning. Next month will bring us all together for a market morning and an afternoon of canning salsa.

I think I better stock up on dippers before then!

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Chef, the Potwasher, the Potluck and the Sunshine Priceless

One of the very nicest things about vacationing is the break in routine. The opportunity to do things everyday life just doesn't allow the time for. There is something special about trying something new and being allowed to indulge a whim or two.

Ethan channels his inter "Bobby Flay"
He loves to be helpful in the kitchen at home but has been busting a gut to get at the grill.
 It was great to let him donn the "Camp Grill-Master" title for the week on our teeny tiny portable grill!

Michael takes on KP duty.
Okay this is not very out of the ordinary (especially with teenagers and a broken dishwasher at home)
It is very rare however to see him so happy about the chore!

This monster skillet perched over the campfire is filled with some of the very best indulgent food we enjoyed in our 10 days at the lake. I'm not kidding you, the pan is called the "Big Daddy" is measures at least 24" across and it cooked the very best chips and lake fresh pickerel imaginable. Enjoyed with the sea of potlucked salads and 20 people where in fish and chip heaven! A very rare treat!

This...this is my leg in the sand! Soaking in the sunset, not grilling dinner or washing pots, not running after children or clients. Sporting filpflops not dress shoes.  I can't believe I left that place!

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often


Monday, August 8, 2011

Setting the Scene & the Ground Rules

Back to the real world! We've been away, 10 days unplugged, off-line and enjoying some fabulous family time at the lake. We definitely enjoyed some fabulous culinary adventure in that setting too and I can not wait to share them with you this week.

First, a shot of where we've been hiding out....

Makes my first cottage chalkboard message to my travel companions completely understandable, don't you think?

Eat well, Live well, Laugh often