For the corned beef lover in your family

Hi All!
   I will be the  first to admit, deli meats are one of my weaknesses.  And corned beef and smoked meat on rye are my dear hubby’s favourites.  Can’t wait to take him to Schwartz’s in Montreal for a real one!
Deli meats are okay in small doses, but we all know what they are full of…sugar, salt, “nitrates” or “nitrites”.  Most of them are “smoked” or cured and that involves salts and sugars in order to preserve them, and to create the flavours and textures they empart.  Without those additions, it would just be salty meat.
For the most part, when it comes to making sandwiches, I try and stay away from those (mostly be cause I would eat them everyday!).  I do buy Ham on a regular basis, and we are fortunate that our local Butcher shop, Piper’s Meat Cleaver , carries their own smoked hams (and even turkey sometimes!), and homemade pepperoni sticks, and other sausage, as well as an amazing choice of locally sourced meats.  The great thing about buying their own smoked hams is you can speak to the person who made it and ask what went into the making of it. 
However, once you get your deli meats home, that is where you can take control over what goes into the sandwich (or onto the meat tray!). 
For instance, my version of the Corned Beef on Rye…

We start with a whole wheat tortilla
Add mustard (usually grainy or regular)
No cheese.
2 slices of corned beef or Montreal smoked meat
And then a mix of sprouts, chopped green onion, sliced radish, sliced sweet peppers, tomato and grated carrot.
Add a salad on the side with a tasty vinagrette and you won’t even miss the fries!

This packs well for school or work lunches (just pack the salad separate from the wrap, and include the dressing in a separate container).  By spicing up the salad a little bit with onion and radish, you give your sandwich (or in this case, wrap) the kick it might be missing only having the two slices of meat in it.


Happy Packing!




Back-to-school shopping already?

Wow!  Are we at that time already?  But yes, I guess we are. Starting to get things organized for that (lovely) end of summer routine of returning the kids to their classrooms.  I like to do the organizing in fits and starts.  Typically, I start when the school year finishes.  I sort through the school supplies that have come home and throw away the garbage (broken pencil sharpeners, eraser bits, pens that don’t work).  If the pencil case or box is in good shape, I stow any pencils, scissors, rulers and such, in the case and put it in the backpack.
Our school is kind enough to send the supply list home on the last day of school, along with a copy of the school calendar for the new year.  I put those away in the back packs as well, and then put the backpacks away (we try really hard NOT to use those during the summer if we don’t have to).  If your children need their school backpacks during the summer, then you could use a re-usable shopping bag to stow everything out of the way, but together.

If we need to replace big things (like backpacks or lunch bags), I often shop online in the month of June for these items.  This year, I was able to replace the kids’ LL Bean Fliptop lunch bags for 35% off (and free shipping), by ordering them in June.  Those are the best lunch bags we have ever had!  They are machine washable, reasonably priced, and we got two years of lunches out of them.  (That is 10 months of back and forth to school every day for two years).  And my son’s will continue to get a workout this year, as Dad takes over the ownership of it for another 10 months of lunches  LL Bean has a great assortment of lunch bags for all ages, and personally, I like that they aren’t covered in licenced cartoon characters.  Rather they have lively (timeless) patterns or a great selection of plain colours for those who like to keep their lunches more low-key.

The Girl’s new bag

The Boy’s new bag

Dad’s “New” bag

Check out more great litter less lunch products on their website
And enjoy free shipping!

Happy Packing!  (soon!)


The Fairy Cake: How to make one

 Last year, my daughter came to the decision that she wanted a Fairy Cake, and a Fairy party for her birthday.  So, I set out to figure out how to make a Fairy Cake.  Not nearly as easy as I thought it would be to find a template, or photo or even something that didn’t scream Disney.  (although ours did house some very small Tinker bell cohorts once the whole thing was finished).  Then, I came across a stump cake…And that became our template.

For this cake, you will need the following supplies:
2 (or three!) eight inch cake pans, to make three eight inch round cake layers.
1 14″ x 17″ cake plate or tray or cutting board, covered with foil.
Icing tips (2 or 3 of the leaf making tips work really well for making the “bark” and the wild flowers on the outside of the stump, the small writing tip works well for making the rings on the top of the stump) and bags (or heavy duty freezer bags…leftover icing freezes BTW, even in the piping bags)
Round tea cookies (or digestives) at least three inches in diameter, for the funghi on the stump.
Icing colours: chocolate buttercream (3x the recipe); regular buttercream coloured:  pale orange (2x the single recipe), leaf green (1x), periwinkle blue (1x), pale yellow (1x)
Small angled spatula
2 bamboo skewers (you don’t need to soak them) trimmed to fit the height of your cake.
Small figurines for decorating your stump at the end…Smurfs, birds, butterflies, fairies, frogs.

Recipe for simple chocolate butter cream frosting:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups icing sugar (1 kg bag)
3-4 Tbsp milk or cream.
You won’t use all 3 times the recipe, but as you can see in the pictures, we ran out of chocolate partway through and when I made the second batch, the colours didn’t match (not that trees have EXACT matching bark, but still!).  It freezes well.

Regular buttercream frosting:
2 Tbsp shortening
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
I made one batch of this for each different colour (except for the orange, which I made double the recipe)

I started with three 8″ round cakes (we made two chocolate
and one vanilla just for fun)
and vanilla icing in the middle of the layers.  Put a bamboo skewer in the middle to hold the layers from sliding. 
Make four times the recipe of your favourite chocolate buttercream icing (or use the recipe I have included here, below).  Smooth ice the outside of the cake with chocolate icing.

Make two times the recipe for regular butttercream frosting and colour it pale orange.  Smooth ice the top of the cake, almost all the way out the edge.  At this point, I put the cake into the fridge for overnight (or a couple of hours anyways).

In the morning, we went to work on the decorative part: Starting with the chocolate icing and tip #   . 

What I ate Wednesday

Summertime means BBQ…And here on the West Coast, it also means, BBQ Salmon!  Thought I would share it over at What I ate Wednesday over at Peas and Crayons

This recipe is so easy…Get your whole salmon (head on or head off…my kids prefer head on, I prefer head off…If you like fish stock, you want head on)…Your aluminum foil (the heavy duty kind is great)…One or two onions (plus a nice big sweet one for the grill), a good sized lemon, some sea salt and fresh ground pepper and in the case, I used some dried oregano.  Some fresh herbs (chives, parsley…) to sprinkle on before serving).
Slice the lemon and the onions…Set aside the sweet onion slices, ’cause those go on the grill on their own for 5 minutes a side AFTER the fish is done.  Stuff the lemon and onion slices into the fish’s belly (er, where the belly used to be, now it is just a perfect onion slice sized slit from head to tail), sprinkle with your salt and pepper and oregano.  Wrap well in the foil, put on preheated grill (medium) and cook for about 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.  DON’T OPEN THE BBQ!  As long as the lid stays closed, your BBQ will work like an oven.  If the fish was dead when you put it in there, then it is still there, you don’t need to check on it!
Serve with new potatoes and Santa Fe salad.  (and make wraps with the leftover salmon and Santa Fe Salad!)

What the fish looks like after your family has been at it!

Notice what the plate looks like? that fish was GOOD!

Eating Locally

My favourite form of eating locally, is straight out of the garden in your own backyard. When I was young, we had a small garden in the backyard, for green onions and tomatoes, beans and potatoes.  Both of my grandfathers had large vegetable gardens.  Even though one lived right in the center of the city of Sherbrooke, he grew corn and squash and tomatoes and peppers, and lots of zucchini.   As a child, I loved sun-warmed tomatoes (and couldn’t stand fried green tomatoes!), eaten out of hand like an apple, while still standing next to the plant that raised it.  Raw green beans…and even better, after sitting on the stoop, topping and tailing those beans, getting to eat a whole plate full, dripping in butter.  Or, the ultimate childhood harvest…Sitting just off the path through the field near our house, in grass that tickled the backs of my knees, hunting for wild strawberries.  The kind you just pick and eat, no need to carry them home.  Occasionally, a few might make it back to the kitchen counter, a little worse for wear, a few strawberry stains on my hands.

Eating some of Grandpa’s green beans

Farm on Grand Marais in Chateauguay Valley

We didn’t live in the country (although I would have loved that!), just a small suburb off the Island of Montreal, in what is now known as the Monteregie region of Quebec, and home to mostly rural communities.  So there were many trips to the countryside, the Chateauguay Valley, the unofficial Corn capital of Quebec.  Now, I believe one of the main crops is Soy, and celery.  Yes, if you live in Canada (east of the Rockies) and you eat celery grown in Canada, it was likely grown in the Chateauguay Valley.

Where we live now, there is ample space for a lovely vegetable garden, raspberry patch, blueberry bush or whatever.  Heck, we even have one of the best climates  for growing stuff here on Vancouver Island.  I have some friends who have great backyard gardens with way smaller spaces than we do.  And many of them are ready to share their bounty with friends and neighbours.  Recently, one such friend provided us with an abundance of raspberry canes, complete with raspberries getting ready to ripen.

Yes, they were in our yard not more than 24 hours,
and they looked like this:

…Because of these guys (and yes, they are guys, although the gals are equally responsible for the eating of some items, just didn’t catch them in the act this time)
  This year, there are 8 males travelling together, and they range in age from 2 up to about 6 or 7, and they eat EVERYTHING!  Well, almost, they seem to ignore the dandelions and a few other nasty little weeds.  
So, I am starting to think that rather than accepting free deer food  so lovingly cultivated, from friends, I should be trading venison for vegetables…
Happy Packing!

Happy Canada Day!

To all my Canadian Friends,

Happy Canada Day!

Homemade spelt waffles with raspberries and whipped cream and (of course!) some Quebec Maple Syrup!

Enjoy your break from Packing lunches (if you get one!)