mypostcardsfromhome


It’s Strawberry Season!

It’s officially strawberry season in BC which means there are fresh, juicy, ripe, local strawberries everywhere!  Road-side stands, farmer’s markets, even the big-chain grocery stores are selling them.

At the same time, our school teachers are on strike which means my boys are missing the last two weeks of school. I’ll admit, it’s a mixed blessing; it’s nice not to be packing lunches and rushing off to school and activities everyday, but it also means the kids are underfoot and full of energy.

What to do?

Pile into the car with some friends and head out to the fields. IMG_1265

We drove out to Emma Lea Farm in scenic Westham Island, Ladner BC.  It was our first time there, but they clearly know what they’re doing.  A playground, tractors to climb on and ice cream for sale and, of course, fresh fruit to be picked and purchased. Once our buckets were weighed we set off to the fields. The boys did a great job of filling their buckets with the odd berry tasted for quality control purposes, of course.

Now that we have all these delicious, juicy, strawberries, it’s time to try out some new recipes such as these moist Strawberry Muffins and these flaky, Strawberry Scones. Both recipes are easy to make with great results.

Do you have a favourite strawberry recipe?

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Winter S’mores Cookies: an indoor twist on an outdoor classic.

It’s cold outside.

Not as cold as many other places on the continent, but cold, nonetheless.  We don’t have snow, just rock-hard, frosty ground.  It’s too cold to jump on the trampoline. Too cold to go for a bike ride. Certainly too cold to go camping or hang around a campfire making S’mores.

But it is perfect weather for baking. I thought it would be nice to warm things up a little and was reminiscing about warmer weather, campfires and s’mores. My kids don’t actually like S’mores.  Oh sure, they like the individual ingredients.  Who doesn’t like chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers?  Just not in a melted-together-in-a-sandwich kind of way.  So it’s S’mores Cookies instead.

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I found this cookie recipe on Pinterest (of course).  It’s adapted from KevinandAmanda.com and the cookies are delicious.  Kid and adult approved; they are gooey inside, but keep a nice shape.  Don’t make them too big, you’ll want to come back for more!

S’mores Cookies

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1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (7 full graham cracker sheets)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini-marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla then beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, crush 7 graham cracker sheets into 3/4 cup fine crumbs (I get the kids to help by putting them in a ziploc bag and having them crush them with a rolling pin).  In a separate bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Add the chocolate and marshmallows and stir to combine.

Place 1.5 tablespoon sized scoops of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

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Enjoy!



Spring Treats!

Spring is in the air.  The flowers are blooming and the frost has taken a backseat to the rain, but the sun is still only making occasional appearances.  What better time to have a spring party!?

My 4-year-old’s preschool had a class party yesterday for family to attend and parents were asked to contribute treats, snacks, drinks and decor.  What fun to see the variety of delicious treats on the table; home-baked iced cookies, rice krispie treats, cupcakes, even some delicious candied-popcorn (I asked for that recipe!).

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This year we made bird’s nests!  They were quick, easy, child-friendly and delicious.  Our class has a number of allergies including nuts, eggs, and kiwi so these were allergy-friendly, too. They are also super-cute and were popular among the kids and parents.

We first attempted this treat for dessert on Easter weekend, but they didn’t turn out.  Apparently when you run over to the closest corner store and purchase the only chow mein noodles they have, it doesn’t mean your nests will be edible.  Cute, but not edible.  So we tried again – successfully!

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The ingredient list is short:

 chocolate

chow mein noodles

mini-eggs

Ready?  Melt your chocolate, mix in the noodles and spoon them into some lightly sprayed muffin tins.  I didn’t exactly measure but found that melting the chocolate then stirring in noodles a bit at a time until they were completely covered but not too “wet” worked well.IMG_1769

Once they’re in the tins, use your fingers to make the shape nest-like so there’s a place to put the eggs.  Then add 3 Cadbury mini-eggs (you could use other types like jelly beans or something, but these look so cute and taste great!).IMG_1770

My 4 year old happily helped with the mixing, spooning, and placing the eggs, then licked the spoon clean, of course!  It’s a bit of a sticky process, but they come together quickly and look and taste great.

Enjoy!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

As a final post before the new year begins, I thought I’d participate in the weekly photo challenge of “my 2012 in pictures”.  As I looked back, I was surprised to see how much we travelled.  Not quite the same as before kids, mostly local trips, but still away from home somewhere almost every month!

I was also surprised by the number of photos of food I took this year – food that marked special occasions, vacations, birthdays, holidays, and class treats for school so I’ve decided to post those photos instead of our various trips.  Let me know what you think!



Baking with Gram

Those were the days.  You could lick the spoon, clean off the beaters and no one ever said “No!  You’ll get sick from raw eggs!”.

I used to spend a month every summer at my grandparents house in the Lake of the Woods region.  They would take us to the beach, fishing on the lake, blueberry picking and I loved it!  Now that I have 2 kids of my own, we travel there every year to visit their great-grandparents.  I look back fondly on those days and hope to be able to create memories that my boys will cherish, too.

Some of my best memories of those summer days are the times I spent baking with Gram.  She taught me how to make pies, cookies, muffins, and butter tarts.  I remember her original cookbooks, all worn, yellowed and sometimes sticky; the hand-written recipes for some of my favourites.  The coloured Pyrex nesting bowls and the well-worn wooden spoon.  She always wore an apron and made it all seem effortless:  mixing the ingredients, timing the baking, even the cleanup.  I would help measure and stir and then lick the batter off the spoon, mixers and out of the bowl!  Delicious goodness.  (I still prefer uncooked batter to the finished product and my recipes never seem to make a full batch!)  I was never told to “just eat one” or “save some for later.”  It was pure pleasure!

Over the years, I collected Gram’s recipes and must admit, they are still my favourites.

Now that I have kids of my own, we often bake together: muffins, banana bread, cookies, weekend waffles or pancakes.  But only recently have I given them the utensils to lick clean!  There’s a lot of deep breathing involved as I’m not as patient as my Gram was – the flour all over the floor and counters, the fingers always reaching or grabbing for something – but I try to relax and enjoy our time together.  It’s great to have home-made treats for lunches and snacks, knowing love was an essential ingredient.

I hope my boys will look back fondly on these times spent together or at least think of me when they order pancakes at a restaurant or buy a muffin to go with their morning coffee!



40 before 40

No, it’s not the measurement for a renovation at home; it’s a new look at my Annual Birthday Resolutions.  Traditionally, I make 5 resolutions on my birthday to keep me focused for the year ahead (January 1st seems a bit arbitrary) which include something I want “To Do, To Have, To Be, To Learn and To Give”.

This year, as I get closer to what some refer to as over-the-hill, I thought I might expand my resolutions to include a list of 40 goals I intend to achieve before I turn 40.  In case you’re wondering – it’s now 2 years away.  So far, I have come up with (in no particular order):

  1. be clutter free
  2. sort and empty boxes at mom’s house (I think there are 4)
  3. get my Vespa built and running
  4. learn basic, conversational spanish
  5. renew my vows
  6. host a holiday open house
  7. host a summer BBQ
  8. complete an olympic distance triathlon
  9. finish “1st 500” photo album for my youngest son
  10. get caught up on annual photobooks
  11. create filing system for our household – that works
  12. hang all artwork/decor in the house
  13. load digital photo frame
  14. learn manual settings on camera
  15. transfer dvd videos into a functional & editable format
  16. find a place for everything
  17. keep the weight off
  18. make lasagna from scratch
  19. bake bread (also from scratch)
  20. make jam
  21. learn to prune the garden – properly
  22. start my own business
  23. go camping with the kids
  24. move music cd’s into a binder system
  25. get a new front door
  26. take the kids on a road trip (more than 4 hours & including an overnight stop)
  27. take a knife-handling class
  28. master the BBQ
  29. learn to use iPhoto – import & organize photos
  30. go to Argentina
  31. buy recreational property
  32. paint & hang my own artwork
  33. dance again – in a class
  34. try karate
  35. keep a gratitude journal
  36. learn to meditate
  37. write and publish a children’s book
  38. create and publish my own meal-plan
  39. take skating lessons
  40. do my happiness project for a full year

I know there are more, but they usually come to me in the middle of the night and I don’t always write them down!

If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!



Mmmm. . . . Cake Pops
May 11, 2011, 7:39 am
Filed under: baking, family, food, ideas, kids, parties | Tags: , , , , ,

When my son’s preschool had their spring party, each family was asked to bring an item to contribute to the food, drinks or decor.  Rather than purchasing cupcakes or making rice krispie squares or butter tarts (again), I asked my son what he’d like to make and he replied “um, how about those things like we had with Bubby at Starbucks, you know the ones on the stick with the sprinkles on top?”  To which I replied, “oh, you mean the cake pops”?

So, at 6am with a still-hot cup of tea, I searched the internet to find some inspiration and instructions.  Thank you Bakerella!  http://www.bakerella.com/category/pops-bites/cake-pops/

I didn’t have the luxury of time for such extreme hand-decorating (nor the patience since my 4-year-old was “helping” me make them), so I settled on a simple round, dipped cake-pop with some spring colors.  Just 5 easy steps:

    1. bake the cake (I cheated a little here and used store-bought Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Rainbow Chip mix)
    2. allow the cake to cool completely then crumble into a large bowl (4 year olds are really good at this!)
    3. mix in icing (we used just over 3/4 tub of Betty Crocker’s Whipped Vanilla).  Don’t think about it – normally this icing is spread on the outside of your cake, but this way it’s hidden inside!
    4. roll the cake/icing mixture into golf-ball sized balls and place them on a wax-paper covered cookie sheet, then refrigerate (or freeze if you’re short on time)
    5. melt your candy coating (or chocolate) according to package direction (I bought ours at Michael’s Craft Store), dip your lollipop stick in the candy, insert into cake ball, dip & roll to cover with candy then allow to dry.

Work in progress

 

finished product

Voila!

 

 

Learn from my experience and be sure that your cake pop balls are cold; if you take too long to dip them, put them back in the freezer – otherwise, they slide down the lollipop stick and slump sadly at the bottom on the styrofoam!




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