Happy 4th of July!

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Wishing all our American neighbours a wonderful Independence Day! Loved this tribute to the flag.

Doh!! Sorry to all, that’s what I get for trying to post from my phone. Here is a picture of the flag that I thought was great!

Heading to the farm!

I’m so excited that you’re going to get a two-part post because I can’t wait until tonight. I’m off to Devon Acres farm to purchase a share in their CSA. Lovely farm fresh, organically grown veggies for the rest of the summer! Hoping the kids will grow to love them more when the see how vegetables are supposed to taste!

I’ll be back to update with more details and maybe even pictures before long!

Maple Syrup On A Stick

In honour of family day and the fact that maple syrup season is just around the corner I thought for today’s “recipe” I would post about making maple syrup taffy. If you have ever been to a sugar bush you may have tried this tasty treat. If you live in a region where you have access to a sugar bush, yet have never been, what are you waiting for??? Our family usually hits at least two every season. It’s probably one of our most consistent traditions. Our kids could probably do the tour at the one sugar bush we hit every season.

You can find lots of recipes on the internet. Our family’s only requires, maple syrup, fresh snow, and a few mistakes for good tasting.

So onto the fun!

What you’ll need:

  • Pure Maple Syrup – no ifs ands or buts, it needs to be the real thing
  • Freshly fallen snow. You are going to be consuming this, you want the fresh stuff!!
  • A candy thermometer can be very useful, but is optional
  • A pot, Pyrex measuring cup, plates or cookie sheet
  • A spoon, and popsicle sticks if you have them, we’ve even used chopsticks.

The “technique”:

  • Bring about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of maple syrup to a boil. I prefer a slower boil as I can keep a better eye on it and it doesn’t reduce too quickly.
  • If you are using a candy thermometer, you are aiming for the “soft ball” stage, 235 degrees F
  • If you aren’t using a thermometer, you will be reducing the maple syrup by approximately 1/3. You are looking for when it starts to thicken and the syrup sticks to the back of the spoon.

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Now onto the real fun.

  • As the syrup is nearing this stage, you can have everyone fill their plates with snow. We always give the kids their own, saves on any arguments! If there aren’t any of those concerns in your house (well that just means you’ve never done this before!) you can use a cookie sheet and pack that with snow.
  • Being VERY, VERY careful, this is boiling sugar, pour the syrup into the Pyrex measuring cup. Pour the maple syrup in lines on the snow. Without transferring to a cup, you can also use a spoon to drizzle the syrup over the snow. I tend to use the spoon method because I don’t use a thermometer. So sometimes I find i have to return the syrup and boil it down a little more. Honestly I think the kids enjoy these “mistakes” and they get to enjoy a little more of the maple syrup.
  • Wait about 30 seconds. Using the popsicle sticks, roll the toffee onto the sticks, or you can also use a spoon to roll it into a ball.

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This wasn’t quite ready, as the “balls” were still soft. Too bad, but not really, it was still delicious!

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imageEven if it’s not quite perfect, the memories will be! I hope you get to enjoy this fun, tasty winter tradition with your family!

We All Need A Little Comfort Food

Sorry to disappoint but this won’t be a post on Mac and Cheese. However if you are of European dissent at all, at some point you will probably have had sauerkraut. Now, sauerkraut is technically pickled cabbage, but as a “dish” it is often combined with a variety of meats. Here are a few (possibly not well known) facts about sauerkraut (not the “dish”, the picked cabbage on its own):

From NaturalNews.com: “Sauerkraut combines the health benefits offered by all cruciferous  vegetables (a category which includes cauliflowers and brussel sprouts as well  as cabbage) with the probiotic advantages derived from the fermentation  process. Cabbage offers a host of health benefits. It is high in vitamins  A and C. Studies have shown the cruciferous vegetables can help lower  cholesterol levels. Cabbage also provides a rich source of phytonutrient  antioxidants. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and some studies  indicate it may help combat some cancers. However, this already helpful  vegetable becomes a superfood when it is pickled.”

Also, “Healthy human colons contain many beneficial bacteria which feed on the waste  left over from our digestion, creating lactic acid. Without these beneficial  bacteria the human digestive system becomes home to harmful parasites and  yeasts, resulting in the condition of candida. Sauerkraut provides a high  density source of a wide range of beneficial live bacteria which assist in the  digestive process. Consuming a serving of sauerkraut can give your body as much  of a health boost as many of the expensive probiotic drinks and supplements sold  in stores.”

Ideally making your own would be the best, however, if you don’t have the space or time to pickle your own cabbage know what to look for on the ingredient list. So many of the commercial products contain a variety of ingredients. All you need is, are you ready, cabbage and salt. Yep, that really is it!! We like “Polka” brand and that’s all that is on their list. Sauerkraut, the “dish”, can be made in a variety of ways, with bacon, ham, sausage, onions and traditionally (like good ‘ole mac and cheese) it can be very high in fat once you add all those meats. We keep ours fairly basic:

A good quality sausage (usually 3), red onion and the sauerkraut (about 2 cups). The ingredient list on the sausages we use are: pork, water, salt, spices, crushed chili peppers. No fillers, no “preservatives” (yes salt is, but I can pronounce that!).

So the steps are simple:

  1. Pan fry the sausage, (I cook them whole, then slice them and brown them again) drain and wipe down the pan.
  2. Add in one red onion, chopped. Cook until almost softened
  3. Add in the sauerkraut
  4. Cook for about 20 mins, stirring to blend the flavours.

I do rinse my sauerkraut. I’m not honestly sure if this may affect some of the healthy aspects, but it will reduce the sodium content if that is a concern. Consequently, you can also rinse canned beans if you ever use them, it reduces both the sodium and the sometimes gassy after effect that some people experience. While this may not be a top-notch healthy recipe, it’s an adaptation of a traditional recipe that can certainly be even less healthy. Also this usually feeds about 5 adults. So divide 3 sausages between 5 adults and that’s not so bad!

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And since it’s the lovely cold and flu season, here’s a little something to warm you…

Hot Lemon and Ginger “Tea”

We have some sickness in our house right now so I thought I would share a homemade hot drink that we make to ease sore throats and help healing. It’s also another use for a French Press!!

The ingredients:

  • approx 2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
  • juice of approx 1/2-1 whole lemon (can use 3 tablespoons of ReaLemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of honey (or to taste – but this is not meant to be a sweet drink)
  • 2 cups of boiling water

Add the ginger and lemon juice to the French Press, top with boiling water. Allow to “steep” for about 5 mins. Add the honey, “press” and enjoy. In fact enjoy this anytime, you don’t have to wait for an itchy throat!

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Tweaking Traditions

At the start of the month I mentioned savouring those treats that may only come around once or twice a year. It’s important to have things in your life that while they may not score high in one category, may be off the charts in another. Nutritionally speaking, the Scotch Cookies (basically a sweeter shortbead) my mom always makes are fairly lacking in value, however the fact that they are requested by family members whenever she attends a gathering, places them high on the spirit-wellness chart. In the past. the sweets you would usually find on any tray that I gave to neighbours for Christmas were usually Toffee and Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, Chocolate Dipped Orange Peels, Chocolate Truffles and Peppermint Bark. I wanted to change things a little this year. Though, I can’t give up making the Peppermint Bark, my sister-in-law would kill me!

Part of tradition for me has been involving the kids in the baking. Sometimes it’s easier said than done and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Admittedly there’s a little bit of momma guilt that goes along with not always having the patience to let my kids roll around in the flour. This year, I decided to prep ahead so that I would be able to get some baking done on my own, while allowing them to also participate one day when they got home from school. I also decided that this would be the year that I would take on changing tradition a little bit.

A few years back, I was browsing through a Christmas “book store”, you know the ones that pop up in empty store fronts around Christmas time, and lo and behold, I came across this cookbook:

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This is the cookbook I grew up with my mom cooking out of. Hers is a hard cover copy that has been held together with an elastic band for years. She received it as a shower gift when her and my father were getting married in 1968 and it was fresh off the press. My copy is a softcover, but the insides are the same and it holds (drum roll please) THE Shortbread Recipe. I have the hand written recipe card my mom gave me years ago, which has accumulated its share of spots over the years (as all good recipes do), but it’s grounding to go through the recipes included in this book. I can find the bread and butter pickles, and apple butter recipes I grew up with, along with a few my mom never made, like the Bakeapple Jam recipe I may try one day as my daughter loves Cloudberries (what we have always known “bakeapples” as). Ah…but I digress, onto our little “tweaking tradition” event this year…

I found these cute tiny cookie cutters, so while we did made some regular sized cookies, I made a lot of these small ones:

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Also they are the perfect size for little hands as you can see on the right!

From the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook:

Shortbread:

  • Preheat oven to 300
  • Cream until very light – 1 cup of butter
  • Blend in – 1/2 cup of fruit sugar or 2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • Beat until light and fluffy
  • Stir in gradually – 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • Knead well to blend in last of flour
  • Chill for 30 minutes
  • Roll dough out on lightly floured surface 1/4 inch thick and cut into fancy shapes or squares
  • Bake for 18-20 mins or until set but not browned

The girls made some full size cookies but a large part of the dough went to these tiny bite-size cookies I made:

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I used a teaspoon to “scoop” out some dough and shaped it into a small cookie and then topped it with a chocolate chip. Just enough to savour. My mom’s cookies would have been equal to about 3-4 of these. So I think that’s a fair trade in balancing tradition and health.

And the best ingredient:

The love these girls put into them 🙂

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Is there a tradition in your family you can adapt and make your own? Whether it be a change in ingredients or serving size, jsut don’t forget the love that created it to begin with!

Happiness as part of Wellness

Part of our goal with this blog is not just to promote fitness and nutrition, but overall wellness. Encouraging you to make choices that result in a life that is happier and more fulfilling. Sometimes, oftentimes, life gets hectic and we forget the little things. I recently saw this idea on a Facebook page. I thought it was fantastic, so here is my family’s take on it:

The idea: At the start of the year, take an empty jar, when something good happens, or something that makes you happy, record it on a slip of paper and place it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve empty the jar and review all the things you have written down throughout the year.

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After taking this picture, my 9yr old asked what it was for. I explained it and she wrote down “my family” and placed it in the jar…who needs to wait for the New Year. Sometimes you need to start right now.

Whose with me?