Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cottage Cooking

We will be vacationing en masse as a family of 17 shortly.  My parents have splurged on three cottages at a lakeside resort in western Ontario and we (assorted family units spread across three generations) will be soaking up the sun, fishing off the dock, swimming in the lake, making s'mores by the campfire, and trying to give each other space when necessary.

I'm all about keeping things simple on vacation.  The cottages come with basic furnished kitchens (woohoo) but not with grills (sigh).   I'm a don't-turn-on-the-oven type of girl in the summer - unless the temperatures have dropped a bit.   We don't have air con in our home at the moment and these days that feel like 40C leave you sweltering.  *If* I even drum up the energy to cook (we eat a lot of fruit and veggies and salads and sandwiches in the summer) - if I cook, it's done over the BBQ or involves a quick pan-fry - no fuss, no muss.    It also involves a fully stocked kitchen... and it still requires time in said kitchen.  We're going to have to think outside the box - err... oven - for some simple to serve meals that keep everyone satisfied.

I don't want to spend tons of time prepping while we're away - I want it easy, peasy, but tasty and delicious.  I'm not into a week of hot dogs or sandwiches on repeat... so today I spent the morning finessing our vacation meal plan and prepping freezer meals.  All I'll have to do while we're away is thaw in the fridge while I'm lakeside and pop on the grill at dinnertime.  (Oh wait... didn't I mention they don't have grills?  Why, yes, I did!  We found a great little tabletop propane grill at Walmart on clearance for less than $20.  It will be added to our camping stash when we return.)   If I'm not grilling, I plan on plopping the whole frozen mess (mmm.... appetizing!) in the crockpot for even less work!

Here is a week (almost) of cottage meal-planning - I've asterisked (is that a word?) the meals I've prepped in advance and possibly frozen.  The odd meal I won't prep until right before we leave, but I did a big chunk of it today.

Breakfast:

  • Cinnamon Rolls* (prepared, but frozen - thaw & bake)
  • Smoothies* (I froze into individual packs and will bring my personal blender along)
  • Blueberry Pancakes* &  sausage (mix measured into a jar, blueberries frozen and bagged)
  • Bacon, eggs, pierogies & fruit
  • Granola Parfaits* (prepped in jars, granola measured in top cup)
  • Breakfast Wraps
Lunch:

  • Cheddar smokies & veggie sticks
  • Nibblers - salami/pepperettes, cheese, fruit, crackers
  • DIY subs
  • leftovers / munchies
Dinner:
  • Burgers* (prepped and frozen)
  • Pulled Pork* (prepped for crockpot)
  • Turkey Chili* & Cornbread* (my chili will be partially prepped and frozen for the crockpot.  I haven't decided whether to bake and freeze the cornbread, or just freeze the batter and bake later.)
  • Tacos* (meat prepped for crockpot - we'll go light on the toppings)
  • BBQ Chicken Packets* (prepped & frozen)
  • Chicken Caesar Wraps* (chicken seasoned & frozen - will slice after grilling)
We also have some classics to bring along (s'mores anyone?) and lots of fresh fruit/veggies - a friend of mine is away and has offered me here half-share CSA order from one of the local farms.  (This makes me happy... very, very happy!)   I also expect additional veggies will be ready for the picking from my own garden - we froze a bunch of fresh picked produce last week because we're just not going through it fast enough.   Yum!   My last culinary experiment will be a batch of Spiced Peanut & Cashew Caramel Corn to share - I found the recipe in the current summer Food & Drink magazine at the LCBO. 

What are your favourite camping/cottage/getaway meals?


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh Ontario...

There are so many beautiful little hidden gems across the province.  We're truly in the perfect location for day tripping, staycations, or mini-getaways.  This summer we've had to cut-back on our little daytime adventures.  It's been hard balancing housework, exploration time, and a few part-time jobs.  I'm an expert juggler... well, a juggler at least.  I've been known to drop a ball or two before.

This summer, the kids have enjoyed time at Grandma & Grandpa's cottage on Sturgeon Lake.  They've gone camping with Oma at Ontario Park Awenda.  We went spelunking (and hiking and swimming) at the Warsaw Caves Conservation area.  We've spent countless hours on the shores of Lake Scugog and playing in Palmer Park.  We found a fantastic deal on Wonderland tickets and wore ourselves out with sun, rides, and junk food.  This week we headed west and explored the sights (and tastes) of the St. Jacob's Farmers Market, with a stop at the Elora Gorge on the way home.

Before the summer ends we'll be heading east and taking some much needed R&R at the Singleton Lake Family Campground with the whole family.  Fishing, campfires, swimming, boating, cousins, laughter, and fun!!!

We're packing what we can into our summer... and exploring new and favourite haunts along the way.  Some of our favourite Ontario gems include the Warsaw Caves, Centre Island, the city of Ottawa, Cobourg beach, Niagara Falls, and many of the quaint little towns along the smaller highways and byways.  We also like taking in the occasional Jays game - the boys are headed to their first in September!

Our must-see list includes 1,000 Islands, Tobermory, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kingston, the Badlands, Algonquin Park (nope - haven't done it yet!), and the Algoma Central Railway. Did you know Ontario is as big as Spain & France combined?   There's so much to see, and do, and explore!  I know there are conservation areas and beaches and activities practically in our own backyard that we have yet to experience.  Any others we should check out?  Our list is constantly growing and changing - memories can be made in the oft-overlooked lesser-known destinations just as easily as the top tourist spots.  Summer is perfect for getting out and having fun!






Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just My Cup of Tea...

A couple months ago I joined up for Steeped Tea - not because I want another "job", but to take advantage of the consultant savings personally. (Although I *can* place orders if you want something!) The starter kit was on at a fantastic price and it came loaded with some fabulous product. 

I love tea... and I'm not as picky as some when it comes to loose leaf vs. bagged.  I still have a picky palate and I've come to realise my tea tastes have evolved a little over time.  I've been using Steeped Tea products on occasion for years since a friend introduced me to the company.  I'm also a fan of some of the Tazo varieties and my all-time-favourite tea is still the White Christmas by Stash.  It's like a cozy sweater in a cup.  (It's also great for soothing sore tummies with its blend of mint and ginger.)   I'm NOT a fan of most of the traditional brands, but in a pinch, they will do.   

Fast forward to now... I have a cupboard full of teas in all varieties.  Green, black, rooibos, fruit, latte blends, and more.  Unfortunately, I'm not a fan (eek!) of all the flavours I have in my tea basket.  This is expensive quality product that you don't just want to toss if you don't like it.   Black & green teas are not my most favourite varieties as my tastes have changed, but I've ended up with some in my kits.... so we improvise and try some new-to-me ideas on brewing a cup and blending to find just the right fix. 

In my ongoing ever-present quest to live a practical healthy lifestyle, I've cut way back on my diet pop consumption (I don't stock it in the fridge anymore.)  We also don't drink fruit juice (or fruity drinks) on a regular basis (and really, juice has never been a big part of our diet.)  I've been experimenting with my loose leafs and have found that switching up how you brew and blend can leave you with fabulous results that feed the cravings for those unhealthier choices. 

We've found that Justin & I enjoy rooibos blends iced (various methods) and berry fruit blends are fantastic no matter how you drink them.  I love brewing our own iced teas and I still use a simple syrup for sweetening, but my ratio of sugar to water in the syrup and syrup to water in the tea blend is minimal. 

To put it in perspective, I have read that 4 grams of white sugar (granulated) is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. (Side note, did you know a can of Coke gives you 11 teaspoons of sugar in one easy convenient drink???? Ick!)  I brew a jug with 8 servings of tea, with one cup of simple syrup, and approx. 2 teaspoons of sugar in my simple syrup.  So my one cup is divided by 8 servings... which means my 2 teaspoons of sugar are now spread across those 8 servings leaving me with 1/4 tsp. of sugar per serving or 1 gram of sugar per serving.  I can live with that... it's not eliminating the sugar completely, but it's definitely a better option without adding artificial sweeteners to the mix. 

Earlier this week I tried Berry Mania tea strong-steeped, iced, and topped with Perrier - pop with a subtle flavour - almost like an Italian soda.  Sparkling, but not overly sweet.  The bubbles hit those soda cravings without all the crap.   I've also been doing various teas (iced) and blended with lemonade (not the real stuff... it's all about the small changes!) I do 2/3 tea to 1/3 lemonade ratio and serve on ice.   This works well with fruit teas... but last night I switched it up with a smooth Earl Grey de la Creme and topped with a splash of Perrier.  Wow!

Tonight I'm brewing one of my green teas. It smells fantastic but I. Don't. Like. Green. Tea.  Until I tried a sip... mint mojito.  I'm icing it now and will blend it with my lemonade for my morning on the go drink.  Because what's better than mint lemonade... or green tea lemonade... or mint green tea lemonade.   I'm thinking this would also be a fabulous one topped with sparkling water.   

So long story told... I've learned that even if a certain blend isn't my cup of tea (we're talking about you Banana Split Fruit Tea - ugh!), there's generally a way to incorporate that blend into a new or tastier brew to make a cup that's... welll... just my cup of tea.  (PS, Justin loves the Banana Split - I think it smells like Carribean rum cake and plan on using it for a Bundt cake with an infused-rum glaze.  Ah, memories of Jamaica!)

What's your favourite cup of tea?