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Monday, April 21, 2014

Contest! $100 in Groceries, a Dinner with Me, a BBQ, and more.

I've been recruited to assist a super special, top secret (or maybe not?) squad dedicated to de-bunking some pervasive myths that keep floating around. Myths about something you probably eat.

There's a lot of misinformation floating around, you see. Information that has been put out there that is simply just not true. Did you know that 64% of British Columbians believe that hormones and steroids are added to chicken?

The use of hormones and steroids in chicken has been banned for over 50 years in Canada. Period. 

This is where the Chicken Squad comes in. Local chicken farmers have created a documentary in an action movie style to get their point across; that chicken is pure and delicious to eat, without any hormones and steroids. The trailer launches May 12, 2014.


But wait, you can also attend an amazing event with me AND get yourself a Weber BBQ!

On May 10th, the chicken farmers are hosting a huge barn yard bash at a secret Fraser Valley location for the premiere of the movie. There will be a BBQ workshop, barnyard tour, concert with Medeline Merlo, opportunity to meet the farmers, and more. Head on over to their site to enter to win 4 tickets and a Weber BBQ! I'll be there rocking out with the chickens and farmers, so come join me!

Wait, there's MORE!

What else can you win? Well, for one lucky reader here, you can pick yourself up a $100 gift card to Overwaitea for groceries, and a Chicken Squad swag kit containing a t-shirt, ball-cap, notepad, keychain, pins/stickers) You don't even have to do much! This contest is open to Canadians only and will end April 29th, with the winner being announced May 1st, 2014.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Baked Chicken with Herbs and Shallots

roasted chicken2

Roast chicken is a huge hit in my house, but honestly sometimes I don't want to wrestle with a whole bird. On busy weeknights I also don't always have the time to roast a whole bird, and this recipe has come to my rescue a few times. It's so simple-just a bit of butter in a pan, herbs, garlic, shallots, and chicken. The butter makes the chicken skin go crispy, the shallots caramelize, and the herbs add tons of flavour to the meat. Served with pan drippings and roasted potatoes, it was a meal my family devoured and declared delicious. Tme meat comes out so full of flavour, and if there's leftovers we either turn it into sandwiches, chicken pot pie, or even soup. Yum.

Speaking of chicken, you need to enter this contest to win $100 gift card to Overwaitea with the Chicken Squad. If you head over to their site, you can also win a Weber BBQ and tickets to a really awesome barnyard bash. I'll be there, too!

Ingredients:

one 3 lb chicken, cut into pieces (you can buy them already cut up at the store)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 medium shallots, cut in half and peeled
8 large garlic cloves
leaves stripped from 10 sprigs of thyme
leaves from 8 sprigs of rosemary
coarse salt and pepper

Directions:

Turn the oven on to 425 F. Place the butter into a 9x13 inch pyrex baking dish and put it in the oven to melt, checking on it and swirling around the bottom of the pan. Put the shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme in the pan and give it all a good swirl to coat. Swirl the chicken pieces in the buttery herbs, turning to coat. Leave them skin side up in the pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Bake the chicken for about 40-50 minutes, until cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked through (juices run clear) remove the dish from the oven and let sit on the stovetop for a bit. Remove the pieces to a serving dish along with the shallots and garlic pieces. Skim the fat off the juices and serve alongside the chicken pieces to drizzle over top.

roast chicken

Adapted from Fine Cooking

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Create the Best Egg Hunt

hunt starts here

Easter egg hunts are one of my favourite things about the holiday.When Kevin was little we'd have egg dying parties in the back yard (see tips for your own party over at BC Eggs), ending with a giant hunt for all the kids. As kids get older and gone are the days of bubbles, the treats may change but the thrill of the hunt doesn't. Keep reading for my best tips on creating a hunt to remember!

look downscoops


1. Signs and small touches add to the fun

Cadbury's has some great printable signs that you can use for your hunt like the ones in my photos-and for kids who are just learning right/left or up/down, you can even laminate them after you print them off and use them year round for other learning activities. I loved making my own signs as well, advising kids to watch for falling eggs or not to pick jellybeans from the jellybean branches I created and then planted in the flower gardens in the yard.

mini eggshop this way

2. Not all treats need to be chocolate but you'll want them to be

This sounds just wrong, I know-but the whole point of a hunt is to get chocolate. Some of Kevin's favourites are Cadbury Easter creme eggs, and I have a hard time leaving any Mini Eggs alone. I bake them into brownies or cookies, or just pop 'em in my mouth whole. We also love the Caramilk eggs. Mini caramilk eggs or Easter creme eggs are fantastic baked right into cupcakes. Often I don't buy any until just before Easter because otherwise I'll eat them before the big day. Hide them from me, I say, so there's actually something to hide! (note: baking them into items is a great way to use up leftover Easter candy if you happen to have some)

If you are looking for fun non-food hunt items besides the usual, try these:

-bubbles
-sidewalk chalk
-stickers
-art supplies: new felts, pencil crayons, fun glitter glues and papers
-seeds, dirt and plant pots (try growing radishes, mini carrots, herbs)
-playdough and cookie cutters
-balls
-frisbee
-outdoor play equipment, like a skipping rope
-Lego mini figs
- Hot wheels cars
-books
-barrettes and hair ties for little girls
-plastic animals
-kits to build things (a bird house) or science experiments
-fun socks or hats
-doll accessories
-kite
-cash! Put loonies or twoonies in plastic eggs

basket2

3. Set it up for success

There are different ways to set up an egg hunt for multiple kids; for readers, you can put the items in plastic eggs and write on their names in sharpie, or stick on lables/tape. For non-readers, assigning each child a color (and maybe co-ordinating their collecting basket/bucket or giving them a paper as a reminder) is an easier way. For things that can't fit into eggs (such as the stuffies above), attach a tag with their name or the assigned color on it.

You can also have some "special" eggs, possibly numbered to co-ordinate with bigger prizes that the kids can win, such as books or stuffies.

4. Don't stop at they get older

Teens still love a good egg hunt. They may act all cool and like they are too old for this little kid stuff, but wait until you see them squealing over a bit of chocolate. Kevin may be 18, but I know he'd love to find a pound of his favourite coffee, maybe a gift card, and some money hidden away in eggs. Still, he always looks forward to a bunch of chocolate-especially Easter creme eggs.

Just like when he was little, Mom always sneaks a bit of it, too.

basket



Disclosure: I was sent a large basket by Cadbury when I was already thinking about writing this post, so it fit perfectly-and fortunately helped with some of my Easter shopping! We're big fans of the products inside it and I already buy them every year.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring in the Valley

You can tell it's Spring in Chilliwack when the scent of blossoms is tinged with the sour notes of manure, as tractors plow up the wet Earth in fields around town to get ready to seed. This morning, a flock of sea gulls followed one such tractor, swooping and diving behind it; likely feasting on the worms being dug up from the rich soil.

On the playground, worms have been working their way out of the grassy fields and the kids find them at recess, all fat and slimy, dragging themselves along the sidewalks. I'm known as the adult who will pick up worms and drop them into waiting hands while chirping,

"Worms are your FRIENDS, and they make the dirt good for plants. Be nice to them."

Sometimes the worms are so large they look like small snakes, and we let those ones slither away undisturbed. I imagine that once the children head back inside the confines of the school to go back to reading or math, the circling sea gulls snap up the worms left behind. There's no sign of them at lunch time when we're back outside in the spring sunshine.

I haven't had much time in the kitchen these days. Dinner became something eaten on the run, thrown together at the last minute, and meal plans have unraveled one after another. We've found ourselves on the couch as a family, eating something defrosted from the fridge before we run our separate ways. I've been longing for a day to just putter around the house-one to organize my spice cupboard (don't scoff, you should see the thing), finish up laundry and chase after dust bunnies.

I love to putter.

Some time ago, I talked about going to Granville Island to help shoot a promo for Better Together, to encourage people to enter the Hands on Cookoff. I love the idea of adults cooking with kids. For me, an activity like this is my happy place; I love teaching kids about food, seeing them explore with their senses, witnessing their delight when they taste their results. It's purely magical.

This is the result of that day I spent over on Granville Island, standing in the market while people milled around, trying to remember my line and look natural on TV. I've never done TV things, so this was totally new to me!



This past weekend, I took a young friend with me to The Dirty Apron and spent an afternoon cooking with her to launch the Hands on Cook Off! That story will be coming up soon, but I can tell you this; it was hands down some of the most fun I've ever had.

Judging from my cooking partner's smile I think she enjoyed herself, too.


Cooking at the Dirty Apron
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Books: Starting From Scratch

Reading has always been one of my favourite pastimes. As a kid, I could polish off a 100 + page novel in just a few days. Books were hidden under my textbooks, my pillow, and I'd even read while walking home. Once someone became so concerned that I wasn't watching where I was going that they called my parents.

Years later, I read cookbooks, magazine articles, and websites just as voraciously. Forget TV, I'm always on the couch with either a laptop or a book-so when people want to send me a book to look at, I'm all over it.


Starting from Scratch arrived in my mailbox about a week ago. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one-often, I find that how-to cook books geared to older kids or teens are usually much too simplistic for me and often the food is either cutesy or includes too much processed food for my taste. This one is completely different.

Sarah Elton's book isn't a traditional cookbook packed with recipes, but it is a great jumping off point and resource for anyone who is new to the kitchen. The book is fairly small at about less than 100 pages but is a decent size without being overwhelming. There's a bit of everything; food safety, cooking terms, food ethics, tips on cleaning up and shopping, how to read a recipe, basic tools you'll need, different cultures, the science behind taste and baking, and more. It's like a resource for all things cooking, with even a measurement and conversion table, and a few really good cookbook recommendations tucked in the back.


The true test came when my 18 year old, who never usually reads any of the books I'm sent, saw the book lying on the counter and began reading it. Later he found me in the kitchen and pointed to the book.

"That's a really great book, Mom. I think it's perfect for teens. Actually it would be a fantastic textbook for high schools because it also includes bits about the science of cooking, and a lot of really useful information."

Besides, it's interesting. So interesting that I actually sat on the couch and read it, cover to cover. To inform without being preachy these days really is an art, and Sarah Elton does a very good job of this.

If you have a young cook or an older teen, even a nearly adult child graduating and moving out, this book would be a great gift along with some basic kitchen gear to get them started. I highly recommend it. You'll find the book for about $14 at Chapters.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher. All thoughts are my own.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

Spicy Chicken Almond Stirfry

spicy chicken stirfry 2

I have this huge jar of almond butter sitting in my fridge that I bought at Costco months ago when Kevin expressed an interest in eating the stuff, and sure enough, he's barely made his way through it. Do your kids do that? Do they ask you to buy something, and then there it sits forlornly in your pantry until you have to either eat it yourself, throw it away, or donate it? I'm not that fond of almond butter but with this giant jar I had to find something to do with it.

On a drizzly day I was watching Food Network and watched Rachael Ray make this stir fry. For about a year we've avoided anything containing soy (including soy sauce), but slowly Kevin has been able to re-introduce those things to his diet without an issue. With most of the ingredients already in the cupboard, this looked too good to pass by. The sauce gets it's thickness from the almond butter, and is a nice change from the usual peanut Asian style sauce. It's savory, thick, and you can add a great kick from the added hot sauce.

Sauce:
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
 2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
juice of 1 lime
Sriracha to taste

Stirfry:
1 onion, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
250 g sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 ribs of celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 sweet pepper (red/orange or yellow), sliced
1 hot chile, seeded and minced
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken meat
1/3 cup sliced almonds

In a small saucepan, stir together the almond butter, chicken broth, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice and ginger. Place the pot on the stove on medium low heat and allow to simmer until thickened.

Place the almonds in a dry frypan over medium low heat. Watch carefully and stir occasionally while they toast. Once the start to brown, remove them from the pan and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat some oil in a wok or a large fry pan until the oil is shimmering and hot. Add the onions and saute briefly until softened and transluscent.Stir in the carrots, celery snap peas, sweet pepper and hot pepper. Saute for about 2 minutes and then add the chicken. Give it a good stir and keep it moving to prevent things from burning. Pour some of the sauce over top and stir to coat-you likely won't need all of it, but you'll have enough in case you like lots of sauce. Put any extra sauce in the fridge to put over rice later if you wish.

Serve immediately with steamed rice and topped with the toasted almonds.

Makes 4 generous servings


Adapted from Rachael Ray

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies

hazelnut cookies2

These cookies are amazing. In fact, so amazing that when I stood in the kitchen filling the buttery disks with Nutella, the smell wafting from them was so overpoweringly wonderful that I couldn't help but grab John by the hand and drag him over to the counter.

"Smell," It was more than a command. An invitation, of sorts, More like, please smell these cookies because oh my they make me want to drool all over the counter and I don't think I've ever smelled anything else even remotely as wonderful. 

Hazelnuts are something I've avoided for years. Hayfever morphed into cross reactions years ago and when nuts began giving me an itchy mouth I was advised to avoid them. As a result, the last time I actually ate a hazelnut was about 15 years ago. When we moved to Chilliwack, every time we passed the hazelnut trees down the road I'd gaze wistfully at them, and finally decided that I should just go ahead. In the past few years most of my sensitivities seem to have disappeared, so why not? Besides, my teenager who eats everything would just finish them off.

These buttery, nutty cookies remind me of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. They smell better than anything I've ever baked, and are not difficult to pull off at all.


toasting hazelnuts

In Chilliwack, it's not hard to find hazelnuts. We have some farms right here that grow them. Toasted lightly and whizzed up in a food processor, they help make a really tasty dough.

hazelnut cookies3

Once cooled and filled with Nutella, you can dust the cookies with icing sugar but you don't have to. I like how the sweet of the sugar plays off the rich buttery cookies and the chocolatey filling. If you choose to dust them, put some waxed or parchment paper under the rack to catch the mess so you don't have to clean it off the counter. I only used a little bit of icing sugar, but you can use more if you want.

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 cups of flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
icing sugar, for dusting

Toast the hazelnuts: Heat your oven to 350 F. Place the hazelnuts on a dry rimmed baking sheet and set them on the middle rack of the oven. Watch them carefully, stirring every couple of minutes. They should take about 10 minutes. Many recipes say to skin them, but I left the skins on and thought they were just fine. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, and salt into a food processor. Add the cooled hazelnuts and process, pulsing until finely ground but not until it becomes a paste.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the egg yolks and vanilla, beating until well blended. Add the flour mixture and blend until a dough forms. Dump the dough out onto the counter and gently kneading, bring it together into two disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about an hour.

 Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. I used a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter for the bottoms, and a 3/4 inch cutter to create the small hole in the tops. You can use whatever shapes you like, but these sizes seemed to work best for me. Bake the cookies on parchment paper lined sheets for about 8 minutes or so. Let them sit on the sheets for about 5 minutes longer before transfering to the counter or a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before spreading the bottoms with about 1 tsp of Nutella each. If you choose to dust the top pieces with icing sugar, you can do it before you sandwich them together, but I forgot to do that and dusted them after, which worked out just fine.

Makes about 25 cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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