Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Checking in with Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Any happy marriage between blogging bliss and family vacation is just wishful thinking as far as I'm concerned. Here I am with several memory cards full of dreamy pictures, a slight wine buzz and a happy, full belly wondering where the heck to begin recounting the adventures. I probably should have kept up with the events a little better but the days are seriously packed from the first motion of eight feet in footie PJ's (my 2 boys plus my brother's daughter and son) in the morning, to the draining of the last gin and tonics at night (by the adults). Even after things have settled down, I'm too dead-tired from the day's activities --OK, like canoeing, walking, swimming, cooking, playing and/or mothering -- to bring you anything worth your time. Even a meagre 140 character Tweet is a stretch for me on the average night when my brain is fried from too much sun and not enough water.

Hey, even if I had managed to recount our disappointing elk burger experience or that super sexy lunch of spot prawns with Mojo sauce, I've been unplugged for most of the trip and henceforth reasonably excused from any blogging responsibilities.

So there!

Yep, we're having a great time.

If I had a sponsor for this trip, it would undoubtedly be a coffee brand, because coffee is the drug fueling me from the five AM wake-ups on the camping trips to the late-night Puerto Rico games. Oddly enough, Smithers and the surrounding areas of British Columbia are experiencing a serious heat wave, and it's crucial to keep a cold drink close at hand at all times. As coffee is essential to keeping up with 2 three-year-olds, 2 one-year-olds, and my hyper brother Josh, these days it is much preferred in it's cold state with a splash of whole milk than it is enjoyed blazing hot with cream.
Fortunately Julie's recent post enlightened me to the beauty of cold brewed coffee and its benefits.

Talk about someone who knows how to marry business with pleasure; Julie managed to blog and work on her vacation despite having the nearby Tofino beaches calling her away. Thank goodness she did, because this version of iced coffee made me a happy camper - literally! We took a jar of it on out two-day camping excursion and lives were saved because of it.

Check out Julie's post for the recipe and the rest of the details, and hey, speaking of Dinner with Julie, I'll be having dinner with her on Friday! The lovely Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet is graciously hosting Julie and I plus our families this weekend in Calgary. I'm SO excited to chew the fat with these fellow mama food bloggers and tickled that this meeting fit in with our return itinerary.

Expect a full report when I return home, plus about a thousand vacation pictures. Oh yeah, I'm going there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Returning to Wild Strawberries

My first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains from my seat at 35,000 feet always evokes deep emotion. It's a feeling of renewed wonder, childlike excitement, and a sense of homecoming so strong I have to duck my head to hide my tears. This quickening of my pulse and butterflies in my stomach almost make up for the last five hours of Mateo using my face as a motorcross course, my thighs as a trampoline, and my clothes as sponges for juice. It's been a long flight and I am returning to my hometown in Northern British Columbia.

The Bulkley Valley is nestled between three major mountain ranges, has several rivers that divide the rolling farmland, and boasts clear blue, glacial-fed lakes. I could write a whole travel brochure on how picturesque it is and still never do it justice; however, I have traveled a lot and declare this some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever known.

My parents property is a magical, overgrown 23 acres tucked under the shadow of a huge mountain and near a private lake. The setting effortlessly encourages a reversion back to childhood; for who wants to do grown-up things when one can chase ducks, climb trees, catch minnows, gather flowers and pick berries?

Ah, the berries.

I had barely dropped my suitcase on the front porch before I was out in the hillsides, on hands and knees, picking wild strawberries. They were everywhere and they were big. The first taste brought back so many memories of being a little girl, when I would pick handful after handful and eat them all myself, my hands stained with the juice.

Wild strawberries can hardly be compared with domestic. They are intensely sweet, powerfully fragrant and so juicy it requires a delicate hand to gather them. They are probably among my top five favorite things to eat ever, and it's rare that I get a chance to eat a whole bowl of them.

So I had two.

There was even enough left over for Noah's cereal in the morning. How decadent!

We're off to a great start here in beautiful B.C.

Note: Excerps from this post were previously published on July 12, 2007

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Journeying Back Home

Hudson Bay Mountain

Hey, we're on vacation!! Our suitcases are stuffed, the fridge is bare, and I've got enough snacks packed to stock a daycare; today we fly and return to my hometown...

I always find it hard to answer when people ask where I'm from.
Well, I was born in Winnipeg, the place where my parents hooked up after art school and started making babies, but when I was very young we moved to the Yukon Territories. I spent my childhood there learning important life skills such as riding a bike, milking goats and long division. Then when I was twelve our family moved to beautiful British Columbia and it was in this mountainous province that I had my first kiss, got my first job and became independent from my parents; so yeah, you could say I grew up there.
Now that I've lived in Quebec for ten years, I feel like this is my home, although a part of me still remains in the mountains and valleys of BC and it always an emotional return. In a way, it will always be home because my loved ones are there.

Most of my family still live in rural British Columbia and we're so excited to be visiting everyone for a few weeks. Not quite as exciting is the prospect of flying with two children under four, nor the long driving stretch after said flight, but we are determined to enjoy the journey, not just the destination!!

Danny really wants to catch a salmon and Noah wants to ride on a boat; there's talk of camping, canoeing, and crabbing. Whatever happens, I'll be happy collecting duck eggs from my mother's Khaki Cambells, picking berries, and soaking in the mountain views.

I hope to pop in on Under the High Chair from time to time, but will also be posting regular updates via Twitter, so if you aren't following me yet, now is a good time to start.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake

Danny celebrates his birthday on July 1st, which is Canada Day. He has always liked having his birthday on that particular National holiday as there is sure to be a party or an event happening, but I feel that as a result of all the festivities, his birthday tends to take a backseat. Usually there's some sort of brunch, then a mad dash downtown to stake a spot on the sidewalk for the parade. This is generally followed by an ice cream outing and an afternoon poolside with friends and family. If we can muster up any energy after that, we'll catch an open air concert in the evening and some fireworks in Montreal's Old Port. Not much time in there to bake a cake, you'll notice, so this year I was happy the birthday boy requested something simple.

A wonderful recipe from bon appétit, this Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake was just the kind of simple recipe we needed to quickly put together after a long day. It was so easy, Noah did most of the work, relishing in the thought that he was creating his daddy's birthday cake. Fireworks were going off in the distance as we ate the cake warm from the oven and the candles melted into it, but it was so good, no one minded; definitely worth missing fireworks for.

With a cake like this, the person of honour is bound to feel special, as I know Danny did, no matter how many other things are going on. Greek-style yogurt keeps it very moist, and a decadent vein of brown sugar-pecan streusel running through the center makes it hard to eat just one piece.

Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake
Bon Appetit magazine
Serves 9



2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

2/3 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

1/2 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped


2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup whole-milk or reduced-fat (2%) plain Greek-style yogurt*

*A thick yogurt; sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Greek markets. If unavailable, spoon regular yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to drain.


Combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter; toss with fork to blend. Using fingertips, rub mixture together until small clumps form. Mix in pecans. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.


Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Butter 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add half of flour mixture; beat just until blended. Add yogurt; beat just until blended. Beat in remaining flour mixture just until blended.

Spoon half of batter into prepared baking pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle half of streusel evenly over batter. Spoon remaining batter in dollops over streusel, then spread evenly over with offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining streusel evenly over top.

Bake cake until streusel topping is brown and tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes.
Cut into squares and serve slightly warm or at room temperature

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Take a Break in the Townships

I wasn't going to bore you with any more details of our little weekend getaway in Quebec's Eastern Townships, but since people have been emailing and asking where we stayed and so on, I decided rather than answer everyone individually, it would be easier to post a recap with recommend links. It was a short and sweet trip and the details are well worth sharing.

You can start with La Route des Vins, a site highlighting agrotourism and wineries in the area; it also provides maps and information on the wine route. Although the route is a stunning drive along hilly country roads dotted with charming farms, I won't be passing along any praise for the two wineries we visited. Granted, I'm no wine expert, but I am a wine-lover and I could barely swallow some of the schlock we were offered in tastings. Some of it was shockingly bad--and the plastic cups they served it in didn't help. I can't drink wine out of plastic, I'm sorry.

I felt guilty about slipping into an SAQ in Magog to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, but what's a girl going to do? I felt even worse when our waitress eyed our bottle of Australian wine as if to say 'don't you know you're sitting in the middle of Quebec wine country'?

Photo by nissanman2009

The town of North Hatley -and our final destination that day- is just too sweet for words. Perched on the banks of beautiful Lake Massawippi, it has the best kind of small-town feel about it and boasts the best junk/antique shop I've ever seen.

We chose to dine at the Auberge le Coeur d'Or, which we enjoyed, although in hindsight, most of the enjoyment was probably due to the facts that a) we were dining in a civilized fashion without the kids and b) we were sharing the aforementioned bottle of vino.
While the setting was quaint, charming and romantic, the food was rather dismal; it boasted that it offered local ingredients but didn't quite deliver in their preparation. I mean, asparagus soup should be a sensual experience, not a pool of gray matter that reeks of celery. Perhaps the chef waved a bundle of asparagus over the pot while the soup was cooking, but if that was a chilled asparagus soup, I'll eat my umbrella. Five years ago I might have complained to the waitress that Danny's duck was over cooked and my rabbit was so dry it hurt to swallow, but who am I kidding? I was unplugged, sitting across from my sweetie, a hundred kilometers from home, I was HAaaaaappy.

Stuffed from our four-course meal at Auberge le Coeur d'Or, we decided on a post-dinner stroll and ended up watching the twinkling lights of boats from the end of the town pier. Ve.RY. Romantic.

I would heartily recommend our B&B, Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots) with it's wrap around veranda, private beach and close proximity to the center of town. The hostess was very friendly and gracious, and if there's anyone who loves cats more than her, I'd be surprised.
Served in the attached gazebo, the three-course breakfast was a plentiful, tasty, and piping hot--what more could you as for? Coffee? Yep, latte for her, espresso for him, served in the sweetest of kitty cups.

Although we were stuffed from breakfast, we stopped to check out the farmer's market on our way back to Hwy 10. Located on School Street in North Hatley, it's open from 10-12 on Saturdays and offers a bounty of lovely local produce, baking and flowers. I consider myself a bit of an expert on farmer's markets and this one had it all, save the hippy/bluegrass band playing in the center of the square.

These sisters didn't look thrilled that I was buying their strawberries, or perhaps they had someplace else they would rather have been that Saturday morning, but we enjoyed the berries nevertheless and they filled our car with their warm berry fragrance all the way back to Montréal.

Wait! There's one last thing! I have to say a HUGE thank you to my mother-in-law, Dorothy, who made this all possible by taking the babies overnight, and thanks also to my mum, who bought us the B&B gift certificate in the first place and forced us to get away.

In conclusion, I admit I used to think the whole overnight getaway for couples was overrated, but there's a lot to be said for sleeping between sheets that have never been repeatedly assaulted by baby vomit or leaking breast milk.

We returned home starry-eyed.

Take a break in the Townships soon, you deserve it!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Cornmeal Red Currant Pancakes with Red Currant Syrup

As I've mentioned before, things tend to get a little nutso during the summer months; however, I find that as long as we maintain a few constants from day to day, we get through the crazies just fine and enjoy each day to it's full potential.

It shouldn't surprise you that pancakes are one of those constants. I declared them good mothering material long ago, disguised them as baby food, and dressed them up as dessert; yep, we are pancake aficionados around here. We like them so much, I've even considered devoting another blog entirely to pancakes, but I'd rather spend my time flipping them and eating them alongside my boys.

This last batch of pancakes was inspired from an outing to my friend Jamie's red currant patch. She graciously invited me to come raid her backyard/Garden of Eden, which I was happy to do. Her bushes was laden with ripe berries and I picked about ten pints in under an hour. I have to say, I'm pretty happy in a berry patch; I'd rather be getting my hands stained and my back sore than watching TV or getting a manicure (like that ever happens). I picked a lot of berries as a kid, so guess it brings back fond memories.
The best part though?Jamie offered me one of her red currant bushes, so next year I'll have my own stash. Sweeet. Thanks, Jamie!

That evening after berry picking, I stewed up some of the crimson red currants with a splash of red wine and spices to make a killer syrup. The next morning the only logical route was pancakes, ideal Saturday morning fare.

We were scheduled to go out for a brunch later, but anyone with young children knows that brunch is usually lunch, and we needed something to tide us over until then. Fortunately I had spotted a recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes in Martha Stewart Living (June 2009 issue) and they proved to be the perfect platform for my red currants.

The tart red currant sauce from the night before was just exquisite with the cornmeal pancakes. There's no way this is getting past your palate unnoticed, no matter how groggy you are or how engrossing the comics are; a real sit-up-and-take-notice breakfast!

We're crazy about anything with cornmeal or polenta and these pancakes are a keeper. The cornmeal gave them a lovely texture and rescued them from being too pasty, as I find some buttermilk pancakes tend to be.
Of course you can substitute whatever berries you happen to have on hand, or none at all.

Later that afternoon upon returning from brunch, I found myself with a couple of quiet hours while the babies napped, and I turned the rest of the red currants into nine jars of ruby red jelly. It was my first canning of the season. Hurray!

Cornmeal Red Currant Pancakes

adapted from Martha Stewart's Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes (MSL June 2009)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar, divided in half

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp. coarse salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup fresh red currants

Red Currant Syrup
(recipe below)

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter and egg.

Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (mixture will be lumpy).

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for keeping pancakes warm). Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Toss red currants with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Brush griddle with melted butter.

Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Sprinkle with sugared berries, about 2 tablespoons per pancake. Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes (bubbles won't appear as with traditional pancakes). Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and currants, adding more butter to griddle and keeping prepared pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven.

Serve with Ruby-Red Currant Syrup

I can see myself stewing up another big batch of this tangy sauce and serving it with roast pork or turkey, or just dousing a bowl of vanilla ice cream. It's superb.

Ruby-Red Currant Syrup

2 cups red currants, rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine (0r water)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon OR 1 whole star anise

Combine everything in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat ad simmer gently for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Berries will disintegrate and mixture should reduce and thicken slightly.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve.
Cool slightly and serve with pancakes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Quite Possibly the Last Dessert Post You'll Bookmark this Summer

Writing over at Simple Mom yesterday, I shared my latest sweet tooth trend with Crisp or Crumble? Baked Summer Desserts Defined. There has been an absolute line-up of simple baked fresh fruit desserts coming out of my kitchen since early June and there is no sign of them easing up anytime soon. Thank goodness for that because I think that cobblers, cakes and crisps are about the best way to showcase summer's bounty with minimal effort.

So jump on over to read the post for yourself and be tempted by the dozen or so recipe links that I highly recommend.

It just may be the last sweet post you'll need to bookmark for the rest of the summer!


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