Posts for summer

Summertime fun with President’s Choice

I love summer, and when we get weather like we have had this past week- well, it only makes it so much more enjoyable!

We spend a lot of time outside – so it only makes sense that we do a lot of our eating outside too!  Evening BBQs, family get-togethers, picnics and of course, the beach!

The other thing I look forward to is seeing all the summer edition of the President’s Choice Insider’s report.

There are always so many great articles inside as well as recipes, and of course all the great new products they have come with for the summer.  Pick up yours next time you head into the store, or sign up for their insider’s club online so that you can  browse through the archives for more recipes and articles.

As I mentioned, grilling is big  in our house, and I found this great article on all the different types of grilling you can do – love some of these and am going to try them – Direct and Indirect Barbecuing, –(I use indirect for most of my BBQing) Smoking, Brick Cooking, Wood Plank Grilling and Aromatic wood chips.

A great product for  summer grilling- the PC Angus Sliders – Mini-burgers – great as appetizers for small gatherings, or for snacks for the kids!

Take a look at all the great new products that President’s Choice has to offer for the summer – those PC Blue Menu Swirl Smoothies look really good – will have to make a trek down to Loblaws to get some for the w/e.

Summer fun with President's Choice pruducts

Mmmm...look so refreshing! Image courtesy of President's Choice

Oh, perfect timing too – this Sat, July 14th PC is having its Customer Appreciation Day at Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstore Ontario, where you’ll pay NO TAX on almost everything in the store! Some restrictions apply, see in store for details.

Enjoy, maybe I’ll see you there! 😉

Don’t forget, our weekly #summerfood chat on Wednesdays at1pm EST, see you there!

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Summer Garden in Review: What the Heck Happened to My Tomatoes?

Vegetables - Jennifer - September 5, 2011

We only just put in our first vegetable garden last summer because my oldest was participating in a cabbage growing contest through school.  Before then, I had always opted for taking advantage of the bounty of my dad’s summer gardens, without actually putting in any of the labor and care myself.  But when Charlie’s cabbage was verging on busting out of the paper cup it had been occupying, we decided to turn over some of our own earth.

Tom dug up a small 4×6 foot plot, and sunk a thin fence about six inches below the surface to keep out the rabbits, which are legion in our backyard.  We put the cabbage right in the middle, and planted some cukes, green peppers and tomatoes.  Sadly, the cabbage didn’t make it, our cucumber yield was minimal, and we were choking on green peppers and Romas.  So this year, we added more cucumber plants, a different variety of tomatoes, and decided to experiment with some oddities:  celery, peanuts, and stevia.  Here’s the outcome:

As you can see, the cucumbers are prolific this time around.  And that’s fine with us, because they’re the one vegetable that 3/4 of my children will eat.  We can easily put away two per day just by snacking.  I wish I’d paid more careful attention to the varieties we put in because these yellowish ones have a light citrus taste to them, and they’re really good.

We haven’t harvested the celery or peanuts yet, and we’re drying some stevia while we figure out what to do with it.  But the tomatoes?  They’re my favorite, and this year something has gone terribly wrong with them.  As soon as they start to turn red, they develop some kind of blight on the bottom.  We can still eat them as long as we get to them before the blight spreads too far.  But what the heck?


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Wordless Wednesday

Barbeque, Fruit, Wordless Wednesday - Jennifer - August 24, 2011

Okay, One Word Wednesday:  Watermelon

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Summer Potluck-y

Potluck - Jennifer - July 21, 2011

When my oldest was a baby, I joined a moms’ group that met at our local library. I can’t believe that I’ve known most of these women for less than ten years because they are my best buds, and I can barely remember life before them! Anyway, one of the things that binds us so tightly together is our love of food. If we’re not at a restaurant for a “Moms’ Night Out,” then we’re gathering at someone’s house for a potluck, with or without children.

Five years back, in our desperate attempt to find ways to burn daylight with our little kids, we decided to have a weekly traveling summer potluck. We started with seven families, designated Thursday as our day, and made up a schedule. The kids dubbed our weekly gatherings “Thursday Lunch Bunch,” and although some participants have come and gone, the core group has remained together. Here are the rules:

1. The host family provides the main course and the beverages (yes, alcohol is involved, for the mothers, of course).
2. The guest families bring a variety of sides and desserts.
3. The host family is allowed to invite whomever else they want to, which depends greatly on the size of their yard/house and available entertainment options covering a variety of ages. (Our oldest “kid” just turned 18, and the youngest is four, although many of the bigger kids have begun opting out recently. We don’t really care though, because these gatherings are more for us than for them!)

Some of our houses have pools (not mine), and others of us have to get a little more creative, but the general idea is we play outside, unplugged, and old school. Today was the hottest day I can remember in recent Chicago history. I mean it was pure misery, and the host home was one of those pool-less ones. So we broke out the Slip & Slide, and the moms sat with our feet in the wading pool. Then there was a big sidewalk chalk session, where the kids made the longest hopscotch I’ve ever seen. When they got too hot doing that, they kicked the moms out of the baby pool and had a rousing game of “Hot Potato” using an uneaten hot dog for the potato. And of course, there was food. Here’s today’s spread:

It’s pretty modest because we were missing some families and, my God it was so hot no one wanted to cook! (See my “Patrick Mousse” there at the front of the table? No actual “cooking” going on with that one!) But that’s the beauty of a potluck with kids: they’re generally happy with a simple sandwich or a hot dog, and they’d rather graze and wait for dessert anyway. Which leads me to one of the perils of having a regular potluck: we don’t always check in with each other, and sometimes we end up with five fruit dishes or no dessert (which is what happened today, when dessert consisted of popsicles!). But no one ultimately cared because DID I MENTION HOW FREAKIN’ HOT IT WAS? And also because the kids can’t wait for Thursdays, no matter where we end up or what they eat. We’re so lucky!

Keepin’ cool in our fancy pool!

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No Longer a U-Pick Virgin

Fruit, Tasty Travels - Jennifer - July 11, 2011

This post has nothing to do with cherries; it’s not THAT kind of blog! Rather, we went blueberry picking for the first time last week. I’m not a pampered princess, but I’m really a wimp in the extreme heat, and I’ve always taken a pass when someone’s tried to convince me to go before. Since we live very near to the heart of midwestern farm country where the opportunities for fresh produce abound, I finally allowed myself to be talked into a u-pick outing.

We went to Eenigenburg’s Blueberries on the very first day of the season. It wasn’t too hot (mid-80s), and we got an early start since we had to drive about an hour. Our crew consisted of five moms and 14 kids ranging in age from 15 down to 4. Two teenaged girls on bikes provided us with buckets an ropes (for tying around our waists or necks) and led us to the back of the blueberry patch for a tutorial before turning us loose. Here’s what we learned:

1. This particular farm offered 18 different kinds of blueberries, but they were all mixed together, so you would have to look for the kind you preferred.

2. Each bucket would hold between five and six pounds of blueberries, so you could monitor your progress and not go too crazy if you didn’t want tons of fruit.

3. They asked that once we started picking a bush, we continue until all ripe fruit was removed. That would save them from having to come back and finish.

4. We were free to eat while we picked. This was the kids’ favorite part.

So we got to work. Since I wanted to follow the rules, I would sample a berry from a bush before I decided to pick it clean. It’s amazing how many different flavors there were! Don’t ask about varieties, as I can’t tell one from the next. But I did find that generally, the larger the blueberry, the sweeter its flavor, and those are the ones I mostly chose. We like to eat them by the handful and put them on cereal, so I prefer the sweeter berries. The smaller ones tended to be more tart, and I think those are better for pies. Once in a while I tried a berry that had virtually no flavor at all, and I’m not sure what those would be good for. Making dye? I don’t know, I just avoided those bushes.

We picked (and ate) for about an hour before the kids started to get bored and whiny, so we figured that would be a good time for a lunch break. You know how sometimes you picture how a day will turn out, and then something magical happens, and a different scenario unfolds? It’s like one of the best times you’ve ever had, but you can’t plan for it? A perfect convergence of the right place, the right people and the right circumstances? This was one of those days. And of course I forgot my camera, so it will have to live forever in my memory.

The blueberry patch verged right up to the edge of a little forest, so we had a nice shady lane to spread out blankets and lawn chairs. We had thought ahead and brought lunches, and once the kids had a little blood sugar adjustment, everyone was happy. We were back there chilling in the shade for so long that the girls on bikes kept coming back to check on us! When the moms were ready to get back to work, most of the kids opted out and instead started a rousing game of “Ghost in the Blueberry Patch.” They had a blast because there were so many places to hide, almost like being in a maze. The big kids kept an eye on the littler ones, and the moms were free to keep gathering berries while we could hear the laughter all around us. It was a win-win!

In the end, I only took home six pounds of blueberries. Although my “helpers” worked dilligently for that first hour, I think they consumed more than they contributed to our family buckets. But that was fine because we ate them all instead of freezing for a later date. We mostly ate them plain, but we also made smoothies and a couple of no-bake pies (did I mention how hot it is here?).

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The Colors of Summer . . .

Beverages, Desserts, Product Reviews - Jennifer - June 14, 2011

. . . are watermelon, cherry & blue raspberry.

One of the kids got a snow cone machine for a birthday a couple of years ago. We were all happy and excited, and then it was put up on a deep shelf in the mudroom, and no one gave it a second thought. It’s lived there since then, sad and unused.

Until today, that is! With their oldest brother off at summer camp, the little ones have been clamoring to do “special” things. While I was digging out lawn chairs a few days ago, I spotted the lonely ice shaver and pulled it out tonight after dinner for a treat. We have the Back to Basics Dual Ice Shaver.

It works pretty well, but after playing with it a while I figured out a couple of things. First of all, we have an automatic ice maker, so the cubes are those half moon shapes, curved on one side and flat on the other. Since they don’t fit in the shaver nicely, they sometimes jam out of reach of the blades. So I started using the “crushed” option on the ice dispenser. Ours doesn’t crush nicely, just smaller than the cubes, but that helped the ice to settle in more compactly and keep contact with the blades. I also found, when I went back to make seconds, that the ice that had been sitting in there and allowed to melt slightly shaved more quickly and nicely as well.

Now the syrup I had purchased at Target, but I can’t seem to find it through them online, although it’s widely available through other sources like Amazon and We used Back to Basics sugar free flavors. While they don’t show as vividly as the stuff you get at carnivals, they do have a nice flavor and only one calorie per serving, which is why I didn’t mind everyone having seconds. It’s not even particularly hot today, so I’m looking forward to using the ice shaver all summer long. It will be a good way to get fluids into kids who don’t want to stop playing to rehydrate.

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My New Summer Drink: Keep Out of Reach of Children!

Beverages - Jennifer - May 2, 2011

Every year, I co-chair a big fundraiser for my children’s school. It’s a Ladies’ Night Out event with shopping, spa services, games, raffles and food. And what Ladies’ Night Out would be complete without girly drinks? You know, the pink, foufy kind that no self-respecting male would be caught dead drinking? Well this year, I think we outdid ourselves: Bubblegum Martinis. You can’t get much pinker or girlier than a Bubblegum Martini!

I found the recipe here, at A Cozy Kitchen. We liked the way the gum looked in its marinating jars so much that we decided to sell them that way. The secret is in flavoring the vodka with the bubblegum. We soaked the gum overnight, 2 pieces in 2 ounces of vodka in mini-mason jars. When a patron of our martini-bar ordered one, we added four ounces of chilled lemonade (pink, of course) and then handed over a jar and a sugar-rimmed glass. Our Bubblegum Martinis received rave reviews and were actually quite tasty (I did try one). One caveat, though, and it’s a major one: I do not recommend chewing that gum! Oh, and don’t forget to keep out of the reach of passing children . . .

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Taking Breathe, Sleep, and EAT Baseball to a Whole New Level

Barbeque, kitchen gadgets - Jennifer - April 28, 2011

We’ve always been a big baseball family, and if it would EVER stop raining here in the Midwest, we will be out practicing, playing, and viewing several games a week (little league, pick-up, White Sox games, etc.). And since I’m thinking ahead, with Father’s Day coming up, I decided to look into some fun barbeque-style kitchen gadgets for the dads and grandpas out there. has this cute spatula for only $9.99.

They’re a little pricier, but these bottle openers from Uncommon Goods are made out of actual Major League Baseball game-used bats.

For serving condiments and relishes, 17 Circle offers this cute set.

Everything Baseball has all sorts of baseball-themed bar and partyware, but my favorite is this chip & dip set.

In my search for a White Sox cooler, I found this great mini-fridge at the USA Today Sports Store. It holds an entire case of beer and can be plugged into a regular wall socket or a car’s cigarette lighter, so we can put it on the deck during summer cookouts, and take it with us to tailgate parties in the fall.

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Eggs Benedict – perfect any time of the day!

breakfast, Dinner, Non-meat dishes, Recipes - Kayla - February 17, 2009

Eggs Benedict is one of my all time favorite dishes. It’s perfect for any meal and simple to make.

Bring 8 cm (3-inches) of water to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer.
To keep egg whites from sprawling, crack eggs, one at a time, into a small dish, then slip into simmering water.
Cook in barely simmering water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and drain well.

Use the freshest eggs possible for oval shaped poach eggs.
Use cold eggs
The best pan is a shallow saucepan with large surface.
Eggs can be poached in dry white wine, chicken broth or tomato juice for added flavour.

Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandandaise sauce is the icing on the cake sort of speak.

It is not that difficult to make at all if you remember not to let the sauce boil as you are thickening it or let the water in the double boiler boil.

Hollandaise Sauce

2 egg yolks
4 – 8 tablespoons butter, cut or broken into small pieces
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar

Separte the egg whites from the york. Put the egg yolks in a metal bowl. Sit the bowl over a saucepan filled with cold water. Heat the water, beating the egg yolks constantly with a wire whisk. The water in the pan should not boil and the bowl should stay cool enough to hold with your hand.

*Tip save the egg whites for an egg white Omlete.

Continue beating the yolks constantly until they thicken. You will know when the yolks have thickened enough, when you begin to see the bottom of the bowl between strokes and the mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whisk.

Immediately remove the bowl from over the water. Add the butter, in tiny pieces, whisking in each pat and allowing it to melt before adding the next. When you are finished, the mixture should be very smooth and light. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve and stir in the seasonings and lemon juice.

Tip: If the sauce is too thick, thin it a bit with cold water. Keep in a warm place.

Yogurt and Chive Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
150 g Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
pepper to taste

So we have our poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, all we need now is english muffins and some ham slices.

1. Cut english muffin in half.
2. Place one piece of ham on english muffin half.
3. Gently place poached egg on to ham.
4. Pour the hollandaise sauce over the poached egg.

Now we have Eggs Benedict

More Information:

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