Category Archives: Food

A Meal in a Box

Our meals come in a box that is delivered to our door

During the pandemic, my husband Dave decided our menus were getting too mundane. We tended to make the same things all the time. Before the pandemic, we ate out in restaurants a fair bit but now we were eating every meal at home and Dave thought we needed to spice things up…… so he signed us on to receive meals from Hello Fresh.

There are a vast variety of meals available

I have to say it has added lots of variety to our menus and it is kind of nice to have some days when we don’t have to think about what we are going to have for dinner. We get three meals every other week. All the ingredients you need to prepare the meal come in a paper bag and there is a colourful card with instructions about how to prepare the dish in under 30 minutes.

You get a recipe card for each meal with detailed illustrated instructions.

I do worry about all the packaging we throw out with each order- although the box itself is recyclable. But the price is more reasonable than ordering a meal in a restaurant and there is very little food waste because you get exact portions of ingredients. The instructions are easy to follow.

We never quite get the meal to look as lovely as it does on the recipe card. You can see the comparison in the photos above for the dish I made last night. But it was tasty.

Dave and I take turns preparing the Hello Fresh dishes and I have to admit they have made meal planning and preparation easier. Now that we are both back to our regular work and volunteer and leisure activities in the community it’s nice to have Hello Fresh on hand after we get home from a busy day.

Have any of my blog readers tried a similar service? What do you think?

Other posts………..

Dinner on a Board- The Ultimate Food Experience

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

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Don’t Be A Snob

My husband Dave with our wine tour guide Robert

“Don’t be a wine snob!” When Dave and I visited New Zealand we took a wine tour in Hawkes Bay with a zany and enthusiastic guide named Robert. He emphasized throughout our tour that everyone has individual tastes and personal preferences when it comes to wine. What one person thinks is a great wine another person might not like at all. Only wine snobs think they can definitively choose the best wines.

“What does this wine taste like?”

At one winery we visited on our tour the vintner asked us to describe the taste of their best selling wine. Interestingly different people on our tour said they tasted very different things. A woman from England said it tasted like rose petals. A man from Australia compared the wine to Turkish Delight candy. My husband thought it tasted like tomatoes. A woman from Finland said it reminded her of asparagus. The vintner said we all have certain taste memories stored in our brains. Different wines trigger different memories for us. That’s why different people drinking the same wine each taste something unique.

Everyone in our group tasted something different in the wine.

Robert our guide said there is nothing worse than a wine snob someone who thinks they have some kind of special advantage or knowledge that makes them an expert on what kind of wine is a good wine.  He said we all have our own personal tastes and preferences, and our own ideas about what good wine is and that’s just fine. He urged us not to be wine snobs but expand our palette by trying all kinds of wines and continually adding to our list of personal favourites.

I think Robert’s advice can apply to many other things like art and film and literature and food and theatre and music. Don’t be a snob.

Other posts…………

A Fascinating Conversation in a Tiny Wine Shop in Lisbon

Snake Wine

Music Snobs

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Filed under Food, New Zealand

A Post About Beer For Emily

Our last afternoon in Vancouver, Dave was browsing in a wine and spirits store and struck up a conversation with a young clerk named Emily.

He told her he was the president of a beer club in Winnipeg and was on his way to Victoria on the ferry. Emily said he absolutely needed to check out the Phillips Brewery there. According to Emily, they brewed the best beer on the island.

Dave promised to follow up on her recommendation and gave Emily the web address for this blog telling her she should keep checking it over the next few days because his wife would write a story about his visit to the Phillips Brewery in Victoria and mention her name.

I had already written a post about Dave doing research for his beer club on our trip and I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another one. “But I promised Emily,” Dave insisted. So I agreed to document our visit to Victoria’s Phillips Brewery.

Dave was fortunate to have some help as he researched the beer at Phillips. My brother-in-law Harvey offered his services as did my brother Ken.

I was glad Dave had so much beer tasting assistance because that made it possible for me to try a gin and tonic with a gin called Discovery and cucumber mint tonic.

The three gentlemen in our party each ordered a flight of four different beers and set to work, tasting all the samples and evaluating them.

Dave decided after sipping his first beer that they would need something to cleanse their palette in between the various samples so he went up to the counter to order a pretzel.

Dave and Ken look over the lists of beers they have ordered.

The beers on tap had such interesting names. Implosion, Phoenix, Glitter Bomb, and Little Wonder.

Serious discussions occurred about the comparative tastes of Tiger Shark beer with its hints of passion fruit versus the peach and pine flavors of the One and Done beer.

Did the peaty crispness of the Robert Service beer live up to the greatness of the famous Canadian poet it was named for? Did the Space Goat beer try to deceive you with its orange and melon aroma while actually having a more oaty taste?

Which was the best beer? The Electric Unicorn with its banana, coriander, and mango flavors or the grapefruit and pine notes in Hop Circle?

After a lengthy discussion, Dave declared Hop Circle the best beer.

Dave takes his work as a beer club leader seriously and I am sure he will do more research during the last half of our trip so he can give a comprehensive report on the British Columbia brewery scene to his beer club in Winnipeg but…….. this will be my last post about beer.

Hope you saw it, Emily!!

Other posts……….

My Family At Work

Celebrating My Siblings

Wine Canyon

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Filed under Food, Western Canada Travels

Dinner on A Board-The Ultimate Food Experience

We were lucky in Canmore to be staying at the home of our niece Olivia and her fiancé Miche who are both professional chefs. On our last night there Miche made us a five-star dinner. He had marinated a marvelous cote du boeuf or tomahawk ribeye steak and all the vegetables for hours ahead of time. Then he grilled everything perfectly on the barbeque. I took photos as he and my niece artfully arranged everything on a huge wooden board.

Miche starts by finding the perfect places for the baked potatoes, pickled onions, grilled cucumbers, sausages, and green and red peppers on the board.

Next, the signature bone from the steak is placed at the center of the board.

Olivia adds the Brussel sprouts prepared with bits of crunchy bacon.

Miche carefully carves the steak into pieces. I mean it when I say that meat literally melted in your mouth.

Now the steak is carefully arranged on the board along with grilled onion rounds, spicy marinated cherry tomatoes, and braised lemons.

For a final touch, arugula is added as a colorful accent.

There is guacamole made from scratch, a special cream sauce, and more lemons to squeeze over our plates.

Doesn’t that look too beautiful to eat?

Miche was the consummate host making sure all the guests had been served.

Here is my plate. It was a wondrous meal. I tried to eat as slowly as I could to savor every bite.

There wasn’t much left on that board at the end of the meal a testament to the wonderful, masterfully prepared food it had contained.

Thanks, Miche and Olivia for being such wonderful hosts and treating us to a meal of a lifetime.

Other posts……..

Making Chinese Dumplings

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

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Dave Does Research For His Beer Club

Dave took this photo of Oliva, Archer and me as we set off with him to explore a local Canmore brewery

As many of my readers know my husband Dave is the founder and as he puts it “spiritual leader” of a beer club in Winnipeg. The group of ten or so gentlemen meet at different Winnipeg establishments a couple of times a month to evaluate the city’s various breweries and watering holes. So it was only natural that on a walk to explore the small but unique business district of Canmore Dave would feel it was his duty to check out the local brewery so he could report back to his club members at a future meeting.

We meandered down the main street of Canmore towards the brewery.

I explored a couple of art galleries, shops and historical sites while Dave and our niece Olivia had coffee and cookies.

Finally, we reached the Canmore Brewing Company.

Olivia our niece stayed out on the patio with Archer. The Canmore Brewing Company patio is pet friendly and even provides bowls of water for dogs at the end of each table. Dave and I went inside to explore the brewery but only after the proprietor had checked our vaccination cards.

As befits a researcher as serious as Dave he had a long talk with the staff about the various kinds of beer on tap.

To help with Dave’s research he and Oliva and I all tried a different kind of beer.

As you can see the discussion about who had picked the better brew got fairly serious.

When one of our niece’s friends joined us it may have been necessary to order a second glass of a different kind of beer just for research purposes of course.

I think Dave will have plenty of material to give an excellent report to his beer club when he returns to Winnipeg.

Other posts……..

Beer, Baseball and Literature

I Drank A Beer In Austria

Beer and Pretzels in Bamberg

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Filed under Food, Western Canada Travels

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandmother

My grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters made wonderful chicken noodle soup. It was the stuff of legends. My father has told me stories about how Grandma would make chicken noodle soup for people in their Mennonite village of Gnadenthal who were sick or had experienced some family tragedy. If it was winter Dad would deliver the soup for his mother using a little sled pulled by his dog Rover.

My grandmother’s five daughters pose in the kind of outfit their mother would have worn when cooking chicken noodle soup

How did my Grandma make her famous chicken noodle soup? About five years ago I decided I wanted to get a more definitive answer to that question. Since Grandma had already passed away I e-mailed her five daughters for information and they responded enthusiastically.

To make her chicken noodle soup Grandma only used hens well past the egg laying stage. Their heads were chopped off on a chopping block. Next the feathers were plucked after which the hairs on the chicken were singed in an alcohol flame. It was a matter of some skill to divest the chicken of its innards. Entrails were fed to the barn cats as a treat. The chicken was cooked in a large pot of boiling water along with peppercorns, star anise, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves and large bunches of parsley tied together with thread.

Grandma made her own noodles drying them on a laundry rack and saving the water in which she boiled them to starch my Grandpa’s shirts. She got flour for her noodles by bringing wheat from their farm to the mill for grinding. The eggs for the noodles came from her chickens and the milk and butter from the family cows. Sometimes Grandma would devote an entire day to making noodles so she would have a ready supply for many months.

According to my aunts my Grandma did not have a written recipe for her soup. She kept sampling it while it was cooking and adding things until it tasted right. The women of the village of Gnadenthal all made chicken noodle soup for new mothers. After a baby was born a family received many jars of soup. In this way the women of the village showed solidarity and support to the new mother so she didn’t have to cook too much while she was regaining her strength.

One of my aunts remembers routinely having a bowl of chicken noodle soup as a ‘night cap’ with her father after evening church services. Another aunt recalls my grandmother telling her stories while she stirred her chicken noodle soup.

Giving noodles as a gift was also a holiday tradition. Till she moved to a nursing home my grandmother continued to regularly receive noodles as a gift from a niece she helped to raise after her mother died in childbirth, and from a cousin she and my grandfather sponsored to come to Canada after World War II.

Grandma with her great grandson

Grandma brought me a jar of her chicken noodle soup when she came to meet my older son just after he was born. He was her first great grandchild.

Grandma’s chicken noodle soup was a favourite of my younger son’s and once when he was about five and we were making the 90 minute drive to Grandma’s home for a visit he wrote and illustrated a story about how his great grandmother made her special soup. In his story he gave the soup certain magical qualities.

I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that her soup may have been magical.

Other posts……..

Grandma Gets a Perm

Family Tragedy- Thawing the Ground for Burial

A Mennonite on the Titanic

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The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

Cookbook on display at the Nanaimo Museum

Legend has it that in the 1930s the women of Nanaimo British Columbia started putting a sweet chocolate square in the lunch buckets of their miner husbands. The recipe for the square first appeared in the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Women’s Auxilary Cookbook under the title Chocolate Square. In 1953 the recipe was reprinted in Vancouver’s Edith Adams Cookbook and named Nanaimo Bars.

I did a little digging into the history of the Nanaimo Bar because it is currently at the heart of a social media controversy. It started when the New York Times put the above post on Instagram. It created a great hue and cry from Canadians who said the AMERICAN newspaper had falsely represented the dessert which a 2006 National Post poll had found to be CANADA’S favourite confection. The New York Times kitchen had made the base of the Nanaimo Bar too thick. The chocolate icing should not have been rippled but according to some Canadian critics “smooth as newly Zambonied ice.”

My Nanaimo bars on a plate I inherited from my grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt

I didn’t think I had ever made Nanaimo bars before, so after reading about the controversy I decided to try. I used the recipe of fellow children’s writer and popular Winnipeg food blogger Harriet Zaidman. I think my bars turned out pretty well thanks to Harriet’s great photos and instructions. My husband said he could tell they were made with love.

Canada stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar

I have learned some cool facts about Nanaimo bars………

  • They served Nanaimo bars for dessert at the White House the night Michelle and Barack Obama hosted Justin and Sophie Trudeau at a state dinner in 2016.
  • The city of Nanaimo’s mascot is a walking Nanaimo bar named Nanaimo Barney.
  • On an episode of Master Chef Canada contestants had to make a dish inspired by Nanaimo bars.
  • In 2019 Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar
  • Different locations in and around Nanaimo serve maple bacon, peanut butter and deep-fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar spring rolls, Nanaimo bar waffles and cheesecake and Nanaimo bar coffee and cocktails.
  • Nanaimo bars were a huge hit at Expo 86 in Vancouver and are a popular sales item on BC ferries.
  • Nanaimo bars have their own entry in the Oxford Dictionary

Other posts…….

More Than A Cake- It’s a Memory

Chocolate is Essential

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

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Filed under Canada, Culture, Food

Chocolate Is Essential

I needed some little chocolate treats for stocking stuffers and thought I might go into the Shoppers Drug Mart near my home to pick them up. I had been there about ten days before to mail a package at their Canada Post kiosk and knew many shelves in the store were now covered with yellow warning tape because those items weren’t considered essential by the government and therefore could no longer be sold.

I wondered if the non-essential items included chocolate. I wasn’t going to walk to the store on icy sidewalks or take the risk of going inside unless I was sure I could actually buy chocolate there. So I phoned the store information line to find out.

“Do you still sell Christmas candy and chocolate?” I inquired. “Absolutely!” the customer service representative assured me. “Chocolate is ESSENTIAL food!” she said.  Then she laughed. “Especially at Christmas!” And I thought I could add “And especially during a pandemic.”

Pears drizzled with chocolate we enjoyed on a food tour in Toronto

With my friends taking a course about chocolate called Chocogasm in McNally Robinson Booksellers community classroom

Chocolate and churros I photographed in Madrid

With Beatriz a fellow grandmother and teacher who gave us a tour of her family chocolate factory in Merida Mexico

We watched this woman and her daughter making chocolate in Bali

Chocolate has seen me through many trying times in my life. When I was still teaching chocolate was essential to completing all my report cards. Chocolate has been essential in pulling me out of many a funky mood. It’s sustained me during prolonged periods of writer’s block. It’s been an essential and perfect end to many a meal.

And chocolate is once again helping me get through our current trying times. I baked a chocolate mahogany chiffon cake last Sunday. I got the recipe from friends who dropped off two pieces one night for us to enjoy during our zoom call with them. Although my cake didn’t look as good as theirs it tasted great! We shared it with our son and his wife when we left supper on their porch for them on Sunday and they gave it a very positive review.

The COVID-19 pandemic is helping us to think about what is essential and what is not. In my books, chocolate is definitely ESSENTIAL!

 

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Food

Authors Who Bake

Harriet Zaidman was our knowledgeable bread baking guide

Yesterday I was part of a group of children’s authors who met on Zoom to learn how to bake bread from Harriet Zaidman. Harriet is the author of several picture books as well as the middle-grade novel City on Strike recently nominated for the 2020 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Harriet shares her recipes and her culinary expertise on her blog North End Nosh.

Pretty excited about how my loaf of artisan bread turned out

I had never baked bread before and neither had several of the other authors in our group. But under Harriet’s expert guidance we all managed to produce three kinds of delicious bread before our baking session was over.

My challah bread. Harriet taught us how to braid it step by step.

We baked artisan bread first, then plain white bread and finally, we learned how to make challah a bread whose name comes from the Hebrew language. We needed a little help from Harriet to learn how to pronounce “challah” just right.

Our baking group showing off our loaves of artisan bread.

Our group included Anita Daher whose fourteenth novel You Don’t Have to Die in the End was recently nominated for the 2021 White Pine award, Gabriele Goldstone author of Red Stone and Broken Stone who has a new novel coming out with Ronsdale Press in 2021, Pat Trottier whose book Relationships Make the Difference was published by Pembroke and award-winning author Colleen Nelson who has a long list of books to her credit including this year’s Teaching Mrs Muddle and Harvey Holds His Own both from Pajama Press.

My white bread had a bit of an unusual shape but my husband Dave said it was delicious!

As we baked we chatted about our current works in progress, the state of the publishing world during a pandemic and events in our personal lives. Colleen interrupted our conversation at one point to announce the final results of the American election and that of course generated lots of discussion.

It was a great day and in the end, a group of children’s authors had become a group of accomplished bakers. Thanks so much, Harriet!

Other posts…………

Sadia- A Muslim Girl From Winnipeg

Red Stone

You Don’t Have to Die in the End

 

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Filed under Food, Writing

Lessons Waiting Tables

In the early 1970s,  during my university days, I was a waitress at two Winnipeg restaurants and I learned so much from those experiences.
the paddock restaurantI was a waitress at The Paddock across from Polo Park and at the A&W Coffeeshop.  I often think about those waitressing jobs because they taught me lots of important lessons. 

A and W Coffeeshop Portage AvenueI learned to work quickly and efficiently at a whole variety of tasks, especially at the A&W Coffeeshop where they really didn’t have enough staff and I was run off my feet.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I had to keep ketchup bottles filled, take orders, total up bills, clean the bathroom, make milkshakes and floats, clear tables, cut and plate pieces of pie and cake, fill drink orders, keep my eye on the kitchen for when my orders were up, make sure customers didn’t leave without paying, work the cash register, wash the floors and wipe down the booths.  These lessons in working quickly and efficiently paid off big time in my teaching, writing and homemaking careers. 

As a waitress, I learned to keep a smile on my face at all times and exhibit extreme patience.  I knew my tips depended on me having a friendly demeanour and not looking upset when people took a long time deciding what they wanted or made negative comments to me.  This skill came in very handy when I would be doing parent-teacher interviews at school and I needed to keep a smile on my face as I spoke with one set of parents after another for hours on end. Patience came in mighty handy as a parent and a wife and a classroom teacher. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I learned lots of other things waiting tables too.  Like how important it was to get to know your boss and do the things that keep them satisfied with your work.  To be tough and accept criticism. To ward off inappropriate comments and actions from male customers.  To take responsibility even when something isn’t your fault and to act like you have things under control even when you don’t. I learned to relate to all kinds of people. 

And…………… I gained a real appreciation for folks who work in the hospitality industry. This means I ALWAYS leave a tip.  I try very hard not to complain and do my best to be friendly and kind to anyone who serves me.  

Those waitressing jobs fifty years ago played an important role in my life.  They weren’t easy jobs but they sure taught me plenty!

Other posts…………

I’m The Menu

The Paddock Restaurant

Eating With The Stars

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Filed under Food, Restaurants