Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Parent Rap

This is funny stuff. A must-watch for any parent. Force your kids to watch just to annoy them.


THE PARENT RAP




Don't try to tell me you didn't do a pathetic mom/dad dance in your chair.

Monday, September 17, 2012

There's Something In The Water

There must be something in the water in Kitchener.

We moved 3 weeks ago. I thought moving was supposed to be stressful and in some ways, it lived up to my expectations. Getting OUT of our old house was stressful. Moving into our new one? It's been the stuff dreams are made of.

Now, the new house has problems. As of this moment we have 3 entry doors and none of them will close properly and therefore, don't lock. We haven't been out of the house as a family in 3 weeks because someone needs to be at home with our stuff. We've had a clogged toilet, were without hot water for 3 days and are still battling the kitty litter that the last tenant (presumably) poured down the tub drain. The floors are so uneven that I've had to shim every single piece of furniture and every window has a problem, it either opens or closes, but it won't do both.

It's a house of horrors and I didn't even have to visit Niagara Falls.

Despite all this, I am calmer, more relaxed and more organized than I have been in my entire life. Case in point: There are 15 loaves of homemade bread cooling on my counter right now, there is a month's worth of school lunch snacks in the freezer and my blog is up-to-date. All our paperwork is filed, I've applied for college and have had time to volunteer 20+ hours each week.

BUT

While I'd like to think it's just me, becoming the person at home that I've always been at work, I know it's not true. And the reason I know this?

It's affecting my husband, too.

Yesterday, I asked him to pick me up bread flour. He came home with WHOLE WHEAT. Then he SWEPT THE FLOOR. He took the kids over to the neighbour's and LEFT ME ALONE with some FREE TIME and to top it all off... the scariest of them all... HE DID ALL OUR LAUNDRY. Not just his, mine, the kids, EVERYTHING! Granted, he shrunk 2 of my shirts but still... HE DID ALL OUR LAUNDRY.

So the move didn't just affect me. Therefore I blame the Kitchener water. No, actually I THANK the Kitchener water. I'm not sure what's in you, but I'm turning on the tap for more.


Drink up!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Oh, For The Love of Biscuits!



I had to share these filled biscuits with you. We make them with a huge variety of fillings, from scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese to these pizza ones and chilli filled minis for Superbowl parties. 

This is a pretty kick-butt biscuit dough, add 1 Tb raw brown sugar for sweeter uses and replace with fresh herbs, garlic or jalepen├Ás to make it even better for savoury dishes.

Basic Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, white or wheat
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter
3/4-1 cup milk

Blend dry ingredients. Cut in butter in the same manner as pie dough. Pour in 3/4 cup milk and mix quickly without overworking. If it's a damp day you won't need more than 3/4 cup milk. Hot and dry you're likely to use an entire cup or even a touch more.

Fold dough quickly 3 times. Let stand for 15 mins (or even up to overnight in the fridge).

Roll dough to 1/2" thick for plain biscuits or 1/4" for filled ones. Cut into circles or squares big enough to fit a large muffin pan.

 


Pizza Buns: Shredded basil, 1 Tb pizza sauce, 2 slices turkey pepperoni,1 Tb of shredded cheese.
Breakfast: 1/2 slice crumbled bacon, 3 Tb scrambled eggs, 1 tsp shredded cheese.
Breakfast: 1 Tb finely sliced apple, 1 Tb almond butter or preserves.

Or any other combination you can think of. I don't need to list them, you're smart people.


Pull sides of dough up and over and press together. Brush top of bun with milk.

Bake @ 400℉ for 15 mins. Makes 10 filled buns.


My boys like the pizza buns at room temp for lunch and they freeze well. Definitely worth making 3 batches of dough at a time. 




Enjoy.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pancake Perfection


I blogged this recipe over at my Baking The World A Better Place blog in 2011 but I think it deserves a special place over here. Pancake perfection.

I grew up thinking pancakes came from a box, JUST ADD WATER, the box screamed and so we did. As I grew up I realized that box pancakes were better with milk. Then I found out that adding a little baking powder made them better, and then a realization.... why the heck am I not just making homemade pancakes?

Now, while better than box pancakes, a lot of the homemade pancake recipes I was trying were still mediocre and not what I was hoping for. I really wanted thepan-cake... something as tender and fluffy as cake, but made quicker. Then one weekend I stayed with my grandparents and grandpa made us pancakes. Now these were pancakes, and they were closer to my dream pancake than ever before. Recipe in hand, I went home to experiment.

This pancake recipe was one of the first I ever became obsessed with. Hubby and I ate pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So many pancakes that I actually became sick of maple syrup (the horror!).

So here is my pancake recipe, the one that has grazed many restaurant menus and countless church and other charity breakfasts. And this is the first time that I have ever shared it.

1 1/3 c sour milk
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil
1-2 bananas, mashed

2 1/4 c pastry flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt

Sour your milk by adding a good splash of vinegar to it. The longer you let it sit the better your pancakes are, so I let it go for a good 15 mins. Add your eggs, oil and mashed banana.

After your pan is heated with a touch of oil in it, mix your dry ingredients into the sour milk mix. Use a whisk and mix as quickly as you can, the batter will be lumpy and thick.


Now the pastry flour is what makes these incredibly light, but all purpose is okay in a jam. Drop the flour to 2 cups. The mashed fruit makes the pancakes so tender they're almost hard to flip, the kids can cut them with a plastic fork and they literally melt in your mouth. These are no chewing required kind of pancakes.

Enjoy.


*You can omit the banana and substitute applesauce or any other mashed soft fruit. Whole wheat pastry flour will also add a wonderfully nutty flavour to these Saturday morning favourites.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ridiculous!

Everyone but the top executive seems to complain about cost of living increases. Many Ontario families live a day-to-day financial lifestyle and when we take a look at our own governmental resources, it's not hard to see why.


While some provinces have seen an exponential increase in wages between Nov. 2010 - Nov. 2011, Ontarians have seen on average, a 0.5% increase in wages. To make it clearer, a $25,000/year wage earner saw an increase of $1,250/year, or approximately $100/month. Considering how much our cost of gasoline has gone up since I got my first car in 1999 (about $0.55/litre), the wage increase covers about 1/2 of my gasoline costs for the month, and we bike/walk/take transit as much as we can.

Look deeper into the issue and what do we find? Some of our most necessary workers are the ones being hurt the most by poor wage increases in Ontario.

Health care and social assistance workers, public administration have been hit hard, earning less than 2% wage increases. These are the people that run our country. They're the nurses that you complain to when your wait time in the ER has been too long, they are the folks who accept payment for your utility bills and the folks who help the down and out find the right resources to get them back on their feet.

Shockingly, I'm not surprised at the lowest of the low on the no wage increase boat... hospitality workers. Since I have been one myself, I know that cooks and chefs, hotel desk clerks and the like have LONG been living below the national average. For cooks and chefs in particular, and not just restaurant chefs but also those who prepare* food in our hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, people who are constantly under the scrutiny of public health offices, people who are responsible for your safety and well-being in terms of the food you eat, are the most underpaid of all.

Does it surprise you that a cook, who has completed college, completed an apprenticeship and has received their Red Seal trade certification, in a top hotel chain may be making less than $14/hr? The cook in your favourite mass produced chain restaurant is quite likely making under $12/hr and the cook in the fine dining restaurant, the one where you pay upwards of $100 for a meal for two may only be making minimum wage? When I started in the restaurant industry I was (wisely, although I didn't know it yet) advised that "the finer the dining, the lower the pay". Whereas, the untrained food production worker in your local hospital or nursing home, often under union wages, is making $16-$22/hourly, where no skills are required*.

This isn't a rant on the poor wages of hospitality workers (although it could be), it's a rant about pay inequality across Ontario. Do teachers deserve more money? Quite possibly so. I know the work and support teachers give to my own children, I want to see them living in a comfortable zone. Since the average "secretary" is now an Administrative Assistant with numerous more responsibilities, he/she probably deserves more as well. The sad fact is, our government got so caught up in bringing a higher minimum wage to our province (which was an extremely good thing) that they forgot the most basic of our rights, mandating wage increases for all workers to cover the cost of living. My own living expenses have risen by close to 6% this year and sadly, if I was still working in the restaurant industry, I'd be praying for just a few basic extended health benefits, never mind a wage increase of any sort that would help cover my cost of living.

When will Ontarians stand up and realize that our current government is doing nothing to equalize wages? When will we stop fighting wage increases for deserving public employees and start fighting for wage increases for ALL deserving residents? Could you live on $20,500/year? Neither can the person who sold you your $100 yoga pants or the person who cooked the restaurant meal that made you rave for weeks.



*Note: Most of us know that much of the hospital, long term care and other institutional meals served to patients is not prepared onsite. Sadly, much of what is, is simply opened from a can or bag and heated up. I hesitate to call the food preparation workers cooks because it is simply not true. On the brighter side, many of these institutions are experiencing a food revolution of sorts, with people finally realizing that good food is the key to good long term health. Let's hope this revolution continues.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World's Best Granola Bars



Okay, okay I know. Everyone says they make the world's best... something. But I mean it. If you're looking for healthy school snack options or even grown-up snack options I dare you to find a better granola bar recipe.

The secret? It's granola. You don't make these bars with raw oats, you either use a ready-made granola product (I like Rogers brand, inexpensive and delicious) or make your own granola ahead of time. There's a great granola recipe at the fab Christine Reid's photo blog (yeah, she takes incredible pictures, is a runner and cooks too... The kind of girl you could love to hate.)

750 g granola
3 eggs
2 bananas
1 tsp agave nectar (honey or pure maple syrup can substitute)
2 1/2 cups add-ins ~ On the regular I use a mixture of dried blueberries, coconut, dried cranberries, banana chips (crushed), raisins, almonds and mini chocolate chips. Whatever flavour floats your boat.

Mix well. I'm lazy, I like my Kitchen-Aid mixer but it's easy enough to mix by hand.

Press firmly into 2 8x8" pans or 1 half-sheet pan (13x18") and bake at 300 for 25 mins. If desired, spread a thin layer of jam over your granola bars at 20 mins and put back in the oven for the final 5 mins.

Cool and cut into bars. A half-sheet pan makes 48 good sized bars. Put them in the freezer and you've got ready to go snacks at any time.

**NOTE: If you don't have a half-sheet pan, I'd get one. They are by far the kitchen tool I use the most. If you're in the KW area you can get 2 pans for $20 in the flea market section of the St. Jacobs farmers market. A GREAT deal. If not, hit up a restaurant supply store in your town. You'll never use those teeny cookie sheets again. They even fit in most apartment sized stoves.**

Enjoy those granola bars and pop back to tell me if they lasted long enough to make it to your freezer!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Emotionally Moving



I packed everything I owned into boxes. Into those boxes, I packed memories of those I have loved and lost, memories of experiences I can only hope to have again. There were knick knacks and my favourite books, childhood keepsakes and jewelry from lovers scorned. Into a box went dust collectors and photo albums and as I started into the expanse of the truck we had rented, I realized that some of those boxes would never get unpacked. Some of them may move with us another 5 times in my lifetime and I would never open them again and yet, they are just as big of a part of my history as the keepsakes I put on a shelf in a place of honour.

The other realization came after all those boxes had been loaded into the new house and I contemplated the task ahead of me; creating a new home with a new feeling while still keeping the fabric of all our memories intact. I realized that as soon as I cut open the tape on that first box, my new house, freshly cleaned and sparkly, would quickly become a storm of all the baggage we carried with us from the last one.

And as I sit here, surrounded by boxes that I don't want to open for fear of unleashing the storm, I wonder if that's the way I control my emotions.  Am I really that person that enjoys playing tetris and packing all my emotions into neat little boxes and storing them in a deep, dark corner of my mind? Do I really enjoy choosing to ignore the issues rather than unpacking the box that may or may not release a shitstorm that I may or may not be prepared for?

Yep, that's me.

Some of us are packers and other are purgers. I believe our moving style may just in fact reveal to us whether we like to pack it up and keep it for "just in case" or whether we like to purge and just get it all out there, letting the consequences render themselves after the fact.

So tell me, are you a packer or are you a purger?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Here We Go Again...

When my autistic son started school in January 2011 I met a brick wall 3 feet thick. Even though he was fully qualified for all kinds of help the school told me there was no money for special helpers. The best we got was a few visits from the local CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) to determine what kind of help he needed... but even after that, the extra help never materialized.

His second year (and first full year) came with much of the same, "no budget, maybe he can share some time with another student's EA" bullcrap. That year he had several consultations with an Occupational Therapist who gave recommendations but again, never worked with him, despite all the reports detailing how he couldn't even hold a pencil correctly.

For several reasons, we moved this summer. Just last week, in fact.  And this afternoon, I sit rejected again, being told that "budgets for EA's were handed out in the spring... because he's a transfer, we just don't know how much extra we can do for him."

If you know the parent of a special needs child, give them a hug or buy them a coffee this week. Most don't realize the fight that happens every single school year. Most don't realize that we can spend hours a day in meetings and emailing all the right people trying to find the tools that will help our children succeed in school... tools they have a right to have access to and tools that are necessary for them for their eventual success as a human being.

This afternoon, I pray that I have have enough qualifications to keep my boy's head above water until I can win the fight and get him the help he so desperately needs.