Category Archives: Canada

Friendship Cookies and Good Bye Tears

Sometimes there are things that I want to write about, but the moment is a bit too close at hand.  I started to write this post last August after a dear friend from Pella and her family visited us for a couple of days in the middle of their epic road trip from Iowa to British Columbia and then back down to the Oregon coast.

Dinner on the Deck

Dinner on the Deck

Visiting the fairy doors at Neck Point.

Visiting the fairy doors at Neck Point.

We’ve done a lot of moving around, Dave and I.  From various apartments in upstate New York during graduate school through our impromptu academic tour of the American Midwest and now to Vancouver Island.  Most of these “homes” have not lasted for more than two years before we move again following the job market.  In each of these places we have been blessed with some amazing friends.  The kind who we may not see for a year (or more), but the minute you are back in contact it’s as if you were never apart.  Conversations pick up as if we had just been chatting yesterday, and it is this effortlessness that makes it all the more gut wrenching when you have to leave them again.

Learning to skip stones at Neck Point.

Learning to skip stones at Neck Point.

Also checking out the gorgeous sea life in the shallow waters.  Can you see all the tiny crabs?

Also checking out the gorgeous sea life in the shallow waters. Can you see all the tiny crabs?

Sailing cork boats at Transfer Beach, Ladysmith.

Sailing cork boats at Transfer Beach, Ladysmith.

Which brings us back to the post that I started last August.  Little Man still talks about Iowa as a place that he wants to go back and visit.  In fact, he consistently talks about how “tomorrow” we need to catch a plane and go to Iowa then to China to visit his Kung Fu Panda friends.  At first I thought he assumed that all travel must go through Iowa since that is the last place that he traveled from on our move here.  So we pulled out the globe and his map and I showed him how Iowa is in no way closer to China than we are here.  Then Little Man explained to me that the goal was to visit Iowa and his blue home (our house there was painted blue with a scarlet front door), then to travel on to the Jade Palace in China.  Ah…

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When our friends came out to visit from Iowa, it was as if we’d just parted company the day before, not the year it was in real time.  We played, the kids played, and we ate, drank and talked for hours.  It was fantastic.  And as is often the case, the better the visit is, the sadder the departure.  We had already taught Little Man the Turkish tradition of throwing water on the vehicle of loved ones who are leaving to ensure that they must come back soon.  So as they were getting into their car, Little Man was urging me on quickly to grab a container of water to make sure they came back.  We dowsed the car, and are still waiting with baited breath for them to return.

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He was quiet as we went back inside after their departure.  We closed the front door and Little Man looked out the window watching their car disappear around the corner into the woods.  Dave scooped Little Man up and took him to the couch in his arms.
“Daddy, what does ‘sad’ mean?”
Little Man’s head was bowed so all I could see were his golden curls, not his face.
“Sad is something we feel when we are upset.  Are you sad that your friends are leaving?”
A nod of curls followed by, “Do you cry when you feel sad?”
“Yes, some times we cry when we feel sad,”  Daddy said.  “It’s OK to cry when we feel sad.  It’s OK to cry.”  Daddy folded him in his arms as Little Man’s face crumpled into tears.

Paparazzi taking photos of dinner.

Paparazzi taking photos of dinner.

We had to treat our Iowa friends to some locally caught salmon.  This time packet grilled and seasoned with ginger, garlic, chives and soy.

We had to treat our Iowa friends to some locally caught wild salmon. The salmon was packet grilled and seasoned with ginger, garlic, chives and soy.

Dave's famous... I mean, Joe's famous potatoes.

Dave’s famous… I mean, Joe’s famous potatoes (Cabin Grilled Potatoes)

This much sauteed kale with garlic, came from...

This much sauteed kale with garlic, came from…

this much rainbow chard that came from...

this much rainbow chard that came from…

my glorious garden.  I can't wait to see it lush like this again!

my glorious garden. I can’t wait to see it lush like this again!

I stood in the kitchen, “good bye” tears in my eyes, and tried to gain control.  My “plan” had been to hold it together for Little Man’s sake, so I could comfort myself with tears later after he was asleep.  No such luck.  So instead I baked.  The known movements of measuring, portioning and stirring were comforting, as was the aroma from the oven.  For this moment, for me at least, the main point wasn’t the special treat to eat afterwards, but the actions and senses leading up to it.

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That visit spurred me on to try to find Little Man more friends here on our island.  He was only 2 1/2 when we left Iowa, but all of his little friends that he’d known since birth were now far away and it’s hard (even for a little guy) to break into a community like Nanaimo where many people have lived for generations and don’t know what it’s like to be new in a place and friendless.  Now, to celebrate when we make new friends or for special play dates (generally outside ones where errant chocolate chips won’t ruin someone’s couch), I like to make a baked treat to bring along.  Sometimes this means mini-muffins or scones, but what we’ve started thinking of as special treats with friends are cookies.

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One of my favorite comfort foods is an old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.  However, the “old fashioned” part has had to be updated a bit for our current dietary requirements.  My goal here was to take that standard recipe for a delicious chocolate chip cookie with crispy edges and a chewy center loaded with chocolate chips, and make it into something that while it would be a stretch to call it “healthy” I could feel good about feeding my child and offering to other children (and parents, of course).  So in my case that meant getting rid of the wheat and using spelt flour, which still has some gluten for texture but has less of the gastro-issues than wheat has, and sneaking in some chia meal to up the “goodness” value.

As I’ve written before, there’s no need to go out and buy a special bag of chia meal.  If you have chia seeds at home, all you need to do is pour some of the seeds into a coffee grinder or food processor and blitz them up.  Creating your own chia meal has the added benefits of making all the great nutrients of chia more easily accessible to your body, and there is less chance of a stray whole chia seed getting into your dishwasher and growing like a chia pet.  If you don’t have chia, but do have flax seeds feel free to use them the same way.  If you have neither, then you can simply replace the amount of chia meal for a flour of your choice, or even oats.

Enough talking, let’s make some cookies…

Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients
:
2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
¼ cup chia meal (see note)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) good quality dairy free margarine (or butter), softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet.
  2. Combine the spelt flour, chia meal, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set this aside.
    I was making these cookies more or less in the dark since Little Man was having a hard time nodding off that night.  So if the flash seems a bit harsh, that's because it was the only light source.

    I love how the chia meal always looks like I’ve just dumped a ton of black pepper into a recipe. Trust me, it will work its way in unobtrusively soon.

    See, the chia meal is whisked into the rest of the dry ingredients and away it goes.

    See, the chia meal is whisked into the rest of the dry ingredients and away it goes.

  3. Combine the softened margarine (or butter), sugars and vanilla in a large bowl either by hand or with an electric beater or stand mixer. Make sure the mixture is smooth and creamy.

    There's no need to use any other tool than a large spoon and a little elbow grease to combine the wet ingredients here.

    There’s no need to use any other tool than a large spoon and a little elbow grease to combine the wet ingredients here.

  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, combining well.

    Adding the eggs, one at a time.

    Adding the eggs, one at a time.

  5. Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring slowly at first so that you don’t create a flour cloud by beating your ingredients too enthusiastically. Make sure that the dough is smooth and thoroughly combined.

    I did the sizing of the bowls backwards in this picture, so this step might look a little different for you.  It will still taste amazing in the end.

    I did the sizing of the bowls backwards in this picture, so this step might look a little different for you. It will still taste amazing in the end.

  6. Add the chocolate chips, stirring just to distribute them throughout.

    I'm surprised that Little Man didn't sense the chocolate being added to the bowl and run out in his pjs requesting a sample.

    I’m surprised that Little Man didn’t sense the chocolate being added to the bowl and run out in his pjs requesting a sample.

  7. Using two spoons (or a small scoop if you are feeling fancy) scoop out and drop tablespoon-sized portions of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a few inches apart since the dough will spread while baking.

    The dough is a little glossy here since the cookies had been in the oven for a minute or so before I remembered to take the photo.

    The dough is a little glossy here since the cookies had been in the oven for a minute or so before I remembered to take the photo.

  8. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until nice and golden brown. The cookies should not look wet in the middle, but will be soft when you take them off of the tray.  Don’t worry, they will firm up as they cool. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies sit for about 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. They can be cooled completely or served immediately. Just warn little mouths about the potential for hot, melted chocolate chips.
    Perfectly golden.

    Perfectly golden.

    Dangerously ready to eat.

    Dangerously ready to eat.

  9. You can continue baking the cookies until the dough is done, or take any dough that you don’t wish to bake now, form it into a log on plastic wrap, cover it securely and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to slice and bake the cookies. You may need to increase the baking time by a few minutes, so watch them carefully towards the end. The dough can be frozen for up to a few weeks.  Enjoy!
    You can freeze cookie dough to make your own slice and bake cookies, ready whenever you want them to be.

    You can freeze cookie dough to make your own slice and bake cookies, ready whenever you want them to be.

    No, the cookie log does not need to be perfect.  You are just going to slice and bake it so don't waste too much time making the perfect cylinder, unless you have a food stylist snooping around in your freezer.

    No, the cookie log does not need to be perfect. You are just going to slice and bake it so don’t waste too much time making the perfect cylinder, unless you have a food stylist snooping around in your freezer.

Note: Make your own chia meal by blitzing up chia seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor. You can also do the same with flax seeds, or make oat flour by blitzing up whole oats (not instant, please). Store any extra chia meal in the freezer to keep it fresh.

Click here for a printable version of the Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.

All these need is a glass of milk.

All these need is a glass of milk.

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And a friend.

Walking at Neck Point.

Walking at Neck Point.

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A Moment of Glamour

“Mommy, why do you have fuzzy blue cow ears on your eyes?”

Let me back up and set the stage for my astounding moment of glamour, which unfortunately spanned the week that I was at Dave’s family cabin last August.

Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar situation.  You run into the store, grabbing things off of your list with reckless abandon.  In my particular case, we were leaving for a week of vacation at Dave’s family’s cabin in the British Columbia interior that would include a family reunion with Ruth’s lady cousins from Campbell River.  There were just a few things I needed: sunscreen, toothpaste and mascara.  Everything else was packed and in the car, as were Dave and Little Man.  The ferry was waiting.  I kept mumbling to myself our archaeology field saying “don’t panic, be quick.”

The view of the lake from the cabin's deck.

The view of the lake from the cabin’s deck.

It was only after I’d gotten back into the car, we’d driven to the ferry terminal and gotten in line to drive on board that I flipped open the car’s vanity mirror and pulled out my purchases.  I wanted to finish putting on my mascara since the tube I had at home was mummy dry.  I opened the mascara package, unskrewed the lid, pulled out the brush… and stared dumbstruck at the mascara wand.  It was dry.  More than dry, it was empty.  So I put the wand back in, swirled it around and pulled it out again just to have the same view.  But now my travel rushed brain was picking up on my visual cues.  The mascara wand was not dry, but was in fact heavily coated with blue mascara.  And not just any blue, but indigo blue.  Bright, 1980s, nearly fluorescent, indigo blue.  Doh!  But at this point I had no other options.  They don’t sell mascara on the ferry.  I’d just have to wear this gloriously indigo blue mascara for the day, and we’d stop at a store in Kamloops or somewhere to buy some normal black mascara on the way.  That was a good plan, and as with all good plans…

Little Man and Papa taking a tour of the lake.

Little Man and Papa taking a tour of the lake.

So I showed Dave what I’d done, applied the mascara, and gamely kept on going as if I didn’t look completely ridiculous.  Once we were parked on the ferry, had ferried Little Man and his accoutrement to the passenger deck, and found seats, I turned to Dave and asked him to truthfully tell me how ridiculous I looked.  It’s just mascara, right?  How bad could it be?  Dave blinked and stated that it didn’t look too bad.  No one would notice.  Just then Little Man tugged on my arm and asked for one of his traveling toys.  I turned to him and handed him what he had asked for.  My darling three year old boy glanced at me, did a complete double take, stared with squinting attention at the upper part of my face and asked, “Mommy, why do you have fuzzy blue cow ears on your eyes?”  I said nothing, just turned to look at Dave, who at this point had burst into hysterical laughter and was close to falling out of his chair.  I still owe him for that.

Papa showing Little Man the finer points of battling with water noodles.  I'm not sure who instigated things...

Papa showing Little Man the finer points of battling with water noodles. I’m not sure who instigated things…

As it ended up, somewhere in the joys of the six hour car trip with a three year old, we both completely forgot to stop at a store for mascara.  The family cabin is indeed in the interior, and it is a 45 minute trip one way just to get down to the local store.  I couldn’t justify making the drive solely for my vanity, and decided to wear my “fuzzy blue cow ear” eyes with pride.  My lovely sister-in-law took my “new look” in stride, thinking that I was just trying something different.  This makes me wonder what she thinks of my normal look…  Lest the lady cousins thought that I was truly trying to pull off a fluorescent blue mascara “look,” I shared the story of my moment of glamour… that would end up spanning the week… with them.  They took it in stride and filled my glass.  The mascara was a stunner.

This is me borrowing Little Man's lion floaty at the lake.  It makes one feel more secure when swimming to have a lion at one's side.

This is me borrowing Little Man’s lion floaty at the lake. It makes one feel more secure when swimming to have a lion at one’s side.

Once back home the tube of indigo blue mascara would live for a few months at the back of my bathroom drawer, with the thought that maybe for Halloween…  Then once that holiday passed, it went into the land of no return, aka the trash bin.  And while that particular fashion moment will hopefully not be repeated by me, it does still live in infamy as recorded in every picture of me from that week, especially in those that focus on my face like those when I am holding my then months old niece.  Ah, the glamour…

Even my baby niece is amused by the blue mascara.

Even my baby niece is amused by the blue mascara.

Always a stunner, the view of the lake changes from one moment to the next.

Always a stunner, the view of the lake changes from one moment to the next.

An Eagle and the First Blossoms of Not-Yet-Spring

We were greeted by an eagle and the first blossoms of Not-Yet-Spring when Little Man and I went for a walk/bike ride the other day.  The sky was overcast and everything was deeply wet, but the paths were passable with only the occasional puddle of awesomeness to splash through.

Little Man tooled around on his balance bike, and has gotten quick enough that I now need to wear appropriate shoes so that I can jog along behind him.  He skidded through a couple of muddy areas, fish tailing and whooping, and kept on going while I slogged through in his wake.

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We heard the uproar of birds before we saw the eagle loop over the treetops above us.  Little Man called out that there was a “bald eagle,” and I think I saw enough of a white head and tail feathers to agree with him.  Later we would hear sea lions, but not be able to track them down as the wind shifted and carried their barking to different parts of the path.
20150211_100203 (2)Lastly we tracked down various fairy houses along the trails.  A posted sign described the different ecosystems of the park, and Little Man had a good time noticing the ocean ecosystem, the forest ecosystem, and the fairy ecosystem.  The number and placement of the fairy houses has changed since my first post about them (A Week On Our Own: Day 2), and its fun to keep exploring to see if we can find more and some have moved.  At the “Give a Little/Take a Little” fairy house, Little Man exchanged some leprechaun gold for a sparkly pink jelly bracelet that he promptly declared to be a “beautiful Power Ranger bracelet,” and had a wonderful time all day “transforming” it into a ring by coiling it up tightly.

I didn’t have our camera with us, so I made due with the camera on my phone.  While officially still Winter, it’s been a mild one for us here on the island.  This was the first tree that I’d seen actually blossoming, and in our yard there are mystery bulbs sprouting everywhere.  Our farmer-landlords’ garlic is looking good too, as are our Dinosaur Kale plants that have kept doggedly at it since the summer.  Though our winter has been mild, February isn’t over yet, and I try not to think about Spring too much in case something changes.  It was in February and then again in March of last year that we woke up to a huge snow dump after all (I Woke Up To the Snow and Embracing the Snow).

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As we walked along, skidded out, and laughed our way through our beautiful but overcast surroundings, I couldn’t help but wonder at the gorgeous surroundings that will likely make the basis for his first long term memories.  Life is good.

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Making Breakfast with No Electricity

There are many pluses for living outside the city.  We don’t suffer through the water bans since we are on well-water, not city.  We don’t get (as much) of the odoriferous down draft from the water treatment plant.  We get to be surrounded by forest, and wake up to the sounds of chicken and sheep, with a view of the horses in the pasture through our kitchen window.  We can tromp through our neighbors Enchanted Forest whenever we want, and rarely need to worry about Little Man walking/playing in the road since there are nearly no cars that come our way.  Plus, plus, plus…

However, every now and then, particularly in the winter, we can lose power for a couple of hours at a time.  When that happens it’s means more than simply the inconvenience of blinking clocks and a lack of television.  For us it means no running water since the pump that brings our water from the well is electric.  No showers, no washing, no water for tea or coffee unless we’ve been wise (and sometimes we are) and kept our emergency supplies of water filled along with the large jugs in the refrigerator… which shouldn’t be opened much during these times so it doesn’t “lose its cool.”

Then one morning right at the beginning of winter we woke up to the sound of disconcerting silence (no hum of the old refrigerator) punctuated by the panic inducing beeps of Little Man’s bedroom monitor losing power.  Dave and I stumbled around for a bit, trying to wrap our sleep addled brains around the fact that we had no electricity and what that actually meant for our morning.  I tried to turn on a sink tap to brush my teeth… and nothing happened.  I stood there, staring at the tap, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Apparently Dave was dong something similar in the kitchen since I heard him utter a low moan as realization settled in as to the extent of our dilemma.  No showers… argh!  How to brush our teeth?  My water bottle was still mostly full from yoga the night before.  What about cooking breakfast with our electric stove (or microwave) without electricity?  Doh!

At that point Little Man woke up and I went downstairs to light the wood burning stove (aka our house heater) while Dave went into our son’s room with a flashlight.  I tried to get my brain to function and to think about the breakfast predicament as I knelt by the stove balancing my flashlight beam on the things I needed, but I couldn’t quite get out of autopilot mode.  I arranged the wood, kindling and wadded up burnables in the stove and then lit the whole thing.  Closing the stove door, I waited to make sure that the fire had caught and listened to the comforting clicking of the warming stove.  Then it finally hit me.  I didn’t need electricity to cook our breakfast, I had a wood burning stove right in front of me.  My city-girl mind had only thought of the stove as a heat source for our home.  A smile stretched across my cheeks as I quickly planned our breakfast adventure.

Upstairs Dave was hurriedly getting ready since he had to teach, while also explaining to an unimpressed Little Man why there was no TV for morning cartoons.  For sanity’s sake I whipped out the ipad hoping that it had a charge, and turned on a quick Little Einsteins episode, buying Dave and I a little respite while he got out of the house and I collected my breakfast supplies.

On a large tray I piled a shallow cast iron skillet, a full tea kettle, a hot pad, plates, cutlery, a bowl with two eggs, a couple slices of bread, a mug and tea bag, a filled sippy cup, honey, jam and a few other tools.  I waved Dave out the door, put slippers on Little Man’s feet and was just leading him downstairs while balancing my tray of awesomeness… when with a pop the electricity came back on.  The TV was blaring in the front room since apparently Little Man had pushed in the power button during his desperation to show Dave that the TV worked without electricity.

With the jubilant sounds of a little boy who has found treasure, Little Man dashed back into the living room with Pooh Bear flapping behind him for his morning cartoons.  I looked at my tray, placed it down on the dining room table, snapped a picture for future sleep addled reference, and went back to our now working electric stove to make breakfast.  Next time I’ll be ready when the power is out and we get to have a picnic breakfast downstairs with our wood burning stove.  And I’ll make sure the TV stays off and doesn’t wreck our adventure.

I like the "rustic" look of the black and white photo here.  I felt all "pioneery" as I balanced by tray of modernity to cook on a hot stove.

I like the “rustic” look of the black and white photo here. I felt all “pioneery” as I balanced by tray of modernity to cook on a hot stove.

Hunting Dinosaurs on a Perfect Winter Morning

You are hiking in a cedar forest, the sun steaming the sodden ground where ever it breaks through the trees, periodically pausing to listen for a whistled tune.  The whistle leads you to your prey, because you are hunting dinosaurs.  One dinosaur in fact, a piccolodactyl.  Not familiar with that species?  Then you haven’t been watching Little Einsteins where in one episode the kids imagine dinosaur musical instruments, and a baby piccolodactyl gets separated from its mommy.  Thus began our dinosaur hunt through our neighbors forest.

Carving a path through the wilderness in the Enchanted Forest.

Carving a path through the wilderness in the Enchanted Forest.

This was one of those perfect Spring mornings (though it’s no where near Springtime yet, and I’m ever in wait for the snow dump that we’ll get before true Spring hits) when the sun was out and everything was steaming.  The road.  The trees.  The masses of sodden leaves and conifer needles covering the forest floor.  Our breath.  Little Man and I couldn’t stand the thought of staying inside one moment longer than absolutely necessary, so once we were ready for our public we dashed outside with his balance bike.  Then we coasted down to the original farm house on our street where the owners (they are relative newbies like ourselves, having lived here only 6 months longer than we have) have put in tremendous labor to create an accessible wilderness in their forest land.  Their grandson is Little Man’s age, and they miss the sound of little kids running around and have granted us access to their forest (aka Enchanted Forest) whenever we like.  They don’t know it yet, but there are some gooey cinnamon rolls coming their way soon as a partial “thank you.”

The dog leading Little Man on the dinosaur hunt.

The dog leading Little Man on the dinosaur hunt.

It was to their house and forest that we set out for on our steaming morning.  The dog trailed us contentedly, and Little Man constantly called to her to run with us down the paths of the steaming forest. We take turns whistling like a piccolodactyl and hiding behind mammoth cedars while the other searched for the missing dinosaur.  I should say that I was whistling while Little Man did more of a hooting call.  In the end likely more dinosaur-like than my whistling.

A pond that Little Man wills to be a river.

A pond that Little Man wills to be a river.

After much running, hiding and whistling/hooting, it was eventually time to coast back to our house for lunch.  Before lunch could happen, we needed to visit Little Man’s Ladies to gather eggs, and it was on the way to the chicken coop when Little Man and I noticed that once again the farm was living up to the name I gave this blog (see original post).  The sheep were out.  Although this time it was not “sheep” plural, but singular and tiny.  One of the smallest lambs had crawled out under the gate and could not get back under to get to his momma.  Little Man held the egg basket while I cornered and caught the little lamb, then he got to pet the soft black and white head, cooing “sweet little budgie.”

Pooh Bear under arm, ready to return home for lunch.

Pooh Bear under arm, ready to return home for lunch.

On the whole this has been a lovely farm and wilderness morning.  Hiking through the Enchanted Forest hunting for dinosaurs, snacking by the pond on a Lorax stump, rescuing and cuddling a lamb, gathering eggs and tossing food to “the ladies,” tossing a few winter garden scraps to the pigs, and finally lunching on the bounty of our labors (a couple of the eggs made their way into some fried rice for lunch).  All in all, a lovely winter/spring day.

The Joys of Family and Salmon

Now that the dust is clearing from the end of summer madness (aka family visits, stay-cations, camping trips, summer colds, and an immense amount of food preserving) and the semester is about to begin, I can finally get back to this blog.  I’ve missed writing, but the backlog of recipes and preserving ideas that I want to share here is staggering.

As I sink my fingers into blogging again I wanted to share a photo of one of the most amazing meals I’ve had in a long, long time.  I know I’ve waxed poetic about salmon before, but please forgive me because this bears repetition.

Over the weekend we were able to spend some time with our family up in Campbell River.  While the big draw is getting to hang out with “the Cousins,” a close second is the amazing food we have every time we visit.  This visit was extra special since two cousins who live off island were here to visit and they’d brought their fantastic girlfriends as well.  I’ve been looking forward to getting to hang out with this family for weeks, but I got a bit side tracked when Marcel brought out this amazingly orange salmon to cedar plank smoke for dinner.  The color or the gorgeous fish caught my eye as I was pouring myself a refreshing beverage with the full intention of joining in a conversation with the two ladies that I’d just met.  Then Marcel put the fish on the planks and the perfume of cedar smoke captured my attention entirely.  The smoke pulled me in.

I happily spent the next bit of time chatting with Marcel about salmon, smoking meats, traditional salmon cooking methods, food catering, the bbq circuit, and all things food related.  Our conversation was periodically broken by little peeks at the salmon smoking away as he’d briefly lift the lid to look at how the cook was progressing.  The photo does not do this fish justice.  The smoke pervaded the fish, but didn’t overpower it’s flavor.  It had a citrusy tang with just the right amount of salt to tie it all together.  In the end I made the decision to forgo the dessert offerings for another serving of salmon.  Best dessert choice ever!

The Star of the Show

Saving Your Harvest: The Zucchini Edition

A good friend of mine once described August in Maine as a time of “random acts of zucchini.”  In her small town where people did not necessarily lock the doors of their cars, people would come out of church or the bank or the local cafe to find anonymous bags of zucchini in their front seats.  I found myself envious of those hapless holders of bulging bags of squash.  When we first moved to Vancouver Island one of our neighbors had a bumper crop of zucchini and cucumber, and would offer us bulging bags of produce whenever Little Man and I came walking by.  I would cruse by her house as often as possible with the hopes of catching her eye.

Now that we have our garden of dreams I made sure to plant zucchini, as well as a variety of summer squash called Sunburst (aka Patty Pan).  I had been warned about the size that these plants could achieve, so I wasn’t as surprised by the size of the plant as I was about where the zucchini grew.  At first neither Dave nor I could find the actual zucchini, partly since I imagined zucchini growing like pumpkins stretched out along a long vine.  Instead, they grow like octopus arms, branching out from a central stalk-like structure.  Once we discovered where our squash actually grew, we were off to the races with trying to keep up with preserving and eating our crop.

Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini blossoms promising a good crop.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite zucchini recipes soon, but first I want to share a simple way to preserve your zucchini for those times when your garden or farmers’ market may not be producing.  I have been experimenting with (and loving!) pickling and preserving, but I have to say that my favorite method for saving my harvest is my freezer.  Zucchini freezes really well, particularly when it is shredded.

If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment this is going to be the easiest food storage ever.  If all you have is a handheld shredder, that works too.  It just takes a little more elbow grease.  The key to freezing the zucchini is to measure out the portions.  So here’s what I did…

I love my food processor!

I love my food processor!

Using my food processor with the shredding disk attachment, I shredded enough zucchini to fill my large mixing bowl.

The first, but definitely not the last, bowl of shredded zucchini.

The first, but definitely not the last, bowl of shredded zucchini.

I then used my 1 cup measuring cup to portion out mounds of shredded zucchini onto my parchment paper lined baking sheets.  The parchment paper keeps the zucchini from freezing/sticking to the baking sheet.  I was able to fit 6 1-cup mounds on each sheet.  As I unmolded each scoop I would gently press it down to slightly compact the zucchini and to make storing the frozen zucchini easier.  Then I covered the sheet with plastic wrap, gently pressing down between the mounds of zucchini to remove some of the air.  I then placed the entire baking sheet in the freezer overnight.

Measure your zucchini before freezing it so you know exactly how much you need for any recipe.

Measure your zucchini before freezing it so you know exactly how much you need for any recipe.

The unmolded zucchini.

The unmolded zucchini.

Press down on the zucchini to compact it and help it freeze better.

Press down on the zucchini to compact it and help it freeze better.

Filling the sheet pan.

Filling the sheet pan.

A full sheet of future zucchini hockey pucks.

A full sheet of future zucchini hockey pucks.

The next morning we took our little zucchini hockey pucks out of the freezer and put them into bags for their long sleep in the freezer.  Now that they are frozen in 1 cup increments, I can pull them out whenever I want and I’ll know exactly how much I need to thaw.

Lovely, frozen zucchini hockey pucks.

Lovely, frozen zucchini hockey pucks.

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Stay tuned for an amazing zucchini bread recipe… and an even better zucchini brownie recipe… where you can use these frozen zucchini in the dead of winter when nothing is stirring in your garden beyond the snow flakes.