Monday, June 27, 2011

Cape Breton Adventure

Skyline Trail, Cape Breton National Park

We just got back from a week-long vacation in the beautiful Lake Ainslie area of Cape Breton, near Inverness. The only downside to the vacation was the unbelievably lousy weather. Out of seven days, we managed one and a half days of sun. The temperatures were cold and one evening actually had a frost warning for our area. In June. Late June.

Still, bad weather aside, it didn't deter us from travelling, exploring, adventuring and eating our way through some very fine restaurants. We travelled with our good friends and their toddler, so I actually managed only one photo during our rather hectic meal times. Still, you can't travel in Cape Breton without enjoying some of the finest fish and seafood in Canada and all of it minutes from the restaurant.

Our travels took us to Glenora Distillery and the best whiskey in Canada, not to mention the best lunch we had on vacation.

Glenora Distillery

While Jeff enjoyed a pulled chicken sandwich with jalapeno lime dressing and fries, I sampled these salted cod fish cakes with chow and a mesclun salad.

Atlantic Fish Cakes with Salad

We finished off our meal with a very non-local but incredibly tasty chocolate ganache cake with a whiskey sorbet. While I looked on longingly, Jeff and our friends enjoyed some lovely aged whiskey. Not to be forgotten, we were serenaded by the talented Pius MacIssac who entertained our well-past-their-nap-time toddlers and made our meal so enjoyable (click on his name for a little YouTube audio sample). A highly recommended place to eat if you're in the area.


Post-Bite Picture of Dessert

Next, our travels took us to Neil's Harbour in search of the much lauded fish 'n chip restaurant, as suggested by my neighbours. I'm assuming they meant this little gem:

The Chowder House, Neil's Harbour

It's a quaint little restaurant with almost wall-to-wall windows facing the ocean, made rustic with picnic tables. The chowder was thick and hearty, with big chunks of lobster and scallops and while we all thought the fried fish was a little on the oily side, it was light and crispy and almost everything fried fish should be and worth the long drive from our cabin for lunch. The surroundings were equally impressive:

Neil's Harbour, NS
On our one and only full day of sunshine, we took advantage of one of the most famous trails in Cape Breton: The Skyline Trail. The day was incredible and although the 9.2 km hike was a little taxing on a near 21-week pregnant mama and a toddler-wearing Jeff, it was an incredible hike with some majestic views:

Skyline Trail

We finished up the week with a little day trip in Baddeck and in honour of my birthday, we went to my favourite yarn store: Baadeck Yarns - with hand dyed, local yarn in the most sumptuous colour and then off to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Did you know his second home was in Baddeck, NS where he invented lots of interesting things, like the HD-4 Hydrofoil? Me neither, but since Honey Bear made me take her back to that part of the exhibit so she could see the big "plane" over four times, I'm now fully versed in the size, speed and dates of all HD models. Kids will do that to you.

There you have it - Cape Breton: A great place to eat, vacation and adventure!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Road Food

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Cape Breton, I'm all about good food, made easy and portable. My good friend and foodie extraordinaire, Alyson at Dates and Quinces made these beauties: Almond Cranberry Oatmeal Bars way back in February and I've never forgotten them. To me, they seemed the perfect road food or quick source of energy to fuel a long hike. Since we intend to do both, I knew a batch of these were in order.

But first. The almond butter suggested in her recipe brings me to the first recipe:

Cinnamon Sunflower Seed Butter
Cinnamon Sunflower Seed Butter
Joy McCarthy, recipe found here at That's Fit

1 cup sunflower seeds, left to soak overnight
2-3 tbsp raw honey
1/2 cup almond oil (I used walnut oil, couldn't find almond oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Soak seeds overnight. The soaking will help make the seeds more digestable.
2. In a food processor, blend seeds until smooth.
3. Add oil, vanilla, honey and cinnamon.

This makes about 3/4 cup of butter and was really delicious. I've been paying an insane amount of money on commercial sunflower butter due to Honey Bear's peanut allergy, but this replacement was perfect and totally reasonable. Plus, it goes really well with...

Sunflower Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
Sunflower Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from: Dates and Quinces

1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole "white" flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup dry, sweetened cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1/4 cup unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp Dairy-Free Margarine (like Earth Balance Natural Spread) melted and cooled
3 tbsp sunflower seed butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8x8 pan with a layer of tin foil, made long enough that you can easily lift up your loaf. Lightly grease your tin foil.
2. Combine dry ingredients and stir.
3. Stir to combine liquid margarine, seed butter, egg and vanilla and add to dry mixture.
4. Pour into baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes and let cool before cutting.

* I don't have an 8x8, so I used a loaf pan and it worked great. Check out the original recipe, as Alyson has some great suggestions on variations.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections from the Clothesline

The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowin' In the Wind....

Top Ten Reflections from the Line:

1. My kid wears a lot of pink. A lot. This is coming from a mom who swore she'd never let her daughter get so "gendered".
2. Clothes just seem to smell better when they're fresh from the line. Must be all that sunshine ingrained in the fibres.
3. The downside of fresh smelling clothes is you often bring unwanted crawling critters inside with you and you risk getting bird poop on your clothes.
4. Still, hanging clothes can be soothing and meditative.
5. There aren't enough sunny days here.
6. Jeff has a clear system to organizing laundry, including matching socks on the line. I like to free-style it. It's the only point of contention we have about hanging laundry, so when I hang clothes, I get this little rush like I'm bucking the system.
7. I feel bad for the spider webs that have already formed that I'm about to destroy.
8. Bugs seem extra attracted to me lately - can they sense I've got double the blood volume? Shouldn't the mosquitoes have some sympathy for me, them being lady mosquitoes and all?
9. My garden's not looking so great. Must be our lack of attention and a laissez-faire attitude about the garden this year. Thank goodness for our CSA.
10. I need to hang laundry more often.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Winter Preparations

Bucket O' Rhubarb
Thanks to my generous CSA, I received 30 lbs of free rhubarb and I was determined to neither let anything go to waste, nor freeze it. Turns out, that much rhubarb makes over 28 various sized jars of preserves!

Plenty O' Preserves


Some of the preserves are for retail at the market, but many are for our use over the winter - such as the two different kinds of rhubarb syrup (which I fully intend to use as a cocktail post-baby!) and preserved rhubarb in vanilla bean. While it seems incredibly early to be preparing for the winter, I know it will creep up before we know it, especially as we're almost at the half-way mark in the pregnancy.

Preparing all these preserves made me wonder about our next committment this winter and our ability to faithfully follow a local diet for 100 days. One of the lessons learned this past winter is how much preparation we would need to do again. With very few fruits frozen or preserved, we're taking steps to avoid the same pitfalls, but another 100 days sounds really daunting.

Any ideas? 5 days on, 2 days off? A lower commitment, say 50%, using only local fruits and vegetables, but everything else goes?

What do you think?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Starbucks for Cheapskates

Summerberry Ice Tea Lemonade

So, minus the water, no part of this is local and that's OK. I'm also about saving money and consuming good food. One of my favourite decaffeinated drinks at Starbucks is their Passion Ice Tea Lemonade (semi-sweet, please). It's tangy and refreshing and goes down easy on a very hot day. It is, however, expensive enough for what it is.

We've been spending many of our days outside playing, hanging laundry, working in the garden and sprinting after Honey Bear who insists on heading straight to the road every chance she gets; it's easy to work up a thirst.

Here's my take on an ice tea lemonade that's tart, refreshing and really easy to make.

Summerberry Ice Tea Lemonade

2 Tetley Summerberry tea bags (or any fruity tea, preferably with hibiscus for gorgeous pink colouring)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 cups water
Boiling water

1. Boil a full kettle of water and in your regular, large tea pot, steep 2 tea bags for about 20 minutes until tea is full strength.
2. In the meantime, in a large pitcher, dissolve sugar with water and lemon juice.
3. When tea has reached full strength, pour over lemonade mixture. It will result in a lukewarm lemonade mixture, which is perfect for dissolving that last bit of sugar. Put in fridge and chill, serve over ice.

* 1/2 cup of sugar may seem like a lot, but it makes almost 12 cups of lemonade and gently offsets the tartness and acidity of the lemon and tea. I like my mixture quite tart, so feel free to adjust the sweetness as necessary. I've never tried natural sweetners, so if you try, please let me know. *

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