Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lunch box granola bars

This isn't a recipe post. It's more of a... coming soon post. Now that I've submitted my cookbook manuscript to the publisher (yay!), things have really settled down around here. My weekdays are still filled with kids and parks and picnics and noise, but I'm no longer spending my weekends working on the book. So I'm getting back to some of my favourite hobbies that I had put on hold during the months when I was canning my bum off and writing like a madwoman. I've finished a knitting project and started another, read a couple novels, become completely obsessed with a Spanish TV series on Netflix, and now I'm starting to turn my mind to fall and school and everything else that comes with that time of year.

I'm particularly excited about fall this year because my youngest boy is starting preschool. He's a big snacker, so it's no surprise that one of the preschool activities he's looking forward to most is bringing along his own snack. Since he loves granola bars, my latest kitchen quest is to develop a quick and easy granola bar recipe that I can whip up at the beginning of the week that is healthy and nut-free for school. My first batch with apricots, sesame seeds and honey was really tasty, but I'm tempted to use butter instead of oil in the next batch to help the bars set a little firmer when they cool. I might throw in some dried cherries too. We'll see. Lots of options. And when I narrow down a lovely little recipe you can count on me sharing it here.

How are you feeling about fall coming? Do you have kids going back to school or starting something new? Are you planning any changes to your kitchen routine with the change of season? Leave a comment, and feel free to share any granola bar ideas...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The SECRET to clean stainless steel

Fingerprints. Smudges. Food smears. Streaks. They get all over my dishwasher. That's life with stainless steel in the kitchen. Whatever mess you've got going on with your hands, it's bound to end up all around the handles and edges, marking up your beautiful appliances. I've tried it all in the past; various cleaning products from the hardware store, wipes, sprays, even homemade concoctions involving baking soda and lemon juice and whatever else Pinterest suggested. Nothing worked. I started to wonder if stainless steel was a bit of a misnomer. But then something came in the mail that changed all that.

I swear to you I'm not being paid to write about this. It's just SO GOOD.

After getting my lovely new dishwasher from KitchenAid Canada, I was sent a dishwasher care package in the mail. Inside the big basket were some stainless steel cleaning wipes as well as a spray and cleaning tabs to bring a sparkle to even the inside of my fancy machine. I was skeptical at first. But the package said KitchenAid recommends this stuff. Hmm, I thought, okay let's give it a go.

Oh my WORD!

It's sooo good. Like, we're talking miracle cleaner here. The smudges and streaks and smears were gone. Completely. All those homemade pastes I'd tried and perfectly good lemons wasted, and now I finally know how to keep my stainless steel clean.  

So, what is this big secret?


I love it. It is incredibly effective. And now I want you to have some too. So the company has agreed to give one of my readers:

A ONE-YEAR supply of affresh products!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling me how dirty your stainless appliances are. And be sure to include your email address so I can reach you if you win.

The winner will be selected on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern.

Good luck!

For anyone wanting to rush out right now and get some affresh wipes, they are available at Lowes, Leons, Home Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Outfitters, Coast Wholesale Appliances, IGA, Sobeys Atlantic, Highland Farms and online at and

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bernardin prize pack WINNER!

Disclosure: Bernardin provided me with these products at no cost to myself.

It's always fun to do a giveaway on Family Feedbag. This time it's a prize pack from the company that Canadian mason jar fans all know and love - Bernardin. This collection of mason jar beverage accessories makes sipping on the go extra fun and functional. American readers will also recognize the giveaway products as Bernardin is the Canadian branch of the Jarden Corporation, which also operations the Ball and Kerr brands in the United States. So, even if you don't win today you can find these products throughout North America where canning supplies are sold.

The winner today gets 4 Mason Jar Mugs, a package of Sip & Straw Lids and a Mason Jar Infuser.

Alas, there can only be one winner and that lucky person is:

Melissa @ Miso Crafty Knits
Congrats, Melissa! I will contact you soon to get your mason jar goodies delivered to you.
What do you use your mason jars for? Leave a comment and share your good ideas...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blackberry Sparklers & Bernardin GIVEAWAY

Disclosure: Bernardin provided me with product for review and for giveaway at no cost to myself.
There's that moment of cold sweats when a company you love comes out with something new. I've got to have it. Excitement quickly mixes with trepidation. Please don't change too much. You're committed to this brand, you follow them on social media, and you don't want what you love best about them to get watered down into something... less. Please don't sell out to the trends. In the case of Berdardin's new mason jar drink accessories, however, we're talking about a literal watering down, with fresh fruit, fun straws, sippy lids and an adorable infuser. Phew. This is good change.
I mean, it just makes sense for Bernardin to come out with these things. We're all drinking out of our mason jars anyway. At home, in bars, restaurants, we're seeing a renewed love affair with this classic jar as a drinking glass. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's nostalgia. Maybe it's a fondness for simplicity. Or maybe it's just appreciating mason jars for what they are: sturdy and useful.
Bernardin recently sent me a package of drinks accessories, and since it's the perfect time of year for blackberries around here I created this very simple recipe for blackberry sparklers to enjoy in my new mugs. Get the recipe below. If you simply want to enjoy fresh fruit in your drinking water, the infuser is a fun way to do that. You can fill it with fresh ingredients like blackberries, raspberries and strawberries then immerse it into a water-filled wide mouth mason jar with the nifty green lid.
Now, here's your chance to WIN your very own set of Bernardin mason jar accessories! Leave a comment on this blog post, including your email address, to be entered to WIN:
4 Mason Jar Mugs
1 set of Sip & Straw Lids
1 Mason Jar Infuser
The draw will be made on Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern. Good luck, everyone!

Blackberry Sparklers
Makes 6-8 mason jar drinks

1 cup (250 mL) fresh blackberries
1 cup (250 mL) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
ice cubes (optional)
lemon slices (optional)
sparkling water for mixing

In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, water and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking at a low boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a heat-proof container, discarding the pulp. To mix, add a few ice cubes and a slice or two of lemon to each glass. Pour 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the blackberry syrup over the ice and top up with about 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) of sparkling water per glass. Store leftover syrup in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Want your own mason jar beverage accessories? Leave a comment to WIN the Bernardin giveaway! Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Garden Tomato Orzo Salad

A veggie garden can be a forgiving place. For all its perceived delicateness and dependency on water and attention, it can also be remarkably resilient when ignored. Which is wonderful because sometimes life gets in the way, doesn't it. There's no doubt picnics in the park and trips to the beach get front billing during a little kid summer. Throw in trips to the library and our favourite museum and sometimes the backyard veggie patch can go a few days without a single watchful eye or attentive green thumb to care for it. But whenever this happens I marvel at the difference a few days makes and the progress that can come from simple sunshine, healthy soil and being left alone to stretch out in the warm summer afternoons. Tomatoes that were just starting to blush are now bursting with tender ripe redness and zucchinis that were small the last time I glanced their way now look like something you could hit a baseball with. Yes, the garden is a forgiving place. Like an old friend, we pick up where we left off except we've both done a little growing.
This delicious orzo salad is made with one of the garden's finest treasures: juicy ripe tomatoes. Tossed with fresh tender herbs, salty feta and a simple red wine vinaigrette, it dresses up grilled steaks, sausages, chicken or even burgers and dogs. Make ahead and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Garden Tomato Orzo Salad (with feta and fresh herbs)
Makes 6-8 side servings

2 cups (500 mL) dried orzo pasta
2 cups (500 mL) halved or quartered cherry/grape tomatoes (about 1 inch pieces)
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped tender herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro or parsley
2/3 cup (150 mL) crumbled or cubed feta
1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
3 tbsp (50 mL) red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) prepared Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) liquid honey

Boil the orzo in salted water for 6 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool running water. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked orzo, tomatoes, herbs and feta. In a container with a lid, shake together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, Dijon and honey. Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo salad, saving a little in the container. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Toss with the reserved vinaigrette before serving.

What do you love to make with fresh garden tomatoes?

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