The Canning Kitchen

unnamedI love it when bloggers experience success especially when it’s a blogger I’ve been following for some time. Seeing them on TV or their books in print, make me excited for them . . .mostly because I know that it probably took years of building a relationship with readers and juggling many plates while trying to deliver the best content. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fellow Canadian bloggers, in particular Savvy Storytellers.

When I saw that Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag, a go-to for quick and easy family friendly recipes, had published a book, I wanted to share it with you.

The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a must-have companion to the bountiful summer harvest season. I have wanted to try my hand at dill pickles and this book covers the classics but it also inspires with new recipes like for Salted Caramel Pear Butter.

Canning isn’t just for grandma anymore!  Give it a try and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

To order your copy of The Canning Kitchen click here.

The Harbord Room’s Juicy Burger

unnamedToronto’s The Harbord Room is a favourite spot in the city. We had a special 4Mothers dinner a while back and hardly noticed the celebs on the patio because we were enjoying our food (and conversation) so much. On May 28th National Hamburger Day was celebrated and while we may be late to this party, The Harbord Room’s co-chef Robbie Hojilla shares the recipe for their much-loved burger. People, this is insider scoop!

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 8 minutes

Makes 8 burgers and 3 cups of aioli

AÏOLI

4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp grainy mustard

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp thyme leaves

1 tbsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups canola oil
¾ cup olive oil

Combine all aioli ingredients except oils in a food processor and mix until blended. Slowly pour in both oils while machine is running, until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

BURGER

3 lbs ground beef brisket
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil
8–16 slices aged cheddar
8 fresh buns or large brioche buns

Transfer meat into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combined and form into 8 patties.

Preheat bbq to medium. Use a clean, oiled, hot grill and barbecue the patties for 5 to 6 minutes with the lid closed. Flip the burgers, top with cheese and continue cooking for 4 more minutes with the lid closed. If the BBQ isn’t an option, coat a cast iron pan or skillet with a little oil and set over medium-high. Cook 4 patties until browned (about 4 minutes), then flip. Top with cheese. Continue cooking for 4 more minutes (for medium-rare) until browned. Repeat with remaining patties.

To finish, smear aioli on bun, followed by the toasted burger patty, caramelized onions and sliced tomato (or your garnish of preference). Serve with a side of hand-cut fries and your favourite summer beverage.

To experience a fantastic summer meal, head down to The Harbord Room. Can’t make it? Follow The Harbord Room on Instagram for your food porn fix.

How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

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How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

Coffee

Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

Cocktails

Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

Tablecloth

Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

 

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

 

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

 

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

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Grilled Pineapple With Cinnamon Coconut Sugar

Jo-Anna of A Pretty Life and fellow Savvy Sortyteller is our guest for today. Jo-Anna is a mom of three striving to live a more simple life. Her blog offers easy recipes, simple DIYs and housekeeping tips. Jo-Anna’s regular posts are always polished to perfection with gorgeous photographs and accessible suggestions but it’s her holiday posts that really wow!

For housekeeping pointers, help in the garden and figuring out what to make for the potluck, visit A Pretty Life and for simply beautiful inspiration follow Jo-Anna on Instagram.

Today Jo-Anna shares with us her mouth-watering recipe for Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon Coconut Sugar. To view the recipe click here.

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Summer Salads with Jane’s Adventure In Dinner

We’re excited to have Jane from Jane’s Adventure In Dinner as our guest today. Jane’s blog is a go-to for everything from appetizers to desserts. She’s passionate about food like no other, but as a busy mom she also understands that recipes need to be both delicious and do-able. Regardless of your cooking level (ahem, I am still a beginner after all of these years) Jane is the best teacher and you’re in capable hands with her step-by-step instruction . . .accompanied by gorgeous photos!

Today Jane shares simple salads that are perfect for the hot days of summer. Be sure to follow Jane’s website for meal inspiration and instruction. You won’t be disappointed.

Jane’s Summer Salad

I start with a nice big plate and drizzle it with 2 tsp. balsamic glaze.

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I added a layer (about 1 ½ cups) of spring greens.

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I took a firm pear (I’m a sucker for Anjou) and cut it into 6 wedges. I took out the core and started to lay it on the greens.

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Add 3 T Roquefort (or your favourite blue cheese) to the centre. Don’t like blue cheese? How about some Boursin or an herby cream cheese?

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Fold the pear pieces back together, top with toasted walnuts and drizzle with a really good quality olive oil.

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Drizzle on a bit more glaze . . .

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And add cracked pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Classic Salad Update

We seem to just live off the bbq in the summer.

I love to cook but I really like to keep the house cool and I’m not a huge fan of running the air conditioning all the time.

We’ve gotten used to having our little 1950’s bungalow vent itself for the most part and even though it’s lots bigger after the reno (yes, I promise to finally get all the pictures together this summer, I’ve got 1000’s) we designed the build to allow for our original airflow.

Having said that, if the oven is on all the time then nothing can keep the house cool so bbq it is.

I’ve been playing with a number of salad recipes lately that I’ll be sharing with everyone in the next couple of weeks but this is one that we’ve now had at least six times since I was happy with the recipe.

Hope you love it too.

To serve four adults for an appetizer start with four romaine hearts cut in half.

Bring them to room temperature, drizzle with olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves and lots of crushed, crunchy black pepper.

Let sit for 30 minutes.

Grill on high on each side JUST until a little charred.  This is about 30 seconds a side.

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While your one and only is grilling your lettuce (thinking that you are totally mental with your weird cooking ideas), crisp pancetta (I got super thin pieces that you blink at and they are cooked), or cook four really good pieces of bacon and crumble.

Put your yummy lettuce on a platter and top with; bacon/pancetta, slivers of parmesan, chunky croutons…

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drizzle with lemon juice.

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Plate one half per person (trust me, folks will be back for the other half) with plenty of pancetta and drizzle with balsamic glaze (you can find this all over the place OR boil balsamic until it is half its volume).

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Follow Jane on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

 

 

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad by Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life

I am excited to introduce our first guest for the month, Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life. Sylvia’s blog is the loveliest nook of the blogosphere. Her photos are stunning and celebrate the beauty and joy in the simple things that make up life.   My favourite post is one of her more recent, Lilac Mornings. Sylvia thoughtfully reflects on lilacs, fragility, nature, beauty and life without being overly saccharine or maudlin. Instead, I feel like she has granted me permission to enjoy the moment and join her in reflection. Treat yourself and spend some time visiting Sylvia’s blog or follow her on Instagram to see beauty in the everyday.

Today Sylvia shares one of her simple summer recipes.

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Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Summer is here and I cannot think of a better time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to eat fresh, honest, simple dishes. Summer abounds with colorful treasures of the field ­– from juicy ripe tomatoes, green beans and sweet peppers through fragrant basil and lavender to fresh berries, apricots and melon. Farmer’s markets are operating at full speed giving to those who do not have their own gardens an opportunity to buy local and eat seasonal, something I have committed myself to long ago. Summer also comes with cooking techniques that are easy, straightforward and quick – who wants, in the heat of the season, to be simmering dishes for hours – and there is no need to; simply let the fresh vibrant products do the work. With this simple, easy and delicious pasta salad I am about to share, you can do just that. Full of gorgeous colors and flavors, this market-inspired recipe, truly my family favorite highlights the season’s best and freshest ingredients. Perfect for a potluck, a casual summer get-together or a weeknight dinner whether as a side dish (you can omit the grilled chicken) or a main meal. Put it in a jar and you have a picnic-perfect pasta salad.

Feel free to improvise, make my family favorite recipe your family recipe and do not forget that “when you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simple and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is”, one of my favorite advices from Alice Water. It’s really just that simple and as easy as, well, the summer itself.

GRILLED CHICKEN & FRESH VEGGIE PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:
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1-2 skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
375g tri-colour vegetable rotini, or whole-wheat fusilli

250g (1 box) heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped into thin slices

200g fresh green peas
Parmesan cheese
fresh basil

Oil and vinegar dressing
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8 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
minced garlic

salt and pepper

Directions:

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Marinate chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes in white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill each side of the skinless chicken breasts. It only takes a few minutes per side over direct medium-high heat for them to be brown, beautifully moist and evenly cooked. Let them cool.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool. Boil green peas in salted water for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. In the meantime, cut heirloom cherry tomatoes in half. Slice pepper halves into strips about 1/4″ wide. Combine all vegetables in a large salad bowl. Add pasta and the sliced chicken breasts.
To prepare the dressing whisk garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper together.
Add the dressing to the salad.
Toss with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

ENJOY!

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Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled Chicken Breast

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Summer Days

IMG_3703It’s July. The kids are out of school, the weather is glorious and we’re determined to make the most of these summer days.

Food and summer go hand-in-hand. Barbeques, cook-outs, pot-lucks, picnics and dining al fresco all re-emerge from hibernation and if you live in a climate like we do here in Toronto, you can count on the patios being packed from the first glimmer of spring to the cool days of fall.

This month we’ve asked several of our fellow Savvy Storytellers, also legit foodies, to share a summer recipe worth trying. Be sure to visit their blogs and thumb through their Instagram for food inspiration that will have you drooling and dusting off those BBQ tongs.

We’ve got more than recipes lined up. Summer must-haves from PC home, cookbook reviews, guest Lisa Betts will write about raising a vegetarian family and interior designer extraordinaire Cindy McKay offering her tips on how to create the perfect backyard oasis. After reading this you’ll be ready to affordably transform your entire backyard or just a cozy nook for two.

The summer is for relaxation, rejuvenation and spending time with family and friends. That is exactly what we are planning to do, so please forgive us as we may stray from our daily posting schedule.

Don’t forget to join the conversation. Let us know if you’ve tried a suggested recipe or if you have a go-to summer treat that you’d like to share.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer!

Juicer

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juicer (n): an intensely delicious kiss on the cheek whereupon the lips of one are pressed firmly into the cheek of another lasting for at minimum 5 glorious Mississippi-seconds.

Variations:
-the kisser’s hand cradles and presses the head of the receiver, creating counter-pressure to intensify the kiss.
-the kisser’s lips attach to the cheek with an open-mouth creating a suction seal, producing a delicious, slurpy sound when pulled away.
-rarely, but much loved by the receiver, the kisser, while lips attached to the cheek, vocalizes Muuuuuu-wah!

How To Take Timeless Family Portraits

BethAnneJones-102Years ago I hired a photographer to capture my family. The boys were ages 4, 3 and 1 and I was desperate to hang onto their cuteness . . . and populate a very barren, very large wall.

Family portraits run the gamut from the cheap(er) and cheerful to investment photography. Since I wanted these prints to be enlarged and framed, it was important to me to have a professional whose artistic eye and professionalism I admired. I splurged and hired a high-end photographer who took beautiful photos of my family and years later I still cherish them. These photos are classic in part due to her creative genius but also her guidance on how to create lasting, timeless portraits.

Thinking of capitalizing on the warmer weather and lush greenery, and taking family pictures this summer? Before you do, heed some this advice I compiled by asking photographers for their best tips on creating classic photos.

Research!

Take the time to research a photographer. When you’ve narrowed it down, be sure to set a meeting and go through their portfolio. Ask lots of question about their process. Do they prefer to do staged photos or candid? What equipment do they use? How are the photos presented? Are the prints colour corrected and photoshopped as necessary?

Price is something that is best discussed up front. Is there a sitting fee in addition to the proofs? How many proofs are provided? Are photos ordered in packages or a la carte? Know what you plan to do with the photos. This will help to determine the dimensions and overall cost.

Location! Location! Location!

Researching the location is just about as important as the photographer. You’ll want to choose somewhere that is comfortable and maybe even familiar to your family. If walker-bound grandma is going to be in the shoot maybe hiking along a bramble path isn’t the best fit. If wearing stilettos in your photo is a must, a cobble stone street may be great for posed shots but not as natural for candid shots of you chasing around after your toddler.

It’s also worth noting the natural light. Know what time the sunlight is soft as opposed to beating down. Squinty eyes, sweat stains, and shadows don’t make for the best photos. Neither does the dog parade or all you-can-eat rib festival encroaching on your frame. If choosing a public place, ensure there are no events scheduled on the day that might conflict with your plans. Also, permits are required for many locations. A good photographer will know this, but it’s worth checking into so you’re not disappointed.

What To Wear!

This is where things can get tricky.   Remember the 80s? Perms and frosted lipstick were the beachy waves and smoky eye of today. Hair and make-up should be simple and natural or else you may find yourself groaning over your look in a few years time.  imgres-3

Clothing can also be a challenge. White can make you look larger and washed out, and black can look severe. Stick with clothing you feel comfortable wearing that reflects your personality but at the same time is not too trendy or flashy and unless you’re being paid to advertise for Gap, keep clothing with logos in the closet.

imgres-2Planning outfits for the entire family is an exercise in patience and good humour. Remember that episode of Modern Family when Claire loses her mind trying to make sure everyone is picture-perfect in their all-white ensembles? You don’t need that stress. Instead, make sure everyone is in the same colour palette but not matchy-matchy. I’ve never understood the appeal of family photos where everyone is wearing jeans and a black top, or khakis and a white-button down. It looks less like a family photo and more like a greeting card from your local Walmart staff.

I love this photo. It pretty much sums up everything not to do if you want to create a timeless photo! Thanks Awkward Family Photosimgres-1

Be Yourself!

It may sound obvious but be yourself. Take some time with the photographer and take some silly shots to help loosen up or play with your kids with the photographer snapping in the background.

Don’t be afraid of “time and place”.  The night before my family photos my middle son scratched his older brother ALL OVER HIS FACE. It looked liked poor Jack had been locked in a closet with Cujo. He still has the scars to this day. I had a Claire (from Modern Family) moment, and cried to the photographer that the pictures “were ruined” but she calmed my nerves and reminded me that photography is for capturing the now. She graciously photoshopped several of the images but she didn’t do them all, and for that I am actually grateful.

Lastly, speak up! Most photographers shoot with digital so you can preview the shots on-site. If you don’t feel good about the direction of the shoot, you need to say something. Photographers take pictures, they don’t read minds.

 

 

To Get You Through June: Desiderata

A friend sent me this poem and I share it with you in hopes that you find clarity and calmness in the hectic days that fill the month of June.

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Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, written in 1927