Summertime, and the eating is easy

Tasty summer treats

I know it might seem like a bit of a stretch this week, with the wind and the hail and the cooler temperatures, but summer is upon us. It will officially arrive on Thursday (June 20) at 1:51 p.m.

In the Okanagan we are well versed in how to enjoy summer, so I don’t know that I need to offer you suggestions about what to do. Everyone has their favourite ice cream shop, café by the lake or winery to visit. Some like to be by the water and others venture into it. Whatever you’re doing on those summer days, I bet you’ll be packing a picnic at some point.

This week, I offer my top five picnic tips—some of them from my mom, who could have had a masters degree in packing a lunch, whether for school or a picnic. If you want more summery recipes, peruse my blog where I load fun, fresh recipes all the time.

1. Manage your expectations and plan simply for a good time—When I was younger, I used to have a detailed agenda for al fresco experiences—a menu planned in advance, the perfect spot picked out and a timeline of how to enjoy the moments to the maximum. Mother Nature, friends with changing plans and even interlopers who spoiled a spot could, and often did, ruin my ideal itinerary. Nowadays, I pack just a few treats and gather a few folks. We have a type of timeline but no real agenda, except enjoying it all. I include rain jackets or a tarp and might even hold the event in the living room at home if Mother Nature throws a tantrum.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or delegate—The best friends love to help, but most of us won’t ask for fear of offending the host. Just remember to be specific if you have a plan of your own. Don’t say “bring anything” if you want them to bring a dessert or appetizer and you will be annoyed if they bring their pasta salad. A great host hack is to bring an extra chair or larger blanket just in case someone doesn’t have their own.

3. Tupperware is your ally and so are ice packs—Whether you admire Martha Stewart and spiffy containers or Jeff Foxworthy and the concept of re-using margarine tubs for salad bowls, it doesn’t matter. Keep things tidy by organizing your ingredients. Even if you use ice, food doesn’t get soggy in containers. You can also bring back leftovers easily. (Did you know Earl Tupper invented Tupperware containers to reduce food waste after the Great Depression?)

4. Be eco-friendly and save money too—Pack a garbage bag to make clean-up easy. Why not use cloth napkins and cutlery from home? It can be washed afterwards and re-used. (I have a set that stays in our picnic basket, including a sharp knife, a small bread board, a serving spoon and tongs for something too messy for fingers.)

5. Work smarter, not harder—Prepare ahead, whether that means buying ready-made items or making your own beforehand.

My mom’s potato salad, made with her mayo, is one of my standard dishes. If you prefer sandwiches, here are some suggestions.

If you want a vinaigrette salad, which is safer on a hot day against spoilage, here’s the Rainbow Chickpea Salad, which has a lovely look and taste.

You might want to support a local business and pick up treats on your drive. But if you want a homemade treat, check out this easy recipe for something chocolate with a great hack for packing it up.

If you’d rather just order a picnic all done up from a company that specializes in them, go for it. My motto is “the most important part of time around the table is showing up” (as long as there is something to eat of course). After that, it’s up to you to savour the experience.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Celebrate with the grill master in your home on Father's Day

Manly art of barbecuing

With Father’s Day this weekend, it seemed the perfect thing to write an ode to the barbecue.

In this part of the world anyway, dads are generally the ones who own the grill in most houses. I know my Dad was the grill master when I was growing up, and my Hubbie has taken things to another level entirely, having both his grill and his smoker BBQ rig.

Perhaps there is a male affinity for that most primal of activities, cooking over an open fire?

I think dads like barbecuing because it is straight-forward and approachable. You can try all you like to dress up the barbecue experience but somehow the down-home nature of it always sneaks in. I think that is much of its charm.

If the non-barbecuer in the family wants to play with the accompaniments and jazz things up, then that seems to work best. Leave the grill maestro to work his own magic outside.

This is another part of the allure for dads, I think. I seem to remember an old joke about the only time dad was really in charge was at the grill and on the dance floor.

For those of you who are buying Father’s Day presents, grilling provides a perfect area to explore, as there are a plethora of gadgets and gizmos to enhance his capabilities and creativity. Many of them are not even expensive, which is a nice change. Tongs, skewers, grill plates, smoking chips, even aprons and cookbooks are available in abundance.

Perhaps you just need to get dad a patio chair so he can watch his work in progress? (We did that one year. I think it was the summer my dad taught me how to mow the grass. As I write this, the connection is becoming even clearer.)

If your dad is not a BBQ specialist, I hope at least if he gets a tie, it’s because he especially likes them. Dads should get spoiled just as much as mom does on Mother’s Day, don’t you think?

My hubbie, Martin, has been bitten by the “Ba-be-que” bug—the real down-home style of smoking that requires much more putzing around the BBQ itself. This works well at our house as I have my hobbies too. While he is philosophizing about woods, rubs, sauces and cuts of pork, I can be gardening or reading until he brings his delectable fare to the table. Sometimes it’s best if we each have our own quality time.

This year f,or Father’s Day, I got Martin a “pig tail” meat flipper gizmo that he can use while he prepares the meat over those coals on the rig. Meanwhile, “in the back 40”, I have planted radishes in the garden that are perfect for putting in a potato salad. If you’d like to use my mom’s delectable homemade mayo for your potato salad too, click for this recipe. (link: https://happygourmand.wordpress.com/recipe-archives/nancys-mayo/ )

I will wait patiently for him to return with the meat – satisfying that age-old tradition of having the man “bringing home the bacon.” (She says with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

Happy Father’s Day to all the male role models out there, and to those who benefit from their love and wisdom.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Finding fare we Canadians can call out own

Favourite Canadian treats

With the American Memorial Day long weekend just past, there was much food talk about quintessential foods to prepare and eat.

Our neighbours to the south like to claim hot dogs and apple pie as “all-American food”. In my humble Canadian opinion, we have many more uniquely regional specialties.

I thought I’d focus on some of my favourite treats as a Prairie girl born in Winnipeg, growing up in Calgary and then living in Vancouver, rural Quebec and now the Okanagan. Some may be familiar, but maybe I’ll inspire you to look for something new on your next Canadian trip.

Okay, nostalgia starts us off. My regular followers will know Hubbie and I are both big doughnut fans, and we have been our whole lives. Martin grew up with his own neighbourhood faves in Laval and Montreal and I grew up with something I didn’t know was different in Manitoba.

Have you ever heard of a “jambuster?” If you come from other parts of Canada, you know what a jelly donut is. Well, a jambuster has jam, not jelly (a much better choice if you ask this gourmand – raspberry is my preference). It is rolled in granulated sugar, not powdered sugar. (Too messy, with no crunch – a much less satisfying experience.)

Pies are another treat category I love, and I have a few favourites. A Prairie favourite from the early 1900s is most commonly known as Flapper pie, named after the rebellious young women of the 1920s.

At our house, this classic was called Chess Pie. My mom loved anything with custard, and that is the core of this recipe. Top it with meringue for a bit of flair, and voilà! (It also could be made with a graham crust, another good thing. Mom wasn’t a fan of making pastry.)

The Americans might have apple pie, but I’d trade that for Saskatoon berry pie any day. I remember one summer vacation with my cousins, finding a delicious patch of blue berries. My dad was convinced they were Saskatoon berries, and my mom wondered if they were wild huckleberries. My aunt, being my dad’s older sibling, declared they should be called “huckle-blue-toons”. My cousins and I didn’t care what they were called – they made awesome pie and fantastic pancakes.

Perhaps the most well-known Canadian treat is the good old butter tart. If you want a lively discussion among a group of Canucks that doesn’t involve sports, ask people what the proper recipe is for butter tarts. Everyone has an opinion. This recipe on my blog allows you to decide what’s best for you with basic proportions.

There are many delectable specialties across our wonderful country, and I’d love to try more of them. A fellow foodie shared an article recently I am turning into a sort of bucket list, with a catalog of great Canadian tastes. Maybe your summer travels will allow you to sample a few.

I love that we have so many symbols and representations of what is historically called “our food” by locals. The variety of dishes placed on our family tables or shared amongst neighbours and friends help us see the tapestry that is our culture and our history. Favourites evolve as our families do, and our experiences expand our horizons further.

Whether you are cooking and/or eating tried and true traditional fare, or creating and/or sharing new quintessential Canadian treats, I believe it all helps bring us closer together – even if we are just reaching across the table for another taste.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


It’s officially pie and crumble season

Taste of summer

Living in the Okanagan can make one a spoiled Canadian when it comes to fresh food.

We have an embarrassment of riches here with the fresh fruits in summer season, but that’s not enough. We champ at the bit in spring, wanting to have everything as soon as green shoots appear.

For this Prairie girl, the first spring flavours in dessert that don’t come from a mason jar or the freezer are rhubarb pies and cobblers. I have two little patches of rhubarb here at Rabbit Hollow, which provide just enough for a few desserts and a Ziploc bag of pieces for a dreary winter day.

Did you know rhubarb came to us via Europe, where it was first transported along the Silk Road? In the 14th century, the price of rhubarb was five times that of cinnamon or saffron.

Of course, such popularity for cooking and also medicinal purposes (it was used as a laxative) encouraged European farmers to start growing it. Once the price of sugar dropped in the 18th century, rhubarb was firmly adopted into the international culinary domain.

There are recipes for rhubarb chutney, but most of us know this vegetable as a delicious, if tart, candidate for pies and crumbles. Some people prefer it with strawberries to offset the tartness, but I’m a purist. Maybe it’s the genes—my dad used to like eating rhubarb stalks raw, just dipping the end into the sugar bowl before he took a bite.

I got a wonderful recipe for a galette that works quite well with rhubarb. If you’re not familiar with the term, a galette is what I define as a lazy gourmand’s tart. It has only one piece of pastry rolled out with fruit piled in the centre and the edges folded in over top. (Here’s that recipe, with tips on making it with different fruit.

This year, I wanted to try something new, and while watching Phil Rosenthal in Iceland. I saw him sample what Icelanders call “Happy Marriage Cake” (well, they say it in Icelandic, but this is easier to spell). In a sign from the universe, a recipe for said cake showed up in one of my foodie newsletters later that week.

I have a sidebar here. First, if you haven’t watched “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix and you’re a foodie like me, go look it up. Phil is charming and fun, and he finds lots of wonderful dishes all over the world.

Second, when you’re trying a new recipe, be prepared for anything to happen. My hubbie always says, don’t try a new recipe when guests are coming over. Who wants to hear, “I hope you like it” when they are about to eat?

So, you might have already guessed, I adapted the recipe I found. The original made enough for a whole street full of Icelanders, had a few steps that were a bit excessive and was a bit overly sweet for my taste. I like the tartness of rhubarb. If I want sweet, I’ll make strawberry crumble.

The good news is, it holds up to its name and Hubbie loved it. I still have a happy marriage despite the mess I made in the kitchen and a few pieces of cake left to enjoy with tea.

Here’s the link to the recipe. https://happygourmand.wordpress.com/recipe-archives/happy-marriage-cake-hjonabandssaela/

If you try it, I’d love to hear your comments. Or maybe you have memories or a recipe you’d like to share. Pop onto my Happy Gourmande Facebook page and share if you’re looking for encouragement from other foodies.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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