At My Nanny’s Table

I enjoy setting a nice table. Decor to match the theme. Fresh flowers somewhere in the room. The “nice” cutlery brought out. But I don’t even come CLOSE to how my nanny set the table. No one has.

The chairs, dark, old and somewhat rickety, padding added to make up for decades of bottoms firmly planted, all sitting snug to ensure everyone fit. And we all did.

First, a lightly padded layer on top of the table itself. Covered by a cotton table cloth of little design. It would be nothing fancy, no garish print or god forbid plastic of any kind.

The placemats were small and stiff and intended to more protect the wood of the table from the heat of the plate than a giant rectangle of plastic intended to catch the scraps of a messy eater because yes, the plates were always heated. The mats had printed images of hunting scenes from the 1920’s or castles with lush greens around them. We would always check to see which ones we were given and trade if the need arose.

The silverware, clean, shiny, laid out just right without being so abundant that it was confusing. The forks always seemed big and the dessert spoon and fork always sat at the top of the placemat. I can still see my Pipe sitting at the table when I would pop in randomly for lunch, cleaner and cloth in hand, shining up the silver piece by piece.

For the life of me I cannot recall what type of napkins there were but something tells me Nanny likely would have had cloth. I was a kid, I didn’t use napkins.

A short little vase sat in the centre of the table with some fresh flowers spilling out. Nothing ostentatious. Just some carnations, maybe lilacs from outside.

I don’t recall candles on the table. Only the one candle on the shelves behind the table that looked like it must be old fashioned because the holder part looked like a saucer and had the little finger hold so you could carry it and walk around. They only did that in the olden days.

Pepper came in a tiny pepper shaker and salt came in a wee dish with an even more wee spoon. I would get in trouble for playing with the doll size set, pouring the salt over itself.

If it was lamb there would be a mint sauce in a green glass dish with a spoon. If it was beef there would be horseradish in a clear glass dish with a spoon.

Everything came out on its own serving tray or bowl. Glass, china, silver. Nothing chintzy. You passed around and helped yourself and never would Nanny ever dare to provide you with a plate that already had food loaded on it. We chose how much of what item we each wanted. It was a family dinner, not a restaurant.

I remember there never being salad.

Pipe and one of us would clear the plates away and another one of us would help Nanny bring out the dessert. There would always, and I mean ALWAYS, be more than one option.

Most frequently, and if we were lucky, there would be treacle tart. Oh my god the treacle tart. There would, more often than not, be warm custard, perhaps a little cake that felt very heavy and very much not from a box, or little meringues with pineapple on top. She would sometimes do a pie with pastry from scratch and would moan about how the pastry didn’t work out, every time.

When we had all had our fill and my dad would announce that his sufficiency had been suffonsified, one of us would help Pipe clear away the remaining items from the table and create the long line of dishes to be done on the counter.

We would take the little orange contraption that both swept and collected the crumbs off the table and give it a whirl before placing it back on the little stand in the kitchen.

The table cloth got folded, same with the liner underneath. If there was left over food, we would go to the hall cupboard and rummage through bags full of twist ties, bags full of margarine containers, bags full of bags and find something to store everything in.

We made fun of Nanny for the twist ties. Every time.

Then, when one of us had helped Pipe with the dishes, we would all sit in the living room, surrounded by the haze of a room full of smokers, port or sherry in tiny glasses lining the coffee table, the candy dish decimated by little fingers, and we would talk and play the alphabet game until it was time to go.

I’m very glad that there was so little in the way of technology back then. And while it is indeed an absolute way of life now, I will work to get back some of what we had when we sat at my Nanny’s table.

It was all very much just like my Nan. Fancy, but not overly so.

close to nannys

Close to Nan’s  – needs a table cloth!

 

 

Summer Days

As the temperature rises (and unexpectedly rapidly drops, as we have recently experienced), the pull to be out of doors rises equally. The annual poke through the dusty bins that hid from the wintry wind in the safety of the shed begins anew and we find treasures long forgotten.

Deflated balls representing all sports, jumpropes and skipballs that likely will remain untouched by the soon-to-be teen, bits and bobs of the bicycle-part variety, frisbees and kites destined to spend the next 6 months in the back of the car for the just in case moments and impromptu park stops.

The garage will be void of shovels and snowblowers, replaced with lawnmowers and gardening tools, and bicycles will once again make getting out of the car a little tricky on the left hand side.

A quick once-over of the current state of our patio set leaves something to be desired. Bird poop from overhead target practice and enough spider webs to make even Charlotte jealous can be cleaned off but the rust on the frame work from seasons spent under a blanket of snow call as loud as the geese flying by for a full replacement.

So the search is on. Chairs, ideally stack-able for winter storage and preferably without cushions that I have to remember to take off when it rains or go collect from about the yard when our summer winds pick up. Table, large enough for 6 without having to pull a lawn chair over to accommodate all of the food offerings that don’t fit on the tiny bits of available space on the table. Umbrella, nope. We spent more time trying to corral that bugger in the wind that we did enjoying its shade and thus, it spent more time on the floor beside the table than upright where it belonged.

And so I wait, flip flops at the ready, cold drink and a good book on standby. Dinner al fresco every weekend. Coffee in the morning sun. Serenaded into the evening by the frogs and other critters.

Deck life.

We are hearty enough to withstand our Winnipeg winters. And as such, we are rightfully rewarded with our Winnipeg summers.

Summertime

Summertime, and the livin’ gets decidedly easier!

An Everything-Free Dinner

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Yep. My ma, who is currently living a gluten free, egg free and dairy free lifestyle. After years of just living with various ailments, she finally got herself checked out, referred, and diagnosed and as such has had to make a number of dietary adjustments. Which flow into the menus of those who cook for her.

Challenge accepted!

We started off with basics. A homemade pico de gallo and some Que Pasa purple corn chips. To accompany that, we added our long time fave, Freybe’s fine liver sausage and two types of cracker-ish things. My fave of the two was the Wild Riceworks Sea Salt and Black Sesame. Fabulous! The one my ma kept reaching for was the Crunchmaster Multi Seed cracker.

The main course consisted of slow roasted ribs in our favourite Mr. Spice GF BBQ sauce mixed with some blended apple and pineapple. I was pretty skeptical on that one. But they turned into the best ribs we have done thus far. Accompanying the ribs was a salad full of fresh veg and an oil and vinegar dressing. Since my mum can’t even have balsamic anymore, we pulled a portion out after just adding oil. Poor lass.

My fave part, as always, is the roasted potatoes. Nothing beats them really. In there for an hour or so, crisping up the edges, dressed only in oil, salt, pepper and a little seasoning salt because that’s how my pa-in-law makes ’em. Toss with some carrots and you’ve got a full meal deal.

And dessert. Well. Given the difficulty one has finding all natural, edible, raw cacao butter in this city (to make my own white chocolate), the dessert plan changed mid-way.

McK made us some cinnamon tortilla chips using the recipe from her Home Ec class and I whipped up a fruit salsa to go with it. And then good old Lorenzo’s filled in the rest! Along with all of their gluten free baked goods, they actually had a few GF, EF and DF treats! Cupcakes for everyone!

Reading labels has become a regular part of life for many people for a variety of reasons. I read them for carb counts, for wheat ingredients, to see if there is corn listed, to see how many I can’t pronounce (those usually go back on the shelf). To create a meal that incorporates allergies and sensitivities is not an unusual thing for me so this did not seem an insurmountable task.

What I think many forget is that real, whole foods don’t have labels.

Go to those first.

Build your menu around whole, clean items. You’ll be amazed at how little you need outside of that.

eat better feel better

It is really just that simple, isn’t it?

 

How do you incorporate healthy changes or dietary restrictions in your meal planning? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Meal Planning for Dummies

I am not a chef.

I believe I referenced this in my last post where I highlighted my ability to melt chocolate chips (honest moment: it took awhile to learn how to do that successfully without burning them or making them into solid, gritty piles of nothing).

So when I think of what to make for a weeks worth of dinners, I flounder a little. Add to that my child exists on pasta and my husband has the stomach of a most delicate flower, my options shrink.

I have a roster of “hits” that I can make knowing they will be eaten and appreciated. But even the most steadfast repeat-eater (def: one who can eat the same thing regularly and not get sick of it) will eventually tire of the same 5 meals rotating through their belly.

Every now and then I try to get a little fancy. I attempt to broaden my horizons, expand my reach if you will. Once, I even made mahi-mahi. That’s right. (It’s a fish, I had to look it up back then too). Upon completing the mahi-mahi masterpiece, I was asked if it should be given to the dog or just thrown out. (For real, this happened, and yes, we’re still married.)

Keeping that SUPER successful experiment in mind I occasionally have to reign myself back in and abandon the crazier looking results from my Pinterest searches. These searches now typically involve the keywords gluten free, easy, quick, three ingredient, slow cooker, picky, did I mention easy?

When I meal plan there are two rules:

Keep it simple.

Know your audience.

We typically will have something with beef, something with chicken, something super fast, something that doesn’t require cooking, and something that is typically a little bit piece meal.

This week, for example, we will have:

Chicken, gravy, potatoes and veg (yes, I buy the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, SO EASY!)

Beef tacos with all the fillings on GF tortillas.

Homemade pizza on GF crust.

Italian sandwhiches on GF sub buns with salad.

End of week usually nets you a grilled cheese and some potato chips. Its Friday. Live a little. Or we’ll pick up some Thai. Either way, low effort, bits and pieces, easy for me.

By adding these meal ideas to my Meal Planner Worksheet I can begin to see what I already have in the house versus what I need to add to my grocery list for the week. Knowing this, I can then determine where I will go to get my groceries. While just about every grocery chain has a plethora of gluten free foods available, there is just one nearby that has the GF tortilla brand that doesn’t crack into a million pieces when you try to actually roll something up in it!

So with my meal plan prepared I can now add the “needs” to my grocery list and I am good to go. Grocery shopping becomes quick and easy and I don’t end up with an abundance of things we won’t use before they go bad or multiples of things we already had tons of in the pantry.

Keeping things on the simple side, knowing the likes and dislikes of who you cook for, being aware of the inventory of your fridge and pantry, these things give you back time in your week and contribute to a smooth transition into dinner time.

No matter who in your house does the cooking, spending a few moments getting prepared each week is something worth investing in. Some people plan a week at a time, some plan a month at a time, some use spreadsheets, some use meal planners like the one I made.

However you choose to equip yourself for the meals ahead, know you are adding efficiency into your life. By doing this one step prior to the start of your week, you have taken an often frazzled and stressful task  and turned it into a simple undertaking.

Simple is good.

Especially when they want to eat every night!

meal planning for dummies

Meal Planning for Dummies makes dinner easier!

 

What do you do to make your mealtimes a success? Any pre-cooking tips? Found any great recipes? Share in the comments!

And download your own copy of my Meal Planner Worksheet! Save yourself some time each week!

Kit Kat Copy Cat

Now, make no mistake…

 I am no chef.

I am not someone who loves to tweak recipes and play around with spices and spend all day in the kitchen.

I will not be posting copious amounts of styled food photos or fabulous dinner party images.

I am a meal maker by necessity and have researched and attempted a plethora of different things because I have a gluten free husband and a picky kid. But I do not like it. It is far from a passion.

Every once in awhile I find a wee little recipe that sounds both easy and delicious. And before you say anything about this one, know this: if you can’t simply take it out of the package or wrap or peel and pop it in your mouth, or you have to add at least one item to one other item, that, my friends, is a recipe.

This particular recipe has a mere two ingredients. That’s how I knew I’d love it.

I found it while cruising around on Pinterest for easy GF treats that I could contribute to our Easter dinner at the pa-in-laws. And lo, the Kit Kat Copy Cat appeared. I clicked on over to the Boulder Locavore site and found what is possibly the easiest and yummiest treat I’ve yet to make. And I’ve made some easy, yummy treats!

I realize now that the photos I took to document the process are virtually identical to the ones on the website, though hers are more stylistically appealing. But hey, chocolate is chocolate and delicious is delicious so whatever.

Pat and McK were my testers and I actually got a “Holy s*&t, you actually made kit kats!” from Pat. So it’s a keeper. A sugary, bad for you, but oh so delish keeper.

 

Got any great quick and easy recipes you can share Drop the link in the comments! Happy to try new things if they are easy and delicious (gluten free preferred). Thanks!