July 26, 2010

Mmmm Bagels

This week I’m taking a break from cereal. After a week or two a change is needed. Part of the change is due to finding some gluten free bagels at the Natural Pantry at Billings Bridge.

Every once in a while I’ll pick up one of their products usually to try it out, and especially if it’s on sale. Sorry, I’m not one for paying $7-8 for some GF cupcakes or bagels. But Friday was my lucky day. There on the sale shelf were a few bags of GF bagels. Once I got home, I sliced them up and popped them in the freezer.

This morning I enjoyed a nice toasted bagel, one half with peanut butter and the other half with Black Pearl Jam (blueberry jam from a summer sale in Paris, Ontario – in a Christmas present from my little sister).

My bagel was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside; just how I like my bagels. I enjoyed it so much that my scrapes and bruises from white-water rafting on the weekend hurt significantly less. I have some rhubarb jam left so I’m looking forward to having that on my bagel tomorrow morning. Sometimes it’s just the simple pleasures you need in life.

July 20, 2010

Summer and Teens

We’re starting week three of the summer program I’m working with right now and I think I got lucky again. The team of teachers I’m supervising are a great bunch and are working so well together not just as a whole, but in their own two-person teams. The students themselves have taken to improving their English beginning on day one, which I heard is a first. It hasn’t all been rosy and there have been a few hiccups here and there. A custodian found beers cans jammed in a toilet, and today I had a scare when he saw two boys smoking a joint out behind the cafeteria. What a relief it was when I heard them speaking English without an accent – they weren’t ours.

Since I’ve been working with private classes of government students for the last year it’s been a nice change working with a younger group. And I mean groups as well. If I’m in the office, I hear people passing by talking about the activities posted on the boards. When I’m in the halls I get smiles and hellos and overhear conversations about their lunch or what they did in their workshops. And it’s all in English! It’s wonderful to see them making an effort and doing the best they can to communicate to people they only met a week ago. Of course, I’m not totally naïve. We have a strict English only policy and with three strikes the student is sent home. Once the first written warnings started near the end of last week, the other languages quickly began to dwindle. But there are a few who are determined to speak their first language.

Observations have also begun for the teaching staff, last week they were informal pop-ins, and this week is a full 30-minute visit with written documentation. As a teacher, I love getting observed as I feel I can always learn something new and get some insight into my classes. And of course, when it goes well I love to hear all the good things. As a supervisor, I still like to observe so I can see what other teachers are doing and help them in their professional development. I also like to leave a lesson with a great idea; pinched from the class I just saw.

These observations, whether formal or informal, can help me connect with the teachers I’m supervising. I’m not just some person sitting in an office, or someone disconnected from the world of teaching. I’m also a colleague, one who just happens to be taking a two month break from the classroom. Something I miss about teaching groups is the ‘fun stuff’ you can do. Some of the things I’ve seen this week is: a class making fantasy neighbourhoods (discussing what should be there and why); an ‘unknown person’ interrupting a class, creating a ruckus and stealing something so the students could write a mock police report; debates about police and protester behaviour at the recent G20 summit and legalizing marijuana; and presentations about anything and everything.

Even though I’m in an office for most of the day, I take every opportunity to speak with my colleagues and see how their doing and listen to their successes. They also know I have an ear for the difficulties and can offer some help. They have also learned that my ears are also for great ideas they have and to pass along. You have to love teamwork. And the team we’ve got is a great one.

July 18, 2010

The Mix Company

A few weeks ago we ventured up the valley to Pembroke. A friend was getting married over the long weekend so it was an excuse to visit a part of the region we hadn’t seen (a beautiful area by the way). I did a Google search for gluten free restaurants with not much success. However, a link came up for the farmer’s market downtown Pembroke. There was a vendor who sold gluten free mixes. I’ve never been one for mixes, but I kept it in mind for our trip.

Saturday morning the Honey wanted to continue sleeping so off I went to the market. At first glance it’s misleading. It looked so small and all I saw was hot food being served from the small building. Then as I got closer I saw the tables and vendors; there were lots. There were vendors with baking (that looked so good), jams jellies and relishes, crafts, lavender products (that smelled wonderful), fruit and vegetables, and the gluten free mix lady.

Like at home, I glanced at everything first, then after visiting The Mix Company I checked out what else I wanted, especially the rhubarb. Cate Ott had a variety of gluten free products available for sale: mixes of herbs and spices, bread, pancakes, pasta, soup, and of course baking. She also had some prepared items for sale: gluten free pumpernickel bread, gluten free banana muffins, and gluten free butter tarts.

Everything was so delicious. The butter tarts never made it out of the hotel room. The Honey enjoyed them as well. The muffins were nice and moist and great for breakfast.

And the bread, tasted like the real thing.

Perfect for sandwiches.

Orders can be done via their website or if you live in the area, pickups can be arranged.

July 7, 2010

Memories of Nana

There’s something special about grandmothers. On one hand they are all very much alike: their doting, their worrying, their ability to tell you something without it being a lecture, and lastly, telling you off without holding a grudge (for either party). On the other hand they all have their own personalities and quirks. Mine was no different.

My nana was a fiery little woman and one of the things she is remembered for is her baking. Not just doing it, but having a love for it too. While her children remember her baking mostly out of necessity, the grandchildren remember her for her cookies. My sister and I also remember her for her banana bread. When they returned from many years living in northern Ontario, one couldn’t leave their house without being loaded down with a few bags of chocolate chip cookies, a loaf or two of some kind, and probably some jams or relish depending on the time of year. When I lived overseas for a while, I quickly learnt what to expect in her care packages. My colleagues came to love her cookies as well.

My nana passed away many years ago but her recipes live on in the hearts and memories of her family. She’s also gained a reputation in families that have merged with ours. My Honey’s extended family love her sugar cookies and have learnt that when I say ‘It was my nana’s recipe’ that seconds will be wanting.

Ironically I have learnt many things from her since her passing. The first time I made her sugar cookies I was surprised they didn’t taste the same. Then I realized she always made them with love and I had made them out of necessity. Since then, whenever I bake I make sure I’m doing it with love, even when I’m doing a crazy bake-off. Love is what makes it taste good.

Her banana bread is made often, especially to use up those brownish bananas and it tastes wonderful every time. I usually make it as is, maybe cutting the sugar in half (when I remember), and it doesn’t last long. Most of the time I share it with others; colleagues, students, friends, and I think the reason is because they all enjoy it. It’s so easy to make that I normally make a few at a time; more to go around. My sister and I have never tried to find another recipe for banana bread, nor wanted to. To us this one is perfect. I hope you enjoy it and as you make it, you have memories of your nana.

Nana’s Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup sugar
4 tbs melted butter
1 egg, beaten
3 small bananas or 2 large bananas, mashed
1 ½ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp guar gum
Cream together sugar, egg and butter. Add bananas, then flour, soda and salt. Mix well. Put into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350˚.

* If you double the recipe, use two separate pans otherwise it won’t cook all the way through.
** Can halve the sugar without consequences.
Bananas are the perfect texture for banana bread when they are frozen when overripe, and then thawed ahead of time for baking. Just make sure to thaw them in a bowl, they tend to leak.

This recipe probably came from my Nana’s Five Roses Cookbook. It’s one of those cookbooks that has become an institution and as I’ve learnt, I’m not the only one who has fond memories of the baking that came out of this book. A cousin recently received one at her bridal shower from her mother, who received her copy from her grandmother (the bride’s great grandmother). Here’s a link I found that gives you an idea how much it’s been a part of Canadian culture, and maybe helped shape us as a people. http://www.kenorapubliclibrary.org/museum/history/social/social.aspx?id=1693&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetID=1693&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetType=1&TierSlicer1_TSMenuID=445

July 4, 2010

Caprese Ristorante Italiano

Back in March, my Honey and I were looking for some GF restaurants, mainly for breakfast. I was finally finished with my evil-food cleanse and wanted to go out for breakfast. In our search we came across Dino at Gluten Free Ghetto who had written about an Italian restaurant that was 100% gluten free. I have fallen in love.

I’m quite particular about Italian restaurants because I often walk out with my wallet feeling much lighter and my impressions lowered. Being a fan of pasta, and learning to survive on it during university, I can make pretty good sauce. I’m sure it probably doesn’t compare to someone’s Italian grandma’s, but mine is pretty good. And often I leave Italian restaurants thinking ‘Hmmm, my sauce is better’. Thankfully, that wasn’t so after our visit to Caprese Italian Restaurant.

We have ventured there a few times, just the two of us (my Honey and I) or with friends and I have yet to be disappointed. After trying various things off their menu, on this visit I decided on the table d’hôte – breaded chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese. Warm bread always arrives at the table with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. The gluten free bread is light and airy, and delicious. It’s hard to stop. Like all our previous visits, we were very happy with our meal. Our only wish is that we have enough room for dessert, but it doesn’t happen too often. We even skipped an appetizer this time round and to no avail, still no room for dessert.

Caprese is a relaxed Italian restaurant where you can go and you don’t have to worry about anything. The server is always friendly and helpful, and on some occasions the chef has popped out to chat to his customers. The wine list is large enough to have something there for everyone and they carry GF beers. Cider is on the menu, but I have yet to have one there; sadly, they are always out of it. The prices are also quite reasonable. It’s comparable to some other Italian restaurants of the same quality, and the prices aren’t hiked up due to being gluten free. Caprese is located at 696 Bronson Ave near Carling (613-231-3885). Street parking is available off Bronson on the side streets. While their website is still under construction, a menu lists their appetizers, pastas, and entrees.