Vegetable Marrow

Lizzie Homemaker Vegetable Marrow hand artistic beautiful
Vegetable Marrow

I recently came across vegetable marrow at the grocery store.  It’s a summer squash that’s similar to zucchini.  It can grow large but is most tender when small.  Native to North America, I was surprised that we had never crossed paths before.  When I polled friends, very few of them had heard of it either.

Cousin to the courgette, this low-calorie, high fibre veg has many health benefits.  It contains high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron.  Including it in your diet helps lower cholesterol, improves energy, circulation, gastrointestinal flow, and it also helps maintain weight.  It reduces the risk of anemia, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Veggie Marrow is in season August and September. The smaller the marrow, the more nutritious and flavourful it can be.

 

Not sure what to make with this vegetable – try these delicious vegetable marrow fritters.  They satisfy.

Salt Dough Ornaments

salt dough ornaments lizzie homemaker
The salt dough ornaments are left to dry after acrylic paint and glitter glue are applied.

We make homemade salt dough ornaments every Christmas.  It’s a lovely tradition that we look forward to every year.

If you have never made them and want to, it is incredibly easy.  Simply mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of salt, then mix in 1 cup of warm water. Roll out dough, cut out shapes, poke a hole in the top with a straw, then bake at the lowest temperature that your oven allows until the dough is completely dry. This can take several hours depending on the temperature and the thickness of the dough. Allow the ornaments to completely cool, paint, and add glitter glue if inclined. Lastly, thread a ribbon or string through the hole and tie for hanging.  Done!

ballerina salt dough ornament lizzie homemaker
Lizzie Homemaker’s five-year-old daughter making a ballerina salt dough ornament.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt.
  2. Add water and mix together.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and place on counter, shape into ball, and knead with your hands until it’s thoroughly combined.
  4. With rolling pin, roll out dough.
  5. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes.  Using a straw, poke a hole in the top of the cut out.  Continue to combine dough scraps into a ball and re-roll out until dough until dough is used up.
  6. Bake ornaments at the lowest oven temperature that your oven allows until the ornaments are completely dry.  This usually takes about 2-3 hours depending on the temperature of your oven and the thickness of the dough.  Allow to cool completely.
  7. Paint – we use acrylic paints.  Add glitter glue (if desired).  Allow to dry.
  8. Thread a ribbon or string through hole and tie for hanging.

The ornaments puff up at higher temperatures which is why I recommend the lowest temperature possible.  My old oven could be set to 200 F but my new one only goes as low as 250 F.  A dehydrator can also be used and gives very consistent results.

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur BBQ barbecue Bar-B-Que sign
The neon sign outside Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, N.Y. The restaurant is housed in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station, built in 1905, overlooking the picturesque Genesee River.

CAGE MATCH!

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Are we in the heart of bbq country? Hell no – but even more reason to clarify the king of pig in this upper NY state city. After driving for several hours in a car with children, it is hard to imagine a time more deserving of bbq. Kids and parents alike go silent when the food arrives and there is no talk until the last finger gets licked. But there is nothing worse than looking forward to bbq and then eating less than perfect pulled pork, brisket or ribs. Admittedly bbq from a chain is kinda sacrilege but when you have kids, your expectations change and practicality reigns. Before we had kids we ate at places like the Pig Out Inn in Natchez, Mississippi, but it ain’t easy to get out that way these days.

Now, to main event, and so that you know where to go …

The combatants:

Famous Dave’s Barbecue

Famous Dave’s claims to be the most decorated barbecue restaurant in history with over 700 trophies. It also ranked 6th on the Daily Meal Top 25 chain barbecue restaurants for 2016.

Dinosaur Barbecue

Dinosaur began as a mobile bbq stand for biker gatherings. Good Morning America named Dinosaur BBQ the best bbq in America in 2009, but that is the most recent accolade, at least on the Dino website. Dinosaur ranked 15th on the Daily Meal Top 25 for 2016.

Brisket

Call me whatever name you want. My heart and soul belong to the Carolinas but my belly, at least when it comes to bbq, resides in the Lone Star state.

Famous Dave’s: The flavour was solid, and the requisite smoke ring proved that the brisket had spent time in the pit. Still, it was dry and needed sauce. Luckily, Famous Dave has some great sauces but really good brisket makes me reluctant to employee any sauce at all.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good flavour; sufficiently moist and just enough fat. Arrived drizzled with bbq sauce, which I don’t love as I like it naked first, and in this case the brisket did not require sauce so it’s a shame it came pre-dressed.

8 ½ /10

Pulled Pork

Famous Dave’s: Good pulled pork. Sufficiently moist, sufficient flavour. Not the best I’ve had, but above average.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very good pulled pork. Sauce again unnecessary, as the pork was very flavourful and moist. Quite good.

8 ½ /10

Ribs

Famous Dave’s: Very tasty, slightly dry. Required sauce. Reminded me that we were at a chain restaurant and that the chef probably wasn’t doing it for love.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very tasty, but not the best cut I’ve had. Moist but still required sauce.

7 ½ /10

Collard Greens

I will eat collard greens every chance I get. Other than meat, there is nothing I associate with bbq more than collards. Might make a vegetarian of me yet. Best thing about collards is that even mediocre collards are good.

Famous Dave’s: Good, nothing special. With bacon.

7/10

Dinosaur: Good, nothing special. Turkey neck twist.

7/10

Fries

Famous Dave’s: Super salty. In fact everything was salty. Okay.

6/10

Dinosaur: Good fries. Not special.

6 ½ /10

Kids’ Meals

No I am not ashamed to finish my plate, Lizzie’s plate, and the girls’ plates. All for the sake of this review, of course; I took no pleasure in eating gluttonously, whatsoever.

Chicken Fingers

Famous Dave’s: Good. On the topic of cluckers, Dave does use cage-raised chickens and eggs. He vows on his website to stop using cage-raised chickens by 2025. That’s like saying, “I’ll quit smoking when I’m dead.” Still, he addresses it publicly. Nowhere on the Dino site does it mention sustainable and ethical practices.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good. Don’t know if they’re cage raised, but moist and tasty. Note that Dinosaur offers kids homemade apple sauce as a side. That’s sweet.

7.5/10

Service

Famous Dave’s: Very good: our waitress was fun, appeared when we needed and disappeared when we didn’t. She was sensitive to the fact that we had kids with us, and they had their drinks quickly, and refills were supplied when a fight broke out over lemonade.

8 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Solid. Lizzie’s request for water required a second ask, as did a reminder that we had ordered a side of fries to share. All responded to promptly.

7 ½ /10

Decision

Famous Dave’s: 50.5/70

Dinosaur BBQ: 53.0/70

TKO – Dinosaur BBQ

They went toe to toe, but the winner of this cage match is Dinosaur Barbecue. It’s not perfect bbq, but it’s a chain that deals in satisfying meat that is properly smoked.

When in Rochester, the Dinosaur BBQ is located in the central business district. You can park on the bridge overlooking the water. If visiting with kids, book an earlier time. We visited at 5:30 which was just before the real rush. Do make a reservation: there is a wait for anyone who doesn’t plan ahead.

Famous Dave’s resides in Greece, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Easily accessible and lots of seating. When we left there was a bit of a wait, but tolerable.

Vegan Collard Greens

healthy vegan collard greens
Lizzie Homemaker’s healthier take on collards keeps the classic smokey flavour intact.

We love collard greens.  We adore them.  We can’t get enough of them.  BUT we’re trying to eat healthier and we also have friends and family that are vegan.  I switched up my traditional collards recipe with pleasing results.  The key was keeping that lovely smokey flavour in the recipe that a ham hock or bacon can provide.  Adding a little liquid hickory smoke did the trick.

Vegan Collard Greens

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp liquid hickory smoke
  • pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 large bunch of collard greens, remove coarse stems and slice

Directions

  1. Add oil to a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot.  Add onions and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until browned and softened.
  2. Add vinegar, stock, sugar, liquid smoke, and chili flakes (if using), bring to a simmer.
  3. Add collard greens, tossing until wilted (I use tongs to toss)
  4.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

If you have never bought liquid smoke – it’s near the barbecue sauces at the grocery store.  Be warned if you start experimenting with it – a little goes a long way.

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Soup

I love soup.  It is probably the ultimate comfort food.  And often when I am sick or fatigued it is exactly what I want to eat.  On those days I also don’t want to put much effort into cooking.

For this soup you simply toss aromatics into a pot of broth, simmer, cook the add-ins in the broth, garnish, and dig in.

easy faux pho soup by lizziehomemaker asian inspired soba noodles shrimp
This soup is pure comfort food and requires little effort.

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the broth base

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) stock (vegetable, fish, or chicken)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced or finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely diced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional)

Add-ins

  • 160 grams soba noodles (2/3 of a pack)
  • 16 raw shrimp, peeled, tail-on
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen work fine here)
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach

Garnish

  • green onion
  • fresh chives
  • sesame oil
  • black pepper
  • chili peppers (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the broth base to a stock pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes or so.  The longer you simmer, the stronger the flavour.
  2. Add soba noodles and bring back to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp and peas, simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add baby spinach, cook until wilted and noodles and shrimp are cooked through, approx a minute more.
  5. Add garnishes.

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock, omitting the oyster sauce, and omitting the shrimp or replacing it with tofu.

Visiting Rochester and the Suffragette Icon Susan B. Anthony’s grave site

Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Tombstone of suffragette Susan B. Anthony with I voted stickers left during the 2016 US presidential election
Grave site of suffrage icon Susan B. Anthony in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. Many people placed “I Voted” stickers on the tombstone after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

We traveled with our three daughters to Rochester, NY, less than a week after the 2016 U.S. Election. The idea had been that, upon the historic election of the first woman president, the girls would visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Mount Hope Cemetery, where people from across the United States had made the pilgrimage to honour her struggle for women’s suffrage. Initially we were disappointed with the outcome of the election because we had imagined that years later our daughters would look back upon this childhood trip as a symbolic moment in a struggle for equality, but we came around to the more important lesson that, had a woman won the election, it would not have meant the struggle was over. Frederick Douglass’ grave in the same cemetery is a stark reminder of that.

The girls were disappointed to have to get out of the car again; we had taken them for a walk in the lovely and accessible Mendon Ponds Park only an hour before, so the idea that we had to go for another walk seemed like unusual punishment. This didn’t set up well for this Little Lesson for the Littles, but we pushed forward. After all, what would Susan B. Anthony have done?

We explained to the girls (ages five and three) that at one time only men could vote. We asked what the girls thought of this. The three year old twins were too busy contemplating the cobblestone road we hiked to hear us, but our eldest responded simply and accurately, “That’s not fair.”

We took this cue to explain Susan B. Anthony’s contribution to the suffrage movement and that, thanks to her among others, men and women are equal under the law, which includes the right to vote. Further research shows that in Rochester in 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting. This underscores the perceived threat she represented to the establishment of the time but my first thought was someone had to provide her with a ballot and a box in order to cast that vote … and it turns out the election inspectors were complicit … and the conspiracy theory begins.

We followed the various groups of people that were travelling to her grave. As we had seen on the news, her grave, a humble stone, was peppered with “I Voted” stickers. We spent a couple of minutes at her grave, took some photos, and headed into Rochester proper for dinner. Over some legit barbecue we carried on the conversation to see what the girls had gained from the experience.

The twins, as expected, were too busy with pulled pork and apple sauce to hear us. Again though, our five year old was sufficiently worldly to consider the impact of what Susan B. Anthony’s work had on our lives today. We asked her what, if anything, she took away from our visit to the cemetery and Anthony’s grave. She replied, simply, “I remember that people who voted came to put stickers on her gravestone.”

When the girls were tucked into their hotel beds that night, we talked about what they actually took away from the visit. We agreed that the brief history lesson we provided was abstract; girls are now equal to boys (although in our home, boys are seriously outnumbered) but what resonated was the contemporary and concrete result: that people who had voted came to see Susan B. Anthony to let her know. We hope to instill in our girls that social justice is not an option; that fighting for what is right – for yourself and others – is an invaluable way to contribute. The fact that our eldest only recalled that people took the time to travel to Mount Hope Cemetery, stickers in hand, to commemorate their right to vote was enough: she saw the impact one person can have on an entire country.

Pear Chia Jam

Lizzie Homemaker breakfast of overnight chia oats topped with a homemade pear chia jam blackberries dried blueberries Newfound Pure wild blueberry powder hemp hearts cacao nibs bee pollen
Overnight chia oats with a hodgepodge of delicious toppings: pear chia jam, blackberries, dried blueberries, wild blueberry powder, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, and bee pollen.

I make a batch of fresh chia jam every week with seasonal fruit. It’s great for topping oatmeal, pancakes, or toast. This week I was able to get my hands on some lovely local pears.  Chia jams are insanely easy to make and so healthy.  Give it a try.

Lizzie Homemaker child fresh local Ontario pears fruit
Local Ontario pears in November! We had to scoop them up when we saw them.

Easy Pear Chia Jam

This fresh jam can be put together in less than 10 minutes. Then you simply pop it in the fridge and wait for it to thicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped pears (peeled, if you prefer a smoother texture)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Directions

Cook pears over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the fruit breaks down, mash, then add chia seeds, vanilla, and maple syrup (if using).  Refrigerate for several hours while the chia seeds plump up and thicken the jam.

This recipe can easily be doubled.  Store in fridge for 4 or 5 days or freeze.  Canning is not recommended.

 

Vegan Cream of Carrot and White Bean Soup

A bowl of vegan carrot soup and white bean soup garnished with chopped cashews and carrot tops by Lizzie Homemaker
A hearty vegan cream of carrot and white bean soup.

We picked up some lovely fresh carrots from our local farmers’ market.  It is amazing how much sweeter they are.  Using good carrots and garnishing this soup with some chopped cashews for crunch and fresh herbs really elevates this dish.

Cream of Carrot and White Bean Soup

  • Difficulty: easy
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Pair this hearty vegan soup with a green salad and some fresh bread for a lovely light dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups cooked navy beans (or 2 cans of white beans)
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 quart (4 cups) veggie stock
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a dutch oven, add carrots and onion, cook for 5-10 minutes over medium-low heat until lightly browned.
  2. Add garlic and ginger cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaves and puree in blender.  Garnish with fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, or carrot tops and chopped cashews.

This soup can be made in advance and freezes well.

My Local Farmers’ Market

A bunch of fresh organic carrots from Lizzie Homemaker's local farmers' market
Cooking with local fresh organic carrots is ideal. The carrots are sweeter and the skins are left on which makes it faster to prepare and more nutritious.

Today was the last day of the season for my local farmers’ market.  I’m incredibly sad to see it shutter its doors and I feel like spring is an eternity away.

I love taking my kids to the market every Tuesday to try and get them excited about healthy food and to gain an appreciation for those that produce the food we eat.

My neighbourhood market has published the following mandate:

“The Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market mandate is to support and increase access to fresh, local, sustainable, naturally grown and certified organic agriculture.  To educate the community in the food they eat, the source from which it comes and how it is grown and/or prepared.  We like slow food, not fast food and eating at hearth and home with your loved ones”.    TBFM

How can I not be for this?  How can I not want to support this and visit every week?

I also appreciate that these vendors work very, very hard and offer fresh seasonal food that is so much better than what I can get at the grocery store and I am happy to see my money go directly to them.

artisanal cheese, gerkins, olives, baguette
Providence cheese from Monforte Dairy picked up at our local farmers’ market.

This year we bought a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) plan with Monforte Dairy, a lovely artisanal cheesemaker from Stratford.  We will receive a bundle of the most delicious cheese in December and they can count on that revenue.  I want to see businesses like this thrive.  They deserve to.

 

 

I just came across this TED talk.  I’m hoping that my kids will be just as passionate about how our food is produced as this 11-year-old.  Taking them to our farmers’ market is probably a good start.

 

A Strategy for Dealing with Too Much Halloween Candy

Lizzie Homemaker's 5 year old child making a witches brew with hydrangea and bubbly pink water to celebrate Halloween.
Lizzie Homemaker’s daughter making a witches brew.

Parents are often concerned with their children having too much Halloween candy.  The Switch Witch strategy is both a trick and a treat!

My 5-year-old daughter has a friend with Type 1 Diabetes.  He is incredibly sweet and seems to have accepted that he simply can’t have that piece of cake at a birthday party or that popsicle that some parent had kindly brought for the kids at the park.   He is so good-natured and so mature about this but sometimes I can’t help but think he must be disappointed or feel left out.  As much as Halloween is about dressing up in costumes and parading about – for my little ones it seems like the candy tops the list of reasons to celebrate this holiday.

I have always shelled out a mix of play dough and candy on Halloween in an effort to cut back on the candy a little.  I allow my kids to binge and then I reduce and hide the remaining candy in an attempt to make them eat less and/or forget about it.  I am hopeful they are left feeling satisfied with the outcome of the event.  But what if I had a kid with juvenile diabetes and he or she simply couldn’t have any candy?  It would suck.  Or would it?  When I saw the boy’s mother I asked “what are you going to do?”  Her answer “Switch Witch!”

The Switch Witch is brilliant!

My daughter and her friends are so excited about the idea of handing over their candy on Halloween!

The basic concept is that the Switch Witch will switch out or trade a child’s Halloween candy for a toy.  I know this could be negotiated with your child in a boring parental way but by incorporating the Switch Witch idea it keeps the holiday feeling a little more magical.  And for that kid with diabetes – he feels very, very special because it’s not fun for that kid (or any kid) to always have to choose responsibility over fun.  It’s so easy to use this concept and adapt it in whatever way best suits your family.

Tonight my daughter has said she wants to eat some candy tonight (some can mean anything) and then she wants to write a letter to the Switch Witch asking if she can switch her candy for a toy (not sure of what she’ll ask for).  She asked me if that was okay.  I said “YEEESSSSSSSSSSS!”  And then I did a somersault and a back flip (in my head).   It’s all about balance.

Happy Halloween!