SHARE, for hunger.

FacebookBanner.Supporter

When I am hungry, I am a little bit mean – a rule of thumb around here is that if I don’t have anything nice to say, someone should hand me a granola bar. When Nick is hungry, he is dumb and stumbles, the effect worse in him because low-blood sugar and its consequences are a hazard of diabetes. When our little minion is hungry, he whines and drapes himself over furniture and tells us he is very upset right now, and that he is dying of not having any treats. We’re looking into drama programs for Kindergartners. He’s going to be a star.

For people for whom there isn’t a simple fix – a trip to the pantry to restore moods and blood glucose and rumbling tummies – hunger can be consuming, reducing our ability to learn and retain information, to manage our behaviour and emotional responses, and to make rational decisions. In children, prolonged periods of malnutrition or hunger contribute to developmental delays and missed milestones – the stress and effects of hunger on a child can have lifelong cognitive and physical consequences.

And while many of us spend a lot of time moaning and complaining about the cost of living in Vancouver, the reality is that the entire Metro Vancouver region – 21 distinct municipalities occupying 2,877 square kilometers, and home to more than 2.5 million people – is a place where the basic necessities of daily life – housing, childcare, transportation, groceries – are increasingly difficult to cover on incomes that have not kept pace with rising costs.

This is how it is in a lot of places. I know. It’s hard out there right now. (Side note: eastern Canada, if you’re hiring, I’m interested.)

Food banks, and food insecurity and affordability in general, are the issues that matter most to me, which is why I’m delighted to be participating in another initiative that’s helping to get nutritious, wholesome food to the people and families who need it.

SHARE-Imagine-2016-Logo-I was recently invited to participate in a fundraising event from the SHARE Family and Community Services Society, the largest social service provider in the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody). Their annual fundraising event, IMAGINE, takes place Saturday, March 5, and I’ll be participating as a judge in The Hamper Challenge. The Hamper Challenge is a Master Chef-inspired cooking competition in which local chefs will be paired with local mayors to prepare two-course meals from SHARE food bank hampers.

SHARE facts

  • Distributing out of three locations, the SHARE Food Bank serves over 5,000 people each year.
  • 35 per cent of SHARE Food Bank users are under the age of 19.
  • Food Banks receive no government funding so, SHARE relies entirely on the generosity of the community: individuals, businesses, associations, sports teams, churches, and community granting agencies, among others.
  • Last year, SHARE distributed close to 19,000 food bank hampers and 650,000 pounds of food with a retail value of more than $1.6 million.
  • Food Bank clients can use SHARE services twice per month and the food they
    receive is of supplementary assistance. It would last a family three or four days and
    enable them to save money they can put towards rent, gas, or other life expenses.

Why am I telling you this?

Because if you’re local to Metro Vancouver, you can participate too.

Come out to the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver Theatre in Coquitlam on March 5, from 7:00 p.m. on, and enjoy an evening filled with great food, fun people (and me!), live entertainment, auctions, raffle prizes, and more! Tickets are $85 each, which includes the opportunity to sample the best sweets and savouries on offer from the region’s best restaurants – be sure to vote for your favourites!

Last year, IMAGINE raised over $105,000, enabling SHARE to deliver vital programs and services to over 56,000 Tri-Cities community residents.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit sharesociety.ca/imagine. I also have tickets to give away – enter the raffle below to win two tickets to the event, which will be available at will call on March 5. The raffle closes on March 3.

Click here to enter the giveaway

If you can’t attend, but still want to support IMAGINE 2016, you can donate online. I hope to see you there!

Three ingredient Nutella “ice cream” bars.

pops
Smoke over the highway. Weird red sun.You can expect that it will rain here; it always does, sometimes for weeks on end. It hasn’t rained in a long time though, and forests are burning all over the province and the smoke has blanketed the city and surrounding areas, drifting across the mountains and over the prairies, making it as far east as Toronto, allegedly.

Even NASA has noticed.

Every time I see someone with a lit cigarette I think about following them to make sure they don’t toss the butt into the grass, which is basically just thin kindling now. We’re in a drought, officially, though that’s been obvious for a while. There was no snow on the mountains this year.

It’s weird. It’s hot. Everyone’s weather app is saying “smoke” instead of sun or clouds. All the lawns are dead and the leaves in the tree outside my living room window are crisp and brown. The sidewalks are like flypaper, sticky with aphid goop from the trees that drifts through the air like dew would if there was any.

Creepy yellow sky; smoke cover.You can’t blame a kid for only wanting watermelon, or ice cream. I mean, I’m right there with him, but at some point you have to be a role model. Or whatever. Or, at the very least, you have to look seriously at your budget and think about whether or not you can sustain a box-a-day habit of Fudgsicles for however long this summer will last.

This recipe is easy, and you can make it in a heat wave. It’s just overripe bananas, yogurt with a generous percentage of milk fat (I like Liberté or Krema, depending on what’s on sale), and a big glob of Nutella, which in this weather is practically liquid. You throw it in a blender, and then pour it into ice pop molds, and then you wait. No cooking, and not the worst thing for you if you’ve been living primarily on gin slurpees and handfuls of berries.

Nutella “ice cream” bars

Makes 6 to 8 pops, depending on the size of your molds.

  • 1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
  • 3 medium over-ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

Pour all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze, minimum six hours or overnight.

To remove from the molds, run a little hot water over the base of the mold to loosen.

 

Holy crap, it happened.

Much has happened since we last spoke. Spring has sprung in Vancouver, and we have been playing outside without winter coats. We finally finished all the cheese I bought in early December. I am now raising a Ninja Turtle (Donatello, specifically), and bearing the brunt of his ninja attacks which are not stealthy but do sometimes hurt.

And that book I’ve been thinking about and talking about and fretting over for months went to the printer, and then emerged fully formed this past week! I have real, hard copies here in my apartment, which I can hold and look at and worry about making sticky. I filed my reference copy between books by Nigella Lawson and Fannie Farmer, in hope that some of their magic rubs off.

WFFB Bookshelf

These are fast-paced times.

And there is so much to talk about, recipe-wise, but we’ve hardly had a moment to catch our breath or chew thoughtfully or clean the weird smell out of the garbage disposal. I have a couple of things simmering away, so stay tuned.

The book will be in stores in early April, and if you’re in Vancouver, I hope you’ll join me at the book launch! Save the date and update your calendar – it’s April 19, at 2:00 p.m., at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. I’ll update you with other dates in other places as those details are finalized.

Eek! It’s here. I can’t really even believe it.

BOOK.

Picnic season.

DSCF4897

There comes a point in May where it is no longer possible to wait to eat watermelon outside, and that point came today. Having been confined to our quarters for too long, we decided last week that we would spend our holiday Monday in a park with bocce balls and picnic foods and blankets laid out on the grass no matter what the sky looked like, even if there was a hint of rain.

DSCF4866

And though it was cloudy, the rain held off. There was a breeze but it wasn’t chilly, and it was warm enough for cold drinks and salads. So we sat on our blankets, and played bocce ball and badminton and chased bunnies, and some people grilled chicken wings and skewers and it was exactly how a picnic ought to be – makeshift, haphazardly planned, with the kind of foods that do not require a lot of packaging or waste to be left behind. Hours passed and we barely noticed, except toward the end when the light began to fade.

Trying to rejoin the sea.

Small boys ruin bocce ball.

Bocce.

Friends on blankets.

Eating outside is messy and important. There is something very freeing about your toddler pouring a liter of pineapple juice all over himself and the ground and it not mattering. There is something very lovely about eating while not wearing shoes. And the first picnic you take delineates the grey and the green parts of the year; a picnic is a celebration of the few glorious months when the rain falls a little less and the nights get long. It is important to celebrate.

Watermelon.

Potato salad.

Picnicky.

So gather up some fresh fruit, some sandwiches, a blanket, and some people you like and celebrate. The winter is over, the light is back, and badminton is more fun than you remember. Some time outside will restore you, and it will tucker you out. Go. Eat watermelon outside.

Tuckered.You will sleep so well.

What’s in your picnic basket?

It’s not so dark.

I take back what I said about these being dark times.

Overrun.

A perfect picnic spot.

We found our way back to the garden yesterday and this evening, and were surprised to find it bursting with life and weeds and chard.

Chard.

We came by in February, and everything was looking brown and dead, but the chard limped on. I didn’t plan to plant chard this year, because we had so much of it last year that I got kind of tired of it, but this is a plant with determination and I have to respect that. It lives. Its centre stalks are the thickness of table legs, and its leaves at the bottom look almost prehistoric in their size and curious colouring. But it lives, and we let it live on.

Garden cat. There is a cat now. This pleases us all.

Garden cat, sunlit.

Purple shed.

Toddler and purple shed.

A friend of mine lives across the street from us now, and she’s got a lot of garden space for us in addition to our community garden plot, so in this spot I’m focusing on growing things I can pickle. Plus chard. But mostly things that pickle, like beets, and hopefully some pickling cucumbers – from this point in the gardening season, I don’t think you can ever have too many of those. (Remind me of this when I am complaining in August.)

Digging it.

Beets.

What have you planted, and what are you looking forward to?

Purple sprouting broccoli.

One of the things we pulled out of the garden was some purple sprouting broccoli, which grew where the regular broccoli we planted was supposed to be. It was ripe and ready, and it is so pretty it deserves a special dish. What would you do with it?

Dirty boy.

I am really looking forward to the gardening season, you guys.

A sick day, a giveaway

Despite all of us having gotten our flu shots this year, the flu hit all three of us pretty hard this weekend, and we are only just now starting to recover. Well, Nick and I are starting to recover – the baby became energetic and noisy again just as we started to fall ill. It was the worst of times.

I had intended to share a recipe, but to be honest all we ate this weekend was take-out pho. Today we might leave the apartment and get some matzo ball soup, but at this point the tremendous effort required to put on something other than fleece footie pajamas is so daunting. I’m currently simmering a chicken and some veggies for broth, so that may be all that sustains us until I declare us ALL BETTER! and decide to move on.

Side note: If you’re ever not feeling very well, the best thing in the world is chicken soup made from a stock with a whole chicken as its base; simmer – don’t boil – the chicken with carrots and parsnips and celery and onion, plus whole cloves of garlic cut in half, a lemon halved, and a handful of dill pickles, and a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and parsley bundled and tied in cheesecloth. Fill your stock pot with water to about ten quarts, and let it go for four hours. I learned that from Ina Garten, who is the person I’d most like to be when I grow up. I’m strongly considering painting WWID (What Would Ina Do?) in glitter across my hood fan lest I ever forget.

Baby and friend

Anyway. I had meant to give you a recipe, but today is not the day. Today is the day for a giveaway though; I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. If you’re in Vancouver or the surrounding area, I’d like to give you a professional photo shoot from Images by Bethany, a really, really talented local photographer who I met through VancouverMom.ca and who is also friends with my friend Jenna. She made me look like a normal person, which is no small feat – most of the time when I get my picture taken I do this weird thing I bare my fangs in an attempt to smile and tilt my head down, tripling the number of chins I have while also accentuating my grey under-eye bags.

Baby and Squishy Lion

I’m pretty lucky to have this sparkling personality to fall back on.

Baby and friend ... making out.

Right. Anyway, Bethany is amazing, and she has graciously offered to give one lucky local family a one-hour professional photo-shoot at Bethany’s studio in Gastown or at the location of your choice, followed by a viewing session and an 8×10 print of your favourite photo from the day. Your photos will be available for viewing online for three months; you can purchase additional photos if you love a whole bunch of them, but no purchase will be necessary. The thing I liked most about our session is that it was totally relaxed – it was very casual, and since everyone was comfortable the photos look natural. Better than natural, even – we look like better versions of ourselves … which is surprising because our shoot was at 8:00 am on a Saturday and we have a hard enough time looking normal at peak hours.

Me looking like a normal person, kind of, plus baby.

And don’t let the word “family” deter you here – I think family can be any combination of the people you like; whether that’s you and your little ones and that person you married or live with, or you and your parents, or you and your special someone, or you and your furry four-legged companion. If you roll solo, that’s okay too. Can you imagine blowing up an enormous photo of you and your cat looking regal and windswept – maybe on a cliff over the ocean – to hang in your dining room? I totally want to do that.

To enter, leave a comment below or on the photo on my Facebook page telling me who you’d like to be photographed with, or how you cope with having a camera pointed in your direction. The contest will run until January 14; when I get home from work that day, I’ll put all the names in Nick’s grimy old hat and pick a winner. I’ll pass your name and contact info along to Bethany, and she’ll contact you to set up your session, anytime between January and April. This contest is open to Metro Vancouver residents.

None of us looks weird here. AMAZING. You have no idea.

Guest post: Taslim Jaffer’s Extreme Chocolate Cake

It’s just about time for the holidays – Hanukkah starts this weekend! – and while we’ve moved in and are just about finished with living out of boxes and garbage bags, we’re not fully settled yet. With moving and work and not having done anything festive yet, I’m just not feeling the seasonal buzz  … so to remedy this, and to add a little sweetness to this now-neglected part of the web, I’ve invited another local blogger to share a treat she makes for her family during the Christmas season – her name is Taslim, and she blogs about inspiration and creativity at Let ME Out!! Releasing Your Creative Self. We met at an event for Vancouver mom bloggers this past spring, and I was impressed by her enthusiasm. I don’t think she even owns crankypants! I guess I wouldn’t either if there was more cake in my life.

***

The Cake That Makes Me Look Like the Goddess of Baking

Another Christmas potluck – possibly the fourth of the season, thus far. While digging through my wardrobe, trying to find the most elastic waist on a pair of pants, a skirt, a dress (anything really, at this point) I thank my lucky stars that finding a recipe to please a crowd is infinitely easier than this. One year, I will find a dress that’s as rich as the ganache on my Extreme Chocolate Cake. One year, I will find a skirt that slips on as easily as this cake slips out of a bundt pan.

IMG_5532

But this year, the ooohs and aaaahs as I enter a party will all be for the gorgeous hunk of chocolate I carry in my hands. And rightly so. I slaved over it for hours and needed to call in a cleaning crew to help with the aftermath…

NOT!

IMG_5547

Here’s my easy-peasy, make-em-think-you’re-a-goddess recipe.

Extreme Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of dark chocolate cake mix (515g) – I usually use Devil’s Food
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding (4 serving size)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup cooking oil
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cup chocolate chips (I don’t usually add these. Seriously, not needed, though you may beg to differ!)

For the ganache (glaze):

  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 squares of bittersweet chocolate (1 oz or 28 g each)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan.

Beat together all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a large bowl on low for 2 minutes, scraping down sides twice or three times. Beat on medium for about 2 minutes until smooth.

IMG_5537

Stir in the chocolate chips. Turn into prepared pan. Spread evenly.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (although if you use the chocolate chips, you will end up with chocolate on the toothpick). Let stand in pan on cooling rack for 20 minutes before turning over on to a plate to cool completely.

To make the ganache, heat whipping cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate. Stir slowly until the chocolate has melted completely. Let sit – after a few minutes it will be a little thicker, but still pourable.

Slowly pour over the top of the cake, allowing some to run partially down sides. Let set before cutting. Serves 16 very happy people, or 1 lucky husband and 2 ecstatic kids. (Maybe I had a couple slices, too!)

IMG_5548

About the author

Taslim Jaffer

Taslim Jaffer is the voice behind the inspirational blog Let ME Out!! Releasing Your Creative Self and author of the Let ME Out!! workbook series. She also shares her motivational stories in the Heartmind Wisdom Collection anthologies.  Recently, Taslim combined her two loves of art and social change in her new line of inspirational, pay-it-forward type cards called Make-A-Wave cards.  She is happiest at home in her wool socks and sweats with her husband and two beautiful children where she writes and raises funds for the literary arts. You can also find her on stage sharing life-gained wisdom and joy. Connect with Taslim on Facebook and Twitter.