Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to grade schooler, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national parenting and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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Monday
Nov202017

Air Canada Supports Sick Kids With Heart & Wings 

When I signed on to help out the Air Canada Foundation at the Rally for Kids with Cancer I wasn’t expecting to be inspired by the people that I met. But that is exactly what happened.

The Air Canada Foundation is a long-time sponsor of the car rally which has raised 20-million for Sick Kids cancer care over the past 10 years.  The event is similar to a scavenger hunt, where competitors get access to different parts of the city that are usually hidden from its citizens.

The airline also had a car in competition with a team of incredible women including: teen Emma Neaugu, the youngest competitor in the rally but also one of the fiercest. The driver was Captain Dawn Wells, one of a handful of female Air Canada captains and a veteran of the Canadian Navy and actress Jess Maclellan, (from the shows Mistresses and Legends of Tomorrow) was the team’s token celebrity (but she didn’t act like one).

 


 

Emma, at the age of 14, has already been through more than most of us will see in a lifetime. Barely two years ago she hurt her leg while training for an acro dance competition. The pain wouldn’t go away and eventually an osteosarcoma was found on her right femur. Since then there has been horrifying chemotherapy, a feeding tube, radical rotationplasty surgery and now the prosthetic that uses her ankle as her knee. Thanks to SickKids, she is back to dancing and even started tap lessons this year. As a SickKids ambassador, she shares her story with anyone who wants to hear, including in front of an audience of hundreds.

She speaks with grace and a maturity that is both a gift and burden to those who have undergone such extreme circumstances. It is easy to forget that she is only in Grade 9.  But underneath, she is still a little girl who can’t contain her enthusiasm for being placed on the with Air Canada team and the chance to hang out with Dawn who regularly captains long-haul flights to California.

The Air Canada hangar was one of four pit stops in the city-wide car rally. While at the hangar, competitors had to finish four challenges before they could move on to another part of the rally. Each team collected points at the pitstops which were tabulated at the end of the day. Emma had a chance to sit in the cockpit of a plane and go through two different pre-flight checklists.

 Heather Hamilton (TJZmommy) had a beautiful moment bonding with Emma's mother. They talked about the gifts and wisdom of being a Sick Kids mom, and the gratitude they felt for the hospital. 

Sponsoring the rally is just one small part of what the Air Canada Foundation does. Each year, the Foundation donates approximately 10-million Aeroplan Miles so that children like Emma and a parent, can travel from their home to hospitals for treatment. The Air Canada Foundation Hospital Transportation Program works with 15 pediatric hospitals across the country. The Foundation also donates hundreds of tickets to charitable fundraisers and has been providing well over $1 Million in financial grants per year for the past 3 years. The Foundation was started in 2012, but Air Canada has been supporting Sick Kids for 25 years and has been involved in the community for 80 years.

Over 40 Air Canada employees volunteered at the hangar. There were flight attendants in uniforms from different decades; people teaching competitors to use a baggage loader and another Captain and flight attendants running two challenges on the giant plane itself one of which was a match making lead by Brad Smith, from the Bachelor Canada and Chopped Canada! He was hilarious and goofy and I’m not sure why he needed to find a girlfriend on national TV, but he tells me he now has one in LA. There were other celebrities involved including Billy Baldwin, John O’Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) and some athletes. 

 

The employees are very proud of the charitable work that Air Canada does for the car rally, and in the community. Captain Dawn Wells told me about going to Sick Kids over Halloween with other staff and how much those visits meant to her over the years.

This was Dawn’s second year driving the car for the Air Canada team, and she was in the competition to win. But she was able to balance her competitive spirit with kindness. Everywhere the team went she made sure that everyone was comfortable, she introduced herself to every volunteer and kept everyone’s spirits high.  She started her career in the Navy and handed out Remembrance Day poppies to anyone who asked. Dawn is one of the most amazing women I have ever met -- and speaking with her even got Jess over her fear of flying! 

Jess Macallen’s passion for the cause was obviously heartfelt. To be honest, I had dismissed the celebrities’ participation as merely cursory but watching them compete made me rethink. Jess told me that after she visited Sick Kids once, she knew that she would whatever she could to help the hospital. Brad Smith has done over 40 events for Sick Kids this year. Billy Baldwin kicked in extra money to buy some more supplies so that kids can be treated for chemotherapy at home.

The combination of Emma, Jess and Dawn was so competitive they left every other team in their wake – and won the car rally. They were thrilled beyond measure, but they also recognized that their win was small compared to all the good that was done for Sick Kids that day.

*this post is sponsored by the Air Canada Foundation

 

Sunday
Oct082017

Cirque du Soleil VOLTA wants to see you this Wednesday!

Long-time readers will know that I have a soft spot for Cirque du Soleil. My husband and I were blown away by O in Vegas many lifetimes ago. I surprised my son once and took him to see an afternoon show, and last year I took the kids and my mother-in-law to her first Cirque show. We are going to see Cirque du Soleil VOLTA on Tuesday, and I have four tickets to giveaway for Wednesday night as well. 

Cirque always impresses. I am jealous of the imagination that the creators have to put together such complete worlds; everything is beyond my conception -- the music, the set and the costumes.  Of course, though it is the performers that get the most shocks of delight and fear. They seem to be made of different parts than us mere humans. Their muscles and bone replaced with some kind of elastic membranes.  

I am a scaredy cat, I can't even do the ropes course that my kids completed this weekend, but the Cirque performers -- from young to old seem to love their daredevil stunts. The Cirque tent is intimate, once in a while you can see a glimmer of fear in their eyes, which makes their stunts even more incredible -- and reminds you that there are indeed humans up there.

Cirque du Soleil VOLTA is currently in Toronto at the Portlands. The theme of the show is literally extreme sports, and you know that means it will contain stunts that ESPN hasn't even considered. The good news is that I have FOUR tickets to giveaway for this Wednesday's show. If you are free on Wednesday, October 11 at 8 pm, and would like to see VOLTA, enter your name in the comments (But please let me know how to notify you if you win!) and I will do a draw on Tuesday morning at 8am. (Sorry for the short notice!). But just think, if you win it will be a great Thanksgiving surprise for your kids! 

Find your free (in more ways than one)! Enter your name below. Giveaway is only for the Toronto show on Wednesday, October 11 at 8pm. No exchanges or refunds. 

*Cirque du Soleil gave me free tickets in exchange for this post.

Thursday
Sep142017

You Can Love School Lunches with these tips 

*This post is sponsored by Whirlpool Canada, but all opinions are, as always, mine.

There are 189 lunches left to make in the school year. Per child.

If that number doesn’t scare you a little bit, then I am jealous. It doesn’t matter how many lunches you have prepared (about 3,000 in my case) it can still be daunting to think about how to creatively pack a lunch that your child will eat.

For new Canadians, school lunch can be an even bigger issue. A recent survey conducted for Whirlpool Canada found half of Canadians surveyed believe for a child who is new to Canada, lunchtime at school can be a stressful situation. Four in 10 imagine children who bring ethnic lunches to school might get teased.

Cooking a non-school lunch with Abeer and Sama. So much love!

When I explained to our Syrian friends who we sponsored to Canada about packing a school lunch, they were shocked that their son wouldn’t be coming home. In Syria, lunch is the largest meal of the day and would not survive a school lunch box.

I hope some of his new friends have had a chance to sample some delicious Syrian food. My kids have learned so much about the family while eating with them and trying some new dishes, which is not a surprise. The survey also showed 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed agree giving children an opportunity to try dishes from different cultures is a good way to encourage mutual understanding and respect.

I was trying to think of ways to encourage the family to pack a healthy lunch, and not get bogged down by the relentlessness of school lunches. Meal prepping is a part of caring for our families – it’s something we do day-in and day-out throughout the school year. Keep the below tips in mind to make it fun and healthy.  

Encourage Independence: The best way to ensure that a school lunch is eaten is by getting buy-in from  your kids. And best way to get that buy-in is to have them involved in the process. Young children can bag up their snacks and add in pre-cut vegetables. They can help plan and make the main course. By the time they reach middle school, kids can make their own lunch, and even bake up their own snacks.

Make it all reachable: Designate an accessible shelf in the pantry and refrigerator where they can reach snacks, fruit and vegetables. The new Whirlpool® door-within-door refrigerator, available late fall 2017, makes storage options very flexible and offers quick access for little (and not so little) hands to grab their favourites.

Consider it quality time: A rushed morning may not seem like the best time to bond over food. But working together in the kitchen is good for kids (and you). Baking together after school, batch cooking on the weekends and meal planning are opportunities for kids to feel empowered, and to teach them important skills.

Try something new: I’m always asking my kids what is in their friends’ lunches. It normalizes different foods for them and gives me some new ideas. Rotating new foods into their lunch can make a boring lunch a bit more exciting. Just make sure you try out a new dish before it goes into the lunchbox.

Stock up on healthy choices: Make sure there are always fruit, cut-up veggies and lunch items on hand. Tuck away a couple of emergency dishes in the freezer or pantry for those days (weeks?) that you just didn’t make it to the grocery store.

Create lists: Keep a list of favourite lunch items in a place where everyone can add in their ideas. The kids can add to the list as their tastes change and grow. Take a picture of the list for mobile access.

Don’t feel guilty: We are all familiar with the guilt of packing a less than perfect lunch, or having a lunch returned uneaten. School lunch is a mere 20 minutes and kids often get distracted with socializing so they don’t have enough time to eat everything. Instead of worrying about how much a child eats at lunch, look at the food consumed over the entire day.

Piggyback on other meals: Ceri Marsh, author of the Schoolyear Survival Cookbook told me this tip and it is a little bit genius. Only prepare lunches when you are making another meal. If you are cutting up carrots for dinner, throw some in cold water for the next day’s lunch. If you are making rice, make extra for lunch. My kids’ favourite lunch is homemade macaroni and cheese, which I break down into different parts – grate the cheese while making a grilled cheese, boil pasta. And then I can make it quickly in the morning and reheat it the next day.

As daunting as lunchtime prep may seem, it is truly an act of care for your family. By getting your kids involved you can turn what once felt like a chore into fun, quality time with your kids. And one day, maybe they will pack your lunch too.

I like to include a treat in my kids’ lunches. I make the banana bread recipe in silicone mini -muffin tins. The kids usually eat these muffins during recess. I also put out a platter with muffins and fruit after school and these are always a hit with their friends. These start with melted butter and are great because it is an easy one-bowl recipe.

I LOVE my mini muffin silicone mat.

Oatmeal Banana Bread Recipe

3⁄4 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs

1⁄2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 1⁄2 cups mashed banana (3–4 very ripe bananas)

1⁄4 cup buttermilk (or thinned out yogurt or 1/4 cup milk with a tsp of lemon juice)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour (or a different ration of white to whole wheat)

1 tsp baking soda

1⁄2 tsp salt

1⁄3 cup chocolate chips (obviously optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Combine sugar and melted butter in a large bowl and stir until uniform. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir to incorporate. Add oats, banana, buttermilk and vanilla; stir until uniform. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; stir with a fork to blend.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture one third at a time; stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until loaf is dark brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife along the edges to loosen, turn out of baking pan and cool on a rack.

Makes 1 yummy loaf or a dozen muffins (bake for 20 mins), or about 36 mini muffins (bake for 16 - 18 mins).

 

Wednesday
May242017

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee (and Tea) at Home

Cold brew coffee is not the same as iced coffee. It is also not the same as leaving your brewed coffee somewhere in your house and then drinking it at room temperature. And it is not the same as a coffee-blended drink. (Though, it makes a great one.) You can hear all about it in my CBC Radio segment on Here & Now

When coffee is brewed at high temperatures, the beans release volatile oils and flavours. When a coffee is hot, those flavours are enjoyable -- they often rise to the top and are in the crema. But if that hot brewed cofee is tossed over ice, those flavours can intensify, which is why people add so much dairy and sugar to iced coffee.

But when coffee is brewed cold, there is not heat hitting the beans and you just get a full, complex flavour. But like a good braise -- it is low and slow. Cold brew coffee takes eight to 12  hours of sitting to fully extract the flavours. But you will be happy you did it because cold brewed coffee is good -- it's even won me over and I am a dedicated tea drinker. 

Any great coffee place will be making their own cold brew, they may even have nitro cold brew on the menu which takes special equipment. In Toronto the nitro cold brew may come from the guys at Station Cold Brew, they are modeling their cold brew after the beer market but consider sugary, caffeinated beverages as their main competition. You may see their bottles being sold at major grocery outlets.

But cold brew is actually easy to make at home. Once you figure out the proportions you like, it's a breeze to make. 

If you know me well, then you know that I am obsessed with iced tea. So I make cold brew iced green tea almost everyday. Cold brew tea is the same method -- the proportions are at least 1 tsp to cold water. I make mine a little stronger. That's it. Now go enjoy your cold drink.

Just remember if you want to sweeten your iced beverages to make a simple syrup the day before by heating equal parts sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves. You can store in the fridge for weeks. 

Once you have cold brew you may find yourself adding it to cocktails or smoothies, the possibilities are endless. 

Monday
Mar272017

The Best Salad Dressing Recipe if you are sick of a basic vinaigrette

Sometimes it is the simple things in the kitchen that defeat me. Cooking rice on the stove, making coffee, creating a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing.

The fact that I eat salads is a big change from when I was younger, as salads was never high up on my list of go-to items. But I realized that it’s boring lettuce that turns me off, and I experimented with salads until I found out what I like – which happens to be less acidic dressings and lots of textures.

It doesn't look like much because my daughter got to this salad before I took the picture.

Like most people, I try and be mindful of what I am eating – I balance out bad days with good ones, I cook with whole, unprocessed ingredients, I force myself to eat green things and I try to use ingredients that have a health boost in them.  Which usually means a salad with extras tossed in.

Loblaws would refer to me as a “mindful foodie”, which means that I place an emphasis on what I eat to improve my physical and mental health. Sometimes this means I throw in hemp seeds into my salad, or drink kale smoothies, or I try and slow down and appreciate the process of nourishing myself (and my family).

And while I don’t really love the words mindful or foodie, I think the approach has meaning. Grocery stores such as Loblaw are making it a lot easier to cook in a mindful way, stocking up on ingredients like seaweed, miso and fermented items. They have cooking classes to show you how to create healthy meals from familiar, and unfamiliar ingredients that are good for you, and are just good.

This addictive dressing is made from healthy grocery store ingredients and tastes like special occasion food. It is going to take your salads from boring to colourful. I got the inspiration from the blog What’s Cooking Good Looking, but I have simplified it over time. It is a flavourful dressing best over sturdy lettuces like kale, or even arugula. If I am making it for company, I will roast some colourful heirloom carrots to go in the salad, and add cooked quinoa or lentils to soak up the vibrant flavour. My 11-year old daughter loves this dressing so much that she uses it as a dip.

I make it in my Nutribullet (as seen on TV!), but a powerful blender or food processor works as well. The recipe makes quite a bit, leftovers last for a week or two and are great on salads with leftover steak or chicken.  

Carrot & Ginger Dressing

½ large carrot (use whole carrots, not pre-cut baby carrots)

1 inch knob of ginger

1 tbsp soy or tamari sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

¼ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil or any flavourless oil

1-3 tbsp water

Squeeze of lemon juice

Add carrot, ginger, soy sauce, honey, mustard, vinegar, water and oil and blend. Add water to thin it slightly. Add a squeeze of lemon to finish. If you are using kale, dress and massage (yes, with your hands) the greens and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Toss in roasted or shredded carrots, sunflower seeds, quinoa or lentils, leftover roasted vegetables or just leave it plain. 

 *this post was sponsored by Loblaws

Loblaws Inc. has provided promotional consideration, all product(s) and product information in exchange for my comments or review.