Are you worried that your child may get hurt in the kitchen? Will they accidentally set the barbecue on fire? Or just how much of a mess will they make? Not fond of the idea that food could be wasted? While some parents may find the idea of cooking with their children or letting their children take over the whole task of cooking daunting, with a few tips and age appropriate tasks, this can become an enjoyable and delicious activity for the whole family.

And summer is the perfect time to “get cooking” with your child(ren) and let them try out new skills.  Divide up the meal preparation, letting them make a salad or side dish.  For older children, teach them how to “fire up the BBQ” and get grilling.  See what cool, refreshing summer dessert they can create.

Kraft Canada has divided their cooking tips by age appropriate skills:
Children 6 yrs & under
Children 7-9 yrs
Children 10-12 yrs
Children over 12 yrs

Here are some real-life tested recipes plus articles and tips on cooking with your kids
Parents – Cooking with Kids

Food Network – Cooking with Kids

Easy recipes for kids to make

Kid Chefs

 

You may have heard the term Vertical Gardening, but just what is that??  In simple terms, it is literally growing plants upwards instead of outwards.  Whether you have a large space for a garden, or a very limited space or want to grow indoors, a vertical garden offers you a different space perspective for growing vegetables and flowers.

If you are planting your vertical garden outside, you can be very creative with what you are using.  Use old fence boards, trellises, arrange pots or boxes in alternating stacks, use shelves or other hanging options to set up pots, even clean PVC pipes or a hanging shoe rack offer garden options.

 

Vertical Gardening Ideas

How to plant a vertical garden

 

For an inside vertical garden, you will need a panel or tray system as these types of gardens are hydroponics based.  There are several different styles/makes of a tower style garden available for purchase.  Most of these systems use aeroponics.  This is the process of growing plants in air or mist environment instead of soil and uses water and liquid nutrients within a soil-less medium.  One benefit for a hydroponic garden is less wastage as they have a closed nutrient/water flow. This means no runoff of the water, it stays contained and in constant circulation.

 

What is hydroponic gardening

Vertical Hydroponics

 

What are the benefits of a vertical garden over a traditional garden bed?  Well, for one you are not bending down as much to tend to your garden bed.  These types of gardens are considered low maintenance as you don’t need to weed or deal with pests the same way. The harvest yield for vertical gardens can be significantly higher than a traditional garden, especially if you bring the garden inside for the winter as you are now able to grow fresh vegetables all year round.  And vertical flower gardens help bring beauty to “ugly” walls and fences that you may have.

 

And there is still time to create the vertical garden that is perfect for you.  Get out this weekend and create a new vibrant living vertical space in your yard/balcony/deck.

I think I got my love for growing vegetables from my Grandfather.  He was a market gardener in the Toronto area and had fields of tomatoes, leaf lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and beets across Etobicoke.  Even after he had retired, he still loved growing vegetables in his backyard garden.  He would save the seeds from the “prime” tomatoes he grew and use them the next spring to create new plants. I can remember having a toasted tomato sandwich with one of his beefsteak tomatoes. The tomato was so big you only needed one slice and it covered the whole piece of bread.

Tomatoes seem to be one of the staple vegetables I have always grown.  Starting in pots on the balcony of my first apartment, adding them into planters at the trailer, then growing them in a backyard garden at my house.  Slowly over the years, we have expanded the selection of vegetables in the garden.  It is now a spring routine, where the family talks about what vegetables we want this summer.  Tomatoes are still a staple on the list, but we have started to experiment with different kinds of carrots (heirloom the favourite so far), cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber (seedless english style is the favourite over the field variety), watermelon (that didn’t go well), pumpkin (they grow very well), peppers, cantaloupe (another fail), snap peas (those never seem to make it inside when the child is asked to harvest them), and different kinds of beans (the snake beans were the favourite, but hard to find).

Here is the vegetable selection for our garden this summer.  Will be changing the layout slightly as we now cage part of the garden to keep the rabbits and squirrels out, as they have been loving the beans, carrots and snap pea sprouts.

What is in your vegetable garden this year?

There is something very satisfactory in growing your own vegetables.  They seem to be brighter in colour and taste sweeter.  Late May is usually the time we are able to plant our vegetables in our gardens.

If you are new to growing vegetables, here are a few tips to keep in mind for creating a vegetable garden:

  1. Space: What space do you have available for growing?  Do you have a larger yard that you can create an area exclusive to vegetables?  Are you using planters or pots on a deck or balcony?  Whether you are in a house or an apartment, you can grow a variety of vegetables.  For more ideas on a balcony garden, check out our post.
  2. Location: Where in your yard will you put the garden? It is important to keep in mind the sunlight and water drainage.  Most vegetables need a fair amount of sun.  And if your yard has a low part that is always flooding after heavy rain, this is not a good place for the garden. Just like a high point that dries out quickly is not good for growing vegetables.
  3. Vegetables: What do you want to grow? More importantly, what do you like to eat?  Some vegetable plants can be very fruity with their harvest, so be prepared to freeze or share with family and friends.

Now it is time to get ready to plant.  Whether it is a new or existing plot, we do need to remember to dig and turn over the dirt, breaking up the big chunks that formed over winter.  This is a good time to add in any fresh dirt and/or compost/manure as fertilizer.   Find the placement for any cages that you are using for tomatoes, cucumbers or vine vegetables like peas or beans.

Before you plant, have a plan for pest control.  What wildlife is in your area that may enjoy snacking in your garden?  Some vegetables, like beans, peas, carrots are more susceptible to being eaten than others, such as tomatoes or pumpkins, so create raised beds or add fencing around your plot to keep them safe.  Some people swear by coffee grinds to help protect their tomato plants from bugs.  Others recommend a gentle soapy “wash” to protect plants.  Add mulch or a weed cover to help prevent weeds in your garden.  You can also hoe and cultivate on a regular basis to keep the weeds away.

When you are at the local garden centre selecting your plants or seeds, remember not to over buy or over plant.  Usually a 2-4 plants of one type of vegetable are good and will provide a manageable harvest.  When planting seeds, think of doing 1 or 2 rows (depending on the length of the row, add more as needed).  For plants like peas and beans, think about planting at alternate times, so that you can extend the harvesting time.

Throughout the summer, continue to weed, monitor for bugs, water the garden when needed and feed your vegetables with fertilizer. And enjoy the delicious vegetables you will be able to harvest.

Looking for more tips, check out these experts:

Mark Cullen, gardening expert

Vegetable gardening for beginners

Planning your first vegetable garden

Sometimes you just can’t decide what type of cookie to make. Or maybe that’s just me. I love peanut butter cookies…and oatmeal cookies…and chocolate chip cookies…

Do you have Peanut butter? Check.

Chocolate Chips? Check.

Oats? Check.

For times that you just can’t decide which cookie to make – make these!

This recipe combines the BEST of the best – chocolate chips, oatmeal, AND peanut butter – into one fantabulous cookie!!

Soft and tender from the peanut butter, a slight toasted flavour from the oats and just the right amount of sweetness from the chocolate chips.  Go preheat your oven to 350 degrees now and get started!!

Ingredients

½ cup butter

½ cup white sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup peanut butter

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup rolled oats

1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips

 

Directions

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. The cookies will not look “done” when you pull them out of the oven, but they will continue to cook on the hot baking sheets out of the oven. If they are slightly brown, the edges look just set and they are puffy in the middle, they are ready to come out!

Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!!

Living in an apartment does not limit you in enjoying a garden.  You can choose to make it as simple or as complicated as you want.  You can make it seasonal or build up a year-round collection of plants.

One thing to keep in mind when considering what plants to have is how much sun does your balcony get during the day.  Are you north facing and have shade most of the day or south facing with full sunlight.  Do you face east and get the morning sun or are you west facing with the warm afternoon sun.  When you are choosing plants at the local garden centre, be sure to check on how much sun they need daily and choose ones that fit your sun conditions.

There is such a wide variety of container styles these days that allow you to be creative with your space.  Look at the container options that will “hang over” the railing.  These offer a unique canvas to create colourful flower arrangements.  Do consider adding trailing or vine flowers like morning glories, nasturtiums or fuschias to add dimension to your hanging boxes.

If you are placing containers on the ground, consider going with a few larger containers or raised planter boxes instead of lots of smaller containers. The larger containers will give the plants the room their roots need to stay healthy. These containers are also good for the plants that will come inside for the winter.

Also think vertically. Additional space can be created on the walls using shelving or trellises.  Use hooks to hold hanging planters.  Or be creative with wooden crates and build a vertical planter pyramid.  If your balcony is large enough, refurbish an old wooden ladder to create a unique pot holder

 

For more tips on creating a balcony garden check out:

10 Tips to starting a balcony garden

 Turn your balcony into a lush garden

 10 Balcony gardening tips

 Tips for starting a balcony garden

Having fresh herbs to add into your recipes not only adds a fresh flavour, but a nutritional boost to your meals.  There is a difference in taste when using fresh herbs instead of the dried variety. And there is a higher nutritional value with fresh herbs. But buying fresh herbs can be expensive, especially compared to the dried version.

And creating an herb garden can be one of the simplest gardens to have…ALL YEAR ROUND.   In a few steps, you can be growing fresh herbs to use daily.

Step 1:  Decide if you are planting outside or in pots that you can use inside in the winter and outside in the summer.  One thing to remember is that most herbs are considered annuals, so if you are planting them in your garden bed, you will either need to transplant them in the fall to bring inside for the winter or will be buying new plants each spring.

Step 2:  Decide on how many herbs you want to grow.  This is important so you know what size planter to use or where to place them in your garden.

Step 3: Choose the herbs you want to grow.  Think about what you use most often.  Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Dill, Sage and Parsley are the more commonly used herbs to consider for an indoor year round garden.  Mint (any variety), Lavender and Chives do well outside in a garden, and will come back each year.

Step 4: Visit your local garden centre for starter plants or seeds for your chosen herbs. Pick up your container(s), dirt and any special plant food while you are there.

Step 5: Find a sunny spot in your house, and enjoy.

 

For more tips on how to start and grow a garden check out:

25 Best Herbs to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden

Herb Garden Ideas

 

For more on the benefits of growing your own herbs check out:

Benefits to growing your own herbs

Reasons to grow your own herbs

Flower gardens can be the easiest and the hardest type of garden to have.  There are so many different options to choose from for flowers and ornamental grasses that you can have in your garden.  And then add in the different types of soils we can have in our subdivisions and the growing season available where you live.  Talking with your local garden centre and getting their expert advice will ensure your flower garden will bloom from spring through fall until the snow arrives.

One of the keys to a colourful flower garden through spring, summer and fall is to have a variety of annuals and perennials.  Perennials will generally have a tubular or bulbous base that offers protection for the winter hibernation.  Annuals mainly germinate from seeds, either directly planted in your garden or grown in a greenhouse.

Start your Spring off with colourful seasonal bulbs.  Crocuses, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and paper whites are just a few spring bulb options that bring bright colours to your garden as trees and perennials start to waken up from their winter sleep.  As the garden centres open, the options for annuals become available.  Pansies are a hardy flower that can withstand the crazy spring weather patterns, and come in a large variety of colours.

Have a rainbow of colour in the summer, with a mix of perennials and annuals.  Attract butterflies and hummingbirds while enjoying perennials like hardy hibiscus, daisies, coneflower or black-eyed susans.  Mix up your colour theme each year with annuals like begonias, zinnias, cosmos, marigolds and petunias.

Enjoy the deep purples, blues, bright oranges and yellows in fall with perennials like chrysanthemums, goldenrod, stonecrop, turtlehead, helenium and joe pye weed. Pansies love the cooler temperatures of fall, so be sure to plant more late summer.  Strawflower, ornamental peppers and ornamental cabbage, also known as flowering kale offer a pop of colour and will fill in your garden nicely.

For more flower gardening tips, check out:

Flower Garden Advice

Successful Garden Designs

Cinco de Mayo isn’t an official major event in Canada, but that doesn’t stop people from celebrating the Mexican holiday on May 5th. This big fiesta has become very popular all over the world and has spread to many countries as a way to celebrate Mexican culture. Many local pubs and restaurants, especially Mexican and Latin American ones, typically go all out with their promotions.

However, since mid-March, most public events have been cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Restaurants are either closed or offer only take-out and delivery. Bars and night clubs are closed, and festivals and events have been either cancelled or postponed.

We’ve waited years for Cinco de Mayo and Taco Tuesday to collide, so not even a pandemic will stop festivities from happening, at least not on the food end – but it seems people will have to just celebrate and drink their Corona beers and tequila at home this year (but of course only in moderation)!

Here are some of our go-to websites for everything Cinco de Mayo liquids and solids!

If you are a fan of all kinds of Mexican food and drinks, then this site is for you. From guacamole to margaritas. Salsa to iconic Mexican desserts, you will find endless recipes to cook up something special for this Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Are tacos your jam? This site has not one dozen, not two dozen, but nearly three dozen different taco recipes!

33 Taco Recipes We Love

Not a fan of tacos? Try one of these 48 recipes for amazing Mexican dishes that are sure to be a mainstay at every Cinco de Mayo celebration.

48 Recipes for Mexican Foods That Aren’t Tacos

For some, part of the May 5th celebration includes Cinco de Mayo cocktails. As this next website says, “if your go-to liquor is tequila, you’re in luck”! Margaritas, mimosas, and other tasty tequila treats are just a click away!

24 Tequila Cocktails To Celebrate Cinco De Mayo

No! It isn’t just any salsa! It’s Pico de Gallo! If you have always wanted to know how to make it, the time has come. Learn how to make a famous Mexican garnish made of tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice. A must for any taco or tostada.

How to Make the Best Pico de Gallo

There is no wrong way to make ‘Guac’! But here are a few additional recipes made by others that you might want to add to your guacamole repertoire.

Guacamole Recipes

Is it a donut? Is it a funnel cake? What is a Churro!! Well, a churro is the best of both worlds. A fried-dough pastry coated in a cinnamon sugar mixture and served with chocolate, caramel or whipped cream or just eaten plain will be sure to win over your sweet tooth during Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

Churros

Looking for something that you can make for Cinco de Mayo that doesn’t have carne (meat), pollo (chicken) or pescado (fish), but still want a delicious taco? Try out these roasted cauliflower tacos.

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

Do you love tacos, but are looking for something a little simpler to make this Cinco de Mayo? Check out this next site for a quick and taco-inspired rice skillet.

One Pan Taco Skillet

And last, but definitely not least, is the Mole Sauce! Mole is a traditional marinade and sauce used in Mexican cuisine. This Mexican delight usually contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut and various spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin.

Holy Mole Sauce

P.S. We just had to throw one more Mole Sauce in there for good measure!

Authentic Mole Poblano

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

For the weeks (and likely months) ahead, our lives are all about self-isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We won’t be face to face with families, friends, colleagues, or dating app matches for an indefinite amount of time, and, as a result, a lot of people will probably let their grooming regimen slide.

That’s understandable, since our barbers and stylists are also quarantined, but there’s a good argument for maintaining some semblance of your regular routine during this time. It provides structure – bookends to your day, a break from the new work-from-home routine, and can even provide some much needed optimism despite all the depressing news stories we hear each day.

So here are some ways you can keep on top of your grooming habits, or even build some new ones.

How Not to Let Your Grooming Habits Fall to the Wayside During Self-Isolation