Bars & Squares, Berries

Family, Squared

September 10, 2012

Yesterday my mom, aunt, another aunt, two cousins and I jumped on a ferry to the island. My mom’s aunts live in Half Moon Bay, near Sechelt, and we were also able to visit to my grandmother (my mom’s mom) who is no longer with us, but who rests in a quaint family site. We spent the afternoon having tea, and lunch (which included my family’s famous pickled beets), while reminiscing with my great aunts over old photo albums. I miss my grandma, and my mom misses her mom, however, being with the great aunts felt like being at Grandma’s again. I love the old decorations, the antique tea cups, and the feeling of being at a grandparents. My mom’s aunt said she can just call her momma now too. It was a really great afternoon with family, finding out about our heritage (my mother’s family actually has First Nations in their bloodline, and some of her family has gained First Nations Status.) Looking at photos from the early 1900s, in the photo albums we were looking at, you can really tell some of her relatives were of native descent. This is interesting to me, because I’ve just begun my PDP for teaching, and we are now being made more aware of Indigenous education, and teaching First Nations children in the education system.

{my awesome fishing teacup}

{one of the old photographs, my moms grandma as a baby at their home in old North Van, circa 1910}

Her house had a beautiful view of the water, and just outside her balcony was a large apple tree. She said she wasn’t able to pick the higher ones, so my two cousins and I decided we would try and get some down (without the crabby neighbour downstairs making too much of a fuss.) We knocked down quite a few, and filled up an entire paper grocery bag full. They are currently sitting on the counter in the kitchen, what they will be baked into is still yet to be determined.. though I’m thinking some sort of pie most likely. They aren’t very crisp apples, pretty soft. Good for baking.

 {Melis and I gathering up the apples}

{Our bushel of apples! Quite impressive, thanks to my cousins climbing skill 😉 }

Once we were finished picking apples, my great aunt told us there were a ton of blackberries down the trail beside her house – so off we went to pick some. My cousin Melis went full force with another branch to get right in there, while Andrea and I stayed on the outskirts of the bushes – FYI sandals and a dress are not great blackberry picking clothes.

{Basket of berries}

{Walking back to the house with our berries}

I actually made these bars before I left to go to Europe, but I was having problems uploading the photos. Now I’ve got it all fixed – so I thought I would share it.

My family is sort of a square family – in the sense that they were all great bakers (perhaps where I get it from..) and squares and bars are kind of their thing, along with canning of course (salmon, beets, pickles.) My grandma made matrimonial squares (date squares,) nanaimo bars, lemon squares etc. and they were good. My aunts and cousins and I have tried to re-make her recipes, and we’re pretty close I think.

These can be made with any berry really, I was thinking of making them again this week with the blackberries, and maybe some of Adam’s mom’s rhubarb. Perfect for back-to-school lunches.

Blackberry Crumb Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • 4-5 cups fresh berries of your choice (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry etc)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

What to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9×13″ pan.

2. In a food processor, add 1 cup sugar, flour, and baking powder. Add in lemon zest, and butter and egg. Pulse until well blended, dough will be crumbly and resemble small pea-sized pieces. Pat half of this dough into the pan gently.

3. In another bowl, stir together the rest of the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the berries. Sprinkle the blackberry (or whichever berry you chose) mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

These tasted even better once refrigerated, but feel free to dig in while their still warm! Best if kept in the fridge, or freeze.

 

Travel

Back to Reality

August 31, 2012

Hi.

It’s been over a month since I’ve written anything here! I’ve been home from Europe for two weeks now, although it seems like forever since I was there already. To say that it was an amazing summer wouldn’t even begin to explain all the wonderful places I visited, cultures I explored and friends I made.

My journey began in London, where I met 52 new friends. I was on a group tour for two weeks with Contiki. The tour itself was good, although it left me wishing we had more time in each city/country. The people I shared it with though, were great. It’s amazing how you can make friends and meet new people one night, and then start an adventure for two weeks together on a coach bus the next morning and already feel like a family. The whole group got along really well, and it was sad to have to say goodbye to everyone on the 16th day. Thankfully thanks to modern technology we can all stay in touch with social media networks. For anyone wanting to explore Europe alone, and make some friends from around the world I would really recommend you do a tour like Contiki. I did the ‘European Highlights’ tour, and while It was great and our tour group was amazing, the tour itself was a little rushed. We did see everything, but most of the people on the tour agreed that more time in each place would have been nice. I guess we never really factored in the long days we would be on the bus, not arriving to our destination until 7 pm at night. However, there are longer tours you can go on that are slower paced, if you have the time and money. I was lucky enough that I was going back to Italy for two weeks after the tour ended in Amsterdam.

I’ve mentioned on here before about my dad, that he was Italian. He was born in a small town in southern Italy called Sulmona. I’ll post more about that portion later, but it was amazing to go to the town where he was born, and see the house he lived in, and the hospital where he was born (that is now a museum). It was even more surreal that I was able to go with my Nonna (grandma), my dad’s mom. It really was a once in a lifetime experience to go back to Italy with her and see where my family was from. Next year will be nine years since his passing, even more surreal. So, I stayed with family for two weeks in Sulmona, and Grottaglie, Puglia. To say that I did not want to leave would be an understatement. I really could have gotten used to those beaches..

And the food. Oh, the food.

I’ll have to do an entire post on just the food I ate. I told Adam I was going to come home fat, because the first day I was with family I was sure I ate more in one meal than I would in an entire month back at home. However, much to my delight I returned home the same as I left, apparently even a little bit lighter? How that is possible, I’m not sure. But I’ll take the compliments! If I can go to Europe for a month, eat bottomless gelato, hundreds of bowls of pasta, pizza, and pastries and not gain weight, I’ll be going back for sure! Who wouldn’t want to live that life?? It is really an amazing adventure to discover history, see the sights, explore different cultures and gain an experience unlike any other. I think everyone should travel at some point in their life, even if it’s only just beyond your border. I am very thankful that my Mom was able to give me the gift of travel. Being a well seasoned traveler herself, she really wanted me to be able to visit Italy and see all of Europe, even some places she had never been herself. This trip was my graduation present from my mom. Even grad seems like it was forever ago. It was truly a trip that I will never forget.

And now, reality sets in. I begin school next week for my PDP for teaching. More school. One more year until I have my teaching degree. Adam and I have sold and moved out of our condo, well, he moved out the week after I left and we’re now living with his parents until our new house is ready in November. It was pretty funny coming home, and not really having a home, or knowing where anything was, but it will be great and I can’t wait until the new place is ready!

Oh, and I cooked last night for the first time in over a month. I made pizza dough – and then pizza’s. They were delicious, and fulfilled my desire to be back in Italy, eating pizza just out of the giant wood burning outdoor oven.

For now, here are some snapshots of Europe. I’ll post some more in-depth information soon!

– London

– France

– Florence

– Rome

– Venice

– Germany

– Amsterdam

– Sulmona

– Puglia

– Home. Vancouver, Canada.

 

Life

Ciao!

July 22, 2012

I’m off! I was going to schedule some posts – But quite frankly with moving the house the last two and a half weeks and packing to go on vacation and being away I did not have time to pre-write anything. So, unless I find a quick minute while I’m away, you’ll have to wait until I am home =) I will most definitely have lots of photos to share, particularly the delicious food I’ll be eating along the way as I make my way across Europe…