Sunday, 24 May 2015

Lasagna Heaven

I wouldn't say I am a fabulous cook. I have my staples, about eight to ten dishes that I make well and make over and over and over. Every once in a while I pull out a cook book or google a recipe to switch things up, or because inspiration hits me and something makes me think that my kids will be adventurous eaters for once - Amelia would be, Jake likes the eight to ten things I make over and over and over. Most of my culinary regime is pretty simple, nothing to write home about. However, there is one thing I make really really well, one thing that I am willing to boast over, heck, even blog over, but I don't make it often because it requires more than the 30 minutes I usually have to get dinner done and on the table.

Lasagna. It might sound unimpressive, but don't be deceived. If you've ever made a true homemade lasagna, you know. It's a multi step process, it takes time, talent and energy, and it's not something you serve up every other Tuesday. Lasagna is a Sunday meal, a come-together-at-the-table-and-indulge meal. I made it today, and it was delicious.

The way I see it lasagna isn't for the faint of heart. If you are looking for low fat, low calorie, low taste, look elsewhere. There are many things I will try to calorie cut on, or switch ingredients to make a "healthier" version, but my lasagna is not one of them. Somethings are worth the indulgence, somethings are worth the decadence, somethings are worth the second helpings. And when you only make something once or twice a year then when you do make it, I say make it right.

My recipe is a mix from a Taste of Italy cookbook I got as a wedding gift, watching my best friends mother make homemade mouth watering lasagna in my teens, and a googled bechamel sauce recipe. It is simple, it is rich, it is tasty, and it is - if I do say so myself - the second best lasagna I have ever had. First best if my best friends mom. She makes her own lasagna noodles, diligently and painstakingly rolling out each noodle into a super fine sheet, so paper thin she can make at least eight, maybe ten, layers in her lasagna dish. I'm good, but not that good. My noodles are store bought - only six layer worthy.

The secret, I think, is the bechamel sauce. I use it instead of the ricotta cheese and spinach mix most recipes call for. I don't like ricotta cheese in this recipe. I can't pin why, I think it is a texture thing. I find the bechamel makes for a creamier, richer, smoother all round texture. It's melt in your mouth, moist, deilcious, the adjectives could go on and on.

Here are my steps:

First - homemade (not from a jar) simmered for at least three hours bolognese sauce. Tomato sauce, onion, garlic, red wine, basil, salt, pepper, red wine, organic ground beef. Pour some on the bottom of lasagna dish. Lay down a base of noodles.

Second layer - a thicker helping of the red sauce topped with a generous sprinkling of real fresh grated mozzarella cheese. Lay down another set of noodles.

Third layer - fresh made bechamel sauce. Don't be stingy, pour it on. This isn't a fat free recipe. You can have salad tomorrow (no wait, you'll be eating leftovers tomorrow - have salad the next day). Sprinkle Italian parmesan cheese on top of the bechamel. I mean it, sprinkle harder. Lay more noodles.

Fourth layer - red sauce/mozza cheese. Lay noodles.

Fifth layer - Bechamel/Parmesan. We're almost done. Lay the last noodles down.

Top layer - end with the rest of your bolognese sauce and a final helping of grated mozzarella.

Bake it covered, then take the cover off to crisp the cheese at the top, and give it a nice brownish look.

I serve a nice green salad on the side (made by my mother-in-law in this photo). I like to keep the lasagna saucy and decadent. I serve up the green stuff on the side.

Fill your wine glass up with a nice red wine, invite over family and friends, forget about your diet for one evening and voila!  Lasagna heaven.

Now I am not saying the way I do it is for everyone. I know my mother, for instance, loads her version up with veggies, and I have another friend who likes it the good ole ricotta cheese and spinach way. But for me, the creaminess and richness that you get when a great red bolognese sauce meets a great white bechamel sauce, and lots of great Italian cheese is layered in between sheets of pasta, it just doesn't get any better.... well, it can get better. Roll out your own paper thin sheets of lasagna noodles and you'll think you've died and gone to heaven. It's almost worth starting dinner prep at noon.

But the best part in any case - leftovers tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Victoria Day

Who doesn't love a good long weekend?

Not us, we love 'em, and the Victoria Day long weekend that just passed us by was no exception. It was hot, it was lazy, it was sun soaked - throw in a parade and a wading pool on the front lawn and I don't see how it could get any better.... okay it got better, because we also went to the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Located in Duncan, BC, just shy of an hour from our house, this little gem is well worth the long ride up. There's a train, a play ground, a forestry exhibit, a snack bar, and a souvenir shop. Basically, something to keep any member of the family occupied and happy. Oh and there is wild life! plenty of it. There was excitement over a baby fawn that was spotted but I unfortunately missed it. I must have been preoccupied by my own baby fawns. 

Back at home there was lots of water play and lounging on the lawn chairs. Jake and Amelia did the water play, Matt and I did the lounging. It was a miracle (the lounging part). The kids were occupied all afternoon, minimal parent involvement needed.  I've decided that wading pools are gifts from God to parents.

And the grand finale - the Annual Victoria Day parade. It's a good old fashioned parade, packed with local business floats, school bands, cultural groups, and the odd organizations that no one's ever heard about and it's no wonder why.

The Lambrick High marching band.  Matt's Alma Mater.

Our favorite house milk, in extra large size. I love the ladies in green in this one. It's the pom pom's and the lime green. Love it.

The bath tub racers are always a favorite.

Operation Christmas Child was handing out candy canes. Jake was happy.

Moving on to the  local organizations no one's ever heard of... Puppets for Peace? Anyone?

This one's for you, mama. 

We were on the side lines this year, but sometimes the sidelines are better. You get to see everything.

Victoria Day 2015, we enjoyed you. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Exploring Nature

The other weekend our family set out on a little trip to a local Salmon run. The little salmon fry were flitting this way and that in the rushing waters, a reminder of the true miracle of their long and tumultuous life cycle. A reminder to the big people at least. The little people were a bit more concerned with "fishing" and rock throwing.  Daddy had to hunker down for a lecture on leaving nature in its place.

But fun was had nonetheless.  Forest walks always remind me of my childhood. Every Sunday my dad would throw some salami sandwiches and a box of cookies into a knapsack and pile us all into the car to head off to some local wooded destination. Trails around Deep Cove, Dog mountain at Mount Seymour, Lynn Valley, Pacific Spirit Park, all places I grew up wandering around on Sundays in Vancouver.

Being here on the Island opens up a whole new world of foresty treasures to explore, and Goldstream park is one of our favorites. It has an easy trail, so Amelia can walk it; there is a nature house which gives the kids a destination; a river where you can watch salmon at various stages of their lives; and all the other lush and green aspects that make the West Coast of Canada one of the best places to explore.

The "fishing" didn't last longer than 30 seconds because daddy quickly pointed to the "no fishing" signs posted everywhere. But it started a good conversation about nature and conservation, and working together to help animals in the wild to thrive.

Speaking of animals in the wild, look what I spotted:

It's a Bluejay!!!  And he's really blue!!!

Have fun exploring your local nature!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The little girl who had pigtails

It took 18 months to get here, but wasn't it worth the wait?

I know I've been away a while. It's really a good thing because it means our lives have been busy and full and there's been no time for up loading photos and writing blogs.  But I am starting to feel like I need to make time, because this is my photo journal, and what good is a photo journal is you don't take the time to maintain it. Plus people we don't see very often are starting to wonder what we look like. Or at least they wonder what she looks like, because let's be honest she changes every single day. Everyone else has kind of plateaued.

Here's Amelia: 18 months old.

More Boyd Family adventures, coming soon!