Best of Bridge: The Family Slow Cooker + Giveaway

It’s finally here!

Did every family in Canada grow up with a Best of Bridge cookbook perched in their kitchen? I know mine did. When I moved to Japan, the only cookbook that made it into my suitcase was a Best of Bridge one. Lot of good that did me (good luck finding cream cheese or cream of mushroom soup in mid-90s Japan). Still, I remained loyal. After all these years, I know I’m not the only one who’s thrilled they’ve rebooted. The Family Slow Cooker is out on shelves and surprisingly, I adore it.

Well, it’s not so surprising, as I’m loyal and an Albertan, plus I know I can trust their recipes. Thing is, I’m not the slow cooker type. Kind of like I’m not the SUV type, except I have one. Or that I’m not a pet person. Bottom line: I didn’t want to like the slow cooker, but secretly, I quite fancy it.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning (in a Julie Andrews Singsong Kinda Way)

Before I knew anything about slow cookery, my knowledge was limited to:

  1. Take a small ham
  2. Throw it in the slow cooker
  3. Add a bottle of beer (the 70s dark stubby type)
  4. Douse with canned pineapple
  5. Flick on some brown sugar
  6. Let it slow cooker for a spell
  7. In a few hours, dinner is served!
chocolate pecan cake

Who knew you could bake a cake inside a slow cooker?

The Family Slow Cooker

Opening up the latest Best of Bridge was a joy. For real. I’ve been known to read cookbooks in bed, typically as a sleep aid. I certainly didn’t expect to be up after midnight combing through each and every page.

Best of Bridge baked ravioli

Bet you can’t wait to tuck into this cheesy baked pasta dish.

Here’s what happens when you read The Family Slow Cooker – you become transported. To a simpler time. To your past. To when your parents held dinner parties with suburban neighbours and set out place cards.

The typography is EXACTLY the same. It’s comforting. This cookbook made me feel like I could trust these recipes. In the way I doubted Death to Dieters Chicken Lasagne a decade ago and it worked out beautifully, I know if I make their Ridiculous Easy Chicken Curry they’ve got my back.

Better With Age

So, yeah, Best of Bridge has evolved with the times. It was so nice to see some Indian, Israeli, North African and other mildly ethnic dishes in their new cookbook. (Korean-style beef short ribs scream slow cooker, but they’re absent, which was the only major bummer.) The most pleasant aspect of this cookbook is how they’ve updated their recipes. The tinned soup is gone and I didn’t notice any cereal. (There was a fair amount of cereal in the 80s.) You’re eating more real food with these recipes.

Best of Bridge Hamburger Soup

Hearty Hamburger Soup makes an appearance.

Their most popular recipe of all time – Hamburger Soup is also packaged up into a slow cooker friendly version. Same with Schwarties Potatoes! The day after cracking this cookbook open, I resuscitated my slow cooker from the basement. I braised beef. I roasted beets (just like they told me to) and everyone loved it. I can’t wait to brew up some Spiced Pineapple Tea (page 329) or try the Caramelized Onion Pasta Carbonara (page 237).

Win a Copy For Yourself

If you love the Best of Bridge series as much as I do, you’ll love their latest cookbook. Want a copy for yourself? Simply comment below with your favourite Best of Bridge recipe before midnight, Wednesday, September 28, 2017 and I’ll randomly draw a winner from the entries.  You can also promo this post on Facebook or Twitter, just tag me, so I can record your entry.

In case you’re wondering, my all time favourite Best of Bridge recipe is crab mousse. Nary a family celebration went by without this savoury dip at our table. Hey, Bridge ladies! I’d love to see you update this recipe without the canned mushroom soup and cream cheese in your next cookbook.

What you need to know before hiking Larch Valley

And just like that summer has melted into fall. Where I live in Alberta, we don’t get any of that dramatic orange and red foliage, but we do have larch trees and they are pretty spectacular. Larches love high altitude and one of the most famous spots in Canada for viewing them is Larch Valley near Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Here’s a look at what to expect on this super popular trail, plus some relevant hiking tips to make your trek more pleasant. (Tip: A less crowded spot near Banff to see the larches is at Sunshine Meadows at Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Head here for the DL on that hike.) 

woman larch valley

Why Now?

For many outdoorsy types, autumn is the very best time of year to hike. The crowds have dispersed (errr, except on this hike), the temperature isn’t too hot and for photography buffs, the light is intoxicating. For regular joes, you’ll be wowed by the colours. There is a brief two week period when larch needles morph from the deepest green to lime to golden yellow, and that change is going on right now.

fall hiking trail

During this time of year a stillness descends over the forests and meadows. Nature has stopped producing and is taking a quiet moment of reflection before getting ready for winter’s deep sleep. It can be hard to tap into this quiet yet powerful energy, but it’s possible if you know how to become still enough. Unfortunately, I don’t. Because I had such a transformative experience forest bathing last year, I knew I’d be better off connecting to nature on this hike if I did it with Walk with Ronna, a certified guide and naturalist operating out of Canmore.

Timing is Everything

As far as seasons go, we’re about two weeks ahead of where we typically are, so the larches are changing colour right now. They’ll be at their prime this coming weekend and early next week. It’s worth taking a day off work and hiking on a weekday because weekends are a mother.

colourful canoes

Take in these views from the parking lot before beginning your hike

Last Saturday, we arrived at the Moraine Lake parking lot at 8:45 a.m., and there were only five parking spaces left! If you’re from Calgary, you’ll want to leave the city by 6:30 a.m. at the latest on weekends. Because this hike is so popular (up to 800 hikers a day!), complimentary shuttles operate from the main parking lot in Lake Louise village.

Go in a Group

On the prowl for a few billion calories before bedding down in their dens, bears are still out and about. We spotted several places right next to the trail where a grizzly had been digging for ground squirrels, one of their favourite little snacks. If you don’t hike in groups of four you’ll be fined. For real. The signs are up and we spotted a Parks Canada dude issuing tickets. (The only wildlife we saw was a grouse foraging for berries.)

taking selfies in nature

Yes, we took selfies along the trail, but we weren’t the only ones!

The Hike

Starting from the Lake Moraine parking lot, you’ll scoot around the right side of the lake for a few minutes, before quickly ascending a series of switchbacks. The trick is to slow your pace down. It should be easy enough to carry on a conversation. If you’re hiking all the way up the Sentinel Pass, you’ll want to conserve your energy.

innukshuk mountain

We were rewarded with sublime views of Mount Temple and the Sentinel Pass

The switchbacks aren’t all bad. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to look down onto turquoise Moraine Lake. Scratch that. The lake is such an eerie shade of blue, blue raspberry Kool-Aid is a more accurate description.

view of moraine lake from larch valley trail

Side note: Once a tourist asked a staff member at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise how Lake Louise was such a brilliant blue. The employee said every night they drained the lake at 7 p.m. and then quickly painted the base before filling it up again. Rumour has it a crowd descended upon the lakeshore at 7 p.m. that evening and was gutted this wasn’t the case. The employee was fired. Is this true? No idea, but it’s a funny story.

painting lake bottom

(Photo credit: Travel Alberta)

Fun fact: The reason the lakes in Banff National Park are so brilliantly blue (or green) is because of a silt-like rock flour that’s constantly being carried into the lake by melt-water from the surrounding glaciers.

valley of ten peaks

Once you hit this meadow, the colours begin to appear

After all the switchbacks, you’ll come upon meadows with stunning views of Valley of the Ten Peaks. This is where the larches start to appear. Go ahead and touch their needles. You’ll find they’re soft like feathers and not at all pokey.

woman autumn hiking

Surprisingly, there were still wildflowers anchoring the trail. There’s loads of yellow arnica and even some purple fleabane on its last legs.

high alpine flowers

Because I went with Ronna, we veered of the main trail and took a secret path through the larches. Bye bye packed trail, hello sense of quietude. Away from the crowds, we were able to tap into the magic of this place. At times I felt overwhelmed, I mean look at these views!

mountain yoga

What I saw during downward dog. Sure beats the yoga studio.

Except the pic below wasn’t taken in Larch Valley. (Close by though…) Still, you get my drift..

larch hike

Fall hiking around Lake Louise (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka Photography)

Do you have a favourite fall hike? I’d love to hear what yours is.

10 Weird things you need to pack for travel

Style points! (Image via amosbarzeev/ Unsplash)

You’re no idiot. You know to pack an extra credit card and cash when you travel. You’ve got enough sox and undies to last a full week. Congrats, bro! But what you probably don’t know is how some innocuous everyday items can transform your travel experience. Here are 10 super weird yet essential items you ought to pack on your next trip.

Weird things to pack

Dude should’ve wrapped his bottle in a baggie! Also, who puts a watch in their suitcase? (Image via linalitvina/Unsplash)

Clothes Pin

Besides the obvious use of hanging your garments, a clothes pin can ensure you get a good night’s sleep. How? Use it to clip curtains together, so early morning light doesn’t disturb your slumber. It’s also handy to prevent a half eaten bag of potato chips from going stale. Clip your travel receipts together or use a wooden one for kindling if you need to start a fire.

Clothes pin

Image via via Wikipedia

Dental Floss

As important as dental hygiene is, that’s not why I’m recommending bringing the floss. With dental floss you can string it across the room to make an impromptu clothes line or even hang a light blanket from it to give you a bit of privacy. Best is you can literally (not figuratively) cut the cheese with dental floss and divvy up desserts such as cheesecake when a knife isn’t at hand. 

dental floss uses

Image via via M.Alexander AOL.com

Duct Tape

No need to tote a massive roll of this all purpose tape. Travel-sizes are available and are worth your consideration. With duct tape you can repair almost anything including a damaged suitcase, ripped clothing or shoes on their last legs. Duct tape can be used to plug a sink or seal a cut just like a Band-Aid. It can’t mend a broken heart, but it can fix pretty much everything else. Oh, and if you’re the DIY type, check out these clever duct tape projects.

travelling duct tape

Ziplock Bags

I always travel with at least two empty, large ziplock bags. Stinky or wet clothes like bathing suits can be sealed away without affecting other garments. More importantly, you should place bottles of booze inside ziplock bags before packing them in your suitcase. I’ve never had a break, but beer has escaped from a glass bottle (loose metal cap). Fortunately, the sealed ziplock prevented my suitcase from smelling like a frat party. Shampoo and other liquids should be placed in these sealed bags as well.

large zip lock bag

I’ve never gone this big, but I’m tempted…

Copy of Your ID

Take a picture of your driver’s license and/or passport with your smart phone before your trip. Share it with another adult in case your phone and wallet are stollen. I’ve twice boarded domestic flights with both the print and/or electronic version. Gasp!

(Image via: image via LF Press)

(Image via: image via LF Press)

Baby Wipes

Even if you don’t have a kid, baby wipes are super handy for disinfecting surfaces and wiping down hands when a sink is out of reach. You can’t predict spills, but your clothes are less likely to get damaged if you dab dirty spots quickly. Can’t get to a shower? Sponge bath your pits, feet and best parts with a wipe and you’ll feel oh-so fresh after.

travel wipes

Petzl Headlamp

Flashlights (even the kind on your iPhone) are cumbersome because you have to hold onto them. Far better is to tote a lightweight headlamp. That way, you can read in the dark on those overnight buses or in the hostel dorm. It’s also a confidence booster when you’re moseying down a street after dark that isn’t well lit. You may look like a dweeb, but better safe than sorry.

travel headlamp

Also makes a great gift for kids of any age!

Power Strip

Hotel power outlets always seem to have too many other essentials plugged into them. Bringing along a multi-socket strip means you can charge all your devices in one location and still have the lamp on. Better yet, you can pop that baby into a socket at the airport and be your gate’s hero. Everyone could use a little boost, right?

white power outlet

Whistle

Outdoor adventurers know to bring a whistle when they go out into the woods, and the same holds true for other destinations. Whistles scare people and animals away. They can alert others you’re in danger, need help or if you’re clubbing, you can chime in with the EDM like all the other cool kids.

Whistle on string

Safety Pins

Thieves have a tougher time slipping into your daypack when you’ve clipped your zippers together with a safety pin. Missing buttons and busted zippers can be closed up as well. Hems are easily tacked up, as are pant legs when you’re riding a bike and don’t fancy getting tangled in the chain. And, like it’s cousin the clothes pin, you can fuse curtains together for optimal sleeping conditions.

safety pin uses

A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do… (Image via Goodhousekeeping.com

What weird items do you travel with?

If you liked this, you’ll want to read:

 

What to do when you lose your ID travelling

How to breeze through airport security

Sunshine meadows summer

Sweeping views are yours at Sunshine Meadows

Hiking with kids can really suck. I think the reason most people hike with their children is so they don’t have to spring for a babysitter. Yeah, yeah, you want to foster a love of nature in your offspring (and get them to eat green vegetables, too!). You just don’t want this modelling to ruin your day in the great outdoors. The solution? A family friendly path that delivers epic views in the high alpine. Welcome my friends to Sunshine Meadows.

continental divide summer

You’ll want to bring your good camera on this hike!

Canada’s Best Hike

Lonely Planet rated Sunshine Meadows Canada’s #1 hike, and for good reason.  You’d be hard pressed to find prettier views anywhere in the Rockies. Located in Banff National Park, there are wildflowers scattered over the mountain meadow in early summer and in autumn it’s a prime spot to view the changing colours. Best is that its well developed (mostly flat) trails are a cinch for strollers or toddlers to hike on their own. Yes, it’s the hike where everybody wins!

children hiking banff national park

Bring a friend to keep little hikers in check.

Wifi Sign outdoors

Get this, there’s even wifi!

Getting There

The hike begins either with a bus or gondola ride to the village. The Gondola runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but closes after the long weekend. After that (and during weekdays) its a bus ride with White Mountain Adventures until October 2, 2016.

gondola sunshine meadows

You wouldn’t believe how exciting the gondola is for the under six set

If you’re hiking with kids and can make it this long weekend it’s worth it for the gondola ride alone. Kids often find this to be the highlight of the excursion.

Columbia Ground Squirrel

Then again, the Columbia Ground Squirrels are pretty exciting, too!

Busy? That Depends…

Lots of people have been grumbling about how busy Banff has been this summer. We hiked Sunshine Meadows last Sunday and it was relatively quiet. I counted maybe 20 people max on the trail. There were clouds in the sky and the forecast threatened rain, though none appeared. Fair weather hikers missed out!

Standish summer

After the chairlift the real fun begins.

Once you’re at the Village, you can use the facilities inside Trappers, grab a burger or get yourself a trail map. From there, head up the Standish Chairlift. Usually you have to hike up from the Village, but running Standish in summer (Friday, Saturday and Sundays) is new and very much appreciated by those hiking with wee ones. It closes after the long weekend, though…

Sunshine meadows trail

Hike Across the Continental Divide

It’s less than a five minute walk from Standish Chairlift to Standish Lookout. From there you can see Rock Isle Lake and Laryx Lake clearly.

Standish Sunshine Meadows

From the lookout you can see all the way into B.C. (and Mt. Assiniboine if you’re lucky).

Then it’s down a few steps and your on the gravel pathway towards the lakes. For the very young, doing a trek around Rock Isle Lake is probably best. Estimate you’ll be walking for an hour, not including the gondola or chairlift. If you’ve got kids who don’t whine too much, go ahead and do the loop around Laryx Lake. It’ll take close to three hours round trip, but it’s not taxing.

Girl rock isle lake

At this post you need to decide if you’ll go onto Laryx Lake or not

mom and daughter hiking

Could there be a better spot for family photos then at Rock Isle Lake? I don’t think so.

Be sure to compensate your outdoor adventurers with plenty of carbs and chocolate. Rewarding calories is the real reason anyone hikes, isn’t it?

Sunshine meadows with kids

Have you ever hiked Sunshine Meadows? Do you know of any good day hikes near Calgary for youngsters?

P.S. You may enjoy also reading:

A trail near Lake Louise to convert hiking haters

An easy hike with kids: Lake Agnes

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