How the New UCCB Increase Affects You and Your Family for Better or for Worse

It’s been awhile since I have written a post. The whole raising children, being on City Council, transitioning into an exciting new career, renovating one house and moving into another has well… It’ has kept me busy to say the least.

But as the UCCB back payments begin, I have many friends and family members asking me how the UCCB benefits them. Previously, I wrote an article clarifying the difference between the National Child Tax Benefit and the Child Tax Credit, as at the time of the decision, the government’s release of information was unclear. Families were relieved to hear that they were not losing their National Child Tax Benefits and would receive an additional amount of benefit.

The question now becomes how much of a benefit will families be seeing? Below you will find a series of mathematical equations that may hurt your head just a tad. However, I ask that you walk through it slowly and stay with me, as I walk you through the changes you’re experiencing and how it will affect each family differently.

We’ll start with rewinding just a bit and explaining the changes that apply to both married and single parents:

  • You are no longer entitled to the Child Tax Credit when you file your return.
  • You are now receiving an increased Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) of $60.00 per month per child under the age of 18 years.

Previous to the UCCB increase, parents received a Child Tax Credit for each child under the age of 18. You would have seen it on your taxes as Line 367.

“Line 367 – Amount for children born in 1997 or later

You can claim $2,255 for each of your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s children who are under 18 years of age at the end of the year.”

Federal Personal Tax Credits are valued at 15% of the deductible amount. I have broken down the amounts for each child up to five children below. This is an annual amount (and so the math starts):

# of Children: Line 367 Amount x Federal Deductible Benefit = Your Previous Tax Credit

1 Child: $2,255 x 15% = $338.25

2 Children: $4,510 x 15% = $676.50

3 Children: $6,765 x 15% = $1014.75

4 Children: $9,020 x 15% = $1,353

5 Children: $11,275 x 15% = $1,691.25

Technically you wouldn’t see this money until tax time. Of which, you may or may not get back, depending on how much taxes you owed. However, the amounts stated above could be considered cash in your pocket at the end of the year, if you paid your taxes accordingly. This is a tax credit, so there is no tax on this money received. It really did not require any careful budgeting to the average family.

As of 2015, Parents will no longer see these amounts deducted from their taxes. Instead, they will receive an additional $60.00 per month for each child under 18, ($720.00 annually) above and beyond what you have been receiving.

# of Children: Increase in UCCB You’ll Receive this Year

1 Child: $720.00

2 Children: $1440.00

3 Children: $2160.00

4 Children: $2880.00

5 Children: $3600.00

The UCCB has always been a taxable benefit. This isn’t new. Since its introduction, you have been paying taxes on it. But since you are getting more, you will be paying more taxes. How much taxes you pay depends on your tax bracket, which I have included here:

Federal Tax Rates

  • 15% on the first $44,701 of taxable income, +
  • 22% on the next $44,700 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $44,701 up to $89,401), +
  • 26% on the next $49,185 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $89,401 up to $138,586), +
  • 29% of taxable income over $138,586.

BC Provincial Tax Rates

5.06% on the first $37,869 of taxable income, + 7.7% on the next $37,871, + 10.5% on the next $11,218, + 12.29% on the next $18,634, + 14.7% on the next $45,458, + 16.8% on the amount over $151,050

In 2013, British Columbians working full-time earned an average weekly wage of $1,020.54, compared to the national average of $1,013.92. The average hourly wage for full-time employees in the province was $25.73. B.C.’s minimum wage is $10.25 per hour (WelcomeBC.ca) For arguments sake, I am going to use this average annual income of $53,040 to do some math.

Since this amount is topping up your income, we will use the highest reached bracket for this earner:

7.7% Provincial Tax and 22% Federal Tax = 29.7% Total Tax

This means that the additional funds this earner receives will have to pay 29.7% taxes on it. So here is the math on each for our average earner:

# of Children: UCCB x Tax Rate = Total Taxes Payable

1 Child: $720.00 x 29.7% = $213.84

2 Children: $1440.00 x 29.7% = $427.68

3 Children: $2160.00 x 29.7% = $641.52

4 Children: $2880.00 x 29.7% = $855.36

5 Children: $3600.00 x 29.7% = $1069.20

Remember, this isn’t your employer. Your employer deducts these taxes from your income as the year goes on. The government does not do this for you. At the end of the year, you will owe the amount stated above. So after you do the math, put the amount away for safe keeping. You should have already been doing this for any UCCB you currently receive, so that there’s no surprises come tax time.

We will take the amount they receive in UCCB and deduct the amount they are taxed. This will be the benefit received by the average BC earner. Again, I’ll do it for all five situations:

# of Children: UCCB- Taxed Amount = Total Discretional Amount (The amount you should spend)

1 Child: $720.00 – $213.84= $506.16

2 Children: $1440.00 – $427.68= $1012.32

3 Children: $2160.00 – $641.52= $1518.48

4 Children: $2880.00 – $855.36= $2,024.64

5 Children: $3600.00 – $1069.20 = $2,530.80

Though we have the total resulting benefit, we still have the argument of whether or not the average BC earner is benefitting. As I stated above, there is no longer a Child Tax Credit. So we must take into consideration that you no longer receive those amounts back in deductible credits. So let’s do our final mathematical equation. We will remove the loss of the tax deduction from the final UCCB benefit being received:

# of Children: Discretionary Amount – Loss of Child Tax Credit = Total Amount of Benefit of Last Year

1 Child: $506.16 – $338.25 = $167.91

2 Children: $1012.32 – $676.50 = $335.82

3 Children: $1518.48 – $1014.75 = $503.73

4 Children: $2,024.64 – $1,353 = $671.64

5 Children: $2,530.80 – $1,691.25= $839.55

 

I recognize that I have stated a whole lot of numbers here, so I am going to now restate it as simply as possible:

This is the increase that you will see, due to the UCCB, over last year if you were the average earner in BC. If you earn less, you will see a larger increase. If you earn more, you will see a smaller increase. Though these increases and decreases are not significant. However, there does come a point for higher income earners where this change starts “costing” family money due to the removal of the tax credit. Thankfully, the government allows the lower income earner claim this credit. Also, add that families now have income splitting if they have children. So the lower income earner would have to be making $100,000 per year before it starts to cost an intact family anything.

# of Children: Total Amount of Benefit Over Last Year

1 Child: $167.91

2 Children: $335.82

3 Children: $503.73

4 Children: $671.64

5 Children: $839.55

So is the average British Columbia (or Canadian) benefitting from the increased UCCB? Yes, but maybe not as much as they’d like you to think.

Is it the answer to child care issues across British Columbia (Canada), in regards to escalating costs and lack of child care options? Probably not. Then again, as a mother of three I am paying close attention to potential promises from all candidates and quite frankly I am disappointed with the lack of creativity and the clear disconnect between fiscal responsibility, practicality, and the average Canadian family.

It is important to note that I have not written this to encourage you to vote or not vote for any party. I have written this to encourage British Columbians (all Canadians) to take the time and educate themselves on the financial workings of the government, the decisions they make, and how it affects you. Know your tax rate. Know how it affects your income. Pay attention to what each government is offering you, and know how it affects your family.

But most importantly, educate yourself and vote in this next election. Don’t vote for a party because your husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, or best friend has told you to vote for a party. Read the newspaper, visit political party websites, ask questions, and investigate. That is how you will make an informed decision in the 2015 Federal Election. That is how you will get the best government for YOUR family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Hello to 2015…

It’s the morning of December 31, 2014. It’s the last morning of the greatest year of my life so far. It’s been the kind of year that when I look back and think about all of the amazing things I have done, I get quite emotional. It has been a year of change. It has been a year of growth. It has been a year of success and happiness. I think about how far I have come in one year and I question how I became so deserving of such an amazing life. Yet, the answer to that question is actually quite simple: I chose it.

You see, I spent a great deal of my adult life with a “woe is me” attitude. I always blamed others for everything I went through, for everything I didn’t have, and for everything I wasn’t. About three years ago, I discovered that I was really unhappy. No, I didn’t discover it. I had known it for a long time… I acknowledged it.

I acknowledged that I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I wasn’t happy in my career. I wasn’t happy in my lack of parenting dedication. I just wasn’t happy. I had been on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs since I was 16. I was on them so long that quite frankly I didn’t feel human anymore. I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I wasn’t even a woman. The only thing I was was frustrated. I was frustrated that I let my life get to where it was… Let me repeat that. I was frustrated that “I LET” my life get to where it was.

I chose to allow myself to become unhappy. It was an interesting moment of truth when I learned this very simple concept: Happiness is a series of choices. The choices you make determine whether or not you will be happy

Two and a half years ago, when I acknowledged how unhappy I was, I decided to make change. I decided to choose a better life. In my case it was a dramatic change. It is not one which I don’t recommend, but one which I am thankful for. I made the decision to leave my marriage. Not only did I leave my marriage, but I left my marital home and much of my belongings. I moved my children and I into my best friends camping trailer for about two months. I got off my anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. I closed down my cake business. I made the choice to change my life.

It was a bit of a harsh reality. I was jobless with three kids. I was living off my credit cards, in a camping trailer with two beds and three kids, on my best friends’ property. Remember friends, this was only two and a half years ago. It’s amazing what can happen in two and a half years. It was then that I realized what mattered. Being happy mattered. Being a Pinterest Mom didn’t matter. Being a Stepford wife didn’t matter. Being a business owner didn’t matter. Being happy is what matters. Being happy is something you have to choose.

In 2012, I was over medicating; I could barely call myself a parent; I closed down a business; I left my husband; I gave up my house; I moved into a camping trailer with three kids; I just about went bankrupt; and I was miserable.

In 2014, I am a great mom; I have the most incredibly supportive boyfriend; I have an incredible job in economics that I love; I was featured on a National television show; I travelled to Israel; I had a blog post reach 100,000 people; I was elected to Council for the City of Cranbrook; and I am the happiest I have ever been. Isn’t amazing what two years can do?

You see, life didn’t have to go in that direction. I could have chosen to stay in the marriage because it was comfortable. I could have stayed in my home because I had one. I could have chosen to continue to drag my children to three activities a week (that they really didn’t enjoy) instead of enjoying their company at home. I could have stayed on the meds instead of eating and exercising properly. I could have kept my business open because it was successful.

I could have chosen not to apply for the new job position because my other job was “comfortable and easy”. I could have chosen not to put in an application for MasterChef Canada because “why would they pick me?”. I could have chosen not to give the greatest man in my life a chance because he was “too nice”. (Yes, embarrassingly “too nice” used to be an issue for me?…) I could have chosen not to fly to Israel by myself when given the chance because it’s “too scary”. I could have chosen not to run for Council because “why would anyone vote for me?”.

I am sure glad I didn’t.

Now I will make a note: Please do not think that everything in my life magically all worked out simply because I made choices. With each and every choice came a series of hard work and very difficult emotional times. 2013, the year in between a horrible year and a great year, was a very emotional and draining year. It was a year in which I practiced making healthy choices.

I have had more happiness in 2014 than any other year in my life. I am so very thankful for that. I want everyone to have that happiness too. It’s easy. You just have to choose it. I took a mini survey on my Facebook of my friends, and asked them this. If you could give one piece of advice for being happy and successful in 2015, what would it be? I’m to share a few of these answers with you below, because they were all so great. But they also show that happiness is different for everyone. Do not focus your happiness on matching others’ success. Focus your success on your own happiness.

Happy New Year Everyone! Tonight I will not say goodbye to 2014. Instead I will say hello to 2015, and I will do so with a tear in my eye. I am ever so thankful that this year it is a tear of happiness.

Much Love,

Danielle

XOXO

“Love and kindness are the most important. Be KIND and LIVE, LAUGH, and LOVE. Life is so precious – treasure every moment!” – Maye

“Nothing wrong with dreaming big, but it takes a special person to BELIEVE the dream!” – Mark

“If you see a door with name on it, go through the door without! You never know what is on the other side. I did this 13 years ago and met my now husband and moved here. The adventure has never ended.” – Liz

“It’s all about attitude. Positive people attract positive things in life. Positive attitude takes daily maintenance in this negative world. Don’t buy into the negativity.” –James

“Work your ass off when you do notice the opportunities, and embrace anything healthy that gets you further in the direction of your goal.” –Danielle

“When you can visualize your ‘success,’ see the things you need to make it happen, work towards the goal and live your best life, physically, emotionally and socially success can’t help but follow.” –Jenna

“If something scares you, do it anyway. Don’t fight the fear; use it to push you forward. Usually the feeling of fear is worse than what you’re afraid of.” –Sally

“…A lot of your support comes from your family and your children. That’s just how it goes, strength comes from what matters to you most.” –Carla

“No matter what, put your spouse first. Before your kids, job, friends, or family. It’s easy to push them to the sidelines but they are your number 1 supporter and deserve to be treated that way.” –Amy

 

Tips for Turkey Dinner

turkey_bg_04  I’d like to take this moment to talk turkey.

As we are only one day away from Christmas dinner, I’m seeing all sorts of advice being handed out to turkey newbies. Quite frankly, I’m feeling terrible for them, as the advice they’re often given is about to result in them serving their family a jerky turkey….

I would like to clarify that these tips are for flavour and texture. If you’re a newbie to turkey cooking, please don’t focus on the perfect presentation. No one is judging you on presentation. You’re not a chef. Your family wants flavour! So if you want a tasty turkey, here’s a few helpful hints.

1. Thawing your turkey: Might be a little late now but the average 14-16 lb turkey takes 48-72 hours to thaw fully in the fridge. If you’ve cooked a turkey and it’s taken longer internally than it should, it’s likely because it wasn’t actually fully thawed in the very centre. This usually results in an unevenly cooked turkey.

20101117-stuffing2. Dressing. Not stuffing: Dressing is a bread dish on the side. Stuffing is when you put it in the turkey. Sure, stuffing in a turkey looks great when you present it at the table (does anyone actually carve their turkey at the table?!), but it’s texturally all wrong anyway. Dressing should be a textural blend of soft and firm. A combination of moist (it’s not the worst word ever by the way) and crispy. It also interferes with even cooking of the turkey. So get out your nicest casserole dish and bake that beautiful breaded dressing!

3. Brining! I drown my turkey every year following Alton Brown’s turkey brining recipe found here. I also like to add orange peels and a couple cups of apple cider!

Don’t worry about the aromatics (though it’s a great recipe!). The brining is what counts. What is brining? Well, according to Wikipedia:

brine1Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.[2] The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.[2] This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine.

I’m content with that answer. Though layman a terms: It forces the flavoured water into the meat resulting in a juicer bird!!!

4. Butter Massage: Butterball isn’t one of the longest selling poultry companies for nothing. Mix half a cup of room temperature butter with a tablespoon of mixed dry herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme. Gently separate the skin from the meat. Massage your bird with the butter underneath it’s skin. It’s quite a therapeutic experience for the both of you.

5.  The Smell Within: Aromatics are key. Whatever you put inside your bird will permeate into the meat. For this reason I stuff my turkey full of fresh herbs and apples.

roast-turkey6. Cook Only What You Can Eat: I’m not saying don’t cook leftovers. That’d be a sin. I’m a sucker for hot turkey sandwiches. I’m saying, unless you’ll put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your turkey. This means tinfoil. If you must cover your turkey breast because you’re cooking it breast side up, use some thick slice bacon, not tinfoil. I promise you won’t regret it. Best part is, you take it off an hour or so before guests arrive. You have a snack and they’ll never know your secret!

7. Cooking Time: For anyone who has been telling their friends 20 min per pound… Stop that! Folks, that’s nuts. If you listen, you’re about to serve your family dry gobble gobble.  12 min per pound is just fine, and that’s for up to 25lbs. If you go beyond 25lbs (which I’d never recommend), it’s going to further reduce the cooking time. But please remember that even then, they’re just guidelines!

8. Cooking Temp: Crank that baby to 400 degrees to start. Cook it high and uncovered for the first hour to deal that skin up. Then reduce to 300 degrees. 315-325 degrees if you find your oven takes longer than usual to cook most foods. You know your oven best.

9. Temperature Takes Precedence: 170 degrees is what you want both the breasts and leg meat to read. Folks, buying a thermometer is the best thing you’ve ever done for your guests. Time is a guideline. Temp is a rule.

10. Resting Time: Hot water molecules love to move! So when you take that bad boy out of the oven, let it rest. 30 minutes is a pretty good rest period. The molecules have time to cool and settle. This will mean more juice in your meat, rather than on your cutting board. It’ll also allow the molecules to move to dryer areas of the bird, allowing more moisture.

ccwst_thanksgiving-turkey-recipe-carved_s4x3_lg11. Let Your Breast Down: I’m not all about presentation for family dinners. I’m all about the best damn tasting bird I can get on the table. I carve the turkey before it hits the table anyway. For this reason, I cook my turkey upside down. Breasts down that is. All the juices flow to the bottom of the pan, so where better for majority of your poultry meat to be positioned?!

I hope with just over 24 hours til turkey dinner, that I’ve provided turkey newbies with some helpful hints! Merry Christmas to you all!

Danielle

XOXO

Kootenay Kitchen Confidential: Chef Ronny Belkin, St. Eugene Mission Resort

photo 1

Executive Chef, Ronnie Belkin, St. Eugene Mission Resort

Residents of the Kootenays know that St. Eugene Mission Resort has an incredible history, where a Nation turned a place of cultural tragedy into a destination of economic success. Now the resort has an Executive Chef to match. I had the opportunity to sit down with Executive Chef, Ronny Belkin,  to talk about the importance of a strong team and local sourcing.

How did you get into the industry? I was in high school trying to figure out what I was going to do next. My friend was having a potluck dinner. I brought a dish that everyone liked, and thought why not try cooking? I took a tour of George Brown Culinary school in Toronto. I applied and eventually completed their two year culinary management program.

It’s clear from your menu, that you have really found your culinary style. When did you figure out your culinary style? It has been while I have been with St. Eugene. I came about six years ago. We had a native culinary cooking team come into do a menu as guest chefs. That’s when I decide what I wanted to cook. I wanted to cook local, seasonal, Canadian food. Game meat and fish that you would naturally find here.

So if cooking local food is important to you, how important is local sourcing to you and your kitchen? It is very important to us. If we can make it work, we use local. We use the Kimberley Bakery for all of our dining room breads and some of our desserts. A lot of our charcuterie meats, including our elk sausage comes from Gwinners in Meadowbrook. We use cheese from Kootenay Meadows when we can.

Since you believe in local sourcing, how to do you feel about the movement of Farm to Table? We try to butcher as much in house as we can. We consider our kitchen a learning kitchen. We’ll order primal cuts and whole birds, and break them down in our own kitchen. It’s important that we know where our products come from and how they are handled. We’ll bring in fresh/live fish and seafood whenever we can.

photo 3

The kitchen team at the St. Eugene Mission Resort

I notice that you say “we” a lot. You are obviously referring to others in the kitchen. Would you say you have a cohesive team? Yes, we have a great core of people who want to be here and love cooking. It’s great to have a team that I can inspire, and a team that inspires me.

You said you came to St. Eugene six years ago? Is it the same team now that was here six years ago? Yes, some of our team has been here that long, but some are new.

I just read an article with Chef Dustin Schafer of Sky 360, the restaurant in the Calgary Tower, who said “It’s the fact that if you don’t hire someone on the spot, they can literally just walk down the street. Everyone is looking for cooks. If you aren’t liking your job at one place nowadays, you can basically say f—k you, and walk down the street. It’s an employee’s world right now.” Is this true in this area? It could be. I really haven’t received very many resumes this summer. Not as many as I would have liked to. Luckily no one is leaving here. There are a lot of jobs available. It was scary for a little while there. It took a good part of the summer to get fully staffed. Being able to really let our team cook and not have too many restrictions has helped motivated our team to stay. We have a clientele whose willing to try new things, so we’re lucky to be able to play around a bit. That motivates the team to stay.

If your team had to describe you in three words, how would they describe you? Kind. Knowledgeable. Fair.

 

photo 4

Brome Lake Duck Club Sandwich, Fischer Peak Lounge, St. Eugene Mission Resort

I can agree that Chef Belkin is definitely knowledgeable when it comes to local cuisine. I will also say that he is one of the most kind and humble chefs I have had the opportunity to sit down with.  I ask you not to let the Ramsays of the world fool you, the best chefs truly are the humble ones. He has the type of attitude that is going to take him far in this industry. My conversation with Chef Belkin continued beyond this interview here. I learned that his new fall menu will debut on October 24th, and I must say I am particularly excited for diners! The menu will feature a Brome Lake Duck Club Sandwich with truffle mayo and house smoked bacon in the Fisher Peak lounge; and the Braised Bison Ribs (which of course featured a Canadian sourced birch syrup sauce) on the Purcell Grill menu. So I’ve made my lunch reservation for October 17th, so I hope to see you all there!

Bon Appetite!

Danielle

XOXO

 

 

 

 

Steam Donkey Coffee

SteamDonkey

Kevin, Lemmy, and Michelle Shepit!

There’s something about drinking seven cups of coffee that can get you really excited about your day! Meet Michelle and Kevin Shepit, of Kimberley, B.C.; and the folks behind the coffee at Steam Donkey Coffee. Oh and that’s “Lemmy”, the coffee roaster.

Now if you really want to get excited about coffee, I suggest you go knock on their door. I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with the Shepits at their roasting facility, learning about where their beans come from and the process that goes into roasting the beans for brewing. I will admit that I have developed a whole new appreciation for coffee.

Previously, I had no idea what I was looking for in a cup, besides a strong cup that would get me going in the office. There are of course different flavors, but I hadn’t really taken the time to learn about different beans, their origins, or their roasting temperatures. It was really interesting to learn about terms like “first crack”, and “second crack”, which refers to the degree of roasting. But most of all, I was absolutely impressed by what Michelle and Kevin referred to as their relationship coffee, Aksel, a 100% direct trade, single origin coffee.

Nicaraguan, Columbian, and Sumatran beans. Examples of first and second cracking roasting.

Nicaraguan, Columbian, and Sumatran beans. Examples of first and second cracking roasting.

It sounded a little complicated at first, but their explanation was quite simple. Michelle and Kevin purchase the beans for Aksel directly from Diego Chavarria, a 7th Nicaraguan farmer and Canadian Citizen. They call it relationship coffee because it is the result of building a relationship with the farmer himself. You see, Michelle and Kevin have travelled to Nicaragua. They have watched their beans being harvested. They have drank coffee (and wine I hear) with the farmer. As a result, they purchase directly from the farmer at fair trade prices. I wish I could tell the whole story the way Kevin told it to me, but we’d be here far too long! It might have been the story behind the blend, but Aksel was by far my favorite cup of the day.

I encourage you to visit the Steam Donkey coffee website, so that you can see the love that goes into their coffee. The homepage features a four minute video of Nicaraguan coffee roaster of 42 years, Porfirio Perez Hernandez. It’s a questionable video (as in during the last few seconds, I questioned why I was still watching it, but for some reason I was still engaged, as if something exciting was eventually going to happen…), but it gets its message across, that the Shepits truly care about the source of their beans.

Steam Donkey Coffee will be available at Aq'am Trading on St. Mary's Reserve.

Aksel, Steam Donkey Coffee will be available at Aq’am Trading on St. Mary’s Reserve.

After a day at Steam Donkey coffee, there was a great deal of productivity in my day (which continued until about 2:00am the following day), and I had a sincere appreciation for the process. So after reading this, you might be craving a cup of this incredible coffee. I don’t blame you. For those of you who don’t know, I am currently managing the development of a convenience store project called Aq’am Trading. It’s a new trading post style convenience store located on the St. Mary’s reserve, where we will serve, you guessed it, Steak Donkey coffee. We couldn’t be more proud to be serving up this incredible local coffee. So we all hope you’ll come out to join us for a cup, and maybe even take a bag of this incredible Nicaraguan coffee home!

One Last Sip of Summer

With the mornings become more chilly, I am starting to hear that four letter F-word: Fall. With the first day of fall just over a week away, I am mourning one of my favorite summers of all times.

That’s the beauty of the Kootenays. There is no shortage of things to do. In 2014, I spent more days than I can count, with my kids, at the local waterparks. I sunbathed at Jim Smith more than a few times. I even experienced heli-camping, for the first time, at Cliff Lake.

Pimms

Another Pimm’s Recipe by The Brown Eyed Baker

Now as I say goodbye to the dog days of summer, I usually say goodbye to summer drinks. As the culinary world associates particular foods with each season, I associate certain spirit beverages with each season. However, this year, I think I will be bringing my summer drink into the fall with me. This year, my summer drink was the Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is a gin based liqueur, which has a dark-tea colour with a reddish tint, and tastes subtly of spice and citrus fruit. It goes beautifully with lemonade, soda, and various garnishes such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

For those of you who, like me, prefer spirits over liqueurs (Note: Pimm’s is 25% alcohol content, opposed to most spirits, which boast a hefty 40% alcohol content), I have created my own homemade version of the Pimm’s Cup using Bombay Sapphire Gin spirit.

image_2Homemade Pimm’s

Citrus Cucumber Gin
12oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin (a “mickey”)
1 Lemon sliced
1 Lime sliced
12 cucumber slices

For the Pimm’s Cup

2 oz. Citrus Cucumber Gin
2 oz. Lemonade
2 oz. Soda water
Sprig of mint
Handful of raspberries
Slice of lime and lemon for garnish

1. Make the Gin: Add lime, lemon, and cucumber to gin. Place in fridge to infuse overnight. Reserve cucumber for drink. Dispose of limes and lemons (they won’t likely look too nice at this point).

2. Muddle 2-3 mint leaves in a glass of ice.

3. Pour gin, lemonade, and soda water in a glass. Gently mix in raspberries. Garnish with lemon and lime slices. Serve!

I hope you enjoy this drink!

Danielle

XOXO

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Christy Clark

Dear Christy Clarke,

On July 10th, 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting you in Cranbrook, BC. Do you remember me? Bill Bennett pulled you aside and told you he had someone he wanted you to meet. I proudly introduced myself as an individual in First Nations economic development. To which Mr. Bennett said “And?”. “And”, I replied with a smile, “I was on Masterchef Canada”. We had a great conversation about my preferred cooking style, and what it is like to be in the public spotlight. Honestly, you came off quite sweet. I was quite drawn to your warm smile and encouraging dialogue that flowed so easily from your mouth.

But the moment I walked away, I regretted my answer and the time wasted on our meaningless conversation. If I could do it again, my response to Mr. Bennett would have been “And, I am a certified teacher and single mother of three”. I have no doubt, had that been my response, our conversation would have been much more brief and entirely more meaningful.

You see, I went to post-secondary for six years to become a teacher. First, I obtained a Humanities degree through the College of the Rockies. Next, I obtained an Education degree through the University of Victoria. I was the top of my class throughout most of it. Did you know I received the President’s Award for the Faculty of Education in my final year? I was in my third trimester of pregnancy during my final practicum. I was nine months pregnant during my graduation ceremony. I’m not afraid of hard work if that’s any indication.

Like my colleagues, I was eager to get into the profession! I managed to gain a contract within a few months. I expected that. I am a hard worker. I am a people person. I am an overachiever. I walked into my classroom that first day in September, ecstatic to be teaching Grade 9 English. Yes, I achieved my dream job. The fall came and went, and I absolutely loved teaching. I loved my students, and I believe I was able to create an incredible bond with them; one of trust. They would tell me how much they enjoyed my class, and would revolt when I sent a Teacher on Call in for me because they weren’t nearly as fun.

And yet, every night I came home to my own three children unhappy. I came home unhappy because I knew my job was not done; it was just on hold for a few hours. It was now time to make dinner, give baths, and shuffle my children off to bed. While I wish I could say I enjoyed this time, it really wasn’t enjoyable. It was a race. A race to see if I could get them all in bed at a reasonable enough time, so that I could mark the assignments that were handed in by my students that day. Read a bedtime story? “Sorry my loves, maybe tomorrow night. Mom has marking to do and she wants to get to bed before midnight.”

I got into teaching thinking that I would get to enjoy evenings, weekends, and holiday breaks with my children. I learned immediately that was not the case.  Evenings were used for marking assignments, weekends were used for marking tests, and holiday breaks were used for planning the next few months’ curriculum and assignments. Turns out you don’t get more than a couple hours during your work week to do planning and marking. What a bust. I went to University so that I could have a career that was conducive to having kids, and it turns out I might as well have become a lawyer.

Now, I don’t take pride in just being an intelligent person. I take pride in being an intelligent business person. Being a business person means making calculated decisions. Those calculated decisions which result in financial benefit. However, I am also a conscientious business person. So I make decisions that maintain with my core values. By my fifth month of teaching, it was very clear to me that being a teacher was NOT an intelligent business decision. As a teacher, my University education wasn’t supplying a very good return on investment. Nor was it supporting my family values. I am not going to do the math for you Christy. I believe you’re a smart woman, who wouldn’t work for those wages either.

So I quit teaching. It was a pretty simple decision. I keep re-certifying in case teaching conditions one day improve (because I did love it), but I now have a job where I make significantly more money. I work Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30. I answer the occasional email or phone call during the evening and weekends. Other than that, I have quality time to spend with my children. I play slo-pitch every Wednesday night. I even have weekends to enjoy with friends and family. Life since leaving teaching has been great. So great in fact, that I make sure to tell everyone that leaving the teaching profession was the best thing I ever did. So great that I would probably tell everyone I know to stay away from the teaching professional altogether, if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a mom of three.

I really cannot remember if I mentioned that when I met you? I might have. I am a single mom of three. They’re really great! My daughter is nine. My boys are five and three. My daughter is going into grade five and my son starts kindergarten this fall… My children will be spending 6.5 hours a day with these people. That’s about 4 hours a day more than they do with me during the week. Wow, I hope that they are caring and nurturing. I hope that they can handle the fact that my five year old has anxiety and has a tough time with transition.

Now remember, these are my children we’re talking about. So yes, I still need certain loving people to accept long hours with low pay and give it all they’ve got.  But that’s not me, so what does it matter? What’s good for the goose doesn’t mean it needs to be good for the gander.

I guess for now I don’t really have to worry about that anyway, since I have no clue if or when school is starting. My son is really thrilled about this. It’s really entertaining when a child with anxiety asks you when he has to go to his first day of Kindergarten, and your answer is “It might be in eleven days, or it might be longer. I’m not actually sure”. The terrified look in his eyes is what every parent wants to see. I wish I had a better explanation for him, but what’s the point of trying to explain politics to a five year old?

On an upside, you did put my mind to ease by offering $40.00 per day to us parents of public children under the age of 12. When I heard the teacher strike was continuing, there was a moment of panic because summer child care just about put me for broke. Did you know that it costs $1450 per month for summer care for three kids? BC Child Care Subsidy is great, unless you’re like me (and likely a great number of other families I’m sure) and you make too much to fully qualify, but not enough to come up with an extra $1450 per month throughout the summer. Thank goodness that you agreed to provide parents with $40.00 per child per day.

So now it’s eleven days until the unconfirmed first day of school. I’ve arranged care for my children in case school doesn’t start. I let my prospective caregiver know that I will provide them with $80.00 day to care for my children. I’m not sure when the payments will start, but I am sure it’ll will be a monthly subsidy. My child care provider agreed that, if necessary, she could wait. I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t find a qualified tutor, but at least I won’t be leaving my children home alone.

Well, that was what I thought. Until my prospective child care provider discovered BCParentInfo.ca. It seems your government has decided that “payments will be processed within 30 days after the month in which the labour disruption ends”. It turns out that no one wants to care for your children when you aren’t sure when you can pay them. But let’s talk business woman to business woman for a moment. Would you work indefinitely, knowing you won’t get paid until all the work is done?

So here I am, a single mom of three left with two choices. I can leave my five and nine year old children at home alone while I go to work or I can stay home from work with my children and lose out on an indefinite amount of pay and possibly even my job.

Christy, I pride myself on being an intelligent business woman; but more importantly, I take the greatest amount of pride in being a great mom. I consider myself an extremely resourceful woman. I don’t give up until I find answer. Funny thing though, in this situation I cannot seem to find the answer. Do you have any ideas? I have about eleven days to figure this out.

Sincerely,

Danielle Cardozo

“Economic Development Professional and Culinary Reality Television Competitor”

But more importantly, Non-Practicing Certified BC Teacher and Proud Mom of Three

Kootenay Kitchen Confidential: Amy Cardozo, Crumbs Cakery

Amy Cardozo - Crumbs CakeryWhen you think about a chef, you think of hot kitchens and dinner services, and open doors from lunch until midnight. But what about the chefs who work alone, don’t have a dining room, and whose most productive hours are between midnight at 7am? Welcome to the world of the pastry chef.

I took the opportunity to interview my sister, Amy Cardozo; owner of Crumbs Cakery Elk Valley. We chatted cakes, competition, and bridezillas. And while I’m just starting to warm up to the Baked Alaska, I have a lot of respect for the cake industry and those who rule it!

What made you decide to get into the cake business? I have always loved to bake, but I started making specialty cakes when I became pregnant with my fourth child. I craved cake on a daily basis. I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t want cake. There comes a point when you get bored of standard vanilla/chocolate frosted cakes, so I gave fondant a shot.

It is a rewarding business? As cheesy as it may sound, the best part of the business is making people happy. I love seeing a genuine smile on their face when your customer sees their cake for the first time, or receiving feedback of how much a family member loved the cake. But it’s a tough industry. A lot of time and money goes into each cake.

IMG_20140628_214929So, how much time and money does go into a cake? What people don’t realize is that making a cake is so much more than just decorating a cake. There is time spent consulting with the customer, planning a custom design, shopping, baking, cooling, creating solid structures so your cake doesn’t fall over, making fillings, frostings, fondant, cake boards, packaging, and sometimes custom work like fondant or gum paste toppers or figurines.  Don’t forget cleanup time.  We’ve all seen what our kitchens look like after a baking spree! If you think you’re going to get into the cake business for the money, find a new industry really quickly!

So is the money aspect the most difficult part of the industry? I would have to say pricing cakes really is one of the greatest challenges. I’ve talked to many other cake artists who agree. As an artist it’s hard to know what value to place on you work. You want to make your product affordable to the market. However, you don’t want to sell yourself short. Also, I refuse to undercut the competition – it would be a disservice to them and there is no honor or pride in being the “cheap cake lady”. It can become stressful, but the creativity I get to express makes it worth it to me.

IMG_20140705_215909What about brides? They have to add even more stress? Have you ever had a Bridezilla client? Haha no, I haven’t. I don’t think there is such thing as a Bridezilla. Weddings are a lot of stress and women go into that day in the hopes that it’s the only time its ever going to happen. If they want perfect, I listen to what their definition of perfect is. I think it’s all about setting expectations. I let them know everything that is in my control. I explain that which can be out of my control. Preparation is everything.

You say preparation is everything, so how do you prepare to make a cake? It’s all about giving yourself time. Time to plan, create, and sometimes extra time to correct. I have four children and am a paramedic in the Elk Valley. As a mom and a medical professional, organization and timing is everything in both of those jobs. I feel like all three jobs lend to one another when teaching me how to be organized and on time. My partner is a big part of my preparation! He’s my biggest supporter and always has my back.

So if you’re around cakes on a daily basis, you have to have a favorite. Which is your personal go to cake flavor? It would have to be confetti cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. It must just be the kid in me, it’s always been my favorite.

IMG_20140703_183621Now of all the cakes you’ve made for others, which is the one you are most proud of? There are many wedding cakes that I am extremely proud of. It’s an incredible feeling when a bride tells you that the cake you made her was just another perfect part of her perfect day. But the one cake I am most proud of is the cake I made for my daughter’s last birthday. The look on her face was priceless and there’s no better feeling in the world than seeing your own child happy.

One last question. Why didn’t I get a birthday cake two weeks ago? You did, it’s in my freezer waiting to be baked. One Maple Pistachio Baked Alaska coming right up!

Ha..Ha… You’re hilarious.

While her sense of humor doesn’t quite touch mine, I’ll admit that her cake skills are far superior. It was really nice to sit down and chat to my sister about her passion for pastry. If you don’t have a special occasion to order a cake for, I do suggest that you check out Crumbs Cakery every Friday at the Sparwood Farmer’s Market, or simply check out her Facebook for occasional Cupcake Auctions!

While Amy’s favorite cake might be Confetti cake, I am partial to  Red Velvet cupcakes. The taste of chocolate and buttermilk is a bit of an addiction for me! And so, I share with you, a recipe that I have coveted for many years now. If you make it, all I ask is that you do so with lots of love!

Red Velvet Cupcake Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix all wet ingredients thoroughly in your bowl mixer.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Do not worry about over mixing.
5. Divide batter evenly into 12 cupcake tins (with liners) until filled 2/3 of the way (to avoid overflow as it bakes).
6. Bake in oven for 22 minutes.

(Hints: If you want really bright red cupcakes, use Wilton Gel Colour. You can find it at Nutter’s! If you have children with dye sensitivity, leave the dye out. They still taste the same! And to ensure that cupcakes bake evenly, I always turn mine at the halfway mark!)

I am personally not a frosting fan! I just don’t have a sweet tooth. But these traditionally go quite well with your favorite cream cheese frosting! Hope you enjoy them!

Danielle XOXO

Free Food Anyone? Cranbrook Food Action needs diners.

image_6The Cranbrook Food Action Committee is giving away free food. For those of you who are not aware, Cranbrook Food Action has a community garden located on 6th Ave and 18th St N (in Eric MacKinnon Park, between Hot Shots and Save-On Foods, 1 street parallel to Victoria). I recently spoke with Shannon, of Food Action Cranbrook, to learn that this community garden isn’t what I thought it was. I took the time to meet with Shannon Duncan, of the Cranbrook Food Action Committee.

Typically, a community garden is a series of plots that individuals take claim to at the beginning of the year. They plant their choice of produce. They nurture it throughout the season, until their personal harvest is ready. That’s not how this garden works. This garden is cared for in its entirety by Food Action Cranbrook, and it’s open to the entire community.

image_1

 

They do have one plea to the Cranbrook community, in support of providing this public garden:

“The garden is always in need of extra garden items such as seeds, seedlings or perennial transplants, extra garden tools, and mulching materials. If you’re taking a load of leaves to the dump, consider bringing them to the Garden instead – where they are valued like gold!”, said Duncan.

And then I went into this garden that Duncan spoke so highly of, and the first thing I saw was a sign that very clearly lays out the rules…

 

Cranbrook Action Food Garden

  1. Please keep the gate closed.
  2. Leave the garden in better shape than you found it.
  3. Come back often and bring a friend.

They look like pretty simple rules to me. And let’s just say I am really banking on our readership to take care of the third rule for me.

Now this is no small garden. I am really kicking myself for not grabbing a photo of the overall garden. It has just about everything you could ask for. There is a berry section with raspberries, strawberries, and currants. There are raised boxes of herbs, including some chamomile that I have judged as absolutely tea worthy. There are potatoes, carrots, squash, and pumpkins getting ready for the fall. There are gogi berries, corn, cabbage, green and purple beans, and multiple varieties of lettuce. As a kale lover, I thought I’d kicked the bucket and landed in a kale oasis. I wouldn’t even know what to do with all that kale. My kids will be eating kale for a week now.

imageAnother great part of accessing this garden is that you don’t need to be a seasoned gardener. Food Action has taken the time to mark of each section and produce item with signage that lets you know if it’s ready. It also lets you know if you need to be a little more patient, which is the case with the zucchini squash.

 

image_5The part that shocks me is that almost everything is still there. Most of the produce is at its peak. Some of it is passing its peak. Yet, it hasn’t been harvested. I am told this is because people don’t realize it’s a public community garden. There are no plots. Just go in, be respectable, and harvest your family some healthy meals.

The daily recommendation of fruits and vegetables is 4-10 servings depending on your age and gender. So why not give your wallet a break and stock up on the healthy stuff. You’re going to feel better and look better. I mean, c’mon Cranbrook, it’s free!!

To learn more about the Cranbrook Food Action Garden, you can check out their Facebook page, or contact the Food Action Committee by email at cranbrookfood@gmail.com, or by phone at phone (250) 427-7981.

Not sure what to do with everything in that garden? How about you pick some of the kale and try out this recipe!

image_3Sautéed Kale

  • 1 1/2 pounds kale leaves (Some like to leave the stems in. I prefer them out, unless they are really young.)
  • 3 tablespoons of choice cooking oil
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook it until it’s softened but hasn’t darkened colour (that makes garlic bitter).
  2. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale, stirring constantly. Cook on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until liquid has evaporated.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Hope you enjoy the kale from the Cranbrook Food Action Community Garden!!

Danielle XOXO

 

 

The Perfect Summer Steakhouse Burger

Burger Charcoal BBQ

 

 

 

 

 

You hear it all summer long.

“I love barbecue season!”

Well truth be known that in my house, barbecue season is year round. You can find me mid January sneaking back and forth in the snow, from the kitchen to the back deck for the perfectly charcoaled medium rare strip loin. As I discuss this with more people, it seems to be the case with a lot of us in the Kootenays. The fact of the matter is that barbecue tastes better.

But for some reason however, during the summer months, my Weber Charcoal barbecue seems to have a significantly higher number of burgers visiting its grill. I think it has something to do with the factor of ease involved with burgers. It also could have something to do with being busy as a single working mom of three. I genuinely do feel a burger with bun, cheese, and veggies, can be considered a complete meal. (Note: It hits all four food groups. Though maybe not in the appropriate portions).

Now I didn’t always see it this way, and please do not think that I would ever consider a fast food burger a complete meal. I started thinking this way when I started making my own burgers at home this summer.

MasterChef Canada BurgerThanks to an episode of MasterChef Canada, where we were forced to make freshly ground burgers from a choice of lamb, duck, bison, kangaroo, and more exotic options; I’ve started grinding my own meat at home. At home I keep it a little more simple: beef. And unlike the hand crank style meat grinder they used on the show (which taught me just how much upper body strength I don’t have), I prefer to use an automated Kitchen Aid attachment to grind my meat. No, I am not afraid of hard work. Yes, I am a fan of convenience.

So is there truly a difference between store bought ground beef and home ground beef? Absolutely.

1. Freshness. There is no comparison. The only way I can convince you is to try it. I promise you will taste the difference. You know that slightly “off” smell that grocery store ground beef produces quite quickly. It’s not supposed to be there, no matter what the meat department tells you. It’s not there when you grind it yourself.

2. Doneness. It’s best when cooking store bought ground beef, to cook it well done. This is because ground beef has a great deal of surface area to carry bacteria, and lets face it, we have no clue how all of that surface area has been handled. When you grind your own meat, you can safely serve up a burger done medium!

3. Cuts. You pick it. Sirloin. Striploin. Prime Rib. Tenderloin. Okay, I don’t actually recommend anyone ever make a burger from tenderloin. My personal favorite is a blend of 50/50 sirloin and prime rib. You get the meaty sirloin with a blend of more tender and marbled prime rib. It’s the perfect blend in my opinion.

So how do you do it? You cut your meat into one inch chunks and pop it through the course setting on your grinder. Easy at that. But if you want the absolute perfect steakhouse burger. Follow this easy recipe, and if you can, make sure you cook it on charcoal!

Perfect Summer Steakhouse Burgers

BBQ Burger

Servings: 12
Ingredients:
  • 2 pieces white sandwich bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 pounds home ground beef of choice
  • 3 scallions (This is the culinary term for a standard green onion. I actually use 6 but I am scallion obsessed!)
  • Pam spray or other non-stick food spray.
  • 12  hamburger buns

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill to high heat.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bread and milk together. Add all other seasonings and mix well.
  3. Add in the ground beef and scallions and break the meat up with your hands. Gently mix everything together until just combined.
  4. Divide the mixture into twelve equal portions. Flatten balls into 3/4 inch patties. I like to use a piece of parchment and a plate to do this. Just place the ball on the parchment and squeeze down with a place. (Helpful Hint: Form a slight depression in the center of each patty to prevent the burgers from puffing up on the grill.)
  5. Spray the burgers with non-stick spray. Some people like to spray the grill, but I prefer to spray the burger.
  6. Grill the burgers, covered, until nicely browned on the first side, 2-4 minutes on each side depending on desired doneness.

Hope you enjoy your perfect summer steakhouse burger!

Danielle

XOXO