First Day of Spring Fail

Yesterday was the first day of spring, which despite clear skies brought with it a morning temperature of -20°C (-4°F) with the wind chill. Even though it felt like the warmer weather had started to arrive a few weeks ago and we even broke out the grill, after teasing us a bit the temperatures dropped back down again. It’s unseasonably cold here, even for this part of Canada! Usually by the end of March Break we’re looking at some bare grass, at least. Six years ago, it was -25°C (77°F) on this very same day, which I will grant you broke a bunch of records… But the average is usually somewhere in between.


Yep, this snowman is over 1 story high — and he’s still decked out for Saint Patrick’s Day.

I guess I wouldn’t be so down about the weather (freezing temperatures mean no bugs, after all) if the rest of the day had gone better. Right before supper, Thing 1 knocked my camera off of the kitchen table and busted the motor on my primary lens. I am lucky that I have a backup salvaged from an old camera of mine, but I still have to do some testing to make sure the camera body is okay. I didn’t find out that I had a replacement until after we ate, though, so please excuse the cell phone camera pictures.

Honestly, though, I don’t think that a better camera would have made this meal look yummy. I used my new-to-me air fryer machine (a T-Fal Actifry) to make sweet potato fries using this recipe that I followed to the letter. The fries turned out tough and chewy and not at all fry-like. Not only that, but as soon as the sweet potato touched air, it turned all kinds of unappetizing colours. Usually I’d use an orange sweet potato, but the white-fleshed kind was the only one that they had at the grocery store today. Maybe the orange kind would be better — or even the purple kind? Or maybe I’m using the machine wrong, or it’s busted? It will take further experimentation to find out.

At least the burgers turned out tasty, if not what I’d intended. I made up the burgers using a bit of onion soup mix, and I topped them with a fried egg, which was actually pretty good. I’d wanted to top them with thin slices of avocado as well, but every single avocado in the package I bought just today was rotten inside. So that put the kaibosh on that.

All in all, I ended up with a barely palatable meal that Gordon Ramsay would not hesitate to roast. I was so disappointed. And it all took almost two hours to make from scratch.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

First Barbecue of the Year

Around the start of March, the weather begins to get warmer, but it’s still below freezing most nights and we’ll likely get a few more good snowfalls in. The weather has been quite mild recently, and is predicted to remain so for a while. We’ve managed to avoid Winter Storm Riley, which is hitting south and east of here. Canadian winters being what they are, we’d be prepared for the kind of snow that Europe is getting right now, but that weather system is much too far away. Instead, what we’re getting right now is the first hint of spring.

The photo above is a really old one of Thing 1 at the start of March, playing in the back yard while we cooked dinner on the barbecue. I love it because it shows the weird accommodations we have to make for the weather this time of year. (I also love it because I think Thing 1 is adorable, but I am somewhat biased.) It takes quite a while of above-zero temperatures for all of the snow to melt, and after that for the ground to thaw enough so that the water doesn’t just sit on the surface in a coating of mud and puddles. But it’s warm enough out that anything with good sun — or that sticks out of the snow covering — gets well dried out, and for the most part we get away with lighter clothing because it seems so much warmer than the frigid winter was. If you have kids in school, you send them in all bundled up for the morning temperatures (which are often below freezing), and they come home in the afternoon with 99% of their outerwear in hand or in their backpacks because it’s just much too warm. I’m pretty sure that this time of year is when the most stuff gets turned in to the school lost-and-found, to be honest.

One of the perks of this time of year is that our barbecues can be started up again, since they stick out of the ground a fair way and aren’t in areas prone to drifts. Technically, they can be used year-round, but we would have to dig them out after every snowfall, and missing just a bit of ice means that the covers end up frozen to the ground until the next big thaw. Actually, the gas barbecue’s cover is still quite encased in ice, but the cover for the Black Olive (an insulated wood pellet grill) is shorter and hence could be freed sooner. This device was handed down to us at the end of last fall, so we never really got the chance to test it out. Yesterday, my husband fired it up for the first time this year and we had our first hamburgers of the season — a sure sign that spring will soon be here. I had my burger with lactose-free cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, avocado, and lettuce. And dill pickles, of course.

A Healthier Burger Recipe

Last night I took advantage of the gap between spring rain storms to make up some burgers on the barbecue for the family dinner. My family absolutely adores burgers, so I’ve been looking for a way to make them healthier. Sure, tonnes of grease tastes good once in a while, but it’s not something that we should be eating regularly. Moderation in all things, including moderation. So I came up with a tasty recipe that combines lean ground beef (for flavour) with ground turkey or chicken (to reduce the fat). I also use oatmeal instead of the more traditional bread crumbs to bulk up the burgers and absorb moisture; oatmeal is full of healthy fiber and, as a bonus, has an incredibly long shelf-life. This means that these burgers are wheat and gluten free, so long as you pick the appropriate brand of sauce.

To add a bit of extra healthiness, I made the buns from scratch using the whole wheat variant of Nan’s Pan Rolls Recipe. To make hamburger buns, shape the buns individually and place them with lots of room between them on greased baking sheets between the first and second rise. The recipe makes about 24 hamburger buns.

Now, even a healthier burger isn’t a hundred percent healthy. If you really want a healthy burger dinner, you’ll have to serve it with a salad.


A healthier burger with ketchup, mayonnaise, shredded cheddar cheese, and romaine lettuce.

A Healthier Burger
Makes 10-12 small burgers

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together with your hands:
500g (1.1lb) lean ground beef
500g (1.1lb) ground turkey OR chicken
1 egg
3/4 cup plain uncooked oatmeal (not instant)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce OR barbecue sauce of choice
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Divide the mixture into 10-12 portions*. Roll each portion into a ball, then shape the portion into a patty shape with your hands.
Preheat your grill** to about 400°F (204°C). Cook until browned evenly on both sides (with a bit of char) and until center of burger is no longer pink. (Do not serve these burgers rare because they contain poultry.)
Serve on whole wheat hamburger buns with your choice of toppings such as ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, pickles, cheese, or avocado.

*Larger burgers may be made, but cooking times should be adjusted.
**Burgers may be fried on a flat top or in a frying pan, but they taste best on a grill.