Random Acts of Kindness

January 20th, 2012 by Kelly Serjeantson

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The weather in these parts has been crazy this winter. Exceptionally mild fall, fairly green Christmas and then – a DUMP of snow, freezing rain and YUCK.

Yesterday, after a night of snow, then rain, then freezing temperatures meant that most cars were covered in a thick layer of ice. The sounds of scraping, cursing and more scraping could be heard city-wide.

I was sitting comfortably in my living room, savouring a hot cup of coffee when I finally registered that the scraping of ice was coming directly beneath my window. I looked out and saw that a bundled up angel was scraping the ice from my windshield! A kind neighbour had taken it upon himself to save me some time, and maybe a couple of fingers by clearing the snow, then the ice from my van.

I debated going out side to thank him, then thought that maybe he wanted this to be anonymous. We don’t know each other that well and had had an unfortunate incident involving his poorly parked car and our van earlier this year. While cordial, there remained a little tension between us.

And on Twitter there has been a little chatter about kindness. Read more about it here.

After some consideration, I decided that I would not go outside, but instead return his kindness with some home baking. (He’s a bachelor and all…)

I make a mean banana chocolate chip muffin. Really. They are moist, perfectly sweet bundles of yumminess. So that’s what I did. I left some on his doorstep – continuing the random anonymity. It’s a delight to know that you have made someone’s day that much sweeter.


Kindness is contagious. Pass it on.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins **I don’t know where I got this recipe – I’ve made them since I was 12 and have it memorized. 

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar (white or brown, whatever I have handy)

1 egg

2-3 bananas (medium to large)

1 1/2 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda AND 1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Melt the butter, add sugar and cream. Beat in the egg, then the bananas.

Add the flour, baking soda and baking powder & salt. Mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide evenly into a greased (or paper lined) muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

You’re welcome!

Hintonbrew Stew

January 16th, 2012 by Kelly Serjeantson

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It’s January. It’s cold. It’s aching shoulders from too much shoveling, numb fingers from scraping windows, chapped lips and drippy nose weather. Time to get down to some good old-fashioned comfort food cooking. I did the fancy “apps” and dips over the holidays. I rolled cookies and made squares and decorated shortbread. Now? I just want to hunker down and fill my family with love, warmth and GOOD food.

I love to make this stew on a Sunday afternoon and let it simmer all day. On any given Sunday, one or more of my kids has a hockey practice/playdate/study group, so I can be reasonably guaranteed an hour or two of time in the kitchen. (Thanks in large part to my dear husband – LOVE him)

This recipe is inspired from one in a now-cherished cookbook I bought 10 years ago at my kids’ elementary school. Parents and students submitted recipes which were bound and sold as a fundraising initiative. Proceeds were for one of the playgrounds at our school (we have 2!) and this cookbook was just ONE of the many fundraisers for this cause. Well, finally, BOTH playgrounds have been renovated and improved. Copies of this cookbook can now be seen at garage sales and book fairs.

Well, it’s a little dogeared. I have greasy pages, folded corners and notes about my favourite recipes. My youngest wasn’t even born when I bought this book! His older brother has now graduated and moved on to middle school. This little book is a constant reminder to me about how one dedicated group (and then, a few years later,  another dedicated group) of parents worked to make recess better for 400 kids.

Most of my go-to meals and treats are found in this book. I know them by heart. This stew is a family favourite. The richness of the beer truly makes this dish – don’t leave it out. (Don’t worry – the alcohol evaporates as it cooks!)  Served it over mashed potatoes with a green salad or steamed broccoli on the side and you have dinner.

Best part? I tell my husband it takes a while to make, so he keeps the kids out of my hair. Really? It’s a snap and I usually put my feet up and enjoy the rest of the beer…

Hintonbrew Stew

  • 2 lbs stew beef
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minces
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup Hintonbrew Stout (or Guinness if you can’t find Hintonbrew yet)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh sprig of thyme (1 tsp dried)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, halved

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil and saute onions & garlic until soft. Add meat and brown all over. Sprinkle flour over meat and onions and stir. Add stock and blend thoroughly. Add Hintonbrew and bring to a simmer. Next add herbs and salt & pepper (I usually add lots of pepper and less salt). Stir until combined and let simmer** for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add prunes in the final 30 minutes of cooking. They add some sweetness to the dish and balance out the distinctiveness of the Hintonbrew.

** I normally cook semi-covered so stew thickens, but doesn’t reduce too much.

See? This only takes about 25 minutes to put together, and then you can rest your little self down for a bit and enjoy an nice refreshing Hintonbrew. Make the potatoes and salad when you add the prunes, and you’re done!

Special thanks to Rachel McPhedran, whose original stew I have adapted to fit my family’s taste buds. ”Tapadh leibh