Why Do Kids Love Shaped Cookies?

childrens cookie cuttersAs a child, I used to be delighted on seeing aromatic, crispy, hot cookies freshly baked and kept out of the oven to cool. Some things don’t change. I still feel the same when I bake cookies and the aroma fills up the whole house. There was another thing that I used to love about these cookies; the various shapes that mum would give them. I often ask myself, “What makes a child love shaped cookies?”

To quote Miss Maria Montessori, “children have a sort of touchstone within themselves which we as elders do not possess”.

A child keeps exploring the world around him using all his five senses. He is ever active and ever changing. The shapes he recognises at an earlier stage are that of nature: like leaves, flowers, stars or clouds or objects he usually sees: like a bell, a jersey, a ring or a ball. He loves to touch objects and feel their texture to determine whether they are hard or soft. He turns the object around in his hand and tries to compare it with something similar that he has seen before.

He associates the shapes with the objects he sees in his daily life. His eyes light up when a butterfly shaped cookie reminds him of the colourful winged insect he had seen in a park or on a colourful flower. But, added to this, when his hands and arms are moved about an object, an impression of movement is made. This attributes to the development of a special sense called the muscular sense which permits many such memories to be stored in a ‘muscular memory’. This recalls movements that have been made and the sense of shape is equally rejoiced by him.

The world is new and full of curious surprises for this child to explore. It is as tasteful for his sense of sight and his sense of touch as it is for his sense of taste of a cookie.

The moon on a clear breezy night brings cheer to a toddler. That cheerfulness is doubled when he sees a moon shaped cookie. Now, he not only sees the moon, but also feels the form and shape of the moon by touching it and running his fingers over it. He holds the cookie in his hand, turns it around several times before biting off a small piece. The exploration doesn’t end here. He turns it again and might compare it to a leaf or a petal and so on until the whole cookie vanishes!

For a slightly older child, in the age group of 3 to 5 years, giving shapes to cookies and helping in moulding them speaks of the motor skills that he has developed over the earlier years. He enjoys using his palms and fingers to shape the dough into things that he has been discovering of late, for example, a pancake, a worm or a ball. The child also enjoys feeling the texture of the cookie dough between his hands. He kneads the dough, pats it and pricks it with his fingers enjoying every action that he does. This satiates the little fellow of his need for touch and his need to seek forms (muscular and visual). These activities enable him to appreciate the beauty of finer things around him. I now understand why my mom keeps saying that if I indulge my kids in household chores or in baking, they would turn out to be better people. Making cookies keeps the child engaged with something new and worthwhile. Childrens cookie cutters readily available everywhere add joy to this activity but care has to be taken about the safety of the child.

  • Only cutters with blunt and rounded edges may be used.
  • Also, the material used in making such moulds should be considered; food grade material is the safest.
  • Material should be non-toxic and lighter to handle.

When children start recognising symbols like alphabets and numbers, they love alphabet cookies and number shaped cookies. Cookies having basic shapes like triangles, bricks and squares attract them because at this age, they are able to attach forms and use them for building complex shapes. They may like making shapes of houses or flowers using these newly found shapes. They are delighted to find that they are able to put the things they have seen in the form of cookies.

Don’t disheartened though is you little one opts for a shape they know from TV or the media we all subconsciously absorb.  One of the more popular cookie cutter shapes for children is without doubt the distinctive mickey mouse cookie cutter shape.  By all means take a moment to feel sad for the commercialization of the world but see the lighter side and go with it.

We try to teach our children by giving them books. Some kids find books interesting while others prefer exploring the world around them with activities. With the television occupying a prominent place in our living rooms and children becoming more of couch potatoes, it’s time for parents to start indulging their kids in activities that ensure human interaction is not substituted in any way. Technology is here to stay and keeping kids away is next to impossible; why not try something that combines education and play together to help our kids be better?

We Heart Local Chocolate: Readers’ Choice

Some of your comments about our 8 finalists included:

  • Love Cocoa Nymph. Fantastic chocolates and place has a great vibe.
  • XOXOLAT (sho-sho la) chocolates are so-so divine. And the shoes, ladies, the shoes!!
  • Definitely Mink! I love their stuff. Especially the Mermaid and the Masala!
  • I hope everyone votes for Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France! They are fantastic…I was just there today for their rose hot cocoa. They make everything on site and are very sweet.
  • ChocolaTas bon-bons are THE most delightful and lingering taste experience I have ever had. The calories are worth their weight in diamonds. Thank you Master Wim and Veve!
  • Schokolade – yummy chocolate on East Hastings – get them on your list!
  • Definitely Chocolate Arts! Love everything and especially the hazelnut, dried blueberry chocolate bar.
  • The ultimate chocolate for me is the decadent Salted Caramel Truffle from Thomas Haas. A combination of bittersweet chocolate ganache and silky golden caramel with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel. Heaven!

In the end the winner of our Readers’ Choice was Wim Tas and his loyal band of chocolate elves atChocolaTas. Congratulations. We hope you felt the love!

As promised, we have selected 4 entries from all those who voted (almost 1000 entries!) for the local chocolate they heart the most. The winners are:

  • Jennifer Munoz
  • Holly Workman
  • Paul Bear
  • Nikita Chatwin

They will each receive a selection of delicious treats from our finalists. Thanks to all who voted. To stay in touch and get the best in local BC food and drink delivered to your inbox sign up for Eat Drink Be Local today.

We Heart Local Chocolate: And the winner is …

The final round of the “We Heart Local Chocolate” contest was a blind taste test. Each of the final four chocolatiers provided our judges with 2 samples of their best chocolate. The chocolates were taken out of their distinctive packaging, placed in clear plastic bags and given a number. And the tastings began. The judges were hard pressed to choose a favourite in a field of such chocolate masterpieces however a winner had to be selected. Here are some of the judges’ comments:

Chocolate Arts“Yum, dark, bittersweet chocolate with a creamy espresso centre. I’m a coffee addict, so I really enjoyed this chocolate.” – Judge Mark Docherty

Thomas Haas“Loved the nice mix of chocolate, salt and pecans. Great texture.  It was like heaven in a small bite.” – Judge Fred Lee

ChocolaTas“An amazing blend of textures and subtle flavours. I really liked the crunch against the pillow-y filling and the hazelnut and vanilla play together very nicely. There is a lot going on, but it works. It works so well in fact that it beat out the dark chocolate entries, which ordinarily are my favourites.” – Randy Shore

Mink“Amazing, amazing, wow, intense, sweet, sour, this is special. I have not tasted something like this to this point. I love it.” – Judge Erin Ireland

As you can see our judges loved them all however the overall winner, selected first by 3 of our 4 judges in the first “We Heart Local Chocolate” is – THOMAS HAAS.

The Caramel Pecan with fleur de sel from Thomas Haas wowed the judges. And, we know why. This delicious and special treat was composed of dark chocolate ganache with roasted pecans and soft caramel dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a touch of fleur de sel. Our mouths start to water just writing the description.

Thank you to all 8 of the local chocolatiers who participated in the first “We Heart Local Chocolate”. You were terrific and generous with your time and your chocolate.  And a special thanks to our four judges – Erin Ireland, Randy Shore, Fred Lee and Mark Docherty.  We hope the contest wasn’t too hard on your waistlines.  Thank you all!

Be Local: Dec 2

There are lots of great events for foodies this weekend. Get out there and enjoy.  The season of eating and drinking awaits you.

If you find yourself in Nanaimo this weekend, pop on over to theGreen Thumb Farmers & Artisan Market on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Join Local Farmers and Artisans in celebrating the Holidays and discover the folks who produce our food and the many talented artisans here on Vancouver Island. Vendors include – Little Qualicum Cheese Works, Erika’s Country Preserves, Rabbit Hill Farms and the Tartan Pie to name a few.

For event details contact Green Thumb Garden Centre.

Head out to Abbotsford for a sip and a swirl at the 9th Annual Seasonal Swirl, this weekend at Lotusland Vineyards. Taste Lotusland Vineyard’s new organic releases, savour fine food, and toast another year of good harvest, good health and good friends. On Saturday from 1 to 3pm, catch the book launch of Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, with Debbra and Phil of Edible Vancouver and special guest Mary Forstbauer of Forstbauer Natural Food Farm.

For event details contact Lotusland Vineyards.

It’s a wine-a-palooza this weekend in the Okanagan. Five of the Okanagan’s most exceptional wineries have teamed up to open their doors to guests and offer a unique holiday experience. Celebrate the season with the famed Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, the culturally diverse Nk’Mip Cellars, the unique Inniskillin Okanagan, the world renowned Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate and the historical See Ya Later Ranch.  Join the most awarded wineries in the Okanagan Valley as they offer complimentary samples, in-store wine specials, holiday gift ideas and a chance to win fabulous door prizes.  Donations are welcome at each of the wineries for the local food bank. Guests are welcome to join the Open House on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5 from 10am to 4pm.

Celebrate local food with the people who produce it at this year’s Terra Madre Day celebration at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Friday, December 10. Slow Food Vancouver will be hosting the celebration that will provide opportunities to learn about Community Supported Agriculture as well as this year’s international Terra Madre conference held in Toronto. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet the people who grow your veggies and try local fare dished up by local chefs.

Be Local: Spring Favourites

One of our favourite bloggers, Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks, often includes a favourites list in her weekly e-mail.  Here at EDBL, it’s a busy week as we prepare for our weekend in Tofino. We thought a favourites list might be fun for our readers and, to be honest, quick for us.

We really heart Joy the Baker.  Her quirky writing, wonderful photography and delicious recipes keep us reading and cooking. There is plenty of joy to be found in her Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake. It’s seasonal, beautiful and uses one of our favourite pans.

Ok, about that favourite pan.  It’s a cast iron frying pan.  I was just telling Alix that mine never leaves the top of my stove – I use it that often. Another favourite site, Food 52, just did a write-up about choosing the right cast iron pan.

Now, closer to home.  We’ve told you before about Now BC the online Farmers Market. These folks (staffed 50% by volunteers) not only have terrific local produce but they’ve recently added Daily Catch Seafood Subscriptions, Pork and Poultry boxes and Urban Digs CSA boxes.  And they have so many pick-up locations – check out this map to see if there is one close to you.

Now, time to run as we need to pack for one of our favourite BC beaches.

EDBL Recipes: Awesome Pork & Beans

Awesome Pork & Beans

1    2 – 3 kg pork shoulder roast – make sure that it will fit into your slow cooker
1   bottle of Dad’s Westcoast Wildfire Awesome Sauce
1   can of black beans, drained and rinsed


  • Sprinkle the pork roast with salt and pepper.
  • In a cast-iron skillet (or other heavy pan) sear the pork roast on all sides.
  • Place the pork roast in the slow cooker.
  • Empty a jar of Wildfire sauce (if you are sensitive to spice, use the Rainforest version) into the slow cooker.
  • Fill the empty jar with water (or if you have some on hand, beef or chicken stock) and add to the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours. Flip the roast over at the 1/2 way point.
  • In the last 1/2 hour add the black beans and pull the pork apart with two forks. It should be very tender and literally falling apart. You can also use kitchen shears to cut the meat.
  • Serve in tacos, burritos, over a bowl of rice or as a pulled pork & bean sandwich. Top with sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, grilled onions or peppers and dinner is served.

EDBL Recipe: Diane Clement’s Local Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a cold Spanish bread-based raw vegetable soup, made popular amongst field hands as a way to cool off during the summer and to use available ingredients such as fresh vegetables and stale bread.  It’s also perfect for warm September evenings! Our favourite Gazpacho comes from local, Vancouver chef Diane Clement (“Fresh Chef on the Run” and previous owner of the Tomato Fresh Food Café). We love Diane’s version because it’s fresh, simple and guilt free. Enjoy this with some crusty bread and perhaps a glass of your favourite Okanagan Pinot Gris.

This soup is best made 2 to 3 days before serving so the flavours meld. Preparation time is 30 minutes and serves 8 to 10. Gazpacho keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days.


4 very ripe large tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) tomatoes, including juice
½ onion (red or sweet)
2 English cucumbers, unpeeled
3 red peppers (or 1 each of red, yellow or orange) seeded (please don’t use green as they are hard to digest and can be bitter)
4 sprigs parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
10 oz V-8 juice
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup Heinz chili sauce (Diane says this is a key ingredient and we agree!)
3 tbsp fresh basil (or ½ tsp dry)
3 tbsp fresh dill (or ½ tsp dry)
½ tsp sweet Spanish or Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
Green onions chopped


  • At least 2 to 3 days before serving, cut the fresh and canned tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and peppers into chunks.
  • Combine in a food processor with the parsley, garlic, V-8 juice and tomato juice (from canned tomatoes).
  • Process a portion at a time by pulsing.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend slightly. DO NOT OVER PROCESS; the mixture should be chunky.
  • Cover and refrigerate.
  • Serve in small bowls with croutons and fresh green onions.


Eat Local: Spot On

They’re back!  Our favourite crustacean is finally in season. Here are some facts and tips so you can impress your friends with your Cliff Claven-like prawn knowledge.

  • Spot prawns are big.  In fact, they are the largest of the 7 commercial species of shrimp found in Canada’s west coast waters.
  • White spots yes, black spots no. Spot prawns get their name from the distinctive white spots on their first and fifth abdominal (tail) segments. Look for shrimp without black spots. The black spots are caused by a reaction under the shrimp’s shell similar to the browning of apples or potatoes.
  • Get ‘em while you can. The season starts in May and lasts about 8 weeks.
  • To shell or not to shell? Spot prawns can be prepared whole or peeled and deveined. To quickly peel and devein take a pair of sharp kitchen scissors and cut down the middle of the back shell right to the tail tip. Then break open the shell and pull it off leaving the tail attached. Finally pull or wash out the vein.
  • Off with their heads. There’s nothing more disappointing than spot prawn mush. According to Wild BC Spot Prawn the best way to avoid mushy prawn syndrome, is to eat the prawns as soon as possible.  Don’t keep them alive for more than a few hours and remove the heads immediately.  As we said above, you can peel or leave the shell on. Pack the prawns in a bowl and cover with ice and refrigerate. The prawns will keep 2 to 3 days max. Pour off the melted ice each day and replace with new ice. Who better to show us how it’s done than Chef Robert Clark of C Restaurant in Vancouver.
  • Avoiding a tough prawn. Spot prawns can be grilled, baked, sauteed or boiled. It’s very important to make sure you don’t over cook the prawns or their tough side will emerge.  They only require 1 to 2 minutes cooking time. The prawns are done when they just turn pink.
  • A spot prawn by any other name. This is where things get confusing.  In fact, a spot prawn is a spot shrimp and is called by that name in the US.  What’s the difference you may ask?  Not much in terms of taste and no it isn’t based on size (a common misconception). Shrimp and prawns are both crustaceans, they both have 10 legs, they are both found in salt and fresh water and they both live near the floor of whatever body of water they inhabit. However, there are some differences relating to their gills and how they carry their eggs (shrimp carry their eggs outside of their bodies beneath their tails and prawns carry their eggs inside their bodies near their tails). So yes, they are different but not in ways that really matter in terms of preparation or culinary usage.
  • BC’s famous hermaphrodites. Perhaps the strangest fact of all is that spot prawns areprotandric hermaphroditic. This means that each prawn initially matures as a male and then passes through a transition stage to become a female. In BC, spot prawns usually live for about 4 years. They start out male, mature at one year, function as mature males for 2 years and then transform into females in their final year of life. Who knew?
  • Facts courtesy of BCPrawns.com
    Now if that doesn’t impress your dinner guests, here’s a recipe that will.

    Find out where you can get BC spot prawns here or be notified by Foodtree when fisherman come ashore with their latest spot prawn catch.

Drink Local: Words to Drink By

We love books for their ability to transport us to another place – especially if that place involves food and wine. Island Wineries of British Columbia does just that.  Written by EAT Magazine contributors and edited by former sommelier, chef, innkeeper turned EAT Mag editor, Gary Hynes, this book is a wonderful introduction to the wineries on Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands.

Like a well hosted evening this book welcomes you to the party with a brief history of wine making on the Islands, makes you feel at home as you engage in intimate conversations with the local wine producers, keeps the party hopping with some up-and-comers, craft brewers and artisan distillers and then brings it all home with delicious recipes from talented local chefs all paired with Island wines.  What a night, er, we mean book. The photography by Rebecca Wellman had us Googling to see more of her fabulous shots.

You can enjoy the Island wines vicariously through this book (available here) or better yet, write your own story as you sip your way through a series of self-guided tours that will find you knocking on the doors of many of the Island’s boutique and farm-gate wineries.  To be continued…

Drink Local: Wine’s on Tap

Next time you go to your favourite Vancouver eatery and ask what’s on tap, don’t be surprised if you’re given a list of wines not just ales. You’ll be glad you were, wine on tap is simply the best way to enjoy wine by the glass. This is a relatively new phenomenon in Canada compared to the US where it’s been gaining popularity in recent years. Luckily for us, Vancouverites Mike Macquisten and Steve Thorp of Vancouver Urban Winery are blazing the way for Canadian winemakers and restauranteurs.

Why is wine on tap so good? As Mike explained, ”wine on tap tastes exactly as the winemaker intended the wine to taste. When wine is served from one of our taps, the winemaker no longer worries about inconsistencies like they do when the wine is offered by the glass from a bottle.” The reason is, wine on tap is fresher than its bottled equivalent given there’s less opportunity for oxidation. This means it just tastes better. Plus, wine on tap is better for the environment because there’s much less packaging. And, this means less costs to the winemaker, the retailer and us wine drinkers!

You can find Fresh Tap keg wines at Vancouver’s Edible Canada at the Market, which has two Nichol Vineyardwines (including Nichol’s Gewurz), and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver will soon be offering Blasted ChurchHatfield’s Fuse (an Eat Drink Be Local fave!). And the list of “tap houses” keeps growing, The Mill Marine Bistroin Coal Harbour and Tap & Barrel in the Olympic Village will soon be offering Fresh Tap keg wines. And for those of you who live elsewhere in the province, don’t despair Fresh Tap is coming to a restaurant or bar near you soon! Contact Fresh Tap here. With 36 different “taps” and over 85% of these from BC, we say cheers to that!

If you’re wondering when Fresh Tap will be available for in-home taps, Mike says later this summer. That’s when Vancouver Urban Winery will be offering their home program which will include an 11.2 litre wine keg with a built-in nitrogen canister than keeps the wine under constant pressure.

And, if you need a great venue to host your wedding or corporate event, check out Vancouver Urban Winery’s 4,000 square feet of open space nestled within oak wine barrels and beautiful stainless steel tanks. Talk about reinventing the kegger!