Long Weekend Family Fun

Long Weekend Living

Three days. No work. Just play. Long weekends are definitely something to look forward to.

But sometime around Thursday night I always find my brain racing – how should I spend the weekend? Should I have planned something elaborate? Usually, the answer is no. What I’ve learned from those last-minute panic attacks is that long weekend family fun doesn’t need days of advance planning. Really! From my idea list to yours, here’s a few family activities that won’t empty your wallet or make you scramble to find tickets to a busy tourist attraction. Have fun in, and around, your own home while staying active and healthy.

TreStelle_May_ldamelio_02Pack a picnic

Enjoy a meal together, in a new location. Packing a picnic is an old favourite but it doesn’t have to be predictable – add a theme! For example, only pack goodies that are round. Get the kids to help you shop for ingredients and pick out fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market that match your theme. Cherry tomatoes, blueberries and Tre Stelle® Bocconcini are perfect finger foods or skewer builders. Round sliced cheese, like provolone, in rollups or buns keeps the theme going. The great thing about picnics: they are an activity for outside or inside. If you find rain ruins your weekend, lay out a blanket in the family room to unpack your whimsical lunch.

 Forest scavenger hunt

Taking a walk in the park or a nearby woodlot may seem like an easy idea to spend some time outside with a loved one or the kids. But take it a step further to keep everyone interested and bring a little competition to the weekend. Make a list of things to see along the way and have a scavenger hunt race. Who can spot a mushroom growing on a tree first? A caterpillar? The first one to finish their scavenger hunt list gets a treat!

Photo shoot fun

A few good photos are the best way to remember what might otherwise have been an unmemorable weekend. Whether walking in the neighborhood, or making silly faces in the mirror, take turns being the photographer and the scout, who stays on the lookout for photo-worthy moments and objects. Kids are great at finding hidden photo opportunities. With one hour or one day photo printing, you can also spend an evening creating a photo collage of the day’s fun.

Movie afternoon

The temptation to keep yourself busy can make for a pretty exhausting weekend. Plan too much and you’ll find the family cranky by Sunday. So dedicate one day for just lounging to recharge everyone’s energy. Pick two family favourite movies – or new releases you haven’t seen yet – and set up for an afternoon movie marathon. Make it special with personalized snacks like mini pizzas or gourmet popcorn in individual paper bags: grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar for the adults, shredded cheddar cheese and butter for the kids.

Refresh a room (or two!)

Who doesn’t like a makeover? If the weather gets rainy, it’s a perfect day to take a look around the house for a way to make it new, without spending any money. Put on a timer for two minutes and have everyone pick out two or three items in the house that they love. Now, find a way to work them into that person’s bedroom so they can enjoy them. You might need to remove old items you don’t love any more (pack them up for charity), or even rearrange the furniture to fit a favourite chair in a new place. Refresh the house and if secretly your goal might be to get the kids to clean up their room a bit and that’s ok too!

 

Tropical Strawberry and Cream French Toast Bake

It’s Mothers day this month so why not treat all the moms out there to a beautiful brunch that includes a Tropical Strawberry and Cream French Toast Bake.  Easily prepared ahead of time, this French toast bake is sure to please your guests!

Mascarpone3Brunch is one of my favourite meals. Going out for breakfast usually means waking up early in order to get a table at a restaurant. Brunch, on the other hand, is usually enjoyed closer to noon (and means I get to sleep in). Honestly, that is all I want for Mother’s Day this year – a relaxing day with my family.

I prefer hosting brunch at home. It’s a nice way to have family and friends gather together while providing a comfortable setting. With the weather warming up we may even take our brunch outdoor this year and set up on the patio!

A number of brunch items can be prepared in advance and simply heated or quickly assembled the next day. This tropical strawberry and cream cheese French toast bake is very easy to make and is best if left overnight in the fridge to set up. I’ve made quite a number of French toast versions over the years when hosting Mother’s Day or other holiday brunches, but this one is right up there as one of my favourite combinations. To create a tropical taste, I’ve combined Tre Stelle® Mascarpone cheese with cream of coconut as part of the cream layer. Mascarpone is a rich triple crème related to cream cheese and Ricotta. It’s soft and spreadable making it a perfect addition to breakfast, dinner and dessert. Fresh or frozen berries can be used in this dish and don’t be afraid to change it up. There are a number of mixed berry or tropical fruit blends available.

Mascarpone2Here are some helpful tips for planning a relaxing Mother’s Day brunch at home:

Include a variety of items both sweet and savoury. Choose two or three main casserole style dishes that can be made ahead of time. Hash brown casseroles, quiche and French toast bakes are great options.

Set the table the night before and have serving dishes and utensils ready. Have the kids help. It is Mother’s Day after all – don’t try to do everything yourself. Guests are often more than willing to bring a fruit or vegetable tray along which will help minimize preparation and ensure a variety of food items at the table.

Have a cocktail ready to offer. Mimosas can be set up as self serve with fresh berries as garnish or a large pitcher of sangria can be made ahead of time. Don’t forget to offer a non-alcoholic beverage as well!

Plan ahead. The last thing you’ll want to do is run to the store last minute. Make an ingredient list and double check the pantry and fridge.

Finally, fresh flower arrangements as take-home gifts for all mothers in attendance are always a nice touch.

Mascarpone1Strawberries and Cream French Toast Bake

 Ingredients

1 loaf of French bread
8 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Tre Stelle® Mascarpone Cheese
1/4 cup cream of coconut
2 cups frozen, sliced strawberries
Powdered sugar and whipping cream to serve

Directions

Slice the loaf of French bread into large cubes. Set them aside while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, light cream, milk and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, combine the Mascarpone cheese and cream of coconut until smooth.
Layer half of the French bread cubes in a large oven proof casserole dish.
Drop the Mascarpone and coconut mixture by tablespoon over the bread cubes, spreading the mixture evenly with the back of the spoon.
Place the strawberries over the cream in an even layer then top with the remaining bread cubes.
Evenly pour the egg mixture over top and cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight for best results. The bread will soak up the liquid and be ready to bake in the morning.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the casserole dish from the fridge.  Replace the plastic wrap with foil and bake the French toast covered for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking another 30 minutes.
Let the French toast sit for 10 minutes before serving.