Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Merry

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Warmest Wishes
from our family to you and yours.

2009 for us has been an amazing incredible year that at the same time flew by in an instant and dragged on and on.

The most wonderful moments in my life happened this year and every day is even better than the day before.

Not everything was merry and bright, and some aspects of my life fell to the side, including my little blog. 2010 will not only be an awesome year for my family, it will also be the year I recapture my focus and get organized once again, and work on posting here and visiting your sites to learn and be inspired.

Thank you for everything, and see you next week for our Christmas dinner post!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

babes, christmas and boy

The Bread Baking Babes have unveiled the December bread - a Viennese Striesel chosen by the Kitchen Babe of the Month, the lovely Katie from Thyme For Cooking.
I did not make the bread this month - I can't even find the time to get dressed or shower daily anymore - but it's gorgeous and sounds like a fun project and I hope to make it another time. Please head over to the list of Babes in the sidebar and check out their breads.
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Last December I did a week of food related gift ideas. Again, I have little time for anything that is not baby related, but I do have 5 gift ideas for you this year -

Regular readers here may remember that at the end of last year/beginning of this year I was part of the recipe testing crew for the Urban Vegan cookbook. I recently received a copy of the book, and it is fabulous. This book is NOT only for Vegans, the recipes are awesome, easy and accessible for everyone. The recipes for Blueberry Grunt and Winter Pesto are alone worth the price of the book.

I hadn't heard of the Lee Brothers before I was offered this cookbook, and what a shame that is. This is as the title says, a book full of simple and fresh recipes. I may not have access to collard greens, but cooking with okra and making pimento cheese potatos is pretty darn fun. We enjoyed all the recipes we tried and when we had to sub ingredients in a couple of them, the end result was still tasty. My favorite was the buttermilk pudding cakes (made during the sweet tooth phase of my pregnancy) and I can't WAIT to make the buttermilk cheese!

Every year I like to make at least one homemade present. Because my due date was the beginning of December, I looked for something that I could make in advance, and would be able to sit a while. The first is this spiced salt from Nigella Lawson -
250 grams good quality sea salt
2 tsp red peppercorns
2 tsp crushed dried red chiles
4 star anise

Put the salt in a bowl with with the peppercorns, dried chiles and star anise.
Toss everything together, then pour into jars and seal tightly.

I've had my eye on this recipe for a couple of years now, I've wanted to try to make mustard at home for ages, but have been intimidated by it for some reason. This recipe from Simple Italian Sandwiches is.....simple. And wonderfully delicious. You need a week to get this ready, so you have just enough time to make a batch for this holiday season.
4 oz Colmans dry mustard
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 tb vegetable oil
Combine the dry ingredients in a blender. Pulse to combine, and then add the vinegar and oil. When thoroughly blended transfer to a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Stir daily for 7 days before serving. This keeps indefinitely in the fridge.

And you can't have Christmas or a holiday celebration without cookies. These shortbread cookies are easy and delicious and only have 4 ingredients.
Makes about 24 cookies
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup soft butter

Sift together the cornstarch, icing sugar and flour. Blend in butter until a soft smooth dough forms. Shape into 1" balls and chill 30 -60 minutes. Place 1 1/2" apart on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a floured fork. Bake 300' for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

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When Paxton was born a couple of weeks ago he spent his first 2 days in the NICU (he is fine) and so every 3 hours we headed off to visit and feed him. The first night
I was trying to figure out how to use the alarm on my ipod so I could get up at 1am for feeding time. I couldn't figure it out. I thought that maybe you had to have the ipod running, so I clicked on shuffle songs and no shit, I am not lying I swear, John Lennon's Beautiful Boy started to play. And I started to cry.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Introducing........

our amazing, gorgeous baby boy.

He was born on the weekend, and we came home from the hospital yesterday. I am crazy head over heels in love and also exhausted.

See you soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cookin' with Coolio

Life is a beautiful wonderful thing, and you know, it's just too short to be taken seriously all the time. Some days, most days having fun and laughing is the best thing you can do. In the kitchen too.

So last month when asked if I would like to receive a copy of Coolio's new cookbook Cookin' with Coolio, my answer was absolutely HELL YES! If the idea of Coolio writing a cookbook seems rather bizarre to you, it's actually really not. Coolio's got his own cooking series on the internets - it's very funny and inventive. He knows food and his recipes are very fun.

The timing of receiving this cookbook wasn't great for me as I am only possibly days away from giving birth and am on limited movement by the doctor. But I have read this cookbook cover to cover, laughing and drooling all the way.

The recipes are all straightforward with clear, sometimes hysterical directions. This is the food that Coolio cooks for his friends and family and the writing reflects the fun he has in the kitchen. There is no dry or boring reading here. An example from his recipe for Strawberry Fields Banana Muffins Forever (from the chapter Sweet Treats For That Sweet Ass):
"You might think that muffins are for women, but listen to me, motherfucker, muffins are for everybody!"
or from the recipe for Crybaby Chicken (from the Pimpin' The Poultry chapter):
"...it's so flavorful, it'll make you grow extra tongues. If you can't take the heat, you shouldn't be in the kitchen in the first damn place."
I've marked up most of the recipes in the book to try, and last night we made the Steak Fatricia.
A delicious stir fry/fajita, your steak and veggies are cooked with lime juice, cilantro and a ton of garlic. Fold in a tortilla with some sour cream and hot sauce for a crazy delicious and fast meal.

I absolutely love this cookbook and recommend that anyone who likes to laugh in the kitchen should take a look. This book is pure fun and great food.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mighty Life List

One of my daily stops on the internet is Maggie Mason's Mighty Girl. Maggie wrote her Mighty Life List - a list of 100 things she hopes to do before her life is over. Back in June she announced that a sponsor had offered to help her cross off 10 things from her list, and she spent the summer doing amazing things - visiting Greece, organized a food fight, and taking tap lessons, among others. Her list, her experiences and her joy of learning and trying new things inspired me to write down my own list. This year I crossed two major things off my life list I kept in my head. In May we went to Alaska and right now I'm sitting here with my feet up on doctors orders as we wait for our baby to arrive.

Here's my Mighty Life List, in no order:


1 Buy a camper and go camping

2 Place flowers at the memorial statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn in Austin, Texas

3 See a Cirque du Soliel show

4 Visit every Province and Territory in Canada

5 Learn to play the drums

6 Have a chocolate tasting

7 Participate (as in run) in a Terry Fox Run

8 Meet in person some food bloggers I "know"

9 Make a Mythic Pasta Dome, from scratch, a la Big Night

10 Go to Churchill and see the polar bears

11 Make a pie with fruit from our garden

12 Learn to make aspic salad for Scott

13 Make at least one new recipe a week Done!

14 Give blood Done!

15 Go to Memphis for barbecue

16 Make a sock monkey

17 Go away somewhere warm for Christmas and New Years

18 Make really good sushi at home

19 Visit Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

20 See the Great Wall of China

21 Eat at the French Laundry

22 Learn to speak another language

23 Make homemade ice cream and eat it in the backyard on a hot summer day

24 Learn to take better photos

25 Sew a shirt or skirt or pair of pants with my sewing machine

26 Become once again the organized person I used to be

27 Go houseboating

28 Pay off our mortgage early

29 Cook at least 10 recipes out of every cookbook I own Close enough!  :)

30 Travel on a train

31 Do the very best job I can as a parent

32 Make cheese

33 Replace the art prints we have up in the house with all original art - paintings and photos

34 Visit Spain

35 Fly a kite successfully Done!

36 See the Northern Lights

37 See Niagara Falls

38 Learn how to tell the doneness of a steak with the "touch" method, rather than my "guess" method

39 Make a pavlova Done!

40 Deep fry a turkey

41 Try Absinthe Removed!  Don`t drink any more.

42 Watch the sunrise from a beach Done!

43 Fly First Class on a long (or longish) flight

44 Take a photo of the baby everyday and post online for family and friends to see (don't worry, not here on my blog!) Ongoing, but have been doing it for nearly 7 years, so - Done!

45 Be able to recognize more constellations that the Big and Little Dipper

46 Go on a weekend (or longer) trip where Scott could fish all day/to his hearts content

47 Enter some baking into a fall fair

48 Make Turkish Delight

49 Buy and learn how to use a photo editing program to make our photos look better

50 Take a cooking class and learn something really great

51 Take a trip down the Pacific Highway with Scott and our family, like I did with my parents when I was young

52 Visit New Orleans

53 Go to Las Vegas, get dressed up, have a fancy dinner, then play a few hands of blackjack while sipping cocktails

54 Be able to donate regularly to worthy causes Done! 

55 Live more "Green"

56 Set off fireworks on a beach

57 Forgive and forget Done and moved on. 

58 Take part in a parade

59 Stick my toe in the Atlantic Ocean

60 Visit Italy

61 Take a cruise to a tropical destination

62 Learn to make towel animals

63 Complete at least 5 craft tutorials

64 Have a day at a spa

65 Go to the Columbia Icefield

66 Have a family portrait taken Done!

67 Try snowshoeing

68 Drive a boat

69 Go on a trip with no predetermined destination

70 Hire a cleaning company to come to the house once a month

71 Have a little black dress or outfit (that I look good in) for dinners or parties

72 Be able to do 20 regular push ups without stopping

73 Decorate a cake with fondant

74 Visit Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

75 Have a header designed for my blog - Done, by someone else, and then me.

76 Spend a weekend in a cabin with no tv, phone or internet

77 Add the baby to the family tattoo on my arm Done!

78 Volunteer at a mission or church kitchen to serve a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal Done!

79 Try glass blowing

80 Have a margarita tasting - Removed - don`t drink.

81 Make a piece of jewelery (that I would wear in public)

82 Catch (and release!) a fish

83 Go to the Richmond Night Market

84 Read these 10 classic novels

85 Have a movie marathon night and cook food inspired by the movies

86 Take photos in the park with a big bunch (20 or more) of helium balloons as a prop

87 Eat at one of Bobby Flay's restaurant

88 Visit all 5 Great Lakes

89 Go to Oktoberfest in Kitchener

90 Learn to juggle

91 Rent a convertible somewhere warm and drive with the top down

92 Learn an old fashioned card game and have a card night

93 See some of the original paintings of the Group of Seven

94 Stay in a fancy hotel suite for one night

95 See the Bay of Fundy

96 Open a coffee shop/bakery

97 Pay for the groceries of the person behind me in line

98 Take a Tai Chi class

99 Make Spam Musabi

100 Shave my head to raise money for charity

101 Take the Mondo Beyondo class

102 Have a bonfire on the beach - Done!

103 Make paper

104 Take a Belly Dance class

105 Start a charitable foundation

106 Make a handmade toy for The Boy - Done by The Mister

107 Get in shape

108 Try 1 new food a week for 10 weeks (each year)
Dandelion Greens / Lotus Root/ Kalamansi/Sticky Rice Ball

109 Learn to knit

110 Make 50 things out of paper

What's on yours?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The meatballs cook in the sauce!

The first week of my maternity leave is over and it wasn't quite as productive as I'd hoped. I'd made plans to get some stuff done before the baby arrives but due to issues with my blood pressure, I've been ordered to severely restrict my activities, and have pretty much been doing jack squat since Wednesday. There's been a lot of fidgeting, staring out the window, and watching a hell of a lot of food shows.

Yesterday morning I saw an old episode of Nigella Bites where on a rainy day she made pasta, meatballs and sauce from scratch. After my doctor appointment we stopped at the store and picked up what we needed for the meatballs and sauce.

I used the 2 recipes as guidelines instead of following them to the letter. The thing I most wanted from her recipe was that the meatballs are cooked in the sauce, rather than being fried or baked first. I love meatballs but hate making them at home. Cooking them right in the sauce makes so much sense. And by making the meatballs small, they cook fast.


I used a large can of roma tomatos and a small can of fire roasted tomatos in place of the passata in the recipe. I whizzed the sauce smooth before adding the milk and meatballs for the final cooking.


Both the sauce and meatballs were delicious and dinner was ready in just over 30 minutes. Also great about this recipe - I figure I spent under $8 to make the sauce and meatballs, and got enough for 3 meals for the 2 of us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Brioche Mousseline

November's Bread Baking Babe bread is brought to us by Monique, of Living on bread and water. She's chosen a Brioche Mousseline from the The Breads of France, by Bernard Clayton Jr. The twist to this bread is that it is baked in a tin can (soup, tomato, coffee), instead of a bread tin. Crazy!

This dough, and please go visit Monique for the recipe, requires some time, like a day. I split the recipe over 2 days, leaving the dough in the fridge overnight and then giving it some extra rise and recovery time the next night before baking. I've never made a dough before with so much butter and eggs. The dough was the most lovely yellow color, and was so silky and smooth. It was a gorgeous dough to work with.

A week or so before I made the bread a discussion popped up on the Babes private blog. Some of the bakers were wondering if tins lined with that white material would be safe to bake in. Some Babe Google work showed that it would be safer to stay away from those lined tins. Well guess what? Apparently ALL the tinned food we have in our pantry contains the white lining. We opened 5 cans of food on bread baking night - soup, tomatos, olives, fruit - and were blocked. We had to go with a regular bread tin for baking. On the plus side I made a terrific tomato-olive pasta sauce that's now sitting in the freezer.

If you've already visited some of the other Babes, you'll see that this dough rises incredibly high. I hoped that ours would as well, even though it was being baked in a regular tin, so we surrounded the tin with a parchment/foil cover.

The bread went in the oven....

And came out a regular sized loaf!

Oh well. I have to tell you that looks don't matter very much. The brioche was still a very nice loaf of bread.

Scott had some toasted every morning until the loaf was gone. We also used some for grilled cheese sandwiches one night, and oh baby, were they good.

Please turn to the right and visit the other Babes to see their sky high breads.

Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Apples

Last Saturday (the 31st) was the last Farmers Market until the spring. What a bummer. We went down to pick up apples and potatos. There was a lovely couple selling apples there this year - many varieties and good prices. I will miss them this winter.



Last week Mary wrote about memories and the smells of certain foods. For me, the smell of cinnamon always reminds me of the applesauce my Mom would make in the crockpot when I was little. It was sweet and spicy and chunky, and I've never been able to make an applesauce that has come close to it.

This one is close though, from the Cookin' Canuck who shared her secret family recipe for crockpot applesauce. Scott, who I've never seen eat applesauce before, ate this every day for a week. If you like applesauce, try her recipe.


When I'd sorted out the apples - a pile to be turned into applesauce, some to be juiced, another pile for eating straight up - I set aside some to try out a recipe that I've had my eye on for a couple of years, Scandinavian Apple Soup.

This was interesting, not what I was expecting, but quite nice. The aroma of apples and onions took me by surprise but it's a warm comforting soup. Recipe here.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another mighty fine burger

I haven't had much in the way of cravings while pregnant. Haven't sent Scott out late at night for ice cream or chocolate. Haven't been eating weird combinations of potato chips and jam or bananas and cheese. I do lust after certain foods from time to time, but unless they are readily available I just shrug it off and deal with it.

Except for hamburgers. Gah, I think about them so often the last month or so. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken burgers, veggie burgers. With bacon and lettuce and tomato. With ketchup only. With bbq sauce. Hang on, I've got to wipe up all this drool. I will admit that a couple of times in the last month I've given in and treated myself to a burger. But only a couple. Cause really, this could get out of control VERY easily.

So around these parts, I may have been talking about hamburgers; may have mentioned them a few (dozen) times in the past couple of days. And Scott was nice enough to suggest we have burgers for dinner last night.

I'd recently found a recipe I was dying to try from Rachael Ray for Asian pork burgers that she then cut into appetizer sized pieces. We made some changes.

Asian Turkey Burgers

makes 4

1 lb ground turkey
1 green onion, minced
1 Tb soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
juice from 1/2 of a small orange

1 Tb honey
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 of an english cucumber, sliced into thin half moons
1 carrot, shredded

1 handful lettuce, shredded

4 large tortillas
hoisin sauce

Whisk together the honey and vinegar. Stir in the cucumber and carrot. Set aside.

Mix the ground turkey, onions, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, hot pepper and orange juice. Form into 4 patties.

Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a little vegetable oil. Add the patties and cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through.

While the burgers are cooking, spread approximately 1 Tb (or to your taste) with hoisin sauce on each tortilla. Top with lettuce and cucumber carrot salad.


When your turkey burgers are cooked through, place one on each tortilla.


Fold up the 4 sides of the tortilla, and turn the package over so the seam is at the bottom. Cut in half.


Eat and enjoy with plenty of napkins to mop up the juicy goodness. Plan to make again soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh nos!

Apparently I am showing off how miserable my time management and planning skills are - I've run out of time to take part in this months Bread Baking Babes bread of the month.

This month Gretchen was kitchen of the month and she chose a Peruvian Bread called Tanta Wawa for us to try.

My deepest apologies Gretchen that I can't take part. All the Babes breads are gorgeous - please check out the blogs - everyone is listed over on the right.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Epicure Selections

This summer I was approached by a lovely lady named Darcy from the company Epicure Selections to see if I would be interested in trying out some of their products and sharing my thoughts with you.

For those who haven't heard of Epicure Selections, they are a Canadian owned company selling food products, cookware and home and body items. The company was started in the early 1990's and sold only 4 spice blends. Today they sell nearly 200 different products.

Darcy generously sent me 8 items that I chose from their website, shown below.


Bacon Potato Topper I love potatos and I love bacon. This topper, which is vegetarian, tastes delicious. I sprinkle it on my baked potatos with a little sour cream and pretend I'm eating at a steakhouse, where they come around with their little caddy to dress up your spud. We also tried the website recommendation of adding it to scrambled eggs, and that was good too.

Greek Dressing This one was a dud for us. I have made it twice for salad dressing and both times it was a flat tasting bland dressing. I have saved it and will try again, in pasta salad and a marinade. As a dressing, this was not for us.

Cajun Seasoning Ages ago I worked at a restaurant that had blackened fish and chicken sandwiches on our menu and the cajun seasoning we used was so delicious. This spice blend is definitely a close second. This makes the most delicious cajun chicken sandwiches with a nice little blast of heat.

Lemon Chiffon Fruit Dip Mix This stuff is just plain good. Mixed with yogurt, the chiffon can be used as a dip (like we did), stirred together with fruit (also tried) or used as a filling for baked tart shells.

MBO All Purpose Cleaner We try to stay away from any harsh or harsh smelling cleaners in our house. This spray, safe for counters, tile and more, contains peppermint, orange and bergamot so it smells great as you clean.

Margherita Sauce Mix Sometimes we buy bottled pasta sauce and sometimes we make our own. This turns a can of tomatos into a light pasta sauce in a jif. It is also a great seasoning to add to your pizza (homemade or frozen) before you bake it.

Beef and Steak Rub This stuff is AWESOME rubbed on steaks and burgers. The ingredient list is vague - onion, garlic, herbs and spices - but it adds a whack of flavor. I'd also like to add how much I love the canisters that this rub and the potato topper came it. Nice and sturdy with large holes so the seasoning doesn't get stuck. They also lock and unlock easily but well, so you won't get a dump of spice in your bowl or counter. Love 'em.

Fruit Salsa I love salsa of any kind, but this fruit one was pretty cool. Mix the seasoning with diced tomato and diced pineapple or peaches. So good. I love pineapple and used that. I'm sure it's wonderful with peaches too though.

Thank you again to Darcy for sending me these wonderful products to try. I hope she will forgive me for taking longer than I anticipated to get through them all, but food and pregnancy don't always go together. :)

If you're interested in checking out their website, please visit Epicure Selections. Would you like to find a consultant in your area? Visit here. Interested in becoming a consultant? Visit here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

U Pick Pumpkin Patch and Roasted Squash and Garlic Spread

It was raining pretty hard last Saturday when we went to the pumpkin patch after the farmers market. The field was so muddy they weren't letting cars in past the gate as 2 were already stuck and waiting to be towed out. We walked in. I didn't care, I'd never been to a pumpkin patch before.






After we got home and changed out of our muddy clothes I made us a snack. It was supposed to be a bruschetta of squash - I envisioned cubes of roasted squash tossed with a dressing, piled on bread. But it's been a while - since last winter - since I've attempted to cut into whole squashes. I had 2 small ones from the farmers market the week before and by the time we got them hacked into manageable pieces I knew there was no way this was going to be as pretty as I'd hoped. But looks don't matter as much as taste and this was pretty darn good.


I baked my squash pieces with chunks of red onion and unpeeled garlic cloves, all tossed with some oil and salt and pepper. When the squash was tender and the onions nice and soft, I let them cool briefly, then chopped up the onions and mashed the squash (rind removed). I squished the roasted garlic out of their papers and mixed them with some oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. Then I stirred the dressing into the squash, and slathered it on the bread.

So good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tablecloths

This one isn't about food, but what's under it.
Scott's Mom came to visit us for Thanksgiving and she brought us out some tablecloths that had belonged to Scott's Grandmother who recently passed away. I am not a huge table covering person, but these cloths are SO awesome.

(Please don't make fun of my (lack of) ironing skills.)

This one below is my absolute favorite


I can't even imagine the time and talent it would take to stitch something like this.


I don't know if Scott's Grandmother made this, or if it was made for her, but you don't see stuff like this anymore.


The fabric (linen?) is so delicate.


This one is a little sturdier, made of cotton, again with gorgeous embroidery.


Seriously!


This one is store bought I'm sure, but damn, how 70's is this one? Awesome.



This is the most beautiful and delicate one. I have a similar one that my paternal Grandmother made for my maternal Grandmother. This one is so thin and fine and delicate.


Sort of afraid to use this one - what if we spill?

Seriously, they do NOT make them like this anymore.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Potato Carrot Balls

This past weekend was Thanksgiving, and Sunday night the family stuffed ourselves silly on ham, mashed potatos, carrots, brussel sprouts, Nigella Lawson's fantastic peas and pancetta in cream, and carrot cake. The fridge is overflowing with leftovers and I'm trying to be somewhat creative in using them. Last night we made these Potato Carrot Balls. And liked 'em.


Potato Carrot Balls

1 cup mashed potatos
1/2 cup finely chopped or pureed cooked carrots
1 egg, separated
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400'. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

Warm the potatos and carrots in the microwave (30 seconds, just to take the chill off) or in a small pan. Stir in the egg yolk and season with salt and pepper. Whip the egg white until stiff, then fold into the potato mixture. Form into 10-12 balls, place on baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, then turn and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until brown and crisp.

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I really liked these; they were light and tasty and I loved the sweetness that the carrots added. When I make these again I think I'll try adding some garlic. Yum!