26 February 2007

CSA Box and lunch!

We got our first CSA box. It was a nice little package of parsnips (which I don't like), organic lettuce with the stem, onion, earthy smelling potatoes, carrots, cilantro and a whack of beets. We didn't get a ton of any one thing, which was a little disappointing, but which worked out this time, as G had a massive cold all week, and I was sick, we didn't end up cooking or eating much for the first week.

Here's a pic:

I tried taking this photo with the fluorescent light setting on my camera, but it seems quite blue...Hmmm.

Anyway, as I am starting a new job tomorrow, I am trying desperately to get over the sick today! I am drinking tons of oj, staying home, and doing a combination of freaking out and relaxing. But, yesterday, as we were trying to get better, we decided to go out for breakfast, but ended up getting lunch.

We went to this place called the Church Street Diner. It's in our neighborhood, so it's walking distance, which is the most deluxe thing about living downtown. Anyway, I had the club sandwich and fries. It was a grilled chicken breast with bacon, dill mayo, and tomato. I asked for (and received) no lettuce on my sandwich because warmed lettuce makes me a bit ill.

See for yourself (the sandwich, not the ill)....

It was alright. The fries LOOKED good, but they were oddly not crispy, just sort of weird tasting. Anyway, next time, I will likely stay with the brunch food at the Diner because it really is outstanding.

Hopefully, we will continue to feel better and get properly into this CSA box. I am looking into finding a community garden allotment for next year. I think that would be good fun.

Anyway, that's all for now.

24 February 2007


So I am playing around with the template here... if you look and it's garish, I apologize. I am just messing around...
Also, I have updated with the new blogger and these weird templates that work on 'wizards'... if anyone can tell me how to add a picture to the banner under this, I would really appreciate it...

22 February 2007

Disney (Day Three -- the Magic Kingdom).

And it is magical!!!

Being that it was quite cold last Friday in Disney, we have several layers of clothes on, always a nice thing for the pictures! Also, we were having a very early dinner at 4pm with the characters from Pooh's Corner, so no lunch, only early dinner, then late snack.

Being surrounded by Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eyore made me forget all about taking pics of the food, but I did take some mighty fine pics of the buffet, including the prime rib man. This buffet was at the Crystal Palace, right off Main Street in the Kingdom. It was actually fairly plain food, prime rib, roast turkey, garlic mashed potatoes (with not nary a hint of garlic), etc. The kids menu was decked out with mac n cheese, green beans and chicken fingers. Poor kids. The prime rib was incredibly rare, so the prime rib man put it on the grill for me WITHOUT ROLLING HIS EYES! Goodness! Ya gotta love Disney!

See for yourself...

So yeah, lots o' food. The best part, though, was having snaps with Pooh and co. Here's me and a little fellow you may know as Piglet...

And another good friend of mine, the big smoocher Tigger...

As you can see, I put aside my fear of furry large animals in order to live in the moment.

After this, it was more rides (I highly recommend the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland), and then off to the parade and fireworks, which were really amazing. Back to the hotel for a late night snack, which I took no pictures of, and ready to go. We left the next day, back to TO, where we promptly both got colds!!!

19 February 2007

Disney (Day 2 -- Animal Kingdom).

We woke up to a much chillier Orlando, but unfazed, I donned my new Mickey Mouse tshirt, a sweater, a jacket and a turtleneck in my bag and went forth! Lunch was actually very good, we ate the BBQ restaurant at Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, no pics exist. And why is that? Well, listen to a little story...

We go and get our delightful lunch of bbq'd brisket sandwiches, baked beans and corn on the cob, iced tea (unsweetened, natch) and the BEST chocolate cake just about ever. Ah, we find a place in the sun near a little windy path, it's quite, there's a little bit of a pond, we sit down, and then it happens. SURROUNDED BY DUCKS! Now small little animals of that variety terrify me. (Had these ducks been squirrels, I would have passed right on out.) So, unfortunately, my attention was so focused on these ducks, photos could not, did not, happen.

But to give you a little taste... The meat was shredded and not very saucy. They had a sauce dispenser so you could sauce it up to your little hearts content. The beans were oddly sweet and very smokey, the corn was that frozen niblet ear corn that we used to eat when I was kid. The cake, made by cake fairies on high. It was moist and chocolatey with these crunchy sugar hearts on top. Oh man oh man oh man.

The day hit a snag when we road the Kalahari Rapid ride (or something like that). I bought a Mickey Mouse poncho (a bargain at $7 USD) and the woman assured us this would keep us high and dry on the water ride. One word can describe that vendor... LIAR!!! I left the ride COMPLETELY soaked. G, being the trooper only G can be, valiantly dried my pants in the heater for some time, but they were still quite wet. So after that, every time we passed a bathroom, I went in and stuck my behind under the dryer! In an hour or so, I was pretty dry, but it was a pretty miserable hour.

Regardless... for dinner that night we had reservations at Boma, located in the Animal Kingdom resort. G was really looking forward to this one, because it features a number of African items. We were not disappointed! G absolutely was thrilled that they had sudsa (they called pap or bap or something)... essentially, it's like a polenta with a tomato sauce. And they had peanut rice, which G said her nanny in Rhodesia used to make for her, essentially cooked rice mixed with peanut butter!

Here's the plate of food I had....

Starting at the bottom, there's the sudsa. Clockwise from that is the peanut rice, then lamb sausages, roast potato, corn bread, spoon corn bread with meat, prime rib and falafel. I didn't eat this entire plate. The spoon corn bread was quite sweet and I am not a fan of meat with sweet flavours, and the peanut rice was indeed rice with peanut butter... okayyyyy. The prime rib was quite good and the sudsa was good, really thick. G said that in Africa, it's eaten with your hands, so it has to be pretty thick.

I ate some of it, then got another plate...

This time I had roasted chicken, which was incredible and this morrocan couscous that had sweet potato and carrot in it. Delish! I was far too full for dessert, so this was it for me! The Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually really nice. When we were sitting on the main floor in front of a fire, we saw a zebra stroll by!! It's very different from the Pop Century resort where G and I stayed!

All in all, it was a good food day. Boma is a really good restaurant, and I recommend it. The kids menu there (and there were a shocking number of adults eating from the kids bar) had the normal standard fare, chicken nuggets, mac and cheez, etc. I don't have kids, so I am all righteous about this with no reason to be, but seeing the trash kids eat, I am shocked.

On another note, tomorrow is our first CSA box!!! I think it has beets in it, which I am not crazy about, but I love beet risotto, so that is going to be on the menu this week for sure. AND if you know me, you know I love love love food magazines. Well, on the plane to Tampa, someone had left a copy of Rachel Ray's magazine. I can't stand her, but I am not going to turn down a free magazine (especially one I have been interested in seeing, but refusing to buy!). And it had a LOT of good recipes! I couldn't believe that it suckered me in so completely. I still won't buy it... do they have a website?

So ends day two. Day three, you ask??? Ohhhh. Just a little dinner with Winnie the Pooh and co.!!!

Disney (Day 1 - Epcot).

After a bit of a hair-raising issue getting to Disney (big storm, flights cancelled, end up flying to Tampa, renting a car, driving to Disney, arriving at 2am, cellphone lost, luggage missing, ahoy!), I am pleased to say that we had an absolutely excellent time! Disney is one of those places where you truly have to just let yourself go IF you choose to go there. Yes, it's corporate craziness at it's absolute finest, but, the whole place runs like clockwork, it's fairly clean, and with a little advance planning, it's a relaxing place to spend a few days.

For anyone planning on a trip to Disney, you absolutely MUST get the Disney Dining Plan. It's an amazing dining plan that allows you an enormous amount of flexibility when it comes to eating. Basically, with the plan, you pay something like USD $39 a day for food. You are allotted one snack (meaning a cappuccino at a Park, an ice cream float, mickey ears ice cream, etc), one 'quick counter meal' which is essentially a lunch or breakfast at the park or resort. This includes a main course, a dessert and a drink, plus gratuity. Then you also get one table service meal which can be used at most Disney restaurants, including those in Epcot. With this, you get an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink plus it still includes gratuity. To get your money's worth, you have to use it all, eat at the restaurants where you order off the menu or a Character buffet which are more expensive.

We spent our first day at Epcot. In the Morocco area of Epcot there is a great 'quick counter' restaurant called 'The Tangerine Cafe'. There, G and I had a fantastic lunch! I ordered the meatball and rice plate (which were a lot like the albondigas that G makes) and G ordered the chicken and lamb platter. We got this with an eye towards sharing.

The meatballs were really good. Not Chef Boyardee-y at all!

The lamb and chicken plate was fantastic, as well. You received the meats, plus this really dense crusty bread, hummus, tabbouleh, and sauce. The meat was gyro, but had a really solid flavour.

Because you also got dessert, we received little cupcake wrappers of baklava. Oh my, it looked kind of iffy, but it was absolutely DELICIOUS!

Really, it was very very nice. As I said, we got this in the Morocco section of the World Showcase at Epcot. The patio is under a beautiful orange tree that was incredibly ripe!

From there, we did some wandering around, rode lots of rides, and basically enjoyed the only warm day that Florida boasted while we were there! For dinner that night, we ate at Chefs de France, which was really really nice.

They boast of their French onion soup, and despite both G and our love of this, we opted instead to have two different appetizers. G had the French cheese plate, and I had the wild mushroom and four cheese tart. This tart was so American sized, it was hilarious! The pic is awful the food was delicious!!!

And the bread they served, I kid you not, it was easily the best bread I have had since returning from France. It was warm and soft inside, crispy on the outside, with this delicious whipped butter. My goodness, it was truly magnificent! I had to take a picture of the inside!!!

For the main course, G and I both had, as quoted from the menu:

Filet de boef grille, sauce au poivre noir gratin dauphinois et haricots verts $27.95
Grilled tenderloin of beef with a black pepper sauce, original potato gratin of savoy and green beans.

Did it taste as good as it sounded? Oh yes!

It was absolutely amazing, though I did find it slightly disturbing how frog shaped my potatoes were. Who can care, I ate those little potatoes with gusto!!!

Dessert was profiteroles for me, and macaroon for G. The macaroons were much like the ones we had in France, and which we can't find here at all...

And the macaroon...

Thus ended the culinary adventures of Day 1. G has pictures of actual stuff. I have all the food pics. We did end the day watching the Illuminations fire works extravaganza. It was really an incredible day.

12 February 2007

Who's the cutest boy?!

You can tell that today has been incredibly stressful for us. I took this picture and Bello didn't even wake up!

Cassoulet = Love

Cassoulet takes a long time to make. AND I was making the "easy" version where I didn't have to confit my own duck. Four plus hours, but it was totally worth it! G and I went on a cycling trip in the Loire Valley of France this past year, and there, I had the most amazing dinner of my life featuring, you guessed it, Cassoulet. It was really amazing and I have wanted to make it for some time, but have been a little afraid of it! But I am so glad that I spent most of yesterday afternoon making it, as it was truly fun to do and delicious to eat.

The part of the cassoulet makin' that really almost did me in was cutting the fat, skin and meat off the duck legs. It was so greasy and really, as I am someone who is still squeamish about eating meat on bones, it was a bit out of my league. But not the fearless G, who leapt in and saved the day!

That neat little pile to the left is all the skin and fat. (That's our nice new cutting board, FYI. We get them at the St. Lawrence Market, though I suspect you can get them lots of places, but they are magnificent! We have them in three different sizes!)

While you are dissecting the duck, the beans are coming up to a boil. You then take the left over bones and put them in the steaming pot of beans.

I absolutely love beans, especially white beans. They are really toothsome yet creamy, good for you, tasty, and cheap! It's a win win situation. The good for you part of the beans gets a little drowned by the duck fat in this recipe, but so be it! We knew this was the dinner plan, so we kept the eating fairly low key during the day. It's all about moderation "they" say.

The next step is pretty straight forward, and there are no photos to mark it...

Render the fat and skin down to liquid so you can fry the skin to make crackling. You then use this crackling in the bread crumb topping, which I used because the recipe called for it, but it's unlikely I would put it on if and when I make it again. Instead, I would put it in a bowl to let people sprinkle on their own, should they desire it. Regardless, you then take the remaining duck fat and fry up the sausage. I used a turkey kielbasa, so as to keep away from the pork, as G is Jewish. It worked just fine!

So finally, you mix it all together and bake it. Here's the big whack of cassoulet:

G sets a mean table, and here's the beauty she made for us last night...

And here's a serving... it was really delicious.

It didn't taste exactly the same as the one I had in France, but it was still ridiculously good. We had our friends from upstairs over and everyone appeared to enjoy it. I made them eat three servings each because I didn't want there to be any leftovers as we are going out of town tomorrow! We drank most of the bottle of wine, finished up the bread and had some chocolate and tea after. All in all, a delightful meal with good friends.

G was a tad miffed that I hadn't posted HER plate of the roast chicken dinner from Saturday, which admittedly was prettier than mine. To make up for the error, please note her plate in all its glory:

(PS: The recipe for the easy cassoulet is from the Gourmet Cookbook, which I really do recommend, though I have found with each thing I have made from that cookbook, there is one step where I think, "Ummm, no" but do it anyway then wish I hadn't after the dinner was done. But despite that, the food is pretty faultless and the recipes are really very straightforward.)

Otherwise, we leave tomorrow for Disney! I will not be posting while we are gone because I am not taking Lady Victoria (my Mac) with me. However, I will take lots of photos and ply you with them when I return (because I still have another week off before I start my new job! Go ME!)

10 February 2007

Meals meals meals!

I am in between jobs right now, which is great fun for the part of me that likes to cook, not to mention the enormous part of me that likes to sleep! Tomorrow, I am going to try to make my most favorite food of them all... Cassoulet. I am making the 'easy' option from the Gourmet cookbook that I received over Christmas.

Anyway, last week, in a need to make dinner out of things lying about the house, I made a chicken and chickpea curry from some Jewish archival site. See for yourself...

It was strange-ish because you floured and fried the chicken before you put it in chicken broth to cook for 45 minutes or so. But it was tasty... I can't remember the name of that site, or I would put it on the website.

Anyway, on a very bright and sunny day, I took a picture of G's herb garden, our little urban oasis. It sits in the sun room in the front of our place, it's so nice. You can see how beautiful it is with the light...

This morning, G and I took a very brisk but comfy walk to St. Lawrence Market, and bought some lovely potatoes and beets at the market, and a really nice Ontario raised chicken to have for dinner. Due to the cassoulet tomorrow, we also bought a considerable amount of duck confit and sausage. We took two big backpacks and drudged everything home, in the crazy snow squall!

G made a fantastic roast chicken tonight, and I have a totally NOT fantastic picture of it to share...

The plate of full dinner came out better... I have noticed that there is no suitable light for picture taking! This was in the sun room, but at night, with just the pale lighting that we have...

And then, there's always the random picture of kitty cats. We have two cats, Bello and Sasha. They don't like each other, Sasha hates me, and yet, we all try to live together peacefully. The two cats don't like each other but will sometimes decide to sleep together on the bed... and I have photographic proof! Here is the photo Sasha doesn't want you to see...

Of course, it is a bit mad trying to find both of them on this messy unmade bed.

Otherwise, there's nothing more to see here. I will be posting tomorrow to show the cassoulet extravaganza. Wish me luck!

08 February 2007

CSA Boxes.

So I mentioned yesterday that I was looking for a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) box, and I am pleased to announce that I found one!!! We have signed up with mywowbox.com, who provides a box of locally harvested food, which is exactly what I want. I would rather have locally grown small farm food than organic produce from Mexico or Kenya. I am really excited. We will get our first box post-Disney, and I will post the contents asap.

Also, you may notice that I have made a few changes to my blog. I hope you like them...I do.

07 February 2007

Thoughts on a Healthy Planet and a Healthy Me.

I just finished reading the Omnivore's Dilemma. I highly highly recommend it. It's really made me think about the food I eat and how I can balance convenience with sustainability of the planet, and the opting out of the industrialized food chain. It seems at once both oddly difficult and oddly easy, but I know that at the end of the day, laziness is prone to win out, so I am trying to find a full proof way of moving forward...

As I ponder, the cat sleeps.

Okay, this wasn't today, but man, he's a cute cat...

So as I am spending the afternoon off researching pasture fed beef in Ontario and CSA's, I thought I would post my Superbowl photos... We had a bit of a feast in our house for the Superbowl viewing. I made a spectacular chili, with fixin's and our friend brought over this enormous bowl of tandoori chicken wings, which I ate DESPITE the fact they are on the bone! But they were easy to pick the meat off the bone, so I chowed down. What did this spread look like?

Corn muffins from the Jiffy mix. Whew!

I also had made a recipe for Rigatoni al Forno by David Rocco (of the Food Network). Despite my cutting the eggplant far too thick, it was all sorts of good. The sauce is really simple, and I think next time I made add a little spinach and mushrooms to the sauce.

As you can see, the first photo is straight out of the oven, the next is plated with a lovely salad G made! We bought this amazing fresh mozzarella from Kensington Market, and a fantastic smoked moz, as well. It was really fresh tasting.

So I just phoned G at work to discuss the CSA boxes. I think she is ready for me to go back to work, I have way toooo much leisure time right now. The benefit of this? Catching up on all the Heroes I missed, as well as sitting and spending my morning reading. Anyway, the CSA boxes are a definite go, I have narrowed it down to three different ones. I found a pasture meat farm in Chatham (which is where, exactly, I don't know)... ah ha, G just phoned and has informed me it's near Sarnia, on the way to Michigan. Why, that's not close at all.

I was reading about this one meat farmer who sells their wares at the St. Lawrence Market, and it seemed all good until it lists one of its suppliers as CARGILL! COME ON!

Anyway, we are going to sort out the CSA tonight and order it, so I will keep the blog posted on the outcome of that! (Hold on to your hats, i may start eating more veggies!)

Otherwise, it's another cold day here in paradise. any good book suggestions? Send them my way.

05 February 2007

Catsup. Or. catch up.

Well, it's official. I am officially unemployed for the next few weeks. Wow. It's hard to get my brain around. I keep feeling like I should be remote desktopping into my office, or coughing when I answer the phone "just in case" but nooooo... this is how G-d intended this... time off, healthy and housebound cause it's freezing cold outside. It's fantastic, all in all.

So we've had quite a few big meals of late. Dinner's with friends, Superbowl extravaganza, that sort of thing, so let me start at the beginning of the "roll" --

Two or three Friday's ago was a winterlicious dinner at Far Niente. For those of you not familiar with winterlicious (or it's sister, summerlicious) let me tell you it's the value of the year. During this promotion, which has been running for about three years, I think, you can book reservations at many of Toronto's nicest restaurants, and have a prix fixe three course dinner for around $35. Quality varies, as does service, but we have had so many fine meals this way, we book the second reservations become available. Often, the restaraunts will also have a special value cocktail or wine and it's really amazing.

So a few of us started this year's with dinner Far Niente. The dinner there was outstanding. For starters, we had a choice between two things I didn't get, and a fantastic smoked bacon, scotch bonnet and collared green soup. The soup was hot and brothy and smokey and fantastic. I couldn't believe how delicious it was. It was thinner than anticipated, and the greens were more of an accent, but truly spectacular.

The main course spoke to the core of me... baked chicken breasts with fontina cheese and truffle oil macaroni and cheese. Oh my stars. Just look at this bad picture of this great food:

The dessert course? Who can remember? Some sort of chocolate-y butter tart, I think.

All good... so I am reading this book, the Omnivore's Dilemma, which is really changing the way I think about food. It's so fascinating. But of course, whenever I read about the evil's of processed food, I crave it (I think this is a uniquely American reaction)... anyway, so stayed up ate reading last week and promptly had to start the morning with McD's... It was the first McD's in many weeks, and likely the last for some time to come...but yes, despite it's corn-iness, it was delicious...


So on goes the awful week, tidying up the bad job in pursuit of the three weeks off that will bring me to hopefully the new good job and all that... The last day of my most current employment (Friday) brought me leaving early in order to take a friend from Barrie out to dinner in the great downtown core. Did winterlicious come knocking? Oh yes it did!

We had a great lunch at Brassaii on King Street. Now in fairness, the prices aren't so high that I wouldn't eat here normally, but man, what a diverse and delicious lunch this was. The appetizer was baked goat cheese with greens... fine, good, yeah for goat cheese. But the main? Oh yes, it spoke to me in the primal tones of hamburger... hamburger with aged cheddar, smoked bacon and love. Okay, the love part wasn't on the menu, but it was present in the food! The hamburger:

Now again, I am reading this book and the feedlot info is making me really start to question my meat consumption. I am doing some research to see the differences between feedlots in the US, which Michael Pollan discusses, and those in Canada, but am not having tons of luck... if anyone has anything, please let me know, because I really do want to start buying more responsibly. His chapter on Whole Foods... oh my.

Anyway, dessert there was wholly unnecessary, but a fine little mix of chocolate pate and a too lemon-y creme brulee. But all in all, it was enjoyable. I was so full after (plus the two glasses of sparkling chardonnay AND a cup of coffee) that I had to go home and rest for an hour!!!

The next morning brought a new opportunity for brunch. Now I have been craving brunch at Sneaky Dee's, but many of my friends find the atmosphere there too... young... so they don't want to go there. But Peter was game, so we had a delicious breakfast of Burro Favorito (I think it's called), which is eggs, sausage and cheese scrambled together, placed in a flour tortilla, lightly grilled and then covered in red chili sauce and baked off. Served with small salad, rice and refried beans, I honestly might as well just eat nowhere else... I mean look at this beauty:

Everyone seemed to enjoy their little bundle of brunch, I know I did! I have some more pics to post, but I am running out of battery power on the macbook, so am going to have to wait until later.

Cheers everyone, and send those restaurant ideas my way!


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