30 December 2007

Pearled Spelt Risotto.

I hate to brag. I really, really do. But ever so often I make something that I think, 'I would pay to eat this in a restaurant!'...and tonights dinner fit that bill.

When in London in October, G and I made our pilgrimage like all good food-folk to the Borough Market. There, the Sharpham Park booth called out to our little upset stomach's, like a lighthouse in the fog. I have been very interested in trying pearled spelt, and they had cute little bags that I thought would make a good souvenir, so of course, I bought some and have yet to do anything with it.

Let me backpedal for a sec... last year, I was going fairly regularly to an acupuncturist who was near my work. She performed acupuncture that made such a huge difference to my overall wellbeing that I was a bit loathe to quit a job I had right near her office for a job clear across town. In any event, one of the things that the acupuncturist recommended was to start taking digestive enzymes and to cut back on the wheat. I did those things, as well as the acupuncture, and I truly felt better. (In fact, it's a New Year's Resolution of mine to call next week and make an appointment for a consultation with this doctor and to get back in the swing of it.)

Anyway, at that time, I did cut back on wheat, and ate lots of spelt-y things, and so was eager to try the pearled spelt when it presented itself. So in G and my quest to eat at home more often, and more healthfully, I embarked on some Pearled Spelt Risotto with mushrooms... and I will do so again because it was DYN-O-MITE!

This picture totally cracks me up because it is truly the state of my recent cooking adventures. Laptop open and on sitting on the kitchen counter in the midst of all the rubble, exactly where a proper cookbook should be!

Anyway, the recipe... I borrowed the basics for making the spelt from the Sharpham Park website, and modified it a bit for my needs...

1 cup pearled spelt
8 cups water
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
butter, to taste
1/2 cup chopped shallots (divided in two)
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
2/3 cup white wine (+ 2 tablespoons)
2 cups chicken broth
freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese

Soak the pearled spelt in cold water 20 minutes. Drain; rinse. Bring 8 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup oil and the pearled spelt. Simmer 20 minutes. Drain in strainer and rinse.

Clean and slice mushrooms while spelt is soaking. Heat up a small amount of oil in a medium sized skillet, put in 1/2 of the finely diced onion. Cook for about a minute, then put in mushrooms. After the mushrooms have started to soften, put in a splash of the white wine. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms and onions start to get sticky and golden.

Put a little bit of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; sauté 1 minute. Add pearled spelt and wine. Simmer until almost all liquid evaporates, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth 1 cup at a time and simmer until liquid is absorbed each time. After the third helping of liquid (1 wine and 2 chicken broths), stir in the mushroom mixture. Let the liquid continue to evaporate. This should take about 15 minutes or so. Taste the risotto to make sure spelt is soft. Stir in cheese and butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Really very easy, if not a little time-consuming. But a thoroughly enjoyable dinner that G and I both loved.

Potluck Success!

It's almost an embarrassment to post this... I mean, you are going to be so jealous. The ladies I work with make a mean potluck (and I work in a firm of all women, so I am not being offensive!!!).

Our office closed on Christmas Eve to allow everyone an extra long weekend, and we re-opened on the Thursday after Boxing Day. (Lucky us! The Powers That Be also closed the office tomorrow!! YIPPIEEE!) Anyway, I thought that the two days between Christmas and New Year would likely be quiet (and they were) so I devised having a nice little potluck on the Friday afternoon. Our office is like the UN! Everyone has a different background, and ergo, a different food tradition, and I was really hoping that the food would reflect our diversity... and did it ever!!!

I made a frittata that I saw on the Food Network! It was an Orzo, Chicken, and Ricotta Frittata.

The recipe:
3/4 cup orzo pasta
6 eggs
1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed (about 2 cups)
4 chives, chopped
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup diced sauteed red bell pepper, finely diced
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta until almost done and drain.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and sour cream and stir until the eggs are beaten and the ingredients are combined. Add the cooked orzo, chicken, chives, parsley, red bell peppers, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into a suitable baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler until golden on top, about 5 minutes.

It was really easy, and while mine wasn't as fluffy looking as Giada's, it was tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy it!

Next up were some delightful cabbage rolls. They were really phenomenal. Two people made cabbage rolls (from scratch!) but I only managed to get a pic of one of them...

Oy. But these were good.

Then came the Jamaican fare. Chicken curry that knocked EVERYONE'S socks off...

Fresh roti:

And broccoli beef:

K totally out did herself!

From one of our staff members from China, we got some lovely noodles with shrimp:

And from Cuba, we had some lovely fried rice with bits of beef, pork and shrimp (made by our account manager's boyfriend! He's a total keeper!!!).

One of our lawyers made a dish that she learned while living in Turkey, it's like an eggplant salsa and unbelievably good!

We also had a lovely bunch of perogies... which I couldn't stop eating!!!

And one of the girls from Romania made cabbage rolls, and brought this delicious Romanian bread...

There were lots more sweets, which I didn't pictures of because we could all barely move after eating! I was really impressed by everyone's efforts, and I think we all had a really nice time. As you know, I love food, to talk about it, eat it, make it, the whole works, and to be able to incorporate that a little bit into the work day, well, it was really exciting for me. I loved seeing the things that people made that reflected their cultures and the foods they make at home.

BUT, I am going to get a bunch of those recipes... they're too good not to keep!


Christmas was a bit of a whirlwind this year! We were incredibly fortunate, though, considering I made it home through a considerable storm and an overwhelming number of flight delays and cancellations in Chicago. So no complaining on this end.

Being home for such a short period of time meant that the time we had was spent wrapping presents, eating family favorites that I don't have in my 'other' home life, and spending time with Mom and my brother. It was a great Christmas and I am so glad to have had the time that we had together. Last year, Mom was so sick at Christmas that she doesn't even remember it!!!

Mom and D. had already decorated the tree this year, except for the angel, which gets left to me to put on when I get home! The tree looked great. We have a few solid ornaments left over from when D. and I were kids, it's really great to go home and see them on the tree. It makes the holiday seem like, well, the holiday!

I made an ornament when I was in kindergarten that still gets pride of place on the tree...

Oh yeah. No one could stick a santa sticker on a little piece of concrete like me! I wonder how many other kids from my class still have their ornaments? I was so proud of mine. I love it that Mom has kept it and that every year it gets on the tree, reminding me of just how old I am getting!

Christmas dinner was a good time...we had batted around the idea of moving away from tradition and making some different sorts of food, but then common-sense took hold and we went back to the tried and trues.

I tried to get some info on the history behind our foods, because we've eaten the same things for forever. We had the usual staples: turkey, ham, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, noodles, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a lack of vegetables no one noticed what with the other delights abounding on the table!

We started as usual with our appetizer plate.

I like how 1970's this picture looks. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, we always make ranch dip and stuffed celery, as well as having different cheeses and crackers and a big whack of carrots and olives. I didn't make deviled eggs this year, seemed a bit much for this year with it just being the three of us.

Then, I made my Mom's favorite, stuffed mushrooms.

Mom had been asking me to make these mushrooms since the minute I booked my airline ticket! These little gems have a history... When I was in my second year of college, my friends and I used to go to Dallas for the night to have dinner, do some shopping, go to clubs, and get tattoos (they were illegal in Oklahoma at the time). One of our most favorite restaurant gathering places was called Crescent City. I don't know if it's still there, but they had the most amazing cajun-y style food. I had my first muffaletta sandwich and jambalaya there! We all just flipped over these stuffed mushrooms that they served, and would often order an additional batch to eat on the the 3 hour drive home!

The mushrooms were great, and I tried to recreate them at home. I don't know how accurate this recipe is, but it really makes a lovely mushroom!
Crescent City Style Stuffed Mushrooms 12 white button mushrooms 1/2 package cream cheese 2-3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled 2-4 chives, depending on the size and flavour salt pepper Take the stems out of the mushrooms, after they have been cleaned, and arrange on a plate. Mix the cream cheese, bacon and chives together, adding salt and pepper to season. Stuff each mushroom with enough filling to fill the mushrooms, with a little bit of a top, but not so much that they will overflow when cooking. Sprinkle mushrooms with a tiny bit of water, and then place in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of the mushrooms. Remove and enjoy!

Really quite simple, and really quite fantastic.

From there, we moved on to the hard stuff. The aforementioned turkey, ham, etc. Pics of them all...

Woo hoo. Now noodles. I may have touched on this before... but noodles are a traditional Thanksgiving food in my family that I honestly could not do without. The cornbread stuffing with noodles on top... you haven't really lived until you've had this for Thanksgiving. It's such a great taste... my brother, who has always scoffed at the noodle idea, went crazy for it last year (yes, at 37!) and now is a convert. It only took 37 years, but there ya go!

D also made an apple pie, but he didn't like it so he threw it out. But it was pretty...

We also had pumpkin pie, but I don't seem to have taken any photos of that!

We actually had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Which is lovely, because then on Christmas Day we have another tradition. Also has a story....

When I was younger, my Mom had to be at work very early in the morning, so she took me toa nursery school before school. There, I bonded with the caretaker, she was a lovely older woman who really liked me despite my evil ways. (I was a bit of a naughty child, but that's another tale.) She made a very large hot breakfast every morning. And every day it was the same. Poached eggs and biscuits and gravy, cereal, juice and milk. Every day. For some reason that I am sure broke all kinds of rules, she began teaching me to make the gravy. And now I make it for the family at Christmas.

I don't make the biscuits from scratch. Thank you Poppin' Fresh for that. But the gravy is my own....

Sausage Gravy -- Southern Style

1/2 package of sausage meat (such as Jimmy Dean)
salt and pepper

Brown and crumble the sausage over medium high heat in a non-stick pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the sausage is broken up and browned, add in just enough butter to make it a little saucy. (Probably about 1.5 tablespoons. Let the butter melt. Add flour, more than you think you may need (about 1/3 cup) and cook the flour for a solid minute, mixing it into the butter. If the mixture seems thin, and doesn't sort of clump together, add more flour. Keep stirring, though, or the flour will burn. Add enough milk to cover the sausage mixture, with about a 1/2 inch over the mixture. Stir constantly until gravy thickens. Serve over biscuits.

D made scrambled eggs, and while not his best efforts, they were really good smothered in gravy. (But then again, what isn't?!)

23 December 2007

Christmas Changes...and an early present from my brother!

As you can see, the blog has had a little bit of a face-lift. My brother made me this lovely new banner, using a picture that I took at the Chenonceau chateau in France last year of a kitchen cherub that was, coincidentally enough, in the kitchen! I have really loved this picture and didn't have any idea how to use it, as G finds it creepy, so my brother very kindly incorporated it into a new banner for my blog!!!

I am home in the US for Christmas after a bit of a harrowing journey yesterday... the computers went down in Toronto, and Chicago was covered in CRAZY fog and so many flights were cancelled and delayed and re-routed. I managed to get here, though, and will post more stuff later, including Christmas dinner tomorrow!!!

Happy Holidays!!!!!

20 December 2007

I'll be home for Christmas...(knock on wood)

In anticipation of the fierce storm we had last weekend, and the upcoming holidays, G and I spent last Sunday stirrin' and cookin' up a storm of our own! I am eating one of the fruits of our labour... PUPPY CHOW! I don't know if this exists where you are, or if the thought of it makes you wanna hurl (as it does G), but puppy chow is one of the best things for Christmas.

Oh yeah....

In these little chows is an excellent assortment of fixings...

The gatorade in the bag was the medicine for my migraine. (If you aren't aware of this, and you suffer from migraines or stress headaches, I find that drinking some gatorade, provided I can keep it down, works miracles.)

Oh the recipe... but of course!

1/2 stick butter
1 bag chocolate chips

1 c. peanut butter
1 box Crispix cereal
2 cps Powdered sugar
Melt butter together with chocolate chips; mix well with peanut butter. Stir in Crispix. Take plastic bag filled with powdered sugar and shake Crispix mixture until evenly coated with powdered sugar.

I took a whack of it to work, and it went over a treat. Everyone really liked it, even the Fed Ex guy gave it the thumbs up!!! I was asked repeatedly for the recipe, and it's so easy, you hate to let people in on the secret!

We also made some excellent red and green rice krispie treats... but I failed to take a photo of the red ones...

But here's an action shot of the treats being made...

Oh yeah.

Now you may be wondering if we did any actual BAKING, and the answer is yes. I made a great peanut butter cookie that I overcooked. It was supposed to be a batch of thumbprint cookies...

BUT... the thumbprint baked out, so they became white chocolate covered peanut butter cookies...

And then... due to their overwhelming teeth-breaking quality after they set... they became crumbs to sprinkle on vanilla ice cream. Heartbreak. The cookie recipe was from Cooking Light magazine, and I should have trusted the recipe and removed those cookies, but I didn't. Live and learn. I still had a blast making them, and we ate the thickest ones with friendswhile we played Wii tennis and bowling at their apartment.

All the same, I took the squares and the puppy chow to work and it was a huge success. I guess I should be somewhat ashamed that the ones that worked were the ones that didn't have to be baked... but no shame.

I am heading home on Saturday. I can't wait. I have pretty much wrapped up all my year end stuff at work, and hopefully tomorrow I will be able to just sort of ride the tide until it's time to go. I pretty much packed tonight, and I am currently decking out my Ipod with some eppies of Torchwood and my favorite Christmas movie, The Santa Clause. It's all about making sure the flight home is smooth and that I am entertained thoroughly (ha ha).

Otherwise, I have done all my Christmas shopping, and am really looking forward to going home and having all the food highlights... Taco Bueno, chicken fried steak, Coney Islander, hamburger cobbler, Christmas dinner!!! Not that it's allll about the food, but really, the plan is to go home (G isn't going this year) and just really hang out with my mom and brother, and just enjoy spending some time together. I really can't wait.

Happy Holiday's everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are so many blogs that I read practically daily, the brilliant Matt Bites, theFood Pornographer, Smitten Kitchen, Writing at the Kitchen Table, Gluten-Free Girl, Running With Tweezers, etc. All these blogs give me so many ideas for things to try that it's really been beyond fun. I know that my little attempts at blogging aren't yet at the level of those, but I love plugging away at it, and knowing that people can keep up with me even if they don't have time to write (or I don't have time to write!). (In fact, recently when I wrote my father after a particularly long absence he said, 'I wasn't worried. You updated your blog! When you stop updating your blog, then I will worry!)

And while I am at it, I am really thankful for the friends that I have who have been there for me throughout this very difficult year, and to the people at my office who have given me so much support and a new environment to stretch my wings, and to my family and G, who are really beyond words. I am really blessed, although I do sometimes lose sight of that, so that is on the list of things to "do better" in 2008. And it starts here. So thanks!!!

16 December 2007

Busy weekend.


G is not a huge fan of the Christmas tree. BUT she is a huge fan of penguins. Try to mix the two, and we have a near hit in our home!!! This one is particularly cute, and he has a good vibe that makes him the perfect mascot for our treats weekend!

Yesterday started with a bit of a blow out. I woke up with an amazingly sharp migraine, and ended up spending about two extra hours in bed just trying to sleep it off after taking the big medicines. Oddly, I was scheduled for a massage yesterday (which I do to help migraines) and it was a welcome hour, indeed. From there, we were off to Toys R' Us to get a Christmas present that they didn't have (from 'the Golden Compass'... the store clerk said, "uhhh, didn't that just come out? We won't have those toys for awhile" as if toys aren't sold WITH a movie release)... and then to the grocery store as the massive snow began pounding, as we missed our trip to the St. Lawrence thanks to the migraine.

During my massage, I laid there thinking of having a delicious roast chicken dinner with stuffing made in muffin tins and roasted potatoes and peas. I was practically drooling. G was apparently in the same mood, so dinner was devised. G also made some excellent carrot ginger soup.

Look at the steam rising off this bad boy! G makes lots of great food, but her soup is always really really fantastic!

There's the bounty. Chicken, muffin tin stuffing (yum yum yum) with roast carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and lovely lovely peas. Oh it's a holiday season!!! G and I are often a bit hesitant to make such big dinners just for us, but we both wanted to have it and it's my last weekend home (going back to OK next Saturday), so we decided to spend some time together and just have a nice night.

Then the snow started....

This was this morning, right as the very worst of the storm was beginning. This is from our sunroom/dining room window. It's been really beautiful watching this massive snow storm. I don't know that I have ever seen so much snow at one time. It's crazy.

And we knew it was time to start our Holiday cooking for work....

Which is going to have to wait for an update because we are due upstairs to have dinner with our friends who live in the building, and to play Wii. Woo hoo!!!

Menu For Hope 4

It's the Christmas Season, and I have spent all day (literally) rustling up some Christmas goodies. We are in the midst of a crazy winter storm here in Toronto, and the snow is falling by the bucket out there. So we're warm and cozy, the cat is sleeping in the most trusting pose on the couch, and the cookies are cooling and the treats are being readied for packaging.

But not everyone is so fortunate. While in the midst of cooking my little brains out, I took a trip over to Chez Pim and made my donation/raffle bid for the Menu for Hope 4. There are some good prizes out there (especially for you lucky UK folks!), and it's such an amazing way to be involved in the food blog community! Here's the skinny:

Every year, Food Bloggers from all over the world join together for a fundraising campaign. We call it 'Menu for Hope'. Last year, we raised $60,925.12 for the UN World Food Programme.

This year Menu for Hope 4 again raises funds to support the WFP. Specifically, the amount we raise will go to support the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. We chose this particular program in Lesotho because the WFP is pushing an initiative to supply the program by buying directly from local farmers who practice conservation farming methods. We help feed the kids (which keep them in school) and support their parents and community farming. This sustainable approach to aid is something we believe in and strongly support.

Together we've come up with a great list of amazing food related prizes for this raffle. Click here to view the prizes. Each US$10 donation will buy you one virtual raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice.

So go on over, buy some raffle tickets, and keep on celebrating the holiday season in style!!!

13 December 2007

Enchiladas, Thy Name is Dinner!

Last night, I was feeling very down in the dumps, so I had the great idea of ordering dinner from a local Chinese delivery place. An hour or so later lukewarm, stuck together noodle dishes were left at our door. Gross.

I have finally hit a place where I realize that my love of eating at home has surpassed my hatred of doing dishes (and eating late after a late night at work). I don't know when it happened. I don't know when eating out became choice B, but it clearly has. Dinner not from home is only good if it's either really really good, or made by someone else with love. Clearly our delivery last night was neither.

With that in mind, tonight we embarked on using a few leftovers that are burning holes in their kitchen locations. First we had the remaining enchilada sauce from the Huevos the other night, and we still have frozen turkey meat from Thanksgiving. Throw in some newly bought corn tortillas, an aging avocado, and left-over pinto beans from Huevos night and you've got all the fixin's for turkey enchiladas!

Not having the patience to roll the enchiladas individually, I instead made the enchiladas lasagna style. It was really lovely. The dinner plate was a palate pleasing mash up of softish foods...

The largest section of this plate is the enchilada, then the purple-y mass is the beans with salsa and sour cream mixed in, and the green glump is the avocado. Really really nice, as Jamie Oliver would say, though probably not about this...

Anyway, it's really nice to be able to come home and put dinner together quickly. It's cheaper, it's bound to be healthier than most take-aways, AND, if I get home first and put it together, G has to do the dishes. Everyone wins.

(And please say a little prayer for the folks in Oklahoma who were hit with a major ice storm this week. My best friend had a tree fall into his house, but luckily no one was hurt. My Mom and Brother were very lucky... no major anything, however, I want it all to be running smoothly again in anticipation of my visit home over Xmas!)

11 December 2007

G's Dad's Birthday and Food and Wine and Ice Cream Makers

I have wanted an electric ice cream maker for a very long time. And it's not that they are that expensive. It's just that it seems so big and decadent and something that wouldn't get a ton of use once the bloom fell off the rose. Well, a nice little Christmas bonus surprise meant the ice cream maker became a reality over the weekend. And thanks to Williams and Sonoma, it's a sexy little red one!

I made my first ice cream, plain old vanilla, for G's dad's birthday. Here it is straight from the mix...

I didn't freeze it long enough, but I misread the directions, so there ya go.

For the main meal, I adapted a recipe that read in 'Food & Wine' magazine for what they call "Lasagna-Style Baked Pennette with Meat Sauce" -- I renamed it Pastitsio Italiano, changed it a tiny bit to fit my liking, and presented it to G and her parents for dinner.

The light in our kitchen is crazy because everything turns out so yellow. I tried to colour treat it, but it didn't work so well. Anyway, that's an aside.

The inside was really beautiful. Creamy, rich, delicious. G made a simple salad with a dressing of hemp oil and apple cider vinegar, and we tucked in for a delicious meal.

So in that there innard shot you can see the noodles, little penne like noodles, meat, tomato, bechamel, parsley and goodness. Honestly, I could eat like this all the time. I have had it for breakfast for the past two days!

Then we served the aforementioned ice cream with some blackberries...

Really good.

Here's the recipe:

Pastitsio Italiano

1 pound Short Penne noodles
2 small yellow onions
olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 and 1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 tblspn tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 tblspns parsley
salt and pep
1/4 large block of butter
3/4 cup flour
4 cups 2% milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta and drain.

In skillet, put oil and fry onion until soft. Add ground meat and cook for approximately 15 minutes. Drain fat. Stir in diced tomatoes, seasoning. Transfer to pot with pasta.

In a large saucepan, melt butter then add flour and cook for two minutes over medium heat. Gradually add milk. Cook until thickened about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add yolks and cheese.

Take 1 and 1/2 cup of sauce and set aside. Mix rest in pot with meat and pasta.

Tip into a large baking dish. Spread out to cover evenly. Add remaining cheese sauce.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and eat until you're done!

(Adapted from the December 2007 Food & Wine magazine, which is quickly becoming one of my faves!!!!)

Huevos Me Baby!

G is at a work function tonight, and I am all groovy tunes at home by my lonesome with the new Jamie at Home cookbook burning a hole in my bag. I decided that instead of ordering dinner like my lazy self is apt to do on nights alone, I would rustle up some dinner that I particularly love.

Back in the day, I stayed with a friend for a couple of months in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I fell in love with the breakfast at a little restaurant off the Plaza, who's name I can not remember at all. But, they made the most amazing Huevos Ranchero that I fell in love with. I have made it off and on, and as it's not a fave of G's, I haven't had it in awhile.

So tonight, I made it for myself. It's not pretty...

But man, it's delish.

The big pile of chile sauce in the middle is actually two flour tortillas (all outta corn here) stuffed with beans and cheese and covered in sauce with cheese on top. The eggs are on the side.

Don't believe me about the beans?

Oh ye of little faith.

So my recipe...

Santa Fe Style Huevos Rancheros
serves 1

3 large free-range eggs
1/3 cup chile sauce (I use an enchilada sauce that I bring back from Oklahoma)
1/3 cup or so of extra old cheddar
1/3 cup of beans (I use pinto, but whatever ya got)
2 tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Warm chile sauce. Put one tortilla on a cookie sheet. Top with beans, cheese and a few dollops of sauce. Cover with other tortilla.
Put the remaining sauce on the tortilla top and sprinkle cheese. Put in oven for about 7-10 minutes.
Once the tortilla is in the oven, make the scrambled eggs. Cook them until they are done they way you like them.
Take tortilla mash-up out of the oven, transfer carefully to a plate and top with egg.

Now, back to Jamie at Home. I wanted to buy this when I was in the UK in October, but I equally didn't want to schlep it around the UK. So, I waited thinking it would be out here (Canada) soon. Well. I found it wasn't going to be released until January.

Then, the newsletter from the Cookbook Store came. They had ordered UK copies and had them for sale. But I waited.

Then over the weekend, I went to the Cookbook Store to buy a Nigel Slater cookbook. (I have developed a very real fondness for him. I think it's from reading 'Toast' last Christmas...) Anyway, I saw that they had two copies of the Jamie book on hold. I was told that new ones were coming in this week and that I should put my name down. I said that I would wait until it came out regularly in January, and the clerk said, "Oh no, it's not coming out until March or April now!" Needless to say, my name got put down and the book is in my bag waiting for me to sit down and read it. Once the blog is updated, I say!

One. Singular Sensation.

We went to Mark McEwan's new restaurant 'One' at the Hazelton Hotel a few nights back. Now let me start by saying that I forgot my camera. My grandmother had just died and my head wasn't on straight and I just completely forgot it. BUT, G always tries to nab a menu, so I can at least walk you through the things we ordered.

One is a 'shared' dish place where you order a few meats, a few sides, and the waiter plops them in the middle of the table so that everyone can sample. When they remember the serving spoons. All in all, as a concept it works, but some of the dishes were really too small to share between four people, which our waiter should have stated as we ordered.

Our first course was the wonderful Lobster Spoons with butter braised vermouth ($23). I am not a fan of lobster, but I could honestly eaten all five spoonfuls. It really was a bit of a decadent order based on the number that you get, but it was a celebration. A celebration of what? Ummmm.... life?

From there we decided to order a whack of plates and just dig in as they came. First we ordered the Papiri with veal ricotta meatballs and tomatoes ($20). This was a huge plate of pasta with a lovely sauce and four plump meatballs. Perfect for sharing between four people. I ate the remaining pasta because, well, how could I not?

Then we ordered Roasted 1/2 baby chicken diablo ($20) and Braised beef short ribs with horseradish and parsley ($25). The baby chicken was small indeed and my poor cutting skills meant G got the short end of the bird. Oh well. The chicken had a crumb coating that tasted a bit like it had wasabi or something similar in it. The meat was tender and the coating was really flavourful. The beef ribs were very tender. You just hovered the fork over the slab and the meat fell off. Really nice.

Our Vegetables and Potato and Grains choices were as follows: Creamed corn with chives ($10); Roasted king mushrooms ($13); Soft polenta with mascarpone and parsley ($10); and Chanterelle risotto with truffle and chive ($14). Let this be a lesson to you, don't let me order most of the sides because I will order the richest things on the menu.

First the creamed corn. This was G's choice, and it came in a very cute Le Creuset pot with lid. But, it did have that disappointing, "I could have made this at home for less than $1" taste to it. The mushrooms on the other hand were a complete run-away hit at our table. You got a fairly generous serving for the price, and the mushrooms were of a type I have never had before. The polenta and risotto were superb. Crazy rich. Crazy creamy. And I could have eaten the entire contents of both little bowls with my fingers.

For dessert, I ordered the Maple Creme Brulee with Pumpkin Ice Cream ($13?). Lovely. But as I was so blissed out on dinner, it could have been terrible and it wouldn't have noticed.

For drinks, I had the amazing "The One" martini. It's Christmas in a glass, though that might not be their intentions. According to the menu, it has Infused apple and pear vodka with fresh pineapple and lime juice and a touch of cinnamon and clove. Oh yeah. Pour me another.

All in all, One was a great experience. The dining room is incredibly comfortable and the staff really goes out of its way to make you feel welcome. I really recommend it. Now if I can just stay at the Hazelton Hotel....

02 December 2007

McDonald's Ireland

Since I started traveling, I have been quite keen to try McDonald's everywhere we visit. I know it's stupid, but there's something so ubiquitous about McDonald's that I love trying it in different countries to see if it really is the same.

So late one evening as G and I were walking about in Galway, I was really hungry and we decided to use the opportunity to sidle into McD's and have a taste.


Very McD's standard, though the ketchup was very vinegary, though it tasted like the cheap no name brand we used to buy at Albertson's when I was a child.

But the Quarter Pounder was remarkably different.

The hamburger was incredibly chewy, the cheese was quite orange, and the ketchup and mustard had quite the kick. But it was comforting and fulfilling the 'McD's Tastes of the World' all the same.

Christmas Time is Here!

In our house, December is chock full o' holidays. G is Jewish and so we celebrate Hannukah with her family. And I am not, so we celebrate Christmas with mine. Last year was our first year with a proper full sized Christmas tree. And tonight, we celebrated the crazy winter storm Toronto was hit with trimming our tree. We do not have a Hannukah bush or any such thing. We have a Christmas tree, but the tree is full of blue, silver and grey ornaments in the spirit of Hannukah. Go us.

(The top of our tree is an Eiffel Tower, as a reminder of our fifth anniversary trip to France.)

Thanksgiving... the quick update!

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October. Which is much too early for the American in me! I miss Thanksgiving the most, as it is such an important holiday that centers around family, food and the un-official start of the Christmas season! (Which is a lot to center around.)

I didn't take pictures of each dish because I had a work emergency and had to run to the office right before our guests came, and then I was rushing to get everything finished on time, so I didn't want to delay dinner for photos. But it was a delicious meal. I made a fantastic turkey, a so-so stuffing, lovely deviled eggs, green beans, roasted golden beet salad, homemade cranberry sauce (which was amazing and the kids kept calling 'jam'), and the hit of the dinner, potato gratin with porcini mushrooms and mascarpone cheese. Oh yes. You can see them in the photo below just below the beans!

We broke out the good china that G's mother gave her recently. It's so pretty, it made everything feel like quite the celebration!

But back to the food...the potato gratin was amazing. The recipe was in the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I adapted it slightly and as such, am including the same below.

Potato Gratin with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone Cheese
2oz dried porcini mushrooms

3-4oz cremini mushrooms
2 tblsp butter
Olive Oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1.5 cups of mascarpone cheese
3/4 cups whipping cream
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

Soak the porcini mushrooms and lightly chop, along with the cremini mushrooms. Melt the butter in a skillet, add mushrooms and cook until brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk mascarpone, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, whipping cream, garlic and nutmeg.

Preheat the over to 325 degrees. Butter a large baking dish and place 1/4 potato slices in the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter some of the mushrooms over. Repeat, then spread half the cheese mixture on top and smooth. Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms so that the cheese mixture is on the top. Sprinkle with more parmesan. Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and let rest for 15 minutes or so. Stuff your face. (And you will.)

There was much to give thanks for this year. My stomach issues are seemingly on the mend, and at a minimum *finally* being taken seriously, my work is going well, my immediate family is healthy and whole, we had lovely friends share our Thanksgiving dinner with, and G and I are working deliriously hard on balancing work and life. We're getting there.

And Bello enjoyed his chive-y snack.

Man, he's too cute. And too loved by us!!!

01 December 2007

My Grandma.

My Grandmother, my only remaining Grandparent died on Thursday. It has been a difficult time because the airfare to go home was well over $1000 and that was a bit undoable. My Grandma has been very sick for a very long time, so in its own way it is a blessing. Mom said she looked more at peace than she has since Grandpa died, which was easily 15 years or so ago.

I thought that in the spirit of keeping a food blog, I would tell you a story about my Grandmother that I always found very endearing, that dealt with her love of food! My relationship with her has always been a bit strained, and nearly non-existent since I left Oklahoma five or so years ago.

Grandma told me a story about how, when she was a young girl, her family was having a nice dinner with guests, and it was a very important dinner (though I forget why now). Grandma's Mom had spent all day making the dinner, which included fresh made biscuits. Grandma told me that she smelled the biscuits cooking and was in love with the soft insides of fresh made biscuits. So, tummy growling with anticipation, Grandma spirited away the biscuits and ate all the insides out of the biscuits by making a tiny hole on the bottom of each! She put the biscuits back on the table and didn't say a word. When dinner was served, imagine the surprise when people cut open their biscuits and found no insides!! Grandma said she got in major trouble after everyone left, and being Freewill Baptists in small town Oklahoma, I imagine that was considerable!

I love that story, and I have to say that I have spent the last few days pondering early memories (some of course food related!) tied to the days before Grandpa died and Grandma got so sick.


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