27 January 2008

Not Your Typical Walk in the Park.

It's not every day that weird Alice in Wonderland art in the park is happening around you. But last night, in the throes of downtown Toronto, that's exactly what happened. First, our eyes focused on the man in the Alice boat... and then came Alice.

From there, it was a bunch of madness. People on stilts. Rabbits being thrown in the air. Snow falling all around. But it was really good fun, and made us sufficiently cold to be ready to sit in the warm theater later. Later was 'Michael Clayton'. Really enjoyed it, though it doesn't paint a very flattering picture of lawyers. Or at least some lawyers. I don't suppose I am one of them.

20 January 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder...(I hope)

It's been awhile, and the blog has been neglected. There are a myriad of reasons, same as anyone's I suppose, work has been a bit crazy which causes me to be tired when I get home and not terribly anxious to sit on the computer, and most importantly, G's been really sick, and after two weeks of doctor's appointments and emergency procedures, she's on the mend, and we are all a little more relaxed as a result. That's a nicer way to be.

So, in the spirit of good health, G and I have had a busy weekend watching her brother's kids and visiting family and watching the Patriot's scrape together a win. (Green Bay's on now... good times.)

But while I have not been posting, or taking many photos, I have captured a few food tests...

First up...

There is a restaurant back home called Zio's where they make an amazing Artichoke Spinach Pasta. Yum. So I have been trying to figure out how to recreate it at home. I made an attempt while G was in her "fasting" mode, since she hates creamy pastas...

I made it with the President's Choice artichoke spinach dip, which I heated with a tiny bit of broth while mixing with the penne. I then took a chicken breast, pounded it out, sprinkled on some dried basil and oregano, some paprika, and salt and pepper and cooked it in the pan. I cut up the chicken and mixed it in.

Verdict? Unh. It was okay. It was WAYYYY to thick, but you know, it was a good first effort at a recreation.

Next up... Roast Chicken dinner. Once again, G and I wanted to have a nice roast chicken, so off to get the organic chicken breasts on the bone (which made me feel grown-up!) and away we went. This was pretty standard, in terms of traditional sides. We made a little bit of bread stuffing, some mashed squash and
roast carrots.

I used some of our mushrooms in the stuffing, and it made a really nice little stuffing, though it stuck wickedly to the pan. The stuffing is also a work in progress.
I am no good at it. I put in day old bread cubes (which were too big), an egg, some chicken broth, sauteed mushrooms and onion, poultry seasoning and pepper. The egg was a bit too much for the amount of bread so it was more like a bread pudding. Weird. I'll keep trying, though.

After G's procedure, she really wanted hot dogs. I had gotten some really nice organic beef hot dogs, and bought some nice buns on the way home from work. G sauteed some red pepper and onion, and away we went.

I bought some baked Lay's, which are made with potato flakes, so oooh yuck, but they were tasty and were the sacrifice we made for two women in their late 30's having a hot dog dinner at 8pm.

Then came tonights dinner... one of my standards...

In the cookbook, Forever Summer, Nigella Lawson has a recipe for Baked Pasta Shells with Spinach. These are amazing. If you haven't ever made them, you should. I have altered her recipe to make it even easier...

I take a tub of ricotta, mix it with 2 beaten eggs and some parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. I then stir in some chopped spinach. I take the passata in the bottle and I pour a tiny bit in the pan, without doctoring it up like she does in the recipe. From there, I stuff the shells (tonight I used dried canneloni shells) and then top with more passata straight from the jar and then sprinkle on parmesan. Cover and pop in the oven (375) for 30 minutes, open her up and cook for another 15. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and eat her up.

Otherwise, we anticipate things getting a little bit more normal around these parts. G is feeling much better, and having her more positive helps us both immeasurably. We were really worried that something even more serious was wrong, and as it affected G's stomach, we really just tried to keep the food as a non-focus. But all seems better (knock on wood).

06 January 2008

New Year's Day Snowstorm!

As we were waiting to ring in the New Year, the snow began to fall. By the time we walked home, it was a downright snow storm! I was freezing when we got home, so we bundled in to warm clothes and went straight to bed! In the morning, the world had turned white.

These photos are taken out the window of our office. It was really beautiful.

(Please note I have made a couple of posts today, so please scroll down if you care.)

New Year's Eve Dinner.

Our initial plan for New Year's Eve was to sit tight at home and relax. But family called and we ended up ringing in the New Year with G's brother and sister-in-law and their three excellent kids. Before heading out, G made a lovely dinner of braised beef ribs, polenta and green beans.

It was really a nice meal that warmed us right up for a night sitting out in the cold at Nathan Phillips Square. Good fun!

This picture was take when it was still possible to skate at the Square. That quickly changed as the whole area filled up with revellers!

It was a good time and a nice way to end 2007. I haven't reflected much on this blog about the past year. I suppose it was a bit of the whole picture this year, some very high highs and some very low lows, but I made it. And at the end of the day, that's pretty darn good!

New Year's Eve Tea.

Ah. Few things make me more happy than a lovely afternoon tea. And since I have limited afternoon tea experience, I know of no other way than fresh made scones with clotted cream, rose petal jam, marmalade and lovely English tea.

I have been jonesing to try clotted cream at home, but have always been a bit intimidated by what seemed to be a difficult proposition. But then stepped in Donna Hay and it all became clearer (or should I say, creamier?).

The recipe was simple: Take 3 cups of double cream and bake in the oven in a baking dish covered with foil for 8 hours at 175 degrees. That's right, 8 hours. Then, take out of oven, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. All that was the straightforward part.

Or so I thought. I couldn't find true double cream, so I used the heaviest whipping cream I could find. Donna Hay said that when you take the clotted cream out of the refrigerator, there will be a crispy layer that you scrape off and then take all the clotted cream underneath and put into a bowl. Well, I had no crispy layer, only a thick layer of cream and blue-ish water underneath. My cream wasn't high fat enough, but it still made quite a bit of clotted cream.

(We had tea in our sunroom... it was VERY sunny for a December day!)

After realizing that my clotted cream was a success, I hurriedly went about making scones. I found a recipe from Cooking Light magazine online that made really lovely scones, very quickly. You can see them in the photo at the top, or here...

They look alot like regular biscuits, but they had a really nice scone-y flavour.

To round out our tea, we finally broke open the rose petal jelly I bought at Fortnum & Mason this past October. I love Rose Petal Jelly. So it was with great pleasure that we opened that and the lovely orange marmalade from France.

We sat down, still in our pj's, ready to partake in our beautiful bounty when we realized that it was a holiday and our friend P who lives upstairs would be home. So we made the call and down he came. Tea for two became tea for four. What a delightful way to ring out the old year.

So although it may be a little late... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


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