25 October 2008

This just in...

The new cat's name has been changed to Bean.

(And I have made lots of posts today... so keep scrolling down even after you are so bored you want to scream...)

Birthday Festivities!

It was recently my birthday. Yep, I am a year older. Hopefully a year wiser. It's been a good year in most respects. I have a great job, a happy relationship, good friends, and the desire to keep going, so really, it's been a successful year.

For my birthday, G treated me to the best gift of all. The gift of the NFL!

That's right, for my birthday, G found a tour package that basically drives you to Buffalo in a coach, you get to have a tail-gate party, AND you get tickets to see the Buffalo Bills. Now, I am a Patriots fan, don't get me wrong, but I was thrilled to get to see an NFL game in person! AND a tail-gate party! Woo hoo! (I've got lots of layers on in this photo, but it wasn't that cold, really. I was quite comfortable...)

How was the food?

See for yourself... here's my lunch plate...

I had a hamburger, pasta salad, potato salad and green salad. YUM! We also had beer, but I didn't really drink any. They also had sausages... as per G's plate below...

I took some photos of the prep...

This was the area of our tail gate party. There were tail-gaters ABSOLUTELY everywhere. It was completely insane.

There's the sausages cooking up...

You got to grab your own salads, which was nice. Really, the food was delicious. It wasn't gourmet, but it didn't need to be. We walked around, looked at all the booths, got some free Smart Water, and sat through the game... The game was brilliant. Lots of fun... (And the Bills won!)

See for yourself...

(This guys hat was plastic, and a real crowd pleaser!)

If you ever feel like going to a game and you are in the GTA, this is the way to do it! The company, Toursport, also does hockey games, and really, they plan for everything. On the way home, you can just sit back and relax and let someone else drive! It's fantastic! (And probably one of the best birthday gifts ever.)

Restaurants By the Office.

We had going away drinks after work recently because one of the team was moving on to different pastures. We went to a sports bar nearby and ordered an assortment of pub food...

This was the assortment platter. Aren't you glad that I explained that to you? It might not have been clear... ha ha. There were onion rings, nachos, wings, cheese sticks... sheesh! If it was fried it was on this platter!

I ordered my old college days favorite, potato skins...

They were really heavy, but delicious! :)

It was sad to see my co-worker go. The office is not the same, but I am happy that she has found something that she really wants to be doing... go her!

Anyway, after a semi-late night at work, G met me at the office since she was out and about at a work function, as well. We ate at this Indian restaurant nearby called Jaaadu. I had never been there, but it looked warm and inviting...

We ordered a few different things...

Lamb Malaidar, a rich lamb stew with spinach...

And Mattar Paneer...

And Chicken Biriyani...

Okay, so the sauce on the lamb dish was OUT OF THIS WORLD. It was so delightfully flavourful in a way that I can't begin to explain but could eat buckets of. It was so fantastic.

The mattar paneer was strangely sweet. The paneer was good, but the sauce was incredibly thick... really unpleasantly so.

And the star of the show was the chicken biriyani. It was unbelievably delicious. The chicken was really perfectly cooked, the rice was flavourful, the egg was lovely (and eaten by the time this photo was snapped!)... just really enjoyable in every way. I had biriyani at a restaurant in West Ealing (just outside of London, UK) that was the best I had ever had. This biriyani really hit that mark. I certainly enjoyed the dinner and would go back, and I would love to get the biriyani for takeaway one day for lunch.

When the Cat's Away...

I have been going back and forth between my "old" camera and my "new" camera based on what I am up to, so I keep finding all of these things that I have yet to post about... so I decided to do a hodgepodge of things that have yet to be posted...

While G was in Israel, I decided to try some new things. Oddly, my new things are often variations on my old things, but whatever. In the spirit of new things, I really wanted to try to make a baked eggs. But I didn't want to bake them. So instead, I took some leftover canned chopped tomato that I had in the fridge, added some spice, cooked the moisture out and added two eggs. Once they were cooked (over-cooked, I admit sheepishly), I grated some white cheddar on them, which made the eggs look very albino.

I then served them on top of corn tortillas on top of beans. It was like a huevos ranchero. It was... okay. I think the tomatoes either needed to cook longer or needed more spices added. They still tasted kind of tinny. The beans were excellent, as beans almost always are, and the eggs just needed to have been cooked a bit less. BUT, it was a good try...

I know I've mentioned it before, but I really do love almost all things pork related. And I also love all things baked pasta related. So this recipe, Baked Pasta with Spinach, Ricotta and Prosciutto from Martha Stewart really seemed to fit the bill...

And I emphasize, it SEEMED to fit the bill. First things first. I didn't like the idea of the prosciutto in the pasta, so I used cooked bacon to which I also added some garlic. And I bought frozen spinach from Whole Foods that was so stringy it was really fairly vile. And I added a little bit of chopped tomato to the mix to liven it up. But it was still fairly bland. I wouldn't make this one again... but if you try it, let me know. It just wasn't that great, to be honest, but it has potential. I much prefer Nigella Lawson's baked ricotta pasta shells. I find that with the really cheesey pasta, you need some tomato sauce to cut through the richness... And if you want to know how much I didn't like it... I threw away the leftovers. Which never happens.

We also had our 'it's fall so it's chili' chili.

There are so many different ways to eat chili. I love chili and rice, and have even been known to enjoy a chili on spaghetti. But my all time favorite chili accompaniment really has to be chili with crackers and cheese. It's how we ate it when I was kid, and it's how I prefer them now.

This Sunday, we are moving away from the chili and I am going to make bbq chicken. I made a version at the cottage, but I am going to do it a bit differently tomorrow... stay tuned for that!

And then, there was the most excellently amazing lasagna that I made...

Whoa. Yeah. That's pretty good. I made it pretty similar to how my Mom does, browned meat with crushed tomatoes, lots of herbs, onion and garlic. Cook for about an hour to really thicken it up. I used President's Choice fresh lasagna sheets, which you don't boil (and they completely ruled). Then I just layered sauce with cheese and noodles. Pretty typical.

Nothing overly complicated, really, but everything delicious. G raved about it for days, and we greedily ate the leftovers!

23 October 2008

18 October 2008

Kicking it Old School.

Ever so often I get the desire to kick it old school. And I do mean kick it.

This happened with my leftovers. I really wanted to have turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey. But I wanted to do it the old fashioned way. So I found a recipe that used cream of chicken soup, mushrooms, and cheese, ended up combining two recipes to get what I wanted, and away I went.

Basically, you cook about half a box of spaghetti that you have broken into pieces. While that's cooking, you mix a can of cream of chicken soup, a little milk and sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper together. Cook some mushrooms, mix with peas, and put into wet mixture. Stir in chopped turkey and drained spaghetti. Sprinkle on a little bit more cheddar cheese and bake.

Really good.

The picture on the other hand is blurry. I can't seem to sort out the new camera. I need help.

Rookie cat, Veteran Cat.

Today, G got a new cat. Okay, WE got a new cat. But it was all G's idea. She's been really wanting another cat, though I am worried that it's really going to upset Bello and make him lose all his happiness and sweetness.

See... Bello is a bit the king of the castle...

Okay, he may be the king of sleep, but you get the drift.

The new cat is just the princess of cute.

Come on. She's pretty dang cute. And she doesn't have a new name yet, so I just keep calling her girl cat. I am sure Bello will adjust. We're supposed to be keeping them separate, but that's not going so well. She has absolutely no interest in him, but he's following her around. It's very strange. I guess for her it's all new and she's checking it out. For him, there's an interloper moving about his house and he's not sure what to make of it.


I know I have said it before, but one of the great things about living in Canada and being American is that you get to have TWO (count 'em TWO) Thanksgivings.

Thanksgiving this year was a very low-key affair. We had dinner on Sunday at a friend of G's, and it was quite lovely and traditional. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole. It was all good, with good company and I enjoyed it immensely.

G was under the very large misapprehension that this dinner would quench my desire for Thanksgiving dinner. How wrong she was. So on Thanksgiving Monday, I made a turkey, wild rice stuffing, potatoes, green beans, and homemade cranberry sauce. G's parents and her brother Neal came over to join us, and it was a really nice time.

It's all there, and look at all that veg. Go me! I overcooked my turkey by a solid half hour but the beauty of cooking it in the oven roast bag is it that it didn't matter! The turkey stayed moist and delicious!

Hang on, let me back up. We buy those oven roast turkey bags. I can't find the kind online that we use, but you can find them at the grocery store. Essentially, you shake the bag with flour, put in the turkey, add some veg if you wanna, and seal her up and put her in the oven. You never baste the turkey, you never need to add extra butter or oil (we didn't add any this time, even before it went in the bag in order to see if it was missed, and it wasn't!), and the turkey gets nice and brown, juicy inside, and it's really fantastic.

I want to try brining a turkey and I wonder how that will work in the bag, all that brine just recirculating in the bag.... mmmmm....

Anyway, I made the wild rice stuffing, which was very good. We had lots of leftovers, so after taking some out for two lunches, I froze the rest to have one day when we roast a chicken or something. And the cranberry sauce was amazing. G's dad loved it!

The next day, I fulfilled my fantasy of making the mythical Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich.

Oh yeah! Turkey, mashed potato, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Yum. This was a really good sandwich, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in such things.

The pumpkin cookies? Meh. They weren't flavourful and I doubled the amount of spice. But they were pretty...

Otherwise, it was a good thanksgiving! We are going to go to the Democrats Abroad's US Thanksgiving dinner this year, which I am very excited about! And then I plan on making another Thanksgiving dinner. But this one might be beef. Stay tuned....


We were camera shopping some time ago and stumbled into the B Espresso Bar and breakfasteria. G had wanted to go there for some time, and since we happenstanced our way there, we went on in.

It was so nice!

It's quite nice inside. Simple. Clean. It's cozy in an Ikea way, but really very nice.

We ordered the special of the morning (and I think it was about $8)...

This was delicious. Eggs on bread with lovely lovely ham and brie, a side of frite-y potatoes, tomato with pesto and dill creme fraiche.

Weird. That picture looks totally upside down, though I suppose there's not a right-side up when it comes to food.

Anyway... it was very good and a very comfortable place to enjoy a quiet breakfast on a Saturday.
I recommend it...

13 October 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Canadian Thanksgiving, which means that we are embarking on the first of the turkey feasts of the fall/winter months.  We went to a friend's house for turkey dinner last night, and then came home at 10:30 and I made pumpkin cookies and fresh cranberry sauce.  Good times!  

This morning, I made Wild Rice and Sausage stuffing (with beef boerwors) and the turkey is in the oven.  I need to ice the cookies (which, as the comments suggest on the link above, need far more spice than the recipe calls for), start the mashed potatoes, and clean the green beans.  It's all coming along nicely.  

Small dinner today, G's parents are coming so we're not going crazy with the meal.  But it's good times all the way around.  Pics to follow.

11 October 2008


In the on-going saga of restaurants in the hood, Mom and I also ate at Sambuca's while she was here.

Mom ordered the spaghetti arrabiata. It was so crazy spicy!!!

It was a nice looking plate of food, though. I think it was way too spicy for her, though, but she did manage to eat it.

I had the thing there I love the most. The penne ala vodka.

This pasta is always really amazing. It has leeks and bacon, chicken, tangy creamy tomato sauce. It just really hits all the right buttons for me! It's really good and such a satisfyingly large bowl of pasta!

Mom had never had creme brulee before. Shocked, I insisted we order it, as it is my favorite dessert and the one at Sambuca's is particularly nice.

It was a hit.

Il Fornello.

Over on Church Street, we have our own branch of the popular restaurant, Il Fornello. I think the restaurant had a bit of a boom after Barbara Streisand said they had the best pizza at her Toronto concert, and it's certainly popular in our neck of the woods.

We don't go there very often because it's kind of expensive and G isn't so keen on their food. So imagine our surprise when we ended up there twice in one week!

1st up was dinner with our friend RK. We'd been trying to make plans to see her for forever, and we finally were able to set a dinner date. G's been having lots of troubles with her feet, so she didn't want to go too far from home, so I suggested Il Fornello and RK agreed.

First up, caesar salad. The picture didn't come out. But it was okay. It didn't have the delicious bite that the caesar at Byzantium has, but it was okay. The bottom line about the salad, you guessed it! It was okay.

I ordered the chicken parmesan. I was intrigued because it was baked and not fried OR breaded, which in retrospect, wasn't as good as it should have been. It's fine when I am making it at home, because I don't often fry things, but when I eat out, if it's not going to be fried to perfection, then it really needs to be spectacular otherwise. And this wasn't.

As you can see, it was positively drowning in parmesan. Which just made the overcooked and undersauced pasta underneath turn stodgy. And normally I really like cheesey. But the chicken was actually pretty nice, with a lot of toasted cheesieness on top. A little smattering of pesto gave it a fresh taste. But overall, not so hot. I could have made this at home and it would have tasted pretty dang close to this.

RK had the chicken satay pizza.

Well. This photo is hazy. (Sorry, still getting the hang of the new camera.) And the pizza was not good but you couldn't stop eating it. I don't know if this ever happens to you, where you have something to eat that you don't particuarly like but at the same time it's so utterly more-ish that you can't stop eating it. This was that.

BUT, last year when my Mom was here we ate at Il Fornello and Mom loved it so she asked if we could go there again. So of course, we did!

G ordered this lamb pasta that sounded weird. But it was amazing. It reminded me of the pasta I had Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen.

The lamb was basically wrapped up in the pasta sheet. I don't quite get the corn, but other than that it was absolutely delicious. It was one of the local menu items, and it was truly spectacular.

I decided to have the pizza. Not the satay, don't be crazy. I had the sausage.

Meh. It didn't change my life. I ate it. It was fine. I wouldn't order it again, though.

So there it is. A tale of a few dishes at Il Fornello on Church Street. It's a nice atmosphere. The food is passable and can be really good. And it's close to home, so I am sure we will eat there again some day.

07 October 2008

Meme Me.

Chanelle at Making Food. Eating Food. has this great meme, so I thought I would go forth and answer the questions...


with a name like jennifer, you know you're all original, baby! actually though, my middle name is from both my maternal and paternal grandmothers.

this morning. i cry a freakin' ton. it's a total embarrassment.

sure do!

nope. no faves. i'd rather not have a lunch meat sandwich.

does my cat Bello count?

the other person that is me would think the me that is really me is a total snob (even though the real me knows that I am not)



i am a girl with trust issues, so no.

ummm. crunchberries, count chocula, apple jacks, lucky charms. yes, i am five.


like an ox!

b&j's cookie dough.

that they're there.

red or pink what?

my insecurity.

my family in ok.

i am barefoot, but today i wore black clogs (i have a broken toe and need wide toed shoes right now)

hamburger and fries for $6.50 burger night.

the sound of silence (i just turned the debate off because i couldn't take it anymore)


clean laundry. my cat. my mom. garlic.

my brother, david.

football and soccer. (so i guess football and football.)


deep deep brown.

no, but i wear bifocals sometimes.

mac n cheese, risotto, cheese, hamburgers, etc etc.

no scary movies.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall.


i am an autumn girl.

why limit yourself?

creme brulee.

i can't remember the title, but i bought it at Chapters in the bargain bin.


i didn't.


the beatles, i suppose.




Your turn.

04 October 2008

Fall Get-Aways...

Ah, fall.

And what better way to say "HELLO!" to fall than a quick trip to the spa/inn for a lovely two day get-away with your way-cool Mom? (I don't know about you, but I can't think of a better way...)

My Mom was visiting from the great state of Oklahoma AND it was her brithday. I was trying to think of something kind of special to do, and I was hitting some roadblocks. Then my friends from upstairs had recommended the Millcroft Inn and and Spa in Alton, and I had to look into it.

The website makes it look gorgeous (which I do understand is the job of the website!), and when we got there, my ticklebone was fancied by all of the fall foliage...

And the pumpkins...

And beautiful scenery...

The Millcroft is a bit of an odd fellow. We got there (after realizing that their google map directions took you to the right street in the wrong town!) and checked in a the lovely little main building. I had opted to book Mom and I into the "Crofts", which are little two-story rooms with fireplaces and a back patio. The patio is lovely...

But the way TO the rooms is a wee bit sketchy. I didn't take a picture, but we parked the car and walked to the side of the Spa towards the croft building. And it just looks like this kind of dank apartment complex. We thought you couldn't go through the pool, so we were walking around this little bizarre walk-through because our croft was the second to the last one of the lot.

Imagine our PLEASANT surprise to open the door and find that the room was quite lovely! And super cozy. I couldn't wait to get back in the evening so that we could have a fire and relax in the lovely suite. The room had a good-sized bathroom with towel heater, lots of glasses (including wine glasses), and a lovely little room upstairs with windows and cd's of local artists. Mom opted to sleep on the sofa bed downstairs because she didn't want to climb the stairs (she's not supposed to climb stairs as a result of the issues with her heart), which I didn't really think about when I booked. I just liked the idea that there were two separate sleeping arrangements so that we could both have some space!

What I did think of was the Millcroft dining services. As part of a lot of the room packages, you are given a dinner voucher for a three course dinner at their dining room. They also have the option of upgrading that to a tasting menu. I knew that Mom had never done a tasting menu before, and I thought that this wold be a nice opportunity to start. So I booked us in!

When we arrived, we were seated in the main dining room. And it was empty. I mean, completely devoid of any people. But they have a "pod" room that is enclosed in glass with fairy lights and quite nice. And it was right across from us, with a few people in it.

The waitress came over and asked us if we'd like to move into the pod? I of course said yes! And we moved on over...

Much nicer.

I had asked Mom if she was nervous about the tasting menu, and I think she was a bit. This is one where you are both given the same thing (so you are SOL if you don't like it), and there is no menu given so you can't dread a certain course. Mom and I are not the MOST adventurous food eaters, but we are game to give things a go. And the dinner started.

Our amuse bouche was a chilled cucumber soup, which I do not have a picture of. It was fine. Really cucumber-y, which to me ends up tasting like body lotion, but it was lovely. Our next course was a Braised Leek with house Double-Smoked Bacon and Parmesan Shavings.

This was really really nice. The leeks were cool and really sweet, where as the double-smoked back added a nice sharpness and saltiness. And the parmesan and green salad was very fresh tasting. (Mom had never had leeks before, and she cleaned her plate, so I think it was good!)

From there we had roasted asparagus with a phyllo parcel of cheese and some peach something or other.

Mom had said when the waiter left that she was not a fan of asparagus at all. But when she tried this, she really liked it! I think part of it was because it was roasted, which really makes it sweet and delcious. The parcel was really nice, but I gave a pass on the peach salsa. It was a dumb addition, in my book. I am not a huge fan of fruit with meals, and when it comes to things like fruit salsas, I am all manner of thumbs-down. This was no exception.

Then came the foie gras course.

And honestly, I was dreading this moment. I do not like foie gras. But I am always game to try it. This looked like it may be okay, it was really charred on the outside, but it was almost raw on the inside, and in the dim light, it was just turning my stomach. I was worried Mom would be grossed out, but she tried it, tried it again, and then set it to the side of her plate. The ravioli and tomato couli was AMAZING. Really fresh and delicious. More bacon, which never hurt anyone (except my Mom who is supposed to be on a low-salt diet) and just an overall great experience except for the foie. No foie. No foie. No foie.

Our waiter was really nice, and didn't even roll his eyes when we ordered diet coke and tap water instead of wine. Mom can't drink alcohol because of the medication she takes, and I a) wasn't going to drink alone and b) don't drink when I am taking allergy medicine due to the headache situation. So we soldiered on with acutally really delicious diet coke! Their mix was really spot on.

Our next course was a chocolate-pumpkin foam...

It looked like poo but tasted like chocolate and the outside of the pumpkin. Not sweet at all, but really refreshing. It had toasted sunflower seeds on top, which I really could have lived without.

Then it was the main course. I had worried that this course would be lamb because I know that Mom really doesn't like lamb. Imagine my surprise...


I didn't know what Mom was going to do. She'd said earlier in the week that she was unwilling to try duck, so I thought we might have hit an impasse. It was served on a bed of pumpkin gnocchi and vegetables. The thing in the corner is crispy fried skin.

Well? MOM LOVED IT! She thought the duck was amazing, and ate every bite of the food on her plate. It was great!

Then we had a cheese course with a cheese that was too strong...

The best part of this was the chai soaked plum. Yum. I could have eaten that twice over and then eaten it again. It was great. The cheese was a blue and it was just too strong.

Then dessert. And the dreaded panna cotta.

And a really nice ice cream. No panna cotta for me, but yeah on the ice cream.

All in all, this was a really nice dinner. Mom and I had the opportunity to discuss our favorite foods and food memories, and I realized that that is something that we had never done before. I don't know why I am so interested in food and food culture, but I am, and it was great to discuss food memories with Mom. We walked back to the croft, full, satisfied, and pretty darn proud of ourselves. Mom had gotten to try things that she would never have tried if it hadn't just been presented to her, and she says she really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and would likely do it again!

What I didn't take any photos of was the spa. But man alive, I had the pumpkin and apple body wrap, and it was great. But I felt like Ralph from the Simpsons because I said to the woman doing the treatment, "I smell like pie." But I did. Good times, the spa is smallish, only one shower in the bathroom (that should be wiped out more often), but the treatment rooms are lovely and I enjoyed my Indian Head Massage and Pumpkin wrap.

Just a few more pics of the pretty surroundings...

(You can see on the left of this picture the little glassed in area. That's the pod where you have dinner... and you look down over this...)


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