Archive for September, 2011

I have been blogging since 2007! My first blog was just to document a momentous renovation of our 1928 home, adding about 100 square feet to our kitchen — it actually turned out to be more of a place to vent, we had a very tumultuous relationship with our contractor. And after that blog ended, I realized how much I liked doing it, so I started my kitchen blog — everything to do with our new kitchen and travels and food. It was only recently I realized how much fun it is to have actual readers that comment! I know I have had followers, but they have tended to be ‘voyeurs’ (I still love you!) who just read but not comment; that’s OK too, but WOW, the feedback and accolades are amazing! Even if I’ve had a bad day, feel like crap and hate what I see in the mirror, I know I can check on my blog to see your wonderful comments. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I particularly love it that our small community is really from ALL OVER the world — virtual brothers and sisters.

Well, by the title must have you curious by now. I have been awarded my FIRST award, the Versatile Blogger by Kristy (thank you, thank you, thank you!) at Our Family Food Adventures. Kristy has a marvelous blog about sharing food adventures in and out of the kitchen with her lovely family. She and her hubby Mike (who blogs too) involve their two young kids in every aspect of the cooking experience (much like my wonderful Mom did about a billion years ago!).  Yesterday it was Kristy’s birthday, so please join me in wishing her a very happy birthday. Thank you, Kristy for such a lovely award and recognition! And my very first! Sooooo excited :-)!!!

Now the rules of the award are that I have to list 7 things about myself that you wouldn’t otherwise know and pass the award along to 15 other bloggers.

  1. I am first generation Canadian born of  immigrant Hungarian parents.
  2. I can speak, read and write Hungarian but I am rather rusty with my vocabulary (mainly from not using it often) having said that, I can do it better than French which I took until first year University (French is Canada’s second language – compulsory to take in school from 4 grade to 9th grade)
  3. I was born in Toronto but have lived in Montreal and New York City as a youngster.
  4. My Dad was a puppeteer (Jim Henson offered him a job in New York, which he turned down, opting to stay in Toronto and run his own puppet company) —  when I was  8, I played an angel in a Christmas puppet show – Dad held me up to the height of the puppet stage and I waved my magic wand around.
  5. When I was 12 I emceed a puppet show, there were 5,000 people in the audience. I said “um” too many times.
  6. Everyone thinks I am still in my 30’s! I haven’t been for quite some time now! I can’t figure out if I look young, or just act immature ;-)!
  7. I have a bit of thing for pretty, high heeled shoes and boots; I have over 50 pairs! I’m supposed to purge one pair with every new purchase, but I cannot bring myself to do it. It’s a curse!

So there, you now know these weird little things about me. Now to name 15 bloggers to receive this coveted award – sadly I don’t know 15 bloggers, but I am working on it; predictably, most of the wonderful bloggers I have chosen have received this award before, but I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t receive it again! Also, this is in no order, just a list. Thank you for all your lovely comments and blog entries. I really do enjoy reading every word of them!

  1. Ann of Cooking Healthy for Me because she really got me started on commenting on people’s blogs—I just never thought to do it. Ann’s wonderful blog is a journey of getting healthy by changing the way she cooks. She’s an inspiration and proof that you don’t have to be on a ‘diet’ to eat properly and that healthy food is tasty and beautiful. For the first little while I thought her blog was called Cooking Healthy Forme!
  2. Greg and Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide Greg and Katherine document their food adventures, their posts always bring a smile on or a little chuckle.
  3. Charles at Five Euro Food I love his blog because of the thriftiness of his recipes. Always good to keep in mind in these tough economic times.
  4. John at from the Bartolini Kitchen his blog is true to the cooking traditions of his family. I love that he is documenting these wonderful recipes!
  5. Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella who has proven without a doubt that one can make a lovely living from blogging. She has such a friendly writing style.
  6. Manu at Manu’s Menu has a wonderful blog and often inspires me to cook something similar.
  7. Sawsan at Chef in Disguise is an accomplished cook — she inspired me to make croissants this weekend (I have already started – I’m taking the long drawn out approach). I’ll blog about the results — IF they turn out!
  8. Jessica at KitchenBelleicious has a beautiful, cleanly designed blog that is easy to read. The recipes are formatted beautifully.
  9. Kelly at Inspired Edibles blog takes a nutritious approach to blogging. I like to keep health in mind even when hosting dinner parties.

Thank you, again, Kristy for this honour — I am truly touched!

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Toronto has a diverse cultural population and we love it. For example, did you know that Toronto has the largest Italian population next to Rome? We have Little Italy, Little India, Greektown, Korea Town, Chinatown, well you get my drift. When you enter these small areas (sometimes only one street, or two or three blocks) you are transformed from being in big city Toronto to being in Italy or even India! We are indeed very fortunate to be able to live safely, peacefully and embrace our diverse cultures. We LOVE this, particularly the FOOD!

Very close to where I work, there are a couple of Vietnamese restaurants; we sometimes go to a place called Asia 21. It’s not pretty, but the food is fresh and good and family run; the only bad side is that they only take cash, and they are not licensed (somehow this type of food does not pair well with wine anyway, but I still love it!) I am addicted to Phô, a clear beef broth with very thinly sliced rare beef, rice noodles and herbs; it’s ‘Happy food’ or Vietnamese comfort food. I totally get it, I can eat this for every meal, every day! Sadly, there is so MUCH salt in the restaurant versions that I swell up like a dirigible on Superbowl Sunday — not a pretty site! We’ve started making our own so we can control the salt. I must say, I like it even better. The temperatures in Toronto couldn’t be less like soup weather…but I have to say, I have missed my Phô! It’s humid and unseasonably warm, NOT complaining! JT made an excellent Phô last night, and I had it for lunch today (did I mention that I can eat this EVERY DAY?). We’ve adapted Canadian Living’s Beef Phô (click for original recipe) A delicately fragrant beef broth, with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise. It’s really a flavour explosion in your mouth. We season it with fresh mint, cilantro and thai basil. I also add hoisin sauce (sweet) and Sriracha Sauce (hot, they call it Asian Catsup). My mouth is watering as I type this on my iPad (sitting at the island in the kitchen while JT cooks up another specialty, Israeli Couscous and Grilled Shrimp). YUM! I am a very fortunate woman.


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We’ve finally been able to book my best friend from university, Kim and my ‘birthday pedicures’! I say, finally, because our birthdays were in July (she is 11 days older than I — and yes, I take it where I can get it!) and we have both been so busy, we haven’t had a chance to plan something! She and hubby Mike are coming over Saturday morning, we’ll have a coffee first so they can see our new landscaping and then Kim and I will walk up to the village for our pedi’s. The guys will probably walk over to High Park (High Park is about 400 acres and is about a 15 minute walk from our house). It’s a little like Central Park in NYC; it has some wildlife, lots of vegetation and a couple of ponds. It’s a beautiful piece of nature in the middle of the city! About an hour later, we’ll meet for lunch in the village; we haven’t decided whether it’s Italian at Villa or Japanese yet. Villa serves gluten free pizza crusts and breads!

I wanted to make us a little treat to enjoy after lunch but Kim is gluten intolerant so my options are somewhat limited; I follow Elana’s Pantry from Colorado, she has Celiac disease and therefore has dedicated her entire blog to Gluten Free. She has a lot of very tasty and unexpected treats. Like Elana, I refuse to make two dishes when Kim and Mike come over, so whatever we have that is gluten free needs to be tasty enough that we will ALL enjoy it! I came across this recipe quite some time ago and decided immediately that I want to make them: Espresso Fudge Brownies. Elana developed the recipe, and due to my inexperience with Gluten Free ingredients, I shall not alter it one bit. Please click here for the link to her blog.

OK, first things first. Meet Iona, she is my Mom’s mixer. My Mom’s mixer is likely older than I, and older than most of you, respected readers! I remember making all sorts of things with this mixer; the motor whining as it was stressed with the dough of cookies, breads or cakes! I’m actually quite surprised she still works — but they did make things to last, in those days! I am glad, though — she brings back a lot of great memories. Shout out to our neighbour Iona, I bet you never thought a mixer was named after you! 😉

This is my Mother's mixer, likely older than I (and out of respect, I won't say!)

The recipe was very easy to follow, and I had all the ingredients on hand (mind you, I did not need to be vegan, so I used standard non-vegan ingredients). Basically it was one bowl and a few utensils. I prepared the tin as suggested, easily poured the batter into the pan and put it in the oven for the 25-30 minutes. At 5 minutes I tested the centre with a cake tester and it came out clean. Done. Great. I let it sit for one hour before I tried to turn it out. See I FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS. I turned it out and , WHAM, the inner circle did not release and remained firmly positioned in the centre of the pan. UGH. I tried putting it back together but it looked like a dogs breakfast. What to do, what to do?

Below is the pan of brownies before the inner circle betrayed me. This is when I decided that Trifle was the only respectable thing to do! The deep rich chocolatey brownies, a hint of espresso, some strawberry preserves, a little freshly whipped cream. Yes, I think this could work.

Brownies in the pan (before they collapsed!)

This is the Trifle I threw together as a bit of a tester. We had tasters last night and they were deemed very yummy. Yes, even I tried some. Tomorrow I’ll have to run twice as long on the tread mill! Damn you, damn brownies!

English Trifle

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We live in a small area into Toronto called Bloor West Village. It is still considered part of the city, but it’s not down town! We are about a 10 minute drive to downtown, or 20 minute subway ride, or 30 minute bike ride…you get where I’m going with this — we are very much in the city of Toronto. But, for some reason, this little part of the city has remained a ‘little village’…it doesn’t feel like we’re in a major, international city.

We have a 1928 craftsman style brick home. It’s not large by North American standards, but it suites us perfectly. We absolutely LOVE this house. We don’t have a large lot, but it’s enough to have some nice landscaping, a back patio lounge and a wonderful little dining area. It’s a pie shaped lot, 59 feet (18 metres) across the front and 17 feet (5 metres) across the back. One would think a pie shaped lot would be difficult to landscape, but it does offer very interesting design opportunities. The 18 metre front sounded like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, not so much! In Toronto, the side walk is our responsibility and shoveling it in the winter is NO FUN!

The landscaping project started in my head about 10 years ago (when we bought the house). We had dreamed of a large natural stone hedge holding back the earth on the north side where we’ve enlarged the driveway (cars in the 1920’s were not as wide as they are now!); we dreamed that the grass was all gone (grass does not grow on shady lots!) and that large natural stone would accent the front like you see in so many magazines. English ivy (yes, I do love my English ivy) would fill the land where grass once was, and a gorgeous hedge of pink hydrangeas would cascade over a stone wall on the south side. And, that there would be a new path and steps built from the front porch to the sidewalk (since everyone cuts across the lawn anyway).

10 years ago it was a dream, but today, reality! We came up with the plan and the guys at SMS landscaping did a great job, bringing our vision to reality; they even made a few suggestions that we loved! And I wasn’t expecting to get lighting into the budget! Woohoo!

We bought a beautiful Japanese Cherry tree for the front (see little tree on the left side) but we’ve decided to wait until the spring to ‘fill in’ the remainder. For the back, we wanted some beautiful moss to fill the space between the new stone path to the shed, but holy cow, it’s darn expensive. So, this weekend at the cottage, we collected some lovely moss, and transplanted it in the backyard ourselves! Hard work, but I bet it saved us over $400! A small pot was $20 at the garden store. Crazy! I’m hoping the crazy raccoons didn’t uproot it all last night!
Here are some photos. I am so happy with the overall look!

The new path to the sidewalk

The back shed and the new path (with cottage moss) The dining area was there already

The cocktail Lounge Area (JT and I designed and built this two years ago). JT built the sectional (I made the cushions)

The back yard from the cocktail lounge area

The hors d’oeuvres I am featuring is Escargot en Choux – one of our HD’s we had at the cottage this past weekend. It is a rendition of escargot en brioche (escargot, garlic butter, parsley in a very tasty little brioche). I make the cheese choux pastries that I freeze and have available for appetizers as needed. The rest is so easy: about 1 tsp of unsalted butter, garlic, parsley, grated cheese (like Parmesan or Gruyere), salt and of course, 1 escargot per choux. Rince the escargot, set aside to dry. Mash the butter with all of the ingredients, but the escargot, and divide evenly to the choux. Stuff one escargot and some butter mash into each choux, bake for 10 minutes around 325°F and enjoy!

It’s hard to believe they are disgusting little garden snails. But damn tasty!

Escargot en Choux

Our view this morning; some leaves have already begun changing colour!

The view this morning

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Please excuse the roughness of this post, I’m typing it in on my lowly little iPhone 3Gs, sitting on the deck, at the cottage! Gotta LOVE technology!
It’s cottage closing weekend. This time of year is always so sad, marking the end of yet another summer. This year was not a good year for cottaging for me; counting this weekend, it’s only my second time up! I never like to be one of ‘those’ people who turn down city invitations because, ‘sorry, we’re going to the cottage!’ On the other hand, it was a very sociable summer!
I left work early so we could have cocktails at the cottage, HAH! The drive up was a joke! The ridiculous drive that usually takes three and a quarter hours took FIVE! FIVE EFFIN HOURS! Can you feel my frustration???? It was pouring rain the entire way up, which made it even worse. Did you ever notice that people are TOTAL IDIOTS on the road? Breathe, breathe, breathe! That martini sure tasted good!
The cottage is on a smallish spring-fed lake called Limerick Lake (spring-fed=bone chilling cold!). JTs grandfather bought the land in the early 1900’s; it took them 24 hours to come up: 1)Two trains, 2)Stage coach 3)row boat. The grandfather had a log cabin built on it. Back in those days Canadian Indians canoed across the lake. How cool is that? The grandfather then sold the cottage and the land in the early 1920’s and bought it back in the late 1940’s! JTs Dad and Dad’s sister shared it until the late 1960’s at which point, JTs Dad built his own Panabode cottage (http://www.panabodeloghomes.com) about a kilometer away as two families in an old log cabin was getting too cozy (the family owns about a hundred acres!). We had electricity put in about 20 years ago, prior to that we used a gas generator, a propane fridge and stove. It was pretty rustic. In the late-1960’s JTs dad built a boathouse with three slips and a two bedroom cabin above it that they used to use in the winter (no running water, chemical toilet, basic and ugly). 20 years ago, JTs dad had a road put in; before that we would keep a boat at the marina and boat in the 20 minute ride! It does sound romantic, but shlepping groceries and necessities from the car to the boat, then from the boat to the cottage was no fun!
About 15 years ago JT and I took over the boathouse; we put in a composting toilet, a small shower and a decent kitchen (it’s not legal to have septic over water). We call the boathouse The Upper Deck – I have some pics at this link if you’re interested. We tried renting it to friends a few years ago, and discovered we’re not renting types. We like our stuff just so. http://evaandjohntaylor.shutterfly.com/2383. Please don’t think it’s fancy, far from it! But I know for sure that we are fortunate to have access to it. JT and I own land across the bay from the family ‘compound’ and had thought about some day building our dream cottage on it, but the five and a half hour drive (and so many others like it) convinced us otherwise! Anyone interested in 33 gorgeous Canadian acres, 1300 feet of shoreline? No road access, yet!
Our lake is still remote; the closest store is about a 20 minute drive on a dirt road and it doesn’t really have things that I would want anyway (mostly canned goods!). You really have to plan your weekend, food, libations, etc. Once, I forgot cream cheese for our bagel and lox breakfast and the only thing we could get was sour cream and onion chip dip! It was ghastly!
JTs sister used to use the log cabin, but now that their 87 year old Dad no longer comes up, she’s taken over his cottage too. Her two adult kids use both the log cabin and the Panabode.
There are so many things that I like about our cozy little cabin, it’s hard to list them all; but my most favorite thing has to be that we are right on the water! And that it’s small enough to clean it from top to bottom in less than an hour.
Back to the matter at hand, Huevos rancheros: a recipe I developed after a similarly called dish at our local restaurant, Dr. Generosity (stupid name but good food).

heuvos rancheros

A delicious combination of flavours

Huevos Rancheros (updated September 2014)

Serves 2


  • 1/2 cup cooked navy beans (I like navy beans because they are so creamy)
  • 1/2 cup ground meat (we used turkey because it’s lowest in fat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion (we like Vidalia)
  • 1/4 cup sweet corn
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 soft poached eggs
  • Sour cream (we used fat free yogurt)
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 small ancient grain fajita shells warmed
  • Chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish.
  • 1 avocado, sliced


  1. In a splash of olive oil, fry the onions and garlic until translucent, add the ground meat and cook thoroughly.
  2. Add the spices and garlic and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Add the beans and corn and mix well, heat the beans through.
  4. Serve 1/2 the bean meat mix on one warmed fajita shell, with a poach egg on top. Garnish with chopped cilantro, sliced avocado and green onions.
  5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce.

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event Thursday night put on by Edward Pond http://www.edwardpond.com/, called Creative Chef, Tussle at the Temple http://www.creativechef.ca/ (Ed is a photographer we’ve worked with from time to time). It was held at Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village http://www.templekitchen.com/ (about a five minute walk from where I work!)
Ed put together a fund raising event for a local gallery; 12 ad exec’s cooking up a storm to be judged by real chefs, while we watched and cheered them on! The judges were celebs in their own right:
Anne Yarymowich, executive chef of FRANK, Art Gallery of Ontario, Zane Caplansky, executive chef and owner of Caplansky’s Delicatessen and Jason Bangerter, executive chef at Luma, Bell TIFF Lightbox.

The wine was flowing and tasty morsels were being passed around by helpful staff! It was a blast!
I got there a bit early, they had reconfigured the restaurant for the show-down!

Each contestant had to set their own table, on a meaningful way that represents their cuisine!

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The three desserts were a hit!

From left to right: Coconut Lemon Cake, Fig Tart and Sellou

The fig tart and the orange cardamom cream was the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. The pastry was flaky and rich. The coconut lemon cake, was moist, a little crunchy, and very lemony. The icing was glaze-like, just thick enough to hold the toasted coconut.
The Sellou were shaped in small muffin cups, Resembled marzipan with a little crunch and unexpected perfume of lemon zest and cardamom. I had wanted a little pyramid, but I didn’t have time to get to the market to my favourite kitchen shop to treat myself to a new tool. I dusted the tops eith icing sugar like freshly fallen snow. We served the trio with espresso. JT wants me to make all three again. That makes me very happy!

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