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Archive for October, 2013

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You may think that I’m referring to Christmas, but then you’d be wrong. It’s Halloween, of course! JT and I traditionally have a pumpkin carving contest, and this year is no different. We scour the net for unusual pumpkin patterns and when we find one we get down to the dirty job of carving. Carving is made easier with the right tools, but then again isn’t everything? I bought a set of pumpkin carving tools at an end of season sale last year and wish I had bought two sets! So in light of the grand tradition, I’m going to ask you to vote on your favourite pumpkin! May the best pumpkin win!

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Vote for me. Vote for me!

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Vote for me. Vote for me!

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Hope the decorations and the scary music doesn’t frighten the wee ones too much!


We were craving a unique hors d’œuvres so I remade a traditional polenta recipe into a delightful orange snack: polenta “fries”! The orange is strictly from the sharp cheddar. And the best part is that you can easily freeze these babies for those lovely drop-ins during the holiday season.

Cheddar Polenta “Fries”

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They are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • 2 cups stock (vegetable, beef or chicken)
  • 150 g grated old cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Bring stock to a boil and add the smoked paprika and chili flakes.
  2. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking quickly as you add it.
  3. Add the grated cheese and mix well.
  4. Turn heat right down to low and cook for 10-15 minutes until it no longer feels as hard grain.
  5. Turn into a parchment lined square Pan about 22 cm x 22 cm or 9″ x 9″ and press down evenly and firmly. Allow to cool.
  6. Cut into 1cm or 1/2″ wide “fries” about 5 cm or 3″ long. Fry each side until golden in a light oil.
  7. Serve warm with marinara sauce or salsa.

Other serving suggestions:

  • Serve with soup instead of crackers.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve instead of rice or potatoes with a gravies meat.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve as ‘crackers’ topping with a cold cut or a pickle round!
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Marinara Sauce or Salsa are the perfect accompaniment.

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You sure I can’t interest you in even one?

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Shortly after I became manager of the Creative Team at KPMG, the group moved into the brand new Scotia Plaza tower, then renowned for being the tallest building tower in Toronto (First Canadian Place had more floors but Scotia Plaza was taller!) You may have heard of Scotia Plaza in Toronto because it was the tower that was used in several scenes in the famous movie Three Men and a Baby, with Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson. They filmed during the construction phase at Scotia Plaza because Peter Mitchell, played by Tom Selleck was an architect on that project.

Tragedy hit both the filming and construction when two of the construction workers were horrifically killed in the elevator shaft; there was talk of the elevator safety system failing and the elevator ‘fell’ upwards, crushing the men to death. I can’t find documentation of this (before the internet) but I seem to recall that filming and construction were suspended for investigations. We moved into the tower well after completion, in fact, it had been up and running for quite some time, and not without incidence.

Working late in the tower meant enjoying the quiet solitude because the HVAC systems were on a timer and unless you called down and requested to have the AC/Heat left on, it went dead silent around 6:30pm; that meant that you could hear a pin drop, it also meant that you were able to hear the creaking, groaning and moaning attributed to the steel supports within the structure. Or was it? I have to admit that I had several occasions to work late, well past the hustle and bustle and the HVAC timer, but other than my imagination, I felt nothing out of sorts — until that strange morning.

Scotia Plaza has several banks of elevators and I believe they were set up piggy back so that you always had two elevators moving, one servicing the even floors and one for the odd floors in of banks of 10. Fortunately for me, I worked on the 53rd floor so my floor was at the beginning of the bank of 10, so I never had to experience the ‘milk run’. That fine morning, I had popped downstairs to pick up some dip for a gathering and was returning to my office around 10am. It was passed the rush hour but people were starting to emerge for their morning coffee. I was waiting for the elevator with one gentleman. The elevator arrived and we both stepped in. I pushed the 53rd floor and he pushed 55. The doors closed and the elevator began to move. Now these elevators are super fast, it’s just seconds to reach the 50th bank, it’s not at all uncommon to have your ears pop as you ascend. The count-down to your floor doesn’t start until you reach your particular bank, and then it beeps every time a floor is passed. Beep 51, Beep 53, Beep 55 and then nothing WITHOUT stopping! As we approached the top level of our bank, the elevator slowed thank goodness. We tried pressing buttons to stop the elevator to get out, but it had a mind of its own and continued. At 61, it slowed down and almost stopped but then decided to return to ground level, fortunately for us, at normal speed. At ground level the doors opened and we emerged pale-faced and totally freaked out. I stepped out determined not to get into that particular elevator again and took the next one up without incident. The remainder of my tenure at Scotia Plaza was uneventful.

I couldn’t help but think if this little prank was the creation of the two men who died in the very elevator banks in that building; I guess we’ll never know. But I do know that if I had made a home-made dip, I wouldn’t have had to go down to the concourse that morning.

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A slightly tangy but very creamy dip with the perfect balance of salt and lemon juice.

This dip comes from my friend Charlie (Hotly Spiced) way down in Australia; she made it as part of three vegan dips for her daughter’s 19th birthday (which is ridiculous, as she barely looks 19 herself!). I was at my brother’s cottage in Muskoka when I read this delicious recipe and knew I had to try it. Of course, all the ingredients were available because of the Hollywood connection, unlike our cottage stores which are run by deer and chipmunks!

I only made a few alterations but I suggest you take a look at Charlie’s lovely blog, she always has a story that will make you laugh! Please excuse the photo, it was a quick decision but such a delicious recipe I had to post. Perhaps in the near future I will update the hideous shot!

Artichoke and Parmesan Dip

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 500 g jar of marinated artichokes, drained
  • 1 generous tbsp salted capers, rinsed
  • rind of 1 lemon, plus juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1 tbsp for garnish
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add everything BUT 1 tbsp Parmesan Cheese and a pinch on lemon rind into a small blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Garnish with 1 tbsp Parmesan and lemon rind.
  3. Serve with rice crackers (to make it gluten free).

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The aroma that wafted through the cottage was intoxicating. Or maybe it was the wine.

My family has always been cake people; JTs family are pie people. I always thought it was the difference between Europeans and the English. We usually had some fruit with or in our cakes whereas JTs family always had some pastry with their fruit. This was never a big deal for us because I’m not much of a dessert eater, but it did pose a challenge because I had to learn how to make a pie! Now that we’re more accustomed to each other, I make a variety of cakes and pies and JT happily samples them.

Recently, my friend Barbara Bamber from Calgary author of Just a Smidgen posted a gorgeous Martha Stewart recipe for a fall apple cake and I was smitten! When I suggested that I bake this cake to take over to my niece’s cottage-fest on our last weekend at the cottage JT was all over it. It’s moist and quite flavourful, the perfect mix of fruit and cake. We served it warm and at room temperature and both were very tasty. Although cake is always considered a treat, this could be perfect as a breakfast muffin, made in smaller portions.

Martha Stewart’s Apple-Cranberry Cake

makes one 9″ spring-form pan cake

Ingredients:

  • sugar for dusting pan
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp butter, unsalted and melted, plus a bit more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 Golden Delicious or Janagold apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 2 mm sliced wedges
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter cut into pieces

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment. Sprinkle with sugar and shake the pan to coat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, milk and eggs.
  4. Slowly fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture, just stirring until blended.
  5. Spoon the batter mixture into the prepared springform pan, smooth the top evenly.
  6. Arrange the apple slices and dried cranberries as you wish onto the cake batter. Then press each piece of fruit gently down into the batter.
  7. Sprinkle over with the 2 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon. Top the brown sugar by dotting the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over.
  8. Bake until top is golden and the fruit has softened, about 35-50 minutes in a convection oven (fan oven for my European friends), or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes:

I added cinnamon to the batter, the original recipe did not have it.

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Next time I will shroud with foil so that the top doesn’t darken as quickly.

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As you know I’m a free agent at this particular juncture in my life and although I am keeping my ear to the ground and looking actively for work in my field, I am pretty realistic about the prospects out there and I’m keeping an open mind. The support from my blogging peeps is phenomenal and I thank you for your interest and offer to help! I am constantly touched and surprised by the generosity and kindness of, for all intensive purposes, strangers! It is because of you I am keeping my mind open for alternative opportunities, one such opportunity became a reality just two weeks ago.

About a year and a half or so ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to a taping of Top Chef Canada, Season 3 and there I met with Lucie Richard, Toronto-based Food Stylist with whom I chatted extensively about her craft. At that time, she very generously offered to have me ‘assist’ on one of her photo shoots. Two weeks ago it came to fruition and I assisted on a National Brand ice cream shoot. You cannot imagine how excited I was!

Ice cream is one of the most difficult things to shoot because of the very short window of opportunity before it begins to melt. I was thrilled to experience such a challenging product with one of the best in the field; Lucie was kind and generous with her advice and patience and she taught me an incredible volume of information on shooting ice cream. The tricks of the trade tend to be quite personal and what one stylist does may not necessarily be exactly what another does, so experiencing variety is key to coming up with your own tricks of the trade. The client has very specific expectations in what the characteristics of the ice cream should look like so you really need to know what you’re doing.

We used dry ice to super cool the tools, we worked in small batches for short periods of time, constantly re-freezing the ice cream so it doesn’t glaze over in the melting process. And the studio was kept very cool with air conditioning so I brought a sweater and I even brought gloves in case I needed to warm my hands. Of course, the work is fast and furious and there is no time to be cold.

The trends 15-20 years ago was to use ‘fake’ product. Ice cream was a highly guarded secret recipe of shortening, food colourings and inclusions. Today, most companies want the real deal and that in itself presents some interesting opportunities. And then there is Photoshop®, which has at times saved this incredible craft. We even took Photoshop into consideration, shooting slightly brighter and darker versions of the same shot in order to make sure we have what it takes to make the best composite. Of course, the Photoshopers are so skilled and talented, you can’t tell that they have added a little of this and a little of that to make that shot.

The client was very happy with the ice cream photo and we even finished a few minutes early. It was a huge success for me, and gave me the confidence to send out notes to my Food Stylist peeps that I’d love to assist. Who knows, this may become something!

Sadly, blogging is the driver and result of cooking passion; I make recipes for meals that I want to blog about. But we also want to eat the food I blog about. It’s wasteful to make an extra portion just for the blog so either JT or I will suffer with the pretty but stone cold blog version of a dish or eat separately which is what happened with this amazing ‘ravioli’.

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The pasta is relatively thin, so you can see all the good stuff inside!

Some time ago I saw this unique ‘ravioli’ treatment on my friend Celi’s blog (the kitchen’s garden), she was inspired to make this delightful dish after her daughter who works in a very upscale restaurant in Melbourne told her about it. We were at the cottage at the time I read the post and you know how we are unable to divert from plan because of ingredient limitations, so I was itching to make this beautiful dish as soon as we returned to the city.

One thing led to another and it wasn’t until the Friday before Thanksgiving that I finally got it together to make this tasty dish. Thank you Celi, it is exceptional! It’s reasonably fussy so I will have to figure out a way to simplify it so I can make it as a starter for a dinner party. I used John’s recipe (from the Bartolini Kitchen) for the pasta dough (with minor modifications) and Celi’s rough description for the filling. Even JT commented that he would definitely have it again. So it’s a win/win, all the way around. Thank you Celi and John for inspiring me to make this gorgeous dish.

The ravioli is comprised of sautéed spinach, ricotta and parmesan cheese  and the crowning glory is the simple egg yolk enveloped within the light pasta dough. When it is cooked, the yolk is simply warmed so that it becomes thick but remains runny and once it’s broken into, it mixes with the sage brown butter and becomes a delightful sauce over the ricotta, spinach and pasta. This is definitely a winner and will be shared with friends soon.

Ravioli with Egg Yolk and Sage Brown Butter Sauce (uova-da-raviolo)

I forgot to sprinkle additional parmesan on this one, shhhh.

I forgot to sprinkle additional parmesan on this one, shhhh.

Serves 2 with lots of pasta left over (I made additional plain ravioli and filled it with seasoned ricotta and froze them for future use).

Ingredients, for the pasta:

  • 1 scant cup flour
  • 2 egg whites

Directions, for the pasta:

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour and egg whites and process until you achieve a ball of dough.
  2. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Ingredients, for the brown butter sauce:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp finely sliced sage
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

Directions, for the Brown Butter Sauce:

  1. Melt the butter and cook until it is brown, remove from heat and add the sage and garlic and allow to infuse while making the filling.

Ingredients, for the ravioli filling:

  • 2 whole egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 1 roasted garlic, puréed (I used a fork)
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, and 1 tbsp for garnish

Directions, for the ravioli filling:

  1. In a small frying pan, sauté the spinach with a splash of EVOO until wilted, set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, roasted garlic and 2 tbsp parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt as desired.

Directions, for assembly of the ravioli:

  1. Heat a large deep pan of salted water to a steady boil.
  2. Roll out four thin sheets of pasta about 10-15cm in diameter (4-6″) (I used #5 on my Kitchenaid Pasta Attachment, but I think #6 would have worked very well too).
  3. In the centre of two of the pasta sheets, add a mound of spinach and on top of that add 1/2 the ricotta mix. Make a divot in the centre and add the room temperature, raw egg yolk. Place the second sheet on top and push out any air and seal the edges well. Cut this into a shape or leave it rustic.
  4. In the meantime, reheat the brown butter sauce on low.
  5. Boil the large ravioli for 2-3 minutes or until the pasta is completely cooked but leaving the egg yolk runny. Serve with the hot brown butter sauce and parmesan cheese for garnish. If you have a few extra sage leaves, add them as garnish too.
  6. Enjoy while the yolk is still runny.
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The egg yolk oozes out and mixes with the brown butter very nicely.

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We had these for lunch, for appetizers I will make them smaller and use small egg yolks!

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October is slipping through our fingers very quickly. Socially, we are already booking into November which never ceases to amaze me. Blogs are filling the virtual world with comforting fall recipes, halloween decorations and stories. My dear friend Kelly (a fellow Canadian who recently moved to California , the delightful writer and creative genius of Inspired Edibles) made a comment on my last spooky story about a haunted house tour in London she participated in several years ago and that reminded me of my own haunting experience in the UK. So I would like to continue with the Spooky Story series on my humble blog (to be honest, I had no idea I had so many of them!) Please pardon the photos in this post of our trip to the UK, they were before digital cameras and I simply took an iPhone photo of them for this post!

It was about 4 years into our marriage and JT and I were vacationing in the UK; we rented a car and drove from  town to town from the south-west to the south-east culminating our adventure in London for a few days (as a side note: we saw the Queen Mother speed along in her Rolls Royce while we were walking to Buckingham Palace). We specifically chose to stay in old mansions and guest houses on this trip, it was not only budget friendly but it also was much more fun than the large international hotels.

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Bibury Court Hotel

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This was high fashion in 1990! Well, at least my hair was high.

One such town was Bibury which is a quaint little picturesque town in the heart of the Cotswolds. We stayed at a very large, very old manor house Bibury Court Hotel, incidentally the same manor house that JT and his dear Mom stayed in several years earlier. “The hotel is found on the edge of the famous village of Bibury, once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England” taken verbatim from their website!

On these holidays, one of the things JT really loves to do is visit old castles and there were plenty of them in England; of course his favourite part of the castle was always the dungeon! As you can well imagine, my young self was not thrilled at such prospects, but as a good young wife, I accompanied him through many a dungeon throughout England and each one gave me the willies — some worse than others.

After our visit to Warwick Castle, I was particularly spooked. Not sure why, but as soon as I entered the very ghoulish dungeon I had an uneasy feeling and some very cold air wafted over me (of course, dungeons are cold and damp so that wasn’t entirely unusual).  The uneasy feeling was so overwhelming that I was unable to spend more than a second in the dungeon and we had to cut our time short. We retreated to our lovely manor house on the edge of town.

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This was the creepiest room by far in the dungeon.

We rented a lovely room which was pleasantly decorated and reasonably spacious for the time. But the view was something to be desired, particularly by someone who was recently spooked by dungeon spirits; our room over looked the grave yard (cue scary music). JT was nice enough to see if there was another room facing a different direction but sadly they were fully booked so we were stuck. I said it didn’t bother me, but you know it did.

We had a lovely dinner in the converted restaurant coach house and an after dinner drink in the quaint little bar tucked in beneath the grand old staircase in the manor house. And then it was time to retire. I tried not to think of the old cemetery, but it weighed heavily on my mind.

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That was the window that the wind and ghosts were pouring in from. The grave yard was directly outside.

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep but it wasn’t a restful sleep. As I lay curled up on the comfy bed, snuggled under the generous duvet, the large windows facing the grave yard at the foot of the bed flung themselves open and the curtains wafted menacingly in the cold fall winds sending a chill throughout the room. But it wasn’t just wind blowing in; there were ghosts…lots of them. Apparently that is the moment I jumped out of bed and screamed to shut the windows. Of course, the windows were not open and nor were there cold winds nor ghosts blowing in. Occasionally, when I am stressed I talk in my sleep and the only way to console me is to agree and remedy, however ridiculous it may be. JT learned this lesson with the bed spiders (sorry Chgo John, that’s a whole other story). So JT simply got up and pretended to whisk out the ghosts,  close the windows and lock them down tight, explaining what he was doing along the way.  That seemed to be good enough for  me and I was able to continue my sleep with the consolation that the grave yard and ghosts were on the other side of the locked windows. The next morning, JT took quite the delight in telling me the story but I had no recollection!

I’m sure it was the heavy, meat laden meal I had that night which no doubt contributed to my restless night; had I chosen something lighter, such as vegetarian Paella, I may not have had such vivid dreams of ghosts and grave yards!

I have documented several paella recipes on my blog (please see here, and here)

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A traditional Paella Pan is essential to make this authentic dish

Seafood Paella with Salmon Chorizo

Original recipe from Matiz La Bomba Paella Rice on back of bag. This particular bag of rice was a beautiful gift from our biscotti neighbour, wasn’t that thoughtful? This was only the second time I made this dish the authentic way on top of the stove. Nothing was even remotely over cooked!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • approximately 650 g of seafood, I used Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Salmon and Cod
  • 1 Salmon Chorizo (for recipe, please click here)
  • 4 cups vegetable or fish broth, warmed
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used unsalted)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1/4 c green peas
  • 1/4 c sweet corn
  • 3/4 cup of La Bomba Pealla Rice
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. About 1 hour to 1 day prior tocooking the Paella, add the saffron to the white wine and refrigerate.
  2. In a Paella Pan, on medium heat, add 2 tbsp EVOO and sweat the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped red pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, diced tomatoes  and white wine saffron mix and simmer for another 5 minutes. This is the Sofrito.
  4. Add La Bomba rice and stir until the rice is thoroughly covered with the Sofrito.
  5. Slowly add the broth to the paella, moving the rice around gently until it is evenly distributed throughout the pan. The instructions indicate not to stir the rice after this point.
  6. After about 10 minutes of simmering, add your selection of seafood into the mixture, evenly distributing and gently burying it within the rice. After 15 minutes, add the peas and corn and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Once the broth has been completely absorbed, remove from heat and cover with a lid or aluminum foil and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  8. Serve in the Paella pan garnished with lemon and lime wedges (which I forgot!).
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The rice is short grain and soaks up the vegetable stock like a risotto rice would, making a deliciously creamy dish;jl

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Our neighbours were kind enough to bring us back authentic Paella rice called La Bomba.

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I even used Saffron from Morocco! The dish was perfect in every way.

I thought you might enjoy some photos from the Thanksgiving weekend in Muskoka:

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Unfortunately, the colours were just past their prime.

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Some of the golden colours were still quite beautiful.

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The scenery made for a beautiful drive.

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A few leaves still hanging on for dear life!

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Sunrise from the boat house at my brother’s place

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The setting sun still produces an incredible effect in the sky.

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Hope all the Canadians reading this post are having a Happy Thanksgiving this weekend! The second Monday of October has been designated as Canadian Thanksgiving, not sure why, but we’ll take a holiday in October any day of the week!

We used to spend Thanksgiving at the cottage, often inviting my dear Mom and her hubby Geo, but since her passing in 2005, we’ve been invited to my brother’s cottage in the Muskoka. It’s quite a different life-style than ours to have a cottage in Muskoka. For example, you needn’t do much grocery shopping in the city because you can get everything and anything you need for the weekend in one of the well stocked grocery stores; in comparison, last time I forgot Parmesan Cheese and I was even going to settle for the powdered prepackaged cheese but our little shop didn’t even have that, so we had to drive an hour to find it! You might wonder why it’s so different in the Land of the Thousand Lakes (our cottage area) and Muskoka. Well, let me tell you. It’s because Hollywood has descended on Muskoka and while we have 1,000-2,000 square foot cottages (93-186 square metres) (ours is about 600 square feet), Muskoka boasts 10,000 and 20,000 square foot cottages (930-1860 square metres) with helipads and landing strips!  There is name dropping in Muskoka whereas we just talk about the dear we may have seen on the back road driving in. Goldie Hawn has a sprawling cottage on the same lake as my brother. We’ve never really been close to it, but apparently people think it’s ok to moor their boat and hop out to look around. She has security. My SIL spotted her in their local grocery store, where you could order Sushi grade tuna for the weekend (I’m lucky to get mac and cheese at ours). Steve Martin visits Martin Short who also has a nice place down the road on my brother’s lake. I heard that Steve Martin is very kind and hands out business cards that prove you’ve met him: “this  certifies that you have had a personal encounter with me and that you found me warm, polite, intelligent and funny” and of course he signs it. Martin Short’s wife once ran after my brother while he jogged down the road in front of their place to warn him that there have been bears seen that very morning! So you see, while we hob nob with the dear, chipmunks, bunnies and beavers, the folks in the Muskoka’s hob nob with the rich and famous.

My brother’s family is down to earth and their cottage is much more modest than those around them. They are generous to a fault and we always eat well and drink copious amounts of wine when we visit. We’ve had balmy 24°C days and on the very same weekend, we’ve had snow flurries! But it’s always a relaxing weekend to connect with family and take long quiet walks around the lake.

Snow flurries a few years ago. View from the dining room and kitchen.

Snow flurries a few years ago. View from the dining room and kitchen.

Although I didn’t make this galette for the Thanksgiving weekend, it dawned on me that it would be the perfect sweet for afternoon tea or dessert after a big turkey dinner. I used the lavender sugar that my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) brought up when they visited us at the cottage this summer. It just made this dessert that much fancier! Thanks Barb.

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The Lavender Sugar was a gift from my friend Barb from Profiteroles and Ponytails

Apple Rhubarb Galette with Lavender Sugar

Serves 6-8

The Galette Pastry Recipe comes from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Galette pastry
  • 1/2 c Rhubarb
  • 3 Apples, chopped into equal-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp egg white for brushing pastry
  • 1 tbsp Lavender Sugar for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the apples and rhubarb and dust with the spices, sugar and flour, coating evenly
  2. Roll out the galette pastry to about 10cm or 3 inches larger than required. Fill centre with the fruit and turn up the sides to form the galette.
  3. Brush pastry with egg white and bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown and fruit is soft.
  4. Remove from the oven and dust with 1 tbsp Lavender Sugar.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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The Rhubarb was the perfect foil for this sweet dessert

The rhubarb came from our dear friend’s Monica and Rae’s garden in Toronto. I still have some in the freezer, it will be a welcome taste of summer in mid-winter!

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Can you see the little Lavender Flowers?

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As we are approaching the end of autumn and the beginning of a long cold winter, I am once again excited about… Halloween! Last year I started telling you about some spooky stories all true, and now I’m going to continue this tradition. Buckle your seat belts ladies and gents.
JT and I bought our first house north and east of Toronto in a small bedroom community called Stouffville. It was an old farming community from the 1800’s that the city planners linked to Toronto via the GO Train (Government of Ontario Train). The small city was limited only by the fact that it wasn’t on either main water or sewage; our little city’s water was from an arteasesn well. Being limited by the water made Stouffville even more desirable because it constrained mass building which was happening in droves in similar bedroom communities (we used to call it ‘the sea of houses’ because they went on and on). Our subdivision was the last of its kind until Stouffville joined up to city water and sewage in the mid-2000’s, which made it the fastest growing community north of Toronto. But we were gone long before that.
Although the house was brand new, it always gave me the willies! I only ever spent one night by myself in that house, I would go spend the night with my Mom or in laws when JT travelled. There were creepy noises, creeks and cracks. But the weirdest thing that happened even made skeptic JT agree that the house was strange.
One evening after dinner I was baking in our little kitchen, JT was watching television in the adjacent family room. I was turned away from the doorway and as I turned to put something in the sink out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone poke their head into the kitchen, they were wearing red. I just figured it was JT seeing if there were any samples to be had. But then a few moments later JT actually came into the kitchen and asked me what I wanted. I said I was just about to ask him the same thing. He said he thought I just poked my head into the family room, he thought I was wearing red too! Except neither of us had red on. Super freaked out, we checked all the doors and windows and they were locked tight. Then we checked all the rooms and closets. We found nothing.
Even though I wasn’t baking biscotti that night, I think JT and our mystery guest would have enjoyed a few tasters from this recipe.

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There is something so civilized about eating a little biscotti with an afternoon espresso, don’t you think?

 

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Makes 2 logs, about 48 biscotti

Original recipe from Food Network

I was drawn to this recipe because it doesn’t have melted butter in it. Not having butter actually makes this cookie very hard and I would recommend not biting down on it unless you have dipped it into something warm.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c whole almonds, toasted skin on
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white for brushing

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
  2. Mix together eggs, egg whites and vanilla extract.
  3. Gradually add egg mixture to flour mixture blending on low speed.
  4. Toss almonds with chocolate chips and fold into the flour mixture until combined.
  5. On a well floured surface roll dough into 2 logs, 2 inches in diameter. They will expand quite a bit.
  6. Place on a greased pan and brush with beaten egg white.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees until light golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
  8. Allow logs to cool 15 minutes then cut into slices on the bias. Place slices on a greased sheet pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until toasted, about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.
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Delicate flavours of the almond are accentuated by the rich, creamy chocolate. Isn’t that crema gorgeous?

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Has this ever happened to you: you hear about something for the first time and then you keep hearing about it again and again? It’s happened to me recently and it’s the absolute, lip smacking, deliciously tantalizing Kale Salad by renowned chef and restauranteur of Gusto 101, Daniel Mezzolo. My friend Kim (old boss, neighbour) mentioned this salad a while back and I’ve seen it come up more and more often which has made me want to taste said salad, however, that is much more difficult than one would think. You see, Gusto 101 takes reservations only until 6pm and then it’s a free for all. We’ve driven by many times around 7 or 8 and there is always quite the line-up outside, waiting for a table. Now, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just don’t like to line up. I figure if I am about to spend upwards of $80 for a meal, I shouldn’t have to wait in line to do so. But this is the reality if one needs to try this salad, and I really, really needed to try it.

I searched the net and found this helpful video on making this healthy salad, but alas there was no recipe for the dressing…so I looked further and found several versions all based on similar ingredients. My friend Celi from The kitchen’s garden just competed her September Home Grown challenge during which time she only allowed herself to eat what she grew on her little farmie! By the end of the challenge she mentioned that she was quite tired of eating the same old things. So when I finally hunkered down and made a decent effort to make the Kale Salad, I immediately thought of Celi. I know I’m a little late for the challenge, but it’s definitely a good recipe and I hope you have a chance to try it before the snow falls.

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It’s a melt in your mouth salad

What makes this salad unique is the finely cut curly kale and how the lemon juice in the dressing acts to ‘cook’ the kale as it sits (like a ceviche would cook the seafood!). It’s a wonderful balance of sour, sweet and salty. I added a couple of slices of crispy cooked Serrano ham, but that is easily omitted if you wish to make it vegetarian.

Cavolo Nero (Kale Salad)

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups finely chopped kale
  • 2 tbsp raisins or dried cranberries or dried sour cherries
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts or toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 slices of Serrano ham, baked or fried until crisp and crumbled (omit for vegetarian)
  • 1/4 c + 2 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese or Pecorino
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. About 20-30 minutes before serving, combine the lemon juice, honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and salt and mix well in a large unreactive bowl (not metal).  Add the finely cut kale and toss to coat evenly. Set aside for a minimum of 20 minutes (I did 30 minutes) tossing a few times over the 30 minutes. (an update October 16: I made this salad at my brother’s cottage last weekend and I suspect the kale was older and tougher so 30 minutes wasn’t enough time to macerate, please keep this in mind when making the salad. Just as baby kale will take less time than the 30 minutes because it is not has tough).
  2. Muddle the fresh basil in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, with a pinch of salt. Set aside. I’ve made this lovely salad without the basil oil without missing it.
  3. Just before serving, add the raisins, pine nuts, crispy serano ham and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese to the dressed kale and toss well. Divide the kale between two plates.
  4. Drizzle the basil olive oil on the plate and garnish with 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese over each plate. Serve immediately.
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Perfectly balanced sweet, sour and salty

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A perfect salad for a hot summer’s day. Where did it go, anyway?

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The fall colours were just starting when I took these photos in late September.

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The cottage colours happen a bit earlier than the city colours.

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The sun also moves to the far left during the fall. We see more of the sunset during the summer months.

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We always really luck out with our neighbours. Our first house was in a new, bedroom community north of Toronto and JT and I bought the smallest house snuggled in between two of the larger models in the subdivision. The neighbours to the west of us built our shared fence and didn’t even ask us for a penny for it; we built our fence to the east of us with the neighbour over a weekend culminating with a great big shared BBQ. When we moved back to the city, our northern neighbours held a BBQ for us and invited the entire street so that we could meet everyone; it was wonderful. We shared a driveway with these people and more often than not, when I couldn’t find JT (who should have been doing chores), he was sitting on the neighbour’s back porch having a beer with the neighbour.
When both our careers moved to the west side of Toronto, we made our third move; there were no parties or BBQs this time around, but there was always Biscotti! Our lovely neighbours on our north side made us delicious biscotti every Christmas. When I started living in our new reality, coffee breaks from the gruelling job search became imperative and I couldn’t help but crave ‘a little something’ with my java and that’s when I remembered our sweet neighbour’s almond biscotti. I’d never made biscotti before so it not only satisfied a craving but it also became a blog post! What more can I ask for?

Original recipe from Eyetalian Magazine.

Almond Biscotti (Biscotti Albani)

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 c unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4  c  almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 but melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 lightly beaten egg white

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and nuts in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and almond extract ; stir the wet ingredients into the flour/nut mixture and combine until a sticky dough forms.
  4. Transfer to a floured surface and form the dough into two logs about 30 cm or 12 inches long (as the dough bakes, it will increase in size, so unlike what I did, I would make the logs much thinner next time).
  5. Place the logs onto an ungreased baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg whites.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 6 minutes and then slice into 1 cm or 0.5 inch thick diagonal slices. Return slices to the cookie sheet and bake again for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  7. Serve with a beautiful espresso.
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We’ve had a hankering for biscotti these coolish days

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A perfect snack when dipped into the aromatic, creamy espresso

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Oh go ahead and take one please, I insist!

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