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Quite some time ago I was approached by the creator of a new lineup of products called UNSTICK™. We spoke at length about the product and various applications and when I saw the product was launched last October at the Delicious food show I was ecstatic and impressed. I called the inventor immediately to congratulate them on the success of the launch and we talked about a product review. Kitcheninspirations was provided with products 1-5 for testing/reviewing with no other compensation. The following is my unbiased review.

UnstickProducts

The packaging is beautiful and clearly colour coded — believe it or not, a lot of brands get this wrong — you know the ones that you have to stand in front of for 10 minutes before you can figure out which one you usually buy?

“UNSTICK™ is made of a premium quality PTFE, which is a Teflon coated fiberglass material.”(1) It is FDA approved and is safe to use to 500° F (260° C). These products are made for everyday kitchen use and should be cared for like a reusable silicon sheet, never use sharp utensils, store rolled or flat, you know the drill. The beautiful thing about UNSTICK™ is that they are affordable (retails for $15.99-$19.99 Canadian) and are designed to fit many sizes of pots and pans. The bonus is if you can’t find one that fits, just cut it to size; presto, a custom-made reusable non-stick liner!

Why use a reusable non-stick liner? It’s not always about the ease of cleanup, that’s a no-brainer, for me it’s more about creating less waste (that means that you needn’t throw away a scratched teflon pan, just pop in an UNSTICK™ liner and you’re good to go) . It also creates a smooth surface over and above the normal texture of the pan — cakes have a beautiful, smooth crust to slather on icing, cookies spread uniformly and bake evenly. OK, clean up is a cinch and when you’re stuck in the kitchen baking or cooking for hours, a quick cleanup means 10 extra minutes you can sit before you start the next round! UNSTICK™ also cleans well, there is no greasy residue that some of the other name brand reusable silicon liners seem to get (no matter how hard you clean them). When you clean UNSTICK™, it actually feels clean and dries quickly. There is absolutely no smell or taste residue on baked goods (sometimes I find silicon pans have an odour). Another bonus is that you NEVER need to use any oil or nonstick spray and that’s better for you!

My first experiment with UNSTICK™ was the small loaf pan liner, it’s a pre-cut rectangle to fit snuggly in a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. I baked a pumpkin loaf in it and it was so easy to remove (just pull up on the sides and lift the loaf out), the liner slides off perfectly.

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The flat loaf pan reusable sheet.

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The reusable sheet in the loaf pan.

The second go was Charles’ Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake (Kladdkaka) in a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Although the insert performed perfectly, I wasn’t so thrilled with the inevitable jagged edges the insert cuts left on the cake. Perhaps a few more cuts would smooth out the circle?

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The flat spring-form reusable sheet

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The round sheet in the spring-form pan

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The jaggy cake. It’s 

The frying pan liner was next, most of my frying pans are cast iron perfectly seasoned, but I did give this a go and made an omelet roll (rolled like the Japanese omelet, tamagoyaki) filled with a crab and goat cheese mix. The egg cooked perfectly and because I wanted to roll it, the liner made it incredibly easy; just lift up one side, tuck under the edge and roll.

The baking sheet liner was a god-send over the holidays, many melty messes were easily cleaned up and the reusable sheets cooled down so quickly that I was able to reuse them immediately on subsequent bakings of the same batch (a definite plus over the standard silicon sheets which seem to take a while to cool).

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Roasting and baking sheet liner.

The oven liner is A M A Z I N G! It performs perfectly, it does NOT change the oven temperature one bit (like tin foil would) and because it has similar properties to the baking sheet (although the oven liner and the BBQ liners are much thicker) they are easy to handle and also cool down quickly so I was able to pull it out of my upper oven and test it in larger oven without having to wait for it to cool to handle it.

I have not tested the BBQ liner yet, there was a snowstorm the day I planned to give it a test and then later there was freezing rain, so we bunkered down, lit a fire, popped open the wine and chilled (I know you won’t mind). I can tell you what the BBQ liner would be amazing for is camping! OK, I’m not much of a camper but I do recall when my family when on a picnic to a public park and we used the communal hibachi BBQs, my Mom would spend at least an hour scrubbing the heck out of the communal hibachi so it wouldn’t be gross. The UNSTICK™ BBQ liner would allow you to spend a minimal amount of time to lightly clean the grill and put the liner on top, presto: covers up all the grossness and makes it safe to cook your own food. You could also fry an egg on it WITHOUT a pan! So if you’re camping and you have to portage, you need only take the UNSTICK™ lightweight BBQ liner and you’re good to go! No need for bulky heavy frying pans! It will also prevent flair ups and sauces will not drip all over your grill, gumming up the element or gas. And clean-up is a cinch, the gooey mess slides off and a dip in hot soapy water renders this clever product like new.

All in all, I am very happy with the performance of these products and I would definitely recommend them; I’m going to put an oven liner and a frying pan liner in my food styling kit which I know will save me precious minutes for clean up when I’m on set. Check out the UNSTICK™ shop here.

(1) from http://www.unstick.ca/faqs/

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A few of my lovely readers have commented that they would love to have a tapas dinner party but it seems like a lot of work, so I’ve put together a few words of advice as I have hosted tapas dinner parties for over a year now and have experienced successes and failures. I hope these tricks alleviate the mystery and inspire you to have a tapas dinner party.

  1. Planning is everything. Think of a theme you wish to follow and create a menu around it; break it out into steps for timing and serving (I’ll give an example of this). Decide how many groups of courses you will serve (i.e., 4 courses of sets of 1-2 dishes are 4 x 1 (0r 2)). If this is your first tapas dinner party and you don’t have a stock up of quick hors d’œuvres in the freezer then start the cooking about 1 week in advance and make 1 to 2 things for the freezer. Don’t worry, you will use them up eventually!
  2. Mise en place is key. Chop, cut, slice, grate anything you can do ahead of time, DO IT. Prepare similar items all at once (as in chop ALL the onions you will need and separate it out into each course). Store meats and fishes in the fridge. I always put ingredients that need to be together in one place in the fridge.
  3. It’s on ‘the list’. There are many components to a tapas dinner party, so even the best of us will struggle to remember everything you need to add, pinch, and sauce so MAKE A LIST and REFER to it throughout the evening.
  4. Distribute the labour. I have found including your partner in helping with preparation and serving the courses allows each of you to alternate kitchen duty and spend time with your guests.
  5. Make it Simple. Choose a combination of freshly made courses and previously made and frozen courses.
  6. Keep it small. Remember that you are having a lot of food over a long period of time so portions should be small (for example, 1-2 medium shrimp per person is one course. Do you have frozen soup in the fridge? Serve it in shooters instead of bowls—it’s an instant serving!
  7. Timing is everything. Make sure you serve the courses spread out over time, this dinner party is about conversation and food…all night. Our tapas usually last 3-4 hours with some breathers in between.
  8. Relax. Fortunately Tapas make a very casual dinner party so you needn’t worry when one coarse is 15 minutes later than expected. Keep the wine flowing and the conversation going and you will have a wonderful evening.

To illustrate how easy this type of dinner party is, below I am posting a sample menu. I may use this for a future dinner party.

Our 21012 European Adventure through Tapas (4 x 1):

Course 1: Budapest

  • Áginéni’s Cheese Sticks (I usually have these in the freezer, but if I don’t I just make a fresh batch and freeze the leftovers for another party!)

Course 2: Spain

Course 3: France

  • Escargot en Profiteroles (I always have the cheese puffs, canned escargot, and frozen butter, garlic and parsley balls ready for action)

Course 4: Austria

  • Austrian Sachertorte three ways. Make one beautiful dessert and serve it three different ways in very small portions. (off the top of my head, I’m thinking 1) a traditional slice, 2) roughly cut into a small trifle, 3) and twice baked into a small biscotti and served with a mini cappuccino!)

Think ahead when you’re cooking weekday meals, if you’re making a large batch of chili, put aside a full serving for a future tapas dinner and serve it in mini pitas. If you’ve made soup, set aside enough for shooters and serve in espresso cups. A dip and bread may be considered as a course. A simple course might be Saganaki. I try to alternate previously prepared or easy courses with something a bit more complex. Involving your partner to help with alternate courses also breaks up the time spent in the kitchen…don’t you think your partner might love to light the Saganaki and serve this fiery treat?

Desserts, I find are relatively easy too. If you’ve made brownies, cut the edges and freeze. Then for a small tapas dessert, whip some cream or make a quick custard and assemble a trifle with the left-over edges, serve with a shot for extra effect!

Example for timing the menu above (note: the times are just guidelines)

7:30 guests arrive, start with libations and Aunte Ági’s cheese sticks. Pit the oven on and move into the living room and have lovely conversation. Perhaps put on a fire, and definitely play some music (we like jazz).

7:45: put the scallops into the oven, they will take longer than the bacon wrapped dates. Depending on the size of scallops, turn about 5-7 minutes, now add the bacon wrapped dates. Bake for another 5-7 minutes.

8:10 serve the bacon wrapped scallops and dates. Keep the oven on.

Around 8:30-8:45 your partner should pop into the kitchen to start the chorizo course, meanwhile fill the glasses.

Warm the serving dish and prepare the dish.

9:00 Serve chorizo dish with bread.

9:45 You’ll likely want a bit of a break, but you can ready the escargot for the oven, bake for 10 minutes until butter has melted and the Chou is crispy. Serve hot at 10ish.

The dessert should already be made and plated with some last minute garnished to attend to. Serve with coffee/tea when your guest say they are ready.

Tapas need not be stressful, after all, it’s about getting together with friends in a casual setting. Cheers! I hope to read about your tapas dinner party soon.

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Hello friends, hope you’ve all been very well over the last few weeks I’ve been away. We had sporadic internet service over our holidays and I did try to stop by and leave a comment or two, but alas on going back I did notice some did not ‘stick’ and I do apologize. I’ll try to make it up over the following weeks.

Our holidays did get off to a rocky start, with our seats unable to recline on the ancient aircraft Austrian Air employ but that just meant everything else can be so much better, or not, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In order not to bore you with a million-word post, I’ll condense our trip into three sections: Part I will be Vienna and Budapest; Part II Barcelona; Part III will be Lyon and Paris.

I’ll let you know from the get-go that our weather pretty much sucked! If it wasn’t dark gloomy skies and chilly temperatures then it was dark gloomy skies with chilly temperatures teaming with rain. But that didn’t slow us down as much as … oops! There I go getting ahead of myself again. We did have a few nice days, and you’ll see which one’s in the photos. Those of you on my Facebook have had glimpses of our holiday already…so now I hope you enjoy the narrative!

As you know, we landed in Vienna pretty much unscathed, even though beauty sleep avoided us; we had anticipation and adrenaline pretty much on our side, so we were ready for the experience. JT booked us into the Radisson Blu which is in the inner circle in Vienna; the cab from the airport was rather pricey, so if you don’t over-packed (like I did) you may want to take the commuter train which is much less expensive. Quite surprisingly our room was ready at the bright and early arrival time of 10:30am and we were quite pleased because we like to unpack and freshen up after such a long flight (8 hours from Toronto). We set out on a mission to find a lunch place and look around the city. We’ve been many times before (it’s a perfect spot to pick up a rental car and drive the 2-3 hours to Budapest, and it has many intercontinental connector flights to facilitate our adventures) so we were just walking around to air our heads and check out the new/renovated shops.

One of my favourite stops is the Julius Meinl specialty grocer right in the Graben. It’s a feast for the eyes and stomach. The chocolate section is unparalleled!

This is just one of the aisles for the chocolate section. It spans about 1/4 of the entire store.

I just couldn’t resist a chocolate bunny box, image by Andy Warhol. This one is for my friend Genie all the way down under in New Zealand, a fellow bunny lover.

As you can see, Austria is not cheap. In fact, breakfast in our hotel was a lofty 28 Euros (about 35 Canadian dollars) per person. We decided to order one and share, and it’s a good thing we did, even one was more food than we both could eat.

We chose Danieli for lunch and Huth for dinner (which I’ve talked about in my first post about Vienna).

Here is a lovely picture of Danieli and my delicious salad.

A very nice Italian Restaurant in the Graben

I just can’t get enough of this delicious salad. They just call this cheese Bufala Mozzarella

Budapest was a trip to visit family. My dear uncle passed away over a year ago and I haven’t been back since so it was a rather emotionally stressful time for me. I am pleased to say that all went well, and although there were a few moments of water works, it went rather smoothly. My family lives on Rosa Domb (Rose Hill) in Buda, which is the quieter side of Budapest. They used to live in the heart of it all in Pest, but about 30 years ago decided to move in preparation for their retirement. They have a lovely four-story town-house. We packed 22kg (about 50lbs) into each of our cases, and the guest room is…you guessed it, on the fourth floor! Now these were likely the most luxurious steps of all the steps we encountered on our trip, there were worse. And I was very lucky that my cousin and JT carried my over-packed case all the way up (I’m re-thinking this packing business in the future!).
We ate like kings for the four days in Budapest!

This was our welcome lunch. The Hungarians eat their main meal at noon on weekends. It’s stuffed pork tenderloin with prunes, cooked beets, carrots, mashed potatoes and white asparagus.

A typical “dinner” served anywhere between 6-9pm. Cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, Hungarian peppers, radishes and fresh bread

My cousin treated the entire family to a evening cruise on the Danube. It was a lovely evening and the lights sparkled like diamonds. It was such a beautiful sight, I would recommend this cruise to everyone, although the dinner cruise is not recommended (we just cruised with a cocktail!).

The Szabadsági Bridge (Freedom Bridge) with an interesting light my camera caught

The very beautiful shoreline with the Independence Monument in the background

The beautiful Parliament Buildings

Our last full day in Budapest, we visited the Castle District (Vár) and Margit Island (Margit Sziget).

Matthias Coronation Church newly restored and sparkling clean

The Fisherman’s Bastion. The story goes that during one of the many Turkish invasions (over several hundred years), the city was divided into different sections to be protected by each trade. This section was protected by the fisherman.

Dancing Fountain on Margit Island

Yes, we did get a lovely day or two in Budapest.

It was nice enough to eat outside. JT took this picture from the back which is a reverse ravine. That’s my cousin Rudi on the far left, my Aunt Ági, my cousin’s wife, Éva and me!

We left early the next morning to drive back to Vienna to catch a flight to Barcelona but not without issues. JT tried to carry too much luggage down and slipped and twisted his ankle (OK it may have been the precarious little rug at the foot of the stairs). We realized in Barcelona that it was indeed a sprain, but after some quick first aid and the purchase of a cane we were back on our way!
The other issue was that we had left 4.5 hours for a 2-3 hour drive and we ended up just barely catching our flight due to some really bad back up just outside of Vienna on the A4 (M1 in Hungary). It was a very anxious trip but we made it.

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Spring is my favourite time of year. It’s a time of rebirth and renewal. It’s a time to shed the heavy coats and gloves and socks and boots and dawn lighter, airier garments. It’s a time to enjoy the greenery and the burst of colour the garden has to offer.

The beautiful crab apple tree in full bloom. She is just so happy we got rid of that towering shady elm!

We live in the city, and so our lot is not huge, but it’s a decent size for some interesting landscaping. Last fall, as many of you already know, we hard-scaped the back yard and removed all the grass. It never really grew well anyway. Our big huge Elm made sure of that. We also had a smaller elm removed from in front of the kitchen window. We knew the crab apple would be very happy because we did.

The Azalea in full bloom.

My friend Norma has beautiful Azaleas in her rural garden. She is even lucky enough to get deer from time to time! Our back yard faces east, so we really only get the morning sun. It’s still a little cool to sit outside, but I’m hoping that by next weekend we will be able to.

The hostas and ferns are shooting up like crazy beside my little ‘thinker’

I’m finding that the garden takes turns on allowing a different variety to flourish each year; the periwinkle is flowering so much this year, more than I can recall in the past. The violets are not doing as well. Perhaps next year it will be their time again. Or the Lily of the Valley.

A surprise in the back 40!

And so, I’ll leave you with a little surprise down by the back shed: our very own Trillium. The Trillium is Ontario’s official flower and it is illegal to pick them, or even uproot them; you can get fined if you are caught. They supposedly flower every seven years! We noticed this little gem about 5 years ago, when it flowered last (OK, so maybe Trilliums weren’t good at math). We don’t know how it got here, but we sure feel lucky that it is here! And flowering so beautifully. See you Miss Trillium, hopefully in another 5 years!

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The dinner party was an enormous success, THANK YOU Angela, Gordon and the Stewards, Evan and David. It went off without a hitch (not that we could see anyway, and that is what counts!). The boys did an amazing job with serving and cleaning up the table. Conversation was lively and we all had a great time!

The food was great and we couldn’t stop from finishing everything on our plates. My contribution of three (for recipes click here, here and here) of the ten courses were also well received. The table was beautifully set with the hand made branded napkins, the branded chargers and Angela’s wedding china and Silverware. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly felt like I was on an opulent vessel being served a Michelin Five-Star meal! And we didn’t sink, which was a real bonus.

We dined for 5 hours, enjoying every last morsel and libation. The party went on until one o’clock in the morning, at which time, we thanked our hosts and drove silently home, pondering the forthcoming events of that fateful evening one hundred years ago.

Here is a quick recap of the evening, and that is likely the last you’ll have to endure Titanic mania at least until next year (there is talk to have this event yearly! ;-))

A quick recap of the invitations.

It looks real, doesn’t it?

I blurred out the names for privacy reasons!

I suppose this was directed toward the Gentlemen, as the Ladies were likely not invited into the casino!

I created memento booklets for the event. It had our menu, the guest list and some titillating trivia about the grand vessel.

Here is the entire booklet: MomentoBooklet_BlogNew

The welcome flags of the Titanic First Class Passengers

Our charming and generous hosts

Our fastidious Stewards, Evan and David, who kept the dinner moving efficiently and gracefully

The setting: First Class Dining Room

Hand made Napkin by Angela

The Cast of ladies (from left to right): Denise, Éva, Renata, Angela and Ginger

The cast of gentlemen (from left to right): Eric, Gordon, Richard, Philip and John

The party was certainly a hit!

Please ask for permission if you wish to download any of these photos as not all of them belong to me!

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Reposted from last year.
Make mine chocolate
Please don’t buy a real bunny as a gift at Easter. A bunny will live to about 12 years; this is a real commitment. A bunny needs as much attention as a dog; they have delicate digestive systems that upset easily and not every vet knows how to deal with them (I know of 1 in Toronto) $$$. This is not a decision to be made lightly while you are caught up in the Easter festivities.

This post is dedicated to all the bunnies that end up at the humane society after Easter is over.

Just a few links to demonstrate how ridiculously rampant this idiotic tradition is:
http://www.rabbit.org/easter/2012release.html
http://animalrights.about.com/od/companionanimalspets/a/EasterBunny.htm
http://www.annarbor.com/pets/local-animal-welfare-agencies-urge-people-to-forgo-buying-live-bunnies-for-easter-with-the-make-mine/

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The Invitations were mailed last week. I wanted to help my friend Angela out by creating her invitations in the original format of the Boarding Pass for the Titanic. I found a low res print here and recreated it in Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop, it’s something I love to do and I was happy to help out. Plus, it’s not like there are a thousand going out, just three (not counting our’s and Angela’s)!

It looks real, doesn't it?

I created it like a four page booklet, with the cover being the boarding pass, the inside front is the actual invitation, the facing page is an actual ticket and then the outside back cover was a note from White Star Lines Angela found that talks about the danger of professional gamblers on board. I just love the language used.

I blurred out the names for privacy reasons!

I also made up little stories about why each person is travelling on the Titanic and some very specific preferences to be considered by the Titanic staff.

I suppose this was directed toward the Gentlemen, as the Ladies were likely not invited into the casino!

I am rather excited about the evening, everyone will be coming in period clothing and Angela has already bought a CD of music of that time. My friend Monica loaned me a gorgeous lace dress that seems to be of the period (it was her sister’s MILs), now I am scouring ebay for long black gloves to go with the dress. JT needs to get some tails and we’re all done (lots to be found on ebay!)! We’re preparing some trivia for the evening that will also be loads of fun.

Now onto something as exciting, my friend Betsy over at Bits and Breadcrumbs has bestowed the honour of four awards and I am excited to tell you about them, but first a little bit about Betsy. Betsy is a graphic designer by day in the Atlanta/Decatur, Georgia area. She lives on a lovely country lot with a gorgeous garden; she can have bon fires in her back yard, how cool is THAT?! You should check out her blog, she cooks up wonderful comforting but healthy meals for herself and her hubby. Thank you Betsy, I am very flattered.

Thank you Betsy for this wonderful honour

  1. Favourite color? Red
  2. Favourite animal? Bunny Rabbit
  3. Favourite number? I’ve never really thought about it.
  4. Favourite drink? Non alcoholic: a good cup of coffee. Alcoholic: vodka martini (I really don’t care if it’s shaken or stirred, just get it to me, chop, chop!)
  5. Facebook or Twitter? Both, but I am slowly losing interest in both.
  6. Your passion? Cooking and travelling (we’ve got three trips planned: May NYC, June Chicago and September Europe (Vienna, Budapest, Barcelona, Lyon and Paris!) ! I’m hoping to bring you along on all three!)
  7. Giving or getting presents? Giving, for sure.
  8. Favourite day? Friday
  9. Favourite flowers? Hydrangea and Lilacs. No wait, Lilly of the Valley.

Now, it is customary to pass along the love (as Betsy put it) and I therefore nominate the following blogs. As usual, your participation is entirely up to you, if it’s a busy week and you just can’t deal with it, just put it aside or don’t even think about it. They are lovely awards and it’s a way for me to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. In no particular order:

  • Promanade Plantings lives in St Leonards On Sea. Her plot of land offers a gorgeous views on a southerly slope facing towards the sea. She gardens like a pro; the most beautiful pumpkins that are not just for Halloween!
  • Generation Y Foodie I came across Dara after she had asked Ann to review her cookbook. Dara is a lawyer by day and enthusiastic foodie by night. She has healthy recipes with a lot of appetite appeal!
  • Charlie Louie of Hotly Spiced is one of my favourite reads. Charlie has a wonderful knack to entertain and weave in a recipe; her family is a rich source of most of her entertaining stories. And she’s a great cook!
  • My friend Barb, Profiteroles and Ponytails, just because. And I’m dying to have a slice of that Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie! 🙂
  • My other friend Pamela who runs Downton Abbey Cooks a blog about the British show Downton Abbey. Pamela has the skill to weave the storyline of the show into her blog along with a poignant recipe. The show has only recently caught my interest because of the Titanic Party we are going to — the show begins with the dreadful sinking of the Titanic. Pamela also enlightens me on words such as Entail!
  • Karen over at Back Road Journal, much like Oliver Wendell Douglas and Lisa Douglas, Karen and hubby gave up their urban life for a 1730’s home with an apple orchard in a small town in New Hampshire. Karen generously takes us along when she and her husband travel and it’s a wonderful experience of lovely country inns and delicious food.

So there you have it. A few more facts about moi, 6 more bloggers to add to your reading list. Thank you Betsy for the lovely nomination!

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My friend Charles from Five Euro Food tagged me in a recent post. Thank you Charles, I am so flattered.

  1. Describe yourself in seven words

    Perfectionist, Project Manager, Aspiring Chef, Dependable, Logical, Artistic, did I mention perfectionist?

  2. What keeps you up at night?

    I’m a pretty good sleeper.

  3. Who would you like to be?

    I am reasonably happy with the way I am, except maybe I’d like to be 10lb lighter!

  4. What are you wearing right now?

    Brown top with a bright pink camisole, Brown suede skirt, Brown and black tights and my cowboy boots that I bought in Calgary.

  5. What scares you?

    Identity theft.

  6. What are the best and worst things about blogging?

    Best: As so many others have said, it’s my new age pen pals. Worst: the overwhelming, all consuming time it requires.

  7. What was the last website you visited?

    Trip Advisor; we are planning a trip to New York or Chicago in the spring and Europe in the fall.

  8. What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself?

    Lose 10lbs, maybe 15!

  9. Slankets – yes or no?

    From the many other blogs I’ve had the pleasure of reading, I sadly now know what this aborition of synthetic nature is, and my answer is definitely, decidedly NO!

  10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.

    Charles was one of my first blogging commentors last year; he lives with his lovely Swedish wife just outside of Paris, is likely some kind of programmer (just a guess), has a cat named Sammy and he has a wonderful blog about his recipes and the occasional day trip that is creative, informative and mostly quite affordable.

…And 5 tags of your choice…

Oh my, it’s a little difficult to tag someone, since I’ve only just met most of you and have no idea whether you have been tagged before, but here goes, participate as you wish…

  1. Flavour Fiesta – Divya is a fellow Torontian who has a wonderful blog and on line magazine!
  2. Bunny, Eats, Design is a designer from Australia who has the most adorable bunny name Tofu.
  3. Back Road Journal belongs to Karen who has moved out to the country and is experiencing a slower way of life.
  4. A bloke who can cook, posts recipes infrequently and they are usually comforting and tasty looking.
  5. Oops! That’s only four…

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My blogger friend Sharyn of Kale Chronicles recently bestowed the Food Bloggers Unplugged award to me; I am quite flattered and very touched that she has now given me two awards! Thank you, Sharyn. The Food Bloggers Unplugged is designed to allow the blogger to divulge a few personal details about their blogging motivation.

Awarded by Sharyn at Kale Chronicles

What or who inspired you to start your blog?

I started blogging in early 2007 as a chronicle of our renovation. It ended up being a bit of a venting place for me; we had issues with our renovator. But I enjoyed blogging so much that when the reno was complete and the party was had I decided to continue with Kitcheninspirations and document cooking in my new kitchen. I enjoyed blogging but I never really understood the value of commenting until I started to gain a bit of a following and in turn, get to know a lot of great people.

Who is your foodie inspiration?

I would have to say that my foodie inspiration were my parents. My Father had a very refined palate and my mother was a home cook, undaunted and unafraid of any recipe or ingredient. My father used to say, “why should I go out and pay for a restaurant meal when your mother can make it so much better.”

Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?

Five Roses Flour Cookbook. For $1 I sent away for this basic cookbook in the late 1970’s and it’s been my Go To cookbook for basics. That and the Fanny Farmer Cookbook which I was given as a wedding present 25 years ago!

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?

Bouillabaisse in Marseille, France. I had never had the real bouillabaisse before but had read that it was invented in Marseille so I had to give it a try. I have never really been fond of fish soup, but I can tell you, that soup with the rouille and the crostini, sitting on a patio on a gorgeous fall day overlooking the harbour was breathtaking and unbelievably delicious. JT ordered the steak frites but had wished almost instantaneously that he had ordered the bouillabaisse instead. Fading into to dreamy land….

Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?

So many and so little time; but to name a few: Sawsan at Chef in Disguise, Ann at Cooking Healthy for Me, Kristy and Mike at Eat, Play, Love, John at from the Bartolini kitchens, Charles at Five Euro Food and Lorraine’s at Not quite Nigella (I would add Barb’s at Profiterols and Ponytails, but I have actually eaten at her table and enjoyed it immensely!) and many more.

What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (money no object)

A warming drawer; I wish I had worked it into my kitchen reno but alas it was not so.

Who taught you how to cook?

My dear mother taught me the basics of cooking. She also taught me not to be afraid of trying something new, if it doesn’t work out, start again. Years of watching Food Network and early TV cooks, I have honed my skills.

I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?

Barley Risotto. I always have dried woodland mushrooms on hand, barley, stock and parmesan cheese. Flourless Molten chocolate cake for dessert.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

Escargot in garlic butter with lots of crusty bread. Or steak tartar.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

My favourite pet in the whole world was my gorgeous little brown bunny rabbit named Dustie. She passed away almost six years ago and I have been able to bring myself to get another.

Tag five other Food Bloggers to answer these questions:

  1. Hotly Spiced, Charlie Louie is a beautiful Mom with some very sophisticated recipes and a lovely way she weaves a story about her family into her posts.
  2. GenYFoodie, Dara puts together healthy, local ingredients into comforting meals. And she wrote a cookbook.
  3. Ichigo Shortcake, interesting food and travel adventures.
  4. Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, good down to earth recipes.
  5. The Big Fat Noodle, recipes and anecdotes.

Thanks again, Sharyn, I really appreciate the award. Now, I must contemplate some requirements for an upcoming giveaway! Very exciting…indeed.

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As you may know, we renovated our kitchen about four years ago, adding about 100 square feet to our modest little 10′ x10′ craftsman-style kitchen and basement. Most renovations don’t go exactly to plan, and our’s was no different. I had hoped to gain an olive oil and vinegar drawer beside the stove and a great spice pullout on the other side, but because we have some angles on our main wall with most of the cabinets, we were limited (it makes for an interesting layout, but awkward functionality). I did manage both of my wishes, but we had to be creative on where we put them.
For years I managed with my spices being in small labelled tins, but a tablespoon of this or that would deplete my tin, so I was constantly refilling. Last fall, we were visiting our good friends Paul and T in Yorkville Illinois and I noticed that she had some lovely little jars of spices she had picked up in Target (we Canadians say Tarjé, as in French!). Much to my surprise, she generously picked up an entire set for me! What a dear, dear friend.
They didn’t have some of the unique spices I like to have on hand (such as garam masala, meat masala or five Chinese spice) so I relabeled some duplicates, which worked out perfectly! Now my spice drawer is complete! I’m wondering what my next project should be?

20111020-061744.jpg
Yes, I may have ‘type-A’ tendencies! The spices are organized alphabetically! It’s not crazy, just super organized! No, really!

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First I want to say how sad I am that Steve Jobs has passed away; not withstanding that he was so very young, his future contributions will be sadly missed. I have been using his products almost exclusively for near 25 years (maybe longer). My first real job, was the beginning of the apple hype; we had just started getting Macs on every desk. I was in the Graphic Department of a professional services firm (think Accounting and Consulting), so we were one of the first. My very first Mac was Macintosh 128K, it didn’t have enough memory to hold graphic software — some being as large as two little 3.5 inch floppy disks! I remember coining the term “disk-drive aerobics”, standing by as the Mac accessed disk one, pop it out, I’d then have to pop in disk two, and repeat, over and over and over, every time I saved! One of the first projects I did was a detailed map of our rail system on Cricket Draw – it took days! I finally finished it and IT WOULD NOT PRINT! Good grief! All that work? Really? That was my rude awakening to Postscript! Fortunately, Cricket was able to convert the graphic to Postscript, so I bought a couple of books on it, read them from cover to cover and changed a comma to a period and lo and behold, IT PRINTED!!! Fortunately software has matured with the leaps and bounds of Mac technology. Lucky for me, I was born to use a Mac! My wonderful career in design and design management was launched and the rest is history. Thank you, Steve Jobs! May you Rest In Peace.

Now to the task at hand, my good friend Ann, over at Cooking Healthy For Me tagged me in a game to list your three favourite posts, and then to name five bloggers to do the same. Well, I am happy to report, that I have new bloggers in my follow repertoire, so stay tuned!

Listing my favourite dishes is not as easy as it sounds; I might like the photo, or the recipe, but not both! Decisions, decisions! Ok, here goes:

All Butter French Croissants

The all butter croissants. I really like the photo, but to have made actual, real life, French croissants? I must say, I am loving this post (thank you Sawsan, I wouldn’t have done it without your kind words of encouragement!).

Harira, a traditional Moroccan Soup

My second choice has to be Harira, a traditional Moroccan Soup. Not withstanding the wonderful flavours in this soup, I really like the photo (I know it’s a bit blown out in the front, but I like it. I’m finally getting the hang of my Canon Rebel. I’ve never used an SLR before this blog!

Mini Paris Cupcakes

My Final choice are the mini Paris Cupcakes, mainly because they are so bright and I smile every time I look at them. I would have loved to say a number of other from 2007, 8 and 9, but sadly the photos suck, so I won’t bring them up…but if your are curious, I really loved the following:

Leak and Potato Capuccino with Gruyére Créme

Retro Olive Nuggets

Cottage Paella

Cheddar and Onion Scones

Flourless Molten Chocolate Cake

OK, that’s it. Really. Thank you Ann, for a lovely trip down memory lane…it was a nice journey! I would like to mention that if I have missed you on this round, I am trying to expand the blog-o-sphere and bring on some new bloggers I’ve come across. I still ADORE reading all of the blogs I have grown so attached to. It’s like a cyber family!

Now for my next nominations:

  1. Dulce Delight A Brazilian young woman living in NYC. I’m not sure if she reads my blog, but I read her’s and it is lovely. She very candidly presents cooking videos from her little apartment in New York. Plus I love her adorable little pocket dog.
  2. Jed at Sports-Glutton is a new reader, but I like his rawness, typical guy recipes. I don’t really read his sports entries, sorry Jed, but I am a girly girl, and have no interest. But I will savor your food posts with vigor!
  3. the Big Fat Noodle is new to my repetoire, but I’m TOTALLY lovin’ her latest halloween posts.
  4. Another new one for me is Cravings of a Lunatic. I find this lady interesting because her “about” claims she doesn’t eat many things, yet her blog is filled with interesting and diverse foods.
  5. And last but not least, Anna at Banana Wonder. She is a very tall Greek woman (see her about). She has tasty recipes and stories to go with them!

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving (yay, long weekend!) I would like to wish everyone a very safe and happy Thanksgiving. I know I have a lot to give thanks for this year, including my new found friends. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Eva

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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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Remembering 9-11

I knew it was the anniversary of 9-11 all week, but somehow today I put it out of my mind. I do that when I don’t want to do something or remember something…kind of a defense mechanism.
The radio just broadcast a beautiful remembrance and there it was…a flash back like no other. I was working at the time and I heard someone say that two planes just crashed into the World Trade Centers. What? Extreme disbelief. We were able to get onto a news station on-line before the world bogged down the net. My company put the news on in the boardroom on the mammoth TV; I went in and found I just could stay. It really happened. It really did happen. For the next week I was glued to the radio news, weeping uncontrollably; I couldn’t bear to watch actual footage. The radio just brought it all back, and even though ten years have passed, the tears flowed like it was happening today.
To our brothers and sisters south of the 49th, know that I’m thinking of you today. I will remember the horrible acts humans impose on each other – not just 9-11 and hope that in some way, we will all learn something from it.

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Clothing sizing today.

When I was 20 I bought a very expensive dress at The Ports (wool, knit, made in Italy, but I digress!) and it was a size 8. I was ecstatic! Size 8! For the most part, I wore a size 10. It looked amazing!
Some years have passed, my weight has gone up and down. The majority of my clothes are now a size 6! WTF? I am no where near my university weight. What is going on with clothing sizes? I’m not complaining, my brain loves the size 6, but really? I can also set my scale back 10lbs and be really really happy – but it’s not real.
Well, back in the day I probably was a size 4 in today’s size. Maybe then I wouldn’t have been dissatisfied.

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Week one success!

Week one was a grand success! Both JT and I are following ‘the diet’ and are doing pretty well (with the exception of someone who had a glass of wine with HIS sister for lunch on Thursday – what? Me? Bitter?). Not with standing we’re each down 5lbs! Energy levels are very low; I have am appointment to see the Dr. on Monday, hopefully he will make suggestions.
Tonight we had dinner in our backyard dining room. It was sushi-grade tuna seared rare on the Barbie – and I made a tasty stir fry.

For the stir fry use only your favourite veg, no point in eating stuff you hate while you are on this thing! We used broccoli, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, zucchini and onions (both green and Vidalia) – about 230g for each of us (it’s a lot, believe me).
Sauté onions with a squirt of Pam and a dash of LS chicken stock for a few minutes, add the remainder of the veg. Season with Chinese 5-spice (I make my own), freshly grated ginger and freshly grated garlic, salt sparingly. It was wonderful.

As a treat, we went to the movies to see Pirates of the Caribbean; I love Johnny Depp. Aaaaahhh!

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Please don’t buy a real bunny as a gift at Easter. A bunny will live to about 12 years; this is a real commitment. A bunny needs as much attention as a dog; they have delicate digestive systems that upset easily and not every vet knows how to deal with them (I know of 1 in Toronto) $$$. This is not a decision to be made lightly while you are caught up in the Easter festivities.

This post is dedicated to all the bunnies that end up at the humane society after Easter is over.

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A hectic December made our visit to the Doran’s even more welcome than it usually is. The first thing we had to do was figure out how to keep the live Christmas tree watered while we were away. JT devised and ingenious watering system which worked like a charm (Brian, we will have our tree up for your visit next week!):

Christmas Tree Watering System Schematic

We flew with Porter to Midway Airport on Sunday December 26 and Paul and T met us at the airport to being our first leg of the journey downtown Chicago. I cannot say enough good things about Porter — what a fantastic flight experience! We stayed at the beautiful Kimpton Monaco Hotel for one night, our suite was lovely.

Our sweet suite at the Kimpton Monaco

We decided to walk to a Mexican Restaurant JT and I have been to many times. It took us about 10 minutes.

Su Casa Chicago Illinois

From there we found that lovely little French store I adore, it was nice to get out of the wind. Then for some serious shopping, Filene’s Basement, Nordstrom’s Rack (JT got a great coat), Loehman’s and the boys went for a beer at the pub across the road from our hotel.

The Kimpton hotels offer free wine from 5-6 every night, so of course, we had to partake! We then took off a bit early to have a cocktail at the bar at Shaw’s Restaurant.

Shaw's Bar

T and I shared our appi’s and mains to keep our consumption lower, Oysters Rockefeller and then the Grilled Seafood Platter, the boys had the Lobster Bisque, Paul had Surf and Turf, and JT had the seared Ahi Tuna! Everything was excellent, although my feet were frozen under the table!

We finished off the evening with a drink at the Oyster Bar and some live blues. It was an amazing evening.

The next day, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant (complimentary continental) and then headed off to the Museum of Science and Industry. It was so crowded, it would have taken us over an hour to get our tickets, so we decided to pass. But we did have a gander at the store, where I bought Jack’s birthday present!

There were more than 500 people in line for tickets

We decided to head back to Yorkville with a pit stop to pick up Paul’s car (mice had chewed through $250 worth of wiring in their garage!) and a quick stop to see the Rock Star Bus — OMG it is one humongous bus! We unpacked in Yorkville at the comfortable home of Paul and T and had our customary cocktails before heading out for dinner.

Paul had to work the next day, so T took us to the outlet mall and a couple of stores. I lucked out at Nine West with my Ruby shoes, but not much else.

Ruby Shoes

T made and amazing dinner on Tuesday night and we may have had a bit of wine. Potato and Leak soup, roast pork with roasted sweet potatoes (with a balsamic glaze). YUM.

Wednesday got off to a late start for me, I was feeling a lot under the weather. T loaned us her car and we ran around Yorkville and Naperville a little bit. All in all a great day. JT and I made dinner, Roasted Celery Root soup and JT’s wonderful Chicken Cacciatore on penne pasta. Also very YUM. We were careful not to imbibe as our flight home was at 10am and we had to be out of the house by 7:30!

Thanks Paul and T, we really needed this diversion. Your support and friendship means a lot to us, particularly over the coming months.

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Last night we ventured out to Ossington between Queen and Dundas for the Blackout Anniversary Street Party. This party is held every year in a different hood in Toronto. I guess we should have stayed later, because for us it was a bust. We had reservations at Delux at 7:30 and the party was to start at 8 – we were finished dinner around 8:30 and the street was deadskie. Nothing going on. We found a cute little bar that had a huge selection of Tequila so we had a drink (or two) and were done by 9:30 (the bar was sweltering because they turned off 95% electricity so no AC). Still nothing, so we went home. Note to self, next year, go much much later.

Delux

Very cute, minimalist decor approach, limited menu; not terribly expensive. The chef is Corinna Mozo and the style is Cuban/French. We had the curried mussels (about 25–35 already checked mussels (no dead one’s in this pile!). They serve it with what tastes like home made bread, kinda heavy but really good for slopping up the tasty Currie. Then we had the Cuban sandwich, which we mentioned we were sharing, so they actually split it onto two plates, which was lovely. The sandwich had a grainy mustard mayo, pickles, caramelized onions, Gruyere and pulled pork (I think) and it’s grilled until it’s hot and crispy – YUM! I had about 3 bites and handed it over to JT to finish, very filling. The fries were thicker than I prefer, but they came with a Chipotle mayo which as fantastic. I gave half my fries to JT.

Overall rating: Decor 3/5, service 4/5, food 4/5 and Value 4/5

Reposado

Definitely a place to bring our good friends Paul and T (they love Tequila, and I have to admit, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have tried one!). They specialize in Tequila and cocktails made from Tequila. Being newbe’s we decided to try a couple straight up so we can really get the flavour.

JT had El Jimador (photos from Reposado website)

El Jimador Tequila

I had the Los Arango. I wasn’t totally in love with it but it was a nice treat. My favourite poison is still the Hungarian Palinka (which is kind of like the Swiss Kirschwasser).

(photos from Reposado website)

Los Arango

Overall rating: Decor too dark to tell, service 4/5, food n/a and Value 3/5 (not too expenisve).

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This is my last attempt at growing vegetables. Let me reminisce for a moment.

The first summer in this house, I turned the garden into a vegetable garden  (which later became our cocktail lounge and then the addition) and planted tomatoes, peppers and zuchinni. No sun, no success.

The following year, during the winter, I bought a kit to germinate seeds in my back room under fluorescent lighting. The mice ate all the plants. We got rid of the mice. That summer, I bought cherry tomatoes to plant in containers in the back. I figured I could move them around to follow the sun. No such luck.

I gave up on tomatoes for a while and decided to plant lettuces in containers just outside the living room. I generally got one batch of lettuce out of it and it was tasteless. The slugs got more of a meal than I.

Then there was the celery; when we were in Europe last year, my Aunt Agi had celery growing in her garden, so I thought, if she can do it… my celery was not that much celery as more shrubbery.

So here I am in 2009 and decided on my last ditch attempt at container gardening with tomato plants on the garage roof (it gets sun from around 10-sunset). JT and I hoisted up 3 full containers of soil (Yes full. Not well thought out) I generally save my soil with last year’s roots over the winter so it composts. Then I mix plant food for the current year and plant. Usually works out well, when the pots are on the ground. Except that they are quite heavy. Our neighbours came over because they heard us moaning as I lifted from the ground and JT pulled them up with rope. The garage roof is their new home forever, needless to say.

I planted three types of tomatoes, hoping to have bounties for salad all summer long. We have harvested 3 yellow cherry tomatoes so far. Not so bountiful, but at least they are producing.

Yellow Cherry Tomatoes - July through September
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes – July through September
Super Sweet Cherry Tomatoes - August - September
Super Sweet Cherry Tomatoes – August – September
Red Cherry Tomatoes - July through September
Red Cherry Tomatoes – July through September

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My Pantry Storage Dilemma

The kitchen is about 2 year’s old now (that is unbelievable) and I’ve been struggling with dry goods storage in my pantry and my baking drawers. I hate irregular packaging that make things look messy and unkept; I really like things squared and ordered.

This past weekend, I found the greatest glass jars in Dollarama (I know, China and all, but they have been the ONLY thing I’ve found that works, and guess how much they were?). I’ve labelled and organized them and now I am quite happy again.

Pantry

Pantry

Baking Drawer

Baking Drawer

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Friday night JT and I rode the Bullet (that’s our subway) to the Bloor-Yorkville Icefest. An easy 15 minute ride. We immerged at Cumberland and spent about 4 minutes looking at the sculptures. Now maybe there was more, but 4 mintues? They were indeed lovely, and apparently 25,000lbs of ice! That’s some ice. But 4 mintues? We had dinner at Asuka, one of our favourite sushi places a short walk from the festivities!

Here are the photos, enjoy in the warmth and comfort of your home.

ice-fest1

innukshuk-copy

big-ben-copy

cn-tower

eiffeltower

seal

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clockCountdown Clock

The Doran’s are coming, the Doran’s are coming! It won’t be for New Year’s but then again, it’s better than nothing! Our crazy world-travelling friends are travelling to the big smoke, whirl-wind style as usual, arriving Friday around lunch-time and leaving Sunday around 7pm! We’re really looking forward to our ‘Doran Fix’

The menu:

Friday Lunch:
Homemade Pizza – salami and goats cheese (low in lactose) on a Vidalia onion confit, field greens with a light dressing.

martini-glassFriday Cocktail: Martini’s and T’inspired Spanakopita

Friday Dinner:
Chicken Cacciatore on a bed of spinach and home made crusty bread (UPDATED)
Dessert: Peach cobbler with home-made Vanilla Ice Cream (UPDATED)

After dinner we will take a tour of Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights…about 12 neighbourhoods have decorated main streets with lovely Christmas lights!

headache1Saturday Breakfast:
Home-baked Breads and Muffins, Coffee

We’ll take off to see McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario and have lunch in the quaint town of Kleinburg at Chartreuse Restaurant, Pub!

martini-glassSaturday Cocktails: Martini’s and Bacon Wrapped Dates

Saturday Dinner (men’s night to cook):
JT’s famous Mediterranean Pasta (with whole wheat, hi fibre pasta, and sheep’s milk feta – low in lactose!)

Dessert: Apple Crisp and home made vanilla ice cream (if there is some left!) (UDATED)

headache1Sunday Breakfast (assuming it will be relatively late!):
Dr. G’s

Depending on how everyone feels, we may want to shop, or go downtown to the Hockey Hall of Fame! Of course, all this could change due to weather.

Sunday Lunch: TBD.

We’re dropping them at the airport later that day…I wonder where we’ll meet again!

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I have now baked about 11 items, and am officially announcing that I am tired of baking!

  • Bargain Basement Barb’s Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • Peanut Butter Bars (new)
  • Lauren’s Spice Cookies (new)
  • Donkey Ears
  • Chocolate Mint Hershey Kiss Cookies
  • Peppermint Bark
  • 2-Bite Chewy Chocolate Brownies (new)
  • 2-Bite Butterscotch Blondies (new)
  • Namaimo Bars (new) – I may not make this
  • Anzac Biscuits
  • Butterscotchy Almond Bars (new)

I will be assembling my baked gifts next week, as our Christmas celebrations continue!

Last night we were out with my work gang for our Christmas Pool Game and then later to Le Select for dinner (my favorite French restaurant in Toronto). We had 8:30 reservations, but were not seated until almost 9:30…dinner was around 10 (maybe even later). It was fun and delicious! Tonight we’re off to see the lights downtown!

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Thankfully, we survived with much celebration, laughter and camaraderie with our very best friends, the Dorans! JT and Paul played golf twice (the weather was amazing 20+ everyday!!!) and T and I shopped and shopped and shopped!

On Saturday, the boys piled into a van and drove to Soldiers Field in Chicago to watch a Bears game. By piling into a van, I’m talkin’ 7:30am…they arrived downtown around 9am and begin the festivities. By festivities, I’m talkin’ Tailgating! The girls took the train downtown and joined the tailgating party around 10:30. We were ceremoniously greeted with Manhatten’s (1 part southern comfort, 1/2 part dry vermouth and 1/2 part sweet vermouth, topped with an olive) they are rather a unique taste and should be consumed in moderation, otherwise may result in the biggest, foggiest head you’ve ever experienced! We had one (believe it or not, but I wanted to be sober for shopping!).

Tailgating consists of a carefully choreographed grilling, eating and drinking experience. Then, about 30 minutes before the game, you blink, and the entire festivities are cleaned up and put into the trunk (to be reintroduced after the game, of course!) It was extremely civilized and the food was good. Fortunately the weather was spectacular; I could not have seen me enjoying it as much if it were cold and rainy!

JT and I contributed Bargain Basement Barb’s chocolate chip cookies and they were a hit. I will post the recipe tonight, with photos, of course (I may have held back 4 for this purpose!).

I had great shopping, a new coat, jeans, a cute little jacket, a sexy dress, shoes and a few great kitchen gadgets! Of course, we brought home two 1.75L goose-co’s and 6 bottles of our favorite wine.

We arrived home at 6:30pm last night…a 9+ hour drive. We are hoping to do it again soon!

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