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Archive for the ‘Renovations’ Category

Recently we opened our cottage for the summer. It was a busy weekend made even busier by someone’s hair-brained idea to redecorate (paint the wood paneling, new flooring, update kitchen upper cupboards, etc)! And that doesn’t stop me from complicating things by making an entire menu for the weekend home-made.
I’ve mentioned that our cottage is remote, so everything has to be brought in because even a 45 minute trip to the closest largest city doesn’t guarantee that one can find what one is looking for. So preparing a Menu Plan is essential as is the List of what needs to be brought up to execute said Menu Plan.
The list is key, here’s how I organize the list:
Menu Plan, Shopping List; things to be brought from home: the Pantry, the Freezer and the Refrigerator. As we pack for the weekend, things get checked off The List. The Menu Plan is followed to a T. If I bring four eggs, it means I’ll use four eggs. The trick is to end up with less than what we came up with, which usually works well. The Menu Plan also allows for left overs to be utilized in some sort of wrap for our return drive home, guaranteeing a healthier lunch than the truck stops on the road. Over the last twenty years I’ve only forgotten one thing and that was before The List was implemented, we were young and lived dangerously. If you’d like to download my template, feel free to use this one May 24 2013 Cottage Menu. The other essential thing is the running list once we get to the cottage — things that need to be brought the next time (toilet paper, paper towel, hand soap etc, you get the picture!)
JTs sister uses my FIL’s cottage about 15 metres (50 feet) from our place, so we generally get together at least once for cocktails during the weekend. I usually make something for cocktails because I like to cook! I came up with the idea of spinach and feta tartlets using my friend Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry after seeing Sawsan’s post of Fatayer. They can be baked and then reheated to serve. I like them because they are full of flavour and small (portion control or eat them ALL!). This recipe makes 36 mini tarts using mini muffin tins with lots of pastry left over which can be frozen for future use. My lovely niece Laura (soon to be a full-fledged Lawyer) made Spanakopita, a delicious Weight Watchers recipe…great minds! This recipe isn’t for the dieter even though the serving is small, there is a lot of butter in the pastry. An alternative to the buttery pastry would be using wonton shells like my lovely friend Sissi has done here!

Spanakopita Tartlets

A single bite portion packing great flavours

A single bite portion packing great flavours

Makes 36 mini 2.5 cm or 1″ tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry dough
  • 200 g (7 oz) baby spinach
  • 50 g (2 oz) finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dill weed100 g (3.5 oz) crumbled Greek Feta

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Sweat the onions until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until you can smell its aroma, add the spinach and cook down until spinach has wilted.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  5. Add to a food processor and pulse a few times, you don’t want paste, just smaller bits.
  6. Add the oregano, dill and the crumbled Greek Feta and stir well.
  7. Roll the dough to about 2mm (a hair more than 1/8th inch) thick and cut with a 5 cm (2 inch) scalloped cookie cutter.
  8. Press each round into the bottom of an ungreased mini muffin tin.
  9. Fill with about 1 tbsp of the spinach filling.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden. Serve warm. Can be frozen and reheated for 10-12 minutes at 350F.
The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

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

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

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

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

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

The new path to the sidewalk

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

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

The back yard from the cocktail lounge area

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

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

Escargot en Choux


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

The view this morning

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A lovely, flavourful breakfast at the cottage are these individual ramekins of spinach and feta fritatta. One egg, 1 tbsp of feta, 1 small finely chopped shallot, 1 tsp finely sliced chives, pinch of basil or oregano and 1/4 cup chopped spinach per person – a little brunch!

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Pre-heat oven or BBQ to 350F.
Prepare one ramekin per person by spraying with non-stick spray.
In a small skillet and a quick spray of non-stick spray cook the shallots until translucent, add spinach and wilt.
Remove from heat.
Beat eggs well, adding all remaining ingredients, mix well.
Divide mixture between the number of ramekins you’ve prepared.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Serve with a salad of watermelon sprinkled with lime juice and a chiffonade of mint.

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We finally bit-the-bullet and had new windows installed in our 1928 Craftsman-style home. We had intended on doing it with the Reno 4+ years ago, but then we reached our saturation point of spending; not exactly a budget, we just got sick and tired of spending money! Glad we waited though, because it seems that window prices have been reduced since then! We decided to do all the windows and the front door and what a difference it makes. Last night the humidity disappeared and the temperature dropped, so we immediately took advantage, turned off the A/C and opened ALL the windows. Most of the old windows were painted shut, so they wouldn’t even open, so our new found cross ventilation was very exciting! I am also very excited about being able to clean the windows inside and out (our old windows had storms painted on and the glass sandwiched inside the storm was filthy!) Woo hoo. Small things bring me pleasure.

Still not the tennis bracelet, but new windows will keep me happy for a while!

Diningroom Window

Front Door

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We accumulated quite a bit of left-over lumber from our deck-building project – even over and above what we’d given away already. I had a plan. I’d always hated stepping onto the dirt in front of our shed in the back 40, so I convinced JT to build a mini deck so that the dirt doesn’t splash up against our lovely shed and give us a good landing stepping in and out of the shed. Of course, we picked Sunday to do this task. Outside. During the bloody hotest day this summer! I was sweatin’ like an Eastern European Woman. Oh.

Hotest Day Yet

The really important number is the “Feels Like” because that is what it feels like with the enormous amount of humidity!

We got it done, just in time for a late lunch.

New Mini Deck

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As an add-on to last night’s post: On the front lawn I put out all the decent sized lumber pieces left over from our project (minimum size 3′ maximum size 5′) hoping that someone with a smaller project would pick them up. Well, during cocktails, a guy pulled up in his sedan and did just that; and then he came back and picked up MOST of our lumber from our previous deck!!! I am SO GLAD. Both JT and I had concerns that Billy would have to make several trips (and that just means more $$$$ for us!). I just LOVE that this guy thought our lumber was good enough to reuse (he actually asked if he could and he mentioned he had a cabin up north that he was building, so the lumber was great for him!).

By the way,  it did rain last night.

Trip #6 to The Depot and oh, look…rain!

Weather July2

We only had to build the steps today, so we were done by 11am! Check out the finished Steps:

The Finished Steps

The Finished Steps

The new view from the living room:

The Room with the View

The Room with the View

And finally, the finished deck:

The FInished Deck

The FInished Deck

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Weather July 1

Today is Canada Day, therefore everthing is closed (thank goodness we stocked up from The Depot, the LCBO and Metro!).  We got off to a great start and skirted the back of the deck. By 12:30ish we had the arbour up and capped. Lunch was a tasty wrap and a tower of tomatoes and buffalo mozarella….YUM.

Wraps with Tomato and Buffalo Mozerella Tower

Wraps with Tomato and Buffalo Mozerella Tower

Although the weather forecast called for rain, we didn’t get any! YIPEEEEEE. We worked like crazy to get the top box finished for the steps from the living room and by the end of the day, JT was skirting behind the BBQ and I was cleaning up.

The deck is done, but the steps to the patio still need to be done, and you know what that means…Trip #6 to The Depot tomorrow morning!

The Cocktail Lounge Arbour

The Cocktail Lounge Arbour

The Cocktail Lounge

The Cocktail Lounge

The Reclaimed Dining Area

The Reclaimed Dining Area

Cocktails with Hungarian Cheese Sticks (my Aunte Agi’s recipe) will be served promptly at 5:30 on the New, Mother of All Mothers, Cocktail Lounge (furniture is TBD, we will use this in the meantime). Shortly thereafter, dinner will be served de plein air (as they say) in the newly reclaimed dining area! Cheers!

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