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AsianPorkSalad_2379

It’s tangy, crunchy and quite delicious.

I always knew that my blogging would someday parlay into something more but did I ever hope it would be two-fold? Never in a million years! First it was food styling (which I’m still doing) and as luck would have it, I recently reconnected with a colleague and a new opportunity was born: I’ve been social media content! How cool is that? I’ve been very fortunate to have been given this opportunity and I thank my lucky stars every minute! And I thought I was just lucky in love! So if you need food related social media content, I’m your gal! Email me at evataylor at bell dot net  and we’ll ‘talk’!

I know you’re scrolling ahead to see these photos so let me take the suspense out: they were taken on the morning of April 15, 2014 — I kid you NOT! I was hoping to be yearning for light, salad-ie dishes by now but sadly the weather is STILL not cooperating. Yes, we did have a couple of exceptionally warmish days last weekend but for the most part it’s still soup and stew weather. And like my rebellious feet I am holding out and silently switching gears to a more summery palate!

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I took this photo in High Park on my morning walk. Yes indeed it’s pretty…if it were December! Not April 15 for sure.

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It was cold enough that the snow stayed all day.

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It really is rather beautiful.

As I’m sure most of you operate with similar intentions, I cruise blogs particularly when inspiration evades me and this recipe was no different; it was inspired by the lovely Sawsan’s beautiful Sushi Salad. I must confess that I didn’t record or photograph the first attempt of this creation which was a huge mistake (or was it?) so we actually had this tasty dish two nights in a row! And if it were up to me, it would have been three or four!
The volumes are ball-park, use what you like, omit what you don’t! Easy. If you have celery add it, if you don’t, no worries. The beauty of this dish is the crunch and variety of each and every bite.

Sawsan used ‘cauliflower’ rice but the cauliflower was not nice the day I wanted to make this dish so I substituted Napa cabbage. Since we were having this as a dinner course, I added a marinated BBQ’d pork tenderloin as our protein but chicken or fish would be an excellent substitution.

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The avocado adds a certain je ne said quo is, but may be omitted if you’re watching calories.

Asian Inspired Crunchy Spring Salad

Serves 2 as a dinner portion. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients for the pork and marinade:

  • 200 g pork tenderloin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce

Directions for the pork and marinade:

  1. Remove all fat and silver skin from the tenderloin. Stab it a few times with a fork, all the way around.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and roll the prepared tenderloin in it to cover. Let rest in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes or overnight.

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Directions for the dressing:

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside. (may be prepared the day before)

Ingredients for the salad:

(as suggestions, if you dislike something omit it and if you love something, by all means add more!)

  • 5-6 cups of finely sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup cucumber, cubed
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, cubed
  • 1/2 medium sized red beet (raw, peeled and julienned)
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • a good bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Directions for the salad:

  1. BBQ the tenderloin until the internal temperature reads 71° C or 160°F at its thickest part. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  2. Lay a generous bed of the finely sliced Napa cabbage on each plate.
  3. Sprinkle the cubed cucumber, avocado and red pepper along the outer edge of the base. Add the julienned beets to the centre so it just peeks outside the ring (the beets discolour the Napa so I didn’t want it to bleed all over it).
  4. Garnish with the green onions and cilantro.
  5. After the pork rests for 10 minutes, slice into thin slices. Lay 100 g sliced pork onto each plate and garnish with the dressing and the toasted sesame seeds.
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The abundance of colour was no mistake…perfect for a dreary, wet spring day.

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Happy Monday everyone! I don’t know about you, but despite all of the weather related issues we had at the beginning of the holidays, they turned out to be lovely. And with temperatures plummeting to the high minus teens, it’s rather wonderful to have power back! I believe that now power has been restored to everyone in Toronto, thank goodness!

2013 was a year of change in a good way. I celebrated a benchmark birthday (I still can’t believe I’m THAT old!). My almost ten years of working with my dear friend came to an end and I decided to embark on a new career path in food! Little did I know that way back in 2007 when I began blogging it would eventually redirect my career path! I’m really pumped about 2014 and all of the opportunities it will bring! Happy New Year indeed!

As you WordPress users are already aware, WP sends us a synopsis of the stats at the end of every year. Even though i see my stats day to day, this synopsis still surprises me! My humble little blog was viewed 51,000 times in 2013, can you believe it! And for whatever reason December 24th garnered a healthy 728 views (I still can’t figure out why!). Here’s a quick review.

The five most popular posts were:

  1. Titanic Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
  2. Quinoa Energy Bars
  3. Best Beef Tenderloin Ever
  4. Super Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
  5. Titanic Dinner Party Invitations

The lovely ladies and gentlemen who were my top five commenters:

  1. Maria at A_Boleyn
  2. Sissi at With a Glass
  3. Norma at Garden to Wok
  4. Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella
  5. Charles at Five Euro Food

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and kind words, without you this blog would be a meaningless collection of recipes floating about in cyberspace. Thank you for you support and encouragement, I can’t express how much it means to me.

May 2014 bring you all joy, health and all the best wishes!

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Thank you Barb, your anniversary post inspired JT and I to make our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) this past Christmas for a quick holiday. We stayed at Harbour House a relatively new boutique hotel just off the beaten path in NOTL.  We stayed at this place shortly after it first opened 8-10 years ago and it was lovely, this time was no different. JT booked us into a gorgeous room with a fireplace and we were upgraded to a suite — now that’s sweet!

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The living room with fireplace

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Very spacious

A festive touch in our room

A festive touch in our room

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The bedroom

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

We arrived on Boxing day (December 26) with no weather issues at all, which was a little surprising since they had predicted a bad storm to come through and dump 30cm (12 inches) of snow in the area. We waited and waited and eventually it did snow, but not nearly as much as predicted. NOTL is a picturesque village with nice restaurants, quaint shops and lovely homes, some of which have been converted to B&Bs. It is also very close to Ontario’s Wine Country.

We ate lunch at the Oban Inn, which is always a treat with lovely views of their manicured gardens. We shared the Dungeness Crab Cakes with Micro Greens, Horseradish Espresso Remoulade, Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($16). For my main I enjoyed Icewine Salmon Gravlax, Carrot Slaw, Citrus Creme Fraiche ($12) it was delicious. JT had the quiche with field greens. I would recommend this restaurant highly. Service was also excellent.

Dinner our first night was at Zee’s a restaurant in The Shaw Club a sister hotel. We shared the Cheese and Charcuterie platter with 5 items for $25. On it was TIGER BLUE rich, aromatic with an intense blue flavour, in the style of stilton, ROARING 40’S BLUE cow’s milk, full flavoured blue with a honeyed, slightly nutty quality, rindless, smooth and creamy and a cheddar which they had to substitute. The Charuterie portion was made up of HOT SOPRESATTA from the Calabria Region, red wine, chili spices and salt, texture of prosciutto, robust and spicy and CHORIZO blend of pork, pork fat, smoked dried paprika, distinct smoke flavour, cured and smoked and neither of these impressed us either, not spicy or smokey tasting. JT had the Nova Scotia Lobster Poutine which included house cut fries, a generous serving of butter poached lobster, white cheddar cheese curds, red wine veal jus and a home made hollandaise sauce. JT’s meal was excellent, although it would not have been something I would order. I had the Warm Mushroom & Smoked Bacon Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms & Smoked Bacon, Parsnip Chips & Apple Cider Vinaigrette ($10) and sadly it was neither warm nor did it have many mushrooms, so even at the low price of $10 it was disappointing.

Our hotel included a wonderful breakfast both days, made of a hot egg dish, pastries, cheeses, meats, scones, preserves, yogurt and fruit. There was also cereal, but who eats cereal on their vacation? Let’s just say we didn’t leave hungry! Our first full day we decided to brave the weather and head down to Niagara Falls, NY to do a little shopping at Walden Galleria which turned out to be nothing special. Lunch was at Bravo Italian Cucina which I suspect is a chain. We both had the soup and salad combo; I had the Italian Wedding soup but was lacking in flavour and JT had the Lobster Bisque which had good lobster flavour but was too creamy for my taste. Our waiter was very talkative and we enjoyed the interaction. Would I go back? Doubt it, nothing special. We returned to NOTL by way of the Rainbow bridge and although we both now have Nexus, I prefer to go the human route when we buy things outside of the allowances. With both cases you must declare what you bring in, but at least the human factor gives us the possibility of not having to pay the taxes and duty on the items (free trade my foot). And this time the lady clearing us in chastised me for not buying enough! Go figure.

That night we ate at the Cannery another sister hotel/restaurant. This is a slightly larger hotel catering to more family style stays. Most of the restaurants in NOTL are casual, so for the most part people don’t really dress up but JT and I always do! I started with Sea Scallops which were Seared Sea Scallops, Petite Village Salad, Seedlings, Smoked Paprika Oil  ($18) it was delicious (I didn’t take photos because it was too dark), JT had the caesar salad. My main course was an appetizer portion of Spicy Udon Noodles which were Tapioca Noodles, Spicy Yuzu Sesame Sauce, Pork Dumplings, Shiitake Mushrooms Prawns, Matchstick Vegetables ($15) again, delicious and a perfect portion for me! JT had the appetizer portion of the Tagliatelle Pasta which was Semolina Broad Noodles, Pulled Braised Lamb, Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Paste, Asiago Shards ($15); we both enjoyed our meals. Having said that, the overall impression is kind of Cracker Barrel style decor, bright lighting and not much cozy ambiance.

Our final lunch was at an old favourite at On the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario a short drive from NOTL and an exceptional restaurant which is connected to Cave Spring Cellars an award winning winery. We ate a lovely table overlooking their perennial gardens which were romantically blanketed with snow. I started with Heirloom Beet Salad of smoked goat cheese, Dave Irish’s breakfast radish, pickled red onion, pistachio brittle, honey mandarin vinaigrette ($12) and JT had the butternut squash soup ($10) and both were exceptional. I then had the Vintner’s Platter in-house smoked salmon, pâté en croute, house-made mustard, pickles, charcuterie, artisanal cheese ($19) which could have easily been shared and JT had the Grilled Venison Burger with Juniper berry-infused tomato relish, feta cheese aioli, baby arugula, fresh-cut fries, house-made ketchup ($17) which was OUTSTANDING. We each had an espresso for dessert. Service is always exceptional and the ambiance is lovely. If you ever come up to this area, you must dine at On the Twenty.

View from our room.

View from our room.

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It’s these friendly touches that make this hotel

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A delicious cookie for each of us.

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It’s all in the details

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Each evening between 4-5:30 wine and cheese were served in the lobby. We gathered to meet the other lovely guests, most of whom were Americans, as far away as Philly.

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Our first lunch was at Oban Inn, these are most delicious crab cakes.

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This was my second course at the Oban, a wonderful Gravlox Salmon, home cured. Most delicious combination of flavours and textures.

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Our last lunch at Inn on the 20, a beet and goats cheese salad with pistachio brittle. Very tasty.

We made our way back home to find our driveway and walkways had been cleared of the massive dump of snow we got while we were away. We really do have the loveliest neighbours.

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The snow in our backyard

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The front yard, still snowing

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We flew off to NYC this fine morning. Toronto is hot and humid, Manhattan is slightly cooler but with higher humidity. As long as it’s not cold, I’ll be ok, I think I packed enough ;)! Okay, don’t ask!
I’d like to apologize if I’m not commenting on your lovely blogs, I will surely catch up on my return. Please forgive me 🙂
We flew United and had to pay $28 per checked bag! Really? Since when? We don’t pay with Canadian airlines. I’m already rethinking my wardrobe for Europe, although we are flying Air Canada! I’m sure they will catch on by the fall. For Manhattan I brought 6 pairs of shoes, 7 if you count the foldy/rolly ones!
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, and thank goodness as we were ‘flagged’ by Nexus. We had to go to a special room and drop off our credentials and wait. JT has a common name and we were tagged! Lucky us. 😦 This has happened before and we discovered that there are a lot of criminals who have the same name as JT. Our kind US agent marked our info on their system so we are never tagged again, at least that is what he told us. We’ll see if the let us back in!
Our plane was a small Boeing turbo prop, at gate 91 out of 99; of course it was! I wore appropriate traveling shoes so the walk was a breeze (7 minutes, the sign said!)

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The first part of the flight was rough and we were tossed around like a plastic bag in the wind. Then it calmed fortunately. I’m reading 50 Shades of Grey on the iPad, for all the reasons. It’s an easy read; I’m on page 70, when do we get to the good parts? (and by that, the ladies will know what I mean!)
We pay $57 + 17 for tolls for a cab into Manhattan from Newark. Expensive, yes but it gets us to our hotel in about 40 minutes!
Our hotel is the Eventi, a Kimpton. Thank you Karen, Back Road Journal, for mentioning about joining loyalty programs. We were upgraded to a higher floor AND the concierge sent up fruit and bottle if wine for our anniversary!

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Free WIFI too! So great. View from our room, if you look far left you’ll see the Empire State Building (not in the photo):

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I’ll blog about lunch tomorrow.

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Saturday was our 26th wedding anniversary; what’s even scarier is the other number, the number of years together! I won’t even bother to say it, you wouldn’t believe me anyway! I’m really not that old, really. No really!!!!
This past weekend was also very special because it was Canada’s first ‘summer’ long weekend: the May ‘2-4’, also known as Queen Victoria’s birthday; it is a national holiday in Canada (I don’t think it even ranks in the UK!) it is the first weekend of cottage season for most and JT and I are fortunate to be in this crowd. The drive up north could be treacherous, the normal 3.5 hours could take in excess of 4 or 5 hours with the traffic, but we planned to leave early on Saturday so we beat it.
Our cottage is remote; it was remote in the late 1800’s when JT’s grandfather purchased the land (it took him three days to get there using three forms of transport: train, horse and buggy and finally a row boat), and it’s still remote; no fancy grocery stores, one has to plan everything — everything. There are three family cottages on the land (100+ acres); JT’s sister, known as Sid (because her iPhone always auto corrects ‘Sis’), used to occupy the old log cabin, they renovated about 20 years ago but they prefer something less rustic than the electric toilet (don’t ask) as they are now using the main cottage that used to be JT’s parents place (Dad is just too frail to come up). We use the boathouse, a small 400 square foot place, two bedrooms. It’s small enough to clean top to toe in an hour and it’s large enough to have our closest friends over. But the absolute best (the best Jerry, the Best) part is the porch—it’s right on the water, we overlook the Bay and it’s perfect.
Part of the menu planning is having little munches for cocktails, and I couldn’t help but want to make my friend Charles’ (Five Euro Food) and Jessica’s (kitchenbelleicious) Roasted Chick Peas and of course, my friend Barb’s (Profiteroles and Ponytails’ version), and there was also Betsy (Bits and Breadcrumbs who also did a take on them! Absolutely wonderful, although because we did not use the allotted oil, we had to roast a wee bit longer, but well worth it. I really liked the texture, JT was so so! I may have lied, I didn’t make them! JT made them whilst I was at the salon getting my roots hair done! We had them for cocktails on Sunday night. Very tasty indeed. Plus they are a protein and we reduced the oil a bit to limit the fat. Still calories but at least they are good calories! Because they are a protein, they will fill you up a lot faster than potato chips, which is fine by me! I changed up the flavouring since Sid doesn’t eat too hot foods (also added a touch of sugar to help calm the heat)

Crunchy and just slightly hot, perfect with that martini. May I get you one?

Roasted Garlic Cumin Chick Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1 large can of Chick Peas (~500g)
  • A quick spray of non stick spray
  • 2-3 tsps Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • A handful of garlic cloves, minced finely

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Add all the spices to the drained and dried chick peas. Mix well.
  3. Give the pan a good spray and lay the chick peas out to an even layer.
  4. As Charles so eloquently put it: roast for about an hour until the peas are shrunken and crispy, and a rich golden brown in colour. We found that because we did not add the oil, we had to roast for about 1.5 hours to get them crispy. And we even let them sit in the oven as the oven cooled down (tasting throughout, of course, the insides had to crisp up)
  5. Allow to cool and enjoy with your flavourite cocktail (our’s was the traditional Vodka Martini, stirred, not shaken!)
  6. Cheers!

I know you want to just dig in, but it’s so much more civilized with that wonderful wooden scoop!

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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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Did you miss me? We were away and we did not have free wifi. I figured at $200 a night, they could have thrown it in…it was a matter of principal.

Of course, it has to snow on our driving day.

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Snow, snow, GO AWAY.

We like to get away from time to time, even if it’s just a couple of hours away. This weekend is our relatively new Family Day holiday in Ontario; it was an election promise by our current Premier Dalton McGuinty (one that he actually kept!) creating a statutory holiday to help bridge the gap from Christmas to Easter, and to beef up tourism in Ontario. We took a little trip to Niagara Falls Ontario.

Niagara is a wonderful combination of culture, food, natural wonder and of course, shopping, and it’s only an hour and a half from our home! We’ve stayed in several different places over the years but this time we’re staying at the Gateway Fallsview Marriott which is reasonably close to Casino Niagara where on Sunday night we will see Band from TV. Here is an adorable little clip of Teri Hatcher singing Kerry Underwood’s Before he Cheats. (Kerry is married to Canadian Mike Fisher, who comes from Peterborough, my nephew (Brian) and niece (Laura) went to school with his siblings…cool eh? 6 degrees of separation!)

Now you are well aware that I bumped into Flat Ruthie the other day at the Toronto Courthouse (not sure what she was doing down there, and perhaps I don’t want to know). Anyway, she finagled her way into coming with us this weekend…I think we’re in trouble…

Oh my, Ruthie, we're ONLY gone 2 nights!

We dropped our luggage at the hotel and then took the Whirlpool Bridge across which is ONLY for Nexus users — we breezed through (the Rainbow Bridge had at least an hour long lineup! Yay Nexus). We went to Walden Galleria to shop where I only got a few things…we declared everything and didn’t have to pay anything! We’re lucky that way. That’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to jinx it! In Canada anything less than 24 hours away and you’re really not supposed to buy anything and bring it back, or you should pay 13% taxes and then about 10-15% duties; but it’s really up to the crossing agent – they determine if you pay. After 48 hours I believe you are allowed $300 plus a litre of booze each. But it’s not worth staying in Niagara Falls New York, believe me, it’s such a dump.

We ate lunch at Gordon Biersch; it was a very nice, pub like establishment, but what really drew us to it was that they make everything from scratch right there. And they brew their own beer. A lot of the menu had beer ingredients, which is always quite cool. I ordered the Ahi tuna salad which was quite tasty (Ahi Tuna, blackened and seared rare, with Märzen Balsamic, Vinaigrette and Cajun remoulade) but as usual they really over dressed the greens…enough already! JT had half roast turkey and swiss sandwich and a beer and cheddar soup – the soup was so rich he couldn’t/wouldn’t finish it. For Buffalo, it exceeded my expectations (I was just hoping we wouldn’t have to dine at burger king).

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JT had the beer, I had a glass of wine. I usually find beer too filling.

This is the view from our room:

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This is a panoramic view from our room using Photosynth - a photo stitch ap on the iPhone

I told her I wouldn't be able to get a good shot, but she insisted.

We stayed at the Fallsview Gateway Marriott which is apparently a different hotel than the Fallsview Marriott. We thought we were in the other one. It wasn’t bad, it was just unexpected. We had a very nice view of the falls. There were no bedbugs. Thank goodness. It’s also a little ironic that we had free wifi in Morrocco, yet, in Niagara Falls Ontario, it’s about $12.75 plus taxes a day. I didn’t get it. Hence my absence this weekend.

King-size bed. There, I said it.

The bathroom had a glass wall facing the bed…I’ll leave that to your imagination.

The fancy tub (can you imagine the bacteria-fest in the pipes? YUCK!)

I’ll review the restaurants and the entertainment in the coming days.

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It’s Thanksgiving in Canada, and we made our yearly treck to my brother’s cottage. It should only be a little over a two hour drive, but as the years move on it’s gotten worse and worse. Over three hours!
We stopped to a world famous burger joint on Hwy 11, called Webers. I’ve never been. JT and I shared a burger and fries.
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Click here for photo source.
To be honest, it’s not the best burger I’ve ever had! Which is surprising because there is a lot of hype around it. It was nice to stretch our legs and eat it at a picnic table outside. This a good segway to the incredible weather we’re having…26C! Two years ago it snowed!
Here is a photo from 2009.

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We’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with my brother since our Mom passed away six years ago; it’s always a little crazy (2 kids and a giant dog) and this year is no different!
BTW, last night, we polished off most of the donkey ear cookies, cheese sticks and Tuppkaka!
JT and I usually take care of one dinner and one breakfast! JT made his famous Boeuff Bourgignon, I made dumplings, and we had the Tuppkaka for dessert.

This morning we are having Flower Power Eggs from Donna’s Tasty Kitchen and Croissants (tomorrow’s post).

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It’s our last day in Montreal; our flight is with Porter at 2:30 so we have most of the morning to enjoy this gorgeous city.
We ordered breakfast in our room, some hot coffee, flaky croissants, some salami and three types of cheese…my ultimate breakfast.
Here are a couple of pictures of our room at the Nelligan ,JT took with his iPhone4!

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The bathroom had a separate glass shower, and a gigantic jacuzzi tub! Very extravagant.
We did a little shopping in the morning, but left enough time for a decent lunch in the old part (priorities!)
We ate at La Jardin Nelson, again. Normally I like to experience new places, but the inner courtyard was so wonderful and the live jazz was stupendous, we had to do it. I had the Caprese again, so good, and JT had a Pork loin salad with watermelon, feta and grapes – very tasty.
This is the live jazz band:

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These are the beautiful flowers draping the walls:

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We arrived at Pierre Trudeau airport, now I’m just sitting around blogging! Love free WiFi!

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What a night! We took advantage of the TTC day pass so we didn’t have to worry about parking. Nuit Blanche had some definite winners for me and some, not so much. JT and I mapped our routes independently (coincidentally we chose the same one’s!) and began our journey arriving at 7pm to the new Oliver & Bonacini restaurant on Front Street (where Shopsie’s used to be). They sat us quickly (we had a reservation through Open Table). The décor is great, kind of contemporary and historic farm-housie at the same time; cool use of tin, gigantic upside-down tin bucket lights, and cool tables with cloth napkins but no table cloths. It made for very hard surfaces, which made it excessively noisy when we first arrived (it was packed!). As the evening progressed and people left around us, the noise became much more acceptable.
Service was exceptional without a doubt. We dropped a fork and it was immediately whisked away and replaced (I didn’t even notice!). Our waiter was friendly, attentive and available when needed. We ordered three small courses, all were very sharable and brought to our table at a reasonable rate without being rushed or having to wait. The portions are not huge, but do make good sharing plates. Our dinner was as follows: #1: grilled calamari in brown butter with anchovies, black olives and capers (no, not quite heathy but it sure was Yum!); #2: tuna lettuce wraps, a little round disk of iceberg lettuce with raw chunks of tuna, a dollop of creamy avocado, sesame oil, sesame seeds, a droplet of soy, a paper thin slice of radish and garnished with a single cilantro leaf and some very tasty taro threads. There were five on the plate. They were amazing! And last but not least, #3: Wellington County Beef Sliders, Monterrey Jack Cheese and Chipotle Mayo, Yum Yum Yum!
This place hit the spot for us both. Which was a pleasant surprise as I’ve been to the other O&Bs and they were not so hot! I would definitely reco this one, it was a great experience.
O&B Overall rating (in my opinion): decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 2/5 at the start and 3/5 at the end (1 being very noisy, and 5 being quiet.

Nuit Blanche. Our journey began down on Front Street and we selected venues we can drop by on our way north meandering a bit east and west until we reached Bloor street. We did not stand in line, nor did we select venues that were indoors, as they were far too crowded. There were three highlights for me: The Pine Cone Colony – giant metal pine cones placed unexpectedly around the grounds. A large pine cone was on fire. I absolutely loved these pine cones. At Yonge Dundas Square there was the Just because you can feel it doesn’t mean it’s there, which was cool because it was a rather large bonfire set in the middle of the city. Unexpected and welcome, because it was a might chilly. I also loved the exhibit up at Holt Renfrew, the Monument to Smile – this was a large scale projection on the façade of Holts of people smiling. It was truly heart warming. Honourable mentions should go to Autolamp, a lace inspired old van and Light up the Night, Swans’s Lake – this was a motorized wedge (group) of swans dancing to Tchaikovsky – it just made me smile. The Night Market was way too crowded, the Light bugs were disappointing (green lights going off and on in a very predictable way, not at all like light bugs).

It was a mildly chilly night, but not unbearable. We dressed for it, so we were reasonably comfortable (I even wore reasonable shoes, for me, that is). There are estimates flying the net that there were over a million people in the city to celebrate, which is significantly more than our first year in 2008. I don’t love crowds and some parts became very uncomfortable, even though the city closed down many streets (way cool to walk in the middle of Bloor street). We ended our evening around mid-night (we old geezers need our beauty sleep!) with a glass of vino and a chat about our adventure.

I am so grateful to live in such a vibrant and wonderful city. I can hardly wait for next year’s Nuit Blanche.

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Note that the majority of these photos are taken on my bran-spankin’ new iPhone!!!

Niagara Falls in winter

On December 29th we drove down to Niagara Falls for a couple of days of R&R (click here for photo album). We stopped off in Jordan to one of our favourite little shops Beauty Safari to pick up JTs favourite cologne. Then we headed out to Port Dalhousie for lunch at one of our old favourites, Treadwells – a wonderful farm to table restaurant. Front of the house is mastered by Sommelier James Treadwell and the back of the house is by his father, Chef Stephen Treadwell. Food was amazing, as usual. The lovely thing about this visit was that James recalled our last visit with the Doran’s from Illinois AND that JT loves the Viongier grape. I had the Hoisin Glazed Pulled Pork Shoulder on “Fred’s” Brioche Bun with Asian Slaw (actually, only half, JT had the other half) and JT had the Housemade Tagliatelle “alla Carbonara” with Double Smoked Bacon and “Pingue’s” Free Range Egg. Food was wonderful.

We stopped at Henry of Pelham winery to pick up some old favourites. And the trip wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t stop at Picard’s Peanuts for some snacks!

En route we stopped in Niagara on the Lake and walked around a bit. Of course, 4 o’clock rolled along and we stopped at the Prince of Wales bar for cocktails.

Cocktails at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake

Cocktails at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake

We then proceeded to Niagara Falls to our newest boutique hotel fav – The Sterling Inn, an old converted dairy. They messed up our reservation due to an inconsistency with the web, so they kindly upgraded us to a suite. How sweet is that? Two rooms, a bathtub that could house 10, and a shower for 6! Wow.  We had dinner reservations at AG (silver in the periodic table of elements!). Another stellar meal. I started with the Truffled Jerusalem Artichoke veloute (which is a creamed soup with little to no cream!), JT had green salad. For mains, I had an appi portion flank steak and JT had the venison. All were wonderful. Service was also excellent. This is by far the best restaurant in the Niagara Falls area.

The fireplace in our suite

Cocktails

Day 2: we had a reasonably early start down to Buffalo for some shopping and of course, wings at the Anchor Bar (famous for developing Buffalo wings).

Anchor Bar, Buffalo New York

We shopped at some premium outlets, which were OK. Not much shopping to be had, believe it or not — even the board guard was surprised! Oh well, maybe next time. We returned to our hotel to do some walking around Niagara Falls.

The highlight of the walking around was the SkyWheel, which was reasonably priced at $9.98 per person! Afterward we hopped in the car to explore the festival of lights, but unfortunately, everyone else in the world had the same idea so the lineup into the drive was ridiculous, so we passed. Dinner was at The Keg; we had appi’s and wine.

The SkyWheel

JT in the SkyWheel

Eva in the SkyWheel

View of the falls from the SkyWheel

The next day we checked out and drove to Inniskillin winery and had lunch at Tony DeLucca’s Old Winery restaurant. We both had one of the stone oven pizza’s which were delicious (I had the Jimmy Hendrix and JT had the Jerry Garcia)! Then we headed home for new year’s eve!

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We made our traditional trek up to my brother Gus’s cottage at Lake Rosseau. Last year JT went golfing, this year it snowed!

Snowing across Lake Rosseau Oct 11, 2009

Sudden snow storm across the lake.

Eva, Jack and Annie

Of course, I am bundled up like a snowman, and the kids barely have a sweater on! It was quite chilly, no really!

Afternoon walk, lake Rosseau

A nice afternoon walk. No, we didn’t bump into Martin Short, but I think he was there – his gate was open!

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This year we had to close the cottage down a bit early because of weekend obligations. It’s never fun but we’ve got it down to a science so it generally goes smoothly.

Because it’s a work weekend, I try to make most of the food easy and fast. For the first time in months, we were able to sneak away from work early, around 2ish, which means we’re on the road by 3! Of course, the gods of traffic hate us, and we barely made it up in four hours!!! Should be a 3.25 hour trip. But we made it.

I made an asparagus soup the night before. I generally keep a baggy of asparagus ends in the freezer and take out as needed. Because they are usually the end you discard anyway, it’s basically free. For this soup, you will need more than you think because a lot of it is discarded after it’s run through a fine sieve (it’s mostly the woody parts, but they are still quite tasty.

Asparagus Soup

Creamed Asparagus Soup (serves 2 as main course or 4 as small cups)

  • 2 cups asparagus stems (I generally use the ends which I have snapped off over the summer months and frozen)
  • 1-2 cups low sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 2 thinly sliced crusty bread
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyère
  1. Thinly slice prosciutto and fry until crispy in a little oil (1 tsp)
  2. Drain crispy prosciutto and set aside.
  3. Using about 1-3 tsp olive oil, rub both sides of bread and toast until crispy. Set aside.
  4. Using 1 tbsp olive oil, sweat out the onions until soft, add the asparagus stems which have been cut into about 1 inch lengths.
  5. Add 1 cup chicken stock and cook until the asparagus is very soft.
  6. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth (you will need a good motor because the woody stems may cause problems).
  7. Once you have puréed the soup, ladle into a fine sieve and press through using the back of your ladle (do not skip this step, the woodiness of the stems will make this soup inedible if you don’t strain it!). Add more stock until desired consistency has been achieved.
  8. While keeping soup warm, sprinkle the gruyère evenly onto one side of each toast. Place under broiler for a minute until cheese is bubbling.
  9. Ladle soup into two bowls, gently top with the gruyère toast and sprinkle with the prosciuto crisps. Serve hot
  10. Enjoy!

Check out the photos from the weekend.

Free Soup: Creamed Asparagus Soup on Foodista

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JT and I rode our bikes (20km each way mostly along bike paths along the Lakeshore) over to the Port Credit Blues and Jazz Festival yesterday afternoon. WOW. By far, the best free outdoor event EVER. I cannot say enough about it. There was a band about every 100 feet or so, they alternated so bands played every two hundred feet at one time, and MAN they were good. I haven’t heard just good blues since our last time to the windy city! The weather was a amazing too. We’re going back today. I would highly recommend either today or next year.

The bike ride was 20km each way, and not too stressful (other than finding the paths/roads which were sometimes not marked well). But JT persevered and we didn’t falter once! Here are some photos of the event and our bike back.

Weather started off a bit on the chilly side, but with the hot sun and a nice breeze it was fantastic (similar weather to Saturday!!!)

Weather Sunday Sept 13

Steve Strongman Band

Steve Strongman Band

Steve Strongman Band is the first band we stopped at.

The Nomads

The Nomads

The Nomads are the second band we stopped at, really really great!!!!

David Rotundo Band

David Rotundo Band

Another great band, David Rotundo Band, really really bluesy. We stayed the longest here!

Dave Murphy Band

Dave Murphy Band

The Dave Murphy Band was at the end of where they shut Lakeshore down. It too was great, but we were already beat from being in the sun all day, so we decided to head home. 20km bike ride each way, 2.5 hours in the sun, and we were baked! Without a drop of booze!

Bridge One Eastward to Toronto

Bridge One Eastward to Toronto

I decided to take some shots everytime we came upon a bridge, which was about 4 in our 20km journey!

Bridge Two Eastward Toronto

Bridge Two Eastward Toronto

Bridge Three Eastward to Toronto

Bridge Three Eastward to Toronto

TO Skyline in between bridges

TO Skyline in between bridges

You can see how far away we are here.

Bridge Four Eastward to Toronto

Bridge Four Eastward to Toronto

We're almost home, on the suspension bridge by Palace Pier

We're almost home, on the suspension bridge by Palace Pier

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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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Weather June 30

The morning started out to be quite sunny. But clouds did manage to float in and we had a few minor showers, which didn’t stop us from working.

We got most of the uprights put up, ready for the lattice and we got the bottom box made for the steps from the sliding doors off the living room. The we broke for lunch.

Build Day 5 - the rain continues

Build Day 5 - the rain continues

During lunch, the skies opened up again and poured like there was no tomorrow. We decided to make our 5th trip to The Depot to pick up a few things. My bet was 4 JTs 5.

By the time we got home it was after 2pm and still raining, so we had to call it a day because tonight we are picking up our new Diesel Jetta and trading in the poor old buglette. Unfortunately, it is directly in cocktail hour. Cheers, anyway!

The New Diesel Jetta

The New Diesel Jetta

The New Diesel Jetta

The New Diesel Jetta

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I have been so bad posting lately.
We’ve had a lot of rain, but that’s good for nature. The trees seem to have burst into bloom in a matter of hours! It truly is spectacular! I have to admit, this is really my most favourite time of year. The back yard is filled with light and dark purple violets, dark purple periwinkle, lily of the valley and right at the very back of the yard, beside the shed is our very own beautiful white trillium! The forsythia at the back of the yard was the first to show it’s plumes. The crab apple tree is just about to burst into bloom, the lilacs have started opening (their scent is amazing). Last year I severely cut back the mock orange and had doubts about its return, but it has really come back so wonderfully, I am excited to see its blooms this year! The weigela is also ready to burst (last week I brought a few boughs inside to force them into bloom for a sneak peak!)
I haven’t been doing much cooking lately – and last Thursday I caught my first cold of the year – UGH! I think I am going to cancel all of my plans this weekend and stay in bed with ginger tea and popcorn!

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Thank goodness they are predicting rain this evening, otherwise we wouldn’t know where to put any more snow!

dec24morning

dec24morningjt

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And there is MORE snow!

Just to get us all into the Christmas spirit…we are having another 10 cm of snow dumped on us tonight…that is 30 cm since Friday! Oh joy!

Here are the photos from Sunday morning:

backyard

backstairs

Hopefully we’re at the end of this storm system…we really need Paul and T to arrive safely and on time!

Happy holidays!

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dec-19storm

It’s Saturday morning and we just experienced the first of three storm systems coming through southern Ontario. It snowed non-stop since Friday at seven in the morning. We’ve shoveled 3 times to try to keep on top of it. It was brutal but it IS Canada and it IS December so what they heck were you expecting? Check out the news…over 100 flights canceled.
It would have been a great night to cuddle in front of the fire with a glass or ten of wine and just sit and talk…but nooooooo. We made plans to head up to Sheppard to meet friends at a restaurant. We haven’t seen these folks for a while, so we’re excited about seeing them.

We decided to be responsible Torontonians and get there via subway (I love that….NOT, but that’s a rant for a later entry) . The plus is that we didn’t need to worry about weather, the minus is that I wasn’t be able to wear my new pink BCBG stilettos! boo hoo hoo! Well, another minus was that our subway system SUCKS and we almost never got there!

pinkshoes

It seems that these snowstorms are a new phenomenon to our transit folk! UGH. And do they ever shovel sidewalks north of Bloor…you have got to be kidding! Rant rant rant!

Leanne, Stefan and Pam had a bottle ready for us as soon as we arrived (I may have mumbled a few profanities, believe it or not!) We had a lovely time at Pourquois Pas , company was great, food was fine (not the best, nor the worst) and service was good too. Other than we were one of two groups of patrons that evening (but that could be because of the storm and everyone else was stuck on the subway!) Great time altogether. We went back to Leanne and Stefan’s for dessert and coffee!

Our good friend Pam gave us a lift home which was such a treat after our terrible experience with the subway (am I being too subtle about how I HATE the subway????)

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Toronto’s First Snow Fall

2008firstsnow

Why do people lose their minds during the very first snowfall? My god, we only got 4cm and there were over 400 accidents on city roads!

The plus side is that it is very pretty and starts to put us in the right mood for the season! Put on a fire and pull out that Barolo you’ve been saving.

Cheers!

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Every year, I have mixed feelings about fall; I love the fall colours, I get excited about winter coming, but get really sad about having to put socks and shoes on! It all boils down to claustrophobic feet! There I said it.

We closed the cottage this weekend. The weather was quite lovely (about 24C yesterday). We were even able to sit on the porch for cocktails! And, we enjoyed a splendid display of light during a thunderstorm on Saturday night!

JT created the menu, and it was wonderful!

Friday – cocktails at arrival (11pm-ish) with my home-made flat breads and a couple of dips – and of course, martinis!

Saturday

Breakfast – make ahead panettone french toast with wild blueberries and maple syrup, grapefruit and coffee

Make ahead Panettone French Toast (a healthier adaptation of a recipe I tried at All Recipes)

  • Slice Panettone in about 2″ thick slices (I generally buy these on sale and slice and freeze  with parchment between each slice – that way, I have it ready when-ever!). One slice is enough for 2 people.
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (or vanilla)
  1. On the night before, blend eggs, yogurt and maple syrup in a blender.
  2. Spray Pam (or similar) into an 8″ round cake pan and place panettone in the centre. Pour egg mixture all over the panettone and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next morning, pre heat oven to 350F. Bake French toast for 20-30 minutes (ovens will vary, but you want a golden colour on the French toast). The eggs will puff up like a soufflé!
  4. When done, remove from pan, cut into 2 portions and serve with your favorite maple syrup and fruit!

Lunch – Creamed roasted butternut squash soup with home-made walnut bread (Anna and Michael Olsen’s Walnut Bread recipe – I’ll post this soon)

Eva’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Check out my recipe on Foodista)

  • 1 medium Butternut squash (peeled and cut into even sized cubes)
  • 1 medium sweet onion (like vidalia), chopped into quarters.
  • 1 entire garlic, skin on
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2-4 cups of your favorite stock (I used miso for this one!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a large roasting pan, mix the butternut squash and the onion, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt.
  3. Take about 12 inches of parchment paper and place garlic in centre. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Wrap tightly, and then wrap parchment in foil (I don’t like putting foil directly on food, but it’s up to you!). Place this package beside the roasting pan in the oven.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes or until squash is tender and garlic is mushy.
  5. Add the squash and onion (and all the pan juices) to a glass blender and blend adding stock to desired consistency. Squeeze out garlic and add (with all the olive oil from the little package) into the squash purée and continue to blend until smooth.
  6. Pour through a fine sieve to make it creamy smooth.
  7. Enjoy (no cream in this soup, but you would never know it!.

Dinner – Cassoulet (yep, JT made cassoulet!), Madeleines with wild blueberry yogurt sauce!

We rendered the duck until the skin was crispy, and put it into the cassoulet whole – lots of flavour!

  • 1/2 pound pork sausage links, sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons whole cloves (I found this a little too clovey, next time we’ll cut this down considerably!)
  • 1/2 whole onion, peeled
  • 1-1/2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1/2 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/4 pound bacon (too much bacon, if you are adding the skin with the duck)
  • 1/2 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight (we used traditional white beans instead)
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1-1/2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound skinned, boned duck breast halves
  • 1/2 fresh tomato, chopped

This is a photo of the raw ingredients without the beans!

  1. In a large skillet, brown the sliced sausage over medium heat.
  2. Insert whole cloves into onion. Roll bacon up, and tie with a string. Tie together parsley, thyme, and rosemary.
  3. In a large slow cooker, place soaked beans, sausage, bacon, onion studded with cloves, fresh herbs, bay leaf, carrots, minced garlic, and duck. Add enough water to cover the other ingredients. Cook for 1 hour on HIGH. Reduce heat to LOW, and continue cooking for 6 to 8 hours. (The duck will cook and break into smaller bits – kind of like pulled pork!)
  4. Remove onion, bacon, and herbs. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Continue cooking for 1/2 hour. Serve with crusty French stick or walnut bread!

Madeleines with Wild Blueberries and Yogurt sauce (I had to have one healthier thing this weekend!)

Sunday Breakfast JT muffins – whole grain english muffins with a fried egg, pancetta and french goat’s milk feta cheese…YUM!

Closing up is always a lot of work but we managed to get it all done by our 10am goal, and we were on the road again!

Only a few trees have been bitten by the chill and have started to ripen into bursts of red in a sea of green! Soon the evening chill will take them into a long slumber until the spring when we travel this road again!

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It just won’t stop…

Last weekend we had about 30cm (1 foot) of snow. It’s March for god’s sake. A foot of snow in March? Damn lying groundhog!

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, I just forget to take photos!

Check out our snow photos:

Our lovely little Japanese Maple is buried under this pile, which is to my shoulders (by Sunday it was up to my head!)

march8-4.jpg

This photo was taken right in the thick of it. It was pretty ugly. Snow plow came twice and deposited a mountain of thick, wet, heavy, icy, muddy snow at the end of our driveway. It was pretty ugly!!!!

march8-5.jpg

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