Archive for Kitchen Sink

While Visiting Victoria

Last weekend we made a quick trip over to Vancouver Island.  It’s been about three years…far too long!

Back in the day, before we really got the travel bug and when we still had a mortgage to pay off, we used to go over quite often.  Vancouver Island is very beautiful and if you get the chance, do try and go…the ferry ride from Vancouver alone is spectacular and worth the journey!

One of the things we used to do for fun was travel around the Island searching for new and exciting food stuff…duh, what else would we be doing!  So, in our travels we found new cheesemakers, bakers, wine makers, artisanal butchers and interesting restaurants.  Chefs were sourcing locally made and grown products.  Cooking this way seemed to be happening more in Victoria than here in Vancouver back in the mid-eighties.  We would pick up the Vancouver Island Eat Magazine each time an issue was published, pour over it with anticipation hoping to discover new places to visit on our next trip over.

And so it was with great pleasure that we “discovered” a new-to-us funky little place on Quadra Street called Part and Parcel.  First thing is to find a place to sit down then sidle up to the counter and choose from the days’ offerings on the chalkboard,  grab some water, order wine or a craft beer if you like, sit yourself down and wait!  We decided to share a kamut fried chicken sandwich stuffed with house-smoked bacon, coleslaw and pickles, confit pork cheek topped with shaved fennel and a dollop of rhubarb “jam” and Moroccan fries.   We weren’t sure what to expect but when our choices arrived and we tucked in, we were pretty impressed!  The chicken in the sandwich has a kamut coating;  the other components are house made and it was wonderful.   When we read that the fries were scratch made, dusted with that delicious Moroccan spice mix, ras-el-hanout and came with harissa mayo dip, we had to have some!  But oooh, that confit of pork cheek paired with the rhubarb…outstanding!   I need to make confit of pork cheek!  Turns out Part and Parcel won the Vancouver Magazine Victoria Restaurants “Silver” award!  Who knew!

The staff is a friendly, easy-going bunch;  know their stuff and we had a lot of fun chatting with them.  We walked out two very happy kids and you’ve gotta love that!

My Freezer

We’ve always had a stand-alone freezer. And…FYI…

I’ll freeze just about anything that isn’t standing still!  I don’t know how we would live without one!

Do you freeze whipping cream? Are you nuts you might ask…hang on…I do all the time and it’s proven to come in handy. Thawed out in the fridge, it can be used in cooking. One time, for a lark, I even tried to whip it…guess what? It bloody worked!

Over the years our habits have changed, for one thing we no longer stock up on large amounts of meats to tide us over the fall and winter, as though we live in the bush or something! We just don’t go through that much meat, nor do we entertain as much as we used to. Sure the freezer still gets a work out because of all the breads and other baking, the fruits of summer, grains and nuts used for baking and god knows, those handy-dandy, thank-god for them, leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, that freezer paid for itself 100 X over in February and March this year! I needed to have TKR (to the initiated that’s Total Knee Replacement Surgery). The surgery was supposed to take place in November then January and finally took place in February! The good news, there was loads of time for me to stock up the freezer so that my poor husband wouldn’t have the burden of looking after my needs and cooking everything from scratch. And although he helps in the kitchen, being married to me for all these years he’s gotten out of practice with preparing our meals. Therefore, it made sense to keep loading up the freezer…and it worked! I think he ordered in twice during those months! Everything is long gone but…

And it’s the perfect time that it has, as one’s fancies are turning to lighter fare and best of all barbecuing and grilling, at which Joe excels!

Make Some Meatballs

You’ve just have to say yes to these juicy, succulent morsels!

When a friend posted that she was making meatballs,  I figured I’d better get busy and make some too!

I’ve probably made  hundreds if not thousands of different meatballs in my former chef life! The big plus being, they are easy to eat from a  toothpick with one hand while clutching a drink in the other!

If you’re looking for a really easy and yummy dinner, meatballs baked in tomato sauce are the ticket. At our house we serve them as a second course with a veggie or salad, preceded by a small pasta course, but I think they would be absolutely delicious with some crusty bread and salad. The last time I made these meatballs our primo was spaghettini dressed with EVOO, garlic, pepperoncino, lemon and parsley** But you can simply toss some of the meatball sauce with the pasta for a really easy primo! Save some pasta cooking water, just in case the sauce is a bit too thick. Pass the Parmigiano please!

The Spanish, Asian, Indian and Greek** meatballs make great appetizers any time. They ‘re a great appy to serve at home or to take to get-together’s. Meatballs have the added advantage in that they can be made a few days ahead or even frozen for a month or so. Not a bad thing to have hanging about in the freezer over the holidays!

The Greek meatballs make a delicious meal topped with either tzatziki or tahini sauce, some chopped tomato, onion a bit of lettuce all wrapped up in warm pita bread.. I have been known to put them on skewers and barbecue them, heat the pita on the grill, add a Greek salad and voila!

If you would like to make the meatballs in tomato sauce, click Baked Meatballs In Tomato Sauce.

If you would like to see some other meatball recipes, click Meatballs, A Hostess’ Friend & Anne’s Meatballs.

If you would like to make the pasta, click Spaghettini With Lemon And Garlic.

Sea Change?

I must admit that writing and posting on my blog has not been as productive over the last 6 months or so as I would have liked!

For us 2017 has begun with a bang minus the fireworks!

My knee replacement surgery, first scheduled for January 19th, then January 23rd has now been changed to February 6th.  Our condo has every possible space available filled with the necessary medical equipment needed for when I get home from the hospital.  I have to admit, I’m not enjoying looking at things like bath seats, raised toilet seats, walkers, arm crutches and the like…it feels weird to think that I will be needing them all in a few weeks!  Not that I’m unfamiliar with the stuff…my Mother required a lot of the same things in her last few years…who knew we shouldn’t have got rid of her walker!  Actually her walker was kind of cute…we decked it out with lots of bows and ribbons.  Mom had a thing for saving bows and ribbons for as long as we could remember, so we figured it was appropriate!

Our large freezer and two fridge freezers are crammed with things that require reheating.  The only hard part is boiling the water for pasta, cooking it and choosing what sauce we feel like defrosting!  My husband, poor soul, is going to be looking after that end of things for a bit so I’ve tried to make his life as painless as possible, even making an inventory list of what’s in the different freezers.  God knows there’s soup, soup and more soup!  And…there’s a pizza place half a block away and a Chinese delivery place down the road!

On top of the surgery and all physio appointments to get my new knee fully operational, we’ve the task of finding and buying a new place to live!  I know…crazy right?

We had been talking about selling, knowing it was getting time to re-locate.  So, when an opportunity presented itself to sell the entire building at a very good price the owners all agreed it was time.  BUT, we’ve lived at the “Del Rey” for just about 32 years so it’s been very emotional for everyone.  We have been happy here, made friends here, cooked and shared food with so many, enjoying living in a character building that we lovingly renovated, updated and turned into a very comfortable home.  Luckily, we have made arrangements for a six month lease, with an option for another six months if needed.

NOW we need to find a realtor and get out there, going to open houses and praying we find something.  The fly in the ointment is going to be that my surgery and recovery will limit the search for a while, whereas we should be in full-blown, heavy duty search mode!

Both Joe and I are longing to go back to Rome this year, hopefully around September…it’s the “carrot on the stick” that will make us work even harder finding a new home, moving and getting a bit settled.  As long as the bed’s set up and the kitchen functional and the wine glasses are unpacked, I’d be quite happy leaving behind the remainder of the unpacking and heading to Rome for a month!  Who cares…we won’t be there to see all the boxes still needing to be dealt with!

Happy 2017

Joe and I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year filled with much love, joy and many blessings!

A quiet New Years Eve at #5 this year…enjoyed a nice lunch out and then back to our cozy apartment to enjoy Prosecco and appy’s and watch the snow fall.

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Hope you and your family enjoyed your time together over the holidays!

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It’s Almost Christmas!

Only 5 more sleeps!

I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas/Buon natale, Happy Holidays and much joy during the season, sharing good times, good food with friends and family…a toast to you all!  Here’s to an amazing 2017!

 

special-ocaasion

 

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Escape Hatch

“A Change Is Gonna Come.”  

Some of us of “boomers”, you know the group, where 60 is the new 40, are on a mission; that’s to create the next chapter of our lives.

dscn8222-nx2We’ve  watched our parents’ age and here’s a little secret, while they were so have we!  But, then 60 being the new 40, well…let’s try not to think about it!

I’m guessing many of us are familiar with “Independent Living” or “Assisted Living?”  But can someone please tell me how the heck that’s going to work out?  Ya…didn’t think so!

These days, for the most part, aging parents aren’t living with their kids and their families, probably being a big pain in the butt but part of the family scene!  Then there’s some of us who haven’t made that lifestyle choice or have no kids to move in with.

dsc_1443-nx2What’s to be done???  What’s next???

When I think about it, I can’t for the life of me, see not being able to cook.  I endured 6 pain-filled weeks a while back that kept me from“my domain”…I was one miserable cook, to say the least!

Cooking has been, for me and many others, our way of life.  We get a huge amount of joy from cooking and feeding family and friends.

The question is, how’s it going to be possible to go from a full kitchen to a microwave and a kettle?  And what about those marches to the dining room at some ungodly hour like 4:30 or 6:00 for dinner?  They’ve got to be kidding!  No one we know eats that early and certainly not at a prescribed time!  Not only that…we enjoy cooking and eating our own food and get satisfaction from testing recipes and trying out new ideas.

I wonder if I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sweating, my hand clutched as if holding a whisk?  Is that just me…don’t think so!

UNLESS…we can come up with a cunning plan…we have to come up with a cunning plan!

dsc_0915-jpg-nx2-edit-nciHmmm…speaking of cunning plans:  a few friends of ours are talking about forming a commune of some sort and Italy would be first choice!  My husband and I think this is a brilliant idea.  Those who want to, can cook, or lend a hand in the kitchen or do other stuff. There will be a garden with fig trees because they’re so good to eat and they epitomize the Mediterranean’s climate, food and way of life.  An amazing garden with loads of veggies and flowers for cutting, or just admiring will be planted.  We’ll hire people to do the heavy lifting of course, including housework…sounds pretty great to me!  Instead of  those organized bus trips to a mall or wherever, there would be trips to check out a variety of local festivals happening throughout the year. We could set up chairs outside our villa on warm nights and watch movies on a huge screen.  Heck, some of us could take up drawing or painting.  And because there has to be a pool, there will be ongoing pool therapy and exercise programmes to keep us in fighting form…sounds like a pretty fantastic community to me!  Who knows, we might even be vetted by a film director who wants to make a documentary about our little community!

Would someone be kind enough to pass the Prosecco please? Oh and I’ll have some of those figs too!

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BOO!! It’s Halloween!

The last time we were in London, England in October, darned if we didn’t see Halloween stuff all over the place! I couldn’t believe it.  One afternoon we saw people in costumes heading into some kind of afternoon event not far from the Victoria and Albert Museum. I think it’s safe to say it was a Halloween party!  I have read how much the Brits like fancy dress!

DSCN3366 nx2I thought that we would miss out on Halloween as we would barely be home before the 31st but I wasn’t disappointed thanks to the Londoners!

In October 2015 we were absolutely blown away to see Halloween decorations all over the place in Rome. We thought they celebrated this time of the year on November 1st and 2nd, being, respectively, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

After doing a little “Halloween research” it seems that “guising” or “trick-or-treating,” where children dress up in costume and go house to house, has been going on for a very long time in countries like England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I love this: sometimes in Ireland the children are given pancakes or colcannon? What no candy? Colcannon is a potato-cabbage mixture! The Scots used to carve out turnips but once the people in North America began carving native pumpkins (a lot easier to carve), well you know the rest! Looks like people who immigrated to North America in the 19th century “borrowed directly” or “adapted” their Halloween traditions from other countries and they had a big impact on how it’s observed.  Undoubtedly, we probably created the “commercial” aspect to the end of harvest, beginning of winter celebrations. Trust us!

No tricks from me!  Here’s a link to a Halloween Treat for you!  Halloween Nanaimo Bars. 

DSCN0752 nx2 ver1I have especially fond memories of this “celebration.” Growing up in the 1950’s and ’60’s we were very lucky. Our parents did not give a thought to us little “hooligans” leaving the house as soon as it got dark and then spending the next 3 hours running from house to house filling our bags with goodies! There were always older kids who would tell us that Mrs. so and so was handing out toffee apples or popcorn balls but I am pretty sure it was a scam because whenever we went to the house in question, there was nothing like that available!

When we finally returned home, mom had brewed up some hot chocolate and sometimes there were hot dogs and we all sat out on our front porch to watch dad set off our fireworks (his favourite was “The Little Red School House”). We all thought it was kind of boring. What we liked were the rockets…they would shoot up different coloured plumes that would explode in the sky, cool! Some of the neighbours would be setting off their fireworks as well, it was great fun and best of all we got to stay up later than usual!

Now here’s the best part (my Halloween Playlist)!  Just wait for the ads to finish!

Happy Halloween Tutti!

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Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Over last weekend we were sitting by our little antique electric fireplace with its glowing glass “coals” reminiscing, sipping wine and reading the entries in my Rome journal from last October.  We spent our Thanksgiving  there wandering the Jewish Ghetto and having lunch at Da Giggetto.  Quite honestly, we are missing being there so much.

dsc_3220-nx2This year we chose to cook an Italian inspired Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us:

  • Butternut squash gnocchi with browned sage butter
  • Turkey “roulade” with a cremini/porcini mushroom filling and a pan sauce with marsala, shallots, turkey stock bit of fresh rosemary
  • Dessert: my mom’s famous pumpkin pie. 

This is rather unusual for us because we so enjoy sharing great food, wonderful wine and stories with friends.  Dinner was delicious as was the wine but missing were happy faces around our table.

The past year has brought with it the expected wait for my knee replacement surgery…was hoping it would take place at the end of October or the beginning of November…not that I’m chomping at the bit to go through it and not that Joe can hardly wait to look after stuff when I’m unable to but…we have tentatively planned a trip back to Italy with the good friends who insisted we accompany them there in 2007.  And we are forever grateful that they did!  Since that first trip we’ve been fortunate in being able to return to Italy on numerous occasions but also to spend two vacations in London, England.  Although we are lying low until after my surgery, it was fun helping my sister with some ideas for their visit to London.  I can hardly wait to hear more about their visit there.

dscn9962-nx2One of the funny things that came along on Facebook just last week was My Most Used Words on Facebook!  Of course “Oracibo” was there along with tomatoes and recipes…but what I didn’t see was pointed out by my friend Elatia, “knee.”  OMG…I told her I was going to refrain from using that word!  But it does tell me how focused I am on the surgery and rehab!

Since I had a serious bout with pain in April and May (alleviated by cortisone steroid injections), my world has kind of shrunk!  I couldn’t even walk across the street to pick up a container of yogurt!  Now, though, fingers crossed, I’m back doing my pool exercises and walking a few blocks.  Woo hoo for small things.  Gee…maybe I’ll even be able to take the bus somewhere by myself!  I hope this holding pattern lasts until the surgery!

An unexpected challenge has been getting myself to focus on writing posts for my blog.  I’ve no idea why, except life getting in the way.  No trips, not much entertaining, not seeing friends as much as usual, no new adventures and not enough laughter!  And hanging over our little heads is the possibility that we may have sold our strata building to a developer, meaning we might have to move sometime in the spring. We’ve lived here for 31 years and have shared friendship and love and laughter with another couple in our building.  There are so many memories!

One of the very best things to have happened are the new friendships with people in Rome…they are unexpected and something to be treasured.  If only we weren’t so far away from each other!  If I close my eyes I can see us all sitting at a big table, sipping wine, nibbling tasty treats and laughing ourselves silly!

Another best thing that happened late last year was the re-connection with a long-lost friend.  We had been friends since 1985 but drifted apart for some years…then from out of the blue he phoned us.  We were absolutely delighted in being able to re-establish our friendship.  .  Oh the times we had together over those years…the laughter, the silliness, the craziness, the love.  And it was still there.  However, a few months ago our friend phoned us from the hospital to say that he had just been diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer known as GBM.  He’s undergoing chemo and has been very unwell and unable to see us.  He has only been able to talk on the phone for a while.  When he is able we will see each other somehow, someway.

And so…reading through this post I’m thinking how blessed we are to have some terrific people in our lives.  And when it comes down to it…remembering, mindfully, how much we care for, love and value them all.  Salute to everyone!

I want to say a special thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger, Jo Wennerholm whose thoughts and words recently gave me a push to get writing again.

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A Canadian Thanksgiving

2008 was our first Thanksgiving away from home!   We had travelled to Italy with two friends and our plan was to celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking dinner in the “villa” near Lago Trasimeno in Umbria.

 

My husband and I had  grocery shopped in Tuscany and Umbria two years earlier and knew beforehand that Italians eat turkey but not the whole, roasted, browned beauties we were used to. What to do? Luckily, one of us spoke some French because the owner of the villa and his wife spoke no English, only Italian and French!  At that time my Italian was even more sketchy than it is now and it’s not wonderful now! So we fumbled along with the French using lots of  hand  signals somehow getting the message across that we wanted to buy a fresh whole turkey. He said he “had a friend” who he could get one for from.

Sure enough, the day before Thanksgiving, Giorgio appears with promised turkey! It looked great, weighed about 18 pounds and seemed perfect, with all the giblets intact for making gravy. Mille grazie Giorgio! How much do we owe you? Without blinking, Giorgio said 90€! We four were a little taken aback at the cost but heck…we are celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy! By the way 90€ at that time equaled approximately $130.00! (This included 15€ delivery charge). It better be damned good!

On Thanksgiving Day the guys got wood burning outdoor oven lessons from Giorgio.  I made stock from the neck, gizzards and other bits which ultimately became a lovely gravy. The bread stuffing was made from local pears that were given to us, Italian sausage and a few fennel seeds, all piled into into a greased dish and into the wood burning oven it went.  (Link to recipe below).

We all agreed…this is the best damned turkey any of us had ever eaten!

Even though we were in Rome last year at Thanksgiving, spent time wandering around the Jewish Ghetto, ate lunch at Da Giggetto, that turkey dinner in Umbria was a hard act to follow!  Ah…memories.

To make the turkey stuffing, please see Italian Sausage, Bread Stuffing With Pears.

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