Archive for October 2013

What’s Been Cooking And Baking?

Well, you might ask!

At this time of the year I seem to go into overdrive with baking!  It really takes me back to my days of all those sandwich lunches but mostly all the baking for the goodie trays that  my “flock” in the executive dining room loved!

DSC_5049 nx2Of course because it’s coming up to Halloween, there has to be a “treat”.

Then of course there are all those pumpkins around and so there has to be a few pumpkin treats to.

And…just for the heck of it:

My California cousin has to have his fruitcake every year and I really like the Irish Fruitcake from Delia Smith’s “How To Cook #1”.  It will be making it’s way to San Diego in a few days!  Considering I used to bake 120 pounds of fruitcake every year, this 4 pounder is small potatoes by comparison!  For some strange reason, I don’t miss the 5 days of fruitcake baking, cutting up the large slabs of cake, wrapping, labelling and delivering to my customers, go figure!

We decided to make some basil oil with the last of our basil, and what’s not to love about brunch on the weekend?

Whew! Now that’s done, time to move onto figuring out what to do with all the quince I bought!

Here’s a really tasty fall menu you might like to make soon featuring my Duncan Pork Stew!

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City Of Roses

We’ve been talking about driving down the road one day to visit Portland and we finally we made it!

My driver decided he did not want to make 504 km (313 miles) drive that takes around 6 hours, depending on how “nice” the American Customs guys are at the moment! So…we booked seats on the Amtrak train that leaves Vancouver at 6:40 am. With very little sleep we manage to make the train, a good thing because it only goes once a day. Folks, let me say, Amtrak is not the Eurostar!  We arrived around 3:15 pm at Union Station, a downtown Portland landmark, opened in 1896. The Benson, our hotel in the “Pearl District” was built in 1912 and even though it has been brought up to date with the usual stuff, still retains the original finishes, very trad! Certainly couldn’t complain, nice king-size bed and free Wi-Fi, what more does one need?

DSCN7941 nx2 ver1Located on the Willamette River, Portland was incorporated in 1851 and we thought it a pretty place with sort of a “small town feel.” They have managed to keep many of the old buildings which lends a really retro vibe. Reminded us of what Victoria looked like 20 or so years ago. The locals have favourite nicknames for their city: Rose City, Stumptown, PDX, Beervana are a few and “Keep Portland Weird” is their unofficial slogan!

Our plan mostly was to check out the food and microbrewery scene. Portland’s abundance of microbreweries dates to the 1980s when state law was changed to allow consumption of beer on brewery premises. This is a really good thing and is starting to happen, finally, here in Vancouver. The availability of local ingredients from barley to over two dozen varieties of hops and pure water from the Bull Run Watershed provides a perfect environment for beer making. Time for some tasting! Here’s some of our favourites: Full Sail Amber (really nice and “hoppy”), Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (slightly bitter, lemon coloured, wheat flavoured with a kick of pine) delicious! Next up Elysian Pumpkin Ale (with a hint of cinnamon) loved it! From the Pfriem Family Brewery, a Strong Dark Ale that we loved it too!

DSCN7863 nx2 ver1Portland is known for their food carts that are arranged in “pods” around the city but we just didn’t have the time to check them out. Some of our food finds were Kenny & Zuke’s a Jewish style delicatessen just up the block from the famous Ace Hotel. They are well known for their cured and smoked meats and fish; we couldn’t pass that up! The thing is, all the food is just like homemade, very tasty; especially liked the caraway rye bread used for the sandwiches and the dill pickles!

We also made a trek out to the Firehouse Restaurant on our last night in Portland. Our pizza toppings were excellent. I ordered the pizza bianca with fresh chanterelles, fresh mozzarella & gremolata and my husband had the tomato sauce, house-made soppressata sausage with fresh mozzarella pizza. Now…we don’t ordinarily order dessert but….and we aren’t big chocolate lovers…but…they had an amazing chocolate pots de crème topped with salted caramel, toasted hazelnuts and if that isn’t bad enough, chantilly crème! Yikes was it good!!


DSCN7942 nx2 ver1Although we didn’t try them, there is a place called “Voodoo Doughnuts” with people lined up outside one door, get their order, then leave via another door, clutching pink boxes containing their stash of doughnuts! Of course there is a Voodoo Doll Doughnut (a raised yeast doughnut, filled with raspberry jelly, iced with chocolate frosting with a pretzel “stake” through its little heart! Not sure if it’s the actual doughnuts that attract people or their crazy names!

Bookstores are almost becoming a thing of the past here in Vancouver, not so in Portland where they have Powell’s Books. It fills a city block and stocks new, used and out of print books. What a great place for book lovers! We left with a bag of books!

When in Oregon you simply have to try the Pinot’s! We brought home as much as allowed for our cellar to be sure!

Portland is quirky in its way, full of older model Subaru’s of all things and a certain style of dress adopted by the younger set which is kind of funky, lots of plaid shirts, knitted caps & hats, tight jeans with rolled up cuffs (this is the guys, by the way) and…tatoos, tatoos, tatoos. We were thinking of each getting one (not). The locals are super friendly, a nice thing these days! The City has a great transit system so if you are staying in Portland itself, there’s no need for a car and cabs are pretty easy to come by too. Most of the restaurants are not downtown but across the river and located in the various neighbourhoods of the City, a nice thing for locals as you walk a couple of blocks and there’s a place for food or a drink. Would love that here!

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Save Cash, Make The Basics

One of the things I really love to do is test recipes that sound interesting.

The other day I was thinking of making  an arugula salad with mosto cotto (cooked grape must) dressing because I just happen to have some on hand, bought on our last trip to Chianti, that I am sort of hoarding. One of the ingredients called for were Macrona almonds.

Herbs trout lake May 19.jpg resize 2Never having used these before, I made a trip to my local, high-end grocery store, just knowing they would have some. Well…they certainly did! Yikes, I thought, when I turned over the container and saw that 2/3 of a cup of them were going to cost slightly over $10.00! Not that I’m cheap but …I looked at the ingredients and thought, just a second, I have blanched almonds, really good EVOO and sea salt at home and I have the technology to toast some almonds. I’ll be damned if I was going to pay that much for a handful of  almonds!

When I got home I got out the almonds, tossed them with EVOO and sea salt and put them into a preheated 350 F. oven for 12 or 15 minutes stirring often, until lightly golden. My husband has been nibbling on the leftovers from the salad all day! So there you are.  Sometimes you just have to be creative!

Which brings me to how to make the basics yourself for a lot less $$$. Things like tomato sauce for pasta, which is so dead-easy and fast I can’t actually believe people pay as much as they do for a jar of stuff that is not that great, crème fraiche, soups, stocks, bread crumbs, salad dressings, herb salt and spice mixes.   Or how about something as simple as self-raising flour?  If it’s an item you don’t use often then simply combine 3 cups unbleached flour and 1 tablespoon baking powder.  Freshly made spice mixes like garam masala and Chinese 5-spice, add a new level to your cooking.  Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking ahead as in the case of crème fraiche but if you know you will be needing some….

If you grow your own tomatoes, why not have a go at making your own oven dried tomatoes?  Or…how about drying your own herbs?  This can be easily done in the microwave!  Or, if you have a really warm room, like I do, either tie them up in bundles or lay on a paper towel lined rimmed baking sheet & voila in a few days, dried herbs!   Sure a lot fresher tasting than dried herbs sitting in those little bottles in the store for who knows how long.

We are spoiled because we have a large freezer so I do make a lot of things for freezing but it’s not necessary to do things in a big way.  Even making a pot of chicken stock once in a while, stashing it in the fridge freezer for making soups and sauces will make a difference.

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What’s Been Cooking?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

For me, when autumn is upon us, I start cooking a lot more, must be the little squirrel in me, putting things away for the winter!  This past week or so I’ve been like a whirling dervish!  What with preparing for and cooking Thanksgiving dinner, there’s been other tummy warming goodness that I want to share with you.  Just because Canadian Thanksgiving is almost over, keep these recipes in mind for the upcoming few months as well…you won’t regret it!

DSC_5115 nx2Here’s What’s Been Happening:

And Then For Thanksgiving Dinner:

I would love it if you would give some or all of these little gems a try!  Enjoy and happy eating!

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Autumn Menus

I know that this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving and we are all geared up for our Thanksgiving dinner event whether it be a beautifully browned roasted DSC_4966 nx2turkey or in our case a loin of pork with gingersnap sauce ( the recipe to be posted next week).  My mom made the best pumpkin pie, if you would like to make it for your Thanksgiving feast, click here, Nora’s Pumpkin Pie.

This is the first posting of some menus that I have selected for you to try.  I hope they will be enjoyed by whoever you share your meals with!

This is a recipe for Coq au Vin but instead of using red wine I make it with Riesling, a perfect fall chicken dish.  Dessert is optional, unless you live in England!



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Once upon a time there was a very happy cook, me! Nowadays, not so much. I blame the poultry police!

DSCN3024 nx2Who doesn’t love a really good roast chicken or turkey?

The problem re-emerged when were in England not long ago and were reminded of what we think of as proper, really good poultry. There is something so basic, yet so deliciously decadent about a roast chicken or turkey with golden, crispy skin and lovely tasting, juicy meat.

The chicken or turkeys I want to talk about are called “New York Dressed” birds that I bought them on South Granville for years. First the poultry police forbade the butcher shops from selling them and if you were lucky you could track down a grower who would sell them, farm gate, to you. Woo hoo!! Life is good. Until that discovery, we had given up on turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas! Time goes on and we are happy! Then the chicken police struck again and insisted the farmers form together every December, rent a space so that all their birds can be dispatched in these premises instead of on the farms where they had been it doing so for years; without any problems whatsoever and also with the health inspectors on site at the time. The said farmers decided they couldn’t afford the cost and so stopped doing “New York Dressed” birds.

There are  people who say there is no difference between “NYD’s” and organic, grain fed birds and that they are just as good, and shockingly, there are butchers who agree. Nope…the taste isn’t there. When the NYD’s are dispatched, they are hung for a little bit, then just a day or so before you pick up your bird the innards are removed. Once roasted, you end up with the turkey of your childhood dreams, golden brown, crisp skin, juicy meat and finger licking good.

Back to England; we saw this type of poultry everywhere! It’s a traditional way of preparing birds and it appears as though the chicken police have not messed with that tradition. Wish it were so here! Friends have suggested we spend Christmas in England every year!

It’s really sad that for years and years we were “allowed” to buy these birds and then some government officials decided  it’s not a good idea.  We’ve seen the reality of what has taken place at government inspected meat packing plants!

If you would like to see directions for roasting a chicken or turkey, click Phyllis’ Roast Chicken or Roasting A Turkey.

If you would like to make a scrumptious stuffing for your bird, click Italian Sausage Bread Stuffing With Pears.

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Time To Re-Decorate? Part 4

For a printer friendly version of this blog, click here.

Choosing a style can be easy. If you already have some furniture that is of a certain style and you love it, then there you have it. Although consideration could be given to choosing an Eclectic style by combining what you have with one other style.
Style Guide

curtains nx2TRADITIONAL: is classic and enduring. I think when decorating in this style, you want to create the feel of Traditional without the heaviness. Themes within this style are Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Tudor, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Empire, the English styles of William & Mary, Georgian, Queen Anne, Regency, Biedermeier and Victorian. American styles include Federal, American Georgian, Colonial and Shaker. It might be a good idea to do a little research just to see what all these are. At least it can’t hurt! Although you might be getting a little cross-eyed by now! Persevere, you’ll be happy you did! Once you see some photos it will be quite easy to determine what you like.

Atmosphere: Formal/Semi-Formal, use of shiny smooth surfaces, formal is more elegant and graceful, whereas semi-formal is heavier.
Colour Schemes: jewel tones (can be tinted or shaded, as per your trusty colour wheel) black and white or a neutral beige.
Walls, Flooring: Paint, wallpaper and borders, moldings, wainscoting, strip or parquet wood floors, carpet, Oriental/Persian/Indian/French rugs.
Furniture: Antiques or reproductions, ornate hard woods, wrought iron, brass, wicker and glass
Lighting: crystal, porcelain, silver or brass bases for table lamps; chandeliers for ceilings and wall sconces. Lamp shades in fabric, glass or glazed cardboard.
Window Coverings: Draperies with swags, valances and cornices.
Fabrics: formal choices would be silk, damask, brocade, velvet, leather (shiny or matte.)
Textures: formal, smooth, shiny, fine and cool, hard surfaces, informal, rougher, matte, warm, coarser and softer surfaces.
Accessories: Framed ornate pictures/mirrors, displays or collections, clocks, vases, urns.
Plants, books, tapestries.

COUNTRY: is informal, comfortable, functional and durable using a mixture of old and new. Think English Country, French Country, Mediterranean/Spanish Country, Shaker, Colonial & Canadian Country.

Atmosphere:  informal has matte or dull finishes, medium to rough textures.
Colour Schemes: toned or use earthy colours, bright blue and yellow with white.
Walls, Flooring: painted plastered walls, wood walls, stenciling, medium to dark brown plank wooden floors, brick, stone or quarry tiles laid in a pattern, Oriental rugs or berber carpets, braided or rag rugs. Fireplaces of stone, brick or wood.
Furniture: Wood, overstuffed upholstery, slipcovers, chintz, turned legs and bun feet, drop leaf tables or refractory tables, chests, cupboards, wardrobes, china cabinets, wing back chairs.
Lighting: Subtle, ceramic or metal bases, fabric or cardboard shades, wrought iron & brass chandeliers, iron wall sconces.
Window Coverings: wooden shutters, or draperies hung from tabs or rings on wooden or wrought iron poles, or can be more elaborate with balloon, café, Priscilla window treatments.
Fabrics: Cotton, wool, leather, chintz, linen, lace, checks, stripes, florals, folk motifs.
Textures: rougher, dull/matte, soft, coarse and warm surfaces.
Accessories: handcrafts, wicker baskets, dried flowers.

MODERN: Less is more, sleek, sparse, simple & functional.

Atmosphere: Formal, classical, functional, open floor plans, shiny, smooth to rough textures.
Colour Scheme: monochromatic or neutral.
Walls, Flooring: painted, no moldings, subtle faux finishes, abstract wallpaper, strip wooden floors, smooth wall to wall carpet, slate, tiles, marble, granite, lino or vinyl.
Furniture: wood, glass, chrome, clean lines, built in units, modular pieces.
Fabric: Natural: cotton, silk, linen, wool, leather, plain/muted fabrics or bold, geometric, abstract primitive designs.
Textures: formal, smooth, shiny, matte, hard, cool, and rougher surfaces
Lighting: dramatic, chrome, glass table lamps, recessed, track.
Window Coverings: horizontal and vertical blinds, Roman shades, casual swags, draperies.
Accessories: a small amount of large plants, fresh flowers plain or unframed mirrors/prints, sculptures, white metals.

ECLECTIC: a combination of 2 of the above styles that can be formal or informal and makes for an interesting space. Once of the styles must be dominate. You want to achieve harmony, not sameness, mix not match, a balance but not symmetry. This style allows a more personal attitude toward decorating. You can include inherited pieces, a variety of pieces that you like, reflect the past and present. However you must stay with the chosen combination and not end up with a mash-up.

Use a Combination of:

Traditional and Country
Traditional and Modern/Contemporary
Country and Modern/Contemporary

Choose the atmosphere you wish, whether it’s to be formal or informal, selecting styles that have similar shapes and proportion will make a more unified interior.

Happy decorating!

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What’s Cooking These First Days of Fall

We’ve said goodbye, sadly, to summer once again but I don’t necessarily want to barge ahead and make stew!  We are still working on the last of those fabulous Sungold tomatoes and Romanesco zucchini from our garden!

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When you grow zucchini, you really need to have a plan!  Every time you step into the garden, there are more!  So this year it’s been zucchini soup, zucchini casserole, farfalle pasta with zucchini and basil, corn/zucchini succotash, muffins and zucchini loaf…whew!  There’s only one left in the garden and it’s destined to become a part of the sauce for vegetarian moussaka.

On our first fall visit to Trout lake Market we found that the “wild guys” had some gorgeous looking chanterelles and we both thought “tagliatelle”.  I am trying to ignore the beets and winter squash for now; like I said earlier, not quite ready even if I have been sorting through some of my favourite fall recipes!  Hey, I have even put together my menu for Thanksgiving dinner and ordered a loin of pork (more about that later).

On a sunny day it’s an amazing time of the year!  Don’t you just love the colour of the sky?  The gorgeous colours the leaves turn, it’s all rather beautiful, even if the nights are getting a little cool; of course, living in Vancouver, we all try and forget that we live in a rainforest!

From the Oracibo kitchen to you:

A toast to you and to the arrival of fall.  It really is a bountiful time!  Enjoy the recipes!

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