Thursday, December 30, 2010

not exactly your typical Christmas day...

hello there - just taking a break from Christmas break to share a glimpse of our Christmas day.  we kicked the day off by lighting the final advent candle and opening more presents than i think i have ever seen (we are a spoiled bunch!) then moved outside for some of this:


it was cold.  and loud.  but well worth the company.  i was a wimp and sat in the car with heated seats then headed back to the warmth of the house earlier than the rest of the gang - but not before i snapped some great shots.  hope you had a wonderful Christmas too! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas, Travel & Spoonbread - 3 clearly related topics

Just hours ago our place was littered with to-do lists and half finished tasks everywhere, I hadn't even finished packing & I was so antsy to get going that I'm pretty sure I was vibrating!  And for some weird reason, I just loved the insanity.  (perhaps I feel at home in the middle of it all?)

We're finally en route and I'm so excited to go see family and spend some time off of work and get on a plane!!!  I can't explain it, but I'm pretty sure traveling has been on my list of favorite things to do since birth.  I'll save that rant for another day though.  For now, in the midst of the craziness, I'd like to share one more recipe off of my Thanksgiving menu with you before we take off - sure, may not be as "healthy" as the other items on there, but it is SO good!!!  (and there is a reason I only make this when I have many mouths to feed... I may or may not will eat the entire thing in one sitting if left to my own devices.)  

And since we're heading south for Christmas and this is my favorite cornbread recipe, it fits in our conversation rather well, if I do say so myself (<--what a bizarre phrase!  where did it come from?).  It's perfectly moist, has a dense almost brownie-like texture, contains just the right amount of sweetness and actually has corn in it (unlike most cornbread), which is ironic because it's referred to as "Spoonbread," not cornbread.  Anyway, enough of my rambling - here is the recipe:

Spoonbread:  The Star on the Cornbread Tree
(in my opnion, at least)

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
(yes, I cheat & no, I'm not ashamed)
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
8 oz of sour cream
(I used the fat free stuff - you can also sub in plain yogurt, I just didn't have any on hand)
14.5 oz can creamed corn

Preheat oven to 425*F. 

Mix ingredients & bake in greased pan for 30 minutes, until browned. 

Take out of oven & cool a bit then enjoy the best cornbread you will ever eat.  

Merry Christmas!!!  
(this will probably be my last post till the new year, so happy new years as well, I guess.)  

(But who knows, maybe I'll take a break from spending time with family, eating great food, keeping warm, enjoying cold but still sunny days, going for fabulously long runs, playing games, drinking coffee made from home-roasted beans, cuddling to watch a movie, having great conversation, doing endless sudoku puzzles, & not paying attention to (or caring) what time it is etc to share some of it with you -- don't worry, I'll be armed with my camera every step of the way and I'm sure there will be lots of stories to tell upon our return.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9 days till Christmas!

...6 days till we get to spend time with much loved (and missed) family
...5 dinners left to plan
...4 minutes to spend watching this seriously awesome Story of Christmas video (below)
...3 more presents to finish up
...2 Christmas potlucks to get ready for
...1 more day till Friday!

do you have a running countdown list?  what does yours look like?  is it crazy and disconnected like mine? does it make you just a bit giddy when you read over it?  (mine does)

(I particularly enjoyed the accent, the "sheeps", the star, the littlest wiseman, and the grande finale)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I've never met a brussel sprout I didn't like...

 ...perhaps that's because I've only ever made them one way - and it is mmm mmm good!

Before I ran into this recipe, I'd heard all kinds of awful things about brussel sprouts, but had never tasted them.  Curiosity finally got the better part of me on one of my farmer market binges just after we got back from Egypt.

I delved into the bin at the farmer's market and hand selected the greenest, most tightly wrapped up sprouts I could pick out - I was so excited to try a new vegetable and I wanted to pick out the best ones there.  (much to Daniel's dismay - he didn't want to be the known as the fellow accompanying the crazy lady who spent a full ten minutes picking out brussel sprouts)  

Armed with a bag of brussel sprouts and hopeful anticipation, I began to think about what I would do with them.  I wanted something simple that would showcase the sprouts' flavor - after all, if I was going to try a new veggie, I had to give it a fair audition!  Then I remembered one of Heidi's recipes over at 101 Cookbooks that I had earmarked waaaaaaaaaaaaay  back in the day - it fit the bill so I decided to go with it.  

I don't know how these green little bundles turn out in other recipes, but I love them in this one - so much so that I included them in my family Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ago.  And since I said I'd be sharing some of those recipes, here comes round 2 - Golden-Crusted Brussel Sprouts (borrowed and only a teensy bit adapted from here).  You have to try this - it is so simple and oh so yummy!

24 small brussel sprouts*
1 tbsp olive oil
fine grain sea salt & black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
grated cheese to taste** 
(I use Parmesan)

*the original recipe says this makes 4 servings, but we usually split it between the two of us -- it seems we eat heftier veggie servings than most
** Heidi suggests 1/4 cup, I prefer just a light dusting  

1. Wash sprouts, removing any loosey-goosey outer leaves and cutting off any stem ends that are jutting out. 

2. Cut each sprout in half from stem to top.

3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold all your sprouts in a single layer. 

4. Place sprouts in pan on their flat side, cover and cook for 5 minutes-ish, giving it a shake every once in a while.

5. Once the bottoms start to brown, cut into or taste one to test for tenderness.  (if its not tender, cover and cook a tad longer)

6. As soon as they are good and tender, uncover & turn up the heat, allowing for the bottoms to carmelize a bit.  Toss or stir them along the way to get some color on the rounded sides as well. 

6. Top with salt, pepper, and grated cheese.

7. Serve immediately (...assuming you haven't already polished them off!) --these babies are at their peak right after you're done preparing them! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

with hearts full of thanks and mouths full of food

We celebrated Thanksgiving a couple of Saturdays ago...  Why a Saturday, you ask?  Well because living in Canada is not conducive to celebrating American holidays.  So since we didn't get any time off during the week to cook up a storm , Saturday was dubbed our substitute turkey day.

I played head chef, mom was my sous chef/turkey cooker and dad my dishwasher.  The rest of the gang were good sports and played guinea pigs for the day.  To my delight (and surprise), they seemed to actually like it.  Not just thank you helpings, but stuffed to the gill helpings!!! (still not over it, can you tell?) 

I was super excited to cook such a big meal for such a big group (7 people is huge when you're used to cooking for 2!). So excited, that I actually put together a formal menu (yup, I'm that dorky ...and I never actually ended up using it, but was fun to make regardless). 

I was really eager to share the kind of food that I eat - wholesome food that starts with real ingredients, that's put together from scratch, that uses unprocessed ingredients and that tastes great.  My siblings insist that I eat all I ever eat is "cardboard and grass" and that "Angy food" is bland and lacking in flavour -- I just wanted to prove to them that you can eat well and love it. 

It was a bit stressful at times, but a great experience overall.  To be honest, I'm already looking forward to my next opportunity to cook for a group.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the recipes from our Thanksgiving meal, starting with the Focaccia bread.   I got this recipe from Home Ec class back in Grade 9 and hadn't looked at it since - the original recipe calls for all purpose flour, but I subbed in white whole wheat and it turned out great.  So without further ado...

Whole Wheat Focaccia Bread

2 1/2 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tbsp Quick Rise Yeast
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Savoury
1 1/2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Basil
3 tbsp Olive Oil
(I used extra virgin)
1/2 tsp Sugar
1 cup Warm Water
Olive Oil, Coarse Salt & extra herbs for topping

Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour with yeast, sugar, salt and herbs.  Combine warm water and oil in a separate bowl, then pour into flour mixture.  Gradually add the rest of the flour until a soft dough is formed. 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two.  Divide dough into two halves and coat each half with oil, then gently press them into ovals.  Cover dough and let rise 10-15 minutes in a warm place.  Use this time to preheat your oven to 450* F. 

Brush your "loaves" with olive oil and sprinkle course salt and extra herbs on top (as much or as little as you like). 

Bake in top 1/3 of the oven for 15 - 17 minutes (if it doesn't brown in that time frame, broil the top for 1 minute).  Serve with olive oil & balsamic vinegar - or alongside soup! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

despite appearances...

... i am still alive and still very much interested in keeping up with this blog.  but alas, it has been a long, busy, and at times a bit of a hard week.

it feels like forever ago now, but just last Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving as a family -- i've got a post in the works to share that with you, it was a wonderful time.

we're also preparing to travel to see family for the holiday season coming up - i'm sure i'll have plenty of photos to share with you from that trip.  we're really looking forward to it (counting down, in fact)!

countless Christmas parties and get-togethers are also very near in the future - which means lots of planning for events and attending events.  which is great - we love opportunities to connect with others can also become draining if we're not careful, though.

all that being said, the business of the season is definitely kicking in, and as we approach the heart of the season let's try to keep in mind the real reason behind all of the glitz and craziness - let us adore Him, and from the outflow of that, let us seize every opportunity to reflect who He is to those whose paths He has crossed with ours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not for the faint of heart...or the tender hearted

as the title suggests, this post is not for you if ...
... you are a vegetarian due to ethical reasons/strong feelings re: animal rights
... you are a farm animal lover
... you prefer your meat in fillet form (rather than the way it looks when it arrives at the butcher's)

along with that disclaimer, i need to clarify that posting (me, in this case) and carrying on with reading (you, in this case) does not mean that we are anti-farm animal, heartless meat-atarians (is that a word?).  its just me sharing a story with you, despite its moderately gory nature.  don't hate me.

without further ado, my friday:

we drove out here: (stunning, isn't it? i love this place!)
to do this:
in this weather:  (yes, we're sissies - in our mild-weathered books, this was FREEZING)
took a break or two to do this:
then went back to this:
which eventually went alongside this:
and ended with this:

all mixed in with laughter, good conversation, catching up with old friends & making new ones - 'twas lovely, to say the least. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

doom, gloom and BAKING!

this week's weather was typical fall/winter fare around here:  wet.  and cold (perhaps a flurry or two!). and oh so dark.  those are the three things that make winters here hard to face.  but alas, in 34 days (yes, I am counting down and yes that might make me seem crazy, but it's what I do to try and keep from actually going crazy) the days will slowly begin to stretch, until that glorious summer day when sun sticks around till like, 10pm.

in the meantime, I look for things that counteract the gloom of the season(s):  time with family, coffee shops, new recipes with whatever the season has to offer [plus old favorites of course], friends, games, hot chocolate, baking etc -- those are just some of my go-to 'winter busters'.

monday night I went down the baking route and attempted german[ish] chocolate cake.  sadly, I was a little eager on the peel-it-out-of-the-pan-and-ice-it ball, which gave me a falling apart cake that didn't take too well to icing, but it was yummy nonetheless.  (you live and you learn I suppose!)

ironically, despite actually following a recipe (for once!), I still made changes along the way.  too many changes, as it turns out.  so the final recipe is sort of a mystery.  maybe one day i'll have a recipe for you, but until then, pictures will have to suffice. if you're really that eager to know, I can try and retrace my steps just for you!  

what do you do to beat the winter blues?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ang: 1; Chicken: 0

I cooked my first ever whole chicken this past week... for the most part, it was actually pretty easy (easy peasy some might say).  Just threw it in the crockpot with some spices (thyme + italian seasoning), half a red onion, a sliced up lemon, and some garlic cloves.  Set it to "low" and waited till the end of the work day.

Easy, right?  For most people, yes.  For me, not quite.  You see, I don't do well with raw meat - it's all slimy and salmonella-y (well, chicken is, at least) and I just don't care for it.  Well, that's not entirely true, I suppose - I don't mind it when its supposed to be raw-ish (i.e. sashimi or steak) but a whole chicken?  That was a hurdle.  But one that I faced - something I am quite proud of myself for doing.  My reward was a SUPER tender dinner, with tons of leftovers for me to use in a couple more dinners.

So here's the synopsis:
since it was a whole chicken, Daniel got to enjoy dark meat while I delved into the white stuff 

it was the first crockpot meal that we have tried and liked (read: hasn't turned to mush)*

there was SO much meat on the thing - which equals double (or maybe even triple!) dinner duty 

having the carcass = a chance to attempt home-made chicken broth (while perhaps not a highlight for most, this gets me very excited - I love trying new things in the kitchen)

very little prep time

*which is more than great, since we have 4, sometimes 5 pre-booked evenings a week and crockpot cooking = banked precious time!

slimy, gross, raw chicken that I had to touch 

my irrational fear of burning the house down as a result of crockpot cooking with no one home 
 (ok, I'll be honest, I took it to work with me this time to alleviate said fear - I can only tackle one fear at a time!)   

If you ask me, that's a win!  :)  Oh, and I've already used the leftovers in a second dinner, but more on that later. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

six seven eight

i love this man:

six years, seven months, and eight days ago, he asked me if i thought i might be hungry on saturday evening. because he tends to get hungry around that time and thought that if i did too, maybe we could go to the olive garden and fix this whole hunger issue together.  i laughed.  and obliged.  we were just kids then.

and after all this time, he still seems to always find a way to be the highlight of my day - happy just over six years, babe.  because i am cheesy like that.  and you humor me - yet another reason to love you.  i am blessed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

thoughts bouncing around in this ol' head of mine

Absurd ideas always seem so realistic in the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes said ideas are fears, other times they’re dreams.  When they’re the former, nights seem endless.  I recall many a night filled ridiculous fears from my childhood...oh who am I kidding, I still have those kinds of nights; the fears have just changed as I’ve grown older.  But eventually, sleep comes, restless as it may be.  And daylight exposes the monsters of the dark as silliness and makes them seem so far away.  I usually end up chuckling at the very thing that left me paralyzed with fear a mere twelve hours before. 

The dreams, ironically, aren’t much better – they haunt me with possibilities and opportunities, beckon me to think big and repeatedly whisper you can do better.  And they always seem brilliant ...right up until the morning light melts them away with realism and practicality.  Daniel says I should just run with them and see where they take me.  Maybe one day I’ll scrape up enough courage to do so...maybe that day isn’t so far in the distance.  Who knows – until then, I will enjoy for its many blessings and for the reminder of mercy and grace that it brings. 

Ok so now that you think I’m crazy – I must admit that am a dreamer and a thinker so sometimes these things just slip out (thanks for listening—err—reading)!

Friday, October 29, 2010

TGIF never meant so much

was this a long week or what...

its like the jet lag hit me a week behind - last week, I was up early and all chipper about it.  Every morning, I'd make breakfast for the two of us, pack (fancy) lunches, work out, clean up around the house, go shopping, read, sip on a cup of tea THEN leave for work 7:45 in the morning.  This week, on the other hand, has been more of the peel-yourself-out-of-bed-and-wonder-how-its-only-Tuesday variety.  But alas, I have made it to Friday and am looking forward to a busy weekend starting with an evening with friends, games and fun - happy Friday!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

dear Kitchen, oh how I have missed you...

I didn't realize just how much I would miss my kitchen during our time away from home.  I suppose I missed both my kitchen and the food that comes out of it.  And taking pictures along the way.  And going to the farmer's market.  I even found myself getting all giddy in the fruit and veggie section of the grocery store!

On the evening we flew in, I walked into my kitchen, turned to Daniel and said "if I could hug this kitchen, I would!"  In addition to my excitement to be able to cook for myself again, I have been craving all kinds of wholesome "Angy food," as most of our friends and family have come to know it.  But when you come home after three weeks of being away, there is much to catch up on and get done, so I had to think of good food that I could throw together quick.  

Enter oatmeal - it's warm, relatively quick, needs little attention, keeps you full, tastes great and has endless possibilities flavor-wise...(the list goes on, but I'll spare you and stop there)  I prefer steel cut oats just because I am a texture eater and I find their texture much more appealing than that of the rolled variety.  Also, the steel cut ones have a great nutty flavour to them.  

I got the oats started on the stovetop then walked over to the living room and picked up my copy of Super Natural Cooking - a great cookbook by Heidi Swanson (over at 101, wondering if she had a take on steel cut oats.  A quick flip through landed me on a page titled "Seven-Way Steel-Cut Oats" and I knew I'd hit the jackpot.  As the title suggests, she gave a general how-to on cooking the oats, then suggested seven different themes for flavoring them.  I liked the sound of the tropical twist and with a few tweaks to accomodate for my preferences and what I had on hand, the recipe came together beautifully. 

Tropical Twist Steel Cut Oats
(for one - multiply as necessary)

1/4 cup Steel Cut Oats
1 1/4 cups Water
Plain Almond Milk* - to taste
Agave Nectar - to taste
Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut - to taste
Mango Chunks - to taste

*There seems to be quite a range when it comes to different brands of almond milk - I used Silk here, but I also really enjoy Almond Breeze.  I haven't come across others I've liked, but if you have a favorite, certainly go with that one. 

Cook the oats as per package instructions - for mine, I just boiled the water then added the oats and simmered on medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes.

While the oats are cooking, dry toast your coconut (I used a couple tablespoons worth) in a small frying pan.  Once toasted, remove from heat and put aside.  

I used frozen pre-chopped mango, but if you have the fresh kind use this time to chop it up into bite sized pieces then set it aside as well.

Keep an eye on the oats, if they get too dry they may need an extra splash of water.  Once they're cooked, scoop them into a bowl and top with mango, coconut, a splash of almond milk and some agave nectar for sweetener - oatmeal heaven! 

Adapted from Seven-Way Steel-Cut Oats recipe in Super Natural Cooking.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's been a while...

...I've been halfway across the world and back so needless to say, that's absorbed all of my attention for the past month or so.  In theory, posts on here will be a bit more frequent now that we're back from our much anticipated trip to Egypt.  If I had to describe the first couple days back home in one word it would definitely be cold
so   very   cold

Switching from 40 degree Egypt to 10 degree Canada is quite a jump -- at least it's been sunny, I've told myself.  But not anymore - the rain has begun and there is no end in sight.  I am fighting really hard to avoid the panic that sets in right about this time every.single.year.  I dread the end of summer in the most irrational way possible.  I begin to crave going to the beach, regardless of the weather or come up with harebrained schemes like quitting our jobs and travelling to India or decide we're moving to Australia... anything to avoid the wet, dark winter.  bah... Usually I settle for flipping through pictures of my favorite places in an attempt to soothe my unsettled soul.  In keeping with that theme, I'll leave you with a picture of Crescent beach and call it a night - enjoy. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What a week!

This past week was CRAZY busy, but really good nonetheless.  Fall is starting to set in with shorter days and new routines.  Here are a couple of highlights from the week: 

betrothed - beautiful girl, beautiful ring!  :)

deer sausage that was gifted to us 

homemade caramel pudding

 delightful hawaiian treats (chocolate covered macadamia nuts)

that's all for now - over and out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the first day

Today was the first day of school.

I drove to work and noticed elementary kids lining the curbsides. Some waiting for the bus, some already on their way - inching closer to the dreaded schoolyard with each step. That was not the story in my case; I adored the first day of school - the smell of new school supplies, seeing familiar faces after a three month hiatus, meeting a new teacher, starting new classes...I was in heaven. I couldn't have been more thrilled with the possibilities that awaited me in the year to come; any nervousness that may have built up in anticipation of the first day was drowned out by the sheer delight that this day brought me. To be perfectly honest, every fall a small part of me mourns my inability to participate in this momentous day - the first day.

What better day, then, to make my first post on this blog? I am pretty excited to take this first step - I wonder how often I'll post once the novelty wears off, if my posts will be two-liners or full on paragraphs, if they'll be more image-heavy than text heavy, what new opportunities may arise as a result... who knows. What I do know is that I am just as pleased with this first day as I was with the first day of school. So here goes nothing I guess - I love firsts.
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