Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Ending

This will be my last post of 2008, so I wanted to end the year on a happy note. My friend, Alex, posted this on his blog.

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy & prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Feast

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas this year. Ours was very nice and my favorite part of the day, enjoying good food with family & friends, was the best.

Michelle & Joe came to partake with us. (Look at Jim in the middle. He's got a drink in each hand! I never noticed that until now. What the heck?)

Mama Rita & Jade also joined in the fun. One of things I served as an appetizer was bruschetta from Dynise's upcoming book, "The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal Free Recipes"
This earned rave reviews from everyone.

Michelle says "Yummy!"
Michelle & Joe helped with some of the dinner by making a couple of dishes at home and bringing them with them. If you notice a large cardboard box in the background of the photos (like here), it's not part of my usual decor - it's what they used to transport the food, which included a turkey that Joe roasted for the meat-eaters.

Here they are overseeing some of the preparations.

"Someone" who wasn't really in the mood to have a picture taken. HAHA!

Simon was excited to have everyone come visit, but very well behaved. Michelle & Joe both said he was the best behaved dog they had ever seen. He did his mom proud. Of course he had to have a cuddle from Jade.

And he wanted to show off one of his presents from Santa. A Leafs practice jersey. He is so ready for the next game.

Dinner was ready and everyone was anxious to eat!

The cranberry sauce on the table this year was also compliments of Dynise. Quince-Cranberry to be exact. This is a recipe I tested and it is so freakin' delicious, this will be my go-to cranberry sauce every year.

My plate, starting at 12:00 - stuffing (kept out of the bird) made by Joe, mashed potatoes with fake turkey gravy, Quorn roast, made by Michelle, quince-cranberry sauce, turnip puff made by Michelle, roasted carrots & in the middle, brussels sprouts with hazelnuts.

Everyone ate lots. Jade especially liked her dinner. Can't you tell by the look on her face. She's such a ham!
Michelle says enough is enough with the pictures already, let's just eat.

Jade's boyfriend, Aaron arrived to have dessert with us, which was yet another recipe test.

Berry Tart! Did Aaron like it?

Looks like it.

Everyone else seemed to enjoy it too. It was very easy to make and looked so elegant. It wasn't too heavy either which made it a nice ending for a big meal.

A great time was had by all and we looked forward to Boxing Day. It's so much more relaxing.

Simon spent a lot of the day chewing his new toy. "Santa" appears to be a Leafs fan. Let's hope the 2nd half of their season is better than the first. We've got tickets for the game on Jan. 3. Leafs vs. Ottawa. There's a big rivalry there so it should be wild!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'll Be Seeing You Mr. Adams

WOOT! WOOT! I got me some tickets to see Bryan Adams at Copps Coliseum in March. Floor Seats, Row 11!
NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA, (sing it) Cuts Like a Knife......

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pay It Forward

I got in on the Pay It Forward Challange with Amanda at Walking the Vegan Line. The rules are very simple....I will send the first three people who leave a comment on this post a special little gift/treat with a Canadian theme within the next 365 days (that seems to be the kind of time frame everyone is using) I am willing to post anywhere in the world, so don’t let that stop you from commenting. The catch is that you have to have a blog and be willing to do the same thing....And since I can't send everyone who comments a gift, my gift to the rest of you are two recipes of your choice! Obviously these would have to be something that you've seen on my blog already. ( Dynise's test recipes are not included in this since her book hasn't even been published yet)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Three Little Pigs

These 3 are disgusting. What they are trying to pull off makes me & millions others sick. Look how smug Jack Layton looks. Canadians - your thoughts? Please!

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Recipe Testing

December 1 - WOOT!! This is one of my favorite months. Yeah, it's crazy busy for most with all the Christmas preparations going on, but I really enjoy it. Jim & I are hosting dinner this year and while it will be just small (4 of us), I want to make it special. I've got my menu planned, some food shopping has been done & almost all of my gift shopping done. Now I'm going on a cleaning blitz. Blah!
I've managed to get in quite a few recipe tests for Dynise's upcoming cookbook The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes. Here's a sampling of what I've made.

Sloppy Joes! These are freakin' delicious - better than any I've tried. Simple recipe, all ingredients are pantry staples & I had enough leftovers for lunch.

Here we have Risotto Milanese. I had a bit of trouble with this - mostly because I've never made risotto before. It's got a lot of saffron in it, so if you don't like saffron, this wouldn't be for you, but I like the flavour. I want to try this again & see if I can manage to get it right. So this is not a recipe issue, but the cook's screw up.
What kind of a tester would I be if I didn't sample some of the drinks?

John's Copacabana Caipirinha! I had a couple of sips out of the glass before I remembered to take a picture. Caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil. It's a mixture of limes, sugar, ice & cachaça. Cachaça is a clear alcohol that is made from sugar cane. It's usually found on the shelf with rum. On a hot day (or a cold one) this sweet/sour drink is really refreshing.

I took a bottle of this wine, mixed in a bit of sugar & some fruit, let it sit over night and voila!
John's Summer Sangria. This was really nice. I've had sangria's before where inexpensive wine is used. It's really not that great. I figured since the wine is the main ingredient in this, why not use something relatively decent. This bottle at the LCBO is around $15.

It's hard to see the fruit pieces because the wine is so dark, but trust me, when you drink this down, you'll have lots of alcohol soaked fruit to eat.

Cold weather calls for comfort dishes. How about Balsamic-Roasted Vegetables? What a great way to get in a few veggie servings in one dish.

This has been Jim's favorite so far Enlightened Vegetable Barley Soup. He raved about this and a week later is asking if I'd make it again. It is, by far, one of the best barley soups I've made. A secret little ingredient added to the broth makes it super-rich tasting. Want to know what it is? Ahhhhh! You'll have to wait for the book!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recipe Testing

First things first - AC/DC tickets.

I've got 2 of these babies in my hot little hands. WOOT!! This will surely help us out of our post-Christmas blues.
Well, it finally happened. We got snow that stayed on the ground. Simon loves the snow so he was very excited for his first snow-walk of the season.

He still doesn't like his hoodie. When I put it on him, he just stands there. He isn't even lured to move by his doggie crack. He really likes his old coat, so he ventured out in classic style. Once the snow stopped, we had about an inch or so on the ground. Not a lot, but it's a start. I'm sure there is plenty more to come.

As much as I like winter and going for walks in the snow, I've been occupied in the kitchen. Dynise over at Urban Vegan has written a cookbook! It's called "The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes" and is slated for publication in the latter part of 2009, but the manuscript has to be submitted in the very early spring, so she put out a call for recipe testers. I had a great time testing for Dreena a couple of years ago, so I volunteered. Holy! Am I ever glad I did. I've been making some great stuff in the kitchen. I can't give you any details of course, but I can show you pictures of the finished products.

Up first a Spinach-Fennel Salad. This was so delicious. It's like something you'd find on the menu in an upscale restaurant. It got dressed with Creamy Avocado Dressing.

We jumped the gun and popped the cork on some bubbly to toast Dynise's success. Jumped the gun because the book's not even done yet. As far as it being a success...that's a given.
This is a sparkling wine from Jacob's Creek out of Austrailia. It's one of the better "affordable" sparkling wines that I've found. Made with the classic Champagne grapes, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, it is also bottle-fermented following the Champagne method. Something to keep in mind if you're looking for a nice bubbly for New Year's Eve.

Another recipe I tried was the marinade for tofu. This is the best marinade I've made so far. The tofu was then grilled to perfection on my George Foreman.
Jim loves pasta and could probably eat it in some for or another every day of the week. When I reviewed the recipe for Spaghetti Con Salsa Fresca, I knew it would be a hit.

Simple, fresh, with vibrant colours & flavours -this was very good. I served it with another Urban Vegan delight -

Focaccia! I sprinkled a lot of rosemary on the top because most of it ends up falling off when I slice these breads, so I wanted to make sure I would have enough still stuck on.

I had a bit of trouble with my food processor in making this and ended up kneading some by hand. I'm not sure I kneaded it enough, but it was still super delicious!

Something else I dug out for this special occasion was this Barolo. What special occasion you ask? It was Wednesday!
It's great to buy wines to cellar and then enjoy years later when they have mellowed, evolved and reached their flavour peak. It doesn't have to be a special day when you open a bottle. Make a terrible work day end on a high note by uncorking a little gem that you've had stashed away for a while. Not that we either had a terrible day, I just felt in the mood to have a great glass of wine. Did you know that 9 out of 10 bottles of wine purchased in Ontario are taken home and consumed the same day? This one was purchased some time ago, but it's time to be consumed had come. Yum! We had it with the pasta & the foccacia.

Of course, every cookbook has to have a dessert chapter. Isn't that the finish to an outstanding meal? Here we have Double Apple Cake.

I can't tell you what's in it, aside from apples of course, but I can tell you that it is soft, moist & really, really tasty. Got you curious for the cookbook yet?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

For Those About To Rock....

We had a nice week of Indian summer, then the cold started creeping in. Out came the coats, and some days scarves & gloves.

Leaves are changing colours and falling off the trees. Pretty, but sad.

Simon got a new hoodie to keep him warm, but he seems to not like it very much.

So we went out without it. He loves sniffing around in the leaves. I must say, I like that smell of fall too. The rotting leaves, cool air...takes me right back to childhood and memories of Hallowe'en - always.
The cooler weather brings all kinds of comfort foods back to the kitchen. First up, potatoes!

What's more comforting than spuds? This dish is similar to scalloped potatoes, but with vegetable broth instead of milk. The broth was infused with rosemary & thyme and the potatoes were layered with lightly sauteed onions & garlic. Holy! Were these delicious. Thank you Gordon Ramsay for the recipe.

I made a "meat" loaf using Robin Robertson's recipe from The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook. This is the best "meat"loaf recipe I have found. It's so delicious. Instead of gravy, I made a peppercorn sauce. It suited this meal perfectly. While the potatoes were in the oven, I also roasted some carrots. Talk about comfort!
Of course we have wine with meatloaf. Who doesn't? ;o)
This was given to Jim by a customer. I looked it up on line and some sites didn't give it a very good review. I don't know what they were drinking, but we thought it was delightful. It was so smooth, like velvet in my mouth. The flavour complemented the loaf & sauce wonderfully. In the world of wine, there are a lot of snobs. I try not to be snobby, but informed. Really - at the end of the day, it basically comes down to drink what you like. And no matter what others say, I liked this. I thought it was flavourful, with a good structure and balance.

Cold weather always brings soup! There's a lentil soup that I started making years ago complements of Linda McCartney. This was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks that I bought - Linda McCartney On Tour.

I liked the sound of it just by the title. It turned out to be a big favorite around here.

The recipe doesn't call for black beans, but I had half a can left over from making nachos, so I threw those in too. Served with some oregano garlic flatbread it sure warmed our tummies.

Food is good for the soul and so is Rock n' Roll! What better way to feed a rocker's ears than AC/DC!!
As part of Jim's birthday, I got tickets for the sold out Toronto show. The opening was utterly spectacular and it just kept right on going from there. We were on the Rock N' Roll Train for sure.

Those guys blew the roof off the Skydome (Rogers Centre, many it will always be Skydome). This was the best effing concert I have ever been to. Two hours passed like that! They were finished and I just wanted more.

I loves me some Angus and he definitely delivered! Old favorites like Highway To Hell, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Hell's Bells, and a sprinkling of songs off their new album - which is totally kick ass by the way. It went #1 in Canada the week it was released and had the largest first week sales in this country in 5 years.

The show was pure R&R. A few cool things thrown in - an inflatable, cannons, strip-tease - but for the most part, just a stripped down stage and LOUD music. Look at the stacks of Marshalls. That was on either side of the stage. We had such an amazing time, I'm trying to get tickets for their second sold-out Toronto show in January. It was that good. AC/DC - we salute you!