Posted in Canning and Preserving, Cooking, Health, Healthy Living, Men's Health, Men's Issues, Recipes, Uncategorized, Women's Issues

My Culinary Relationship with Mother Earth – We Be Jammin’

rearviewmirroI remember the year the apple blossoms froze on the trees. It was 2012. We didn’t have fresh Ontario apples that year, and the prices sky-rocketed.

That was also the year I stopped making apple juice.

So what?

Well darlings, I’m a country girl at heart, and a big part of enjoying the seasons is enjoying whatever our harvest yields. A big part of showing love and coming together as friends and family is sharing a meal together.

The lack of apples impacted a generations long tradition of baking apple crisp, apple pie, applesauce and apple juice.While I live within the rushed pace of the city for now, I stay connected to the seasons and to what matters most by enjoying the tradition of preserving. Apples are the end of the summer fruits, and it was a strange feeling knowing that something as stable as our seasons and harvest were being affected by the impact of consumerism (aka global warming). Our harvest seasons are part of the essence of who we are and the organic rhythm of life.

flat of berriesStrawberry season signals for me the start of true summer. Rhubarb is spring. Of course you can’t forget asparagus and radishes. With the appearance of little white blossoms and bright, juicy, red fruit, I know that the strawberries cometh and that it’s time to enjoy in abundance what the earth provides, and squirrel away the rest for winter.

Yesterday I took a beautiful drive out into the country, got a flat of strawberries, and came home to make my first batch of jam. Next will be raspberries, and this year there will be beets, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and salsa.

 

 

pouring jamEvery year, I think of my grandmothers and my mother, who carried the tradition and taught me how to do these things.  I remember standing on a stool to stir the jam as it cooked, and when we used to use wax to seal the jars.

I remember hot jam slathered on homemade bread. The smell of granny’s kitchen when she made her chili sauce with the cheesecloth sachet of spices simmering in the pot, and being told countless times to go get another jar of this or that for whatever was on the stove. We used to count the number of jars of jam, tomatoes, beets, etcetera in order to ration them until the summer came again. It was never because we couldn’t afford to go to the store to buy more, it was because we subscribed to the rationale; who the hell would eat a can of fruit or vegetables plied with preservatives and chemicals that tasted second rate at best, when you could eat something that tasted good and wasn’t laden with other goop? It just didn’t make sense. And it still doesn’t to me.

There are few people my age who know how to do these things anymore, and I wonder what they must be missing out on, counting summer by work-weeks instead of by the season; strawberry season, raspberry season, plums, pears, apples, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers…

This might even be the year that I get back to making apple juice. Just the thought of hot cider by the fireplace makes me want to cuddle with someone. During the winter months, there’s nothing like opening a jar of peach jam to remind you that soon, summer will be upon us again. Or maybe it’s a jar of tomatoes for a rich, hearty stew.

jam 1Living in the city for the past 16 years, you’d think I’d prefer the convenience of buying something off the shelf, but I don’t.

I love the slow process of gathering, preparing and preserving my own food, knowing that it’s fresh and wholesome. Knowing that what I’m eating and what I’m sharing with the people I love is the best that I can give them.

Wishing you a bountiful summer, and an extra pair of hands in the kitchen.

 

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Posted in 2015 Canadian Thanksgiving, 2015 Thanksgiving, Andshelaughs, Canadian Thanksgiving, dating, Dining, Entertaining, Family, Food, Girl Stuff, Guy Stuff, Holidays, insight, Life, Living, Meaning of Life, Psychology, Recipes, Thanksgiving

Misfit Thanksgiving – Getting to Know You

give thanksI had the pleasure of getting to know an acquaintance much better last night as our Thanksgiving celebration wound down into the quiet evening hours.

I had known this gentleman and his wife for years, but never really had an opportunity to speak to him. He discussed community, politics, religion and generally, the stuff that makes the world go ’round.

This is the beauty of what I have come to call our, “Misfit” get-togethers; gathering people together who are kind and intelligent to share an evening of, well, true sharing.

The definition of Misfit is; One who is unable to adjust to one’s environment or circumstances or is considered to be awkwardly different from others.

As we age, being around people we actually like is a big deal. It’s rejuvenating, fun, and renews our belief that good triumphs over evil. Being surrounded by thoughtful (as in they think independently, and care about how they impact others), intelligent people with a true sense of who they are and how they show up in the world every day is something that I am thankful for.

Most people define themselves against their first experience of ‘them’ and ‘us’, basically, how and where they fit into the family unit.

For some, family gatherings are just another uncomfortable event they feel they have no choice but to attend. Others have tossed decorum and bunk to the side, and have decided to live a life less complicated and simply spend time with people they actually like.

As we charge full-steam ahead into the season of holidays that seem to be tied to family tradition and sanguineous relationships, don’t forget that it’s all a load of crappola.

These traditions of gathering are an opportunity to spend time with the like-minded, differently-minded or whatever-mined, kind, loving, wonderfully diverse people whom you call friends. If you have been invited to our home to share a ‘misfit’ holiday with us, know that you have my respect, and that I like you.

The good people whom I like; they are my family of friends, and for them, I am truly thankful.

Posted in Autumn, Back to School, Baking, Candy Apples, Cooking, Fall, Friendship, Labor Day, Labour Day, Life, Lists, Living, Meaning of Life, Nature, Nostalgia, Pecan Pie, Pinterest, Psychology, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Recipes, Relationships, Seasons, Writers

Waving Good-Bye to Summer & How to Like What Comes Next

sunto
Every summer has it’s own story…

It’s hard to believe, that today is the last ‘official’ day of summer, what with being in the middle of another heat alert.

It’s a bittersweet season of not wanting the long, sunny days to end and looking forward to the delights of autumn.

I must make a confession, although I’m loathe to see another summer pass by, I have to confess that I love the fall.

Growing up a wild-haired blonde-beach-bum, summer was a season of freedom and self-discovery. Fall was the beginning of nesting, wrapping up our sun-soaked bodies and snuggling in for the winter.

Each year as summer draws to a close, I reminisce about what the summer brought; new love, broken hearts, shenanigans and road-trips. I also look forward to all the pleasures of autumn;

…clear, crisp air, and the beauty of watching green turn to shades of gold, rust and deep ruby reds…

autumnlandscape

…a fireplace on a wet November day…

fireplacewine

…weather cold enough to have an excuse to stay inside and write…

williegreeneye

…baking all kinds of yummy Thanksgiving treats…

autumn food

…sumptuous, comfort food shared with friends…

thanksgiving al fresco

…pumpkin spice lattes of course…

Pumpkin spice latte recipe

…rainy November days perfect for sleeping in, reading or movie-watching…

catwindowI hope that you’ve had a delightful summer, that your skin is smiling from the sun, and your wanderlust is somewhat sated.

Here’s to autumn my darlings, and all of the comforting beauty that it brings.

Posted in Andshelaughs, Bacon, Bacon Recipes, Batle of the Sexes, Cooking, dating, Girl Stuff, Guy Stuff, Life, Living, Love, Meaning of Life, Men's Issues, Opinion, Recipes, Romance

What’s So Sexy About a Man & Four Pounds of Bacon?

baconmyheartThere are some things that men just do better than women; revere bacon,  for example, or enjoy standing over a hot grill on a blistering hot July day (see: Chicks Shouldn’t BBQ), nursing a cold beer or two and contemplating the state of….whatever.

As I type this sparkling gem of wisdom, I have a man cooking lunch in my kitchen.

No, it will not be the beautifully plated jasmine and chicken-that-took-hours to catch, pluck, butcher, marinate and pair with a white burgundy that I was accustomed to in my early years of man-tertainment.

Lunch today is a bacon-wrapped grilled cheese sandwich, which has been researched, coveted and shopped for by the Y-chromosome carrying members of the household, and I’m not going anywhere near the kitchen. I have a manosaurusrex loose in there, and I’m just going to stay outta the way darlings.

Am I ok with it? Am I ok with men being men and the gender stereotypes that straighjacket us into believing that boys will be boys; irresponsible, insensitive, sloppy and a never-ending succession of stupid decisions that they can’t be responsible for because they’re fathers never loved them enough? No. I am not ok with that. Mostly because I’ve given birth to, and raised a boy.

Men and women are equally responsible and irresponsible, sensitive and insensitive, sloppy and tidy, and both make a considerable number of bad decisions until they grow up enough to realize that maybe, just maybe being loving and kind isn’t such a bad thing.

So what does this have to do with bacon?

Bacon seems to be the BBQ of manliness to the modern man. You know the ones, right my sweet little peaches? The ones we’ve kicked the metaphorical shit out of by unraveling the male psyche and fluffing it up with metrosexuality, cosmetic lines for men, and horror-of-horrors educating our women to rule the world of not only home, but work too.

Yes, yes, yes, I know this is a binary analysis of the sexes. We all exist on a continuum of gender. I just happen to live by the wonderful grade-four French slang; Chacun a son gout.

My gout just happens to be for the manly, never-been-touched-by-GQ Magazine-seasonal-fashion-must-have-anxiety, hairy-chested, red-hot-pulsing-slice-of-testosterone-propelled-man-steak-who-thinks-bacon-wrapped-grilled-cheese-lunches-are-a-good-thing-to-do-for-his-woman kind of man.

Ok, so I get that  he’s not doing it for me, but he’s got a grin on his face beautiful enough to light up the room. No, I’m not hallucinating as the smoke from flaming bacon grease fills my lungs. He is smiling and he is happy and he’s willing to share that with me. What more could a gal ask for?

If you are a  bacon-loving man’s man, do not try to be anything else. We love you just they way you are.

Posted in Advice, Andshelaughs, Columns, Girl Stuff, Humour, Life, Living, Meaning of Life, Philosophy, Recipes, Women's Issues, Writing

Mimosas: Just Another Way of Saying You Haven’t Gotten The Best of Me

mimosaMost holidays begin with an earlier than dawn start, and a mimosa. On the plane, beach, or on a terrace overlooking Paris, mimosa’s are the universal alcoholic signal for the world-is-my-oyster-and-you-can’t-do-a-damn-thing-about-it.

Throughout the years I’ve learned that every-day celebrations are as important as the big stuff; getting through a horrible week, kicking off a snow-day in bed, saying adieu to a horribly unsatisfying lover, and perhaps even being able to walk the grass in your bare feet without being on the clock.

In all of these instances I believe that wise women keep a bottle of champagne well-chilled at the back of the fridge.

About a year ago, maybe two, I pulled out my emergency bottle of bubbles, and noticed that the gold was more golden, and the flavor a bit more luxe. What on earth could have changed about my favourite bubbly (which is actually Cava, not Champagne)?

What had changed was I was living too fast, too focused on fulfilling the needs of others rather than myself. My little bottle of bubbly had been waiting ever so patiently at the back of the fridge for well over a year.  In other words, I was overdue for a little fete, a celebration of everyday miracles and blessings.

This week, my little bottle of bubbles and OJ were doing double duty. They eased me into a hot bath where I could safely let loose a flood of tears, and also toasted a fresh new beginning.

I know, I know darlings, I’ve often said that you can’t cry when you’re drinking champagne, but the truth is it happened to me. It wasn’t just champagne though, it was a mimosa.

When you’re crying and drinking a mimosa from a pretty flute, people think you are shedding tears of joy, celebrating, marking a miraculous milestone. This is a universal sanctioning of getting a little shit-faced without being judged. There’s orange juice in it after all. It’s practically  breakfast.

So, when you want to toast some of the lessons you learned in the school of life, and they weren’t necessarily easy ones, try a mimosa.  Bourbon may be king during the times when you want the world to know you’re tenacious as hell and will never surrender.  Mimosas on the other hand, are the equivalent of giving the world a Tiffany clad middle finger.

Posted in Andshelaughs, Artisano's Restaurant, Breakfast, Business, Economics, Economy, Food, Food Critics, Life, Living, Meaning of Life, Mississauga Restaurants, Occupy, Recipes, Restaurants, Reviews, Service Industry

Why Your Terrible Breakfast Offends Me

"Let them eat cake." ~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~
“Let them eat cake.”
~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

Not you, dish-rag of a girl behind the counter, nor you, 65ish waitress with the second-hand Target sweater and hair clip.

Nope, you two have my respect. You’ve earned it. Over and over, you’ve earned it. Day in, and day out, you’ve earned it.

Say what you like about what money can’t buy, it can buy a whole lot of peace of mind and privilege. That’s why it’s so coveted, and so hoarded by those who have it. If it was as worthless as all the popular memes want us to believe, people would be way, way, way more generous.

Why your terrible breakfast offends me is because YOU are likely a greedy-money-hording employer from hell. I’m guessing, but it’s an educated guess.

More than once favourite restaurants have changed hands, and I believe that one of my favourite breakfast spots, Artisano’s may have also changed ownership, or perhaps the management has just dumped the concept of customer service? I’m not sure. I am sure that I will not be going back, nor recommending it based on my own personal experience.

Any time front-line staff don’t produce excellent products or customer service, it’s likely because they don’t have the tools or energy to do it. After all, who likes to feel second-best after a long day at work? When I say tools, in this case I mean decent food to use and enough staff. When I say energy, I mean; the staff likely get treated and paid like hell.

Yah, a bad breakfast is a first world problem, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem. First of all, if you’re raising kids, and working, you likely have to stop somewhere to eat at least once or even twice a week, simply because the demands of work and the demands of trying to have your kids get ahead mean you have no time and a whole whack of  extra blood pressure. Why? Simply put; the Have’s now have more, and the Have-Nots have even less. And yet we’re not protesting in Canadian streets. This both intrigues and frightens me.

ewwwSo, when I get a chance to actually enjoy a meal, and I’m paying YOU for it, I’d like it to be well-cooked, fresh and hot. That’s the least someone should expect. Your burned bacon and rubbery-older-than-dirt sausage and cold as hell eggs suck. No salt or pepper. Clearly those are extravagances.  Besides, when the food is burned, old and cold, salt and pepper are really just putting lipstick on the pig aren’t they darlings?  And if you’re looking at the photo, that’s not pepper, it’s grit from the grill. Ewww.

Staff to bring you those things after you ask? Can’t be bothered. Breakfast is a completely indulgent meal to enjoy on a Sunday morning; with hot coffee and a newspaper, there are few things that make me happier.

I do not blame the all too commonly underpaid staff who are working their buns off to pay the bills. I do blame employers who skimp, penny-pinch and do so at the cost of the health of employees and customers.  This is why your terrible breakfast offends me. This is why I will not be back.

Posted in Advice, Andshelaughs, Columns, Cooking, dating, Dating Over 40, Entertaining, Entertainment, Food, Girl Stuff, Guy Stuff, Health, Life, Living, Meaning of Life, Men's Issues, Opinion, Perspective, Recipes, Singles, Writing

Winterlicious 2015 – Let’s Review

first we eatEvery year for the past decade, I’ve organized a Lady’s Winter/Summerlicious dinner for the Ladies Who Lunch. There are usually between 6-12 of us who use this culinary celebration as an excuse to get together and try a new place.

Trying new restaurants gives us another card to play in our social repertoire, and when we’re impressed, we return; for birthdays, anniversaries, dates and weekend lunches that involve a bottle of wine…or two, depending on the deeds we need to dish with our dear ones.

Winterlicious was a wash with business for me. Alas, I was only able to get out to two new places. I’m sad to say that this year, everyone, including myself, my ladies and my kiddo, were underwhelmed by both the food and service.

Before the restaurant world whines about bad tippers and losing money on the endeavor, I would like to say that it’s a fair shake for diners and staff alike. If you don’t like Winterlicious don’t participate. If you don’t enjoy facilitating a happy dining experience for people, please, for the love of digestion, get a job somewhere else.

Today I spent a fair amount on lunch at  Archeo in the distillery district after braving the freezing rain and slick roads. It took an hour and a half to get there, and not once did a server ask how our meal was, nor were we offered a beverage once the meal started. Apparently coffee and tea with dessert is passé, because it wasn’t offered at all at Archeo, and only as an afterthought last week at Hush.

Both restaurants served French fries with meal options, yet neither offered condiments such as wonderful vinegars or tangy mustards for their sandwich choices.

The fish and chips at Hush were sad. The batter had the potential to be wonderful, it looked crispy, but was flavourless, and lukewarm. The accompanying bacon and apple slaw was as outstanding as the fish. The spicy edamame beans were not spicy, and the soup was bland as well. Nothing tasted hot, fresh or flavourful.

Nine of us at Hush were served barely warm meals, but the service was at least friendly.

At Archeo, the food was hot, which is really the least you should expect when dining. The bruschetta was flavorful but served on the same mass-produced bread as the chicken parmesan sandwich. Both the tiramisu crème brule and chocolate pudding were delicious. Unfortunately the service was so cold that by the time dessert came, we were chilled by the poor service.

Our meals may have been hot at Archeo, but the service was as cold as the blizzard outside. Instead of ordering wine, and lingering over coffee this afternoon, we headed back down the street and stopped at Balzac’s for a little something ‘to go’.

An impromptu stop at  Le Saint Tropez  during Winterlicious,(not a Winterlicious meal) reminded myself and my gal-pal what service was all about. We did not have a reservation, we were not there for a multi-course meal, but we were welcomed warmly and sincerely. The waitress/server knew how to have an engaging conversation. That kind of four-star service and delicious food, will guarantee we come back again and again. It’s the kind of place you can count on for a special occasion.

Our 2015 Winterlicious experience was underwhelming indeed. We will however, look forward to Summerlicious 2015, hoping that the restaurants live up to the wonderful food and extraordinary service we enjoyed at Destingo last year.

Until we see you at Summerlicious, Bon appetite!