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2014 – The Year You Did It

“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.” ~T.S. Eliot~
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”
~T.S. Eliot~

If all goes as planned (and it shall), I will be dancing the night away as this blog is being posted, ushering in the new year as I wish the remainder of the year to be; surrounded by friends, meeting new people, dancing and laughing. May the champagne ever be cold and ready for pouring….

I hope that this is the year you do it; graduate, fall in love, get the job you want, pay your bills, reclaim your health, let all the negative stuff go, allow yourself to be nurtured, take your dream vacation, check off a few items from your life-long-I-gotta-do-it-list, feel secure in your independence, move, go back to school, break-up, make-up, or whatever it is that you need to do.

Just commit to being the best version of you possible, and you can’t go wrong!

If you’re at home reading this during a more contemplative new years evening, may you know peace.

If you’re at home reading this on new year’s day, may you know that a big greasy breakfast and tomato juice almost always kill a hangover.

However you decided to ring in 2014, I wish you every happiness, good health, and an abundance of everything good that this new year has to offer.

Christmas · Entertaining · Food · Humor · Humour · Recipes

Christmas in the Kitchen: Holiday Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares

English: Marshmallows
English: Marshmallows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve done it!

I have my stock of the elusive-once-a-year coloured marshmallows tucked safely away  until I start my Christmas baking.

That’s right, this year I will not be out-shopped by other kitchen goddesses more organized than I!

This is a classic southern-Ontario Christmas treat. Christmas is the only time of year when the shelves are bare in the place where coloured marshmallows reside, so I suggest holding up your local grocer tomorrow for a couple of bags.

Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1 large cup butterscotch chips

1 cup peanut butter

1 bag elusive coloured marshmallows

Method

Melt margarine and chips in pan and add peanut butter.

Remove from heat and cool slightly bvefore adding marshmallows

Mix thoroughly and pat into a greased pan and chill until firm.

***rub a small pat of butter on your palms before patting into the pan to chill***

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The End of Homemade Christmas Cookies

making cookies with grandma
making cookies with grandma (Photo credit: sanzibar)

That’s right, if Forno Cultura’s secret gets out, it will be the end of homemade Christmas cookies as we know it.

Grannies, keep your babies and grandbabies out of the city. Tell them since the Ford fiasco,  they’ve shut down the roads, locked the gate until the whole thing settles down.I thought that we had a day in the downtown  that couldn’t get any better.

I thought that a beautiful brunch at Le St. Tropez, and a matinee performance of my favourite musical Les Miserable could not be topped.

I thought that was the best way to finish off a weekend of tree lighting, hot cider sipping and night time parades.

Until I stepped through the doors of Forno Cultura.

Sweet love of all that’s holy, may my soul be saved from the Italian devil of bakery heaven!

We were greeted with Amereti cookies, just slightly crisp on the outside, and oh-so-chewy-and-orgasmically satisfying on the inside

Sweets are sold by the kilogram, and could put a gal on the fast track to selling herself on the streets for just a taste of the dark chocolate, black olive deliciousness that leaves you neither satisfied nor wanting more.

Just like a thorough and proper lover, it leaves you contented. Sated. Feeling as if you know what the end of the world feels like, and it feels marvelous.

So, don’t tell your mamma or your granny, but there just simply is nothing better than the treats you’ll find down the stairs at 609 King Street West.

If you are a singleton, or more likely, half of a couple who is less than satisfied, go soothe your soul, espresso in one hand and sweet beloved cookie in the other, amid the warm aura of Forno Cultura, . It will make it all, everything, exquisitely,  bearable.

Who knew that the secret to happiness was the brine of black olives embraced by the  bittersweetness of chocolate?

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Savoury Apple Strata

strataI’ve made this dish a number of times throughout the years, preparing the ingredients to be quickly cooked up and then stored in the refrigerator overnight for a quick and delicious Christmas morning breakfast.

Paired with a nice fruit salad, coffee and juice (a mimosa or two if you don’t have to be responsible for little ones), it’s a great way to start such a merry day!

Ingredients

3 Tbs Butter

3 medium Granny Smith apples peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

4 cups cubed firm bread

2 cups shredded old cheddar

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

5 eggs

 

Method

Grease a 9×9 baking dish.

Melt butter in a pan, and add apples. Cook until tender-crisp (approximately 3 minutes)

Reduce heat to low and stir in brown sugar

Cook through until apples are tender (just a couple of minutes more)

Using half each of the bread, bacon, apples and cheese, layer in the baking dish, and repeat using the remaining bread, bacon, apples and cheese.

Whisk  together the milk, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and eggs.

Pour liquid mixture over cheese.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 12 hours.

Pre-Heat oven to 350, and bake for 45 minutes (uncovered)

Let stand 10 minutes before serving

Test  by inserting a knife. If it comes out clean, the strata is ready.

And of course…what you may wish to listen to as you cook….

 

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Best Broccoli Ever

Broccoli
Broccoli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you just have to rough it a bit. You know, stop indulging in bubbly and scotch and take care of your bodacious, body.

This Sunday, have your guy grill up something yummy on the barbeque. Try salmon or squid, or some such loveliness from the sea. Pair it with this very tasty veggie, and your engine will be fuelled for a night of snuggling in by the fire and watching the game.

Best Broccoli Ever

Ingredients

2 heads of broccoli

2 cloves of garlic, crushed ( You can get lovely fresh garlic at the markets)

2 Tbsp butter

Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Toss all of the ingredients together in a glass baking dish until they are well combined.

Ccover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Deee-lish!

***

For a relaxing clean up, I suggest splitting a chilled bottle of Jacob’s Creek Moscato, and doing a little dirty dancing in the kitchen to this old, but not forgotten song….

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Savoury Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan

Aubergines from http://www.usda.gov/oc/photo/9...
Aubergines from http://www.usda.gov/oc/photo/98c0468.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah yes, it’s the time of year when we reap the bounty of our harvest.  Coming from the country, I delight in the fresh food that is now available to us to create savoury creations.

Yesterday I was asked by a few people for my Eggplant Parmesan recipe. Today I’m posting it for you so you can enjoy it any time you like. I make homemade tomato sauce from scratch, and use lots of fresh basil and a little more garlic than the recipe calls for.

As always, you can pair this with a delicious, red wine, fresh bread, and some wonderful music.

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

2lbs ( approximately 2 large eggplant)

salt

1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes (I use fresh)

1 clove minced garlic

Olive Oil ( I use grape seed oil)

Black Pepper

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup dine dry breadcrumbs

4 large beaten eggs

1.5lbs fresh mozzarella sliced 1/4″ thick

1 cup grated parmesan cheese’

1 cup packed basil leaves

Method

1) Cut eggplant length wise into 1/4″ slices ( I cut mine to 1/2″), and arrange evenly in the bottom of a colander. Sprinkle  each slice with salt.

2) Weigh the eggplant down with a heavy plate.

3) While eggplant is draining, prepare tomato sauce.

4) Combine tomatoes, 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor, season with salt and pepper and set aside. ( I also use more fresh basil leaves in the sauce, and add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano and a splash of red wine)

5) When eggplant has drained, press down on it to remove excess water.  Wipe off with a paper towel to remove salt.

6) Combine bread crumbs and flour in a flat bowl or on a plate.

7) On another plate, beat eggs in wide, flat, bowl.

8) Place large skillet over medium heat and add 1/2 of oil.

9) Dredge eggplant in crumb mixture, and then egg. Fry until golden brown on each side.

10) Place layer of tomato sauce in bottom of a casserole dish, add eggplant,, top with grated mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place basil leaves evenly on top of mozzarella. Repeat to make a second layer.

11) Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered until top is browned ( approximately 30 minutes)

 

For your musical, kitchen-boogying delight I offer you the Archies;

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Everything That’s Wrong With the World

The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis...
The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I was reminded yet again of the unfortunate state of our fortunate society when a television network aired a commercial for a children’s version of Hell’s Kitchen, or some such ridiculous program.

Really? Is this what we want to teach our children, to criticize their peers at work, and work in a threatening environment?! Give me a break.

What the world needs now is kindness, compassion, and generosity.  A new generation of pretentious bots doesn’t give me much faith that the growing trend toward spiritual ignorance and egotism is going to make this planet a better place to live.

I daresay the little darlings who will star in this heinous entertainment debacle and their misguided parents would even recognize the subtlety of sarcasm my sweet, juicy, peaches.

Unfortunately I have had to endure meals sitting with such gastronomic goons. Their obsessive criticism is a less than convincing smoke screen of negativity spewed forth in order to boost their image of superiority.  Talk about indigestion my darlings!

Breaking bread together has long been more than a way to sustain physical health and strength.  Meals have also been a ritualistic way for people of all cultures to celebrate rites of passage, express spirituality, and welcome others to our family and home.

Thanksgiving is a particularly poignant reminder of what it means to share a meal together. Sharing food has been an act of peace for thousands of years.

It has also been used as an aphrodisiac in the arsenal of skilled lovers since the dawn of time. Imagine the mood if, while feeding your lover a chocolate dipped strawberry,  they piped up with, “That would be better with slightly less chocolate”. I’ve never been a fan of mud wrestling, but I think the ensuing nude mayhem would be akin to Roman sporting events.

The recent trend toward people self-describing as ‘foodies’ has marked a decline in civilization as we know it. I like to call them ‘rudies’ instead.

That’s the polar opposite of the folks whom will be sharing our Thanksgiving meal next weekend.

No, don’t panic darlings, we’re celebrating a week early so that yours truly has an opportunity to take an extra-long weekend for the actual ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday.

But enough of my wonderful life, back to ‘Everything That’s Wrong With the World’.

I am an advocate of good company and gracious living. That means that no matter how terrible a recipe has gone awry, or how bold the wine-food companionship, you ought to graciously  thank your host and get on with the real matter at hand – enjoying  precious time together.

A few reminders for foodie-rudie’s this Thanksgiving;

1) First and foremost we don’t need to hear that you think the stuffing is too ‘sagey’. Sagey isn’t even a word.

2) Do not suggest a ‘better’ wine match. There likely are many better or ideal wine matches to the meal. We don’t want to know. We just want to relax and enjoy the bounty which is set before us.

3) No. Not everyone thinks that the dessert you brought is the best thing they’ve ever tasted, nor do we need to be corrected with regard to the ethnic pronunciation.

4) Your job is not to upstage the host/hostess. Your job is to be kind and entertaining. Should you fail those most basic social requirements, do not expect a second invitation or a second date.

5) No one cares how you ‘prefer’ your food to be prepared. We prefer that you maintain the most basic rules of civility.

6) Expect someone to roll their eyes and tell you to shut up if you make even one negative comment in your outdoor voice.

7) Rest assured that you will not get laid by anyone, ever,  should you talk about what certain foods do to your digestive system. Know your food limit and eat within it.

Everything that’s wrong with the world begins at your very own breakfast, lunch and dinner tables my sweeties. Kindness, good manners and the ability to enjoy simple blessings is nurtured every day as we ‘break bread’. If you fail to appreciate this, you really fail to understand the meaning of life.