Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Celebration for Lauren and her soon to be born child :)

How lucky we were 30 years ago when we moved into this neighborhood. Not only did we find a group of wonderful friends, but their families became our family. Today we celebrated with a baby shower for beautiful Lauren Robinson nee Goss. Love and hugs Lauren and Blair as you start this journey of parenthood. Thanks Lindsey Irvine and MaryJo Williams for making these events so fun to do xo

We decided to add a little nostalgia to our shower as we decorated with our kids beanie babies and cabbage patch dolls.  

How everything has changed since my children.  Oh yes, I am sounding like my mother and her generation, they were so excited when the jolly jumper came out and now they have exer-saucers for the kids.  A whole other degree of safety and fun for the next generation.
Future first time granny looking ecstatic.  

Lauren decided to keep the sex of her child a surprise.  We are lucky to have a resident mom who is our ultra-sound tech, but no amount of wine would entice the information from her.

Lauren delivered a beautiful little girl named Norah shortly after the shower.  Congratulations to the Family Robinson.  xo  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Aurora Trails are a little dangerous still

How can a little walk turn into a grand adventure.  Finally there was a little lull in the resume pool.  Up my creaking bones went.  Stop grumping about the weather.  Off I go.  Coat, hat, mitts, scarf and camera, oh yes and boots are on and I am heading down to the pond.  Wonder if there will be any swans or just full of geese.  I'm thinking it is probably too early for the blue heron, but what the heck - I'm an OPTIMIST.  After all it is spring.

It may be spring, but it is March 26 not April 26.  Whatever, off I go.  I'm so excited to get back on the trails.  They look fine.  Oops I turn the corner, ok a little icy, nothing I can't manage.

Sometimes I even amaze myself at how my optimism can turn into "stupidity".  No turning back for me.  (I can hear my bffs saying "thank goodness she didn't call me").  There are about a dozen trees that I became very intimate with.  At one point I was trying to decide whether I should just climb one of the neighbours fences.  On the walk down the most interesting things I saw were my feet and an amazing amount of dog poop.  Whatever happened to poop and scoop.

 The pond is still a hockey rink.  Not a bird anywhere, probably scared them off with all my cursing and becoming one with nature on the way down.

For the first time ever it took me longer to walk down to the pond then it did to walk home.  My brightest decision of the day was to walk up the road on the way home.  Hopefully no one will notice me as a I huff and puff my way home.

btw I talked to someone in Muskoka today and they are guessing the ice on the lakes won't go out until the 3rd week in April as for the next 14 days it is still expected to be below zero up there at night time.  (I guess it gives me more time to get my body back into bathing suit shape :))

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crisp Air and Clear Blue Skies in Barrie

-7C downright balmy compared to -17C.  Blue skies, crisp air, boots are on and I'm heading up to the Barrie waterfront for a walk with my good friend MJ.  It is March 23 the ice must be starting to go out.  One day a lake of white, the next (well maybe it takes a couple of days) and it's all water again.  Bring on Spring.  

LOL  The spring breakup hasn't even started.  Kempenfelt Bay is still as white as can be.  Maybe we'll walk on the lake - NOT ME.  I like ice in my drink not underneath me.  

Barrie has a beautiful waterfront.  All the stores, houses and condos are built well back from the water.  MJ and I pull into a beautiful parking lot, park the car and notice you have to pay for parking.  You're kidding me.  A public waterfront that you have to pay for.  And not only pay for, but pay exorbitantly for.  $3/hr - 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - Strictly Enforced.  Holy mackerel.  

Being the proper Scot that I am, I decide to do a little drive to see if there is any "free" parking.  Guess what - nope - they are all paid parking.  Well I keep going and we come to a lovely little residential street with a lovely pathway down by the water.  It's free, we're stopping and off we set on our little walk.  

Glad to see the ice fishing huts are being removed.  Only 3 left and they were all close to shore.  

Snowmobiles yes - motorcycles zipping across the ice was definitely a first for me.  
No I wasn't on it, 

Waiting for summer.  These chairs face due west I can just picture baking there in the summer:)

I love the gate above, but I'm glad I'm not 6 feet tall or boink on that light.  

What do you think is that a cat or a skunk.  Possibly a twist on the dog house.  Wonder what you have to do to get sent to the skunk house.  

5800 steps for our little walk.  Definitely deserved a McCafe French Vanilla Latte after that.  Back into town and parked by the water while we sipped on our coffee.  Barrie is a beautiful town and being only 30 minutes away I will definitely be back and yes next time I'll pay for parking.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

This is Chef Michael Smith's famous Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry.  Now I know why it is one of his favourites.  Not only is it easy to make but you don't have to serve meat with it.  Or at least if it was me eating it I wouldn't have to, but tonight the 3 boys are home so I served a Jamaican Jerkin Chicken.  The other wonderful part of this meal is the aroma is amazing so when the boys walked in the door there was lots of "wows and heys, that smells awesome".  

Not only is it flavourful, but the colours are amazing

Is there anything better than the smell of onions and garlic sizzling.

And then you add in the ginger and Thai curry paste.  Voila the flavours jump up another notch

Every thing is sizzling away

Just before serving the spinach and cilantro go in.  You will notice the peas aren't in yet.  What is it about boys and peas.  The nice thing is you can add them in to the people who love peas, like me.  

a splash of vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
a small knob of giner
1 teaspoon Thai curry paste (I added 3)
2 sweet potatoes, cubed (I added 3 good sized ones)
1 - 19 ounce can chickpeas
1 - 14 ounce can coconut milk
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup peanut butter or any other nut butter
a sprinkle of sea salt
1 cup frozen green peas
several handfuls of baby spinach
a bunch of cilantro

Add a splash or two of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Toss in the onion and garlic and saute them until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.

Grate the ginger into the pan with a microplane grater or standard box grater and add the Thai curry paste.  Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice and peanut butter and salt.  Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.  
Serve over rice.  

Thanks Chef Michael, this will definitely be a Carlson family favourite.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Roasted Squash Soup with Apple and Brie

This is one of our favourites soups and is from the "The Rest of the Best and more" one of my favourite Best of Bridge Books.  

1 large butternut squash
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 leek, white portion only
2 tbsp butter
8 cups chicken broth (if it is a smaller squash then don't add as much chicken broth)
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp sugar
salt & freshly ground pepper
8 oz brie cheese
Snipped Chives 

Chopped onion and carrots

Chopped apples

  1. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Place cut-side down on pan and bake at 350F until tender, about 45 minutes (or microwave cut-side down in a small amount of water, covered, about 10 minutes).  
  2. Chop carrot, onion and leek into 1 pieces and place in a large pot.  
  3. Gently saute in butter, do not brown.
  4. Mash squash and add to vegetables.
  5. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add apples, bay leaf and sugar, simmer, uncovered for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove bay leave and puree soup in batches.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Slice of rind of brie and cut brie into 1/2 pieces  Place cheese in bottom of soup bowls and fill with hot soup.
  10. Garnish with chives and serve.   Ooops didn't have chives, but I do love thyme :)

One of my favourite soups served with my favourite wholewheat flax seed bread.  

One of the best presents Jim has ever received from me was a bread machine.  He now gets fresh pizza dough every Friday and fresh bread every Saturday.  This recipe is from the "300 Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes" by Donna Washburn & Heather Butt.  

Whole Wheat Flaxseed Bread
For a 1.5 lb loaf
1-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup skim milk power
1-1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flaxseed, cracked
1 tsp bread machine or instant yeast.  

Put all the ingredients in the bread machine order they are given.  
Select Whole Wheat Cycle
I also do light crust.

And wait for the amazing aroma of fresh baked bread to fill your house.  How did they manage without bread machines

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Stilton & Herb Cream

Gnocchi + Sweet Potato + Whipped Cream + Stilton Cheese = Heaven, oh don't forget a nice glass of Chianti.  

The Gnocchi 

This is an LCBO Food & Drink Recipe from Holiday 2010 and one of our favourites.  From start to finish only an hour to do (depending on how many glasses of cooking wine you have).  And kudos to Jim for chopping and tidying as we went along.  

3 Sweet Potatoes
1 Egg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1 or 2 tbsp butter
1 small sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups Whipped Cream (don't cheat and use anything but 35% cream)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 oz blue or white Stilton, crumbled (we used at least 1/2 cup)

Jim's job chopping

The Sauce

The Finished Product
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  (I didn't do the foil thing)
  2. Scrub sweet potatoes and pierce all over with a fork.  Bake for about 1 hour or until tender (depends on size of potatoes).  Transfer to a bowl, cover and let cool completely.  Peel off skin and mash sweet potatoes and measure 1-1/2 cups.  Place mashed potatoes in a large bowl.  
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour.
  4. Stir egg, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper into mashed potatoes.  Stir in 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time to make a soft dough.  Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour until dough forms a ball and is just slightly loose ( it will still be a little sticky).
  5. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and, with floured hands, knead a few times until smooth.  Divide into 6 portions.  Keeping work surface and hands floured just enough to prevent sticking, roll each portion into a 1/2 inch thick log.  Cut into 1 inch lengths with a floured paring knive.  If desired for a traditional gnocchi shape, dip tines of a fork into flour, press down across gnocchi and drag fork toward you, letting dough curl around end of fork ( I didn't do this).  Place gnocchi on floured baking sheets making sure they don't touch each other.  Gnocchi can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.  
  6. Just before serving, bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook gnocchi.  Salt the water.  Meantime melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 8 minutes or until starting to turn golden.  Pour in cream and bring to a boil, stirring.  Stir in thyme and rosemary. Reduce heat and boil for 1 minute or until slightly reduced.  Remove from heat.  Working in batches, add about 15 gnocchi to boiling water and cook, stirring often to keep water moving, for about 3 minutes or until gnocchi float to the surface.  Use a slotted spoon to drain gnocchi well and add to skillet with cream sauce.  Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.  Return skillet to medium heat and heat, stirring gently, until sauce is bubbling.  Remote from heat and fold in Stilton.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  
  7. Serve immediately with that bottle of Chianti, green beans and homemade herb garlic bread

I would hold off on the Stilton until just as you serve or else leave the chunks a good size.  We do love our blue cheese in this house.

Nothing better on a winter day than sharing a kitchen with your hubby.  Now if I could just get him to be a teatotaler.