Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Evening with Rick Mercer

Earlier in the fall I was lucky enough to snag 4 tickets to the taping of the Rick Mercer Report.  So Friday arrives and it's just one of those know the kind I mean.  I think any one of us could have said let's forget it and just stay home and we would have.  So the girls put their studying away for the evening (exams next week) and we get in the van (albeit 1/2 an hour later than originally planned) to drive downtown to meet Al.

So apparently the snow came in earlier than forecasted.  We were driving a whopping 40 clicks down the DVP and you could barely see in front of you.  Finally we drive out of this snow squall to almost bare roads. (So strange when that happens.)  The Gardiner was backed up from Yonge to the 427 - ok that's quite a back up - so I scooted underneath to the Lake Shore.  This was a good idea but somehow I missed the Spadina exit.  I feel like I know my way around Toronto fairly well but not on Friday night I guess.  It was dark, snowing, the lights were reflecting off the windshield and there were lots of pedestrians scurrying to get home. Cars were blocking the intersections and pedestrians were running across against the lights.  Bedlam I would like to call it.  I was the first car turning left onto Spadina and all of the sudden I realize I'm on the designated streetcar right away.  Mild panic as I manoeuvre my way off the oncoming track to the northbound and then off - "girls we're going to feel a 'bit' of bump now" onto the road again.  Accident thwarted we were close to our destination.  Late and shaken we only have time to grab a bite of dinner in the food court that was quickly shutting down.  We're going fancy tonight...Mickey D's.

It was all worth it though.  They whisked all 400 of us up the elevators to the 10th floor studio and like a well oiled machine we were all in our seats in minutes.  Rick came out to welcome us and the show began.  It took less than an hour to tape the whole thing with comments and jokes in between from Rick.   It was a lot of fun for all four of us and the laugh that we all needed.

It was fun to meet him after the show.

There were lots of funny bits in this week's episode but the 'commercial' for the forehead/smile tape really caught me funny.  If you get a chance watch it on Tuesday, 8p.m., CBC.

To cap it off on our way back to the parking garage we stopped in Second Cup.  We found out they were closing but they treated us to free lattes and hot chocolate.  How nice and unexpected! A perfect way to end the evening.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Even Mabel is mesmorized by this wind and snow.  Our front window is one of her favourite places in our house.  She does like to keep tabs on the kids going to school, dogs being walked and cars driving past.  She's our personal neighbourhood watch system - at least for half of the day.  The other half she's occupied sleeping, rolling around the floor and resting up for the next excitement.  So this part kind of defeats the first part.

We haven't had alot of snow yet this year so although this storm blew in hard it's not unwelcome.  It feels right to have snow in January.  I've heard by the weekend we'll be above zero again and rain is in the forecast but we'll just enjoy while it's here.

By mid afternoon Mabel instinctively knows to wait for the girls.  She looks out the window, paces around and sometimes even sits right at the door - so close to the door that you can barely get in.  Mabel is most content when we are all safely home and I have to say so am I.

One more to go.  Dinner is on the stove.  Soon we will be gathered around the table sharing our day with each other.  Sometimes it can be a pretty brief moment as homework needs to be done, hockey played and pirouettes are twirled but it's these moments that are worth waiting for at the end of the day.

Monday, January 16, 2012

...numbers and bunnies...

Today I am knee deep in accounting.  Blah.  It's my own fault.  I just kept pushing it aside over the year.  I mean it's not hard to pick choosing beads, twisting wire and creating over gathering receipts, plugging in numbers and other as equally boring items.  Although I am quite organized with keeping all my paperwork together I'm not so dedicated to the accounting part of it.  I have been trying to play catch up all year but have been easily distracted with more creative things. As a creative person I don't think that's such a bad thing!  As a business owner though, and the owner of every job title that goes along with my company,  I do need to keep up to date with all aspects of the business for my own sanity.  Even the non-creative ones.  After a full day of numbers and spreadsheets I can proudly see the light. 

In moments of distraction this sweet little fellow hopped into my etsy shop. What a cutie!

I'll leave you with words of advice from my daughter: "Why don't you just update it (accounting) every week or at least every month?"  Sounds like such a mom thing to say...but good advice I'll try to keep to this year. Thanks Syd. xoxo

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rustic Ricotta Tart with Blood Oranges

A group of my on-line friends have started a food challenge.  Once or twice a month one ingredient will be chosen and we all have to find and make a recipe with that item.  The first item chosen was CaraCara or Blood Oranges.  I had heard of Blood Oranges but I've probably only bought one time many years ago. I had never heard of CaraCara oranges.  This was going to be fun.  I love to try new foods and recipes as it's easy to get stuck in a rut - especially at this time of year...and also I have alot of accounting to catch up on that I would love to put off to another day. :)

I purchased a bag of Red Moro Oranges.  Funny enough there was a bag of  CaraCara oranges right next to them.  If it weren't for this challenge I would have never noticed them.  The first cut into a Blood Orange is a bit alarming but the colour is so amazing.  These ones are slightly tart but sweet at the same time.

I had something in mind for a recipe. A rustic tart type dessert using a ricotta cheese base and topped with the fruit. I couldn't find just what I was looking for but managed to piece enough ideas together to come up with this.

Rustic Ricotta Tart with Blood Oranges

I used puff pastry as my base.  What a great product and so easy to use.  I used  President's Choice brand Butter Puff Pastry.  (You can find it in the freezer section).  It comes with 2 pre-rolled sheets (about 10x8").  You can either connect these to make one big tart, make two smaller ones (which I did) or ½ the recipe for the filling and fruit and use just one sheet.

Preheat oven to 375°F
Puff Pastry
Thaw out the puff pastry according to box instructions.  You can lightly roll it out on a floured surface.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Pinch around all the the edges to make a lip.  This will help to hold your ricotta cheese mixture in.

1 cup ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. honey
 ¼ - ½ cup sugar (taste it before you add the eggs to determine your sweetness)
 ¼ tsp. nutmeg
grated orange zest
2 eggs
 ¼ cup flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

In an electric mixer, combine the ricotta cheese and cream cheese. Add honey, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and zest. Add the eggs until combined. Sift in the flour and cornstarch. Pour onto puff pastry. If using one pastry sheet only pour out ½ of the cheese mixture.

Fruit Topping
2 lbs blood red oranges - slice two of the oranges and section the rest
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. honey (optional)

Thinly slice 1 or 2 of the oranges and set aside.  With  the rest of the oranges peel, removing the bitter pith (white part), seeds if any and section.  (Don't worry if the sections break up.) Place the sections in a sieve and allow most of the juice to drain off. The juice is amazing and the rich colour is exotic looking.  Drop the sections on the cheese mixture. Sprinkle about 2 tsp. of sugar on top.

I know these look like tomatoes but they really are oranges!
Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven.  Brush on honey on the edges of the pastry to give the tart a bit of a shine.
Layer the orange slices on top. Sprinkle about 1 tsp. of sugar on top.
Bake for an additional 15 minutes or so.

Remove from oven when golden.

Slice and serve warm or cold.  My tart turned out only slightly sweet (which I was aiming for) allowing the sweetness of the oranges to shine.  It could even be served for a special breakfast....or an afterschool snack as that's what happened here.

Two dessert posts in one week.  I guess next week should be about salad and workouts. :)
Have a great weekend friends!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Crème de la Crème of Desserts

 Last year my daughter Erica gave me a butane torch and a set of ramekin dishes for Christmas.  I had made Crème Brûlée once for us right after the holidays and then sadly I had run out of fuel (literally and probably figuratively at the time) and my torch quickly got lost in the back of the cupbaord. The recipe I used had come from a French cook that I love.  It tasted delicious but it was pretty rich and I don't dare to think of the calories involved.
I've always been a pudding type kind of girl but when you add a thin layer of carmelized sugar to the top it's absolute heaven. I had been thinking about trying to make it again for a while but this time a lighter version.  With my torch refueled and ready to go I was on a quest for a recipe.  I couldn't quite find one that had what I wanted but made up this version based on different recipes and what I had on hand.  Even though I've used light cream (when most ask for heavy) and exchanged some for low fat milk the result is still a creamy custard lightly infused with vanilla.

Crème Brûlée with Vanilla Bean
(serves 6)
1 3/4 cups light cream
3/4 cup 1% milk
1 vanilla bean, split
6 egg yolks (use the egg whites to make a nice omelet the next day)
1/2 cup fine sugar

Preheat oven to 300°C. Place six 2/3- cup ramekins in a large roasting pan.

Pour cream and milk into a medium saucepan. With a knife make a slit down the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream. Add 1/2 the bean to the cream mixture. Place the other half in your sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar (mmm!) for a rainy day or roll berries into and use as a garnish. :) Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer (do not boil).

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl until well combined. Gradually whisk the cream into the egg yolk mixture until well combined. You need to do this gradually or you will cook the eggs which would be rather like eating scrambled cream eggs. Remove and discard vanilla pod. Pour through a sieve (optional) and into the ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven. Transfer the dishes onto a cooling rack to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill.

After chilled, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar on the surface of the custard.  Get out the torch (fun!) and with a subtle circular motion melt the sugar until it bubbles and turns a caramel colour.  Let cool to a hardened surface and serve.

The great thing about Crème Brûlée is not only does it look a lot harder to make than it is (always alot of kudos to the chef)  it also can be made in advance and then torch it just before serving.  (If you don't have a torch you can also use your oven on broil.)
I think next time I might look at lowering the egg content or maybe using the whole egg.  I'm not sure if that may change the consistency of the custard too much but it's worth a try.

Happy Monday. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy Weekend.

I've been enjoying this week.  Slowly getting back into work while spending some time with the girls.  Uneventful time, just hanging out together which is just the way I like it. I guess this weekend we'll finally have to take down the Christmas decorations.  It's so strange for me this year as I didn't have the urgent need to pack it all up right after New Year's like I usually do.  The girls are back to school on Monday and I do prefer to have everything taken down and stored away before then.   Together, the four of us can do it pretty quickly.
Mabel on Christmas Day.
I've got the painting bug again. Which feels nice.  The living room is almost finished.  We're still waiting for a chair and lamp to arrive in February and the walls are a bare canvas for some artwork.  When it's all done I'll post the big reveal.  Now I'm ready to start thinking about the front hallway and maybe even the tv room in the basement.

Today's big job involves me replacing our front door lock.  All of the sudden it has decided that enough is enough.  Hopefully I can find something reasonably priced that can get us by for now and that doesn't require alot of adjustment from our current one...and more importantly that it doesn't take the better part of my day and multiple trips to Home Depot.  I guess I should be happy that the temperatures are unusually warm today (7°C) which will help while working with the door open.

* yeah, I've already changed the lock and didn't spend a dime.  I remembered that when I changed the hardware years ago I didn't change the actual lock.  The miracle is not that it didn't take me too long to install but that I had remembered and found the lock in our basement. Go me! Love knocking things like this off the list!!

Have a great weekend everyone.  See you next week.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Rainbow of Hugs

 Before Christmas rainbows became more significant to our family.  My mom had surgery scheduled and it was our way of sending her our virtual hugs of love and support.  It was started by my sister Kathy who saw a rainbow the day we found out. Daughters, grandchildren and friends submitted photos, paintings and cupcakes of rainbows to my sister's blog.

I had been thinking about what I could contribute.  At the time I was working on a secret Santa gift for a friend who had inspired me to revisit a felt mouse I had made while I was a teen.  My friend is an avid knitter so it seemed appropriate that her mouse be knitting.  It was then I realized a mouse wrapped in a rainbow hug would be what I would make for my mom.
I'm happy to say my Mom's surgery went very well. (The rainbows must be working.) The whole family, all 16 of us, managed to gather over the holidays for a Christmas dinner at my parent's house.  She is recovering nicely from her surgery and our visit! :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm slowly returning from holiday mode.  My sister and her family left yesterday for the last of our holiday visits.  It was a good holiday with time just for the four of us, as well as hosting Christmas dinner for Alan's family, visiting with my family up at my parent's cottage and sharing some time with friends.  A little bit of everything and a little bit of every kind of food!

I'm just easing back into it though.  The girls aren't going back to school until next week so I'm going to hang out with them for the next few days.  I'm hoping to spend some time with my new camera as well. (So exciting!)  There's a lot for me to learn but I'm really enjoying it.

Here are some pictures I took near my parent's house in Muskoka.  It was so amazing to see snow as we had an unusual green Christmas this year. It was especially nice how the snow stayed on the branches making every turn of our walk look like a winter wonderland.

So this year I hope will be filled with joy, good health, family visits, hugs, laughs, excitement, friends, a couple of adventures thrown in for good measure and time to enjoy.  I hope to see and appreciate the little things.  Read more books. Go for more walks.  Take more pictures.

I can't wait to start working with my beads again and that's a great feeling.  So although our holidays included few moments to rest I have landed in the new year rejuvenated and ready to go.