Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broccoli Barley Soup

I made this delicious soup the other night and had to share. So good, so good for you!

Broccoli Barley Soup
Recipe By: Dorie, adapted by me!

2 med onions -- chopped
2 garlic cloves -- minced
4 ounce sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoon butter
3 cup chicken broth
3 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary -- crushed
1 lbs fresh broccoli -- cut into florets
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1-2 cups milk (the original recipe called for 2 cups of half & half cream but I wanted a thicker soup and lower in fat, and the milk worked fine)
Salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the first three ingredients in butter until tender. Add the chicken and vegetable broths, barley and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Add broccoli; cover and cook for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into the soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; stir in the milk, salt and pepper (do not boil). Sprinkle with Parmesan & serve.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have to vent. Have you read this article in Chatelaine? If not, read it for a fine example of cobbling together random pieces of information, adding some cherry-picked research, and topping it with a healthy dose of personal bias, and putting it all together as a statement of fact. I know this blog is supposed to be about nice things (I hope) but this issue is close to my heart. My son has a severe peanut allergy- documented, diagnosed and proven to be fact. He's almost died. It's a serious thing. So I have to share this in the hopes that it will further educate somebody.

I responded to the article with the following comment:

"This is a ridiculous article with no real point or apparent value to any reader. Comparing lightening deaths and brain injuries, which are random and sometimes just the result of being in the wrong situation at the wrong time, to an anaphylactic reaction to a common food item, which can be avoided with simple measures, lacks logic. This is just enough information, patched together, to further confuse a difficult and confusing situation.

The truth is that, for those of us who have allergic children, there is no definitive information on how to deal with reactions, other than to avoid having one. When to use antihistamines, when to use an epi-pen, unknown side effects (or even effectiveness) of the medications given once you hit the emergency room- ask different doctors and you'll get different answers. No one really knows why some children are allergic and others are not, whether early exposure causes the allergy or whether it prevents it. You can see from the dizzying array of study references in the article that there is no real agreement on the issue. Reactions can range from mild to deadly, and in my experience, can vary from exposure to exposure. A rash or hives can quickly become something much worse. A reaction can re-occur or even worsen after 6-8 hours. Some are sensitive to the smell of peanut, while others need to ingest a certain amount, before having a severe reaction. Unfortunately we don't really know which type of reaction will happen when. The point is that allergies are variable, changing and sometimes unpredictable. You only need to see an allergic reaction happen to know you never want it to happen again.

I certainly don't consider myself a fanatic, or one that overreacts, nor do I want to make my son feel like he's a 'problem' or make this thing a huge deal in his life. I educate my son (age 4), as best I can, about his allergy, and he likely won't eat anything unless it's peanut free. He's learned to ask at a very young age because he remembers almost dying. And it's just a part of his life now and he seems okay with it. But many children will eat things they shouldn't, or touch things without thinking. Accidents happen.

It seems to me that, in the interest of playing it safe and taking care of the most vulnerable members of our society, and until there is a definitive assessment of the cause of these allergies, we can just err on the side of safety, practice a little kindness and foster a spirit of generosity. All we can do at this point, is to avoid the problem, and that is why there are nut free policies in place, and why other life threatening allergens should probably be banned from places small children are. What does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, if your child can't eat peanut butter, or milk, or soy, or any other potentially life threatening allergen for one meal and two snacks a day? I suspect kids will eat what's available when it's their only option. And you might just be teaching them something about compassion and caring, and doing something for others, just because."

Please educate youself- learn about allergies, know the signs of an allergic reaction, know how to use an Epi-Pen or TwinJect, call 911 ASAP when an anaphylactic reaction occurs. All that information and more here.

Stepping off soap box now...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The foyer

The foyer is finally done. I have no idea when we even started this project- maybe last spring? The start of the project precipitated the installation of new exterior doors and spiralled into replacing all the baseboard and door trim on the main floor of the house. And then, because the new baseboard was too high, we had to re-route all the wall air/heat vents to the floor as the wall ones were too low. And while we were patching holes up anyways, we moved some thermostats and light switches. And that necessitated repainting pretty much the entire main floor. Of course it did-do we ever do anything halfway around here??

Like many 1960s houses, our front door (which was a drafty hollow core) opens almost directly into our living room, and was separated only by a half wall, complete with a copper lined plant trough in the top and shelving on one side. Made of lovely painted plywood and cheaply trimmed, it was hardly a classy welcome into our home. So, since I am totally addicted to organized storage, and lord knows we need it here, I decided to replace it with a built-in dresser which could house all of our hats, mitts, kid shoes, sports equipment and assorted junk like keys and loose change (or rocks & twigs for the shorter members of the household!). So, as you may know, built-ins are not cheap or fast, and I could see that the actual executor of this project (read:Colin) was less than enthused about designing and building a multi-drawer storage unit anytime soon. Apparently a project of this magnitude requires a workshop renovation, and that's a story for another day! Hello Ikea. Hello $400 dresser that met all my needs and dimension requirements. Hello built-in.....




Happiness is....

...a new camera! Our old one (a mere 5 years "old") bit it a while back, has been repaired once and is now dying a slow and unpredictable death. While I'm ticked at having to replace something that seemed a significant investment such a short time ago, I'm happy to have a new toy- one with many new features and manual settings to take advantage of.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Summer redux

It's been awhile (again) and it's been busy. Lots of fun this summer- camping, hiking, biking, hanging out....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cupcakes for Dad

These cupcakes were a little project the boy and I made for Father's Day....and this is the much delayed post about it! I wanted to share them with you though, because they look so pretty and they were very tasty to boot. I will say this- they are super chocolatey, almost over the top decadent. I suspect that the ganache icing is the overkill element here but try it for yourself and see. This is definitely a special occasion, must-have-chocolate-right-now kind of treat. The sprinkles you can do without- they were requested and handpicked by E, and really, how could I say no??!

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes
Recipe from Ina Garten, Food Network site

1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup (recommended: Hershey's)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Candied violets, for decoration, optional

Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. (or, melt gently in microwave)

Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Decorate with candied violets, if desired. Do not refrigerate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

BBQ Sauce

I make a big batch of this sauce and freeze it, at the beginning of the summer- usually around the time that baby back ribs go on sale, the weather turns bbq appropriate and the troops start clamouring for ribs and regular grilling. If you are going to make this, I would encourage you to go the big batch route as well. It will be well worth it because, although it is delicous and far superior to whatever you can buy in a bottle, your house will stink, your eyes will water and your sinuses will burn (but, on the upside, also be clear for days!). You really don't want to make this often!

Spicy BBQ Sauce
Makes approximately 2 cups

2 tbsp oil
4 cloves garlic, or more if you like, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp drained horseradish
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup honey
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp worcestshire
1 tsp tabasco sauce
crushed chili pepper (optional)

Finely chop onion and garlic, or use a food processor if you prefer your sauce less chunky (I do!).

Heat oil in pot, on medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until they are softened but do not let them brown.

Add mustard and oregano, stir and cook for a few seconds.

Add horseradish and vinegar, stir and cook for a few seconds. Stand back when you do this, or your eyes will tear and your sinuses burn!

Add remain ingredients, adding crushed chilies for heat, to your taste, and stir well. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes. Stir several times to avoid 'crusting' on bottom of pot.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Use sauce on ribs or chicken. To make falling-off-the-bone ribs or chicken, slather them in sauce and slow cook them in a crock pot (6-8hours on Low) or covered in the oven (approx. 2 hours at 325F), then finish off on the bbq, brushing with more sauce as you grill.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grilled Vegetables

This is one of my all time favourite, versatile, impressive and most requested recipes. It never fails to please and works well for a crowd. Or, you can make a batch and have the basis of dinner for a few days! Use them on their own, tossed in a salad or with hot pasta. The possibilities are endless.

Saldly, I do not have pictures of the finished product....but they are beautiful to look at too! Trust me.

Grilled Vegetables
Serves 6-8

2 red peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
2 yellow peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
2 green peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
12 or more large white mushrooms


6 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp water
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp crushed garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Thread all vegetables onto skewers.

Mix dressing ingredients.

Brush skewers with dressing, marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Grill on high heat until tender crisp, basting with dressing and rotating often, until edges are blackened – about 15 minutes. Reserve some dressing for tossing afterwards.

Remove vegetables from skewers and place in large bowl. Add remaining dressing and toss. Serve immediately.

Use them on their own; tossed with a few handfuls of romaine, some crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts & leftover marinade for a salad; or mixed with hot pasta and some pecorino for dinner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mediterranean Salad with Green Beans & Feta

I threw this salad together last week, adapted from two recipes I had in my 'to try' pile. I'm making a concerted effort to actually try those recipes, instead of sticking with the tried and true whilst the pile grows to epic proportions. My current obsession, since it's pretty much me that eats these and they must last, is salads that will keep for at least a few days in the fridge. This one fits the bill.

Mediterranean Salad with Green Beans & Feta

3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 cups grape tomatoes
1/4 large red onion, slivered
2 cups white kidney (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz feta cheese (I used a light one), crumbled
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add beans; cook for approximately 4 minutes, until crisp tender and bright green. Drain and immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking and set color. Drain.

In large bowl, mix green beans, tomatoes, red onion, kidney beans, feta cheese and garlic.

Add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more vinegar to taste. Refrigerate for a bit to allow flavours to mingle. Eat as is, garnish with scallions and/or toss with lettuce just before serving. I added some canned tuna to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Other ingredient possibilities: halved black olives, slivered fennel, marinated artichoke hearts, thinly slice orange or substitute dressing ingredients with pesto.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer slacker

I come and go, don't I? I'm trying for a more diligent posting regimen but once summer hits, and the weather's decent, I'm afraid I'm a lost cause. Which is too bad really, as I have much to share- gardens, summer grilling and accompanying recipes, mastering a mojito, biking adventures, outings and on-going home renovations. I have pictures. I have stories. But I have no time! I will endeavour to do better...

So, I will leave you with these for boy on a trampoline, at the recent family picnic, one year after tentatively giving it a go for the first time.

How can you not love this face???

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Walter Bean is not a cyclist's friend....

This morning we set out for what was supposed to be a relaxing and fun ride (read:minimal effort) with some friends. We're all fairly experienced cyclists and were looking forward to trying a new-to-us trail - the Walter Bean Trail. It runs alongside the Grand River and is part of the Trans Canada Trail. The cities in this area have done an amazing job of completing their sections of it, with relatively few gaps. The trail is beautiful, well groomed with hard or slightly packed gravel, and winds through forest & fields, affording frequent views of the river, and many spots to stop, rest and enjoy the view. Which is good...because it has a lot of hills. A lot. And big ones. Who knew, in this flat city, that we even had any! And the wind was gusting, at times, to probably 50km/hr...

In the end, it was a beautiful ride and well worth the effort. We only did a small section, and will definitely go back again to try the rest, even if Walter Bean has it out for us!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What I did on my vacation

We took a week of holidays last week, just because. I got sick with what was probably the swine flu, on Monday. Not one to let that spoil my vacation, I medicated heavily, and moved on! We packed a lot in.

Visited with our friends Moira & Hector in Toronto. Finally saw their new house (purchased, uh, one year ago...). Watched Victoria Day fireworks on the lakefront. And Moira added a new strap to my Henrietta- great bag!

Did some gardening...more garden pictures here.

Ripped out two old doors and installed two new ones....more pictures on that, and our nifty front foyer reno, to come. The trim is supposed to go on this weekend and then it's up to me to paint. This is the front door. The kitchen door, which is directly opposite, is the same style. I love the light it brings in, although there is no longer a safe spot to wander around in one's underwear!

A trip to the Toronto Zoo....where we got to touch stingray and small sharks. They're slimy- there I saved you $3 (the cost of touching a stingray and/or shark). And, did you know that monkeys relieve themselves in the same water they drink from? My kid just reminded me. I'm so glad the trip had lasting educational value and made such an impression.

And Colin even managed to grab a nap.