Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Tips for Holiday Entertaining

December11

In case you missed me on Global Winnipeg News this morning with Derek Taylor, here are the time and money saving tips that I shared with him (and more from my list):

BeFunky_IMG_5061

1)      Have an appetizer exchange instead of a cookie exchange with friends and family.  Appetizer ingredients are more affordable when purchased in larger quantities.  The time to make six dozen is not a great deal more than a single dozen.  Baking off larger quantities is also more energy and cost efficient.

 

2)      Grocery shop in the early mornings when there are no checkout line ups and there are clearance stickers on many entertaining items like dips and pate.  Immediately place these items in the freezer when you get home.  When unexpected company arrives, defrost in the mic, place in a fancy bowl with some crackers and voila!

 

BeFunky_IMG_5353

3)      Attend bake sales at community clubs and churches.  You will be supporting your neighbourhood, save time and you can buy a variety of hand-baked items.

 

4)      Stick to tried and true recipes so that you never experience a culinary disaster and have to waste food.  My siblings and our families even have a traditional menu for Christmas brunch so I always know that I will be providing the sausage rolls, so I can shop and cook in advance.

 

5)      Mix up spicy cocktails with apple or cranberry juice and spices, that can be quickly heated up.  The taste is extravagant even though the ingredients are not.  Prepare sangrias and punches so that guests can pour their own and you are not running back and forth to the fridge.

 

6)      Prepare some old school treats like nuts and bolts or peanut brittle instead of purchasing expensive alternatives.  Bowls of popcorn and dried cranberries make a pretty and healthy treat.

 

BeFunky_roast-turkey-snake.jpg

7)      Shop for your turkey early.  Prices can go up just before Christmas when demand is high.  Use every single part of the turkey including saving the carcass to cook up for soup stocks.

 

8)      Plan your dinner menu in advance, then when your guests ask “What can I bring?”, you can be specific and assign a dish from your list.  This also saves your guest stopping at 7/11 to buy you a box of Turtles that you don’t really need.

 

9)      Get everyone involved in the clean up.  You can assign duties by pulling tasks out of a hat.  In my husband’s family, the guys do all the clean up complete with their annual tea towel flicking fights.

 

10)   When you think that you are getting tired of your left-overs, swap yours with a neighbour.  You’ll get to taste someone else’s cooking and the tastes will be new for everybody.

 

Use the time that you save to reflect on the meaning of the season and take the money that you didn’t spend and pay it forward, you will be richly blessed.

Kath’s quote: “Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.”-Mary Ellen Chase

Love-that is all.

The Last Christmas in our Family House

December9

Christmas6-300x225.jpg

The Three Sistas and our Mom

Our family is all about tradition.  My almost 87 year old Mom is the matriarch of our family and the instigator of most of our traditions.  This year she will not be counting the heads of her enormous brood and sending her eldest to the bank to withdraw a sizable amount that she tucks into envelopes so that we can treat ourselves in which ever way we wish, she will not be setting up her little Christmas tree that simply gets brought upstairs from the basement and plugged in and she will not be ordering perogies, kielbasa and prime rib roasts and making lists of all the other dishes that will be assigned out.  The good news is that Mom survived a devastating illness this past fall and will be here to celebrate with us, arriving by taxi cab to her own home.  The bitter sweetness is that Mom will no longer live in our family home as she will soon be paneled for a nursing home and our family house of almost 60 years will be sold.  So this will be our last Christmas together on Linden Avenue.

Our tradition begins with a Christmas Eve dinner of Prime Rib roast.  The time spent together is not long as we have many family members who work in health care,  not for profit organizations and in retail, so Christmas eve is often a full working day.  As soon as dinner and dessert is served, the left overs packaged up and everything is tidied up, families start to depart for their various churches for Christmas eve services.

The church which we attend is right in our neighbourhood and so many years ago, we commenced another tradition, where the clergy of the church come over to our home to spend the time between this second service of the evening and the last, which is a midnight candle light one.  We share an egg nog, craft beer or glass of wine and have a nibble of something before they head back to church and my husband and I start filling Christmas stockings and placing the “Santa” gifts under the tree.

Christmas5edited.jpg

Is it present time yet?

On Christmas morning we are typically up by 7 am and my husband makes coffee with Bailey’s and Kahlua that we use to warm up, before we tackle our gift giving.  Before we start, we always say an individual prayer of thanksgiving for our health and love and the gifts that we are about to receive.   Gift giving goes in order from youngest to eldest and we draw out the process by hugging and kissing the giver before the next gift is given out.

Christmas1_edited-300x225.jpg

Christmas2_edited-300x225.jpg

Christmas3_edited-300x225.jpg

Someone always gets the gift of music, so we put on our new cds while we tidy up the wrapping and try on a Christmas sweater and then we are off to be with my siblings and their families again.  We gather for Christmas brunch at my Mom’s house and have enjoyed the exact same menu for many, many years: six quiche- sausage, seafood and Lorraine, cinnamon loaf, banana muffins, sausage rolls, fruit salad, hash brown potato casserole, chocolate milk, juices, and left overs from the night before.

Once lunch is consumed and the coffee pot is poured out, we find a spot for our gift exchange.  We start with the youngest again and go around in our enormous circle until each family member has a gift chosen especially for them.  We always draw these names after Thanksgiving dinner and sometimes there is a gap in clarity because the names were drawn so long ago.  So when it is someones turn to receive a gift, there is sometimes a hesitation before the giver recalls that it is their responsibility.  The heightened tension increases the air of anticipation and hilarious results often occur.  In fact on more than one occasion I have remarked on my way home that my face and tummy hurt from laughing.  Imagine, being a part of a family of 35+ who get along fabulously, rarely quarrel and love to assemble together to bless each other with gifts and laugh until it hurts.

BeFunky_IMG_5544

Some years we gather again later that day at someone elses home.  Last year my son and his wife hosted and this is only a portion of the gang that were seated in their dining room.

Here are my famous sausage rolls that I contribute each year.  They are such a hit with certain family members that my niece requested that they be served for her wedding breakfast.  I have modified the recipe over the years but it originally came from a seasonal cookbook entitled  “Company is Coming for Christmas”, a Canadian cookbook, published in 1996 and written by Jean Pare.  I get such a chuckle over remembering some of her recipes like the one for Caesar Salad: rip up a head of romaine lettuce and toss with Caesar salad dressing and croutons, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese!  I kid you not….

Christmas4_edited-300x225.jpg

Lazy Sausage Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, Brunch
Cuisine: Canadian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c biscuit mix
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • ½ c water
  • 1 lb. pork sausage meat, mild or hot
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Stir biscuit mix and onion powder together.
  2. Add water.
  3. Mix until it forms a ball.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Knead 6 to 8 times.
  6. Roll out into a rectangle about 15 x 18 inches.
  7. Mash sausage meat with a fork to make it pliable.
  8. Spread over dough.
  9. Roll up dough like a jelly roll, beginning at long end.
  10. Slice ⅜ths inch thick.
  11. Arrange on greased baking sheet, cut side down, about 1 inch apart.
  12. Bake in 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes (checking after 11 minutes)
  13. Makes about 3 dozen appetizers.
  14. Variation: Brush tops with beaten egg.and sprinkle with poppy seeds. sesame seeds or parsley flakes.Bake as above.

Kath’s quote: “No language can express the power, and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother’s love. It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star. “— Edwin Hubbell Chapin

BeFunky_IMG_5428

Love never fails.

 

J&H Restaurant

December4

J&H’s has been an institution on west Portage Ave (2735) since 1976.  D and I first started dropping in for breakfast there about a decade later in the mid eighties.  Our first home was in the neighbourhood and in those days we couldn’t afford to go out for dinner very often, so we would go out for breakfast instead.  John and Helen Damianakos are the J&H of the restaurant’s name and they have been at the grill and in the kitchen for all this time, raising three children in the process.

In those days, the boys would help in the restaurant by delivering water and coffee cups and clearing away the lighter items.  We loved that the couple had created such a warm family atmosphere in their restaurant and the same is true today.  The exuberant and polite boys are all grown up, but still helping Mom and Pop out.

The little spot has doubled in size since our last visit many years ago.  The décor hasn’t changed though and some might call it “dated”.  In my mind, it is warm and clean and I would dub it more kindly with a description of “authentic”.  One thing has not changed and that is the families’ expertise in grilling up and serving delicious and enormous meals.

j&h4.jpg

The all day breakfast is especially good value at 6.95 with six strips of bacon stacked up like the frame of a log cabin.

J&H2.jpg

Adorning the edge of the bulging plate are the most succulent breakfast potatoes you will likely ever taste in Winnipeg.  Helen shared with my husband that she uses her Grandma’s recipe from Greece.  A potato is peeled and then sliced lengthwise.  I could not determine if they are deep fried, grilled or pan-fried, all I know is that Helen makes then sensational.

I chose a Greek omelet which brought back memories of time spent in Greece.  Our typical lunch while traveling was a big rustic salad of garden-fresh produce, briny olives and creamy feta.  Then a light omelet would arrive with a side of lemony potatoes.

J&H.jpg

We have never visited any time other than the morning, so we cannot comment on other menu selections, but I cannot imagine that they wouldn’t be anything but expertly prepared using traditional recipes and fresh ingredients.  The menu declares: “Good Food and Soul Warming Friendship”, it’s as simple as that.

J & H Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I’ve long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.”-James Beard

treeheart.jpg

Love-that is all.

 

Isla Mujeres 2013-Day14

December3

day14-01.jpg

day14-02.jpg

day14-03.jpg

We were awake for our last beautiful sunrise from bed.

day14-04.jpg

Then we packed up and headed to Mango’s for Breakfast.   D finally got to taste the famed coconut French toast and I asked the server what she would recommend, without hesitation, she said the chile relleno that had been stuffed with eggs, ham and bacon (?) then rolled in a crunchy batter and deep-fried.

day14-06.jpg

She said that if she were to die tomorrow, she would hope that this would be her last meal.

day14-05.jpg

I love the décor of Mango’s complete with coloured different coloured barn board, heavy old tables and funky painted chairs.  I even loved the multi-coloured brick flour.  Polo is truly an exceptional chef, host and manager.

We headed back to the airport road to pick up our luggage to drop off at Casa el Pio while we still had the golf cart.  Once D returned it, we proceeded on foot back to Luna d’Meil for your last hours of reading and relaxing by our favourite scene of the crashing ways of the Caribe.  For sustenance along the way, we finally got a chance to stop in on our favourite liquid and popsicle place on the corner of the Casa del Pio street for lime popsicles.

D had stashed away two ceremonial beers for us to drink together and we had done so, sitting on a flat bed of coral.  My gaze went to the stony edge in case there was a heart shell or a nugget of sea glass that I had missed.  After scooping up another handful of beach glass, I was proceeding back the way we had come, when my foot broke through a shelf of coral and really surprised me.  I grabbed onto D and would have pulled him down, had he not been able to settle me and warn me that it would not be productive if we both lost our footing.  D had a couple of punctures around his ankles from the coral and I was pretty badly scraped up.  But we washed and bound up each others’ wounds and we not horribly traumatized by the adventure.

We gathered up the last of our snacks and beverages and left gifts and messages for Isobel.  We love this lovely woman and she was and always has been so kind and generous with us.  Just as we started our walk into Centro one last time, we saw her whizzing by to start her day on her golf cart.  Later that evening we saw her again with a golf cart full of family celebrating a Saturday night like the rest of us.  We tried to financial thank her for her rides in her retro golf cart and the extra trouble that she went to with white Christmas lights, tables, chairs and table cloths for our birthday happy hour party for Sister #2 and Brother #3. We also sent her an email booking for 2014.  We have also booked La Brisas, a couple of doors to the north, so that between the house and the two units, we will all have a comfortable place to stay.  I had also attempted to book the Roca Mar beach houses and the studios of Gladys’s new hotel but they had already been secured for 2014.    We had dropped in to visit Don Salomé, who had shown us with pride that at communal kitchen was being built at the east end of the swimming pool.  We couldn’t translate perfectly what the kitchen will be used for, but a communal kitchen would make sense.

day14-07.jpg

We also enjoyed a cold beer on the stools at the corner of the Argentinean steakhouse (there is a new one in the old La Luna that Jill from Casa el Pio recommended but we never got there).

day14-08.jpg

Being our last day, we realized that of all the beautiful photos we had taken, we had very few of the two of us so we tried this selfie.

day14-08.jpg

When we needed a light lunch to tie us over, we dropped in Poc Chuc’s original location where D had

day14-12.jpg

a traditional poc chuc torta

day14-11.jpg

and I a fish torta.  Both were so delicious that we mentioned buying another couple for the plane ride home.  In the end we opted for a couple of airport pizzas that were surprisingly good.

day14-13.jpg

Before dinner we had assembled at the old pier at Play Sol for our tradition of one last sunset.  D made kahlua cooladas and we finished up beer and wine along with snacks of Sister #3’s guacamole and chips.

day14-14.jpg

The three sisters and Brother #3 (Sister # 3’s twin, follow?)

day14-16.jpg

Here’s an out take of the photo taken just before.

day14-15.jpg

And here is our entire gang: front row-Sis in law, Moi, Newbie, Do-na, back row-Sister # 2, Sister #3, my D, Bro-in-law and Brother #3.  Table for nine please.

olivias14-09.jpg

olivias14-10.jpg

As we took our last photos of each other and the setting sun, we ran into an acquaintance from the beach.  She was touched by the three sisters, as she had just recently lost hers.  I asked if she used to come to Isla too and she said no, but her sister was the person who first introduced her to the idea of holidaying in Mexico.

We celebrated my Bro-in-law’s birthday at Olivia’s with an amazing dinner.

olivias14-02.jpg

We love all the little touches of this Middle eastern Restaurant.  The owner/manager is a fantastic (handsome) host. Andrea was our server from Toronto and our wine and beverages were served by a singing server.

olivias14-03.jpg

Food was exceptional-starting with a Turkish dish called Lacmajun which when translated means “meat on bread”. Besides ground beef it included pine nuts, tomato sauce and parsley with a tahini drizzle over top.

olivias14-05.jpg

I had Shepherd’s Salad,

olivias14-06.jpg

D and many others Pastille,

olivias14-08.jpg

Sis-in-law, Moussakka

olivias14-07.jpg

and Bro-in-law, Moroccan Fish.

olivias14-01.jpg

The perfect  way to end our perfect vacation.

Kath’s quote: “Too much work, and no vacation, Deserves at least a small libation. So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses; Work’s the curse of the drinking classes.”-Oscar Wilde

Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2013-Day 13

November29

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”  John Lennon’s words resonate with me at this time of year.  I try my darndest to complete the circle of tasks that I have started in the year before the holiday season comes around, so I can look back with contentment and look forward with excitement at the new journeys ahead.  So with just a couple of days left from our Isla tale, I am back at remembering (not always with clarity) our time on Isla in 2013.

Day 13-We got so attached to our golf cart that we once again decided to keep it for another day.  This meant that we could scoot around the island to start to say our good-byes and finish up some shopping.  First stop was Hortenzia’s where D had a play with her granddaughters.

day13-1.jpg

day13-3.jpg

day13=16.jpg

day13-17.jpg

Next stop was at the shop of our old friend Gladys’s.  I did some shopping as I love everything in her shop, in fact, I loved the shop itself from the floor to the shutters, both pictured above.

day12-03.jpg

While in Centro we ran into my new friend Jackie who was on Isla because she had discovered my posts about the island on my blog.  She and her travel companion joined us for lunch at La Lomita’s.  The familiar little place (we often stay across the street) was getting a hand-painted spruce up.

day13-7.jpg

day13-5.jpg

It was our friend’s first visit and she was blown away!

day13-8.jpg

I started with the chicken tortilla soup.

day13-10.jpg

Jackie ordered this amazing soup but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the dish but, isn’t it exquisite?

day13-13.jpg

Her friend sampled the enchiladas.

day13-11jpg

D and I split the chiles relleno, our all time favourite La Lomita dish!

day13-14jpg

Except for their papas fritas of course.

day13-15.jpg

This lovely face belonged to our helpful server.

We spent the afternoon shelling the beach right in front of our apartment and then it was time to get ready for our date night that evening!

day13-01.jpg

day13-02.jpg

We started off  with happy hour at Villa Bella with beer so cold, it makes your teeth hurt.  The place was quaint enough in what Doug described as a kind of Rotarian club get together from the past.

day13-03.jpg

But, the beer did indeed make my teeth hurt… assisted by the insulated cozy that it was served in.

day13-05.jpg

D had a lime margarita shaken, on the rocks and served in a coconut shell.

day13-07.jpg

day13-06.jpg

day13-08.jpg

We noitced that the sun had almost set and since it was near the end of our time on the island,we wanted to take in the last rays,

day13-09.jpg

so we stopped at Iguana’s before we headed back to Minioes to share a fish Veracruz style and a couple more very cold beer with our feet in the sand.

day13-11.jpg

It was too dark to get a really good shot of my fish but you would get an idea of the ingredients from this photo: tomatoes, Serrano chilies, green olives, capers, cilantro and fresh lime wedges. Omgosh, it was delicious.

day13-12.jpg

day13-14.jpg

Next stop was Bastos where we shared garlic shrimp.  They split the abundant meal onto two piping hot plates.  The perfectly cooked shrimp was served alongside a buttery fettuccine and steamed broccoli, carrots and zucchini sticks.  With a glass of vinto blanco and tinto, I think that it came to $25.

On the way home in the golf cart, we stopped to visit our gang (minus one bro and sis-in-law who had gone to Rolandi’s on their own) at Mangoes.  They were dining with Isleno Ricardo and his new wife Patty.  Sister #2 and her husband first met Ricardo when they stayed at Chac Chi.  He was such a helpful staff member.  I even remember that he accompanied our gang including our daughter on her scooter through colonias to baseball tacos so that we wouldn’t encounter any of those surprising sidewalk gaps.  Both were born and raised on Isla and Patty worked hard to get her education by traveling back and forth on a daily basis to go to university in Cancun.

Last stop was at an authentic gelato shop in centro (authentic because we inquired with the owner and he shared that his family was from Bologna).  So I enjoyed a satisfying coconut gelato on a sugared cone and D a pistachio one.  We had also met another Italian couple on the island: Mariuccia and Carlo holiday every year on Isla, all the way from Rome.  We first became acquainted when she was speaking to another traveler about my beach skirt.  She had admired it, but put forth her opinion that it must have not been purchased in North America but somewhere in Europe, guessing Italy.  AND she was correct, as I had bought it in Positano when D and I had traveled there years earlier.  The funny thing is that the bathing suit that is an exact match was picked up at a little second hand store along Osborne in Winnipeg; about as far away as you can get from either Isla or the Amalfi coast.

Kath’s quote: “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”-M.F.K. Fisher

BeFunky_408727_434081833332147_2092935746_n.jpg

Love-that is all.

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »