Food Musings

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

Expect the Unexpected

December15

To say that our family adventure to Minneapolis this weekend did not go as expected would be a colossal understatement.  The premise was simple enough-head down for a Christmas shopping day on Saturday, go to the spa while the guys were at the Giants/Vikings game on Sunday, drive home Monday. 

We get lots of storms on the prairies but “The Great Storm of 2010” was so surprizing.  When we arrived at about 8:30 on Friday night there was not a trace of snow.  But on Saturday morning we couldn’t see across the little lake that we were staying on and the driveway was completely drifted in and we had to wait to be plowed out.  As we kept our plans of heading to the Mall of America, we thought “we’re hardy folk-how bad can this be?” OMGoodness-visibility was ZERO and that was before the snow froze to our wiper blades and we could not see out the windshield.  D had to skillfully maneuver around cars in the ditch and others parked underneath overpasses trying to clear their views. 

We did a first lap of the Mall and when we rendezvoused at about 2 pm, we let the gang decide where they wanted to eat.  I was a bit surpprized when with almost 40 choices, they picked the familiar- Tony Roma’s.  I guess they could see how stressed out we were and they too wanted something “safe and familiar.”

So we settled in for “stacked” chicken, seafood fettuccine and ribs of course.  The food was pleasant enough but the service was short-handed and distracted.  Little did we know that the city was in chaos and the mall was making arrangements to get staff home safely by closing early.  We’re reasonable people-we understood that we weren’t their priority.

We were all sitting around the same table, enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on our adventure thus far.  We knew that our vehicles had been guided through the storm by angels-we were content.

Tony Roma's on Urbanspoon

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

Laugh often, love deeply.

Its Coming on Christmas

December14

D prepares an event each year round about the first week of December.  He has been catering to this same not-for-profit group for the past 12 years.  There are some dishes that are constant-turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, fresh rolls but each year he changes up the salad, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, another veggie dish and dessert.  This year his menu was as follows:

Cranberry & Spicy Pecan Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dijon Dressing

Broccoli, Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffing

Mashed Potaoes in their Jackets with Rosemary & Butter

Roaster Red Pepper and Herb Corn

Sliced Sweet Potatoes with Apple Butter

Chocolate Mint Mousse

Here is his Stuffing Recipe that we can’t wait to have again for our dinner on the 25th.

Broccoli, Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing

1/2 c uncooked wild rice

1 1/2 c water

2 c chopped fresh broccoli

1/2 c butter

1 1/2 c sliced mushrooms

1 c chopped onion

14 oz. chicken broth

1/2 c sliced almonds

1 16 oz. package of herb seasoned stuffing mix (or substitute equal volume of bread cubes and poultry seasoning to taste)

Bring rice and 1/2 c water to boil.  Cover, reduce to low and simmer 45 minutes.  Place broccoli in a pot with enough water to cover and boil 5 minutes or until slightly tender.  Remove from heat and drain.  Preheat over to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a baking dish.   Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute the mushrooms and onions until tender.  Mix in cooked rice, cooked broccoli, stuffing mix , broth and almonds,   Transfer to prepared baking dish .  Bake 30 minutes in pre-heated oven or until golden brown.

Kath’s quote: “No more turkey, but I’d like another helping of that bread he ate.” Anonymous

Love is all around.

When you get dealt a lemon…..

December10

Have I mentioned that I don’t like to bake?  The task of making six dozen somethings to exchange with beloved friends seemed simple enough.  I was persuaded to prepare the recipe for Lime Coconut Shortbread that I shared here a couple of weeks ago.  Things didn’t go swimmingly.

I knew that I would have difficulty rolling out and cutting the shortbread as I often do,  so I was prepared to take on the modified version of rolling the batter into balls and flattening with a sugared flat surface.  But even that proved too daunting for me.  The dough would not bind and I’d be damned if I was going to chuck it out and start again when I had invested in so much butter (have I mentioned that I’m very frugal?).

In the end I pressed the mixture onto a huge cookie sheets and then cut the dough into sqaures when the pan came out of the oven.  I then glazed them with a lime frosting and sprinkled on more coconut.  They taste delicious-not melt in your mouth like a whipped shortbread but surprizingly zesty because of the lime and crunchy due to the coconut.

They have been delivered to Sister #3’s in time for the exchange and that is a big check mark on my Christmas to do list.  My sage advice to share with you?  When you are baffled by a recipe-improvise!  No one but you will know what the picture in the recipe book looked like.

Kath’s quote: “God bless us, every one!”-Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

One meal can change a day

December9

On this particular day we were travelling from Sicily up half of the leg of the Italian boot to the Amalfi Coast.  The day started at 5 am with a van ride from the cozy home of our friends in Castellammare Del Golfo to the Palermo train station.  Driving in Palermo is so stressful that I was thinking about a big glass of Chianti by about 6:30 am. 

We had a reservation in a first class car and thought we were set.  Unfortunately another family thought the same and we spent most of the day with people who virtually ignored our existence.  Of course there was the language barrier which was our inadequacy not theirs.  But they held boisterous conversations while we tried to sleep, stretched their legs and leaned on us when they wanted to sleep and passed their shared lunch passed our faces when they wanted to eat.  And they were more accustomed to the heat than we were and thought it was just fine in the confined space without the AC.  But D and I always try to make the best of everything and so we spent the hours staring out the window at the Mediterranean, going for walks up and down the train cars and going up on deck when the train was boarded onto a ferry for the crossing from Messina, Sicily to mainland Italy.  

By 4 in the afternoon we had reached our transfer destination in Salerno- a hectic/crazy seaside town and boarded a bus destined for Amalfi. I mistakenly took a window seat and although the vista is “to die for”, I didn’t particularly want to do so in the middle of our second honeymoon.  The hour long leg was extended because now it was almost the dinner hour and we found ourselves in the midst of Italian rush hour.  Amalfi was even more frenetic and we managed to just barely get onto a jammed bus before departure.  Someone offered me a seat at the back of the bus and D was stuck standing next to the bus driving.  “No worries, it’s only a 20 minute trip” our eyes said to each other.  Minutes later a tremendous thunderstorm rolled in and the bus litterally parked on the mountainside.  Once the torrential rain passed we would surely be on our way- but no. 

I had done my research and knew that it was feast day to celebrate the saint of Prairiano’s home church.  What we didn’t know though was that there is only one road in and out of town and that the road that we were planted on was temporarily closed so that the townspeople could enjoy their procession to the church carrying their saint and the ensuing fireworks.  D tried to converse with the bus driver to determine how far from the town we were because now that 20 minute bus ride had taken and hour and a half.  When we finally arrived in town we determined that we had been one mountain curve away and could have walked it in five minutes.  Ah well, when in Rome…..

By this time we were so frazzled that we glugged the champagne that D had arranged would be chilling in our room and set out to find some supper.  Our first choice was a famous place that was very busy and I was so overheated by the humidity and champagne that I insisted that I would have to sit at one of the tables by an open window.  Because they were set for four and we were only two, we were refused and so we declined.  Well the owner was exasperated with us and made his frustration quite known to the rest of this diners. We had created quite the scene.

Our second choice was close and we knew by our research that they served on their rooftop terrace.  But of course, it was closed due to the storm that had just passed but the lovely owner of La Strada could totally see my distress so she pulled a table next to an open window and brought me my own fan! 

We shared a Quarto Pizza and Fusilli with langostino and asparagus.  The taste of the food was amplified by our day’s events, so to describe it as delicious and satisfying is such a gross understatement.  By the time we wandered back to our hotel for a Limonciello our whole psyche had been tansformed.  We were in an ancient town with views of Positano from our window.  The rain had stopped and stars were making their appearance. 

Kath’s quote: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” ~Luciano Pavarotti

The complimentary appetizer served that evening at La Strada-I had come to the right place.

Amore.

Old School Banana Bread-Best of Bridge

December8

I do not particularly like to bake.  Cakes are my worst nightmare-breads and crisps are more my style.  But if I have to bake, I love to in the early morning. Perhaps this is a throwback to the summers that I spent with my Grandma who did her baking before the kitchen got too hot (she had a wood stove in the kitchen and an electric stove in the porch).  And so here it is at 7:25 am and two loaves of banana bread are already in the oven.

My early morning baking companion…

For some comfort foods, “old  school” is best.  I’ve been making this recipe since the kids were little.  I have “gussied” the recipe up with pecans or blueberries but in the end it is this basic version that my gang loves.  We are planning a family road trip soon and this is always the first request when I pack the lunches. 

Best-Ever Banana Bread (from Grand Slam- Best of Bridge)

2 c sugar

1 c butter

6 overly ripe bananas-mashed (3 c)

4 eggs, well beaten

2 1/2 c flour

2 t baking soda

1 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With electric beater, cream butter & sugar until light and fluffy,  Add bananas, eggs, and beat until well mixed.  Blend dry ingredients together in a large separate bowl.  Pour in banana mixture and mix just enough to blend-do not over-mix.  Pour into 2 lightly greased loaf pans.  Bake 45 minutes to one hour.  Test for doneness.  Cook on rack for 10 minutes before removing from pans.  These freeze beautifully.  We like them best a day later when they have been stored at room temp.

Kath’s quote: “Happiness is when you see your husband’s old girlfriend and she’s fatter than you!” -author unknown

love, love, love

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