Browsing: Food Celebrations

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):

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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

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Love never fails.

 

Remembering My Manitoba Harvest Celebration

November15

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I am writing this as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013.  As we the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice.  My topic: The Canadian Harvest in Manitoba.

Even though I have not been to school (as a student) since I graduated from University many years ago, I still get that “back-to-school” butterfly feeling every September.  I look forward to the change of season even though it means I have to pack up from my extended stay at our summer house and embrace my routines of our house in the city.  One special event that I look forward to every fall is celebrating the harvest season by traveling to the Dalgarno Family Farm in Newdale Manitoba.  This is the second time I have been invited by the Pen-Dale Farm to attend a “Supper-in-the-Field”- a term known to most farm families.  During harvest time meals are taken to the field so as to be time efficient for the workers.  Often friends who have other occupations assist at harvest time and so there are many to provide a hearty meal for.  Last year, Bruce Dalgarno who is a volunteer fire-fighter was called away to fight a field fire in the area.  His wife Carol, didn’t skip a beat and hosted a large group of us “city-folk” and celebrated her grandson’s birthday all at the same time.

Pen-Dale is a fourth generation farm and they operate a 3000 acre mix of canola, cereals, oilseeds, grasses and pedigree seeds.  All this seems daunting enough but they do so at an elevation approaching 2000 feet which means that the area has one of the shortest growing seasons for agricultural land in Manitoba.  Bruce and Carol are true illustrations of being the “salt of the earth”.  They met in the area and have lived a love affair with the land, ever since.  They are humble, kind and trustworthy; the kind of people that you would love to have living next door to you, or a mile or so down the road.

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Tables were beautifully set prior to our arrival.  I felt very pampered because the prior year we ate more picnic style.

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Chef MJ Feeke of Benjamin’s in Selkirk, Manitoba is the beautiful woman wielding the tongs.  I have had the pleasure of sampling her creations on many occasions.  She too loves the land and the bounties that it delivers and feels that food nourishes both our bellies and our souls.

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Our post-supper discussion was a passionate one about GMOs and the ethics of bio-technology.  I would never knowingly harm my family with food that was dangerous in any way.  I try to expose myself to whatever information I can, to make a rational decision in the face of the radical anti-GMO movement.  I am concerned about food security both at home and around the world and I worry that the anti-GMO movement will paralyze the bio-ag industry to deliver new technologies to feed the hungry of this earth.  Where can we go for the truth, for the straight goods on all of this?  Well, I can visit Bruce Dalgarno who loves to farm because he can “feel the earth and watch and smell the crops grow”.  I can watch he and Carol with their grandsons and I know that they would not knowingly harm those boys either.

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When we left the farm that evening we could hear the din of the combines in the vicinity and the honking of geese overhead and knew that  glorious evenings like this were numbered, as summer gave way to autumn.

Kath’s quote: “Feed the world.”  Bob Geldof

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

Stone Road Grille a.k.a. Rest, Niagara on the Lake, ON

November1

D and I would like to publicly say in this space, that we are lousy at keeping in touch with friends that have moved away.  We declare that we are going to try harder and change our ways but then, time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping into the future…  I suppose it could be considered a good thing that we live in the moment and do not try to hold onto or recreate times gone by.  Happily, many of our out of town friends do a better job of staying connected with us, than we do of them.  Other times, we encounter loved ones who are just as inadequate in this area as we are.  This creates major regret on our part.  The last two points are absolutely true of our friend Perry Johnston who owns the Stone Road Grille in Niagara on the Lake with his wife Heidi.

We had been recently informed by mutual acquaintances about Perry’s stellar success in the restaurant business.  The food, as you will learn is assembled from the best ingredients that the community has to offer but even more so, the hospitality was big and boisterous like we are familiar with on the prairies.  Perry spies his guests from behind the bar where he is helping out, then he bounds for the door to embrace you with bear hugs and kisses.  We thought that this greeting was reserved for us being old friends, but oh no, everyone familiar to him and almost everyone was on this evening, received the same warmth.

We read the accolades that are posted in the hallway of his establishment, to see that the rumours were absolutely true.  Perry and Heidi loved to spend weekends in Niagara-on-the Lake and when Heidi called it quits to her career as a flight attendant, they made their dream, a reality.  I absolutely know that D and I are especially intrigued by our friends’ story because we have talked about doing exactly this, many, many times and have never had the guts to take the big step.

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The food was exquisite, I mean absolutely sublime. Unfortunately, I had taken so many photos of the vineyards of wine country that afternoon that my battery had run down and then catastrophe struck (for a travelling food blogger at any rate), when I realized that my charger was on the fritz as well.  We made due with an IPhone but these photos absolutely do not do the food justice.  Post script, the next morning I was on my way to St. Catharine’s to pick up a brand new charger.

We started with a charcuterie of in house prepared and cured meats including saucisson sec, chicken liver mousse, pistachio mortadella, maple smoked ham , pimento espalette pork crackling and wild boar croquette.  Every bite was complex and satisfying.  We especially enjoyed the melt in your mouth ham and the slightly gamey croquette offset by a delicate crispy coating.

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I had carried a hankering for pasta with me from home and wanted a smaller entrée so that I could keep pace with the pleasures yet to come, so I selected the house-made linguini, tossed with pepperoncini, basil and Stone Road’s own pancetta.  The dish perfectly heralded the oncoming fall with husky and deep spicy tones.

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D neglected to share a taste of his pan-seared halibut because it was consumed too quickly.  I do recall his exclamations as he did so.  Also on Stone Road’s autumn menu were a local farm’s pasteurized chicken with roasted cashew and zucchini curry in addition to a local lamb in the form of braised lamb ravioli offset by a spicy North African Merquez sausage.

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By this time we had switched gears towards dessert: a chocolate tart topped with marshmallow and ice cream, both made in house.

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The last of the Niagara fruit harvest was lovingly crafted into sorbets of blackberry, blueberry, golden plum and raspberry.  The perfect way to end a perfect evening.  But, we were far from done.  First we got a tour of the kitchen so that we could congratulate the chef in person for our wonderful fare.  We witnessed how every conceivable space is utilized for in-house preparations in a self-sustaining manner.  The fresh scraps are even collected to be become feed for the pigs that will eventually “pull their last shift” as Perry puts it, in their restaurant.

We were so impressed with the camaraderie amongst the staff, fostered I am sure by Perry and Heidi themselves.  Perry has included a special opportunity on the bottom of his Niagara only wine list so that you can thank his staff in a meaningful way, by purchasing a six-pack for the kitchen. When the staff had made their way home, we lingered, listening to Sinatra tunes and absorbing every nuance we could about Perry’s passion for the vinters, produce growers and farmers of his little corner of paradise.

Perry is definitely a person that you want to spend time with and we were reticent to leave, not knowing when we would be together again.  Perry gave us a special salute as we drove out of the parking lot.  If you are ever in Niagara-on-the-Lake and I absolutely encourage you to go, visit the Grille marked by the name “Rest” on the outside of the building and ask Perry about it.

Stone Road Grille on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “To make people who have no appetite eat, to make the wit of those who have it sparkle, to enable those who want these qualities to find them — this is the supreme science of a gastronome-host.” Lucien Tendret (1825-1896)

To you Perry, we wish you love-that is all.

 

Breaking Bread B&B in Stratford, ON

October10

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Stratford, Ontario with its old-world culture and charm has long been on our “must-visit” list.  As we have family and good friends in Toronto, we are often in the area and yet had never set aside a couple of extra days to head to this gorgeous destination.

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We arrived a bit too early for lunch so headed to Revel Café.  After getting our bearings, we visited our first of many fabulous places to grab a bite.  We took our Grub-to-Go packages (recommended by our B&B hosts) and walked through the Shakepearean Gardens until we found a picnic table to plunk down at.  The gardens are adjacent to the Avon river and opened in 1936 and are filled with the many plant varieties mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Violets are cited 18 times!  The original roses in the garden were provided by Queen Mary who also did so for the Stratford on Avon garden in England.

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Our B&B dubbed Breaking Bread is perfectly located to stroll the quaint downtown area and many green spaces or if you are more adventurous, even make the trek to the Festival Theatre on foot.

I swear the bed which we shared in the Birmingham Room was the most comfortable one I have ever slept in.  We have a double at home and this was an oversized King (actually two twins attached together).  The high thread count sheets and duvet covering felt luxurious.  The en suite bathroom was sparkling clean and very conveniently located just steps from the bed.  In fact, the entire space at Breaking Bread glistens with freshness.  We understand that B&B owner and host Doug is responsible for the impeccable house cleaning.

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The main floor entrance was always equipped with bottles of water to set by the bed or take out for a walk.  The living and dining space is wide open and light floods the space from early morning.  Perfectly brewed coffee (D prefers a stronger, dark roast that I can’t stand) is served as of 7 am and after my one allocated cup, I switched to Scottish Breakfast tea.

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Breakfasts were an absolute delight.  The first morning we enjoyed a parfait of Greek yoghurt with peaches and almonds and

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then an apple pancake and thick cuts of pea meal back bacon. Host Holly has sent me her coveted apple pancake recipe.  If you are interested in my posting it, leave a comment and I will do so in a future post.

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The following morning started with a warm banana muffin and fruit salad and then we tucked into a crustless quiche and the most perfectly cooked thick-sliced bacon that I have ever enjoyed.

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This was accompanied by toast from the local bakery and home made strawberry preserves.

Holly is the other half of the husband and wife B&B team and is the creative genius behind the menu and in the kitchen.  She also handles the reservations and general correspondence for their home.  Best of all though, she is a Shakespearean expert and avid Stratford Theatre attendee for decades.  Ask her anything, she will either have the answer or know where she can find it.

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We enjoyed the easy banter that Holly and Doug promote around their breakfast table.  We got a big kick out of the dynamics between the two of them as husband and wife and business partners.  Their passion for the Festival and the community of Stratford is so apparent.  They love to share suggestions about their favourite places to dine and shop and every tip was bang on, in our estimation.

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I am sure that there are many B&B options in Stratford so why would Breaking Bread get your booking?  If your priorities are convenient location, cleanliness, warm hospitality, luxurious beds and delicious, carefully prepared breakfasts, Breaking Bread is for you.

Kath’s quote:  “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”-Acts20-11.

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Love-that is all.

 

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