Browsing: Food Celebrations

On the First Day of Christmas

December19

Our first family Christmas of the season has come and gone.  It was a whirlwind of embraces, teasing, laughter and more embraces.  D’s family is knit together by one amazing women. 

Grandma J came home one day from her son’s basketball game to find that her husband had packed a bag and left.  She had no job, very little education and seven kids to fend for.  So she went looking for a job doing the only thing that she really knew how to do-cook for a crowd.

Fast forward thirty years and J is now remarried, spending her summers visiting various family members, kids and  grandkids and her winters in Texas.  If anyone deserves a quiet retirement it is Grandma J.  But J is not yet retired-she makes Christmas her full-time occupation.  She will start shopping for Christmas 2012, today.

We sat the dining room with three banquet tables (another 12 were sat up on the 2nd floor)

Six members of the family were not present this year and I am sure that she mailed those off to Phoenix last week.  The rest of us (32 to be exact) each opened a very large box and inside were a number of other little wrapped packets.  Mine included a book and book mark, a scented candle, bath gel, an embroidered nightgown and an aloe plant with a hand carved hovering hummingbird.  Imagine going to this much trouble with this much thoughtfulness, for 34 people! 

Part of the gang filing downstairs for grace

Another amazing thing about this year’s Christmas story was that we all fit into our just purchased 100 year old house.  I think D saw us gathered there before we had even signed the offer to purchase.

So this year it wasn’t so much about the secret ingredients in the stuffing (pecans and apricots) or the pumpkin, apple and pecan pies that Grandma J bakes and drives in from the county in a specially designed pie rack.  It was about being together in one place, each of us opening packets of love and remembering the reason for the season.

Kath’s quote: “This aniversary is memorable (apart from all religious significance) because it evokes a great slaughter of turkeys, geese and all kinds of game, a wholesale massacre of fat oxen, pigs and sheep; they envisage garlands of black puddings, sausages and saveloys . . . mountains of plum-puddings and oven-fulls of mince-pies….       On that day no one in England may go hungry …. This is a family gathering, and on every table the same menu is prepared. A joint of beef, a turkey or goose, which is usually the pièce de résistance, accompanied by a ham, sausages and game; then follow the inevitable plum-pudding and the famous mince pies.”-Alfred Suzanne

A gift of love was delivered to all mankind 2000 years ago

Sydney’s at the Forks

November29

Our evening at Sydney’s was near perfection, right down to the soft fluffy snowflakes that were falling on the courtyard of the Forks, when we were the last satisfied patrons to leave that night.

When I say “near” perfection,  Laura had done her utmost to reserve a round table six weeks prior to this special evening and when she was escorted to a rectangular table which is not as conducive to inclusive conversation, she was told that someone would come to speak to her.  Well, that someone never materialized and the request was ignored or forgotten.

But no matter, I anticipated that the evening would be stellar as I had recently followed the Gold Medal Plate competition and knew that Chef Michael Schafer had taken the bronze.  So we were in for an award winning evening.

We started the merriment off with the Ceasar that the server suggested.  We detected the addition of horseradish and I noticed as we raised our glasses for a festive toast, that my glass was reducing in contents more quickly than the others.

You may already know that Sydney’s provides a seasonal menu for one price of $55. per diner (with the option of a couple of more expensive choices), which capitalizes on the fruits of the local harvest.  The offerings are a fusion of Asian, French and Italian influences.  Since these are my personal favourites (with the exception perhaps of Mexican), I knew that I would well pleased with everything that came my way.      

Some started with split pea soup which tempted me as I spotted the inclusion of truffle and house-made ham.  But I opted for something lighter to start and was satisfied with my gorgonzola and walnut topped, beet salad.  Statisfied until I tasted D’s prawn and veggie kakiage……

Kakiage is a tempura of mixed vegetables and often includes shrimp or prawns as this one did.  The was a pocket of wasabi powder in the mix which was well balanced by the citrus ponzu sauce.  I was coveting D’s choice.

 

The next course included a gorgeous beef liver pate sampled by some and a pumpkin risotto that caught my eye.  The pistachio crumble, sage oil and parmesan crisp were delightful and I was content.  That was… until I tasted D’s savory bread pudding. 

The choice, which I thought was unusual at first, was the perfect blend of seasoned bread and a savoury sausage.  It might have been the surprize hit of the evening.

The courses were divided by a cleansing sorbet and then the “mains” began to arrive.  This double lamb shank, pictured above was enhanced by a rosemary, dijon crust.

  

Laura and Sue opted for the spicy garlic rock lobster tail and tiger shrimp.  I had a nibble and was duly impressed.  D enjoyed his salmon with warm olive salad and I, my bone-in pork chop with an apple stuffing.  Perfectly cooked to a medium rare with juices still flowing, it was gorgeous.

By the time dessert arrived, we should have been linking arms for a stroll in the snow but picked up our spoons once again.  D let me taste his satisfying chocolate crepes with a marscarpone fig cream.

I was over the moon for my apple tart with blue cheese ice cream and a brandy snap.

 

What could enhance this circle of friends, celebrating Christmas?  Well did I mention that Santa is one of my friends?  Here he is making his selections of the evening’s fare. 

And again, just before we departed for the evening.

Sydney's at the Forks on Urbanspoon

I truly hope that your festive season, gets off to as good a start as mine.

What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”-Phyllis Diller

Pizza Fondu Revisited-Perfect for the Grey Cup

November25

I was searching for recipes to fix for Sunday’s Grey Cup Game and my own blog entry came up!  I wrote this when the Olympics were on and we were all eating suppers in front of the TV.  I recommend making some crunchy bread from scratch for the dipping.

Pizza Fondu

This is a very simple and delicious comfort food to enjoy while watching a movie.  Serve with a side salad and a nice bottle of red wine.  Totally to die for.

 1 lb. Lean ground beef and/or Italian sausage

1 small onion

10 oz cheddar cheese (shredded/cubed)

1 ½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp. oregano

1 ½ tsp fennel seed or Italian seasoning

Fresh cracked pepper

20 oz can of Meat or Spaghetti sauce

10 oz. mozzarella cheese (shredded/grated)

1 French baguette cut into 1” bite-size pieces.

 

Sauté the beef/sausage and onion until cooked and drain.  Now transfer to an electric fondue pot.  Add all seasonings, cheddar and sauce and stir well.  Turn onto medium to heat everything up and melt the cheddar cheese.  Once it’s all nicely warm and blended, add the mozza cheese and continue stirring occasionally until all bubbly and melty.  Stick your bread cubes onto fondue fork, dip, twirl and enjoy.

Kath’s quote:  “Do not move back and forth on your chair. Doing so gives the impression of constantly breaking, or trying to break, wind.”-Desiderius Erasmus (1466? – 1536)

Thanks again Wal.

Italian Pie

October24

Perhaps the food with the potential to hold the most love is… pie.  D and I sing a silly song about pie that goes like this:  “gonna make a pie from heaven above, gonna be filled with (butterscotch) love”.  In the song, butterscotch can be changed to any ingredient and in this case it would be sausage and spinach and ricotta cheese.

When I am writing here, I refer to the beau of Daughter #2 as the Frenchman.  I know that he is proficient in the kitchen because he whips up amazing things at our place with whatever ingredients he can muster up in the fridge.

This dinner was an invitation to see his newly shared house.  We had set the date more than a week in advance and I think that he used the entire time to plan the evening.  This meant calling his Mom back home for a family recipe, taking the bus to shop and borrowing pans and bowls from our place. 

The meal itself was absolutely wonderful and you could literally taste the love and attention that was baked into the main course pie.  Here is his Mom’s recipe.  It was in my email “in” box even before I had arrived home. 

Italian Pie

The crust:

5 c of flour

¾ c of butter

pinch of salt

1 egg

½ c of sour cream or plain yogurt

½ T of  lemon juice

1 t of sugar

Mix flour, butter and salt together.  Add the egg, the sour cream, lemon juice and sugar. Delicately mix together and add warm water until a ball can be formed. Make sure you don’t work the dough to much or it will become hard when it bakes. Roll out.  Makes enough for the bottom, sides and lid.

Pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 5 eggs, 500 gr of Ricotta cheese, 1 c of Mozarella cheese and 1 c of Parmesan cheese.  Take the skin off of 3-4 Italian sausages, break apart and brown in pan. Cool and add to mix. Add 1 cup of defrosted and drained frozen spinach, and 1 c of Italian ham like Prosciutto. Add the mix in the pie crust and place the upper crust on top. Put of a bit of yellow egg on lid and Parmesan. Bake for 1 hour. 

He even sent extra pie home with us to feed Daughter #3 who is under the weather.  Yes, he’s a keeper.

Kath’s quote:  “Pie, pie, gonna make a pie, gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.” -from The Waitress

Thanksgiving 2011

October12

The “big” cottage in our family “compound” at Lester Beach is co-owned by my Mom and my oldest brother and his wife.  They graciously organized the space for us all to assemble for dinner.  This is no little feat, as this year there were 37 of us and that did not include three nieces and a nephew who could not attend (the latter travelling Europe).  We also welcomed back international student Priscilla from Beijing and a new attendee-Gabby from Quebec.

This year was so mild that one family entourage hiked the forest before dinner and another bunch headed to the beach for sunset.  The balmy weather also meant that the beverage table could be set up outside and there were a number of tables available on the huge back deck for people who opted to dine el fresco.

Everyone pitches in with a food responsibility.  Some are automatic and don’t have to be assigned like Sister #2’s peppercorn meatballs, Sister #3’s roasted root vegetables and my candied yams.  Someone always gets assigned a green bean casserole with crispy onions and  potatoes mashed with cream cheese. There were also two huge salads (I had mine after my entree),  turkey with two kinds of stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce and roasted ham with mustard sauce.

A fresh fruit platter was served with pumpkin pie and the hit once again this year was the Pumpkin Crunch dessert that I posted after last Thanksgiving dinner.  You can use the search function on the top right of the blog or go to the dessert recipe category.

Fall is beautiful on the prairies but we are acutely reminded of the circle of life when the ferns and rushes die away and an entire tree can be bared by a single gust.  So too, we were reminded how precious life is as we gathered this year, because one of our brothers was not with us.  Tom lived his life bursting with gratitude.  He loved family traditions and so Thanksgiving was one of his favourites.  I thought of him feasting at another banquet table as we gave thanks.

Kath’s quote: “The king and high priest of all the festivals was the autumn Thanksgiving. When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked, and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came in, dreamy, and calm, and still, with just enough frost to crisp the ground of a morning, but with warm traces of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a sort of genial repose of spirit – a sense of something accomplished.”-Harriet Beecher Stowe

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