Browsing: Food Celebrations

My Grandma’s Kitchen


My Grandma on my Dad’s side was a little Polish lady named Felicia.  To my kids she was known as Grandma Saskatchewan.  She was in her 90’s when she died and she had picked peas in her garden that morning.  I spent most summers with her (before I discovered the beach) and learned so much about the celebration of food and how the kitchen is indeed the heart of the home.

poppyShe baked her own bread every week, and simmered potato soup, fashioned prune dumplings with butter and cinnamon sugar and  poppy seed roll and took all day to make fried chicken (fried in lard folks!).  Nobody worried about carbs in those days because you needed the energy to haul water from the town pump, pick stones in the field, chase the turkeys back into their pen and pick your veggies out of your garden.  She ate well and wanted everyone else to as well.  I can still hear her say to my brothers “Dougie, Tommy, eat, eat, you’re too skinny!”

I want to live and cook and feed people like my Grandma.  Those who knew her, say I look most like her and so I suppose I am well suited to the job.  I want all my meals to be “from scratch” and use everything thats in my kitchen or give it back to my garden.

She had geraniums on every single window ledge and a chair in her kitchen….not just a place to sit but a deep, luxurious chair.  It was in the corner near the big Aga stove (that she lit every morning even before she went outside to the biffy).  I would nestle there and chat away as she worked and watch her lovingly produce the most amazing food.  I have a chair in my kitchen.  It is for me when my husband gets home and tells me about his day and for puppy dogs and friends.

Caleb like to sit in my kitchen chair

Caleb like to sit in my kitchen chair

Sushi Making Night


IMG_0259We recently had a sushi making party in our kitchen.  Our gang is sushi crazy and even though they have found affordable places to dine and special promotions on certain nights of the week, the cost still adds up when you are a) leaving for South Africa in a few days or b) getting married in two weeks.  Such is the case for our two youngest kids.  But instead of cancelling their night out, they went to Safeway and came home with $10 worth of veggies.  I already had the Norri, sushi rice and panko flakes at home.  Oh yea and we provided the libations as well.  $10 goes a very long way as there is a stack of rolls still in the fridge and a bowl of tempura veggies.IMG_0262

Well the tunes got cranked and they had as much fun making their supper as they would have had going out (they even did an admirable job of clean up).  Instead of getting hung up on certain recipes, they laid everything out and every made their favourite concoctions.  All were delicious but I was especially fond of the tempura yam roll.

For foodies (and a new generation of foodies), it’s the preparation, not just the dining that is fun.  We love to be invited over for dinner and asked to help out in the kitchen.  It is a great opportunity to learn new tricks and visit in a relaxing atmosphere.  My husband has come up with a great idea.  We are PVRing episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which is one of our favourite shows on the Food Network.  Next time we invite friends over, we will pre-plan and have all the right ingredients purchased, then we’ll watch an episode with friends and then proceed to the kitchen to cook it all up.

Christmas Dinner


IMG_0210Our dinner guests were the family of my future daughter in law.  We are long time friends and we are delighted that our families will soon be joined by marriage.  The Mom is American/Canadian and so is my husband so we decided to acknowledge these roots with a New England menu.  I made my tradition pull apart bread recipe but added cheddar cheese.  We served carrots tossed in maple syrup and candied ginger, creamed potatoes and gravy and a turkey stuffed with oyster dressing.  Mom (#2 we’ll say) brought along a green bean almondine casserole.IMG_0206
Here’s the stuffing recipe: combine 12 cups of stale bread with 1/2 lb. of crispy bacon, 1T minced garlic, 1 1/2 c celery slices, 1 T thyme and 2 t sage.  Chop up about a lb. of oysters (frozen or jarred).

Girl’s Night In


I threw an last minute cocktail party this weekend to honour my future daughter in law (as my son had been kidnapped and driven to Minneapolis for an NFL game).  Sister #3 shook up her famous Crantini’s and we also served sangria and red wine.

Skake One forIMG_0240 Me!

The theme was hearts and love and even the drinks matched the red and pink colour scheme.  We played a number of silly games like “What’s in the Bride’s purse?” and “Who is my celebrity crush?”.  Daughter #2 conducted these admirably and distributed all the love prizes that we had bought at Dollarama (the Valentine stuff was out).  We served these amazing shrimp along with warm brie, spanakopita, artichoke and asiago dip and teriyaki steak and Greek chicken (left over from our New Year’s Eve fondue).

I also made pesto stuffed mushrooms which were a big hit.  Here’s the recipe: Twist off the stems from 12 large mushrooms.  Place caps, stem side up on an ungreased baking sheet.  Combine 2/3 c pesto, 1/4 c Parmesan, 3 T breadcrumbs and the mushroom stems and zap in a blender.  Stir in 3 T pine nuts and fill the caps.  Top with 1/4 c shredded mozzarella and bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until filling is hot and cheese is melted.

You don’t need to focus on male body parts to have a fun bacelorlette party-focus on love instead!

Family Birthdays


In our family birthdays are celebrated in a major way until you are 18.  Even though we have loved the tradition for the past 35+ years, the last of the grandkids turns 18 next year.  Knowing this our gathering this past gathering was especially sweet.  My middle sister is an amazing cook even though she doesn’t know that she is.  She compares herself to sister #1 who is imaginative and resourceful and to sister #3 who is formally trained and classic food knowledgeable.  Her style is the assembly of many complimentary courses and plenty of it.  “Plenty” also describes her use of butter, Parmesan, cream and garlic-which makes everything rich and delectable (but not low fat).

Her recent menu was approved by the birthday boy.  Spaghetti and whole wheat penne with an Italian sausage and zucchini sauce, a decadent Alfredo sauce and her specialty-tequila chicken.  She served this with Caesar salad and bread sticks but also set out sauteed mushrooms and crumbled bacon.  For dessert she made a 5 layer chocolate cake, with real butter icing.  Whereas I make a lower fat Alfredo sauce-essentially a white sauce with garlic and Parmesan, hers is the real deal with a base of butter, whipping cream and half and half cream.  This is painstakingly stirred until it is a “stick to a noodle” consistency.

Someone commented on her chicken recipe this weekend: “How can you go wrong using tequila, cilantro, lime and cream.  I have substituted the chicken with shrimp to fancy the recipe up for an even more special occasion.  Here’s the recipe: in a medium sauce pan , saute the cilantro, garlic and jalapeno pepper in 2 T of butter over medium hear for 4-5 minutes.  Add 1/2 c chicken stock, 3 T tequila and 2 T fresh lime juice.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until reduced to a past-like consistency.  Set aside.  Pour 3 T soya sauce over 1 1/4 lb. cubed boneless chicken breasts and set aside for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, saute 1/4 of a sliced red onion and a thinly sliced red pepper, a half of a thinly sliced yellow pepper and a 1/2 of a thinly sliced green pepper in a T of butter.  Meanwhile cook desired amount of fettuccine noodles.  When the peppers have wilted, add the chicken and soya sauce.  Toss and add the reserved tequila/lime paste and cream.  Bring to a boil.  Gently simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick.  Toss with well drained fettuccine and garnish with cilantro.IMG_9800

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