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christmas eve dinner

December 24, 2009

apricot cookies, rosemary shortbread, mystery chocolate squares, mincemeat, fruitcake

maple bourbon glazed ham

scalloped goat cheese potatoes

roasted carrots and parsnips

roasted carrots and parsnips

frozen chocolate pudding pie


modern mincemeat

December 24, 2009

modern mincemeat

My husband has this very disturbing Christmas tradition that stems from his childhood.  He buys a jar of mincemeat.  He buys a box of frozen tarts.  He opens the mincemeat.  He opens the tart box.  He scoops the mincemeat into the tarts.  He cooks in the oven for twenty minutes.  Then he eats these things he calls mincemeat tarts.

This year I tried something different.  Aimee from Under the High Chair had a brilliant recipe for Aimee’s Canadian Mincemeat. It was dead easy and consisted of throwing things in a pot and simmering until my entire house smelled just like Christmas.  Somehow this magic combination of ingredients tastes like mincemeat too, but really yummy, un-jarred mincemeat.  Without the lard.

Look at how pretty it is!  Ella filled puff pastry cups with this new mincemeat.  And then we ate one with a knife and fork.  Perhaps not as ‘traditional’ as Mike’s concoction, but a great deal more pleasing.

Happy Christmas Eve to you!

gingerbread house

December 23, 2009

very creative gingerbread house

moroccan food night

December 21, 2009
moroccan raw carrot salad

moroccan raw carrot salad

My husband is getting more and more sophisticated with his wine obsession.  Now he’s all about wine pairings, so I have to adjust my cooking as to what type of wine is uncorked.

Today there was a bottle of Syrah hanging out on the counter, so I knew I had to do something spicy to match.  I had some Moroccan Lamb Sausages from Sunterra in the freezer, so I made two accompaniments:  Saffron-Cardamom Rice, and Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad – both from Epicurious. Click through for recipes.  My half-ass food blogging philosophy does not allow for retyping of recipes that are easily accessible online.

saffron-cardamom rice

Now while neither of these dishes are particularly visually attractive (you should see the lamb sausage – even worse.  And all my photos in the evening are yellow because we have cedar ceilings and yellow Mexican chandeliers – but I’m NOT apologizing for this), they were chock full of interesting complex flavours, including pine nuts browned in butter and cardamom (I only had pods that I use for chai, so I spent a few cursing minutes cracking the dried pods to get at the seeds).

And yes, all the dishes went with the spicy wine.  I dodged the bullet and kept the peace in my house once again.

perfect saturday evening meal

December 19, 2009


My Mike drove downtown to pick me up take-away Japanese food.  What a wise man.  A happy Sue is a happy Mike.

Mikado Restaurant has my favourite version of chirashi, which is raw fish on rice.  This is an expensive and decadent dish, so I tempered it with a modest seaweed salad.  If a place doesn’t have goma-ae (spinach salad), I order the seaweed one.  I think my body craves extra iron and this does the trick.

The take out version of chirashi from Mikado is just as good as the in-house one.  Tender pieces of fish over perfectly executed rice.  Even eating it out of a tin container did not detract from the experience.

Mikado Restaurant
10350 109 Street
and other locations

more party tricks – not food related

December 19, 2009

front foyer

Someone wise once said to me:  if you are having people over, don’t bother cleaning your entire house.  After the first few people arrive, the whole thing will be a disaster anyhow.  Concentrate on the front porch (first impressions) and bathrooms only.

I’m loving the way our front foyer looks.  Books, twinkly lights, candles and pictures of those we love.  And to keep it real, our motley tree with Christmas decorations and toys all over the floor.  A house that is well-lived in.  It says, welcome, relax, make a mess…this ain’t no show home.

party tricks

December 16, 2009

tray 'o drinks

We hosted a work party at our house Monday night.  There were about 25 people here, including kids, and I think it was a smashing hit.  Everybody chatted, drank and ate and left feeling full of Christmas cheer.

One of our party tricks is to offer a tray of pre-made drinks right in the front porch, after people have taken off their coats.  We chill the glasses in the freezer first.  Who doesn’t like a frosty glass?

  • Eggnog with spiced rum and nutmeg sprinkled on top
  • Cream martini – Starbucks cream liqueur and espresso vodka with a splash of cream
  • Limoncello martini – Limoncello with sprite
  • Red wine

I was shocked that it was the Limoncello martini that was the big hit, not the cream one.  Mike was mixing those like crazy in the kitchen.

It was a potluck event, and folks brought either an appetizer or sweets.  Someone asked:  why don’t you assign dishes? And then someone wise told me – that’s the joy of potLUCK.  Get it?  You leave the dishes up to LUCK and what you get is what you get.

We had a cheese tray of blue cheese, brie, manchego and calabrese cheese from the Italian Centre.  The favourite off that tray was brie.  And Ella whipped up these super easy appetizers that were quickly consumed.

Roll together sliced proscuitto, provolone and a leaf of basil.  Secure with a toothpick. As pictured below:

proscuitto, provolone, basil appetizer

more sweet lollapalooza love

December 15, 2009

sweet lollapalooza

Ok, this box of assorted chocolates cost over $50 from Sweet Lollapalooza, but I’m here to tell you that a fifty dollar box of chocolates is TOTALLY WORTH IT.  Well, in moderation.  It ’tis the season, after all.

See the chocolate with the little espresso bean on top?  That is the best chocolate I have ever consumed in my long, convoluted life, my friends.  Sweet Lollapalooza comes with a little description of the chocolates, but no specific ‘map’ per se, so I’m guessing, but I think it is:

Torque:  smoky chipotle pepper blended with dark chocolate ganache and a note of espresso enrobed in dark chocolate.

If that description alone isn’t worth two bucks to read, then I don’t know what is.  I ate this baby super slowly so as to savour it.  I was very sad when it was over, but good news!  It had a twin in the box that has my name on it…

The distinct flavours in this chocolate are out of the world.  I used to like the competition, but Sweet Lollapalooza blows them out of the water, flavour wise.  Dig a toonie out of your pocket and head downtown tomorrow.  You won’t regret it.

spinach goat cheese risotto

December 13, 2009

spinach goat cheese risotto

Something unfortunate happened to a certain category of foodstuffs in our house.

The basket from the deepfreeze was left on the dryer overnight.  It contained many meat items, including chicken, sausage and ground steak.  I was very saddened to have to throw all the contents in the garbage.  I am not going to say who it to blame.  It was purely an accidental oversight.

But, having given half my family food poisoning on a previous occasion (long convoluted story, involving lamb), I opted to play it safe and dispose of the meat items.

So today it is -36 or some ridiculous temperature outside and I did not venture outside.  I was digging around in the kitchen for Sunday dinner.  Thankfully I had some Arborio rice in the pantry.  This led me to cook Jamie Oliver’s basic risotto recipe.

What I love about risotto is that you can add anything to it.  To the basic recipe, I added:

  • wilted spinach, cooked in brown butter with nutmeg and garlic, chopped very fine
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • a big knob of butter
  • 1/2 log of goat’s cheese
  • rind and juice of one lemon
  • lots of pepper and salt to taste

It was an exceedingly satisfying meal to tuck into on a crazy-cold day.  With loads of leftovers for Ella to heat up for lunch (she’s one of the rare kids who comes home for lunch everyday from her junior high school).

sweet nature mandarins

December 13, 2009

satsuma mandarin oranges

What a sweet juicy find at the Italian Centre:   Sweet Nature mandarin oranges – Satsuma variety.  Seedless and the best mandarin orange I have ever eaten in my entire life.  (I don’t make those type of proclamations lightly).