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Friday, December 28, 2012

A LIttle Post-Christmas blurb

We went from no snow to "living in a snow globe" within a couple of hours on Wednesday. It was the kind of snow that makes you SOOOOOOOO happy that you're indoors!
We welcomed little Cohen into our family last week. He arrived safely on Tuesday the 18th. He's a whopper - weighed in at 9.4 pounds. There was a definite urgency in getting him photographed in his "Size newborn" duds. Proud parents are my stepson, Kyle, and his SO, Janelle.
I thought I'd include a little tutorial on converting those wine-bottle gift bags into regular sized ones - or small enough for some little trinkets. If you're a friend of mine, I know for sure you get a LOT of these bags from somewhere or other. I know it's too late for this year - but this could be a lifesaver for you next year!

Use bags that have a repeating pattern.

Cut about 3 ins from the top, then about six or seven inches from the bottom. Discard center section.
Use decorative scissors to trim top section.
Fit top section over bottom section.
Stapling is fine for joining the two pieces.
You can add detail such as a little fringe.
Voila! I hope this can spare you a few last-minute trips to the Dollar Store next year!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Love Florida

.......and FYI - the best time to visit is in fall, in my humble opinion! You have lovely temperatures, little if any humidity, and the traditional fall drought that may aggravate the gardeners is wonderful for us tourists!

The Heritage Center in Tarpon Springs, Florida
I arrived shortly before Thanksgiving and my sister, Noel, had planned an outing for us to Tarpon Springs - a lovely little Greek community in an unspoiled Old Florida town, whose waterfront is still working and busy. We were going to a cooking class at the Heritage Center in Tarpon Springs!
Beautiful Yiota, our teacher
Yiota was assisted by her granddaughter, also a talented cook!
My sister Noel was an audience participant.
ReYiota, our teacher, had planned a Cypriot dish for us to make: kleftikos. The recipe is simple: a 4 oz or so piece of lamb shoulder, a quarter potato, a bay leaf, lots of salt & pepper. Wrap up in parchment & heavy-duty aluminum foil for two hours at 350. Yiota said that kleftikos are great for a party. The recipe's name means "stolen", as Cypriots used to steal lambs from their many invaders over the years. To conceal the lamb while cooking it, the Cypriots dug a hole, built a fire, and cooked the meat underground to prevent smoke coming from the fire - avoiding eventual discovery! My visits to Tampa are always low-key. I do plenty of relaxing under the oak trees in Noel`s front yard.Her house is on a narrow, tree-lined fairway on a local golf course. For the unluckier of the golfers, it`s pretty much of a `hell-hole`but a pretty entertaining spectacle for us. My mom could pay for her National Enquirers with the amount of good golf balls that land in the yard.

We love grilling in the yard.

The evening`s fare was pompano. (Recipe: put it on hot coals and cook `til done.)
I met up with my good friends and absorbed some of their boundless energy. We hit the waterfront in St. Pete and wandered around in the sunshine after  lunch at Cassis.
Brenda snaps pics with the expertise of an experienced traveler.

I'm off to do some holiday-related tasks but wanted to introduce my new kitty, Honey to you all. Thanks for your continued loyalty and for the visits even when I hadn't posted in a while!

If you're interested, I adopted Honey from St. Thomas Animal Aid in St. Thomas, Ontario. If you have the luxury of ever deciding when you're getting a  cat, as well as which one, then this place is for you. It's a veritable cat wonderland. The staff  does a great job of match-making cat to adoptive family.
Lovely Honey, my new kitty.
We'll soon see if Honey is a "hat cat" like Lillie!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stefano Faita's Mom's Minestrone

In anticipation of being hunkered down from Hurricane Sandy (when was the last time a hurricane affected SW Ontario? Hm? Anyone?) I made a huge pot of this soup. It's on Stefano's show. Just tune in any time.
What? You don't get Stefano where you live?
Anyway, here it is, copied and pasted from Stefano's website.

Hearty and filling, Stefano's secret family recipe for minestrone soup is sure to be a hit with the kids and the leftovers make a delicious packed lunch too.
Pack this hearty vegetable soup for lunch and you'll have enough energy to plow through any busy work day!

3 (14 ounce) cans white beans
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 head kale, chopped
1/2 white cabbage, chopped
3 leeks, sliced
3 zucchini, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Piece of Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
7 to 8 cups chicken stock
Handful basil, chopped
Handful Italian parsley, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Crusty bread, for serving

Mash half the beans and leave the remaining half whole. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté pancetta, garlic, onion, celery, carrot and rosemary for 5 to 7 minutes.
Add tomatoes, kale, cabbage, leeks, zucchini, and beans (whole and mashed), bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper. For extra flavour, add piece of Parmesan rind, if desired. Add 7 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. (If you prefer a thinner soup, add 1 cup more chicken stock.) Reduce heat and let soup simmer, uncovered, until the minestrone has a dense, stew-like texture, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. According to my mom, you know when this soup is done when a spoon can stand in the centre of the soup.
Finish the soup with basil and parsley. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
You need to start this soup in a large potaje (Tampa girls - please translate) because the vegetables are so bulky at first. I shredded the cabbage first in my food processor.
Chard works when you can't find kale. You might even prefer it over kale's sharpness.
This soup freezes beautifully!
I hope you enjoy this.

Milo wore his costume yesterady when we did our regular visit at Woodingford.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lemon Layer Cake

The picture isn't quite "blog ready" but what the hell - here goes. It's a delicious cake and you'll want to make one for your family.

I got the original recipe from the latest edition of my my favorite cookbook, Betty Crocker! It's a basic yellow cake recipe that can be adapted in just about any way you can think of.
I don't have a nice stand mixer so I use my food processor with the plastic blade attached. (It comes out just fine if you've ever wondered.) I also use my food processor, with the same plastic blade, to make my cookie dough.

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup shortening (I like to use .....LARD!!)
2 tbs lemon zest
1 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350. Blend together dry ingredients, set aside. Prepare 2  8-in. cake pans by greasing them and flouring them lightly. Cream shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Add extract, then add eggs one at a time and mix enough to completely blend. Begin adding dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix in lemon zest until blended. Process for about one minute on high.
Fill cake pans and bake on the middle shelf for 20 - 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove at first sign of done-ness. Let cool completely before removing layers from pans.

 Here's the delicious and tangy lemon frosting:

1/2 cup butter
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 c lemon juice
zest of one lemon
4-5 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar for you stateside)

Begin by blending cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add lemon juice and lemon zest and blend, then start adding the powdered sugar until your frosting is stiff enough to hold a peak. Frost cake when it is completely cool.
Hope this brightens up your weekend - especially with the storm threatening!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finish Before You Start!

Last night I  had a revelation while I was seaming a sweater I had knitted last spring: I had not been thinking at all about how the sweater would be finished! I came to this conclusion while trying to disguise the knots and bunches as I joined the pieces. Happily, it's just a "cottage" sweater - one I whipped up (thanks to SweaterWizard) out of  two strands of Bernat Alpaca Natural Blends  in a a gorgeous pale crystal-blue shade. It's  fairly reasonably priced but knits up like a more high-end yarn. Unfortunately, it's not given much love on Ravelry. There are many complaints about the shedding of the yarn. I haven't had any problem with it - not that I've noticed.

Anyway - back to my original topic of thinking about the finished item before you even cast-on. Somewhere between the knitting of the above sweater and my more recent items, I learned the power of a good selvage stitch. I knit the first stitch in the row through the back of the stitch, then slip the last stitch purl-wise. It gives a lovely edge that I've learned is a cinch to seam and looks particularly nice when done.
This is also important - regardless of what the directions say, when increasing or decreasing, do it in the second, or in the next-to-the-last stitch in the row, respectively. I failed to do that with the above sweater and I am dealing with damage-control now!
Of course, the most essential arsenal in your finishing locker is swatching. Swatch not only for your gauge but also to test stitches and edges. If you've become accustomed to more high-end yarns, this will become your mantra, believe me. No one wants to bugger up a ball of cashmere for lack of planning. On a side note to swatching, if you've got a special project on deck, it's fun and gratifying to get right in there with the yarn and let it wind through your fingers as you drink wine and mindlessly knit up a swatch in front of a cozy fire, dog in lap. (*Insert mental image here*)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Woodstock Fleece Festival

To begin with - yes, my photos are crappy!
I fell in love with this sweet alpca. Her name is "Halifax".
Anyway - it was a great event. All of my favorite LYS in one place - together. I ended up buying yarn for yet another project, and some primitive burlap for a new hooked rug project I'm thinking about.
This yarn had Barbie heads woven into it!
Spinning - because knitting just isn't weird enough!

The fake sheep.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Please Excuse Our Mess While We Improve Your Blog-reading Experience

Ahh, technology. Don't you just love it? I knew technology was a good thing the first time I set my hair with electric rollers.
Obviously I'm experimenting with my blog layout, attempting to do it myself. I mean - how hard can it be?
Bob and I are going to go to Belvoir this weekend for their fall hunter pace. For Bob and me our 'hunter pace' is hacking through the fall foliage on the buckle!
Thanks for stoppping by. More time-wasting fodder on the way in the near future. In the meantime. here's an early wish for a great weekend.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Was Published!

A year and a half after submitting this, I was notified that this recipe was being published in our lovely little old-farts paper, Daytripping! Well, it just goes to show you - keep shooting stuff their way and eventually they'll publish something to shut you up - or so they thought........
Anyway, here it is, unedited and much more delightful than the published version, as if something published could possibly be any more delightful!

Red velvet Cupcakes with 'White Chocolate Cheesecake' Frosting

These cupcakes are adapted from a recipe for Red Velvet Cake, a traditional favourite in the South. With its deep red colour and rich chocolate taste, it's perfect for special occasions, especially Valentine's Day.

These cupcakes are also a favourite here at home in Canada ! I prepare the batter in my food processor with great results.

Ingredients :

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco, Tenderflake)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup red food coloring

1 tsp. white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

Adjust oven rack if necessary so cupcakes bake in center of oven.

Pre-heat to 350.

Place paper cups in muffin tin and lightly grease bottom of cups (PAM is fine for this.)

In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vinegar, red food colouring and vanilla until blended.

Gradually add dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk. Blend after each addition then beat until fluffy. (approximately 2 mins for conventional mixer, less for the food processor.)

Fill cups 2/3 full with batter and bake in the center of the oven for 17 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove at first sign of done-ness.

Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.

"White Chocolate Cheesecake" Frosting

2 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened (stick butter gives best results)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted

1 cup icing sugar

Beat cream cheese, vanilla and butter together until fluffy and increased in volume. Add melted white chocolate chips and beat until blended. Add icing sugar gradually and continue to beat until fluffy and slightly stiff in consistency. Frost cupcakes when completely cool. Add sprinkles or mini candies to make these cupcakes extra festive.

Note: I use a pastry bag and large decorators' tip to frost cupcakes with one big frosting rosette. It’s easy, makes a lovely presentation and saves lots of time. If you don't have them already, considering adding these items to your kitchen arsenal!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Season's First Pumpkin Pie

In this entry, I'm going to tell you

how this
gets to be this
Forget the canned pumpkin. I'm going to encourgage you - just this once - to try making one from the actual pumpkin.
First of all, you need a pie pumpkin. They're the perfect, smaller ones that you'll see in the produce department and roadside stands.
(Note: I'm going to skip with all of the step-by-step photos a lot of other bloggers use. As I said before, my readers know their way around a kitchen, thank you very much! We don't need anyone showing us a photo of an egg like it's the first itme we've ever laid eyes on one.)

It's easy.
1. Cut the top off of the pumpkin, then cut it in quarters.
2. Get rid of the seeds and stringy pulp by scraping the inside with a big spoon or whatever...
3. Place the quarters flesh-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh.
4. When the pieces are cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp.
5. In your food processor or blender, puree the pulp until very smooth in consistency.
6. Line a strainer of colander with cheescloth. (I didn't have any so I used coffee filters.)
7. Put the puree in the colander or strainer and let it drain for at least eight hours.

You'll need a scant two cups of puree for a pie. That's equal to a can of packed pumpkin, and just right for a pie.
Here's the recipe I used, from the newest edtion of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Pastry for a 9 in, one-crust pie
2 large eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 can (or two cups) pumpkin
12 oz evaporated milk (almost an entire can)

Heat oven to 425.
Mix ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake for 15 mins, then turn oven down to 350 and continue to bake for about 45 mins or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Allow to cool for four hours. (YEAH -  RIGHT!)

What you'll get is the lightest, most fresh-tasting pumpkin pie you've even had! It is easy, isn't it? I'll expect your comments to be filled with praise for this pie.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Early Autumn Celebration

Family is gathering today at our house - for once the planets converged and all of Roger's siblings will be in the same place at the same time!

The first of September is great in Canada - especially when the last of the season's flowers are wilting, the shadows are longer and the mornings are much cooler. We get a head-start on the Americans since our Thanksgiving day is just two weeks away! We can decorate for fall without looking stupid.
For decorating for this special occasion, I've taken advantage of the great deals I've found on gorgeous mums. I'm a shameless post-season shopper, so all I had to do was rifle through my "Fall/Autumn" box of decorations for the trimmings.

A great idea for fall flowers is to use a pumpkin as a vase. It's so simple: pick a pumpkin and scoop it out, find a plastic container that will fit inside of it, fill the container with flowers and there you go. People will marvel at your brilliance.

Check out Pinterest for more great ideas. That's where I found the inspiration for my fall table. For the candle holders I used apothecary jars minus the covers and filled them with dried beans to anchor the candles.
Well, I'm off to do some last-minute chores before company starts arriving.
Happy Sunday!

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Fool Proof Oven-fried chicken recipe

This recipe gets raves from everyone. And as Mrs. Whaley wrote in her wonderful tome, you can put it in the oven and go have a drink on the porch. I do wish I had just whipped some up – because then I could show you a picture (it looks like the yummiest fried chicken ever) and I could then eat it.
This is the orginal recipe. When I make it now, I just dump the Bisquick in with all kinds of seasonings – paprika & Everglades seasoning is fantastic. Otherwise use seasoned salt with paprika in it. The paprika makes the chicken a beautiful golden-brown. If you’re making wings, just throw whatever seasonings in and adjust the heat. We love Noel Smith’s Hot Mama seasonings in hot dry wings!
Priscilla’s Chicken
2/3 c Bisquick
3 tsp seasoned salt (garlic, paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper) adjust to taste
1 2-3 lb frying chicken, cut up
Preheat oven to 425F
Place the seasonings and Bisquick in a bowl or a plastic bag and mix throroughly.
Toss the chicken parts in the mixture until every piece is well-coated.
In the meantime, once oven is preheated, spread 1 tbs oil in a foil-lined shallow pan or cookie sheet. Heat in oven until smoking, then remove. Place chicken pieces in hot pan, skin side down. Bake for 30 mins.
Turn and bake for 30 more minutes or until chicken is done to your liking. Just make sure juices run clear (poke with a fork) as that indicates doneness.
I hope you enjoy this recipe – especially if you enjoy fried chicken and, like me, haven’t had a lot of luck making it the traditional way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I hate the end of summer! The season goes by so quickly - and in a few weeks it will be autumn. The shadows are changing, the cottages are abandoned.
That's the one good thing about fall, other than the promise of another spring around the corner (by way of Father Winter) - it's a great time for a fresh start! I guess that's the old teacher in me, the excitement of making plans and announcing that "This year........!" Each September was a new page to fill.
I've been guilty of approach-avoidance when it comes to this blog. I've used a lot of excuses not to write: I was sad about Lillie, I was knitting, etc. I'd like to see this blog go in another direction - I'd like to learn more about HTML and I'd like a good camera! I've also got plans to make pages - just like the "real" bloggers do!

I've also been hitting the elliptical trainer, after seeing this picture of me. Poor Bob - carting around Fatty Mc Fatterson!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Finally - an update!

I see that my laziness in posting regularly has not kept some from checking in now and then - all seven of you!

RIP Lillie 1995-2012
Several weeks ago we had to put down our beautiful kitty, Lillie. It made me more sad than I realized - I knew I'd have to announce her passing sooner or later and I just wasn't ready to. We had her for seventeen wonderful years - you can see why it's been hard without her, especially since she was always such a willing subject for my crazy knitting projects.
On a happier note, my Little Knitter is chugging away with both barrels blazing. Over the Labour Day weekend, she learned some new skills: purling, knitting in the round, and a k1,p1 rib for a headband she cranked out in a couple of hours!
Speaking of new skills, I'm attempting a lace project. I'm sure it's rated "idiot" on the difficulty-scale, but it's a real challenge for me. The project is the "perpetual scarf" by Romi Hill
It's from the fall/winter 2012 edition of Knitscene, on page 13. In case you've never attempted lace and wish to try - you need this in your arsenal:

One of my current WIPS
It's a good starting point - although all I do for my own lifelines is to simply sew through the loops with a needle threaded with pearl cotton. I can't tell you how many itmes I've relied on my life line when I've made a mistake that doesn't show until four rows later!

Scenes from the holiday weekend:
Thanks again, everyone, for being so faithful and reading my blog!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Waning Days of Summer

Mom returned home this past weekend. It was the longest she had ever been here - ten weeks . She was a tremendous  help around the house and great company.
I've started making my Christmas gifts although it's been a little uncomfortable knitting even the smallest wool project in this high-summer heat.
My little knitter keeps chugging along. She went to a favorite knitting store recently, Little Red Mitten in St. Thomas, Ontario. She was treated royally I'm told - who wouldn't just adore a little knitter like this?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Lot of Catching Up to Do!

I threw a gender-reveal party for a special couple last week. I had a riot setting up the decorations - anything for babies requires going overboard, anyway!
The garden shed.
Candy table.
Visit your local bulk store to find candy in every imaginable colour! I was lucky to find so much in pink and blue.
Making poms can be addictive. Bypass the party store and make your own.
Dramatic and cheap decor!
Learn to make your own tissue-paper poms and save lots of $$$.
The entry way.
I made special labels for the water bottles. Just crank out any old printshop-type program and you're all set. I ran these through my Xyron machine; that adhesive is great for this purpose - labels go on smoothly and stay on!
A banner is always a festive touch!

After the party, I went for a well-deserved rest at the cottage. My little knitting buddy joined me, but got in some quality time with her favorite pooch, Milo.