Sunday, December 16, 2007

The weather outside is frightful...

Snow. We got it in spades this weekend. It started last night and it is still coming down. The helpful weather station at the university says we received about 25cm of snow, but I think it was a little more than that, at least in some places. The snow came up tot the top of my green boots which stand about 35cm tall.

We started the day with a call from a friend letting us know church was canceled this morning (thanks Darren!) Shortly after we got up and shoveled our driveway. The plow hadn't come yet so the end was easy. It took us just under an hour to get the whole thing done.

Thinking today would be a great day for doing laundry we headed to the grocery store to pick up some laundry soap. The trip took us about twice as long as it normally would - none of the sidewalks were shoveled. We took a quick photo tour of our neighborhood when we got back.

We ate some lunch and I watched the last 3/4 of a football game and then it was back out to shovel the driveway again. Another hour gone. We then ate dinner and I am now writing this post.

It's been a long day of mostly being out side and shoveling. I can't complain though - the snow was light and there wasn't any freezing rain. Plus Tara and I got to spend a bunch of time together. I hope it snows like this more often.
Snow Angel

There are a few more photos from today on flickr.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Roasted Pork Loin

I tried a new Pork Roast recipe out last night with a bunch of friends. It's in the latest Fine Cooking issue (Jan 2008): Roasted Pork Loin with Maple-Mustard Crust.

It really is an excellent recipe. Everyone enjoyed it and it's pretty simple to make. The only gripe I have is the cooking time - it took almost twice as long to get the roast to 145F than the recipe called for.

I recommend picking up this issue. In addition to great recipes for the pork left-overs, there are great recipes for bread pudding and gnocchi.

Below is the recipe I used (their recipe plus some tweaks).


8-10 C apple juice
3/4 C salt
1/4 C brown sugar
6 cloves garlic crushed
6 sprigs of thyme

1/2 C maple syrup
5 tbsp whole grain mustard (PC brand works great)

1 4-5 lb Pork Loin, boneless and tied up.
1 large fennel/anise bulb, sliced
2 large apples (granny smith worked well), cored, peeled and diced
3 tbsp veg oil.

Step 1 - Make the brine and brine the roast (do the previous day)
Bring 3 cups of the apple juice to a boil and add the rest of the brine ingredients. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved and remove from heat. Add remaining apple juice and let cool. In a large ziplock bag add the pork loin and the marinade and let sit for 18 hours.

Step 2 - Make the glaze and prep the roasting pan (preheat to 375F)
Make the glaze by mixing the maple syrup and mustard.
Put the apple, fennel, and oil in a roasting pan (a dutch oven works great). Toss.

Step 3 - Roast
Drain the Roast from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Place roast on the apples/fennel mix. Pour glaze over top.
Stick an instant read thermometer into the centre of the roast. Put the roast into the oven and roast until the temp reaches 145F (between 90 and 120 minutes)
Remove the Roast and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve.

That's it. I promise next time to take pictures of the roast.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sausage, Leek and Apple Pie

I tried out a new recipe tonight: Sausage, Leek and Apple Pie.

When I was young we would eat store bought savory pies - I think they might have been made by Swanson. They had beef and peas and carrots in them and the crust was always hard and didn't taste like much. I never really liked them.

So when I saw the recipe for the savory pie at Making Light, I was a little hesitant. I mulled it over in my head for a couple of days before deciding to give it a try. It didn't have any of the same ingredients that I remembered from the old ones I had as a kid and all the recipes I've made from the Making Light have turned out well.

It took me just over an hour to get the pie together and another 45 min to cook it (this included time to make the pastry). It turned out well - not spectacular but way way way better than the pies I remember and the recipe is definitely filled with potential. I ate it with a nice Australian Pinot Grigio.

I did deviate from the recipe a tad. I omitted the saffron because I didn't have any in the house. I forgot the splash of sherry (which I do have in the house). Both of these would add to the savoriness and goodness of the pie. Next time I think I'll increase the sausage and decrease the leeks (there was a lot of cooking water that had to be reduced). I also didn't have any tapioca in the house which explains the runny sauce.

But all in all the recipe is a keeper. I may even try making individual pies to take to work/school.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zucchini? Bleh!

I hate Zucchini. I hate the taste and the texture; just the thought of it makes me unhappy.

And I'm going to learn to like it.

I've made myself like olives. A month before our trip to Morocco, I ate olives until they didn't disgust me. It took a bit of work, but by the time the trip came I could eat olives without making a face. And then in Morocco I had the most wonderful olives in existence (they have whole isles of olives in the grocery stores with trays to put the pits for tasting).

I've made myself like wine. The first wine I had was some awful ice wine, but then I started with the fruity wines and moved to more oaky and smoky wines. Now I'm into Chiantis and Pinot Noirs (not sure how you pluralize either of those).

My next target is zucchini - never really liked it. I bought 4 on Thursday and haven't yet had the guts to make anything with them. But tonight I'm going to try it sauteed with butter (lots of butter) and parmesan. Wish me luck.

And if you have a really great zucchini recipe that doesn't hide the taste, leave it in the comments - I'm willing to try pretty much anything.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back from the hunt

I'm back. From deer hunting.

(Fair warning: long post about deer hunting. If you morally object to hunting skip this one. My next post will be about zucchini [don't know if that is better or worse].)

My father-in-law told me that his hunting group needed a couple more people to go deer hunting with them this year as they were getting a little low on young blood. I got Friday off and we headed up to Lake Memesagamesing Thursday.

I was very excited but also very nervous. I didn’t grow up with people that hunted and I always envisioned them being crazy rednecks. I’m not really a “man’s man”, if you know what I mean. I also don’t do all that well around blood. Way out of my comfort zone.

I bought all of the gear I needed which really only consisted of clothing of the orange variety. Fluorescent orange toque and jacket, plus insulated rubber boots. Add a compass to that and a couple of things you should always have with you in the woods (matches, knife...) and I was ready to go.

Quick explanation for those who don't know how this works (I was in this category until Friday)

The group hunts from about 8:30 until 4:00 each day, doing 4 or 5 runs each day. A run consists of two groups of people: the watchers and the doggers. The watchers line up in a row and wait. The doggers walk or boat short distance (500-1000m) away and start walking to the watchers, barking occasionally. Yes, I said barking. The point is to scare the deer to the watcher line at which point the watchers will hopefully shoot one.

At this point you've probably realized that the watchers need to have guns, but the doggers don't. I don't have a gun. I ended up dogging every run. That's somewhere between 7 and 10 km of walking each day, through the bush, half the time without a trail. Noon the first day I started to hurt and the hurt lasted right until the end. I am out of shape.

We hunted Friday and Saturday. We got a deer on the last run of the first day. The run was on Burnt Island; the doggers making a line across the island and the watchers on the shore or in a boat. We accidentally let a deer get behind the line so we had to double back and then go forward again, walking the length of the island about 2.5 times. I was so tired after that run that I couldn't move. I just sat down and watched the deer being cleaned (no photos posted of that - you're welcome). I don't know if it was the fresh air or the fact that I was dead tired, but I watched the whole thing without getting queasy.

The second day was more and less eventful. Less because we didn't get a deer even though we walked a lot more than day 1. It was more eventful because I found a dog. In the bush. I crested a little hill and there was this little female beagle, just sitting there with one paw in the air. I tried to feed her but she wouldn't eat. I tried to get her to follow me, but she would do that either. She was close to skin and bones and I couldn’t just leave her there, so I put her on my shoulders like I would a lamb and dogged that last ¾ of the run with a 30 lb dog on my back.

We tied her up at the boat and continued hunting. At the end of the day we brought her back to the cottage with us. She belongs to a hunting group just up the road from where we were. The guys figure that she took off after a deer or rabbit and couldn’t find her way back. I’m just glad I found her and brought her back (even though I got a bit of ribbing for carrying a dog through the bush).

After each day, everyone from the hunt, plus their spouses and kids, plus others from the group of cottages all gather somewhere for drinks and food. Here the stories come out about great hunts, getting lost, or someone's folly. Everyone was ultra-friendly and made me feel right at home.

The guys who hunt Memesagamesing are a great bunch of guys. They accepted me without hesitation. I got my fair share of teasing for not having a gun and for rescuing the dog, but it was all without malice.

There is tonnes more to talk about, but I'm sure I've bored you long enough.

So I’m back. I didn’t get lost in the woods (not a huge concern) and I didn’t faint at the sight of a deer being gutted (a big concern). And I’m thinking of getting my firearms license and a doe tag and going up again next year.

(FYI: this is my 100th post)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stepping out of my comfort zone

A wise man once said to me:
"People are so afraid of being uncomfortable. Don't people know that you grow the most when you are out of your comfort zone?"

The conversation was in June and I have been thinking about it ever since. And while I firmly believe that one needs a comfort zone where one feels safe, I also agree with my friend about stepping out of that zone.

And I am. This weekend. I'm going on an adventure, at least for me.

Wish me luck - I'll let you know how it went on Monday. If I make it back.
Several weeks ago a Martin Gommel posted a blog entry entitled 100 Things I've learned about Photography. If you are into photography, there are some real gems of information in there.

Making a list of things you've learned about a particular subject is worthwhile activity. If you are like me you often forget what you've learned. Writing it down re-enforces it in you brain; you'll remember it quicker next time you need to.

I'm not at the point in photography to have a list of 100 things I've learned (I'm not sure I can fill a top 10 list). I can, however, fill a top 13 list of things I've learned about cooking. So without further ado:

Thirteen things I've learned about cooking

1. Cook with others - you'll learn something new.
2. Cook for others - nothing will spur you on to be a better cook then that look of appreciation when handing someone a meal, a loaf of bread or even a homemade cookie.
3. When trying out a new recipe do as much prep as possible before you start. The same goes of old recipes.
4. Acquire and use prep bowls of all sizes - they are invaluable and you can never have too many.
5. There aren't many foods that don't benefit from the addition of cheese.
6. Place an oven mitt over the handle of anything that comes out of a hot oven.
7. Cooking without a recipe exercises the creative part of your brain. Closing following a high-quality recipe exercises your technique. You need to do both.
8. Try to overcome food dislikes and periodically retry food that you thought you didn't like. You might surprise yourself.
9. Learn how to make roux - it'll make pan and béchamel sauces a breeze. Sauces finish a plate.
10. Learn to make your own chicken stock. It'll blow away the store bought stuff.
11. Practice chopping. Carrots, onions and potatoes are cheap. Consistency is better than speed.
12. Use your good friends as new recipe guinea pigs - they'll tell you when a meal stinks.
13. Be mindful of presentation, even for you and your family. Good presentation will make food taste better.

So there you go - 13 tips you can use next time you cook.

Can you make a top 13 list of things you've learned about something?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Totally stoked

Let me preface this with the blatant observation that I am neither young nor hip so I don't know if "stoked" is a word that is still in use by the hip kids. In case it is not and you weren't born between 1970 and 1985, the definition is as follows:
adjective - to be "stoked" is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something. Those who are stoked all of the time know this; being stoked is the epitome of all being. When one is stoked, there is no limit to what one can do.
And I am officially stoked.

If you look at my flickr stream you probably know that I take my camera to the barn almost every time I go. A few weeks ago someone asked Tara if I took pictures of horses for people (other than Tara). She said she would ask me.

I thought about and decided to give it shot. I figured that if I put up a small ad at the barn for 'photos by Richard' the worst that would happen is that either a) I would get no takers b) I would take some photos for someone and they wouldn't care for them. While both would be a blow to my self-esteem, it would be one I could handle. So I put up a flier with a quick advertisement, my flickr account link and my email address.

A week went by with no takers.

And then the Friday before last, one of the boarders at the barn asked Tara if I would mind taking photos of her two horses. When Tara told me, I was both excited and nervous. We set a date for the coming Sunday. I didn't sleep well the night before.

Sunday came and as soon as we got to the barn, the sun slipped behind some rain clouds. As quickly as I could, I took some photos of the first horse. I did my best to remember all the theory in my brain - the rule of thirds, filling the frame, movement towards the center, change up the perspective, look for the details, the exposure triangle. Plus I did my best to carry on a conversation with the horse's owner. After about 25 minutes of shooting we felt rain drops and called it quits. I wasn't thrilled with all the shots but I thought I had done a decent job considering the lack of sun.

I watched Tara tack up Lego and warm him up. After a few minutes I looked outside: the rain had stopped and the sun was peering out. I ran to the door and look at the clouds; there were still a number of them in the sky, but I had some time. I walked out to the paddock and started shooting. 45 minutes I had some better shots of the first horse and a few of the second.

Later that day I picked out about 70 of the best shots, then cropped and corrected their colour. I turned them into thumbnails and burned them to a CD; Tara was going to drop the CD off on Monday. Her schooling got in the way and the CD didn't make it to the barn until Thursday. Friday night I got an email - the client (I can call her a client!) requested 11 photos! Eleven! I was totally stoked!

I got her photos printed today and I'm going to deliver them tomorrow.

I'm not looking to turn this into a career but it is very very cool that someone wants to buy my photos.

Beautiful Gaze Coming for a visit

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Whisky sour

My Lovely is away this week, working in a clinic in Toronto. This has left me alone with my culinary shackles unleased. So what do I make for dinner? Simple steak and potatoes. I decided on my way home to pick up a bottle of Chianti.

But that's all beside the point. The thing that caught my eye inside the LCBO was a advert for an amateur photography competition, main prize a photography package*: "Whisky in focus". With a quickening step I walked home eager to find out more.

(aside: I don't drink whisky. Don't really like the stuff. But I have a small bottle in the house for a wonderful whisky-maple glaze I make for grilled chicken)

I fed the cats as the computer warmed up. I logged in, brought up Firefox and typed in . The photo competition link was front and center. Bingo. I started devouring the site (even though it opened up a new browser window -I hate that)

Five categories, blah blah blah, annoying music with an poorly placed mute button, blah blah blah, contest details. I read over the terms and conditions when I see this:
  • ... At the time you send any Photo Entry, in whole or in part, to the LCBO, and whether or not your entry is selected as a winner, you irrevocably transfer, convey and assign to the LCBO all right, title and interest in and to your Photo Entry, in whole and in part, and all the intellectual property rights therein, throughout the world in perpetuity, including without limitation any and all copyrights and the registration, renewal, and derivative rights and you waive all moral rights ...
Full Stop. Come on LCBO - you want me to give you all the rights of each photograph I submit to you with the slim hope I could win a camera? I may be a poor Software Tester, but I know enough to know that this is a bad deal. This is more than the rights to display and use the photos - this is complete control transfered from me to you. Under this deal I wouldn't even be able to post submitted photos to my Flickr account or put them on this blog.

This smells like the LCBO trying to build up the stock photograph portfolio.

I'll be passing on this contest.

To any of you reading this that are considering entering this contest, I wish you luck but do consider the terms. You may not care what happens to your photograph and that's fine. But it's not fine for me.

If anyone from the LCBO wants to contact me, leave a comment and I'll get back to you right away.

*The grand prize is a photo package that includes a 10 megapixel camera, but they don't specify the make or model - perhaps they don't know yet...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No knead bread (modified)

I made the slow rise, no kneed bread for thanksgiving dinner and it seems like more than a couple people enjoyed it. So I'm posting my modified recipe here - it's based off of this blog post that I blogged about here.

The beautiful thing about this bread is that it takes patience (which I tend to have) and not a lot of work (which I like). You basically make a wet dough with flour, yeast, salt and butter, let it sit for 12-18 hours, shape a let rise for another 2 and then bake in already hot pot. Easy peasy. Without further ado:

Richard's No Knead Bread (based off Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread recipe)

3 C flour (AP or bread flour, up to 50% whole wheat)
1/3 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C water
3-4 Tbsp butter, melted

1. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients. Add the water and butter and mix well. Cover bowl and let rest for 12-18 hours (the longer the better). I put mine on top of the fridge. The dough will rise a fair amount and look spongy; it will double in volume (or even a bit more).

2. Scrape the dough onto a floured table and coat your hands with flour. Fold the dough over onto itself 5 or 6 times and the let rest for 30 minutes (covered if drafty).

3. Coat your hands with flour again and shape the dough into a ball. Place on a heavily floured tea towel and then fold the towel over top of it (so it is covered completely). Let it rise 2-3 hours, (until doubled in size).

4. 45 minutes before the dough is ready put a heavy pot or a dutch oven into a 450F oven and let it get hot.

5. When the dough has risen and the pot is hot and as gracefully as possible, dump the dough into the hot pot and cover. Let bake for 30 minutes and then remove the cover and bake for another 15-20 (until top is browned). Remove and place on a rack to cool.


I've got too many things to be thankful for:

An amazing wife who isn't afraid to step out and pursue what she wants. Doing a residency is hard (harder than portrayed on TV) and doing one in conjunction with a PhD doubles that. She comes home tired but still manages to work around the house and look after me and doesn't mind that I'm a goof.

A wonderful family that keeps in touch even when I don't.

A great family-in-law that I get along with. From what I hear that isn't terribly common.

A good job that lets me do what I enjoy and pays me for finding things wrong with what they make.

A dedicated church with dedicated people that don't let me get by with just coasting.

A warm house that's big enough to entertain and sleep friends and family.

A little bit of culinary talent and a wife, friends, and family that don't mind being guinea's pigs.

A fun hobby that lets me capture moments so I don't forget them in 3 weeks (like I'm prone to do).

Too many thing to write down. I am truly blessed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On Explore

I try hard to not be one that toots his own horn, but I found out today that one of my Flickr photos has made it onto Flickr Explore. Flickr Explore is an algorithm that picks out photos that it thinks are worth looking at or otherwise exploring (hence the title).

I really shouldn't be proud that some computer algorithm picked this photograph, but it is kinda cool that out of the ½ million photos uploaded to Flickr every day, I'm in a slice 500 large. The photo is currently standing at #263 on October 2nd. I have no idea how long it will stay there - it has been fluctuating all day and only Flickr knows the algorithm. I suspect it will disappear before long.

I took the photo at Tara's last horse show of the season on Sunday. It was a great day.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Word from the wise

Quick food related post:

I made roast chicken tonight for the first time since the spring. I love roasted chicken. Juicy and rich and oh so good. Simple and easy.

I was making the gravy and I poured in the cornstarch and water mix to thicken it. It bubbled and foamed which I thought was pretty odd, but it had been a while since I made gravy so I didn't think much about it.

I'm stirring and stirring and the gravy isn't thickening at all. That's also odd. Too odd. I thought to myself - could the cornstarch have gone bad and lose it's thickening power? Not likely. It was only then that I turned to the cornstarch box to give it a look.

Now, in our house we keep the corn starch and the baking soda in their boxes a big ziplock bag so they don't' take on the flavors of the pantry. I had just grabbed the bag and taken out the box. Except it was the wrong box. No wonder the gravy foamed!

What to do now? Is it ruined? What would baking soda do to gravy? I quickly add the cornstarch and let it thicken before taking a tentative taste. Yuck - it tasted like salty chickeny soap. Different methods are going through my head about fixing it - the best one I could think of to neutralize the baking soda was vinegar. I poured in a couple of glugs of a some nice cider vinegar and watched the foam rise again. I take another tentative taste. No dice, now it tastes like acidic salty chickeny soap.

We ate out chicken, carrots, squash and tomatoes without gravy tonight. It was still good.

Aside 1: I just found out my grandmother has contracted West Nile in southern Manitoba. Prayers would be appreciated.

Aside 2: Take a gander at my flickr page - the photos I took this past weekend turned out pretty good.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Speedy return!

I tried my hand at some long exposure shots this weekend. This is what I got.

See those two purple blotches? No, that's not aliens, that's my camera sensor screwing up and inserting light where there is none.

So my beautiful d70s is off to the shop to get repaired. I hope.

[Update - the next day]

So it turns out that
a) This purple splotch thing is common. It's called Amp Glow and it a design defect in the camera. It can't be fixed.
b) Blacks Photography didn't know this and was going to send the camera to be fixed anyways. Booo.
c) There is a setting on the camera that can help. It basically takes a second picture with the shutter closed and then does a subtraction from the original.

So I have my camera back and it is still defective (but I can live with it until i can afford a D300)

Labour weekend

The plan:

1) Take Friday off
2) Head up to the cottage early Friday morning
3) Spend a couple of hours digging plumbing trenches at the cottage
4) Spend the rest of the weekend relaxing, swimming, fishing, boating, photographing, eating
5) Drive back Monday

What actually happened:

Tara needed to finish up a grant proposal Friday morning and we found out that my sister-in-law Laura (and husband Tim) needed a last bit of help moving a load from their old apartment to their new one. A perfect fit we thought - I could help Laura and Tim move, Tara could finish up the grant and we would be on the road by noon.

We didn't count on two things: the amount of time it takes to get an handful of signatures at OVC the Friday before the long weekend, and the amount of time it takes to pack and move 'just the left overs' half way across Hamilton. There was 3 loads of packing and moving and 51 stairs to the new apartment. Laura, Tim and I were done at 6:15 Friday evening, just 30 minutes after Tara was. So after a quick Ice Cap at Tim Horton's (and watching a guy who was obviously way more stressed than us yell at the staff at said Tim Horton's for making him wait 25 minutes for a coffee) we were on the road.

At the cottage (which looks like it is going to be amazing by the way) we found out that the fill that was put into the basement wasn't compacted before frame went up. This meant that the support poles holding up the building were falling over. One fell 3 different times. The sand needed to be compacted.

Thankfully Mr. Mathews from the cottage over had a backhoe and Dave had rented a compactor. The rest of the weekend was spent digging 10'x10' holes 8-12' deep, jumping in with the compactor and a shovel and compacting the sand while the backhoe kept dumping more in until we go to the top. Then it started all over again with another hole... We had fans blowing air in and out so we didn't get CO or CO2 poisoning and someone was watering down the sand so it would compact really well.

And that is how I spent my weekend. Oh ya - plus a couple of accidents on the 400 necessitated us to take the long back way home, making the trip from the lake to our home 7.5 hours (including a brief stop at the barn to see Lego).

But I'm not complaining. At all. Seriously - I had a great time with Tim and Laura helping them move. Spirits were kept pretty high even though we were sweating bullets. I got to learn the importance of compacting the ground before you frame a house. I got to learn how to use a compactor in tight quarters and by the end I was doing a half decent job. I got a evening to shoot some pictures and sit around the camp fire. The weather was amazing (warm, breezy, zero bugs) and the one dip I took in the lake was very refreshing.

(The only thing I didn't do was learn how use a backhoe. Maybe next time Tara's folks build a cottage...)

Yes, thinking back on the weekend I don't think I'd change a thing.

The inside of the cottage in the big room upstairs. The kitchen will be on the right, the wood stove in the middle and the dinning room table on the left.

Our sleeping accommodations for the weekend. No windows, but better than sleeping on roots and rocks

The bulk of the time was spent here. That's me spraying down the sand (it compacts better wet). That's Dave in the corner with the compactor

Taffy chasing after a ball through in the water.

Laura up on a wakeboard after a hard day of working.

Maple from next door just cooling off in a hole he dug for herself (in one of the many sand piles).

Beautiful sunset.

Big (or little) little dipper watching over us as we relax by the fire.

Big (BIG!) dock spider. And her itsy-bitsy babies.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Surreal moment

Nothing blog worthy is happening in my life. Except for this one thing:
My boss gave me a 2.2kg (4.5 lb) bag of iceberg lettuce today at work

It's worth noting that iceberg lettuce is my favorite of the lettuce family, but what I am going to do with all this lettuce?

The comment board is open for suggestions.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Making pâte à choux (aka éclairs)

When I was a wee lad, my mom used to make these things called cream puffs. There were these pastry globes just smaller than a hardball. The tops would be cut off and the insides stuffed with whipped cream. They were very good and we only had them occasionally (but never for guests I don't think).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was surfing the information super highway and I came across this post about éclairs. These éclairs sure looked a lot like the cream puffs my mom used to make, except these had chocolate on them. A quick conversation with my mom confirmed that all those years ago, mom was making éclairs, sans chocolate! Way to go mom!

So where does "pâte à choux" come in? That's the french name for the dough paste that is baked to form the pastries. "Choux" is french for cabbage (and I'm sure you've heard of pâte). The pastry does look a little like little cabbages after it comes out of the oven.

Anyways I tried my hand at the following recipe this Saturday. I whipped up a nice custard filling, a chocolate glaze and the pastries. It took about 3 hours start to finish, but I think I could reduce that significantly once I'm not so nervous about screwing it up. It wasn't terribly hard - about the same difficulty in a home made pie. I'm sure each one of you could make this (and if you are trying to woo a young lad or lass, these would go over well in that endeavor).

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the éclairs- the pastry at least. I can post recipes for the filling and chocolate too if anybody is interested, but they are run-of-the-mill recipes.

Chocolate Éclairs (derived from the Joy of Cooking)
(preheat oven to 400F)

1 C pastry flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
3 C pastry cream, boston cream, vanilla cream, banana cream or whipped cream
1 C chocolate glaze

1. Measure out your flour.
2. Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
3. Dump the flour in the boiling liquid and stir rigorously, over heat, until the dough clumps together and pulls away from the wall of a the saucepan. Cook for another minute and then remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time into the dough (either by hand or with a mixer). Make sure the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one.
5. Put the dough into a pastry bag (I used a zip lock bag with a hole in the bottom) and pipe out 12-14 large pipes onto a cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes and then reduce the temp to 350 and back for another 20 minutes or so. After the 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the pastries in for 10 minutes longer. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
7. Cut pastries in half. Stuff the bottom with cream and dip the top in chocolate before returning the top to the bottom. Store in the fridge until ready to eat. That's all there is too it!

These are best the same day as they were made, but they can do well in the fridge for a day or two if need be. I've also heard that they freeze well, but that is unconfirmed.

These pictures aren't the highest quality but I was more focused on the recipe than the photography. And for the nit-pickers, pâte à choux is just the dough, and the éclair is the combination of the dough, cream and chocolate. They say you can make a savory pastry with chicken stock - that sounds interesting....

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This is what the dough should look like after the heat

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Pre bake, post bake, post stuffed and dipped

Mmmmm, mmmmm goooood.....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Weekend update

Another long weekend has come and gone. Only one more left in the summer and two in the entire year. But we'll try not to think about that.

We had a good weekend at the Siemens's. The whole family was here (Mom, Dad, Julie, Peter). It was pretty low-key but a good time was had by all.

On Sunday we made roll kuchen which is Mennonite for "flat fried salty dough". We didn't have Grandma's recipe so we used another a recipe from the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes. They turned out mediocre. They weren't salty enough and not crisp enough and something was missing. Perhaps we should have fried them in lard instead of oil. We have lots left, so if you are reading this in the next few days and want to try some no-so-good roll kuchen, let me know.

On Sunday we also used out Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker attachment for the first time. We made this really really rich vanilla ice cream. And when I say rich, I mean it's just vanilla bean, egg yolks, whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar and salt. Except we put in Splenda for the sugar (for dad's sake). The ice cream turned out pretty good, but it was rich. Almost (almost!) too rich.

First time, first placeOn Monday Tara had a horse show; Lego's first. It was held at Old Orchard Farms. Mom and dad came, as did Tara's colleague Fernanda (plus Tara's coach and assistant). Since Lego isn't cantering yet, Tara went into just one class - the adult walk-trot. Lego was a very loud young man that day, whinnying and whinnying all the way tot he show. But he calmed down for the class itself. They walked and they trotted and at the end, Tara and Lego took the red ribbon! (that's first place for all you non-horsey people). A very exciting and proud day.

And that was it for the second last long weekend of the summer. We have to get back to our regular life now :(

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More unoriginal content

I've got a post culminating about baking éclairs, but until I perfect the process here is a youtube video. The music is pretty awful so just turn it off and watch.

I don't know about you, but after seeing this I just want to hop on my bike and take off to the nearest forest.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mine field garden

Bit of a departure from my regular posts, but the following blog post has been percolating through my brain since I read it last week.

Alexander Trevi proposes that we turn mine fields into beautiful gardens / ecosystems that would be immune (at least partially) from human presence. Scientists are developing plants that turn colour when they are grown on mines and mushrooms that work away at the explosives, slowly rendering them harmless. Seeds/spores would be sprayed on or dropped from planes. Plant life would pop up and animal life would creep in. The quarantined area would turn into a garden, albeit a wild one. Eventually the area would become safe but in the mean time only the thrill seekers would enter, in turn creating a beautiful labyrinth of trails known to be safe.

I cringe at the thought of having mine fields in my country, near my city. I can't imagine the anxiety of knowing that even where I think it's safe to walk it's not. I can't imagine not being able to wander through the bush in Canada. I thank God for the blessing of not having to worry about land mines here.

I'll let you read it and let you form your own thoughts.
(image by madzoy)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Webster's Falls

On Sunday I went to Webster's Falls in Dundas with friends from work on a Photo Field Trip. I had never been, but I think everyone else in the party had. It's a great park but a little crowed.

We were there for 4 or 5 hours and we all took some amazing shots (plus some duds). It's amazing how 6 people can take 6 completely different styles of photos.

Here are the sites where photos from others in my party may show up (no guarantees):
Ryan (and Joy?)
and Me

A few of my favorites from the day:
Falls 3 Mine! Contemplating falls Frogger 2 Falls 8

Wedding details and photos

Some you have asked how the wedding went. The answer: splendidly, if a bit stressful. But really - what weddings aren't stressful.

Tara and I got to the church a bit early so I took a few shots before I had to get into my tux. The church was right on the edge of a gorge, but there were too many trees to get a good picture down below. Very disappointing.

The guests came and bride showed up (beautiful as always Vanessa!). The ceremony was great; nobody missed a cue, nobody objected, and nobody fainted. And just like that the two of them were married.

There were some extended family pictures at the church and then we went down to the waterfront for a bunch more. I didn't take too many as I needed to pose in the pictures, but Tara took a lot and man, does she ever have a good eye. I think we are going to have to get a camera for her :)

After pictures the reception. Great food, good music and speeches that weren't too long. Cutting of the cake and the first dance and all of a sudden it was midnight and the room was clearing out.

Yessiree - a good day.

A few of my shots:

Broken fence



And here are few that Tara shot.