Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Catastrophic failure

We had a sudden and catastrophic failure in our household last night. I was dicing up some butter to make a nice sticky toffee pudding with my pastry blender when this happened:
All of a sudden - complete failure. I regained my composure, continued the recipe and, with Tara's help, barely pulled it off.

Thank goodness Tara had ordered a new blender at a Pampered Chef party not two days earlier (how did she know?). Now I just have to figure out what to do until it arrives.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fantasy over - the OC is no more

The last episode of the OC was this week. I was a regular viewer, right from the very beginning. It was my weekly dose of fantasy drama. It’ll be missed.

The OC had heroes and anti-heroes that resonated with people. The characters were close enough to ‘real’ people to be believable but the situations were contrived enough to be desirable. For example:

  • Ryan: Working class kid gets taken in by rich family, finds love, friendship and family.
  • Seth: Dork gets a cool friend, the popular girl he as had a crush on, becomes popular.
  • Sandy: Great relationship with kids, keeps family together, works for social justice.
    Kirsten: Executive in large company, daddy’s little girl, overcomes alcoholism.
  • Summer: Snobby rich kid who falls in love with dork and eventually redeems herself.
  • Marissa: Quintessential girl next door who needs saving by a bad boy. Her death scene will be in my mind for a long time…

See, something for everyone.

In addition to the cast and plots, the soundtrack to the OC was great. Filled with (mostly) great indie tracks, the music never disappointed. Six soundtrack CDs were released, each of them great (save the Christmas special CD). Over the 4 seasons some 600 tracks were played; if I had a spare $600, I would pick them all up from iTunes.

This last season had an uneven cadence and it seemed to lack direction, accentuated in the finale. Regardless, the OC was an hour a week I could pretend the sun was always shining, my pockets were never empty and there was always a pretty girl that needed saving. The OC will be missed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Never killed a thing

I married into a family from northern Ontario. The culture up there is quite different from the one I grew up in or the one I'm living in right now. Not worse or better, just different.

One thing my in-laws do is hunt. Deer, moose, and partridge. These were meats that I hadn't tried until I met my in-laws and boy was I missing out. Grilled venison T-Bone is amazing and I now love a nice moosemeat stew. Wild game has a earthier, richer taste that the stuff from the grocery store and I relish every bite because I know there is a limited supply until next year.

But every time I partake in the lovely spoils I feel a little guilty. Guilty that I 'm eating an animal that I don't think I could kill and clean myself. I take that back - I think I could kill the animal, but I don't think I have the stomach to clean one. Heck - I can even get a little woosey cleaning a bass.

Perhaps it is something that I just need to do once; to gut-check my queasiness and then be ok after that. Or it might not be something that I can ever do or watch. Living with a vet who comes home with, um, interesting stories to share over dinner has indeed strengthened my stomach but not that much.

What spawned this thought process was an Outfront podcast that I listened to on the way home tonight. (Aside: Outfront is a CBC program with a weekly podcast. I listen to several from the CBC, the Culinary Podcast Network, and TVO; but that's another entry). This entry is about a family trying to live off the land and the struggle that poses for one member of the family. If you have 15 minutes, it's an excellent listen - probably one of the best from Outfront.

Maybe one year I'll take a week off in November, head up to the "Gateway to the North" and go deer hunting with my father-in-law. I'll bag myself a nice buck and Dave will force me to clean it. Maybe he'll even catch me when I faint.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Recipe - Sticky Toffee Pudding

My good friend Andy asked for the recipe for the Sticky Toffee Pudding. He's from across the pond where they make this stuff all the time. Andy - I hope this meets your expectations (oh and Andy - it would be really cool to make it as a surprise for your missus).

It's a pretty easy recipe but the result is really quite out of this world. The only mildly exotic thing is the dates and soaking them (something I've never done before). Beyond that - it's a quick and easy recipe - perfect for making with kids I would think. The only trouble I ran into is the toffee sauce; it kept splitting. I don't know why. I just whisked it together and it tastes fine.

And in case you don't know, this recipe makes pudding in the British sense (cakey dessert), not the North American/Bill Cosby sense (thickened milk based dessert).

This recipe is taken (and slightly modified) from Jamie Oliver's cookbook "Jamie's Dinners"

Sticky Toffee Pudding

8oz fresh or dried dates, pitted
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 C + 1 tbsp flour
1 1/5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp instant/espresso ground coffee
2 tbsp plain yogurt

Toffee Sauce
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1/2 C + 1 tbsp heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350F

Put dates in a bowl with baking soda and cover with 1 C boiling water. Let stand for a couple of minutes. Drain and puree in a food processor.

Cream butter and eggs until pale and then add flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and coffee. Mix together. Fold in date puree and yogurt. Pour into a butter oven-proof dish and make for 35 minutes. Don't over bake - it should still be moist in the middle.

Meanwhile, make toffee sauce. Over low heat melt the butter and sugar. Add the heavy cream and cook until sauce has thickened.

To server, spoon pudding into a bowl and drizzle toffee sauce over top.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Outfit test: -15°C with a windchill of -23

Quick post-superbowl post. Tara and I went on a walk today in the great Canadian winter. It was -15°C out and the wind was howling and snow was blowing, bringing the temp down to -23. I was in my new jacket and snowpants with longjohns and a Kombi base layer on top. I also had on a balaclava, a toque, and ski gloves. We were out for 30 minutes and before that I spent 30 minutes shoveling snow.

Verdict? Success! I was toasty warm after shoveling and I didn't get a chill after slowing down to a walk. I wasn't too bulky or uncomfortable. I am confident that the rockies won't be too cold for me.

I love the winter.