Thursday, November 30, 2006

As Canadian as Apple Pie

'If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.'

Although I'm not completely sure if the apple dumpling gang's special request was entirely heartfelt, this super keen blogger has never been one (in the two whole weeks that this blog's been in existence) to ignore the requests of a reader.

I learned to make pie crust three years ago from the lovely Karen Gatewood. A native of Americus, Georgia, Karen is mother of our dear friend Tee. Even as she was far away from home while visiting her son and his family in Scotland, Karen demonstrated her classic southern hospitality by kindly schooling me and a couple of other friends the art of pie making. She's a great teacher who de-mystified pastry and her recipe's delicious. I'll be making one this weekend.

Karen Gatewood's Apple Pie
Filling:
6c apples
1c sugar
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix dry ingredients with sliced apples.

Crust (enough for 3 crusts - two bottoms and one top):
3c flour
1 tsp salt
1c and 2 tbsp shortening (or butter/Cookeen in the UK)

Cut the above ingredients together. Add 1/2c ice water (to sight) and mix with wooden spoon into a ball (don't over blend!) Flour foil or wax paper. Split dough into three and roll onto wax paper until 1/8 inch thick. Put pie plate over the rolled out pastry, flip and fit to pan. Fill with apple filling and repeat rolling process for top crust. Fold and flute edges using a pinch and twist motion. Poke holes in top crust and sprinkle with white sugar. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes and then at 350F for 40 minutes. Lovely.

While you're making your pie you might want to give Paolo Nutini a listen. He's an up and coming Scotsman (Paolo sounds Scottish no?) Since today's pay day (woo hoo!) I'm going to celebrate by buying his cd tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't get your knickers in a twist

I received this attachment today from Cath Mc and thought it rather clever. Tried to think of something interesting to post about either laundry or global warming, but all I can come up with is that it is rather difficult to dry clothes here since both dryers and backyards are rare. So much for coming up with something interesting.

The car officially died today (sort of.) We were on our way to have dinner with Stu's sister and her family tonight (including our very charming seven month old nephew!) but we didn't make it. Why were you driving, you ask, when the car was acting up only a few days ago? Good question. As the temperature gauge climbed alarmingly high, we unfortunately had to cancel on Judith and park the car at a gas station. We went for pizza while we gave the steaming engine time to cool off. Despite how things were looking when we were stalled in rush hour traffic with our hazard lights on, the evening turned into quite a nice impromptu night out. Now let's just hope that the repair bill doesn't kibosh Christmas!

On a side note, we are watching Studio 60 on DVD. It reminds me of home because it's a downloaded Canadian copy off the internet (shhhh) that's got the CTV symbol on the bottom of the screen. I like it quite a bit but am not totally convinced - I was really excited to see it at first because I love Aaron Sorkin from the West Wing. And well, anything with Josh of course . . .

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sundog

I should begin this post with a disclaimer - anyone living in the prairie provinces who is currently being treated to wicked weather might want to stop reading now. You've been warned. The thing is, when I read Nancy's comment this morning about getting tonnes of snow and then saw in the news that super cold and snowy weather was blanketing the prairies, I felt homesick! Please don't be angry, but when my widget (gotta love the new Mac) said you'll be going down to minus 21 tonight, I wished I was there.

No, I'm not crazy - herein you will find evidence that there really is no place like home! It's just that we don't get weather like that here. Stu and I were at the Continental Christmas Fair in town yesterday where I mused, 'It's not really cold enough for mulled wine is it?' I know it's just my 'wish we were home for Christmas' self talking. And I know that my family will scornfully remind me that I haven't endured a real Saskatoon winter since 1998 but anyway, the feeling's there. Sigh, it's been so long that I've even lost my street cred in scoffing when people here shudder over temps reaching zero and the green fields getting a dusting of icing sugar snow (I do it anyway.) Homesickness will make a person say the strangest things . . .

Monday, November 27, 2006

An (Un)Manic Monday

Stu and I were both off today - how lovely to start a Monday by not hearing the alarm ringing! We were having a nice chilled out day (Christmas shopping, coffee drinking . . . ) until we took our car for its annual MOT inspection. In order to drive your car here you have to have a yearly check by government authorised mechanics. Not a bad idea in terms of road safety as there are a lot less beaters with dodgy brakes on the roads. Even though we'd taken it to our reliable mechanic Hubert for a tune-up our little 1997 Mazda failed on a couple of minor points. This was mildly annoying as it means getting the faults fixed and taking the car back for another appointment, but we became slightly more concerned when the car suddenly started making strange noises and stalling on the way home. Not good.

Fear not though, all was not lost in terms of the relaxing day off and I decided to take advantage of being home early to make a nice meal compliments of The Naked Chef. It was scrummy and very easy . . .

Tray-baked Pork Chops with Herby Potatoes, Parsnips and Pears
marinade
2 good handfuls of fresh rosemary, pounded
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
10 lugs of olive oil
3 lemons, halved, juice and skin squashed
freshly ground black pepper
Mix everything together.

8 pork chops
3 parsnips
3 smooth-skinned pears
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rub and massage the pork chops with the rosemary marinade, and, ideally, leave for 1-6 hours for maximum flavour. Preheat the oven to 425F. Wash the parsnips and pears and slice into quarters lengthwise, removing the cores from the pears, then cut the potatoes into .5cm thick pieces. Dry them with kitchen paper, then put them into an appropriately sized roasting tray with the parsnips, pears, pork chops and the marinade. Toss over to lightly coat everything then season and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chops.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How clean is your house?

You know you've grown up when your weekend plans involve cleaning the house. I remember being frustrated as a child on Saturdays, wanting to go out and do exciting things but being delayed by my mom's to do list which included very boring things like washing the kitchen floor. Well life goes on and Stu and I spent this afternoon in domestic bliss. After some enthusiastic scrubbing and de-junking, things are sparkling and I'm full of optimism about the tidy week ahead.

Periodically we get really motivated, clean everything up and resolve to be perpetually neat. But before we know it the week's gotten busy and suddenly we've reverted to the faithful method of leaving everything at our backsides. Sad but true. There's a reality TV show on here (Brits love reality TV and the stations love it even more because it's so dang cheap to make) which features two super clean women preforming whirlwind transformations on the disgusting houses of some really serious dirt-birds. Sounds like must-see TV huh? It's perhaps slightly exploitative as these places are def-com bad, suggesting that these people have bigger issues than simple laziness and an aversion to the 'hoover.' Nonetheless, I watch anyway and enjoy how it makes me feel less bad about the dumping ground that is our spare room.

But enough about cleaning. Today being Sunday, I made soup which has become a bit of a tradition chez-nous recently (can you call something a tradition after three weeks?) I chose to make Carrot and Parsnip soup and Irish Soda Bread. Last fall my sister-in-law Ruth mentioned this soup to me and I subsequently found the ingredients on a website that I can't seem to locate again. This one was really good with a mingling of sweet and hot flavours - it originally called for more chili powder but turned out too hot so I've reduced the amount here.

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic
3 cm root ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp chili powder (beware - this will give it a kick!)
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper (again, bit of a kick)
200 ml apple juice
500 ml veggie stock (I use Marigold)
1 1/2 c chopped carrots
1 1/2 c chopped parsnips
200 ml orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
natural yogurt

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and saute the onion, garlic and ginger until translucent. Add the cumin, coriander, chili, cinnamon and cayenne and fry for about 30 seconds more. Add the apple juice, stock, carrots and parsnips and simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. When the veg is cooked through, remove from heat, add the orange juice and puree with a blender. Season to taste and garnish with a dollop of natural yogurt.

The big hit of the afternoon was the Irish Soda Bread. What can I say? When in Rome . . . This super easy recipe is from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites and it turned out really well! The introduction to this recipe states, 'In many homes in Ireland, breadmaking is still an everyday affair . . . Always ready to be sociable at the drop of a hat, the Irish have perfected a number of quickbreads.' Ahem, I'm a bit skeptical about the everyday breadmaking thing but must admit that I was inspired to make soda bread by our very sociable friend Sara C (the original Irish domestic goddess!) who brought us a to-die-for loaf recently.

Irish Soda Bread
1 1/2 c white flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg white
1 c buttermilk (or 1 c regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice)

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the white flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Thoroughly mix in the brown sugar. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands!) cut the butter pieces into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, bet the egg white until frothy and add the buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until the dough is evenly moistened, the dough will be very soft. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board and, with floured hands, gently knead for just 30-45 seconds - overkneading will toughen the bread.

Mound the dough into a dome about nine inches across on the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut an X about 1/2 inch deep in the centre of the loaf. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crust is firm to the touch and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Shappin'

Don't worry, I didn't actually buy very much! (I just wanted to put an Anne Taintor pic on this post because I like her stuff.) I went into town today to do a little bit of Christmas shopping. Living far away from family forces me to be somewhat organised as I need to get the package for Canada put together and in the mail in reasonably good time. I had a bit of success today (something cool for you Ninny!) but I think I'm going to get most things on the internet because that way I can get exactly what I want and not spend my Saturdays doing battle with shopping-mad Northern Irish people. Anyway, my list's not too extensive because on Stuart's side of the family we've all drawn names and will only buy for one person each and then buy goats etc from Christian Aid with the moolah we would've spent on gifts. Oh yeah - we do buy for our three nieces of course as well (I'm all for teaching social responsibility young but how would you tell an eight year old that instead of getting her a pressie you've purchased a chicken in Zambia on her behalf!?)

On my way into town I think I broke an unwritten cardinal rule of urban living. I got onto a bus bound for Belfast and as I was paying for my ticket I realised that the driver lives two doors down from me. I friendlily exclaimed, 'I think you're my neighbour!' At first he seemed taken aback but then was nice enough when he recognised me. Okay - I know that might sound normal so perhaps I need to explain further the social intricacies of living in a small Victorian terraced house. The thing that is quite different here (where there is no space) from Saskatoon (where there is lots of space) is that we live very close to lots and lots of other people. It's a red brick jungle with about thirty attached row houses on each side of the street which is about a block long. Anyway, you'd think if you lived that close to your neighbours (and engage in ongoing parking spot wars with them) you would maybe get to know some of them right? Think again. My theory is that in order to cope with the population density we all just pretend that the others don't exist. There's not much waving hello or stopping to chat in the street and if you see any of your neighbours elsewhere in the hood, whatever you do, don't let on that you recognise them. But today I did. And he was nice.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Girl's Night In

Friday night at last! :) Stu's out at a work thing all evening and I have a choc-a-bloc schedule of enjoying a chick flick that Stu would rather throw himself off the roof than watch (I've read the reviews, I know it's not great but I'm watching it anyways and hopefully it's a tear jerker.) Other evening activities include getting 'stuck in' (Northern Irish lingo) to a new knitting project, blogging (my latest obsession) and drinking hot chocolate. Bliss.

After a hectic week at work and being out most evenings (one soiree included a satisfying evening playing badminton with work friends - took me right back to BRCI girls' doubles days with Andi!) I love cosying up on the couch. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd rather Stu were home and, while were talking about girls' nights, I'd very much like to have Nancy or Mom or many other women friends over to join me for the cheesy movie watching. Unfortunately, most of you are in Canada or the States so no luck for me there! (While we're on the subject though, it's been wonderful to get back in touch with many old girlfriends recently through this blog!) Anyway, tonight friends, it's just little ol' me and a whole lot of chilling. Cheers to that.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

mini me

Here's a fantastic way to waste a bit of time! Virtual make overs for yourself or someone else you care about.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

1-800-CALL-JEAN

My sister Nancy emailed me earlier tonight asking for a recipe suggestion for her work's bake sale on Friday. As for me, I instinctively look to the honourable Jean Pare, mogul of the Comany's Coming dynasty and grandmother of all good Canadian prairie food. Nancy, my recommendation is for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread - This recipe's based on Jean's rendition from 'Muffins and More.' It's been a big hit with my small group and with work colleagues (it's kindof unique here - people are expecting bread and they get cake - nice surprise!) And who could forget treeplanting? If it's good enough for Sardell . . .

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

makes 1 loaf
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1/2 butter melted
1 c mashed bananas (3 bananas, the blacker the better!)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat together the eggs, sugar, butter until frothy. Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla. In a separate larger bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the wet ingredients to dry and stir well but don't over mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into a loaf tin lined with baking parchment. Bake for 50-60mins or until a knife comes out clean.

Monday, November 20, 2006

TomKat


Just a super quick post to get something off my chest - I've had it with Tom Cruise, pre-maturely middle aged Katie and that hairy baby who's name means thief in Japanese and who looks suspiciously old for seven months. Sorry to sound quite so caustic, but the media here has been full of the Italian wedding, who was there (Brook Shields?? Obviously the whole post-partum scuffle's been put to bed) and what Posh wore. I mean, I liked the Top Gun/'You had me at hello' Tom as much as the next child of the eighties but since he revealed his lunacy a couple of summers ago it's all just gotten so boring. Phew, I feel better now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

'A truly filthy Irish day'



Even though it's my fourth winter living in the UK, I never fail to be surprised and upset by the arrival of winter. I know that seems like a funny thing for someone from the Saskatchewan arctic to say, but believe me, while a skiff of snow is about as 'wintry' as it gets in Ireland, there are still some temperature issues. Perhaps I should be more specific - what I'm really getting at is that it gets really cold in doors here. While at home it's so frigid that well-insulated houses, central heating and warm buildings are absolute musts, it's not uncommon for houses, churches and workplaces to be really cold here!! Drives me nuts. I love our wee house, but I have to admit that heating is a bit of a challenge as the kitchen doesn't have any heat (other than the oven!) Oh well - it's not really that bad. I have definitely learned to be more energy conscious, coming to see putting on slippers, wearing layers of fleece and exploring the wonders of hot water bottles (called 'jars' here) as sensible rather than resentable like I used to!

What prompted this rant about indoor heating? Well, the weather has turned really miserable this week - the commentator on the rugby game Stu's watching on TV just called it a 'truly filthy Irish day' and I have to agree - there's cold wind, dark skies and heavy rain. Okay, I'll stop whining because I know anyone at home reading this while coping with minus 30 will really want me to shut up!

Well, I think the best way to cope with nasty weather is to make soup and this Sunday afternoon I opted for Leek Vichyssoise from Crank's Fast Food (our all-time favourite cookbook). Don't ask me what vichyssoise is technically speaking, but the creamy leek and potato soup that the recipe yielded was delicious. I paired it with Savoury Scallion Biscuits from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (another fav). So, without further adieu . . .

Leek vichyssoise with Kaffir lime leaves
This can be served hot or cold but if you're going for cold, thin it down with a little extra stock.
Serves 4
60g butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 large leeks, trimmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large potato, roughly chopped
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
800ml vegetable stock made with 1/2 tsp bouillon powder (I always use Marigold)
4 Kaffir lime leaves, crushed but not broken up
1 tbsp double cream
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and sweat until translucent. Add the potato, nutmeg and a little of the stock. Cook quite fast for 5 minutes, then add the rest of the stock and the lime leaves and simmer for a further 10 minutes or so until the potato is tender right through. Remove the lime leaves and puree in a blender until smooth. Return to the heat for a moment while you stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

And for the biscuits . . .

Savory Scallion Biscuits
1 1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1 c low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 c minced scallions
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium bowl combine the flours and stir in baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients and then add the yogurt mixture quickly and thoroughly to form a soft dough. Drop eight spoonfuls of the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake for 20 minutes and serve warm.

I'm feeling warmer now.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Hoff Tub

Had a surreal experience the other night. While relaxing in the jacuzzi at our gym the other night, Stuart recognised a guy who had been a memorable S-bucks customer. The guy was notable because he'd been in getting a coffee the day before getting laser eye surgery - he'd been somewhat nervous and very chatty about going under the laser. Stuart must've been feeling friendly that night as well because Stu beckoned him over and asked how the surgery went. The guy, who's name turns out to be Magnus, proceded to get into the hot tub with us and tell the tale of how laser surgery has changed his life. He started out, 'It's a really funny story - Since I had the surgery, people started telling me that I look like someone famous . . . Have you ever seen Nightrider? . . . ' Before he had the words out I knew - 'David Hasselhoff!' I blurted out. Loe and behold, Stuart and I were sharing a hot tub with the world's only known Hoff look alike!!! In fact, Magnus delighted in telling us that in fact the very next day he would be whisked to Birmingham to be the guest of honour at the university's Bay Watch Appreciation Society's pub night where he would mingle and pose for photos with young college co-eds in bikinis. Unbeknownst to us, the real Hoff is extremely popular among the 18-24 set, especially in Ireland. And I have to say, while the real David seems to be losing the plot (what with his drunken airport escapades and sleazy 'Jump in My Car' song and all) the Hoff look alike is a lovely guy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How do you say about?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.


What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes


This is a funny quiz for a Canuck to take, but I found it pretty accurate.

26.2

Well, I was trying to think about what to write about and decided to do a quick post about Stu and I running the 2006 Dublin marathon on October 30th. I know that's quite a while ago now, but I only made this blog yesterday and since I'm still resting on my laurels since doing the marathon (trying to motivate myself to get out running again but haven't been too successful as yet!) I figure the 26.2 miles deserves at least one post. We had a great day in Dublin - there were over 12,000 runners (lots of Canadians! I'll be wearing a maple leaf next time) and the atmosphere of excitement and friendliness all the way around was so encouraging. Now, that didn't make it easy, but it's a great feeling to have people cheering for you (doesn't happen too often in life so when you get a chance to be told you're brillant, why not?) While I of course felt like death at the end, the amazing feeling of accomplishment is thrilling and addictive. I have to say I even felt kindof down a couple days afterward because I didn't have the big event to look forward to anymore. I think we'll do this one again next fall (she says - show me this post when it's time to start the training schedule again!)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You don't have to be mad

Well, here it is - the inaugural post of my new blog. I'm feeling kindof excited because I've frequented blogs for a couple of years now (mostly knitting and cooking) and have often wanted to get in on the act.

It's been a very dark, awful, rainy (did I mention dark?) day in Belfast and I needed something to cheer me up so hence the shiny new blog - I arrived home after getting soaking wet on my bike although the ride was not all bad and in some sick way I kindof enjoyed it. As I battled the driving wind and rain a guy biked past me in florescent waterproof gear similar to mine and said 'You don't have to be mad, but it helps!' Buoyed by the camaraderie of a fellow cyclist, I felt officially hardcore.

Have been mulling over blog names for a while now. I decided on this as a tribute to my Grandpa Hans Adolf - the title phrase was the first thing he said to my mom the first time they met as my parents had been out for a date/paddle on Waskana Lake in Regina. It was good of him (if a bit random) to be concerned about his future daughter-in-law's independence.