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Monday, October 09, 2006

Pumpkin soup, anyone?

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Soup, pie,'s all the same thing, isn't it? hehehehe.

Happy belated thanksgiving all - hope everyone had wonderful weekends, replete with tryptophan turkey comas and jugs of delicious gravy!

I had a fun thanksgiving. As luck would have it, I managed to get out of making a turkey dinner at the last minute - we headed up the valley to my in-laws' house. The great part of this was that I got out of making the whole turkey dinner, but silly, silly me decided that I should volunteer myself to provide dessert.

At first, I thought it would just be hubs and myself and the in-laws. But then, the grandparents, an aunt, and SIL/BIL came as well. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, but due to laziness on my part, I didn't start the dessert until just after midnight on Saturday morning.

Hubs and I went out for a fab dinner on Friday night - I started with coconut shrimp satay, then butternut squash soup, and then grilled bison with portabello mushrooms and scalloped potatoes. Yumminess. Finished it off with a deliciously decadent espresso. And a whole whack of wine - hubs always insists on ordering a bottle with dinner (no complaints here!), but since he's driving, I always end up with the lion's share. Now, a sane person would have gone home at this point to start dessert. But no! We joined SIL and BIL at a local pub to celebrate BIL's birthday. So of course I had a beer.

After this, we bought groceries (thank goodness for 24 hour grocery stores!) and I got the ingredients to make dessert. How's that for procrastination? Rather than pumpkin pie, I found a recipe for a four-layer pumpkin torte; thought this would make a more impressive addition to the meal. And it did....eventually.

Layer one went smoothly - crushed gingersnaps, melted butter and sugar, pressed into the bottom of a springform pan. Pretty easy, pretty straightforward... :)

Layer two - also a breeze. Cream cheese, sugar and eggs all came together in a rich fluffy mass, and off into the oven for 20 mins.

Still good.

Layer three is where is all fell apart....slightly more complicated than the other layers, this layer involved three different parts. The main part consisted of pumpkin, spices, milk, sugar and egg yolks, cooked on the stove until thickened. By the time I hit this stage, it was already past 1AM. Perhaps it was my impatience or perhaps it was the beer/wine-judgement, but I don't think I let this thicken enough. The second part of this layer was a package of gelatin, dissoved in 1/4 c. water. Pretty sure I dissolved it too early, and then I continued to add more water until it got all granular. hmmmmm....maybe not the best decision. Anyway, the last part of this layer was whipped eggwhites (pretty sure I pulled that off).

After this layer was all mixed together, I wasn't entirely convinced it was going to set up, but poured it on the other two layers none-the-less.

And went off to bed.

When I woke up, the layer was SOUP. Pumpkiny-cinnamony SOUPY disastrous mess. I had a plan B, but I wasn't yet ready to throw in the towel on this labour of love. I racked my brain on what I could possibly do and then just decided to throw the whole mess in the oven. I figured that the gelatin might melt, but hoped that the dubiously-cooked eggs would overcome that issue. After an hour in the oven, the cake wasn't quite solid, but I was running out of time!

I stuck the whole mess in the freezer for another hour and then took it out. It was somewhat softly squishily solid. But the centre was still warm. At this point, I added layer four (cool whip), made it look pretty and dusted with cinnamon. Stuck it back in the freezer, and eventually brought it to the in-laws.

I was quite worried - because people kept saying thigns like "oh, I'm sure it's wonderful).....and I had visions of a massive torte explosion as I lifted off the sides of the springform pan. Somehow, it all stayed together, looked awesome and tasted even better.

I was so relieved. Hubs family is awesome but has a communication network that could rival that of the pentagon. I knew that if it was good, everyone would hear, but I also knew that if it was bad, everyone would hear. (gack - and not in a malicious way - more in a "I just felt so bad for her after all the hard work" kind of way - v. embarrassing).

So all is well in domestic-goddes-land. :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bread, Cheese and Wine, oh MY!

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The rich goodness of French fermentation has struck again. Oh, and there was chocolate too. The female psyche is a rather delicate creature, subject to the whims and pulls of intense cravings for things that tend to make your behind look as wide as a mack truck. Hubs and I had the most deeeeeeeeeeeelicious dinner yesterday, and I have no one to blame but myself for what ensued.

Sitting at work, mildly bored, a craving struck me. I wanted cheese fondue, and I wanted it NOW. Visions of gooey, yummy swiss cheese danced through my head for the rest of the afternoon. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm….cheese. I checked out my old friend, for recipes that could guide me to a calcium-induced state of bliss…..but was left unsatisfied – the recipes seemed yummy, but the reviews spoke of stringy, separated wads of ick. No good at all.

But then I had a brain wave – you can buy pre-made fondue. This, my friends, is the way to go. No running around the grocery store trying to find just the right block of emmental and gruyere to create an exquisite blend. No staring at the recipe and wondering what the heck kirsch is. No running to the liquor store to buy a bottle of white wine that you know you won’t drink so you can use it for a recipe.

It comes all in its pre-packaged glory. Brilliant. And even better, the ingredient list is relatively short and sweet - – cheese, white wine and kirsch. I added a couple of cloves of garlic and a dash of nutmeg, but really, why bother with a coagulated blob when you can have creamy perfection right at your fingertips? Inspired by this fabulous find (also, at $7.99, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying gruyere, emmental, white wine and kirsch!), I also purchased a fresh warm round of bread, cubed it and used it to dip. Now, a friend of mine STILL has my fondue pot, but you’ll be happy to know that you really don’t need a fondue pot for a small cheese fondue. All you need is a heat-safe bowl, a microwave, metal rack and a tealight. :) Following the package instructions, I warmed the foil package in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, then snipped the corner and put the cheese in a bowl. Crushed two cloves of garlic, cracked some pepper (and ‘dashed’ some nutmeg) and nuked it all for a few minutes. I took my handy-dandy cooling rack (used for baking) and set it on the table, putting a tea light underneath. It was so good. Dipping the warm bread into the cheese, letting it cool for just a few seconds (better texture to the cheese) and then savouring it……..and what better to pair with cheese than wine? All the swiss web sites recommend white wine (probably because they are stuck with the better part of a bottle leftover from making the fondue), but we prefer red.

Not wanting to open my bottle of ’99 Listrac-Médoc (Natalie MacLean writes: “CHÂTEAU FOURCAS HOSTEN 1999 AC Listrac-Médoc VC: A polished, supple wine that shows off the fine, traditional Listrac-Médoc style. The aromas suggest tobacco, mocha, dried currant, menthol and cedar. This complex wine is dry, complete and nicely balanced by resolved tannins. It is drinking very well now with a fine Angus beef steak, however it will also last for up to five more years. My note: Delicious. Old World-style with black fruit.”), we stuck with the 2005 Naked Grape Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not bad at all – and was a nice complement to the cheese, though I think it could possibly have used something with a little more oomph (swiss cheese has a rather distinctive odour….).

Now, what could one possibly pair with this, the laziest of all suppers…..but chocolate. I finished the meal with several ounces of Lindt 70% dark chocolate. Mmmmmmmmm…..heaven……the only thing that could have made this meal better is if I had not been so lazy and had also made myself some espresso to accompany my rich, chocolate indulgence.

Note that there is not a vegetable in sight. Yikes. To round things out a bit though, my lunch yesterday was a spicy hoisin tofu veggie stir fry, and I had it with brown rice. Brown rice alone is certainly penance enough for indulgence. ;) Lunch today is poached Moroccan salmon and roasted potatoes, with green and red peppers. :) Dinner tonight….uh……fast food. *runs and hides* Wish me strength so I don’t cave and have a teen burger combo. (I’m rooting for sushi but we’ll see what strikes my fancy…..hahahaha).

For dinner tomorrow, hubs has mentioned taking me out for dinner (yay!) but if that falls through, there is a really yummy looking recipe that I’m dying to try - African Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce from the new Cooking Light. I may even go really bold and attempt injera, so we can eat true Ethiopian style (injera is kinda like a bubbly, sourdough pancake – it’s used as a platter for your food, and you tear off the edges, pick up yummy food and eat it. Ottawa folks, I recommend checking out The Horn of Africa downtown – yummy, cheap, and Ethiopian food has the coolest flavour – full of heat, cardamom and all sorts of things.

And now, I’m counting down the minutes until lunchtime…..gah!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


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As I was writing another post on a forum I frequent, it occurred to me, dear readers, that I have never fully explained the origin of my aversion to laundry. I am in the midst of composing a real post, but thought that this story might amuse you.

This story is slightly embarrassing, but amusing, nonetheless.

For my third year of university, I moved to France. I ended up having my own teeeeeensy little studio apartment (180 s.f.) within the cité universitaire – I had a bathroom, “kitchen” and a living space of sorts. There was one building like mine (with about 200 units), and there were two traditional buildings, with about 100 rooms each). So three buildings total. And there was one washer and one dryer.

There are a few key things here, first, the situation isn’t *quite* as bad as it sounds because most French students went home for the weekend (and did their laundry there). Also, the French don’t wash their clothes as obsessively as North Americans do, so the load (pardon the pun) was lightened.

Also worth noting is the French love of administration and bureaucracy. And lastly, it is worth noting that while I speak excellent French, it is tinged with a strong Canadian accent....and in France (particularly in Tours, where I lived), there is a lot of snobbery surrounding accents. Let's just say that my accent closely resembled that of the french equivalent of a redneck....

After two weeks in France, of feeling a bit homesick and frustrated with red tape, I REALLY needed to do laundry. I had no more money to buy more socks or undies, so I knew it was time. I had heard there was laundry in this one building in my complex, so I headed over to that building, figuring I would find my way to some sort of Laundromat-like facility. Well, I couldn’t get into the building.

The cleaning lady of that building eventually saw me and let me in, and then asked where I was going. I told her I was going to do laundry. She asked if I had signed up, and I said no. She looked at me like I was an idiot and said, obviously, you have to sign up, and that is in this other building (i.e., not the building where I lived, and not the building where the laundry was).

Okay. So I headed over to the other building to sign up. Thankfully, there was an open slot at that time, so this wasn’t nearly as complicated as it could have been. Despite getting a blast of crap for not having exact change for my laundry (another french obsession - exact change. egh. for this, you gave the administration money, and got a token in return), I still managed to both sign up and pay for my load of laundry. However, in order to get back into the building where the laundry was, I had to give the lady the key to my room. Kinda annoying, but oh well.

So I headed back to the laundry building, where I could now actually let myself in, but I couldn't find the Laundromat. After I very politely asked her, the cleaning lady irritably told me where it was, and yelled at me for being so obviously mentally deficient. I found my way in, but of course it was a European front-loading model, so I didn’t have a freaking clue how to work it, where to put the soap, how to turn it on, etc.

I went back in search of that kind, lovely cleaning lady (because of course it’s a weekend, there are no students around and I still can’t do my freaking laundry). My mental deficiency now confirmed, she started to yell at me, and proceeded to pick up the phone and give the admin lady a blast of crap that it’s not her job to help students, and what is up with these stupid international students who are so spoiled they don’t even know how to work a washer…etc.etc.

Feeling sensitive, homesick and frustrated, I just started to cry and stomped back into the laundry room. And of course I was also mortified at crying over the airing of my dirty laundry (culture shock manifests itself in the strangest ways...). Anyway, admin lady (who had already given me a blast for not signing up in advance, as well as not having the correct change) stomped in, said I was ridiculous for crying about laundry (a fact of which I was well aware, but it was just the culmination of a particularly frustrating time….the proverbial straw on the camel’s back…..), said I was a ridiculous spoiled girl because I didn’t know how to do laundry, and FINALLY showed me how to use that damned machine. Of course, by this point, I'm pretty much sobbing because I'm lonely, I miss my guy (now my hubby), I'm frustrated and I just want clean sheets!

The laundry finally started, I locked myself in the laundry room and cried for the rest of the 2-hour load. Is it any wonder I hate laundry?

Of course, for the rest of the year, I would do two or three loads at a time (very unusual by French standards), and between every load, I would run from the laundry building to the admin building to get my key back so I didn’t have to stay in the hellhole cell of a laundry room. I also got great pleasure out of the annoyance this brought the bitchy admin lady because she had to get off her duff to give me keys. And I learned that you never ever ask a unionized French worker to do something that’s not in their job description.

So that's the history behind my laundry trauma. Is there a specific phobia word for fear of laundry? Come to think of it, vestiphobia is the fear of clothing, and ablutophobia is the fear of washing. Perhaps we could coin the new term ablutovestiphobia.....fear of washing clothing....

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