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Monday, May 28, 2007

the fruits of our labours

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This past Saturday was possibly one of the most beautiful days in the history of my life. The Ottawa climate is a peculiar one, tending to rest at the extremes (i.e., -30C or +35C) with not a lot of time spent at moderate, pleasant, beckoning temperatures.

And yet this Saturday it was 25C, sunny, with a cool breeze. It was perfection. It was a day that was screaming for a bbq. It was also a day where hubs and his dad were hard at work to build us a new gate for our house. As I've oft mentioned, we're busily renovating every surface in our humble little home, and last summer, we painted the exterior and changed the walkway. These were both tremendous improvements that really helped the look of the house. But off to the right was our sad, sorry, saggy and rotten gate.

It was especially classy when the raccoons would push one of the rotten timbers aside (leaving a nice gap), and then knock over our garbage can, and drag all the tastiest morsels on top of our car for a party. Seriously. The little bastards even left beer caps on OUR CAR last time.

Hubs was outside working once, and the across the street neighbour (who's been "blessed" with an oh-so-lovely view of our house) mentioned to him that *if* we repaint the gate, it would look great if it matched the house. Can you say hint? I can say hint. Except there was no way that puppy was getting painted. It actually fell over when they went to dismantle it.

Anyway, so they've built most of a new gate. And what did I do? Well.....it certainly didn't have anything to do with gate building (something tells me they really didn't need my kind of assistance).....it was more of the helping variety.

The strawberry daiquiri swilling kind of help. I hung out with my mother- and sister-in-law in our backyard (on our finally debuted patio set) and had girly drinks and snacks. An afternoon well-spent, if you ask me. Of course, occasionally, we had to go and tell the guys what all they were doing wrong, but under our deft supervision, some work was accomplished.

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(after snapping the photo, I realized the daiquiri inequity and promptly took a big swig of the big one before carrying the drinks out). :)

I figured there couldn't be a better way to reward our hard-working men than making them bbq their own dinner. It was very tasty (I bought meat from the super-duper-awesome butcher shop downtown where they actually grind the meat in front of you) and was accompanied with roasted asparagus and potato salad. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

MBR's burgers - 4 pounds ground beef, 2 minced onions, 8 cloves garlic, 1/4 c. bbq sauce, 1 T salt-free steak spice, 4 dashes worcestershire sauce, an egg or two if desired. This will make 18 burgers.

Asparagus is easy-peasy - just wash and trim, and then set on a silpat, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for about 8-10 minutes at 375F. Or until desired doneness.

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The potato salad was a little more involved, but it was a lot of fun to make and enjoy. Hubs despises this salad, so it was great to have a chance to make it for people who would enjoy it. :)

Potato Salad
(mostly from Better Homes and Gardens)

2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, minced
6 hard-boiled eggs (place eggs in cold water, heat on stove until boiling rapidly, turn off burner and cover. let sit for 15 minutes)
1/2 c. chopped dill pickle
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. fat-free yogourt
1/2 c. ultra-low-fat miracle whip
1 T dijon mustard

1. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil, and boil until just tender (about 20-25 minutes).

2. (If you haven't already cooked your eggs, do so). In a large bowl (one bigger than the salad, so that you will actually be able to STIR it), combined the onion, shallot, yogourt, mustard, miracle whip, dill pickle and celery.

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I love dill pickle in my potato salad.
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3. Once the potatoes are tender, let them cool a bit. You could peel them, but I find this to be both a waste of time and nutrition. All the good stuff is in the skin and I am just purely lazy. So leave the skin on. Better yet, use red potatoes, so it's kinda trendy.

4. Combine the potatoes with the veggie and dressing mix. Peel 4 of the eggs and chop them roughly. Add in with the potatoes. With the other two eggs, halve them and arrange them kitschily on top, along with a pickle spear or two. Add paprika, if you so desire.

I love the almost-tacky 1950s appeal of this. It almost makes me want to make a jellied salad. Almost.... Not quite.
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So tacky. Yet so cute.

Here was our dinner smorgasbord (and yes, we really are eating dinner at 9....the hazards of the slow-moving gate project):
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And this was my plate:
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Yum. BBQ rocks my world.

Of course, I couldn't leave my in-laws sans dessert treat. I was at the market on Friday afternoon (after my way too kind boss let me go a little early - woohoo!), and I walked by a stand where I was immediately assaulted with the fresh heady perfume of strawberries.

So we had to have strawberries with dessert. I then remembered that I had egg whites in my freezer, and all the other ingredients to make angel food cake (including a pan that my mom left behind last time she came to visit).

I'd never made this kind of cake before, but it's really not that hard. It called for a little more sifting and fussing than I am generally wont to do, but came together pretty easily and was super yummy. I served the cake not with whipped cream (I'm down seven pounds - no way am I eating whipped cream), but with low-fat french vanilla yogourt. It was a great combo and I liked the idea that it was a lot more natural than a non-dairy-scary whipped topping.

Angel Food Cake

1.5 cups egg whites (do yourself a favour and just buy pre-separated whites - faster, easier and cheaper)
1.5 cups sifted powdered sugar (aka icing sugar, and pfft. on the sifting)
1 c sifted cake flour (again, pfft. I only had all-purpose)
1.5 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla
1 c granulated sugar

1. In a massive mixing bowl, allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sift powdered sugar and flour together three times. Set aside. (Clearly, I'm a bad person going straight to _____. I didn't sift).

2. Add cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). (It was at this point that I was fervently wishing for the oft-mentioned stand mixer).

3. Gradually add the granulated sugar, about 2 T at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

I like this picture....it's like my batter is giving me the finger. hehe.
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4. Sift about one-fourth of the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites (again witht the freaking sifting! I don't have a sifter - I used a mesh sieve to gently pseudo-sift at this point). Fold in gently.
Here's my mixture, in all its kinda sifted glory:
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5. Repeat, folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
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6. (you might want to flatten it out!). Also, use a knife to "cut" through the batter to remove major air bubbles.
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7. Bake on the lowest rack in a 350F oven for 40-45 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert the cake (leave in pan). Cool thoroughly. Loosen sides of cake from pan. Remove cake.

Makes 12 servings, about 161 calories each and no fat.

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It's a perfect summer dessert. And a great finish to an almost-summer day. Maybe I'll even put in plants soon.

Thanks for reading!!!!!! :)

4 comments:

Janet said...

Hi there - what an amazing spread that was!! I'm from Ottawa too, and all I can say is you're really lucky you didn't try to have your BBQ on Sunday...brrrrr!

Cass said...

I want one of those cocktails so much! Tuesday morning at work be damned. Looks great :)

Little Chef said...

quick question for ya! Where I live we can't get any cream of tartar, what would you use instead? I have been trying to find a substitute but what ever substitute I use to whole creation just goes to a flop! Thanks!! ;-)

Quellia said...

Looks great! What butcher did you use?

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