Wednesday, 23 January 2013

To Do: France Edition


I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I'm off to London and France with Dave and my brother Ty in May. No big deal or anything (!!!) I can finally venture outside of North America and feel a little more adventurous. We've been saving and planning for this trip for about 2 years now and we've just got our flights and apartments booked so it feels like we're actually going now. Here are a few places I'm very eager to see in France which oddly all coincide with some of my favourite movies/books...
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Ah Versailles! I was obsessed with the movie Marie Antoinette in high school  You should really watch it, it's such a pretty movie. It'll make you crave macarons, champagne and meadows afterwards. (This could just be me though) If I'm not mistaken, I believe the whole movie was filmed on/in the actual palace which is GORGEOUS. I'm super pumped to check out the gardens and especially Marie Antoinette's little cottage (left). Untitled-5

This is where we're staying while in Paris. And it's also where most of Amelie was filmed. Another favourite movie of mine!  I'm not gonna lie, I will for sure be one of those people who want to check out every place where Amelie was filmed. I even found this cool site where they have a "In the Footsteps of Amelie" tour.  Swoon! Can't wait!
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Provence has been somewhere I've wanted to visit ever since I read A Good Year by Peter Mayle  (and then saw the movie with Russel Crowe). Peter Mayle writes a lot of fiction that is set in Provence and I was instantly in love. Country markets, wine and rolling hills? Um, yes please!

Needless to say I am tres excited (that's all high school french has given me sadly). I'm looking forward to being touristy, getting lost, and smiling at everyone I see (which apparently a no-no in France). Are there any places in France you'd recommend seeing?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Fish Tacos

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For Christmas this year I got a lot of cooking related items (swoon). I also scored a few really really great cookbooks. My brother in-law got me this one. I'm not gonna lie, I was a bit skeptical when I saw Gwyneth Paltrow had written a cookbook. Because let's be honest, it doesn't look like she really cooks, let alone eats. I'm pretty sure I read an article once where she talked about drinking only kale juice for a month (I could be exaggerating that). Long story short: I was wrong and this is one of my favourite cookbooks of all time.

So this Sunday Dave and decided to make the fish tacos from it for my family and they were a total hit. It was dead silent at the table as we were eating (that's not normal for us) it was that good. It takes a bit of time to make the condiments but once you have that done it's just frying up the fish that you have to do. Super easy. Don't be freaked out by how long the recipe is. You can do it!


Fish Tacos (enough for 4 people) from Gwyneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter
Safflower or peanut oil, for frying
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup beer (we used bud lite lime)
Coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 lb. white fish fillets (cod, pollock, and haddock are all good choices, whatever's best that day), cut into finger-sized pieces (about 2" long and 1/2" thick)
Corn/flour tortillas
Pico de Gallo (below)
Salted Cabbage (below)
Guacamole (below)
Hot sauce (Cholula is da boss)

Pico de Gallo
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 small red onion, peeled and very finely diced
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
Maldon sea salt (or regular sea salt)
1 lime

Salted Cabbage
1/2 very small green cabbage, coarsely grated
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch Maldon sea salt

Guacamole
2 ripe avocados
2 tbsp peeled and minced white onion
3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime
Coarse salt



Instructions:

Tacos

Step 1: Pour 2" of safflower oil in a large pot or fill your deep-fat fryer. Heat to 350°F.

Step 2: Meanwhile, combine the flour, beer, a pinch of salt, and the pepper together in a large bowl. Dredge the fish in the batter and gently place in the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pot. Fry for 3-4 minutes, turning here and there, until nicely browned. Remove to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with a little salt, and repeat with as many batches as necessary until you've cooked all your fish.

Step 3: To serve, warm the corn tortillas on both sides in a skillet with just a bit of oil or butter. Serve a stack of them alongside all your fillings. To assemble, lay 2 or 3 pieces of fried fish on top, scatter generously with pico de gallo, a bit of salted cabbage, hot sauce and some guacamole.

Pico de Gallo

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and lime juice.

Salted Cabbage

Combine everything together and let it sit for 20 minutes. The cabbage will wilt slightly, but will retain its crunch.

Guacamole

Step 1: Cut the avocados in half, remove and reserve the pits, and score the flesh inside of the shells. Scoop the avocado into a mixing bowl and mash gently with a fork — you don't want it to be completely smooth.

Step 2: Stir in the onion and cilantro.

Step 3: Cut the lime in half and squeeze in enough juice to taste. Season the guacamole with salt and either serve immediately or stick the pits in to keep it from browning (remove the pits before serving.

I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this recipe is. I would totally pay money for these babies at a restaurant. But you shouldn't. Because you can make them at home!

Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Butterbeer Cupcakes

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Dave and I reunited with with some of our karate friends this weekend and as per tradition, I baked something to bring along. Our one friend has never watched or read Harry Potter (I know right?!) so we are slowly educating her in all things HP. So butterbeer cupcakes were an obvious choice. Now when I was reading the books I had no idea what butterbeer was actually supposed to taste like but apparently its a mix between cream soda and butterscotch. Delicious! Some may even say magical. No? Well trust me, they're amazing (so amazing my Dad ate 2 and he's not a dessert person)

Butterbeer Cupcakes adapted from here
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring (I couldn't find this so I just added more vanilla)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and butter flavoring (if you have it).

Fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour mixture, cream soda, and then the remaining flour. Folding in these ingredients will prevent over-mixing and will result in a fluffier, less dense cupcake. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden and spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.

Butterscotch Ganache (this makes a lot of extra, but it tastes amazing on icecream or waffles)
11 ounces (1 package) butterscotch chips
3/4 cup heavy cream

Pour the chips and cream into a little pot and cook everything on medium-low heat until it all comes together like a syrup. Don't boil it though!

Butterscotch Buttercream

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
2-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla,  and salt. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2-3 minutes, starting with 2 cups and adding more only if necessary. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Whip that baby up!

The original recipe says to inject the cupcakes with the ganache but in my opinion that would have been waaaaay too sweet, so I skipped that step. I simply frosted the cupcakes with the buttercream and then drizzled the ganache on top. So good.

Enjoy!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Music Monday

I randomly found this song on our itunes last night. I have a habit of downloading huge indie playlists but never going through and listening to all the songs. The video is really...I don't even know how to explain it. Apparently it's based off some Japanese horror movie (?) Does that make it less weird?  Anyway here it is, have a listen!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/qzObsfboaJ0]

Alex Winston- Sister Wife

Sunday, 13 January 2013

DIY Stretched Fabric Canvas

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So last week was our first ever craft night at my friend Katherine's. Not only does her place have waaaaay more space, but she has an adorable baby that we play with while waiting for glue to dry/ our turn with the hardware. This week we made stretched fabric over canvas (I really wish I had a better sounding way to describe this, but that's really all it is). This one was pretty easy if you have the right tools. We didn't but it worked out all right in the end.

Materials

  • canvas (the kind that has a wood frame that the canvas is stretched over)

  • fabric that is large enough to fit over the sides of your canvas

  • spray adhesive

  • staple gun (we didn't have one, so we used small nails and a hammer)


Directions

Take your canvas and spray it with the adhesive. Lay your fabric on the glue and smooth it down so there are no wrinkles or anything. Let it dry for a few minutes. Then you just pull the fabric tight and staple it to the back of the canvas on the wood frame. If you don't have a staple gun, just use 2 nails per side to secure the fabric. Trim the excess fabric off the back and you're done!

I really meant to take photos of the whole process, but like I said, Katherine has a really cute baby so I played with him instead of taking photos. Oops! Here are some of the ones I made though and hung up in my apartment...

IMG_1438 IMG_1441A really good place to get small pieces of fabric for this one is Walmart. I found all of my fabric for this project there and each was only $1.97. Score! This is also a good way to use any of those paintings that may not have turned out the way you wanted them to. Just cover that baby up with fabric and it looks much better!

 

Honey Hot Chocolate

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Today it is Sunday and a (rather warm) rainy day. And rainy Sundays like these are perfect for Honey Hot Chocolate. When I was at the library I was looking through the children's cooking section and found the cutest cookbook called The Winnie the Pooh Cookbook. As you can imagine almost every recipe has honey in it. This was the first time I had actually tried real hot cocoa from scratch. I've always just had the pre-packaged powder stuff before. This one has a deeper chocolaty flavour, which I now think prefer.

Honey Hot Chocolate for a Very Blustery Day Outside (this is the actual name of the recipe!)

For 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup of water

  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

  • 1-2 tbsp honey

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • pinch of salt


Stir and simmer the water, cocoa and salt over low heat for about 2 minutes or until smooth. Add honey and milk. When it is very hot and before it boils, remove from the heat and serve.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Dream House Series [Kitchen]

dream kitchen

So I think it's safe to say that I've gotten to that point in life where renting and living in an apartment is starting to lose it's appeal. The not being able to paint or drill anything without asking permission first and the moldy bathroom wall are starting to become more obvious and annoying. Backyards, stairs, and more space are where it's at! Lately I've been day dreaming about buying our first house. And more specifically buying a house with a lovely kitchen, or rather having space to be the potential lovely kitchen. Here are a few pictures that I'm really loving.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Homemade Masala Chai

IMG_1436A few years ago my mother-in-law gave me a recipe for homemade chai along with all of the spices that go in it. I didn't make it for the longest time (it seemed too complicated when I could go to Starbucks and get it) but once I did get around to it I was HOOKED. And realized it tastes nothing like Starbucks (its better!). Lately I've been making a batch with dinner and then having it for dessert.

Homemade Masala Chai adapted from Robin's recipe

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 whole cardamom pods

  • 5cm cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon)

  • 3 whole cloves

  • 1 star anise

  • 1 thinnish slice of fresh ginger

  • 2 black peppercorns

  • 2 tsp of black tea (or just a tea bag if that's all you've got around)

  • honey/sugar (optional if you want it a bit sweet)

  • tea filters (optional)

  • pestle and mortor/ magic bullet


IMG_1424So it's pretty simple. Put all of the dry spices (not the ginger or black tea) into your pestle and mortor/magic bullet and crush it up as much as possible. Feel free to add or reduce any of the spices you want! For instance, I like to add a bit more cinnamon and an empty vanilla pod if I have one.

Once it's all crushed up you can either put it into a loose leaf tea bag (like I do, it's easier) or dump it into a pot with the water, ginger, milk and tea. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and let it simmer. The longer you steep it, the stronger it will be. I like mine pretty strong so I simmer it for up to a half hour. (It changes a really nice colour too)

Then if you put everything into tea filters, you can just pluck them out. Or, if you dumped everything  into the pot, you simply strain it. Sweeten it a bit with some honey or sugar, garnish that baby with a cinnamon stick and BAM you have homemade masala chai!

IMG_1433Nowadays I'll make a big batch and then just put it in my fridge for the week. It heats up pretty easily on the stove again (or in the microwave if you have one).This tastes really good cold on ice in the summer too.

Enjoy!

 

 

Music Monday

So this was one of my favourite songs in college. It's so eerie and beautiful at the same time. (So is the girl who sings it) Have a listen.







Rockettothesky- Grizzly Man

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Favourite Food Lit

I love food. I love eating it, I love thinking about it, I love making it, and I love reading about it. I went to a conference a little while back and we had to do one of those ice breakers to get to know one another and the question had to do with what do you think about during a regular day. I told my partner how I loved to think about what I was going to cook when I got home from work, what groceries I needed, what new recipes to try ect. ect. She looked at me like I was a tad bit off. She wrote down "She likes food. A lot."

So yeah, I love food ok?!

Lately I've been reading a lot of food lit type books. Here are a few of my favourites.

Food Lit

1. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell This one is rather popular. It's all about a girl named Julie who cooks her way through the entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Including aspics. Shudder. A brave woman indeed. I pined for (and received !) the complete MTAOFC after reading it. I have yet to really make anything from it though, but I do read it quite often.

2. Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas This one is about a girl named Amy who lives in Paris for a time and "researches" all of the different desserts Paris has to offer (read: she pretty much eats a lot of pastries and chocolate). I actually took notes while reading this one as I'm visiting Paris in May and am planning on doing some research of my own.

3. The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway This book is about a girl named Cathy who tries not to eat out for a whole year and cook all of her own meals. She also gets into some hardcore things like picking her own salad greens from Central Park (!) and going dumpster diving at fancy food stores that throw out perfectly edible food (!). This is where I first heard of No Knead Bread too.

4. 52 Loaves by William Alexander This book is about a man named William who tries to perfect a simple loaf of bread and his quest to do so. This was probably my favourite out of all of them. He goes through a lot for his mission, from planting, harvesting and grinding his own wheat, to teaching a group of french monks how to bake bread in their monastery. He also shares fun fact and histories of bread in a hilarious manner. I definitely never looked at bread the same way after reading this.

Have you ever read a food lit-type book? I would love to hear any suggestions!

Friday, 4 January 2013

I Just Made Bread

IMG_1346Look what I just made, BREAD! I was so proud that I had to take pictures before I ate the whole loaf (yeah, it actually tastes good too!) I've been wanting to make bread for years now but have always been pretty nervous about the whole process. It's more like a science experiment than baking. BUT I came across this easy no-knead bread recipe (that most professional bakers scoff at, hmpf) and it's pretty much fool proof. My dough didn't even form into a ball like it was supposed to, and I literally just threw it in the pot before it slopped all over the floor and it STILL turned out amazingly!

It's so good I'm making another one with garlic and parmesan to bake for tomorrow.

IMG_1345I would highly highly recommend trying this whole bread making thing out. Also doesn't the first picture remind you of this guy

 

 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

DIY Tile Coasters

Coasters. I always thought they were a symbol of you being rather old and somewhat of a fuddy duddy. I mean remember when you were younger and your parents yelled at you not to put the glass on the coffee table that it was gonna ruin the table, so put it on a coaster? And you thought to yourself, uh, it's a table, it's meant to have glasses on it? At least that's what my brother and I would always grudging say to each other as we pulled out the coasters. So I guess it's rather surprising that I spent an entire afternoon making not one but TWO sets of coasters. Yeah.

Here's what you need:

IMG_1270I found the tiles for $0.25 at Rona (deal!) so I went a tad overboard and bought 8. Not that I would ever really need 8 coasters in our apartment at once. Also, I forgot to buy a sealer when I frst made them so that's not pictured. But very important! So buy one! (I found mine in the spray paint section of Home Depot, it's just a clear spray sealer)

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So once you have all of your materials you need to trace your tile on to the paper you want, but take it in about a centimeter or two so you'll have a bit of the tile as a border. Next you put a layer of Mod Podge on the tile and stick your piece of paper to it. Let it dry. Then brush a layer of Mod Podge over the paper and tile. Let it dry. I repeated this about 2-3 times. Once you're tiles have completely dried, take them outside and spray the tops with the clear sealer. Let dry. Then cut a piece of felt and glue it to the back of the tile. And presto! You have fancy, hip, cool coasters!

IMG_1290I should really point out that the point of having coasters and using them, is to protect your really nice table. I, on the other hand, have a cheap IKEA coffee table that no one in their right mind would ever give a thought to protecting. And yet now Dave gets me to put everything on a coaster, from the tea pot to my bowl of soup. Well, at least all 8 getting used!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

DIY Royal Tenembaum Portrait Pt. 2

Untitled-1This was a super easy project! The frames I got at Value village for under $4 each and for the watercolours I just grabbed a kids set from Dollarama for $1.25. The only thing that actually cost me a bit of money was the watercolour paper (I think a pad of 12 pages was around $10). Dave and I have been working on drawing our whole family and putting them into frames, so this will be an ongoing project. But I'm super pleased with how these two turned out!
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