Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wedding Reception #2

Oh oh... The gig is up. After nearly two years of going unnoticed, we've been caught. My dad found the blog. Go see for yourself, this is the comment he left

Anonymous said...

Accidently found this blog...
... clearly somebody's been holding out on me

I guess I'm just yesterday's chopped liver (sorry, no foody pics...)

And who am I?
... with a Giz and Grad in the family - I could only be known as:

Psycho-Giz-Grad's Dad

All along, we just let him (and other family members) believe that we were crazy people obsessed with taking pictures of food and now the truth is revealed: the obsession goes much deeper. Not only do we take pictures of food, we blog about food and participate in a community of food bloggers. Oh well -- my dad is a wierdo too, in his own right.

Speaking of my dad...let me tell you about the reception he hosted for me and R...

Going to Winnipeg for a second reception is something R and I knew we had to do. R and I wanted a small ceremony and reception in Ottawa, so only closer family and friends were invited. I don't think anyone was too offended by it -- but a 2nd reception for extended family was probably the only way to prevent that.

The idea started out pretty basic...we would have a bbq at my dad's place. Then, this became unrealistic because a bbq would have to extend to both the house and backyard. This would, apparently, require a tent, catering, and a newly painted fence. (I don't know when we started trying to keep up with the Joneses)

Redoing the fence was the deal-breaker. So, the reception had to be held elsewhere. "Elsewhere" was pretty limited too because the meal had to be kosher. In Winnipeg, there are only a handful of places that serve kosher food.

So, what started out as a low-key bbq became a reception at the Hotel Fort Garry, one of the nicer hotels in the city.

From then on, I pretty much relinquished control and went where I was told.

Although the laws of kashrut created some limitations around food options, it was probably a mixed blessing. Any "bright ideas" Giz and I had about baking for the reception were impossible. So, that meant a repeat of the wedding cookie saga was out of the question.

Instead, we got some chocolate giveaways from Morden's, a family owned and operated chocolatier that is another one of those Winnipeg institutions.

Because the chocolate was not kosher, guests were asked to wait until they left to open up the giveaways. Our experience with Morden's was really positive -- they were able to complete our order with little notice and even accommodated a change to the order a day before pick up.

Sometimes kosher food has a reputation of I don't know why because when made well, the quality of kosher meat is often better that run of the mill grocery store meat.

I'd have to say that this meal didn't change my mind about kosher food. It was about par for the course. Not bad -- but no one dish would be something I'd add to my cooking repetoire (if I had made it at home).

The meal started with a mushroom and wild rice-type soup. It was pretty plain and could have used more mushrooms and wild rice within the broth.

On the way to the reception, I asked my dad and step-mom if there were any speeches planned (you may recall I had a "no speech" policy at my reception). My dad quickly said, "no" -- which was my first clue. Typically, when I ask my dad a question, I can expect a 5-10 second delay in getting a response (if he's paying attention). This time, there was less than a 2 second delay between the end of my question and his answer -- something was amiss.

Shortly after the evening started, I could see folders being passed around. There was one speech after the next and a "you must sing a song about love or tell a joke to get Psychgrad and R to kiss" rule. Turns out there was quite a bit of speech plotting without me knowing about it.

It was ok though...After consuming a couple of extra drinks than planned, all was good.

Back to the meal...

The salad had a sufficient amount of dressing, which was something the salad at the other reception lacked. But, it looked kind of sad on my plate.

The main course looked kind of sad too. The taste was ok, although the chicken was on the over-cooked side.

It did make me wonder when the last time this menu or plating was changed -- I'm guessing about 20 years ago.

The dessert was a cookie/scone (somewhere between the two) with sorbet. The sorbet was good, the scone wasn't great.

The decor my step-mom chose was nice -- tigerlilies.

It was nice to be able to spend time with more of my extended family. I think everything worked out well and no one has disowned me because of not being invited to a reception.


One last note....


Celebrations will be held this weekend.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

View and Review: Back to Nature Trail Mix

I think I was born opinionated. That, or I had a model of someone who was very opionated to learn from. In either case, from a very young age, I have enjoyed reviewing things. When I would go to restaurants with my parents, I had a rating system that included the food taste and quality, service, and cleanliness of the washroom. Is this normal behaviour for a 10 year old?

When I heard that BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine was initiating a View and Review component, I was immediately intrigued.

BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine have partnered with cookbook publishers and food purveyors to offer members the opportunity to participate in book and product reviews. To date, more than 14 members have received copies of some great books and products for review.

Does it sounds like something interesting to you? Join BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine here and sign up for View and Review.

The only way I can agree to giving a review is to be able to tell the truth -- good and/or bad.

This week, I received my first product. A basket filled with six different nut/trail mix combinations from Back to Nature.Over the past couple of years, I've discovered that I actually like nuts. Starting with the ease of transporting them for camping purposes and then learning about their health benefits, I now regularly eat nuts. The Back to Nature website reiterates these benefits:

•Studies have shown that including nuts in your diet can reduce the amount of harmful cholesterol in the blood and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
•If total calories are controlled, eating a handful of nuts daily may help prevent weight gain. The fat, protein and fibre in nuts keeps you feeling fuller longer, so you may eat less during the day without feeling deprived. Studies also show people who regularly eat a small amount of nuts have a lower Body Mass Index those who do not.

I don't typically buy salted nuts, so I was a bit weary about seeing some sea salted packages in my basket. But, I was quite impressed to see that even the salted nuts were low in sodium. Compared to a serving of non-salted nuts (as little as 5 mg sodium)/serving (1/4 bag -- 42g), the salted nuts are closer to 140 mg of sodium (about 5% of recommended daily intake). Not bad...not bad. Plus, the taste of the salted nuts is more of a light dusting as opposed to those nuts that are so salted you need a glass of water to just get them down.

I took a bag of cashews to work and they were happily shared among my colleagues. I also served a bag of cashews, almonds and pistachios to neighbours as we unwound from a long day at work.

This weekend, I opened up the raisin, almond, pumpkin seed, pecans and apricots to dress a salad.

As usual, the nuts tasted fresh. But, I would have to say that the apricots were not a high point for me. I don't generally have anything against apricots, but these ones were quite chewy, particularly in contrast to the remaining nuts. I may be crazy, but I'm pretty sure there are walnuts in this package too. I'd rather see more walnuts in lieu of apricots (although I'm sure cost would be a factor in determining the package's distribution).

Most recently, I opened the cranberry, chocolate covered almonds and vanilla almonds. I really like the vanilla almonds. I was less crazy about the chocolate covered almonds, because the chocolate is semi-sweet (not a flavour I'm crazy about). But, a nice snack all around.

Overall, a good product. I'm happy to see them at my local grocery store too. StumbleUpon

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ovarian Cancer Month - September

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato)

Include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;

2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);

3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).


TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.


Although I truly wanted to create a dish for this event, I, unfortunately threw my back out. But, I didn't want to do nothing. So, this will be my submission and dedication to recognize an event that touches too many women, one of them a very dear friend of mine. Let me share her story.

At the age of 37 and in the prime of her life, Kate started thinking about having a second child and thoughts of buying a new home to accommodate her growing family. With a beautiful 3 yr. old daughter, devoted husband, great job and loving family and friends, life couldn’t be much better.

Kate had been feeling a little “off” and doctors were having some trouble finding the cause of her discomfort. Following a battery of tests, she received the terrifying diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer – stage 3. NO warning, NO family history and presumably NO reason. Almost immediately, Kate was whisked into surgery where numerous tumors were removed and a radical hysterectomy was performed. What followed was 6 months of chemotherapy and all the side effects associated.

At the end of the grueling 6 months, she received some relief in the doctor’s words when he told her she was in remission. With newfound respect for life and the luxury of feeling good Kate made plans to return to her job and continue with her dreams.

A short 7 months later, Kate was back in chemo fighting the battle that continued for 2 1/2 years. We lost Kate this year at the end of July.

Kate and I worked together for many years - we were also good friends. A memorial website has been created for my very dear friend.

Kate Hynninen

Only 4% of Canadian women can identify a list of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Yet 2,500 Canadian women are diagnosed and 1,700 women die annually from this disease, making it the country’s most fatal gynecologic cancer.

Symptoms include bloating, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, indigestion, feeling full quickly, frequent or urgent urination, fatigue, menstrual irregularities, weight loss or weight gain. They might be nothing. But if these symptoms persist for more than three weeks, they could be signs of ovarian cancer. If you are having persistent symptoms, talk to your doctor. And even if you are not, spread the word among your sisters and friends.

Ovarian Cancer Canada is the country’s sole charity dedicated to overcoming ovarian cancer. Our mission is to provide support to women with ovarian cancer and their families, raise public awareness and fund research that will ultimately lead to a cure for the disease.

Get curious – Find out more. Visit Ovarian Cancer Canada or call 1-877-413-7970.

When Kate was first diagnosed, I created this awareness bracelet and called it Kate. I have since been working with Ovarian Cancer Canada as a third party fundraiser to do whatever I can to help raise both awareness and funds for this organization. 50% of all profits from the sale of this bracelet go directly to Ovarian Cancer research.

and in the U.S.

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).

There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.

In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through First Giving. Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rosh Hashana

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game. There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. The shofar (ram's horn) pictured above is highly symbolic and is blown 100 times to ring in the new year (kind of like a trumpet).

A popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (tash-leek) or ("casting off"). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off.

My commitment to the new year is pretty much the same as it is every year and that's to do the best that I can to somehow make this world a better place. I'm a very strong believer in following deeds. It's not always important what people say; it's far more important to follow what they do and why. My greatest wish is to see a world where people respect one another no matter of religion, colour, creed or beliefs; to create an environment where equal opportunity is not a dream and where all children have enough to eat.

The celebration of Rosh Hashana follow the Hebrew Calendar and arrives at a different date each year on the Julian Calendar. This year we celebrate:

Jewish Year 5770: sunset September 18, 2009 - nightfall September 20, 2009

And what's a celebration without the food. Family and friends gather after sunset on Friday night to enjoy one of two evening meals together (read: eat til you bust)

Typically the meal will begin with gefilte fish.

You can find the recipe here This is generally served with a hot horseradish contiment and challah bread.

Next comes chicken soup with matzo balls. Normal people would by this point already say, okay, enough I'm really full. This is where the cook says "you better be kidding because we're just beginning".

This year we're doing two entrees - chicken and beef brisket. This year's brisket recipe comes from my very favourite standby Norene Gilletz from her book Meal Lean Yumm! which is now in its umpeenth reprint and has changed its name to Norene's Healthy Kitchen

I may have only mentioned about 20 times that I raised my children on Norene's recipes and have yet to find one that hasn't been well tested both in the Gourmania kitchens as well as my own.

Coke Brisket


3 onions, sliced
4 1/2 to 5 lb. beef brisket, well-trimmed
4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp paprika
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup coke (or diet coke)

Spray large roasting pan with non-stick spray. Place onions in pan; place brisket on top of onions. Rub meat on all sides with garlic, seasonings, jam and lemon juice. Pour cola over and around brisket. Marinate for an hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cook covered. Allow 45 minutes per lb as the cooking time, until meat is fork tender. Uncover meat for the last hour and baste it occasionally. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refridgerate overnight, if possible. Discard hardened fat which congeals on the surface. Slice brisket thinly across the grain, trimming away any fat. Reheat slices in the defatted pan juices.

You can also take the defatted juices and onions and give them a ride in the food processor until smooth. Pour through a sieve into a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil and add 1/4 cup water with 2 Tbsp of cornstarch or flour. If the gravy isn't thick enough, repeat the cornstarch process until you reach desired thickness.

When the brisket is placed on the table people whisper to one another "exactly where am I supposed to put this" as the cook then brings in a mountain of oven roasted chicken breast with dilled fingerling potatoes, Israeli couscous salad, green fruit and nut salad topped with pomegranate and toasted pecans, as well as the cauliflower pancakes I posted about the other day.

And no New Year dinner is complete without either a honey cake or an apple cake.

You can find the recipe here .

The beauty of the celebration is that we get to do it all over again for a second night!!! To all who celebrate this holiday - L'Shana Tova (to a happy new year) and may you all be inscribed in the book of life.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Back to Winnipeg

Earlier in the summer, R and I took a trip to Winnipeg for a 2nd wedding reception (a compromise for having a small reception in Ottawa that excluded extended family).

Where is Winnipeg, you ask? It's the capital city of the Province of Manitoba, located at the geographic centre of Canada. The population is around 650,000

Going to Winnipeg requires a visit to some of the local institutions to get my fill of the treats I grew up with. Let me show what would easily be a "not-so-healthy but filled with delicious food day".

The first stop was a place I had never been to, The Eye Opener, but a good place for breakfast. R had the "Winnipeger", stuffed with chopped kulbassa, green onions and cheddar cheese.

Giz had "The Eye Opener"

Knowing that we would be running from one food store to the next, we took pity on R and dropped him off. We then proceeded to Gunn's bakery. This well known bakery has been providing Winnipegers with old country style, kosher baking since 1937. Well, it's kosher -- but open on Saturday.

After Gunn's, we stopped in to Alycia's Perogies. This is, apparently, the recipe for their dough.

Both Giz and I have blueberry perogies on our minds since seeing Adam's post. Unfortunately, they hadn't received their shipment of blueberries yet. So, I picked up a couple dozen cheese and onion stuffed perogies to freeze and take home with me. WAY better than the mass-produced crap R buys at the grocery store here.

After Alycia's, we headed went to a family dinner. On the menu was steak flown in from Toronto (care of Giz's Purolator Services).

Kosher steaks are available in Winnipeg, but not as readily as Toronto.

Such a good meal -- the steak was so flavourful. It makes me want to invest in some kosher steaks.

I was also thrilled to find that another favourite was on the menu....Jeanne's cake! Jeanne's cakes are a favourite of many Winnipegers, so much so that they're sold at the airport.

Yes...the cake says, "Can't leave Winnipeg without a Jeanne's cake".

Jeanne's cakes are known for their cookie bottom and shaved chocolate sides. I'm drooling already.

Ok...I know you're thinking -- holy crap, how much did you eat in one day. But, it doesn't end there. Oh the shame.

Unfortunately, we had to run quickly from dinner to catch a Bombers' game, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, that is. It was nice to catch up with some friends, but with the Bombers' making only one down during the first half, it was probably one of the worst games all year.

Since it had been a couple of hours since dessert, it seemed reasonable to go for a second dessert at Baked Expectations.

It was a long shot, but I had high hopes for my favourite cake being available.

I've had some unlucky experiences with this cake before (note: language warning if you follow the link). But, the stars were aligned and when I walked in, I saw that there were two slices of pavlova left. Before sitting down, I found a waiter and told him to save a slice for me and sat anxiously waiting for my slice.

Oh..pavlova...I miss you.

My friend got a slice of German Chocolate Cheesecake...

and R got a slice of Cinnamon Tort...

50 gazillion calories later, we decided to call it a night. The next day would be the reception, so we needed to rest up.

There you have it, a quick tour of some of the food sites Winnipeg has to offer. Proof -- Winnipeg truly exists!

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