Sunday, August 30, 2009

Canada Edition Part 1-Montreal

Packed and ready to leave, I waved the kids a sad goodbye as they headed off with dad for school. I checked for the essentials: money, passport, tickets and headed for the airport. The flight was uneventful, the way I like it, even if I was stuffed like a sandwich between two burly, talkative, cheeky, drinking chaps. I arrived on Canadian soil within 7 hours of departing Scotland.

I was met by Kate, Callum and Owen and they whisked me away when I say whisked, I mean after a tiny hunt for the car but I've not to mention that to their palatial home. I had the west wing to myself Kate, I know you call it the basement but it is pretty vast and with it's own front door, it's a wing and Matt, Kate's Scottish husband had helped her prepare a lovely meal of salmon, 'peaches and cream' corn on the cob... sweet and delicious...and a fresh, wonderful salad with the obligatory glass or three of wine. It was a great start to the holiday.

The next morning, we picked up Jill and headed for the airport to Montreal. A strong Starbucks coffee helped fuel us for the tiring trip when I say tiring, I mean not tiring at all but completely, diabolically easy and we were transported by air and then taxi to the Nelligan hotel.

We checked in early with no fuss and were shown to our suites. Yes, suites.

After jumping up and down on the bed unpacking we explored the neighbourhood, stopping off at a nearby restaurant for lunch: moules frite with a glass of chilled white and some dipping bread. We enjoyed it very much, fuelled as we were by excitement at another few days of decadent, leisurely eating and chilling out.

Jill and Kate stopped off for a massage whilst I preferred to wander the local area drink more coffee, drool at the patisseries eat the patisseries and eventually sojourn to my room with a book and some music. We met up later on for complimentary wine and cheese within the hotel and some people watching and chattering. We dressed for dinner and wandered round the local area at our leisure, eventually settling on a lovely little French bistro, the name of which escapes me, which had a great atmosphere, dimmed lighting and the maître d’ in a pork pie hat and brogues.

The Bloody Mary style drink what was that called again? was perfection, the wine ok and the food good. The service was fun and we had a really enjoyable few hours eating, drinking and being merry. Kate was in the mood for steak and a handsome, sexy and well cooked side of beef was brought out on a wooden board...I think it was wooden, it was hard to see. But, restaurant, that was not an 16oz steak; methinks a misprint or a chef with the shakes.

I was particularly taken with the booth area, decked out in white leather padding and buttons lookin' gooood, Mr Cartel! aka Austin Powers. It practically had it's own spotlight, the only light in a room filled with darkness. Actual darkness, no metaphors here. We left happy.

We headed for the Rue St-Denis district the next day after a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, jam, croissants and coffee and after walking and shopping for hours, we decided lunch was to be at a small restaurant called 'Tomato'.

We had a shared basil pizza, salad verte, tomato bocconcini and mixed olives washed down with a pitcher of sangria; good, tasty and served with a side of cheeky waitress who kicked me....I deserved it, don't worry; it made for an enjoyable lunch, even if she did think my accent was Spanish......

Being the kind of gal that needs to stop off for regular coffee breaks, I said adieu to Kate and Jill after a further few hours walking and told them they'd find me in a shabby looking cafe, possibly called Chocolate, just up the street. Imagine my surprise to discover a modern, gorgeous chocolate shop inside yes, I know that was the name but a scabby shop front, even if it was called 'Delectable Chocolate Treats Inside; Just You Wait' is still a scabby shop front; I ordered the best looking and ultimately tasting hazelnut chocolate slab, roasted coffee and was given a free rose flavoured chocolate bite.

Kate and Jill joined me for a coffee and some could they not...and we headed home after many hours, tired and contented.

Later that evening, we headed to a local, well known restaurant called 'Le Club Chasse et Pêche'. The reviews of the food were wonderful and we were really looking forward to it.

We arrived early after a wander round St-Paul, stopping to look in the galleries and shops still open.

We waited in the bar until our table was ready and settled in for what was to be a memorable meal.

The menu was sublime and we were torn over what to order as it all sounded so delicious but eventually I settled on seared scallops, fennel purée, lemon confit and Jill and Kate went for the mushroom tart. I'd have had all the appetisers if I could have gotten away with it.

The scallops were cooked by roasting one side in a pan therefore caramelising it and brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. The fennel and lemon confit was perfect alongside and I was as happy as the proverbial pig/clam/fly. The mushroom tart was a delicate little basket filled with aromatic mushrooms, tasty cheddar and arugula (rocket). I had a taste of course and it was sweet, savoury and utterly delicious.

For my main course, I opted for lamb, cooked two ways, served with a trio layer, the top of which was goats cheese. It was cooked to perfection and the goats cheese with it was a revelation; guess what I'm cooking at my next dinner party?

Kate had the Halibut in a tomato broth...fresh, fragrant and a feast for the eye as well as the palate. Jill had the restaurant's version of surf and turf: duck and lobster no less. It was incredible looking and tasted just as good....I had to have/steal some of course. We had our meal with a lovely bottle of Petit-Chablis and finished off with coffee.

The next day was our last day in Montreal and we took a taxi to Ste-Catherine. It was decided that I could not leave Montreal without tasting Poutine, a Quebec delicacy; it consists of chips (fries) smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.

The Glaswegian version would be chips and curry sauce or gravy with grated cheddar cheese! We went to La Belle Province, which was recommended as the best cafe for this dish; it turns out it is listed on Wikipedia as one of the best places to have Poutine. It tasted exactly as you'd imagine eating fries, gravy and cheese would; comforting, fattening and tasty but impossible to finish.

We flew back to Toronto first class no less...thank you Kate and Matt....and I said a sad farewell to my gorgeous Canadian friends and was greeted at Toronto airport by my lovely Scottish one.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Drive By Posting!

I'm still in Canada, I fly back tomorrow but find myself with this minute of opportunity to pop in and throw this message at you all whilst Pauline puts her lovely wee offspring to bed. Think of it as a preamble to the Canada Edition to be written sometime over the weekend when the jet lag has subsided, kids have been shaken off my leg and I upload the amazing photographs...yes, of course mainly of food...from these lovely Canadian shores.

Ah...the wine is ready,the outside wood stove is fired up and the crickets are singing loud enough to wake the dead. I can't wait to read what you have all been up to and to update you on my adventures.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Everything Tastes Better With Love

Unknown Mami

Hola! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Unknown Mami and I am so very pleased to meet you. My friend Helen is off enjoying herself in Canada and she has seen fit to let me entertain in her absence.

Can you imagine how nervous I am? I mean you've seen the delicious goodies that Helen makes on a daily basis. They look so scrumptious that I've been tempted to take a bite out of my screen at times.

I mean how can I live up? The truth is that although I can cook I don't very often because I am blessed with a husband that happens to be a great cook.

I love eating food that other people make and I always have. I grew up surrounded by great cooks. Everyone in my family, male or female, can cook.

This weekend I went to visit family in Roseville, CA and they were excited to cook for us. They made us 3 different types of tamales, refried beans, homemade salsa verde, and salad. This picture does not do the food justice, but trust me when I tell you it was delicious and you could taste the love and cariño (affection) in each bite.

It's a good thing I was born into a Mexican family because I love Mexican food. I wish you could taste my family's food. It's amazing and I am never disappointed.

I was looking around my cousin's garden and it occurred to me that I could bring a little of my family's flavor to you. I don't particularly like to follow recipes or give them, but these are so ridiculously simple that it would be a crime not to share. I thought I would share how to make salsa and the easiest guacamole in the world. The inspiration came from seeing these lovelies:
There are no measurements because it is all to taste (your taste).

For the salsa you will need:
Fresh tomatoes,
peppers (jalapeños, serranos, or whatever you please)
and a touch of cilantro.

Chop all the ingredients, mix them together and salt to taste. Leave it as is or add a touch of olive oil and vinegar if you would like more liquid.

If you would like a salsa of smoother consistency, simply roast the tomatoes and peppers then put them and the rest of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. The roasted tomatoes and peppers give the salsa added depth and flavor.

Depending on how spicy you like your salsa you can include the seeds of the peppers or if you are a lightweight take them out.

Now for the easiest guacamole in the world, you will need:
Ripe avocados (as many as you like)
A bit of lime or lemon

Remove the avocados from the peel, place in a bowl, mash them up with a fork or potato masher, add salt to taste, and squeeze a bit of lemon or lime to preserve the color and mix. I know it sounds plain, but honestly sometimes you can not improve on nature. If you are already having salsa then why add the same ingredients to the guacamole? Every time I make this people tell me it's great and ask me for the recipe. The truth is there is no recipe. Avocados are just damn good!

And remember that with any recipe you make you should include some love. My mother will not eat food that was made by someone in a bad mood because she says it will make her sick. I think she's right.

I've really enjoyed my visit! Pop over and see me whenever you are in my bloggerhood; I always enjoy a visit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

{search, savor, share} guest blogger: Anna A.

Hello there, darlings.
I'm so very excited to be here. I exclaimed with glee when Helen asked if i would mind doing a guest post while she was away on her glorious vacation...

My name is Anna & its oh so very nice to meet you! I would like to share with you a post I did a few months ago, but I find it absolutely fitting for Helen's blog--seeing as how it is about food! stomach is growling as i write this! I hope you all enjoy!

from monday, june 8, 2009.

Last week
I had an amazing opportunity to interview Ms. Holley Johnson from via the telephone! Although I was nervous seeing as how I have never done such a cool thing-- she was absolutely fabulous & I learned a lot about this awesome website!! enjoy--

Ms. Holley Johnson is a registered dietitian and has worked as a food editor at magazine's such as Cooking Light, Southern Living and about a year ago embarked on developing!! She had some amazing tips for everything food related-- features over 35,000 kitchen tested recipes and also a plethora of informative articles ranging from health to kitchen tips! All that knowledge at your fingertips for free!
Ms. Johnson even noted that along with the recipes and cooking tips they feature suggestions on entertaining and even on various drinks!

Naturally, seeing as how I, myself, am a poor college student and Pita Pit just doesn't cut it every night... I asked her what she suggests to get started in the kitchen, and her response was brilliant, "Find out what you like!" She even goes on to explain's "enhance search" capabilities! {woot!} Get this-- They also have a collection of "How-To" videos--quick explainations and demonstrations from those terms some of us may not be familiar with such as "the difference between whip and stir"{yeah, I didn't know. Don't judge. ; ) } --to more complicated terms that I can't even pronounce yet alone spell!! They even have a tab for "Quick & Easy" meals! Brilliant!!

I would have to say my favorite aspect of the site is the articles ranging from the best ways to store leftovers to how to create restaraunt favorites! And check out this genuis dinner timer "Dinner Countdown" outlining how much time you have to cook and generating specific recipes!!

Every recipe featured on the site has been "test kitchen approved" meaning it had to recieve a passing score by professional chefs before being published on the site. {They have your back, they keep their reader's in mind throughout their whole process!}
Bonus: they feature all the nutritional facts and tips on specific methods to use when preparing the meal yourself!

Perhaps you are like me and feel as if groceries are too expensive and the McDonald's dollar menu is more in your range listen up... I was surprised and elated when Ms. Johnson gave me some fabulous tips on stretching my dollar...
  • Buy whole food rather than pre-packaged. {ie: a pineapple vs. pineapple slices.}
  • milk is about $.25 a glass, which pails in comparisson to just buying pop; While also receiving a plethora of nutrients.
  • Remember to get a "bang for your buck."
  • Buy in bulk. Make your own bags of chips for your lunches by seperating and bagging on your own. You end up with approx. 25 packs vs. the mere 10 for the same price at the store.
So true, yet I have never actually thought about it!
That is just a little taste of what is all about... find out so much more such as
sexy bikini body diets, steaks under 250 calories, and overall health along with anything you could dream of! Just search keywords and your bound to find pearls of wisdom!
Trust me. I am not a cook, but I'm getting ready to get my apron on!

so here are their links for you to bookmark!
make your personal account to upload recipes to share, create a recipe file, and save menus, etc!
become a fan on facebook!
become a follower on twitter!

Bon Appétit

xo dears-
& Thank you Helen for letting me share.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Au Revoir

I'm packed, I'm preened and I'm primed. It is raining cats and dogs, horses too and in Toronto, the sun shines. Goodbye Scotland, I'll miss you but need a break from your damp, dreicht, glaikit weather from time to time.

I'm missing the kids. I know I'm still here but I miss them already. I hoping that once the sun shines on my escaped toes and I have a cocktail in my hand, I'll miss them that wee bit less. They, of course, are perfectly fine. They've got daddy here and grandpa at the weekend. Friend's mums have offered to take them, feed them and for playdates. They'll be too busy. I've hidden a treasure hunt for when they do; wee notes and sweets and clues to solve.

We've not said cheerio yet though.....

My lovely bloggy peeps Anna and Unknown Mami will be hosting my blog for a day on Friday and Tuesday. Please stop by and say hi and leave a comment for them. And for me when I get home.

Au revoir.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's all meme me!

I love Sunday dinner. It can be roast beef or lamb, chicken or turkey. It's occasionally a ham but that doesn't matter. What makes a Sunday dinner is all the little extras that accompany the meal, the amount of time it takes to make...all afternoon...and the amount of time it takes to be eaten...3 seconds flat. The sitting around afterwards, chatting, picking at the remains and laughing with family, children and friends is the best part. Well, not really, you know me better than that; the food is the best part but it's a close second. Meh.

I love cooking for big numbers because you can make lots of different dishes at such cost effectiveness, I positively glow from the thought of it. These days, when I cook a joint, I usually always go for a large piece as meat once cooked slowly can be reheated and used in any dish your heart desires; curries, stews, sandwiches, soups, to name but a few. Even with chicken, I tend to cook two at a time and the second one gets used over the next few days. Hey, even electricity costs money so little savings help towards the big trips or suchlike.

This Sunday, I cooked one paltry wee chicken but it was free range, stuffed with tarragon, lemon and sea salt, drizzled with olive oil and dotted with butter.

I served it with baby roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and turnip with some chopped up gammon and thyme all in a little olive oil and sea salt. We had green beans, petit pois (wee peas) and roast potatoes. Don't you just love roast potatoes? We like our potatoes of every description so we also had potato boulangere:...which is potatoes sliced thinly and layered between a sprinkling of chopped, sauteed onion then covered with an equal mix...around 5fl.oz. of each.... of stock and milk, dotted with butter and baked in an oven for 45 minutes. Drooled over! 350/180 or gas mark 4.

There has been no shopping this week; you may not have heard.....!, but I'm going on holiday tomorrow. There is still plenty of food in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Brian has suggested taking the kids to school in their pyjamas so that someone will feel pity for him and cook everyone dinner. He is a chancer but is only kidding. He is perfectly capable although we have had offers of help already from the lovely women of Glasgow.

Little Miss Blogger tagged me for this meme, my first ever. Thank you, my bloggy friend, I shall do my best.

The rules are, erase the answers already listed and fill in my own then pass it on to four bloggers of my choice. So here it is:

1. Who is the hottest Movie Star?
The hottest movie star of all time has to be Clint Eastwood. Ever since I saw him in a cowboy hat, walking across a dusty, wild western town, me at the tender age of 8, I was smitten. Over the years, I've watched every film with glee but when he walked onto my screen as John Kincaid, I wanted to seek him out and propose. And he's a great director!

2. Apart from your house and car, what is the most expensive item you have ever bought?
My sofas. They cost thousands of pounds years ago when sofas still cost the same as a car. I still have them. I hate them. I really, really hate them.

3. What is your most treasured memory?
Apart from the children being born? I have so many. I remember dreaming that I was pregnant with twins; I did a test the next day and lo and behold, I was indeed pregnant. At the scan, I shared my thoughts and the doctor confirmed that there were two little 'uns in there. I was so happy until she said "let me see if there are any more...."; that wiped the smile from my face.

I also remember Kelly telling me she was going to teach me to hope at the tender age of three. I was so touched, tears pierced my eyes; that was when she got on one leg and started to hop round the room.............we laughed for a loooong time.

4. What was the best gift you ever received as a child?
Tiny Tears doll.

5. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
My mistakes have led me to here.

6. 4 words to describe yourself?
I really love coffee.

7. What was your highlight or low light of 2008?
I started yoga which I love and my wonderful mother in law died.

8. Favorite Film?
This is one I cannot answer; there are too many. The last film I saw (for the umpteenth time) which I loved was Now, Voyager starring Betty Davis...."who needs the moon when we have the stars". I have it on video tape. Yes, video tape.

9. Tell me one thing I don’t know about you.
I once had nowhere to live.

10. If you were a comic book/strip or cartoon character, who would you be?
Elastigirl, the mum from The Incredibles. Except, unlike her, I can also fly.

The four bloggers I am tagging with this Meme are:
My blogger friend Amy from Mama Drama gave me this smile:

"The Spreading the Smile originated from Vicki at Frugal Mom Knows Best. According to Frugal Mom "there are no rules or expectations, just the hope that you will pass this on, to however many people you want. The hope that we all have at least one nice thing to say to a least one person. One genuine, nice thing that might make them smile. Or even maybe something to thank them for. Let's spread the smile to as many faces as possible."
I'd like to pass it on to all of you. Please pass it on in turn.

Girl, uninterrupted and cakes in pants

I can hardly contain my excitement; I'm travelling to Canada on Thursday and will meet up with old friends. It will be lovely to feel the sun on my face, something that has been lacking in Scotland this summer, and get the chance to actually read a book, have a lie in and drink wine uninterrupted.

I shall get the chance to miss my children and my husband and to stroll through shops without fear of reprisal. There will be no cries for the toilet or the sound of breaking glass. I will sit at cafes for however long I please with huge mugs of steaming coffee, watching the world go by. I know how lucky I am and that I shall miss them but sometimes....sometimes it's nice to get away for a while.

I have been baking up a storm, convinced that the world is a better place when surrounded by loaves, cakes and cookies. My bread is going from strength to strength and I baked two loaves of wholemeal and linseeds. I used half olive oil and half butter for the fat and used brown sugar instead of white. Brown bread requires sugar to activate the yeast (I think) but only a little...about a tablespoon for the whole batch.

I was so pleased with how it turned out that every mouthful was followed by an ooh or an aah or an invisible pat on the back. I'm not a modest cook (incase you hadn't noticed); if it's good it's good but I also know when it's not!
An old friend of mine, Craig...a pretty excellent baker himself, knows how I like all things food; talking about it, looking at pictures about it and of course, the eating of it. He sent me a few pics of his food p.o.r.n baked goods in pants for my amusement...and amuse me it did...I must share with you the cakes in all their glory; those of a sensitive disposition, look away now.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sundays in my City 2

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men....we were all ready to go to the Burnbrae for the Help our Heroes day when I suddenly began to feel ill. I shall spare you the gruesome details, suffice to say, we stayed in. The kids were happy as they were in the mood to chill and the howling wind outside didn't bode well for the day. I took photos from my windows instead, including a little video clip to try and capture the blowing trees and escaping sunshine except blogger just stuck it's fingers up at me and blew a raspberry when I tried to upload it.

It is still Sundays in My City....or at least Sunday from my House even if my poor photography skills whilst shaking with fever does not do the views any justice.