Sunday, December 23, 2012

Turkey Lurkey

If you’ve ever listened to the Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio, you’ve no doubt heard the story of how Dave cooked the turkey. One Christmas, his wife Morley had put him in charge of cooking the turkey. Late on Christmas Eve, Dave realized - too late - that had also meant buying the turkey! He found an all night store and purchased the last turkey. He spent the rest of the night defrosting it with an electric blanket and a hair dryer. When he went to cook it, he was unable to get the stove to work as it had been most recently used on automatic timer. Time ticked on and Dave had to resort to drastic measures to get the turkey he named “Butch” ready in time for his families dinner. (You can here the story here or here.)

Well my turkey story isn’t as extreme as Dave’s but it did have its moments!

Believe it or not, at age 53, I'd never actually cooked a whole turkey by myself before. I used to help my mom get the turkey ready but she was always in charge of actually roasting it.

What had I gotten myself into!?!

Years ago, I occasionally cooked a small 2-3 lb chicken and made it into TV dinners to freeze. I quit doing that as I found it was a lot of work dealing with the bones and I really wasn’t that fond of dark meat. I generally bought boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Occasionally I’d bake a couple over a batch of my mom’s stuffing. Simple, ready in about 45 minutes or less and delicious! Once or twice a year I’d buy a turkey breast roast if I found one at a good price.

So, a few days before Thanksgiving 2011, I went looking for a turkey breast roast but couldn’t find any. A boneless, skinless turkey breast was over $7/lb and I refused to pay that much. I had lots of chicken in the freezer but I was hungry for turkey. Safeway had frozen turkey’s on for $.99/lb. The man in the meat department found one in the back for me that was only 3.9kg/8.6lb. I bought it and stuck it in the freezer.

On the Saturday afternoon before our Canadian Thanksgiving, I started posting turkey updates for my friends. One of them suggested using a technique from Martha. Another said they were going to write a sitcom about my adventure. I asked if they’d be consulting Stuart McLean for info on how not to prepare a turkey – at least not the way Dave had. My friend asked if I had a hair dryer...

I informed my friends that I don't own a hair dryer or an electric blanket. My stove does not have an automatic timer setting, I don't drink scotch and I haven't named the turkey "Butch"! Despite being an experienced cook, this was also a Martha free zone! I was aiming for somewhere in the middle.

Late Saturday afternoon, I took the bird out to thaw. I didn’t want to use the sink or even the bathtub to thaw it in as I knew I would need to use both before the bird was ready for the oven. I finally remembered that I had a decent sized canner that it would likely fit in. I had to put it in at an angle but it just fit! I weighted it down with a heavy cutting board so it would be totally submerged in cold water.

Now what was I going to cook it in? The roaster I had wouldn’t hold more than a 3lb. bird. I used to have a shallow rectangular roaster that it would’ve fit nicely except that I’d given it away less than a year ago since I hadn’t used it in over 10 years!  I could have used the base of my oven broiler pan except that I’d also given it away as I never used it either.

I guess I could have gone to a store and bought one of those disposable pans but by then, it was too late Saturday night and I wanted to get it in the oven by 12:30 or so on Sunday so there wouldn’t be time to go when the stores opened at noon. I may have been able to borrow something from a neighbour but the ones I knew who might have something that large would be cooking their own birds.

A friend suggested I take the turkey to a hotel room... I wasn’t that desperate!

What to do? I finally decided to improvise by putting a wide swath of foil in a rectangular pan I had. The foil would hang out about 3 inches on all sides. I’d set the pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drips.

As I crawled into bed Saturday night, I thought I had everything under control. Turkey Lurkey was thawing and I knew what I was roasting it in.

Then it hit me. Did I still have string to tie up the legs? What about metal skewers to pin the wings? Did I still own a baster? Did I even own a platter? Curiosity got the better of me so I got up to check. I had the string and I found a “Chinet” plastized platter in the cupboard. No idea how long that has been there but I could cover it with foil to serve TL on! Oh well - two out of four ain’t bad!
Sunday morning I made my mom’s stuffing recipe. Turkey Lurkey was thawed so I took it out of the bag, removed the innards, washed the bird and dried it out with paper towels. I laid TL in the improvised roasting pan and put as much of the stuffing in as would fit. (I’d bake the leftover in a casserole dish later.) The skin around the bottom cavity wasn’t complete, so I couldn’t pull it all the way over the stuffing. I used the string to tie the legs together but also used several lengths of string to pull the legs and the wings closely into the bird so they wouldn’t burn or dry out. I took another couple of lengths of foil and fashioned a lid over TL.
I had TL in a 325F oven by 12:20PM. Basting TL wasn’t easy. I tilted the pan to one end and used a tablespoon to pour the liquid over the bird. 

Oh, and one other thing – I didn’t have a thermometer either. By the way, you knew I am legally blind didn't you? I have a large number digital one thermometer but the battery was dead and the old style one I found in my utensil drawer was too small for me to see the numbers. I’d have to “wing” it!

TL was done before 4. I baked the rest of the stuffing and also stuck a potato in to bake. Steamed broccoli and a glass of sparkling apple juice rounded out a delicious meal!

I deboned TL and got about 3 1/2 lbs of meat – 2/3 of which was white. I kept some in the fridge for sandwiches and a couple of suppers and froze the rest in individual portions with a bit of gravy added to keep them from drying out.
It was a lot of work but I’d be enjoying TL for several weeks – probably till sometime after Christmas! 

Would I do it again? Maybe – but if I do, I’ll get a better pan, some skewers and a baster!

Funny thing is, I am normally very organized and over prepared for anything I attempt in the kitchen or almost anywhere else for that matter. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t really thought all of this through or missed that many things. I guess I could have gotten upset at all of the obstacles along the way, but I just kept thinking about Dave and his adventures with “Butch”. I decided to laugh at my adventure.

I laughed a lot that weekend. Besides I thought it would eventually make a good story for the blog!

Merry Humbug!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

dn's Chocolate Sin Cake

If you are looking for a decadent dessert to serve this holiday season - or any time of year for that matter - look no further!  Have I got a chocolate dessert for you!!

Just over a year ago, while having dinner out with some gal pals, I had THE most decadently chocolate dessert that I've ever had in my life! It was called Chocolate Sin - a dense, moist dark chocolate cake with a creamy chocolate filling and a bittersweet chocolate ganache! It truly was to die for!

I decided to attempt to create my own version of this amazing dessert. I looked for recipes online but what I found was far more complicated and fussy than I was willing to attempt - even for that intense chocolate fix! I wanted something that was fairly simple to do - that didn't require major baking skills.

Yup, I wanted a lazy version!

The cake itself was the easiest part. I used my tried and true Better Than Sex Cake recipe. If you have a good dense dark chocolate cake recipe, you could easily substitute it for the cake - assuming you want to make it from scratch! 

The filling and ganache would be trickier. Real ganache is made with high quality chocolate and whipping cream. I refuse to buy whipping cream as it is ridiculously expensive and way too rich for my taste.  I also hate trying to heat it then temper it with the chocolate to make a smooth ganache. It is finicky and prone to disaster if you aren't really careful!

There had to be a simpler way that I could imitate the original without all the fuss and bother!

With a bit of thought, I decided to try doing the filling with a combination of melted bittersweet chocolate and Nutella combined with softened light cream cheese. The first attempt at the filling was a bit on the dry, crumbly side but with a bit of tweaking, I came up with a smooth creamy filling. The ganache to spread over the entire cake would be made with additional melted bittersweet chocolate and Nutella.

I made the cake for a friend's birthday and they raved that it was the best cake ever! I also made the cake for the same gal pals I had dined with and they thought I had indeed captured the flavours and textures of what we had devoured at the restaurant!

This recipe can be made using two 8" or 9" round cake pans. I have also used smaller round pans to make mini cakes - see near the bottom of this post for smaller pan sizes, bake times and altered quantities for filling and ganache. There is also a version for a lemon cake with the chocolate filling and ganache!

A little goes a long way with this cake so the full size will easily serve 12-14.

dn's Chocolate Sin Cake

1 devil's food chocolate layer cake mix
1 instant chocolate pudding mix - 4 serving. Not the low cal variety!
3/4 cup chopped almonds - toasted
1 cup semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable/canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fat free sour cream

Pre grease two 8 or 9 inch round pans.* Preheat oven to 350F

Combine the cake mix and pudding mix. Remove about 1-2 Tablespoons and mix it with the chocolate chips and almonds. Set aside.

Add the eggs, oil, extract and sour cream to the remaining cake/pudding mixture. Mix on low to combine then increase to medium and beat till light and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds.

Divide batter evenly among the pans and bake till toothpick test comes out clean - about 30 - 35 minutes depending on pans and your oven.

Remove to cooling racks and let cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen any edges from the side. Place a second cooling rack on top of the pan and carefully invert the cake to remove from the baking pan. Allow the cakes to cool completely then chill for a couple hours or overnight.

Filling and coating
2 Tablespoons liqueur such as Cherry Brandy, Kahlua, Frangelico, Amaretto or Grand Marnier 
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup Nutella (Hazelnut spread)
1 8 ounce light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
toasted almonds for garnish
With a pastry brush, gently brush the liqueur on the bottom of each layer.

Place strips of wax paper along the outer edges of a cake plate - overlapping so that it forms a full border around the edge of the plate. Lay one of the cakes - top side down in the center of the plate.

Place the chocolate and Nutella in a microwave safe bowl and melt on medium heat - stirring every minute till fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the softened cream cheese till light and fluffy. Add about 1/2 of the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. Carefully spread the chocolate cream cheese mixture evenly onto the bottom layer of the cake. Spread evenly to the edges but do not go over the edge. Align the top layer - top side up.

Carefully drizzle the remaining chocolate/Nutella mixture over the top of the cake - allowing it to drip down the sides. With a knife, carefully spread the melted chocolate to cover all sides. Sprinkle the top with toasted almonds. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. With a sharp knife, carefully cut around the bottom of the cake to separate any dripped chocolate on the waxed paper from the cake itself. Gently slide the wax paper out from under the cake. Return cake to fridge to chill.

Remove cake from fridge about 15-20 minutes before serving to allow chocolate coating to soften slightly before slicing.


*If using smaller pans adjust baking times. I generally use 4 smaller pans and find it takes about the same amount of time as an 8" round does. Even though the pans are smaller around, the cake is deeper so the time really isn't that much different. Check them after about 30 minutes.
Make a separate mini cake from each pan. Once the cakes have cooled and chilled slightly, using a sharp knife, carefully slice the cakes horizontally so that you have two layers from each pan. You can also freeze any of the mini cakes BEFORE frosting them. Allow to thaw in the fridge before slicing and frosting.

For the smallest (5"-6") cakes, I use 1/2 the quantity of the filling and coating recipe.
1 Tablespoons liqueur such as Cherry Brandy, Kahlua, Frangelico or Grand Marnier 
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup Nutella (Hazelnut spread)
4 ounces light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
toasted almonds for garnish

For a 7" pan, I use a 3/4 recipe.
1 1/2 Tablespoons liqueur such as Cherry Brandy, Kahlua, Frangelico or Grand Marnier 
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup Nutella (Hazelnut spread)
6 ounces light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
toasted almonds for garnish

Flavour variation:
Substitute a Lemon layer cake mix and lemon pudding mix for the chocolate cake and pudding. Make the cake as above. For the liqueur, I use Bacardi Limon but you could use Frangelico or Amaretto. The rest of the recipe and procedures are as above.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shopping For Clothes

I HATE shopping for clothing! Yup, I admit it! I am a female who does not enjoy shopping for clothes!

For many years, I was able to find much of my wardrobe at a Canadian chain called Cotton Ginny. I LOVED that store and spent a great deal of money over the years! Sadly, it closed down a couple of years ago. Many items in my closet bare the Cotton Ginny label. I LIVED in their Organic Cotton jeans! They had just a small amount of Lycra for stretch but - OH they were SO comfortable!

I'd been dreading the day, when I had to shop for new jeans. Those beloved organic jeans have been getting a little thread bare in the last year and wasn't sure they'd make it through another winter. I really should have stocked up before the store closed for good.

Oh well, this past September it was time to face the fact that I needed new jeans. Where to start? Mark's Work Warehouse has a wide selection of garments and I'd found a few tops there over the years, but I'd never gone jean shopping there. Warehouse One was another option. I vaguely recall finding jeans there in the late 80's or early 90's. Oh, for the days of my youth when I could just pick up a pair of Wranglers without having to hit the fitting room!

I'd heard some great things about a store here in Winnipeg on Sargent Avenue called Sargent Blue Jeans. Lots of styles to choose from, knowledgeable staff and free alterations - all at very reasonable, competitive prices. It was a bit out of my way, but if I had to find jeans, I decided to start there.

Sargent Blue Jeans isn't a fancy clothing store. It's focus is on the clothes it carries and the service it provides its customers. As you walk in, the sales counter (large enough to use for a cutting board) is on the right. The fitting rooms are on the left with a commercial sewing machine nearby. Clothing hangs on the walls. In the middle are long rows with a huge assortment of neatly stacked jeans.

The woman at the counter greeted me within seconds of my entering the store. She explained that the owner had stepped out for a few minutes and she was very busy, but would help me when she could. She was in the process of altering a pair of pants, but asked me what I was looking for in a jean. I showed her the CG ones I was wearing and said something like this! CG, had had their own sizing so I had no clue what size to ask for. She looked me up and down and said she would find some to fit me.

A few minutes later, she walked up and down the aisles, stopping occasionally to check through the stacks for a size. She returned with three pairs thrown over her shoulder - showed me into a fitting room and gave me the jeans.

I tried on the first pair and was stunned to realize that they were a perfect fit! I tried on the other pairs. Over the next 15 or 20 minutes, she knocked on the door a couple of times to ask if I needed any help or other sizes. I told her what fit, what didn't and where they didn't fit. She removed the ones that didn't fit and brought more to try on.

This woman was amazing! She just looks at the customer - then walks down the aisles stacked with piles and piles of styles & sizes - picks out a few that she thinks will fit you! She was helping about 3 or 4 of us at the same time AND doing the alterations while we were trying things on! She never once got any of our sizes or style needs mixed up!

By the time I was done, the owner had returned. He was working the cash register, helping customers and ironing newly altered seams.

I tried on eight or nine pairs and purchased two very comfortable pairs of jeans that day - one a dark denim (the first pair I had tried on) and the other a charcoal grey. The total was just under $90 including taxes!

Needless to say, I will be returning to Sargent Blue Jeans for any future jean purchases!

That same day, I was also looking for a wind-breaker. I had been to Mountain Equipment Co-op a week or so earlier but hadn't found anything that I liked that was under $200! YIKES! That was more than I had paid for my winter jacket! Since I was already out, I decided to push my luck and keep shopping!

Wilderness Supply on Ferry Road at Ellice was my next stop. I found a summer weight rain jacket I liked but I wanted to check out Cabela’s while I was out in the area as I REALLY didn’t want to spend $130! The clerk said it was a 14 day return policy or she could also hold it for me for up to a week, but suggested that I should come back on that Saturday as there was going to be a big sale and I could get 60% off! I said that bus service on Saturday wasn’t great so the manager gave her the okay to give me the discount while I was there! With taxes it was $58 and change!!!! Kudos for telling me about an upcoming sale AND giving me the price in advance!!

I was on a roll! I caught a bus back down Ellice to Cabela's. I had to wait a while for a clerk in the women’s wear to be available but it was worth the wait as I found a rain jacket with a light fleece lining that is great for spring/fall and easily layered with my heavy weight hoodie! With taxes – $78 and change!

A VERY successful shopping trip! Three stops, two pairs of jeans, and two jackets for just under $230! If only all my future clothing excursions could be that successful!

A couple of weeks ago, I did return to Cabela's and purchased a pair of water/wind proof pants. I tried on the women's style but they were too short but the men's fit. I'll be layering them over long johns and jeans on the really cold days I venture out this winter.
I don't know how often I'll make it to Cabela's come the new year though as they are moving out near the new IKEA store. At the moment that area has extremely limited and very poor bus service.

I've yet to find suitable locations to buy most long sleeved items or dress pants but I'll keep looking.

With any luck, I'll find more stores that carry items I like before I have to join a nudist colony!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance And A Hope For Peace

Today is November 11. In Canada and most Common Wealth countries today is known as Remembrance Day.

At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, citizens pause to pay tribute to those brave souls of the armed forces who have served and especially to those who died in the service of our country.

I can remember going to services in elementary school. The school would hold a service in the gym on the school day closest to November 11. All students were expected to attend - parents and guests were also invited. There would be bagpipes and some other music, readings, as well as a laying of a wreath. We'd hear veterans from WW1 and WW2 talk about service and freedom. I don't think they told too many war stories, but then again, I was very young.

My maternal grandfather served in WW1. Several uncles served in WW2. To the best of my recollection, I can't recall hearing war stories from them or anyone I knew when I was growing up.

To be honest, I never really understood the meaning of the day when I was a kid. I don't remember being taught a lot about war and its consequences until we reached junior high or even high school. History was never one of my favourite subjects though, so whatever we were taught, pretty much left my memory as soon as the tests for various eras were over.

Even so, the concept of a nation at war and people being drafted into military service or freely signing up to fight anywhere in the world seemed like a very strange concept to a farm kid on the Canadian prairies.

Naive? Yes, I was somewhat sheltered, but that was the early 1960's. The Cold War was looming and the Vietnam War was heating up but both seemed obscure in my world. My parents followed the news and read the papers, but media did not have the ever intrusive roll that it does nowadays. Talk of wars half way around the world or demonstrations against the wars, were not common topic in our area. My parents were more focused on the day to day responsibilities of running a farm. They focused on the weather forecasts as well as the livestock and commodities markets. They focused on raising their children.

My parents did tell us some stories of what it was like for them during the depression of the 1930's and the struggles of rationing during WW2. Given our relative state of abundance, it seemed hard to believe that things had been that difficult only thirty odd years earlier.

As I grew up and was more exposed to the state of the world outside of my prairie home, I saw more reports of world conflicts, civil wars and sadly, even more senseless deaths.

Some want all the toys and all the land and the blind, undying loyalty of the people that they rule.

Some refuse any and all rights to women - including the right to be educated.

Some believe that their religion or language is the only one of value.

Some are all too eager to pick up a weapon and go after their version of justice.

Some choose to believe in the necessity of war - the concept of an eye for an eye and all the destruction that goes with it.

Not me. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to wrap my mind around any reasons for people to go to war. Why couldn't they find a way to get along and live in peace?

I was a pacifist long before I even knew that there was a name for what I believed.

Strange as this may sound, I think it was while watching TV shows like "The Walton's" and seeing their day to day trials through the 30's and 40's that made war and hardship more real for me. I've never been comfortable watching war movies or documentaries though as the emotional and physical consequences of war, were just too painful for me to watch. The images would haunt my mind for days and nights after. The only two movies that I can recall managing to watch in their entirety were "Mrs.Miniver" and "Schindler's List".

In more recent years, I've had the opportunity to hear many radio broadcasts from the war years. They often included stories from the home front of how WW2 was affecting their lives and how citizens could help the efforts of the allied forces fighting on so many fronts for freedom. It hasn't changed my beliefs on pacifism - it has just helped me to understand more of the circumstances and realities of those times.

Today, there is a multitude of media formats to keep us apprised of the seemingly countless conflicts of the world. Despite all the hardships and lessons of the past, there are still those who feel the only answer is to go to war over lands, possessions and beliefs.

Why can't we find non violent ways to resolve the differences?

Why can't we learn to accept each other equally?

Why can't we learn to share?

Why can't we learn to be tolerant of others, 
regardless of our languages, religions, beliefs and abilities?

My heart breaks for those who have had to endure war. For the innocent victims of war. For those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom and equal rights for ALL citizens. For those who have lost friends and loved ones. For those families who must cope with the absence of a loved one who is serving. For those brave souls who come home broken, scarred and disabled.

However, I choose not to wear a red poppy to honour those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

If I were to wear a physical symbol of Remembrance Day, it would be a white poppy. A white poppy is a pacifists symbol of showing respect for, and remembrance of ALL victims of ALL wars. The word peace is written across the black center to symbolize a hope for the future.
I know that my opinions aren't shared by all and that some will be offended or feel that I am being disrespectful of those who serve. Not so. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices they have made. With all of my heart and soul, I just wish that war and it's consequences were not even a possible answer to settling differences.
So, on this day of Remembrance, I stop to think of those who have given so much and to hope that someday, there will be Peace throughout the world.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Welcome to Post-Leaf, Pre-Snowbank Season!

The last couple of mornings, Winnipeggers have woken to a bit of the white stuff on the ground. Temps are hovering around 0C/32F which also means that it is icy on streets and sidewalks. Friday morning there was a 20 car fender bender on a city overpass. Not a fun way to start the day!

It's too early for this right? Nope! Not in this prairie burg!

The season of fall started on September 22 - just over five weeks ago. Supposedly, the season is to last until December 21 when winter officially begins.

Now that time frame may actually apply in some rare lands, but here in Southern Manitoba, the season of fall doesn't follow the rules. Well to be honest, none of the seasons really do but today I'm specifically referring to fall.

Our leaves can start tuning in late August and be almost gone by the official start of fall. We can have skiffs of snow by late September or early October. We can have snow on the ground by mid October that - horror of horrors - STAYS till spring!!

It seems that every year is a bit different. Does Mother Nature flip a coin to decide when our leaves will turn colours? Then another one to see when they will all fall to the ground and a third to see when the first snowfall settles indefinitely on our land?

She may be the ruler of the seasons, but I suspect that the four seasons play some sort of cosmic weather game with her over their respective territories in order to reign supreme in her eyes. They try to sabotage each other by making it snow in June or melt in February. They send frost or a late snow to delay spring or a massive wind and frost to speed up fall.

Why can't they all get along and just let people enjoy the respective seasons rather than playing games with our environment?

I imagine that their answer would be that this keeps things interesting for them and supposedly for us! Heaven forbid the meteorologists actually figure out all of their tricks and be bang on with the forecast every time! What would be the fun in that?

Well, I for one could use a little boring when it comes to the weather of the four seasons. I don't mind a little tweaking to cool things down in the heat of summer or to warm things up a smidge in a bitterly cold winter. What I don't like is the teasing that goes on in spring and fall.

This year, our leaves were still relatively green the day before Fall started, Within a week or so, they had pretty much all turned colour. Only a few days later, the winds kicked in and the beautiful colours began to fall to the ground. We here in The 'Peg got a skiff of snow that melted within the day. Southeastern Manitoba got a nasty snowstorm that knocked out power to thousands. Some were in the dark for several days over the Thanksgiving weekend on October 8.
Yup, the true beauty of fall is fleeting. I'm glad I got out for my walk in the leaves when I did. Had I waited a few more days, I'd have been looking at barren branches and walking on soggy leaves.

We needed the rain but I really wish the multicoloured leaves had hung on the trees more than a few days. Now, the branches just look so empty and forlorn. Most of the birds flocked south weeks ago. Even some of the human variety of snowbirds have headed for southern climes already. They are getting out while the getting's good!

The prairie landscape is looking cold and bleak. The days are growing ever shorter. The lovers of warmer weather are complaining how cold it is. Cleaning up the leaves and gardens is either done or being left to mulch for spring. The winter snow lovers are chomping at the bit to get out for their winter activities.

It's the time of year when you really don't know how to dress. Okay, that happens several times a year in these parts, but this post is about fall. It is still a bit too warm to be pulling out the long-johns, winter coats and scarves. But, you need more than a light jacket and a hoodie. Under-dress and you'll catch one heck of a nasty cold. Overdress and you sweat like crazy then catch a chill when you strip down and head out again. It is a delicate balancing act that can easily go either way.

Even the hint of precipitation can mean snow if the conditions are right. The question is - will this be the snow that stays? As much as I dislike how the snow and inevitable ice patches limits my mobility, there really is a freshening beauty to the white stuff - in moderation of course! Let's not overdo the snow love here - especially only five weeks into fall!

If I had my way, fall - and all of its leafy beauty would truly last more than a couple weeks! It would last a good two months or more! The snow can jolly well wait it's turn in the winter season.

Heck, if it were REALLY up to me, it wouldn't snow till Christmas Eve and then it would melt on January 2!!

Alas, Mother Nature and her four feuding sibling seasons don't give a fig what I or anyone else wants. They remind us of this every chance they get.

I know there is no real point in lamenting the all too short beauty of fall but sometimes it just feels good to blow off a little steam and vent about the things we can't change. 

Mother Nature, I'm sorry if I have offended you or ticked you off. It is nothing personal - I swear!

Oh, one more thing - can you please hold off on any more of the white stuff for just a little longer? I haven't gotten all my winter supplies in my pantry yet. I'm not quite ready to hunker down for hibernation.

Yeah, I know - we'll get the snow when you decide we get the snow. Oh well, never hurts to ask!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

PB Apple Chippers

Last fall, I came across a recipe for “Apple Peanut ButterCookies” on the Taste Of Home site. It sounded interesting and had gotten some good reviews. Since I love Peanut Butter and Apples, I thought I would give this recipe a try - with a few of my own adjustments of course!

The original baking temp was 375F but I found that a bit too hot and the cookies were over-baked around the edges so I reduced the temp to 350F which resulted in a much more even bake. I altered the proportions of shortening and Peanut Butter from 50/50 to 25/75. Rather than using all purpose flour entirely, I did a 50/50 split of all purpose and whole wheat. I reduced the cinnamon slightly as I am not a huge fan of cinnamon and didn't want it to overwhelm the other flavours. I upped the quantity of grated apple. And of course I added chocolate chips!

After all. what could be more tempting than a combo of Peanut Butter, Apple and Chocolate!?!

The result was a soft, flavourful cookie that is perfect to serve anytime with a nice cold glass of milk or a mug of hot chocolate!

PB Apple Chippers

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup grated peeled apple, firmly packed (3 medium, peeled cored and grated)
1 cup crushed peanuts
2 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in apple, peanuts and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Do not over-bake! Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks. Makes about 9 dozen.



Sunday, September 30, 2012


A week from tomorrow - Monday October 8, 2012 is Thanksgiving here in Canada.

A time for us to gather and give thanks for our family, friends and so many other things in our lives.

For some though, it can be hard to give thanks when there is so much struggle in this world we share.

Weather has hampered crops. Unemployment has severely limited resources and caused untold hardship for many. Disagreements have created distance among families, friends and nations.

Medical issues have altered lives. Then there are those who have lost loved ones. So many people that I know have lost someone they love in recent times. A woman lost her mother unexpectedly. Parents lost a son in a tragic auto accident. An elderly mother lost her daughter. A man lost his favourite aunt. A man lost his best friend of almost 40 years. A teenager lost her father. A woman had to say goodbye to her beloved furry friend and a man said goodbye to his feathered friend.

I could go on but you get the point.

Life circumstances or losing someone that you love makes it difficult to celebrate a time of Thanksgiving.

Regardless of how or when they left us, there is an emptiness that can become even larger as we gather to give thanks.

The loss is very real but the memories of those who have passed on can also help to fill the void they have left behind. The things you shared in common - be it a love of family and friends, an interest or companionship. Even the things you disagreed about can still bring a smile if you allow yourself to be thankful for the times you shared.

This year I will especially be missing my mom. It is almost a year since she passed. I miss her terribly. There are so many times I wish I could call her. But, I am SO thankful for all of the years that she was part of my life and for all she taught me and the rest of our family.

This year, I have much to be thankful for.

Though my health issues can be frustrating and occasionally overwhelming, I am thankful that I can still do so many things on my own.

I am thankful for my physical and emotional independence.

I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, a soft place to lay my head at night, food in my pantry and clean water to drink.

I am thankful that my mom and grandma taught me to cook and bake. And that they taught me to experiment with recipes!

I am thankful for our Canadian health care system.

I am thankful to live in a democratic country with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

I am thankful for CJNU - a nostalgia radio station that gives it's listeners countless hours of entertainment.

I am thankful for my love of music. It keeps me company, energizes me and comforts my soul.

I am thankful that I inherited my maternal grandfathers gift for putting thoughts and stories into printed words.

I am thankful for my sense of humour! It is an ice breaker, relieves tension and keeps me (somewhat) sane!

I am thankful for technology such as my computer that allows me to connect with friends and family both near and far. It allows me to be creative and stay up to date with what is going on in the world.

I am thankful for my amazing family and friends. They have helped me in so many ways. They have offered their time and resources. Most of all, they have given me unconditional love and support when I most needed it. I really don't know how I would have gotten through the years - and especially this past year or two without them!

I am thankful for the family and friends who check up on me if they haven't heard from me for a few days or can't reach me by phone. It's always nice to know you have been missed!

I am thankful for the random acts of kindness - not just towards me, but towards all citizens. The clerks who remember you and ask how you are or if you need any help. People who offer their seats on the bus, to help someone cross a street or who needs directions or assistance.

I am thankful for the beauty of the four seasons and especially for Autumn: 

It is easy to get so busy or be overwhelmed with our day to day living and responsibilities that we lose sight of how much we truly have in this world.

Life and circumstances can change in a heartbeat.

We need to stop ... take a deep breath ... look around our own little world and take stock of all that we have been given. Not just the material things but also the love, support and friendships of the people in our lives.

We need to tell the people in our lives that they are appreciated and loved. That we are thankful that they are a part of the fabric of our lives.

There is much to be thankful for ... if we only open our hearts and our minds to what surrounds us.

As we move towards Thanksgiving and beyond, my wish for you is that you will also find a true abundance of things to be thankful for and that you will share that abundance with those around you. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 Fall TV Season

When I was younger, I always looked forward to the beginning of the new TV season. Time for new adventures, intrigue and laughs with my favourite characters. A time to see what was new and if it would become part of my weekly viewing.

Times have certainly changed. There really doesn't seem to be a lot that is new anymore. It seems like almost everything has been done, redone and overdone! Almost everything that does pique my interest gets shuffled around the schedule a few times then cancelled with the networks claiming they couldn't find an audience! Well, perhaps they shouldn't have moved it quite so often!

Gone are the days when shows would build up an audience over a season - or two. Or find it's real audience during summer reruns. The networks want instant results for their investments these days and if they don't get it, well sorry but your gone from the dial!

I loved - make that LOVED NBC's Harry's Law! Kathy Bates and company delivered both drama and humour over its 1 1/2 seasons on air. David E Kelly can create a series like no one else in that it can be interesting, quirky, funny and heartwarming all in the same episode. The last episode brought tears to our eyes as we heard Ms. Bates pay tribute to her exwith the haunting lyrics of "Take Me Home You Silly Girl" - her friends gathered round her. I will truly miss this show and hope that a DVD set of the full series will be released!

Last spring saw the ladies of Wisteria Lane bidding adieu to each other and the audience in Desperate Housewives. I'm really going to miss that show, but on the other hand, I am all in for the second season of ABC's Revenge which will take over the coveted Sunday night time slot! Personally, I can't wait to see what the writers have come up with for this season! Did Victoria survive the plane crash? Is Emily's mother really alive? Is Amanda really carrying Jack's baby? Did Charlotte die as a result of her overdose? So many questions to be answered!

How I Met Your Mother, returns for an eighth season on Monday nights. I've enjoyed this series, but am getting impatient as to who the mother is. If the rumour mill is correct, we may have to wait one more season after this before we know. In the meantime, we get to see the gang through more of life's adventures in love and relationships.

Criminal Minds will be back on Wednesday nights on CBS and Tuesday's on CTV. Paget Brewster (Agent Prentiss) has left the show but the BAU has many new cases to solve. Over on ABC, another of my favourite shows, Body Of Proof was on the renewal bubble last spring and barely made it on as a mid season replacement. Apparently there have been some major cast changes so this may well be the end if it doesn't pick up in the ratings.

Yet another season of Survivor starts on CBS/Global on September 19. Ratings have been slipping in recent years and frankly, I've been getting tired of it over the last few seasons as well. My tolerance for the lying, conniving and backstabbing has grown thin. I tried doing other things while the show was on and just listening - which helped but I found I just didn't care if any of the players won. I tried following Jeff Probst on Twitter which helped a bit until he started to use TOUT to post short videos. For the life of me, I just can't figure out that site and how to work it. Trying to follow the show, Twitter and Tout was exhausting. Now he also has his own talk show that premiered on various stations across the USA and Canada last week. The endless TV promos for the show were REALLY annoying but in reality the show is much better than I expected it to be.

This season the survivors are in the Philippines with the return of 3 former castaways who were all evacuated for medical reasons. The other big news is that Lisa Whelchel who portrayed Blair Warner on the 80's series Facts Of Life is one of the castaways. Apparently she is a huge fan of the show but this could also be considered stunt casting. I doubt she will be the survivor but it may be interesting to see her for at least part of the season.

On the other hand, I always look forward to the adventures on The Amazing Race. What teams will I cheer for or despise? What countries and activities will the teams endure? The Race begins on Sept 30 on CBS and CTV

A major pet peeve about CBS web site content. The Canadian stations that carry Survivor (Global) and Amazing Race (CTV) either aren't allowed or just can't be bothered to carry all the extra videos that CBS puts on their site. Despite being huge hits in many countries, CBS only allows people within the USA to actually view the majority of its video content. We can't view audition tapes, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes or post show interviews. This is SO NOT FAIR!!!!

As for the new series this year? Well, only a handful are on my watch list at this point.

Partners CBS/CityTV 7:30C Sept 24  
This show is from the creators of Will and Grace - a series I loved! I'd heard there were several similarities to W&G and that didn't impress me, but the extended preview I watched was better than I expected so I will be checking it out! 

Ben And Kate Fox /CityTV 7:30C Sept 25  
Reading the premise of the show, I thought it sounded rather lame. The video preview for this was also better than I expected but I have my doubts that it can endure over time to become a full fledged hit.

The New Normal (NBC/CTV) 
A gay couple decide to have a baby with a surrogate single mom. The characters are an interesting mix of beliefs and opinions on "family" with frank dialogue and scenes. Unlike many comedies, this is not filmed in front of a studio audience nor does it use canned laughter. A refreshing change for this charming and funny show! You can watch the pilot on the CTV website here in Canada and tune in Tuesday nights for the regular episodes.

Elementary CBS/Global 9C Sept 27 
This show is a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes including the main character who just happens to be named Sherlock Holmes. He has an uncanny ability at solving crimes and mysteries. Of course the other main character is named Watson (this one isn't named John but rather is known as Joan Watson). The promos for this show have been running ad-nauseam  for weeks. I've taken to hitting mute or changing channels when it comes on.  I love listening to the old Sherlock Holmes radio shows and have read a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books. I'll check out the first episode or two but I strongly suspect that the classics will prevail over this rehash any day!

What else do the networks want us to watch? Here is a few:
- Vegas - tells how the town came to be.
- Nashville is about an up and coming singer and an aging star in the country music industry.  
- Revolution is about the citizens of Earth being thrown into a new dark age when there is no more electricity in the world.
- The Neighbors has a family moving into a neighborhood populated by aliens.
- Anger Management - the new offering from bad boy Charlie Sheen.
- The Mindy Project has been getting some great buzz. Think of it as Bridget Jones as a gynecologist. If that appeals to you, you'll probably like it.
- Emily Owens MD is described as Grey's Anatomy meets Gossip Girls.

For full listings of what is available to those of us in Canada, and what is coming midseason (or sooner!) check out TV Guide Canada's Fall Preview.

So aside from a handful of returning shows and a couple of potentially interesting new ones, I don't think I'll be watching nearly as much TV this winter as I used to - unless I find some old classics on the cable channels. Will likely spend most evenings in a comfy chair with my Kindle!