Lasagna

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If you are here for a lasagna recipe, I’ll give that to you right now. But nothing is for free, so you have say, “Thank you Helen” (at least in your head), to pay homage to my Mom who made this as we were growing up. I helped her make this once, and felt nostalgic so made it for tonight’s supper.

What you need:

Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
Garlic (I used a whole head – I’m of Ukrainian descent remember), chopped fine
1 – 2 carrots, chopped as small as you can
1 – 2 stalks celery, chopped as small as you can
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small tin tomato paste
Dried oregano (to taste – start with one tablespoon)
Dried basil (to taste – start with one tablespoon)
Fennel seed (CAREFUL – start with 1 teaspoon, there are people who don’t like fennel. I do, so I use about one tablespoon).
Salt, pepper, and a few teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
Balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon – use the cheap stuff IN recipes. The 18 year old stuff is for salad and bread)
1 cup water

Method: Put the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the finely diced onion, carrots, celery and garlic. When soft, add the ground beef. Add the rest of the ingredients listed above. Allow it to burble. Once burbling, set the stove to simmer, cover. Taste it. Does it taste like a nice meat sauce? No? What does it need? Add it! Put the cover on, and forget about it’s existence for now.

If you are pooped at this point, you can set the sauce aside and continue the rest tomorrow. Feeling like you got to get this done now? You can! Actually, if you are in a rush, you just need to let this burble for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Creamy Bit:
1 tub ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese – I judge not), 500 ml
1 small tub sour cream, 250 ml
2 eggs
Dried basil (1 – 2 teaspoons) or use fresh if you are lucky enough to have a fresh supply

Method:  Beat eggs. Add to ricotta, sour cream and basil. Mix well.

Oozy Cheese:
Mozzarella (use the brick type, not the soft kind), about 2 cups or more
Parmesan cheese (the real stuff please, or don’t bother), about 1 cup or more (use a micro-plane).

Method: Ask husband who would rather watch the Tim Horton’s Briar to grate the mozzarella. Then sweetly ask him to grate the Parmesan. If there is any groaning or eye-rolling, tell him to Grate or there Will Be No Lasagna. While he’s grating, this is when you sit and relax and have a large glass of wine and contemplate if you want to blog about this experience or not.

Noodles:
1 box normal lasagna noodles
Large pot of salted boiling water

Method: Read the box, but remove from heat and drain just before al dente. This prevents mushy noodle syndrome.

Assembly:
In your lightly greased 9 x 13 pan, add a very thin layer of meat sauce.

On top of that, place three long lasagna noodles, and cut one to fit on the end that is not covered.

On top of that, add a nice layer of your ricotta/sour cream mixture.

On top of that, add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a layer of mozzarella.

Add a layer of meat sauce.

Here endeth one layer.

Now depending on how deep your 9 x 13 is, or how daring your are feeling, repeat at least three times. At the end, make sure you are ending with a layer of meat sauce and cheese. My old Pyrex 9 x 13 barely had enough room for 3 layers. But I improvised, and got it done.

IMPORTANT:  YOU CANNOT SCREW UP LASAGNA. Be creative. Just make sure you end up with cheese on the top.

Don’t want it now? Want to save it for unexpected company, or to present it to a new neighbour or to a friend going through tumultuous times?  Cover well and freeze it.

Ready for it now?

Set oven to 350F. Tent foil over top of your lasagna. Place the 9 x 13 on a cookie sheet to catch ooze.

When oven is ready, place your creation in the oven for 30 minutes. Take the foil off, and allow it to cook for another 30 minutes minimum. When it’s bubbly and oozy, and golden on the top, it is time to remove it from the heat. Let sit for as long as you can stand it.

If you are cooking this from frozen, add an extra 30 minutes to the cooking time.

EAT.

If you read this far, now I will take an opportunity to add some commentary. I don’t know if it has something to do with age, but when I’m looking for a recipe, I just want the fricken recipe. I don’t want to hear how lovely balloon whisks are and how they are available from Amazon. The whole blogging thing has become a bit of a drag for all the ads. Not sure what you will see when looking at my blog, but I can assure you, I am not linked to any advertising or other money generating incentive. I do this out of pure enjoyment and documentation of recipes or restaurant experiences.

This post came about because my sister asked me at about 7 am what I was having for supper tonight. Somehow in the conversation Mom’s lasagna came up. It stuck, and I knew I would have to make it today. I’m sure that my Mom’s recipe is very similar to recipes that you are familiar with, with slight variations.

If you are new to lasagna making, CONGRATULATIONS, and let me tell you again, that you CANNOT SCREW THIS UP. Our neighbourhood greasy spoon, “Route 99” sells a baked lasagna that is nothing more than tiny lasagna noodles swimming in meat sauce and baked with a cheesy layer on top. It’s delicious.

If you feel the courage to make this at home, you will not be disappointed. Your home will smell yummy. Your partner will happily leave their computer game, Briar, golf, football match, diamond painting, to be part of the lasagna experience.

I cannot possibly complete a post about lasagna without a shout out to my favourite cat, Garfield.

Garfield Lasagna

Good luck. Please let me know of your lasagna experience. It seems to be an 80’s thing, but I think it has staying power into the future. I’d like to know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Homemade Sausage

Happy New Year loyal and new readers of my blog. It’s a new year full of promise and unbroken resolutions (it’s presently 9:30 a.m. on January 1).

This past week I was talking with my Auntie about an old sausage recipe my parents used to make every winter. It was popular through the late 1980’s and 90’s and was something we made around Christmas to have on hand when company came over.

The sausage making faded away as things do, but my Aunt held on to the tradition. When we’d travel to visit her at her home, or when we’d meet up in Victoria, my Auntie would always proudly present the group with a few rolls of the sausage. We were always delighted and would eat through a roll in no time flat during our Happy Hour, another family tradition. While on holidays, we’d meet up in a family member’s hotel room, put out a spread of cheese, crackers, sausage, pickles, assorted nuts, fruit, beer and wine. We’d sit around and enjoy each other’s company and sometimes play dice and card games. Here’s the gang out on a patio, having a few laughs and enjoying the sun.

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My Auntie (in plaid in the photo) lives in a seniors community in Kelowna. She had made this sausage to share with her fellow residents at Christmas time. It was a hit! It became so popular she started a sausage making enterprise out of her galley kitchen. She was selling the sausage for $6.00 a roll, just enough to recover costs. It was in such demand, she was making it year round. She had to stop because it was becoming work instead of a hobby. After our talk she contemplated starting up her enterprise again, but charging $10 a roll.

I was feeling inspired and nostalgic after our conversation, so found the old recipe and went out to find the ingredients. I even entertained the idea of giving up my day job and starting my own sausage making enterprise and selling it at the Strathcona Farmer’s Market. I always get ahead of myself. I did some quick math and determined I would need to make and sell A LOT OF SAUSAGE to make it worthwhile. I was exhausted with the idea before I began.

As you will see, it is a simple recipe with basic ingredients. The trickiest thing to find is curing salt. Back in Calgary, it was readily available from the Co-op. In Edmonton, I found it online at the Silk Road Spice Market as well as Cabela’s. Too impatient to wait for delivery or drive throughout the city and find parking, I visited my favourite English rasher and meat pie provider, Todd Panchuk, at Old Country Meats at 6328 106 Street in Edmonton. He was able to provide me with enough curing salt for two batches. We discussed what I was making and was given some great advice. I left happily with the curing salt, and a delicious package of English bacon. Why this style of bacon isn’t popular in Canada is beyond me.

Back to sausage. I am happy to share this recipe with you all. I would be very interested to hear if you make it, or know of any other similar recipes.

Homemade Smoked Beef Sausage

4 lb lean ground beef
1/4 c curing salt
2 tbsp liquid smoke
1 1/2 tbsp black pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp mustard seed

Mix spices and liquid smoke in 1/2 cup water. Add to meat and mix well. Roll mixture into 4 or 5 sausages and wrap in foil. Store in fridge for 2 days.

 

 

 

Remove, unwrap and place on a rack over a pan in the oven at 225 degrees for 5 hours. Allow to cool, and slice as required. This freezes well.

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A few notes:

When I was talking to Todd at Old Country Meats he explained the mustard seed is used to retain moisture in the meat. He suggested I crush half the seeds. I took his advice and the recipe worked out very well.

Liquid smoke comes in different varieties. Hickory smoke is what we’ve used traditionally. This time I used mesquite (shown in the photo) mainly because I grabbed the only liquid smoke on the grocers shelf. I didn’t know (at the time) that liquid smoke came in different varieties. I would return to hickory as I prefer that flavour.

Would love to hear from you if you make this. Best wishes to you all for a wonderful year.

Square Season

I’ve got the baking bug. Perhaps the result of months of watching the Great British Baking Show, the Great Canadian Baking Show and the Great American Baking Show. Watching nice people bake nice things and saying nice supportive things to each other has warmed my heart and given me the encouragement to dig out my 8 x 8 square pan and put delicious things in it. Then eat it.

First up was a sweetened condensed milk phase. I made Millionaire Squares (shortbread bottom, caramel centre and chocolate top). Photo not available, but a Google search will satisfy your curiosity very quickly.

Next up was a tooth throbbing sweet chocolate fudge sort of concoction made very simply, no oven required. These sweet treats are made by melting two cups chocolate chips along with 2/3 of one can of sweetened condensed milk. You do not need to wait for a certain temperature or ball stage. Just melt together. Once melted, spread in an 8 x 8 pan lined with wax paper. Then, melt one cup butterscotch chips in the remaining sweetened condensed milk. Spread over chocolate base. Add a light sprinkle of fleur de sel. Refrigerate for three hours. Lift out of pan and cut in tiny pieces. Should look like this:

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Today I was feeling nostalgic and remembered date squares (aka matrimonial bars). Date squares seem old world to me, and like to think I’m evoking the spirit of my mother and grandmothers when I make these. I love dates in all forms. One particular treat is to take a Medjool date, split it in half, remove the pit, and add a bit of plain cream cheese. Heaven.

For today’s date squares I pulled out my trusty 8 x 8, and cooked up 1 cup of dates (the block kind) along with 1/2 cup of water, a few tablespoons of brown sugar, the grated rind of one orange, the juice of a half an orange, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Can’t you just smell it?

Once the dates have become a oozy mess, I set it aside and worked on the infamous, messy, crumb base. To make this, with my hands mixed together 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of baking soda, and a dash of salt. I used fresh from the fridge hard butter and worked it in the flour and oatmeal until a fine crumb.

Into my buttered 8 x 8 I added about 2/3 of the crumb base and lightly packed it. Then I smeared on the date ooze, and covered with the remaining crumb. I baked it in a 350F oven for 35 minutes.

Kid yourself not, even though this contains dates and oats which sound healthy and wholesome, it also has the addition of brown sugar and butter, which does not place it in the Canada Food Guide Fruit and Vegetable section of the rainbow. There’s enough butter in it, a person might be able to count it as a dairy serving.

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Ted Ngoy, The Donut King

The Donut King cover

Last month a publishing company sent out the usual distribution email offering a copy of the book “The Donut King”. I was intrigued by the remarkable sounding rags to riches life story of Ted Ngoy. I asked for a copy and it was promptly sent and received.

It’s a small book, 169 pages long. It is written in the first person by Ted Ngoy himself. It is very well written. His voice throughout is honest, sometimes painfully so. There is no arrogance or self-pity. I related to him because of his honesty. He describes his story with self-reflection, and the drama and intrigue that colours his story from beginning to end is the result of life happening, not Hollywood embellishment.

Ted Ngoy and I couldn’t be farther apart. I’ve never experienced hunger, war, fear, served in an army, or had a wet and cold bed to sleep in. I’ve also never built an empire of donut shops, been wealthy, or rubbed shoulders with people with political influence.

Ted Ngoy headshotTed Ngoy is from Cambodia, and his story starts and ends here. I was born in 1967, and I remember hearing Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot in the background through the 1970’s. I had no idea then what it meant, and am ashamed to say I didn’t learn about it until reading Ted Ngoy’s book this past month. I did some internet research as well and am saddened by what happened between 1975 and 1978 under Pol Pot’s evil regime. Estimates are up to 3 million people were killed in this time. To give that perspective, that is 75% of the population of Alberta.

Ted Ngoy was able to flee Cambodia by the skin of his teeth. He recounts his dramatic exit in 1974, amid explosions and an anxious pilot who was waiting for him well past his departure time upon the request of a friend.

In America, Ngoy built wealth and respect by learning about the donut business. He was generous with his knowledge and shared it with other Cambodian refugees, making them successful in their new country.

Where Ted Ngoy gets real for me is when he gets obsessive with gambling. It is here in the story that a multi-millionaire becomes very, very human. He gets addicted to the energy and euphoria that happens to some when gambling. In his case, his addiction started in Las Vegas. He forgets everything else, and loses all his millions. When Ted Ngoy wants to stop, he starts bargaining with himself. Very much like me when I have eaten too many chocolates, or drank too much wine, and make promises to myself that that I Will Never Eat Another Chocolate, or Drink Another Glass of Wine in My Life again. The humanness of what Ted Ngoy went through this dark time is very relatable. If I’m honest as he is, I will admit there was a certain pleasure about reading a story about someone so unimaginably successful, crashing and burning.

To preface that statement, you need to know this. In the promotional material I received from the publishing company, it says the author goes from rags to riches, not once but three separate times. “Come on!” I said to myself. At that moment I had little sympathy for someone who would allow this to happen once, let alone three times. You must also understand that my husband and I are the sort of people who do not take any risk whatsoever with our money. So I made a judgemental “tsk” and started to read the book. I warmed to Ted Ngoy with his early life and escape from Cambodia, but when he got bedazzled by the lights and smarmy surroundings in Vegas, I cooled a bit. “Got what you deserved Ted” I shouted at the pages.

Our Ted Ngoy though is one resilient human being. He builds himself up again after that. He does find religion. He also finds politics. He becomes a Republican supporter in the United States, and also finds his way back to Cambodia and rubs shoulders with the politically influential.

Back in Cambodia he shares a fascinating story about his foray with the Chinese and hybridized rice. The Chinese had developed a miracle rice that could produce three to five times the amount of regular rice. This would be particularly important in Cambodia as most of the country is agriculturally based, and the increased yield would benefit farmers and backers alike.

Again, his humanness struck me. Most of the world understands that business conducted in Asia is done with calm, respect and ritual. Ngoy loses his temper with a Chinese entourage who get all huffy and hoity-toity when there is a mix up and the Cambodian prime mister Hun Sen is not available to meet them. His outburst made me smile. How many of us wouldn’t want to lose our sh*t when keeping a level of decorum becomes impossible to contain?

I was moved by Ted Ngoy’s story. To me, it’s not so much about rags to riches, but about resilience. Something that I strive to have, even in my protected life of first world problems.

After an amazing journey, Ngoy is dedicating his life to helping the country and people of Cambodia. From teaching English, to giving property and business advice, he becomes (again) a highly respected individual.

As this is a food blog after all, I must link this in some way to food (yes donuts are food, but you know what I mean). When I reached out to the publisher I asked for a recipe that Ted Ngoy might want to share. In reply, I was told a favourite traditional Cambodian dish is Amok. Although I suspect there are as many recipes for amok as there is people on this earth, Ted Ngoy did recommend this particular one at Saveur. Wikipedia describes amok as “a thick soup cooked with fish, meat, vegetables, eggs and coconut milk.” I’m anxious to try this at home, and challenge my foodie friends to give it a go. Or, if you’ve had experience with this delicious sounding dish, let me know what you thought – would you have it again? Only in Cambodia? Anywhere in Edmonton that serves it?

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My little blog serves mostly the people of Edmonton, Alberta. There are a handful of regular readers around the globe that combined is enough to generate enough interest to land my email address on public relations and marketing distribution lists far and wide. It’s because of that list, I was introduced to the fascinating life of Ted Ngoy.

Although worlds apart (except for donuts), Ted Ngoy has opened a world to me that I was completely sheltered from. I have learned and been saddened about the history and current state of Cambodia and its children. By writing this review and reflection of his story, I hope that you read Ted Ngoy’s story, learn about Cambodia, and consider if you can do something to support the children. I know I am.

If you are interested in supporting Cambodia’s children, there are many wonderful charitable foundations available out there. I list a few, but if you find you are in a position to donate, recommend you do your own research and make sure your money goes to a place that has the same values as you.

In Canada:

Plan Canada

World Vision

In Cambodia:

Cambodian Children’s Fund

Thank you Ted Ngoy for sharing your story with us. It is inspirational and provides hope that any adversity can be overcome. His book will be available in May 2018.

Marmalade and Woodward’s

The internet continues to vex me. After having a simple but delicious slice of hot, buttery toast and marmalade that my sister-in-law made using Ma Made Marmalade, I had to Google search “marmalade” because suddenly I needed to know EVERYTHING about marmalade.

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This makes a delicious marmalade, without the horror of watching your hands turn white with citric acid burns from peeling and cutting your own oranges. All you need to do is add sugar and water. It also needs time and jars, which this Much More with Less blogger writes about quite hilariously in her post How to Make Cheat’s Marmalade.

The Ma Made tin reminded me of the marmalade my Mom used to buy back in the 1970’s when jam came in tins instead of glass jars. Unlike the Hartley’s shown above, it came in completed marmalade form. It was either Shirriff’s Good Morning or Woodward’s brand. Perhaps both.  Then I needed to know everything about Woodward’s, and its Food Floor.

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I’m sure that image brings back a lot of memories to the People of the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. It sure did to me.

I doubt a single tinned Woodward’s pea or cream style corn kernel ever crossed my lips, but this is one of the few images I could find with a Woodward’s label:

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And now, I have the Woodward’s $1.49 jingle going through my head, where it will be firmly implanted until this time tomorrow morning.

Then the memories come pouring in and Google can’t provide the images I’m looking for:

Conveyor belt grocery delivery: I fool you not children of today, back in my childhood I was mesmerized at the grocery checkout. Mom would purchase her groceries (by cheque) and the groceries were put in boxes and then placed on rollers and whisked down and under the checkout counter to a system of conveyor belts that went into the bowels of the earth and by MAGIC, ended up in a small building in the middle of the parking lot. The groceries were loaded up in our golden brown Ford Country Squire station wagon and taken home in brown paper bags.

(Interjection: As Michael helps me proof read this article, he reminds me that he and I both had childhood fantasies of riding the grocery conveyor system. Truth. He also added there were grease pencils to write the customer’s name on the bags).

And speaking of conveyor belts,

Woodward’s Doughnut Making Machine: If I became bored of watching Mom pay for groceries (or more than likely Mom trying to distract me from escaping down the grocery conveyor) and especially if Dad was with us, he’d take me to watch doughnuts getting made right in front of our eyes on a doughnut making conveyor. Not unlike the mini doughnut makers you can find at festivals, but this one ICED THEM too. They were so pretty, warm, and delicious.

Woodward’s Cafe:  As young teens we’d order Coke’s, crinkle cut fries and grilled cheese sandwiches feeling very grown-up.

Candy Counter: My memory here might be confusing this with Simpson’s Sears. I remember the crystal clear glass looking in at bins of Bridge Mixture, Macaroons, Chicken Bones, Licorice All Sorts, Cinnamon Hearts, Rose Buds, French Burnt peanuts, Boston Baked Beans, chocolate covered peanuts and raisins. You’d place your order, and the person behind the counter would carefully weigh your request, and pour it into a white paper bag.

Wait? What? Chicken bones at a candy counter? As I patronizingly pat you on the head, Chicken Bones my dear are a candy. They look like this:

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The CBC has done a great story on them, which you can read at your leisure.

My synapses are reaching their end of digging out memories from my brain. The last thing is memories of my Mom getting a job at Woodward’s. She was very proud of this and looked sharp in her regulation dress code clothes (navy skirt, white blouse, navy blazer, nude hosiery, leather pumps). She worked at the stationery counter selling Cross pens. The only time I remember her complaining was on $1.49 day when she’d come home declaring Woodward’s was a mad house. She and Dad would relax in the living room with their CC and ginger ales and talk about the day they both had.

There you have it. From marmalade to memories of Woodward’s. Hope this shook a few memories loose for you too.

It Never Gets Old at Fort Edmonton Park

Michael and I were invited guests to attend Sunday Brunch at Fort Edmonton Park this morning. With a bright blue Alberta sky, a crispiness in the air, I couldn’t think of a nicer thing to do.

Arriving at Fort Edmonton on the off-season is in itself an adventure. YOU GET TO DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE IN THE PARK. It felt naughty, and if you let your imagination get to you, it felt a bit like time travel. Until you see all the other vehicles, then the dream bubble pops.

We arrived inside the hotel and gathered at the bar and was offered coffee. Not long after we were ushered inside the dining room, passing by the overflowing tables of brunchy goodness.

The dining room is spacious with lovely tables for two next to the the window, where we were sat. There are tables that can seat larger groups towards the back of the room, with the middle filled with tables for four. If you have space issues as I do, you will find it is easy to move throughout the restaurant.

The buffet is also laid out quite nicely. At the apex is the lone, patient omelette chef at his station, where he can work two omelettes at a time. Next grouping was the salads, which is adorable. I’m sure there are people who eat salads at brunch. I promised myself this morning that I would have some salad, followed by fruit and be done with it. Alas, my eyes were drawn instead to the baked tomatoes, bacon, sausages, and eggs Benedict. There was also chicken, pasta and salmon.  Lastly, just before the seating entrance stood the carving station with another patient, friendly chef along with his large prime rib of beef.

Our protein laden selections were delicious. The bacon, in particular, did not disappoint. Michael and I never cook the stuff at home, so when we eat out, we are always on a quest for the best bacon. We thought this was pretty good. The sausages as well were plump and tasty. A surprise was the baked tomato. I have a life time of disappointing baked tomatoes behind me, and except for some delicious buffet fodder I had in London decades ago, this is the first time I found something comparable. Cooked enough so warm, yet not overcooked to be mush. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese made these sweet and delicious. The chicken was tasty, and the prime rib was everything one could hope for buffet beef.

Michael indulged in an omelette and found it satisfying. He was also all about the potatoes, and sang their praises – crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, and still served hot.

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From the dessert table, a centre piece was this brain-cake. I took a miss on it, but once it was cut, I did an inspection. It seemed to be harmless cake, but there was a rumor it contained bacon. Although I didn’t eat it, I thought it was quite fun and cleverly done.

I did have a selection of fresh fruit and wedge of cheesecake, which I had to slice into a smaller piece. It was a tad bit frozen yet, but once it was plated, it was cool and quite edible at the table. I also tried, for the first time ever, a strawberry dunked in the white chocolate fountain. I had to consider this for a while because I have always been vehemently opposed to the chocolate fountain because they are not at all attractive once people get into them. Today, however, I was the second person in, and was pleasantly surprised at how fun and satisfying it is to smother a strawberry in drippy white chocolate. I promise you, if there weren’t people around I would have filled my empty coffee cup with the stuff.

About coffee. Coffee was abundant and smelled delicious. Michael and I are tea drinkers though and were offered a selection of teas, it seems, once everyone was offered coffee. (Does that sound huffy?)

Now, we were guests of Fort Edmonton, and are grateful to have been given the experience. I don’t like to speak badly of anything, but one thing that we will never let pass by without comment is a bad tea experience because nothing could be simpler to do. Michael and I are all about tea. And what goes with tea? Milk. Fort Edmonton had no milk. Creamers yes. Milk no. We asked and two servers kindly and apologetically responded that there was no milk. I peeked out the window to see how far we were from the barn and, perhaps, a resident cow. Is it a deal breaker? Of course not. But tea is such a simple pleasure and when you are used to it a certain way, anything else pales the experience. What saved the moment was the mimosa. Because if you know me, the second thing I’m about is booze. Even if diluted in orange juice.

Bottom line: Would we go as paying guests? You bet. In fact I have already been looking at our calendar to see when we could round up family members to go as a group. The price is reasonable at $35.95. The food quality is good, and the location unique. Should mention that guests are invited to walk throughout the park, and on a beautiful sunny Sunday, what could be nicer than wandering around in the fresh outdoors enjoying the scenery?

What you need to know:

Accessibility: Those with limited mobility can drive right up to the hotel. Ramps are available to get in the hotel.

Price
Adult/Youth (13 yr old+) $35.95+GST
Seniors (65+) $30.50+GST
Children (4-12) $22.95+GST
Children (Under 4) Free

Brunch Menu Highlights (from today’s experience):

Freshly sliced fruits
Chocolate fountain with strawberries, marshmallows, squares for dipping
Assorted pastries
A toast station
Freshly baked morning bakeries with cream cheese, butter, and preserves
Market fresh vegetable crudités and dip
Salad bar
Omelette station
Bacon!!!!! and sausage
Baked tomatoes
Roasted/fried potato in wedges and cubes
Roasted seasonal vegetables
Eggs Benedict
Penne pasta
Roasted chicken legs and thighs
Poached salmon
Carving station with a delicious prime rib roast
Assorted cakes, pies, mousse, and cookies
Chilled juices, freshly brewed regular, decaffeinated coffee and selection of international teas

 

 

Snacks by Janis Thiessen

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Oh I love snacks. I grew up with a family that was all about snacks and snacking. We had a snack cupboard, and we were allowed to help ourselves to these snacks when we wanted to. The only caveat was that we’d only take “one or two” cookies, a “handful of chips”, or a small bowl of crackers.

I don’t react well when there’s restrictions, and at a young age I rebelled and my eating obsession began. If Mom was out, I’d be in the snack cupboard rummaging around in the back to find her secret stash of chips (she was a Pringles fan). If Dad was around, we would wrestle for first dibs on the snack cupboard.

Mom remained slender her whole life, probably on account of her eating just “handful of chips”. Me on the other hand, felt there was something wonderfully freeing and independent when on my own rummaging around and “finding” snacks and eating them without a care or a restriction in the world. As a result, I have not remained slim.

One of my Mom’s all-time favourite snacks was the Cheezie. My dear Mom, in her wisdom of that age, felt that there was a nutritional value to the Cheezie because it was made with “real Canadian cheddar”. By today’s standards that is laughable, but I can’t fault my Mom. She only knew what she knew and what the world knew at the time.

When I received an email to see if I’d be interesting in reading the book Snacks, A Canadian Food History by Janis Thiessen, I was excited. I mean, I love snacks, and I love history. In the email it mentioned Cheezies and Old Dutch, two snack foods I grew up on.

 

I have received and read the book, and highly recommend it. The book will interest a variety of people:  Foodies, people who snack, those who long for nostalgia, business people – to learn what worked and what didn’t.

Janis is an associate professor of History and Associate Director of the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg. Don’t let that scare you. The book is full of detail and interesting facts, yes, but her writing style is entertaining and easy to follow. Plus there’s pictures!

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If you are at all interested in food history or learning how things are made, you will enjoy this book. I was excited to learn about Old Dutch’s history. I had switched to Lay’s sometime ago, because my memory of Old Dutch was the brown chips found in each bag. Remember those? I would toss out the brown chips. I thought they were burnt. After reading Janis’s book learned that there are people out there who PREFER the brown chip, claiming they have a better flavour. If those people were right, we’d see more brown chips. Instead today, we see pristine, predictable chips. I doubt it was Janis’s intent to have me switch chip companies, but after reading the history of Old Dutch, I am now back to Old Dutch chips. Why? Well, after reading about them, they feel like family now and I want to support a Canadian company (and they don’t allow many of those brown chips in the bag any more). figure 47 copyThe section on Cheezies was enlightening too. I don’t want to give it all away but what I found the most interesting is that each and every Cheezie is individual, just like a snowflake. Despite the salt content, I LOVE CHEEZIES. I love the big Cheezies. I love the small Cheezies. I will say out loud that I get annoyed that my fingers turn orange and I can’t work or read while eating Cheezies, but the fact is, its nice to stop doing what your doing and just enjoy them.figure 65 copy

There is also a section on chocolate – discussing Moirs, Gangnon, and Paulins. Remember the Cuban Lunch? My memory of it was vague: a rectangle of chocolate in a paper cup cup containing peanuts or rice crisps. The book clarified it was peanuts. I’m sure some of you also remember these. I remember them when they were 15 cents each (I am dictating this from my rocker in the old age home, trying to keep my dentures in place).

 

I’m new to book reviewing, so not sure what else you would need to know? The book is 343 pages long. The print isn’t so small you need a loupe to read it. It is nicely illustrated. It is published by the University of Manitoba Press. This I know: I enjoyed reading the book. It gave me a whole bunch of food cravings. I got nostalgic from remembering the good old days. It’s a great book. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Can It Get Any Worse?

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My new temporary life of keeping feet up, using a walker, and getting acquainted with the Marilyn Denis Show.

Last Thursday, September 14 I injured my knee to the point of complete immobilization. Doing what? Not from doing parkour. Oh no. I have blown my knee by sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day, five days a week, for decades. In the last few years, I have done next to zero physical activity outside of a few random walks and swims.

I have already been diagnosed with mild osteoarthritis in both knees – no surprise since I have weighed two hundred and cough cough point cough pounds for the past 10 years. On Friday I was told I had swelling behind my knee, putting pressure on the tendons. It didn’t sound dramatic enough for the pain I was feeling, but okay. I was given a prescription of Tramadol, which eased the pain a smidgen, but more importantly gave me the lovely sensation of floating and put me to sleep.

On Friday I could move through the apartment enough to get to the washroom, couch and bed. By Monday, I was hobbling a bit better, and decided to get some physiotherapy intervention.

The physiotherapy session on Monday was good. I have not had much success in the past, but this time tried someone new. My therapist explained what was happening – my hamstrings were very tight, and with the inflammation behind my knee was putting a lot of pressure in there. My therapist taught me some stretches and gentle exercises I could do at home. The exercises seemed ridiculously simple. He cautioned me to start slow and easy and work my way up. Slow and easy don’t usually work into my lifestyle. But slow and easy  slapped me in the face to teach me a lesson. Slow and easy can hurt too.

From the time I left the physiotherapy appointment to the time I arrived at home, I was in excruciating pain. Those few easy exercises made it feel worse (disclaimer: The small print in the physiotherapists office did say this could happen). I was crying and in near hysterics. How could this be happening to me? All I could see was myself holed up at home unable to help myself anymore. The Tramadol I was prescribed on Friday wasn’t touching the pain. I doubled the dose. I eyed my medically prescribed (honest) marijuana. I wanted out of my own body the pain was bad. I could not extend my leg at all. I’m not a moaner or a screamer, but to get down the hall to the loo had me screaming profanity between sobs. It was sad. It was a low moment.

I’m not one to give up easy though. Luckily our floors were recently changed from carpet to vinyl. Our wooden chairs have felt pads on the bottom to they slide quietly. I was able to push one to help me get to and from the loo. Also luckily, my sister still had our Mom’s walker. Michael picked that up for me that evening.

Although pushing a wooden chair was nostalgic and reminded me of when I was learning to skate when I was a kid, there was something humiliating about getting that walker. But darn it, it helped.

On Tuesday, the pain eased marginally. By noon I felt brave enough to try some of the exercises I was assigned. Most I could do, one I could not. But I did what I could. I never thought a few simple stretches would break me out in a sweat, but I felt like I had run up 10 flights of stairs (if I could run upstairs… heck, if I could run at all).

I spent the rest of the afternoon convalescing in the recliner looking at my toes.

Today is Wednesday. A bit of a set back in the morning, more on account of me not taking the pain medicine. I dutifully pushed me and my walker to get out of bed to the living room. After a breakfast of tea and toast (an aside, my lovely husband has been tirelessly supportive and has made me buckets of tea, perfectly toasted toast, soup, fluffed my pillows, filled my water glass, and given me an earful of scolding with colourful language when he’s caught me puttering around on my feet. The walker as given me some freedom, and have been enjoying the gentle clack-clack as I unlock the wheels, load up the seat with my iPhone, notepad and tea mug and zoom through the apartment. In my mind I look like a swan gracefully swimming on a still lake, but in reality I have a limp and my legs are bent and I look like a hot mess.

For a long time now I have been thinking of sharing my journey into health and fitness on social media. I have had a lot of false starts. I have been inspired by many people in my circle and beyond who have had shared their stories. I am hoping that by sharing my journey I will inspire others, and will gain your support and enthusiasm as I come back from this period of near immobility, into someone who is healthy and active.

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In the past I created many detailed spreadsheets to track my road to fitness. None of them worked. Why? I didn’t do the exercise. This scribbled mess has worked two days in a row. A win!

Smoothie Fever

My sister introduced me to the miracle of smoothies several years ago. Never a veggie fan, I learned that smoothies are a delicious way to consume nutrient packed spinach, kale, celery and cucumber (to name but a few). Smoothies are unlike juicing in that you are getting the benefit of the whole fruit or vegetable (think fiber).

In one of my 74 attempts at following Weight Watchers, I was dismayed to learn that, although most fruits and veggies count as zero points when eaten whole, become a point pig when blended. The argument on the web is this: when you eat your fruits and veggies whole, it takes more chew time, thus is more satisfying. THERE IS NOTHING SATISFYING ABOUT EATING KALE. Nothing.

I used to stress about being perfect when following Weight Watchers or any other diet program. For instance, I’d follow the program perfectly one day (usually Day 1). On Day 2, I might “sneak” a small piece of chocolate. On Day 3, I would “sneak” an entire pepperoni pizza. By Day 4, my mouth would be open and anything in my path would enter.

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When you hit age 50,  you realize perfection is a ridiculous endeavor. I’m still a work in progress to shake those perfection tendencies, but I’m getting better. For instance, I no longer berate myself for having a smoothie instead of having the veggies whole. The thing is this: I would never eat raw kale or cucumber. Both of these food items are full of nutrients. If whirring it up in a smoothie is the only way I’ll get the benefit of those nutrients, then whirring it up in a smoothie is what I will do.

My favourite smoothie right now is a bright, fresh tasting blend of veggies and fruit. This is what I blend:

Baby spinach (handful)
Celery (half a stick)
Cucumber (1″ peeled)
Ginger (1/2″ peeled)
Lemon (slice, with peel)
Frozen fruit – currently frozen mango, peach, strawberries and pineapple (1/2 cup)
Water (to cover)

Nobody pays me to write this blog, so I will not advertise what device I use to blend. There are many choices on the market. Mine rhymes with Butri-Nullet, is not expensive and works beautifully.

 

 

 

 

 

Crum Coffee Bar

Edmonton has a new independently owned and operated coffee bar. The beautiful Mila and Christine Gossain sisters have opened Crum Coffee Bar located at 4640 Calgary Trail South, Edmonton. With plenty of free parking, it’s an easy stop when running errands, meeting a friend, or wanting to sit and relax and work through the Edmonton Journal‘s puzzle page as Michael and I do on weekends.

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Mila and Christine’s passion for coffee is almost palpable. Coffee is in their DNA as their parents are also in the coffee biz in the city. What do they do when not operating a coffee shop? They travel to visit cafes! Remarkably calm with all that caffeine and a new company to run, the sisters promise to keep things simple. You will not find unicorn blended coffee beverages here. We are talking quality coffee, espresso, lattes, flat whites and cappuccinos.The organic beans are hand roasted in small batches by Cherry Hill Coffee from Kelowna, BC.

If you need a treat with your coffee, the Gossain’s will be baking croissants and other goodies right in the store.

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Some may remember this Huntington Galleria location as a Second Cup franchise. Michael and I had made this a favourite stop over the past few years, not so much for the Second Cup brand, but because we adore Christine and have always been made to feel welcome, admire the art work on Michael’s lattes, and frustrate ourselves with 5-star Sudoku puzzles. We have sat among many regulars for the past few years. We don’t outwardly acknowledge each other yet we all know each other, and there is comfort in that.

If you are looking for something new on the coffee scene, with welcoming friendly staff, and a comfortable place to sit and relax then please try Crum Coffee Bar.

In summary:

Crum Coffee Bar
4640 Calgary Trail South, Edmonton
Twitter: @crumcoffeebar
Facebook: CrumCoffeeBar

Open Monday – Friday 7 am – 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8 am – 7 pm
Loads of free parking
Nice spacious seating indoors – chairs/tables, bar stools/counter
A few chairs available to sit outside facing parking lot
Nearby:  Italian Centre Shop