Category Archives: kitchen

Old dog, new toaster (oven)

Those of you who know my bother John are aware of his bargain-hunting tendencies. It’s not that he doesn’t like to part with his money (viz, very expensive (Sub-Zero?) but bargain-priced freezer sitting in his dining room until future kitchen reno.) He just likes to get a deal.

A truck-load of Panasonic small appliances came to his attention while he was browsing kijiji and he ended up purchasing “a number  of ” identical toaster ovens, the ones with the lights instead of the heating element. The toasters were selling, new-in-box, for more than 70% off retail. He offered me one before he bought them, but I declined, citing a perfectly acceptable regular old toaster and lack of counter space.

Panasonic NB-G110P

He brought one of the mini ovens up to the cottage on our Thanksgiving weekend and as he was leaving, told me that I was welcome to take it with me if I wanted it. I was heading to Montreal to see Michael so I thought that I could give it to him for his apartment.  Michael’s roommate had brought one with him when he moved it, so I ended up taking it home and decided to try it out. I moved our old toaster to another counter, thinking I’d just use it a couple of times and then it could go back up to the cottage.

I have to say it’s pretty fabulous.

I’ve used it for toast, frozen pizza, reheating previously-frozen pizza, crisping croissants, and baking a frozen chicken cordon-bleu thingy. It’s fast, energy-efficient, and for a family of (on average) 2, a time-saver. It takes no time at all to heat up for baking.

I’m going to slip him some cash next time I see him and give my old toaster to Goodwill.

Does anyone have an extra Vitamix they got a great deal on? It, too, could change my life.

 

Seven Quick Takes Friday

7_quick_takes

  1. I was interviewed by a writer from the Wall Street Journal yesterday for a piece on white noise apps. I had blogged about it at some pointWhite Noise iPhone Icon (although I can’t seem to find the piece now) and she contacted me by telephone. While white noise machines have been around for a long time for use in helping people sleep, the emergence of apps for smartphones is relatively recent and she’s exploring what people do with them. My main uses are to block out noise when I am trying to read (in a waiting room, on the subway, etc.) or to help me sleep when I’m in a noisy environment like a plane or train. The app I use is White Noise and it’s available from the App Store on iTunes.
  2. I dropped by the Oakwood branch of the Toronto Public Library for the first time this week.Michael was at a trombone lesson nearby and it offered comfy chairs in a lovely light-filled space. Check out the door handles!
    Img_12161Img_12131Img_12141Img_12151
  3. We’ve been loving our new grill! I can’t believe how much more I am willing to cook in the summer when it does’t involve heating up the house. We’ve made some great steaks, chicken, lots of grilled veggies with onion and mushrooms, and tonight we’ve got some wild salmon that I think I’ll do in foil. Corn is in season, so I’ve also been enjoying that, although I haven’t grilled any yet. I’m going to try that tonight using the advice from the National Post, which is to just shuck it, brush the cobs lightly with oil and pop it directly on the grill. Easy peasy. 
  4. A couple of pieces from Zen Habits have really struck me this week. The first is a guest post by Chris of Zen to Fitness called Four Simple Fitness Fundamentals in which he encourages people to focus on the basics of living a fit life before getting all fancy. These include (1) using your bodyweight (squats, pushups); (2) not hyperfocussing on cardio; (3) walk and stretch every day; and (4) live an invigorating life.

    The second piece, written by Leo Babauta (the host of Zen Habits) is The Amazing Power of Being Present. So many people have monkey-brain these days, and spend a lot of time worrying about what they SHOULD be doing instead of focussing on what they ARE doing. There is definitely a lesson for me here, and practicing this, along with using the brain dump(pdf) recommended in Getting Things Done, are probably crucial to moving forward the million projects I have spinning around in my head.
    I’m looking orward to living an invigorating life when the temperature drops a bit!
     

  5. I just discovered Val McDermid, a writer of rather gory police procedurals set in England. I’ve read the first two Tony Hill and Carol Jordan mysteries namely The Mermaids Singing and Wire In The Blood. Very gory. But hard to put down. I put them down when I needed a break from the gore and then picked them back up again. 
  6. Another discovery this week:  we have free on-demand stuff with our cable* service. Maybe it’s a new thing, but there are quite a few decent movies and a bunch of series that we can get. I watched the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce earlier this week and it was fantastic! Starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, it is apparently a more accurate portrayal of the James M. Cain novel than the 1945 film starring Joan Crawford. I’m now catching up on Season 3 of Nurse Jackie that I somehow completely missed. Makes ironing pass quickly!
    *[Edited to correct: we don’t have cable per se. We have IPTV or internet television. Glorious HD over a telephone wire.]  
  7. My current reads are:
    Book:  Bech: A Book by John Updike. I haven’t read any of the Bech novels, so am looking forward to this one.
    Audio: Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke. Slightly better than I was expecting, plus bonus recipes for baked goods.
    Kindle: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington. Haven’t actually started this yet, but it’s on my Goodreads list to finish by the end of August. 

Pop on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes! 

From Love and Trash – Dumpster Find of the Week: (living) onions!

I love the idea of reclaiming trash, and this is from one of my favorite blogs, Love and Trash. While the writer found the “dead” onions at her food co-op, I can usually score some right at home.

I love onions. I love ‘em raw, and I love ‘em cooked, so much so that I have one tattooed on my leg. Mmmm. Full of vitamins and super powers, I say. And this e-mail was about dumpster diving some of that juicy yellow, white, and green gold.

This week’s dumpster find is from a reader from… well, she didn’t actually say. What she did have to say was this:

“The co-op is usually a bastion of reduce reuse recycle but I still occasionally, as a volunteer, find myself breaking down boxes for the recycle dumpster or throwing an odd bit of trash away. Possibly by accident it was that I found an unopened bag of what looked to be dead onions. They were the expensive organic kind.”

“Experiments I have done with scallions have shown that onions are very hardy. I have found that even the deadest-looking onions can revive when put back in dirt. It’s like they’re magical! See what I mean? The attached photo shows that all the onions in the bag came back to life within a week of planting. Hooray! ”

“Oh and if it’s not obvious what I will do with my find, I will harvest and eat them!”

Good call. Seems to me the only thing better than getting food out of the dumpster is getting a plant or a plant start that will continue to feed you long after the dumpsters have gone. I’ve never planted the onions I’ve dumpstered (need to get on that someday, then again it all depends on the time of year when you find ‘em), but I have found tulip bulbs and more spice and herb plants (usually basil) than I could carry home.

 

I have to admit that it never occurred to me to actually PLANT the onions that sprout in my cupboard. I’ll let you know how it goes, ‘cos with this hot weather, I’ll be getting some sprouts soon! Potatoes too… apparently one eye is all you need to start a plant.

No more trashing my old produce. At least, not during the growing season. Click on the link above for more.

Mini Brownie Cupcakes Recipe at Epicurious.com

yield: Makes about 72 mini-cupcakes
active time: 25 min  
total time: 1 1/2 hr

Ingredients

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • Confectioners sugar (optional)
  • Special equipment: mini–muffin tins and about 72 (1- by 1-inch) waxed paper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F and line mini–muffin tins with liners. Spray liners with cooking spray.

Melt butter and chocolate in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring until smooth. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt. Remove pan from heat and whisk in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking after each addition until incorporated, and stir in flour mixture just until blended.

Spoon batter into muffin liners, filling cups to top, and bake in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering. Cool 5 minutes in tins and turn out onto racks. Repeat with remaining batter.

Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

Cooks’ note: • Cupcakes may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Needed some baked goods for a church meeting tonight and realized that I had these cute mini-muffin tins that I had never used. So I googled “mini cupcakes” and found this two-bite brownie clone. (It’s from Gourmet in 1999, and I’m pretty sure that was before the two-bite brownie fad.) Anyway, the two batches are out of the oven and they’re pretty awesome.

A couple of tips: forget all the blathering about lining the pans. I didn’t have any liners and just sprayed them generously with vegetable oil and those babies slid right out. (I sound like my mother-the-obstetrician, but no matter.)

Also, the first batch were a little….hard. I usually reduce my baking time and check, but didn’t do it this time for some reason. Twenty minutes in the oven was loads of time.

Weekend Update.

‘Twas a fun-filled (for the most part) couple of days this weekend. I’m realizing that my schedule remains too full and some things are going to have to drop, but I may feel differently after Z goes back to work next week.

On Saturday, one of my choirs had a gig singing at a wedding.  It was at a downtown church, my first time in that beautiful space.  The wedding was lovely, small, orthodox, with a wonderful homily and terrific organist.  Sadly, for reasons unknown to me, we had a very poor turnout in the soprano section of the choir.  One showed up, on time, an hour before the wedding was scheduled to start, but she is not a strong singer and wasn’t able to carry the section.  Our warm-up run-through of the music were not great, and this was exacerbated by a leader who gets, to put it kindly, anxious under pressure.   The other soprano showed up 10 minutes AFTER the wedding started, which was one hour and twenty minutes after call time.  No excuses.  Well, traffic, or something.  The anxiety at the top left me and some of my fellow singers jumping between annoyance and amusement.  At age 50 (it still seems weird to say that), I have no patience for this kind of lealdership, particularly in a volunteer activity where our work is to the glory of God. 

We ended up not singing before the wedding, which we had been contracted to do.  The rest of the mass went smoothly, particularly since someone stepped up to cantor at the last minute, and we had a chance to run through the Psalm before it started.  But it was an experience that left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.

On a happier note, my Mom arrived from Ottawa for a visit.  Z picked her up at the train station after dropping Michael off at his Jazz.FM band practice.  We had a nice visit Saturday evening, with a quickly whipped together meal based on a delicious Beretta Farms BBQ chicken picked up at my local Loblaw Great Food, and I introduced my mom to Republic of Doyle, one of our fave shows from CBC that’s returning this season.

Sunday dawned cool and bright, with a full day ahead.  It was our parish choir’s first Sunday back in the new year and we had a great turn-out!  Easing in to things, our director pulled out some familiar work.  We Mendelssohn’s Grant Us Thy Peace during the offertory and Sing My Soul by Ned Rorem, a gorgeous a cappella piece with sophisticated harmonies.  Our space is so beautiful for singing; we’re in a loft at the back of a large neo-gothic church and the sound just rings.  It’s my third year at this parish and I’m still stunned by the difference in sound between our rehearsal space and the church itself.  

Right after mass, Z drove Michael and I to the subway where we headed downtown.  I accompanied him to his first Hannaford Youth Band rehearsal and I spent the next couple of hours at the big book love-in at Queen’s Park, Word on the Street.  I picked up a copy of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef and tracked him down to have it autographed, ’cause I missed his time in the signing tent.  I’ve been following his tweets (@shawnmicallef and @strollcity) and have the mag he edits (Spacing) in my feedreader, but I’d also wanted to subscribe to the hard copy and got in on the WOTS deal this year.  It was a great festival once again, and I enjoyed being there on my own, able to wander around and look at things that interested me without worried about whether my companion(s) were getting bored!

Michael was done at 4 and we headed home on the subway with his new-to-him Eb tuba.  I whipped in to party mode and at 5 pm, welcomed my brother and his family, and my two aunts (and mom) over to celebrate the birthdays of my niece Emily (1) and nephew (and godson) Will (3).  Most of the food had been prepped and Z had done a lot of work laying things out.  We had maple-orange glazed salmon, lemon-celery rice, a green salad, plus cold appetizers and cheese, fruit, and cake.  It was lovely to see everyone, but I was pretty wiped from being on my feet for a good part of the day!

This morning, my mom headed north to visit a friend for the day, and I’m making a batch of applesauce with some of the apples my brother gifted me with from an apple picking excursion he went on with his family.  He gave us Spartans (great for applesauce), Cortlands (baking, eating), and McGowan’s (eating) so I see some pies and crisps in my future (although given my diet, I won’t be eating them!)

A busy week ahead.  More to come.

I am strangely drawn to this watermelon salad …

Watermelon Salad

(adapted from Paula Deen)

  • 8 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 small Vidalia or other sweet mild onion thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 – 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • mint sprigs for garnish

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, and whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add in the chopped mint, taste, and adjust seasonings.

In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion, and feta. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed. Garnish with mint sprigs.

I love this blog (link above). Lots of great ideas for handmade and homemade things in all categories.

I’m going to make this salad when my sweetie returns from his sad trip to Paris. Just the ticket for a warm, summer Sunday.

Menu Plan Monday

This is kind of a cheater week to get back to weekly menu planning, but it’s a start!
Monday:  Mama’s Potato and Mini Burger Bake (a layered casserole of onions, thinly sliced potatoes, spicy mini hamburgers, and canned tomatoes
Tuesday:  Lentil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Wednesday:  Cheesy tuna casserole.
Thursday: Out for Dim Sum to celebrate Michael’s birthday.
Friday:  Out before David Clayton-Thomas concert.
Saturday: Spinach salad with sliced hard boiled eggs and bean sprouts.  (We will have just returned from a parish wine and cheese reception and won’t want to eat much!)
Sunday: Out for Valentine’s Day.
Visit Laura over at Org Junkie to get some ideas for your weekly plan!

Menu Plan Monday

This is kind of a cheater week to get back to weekly menu planning, but it’s a start!

Monday:  Mama’s Potato and Mini Burger Bake (a layered casserole of onions, thinly sliced potatoes, spicy mini hamburgers, and canned tomatoes

Tuesday:  Lentil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday:  Cheesy tuna casserole.

Thursday: Out for Dim Sum to celebrate Michael’s birthday.

Friday:  Out before David Clayton-Thomas concert.

Saturday: Spinach salad with sliced hard boiled eggs and bean sprouts.  (We will have just returned from a parish wine and cheese reception and won’t want to eat much!)

Sunday: Out for Valentine’s Day.

Visit Laura over at Org Junkie to get some ideas for your weekly plan!

Great gift idea from the kitchen!

These are so cute!  So perfect for single people in your life!

A single serving pie-in-a-jar.

The recipe uses those squat half-pint jars.  You line them with dough, fill ’em, top them with whatever topping you life (dough, crumbs) and freeze.

A tiny perfect gift.  Really.  The link above also has some cute gift tags to add to the jar.

Great gift idea from the kitchen!

These are so cute!  So perfect for single people in your life!

A single serving pie-in-a-jar.

Media_http2bpblogspot_njmin

The recipe uses those squat half-pint jars.  You line them with dough, fill ’em, top them with whatever topping you life (dough, crumbs) and freeze.

A tiny perfect gift.  Really.  The link above also has some cute gift tags to add to the jar.