Monday, September 8, 2014

The Best Test Kitchen

The best test kitchen you will ever have is a potluck dinner. While it's true that trying a new recipe out on company is risky business, it can also help you quickly decide whether or not to add your latest culinary creation to your "bag of foodie tricks". Potlucks can often allow you the luxury of discreetly placing your contribution to the buffet table without too much notice. Thus if it doesn't disappear as quickly as some of the other offerings you can wash your hands of it and pretend that it wasn't yours (just make sure that you bring it in a dollar store dish that you are willing to leave behind!) ...... On the other hand, if guests are going back for seconds like they hit the jackpot, then you know you have a winner!

Alicia setting out a fabulous chocolate cake with boiled icing that a relative contributed to our potluck.
Recently my husband and I hosted his family's annual reunion, a potluck, and I'm proud to say that I made a few things that were a hit and discovered a few new recipes that I will be adding to my list of favorites.
As a main dish I thought I would prepare something cold in order to free up my oven for those who brought dishes that needed to be reheated. (I even cleaned it for this occasion hoping to create the impression that I was a good housekeeper!) The two dishes that I prepared were Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce and Tabbouleh, both of which are dairy free ..... something I keep in mind since my "daughter-in-law to be" (in the photo above) is lactose intolerant. The pasta salad is easy to make and the peanut sauce is delicious. Tabbouleh is one of my favorites and there are several variations of which my favorite is with cilantro instead of mint. In the video below, How to Make Tabbouleh, cinnamon and allspice are used, which I think gives it a distinctive middle eastern flavour!

Vegetable and Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce

For desert you can't go wrong with carrot cake and cream cheese icing. Let's face it .... you could put cream cheese icing on cardboard and it would taste good! And that chocolate cake with boiled icing in the photo above was gone before you could say Jiminy Cricket, or Tequila Sunrise. In keeping with my "lactose intolerant" theme, however, and the fact that I had a 10 pound box of blueberries in the freezer, I found a blueberry cake recipe that I'm pleased to say was well received. It was very moist with vegetable oil, eggs and orange juice concentrate as the liquid ingredient (recipe below).

All in all a potluck is the perfect place to test out a new recipe. If it's a hit you can take full credit, if it's not, just slink away and wait until after dark to claim your dish!

Happy relatives gathering in anticipation of a "great feed" prepared by some great cooks!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Misunderstood Words

I've been thinking about literacy lately. Mainly because I have started a new job with an organization that helps adults improve their literacy skills. While in my teaching career, I have taught language arts and ESL, I have never worked in the primary grades nor have I actually taught someone how to read. The older children I have dealt with have, for the most part, already had a basic ability to read - either in English or another language. Learning to read is an interesting concept. I vaguely remember the "Dick and Jane" stuff from my school days, and equally vague is my recollection of life before print. 

When I was little I used to call my brother, "bubba". Apparently, when I was first learning to talk, "brother" came out as "bubba". The name stuck for quite a while and it came as quite a shock, at the age of four or five, when I learned that his real name was Neil! I always knew that other people called him Neil, but I thought "bubba" was part of his name too ... like a second name,  Neil Bubba Drury! 

What you hear can often be totally different from what you see in print. It wasn't until I could read and was following along in a Christmas carol song sheet, that I realized that in "Jingle Bells" they were riding in a one horse open sleigh not a one horse soap and sleigh! When marking student writing once, I was amused when a kid referred to the term self esteem as self of steam! Today when I hear an unfamiliar word or name I like to see it in print in order to get a better handle on how it's pronounced. I'm not sure how I would get along in a world without print!

How many times have you heard a song and misunderstood the words until you read the lyrics?
Check out comedian Peter Kay's performance, in the link below, based on misunderstood lyrics!

misunderstood lyrics - (warning - may be offensive, for adults only)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Turkey Pants

by Grace AKA Blackbelt Oma

I am anticipating a trip to Spain in November (more on that later). I know it is a few months away, but I was thinking about what to pack (more on that later as well). I read somewhere that leggings travel well and take up little room in a suit case. That led me to think about putting outfits together that include a pair of "turkey pants" .... That's what I call leggings since they are so comfortable and they remind me of the episode of Friends where Joey wears women's maternity pants while he enjoys Monica's Thanksgiving turkey dinner. (View the 20 second video below to refresh your memory!)

Joey's Turkey Pants

(the link doesn't seem to work in tablets so you may have to copy the link below in your browser) 

I have already, as a "mature woman", ventured into wearing leggings. All the young girls are wearing them and they look great on "most" of them .... so why should they have all the comfort? I wear my leggings with a REALLY long top, which could actually be a short dress. My recent shopping experience, however, has proven that it is not easy to find just the right top (for an old doll) to go with my "turkey pants"!

According to my research, covering your butt is a must! (In fact more than covering it at my age.) For some great tips on wearing leggings check out the website below from Musings of a Housewife by Jo-Lynne Shane. Enjoy your "turkey pants"!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Green Curry with K---- Lime leaves

pic from Wikipedia

I absolutely LOVE Thai Green Curry! When I was in Thailand I rarely branched out to try other dishes because once I saw this on the menu, I had to have it. I couldn't get enough of it! Upon my return to Canada I thought about making it. I mean, if I love it so much, why not perfect it and make it "my special dish"? The simple answer is that, due to the large number of specific ingredients (that are not always easy to find here in Canada) it's just not worth the effort. Galangal, tiny eggplants, and Kaffir lime leaves are not exactly easy to come by and substitutions, I don't believe, hold up to the taste. ..... oops! I just said.... "Kaffir" lime leaves ..... so sorry to those who I have offended! I just discovered that the "K" word (kaffir) is actually a racial slur, similar to the "N" word that North Americans are familiar with. Apparently the better choice of term for these, (essential to green curry, in my opinion) Asian leaves is "Makrut" lime leaves.
So, the "moral" of the Green Curry story is:

  • don't bother making you're own green curry .... it won't taste as good as the stuff in Thailand
  • if you have a "hankering" for Thai Green Curry .... find a restaurant or take out that makes a good one
  • if you must make it yourself .... use Makrut lime leaves, not K ..... lime leaves!
Hubby enjoying a delicious meal in Thailand

CBC article and video

Green Curry Recipe  - check out the multitude of ingredients!

Ethnic foods can be found in all kinds of places, like local farmers's markets! I had a great Green Curry at our nearby Kingston Market the other day! Yum Yum!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


It's been a while since my last blog post. I feel guilty, but hey .... it's summer! I'm not sure if that's much of an excuse but I'm going to use it anyway. The weather this summer has been "interesting" to say the least but in spite of a "post tropical storm" and a two day power outage, I'm good. - not "well" - GOOD!

Now I do know that "good" is an adjective and "well" is an adverb, and I would never say "I'm doing good at school," or The team played good yesterday. But ..... It drives me crazy when someone asks, "How are you?" and the reply is, "I am well". It may, or may not be grammatically correct (you can check the debate at "Grammar Girl" below), but it just sounds too highfalutin!
So, if you ask me how I've been, my reply will always be .... GOOD! 

Here a little clip from 30 Rock about the use of "good".
Grammar faux pas on 30 Rock

If your interested in the "grammar debate" read all about it below.
Grammar Girl

Monday, June 23, 2014

We All Need a Good Hair Cut Now and Then!

It's not even July and my Petunias and Pansies are already looking "long in the tooth"! We've had some heavy rain and strong winds so I could blame it on that..... but once again good old YouTube comes to the rescue! Little did I know that all they need is a good trip to the hairdresser (or some serious snipping with the garden shears) to make them look beautiful again. (If I thought it would work for me I'd get my sleeping bag and camp out at the beauty parlor!)

My "leggy" Petunia basket below has already received a good "snip", but I think I may have to be more brutal .....  hate to see it having to endure the humiliation of a bad hair cut though! Check out the video below for some great instructions on how to care for Petunias and the proper method of deadheading. Apparently I've been doing it all wrong all these years!

My pretty Pansies are crying out for a makeover as well. From the video below I learned that all I have to do is snip away the little seed pod (see below) and any wilted looking blossoms.

So..... if some of your posies are looking a little peaked, all they may need is a good hair cut!

Caring for Petunias

How to Keep Pansies Flowering All Season Long

Deadheading Annuals

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ai Weiwei

I just saw this photo posted on Facebook by a former colleague at CISB (Canadian International School of Beijing), a school that I taught at a few years ago. The famous Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei is in the center. Apparently his son now attends this school! The two ladies on the left are Canadian teachers with whom I worked. How impressive is that? 

If you are not familiar with the Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei you can check out some of his work below and listen to an interview with him by Jian Ghomeshi.

Interview with Jian Ghomeshi