Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Try it: Halloumi Cheese

I think I've been poisoned.


Nope, not that kind.


I think I may have given myself food poisoning somehow.
I don't know what could have caused it though cause John and I ate pretty much the same things yesterday and he's fine.
Either that or I caught some kind of bug that woke me up last night at 4:30 am with the worst abdominal cramps I've ever experienced. At one point I thought I was having a heart attack and seriously contemplated waking John up to call 911 with me.
Then it obviously spiraled from there and I figured it had to be something more serious.


So far I'm still in tact though every so often my intestines feel like they're being wrung out.
From 4:30 until about 6:00 am I went back and forth from huddled in the bathroom to fetal position in bed.
When John woke up he got me a hot water bottle and some tums.
I managed to get back to sleep for little while and even get some fluids back into my body.

Last night I made dinner (not food poisoned, as John is feeling fine) and grilled that halloumi cheese I mentioned yesterday.

Halloumi has a cheese-curd-esque squeak to it when you eat it as is but when you grill it... it's incredible. Buy some and grill it. You will NOT regret it.



Halloumi is perfect to grill because it has such a high melting point. I may try breading and frying some halloumi later this evening.
For dinner, I made some penne in a rose sauce - pasta sauce with ricotta and goat cheese swirled in, as well as onions, garlic, and some Paula Deen spice mix that I got for my birthday.
Crumble a bit of the goat cheese on top of  warm pasta for extra flavour.


As I'm still not feeling 100% I'm really craving what every sick person craves:
Chicken Noodle Soup!
I looked up 2 recipes that I'm thinking about making.

(click on it for the recipe)


or




That's it that's all for today!
I'm going to go reheat this water bottle and maybe get dressed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Playing Dress-Up

My summer pool shut down for the summer on Thursday so I'm all out of work now (mostly). I did work Friday and Saturday at a different pool and I am working some odd shifts later this week.
Basically it means I've done nothing all day.
I am now totally caught up in True Blood (so good this season! I am torn between my love fo Viking Eric and Lone-wolf Alcide but also finding myself liking Bill like I did in season 1. Maybe it's the power he's weilding over Louisianna?), I watched last week's Jersey Shore (sh*t is going down between Ronnie and Mike) and Bachelor Pad.
Sad.
I did have a nice but quick visit with John's mom and gave my nursing textbooks from year 1 and 2 to a girl I work with who's starting the program this fall.
My good deed for the week.
I also browsed wedding websites that I had written down after perusing magazines.
Brides website has a great feature that's fun to use but kind of limited in selection.
I uploaded a picture and "tried on" some wedding dresses.
This was the only one I liked:


They also have bridesmaid dresses and a salon for you to upload photos and try out different makeup styles, hairdos, etc. 
I'm doing that now...
Also fun if you want to try out rings Tacori has an application where you can print out your ring, and take a picture the paper one with your camera to see how it'll look on!
Try it out!

But earlier after "trying on" dresses,  I decided I needed to get up, get dressed, and get outside.
I tidied up and decided to make a nice pasta dinner for John. I went out to get some goat cheese and came back with about $25 worth of groceries I hadn't planned on.

One thing I'm particularly excited about is Halloumi cheese.
I read about it in a food magazine a long time ago and I think I've heard people talk about it.
I've been eyeing it at the grocery store for a little while and finally just bought it.
I'm going to grill it and serve it with the pasta.

Halloumi is a a cheese from Cypres, made from goat's and sheep milk. What always drew me to it was that it has a high melting point so it can very easily be grilled or fried.
It would be a great addition to kebabs or cubed, grilled, and tossed into a salad.
It has a little bit of a salty taste and has that satisfying squeak when you chew it, much like cheese curds.


I'll post some pictures of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

- 1 Year Wedding Anniversary

This will be a quick post as I have cookie cupcakes to frost and blue cheese pop-over batter to start for the gift basket I was talking about yesterday.
Today is August 24th.
One year (366 days - leap year!) from today John and I will be getting married!
We're jokingly referring to it as our -1st anniversary.
I thought it would be sweet to start the last year before we're married by reminding him of some of the reasons I love him.
I made him a personal-pan of breakfast lasagna and left him a note directing him to turn on the oven and heat it up for a few minutes.
I also left him another few notes:

52 (actually 53 cause I got carried away) notes to be exact.
52 weeks before we say "I do" = 52 reasons I love him.
One for each week left.
I cut out hearts at work last night and wrote out my reasons then stuck them on the fridge for him to find this morning.

One thing my mom taught me that I'll always remember: little things go a long way.
Take the time to do something nice for the people you love.

Let the wedding countdown begin!

366 Days

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cookie Cupcakes

Last summer on the final day of work I brought the maintenance staff a gift basket of goodies to thank them for all of their hard work.
These are the people that make sure the pool is up and running and clean every day and I really believe that it's so important to thank people.
So obviously I'll be doing the same thing again this year and the last day happens to be this Thursday.
I've been trying to brainstorm some ideas for the gift basket, not wanting to duplicate last years items (some of which can be found here). I came across a cupcake recipe in September's Everyday Food Magazine that I really want to try so I think they will be the first goodie for the gift basket.

(I took a picture on my camera of the cupcakes from the Everyday Food magazine and then picnik-ed it because I am now obsessed)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Melt 2 tbsp butter and let cool.
2. In a large bowl whisk together 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.
3. Lightly beat 1 egg plus 1 large egg yolk. Add the melted butter, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 cup hot water. Whisk until smooth. Spoon 1 tbsp batter into each muffin cup and top with 1 oreo cookie. Top the cookie with another tbsp of batter. Bake until cupcakes are puffed and set, about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile in a large bowl using an electric mixer beat 1 cup butter and 3 tbsp raspberry jam on medium-high until smooth. Add 3 cups marshmallow topping and 1/3 cup confectioners sugar and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a ziplock bag and cut a small hole in one corner. Pipe the frosting onto cooled cupcakes and serve immediately.

*Update: After receiving many thanks for the maintenance men, one told me specifically that "the cupcakes with the oreos in them" were his favourite thing in the basket.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Engagement Party Recap

Call me behind the times (go on, do it) but after hearing about picnik a long time ago, it was only yesterday afternoon that I ever actually played around with it.
Man oh man I've been missing out!
Especially with putting pictures on the blog and trying to impress you with my limited skills.
Anyway, I jazzed up a few pictures and am presenting them to you today.
If, like me, you are slow to jump on the really good bandwagons then make sure you visit Picnik and start making your photos fancy.

Saturday night was my best friend's engagement party and it was a great night.
They picked an amazing venue in which to host the party - our friend's condo on the Esplanade which, if you're not too familiar with Toronto, is almost right on the lake.
The party room was on the 33rd floor so our view was incredible. I took a few pictures of the city that I love - one of which you will find at the end of this post.
The food was plentiful, the drinks were flowing (as was the chocolate fountain), and there were friends to laugh and catch up with everytime you turned around.
Plus my hors d'oeuvres were a hit.

Here are some (spiffy) pictures to show you just how fun the party was!

Here's me, my fiance, and my good friend (and bridesmaid!) enjoying the food and wine at the engagement party on Saturday night.


My hors d'oeuvres:


Tables filled with food, cupcakes galore (plus a beautiful bride cake on top made by the bride-to-be herself!), glasses of sangria, and more food:


And because I like to think of myself as an artiste (say it like you're French), here is that photo of the insane view of Toronto I menioned before:


Those pictures are all copyright ME!
Especially the bear threatening Toronto.
Especially the bear.
Especially.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Favourite Things: Rain Storms

I was sitting watching Bachelor Pad (what?) and browsing the internet when all of a sudden the apartment went black. All light just disappeared. I peaked outside and noticed it was raining.
I love rain and I love thunderstorms but this was unlike any storm I've ever seen!
It might as well have been a hurricane! The trees were being assaulted and the rain started to pound down into the normally sheltered balcony - at which point I had to turn the camera off and go inside for a few minutes!
If you like storms as much as I do - enjoy!

video

Pirate Party

Many moons ago, my mom's side of the family met up for the annual summer fam-jam.
I posted pictures from the Baseball themed dinner but just realized that I never posted pictures from our pirate-themed night!
We put up some pretty good competition and had a lot of fun getting decked out in pirate gear while slicing, dicing, roasting, tossing, spearing and baking our dinner items.


My sister and her boyfriend manned the BBQ and created delicious terriyaki chicken shish kebabs. They disappeared pretty quickly.


We bought a bandana for everyone, eye patches, swords, pistols, hooks, and other pirate paraphernalia to get everyone into the spirit. We even made name-tags so that everyone could get into their pirate character.


One of my favourites was the "Dead Man's Chest" - a tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits. I thought the name worked well because the cobbler looked almost skin tone and once you dug in you got to the red tomatoes.
The recipe for this great side can be found at the end of this post.

For our main we went with a pork tenderloin that we roasted with apples and sage.
I should've gotten a better picture because it doesn't look all that tasty in the one above.
We went with a roast KRAKEN (spelling error in the label, apologies) as pork tenderloin doesn't sound all that pirate-like.

Our other two sides were "Peg-Leg Kebabs" (the terriyaki chicken ones I mentioned) and "Sea Shells with Algae" (pasta shells stuffed with cottage cheese and spinach and baked with pasta sauce and melted cheddar cheese).

There was a lot of food and it was a weekend of good eating.

Tomato & Blue Cheese Cobbler
(aka 'Dead Man's Chest')

(From marthastewart.com)

Ingredients

  • For the filling
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • For the biscuit topping
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (2 1/4 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Directions

  1. Make the filling: Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Toss onion mixture, tomatoes, flour, and red-pepper flakes with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and some pepper.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the biscuit topping: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add cream, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms. (Dough will be slightly sticky.)
  4. Transfer tomato mixture to
    a 2-quart baking dish (2 inches deep). Spoon 7 clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/2 cup each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Brush dough with cream, and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.
 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Exotic Meats

Because I work til 8:45 pm Monday to Friday, John and I rarely get to sit down and eat dinner together.
I had the night off yesterday so I took that rare opportunity to make a nice dinner. Not wanting to go the familiar route of chicken or pasta, I wanted to try something different. I mentioned it yesterday. I was looking for exotic meats.
There's a store that I walk by on my way to work every morning called the Healthy Butcher. I went in and was greeted by very friendly staff. I browsed the counter selections and found elk sausage and ordered 2 immediately. I was also tempted to buy the $30 ostrich egg but decided I would come back to that if I couldn't find ostrich meat.
Lo and behold, ostrich burgers were prepackaged in the freezer behind me.
I grabbed 2 burgers and purchased them along with my elk sausages.
The ostrich wasn't too expensive (especially when you think about how much it would cost to buy a burger from a place like Harvey's or any of the places I listed in Toronto's top ten burgers) and cost roughly $9 for the two burgers. The elk sausage was similarly priced at a little under $8 for two.





I noticed the ingredients list 'local' ostrich ... where are they living?

I walked over to Metro to pick up burger buns and tried to think about what would go well with ostrich and elk. I mean, we're talking 2 different continents of origin here so a nice side salad seemed a little boring.
I grabbed a bunch of carrots and decided I would do an insalata caprese (sans basil though) as I purchased all the ingredients I'll need for the engagement party hors d's.
I didn't tell John what it was until he took a bite.
I think he was pleasantly surprised.


The ostrich is pretty tasty but I was kind of expecting more from it. The elk sausage is really good and I'm using the left over one for this morning's breakfast.
Then I'll clean up the kitchen, jump in the shower, and get started on my hors d'oeuvres.

I also went to Michael's with my mom yesterday and found some great sale items.
My aunt got me a gift card for my bithday so I bought a stamp, 2 fancy markers in my wedding colour, some fake grapes (for centerpiece ideas), card stock paper (too small, might return it), and the things I need to make the save the date cards.
I did one to see if it'll work properly and to see if I'll be painting a ton of hearts or if we''ll be going to plan B.


I've yet to scratch the paint off but fingers crossed.
If this works I'll post everything you need for this craft idea.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gum Paste Pro

Last night I was at my best friend's house with a few other friends baking cupcakes and decorating them for her engagement party this weekend.
It was a lot of fun - especially because I am now a seasoned veteran at making gumpaste roses! My first few attempts looked a little more tulip-like but I got the hang of it.
Even got to lustre-dust them pink.
John proved he is quite adept at icing and within no time the  cupcakes were almost finished.
There were also meatballs on the go that are for the party on Saturday but my goodness they were good. I'm makin a bee-line for those bad boys on Saturday night.

Tonight I'm going to make a lovely dinner for John and I want to go find some kind of exotic meat.
Ideally it would be ostrich as I've heard it's realy good but I'll have to do some looking around.
For now though I'm doing some shopping and running some errands with my mom so unfortunately this isn't a long or fun post.
There'll be lots of pictures soon enough from the engagement party tomorrow night though - most likely of the food and deserts!
I also have to grab the stuff to get started on those hors d's I posted about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Engagement Party Hors D'oeuvre

A little while ago I posted some of the food items I made for my birthday party. One of those was the pear and camembert on puff pastry hors d'oeuvre.
My best friend and her fiance are hosting their engagement party this Saturday.
And having attended my birthday, they asked if I would make those hors d'oeuvres for the party and of course I jumped at the chance to help out my friend and to spend some time in the kitchen playing around with flavours.
While they specifically requested the pear & camembert I couldn't stop thinking about what other combinations I could work with. After getting the go-ahead to get a little creative this is what I've come up with.
Keep in mind all of these will be lightly melted on puff pastry squares.

1. Insalata Caprese - Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella & Basil


This flavour combination is savoury and delicious. Perhaps some olive oil or balsamic vinegar to drizzle on top?

2. Peaches with Honey-infused Ricotta


Ricotta and peaches go so well together and I'm thinking tha I'll stir honey into the ricotta before I spoon it over the peach slices. This will be the sweet to the insalata caprese's savoury.

3. Pear & Camembert or Brie


I know it went over well last time and it was requested so I won't disappoint.

4. Brie and Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly

I forgot to go take a picture of the jar but I got a jar of this amazing jelly from friend and food blogger extraordinaire Ginger Rose. The jelly is sweet but it also has this bite that makes you want a second taste.
Baked on top of some brie this might be the favourite of the hors d'oeuvre tray!

If you have any other flavour pairings that you think would be good to add to this list please let me know!

Jamie's Book Club Continued...

I forgot to include one book in yesterday's post!
Before I got around to Jodi Picoult's House Rules I read the latest offering from the author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel.
Having read Life of Pi awhile ago I remember there being a lot of symbolism and I remember it made me want to discuss it with anyone else who had read it. I was hoping for a similar feelling with this one. 

Beatrice & Virgil (Yann Martel)

The story is of a writer named Henry who is having trouble getting his second novel off the ground. He wants to write about the holocust but his ideas are turned down by his publisher. He moves with his wife and gives up writing. He receives a letter from a man asking for his help. The man is a taxidermist who is writing a play about two of his animals, a donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil. As the reader follows the scenes in the play it becomes apparent that there are obvious references to the holocaust but also to the modern day extinction of animals.
I will say I didn't see the end coming (this is often because I get so caught up in a story I am reading word to word and not thinking ahead so maybe you will/did see the end coming).
I would definitely recommend this book. It's a quick read and it left a haunting impression.
If you do read this I dare you not to finish Games for Gustav without feeling horrified at the evil that can exist in humanity.
Not a fun summer read like some of those other beach books but well worth it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jamie's Book Club : Reviews & Recommendations

One of my favourite things about summer is having ample time to sit back and read a good book.
While I try to maintain this practice during the year, I'm more often than not restricted to travel time on the bus or subway for pleasure reading.
I also try and read as many books as I possibly can during the summer both because I often find I can't stop once I've started and also because I like to challenge myself.
So far this summer I've gotten through a few (I find I've been dividing my time between books and wedding magazines) and I thought I'd pull out my Oprah-like clout and make some book club suggestions.

The first book I read this summer: From the Corner of his Eye (Dean Koontz)


I enjoyed the first part of this book, when the story took a turn right away that I wasn't expecting and when seperate story lines were developed so that you were waiting to see how they would come together.
The story focuses on several people: a mother in labour who's husband is killed in a car crash on the day her son is born. The son goes on to exhibit somewhat supernatural abilities and loses his sight at the age of three. A man, for reasons unknown, kills his wife, then goes on a killing spree. He is hunted by a detective who also seems to have supernatural abilities. A young girl dies giving birth to the daughter conceived when she was raped. The baby is adopted by the girl's sister and the child grows up to exhibit supernatural abilities as well.  
I found by the end of the book I was tired of the characters and I felt that there wasn't enough explanation behind the killer's actions.


Book Two: House Rules (Jodi Picoult)


I've liked every Jodi Picoult book I've read because there's always some surprise or twist that reveals itself during the legal proceedings of every story. I found the 'twist; in this story however was very obvious. This is also one of the few Jodi Picoult books that didn't make me sob like a baby.
That being said, I enjoyed this book. The story is about a young man with Asberger's Syndrome who enjoys crime scene analysis. Without giving too much away, he finds a crime scene and tampers with it which implicates him in the crime. The story really gives the reader wonderful insight into the autistic world. Growing up my sister and I were friends with a boy who was on the higher end of the autism spectrum and while I can't say definitively that it was Asberger's, the main character of this book certainly reminded me a lot of that boy (who is now 24 and a man).
If you like Jodi Picoult's books and you want something that won't make you cry (trust me, cause I cry at most books), pick this one up.


Book 3: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)


I bought this book as a birthday present to myself after hearing a bit about it.
While long weekending at the cottage, my friend Ginger Rose said she was reading The Hunger Games and described the plot to me. I was intrigued.
For the low, low price of $10 I purchased the first book of the trilogy.
I was a little hesistant at first because the book was in the teen/adolescent section but I remembered that I was slow to get on the Harry Potter train, too, because I thought they were chidren's books. I finished this book in two days - because it's good and because it's a fast read.
The book tells the story of North America in the future, now called Panem, and divided into 13 districts plus the Capitol, which exerts a Big Brother sort of influence on the districts. To punish the districts for a past rebellion against the Capitol, every year each district must send 2 tributes to The Hunger Games. The 24 tributes enter into an arena and fight to the death for the amusement of Panem.
While this didn't exactly fill the Harry Potter void, I found this book captured my attention and kept me interested right through to the last sentence. I'll be heading back over to Indigo to buy the second book. Once I'm finished reading this:


Book 4: The Help (Kathryn Stockett)


I've only just started this book but already I'm invested.
I can't tell you too much about the plot unfortunately, as my reading time was somewhat disturbed yesterday. And I can't even give you a synopsis off the back of the book because I left it at work.
I've heard only good things about this book, however, and there is a movie based on it so I'm making this (and The Hunger Games) my book recommendation for the remainder of August!

Go pick up a book and lose yourself in at least one good story before these warm days and nights disappear.
Happy Reading!

Monday, August 15, 2011

We've Got a Wedding Date!

I've had a somewhat busy weekend, working all day Friday, Saturday, and then running errands yesterday.
What errands?
Oh, just signing the contract for our wedding venue!
We're booked!
We've got our date and venue taken care of now so I can relax a little bit. We've got just over a year now before the big day.
We also stopped into Ikea to buy a wardrobe and a new chair. But like every trip to Ikea we walked out with a lot more than that. We got a new shelving unit, a new duvet cover, muffin cups, lightbulbs, napkins, and toy mice for the cat among a few other things.
We also found these lanterns (for $10!) that have a rustic look that we really like as a centerpiece idea!
Green and cream coloured candles inside will finish the look, as well as flowers in mason jars placed around the lantern on the table.


Ikea, you're the best.
We're most likely going to go back next weekend to stock pile lanterns.
I have to go put the new duvet cover on and then finsh updating our theknot.com wedding page!
...which you can find here!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Celebrity Engagements & Weddings

I was cleaning up around the apartment and found some old magazines that I had read and hadn't recycled. One was a People magazine with Kim Kardashian's engagement story on the cover.
So to do something fun and different I thought we could take a look at how ridiculous some celebrity engagement rings/weddings are.

Starting with a recent one, let's take a look at Vanessa Minnilo.
Her ring is definitely big but compared to a lot of the others on here, it's relatively normal.
I wanted to watch the wedding special on TV but I was away. I looked for it online but no luck. I'll keep looking. The pictures looked nice though!

I think my favourite of the one's on this blog is Carrie Underwood's ring. Plus she's just so cute. 

Her wedding was a little too pink but it looked beautiful.


Now we get into the ridiculous.
Hilary Duff.
Sweet girl, hilarious paparazzi photos of her being proposed to and what it appears she was doing to show her now-husband how happy she was.
How she is able to walk around without dragging her hand on the ground I do not know.
That bad boy is massive! Personally I think once you start getting into the double digits karat-wise you've gone overboard.
And I promise this isn't jealousy speaking! Just practicality. But I guess if I made ridiculous money I wouldn't be thinking about the car or house I could pay for if I pawned the ring.
She's too cute to hate on, though.
And kind of funny story, I was reading a magazine that Leah Miller (former Much Music VJ, current host of SYTYCD Canada, also married to Dallas Green) was featured in and she was talking about how she and Hilary Duff are practically best friends. I wasn't sure if this was just a case of celeb name dropping so, being the super sleuth that I am, I figured if they were actually good friends she would have been at Hilary Duff's wedding. I googled. She was a bridesmaid. My appologies, Leah Miller.


Moving from one ridiculous ring to another (and the inspiration behind this post) we have the recently engaged Kim Kardashian. Her ring totals 20 karats. TWENTY! 16.5 in the center stone I think the magazine said. I don't like judging but it looks silly, almost fake. More like costume jewelery than an engagement ring. But to each her own! Everyone has different tastes.
I'm anxiously awaiting her wedding so I can see the pictures. I think it'll be over the top too.
For goodness' sake she had sparkly ponies at her engagement party.
Think I made that up?

But alas, my prize for most ridiculous ring does not go to Kim Kardashian.
There has been bigger, more ridiculous.
24 karats.
No wedding.
Who else would it have been?
Paris Hilton.

Again, everyone has different tastes and I know now that it's more than just what the ring looks like. Every time I look at mine I think about the night I got to slip it on and I think about how lucky I am.
Plus it's exactly what I wanted. The pictures saved on my computer and shown to my sister guaranteed that!