Thursday, February 27, 2014

Julie & Julia & Jamie: Chicken Fricassee

For Valentine's Day my wonderful mother got me the movie Julie & Julia as well as the star item of the movie: Mastering the Art of French Cooking - the Julia Child cookbook.

After browsing through the many sections and trying to decide what I wanted to make first, I finally settled on a chicken dish: chicken fricassee.
We had friends over for dinner on Tuesday night so it was the perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe.
Chicken fricassee is kind of somewhere between a stew and a chicken with a creamy sauce poured over it. 
It's delicious and I highly recommend it.

  • Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Preheat a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot (I used a soup tureen) over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tbsp olive oil to the pot. Place the chicken (Julia says use a whole chicken cut into it's parts, I used 4 chicken breasts with bone in and skin on), skin side down, being careful to not crowd the pot. Turn the chicken and continue frying until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes then transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  • Reduce heat to medium, and add mirepoix (1 white onion, 1-2 carrots, and 2 stalks celery, all cut up as desired) to pot, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add 8 ounces mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms darken, become glossy, and begin to release liquid, 4 to 5 minutes. *Or, if you're like me and dislike cooked mushrooms, skip this step completely.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp flour, and cook until flour is absorbed by vegetables, about 1 minute.
  • Add 1 cup dry white wine to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring until liquid just thickens. Add 3 cups chicken broth, and stir.
  • Place chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on vegetables. Tie parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf together and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covering partially. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes (or until internal temperature of thickest part of chicken registers 165 degrees). 
  • In a separate bowl whisk together 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used 18%). Whisking constantly, pour 1/2 cup cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, into this liaison (sauce thickener) to temper it. This will ensure the eggs don't cook and scramble. Stir the now tempered liaison into the pot.
  • Add tarragon, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp butter and a pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, stir gently to combine, and serve.

This is what it looks like on the Martha website for reference.
I forgot to take pictures during the cooking process so this is what it looks like while it's cooking and then my picture of it is the plated finale. I served mine with rosemary and olive oil roasted Parisian potatoes. 
I had to rush home to make dinner because I had spent the day learning.
Learning how to take blood and how to start IVs.

I was pretty successful on the dummy arm so here's hoping I have just as much luck on real people!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Adventures In Knitting : The Cable Stitch

My mother in law made us this incredibly beautiful and intricate Aran wool sweater for our pup for Christmas.
Woven into it were cable stitches and I decided that I wanted the cable stitch to be my next knitting adventure.

Turns out it's not as hard as I thought.
For a first try my cable wasn't too bad but I'll work at making it tighter and making it pop more.

I knit it into a baby blanket that I made for my good friends who are pregnant with their first child, due this summer.
They're not as impatient as me so they're planning to wait to find out if they're having a boy or a girl until the baby arrives.

Not that I want to be accused of gender typing, but I decided that grey and white was a good way to go.
It also matches with most colours so should be fine with whatever room they decide to paint the baby's room. 

If you want to learn to cable stitch, I recommend this youtube video, which was the one I watched and seemed pretty straight forward. Although I did practice a few times before I started incorporating it into the blanket.

And if you don't like that one, search around a bit because there are a ton of great video tutorials online.

I made up my own pattern which went somewhat like:

row 1: knit 25, purl 14, knit 25, purl 14, knit 25
row 2: p 25, k 14, p 25, k 25
row 3: k 25, p 2, put 5 on cable, knit 5,  knit 5 off cable, p 2, k 25, p 2, put 5 on cable, knit 5, knit 5 off cable, p 2, knit 25
row 4: p 25, k 14, p 25, k 14, p 25
row 5: k 25, p 14, k 25, p 14, k 25
row 6: p 25, k 14, p 25, k 14, p 25
row 7: k 25, p 14, k 25, p 14, k 25
row 8: p 25, k 14, p 25, k 14, p 25
row 9: k 25, p 2, put 5 on cable, knit 5,  knit 5 off cable, p 2, k 25, p 2, put 5 on cable, knit 5, knit 5 off cable, p 2, knit 25

then repeat rows 2-9 until you reach your desired length.

I don't know what I want to try learning next in my knitting adventures... 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sip Wine Bar

To celebrate Valentine's Day, on Thursday night John and I went to Sip Wine Bar.
I walk passed it every time I go to and home from the subway and I've anxiously waited to go since the sign showed up in the window saying Sip Wine Bar, coming soon.

When it opened I read about it in Toronto Life and my need to go got a bit more urgent. 

So, since John would be gone on Friday, we got ourselves a table on Thursday night.
And it was worth the wait.

We shared a bottle of riesling from Rosehall Run in Prince Ed County (where we may go for our 2nd anniversary). 

The pizza's are true Neapolitan style and delicious. 
I ordered the Aduja pizza which comes with mozarella cheese, anduja sausage, and basil.
It was very flavourful and I was heartbroken when I pulled the remained out of the fridge the next day to eat and in the few seconds that I had turned around, the dog had gotten a hold of the corner of the tin foil and pulled it onto the floor. Half she ran off with, so... not edible. And the other half was face down on the floor so...also not edible.
John opted for the Sip pizza - half is mozarella cheese, muchrooms and basil, and the other half is folded like a calzone and stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto cotto. 
I tried the calzone half and it was to die for. 

The aftermath.
John did significantly better with his pizza than I did.
I filled up on the bread with the hummus and the amazing tapenade.

And to finish a very romantic night, John got me a dozen gorgeous red roses.

Find out more about Sip Wine Bar here and make a reservation to go check it out.

Hope everyone's Valentine's Day was full of love, whether you celebrated or not.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day: 2 Cute Last Minute Ideas

Chalk it up to working nights last weekend but I found some more cute DIY Valentine's Day ideas that I want to share.
You've got one more day to get your valentine's in order!

Here are some last minute DIY ideas.

The first is Date Arrows from Sugar & Cloth.

DIY date night valentine arrows

Using some simple (and easy to get a hold of) supplies, you can become your very own cupid.
Come up with some fun ideas for dates for your valentine.
This works in many ways too, because if your valentine is getting on your nerves you can shoot these at them.
But they can't be mad because you're doing it with love.
Go here to see the whole post

The second is a Valentine's Garland Mailer from Oh Happy Day

This one you might need to hand deliver though, or express mail it if you want it to reach your intended in time.
You can see the whole post with instructions here

I'm going on a Valentine's Day dinner tonight with the hubs to a new pizaa & wine bar that just opened around the corner from us.
Expect a review later!

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Way we see Addiction (Warning: rant ahead)

I recently came across an article that I felt I needed to share on Facebook. 
It was a piece on the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, written by Russell Brand and published in The Guardian.

Mr. Brand argues that Mr. Hoffman was a victim of 'extremely stupid' drug laws. 
He says,

"Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise drug addicts."

He points out that by making drugs illegal we make drug users criminals. That no self-respecting drug user is going to be deterred by prohibition. That our culture does not know how to treat drug addicts.

You can read the article for yourself here.

I shared this (in my opinion) wonderful article as I felt it provided an important look at addiction from the non-judgemental side. 

A FB friend of mine added a comment that made me quite angry.

"He is dead cause he is a Junkie looking for the ultimate high! ...if he wasn't famous, there would be no story; just another Junkie"

Since everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I posted a respectful response but I felt I still needed to vent a little.

The joys of having a blog. 
Feel free to stop reading here if you prefer the lighter fare. 
I just need to get this off of my chest.

Let's start with some definitions.
(*They aren't properly referenced, don't tell any of my former professors)

1. Addiction (from CAMH) :

" The word “addiction” is often used to refer to any behaviour that is out of control in some way. People often describe themselves as being addicted to, for example, a TV show or shopping. The word is also used to explain the experience of withdrawal when a substance or behaviour is stopped (e.g., “I must be addicted to coffee: I get a headache when I don’t have my cup in the morning”).
However, experiencing enjoyment or going through withdrawal do not in themselves mean a person has an addiction.
Because the term “addiction” is commonly used in such a vague way, there have been many attempts to define it more clearly. One simple way of describing addiction is the presence of the 4 Cs:
    • craving
    • loss of control of amount or frequency of use 
    • compulsion to use
    • use despite consequences. "

    2. Deserving (from 


    qualified for or having a claim to reward, assistance, etc., because of one's actions, 
    qualities, or situation: the deserving poor; a deserving applicant.
    meriting; worthy: a criminal deserving of a lifetime sentence.

    3. Undeserving (from :
    — adjective
    not earned or merited; unwarranted: an undeserved reputation

    Have you ever heard the phrase 'deserving' vs 'undeserving' used with respect to health care?
    In case you haven't, let me give you an example.

    I work with people living with HIV/AIDS.
    When the disease first made its appearance, there were two broad categories someone with HIV/AIDS could fall into based on how you acquired the virus.
    If you were a haemophiliac and became infected due to a HIV+ blood transfusion, or you were born to an HIV+ mother, guess what? You won the sympathy game. You were deserving of treatment and people's support.
    If you were an injection drug user or a gay man, guess what? You asked for it. You brought it on yourself. You were undeserving of the sympathy, you should have been smarter.

    Unfortunately this mentality still exists.

    You're addicted to alcohol/cocaine/heroin/methamphetamines/prescription pills/etc?
    Just stop using them.
    Check yourself into rehab.
    Get clean for your husband/wife/children/family.
    Smarten up.

    Simple, right?

    Not so much.

    The reasons that people start using drugs (I'll use this term broadly to include all drugs and alcohol) are numerous.
    Some people use drugs to manage their pain (I have). Some people use drugs because it makes them feel better about themselves, whether because they are shy or because they have a mental health issue like depression or schizophrenia. 

    Some of the client's I've worked with have suffered through horrible abuse. 
    How many of them have been told they are just another junkie, looking for that ultimate high? How many times have they been brushed off, not taken seriously, stigmatized because they have an addiction?

    What if you had grown up in a household where you were sexually and emotionally abused by the people who were supposed to care for you? 

    What if the only way to escape that pain, physical and mental, was to numb yourself with drugs?

    Seems like these people might deserve our support, right?

    What if you tried drugs at a party with your friends and you really liked the way it made you feel?

    And what if you kept using those drugs because suddenly you were confident and liked yourself? 

    Are these people selfish and undeserving of our support?

    You'd be more likely to help and support the man who broke his leg or the man who has cancer than the man who has overdosed, right?
    The man with cancer didn't ask for it.

    There should be NO classification of the deserving and the undeserving, especially when it comes to who we help and support as a society.
    Everyone is deserving.

    "...if he wasn't famous, there would be no story"

    This is just about the only point in the Facebook comment that I agree with. 

    People die everyday from drug addiction and we don't talk about it. 
    We walk passed them on the street and toss coins at them or mutter "get a job" under our breath.
    Or we say what a shame, what a waste of a life.
    He threw it all away for drugs.

    Let's use Mr. Hoffman's fame to start talking about the way we see addiction.
    Let's use Corey Monteith's fame to generate discussion about why we stigmatize drug use.

    Why did it need to be reported that he was found with a needle still in his arm?
    Or with 70 bags of heroin around him?
    Does that help paint the picture for his friends, family, and fans that he was just another selfish addict who threw his life away to dirty, shameful drugs?

    I understand the argument for criminalizing drug use.
    I know that to legalize all or aspects of it is an ethical slippery slope.
    Personally, I'm an advocate for harm reduction. If I ask a client if they plan to use and they say yes my response is, "do you have clean supplies? Do you know how to use them safely?" 
    I don't expect everyone to share this view because I understand that not everyone sees drug use the way I do.
    Not everyone is going to sign petitions for a safe injection site in the city.
    I get it. 
    I do. 
    It's not a black and white issue. 
    Whether providing a safe location for supervised drug use is a way to decrease rates of HIV, Hep C, overdoses, and drug related violence or whether it is merely sanctioning and promoting dangerous habits - this is a great debate and I encourage people to learn more and talk about it.

    But let's not allow our personal beliefs to influence how we support someone with addiction.

    I would personally never touch most drugs but does that mean I'm going to judge someone who does?
    Not a chance.

    I've seen people try to get clean. 
    I've seen successes and relapses.
    I'll tell you this: it's not easy.

    These people aren't just giving up a hobby or a fun weekend. They often have to leave where they live, and cut entire groups of friends and acquaintances out of their lives. 

    Then what are they left with?

    Where is their support network?

    That's why we need more programs and more resources and more education.
    We need to stop seeing drug users as criminals, bad people, degenerates.

    They are just as deserving of care and compassion, whether they are ready to seek help or not.

    "Just another junkie" ?

    He was a human being who wasn't perfect, just like everyone else on the planet.

    How dare you.

    If you or anyone you know has addiction issues or you'd like more information, please visit any of these links:

    The Centre for Addiction & Mental Health website
    The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse website
    The Addiction Canada website

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Time for a Change

    In the last few months or so I had become increasingly bored with my look.
    I toyed with the idea of becoming a brunette, but I did that once and ended up pining for my blonde days.

    Then one night at work I started eyeing some pictures of wavy bobs and I started to wonder...

    It's been about 5 years since I really cut my hair.
    I've gone for regular trims but today I made an appointment and took the plunge before I could talk myself out of it

    More photos to come!

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Valentine's Day Round-Up

    Valentine's Day is one of those polarizing holidays that people either love or detest.
    Personally I love it. But I love any reason to celebrate.
    While I understand (and support) the "you should treat every day like Valentine's day" argument, you better actually be doing romantic things on the reg to back up your argument.

    But since I love to celebrate, I've rounded up 5 of my current favourite Valentine DIY ideas.

    Let me know if you have some good ideas of your own!

    1. Black, White & Glittered Valentine's Day card

    The card is simple and elegant. I'd follow the Style Me Pretty lead and glitter my hearts in gold either by gluing then glittering them or by tracing them with glitter pens.
    Then be sure to print out the envelope liner below to jazz up the way you present your card.

    (The link for the card is here)

    (You can open the link for the envelope liner here)

    2. Rose Body Scrub

    If you're looking for a DIY Valentine's Day gift I recommend this rose body scrub from Oh So Pretty.
    You can follow the step by step instructions on the website here. Just go out and grab yourself some coarse & fine sea salt, rose essential oil & jojoba oil.

    3. Less Mushy, More Silly

    Because sometimes "There's no one else I'd rather lay in bed & look at my phone with" is way more accurate and heart felt than anything else.
    The PDFs can be printed here

    4. For the Book Lover

    Valentine's Day DIY Book Jackets

    This is such a cute idea.
    Follow the DIY valentine's day dust jacket tutorial over at Juniper Books here.

    5. Talk Cake to Me
     Valentine's Day recipes: Easy to make (and so yummy!) Valentine's Day Candy Cake

    The idea comes from All You and can be found here
    I love the different use for he conversation hearts and might make a few individual cakes like this.  

    What are your thoughts on Valentine's  Day?

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    Happy Birthday Mom!

    To my mom -

     who taught me to be strong and passionate, kind and accepting of everyone.
    who gave up a lot so her family could have a bit more.
    who would wake up early on weekends to take her daughters to gymnastics practices and competitions.
    who once walked through a snowstorm to bring my sister Tylenol. 

    Who I love very much.

    Happy Birthday!

    On Saturday, with the invaluable help of my aunt Wendy, my dad, sister and I successfully threw her a surprise party!
    I can't thank everyone enough for braving the bad weather and making it out (and completely understand those who chose not to risk the drive - I don't think I would have risked it either) .

    She was completely shocked and (hopefully) happy to see so many familiar faces there to celebrate with her.

    Although I forgot to take more, here are a few pictures from the party!

    The theme of the party was Paris so we colour coordinated things white, black & pink.
    On the carrot cake I stencilled happy birthday with icing sugar. Unfortunately the sugar dissolved and didn't show up as well so I tried to re-do it with sprinkles, which also didn't really work.
    Using an image I found online, I traced over the eiffel tower on parchment paper with melting chocolate and let them harden before using them to decorate the edges of the cake (to hide the less-than-stellar icing job).

    Our spread was pretty full with lots of kind party goers bringing snacks to add.

    And everyone left with a party favour - delicious looking macaron soaps courtesy of Baked Soap.

    A few people thanked me for alerting them it was soap as they would have eaten them on the way home.
    I ordered these soaps here (more info available on the website here) and they make amazing party favours for any occasion.

    Happy Birthday Mom!
    I love you.

    Sunday, February 2, 2014

    Super Bowl Super Food

    I realize kick off is in less than an hour and the odds of anyone reading this now when you're likely feasting & drinking & watching the pre-game shows (if you're even watching football at all) but I came up with a ridiculously unhealthy and therefore appropriate Super Bowl snack.

    I call it - Mac & Cheese Rolls.

    I saw something similar and also had deep fried mac & cheese balls a week ago when I went out with a friend so that was the inspiration behind this snack.

    • Cook macaroni and cheese according to the box. After draining the water, mix the cheese powder with a 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup sour cream (full fat, don't you dare skimp on fat here. This is the Super Bowl). Add the noddles back in and mix it all together. 
    • Set aside a small bowl for yourself. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Roll out 1 pkg puff pastry on a floured surface. Spread mac & cheese on the pastry, leaving about an inch border all around.Sprinkle shredded cheese over top of the macaroni. 
    • Roll up the puff pastry, tucking the ends under and placing the roll seam-side down on a baking sheet.
    • Bake for about 20 minutes or until the puff pastry begins to turn a golden brown. 
    • Eat the small bowl of mac & cheese you set aside for yourself in step 2.
    • Allow each roll to cool then slice and serve (Best served with a cheesy dipping sauce) !

    Go Bronchawks! 
    I normally like to cheer for the underdog but I'm also a fan of Manning (based largely on his hilarious SNL hosting gig years back)... so while I'm leaning towards cheering for Denver... I don't know. I also quite like Sherman (based largely on a buzzfeed list).

    Either way, enjoy the game & the food!