posts filed under the 'food' category :
November 28th, 2010

having a ball

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas! La la la la la!

Yah yah, I know, it’s still weeks away (four to be exact), but things always get started early for me. I always like to have my shopping, baking, and decorating done so that Jeff and I get to enjoy a little Christmas of our own here in Toronto before we head home to NS to be with the fam. And so with all of that excitement surrounding me, it only makes sense that I get a little merrier, a little more jolly just a *tad* too early.

And really, there is nothing wrong with that, as my merriment signals one thing in specific: PEANUT BUTTER BALLS!!!pre-dip

These PB Balls are a family recipe, coveted by many, but made by few. My mom use to be the only provider: I can’t imagine how she kept up with the raging crowds and PB ball demand-ers! Then my sister started carrying the torch, and I’ll be the first to say that my sis makes a good ball.you want it?you can't have it.

So when Jeff and I started hosting our annual Christmas party here in Toronto, I figured I’d have a go at these perfect holiday treats. Well! They may look like a simple mix of chocolate and peanut butter, but you’d only be kidding yourself if you assumed there was not tole and trouble behind these babies.

That is one of the many reasons you are not getting the recipe so easily: it must be earned. (That, and Jeff came running in the room screaming, “Don’t give it away!”)pot of chocolate

Seriously, “Mom’s Peanut Butter Balls” take TIME. Simple to “whip up”; an art to execute. Jeff was allotted nine balls all to himself of the original batch, only to garner a few more due to too much chocolate, too little chocolate, or a ball simply falling apart. My occasional ball failure is his peanut butter-y bliss.fridge of balls

As perverted as it may sound, the 406 Holiday Party is known for its balls. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but people literally start confirming in October that there will be plenty of my peanut butter balls, as well as Jeff’s famous meat balls. They get into sweats, worrying that if they show up late, they may miss out on the treats. We have never asked people to choose their favorite balls (PB or meat), but I guess that would be like comparing apples and oranges.lone peanut butter ball

So I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity about how delicious these culinary delights could possibly be. Let’s put it this way: the head chef at the restaurant I work at demands every year that I bring her a fair offering of balls. That, and I go through most of my painter’s tape trying to get the message across to Jeff that HE ONLY GETS NINE!!!GET OUT!

Have a secret family recipe??? I’d love to hear about it (even if it is under lock and key ;) ).

November 3rd, 2010

post fright (…or fright post)

I don’t think anyone, myself included, realizes how much time I put into holidays. I’m sure that MANY of you can empathize with this, but I think that for the majority of people, the holiday that they get carried away with the most is Christmas.living dead girl

Such is not the case in my house.

Don’t get me wrong; I go full tilt for Christmas. But I honest-to-goodness believe that a more concentrated, prolonged effort goes into celebrating Halloween here at 406.front porch

So you will forgive me for being absent as of late. But what is a Halloween (and a HUGE Halloween party) without tombstones, cobwebs, jack-o-lanterns, and spooky edibles!?food collagetypewriter

Check out my Mummy Dogs: hot dogs rolled in phyllo pastry, and dipped into a blood bath (ketchup) or pus (mustard). A last minute idea to turn our cheeses into tombstones with clove-marked RIPs was captured only after many people had already devoured their share of cheese.

I turned my vintage typewriter into a lost love’s last letter, penning a farewell note, only to be cut short with a spattering of blood from behind. Our guests that discovered this little “easter egg” found it quite amusing.creepy hostswitch of the east

Halloween 2010 was no year to skimp on the costumes! Jeff as the Wolfman (check out that face!), and myself as Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl”, we set the bar high for our guests and their creations. And let me tell you, we were not disappointed! Top prizes go to our Frankenstein’s Monster (see below) and The Wicked Witch of the East. Yes, that is Dorothy’s house that fell on her head. How ridiculously clever is my best friend <3 (she also handmade ruby slippers… talent abounds!)spooky boysjackolantern collage

The party on Saturday was a booming success, and on night two (actual Halloween) we had a couple close friends stop by in their Sunday best to help spook the trick-or-treaters and to pass out candy. The boys carved some mean jack-o-lanterns so that all the little ghosts and ghouls knew that they were welcome here on 406’s door step. A few creepy flicks later, and Halloween was behind us for another year.

But the spirit of Halloween lives on 365 days a year here at 406. And to ensure that, we always have the scariest thing ever to remind us that something spooky lurks this way. Buoy Bird readers, you’ve been warned……pug bag

AGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

Happy Belated Halloween! xo

October 22nd, 2010

attn: all garlic lovers

Do you like garlic? I find that people are either garlic lovers or garlic haters. Based on this post, I’ll give you one guess as to which side of the fence I fall on.blub

We are lucky enough to have a landlord who has a wife who is one heck of a green thumb. And every summer we get to enjoy that which she grows in our very own backyard: cucumbers, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions. But best of all, we get fresh from the ground, literally juicy, heads of garlic. One whiff of these babies, and you will never buy that store bought, pre-chopped jar of refrigerator garlic ever again!garlic roller

As garlic harvesting season at 406 has long since passed, we are back to store bought garlic (full bulbs!), having already devoured our share from the garden. At a ladies night this past week, a new friend mentioned that she tried her hand at what she termed “40 Clove Chicken”. 40 cloves? Of what? She couldn’t possibly be talking about using 40 cloves of garlic in one dish!cloves

Oh yes she was. 40 Clove Chicken is exactly what it sounds like: 40 cloves of peeled, raw garlic, tossed in butter, stuffed inside a chicken which is seasoned to your taste, and baked. You are left with a beautiful, fragrant chicken that reveals the buttery goodness of roasted garlic. This meal requires nothing more than a nice baguette, a bit of butter, a glass of wine, and a comfy place to enjoy your at-home picnic. Top a piece of buttered baguette with a spread of your roasted garlic, throw a little piece of chicken on top, salt and pepper, and that’s it. You’re in simple, culinary heaven.bread garlic and butter

If you’re like me, and can’t quiiiite get through all of that garlic, save it for future uses, like in pastas, mashed potatoes, stir-frys, or my favorite, 40 Clove Chicken left overs!garlic chicken dinner

Let me know if you give 40 Clove Chicken a try, and if you find your own special touch to bring to this wonderfully easy dish!

If your garlic is a little under done when you un-stuff your chicken, put it in some tin foil and throw it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes while you tent your bird (if you don’t know what tenting is, LOOK INTO IT! You will never cut into any meat right away ever again). And if you’re wondering what that tube thing is in the second photo, it’s a garlic peeler. Oh yah, roll your cloves around in this baby, and poof! Skinless garlic! Very fancy (thank you Joanna!).

October 14th, 2010

CHICAGO!!!

“Hiiiii… Shane was it? Hi Shane. My name is Vikki Humphrey, and I hold a Visa card with your company. Yah, well, I’m on vacation, and I could reeeeally use a credit limit increase…”

You can always judge a great vacation by how much money you blow. I had a really, really great vacation :P

Jeff, myself, and a couple friends headed down to Chicago this past weekend for Canadian Thanksgiving to visit with a fellow, relocated Canadian. I knew the weekend would be a blast, just based on the company I would be keeping, but I never imagined I would fall so in love with a city that I otherwise would have never explored.lighthouseboat collage

The first endeavour we took on was the river and lake architecture boat tour. Definitely no regrets. With a river running through the city, towering sky scrapers, and a harbour front reminiscent of those in Nova Scotia, I felt like I was in a million places all at once. It was very nostalgic and awe inspiring.building collage

The architecture in Chicago is INSANE! The old world styles mixed with innovative and sometimes sci-fi looking buildings was pure eye-candy, and all the eras seemed to gel together to create a sky line that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.the bean

THE BEAN! I was dying to see the bean (aka: the Cloud Gate Sculpture in Millennium Park), and it did not disappoint. If you only got to glance at Chicago for a split second, the best way to do it would be via the Bean. The reflective surface is designed to capture the whole Chicago skyline in one magnificent image, allowing you to take in a 180 degree view just by standing back and looking forward. It was also cool to get really close up and make silly faces into the convex and concave surfaces, kinda like the mirror house at the circus.fall collage

We landed in Chicago at the perfect time of year, in my opinion. Fall is beautiful most anywhere, but Chicago had that specific autumn splendor in spades. Although we were treated to above average temperatures, the streets were still leaf-covered, sun drenched, and decorated for the season.centerpiece collage

Our biggest “excuse” for going to Chicago was to bring a proper Canadian Thanksgiving to our newly fake-yankee’d friend. Guess what? Fresh turkeys are HARD to come by a month before the host country is to celebrate their own Thanksgiving, so we had to settle for a couple fresh chickens. However, Jeff tried his hand at brining this year, and now none of us will likely be satisfied by anything less ever again. Moist and salty, and complimented by the fall harvest’s best veg, we were sufficiently suffonsified (Thanks Kyla ;) ). And what is a harvest table without a centerpiece!? Making due with that which can be found in a manly-man’s condo, I think I did pretty good.

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OK. The shops (remember that credit limit increase?). I won’t go on about the scads of money I spent at superstores and bargain basements which we just don’t have here in Canada (for shame!), but I do have to share with you a couple of the ADORABLE places that were right within our host’s community.Maude the Pugpug collage

This is Maude. Maude is ambassador and co-owner of Paper Doll, a stationary and gift store in the heart of Wicker Park. Maude and Stacy (also a co-owner, along with sister Kelly) were kind enough to show me around Paper Doll, revealing to me all the wonderful things that I was then SO tempted to buy. What I wanted to take away with me the most was Maude herself (as many of you know, I’m a pug fanatic), but as she is quite attached to her loving Paper Doll family, I was shown other ways to take the spirit of Maude home with me: Maude Pins (made for the shop’s upcoming 10 year anniversary), Maude tee’s, and even a Port-a-Pug, a paper Maude-like creation that is cute, cardboard, and convenient.card collage

Paper Doll carries a plethora of indie-designed greeting cards and paper goods. The perfect place to pick up a Thank You card for a certain Chicagoan host.bird collagetea

Pins, figurines, candles, teas, and toys were just a few more things that I could have lined my shopping bags with, but I had to have some restraint. It’s one thing to get on hands and knees to photograph a stranger’s shop; it’s another to try to take all the stranger’s goods with you back through customs. However, if you would like to see more of the shop, and all that I had to leave behind, check out Paper Doll’s website here. If you’re in touch with them, tell Maude and Stacy I said hello, and give sweet Maude a puppy kiss for me. Pug breath lasts an hour, but pug love lasts a lifetime.bead collagebeadniks

The next local shop I stumbled upon was Beadniks, the best damn bead shop I have ever been in! Woods, metals, stones, and feathers in every color can be found in this earthy, upbeat shop. But the best find at Beadniks was the staff. Lauren was a creative genius like no other, helping me craft an awesome set of Halloween earrings, and a great felt-bead necklace. I wish I could have stuck around to take in a week’s worth of Beadniks workshops, like “Booze and Beads” (YAY!) and “Fringe Benefits”, a class on making beaded earrings. Check them out here, and if you are a lucky devil who lives in Chicago, be sure to visit the shop up on Division Street.Mmmmm

And last, but NEVER-NO-NEVER-NOT least, Chicago. Deep. Dish. Pizza. Holy crap. Just look at that cheese! This might be the main reason for me not to live in Chicago; I’d weigh a million pounds. Jeff and I were determined to have at least one slice of proper Chi-town Deep Dish before we left, so after coyly asking a valet attendant where to find the best of the best, we found ourselves on the steps of Giordano’s. You know when slang leaves your mouth in the most organic of ways while immersed in a particular culture? Well, I actually said “Mama Mia!” while eating this pizza without realizing it. I could go on ad nauseum about this amazing, decadent creation, but really, words just can not describe. Check out Giordano‚Äôs website here, but know that if you do, you’ll just be all the more likely to buy a plane ticket to Chicago just so that you too can have the cheesy, euphoric experience.vik and jeff in chicago

And that was Chicago. The most beautiful city I’ve ever been in, and one I intend to return to again and again. It swept me off my feet, tantalized all of my senses, and left me breathless, broke, and begging for more… pizza that is. :)

October 5th, 2010

molasses sugar cookies

Need something to warm you up on a crisp fall day? Try my all-time favorite Molasses Sugar Cookies. Well, I guess they are my *mom’s*, but that only goes as far as her recipe box… before that, I don’t know ;) What I do know is that these are the first cookies I ever learned to bake, and they never get old. A nice spiced cookie to ring in the fall, or give them a try over the holidays!molasses sugar cookies

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg or allspice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups flour

Cream your butter and sugar together. Add remaining ingredients one at a time, finishing with your flour, stirring it in in batches. Form into walnut size balls, and roll in white sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for approx. 10-12 minutes.

Easy- peazy! I made these at the retreat this past week, and they had nice, thick, (very black) blackstrap molasses. The cookies came out so dark and fragrant. If you can get your hands on the good stuff, I recommend it.breen and odie

This is Breen, one of my biggest cookie fans this past week. Maybe between him and Odie, they had one too many ;)

September 23rd, 2010

hello fall!

Happy First Day of Fall Everyone! I know that by late November I always question this, but Fall is without a doubt my all time favorite season. I love the colors, the crisp air, the pending holidays, and the culinary delights that seem to accompany this wonderful season.

Jeff and I tend to start to *nest* around this time of year; the house is kept warm and cozy, we spend many a night sitting on our front porch watching the leaves change, and delicious feasts become all the more frequent. So in that vein, I thought I’d share with you our most recent feast; a simple pot of Jeff’s homemade spaghetti sauce.jeff over pot

Jeff is actually just on his way home from a concert in New York City, but the night before he left, we decided to have a special at-home date. We have had a lot of little things to celebrate lately, and what better way than to spend some quality time together in the kitchen, preparing a lovely meal.simmer

This sauce is so delicious AND so simple. However, I am sworn to secrecy with regards to Jeff’s secret ingredients, so for now all I can share are some photos of the process.onionsthe good stuff

One thing that isn’t a secret is the fact that Jeff and I live relatively modestly, both being post- secondary grads and living in one of Canada’s most expensive cities. However, we made it a goal early on in our stay here that we would never sacrifice the comforts of home. Nights at the pub and the odd movie can be put aside, but we will always make it possible to have a nice meal and a cozy home.garlicblending

It’s amazing that in a season when it seems things are starting to die off, we here at 406 are actually celebrating new beginnings and fresh ideas. Then again, with inspiration like this being placed on the kitchen table more and more often, maybe it’s no surprise that we are such a happy, refreshed pair.yum

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