It Happened

Posted on Jun 11, 2010

Stop. Breathe. Seriously — take a whiff…deeply, through your nose. Do you smell it? I mean, really smell it? No, not the smog or the pollution. Not the boring everyday smells. The nice one. The sweet, light, airy scent that bounces and flits its way along, throwing itself beneath people’s noses as they make their way…wherever they’re going.

It’s not flowers or grass or water or even that odd scent that lightning leaves behind on the thick air after a storm. It’s neither warm nor cold and definitely not damp or dry. It’s got a heat like chili’s and a depth like really delicious, red wine. It bubbles and makes me light-headed much in the same way that champagne does and goes right along with it like strawberries. Chocolate, in shapes like bunnies or hearts or just in good, droolingly delicious lumps. Fresh, double cream brie with peppercorns — soft and sumptuous with just that little crack and spice of pepper between your teeth.

I can’t stop there…

It’s ice cold beer on patios and peanut butter cookies sold at lawn sales. It has the feeling of freshly picked tomatoes with home-grown basil in a salad with buffalo mozzarella that you buy on your way home from work one night, because you simply had to go to the gourmet cheese shop that was more than a half-hour walk out of your way…

It’s more than food though, too. It’s Frank Sinatra on the stereo and patio lanterns on the balconies. Oh, and who can forget having the window open again after a long cold winter? It’s the smile you swear you see on your son’s face when you are walking home in t-shirts and sunglasses…and your husband’s face when he sees you in a light summer dress again after so long in jeans and big, bulky sweaters. It’s freshly painted toenails and hair pinned up off of your neck…

My fickle friends, the summer wind has come blowing in. Leith and I celebrated it with a gorgeous, fresh Caprese Salad last night…a short swim before dinner and the windows in our apartment open all night (even though it rained). We made it through the winter. Summer is coming. It finally happened. I love it.

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Remains of the Day

Posted on Apr 23, 2010

When I was young the term “left-overs” instilled pure, unadulterated fear into my immature, teen-aged heart. I wasn’t the only family member who felt this way, either — not by a long shot. You could easily see my one brothers’ eyes glaze over, the skin of the others’ cheeks become tinged with a greenish-greyish hue. My older sister would usually slink out of the house after hearing those two words… but not before having made a face and sticking her tongue out at me from behind my mother’s back. My dad, who loves absolutely everything would even look a little solemn at those woeful words and my little sister didn’t often have a choice in the matter (that’s what little sisters are for) and had to stick around, whether she wanted to or not.

You would think that I would have learned from such displays of anger and disappointment and that I would never, ever in a million years endure an evening that is based on left-overs, let alone create an entire meal from something so vile that it would remain “left over” for longer than a fortnight. Because, really, that is what left-overs are; food that is still there after a certain amount of time. Food that has outstayed it’s welcome. Food that has been… well, let’s be honest: left over after the other, more popular food has been eaten and enjoyed.

Everyone has them, sitting in their fridge as we speak. A Tupperware container full of cold, sauced pasta, a foil-wrapped pile of grilled vegetables, a few frozen portions of lasagna… whatever the genre, whatever the denomination, they’re there, awaiting the time-honored tradition of left-over night in your house.

I have to say that I do believe I am the world’s most tenacious eschew-er of left-overs. You might say I am an Olympic Left-Over Evader. I will look at a container in the fridge and pass it over. I will know, on my way home from work, that there is already a perfectly good meal in the fridge or freezer, but because it is not new, not exciting, not tantalizingly up-to-the-minute, I don’t want it. There are nights where I eat toast-sticks and popcorn in order to avoid eating something made from food that has been patiently waiting to be eaten for who knows how long.

What does all of this have to do with the sparkling dish pictured above? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, this was our “left-over meal” quite recently. Left-overs, in a different way: we had a sweet potato that had lingered just a few days longer than I thought it should. We had a whole butternut squash lounging on the windowsill, which had remained uneaten for way too long. We had a half bag of Arborio rice in the cupboard that really, should have escorted itself out the door months ago. And, lastly we had a heel of Pecorino Romano that was dying to be used up — leaping out of the fridge at me every time I opened the door.

So left-over night became butternut squash and sweet potato risotto night. Redolent with memories of childhood left-over nights… with a new twist to make those nights just a little bit less painful and a little more delicious.

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Dinner Disasters (CONTEST)

Posted on Mar 18, 2010

I want to hear your dinner disaster stories! Please send them to me (ASAP!!) and I will chose the four that make me laugh the most (yes, I’m mean that way) and post them on my site or link to them if they are online. Those four winners will each receive a $20 gift certificate from Longo’s to help out with their next dinner disaster**.

In the meantime, can you please explain to me why many moms feel as though they need to berate themselves on a regular basis because they are not short-order, haute cuisine chefs…? I’ve heard all the reasons a million times, and even muttered a few of them to myself under my breath while grocery shopping at 10pm on a weeknight. You know what I’m talking about – the sorrowful lament of "my mother cooked all of our meals from scratch when we were kids", and the sad refrain "my kids deserve the best", or even the melancholy chords of "I won’t pull out a frozen lasagna for dinner again this week".

Why is it that every day mothers have no problem forcing themselves to do tasks they don’t have the time, don’t have the inclination, or don’t have the resources to complete…? Dinner is one of those responsibilities around my house that seems to always fall to the mom. (Of course, these days I am the only one tall enough to reach the freezer or turn on the stove.) Moms everywhere (at-home, work-from-home, mom-preneurs, work-outside-the-home, retired) are made to feel as though they are utterly useless unless they are capable of preparing and serving a fresh, hot, not-from-frozen, not-from-takeaway, gourmet meal to their loved ones.

Dinner with children can rapidly go from being an easy-going affair to something akin to Fatal Attraction, especially on a weeknight. I personally have too many dinner disasters to count, but I try not to let them get me down. Obviously we still need to eat and macaroni and cheese is rarely on the menu (unless made from scratch, then I can’t wait to dig in). But there is the odd night when I haven’t had time to prepare for, time to shop for or time to think about dinner.

Evenings like these can easily turn into a complete disaster – particularly with a small, tired, ravenous boy (are boys always hungry?!?) in the mix who just wants to eat, maybe read a book and go to bed. And I will admit that once in a while I turn to someone else for help. Recently I found a good, inexpensive, tasty "helper" for just these occasions. Longo’s sent me a few of their Fresh Meals Made Easy packs to test out at home.

Usually when I buy something pre-packaged, I find it lacking. With these I was pleasantly surprised. For the price ($9.99) and the convenience (dinner from fridge to table in less than 10 minutes…really, less than 10 minutes!) I don’t think you can get a better meal. And the quantity was quite good. Enough to feed myself, my son and left just enough for my lunch the next day. Fresh ingredients, no preservatives, lots of veggies; these packages are right up my alley. And with so much variety (Ginger-Lime Beef Stir-Fry, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Chicken Linguine (Leith’s favourite), and Chili Garlic Shrimp Stir-Fry to name a few), how can you go wrong?

I did however have one small complaint: the instructions tell you to add the vegetables to the pan and saute for two minute and then to add the noodles. The veggies and the noodles are packaged together, sometimes all mixed in with each other. I’m a stickler for proper instructions, so I think they need to either tell you just to add it all in together or find a way to keep the vegetables and the noodles separate. I spent more time picking carrots out of noodles than I did cooking the entire meal. A small thing, but kind of irritating to someone as nit-picky as I am.

**Longo’s has locations in Ontario only – specifically across the GTA in areas like Downtown Toronto, Aurora and Brampton. Anyone can participate, but those living in/around the GTA would be best able to redeem the gift certificates.

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Food-Ease

Posted on Feb 8, 2010




When I was growing up, comfort food was something I learned about very early on. I don’t subscribe to the motto that ice cream will cure all of your woes or that a chocolate bar will help you cope, it is more that I think you should eat what your body is craving. I’m not prescribing that you eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if you’re craving a hunk of dark chocolate, you should probably indulge. It’s most likely not going to kill you.

I learned to listen to what my body was craving when I was pregnant with Leith and then again when I was hospitalized a few years ago. I won’t get into all the medical mumbo-jumbo but will admit that I ate a lot of food high in iron (a good steak is my best friend) on a regular basis. It wasn’t that I ate poorly before then; it was more that I became more aware of what my body desired and have continued to eat in that fashion since.

Sometimes what your body needs is compassion. For some this comes in the form of a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. For others it might mean eating toast or left-overs. Pasta is definitely one of the greatest comfort foods for me. Effortless to prepare, and with so many different ways to serve, it is also my stand-by side dish. But your average tomato sauce or everyday white sauce sometimes just doesn’t cut it when you whip pasta out for dinner. Besides, why should you stick to old standards when you can create new and interesting ones instead?

This little beauty of a dish can be an appetizer, main dish, side dish or, even a snack. The cheese in it is a rich-tasting, full-bodied experience and it holds its own next to the sausage and the roasted peppers. The spice is just right, enough to make your toes curl but not enough to make your tongue burn. The recipe is extremely simple to prepare (and could be done well in advance) and the only real "work" is roasting of the peppers in the beginning, which can be done well in advance if you like.

That is what I love about pasta – it is so versatile and so simple. You can eat it every day of the week and have marvelously diverse dishes to eat each time that are healthy, hearty and utterly scrumptious.

If you want some more truly delectable Macaroni and Cheese recipes, be sure to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s 30 Days, 30 Ways blog.

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Calamity Jane

Posted on Jan 9, 2010



When I was little I was quite accident prone; my father’s nicknames for me were Calamity Jane and Murphy’s Law — I’ll give you one guess as to why. Now that I’m grown, it’s not that I’m suddenly full of grace, either. It’s more likely that I hide my accidents a bit better and look before I leap more often than I did when I was a child.

I remember writing an autobiographical essay for an English assignment in grade ten. The teacher had asked for a mini-biography (at age 16 it couldn’t be anything but short!) to teach us about writing in the first person, in the past tense. I thought it would be a funny twist to chronologically list my calamities rather than bore people with stories of how I got a dog when I was a kid or how my cat ate my brother’s bird. People respond to misfortune; it makes them laugh in the face of disaster — this was the wisdom of a 16 year-old.

Disaster #1: My brother dropped a drinking glass on the floor of the kitchen (which was marble) and it smashed into a thousand pieces. He cleaned it up, but once I walked in there I “found” the last remaining shard of glass with my foot. My parents thought it might work its way out (does glass ever really do that?) and didn’t take me to the hospital for a few days. When it was still stuck in there later on in the week my mom decided to trot me off to Sick Kids and had the doctor remove it. I got a lollipop and balloons — my brother was jealous and I still have a scar.

Disaster #2: I was in kindergarten and we were at the park playing one day. I loved the slide; I could go up the stairs and slide down that thing for hours on end. Swings made me dizzy for some reason and the jungle-gym was an accident waiting to happen (to me at least), so the slide was my best friend in the park. One day I slid down just as the teacher blew her whistle that signaled everyone to freeze so she could do a “head-count”. I froze. The guy behind me did not. He slid on down that slide, smacking me from behind, pushing me off. I landed badly and cracked my left ankle. I was on crutches for at least 6 weeks (after my mom rushed me to Sick Kids to have it looked at, x-rayed and bandaged). I got another lollipop and balloons. I also got some seriously special treatment at school – pretty much everyone was jealous.

Disaster #3: My father was replacing the glass pane in the door at our cottage. He started to remove it and was called away for a minute. I came up from the lake and wanted to get into the cottage, having no idea what my father had been working on. I tried the door. This door is sticky (yes, it’s still sticky) and you really have to give it a good YANK to open it. I did this and that top window pane came completely loose, fell from the door frame and almost sliced off my right thumb. My parents (being quick on their collective toes) wrapped my hand in a dish towel, treated me by dunking my hand in a large measuring cup full of slightly diluted hydrogen peroxide (ouch!) and Tylenol. No stitches. No antibiotics. No doctor. Why ruin a perfectly good family vacation by driving an hour or two to the closest hospital?! I do have to add here that my thumb is still attached to my hand and works just fine although it does sport a rather large scar and has some nerve damage. NO STITCHES. I swear, I was a miracle child. Eventually my mom took me to Sick Kids to have my thumb looked at – they said it was healing fine and wouldn’t bother with stitches anymore. I got another lollipop, some balloons and was sent home. No one was jealous.

Disaster #4: My older brother and I were at the supermarket with my mom and we were bored. He decided that pushing me around in the cart would be more fun than following my mom around the whole time. Then he decided – without clearing it with me first – that pushing me around wasn’t good enough. He decided that pushing me around really, really fast would be much more productive, and all of a sudden we were going Mach-5 around the Dominion. Admittedly, it was fun. Until the cart hit the fruit stand and everything went black. I opened my eyes and there were a half dozen grocery store employees standing around me as I lay, bruised and scared, UNDER the over-turned cart. Needless to say my mom didn’t take both of us shopping together again…ever.

While these are hardly the only “disasters” I encountered as a child, I always manage to recover each time I scrape my knee or fall up a flight of stairs (it happens more often than I’d care to admit). Comfort food comes in really handy on days when you slip in the shower or stub your toe on every corner you come across…and lately I seem to be the Queen of Comfort Food. This bread is the perfect thing to serve along with some really good corn chowder or even a hearty beef stew. It’ll keep you warm, keep you safe and keep you full.

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Fry Girl

Posted on Dec 14, 2009



Everyone has a favourite kitchen item, don’t they? For some people it’s a well-worn wooden spoon, others can’t live without a properly sharpened and balanced Santoku knife. I know my mother would not feel at home in her own kitchen if there was no rolling pin and my older sister probably couldn’t live without her dutch oven. Me…? Well, I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, I am quite fond of my cook-anything-in-it toaster oven, and I always smile when I pull out my immersion blender. But my all-time, go-to, favourite item is a good-quality, not-overly-large frying pan.

I have used a few different pans over the years, with varying results. But recently I believe met the pan that I will last me the rest of my life. I have cooked pasta sauce in it, chicken (it goes stove-top to oven easily), fish and even some really delicious lemon-thyme scallops. It helped me out with a stir-fry, some corn cakes and even pancakes one Sunday morning. Then one day I started thinking about how delicious a grilled cheese sandwich would be made in this pan. I daydreamed all week (please don’t tell my boss!) about the melted cheese, the warm fillings and that perfectly caramelized crust it would give the olive-oil’ed and buttered bread.

When the eagerly anticipated day finally arrived, I stopped at the market on my way home from work for a few essentials – skim milk mozzarella, some thinly shaved turkey breast from the organic butcher, a good, ripe tomato, a loaf of crusty white bread – and then made my way home, my thoughts centered on what I was about to create. I breezily told everyone we were having sandwiches for dinner, watched their faces go from expectant to bored in less than two seconds flat and left them for the kitchen. Less than thirty minutes later I was surprising them with glorious sandwiches, full of flavours and textures.

If you want your own perfect pan, why not try bidding on once of the four Mark McEwan by Fresco pans that the amazing folks at Fresco have graciously donated for Menu for Hope this year? The codes to bid on these beautiful pans are: CA07, CA08, CA09 and CA10 (and, sorry, shipping is limited to within Canada).

For further information on Menu for Hope, and to see the other prizes available this year, see Seven Spoons (Tara is the Canadian host) or Chez Pim (Pim is the overall coordinator and originator of Menu for Hope).

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle
1. Choose a bid item or items of your choice from the Menu for Hope main bid item list.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Specify which bid item you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write in how many tickets per bid item, and use the bid item code. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for CA01 and 3 tickets for CA07 – 2xCA01, 3xCA07.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so MFH can claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow MFH to see your email address so that they can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

Good Luck!!

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Sweet Satisfaction that Can Be Yours

Posted on Oct 19, 2009

Oftentimes even the simplest of fares can convey a sense of comfort, a feeling of joy and a certain amount of contentment to your day. Just the smell of something baking in the oven, a hint of cinnamon or the tang of ginger or the warmth of gooey, flavourful chocolate is all you need to make you feel warm and placated after a long day of rain and chilly wind beating against the windows of your home.

Blending aromatic ingredients into lusciously dense desserts brings a smile to my face. Nibbling on said sweets the next morning with a hot cup of coffee by my hand makes for the perfect start to a cold, blustery, busy day that has no early end in sight.

Perhaps you can create your own magical and delicious desserts by entering this contest … and perhaps I can get you inspired with a little quiz right now, that comes with a prize.

As you know, I have a love for all things "flavorsome". So much so that I named both my cats after words found in the kitchen. If you are the fifth one to email me with the names of both of my cats you will win a gift basket (pictured at the side) the following helpful products:

- $50.00 CDN worth of Pillsbury Product Coupons
- The Complete Guide to a Clean House (The MollyMaid Cleaning Handbook)
- Pillsbury oven mitts and apron
- Pillsbury Doughboy doll
- Pillsbury Doughboy desk clock
- Pillsbury Totebag

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