Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Well, I didn't get around to carving any pumpkins this year, but here is some pumpkin-ginger bread instead! Happy Halloween!!

In closing, here are two of my favorite pictures from the annual Ghoul's Procession at St. John the Divine, one of my favorite NYC Halloween events! The full set is here.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snowtober, Weekend Baking

Snow in October

So, we totally had an actual snowstorm yesterday--yes, SNOW. In October!! And it was a serious storm too, with pretty significant accumulation (although it changed over to rain in the middle of the night). Just look at it! It was coming down like crazy, and since I am an idiot, I decided to go out and go to the supermarket anyway. I looked like Frosty the Snowman by the time I got home.

More snow

This is what it looked like when I left the supermarket. Gosh! Well, once I was back indoors, I didn't really feel like going back out again so I dug in for some serious cooking and baking (oh okay, and there was some knitting too, but at least I watched some classic horror movies!).

Sunday lunch

The first craving that cold weather gives me is for anything stewed or braised. I got 2 small daikons in last week's CSA share (yup, that's still going strong!) and wanted to use them in a braise of some kind--in the end I went with a chunk of pork belly and some tofu puffs. I should also have added some hard-boiled eggs, but I forgot! Oh well. This cooks slowly over several hours, but you don't have to pay too much attention to it, leaving you free to work on other things. It's perfect over rice (just one or two small cubes of pork belly at a time!), and the only other thing you need is a big plate of greens.


And this is what I did with all that free time while I was waiting for my daikon and pork belly to be done. As you might have guessed, I am still drowning under a sea of apples and pears and I figured it was time to break out this old favorite; if you're looking for a twist on the classic pie and are a crust lover, I highly recommend you give this a try!

More crust less filling apple pie

Isn't it beautiful? The crust is a dream to work with and bakes up really flaky, with a gorgeous flavor and texture. And this took care of 3.5 apples, yay! (I'll be bringing this one in to share with my coworkers to get us through a long meeting.)


You don't even need a pie pan to bake this, just a cookie sheet (although it should be a rimmed one, unless you want a giant mess in your oven...). And of course, you can get as crazy or as simple with the steam vents as you want; I finally used a decorative pie crust cutter my friend gave me a couple of years ago. I can't wait to eat this tomorrow!

Hope you are all having nice Sundays :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vancouver: Tea at the Fairmont Pacific Rim

Afternoon Tea @ the Lobby Lounge

Blogging sure has been inconsistent around here lately, huh? I'm so behind! I've got a ton of things to talk about (my Flickr is way more caught up) but no time lately! We were just in Chicago over last weekend and although I have exactly one food pic, a highlight of the trip was meeting fellow blogger PopArtichoke! Anyway--that post will have to wait, I am determined to go in order. So, let us hop in the time machine and head back to my Vancouver trip in September....

You probably know by now that I love me some afternoon tea and I am definitely not one to pass up an opportunity to try out a new place! (I have secret plans to work my way through all of the afternoon teas on offer in Vancouver.) This time, we decided to try out the tea at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which is located at Canada Place. The tea is served in the Lobby Lounge, which is a nice, comfortable space although sadly doesn't have the amazing views of the mountains that you get directly outside (and presumably from the hotel rooms!) We sprung for the champagne tea (can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday? I can't!) and were promptly brought glasses of bubbly, followed by a tea service (and one comment about that to the hotel--get your poor servers some higher rolling carts for pete's sake! These poor ladies were bent double pushing tea carts around.)

Prawn & avocado

So the twist here is that there is a bit of an Asian influence going on; there are "sushi style" offerings in addition to the traditional tea sandwiches. If you look at the top photo you'll see there is even some actual sushi. This prawn and avocado open-faced sandwich wasn't particularly Asian but was pretty yummy!

Crab & cucumber

A play on gunkan-maki, with the sushi rice wrapped in a strip of cucumber and topped with crab and tobiko.

Truffled egg salad sandwich

And one of my faves, a truffled egg salad sandwich. I'm not super wild about the flavor of truffles or truffle oil but it was nice here.


And of course, you have to have scones at afternoon tea! These were nice and light, served with cream and sour cherry compote. I really could have put away another scone or two! But I do love the plates they used. Somehow I did not manage to get another shot of the sweets, but if I remember correctly (and it has been a while, I guess!) my favorites were the financier and the lychee and green tea cake.


In closing, here's a bonus shot of some random chips I picked up at T&T. I can now report that the Roasted Chicken one was disgusting! But the spicy one was not too bad. Plus, how can you resist that evil chili pepper face?

Hopefully posting will now be less erratic! I mean, are there even any readers left? Anyone out there? Hellooooo!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Butternut squash macaroni and cheese


My current squash count stands at 2 butternut squash, 8 (yes, 8!) delicata squash, and a kabocha squash (all of it from the farm share, except for the kabocha which I bought months ago). Thank goodness for the internet, because without the inspiration, I would probably be eating roasted squash until the end of time! Not that there's anything wrong with roasted squash, but a little variety is nice, right? I was browsing for squash recipes and kept coming across macaroni and cheese recipes that added butternut squash to the cheese sauce, which sounded brilliant to me! However, I am lazy and did not feel like actually making bechamel sauce (nor did I have enough cheese)....In the end, I kind of winged it, and it turned out wonderfully! So, onwards...


The first thing to do, of course, is to get yourself a butternut squash. Mine was on the small side, probably about a pound total. Cut it in half (be careful! Squash are hard and roll around. You can stabilize it a bit by wrapping a dishtowel around the base.) and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil (you really don't need much) and place, cut side down, on a lined baking sheet. Roast in a 375 F oven until the squash is soft; mine took about an hour. Let it cool until you can handle it without burning yourself, then scoop the flesh out into a food processor (or a blender). Isn't that a cheerful color?

Squash puree

For the amount of squash I had, I added about half a cup of milk and blended until smooth. Adjust as you see fit in terms of thickness, but remember that you're going to be adding cheese which will thicken it a bit more! Give it a taste; if you're like me, you might consider just eating the puree as is with a spoon. It's so yummy! Nice and sweet. (I guess if you thin it out more and add some ginger and curry, it would be a good soup. Hmm!)


Anyway if you've managed not to eat all of your puree, pour it into a heavy saucepan and heat on low heat until it starts to simmer. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, a bit of freshly grated nutmeg, and salt and black pepper to taste. (Or whatever seasoning you would put in your regular mac and cheese recipe.) Stir in shredded cheddar cheese; I used about 4 ounces of extra sharp cheddar. Stir over low heat until melted. Pour over cooked pasta; this made enough sauce for about half a box of pasta.

Butternut squash mac & Cheese

If you like the baked kind of mac and cheese, by all means, pour this into a dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake. Otherwise, just eat and enjoy! I may never go back to the regular mac and cheese. Which is fortunate, because I've still got a whole bagful of squash, with more expected on Tuesday....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pender Harbour Weekend

In flight

It's been about a week since I've gotten back and dudes--I am SO SAD to be back from vacation. I had such an awesome time and man is it hard coming back to reality. (Also I came home and found approximately 30 pears and about 20 apples in my fridge from the CSA share my brother picked up for me--egad!! More sauce on the agenda....) I've got a couple more posts about the trip coming but for this one I wanted to focus on the weekend we spent at our friends' marina. It can be summed up thusly:OMG SEALS!!!


Although, I'm getting ahead of myself. We took a floatplane up to Sechelt (so much faster than the ferry) and it was super fun. As you can tell from the photo above, it is a very small plane (a 6 seater!) and the pilot is right there with you. And the view is amazing. And before you know it, you're coming in for landing:

Coming in for landing


And here's the airport! By airport, I mean a series of docks, and a pub. It's pretty sweet actually, you can land, refuel your plane, get a beer, eat some boiled shrimp...not bad. We had to wait around a while for our friend to come collect us, but eventually he arrived and we drove to breakfast.

Boater's Breakfast at Laverne's

If you ever get to Pender Harbour, a must-do is to go eat at Laverne's. That's the boater's breakfast above (I exercise a little restraint and went with a breakfast that only had bacon instead of bacon AND sausage!) and it's just the thing when you've been awake since the crack of dawn and need fuel for a kayak trip. (And after your kayak trip, you can go back for a burger and delicious fries, and a shake. Mmm, shake.)

Salt and Pepper Troops

Plus there are quirky things all over the restaurant, like this army of salt and pepper shakers.


And here I am, in a kayak for the first time ever!! It was so much fun. It took me a little while to get the hang of paddling (I kept bashing my knuckles against the side of the kayak) but once I did it was tremendously fun. We paddled from the marina to the mouth of the harbour (a lot further than it sounds--a good solid hour or so of paddling!) because I was promised real live wild seals!


And seals there were! (These were taken on a second trip the next day, when we went back in a motorboat; I didn't want to take the expensive camera in the kayak, I mean, what if I dropped it!)

Sunbathing seals

They were just chilling on these floating logs, a whole group of them! It was amazing! I'm frankly surprised I didn't tip my kayak over in excitement. IT WAS SO COOL!!! FREAKING SEALS!!!! (The photo at the top of the post was also taken during our kayak trip--it's a heron flying away.)


Ahem. Okay, I'm calm again. Anyway, all that paddling worked up an appetite and thirst so we adjourned to the bar for some beer and the biggest plate of nachos ever (and this is the small portion!) and some interesting conversation with other bar patrons (our friend now has lots of business ideas for his boat). Then it was time to hop in his little motorboat and head over to the nearby town for more food to cook onboard. You can click here to see a short video of the trip over; you can hear me laughing maniacally and mumbling something unintelligible. Dinner was short ribs, which I did not take a picture of because it was too dark!

Morning on the Cape Pine

We woke up on Sunday to rain! I guess that was to be expected, because despite the name Sunshine Coast, there's definitely a rainy season (which seems to last, you know, 9 months). And there were forecasts of a major storm moving in, so that put a damper on my plans to go take another kayak trip. We settled for breakfast (an entire package of bacon! haha) and coffee and I don't know why but coffee tastes better on the boat.


It was kind of a weird day, weather-wise! And by the time we were getting ready to go and catch the ferry back, the sky had cleared up and it turned gorgeous, if also still windy. (We took another trip over to see the seals, too! Yay!) I'm told we passed a black bear on the way to the ferry but I think I might have dozed off at that point. An excellent time, all around.

More photos from the weekend are here, in case this post wasn't already long enough!