the left coast

I always knew that someday I would return to the west coast. Toronto winters were wearing me down. My little house in Leslieville sat on the corner of my street with 130-150 ft of sidewalk that had to be cleared all too regularly through the winter months. This Vancouver girl never quite adapted to the task…but I tried, oh I tried! I suppose hiring someone or moving to a condo may have sufficed but eventual escape was on my mind. I dreamed of all of my girls converging to closer geographical locations.

I took a hard look at the life I wanted going forward. I stumbled upon a quote that resonated with me by Doris Lessing…

“whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

It seemed to me that I had a daughter that desperately needed to fly on her own that had been living with me and another one in the west who could use some help. My middle kid is also in flux as her little family will be searching for a new job post-graduation.  I had also long dreamed of spending time in France with my sister…( more on that later)

I wanted to have a little place near Stanley Park that could be rented out if needed. Living in Manhattan for a year had taught me I could nest in a tiny space as long as I had a big park close by and the city at my doorstep.

On top of it all, I needed to figure out how to stretch the $$. I worked hard to find the “perfect for me” little apartment that will be undergoing a makeover, with a new kitchen and bathroom. I am now in the middle of an urban garden, just steps from the ocean and my favourite park in the world. Restaurants, shops and bike paths are at my doorstep.

I loved another quote I came across today….”There are three things we cry about in life, things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.” Douglas Coupland
BRAINY QUOTES

So when I start to feel bummed out, like when I found all this amazing Christmas stuff on sale and there is NO MORE ROOM at my little INN–I remind myself there are still many good things to come. IMG_1720

 

 

catching up on last summer…

It’s been another long gap since I last posted. So much has happened and I am intent on drinking it all in and savouring all the details…even the not so fun ones. Packing up the last of my things, throwing out, selling off and handing over my home was far more difficult than I ever imagined, both emotionally and physically. Could not have managed without so many people there to help. How grateful I am for all of them.

Every once in a while a sadness hits me of leaving behind so much in Toronto. It was an intensely rich time in my life. Leaving friends and neighbours and most of all my youngest daughter and my eldest granddaughter has been hard but it felt like the right time to move on. I’ve focused on living in the present,  while honouring my past and I’m working for a new future. I remind myself that I’m grateful to have put down roots deep enough that Toronto actually does feel like home to me in many ways. ( Some western Canadians can imagine such a declaration.)

By the skin of my teeth the house was cleared out, with my Lindsay and friend Piotr clearing up the last items and giving the house a high gloss finish. I had a plane to board for Marseille on June 29, 2015.

I arrived at my sisters lovely villa in an ancient town in the Luberon, Provence. The village built into the mountainside is Saignon. My sisters paradise in France. We spent a week together and she was off to Canada, leaving me to take care of business ( which was great fun ) more tk

Mother’s day weekend and collateral baking damage

The sun stayed out for Mother’s Day in Toronto and it was a pure decadence to wander around the neighbourhood and be treated to 2 dinners out. I began the morning with a breakfast experiment that had been setting up from the night before. The recipe claimed to be some sort of fancy french toast- but really it was bread pudding dolled up with lots of berries and some creme fresh. I tried to cheap out with the whole wheat bread sitting on the counter, and it was OK,  but I do think using a nice italian bread or brioche or old croissants would have been much more satisfying. I still have plenty of leftovers and I can’t think of where/whom I can pass them on to. Here is the full recipe and it looks great–I suppose I should stop fiddling with things and go by the book at some point. (warning- just don’t try to make it healthy with whole grain bread!) FRENCH TOAST- Overnight

Later, Lindsay treated me to lunch. We have found an “all you can eat Sushi” spot that is actually quite amazing. At $12.99 it is hard to beat. If you are in Toronto, try it out– California Roll on Bayview.  Even Maddie the 2 year old loves the seaweed salad , edemame and rice. She handles chop sticks better than some adults I know.

In the evening we took a neighbourhood stroll and ended up at one of those fresh ground, organic and locally sourced burger joints that opened up last year next to some grotty old school noodle joints. Still it’s fun to see all the variety out there. Madeline insisted on pedalling her miniature bike the entire way. Since she is still pretty shrimpy and the bike is very low, it was quite a feat to keep her on track through the craggy sidewalks and over the street car tracks. 

There are two junk stores that we pass by everyday. It’s hard to believe that purchases have ever taken place in either store, but I must say the fully lit windows in the evening looked weirdly magical tonight. It’s difficult to assertion any regular retail hours since the hand lettered signage is spare on details, but every once in a while a pile of junk ends up on the sidewalk signalling they are open for business.

And finally, bedtime brought out the Gramma Wood wig. It’s a family favorite. This legendary matriarch of the Harker Family, Ione Wood, dyed her hair red almost to her last days on earth. She was one amazing woman and  she always sported good shoes, a matching purse and a professionally styled hair-do that had been sprayed to last a week. The wig apparently came in handy after swimming. For some reason little kids cannot resist it’s charms. She was Gramma Wood to all who knew her, regardless of actual family ties. I miss her always and suspect that she is somehow watching over all the kids still, and likely squirrelling away liquorice and quarters for the next time we all meet. 

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roasted mushroom & cauliflower soup

It was time to get rid of the week old roasted veggies in my fridge and I was fighting off the urge to eat out. I don’t know why it is SO hard to cook for myself but it always has been this way. I far prefer a crowd around the table to the drudgery of preparing a solitary meal. It’s been an interesting exercise to think about new postings to add to my blog. I’ve actually been inspired to cook more, even for just moi! I think blogging food for me translates into a dinner party of sorts…Something I get to share with all of you guys if you were here with me right this minute. Even better, it would be great to hear back if anyone tries one of my recipes (I know it might actually be a stretch to call it a recipe) themselves…so please, send me updates if you have tried something or if you were inspired to change it up.

Another confession — I am a canned soup hater. I find few things less appetizing than Campbell’s Soup, yet homemade soup can be so healthy and delicious. As a kid I overdosed on canned and powdered chicken noodle soup. I supplemented my regular Kraft Dinner diet with these 2 items growing up. Nothing like multi-taking at an early age, when there was a ton of TV to be watched and only 45 min for lunch.

I will happily eat scratch soups and with the aid of purchased stocks it make the process super fast easy and delicious.

I gathered my mise en place. (my new to me fancy term I must start using for culinary school. It’s mandatory for me to get over my terrible french accent and expand my vocabulary)

5 minute soup- 4 smallish servings

  • Roasted (or fried) cauliflower and onions (approx. 1 -2 cups)
  • Roasted or friend mushrooms (approx. 1 c- leave aside a T for garnish)
  • 3 c of stock ( veggie, beef or chicken)
  • Blend (with blender or immersion blender) 2 c of stock with the veggies til smooth or desired consistency
  • Add into pot and heat–You can add the remainder of stock to make soup as thick or thin as you like.
  • Season to taste with Salt, pepper, 2-3 T of balsamic vinegar, 1 T of Horseradish if desired.
  • Serve with dollop of plain yogurt and tiny chives and a piece or two of mushroom on top

Of course this is not like baking a sponge cake– you can add or delete at whim. Just taste as you go along to make sure you get the proportions right for your taste buds. 

school dazed

This is DAY 2 of Culinary School . Last fall I applied to the Integrated Learning Program: Culinary Management H116 at George Brown College. Conveniently 10 minutes from my house in downtown Toronto, and ironically next door to my former long time employer’s (Simon and Schuster) newest office digs. I must confess that I am carefully containing my excitement. I’m not really sure where this all leads me but it is the perfect time to stretch myself and I am trying to let the world unfold as it should.  

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I’ve been purchasing and organizing all my equipment for class and I just picked up the most beautiful Japanese knife this afternoon. I am practically overflowing with giddiness. I’m also scrounging around the kitchen for anything that I can pack up so I don’t overflow with duplicates in my already overstuffed house… but happily there are still some mandatory indulgences that I can add to my stockpile. Yesterday was Kitchen Management class and Hospitality Math. Today was English class and I got to hand in my first essay on HOW I AM TOTALLY UN-COOL. Each class is at least 3 hours long and it’s been fun to meet my new class mates and get the scoop on everyone’s raison d’etre. So far every instructor has been exceptionally pleasant and impressive. This is a 2 year diploma and with around 30 to 60 (?-bad with estimating numbers in crowds) people each class with a fairly diverse age range–although I think I may be the 2nd oldest. One dude talked about cooking in the 70’s. I guess technically I ( and Juli) did a stint with crazy Mrs Dean in the Kootenay‘s in 1977, but that’s a whole other story.

Tomorrow will be my first time in the baking kitchen lab and I am definitely psyched!! I hope we make something other than cookies. I’ve been living on a steady diet of them for 2 days. BTW- I will be avoiding full body shots of my chef outfit until the time is right. Tomorrow is my first day wearing this charming outfit. For now, you’ll just have to imagine it.

Turning over a new leaf I plan to cook at home as much as possible. I did not plan well but luckily I had roasted cauliflower , onions and tomatoes on the weekend.

easy dinner with leftovers in fridge- roasted cauliflower soup
easy dinner with leftovers in fridge- roasted cauliflower soup

5 minute ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP

  • Throw a bunch of cauliflower and onions into a blender with some cold chicken stock (measure carefully hah!)
  • Season with salt, lemon zest, horseradish and rooster sauce to taste
  • Blend till smooth

Heat on stove and then serve with:

  • a spoon of thick yogurt
  • roasted tomatoes /lemon squeeze /capers  and FRESH CILANTRO!

Of course season to your liking– if you prefer to mix it up a bit….

Cauliflower is pretty accommodating. The rich colour is really just a result of the roasting and a wee squirt of Hot Sauce.

a perfectly imperfect day

Last weekend I made  my way out to the suburbs to spend a glorious day of baking with my new friend Gaiti that I had first met about 5 years ago soon after she was first married. She has an adorable active son and an amazing business where she gets to do her favourite thing…baking for ” The Cupshoppe ”        www.thecupshoppe.com

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I packed up 2 year old Maddie in the car and stuffed some favourite pans and fresh cream in my bag. As I pulled in front of the house, Maddie threw up all over her twirly purple dress. After pulling everything off except her diaper and shoes we were able to locate some large sweat pants and a dinosaur shirt to clothe her. She was remarkably compliant and good-natured in spite of it all. Gaiti’s 4 year old son Ayaan and Maddie spent much of the day staking territorial claim over everything in sight and at one point Maddie yelled at the top of her lungs in a glass breaking volume that was truly impressive. Ayaan ever the charmer wooed back her affection with a peace-offering of a talking Elmo.

In the meantime Gaita made the most amazing chicken curry full of ginger, tomatoes, and amazing spices. I am still dreaming about it. We ate it so happily that I forgot to take a picture until only a small serving was left. We also poured over recipe books, wedding albums and life in general.

After lunch was cleared away we were finally on to the task of creating the Creme Brûlée tarts. The pastry was perfectly yummy and flakey (if not beautiful) but the creme needed time to cool. The day had sped by and we divided up the 8 tarts and I packed up the car. The sink-washed twirly dress had dried on the line and Maddie was once again princess worthy and the two kids had become happy companions.

An hour later, I poured the runny creme into a tart shell, dotted it with raspberries, skipped the sugary topping and ate it prematurely…( also eaten too fast for a picture). Perhaps it would have set if left for 3 hours or better yet overnight, but sometimes delayed gratification is over-rated.  Running and dripping all over the plate, it was the perfect way to enjoy the end of a lovely old-fashioned sort of day.

For an expert approach to creme brûlée baked in a traditional way check this out