Monday, 13 October 2014

Fall Firsts

There is lots to love about fall.  Here are just a few of the things that I enjoy about the season:

1. Thanksgiving
2. Cozy sweaters
3. Beautiful colours in the forest
4. Halloween
5. Ski season is around the corner!

We've had a great autumn so far.  Actually, with the weather we've been having, it was starting to feel like an extended summer.  But not to worry, the rain is here, and it's here in a big way!

Our first fall event happened before it was fall.  Every year there is a Fair in town - the Brackendale Fall Fair.  I had heard that it was great, but I'd never been.  This year we went to check it out & it was awesome.  There was live music, a petting zoo, lots of food vendors, a farmer's market & pretty much everyone in town was there.  As you can see, it was a gorgeous day!

Biking in fall is awesome - the crisp air, the colourful leaves littering the trail, the tacky dirt on the trail.  I got a new bike in July and it has been SO MUCH FUN!  It is like the One Ring of bikes - it performs well in all conditions.  I even took it to the bike park this weekend & it was perfect.

Last weekend Finley and I planted some new foliage on the decks to brighten things up.  I did most of the work, but Finley kept me company while he man-handled my decorative peppers.  My new approach to the potted garden is to use perennials and just add some colourful annuals around the edge according to the season.  I'm hoping it will be less work.  I can use my extra time to power-wash the deck!

Let's face it, it's not quite as easy to get out and about in the pouring rain.  Here we are are enjoying a rain-free day at the river.

Back at home, Finley is into all the classic games.  Hide and seek:

I wanted to brave a turkey this year, but I didn't stop to consider the details of that plan.  So when I went to order our free-range organic turkey and was told the smallest bird was 12lbs, I thought that might be a bit much for two adults and one baby.  It was a bit late to have other people over, so I decided to do a roast chicken instead.

You may remember that I'm not that good at roasts & I have an inexplicable fear of handling full carcasses of meat.  I am better now, having BBQed whole chickens.  Still, I wouldn't say that traditional meals are a strong suite of mine.

Sounds like time for a Cookbook Challenge!

Cookbook Challenge #25: Thanksgiving Dinner for Two from Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

We got this wonderful book as a gift from Derek's Dad & Step-mom.  We - as in both of us - Derek and I got this book.  Notice Jamie says right on the front cover that we can rediscover how to cook simple, delicious, affordable meals.  I'm not sure if Bruce & Sharon thought that Derek might crack this book & try some new dishes, but I have to admit that I had that thought when I saw the book.  More of a fantasy, really.  I don't think Jamie has Derek convinced yet, but perhaps he just hasn't been hungry enough to try yet.  (Ask him about the first time he made his famous tomato soup, or stir-fry.... driven by hunger and wife MIA!)

Anyway, I thought Jamie could help me with my first roast chicken & the appropriate fixings for a transitional-ish Thanksgiving dinner.

"Perfect Roast Chicken":

"A consistently good gravy" (my first gravy!):
(tastes better than it looks, and I did strain out the veggies etc!)

"Baked Carrots in a Bag":

"Baked French Potatoes":

Everything turned out really well!  Jamie Oliver's cookbooks are usually pretty straight-foward and easy to follow, once you get used to his random measurements (dash of this, handful of that!)

Since only 50% of the dinner guests like Pumpkin Pie, but 100% of the guests love the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from Xocolatl, we had the latter.  With Pumpkin chocolates on it!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Kitchen Gadgets to the Rescue

Does anyone else ever feel like they have too many gadgets in their kitchen?  Expresso machine, bread machine, Vitamix, toaster, toaster-oven, slow cooker, electric kettle, rice cooker, Magic Bullet, dehydrator, juicer, fondue pot, ice cream maker ... the list goes on!  For the record, I do NOT own all of the items listed above.  However, I admit I am guilty of coveting gadgets, using them furiously for weeks to months, then relegating to the back shelf of the pantry.  That is where my bread machine is.  It was the coolest thing ever when it was given to me, but I can't honestly remember the last time I used it.   My great uncle won it and passed it on, so at least nobody paid for a bread machine to sit on my shelf.

We recently had the opportunity to dust off some gadgets, as our stove has been out of commission for the past 2 weeks.  I was trying to tidy up the cupboard above the stove, when I knocked over a mason jar full of cereal.  I heard a loud smash & cursed myself for breaking the mason jar & making a big mess.  No such luck!  The mason jar was intact.  Our stove top... not so much.

Not awesome

I had to get a bit creative with the cooking, but we ate well, thanks to our gadgets!

The gadget that really saved our bacon was the BBQ.   We used it most nights, and you really can't go too wrong with a BBQ.  I tried to attach a rotisserie accessory I bought years ago on sale, but it didn't fit - drat!  With the mild winters we have, there is really no reason to close down the BBQ once summer is over.

The next most useful gadget was our rice cooker.  Rice cookers are not fly-by-night gadgets, they are legit.  They are super helpful.  They cook rice like you've never tasted.  I can't remember a time when we did not have a rice cooker in our kitchen.   The one we currently have was gifted to us at Christmas 2 yrs ago & I love it.  The buttons are in English (my last machine was in Japanese), it has a timer, and it makes amazing rice.

Without a stove, I had to find a new way to cook Finley's morning porridge.  The rice cooker was equal to the task.  I put the oats & water in at bedtime, set the timer & woke up to hot porridge.  I don't think I'll go back to the stove top for this one.

A few years ago I bought a sukiyaki maker at Uwajimaya in Seattle.  I received a great deal of teasing from my friends who were there with me.  We love sukiyaki, but you can only eat it so often, so this gadget has not seen much use.  Until now!  In the past two weeks, the sukiyaki maker has expanded her repertoire - pancakes, scrambled eggs, omelet, stir fry, yakisoba, steamed veggies, fried rice, and yes - sukiyaki!

"sukiyaki maker"
Last, but not least - the slow cooker.  I didn't bring it out until today, for a delicious dinner of pulled pork tacos.  It was the first slow cooked meal of the season & I'm looking forward to more.

But starting tomorrow, we can cook on our stove again.  Jeff from Best Appliances came through for us today & we have a sparkling new stove top.  What should we make first!?