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Monthly Archives: July 2011

From my travel files…. LeSport Christmas 2008. Amy Winehouse RIP

When December rolled around this year
Don and Con decided to yet again not to be near
 
So they hopped a plane to St Lucia
Where in the past they had escaped from the minutia
 
The first night they met up with Julia, Richard and Matt
Over dinner enjoying a visit and chat
 
Julie the beautiful blond newly in from Leeds      
Now enjoying much warmer weather indeed Matt the fresh faced Welshman who cheers for
THAT team
Where winning the cup is only a dream  
Richard’s been here longer than he cares to admit
But at least his name around here is not Dick
 
Julia arrived to carry out training up in the spa
Where we are certain her standards will soon become law
 
Matt came on board to make bodies more aware
To teach the unhealthy guests how to take more care
 
Richard tries to teach us to spin, balance and have marital fun
Without his expertise, most things would not run

 

Julia tends to her students and her friend Natalie
Who we think before long will possibly be free
 
Matt who appeared on the beach as drunk Santa                                   
We know that he would much rather be watching Sentanta                 
 
Richard the ever present ultimate host at this resort
We know he will certainly be missed when he leaves LeSport
 
And so that one gets left out of my rhyming tribute
We reserve this mention for the latest body holiday recruit
   
For the subtly intriguing Amy with her ever present leer
This does go down as one of the most unique Christmases around here  (RIP Amy)
 
You three at our table have made our stay so fabulously great
And so we toast you now on Christmas two thousand and eight!
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

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Why do they call it carbonara anyways…?

Spaghetti Carbonara…..The origin of this typical Roman pasta dish is as recent as the Second World War.  One story, which seems more the product of a fertile imagination than fact, tells of how American soldiers would go into Roman trattorie and order bacon and eggs with a side of pasta.  They were served a sunny side up egg and pancetta (or more likely guanciale, cured pork jowl) and a plate of unseasoned spaghetti.  When they mixed the two, Spaghetti alla Carbonara was born. Another story says that it was invented in a small town in southern Italy called Carbonia, by a chef who later moved to Rome and named the dish after his hometown.  Some people simply say it’s called “Carbonara” because the generous grindings of pepper look like coal dust (carbone means coal in Italian).  In any case, it is a luscious dish, whose creaminess comes from the raw eggs’ contact with the hot pasta rather than cream. …..  Thank you to the Educated Palate for that VERY informative description!  http://giulianohazan.com/blog/

It has been a favourite of mine for ages,  I introduced my brother to it somewhere along the way and he was just amazed that a pasta dish that was described at ‘bacon and egg pasta’  could be sooooo good.

Comforting and good it is. Too much of it… and you want to wretch.  There is a fine line between too much of it and too little of this very rich pasta dish.  Don was out tonite, and  as I hadn’t been cooking too much as of late, I needed some food therapy.  The Atlas was acting up,  I am not sure what is going on, but the spaghetti setting seems to be having some jamming issues…. this is the second time that I was troubled by it.  But alas, the spaghetti still turned out fine,  just a little thicker than usual.

Pasta is very easy.  Preferably you take 00 flour and mix with some eggs, salt and olive oil if you want, knead, rest and you have pasta.  Using the Atlas or something like it, makes the actual pasta making part WAY easier. While at cooking school,  the Atlas there had a motor…..Now we’re talking, I will certainly be asking for a motor for mine in the future!

After the dough rests, you run it through the machine, folding it on itself a number of times, then keep changing the settings and you have sheets.  Then add the spaghetti attachment, run it through, add some flour to keep it separated and you have spaghetti.  There are numerous instructions on the internet so I won’t bore you here with the fine details.

When I was at the Italian Bootcamp at the Culinary Institute of America(CIA) in November 2010,  our chef, Chefsky (don’t try to pronounce his last name), suggested a book that would certainly help us in our Italian cooking adventures.  The book, The Fine Art of Italian Cooking (Guiliano Bugialli) a book originally scribed in 1977, updated to 1990 and available on Amazon.com for 99 cents…. oops I stand corrected,  available for 63 cents,  but the 99 cent one was in Oregon and was the closest one to BC and so that was the one I ordered.  $3.99 to ship and so in my hands I had the cookbook recommended… and I felt that I had a ‘green’ book because I paid more to have it sent from a ‘closer’ spot…  sheesh…(what will be doing next!)  Well at least I had ordered a ‘recycled’ book.  This one ended up being in mint condition.

For this job, I decided to use the carbonara recipe from this ever so revered book and I must say, I was not let down.  We have already addressed the spaghetti portion,  so now all you need are the rest of the ingredients.  The recipe called for pancetta,  and as I don’t keep pancetta on hand,  I used thick slab bacon instead.  I followed the instructions and rendered it down with garlic and red pepper flakes.  Let me interrupt here with the garlic here….. I had grabbed the VERY shrivelled garlic from the pantry… and then had the A-HA moment that my garlic in the garden would at this point be…. SPRING GARLIC.  Spring garlic is regular garlic that has not been dried.  The French, who use copious quantities of the stuff, describe garlic use as this:   11 months of dried garlic, 1 month of spring garlic.  For the 1 month of spring garlic, all the same recipes are used… they just taste of ‘spring’ garlic instead of our regular ‘dried’ garlic.

The balance of the recipe is easy,  after you have rendered the pancetta-bacon, you keep it hot, whisk the eggs and the grated parmesan cheese together in anticipation of the final ‘tossing’ into the hot pasta.

So the final stage is the fresh pasta thrown into a LARGE pot of boiling salted water, salted like the sea, according to our CIA chefs.  I use my 8 quart All Clad pot and after a few short minutes, drain it, throw in a large bowl, toss in the rendered bacon, then follow immediately with the egg and cheese mixture and toss away.YUM!!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Food

 

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Committment phobia? Here is a book for you

So lets just say I read this book because I was so impressed with the last one by Elizabeth Gilbert, well actually I was mostly impressed with Eat Pray Love.  I almost gave up on it… I think it was page 172… or that’s the random page that I have been using when I relate how I felt about that book.

I did almost give up on her…. after page 172, I changed my mind.  She is a bit neurotic… actually very neurotic would be more accurate.   She went on and on and on about her inner turmoil around her marriage and its demise and then her rebound relationship with the young man… but this review isn’t about that book, it’s about the follow-up to that book.  We all know that it is a hard act to follow… I mean how many authors get a movie about their books?  So a REALLY hard act to follow, especially when its only her fourth book.

So when it appeared at the bookstore with a 40% sticker attached… I decided that it was the book for me.  I must say I was swayed because the cover said it was a love story… and I thought that it would be a nice read about how they reconciled their different heritages, lifestyles, monetary levels and lived happily ever after.

I disagree now with the label ‘love story’ but I don’t disagree with much else in this book.  Gilbert, with her usual neurosis and excellent writing style writes about the next stage of her life with Felipe.  All is going well as they spend time jetting between the US and a variety of other countries.  Then the unthinkable happens,  a red flag goes up and Felipe gets refused entry into the US.  They insist with the amount and length of his trips that have been occurring, he isn’t simply doing business in the US, but must be considering the US a more permanent stop and as he hasn’t been given approval for such status, they deem Felipe a threat to the Homeland.

Felipe is forced to leave and head off to Australia but not before the officials ask why they don’t just get married as it would solve all the issues?  Gilbert balks at the idea,  actually they both do.  They had taken, as a couple, a firm stance against the institution and all it stands for.  With her divorce and its monetary leash and Felipe’s own bad experience, they had vowed to never tie the knot.

So they begin the long arduous job of securing just the right to get married.  Gilbert had decided that they should continue to travel around during the process instead of just staying in one spot and waiting it out.  And so the book takes the reader through all types of conditions whilst she researches marriage and its meaning in the areas they visit.

The book is a great read.  The reader finds out where a lot of our western ideas about marriage come from and how much they have changed over the last 1000 years.  From when the Church got involved to when the Government decided to try and control it and its contractual obligations.  I was very surprised at some of her findings.

Gilbert is an excellent story-teller and I found in this book, she curbed her neurosis a bit so as to not overwhelm the reader with too much information about her innermost thoughts.  I would recommend it as a summer read.  It won’t disappoint. ( book review of Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert)

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Sharing

 

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From the travel files…Paris in the Springtime…oops I mean November

It all started in 2005…  My husband and I, who travel frequently, could not agree on going to Paris.  I was interested and he was not.  So around my 38th birthday, while chatting with my world-traveller friend, Steffany, we devised a plan to go for my 40th  birthday.    She went as far as suggesting we try it in November,  6 months after my birthday, but what the heck, I could celebrate the milestone all year long if necessary.

A year before the trip, we cashed in some points and booked business class flights to Paris.  3 months out, we started researching hotels.  As the day drew closer, we almost couldn’t make it happen due to conflicting schedules, but somehow we made it work and on November 10th we were flying across the pond ensconced in our own little beds on Air Canada.

Upon arrival at Charles De Gaulle, we groggily stumbled into the baggage area,  here we just stood and laughed.  Here at a world class location, there was about 4 feet of space between the row of carts and the baggage carousel.  It was quite a sight, with everyone contending for their opportunity to hoist their oversized bags onto carts.  We just waited out the chaos.  I guess there is no need to upgrade it as people will wait for their luggage regardless of how long and arduous the process is.

Our schedule was as such: 3 days in Paris, 2 days in the country, 3 days back in Paris.  We had booked a 3

Champs Elysees

star hotel to start, 2 star in country, 5 star on the return Paris trip.   We got 2 out of 3 right.  We stayed in the Opera district both visits to Paris.  We spent 2 nights in the Loire Valley, supposedly a 2 hr trip from Paris (more on that later).

Our 3 star hotel was fabulous.  Great location, spacious room, thick towels, washcloths, superb front desk staff.

3 star Paris hotel

One employee informed us that 2 star was all that was required when traveling to the country.  We were happy, we were lucking out with our hotel choices.  You only need a 2 star in the country because the rating system will not bump you into a higher category unless you all the criteria.  You could have 5 star accommodations, but if you do not have, for instance, say bathrobes, you would

2 star Country Inn...with a sitting area

still be a 2 star.  This is valuable information to know when arranging your own accommodations.

As our first 3 Paris days drew to a close, we found out that a Metro strike was scheduled for the next day.   At the time we had no concept of the impact that a Metro strike would have on us.  Good thing we had booked a car.

Good thing we had booked a car…. that was actually there.  A Metro strike in Paris means, that there are no rental cars, no taxi cabs, a zillion bicycles, a million motorcycles and 5 times the amount of cars on the roads than a normal day.  So the car we booked was not there, but a nice manual transmission Passat station wagon was.  So after 15 years of not driving a stick shift, I drove up out of the parkade and onto the streets of Paris to exit the city… or at least try.

A metro strike means that there are protests and blockades throughout the major routes.  A metro strike means that you sit still for ½ hour at a time.  A metro strike to me, meant driving in the bus lane.  My reasoning was that with no busses running, who would be in the bus lane?  We were lucky,  we did not get a ticket, but meant just being in the right place at the right time.  After an hour and a half, we found the peripherique(ring road) and eventually the toll highway and left the city and the strike behind us.  We were more than happy to pay the 17 Euro to drive on the high speed motor way (140 km/hr was slow!).

5 star meal (Loire Valley)

The Loire Valley was surreal.

 We stayed at a small Auberge (Inn)

The Auberge in Limeray

that had a 5 star restaurant.  4 courses for 23 Euro.  Considering that in Paris, a glass of wine at the George V is 23 Euro, this is great value.  Satiated we wandered to our spacious room for a very quiet, restful, country sleep.  The next day we drove 150 km around the Valley, taking in the scenery, the wineries and the wine caves

Wine cave

(wholesalers who store and sell the wines for the wineries).   We had booked both nights at the Inn’s restaurant due to its high ratings, and so after a nice afternoon nap, a bottle of local red, another gourmet feast awaited.

The Paris metro strike was supposed to last 2 days but in fact, it lasted 10 days.  So our plans were changed.  Upon returning to the city, after another harrowing experience getting to our new hotel, we found out the computerized underground trains were running,  or should I say, train.  Number 14 train was running.  For some entertainment, there are some youtube clips that show trying to get on these trains.  They are accurate, it gives new meaning to the word sardine.

We spent the last 3 days at a posh, 5 star hotel.  Don’t bother, would be our recommendation.  The staff is more likely to be snooty, the hotel old, the drinks expensive.  One redeeming quality was the location, good if you have to walk, which we did.  The weather had taken a turn for the worse, so our planned site seeing took

5 star Paris room

the back seat and we spent more time shopping and wandering around our local area.  Galleries Lafayette and Le Printemps are great department stores in Paris.  We had no trouble filling our time with shopping, eating and drinking wine.

The one last bit of excitement for this story happened on our departure day.  We had pre-booked a shuttle service to return to the airport. This is recommended because sometimes it is very hard to get a taxi and when you do, you have to pay from where it is hailed. So if the taxi has to drive 10 minutes to pick you up, you pay

sitting in the cab going to the airport

from that point.  We confirmed the pick up the day before but the morning of, at 8 am, the shuttle company phoned and cancelled our ride.  It took 45 minutes for the bellman running up and down the street to get a taxi  (at a 5 star hotel) and once again a 90 minute journey to exit the city with long bouts of just sitting and not moving at all.

We did make our flight, we had left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, our intention had been to get to the airport early, sit in the business lounge and reflect on the week over some lovely French wine.  The only change was that we reflected once in the air instead of on the ground.

We had quite a trip, laden with our purchases, fully bellies, and joie de vivre.  We both lost some weight due to all the walking.  We were both elated and amazed,  so maybe it is true that French women don’t get fat.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

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Food Miles

This is an edited version of a power point presentation I did for a group when I was taking some speaking lessons…..

What do they mean to you…?                            

On average, the food we purchase at the supermarket has travelled   4500 km to reach our plates.

Food now goes from a farm, to a processor, to a distributor, to a grocer, and finally to a consumer

…these food miles contribute 51,709 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually…

(phew…. smelly!!)

 In the UK, the figures are staggering…

1 billion kilometres are logged in just to move the food around the UK…

 this doesn’t include getting the food to the UK from other countries…

Switching to locally grown foods removes the equivalent greenhouse

gases of 16,191 cars annually

A big culprit is beef… almost 5800 km to get a steak to your plate

(so buy your beef locally)

You think your pear is any better…? 6000 km to get it to your kitchen

 What can you do?

-buy from a local green grocer

-buy from your local greenhouse producer

-ask your supermarket to bring in local products

-frequent your local farmers markets

Don’t these olives look appetizing?

Unfortunately they have come a long way to get to tease your palate…

Try experimenting with the 100 mile diet, choosing foods that can be grown 100 miles or less from your house….

 

You will be surprised at what you will find out…

Once you start looking, you will find that the local market is overflowing with supply…

During the harvest months, purchase more than you need and try preserving some…

Most fruits and vegetables can be frozen or canned with great results!

One step at a time is all that is required

going overboard is only a ‘recipe’ for disaster

Start with reading a few labels…

•       Look for ‘imported from’ or ‘imported for’ …this means it came from another country

•       With produce, the signage should list where it comes from

•       Ingredients… A shorter list is a better list…

Less suppliers involved with creating the product

 

A little information and knowledge about

where your food comes from is all that is needed to get started…

 soon you will be on the food road to a more sustainable life!

•       We currently produce enough food for 12 Billion people, when there are only

6 Billion who need to be fed

•       At the same time 900 million go hungry

•       What’s up with that?

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Food

 

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Mozzarella in the Making

For years I have wanted to make mozzarella cheese.  I read an article years ago about how easy it was to do.  I saved a number of recipes over the years and then I went to cooking school in New York and we made mozzarella and I was hooked.

At cooking school we had the curds on hand.  Once you have curds, its very easy.  Around here in BC,  raw milk is illegal…  I know, they take all the goodness out of a product and then feed it to us.  So worried they are for our overall health.

So I had to get some curds.  I searched around a bit and found cheddar curds but didn’t have a whole lot of success in finding curds to make Mozza.  So I went online and found a cheesemaking supply place in Washington state.  I know, I should be supporting a cheesemaking supply place in Canada… but I still had the problem with finding raw milk AND Washington state had raw milk for sale because … well maybe, just maybe… someone is still concerned about the health of the populus of Washington.  All you need is citric acid, rennet, raw milk, a big pot and a thermometer.

There are lots of online pictures and videos for making mozzarella.  I am not going to add yet one more site in which you can peruse.  I used 2 and sort of combined the approaches: http://www.cheesemaking.com/howtomakemozzarellacheese.html  and http://www.alineaphile.com/archives/72-Mozzarella-Curd.html.   The latter one had a better description of the various steps… just not enough about the quantities.  The former had quantities.  I like the idea of letting it rest for 4 hours in the latter recipe also.

For my initial experiment I used jersey milk from Jackie’s Jerseys.  Jersey milk is known for its healthful properties and also for its high milk fat content. The first run turned out well… the curdling in the first step was a bit slow.  I added more rennet as a result and that seemed to work.

For the second trial, I used predominantly Holstein milk.  Far whiter in colour.  Jersey milk is very yellow.  In order to make cheese, you need to get the acid content up… hence the addition of citric acid and rennet.  Too much acid is also not that good.  A little too much acid this time… last time not enough.  This mean that during the rennet sitting and cutting time there were no chunks, the whole glob was rather separated like VERY curdled milk.  But the end result was good.  I hung the curds a little longer (was outside trying to sort out my summertime above-ground swimming pool)(yes… summer may just finally be here!). This batch was softer, more like the curds we used at school.  The end result was also a softer, milder cheese.  I do have to sort out how to get it saltier.  I made a caprese salad and just added salt.  It was delicious.  Served it at the BBQ we hosted last night.  It looks like I will now be holding a mozzarella making pool party…..Not even at my house but at a neighbours.  Could be interesting…. at least the hard part is at the beginning.  Pool party + wine could mean that after the hanging stage… the last ‘dipping’ procedure could take on a life of its own 😉   Will keep you posted.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Food

 

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