Coffee Chatter – Saturday

2014-04-29 17.36.21[ We have become enamoured with the local Wok Box franchise. It’s our new go-to takeout spot. For the days when I don’t want to make us lunch or dinner. ]

I’ve been thinking about takeout food today. And foods I’m so over. What’s on your list of foods you’re over? I need to know, so share! Here is mine:

Can I just say how exhausted I am of cakes, cookies, and desserts in general? It takes a lot to get me interested in any of them, let alone into the kitchen to make them. They’re just so… pedestrian at this point. I guess it’s because there is so much of each already in the world, and it seems like that’s all people think about on Pinterest. Sugary crap. I get it, I used to be the same way. But then I grew up, my hormones changed along with my taste buds, and here we are. I much prefer steak & eggs over a bag of chips and greasy hamburgers. (Sidenote: while spending a lot of time at the hospital, I discovered the hot Kettle Chips Tim Hortons sells for $0.99. Amazing! Perfectly cooked and salted? C’mon!)

I like burgers – I do! – but not all the time. I like pizza, but only when I make it at home. I like to use ingredients I know are fresh and tasty, not overly produced and globby. I’m a bit of a snob like that. I’m sorta kidding here, but one time we ordered a custom pizza made fresh in front of us while we waited, and by the time I got to eat it 15 minutes later at home, it was disgusting. The drive home was less than 5 minutes door to door, and still, it was a soggy mess. And it was overly salty and overly greasy, and the pieces were so soggy I should have drake them. I couldn’t deal after half a slice. What a waste of money, time and materials.

soggy pizza[ Not my picture, but my pizza slice was just as wet on the bottom as this one.]

Funny aside to this story is the owners of that pizza shop stopped by our store to hand deliver menus and coupons about two months afterward. I said no thank you to the coupons. They were stunned, so they asked me why. We had a lovely chat about that pizza I bought. Coincidentally, (or possibly not) 6 months later they sold their franchise location. Huh. Perhaps I was one of many to have a similar story for them to hear? Maybe. Doesn’t matter. The current owners are doing well and I haven’t heard anything negative about their pizzas since. Still. I won’t. I can’t. I refuse to let anyone else make me a pizza from scratch.

So, yes, I know! I know I have been AWOL lately. My father-in-law died, and his wife (my mother-in-law) had a mishap where she broke the tip of her collar bone and spent 13 days in the hospital. She’s home now but we’re all pitching in the help her with cooking and gardening chores she’s been banned from by the doctors. And I have an odd work schedule that’s due to expire in a month, so all of the things I wanted to do this summer are off the table. I will see what I can do in my limited time, but don’t expect much. πŸ™‚

selfwatering planterI am, however, growing some tomatoes from a dozen tomato plants I grabbed from my FIL’s garden after his funeral. They’re doing well in the self-watering container we built a few summers ago specifically for tomato and peppers plants to grow in.

My FIL was sick in the hospital almost a full month before he died, and he wasn’t feeling well leading up to that stay, so he didn’t get a chance to do anything with his garden this year. Nothing. Zip. Nada. After the funeral reception held at the house, some of us went out to look at his beloved roses and garden space to see what we could do to help the MIL out.

What we found was a bunch of tomato plants and leaf lettuce that had sprung up from the ground on their own from seeds that fell into the soil last year in a very random pattern and have really started to grow all on their own – without any human help or intervention. Amazing, non?

garden-2Here is a picture of his garden as of last week when we stopped by the mow and water the grass, and to check on the raspberry bushes like the MIL asked us to. Again, all of it’s growing out of control on its own. On. Its. Own. Look at how densely packed in that tiny space they are! I can’t even get to them to weed let alone count, but I’d guess there is close to 100 in there now. That’s thanks in large part to the beautifully fertile soil the FIL spent over 25 years cultivating. I used his soil in my tomato planter after I transplanted them. They seem to be flourishing well, too.

raspberries-2We picked a lot of berries that night. And I’m told, less than a week later, there are way more ready to be picked this weekend. I’m thinking about raspberry syrup right now. (stroking my chin) I already used a bunch from the first picking to make a yogurt parfait that I included in the husband’s lunch today.

2014-07-08 12.54.32And finally, the last thing I have been distracted with is this cute little preemie, my new niece. I knew you’d want to see a picture of Thea, so here you go. πŸ™‚

Don’t forget your children in cars!

baby-in-a-car-seatPUBLIC SERVICE POST

This is an extreme topic that needs to be discussed because every year we hear about at least one, if not up to a few dozen cases, where a parent who doesn’t normally have their baby in the car as they go to work and needed to be dropped out at a daycare ends up forgetting that child in the backseat as, typically, the temperatures soar. You can imagine what the outcome is. It’s all so sad.

Here is a fantastic thread discussion from Coffee With Julie with some some suggestions for parents tasked with driving with their babies in their car. BTW, if you think this only happens to parents on sweltering hot days, you’re sadly mistaken. It happens all the time – we just don’t hear about it unless the cops and blistering heat is involved, or the child dies.

Read this post, and I ask that you all pass it along to other parents. This is so very important. As a non-mom, I take this seriously enough to talk to all of you about this situation. And if we’re all discussing it enough, we’re bound to find a way to help prevent it from continuing to happen as commutes to work to get more and more distracting, and we try to multitask on the ride in to get a jump on the day’s workload using our smart phones, or as we drift away in a daydream as we drive in autopilot mode and the child is sound asleep. Out of sight, out of mind.

I hate to stat it that way, but I have forgotten valuable stuff in cars and on city buses as I tune the world out, deep in thought, and barely realise I’m about to miss my stop so I jump up and take off, never giving much thought to what I had in my hands, or didn’t, until it was way too late. I once left my full coffee travel mug on the counter at the convenience store beside my old apartment building on the way to work one morning, and hilariously and fortunately, it was sitting exactly where I left it when I ran into the store at 10:30 pm in a panic when that realisation hit me after a long and busy day. The clerk didn’t bother to move it for other customers. He knew I’d come back, but not when. (He was such a kind soul. I really miss not seeing him every day since we moved away.)

Coffee Chatter – Thursday Edition

CosmosI’ve been watching this series starring Neil de Grasse Tyson called Cosmos: Spacetime Odyssey since it started a few months back. There are only ten episodes in the first season, but it’s taken me more than 10 hours to watch them all. I would venture to say it’s take me roughly no less than 15 hours, and probably more like 18-20.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s not because the subject matter is so dense and it’s been 25 years since high school science classes, but because I keep falling asleep.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s not because the subject material is boring, because it’s not, and it’s not because I was tired because I had just did a power walk and I was wired. It’s just that… well, Neil’s voice is so lovely (it really is), it lulls me into a slumber on average of every 20 minutes. And I’m not kidding. I have yet to watch the last seven minutes of the season closer because I feel asleep THREE times.

Let me break it down for you:

Nap #1 – started 12 minutes in; woke up to an episode of Parks & Rec – a show I’ve never watched but it was playing live on the tv which tells me the recorded Cosmos played to the end and the DVR switched to a tv show afterward.

Nap #2 – started 32 minutes into the second watching of Cosmos, and I woke up to the middle of a Big Bang Theory episode, again for the above reason.

Nap #3 – started 51 minutes into the third attempt at staying awake to watch Cosmos to the end. Again, I woke up to another tv show airing on my tv. This time it was an unfunny Just For Laughs show. Oy. I gave up at this point. I turned it all off and vowed to finish it another day.

Sadly this isn’t the first time this has happened to me with this show. The husband has a running joke now where, whenever I fall asleep on the couch, he asks me if I was watching another Cosmos. Har, har.

But, in all seriousness, kids, I think I have found a permanent cure for insomnia if anyone needs it. Tell everyone who can’t fall asleep about this magical man’s voice!! πŸ™‚

PS: I’m imagining Dave’s head exploding and Sanjay giggling at my plight as they read this.

Auntie Stacey’s PMS Cookies

2014-06-11 19.34.21 These are the cookies I like when I’m in the throes of PMS every few months of so. It’s an easy cookie to put together in very little time (which is good because I tend to lose my patience when all of this goes down), and the taste is just what I need. Lots of peanut butter, matched by just as much chocolate, and some rolled oats to make me feel better about eating somewhat junky cookies to get me though it all.

This cookie is based off the classic 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie recipes. Enjoy.

Auntie Stacey’s PMS Cookies:
3/4 C Peanut Butter (smooth of chunky — your choice)
1/2 C Sugar
1 Egg, large and at room temperature
1 C Oats, old fashioned, not quick
3/4 C Chocolate Chips (dark are the best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the above but the chocolate chips well, then gently fold them in at the very end. Using an ice cream scooper, drop balls on parchment paper with 2″ around each one.

Bake the balls for ten minutes before using a potato masher to flatten them down to about 3/4″ thick, wiping the bottom of the masher off as you go, and place them back in to bake for another six minutes.

Let the cookies cool for 15 minutes before you gently move them off the sheets to cool on racks. These are soft cookies, so they will bend, droop and break up if you don’t wait.

Store in a cookie jar for up to 5 days. (Trust me, they won’t last longer than that.)

Yields: 12 single scoop sized, 24 half scoop sized, and 6 jumbo two scoop sized.

Chocolate Pasta

ChocoPasta-1This is for Olivia, whom I started to tell this story to at work but we got busy and, as always, I forget I even started the story or where I left off, and it never got told or finished. Sorry about that. So, here it is. Because you didn’t seem to believe me.

About a year ago, I stumbled over a pin for chocolate pasta over at Pinterest, and I was immediately struck with curiosity. I HAD to try this at home. It was a strong compulsion. I really, REALLY wanted to make this. And I was so SURE we would fall in love with it. I mean, how could we not?!

ChocolatePasta-DoughMaking-2 ChocolatePasta-DoughMakingI know this looks like I’m making a chocolate cake, but I’m really not. It’s the funniest thing to look at and know I have to convince people this really is a thing, and people do make this, and it starts out looking like a baking project. πŸ™‚ ChocolatePasta-Dough2 ChocolatePasta-RestingSo after making this just like any other yellow egg pasta dough, I let it rest before I start cutting it up into noodles and then eventually boiling it hot salty water. All very straight forward, all very normal so far. ChocoPasta-Strands ChocoPasta-Drying ChocoPasta-Dry ChocoPasta-Cooking And the final product… ChocoPasta-CookedIt was very pretty like this, and it cooked up nicely, but no matter what I paired it with or topped it with, it wasn’t for us. The husband asked me never to make this for him again. Period. End of story. πŸ˜€

Coffee Chatter – Wednesday Edition

cheeseObscene: Using 3/4 of a 500g Jalapeno cheese brick to make a pan of 8 small chicken enchiladas for dinner last night. Whoops. My bad, arteries! πŸ˜€ (Ermine would have said I was being stingy, though. Ha!)

So… I’ve been around but not blogging for two months. I’m not sure how that happened, because I have been cooking, baking and coffee drinking in all that time. I have also been preoccupied with being trained at one job in a different position, relaxing on my downtime, landscaping the front of the house to add curb appeal, and laying my father-in-law to rest this past week. I gave his eulogy. He was the kind of man whom everyone loved to dearly, no one thought they could get through standing up to speak about him without losing it. I volunteered to do the deed, and I almost got through it all without tears till the last three lines. The tears formed, started to roll, and then the ugly crying started. I was a mess by the time I sat down. His void in our lives will be HUGE.

oneshotToday we started the annual Battle Royale Of The Ants in front of the patio door. I can’t recommend a product by Wilson called One Shot Jet Foam more. It’s a fantastic foam that dries up after 20 minutes and coats the cracks ants enter homes from, and like magic, the ants are never to be seen again! Love this product so much. You will, too.

windexI’ve also been trying a few new products out around the house, and another one I will give my seal of approval to is the Windex Touch-Up pump dispenser. It’s super handy. Only one hand is needed to push a cloth down on it and get wiping up your spills and messes off of every surface you can touch with a cloth. And it’s refillable. I bought a large jug of Windex disinfectant cleaner, and I have been able to filled it up over and over. I leave it up on the counter near the sink for the most part but it’s small enough I can drag it around the house as I clean bathrooms on both floors. I loved it so much, I bought one for my sister-in-law when she first moved closer to us, and now that she is pregnant, I can easily see her giving her dispenser quite the workout. πŸ™‚ Give it a whirl.

8-bread-pan-nonstickl_744_detailI have been test driving are a set of professional size non-stick, textured baking pans my mother-in-law ordered through some catalog. They perfectly match the long meatloaf pan I picked up last year in silver. I already see this being a collection I will keep growing. The pans themselves came in a box without paperwork or even a company name, so my guess is as good as yours about who makes them, but they are wonderful. They bake up perfect loafs in bigger sizes you can only get when you buy fresh bread from bakeries. And that is what I was after. ‘Mmmm… Fresh bread. (drooling)

And with that, I am off to get a few loaves of bread started so I can bake them up before the husband comes home from work.

TTYL

P.S.: I am a part-time blogger, not a professional one that does these product reviews for money, endorsements or even free swag. I pimp products I buy, test and love only. No one asked me, or has ever asked me, to talk about the items I highlight. This is strictly from one consumer to another.

Auntie Stacey’s Tabbouleh

tabbouleh[ Click to embiggen ]

Tabbouleh is a great salad for the summer months when the heat is intense and the stove is ignored in our house. I really love eating it at room temperature, too. I’m weird like that. It makes a wonderful addition to salad bars, so keep this in mind for your next brunch. It’ll be a lovely unexpected surprise for your vegetarian guests. We all get stumped when planning meals for those who have specific eating habits, right? It’s all ok because tabbouleh is here to save the day, and your dinner parties!

Years ago I worked with a chef named Sami. Sami is from Lebanon. Sami’s mother taught him how to cook as a little boy. Many of the recipes she taught him he still uses today at work and at home. He used to make the best tabbouleh I have ever eaten, so one day I begged him to teach me the ways of his magical salad. Surprisingly, he was happy to pass it along to me, imparting some great home cooking philosophy along the way.

Here is a version of his mother’s tabbouleh based on my calculations and ingredient choices. He never gave me increments, just suggestions and steps. His feeling is that tabbouleh should be a free flowing salad that has some basics for structure but lots of freedom for using the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on, so feel free to look at this recipe as I do – as a guideline.

Auntie Stacey’s Tabbouleh:
1/2 C Bulgar
1 C Water, boiled
1 Tea Salt

1/2 Yellow Onion, medium sized, chopped to small dice
1 C Water, very hot
1 C Water, very cold

2 Tomatoes, medium Hot House (or 1 C chopped Grape Tomatoes)
1/4 C Herb of choice, fresh, washed and chopped up, packed down *

1/2 Tea Pepper, fresh cracked
1-2 Tea Lemon or Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 C Olive Oil

* Note: I have made this salad over the years using the following herbs: parsley (flat or curly – doesn’t much matter except for presentation aesthetics), mint (lovey when in season and the herb Sami liked to add a sprinkling of along with the parsley when it was in season), and cilantro (I love cilantro so I tend to use this a lot). This will be the first year I’m growing sorrel, and with its lemony tinged taste, I will be trying that in this salad as soon as I can, so I’ll report back at a later date about how well it worked, or didn’t.

Place the bulgar and salt (mixed up) into the boiling water for 30 minutes to cook. In the meantime, prep all the other ingredients. In a bowl, place very hot water from the tap over the small diced onion bits and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to take the sting off. Afterward, drain the hot water and cover with very cold tap water. Let it rest the same amount of time before draining and dumping the onion into a large container. Set this aside.

While the onion is bathing in the hot and cold baths, wash and chop up the fresh herb and measure it out to a packed 1/4 cup. Top the onion with it. Cut and seed the tomatoes. Dice them to a small but not too small size. Top the herbs and onions with the diced tomatoes. Crack the pepper over top and pour the juice of half a lemon (about 1-2 teaspoons) and olive oil over that.

When the bulgar is finished cooking, fluff it up and dump it over the other ingredients in the large container. Using a spatula or gloved hands, till all of the ingredients well in the container, until everything is sure to be covered by the citrus juice and cracked pepper. Taste the overall flavour, and adjust the amount of salt and pepper as desired at this point.

Cover and chill this salad for at least 24 hours before serving. It will be hard (I know!), but the ingredients need time to rest and marry with each other. Trust me, the wait will be worth the time and resistance.

Auntie Stacey’s Waffle Mix

waffles

These are some yummy waffles I make most Sunday mornings for the husband (below). He loves them! And I find kids really love these waffles, too. A lot. I know one little boy who ate so many, even the adults were stunned. I, of course, sent him home with leftover waffles in his pants and jacket pockets. You know, for the road trip home. That 17 minute ride can be soooo long when all you’re thinking about is your next waffle fix. πŸ˜‰

FYI: Sometimes I sub out the milk for water or whatever juice we have on hand each Sunday morning. We can taste the fruit in the waffles, and they even seem a bit more moist. Plus, you can’t beat an orange hued waffle. Oh, and we also use this batter to make our pancakes when we’re not in the mood for waffles.

You can also use this batter to dip your Texas Toast in if you’re in the mood for french toast hot off the griddle. Just mix it up the night before, cover it and refrigerate, until you need it the next morning. It may need to be thinned out a touch more after a night of chilling. I add a few dribbles of water when I do.

Waffle Mix in a Bag:
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine contents of jar with eggs, oil and milk. Pour dry mix into a large bowl. Add eggs, oil and milk. Stir until well combined, but no more than that. Don’t over mix.

Allow the bowl of batter to sit in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to thicken up as the baking soda does its thing.

The pancakes can be frozen after frying. Store each separately in plastic wrap and place in a large freezer-safe plastic bag. Reheat in microwave.

Coffee Chatter – Friday Edition

PhoKingGoodToday was a fried noodle day. Pan fried, not deep fried. I’d never do that. Gross. But noodles that were quickly boiled, rolled in sesame and soy sauce, and then pan fried? I’m all over it. Why? It’s comfort food for me. It reminds me of being a kid, when things were simpler and the weather was nicer. And of Ellen.

This weather. It’s killing my knees. The warping? I can’t even begin to explain it to you. It hurts. And the neck compression trapping my nerves is worse. I tried to sleep in our bed both laying down and sitting up, but the searing pain in my hands and forearms were too much, so I tried to sleep a bit on the couch where I wouldn’t bother anyone with constant rolling around, writhing in pain and sitting up rather abruptly on the edge to rock back and forth for 20 minutes till the pain abated. I’m so tired. So pho king tired.

I’m near my end with this b.s. None of my usual tricks are working anymore, and funny enough, I think it’s using the tablet to surf and type at night that’s causing it, not the reaching and straining I do with my arms at work and at home. Funny that. Modern technology. No wonder so many hate it. :-\

Today I’ll abstain, using this laptop instead, all day. Let’s see if that doesn’t help. I bet it will, too. I have loads of house chores and little jobs to tackle this weekend, so I really need this to be the solution I’ve been looking for.

*crossing fingers*

Okay, that bed isn’t going to change sheets on its own, so off I go. Have a great weekend, everyone. Try to forget about the called for snow next week if you can. If you can’t, I suggest picking a vice and rocking it hard till we get through it. πŸ˜€

TTYL

Coffee Chatter – Sunday Edition

calendarFour years ago as of four days ago, we picked up the keys to our first, and current, house. We love being homeowners. I’m not a fan of the house layout with its L shape bleeding our small living room into our spacious dining room, but I can’t imagine us moving any time soon. We’re too settled in, and one of us is change adverse (I’ll let you guess which one of us it is), so we’re putting some roots down in this little hovel of ours. πŸ™‚

A year ago this weekend, we closed our retail store. I see a LOT of our old regular customers at my new job, and I’m asked all the time if we miss the store, the work, and owning our own business. For the most part, hell no we don’t miss the headaches, the constant money pie dipping by everyone under the sun, and the customers who treated us like dry cleaners expecting their stuff fixed and returned in under an hour.

We also don’t miss answering phone calls. Our store phone would ring constantly every day by someone looking to sell us services we didn’t need (think debit/credit terminals, search engine optimization/website work, and advertising in things like phone books that no one uses anymore), or it was a random gov’t body calling to say we need to pay this or that because we had employees – the bookkeeper, and me. (Mostly it was the workman’s comp board drumming up business but we’d politely end the calls and shake our heads since it’s only suppose to apply to businesses that have more than something like 15 employees.)

Oh, and I also don’t miss the constant calls and walk-ins asking us for donations to private school fundraisers. *LOL* Sure, I’d love to been poorer than I already am by giving you our products and time services for FREE. Sure. Whatever, soccer moms. (And stop sending your precious kids into stores to beg while you stand outside talking on your cellphone as you lean up against your $160K SUV tank of a vehicle. We can see you through the windows. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.)

Of course we really did enjoy helping the best customers a business could ever hope to have in our vast customer pool, but it was time for us to do something new. Plus now we get benefits at our jobs, and perks that we could never give ourselves as we struggled to make even the slimmest of margins on our goods and services. Honestly, so many people thought we should have been swimming in profit given our business and industry, but the opposite was the norm for owners like us.

There are a few downsides to not working for yourselves (the autonomy, the working together, the making our lunches daily in the back of the store, the baking cookies when the mood struck me or when I was really PMS’ing, the getting to say no to certain customer requests because they were beyond ridiculous and/or offensive, and the carpooling to name but a few), but they were never enough to make us change our minds about closing our doors.

A lot can happen in 365 days. A lot of good things. Don’t ever believe otherwise, kids.