soup

One of the best things about soup, besides eating it, is that if you make a big ol’ pot you can freeze some for another soup meal.

We’ve been doing precisely that all winter long.

One of my favourite soups that Steve makes is a bacon, kale and bowtie pasta soup. We modify the recipe from a lovely soup book we own called Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom. She covers soups for every season that are really easy to make.

Making soup stalk from scracth. A whole little chicken was added to this.

bacon, kale, bowtie pasta soup

potato & leek soup and a grilled cheese

 

With Steve working from home we’re able to enjoy some pretty cute lunches together slurping away at our soups.

plan b

We don’t always, but when we can we try and by local and/or organic.

This winter we decided to buy a winter share with Plan B Organic Farms. It’s the second time we’ve ordered a share with Plan B. What I like about it is that it cuts down on trips to the grocery store, and it helps us decide what meals to make for the week.

With Plan B you have the option of buying entirely local, or with a mix of international and local organics goods. You can get a weekly or bi-weekly share, and you can order a small or large box. They can deliver directly to your home or you can check to see where they do free local drop-offs in your neighbourhood.

We opted for a small bi-weekly box for 10 weeks (we added on an order of coffee and eggs too), which we pick up at a local store a short walk from our house.

Plan B has been perfect for this winter stretch, as it’s helped to tide us over until things get hopping at the local farmer’s markets for spring and until our summer garden gets into full-swing.

We make a lot of soups and enjoy having fresh pea sprouts on our lunchtime sandwiches and garnished on salads.

culantro

Oddly enough I fell in love with Peruvian food when I was living in Japan (of all places). There was a delectable Peruvian restaurant in the city I was living in that served anticuchos, deep fried plantains, civiche, salchipapa and purple chicha corn drink. Mmmm. However, having left Japan over a decade ago and with the lack of Peruvian restaurants in Southern Ontario, I had not had the pleasure of indulging in any Peruvian delicacies in a looong time. So I was pretty excited to hear about the opening of a Peruvian restaurant right here in Hamilton.

Culantro Peruvian Cookery has only been open a few months but they have already garnered rave reviews and drool worthy pleasantries with regards to their food.

So on an impromptu early dinner meet up with a few friends, we decided to check Culantro out for ourselves.

We were greeted by the super hospitable chef and Co-owner Juan Castillo, who went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, and to ensure that everything that we ordered was totally perfect (and it was).

I ordered two empanadas; one carne and one pollo with a side of sweet potato fries.

culantro empanadas & carne, hamilton

Steve ordered two empanadas with the veggie salad

The empanadas and sauces were super delicious and totally hit the spot. I wanted to eat about a dozen more. In fact, I remember saying out loud that I kinda wanted to sleep on a pillow of empanadas so that whenever I woke up I could just go “omnomnom” and then fall back to sleep dreaming of eating more empanadas.

The carne empanada was stuffed with prime ontario steak, olives, raisins, and a boiled egg. I know a boiled egg! It may seem a little weird to some, but you have to trust me, it was so super delicious.

On the menu there’s also quarter, half and whole marinated rotisserie chickens (polo a la brasa), which someone at our table also ordered and it was mega yum!

Before our meals were complete Juan came out to chat with us, and to bring us all a little sample of their chicha morada, which is a drink made from purple corn juice with a twist of lime, pineapple and a hint of cinnamon. It was beautifully refreshing with all different sorts of  subtle hints of flavours that tickled my tastebuds.

To find out a little more about the story behind what brought Co-owners Juan, and his sister in law, Catharine to open up a Peruvian restaurant in Hamilton check out their blog here.

In the mean time if you haven’t been to Culantro yet, you should. You can’t go wrong with their empanadas.

The next time that I hear they’ve got pork belly and ceviche on their daily special I’ll have to pop in for another visit, and maybe I’ll indulge in another empanada (or two).

*47 King William St. 905.777.0060 @culantrocookery

seedy sunday

This Sunday Steve and I did our annual visit to Seedy Sunday. It’s always an exciting time of year because it gets me thinking about spring with the anticipation that in fact winter will not last forever.

Before heading to the exchange we took stock of our seed inventory.

Steve sketched up a little map of our garden boxes to figure out what we plan on growing in our garden this summer. He even made a list of specific seeds to purchase to fill in the gap in our inventory. But despite this list and our amply stocked inventory, when I got to the seed exchange, as per usual, I reverted back to kid-in-candy-store mode and went seed crazy.

What made me really happy, despite being surrounded by seeds and promises of spring, was that this year’s exchange had a little coffee stall from Homegrown Coffee! It offered the perfect afternoon kick, which is just what I needed.

I indulged in my second coffee of the day and with our new seed purchases we hit the road.

secret heart

I’m not someone who does a crazy amount of planning for special occasions. But I do often have little mini ideas mapped out in my head for treats that can easily be cooked up at any given time.

For this year’s Valentine’s Day I picked up a few gifts locally for some little surprises for my Valentine.

We love coffee at our house and since being home full-time I’ve seen my coffee consumption double! Steve, as of late, has been branching off from our traditionally consumed French-pressed coffee to espressos. So I thought I would indulge in his new coffee interest and get him a cute one-shot stove-top espresso maker. I picked one up from Faema on James North. They’ve got a pretty good selection of espresso machines, with a not-bad retro looking used one that we might actually be able to afford -eeek! If we end up getting it, it’ll soon be lattes and espressos all day long chez nous!

I also stopped by Ola Bakery for some Portuguese sweets. Ola has some lovely fluffy, flaky baked goods (and I’ve heard they do a great sandwich too).

As a Valentine’s mid-morning surprise I managed to put this spread together with a quickly crafted homemade Valentine’s Day card. Steve’s been really busy at work so it was nice to be able to share a quick coffee break midday in his at-home office while Omi napped.

I executed this next surprise Valentine’s treat that Steve has still yet to discover.

I recently saw a cute DIY post on Design Sponge about patching little moth eaten holes in sweaters with felted hearts. I really need to invest in some lavender sachets or a cedar something or another but I haven’t and so Steve and I both have a couple of sweaters with a few sad moth munched holes in them.

So besides needing a sweater with a hole, you’ll also need some felting wool and felting needles. I picked mine up from Needlework on James North.

You’ll also need 2 sponges to stack under the sweater for when you’re jabbing your wool with the needle. That way you won’t give yourself multiple stab wounds.

Next make a little stencil for the shape and size of the felted patch that you want. Flip your sweater so that you start felting your patch on the reverse side. Take a nice size bit of wool and start to felt away!

Once the shape is pretty solid from the reverse side, turn your sweater right side out. You should see the shape of the heart clearly. Take smaller and thinner pieces of wool to shape the heart and felt it until the heart looks nice and full.

I practiced first on my sweater with this red heart and did Steve’s hearts with grey wool. I thought the grey hearts on his grey sweater would be more subtle as I wasn’t so sure how he’d feel having bright red hearts felted everywhere.

Can’t wait for the day when he pulls the sweater out of the closet to wear and sees a few cute little grey hearts on his sleeve. Until then, shhh -don’t say a word.

not a pancake

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again my favourite meal of the day is…. brunch!

I know it’s Pancake Tuesday and everything, however, this post isn’t about pancakes but about my latest brunch discovery the croque madame.

To make this decadent brunch treat you need a fresh loaf of French bread. Slice it up and get it ready for some classic pan-fried French toast.

For every 5 slices of bread I use 2 eggs and about 1 cup of milk. I usually mix into the eggs a pinch of cinnamon and an even tinier pinch of clove powder. Slide a small pad of butter onto the pan and start French toasting away. If you want your French toast to be a little sweet sprinkle a bit of sugar on the side that’s up and hasn’t been flipped yet. Voila! Fluffy golden brown French toast.

Once you have your French toasts toasted you’re going to sandwich it up. First, spread a thin layer of dijon mustard  (I used a lovely maple dijon mustard & that little bit of sweetness was just right), then a slice or two of black forest ham and a generous amount of grated Swiss, gruyere or Emmantal cheese. Close up your sandwich with another piece of French toast. Heat up your oven to 400.

Next prepare your béchamel sauce. Which consists of butter, flour, milk and cheese with a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I used a béchamel sauce recipe from here.

Top your sandwich with the béchamel sauce and add a generous sprinkle of cheese on top. Then bake in the oven until the top is golden brown (about 10 minutes).

What’s in the oven is a complete croque monsieur. You can leave it at just that OR you can take it one notch up and add a poached or fried egg atop of the sandwich to make it a croque madame, which is what I did.

croque monsieur -a baked french toast sandwich with ham, swiss cheese and béchamel cream sauce.

 

So, while these beauties are browning and melting in the oven, get your eggs poaching or frying. I did my eggs fried sunny-side up, and garnished with some market fresh thick bacon.

Served this madame up with a nice light salad, oven roasted tomatoes and pan-fried crisp potato medallions.

cap’n cootes

On the occasions when I decide to take Plains Road into Hamilton from Burlington, I love taking that quick glance over across the bay towards Dundas. It’s a pretty picturesque view, all things considered, if you were to look to the opposite side of the T.B. McQuesten High Level Bridge the view would be of smoke stacks and steel mills. Truly I think the view of Cootes Paradise towards Dundas from the bridge is one of the more breathtaking views of Southern Ontario. You can see the curve of the escarpment, the marshy bay and what seems to be virtually untouched nature for miles and miles.

The Thomas B. McQuesten High Level Bridge was built during the 1930's. It was originally called Hamilton High Level Bridge before being renamed after Thomas McQuesten, who was an upstanding Hamilton citizen that resided in the historic Whitehern house.

view of Cootes Paradise from T.B. McQuesten Bridge

view of Princess Point from T.B. McQueston Bridge

Over the weekend we decided to get out an embrace the winter weather and take a walk through Cootes Paradise.

Mainly, I really wanted to get an up-close and personal look of the bay in its frozen solid form. I always notice the little silhouettes of people skating and playing hockey out on the bay in winter from the highway and I have these wistfull dreams that one day I might be that person down there skating away. Well, I currently don’t own skates and Omi being so little, I think we’re still a ways off from passing a puck around or doing double axels on that natural winter-made Ontario-bay ice.

So a winter walk it was… right through some of my favourite Hamilton landscapes.

Our walk began from the RBG Arboretum entrance. I duly noted that in the spring we would have to make a return visit to see the massive lilac garden (apparently the largest in North America). After a bit of meandering we finally found the Captain Cootes Trail that hugged the bay and away we went!

We tried to venture out on the bay for a little while. There was a couple with their dogs walking out on the ice so it was a sign that the ice was strong enough to hold. But when I ventured out and heard the ice crack under my feet I decided to play it safe. I’ve been told that the water on the bay is really shallow so it doesn’t take much of a cold snap to freeze it solid. I wasn’t taking my chances that day.

A bit ambitious to be out walking in the cold minus 10 degree whether. So when Omi’s little chubby baby cheeks were feeling cold and getting all rosied up, we called it a day and headed back.

moulin rouge

Since Jeff Feswick of Historia Restoration bought Treble Hall a few years ago (see my post on Treble Hall here) I have been waiting in great anticipation to see how this grand old beauty would be restored and who/what would occupy the street-level retail space once all shiny and refurbished.

On a regular basis I purposely detour my walks home to see the on-going progress of Treble Hall.

April 2011

June 2012

One rainy day I noticed that a set of red curtains and crystal chandeliers had appeared in the northern two storefronts of the building.

December 2012

January 2013

Moulin Rouge -a French inspired café and high-end boutique is soon to open its doors! I really, really hope that they have macarons and deliciously good croissants!

 

*Moulin Rouge -Café & Boutique, 10-12 John St. North, 905.220.2652

 

 

the needle emporium

So I’m not really a knitter. Which is precisely why I signed up for a toque knitting class at Needlework.

To prepare for the class I had to brush up a little on my knits and pearls and I also had to pick up some yarn.

A while back I posted about a knit store called Fire Ball Knits that was in Westdale, which has since closed up shop. So let it be known that downtown Hamilton does not have a knit shop (yet).  I’m sure it’ll be no time until someone gets in on this minor gap in the market of downtown knit shops. But until then the closest knit shop for me is in Ancaster at the Needle Emporium.

It was my first visit to the Emporium, and although I wasn’t able to explore in the shop for too long I did love that it was in old Ancaster. I got to take a nice winter scenic drive up the mountain and sneak some peaks at some of the old surrounding buildings on Wilson St. I loved the old stone building exteriors of many of the neighbouring shops.

 

old stone building -Masonic Lodge, Wilson St. East

Inside, The Needle Emporium is ram packed with a variety of wool in all different shapes, shades, textures and colours. It was a tight squeeze with Omi in a stroller walking amidst walls of yarn so I took just a quick look around, bought my required wool and headed back home.

I would like to come back another time to get a better look at their yarn selection. Once I get this whole ‘how to knit’ thing figured out I’m sure I”ll make a trip back up the mountain to pour over all my knit purchase options.

In the end I narrowed down my yarn selection for my toque to Madeline Tosh‘s hand-died yarn (in charcoal) or something a little brighter. In the past most of my toques have mostly been black so I thought I’d forgo the charcoal and opt for a super colourful ball of Drops Big Delight.

In hindsight I wished I’d gone for the Madeline Tosh. Once I successfully finish knitting my first ever toque I’ll be gunning back for the hand-died charcoal.

*The Needle Emporium, 420 Wilson St. East, Ancaster, 905.648.1994

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...