Monthly Archives: February 2011

Exploring:The Trip

Catalina Island

Sunny California

I think exploring is a wonderful thing. As kids, we do it all the time, but as adults we don’t seem to have the time or think it is important. We were lucky enough, all 10 of us, to have the opportunity to explore in another country recently. Also, a somewhat better climate. It was unseasonably cold there but it was still a lot better than the -40 degrees here. Being along the ocean certainly feels different to us land locked people. We had a great place to stay with lots of room for all ten of us. Okay, there was a slight odor from one of the bedrooms but that is where the three teenage boys stayed and they didn’t really notice until we had been there for a few days.  All kinds of exploring: beach combing, walking or running along the beach, riding a train, checking out Old Town and Sea World in San Diego, college girls’ basketball, shopping,  , Joe’s Crab Shack, The Outback, Bubba Gumps,  Catalina Island, scuba diving, segueway  tours, and of course Mickey Mouse, the happiest place on earth. We packed a lot in but it was a great week of exploring.




We had gnocchi at our house a few nights ago. (How do you actually say that?) It was great and what was even better was I did not have to make it. The curly blonde-haired one – who likes tobake – is a big fan of Buddy off the Cake Boss on TLC. Apparently he now has another show on Cooking. Buddy was the one who inspired her to make the gnocchi. The dough has potatoes, flour and an egg. In keeping with Terra’s pasta making, it really did not look to be that hard, or fiddly, or time consuming. She made a lovely mushroom sauce to go with and roasted asparagus with a bread crumb topping. We also had roasted pork chops. I love it when we have great food and I love it even more when I don’t always have to make it.



3 large Russet potatoes
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1‑2 cups all purpose flour (may not use all)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Few gratings nutmeg (optional)
Mushroom Sauce:
1‑1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped and trimmed
.07 ounce package dried porcini mushrooms (or equivalent weight loose)
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white Italian wine
2 plump cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2‑3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon white truffle oil
Fresh grated parmesan to garnish
Fresh black pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Prick potatoes and bake until done, 45 minutes to one hour. Remove from oven, and slash lengthwise through each potato, pressing short ends to open to release steam (you want the potatoes as dry as possible = less gummy gnocchi). When cooled enough to handle but still quite warm, scoop out the potato flesh and force through a ricer. Measure out 3 lightly scooped cups (do not pack) and spread out into a rectangle on a clean board or counter. Allow potatoes to cool until warm room temperature.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and grate over nutmeg. Drizzle the egg over potatoes, followed by 1/2 cup of flour. With a (metal) bench scraper, begin to lift and fold the potato mixture on to itself, cutting the flour and egg into the potato mixture. When almost incorporated (mixture will begin crumbling), sprinkle over another 1/4 cup flour , and repeat until mixture is in small crumbs. Lightly press the dough together into a ball and move it aside. Clean any sticky dough from counter with the scraper and cover with a light dusting of flour.
  3. On the floured surface, lightly press the dough together and fold/knead just a few turns — dough should be workable with some potato texture and not sticky. Adjust by adding more flour if necessary — the less flour and handling needed, the more tender the resulting gnocchi.
  4. Cut the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured board, roll one portion of dough into a long rope, about 1/2″ wide. With the bench scraper, cut 1″ pieces of dough from rope and place on a floured sheet pan — these are your gnocchi.
  5. Cook gnocchi at a gentle boil in a large pot of abundant salted water. Gnocchi are done when they bob to the surface and cook about a minute longer. Scoop from water and place in sauce.

Mushroom Sauce:

  1. Warm the chicken stock and pour over the porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Allow mushrooms to soak at least 20 minutes to hydrate. When hydrated, remove the mushrooms, rinse and trim away any tough gritty bits if present. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. Filter the mushroom soaking liquid through cheesecloth, a paper or tea towel and reserve.
  2. Slice the creminis. Heat a large sauté pan medium-high – you want it large enough to eventually hold both the sauce and cooked gnocchi. Add the olive oil. When shimmering, add the mushrooms and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, and allow the mushrooms to exude their juices. Let the juices cook and reduce down until almost completely evaporated. Add the porcini, garlic and red pepper. Continue to cook until well combined, everything smelling fragrant and beginning to dry out.
  3. Add the wine and let reduce. Add 1/2 cup of the mushroom-soaked stock and let reduce until rich, add in another 1/2 cup stock, reducing again. Stir in the parsley. Taste and check for salt; correct if necessary. Turn off heat if the gnocchi has not yet finished cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, begin cooking the gnocchi. Gently scoop the gnocchi as it’s done into the waiting mushroom sauce. Turn the heat to med-high and add another 1/2 cup of the stock, turning gnocchi to coat. If the gnocchi looks like it can absorb more stock, add in a little more — you don’t want it to become too soft. Fold in the butter and truffle oil. Garnish with grated or shaved parmesan cheese.

Who am I??

A few days ago I was cooking in my kitchen, enjoying every minute of it, when a very old conversation came rushing back to me.

I was a newly married woman, full of hopes and dreams of what my married life will be like.  I pictured a 50/50 partnership that was full of love and respect.  I felt that I was a modern-day woman, free to make my own decisions, without the constraints of having to clear every decision with my husband.   I was progressive, I was powerful, and I was smart and beautiful too!

I was visiting one day at my mother in law’s house.  There were some very interesting and progressive thinking women there.  Gathered at the table were a doctor, some mothers, a woman home from developing humanitarian programs to help women in Bangladesh, some University students, some farmers.  Among the laughing and the stories, the conversation turned to a mutual dislike of cooking.  We all agreed that we hated cooking.  It takes up too much of our precious time.  Why do these tedious chores fall to women?  It was agreed that cooking was in fact the devil.  When I spoke up in agreement, of course I hate cooking too, my mother in law leaned over and said softly “I don’t think you do”.

WHAT?!?  How dare she oppose my opinion of what I like and what I don’t like.  I had watched enough Oprah by this point to know that I get to decide how I feel and that no one should try to tell me how I feel about anything.  I was disappointed that now I would look like a loser in front of the cool girls.  Thanks a lot.  I skulked home and probably made filet mignon or something to comfort myself.

It didn’t take long for me to realise how right my mother in law was.  I love cooking.  And to top it off, she was right to have pointed it out!  It made me different.  It showed the cool ladies a bit of who I truly am.  Now that I know them better, I know that they respect the fact that I enjoy cooking.  I also realise that because they are truly progressive thinking women they don’t judge the likes and dislikes of other people.  I remember one of them coming over to my house saying that she wanted to ‘taste my wares’.  I didn’t even know what she meant.  I think it’s a line from a nursery rhyme she had read.

I am very happy that I was “outed” all those years ago.  Not only was I revealed to all those cool ladies, but I was also revealed to myself.  My lesson that day was to be your true self, who ever that is.  People will know you for who you truly are, and you will attract people who will appreciate the real you.  As one of my favorite sayings goes, “I would rather be hated for who I am than to be loved for who I’m not.”  Don’t know whose quote that is, but I love it.

In the end I have it all.  I have the marriage of my dreams.  It’s a 50/50 partnership full of love and respect (most of the time), I am a modern-day woman free to make my own decisions without the restraints of having to clear those decisions with my husband, (although I am indecisive so I often want him to help me).  I am progressive, I am powerful and I am smart and beautiful too!  And did I mention that I like to cook?


Pay It Forward

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a positive health care experience and witness Pay It Forward in action. Due to the doctor shortage, our clinic has a walk-in in the afternoon where you go sometime before one o’clock, take a number and wait until you can see a doctor. You have to be a patient at our clinic and you may or may not see your own doctor, but your actual file will be there. The little big man had an injury during wrestling at school, which I left over the weekend, but it was still bothering him on Monday.  Fears of two weeks later being the negligent mother of the kid with the old broken arm won out and I took him to the clinic.  We did have to wait but all in all it was only for about an hour. Of course then we had to go to another spot for an x-ray and then back again. But we found out it is not broken, only sprained and he has to wear a sling for a week.  In the midst of all this there were a number of small children with colds at the clinic. One grandma ( I am assuming) had two little ones with her. One in a baby bucket and the other not yet two. They were not feeling well and were not happy. She had number five.  There was another lady who had number three and she gave her spot to the grandma with the two little ones so they could get in faster. How kind. Nice to see Pay It Forward in action and nice for the teenage boy to witness it.


Farm Kids

You know, kids just have a different way of seeing things.  It’s really great to witness their innocence when they ask inappropriate questions in front of Grandma, when they confess that Mom has been cleaning for days and our house is usually really messy as your guests arrive….you get what I mean.

In my opinion, farm kids hold on to this innocence for a while.  I really don’t know why.  It becomes very apparent when you see kids who live in rural areas running towards an escalator in a mall and riding it up and down like it’s some kind of carnival ride….or is that just my kids?  I will give you two examples that have happened in our house in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday our son arrived home from college.  He is here for the weekend to see us…..well, not really to see us, more to see his girlfriend and his buddies, but that’s OK we’ll enjoy whatever glimpses we can get of him over the next few days.   As he walked in the door, he said “Hey – why are you guys all dressed up?”  I looked at his dad.  His dad looked at me.  I took in my husbands blue jeans, denim shirt with the ratty collar and wrinkled pockets, no belt and his 24 hour shadow that would take most men a good week to grow.  He’s a ruggedly handsome man. 

I am sure that my husband was wondering about my mismatched old striped sweater with the denim vest over it, blue jeans and no socks.  I too am ruggedly handsome.  Our son could see the confusion, and he said “well, Dad is wearing a button up shirt,  and there’s no cow sh*t on his jeans”.  Wow.  It makes me wonder what we usually look like when people drop in.  Truthfully, our washing machine broke down for a few hours early in the week, and that has set us back far enough that we had to resort to wearing stuff from the back of the closet.  It was good for a laugh, and I plan to put together a really great ensemble for the next time my son arrives home.

Example #2 was this morning.  Our three kids, aged 18, 16 and 11 were walking out the door to drive to town for a karate weapons seminar.  One was carrying a bo (big stick), one was carrying a pair of sai (metal with three prongs) and one was carrying nunchaku (also known as nun-chucks).  They are big strong kids.  It was an impressive sight, I smiled proudly, thinking about how well they can protect themselves and others if they need to.   Then, our 16-year-old said “this is really cool!  If we had one more person with a sword we would be the ninja turtles”. 

Ya guys, that’s cool alright.  Real cool.


Not exactly original

Call it copying or borrowing or perhaps adding to. I came across a fabulous quote on the Pioneer Woman website. It is in the photography section under the flower photography contest. Only one photograph had a quote and it is the coneflower by Monica de Moss photography.

“What you see depends on what you are looking for.”

How true. Sometimes we need to stop and reflect on what we are looking for. What glasses are we looking through? If we are irritated with someone, suddenly we can find a long list of irritants.  Admittedly, it is not always a bowl full of cherries but we do choose our attitude.  The photo referred to above is fabulous, so in the spirit of flower photography, I am going to include one of my own wildflower pictures of Three Flowered Avon.


Explore Local

Well, it has been said already but yesterday we were fortunate to have been able to attend the ‘Developing Local Culinary Tourism Experiences from Farm to Fork’ workshop.  It was appropriately held in a small town hall.  I say that it is appropriate because on our two-hour drive to Ryley, Alberta we drove through some very beautiful farm land which is currently producing beef, grain, fruit, chicken, vegetables and more which was evident in the locally sourced lunch that was served.  I say that we were fortunate to have been able to attend because Kelly was driving.  Enough said. 

No offense Kelly, you are a wonderful driver and it was so generous of you to volunteer, but some of us know the driving/insurance history and it’s not pretty.  Hahaha! 

Anyhow, we learned so much and were so inspired by the facilitator and speakers in Ryley that we have got many new ideas for local food opportunities.  It’s a wonderful thing when you find people who are forward thinking with good ideas that they are excited about.  Stay tuned for our next culinary event!  People who attended included hotel owners, chefs, government representatives, vegetable growers, meat producers, food bloggers, museum curators and those who were interested in networking and making new connections. 

I would include pictures of Kelly driving through the country side here, but I didn’t take any.  My camera was with me, but I couldn’t stop talking long enough to snap a few photos.  I have a lot to learn with this blogging stuff.

Also a big thankyou to Mike for letting us use his vehicle for our road trip.  The GPS worked beautifully.  It has also now been set to Arabic for your listening pleasure on your next drive.  You are welcome.  Call me if you get lost.


A Canadian Foodie

Sorry no time for pictures. Besides that our internet at home is not working and that is the computer the pictures are on. Frustrating.  We were fortunate enough to attend a culinary tourism workshop in Ryley, Alberta. (We know where Ryley is because we go through it when we go to the sheep auction mart). There was great people, great information, great food which was all locally sourced. We will blog more later but I just had to mention we met another blogger and wanted to recommend her blog, It is excellent.