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You win some, you lose some… and some you get rained out

I remember this expression from my childhood, and it has applied in so many situations I long ago lost count. Everyone likes to win at something, but quickly we learn that we won’t win every time. For there to be a winner there also has to be a loser. You wouldn’t have a game otherwise. But it’s the times when you can’t seem to win no matter what that can be the toughest. Matters beyond your control stop the game mid-stream, and you have to change things up to continue. Such is life, or as the French put it,

C’est la vie.

I’ve been in this kind of situation in the kitchen when I did movie catering. I remember the first time I cooked brownies for 100 people on a catering truck while parked on a steep hill. I had to think fast when they came out of the oven – there was a thicker end to the baking pan of batter that was a big brownie (more like cake) and a thinner end that was more like a biscotti. I could not choose “game over” as an option, the cast and crew had to have dessert. So I iced the thick half and dusted the thin half with icing sugar. I cut the pieces smaller and served up a choice: chocolate wacky cake AND biscotti. It worked, even though it wasn’t the original game plan. I did make a note to myself to prop up the pan the next time we cooked on a hill, though. When you get rained out, you learn a lot.

We got rained out tonight for dinner. We were supposed to meet friends at a local restaurant to catch up on all our news, as we hadn’t seen each other in months. We wanted a place on the Westside so it would be close for all of us. She made reservations.

We pulled up first and found the restaurant closed up. We knew it wasn’t open for lunch and we had arrived early… we checked the website and it said they were closed Mondays. So we texted our friend; perhaps she had made a mistake when reserving? She and her partner pulled up a few moments later, and she told us she had specifically asked if they were open since the website said otherwise. The staff said of course and took her booking.

when things don’t look good, we try to think outside the box and see other options.

Growing up with parents who worked in the movie industry meant I learned the motto, “Be Prepared” long before I was a Girl Guide. My hubbie is just as adaptable having spent years in a hot kitchen. We are always prepared for rain. (If we ever ended up on a show like Amazing Race, I think we would do really well.)

It took only a minute or so before we had come to a consensus. Many small restaurants are not open Monday, something we can sympathize with since we know weekends are the busy days. We brainstormed and quickly found someplace close that was open and headed out.

So I’m sorry, Thai Fusion , but I can’t offer any commentary about your experience. It’s a shame, as we don’t get out that often and I like to support small businesses. Unfortunately since part of my expertise lies in customer service I have to say that you did lose out when you had a staff member so out of it they never realized even after taking a reservation that they booked clients for a night you’re not open. You missed an opportunity to win.

As a result, 19 Okanagan Grill and Bar got our business tonight. They welcomed us with open arms and smiles, and took good care of us all evening. The drinks were fun and tasty; my Pineapple Ginger Margarita was the perfect beverage for reminiscing about my Mexican holiday. The food was hot and full of flavours. I had plenty of fish tacos in Mexico, and I already know theirs are good so I chose the Butter Chicken Bowl. I was pleased with the abundance of veggies, chicken and rice; the hot naan bread was a perfect accompaniment. My hubbie said his Cajun Burger was just right too, with a good kick of heat, fresh lettuce and tomato and hot fries. Our friends were both happy too – apparently the Caesar cocktails are at least as good as the Margaritas.

I’m glad I was able to support a neighbourhood business tonight. I am thankful that we got some quality time with friends, and a fun memory to share. Thanks, 19, for keeping us out of the rain. You’re a winner in my eyes. I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.

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I love me some latkes!

I’ve been meaning to make potato latkes since I saw a recipe posted before Hannukah. I’m not Jewish, I just like the look, and the idea of savoury “pancakes” for dinner. So tonight was the night!


The recipe took a bit of fiddling with, but I got it to work, and was most pleased with the results as they cooked – it was easy to do them in the oven.

The trick was, we were having fish with the latkes, so the usual applesauce accompaniement didn’t make sense. I adapted a Caribbean mango condiment to serve with it and voila! If I do say so myself, it was a delicious meal. I included some fresh spinach, my hubby made a sort of salmon slider – we both enjoyed it immensely. 


I’ll post the adapted recipe tomorrow – just didn’t want to miss my commitment to make a daily entry. 

Happy cooking!

Blogger confession – time for a few Hail Marys and a new post

I have been a bad blogger. It’s been 7 months since my last post. I did keep writing my weekly Castanet column and I have put up more recipes, but I haven’t been present and for that I apologize. With a new year starting, I am resolved to post regularly again. So, here is the new beginning.

My new approach is this: How about a “Foodie Thought of the Day” ? Maybe it will be short and sweet – an image of something I found or a recipe I’m trying. Sometimes I’ll aim for more of a pondering post, with commentary on a topic. But every day I do think of food, so all I have to do is share that here, with you.

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I’m hoping you’ll help me out… tell me if I’m crazy, or lucked out and found something you like. Complain if you think I ramble too much! Complain if you don’t think I’m sharing enough.

So, here it goes: 2017, the year of foodie tidbits!

And just so you don’t think I’m jamming out on the first 2 days of the year here are the ideas already in my calendar:

  • I read a great little article in Saveur Magazine by a father who taught his daughters to cook at an early age. They both embraced the kitchen as a fun place; one of things they came up with was “Fakesgiving”, a celebration dinner like Thanksgiving that is held once a month, so everyone can enjoy those fancy or exotic dishes or try something new more often than just once a year. I’m going to have Fakesgiving dinners this year!
  • I had a persimmon for the first time this morning, inspired by an insistent vendor at one of my fave foodie haunts, the Granville Island Market. I highly recommend them – they are tangy, sweet, with a smooth texture and a beautiful exotic flavour. In case you’re skeptical, check out these benefits!

persimmons-why-they-are-good

See you tomorrow! Eat, drink and be merry 🙂

The Secret to a Happy Christmas Dinner

happy Christmas dinnerChristmas is my favourite time of year, and Christmas dinner seems to epitomize the festive season: the food and drink and best of all, the company. Just think – at what other time of year can you argue about whether the dressing should be traditional or adventurous, or agonize over which tablecloth would look nicer, and which serving pieces to put out to make sure Aunt So-and-so sees the gift you never otherwise use! (Okay, maybe in the closest families that happens every Sunday, but it seems most of the other days of the year we are far too busy to spend that much time on dinner.) On that point I agree with the Chef – be grateful you have those people you care about enough to argue with, and toast their good health before you dive into that sumptuous dinner.

As far as the menu goes, I have always been one who liked to “upset the apple cart” so to speak, by trying to suggest some new (or old) twist on the Christmas dinner. I wanted to try goose after having read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I always wondered what Brussels sprouts tasted like and figured they couldn’t really be as bad as my Dad said. And who wouldn’t marvel at the idea of marshmallows at the dinner table, all toasted over a dish of sweet potatoes! Then there was the stuffing. This was a topic that was hotly discussed by my parents, as my Mom read more cooking magazines and my Dad pined for the “good old days” when celery and sage were all it needed. (Years later, he would be the one saying why hadn’t we added walnuts or used cornbread earlier!)  But if you ask me what I remember about Christmas dinner, it is not the specific menu items but rather that warm and fuzzy feeling that came once the plates were empty.

I for one don’t think it was merely the tryptophan that made me groggy and light-headed at Christmas; it was more that sense of euphoria that comes over you when you immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas. If you truly believe in the essence of Christmas then as you let it into your heart and take active part in the festivities and the giving, you cannot help but feel better yourself. Children know this intuitively, and it is only as our hearts harden if we don’t practice such things that we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. Christmas is not for children, but for the child that lies within us all, hoping for a chance to believe in something pure and good, and listening for that magic signal which says that something exists.

Grinch carving the roast beast

So if you need a dose of “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “The Polar Express” before Christmas dinner to get you in full gear, go right ahead. When you sit down to dinner, cherish the meal, and those around you, and of course the cook who made it possible. It is important to take Christmas to heart, for if you do it right, it just might stay with you until next year. Wouldn’t that make the world a wonderful place?

As Tiny Tim said so long ago, “God Bless us every one.” Merry Christmas from our table to yours. Tiny Tim Bless Us Everyone

Sunday dinner

Are you old enough to remember the days when most of us had Sunday roast? That was back when we all had a bag lunch with a sandwich in it – before microwaves were everywhere, and before everyone went out for lunch. You needed leftovers for the week, and a Sunday roast provided that. I won’t mention the concept of everyone sitting down together at the table, because it happened more often than not, “back then”.

Am I really so old that the concept of a sit-down family dinner is a casualty of dining evolution? I always thought that even when we got to the time of food replicators, like on Star Trek, we would still be sharing a table. The thing I don’t understand is what did we gain by giving this up… do people really think they are more efficient by multi-tasking a meal into their day’s list of “to-do’s”?

I don’t have children, which is probably just as well, as I would want them to be home for dinner, something that is obviously un-cool. My kids would be ostracized for missing whatever people do on Sunday night, and then they would suffer the ridicule of bringing a bag lunch as well. Many people I know who do have kids talk a lot about often being too busy to eat a proper meal. Personally, I think some of them drank the kool-aid and believed the TV ads that told them they didn’t have time. They started to buy frozen food and prepared mixes and their menus evolved in that style. Others simply aren’t interested in food, so eating was never something they considered as possible quality time. It used to be the case that your parents made you eat regular meals, but now there is official research you can cite to defend your right to eat at odd times, or in odd combinations.

The demise of the Sunday dinner has occurred on numerous fronts. Even if we try to invite people to our Sunday dinner, we have to deal with all the possible combinations of allergies and sensitivities. I am happy to cook for a group, and I empathize with people who cannot enjoy certain foods (or choose for moral reasons to follow a certain regime.) But if I harken back to my childhood, the occurrence of allergies was more of a rarity than a common phenomenon. Nut allergies are so pervasive now that many schools ban foods with nuts. If you had tried that when I was a kid, half of the students would have starved! Again I ask the question of dining evolution… what happened to make so many of us unable to tolerate foods that we have been eating for generations?

I never thought I would say this, but I miss the kind of food I got in my school lunch. My pet peeve was “meat spread” sandwiches. You certainly couldn’t call it pâté, as it was a distant relative at best. And the only other ingredient inside the sandwich was sliced dill pickle, which made for a sad, thin effort for a lunch. The bread got squished when Mom put the spread on the bread, too, so it was not a pretty sight. She didn’t drop the apple on top, though – my Mom was smart that way. She even knew how to save the icing on Chocolate Wacky Cake (click on the link for the recipe and her secret). Nowadays, the stuff I see advertised that is supposed to rival the “crackers & cheese pizzas” or “tuna snacks” you can purchase in the grocery store is something that must have been designed by someone with a nanny. What busy Mom today has time to make “fruit kabobs with honey ricotta fondue”?

Perhaps Sunday dinner has gone the way of the dinosaur and the PB & J. Maybe a family that orders pizza together is a family that stays together in today’s world (I just saw the commercial on TV, so it must be true.) But I sincerely hope that when we stop at my stepdaughter’s house years from now on a Sunday, she might remember enough of her chef father’s rants that she could still cook a roast chicken. After all, he started quizzing her when she was 7…

Do you eat a homemade Sunday dinner at your house? Do you have to deal with allergies or special diets in your regular menu planning? What’s the food experience you miss most from your childhood? I’d love to hear your rants. (Milder comments are welcome too – I just thought I might stick with the theme for this post. ☺) Thanks for listening.

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