Friday, January 29, 2010

On a Highland Shore



Title: On a Highland Shore

Author: Kathleen Givens

Type: Historical Fiction

Pages: 464

Published: 2007


Synopsis: Set in the late 13th century, "On a Highland Shore" is a story about Margaret MacDonald, the daughter of a Scottish laird who is preparing for her wedding to the cousin of the Scottish king. Before the wedding can happen her home is decimated by a group of Vikings who are raiding the Scottish coast. Margaret is determined to hold her clan together and find her missing 8 year old brother who was taken during the raids. She isn't sure if she can trust some of the noblemen who are pushing for her wedding to take place because it will further advance themselves with the Scottish king. Or should she trust the half-Irish half-Norse Gannon MacMagnus who gives her hope and his aid in finding her brother and restoring her homeland to peace?

My Thoughts: I was, honestly, a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I had quickly picked it up from the library racks based on the title and front cover alone and was just hoping it would be a decent read. This book proved to be more than just decent.

The author keeps up the momentum throughout the book and, although it does have a few mushy romantic parts to it the storyline is quite good. It was one of those books that I looked forward to sitting down with to see what would happen next. The author uses some true historical fact to base her storyline on which include the Norse invasions on western Scotland as well as some real historical characters (King Alexander of Scotland, William Ross etc).

My Rating: 4/5 (a really good read)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guacamole

As I sit here tonight munching on some nacho chips dipped in homemade guacamole I thought I'd share this yummy fav of mine with all y'all. I hadn't even tried guacamole until a couple of years ago when my brother-in-laws, Darryl, made it for a family get together. From that point on I was a guacamole fan!!

1 ripe avacado, pitted and pulp mashed finely (See Note below)
4 tbsp salsa
1 garlic clove, minced
juice from 1/2 lime (*fresh lime juice is always better than bottled!)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with nacho chips.

Note: An avacado is ripe when the skin becomes very dark and is fairly soft when squeezed. Slice the avacado length-wise all the way around then pry it apart. Remove the pitt and scoop out the pulp.

KITCHEN TALK: The Junk Drawer Dilemma

Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. It's the drawer that all the little things hanging around your kitchen get tossed into when unexpected company arrives at your front door. It's THE JUNK DRAWER!



Some of us have junk drawers from hell, others can keep it under control. Mine flits back and forth between the two poles of organization. :) Kitchen junk drawers house everything from post-it notes, pens, paper clips and extra batteries to school permission forms from 2001 and nasty old packs of gum.

Last week I finally was able to find a nice bamboo cutlery drawer tray. Since we moved almost a year and a half ago into our new house I've been using a cheap plastic version that my hubby picked up quickly at a local hardware store. So, what did I do with the plastic cutlery tray? I used it in my junk drawer. Yup. Might as well reuse it.




I can now easily and clearly see pens, pencils, calculator, hole punch and stapler as well as tape, message pads and our extra emergency Epi-pens. Will this drawer stay this way for long? Doubtful but at least I can easily re-organize it since everything has it's own 'spot' now in the drawer. You wouldn't have wanted to see what it looked like before the reorganizing *shudder*.

I now challenge you all to delve into the horrors that are your junk drawers. Purge what you don't need and be surprised at all of the stuff you thought you'd lost but have now regained.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Italian Veggie Melt

This is one of my youngest sister's favourite side dishes. Quick, convenient and delicious. I have made a smaller version as a quick lunch for myself. You can mix it up by trying different veggies and spices. Just stay away from root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnip etc) which will take much longer to cook in the microwave. I could see adding a layer of young asparagus to this dish with a bit of balsamic and sprinkling some feta cheese on top instead of the cheddar. Mmmm.

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
8-10 fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, you guessed it, thinly sliced
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic salt
2 cups cheddar, marble or mozzarella cheese, grated

In a microwave-safe dish, layer 1/3 of the tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle 1/3 of the herbs and cheese over the vegetables. Repeat layers. Cover and microwave on high power for approximately 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender and cheese has melted.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Food of Love


Title: The Food of Love

Author: Anthony Capella

Type: Chick Lit

Pages: 310

Published: 2004


Synopsis: Laura is a twenty-something American art student who is studying in Italy. She is completely enamoured with Rome's art, beauty and food. Soon after arriving in Italy she meets and falls head over heels for Tommaso. He tells Laura that he is a chef at a famous Roman restaurant and proceeds to woo her via her stomach. But Tommaso has failed to tell Laura the complete truth -- he isn't a chef, but a womanizing waiter.

The chef behind the gastronomic heaven that Laura has been adoring is actually Tommaso's best friend, Bruno. Bruno is very shy but an extremely skilled young chef who secretly loves Laura from afar.

My Thoughts: This story is a romantic comedy of errors a la Cyrano de Bergerac ... with wonderful and tantalizing descriptions of Italian food! Vivid descriptions of the food Bruno makes for Laura make me want to go back to Italy! I also loved reading about some of the places I've visited (Piazza Novena, Florence ...) on a trip to Italy almost 3 years ago.
The storyline is pretty predictable but the author does throw in some surprises here and there. This was a light-hearted novel which I was very glad I picked up from a huge sale at Chapters. Well worth the money, especially for a foodie like me. :) I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

My Rating: 4/5 (a really good read)


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Tomato Cream Sauce


Tonight I thought I'd try something different. For whatever reason, I don't typically pan fry meats. Maybe it's because, in the past, sometimes the meat has been tough or under/over cooked. So tonight I thought I'd try a recipe that forced me out of my comfort zone. Am I ever glad I did!! This was a wonderful dish and full of flavour. The meat was cooked perfectly (pattin' myself on my back) and the sauce was wonderful and full of the flavours of the garlic, tomatoes and basil. Mmmm, mmmm, good! You can easily have this meal on the table in just over 30 minutes.
1lb pork tenderloin (approximately 1 large)
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 tsp basil (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil)
1 cup 35% whipping cream
Garnish black or green olives (optional)

Cut pork tenderloin into 1-inch (2.5cm) thick medallions; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and swirl to coat pan. Brown pork, turning once, for about 1 minute per side. Transfer pork to a plate and set aside.

Add tomatoes to skilllet and cook; shaking pan occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until starting to brown and burst. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper and dry basil (if using fresh basil add it later on in the recipe). Stir in cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened and tomatoes are softened.

Stir in pork with any accumulated juices. Simmer, stirring and turning pork once, for about 5 minutes or just until a hint of pink remains in the pork. Stir in fresh basil (if using). Serve garnished with green or black olives, if desired.

Serve with mashed potatoes (the sauce tastes amazing over mashed potatoes), risotto or pasta.



Friday, January 22, 2010

The Love Child


Author: Catherine Cookson
Type: Historical Fiction
Pages: 367
Published: 1990

Synopsis: Set in northern England, this book tells about the lives of a family of outcasts living in a small town. Nathaniel Martell and Mria Dagshaw have six children together and have a very loving family. But Maria and Nathaniel were never married and as a result they and their children are scorned and treated as outcasts in their town.

Their eldest daughter, Anna, wants to overcome the legacy thrust upon her by her parents. She has stayed away from romantic interests because she was concerned about the townspeoples' ridicule and negative innuendo. Once she meets and falls in love with Timothy Barrington, a wealthy man she has to come to terms with her past and learn to break away from her close knit family so that she can move on.

My Thoughts: This was one of those books that I quickly picked up at the library one evening. Unfortunately this wasn't one of those 'can't put down' type of historical fiction that I thought it was going to be. This book was a bit too slow for me. I've never read a book by Catherine Cookson before and was thinking it was going to be similar to Julie Garwood or Josephine Cox (both whom I enjoy). This book was really slow in the middle and never really got going.

I did find it interesting how Anna begins to question how perfect her parents really are. In the beginning of the book her father can do no wrong but as Anna grows up she starts to see her parents' flaws, especially her father. She sees how selfish her parents have been and how they have used their children as protection from the outside world and it's condemnation. I thought it would be more of a love story between Anna and Timothy ... but, it seemed to me, that the author barely got that love story in the book before it abruptly ended.

My Rating: 2/5 (meh)

Devilled Eggs

I know that winter in Canada isn't typically the season to whip up a batch of devilled eggs, but in our family, most of us adore a good devilled egg so we really don't like to wait for the picnic-type weather to come around before we make a batch. :)

12 eggs
6 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
To garnish paprika (optional)

To boil eggs:
Place eggs in a large pot and fill with water until all eggs are completely covered. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling remove the pot from the heat, add the lid and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain water and fill with cool water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Peel eggs. (see Note below)

Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Blend together with a fork.

Using a small spoon, fill whites with yolk mixture, heaping slightly. Sprinkle with paprika, if using. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Alternative: If you'd like to add more zing to your devilled eggs, try adding 1 tsp of horseradish to the yolk mixture.

Note: I find that putting the cooked eggs directly into cool water for 10 minutes helps make the peeling process much easier. I don't find that the shells stick to the egg whites nearly as much.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Look to my Blog

One of the things that I'm trying to push myself to do is to learn more about blogging. Today I surfed the net and found some nice backgrounds and blinkies (I also learned what a blinkie is, actually!). Thanks to the folks at www.thecutestblogontheblock.com I've learned quite a bit. :)

I hope this 'new' look to my blog is asthetically pleasing to your eyes and that the content is pleasing to your minds and stomachs. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

KITCHEN TALK: Demy Digital Recipe Reader!



Ok, a couple of days ago I posted asking what everyone's favourite "can't do without" kitchen gadgets were -- btw, there were NO responses ... tsk tsk everyone. I could hear crickets chirping it was so quiet here with just Me, Myself and I ;). Anyhoo, I was surfing the net and came across a marvelous new kitchen gadget.

Meet the Demy Kitchen Safe Touch Screen Recipe Reader. It's a mouthful but looks really cool. Not cool enough for me to shell out the $300USD for it but it's cool nonetheless. It reminds me a lot of the e-readers out there from Sony etc. At first I thought this thing would just read out a recipe to you as you cooked, but oh no my friend!! It is much more than that! As someone who gets giddy with home organizing this gadget is a pretty divine invention for my kitchen! :)

Some of the features are pretty cool. For example, having all of your personal, tried and true recipes on hand instead of hunting in various cookbooks/sites. It's pretty small (5x7-inches) and it's screen is splash resistant making it easy to wipe clean if you have sticky fingers. You can access your recipes by name or organize them into cookbooks too.

One of the options I like is that you can make a 'short list' of recipes. So if you're having a dinner party and need 4 recipes on hand you can pull those recipes into a short list and have them easily accessible for that day.

It also has 3 built-in timers (see pic below left) as well as a conversion tool (see pic below right)and an ingredient substitution tool in case you are missing a key ingredient in a dish you're making.















It's not going to be one of those things that everyone will have but, you have to admit, it is a pretty cool kitchen gizmo. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rich & Creamy Tomato Soup


I made this soup for dinner tonight. "Karate Kid" had, well ... karate class so dinner had to be quick and filling. I whipped up this soup in less than half an hour and while it was simmering got the Ultimate Grilled Cheese ready to go on my electric griddle.
You could make this soup lower in fat by using skim or 1% milk and low-fat cream cheese (which I did). It doesn't effect the taste.

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsp butter or margarine

1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 (10.75oz) cans condensed tomato soup, undiluted

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp basil

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp garlic powder

4oz (1/2 pkg) cream cheese, cubed

In a large saucepan, saute onion in the butter until tender. Stir in tomatoes, soups, milk, sugar, basil, paprika and garlic powder. Heat through. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cream cheese cubes until melted. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Tip: If you have people who don't love chunks of tomatoes in their soup, use a hand blender and puree the soup.

Double Cross


Title: Double Cross (13th book in the Alex Cross series)

Author: James Patterson

Type: Suspense

Pages: 400
Published: 2007


Synopsis: Dr Alex Cross is finally enjoying a quiet life full of family and his private practice ... until he is suddenly brought in on an FBI case by his current girlfriend Detective Brianna Stone. This new case involves a criminal mastermind like Cross has never seen. There have been several murders around the D.C area ... all involving a growing amount of media attention. This killer loves to have an audience for his kills and sets up elaborate schemes to ensure that people are watching him. On top of all of this, Cross learns that his former friend and now arch nemesis, Kyle Craig, has escaped from a high security prison ... Cross knows it's only a matter of time before Craig tracks Cross and his family down to even the score.

My Thoughts: As per usual, Patterson has written a fast-paced suspense novel. It keeps up a fairly fast pace ... but just barely. I did feel that the ending was a little abrupt and didn't quite get the closure I was hoping for.
He did focus on the relationship between Brianna Stone and Cross ... a little too much for my tastes actually. I would have preferred Patterson to focus more on the motivations behind why the killer was on such a rampage. Seemed like a lot of work setting up these elaborate schemes for the high-profile murders ... but why? He didn't go into that at all, which was disappointing.
I also thought it was disappointing (and unbelievable) at how Cross did nothing to ensure the safety of his family when he knew that Craig was on the loose. Plus, it's a little hard to swallow the fact that Cross and his gaggle of cops/FBI can let the bad guy go so often. I think Patterson needs to figure out some new 'bad guys' for Cross to go after. Craig has run his course, imho.

My Rating: 3/5 (aka a decent read)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

KITCHEN TALK: Kitchen Utensil Favs

I'm sure that all of us have a few favourite kitchen utensils that are coveted and precious to us. Things that you 'need' in order to create new dishes in your kitchen. Things that you're surprised that others can do without in their own kitchens.

For me, I could not imagine cooking/baking without my Pampered Chef baking stones. As a one time PC Consultant I have tonnes of stones - as well as spares in case I break some!. (You'll notice I'm fairly biased towards Pampered Chef lol). There is a huge difference in baking on a good quality baking stone (there are poor quality stones out there) compared to baking on metal. But I digress ...

Some of my favourite kitchen utensils are:
- stainless mixing bowls
- bamboo mixing spoons
- apple corer (enables me to make cool apple rings that, apparently, my kids prefer the taste to compared to 'regular old apple slices'. Hmmm)
- Pampered Chef silicon scrappers
- Pampered Chef garlic press (I'm a big believer in using fresh garlic. The flavour of jarred garlic just cannot compare, in my honest opinion, to the fresh stuff).
- Pampered Chef rolling pin (two-ended - great for rolling pastry right in the pie plate)

Now, if we're talking about appliances my favourite is my Kitchen Aid mixer that I got from Hubby and the kids last Christmas. It has it's own 'spot' on my kitchen counter. :) I also adore my new electric griddle. I no longer have to eat after everyone else has finished their pancakes! With a family of 5 I can now make oodles of pancakes/grilled cheese in one fell swoop!

Finally, I cannot forget my beloved bread makers (yes, I have TWO) for making fresh pizza dough or fresh bread. Nor could I forget my crockpot. How easy is dinner when you pop a roast in the crockpot and a loaf of bread in the breadmaker. Dinner done by 8am! :)

So, what are all of our favourite utensils or appliances in your kitchen? What can you not do without??

Friday, January 15, 2010

Twenties Girl


Title: Twenties Girl

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Type: Chick Lit

Pages: 435

Published: 2009


Synopsis: Lara Lington is a twenty-something woman who has recently broken up with her boyfriend and isn't particularly loving her job as a corporate head hunter. To make matters worse, the spirit of her 105 year old Great-Aunt Sadie suddenly appears to Lara and has one last request ... to find her missing necklace that she cannot rest without. Since Lara is the only person who can see or hear Sadie (and the fact that Sadie will haunt Lara until she agrees), Lara decides to help her Aunt.

Sadie turns out to be a sassy and demanding spirit and the quest to find her necklace leads Lara to intrigue and a new romance as well as both 'twenties girls' finding out some surprising truths about each other along the way.

My Thoughts: I wasn't sure about this book at first. Like I've said before, Kinsella is hit and miss with me. This book started off slow but did evenutally take off. The relationship between Sadie and Lara is quirky and the mystery of the necklace was intriguing. Typical "Chick Lit" banter (I enjoyed the banter between Lara and Ed in particular), a few laughs and romance thrown in as well.
My Rating: 3.5/5 (a good read)

Chicken Fettucine Alfredo

This is one of our favourite pasta dishes. The leftovers are coveted for lunch the next day!

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tbsp butter or margarine (divided)
4 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
1lb fettucine noodles, uncooked
1 onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
3 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, grated (I have used medium cheddar as a substitute)
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced and seeded
1/2 cup sour cream

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine chicken, 2 tbsp butter, 2 garlic cloves, oregano and basil. Cook until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 4 tbsp butter in the skillet. Saute the onion, remaining 2 garlic cloves and mushrooms until onions are transparent. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and half-and-half, stirring until smooth and creamy. Stir in Parmesan and Colby-Monterey Jack cheeses; stir until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken mixture, tomatoes and sour cream. Serve over warm fettucini noodles.

Tip: Always use fresh Parmesan cheese. It makes a big difference! I know it seems more expensive but you use less of the 'real stuff' and the taste is so much better.

From: allrecipes.com

Things I Want My Daughters to Know


Title: Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Author: Elizabeth Noble

Type: Fictional Novel

Page: 448

Published: January 2009
Where I got the book: I own it


Synopsis: When Barbara finds out she's dying from terminal cancer she immediately worries about how her 4 daughters will face their trials and triumphs of their lives without her. She writes letters to each of her daughters to help them deal with the issues that they each have. In the year following Barbara's death the girls read their letters and draw strength from their mother's words.

Lisa, in her mid-thirties, is incapable of making a commitment to her long-time boyfriend. Jennifer is stuck in a stale marriage and is so high strung she could burst. Amanda, in her twenties, is a world traveller who keeps herself separate from the rest of the family. Then there is the 'baby' Hannah who is only 15 years old. How will she grow up without her mother?

Each of the girls receives a letter from Barbara. Will the letters help in their bereavement or cause more issues amongst the sisters?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book but it wasn't what I was expecting. I thought it would have been more about the Mom ... and more of a tear jerker, quite frankly. The storyline started off slow but it pick up less than half-way through. It felt like the story didn't go deep enough for me. Good premise but not executed as well as I would have liked. Still a good read.

My Rating: 3.5/5 (a good read)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BOOK DISCUSSION: Non-readers' excuses

I have never understood it when people complain about not having enough time in their day to pick up a book are read ... even for 20 minutes. I often hear people wonder how I have time to constantly have a book on the go. Do I read constantly? No. Do I read daily? Definitely. I'm a mother of 3 young kids and even when they were infants I found time to read -- I would put a book on the side table beside the rocker and read during night feedings lol.

You have to make time to read in the beginning. Setting aside some 'me time' for even 30 minutes/day helps. It also helps to find a book that will fit into your schedule. James Patterson is known for his 3 page chapters which are perfect for people who have very limited time to pick up a book. I wouldn't get into "War and Peace" if you don't have lots of time to spend reading ... something lighter and smaller would suffice in the beginning.

As a book lover I always make time to read. For me it's just part of who I am and it's something that I need to do daily. I find snippets of time during the day to read a chapter or two whether it's while I wait for my daughter at her ballet class, waiting for the laundry to be finished or when I can't sleep at night ... I fill the down time in my day with reading.

I love reading in bed in the evenings (much to the chagrin of my hubby -- but like I lovingly tell him "you were blessed with eye lids so you should put them to good use while I read at night" ;). Sadly, he is a non-reader even though the kids and I have tried to get him hooked on books. I do have to give him credit though. Last Christmas our second son bought his Dad a CSI book and my hubby read it all ... and enjoyed it! But not enough to keep up his reading momentum.

Personally, I always have a book with me just in case I find some spare time. I think my reading addiction is also due to the fact that I just can't do 'nothin' ... I have to be doing something at all times otherwise I get bored.

Sadly, I am one of those people who cannot read in a car. Even reading a few lines will cause an uproar in my stomach and I'll feel car sick for half an hour afterwards. I have occasionally listened to books on my iTouch but not as frequently as I would like. I could only imagine how much more reading I would have gotten done if I could read in the car ... and my hubby would have been happy to have some quiet time without me blathering in his ear for hours on end, no doubt! :)

So to those who say that they don't 'have time' to read ... I say to try fitting in some time during your day. It's a great escape and I just couldn't imagine my life without books. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

One of my favourite things about the fall and winter is making soups and homemade bread. It just feels cozy making soup while it's cold outside. Add fresh, warm bread slathered in butter and you' have total comfort food! Most of the work with this soup is cutting up the onions and mushrooms. Once that's done it's easy to put together.

1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups onions, chopped
1lb mushrooms, sliced (I used button mushrooms)
2 tsp dillweed
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
to taste black pepper
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley (optional - I didn't add it)
1/2 cup sour cream

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for 5 more minutes. Stir in dillweed, paprika, soy sauce and chicken broth. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk milk and flour together until smooth. Pour this into the soup and stir well until blended. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley (if using) and sour cream. Mix together and allow soup to heat through over low heat (do not let it boil!). Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings
From: souprecipe.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frosty Layered Raspberry Dessert


This is a refreshing dessert that looks amazing. We love to serve it in the summer.





2 cups (1/2 of a 1L container) raspberry sorbet or sherbert
1 cup milk
1 pkg (4-serving size) Jell-O instant pudding (regular or fat-free)
2 cups thawed Cool Whip topping (regular or light)
1 cup fresh raspberries

Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with foil. Spoon sorbet into pan; freeze for 10 minutes.
Pour milk into large bowl. Add dry pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk for 2 minutes or until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping. Spread pudding mixture over sorbet layer in pan.
Freeze at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

To unmold: invert pan onto a plate; remove foil. Top dessert with raspberries. Let stand for 10-15 minutes to soften slightly before cutting into 12 slices to serve.

Tip: To soften sorbet -- spoon measured amount of sorbet into microwavable bowl. Microwave on medium for 10-15 seconds or until slightly softened.

Originally from: http://www.kraftcanada.ca/

Death at Wentwater Court


Title: Death at Wentwater Court

Author: Carola Dunn

Type: Mystery

Series: 1st book in the Daisy Dalrymple series

First Published: 1994


Synopsis: This mystery is set in post-war 1920's England. Daisy Dalrymple shocks her upper crust family by getting a paying job as a writer for a popular magazine. She has been given an assignment to write about Wentwater Court -- a beautiful estate owned by old family friends. When one of the guests is murdered, Daisy gives her help to find the killer.


My Thoughts: I gave up on this book after about 80 pages. There were so many characters (and most of them very similar in age and looks) that it got confusing as to whom the author was talking about. The mystery was bland (yes, the guy everyone hated was murdered - shocking!) and I had started to feel like I was forcing myself to read on.


My Rating: 0 (aka didn't finish it)

Monday, January 11, 2010

French Breakfast Muffins


This is a great, simple muffin that is VERY similar to the Mandarin Orange Breakfast Bites that I've previously posted ... except that this recipe doesn't have the mandarin oranges. So if you're not a fan of that citrus, try these out. My kids inhaled these in their morning snack today. I also love the fact that this recipe doesn't make a tonne of muffins. Just 8 smaller muffins which are perfect for kids or a light snack.


1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg (preferably at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Topping
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, sift together all dry ingredients.
In another medium bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined but still a bit lumpy. Don't overmix. Batter will be thick.

Scoop batter into muffin tins (I use a large melon baller) that have been either sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or have muffin papers in them.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they start to get golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Make the topping: Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another small bowl. Dip each warm muffin into the melted butter, then in the cinnamon sugar (roll the top of each muffin around in each bowl to ensure that you get lots of cinnamon sugar on each muffin top).
Note: The original muffin recipe is from foodgawker.com but I have substantially reduced the cinnamon sugar mixture because there was way too much wasted at the end of making these muffins.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ransom


Title: Ransom

Author: Julie Garwood

Type: Historical Fiction/Romance

Publication Date: November 1999

Pages: 546


Synopsis: Gillian is only a 5 year old child when the cruel and ambitious Baron Alford kills her father and tears her family apart. Alford is determined to recover a famous jeweled box that once belonged to King John and is furious when he doesn't recover the box at Gillian's home. Gillian and her sister Christen are unfortunately separated in the chaos and grow up not knowing what happened to each other.

Now a grown woman, Gillian devises a plan to resolve the past turbulance in her life with the unexpected help of Scottish Chieftains Ramsey Sinclair and Brodick Bucanan. Life among the "savage" Highlanders is more different than Gillian could have imagined. In the end, Gillian gets to come face-to-face with the unscrupulous Baron and fight for her home, family and her father's reputation with the King.


My Thoughts: This was a good 'escapist' kind of read. The plot is fast-paced and moves a long well for a 400+ page book. Set in one of my favourite places for historical fiction ... Scotland!! Who doesn't love a man in a kilt?!? I would have preferred if Garwood would have written the Scots' lines in a brogue (a la Gabaldon) so you can 'hear' them roll their R's but alas she did not. There is somewhat cheesy romantic parts in it but it's an overall good read. Garwood is one of those authors whom I can trust to give me a good read when I'm in a reading drought.

My Rating: 4/5 (great book)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Easy Ground Beef Stroganoff

This fast and easy version of Beef Stroganoff uses horseradish and dry mustard to give this dish some added kick. All three of my kids liked this dish. You can also add some frozen green peas or some grated carrot for some added colour.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (4.5oz) can mushrooms, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp horseradish
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup frozen peas or shredded carrot (if using)
1 (8oz) package medium egg noodles

In a large skillet, cook beef. Break up large pieces. Add onion, mushrooms, garlic, horseradish and dry mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat until the meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain off excess fat.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise and beef broth. Stir into the beef mixture. Add peas or carrots (if using). Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not stir too much and do not allow mixture to boil.

Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in a large pot of boiling water until done. Drain. Serve sauce over hot noodles.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monkey Love


Title: Monkey Love

Author: Brenda Scott Royce

Type: Chick Lit? Humour?

Pages: 307


Synopsis: Holly Heckerling is a struggling comedienne. Until her comedy career takes off she uses her business "Holly's Hobbies" to keep her creditors happy. She types, babysits animals, does hair, can prepare your taxes and knows her way around power tools. Added to her stressful life are a neglected boyfriend (who quickly hightails it out of there), a pick-pocketing monkey that she's offered to babysit, friends who pull her into their drama and her quirky aunts. When Holly receives a typing assignment she becomes interested in it's mysterious writer and thinks that he could be 'the one'.

My Thoughts: This was a decent read. It had a write up from Janet Evanovich on the front cover so I took the plunge and bought the book (at one of those huge Chapters sales so it wasn't a big risk). While I don't feel it was a waste of money it left me lacking ... something. The humour was there but it never quite got to a "Stephanie Plum-type" laugh. I did enjoy the main character and her one aunt is very "Grandma Mazur-ish" (sorry for all of the Stephanie Plum references!). I'd be interested to read the next book and see if the author can bring more to the table.

My Rating: 3/5 (aka a decent read)

Pizza Bake

This was a casserole I whipped up tonight which was one of those nights when we had one of the kids' activities. It's quick, easy and has tastes that I know my kids love. "Karate Kid" actually became quite a fan of the wee mushroom because of this dish. :)

2 cups uncooked fusilli noodles (or egg noodles)
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup black or green olives (optional)
1 cup pepperoni, chopped
2 cups pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella or marble cheese (divided)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook noodles according to package directions.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat brown the beef with the onion, garlic, mushrooms and green pepper. Drain excess fat. Stir in the olives (if using), pepperoni, spaghetti sauce and 1 cup of cheese. Mix well. Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese on top has melted. Serve with a Caesar salad.

Tips: You can add whatever pizza toppings you like. I adore feta cheese, baby spinach, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes etc.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm back!

After 2 weeks in Florida I'm back!! My family and I went to Florida along with my sisters, their families and my parents. 8 adults and 10 kids (10 yrs and under) under one roof. Loud at times and exhausting but a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and was a chilly 10-15C most days. Being the hot blooded Canadians that we are (and knowing that back home the weather was a nippy -15C! ... we toughed it out lol). We were always shocked to see other tourists wearing winter coats and winter hats (I'm not joking) when we're in T-shirts and shorts. Like I said ... hot blooded Canadians!

When I was packing to go to Florida I was able to wedge in 5 books amongst my clothes because I thought I'd be able to read a lot while relaxing in the sunshine. Ha ha! With 10 kids in the house and most days visiting Disney parks, Shamu, Space Shuttles and showing my kids the beach for the first time I wasn't able to get in a whole lot of reading time. I did manage to read 1 1/2 book so it wasn't too bad.

I did miss my kitchen so after only being home for one day I've tried 2 new recipes (a nice breaded chicken as well as pumpkin chocolate chip muffins -- which are baking as I type). I'll post those tomorrow morning.

It's good to be back! :)
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