Saturday, 30 November 2013

Crumb-Topped Lemon Haddock

I don't know about you but convincing my kids to eat fish is a really hard sell.  Seafood gets a bad rap with kids (at least most of my minions) and that's really unfortunate.  My kids think that meeting me halfway in the mighty and on-going 'Eating More Fish Debate' entails deigning to let frozen fish sticks pass their lips.  There is one hitch ... I don't buy frozen fish sticks.
Brad and I are a whole other story (and for the most part so is Boy 1).  Brad and I could eat fresh, grilled salmon at least once per week (we inhaled some Grilled Citrus Salmon just last week with a lot of 'Oh WOW this is soooo good!'s escaping our lips between bites.  Definitely a fav).  Boy 1, while not a big salmon or white fish lover, will inhale shrimp, escargot, calamari and sea scallops until the sea cows come home.  Expensive tastes that one has but at least he tries new foods which is partly due to the fact that the man-child is now as tall as I am and needs more food to keep the growth spurt happenin'.
Anyhoo, this recipe meets our tastes half way (in my books anyway).  Haddock isn't an expensive fish and it's not 'fishy' tasting either.  Topped with this nice, crunchy lemon-y breading and this dish is a definite keeper.  Plus, it's a nice, quick meal that you can whip up on those crazy days.

1/3 cup butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
400g package of frozen haddock fillets
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko Japanese bread crumbs
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
to taste -- freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a baking dish and set aside.

Place minced butter and garlic in a small microwave safe dish.  Microwave until butter has melted.

In a medium bowl, combine the two types of bread crumbs, thyme, lemon zest and black pepper.  Pour butter mixture into crumb mixture and combine.  It'll be clumpy.

Place fish fillets into your prepared baking dish.  Spoon the crumb mixture onto the fillets (I ended up using my hands in the end and patting the crumb mixture onto the fillets).

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. 

This dish is wonderful served with my Parmesan Basil Orzo that you can easily whip up on the stove while the fish is cooking.

Yield: 4 servings

Inspired by: Taste of Home's 'Baked Lemon Haddock'

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Last Clinic

Author: Gary Gusick
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Series: Darla Cavanaugh mystery series #1
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Alibi
Publication Date: November 18, 2013
First Line: "It was 6:00 a.m. and still dark when Reverend Jimmy Aldridge dragged the seven-foot pine cross from the back of his oversized SUV."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn a fast-paced, suspenseful debut novel for fans of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner, detective Darla Cavannah goes Deep South in pursuit of a merciless killer.

Outside the local women’s health clinic, the Reverend Jimmy Aldridge waving his protest sign is a familiar sight. But that changes early one morning when someone shoots the beloved Reverend Jimmy dead. Sheriff Shelby Mitchell knows the preacher’s murder will shock the good people of Jackson—and the pressure to find the killer is immediate and intense, which is why Shelby calls in detective Darla Cavannah.

When police detective Darla moved from Philadelphia to Jackson with her husband—hometown football hero Hugh “the Glue” Cavannah—she never imagined the culture shock that awaited. Then after Hugh dies in a car crash, Darla enters a self-imposed exile in her Mississippi home, taking a leave of absence from the sheriff’s department. Now she’s called back to duty—or coerced, more like it, with Shelby slathering on his good-ole-boy charm nice and thick, like on a helping of barbecue.

Reluctantly partnered with a mulish Elvis impersonator, Darla keeps a cool head even as the community demands an arrest. The court of public opinion has already convicted the clinic’s doctor, Stephen Nicoletti, but Darla is just as sure he’s not guilty—even as she fights her growing attraction to him. From the genteel suburbs to a raunchy strip club, Darla follows a trail of dirty money and nasty secrets—until the day of judgment comes, and she faces down an ungodly assassin.

Note:  My sincere thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Alibi and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  Darla Cavanaugh is the protagonist for this new mystery series set in Mississippi.  Darla moves back with her husband back to his hometown when his NFL career is cut short due to injury.  After his sudden death Darla decides to stay in the small town even though she is considered an outsider by the townspeople. 

There are two things that I need in order to give a high rating to a mystery. I need to be surprised by the twists (which I admit can be a big undertaking) which keep me guessing 'who dunnit' and I need to have a connection with the characters.  While there were twists and turns to the storyline and it kept my interest in the beginning, it was the characters that I had an issue with.

First, Darla started out as a great character.  She was a strong, independent woman who just wants to prove to this small town that she's more than just her famous husband's widow and that she's got what it takes even though the locals still see her as a 'fish out of water' Yankee. 

Darla started to lose her likeability when she encounters her love interest.  It felt very rushed, unbelievable and I personally could have done without it.  I think it changed Darla's character from strong and independent to a mushy, doting female and I didn't like that.  The love interest, like Officer Elvis (see below) got in the way of the pace of the plot and that's where I started to waiver and lose interest.

There was one character which I couldn't stand.  Officer Elvis.  Well, bless his heart.  He was Darla's partner on the case and I found him to be very annoying with his antics and how he seemed to have carte blanche when it came to policing the town.  No one, not even his superior officer, even so much as rapped his knuckles for not doing things by the book.  I was honestly hoping that he'd get his comeuppance  .... or get shot.  Not a good sign for a character when you want them 'offed'.  He was the clichéd 'guy who has to be top dog' no matter what and was more of a distraction to the storyline if anything.  If the reader had been shown a glimmer of a deeper side to him then maybe I could have gotten on board with his antics but unfortunately he was a one trick pony.

There were also terms that were used by some of the townspeople which seemed unnecessary, outdated and prejudiced.  These terms made my stomach turn. It went from using the terms 'chink' and 'eyetalians' to describing a gay man as a 'butt guy'.  I'm not proclaiming to be an expert on all things Mississippi but I think that the author went a little overboard casting the townspeople as a bunch of ignorant, simple, narrow-minded bigots.  It was overdone and caused me to focus on these terms instead of the mystery.

As for the mystery?  There were quite a few minor plot twists thrown in to keep the reader guessing.  The main premise dealt with a very sensitive topic but in doing so, I didn’t feel like the author tried to sway his readers to support either side of the controversy for which I was glad.  He stuck to the murder mystery and the topic of abortion was left for the reader to decide.
I hope that the future books in this new series will focus on keeping Darla as a strong protagonist and less on the antics of her blue suede shoe wearing partner.  I feel that this series has the chance to be a good, suspenseful read if it focuses on the mystery and spends more time letting the reader get to know the main characters.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Pieces We Keep

Author: Christina McMorris
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: November 26, 2013
First Line: "The sound of her name, in that deep familiar timbre, swept through Audra like a winter gale."

Book Description from GoodReads:  Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Note: My sincere thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  This book, right off the bat, has two of my favourite things going for it.  It's a historical fiction read (one of my favourite genres) and it's set in WWII all the while successfully using two different points of view in two different eras to tell the story.

Using two different points of view is tough to do seamlessly.  You have to write two distinctive voices for each of the characters and I feel that Ms McMorris does this very well.  Not only does she write from two different perspectives but these perspectives are set 60 years apart.  Not an easy task. 

In the late 1930's the story follows Vivian James and her beau, Isaak whose love affair is derailed by the beginning of WWII.  In Portland, Oregon in 2012, the story also follows Audra and her 7 year old son, Jack.  Audra is still dealing with the loss of her husband, Devon, starting a new life for herself and Jack and dealing with her in-laws who are still devastated from the loss of their son.  When Jack starts having night terrors Audra will stop at nothing to help her son ... even if it means believing in something she never normally would. 

Ms McMorris successfully writes Audra and Vivian's characters with their own distinctive voices and issues that they were each dealing with.  As a mom I tended to sympathize with Audra.  She has a lot to deal with and her angst and stress came through in the writing.  The stories of these two women, in the beginning of the book, are quite separate but as the book continues the author slowly starts to piece together how these two women are connected.  The suspense and trying to figure out how these two women were connected were my favourite part of the book.  That said though, I did have some issues, as the two stories merged, keeping track of several of the secondary characters and how they were related and involved in the past and present storyline.  

I really liked this book but I wish that certain issues were dealt with in more depth.  Jack's night terrors and the reasons for them (which forced me to suspend my own reality a bit) were interesting but I felt like I needed more of an explanation.  That said, I did appreciate reading, at the end of the book, how McMorris got the idea for this book based on the real life experiences of a boy named James Leininger who experienced similar terrors and memories of a WWII plane crash. I love getting into the head of the author to see how their stories came about.

Was this a 'hard to put down book' for me?  No.  I did find it to be a little predictable but it was an enjoyable read.  I loved that it focused on an era that I'm extremely interested in with characters who were well developed and felt authentic.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Too Close To Home

Author: Linwood Barclay
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 416
Publisher: Bantam 
Publication Date: 2008
First Line: "Derek figured, when the time came, the crawlspace would be the best place to hide."

Book Description from GoodReads“The night they killed our neighbors, we never heard a thing.”

In a quiet suburban neighborhood, in a house only one door away, a family is brutally murdered for no apparent reason. And you think to yourself: It could have been us. And you start to wonder:
What if we’re next?  

Linwood Barclay, critically acclaimed author of No Time for Goodbye, brings terror closer than ever before in a thriller where murder strikes in the place we feel safest of all. Promise Falls isn’t the kind of community where a family is shot to death in their own home. But that is exactly what happened to the Langleys one sweltering summer night, and no one in this small upstate New York town is more shocked than their next-door neighbors, Jim and Ellen Cutter. They visited for the occasional barbecue and their son, Derek, was friends with the Langleys’ boy, Adam; but how well did they really know their neighbors?

That’s the question Jim Cutter is asking, and the answers he’s getting aren’t reassuring. Albert Langley was a successful, well-respected criminal lawyer, but was he so good at getting criminals off that he was the victim of revenge—a debt his innocent family also paid in blood? From the town’s criminally corrupt mayor to the tragic suicide of a talented student a decade before, Promise Falls has more than its share of secrets. And Jim Cutter, failed artist turned landscaper, need look no further than his own home and his wife Ellen’s past to know that things aren’t always what they seem. But not even Jim and Ellen are ready to know that their son was in the Langley house the night the family was murdered.

Suddenly the Cutters must face the unthinkable: that a murderer isn’t just stalking too close to home but is inside it already. For the Langleys weren’t the first to die and they won’t be the last.

My Review:  Linwood Barclay is a Canadian author who has been equated with other highly successful suspense writers like Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner.  Yup, the big dogs of suspense writing.  Unfortunately if "Too Close to Home" is your first book by Barclay I'm afraid you'll come away disappointed.  While I'm almost positive that I've read at least one of his previous books (although the name escapes me -- too many books and all that) I can't say that this book wowed me.

The book started off strong and had me intrigued after the shock of the initial murders.  Unfortunately shortly after that, the pace and focus of the book stalled.  It seemed like too many characters had random skeletons in their closets making it feel scattered, slightly cheesy and the book, generally, just didn't seem to have any direction.

First of all, for a suspenseful read it had an incredibly slow pace and it was predictable.  Predictability and suspense do not make for a good, shocking, edge-of-your-seat read.  I felt like I kept waiting for something big to happen -- some kind of major twist.  The book just kept plodding along until the 'big ta-da' moment which I had already surmised making it less 'ta-da' and more 'ho-hum'.

I think one of the main issues is that the characters were just plain dull.  The book is told through the eyes of Jim Cutter which really limits how much leeway the author has with setting up scenes.  Plus, I just didn't like Jim Cutter.  He was blaw and I had a hard time getting behind him.

I expected a lot more from this book.  Unfortunately with the slow plot, predictability and dull characters stars left me wanting much more from this 'suspense' read.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Monday, 18 November 2013

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

This is a delicious dessert that I made for our Canadian Thanksgiving back in October.  When you have a family as big as I do (and who love to eat) you have to bring your A-game to each family eating event.  Because in our family, eating is always an event.  So how did this dessert stack up with all the appetizers, turkey and fixins?

It was forkful after forkful of happiness for my taste buds and tummy.  Creamy goodness, with a full-on pumpkin pie taste. But it had a richness that you don't get from a traditional pumpkin pie.  Ya, it was good. 

This recipe comes straight from the culinary genius of the amazing food blogger (and fellow Canuck -- so you know he's automatically cool) Kevin Lynch from Closet Cooking.  He has a seriously amazing blog that will inspire you to spend a lot more time in your kitchen.  How can you not love a guy who whips up dishes like: Spinach Artichoke Hummus, Roasted Apple and Aged White Cheddar Soup and BBQ'd Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese?!?  You just can't help but love him ... and hope for a dinner invite.

I can whole-heartedly proclaim that Kevin's Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake is amazing.  It tasted like a rich pumpkin pie.  Being a self-proclaimed pun'kin pie connaisseure I can honestly say that this dessert rocked and gave me even more to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.  Add to the fact that it is super easy to whip up (but make sure you give yourself time to make it a day ahead) and you've got a cheesecake that will impress your guests.

So, to all my many American followers, here's wishing you a happy, healthy and memorable Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones.  Hopefully this dessert will make your Thanksgiving festivities just a little bit sweeter!  To my Canadian followers, I may be a little slow posting this recipe for our celebration but who says you can only make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving?!  No one I want to know.


Source: Closet Cooking

2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons butter (melted)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
3 eggs (slightly beaten)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the gingersnap cookie crumbs, sugar, ginger and butter and press into the bottom and up 1 inch along the sides of a 9 inch spring form pan.

Bake the crust in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes and set aside.

Cream the cream cheese.  Mix in the eggs one at a time followed by the sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla and then the spices.
Pour the mixture into the spring form pans.

Bake until it is set, about 60-70 minutes.

Let it cool completely.

Chill the cheesecake in the fridge overnight.

Drizzle with caramel topping before serving, if desired.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Storyteller

Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 460
First Published: February 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
First Line: "On the second Thursday of the month, Mrs Dombrowski brings her dead husband to our therapy group."

Book Description from GoodReadsSage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

My Review:  As my devoted blog readers know, I don't throw around a 5 star rating easily.  It is very rare when I find a book that seems to have it all -- set in an era that I'm fascinated with, characters who are believable, a plot that is well paced and enough twists to keep me riveted.  Generally, a book that I just can't seem to put down because it's just that good.

This book has all of those things.

I absolutely loved this book and can honestly say that it is the best book, so far, of 2013 for me.  That's saying a lot.

Jodi Picoult and I have not always seen eye to eye on her books in the past so I wasn't chomping at the bit to pick up this book as soon as it hit the shelves.  I'm happy to say that Ms Picoult surprised me.  I found this to be the best book by this author that I've read so far.  She not only deals with a serious and extremely emotional time but she uses her usual knack for giving her readers questions to think about  -- in this instance, questions regarding forgiveness, justice and atonement.

I found this book much more well-rounded and, I guess the word I'm looking for is bigger than her other books.  There were many more layers to this book than the other books of hers that I have read over the years.  I love that there wasn't a court room scene (as was the case of several of her other books that I have read) which becomes formulaic and a bit boring, if I'm being completely honest.  I have not loved all of her books but she has always had something about her writing that was compelling.  Her skill as a writer comes through in full force with this book.

I found it to be a raw and emotional look at the atrocities of WWII but done via different characters' perspectives.  I found it to be very thought provoking.  While I did find the big twist about halfway through a little predictable it didn't detract from me thoroughly enjoying the rest of the book.

One of the aspects of the book that I loved were the characters.  They were so multi-dimensional and Picoult uses different perspectives -- Jewish and German -- to give the reader a very different look at WWII.  Not all Jews were victims and not all Germans were murdering Nazis.  I had never really thought that there were shades of grey within the Holocaust.  It was always much more black and white in my head.

This different way of looking at the characters, as not clichéd good and bad, made me think.  If people did horrific things in the past then turned their lives around and did numerous good deeds, does this erase or provoke us to forgive their past faults?  Does our past dictate who we have to be in the future?  Can we honestly change and redeem ourselves?  Who can offer us that redemption? 

So many questions with some not so easy answers.

If I had to nitpick I'd have to say that there is one thing that I could have done without in the book.  It was an allegorical story (which I won't divulge here).  When it first began I was a little confused about the topic and how it fit into the overall storyline.  It was placed into the main story intermittently and I feel it took up time that I would have preferred to be dedicated to the main storyline.

For this review, I didn't get down into the main plot for fear of divulging too much of the storyline.  All I can say is that I highly encourage readers to pick up this book.  It will move you, make you mad, touch you, make you think and hopefully help you to never forget what happened.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Favourite Quotes:
- "The Priest said, 'What he did was wrong.  He doesn't deserve your love.  But he does deserve your forgiveness, because otherwise he will grow like a weed in your heart until it's choked and overrun.  The only person who suffers, when you squirrel away all that hate, is you." (p 451)

- "Forgiving isn't something you do for someone else.  It's something you do for yourself.  It's saying, 'You don't get to trap me in the past.  I am worthy of a future.'"

- "That person, he is someone I like to think I have never been.  But this isn't true.  Inside each of us is a monster; inside each of us is a saint.  The real question is which one we nurture the most, which one will smite the other." (p 111)

- "Power isn't doing something terrible to someone who's weaker than you, Reiner.  It's having the strength to do something terrible, and choosing not to." (p 146)

- "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank - 'Diary of a Young Girl'

Friday, 8 November 2013

The American Heiress

Author: Daisy Goodwin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 468
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: August 2010
First Line: "The visiting hour was almost over, so the hummingbird man encountered only the occasional carriage as he pushed his cart over the narrow strip between the mansions of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean."

Book Description via GoodReadsTraveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

My Review:  This is another book that I picked up from my local library based on the book cover.  What can I say?  I'm attracted to pretty things and the dress alone in the picture is spectacular.  It's a really beautiful book cover and from the description on the back I was expecting a grand, epic read that follows the life of an affluent American woman plunked down in England in the Gilded Age.  I was looking forward to a lot of plot twists, people being deceived and slandered but in a cool, posh, English way.  Kind of a British version of a Sidney Sheldon novel.

Unfortunately my assumptions didn't pan out and I didn't find it quite as epic as I was hoping.  Not epic at all actually. While it does have a slight Downton Abbey feel to it (especially since it includes the point of view of Bertha, Cora's maid), it just doesn't have the excitement or the riveting characters that are known at Downton.

I wanted to love this book, I really did.  But there were several issues that I just couldn't overlook.  First of all, the pace was extremely slow.  While I realize that large books tend to take a bit of time to get wind in their sails there's also a point at which I need something to happen to propel the storyline and keep me from nodding off.  This book lacked the twists, trials and tribulations. 

It was also a pretty predictable read with certain events happening much too easily and serendipitously for young Cora.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard of someone falling off a horse into the arms of a rich Brit I'd have ..... well, nothing.  Because that just doesn't happen.  But I also realize that it's nice to use our imaginations -- I get that, I do.  But it also has to be believable.  It's a fine line. 

I think another issue with the book are the flat characters.  Cora, the main character, came off as pretty bland, the Duke was also a one-dimensional pompous rich guy and their 'love' felt more like infatuation on Cora's part.  No one really stood out for me as more than a cliché.

This book also skims over a lot of issues that could have made this book have more depth.  It hints at certain social observations but never feels like it gets into the 'nitty gritty' of it all.  Certain characters are brought into the storyline (like the hat maker) and then never really used to their full potential or to progress the storyline.  Why add them at all?
I will say that the book is beautifully written as it describes the locations, homes and clothing of the era.   It was also interesting to see the 'new money' versus 'old money' issue as well as the difference in American versus English attitudes.  But without more depth of the storyline and characters who mature throughout the book I can't honestly say that I liked this book.

It is not an in-depth historical fiction book by any means but could be a fun, light read.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

Ever have a bunch of stressful, filled to the brim with activities weekends all in a row that leave you utterly exhausted and in need of a vacation from your weekends?  

Not me. 

OK, I'm a total liar.

See over the past 7 weekends the Bookworm Family has had something going on from Cub and Scout camps, to Tae Kwon Do testing, to Thanksgiving, to hosting birthday parties.  In case you were wondering, having busy weekends back to back to back may be fun but it is also exhausting.  This past weekend was different.  We had nothing to do. 

Not ... one ... blessed ... thing. 

I like stress-free weekends but an entire weekend without plans?  I don't like that either.  Being the kind of person who can't sit still for long and is always on the lookout for the next fun family thing, I decided that it was my turn to pick what to do.  Friday night our family hunkered down with some pub grub to catch up on our favourite TV shows (The Voice, Big Bang Theory, Survivor and Amazing Race) and we enjoyed just vegging for the night.

Then on Saturday I went shopping by myself (bliss!!) and then met up with two of my fav girlfriends for a supper out.  Lots of cathartic laughs were had and it filled up my Happy Tank. 

Now that I was rejuvenated with Girly Time I decided, early Sunday morning, that a family hike was in order.  So we packed up a picnic, bundled up, grabbed the dog and headed to the beautiful Hilton Falls Conservation Area in Milton, Ontario.  A truly stunning place, really. 

See, I told ya!

A waterfall, gorgeous trails, psychotic squirrels and deep caves that my boys excitedly explored.  Did I explore these deep crevice caves?  Ummmm.  I did go farther than my comfort zone usually permitted (accrued Cool Mom points!).  But I kept imagining what was hiding in the various holes we came across as we climbed up and down the rock crevices so I opted to stay above the ground (lost Cool Mom points).  I also couldn't help thinking that the slit in the side of the hill where my boys entered (with their headlights on) looked more like the entrance to the Mines of Moria.  Sorry Frodo, you're going to have to go it alone! 

Seriously, the slit in the earth was very dark, foreboding (dun dun duuuuh) and so narrow that Brad couldn't even go in.  Perhaps my imagination was working overtime or perhaps there were Orks in them there caves.  I wasn't going in to find out either way.

I did love standing back in awe of how brave my boys were as they eagerly explored these caves that have been there for thousands of years.  Personally, even if Ryan Reynolds, Benedict Cumberbatch and Shemar Moore were all GQing it in the middle of that cave I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to convince myself to venture in.  I'm open to trying this theory out though.  Benedict, call me!

I'm digressing ....  So after an afternoon of crisp fall hiking perfection we headed home to make a prime rib feast.  A perfect end to a delightful weekend.  My addition to the roast beast feast were these glazed carrots.  I don't mind (read: I'll eat them but I won't enjoy them) plain carrots but I MUCH prefer them if they're sweetened up with brown sugar, given a little depth in the flavour department from some molasses and enhanced with the delicate hint of rosemary.  That is a gastronomical home run.  A perfect pairing for melt in your mouth prime rib and baked spuds.

Here's hoping you all had a stellar, stress-free weekend to fill up your Happy Tanks again.  What are some of your favourite things to do to de-stress and just be happy?

Yield: 4 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
3 to 4 large carrots - peeled and cut into approximately 1 cm thick medallions
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp butter
1 sprig of rosemary

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Stir the carrots to coat them with the oil, salt and pepper.

Cook the carrots for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add brown sugar and molasses and stir the carrots to coat them.  Continue cooking the carrots for a few more minutes -- approximately 5-8 minutes.  The sauce should now be bubbling nicely around your carrots. 

Test the carrots with the tip of a knife.  They should be beginning to soften.  Add the butter and the rosemary sprig.  Leave the sprig in with the carrots for a few minutes, gently stirring the carrots. Remove sprig and serve immediately or put them in a serving dish and keep in a low temperature oven.

Source - Inspired by the following recipe: Brown Sugared Carrots by Alex Guarnashcelli from The Food Network

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