Today is my sister’s 30th birthday!
We celebrated by going out for dim sum yesterday and wood oven pizza today. . . followed up by these amazing ‘goddess kisses’ (fried dough balls tossed in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with chocolate)
Aside from being a milestone, her Dirty Thirty birthday is an especially exciting one since she and my brother-in-law don’t have to worry about driving back home to Illinois today. They’ve moved back to Windsor, for good! And they bought the house right next door to ours! Doesn’t get much better than that.
Spring is in the air!
The weather has finally started to take a turn for the better and the signs of spring are starting: waking up to the birds chirping, seeing the tulips and daffodils sprout, and being able to go out without a jacket without developing hypothermia.
My favourite sign of spring started to appear a while ago though: Cadbury Mini Eggs!
I started and finished reading Sarah’s Key this week.
The book club that I was in last year was on hiatus and is finally being revived and Sarah’s Key was April’s selection. I enjoyed this book about a woman’s journey to investigate a young girl’s experience during The Holocaust but would have liked more Holocaust story and less of the modern day. It was no Night, but it was good.
I bought another 10 class pass to the Moksha Yoga studio.
In yesterday’s class I almost got myself into full expression of peacock pose (mayurasana). I got closer than ever. I was really excited. Now I have yet another pose that I’m keen on mastering.
Mayurasana – What a cute print! (source)11 Comments
Three cheers for a day off! It’s Family Day and I’m relaxing on the couch with Bagigis after a good workout and a few chores. It’s a nice change from Monday mornings in the office that’s for sure.
This weekend we went out to celebrate my friend Tina’s birthday which was this week. Last weekend I made her a panettone for her birthday (I’m trying to hone my panettone making skills) which turned out pretty good, though I think I would have liked it a bit sweeter.
This weekend we went out to celebrate.
The plan was to go ice skating at Charles Clark Square downtown Windsor and then head for drinks somewhere. Since we ended up getting at least an inch of snow that afternoon, the rink was closed for cleaning when we got there so we headed straight for the bar instead—The Kilt and Fiddle.
Late in the night when we had our fill of drinking we decided to try skating again. . . only everyone was too cold to bother putting their skates (except one brave soul: Kyle) on so we ended up just sliding around the ice in our shoes.
I really wanted to actually skate . . . but at least I still have a few weeks of cold weather ahead of me to get out on the ice.
Happy Birthday Tina!8 Comments
Wishing a very happy birthday to my favourite. . .
Read Part 1, my January to June recap here.
This epic month involved two and a half glorious weeks in Greece, which has been my dream vacation for so long.
We explored the labyrinthine streets of Chania, hiked the gorges of Loutro, visited the Minoan palace of Knossos in Heraklion, saw the blue domed churches and whitewashed buildings of Santorini and took in ancient Greek culture at the archaeological sites of Athens.
Matt and I had our 4th wedding anniversary.
I had my champagne birthday – 27 on the 27th.
And for my birthday Matt and I went to Chicago to experience the best new restaurant in the US, Next, and their Sicily menu– 13 courses including this roasted pork shoulder, the most delicious piece of meat I’ve ever eaten.
I was an extra in a movie.
I’m ready for my close up!
I was inspired by the summer Olympics to start incorporate Olympic Weightlifting (Cleans, Jerks, & Snatches) into my workouts and I’ve been loving them ever since.
And I started a plan to lose 6cm from my waist, which is still in progress right now, but may have stalled a bit over the Christmas holidays. I’m tracking my progress in the right sidebar.
I cooked up a big batch of my favourite soup ever: Fire Roasted Corn Chowder.
My ciabatta bread won second place at the sham show otherwise known as the Harrow Fair. The judges must have taste buds in their eyes since they managed to pick a winner without even tasting the bread.
I kicked off the long and boring football season by going to the Detroit Lions home opener at Ford Field with my dad, his girlfriend Silvia, and Matt. I admit it was an exciting game with the Lions scoring the winning touchdown in the last 10 seconds.
I captained a team in the Run for the Cure for the 7th consecutive year in honour of my mom who passed away from breast cancer in 2006.
I went Apple Picking.
I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K race in downtown Chicago with Vicki and Tina that culminated with a hot chocolate and fondue party in Grant Park.
I got a personal record on my deadlift with a 225lb lift.
I watched Matt coach his football team to their first ever division victory.
I baked these amazing Filipino date & walnut bars appropriately named Food for the Gods.
I did 14 straight days of Moksha Hot Yoga.
I switched up my weightlifting routine to build strength in 2013 with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 programme.
I finished the year with yet another wonderful Holiday Season where I cooked a lot, got together with my family, watched my stunning cousin marry her perfect match, and ate fondue with friends.
Read Part 1, my January to June recap here.5 Comments
Today is my Nonna’s birthday. She’s a young 89.
Everyone comments on how cute she is. All. the. time. There’s something about her Italian accent combined with her emotional expressions of gratitude and her height of 4’10” that makes people find her adorable.
I hope people think I’m cute at 89.
Anyway, I made her a cake because 1) It’s her birthday (obviously), and 2) she likes sweets almost as much as I do.
I used this recipe for Juniper Chocolate Cake which I thought sounded delicious (I love the pinecone-y taste of juniper berries). It burnt a little at the top, but I wasn’t worried because I was going to cut the top off to even it out and frost it. Matt sampled some of the trimmings last night after I baked the cake.
“Umm. . . it tastes really burnt.”
I taste it.
“It’s not that burnt, are you sure that’s not the juniper that you’re tasting?”
“Oh. So, it’s supposed to taste like that?” . . . followed by a disgusted face that Matt was trying very hard to disguise.
Disregarding Matt’s opinions, I thought the texture of the cake was great. It was nice and dense and substantial (which I really like in a cake). I didn’t mind the taste, and actually the more cake that I ate the more I liked it. But, yeah, the juniper flavour was a tad on the strong side and I could have lived without it.
I topped the cake with this recipe from Joe Pastry for Heritage Frosting, which is buttercream for poor people (or calorie conscious people, if that’s your bag). It uses a cooked flour&milk combo beaten into the standard butter&sugar combo of buttercream. It’s dead simple to make and while it doesn’t taste quite as rich as American buttercream, it is still very sweet—just the way frosting was meant to be.
It’s nothing fancy, but you all know I can’t make anything look nice.
So I made a dense chocolate cake with sugary frosting that was surprisingly quick and easy to pull together. Were it not for the strong juniper taste this would have been the perfect cake.
Nonna liked it, but she likes just about anything that contains sugar and butter (and, God bless her, she’s 89 and not diabetic. I hope I have her genes.).
Back in the old country in the 1920s, if you were lucky, for your birthday they would make pinza: just flour mixed with figs and cooked under embers until you got a rock hard ‘cake’ that would, according to Nonna, “break your toes if you dropped it on your foot.”
I guess anything is better than the pinza.2 Comments
On Saturday night I had the best dining experience of my life at Grant Achatz’s Next Restaurant in Chicago.
If you don’t know anything about Next, it is a restaurant in Chicago’s meatpacking district owned by the famous chef Grant Achatz (of the high-end molecular gastronomy restaurant Alinea). Next opened last year and won the James Beard for Best New Restaurant in the US. The restaurant has a prix fixe menu centred on a certain theme that changes every few months and you don’t make reservations to Next, you buy the nearly impossible-to-score tickets.
So let me back-track to May 31 when I noticed a facebook post from Next Restaurant:
It’s GO TIME.
In a flurry on excitement, I logged onto the Next website within seconds of this post and whipped out my credit card (highly unlike me if you know anything about my spending habits—or lack thereof). Even 2 minutes after the tickets went on sale, most of the tables at reasonable dining times were booked. After taking far too much time trying to decide which weekend my sister would most likely be in Illinois (so I could crash at her place) I settled on my birthday weekend (happy birthday to me!)at the only seating left: 10:30pm.
I’ve been spending the last 2 months explaining to everyone I know why they should be ridiculously excited for slash jealous of me for having these tickets.
So on Saturday night after an early pre-dinner in Geneva with Vicki, Matt and I got all dressed up and headed downtown Chicago for our late, late dinner.
Our table ended up being about half an hour late which was a blessing in disguise because the host ended up giving us wine pairings for free! (I was far too cheap to pay the $65pp for those) and the hostess used our waiting time to give us a tour of the kitchens of both Next and The Aviary—the bar next door whose huge kitchen was exclusively for making ridiculously awesome cocktails—where we caught glimpses of Grant Achatz and Dave Beren.
Next’s kitchen was SO clean and organized. It was pretty impressive too how calm it seemed to be in contrast to the more frantic pace of The Aviary kitchen next door. The hostess showed us the information that they track on each table’s ticket which was extensive given the fact that everyone is eating the same thing. In addition to the obvious, like food allergies, they also kept track of where the woman was seated, when someone left the table to use the washroom, every time a dish was served or cleared from the table, and even whether someone in the party was left-handed! The attention to detail the staff paid to the diners made for some of the best service I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant (granted, I’ve never eaten at such a renowned restaurant before).
Aside from the fact that the food was amazing and the service was impeccable I liked that the staff gave us information about everything that we were eating and all the wines that we were drinking. Most of all though, the whole staff and even the restaurant itself felt very unpretentious a fact that I found surprising given that the restaurant itself has an air of exclusivity.
The menu was 13 courses of deliciousness with 1 apertivo and 4 wines.
(For pictures of the dishes that are actually good, check out this flickr stream. Whose it is, I have no clue.)
Panelle: Fried chickpea flour crackers. These were tasty.
Arancine: Stuffed with deliciously tender lamb. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce though.
Caponata: Made with eggplant and celery and probably $30 worth of pine nuts. I <3 pine nuts.
Charred Artichoke – You just eat the soft and deliciously charred tasting insides. SO good.
Bucatini with Bottarga – I learned that night that I do not like bottarga.
Gemelli with Sardines – I do, however, love sardines. Matt doesn’t. He still thought this was the most delicious pasta ever. I could have stopped here, satisfied with probably one of the best pastas I’ve ever had (not counting my Nonna’s of course!). I was full…but there was so much more to come.
Swordfish with Roasted Garlic and Mint – I found the swordfish just slightly overcooked, but I loved the minty flavour.
A mix of boiled and fried chickpeas with a lemon dressing – probably my favourite dish of the night and the best chick peas I’ve ever had.
Roasted Pork Shoulder – I was stuffed at this point but had to eat a generous portion of the shining star of the evening- pork shoulder. This bad boy was the most tender piece of meat I’ve ever sunken my teeth into.
Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers in a Tomato Vinaigrette – Really flavourful. The fried zucchini flower was awesome.
Blood Orange Granita – this must have been made from really, really good blood oranges. A nice segue into desserts.
Cassata – it’s the official dessert of Sicily so it had to be featured on the menu. I loved this light and not too sweet cake (my birthday cake) a lot that I had no trouble clearing my dessert plate. The server brought it out to me with a little candle . . . a trick candle!
Cannoli, Ravioli Fritti, and Sesame Honey Cookies – the cherries in the cannoli really made them good, otherwise I have to say that I’ve had better. The other cookies weren’t bad but I was too caught up with my cassata to really pay much attention.
I’m so stoked that I got a chance to eat and drink at Next, and to tour their kitchens. It was a pretty memorable experience and an awesome birthday present. I’m contemplating attempting to snag tickets for the next theme, Kyoto, but maybe I should pace myself and save it for another special occasion.9 Comments
I’m 27 on the 27th.
I feel like age 27 is going to be a good year. It’s just one of those feelings.
I want to make a list of all the things that I want to accomplish at 27, but I don’t even know where to start it or, for that matter, finish it.
So instead I’m keeping my options (and my mind) open for whatever happens to come my way this year.
…okay maybe I’ll put one thing on the list: a 225lb squat.No Comments
My sugar-free Lent went fairly well. I cheated a few times with hard candies if my sugar craving was really bad and I started to get lax about the sugar-laden condiments, like ketchup or plum sauce, the closer it got to Easter but for the most part I did okay.
I broke my fast at my family’s dinner celebration on Good Friday. Actually, that’s a lie. I broke my fast on Holy Thursday when someone at work offered me a mini cinnabon and I thought, “eh, why not? I’ve never had one before” and gave it a try. Oh heavens! That frosting they use is delicious.
So I broke fast again on Friday with my sister’s homemade birthday cake (that I somehow neglected to take a picture of, I swear I took one!)
2 layers of delicious chocolate cake
filled with strawberry curd
and frosted with white buttercream
And I also had some of the Colomba di Pasqua that I made.
Colomba di Pasqua means Easter Dove. It’s an Italian yeasted bread with candied fruit and raisins that is shaped like a dove and served at Easter. My favourite part is the topping which is a sweet paste of ground almonds, egg whites, almond extract, and sugar that makes the colomba taste like it’s covered in amaretti cookies.
I tried to make my colomba tropical by adding in shredded coconut and candied pineapple that I soaked in coconut rum straight from the Philippines. I thought it turned out quite good!
And I actually learned to properly shape the colomba so it actually looks like a dove.
Sort of. Kind of. You see it don’t you?
Saturday I broke my fast again with Matt when we drove all the way out to the Dairy Freez in Cottam for ice cream. I haven’t been to the Dairy Freez since I was a kid.
It may be blasphemous to say but I think I prefer the sundaes at Dari DeLite on Howard Ave.
On our way home from the Freez we stopped at Schinkel’s in Essex where I found the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten (and yet another way to break my sugar fast):
What is speculaaspasta you ask? It’s a creamy, smooth spread made from speculaas, you know, the Dutch gingerbread that I deemed to be my new favourite cookie this year. Yes, a spread made from cookies. It’s genius.
It’s a little on the pricey side at $6.50 for this wee jar, but it was definitely worth the money to taste it. I’m not entirely sure how to use it. Mostly I’ve just been eating it by the spoonful out of the jar. I tried some on my colomba and it was heavenly. I can imagine it being very good stirred into vanilla ice cream. My Dutch friend Heather said that her grandparents ate it on thick round crisps.
Matt said he like it, but he is still firmly rooted in Camp Nutella, whereas I might be a Camp Speculaaspasta convert. I apologize to my Italian heritage.5 Comments
Happy Birthday to my awesome husband. To my best friend. To the person who makes me happy every day.
I asked Matt what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday and he replied with chocolate as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. I was kinda hoping to make a white cake, but I obliged.
I’ve had the recipe for Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream bookmarked ever since it was posted on Global Table Adventure and have been waiting for an occasion to make it. I figured since I would be serving cake to Matt and his brother (who’s birthday is tomorrow) on Sunday night during the football game, a cake with beer in it would be an appropriate choice.
I really liked this cake recipe and will keep it on hand to make it again. The cake comes out rich and dense (which I much prefer to a light and fluffy cake). The Guinness enhances the chocolate flavour (the same way that adding espresso to chocolate cake does) but doesn’t make the cake taste like beer at all.
I’ve never made buttercream before and this one turned out really well. Sometimes buttercream can be gritty but this one wasn’t. It was smooth and sweet and had a great Bailey’s flavour. I wish I would have left the cake out at room temperature before serving though because the buttercream really firmed up and I prefer it to be a little creamier.
Instead of baking two 8″ layers, I made one 9″ round cake and used a sharp bread knife to cut the cake in half so I could fill it with buttercream. As a result, and because I ate a bunch of buttercream while the cake was in the oven, I had to double frosting recipe.
This is a perfect celebration cake.
Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream
Makes one 8″ layered cake, or one thinner 9″ layered cake
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 cup Guinness Extra Stout
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
For the buttercream (double recipe if making a 9″ cake):
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 Tbsp Bailey’s, as needed
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Melt the butter in the microwave then whisk in the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. Allow to cool.
Grease and line the bottom of one 9″ cake pan (for a 9″ cake) or two 8″ cake pans with parchment paper.
Stir together the dry cake ingredients. When combined, pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, then whisk in the 2 eggs.
When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour evenly into two prepared cake pan(s).
Bake for 30-35 minutes for 8″ cakes or 45-50 minutes for 9″ cake, or until a skewer comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, prepare the buttercream. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the softened butter and sugar and add in just enough Bailey’s to get it loose and fluffy. Allow to whip for 5-10 minutes until light and fluffy.
Once the cake is done baking, cool completely.
For a 9″ cake, cut the cake in half lenghtwise with a sharp serrated knife. Top the bottom layer with frosting (~1/3 of the buttercream).
Top the frosted bottom with the second layer.
Line them up and then spread a crumb coat of frosting on the entire cake. This is optional but highly recommended, so you don’t get brown crumbs in your white frosting. Coat top and sides with another 1/3 of the frosting mixture. Spread it all over, nice and thin. Refrigerate to set it. At this point, you can refrigerate the cake overnight. Easy, peasy.
Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add the final 1/3 of the frosting to the cake — top first, then sides. Spread it around evenly.
It was one of those weekends when I had a million and a half things going on, I got nothing done around the house, and wished I had 2 more days off to just unwind.
Friday – Carrousel of Nations
One of my favourite times of year here in Windsor is the Carrousel of Nations which is a festival that different cultural groups in the city participate in over 2 weekends in June. Each cultural group showcases their cuisine, music, and dancing at different locations or “villages” all across the city.
Windsor is a really diverse city so there are lots of different ethnicities showcased at the Carrousel from Italian to Serbian to Chinese to Scottish but my favourite is, by far, the Greeks.
I wait every year to have my annual gyro (seriously, I only have a gyro once a year) at the Greek village because it is AMAZING.
They also sell saganaki, spanikopita, souvlaki, honey balls, Greek salad, and baklava. All of which I’ve tried and loved, but the my heart lies with the gyro.
Afterward we hit up the Caribbean Village which always has the best entertainment. They had a great Caribbean band playing on Friday night. Usually there are dancers and drummers at the Caribbean Village as well, but maybe they were scheduled on a different night.
Matt ordered a Chicken Roti which was delicious (and enormous, so he only ate half) and his brother got the Jerk Chicken. I nibbled on some fried plantains which I have to recreate at home. I love all the West Indian flavours.
I could have gone to a few more carrousels, but we decided to call it a night after the Caribbean Village.
Saturday – My Dad’s Birthday
Saturday I went to an early spin class that my sister Vicki was teaching. I haven’t been to spinning in a while but whenever Vicki comes home from Illinois and teaches a class then I try my best to attend. It was a great class and reminded me that I should go to spinning a bit more often. It’s so much more fun than other forms of gym cardio *cough* elliptical *cough*.
In the afternoon, my dad had a huge birthday party with about 60 friends and family at Spago on Erie Street. It was a big party to celebrate life. My dad was recently very sick and hospitalized for 2 months he has almost completely recovered. After all the stress of that ordeal it was a well deserved party for all of us.
Me and my Dad
The food there was phenomenal. We had calamari, beef, chicken, arancini, caprese salad, pizza, and desserts. And of course, vino.
The Fam – Me, Dad, Vicki, and Nonna
Afterward a group of us headed to The Keg downtown on Riverside Drive for more drinks and appetizers on the patio. The Keg has the greatest patio in Windsor by far with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the Detroit skyline.
Sunday – Early Morning: Coppens’ Birthday
After everyone left The Keg, Matt and I hung around downtown for a while waiting to meet my friend Coppens for her 26th birthday at the nightclub The Room.
We strolled along the waterfront and checked out SummerFest which is going on Downtown for the next few weeks and then wandered around the casino (because neither of us are big gamblers).
Then I got a text: “We’re at the club” and even though I was exhausted from the long day, Matt and I headed to The Room to meet Coppens and her friends and to get our groove on. It’s been a while since I’ve been out dancing – it was a great time! Happy Birthday girl
Me and Coppens
Sunday – Father’s Day
I got a wake up call from my sister Vicki at 9 this morning. I was exhausted so I slept in late in spite of the fact that all the blinds were drawn and the house was beaming with light. We planned to bake my dad a birthday cake in the morning and bring it to his place for lunch.
Vicki is a pretty expert cake baker. You may remember her amazing coconut cake and red velvet cake. She also made her sister-in-law’s wedding cake and phenomenal cupcakes for my own wedding. Anyway, she said we wouldn’t have enough time to make a cake for the afternoon between prepping it, baking it, letting it cool, and then frosting it. So we went with a chocolate espresso torte instead. My dad likes chocolate (who doesn’t?) and espresso, so it was a win-win.
Vicki looks innocent even when wielding a knife
The cake was flourless and neither of us has baked a flourless cake before so we weren’t quite sure how it would turn out. We had a bit of trouble folding the whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter because the batter was SO thick, but it ended up turning out okay.
I’m not exactly the greatest when it comes to decorating things which is why I stick with baking cookies and bread instead of cakes and cupcakes. Vicki almost pissed her pants laughing at my glaze-drizzling “skills” because the cake was clearly looking hideous. …nothing a little powdered sugar can’t fix, I guess.
Now I’m off to Amherstburg to have dinner with Matt’s parents for Father’s day. Yeesh! A girl can’t get 5 minutes of down time this weekend. I know I didn’t really post my food journal for the weekend but you can imagine that I ate A LOT. Especially desserts : / I could definitely go for something very green tonight!4 Comments
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- Lose 6cm from my waistline
Start (Aug 15): 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Aug 31: 82cm /89cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Sep 20: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 1: 83cm/ 88cm/ 165.6lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Oct 31: 81cm/ 88cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb