So many chives, so little thyme…(ha!)

Summer is here. She snuck in overnight; hidden until today by rain, wind and booming thunderstorms. The sun is shining and my gardens are teaming with mint, basil and chives; all ready to be muddled, minced and whisked into mojitos, salads, dressings and omelettes. My potted chives are back with a vengeance this year. They are full of blooms and for about a month now I have been snipping off stalks to add to my salads and eggs.

Fun chive facts:

  • Did you know the entire plant including the bulb and flowers are edible?
  • They generally grow back every year and are so hard to kill many refer to them as the “gate-way herb” for helping people find their green thumb!?
  • Don’t have a garden? Stick some in a pot and they will be just as happy on your balcony or in a sunny window!
  • Chives like full sun, they enjoy being well watered and the more you cut them back, the more they continue to grow.
  • They have a light onion flavour that adds a fabulous summery taste to anything from potato salads to homemade salad dressings.

Last week I was touring around Instagram (as I do) and was too busy admiring a pretty flower filled mason jar to realize that it was full of chive blossoms. Honey and Butter, a local company known for their beautiful cakes, inspired jellies (like lilac and champagne!), cookies and curd had filled a jar with white wine vinegar and chive blossoms to make an infused vinegar. It was brilliant and beautiful.

Taking a page out of their book, I filled up jars with my myriad of blossoms (which I de-bugged and rinsed thoroughly), a sprig or two of thyme and I promptly drowned it all in white wine vinegar. My plan is to let the jars infuse for a week or so (it gets more purple with each passing day!) and then strain them with a cheese cloth. I figure the final product will elevate my salad dressings, roasted veggies and anything that vinegar generally tastes good on! Small jars would make beautiful and thoughtful gifts for friends and the hosts of summer BBQ’s.

Happy infusing all!

Ps. I am officially finished of the first year of grad school and work is providing a little extra downtime- expect more posts!

DSC_0055DSC_0066DSC_0071DSC_0076DSC_0077DSC_0085DSC_0098

“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.”- Unknown

Last week we had a snowstorm. When I say snowstorm, what I really mean to say is that we got close to 70 cm’s of fresh, white powder in less than 24 hours. That is enough snow to fully bury a car, to close schools, to stop busses and enough to form snow banks taller than a person.

Working as a nurse, I am considered an essential service worker. This means if I am scheduled to work I am expected to make it work. Hospitals don’t close, patients continue to need care. Many times I have found myself shovelling out at 5 am and travelling to work with a shovel in the backseat and a bag of traction sand. I always seem to make it.

Last week was a different story. I was not scheduled to work and happened to have company staying from out of town. We picked up essentials in advance, planned some meals, dug out the board games and my sister trudged through the thick of the storm to join us and have a sleep-over. It was the best snow day I have ever had and luckily we didn’t lose power.

It was so fun that I decided to produce a “Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups”. Adults only because there was a lot of liquor involved….

Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups

1: Prepare in advance.

Get groceries, plan meals, have candles and batteries incase the power goes out. Our shopping list included..

  • Breakfast foods- Bagels, eggs, avocado, cheese, coffee, cream and all the fixings to make spicy gin caesars (gin is superior to vodka in my opinion- try it for yourself!). Gin, Clamato, lemons, celery salt and seasonings.
  • Snacks- storm chips, water, pop and gatorade (you know, incase you get a hang over).
  • Supper- Pizza dough or the ingredients to make it (I get mine from a pizzeria up the road for $2 a ball- can’t beat it!) as well as toppings to dress it up (we used pesto, mozzarella, onions, shaved summer sausage and fresh basil).
  • Liquor store run – besides your gin, you may also want beer, baileys, prosecco and wine (like I said this is a grown-up snow day).
  • Make sure you have cat food. They will resent you if you don’t.
  • Also note: calories and grams of carbs do not count on storm days. Look it up, that is the truth.

2: Be comfy.

Lay out your comfiest sweats so you can roll out of bed and into them while the coffee is percolating. Place winter gear on radiators so they are warm. This will make going out to shovel- which you will have to do, a tiny bit easier. No need for makeup, bathing is optional.

3: Plan activities to pass the day.

Pull out board games, plan a special cocktail recipe, have a great play-list on hand and maybe a movie or two to fall back on.

Our day went like this…

We woke up, had coffee and delicious egg sandwiches with spicy avocado and havarti on bagels. We played a game of crib and then my sister arrived and we began to make (and drink) caesars- they were delicious and went perfectly with a couple of intense games of Settlers of Catan. 

 

Next we made French 75’s- Graeme brought the fixings, all we had to do was make some simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar brought to a boil with lemon zest on the stove until sugar has dissolved – then cool). These are delicious, simple and taste even better when garnished with sugared lemon zest and served in vintage champagne glasses- we are fancy like that.  We made the cocktail in bulk, served it with a ladle and kept it chilled on the front step.  Recipe is as follows…

  • 1 pint of gin
  • 1 bottle of prosecco or champagne
  • 200 mls of fresh lemon juice (6.6 ounces)
  • 120 mls of simple syrup (4 ounces)


 

After all of the caesars and French 75’s we had some snacks- aka storm chips, and the group began to shovel out the five foot drift that had formed in the driveway. My little car was utterly buried and in the end there were six foot banks towering over the sides of the driveway- with that much snow there becomes a point where there is nowhere left to throw what you are shovelling!

Next up was wine and pizza followed by a few games of Wizard and Sequence.  It was a wonderful day and it ended with everyone going to bed full, warm and just a little buzzed.


Hopefully this can inspire your next storm day and I hope you are able to have at least half as much fun as we did!

-m

 

 

 

“Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.”- Johnny Carson

Trust me. I am not one of those people who starts Christmas just as the Halloween candy is just being discounted. I am a mid-December decorator, firmly believing that less is more and that Christmas music shouldn’t be blaring in malls country-wide until December 1st is upon us. That said, I have a tendancy to get most of my shopping done over the year, slowly picking away at it as inspiration (and sales!) comes my way.

In mid fall I try to get a little preserving done and that usually comes in the form of hot pepper jelly (find recipe here) . Every single year my stove top almost catches fire as I try my best to catch the boiling point of sugar just before it hits the “raging inferno” territory. Every single year I have delicious hand-made hostess gifts and neighbour gifts that almost cost me my stovetop. They are also a perfect stand-by for people who stop by your house unexpectedly with a gift for you (we have all been there). This year I decided to step away from the fussiness of jelly (sometimes it doesn’t set properly /sets your stove on fire) to try my hand at a holiday chutney. What inspired me were the enormous bags of cranberries that were on sale for less than two dollars after Thanksgiving and the fact that my love of a bargain left me with twelve pounds of cranberries taking up almost every square inch of freezer space.

Turns out chutney is far simpler to make than jelly, you can easily double the recipe as it relies soley on natural fruit pectins to thicken it and the flavour combinations are endless. Chutney makes an incredible addition to any charcuterie board, pairing well with a variety of cheeses and even standing up to heat when baked on a brie. Chutney is great served with pork and/or chicken and when it combines cranberries, fragrant spices and a touch of cognac, it pretty much sings out Christmas spirit.

Find the recipe below and happy holiday prepping everyone!

-M

Christmas Cranberry Chutney

Yields 12 1/2 cup mason jars

(adapted from American Heritage Cooking but some “artistic liberties” were taken)

You will need:

  • 3.5 cups of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4 cup of seedless raisins (you can omit if you hate them)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups of white, granulated sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground all-spice
  • 6 ounces of water
  • 3 teaspoons (you can omit, use less or use more!) Grand Marnier or cognac/brandy
  • 1/2 cup of finely sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced hello onion
  • 3/4 cup of diced apples (peeled and cored)

Method:

  • Combine cranberries, raisins, water, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until berries really start to pop.
  • Add celery, apples, onion and liquor. Stir well and return to simmer, simmering for at least 15 minutes or until the celery, onion and apples have broken down. I personally chopped my apples roughly so they held a bit of their shape- your call.
  • If processing and canning, pour hot chutney into sterilized/still warm jars, apply lids and process in a hot water bath for at least ten minutes. Follow other processing rules you prefer, that is just how I do mine. Jars that have sealed (lids popped) properly can be stored in a cool dark place for a year or so. Ones that did’t seal properly will be good in the fridge for a few weeks.

csc_4412dsc_4413dsc_0001

 

dsc_0009dsc_0012

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”-F.Scott Fitzgerald

It is finally starting to feel like fall in Halifax. Last week it was 15 degrees and the crocuses were peeking their purple heads up two seasons early. This week there has been rain and when there isn’t rain we are hovering just above zero at night. This makes for marvellous sleeping, rain boots and tartan scarves (my fav). It also makes for dry skin.

My face gets dry starting around Halloween and ending in May. Like clockwork. Every year. I am talking crocodile skin and only on my damn nose. Yes, there are likely far worse things but NOTHING has helped. I have even sought professional advice BEYOND the doors of Sephora. I have educated myself about the benefits of almost every aspect of skin care in the last year and have tested approximately 1,587 products (maybe a slight exaggeration), all in the hopes of preventing the flakey nose situation.

I have learned a lot, my skin looks better than ever, I finally have a routine and I have found a couple incredible products that I thought I would share with you all. Before you say it or judge me, I know what you are thinking; A skin care regime is expensive and many products don’t have visible results. This may be true but you only get one skin, one face and you may as well treat it kindly. Many of you pay a lot to maintain your hair and that is technically just dead keratin. Your skin is the largest organ your body has, it prevents against infection/disease and it makes you look damn fine when it is glowing and healthy. Good quality products last a long time (months and months), a little can go a very long way and there is nothing wrong with prevention.

I am far from an expert, my routine is incredibly basic and limited but here it is as well as some products I love. If you are going to grow your skin care regime I highly recommend testing products before purchasing as well as building it up over time (your bank account will thank you).  As well as below, I also exfoliate every week and try to drink buckets (well lots!) of water everyday.

#1- The most important thing about skin care is… wash your damn face. Don’t sleep in your makeup, don’t be lazy, please wash the day away (makeup, environmental contaminants, sweat). If you have to skip washing your face, do that in the morning. Some people like gels, some like creams, some like miceller water and lately people have bee raving about oil cleansers. Use something you like that doesn’t dry out your skin or leave a residue (i.e. cleansing wipes). It doesn’t have to be expensive, Iris Apfel, the queen herself, uses Cetaphil. Spectro-Gel is also highly recommended. I personally have been loving Pro-Derm’s Gentle Cleanser. It is plant based, oil free, made in Canada, takes off every lick of my makeup and it smells like lavender. Only catch is that other people love it too, it is currently sold out country wide.

#2- Moisturize before you put on your makeup. I personally don’t use a primer but I prep my skin pre-makeup with a decent “light’ cream or oil . If you want to use a day serum (I use a vitamin C one) apply it before the moisturizer. You may want to consider a moisturizer with SPF if your makeup is lacking it. The sun causes not only wrinkles and dark spots but more and more young people are experiencing skin cancer. No one needs that. I personally use a tinted moisturizer that has SPF in it and I like to use Josie Maran Light Oil during the day (expert tip- the travel size bottle will last about a year, you only need a couple of drops).

s1548288-main-lhero

#3- Don’t forget about those peepers. The skin around your eyes is very thin and very delicate.  Applying a moisturizer to the area before concealer will not only prep and protect it but it will also (depending on what you use) minimize the fine lines that makeup likes to get caught in and may reduce puffiness. I have been using Origin’s GinZing around my eyes in the am and I LOVE it. It has caffeine to de-puff and it is sightly illuminating which helps when covering dark circles. I have also switched up my everyday concealer. I have used Benefit for years and just about concealer in their repertoire. They are great for occasions where you really need some mega coverage (aka no sleep for a week, or maybe if you go to a ball with Prince Charming) but they are heavy on your delicate skin. Lately I have opted for Sephora’s Bright Future concealer. It’s light, it colour corrects, it doesn’t cake in fine lines and it has a serum built in. It is also half the price of most concealers and you need very little. Tip- use your ring finger to gently pat on eye creams and blend concealer for less pulling.

s1375625-main-lheros1686062-main-lhero

#4- Night-time. There is a million recommendations out there for pre-bed skin care. I say “wash your damn face”. That is the most important step. If you want to get fancy, use a gentle retinol and/or peptide containing serum. Retinol is basically high dose vitamin A. It will promote collagen production and prevent fine lines. If you are using retinol, which is recommended for anyone over the age of 30, wear sunscreen. It will make your skin more sensitive to UV. After the serum (or after washing your face if you are skipping the heavy hitting vitamins) apply a cream. Maybe one that is heavier than your day cream depending upon your needs.  My dry nose requires a little uuuumph so I have been using Pro-Derm’s Regenerating Cream (and it has been working!!!!!!). Don’t forget about moisturizing your neck (it needs love too) and you may want to try an anti-aging eye cream or gel.

Tah-dah. There you have it, that is what works for me and honestly my skin is 10000X better than it has ever been.

PS.

For the fall I am obsessed with MAC’s lipstick in “Craving” – it is the perfect pop of plumb and far deeper than it appears on the website- see my mug below. I am also loving a cheapie blush from Milani in Dolce Pink (which is almost identical to Nars Orgasm) and in Barry Amore. They clock in under ten dollars, they are highly pigmented and they rival any of the MAC baked blushes.

-m

“Romance is the icing but love is the cake.”- Julia Child

A short few months ago one of the very sweetest people and her equally sweet Irish bloke got married. It was a wonderful celebration filled with so many special moments and just as many lovely details. The night was full of dancing, great food, memorable speeches and it ended with the beautiful bride and her handsome groom singing the night away at the pub up the street (in true Irish fashion). The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony and it all went off without a hitch. It was in short, an incredible day.

There was however, almost a small, teensy-tiny hitch. I was in charge of the wedding cake. She had asked me months prior to her big day and after a discussion on what exactly she was hoping for we had settled on a rustic, naked style cake. I had no idea what I was in for, never baking a cake of any real magnitude before, but I figured no matter what it would all work out in the end. After a trial run of a couple different recipes for the cake/icing and a mock up of what it would potentially look like (with help and encouragement from my dear, patient, friend Heather) a recipe and plan was settled upon.

The day before the wedding, the cakes were baked- A white almond wedding cake that was enhanced by both vanilla and almond extract-four nine inch rounds. They were wrapped in four layers of good quality plastic film and frozen (as per Deb P from Smitten Kitchens suggestion- freezing keeps it fresh AND makes a cake much, much easier to frost). Lemon curd was made, as was a lemon glaze to keep the layers moist. The next day the layers were removed from the freezer and levelled with a sharp knife. As they started to thaw I whipped up a swiss meringue butter cream (found here) and slowly assembled the cake. It went cake, glaze, buttercream, lemon curd and repeat; resulting in the tallest and most tasty sandwich I ever saw. I ensured that some butter cream was spilling over the sides and I used a large, metal icing spatula to scrape the rough frosting around the cake as the cake stand was turned by my sister- resulting in a perfectly rustic and “naked’ cake. It was beautiful and all that it needed was some fresh flowers to finish it off.

I am sure by now you are all wondering where exactly the teensy -tiny hitch comes into play? Well that occurred on route to the wedding. The cake had been in the fridge wrapped up prior to the commute. It was about 32 degrees out with not a breath of a breeze. We ended up stuck behind an accident and despite the air conditioning on high, the cake got softer and softer (thank goodness I chose a meringue based butter-cream, they hold up better and can sit out for hours with no change in consistency). Halifax my dear friends, is a very, very, hilly city. With the cake plate secured between my knees and the cake itself firmly grasped between my hands, we turned onto the biggest and steepest hill that the city has to offer and half of the cake- the part secured with my hands promptly slid, almost directly off of the other half and well off of the cake plate. It was like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I hastily slid it back into place and ran with it into the reception room. Three minutes before the wedding was to begin I was preforming life-saving surgery on the cake with just a butter knife and sheer will. It survived without full CPR and I made it to my seat just barely before Kailee started her decent down the isle.

During cocktail hour my friend Heather and I went to assess the situation and to apply the decorative flowers. The cake looked great and we celebrated with a glass (well maybe two) of Prosecco. Find incredible pictures of the cake and the beautiful couple taken by the ever talented Chelle Wooten, wedding photographer extraordinaire (find her here) below. Thanks Kailee and Pearse for letting me be part of your wonderful day!

kp-wedding-544kp-wedding-690kp-wedding-708kp-wedding-709kp-wedding-710-2kp-wedding-712kp-wedding-713

 

 

 

“Experience is simply the name we give our barbecue mistakes..”-Oscar Wilde

The ever intimidating barbecue. I have wagered a few bets and said a few prayers while trying to work my magic on the grill. I have a tendency to over cook meat and it has taken me years to master grilling a perfectly rare steak but my burgers consistently resemble hockey pucks. There was also an isolated incident where my BBQ may have ended up on fire while cooking ribs. I suppose Oscar Wilde would call me “experienced” in the barbecue sense.

With summer rolling to a soft end, the nights are a little cooler, the humidity is breaking and it is officially my favourite part of summer. Those two weeks where August and September kiss leaving us with the warmest ocean waters, cricket serenades well into the evening and some of the very best sunsets. Traditional BBQ fare is also on sale, or at least the prices come down significantly compared to the high points of summer. That is why I bought a rack of back ribs AND a rack of side ribs last week. I was inspired and apparently I had some extra confidence while strolling through the supermarket.

When I got home I bunkered down and did some research. I was not going to set my bbq on fire again and I wanted them to be fall-off-the-bone, finger-licking-good. Like I said, my bbq confidence was high. What I learned about ribs is that it is better to cook them (par boil or low heat) prior to placing them on the grill. They will be much more tender. I also learned that a dry rub seems to be what most people recommend and it is a traditional southern style of cooking ribs. Deb from Smitten Kitchen swears by it and if it is good enough for Deb, it is good enough for me!

In the end I wound up combining a few recipes based upon what I had in my pantry. They were cooked on low, blanketed in a dry rub, wrapped in foil and then finished on the BBQ with a mop made of my favourite barbecue sauce and the drippings from the foil. I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t tell you that these were hands down, the very best ribs I have ever had. They were so good I forgot to take pictures. They were in fact so delicious, that I took some across the fence to my neighbour who promptly took a bite and asked for the recipe. The next time I see a rack of ribs on sale I won’t hesitate and I will no longer have flash backs of my BBQ on fire.

Happy grilling all!

-m

The Best *EVER* BBQ Ribs

Note:

-When I made this recipe I used both a rack  of side ribs and a rack of back ribs. Both were equally delicious so no need to stand in the meat fridges having a moral grapple over which to buy. Buy whatever is cheaper!

-I used two racks of ribs, which were probably 2.5 pounds each. There was enough dry rub to do four of said sized racks. I had lots left over and I ended up using it on my sweet potatoes prior to roasting them(which was a brilliant and delicious idea!).

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees and lay each rack on a hefty piece of tinfoil (enough package ribs in a double layer).  Let them come to room temp if you have time, if not well that is ok too!

In a bowl combine the following…

  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs onion powder
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 2 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbs cumin
  • 2 Tbs of brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs black pepper
  • 1 Tbs sea salt
  • 1 Tbs dry mustard
  • 1 Tbs cayenne (optional*)

Once combined, pat a good, fairly thick layer of the dry rub on BOTH sides of the ribs (I am not talking about a sprinkle!) and wrap the ribs in tinfoil. Place in pre-heated oven and cook for 2 hrs. Once two hours is up, drain juices out of tinfoil and combine with 1 cup of your fav BBQ sauce (this will make the most delicious mop for your ribs!). Finish on the BBQ not on too high of heat as you will risk burning them. Mop and turn several times with the sauce until they are done. Serve them to someone you want to impress and enjoy!

dsc_4364dsc_4363dsc_4369dsc_4371dsc_4373

 

Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.-unknown 

Today is my birthday. Being my birthday I am allowed to indulge myself in things that I like, no matter how “kitschy” or tacky they are right? Too much pink? No such thing. Pink flamingos ? Sure why not. Cake for lunch? A healthy, well rounded choice. Glittery nails that I will need to remove with a palm-sander?  100% worth it. 

Honestly, I have really been feeling the flamingos as of late. I have always had a love for them, especially the tack-tastic, pink plastic lawn variety. I  keep willing the world to have some magically appear when I am thrifting, just to give me an excuse to indulge my kitschy side in a big way. I own a powder pink silk dress covered in flamingos that I like to admire about once a week. It is fabulous, a touch silly and doesn’t take itself too seriously which I love whole heartedly. My makeup bags mimic the same…

This week I was at the dollar store and I stumbled across the cutest little wire flamingos for flower pots. I didn’t hesitate and I scooped up the only ones they had. I also picked up some bright pink plastic buckets because I couldn’t turn them down for a dollar. My timing was impeccable because Kent had fall mums on for five dollars plus buy one get one half off. Amazing except they came in ugly black buckets which just so happened to nestle perfectly in the pink ones I had just bought on a whim!

At this point I must admit my front steps were looking sharp with the pink buckets, mums and tiny flamingos. I honestly didn’t think it could get much better until I was gifted an antique chair that was destined for the dump. I gave it a quick sand with a palm sander and sprayed it with a clear protective coat. This took all of five minutes and now it is acting as a flower pot holder and come October it will be the perfect pumpkin perch. For twenty dollars my little step was elevated to the perfect kitschy entryway. Is it a little too much pink and maybe a little loud ? Sure… But why not be a flamingo in a sea of pigeons right ?

-m