Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Sorry, it's been a quiet week. I had all sorts of fun things to post about like snow and Disney On Ice and the like. But then I got gastro. In fact, a few of us who attended Disney got gastro. Thanks Mickey!
I'm on the road to wellness now, but still a little shaky. It will most certainly be an alcohol-free New Year's Eve for me. In fact, it's our eighth wedding anniversary as well, and I bought a bottle of Verve to crack open but haven't bothered to chill it. Will have to take a raincheck on that one.
Instead, we'll head up to the pub for some wings (I'll have salad) and come home to finish our annual re-watch of The Lord Of The Rings. Actually, that's a nice way to see in the new year in my book. The nightmare of huge boozy nights and much larger hangovers are behind us. Thankfully.
We had planned on going to the ice rink for hot chocolate and a night skate but that's way too much effort.
On a happy note we had our first real snow this week. Probably a couple of centimetres worth,and  just enough to cover the city in a white blanket. It's raining now, so most of it has melted away but it was lovely while it lasted. There'll be plenty more snow in the coming months so we don't mind.
Here are some pics. 

 Happy New Year everyone and thanks so much for sticking around.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

From Our Home To Yours...

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you all!  We've had a great time, busy on Christmas Eve having a party and tranquil with only the three of us for Christmas Day. Perfect. We are pinching ourselves that we actually made it to Canada for Christmas. We feel very lucky to be living our dream.
No snow yet, which is the only downer, but that's ok. We get to go skating tomorrow, anyway.
Here are some pics from our celebrations...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Search Of Cooking...

Well, it's time for another recipe. It's been a mad week, as it always is just before Christmas, so I decided to go with ingredients I have on hand. The recipe which best fit last night's fridge contents was Broccoli and Lemon Risotto.
I'm certainly NOT the Queen of Risotto, tending to opt for the lazier rice-cooker option I used to have down patt. But a new country means a new type of rice cooker and that recipe just doesn't fly anymore. Sniff.
This recipe wasn't quite right, IMO, so here is how I would cook it next time...

Broccoli and Lemon Risotto

6 cups vegetable stock (the recipe called for 4 cups but this was nowhere near enough, guess it depends upon your rice?)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (chopped mine, keep forgetting to buy a garlic crusher)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
125g broccoli florets
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (didn't have any parsley and couldn't find it in the shops either)
finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon (chopped my lemon peel as i keep forgetting to buy any type of grater, let alone a zester!)
freshly grated parmesan to taste (this wasn't in the original recipe, but i don't think risotto tastes right without it. however we had to use cheddar because of the whole grater issue, bought one today!)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Place stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Leave simmering. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 mins.

2. Stir in rice. Cook for 1 minute. Add wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add 1 ladle of stock and cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is absorbed. Continue until all the stock is used and the rice is tender (this is where i needed more liquid). Add broccoli 2-3 minutes before end of cooking time.

3. Stir in parsley (if you have it), lemon zest and juice and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Stand for 3 minutes then serve. I certainly think this recipe needed parmesan as well!

So, there you have it. A perfectly respectable first attempt at 'real' risotto. I will continue to try other risotto recipes until I land on a favourite. I hear the Jamie Oliver one is pretty good.

Daddy kindly kept Poppet busy whilst I was cooking. This meant I could enjoy a glass of wine and listen to the latest 'Wittertainment' podcast. If you're not familiar with it and you like a good movie review radio show, click here to download it. You won't be disappointed.
Tonight is hotdogs a la Daddy. I'm off to yoga.
Hope your Christmas prep is going ok. Feel free to tell me about your favourite risotto recipe if you have time!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


We hit the ice today. Well, not quite 'we'. I've been warned off skating and skiing because of my titanium hip (falling puts me at risk of dislocation) so I do the sidelines/support thing. Hot chocolate anyone?
The local government funds ice rinks all over town. Free ice skating. Yep.
We joined some Aussie friends today for Poppet's first spin on the ice. She had the most amazing time. Poppet can sometimes be the child who falls and cries and wants to give up (except where monkey bars are involved) but she just laughed when she fell and got back up again. Good girl. And also reassuring considering what we've spent on skates and helmets and the like.
After an expected wobbly start, she had a go with some props but then decided to just get out there and have a go. It's going to take some time but she seems to have found her balance and is being patient with herself which is a good sign. The local children zipped past the Aussies at alarming rates, who knows how long it will take us to catch up!
I think it was about zero degrees at the rink. And there was a big pile of 'snow' at the side to play in when the skating got too much.

Here are some pics...

After the skating we went to a friend's place for pizza and wine. What a fantastic afternoon. We plan to skate every weekend. Need to make the most of the 'ice time'....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Casualties of Expatting.

Expatting is a great adventure. New sights, new sounds and new smells. New faces and friends. 
We have now arrived on the other side of the trickiest part of the process and are happily awaiting a nice, cold Christmas in Toronto.
It is now that I find I have time to reflect on our adventure to date. I certainly have no regrets, and there is a great deal to look forward to still. But let's take a look at what has gone awry.
Certainly the wheels have fallen off of the business 'wagon'. That will be addressed in the new year. Promise!
Possibly the greatest casualty for me has been the loss of my cooking mojo. 

image via here

Once upon a time I loved cooking.  I made sauces from scratch, whipped up fresh pasta and pizza dough and did all sorts of things in the kitchen with my kid. I helped create a recipe book as a school fundraiser, as I just loved the idea of compiling and sharing really useful recipes from other parents. 
And yet, after moving through various kitchens, including family kitchens and hotels, I'm finally settled in my new kitchen but I don't seem to be able to make it 'work'. If you've moved house you'll be familiar with that nesting period in a new place, in which you forget how to boil and egg and seem to burn everything you touch.
My new-found cooking 'Alzheimers' seems to encompass how to boil pasta and make fresh pasta and everything in between. I can't remember what I used to put in my fail-safe risotto or vegetable soup. I can't find ingredients which resemble the ones from home. The vegetable stock (broth) here is MUCH saltier than the one at home so we have all overdosed on taste from time to time as I experiment my way from one culinary disaster to another. Tofu is different, sliced bread is full of sugar (in fact, the sugar content in a lot of things is as disturbing as the levels of salt which seem acceptable!) and even the smell of the bread can make me queasy. There are some great bakeries around offering sour dough and fresh bread options which are a great relief.
Thankfully spaghetti bolognese seems to be truly fail-safe. Phew. Doubly thankfully (interesting word choice) we have been eating out a lot lately. There are lots of great places to eat around here, but in true North-American fashion there are an awful lot of carbs on the menu. If I see another sweet potato fry I may just scream.
There have been a few successes, I even managed to cook a rather nice steak for Husband a few weeks back (the butcher wrote the instructions down for me!).  Not bad for a vegetarian.
And that is another complication. By the time I've figured out a decent meal for my family, I've forgotten to provide a vegetarian option for myself. I wouldn't darken the door of any restaurant which didn't serve a vego option. Yet I rarely provide myself with a nourishing meal (and it's worth mentioning here that I have a very vegetarian-friendly husband, so no excuses there).
Hellooooo Scurvy! Lately I've been inhaling an apple a day in a crazy bid to put something healthy into my system. Enough already.
I've decided to force myself to try a new VEGETARIAN recipe every week. And the only way I will actually be held accountable is if I put that recipe and it's results on the blog. You can all nag me if you notice a lack of food posts. Please.
So here is tonight's dinner....

Cream Of Mushroom Soup
30g butter/margarine
1 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, chopped (I only had a red onion in the fridge)
about 300g mushrooms, sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup cream (I used milk)
salt and pepper to season (if you live in a world with low-sodium broth options)
juice of half a lemon
chopped fresh parsley (nup, didn't have any fresh herbs handy)

1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan, fry the onions and mushrooms over a medium to high heat for 5 minutes, until softened and most of the juice has evaporated.

2. Add the potato, stock (it's always nice if you can have a French translation on your stock, to add a bit of 'ooh la la' to your cooking) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

3. Puree the soup (I used a hand blender), stir in milk and gently reheat. Ladle into bowls, squeeze in some lemon juice, top with that fresh parsley that YOU, of course, have on hand. 

We had ours with some crusty baguette and it was actually quite yummy. Husband isn't a big fan of mushrooms but he liked it too. I didn't push my luck and expect Poppet to eat it. Not many kids eat mushrooms after all..

Yay for me! I cooked, darn it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

We went downtown on Friday night to have a look at the Christmas windows and decorations. The mall down that way has a enormous decorated atrium and the department store downtown always does lovely animated windows. It was certainly cold when we set out, about minus 3.  Layers upon layers of clothing are needed these days (it's currently minus 10 as i write this, very sunny) and every outing needs extra time for donning all the bits required to keep you warm. Allow an extra 20 mins.

We got the streetcar, which Poppet still thinks is a great adventure, and we love because there's no driving involved and the stop is quite close to our house. After a 20 minute ride we were arrived at Yonge-Dundas Square. First we saw some polar bears...

Then we wandered a block to the Eaton Centre to check out their atrium. Wow. Rudolph and his friends and an enormous tree covered in crystals. Poppet was rather impressed!

Fortunately there's an elevated and enclosed crosswalk between the Eaton Centre and The Bay, which is the store we were heading to next. Nice to keep out of that cold wind for a bit longer, but that also meant I had to carry various gloves and hats and scarfs without dropping anything. Always a challenge.
So, once we got through the crowds and the makeup and jewelery departments and donned our gear again, we emerged back into the cold and found these amazing animated windows. There were five windows in all, and we probably spent an hour gazing at them. There were so many details to absorb.
I think Poppet's face says it all...

With Christmas carols blaring from the store speakers, it was rather fitting that it began to snow. Only a light dusting, but certainly enough to get us Aussies very very excited. We dragged ourselves away from the windows to make our journey home. In the distance we saw more Christmas lights and decided to investigate. It was at Nathan Phillips Square that we stumbled across this...

Poppet may have actually been drooling. We will have to head back soon and put some skates on ourselves.

What a magical evening. We hadn't expected to enjoy it so much. It is always worth braving the cold in Toronto and heading out. We are still to explore the many museums and galleries downtown, they are the perfect thing to do when it's cold. And it will certainly get colder. We may even get enough of that white stuff to make the place look really pretty. 
I don't know what it is about being cold in December, but it just feels more like Christmas to me here than it ever has down under. We are putting our 'merry' on like never before. Husband has even been caught singing along to carols. Incredible.
Hope your Christmas preparations are coming along nicely, wherever you are!
I'm off to bake brownies...


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