Friday, February 27, 2015

New Food #2




Continuing with my project for the year to try a new food every month, I bring you New Food #2 - the tamarillo.  I had never heard of it and my interest was piqued when I saw it in the grocery store sitting with the exotic fruits and looking so pretty. The skin is such a pretty blend of reds and peaches and yellows. I actually had to check twice to get the name right as I wasn't familiar with it.

After some Googling I discovered that it is a fruit grown on a small tree and is also called a tree tomato. It is native to South America, but now is grown in many subtropical areas around the world with New Zealand and Australia leading in commercial production and exporting. 

There are yellow and red varieties, with the yellow being sweeter and often eaten like a kiwi scooping it out of the skin. Since the red tamarillo are more tangy, I thought it would make sense to cook a savoury dish with it. I served it with chicken and it was delicious. While I liked the taste, I doubt I will be buying it again too often as it was very expensive. Have you ever had a tamarillo or is new to you too?




Tamarillo Chutney

INGREDIENTS
1 tamarillo
1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

METHOD
1. Cover tamarillo with boiling water and allow to stand for 3-4 minutes. Then drain and when cool enough to handle peel and chop.
3. Cook the onion and garlic in a small amount of oil for about 4-5 minutes.
2. Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook for about 30 minutes (add small amounts of water as needed) until the consistency of jam. Remove cloves before serving.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Fun at Island Lake Conservation Area

  
The husband hasn't skated in about 25 years. I thought he didn't like to skate - or at least that's how I remembered it after all these years, but it turns out his old skates were uncomfortable so he never went. We fixed that problem on Saturday by buying him new skates and on Monday we went to try them out. 

I don't like to skate indoors because of all the nasty smells so I did some Googling to find outdoor skating in our area. We decided to go to Island Lake Conservation Area near Orangeville, Ontario. It turned out to be so much more than just skating and was a great choice.

There was a skating area on a pond for hockey and one out on the lake for pleasure skating. I guess skating is like riding a bike because the husband did well once he got going. It was a cold day (-15C), but no wind so we actually warmed up while we were skating and walking around and even had to take our mitts off. 


  


There were about 40 ice huts on the lake and a fishing derby for the kids. I have seen fishing huts lots of times at the cottage, but never up this close. I looked inside one of the huts (well two, but one of them had people inside looking back at me - gulp). I figured you like interiors as much as I do so I even took a picture of the inside of one. They are a little plain inside and could do with some decorating. In addition to all the ice fishing huts, there were lots of holes in the ice and even a clever contraption to cover the hole and allow access to it.

  











Other activities for the kids included making snow art using paint and bird seeds and minnow races. These were both new activities to me. The snow art would have been something I would have done with my own kids if I had thought of it when they were young, but the minnow races ... well, let's just say the minnows looked a little hypothermic and the rain gutters were freezing over and leave it at that. There were also snow shoe rentals and plenty of trails through the woods to use them on and there were campfires to cook marshmallows and hot dogs. 










Island Lake was a great place to get out and enjoy winter. I'm on the lookout for some more outdoor skating rinks now that we've established that the husband likes to skate.
   

Monday, February 2, 2015

Blueberry Coffee Cake




Do you get the urge to bake when it is cold and wet and stormy outside? I sure do. Today was one of those days - with a winter storm giving me a snow day and putting me in the mood to bake.

I decided to make a version of Ann's blueberry coffee cake (from On Sutton Place). Naturally I can't just make a recipe as is, but have to tweak it somewhat. The husband and I are trying to eat healthier so I cut down on the sugar slightly, used whole wheat flour, and added sunflower seeds. After a long snow-shoveling session this afternoon I had a piece of cake and a cup of tea, and man, did it taste great. 

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup margarine or soft butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
For topping: 
1/3 c. Sugar 
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup soft butter or margarine

METHOD:
1. Mix the first four ingredients together.
2. Add the baking powder and flour in a separate bowl.
3. Add slowly to butter-sugar mixture.
4. Fold in blueberries

5. Pour into 8 x 8 greased pan.
6. Sprinkle topping over blueberry batter.
7. Bake at 350F for 40 – 50 min. or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pineapple Gojju

I have a real treat for you today - a guest post by my friend's 17-year old daughter Molly. She is one of those uber-talented teens who is sweet and thoughtful, studies hard, can do yoga like nobody's business ... and is an amazing cook. She teaches the exercise/yoga class I attend every week and does a wonderful job of tailoring the moves to my aging body. Molly traveled around the world two years ago and fell in love with South Asian cooking. I've invited her to share one of her favourite recipes with us today - Pineapple Gojju - which I can't wait to try.


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It is Saturday morning and as I’m enjoying my pocket of warmth in my bed, safe from the frigid winter air outside, I am already planning what to eat for breakfast (the only motivation for leaving at all). I could opt for my usual meal - oatmeal with some chia seeds or berries on top - but today I have no plans, just a craving for some extra spicy-savoury-deliciousness.

I took a trip to India two years ago with a close family friend of mine and of all the incredible dishes we tried my absolute favourite was the coconut pineapple curry *mouth waters*… it’s the perfect balance of heat and if you love coconut as much as I do, this is bound to become your new ‘fav’ as well.

The majority of our trip was within the state of Karnataka, home to the small town of Hampi, and a few hours from the main city of Bangalore. There was one particular restaurant that holds a fond place in my memory, obviously for the food, but also for the breathtaking scenery.


This was the view from my bamboo mat on the floor

After weaving through a banana plantation for about a kilometer you’d come to a quaint little cafe - The Mango Tree Restaurant (even though there were in fact no mango trees nearby). It looked out on a beautiful green marsh with water buffalo passing by nonchalantly every half hour and monkeys climbing up in the trees… surreal I know.



Once our shoes were off and we were comfortably seated cross-legged on the floor mats the waiter would come around with fresh watermelon juice and our menus.




To the left is me (Molly) - we are very grateful to be under the shade of a big tree and about to eat!

A special bond was formed that day between the curry and me. Since returning home I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe on my own with the help of the Internet and cookbooks. I came up with this version, inspired by a recipe found on food.com, with my own twist.


Pineapple Gojju

Now its quite possible that this dish seems so magical to me because when I ordered it I hadn’t eaten in hours and was so hungry anything would’ve tasted like a five star meal, but I’m putting the recipe out there anyway and I hope you find it’s as comforting and homey on a cold winters day as I do.

So here goes!

PINEAPPLE GOJJU (Serves: 4-8)

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil (I use grape seed) 
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
1 cinnamon stick 
3 clove hearts 
2 cardamom pods, capsules crushed
3 teaspoons ground coriander 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (more or less depending on how spicy you want it) 
1 pineapple peeled and cut into small squares 
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk (I used the Thai Kitchen brand, from a can)
*if you prefer a sweeter tasting curry, add 1 tablespoon of sugar

Optional:
1/4 cup dried currants or golden raisins (I use currants)
Sprinkle of desiccated coconut flakes and/or extra cinnamon when serving.

DIRECTIONS:
1. Prepare all your ingredients.
2. In a frying pan heat oil and fry onion, garlic and whole spices until onions are soft.
3. Add ground spices and stir for one more minute.
4. Add pineapple and stir until well coated.
5. Add salt, coconut milk, and sugar if using.
6. Cook uncovered 5 minutes or until soft.
7. Serve with steamed white or brown rice.
8. Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Fabulous World of The Grand Budapest Hotel


The husband and I recently watched 
The Grand Budapest Hotel. Have you seen it yet? For me the interest lay not in the plot, but in the absolutely fabulous visual designThe plot was interesting, but nothing remarkable ... it is about a conceirge who, with the help of one of his employees, works to prove his innocence when he is wrongly framed for murder. Pretty simple really. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is set primarily in the 1930s and is bookended by portions in the 1960s and 1980s - a double flashback. Each time period has its own colour palatte, but since most of the movie is in the 1930s that is what made the biggest impact on me. 


Wes Anderson, the director and writer of The Grand Budapest Hotel, is known for his meticulous attention to detail in his films (reportedly he even specified the hook the stolen painting was to hang from).
Anderson's use of unique composition and distinctive colour choices make you feel like you have entered a self-contained world. A world that is similar to ours, but different - more controlled, more intense, and quirkier.

I was drawn into The Grand Budapest Hotel's world and was completely intrigued by the visual design. It felt somehow familiar. At first I couldn't put my finger on what made it seem so familiar and then I realized that watching The Grand Budapest Hotel felt like I was stepping into some of my favourite blogs. The forced symmetry, the rich saturated colours, the pastels, the monochromatic look, and the moody lighting are all things that anyone familiar with blog photography would recognize.  

Let's have a look.


RIGID CENTERING AND SYMMETRY:

Most of The Grand Budapest Hotel is shot so you are looking straight at, straight down, or straight up at something. Everything is carefully centred in the middle of the frame - everything from people to buildings to pastries. The style of architecture is classic and symmetrical. It kind of does this symmetrical-loving girl's heart good to see everything lined up and organized like that. Symmetry gives the film a formality (although it is awkwardly formal at times because of the quirky characters and their antics). The rigid symmetry and centering also looks artificial and even a bit child-like which helps reinforce the appearance of this being another world. The symmetry also serves to make you aware of the composition which in turn serves to make you feel like you are looking at another world.



If you have read blogs for any length of time, you will be familiar with the same composition style. Centering the subject and tight symmetrical or semi-symmetrical composition are favourite tools that many bloggers use to take interesting and modern-looking photos of rooms, crafts, travel shots, people, or almost anything really.



Oh Happy Day

SF Girl by Bay

This Heart of Mine

Bright Bazaar

STRONG HORIZONTALS:
One of the other composition techniques Wes Anderson employs is the use of strong horizontal lines. I found this most evident in distance shots, like the one of Gustave and Zero running through the snow in the upper right in the collage below. Of course, horizontal lines happen naturally when you shoot your pictures at a 90 degree angle, but it is emphasized by having people or vehicles move straight across the scene and often at a distance so they appear almost as silhouettes.




Prior to reading blogs, I had never seen family and wedding photographs taken with the subjects standing stiffly side-by-side facing the camera. Now I see this style frequently and have grown to love its quirky composition. One of my favourite variations of this composition style is the photo below of Gabrielle Blair's family (author of Design Mom). The same strong horizontal lines can also be seen in pictures of food, craft items, or travel photos.


Design Mom

Martha Stewart

Design Mom

The House that Lars Built

Brooklyn Limestone


RICH SATURATED COLOURS:

Wes Anderson is also known for the distinctive colour palettes that he creates for each of his films. In The Grand Budapest Hotel he used cheerful reds and pinks and purples in the hotel scenes. The exterior of the hotel was painted a range of intense pinks, the interior had red walls in the concierge and elevator, blush pink walls in the lobby, red patterned carpets throughout, and the staff wore royal purple uniforms. It is a strong and distinctive colour choice, but it also makes the movie.




I see lots of saturated colours on blogs, although not usually as intense as in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Saturated colours appear more in craft projects, flowers, food, and even fashion photographs, than in interior decorating. Most people decorate with more livable neutral colours, although there are a few bright and beautiful rooms out there in blogland.


Young House Love


Real Simple

Decor Sponge



Bright Bazaar


House and Home

PLENTY OF PASTELS:

Many of the scenes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, especially ones that involve Agatha and the bake shop have lots of pink, yellow, and blue pastel colours. 




Pastel colours are a favouite in blogland. Pastels are very livable so are used for pretty much everything from food to fashion to flowers to decor.  The tone of pastels can vary though, from more serious greyed pastels to bright and happy pure-toned pastels.


Martha Stewart


Martha Stewart via Home Depot

Style at Home


Real Simple


West Elm

THE MONOCHROMATIC LOOK:

All the outdoor shots were snowy and overcast creating a monochromatic muted feel to them. The shots even appeared to be black-and-white at times.




The monochromatic look is popular in blogland. It is a calm look, often used in interiors and fashion.




Design Mom

Martha Stewart


MOODY LIGHTING:

The lighting in The Grand Budapest Hotel ranges from bright and intense to dark and moody. I found the dark lighting especially interesting. The background in these shots was dark with the light focused on the character's faces giving them the look of an old master painting.






Woman Writing a Letter by Gerrit ter Borch (source)





Portrait of a Man Holding Gloves, Rembrandt (source)
While dark and moody lighting is found in blogland, it seems to be used selectively. I see lots of moody table settings, food photography, flower arrangements, and even sometimes in photographs of people. What I don't see as much are dark and moody homes - for the most part light and bright is where it's at when it comes to decorating.


Style at Home


Real Simple


Making it Lovely

Martha Stewart

Although many of the blogs I admire remind me of Wes Anderson's design style, I have to give a shout out to Will Taylor, the blogger behind Bright Bazaar, because his blog is the one that most distinctly fits this style. I love Will's photography and composition and when I read Bright Bazaar I get something of the same feel as The Grand Budapest Hotel.

If you want to get a taste of what I'm talking about, here's the trailer to The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The movie is a feast for the eyes and especially if you are a blogger. 


I would love to know what other bloggers think? Did you feel like you had fallen down the rabbit hole of the blog world too when you watched The Grand Budapest Hotel?