How I spent the summer of 2010

A picture tour of some of the highlights and favourite memories of the summer of 2010:

A favourite way to spend a summer night in our newly landscaped backyard! We just didn't do this often enough!

* Wright Landscaping

Hot dogs taste best cooked over an open fire and eaten outdoors - slathered in condiments!

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Hope and Help for Haiti

Giving money to help the people of Haiti will buy food, tents, medical supplies and other essentials, but if you want to do more than just write a cheque, or you want to donate in a different way, consider this opportunity.

The Mennonite Central Committee is looking to collect 20,000 relief kits. The kits are to include a collection of specific items including personal hygiene supplies, laundry soap, towels and bandages. The list of contents for the kits can be found at

Pack the relief kits in a box or bag and deliver by Feb. 28 to any of the drop-off locations in Canada or the United States listed at MCC will repackage the kits in new five-gallon buckets.

MCC is also collecting comforters and sheets. They can be dropped off at the same locations as the relief kits. The specific requirements for the comforters and sheets can be found at

Chocolate Fashions in Paris

Fashions for chocolate lovers? Oh yeah!

Okay, I’m not sure I’d wear an outfit made out of chocolate, but the chocolate fashions created for the Salon du Chocolat (Chocolate Show) and modelled in Paris on Oct. 13 are pretty amazing.

On second thought, if you were wearing one of these, you’d always be able to satisfy your chocolate cravings!

How to be Canadian!

Happy Canada Day!

Thanks to my friend, Carol, for passing along the video for Canadian, Please. The song and video were produced by Julia Bentley and Andrew Gunadie. Want the lyrics? You’ll find them on YouTube.

Now go eat something red and white!

Ice cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce and peanuts

Strawberries and ice cream, anyone?

Good Food Festival in Toronto this weekend

If you live in the Toronto area, the place to be this weekend is the Good Food Festival at the International Centre (near the airport). Well, at least that’s where I’ll be. You’re invited too if you want to sample new food products, watch cooking demonstrations, and pick up some good bargains.

This will be my 15th year working at the Egg Farmers of Ontario‘s display. I’d hate to count how many samples of pickled eggs, hash brown omelette or pizza frittata I’ve doled out over the years or how many times I’ve explained that cholesterol in our food has little effect, if any whatsoever, on our blood cholesterol levels.

Today when I got out of my vehicle to unload the boxes of recipes and sampling supplies (we’re serving herbed egg salad this year), the parking attendant who monitors the loading dock area came over and gave me a hug. Sure, we do two or three shows every year at this venue and I usually see her at each event. She’s a real sweetheart! But seriously. Hugs from the parking attendant?! Have I been doing this for too long???

Enjoy a chili cheese dog in honour of Corner Gas series finale

Chili Cheese Dog

Chili Cheese Dog

A chili cheese dog would have been the appropriate thing to munch on tonight while watching the series finale of Corner Gas and the conclusion of the show’s successful six year run. Instead I sipped on Darjeeling tea and the last slice of lemon meringue pie left over from Easter dinner.

Much of the zany activities of the quirky characters on this beloved Canadian sit com took place at Corner Gas (the gas station in the small fictional town of Dog River in the not so fictional province of Saskatchewan) or at The Ruby Cafe next door. Brent, one of the main characters in the show, ate a whack of chili cheese dogs at The Ruby over the six years. (The Ruby was the kind of place that would also have served lemon meringue pie!)

A chili cheese dog is simply a hot dog doused in chili (from a can or made from your favourite chili recipe) and topped with grated cheese.

We’re not talking gourmet dining here. Just plain good food. Or so Brent would tell you.

If you’ve never had one, it’s pretty simple to make. And, Brent would likely also tell you, a chili cheese dog is no doubt well worth whatever effort you put in to make the chili – whether from scratch or a can.

If you want to make your own chili, you have some options….
* use tomato sauce, canned pureed tomatoes, canned condensed tomato soup or chili sauce instead of ketchup
* omit garlic and/or onions
* add canned or cooked kidney beans
* add cumin or sauteed green peppers

Chili Cheese Dogs

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound (450 g) lean ground beef
1 cup (250 mL) ketchup
1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) yellow mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 all-beef wieners
8 hot dog buns
1 cup (250 mL) grated Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add garlic. Continue cooking until onion is soft and translucent, another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add ground beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon; cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in ketchup, chili powder and mustard; simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. (Add more ketchup or a little water to thin, if desired.) Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, grill or cook wieners as desired. Grill or toast hot dog buns, if desired.

To serve, place a wiener in each bun. Top with chili and Cheddar cheese. Open mouth wide and enjoy!

Recipe pranks for April Fool’s Day


Is it a fried egg?

Be on guard tomorrow. It’s April Fool’s Day.

All may not be what it appears. Even at the breakfast or dinner table.

Nope! It's a Chocolate Egg Pop!

Nope! It's a chocolate fried egg on a stick!

With the following “recipes”, you”ll be the one planning the surprises, serving “cake” for dinner and “spaghetti and meatballs” for dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking these ideas are difficult. Read on to see how easy it will be to play food pranks on your fellow diners tomorrow, or any day of the year.

If you want more wacky food ideas and recipe pranks, there are additional suggestions and videos at Family Fun magazine’s website.

  • Fried Egg and Toast? – Serve breakfast for dessert. Create a faux fried egg by spooning vanilla yogurt or sweetened whipped cream on a plate in the shape of the white of a fried egg. Add the yolk by placing a well-drained canned apricot or peach half, round side up, on top of the yogurt or cream, a little to one end. Toast a slice of pound cake. Spread with a thin layer of jam. Serve with the fried egg.
  • Drink Up! – Prepare fruit-flavored gelatin according to package directions. Pour into drinking glasses. Place a straw in each glass. Chill until set. At serving time, garnish rim of glasses with fruit. Serve and see how long it takes for someone to request a spoon to eat the “drink”.
  • An Antsy Cake – Turn a layer cake, ice cream cake or cheesecake into an anthill with this easy treatment. On top of the cake, carefully pour crushed vanilla wafers or nuts in a small mound to resemble an anthill. Arrange ants parading around the top of the cake and climbing up or down the side of the cake and/or the anthill using a chocolate-covered almond for each ant body and a chocolate-covered raisin or caramel (e.g. Skor Bites) for each  ant head. Pipe on eyes and legs using a tube of black gel icing.

Meat Loaf Cake

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

Favourite meatloaf recipe (use 2 to 3 lbs/1 to 1.5 kg) ground beef
Hot mashed potatoes (about 4 cups/1 L)
Cherry tomatoes

Prepare meatloaf mixture as usual but before cooking, divide mixture in two and place into two 8-inch (20 cm) cake pans. Bake as usual, allowing a shorter time since meatloaf will likely cook faster as the mixture will be thinner than usual.

Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes using boiled or instant potatoes. The mashed potatoes should be fluffy and spreadable. Keep mashed potatoes warm until meat loaves are cooked.

Once cooked, drain fat from meat loaves. Invert one loaf onto a round pizza pan or heatproof plate. Cover with a thick even layer of mashed potatoes. Place second loaf on top and “frost” the top and sides of cake with remaining mashed potatoes.

If desired, some of the mashed potatoes can be spooned into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and piped around top or bottom edge of cake.

Place cake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Remove from oven and decorate with halved cherry tomatoes. If desired, write a message on top of cake with ketchup. (If the opening of the ketchup bottle is too large to write a message easily, spoon some ketchup into a clean piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a small top to write your message.)

Spaghetti and Meat Ball Dessert

(Makes 1 serving)

Small slice of pound cake or half of a cupcake
Homemade or prepared icing
Yellow food coloring (if desired)
Strawberry sauce
2 of 3 chocolate malt balls or small truffles
Ground almonds or grated white chocolate
Chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips or candy melts
Lady fingers or biscotti
Toasted coconut
Green sprinkles

Place pound cake in the centre of a plate.

If desired, tint icing with food colouring to resemble the colour of cooked spaghetti. Spoon icing into a decorating tube fitted with a large circular tip; pipe icing in a looping fashion around the sides of the pound cake (don’t frost the top) to resemble spaghetti.

Spoon strawberry sauce (meat sauce) on top of the cake to cover it. Drizzle a little over portions of the spaghetti.

Using the dull side of a knife or a grater, rough up the surface of the malt balls (meatballs). Place them on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle ground almonds (parmesan cheese) over sauce and meatballs.
Carefully melt white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave oven; stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over lady fingers (garlic bread). Sprinkle coconut (garlic) and green sprinkles (parsley) over top. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

St. Patrick’s Day recipe ideas. Green food colouring required for some!

istock_000005210471xsmall-4-leaf-cloverCount yourself lucky to find these great recipes to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun being Irish for a day!

Cooking Quarters blog:

Kraft Canada’s website:

McCormick’s website:

The Tea Room at Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

A couple weeks ago (the day after Valentine’s Day to be exact), Murray and I made the 50-minute drive from Kitchener into Mississauga (Streetsville to be exact) to have afternoon tea at The Tea Room in the Robinson-Bray House (223 Queen Street South, Ph: 905-542-7674).

Robinson Bray Tea Room in Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario

The side entrance to The Tea Room at the Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

The house was built in 1885 and owned by at least two families – the Robinsons and the Brays. In 1983, it was designated a building of “architectural and contextual value” by the City of Mississauga. It now houses several businesses including a gift shop, spa and The Tea Room.

The Tea Room is in the back of the building. You can enter either through the front or the side of the House. When we left through the front after finishing our tea, I noticed that a large room at the front of the house was vacant. The space had a lovely bay window looking out onto Queen Street. My first thought was that it would be a lovely area for The Tea Room to expand or move into.

But I’m ahead of myself. Let me share our tea experience.

You could order off the menu but we really didn’t give it much consideration as The Tea Room was serving a Valentine’s tea ($23 per person) which sounded really nice. It started with a delicious garden salad with sliced strawberries and cucumbers and pralined pecans. This was followed by a two-tiered stand filled with tea sandwiches, and heart-shaped chocolate chunk scones served with devon cream and preserves.

Sandwich Plate

The tray of tea sandwiches included (clockwise from top right) egg salad on a mini croissant (which turned out to be a roll as you can see above), chicken and brie on a slice of baguette with sweet mango chutney, a roast beef and horseradish mayo wrap with caramelized onions, salmon mousse in a phyllo cup, and a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.

Then, because we hadn’t eaten enough yet (!),  it was time to choose a dessert. I don’t recall all the choices; the first couple our server described were all we needed to hear. Murray chose a Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries.

Chcocolate Crepes with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

I opted for the Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle, served in a tea cup.

Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle garnished with a chocolate-dipped cooked and berriees

The Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle was garnished with a chocolate-dipped cookie and berries.

A tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea.

Whipped cream, passionfruit custard, cake and berries - a tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea!

Everything was washed done with a pot of Earl Grey tea for me and Assam tea for Murray.

The Tea Room’s servers were friendly and attentive. The decor of the two-room tea room was nice enough, although nothing outstanding.  I’ll confess I wanted to straighten out the slightly askew picture hung off centre under a shelf on one wall of the room we sat in, but to Murray’s relief I managed to suppress the urge.

Other than the egg salad that was served in a slightly soggy mini roll instead of the promised croissant, the food was very tasty, especially the salad and desserts. Needless to say, we didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

Follow the chocolate road to the Registry Theatre

Interested in traveling a road made from chocolate? Get on the right path by attending Follow the Chocolate Road at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener on Monday, February 9.

Folia, a baroque chamber music group, invites you to to attend an evening of music that will follow chocolate from the New World through its conquest of Baroque Europe. Interspersed throughout the evening will be chocolate trivia. And, appropriately, there will be chocolate tasting courtesy of Silver Spoon Fine Chocolates of Waterloo! How sweet is that!

The evening starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adult, $15 for seniors and students, and $5 for children 18 and under.

Tickets are available at the Centre in the Square Box Office (101 Queen St. N., Kitchener; Ph: (519) 578-1570).

The Registry Theatre is located at 122 Frederick St. in Kitchener.