Monthly Archives: December 2009

Twas the Day before Christmas

I’m in heaven.  I’ve taken the week off from my job at the magazine and am experiencing domestic nirvana.   I really think I would make an incredible house wife: I love folding laundry while watching Ellen; I love making tomorrow night’s dinner before noon; and I love plucking my eyebrows and painting my nails for no reason other than having the opportunity to do so.  If only the Beast could get out of retail and find one of those jobs I’ve heard about where one income provides enough wealth for an entire family.

Retail is shit.  Growing up, my mom worked at K-Mart which meant she worked up until 6:00pm Christmas Eve.  That leaves very little time to prepare for festivities, especially when you get home and you’re exhausted.  When I worked at the restaurant full time, getting time off over the holidays was next to impossible so I sympathize greatly with those of you who are working right up until this evening.

But this year I’ve seen how The Other Side lives:   I’ve been lucky enough to cook, clean, bake, get groceries, do LCBO runs, finish shopping and watch day time talk shows and episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Italian adventure show on the Food Network.

You want to know what sort of cooking and baking I’ve done.  Oh let’s see here, I’ve made chilli;

and my favourite pork chop dish (with roasted pears, parsnips and potatoes) from Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef Takes Off”;

and Giovanna’s gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, zucchini and fresh ricotta;

and coconut bars topped with apricot jam, toasted pecans and white chocolate;

and meyer lemon cupcakes;

and snickerdoodle cookies.

There were accidents.

In short, I’ve made sure that after a long day in retail holiday hell, that the Beast comes home to a hot meal.

I’ve also turned into a bit of maniac with all this time on my hands: For example, I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of calling the Beast at work to give him holiday planning progress reports.

Foodie (on phone):  Hi there.

Beast:  Hi.

Foodie:  What are you doing?

Beast:  Ah, just working.

Foodie:  Well, you’ll pleased to know I just finished wrapping the presents.

Beast:  That great.

Foodie:  AND I finished bottling my homemade limoncello.

Foodie:  AND, I just put the final touches on your mom’s surprise stocking.

Beast:  That’s great.

Foodie:  But I was hoping that you could pick up some magazines to throw in there. And could you also pick up that goat cheese you like so much from Alex Cheese Farms?  Also, I need some allergy medication.

Beast:  Are you joking?  What magazines?  I don’t know what magazines to get?  Can’t you get the magazines?

Foodie:  Oh sure I can.  I guess I’ll just go out for the TENTH time today to pick up things for Christmas.

Beast:  You do know that I’m working, right?

Foodie:  Yes but there’s a Shopper’s Drug Mart right across the street from you.  You could just pop in there.

Beast:  Fine.

Foodie:  Are you mad?

Beast:  No I’m not mad it’s just that you’re not working and I am working so it just seems to make sense that you pick up that stuff.

Foodie:  Oh yeah, right.  Fine.  One more thing though:  do you think you’ll have time to clean up your music room?  It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it and I’m just trying to get the house in order.

Beast:  No.  I won’t have time to clean it up BECAUSE I’M WORKING.  And don’t touch anything in there.  Why does my music room have to be cleaned up for the holidays anyway?

Foodie:  I see your point.  I was just tidying and cleaning up every other room in the house so I thought why not include it.  But it’s not important.

Beast:  Is there anything else?  I really have to go.

Foodie:  Not that I can think of but I’ll call you if I remember anything.  Love you!  Oh wait, have you seen my antique amethyst ring that reminds of Anne of Green Gables times?   I can’t find it for the life of me.

Beast:  Bye.

Herein lies the housewife’s dilemma:  she has time to do everything but that means she actually has to do everything.

The Beast came home last night and I made dinner while he put some finishing touches on his secret Christmas gift for his family.  Then we curled up and watched the movie, “The Remains of the Day,” during which–shockingly–I fell asleep.   After brushing my teeth I crawled up the stairs and climbed into bed.  And that’s when I heard The Rap Master.

This is a keyboard thing that the Beast picked up from the Goodwill.  That cord is a microphone and you can modify your voice to sound high-pitched and funny or low-pitched and creepy.  The Beast was rapping into it with the different voices while playing beats.

Foodie:  Turn that thing off!

Beast (in high-pitched mode):  But it’s a Christmas rap and it’s here to stay.  Christmas doesn’t come everyday.

Foodie (from under the covers):  STOP IT!  I’M SO TIRED!

Beast (high-pitched):  Let’s have some fun.  Let’s have some cheer.  I am the rap master.  Go get me a beer.

Foodie:  YOU ARE BEING VERY POORLY BEHAVED.  STOP NOW!

Beast (low-pitched creepy voice):  But it’s Christmas Eve and I want to rap for you.

Foodie:  That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard!  I’m going to have nightmares now! And it’s not Christmas eve–it’s the night before Christmas eve.

Beast (high-pitched again):  I want you to sing into this rap machine.

Foodie:  NO!  GO AWAY!  WHY ARE YOU BEHAVING LIKE A CHILD?

Beast (high-pitched and still rapping):  Because this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time and I want you to know how much fun it is too!  Come rap with me!

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re trying not to laugh because you know it’s game over if you start to giggle?  And the giggles won’t stop?  I can’t tell you how angry I was under those covers.  I just wanted to sleep.  But then my body started shaking and the Beast knew that he’d broken me.

Beast (high-pitched rap):  Just sing a little line into the microphone.  It’s Christmas time so throw me a bone.

Foodie (low-pitched creepy rap):  IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME AND I’M HERE TO SAY, STOP BEHAVING LIKE A CHILD BEFORE I MURDER YOU. RAP, RAP, A RIPPITY RAP…

That did it:  we were both hysterical–our bodies heaving from those sorts of laughs that are silent.  No sounds were emitted, only tears.

The Beast finally put away his rap machine, but only after I said he was treating me like a brother would a sister with his tormenting spirit.  I think that disturbed him as much as the low-pitched rap voice did me.

I’ve got a big day ahead of me:  have to pick up a few emergency groceries, watch TV, paint my nails red, make a pork tortiere, a torta rustica and meringues (while listening to John Denver’s Christmas album), and finally, get into my holiday outfit for the Beast’s family Christmas tonight.  It’s going to be so much fun.  He’s bringing The Rap Master.

One last thing:  I’d like to wish each and everyone of you a very happy holiday:  I hope that you find the time to share a meal with the people in your life that make you happy. That’s what I’m going to do, and I can hardly wait.

Top Chef Steak Night

Sometimes people end up at Foodie and the Beast by accident.  I know this because wordpress allows me to view what people typed into their search engine to lead them here.  Some of the most interesting searches include:

1.  gem wants to see some penis

2.  dirty Singapore food courts

3.  deodorant put in my ass

4.  pregnant lady eat mac and cheese

5.  bullshit cheese

Can you imagine how mad you’d be if you were looking for deodorant to put up your ass and you ended up here?  I feel terrible for wasting this person’s time. There is a lesson to be learned though folks:  I need to clean up my language because the above words must be strung together in these blog entries somewhere.  And if I can get my act together then “gem” will stand a better chance of finding that cock he or she is looking for.   

More importantly though, our dear friend Nick Edwards has been coming over Monday nights to watch Top Chef with the Beast and me.  Last Monday was supposed to be the season finale so I wanted to make something special for the boys.  Because  I’ve been obsessed with an early book of Nigella Lawson’s, How to Eat, I settled on her recipe for Steak au Poivre.

(By the by, rarely does a cookbook read like a memoir, or make you laugh out loud, like this one does.)  I knew it would satisfy their appetites and it didn’t look difficult to make.  I picked up some Ontario-raised, sirloin cuts of beef from Sobey’s,

and decided on sides of roasted potatoes,

and green beans.  But not any old green beans: the Beast and I had dinner at our friends’ Tracey and Alex’s place last weekend and were treated to beef wellington (who makes homemade puff pastry?  Tracey does), and green beans like I’ve never tasted before.  But I felt silly calling them up to ask for their green bean recipe so I tried to recreate the dish by caramelizing some red onions in butter and de-glazing all the brown bits with orange juice.  

(If Tracey or Alex read this, take pity on me and send along the recipe because my beans weren’t nearly as good as your beans.)

With the potatoes roasting and the beans finished, it was time to drudge the steaks through the pepper, which I ground in my coffee grinder.

Nigella warned not to grind the pepper too finely because it becomes too potent but it had to be ground enough so that it stuck to the steaks.  I failed at the grinding:  quite a bit of pepper ended up in the pan.  And I failed at the de-glazing part too.  All I had to do was add some butter and brandy and Nigella insisted I’d get a lovely, shiny sauce.  But I got brown sludge.  Maybe it was the grill pan I used, or maybe I should have scraped out all the pepper bits before I de-glazed.  Maybe I’m just a shitty de-glazer.  Regardless, I had to plate our meals because Top Chef was about to start.

Foodie:  Oh boys!  Dinner’s ready!

The Beast and Nick had been upstairs playing together in the music room while I was downstairs cooking for them.  I find it very satisfying cooking for them.  It feels like I’m playing house.

Nick:  What smells so good?

Foodie:  That’s your dinner!

Beast:  Wow!  This looks amazing.  You really outdid yourself with this one!

Foodie: Oh it was nothing. 

We settled in around the coffee table with our plates and glasses of wine like three peas in a pod.  But five minutes into Top Chef, Nick made a shocking observation.

Nick:  This episode is a repeat!  

Foodie:  No it’s not.  Oh wait.  Yes it is!

Beast:  Somebody call the Food Network right now!  

Foodie:  They can’t do this!  It’s false advertising.  Didn’t they show scenes last week for this week’s season finale?

Nick:  Yes they did.

Beast: My God Padma’s breasts looking amazing.

Nick:  She’s pregnant you know.

Foodie: They are perfect.

Turns out re-watching the episode wasn’t so bad.  Neither was the steak, except I noticed that the Beast scraped off all his pepper and pushed it, like a child, to the side of his plate. And he didn’t even try the brandy sludge sauce.  Nick seemed to enjoy his steak, pepper chunks, sludge and all. 

Beast:  Nick, as our guest, you get to do the dishes.

Foodie:  Nick you’re not doing the dishes.  But you can both help me carry the dirty dishes into the kitchen.

That’s where the Beast poured himself and Nick some bourbon to go with the  lovely pecan pie Nick had brought for dessert.

Foodie:  What are you doing there?  You can’t cut that pie into three pieces!

Beast:  Oh can’t I?  Well I just did.

And I ate the whole piece, minus bits of the crust, which was crap.   But the filling was sickly sweet perfection!  

We rounded out the evening with me painting my nails while the boys reclined on the couch.  We toyed with the idea of watching a movie (suggestions included Titanic, Forrest Gump, and Home Alone) but ended up watching part of Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner, because it was on TV.  Then we made fun of Kevin Costner, and also the Beast, because he always cries at the end of Dances with Wolves.  It was domestic bliss.

Foodie:  **

Beast:  **

Tomato, Chickpea and Eggplant Stew. And Lemonade. And Surprise Tartinas.

The Beast teases that I make the same five dishes over and over again.  That’s partly true I suppose.  Even though I’m constantly cutting out recipes from magazines or printing them from websites, I still gravitate towards preparing my favourite meals instead of trying something new. There’s a comfort in making something again and again I suppose. 

But on Sunday I was feeling inspired by a lunch that a colleague brought into work last week.  It was a tomato, eggplant and chickpea casserole.  I thought that it would pair nicely with some of Rowe Farms’ french country sausages and make for a lovely Sunday night dinner.  So I made the casserole in the afternoon.

The recipe called for tomato paste but I left that out.  There’s also a touch of cinnamon which gives it a certain Eastern flare.  It also called for just a sprig of fresh basil but I ripped up far more than that and threw it in before the casserole got baked.

That’s not the only thing I did on Sunday:   I also went grocery shopping, did the laundry, got a manicure, decorated our Christmas tree…

…and I made lemonade!  Why did I make lemonade in Decemeber?  Because I’m making limoncello this year for Christmas gifts.  And that required me grating off the rinds of 24 lemons and soaking them in vodka.  I didn’t want to throw out all that lemon juice–about 6 cups–so I looked for a recipe online.  I decided on one by that Paula Deen lady: with an accent like that, one can only presume that she knows how to make up a batch of good lemonade.  

The jar on the left contains 4 cups of sugar (I substituted one cup of brown sugar for white) being dissolved in 2 cups of hot water for the lemonade.  The two jars on the right will be turned into limoncello in three weeks.

With dinner practically finished, my lemonade made, and the Beast not due home for a couple of hours, I decided to indulge in a movie that I knew he would have little to no interest in watching with me:  the new Star Trek movie.  The Beast doesn’t care so much for Hollywood blockbusters so I watch them while he’s working and he watches documentaries on dead Jazz musicians while I’m working.  It’s perfect.  And so was my movie choice!  I’m named after a science fiction princess you know (my Dad was reading the novel “Dune” days before I was born).  Maybe that makes me hard-wired to enjoy space, space fights, space romance and space aliens.  It practically makes me royalty too.  

But the Beast came home minutes before the movie was over:

Beast:  Oh hello there.  The tree looks beautiful!

Foodie:  Why thank you.  I’m happy I stuck with the multi-coloured lights. White lights are pretty but too fancy for our tastes.  I never want to have a designer Christmas tree with matching ornaments.  I just want some shiny balls on there.

Beast:  What’s that smell?

Foodie:  It’s a casserole I made with eggplant, chickpeas and tomatoes.  I’m serving it with sausages.

Beast:  Sounds great.  What are you watching?

Foodie:  Oh just a movie.

Beast:  What movie?

Foodie:  Oh just the new Star Trek movie.  Are you mad I’m watching it without you?

Beast:  Ah, no.

Once the movie finished  I got the sausages cooking while the Beast played in his music room.  That’s when I heard the doorbell ring.  I don’t think I can imagine a more wonderful surprise:  There was Jessie B (her boyfriend is the handsome doctor from the Splendido post) and in her cold little hands was a box filled with her homemade tartinas!  She and filmmaker Melissa Dozois were out all day shooting a web commercial for Tartina.ca and Jessie B wanted to drop some off  to thank me for mentioning her website.  I think this gift was my first bit of “swag”.   

Beast:  Who was that?

Foodie:  Jessie B dropped off some tartinas!  Aren’t they gorgeous?

The Beast pawed at them suspiciously.

Foodie:  Let’s try a savoury one before dinner and we can save the sweet ones for dessert and breakfast!

I turned my back just long enough to flip the sausages in their pan and the Beast was on his second tartina.

Foodie:  I said one!

Beast: She made these?

Foodie:  Yes!

Beast:  From scratch?

Foodie:  Yes!  That’s good pastry don’t you think?

Beast:  Yes it is!

(Note:  This is not a paid product placement.  We were genuinely delighted by Jessie B’s tartinas.  That being said, if you would like to drop off baked goods/wine/prepared meals with the hopes of having your name and/or website plugged on this blog that 18 wonderful people read regularly, then email me. This could be a smart business move for you.)

Beast:  Why is there a giant jar of urine on our kitchen counter?

Foodie:  Come again?  Oh, you’re looking at the two gallons of lemonade over there.  Do you want to try some?

Beast:  I’m sure it’s delicious but I don’t think this meal is screaming out for lemonade.

Foodie:  Fine, but I’m having some.   The sausages are done.  Do you want me to plate yours?

Beast:  Whoa?!  That’s all there is?

Foodie:  Well I portioned some of the casserole for my lunches this week.  There’s still plenty for dinner though.

Beast:  Speak for yourself!  What, are you trying to starve me or something?

In the end, the Beast ate his mound of casserole, his two sausages, plus a third sausage that I gifted to him because he said he was still hungry.   We fell asleep on the couch watching another episode of I, Claudius.  If you ever have trouble sleeping you should rent I, Claudius.  I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy watching this show with the Beast, who, after reading my last post, was quite concerned that I was disenchanted with his rental choice.  But every now and then a girl needs an epic space adventure to wake her up. 

Foodie:  **1/2

Beast:  ***

Burgers at Stampede

Burgers are like, totally de rigueur right now, at least in Toronto: The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail have recently run articles about the number of burger joints that have popped up in the city.  The Beast and I tried to visit one of them–Oh Boy Burger Market on Queen Street West–on Saturday, but there was a line up out the door! Luckily for us, we have a fantastic burger place minutes away from our home. Stampede Bison Burger, right beside the LCBO on Brock Ave, just north of Queen Street, has been open for well over a year now and we’ve become accustomed to taking out their fine fair and eating it at home.

I place the order by phone, then hop on my bike, run into the LCBO to pick up cheap wine or some cans of Creemore, then I pick up our burger order and I’m home within half an hour.  

We each get a cheese burger.  The Beast also gets bacon on his.  We always opt for beef but I’ve heard their bison burger is very good. But I have an aversion to  exchanging meat sources in particular recipes.  For example, I would never ever eat a turkey burger.   And I get very upset when I see recipes in ladies’ magazines, like Canadian Living or Chatelaine, that call for ground chicken or turkey, in place of beef, in chilli or tacos.  I’d rather have vegetarian chilli than ground turkey chilli.  The words alone, ground turkey, make me feel so uncomfortable.  What the fuck is so wrong with beef anyway (don’t answer that–it’s a rhetorical question.)

We each get an order of Stampede’s poutine too.  They make excellent french fries that survive the bike-ride home with surprisingly good results.  Their curds are the real deal from Quebec.  My only qualm is that they use a vegetarian gravy, rather than the traditional chicken gravy, but this I can deal with because the vegetarian gravy is pretty good.

And of course we get an order of onion rings to share, just like when we visit Harvey’s on the Queensway.

Beast:  This looks amazing.  Good idea to have a burger night!

Foodie:  I think so too.  Do you want to watch an episode of The Sopranos while we eat?

Beast:  No, let’s watch an episode of I, Claudius.

If you haven’t heard of I, Claudius, don’t worry.  I can’t imagine most people under the age of 40 have.  It’s a BBC-produced television series from 1976 based on the best-selling books by Robert Graves.  I, Claudius and the second book, Claudius the God, are historical fiction at its best.  The television show, which the Beast has wanted to rent for a very long time, stars Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, and several other British thespians.  It’s television at its most awkward:  the make-up is laughable, the sets look like they may fall apart if somebody were to fart, and the production quality is worse than Corner Gas.  That aside, it’s pretty entertaining if you like Roman history, especially the sort which includes murder, sex, and drugs.  In fact, it’s probably not all that different than most Soprano story lines.

Foodie (after eating our burger dinner too quickly):  I’m so full!

Beast:  Me too.

Foodie:  Didn’t we both feel painfully full the last we had a burger dinner?

Beast:  Yes.

Foodie:  Maybe we shouldn’t get the onion rings next time.

Beast:  No, I like the onion rings.  Maybe we should just get plain french fries instead of the poutine.

Foodie:  My stomach hurts really bad.  Can we hold off on dessert?

Dessert was freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  I made the dough on the weekend and we just bake as many cookies as we see fit during the week nights.  

Beast: Yes we can wait but don’t just make three cookies for each of us.  Make 12.

Foodie:  That’s disgusting.

Six cookies each sounded much more reasonable. Besides, they were little.

We ate them all.

Foodie:  Oh my god my stomach hurts so much.  

Beast (thrashing on the couch): Ugg.  Me too!

Foodie:  Why did we eat them so fast?

Beast:  I thought you were going to eat some of my portion so I tried to eat them first.

Foodie:  Why would I do that?  We’re not ten years old you know.

Beast:  I don’t know but I feel terrible.

Foodie:  Three cookies each would have been fine.

Beast:  I think we should have waited a little longer in between the burgers and the cookies.

Foodie:  You were the one that told me I had to get up and preheat the oven maybe twenty minutes after we finished the burgers.

Beast:  I was wrong.  It was too soon!  Too much too soon!

Yes it was.  But it was so totally “Roman”.  

Foodie:  **1/2 (half a star deduction for forgetting my tomato slice and for sauteed onions being too mushy.)

Beast:  ***