Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Pasta Perfection

A long, long time ago in a galaxy that is right here, my friend Linda noticed that “make homemade pasta” was item #43 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days and was all “I have pasta making attachments for my KitchenAid mixer. We should totally get together and make some pasta”. And I was all, “Totally!” And then for a long long time we were both all, “Hey we should really pick a date to make some pasta” and “Yeah, we totally should” and repeat. At some point we finally got our act together and set today as the big pasta making day!

We decided to make some spinach fettuccine, mostly because many of the other recipes called for semolina flour, whereas the spin-fet called for all purpose flour and we figured we didn’t want to go and buy special flour in case we discovered that we hated making pasta and then we’d have a useless bag of flour sitting around.

As it turns out, pasta making is not nearly as complicated and scary as I thought it would be. We basically just blended up some spinach, mixed in eggs, water, and flour, kneaded the dough for a bit and then, in small batches, ran it through the pasta roller attachment several times, making it into successively thinner and thinner sheets:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Linda rolling the dough!

Once you have a sheet of your desired thickness, you run it through the cutting attachment1:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Linda displaying her freshly cut pasta!

And viola!, you have homemade pasta:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

We learned a few things from this our first pasta making adventure, the first of which basically can be summed up as “Follow the instructions!” Lesson #1: You should probably let the pasta dry while laid out flat. We were planning to cook all the pasta once we had it all cut, so we sort of just piled it up on a couple of plates. At the time we put it on the plates, the noodles seemed to be holding their shape and not sticking together, but by the time we got all the batches done, we discovered that the noodles on the bottom of the pile were rather smushed together, just from the weight of the pile and the amount of time that they sat together. (In our defence, the instructions did say you could make the pasta into little “nests” for freezing, but upon closer reading of said instructions, we realized it said that you can do that *after* you dry it and also it said “little” nests, not giant pile o’pasta.)

From the above, we learned lesson #2: This dough is very forgiving. Given the smushedness2 of the remaining pasta, we decided to re-roll and re-cut the noodles. The dough seemed rather dry and stiff at first, but Linda managed to work a bit more water into the dough and after much kneading and re-rolling, it returned to its fantastic pliable yet sturdy consistency that allowed us to cut more noodles, which we cooked immediately so as to not allow them any opportunity to re-smush together.

Lesson #3 was more of an idea for next time rather than a “lesson” per se. While making the pasta, we would roll out a few sheets and then switch from the roller attachment to the cutter attachment and then back again when we were done cutting and ready to roll the next few batches. We realized that it would be way better if we had two mixers, one with the roller attachment on and one with the cutting attachment on and not have to do all the switching back and forth. Given that both Linda and I own this type of mixer, that’s totally doable3.

Because we wanted to be able to taste the pasta, we opted to serve it with a bit of olive oil, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and feta:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Verdict: Not only did this taste amazing, it was really quite simple to do. I think that you should probably buy me a present and it should be this.

  1. Linda had one for fettuccine and one for spaghetti. You could also just use the sheets to make lasagna or stuffed pastas, like ravioli or cannelloni []
  2. Is so a word. []
  3. There may or may not be a pasta party in the works now. []

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The glorious, gloriousness of a gloriously long weekend. Now with 100% more sleeping in!

Ah, the four day long weekend. The most glorious of all the long weekends, what with the four days and all.

Friday, I had a wonderful sleep in. I didn’t intend to sleep quite so long as I did, but it was so great to get a good long rest and not wake up to an alarm. I had intended to get up in time to go for a 12 km run before heading out for the day (as Friday was supposed to be the only non-rainy day of the weekend), but I didn’t get up early enough to do that, so I opted to do a few chores I needed to get done (mostly getting all my tax papers together and writing my kitty quarterly report), then I headed out to hang out with Kalev. We did such adventurous things as Indian buffet for lunch, going for a walk1, seeing a very important documentary on the latest developments in artificial intelligence2, drinks and poutine3.

Saturday I got to sleep in again (hooray), but then I went to my accountant’s to deal with my taxes. By which I mean, I gave my accountant a bunch of papers and told her what’s gone on this year and then she works magic and will tell me how much money I’ll get back4. Then I spent much of the rest of the day watching hockey and episodes of Cosmos that I hadn’t yet seen (since it was raining out anyway, seemed like a good day to not be outside too much). Since my beloved Canucks didn’t make the playoffs this year, I’ve been forced to watch other teams play. Was happy to see the St. Louis beat the evil Blackhawks, but sad to see Pittsburgh go down to the BJs in OT. For the record, I’m cheering for Montreal to win the East5 and San Jose in the West. Go Habs! Go Sharks!

Sunday I slept in again (I know you are surprised) I finally went for my 12 km run! Except it ended up being more like an 11 km run because I hadn’t eaten very much breakfast and my legs turned to lead6 Also, I was just running up and down the Quay7, as it was cloudy and threatening to pour, so I didn’t want to run 6 km away and then be stuck in a torrential downpour. However, it ended up that the 11 km mark ended up being right by the entrance to the Quay and I just didn’t have it in me to keep going. Lesson learned – fuel up next time! And perhaps plan a better route!

After that I did some tidying8. And then I went over to my friend Heather’s place for Easter dinner. Because Heather is super sweet and takes in orphans like me on holidays. Heather’s family is super fun - though I’m not surprised given how much fun Heather is. Also, the food was crazy delicious – and I got sent home with leftovers! I’m so spoiled!!

Monday (today), I slept in yet again (hooray!) and then Alicia and her girls came out to visit. We went for brunch and then the girls came over to meet the cats. The girls were very excited to play with the cats and, surprisingly, the cats didn’t seem too freaked out by the kids. A couple of times they retreated to the safety of under the bed, but only for a few minutes and then they came back out. They are very much people cats! Also, Alicia’s older daughter built an epic fort out of the cats’ boxes, and the cats were pretty happy about that, as it seemed like they quite enjoyed hanging out in their fort! And then the rest of the day involved more organizing – I managed to clean up various things that had been piling up in my office, which makes me a happy camper! I’m still behind on my my organization quest schedule, but I’m much further ahead compared to where I was at the start of the weekend.

And now, sadly, the weekend has come to an end. And I think it’s time for me to hit the hay, as I don’t get to sleep in tomorrow!

  1. Because we were stuffed from Indian buffet *and* because it was supposed to be the only sunny day this weekend. []
  2. Spoiler alert: It was a terrible movie! []
  3. Which I blame entirely on the drinks. Also, Indian buffet and poutine in one day made me really regret not having gone for a run. And I wonder why I haven’t lost the MBA weight yet? []
  4. Hooray for giant tuition tax credit! I mean, the giant tuition fees suck, but at this time of year, at least we get the tax credit. []
  5. I’m cheering for Montreal because (a) they are the only Canadian team who made the playoffs, (b) it is the place my parents grew up, and (c) it is the home of spruce beer. []
  6. I have a terrible habit of thinking that 12 km isn’t that long of run, so I’m not properly mentally or physically prepared for it, but it totally is a long run and then I struggle. I find 14 km a bit easier and 16 km fine – I think my brain can comprehend that those are long distances and so is ready for it, but it stubbornly refuses to accept 12 km as long. []
  7. Also, since I was running the same route, back and forth, I ended up running by a guy with a video camera who was interviewing a couple (not sure what about, since I had my headphones on and couldn’t hear what they were saying. They were blocking the only way to get to the end of Westminster Pier Park (the east end of the Quay) – which I needed to cover or else I’d have to do even more laps of the rest of the Quay) and since they had another guy with them who was watching but he wasn’t stopping anyone, I ran by them. They didn’t say anything, but about a half an hour later when I ran by there again, they were done interviewing and looked to be wrapping up their shoot, but when they saw me, they started filming me running. It was weird, because I couldn’t tell if they were just trying to take stock-like footage of “person running along the pier” or if they were trying to freak me out, like “You ruined our footage, now we’ll creep on you!” If the former, they got a fair amount of useless footage of me staring at them looking puzzled as I ran []
  8. As I’m waaaaay behind on my organization quest! []

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A Blogworthy Bethmas

Blog worthy

A “happy birthday/congrats on finishing your MBA” card from my lovely friend, soon-to-be-Dr. Martha!

Yesterday was Bethmas. Apparently I was so busy preparing and then celebrating that I never even gave you the usual Bethmas Eve greeting1. But now I’m here to give you a recap.

I decided that, since my industry project paper – i.e., the very last thing I needed to do for my MBA – was due on Jan 15, which is ever so close to Bethmas, that it only made sense to hand my paper in early and throw a big bash to celebrate both my birthday and the completion of my MBA2! I handed my paper in on Thursday, crossed my fingers that my prof wouldn’t ask for any revisions3, and then threw a party.

Because I am a Snow, I made tonnes of food because that is what Snows do when they throw a party. There was chili chicken4, mushroom puffs5, potatoes wrapped in bacon6, spinach dip, guacamole deviled eggs, 3 bean salad, chips7 and, for dessert, mocha ganache cupcakes with mascarpone cream. Suffice it to say that I spent pretty much all of the day prepping and was still decorating the cupcakes when the first guest arrived! I didn’t even have time to run to the store and had to make poor Kalev pick up ice and a loaf of sourdough for the spinach dip on his way over8.

I decided to make the house drinks related to the theme of having finished business school and this is what I came up with:

House drinks

The Suffering Bastard is a drink I found on the Internet and, since I’ve been a suffering bastard for the past two years, I figured it was appropriate. However, it’s a gin-based drink and I don’t actually like gin, so I needed a second option that *I* would actually like to drink9. I came across a drink recipe that I liked, but the name didn’t fit my theme, so I rebranded it The Leveraged Synergy and off I went. I described the Leverage Synergy as a “spiked Shirley Temple“, but then when I went to make one for Kalev, he said, “Why aren’t you putting orange juice in it? Oh right, you’re from the east!” Apparently out west, a Shirley Temple has OJ in it, whereas where I grew up, it does not (and, I’ll add the Wikipedia article does not say anything about OJ in it. And Wikipedia is always right!). So I added a third house drink – The Value Add Leveraged Synergy, which was The Leveraged Synergy, but with orange juice added.

Also, my friends are so generous that, despite the fact that it felt like there was a drink being made every minute, I ended up with significantly more alcohol than I started with by the end of the night. So I probably will have to have another party now to use up all this booze!

Also, speaking of my generous friends, Dr. Erika brought me a gift in this lovely gift bag:

Congrats on your MBAby!

Congratulations on your MBAby! Because really, giving birth to an MBA is much like having a baby. It’s painful, takes up all your time and attention, and you are sleep deprived for two years.

But honestly, the best part of my birthday was getting to spend it with so many good friends. There were friends from work and school and the other time I was in school and social media and various other people that I’ve met who ever remembers where and it was so much fun to hang out with them all for the evening. I’m a lucky girl.

And then, to put the cherry on the top of a wonderful night, after everyone left I checked my email and there was a message from my prof saying that he approved my industry project paper, no revisions needed, so I’m officially 100% done every single thing I need to do for my MBA! Best. Birthday Present. Ever!

And then today – a.k.a.Bething Day10 – I spent the day in practically non-stop exercise. First up was a 12 km run – it’s part of the running study that I’m in, but I had to do it on my own instead of with the group because I didn’t have quite enough time to do a 12 km run and then get to my early hockey game. The run was a bit of a slog, both because 12 km is a long distance to run on one’s own and because it was pouring out, so I was trying carefully not to step in too many of the deep puddles that seemed to be *everywhere*. But I got it done and had just enough time to get home, dry off, scarf down some oatmeal and then run off to my first of two hockey games. Due to the terrible flu that’s going around, we were a little bit short benched, having only 8 skaters11! But we played hard and we managed to pull out a 2-2 tie12 and I got an assist on one of our goals. And then I went home, scarfed down some leftovers, and headed back out to game #2. For this game we at least had 11 players – which seemed like a lot by comparison to game #1 – but it’s my higher division team, so the play is much faster. We had a great game – and managed a 1-0 victory! Now I’m sitting on my couch drinking tea and I fear that I might not be able to stand up again from the sheer exhaustion that has overtaken my entire body, but it’s the good kind of exhaustion. Overall, quite a successful Bething Day.

Oh yes, I also, because I’m a nerd, want to point out that last year I turned a square and this year I turned a prime number. I better make this a smashing good year, because next year’s age doesn’t have anything special about it, numerically speaking13. Given how this year is starting out, I’d have to say that I think I’ll be able to do that.

  1. Though I did tweet it. []
  2. Also known as: getting my life back! []
  3. I’d given him a much, much earlier draft in December and gotten feedback on that, so I felt like I was on the right track. []
  4. Something that I’ve never made before, so it counts towards my 2014 goal of making 14 new food items that I’ve never made before []
  5. Ibid. []
  6. Always a bit hit. []
  7. Because, omg, I love chips but they are sooo bad for you, so I never have them in the house other than when I’m having a party. Omg, chips. []
  8. Thanks, Kalev! You rock! []
  9. For the record, gin drinkers seemed to like the Suffering Bastard. []
  10. The Bethmas equivalent of Boxing Day. []
  11. Which really wasn’t what I needed on a post-party day when I had to run 12 km and play two hockey games. []
  12. So, yeah, on top of having so few players, we also went to overtime. When we scored our second goal to tie the game near the end of the third period, the ref said to me, “You guys sure want to go to overtime.” And I replied, “Yup, we don’t feel like we’ve been getting enough ice time.” []
  13. Dr. Dan, correct me if I’m wrong on that. []

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Would I Ever Go Back To Being A Vegetarian?

This is one of the suggestions for a blog posting and my answer to it is “I don’t think so.” Since becoming unvegetarian, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with trying (and cooking!) different meals that I hadn’t ever had before, as well as eating a few things that I remember enjoying in my pre-vegetarian days1. I’ve found that I quite like spicy tuna and salmon sushi, scallops, and lamb, but I still don’t like most shellfish2. I still eat vegetarian meals quite often and when I do eat meat, I try to get non-factory farmed type stuff. I haven’t eaten a McDonald’s burger since become unveg, and I don’t intend to.

So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick with my unvegetarian ways, but I guess only time will tell!

  1. See: Mini Wheats, marshmallows, Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, and, of course, bacon (which I’m actually cooking right now for breakfast!) []
  2. See: lobster, shrimp, which I remember not liking before I became a vegetarian. Haven’t yet tried oysters, but I’d like to. []

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10 Meals

Clearly, I’m on a roll of blogging about my goals for 2013, so now let’s look at this one: Make 10 meals that I’ve never made before.

This one I made a concerted effort to achieve, with a spreadsheet to track ideas of things to make and then to track when I made them.

Cornish hen 6-Jan-2013
Ham & cheese crepes 12-Feb-2013
Lamb shoulder chop 10-May-2013
Bison stew 12-May-2013
Caesar salad 5-Jun-2013
Clam chowder 24-Jun-2013
Marinated tuna steaks 1-Sep-2013
Ribs 14-Oct-2013
Eggplant parmasen 9-Oct-2013
Pork tenderloin 21-Nov-2013

The eggplant parm was only decent, but it also knocked an item off my 101 list, so it was like killing two birds with one stone. I wasn’t thrilled with the ham and cheese crepes (probably because I’m not really a big fan of ham!). The rest were pretty excellent, if I do say so myself. I think the Cornish hen was the best new dish I tried, but the lamb shoulder chop was a close second. The marinated tuna steaks were delicious and I’ve made them a few times since.

Also, I have a few items on my list of ideas that I never got around to trying, so I think I’ll make a 2014 goal of making 10 new things I’ve never made before. For the record, those ideas are:

  • pheasant
  • pulled pork
  • paella
  • roast beef
  • kangaroo

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Gravy Is My Moby Dick

Speaking of best laid plans, our Christmas plans got a little bit turned around this year. We were originally going to do a Christmas turkey dinner at my brother-in-common-law’s cousin’s place last Sunday and then have a light but fancy dinner today, but then, because the whole Greater Toronto Area iced over, we couldn’t go there. So instead we had to make our Christmas dinner here. My mom and sister, unlike me, are very experienced in the making of turkey with all the trimmings. Including my old nemesis: gravy1.

So I asked my sister to teach me her gravy making ways. And now I’m writing down her advice so that the next time I try to make gravy, I’ll remember what she said!

Christmas Eve dinner

Turkey gravy.

Gravy Making Tips

  • Save the drippings from the turkey.
  • Heat the turkey drippings in a pot.
  • Put a few spoonfuls of flour in a bowl and add a bit of turkey drippings to make a slurry.
  • Add the slurry to the pot of drippings and mix it very fast (apparently this helps you avoid lumps).
  • Voila – gravy!
Christmas Eve dinner

Mushroom gravy.

  1. Actually, when I said that gravy is my Moby Dick, my mom said, “me too!” I didn’t know that – I always remember her making gravy. []

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Christmas Baking 2013

Christmas Baking 2013 was a success!

Untitled

The intrepid bakers: Beth, Madeline, Ann, Nancy, and Daniel.

We baked a grand total of 9 things:

  • Chinese almond cookies
  • Jan Hangel cookies
  • flaxseed crackers
  • gingerbread
  • marshmallow puff tartlets – which I renamed Hufflepuffs
  • mocha nut butterballs
  • shortbread
  • Turtle bars
  • white chocolate & macadamia nut cookies

Here’s Madeline, baking Turtle bars:

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Some chopped macadamia nuts:Untitled

Thomas and Grandma are baking cookies:

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Some dulce de leche truffles:

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These are from the new recipe I decided to try, except instead of putting jam inside with the marshmallow, I put dulce de leche:
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The recipe was called “Marshmallow Puff Tartlets”1, but I kept calling them Poofy Puffs, before finally deciding they should be called Hufflepuffs

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A bunch of baked goods (clockwise from top left: gingerbread, Chinese almond cookies, shortbread, Hufflepuffs):

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And now we are all very tired and filled with sugar. Like I said: success!

  1. Basically, they are Whippets, but homemade and, therefore, better []

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Next Recipe I’m Going to Tackle

One of the suggestions for blog postings was “the next recipe you are going to tackle”. And fortunately for me, this is an easy one because I just so happened to have picked a new recipe to try out tomorrow for Christmas Baking Day: Marshmallow Puff Tartlets.

Day 166

And just to be different, I’m going to make half of them with jam, as shown in that picture and half with caramel. Because it’s Christmas and therefore sugar and butter should be mixed together at every opportunity.

I’ll be sure to blog the results!

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Ninja Blender

A long, long time in a galaxy far, far away1, I asked Twitter what blender I should buy2. There were several suggestions and much debate, but in the end I decided to get a Ninja blender, and only partly because it has an awesome name. It got great reviews for its blending power and I found it on sale at Canadian Tire, where I could get the blender with a jug plus an attachment and several blending cups so that it can be like a magic bullet for making smoothies in, only way more powerful than a magic bullet3 – for the price of just the regular blender and jug. That’s $50 off! And you know how much I like a deal!

The main reason I wanted a blender was to be able to make hummus and spinach & cilantro rice, the latter of which involves blending up spinach, cilantro, and parsley with vegetable stock and then cooking rice in that. It looks like this when you blend it4:

Day 75

So far, I’m pretty pleased with my Ninja. I haven’t yet tried out the crushed ice setting, but perhaps that is something I can do in the new year!

  1. This is one of those postings that was in my Drafts folder, as just a title, that I mentioned in my last blog posting. []
  2. My ex owned a blender when we moved in together and my magic bullet blender was on its last legs, so I got rid of it. When my ex became my ex, I then had no blender. []
  3. OK, I can’t talk about magic bullet blenders without linking to this blog posting. []
  4. OK, I can’t talk about blending without linking to this blog posting. []

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My Favourite Christmas Tradition

Ingredients for brandy snapsHands down, my favourite Christmas tradition is baking with my family. As far back as I can remember, we’d get together to bake Christmas goodies that we’d give out to family and friends and have around the house for when people came to visit. When I was young, my Aunt Wendy would come over to our house and bake with my mom, my sister and I. And it was always so much fun and the tasty treats were always much appreciated by whosoever was lucky enough to receive them.

Coddled Egg
When we got older, my sister and I carried on the Christmas baking tradition, and for a couple of years we made ornate ginger bread creations – one year it was a whole village of little gingerbread houses, another year it was a living room on Christmas Eve (with a fireplace, a chair, a table with cookies for Santa on it, and a cat asleep on a rug). I wish I knew where I put the photos of those gingerbread creations!

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake - mixtures ready to go

Long time readers will know that in 2009 we held the first ever Snow Family Cyber Cookies, where my mom, sister, and niece baked in Toronto and I baked at my place in BC and we hung out via Google Video Chat so that we could bake “together”. Not as good as baking in person – you can’t sample the baking over the intertubes – but still pretty fun. In 2010 I was in Toronto, so I could bake with my family in person and in 2011 we did Cyber Cookies again. In 2012 we couldn’t get coordinated with dates – I spent a bunch of time at the holidays on the Island with my then-boyfriend’s family and we couldn’t coordinate a day when I was home to do CyberCookies. And this year I’m in Toronto and we are having baking day this coming Saturday!

Chocolate Chip CookieWe decided that we each only get to choose two things to bake, as there are five of us in total who will be bakers (my mom, my sister, me, my niece, and my sister’s friend Daniel1 ), so that will be 10 different baked goods. I have to make shortbread, from my Great Granny’s secret recipe, because everybody loves it2, but I still have to pick my second item. I’m thinking I should do something that calls for sweetened condensed milk, because omg, I love sweetened condensed milk. I should probably get out some recipe books and make a decision!

  1. My nephew will also be helping, but he’s only 2.5 years old, so he’s still to wee to be able to make stuff on his own. []
  2. Everybody except me. I don’t like shortbread! []