Family Christmas Party aka Holiday Potluck II

Since it’s been awhile since I posted about my last potluck, I figured a new cheerful holiday post was in order.  Just as an update on my life for anyone who teensy bit cares: classes have now officially ended and I am half terrified, half excited that my second last year of university is halfway over.  Seriously!  My actual life starts so soon, I can’t wait.  Also, my first exam isn’t until the 17th, so I have spent the last couple of days doing the following: drinking beer, eating chicken wings, playing Mario Kart, eating (inhaling) sushi, and watching Mean Girls.  As you can see, my life involved quite a bit of eating and not much studying.  As of tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. that will most certainly change.  Exams, you are going down.

The charming Christmas ornament my mom sent us last year. The blacked out section is our address, which I feel should not be mentioned over the realms of the Internet.

Okay, so ever since we moved into our house, it has become a tradition to have a “Christmas family potluck.”  And by tradition, I mean we had a dinner last year and decided that we needed another excuse to decorate the house for the 2010 festivities.  Since there are six of us in the house plus two boyfriends and a boyfriend roommate, we ended up with quite a bit of food.  There was chicken, ham, potatoes (sweet and normal ones!), stuffing, brussel sprouts (which I wasn’t brave enough to try, I blame my dad for not liking them!) and MORE (if you can believe it).  Finally, there was dessert, which I was obviously responsible for making.  On the menu this year was a double-layered chocolate cake with peppermint white chocolate buttercream icing.  I seriously ate so much for dinner that by the time people came over for our actual party, I just wanted to go down to my room and put on my stretchy pants.  Thank god I resisted.

Regretfully, I did not get a nice picture of my cake since I didn’t finish icing it until well into the depths of 6 p.m. light.  The picture you see below was taken under the lamp Ariel bought at a yard sale.  ‘Nuff said.  I’ll tell you this, however…  It was yummy!  I finally managed to use some of the ridiculous amount of white chocolate that I have and used the rest of my homemade Christmas tree chocolates to decorate the sides.  IT WAS Christmas in a cake.

Christmas dinner as seen from my iPhone

This year’s family get-together also involved a “fancy” holiday party afterwards, at which time we proceeded to drink spiked egg nog and revel in the glow of our sparkling Christmas tree.

We also had our Secret Santa gift exchange.  There are six of us in our house and this year we PROMISED not to try and sneakily match the gift givers with their recipients.  This, however, failed greatly, and after two revealing bus conversations with Ariel and Amanda, I had the entire web of gifting deciphered.  Amanda was my Secret Santa and she got me…wait for it…A COOKIE PRESS!  That’s right, I can now make spritz cookies and pipe icing to my heart’s content.  Best. gift. ever.  I was Ariel’s Secret Santa, and got her the cute polar bear sweater you see below, Christmas tea and a cookie like the one we had from Le Moulin de Provence in first year.  Cute, right?

ALSO, one more thing.  I wore this wicked dress I bought at the Ottawa Vintage Sale a few weeks ago and was DEVASTATED when I got some sort of water stain on the front of it.  Seriously, you can’t take me anywhere!  Hillary’s Cleaners will be having a visit from me very shortly…

The pictures below are just a few more images from my fun night…






My wonderful Secret Santa







Family picture where we all look a little bit crazy (especially Britt)...
Mass chaos in the kitchen
New favourite channel: The Fireplace Network
Our Christmas tree as seen from my Hipstamatic iPhone app
Family picture 2010



Radio Potluck Party aka Christmas Baking Part ONE

It is currently 12:23 a.m. and I am sitting at the kitchen table waiting for a chocolate cake to bake.  This cake is for the family potluck (i.e. my six roommates and close friends) are having tomorrow eve.  While I listen to Glee music (which is WAY too peppy for my current mood), I figured I might as well type out a new blog post.  Please excuse me if my sleepiness is greatly apparent within this post.  Grammatical skills depart as the evening goes on.

So today was our last radio class of third year (sob).  Through newsroom days and the rest of the semester our class has gotten pretty close, and I’m hoping that most people will be in Thursday TV next semester so we can have more delicious potlucks.

PAUSE: One of my cake layers just finished baking!!  This is very good news, the other half has now entered the oven and sleep time crawls more and more near by the minute.  Hoorah.

ANYWAYS, back to radio.  Since I baked something for two out of three newsroom days, I figured it was only appropriate to end off the semester with a Christmas-themed potluck.  Also, I actually look for ANY excuse to hold a potluck and was extremely eager to once again display my baking skills to an audience other than my roommates.  At one point in the afternoon, Mary (our professor) actually said: “this is the reason why I don’t believe journalism students are too busy,” or something along those lines… Not true.  I just have ZERO life and spend any time that would normally be consumed by a university student’s social life baking.  It’s an addiction.

Okay, but seriously.  This potluck dealt me the perfect opportunity to begin my Christmas baking.  And so, I spent approximately 10 hours this past Sunday baking to my heart’s content.  Although some people dread it, I LOVE doing this sort of thing and the unfortunate “woman slaving over a hot stove” thing totally applies to me here.  Did I just set feminism back decades?  Apologies.  Let me explain: I’m actually the LEAST domestic person in the universe.  Sure, I love cooking, but I’m not a domestic diva or anything.  Yes, I occasionally answer to the name “Martha Stewart,” but I really want nothing more than independence, adventure, and zero children (until I’m old and have lived my life).  There, perhaps feminism has been restored to its 2010 level.

Okay, so here’s what I made:

1. Peppermint brownie bites
2. Ricotta cookies
3. Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread rounds (don’t these cookies look like little Spock heads?)
4. Gingerbread cupcakes with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting – SO amazing.  The recipe came from the blog Sweet Girl Confections and they were just wonderful.  Thank you so much!

Now, for any Canadian Living fans out there, I can tell you that the top three recipes came from the magazine’s special “Holiday Cooking” edition.  All three were marvelous, but I especially appreciated (a) their freezing ability from Sunday-Thursday, and (b) the fact that CHEESE can be put in cookies.  Fantastic, right?

Also, I made hand-moulded chocolate Christmas trees.  It was fun.

Alright, better check on the other half of my cake.  Later days!

AND the preparation/chaotic packing mess…

Christmas tree farm?

One more thing… In anticipation of tomorrow night’s cake and the blog post to follow it, please just take a look at what my baking looked like last year at this time.  I hope to improve on this times a badgillion.  Yes, the icing did melt off the cake, laugh away.  I’m so ashamed.  On that note, I’ve come a long way, n’est ce pas?

Chick Pea Burgers and VEGETARIAN WEEK

You know how in the last post I mentioned something about converting to vegetarianism?  Well it’s happening…for a week anyways.  Being a newbie at this whole vegetable eating thing, you might think this is a shocking statement.  For the next seven days I will be exploring all things non-meat-like in an adventure that will hopefully prove to be quite enlightening.  I have always been a lover of burgers, chili and (of course) pogos, but this week I am battling my inner carnivore instinct and keeping it green.

SPEAKING OF BURGERS…As my second “vegetarian stint” meal, I decided to make a chick pea-inspired burger.  I really only tried chick peas for the first time last year and have since fallen in love with their meaty and delicious texture.  Also, hummus is just really, really good.  This chick pea burger recipe came from Canadian Living and allowed me to use up the half can of chick peas that I had chilling out in our fridge.  Even though I cut down the ingredients into a third of what was originally required, I still got three decently sized burgers out of the mix, one which I ate for breakfast this morning (hooray for early morning protein).  Since there is really nothing in the patty other than chick peas, rice, grated zucchini/carrot and bread crumbs, I’d say that the cost per burger ended up at probably around 75 cents.  Pretty dece, right?  Vegetarianism: making me more healthy AND more rich.  Love it!

Alright so keep checking back over the next week as I continue to share my “Vegetarian Week” menu with the blogging world.  Perhaps this will one day turn into vegetarian month…

Ratatouille with Pesto Crumble

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!  Two week hiatus?  Officially over.

This ratatouille was good enough to almost convert me to vegetarianism.  Get this: the only thing in this dish was zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, eggplant, onion, and feta cheese (Mmmmm).  I hope you’re impressed mom.  Considering I haven’t had time to really eat anything in the past week, this ratatouille was a wonderful vacation away from the occasional bowl of Cheerios and leftovers to which I have lately become accustomed.  For anyone wanting a cheap and easy winter meal, this is the recipe for you.

Ahh, but of course there is an inspiration behind this meal…

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since watching the animated movie Ratatouille a few weeks ago.  For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, it is the adorable tale of Remy the rat, a culinary connoisseur living in Paris.  Throughout the movie Remy, and his helpless-in-the-kitchen human friend Alfredo, dazzle the kitchen of a French restaurant.  At the end of the movie, Remy and Alfredo make ratatouille and melt the heart of a stone cold food critic.  Probably my favourite animated movie ever.  The clip below is from when Ego (the appropriately named food critic) is served Remy’s final dish.  Also, don’t you just love how perfect everything looks in Pixar movies?  Vegetables without a single blemish, the cutest little people, and bubbling soups that look like lava.

Also notable: this is my first time EVER trying eggplant.  Prior to this meal, I only knew it as that fairly attractive purple squash-shaped thing that sat atop the zucchini section.  Now I know it as a spongy piece of heaven with a chewy consistency.  Quite a wonderful discovery if I do say so myself.

PS: Feta is the most delicious thing in the universe.
PPS: I wasn’t sure how this pesto crumble thing would turn out, but the basil complimented the flavours of the vegetables and added a nice texture to the whole thing.  Good call Canadian Living.

Beef and Bean Chili in a Bread Bowl

I’m one of those people who can vividly remember several moments from her childhood.  While most of these memories often just swim around in the archives of my brain waiting to give me a major shot of déjà vu when I’m least expecting it, some of them sit in a more fond spot.  Perhaps in the more exclusive brain archives section – the “Reserve” section, if you may…

Here is one of those memories: When I was young and living in Timmins, my dad and I always used to go out to Tim Hortons.  These trips came pretty often, since my dad was a huge fan of Timmie’s coffee (things have changed since we got our new coffee maker at home) and I always insisted on coming along in hopes of getting a doughnut.  Some of my fondest memories of these little Tim Hortons trips came when the shop was having its “chili in a bread bowl” promotion.  My dad and I would absolutely lose our minds for this.  I think I ate a record-breaking amount of chili when I was young, simply because I loved the combination of crusty bread and mouthwatering chili so much.  Anyways, for some reason Timmie’s stopped having this chili in a bread bowl promotion and the chili has since never tasted as good.  Mom, you get a lot of shout outs on this blog but dad, this one is for you.

Feeling nostalgic and craving chili, I knew that this was a completely necessary meal to make.  The recipe I used was pretty traditional in the chili sense, and came from Canadian Living.  The title they used for the chili had the words “really good” in it, so I figured I would give them the benefit of the doubt and whip myself up a batch.  Ugggghhhh, as I type I am so full of delicious chili that all I want to do is hibernate for the whole winter through.  This recipe was great, since the only thing I needed to buy at the grocery store was crushed tomatoes.  Don’t you just love having all the other ingredients on hand?  I even got to use up most of my pesky stalk of celery, a vegetable which looks cute slopped with peanut butter and raisins, but unfortunately lacks taste unless combined in something so delicious as this chili.  Since the recipe doesn’t call for too much celery and carrots, I just tripled the amount that they requested, to make a meal that was just as healthy as it was hearty.  I also added way more hot pepper sauce than requested, for an extra spicy kick.

Although the recipe says it only makes four servings, I discovered it made around six.  With these leftovers as well as leftover stew, I will guaranteed never go hungry again.  Such a shame since I want to try out a ratatouille recipe soon…