I just received the email confirming that I’ve been accepted to the 613flea on March 9th — only three Saturdays away. Sadly, this means I’ll be missing the market this coming Saturday, February 23rd, as I have schedule conflicts that day. Even so, I’m really exited, and I have so many “new” items that I can’t wait to show!
A perennial favourite is the Tuperware Pick-A-Deli; it’s so popular that they still make them new (although the colours have changed over the years). I believe that they started making this design as early as the late 1960’s, although I’ve had a hard time finding a firm date on that one. It’s really great for storing pickles in vinegar, fruit in juice or syrup, pickled eggs in brine, carrot or celery sticks in water — just about any solid food that you’d generally store in a liquid, really. The trick is the strainer with the handle, which lets you lift the solids out of the liquids easily without making a mess.
Tupperware pitchers (or, as we called them in our household, juice jugs) are also very popular, and they’ve come in many shapes and sizes over the years. Variations on this look are still available new as well! For people of my generation, there’s something about the older styles that conjures childhood memories of Kool-Aid or frozen juices from concentrate, served in matching tumblers in the summertime.
This last one, now, made me laugh when I found it. I never knew that Tupperware paired up with Blockbuster to make popcorn bowls. I’d guess that this happened sometime in the 90’s, when now-defunct Blockbuster was at its most popular. Apparently this kind of promotion ran more than once, since now that I’ve known what to Google, I discovered that they also came with a “Blockbuster Music” logo. It’s essentially a 26-cup Fix-N-Mix bowl with different branding, which was originally intended to throw your salad fixings inside, add some dressing, and then close the lid to mix it all together. It could still be used for the same, but I have a feeling that the Blockbuster version was marketed to put popcorn in, add butter, salt, and/or other seasonings, and then close and shake to mix. How else were you supposed to use a large plastic mixing bowl to “make it a Blockbuster night”?
I was perusing my cookbooks the other day for a quick meal that wouldn’t require a lengthy trip to a grocery store, and I decided on Ground Beef Stroganoff from The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook (Coco Morante, 2018). It’s very different than the stroganoff that I was taught to make way back when (I learned so long ago that I honest can’t remember), but it was still quite nice. The only alteration was that I made the dish using lactose-free sour cream instead of regular sour cream.
I really liked that this was truly a one-pot meal; the sweating of the onions and garlic, the browning of the meat, and the cooking of the noodles are all done in the Instant Pot. This is the kind of situation where the saute function really shines. And I really liked that the short pressure cooking time was just long enough to get the prep mess cleaned up and the table set. What a great meal for a busy weeknight!
One of the things that I really like about birthdays is that it usually means going out for dinner. When it’s a large group of people like it was for the dual birthdays this past weekend, that usually means a kind of place where everyone can find at least one thing that they like — which often means a buffet or all-you-can-eat kind of place. This year my friends chose 168 Sushi Buffet. We’ve eaten there for a number of other celebrations, and it’s usually pretty good food. I mean, it’s not fancy, no bones about it, but it gives everyone a chance to try a little bit of everything, and I really like that.
As a bonus, this meal gave me the chance to try out the little ring light that I had purchased during my visit to the US in the fall. Restaurant lighting is notoriously bad (it’s generally kept low for “ambience” — and often to conceal a multitude of flaws), and it’s not like you can set up a tripod in the close quarters between tables. One of my friends was nice enough to act as my light stand, though, so I think I captured a few decent pics. Above we have a group order of sashimi.
Rolled sushi (dragon rolls I think).
And seafood udon soup.
Every other dish went by me so quickly and was picked clean so fast that I didn’t have a chance to get pictures! I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t involved in that process or something, but I found it funny.
So, would I recommend this restaurant, and others in this style? Most definitely! Don’t go in expecting something high-end, but you will get your fill of good food. It’s also extremely popular! There was a long line from the time we arrived to the moment we left.
Over the weekend two of my friends celebrated their birthdays together — the same two friends that I baked birthday pies for around this time last year. I asked them if they would like pies as gifts again this year, and they seemed to think that this was a marvelous idea! One of my friends even requested the same type of lemon meringue pie as last year, since it went over so well.
I don’t think the meringue was as fluffy this time, but I was much happier with the level of browning on the top — which I think can be accounted for by the oven, which we replaced in the meantime. I find that while it does have its own challenges (it runs pretty consistently 50 degrees F hot), it provides a much more even heat overall.
Photo by Karen Turnbull.
Sadly, the meringue topping got a little bit mangled in transit, but I’m assured that it still tasted fine! Once again, I used half of a crust recipe from page 73 of The All-New Purity Cook Book (Elizabeth Driver, 2001), the lemon meringue filling from page 687 of the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker, 2006 edition), and Soft Meringue Topping #1 on page 798 of the Joy of Cooking.
My other friend requested a change-up from last year with a fruit crumble instead of a pie. He really wanted rhubarb, and he was lucky that I still had some left over in the freezer from last summer’s harvest, because it’s well out of season around here. I mixed the rhubarb with some strawberries and green apples for added flavour and texture, and I did add a cup of sugar to the fruit because rhubarb is so very tart. To make this dish I used the Apple or Fruit Crisp recipe on page 392 of the Joy of Cooking. The final product kind of looked a mess, but I find that most crumbles do! I got to taste a bit of this one and I was quite happy with how it turned out as well. It was like a little bit of summer stuck smack dab in the cold and snow of February.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and while we’re not terribly into big romantic gestures in our household, the kids really do love celebrating this holiday at school. Everyone ends up with a little mailbox full of Valentines, and some sweets to bring home, and often parents send in some nice snacks for the kids to munch on throughout the day. So of course I had to get the girls to help me with some baking to bring along to class.
At Thing 1’s insistence, I made a chocolate sheet cake with chocolate icing for her class. Since she loved her Triforce Cake so much, I used the same recipe: Amelia Bedelia’s Sheet Cake, found at the back of the story book Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off (Herman Parish, 2010), or online via Desktop Cookbook. This time, though, I actually made buttercream icing from scratch — my very first time trying it! I used the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker, 2006 edition) recipe for Chocolate Buttercream found on page 793. Honestly, the icing was more difficult to make than the cake, but it turned out so well! I used really dark chocolate and my munchkin appreciated it. She isn’t actually a big fan of the thick layers of super-sweet icing that are commonly found on commercial cakes, and to be honest, neither am I. I decorated the icing with a dusting of icing sugar over some heart-shaped cookie cutters, and then I removed the cutters to lay down a heart made of Smarties. I know it wasn’t symmetrical, but the kiddos didn’t seem to care.
Thing 2, however, really wanted to make mini banana muffins for her class. I went back to the trusty recipe in the Joy of Cooking and we together we made the Banana Bread Cockaigne on page 628. There’s a lot of teaching that goes along with baking with a child of that age, especially since they haven’t started learning fractions yet! Even so, this recipe is very forgiving (if you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a favourite), and it turned out really well. There were only three left over after she shared them with her friends, and those were promptly snatched up by her grandparents. Not that I begrudge them, because if they didn’t eat them, I would.
I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day and were spoiled with some of your own favourite treats!
Yesterday was a snow day here in Ottawa — and by that I don’t mean the standard “school buses are cancelled, but schools and everything else is still open”, which is what generally happens around here. A large storm was incoming, so the elementary and high school boards closed the schools entirely the evening before (meaning no after-school extracurricular activities) and didn’t reopen them until this morning. All of the colleges and universities cancelled everything for the day. Anyone who had a job that let them work from home was encouraged to do so — and this is a government town, which means a lot of office workers. Any retail outlet that could keep the lights off did so, or at least waited until later in the day after the worst of the snow had been cleared to open to the public.
What this meant for my little family is that we were all home together yesterday. My husband worked from home while I watched the kids, both of whom were excited for the extra day off to complete their Valentine’s Day preparations. The four of us spent a good hour and three quarters clearing the driveway in the afternoon — well, my husband and I cleared it while the kids ever so slowly worked on the walkway. It was a lot of work, but at least the weather was lovely, hovering just below freezing and sunny once the snow stopped falling.
I have to admit that this season has really gotten me down. I’m not usually subject to the winter blues, but it’s been a rough year. There hasn’t been a week where someone hasn’t been home sick since the fall, which really isn’t helping. January was the snowiest one on record, which meant the kids missed a lot of school because of snow days as well. Between the sickness and the snow and the many very cold days, I think we’re all feeling kind of housebound.
So when I was out grocery shopping early the other day in preparation for the storm, I grabbed myself a bouquet of flowers at the cash. I know they’re probably meant for Valentine’s Day, but I thought that our house needed a bit more colour to contrast with the snow outside. Roses are traditional this time of year, but I am particularly fond of lilies, since that’s what I carried at my wedding. (I am also partial to orchids, since they’re my husband’s favourite flower and what he wore on his lapel at our wedding.) Every time I see these flowers they make me smile, and I remember that it won’t really be that long until we start seeing green outside again too.
I finally organized my spice cupboard! I’ve been putting it off forever, but I finally got fed up when I yet again bought more of something I could have sworn I was out of, only to find an old jar of it stuffed in behind containers I could swear I had moved.
I mean, it wasn’t a horror show, really. But when I cleaned it out I realized that I’d had some of the contents of those containers for at least six or seven years. One, a jar of Italian spice, had to be at least ten years old. Not that any of it would have hurt any of us to eat it, but what kind of flavour was I getting out of stuff that ancient?
I’d been collecting these little Tupperware spice containers (Modular Mates small spice shaker 1843 bottoms and 1844 lids) for a while now, picking them up second-hand whenever I got the chance. They don’t make the small ones any more, and I figured that the larger ones would just prompt me to buy too much of a single spice again. While I can see that being useful for something like cinnamon that I use in large quantities, it’s not something that I need for all of my spices. And while I love those magnetic spice tins that look so great on a kitchen wall and mean that you can see what you have left at a glance, to keep herbs and spices fresh they’re supposed to be stored in a dark place — like a cupboard. (I’ve seen some designs where those magnetic spice racks are placed on the wall directly above the back of a stove, which looks lovely, but not only are the contents getting damaged by light but also by the heat of the cooking below. I wouldn’t recommend this setup unless it’s 100% for show.)
And now my spice cupboard looks like this! I find it immensely satisfying. To my dismay, I thought I had more than enough containers for my spices, but even after green binning a bunch of ancient ones, I still had more than I thought. A number of the herbs and spices that I don’t use often are now in my freezer, although I plan on transitioning them at least in part to the little containers when I get some more. For now, the freezer will keep them fresher longer anyway.
I think I’ll need to put in a couple of shelves so that the containers aren’t stacked, though. I know they won’t stay orderly otherwise. Or maybe I can find some kind of racks that slide out for easy access? I’ll have to look into it. But for right now I can find what I need when I need it, my choice of containers encourages me to buy in bulk (to reduce single-use plastic), and I’m loving it!