Thursday, December 17, 2009

Long Term Relationships and gift shopping

It is that time of year again where we all head out into the malls or surf the web looking for that perfect gift for your loved one. Is it just me or do you feel that you ran out of good gifts? My husband and I have been together for 10 years now, I think I ran out of good gifts. I used all the classic mens gifts a little too early in our relationship, but seriously I think I ran out gifts!! Cufflinks, case for the cufflinks, winter vest, gloves, scarf, belt, socks, boxers, sweaters, pajama pants, swiss army knife, watch, money clip, tools, valet, wii, games for the wii, lingerie (for me, but for him ;), ipod, hammock, magazine subscription.....and list goes on.

So now I am starting to repeat gifts, but I'm not happy about it. I have to things which make it difficult to shop for my husband, lack of ideas, and when he wants something he buys it right away. I have returned 6 gifts during our relationship because he came home with what I bought him a week before his birthday, our anniversary or christmas!

I know there are a ton of gifts out there I just find it difficult to stay unique and keep to personal for my loved ones. I guess it doesn't help that he doesn't have any hobbies, he works and comes home. He has interests but nothing that needs accessorizing. I just finished wrapping all his gifts, I thought I was all good, but then after looking at what I got him I realized by gifts are lacking....ugh. I can't tell you what I bought him just in case he actually reads my blog (long shot!)

If anyone is actually reading my blog and has any ideas let me know, I am at a loss. Oh did I mention that his birthday is in February so I am back to the malls in January. Yay......BoooooPublish Post

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Email Signatures!!!

So apparently someone that is close to me that will remain nameless isn't a fan of my email signature. My signature consists of 2 lines, my name and my blog address. How is this too much? It is quick and too the point. If I don't put my blog address on my email how will anyone know that I am blogging? Apparently those 2 lines bug them. Now let me give you a little bit of insight into this person, he is a young male in his thirties, is technology inclined so it isn't bugging him cause he doesn't understand it cause he does! Now here's the issue for me,  he works for a very large organization, where his email signature is 7 Lines!! Oh yes 7. Now I personally think that is way too much information but I don't complain! So get over it man, deal with 2 line signature or get rid of your 7 lines of which 3 of them are repeating the same information over just in a different language!
Geez 7!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My first car accident

Ugh so not the best day, woke up got all my stuff together went out to start my day, filled up my car with gas and then as I was pulling out of the gas station was hit by a car! Don't worry I'm ok.
The guy must have been coming pretty fast because I didn't even see him coming I only heard him upon impact. He hit the rear driver side of my car. The passenger side side airbag deployed. Holy fucking scary!!!
We called the police who promptly came 25 minutes later, asked if we were injured and needed an ambulance. (neither of us did) and then gave us the accident report forms to us and left!!! What the #$@?
So here is what happened I was pulling out of the gas station turning right, the car in the middle lane was letting me in so I pulled out the other car must have been driving super fast because I didn't even see him. He hit the rear driver side of my car and my side airbag deployed. The airbag looks like a raft you would put in a pool. I'm ok other than a banged up left arm and shoulder and some whiplash of course. The other guy is ok other than some whiplash although his tiny car had a lot of front damage.
I hope I never get into another car accident that was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. Even scarier was the cop telling me to drive my car home, but to drive slowly and carefully. I'm pretty sure that after an airbag is deployed and a tire is bent the wrong way a police officer should not allow you to drive your car home. I assume there was an emergency elsewhere cause the cop could not get out there fast enough.
Anywho car accidents suck, my arm hurts, my shoulder hurts, and I can't tell my boss I can't work because I am my own boss!!! BOOOO

Great way to start a weekend, no car, and in pain. UUUUUGGGHHHHH

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Living with Celiac

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about 4 years ago. Some people would think that living without pasta, pizza, bread and fried food in general would be impossible. But it's not, well at least not after the adjustment period of panic and self pity, followed by the "I can't eat anything" phase, which lasted about a month. Followed by the holy crap what am I gonna eat phase!!!!

It was at this point that the planner in me kicked in and I started to deal with my diagnosis. Celiac as stated on states the following:

"People with celiac disease are allergic to proteins (glutens) found in wheat, barley and rye grains. In these people glutens stimulate an immune reaction in the small intestine, which causes an inability to absorb certain nutrients from food.
The treatment is to avoid foods containing glutens. Untreated, celiac disease can cause many medical complications. However, when a diet plan is implemented, patients can experience almost complete reversal of symptoms and complications from the disease."

So I dove head first into the gluten free diet, researching, reading labels, shopping in new aisles of the grocery store and testing out recipes. This took a lot of patience because the trial and error period had a lot of error. But thanks to the fact that I already cooked most of my meals instead of ordering take out and eating at restaurants I quickly learned that it is very easy to live a Gluten free life and still have delicious meals.

So flash forward to today I am living gluten free and not even noticing. I have found the perfect gluten free pasta that can be cooked al dente and tastes delicious. I can enjoy the same fried food that I did before except in the comfort of my own home or at a restaurant where I have made friends with the chefs and brought them gluten free ingredients. My favorite gluten free accomplishments are: fish n chips, fried calamari, spaghetti & meatballs, brownies, chewy chocolate chip cookies and they are all made gluten free and delicious.

So to all the people trying to live gluten free, have a little patience try all the different brands until you find the one you like and basically if you cook from scratch with fresh ingredients (nothing from a can, bottle, or package) your cooking life will be very easy.

There will be many more posts on celiac and gluten free diets, but if you have any questions or topic suggestions let me know!

Concierge to All

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ode to Bobbie Burgers

Last year for my bridal shower my stepmom did a collection for the gift and I ended up with a huge gift certificate to an art gallery. I held on to it until December when a particular artist was showing her work. The artists name was Bobbie Burgers and she paints the most beautiful paintings of flowers. I selected one and it is hanging in my dining room where I can admire it everyday from the kitchen.
I wish I could have a whole collection of burgers!
Here are a few of her paintings just to tease you guys too!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Photographer Update!

So I spoke to the photographer and in the end we agreed that there was a misunderstanding. I truly believe that an album was included and he says there is no way an album would have been included in the price. In the end he offered me my already printed album that is in his office for a low price of $500! He came down from his initial $2500 bill. Given everything that we have gone through with this photographer and all the problems, excuses and lack of respect, my husband and I cannot in good faith give him any more money. I know some of you may think I'm crazy, yes I know it is my wedding album but it's the principle of it. I feel like we are being swindled out of something that was promised to us.
I remember when I was in greece shopping with my stepmother, there was a few small pottery shops, in greece you can negotiate on the price. There was a vase that I had my eye on so we tried to bargain them down, I remember my stepmom saying that I will have to be willing to walk away from it if I didn't get the price I wanted. I though I was ok, with that, turns out I wasn't cause I went back and paid full price for the vase. Well I am willing to walk away from my wedding album, which I think shows how sure I am about my decision.
I told the photographer we will not be paying for the album, so he has offered us our picture CD in high resolution so we can print our own album. I am happy to be getting my pics in high res at least.
I hope this is the last chapter to this long story. I am disappointed with the ending but at least feel that we have our principles intact.

Holy Soup!

So I survived my big weekend! I can honestly say I am not in the mood for soup!! Over the course of the last 3 days I have made over 30 liters of soup. Last night I participated in the charity event Girls n Gourmet, it was a wonderful experience. It was my first time teaching a large group of people. I was excited and nervous but in the end I think it was a huge success. I guess given that I was talking about a subject I knew so much about, I relaxed and just went with it! Everyone loved the soupe aux pistou, some people even asked for seconds!!!YAY my cooking is a hit. Overall the experience was wonderful and I was happy that I decided to participate in this event.
Today my soup of the month club began, I finished the last 6 liters of soup this morning and the only thing left to was deliver them. So week 1 of 4 is delivered and this begins all again next week.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Weekend Ahead

So the next 5 days I will be super busy. But good busy!! On Monday night I will be one of the participating cooks in CJA's  Girls n Gourmet and Tuesday the Soup of the Month Club begins.  For the event on Monday thee theme is "around the world" I will be representing France. I will be teaching a group of women how to make Soup aux Pistou.  I'm not an expert on French cooking, but I do feel that this recipe falls into my culinary point of view nicely. It is a easy and delicious soup that really fits into my comfort food style with a twist.

I am so excited for this event but also a little nervous. This is such a huge opportunity for me and my company. Basically it will give me the an opportunity to show off my food directly to my target audience. I have been practicing the recipe and my teaching points all week and feel confident that I can pull it off, but I'm sure I will have jitters on the day of. To add a little more pressure did I mention that my mother and grandmother will be at the events, also all of my moms best friends. Hopefully having friends and family there supporting me will give me the extra boost to be amazing.

While preparing for this event I am also getting ready for the first delivery of the soup of the month club on Tuesday. The first month's turn out was really good. I am super excited for this new chapter in my business. It will give me a little more stability in sales which will be welcomed with open arms. I'm hoping with each month and the weather getting colder and colder, more and more people will sign up.

I feel like my business is finally moving forward, being the only employee I am feel like I can take some of the credit. So this pessimist is going to pat herself on the back and say good job, keep up the good work!

I'll let you all know how the event goes on Monday, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wedding Photographer Problems Part 1,2 &3

For those of you don't know part 1 & 2, I will quickly recap. When I got engaged the wedding planning began immediately. High on my list of priorities was photography. After meeting with several photographers and loving there work, I decided to go with a long time photographer of the families. This photographer has done everything from my brothers Bar Mitzvah, my sweet 16, both my parents 2nd marriages and the list goes on. I chose him because of the experience he already had with my family. He knows how we work and already knew everyones names! When I met with him we agreed on a price that included 2 photographers for the day of and also included a traditional wedding album.

Part 1-The Wedding day
The photographer took terrible to mediocre pictures of my husband, there was literally only 3 printable shots to choose from for the album! There was only 1 good picture of my inlaws, but tons to choose from my 2 sets of parents. I didn't even get a picture with my mom and dad (my parents are divorced, amicably) I only have pictures with all the step parents in the pictures which is fine, but it would have been nice to have just my mom and dad with me. In the majority of the shots my brother is standing 2 feet away from everyone else. Aren't professional photographers supposed to tell people where to stand and also to SMILE!!!There was no 2nd photographer, only his assistant who basically just held his extra camera the whole day!

Part 2-It took Forever!
After my wedding on August 31st, I received my proofs in the form of a low resolution cd in mid november. I didn't mind waiting because I assume the pictures would be edited and that was worth the wait. Except they weren't edited and I received them in mid November. It took me until March 1st to select the pictures for my album. Being super organized a created a spreadsheet with the photo #, and what finish I would like them in  (black and white, sepia etc) and how I would like the picture cropped or edited. We went through the entire layout and my part was done.
Nothing was sent to me until the beginning of June. They cropped off peoples heads and arms. I had to got through each page again and send it back only to have them sent back to me with new problems. Very frustrating. From June-August my photographer didn`t answer me at all. Finally all was finalized the first week of September.

Part 3-Printing
The album was finalized on Sept.6, it was supposed to take 2-3 weeks. After emailing to get a status update and receiving no response, I phone the photographer who told me that he was super busy with very important famous clients. Great so I am a nothing and not a priority. Last week over 6 weeks after sending the album in I received an email informing me that I had an outstanding balance for printing the album. I can`t believe after over a year he is going to throw a surprise charge at me! What an ass. He claims an album was never included in his original quote. I disagree. Either way lets say the price didn`t include an album, wouldn`t you give the client an estimated price after the layout was all done and editing was complete before sending it to the printer?
Well there was no discussion of price at all, I assumed it was included. Now he sends me an email saying my album is ready and I owe him $2500!!!!!

Not happening he can keep the album! I am not paying another cent towards this terrible experience. I am so angry that now I have negative feelings toward my wedding pictures.

Stay Tuned..we are supposed to talk tomorrow!

Garde Manger

So me, my husband & 2 of my girlfriends went to Garde-Manger for dinner last night. The build up to this tiny bistro style restaurant was pretty big since I made the reservations 3 weeks so we could get in! We strolled in at 9:30 and the restaurant was 3/4 full. Seated right away luckily next to one of the chalkboards with the menu written on it, otherwise the waitress would have had to dictate the whole menu. The menu was small about 6-8 appetizers and 6-8 mains. My girlfriends who usually love ordering multiple appetizers to share were having trouble finding more than 2 that they liked. I given my allergy to Gluten had trouble finding 1 I could eat other than a green salad.
In the end my girlfriends decided not to share and that they weren't that hungry. They ordered an avocado, tomato, cucumber salad with fried Cheddar cheese balls to start and then they both had the salmon tartar as their main (appetizer portion) My husband started with the pork belly and clams, followed by the halibut with pierogies. I (big eyes!) had 2 main courses cause I couldn't find anything that I liked on the appetizer menu. I started with the Scallops and Crab Salad, followed by Risotto with rock shrimp and a lobster broth.

Before I tell you about the food let me tell you about the atmosphere. It is on Saint Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal so the parking is a real bitch.  The entire restaurant must seat about 25-30 people max. They have only 2 seatings 7:30 & 9:30 which I guess explains the wait to get a reservation. It is very dimly lit with a huge gothic or medieval type chandelier. (which my girlfriend would like in her bedroom!) There is a small bar, which I think you can eat at (I am assuming walk ins get that option) There is somewhat of an open kitchen, in the sense that we can see the chefs but not what they are cooking. It was very loud and only got louder as the night went on. 80's music was blaring from the speakers, much to our delight and a lot of chair dancing did occur! Basically if the food was bad the atmosphere of being a fun place would have saved it, however that was not the case.

The first courses arrived. My husband said his pork belly and clams were delicious, although deep fried pork belly can't be gross! The avocado salad was so good it was passed around the table, there is something to be said for fresh ripe ingredients, properly seasoned and tossed in a complementary vinaigrette, oh and the fried cheese balls didn't hurt either! My scallops and crab salad was delicious. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I was so happy to see crisp pieces of lardon to eat with them. The surprise on the plate was the crab salad. It was presented in a baked potato skin bowl, the crab was light and refreshing. Despite that it was a main course portion I finished it all.

There was quite a long delay between our 1st and 2nd course but I was happy so I could make room for my 2nd main course! The music was good and the people watching was fun! The mains arrived at which point my girlfriends were already full, but still said that the tartar was different and yummy. The salmon was mixed with some traditional and some non traditional ingredients, shallots, capers, green beans etc.
My husband said his halibut was very good but the pierogies were a bit of a disappointment, not as fresh and homemade as he thought. My risotto was great, good consistency, depth of flavour. My only criticism is that there were too many rock shrimp in it. But it was still delicious enough to finish!

We stayed for a few drinks after dinner, at which point the music was at full blast and the restaurant how now officially turned into a bar complete with a door man. All kinds of interesting people walked in. ( I have never seen shorts so short!) All in all the evening was very enjoyable and we all agreed that we would go back, the only thing that sucks is that we have to plan at least 3 weeks in advance to make a reservation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hockey Season begins!

Another Hockey season begins! Go Habs Go! Or at least that is the way most of the fans felt last Thursday before our first home game. The atmosphere was wonderful. I was so excited! Being an avid Habs fan since I was born, I look forward to each new hockey season beginning. This year is also the celebration of the Canadiens 100th year anniversary. The evening began with the lights in the bell center going off, with only the jumbo tron lit up stating that 769 people have played for the habs in the last 100 years. Then the screen went off, and all of the names of the players began scrolling up and down the ice in alphabetical order. It was a pretty cool thing to see, it really puts into perspective how many people and families were involved in the Canadiens organization.

The team skated out all together to avoid the awkward we don't have a captain moment. I thought this was smart, I don't think the team needs to name a captain right away nor should they. The Habs this year is made up of so many new faces. The team dynamic is still developing, so to name a captain could be detrimental to the team. They should let one emerge or let them all fight to be the leader of this great dynasty. 

As I said I am a huge Habs fan, but I am not unrealistic in my perception of the team and where they are going. The team is going to have some growing pains. So many of our key players are new, and montreal being the #1 high expectation city, needs to allow these players to live up to their potential and give them time to do that. We are a city that demands instant gratification, and isn't afraid to share our dissapointment with anyone who will listen.

Some of the fans understand that to build a stanley cup winning team takes time, others don't. They are the ones that call all the talk radio and also make up most of the press! Listen people we are 2 weeks into the season, relax enjoy the show, don't take every move, hit, shot, penalty etc so seriously!! I am a passionate fan but also a logical one, I don't set unrealistic expectations for the team, so I am not constantly dissapointed.

I am not going to start predicting who will make it into the playoffs and who won't, it's october we are 6 months away from the end of the regular season anything can happen. So relax people, enjoy the game of hockey and let nature take its course. We can start going crazy in January but until then just deal with it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cooking with Beets, the super food!

So when I was younger I hated beets I thought they were yucky and tasted like dirt! Now I have a more refined palette and I can appreciate there earthy flavour. Also beets are very good for you. They are rich in folate, a nutrient important for cell growth. Beets can also help  keep your brain healthy, a lack of folate has been known to have a higher risk of dementia, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition.

The first time I looked at a roasted beet recipe I thought "forget it" this is way to complicated and time consuming, but I have now realized they are just as simple as making mashed potatoes they just take a bit more time...(and most of that time they are in the oven, so you are free to do other things!)

Here is the way I prepare beets:

Preheat your oven to 425

Cut the hairy tips off the ends of the beets, then I place them in a single layer on aluminum foil, make sure the foil is long enough so you can fold it over to make a pouch.

Fold the aluminum foil over to cover the beets and crimp or fold each side in until the beets are tightly wrapped. Place your pouch on a baking sheet (in case the pouch leaks) and place in the center of your oven for 45mins-1 hour depending on how large the beets are. Flip the pouch over half way through the cooking process just to make sure you don't get any burnt parts.

You will be able to smell the roasted beets and that will give you a good hint on when they are done. If you are not sure, you can take the pouch out, open it and poke a beet with a knife, if it is tender then it is ready if not, then just wrap the beets up again and roast for a little longer.

When you remove them from the oven let them stay wrapped in the pouch for 15 minutes or so, this will allow the beets to steam a bit which will make them easier to peel. After that open the foil to allow the beets to cool.

Once they are cool, put on your plastic gloves (to avoid staining your hands, although if your not making a ton of beets you should be ok if you wash your hands immediately)

Hold the beet in one hand and rub the skin off with your other hand, the skin should slip right off, sometimes the skin gets a bit stuck and you can peel or cut it off with a small knife.

At this point your beets are ready for their next use...salad...purée etc.

A roasted beet has such a different taste from the beets I remember. The simple process which only takes about 15 minutes of active cooking time, makes all the difference in flavour. (inactive is when it is in the oven)

My favorite way to eat roasted beets is with goat cheese and arugula. The picture shown is my attempt at a fancy beet salad! Actually it looks fancy but is easy to all you need is a cylinder mold then you just layer and voila!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Summer is over

So summer has officially ended for me. I have a small 10 x 8 fruit & vegetable garden in my backyard. This year we planted cherry & grape tomatoes, lemon boy tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, boston/bibb lettuce, romaine, green beans, snap peas, garlic, onions and every herb you can think of! Then there are the perennials blueberries, raspberries, italian parsley, chives, sage & jerusalem artichokes.

Today we harvested the last of our onions, potatoes, & raspberries. The soil has been turned and the composting has begun. This is a sad time because I won't be able to walk into my backyard and harvest dinner. I barely had to go to the market for veggies or herbs this summer, it was so satisfying that I was growing my own meals.

However now that we are entering into the fall the real cooking begins. Summer meals are all about simple preparations, showing off the freshness of each ingredient. Autumn and Winter are when you turn to food for comfort from the stress of work or the chilly weather. Cooking in the colder seasons takes more creativity and is more of a challenge. I am a huge believer in one pot meals, not just to have less dishes to wash but because you can create something with such complex flavour yet it is so simple to prepare.

I am a little behind in creating the fall menu for my catering company so in the next few weeks I will be going to the markets to see what produce is still available and testing out new recipes and revamping old ones. I will share any "wows" or just tips to cooking for the fall with you.

Concierge to All

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome to my life!

Wow my first blog posting, where do I begin! I guess I can give you a little history of where I am in my life right now. I married last year to my boyfriend of 9 years. Before we got married I had quit my job to pursue a field that I would enjoy more but also a job that would fit into my life plan. So in November of last year I created my catering company Family Flavours. Basically I cook fresh meals from scratch for individuals and families and deliver them to their houses. Occasionally I do onsite cooking but very rarely. I work from home (fits into my life plan) so essentially I have very flexible hours, as long as I get the job done it doesn't matter what hour of the day I do it.

I would like this blog to talk about any and all issues that come up in my life whether it be personal or professional. I will share recipes, restaurant suggestions/reviews, life experiences, info on celiac disease and of course my concierge services! I encourage you to suggest topics or pose questions that you think I may be able to answer and I will do my best to answer everything. I should warn everyone now that when it comes to my life experiences my initial reactions are negative and cynical, but with some retrospect I am able to give it a more positive spin. HOWEVER, when it comes to other peoples problems I have been told that I give excellent well rounded advice. I just wish I could give it to myself and then follow it!

I hope that you find my point of view interesting, informative and helpful. If nothing else this blog will prevent a lot of my road rage, because I will vent with my words not my car horn!

Hope you keep reading

Concierge to All