Sunday, September 30, 2007

Birthday Brunch

Brianne wanted to have a brunch for her birthday and it had to include some of her favourite foods, hash brown casserole, sausages, bacon and chocolate cake. Whenever we have family celebrations everyone brings a dish. So while I made the hashbrowns, a tart green salad, a fruit salad, a rustic chicken salad and pumpkin loaf. My Mom brought an almond raspberry bread ring and eggs benedict casserole. My sister brought chocolate cake, pumpkin streusel cake and maple stuffed french toast. And my Grandma brought an egg stata. Talk about too much food! But it was all yummy and I didn't have to do any cooking today!

I know they say not to try new recipes when entertaining but I always do. I'm not sure I'll make the chicken salad again but it did have had fennel in it and I've always wanted to try something with fennel.

The tart green salad is from the Joy of Cooking and is a nice blend of greens with the dressing having a slight bit of sweetness.

Buttermilk Honey Dressing

Whisk together in small bowl:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 buttermilk
3 T honey
1 scallion, minced
pinch of ground red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Add in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly.
1/2 cup olive oil

Tart Greens with Apples and Pecans

Combine in a bowl:
4 cups bite sized arugula
1 small head radicchio, torn into bite sized pieces
2 belgian endives, cores trimmed and removed and leaves sliced lengthwise into long strips

In another bowl:
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored and thinly sliced

Add just enough dressing to both the greeens and apple to moisten and toss to coat. Top greens with apple and:
1/2 cups toasted pecan halves

The hashbrown casserole is an old favourite that I make frequently.

Hashbrown Casserole

1 package frozen hashbrown potatoes, thawed
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 16 oz. container sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp dried dill weed
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
paprika to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.
In large bowl combine hash browns, potato and celery soup, sour cream, milk and onion.Mix well and season with salt, pepper and dill.
Spoon into prepared dish and sprinkle with paprika and cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until well browned and bubbly.

And the Pumpkin loaf (click for the recipe)is a new recipe from Williams Sonoma and the spices all meld wonderfully to provide a great taste.

16th Birthday Celebrations

Well, we made it! All the 16th birthday celebrations are done! A couple of weeks ago Brianne had friends sleep over and the next day I took her and Claire shopping in the US. Then we had ice cream cake and gave her our gifts on her actual birthday. And last but not least, all my family came over yesterday and we celebrated Brianne's 16th birthday and Brock's 14th birthday!

Fall Decor

I like to decorate the house for the seasons. And so in preparation for a fall family get together to celebrate Brianne and Brock's birthdays I visited the market and Michaels to create this table centrepiece.

I also created a mantel arrangement and found a few more seasonal items to complete the fall look. Check them out in the slide show below.

And I like to have a little something at each person's plate(maybe its the Martha effect!). So for the ladies I decorated theses little notebooks. I was very pleased with how they turned out and how quick they were to make.

Then when the girls saw these ones, they each wanted one too, so I made a couple more!

Friday, September 28, 2007


I saw this quote posted on a billboard near my house and thought it was particularly timely given my recent post on the daily grind!

"It is the daily grind that gives a person polish."

How very true it is!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weeknight Meal

So I did make the chicken stir fry from my prior post and it has a very good taste. Next time I think I'd double the chicken/broccoli ingredients but keep the same amount of noodles.

Another quick weeknight meal I make fairly frequently is Hamburger Stroganoff. The kids like it and as an added bonus its made in one pot. Here's the recipe:

1 lb. ground beef
2 onions,chopped
1 19oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 T worcetershire sauce
2 cups small shell pasta or macaroni
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

In large saucepan cook beef and onions until meat is no longer pink. Pour off fat. Stir in tomatoes, 1 cup water and worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently for 20 minutes or until pasta is tender but firm. Stir in sour cream, heat through but don't boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Brianne passed the first level of Ontario's graduated driver's licensing program today. She was pretty nervous going in but so excited upon passing! After supper I took her to practice drive around a large parking lot and get a feel for the car. She did well, only gave me whiplash once!

Happy Birthday!

to my nephew Brock! He's 14 today!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Daily Grind

I don't know about you but for me, once or twice a year, I get overwhelmed by the never ending grind of daily life. You know, get up, go to work, come home, cook supper, take kids somewhere, help kids with homework, squeeze in a load of laundry, pay bills, clean the kitchen and repeat it all the next day! And sometimes it seems you're the only person who cares that the house is clean, the laundry done, the garbage is taken out for pick up on time and we have decent suppers. So usually when I get in these moods, I have a minor meltdown, read my family the riot act, get them to pitch in and move on.

And this is pretty much what happened this time, except for the suppers. I like cooking except during the week when I come home from work tired and am usually in a time crunch of some sort. So I turned to the free Kraft magazine for inspiration and actually planned and wrote out what meals we would have for the week. And what a relief not to have supper looming over your head while at work all day!

So here's some recipes(click on recipe name for the actual recipe) I've tried over the past week or so:

Chicken Parmesan Bundles

This recipe calls for boneless chicken breasts rolled over the filling. Except I got out bone in chicken! So after thinking about it I decided to cut a pocket into the bone in breasts,stuff the filling in and coat them as best as I could. And you know what, they turned out OK! The usual test of whether a recipe is good or not is whether my family thinks I should make it again. This one got a yes, lets make it again!

Layered Enchilada Bake

I thought the kids would like this given their perference for tacos. And they did! As I made this one I realized I didn't have enchilada sauce so used some extra salsa. Also as I had larger tortillas than I think the recipe called for I used fewer and didn't need to any cut into strips. I also used yellow corn not the corn called for the recipe. This was another, yes lets make this again!

Roast Pork Tenderloin

Of the recipes tried so far this was my favourite! I served it with new baby potatoes and asparagus. The pork was moist and tender, I think the searing of it before putting it in the oven to bake helped to seal in the juices! I'll definitely make it again!

Slow Cooker Tex Mex Chicken

Steve put this recipe together while I was at work. I'm not a big fan of minute rice but we used Uncle Ben's brand which wasn't too bad. And this with a salad made a good supper. We'll make this one again!

Beef Bruschetta Skillet

This dish is very garlicky and uses lots of fresh tomatoes! This with a salad makes another quick and tasty supper. We'll make it again.

Chicken Stir Fry

This recipe is on the agenda for tonight's dinner! My friend Kathryn's family has made this and said it was great. I'll be sure to post and let you know our opinion.

One Pan Tacos

I think I've made this recipe before and its planned for later this week. Again this paired with a salad should make quick dinner. And since the kids love tacos, I'm sure they'll like it!

And now back to the weekly grind of cleaning and laundry!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tofino Sunsets

Yes its more of our BC trip! From Vancouver we took the ferries along the Sunshine Coast to Powell River then another ferry across to Courtney on Vancouver Island. We spent one night in Nanaimo and then drove along another winding highway to Tofino where we spent three nights at the Pacific Sands Resort. We do have a lot of pics from Tofino so I'll describe it over a few posts. I couldn't resist starting off the Tofino pics with these beautiful sunset shots that Steve took over two nights. The third night it had been clear all day so I thought we'd get some really great sunset pics when all of a sudden a fog rolled in( really it did come in quite quickly) and we couldn't even see the water! But that was Ok because we had some great shots already. These are all taken on the beach at Cox Bay.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Capilano Suspension Bridge - BC Trip

From Whistler we drove down the Sea to Sky highway to North Vancouver. The highway is under major construction in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. But since we were travelling on a Sunday we didn't encounter any delays but did get a good look at the changes being made. It is another scenic drive with great mountain and sea views. I hope the expansion doesn't change that too much.

We only stayed one night in North Vancouver so took a quick drive around downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park(after we crossed the Lions Gate Bridge sister to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge).

Then we went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I have previously visited the bridge a few years ago while on business. And it was winter so I was one of very few there and the bridge did not move when I walked on it. This time however it was a beautiful summer day,there were lots of people there and the bridge did move! It was fun though! Also, since I was there, they have added a tree tops tour of bridges suspended through the old growth trees that was lots of fun to walk.

It was a very enjoyable stop!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Whistler - BC Vacation Continued

To reach Whistler from Kamloops we took highway 99. Highway 99 is a scenic, winding mountain highway that crosses Cayoosh Creek several times. And several of these bridges are one lane only. It was a lovely drive.

When we reached Whistler we realized that not only is it a happening place in winter, its hopping in the summer too! From world renowned golf courses to mountain bike tracks, winter skiing, zip lines, hiking and shopping, Whistler is a sight to behold. When we arrived, we had dinner at an outside patio and watched the mountain bikers tackle the mountainside track. The next day we took the gondola and then the chair lift to the Whistler Peak. It was cold up there, with snow! We hiked a bit and the return hike was on one of those deadly slow incline paths, it was a good work out!

Then we hit a grass mini golf near Nicklaus North and brushed up our putting skills!

Friday, September 14, 2007

BC Vacation Continued - Kamloops Area

From Kelowna we headed north to Kamloops where we stayed at the nearby Sun Peaks Resort for a few days. Sun Peaks is a relatively new ski resort with summer activities of golf, hiking and photography. There was actually a fair number of people there with several being from bus trips(on the way down from Jasper) or conferences. The last day of our stay there was the first day of the Western Porsche Owners Conference and we saw some nice cars!

Using Sun Peaks as our base we explored the countryside. One day we headed east past Revelstoke to Roger's Pass and while it was a little bit overcast we still saw awesome mountainviews. We also saw the spot where, in 1885, CPR( I mean I, see pic in slide show) pounded in the last stake uniting the railroad from east to west. We also saw the beautiful Lake Shuswap named after the largest Native Tribe in Interior BC.

The next day we stayed local and visited the BC Wildlife Park. Here we watched a Birds of Prey show which included a vulture, falcon and owl. We also saw Buffalo, Bears, Coyote, Lynx, Cougar, Goats and a mangy looking wolf!

Another day we went further north into the beautiful Wells Gray Park. Here we saw scenic natural views and Helmcken falls which is 3 times the height of Niagara Falls. On the way to the park we drove through areas where you could see the expanse of 2003 fire damage as well as where the fire jumped the Thompson River. I can't imagine what it would have looked like on fire!

Then on our way to Whistler we stopped at Hat Creek Ranch which is situated in a drier desert like area. The ranch was a regular coach stop during the gold rush and it was an interesting look at what ranch life would have been like in the 1800's. The dry scenery here is quite a contrast to that in the rest of BC.

Stay tuned for more on our BC trip in future posts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cupcakes, Candy Apples and Gelato!

These are three of our family's favourite things!

Yesterday my friend Kathryn and I visited The Cakebox. It is a speciality and wedding cake store that has recently opened up a retail location. The cakes designs are awesome, do check out the link to see the variety. And they had a selection of cupcakes that I couldn't resist. Pictured are Double Chocolate, Chocolate Reanut Butter,Rocky Road, Caramel and Chocolate, Chocolate Mint and Oreos n' Cream! And they tasted as good as they look!

While we were in BC we found that there was a plethora of Gelato stores. And like this picture, the gelato was scooped artistically into the display counter containers and decorated according to its flavour! There were tons of flavours including chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, rootbeer, creme brulee,rocky road, chocolate hazelnut to name a few! And the best part about gelato is that while the flavour is amazing it has 10 to 20% less fat than ice cream! Hopefully I'll find a gelato store here at home soon!

Also while we travelling in BC we came across some Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Stores.While Brittany loved the fudge, we found out that Brianne is a candy or caramel apple fiend! She is devouring one covered in smarties in the slide show below!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Me Me

I was tagged by my Mom who was tagged by Canadianbakertoo to describe myself using the letters of my name.

Here it goes:

R* Reading, I love to read and I visit the library often(although i do get a lot of books from my Mom and my friends). My favourite books to read are mysteries, romance and biographies.
O* Optimist, I usually look at the positive side of things and do view the glass as half full.
S* Scrapbooking, while I've tried other hobbies this is the one that I love. I have been scrapbooking for 10 years and its what got me started on my blog!
A* Ambitious, I often tend to be overly ambitious planning to do way more than I can ever hope to accomplish! But it is fun trying!
N* New recipes, I love to try out new recipes and browse cookbooks. Although the cookbooks have almost been replaced by food and recipe blogs!
N* Nickname, my nickname while I grew up was Annie. In fact my sister still calls me Annie, her sons call me Aunt Annie and my friend since childhood, Lori, still calls me Annie!
E* Explore, I love to explore new countries, cities, towns, villages and stores. Recently, I had a great time exploring BC with my family!

Brownie Round Up

My brownie recipe made the round up and look at all the other wonderful brownie recipes here!

I'll be sure to try out lots of these recipes!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kelowna and Area

While we were in BC we spent a few days in Kelowna and toured several wineries and some are included in the slide show below.

While all the wineries have beautiful views, the one that has the most beautiful view is Mission Hill. Its view of the Lake Okanagan is unsurpassed! They also have a lovely outdoor restaurant and stage area. But each winery is unique. At Cedar Creek they have a outdoor pergola(the top looks like a wine barrel) and lawn area used for weddings At Arrowleaf and Summerhill they have some interesting statues/carvings. At Red Rooster is a unique display of art. At Burrowing Owl are expansive winery views. NK'MIP(pronounced Inkameep)is a native owned winery. La Frenz provided wine for a recent royal visit. Poplar Grove has a 'monster' series of wines with glow in the dark monsters on their bottles. St.Hubertus was burned in the fires of 2003.

In addition to wineries are fruit orchards.

The legend of Ogopogo.


Winding highways.

Awesome views.

And Rainbows.

Today is

our 19th wedding anniversary! Its hard to believe that its been 19 years. In some ways it seems longer but mostly it seems shorter. As a child, I remember thinking that people who have been married for almost 20 years were old. I can tell you that my perspective has changed a lot!

To celebrate our anniversary Steve and I went out on Saturday night with Kathryn and Dave(who also celebrate an anniversary in September)for a nice dinner.

We also received a number of cards and some beautiful flowers from my Mom, Dad and my sister, Sherry, and her family. If you're reading this blog, thanks so much Mom, Dad and Sherry!

And Steve surprised me with 2 dozen roses! Aren't they pretty? I love flowers!

Friday, September 07, 2007

First Day of our BC Trip

The first full day of our trip was my birthday! Yes, I'm 39 again!

For my birthday we had a lovely lunch at Gray Monk Winery in their Grapevine Restaurant.

We loved that we sat out on deck overlooking the vineyards and Lake Okanagan. Although it had been overcast in the morning by the time we had lunch it was beautifully sunny. Brianne and I had gnocchi, Steve had salmon and Britt had the pickers lunch. The pickers lunch included crusty artisan bread with herb garlic spread, lettuce, tomato, smoked ham, and emmental cheese and was served with a cup of the soup of the day. It was all really good. Britt and I then had Berries Romanoff for dessert. The blackberries were huge and juicy! Brianne, chocoholic that she is, had a lovely light chocolate cake. Of course Steve and I had wine and we were all introduced to a Sparkling Flavoured Water called Okanagan Essence. It comes in several fruit flavours and the pear is delicious.

While we toured more wineries(I'll describe them in another post), the girls got to try several flavours of the Okanagan Essence.

After our day of touring when we returned to the hotel, I found a basket of goodies had been delivered to our room for my birthday. It was from my sister Sherry and included tastes of BC. Some of the items it contained were a bottle of wine, wine jelly and jams as well as Rogers chocolate covered cherries! It was all yummy and we ate several of the items throughout our trip! It was a wonderful start to our vacation!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And Even More Garden Pics

These are the last of the Butchart Garden pics and are close ups of various flowers.

I'm not sure you can tell but the dahlia flowers were salad plate size and planted in a long edge garden called Dahlia Walk. The fuchsia were gorgeous as they thrive in the cooler damp conditions. I loved the hydrangeas. We have pictures of the pink ones but they ranged in colour from blue to pink to white.

One of the unlabelled pictures shows a red flowering plant draping down along with licorice plant from a hanging pot. I'm not sure what it is called but it is pretty.

That's it for the flowers, wineries are next!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And More Garden Pics

A few more interesting garden shots.

Mr. Butchart used to keep ducks in the Star pond. Click Butchart Gardens for garden history.

I do have one more slide show of some pretty flower pictures and that will be all the garden pics I'll post. I do want to get into describing the rest of the trip!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More Garden Pics

In my previous e-mail I mentioned the interplanting and textures at Butchart. Here's a few pictures that show off what I mean. I may try some of the interplanting ideas next summer.