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Friday, December 31, 2010

Caramel apple dip

Oh, I'm so happy to be sharing this little recipe with you!  It's easy, and so delicious!  Crowd-pleaser, for sure.

Apple dip

I found the recipe here on a fellow Islander's blog, although I did modify it.  The recipe is simple:  1 pkg caramel sauce (find in the produce section - it's used straight-up for dipping apple slices), 1 pkg softened light cream cheese, crushed skor bar pieces (some mixed in the dip, some on top for garnish).  The original recipe also calls for 1/2 cup brown sugar but I think the dip is sweet enough with the caramel and skor bits.

The part of this dip that got the biggest response was definitely the tray of apple slices.  I used a combo of Granny Smith and Red Delicious.  I arranged them in alternating colours and it made quite a visual impression!

Christmas apples

My dad has over thirty years of experience as a grocery man, so he had a great tip for keeping the apple slices from oxidizing (i.e. turning brown).  Dip them in 7-up.  Good ol' 7-up.


Apples in 7-up

An up-shot of using the pop was that at the end of the process, you had a delicious little apple-lemon-lime beverage to sip!  (Mike came up with that).

Apple 7-up

Here is a final shot of the dip before it was taken to the annual family party and devoured.

Apple dip

Something quick to make for a New Years Eve party, maybe?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday playlist

I've been collecting a list of favorite not-necessarily-traditional holiday tunes over the past several years.  I was first inspired by a former lab-mate who made an amazing mix CD (that was before everyone had an iPod and an iPod dock) that I "borrowed".


So, in no particular order, allow me to provide you with my current Christmas/holiday playlist.  YouTube or other links are provided.  Some songs are traditional Christmas carols, some are less-than-traditional, some are just wintery songs that I like to listen to at this time of year.

Song For A Winter's Night - Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot's songs take me back to my earliest memories of childhood.  This Christmas, I received Gord's Gold on vinyl... along with a photo of a new turntable set up in my living room back in St. John's!  Guess I'll be listening to this song all winter long.

Fairytale of New York - The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

Oh how I love this song.  Maybe my favorite of the season.  See my previous blog post regarding the Jenn Grant and In Flight Safety version of the same.

At Last, I'm Ready For Christmas - Stan Rogers (link to a cover version)

Oh Stan.  He sings the truth.  This song captures the reality of Christmas for young families.  Another Stan favorite of mine is First Christmas... but it always jerks tears so I have left it off my official playlist.  Especially since this WAS my first Christmas away from home.

I Believe In Santa Claus - Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
Dolly and Kenny are a staple at my house over the holidays.

Christmas Must Be Tonight - The Band
Shockingly, I just discovered this song this year.  Very catchy. 

O Holy Night - Weezer
I'm surprised that Weezer's whole Christmas album is religious, with the exception of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  Anyway, I think it's a fun update from the usual version I hear at church every year.

White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

This is one of the non-Christmas songs... but I love it.  Just love these guys.  When My Morning Jacket zigged with Evil Urges, these guys zagged in.

Christmas In Killarney - The Irish Rovers

I think I sang this in my grade four Christmas concert.

Merry Christmas Everyone - Séan McCann (song download link)

This is a new release out this year from a Great Big Sea member going out on his own.  I downloaded it because it was free, and it grew on me.

Christmastime - The Smashing Pumpkins

This is one of the songs from my lab-mate I mentioned earlier.  Definitely a new classic.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon & Yoko Ono


Seven Joys Of Mary - Great Big Sea
Wow.  Traditional, but not classic Christmas.  This song really gets my foot tapping.

I Saw Three Ships - Sting

Short and sweet.  Sting's sound really goes well with this traditional song.

Snoopy's Christmas - The Royal Guardsmen

I have always loved this one.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan

BNL is one of the few bands whose Christmas albums/specials I just adore.

Wintertime Love - The Doors

SO not a Christmas song.  This is maybe my favorite Doors album (Waiting for the Sun).  If you like the Doors at all, I would check it out.

Come And I Will Sing You (The Twelve Apostles) - Great Big Sea

Another traditional song from GBS.  I know it's not a Christmas song, but it somehow feels right at this time of year.  Maybe it's because I first heard this album over a Christmas break; maybe because it's church-y and this time of year church-y songs are kosher.

Little Drummer Boy - Bob Dylan

Most new Bob Dylan songs freak me out a little.  His holiday album is no exception.  This video is quite entertaining though... nothing like the Must Be Santa video.


Happy listening!

Christmas dinner

Mmm... one of the best parts of Christmas.  Mike and I had two amazing turkey dinners on Christmas day.  The following photos are from the second turkey dinner, the one that actually induced the food coma.

Turkey bird

[classic turkey]

Christmas dinner

[clockwise from top:  coleslaw, chow, turkey and cranberry sauce, carrots and broccoli, gravy on potatoes.  centre: maple bacon stuffing]

Plum pudding

[plum pudding]

Plum pudding is a staple of Christmas dinner in our house.  It may be the best dessert I've ever had.  Of course the fact that you only eat it once a year makes it all that much more delicious.  I love it so much, in fact, that two years ago I rolled away from the table to write the following poem:

Ode to Plum Pudding

You are sweet.
You are delicious.
You appear but once a year.

Juicy are your raisins.
Your sauce gives me hallucinations.
Butter, cream and sugar
Are so much more
Than the sum of their parts.

My blood sugar soars.
My food memory roars.
Oh plum pudding,
My heart belongs to you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scotch cookies

So, apparently, Scotch cookies are a Prince Edward Island thing.  When you Google "scotch cookies", the first three links that come up are from PEI.  Some Islanders also know them as scotch cakes.

Scotch cookies

I will let you in on a secret.  They aren't really just a PEI thing... the rest of the world knows and loves these cookies as shortbread.

Scotch cookie recipe

Regardless, they are a tradition in my family's home over the holidays.  We recently whipped up a batch.

Scotch cookie dough

The recipe has been handed down and has morphed over the years, depending on how tight money was at the time.  The current recipe is similar to the hand-written one above, with a few changes:

Scotch Cookies

1 cup butter
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
icing to decorate, if desired

Cream butter, yolks, and vanilla together in a bowl.  Add icing sugar and combine.  Add flour and salt and mix.  Form dough into ball.  Roll out thin - about 7 mm or desired thickness.  Cut with cookie cutter.   Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until bottom edges of cookies are golden brown (about 15 minutes).  Once cooled, decorate with icing.  Cookies freeze well if layered between sheets of wax paper.  Depending on your cookie cutter, you might get about three dozen cookies out of this recipe.

My mom's mom's baking spoon has been handed down to us and that's the one our scotch cookies are made with every Christmas.

Nan's spoon

Continuing on with tradition, this cookie cutter has also been around for an eon.  It is made from an old pizza sauce can, back when the cans were super tiny!  I don't know what would come in a can that size now.

Pizza sauce cookie cutter

Again, here is the finished product.  Melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies!

Scotch cookies  

Monday, December 13, 2010


Eggrolls!  Homemade eggrolls!  The best kind of eggrolls!  And I would know - I'm on PEI, the place where eggrolls are everyone's favorite Saturday night snack (along with the rest of Special Plate C).  Some say the Canton Cafe is the best Chinese food here, some prefer China Garden, some love Blossoms, but my favorite Chinese food are the eggrolls that come from Souris West.


My parents make these every year.  This year, they waited for me to arrive home-from-away before the annual event.  I always heard about these eggroll-making nights but was never witness to one.  Until now.

Pork, shrimp, and veggie filling

So, up until now, I was under the impression that the delicious crumbly filling, the one with the perfect balance between meat and vegetable and just the right amount of saltiness, was my father's own creation.  After my inclusion in the ritual, however, I came to realize that the filling is made using the recipe on the eggroll-wrapper box.  Wong Wing.  No matter, the stuff is still just as delicious!  This year, Dad added a few diced shrimp to the pork recipe.  I also realized it would be super easy to make an all-veggie version of the eggrolls.

Prepping shells

The eggroll wrappers come in packages of approximately 50.  They come apart easily.  The "glue" that sticks the wrapper together in all the appropriate places is egg white.  Get it?  Eggroll!  Take a little silicone or nylon brush (the kind you might use for BBQ sauce), dip it in the egg white, and paint three borders of the square wrapper.  The borders should be about an inch thick.  You then add a dollop of filling (not too much, not too little - you'll get the hang of it).  Make sure to not get any filling on the outside edges of the egg white border.  The moisture of the filling prevents a good seal and then you get a lot of snap, crackle and pop during the (spoiler!) deep frying phase.


Directions for wrapping the eggrolls:  first fold the non-egged edge in towards the middle of the wrapper, over part of the filling (this is one of your long edges), then pinch one end of that folded-over piece, to hold it in place.  Fold over the other long edge, overlapping the first edge by about 1 cm, and press down lightly to seal.  Now press each end tightly to seal.  You can also use a fork to really crimp the edges down (as shown above).

Ready to fry

Your wrapped products should look like this.

Heating oil

Now they are ready for the oil (we used canola).  I prefer not to really provide instructions on how to heat the oil.  I just have to say *do it safely*.  You may have a deep fryer, or you may have a pot like we do.  *Do not leave the pot unattended at any point*.  Read a few deep frying tutorials on line, or ask an experienced deep fryer for tips.  I am not an experienced deep fryer.  I am a little scared of hot oil, not gonna lie.


Here they are, frying away to a sizzling, golden brown.  Prior to frying, make sure all of the edges of the rolls are still sealed - as I mentioned above, if the filling comes in contact with the hot oil, you will have some noise and some spatter.  As far as cooking time, you have to play around and get the feel for it.  After a few minutes, one side will be brown enough.  You then flip it, and fry the other side until done.  Use a metal slotted spoon to remove the rolls from the oil, and place onto paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Now, after all the scariness of the hot oil, we are rewarded with some amaaaazingly delicious eggrolls!

Homemade eggrolls

As delicious as they look.  We made 100.  Wonder how long they'll last over the holidays?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

Just had to share this delicious recipe with you guys.  Mike is the go-to Shepherd's Pie guy around here and this is his latest trial.

Shepherd's Pie

So, maybe comfort foods are not always the most photogenic.  But believe me when I say this dish was ultimately savoury and delicious.  The meat is seasoned with thyme, cloves, black pepper and garlic, not to mention a healthy splash of red wine.  Rather than a veggie layer, celery and carrot are cooked in with the meat.  The skin-on potato layer (just the way I like it!) has a pinch of nutmeg.

To summarize Mike's alterations to the recipe:

  • Substituted milk for the half-and-half called for
  • The amount of wine was not specified so we used 1/2 cup
  • We had no fresh oregano or thyme around so went with dried thyme
  • The original recipe uses Yukon gold potatoes, we like reds 

Since we had to open a bottle of wine to flavour the dish, we obviously couldn't let it go to waste!

Homemade vino

This is a homemade shiraz, getting better with age.  I think Mike should start up a home brewing blog... any other votes in favour?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


After a lazy Sunday afternoon of watching old episodes of Mad Men and playing long-overdue catch-up with some design blogs on my Reader, I developed a hankering for some retro decor items.  Considering my current financial state, I skipped the mall and headed to Value Village instead.

And I scored!  In the "home decor" section my eye was immediately drawn to this set* of smoked glass drinking goblets.  Can't you just picture Betty Draper drinking just a little too much wine out of one of these?


[*not actually a set, but three out of four ain't bad for $3]

They looked strangely familiar until I realized I had seen almost identical glasses that day on Apartment Therapy, in a post about using goblets during the festive season to up your dinner-table fanciness.

[for sale here]

Other suggestions at AptTx included these amber thumb-print goblets:

[for sale here]

Much like the pair below that Mike and I received as a wedding gift from my uncle.  These belonged to my late grandparents.  We only use them on special occasions, befitting their unique history.


I agree with the original goblet post - they do dress up a table.  They are distinguished, and a bit regal.  Not for every day... to be saved for special occasions.  I hope to have many a happy toast with these vintage glasses.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


During a November weekend away (you may remember the Swift Current post), we took a long-ish detour and decided to visit this little town.  Our visit was short, but we did make it to Cape Bonavista to see the gorgeous lighthouse.

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

Canadians know Bonavista as that easterly place made famous in the Canadian version of "This Land Is Your Land".

But Newfoundlanders know it's a real place.  They may know it as a legendary landing spot of John Cabot (or Giovanni Caboto - he was Italian).

John Cabot

John Cabot

They may know it as yet another ruggedly beautiful coastal area in a province that is abundantly blessed with such places (like here, and here, and here, and here).

Cape Bonavista

Dungeons Provincial Park

We can certainly vouch for its beauty.  It was worth the drive.

The Hogans at Cape Bonavista

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent calendars

As it is almost December 1st, and I've been seeing so many advent calendars around the blogosphere lately, I decided I would provide you all with a little collection of my faves.  Some are very suitable for DIY.

The first is from Miss Gioia via oh, hello friend (who happens to have an excellent round-up of advent calendars).  I am in love with this one - it uses an increasing amount of buttons to indicate the number of each pocket.  Love, love, love.

The next is actually a DIY project and comes from Paige Russell via Poppytalk.  I think the stark white mixed with rainbow bright colours would be perfect in a modern home or apartment, don't you?

Here is a fun little pyramid calendar from Country Living.  I found it courtesy of craft lovely.  If you are like me and love candlelight, and prefer a matchstick to a lighter, you may just have a few matchboxes lying around.  Alternatively, you could purchase a multipack of matchboxes and store the matches in a large jar while the boxes are re-purposed.

This final calendar is a beautiful print-it-yourself project by Jen Hill (found via the ever-addictive Design*Sponge and their round-up of calendars in general).  It comes free with purchase from her shop or you can get the .pdf for $5 on her site.

If this post inspires you to make up your own advent calendar, I need to see pictures, so let me know!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter is here!

So, technically, Winter isn't here until December 21st, but today was the first real snowfall here in St. John's.  So I'm christening Winter today.

Today was also the first day I had to break out a hat.  My personal favorite hat.


It was knit long before this blog started.  Super quick and fun.  Love the spiral pattern of the top decreases!


And the big wooden button, of course.


If you know me on Ravelry, the project has been posted there for awhile.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but could the best part of winter be the knitted accessories?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Swift Current

Ever heard of Swift Current, Newfoundland? It is the home of Kilmory Resort. We first heard about it at a silent auction fundraiser for Haiti last winter. They were offering for auction a two night stay in their finest chalet - and we took home the prize.

Kilmory cabin

[our cabin]

The husband and I finally redeemed our certificate last weekend. And what a prize it was. This is a little resort area tucked in the woods directly beside a quiet river in rural Newfoundland.  The cabin itself was well equipped with everything we needed, as well as a jacuzzi and fireplace!  To top it off, the weather was unseasonably warm and sunny.

Warm for November

This trip was so peaceful.  No internet.  No cell reception.  Just the two of us, a beautiful river view, the guitars (and the new mandolin).

Kilmory Resort

[cabin view]

Hogie on Mandolin

[the mandolin]

We also fit in a few hikes.  The first, at Garden Cove, was fun and quirky.  Someone had taken it upon themselves to decorate the trail with some folk art.  A few samples:

mystery chair

[some kind of Elk's Lodge meeting place?]

Antlers - Laura

[now I get it...]


[closest we came to cell reception all weekend]

The other hike was at the former Piper's Hole Provincial Park.  For reasons unknown to us, this park had been shut down for apparently several years.  The trails remained, and before we got too scared of bears, we did a bit of walking and got a few photographs.

Piper's Hole Provincial Park

[old bridge circa 1939]

Piper's Hole Provincial Park

[the river]

Pipers Hole Park

[fall foliage]

What a peaceful weekend - a real getaway.  Rural Newfoundland never ceases to impress me, and Swift Current was no exception.