Jan 172014
 

Over the past few weeks, it has been bitterly cold her in snowy Toronto.  There were a few nights when the forecast low temperature was  expected to reach -20 Celsius and if you take into account the wind chill, it will feel like -34 Celsius.   For those of you who think in Fahrenheit,  that equates to -4’F and – 29’F respectively.  If you are not interested in numbers, let’s just say it is unbelievably cold out there and I was going NO WHERE!

When it is this cold,  a tasty, body warming soup is called for.  Soup seems to warm the soul but when you add ginger, it is like aromatherapy for your senses and your tummy!

I have been making this recipe for a few years and have adapted it to make it very healthy with lots of “greens”.  Hence, little Miss Nice refers to it as “Swamp Soup”  LOL.  Regardless, it is one of our family’s favorites.

Living in Toronto, a very multicultural city, I am able to find all these ingredients at any of my local supermarkets.  Hopefully, you can too because this soup is DEE-LISH.

Basically, I heat broth with most of the ingredients and then add the dumplings near the end. 
If all of the soup is not going to be consumed right away, I only add the dumplings needed. 
If I add them all, and then refrigerate the leftovers, sometimes the pasta part of the dumplings disintegrates
making it not so attractive and authentic.

soup09
If I plan ahead, I make the broth without the greens and dumplings in advance. 
This really intensifies the flavours.
Then when we want to eat it, the greens and dumplings can be added while you heat it up.

Hmmm … Maybe this is to much information. 
All I am trying to say is you can can be flexible and adapt the recipe to your pantry and your schedule..

soup10

If time permits, I add all the ingredients on the left to the chicken broth
(not the bok choy) and let it simmer to intensify the flavour.

soup13

If I am making in advance, once the broth has simmered,
I add the “greens” and simmer for a few minutes until wilted.

soup11

At this point, this could be a delicious vegetarian soup!
Otherwise, I add the dumplings and cook
for the recommended time on the package.

In the evening meal rush, I forgot to take a picture with the dumplings!!!! 

Freshly made, the soup’s greens are bright in colour as you can see in the photo above.
The next day or if it has been frozen, the colour is much duller and not as appetizing to look at.
Hence my daughter refers to it as  “Swamp Soup”.

Regardless of the colour, it is so yummy!

CAM00202

Lunch the next day! Sill delicious!

I hope you try one of our family’s favourite. 

If you do, please let me know how you liked it!

Joan

Chinese Dumpling Soup
Serves 6
Delicious and nutritious Asian Style soup.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 750ml Cartons of Chicken Broth (6 cups)
  2. 8 medium shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  3. 6 baby bok choy, out leaves discarded and chopped
  4. 8 ounces of baby spinach (about 5 handfuls)
  5. 6 green onions chopped on the diagonal
  6. 3 cloves of garlic minced
  7. One 3-inch piece of ginger, cut into thin 1 inch slivers
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, more or less depending on your taste
  9. One 16 oz package of Chinese pot stickers or dumplings, any flavour
  10. 1 tbsp Soy sauce, reduced sodium or to your taste
  11. 1 tbsp of sesame oil
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add broth and bring to a boil.
  2. Add mushrooms, bok choy, spinach, green onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes.
  3. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and wilted.
  4. Add dumplings and cook according to package directions.
  5. Before serving, add soy sauce and sesame oil.
Notes
  1. Any type of greens could be added.
  2. The spinach looks like a huge amount but it wilts down to next to nothing.
  3. For vegetarians, firm tofu could be used instead of dumplings.
  4. If you wish to freeze for later, do not add the dumplings. The green colour will darken.
Adapted from Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking
Nicer Than New http://www.nicerthannew.com/

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Jan 112014
 

Beginning with this post, I am going to share my love of reading by writing about my book club and as time goes on, the books we are reading and the food we eat at our meetings.  I have added a tab / page at the top where I have listed the books the Good Friday Book Club  have read to date.

To be honest, our Book Club is one of the most dearest, important aspects of my life.  The bond and dedication the members have never ceases to amaze me.  As the main organizer, I am often taken aback at the importance our little book club has in each members’ life.

A Bit of History

Our book club began as a group of moms whose children were involved in competitive dance.  It came to light we were all dying for some non-dance related fun and mental stimulation.  Our daughter, Miss Nice, was involved in Competitive dance for 12 years!  Needless to say, the studio was like her second home.  As dance parents, we saw many children grow and mature into lovely teens and adults.

We watched Miss Nice grow from this

2002 "Sweet Nothin's" The most adorable 5 year olds ever!

2002 “Sweet Nothin’s”
The most adorable 5 year olds ever!
Miss Nice is on the left

To this:

2014 Gorgeous!

2013 – Gorgeous!

It was at the dance studio where I met my most amazing friend Grace. One night, while waiting for our daughters to finish lessons, I noticed she was reading a book I had recently finished. We began discussing it and other books we had both read and liked.   I also could not help noticing all the notes and scribbles in the margins.  She was preparing for an upcoming book club.  As time went on, whenever  we met up, we always seemed to get into book discussions.

About a year later, she told me her book club was falling apart.  I have always thought a book club would be fun, so we decided to propose starting one with the studio “dance moms”.  The response within our dance-mom circle was incredible!  This was in February  and Dance Competitions are mostly in the early spring months so when we tried to find a free date, it was difficult. 

We finally all agreed to meet Good Friday, 2009: our first meeting.
The book was “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. 

book

Now nearly 5 years later, we are still at it and oh how we have evolved!  You see, Grace has a Masters Degree in English Literature and she takes her reading and discussing very seriously!  Along the way, we lost a few lovely members but we also gained a few.  With Grace’s leadership and encouragement, we have all grown and we are now much more discretionary, insightful readers.   Not to mention, we all seem obsessed with our book club!  NO ONE EVER wants to miss a meeting!

Unlike many book clubs, ours now includes MEN! 
I know, this sounds almost sacrilegious to many book clubs but for us it works.  

I had the most appropriate house for hosting because all our darling dancers could  dance and carry on in our large family room while we met in the living room.  As such,  Mr Nice was always there and he too is an avid reader.  After a couple meetings, other hubbies wanted to participate.   So we now have 4 men and 7 women.

I believe what makes our book club special is our original connection to each other was dance and not much else.  We don’t live in the same neighbourhoods, we don’t work together and now, only Grace still has a child in dance.  The occupations in the group are also far reaching… Accountant, speech therapist, opera singers, teacher, engineer, real estate, etc.  So each of us brings a very unique perspective to the discussion.  

Our meetings are a blast! 

For each book, we try to pull out a theme or food or drink .  Sometimes it is easy and sometime not. 
One of the best meetings was when we read Eat Pray Love
We had a YOGI! come in and lead us through yoga class! 

Our next meeting is in a couple of weeks and the book is Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. 
Interestingly, since Glass Castle, this is the first non-fiction book we have read.

Devil

Have you read it?

Are you part of a Book Club? 

What has been your favourite book to date? 

What was your least favourite book discussion? 

I would love to connect with other book lovers and book club members! 
Be sure to leave a comment and follow me on Bloglovin or Pinterest where I will be setting up a book board.

Happy reading!

Joan

Nov 282013
 

This morning, I looked out to see all the tree branches coated in snow.  Oh how I love that winter wonderland look!  And when winter arrives it is time to drag out the slow cooker and “simmer” comfort food all afternoon!  Since beginning my blog in September, I have mainly posted related to vintage furniture  and some travel.   I LOVE to cook too and have been wanting to share some of my recipes.  So I decided today will be my food debut!

However, my pantry was not very stocked so I decided to make some nice chunky chili.  Not exactly the most gourmet of dishes!  Regardless, I had the time to take the photos and enjoy my kitchen.

While I was prepping and photographing my chili, I began to think about all the things I love about  my home and my kitchen.  So I decided I would share my favourite kitchen “things” as I use them to make this recipe.

Join me on this little journey…

Here are the ingredients I gathered….

chili_01

All Canadian labels must be bi-lingual. I am very proficient in French words for various food items ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was planning on using the slow cooker today.  This is my newer large one but to be honest, I prefer the one I got in college many many years ago.  But it’s smaller.  Although it is not necessary, I browned the meat. Searing does help the consistency and flavour.

My Favourite Kitchen “Things”

 

#1 INDUCTION COOKTOP

A few year back, after our previous cook top died, we needed to change not only the cooktop but the counter top to accommodate the current sizes.  This led to a minor renovation, which I am SO GRATEFUL for.  Basically, we refaced the dated cabinets, changed a few around to accommodate a shelf for a microwave and added granite.  I so LOVE the look now.

The access to gas was too far from the kitchen so gas was out of the question.  I did some research and decided I would be adventurous and try INDUCTION.  If you aren’t familiar with it, induction cooktops use electromagnetism to heat the PAN in order to cook the food.  So your pots and pans need to be conductive, like stainless steel or cast iron.  Sound weird?  Perhaps it does but to be honest it is brilliant!  My induction cooktop heats and stops heating as fast as gas.  However, there is no flame throwing off heat into the room.  No super hot elements to burn yourself on.  It’s so clean too.  Also, because it is the metal in the pan that heats and not the ceramic top, it is safe to put non metal items on the surface even if the element is on because it needs metal to work.

Here is a LINK that tells the story very well.

chili_10

INDUCTION COOK TOP

#2 TITANIUM COOKWARE

The downside of induction is the need for cookware that will work.  What I had previously did not.  I tried stainless steel but food sticks to it too much.  Again, I researched and found TITANIUM was the answer but I didn’t like the price.  However, since Mr. Nice often does the dishes (you know,  the pans where the food is stuck on) and he also knows how much I like to cook.  He truly is Mr. Nice and told me to get what I want.  Another benefit of titanium is it is a healthy!  Many health experts agree  “titanium cookware seems to pose the least health risks and doesn’t react with food while cooking.  Part of a good cancer prevention plan is to ditch all others and buy high quality titanium cookware. Premium titanium cookware is more expensive but inferior cookware will actually cost more over time.”  (Source)

I was able to pick up a set on promotion at Toronto’s National Home Show.  I LOVE this cookware.  It is made in Germany and the handles and lids are heat resistant up to 500 degrees!  It will last forever!  Yes, I may have spent a small fortune but cooking is so pleasurable with this stuff.  You DO NOT NEED OIL!  even with eggs and omelets!  I added no oil to brown the meat!  (Cookware Source)

If you really like to cook and you want to treat yourself, buy one titanium frying pan.  You won’t regret it!

chili_02

TITANIUM COOKWARE!

#3 MANDOLIN SLICER

No tears were shed in the chopping of those two onions.  I have had this contraption for more than 25 years!  It was also purchased at the Toronto Home Show and it too was made in Germany. I keep thinking about buying a nice new stainless steel one but hey! this one “ain’t broke”.  It has a stand and other inserts for chopping and slicing.  Such a great time saver and so much handier than dragging out my food processor.

chili_03

It’s ORANGE and I have had it for over 25 years!

#4 GARLIC PRESS

Apparently the finer your garlic, the more evenly the flavour is released and distributed. 

My press is from Pampered Chef and yes, you don’t need to peel the garlic!

No stinky garlic fingers!

chili_04

Yes, the clove is UNPEELED!

chili_06

There’s a little gizmo to get the peel out but i usually just use a knife

 #5 OVER THE SINK STRAINER

This is pretty much self explanatory.  Mine is stainless steel and comes from Lee Valley Tools, a very cool Canadian company with super high quality products.  Check out their on-line catalog.  They carry tools, hardware, garden and kitchen stuff and more.

chili_16

chili_17

#6 THREE PAIL GARBAGE CONTAINER

& COMPOST PAIL

Yes sir-ee!  I love my refuse containers.  The City of Toronto is big on recycling.  Over the years, we’ve had blue binS, grey bins, green bins, yard waste, etc.  Now we are down to (1) Blue Bins for recycling glass, paper, and much more (2) Black Bins for garbage and (3) Green Bins for organics.  So when Costco was selling this 3 container garbage can, I snapped it up.  I had the perfect spot for it hind the sink peninsula.

chili_12

Although compost can go in with the Organics, I like to add compost to my garden. 

I picked this stainless steel pail up at Lee Valley Tools

What I like about it is so easy to clean and seems to keep the odours inside.

chili_13

My ULTIMATE Favourite Kitchen “Thing”

THE VIEW OUT MY WINDOW!

Our home backs on to a ravine.  It’s a “raised bungalow”, where from the street, it looks like one story and at the back, it is two stories with a walk out basement.  When we saw this house 20+ years ago, we knew we had to have it.  The view plus the snooker table clinched it for Mr. Nice.

The sink and working area in the kitchen is on a peninsula so while toiling away, I get to look at four seasons of nature out my window.  Winter is one of my favourite times, especially when the snow sticks to the tree branches.  Photos just don’t do it justice!

chili_15

Although I hate the mess my darling daughter leaves EVERYWHERE she goes,

I didn’t bother to make my kitchen table all tidy for this picture.

I want to remember it this way.

You see she is in grade 12, her last year of high school and will be going off to university next year.

She will not be sitting at this table doing homework everyday.

She won’t be there asking me not to talk or disturb her.

Oh how I will miss this mess!

What are some of your favourite “Kitchen Things”?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

…WONDERING ABOUT THE CHILI?

Here’s the chili finished and being kept warm until dinner…

chili_19

Chunky Black Bean Chili
Serves 8
Hearty and delicious!
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tbsp Vegetable oil
  2. 2 lbs. stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces, patted dry
  3. 2 onions, finely chopped
  4. 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 1 tbsp of cumin
  6. 2 to 4 tbsp Chili powder (to your own taste)
  7. 1 tbsp Oregano, dried
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 1 tsp pepper
  10. 1 can of diced tomatoes (28 oz) with juice
  11. 1 bottle of flat dark beer
  12. 2 19 oz cans Black Beans, well rinced
  13. 1 cup chopped cilantro
  14. 1 tbsp lime juice
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in skillet and brown meat in batches. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add a tablespoon or more of water if sticking.
  3. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, pepper and salt; cooks stirring for about 1 minute.
  4. Add tomatoes with juice and beer. Bring to a boil.
  5. Transfer to slow cooker and stir well.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
  7. About 30 minutes before it is finished, add beans, cilantro and lime juice. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.
  8. Ladle into bowls and add any garnishes such as grated cheese.
Notes
  1. This tends to be soupy. If you prefer a thicker chili, drain tomatoes or omit beer.
Adapted from Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet
Adapted from Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet
Nicer Than New http://www.nicerthannew.com/

 

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You may find me linking at these great parties.

Not every week and not all of them. Be sure to watch for me!

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