Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday supper

We had our friend Karen over for supper on Saturday. She brought over some fridge magnet makings and a few design magazines. Here is everyone's product.

Except for Mira. Who used the leftover scrap bits. Of course. And came up with this dancing man.
Here was the main event. Recipe here. Yum.

And for desert we had Flan.

In their little ramekins

Plopped on the plate, bathed in its caramel juices.

 And the recipe. Sounds frightening but you can do it! And it is sooooo worth it!

The Perfect Flan
This was a late minute addition to the collection. I tried this recipe from a magazine and it lived up to the title. It is simple and elegant. Even if you're on a diet, treat yourself once in a while with something as superb as this.

1 cups of whipping cream
1 cup of milk (do not use lowfat or nonfat)
pinch of salt
1/2 of a vanilla bean split lengthwise (or 2 teaspoons of extract)

1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of water
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
7 tablespoons of sugar

Put six empty 3/4 cup ramekins in the oven at 150˚ F to warm them.
Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in another heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber, brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the pan occasionally. It takes about 10 minutes.

WARNING: This is a tricky and possibly dangerous procedure. When brushing down the sides of the pan, the hot sugar syrup will spatter a bit and can cause a burn. If it gets in your eye, it hurts a lot. Be careful! Also, when the water is all boiled out of the mixture and it begins to caramelize, it proceeds very quickly and is not easy to control. Watch it closely. The time from a good amber colour and a nice caramel flavour to a brown colour and a burnt taste is very short. If you burn it, start again; it's only a cup of sugar and a burnt syrup will spoil the flan. Use a bit lower heat; it takes longer but will be easier to regulate.

Quickly pour the caramel into the six warmed cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts to keep from burning your hands, immediately tilt and roll each ramekin to coat the sides. You have to work very quickly as the sugar will solidify as it cools. Set the ramekins into a large 2 inch deep baking pan.

Position the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350˚ F. Combine the cream, milk and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream mixture and add the bean too. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat being very careful not to scald the cream. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. If you use vanilla extract, simply warm the cream mixture until it shows the first sign of steaming, add the extract and use directly.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolk and the 7 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl, just until blended. Gradually and gently whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture without creating lots of foam. Pour the custard through a fine sieve into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly (the mixture will fill the ramekins). If you don't sieve the custard, an unpleasant surprise encounter with a chalaza may spoil this otherwise devine dessert. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until the centres of the flans are gently set, about 40 minutes. Transfer the flans to a cooling rack. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Cover individual ramekins with stretch wrap and refrigerate. It's best to make this four or five days ahead so the caramel has time to completely dissolve into the custard.

Before serving, bring the flan to room temperature. This can be done using a microwave oven, if you wish. To serve, run a small sharp knife around the flan to loosen it. Hold the ramekin in the palm of one hand and put a plate face down on the ramekin, holding it there firmly with the other hand. Turn them over quickly. Holding the plate and ramekin (now face down) firmly in both hands, shake gently to release the flan. If the flan refuses to let go its hold on the cup, use one abrupt downward snapping motion to release it. Carefully lift off the ramekin allowing the syrup to run over the flan. This dish is heavenly, but is definitely not diet food.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the persistence of squash

My uncle grew Hubbard squash this past summer. I don't know if this was on purpose or by mistake. Hubbard is very very sweet and tasty. It also is huge. My brother got one that was 52 pounds! The first year that Bill and I put in a garden, he insisted that we grow Hubbard. What he really wanted was sweet mama's. A modest sized squash that is sweet and keeps relatively well. When our garden filled with light green monsters, he realized his mistake. The vines even climbed up the hedge.

Liam and Simon with the squash in the field. Liam is eating a cucumber. No wonder the kids grew an inch in a month. He never stops eating.

Our squash was a moderate 26 pounds. I didn't have time to deal with it in the fall so it took up residence in the living room under my loom bench. And then I proceeded to ignore it. Before Christmas I was always so busy and after New Years I just didn't want to deal with it. Memories of my sister dealing with her squash "for days" had me running scared. It started to turn orange

and I played the gardeners version of chicken. Who will give in first? Me or the Squash? The squash gave in first and started to rot. It happened really quickly! Once a squash has decided that it has had enough, it doesn't waste any time.
You can see the black end and the whitish area on the top was also soft.

I had the day off yesterday and it became squash day.

Skins on Hubbard's are thick. Skins on old squash are thick too. So you can imagine how thick and tough an old Hubbard would be. When my big knife only scratched the surface the question became what next?

Thankfully Liam had asked for a hatchet for Christmas. He was going to break in to the squash when it was time, but his friend was more alluring so it became my job. I gave it a few wacks and it split in two.

You can see the thickness of the skin. It is the slightly lighter bit along the edge.  I scooped out the seeds and hacked away the rotten bit (again with the hatchet) and baked it in three pieces. Even after it was baked and I had scooped out the meat, the skin was solid.  What with the loss of weight for the skin, rotten bits, seeds and goo, and possibly loss of moisture over  4 or 5 months, it weighed a lot less than the original 26 pounds. But it was still a lot of squash so I made squash soup.

Squash Soup

9 lbs squash
2 tbsp oil
5 pears seeded and diced
3 large onions chopped
10 cloves garlic
3.5 tbsp curry powder
4 quarts chicken stock (veggie would also do)
1.5 cups white wine (chardonnay)
1 cup heavy cream

Bake squash until done.
Saute onions and garlic in oil until soft then add pears and cook until soft.
Combine everything (except cream) in a BIG pot and cook until throughly heated.
Blend with a hand blender or in batches in food processor or blender until smooth.
Serve swirled with heavy cream.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Isn't it pretty?

This is by no means the worse storm that we have ever had but it seems that since Christmas, we have been having at least one a week. And apparently we are suppose to get more on Tuesday. Sigh.

Saturday, February 05, 2011



Fredericton and Southern York County
10:45 AM AST Saturday 05 February 2011
Snowfall warning for
Fredericton and Southern York County continued

Snowfall amounts of 15 to 30 cm during the period beginning this evening and ending near noon on Sunday.

A low pressure system will track across the Bay of Fundy early Sunday. Heavy snow will begin this evening ahead of the low and will be ending near noon on Sunday. Along coastal sections of the Bay of Fundy the snow will become mixed or change to rain. Snowfall amounts of 15 to 30 cm are expected.

It doesn't even have the decency to happen during the week.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

my two seconds of fame

That's me weaving at seconds 5 and 6.

It was pretty low budget commercial by CTV.  I, and the powers that be, think that we can do better in-house.

Let's try this again! I have no idea why there are two videos. They are the same. And I only uploaded one copy. Clearly I have a lot to learn.....

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


That would be Artist Trading Cards for the uninitiated. I was one of your number until I got an invitation to participate.

Artist trading cards are like hockey cards, or Pokemon cards. Apparently. The idea is to get a bunch of artist types together, everyone makes as many cards as there are supposed to be people, and have an evening of fun. The cards are suppose to be around 2.5 x 3.5 inches. And that is it! Any medium is acceptable.

In our group there were 58 people who registered to participate but there were a few no shows. We had to postpone the event a week because we had a bad storm and some people had other commitments but sent their cards. Which meant that there were a few cards left over. We were invited to trade our extra cards if we wanted to but some people abandoned theirs and so I picked up a few extras of my favorites.

We all were assigned numbers and laid out our cards at our assigned station. We then had about an hour to mingle and look at the other cards that people had made. Then we were told to go back to our cards and pick one then we would all move one station to the right. We then had 45 seconds to chose our card from that persons cards before moving on to the next station. Sometimes 45 seconds was not enough time and sometimes I was able to quickly grab one and then peek over Celine's shoulder (she was in front of me) to see which one I might like.

Some of the cards were beautiful. You could really tell the thought, attention, and time that went into them. Some were nice but not spectacular. And some were, in my mind, uninspiring. You will be able to tell the ones that I really liked because there is more than one.

Celine's teeth

this person did 58 collages on a watercolour

a local print maker David

a variety of photographs

A word here on the photographers. There were a few who printed one photograph. That was it. These were the easiest to chose from. There were a number of them who simply took a half a dozen pictures and printed multiple copies. Also easy. There were others who printed 58 different photos. Much more difficult and much more fun. One fellow printed a large format photo twice and chopped up one as his cards and used the other to lay it out on so that as people took their small piece, they could still see the "big picture".

and a few more

Harriet who love butterflies

some prints, some paintings, some drawings.

a found photo and ten very dirty little secrets that I probably never would have revealed if they were mine.


One of my favorites

Sarah, in her insanity, WOVE all of hers. 58 remember!

lovely delicate drawings

Sue's made from old newspaper layout tape. I have some of this stuff and I love using it.

Mine were silk fusion that I screen printed on, chopped up, sewed the edges, then did a photochemical transfer on the back. The theme of the evening for me was "gecko". I rate mine in the nice but not spectacular category. The ones that I felt were the most successful were the ones from which people had a hard time choosing. Having been there and having seen the possibilities, I have ideas for the future, should something like this ever cross my path again.

And people have been asking ....."OK, so now what will you do with them?" Some may get mounted and put on display, some may end up in my sketch book, and others will probably end up languishing in a drawer somewhere for an indeterminate amount of time before going gently to that great recycling bin in the sky.