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The best brunch dish ever


So, I am not one to use superlatives very often.  In fact, they’ve always kind of scared me.  When I was in grade school and my teachers used to ask us to pull out our “best” handwriting, I would always get a bit anxious and worried that I would have used up my limited supply of “best hand writing” by the age of 9.  I would get a similar feeling when people would ask me what my “favorite” song, or “favorite” colour was.  I always felt that if I gave a song name or a colour out, than that song or colour would have to be my favorite for the rest of my life.  At 29, I still sometimes experience anxiety over these sorts of things.

Having admitted this publicly on my blog, I must also say that once in a while (but very rarely), I can use a superlative sans anxiety.   For example, there is this red curry chicken soup at this Thai restaurant in Ottawa which my friend and I have qualified as “the best soup in the world”.  A few years later, I still sleep well and have no regrets about having used this title.  So today friends, let me introduce you to “the best brunch dish ever”.  I hope you will find it as delicious as I have.  This dish is great for serving to guests, and is also extra awesome because you can prepare it the night before.

Here is the recipe:

Overnight Proscuitto & Feta Egg Bake

*Note: The original recipe calls for goat cheese, but I have substituted feta cheese instead.

Ingredients:

-14 to 18 slices English muffin bread

-6 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced and torn into bite size pieces

-8 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese if you prefer)

-8 oz. shredded provolone cheese

-1/4 c. chopped green onions

-6 T. thinly sliced fresh basil

-5 large eggs

-2 c. whole milk

-1 T. Dijon mustard (optional)

-1/2 tsp. salt (you may want to use less, depending on the saltiness of your prosciutto/ham and goat cheese)

-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

3 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preparation:

Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Then line the bottom of the dish with 1 layer of bread, cutting some of the slices to fit if necessary. Arrange half the prosciutto evenly over the bread, and then half the goat cheese and half the provolone. Sprinkle with half of the green onions and basil. Top with a second layer of bread slices. Layer on the remaining prosciutto, goat cheese, provolone, green onions, and basil.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour egg mixture evenly over the egg bake, letting it soak in. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Uncover the egg bake and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake until the center is set, about 55 to 60 minutes. If you want to crisp up the top even more, set it under the broiler for a minute or two, until golden. Cut into large squares and serve.

Yield: 6 to 12 servings

Source: adapted from the recipe box of Meghan Cornell, adapted from Bon Appetit ”Entertaining Made Easy”, December 2003, also seen at http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/)

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Picture of the Week: Fall is upon us!


Happy Monday dear readers! This week I dug out one of my favorite fall shots taken a few years ago in the Byward Market in Ottawa.  I’ve really been enjoying this season over the past couple of years and though I haven’t been out to take many fall pictures this year, I thought that this one captured the beauty of the season.

What are you up to this week? I think that one of my favorite things about this time of year is that by now most of us have settled in nicely into our daily routines.  I am continuously amazed by how uneasy I am with lack of routine.  It brings me comfort to now have a regular daily and weekly pattern to follow.  Halifax is starting to become more and more of a home for us as we get to know the city and the surroundings  a bit better. We’ve also been blessed to have met some wonderful people here which has also made this place more homey for us.

Hope you all have a great day – and just so you know, this week on B&B I’ll be reviewing an album by an artist I was recently introduced to named Duane Forrest.  He is my favorite type of artist: a musician with a mission. More on that later!

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree


So we have been here for about a week – and I have already found a place to buy candied chickpeas!

Lucky for us, there is a Middle Eastern grocer about 5 minutes away from our home and, though it’s relatively small, it carries everything I would have wanted to find. Besides the candied chickpeas, I was hoping to find some Pomegranate molasses (and I did!). The Lebanese use this a lot in their cooking and I’ve been meaning to try it out because the few times that I have tried it, it was just so good. My mother in law makes particularly good use of this stuff and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps. Once I’ve had a chance to try a few recipes with this little secret weapon, I will report back.  Expect greatness.

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J and I found ourselves feeling particularly at home in this shop and as a result we bought a lot of items simply because they were comfort foods, and not because we had any particular craving for them (though they will not be going to waste, I can tell you that). Its amazing how just having certain items in your fridge can make your little abode feel like that much more of a home. Here is a list of what we came back with:

  • Labneh: a soft Lebanese cheese made by straining yogurt
  • Pickled turnips (or in Arabic “lift”): you might have had these in a shawarma sandwich
  • Macedonian feta cheese: this is what my dad always has in the fridge at home.  J and I are hoping that the kind we bought will be just as good
  • Za’atar: a mixture made up of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac.  It can be used as a seasoning or can also be eaten with lebneh.
  • Mango juice: reminds me so much of my visits to Egypt
  • Halawa: a sweet crumbly spread usually eaten with bread at breakfast time but it can be eaten in a variety of ways any time of the day
  • Candied chickpeas: these were not freshly made in-store as they are in the roastery in Ottawa and as a result they are quite expensive here!

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The funniest part about this list is that the majority of these items are not ones we are accustomed to buying.  They are tastes and flavours which we are usually fed when visiting family, or which our parents will just pick up for us when they go to the Middle Eastern grocery store. In fact, save for the chick peas, this is probably the first time I have ever purchased any of these items for myself.

The outing was special to us though.  Though the Middle Eastern grocery store is not a regular stop for us in Ottawa, we naturally gravitated towards it here.  I think it might be because we both have an unspoken desire and need to preserve our cultures and  to integrate them into our new home.  When we live close to family, we really don’t need to put any effort into this.  Now that we are further away, it seems to have happened organically.

We made it!


Since my last post we left Ottawa, drove through 4 provinces, and made it to Halifax – our new home.

Our trip over was long but a lot of fun.   For a long time I’ve felt like it was almost wrong to have seen so little of my own country.  Making the drive fulfilled that desire to see what the rest of Canada looked like.  Though you can’t really get much of a taste for how the rest of the country lives by quickly driving through the cities and towns, I still feel as though I’ve gotten a little sampling of what’s out there.  Sort of like flipping through a magazine before going back to read the content. I hope to get to see more soon.

Another major highlight of the trip was that I got to drive a UHAUL truck for the very first time.  I absolutely loved it. I felt like I was queen of the road!

For J and I, this move is a big one.  It is our first time moving away to a new and strange new place by ourselves and it is also our first time being home owners.  To add to this, we sort of kind of bought our place without having actually seen it in person (we did our due diligence, but still).  You can imagine the build up to finally getting to see it in person when we arrived.  Thankfully, we absolutely love our new place and are so excited for the life we are going to build here.  I’ll post pictures once everything is up and ready.

Our first few nights in Halifax were met with much rain.  In fact, within only a few hours of being here we took out the rain jackets that we were advised to buy before coming out here.   Here we are in our new snazzy matching jackets.

We experienced what was apparently one of the biggest rain/thunderstorms that Halifax has ever gotten.  We’re finding that the weather here is very different from what we know coming from Toronto/Ottawa.  The weather here generally just seems to be more temperate – which is fine for us.  We are told to expect a little less heat in the summers and a little less cold in the winters.  Sounds good to me.  They are forecasting lots of sunshine for tomorrow – so we plan on taking advantage of that and enjoying our very first Saturday in Halifax!  Happy week-end all – wherever you may be!

 

Bye bye old home…


Bye bye old home! We are officially moved out – and ready to drive across the country (18 hours not including the overnight stop half-way) to our new home (boy this country is big)!

Here are some shots I took of our home before we started packing – as well as a shot of the canal – where I spent much of my time this year – walking, running, thinking, and even skating.  I have also loved living on top of the papery – a stationery store where I could spend hours upon hours just looking at all the pretty paper.

It has been one amazing year – full of challenges, growth and learning.  I have gotten to know some amazing people who I know are going to be permanent fixtures in my life no matter where we go.  I am sad to be leaving, but looking forward to what comes next.  More updates soon!

Picture of the week – Parliament Sound and Light Show


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We are a day away from our much anticipated move to Halifax. For my last ‘Picture of the Week’ from Ottawa, I thought it would be fitting to share a picture taken at the Sound and Light show at Parliament. My parents were in town this week so we took them to check out this show and boy were we impressed. If you happen to be in Ottawa this summer you absolutely must make a point of attending. The show is every night at 10 pm and runs until September – AND it’s free! You really can’t go wrong!

Yoga on the hill and some thoughts about freedom and rules..


One of my favourite activities from this summer has been Wednesday lunchtime yoga classes on Parliament Hill. This definitely needs to be added to the list of things that I will miss about Ottawa. Not only does it feel so awesome to be outside at lunchtime with a crowd of 500 odd people doing yoga on the grass (such a different feeling from a studio floor!), but the idea of being right in front of our nation’s parliament is so inspiring. I love being there because I feel like I am a part of something great. I also love that while we are taking part in our yoga class, others are on Parliament hill with placards protesting whatever the cause of that day might be. I have traveled to parts of the world where you could get arrested for just taking a walk in front of the country’s house of government, and as a result I have come to appreciate the freedoms in Canada that others may take for granted.

What I find most amazing though is that the very thing that allows our citizens to be so free is the very thing that restricts us: the rule of law. It is so interesting that, in the end, what creates order and freedom are rules.  If you think about a country in which there are no rules or laws, you will quickly realize that what that country’s citizens have is the very opposite of freedom. This is a widely recognized principle in politics, and yet it seems that so many of us have such a hard time recognizing this idea in our personal lives.

For instance, when I tell people that my faith is an important part of my life, I often get comments along the line of “that’s nice, but I don’t believe in following so many rules”. I find this ironic, because I believe that it is those very rules that have given me freedom in my personal life. In the same way that citizens of democratic and law abiding countries have been able to experience greater freedom than those under lawless regimes, the limits and boundaries created by the faith that I ascribe to are also what have allowed me to feel free. I think that so many of us are resistant to a deeper faith that requires some sort of commitment to rules because we don’t want to limit ourselves in this way. I would argue, however, that that the key to our liberation and emancipation as individuals might actually reside in allowing ourselves to be open to the boundaries and rules created by a higher order.

How about you? Do you feel as though the rules and laws in your life have actually helped to liberate you in a strange sort of way?

Taker no more


I am writing this post on one of our many road trips between Toronto and Ottawa.  Road trips have always been a good time for me to think and reflect on whatever is on my mind on that particular day.

I am realising  that a major theme in my life this year has been that of transitioning from being a “taker” in society, to a “contributor”.  For all my life, I have been a taker.  Though I have given of myself and of whatever resources I had in many ways, the net of my existence, if you will, was definitely taking.  I lived with my parents and went to school.  At home, I was in a position of “taking” from my parents, and outside of home I was taking from society by being educated (despite giving back large sums of tuition in return, but this was arguably still “taking” since I was mostly paying by way of loans or money graciously given by my parents).

Getting called to the bar - the day the transition from a taker to a contributor began

Last year was my first year of full-time work.  I opted to live with my parents, putting my student loans and my upcoming wedding as my financial priorities.  As a result of this, I would say that this past year has been my first real year on the “contributor” side of things.  I am now living like a “real” adult – living on my own and working full-time. It’s about time since I’m 28 years old.  In any case, this transition has made a difference in the way I now view the world.  Contrary to the way I thought when I was a student – being told that we were “the leaders tomorrow”, I now believe that this world belongs to my generation, and that today’s students are “the leaders of tomorrow”.  With the recent federal elections in Canada, I felt a lot more involved and affected by the issues than I had in the past.  And nearing the end of a one year contract in my professional life, the idea of getting out there and making my own contribution to society is becoming more and more appealing and exciting to me. At a crossroads in my career, it feels as though it is finally time to make my dreams come true.

This realisation of having become a contributor is also a little scary.  My husband and I have discussed lately the fact that we are inheriting a world that comes with the mistakes (and good contributions) of the previous generation.  In a few years, my generation will be taking over major positions of leadership and the generation above us will be retiring.  Our generation will be making decisions in tough areas like the Arab-Israeli conflict.  I feel as though our generation has been so privileged and had so much more access to education and travel than previous generations.  Because of this,  we arguably have a greater responsibility.  It is all so amazing and scary at the same time.  Definitely a unique place in life.    Generation Y, let’s not disappoint!

How do you decide what city (town) to live in?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one goes about choosing where to live.  Perhaps this is because I have been moving around a lot in the last few years, and I am preparing for another move in a few months.  Now that I’ve lived in a few different cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Barcelona, Nice, Cape Town) and have experienced different lifestyles, I’ve realised that some lifestyles and cities work better for me than others.  Although I always thought I would end up in the city where I grew up (Toronto), now I’m not so sure about that anymore.  How does one go about making the decision about where to live? I mean, other than the obvious factors such as family/friends and jobs, what other factors can help guide this decision? Should we just decide to live where life takes us? Or should this decision be a more intentional one?  Even if one decides to live “where life takes you”, one is still often faced with the choice of what neighbourhood/suburb or type of home to dwell in.  So, keeping this in mind, what factors can we use to make such a choice? Again, you can choose to go with obvious factors such as what you like and what fits within your budget, but what I’m trying to get at, is that I think the decision involves a little more than that..


In fact, more and more, I’m starting to believe that one’s core values should really play a (big) part in this decision.  The more I think and read about this question, the more I am drawn to the conclusion that where you live should reflect your values and priorities (as much as possible anyway).  I also note that my internet search revealed that Ottawa is the best city to live in (in Canada), and Halifax is the second best (at least as of 2008: http://howtoliveincanada.com/best-places-to-live-in-canada/)! I guess that means we must be doing something right.  But I digress.

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Things I will miss about Ottawa


1. Saturday morning brunch at lieutenant’s pump

2. Runs along the canal in the summer and skating along the canal in the winter

3. Body attack classes with my favorite instructor Mike

4. Sundays  with my in-laws

5. Burgers at Quinns’

6. Walks by Parliament and through Majors Park

7. The Sconewitch

8.  Being right in the thick of things when an election gets called!

9. The Glebe – Everything: the shops, the houses and especially the “Great Glebe Garage Sale”