The Adventure of the Special Cold-Pressed, Exotically Flavoured, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I don’t know how these things happen.  Well, maybe I do.  I am talking about what occurred this past weekend.  I can’t believe it happened again.   Hmmm, actually, I can.  I LOVE TO SHOP!  The worst part is now I have Wiseguy accompanying me on my superfluous treks to the world of eternal shopping damnation.  Is it good to be bad?  Well, let’s analyze this shall we?

This past weekend I had the most difficult decision to make.  It really was a challenge and I thought long and hard about it.  Should I stay home and vacuum, dust, mop, wash bedding, prep my meals for the week, or should I walk away, closing the door to my eternal list of chores, and head out to the far away mall to spend coinage that I should not be spending?  After a heart wrenching debate, I came to the conclusion that life is short and the winter clearance deals won’t be around for long.  Besides, I was in need of my special cold-pressed exotically flavoured extra virgin olive oil and the mall was mere minutes away so best to leave my spring cleaning for when spring arrives in a couple of weeks.  Sometimes it is best to put off until later what you planned on doing today.  Yes, I have a very unique brain function.  So…off to the mall it was!

Wiseguy, not working that day, actually decided to accompany me.  Shock!  Surprise!  (Actually I think this was in the hopes of averting a major shopping spree and bags of blessed goodies to be added to the overstuffed closets at our humble abode.  There we were at 9:30 a.m. pumped up and ready for our trek.  We got to the mall and found the parking lot quite empty.  Beautiful!  Nice close parking so that when we ambled back to the car on tired feet, knees, hips, we wouldn’t have far to venture.  BEEP BEEP!  Car locked and off we went!

As I have professed before, shopping is not just about acquisition.  It’s not just about the bargain hunt.  There are actually many benefits to a day of shopping.

HEALTH BENEFITS:  You spend that day wandering from store to store.  That’s walking.  Walking for three hours is a good work out.  The particular mall we went to was actually a series of connected stores, but to get into each store you had to go outside.  So, we got to be in the great outdoors AND breathe the nice cool winter air as well.  The biggest workout was trying on jeans. That’s a pretzel challenge in itself!  The mobility you need to climb in out of denim while keeping your balance works your core muscles.  Quite the workout.

ENCOURAGE HEALTHY EATING:  After climbing in and out of a variety of clothes you realize that if you just ate more fruit and vegetables and less chips and pizza you could probably pull on those jeans without having to lie down on the bed to make yourself lanky as a piece of cooked spaghetti.  While you’re at it…throw in some exercise!  Nice shapely muscles would look wonderful in those sleeveless tops you just purchased.

SELF-APPRECIATION/LOVE a.k.a. SELF-ESTEEM:  Then again why think about diet and exercise when you know you are a remarkably beautiful person!  You don’t need to lose weight.  You are perfect the way you are.  Nice little love handles and a pudgy little belly are awesome for hugging.  Nice and soft and cuddly.  So, forgo the clothes and shop enthusiastically for shoes.  Shoes are safe.  Whether your body is pleasantly plump or wispily thin, your body size doesn’t matter, but your footsies will feel so spoiled and you will look MAAAARVELOUS!

ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDIES:  Out of school?  Well, never stop learning as your shopping excursion will lead you to become a student of anthropology.  With enough treks to the malls of the world, you could technically become an expert people watcher and understander (yup, my new word for my very own dictionary) of the ways of humankind’s behaviour.  

DISCOVERER:   Consider yourself to be like Christopher Columbus or Leif Erikson on a journey to discover new worlds…shopping worlds, that is.  New retail outlets are popping up all the time.  Perhaps it will be a gizmo/gadget store.  Kitchen supplies, hunting regalia, artisan foods, new inventions, the [shopping] world is your oyster!  Imagine how popular you will be with friends and family when you tell them about the 70% off sales!  You will become the most knowledgeable and reliable go-to person for anything that people might be in need of.  You will become, not only a famous explorer, but a hero as well.

UP TO DATE WITH COMMUNITY EVENTS:  With all the driving you will be doing, you will be “in the know” of what’s going on in your neighbourhood and other cities too.  You will see the signs for road closures and upcoming construction.  You will see high-rise condos being built and new houses springing up where there was just sparse land a few weeks ago.  Houses for sale, garage sales, grand openings…you will see it all and share this vital information.  You will be the divine Knower AND Seer .

RESTAURANT REVIEWER:  After an arduous day of trekking around from store to store you will have worked up an appetite.  Why not have a nibble at a nearby restaurant or café where you have never been before?  Adventure and full belly all in one shot!

So, as you can see, there are many virtuous reasons for my locking up the house and venturing out into the Shopping-sphere.  It’s educational, full of health benefits, wisdom building, adventure seeking, jolly good fun!

We return now to MY…ahem…OUR excursion to THE outlet mall.  Wiseguy’s hopes of a few simple items were dashed quite quickly (and painfully).  The hop, skip, and a jump for deliciously special olive oil and a pair of gym-worthy running shoes became the WINTER CLEARANCE EXTRAVAGANZA OF 2018!

Oh, I forgot to mention the mental marathon of all the math that is done while shopping. For example, check our these mathematical tabulations:

  • 3.5 hours of meandering from store to store.
  • 4.81 miles (7.741 km) of distance covered
  • 1001 calories burned walking and 800 calories burned trying on jeans
  • 6 billion calories after eating pizza / wings / bread at the local authentic Italian restaurant
  • Infinity smiles after a super successful day of purchasing really neat-o stuff
  • Overload – what your brain does when trying to calculate how much you ACTUALLY spent after all of your 70% off savings.  Yikes!

FINAL COUNT:  4 blouses, 3 dresses, 1 pair skinny jeans, 2 sweaters, 2 slinky spaghetti strap tops, 1 pair running shoes for gym, 1 pair high heeled peep toe shoes, 3 different flavoured herbal teas, gym clothing gear and for Wiseguy 6 Shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair Wiseguy-size (14) comfy running shoes.  One fantastically yummy lunch at Café Amoré with my handsome man.

GRAND TOTAL:  Happy wife = happy life

EPILOGUE:   Almost, but not forgotten, I did get my special cold-pressed exotically flavoured extra virgin olive oil  

Diversity and equality…pizza anyone?

I have previously mentioned that I have a slight love of pizza.  Okay, okay, an absolute obsession.  Thick or thin crust.  Don’t care?  White or red sauce?  Either is great!  Types of toppings?  I’m open.  Cheese?  Mozzarella / feta / goat cheese…I ain’t picky.  Meats?  Any kind are fine.  Veggies?  All are welcome!  False, almost all.  I was in Croatia and got a veggie slice.  There was corn on it.  Not so great.  Picked off the corn and the rest was great!  Being a pizza fanatic I have found ways to eat pizza when the craving hits.  Today, I share with you, the diverse ways to satisfy your pizza craving.  As a bonus, I will share my newfound way of getting a pizza hit!

My mother would occasionally make pizza for dinner.  That enchanting smell emanating from the kitchen…yummy!  Pizza night was the best!  Our parents never ordered take out food.  We never went out to restaurants to eat so pizza at home was divine.  As we got older and started going out, the quickest way to satisfy a food craving at 1 a.m. was PIZZA!  We would order a pie and eat this deliciously, hot, and satisfyingly fresh piece of heaven.  Ah, nothing like pizza.  Then one day, my view of this indelible meal drastically changed.

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I was at work and realized I had left my lunch at home on the kitchen counter.  Hungry, I went to the nearby coffee shop and heard people ordering this thing called a “pizza bagel”.  A what?  It smelled like pizza.  It sounded like pizza.  New pizza heaven!  Crunchy bagel, tomato sauce, cheesy topping.  Needless to say, I became the hero at home when I reproduced this delectable feast.  Slice the bagel in half.  Toast it.  Top with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings.  Into the toaster oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  BAM!  Lunch was served.  I shared this tidbit with many a co-worker who were grateful for this wonderful and easy way to make pizza at home for their kids.

Then, one day, there were NO BAGELS!  Trauma!  Drama!  I had promised the kiddies pizza and now…well, I had to think of something quick.  I perused the contents of my fridge and inspiration came:  Greek pitas.  Pita bread pizza is so commonplace now, but I tell you, I invented this recipe!  The reason I like Greek pitas is that they don’t have a pocket.  They have a thin crust pizza thickness too.  That day, I pulled four pitas out of the bag.  I put them side by side on a cookie sheet and preheated my oven to 400 F.  Then I told the kidlets that they could put whatever toppings they wanted on their “very own, personal pizza”.  Who was the hero now?  Woot woot!  Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.

My pizza cravings have never subsided (obviously), but I have found ways to shake things up.  I make my own pizza at home with fresh pizza dough.  I still cheat with the pita bread or the bagel version if I have last minute guests.   Now, for my latest and greatest pizza version.  PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

This idea came to me when the restaurant chain, Kelsey’s, had a summer special of reuben spring rolls.  Yes, they took the reuben sandwich filling and put it in a spring roll, fried it up, cut it in half and there was a mustard dipping sauce on the side.  Incredibly yummy and crunchy.  I took that idea and came up with:

PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

Egg roll wrappers are thicker than spring rolls wraps.  You can purchase egg roll wrappers in the produce section of any grocery store.  The spring roll wrappers are usually only found at Asian markets / grocery stores.  Egg roll wrappers are easier to work with.  They are thicker so not as easy to tear and you don’t need to have a damp cloth over them, like spring rolls, because they won’t dry out while you are filling them.  Genius right?  Thank you.

THE PROCESS:

First you grate up mozzarella and chop up pepperoni into small cubes.

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Next, in a small bowl, make an egg wash  (one egg and a bit of water and with a fork mix, mix, mix).  After that, take an egg roll wrap and put it in front of you so that it is sitting like a diamond.  Put a dollop of pizza sauce in the middle.

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Add some mozzarella and some pepperoni bits on top.

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Take the bottom corner and cover the toppings.  Tuck that corner slightly under the filling.  Then take the left corner and cross over into the middle.  Do the same with the right corner.

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On the top corner, brush some of the egg wash.  This is like licking an envelope closed (for those of you who have ever had to seal an envelope.  I’m showing my age again).  It will seal the egg roll so that it doesn’t open up while you are frying.

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Put that flap into the middle and put your newly rolled pizza egg roll onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (they get kind of sticky so it’s easier to peel them off for frying if they are on paper.

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I have a deep fryer so I fry them in there, but if you are using a pot, make you sure you put in enough oil so that it will cover your egg rolls.  Heat oil to 340 F (170 C).  Put in about 4 egg rolls (in a small pot or 6 in a large pot or deep fryer).  If you put in too many the oil cools off quickly.  Since they float, you might have to flip them to get an even crunch all over so best to have only a few to deal with.

Once they turn a lovely shade of tan / brown remove them with a kitchen spider or a slotted spoon.  Place your wonderful new delectable creations onto a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it.  This helps to let more oil drip off AND the egg rolls aren’t sitting in their own greasiness getting mushy.

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If you are feeling brave, or are not averse to getting your tongue (or the roof of your mouth burnt) take a gloriously, satisfying bite.  The crunch of the egg roll, stretchy mozzarella cheese, the yummy tomato sauce, the bits of pepperoni.  Mmmmmmm.

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Once these cool, you can freeze them for up to three months.  They can be reheated in the oven on 400 F for about 12 minutes.  You can also take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw.  Reheating would only take about 6 to 7 minutes.  The kids get impatient and just microwave them for about 40 seconds.  Not as crunchy, but still satisfying.

With regards to the filling, you can customize it as you would any pizza.  Peppers, onions, olives, pineapple…the pizza egg roll is your oyster.  You can even have a marinara sauce to dunk them in. If serving as bite size appetizers, cut them through the middle on a diagonal once reheated.  They will look colourful and smell absolutely fabulous.

I hope my newest pizza obsession is something you will try.  Very versatile.  Very portable.  Very customizable.  So many great options.  Yes, diversity and equality…found in pizza.

My new “watchful” eating plan

I refuse to go on diets.  As Garfield the cat once proclaimed:  Diet is Die with a ‘T’.  I prefer to refer to it as a “watchful” eating plan.  I will watch what I eat.  Most often this entails watching myself inhaling pizza or continuously devouring a plate of french fries.  Yes, I have watched myself do this many times.  However, as I age, I do realize that I should be adding fibre into my daily meal plans.  I have also introduced yogurt with some fruit on a daily basis (this is day two, in case you are wondering how long I have been at it).  I have determined that I need more vegetables in my daily eating habits as well.  As such, I have deemed Asian food to be my “go-to” as I do love a good stir fry which can contain many, many varieties of vegetables.  In keeping with the Asian spirit, I have also gone to my local “Dollar Store” and purchased something that I believed would assist me in fulfilling my destiny of enjoying the consumption of my Asian cuisine.  You guessed it…chop sticks.

Let it be known that I have never really used chop sticks.  I am an avid fork user and an occasional user of spoons.  Chop sticks have always intrigued me.  The first time I actually tried to use chop sticks, they managed…ahem…I managed, to make them cross over and actually fling a piece of meat off my plate onto an unsuspecting table.  After my fingers cramped over and over again from the exertion, I relinquished my wooden apparatus.  Basically, I woos-ed out and grabbed a fork.  For shame!  However, on this evening, I decided to attempt the impossible yet again.  Ha-zaaa!

I had procured a lovely beef and vegetable stir fry.  The beef was super tender (I had worried about over frying it).  The mish-mash of vegetables would have made a dietician proud:  broccoli, red onions, red peppers, baby bok choy, carrots, celery, snap peas, mushrooms, and crunchy bean sprouts.  Oh my!  A smorgasbord of delightful vegetables and beautiful colour.  I added some rice into the mix and was ready to proceed with my healthy feast.  I put my stir fried creation into a lovely bowl and proceeded to google how to hold chop sticks.  Yes I did.  I practiced and was ready to chow down on my homemade creation.

Hmmm, playing with the chopsticks felt easy…until I actually tried to pick up food.  My first attempts were quite successful.  I picked up the succulent beef and shovelled it into my mouth.  Success!

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I think I became too cocky.  After the first few attempts I became more clumsy and tense.  My fingers were actually turning white from white-knuckling.  What had happened?  Eventually I changed over to the scoop method.

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That worked for awhile and then I finally decided that I was super hungry.  Back to my reliable and trusty fork I went.  That gleaming dart of food happiness.  I devoured the rest of my meal.

I will not give up.  I shall try to use the wooden spikes again.  Try, try and try again.  I will not give up!  Well, I will give in if my fingers cramp up again, but after that I will figure out how to eat with these food fantasy sticks.  If I can’t figure it out on my own, I am sure someone can give me lessons.  There is probably a 3-year old who has it down pat.

The silver lining of this adventure:  It took me waaaaaay longer to eat my meal.  It gave me time to think and analyze my eating procedure.  As such, I actually felt fuller much quicker as I was not inhaling my food as I usually do.  It made me appreciate every flavour and every vegetable I was biting into.  Hmmm….perhaps I have found my new watchful eating plan.  Eat slower.  Digest slower.  Enjoy the time more.  I think it’s a solid future plan.

P.S.  If anyone can give me the “Dummy’s version” of how to use chop sticks I would be very, very grateful.

What’s up doc?

There are two kinds of people in society:  1) Hypochondriacs and 2) FODs (Fear of Doctors).  I am of the European reasoning that doctors will only give you bad news.  If you are like me, you prefer good news and happy times.  So, with this thought in mind, why would I go to a place where there are other ill people who can make me sick, and speak to someone who will only give me bad news?  As of today I renounce my FOD status!  Why? I had a life changing experience that I will share with you and hopefully convert you from a FOD person to a…hmmm…guess I will need to come up with a third group of personalities.  Here is what happened.

My story begins two and a half weeks ago.  Remember those dreary, rain filled days?  I had decided to book an “annual” physical with my doctor (at her subtle request).  You see, I had visited a few weeks earlier unsure if I had strep throat.  I wanted to ensure that none of the grandbabies got sick so…yes…I fought my Fear of Doctor to get checked out.  That day I did not have strep, but I still had a miserably sore throat.  Although I truly believed I had no reason for it…well, hindsight is 20/20 and as you recall I proceeded into that awful cold/sinus/deafness ailment.  Now, let’s backup to that day of the physical.

As a sidenote, I would like to state that my “yearly” physical takes place every decade (if I can schedule it).  Now, being closer to my 50s, the creaky bones of arthritis and the hollering of other women to get checked out, made me think I should squeeze one in early.  This one was done after 5 years.  Good for me!  The physical part of my checkup was done and I was sent for blood work.  Does everyone know what blood work is all about?  Sure you do!  Or, are you more like me.  Last time I needed to go for surgery, when I was at the ripe old age of twenty-three , I had blood work done.  It’s been a couple of years.  Not that my doctor hasn’t been trying.  I believe that in the last 15 years she has given me the paper for blood work about 4 times.  (1) I lost it.  (2)  The paper had been in my purse so long that it was tattered and torn and unreadable.  (3) I think the dog ate it  (haha, I always wanted to say that, but he actually didn’t).  The last one she gave me (4) was still on my desk at home.  I had every good intention of having it done.  Well, this time she beat me.  “Take this upstairs and get your blood work done.”  Now, if I didn’t, I would be an awful patient.  So I trotted upstairs and bided my time.

One minute later it was my turn.  I sat in the chair, rolled up my sleeve and proceeded to have a needle jammed into me.  I asked, “So, will the doctor call me with the results?”  She looked at me like I had three heads.  I explained, “I haven’t had blood taken in about twenty years.”  “Oh,” she began, “if there is nothing wrong then you won’t get a call.”  My follow up question, “How long until the she gets the test results?”  Reply, “about three days.”

My blood was drawn Wednesday.  No call on Thursday.  It was Friday and all was clear!  Woo hoo!  Brrrrrrriiinnnggggg!  CRAP!  Doctor’s office.  Summary of phone call:  Doctor wants to see me.  YIKES!  Since doctors’ appointment days book up quickly, I had to wait a week to see her.  Naturally, I spent those five days doing what any other normal FOD would do.  It’s also a Hypochondriac’s favourite game.  All together now:  What’s My Ailment!

Yes, I spent several gloriously rainy days in a cough-ridden haze being depressed about my  extended cold illness.  I got to worry about what beloved foods I was going to have to cut out.  I LOVE PIZZA!   High cholesterol?  That was possible.  Hmmm, maybe diabetes.  Was I going to be a diabetic?  Then, through this mist of sorrow I would reach for that happy spark of simple stuff like low iron.  I could handle that!  Yeah, that’s all it was.  If it was something really drastic then I would be rushed to Emergency right?  That was how I finally stopped thinking about it.

Sunday night I realized that the next day would be THE day that I saw my doctor and got the final say.  I decided to stay with my positive side.  No matter what happened, I could handle it.  And if I had to give up pizza or french fries then I would die happily at an early age eating the foods I loved.  (I know…I’m a total realist).

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Now, not only did I wake up to SUNSHINE after three weeks (hello Vitamin D), but that just added to my increased happy thoughts.  I ate a banana for breakfast.  I got there early.  I actually got to see Doc before my scheduled appointment.  I took a deep breath.  I relaxed and believed that there was nothing bad.  She walked in, “So, we are here to talk about your results.”  My heart skipped a beat.  I reminded myself, think positive.  “You’re not dying,” she said matter-of-factly.  “You’ll be happy to hear it’s your thyroid.”  Happy?  Happy to hear that something is wrong with me?  Short notes:  I have a slow thyroid which makes me sleepy and cold and with one pill a day I’ll be good as new.  Celebration time!

So, I am sharing my story to tell you:  GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR.  It can be good news.

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Don’t be a FOD (Fear of Doctor) type.  Be a SYD (See Your Doctor).  You might be pleasantly surprised and ask, “What’s up doc?”

Note 1:  Supreme artwork and colour choices were represented and drawn by Maryann.

Note 2:  Yes, I’m proud of it.

Note 3:  Yes, I’m improving.  I might try markers next time.

 

I am a Stoner…

This definition might actually lead you to believe that I partake of cannabis.   I do not.  I am a unique type of stoner.  As you may well know I am a preparer of foods.  I LOVE to cook!  I could put a cot in this beloved kitchen of mine and just live here.  Obsessive?  You betcha.  What else am I totally infatuated with?  Pizza.  Any kind of pizza.  Thick, thin, Chicago style, New York style, hot, cold, etc.!  So, imagine my happy surprise when I received a pizza stone as a gift!  Yes!  I had heard about the benefits of baking up a pizza on this rock, but to actually have one added to my kitchen arsenal was a dream come true!  So, MY definition of a stoner is:  “a recipient and user of a pizza stone.”  Let me tell you about my profligate life using this wonderful wheel of fortune.

I cannot begin to tell you when my pizza obsession began, but I can recall being 8 years old and my mother presenting us with homemade pizza.  I loved the pizza sauce and the gooey mozzarella cheese.  Sometimes one bite would make the mozzarella slip off the beloved sauce and stick onto my lips causing many yelps of displeasure until I could remove it.  Still, each bite was like a fantasy.  Saturdays became a day of excited nervousness:  would it be tasty pizza for dinner or stinky cabbage soup.  As you can imagine the smell emanating from the kitchen was definitely different for each.  The smell of pizza is the best aroma in the world!

For bread lovers out there, I join you in adoring bread.  And really what is pizza but bread with happy food surprises on top!  Who would not or could not fall madly in love with pizza?  (Ok, there are some of you out there, but I still believe you are missing out on actually being able to “taste” joy.  Oh yes, I feel THAT strongly about it).

After Wiseguy and I moved in together I learned how to “order pizza”.  Yes, I could call the pizza place and tell them…nay…order them to make me my preferred pizza pie.  Sidebar:  I really disliked this job.  I disliked having to repeat myself.  Although I have a voice that could wake the dead, for some reason my on-phone ordering skills seemed to change the decibel level of my voice to a pitch only a dog could hear.  All in the line of duty if I wanted to have my pizza AND eat it too.

I first started experimenting and making my own pizzas when the kids were craving pizza and our wallet was craving obscurity.  Instead of ordering 4 or 5 pizzas of differing toppings, all I had to do was make two large rectangular ones (using cookie sheets).  I would account for several slices per person.  I would top with requested meats and/or veggies for personalized slices.  No fighting or whining about the pizza AND it saved us lots of dough.  (Ha!  Ha!  dough…as in slang for money, but dough as in pizza dough as well! I’m ingenious!)

All of a sudden, a pizza revolution occurred!  Forget about the franchise pizza places.  Suddenly there were restaurants opening with unique crunchy, bubbled pizza crusts and exotic toppings.  Some places even made their own mozzarella!  What sort of craziness was this?  Ah-ha!   Imported wood pizza ovens from Italy.  Mama mia!  I had to try one of these super glamorous dough-based spheres.  It appeared that at this time there weren’t many in my part of the globe and worse still, not even in my neighbourhood.  I had heard rumours of one place that had opened in the newly renovated area of our city:  The Bread Bar.  It was local.  It was a 15-minute drive from our place.  We arrived.  It was crowded.  We went in.  We ordered.  20 minutes later and 26.00 dollars lighter we hustled out with our hot little masterpiece.  Mmmmmmm.  More Mmmmmm.  Still more Mmmmm.  The crust, slightly charred with big air pockets.  Nice crunch.  Sauce was stupendous.  We had ordered a basic meat/cheese pizza.  I loved it!  I wasn’t too keen on the price though.  It was after this revelation that I decided it was time for me to start creating my own masterpieces.  How?

Plan A:  convince Wiseguy that we needed to import a wood burning stove from Italy.  (Yes, he still gets tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.)  Plan B:  procure a pizza stone.  As mentioned earlier…I got one!  To add to my new pizza-making pleasure I found a neat setting on my Sub-zero Wolf stove dial.  Check it out!

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The incredible stone setting! It allows me to preheat my oven to 550 degrees!

Other items for fantastic homemade pizza:

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Pizza Paddle:  to slide pizza onto pizza stone

 

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The PIZZA STONE:  Used bi-weekly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final result:

 

Ok, besides my creepy, half-drooling voice…is it not fantastic!

I believe Dean Martin said it best:  When the moon hits your eye / like a big pizza pie / That’s amore!  TRANSLATION:  Seeing a pizza the size of the moon means you love pizza.

P.S.  Feel free to become a Stoner like me and join me in a different kind of high!

 

Chef…a culinary experiment

I love to cook.  I love to buy colourful foods (vegetables and fruits) and figure out what to make with them.  I love to research (basically “Google” recipes) and try out new things.  I have now expanded my culinary skills to actually NOT following a recipe.  Does that mean I’m a chef?  Well, that is a definition I actually looked up.  Chef means that you cook meals for people.  Yes I do that!  It mentions something about restaurants too…ok, I don’t have a restaurant, but anyone eating at my home and people I work with think I should open one. Very complimentary, but I don’t think I’m quite at that level.  Anyway, in my mind “chef” has a different meaning.  CHEF – Can Have Experimental Food!  Yes, anyone eating my food is my chosen guinea pig to test new things.  Welcome to my thoughts and dissertations on food.

Food.  I could say it’s a love/hate relationship but I would be lying.  I LOVE FOOD!  I love experimenting with new recipes.  I love prepping it.  I love cooking it.  I love eating it.  Notice…there is a lot of love here.  The hate part is…I LOVE FOOD!  Let me explain my absolute food weaknesses…McDonald’s french fries.  I swear those are like crack-cocaine to me.  I don’t do drugs, but these hot little sticklettes make me weak in the knees.  After that or almost neck and neck is pizza.  What kind of pizza?   Hmmmm…thin crust, thick crust, tomato sauce style, white garlic/oil style.  Mozzarella or goat cheese.  Pepperoni or roasted eggplant and zucchini with balsamic drizzle.  To add to my super cholesterol heart-stopping food fest…CHICKEN WINGS!!!!  I am a Wing-nut!!  (In many ways…)  Those are my favourite, unhealthy indulgences.  Do I have an unhealthy relationship with food?  Perhaps…but what relationship is perfect?   Am I right?

History lesson:  when cooking as a child with my mother I got to lick the spinny-things from the hand mixer.  I got to mix the tomato sauce for pasta.  I got to eat pizza dough (oops…that was never supposed to be revealed).  My cooking lessons were as follows:

Mama:  NE TAKO!  (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

Mama:  Sporije!  (translation:  slower!)

Mama:  Ovako.. (translation:  like this…)

Mama:  NE TAKO!  (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

Mama:  Ovako mjesaj  (translation:  Mix like this)

Mama:  NE TAKO! (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

So…there you have my basic cooking lessons.

Oh wait!  There are two more phrases my mother always used:

Mama:  Na umjerenoj vatri (translation:  bake at 350…she actually had to explain what middle heat meant and then I finally realized it was always 350 degrees)

And last but not least:

Mama:  Otprilike (about or approximately).  Yes most recipes had that included.  Any seasonings you were to use like salt or pepper, you were basically guessing how much was needed.  For a newbie learning how to cook that never helped.

So, when I started sharing my knowledge with others I improved the lessons I had received.  I liked to train by smell.  I also did not use measurements (bad teacher), but I would have the meat in a bowl, and then I would cover the tops of the meat with salt or pepper or paprika.  We would mix the meat and then I would ask my “student” to smell.  Yes…you can actually smell salt and pepper and paprika and you could know if there was too much.  Seriously!  Again, for beginners we would start with a few shakes because you can always start with less and add more but you can’t take away if you have added too much.  There.  That is my greatest cooking advice.

Am I a chef?  Yes, in my mind I totally am.  I cook food for people.  I love cooking!  I am practising baking (not quite perfect yet, but it’s all in the learning).  I have the best kitchen with my Wolf Subzero Stove.   I think that people who have tasted my creations can vouch for me.

To summarize…I LOVE COOKING!  I love filling my house with family (approx 20+ people) and cooking and enjoying their reactions to my recipes.  Nervous?  Absolutely!  I want everyone to love it!  Yes…there goes that “love” word again.  Why?   I truly believe that feeding people with food is nourishing, but I also believe that the love that I put into making my food transmits into internal happiness for those who consume it.  Food isn’t just about livelihood, it’s about sharing and caring.

My newest adventure is with old fashioned European foods (lately Italian), and putting my own educated spin on it.  Check out this lovely plain recipe full of flavoured layers and many “oh my this is good” in between bites!  My latest heartfelt and enjoyable culinary experiment.

RECIPE:

1 half baguette

1 large garlic clove

4 tbsp buratta (I think…approximately)

4 tbsp balsamic drizzle (basically balsamic vinegar and honey boiled down for 30 minutes until thickened…”google” for an actual recipe…otherwise…meh…approximately what you think will work)

THERE!  Authentic European recipe.  MANGIA!  (That’s amore…I mean Italian!)

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Toasted french stick bread, rubbed with fresh garlic. Buratta spread on top and drizzled with homemade balsamic drizzle

 

Molto Bene !

About three years ago, I told Wiseguy that we should move to Venice.  No, I don’t speak Italian.  I don’t have any Italian friends.  (I do have some Italian relatives…but I non parlo Italian).  I think Vespas are just the coolest ride ever!  I love any and all pasta dishes.  I have an absolute addiction to pizza.  Your question is most likely, why Venice and not another Italian city? 

Back in 1989, I went on a gondola ride.  I was enamoured with the view of the old, tall buildings.  The gondolier talked about the history of the city.  He pointed out historical landmarks.  He spoke of the Venetians, past and present.  I loved the way we glided slowly through the water.  (Mind you, at that time it, it smelled more like a sewer than the sea.)  I loved how the gondoliers would sing when they got to an intersection to let other gondoliers know that they were approaching.  My mind began to wander.  I imagined myself sitting at one of the cafes sipping a glass of wine, watching all the tourists rush about.  I pictured myself living in one of the apartment buildings.  I dreamt of going out daily to get fresh baked bread.  I would learn the language and speak it fluently.  I would be a Venetian.  The ride ended, but my dream never did.  

Although we haven’t moved to Venice (yet), I never gave up on several of my wishes.  I wished that one day, Wiseguy and I would go on a gondola ride together.  Yes.  So sweet and romantic (and soooo corny…but that’s me)  This year, my wish came true. 

On our trip to Europe, I got to celebrate my birthday in style.  A trip to Venice and a gondola ride.  Molto bene!  I had told Wiseguy many times that he would enjoy the gondola ride.  He had heard that the ride was big bucks and that you floated through stinky, sewer water.  I informed him that,over the past few years, they had been cleaning up the waterways.  I hinted that we wouldn’t know how good or bad it was until we got there and checked it out.  The debate continued.  In the end, birthday wishes (or maybe his curiosity) won out. 

After the long drive from Croatia to Venice, Wiseguy recommended a wee bit of rest away from the crowds.  And there it was.  Wish number two.  We found a little cafe on one of the side streets.  It was away from the din of the tourists.  We had a glass of wine and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Our senses also got to enjoy the wonderfully, aromatic smell of fresh pasta sauce as large plates of spaghetti floated by us via waitress.  Even better, the smell of fresh baked pizza wafting through the air.  What a beautiful moment it was.  But I digress.  Time to find us a gondolier!

We wandered back to the centre of the square and saw three gondoliers.  How did we know?  Well, they each had on black pants, a striped blue and white shirt and a lovely straw gondolier hat with a blue ribbon on it.  We picked the middle man and followed him down a side street.  His knowledge of the English language was excellent!  Better still, it had that little lilt of the Italian accent as he spoke.  Melodica voce!  We wound through the little side streets, passing little cafes as we walked.  We got to an opening and there it was.  A shiny, black gondola.  It had metal horses on the sides and large fancy tassles.  There were two velvet covered chairs and a velvet bench seat with a colourful blanket draped casually on it.  We boarded, got comfy, and then we were off! 

Our gondolier, Sebastian, has been a gondolier for 17 years.  His father retired and the horses and pictures and chairs on the gondola were originally from his dad’s gondola.  How wonderful.  He sang out little songs as we neared corners.  He waved happily to his fellow gondoliers,  “Ciao Mario!”  We heard about how Venice is slowly sinking.  We heard about Don Juan and Marco Polo and were shown where they lived.  We heard about how the rich Venetians built churches on every island in Venice.  We heard about the one rich Venetian that wanted to be king.  “Well”, the others said, “off with his head!”  Yikes.  Don’t upset a Venetian!  After about 50 minutes, our cruise was over, but thanks to Sebastian, our memories will last forever. 

Wiseguy really enjoyed the ride.  He told the kids all about his experience and how one day, they must go on gondola ride.  Now THAT should tell you something.

Sebastian, if you are reading this, we purchased a little memento of our visit to Venice.  We named the gondolier Sebastian.

Grazie Sebastian