Wednesday, March 09, 2016

When life gives you lemons...

For the sake of my waistline (which in happy consequence is also for the sake of my clothes... and of course the sake of my bank account), I had taken a short hiatus from baking. This hiatus was not planned but Mr. A has been in an uber let's-get-healthy mode (and I thank him for it!). Apparently healthy and baked goods don't go hand in hand. 

But really, Tania is not Tania if Tania does not bake! So I'm back in the kitchen with my apron and whisk. 

Among many other things, a friend/colleague and I were recently chit chatting about food and baked goods. This friend is French (real French from France! Not Quebec-french) so I listen in awe about all the different meals she grew up with. Between talking about ''Tartiflette'' and liqueur-filled "Chardons'' chocolates, we ended up talking about french lemon tart topped with fluffy meringue. I absolutely love lemony desserts so I have tried many lemon meringue tarts. Too many to admit. Whether it be my own or delicately crafted ones from those fancy-schmancy and slightly pretentious and overpriced french bakeries in Montreal, I find they all taste like eggs. I love eggs as much as I love lemony sweets but an omelette-esque dessert just doesn't tickle my taste buds.

So thanks to this friend, I got my hands on an authentic recipe for French Lemon Meringue Tart.

I looked at the recipe and thought to myself "Oh my! The food-J.C. would be proud if I made this!" And by food-J.C., I mean Julia Child, of course!

The first time I wanted to make this recipe, I had all the ingredients except for butter-- somehow the 4 pounds of butter I had purchased around Christmastime had disappeared been deliciously ingested by us steel-stomached Armenians!

Second time around, the overwhelming feeling of "do I want to eat a tart or do I want to feel comfortable in my clothes?" rushed through me. I opted for the latter and followed Mr. A's exemplary behavior.

Now, it's the third time around and this time, Mr. A's exemplary behavior was truly not contagious in any way. As he stepped out to go to the gym, I stepped up and made my way to the kitchen. I WILL bake this tart. 

The recipe was as easy and basic as I intended it to be. I think it is very refreshing to be able to create something that is so magically scrumptious with the most basic and humblest of ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, eggs and lemons. That's it! 

The final result pleasantly surprised my lemon-tart-skeptic taste buds. The tart did not taste anything like eggs; it had a delicate crust and a pungent, sour filling with soft and cloud-like, pillow-y topping. When life gives you lemons... 

Lemon Meringue Tart

- 150g flour
- 75g cold butter (cut into pea-size pieces)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cold water

Lemon Curd
- 2 eggs
- 200g granulated sugar
- 2 lemons
- 80g butter, softened
- a small pinch of salt

- 2 egg whites
- 60g powdered sugar
- a small pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 400F. 

Mix together the flour, the zest of 1 lemon, salt and pea-size butter pieces by pressing the mixture between the palms of your hands. You are looking for a grainy mixture. Add 1/2 cup cold water and mix. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Form it into a ball and flatter it down at least 3 times. Shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make your filling.

Lemon Curd
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Add the zest of the remaining lemons (zest of  1 1/2 lemons), the juice of the 2 lemons and the softened butter.

Roll your dough out and line your pie dish. I used a rectangular 35.5 x 10 cm one but you can use a round one. Add the lemon curd and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes. 

Whisk together the egg whites and small pinch of salt  until you get very stiff peaks. Gradually add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time until it is fully incorporated. 

Once your tart is out of the oven, lower the heat of the oven to 275F. Add (or pipe) onto your tart the meringue and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the tops are nice and golden. 

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Phase of Nuns and Truckers

Someone asked me several weeks ago what the younger-me dreamt of becoming when all grown up. I thought as far back as I could and remembered all the strange phases and obsessions of little Tania. I was able to think back to the time when I was 8 years old.

I am the middle one of three sisters. We call ourselves the BalasSisters ("bala" being the first few letters of our last name). Eight year old Tania was a little lost (as most 8 year old little "Tanias" are). I wasn't sure who I was or what I was. All I knew was that I was the younger sister of the confident, popular and beautiful red-headed T1 and the older sister of the adorable, giggly baby of the family T3. I was T2, the tomboy who wore big round glasses that could have easily been mistaken for my grandmother's glasses and who was no stranger to a pint of ice cream or a box of cookies. I was the one with the hair always parted in the middle and tied back so tightly that somehow it earned the nickname of "nun-like hairstyle" (we speak Armenian at home so this nickname loses something in translation. You get the idea though).

I had two nicknames oh-so-gracefully bestowed upon me around that age: thanks to my hairstyle, I was either "nun-like" or thanks to my general shape and demeanor, I was "trucker". Now, for a brief moment, think about both my nicknames and try to picture a chubby nun-like trucker with big round glasses with gold and auburn trim. Do you have an image in your head? I bet that image is pretty hilarious. Well, that was me.

As mentioned, during my nun-truck years, I wasn't exactly sure what this whole ''being a human'' and "developing your entity" thing was about so, because I did not know who Tania was and what Tania liked, I thought to myself ''If I can't be Tania, then I'll be someone else.''

At 8 years old, I had seen the movie "Harriet the Spy" starring the pre-Buffy and pre-Gossip Girl Michelle Trachtenberg. I remember watching the movie and thinking ''this girl looks like fun. Let's be her!'' Like me, her hair was always parted in the middle and tied back (though not as tightly and slightly less nun-ish). We had similar hair and that was enough for me to think that I could be Harriet. 

Harriet with her perfectly parted hair and notebook

I cannot remember anything about the movie besides the fact that the main character, Harriet, was a young spy (the title must have given that one away!), the fact that there was a reference to horseback riding in the movie, and Harriet's aspirations to be a writer or a (horseback) rider. At the time, Trucker Tania had not understood if Harriet had said she wanted to be a writer or a rider so, because I had not understood (and because I wanted to be Harriet), I decided that I would be both. I quickly abandoned the rider idea though when I realized that just the thought of getting on a horse made me tremble with fear and horror. I had had a rather ''traumatic'' incident (traumatic for me but hilarious for my family) when I was five and thought that a horse was going to eat my foot while I was on its back. To this day, I have a slight fear of riding horses. A few years ago, I bravely rode a mule in the woods of the Dominican Republic. Going up and down steep, muddy and slippery narrow pathways seemed to have kicked most of the fear out of me though.

In order to truly be Tania the Spy, I needed to get a notebook like Harriet's. I got one and filled a few pages with doodles. I don't recall having any Harriet-esque adventures though. I retired my imaginary spy cap a few months later. It had not taken too long until it was time to ''switch entities'' and become the 6th Spice Girl. 

That's a story for another day...
As mentioned, I was no stranger to a pint of ice cream (and I'm still no stranger though I try to consume more consciously). 

I recently made a tasty batch of vanilla ice cream; an ice cream that could put the Dairy Queens of this world to shame! Now this ice cream is serious stuff; rich, creamy and amazingly decadent. You haven't had real ice cream until you have had homemade ice cream!

Vanilla Ice Cream

- 1.5 cup full fat milk
- 2.5 cups heavy cream
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract (or 1 rounded spoon of vanilla paste)

- Put the milk and the heavy cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat while stirring occasionally. Once it simmers, remove from heat, add vanilla and put aside.
- In a big mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they are light yellow in color. 

- Gradually add the granulated sugar while whisking. Once all the sugar is added, slowly add the milk/cream mixture while whisking continuously (to not get scrambled eggs!).

- Once all the milk/cream is added, transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently.

- Continue to cook this mixture, stirring, until it thickens and reaches a temperature of about 170-175F. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon.

- Once it has thickened, pour this custard in a shallow bowl and let it cool on your counter top. Once it has cooled a little, put it in the fridge to cool some more for about 6-8 hours. 

- If you have an ice cream machine, pour the now cool mixture in the machine and let it churn for about 30 minutes. If you do not have an ice cream machine, put your shallow dish in the freezer. Let the mixture chill in the freezer and stir the ice cream around every hour or so as to not allow it to form little ice crystals. (If by chance you do have little ice crystals, then say you made an ice cream-faux granita hybrid! It will still taste divine!)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Stranded at Dock: Carnival Liberty September 6, 2015

Cobblestone streets of Old San Juan

Mr. A and I decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary (can you believe it has already been a year!?) on the endless seas on board the Carnival Liberty cruise ship. After spending two spectacular days wandering around the narrow cobblestone streets of beautiful Old San Juan, we jumped on board the Liberty eager to start our journey of the seas.

That night, after an overly-indulgent dinner at the ship's steakhouse, our resort-on-water drifted away from the Puerto Rican coast and sailed under the starlit skies towards the exotic treasures of the Virgin Islands.
Our first stop was St-Thomas... and the cruise ended there. (Yes, you read correctly!)

Monday morning, around 9:30am, after fueling ourselves with breakfast and coffee, Mr. A and I were off the ship and in a rollercoaster of a taxi ride, up and down the little streets of St-Thomas towards the crystal clear waters of Magen's Bay. Little did we know, a few hours later, the remaining guests on the ship were being evacuated off the Liberty due to an engine fire. My first thought was "THANK GOODNESS this fire did not occur when we were at sea.". My second thought: Was anybody hurt? (The answer is no). And the third thought: Okay... now what?

Old San Juan
More than 4000-4500 passengers and crew were lingering on the sun-sizzled streets of the tiny island. There is a limit to how much shopping (or window shopping in our case as we had left most of our money on the ship) you can do when it is scorching hot, you are tired, you are still wearing your wet bathing suit, are ready-to-eat-lobster-hued red from spending the day under the sun and are lugging around heavy, wet and sandy towels in a beach bag that was literally bursting at the seams. It was crowded, it was hot, people were getting cranky and, of course, we were all getting hungry. "I guess we should board any minute now", I thought. The minutes tick-tocked by and turned to hours.

It was getting more and more difficult to ignore our stomach growls that were getting louder and louder. The challenge now lied in finding a place to eat. You see, we were surrounded by restaurants but after walking up to a few of them, Mr. A and I were ever-so-gracefully turned away pushed away and had the doors locked in front of us because the facility simply had run out of food. Oh, the irony of being in a Water, water everywhere; nor any drop to drink-esque situation! 

Finally, we found a sushi restaurant (Beni Iguana) and, to our luck, a group was just leaving their table when we walked through the doors. We pounced on that table and waited (and waited, and waited...).  The frantically-running wait staff of TWO were trying to stay as cool and collected as possible but were crumbling under the pressure of us Stranded & Hungry. 

Magen's Bay - St-Thomas
Three hours later, taking advantage of the restaurant's WiFi (Ah, the silver lining!), once our stomachs were playing the symphony of the hungry-and-now-impatient (it's not a very harmonious tune), our food arrived. 

We devoured the contents of our plates and quickly put that "hungry symphony" to rest. I don't know about Mr.A, but my stomach suddenly played the you-ate-too-quickly-so-I-will-give-you-a-cramp symphony (also not very harmonious but nothing a little walk wouldn't fix).

Mr.A and I stayed in the restaurant once we were done eating. By this time, the wave of hungry people had ended along with the wave of the sun's heat so we decided to stick around on the comfortable couches of Beni Iguana instead of sitting outside on the pavement (of course, if we could find space on the pavement). 
The Carnival Liberty in St-Thomas

Our table was near the bathroom. There were two bathroom doors both of which had to be opened with a key. I assume that the keys are usually kept behind the hostess stand (which is a step away from the bathroom) but, given the unusual turn of events of the day, the keys were left in the keyholes on the doors. I had a fun time watching people go in and out of the bathroom while leaving the keys still on the outside keyhole when they were inside. Every now and again, another "castaway" would walk in on someone in the bathroom, would let out a high-pitched squeal and would quickly and bashfully close the door. Some people figured out to take the key inside the stall with them; some others didn't and were sometimes faced with an unexpected, apologetic guest while doing their business. I tried to warn a few eager bathroom seekers but realized that I would make a very lousy bathroom-door-warning-person. 
Carnival Liberty engine fire- September 7, 2015
(photo source: Facebook) 

The sun and its scorch had called it a day and had made way for nightfall. Luckily, our bathing suits were now dry and our tummies were full. But our towels were still wet and heavy and my beach bag (that I was now in the obligation of hugging) was ripping left and right. My beach bag was giving up and so were our exhausted, sun-burnt bodies. 

The only thing we could do was wait so we waited for as long as we had to then, finally, like a dream, IT WAS TIME! Everyone was slowly (some people, quite aggressively) huddling towards the narrow entryway. There were people for as far as the eye could see. We maneuvered our way through the small medical stations that had suddenly popped up and long tables that had water coolers and fried chicken on them. One by one, people were passing through the gate and rushing towards the ship. Suddenly, with about a dozen exhausted travelers in front of us, the security man at the entryway decided to close our gate door and suggested we make our way to another door that was further away. On an ordinary day, this second door would have been a two minute walk away but, this day was far from being ordinary! Given the circumstances, the door was clearly not a two minute walk away but instead more than an hour's wait away. Inevitably, this announcement did not sit well with most of the people around us. Their fury raised along with their voices. F-bombs and countless original and imaginative swear words were being dropped left and right (being stranded sure seems to bring out the worst in people!). The security guard was not reconsidering his decision so, suddenly, we were being pushed by the hundreds of people behind and around us. Before we knew it, we had been pushed and squeezed through the narrow gate that the guard had now no way of closing. Cruisers: 1; Gatekeepers: 0. 

The ship did not sail that night nor did it sail the following day. It was not allowed to sail until the US Coast Guard had given its approval. It did not look very positive. From what I heard (but I'm not sure how reliable my sources are), three out of six engines were not functioning and one out of the two generators were down. It looked like our day at Barbados was off the table. As the days went by, we were forced to abandon our whole Caribbean itinerary. Although I was somewhat upset that we were not getting the vacation we had planned and were looking forward to, a part of me was very relieved. For some reason, I have become a ball of anxiety and fear lately. On this trip, I discovered that I am scared of innocent but ugly grey and black birds that walk on the beach (I am telling you, some of them could sense my fear and were teasing me!). I gave the fellow beach-goers a nice show while I was hysterically shooing the creatures away while hiding under my towel and being in somewhat of a ball shape holding my knees as close to my body as possible and hiding my face in my knees. Anyway, staying at the St-Thomas dock meant that we would not have any inconvenient and horrible surprises.

Stairway to...? Old San Juan
Seeing as sailing was not an option, Carnival was under the obligation of gradually sending guests home from St-Thomas on chartered flights. Although we could still explore the little island, we had to remain on standby to see if we made ''the cut'' of the day. We could wake up one morning and be told that we were scheduled to go back home that afternoon. So there we were, on the Liberty ship, waiting for freedom! 

Throughout our stay, the Carnival team worked endlessly to make this vacation the best it could be despite the incredible and unexpected inconveniences. As the Guest Services team worked day in and day out booking flights and answering questions, the animation crew put on their biggest smiles and constantly kept the laughs going. 

    Fort San Felipe del Morro 
    Old San Juan 
Mr. A and I never made ''the cut''. We stayed on the ship for four or five days until it was cleared to sail back to its home port of San Juan where we would remain for two more days and keep our original flights back. We were now only 1500 guests out of the original 3500 (roughly). We continued to discover the ins and outs of colorful Old San Juan and went back to our floating hotel at night. 

Colorful Old San Juan
Ultimately, we did not get the vacation we had planned but, hey! There are much worse places to be stranded than on a beautiful exotic island. We also got a full refund and a discount off our next cruise so, really, we do not have much to complain about.

Once again, Ladies & Gentlemen (if you were on the ship, you are probably laughing-- ahum, Cruise Director Brian)to all the staff who worked tirelessly and endlessly to keep us somewhat-difficult folk satisfied (and to all the staff who is currently answering all our emails and processing the refunds), thank you for all your hard work, patience and effort.

Until next time!

Thursday, July 09, 2015


I go through a lot of "I-need-to-buy-this" phases on a regular basis. With all my might, I try not to be too impulsive when shopping; my wallet, my husband and the lack of storage space in my home all thank me for it. Usually, when I see something I want, I don't buy it (unless it's a super-fantastic deal!). If I am still thinking about the item after a week or so, I give in.

Every once in a while, I get incredibly obsessive about a certain item. My most recent obsession was an espresso maker. I don't know what triggered it but suddenly, one day I decided that I "needed" to have an espresso machine and it "needed" to be as authentic as it could get: an Italian stove-top one. Most stove-top espresso makers don't make the little crema foam on top so, of course, I "needed" to have a machine that made crema. There I was, obsessing over espressos as if I was some sort of coffee-sommelier (when really, I am more of an instant-coffee type of girl on most days). 

I asked a few Italians in my little circle, looked online and even started calling Italian specialty shops. I did my research as if I was about to write a doctoral thesis on the subject. 

Finally, a beautiful and shiny Bialetti Brikka espresso maker was mine. 

Little man with the moustache - Bialetti Brikka 

Last Sunday, I packed up my Brikka, my little espresso cups (courtesy of Italbec ) and little amaretto cookies that "needed" to be made in Italy (because when I get obsessive, I take it to special heights). I decided it was time to treat my father and sisters to a caffè (apparently you are not supposed to say espresso in Italy). I shuffled inside with my big bag of goodies on one shoulder and my even bigger purse on the other. Overly excited, I showed my family my Brikka. My younger sister couldn't help but let out a little chuckle.

One thing I should tell you all is that my younger sister and I have this strange telepathic connection sometimes. We find ourselves thinking about or saying the same things, having the same ideas... we call this "power" of ours UNAGI. We got the word UNAGI from the FRIENDS TV show. The definition of UNAGI on the show isn't exactly related to telepathic, mind-reading tendencies in any way but we like the word, we associate with it and we're keeping it! Watch the clip below for a nice little laugh.

Anyway, back home, I am still showing my family my new espresso-maker-shaped toy. As my sister chuckled through my demonstration in which I was energetically showing the little valve that created the crema, she guided me to the kitchen and showed me what she was up to before I had stepped through the door. She had a brand new stove-top espresso maker and had just brewed herself a cup. My sister and I have never discussed espressos together, nor have we mentioned our desire to have a machine at home. Suddenly, we had found ourselves in a strange Unagi-espresso-moment.

I have been enjoying exquisitely delectable caffès with slightly-quickly-dissipating crema for the last few weeks. I'm happy I gave into this obsession. With every sip, I picture myself in an Italian piazza, feeling the heat of the European sun shining brightly all the while hearing the beautifully melodic language at a distance. 

Now... what will my next obsession be...?

You can't have espresso without having a few cookies to dip into it! 

Amaretti Cookies
yield: 45-50 cookies

- 1 cup while almonds
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tbsp amaretto liqueur (or 1/2 tsp almond extract)
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 325F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor combine 1 cup almonds and the powdered sugar. Cover and process until finely ground. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, amaretto liqueur (or almond extract), and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until they form stiff peaks. Fold half of the almond mixture into the egg white mixture then fold in remaining almond mixture.
4. Spoon cookie mixture on baking sheet (about 1 inch in diameter) leaving about 1-2 inches between each cookie.
5. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sugar.
6. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until tops are set and lightly browned. Cool completely before serving.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gentlemen (& Ladies) Prefer Blondes

I have a love/hate (love may be stretching it a bit; let's call it like/hate) relationship with Gordon Ramsay. Sure, he's probably an exceptional chef (I assume he must be in order to have made it this far) but, if you ask me, food aside, I think the guy has two versions of himself and the contrast between them is bewildering.

There is the Gordon Ramsay that we all know too well. The Gordon Ramsay that we instantly think of when we hear his name: the loud, somewhat obnoxious, scary man who seems to be seeping unearthly levels of anger. We often see him on our screens yelling and liberally throwing the F-word around at people who are fluttering about under scrutiny with fear, desperation and frustration in their eyes. His rough, vulgar and aggressive approach makes for good television... I guess.

Then there is the version of Gordon Ramsay that emerges when he's describing food. I call this version the Food Romancer. Have any of you realized that the way Gordon talks about food is almost too sensual? He speaks delicately, with a soft voice and by adding a few sighs here and there. He can describe a piece of raw chicken with the same adjectives and in the same way he could describe a lady. Buddy, it's food. We understand that you love food; we all love food! But maybe your relationship with it has gone too far. He may call it passion, but I just call it weird. 

If I have control of the remote at home, Mr. A and I often watch reruns of FRIENDS; if Mr. A has control of the remote, "we" watch sports; and when we're both looking for a happy medium, the Food Network wins the prize.  

A few weeks ago, we were watching Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery (also known as the ultimate television show for him to wear his ''romancing'' hat). As we were watching, I heard an ''Oooohhh'' from Mr. A followed by a sound that I can only describe as ''taking his breath away''. It is not often that Mr. A and I watch a cooking show to which Mr. A's jaw literally drops and stays open throughout the recipe. Gordon was making blondies: a fun twist on brownies. Based mainly on Mr. A's reaction (and not by the way Gordon was romancing the ingredients), I knew I had to make it. 

We were having a little family get-together a few days after seeing this episode so, very conveniently (because I love to share calories as much as I love to share food), I knew it was my opportunity to try this recipe.

All I can say is, vulgar or romancer, Gordon Ramsay can cook! 

So here it is. Gordon Ramsay's recipe for Blondies. The recipe that will make you wonder how you have lived thus far without these amazing sweet bites. Similar to my relationship with Gordon Ramsay, you may have a love(or like)/hate relationship with these blondies: you will hate that you love them so much. 

Ladies & gentlemen, you will soon realize that you just may prefer blonds.

Blondies in the making

Gordon Ramsay's Blondies


- 230g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 340g dark brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 280g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 240g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
- 4 tbsp dried cranberries


1- Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter a 23cm square cake tin and line with parchment paper.

2- Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the sugar and salt. (A good whisk now will make the mixture slightly lighter and fluffier.

3- Add the vanilla extract and whisk again. Remove from the heat.

4- Add the eggs to the butter mixture and stir well. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large bowl, then whisk in the egg and butter mixture a little at a time. (It’s important to do this in stages so that you don’t get any lumps.)

5- Leave the mixture to cool slightly, then fold in the chocolate chunks and the cranberries. (If the mixture is too hot, the chocolate will melt.)

6- Spoon into the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the outer edges are firm and the middle still a little soft.

7- Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, then cut into squares before serving. Once cooled, the blondies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (but trust me, they won't last that long).

The infamous blondies. The picture does not do it justice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Love is a Potato

Mr. A has said that one of the first times he realized that I truly loved him was when we were a few months within our relationship. We had been dating for about three months. We hadn't said our "I love you"s (that's a story for another day); we were still a little giddy, a little nervous, a little unsure of where everything was going... basically we were still very ''fresh''.  

One evening, we had ordered food from our usual Lebanese takeout place. We always order the same thing: a mix plate, half shish taouk, half shawarma, half rice and half potatoes. And we must never forget to mention "hummus and garlic on the side in separate containers, please." 

One of the best parts of the dish (one of the best parts of ANY dish if you ask me) are the potatoes. Of course, you get what you pay for and a 10$ plate from a fast food place is nowhere near fine dining. Oftentimes, it's like a coin flip; you never really know what kind of potatoes you will get. You'll either get hot garlic and herb potatoes that are so crispy on the outside and so smooth on the inside OR you'll get mushy potatoes that were once the hot and crispy ones you oh-so-desire. Nevertheless, potatoes are potatoes; even if they are bad, they are still good.

As we sat down to devour our dishes, I snuck a potato from his plate (because sharing is caring) and noticed that his not-so-crispy potatoes left a lot to desire. I then took a potato from my own dish and realized that mine came from a fresh batch of deliciousness. Instinctively, I pushed his mushy potatoes away and gave him some of mine. I didn't think much of it but he paused and said something along the lines of "You really like me, huh?"

And, my friends, that is why love is a potato.

Mr. A and I have (already!) been married for about 9 months now and have been together for a little over 7 years. We have seen and helped each other through the best and through the worst of times. It is so common for two people to get so accustomed to one another after being in eachother's lives for so long. Unfortunately, little words and little acts may go unnoticed or may lose their essence.

A close friend of ours recently lost his mother very suddenly. I had had the blessing of meeting her once; full of life and full of kindness. Tragic situations like these put a lot of things in perspective. You instantly realize what and who are truly important to you. Instantly, the words "Life is short" weigh so deeply on your mind and in your heart.

Make sure you tell the ones you love how you feel about them and make sure to show them your love as well (via potatoes if you wish!)  And, everybody, remember to keep your eyes open to see the love that is given to you and see that love is actually all around us.

If you do decide to show your love through potatoes (or if you simply love potatoes and want to show yourself some love), here is a recipe for T.H.E. ultimate, perfectly crispy yet perfectly tender potatoes. I'm not joking, this recipe beats any potatoes you have eaten... even McDonald's fries! (Yes, I dare say it!)

Hot Potato!


- Small round potatoes (about 15 or more)
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Rosemary (or Other Herbs Of Choice) To Taste

Preparation Instructions

1- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.
2- On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.
3- With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.
4- Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)
5- Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe & picture courtesy of The Pioneer Woman:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Let's face it. There is a lot of good, a lot of bad and a whole lot of ugly in this world. We are constantly bombarded with negative news headlines. It is so easy to get sucked up in the negativity of the world; it is so easy to get sad and worried every time we flip through the newspaper or turn on the TV. To put myself in a happier and lighter state of mind, I make it a point to shift my focus away from the bad and the ugly when I blog.

Now, contradicting what I just said, I'm going to tell you about a very ugly incident I witnessed recently at Walmart. 

I was at the cash register of my local Walmart and a few registers away was an old man likely in his late 70s or early 80s. The man was speaking English and the young cashier was replying to him in French. The man apologized to her and asked for her to speak English because he did not speak French. Adamantly, the girl (her name was Annie) continued to answer him in French. One more time, the man told her that he did not understand. This is when Annie started to raise her voice loud enough to make many heads turn in a noisy Walmart. 

She raised her voice at the older man who could have easily been three times her age and started lecturing him on how he should learn to speak French because he is in Quebec. She was telling him to move anywhere else in Canada if he wanted to speak in English. I was shocked. After her unimpressive speech, she walked away from the cash without having finished the transaction with the old man. She stood a few meters away and faced the customer service section of the store. The man asked her twice where she was going; she replied in an impatient and annoyed tone "I have a problem with my cash." 

Luckily, the man was taking everything lightly. He was laughing at this strange situation (this strange situation that, unfortunately, is not considered so strange anymore).

Listen, Annie, (and to all you other "Annies" out there) before you start lecturing people on what language they "should" speak, maybe someone should have educated you and lectured you on how to be polite and how to treat people with respect. With what right do you raise your voice to a complete stranger, to a customer? 

This small incident at Walmart does not even compare with the many other ridiculous incidents we've all heard about (hospital staff telling patients to speak French, the infamous Pastagate, etc.)

The hate that has been instilled in you "Annies" is quite sad and shameful. I understand that you would like to preserve Quebec's language from the "evil anglophones" but every single time I hear someone say "You have to speak French in Quebec!", I feel pity. I pity you "Annies" for living in your narrow-minded worlds, and for going out to (language) war armed with an old-fashioned mindset and broken French (for some of you).

Every few weeks, a new story about these language wars emerges and, frankly, "Annies", it's getting pretty ridiculous. 

Click here to read about the gem of the week.

Five word sentence - two mistakes
Gem of the week @ Valentine Deux-Montagnes

Enough about language wars though. There is some good in Quebec: Poutine!
An indulgence of fries and cheese curds topped with heavenly gravy.
Here's my take on the best gravy for your poutine.

Poutine Gravy

- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 cups beef (or veal) stock, heated
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Pepper

1. In a saucepan, on Medium-High heat, belt the butter. Add the flour and stir for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture turns golden brown. 
2. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds.
3. Add the heated stock a little bit at a time while whisking (you don't want lumpy gravy!)
4. Once all the stock is added, add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and apple cider vinegar.
5. Cook for about 5 minutes until the gravy has thickened and season with pepper.

Top your crispy fries and cheese curds with this luscious gravy and indulge!