Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snow in Comox

For the long weekend, we decided to take off to warmer climes.  No, we didn't go to Mexico or the Dominican, we went to Comox. 

 It certainly was warmer but, for the first time ever, my eyes saw snow in Comox.  Not just a little skiff either, there was a good, stick around pile on the ground.

As usual, we had a great time while we were there.  We got to meet a couple of new members of the family.

Roger found a durian at the local Superstore, and not only figured out how to cut one open, but also found a few tasters who actually liked it (believe it or not).

Hans cooked up some delicious oysters

While Rina prepared a few of them for us raw.  They were tasty both ways.

We also visited the Coastal Black Winery.  They make mead with honey harvested at their farm by their resident bee keeper as well as table wine and sparkling wine with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries grown on site.  I must say, I'm not much of a wine drinker, but the smell and flavours of the berries (especially the raspberries) made these wines really pleasant to taste even for me.

Roger and I also spent a couple of hours on Mount Washington witnessing one of the best snow seasons ever (they have almost a 500cm base).  We didn't do downhill, but we did manage to take advantage of their beautiful cross country skiing trails.   

There were over 50km of trails to discover with near perfect conditions and beautiful marshmallow forest.

Thanks Hans and Dianne (aka Dog Lady) for being such great hosts.  See you in April!

By the way, we're getting a visitor today!  Mr. Lars is coming up for a few weeks--he says it's something to do with work, but I actually suspect that he's missing Bob, and just wants to see him again.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bucket Lists and Baked Ziti

I found out yesterday  morning that one of the items on Mama G's bucket list was to go downhill skiing again.  She had some trouble remembering the last time she went skiing but estimated that it was when Roger was a teenager.

Ladies and gentlemen.... Mama G will be going skiing in Jasper in March!

Roger and I have also completed an item on our (his) bucket list.  We finished watching all 86 episodes, 6 seasons of The Sopranos in sequential order.

This was no easy feat.  To prepare, Roger avoided watching any episodes of The Sopranos during it's run between 1999 and 2007 and re-runs after that.  He also had to avoid hearing any spoilers regarding the season finale.  Unfortunately, that was difficult to do at the time so he had an idea as to how it ended but managed to keep it a secret for me.  (I must have been oblivious in 2007 or else have a very poor memory).  Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea... we didn't quit our jobs, board up the house, hunker down in front of the television and watch each episode back to back.  No.  Roger received the DVD box set for Christmas 2009, so it's something we've been working on for over one year.

The Sopranos introduced us to the world of goo-mah's, made men, gabagool and baked ziti.  Yes there were countless occasions where Roger and I were salivating over the large steaming bowls of pasta that Tony Soprano shovelled into his mouth and the thick meaty sandwiches that were often occupying the hands and mouths of various mobsters.

Why does TV seem so lacklustre now?  Oh Marone...

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Culinary Holiday: Sago Gula Malacca

I managed to head out for a ski today despite the rotten trail conditions.  We're in bad BAD need of a fresh dump of snow to salvage the remainder of the cross-country ski season.  It did snow today, but not near enough what I was hoping.  I almost think this may have been my last ski of the season.  Since the winter fun is coming to an end, I decided to set my efforts on more tropical activities--making Sago Gula Malacca.  

Sago Gula Malacca is kind of like tapioca pudding but 10, 20, 50, 1000 times better!  The sago pearls are much smaller than what you find in regular tapioca, and they don't sit in gloppy, pasty custard.  No, these pearls swim in creamy coconut milk and sweet sweet gula malacca.  Gula malacca is palm sugar and kind of tastes like burnt sugar.  It's delicious!  I was remembering a visit back to Malaysia where my dad and I had spent a couple of hours hiking in Bako National Park.  It was hot, and we were both soaked with sweat.  After our hike, we ended up leaving the island by boat and my relatives took us to a little outdoor stall to have sago gula malacca.  I don't remember where this place was, but I do remember my Aunty Elizabeth accidentally walking over top of some rice that was laid out to dry.  I sure hope they washed the rice before they served it, but it was the kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised if they didn't.  Anyway, we sat down and ordered bowls of sago gula malacca for everyone and we absolutely devoured it.  It was so delicious that we immediately placed a second order and seriously considered a third.  I just remember the cool sago pearls and the sweetness of the gula malacca was so refreshing.  The last time we were in Malaysia, I asked about the place but I got the confusing impression that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to eat there anymore for "hygenic" reasons.  Maybe that's why the sago gula malacca was so tasty?  Anyways, here's my version of the dessert--yes Malaysian relatives, even though it's snowing outside and below 0'C, we can still manage to enjoy some Malaysian treats.

I started with 4 ingredients-sago pearls, gula malacca, pandan leaves and coconut milk.  Yes, that's ice crystals on the pandan leaves--one limitation of living in Canada--no fresh coconut milk or pandan leaves.

First, I chopped up the gula malacca and dissolved it in boiling water.

I ended up with a syrup like this:

 It's a good idea to strain the syrup afterwards, this batch wasn't too bad, but you can see what sort of debris is left behind.

Then I boiled the pandan leaves in water for about 10 minutes to release the essence.  Pandan has a very pleasant smell.  I guess the closest description would be that it smells like grass.  Doesn't sound very appetizing?  Well... pretend you're a cow in the midst of a field full of the longest, lushest, freshest, greenest and sweetest grass around.  That's what pandan smells like--deliciously grassy.

Some recipes say that using pandan leaves discolor the sago pearls-as you can see below the water has a yellowish tint to it

If you don't want yellowish sago pearls then don't use pandan leaves, but I'm all about taste, not presentation as you'll later see.

After the pandan leaves have boiled long enough, you remove them and add the sago pearls.  Eventually the sago pearls lose their white color and become clear

They also become quite sticky and starchy

After they've boiled long enough you rinse them in cold water 

And stick them in molds and chill them.

When they are chilled enough, you drown them in gula malacca syrup and coconut milk!

It may not look pretty, but boy was it ever tasty!  Wish you were here mom and dad!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrating the Year of the Wabbit

We've just returned from celebrating Chinese New Year with my family in Calgary.  It started with excitement:

Followed by opening of ang pao:


Then there was the feasting!

My mom made Peking duck.  Part of the meal involves wrapping the meat and vegetables (carrot and cucumber) in a paper thin pancake with hoisin sauce.

It's very tasty!  However, we had to be careful as Erin became Little Miss Manners, and made sure our elbows stayed off the table.

After the meal, everyone looked a bit solemn with heads bowed, but they were really just engrossed in solving some 3-D puzzles that Roger bought.

Hans and Dianne, consider yourselves forewarned--I'm pretty sure Roger will be bringing these puzzles out for you guys to solve when we come and visit!

After the puzzles, things got markedly smellier when my dad brought out the durian which only he and Roger partook in.

The stench was enough to send people home!

Some of you may have noticed that Brendan has become much better at smiling in photos!  

All I can say is he learned from the best!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's Chinese New Year which means lots of eating and....

Unfortunately, because I'm working AND married there will be no ang pao for me this year, and not only will I not receive ang pao, but I have to give ang pao to these two little munchkins!  Luckily, they're cute..

By the way, can you guess what this is?

How about now?

It's close to spring and people are having babies, so I'm getting cracking on making some gifts like this sweet little bird.

In other news, we're having a run of warm weather right now--it's +5'C out which I normally would be happy about except that it's wreaking havoc with the snow.  That's right... Old Man Winter is having trouble making up his mind, and in the meantime he's ruining the snow for skiing.  Just last Sunday it was so cold out that our thermostat gave up reading the temperature and instead displayed "LL"

I guess at a certain point you don't need to know specifics, just that it's cold out.  How about settling on 
-12'C for a couple of weeks Mr. Winter??

Roger made the Sunday a bit more bearable by  making this:

He's become very talented at making omelettes.