Tuesday, January 22, 2013

pop secret

Popcorn popped on the stove top is one of my favourite cold weather snacks and I've been mean to post about this for awhile.    After sharing bowl recently my friends Julie and Jilanna suggested I get on that.  This isn't really a recipe as much as a technique.  I can't remember where I heard about it originally but needless to say I can't take credit for thinking this up, I'm just passing it on as it gives a great flavour with minimal unpopped kernels.

What you need:
  • Large, heavy pot - I use one with a glass lid to keep an eye on the progress
  • Approx. 3 tbsps of oil - vegetable oil works, I prefer olive or occasionally coconut oil (just be aware that different oils have different smoke points so be sure to keep an eye on the heat)
  • 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels - I don't actually get very precious about this - no-name popcorn kernels seem to work for me!
  • salt
What you do:

Coat the bottom of the pot with oil and place on a burner over medium heat.  Scatter three kernels on the bottom of the pot and cover.  These are your test kernels that will let you know when the oil is at a good temperature.  Now we wait.

Once all three kernels have popped (keep an eye out, if there's a straggler and the other two look in danger of burning move on) move the pot off the heat and add all the kernels in a single layer.  Cover and count to thirty before returning to the heat.  This seems to be the key step in getting all the kernels to a consistent temperature and ensuring maximum "poppage" (which is obviously a real word).

Note: If you plan to season with table, kosher or sea salt, this is actually a great time to add it.  That way as the popcorn pops, the salt is distributed throughout.  I don't do this with blended salts though (i.e. black truffle, lavender, herbed) as the blended ingredients can burn in the hot oil.

Return the pot to the heat gently shaking it back and forth over the burner to avoid burning the kernels.  Once the popping starts, I like to keep the lid slightly ajar (not too wide or you'll have popcorn all over the place).  This helps the steam escape and will give a nice crispness to the popcorn.  Once it has slowed to a few seconds between the pops remove it from the heat.  Dump it in the bowl, season and enjoy!  

Because this is popped in oil, drizzling melted butter seems a little like gilding the lily.  So rather uncharacteristically I recommend you skip the butter!  

And that it's it. Not only does it taste a million times better than microwave popcorn, it's cheaper and not laden down with artificial flavours and preservatives.  Simple and delicious.

Friday, January 11, 2013

it's the weekend... share a laugh.

Gilda Radner and Madeline Kahn
 Happy Friday!  I hope you had a wonderful week.  I am having a little Friday afternoon dance party at my desk as I write this.  The sun is shining and we are enjoying pretty mild temps after a real cold snap.  Just in time to get out celebrate the weekend!  Tonight I'm heading to check out the art at two new exhibits opening at the UNB Art Centre and then it's off to celebrate the great local food folks from Real Food Connections.  Tomorrow I'll be cheering on my cousin Danielle in some high school basketball.  I'm also finishing my first script treatment.  As part of my script-writing class we are each writing a one-act play in five weeks!  It's a little daunting but also exciting.  As my friend Lori says: "Doing is believing."

And, of course, I'll be making some time to get out and enjoy the great weather.  How are you spending your weekend?

Here are some fun links to end the week.

* giggle. How Parks & Recreation is secretly Fraggle Rock (scariest fact in this story? Fraggle Rock premiered THIRTY years ago!)

* guffaw. If this past Sunday's Downton Abbey took place entirely on Facebook.

* oooh.  Loving these Design*Sponge florals inspired by the Joni Mitchell album Blue See all their past album-inspired collection here. This definitely helps me fulfill my New Year's goal of making time to look at beautiful and inspiring things.

* awww. My name is Heather and I'm a sap-a-holic... a group of old men get together at the local Tim Horton's to sing barbershop renditions of a Disney song.  Commence ugly crying.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

shake-it-off songs

 You know what I want to do?... Strut.

I used the have a friend who said it was impossible to lack confidence in the presence of the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive." This was her go-to song whenever she needed a little extra chutzpah for work or play or just needing to shake off a bad day.

I got thinking about these as "shake-it-off" songs last night when I was walking downtown last night and the Sheepdogs "The Way it Is" was blasting in my headphones. I always have one song that I put on repeat that makes me hold my head a little higher,  walk a little taller and gives me a little boost of nerve.
The Way It Is by The Sheepdogs on Grooveshark

Sometimes it's about a good driving beat as in the case of The Sheepdogs or this song by The Ting Tings that got me through the start of an intimidating new job:

That's Not My Name by The Ting Tings on Grooveshark

Sometimes it's the lyrics. Mumford and Sons' "The Cave"  helped me give someone not-great the final push:

The Cave by Mumford & Sons on Grooveshark

And then, of course, there's Florence + the Machine with the aptly titled "Shake it Out":

Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine on Grooveshark

Do you have a song that you turn to for a boost?

Monday, January 7, 2013

the weekend that was

The sun over the Nashwaak River from D's backyard.

I hope you had had a great weekend!  Saturday started off beautiful and sunny here.  My friend D and I headed to the local farmer's market and then to my place for a simple breakfast.

While I was cooking up breakfast I glanced outside to discover that the sunshine was gone and it was practically a white-out!  Five minutes later the sun and blue skies were out again.  Truly crazy weather!
Saturday night my friend K and I treated ourselves to a girls night of cocktails and conversation at the Blue Door.  We laughed a lot.  So much fun and great hospitality from the crew at this great restaurant.

Sazerac!  So delish - I'm all about the old school cocktails "served low."
And my first scriptwriting class on Sunday night was amazing - feeling so inspired.   We are each writing a one-act play over the course of the next five weeks.  Will be a challenge but I'm excited!

It wasn't all sunshine, French toast and sazerac this weekend.  One of the city's favourite pubs and eateries  - the Garrison District Ale House - suffered serious damage when a fire broke out there on Friday night.  The good news is that they plan to re-open in six weeks.  The down side is that they've had to lay off 38 employees in the meantime.  There's a fundraiser in the works to help the staff and you can find out more on Facebook or by following on Twitter.  Huge response already from the community makes me so proud of our little city!

How did you spend your weekend?

Friday, January 4, 2013

it's the weekend... dig in.

Katharine Hepburn shovels snow off the roof of her Turtle Bay townhouse (244 E 49th St.) where she lived for more than 60 years.
Well, there it is... the first, albeit abbreviated, work week of 2013 is nearly behind us. I'm looking forward to hitting the market and making breakfast for my friend D. -  lots more "eating in" this year, I think! And on Sunday night I'm starting a five-week script-writing course including classes with this guy and this guy.

So as we kick off the first weekend of a new year, here are some things I've been enjoying this week:

* follow. Can't get enough of  the out-of-this-world snapshots and updates on Cmdr. Chris Hadfield's Twitter feed from the International Space Station. (Bonus: the Twitter exchange between Cmdr. Hadfield and William Shatner!)

* admire.  So much good stuff on Brain Pickings but I particularly love this piece on scientific mysteries illustrated by some of today's hottest artists.

* listen.  Speaking of science, I've been on a big Radiolab kick recently.  Their weekly program is endlessly fascinating and I love their 20 minute shorts when my brain needs a little kickstart.

* make. Yesterday my aunt shared a 2013-Creative-Pay-it-Forward on Facebook:

2013Creative Pay-It-Forward: The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me sometime in the next calendar year,a gift---perhaps a book, or baked goods, or a candle,music- s surprise! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever the mood strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status.
Then one of my dearest friends passed it on and I decided to get in on the action. Within 20 minutes our Facebook feeds were full of updates of people joining in.  Today I've seen promises of personalized short stories, paintings and 15-second jingles.  I love the idea that all kinds of creative goodies will be changing hands throughout the year.  And I'm already thinking about what I'll make for five very different people...

* watch. This will make your day. Adorable.

Marrying At 100 from Zack Conkle on Vimeo.

How will you be spending this winter weekend?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

letters of note

More than kisses, letters mingle souls. 
John Donne

Dear friends, 

I used to be fairly good at letter writing.  It's one of the things that's fallen away a bit in the hustle and bustle of every day life.  Despite nearly constant contact through email, text, Twitter and Facebook with those dearest to me (and virtual strangers) I'd like to return to putting pen to paper on actual letters.   And I'm feeling very inspired by the site Letters of Note.  It's a treasure trove of poignant, provocative and humourous missives; some from the famous, some from the infamous and some from the otherwise unknown.  You can read John Steinbeck's fatherly advice on love ("Nothing good gets away.") or the lament of a 16th century widow ("How could you go ahead of me?"),  Dorothy Parker's ruminations on a hospital recovery and one particular nurse ("I have not shot her yet. Maybe Monday.") or an 18 year-old Keith Richards letter to his aunt about running into an old school chum ("He's called Mick Jagger.")

It's positively addictive.

Do you write letters?

The Glad Girl

P.S. Letter's of Note's Shaun Usher also curates the equally addictive Lists of Note and Letterheady.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

this old (government) house

On New Year's Eve my friend Karen asked if I wanted to head to Government House the next day to kick off 2013 at the Lieutenant-Governor's New Year's Day levee. Remarkably I've lived 15 years in this city  - five practically across the street from Government House - and have never made it to the annual event.  Perhaps this is less remarkable when you consider how I typically spend New Year's Eve.  But this year I was opting for a quiet night in. Since I was assured of being bright-eyed and well-rested I happily accepted.  Also there were promises of cider and chowder - two things I rarely turn down.

The atmosphere was festive with great food and great music from the Don Bosse quartet.  The real treat to me was poking around the various rooms.  I've visited Government House on a number of occasions but never had the chance to spend that much time exploring beyond the main halls.   We had a lot of fun poking around the music room and the original Lieutenant-Governor's office, the library and the dining room.  (I am now mildly obsessed with the Royal Albert provincial flowers china patterns.) There may have been a few Downton Abbey references...

Despite all the lovely period details, I kept getting distracted by the January sunlight and going through my photos at home discovered I'd taken quiet a few shots out of the windows of the various rooms.
By the time we left the sun was already dipping low over Wilmot Park and the temperature was plunging even further - we were thankful for the short walk back to my house - a charming start to a new year!

the things we do for luck

Even though I have no particular personal connection the Southern United States, I've somehow adopted the tradition of making a variation of Hoppin' John each New Year's Day. According to lore, eating this black-eyed pea dish on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck.   I've made it as a hot bean and rice dish and cooled down as hearty salad.  A few weeks ago my friend Jilanna sent me the link to the new magazine By Hand which featured their take on Hoppin' John - this time baked in an acorn squash.  Yum!

Since I didn't have dried black eyed peas and had to resort to canned, I tweaked the amount of stock a bit (I also think I'd add some rice if I do the recipe again.)   It's a hearty, savoury dish and for a household of one offers up a whole lot of left-overs for the first week of work lunches in 2013.

As a nice side bonus, I had a small amount of squash seeds to toss in salt and oil and roast for a tasty snack.

Apparently to be truly lucky, Hoppin' John should be eaten with collard greens and cornbread which I skipped but hopefully a little luck will still come my way in 2013!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

welcome 2013

Fast away the old year passes...

After a whirlwind holiday season and Christmas week spent with wonderful visits with family, I've spent most of the last few days of 2012 luxuriating in solitude.   It's been a chance to tackle the physical clean-up of the old year (Am I the only one who takes almost as much satisfaction in taking out the Christmas tree as I do enjoyment in putting it up?) but also to ready myself to start the new year with a clear mind and a clean slate.

In the past few days I've been remembering and revisiting some of the little activities that bring me happiness and I'll share them here in the next little while.   I stopped making New Year's resolutions a few years ago although I'd definitely say I have some New Year's aspirations.   I had a chuckle yesterday when the wonderful author Riel Nason tweeted that she had given up trying to explain the correct word to her five year old who insisted on making New Year's "Revolutions."  I don't know... I kind of like it.

How were your holidays?  Are you planning any New Year's "revolutions"?