Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Feast of St. Nicholas

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Feast of St. Nicholas | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamThe Christmas and holiday season in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region is a big deal, but December 25 isn’t the only day of giving and celebrating.  If your family embraces the traditions of other countries and cultures, there are plenty more opportunities for making merry during the festive season!

One of these special days occurs on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas.  In fact, the North American Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, as he is known in Holland.  In France, children leave out their sabots, or wooden shoes, in hopes that St. Nicholas will throw little toys and sweets (and not lumps of coal) down the chimney to land in their shoes.

This is what The Old Farmer’s Almanac has to say about St. Nicholas Day:

“In Holland, everyone celebrates the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the eve of December 6.  After dinner, families hunt for presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems.  They also eat cookies and candies, especially spicy Speculaas cookies formed in wooden molds shaped in the figure of St. Nick.

“Who was St. Nicholas?  His life, like the lives of many saints, is shrouded in mystery. We know that he was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, part of Asia Minor, during the 4th century.  He is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney; others say through the window) to provide for their dowries.

“In many places in the United States and abroad, children still place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill with presents and sweets on the night before his feast day.”

Holidays are, of course, all about the food!  Why not try making your own Speculaas to celebrate St. Nicholas Day?  The recipe below is courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.  Click on the preceding link for recipes for many more holiday goodies.

Spicy Sinterklaas Cakes (Speculaas) Recipe

Press the dough for these cookies into a carved wooden mold, or roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters.  Yield: Makes about 18 to 24 medium cutout cookies.

 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon each powdered cloves and cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and powdered ginger

1 pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon chopped blanched almonds

1 tablespoon minced candied fruit

5 tablespoons butter

large slivers of blanched almonds, for decoration

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar and milk, and stir until smooth. Add the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, almonds, and fruit. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Chill. Preheat oven to 350° F. If using a wooden speculaas mold, dust it with cornstarch, covering every bit of carving. Firmly press the dough into the mold, then run a sharp knife along the edges of the design. Gently lift the dough or tap it onto a greased cookie sheet. Press almond slivers onto the cookies wherever they fit into the design. To make cutout cookies, roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool and crisp on a rack.

I’d love to hear about and feature in this blog your own family and cultural traditions surrounding the holidays!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

Build Your Home Around Your Passion

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Plenty of people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area operate businesses out of their homes.  I’ve written before about the need to sometimes modify a home in order to pursue personal activities that go beyond what a standard house can accommodate (see my article entitled “Hobbies and Your Home” ).  I saw this principle in action recently.

Last Christmas, my daughter Devan gave me a gift certificate for a cooking class, and on Sunday June 12 the two of us spent 4 very enjoyable hours at the home of Kathryn Joel in southwest Edmonton taking part in the preparation of an Italian farmhouse feast.

Kathryn’s commitment to good food goes well beyond mere nourishment, as her website Get Cooking Edmonton.com  points out:

“Kathryn Joel is a passionate foodie whose love of cooking has taken her around the globe exploring diverse culinary traditions.  A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu London, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge and expertise of global cuisines and cooking methods.

 Kathryn has combined her culinary expertise with her commitment to uncomplicated, approachable cooking, by bringing Get Cooking to Edmonton.

 During her years working with food, Kathryn realized that with some basic cooking skills and a good local knowledge of where to source the right ingredients, anyone can bring flavours from around the world into their own kitchens.  And as a member of Live Local Eat Local Kathryn aims to support Edmonton’s local producers and suppliers by focusing on the use of fresh and local ingredients in her classes.”

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers

Four other students joined Devan and me in listening to Kathryn’s passionate and rapid-fire explanations, stories and instructions, watching as bread dough was miraculously transformed into heavenly smelling and delicious tasting Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Foccaccia with Sage, and participating in the creation of a marvelous meal from appetizers through dessert.  My job was to stir the risotto (Risotto with Asparagus), a chore that required a little more patience than I have, so I was happy to hand my spoon off to another student.  I watched with some anxiety as Devan wielded Kathryn’s razor-sharp kitchen knives chopping the roasted sweet peppers.  We learned a number of cooking tips, like how to tell with the stretch test if bread dough is ready (you should be able to stretch the dough until it is nearly translucent but doesn’t tear), or the poke test (poke a finger in and the dough should spring back), or just where to break the tough end off an asparagus stalk, or how to keep the bright green in cooked asparagus by plunging it into ice water, or where in Edmonton and area to buy the best ingredients like the freshest chicken and highest-quality balsamic vinegar.

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Risotto with Asparagus

After several hours, the feast was ready:  Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers; Caprese Salad; Foccaccia with Sage; Risotto with Asparagus; Chicken Roasted with Porcini Mushrooms and Potatoes; Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar, and we were delighted to enjoy the results of our work, along with some very good wine.

All of this activity took place in Kathryn’s beautiful purpose-built kitchen, designed to accommodate up to 8 students around an enormous granite counter that housed a sink and fridge.  Her kitchen contained other items not normally found in an average kitchen:  2 ovens, a warming tray, a sub-zero refrigerator, and more.  I know that kitchens sell homes, and I know many buyers who would be thrilled to have a kitchen like Kathryn’s.  In her case, the kitchen is a requirement of her business, and just happens to also be an incredible addition to a lovely home.

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Operating a home-based business often means finding novel ways of blending home and work equipment and activities so that one doesn’t disrupt the other.  You may also find that your business requires special permits and licensing from your municipality, as well as special insurance.  Should you decide to renovate your space, as Kathryn did, to accommodate your business needs, you may want to consider the impact of such a renovation on the ultimate resale value of your home.  In the end, if your business is your passion, your home may naturally evolve into a unique extension of this.

For more information about Kathryn Joel’s cooking classes, or to book a class, visit her website.  

Interested in property that could accommodate your home-based business?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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