Monthly Archives: October 2016

rancho la puerta – hiking

Every morning at Rancho la Puerta begins with a mountain hike.


There are several options for distance and difficulty, but they all start just as the sun is coming up over mystical Mt. Kuchumaa.image

It’s a wonderful way to start the day. They are timed perfectly so that just as you are finishing stretching, it’s time for breakfast!



the second meal

Sometimes the best meal is the one that comes as the leftover, second meal.

Could be the lasagna or chili that has had an extra day or two for the flavours and juices to merge more deliciously. The roast chicken that turns into enchiladas.

Or the roast seasonal vegetables -potaoes, carrots, onions and brussel sprouts –  that were sauteed in a little butter with grape tomatoes and feta for a perfect second meal lunch.


What is your go-to leftover favourite?


public library

I have been on the board of our local library foundation for the past six years and helped with the planning of the signature fundraising event – A Celebration of Authors.

Each year we invite four authors to participate in a panel discussion. They tend to be from New England since we have a small budget for travel. This year we had Anita Diamant, Joseph Finder, Lily King and Ann Leary. It is a terrific event and I would encourage you to attend author events if your library or local college host them. Then borrow their books from the library.

It’s fascinating to learn a little about the inner workings of a writer…how they motivate themselves, where they get their inspiration, and what they like to read! Our event has a terrific moderator who asks interesting and unusual questions that makes it a great evening. Over the years I have listened to at least 15 authors at the Celebration of Authors and it makes reading their work so much richer.

Support your library!


friday favourite – politics girl

Maybe we shouldn’t tackle politics, but…

Ironically, a Canadian friend posted a link to this youtube video on a site called Politics Girl about the upcoming US election. I guess this miserable election has seeped north and is getting under your Canadian skin too.

The author of Politics Girl is a woman named Leigh McGowan — that’s all I know about her since until yesterday I had never heard of her. I watched her 7 minute youtube clip called My Take – This Election and felt like she summed up everything I have been feeling about this election and those horrid debates.

It’s a little long, but if you have the time, I think it’s worth the watch. She’s smart, she’s articulate, and she’s fed up. Sound familiar? She’s my friday favourite.



What a great crossword puzzle word, eh? But it’s actually a North African/Israeli dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It has been in the back of my mind to try since I saw a customer eating it at Tatte’s Bakery in Boston. The Sunday Boston Globe magazine just featured Shakshuka, my son’s girlfriend said it was easy to make…so it seemed like the time was right.

I own the cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov so I read his version of shakshuka. He used tomato paste which is not what most other recipes call for so I looked around for a couple other versions. The NYTimes had one with tomato puree and feta (my sister will like that one!) as did Smitten Kitchen. The bottom line is that it is a pretty forgiving, open-to-interpretation meal.

Here’s the recipe. It’s meant to be a breakfast dish but it was a perfect Tuesday night meal served with some challah toast.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
    1 yellow onion, chopped
    5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 small tin chopped green chilies
  • 1 tablespoon zatar
  • 2 yellow or red peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • some form of bread to soak up all the sauce

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, zatar and chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with bread.


sunday mornings

I love getting an early start to a Sunday morning hike. But sometimes, it’s a perfect change to have no plans.

I didn’t set the alarm yesterday – slept in until a whopping 8 AM. It was rainy. So no hurry to get out anywhere. After a nice cup of French press coffee, I made Banana Bran Blueberry muffins, worked on the crossword and then by about 10 I was ready to get out for a fall walk with the dog.

It was such a nice change to let the day unfold in a different way, at a different pace. I got everything done that I had planned, even by starting partway through the morning.

My long-time, wise yoga teacher often reminds us to try doing less. We are all pretty good at getting a lot of stuff done on long to-do lists…sometimes the better work is to try and do less.



friday favourite – italy

I just returned from 10 days in Italy, hiking around Lake Orta, Maggiore and Como, and a few days in Venice. I love Italy. It’s my Friday favourite.

I love the food and the attitude and the scenery. I love the pace of life and the fact that you have to ask for the bill at the end of the meal, otherwise you could sit there for hours. I love the tile floors and doorways, and even the laundry hanging out across the street seems artistic.

If you want to read more about my trip, check out my travel blog, the way I travel. Ciao!


butter tarts, again!

The last time we posted about butter tarts, we had a lot less readers. So in fairness to those of you who haven’t been following us from the beginning, we are re-posting our butter tart recipe! We just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving and I made 4 dozen tarts to bring to our family potluck so butter tarts are on my mind. Here is the post from 12/2/2015.


Butter tarts make me happy. Maybe it’s because they aren’t readily available in the US that I have elevated them to a magical, anti-depressant art form. Or maybe it’s just because they taste so good. And I am not the only one that feels this way about butter tarts. In the 1999 song Steal My Sunshine the opening dialogue suggests that the way to cheer up Marc’s glum mood is with butter tarts!

They are Canada’s quintessential dessert. A domestic staple, definitely not an export. You only know about them if you have a Canadian friend.

I have to explain them to people in the US as a pecan tart without the pecans. But they are so much more than that.

There is an ongoing debate about what constitutes the best butter tart:

  • corn syrup or maple syrup? (maple syrup always)
  • raisins or no raisins? (raisins)
  • runny or firm? (runny!)

Let us know where you fall on the butter tart personality test! And tell us your favourite place to buy them. If you are in southern Ontario, check out the Butter Tart Trail, a series of bakeries that feature butter tarts.

And finally, if you want to make them at home, I have included the recipe from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook—you are on your own for the pastry!

Prepare sufficient pastry to line 15 medium-sized muffin cups. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour boiling water over 1/2 cup raisins. Let stand 5 minutes and drain. Stir together 1/4 cup soft butter and 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar. Blend in 1 cup maple syrup, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp lemon juice. Stir in drained raisins. Fill pastry-lined muffin cups 1/2 full. DO NOT OVER FILL if you want runny tarts! Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, or until pastry is golden.

a happy feast of thanks

For the last dozen or so years, we have a big family pot luck Canadian thanksgiving at a local rented hall. It’s a great time to check in with relatives and celebrate over some great family food.

There are at least 40 of us every year. And we usually salivate over the returning dishes from family – honey-cured ham, roasted vegetables, butter tarts, turkey, scalloped potatoes and more. There are four generations on hand. And there are usually guitars, soccer balls and family trees to add to the conversation.

I love this traditional (almost more than Christmas). It’s simple. It doesn’t take much to organize. And it’s kinda fun to be in a room full of people where you recognize the quirks, sayings and idiosyncrasies as your own.

Hope you had a Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.