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Instant Pot – I’m sold!

As I mentioned earlier, I had not heard about this before Christmas. Moments ago, I finished making my family’s recipe for baked beans. Usually, with soaking time, rinsing, and a solid eight hours in the slow cooker, this was a weekend event! The anticipation was excruciating! I made a few adaptations based on recipes I read online and they were cooked in 45 minutes! Amazing! Clean-up was fast and I had to stop myself from starting another recipe (the butternut squash soup recipe included in the Instant Pot recipe booklet looks so good!) so that I could express my appreciation and wonder at this time-saving device. (Seriously, you can make yoghurt in this thing?)

I suspect I’ll be experimenting quite a bit in the coming year! Happy New Year!

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Instant pot… or not?

One of the gifts I received for Christmas is an Instant Pot. I have heard many people extolling their virtues, but I wasn’t familiar with them and was somewhat less enthusiastic perhaps than my husband and daughter expected. It didn’t help that, upon opening the box, we noticed a big dent in the side. It wouldn’t have bothered me, but I did not want to take the risk that the pressure could cause serious damage with a corrupt exterior. Back in the box it went and a visit to Canadian Tire has replaced the damaged product. I have done the preliminary test with water and will try it today with my late parents’ baked bean recipe. I’ll keep you posted whether I’m successful or not… wish me luck!

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Christmas preparations

So, today marks clean up day after weeks of preparations. Some preparations were successful, others… not so much. I really enjoy Christmas and I tend to go overboard. I buy too much, I eat too much, I cook too much and I want everything to be perfect. To be fair, this is only the first year since all of my kids have been old enough to know our truth about Santa Claus and I may have had a small jolt of acknowledgement that I won’t ever have that responsibility of maintaining the myth for a child again. A mildly unsettling thought for someone who doesn’t consider herself old, but… I guess I’m reaching that part of the spectrum.

Back to preparations though: this year saw many batches of fudge (somehow, not as many as my children and husband could consume?), favourite Weight Watcher recipes (https://www.weightwatchers.com/ca/en) (No, I’m not advertising, but I don’t believe in mentioning organizations without giving credit where credit is due.) such as crisp rice macaroons, dark Christmas cake (with my sister participating heavily in the baking of this one!) and sugar cookies.

Christmas Eve day involved cooking food both for Wigilia (the Polish tradition my husband’s family introduced to me and maintained for him and our kids), with a careful accounting for twelve courses of no meat (they accept fish, but no land animals), including barszcz, paszdeciki with mushrooms and cabbage, sałatka, uszka, pierogi among the various dishes served. In addition, I try to jump start Christmas Day by making ahead a breakfast dish (this year was a French Toast bake casserole adapted for my family), and pre-cooking a cowboy hotpot casserole and scalloped potatoes. (Remember my “not-so-good” comment earlier? These were the guilty dishes that failed! Still reeling over those – they usually are so good!)

A few mishaps, some rolled eyes (maybe filling the stockings after wine and honey liqueur was not a good idea?) have humbled me that I am not perfect and I can’t think of everything in advance. However, with family and friends, it’s okay.

The day- and the celebration- has come and gone for another year. On to the next challenge!

Here is wishing everyone – no matter what their faith – a wonderful holiday season and all the best for 2019!

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A gathering of family…

Over the weekend, my husband and three of my kids took a quick overnight trip to Montreal to help celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.

The gathering was held at Il Fornetto (http://ilfornetto.com/fr/) in Lachine, Québec. My husband’s family frequently attends and they have spoken very highly of the food. We had high expectations.

As usual, I attempted to familiarize myself with the menu to find the “friendliest” meal to satisfy both my vegetarian needs and as close to keto as I could find without resigning myself to a cold salad. No pasta for me! (In an Italian restaurant you say? Pure folly!)

So, while the rest of my family ordered from the main courses, I resorted to the Antipasti. In particular, the Melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan). I was relieved to find the eggplant to not be breaded. I was also appreciative of the delicate flavour and tender texture. The only complaint was that this was not offered as a main and did not come with anything but the eggplant. This would make a delightful main course for like-minded individuals to me.

Although the serving staff were pleasant, and highly attentive to the family members they had previously met, there were times during the evening when familiarity bred overlooking others at the table. (My request for a latte after dinner was completely ignored and my husband took pity on my efforts to order dessert by being more forceful than I.). I understand that the larger size of our group and specific billing requirements added challenges to the servers and I also note that there were a few other parties in the upstairs dining area. It soured my opinion somewhat, but did not define the evening.

I will briefly go back to the subject of dessert. My choice – based on seeing my daughter’s choice and not the menu – was crème brulé. Perhaps it was rushed during preparation, but the taste was a little off. Normally, a crème brulé has a caramelized (read burnt sugar) crust over a light custard. Surprisingly, good crème brulé does not taste burnt nor eggy. The custard was light and not eggy. However, it was also a little flavourless and overpowered by the particularly burnt taste of the crust. Overdone. To be fair, my daughter had no such complaint, but I didn’t taste hers. (My youngest daughter has just added her opinion that the fettucine Alfredo was also a bit flavourless unless you add Parmesan. She does not like Parmesan and was underwhelmed.)

The only other current issue with the restaurant is the construction surrounding the area. The website provides a small foreshadowing of potential parking problems. A more detailed map on the website would likely help visitors. Otherwise, the interior was clean and modern and I’m certain that the location would be beautiful in the summer.

The price point is likely a bit higher than average with our bill for five (without alcohol – and without my missing latté!) was around the $260+ tip mark.

I’m not certain I would drive the two hours from Ottawa purely to visit Il Fornetto again, but I also wouldn’t avoid the restaurant. Overall, mostly a pleasant dining experience and obviously one more appreciated by our family than us. A solid 3/5 from me.