Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ukutastic Ukuinisms

So I took up playing the ukulele 2 years ago...How does one get to a point in one's life to say one day..."I want to play the ukulele?"
A friend of mine, Mike Marcuzzi, who sadly passed away a year and a half ago, lent me a little green pineapple ukulele, hoping he would someday start a ukulele band.  I spent a couple months ukuoodling around with it, then it sat in it's cardboard case until... of my newly retired BFFs, Judy, told me one summer day while we were sitting on the patio at the boat club drinking too much boxed wine, that on her bucket list was to learn how to play the ukulele.  Of course I said it would be ukutastic if I could teach her the basics.  "Really", I thought to myself in an egotistical tone of voice,  "how hard COULD it be after playing the classical guitar all my life, to play the ukulele...?" 
I then started ukutroducing myself to new people as "Hi, I'm Jen, and I play the ukulele".  Seems like a ukureffic place to start off that awkward first moments of meeting new people.  Most people chuckle and ask me if I play "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" - that would be a ukueforic "no".  Then I point out that a ukulele really isn't just a toy, it's a pretty ukucool instrument.  Now, I'm not an expert, or prodigy by any stretch of the means but I can play some pretty ukutastic jazz tunes.  I also rock pretty hard some Radiohead, Green Day and George Michael tunes.

Why have one ukulele when 12 will do?  So here's my ukulele line up:

Green Pineapple (summer 2009):

Lanaki Tenor (summer 2010):

Banjo (October 2013):

Electric Gretsch (December 2013):

Lanaki Soprano (January 2014):

As far as I'm concerned - playing the ukulele is ukueriffic.  When I play a tune for someone they are ukually surprised at what can be done.  I can't say I'm not totally self taught, I did attend ukulele camp for a couple days in Toronto in 2011 with Judy and watched a lot of UkuTube, signed up for cool ukulele websites like Ukulele Underground and Ukulele Forum for hints and tips.  I guess you could call me a ukulele nerd but I wouldn't kick anyone out of bed for playing the ukulele. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Good Morning Sunshine

You get rudely disturbed by the clock radio, hit the snooze bar a billion times, just 10 more minutes before sticking out your feet into the dim light of our basement apartment wondering what the weather holds today.  The soft carpet is replaced by hard tile on my journey to the bathroom.  I sit my bottom down on the toilet seat and rub the sleep out of my eyes.  I listen to my boy fill a pot of water to boil in order to make the elixir of my morning in the plastic white French Press someone gave to me long ago.  I toddle into the bedroom opening drawers, digging through the piles of clothes on the floor trying to decide what kind of fashion statement I should make at the office today and if anyone really notices, hearing the laptop start up and the talk radio whine away in the background of my mind.  I pull out a shirt, a pair of pants, socks, underwear, bra, wrestle to put them all on in the correct order. 
A minute later in the kitchen, I pour the oatmeal into a little Ikea pot with water and put the burner on medium and stand watching it slowly come to a bubble.  The coffee is settling in the French Press and I grab a couple of mugs waiting...waiting...waiting.  The weather, once again says it's ass snappin' cold out with no chance of wonderful warmth in the near future and I sit on my stool at the kitchen counter watching the oatmeal bubble away in the pot hoping it doesn't burn this morning, my head resting in my hands.  A pleasant conversation flows naturally, easily between me and my boy and we laugh and make jokes about the upcoming day and what adventures the next 10 hours may bring us. 
I stir the brown sugar into my oatmeal, pour the frothy hot coffee into my mug that has a Z scrawled across it.  Taking a sip my boy reminds me that of course it's hot and I burn my tongue, just like all the other mornings before this one.  I fill the empty oatmeal bowl with water to let it soak all day, where it will patiently wait for me to come home to make it all sparkly again later tonight.
Pulling my carcass off the bar stool, I meander into the bathroom, brush the sleep off my teeth, apply make-up to one eye, swish the mascara brush in the almost empty make-up holder then apply to the other eye.  My boy is tidying up the kitchen while I make myself beautiful for the office.  My hair needs cutting but there's nothing I can do about it at this moment so I shrug my shoulders and put more goop on the parts that won't lay flat. 
Looking at my watch and realizing the time, grab last night's leftovers from the refrigerator for today's lunch, my coat is on, zipped up, should I wear my big heavy winter boots, might as well, they were expensive.  Then a kiss on the lips, a nice smile and an "I love you babe" and out the door, purse over my shoulder, knitting in my lunch bag and into the cold sunshine of this never ending winter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Life is full of awesome adventures

I haven't blogged in ages, but thought that I might get back to it.  A lot of cool and not so cool stuff has happened in the 2 years since I last posted.  So as not to make a long boring blog, here is everything in a nutshell from the past year:

April 2013: sold house in Toronto
April 2013: moved to Chateau Lake Louise to work as a pastry chef
June 2013: decided the Chateau Lake Louise wasn't for me
July 2013: flew back to Ontario and moved in with my dad and stepmom in Bobcaygeon
July 2013: my niece was born
September 2013: joined the Barrie Yacht Club
October 2013: moved to Barrie and got a legal assistant job (again...sigh)
November 2013: met a tattooed, Harley riding guy named Mike life in the past year summed up in 8 lines.  However, I'm happy as a clam in shite, if indeed a clam can be happy in that situation.  This past winter has been a long slog as far as the weather here in Ontario, last Thursday was the first day of spring and of course it's snowing today, and last weekend, this is what it looked like on Georgian Bay, less than a week away from the first day of spring:

My boy Mike spent the winter in Florida (insert groans here...) and I was able to visit twice and met some really great new friends while I was there.  I even had my first ride on a motorcycle and loved it (and no screaming, just big smiles):

This summer will be full of sailing on Lake Simcoe (I have been assured that you can navigate Lake Simcoe with a road map...), riding on the back of Mike's Harley (I will require new outfits) and spending some nice, not so quiet weekends in the Muskokas in Mike's camper (Gawd help us all...).  In the fall who knows, right now I'm just itching for the weather to suddenly spring into spring so that I can get out of the house and get some fresh air that won't make my nostrils stick together. 
The Sailing Chef has new adventures on the horizon that may even include a change of the name of my blog to the Travelling Chef - so stay tuned sports fans...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brining, burning, dropping and drinking!

How to make the best turkey by brining, catching on fire, dropping on the floor and carving drunk…

I wanted to brine a turkey for Easter.  Never done it before, only seen it done before and never had the pleasure to taste one before, so what the hell…Then I got it into my head that I wanted to BBQ this brined bird, but alas our gas grill is kaput so the next best thing, my charcoal grill and the 3 huge logs of cherry wood someone gave me last fall…I’m a genius I think to myself with an egotistical smile spreading across my face.  I call my friends and there are now 5 coming over for dinner.  Too bad my hubby is going to miss the fun!

What to do first? Obviously put a call into my butcher at Black Angus and have them set aside a small fresh turkey, about 10 pounds.  I’ll pick it up Saturday morning.

I get the turkey home Saturday morning and I realize I don’t have any salt for the brine…duh.  I have celery salt though…here’s my brine recipe for a 10ish pound fresh turkey.

2 cups celery salt
10 bay leaves
10 whole cloves
10 whole garlic cloves, smashed
2 large onions cut into large pieces
A handful of coriander seed
A handful of fennel seed
5-10 Star Anise
Some pepper corns
Some juniper berries (optional)
Some chicken stock

Mix all ingredients and warm the liquid until the salt dissolves.  This liquid must be cold before pouring over the turkey as you don’t want to warm the turkey, which could cause some nasty bacteria to form.

I split my turkey down the back and pressed it flat so it would cook faster on my BBQ but you can leave it whole.  Remove giblets and set aside to make the gravy.  Place turkey in garbage bag and pour in brine, pour in enough water to cover the bird.  Place bag in bucket, then in fridge for 12-16 hours.

Remove turkey and rinse thoroughly so the bird isn’t salty.  Discard the brining liquid.  Put the bird in the fridge uncovered for at least 2 hours so the skin can dry out (makes for a crispier skin if you are roasting in the oven).

Now my story gets interesting.  I traipse down into our basement and find 2 hatchets.  Roll one of my huge chunks of cherry wood out the back yard and start chopping away.  I was doing a pretty good job too.  Although one chop got a little violent…Let me set the scene:

I’m rather little, so I swing my axe pretty high and it comes down with a lot of weight or else the axe will bounce off the wood like a rubber ball against a dog’s forehead.  So I give her a swing, miss the wood, the axe goes in between my legs and slips out of my hands, flies up and across the yard and ends up wedged in the neighbour’s fence…fortunately there wasn’t a cat or squirrel in the vicinity at the time.

I decide after about 30 minutes of chopping I have enough wood to host a Burning Man party.  I fill the bbq with newspaper and set it on fire, cover with charcoal then light the paper on fire again, and again, and again… finally the charcoal catches so I start to stack the cherry wood into the fire.  Then have to go into the house to get more paper and more matches, this goes on for about an hour.  Finally I have a roaring fire and the neighbourhood is full of smoke.  The grills go into the bbq and I throw on the turkey, not thinking that maybe I really should have waited until the fire went out and coals just kept the place warm.  I close the lid go in the house and fill up my wine glass and 10 minutes later decide to check on the bird – well it’s on fire.  Yup ON FIRE.  So I pull it off the fire and am able to put out the flames, well the skin sure looks nice and crisp, and I remember then and there that I have to let the flames go out before bbqing.  I take the bird into the house and put it in the oven and go and deal with the bbq.  Finally the flames are out and it is perfect for cooking.  I have to then refill my wine glass because it ended up on grass when I realized the turkey was on fire…

I take the turkey out of the oven and as I do so, I realize there is a hole in my oven mitts, the tray is pretty hot and burning a hole through my index finger and so I had to drop the turkey on the floor.  All I can say is I’m glad I just vacuumed 5 minutes previously.  The cat comes in and helps me lift it back onto the tray and cleans up the floor.  Thanks Goober for being so helpful now go refill my wine glass!

Finally the turkey is on the charcoal, I then decide to sit in the back yard, wool blanket on my lap, warmth from the bbq and study for my chef exam when it starts to rain – sigh.  One hour later the turkey is done.  I roast some carrots, make a Tarte Tatin  The rest is delicious history and one of the best turkeys I have ever eaten!  Even the dog Jack and the cat Goober stood patiently side by side while I was drunkenly trying to carve the turkey.

P.S.: Here’s my recipe for LOTS of Gravy:

Put in a sauce pot all the giblets, cut up carrots, an onion or 2, I used the tops off fresh fennel, you can also use celery, some red wine, bay leaves, thyme and finally cover with water.  Bring to a boil and turn down to medium.  Let simmer away, when the liquid has reduced by half, add cold water, do this 2, 3 or 4 times, the more times you reduce by half and add cold water the richer your gravy.  To thicken, mix together equal amounts by weight of butter (no margarine) and flour, add a little at a time until your desired thickness!  mmmmmm

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What do you do when you are waiting for your hair to turn blue?

No really, I am having a mid life crisis, but it's fun, I do have blue hair.  So what does one do when they are perking up the blue, waiting for the dye to kick in before you can rinse it out?  Why try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe of course!  

You are probably thinking to yourself, please who can surpass the one on the back of the chocolate chip package you have been making with your mom since you were a kid?  I agree, but when it comes to cookies, is there really any mistake, or harm in trying a new recipe?  I thought this particular one was interesting, chewy chocolate chip cookies made with molasses.

So here I stand in my almost new kitchen that I'm renovating myself (next blog) with hair dye setting and all the ingredients laid out in front of me.

Alas, first rule of making a new recipe, read it thoroughly BEFORE starting, so I had to scoop the sugar out of the flour, no mean feat that.  

I'm used to weighing out my ingredients for baking, it seems like a chore for most people but once you get the hang of it, it's easier and more accurate, trust me a cup of flour weighs different every time.  However, this recipe calls for cups and tablespoons so I found my measuring cups shoved in the back of the drawer, happy to see the light of day after so many years.

Now, most people don't have Cuban chocolate left overs, but I do, after all I can't just use any chocolate, it has to be top notch and interesting so that's what I used, was Cuban chocolate.  Don't fret, you too can use awesome chocolate, any specialty food store will have some interesting chocolate and even the Bulk Barn has Callebaut chocolate.

Always use the bast vanilla too:

The formula says to let the dough rest in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, but honestly, it's 9:30 p.m. and I still have hair dye to deal with so in they go, and 8 minutes later, out they come....

Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies
8 ozs unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp dark molasses, not blackstrap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks


In a sauce pan, melt the butter and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar mixture. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for about 20 minutes, then scoop onto nonstick baking sheets. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. I like these cookies to be just a bit under-done. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Big, Fancy, Expensive Kitchen Store

I got a great gift this year - a gift certificate to a big fancy, expensive kitchen store!  What did I get with my gift certificate:

What is it you ask?  Well - it's a terrine mold!  Wait, what is a terrine you ask?  Well a terrine is basically layered meat, usually pork or some kind of game meat in either a pastry crust or a bacon crust or a...wait, yes meat wrapped in bacon.  

New Year's Eve is my chance to cook a multi course dinner for my friends.  One of the courses is always Charcuteire (see blog dated October 30, 2011).  I decided to make a Rabbit terrine.  <gasp> you say, well suck it up buttercup!  Rabbit is tastier than chicken, lower in fat than chicken and better for the environment than chicken!  Alas, it's about 5x the price though...sigh.

I chose my flavour profile, in this case, blood orange and cranberry.  I deboned my bunny, keeping the tenderloins intact and marinated them in blood orange and Limoncello.  I then took the rest of the rabbit and processed in my food processor with fennel, caraway, salt and pepper, 1 egg and a splash of cream.

I then seared the rabbit tenderloin in a hot cast iron pan and the marinade followed the tenderloin into the pan to create an orange limoncello syrup.

The terrine mold was lined with bacon and layered with the processed rabbit, sliced tenderloin, cranberries, blood orange slices, the limoncello orange syrup and then more processed bunny.

The bacon was then folded over and a pretty little sprig of fresh thyme garnished the top:

Finally the terrine press and lid were on and the terrine was placed in a water bath and baked in a 300 F oven for 2 hours:

The finished product was served cold with olives, sweet gherkins, cheese galore and lots of wine.  Of course it was totally yummy and the left overs were eaten in a sandwich New Year's Day for a quick dinner!

Happy New Year's everyone and happy eating!

Friday, December 30, 2011


A chef's most important tool is a knife.  There are many kinds of knives, each with their own special job:

boning knife - for boning say a chicken
chef's knife - for pretty much every job
filet knife - fileting fish, fine cutting
paring knife - fine cutting, small cuts
carving knife - for carving meats
sashimi knife - for cutting thin pieces of fresh fish

Left to right: paring knife, boning knife, chef knife, carving knife, filet knife, serrated knife.

There are many more kinds of knives but the above knives can all be found in my collection.

The other most important knife is a SHARP knife.  I know, I know, most people are afraid of a sharp knife, they think they will cut themselves.  Well I have news for you, you are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife.  Why you say?  Think about cutting into a lemon, a dull knife will slip off that thick rind, a sharp knife will grab and cut right away, quickly and cleanly.  Even if you cut yourself with a sharp knife, it's a clean fine cut that heals cleanly and quickly, a cut from a dull knife results in an ugly cut that will leave a scar and take a long time to heal.  Then there is the tomato, ever tried to saw through a tomato with a dull knife...a sharp knife will leave a clean cut, no damage to the fruit whatsoever.  A sharp knife makes a lot of work go faster and believe it or not, less tears from cutting an onion.

I'm sure most people wonder how to keep their knives sharp or how to take those dull 'knives' in their drawers sharp.  There are places to take your knives to bring back the edge if they are really bad, I go to a place called Knife (  Those guys love a sharp knife.  

In November I took a knife sharpening class, just to see how much better I can do with sharpening my knives.  So here's the scoop:  buy yourselves 2 sharpening stones a 1000 grit and a 4000 grit, you can buy these online from Lee Valley or when you drop in at Knife you can buy your stones there, they may seem expensive but will last you pretty much forever, so it's a great investment.

Left to right: 1000 grit and 4000 grit

Wet your Whetstone, 1000 grit, take 3 pennies and lay the knife on an angle and that will determine the angle to sharpen:

Sharpen following the curve of the blade, if you are right handed 70% of the sharpening should be on the right side.

For the other side of the knife, use 2 pennies to determine the angle:

Polish using the 4000 stone the same way as above.  VOILA!  If you just polish with the 4000 stone once or twice a week you will never have a dull knife and a sharp knife makes life so much easier.