Happy New Year – Roast Beef

Roast BeefThis is the time of year that I think about the future. Emy-Anne is living with me full-time and attending elementary school in LaSalle. The new arrangement has been good for both of us and was a big change to our routine.

I have less free time now. In the last four months only the important things got done. Less important things were postponed. This year will be different and more will get done.

There is a benefit to taking care of the schedule of a six-year-old. My daughter’s school and gymnastics calendar organizes the year into chunks of time. The next milestone is never too far. Between now and spring break there are forty workdays, thirty-seven school days, five weekend visits to her mom, five weekends for myself, five gymnastic lessons, three weekends with my daughter, three pedagogical days, two school committee meetings and one parent teacher update. Then, a week off for spring break.

So the challenge is to do all those things and find the time to start doing all the other things that I have been wanting to do. Trying to do everything on those free weekends when Emy-Anne stays with her mom does not work. Many free hours on the weekend is not the same as a few free hours each day.

My plan is to see what I can accomplish in the next two months by dividing my free time into thinking and non-thinking time. Weekends will be for thinking activities and the first and last hour of each day will be for non-thinking activities.

I will go out on weekends and keep some time for creative activities like writing, hobbies and studying for work. This year I will go snowshoeing, start another blog and do some woodworking.

House cleaning, dishes, laundry and paper work will all be done early or late in the day. If I have any other free time, it will be for relaxing.

Cooking is a big part of my life. I find you get back more from cooking when you invest your time into planning. A roast beef is a good example. I bought one during the holidays and have been making many different dishes from it. For about thirty dollars of meat you get at least eight different dishes.

Roast Beef

Serves Many

Ingredients

  • 1 X 5 lbs. the best roasting beef
  • 1 X garlic bulb minced
  • Rosemary
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter

Directions

  1.  Apply the olive oil, half of the minced garlic, half of the rosemary, salt and pepper to the roast.
  2. Brown all the sides of the roast in a frying pan with some butter.
  3. Transfer the roast into a pan for the oven. Add a little olive oil and the remaining garlic and rosemary.
  4. Cover the roast with wet parchment paper and aluminum foil.
  5.  Roast in the oven at 475 for 50 – 70 minutes. Let the roast rest 30 minutes after removing from the oven. (Vary the cooking time depending on how well you want the roast done)

Enjoy


Happy Thanksgiving – Marinate your Turkey

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. The details are not really important but things are moving forward in a positive way. I am not waiting for a dream job or trying to finish a degree. There is no specific milestones just in reach. It is more of a momentum things. I know I am going in the right direction and I am passing through where I know I need to go. The only thing missing now is the right company along the way.

Fall is the season of wilting and dying. It is not my favorite time of year. It is a time to take advantage of the last warms days and get everything done that you need so the winter doesn’t suck.

It is also the time to start cooking in the oven again. The simplest thing to cook is poultry. All poultry can be marinated in a brine mixture to improve the cooking and taste. You can brine a chicken or on a day like today you can brine a turkey.

Marinating Turkey

Marinating Turkey

Brine for Marinating Turkey or Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 liters of water
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Herbs from the garden (Romaine, Thyme, Sage)

Directions:

  1. Whisk the salt and sugar into the water until they’re completely dissolved. Place the poultry in a large bowl or cooler and cover with the water. Add all the herbs. A bowl for a chicken can be put in the fridge for a few hours. If using a frozen turkey thaw the turkey first and clean it. Then put it in a cooler with the brine mixture and add a bunch of ice. You can leave it on your balcony overnight or even for two days.
  2. Bird generally cooks at 350 in the oven. You can figure out the rest.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Emy-Anne is Starting Grade 1

Comme une grande fille

Emy-Anne

Emy-Anne is starting grade 1 this week. Before she lived most of the time with her mother. But, a few people did the right thing and she is going to school with me this year. My goal now is to support my daughter at home so she can be successful in the classroom.

Developing learning ability and independent thinking is not complicated. Exposure to enriching activities like sports, hobbies and arts can provide that. Other skills like effective communication require practice. Travelling creates a sense of adventure. The hardest part for me is being a good example so Emy-Anne learns right from wrong and what is honest and fair. Hopefully, with all that, my daughter will make good choices in life.

Neither of my parents finished university. I almost finished university. My career opportunities came from other circumstances besides school. I want to make a difference in the next 11 years by making sure she has what she needs to keep learning and finish university if she wants.

But this is a long time from now and there are a lot of little things to take care of in the short term. Each school year is 180 days. That means over the next 11 years, 1,980 mornings that start at 5:30 AM (for me) with a routine at home followed by a school day followed by another routine at home. Oh, I also need to put some money aside too.

Emy-Anne would like to try ballet and gymnastics. “Club de Gymnastique Jeune Aire” looks like a great place for her to start. So I signed her up for Wednesday nights. I think difficult sports provide great lessons because you always begin by confronting your physical limitations then through practice and work you achieve a result. The body eventually does what the mind wants it to do.

Like having control of your body very few people have control of their words. I want Emy-Anne to write well. Now is the time to take advantage of my daughter’s desire to communicate and start teaching her as best I can to structure ideas and sentences with proper grammar. This is more of a challenge for me than for her considering my lack of expertise with the French language. Most schools in Quebec, including the one closets to my house, are French. I will probably also learn some things by helping her with her homework.

I will try to take a summer and winter vacation each year. From time to time it is a good idea to explore your own city too. There is a lot of activities for children in Montreal.  I want Emy-Anne to be familiar with all the festivals and science museums that the city has. So far she likes the Biodôme and the butterflies at the botanical gardens. I can think of at least another 50 places outside of Montreal that I want her to see.

Part of being a complete person is having a good set of moral values and spiritual beliefs. It is really unpopular in Quebec but I will start by taking Emy-Anne to church when she is with me on Sundays. She will go many places and learn many things not from me. But, having a religion will be something uniquely from me and my family. It may come in handy during those difficult times in life.

A particular concern for me is what kind of lunches Emy-Anne can eat at school. There is no kitchen and no microwaves at school. So she will need to eat sandwiches or something hot that you can put in a thermos. Chicken salad sandwiches are very Quebecker type of sandwich. It can be a good alternative when she is tired of liver pate on rye bread with pickles.

Chicken Salad Ingredients

Chicken Salad Ingredients

Chicken Salad (For Sandwiches)

Serves Many

Ingredients

(Salad)

  • 1 cups of chicken dices into small pieces
  • 1/3 of a cup of sliced almonds
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • Some shallots (3)
  • A Dry Shallot

(Mayonnaise 1/2 cup)

  • egg yolk
  • oil
  • vinegar
  • lemon
  • dry mustard
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Make 1/2 cup of Mayonnaise. (Follow these directions but make half as much)
  2. Chop the chicken, shallots, dry shallot and add to the mayonnaise.
  3. Add the slides almonds and mix.

Enjoy.

 


Bicycle Season 2013 – Barbecue Spice for Chicken

Lachine Canal

Lachine Canal

It is a cold spring but I got my first month of cycling to work done. A few weeks ago, the mornings when it was just two or four degrees Celsius the right clothing made all the difference. The hands, head and ears all froze easily when I caught a small head wind. My new winter biking pants keep me warm. Now, a little warmer, my shorts and T-Shirts are good enough.

Anything to do with cycling is expensive. I try to buy my stuff on the internet because it is so much cheaper. You can find cycling clothing for about a third of the price and it is not all covered with the logos of companies that I don’t know anything about.

There are other things you can buy on the net. I would like to get some wooden fenders for my bike but there are not that easy to find. Maybe a headlamp of some kind or a luggage rack could be useful too.

When I cycle to work, I only really notice the people going the opposite direction. So far in the first few rides I saw all the same characters; bodybuilding guy with miniature dog jogging, bearded dude #1, punk girl with green scarf, and bearded dude #2. I haven’t seen freakishly tall blond girl yet. When I think about it, riding on this path is like a journey in life. The people that are going the same direction are the hardest to notice.

I live in the LaSalle borough of Montreal. It is completely surrounded by bicycle paths. There is a canal, an aqueduct, and the river itself that provide great routes for the bicycle paths. Most of them you can continuously ride on without having to cross an intersection with cars.

LaSalle used to have a rail loop for its industrial sections. The tracks have been taken away long ago and the city is planning to pave more bicycle paths on them. This will place a fantastic circle route in LaSalle and provide a great connection for most residents to get to and from the existing East and West routes. (See note about Montreal East and West)

The company I work for offers a half day to do some volunteer work. It happened that this year the group that I was with, worked on cleaning up the bicycle path that I ride on. Sweet! With a colleague’s help I was able to fill a garbage bag. We did a pretty good job on a mild sunny afternoon.

The organization I volunteered for is called “Pro-Vert Sud-Ouest”. They do exactly the type of environmental work that I like. Keeping green spaces clean.

Note: Montreal East and West is not geographical. The orientation of the island on printed map associates east and west with the left and right. In fact Montreal East is more like northeast and West is like South West.

To keep up the energy I got to eat a lot of chicken. So here is what I add when I need to roast one in a rush.

Barbecue Spice

Barbecue Spice

Barbecue Spice for Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup of salt
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of paprika
  • 2 tsps. cayenne
  • 2 tsps. oregano
  • 2 tsps. thyme

Direction

  1. Mix and store.

Enjoy!


French Class at McGill – Salmon and Quinoa Salad

Salmon and Quinoa Salade

Salmon and Quinoa Salad

I have not posted something for a little while because I was attending a French class at McGill. The class finished a few weeks ago and I passed. Now I have a little more free time to do some other things.

I have taken other French classes at Concordia and McGill but this was my first oral class. It was a good experience. I recommend this type of class to anyone that is learning because it is one thing to learn a language’s written grammar but it is completely different exercise speaking the language. You need to memorize or learn some useful sentence structures when speaking. This is especially true in French. Hopefully I will get good at it in the near future.

By practicing speaking with my classmates I learned what motivated them to learn French. Most of them were from other countries. Many share the same story that if you are learning French it is a lot easier to get to Canada. It seems strange to me that they would leave where they are to come here. No matter. It made their conversations more interesting.

My motivation for learning French is simple. I like speaking to Francophones so this requires a certain proficiency in the language and my daughter is attending French school. It is always helpful to be able to communicate with the majority in my province. I am not a dumb person so I want to make sure I don’t sound dumb when talking. As a parent it is a pretty good idea to provide a good role model when speaking with my daughter. I will be nice.

Now that I have some free time I can share some stories and some recipes. Quinoa is like a grain but it is not part of the grass family. It is more like a fruit albeit a tiny fruit that grows on a bush. It comes from somewhere in South America and is pretty easy to find in most grocery stores now. If you want to make something a little out of the ordinary you should try it.

The instructions on how to cook Quinoa are pretty simple. You need to rinse it first then cook it like rice for about 15 minutes.

Quinoa Salad

8 portions

Ingredients

Salad

  • 3 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes quartered
  • 1 diced pepper
  • six sliced small cucumbers

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • TT ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine the salad in a large bowl.
  2. Dress the salad with the dressing.

Enjoy!


Making something out of nothing – Pork Roast

Pork Roast

Pork Roast

My parents have an immigrant instinct when grocery shopping. If some meat is advertised at a cheap price, they have to buy. Consequently their freezer is full of large cuts of pork and beef that are tricky to cook. Eventually, they end up gifted to me because they need a little free space in their freezer.

Super “C” sells pork roasts in the 3.5 – 4.0 kg range for less than $10. That is a great deal but not all cooking techniques are compatible with that kind of cut. One technique that works is roasting.

Preparing a roast requires planning, especially if you are starting with a frozen piece of meat. To speed up the thawing process I usually leave the frozen piece of meat on the counter for at least two hours following by putting it into my fridge to finish thawing overnight. It almost will never thaw from frozen overnight in a fridge.

In the morning I place the thawed meat in a glass roasting pan with the marinade. It is important to marinade the meat but much less important what you use to marinate. You need to be flexible and use what you have. A few strong flavors mixed with something acidic will work well. I cover the meat with plastic wrap at leave it in the fridge. Now the marinade is only touching the bottom of the roast so a few times during this process I take it out and turn it.

When it is time to roast you need to pour the marinade out of the pan and into a small sauce pan. The roast will cook well in the oven with no liquid in the pan. The liquid would actually cool the bottom part of the roast and cook it unevenly. The concept is the hot air will cook the roast more evenly. So keeping part of it immersed in water is not a great idea.

My stove has a hole on the top right burner that is connected to the stove. So I put the sauce pan with the marinade on that burner to keep it warm and hopefully evaporate some of the water that I don’t need for the sauce. The roast will cook for about two hours before being ready. So there is plenty of time to figure out the sauce.

Knowing when a roast is done requires 10 years of cooking experience or a cooking thermometer. The thermometer is the way to go. It is ok for the inside of the pork roast to be pink. This is not chicken and you should not panic. What is important is the inside temperature reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it reaches that temperature I place the roast on a serving dish and cover it with foil to keep it warm. It will continue cooking for at least 10 minutes and stay at a temperature ready to serve for quite some time.

Pork Roast

Serves Many

Ingredients

  • 1 3.5 kg roast
  • Marinade and Sauce
  • 2 cups of orange juice
  • 4 Tsps. of honey
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 Tsps. of mustard
  • 1 cup of dried mushrooms
  • Salt and Peper to taste

Directions

  1. Marinate the roast in the orange juice, honey, garlic, mustard for about 3 hours in a covered dish in the fridge.
  2. Reserve the liquid in a sauce pan and roast the pork in the oven for approximately 2 hours at 325 until the interior of the roast reaches 170 degrees.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the marinade and reduce the liquid. When the roast is done add the juices from the pan and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Enjoy.


Persistence by way of indoor gardening

I lost some of the strength I once had as I grew older. There are many things I cannot do anymore. Sleeping each day is not optional, I can’t drink 5L of beer, and I can’t run 20 km. The list is long. But there are a lot of things that I am still able to do well.

In olden times (that is how I will refer to my youth from now on) I was in the Army so staying in shape was part of the routine. Physical fitness was a valuable asset for organized violence. There was a great deal of motivation to increase your physical ability because it would directly impact your quality of life while working. It seemed like you could achieve almost any fitness goal.

I don’t have that routing any more. My body cannot do everything I did before. Fate, as it is, has given me a small family and career that I gladly spend my time on instead of looking after myself. But I am still persistent. I am a regular visitor to the gym early in the morning. Not every day but most days. It is hard to organize myself and even when I fail, I keep trying.

PWhat I want to really say is as you grow older an important quality to have is persistence. You need to try and look for new things. When you find something new it might not work out the way you thought but you should not give up.

This is my case with gardening. I like trying to grow things from seeds. It hasn’t gone all that well. The growing season is short in Southern Quebec. But I keep on trying. My idea is to figure out a way to grow all my plants from seed indoors and plant them really early. I want to be able to plant things by the first week of April. About 6 weeks earlier than recommended.

Buying plants at the local market is not that expensive but you are limited in the variety and everything is ready at the same time. Some new varieties would be nice and also having some vegetables earlier and later in the summer would be great too.

So a little bit at a time I will try to overcome the lack of sunlight in the winter time and prepare some stuff to be planted in the spring. Peas are a great replacement for pasta and they taste really good when fresh. So I will try this one first. It might not work but it also might work just fine.


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