Friday, March 14, 2014

March Broke

March Break started officially last Friday with a PA Day that I had been anxiously longing for with all the fervour of a Jehovah's Witness awaiting the Rapture.  What I had pictured was: me sitting with my feet up while the Dotytron took on the daily gamut of changing, feeding, clothing, and the Big Yam ablutions/wrestling that passes for mornings around here.  Trips downtown with the Dotytron to try some new restaurants with only 2 of our 3 children in tow.  Working on my long-in-the-waiting quilt.  Catching up on our current TV addiction, The Good Wife (WHY ARE WE SO HOOKED ON The Good Wife?!  It is a question for the ages.  We don't particularly like any of the characters, and yet, it goes down SO EASY.  It's like our nightly glass of warm milk.  We can't stay away, even as we know that we don't exactly fit the target demographic of like, 40-50 year old women who have outgrown Grey's Anatomy)

After a rough few days with me playing single mom (not very graciously mind) to four babies, everyone was officially on the mend as of Monday and we got back on track.  The weekend wasn't a complete write off - despite the fact that I was a cranky grump and kept accusing the Dotytron of having weak genetic material (he does!  He gets sick ALL THE TIME!) - I took the babies with me to dinner at our friend B & G's house on Saturday night and had a lovely time.  I spent a morning doing some home science experiments with the Big Yam.  Standard stuff - celery in food colouring water, coloured water moving up a paper towel, etc.  It was a big hit.  But the biggest hit by far was making "clouds" make rain.  I filled up a glass trifle bowl with water and filled the top with shaving cream.  Then I had him put drip dropperfuls of coloured water on top until the shaving cream "rained" the water.  It was pretty awesome.  A solid half hour of quiet time.  We went to see the Big Yam's final dance recital with his completed hip hop routine.  I cooked a giant batch of bolognese Sunday night (never unerdestimate the restorative powers of bolognese and pappardelle).  When I told the Big Yam that we had re-enrolled him in ballet and hip hop for next session, we were talking about his dance class in general and mentioned something about him getting to wear his ballet shoes again.  Then he says, "But what about...about...the...shirts the other girls wear?"  Me: "Do you want one of the skirts that the other girls wear?"  Him: "Yes."  Awww, what a sweetie!  I'm going to make him one.  He just wants to be like the other kids in the class, and why not?  I like that he's so innocent of gender conventions at the moment and that's a beautiful, beautiful thing.  It's going to be taken from him all too soon, so why not let him live in this blissful little bubble for a while longer?

Monday evening we took the Big Yam to the aquarium again.  He was sooo excited.  It was the Dotytron's first time there.  I'm not sure if we're going to be regulars there.  Zoos and aquariums make us feel really conflicted, from an ethics standpoint, more now that we recently watched that documentary Blackfish on Netflix.  THE NAME TILIKUM WILL HAUNT YOU ALL.  At it's heart, Blackfish is about how orcas, or other marine mammals shouldn't be in captivity, that it stresses them out, and that it leads to them attacking their trainers.  The doc follows the life of an orca male named Tilikum, who has caused the deaths of a few people and how basically SeaWorld is completely unethical and unscrupulous in terms of warning their trainers of the whales' history and taking adequate safety precautions.  We watched it with SMckay who came over on Wednesday night.  It made the Dotytron super-upset.  SMckay: "I hope someone gets a gun and just shoots Tilikum."  Dotytron: "I HOPE TILIKUM GETS THE GUN AND STARTS SHOOTING PEOPLE!"  LOL!  The image of the orca, holding a gun and mowing down his oppressors is so funny to me.

The Toronto Aquarium doesn't have any marine mammals, but there are some questions about how they procured some sand sharks in their stable that are listed as "endangered."  Basically, peeps are like, "if they're so 'endangered' why you be grabbing them from the ocean, sons?"  Which seems legit.  The whole existence of zoos and aquariums is problematic.  On the one hand, is it better to let these species die off in the wild due to overfishing, hunting, habitat degradation and express their innate animal natures?  Or, is it better to put a few of them in zoos so that people can see them, empathize, be exposed, and hopefully participate in conservation efforts?

The Wonder Twins have been hitting mad milestones lately.  They both can sit up.  Lindsay Lou-Lou is crawling.  Quincess does this reverse inchworm manoeuvre where he arches his back and slides along the floor using his helmet as an anchoring point.  It's not exactly kosher according to his physiotherapist.  Both of them have their bottom two teeth poking out.

Two weeks ago, we hit Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya with my mum and her posse.  Those ladies are a hoot.  It was our first time there.  It's a very spacious izakaya, as far as a baby-friendly option goes, and they do Okinawa-style ramen.  One of my mum's friends is Japanese and spoke highly of the food there.  They do a lot of dishes that you don't see at the other izakayas in Toronto, and it's good to have a family(ish) friendly option.  It was pretty empty on the Monday night that we went, and I figured it'd be safe to roll up with a large-ish group as long as you avoided Thursday through Saturday.

Their in-house made cold tofu.  A texture like bouncy custard, topped with a delicious sweet soy.  So good.

Stir-fried bitter melon with egg and bonito.  Also delicious and wonderfully balanced between bitter and sweet.

The shio ramen - the broth at Ryoji is by far the most delicate and subtle of the Toronto ramen restaurants broths.  It's really nice and not overly salted, unlike a lot of other places.  I liked the lightness of the broth, but I do like the full, meaty flavour of the Sansotei's best, still.

Yesterday was a day of FUN.  We took the Big Yam to daycare and had brunch at Bar Buca.  Faithful readers of my blog know that I wasn't the biggest fan of Buca.  But Bar Buca really dials it in.  It's an all day spot - open from 7am until 2am, with food meant for snacking and sharing, to be paired with espresso-based drinks in the morning and wine in the evening.  The dishes we really liked at Buca were the small plates of appetizers and fried things, and at Bar Buca, the entire menu is made up of these.  I'd definitely go back.

Fried artichokes with a lemon zabaglione

They serve a bunch of spiedini (skewers).  This was octopus (so tender!) and soppressata, on top of a potato puree

Stuffed foccacias also make up a section of the menu.  These were both outstanding.  So tasty.  The bread was nice and crisped from a time in the oven, lightly salted (and consequently a big hit with the Wonder Twins), and a perfectly neutral vehicle for the satisfying fillings.  One had bresaola, pickled eggplant, and buffalo ricotta, and the other had thinly shaved porchetta, mascarpone, mayonnaise, and apple mostarda.  So good!  

We also stopped by Forno Cultura and got some of their pastries.  I love Italian pastries.  Not too sweet, lots of cream fillings.  Divine.  That being said, I don't like this place as much as I liked the Terroni offshoot, Sud Forno.  Mainly because Sud Forno has bombolone.  

Dinner/baking catch-up:

Shrimp, crab, and andouille gumbo for Mardi Gras!  Served with brown rice.  Didn't get a chance to get filé powder, but it was still delicious.

Made churros for Mardi Gras as well.

And funnel cakes the next day?  Why not?

This is the gluten free almond, lemon, ricotta cake, the recipe for which I've posted below.  One of the best gluten-free desserts I've ever had.

Dinner we had when SMckay visited - devilled chicken thighs (oven baked, boneless skinless chicken thighs dipped in a mixture of melted butter, minced garlic, and a boatload of dijon mustard, then dredged in panko mixed with grated parmesan cheese).  Creamed spinach, freezer stuffing, green beans.

Tonight is takeout night so we're trying the new Mother's Dumplings that opened on the Danforth.  I will say that the prices at Mother's Dumplings are kinda high, for dumplings.  But I'm glad that it's close.


Gluten Free Lemon, Almond, Ricotta Cake
serves 8-10

1/2 c. (or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. lemon zest
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature (but it's not going to kill you if you pull them from the fridge)
2 1/2 c. ground almonds
300 g. ricotta (or 10.5 oz).  I used light ricotta with no ill effects
flaked almonds & powdered sugar for topping

- line the bottom of an 8" cake pan with a parchment round.  I also lined the sides, but I don't think that'd be necessary in the future
- cream the butter and sugar together on high until light and fluffy.  Add the lemon zest.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, then the almond meal.  Add the ricotta and mix until just combined.
- meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold in 3 batches into the almond mixture.
- pour into your prepared pan, and top with flaked almonds.  
- bake in a preheated 325F oven for about 45 minutes - 1 hour.  The original recipe called for 40-45 minutes but I found that it took almost 1 hour 15 minutes in my oven.  You're looking for nice golden browning on the top (without burning the almonds) and for the cake to be firm all the way through to the centre.  
- Cool on rack and serve from the pan dusted with powdered sugar, or you can do what I do and invert it so that you can put the cake on a pretty plate.

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