Sunday, February 26, 2012

Take 6 - University Campuses

In Montreal I was charmed by McGill University's campus, prior to and while studying there. I loved to walk around admiring its very old buildings, the majesty of its architecture and loveliness of its mature trees. Little did I know I had not seen anything yet. A few years later, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and was enchanted by UBC (University of British Columbia) and its small village feel with large expanses of grassy areas, and acre upon acre of prime land, even parts of it bordering the Pacific. Now, needless to say, I have been bowled over by the American universities. Even the smaller ones like Santa Clara and San Jose State University are  peaceful places to visit and totally inspiring. I was not prepared for my first visit to Stanford. OMG ! More than impressive...... if not just the mere size of it. We were there for a few hours and managed to cover only a fraction of it. Fountain after magnificent fountain of calming water, landscaping displays and hundreds upon hundreds of palm trees. Also, all campuses are pet friendly (on leash, of course) so lots to see while your pet is getting his or her exercise and you are too.  There is a totally impressive church to visit once you have driven the long driveway and parked your car. Stanford Memorial Church, dedicated in 1903, is located at the end of the mile long axis and was built at the request of Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband. I often talk about churches and chapels, true, but only because I find the architectural details so amazing. You can stand either inside or outside and admire the intricate work of artisans of stained glass and mosaic. Simply awesome.  The fountains are also something to see. I love fountains. I don't know how many there are on the Stanford grounds but I saw several and as I intend to go back, I will count them and photograph them all. In the meantime, here are some photos and I promise more to come in another post.

Here is a very easy recipe for yummy muffins. It's a no fail breakfast staple.

Banana Walnut Muffins

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 very ripe bananas
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup walnuts (whole or chopped)

Blend first 4 ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Fill paper cups with batter and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Enjoy !


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Take 5 - Missions

Many years ago, during my first trip to California, I visited San Juan Capistrano (founded in 1776) located 70 miles North of San Diego and one of the 21 Missions between San Diego and San Francisco. I was so impressed with its beauty, calm and tranquility that I promised myself I would make a point to visit each one of the 20 other Missions, at one time or another. A tall order when you live in Montreal ! San Juan Capistrano is the one Mission where each year, on or about March 19th, (St. Joseph's Day)  the swallows return to stay until it is no longer warm enough for them and they leave again to winter south of there.  How they know to return at the same date is a mystery to everyone and many people gather at the Mission each year to witness their return. Fast forward many years later, 3 years ago actually, this time with David, we visited San Diego de Alcalá (founded in 1769). Another beautiful chapel with well maintained grounds and the ubiquitous gift shop. I don't approve of the gift shops in every Mission but let's face it, maintaining a place like that cannot be cheap and this is a way to generate funds. Also, David has a dear Aunt who is a nun and we make a point of getting her a little token from each visit to a Mission. Now since living here, we have visited two more: Santa Clara de Asís in Santa Clara (founded in 1777) and the first to bear the name of a woman. After many relocations due to fire, flood and earthquake, it finally settled at its present location also known as Santa Clara University. Finally, our fourth Mission visit was in Carmel on Christmas Day (more on Carmel in another post) where we walked the grounds and visited the chapel of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (founded in 1770) in the bright sunshine on a bitterly cold day. Unfortunately, being Christmas Day when we visited, the shop was closed so no gift for dear Auntie Micheline which only means we will have to return. For more information on the Missions go to The next three we plan on visiting will probably be San Francisco de Asis, located in San Francisco, San Jose. located in Fremont and Santa Cruz, located 72 miles South of San Francisco  in beautiful Santa Cruz. More on those in a later post.
For now, enjoy those photos taken at the aforementioned Missions:

Here is a wonderful recipe I found in a magazine and have adapted to my taste. The finished product looks so professional, your guests or family will not believe you actually made it yourself. A few pointers I have picked up through trial and error and after making this tart at least a dozen times. I don't suggest trying it with oranges, although quite tempting, because the orange taste does not come out as outstanding. A tart pan with removable bottom is a must if you want to achieve the professional look. And finally, tart weights. They are ceramic beans you put in the bottom of your uncooked crust, over parchment paper to ensure your crust does not puff upward. You can also use regular beans which you will discard when the crust is done. Your choice !

Classic lemon Tart

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 TB sugar
1 TB lemon zest
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut in pieces
1 egg yolk

2 eggs + 5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup 35% cream
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 TB Limoncello (optional)
Icing sugar for dusting

Position rack in bottom of oven and preheat to 350F
Combine flour+sugar+lemon zest in bowl of a food processor and mix. Add butter + yolk. Whir until crumbs clump together, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to centre of a 9" tart pan (with removable bottom). Press dough firmly from middle to edges. Line pastry with parchment paper and pie weights. Bake with tart pan on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes.

Whisk eggs + egg yolks + sugar in large bowl. Whisk in cream +lemon juice and limoncello (if using). When crust is done, remove beans and parchment. Pour filling through a sieve into crust. Return tart with baking sheet to oven and bake 30 minutes more until filling jiggles slightly when shaken. Cool on cooling rack. Refrigerate 1 hour and sift icing sugar over top.

Bon appétit !


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Take 4

Last Thursday I visited the Macworld 2012 at the Moscone Center West, in San Francisco. I had an opportunity to pick up a ticket for a few dollars so I went for it.  I felt a little intimidated amongst all of those geeky Mac afficionados but hey, they couldn't tell that I hardly knew squat about anything Apple, or could they ?!? . When we moved to California, I got myself an Iphone, to my husband's dismay, who would have liked me to get an Android but, I digress. A couple of weeks later, as a combined belated birthday gift/Christmas gift, I became the proud owner of an Ipad (Thanks, husband !) so I am no longer an Apple Virgin, but still, far from a geek.  I walked around this huge array of exhibitors boasting the different possibilities of their wares, most of which were of no interest to me, but I did make a couple of purchases. The first one was a new pair of earphones.  My husband kept complaining about his earphones so I thought these would be a great improvement. They are SnuggBuds, inner ear buds with excellent bass and ambient noise reduction. Another particular plus about them is that their wires are made of cord which virtually eliminates those darn tangles. My husband is now gaga for them. My second purchase was a little gadget for me that is called iBallz and it's the ultimate iPad protector.($20.00)  It is a harness with huge balls at each corner so that when you drop your iPad, and believe me, you will, your device will not be  the first thing that hits the floor. The balls do the cushioning. The harness also has several other functions such as stabilizing the iPad and when one of the balls is repositioned under the ipad, it serves as a tilting aid. It's also ideal for gamers. I love my iBallz. You can find out more about them at I continued my visit and could have bought a couple of other gadgets but I did not want to over do it. I had to keep a bit of budget money for lunch and shoes. So on to lunch.

There  is a chain called Chevy's. Chevy's is a Mexican restaurant and purists will hate what I am about to say but if you cannot find the authentic little Mexican hole in the wall where a whole family works diligently to produce food like the real stuff, then pick Chevy's. The food is very good, reasonably priced and the service is great. And if you like the taste of Magaritas but want to skip the buzz of Tequila at noon, ask for a virgin Margarita.  A great substitution for the real thing and just as tasty, without the buzz and the extra calories and at a much lower cost.

Then it was directly to DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) I have been a customer of DSW for at least 10 years. And guys, DSW is not just for the ladies, they have shoes for you too, including sneakers. But back to ladies' shoes. DSW has shoes, shoes and more shoes + handbags, wallets, belts, socks and lots more. And the great thing about it, there is a shoe for every budget. Also, they have a discounted section where you are sure to find a little gem or two. The largest discounted department I have seen at their stores (because I have visited several in California and Washington) is the one on Powell stree,t in San Francisco. Their whole basement is filled with shoes and bags that are additionally discounted on top of DSW's usual lower prices. Double discount ! Plan your visit because you could easily spend a couple of hours in there. You can also go online to shop and I am told that they will be shipping to Canada in the near future.  Oh, and one more thing about DSW, they have a customer appreciation program where you become a member, accumulate points and when you reach a certain amount of points, you receive a coupon, through the mail, to use at any of  their stores or online. How great is that? And, before you start wondering, those are just things and places I liked on my day trip to San Francisco, I am not a paid blogger.

Finally, after a few more stops, I was back on the train to go home. Caltrain has a great service, is comfortable, reasonably priced and I loved the experience.  I was sitting kitty corner and a few rows back from the unisex toilet. Well people, the results are in and I can hereby declare that, men as well as women do not interrupt their conversation on their cell phones when they enter the washroom.  The door to the washroom was one of those sliding metal types that kept slamming back and forth as a new user entered or exited . Most people I saw going in there, either male or female were carrying on a conversation on their cell. I was curious and wanted to see them on their way out. Well folks, believe it or not, either on the same conversation or a new one, they were still talking. HUM......can't the person at the other end of the line hear what they are up to ???

Finally, here is a great Banana Bread recipe from my own collection. You can omit the nuts, if you are so inclined. Your place will smell yummy in no time !

Lori's Banana Bread
(makes one loaf)

3 very ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 Tablespoons oil
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake or all purpose flour
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans work well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour loaf pan. Peel bananas and mash them in a large bowl. Add sugar, egg, oil and vanilla and beat until batter is well blended. Beat in flour, baking soda, salt until smooth. Add in nuts, if using, and stil just to incorporate nuts into mixture.  Pour into loaf pan and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake approximately 45 minutes. Test with toothpick. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean. Put pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool on rack.

Remember, each oven is different so your baking time might be slightly longer. Also feel free to tweak it to your liking.