Saturday, January 09, 2016

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Happy Epiphany!

It's the 6th of January. For those who don't know, it's a Christian feast day. So Happy Epiphany! :)

Some like to jump in a river, we prefer to eat cake! :) More precisely, something called: Galette des rois (kings cake). It's better than cake though with it's buttery, flaky, golden pastry and frangipane filling. Frangipane is a mild and sweet almond flavoured paste that is usually made with butter, eggs, sugar and ground almonds. It's good! It is definitely something I'm looking forward to. The kids look forward to the little ceramic trinket that is hidden inside. The person who gets the trinket in their slice, gets to be king (or Queen) and wear the crown! It's a tradition that is practiced by religious, not very religious and non practicing people. Well, French people. I can't speak for the rest of the world but I know others do it too with subtle differences. For us (usually), my mother comes for a visit around this time and buy the special treat in one of the special shops she finds on her way. We also get some bubbly. She couldn't make this week so I was willing to go without. It's not a Quebecer tradition so you won't find this in a grocery store or any bakery. A French person would easily have to learn to go without or bake their own (which is doable but not as simple as it looks).

That's when Marc surprised me! He took a chance and visited a little French deli down the main street that we rarely visit (mainly because it's out of our way). He thought that if a shop was going to sell some galette des rois, this would be it. He was right! They sell them! Yay! I have to be thankful that in this day and age, we can be spoiled with special shops who specialize in foods we usually wouldn't have access to. Time for me to encourage them and visit more often! ;) We don't have any bubbly or a fancy dinner to entertain us with (plain buttered noodles and a green salad is on the menu) but I will gladly take this with the girls to celebrate the closure of Christmas holidays. After today, we officially take the tree down. I'm ready!!

We mainly do the French tradition but I will always remember being around the age of 6 or 8 and dressing up as one of the Kings with my brother when we lived in Germany. I mainly remember the dressing up part and the crafty crowns. Oh how I loved those. 

I'm going to shamelessly quote Wikipedia for further explaining since I'm running out of time... I only copied the French and German traditions. Those are the ones I can relate to but the rest of the countries mentioned in the "National and local customs" on this link are all interesting to read. If you find it boring, skip it but I find other people's cultures fascinating. I like all the differences and similarities.

"In France people share one of two types of king cake. In the northern half of France and Belgium the cake is called a galette des Rois, and is a round, flat, and golden cake made with flake pastry and often filled with frangipane, fruit, or chocolate. In the south, in Provence, and in the south-west, a crown-shaped cake or brioche filled with fruit called a gâteau des Rois is eaten. Both types of cake contain a charm, usually a porcelain or plastic figurine, called a fève (bean in French).[70]
The cake is cut by the youngest (and therefore most innocent) person at the table to assure that the recipient of the bean is random. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" or "queen" and wears a paper crown provided with the cake. This person has a choice between offering a beverage to everyone around the table (usually a sparkling wine or champagne), or volunteering to host the next king cake at their home. This can extend the festivities through all of January!]"
"In the German-speaking lands, groups of young people called Sternsinger (star singers) travel from door to door. They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four-part harmony, not necessarily three wise men at all. German Lutherans often note in a lighthearted fashion that the Bible never specifies that the Weisen (Magi) were men, or that there were three. The star singers will be offered treats at the homes they visit, but they also solicit donations for worthy causes, such as efforts to end hunger in Africa, organized jointly by the Catholic and Evangelical-Lutheran churches.[72] As a sign of gratitude, the young people then perform the traditional house blessing, by marking the year over the doorway with chalk. In Roman Catholic communities this may be a serious spiritual event with the priest present even today, but among Protestants it is more a tradition, and a part of the German notion of Gemütlichkeit. Usually on the Sunday following Epiphany, these donations are brought into churches. Here all of the children who have gone out as star singers, once again in their costumes, form a procession of sometimes dozens of wise men and stars. The German Chancellor and Parliament also receive a visit from the star singers at Epiphany."

Regardless, Happy Epiphany! Happy New Year! It's a wrap.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A copious and quiet evening into the New Year

Our New Year's Eve was a quiet and pleasant one. I'm not sure if it was what we wanted but it was certainly what we needed. When we returned from our "out of town" Holidays on the 28th, we were happy but fried. We decided to ignore our suitcases, ordered some grub, made a fire, watched a movie and played with our new toys and treasures. We pretty much cocooned ourselves in which was also great timing as a snowstorm was about to start. Our bare, snowless area went from greyish green to instant white that night. The denial (for me) was over, kids were ecstatic, winter officially arrived. I have to admit, for now, it's pretty.

My father was expected for a visit but we had to juggle the dates a bit to give the snow blizzard enough time to spew out it's white fury. We decided to wait and go by feel, depending on what the weather was serving. I'm happy to say that 2 days later my father made it for New Year's Eve. He joined us early on the 31st just in time to shovel our driveway (sorry p'pa) and to help me to the store for some last minute purchases. Once done, we cozied ourselves inside, got set up, made a fire, opened a bottle of Caribou and it was chin-chin right away! :)

I took out some Kalamata olives and some St-Albert cheese curds (the girls love both) while my father opened a perfectly ripe Roquefort and sliced a crusty baguette along with some good dry sausage which I think was a Rosette de Lyon (kids are addicted to it). I just added butter to the table and we just kept munching until we realized we had to stop to save room for dinner! That was round 1. Even the cat joined in.


Round 2 was a hearty dish called: Ragoût de boulettes et de pattes de cochon. I'm not sure why it sounds better in French but the translation in English is: Stew of meatballs and pork hocks. I hope I didn't lose you after this. Ha ha! You should know that the words don't work for me either. :) That said, it's a delicious and hearty Quebecer classic worth trying. Tender morsels of pork (pulled off the bone), happily swim with meatballs made of ground pork and spices in a rich gravy made from the cooking liquid and beef broth for more body. A vegetarian's nightmare. We followed this recipe from Ricardo.

My girls were being hams. Very appropriate.

It was delicious but I'm not convinced it's THE recipe I want to repeat next year. It was lacking a little something (maybe acidity) but for a first timer, I definitely recommend it. We even talked about non traditional additions like Maggi sauce (my German roots talking) and mushrooms. Maybe a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, or wine... We like to break rules! I'm definitely looking for variations and will keep playing. It's traditionally served with potatoes and we added nice yellow ones but because of it's luscious and savoury gravy, we opted to serve it over egg noodles which believe me, was verrrry satisfying. Napkins a must!

After a couple of days, leftovers are amazing and I have to say that the potatoes were definitely the prized pieces I was looking for yesterday! Pickled beets, especially if homemade (and at room temperature), are also a big winner with this. This dish made me eat half a jar but back to our New Year's Eve feast! Red wine was poured and boy was I happy as a pig in shit. Terrible Pun intended! ;)

As we ate, we realized we had no room for dessert. Which was great because there was none. Ha ha! Well, I planned it simple. Vanilla ice cream (with raspberry swirls in it) and lots of fresh berries. Plump blackberries (a favourite with our 5 year old) and very sweet raspberries (a winner with our 8 year old).

All were happy. My father went for a nap, I went online, tasted a 10 year old tawny port I received from my father earlier (not bad with ice-cream and walnuts) and took it easy.

Marc and the girls played new video games. Low-key is the best way to describe it. As we got close to 11h00 pm, my little one begged me to take her to bed. She's usually a party animal and danced till 3h00 am last year but not this time. She was done. As she settled in with glee, my father woke up from his slumber just in time to take out the bubbly. Geneviève definitely wanted to stay up with us but she doesn't care for bubbly or fizzy drinks. She was happy to cheer with McIntosh apple juice! With the help of the laptop and a live connection to the big countdown in NY, we counted and cheered and that was that! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Within seconds we settled down. :) Marc got on the phone with family while my father and I settled at the table. After 20 minutes, Geneviève announced that she was done and went off to bed.

Here is Marc with our first selfie of 2016!! We finished the bubbly which turned into fancy fizzy, fuzzy navels. We didn't last long. By 1h30 am Marc was heading upstairs but I had just enough energy to tidy up and chat a few more minutes with my father while making a little chair (a tradition) with the remains of the New Year's bottle. I have a drawer full somewhere... Future post. :)

I hope that this new year is an easier one. I could use it! Wishing everybody a good one. 

Happy New Year! 
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