Tag Archives: wine

Life Lessons at Girl’s Night

For over a year, a couple of my friends, Kate & Jen and I have been trying to get together for a Girl’s Night.  We have met downtown for a drink or a quick bite, but we wanted to spend an evening at one of our homes and make our own dinner. Last week, we finally made it happen!

Girl’s Nights are worth it.  You learn much and you laugh.  A lot.

Things I learned at Girl’s Night

1) A new No Frills?  Worth checking out.  Rush hour in Toronto?  Unless you enjoy driving 3km/hr, avoid it. And free parking?  *cue the heavenly choir* Woo hoo!

I arrived in Toronto around 4:30 and Jen picked me up at the bus station.  It was rush hour and traffic made the getting to a grocery store and then to Kate’s a loooooong proces; we arrived around 6pm.  I actually mapped it and the distance to the grocery store and then to Kate’s was about 3km.  Our visit to No Frills was pretty much in/out as we knew what we wanted…so let’s do the math.  1.5 hours – 30 minutes in the grocery store (I’m being generous here) = about 3km/hr.  Let’s hear it for Toronto rush hour traffic!

No Frills, almost ready for business!

Jen was making the salad and my responsibility was the creation of a potato/veggie side-dish.  We decided to visit the new No Frills on King St near Sherbourne for ingredients.

I have to mention the store specifically because I was suitably impressed by:

1) how clean it was (compared to other scary No Frills I’ve visited over the years)
2) how friendly and helpful the staff were and
3) .. most important impressive quality…*free* parking!

For anyone who lives, or spends time in Toronto, and needs to put their vehicle somewhere for any length of time, you *know* how rare free parking is.  Whether we’re talking street parking or parking at a large box store, finding an empty spot that actually fits your car and doesn’t cost a week’s paycheque results in joy and merriment, akin to winning the lottery.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration…but you know what I mean.

Ingredients in hand, we headed to Kate’s, where more life lessons were waiting.

2) When a bottle of wine will not open, you use *anything* handy to force it.  It will taste THAT much better after all the effort!

Kate had bought a bottle of amazing Argentinian Malbec that she had seen a good review somewhere, labeling it as a lovely addition to a Girls Night.  (So, it didn’t say that *exactly* but that’s how it tasted!)

It was a twist-off cap, which you would assume is the most straightforward of all wine bottles to open.  Nope.  There was no perforated seam between the cap and the neck-band, so it all spun together when we tried to open it.

Trying to open the wine bottle from hell! Eventually we used the bottle opener which you can see in the bottom left corner.

10 minutes later....the bottle opener did it's job...albeit slowly.

I should mention at this point that the neck-band was made of thin metal, rather than the foil we expected.  It was sharp and made for delicate bottle-cap manoeuvering.

Almost there...going on half an hour now...that wine is going to taste so freakin good!


Look how happy we all look!  That wine was damn good!

Cheers! (Jen & I) ...This is the best shot I have so far...waiting on Kate's pics 🙂

Our lovely Kate! Cheers!

3) When you drop large tubers and veggies into boiling water, you’re bound to get burned.  Use the lid.

My side-dish involved boiling brussel sprouts, potatoes and pearl onions.  Busy with the wine bottle from hell (see above) kept my attention from the water until it was at a fast boil.  How to add vegetables without splashing myself?

Well, first, you drop in a few vegetables to ensure that splashing will take place.  It did.  It hurt.

Then, Jen came to the rescue and taught me an extremely helpful kitchen tactic to avoid such pain and stupidity. *grin*

Ta da! Use the lid!

She used the lid to dump in the veg and to protect her hand from the steam and splashing water.  So simple.

Theses are the things you don’t usually learn from any cookbook.  (B has suggested that The Joy of Cooking does offer such tips…I may have to check that out.)

4) Potatoes, brussel sprouts and onions are yummy together!

I like brussel sprouts.  When I eat them, I think of my dad who has prepared them for me many times over the years.  Unfortunately, I don’t know many other people who enjoy them as much so I tend to avoid cooking them when a group is involved.  Recently though, on a trip to Montreal, my friend Michael created an awesome dish that included potatoes, brussel sprouts and shallots.  It was delicious and I attempted to recreate it. You’ll find the recipe at the bottom of this post.

5) The sneezing panda video will be funny forever!

Our girl’s night ended with the three of us crowded around Kate’s laptop, showing each other hilarious online videos.  The sneezing panda is well-known at this point.  I have watched it a dozen times or more.  Kate on the other hand, had never seen it so, of course, I had to share.

Three replays later, we were in tears laughing.  That video just doesn’t get old!

Potato & Brussel Sprout Side-dish

  • small potatoes, how many depends on how many you’re feeding 😉
  • brussel sprouts, same as above
  • pearl onions or shallots, same as above
  • fresh parsley
  • paprika
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter, 2 tbsp minimum
  • 3 garlic cloves
  1. Bring water to a boil and add potatoes and onions.  Boil 10 minutes.
  2. Cut off ends of brussel sprouts and remove any ratty leaves.  Add to boiling potatoes and onions.  Allow all to boil another 5 minutes or more, until tender.
  3. Drain and let sit.
  4. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a fry pan over med-heat.
  5. Dice three cloves of garlic (or more depending how much you like garlic). and add to hot pan.
  6. Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Cook until tender and browned slightly.
  7. Add cooked veg and a handful of fresh, roughly chopped parsley.
  8. Sprinkle with generous amount of paprika, and more pepper/salt if you wish.
  9. Stir all well together and add butter.
  10. Cover and allow to cook for another 10 minutes or so.
  11. The onions will have all but fallen apart when finished and the brussel sprouts should be on the extreme side of tender.
  12. Enjoy!

Sparkles Ginger Cookies Made on Location – Arnprior, ON

This ginger cookies recipe is one of my mother’s and it is awesome!  These cookies stay moist and soft for weeks and they have a nice ginger-y bite to them.

The original recipe sent to me called for white sugar, margarine, and a dash of cloves.  I substituted brown sugar, butter, and deleted the cloves.

Click here for the recipe or scroll to the bottom of the post.

Cookies ingredients

Substituting brown sugar for white sugar worked quite well except for the lumps that I had to work against.  I’m starting to realize that at times, the order which I add ingredients is quite important.  In this case, I think that perhaps I should have blended the brown sugar with a wet ingredient first to smooth it out?  Any thoughts on that?

Aside from that, everything mixed quite well.  I used a wooden spoon and my hands to mix…quite the sticky mess, I must say, until all the flour was mixed in. And regardless how sticky it was…it smelled absolutely heavenly!

Ginger Cookie Dough

Next step, roll the dough into balls and cover each of those in sugar.  I started sprinkling sugar on them, did that for a whole cookie sheet’s worth until I realized that actually ‘rolling’ them in the sugar was so much easier.

Rolling in Sugar

Ready to be put in the oven

Once sugared to my satisfaction,  I simply popped them into the oven and about 12 minutes later…voila!  Yummy cookies!

Rolling them in sugar isn’t technically necessary but that is what gives them their name.  The sugar melts slightly and is nice and sparkly when they come out of the oven.  (At this point, I’m just waiting for a comment about sparkly cookies for sparkly vampires…And yes, I’m looking at you!)

So, my finished product, as seen below, was celebrated with a glass of wine!  I’ve been told that all successful recipes should be celebrated with a glass of grapes and I’m pretty much behind that 100 percent!  (As a sidenote, I was also told that *technically* you should celebrate each STEP of a recipe with a glass of wine…but to those people I say, “You eat out a lot, don’t you?”)

The finished product

To conclude the wine topic, Shiraz wasn’t necessarily the best choice to pair with ginger cookies…perhaps a cabernet, or something with a bit more tang.

Overall though, these cookies were as I remember them growing up: soft, sparkly and damn good!




  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (the recipe called for white sugar originally)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves (I left these out as per the tastebuds of those who would be eating them)

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll the mixture into balls and roll those lightly in white sugar.

Bake on cookie sheet bake for 10 mins for soft cookies or 12 mins for crunchier ones.

Let cool then move to cooling rack.

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