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!
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.
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.
Look how happy we all look! That wine was damn good!
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*
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
- butter, 2 tbsp minimum
- 3 garlic cloves
- Bring water to a boil and add potatoes and onions. Boil 10 minutes.
- 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.
- Drain and let sit.
- Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a fry pan over med-heat.
- Dice three cloves of garlic (or more depending how much you like garlic). and add to hot pan.
- Add a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until tender and browned slightly.
- Add cooked veg and a handful of fresh, roughly chopped parsley.
- Sprinkle with generous amount of paprika, and more pepper/salt if you wish.
- Stir all well together and add butter.
- Cover and allow to cook for another 10 minutes or so.
- The onions will have all but fallen apart when finished and the brussel sprouts should be on the extreme side of tender.