I can’t resist……..from time to time I’m going to post pics of my daughter’s and her partners newest loveable addition to the household……Teddy………a yellow English Lab pup……..all of 8.5 weeks old in the below pic. What a little dumpling………Is he thinking “Water or Food” ? Evidently the food won out


pumpkin pie ……to go with

I know it’s a little late given that Thanksgiving was last week, but…..here’s a must try to go with your pumpkin pie should you make another this season.

My daughter made the pie this year…..heavenly…..not too sweet and just the right amount of spice, she made the crust too!

Said pie was served with a tiny dollop of whipped cream (again not too sweet)

The unexpected addition? Claire Ptak’s (The Violet Bakery in Hackney UK) Salted Caramel Sauce…….which I made that morning……sounds strange, and you would think the whole thing would be outrageously sweet but just a drizzle of this sauce gives the pie a lovely depth of flavour.


2/3 c. heavy cream

1/2 vanilla pod

4 Tbsp water

1 1/4 c. sugar

2 Tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp fleur de sel

4 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed

Claire says mise en place very important here, so that you are set to go once the sugar and water combo start to colour.

  • measure the cream into a heavy-bottomed pan. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds and pod to the cream
  • Put the water, sugar, golden syrup into another large heavy-bottomed pan. Have the other ingredients measured and ready to go
  • Heat the cream and vanilla to bubbling….this happens quickly so keep an eye on it. Once bubbling remove from the heat
  • Heat the water, sugar and golden syrup – don’t stir it – but you can swirl the pan if necessary, be patient….takes roughly 3-5 minutes
  • Once the sugar mixture starts to colour, give it a few swirls. You want the sugar to turn a dark golden brown. Once you get to that colour stage take off the heat and  whisk in the vanilla cream (pod too which can be removed when cooled) ***careful….adding the cream will encourage lots of bubbling action
  • Stir in the lemon juice, salt and butter mixing until smooth
  • Allow the caramel to cool completely then remove the vanilla pod
  • YUM real depth of flavour without being too sweet
  • Will keep 2 weeks in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer

meatless monday Tabbouleh

went through some old magazines on the coffee table this morning …….i like to quickly thumb through the old issues again before recycling……never know what gem articles you may have forgotten about……the spring LCBO mag has a pretty good tabbouleh recipe……perfect for meatless monday lunch! plus i had everything in the fridge and pantry….used up my lingering 1 cups’ worth of bulgur….yeahh!  i like my tabbouleh lemon-centric…..so amped up the lemon zest and juice slightly…

below is pictured before i dressed it with feta and moroccan olives for an untraditional tabbouleh

best manicure in the city!

my weekly routine includes a manicure…….you see, I use my hands a lot!  I never get polish…..what would be the point? hands in and out of water all day cooking, or hands in the dirt gardening…….I get a weekly manicure to tame my cuticles and keep the length of my nails at bay….they grow like weeds.

Karen the owner of Moksa Day Spa…..and best manicures in the city…..a heavenly quiet, sun soaked zen space…….asked if I could help her design and plant her exterior window boxes…….

Voila (one of 3)


chocolate fix

the other night I had a hankering for a piece of chocolate cake!  it was late-ish and too late to whip one up nor did I have everything on hand…..but i did have bakers chocolate and a baguette and thus remembered this trick from Food52

here’s what you do, quick and simple and delicious:

  1. Slice a baguette
  2. Lay a piece of chocolate on top
  3. Place in a 350 degree oven until the chocolate melts
  4. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt
  5. Yum!

****the better quality the baguette, chocolate and olive oil……the better the result

urbanmaven designs

At the beginning of the month (June) urbanmaven was asked to design and install a small city front garden…..my neighbour in fact.  The owner was looking for low maintenance and a style which would suit the Victorian architecture of the house.
I drew up a plan, costed it out, gave the Quote…..it got approved and away I went.
I hired the best possible person to plant the design and wow did he do a fantastic job! 
The garden was barren due to a large basement renovation the house had undergone over the last 12/18 months.

(I apologize for the low quality photo…..the camera on my phone is cracked! and therefore takes dismal pictures. It has to go in for service or…… new phone)
The photo below is Phase 1/2:
* the soil was levelled and 4 pieces of flagstones were placed – centred and levelled
* the owners’ cast iron urn was placed on said flagstones and planted with a mix of annuals and perennial hostas (the hosta will be planted into the garden come late fall)

*  2 rows of Hicks’ Yews were planted to frame the south and west sides of the garden ( a 24″ gap was left for the postman and the owners to access the side of the house)

*  4 Rosa Rugosa (wild roses with a heavenly scent) were planted at the fence line


To fill in the garden…..came a double row of English Lavender planted at the brick path. The bare earth was planted with Baltic Ivy to form a carpet.  Additional interest was given by one deciduous shrub – a Ninebark “Autumn Jubilee” chosen for its  leaves which contain the colouring of the exterior brick of the house and, its nice round shape.

Next to come is a photo of the finished garden. The garden is finished (within one week)…..I’m just waiting for it to stop raining to take a photo.

urbanmaven goes oldschool

Last month, mid-May, urbanmaven came to the rescue! “I need 200 asparagus rolls for my Garden Club Luncheon and I need them STAT”  said a good friend.  “Sure, I can do that” said urbanmaven.

A trip to the grocery store for: asparagus, lovely pillowy WONDER  bread, mayo, and salted butter and 24 hours later…..200 asparagus rolls done and delivered!

Here’s how to assemble these old school party sandwiches (back in the day, they would have been made with canned asparagus….yikes)

  • bring the SALTED butter to room temp…….has to be spreadable
  • trim and blanch the asparagus, submerge in ice-water bath, towel dry (you want the asparagus dry and not wet or damp…..to prevent soggy sandwich, yuck)
  • roll the Wonder bread with rolling pin till FLAT….flatter than a pancake
  • cut all crusts off the bread so that you have a perfect square (cut with a chef’s knife and not a bread knife for a perfect clean edge)
  • butter the bread with salted butter
  • spread a thin layer of mayo over the buttered side of bread
  • place asparagus spear with the spear tip just overlapping the edge of bread and roll (the buttered bread will stick to itself as it rolls)
  • VOILA…….asparagus party sandwich done!
  • Last thing: cut each roll in half……on the diagonal…..( each piece equals one bite)
  • arrange decoratively on platter (with say spring flowers…..asparagus are spring veg…..pansy’s work well for deco)


Omega’s, Protein, Vitamin C for breakfast.
Looks so pretty sitting in your fridge just waiting for you…..

Simple to make:

  • make the chia pudding…..2 cups almond milk to 1/2 cup chia seeds.  Combine the two the night before. big fyi: Stir the chias into the almond milk, stir often until the seeds plump up. Leave covered in the fridge overnight.
  • Purchase your freshest fruit of choice and layer in a glass. It’s fun to see the layers
  • You can even puree some of the fruit as one layer
  • Top with favourite granola…..or chopped raw nut mix
  • I then place a piece of cling film overtop each glass…..these will keep for at least 2 or 3 days
  • The 2 cup almond milk to 1/2 cup chia seeds will make 6-8 parfaits, depending on the size of your glass
  • Good morning sunshine…..


Poached Pears in Red Wine

I love this dessert…..it could well be one of my favourites!
Pears can be poached in either red OR white wine……I prefer to poach mine in red wine, and I also consider this a fall/winter dessert….must be the burgundy colour of the pears and the subtle wintry spices that evoke the first brisk autumn night or a cold winters eve…..
I recently made these this past February….they were a hit…..in fact, a friend and excellent caterer called them ‘superb’ ooh la la….
Very simple to make, though a couple key steps are crucial:

  • Choose ripe but firm, unblemished Bosc pears, Bosc are best….they won’t disintegrate in the poaching process (nod to Martha there)
  • Choose pears that have their stems firmly intact! this will be key upon presentation
  • Before poaching, Trim the end of the pear, the root end and NOT the stem end.  You want to cut the end off so that the poached pear will stand upright on the plate without falling over
  • Seemlessly in one stroke trim the pears of their skins
  • Pears are best made ONE DAY IN ADVANCE
  • I must admit the recipe is part Julia Child and part Martha Stewart
  • Purchase a decent medium body red or white wine, one that you would drink. If going for red wine, anything NOT pinot noir as it won’t give the nice depth of colour you are looking for and lacks flavour substance
  • One bottle will do 6-8 pears
  • Into a large soup kettle combine the bottle of wine, one recipe simple syrup, see below,  and enough water to just submerge the pears (you don’t want to dilute the wine with too much water)
  • Add to the pot: 1 cinnamon stick, 4 juniper berries, if you have on hand, 6 whole cloves, and one star anise
  • Set a piece of parchment on top of the submerged pears (cut to the size of your pot) Cover pot with lid
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat immediately to a slow simmer. Stir the pears every now and then so that they colour evenly. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, when you think they are done (just soft) insert a sharp knife to check. You don’t want the pear mushy, the knife should insert easily but should still be a bit firm
  • Remove pot from heat. Remove lid from pot but leave the parchment. Continue to stir the pears until they cool off, ensuring even red wine colour distribution.
  • Once cool…..place the whole pot in the fridge overnight (return lid to the pot)
  • Next day: 
  • Carefully with spoon, remove the pears from poaching liquid, stand up cut end down
  • Simmer the poaching liquid and reduce to a syrupy consitency
  • Serve the pears on a plate or wide shallow bowl…..stand the pear, drizzle reduced syrup over pear to form a small pool on plate
  • Dollop of soft whipped cream or creme fraiche alongside the pear
  • Can shave best dark chocolate over all (optional)
  • Fork and spoon, both are necessary……fork to spear and hold the pear steady, spoon to gather speared fruit, syrup and whipped cream in one delicious mouthful
  • Bon Appetit
  • x
Simple syrup
as per Julia Child:
“the rule for poaching syrup: the proportions for a fruit poaching syrup are always 1 1/2 cups sugar for each quart of liquid – water or wine or 6 Tbsp sugar per cup of liquid “
(in the above instance i used water)

recent testimonial


April 19, 2010



I came back to Toronto in mid February of this year to begin packing up our very large family home for a move. We’d been there over 22 years and every room was full. In the middle of this I was also moving one of my sons. A friend recommended that Gabrielle might be of some assistance.
It was better than having the perfect wife.

She was smart and resourceful and pulled together lots of things that I couldn’t even begin to deal with. She interviewed companies that hold content sales and selected the best possible one. She then coordinated with the company and even worked the day of the sale to keep an eye on things for me. This was one of the many types of tasks she did. She was willing to tackle anything I asked of her.

The bonus was, when I was looking for an apartment for my son, she was able to send me listings, as she is also a real estate agent. All I can say is that she is beyond capable, pleasant and drama free. I am happy to have met and worked with her and would not hesitate to call upon her again. If you need further references, do not hesitate to call.

Best regards,

Lori McGoran

roast those pumpkin seeds when carving the pumpkin

hi I’m posting this recipe again, just in time for Hallowe’en……..
when carving the pumpkin this year-don’t forget to save the seeds to roast and eat as a delicious and nutritious snack. Pumpkin seeds = good source of zinc and magnesium which is beneficial to the skin and bones.To roast:Place the seeds into large bowl, toss with olive oil, and sea or kosher salt. Spread the seeds onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and place into preheated 400 degree oven. Roast until golden brown * at this high temperature about 5-8 minutes, keep your eye on them. (turn the seeds half way through roasting)

fast and delicious pizza

Yummmm I used to make this pizza often when the kids were small, loading it up with all kinds of veg
I made it just the other night simply with a ton of sauteed red peppers and purple onion-1 ‘Manoucher’ round Focaccia
-your favourite tomato sauce ( i like to keep on hand Pusateri’s sauce semplice or Ronzoni’s tomato basil)
-1 large red pepper, organic
-1 large purple or white onion, organic
-shredded mozzerella cheese, organicPreheat oven to 375 or 400, depending on the ‘hotness’ of your oven (you want the oven fairly hot, it will bake for a very short time)
Slice the red pepper and onion, then saute quickly over high heat with a bit of olive oil
Remove from heat
Spread a somewhat generous amount of tomato sauce on the focaccia
Spread the mozzerella over the tomato sauce
Then finally spread the sauteed peppers and onionPlace the pizza on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
Place in the oven until the pizza starts to bubble and you can smell it cooking
***About 7 to 8 minutes, not long at all
Remove from oven, let sit for 1/2 minute
Finish the pizza off with a seasoning of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
don’t forget the glass of red wine

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris 1834-1896

I love that William Morris quote, I try to live by it. It has helped me to free our house of clutter and keep only the things we love and are truly useful.
Recently, urbanmaven was hired to help prioritize and declutter family possessions. Things that are left behind when loved ones pass. It can be an overwhelming task, but when one is ready to let go of the clutter, having someone there to give support and perspective to reveal and keep the most cherished possessions; is invaluable.

We worked all day, and really got the ball rolling.

I wanted to include her website address for anyone seeking doggie daycare, overnight or just for the day. She is an animal lover and all dogs are welcomed into her home as though they are her own. She is located in Markham. Her website address is: http://www.shangri-paw.ca/