Review Of Copper Branch Restaurant, Town Of Mount-Royal, QC. Canada, by Bill Wilkat, June 6,2018

Review Of Copper Branch Restaurant, Town Of Mount-Royal, QC. Canada, by Bill Wilkat, June 6,2018

This is a chain that has gained popularity largely due to its’ “plant-based” menu, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans alike.  Their Mission according to their web site: Serve our community quality, whole foods and offer the world real food as fast-food for a change.  They do that very nicely.

On a recent trip to Montreal we were introduced to this chain by my son who thought we might like to try something different as he and his girlfriend had frequented Copper Branch and enjoyed it, and felt we would too.  We visited the location at 2392 Chemin Lucerne, Ville Mont-Royal Quebec.

I must say, that I did enjoy the change and I like having options—especially healthier ones when it comes to eating out—regardless if it’s fine dining restaurant, or a fast food place. Copper Branch falls under the latter description (but with a more upscale menu than the run of the mill chains), and has a lot to offer, which will appeal to anyone who likes to regularly eat some meat-free meals during the week.  Their menu features some unusual offerings like General Copper, a Shiitake mushroom based General Tao version with broccoli, avocado, organic brown rice, sesame seeds, Sriracha, coleslaw with their special sauce made using organic gluten-free tamari, red wine vinegar, fennel seeds, star anise, red pepper, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, olive oil, tomato, spices—phew!  That’s a lot in one bowl, and the portions are very generous.  While I found the sauce a bit sweet for my tastes, I’m sure most diners will enjoy it, but I have to admit, the mushrooms did have the texture of meat and the flavour did satisfy me to the point where I would not miss having actual meat in this dish.

General Copper Bowl

Their take on burgers looks very appealing and if I were to try one, (my son said they are very good), I’d likely opt for the Spicy Black Bean Burger made with black beans, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, pea protein, brown rice, red pepper, green pepper, corn, lettuce, tomatoes, and their South West sauce.  I’ve made my own version of a veggie burger using black beans so I’d certainly like to compare them—thus I will have to go back again.  However, the day we were there, I wanted something smaller and thought that the Falafel Wrap would do nicely, and I was correct.  It’s made with a slew of ingredients that include carrot keftedes (carrot, olive oil, garlic, turmeric, fennel seeds, onion, fresh mint, organic chickpea flour, organic cornmeal, organic sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, organic corn flour, oregano, sea salt, cinnamon, spices), romaine lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, non-GMO aioli sauce.  Served in an Organic spelt wrap, it was tasty and hit the spot nicely.  One minor complaint was the fact that the wrap tended to break easily as it was more fragile than a regular tortilla wrap, and most pita breads as well.  So, I tried not to put it down while eating each half, and the flavour was great and satisfying.

Unity Falafel Wrap

As far as beverages, there are numerous choices such as:

Organic Cold-Pressed FUEL Juices
Organic Kombucha
ESKA Bottled Water
S. Pellegrino
Sanpellegrino Sparkling Fruit
Steaz Organic Green Teas
Toro Matcha
Thirsty Buddha Organic Coconut Water

Variety Of Beverages
NEW THAI BASIL PIÑA COLADA

Plus, various smoothies and organic teas and tea lattes, hot coco, and regular and decaf coffee choices.

There’s also an interesting selection of desserts: Chocolate Zucchini Brownie, Raspberry Chia Pudding, Cocoa Banana Chia Pudding, and a Cashew Lime Cheezecake (spelled with “z” as there is no real cheese in it).  I had a taste of this and it was pretty good, but would not satisfy my craving for a true cheesecake when so inclined—sorry, but I really love cheese LOL!

Coconut Lime Cheezecake

The atmosphere of the place was bright, airy, and very pleasant and decorated with nice natural solid wood tables—including some tables for two that featured thick tree slab tops—a nice touch along with the copper accents provided by some fake plumbing running vertical from floor to ceiling adjacent to the entrance.

Given that they already have numerous locations in Quebec, Ontario and branched out to Alberta (with some soon to open locations in France), there’s ample opportunity to try out their offerings and I will visit another location in the future.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to spread the word as places like Copper Branch are long overdue and I’m certain they’ve made a lot of customers happy, and will find many more.

Note: Like all of my reviews, this is an unsolicited review and my honest opinion based on my personal views and likes–I was not rewarded in any way what so ever. 

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Pickled Jalapeño Peppers by, Bill Wilkat, Sept. 5, 2016

Pickled Jalapeño Peppers by, Bill Wilkat, Sept. 5, 2016

I like Jalapeño peppers as they are usually not super spicy registering 10,000 unison the Scoville heat index which is mild compared to the Habanero at 350,000 units or the scorching Scorpion pepper topping the chart at 2,000,000 units!

Regardless, one of my favourite things to do with Jalapeños (aside from making poppers), is to pickle them.  We get a bounty of peppers from our garden and preserving them this way is an ideal way to add a little zip to your morning egg and bacon breakfast or even added to a cheese omelette.  I also like to add them as a topping to cheesy appetizers served on saltines or other crackers.

Makes Three 8 oz. (250 ml) Mason Jars

Ingredients:

  • 10 – 12 Jalapeño peppers (various sizes)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • Optional: 3 cloves of peeled garlic sliced in half

Directions:

Warning:  Wear latex or vinyl gloves to handle the peppers to avoid a burning sensation in your fingers and do not rub your eyes while working with them as this will cause burning sensation in your eyes that takes quite a while to clear.

  • Wash and dry the Jalapeño peppers, slice off stem ends and discard, then cut into 1/8” thick slices. Remove the seeds and membranes with a paring knife if you prefer less spicy peppers.
  • In a saucepan, combine the water and vinegar and heat to just to the boiling point, add the honey and salt and stir to dissolve then tune off and remove from heat.
  • Put your sliced Jalapeños into three 8 oz. (250 ml) sterilized Mason Jars, add optional pieces of sliced garlic cloves to each jar, and carefully pour the hot liquid into each jar, packing down the peppers with a rubber spatula/scraper as you fill them.
  • Allow to cool before putting on tops if you plan to eat them soon after and then refrigerate them for a few days to allow them to get pickled.  They will keep for up to 4 weeks, sometimes longer.

If you plan to can them, follow the canning directions below.

Note: You will need a proper canning bath container (large pot with lid) with a bottom rack so that the jars are elevated from the bottom of the pot, and a lifter to transfer / remove the jars.

Water Bath Canning Instructions:

  • Check that your jars are free of residue around the outer edge and top.
  • Ensure your jars have about 1/2” (13 ml) of headspace.
  • Install lids and tighten finger tight.
  • Place jars in your canning bath container filled with water.
  • Ensure the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1” (25 mm) of water.
  • Place lid on canning bath container and heat water on high until boiling.
  • Boil jars for 10 minutes, turn off heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Warning: Water and Jars are very hot!  Use proper canning lifter to remove hot jars to avoid accidents and burns.

  • Carefully remove hot jars and gently place upright onto a tea towel to rest.
  • Allow jars to sit undisturbed overnight.

Note: Normally you will hear a popping noise when the jars are properly sealed. At that time you will be able to screw the rims on snug—no need to over tighten them.  If you leave them overnight and want to check if they have sealed, press down on the centre of the lids—they should not flex up and down.  Any unsealed jars should be possible to process again or simply stored in the refrigerator for use.  Sealed jars may be stored without refrigeration.

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Easy Spinach and Leek Tart for a Quick Light Meal, by Bill Wilkat Mar. 18, 2017

Easy Spinach and Leek Tart, Makes 4 slices

Spinach and Leek Tart

I love recipes that are fast and easy and this one uses a popular cheat by purchasing frozen pastry dough at your local supermarket.  Sure, you can make the pastry dough from scratch like my late father used to do, but aside from being time consuming, it’s not always worth all the effort given how affordable the store bought version is now.  Besides, we want this to be fast and easy right?

Here in Canada there are a few different brands you can buy and so far they’ve all done the trick nicely.  I normally get one that is already about 9″ square when unrolled and usually ready to go without the need to roll them any thinner.  If your dough is larger, you can make more than one, or cut it to size and reserve the rest of the dough for another use–it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Ingredients:

  • Store Bought Flaky Pastry Dough ( about 9″ x 9″ square for one tart)
  • 1 handful of Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Leek, chopped to 1/2″ sized pieces
  • 3 large button Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Sweet red Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as needed)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
  • Wash and pat dry all the vegetables with paper towel (yes, I do the mushrooms too!).
  • Place the pasty dough on a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Leaving about 1/2″ border at the edges, spread the spinach leaves, chopped leeks, sliced mushrooms, and sliced red pepper over the dough, and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle the cheddar cheese lightly over top, and season evenly by sprinkling the thyme and coarse salt and pepper.
  • Bake on middle shelf of oven for about 30 minutes or until done.  As oven temperatures vary, you’ll need to periodically check the progress to prevent burning.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before cutting into quarters on a cutting board.

Tip: Place a pizza stone in the oven before pre-heating as it helps to retain the heat and bake the crust more uniformly.  Serve with a small salad for a nice light summer dinner, or a quick lunch by itself.

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Fix Sharp Fret Ends Or Lifting Fret Ends by Bill Wilkat July 19,2018

Wilkat’s Help Tips © 2001   Updated July 19.2018

The fret ends on my guitar and bass are sharp and reduce playing comfort — how do I fix these?

Often factory produced guitars or basses suffer from attention to detail, resulting in annoying things like sharp fret ends.  Sadly, I’ve seen this sort of thing on a number of well respected brands too!  Ironically, you’ll also run across lower – end guitars with well finished frets.  So let’s look at what needs to be done:

Examine the ends carefully to determine if the frets are lifting:

If the fret ends are not fully seated against the fingerboard or lifting, they may need to be pressed (or tapped) down, or in the worst case: clamped and glued.

NOTE:   Consult a skilled luthier if you are not confident in your ability to assess, replace, or repair your instrument’s frets. This is fine work requiring a steady hand and a good eye (as well as considerable patience), and may be risky for inexperienced individuals–always practice on an old bargain basement instrument when ever possible before tackling repairs on your prized possession.

WARNING: Working with modern adhesives can be dangerous: Do not attempt to glue down a loose fret end without respecting the adhesive manufacturer’s warnings and other recommended precautionary steps, as well as those noted in this article.

Before resorting to gluing, you may be able to tap the loose / raised fret end back down into place.   You’ll need to remove all the strings, and if it’s a bolt – on neck, you’ll find it easier to work on the neck once removed from the body. You will need a hammer (yes, a hammer!), and if you don’t have the kind with softer buffer ends, that’s okay, but you’ll need to use a buffer piece between the hammer’s head and the fret (you won’t be happy if you dent the fret or the fingerboard!).  It’s best to mask off the fingerboard between the frets before you attempt any kind of work to the frets, so do this now, prior to swearing about it later if you damage it.  I prefer to use a low tack painter’s grade of masking tape to do this, but regular masking tape will suffice if you can’t find any, or only need to work on a single fret.

I’ve found that a piece of flexible, durable nylon, or other resilient plastic, works quite well as a buffer between the hammer and the fret.  It should have a thickness of no less than 3/32″. Alternatively, a piece of softer metal (like brass) can do the trick.  With this buffer held against the fret, and with the neck supported from underneath ( a radiused protective neck caul works best but I’ve successfully used a sand bag as a nesting support as well), and clamped down to your workbench, begin tapping the raised fret end, using a very firm tap ( but don’t bash down on it like you’re driving in a nail ! ).  Lift off the buffer material and check your progress. It usually doesn’t take to much effort to get it to re-seat.  However, if the fret tangs aren’t gripping / holding, or there is too much spring in the fret itself, it may not stay down, and gluing, (or replacing the fret), may be necessary. Sometimes, the entire fret may have to be tapped (end to end) to get it to re-seat.

Honestly, if all the fret ends are lifting, I’d recommend a professional fret job.  If you’re only dealing with a few frets, gluing will make sense, (just be sure to tell your repair man about it if later on you decide to get the frets replaced by somebody else.  They’ll need to know that some were glued in place in order to prevent or minimize any damage to the fingerboard during fret removal!).

The trick to gluing a fret end down, is to get the adhesive into the thin fret slot. This can be done using a syringe, or a thin plastic dropper (they do make special ones for fine work). Alternatively, I have successfully used a needle dipped into the adhesive and gently coaxed into the slot.  If you’re going to attempt gluing a fret end, carefully remove the masking tape, and apply wax (or petroleum jelly) to the fingerboard along each side of the fret slot, (be careful not to get any wax or jelly onto the fret or into the fret slot).  Using one of the readily available fast bonding super glues on the market, apply the adhesive carefully into the fret slot and clamp it down (you’ll have to do this quickly before the glue sets, and occasionally your finger will serve well as the method of pressing down the fret — just be careful not to bond your finger to the fret !!!!).  Clean off the wax or jelly using a soft rag and naphtha ( if necessary, you may have to use #0000 fine steel wool, which works well to clean fingerboards, and frets — Don’t use the steel wool if you have a lacquered maple fingerboard or you’ll scratch it up!  This is also a good time to re-oil your fingerboard, so you might as well do it while the neck is off the body!

Taped Fingerboard

Luthiers will often use a fret press (see photo below), to seat frets and to glue them when required but if you’re only doing one end, you can get by with a soft jaw clamp and someway paper to prevent it from stick to the clamp.

Fret Press

My frets aren’t lifting, they’re just sharp on the ends:

Assuming you have a small fine round file, or a small fine triangular file, this can be resolved by filing. If you plan to use the triangular file, you’ll need to round off at least one of the corners by grinding or sanding off the sharp edge. A bench type belt sander does this quite quickly, but you’ll need to hold the file securely, and follow all safety precautions (like wearing safety goggles). SEE FIGURE No. 1

file.jpg

Figure No. 1

Note: There are ready made triangular fret files available on the market so I’d recommend buying one if you want to maintain your guitars and don’t have the means to make your own.

With the fingerboard taped off as described earlier, gently file down across the corners of the frets, using a curved downward stroke towards the center of the fret. Repeat this procedure on each side. If you choose to use the round cross section file, you’ll need to rotate the file between your fingers with a twisting motion.  SEE FIGURE No. 2

file2.jpg

Figure No. 2

Obviously if you’re using the triangular file you won’t be trying to twist it, but the stroke downward and motion towards the center of the fret will be much the same. You may have to modify the angle a bit as you go, and the rounded edge of the file will ride over the taped off fingerboard to prevent damage to the fingerboard wood.  Don’t press down firmly as you do this, simply slide the file across the edge with gentle pressure in the direction of your curved downward stroke. Repeat on all edges, and change the masking tape if you wear through it anywhere.

Once you’ve completed filing, a fine sanding is required.  After you’ve carefully peeled and removed the masking tape, clean the edges with a soft cloth moistened with naphtha.  Run a strip of masking tape along the edges of the neck below the fingerboard, and using a fine 1500 grit sand paper, lightly sand the edges along the full length of the neck on each side.  Using a sanding block will often make this easier.

Note: In some cases if the wood has shrunk back more than a few thousands of an inch,  it may be necessary to use a file to bring the fret ends back flush with the wood.  In cases like these, I’d recommend you take it to a qualified luthier if you doubt your own abilities.  

Wipe and clean using naphtha and cloth. If you have a one piece maple neck without a separate fingerboard, tape as close to the bottom of the fret tangs as you can before sanding, and use great care not to sand through the lacquer.  It doesn’t take much time or pressure to get this stage completed. 

Tape along edge of neck

NOTE: You can file the ends to a rounded form, or simply take off the sharp corners for a squared end– how far you go, depends on the look and feel that you like. See below.

file3.gif

Well, this should do the trick, and I hope you enjoyed fixing these nasty little fret ends.

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DIY: Quick and Easy Garden Planting Bed

DIY: Quick and Easy Garden Planting Bed by Bill Wilkat, July 18,2018

So guess what I did today?   Yeah, put in another planting bed in the backyard–and this from the guy who does not like gardening LOL!  However, if you want to make terrific tasting meals, there’s nothing better than growing your own veggies  and fresh herbs for exceptional flavours.  So this one will be dedicated to herbs, and that’s in addition to basil and mint that we have growing in pots.  Our little existing herb garden turned out to be too small and lacked sunshine and that’s why we elected to create another planting bed.

Garden before the addition

The method we used today was similar to what we had done for our primary garden where we’ve planted our garlic, tomatoes, and green beans (only this time I didn’t have the help from my good buddy Carl–dang!).  The advantage to raised beds like these is that you don’t need to dig out the grass and figure out where to put it afterward.  Plus, it’s really an easy one person task for the most part–having an extra hand here and there helps–so if your spouse, son or daughter are cooperative, put them to work too LOL!

We visited our local big box hardware store and picked up:

  • Three 2″ x  6″ x 8′-0″ long cedar deck boards
  • Eight 2″ x 2″ angle brackets
  • A box of No. 10 – 1 1/4″ lg. corrosion resistant deck screws
  • Eight bags, of weed free garden soil
  • Two bags of sheep compost

We already had some peat moss and Chicken compost to enrich the bed with once the frame was ready to receive soil.

3 – 2″ x 6″ x * foot lg. Cedar deck boards
2″ x 2″ Brackets
Hardware and Tools

Make sure you have the following tools ready:

  • Circular saw and power cord
  • Drill (cordless is most practical)
  • Suitable drill bit (I used a 5/32″ diameter bit for the No. 10 screws)
  • Tape Measure
  • Right angle square
  • Screwdriver bits (square Robertson for the deck screws)

Start by measuring and cutting one of the cedar boards in half. Measure 4 feet in from each end and mark the reading–you’ll likely find your marks may overlap or not even meet each other since often these boards are not cut 100% accurately to an 8 foot length. In my case the board was 1/4″ longer so rather than trimming that off, I cut the board at 48-1/8″ to have two identical boards.

Next, I lined up the brackets and marked the holes and pre-drilled them on both of the 48 1/8″ long. boards only.

Pre-drilled bracket holes

Then I installed the brackets at both ends of the two 48-1/8″ long boards

Brackets mounted

Then I lined up the shorter boards with the longer 8 foot boards, and screwed on the brackets to create the garden bed frame.  You have the option of pre-drilling all the holes, but once the brackets are installed on the shorter boards, you can simply drive the screws in to the other boards using your drill.

Attach to longer boards

At this point it’s easy to pick up the frame and check the position you want to install it at–be sure to check if you lawn mower can pass all around if you’re not installing right up against a fence.  Once it’s down, simply lay down cardboard and add your soil and fertilizer–you’re ready to start planting.  You will likely need to add some more soil once it settles–I’m going to buy another 6 bags myself.  Any extra will get used next year.

Check Lawn mower access
Install cardboard over grass
Fill up the bed and you’re ready to plant

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Delicious Homemade Light Rye Bread by Bill Wilkat Mar. 7, 2012

Delicious Homemade Light Rye Bread by Bill Wilkat Mar. 7, 2012

Makes 2 small loaves

I love homemade freshly baked bread and nothing smells better than when the wonderful aroma of baking bread floods your home and stimulates those taste buds (drooling is permitted LOL!).  But, there’s another reason to make homemade bread, and that’s because you know exactly what’s in it.  For me that’s important because we all want to eat healthier and avoid consuming unknown ingredients like calcium propionate or diacetyl, etc. etc.etc,  It’s difficult enough to find organic and natural ingredients let alone wheat that’s not been genetically modified — right?  So the least we can do is to make an effort to bake some homemade bread and treat ourselves.

I’m lazy when it comes to kneading dough, so I let my bread machine do most of the hard work, and this recipe is based on using a bread machine for the first stages of preparing these loaves.  I set our machine to a 1 1/2 pound loaf size and to the artisanal bread / pizza setting.  This ensures that all the ingredients are well mixed and kneaded, and that the initial rising is completed before I remove it for the final steps (see directions below).

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups water (around 80 Degrees F)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 level tablespoon molasses 

3 generous cups of white bread flour

1 scant cup of rye flour

2 tablespoons of dry skim milk powder

2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 teaspoons rapid rise active dry yeast

After the bread machine has done the kneading and rising, remove the dough, punch it down and form it into a ball.  Put a dash of olive oil in the bowl, roll the dough ball around it and with a damp cloth (or clear plastic wrap), and let rise for an hour.

Remove and punch down again, cut into half, and roll each half out to about 1/2″ thickness, fold over from each side and the ends and then once more in the middle.  Pinch the seams together and form each half into a loaf about 12″ long with the seam joint at the bottom once done.

 

 

 

 

 

Place  loaves onto a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover with clear plastic wrap that has been lightly lubricated with some olive oil.  Let rise in a warm place for about 45 to 50 minutes.

    

When risen, remove the plastic wrap, and using a sharp knife, score the top of the bread at about 1″ intervals across at a slight angle, cover again, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes while you pre-heat your oven.

Note: For a crisper crust, place an oven-safe container filled with water (about 2 cups), below the bread on the lower shelf.  Alternatively, you can use a water bottle spray method at 5 minute intervals.  I like to use a pizza stone in my oven even when using a baking sheet since it retains the heat, and baking directly on the stone is an option if you are skilled at using a peel to place and remove them.

Cooking time is about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, but can vary from oven to oven so you may need to adjust accordingly.  Test by tapping bottom of loaf and if it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Cool on metal rack(s) before slicing–enjoy!

Options:

  • Add your favourite seeds to the mix or on top. If on top, be sure to brush with beaten egg first so it will stick to the crust. You can also lightly dust the top of the loaves with bread flour if you prefer.
  • You can also sprinkle poppy seeds or corn meal onto your baking sheet before adding the unbaked loaves.
  • Try experimenting with this recipe–e.g. I sometimes add a cup of whole wheat flour and reduce the amount of white bread flour by one cup, or add some sesame seeds to the mix if you like them–there are lots of possibilities!

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Review Of Paul’s Spaghetti House, East York, Toronto,

Review Of Paul’s Spaghetti House, East York, Toronto, Canada

By Bill Wilkat, July 16/18

Paul’s is located at 488 Cosburn Ave. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  It’s a family-owned business that has been in operation for 21 years.  Small, cozy and comfortable is the best way I can describe the ambiance and that’s something that I find welcoming.  We went for an early dinner and were promptly greeted upon entering with a friendly smile and quickly seated and served cold glasses of water, which was perfect because it was a very hot and humid day, and we chose to be seated inside.  There is a good sized patio seating area outside and it’s sheltered by tenting to keep patrons protected from the heat of the blazing sun, and dry, should a sudden rainfall develop.

           

Our orders were soon taken and since this was my 3rd visit Paul’s I was looking forward to Mussel’s Marinara as an appetizer, and was not disappointed.  The highlight of our dinner was this appetizer served with warm crusty bread to dip up the succulent Marinara sauce.  Paul’s wine and beer selection is more than adequate to suit most palettes, and we were soon enjoying cold beer, and chilled wine while awaiting our orders.

Sadly, shortly afterward is when things fell a bit short of expectations.  While the flavours of the food were not the issue, the over-seasoning definitely was, and we all felt that our dinners were too salty to be thoroughly enjoyed.

My wife and I had one of the daily specials; grilled sea bass served with roasted vegetables, and oil and garlic spaghetti or roasted potatoes.  Her order was much saltier than mine, and in both cases we encountered fish bones in our Sea Bass, as well as noodles that were somewhat dry and clumped together; appearing as if they’d been resting for some time while awaiting the rest of the dish to be plated.  Our Chef Salads both had too much dressing on them, resulting in too much vinegar on the palette, which was unfortunate, since it was crisp and refreshing, and the flavour of the salad dressing would have been otherwise ideal. Having the dressing on the side would have resolved that nicely.

Our dinner companions ordered a different daily special featuring Penne noodles,  roasted sausage and goat cheese, and they were not impressed with their noodles, remarking that they too believed that theirs had been prepared well in advance of plating the balance of the meal, and that everything was over-seasoned including the sausage.  They too had eaten at Paul’s on more than one occasion prior to our visit and noted that this was not the quality standard that they were accustomed to enjoying.

To summarize, it’s possible the chef had an off-day, or lack of assistance in the kitchen, and while we were not thrilled with our dinners, it would not deter us from coming back and trying Paul’s Spaghetti House again.  My past reviews have awarded Paul’s 4 out of 5 stars, but on this occasion, I can only grant a 3.

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Ollie Bollen – Dutch Fritters

Ollie Bollen – Dutch Fritters

This is my late mother’s recipe and traditionally we would enjoy these as part of our New Year’s Celebration when she would make batches for us to enjoy.  Now we will make them at any time of the year since they can make a simple dessert, or an ideal alternative to a donut with a cup of coffee or your favourite tea.

Servings: about 2 dozen fritters depending on selected filling.

  • 1 ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Fillings: see options below

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Heat oil to 350 to 375 degrees F.  Fry only a few fritters at a time.  Drop tablespoons of batter filled with dried fruits into hot oil when making traditional fritters. As soon as they rise to the top, turn them over. Turn frequently during cooking. When fritters are a rich brown colour, remove from oil using a spider or large slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper towels before serving.

Banana Fritters:

Peel and cut 6 bananas into rounds about ½” thick. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. orange juice, let stand 20 minutes.  Dip bananas rounds into batter and coat each piece. Gently drop one by one into hot oil and fry as directed above–do not over-crowd as they will stick together, so doing 2 to 3 at time is the way to go.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Apple Fritters:

Peel and core 6 firm, medium size apples and cut into ½” thick slices.  Dip into batter and coat pieces.  Fry as directed above–do not over-crowd as they will stick together, so doing 2 to 3 at time is the way to go.  Sprinkle with icing sugar.  Serve immediately.  Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon also gives these a flavour boost that reminds me of apple pie.

Dried Fruit Fritter: Traditionally, dried fruit (like what you find in fruit cakes) are added to the batter.  We prefer them made with pieces of apple, but you can experiment with all sorts of things—I even tested it with a dill pickle to try and fool my niece, and it worked fine LOL!

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How to Repair Minor Chips and Scratches in Your Guitar’s High Gloss Finish by Bill Wilkat

Wilkat’s Help Tips © 2001. Edited and updated July 14, 2018

Repairs to high gloss finishes (or just how gutsy are you?):

No I’m not trying to scare you! But, repairing scratches, chips, and dents in a high gloss guitar or bass finish is not something to take lightly.  I say this because there are a number of things that can go wrong, and there is a real learning curve that involves trial and error. So, the first thing to decide is do you have the confidence necessary to proceed?  Well let’s start by asking a few questions: 

1) Are you a handy type of individual?  Are you good at fixing things in general?

2) Are you good at following instructions?  Are you the type who reads the manual before trying to assemble something you just purchased?  Be honest with yourself — it’s important to know your limitations or weaknesses.

3) Are you ready to try again if things don’t work out the way you want the first time?

4.) Do you have a reasonable workshop, or space to work on this type of discipline?

5.) Do you have a lot of patience?

If you answered yes to most of these question (particularly 1 & 2), then read on — if not, better take your prized possession to a professional–I’m not kidding!!!!.

What’s your objective?

If you’re looking to strip and re-finish your entire guitar body, I won’t be covering that in this post.  What were going to discuss here, is the most common dings and scratches that seem to plague us all — the ones we’ve done ourselves through careless handling, or by some careless moron trying out your baby when you back’s turned.  Also, if your finish is not a clear top coat, (i.e. if it’s a tinted or solid colour lacquer), these instructions will be of little use.  Solid colour lacquer, or tinted top coats are complex to work on, as damaged areas must be filled using a matching lacquer, and this takes a great amount of experience and skill.  Very minor chips can sometimes be successfully filled with a matching solid coloured acrylic lacquer (like the type available for use on automobiles), but we are not covering that here.

Let’s get started:

Minor Scratches:  Yep, they’re the most common, and sometimes the most difficult to repair, depending on their nature.  Minor scratches can usually be rectified with a soft rag and a quality fine rubbing compound, (and plenty of elbow grease — get used to that well-used term, you’re gonna need a lot of it, unless you’ve got access to a professional luthier’s polishing wheel).  That’s right, luthiers use powered polishing wheels, (and different types of abrasive polishing compounds), whenever  possible, and these things don’t come cheap!  You can use hand-held drills and the like, fitted with buffing pads as these can do a good job.  However, they can burn through the finish in a heartbeat, and some of the pads are made of poor quality synthetic materials.  If you go this route, pay for the good stuff, and shy away from “dollar store” supplies.  And, remember, you’ll still need to finish some parts with that good old elbow grease, regardless. 

NOTE: You will need to purchase wet / dry sandpaper for some repairs but don’t start using these right away on minor scratches — especially on the larger flatter surfaces of the body which can be difficult to blend and rub out. Start with rubbing compounds, (the finer the better when you start). Some of the guitar polishes on the market actually contain very fine abrasives which act to clean and polish at the same time, so these would be a good place to start.  Fine polishing compounds can be obtained at auto supply houses or body shops — make sure you get the really fine type for high gloss polishing — some of the coarser ones will scratch the surface making them worse than when you started.  Avoid using any product that contains silicone, (again, I’m not kidding!!!!), as these will cause you considerable grief when trying to apply any kind of lacquer later on.

What kind of finish is on your instrument?

The first tip on very minor scratches was the easy part, and the type of finish isn’t very critical when doing touch ups to these.  However, it’s a different ball game when the scratches are deep enough to require deeper filling, as compatibility is always a concern. You can attempt to fill a deeper scratch using the same product as the instrument has on it, but then you should find out what that is, and that’s not always easy.  Fortunately, numerous big brand manufacturers have used nitrocellulose lacquer over the years, as well as polyurethane, and polyester finishes, and that’s what we’ll focus on.  If you’ve got a “French Polish” or real old style shellac varnish finish, take your axe to an experienced professional, and skip this article. 

  The simple solution that works on most finishes, is filling with one of the quick curing super glues available.  These cyanocrylate adhesives are sold under a variety of brand names and are available in different viscosity’s (thin and thick), and are fairly easy to apply, (although you need to heed the manufacturer’s warnings carefully as they can easily bond your fingertips and other areas of exposed skin, and you should  wear safety glasses when working with these types of products too!).

Deeper Scratches:For deeper scratches in “clear coat” finishes that won’t rub out with compounds, and where the wood underneath is not exposed, you can apply a cyanocrylate glue into the scratch and just slightly beyond the ends of the scratch.  Since you usually won’t need much glue to fill the scratch, it’s often easier to apply using a fine tip like a tooth pick, (use the round kind with the sharp pointy ends, not the flat profile type).  There are also special thin plastic tubes available for this purpose, (some which can be used to siphon up the glue from the bottle, and then when gently squeezed, release a carefully measured amount– they are droppers made specifically for this purpose).  It’s important to note that these adhesives, (unlike lacquer), will form a mound that is higher than the surface you are filling (see Figure No. 1). This means they will need plenty of drying time before you can work them down by filing or sanding.  If the scratch is quite deep, you may need to apply a second coat, but that’s not normally the case. You will have to support the instrument in a manner to prevent the glue from running and causing drips that can create more work for you.  There are accelerators you can buy to speed up the drying time of the glue.  Use these only if you really need to, since the glue will harden rapidly, and tend to become a bit hazy, (we want it to be as clear as possible so it wont show afterwards).

scratch.jpg

Figure No. 1

SUPPLIES: You will need:

1.   Clear cyanocrylate adhesive (Crazy Glue, Loctite, Hot Stuff are common brands)

2.   Toothpicks (with sharp pointy ends)

3.   Small fine file (diamond nail file, or other small fine tooth flat file)

4.   Wet / dry sandpaper (No 600 and 1500 grit)

5.  Sanding block (rubber or cork work best, use wood as an alternative)

6.  Water pail (a large plastic margarine container can suffice)

7.   Naphtha (for cleaning)

8.   Clean soft rags (flannel or similar works well, old soft cotton tee shirts are pretty good too)

9.   A handheld drill and buffing pad (unless you plan to rub only by hand)

10. Rubbing compounds ( a medium and a very fine polishing compound are required–start with the medium and finish with the fine).

11. Razor Blade (the Safety Razor type with a reinforced top cap that wont cut you and stiffens the blade).

NOTE: It’s best to start with a repair on the edge of the guitar or bass body — particularly in a spot that has no sharp edges.  If you work on an area in a larger flat surface, it is extremely difficult to blend and polish out the repair to match. It takes a lot of polishing and even then it may show.  The way to resolve this is to re-work the rest of the surface as well (usually this means fine wet sanding and polishing the entire body).  Remember, I asked you if you had a lot of patience?  Wisdom suggests that you practice on an old “non-prized” guitar before you tackle your beloved instrument.  Practicing on a “garage sale special” that you can live without is the best advice I can give you.  Once you’ve experienced what can go wrong? (remember trial and error?), you’ll be better poised to handle things.

Step 1: Thoroughly clean the instrument using naphtha, and wipe again with a clean dry rag to remove any haze of visible spots.

Step 2: Apply the glue using a toothpick to guide it into the scratch.

Step 3: Let it dry for 1 to 2 days if not using an accelerator,

NOTE:  If the glue is well hardened, it is often possible to use a sharp scraper to level it off with the existing surface, followed by wet sanding for final blending. A sharp safety razor blade can also work well. If you use a blade, tape off both ends with masking tape, leaving only the center area exposed to contact the raised surface of the glue.

scratch2.jpg

Figure No. 2

Step 4: Carefully file and level off the raised surface of the glue and start blending it into the existing finish.

Step 5: With #600 paper that has been soaking in water overnight, begin sanding to level further.

Step 6: With #1500 paper (again soaked in water overnight), continue blending further. 

NOTE:  The surface should have a dull even patina when fully blended and leveled. If there are any shiny spots, they are generally lower than the main surface, and you either need to sand further, or apply a little more glue, and repeat the leveling process by sanding some more.  Use the wet sandpaper wrapped over a sanding block where practical (and for flat surfaces).  A circular sanding motion usually works best.  Rinse out your sandpaper frequently, and wipe the surface often with a soft clean rag to inspect your progress.  Use a light touch, and exercise caution to avoid sanding completely through the finish — especially on sharper corners and edges!

Moisten the buffing pad with water, and keep it moving — if you stay in one place too long, you can actually burn through the finish.  Apply the polishing compounds using a damp rag, then polish with buffing action.

Step 7: Begin polishing out the area with the medium rubbing compound.

Step 8: Polish again using the very fine rubbing compound.

Deep Scratches with Exposed Wood:  For areas with exposed wood, you may need to add some colour back prior to filling in the scratch.  This can tricky since you’re trying to match a colour that will darken somewhat once you’ve applied the filler, (in this case our cyanocrylate adhesive).  A solution that can work quite well, is the use of coloured marker pens (preferably the permanent kind). Sometimes water-soluble types will work, but again, this is why you need to test it out before using it.  If you don’t have and old guitar to practice on, at least find a scrap piece of wood to conduct a trial.  You’ll want to compare the colour to your instrument after you’ve applied the glue, sanded it, and polished it.  You can also use stains if appropriate, and if you can find or mix the colour you need. These are available in both liquid and powdered form, but they will not mix with the cyanocrylate adhesive.  Make sure the stain or marker colour is dry before you apply any glue over it. 

Once you are satisfied with the colour to add to the wood, you can proceed with the steps noted above.  If the existing finish is relatively thick, the scratch may be deep enough to require more than one application of glue to build up the surface for future leveling. You can use a fine liner brush to apply the glue into the scratch, but be prepared to throw out the brush afterwards.

Chips: These are resolved using the same methods described above, although in some cases you may wish to use one of the thicker cyanocrylate adhesives. This is especially helpful if the chip is on a radius corner, (aren’t they usually?), to minimize the chance of drips or runs.  However, if the wood is dented, you may want to try to bring it back up. This can be achieved by steaming it to swell the fibers back up. Although I would only recommend this technique if the dented area is very small and the existing lacquer finish is too close to it. A larger chip with a dent in the middle of it can often be raised by using the following method:

Step A: Moisten the area with a damp rag

Step B: Using the damp rag against the wood, apply the tip of a soldering iron to the rag over the dent.  Be careful not to burn through, you just want to heat it a bit to steam out the fibers.  Move the rag frequently to check your progress.

Step C: Allow the wood to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

Dented finish with cracked edges: You may have a condition like this where the lacquer has not fallen out (or only partially chipped out, leaving some material crushed in place. It is best to remove the broken pieces before attempting to fill these in these areas. If you don’t, the cracks and dent will remain very visible, and you wont be pleased.  Carefully pry out the pieces of cracked lacquer using a hobby knife like an Exacto blade.

Chips on a sharp edge:  These are a bit tricky, but not impossible. You’ll need to build up the area with adhesive and prevent it from running. Apply a strip of masking tape along the edge of the damaged area, then apply the glue.  Allow it to dry for 1 to 2 days, then remove the tape.  Now you’re ready to start leveling it off, and following the steps previously noted.

Some Closing Comments:

I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing before you tackle the real touch up job.  Practice on a scrap table leg, an old piece of shop wood, anything you can get your hands on to simulate the repair you want to conduct, is useful.

You can use actual lacquer in place of cyanocrylate adhesives to repair damage, but it is more difficult to work with, and you should use the identical lacquer that is already on the instrument.  That’s not always easy to determine and if in doubt, consult a professional luthier.

 

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Tortilla Crêpes, By Bill Wilkat Aug.29/2008

Tortilla Crêpes, By Bill Wilkat Aug.29/2008

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Savoury Crepe Served

I call these Tortilla Crêpes because they were inspired by Tortillas and I was looking for something more savoury rather than sweet. These light crêpes are ideal for desserts or traditional Tacos, Burritos, etc. and are low-fat and low salt for a healthy alternative to the commercial ones made with lard and often too much salt. Despite the optional pinch of seasoning, they taste great with any sort of filling, and are easy to make. I wanted something suitable for both old-fashioned breakfast crepes as well as popular Mexican dishes and they are a great substitute and very versatile. Makes about eight 8” diameter crepes.

Ingredients:

¼ cup corn flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1/8 to ¼ cup oat flour

2 large whole eggs

1 cup 1% milk

2/3 cup water

2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus more on hand to lubricate pan)

1 tsp sugar

Optional:

Pinch of salt (or salt substitute such as “No Salt” brand)

Pinch of Paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chilli powder

Directions:

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Mix the eggs with the milk and add together with the olive oil.  When blended, add the water gradually and if the mixture appears too thin, add a bit more oat flour after testing making one crêpe. 

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a non-stick 10 – 12” diameter skillet and preheated to a medium low temperature.  Test the mixture by adding a small ladle full of batter to the pan and rotating it around to form a thin crêpe.  Cook the crêpe slowly and observe the edges – normally they will curl up slightly when it’s ready to be flipped.  Since stoves vary, and the mixture may need to be adjusted for thickness, this test will help determine if any further adjustments are required.  When done, they should be pale, or lightly browned.  A touch of oil may be added after 3 or 4 crêpes if required.  However, they should normally release easily when they are ready to turn.

Tortilla Crepes

Fillings:

This is the fun part, and your chance to experiment. Here’s a couple of my favourite fillings:

Breakfast:

Spread a layer of plain non-sweetened yogurt over an open crêpe, slice and layer fresh strawberries end to end in a single row across the centre, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon powder, (sugar if desired), and roll up by folding over the first half, tucking it in, and rolling the rest of the way.

Lunch or Supper:

At medium heat, fry some thin slices of onion and sweet peppers (red, green, yellow, etc.) in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened and beginning to caramelize, then set aside. 

Add your favourite cut of pre-cooked meat, (chicken, pork, or beef, etc.), thinly sliced into ½ wide strips and layered across the centre of each crêpe in a single row end to end. Do likewise with your favourite cheese, (shredded or sliced), and add some of the onions and peppers fried earlier, (don’t over do this, as less is more in this case).  Sprinkle filling lightly with cumin powder. Hint : leftover meats are the best choice here, but many cold cuts will do fine in a pinch.  Then add your favourite salsa dip by dribbling a few teaspoonfuls over the fillings, and roll them up. 

Tip: Paul Newman’s Brand “Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa Medium” is a superb choice for this, or make your own–look for my Black Bean and Corn Salsa recipe which I’ll post soon.

Set these aside (seam side down on a microwaveable serving platter), and place in refrigerator while you prepare any side dishes (e.g. rice, salad, etc.).  Prior to serving crêpes, heat in a microwave oven until fillings are warmed through and cheese has melted—be careful not to over cook—again test this in your microwave to find the ideal temperature setting and time frame—it does not take long even at a medium power setting in most modern microwave ovens.  I prefer to heat them gradually starting at a medium power setting, and finishing up with a short (20 second) duration at full power.

Enjoy, and experiment with fillings and seasonings, (whether added to the batter or afterwards), and you’re sure to find a new and delicious way to use these crepes every time! 

Tip: These are excellent appetizers as well, simply stab each crêpe with toothpicks at 1 to 1 1/2”  intervals and slice into serving segments. Avocado, sour cream or traditional salsa can be used as a dip placed in the centre of the serving platter.

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