Happy Birthday Morris, whoever you are!

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Happy 86th Birthday Morris, whoever you are.

Last night we drove from Timmins to Barrie for a little getaway with Granny Canuck and Mrs. Canuck to stop at Casino Rama in Orillia and take in some good restaurant eats and a little minor shopping.    A mandatory Barrie food stop for the traveling crew is “The Mandarin”.

Yes, it’s a Chinese buffet filled with fried food, sugary sauces and overeating indulgence like you’ve never seen before and we enjoy every calorie.  While we were having dinner, the usual banter of staff danced about to sing happy birthday to an elderly couple sitting close to our table.  We clapped with our sticky fingers and sang with the rest, only to find out the gentleman’s name was Morris, having dinner with his lovely wife and turning 86.   Once the excitement died down, I looked at my Mom and instantly knew what she was thinking.

Over the course of many years, we have all taken turns to pay it forward to unsuspecting dining couples, drive-thru customers, and coffee-goers.  One of my fondest memory is an elderly couple in their turquoise 1960’s Thunderbird behind us in the Dairy Queen drive-thru on a Sunday afternoon.  We paid for their ice cream and drove away.  A quick look in the mirror we could see the sheer surprise and delight on their faces as they were told their ice cream was on the silver vehicle driving north.

Tonight, we asked our server to make sure we picked up the tab for their dinner.   Normally we get to sneak out and leave them wondering; but in this case, the server who wasn’t too sure of our intentions pointed directly at us when they asked who paid the bill.  We all turned 50 shades of red and tried to sneak out; but before we could Mrs. Morris came to our table with tears of joy in her eyes and hugged my Mom.  On our way out, we shook the hand of our new friend and made our way to the hotel.

This isn’t a challenge to anyone to pay it forward, I’m not posting for a pat on the back, I’m posting because as I posted before, it’s the little things in life.  My Dad would sometimes do this, as cheap as he was.  Tonight we did it for Morris and Mrs. Morris to make his day a little extra special and a story he will remember long into his 90th birthday.

We did it in part for ourselves, the little thing that reminds us of Dad.  He would be even happier knowing it was two seniors.  After all, they get a 20% discount.

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The Mobile Hungry Canuck

On the road for the next few days for a trip to Barrie with Mrs. Canuck and Granny Canuck (aka Mom).

I’ll try to post from the hotel but no promises these women love to tire me out carrying scrapbook bags, looking for places to eat and being their personal chauffeur in Barrie traffic.

Homemade Salted Caramel Whiskey

You read that right!  The whiskey is not homemade, but the caramel and the love that went into it sure is.

While on a trip this September to Nashville, I picked up a single bottle of Ole Smoky Whiskey Salted Caramel.  The bottle didn’t last more than two weekends and living in Ontario,  I have no choice but to come up with the next best thing.   My own!

The Mrs. and I Googled a few ideas and they all used store bought caramel with cream and use a double boiler, freeze overnight to remove the milk solids but I had a different idea in mind, simple sugar and salt.  We couldn’t really decide on what one to try, so we made both.

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The start of the store bought butterscotch caramel whiskey mix.

Store Bought Salted Caramel Whiskey 

  • 375 ml Jack Daniels or your choice of whiskey
  • 200 ml good quality caramel, we used President’s Choice Butterscotch Caramel
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  1. In a double boiler, add the 200ml of caramel and heat till liquid.
  2. Take caramel off heat and add salt, whisk.
  3. Add 375 ml Jack Daniels and whisk to combine.
  4. Toss in the freezer overnight or until milk solids freeze.
  5. Skim off milk solids from the top of whiskey mixture.
  6. Pour into a mason jar or any glass bottle.
  7. Enjoy straight or over ice.
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Repurposed a 375ml bottle of Kraken to measure out the Jack Daniel’s.

Homemade Salted Caramel Whiskey

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Kosher salt, sugar and 1/2 a 750ml bottle Jack Daniel’s.
  • 375 ml Jack Daniels or your choice of whiskey.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Prepare an ice bath for the cooking pot you are using.
  2. Pour whiskey into a heatproof bowl.
  3. Add sugar, corn syrup, water to a heavy bottom cooking pot.
  4. Turn burner to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Swirl the pot on the stove once it begins to turn amber and the water is evaporated.
  6. Keep cooking the sugar mixture, until a deep golden brown.  This is a tricky step, I’ve burnt a few, I’ve undercooked a few, it just takes time and patience to get it right.

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    Caramel just starting to turn amber, keep a good eye on it.
  7. Remove from the heat and place in an ice bath, to stop the sugar from cooking and then add the salt.
  8. Once the caramel is cooled, pour into the whiskey and whisk to dissolve any sugar bits.
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The whiskey and the caramel become one.
Final Results
We had 4 taste testers, as we made this at a dinner with friends.   All of us preferred the homemade caramel version compared to the store caramel.  The whiskey was clear and not cloudy due to the milk in the store bought version.
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The two versions of our homemade caramel whiskey, store caramel on the left and homemade caramelized sugar on the right.
We all found the 1 cup of sugar to 375 ml whiskey made it a little thick like syrup but it had a better mouth feel than the store version.  I would suggest you play with the caramel to whiskey ratio to your individual taste.  My next batch, YES there will be next batch will be 1/2 cup sugar to 375 ml Jack Daniels, or because it won’t last long one cup of sugar to 750 ml bottle of Jack.
As soon as I get the sugar to whiskey ratio figured out, the plan is to try different types of whiskey,  like Irish or even some excellent Candian Rye Whiskey.  Of course, as these happen they will be posted with the instructions and the taste test results.
If you try this and use a different whiskey, or a ratio of sugar, homemade caramel, store bought caramel, please let me know and I’d be happy to try and make a batch to share around the campfire this summer!
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The Winner

Blogging on the rails.

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My rotation is done in Moosonee and I’m sitting here on the Ontario Northland Train writing this blog post and will post it once I have the internet once again a little further south.

The train has been a vital part of Moosonee since 1932.  The construction was started in 1921 and construction was completed on July 15, 1932. Since it’s opening it has carried many a local passenger, tourists, groceries, cars and even homes.

Up until 2012, the ONR was subsidized by the provincial government where there was the discussion of privatizing the ONR.  While I prefer to keep my blog politics free,  an agreement was made after the ONR provided a report to the government to restructure and sell of ONTERA their telecommunication’s division.

I remember as a young boy traveling the train just before Christmas to visit my Nanny in Moosonee.  Three families would all cram into her 2.5 bedroom base house, the presents almost flowing into the kitchen and wake up to the smell of bacon, coffee, and cigarettes.  I can vaguely remember the Commodore 64 computer the family got that sparked my love for all things electronic.  After Christmas was done, we’d repack all our gifts in boxes, load them on the train, unload in Cochrane and drive back to Timmins.

Now, twenty plus years later, I continue this routine working in Moosonee.  In this case, we bring our clothes, foods that are difficult or expensive to get up there, like rye flour for pumpernickel bread.

If you would like to read a little more about the history of the Ontario Northland Railway, please have a look at the ONR Wiki.  If you have any specific questions, please let me know and I will try my best to answer or find someone that might have the answer.

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** Historical information provided from Wikipedia.

It’s the little things.

fullsizeoutput_249For those of you that don’t know me and are just tuning in, my Dad passed away almost two years after a very short battle with cancer.   Today; where we are staying in Moosonee, the washer decided to stop draining.  Normally this would be an ‘oh shit’ moment for most.

Today; sitting on the floor, his tools in my hand, his sense of getting it done, I could hear him behind me saying “not like that, use your brain dumbass…” all while cursing under my breath “why am I doing this and you standing there?”   I realized something, sitting in floor soaked in water, putting the washing machine back together, it was the little things that I will never forget and the little things that bring back memories.

Over the years I rolled my eyes more than once, cursed under my breath more than a million times and complained to my wife that my Dad needed a hand, even sometimes made the odd excuse to get out of it.  Things like how to change a ballast on a fluorescent light, the time I had to troubleshoot my fridge and order a damper door between the freezer and fridge and replacing the calipers and rotors on our 1999 Ford Explorer the first vehicle he helped us purchase.

It’s been almost two years and not often a week goes by without an “Okay JACK!” or even a “Jesus Christ!!!”  If you’re reading this, remember to take the time to soak in the little things.  Because; eventually, they might be all you have.

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Frankie goes to Italy via Buffalo – Pizza

That is, if Frank’s Red Hot Sauce took at trip to Italy flying out of Buffalo.

On the menu tonight was one of our favorite pizzas, Buffalo Wing Pizza.  We usually do a Buffalo blue cheese, but in this case with limited access to blue stinky cheese in Moosonee, we had to make due.  Remember, when life won’t give you lemons…

The Crust

We prefer to use a dough that takes a few days in the fridge to develop that great pizza chew and texture we all love from a great pizza place.  This is the recipe I’ve followed and my go-to for perfect pizzeria crust.  I usually make it in batches and freeze it for when the mood strikes.

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The Sauce

Here’s where you can get mild to wild.  You have two options here, blue cheese lovers and haters.

Stinky Moldy Cheese Lovers

  •  1 cup blue cheese dressing, try and use a good quality like Rene’s
  • 1 cup Franks Red Hot
  • splash of ketchup if you find it too hot, you wimp.

The Cheese Haters

  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  •  1 cup Franks Red Hot
  • Ketchup to taste if you still haven’t put on your big boy pants.

The Toppings

  • 1.5-2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1-2 cups pizza mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 Monterey jack cheese, cheddar or some other melty cheese
  • handful of blue cheese chunks
  • mushrooms, only because it was there.

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The Assembly

I’m sure you get the idea how to make a pizza, but just in case this is your first time!

  1. Warm the oven to 500° and put the rack on the bottom.
  2. Roll out the dough, we prefer 14″ Lagostina pans and thin crust.
  3. Gently sauce the bottom with your stinky or non-stinky sauce.
  4. Lay down the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  5. Toss chicken in 2-3 tbsp sauce and place on top of the pizza.
  6. Red onion time.
  7. Red peppers next.
  8. Monterey jack or the other cheese you decided on in the grocery store last minute.
  9. Toss that bad boy in the oven and cook for 10-11 minutes.
  10. Move to top rack for 5-7 minutes to brown.

The Money Shot

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Any variations to this pizza that you like or have tried, please share!

Got Sticky Buns?

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One of the things I remember as a treat growing up was the days Mom decided to make fresh bread. When she was making fresh bread, we always knew at the end there was going to be a tray or two of sticky buns!  Going through my Facebook photos this came up as a memory 6 years ago today.

I can’t give you the recipe for these buns because even if I did they would never turn out like my Moms.  If you are looking to try your own she just uses a basic bread recipe, some butter, brown sugar and cherries on the bottom.

She’s tried to teach me, she’s lead me the whole way, but they are never the same. My wife has recently started baking them again and for the sake of spending a few nights on the couch, I will say they are tied.  Either way; they are gone in minutes out of the oven!

The picture was taken with my Canon 7D and 24-70 2.8 L lens and is a reminder of how most people that love to cook have that creative photography side as well.  I have since sold the 7D and most of the lenses.  I switched out to a Sony A6000 when I was traveling because it was a lighter setup with similar quality.  Unfortunately, it has been on the shelf for a while gathering dust.  However; this is a reminder for me to charge the batteries and dust off the lens and snap away.

Do you have a go-to cinnamon sticky bun recipe?  Let me know!

No English Muffins, no problem!

A trip today to the grocery store here in Moosonee to get some English muffins for our breakfast tomorrow morning, resulted in a major disappointment with the shelf bare.

Staying true to living in the north fashion, the next best thing is to make your own!

A few Google and Pinterest searches later, we found “…been making this for 29 years” recipe and with that; how could we go wrong?

English Muffins: LindaPinda – AllRecepies

The Stuff You Need

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/4 cup melted shortening**
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

** I used lard here as I didn’t have shortening; it worked fine as far as I can tell.

The Stuff You Do

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1/4 of the sugar in warm water and it should get frothy in about 10 minutes and if not, time to get some new yeast!  I add 1/4 of the sugar here because it helps the yeast.
  2.  Heat the milk on medium until bubbles just form, no boiling here.  This is called scalding the milk.  Once it’s off the heat, toss in the 3/4 of the sugar.
  3. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, add yeast goo, warm milk, melted fat, and 3 cups of flour.  Start slow and then turn that mixer up and let it run till it’s smooth, mine was about 5 minutes.
  4. Change out to a dough hook and start adding the rest of the flour.  I was using regular all-purpose flour, so it took about 2 extra cups and the dough was still soft.
  5. Place in a warm area, let rise 30-40 minutes until doubled.
  6. Punch down, roll out 1/2 thick and use a biscuit cutter, glass or something round.
  7. The original recipe says to place on parchment with cornmeal but mine wouldn’t stick so I used a little water on buns and rolled them in cornmeal, worked for me.
  8. Let rise about 20-30 minutes.
  9. Heat a griddle or frying pan in my case, grease with shortening or lard and cook away.  I had my setting on low/medium heat to turned them frequently as not to brown too much.
  10. Set aside to cool and then enjoy!

The Money Shot

Final Thoughts

These are not traditional English muffins that you think of when you get them at the store, but more like a bun texture.  They turned out chewy and a little dense like a biscuit as most reviews suggested on Allrecepies.

I won’t be saving this recipe as my real English muffin search continues…

When Life Won’t Give You Lemons

Make cinnamon swirl loaf!

One of the challenges of working and living in Moosonee is the reduced access to fresh fruit and vegetables, like lemons. There is only a single grocery store in Moosonee and if they don’t have lemons, you have to look for alternatives and forgo that craving for a lemon loaf.

The Cinnamon Loaf – Love Foodies Recipe

The Stuff You Need

  • 2 cups All Purpose / Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups regular sugar
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk**
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
** To make homemade buttermilk: take 1 cup or milk and add 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar.

The Sweet, Sweet Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp milk

The Stuff You Need To Do

1. Crank that oven to 350 °F  and slick up a 9-in loaf pan.

2. Toss the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, egg, vanilla and oil in a bowl and stir just until moistened.

3. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining sugar.

4. Pour half of the batter into your greased pan; sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar. Dump the rest of the batter and then the rest of the cinnamon-sugar.

5. Now grab a knife and swirl that loaf up!

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry and not a sticky-gooey mess. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to wire rack and let cool, try not resist the urge to dig into it now and burn your fingers and tongue in the process.

7. For the glaze, combine icing sugar and enough milk to reach desired consistency, thin or thick, whatever your inner baker desires.

Now break out the milk, tea, coffee whatever your drinking these days.  Heck, it’s winter have it with a Baliey’s and hot chocolate!

The Money Shot

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Have a SWIRL at the recipe yourself and let me know how it turns out!

It takes 8-12 Hard Inches

Now that I have your attention, I’m talking about ice thickness before a light pickup can travel on it.

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A big part of living and working in the James Bay area of Moosonee, Moose Factory, Fort Albany, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat is the dependency on the winter roads.  The winter roads are vital links to get materials like lumber, fuel and other items that require a community to operate.

Having worked for James Bay General as the only I.T. person for 3 remote communities, the winter road was vital to part of my work.  I would leave Moosonee early in the morning with a coffee, sandwich, few snacks, winter gear, and a lighter, just in case.


I would prefer to drive as I was no longer tied to an airline schedule and could travel between Fort Albany and Attawapiskat as required.

The road between Moosonee and Moose Factory opens a whole new community to access from both sides. Moose Factory does not have a LCBO and Moosonee does not have GG’s a local general store that has just about anything you need.

This is a shot of the glare ice on the Moose River that will accommodate snow machines, vehicles, buses, transport trucks and fuel trucks.


April lends way to break up where the massive force of the Moose River tears the thick ice to shreds, but that’s another story for spring.