Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mexico 2012

I would apologize for not posting but really, I've already posted twice in March and plus I was lying around doing nothing on various beaches/pools on the Mexican Riviera so ...........

This vacation was planned last fall, and a good thing too because if we'd received daughter's orthodontist estimate before committing to flights we would likely have stayed home and eaten day old bread for March break. As it was we spent fourteen glorious days in Mexico with "former neighbours" and it was. well glorious. I love Mexico, I love the weather, I love the "manana", I love the seafood, I really love the prices for beer and rum.

This was our second trip with "former neighbours", though they weren't former on the first foray. The first trip in 2009 we rented a three bedroom condo in the Hotel Zone of Puerto Vallarta but this trip we needed four bedrooms so we ventured north of town, way north in fact to the village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. La Cruz is roughly 30K north of Puerto Vallarta and hasn't really been developed much yet, our accommodations, a 4 bedroom 3000 square foot villa, was in a gated community of 40+ properties on a small beach at the south end of town.  Our house was about 200 yards from the beach but the walk was an easy one on tile pathways lined with palms and a series of small pools. The photos show the views from each side of the fourth floor rooftop deck. We were flanked by two other "gated communities" but La Cruz itself has no resort hotels and just a handful of restaurants, but does have an excellent fish market.

Basically we spent two weeks beach hopping, body surfing, pool lounging, eating fresh seafood and drinking lots of beer and blender drinks. We did venture into Puerto Vallarta a couple of times, about an hour by bus, or 40 minutes by car, to enjoy some shopping and a beach lunch at one of our favourite "Old Town" restaurants. I ate so much guacamole I feared my skin would end up with a green hue, but apparently not. We returned to gorgeous sunshine but not quite the 30+ degree celsius temperatures we were used to and now the rains appear back on the horizon. Sigh.

I think it'll be awhile before we get back to Mexico, but I'm already scouting locations.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Teacher's job Inaction

So, shockingly, the BCTF has decided to initiate a job action and withhold services for three days this week. This is referred to as a job action because the words strike or holding students futures hostage or acting like playground bullies don't play nearly as well for the media, but make no mistake all three of those descriptions are more accurate than a job action. In fact what we have is a job inaction.

The teacher's union would have you believe that this strike is about:

1) The evil Liberal government . It should be noted that the evil Liberal Government is having no less success in dealing with the BCTF than previous NDP and Social Credit governments have had over the past 40+ years.

2) Improved working conditions

3) Class size

4) Children's futures

In fact this strike is about money, specifically the 15% increase over three years that the BCTF has refused to budge on since June of 2011. I will guarantee you that if the government said tomorrow: "Class sizes are staying the same, no more cash is going into special needs, portable use is increasing but we're fine with the 15% raise" that the poor oppressed teachers would break their ankles running back to work.

There is some comedy here though, despite a ban on picket lines teachers were protesting outside schools but because they were carrying their signs and not wearing them around their necks the teacher's felt they were not in violation of the no picket line rulings. Hopefully all these teachers are Semantics instructors.........or just idiots.

The job action and the government's refusal to rush back to work legislation has lead for some confusion among the opposition ranks as well. Last week, the NDP Opposition promised to delay the passage of the back-to-work legislation as long as possible, with plans to speak up to 17 hours on the second reading of the bill alone. However when the Liberals didn't call an emergency weekend sitting this lead NDP house leader John Horgan to criticize the government for their inaction, stating: "I would have thought that if the government was serious about getting kids back in the classroom they would have taken action before now,"

So what is it you really wanted John, for the Liberals to try and rush through a bill so that you could delay it ?

I used to have a great deal of respect for teachers until daughter entered the public school system, since almost day one she has been bombarded with union rhetoric while the poor teachers work 184 days a year. Among the great teacher rhetoric is that they don't get paid for the nine weeks off in the summer, true but the salary isn't prorated either and the average salary for teacher in Vancouver in 2011 was $73,792 ............ for a 43 week year with 20 non working days in it. The other great line that teachers use is the disparity between wages in BC and Alberta, to which I would reply that they are welcome to move to Alberta if they would like that pay raise. The whole situation is a farce, with an over politicized union throwing their weight around and the students, as always, are the ones who suffer .

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I'm not a huge pasta guy, I like stuffed shells on occasion and once in a while something light with shellfish, white wine and lemon but every so often I get a hankerin' for lasagna. I'm not talking about new age lasagna either with wild mushrooms, pancetta and a light layer of pecorino, I'm talking red sauce, meat and loads of cheese. While I do get the urge to eat classic lasagna I rarely get the urge to make it, the labourious layering and the inconvenience of dealing with lasagna noodles simply kills the buzz for me so............. I cheat and make fauxsagna .

You will see countless renderings of this dish listed as lazy lasagna or lasagna casserole and those descriptions are accurate but I prefer fauxsagna.

Last week in the early afternoon I received a call from work, apparently a party of 20 had cancelled and we found ourselves over staffed for the evening so I was offered the night off and I accepted. The issue was I already had dinner for that evening planned for wife and daughter, homemade chicken soup and cheese buns, and was, at the time of the call, working on marinara sauce for later in the week. Since I was now going to be home for dinner I decided to leave the soup for another day and expand on the marinara sauce base for dinner. A quick check on provisions showed some ground pork and ricotta in the fridge so I immediately thought:" Fauxsagna".

I browned the ground pork with some shallots while I cooked some pasta. The classic noodle for baked pasta is ziti which are tubes generally about two inches in length, or ziti rigate if they have ridges, but I didn't have any ziti so I cooked up a pound of tofette, which are small ridged shells, while I browned the pork. I then added the browned meat and cooked pasta to the marinara sauce and mixed well, reserving about a cup of the basic marinara. The next step is blending ricotta, egg, spinach and cheese to form the middle layer of the fauxsagna I used two cups of ricotta, blending in one beaten egg about 3/4 of a cup of mozzarella and a cup of chopped, cooked , spinach.

Now for assembly, spread a thin layer of the reserved marinara over the bottom of an 9 X 13 inch casserole dish, or any casserole dish you like, then add half the pasta and sauce mixture, spread the ricotta/spinach mix over the top, add the other half of the pasta and sauce mix and the rest of the marinara then top with a mix of grated mozzarella, or fontina, and parmesan/romana. Pop the casserole into a preheated 375 degree oven and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes until slightly brown around the edges and bubbly. Take it out of the oven, wait 10 minutes before serving or it will burn your mouth, so you can set the table, toss the salad and open the wine, any pizza red will do, and then serve.

The beauty of this is that you can modify any way you want, use prosciutto instead of ground meat, add mushrooms, whatever. You can use any good bottled tomato sauce if you want, I like Whole Foods 365 Marinara, and if you're really lazy leave out the ricotta layer and just top the pasta mix with cheese and bake. Serve it up with a green salad, or even better with roasted broccoli or cauliflower and it's a pretty impressive dinner. The added bonus is that there are often leftovers which are great for lunches or "home from working late" snacks.