Wednesday, 12 October 2011

MEC Pangea 75 Travel Backpack

I have a small addiction to purchasing specialized travel gear. We would not be considrered "backpakers" but do prefer to travel light with the ability to carry our luggage and have the versitility that standard suitcase style luggage does not offer. With that in mind, I set about finding the most fitting pieces of luggage for our style of travel. I ended up purchasing two, MEC, Pangea 75 tavel backpacks (Available at  MEC). Each armed with one of these bags my wife and I have used these bags as weekend luggage, snowshoeing day hike bags, and for a three week trip around Italy.

There are two parts to each one of these bags. The first is the main "suitcase" style backpack. This bag is equiped with 60L storage and has a lower portion to store a sleeping bag, shoes or laundry. There is a detachable toiletries portion and numerous small pockets for all your little things. There is a flap to hide the straps allowing you to check the bag without fear of having the straps ripped off when being loaded or unloaded on a plane, train or bus (I once worked at the airport as a luggage handler and have seen first hand a bag be destroyed because of loose straps). We both found this bag to be more than big enough for all of our luggage. The straps and harness are very comfortable allowing for a couple kilometre walk to your hotel or hostel.

The second part of the bag is a detachable carry-on size backpack (15L). This bag is big enough for a nebook, Kindle or Ipad as well as a change of clothes and a jacket. When combined the two are a little top heavy. The day pack is surprisingly big and comfortable to wear.

The only draw backs to these bags are the zippers are not lockable and the daypack is to small to have a waist belt. The major pluses are the versitility of the bags, the comfort of them as well as the overall design. We are about to embark on a trip to New Zealand and Australia for a year or two and I will update how they stand up to the punishment of the outback.    

Monday, 3 October 2011

Fettuccine with Mushroom, Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce

After a three week trip to Italy we were dying to make some authentic Italian food. Armed with cheese smuggled past Canadian Customs (they took my meat) we settled on a homemade Fettuccine with mushroom, Gorgonzola cheese sauce.  We're familiar with making our own pasta so it wasn't a trip out of our comfort zone. It's amazing how good some eggs, flour and a little moldy cheese can be.The prep time varies but the entire meal can be completed in a couple hours.

First the Pasta:

This is a Basic Egg Pasta recipe summarized from our KitchenAid "Pasta Sheet Roller and Attachments" instructions and recipes.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbs water
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients into the mixer bowl.  Using the flat beater mix for 30 seconds. Exchange the flat beater for the dough hook and knead for 2 minutes. The dough will look fairly dry but will be the perfect consistency for using the pasta rollers and cutters. Remove from bowl and hand knead for a couple minutes (this way you will be really impressed with yourself for not totally relying on machines). Let the dough sit for 20min. We usually cover it with a damp paper towel. Afterwards run it through the roller attachment followed by the cutter attachment.

Here are the photos:

 While we prepared the sauce we put the pasta in the fridge - use parchment paper so that it doesn't all stick together.

Mushroom, Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce:


  • 4 cups mushrooms
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • parsley (garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste  
  • 1 1/2 cups Gorgonzola cheese
  • splash white wine

Fry the mushrooms in butter or oil until they release liquid and shrink up a bit. Hit them with some wine to de-glaze the pan. Add the flour and let it heat up. Pour the cream in and add the cheese.. Let this simmer for a bit.

After the sauce is simmering, boil water and cook the pasta. Drain the pasta add some parsley as a garnish maybe some extra cheese, crack a bottle of Vino and enjoy. This served 4 with some leftovers for lunch.