May 30, 2009

There's a Mouse in my...

mouse in the compost

Compost!

Don't worry, my compost is not near my house. I'm not usually a fan of rodents but... awwww, isn't he cute? Everytime my hubby would water the compost, this little guy would come out for air. I guess he'll be looking for a new home soon. Hopefully somewhere away from my house :)

apple blossoms

It took a while for things to start blooming around here but finally, FINALLY, my apple trees are in blossom. I love blossoming trees. Spring is probably my favorite season. Fall is a close second I'd say, but spring makes me so very happy after a long, dark winter. Driving around the city this weekend, it's as if someone took out their paintbrushes and painted everything green. The leaves are out and the grass is alive. I was pretty envious of the folks who have beautiful pink or purple blossomed trees. I'll just have to bring my camera out and take a picture or two to put on my computer desktop :)

May 28, 2009

poppy seed salad dressing

poppyseed salad dressing

I don't usually buy a lot of salad dressings, I try to make them at home, but when I do, it's usually a ranch dressing and our favorite, the creamy poppy seed dressing from Kraft.

I have since found a buttermilk recipe that is really good and works as a great replacement for the store bought ranch dressing. But, no matter how many times we've experimented or tried out a "poppy seed dressing" recipe... it never compared to the store bought one.

Until now.

This one comes the closest out of all the ones I've tried. Worth digging out every damn little seed that is holding on for dear life between your teeth.

poppyseed salad dressing diptych

Which brings me to another point. Are you someone who will tell a person that there is something in their teeth? I will and have. I know it's embarrassing to tell someone that they do and even more embarrassing to be told you do, but I'd rather know. There has been a few times I've come home and found a delinquent herb in my teeth. sigh.

But, maybe I should just get a different attitude about it? Go around wearing a chef's hat, maybe an apron or some oven mitts in the winter and when someone tells me I have poppy seeds in my teeth, I will just inform them that I'm a foodie and that the poppy seeds in my teeth are bling.

Yeah. I'll start a new foodie movement.

I can't rap or sing but maybe I'll write poems. I can do poem readings in cafe's everywhere!

My first poem will be about poppyseeds. Another one will be about various herbs. Oh, I know you'll LOVE the one about the funky asparagus smell in your pee.

Word on!

...

poppy seed dressing
makes 1.5 cups

1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard (I used 1 tsp dijon mustard since I didn't have dry mustard)
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1.5 tsp poppy seeds

Whip in a bowl with a electric mixer, the sugar, vinegar, mustard, onion and salt for 2 minutes on medium-low.

Increase the speed and slowly add oil in a thin stream. Reduce to low speed and add poppy seeds and mix until combined. Chill before serving.

Recipe from: Poppy Seed Dressing, KitchenAid Best-Loved Recipes.

May 26, 2009

grilled onion bacon burger

grilled onion bacon burger

I love looking through cookbooks and food magazines. I love the pretty pictures and the hungry feeling I get every time I turn the page. I often leaf through some pages while watching tv.

The only problem I have with cookbooks is that as a food blogger, I have to then type out the recipe for blog posts. I've tried to use recipes online so I don't have to type them out, but, like I stated above, this doesn't happen to often, since it's not the same when surfing the net.

I think that's the usual holdup with my food blogging. The not so fun side of an otherwise fun hobby.

...

grilled onion bacon burger



Well, it seems that the weather is finally nice and that the good ole BBQ will be back to work. 

I love sinking my teeth into the first hamburger of the season. I look forward to BBQ season every year and am never disappointed with a homemade burger. 

Don't get me wrong, there are some pre-made patties we've purchased that were very good but there have been many nasty ones too.   

When I only need to make up a small batch (for just the four of us), I tend to make them homemade, more often than not.

This is my go-to recipe for a basic burger. Choose whatever toppings you like. 

I chose grilled onion and bacon this time.

Happy BBQ-ing!




...

basic burgers
makes 4 patties

500 g ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup dry crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix together all the ingredients and form into 1/2 inch patties. Barbecue until done (~ 10 minutes total time).

recipe from Canadian Living, Let's Barbecue!

May 21, 2009

Acajutla Restaurant

Many years ago, me and my hubby lived in Vancouver for a short stint. Back when we were DINKS (Double Income, No Kids) so we had the luxury of free time(dear god how I miss that!) and money to eat out often, at the many restauraunts that the city had to offer. We were never really much of the "fine dining" couple but would prefer to try out at all the ethnic restaurants and "ma and pa" owned eateries.  There was one place that served mexican food that I absolutely loved.  No glamorous store front or mexican music blaring outside as you walk by.  It was authentic and delicious.  I miss that place.  

When we came back from Vancouver, Edmonton didn't really have many authentic mexican or latin eateries, that I knew of at least back at that time.  But over the years, more and more places have opened up.

I've driven past Acajutla numerous times and I kept telling myself each time that I need to try it out.  And finally we did, a short while ago.  It is a Salvadorian/Mexican restaurant and it's one of those "ma and pa" restaurants and you feel that when you get in the doors.   The inside of the restaurant is colorful, bright and family-friendly, but not like a "fancy interior designer designed this place" type of restaurant.  The open kitchen had the cooks waving at my kids as we ordered and the hostess was friendly, bringing our menus and glasses of water. The matriarch of the family, a little ole lady who I think didn't speak any english, made silly little faces at my youngest and spoke to him in her native tongue, entertaining him the whole time we were there while she cleaned up tables.  

Acajutla Restaurant

We ordered a couple of appetizers.  And I highly recommend them.  The corn and chicken tamals (as pictures in the first picture) were really tasty.  The corn tamal, wrapped in the corn husk was my preferred tamal as it was nice and sweet.  I didn't get a picture of the pupusa but that appetizer won us all over.  It is a corn flat bread and I could eat that all day long.  I can't remember what else was in it but I highly recommend it.  The table behind me had a family with 3 children and they were chanting "pupusa" as soon as they sat down.

We ordered fajitas and the enchiladas. (I know, I know, not very adventurous but when you are dining with kids... you have to pick things that will hold their attention too.)  They also came with a pickled salad at your table and a couple of different hot and spicy sauces to put on your entrees.  The entrees were healthy and I loved the homemade tortillas but I felt that they didn't have that yum factor as the appetizers did.  I think that is why the condiments are brought out, so that you can to liven up your dish as much or as little as you like.

One thing I read in the forums that I realized near the end of the meal is that the waitress doesn't bring you the tab.  We did the "should we go up or should we wait" dance for a bit.  We eventually went up to pay for it and really, I'm ok with that.  It is a ma and pa place so obviously a bit less formal. 

Though I can't say this place compared in taste to the ma and pa restaurant I went to in Vancouver, it was a delightful visit and I'd definitely come back for the appetizers and to try out some more authentic dishes.  The visit was kind of like you were coming home to eat at your salvadorian/mexican  grandma's house.  And that fits right in to the famous saying "mi casa es su casa".  

Acajutla  
11302-107 Ave 
Edmonton, AB

May 19, 2009

banana pecan bars with chocolate chips

Banana pecan bars with chocolate chips

Sometimes when my hubby comes home from work, I'll tell him I had a great shoot. There might be a crack about my models being cooperative or maybe only Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? looks were being given. Of course, the subjects of my photography is food and he's merely poking fun but I do enjoy shooting still life.  

Ah, the life of a food blogger.  There are some quirks to it.

My children never question me about taking pictures of food, they are quite used to it.  They, along with my hubby, have even helped me by being my lighting assistants, especially if I'm trying to be more creative.  It's like a family affair.  My kids are pretty patient, having to wait to have goodies until after I'm done taking pictures.  And, it's usually only one person who gets the prettied up plate (the one used for photographing) while others get food without mint garnishes :)  As a food blogger, I sometimes eat food that has cooled down since it takes some time to set up and getting the right picture.  

I don't have too many family and friends knowing about my food blog, I'm a bit shy about it.  I have let a few people know about it over time, all with positive feedback.  I'd say the majority I've told do not follow my blog, and that's ok, I totally get it's not everyone's shtick.  The few who do know about it, sometimes when I have them over for dinner, they will start to spoon some food on their plates, then stop and gasp "do you need to take a picture of this!".  I always chuckle.  How considerate of them to think of me and my hobby.  I don't always take pictures of everything I make, and if I do, I try to do it preferably before guests arrive because it's just easier that way.  

How about you fellow food bloggers?  Are you reserved about your food blog or have you let everyone in your life know about it?

...

Banana pecan bars with chocolate chips

These banana pecan bars are moist and chocolatey good without being too sweet.  I brought them over to a friend's house and they were a hit.  However, since they were pretty moist (which is a good thing), it makes them more crumbly so it really should be given out on a  plate with a fork.  These were more cake-like, not as firm as something you can grab and eat over a napkin, as I assume the term "bars" implies.  

...

banana pecan bars
makes about 18 bars

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
5 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat sugar and butter together at medium speed until creamy. Add bananas, egg and vanilla until well blended.

Combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in medium bowl. Add this to to banana mixture until well blended. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Divide batter in half. Stir cocoa into one half. Spread chocolate batter into 9x13 prepared pan. Top with plain batter. Swirl with knife.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until done at 350F. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Recipe adapted from: Cocoa Bottom Banana Pecan Bars. KitchenAid Best-Loved Recipes.

May 17, 2009

Because it was a cold week here...

Tulip Love

so I thought I'd warm you up with some pictures of pretty tulips from my yard.

Hope some of you got some planting done yesterday because it's raining right now, as I type this.

Happy Long Weekend!

UPDATE - May 19th:

Hope none of you, here in Edmonton, planted anything outside this weekend!  Snow... I can't believe we have SNOW!  Spring is a major bust this year.

May 14, 2009

caramelized onions

caramelized onion breakfast
Toast with brie, egg over easy and caramelized onions.

...

I really like onions. There, I said it.

I think there are lots of folks who are grimacing right now. Folks like my father-in-law, for example, whose face crinkles up with disgust if you even mention the word. Onions, onions, onions! HA!

But, I can't help it, I think it's in my genes. My mother tells me that her father would eat onions like apples. Now, I'm not sure what kind of onions he grew (ones that would be less potent I'm guessing) or if he had some superhero power that enabled this, but my onion-loving gene is diluted down some in comparison to his.

I love the potent flavor of them when they are sliced thin in salads, or the mellow flavor and texture when cooked in a stirfries or my favorite, sweet and delicious when they are caramelized like in the above picture.

There is one thing I dislike about them though. It's when I have to cut into one. I will cry the most ugliest of cries, running away from the kitchen, blinded by the volatile gases that irritate my eyes. And no, a sharper knife, chewing gum or running the onions under water does not seem to help me at all. And, I refuse to wear goggles, thankyouverymuch. The only thing that helps, for me, is keeping the onions in the refrigerator beforehand and then cutting them quickly while they are still cold. Works like a charm.

...

caramelized onions

Choose any onions, be it yellow, white or red. Aim for one onion per person per serving. They cook down in size considerably.

Remove the outer onion skin and ends and slice the onion in half and then into thin strips.

Pour enough oil to at least coat the bottom of the non-stick skillet. Heat the skillet on high heat and add the onions all at once, stirring to evenly coat with oil. Reduce the heat to medium low. Pile them high if there is a lot, as they do cook down considerably.

Cook and mix the onions about every 8 to 10 minutes. Add more oil if needed (if onions appear to be burning). After 25 to 30 minutes, the onion will turn a a golden brown. Remove from heat and serve.

May 12, 2009

vegetarian salad rolls

vegetarian salad rolls

I usual get lots of "oohs and ahhs" when I make these. They really aren't a big deal to make but people get pretty excited about it. I have to agree, I love them, though I don't make them as often as I like. I really should but I just forget about it. The freshness of these salad rolls can't be beat and I love love love the crunch of all the vegetables.

The hard part is probably the cutting of all the vegetables, since it's time consuming. But once you have all the vegies cut, the assembly is easy. There are so many varieties you can make but I filled the rolls completely with vegetables this time. Rice noodles can be used, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp or any meat of your choice too.

Also, used some of my cilantro from my herb garden. You can use mint or basil instead, if you have an aversion to cilanto, like my hubby does. Or you can use a combination of the herbs too. Endless possibilities.

I also really love the hoisin and peanut butter dipping sauce, I've used it twice before.  I'd probably eat it up with a big ole spoon if I could, I love me my peanut butter, but that could cause a step up in belt notch for sure.

...

vegetarian salad rolls

rice paper rolls
any variety of (juliened) vegetables: I used carrots,cucumbers, bean sprouts, red peppers,
choice of herb: I used cilantro, basil or mint works too

Place the dry rice paper into large bowl of warm water for about 10-20 seconds.  Remove carefully and place onto a plate.  Add all the vegies and roll it up like a burrito.

hoisin & peanut butter dip:

Roughly equal parts hoisin sauce and peanut butter
Water
sprinkle honey roasted peanuts on top

Mix equal parts of hoisin sauce and peanut butter. Dilute with water to thin it out to your desired consistency. Sprinkle nuts on top.

May 9, 2009

Don't hate me cuz my basil is beautiful...

basil

Got my first crop of basil. Yummy!

I've had lots of luck with basil last year and I used it often so I thought I'd get the hubby to plant me more this year. I'm looking forward to using it in all my cooking and baking.

I mentioned before that I have an indoor herb garden. I've got a great place right behind my kitchen sink, between 2 windows. The sun has been working it's magic already. I can't believe how quickly everything has grown.

herb garden

I've already used some cilantro, oregano and I have mint slowly taking off. And the lettuce is pretty much ready to use too. I have more herbs and such outside but there are taking a bit longer to grow. Lucky gal I am :)

May 7, 2009

breadland organic whole grain bakery, oliver square

rye bread

The plan was to make some fresh bread to enjoy for breakfast with the variety of cheeses and deli meats we had picked up the night before. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on making some fresh bread. Just didn't feel like it and it's not something you can make quick either.

So the hubby decided to take a quick jaunt to Breadland bakery in Oliver Square, early on a saturday morning. He said he'd be right back, running out in sweat pants and sporting some bad bed head.

I set the table and I get a phone call from him. "It's not open yet! I'm standing outside the door looking in and there are people inside but they aren't opening it up. It won't open up for another 10 minutes. The Second Cup next door is busy, I guess I'll just wait it out."

I don't blame the bakery, I wouldn't open the doors up earlier if I saw a man with crazy hair staring inside my business! Seriously though, we were both perplexed. I thought bakeries were supposed to be open early. But I guess one person's early is another person's late. The bakery opens at 8:30am but the Second Cup next door is open up at 7:30 and is bustling. Who knows, maybe they tried earlier hours and it wasn't worth it?

rye bread diptych

Hubby finally came home with a tasty rye bread, something we both were hankering to eat for a while. Nice and crusty on the outside and with a soft but not too soft inside. We both tasted what we think is caraway seeds but we didn't visually see them... maybe they grind some in? Either way, it was worth the 10 minute wait.

Breadland Organic Whole Grain Bakery
11642 104 Ave NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 454-5556

May 5, 2009

creamy corn polenta with leek

creamy corn polenta with leek

Polenta feels like such a fancy sounding dish but all it really is is boiled cornmeal.  According to my friendly wiki site, it's known around the world as "peasant" food but many high-end restauraunts have brought it back... moving it up some notches in "social status".  I personally have definitely seen it on restaurant menus before.

It's another dish I have never made or tasted before so I was excited to try it out.  I was at the grocery store earlier and had seen some fresh leek that I thought would be a great addition to the polenta.  How would I know this if I haven't tried polenta before, I'm not sure, but I will assure you it worked.  Great little side dish.  

My only annoyance is that this recipe makes A LOT of polenta.  It says it serves 4 but it must be for 4 hungry sumo wrestlers.  Either that or maybe I just prefer smaller side dish sizes but I was eating this polenta for days afterword!  I had no help from my kids, they wouldn't touch it - "what's that green stuff!" And the hubby just "didn't feel like it".  So, next time I make it, I'll half the recipe.

A tip:  I often use cornmeal, instead of flour, to prep pans for baking.  I grease pans and sprinkle some cornmeal so that it is easier to remove the baked goods.  Works great under pizza and in muffin tins.  Makes everything just pop out.

...

creamy corn polenta with leek
serves 4

3.5 cups chicken broth (use vegetable if you want it vegetarian)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1 cup cornmeal
3 cups corn kernals
1 tbsp butter

1 leek, chopped
1 tbps butter

Saute leek with butter, in a hot pan for several minutes until wilted.  Set aside.

Bring broth, cream & salt to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add corn, increase heat & bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until creamy for about 15 mintues. Stir in butter, leek and season with salt & pepper. Serve.

adapted fromCreamy Corn Polenta, Bon Appetit May 2008 magazine.

May 3, 2009

Spring has sprung!

Tulip has sprung!

It felt like it was never going to get here!  I walked by my house this evening and was so happy to see my first tulip!!!  I can't believe it!  

I'm so excited that I have the need to add exclamation points to the end of every sentence!!!

:)

One thing about spring arriving is the urge to purge, declutter and clean.  I pounced on parts of my kitchen and dining room buffet this weekend but I admit I was a big ole grump because I couldn't really tackle any big jobs.  They feel so big and daunting, I'm not sure where to start, that I get analysis paralysis.  I think I need to start a list and take baby steps.

Do you have the urge to spring clean?

May 1, 2009

mushroom cheddar souffles

mushroom cheddar souffles

I can spend lots of time in a kitchenware store. Looking at plates, different kitchen gadgets and tables linens. So many different colors and shapes, it's really hard to not pick up things every time you go. However, I have a very practical side to me (and frugal side) and I often think to myself... "not more things to clutter and take up space in my kitchen cabinets and drawers". I try to be very bare bones but every once in a while, I say forgetaboutit.

Like a couple of months ago when I bought the above ramekins. I thought of all the things I can make in them and at 2 for a $1 at the ever so popular dollar store, that's crazy cheap, how can you not buy them! Before, my practical side would let me bypass them at previous visits, telling me "are you really going to use them?" But this time, that voice must have been squashed because I bought six of them... set me out a whole three dollars. Crazy I know.

The real crazy part is that I've never made a souffle before.  Never!  How can that be?  Maybe it's because I've never had ramekins before. Yeah... that's probably it, huh?  tee hee.  

I opened up a magazine and there was a recipe, screaming out my name, for easy souffles.   Anything that says easy, when you have never made it before, is a big ole bonus.  Plus, those ramekins were chattering away in my kitchen cabinets for a couple of months, asking to be used.  Or maybe it was my practical conscious, with a smug voice, saying "uh huh... knew you wouldn't use them".

They were pretty easy to make.  AND tasty.  I quite enjoyed them but unfortunately, my poor little souffles dropped.  I pulled them out of the oven, they were proudly standing up high.  Then I ran into the other room to get my camera and the minute it took to get back, well, poof... deflated.

But, I couldn't care less... I used my ramekins.  The question now is if they will come out again or will they become one hit wonders?  

...

mushroom cheddar souffles
makes 6 ramekins

6 tbsp butter
2 cups diced mushrooms
salt and pepper
8 tsp flour
1.5 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp chopped young green onions

In skillet, heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium-high and saute mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and continue to cook until golden and no liquid remains, about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium heat and stir in flour. Whisk and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and a pinch of salt and pepper, allow to boil and thicken for about 3 minutes. Take off heat.

Whisk in egg yolks and let stand for 10 minutes.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold in half into cooled egg yolk mixture. Fold in remaining half. Fold in mushrooms, cheese and green onions.

Divide between 6 greased ramekins. Set ramekins into a baking dish and pour enough hot water into dish to come up halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake in 400F for about 25 mintues, until golden brown, puffed and center is set.

Adapted from: Easy mushroom swiss souffles, Canadian Living magazine, February 2009 issue.
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