May 29, 2010

Weekly Photos: Edmonton Valley Zoo

Edmonton Valley Zoo_1

It was one of those days I wondered if I should really go. A classroom full of preschoolers, all excited and crazed at the same time, heading off to a fieldtrip to the zoo. My son was excited for me to go and I wanted to, especially since I missed his last fieldtrip but preschoolers can be just as wild as zoo animals, thus causing migraine-inducing headaches.

Edmonton Valley Zoo_3

We went to Edmonton's Valley Zoo to learn about farm animals. People grumble that our zoo isn't as great as the Calgary's zoo, but who really cares? Why does it have to be more than it is? I think it's a nice little zoo. I enjoy seeing all the animals, the land all parceled up into different areas for different types of animals. It's a nice way to spend a day. And I for one, LOVE animals. I have small place in my heart for all animals. Insects, not so much, but animals... I just smile when I see them.

Edmonton Valley Zoo_2

I enjoyed snapping photos of the animals, my son was happy I attended his fieldtrip and I came home without a headache. Good things come in threes I hear :)

May 27, 2010

The Grow Op

Hi all!

My hubby, as I call him on my blog, does a lot of baking and gardening at our home too. He often does the things I'm not so interested in, which works out for me! So, I asked him to write up a blogpost. I thought it would interest some of you and give a different flavor on my blog to have him post once in a while about it. Here he writes about growing hydroponic tomatoes in our basement.

Please welcome my hubby, Klaus!

...

The Vegetable Grow-Op

It started off as a way to start seeds indoors since our growing season leaves much to be desired. The first time I planted my first tomatoes, at the beginning of March, it turns out that it was way too early. The plants were about 2 feet tall and starting to get small tomatoes by the time I was able to move them outside.

The following year I got bolder. I built a rack, got various size pots for transplanting, started them a bit later, and also started peas, chard, onions and squash. I hung up a fluorescent light fixture, and everything mostly thrived. Until the aphid infestation and a slow-start to the growing season. Oh well, live and learn. The most curious thing that year was the spontaneous appearance of a massive bumble bee. Did I forget to mention, this setup is in the basement, in a closed-off furnace room?

This year I started down a similar path, cleaned all my pots, and used fresh soil. But I bumped the lighting and tweaked the spectrum. Turns out cool white lamps are good for leafy growth, warm/soft lights are good for flowering. Last year I only had soft/warm, and my tomatoes were a bit spindly.

Now, with the new lighting, the growth is pretty amazing and the roots quickly started growing out the bottom of the pots, and these were already my bigger pots. I had considered hydroponics in the past, but always rejected the idea because it seemed like too much work: testing pH, checking chemicals, etc. But I took the plunge. The irony is, hydroponics turned out to be less work than soil based, and the results are unbelievable!

My setup is kind of a hybrid system as I didn't want to disturb the roots of my plants. I basically suspended the pots just above a hydroponic solution and put Air Stones (for fish tanks) under the roots. This makes the solution bubble up to the bottom of the pots and the roots.

A second setup is more true hydroponics, where i knocked the soil off the roots of smaller plants, and embedded them in rock wool insulation (similar to fiber glass insulation). Then I suspended that in a tub and used an old, small pond pump to occasionally spray the solution onto the pots from the side. A better approach would probably be to set up drip irrigation, i.e. pump solution to top of plants, but I just used what I had around the house. I also set up a fan on the same timer as pump to encourage strong stems and wind pollination.

The reason it's so low maintenance is because you only change the solution once every 2 weeks, and in the meantime you do pretty much nothing but watch 'em grow! Here are some pictures of the tomatoes that have grown.

Hydroponically Grown Tomatoes


May 25, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

When the weather turns a bit chilly or for those days when the skies look dreary, nothing beats a good chocolate chip cookie. I should know... I ate six for lunch the other day. Yeah. I'll admit it and I'll tell you it was DAMN GOOD! So good that I had a couple more for an afternoon snack.

This is my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Nice crunch on the outside, softer on the inside and chock full of chocolate chips.

They are even really good frozen. I freeze a bunch of them but this does not deter me from dipping into the freezer box. A bit more crunchier but oh so good.

I know you will thank me for the recipe after you have a taste of your first cookie, so you are very welcome. But I must say I'm sorry too, for any extra pounds this may add to your frame.

Can't say I didn't warn you!

...


Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 4-1/2 dozen

1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1.5 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups white flour
1.5 cups chocolate chips

Beat together both sugars and butter until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix for about minute, scraping sides to incorporate everything.

In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, salt and flour. Slowly add to the above mixture until fully incorporated. Add chocolate chips and mix until evenly mixed through.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto greased baking sheets.

Bake 10-12 minutes at 375F. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool onto racks.

Recipe from: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Kitchenaid Best-Loved Recipes.

May 21, 2010

Weekly Photos: Pizza Making Day

It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright. One of those days where I envision putting on a pretty sun dress and sun hat, pedaling my bicycle, that has a huge basket in front, and going to the market for some fresh flowers and a baguette.

Lovely, isn't it?

Pizza making day

Instead, I put on a pretty skirt, top and sunglasses. I dropped off my daughter at school but my son's preschool class was cancelled so I had him along. We drove down to the Italian Centre and bought all sorts of supplies. Can anyone every leave there without buying more than they intended? Not I. Fresh breads, tonnes of pasta, freshly cut deli meat and a pizza paddle the size of an outdoor winter shovel.

Pizza paddle you say? Why yes.

I have been wanting a pizza stone for a very long time but not the circular one. I wanted a rectangular one, since I usually make my pizza's oblong. My hubby spotted one at the Italian Center, when we went for coffee there one morning. I didn't see the pizza stone but my hubby did and bought me one for Mother's Day.

I forgot to mention that when I was having coffee with my hubby, we walked by the big box of pizza paddles and I made a joke about them. Something about, one must look rather silly having such a large paddle in their kitchen and that I didn't see the point of having one.

I promised the kids pizza-making day. I was all set and excited to make pizza with my new pizza stone but soon it dawned on me... how in the world would I ever get such a large pizza on and off the stone? I would need a pizza paddle. Of course. The paddle I joked about that my hubby didn't buy to go with the stone I received for Mother's Day.

Sigh.

Where am I going with all of this? Sundress, pizza paddles, Italian Center, lovely day...

Oh yes, back at the Italian Center, with my son, picking up a ton of supplies and a pizza paddle. Let me tell you, I have never got so much attention as I did that day. A cute kid sitting in the shopping cart, waving a large shovel-sized pizza paddle like it was a flag throughout the store. Let's not forget the sound effects to go with is ... whoosh whoosh, beep beep beep... you get what I mean. Lots of smirks and comments.

But, now I am quite happy that I have the paddle. Though there is a learning curve with this pizza stone and paddle. My daughter's mini pizza ended up cheese-side down on the pizza stone as I tried to gingerly slide it off the paddle. Not only did I get burn marks on my forearms from the top heating element, as I was scraping off all the burned cheese off the hot pizza stone in the oven, I ended up with cornmeal all over my kitchen floor as I dropped the paddle. (Need to have cornmeal under the dough so it will slide off the paddle and not stick to the stone).

But the pizzas turned out delicious. I'm hoping that I'll get better the more I use it. Just you watch out, I'll be begging for a pizza oven outside next summer :)

And you are more than welcome to make all sort of paddle jokes now. I know I sure am.

Have a great long weekend!

May 19, 2010

Oh Clementine, oh Clementine...

Clementines

Found a photo from my archives.

Did you know that a Clementine is a variety of mandarin orange. It's also known as seedless mandarin or tangerine. Most people around here associate them with Christmas, calling them "Christmas oranges" because they are available during the winter months.

...

So, sorry for lack of blogging. The weather has been so phenomenal and I have hardly been in my kitchen at all.

But, I'll be back soon!

Hope you are all keeping busy!

May 14, 2010

Some Video Links I Liked This Week...

ice cube tray

Never fight with an ice cube tray again! How awesome is that?


...

eggs

Tired of peeling eggs? I don't know if I have the lung capacity for it. Let me know if it works for any of you !!!

TGIF! Have a super weekend!

May 13, 2010

Oregano and Parsley Pine nut Pesto

Oregano & Parsely Pinenut Pesto

My herbs are growing like weeds! I have some indoor and outdoor herbs and the sunshine and warm weather has made them grow even quicker. I'll be making some fresh pesto in no time.

But alas, this batch I'm eating this week came from the freezer. Yes, the freezer! I had made a huge batch of pesto in the fall to use up my herbs and froze it in smaller containers.

I was a bit worried, wondering if it would freeze well, but it's fine. This is actually the third batch I thawed and it's just as good as the first and second batch I took out in the middle of winter. Who would have thunk it, freezing pesto?!? I had no clue, I just took a chance and hoped it would thaw out alright.

This recipe turned out fantastic. The ratio of oil and saltiness to herbs gives such a tasty pesto. I used oregano and parsley for this version but any variety or ratio of herbs works. Just make sure you use good quality parmesan cheese, it really does make a difference.

I've been eating it on and with everything lately. Oh so good. Envious much?

:)

Buon Appetito!

...


Oregano and Parsley Pine nut Pesto
makes 1-1/3 cups

3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 ounces (~2/3 cup)Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups lightly packed oregano and parsely leaves, any ratio
2/3 cup olive oil

With food processor running, drop in garlic and finely chop. Stop motor and add nuts, cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley leaves, then process until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil, blending until incorporated.

Recipe from: Pesto Epicurious website.

May 11, 2010

Vegetable Samosa Pie

Vegetable Samosa Pie

I remember walking past the Khazana Restaurant everyday after work. The smells were so intoxicating and my mouth would water everytime, much like Pavlov's dog. Didn't help that I was pregnant at the time and this would just add more fuel to the constant Indian food cravings I had.

I still love Indian food. Curries, tandoori and other wonderfully spiced dishes. I only wish I could make Indian food as good at home as in the restaurants but alas, I can't even begin to decipher all the assorted spices that go into making all the wonderful dishes.

I found this Samosa pie and thought it turned out well. The crust was really good but not the same as the deep fried version. And the filling did very much remind me of a samosa filling however I felt it was missing a certain spice. Coriander? Fenugreek? Cardamom? Fennel powder? Cloves? Not sure. I guess I'll have to try adding something else next time and see how it turns out.

...


Vegetable Samosa Pie

makes a 9-inch pie - serveing 6

crust:
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6-10 tbsp water

filling:
1-1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 cup frozen peas
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp sugar

5 medium (1-1/4 lb) boiled potatoes, peeled, quartered & slightly mashed.
salt and pepper, to taste


Mix together the flours and salt for the crust. Stir in the oil and mix. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time, until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, cover with a damp cloth and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and saute onion, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes. Move the mixture to the side of the pan and add the mustard and curry powder, ginger and cumin. Toast for about 30 seconds. Stir in the peas, broth and sugar. Take off heat and combine with the potatoes. Season to desired taste with salt and pepper and fill a 9 inch pie pan. Set aside.

Roll the pie dough into a circle on a floured surface. Cover the filling, pressing down and trimming any excess dough. Cut an X into the center if the dough to allow steam escape.

Bake at 375F for 45 minutes until crust is golden. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from: Indian Samosa Casserole,Vegetarian Times, January 2010 Magazine

May 9, 2010

Weekly Photos: Mother's Day Brunch

Me and the hubby hosted Mother's Day Brunch at our house again.

We fancied it up a bit this time. Bright, pretty tablecloth. Salad served in a martini glass. Fresh out-of-the-oven buns.

Mother's Day Brunch_1

Savoury crepes with bacon and mushroom cream cheese filling. ─ćevapi and pan-fried asparagus with salt and pepper.

Mother's Day Brunch_2

And we must not forget the dessert! First time I made tarts. AND chocolate molds filled with vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

Mother's Day Brunch_3

So much food. All made from scratch. SO very good. (Sorry, no recipes. Just food p0rn.)

It was all lovely. My mom appreciated it. I sure did too. And I enjoyed doing it alongside my hubby.

I hope you all had a delicious Mother's Day.

May 6, 2010

Red Robin Restaurant

Dinner at Red Robins

I remember one of my first dates with my hubby was at a Red Robin Restaurant. He ordered the chimichunga and, well, I can't remember what I ordered. I'm guessing a burger. I was probably nervous and I couldn't help remember the chimichunga - partly because the name of it was funny and that it was massive. My hubby still complains to this day about how they don't have chimichungas on the menu anymore and we also still joke about how I had to pay for the date, since he "forgot" his wallet.

I remember Red Robin's being quite the hangout when I was back in high school and University. The decor is kitschy but it feels casual. Great place young adults on a date, families or if you just want a casual place to dine and enjoy a good burger and fries.

Fast forward. We're now married... with children. I'm tired of fast food and my children can't usually wait too long for food without getting ansy. We decide to give Red Robin's a whirl.

It was like stepping back in time. I don't think the decor has changed one bit since my first visit, some 14 years ago.

Kids were given crayons and coloring sheets. Everything came out in a reasonable time, though my kids still got ansy. The food was good and the fries are never bad there. I'm sure I'd be happy with just a big ole plate of fries and their seasoning salt.

All in all, a typical experience out at Red Robin. I listened to my hubby once again bring up his beloved chimichunga and I also picked up the tab.

I guess like the decor, some things never change.

---

Red Robin Restaurant
11215-104 Ave location
Edmonton, Alberta

May 4, 2010

Orzo Pasta Salad

Orzo Pasta Salad

Some people give you an instant "yuck" face when you mention vegetarian food. They get visions of eating raw broccoli or steamed brussel sprouts. I think vegetarian food often gets a bad rap.

I love when I find great vegetarian recipes, like these tasty Black bean burgers or these mouth- watering Vegetarian salad rolls.

But, unfortunately, this Orzo Pasta Salad recipe, just didn't reach that level. I was a bit saddened, it just didn't do it for me. Didn't have enough wow to it. It felt like it was really missing something.

Pity I say.

Off to forage for something better.

...

Orzo Pasta Salad
serves 6

8 oz. orzo pasta
2 green onions, thinly sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1 lb asparagus, chopped into 1/2 pieces
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste

3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp whole grain mustard
1-1/2 tsp brown sugar

Cook the orzo pasta, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Cook the green onions in a frying pan for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and asparagus and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Stir in the peas and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, mustard and brown sugar in a large bowl until well mixed. Add the vegetables and orzo pasta and mix until well incorporated.

Serve.

Recipe adapted from: Spring Orzo Salad, Vegetarian Times Magazine
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