Thursday, 30 June 2011

Mile High Club

Get your mind out the gutter! I'm not talking about anything to do with an airplane.

I'm talking about big flaky biscuits - Mile High Biscuits to be exact!

These biscuits are the best I've ever had and they're so easy to make that you'll be whipping up a batch every now and again for dessert, tea, breakfast, and just because you can.

I bet they'd be delicious with some raisins thrown in and a little cinnamon sprinkled on top, but recently I made them plain to let the berry of the season sing.

And the berry of the season?

Strawberries of course!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Oh Canada, Eh?

The day of fireworks, BBQs, and the first official long weekend of the summer is almost upon us, so I am taking every opportunity to remind myself that I am a proud Canadian.

Most of these so called opportunities of mine are through food. And since summer is out in full force, I am using as many local ingredients in my ventures as possible.

We are so lucky to live in a country with all four seasons and still be able to grow such a wide range of fruits and veggies. It's amazing really -- we can celebrate Christmas with snow at our feet, and then only a few short months later, we can eat food we have grown ourselves!

One of my long list of favourite foods is strawberries and to make eating strawberries extra special, I love to head out the country to find a local berry patch and get my hands dirty.

Of course, a lot of the dirty part isn't due to dirt, because strawberries have straw around the plants to keep them warm at night, a reason why strawberries got their name.

No, the reason for me getting my hands dirty is because I often sneak quite a few tastes of the berries during the picking.

And with the prices of local berries, I think the farmers expect it. Plus, you can't wash a strawberry after the top comes off because it will fill with water like a sponge and become tasteless. So I guess that means you may as well eat it right away!

But... I have to admit that I may have intentionally pulled a few tops off in the field too. :)

Eating the delicious berries in the field reminds me of when I was a child and my mom used to take me berry picking with her. One patch had lots of cute mechanical raspberry people smiling along the route to the parking lot, and yet I was told I wasn't allowed to pick the berries there. I was told that, because of my age, I would have been merely eating the fruit or running wild and disturb the other paying adults.

Well, my mom convinced her to give me a chance and I was never sent packing again.

However, if I were to return to that patch today, I don't know if that would be the case...

But back to what's important right now. An easy dessert featuring nothing else other than fresh local strawberries.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Crispy Crunch

If you thought this post was going to be about a chocolate bar, think again. Because as much as I love sweets, I have to say that I enjoy savoury food more.

Chips are savoury right? :)

But chips aside, I really do love savoury food more than sweets. My body calls out for veggies and fruit if I haven't eaten enough. The smell of baked goods in the oven is mouth watering, but the smell of a roast is equally tempting. And if I had to pick my last meal, while it may involve dessert, the focus would be on the savoury side of things.

Plus, I try to as healthy as I can and still enjoy everything I eat, so it can't hurt that most of the time, savoury foods in equal quantities of sweet food is much healthier.

So I'll let you be the judge. If you had the choice, would you take a second helping of this crispy, crunchy fish dish, or would you opt for a plate of dessert after your first plate?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Vampires Beware - It's Herb and Garlic Steak Time

It's a beautiful weekend and my BBQ has been working hard lately. I've been barbecuing veggies, meat, potatoes, and pretty much everything else imaginable.

(Not peaches for dessert yet, but there's still plenty of summer left so just wait!)

I think that I am a decent barbecuer, but sometimes I am not sure about steaks.

I get a little nervous about cooking them because I don't want to overcook or undercook them and I'm not good enough to judge by the feel just yet.

Also, I hate checking to see that they're done and having to put them back on the grill if I'm wrong, because watching the juices run over my BBQ instead of in my stomach is a horrible feeling.

So when I was watching a tv show on grilling steaks, I stayed glued to the tv to take in every single bit of information I could. And I think I think I aced the test of barbecuing that followed right after.

First I'll start at the beginning of the steak preparation process, marinating the steak, and then in my recipe you'll find my new method on how to figure out how long to cook a steak.

I had never known when to use dry rubs or wet marinades and now that I do, I can share the knowledge with you. Wet marinades will flavour a steak, but they will also help the meat to tenderize. Dry rubs are for more tender steaks, like beef tenderloin, and give a whole lot of flavour.

Since I usually don't buy the pricy cuts, I'm going to use a wet marinade in my recipe today.

Friday, 24 June 2011

A Point of Pizzazz

Do your jazz fingers now because your hands are going to be busy mixing, kneading, chopping, and eating after you read this recipe for homemade pizza.

Pizza has got to be one of the best creations in the world because it has everything I could wish for, all in one perfect warm cheesy bite.

You have a crispy crust dressed with a yummy sauce, tons of veggies, drippy gooey cheese, and little bites of salty meat and olives. For me, that type of pizza is absolute perfection.

And if you want something different, go ahead and add or remove the toppings because the toppings aren't as important as a delicious perfect crust. I mean, in my opinion you need the cheese, but everything else is optional, kind of like how it seems like it's a personal opinion about who invented pizza.

Nobody can track who invented this delectable cuisine. Was it the Egyptians or did pizza originate in Greece or Italy?

What can be agreed on is that pizza was a peasants food because flour and water were inexpensive.

Also everyone agrees that originally the crust of the pizza served as an edible bread plate with the toppings as the meal. This kind of pizza could have looked much different from the kind we eat today though, because the toppings were whatever people had on hand.

Also it is agreed that the word pizza comes from the old Italian word "pizzo" that means "a point".

And just hearing about the word point makes me want to take the first little pointed bite of the yummy pie.

So let's not waste anymore time and get down to the dirty business of making the dough for the crust. Here's my favourite recipe.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

It Shakes When He Laughs Like a Bowl Full of Jelly

I don't know what I love more, summer or Christmas.

I love summer because it's long, warm, I can have flowers outside, and I can enjoy the weather. Summer is beautiful and the season just makes me happy.

On the other hand, I also love Christmas and that holiday makes me so happy I sing. Not well, but I sing anyway.

Christmas might just be one day and in the cold dead of winter, but the festive spirit really brightens up the worst of those months in Canada. There's food, music, movies, stories, family time, traditions, and decorations.

I decorate more than the average person. To put it in perspective, let's put it this way - I live in a small apartment and have two huge overflowing storage boxes of Christmas decorations. Plus you've already seen the fact that I have an Easter tree. I think that says enough.

Alright. I've looked at what I've written and saw that my words about Christmas made me smile more than my words about summer. I think I might just like Christmas the most.

So because of my love for Christmas, I have incorporated the holiday into my book.

I've already told you that my book is about a chef and inn owner, but I haven't told you the name of the inn.

It's called the Nutcracker Inn and then to show off my, the main character's love for the holiday even further I decided to name each of the twelve guest rooms after the twelve days of Christmas.

I don't want to give too much more away just yet, but I promise more about my book will come.

So now onto a new recipe my mom encouraged me to try. She found it in the June 2011 Chatelaine magazine and I have to agree that it was great. You'll see I've changed the recipe a bit to include different fruit, but mostly I thought it was so good that I could leave it be.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer Rolls into Town!

Today is definitely one of my favourite days of the year. And if you don't know what day it is, look outside and then check your clock.

Did you do a double take? I might have if I hadn't known it was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year today. 

The weather outside in Victoria BC is so perfect, it just makes everything even better. The sun is shining, it's warm and lovely, and there are tons of flowers blooming. 

And since I took my allergy pills this morning, I can honestly say I am happy about the flowers too!

So in honour of summer rolling into town, I decided to whip up a new fresh take on summer rolls. But before I show you the recipe I have to let you in on how this recipe came to be. 

I entered a few original recipes in the Real Women of Philadelphia and while I wasn't chosen as one of the top 16 finalists, I did really enjoy the competition. I met some lovely women and still enjoy going on the website to see what people are talking about and to join in on just-for-fun competitions. 

One of the women thought it might be fun to try a Chopped style competition and I love that show, so I jumped on board with both feet. 

If you are not familiar with Chopped, it's a television show on the Food Network and chefs receive baskets containing about five unknown ingredients and they have to cook meals with them. The first round is the appetizer round, then then last least impressive chef gets 'chopped'. The second round is the entree round, another basket of unknown ingredients is given out, and again the least impressive chef gets 'chopped'. Finally it's the dessert round and we go through it again to see who wins after the last round of unknown ingredient competition.

Well this was the appetizer round and the ingredients were chicken, mustard, spinach, quinoa, rhubarb, and of course Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Here's what I came up with.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Popsicles for Pop's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Eat, drink, relax, and enjoy your day because you deserve it!

My step dad George is pretty great, maybe even one of the best. He's hard working and took on four kids when he married my mom without hesitation.

At least I don't think there was much hesitation...

Through all the time I've known George, he's done more for me than a lot of step father's choose to do and I appreciate him. 

He's gone shopping with me, taken me to meet his friends at his cottage, cooked for me (maybe that wasn't the biggest treat...), and listened to me when I needed help.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Show me the dough!

It's Saturday and that's my favourite day of the week. I get to relax and get everything done at home that I don't have time for during the week.

And since I plan on being home for such a large portion of the day, it's a perfect opportunity for me to make bread.

I started making bread because I love going to farmer's market and buying loaves of beautiful fresh artisan bread. These loaves smell and feel so much better than loaves from the grocery store, but it does cost at least $5.00 a loaf.

The cost and the challenge was what made me want to try my hand at making a beautiful loaf. And I found so much success in it, that now whenever I'm home long enough, I like to bake bread.

After learning how long it takes to make bread by hand, I decided that buying an artisan loaf is definitely worth the $5.00, but making something so yummy yourself is a great reward if you have the time.

And I'm home now, so show me the dough!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

And Grumpy Old Farts

I love my Papa, and although he is getting on in his years, I would never ever call him a grumpy old fart.

He is so kind and generous. And one of the best things about him is the number of amazing stories he has to share with me. 

He's lived through so many adventures and his memory is spot on about them all. 

I get to hear about everything from recipes he's cooked up with my Nana to vacations they've gone on together, and life as a young boy growing up on a farm. 

I am not sure what my favourite stories are because it's hard to choose from such a great selection, but I do know that it's very hard to buy a present for someone who's lived as much as he has. 

That's why for Christmas last year I decided to be extra creative and save my pennies with a homemade and heartfelt gift. 

My mom had decided to give him a slow cooker and when I heard that I knew I had my gift. With all the stories Papa has shared with me about food, I know he loves to cook and bake as much as I do.

So I got out my list of favourite slow cooker recipes and wrote them by hand on recipe cards. I packed them up and sent them off in hopes that he liked them.

I think he did and now it's time to share one of my favourite of the bunch with you.

So let's get to it.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans 

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Pretty Young Tarts...

Don't you hate watching girls walk past you in skirts so short that you can see their underwear?

You know they have to know you're looking. It's like a car crash or something else equally horrific. Once you see it, you need to look again to make sure you saw it properly.

It's not something you wanted to see, but now you did and you can't get it out of your mind. Is she really wearing that? And she thinks she looks good in it?

Wait. Don't answer unless you answer with a resounding "NO!!"

Oh, wait again. Now if you didn't answer then I know you actually liked it... So just say nothing.

I'll just tell you that it is so not my thing. I don't want to see anyone's underwear, boys or girls. So pull up your pants and wear clothes that fit.

I need to stop talking. I am sounding like someone's mother and I am not at that point in my life yet. Let's move on...

The other kind of tarts, the edible kind, are definitely something I am into.

I love all kinds of those tarts. Butter tarts, cream tarts, fruit tarts, custard tarts, and chocolate tarts. Yum.

I don't know if I could pick a favourite because if you put any of them in front of me, that kind would be my favourite for the moment.

There are just so many tart memories floating around in my head that it's making it hard for me to think about choosing.

I remember the cooling feeling of custard tarts bursting in my mouth. I remember taking a spoon to a butter tart, eating only the sweet filling, and leaving the pastry shell on my plate, much to my mom's frustration. And I remember savouring the fruit piece by piece before devouring the rest of the tart in an instant.

I guess that means no all time favourites, but I can make room for another tart memory.

Here's a recipe for my Philly Chocolate Tarts.

Monday, 13 June 2011

You're So Crunchy Granola

Crunchy granola -- A person who is very healthy, very green, most likely vegetarian, supports Green Peace and other environmental anti war movements.

This is only one definition though. There's also a second definition of a delicious and equally healthy breakfast food.

But before we get into the second definition, let's spend a moment on the reason I decided to start this blog -- my book.

I'm not ready to share the first chapter just yet, but I am ready to tell you about one of the characters that has become my favourite.

She's not the main heroine and I didn't start writing her as my favourite, but somehow she twisted her fate and became that way.

April Gold is the sister of the main character and she is the epitome of crunchy granola, minus the vegetarian bit.

She meditates, does yoga, burns sandalwood candles, loves horoscopes and tie dye, and somehow I grew to love her.

I am not sure how this came to be, because I don't love any of those things, but I love her all the same.

I think it's because when I write about her, the words just flow and she makes me laugh. She's brassy and opinionated. She's sure of herself and definitely wears the pants in relationships. And, she's smarter than you think she is.

April's role in my book is smaller than I would have liked it to be after I got to know her, but maybe I'll write a second one and she'll grow into something bigger.

I have so many ideas that I think even if only a few close friends read my words, I'll want to do it.

But now onto another type of crunchy granola. The edible kind.

I love eating granola and yogurt for breakfast because it fills me up, tastes great, and it's really healthy.

The only thing I don't love about granola is that buying it is so expensive! You get enough for a few bowls and you pay enough to think that someone else is going to do your dishes.

So I thought about it and realized that I should make it. I make oatmeal all the time, so I'll just throw everything I use in my oatmeal into my granola.

It's so easy, I don't know why I didn't start making it long ago!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Blue skies, Beverages, and Quarter to Seven = BBQ time

You know summer's finally here when you can smell steaks sizzling around the neighbourhood, see smoke rising from grills, and hear laughter from everyone's backyard.

We all finally want to be outside and everyone is grilling.

Last summer I didn't have a BBQ and was forced to sadly cook indoors. Sometimes Luke and I would bring out indoor grill outside and pretend it was a real BBQ as we plugged it in and cooked on it, but it wasn't the same at all.

We relished every opportunity, pun intended, to head to a friend or family's house and taste the sweet taste of grill marks on our food. It brought smiles to our faces as much as seeing our friends did.

But now we can grill with the best of them at home. Our BBQ isn't one of those huge monsters that you could cook for an army in, but it's great for the two of us.

I love bringing a glass of wine out to the BBQ and enjoying the sunshine while I cook because everything is good when I'm barbecuing in the summer.

The food smells and looks good, the wine tastes good, the laughter outside sounds good and the sun feels good. What else is there?

But before I can get my grill on, I need to get my BBQ sauce ready.

I use to buy a bottled sauce, but it never tasted exactly how I wanted it to taste and I'd always seem to run out when I wanted more.

So I decided to ditch the bottled stuff and make up my own recipe. It's easy, quick, and spicy -- just what I wanted.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Wonder Fruit

Maybe Forrest got it wrong.

I think he should have said, 'life's like a box of blueberries - you never know what you're going to get.'

One blueberry can taste as sweet as candy and the very next piece of fruit can make your lips pucker up from tartness. And unlike the box of chocolates, there's no little paper telling you what filling to expect from what the outside of a blueberry looks like.

But, whatever the flavour, I love them. And the taste isn't the only reason I love them.

First of all, they're incredibly easy to pick. They're in big bushes off the ground, so I don't have to bend over like I do when I'm picking strawberries. They're not too high though, so I don't need a ladder like when I'm picking apples. Also, there are no thorns on the branches like blackberries and raspberries. It's almost like blueberries are calling to me to pick them.

Second, they're great for you. Most of the time I try and eat well with a great mix of fruit and veggies because fruit has so much sugar in it. But with blueberries I don't even mind because there have been so many findings in studies that show blueberries are wonderful for you.

Blueberries contain a huge amount of antioxidants that help you and your body in so many ways. They help to lower cholesterol and are good for your heart.  They can help inhibit cancer cell development. They can also help with memory loss and so much more.

And I don't know if you would have guessed it, but blueberries make up about half of Canada's fruit acreage, so that's the third reason I love them.

The little town of Oxford, NS is even known as the Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada and recognizes the fruit as it's official provincial berry.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, New Dish

One of the things I love best about Victoria is the incredible natural beauty and the animals live in it.

Sometimes I can't believe that the mountains in the distance aren't painted in the sky, that the magnificent trees around me aren't man made, and that the animals aren't Disney characters.

I know that Victoria is overrun with deer and rabbits, but I can't help thinking about how cute they are. And since they're still a novelty to me, I always think I am lucky to catch a glimpse of them. 

That being said, the deer and rabbits are one thing because I have seen them both in the wild before.

One animal that I have never seen in the while before arriving here in Victoria is a seal. And now the novelty of them has almost worn off because I don't have to do much more than dangle a little piece of frozen fish above the water at a dock and one pops up to greet me.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Tasty Treat for The Special Sponge in Your Life

Everybody knows at least one mooch, one beggar, one person that bums for anything edible.

Maybe you know them from work and they're always the first person to run into the break room when email is sent around because snacks are available.

Maybe you see them at a grocery store and they go from one free sample tray to the next, never buying a thing.

Maybe it's your little brother and he and his friends hang around the kitchen only to wait for the next tray of cookies to come out from the oven.

Or maybe that person is you!

I am not telling you if that person is me, only I think we all have a little bit of that person inside of us. But I will tell you that I am, at the very least, a little bit of a snack-a-holic. :)

That snacking mooch in your life usually dies and goes to heaven when the food is something particularly delicious. And after that especially delectable treat, you know that person will never leave you alone.

But hey, what do we cook for other than to please others? It's amazing to see their smiles and gratitude grow with each bite.

And I know I'm never going to eat a whole tray of desserts. I wouldn't even want to, even if it meant I wouldn't gain an ounce. Well maybe I would some of time if I lived in that world...

So if you know a certain sponge that has been puppy dogging you for a bit now, throw the poor guy a bone and whip up a treat.

Why not try my amazing recipe for Orange Creamsicle Sponge Cake? It's so good and looks way harder than it is.

Monday, 6 June 2011

I Am Wonton Some Wonton Noodle Soup

Luke kind of skimped out on his last trip to the kitchen because instead of making all the wontons for his wonton noodle soup, he taught me to fold them.

I guess that was ok... But I love when someone else cooks for me....

Hopefully, next time, he'll remember that little tid bit about me. :)

Now for the bizarre. Because as if me cooking and Luke studying wasn't bizarre enough. 

I'm sure you've all seen pictures of the English signs in China that are thought to mean one thing but actually are just not right at all. If not, just google Engrish and you'll find yourself a laugh with weird and often unintentionally suggestive signs, clothes, and more. 

In addition to these crazy signs, some translated words just don't make sense to me either. 

For example, when the word wonton is translated into English, it means swallowing a cloud. 

I can see how that is sort of a pretty picture but also it sounds a little intimidating.  Clouds are big and my mouth is small. 

Not only is the size of that comparison intimidating, but wontons also don't really look, feel, or taste like clouds to me. 

Maybe I could get behind it if the Asian word for cotton candy was translated to mean swallowing a cloud, but I don't think the word for cotton candy is wonton in Chinese.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Please Sir Can I Have S'more?

I definitely love s'mores. They're ooey and gooey, chocolatey, crunchy, and you get to bend over a hot camp fire to make them.

I don't think there's anything about the actual s'mores I don't like.

There are things about camping I don't like though. I don't like the bugs, the cold, sleeping on the ground, no toilets, or no electricity.

But the s'mores? I like those just fine.

I've tried making myself some s'mores in my oven by taking marshmallows, graham crackers, and pieces of chocolate and wrapping the little sandwiches up in tin foil. But they never taste quite right...

The chocolate still melts, the crackers are still crunchy, and the marshmallow goes all gooey, but somehow it's not right...

I think it's the marshmallow. I always try to make mine turn golden brown on a camp fire. But I usually get impatient and hold my stick closer than I should to the biggest flames, making my creation a bit black.

When I make s'mores in my oven, I cover the treats in tin foil. This means no heat directly touches my marshmallow and so it remains white.

But enough about that! I've found a solution for making s'mores at home and I think that these new treats might just overtake the goodness of s'mores on a campfire. They're that good.

So what are you waiting for? Get your bake on and try my Creamy S'More Squares.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Yummy bloopers

I know very well that I have no future career in comedy.

Number one: I am not funny. Number two: I am shy and get a cherry red face when more than one person looks at me at a time. And number three: that's not my passion.

What I like to do is read, write, cook, and most of all, eat. I like to think I am good at those things, but even if I'm not, at least I like them.

So when Luke suggested to me that I use my 5.5 + hours of video footage to make a blooper reel to get noticed, I didn't think I'd find anything funny to show at all.

He thought that I would be more than able to fill up a blooper reel. And maybe he had a better idea than I did because he was on the other side of the camera while I was filming. He got to watch me and I only lived through it.

When I thought about it, I realized I had nothing to lose but a bit of time. And since he might be right, I bunkered down and got to work scanning through all my hours of videos.

And let me tell you that making a blooper reel is more time consuming and exhausting than coming up with a new recipe, filming it, AND editing it. Who knew?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Putting the Can into Canucks

Isn't it great that a hockey team from Vancouver BC can bring a whole country together?

The sounds coming from the street near my house when the Canucks won Game 7 to bring them into the playoffs for the Stanley Cups were almost as loud as the Olympics. There were horns, cheers, and I think, if I listened carefully enough I could even hear a few tears from the losing American team fans.

Well, tonight the Canucks did it again and secured a last minute win of Game 1 in the Stanley Cup. This win just goes to show that Canada and the Canucks Can do it. We Can win.

And to prove it, let's look at another comparison between Canada and the USA using two snack foods that people dive into with all the grace of a hippo sliding into a big mud bath.

Incase you can't guess, I'm talking about Poutine and Philly Cheese Steaks.

Did you really think I was going to say apple pie?

Both have cheese, both have great sauces, both have carbs, and both taste great. But both are different, and I know which one I'd rather be eating right about now.

If you can't decide, maybe try my Philly Cheese Steak Poutine and get the best of both countries. I suggest trying it when the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, and maybe that will help you get off the fence.

I know this one's not the prettiest of my creations, but is hockey really all that pretty?

Go Canucks, you Can do it! Boo-ins Boo!