Friday, June 26, 2009

What I have been doing instead of keeping up with you and your blogs the past couple of months.


Eating healthy.

Honest, there are strawberries under the whip cream.

Going for walks.


Working in the garden.



Getting presents from family.

Counting down until Baby is born!

The littlest Flames fan arrives this winter.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Burgers

We've been grilling fools over here lately, and I wanted to share 2 fabulous burger recipes with you. They are so good. You should make them.

First up is a burger from the latest Food Network Magazine. The lead story on the cover is Best Burgers From Bobby Flay, promoting his new book Burgers, Fries and Shakes. I saw enough reviews on blogs to know that this is a book worth owning. I was drawn to the recipe for his Dallas Burger, a burger with homemade bbq sauce, dry rub, and coleslaw. It's a recipe he created for his wife, who loves bbq'd brisket. We love brisket too, so this was the one to try first.

The burger is a little time consuming - if you go whole hog you make not only the burger patties from scratch, but also the dry rub, coleslaw and bbq sauce. But not an awful amount of time. Be patient, it's worth it.

This burger is SO GOOD, and it's the bbq sauce and coleslaw that really make it fabulous.

Look at that! We had them 2 nights in a row. I think I'm drooling a little right now.....

Dallas Burger


The other burger is also from Food Network, from their Ultimate Recipe Showdown show. I've only seen the show once, but luckily for me, it was the Burger episode, the episode that brought this burger into my life.

Sorry if I sound a little dramatic, but damn, this Vietnamese Bistro Burger rocks.

You may recall my recent post about how much we love and miss Vietnamese food. This is another easy flavorful Vietnamese recipe that we will be making a lot of. The patty is made of ground pork seasoned with lime, ginger, soy and fish sauce. Make sure you make the pickled carrot and daikon salad, it's fabulous on the burger.

I could go on for days about how wonderful this burger is. I won't though. I'll just say one more time it's easy and delicious and hopefully you are going to try these, cause you'll love them.

Vietnamese Bistro Burger

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New West Knife Works

I read once that all you need in the kitchen equipment wise is one pot, one pan and one knife, or something like that. I can't imagine that there are many food bloggers out there who have such a sparse kitchen. There are some areas in the kitchen you can cheap out on and some you shouldn't. Cheap/poor quality knives are probably the worst thing you can have in your kitchen, and I should know; it was only this year that I actually got some good knives in my kitchen.

One of those knives arrived courtesy of New West Knife Works, a company from Wyoming that make some of the most beautiful knives I have ever seen. New West has 2 lines of knives - the Phoenix Knives and the Fusionwood Knives. The Phoenix are "Japanese kitchen knives with a Western flair" and are made with 33 layers of steel. 33! The Fusionwoods are made with a stainless steel blade and an amazingly gorgeous hardwood handle, which has been infused with dye in layers of colors.

I received the Fusionwood Chopper with the Harvest color handle. From the second we opened the packaging we were smitten. The 5 1/2 inch blade was safely covered in a leather sheath. The handle, as I've mentioned, was stunning, layer upon layer of color. I've never seen anything like it.

The knife, as a quality knife should, felt solid and heavy in my hand. The blade is wonderfully strong and sharp. This is a smallish knife, but perfect for chopping vegetables, fruits and herbs. It has whizzed through all the tasks it's been given wonderfully from mincing to chopping to julienne-ing.

This company and their products have been written about in numerous magazines - Cooking Light, Wine Spectator, Sunset, Gourmet and many more, all with good reason. New West has a Non-Commercial Lifetime Guarantee on their knives - if you are not happy with your purchase they will replace it free. Break or damage your knife while using it improperly (but why would you be using these gorgeous knives improperly???) and they will replace it at half price. If you are looking to invest in a quality knife, head over to their website and check out the awesome selection.

If you're a Facebooker, check out their page and become a fan.

Strawberry Mint Agua Fresca
Grilling For Life, Bobby Flay

Serves 4

1 cup very cold water
1 cup crushed ice
3 cups chopped ripe strawberries
2 tb chopped fresh mint
4 mint sprigs, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients except the mint sprigs in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into 4 glasses and garnish with the mint sprigs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Asparagus Bread. Little. Green. Different.

This month's Bread Baking Babe's bread was chosen for us by Lien. Lien chose a very flavorful bread for us - Asparagus Bread with Parmesan Cheese and Walnuts.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of Lien and Jan Hedh -

Asparagus Bread

125 g green asparagus (if you can't find them, use p.e. spring onions, ramps, ...)
25-30 g rocket
50 g walnuts,
50 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
450 g strong bread flour (you can also use half whole wheat and half white or white whole wheat if you can get that)
12 g fresh yeast or 1 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
250-270 g water
25 g olive oil
10 g (sea) salt

* Boil 3/4 liter of water with a pinch of (sea) salt. Clean the asparagus, set two of them aside, cut the rest into 4 pieces. Boil these pieces for 2 minutes in the water, scoop them out (so you can use the water for the rocket as well) and rinse under cold water (to stop them cooking). If you use p.e. spring onion, I personally would grill them or just sautée them in a little oil until they start to brown lightly, but other ideas on this are very welcome too!

* Put the rocket in the boiling water for a few seconds (until wilted), drain and rinse under cold water and drain again.
Press the water our of the rocket, chop it coarsely and but the asparagus into 1/4 inch (± 1 cm) long pieces, set aside.

* Crush the walnuts coarsely and grate the parmesan.

* Measure the flour and yeast in a large bowl, mix in most of the water and knead for a few minutes (on low speed), add the olive oil and knead for 10-12 minutes. Add the salt and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes until very elastic.

* Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Work the asparagus pieces, rocket, walnuts and parmesan in with care so that they're evenly distributed.

* Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise for about 2 hrs.

* Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.
Make round balls, cover with a tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

* Flatten the balls and fold into taut breads with slightly tapering ends. Lay one asparagus in lengthwise in the middle of the bread and press in slightly. Sprinkle with wheat flour and cover to rise for 70 minutes or until doubled. Before baking you can sprinkle a little grated cheese on the bread if you like (optional).

* Preheat the oven (preferably with stone) to 250ºC.

* Place the loaves directly on the stone. Spray with water (or poor some hot water in a metal container on the bottom of the oven that you preheated to create steam)
Lower the temperature after 5 minutes to 200ºC. Open the door after another 10 minutes to let some air in. Repeat twice during baking. (I forgot about opening doors myself to be honest)

* Bake for 40-45 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

(adapted from: "Artisan Bread" -Jan Hedh)

Pretty straightforward, EXCEPT for the adding of the asparagus, walnuts, cheese and rocket (I used spinach).

It was messy and awkward and there was stuff flying everywhere. The extra stuff basically ripped the dough apart, much like the Sukerbolle we made last Fall.

I gave up after a point and tossed out the asparagus pieces that hadn't been incorporated, maybe about 1/3rd.

The bread, which I made with 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour, smelled wonderful while baking. The taste is really interesting, there's a lot of flavors going on in there. The asparagus and cheese give it a strong, but not in an unpleasant way, flavor.

Thanks Lien for a lovely seasonal and unusual bread!

Interested in being a Bread Baking Buddy? Visit Lien for all the info.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Summer arrived with a vengeance at the end of May while we were on holidays, and we've had hot sunny days ever since. Which is great for sitting in the yard, going for walks, and the garden, but the forests are so dry that now we are hoping for a couple of days of rain to dampen everything up. The weather forecasters, they lie and keep saying we'll get rain but we don't. The trees need it, as well as my poor brown lawn. And always the garden.

I had larger grander plans for the garden this year but I've hit a wall. I've got some seed potatos to plant this weekend (hopefully it's not too late) and I think that will be it. Maybe next year we'll get a little bigger.

We'll start our tour with the lettuce - red and green. The sun and heat fried them pretty bad a couple of weeks ago, but they bounced back.

The rhubarb. It looked so awful at the end of last year I didn't think it would come back. Looks nice and healthy.

Scott bought some small broccoli plants last month and so far they are doing very well. (we think the small plants popping up around them are sunflowers, so we're leaving them alone for now.)

Actual broccoli!

Our 2 tomato plants. The one at the front is called a Super Fantastic, and I bought it for the name alone. Frankly, it doesn't look so super right now. I think the back one is a cherry tomato.

We brought our rosemary inside last fall and it did quite well over the winter. It's not looking good now though, I don't think it likes being outside.

2 kinds of mint.

Dill, sage, and thyme.

Parsley, which was also a surprise comeback.


2 kinds of squash. One is a hubbard, one is an acorn.


Peas. If you enlarge the photo, I have helpfully circled the little buggers.

How's your garden?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quick and Ugly Chocolate Rum Parfait

The photo below is hideous, even by my standards, but I can't resist sharing this cute little treat with you.

Just before we moved from Calgary I was taken out to Brunch at a swanky restaurant, and I wrote about how they served the desserts in shot glasses. Such a cute idea. There's a restaurant here too that serves a trio of desserts in shot glasses. Cute!

I picked up a set of cheap shot glasses last month and waited for inspiration to strike. It only took a week or so until I found a recipe in a 70's cookbook for vanilla pudding and whipped cream layered together in parfait glasses. That didn't appeal to me but when I found a chocolate pudding cup in the pantry I decided to make some my own shot glass parfaits on the fly.

This recipe probably could not be more processed, but what the hell. How much pudding and cool whip can you fit in a shot glass? Not much really. The amounts below made 4 small shot glass parfaits, but it would have made 3 nice full ones. Oh well, next time.

Chocolate Rum Parfait

1/2 cup cool whip (I used 95% fat free, left over from recipe testing)
1 tsp rum extract (feel free to substitute real rum if you're wild and crazy)
1 chocolate pudding cup
chocolate covered almonds, preferably bought for a good cause

Stir the whip topping and rum extract together in a small bowl. Divide the pudding in half and divide one half of the pudding between 3 or 4 shot glasses. Top with half the whip topping. Layer with the remaining pudding and topping. (I didn't do a good job of layering and the cool whip covered the top layer of pudding, but there are 2 layers of pud in there. Promise.) Chill until ready to eat.

Top each shot with a chocolate covered almond. Mine were purchased from a teenager raising money for his church group to go to South America. That means there are no calories or fat in the almonds and if I happen to eat the rest of the box while Scott is not looking, nothing bad will happen to me.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I have never felt more like Paula Deen than I do right now.

You'd assume that a recipe that starts off the ingredient list with bacon and butter must come from Miss Deen y'all, but not this one.

These yummy bacon cookies - yeah I said bacon cookie - are weirdly wonderful and come from Cookin' in the 'Cuse. If you're feeling wacky and have a half pound of bacon sitting around, give these a try.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Presto Pasta - Vietnamese Pork and Noodles

You guys. Oh, you guys. I had a big intro to this post planned, talking about the differences (for me) between big city and smaller city living. What I miss about Calgary, including certain restaurants and cuisines. About how I have gone from eating Vietnamese food once or more a week to having it only once (ONCE!) in the past year and a half. sob. How I haven't wanted to try making Vietnamese food at home cause I've been afraid of messing it up, but that I found a recipe I'd saved in my that sounded so good and easy I had to try it.

I was going to write all about that stuff, but then I had the first bite of my dinner and damn, my brain is fried mush with the deliciousness of it all.

Here's what I did to make a (in my opinion, and Scott's opinion too) mind blowing - yummy - pretty close to our favorite restaurant dish - Vietnamese Pork and Noodles.

First prepare your pork. The pork recipe comes from Waterlily at Group Recipes. I made a couple of small changes.

1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, finely chopped (substitute 1/2 small mild onion, if necessary)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound boneless pork loin, chopped fine (I pulsed mine in the food processor)

Whisk together the molasses, soy sauce, garlic, shallots and sugar. Mix into the pork and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.

You'll also need -

rice noodles
green onions
bean sprouts
spring roll sauce
hoisin sauce

When you're ready to cook, start by preparing your rice noodles according to the package directions. What I did for mine was to bring a pot of water to the boil, then add the noodles and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Then I removed them from the heat, covered, and let them sit until I was ready to plate.

When your noodles are sitting, form your pork mixture into small patties. Heat a large pan over medium heat with a bit of vegetable oil. Cook the patties, turning once or twice, until brown and cooked through.

While the patties are cooking, finely chop your green onions and shred your lettuce into long thing strands. When the patties are done, drain your noodles.

To plate, start by placing a handful or so of shredded lettuce in the bottom of each bowl. Then top with some noodles.

Place your pork patty on top, then scatter your chopped green onions and your bean sprouts. I took the final photo at this stage, because what I do next to my own dish isn't pretty.

The dish that is like this that I order in restaurants comes with sliced spring rolls on top and a side of dipping sauce. What I like to do is eat the spring rolls first, then pour the rest of the dipping sauce over the bowl and mix it all up. What I did here was to use my fork to chop the pork patty into pieces, then drizzle the dish with spring roll sauce and hoisin sauce, and mix it all together. Looks horrible, tastes divine. I had planned to make my own sauce, like this one, but we were late to start dinner so I used a bottled spring roll sauce instead.

This was GOOD. The pork makes enough to feed at least 4 people, and I just winged it on amounts for the rest of the ingredients. We were both surprised at how great this was and were a little piggy about how much we ate. But I'm sure the lettuce, onions and bean sprouts make up for that, right?

Since this dish is fully of noodle-y goodness, I'm sending it to Ruth for her Presto Pasta Nights. Ruth is hosting this week, so make sure you get your pasta posts to her by Friday.

(Original pork recipe here)