Grad Dinner..?

Our oldest Graduated three weeks ago from Grade 12. Besides the ceremonies being cancelled, so was the Grad Dinner. My wife and I have been trying to get our daughter out for a special dinner since then, with no luck. Our oldest originally wanted a special meal like the one my wife and I did Last Year at the Bacchus French Restaurant. But it hasn’t opened yet because of restrictions.

Today, we finally went out for a meal. Our oldest also wanted her siblings along, so we ended up at Ramen Bella in Langley. Where we each got a large bowl of ramen, and our daughter got herself a Poké Bowl.

It was a good treat for everyone and also very filling. I’m glad our oldest picked a place that the family could enjoy, even though my wife and I were trying to offer her something special just for her. It seems as though our daughter is still very family oriented and loves sharing experiences with her brother and sister.

To me, that shows she is growing up into a wonderful young lady. Each day I am becoming more and more proud of her.

Fresh And Fruity

We have so much fresh fruit in our yard! I love it.

In the very back of our yard, there is salmonberries. Which just so happen to be ready for consumption! We also have a bunch of huckleberry bushes throughout the yard. Once they are ready, the kids load up on them.

This year, I discovered our cherry trees are producing fruit. It’s been a couple of years since they did. I’m looking forward to enjoying them. Our pear tree is also producing an abundance of fruit which should be ready in a few weeks.

We had a plum tree- but it ended up being diseased and had to get cut down. Those plums were juicy! As well, we used to have an apple tree, but alas it fell over one year in a storm. I have since planted a new apple tree a couple years ago- this time with four different types of apples infused into the branches. Currently I only get an apple on each branch, but one day- variety!

Do you have fruit trees or bushes that you grow? Summer is the best for walking the garden and eating right if the limb.

Upcycle To A Greenhouse

Last year when I Built a set of doors, I had removed the old sliding glass door and set it aside. It was pretty massive, with each panel being four feet wide. Today I finally began to do something about them. I made a mini greenhouse.

I had my son as a helper once more as we measured out some boards for the frame. I figured we could make a TARDIS shaped greenhouse. Just the right size to get some of the plants started.

These boards came from our old deck that was in front of the old sliding glass door. We ripped that deck out in 2014. Many of these board have been used for projects such as an Axe Throwing Target. I kept the long ones just in case. Today they became the frame of the mini greenhouse. I also added an old busted sliding window for the roof. That way it can be opened to allow airflow.

All that’s left is adding a door and maybe some painting of the boards. If I can find a small can of blue paint- you know I’ll be making a TARDIS door! It’s fun being a Whovian. Pretty sure my wife will be okay with that idea.

I think she will also appreciate this Great Glass Elevator in our garden.

Joe-Toberfest

Today I really wanted to make full sized soft pretzels. I decided to make them a part of our dinner. Besides mustard, what could I make with dinner? I remembered back to Oktoberfest 2018 at Trading Post. I didn’t make a cheese dip, I went with something else.

I took some Italian Sausage and squeezed the meat out of the casings. I fried the meat in a cast iron pan before adding two cans of tomato soup. I then added some sour cream and Dijon mustard. I served the soup as a side for the pretzels. We also had some sweet potato fries as our vegetable. Although deep frying them probably negates any health benefit.

I chose to have a Czech Pilsner with dinner. Having finally figured out how to play Spotify throughout the house the other day, I put on some Polka music. Because, why not? The family devoured dinner and we had a great time enjoying the music. I’m not sure we will ever get to Oktoberfest in Germany. But who knows. Maybe one day.

Cheers!

Salty Joe

I love eating salty foods. Chips, fries, popcorn, pretzels… that sort of thing. Foods like that goes well with beer or sodas. We all know I like my beers… my belly shows it all too often.

Tonight I made Pretzel Bites with the help of our son. It was from a recipe by Terri. She introduced me to donuts! Here is her Pretzel recipe: Perfect Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard Dip. By the way, the dip is great as well!

The family gathered in the kitchen to make dinner and do dishes. So we snacked on the pretzel bites while dinner was made. Lots of smiles and pigging out on this little appetizer before dinner. Like a regular Kitchen Party!

You have to make the pretzel bites. So amazing. My wife said I need to make them weekly now.

Deep Fried Pickles

I’m not a big fan of pickles. But yesterday I made a quick snack out of boredom and curiosity- I mean pickles. We only had baby dills, so the pickles turned out snack sized vs meal sized.

I started with hollowing out half a dozen pickles with a knife and potato peeler. The peeler worked great as it fit nicely as I spun it around. Once the pickles lost their innards, I squirted a few drops of sriracha sauce inside. Followed by some cream cheese. I wrapped these babies in ham then dipped them in a beer batter before they hit the deep fryer.

The final result was an amazing flavor of vinegar, hot sauce, the hint of ham and a mouthful of cream cheese all cooked nicely with a breaded coating. The downside is that I will have to make these again! Only next time with bigger pickles.

Homemade Pizza

We have been enjoying baking and dough making over the past few weeks. Last night I made pizza dough and we put on our own toppings for individual pizzas.

It was like returning to my time at Chuck E Cheese’s. I made the dough, weighed it out into 200g balls, put oil on them, covered them in plastic wrap and let them rise before rolling them out.

While the dough was proofing, I prepared all the toppings. Slicing peppers, onions, tomatoes, then grating cheese and frying sausage. once the pizzas were made, into the oven for 15 minutes at 475°. The final trick to making the pizzas taste delicious once out of the oven was 100% from the Chuck… A brushing of melted garlic butter on the crust.

The family loved dinner. We will probably do it again in the future. And for dessert- my wife made fresh cinnamon rolls. Baking is awesome.

Beignets

We’ve been making lots of desserts lately. I was never a big sweets fan, but add my deep fryer- man I’m going to get fat! And the food is amazing!

We made Donuts three weeks ago. And again about a week after once we got better yeast. Two weeks ago we made Disneyland Churros. Which we made again a few days later because they turned out perfect.

Disney Blogs shared another recipe. Classic Disney Beignets. Naturally, I had to make them. They turned out fantastic! These are so mmmmmmmmm good. Definitely a repeatable treat.

These foods help us emotionally because we are missing Disneyland. We have been singing Disney songs and watching Disney films quite a bit lately. Last night we ended our evening watching Fireworks from Disneyworld. We know that our trip is getting cancelled this summer and it sucks. But at least we are trying to keep our spirits up. Mostly through all the other senses.

Are you trying new foods lately? How are you keeping your sanity?

Melt My Heart! Loving Cheese.

I love cheese. Something about those dairy products makes food so delicious. Grilled cheese sandwiches, shredded mozzarella on pizza, Smoked Gouda in an omelette, goat cheese on crackers… all of it unique and tasty- even Limburger (especially if soaked in beer!)

My favorite is Brie cheese. We buy those creamy wheels of softness on occasion. And it’s usually gone as soon as it’s opened. Sometimes I’ll just cut some pieces and eat it like that. Other times I’ll bake the Brie. Ok, I almost always bake the Brie. It just depends how I want it tasting. Stuffed with garlic? Mmmm… savory. Or like we did last night- brown sugar and butter with some cinnamon sprinkled on top. Soft and sweet cheese on fresh baked baguettes. Who could resist?

Tonight is grilled cheese sandwiches. Easy to make and go well with tomato soup! Lord knows we are lacking in the vegetable intake these days, so the soup will help up those numbers.

I love a good cheese. I’ll even eat “Cheese Product” like Kraft singles or Cheez whiz. The only thing I don’t like is bleu cheese. That stuff is the red headed step child of the cheese industry.

Clam Chowder!

After work, I came home to the smell of a delicious dinner. a dinner I haven’t had in ages. Not one that we make very often, even though it’s not very difficult to make.

My wife made clam chowder for dinner tonight. It was amazing. Bacon, onions, garlic, potatoes, clam, cream sauce, all put together in one amazing soup. But my wife did something extra for our dinner.

My wife made fresh bread bowls for our chowders. The buns were so hearty that we each filled our bread bowls a second time. And scarfed those down as well.

The dinner was so good, we ate the bowl. And my daughter let me take pictures of her. It was a Chowder Miracle! One that doesn’t come around very often. So I took full advantage of it.

I always enjoy our family meals. We have a great time talking and joking. We also like to repeat dinners that are easy and tasty at the same time. Hopefully Clam Chowder makes a reappearance in the future.

Can’t Stop Cooking and Baking

Our children are adamantly wanting to be doing more cooking and baking these days. Over the past few weeks we’ve made Pasta, Churros, and Donuts. Today, we made all of them!

We are getting better at the recipes as well. There’s still the occasional blunder- adding the butter a bit late in the churros or the donuts not rising because of old yeast. But we are still enjoying all of the splendors. My wife also made her first ever cheesecake the other day. It was delicious!

I want to start working towards some more recipes that are savory instead of sweet. Maybe learn to make my own potato chips or something. Who knows, but my deep fryer has been turning out some fantastic desserts.

Have you been baking more these days? Or trying to expand your horizons a bit? Let me know in the comments.

Easter Hunt 2020

Our kids aren’t kids anymore. They have become teenagers. Two of which are cresting the second half of their teen years as well. Driving, jobs, and teen angst a plenty… Oh my.

However, my wife loves to treat them like children on occasion. Especially when it comes to those childhood memory maker dates. Be it at Christmas, Halloween or Easter. Today was no different.

Last night the “Easter Bunny” hid some eggs, chocolates and candies throughout our living room. The same room the “Santa” visits. Our kids all know this. I guess what I’m saying is that our teenagers still hunt for Easter eggs.

There is the joy of the hunt. Discovering more challenging spots where the Easter Bunny can get to. They also appreciate the junk food that’s for sure.

And as they have done every years for Easter and Halloween- they divide up their haul amongst one another. I think this began when we realized the oldest was always getting the most, while the youngest got the least. Today was the opposite. Our youngest brought in the biggest collection and had to spread it out.

These traditions are important to my wife and I. As our children become adults, the traditions may evolve over time. Or make an egg-ception, like when we went to Tokyo DisneySea in 2018. But we will continue to make sure those imaginary gift givers keep visiting.

Disneyland Churros

Disney released the greatest thing ever this week. They released their churro recipe for those of us at home who miss attending the parks. The recipe is extremely easy. Find it at Disney Parks Blog Churros.

Of course, we HAD TO MAKE THEM!

My kids had a great time helping make the churros, deep fry the churros, sugar the churros and of course- eat the churros!

It was a fun bonding time with the kids and surprisingly easy to make. (Especially with a deep fryer). I highly suggest those who love churros and miss the most magical place on earth- try this recipe. It’s a great way to bring the magic home.

And don’t forget to listen to your favorite Disney music while making them!

Donuts or Doughnuts?

Mmmm dessert cake things. However you want to spell them (I’ll use both spellings in this blog)- they are sweet treats of yum that make you go nuts!

Okay, sugar high aside… we made donuts from scratch today. they turned out pretty darned good. I decided to make the doughnuts because I put fresh oil in the deep fryer. No one wants French fry or chicken strip flavored desserts.

The recipe was one I’ve been wanting to try for ages since I first ate one of these doughnuts. I didn’t make the cotton candy icing this time around. Forget it! I’m going to start a second batch right now and do that for this next batch. For the first donuts, our daughter made a lemon icing that she loves, and is equally as delicious.

I know a few things I could do differently… mostly patience with the yeast and the rising of the dough. But not bad for my first ever attempt. Definitely going to repeat it… Right now!

Here is the link to the original recipe. Go and try it for yourself!!! Terri’s Donuts

Sushi At Home

I’m enjoying this at home meal making. Tonight I made homemade sushi. I’ve made sushi at home previously, so I wasn’t afraid to have another go at it. I’m also getting better at making sushi.

I also cheated a bit this time around. I used a Sushezi. It’s essentially a “Sushi Bazooka” that pushes out the rice/fish mixture. It makes the sushi rolls so much faster than when I roll my own. Unfortunately they are much larger than regular sushi rolls.

The family enjoyed the dinner and scarfed it down in record time. Much faster than when I was making it.

How are your cooking skills these days?

I Made Pasta!!! Eat It.

I’ve always wanted to make my own pasta. So I decided that while I’m at home avoiding the world- this is the best time to try it. I even had a helper who enjoyed the rolling out of the pasta.

A couple of years ago I wrote about my discovery of my father’s old pasta maker: My Place Is In The Kitchen. It promptly was put in the back of a cupboard to be forgotten about, until today. I think it was because of playing the video game “Overcooked 2” recently that inspired me.

I decided to try my hand at making spinach pasta as my first ever attempt. Mainly because my wife bought a metric shit-ton of spinach, and no one was eating it. Why not make a green pasta with a white sauce?

Our middle daughter was a fantastic helper as we rolled out long strands of pasta. She also brought her Pop Vinyl from the film Ratatouille so that he could watch over us.

Who knew making pasta was so easy? And delicious. A glass of wine and a side casear salad made for a great family dinner. Making the pasta took the better part of an hour. But it was some good quality time spent with my daughter, and I’d do that any day.

Spread ‘Em!

My go-to breakfast of choice is the one, the only, the crowd favorite- TOAST!

Powdered Toast Man-
The Breakfast Superhero!

Okay, maybe it’s not the greatest breakfast in the world. But it is so easy to make. Slice of bread goes in the toaster, toasted bread comes out. It’s one of life’s little miracles. And it’s a regular staple in my home.

The most pertinent question remains for said toast. What do you put on it? Jam? Jelly? Marmalade? Butter? I’m a big fan of most spreads. Strawberry jam, citrus marmalade, or even Nutella!!!

My usual is peanut butter and honey. I love how the peanut butter gets a bit melty and super smooth. Spread some liquid honey on that and I’m in heaven. It’s the simple pleasures in life that make me happy. I’m easy like Sunday morning.

What is your spread of choice? Are you a jam or jelly type? Or perhaps you like the toast dry? No judging here!

Parent Volunteering

This afternoon I was with some of the Grade 12 parents as we prepared for tomorrow night’s festivities. There is a Speakeasy going on in Fort Langley as a fund raiser for the Dry Grad.

There were tons of props made already. Parents of Fine Arts students are equally as artistic as the children who attend the school. I’m glad to be a part of it all.

I was assisting with some painting and cooking. There is tons of finger foods and hors d’oeuvres for tomorrow’s dance. I enjoyed cooking on a gas stove once more. As we made food and props, we also enjoyed some music and some beverages.

Laughing and talking with other parents about our kids was great. We all have the same goal and want the best for our kids. Doing a Fund Raiser that also allows parents to have fun is a good way to break the ice and make memories for the parents (and later in the year- the teens).

Being a volunteer parent should be a mandatory job. I had nothing but fun with the mothers over the past few months and leading up to this afternoon. I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.

Fort St. John Hospitality

We spent the weekend in Fort St. John at the BC Winter Games. We are really proud of our kids for reaching some Person Bests this weekend! As well, our son with his friends are bringing home a bronze medal: BC Winter Games Success. But the hospitality Fort St. John offered was amazing.

We stayed at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites. The hotel chain had their first location in Fort St. John back in 1941. There is now 8 locations in BC and Alberta. Their accommodations were clean and the breakfast was filling. It’s no wonder that the Pomeroy also supported the building of the Long Track Speed Skating arena. It helps boost tourism into the city.

For lunches, my wife discovered the most amazing donair place. A little hole in the wall with delicious food. Fort St. John has been hiding this secret place from the rest of us. We ate there three days in a row. FST Donair- remember that name if you ever find yourself in Fort St. John!

After the Saturday events, we went to a Social put on by the Northern Lights College. We enjoyed some beers, snacks and a hot chocolate bar. It was a nice way to mingle with some locals and other parents who came to watch their kids perform in the games.

Closing Ceremonies
(The Big Screen showing off our son to the crowd. Another proud moment.)

Finally, I want to acknowledge the city and people of Fort St. John. They were kind, friendly and very helpful all weekend long. Visiting Northern BC was never really on my must-travel-to locations in the past. But as we’ve been to Fort St. John a couple of times now within the year, I can see why people would live here or visit more often.

I expect to visit a few more times over the years as our son progresses with his Speed Skating goals. Perhaps we will discover some more hidden gems in their city that I can share.

The Last Of It…

We have three teenagers in our home. They are witty, intelligent and caring of others. They are also moody, self absorbed and lazy. Not knowing which attribute we will see around the house is a fun game. A game I am not always prepared to play.

The worst part of this game is as a parent, I’ll ask a question of them. A question that I’m not expecting an answer to. More a rhetorical question that I want them to think about. As I grow older I realize that this is a typical “Dad Thing” to do. And my kids do the typical “Teenage Thing” as a response.

Here we see an example of what our kids love to do. They don’t quite use up everything. Just enough that they leave it for someone else to find/replace/change/throw out… a roll of toilet paper with one square… A carton of juice with five drops left… Sour cream with half a spoonful remaining… When I ask, “Who finished…?” I get the usual, “Not Me.” And sometimes, “It’s not empty…”

If I didn’t have to supply nourishment to them, there are some days I’d leave the fridge barren to prove a point. which I am tempted to do this weekend. Leave some lemon juice, a yogurt, pickled pepperoncinis, salad dressings and condiments- see how well they’d survive before asking for real food.

The joys of being a parent to three teenagers brings out my immaturity.

Day By Day

The fact that I’ve been writing daily for Four Years means one of two things- I’m devoted to it or I’m addicted to it. I’d like to think it’s the former. I enjoy blogging. My blog isn’t designed to sell anything in particular nor is it much of an opinion piece. A lot of what I write is from the heart. Stories of my life and family. Sometimes I’ll promote small businesses or share my travel experiences.

Wanting to write while sick is difficult. There’s no ambition left inside me. It’s like my body and mind are under attack and weak. But I push through and share stories. Even though when I look back on the stories- they feel halfhearted and forced. I’m sorry about that.

Usually I try and have my blogs written and shared by early morning Pacific Time. Some days though, I have a tough time coming up with a good idea. Especially if I’m not having to go to work or have plans for the day. Driving is when I do my most thinking and thought processing. I also love sharing pictures on my blog that I feel relate to what I’m writing.

Thanks again for putting up with me through thick and thin. Sickness and in health. You are some of the best readers around.

Ramen Bella

Today I took my daughters out for lunch. We stopped in at a local eatery that opened up late last year- Ramen Bella. We have been to a variety of Ramen restaurants in Seattle, Calgary and even Tokyo. Finally having a Ramen Restaurant nearby our home made me happy. So naturally we had to test it out.

They have some unique fusion styles of noodle soup. I enjoyed the Matcha Latte Ramen. Which is exactly as it sounds- and it had a side of lime.

My oldest enjoyed The Black ramen. It had a very dark shoyu tare broth seasoned with garlic flakes.

My other daughter opted for the traditional miso style broth. All of our ramen came with the same style noodles, sliced pork, and corn in the broth. We left satisfied with our meals and full bellies.

Supporting small business is always something I encourage. Trying new restaurants and sharing positive experiences is something else I like to do. If you live in the Fraser Valley- head out to Ramen Bella for a lovely meal.

Fireplace Cooking

The other day I mentioned how we love to use our Fireplace. After discovering a better way to warm our home with it, I wanted to go the next step. Let’s cook!

I’ve also always loved Cooking with Cast Iron. The versatility of the cookware is amazing. I love having the ability to move the cookware to any type of cooking area. Be it stove top, oven, BBQ, or open fire- Cast Iron is fantastic.

Last night I chose to make dinner in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven while using our fireplace. I already had a warm fire going for a couple of hours. I moved the fire and embers to one side of the fireplace and lay a cast iron griddle across the grate on the other side.

I prepared an eye of round roast with a dry rub of salt, pepper and Montreal Steak Spice. I put that into the Dutch oven and let it cook using indirect heat. I kept the fire going on the opposite side in order to keep the heat at a continuous hot temperature. I ended up cooking the roast for approximately 2 hours in order to fully cook it. Once o removed the roast from the fireplace I key it rest prior to carving it.

While I kept the fire going, my wife and daughter worked on the side dish. Roasted Root Vegetables. This included potatoes, garlic, beets, and carrots mixed with olive oil and some rosemary stems. My wife cooked them on a baking sheet at 400° for approximately 40 minutes. The vegetables turned out amazing.

The roast also turned out perfect. Inside of the dutch oven was quite a bit of liquid, so we made a gravy for dinner as well. For a first time using our fireplace to cook with, I’d say dinner was eligible for a repeat occurrence.

Have you ever cooked in a fireplace

Eating Healthier

Over the winter break, there is an over indulgence in eating. Lots of treats and rich foods that show up during that time of year. With a New Year comes all those plans to start eating better and live a healthy lifestyle.

Yesterday my wife went out and splurged on fruits and vegetables. I say “splurged” because it’s winter and many of those foods are greenhouse grown this time of year and cost far more than they do any other time. But it’s back to school time today and the kids need balanced food groups. Some favorites are in our home- such as apples, oranges, and bananas- all for consumption to offset those cookies from last month. My wife even bought a dragonfruit- a family favorite.

I’m not sure how to explain her purchase of “Oreo Flavoured Candy Canes” though. Perhaps a little bit of sugary treats are still desired. I guess she can’t expect us to go über healthy all at once, right?

Brambles Bistro

We are two days into January and my wife and I had our first date of the year. We went for breakfast in Abbotsford at a place called Brambles Bistro at Tanglebank. It was a quiet location with only two other patrons inside.

Besides having great company (my wife!) we enjoyed some local farm fresh meals.

I ordered the Short Rib Skillet: Braised short ribs, au jus, roasted potatoes, smoked cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions, apples and two poached eggs. It looked like it wasn’t going to be a very large meal, but by the end I was definitely satisfied and full.

My wife ordered Huevos Rancheros. It contained smoked yams, charred corn and beans, smoked cheddar and two sunny side up eggs. It was served with avocado, pico, lime, and cilantro. A fantastic mix of sweet and spicy.

We savored our breakfasts then wandered around the shop. I could see how this place would be busier in the summer as the bistro is a part of the nursery and garden. I’m surprised that this was our first visit here since the Bistro has been open since 2012 and the Nursery since the mid-nineties.

As I love supporting small businesses, this is another one that I’d recommend to everyone.