The Fixin’s

Our friends invited us out for dinner a while back. A dinner that I won’t ever forget. Chili. But chili with “The Fixin’s

As if homemade chili wasn’t good enough, our friend took it to the next level. Now when I make chili at home it has to come with more than just a dinner roll.

Slower cooker chili is pretty basic to make. Brown some beef, add some tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, peppers, onions, and of course spices; then let it simmer.

The Fixin’s:

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Chives
  • Corn Chips

It’s that easy. And that amazing. So much so that my family goes for seconds almost immediately.

Chewbacca Cake

For my son’s birthday, I baked him a chocolate cake. Unfortunately I couldn’t find our round cake pans, so I made a bundt cake instead. When I was growing up, this was oftentimes the style of homemade cake I would receive for a birthday. There was never anything fancy about those cakes- just the fact that my father took the time to bake them himself.

So my son ended up with a chocolate bundt cake this year. Kinda plain looking- but I did have some milk chocolate icing in the cupboard to put on top. At least then it’ll feel like a birthday cake. Sugary sweet!

Once I finished the crumb coat, I realized that smoothing out the surface would look okay-ish. So instead I tapped the spatula on as I added more icing. The cake began to look kind of like fur. Since my son enjoys Star Wars as much as I do- I figured why not make this into a Wookiee inspired cake. But how? Off to the pantry again.

I found some leftover mini marshmallows and some baking chocolate we had since Christmas. Chocolate and marshmallows don’t go bad, right? I heated up a small pot of water and melted the chocolate in a glass bowl. This was easy since the bowl fit perfectly on the mouth of the pot. I was able to stir the chocolate constantly and keep the moisture out with ease. Once it was a silky smooth mixture it was time to pour it out into a straight line.

We own a long serving platter that I figured would be perfect. But the chocolate would end up not being a thin strip like I wanted. So I taped down a couple of chopsticks and lined my newly made rectangle with tinfoil. Pouring out the chocolate and placed the mini marshmallows along the edges was the perfect way to make Chewbacca’s bandolier. Into the freezer for about ten minutes and it was set.

Not bad for a quick Star Wars themed cake. Chewy would be proud. I know I am. Bonus- my kids loved it too. But hey, it’s chocolate. All kids love chocolate.

Fancy Feasts

My wife and I have enjoyed a lovely overnight excursion into the city of Vancouver. We were celebrating the Anniversary of of first meeting 19 years ago. Besides just enjoying a spa escape and a wonderful hotel experience at The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, we indulged in some extravagant meals.

First we enjoyed a lovely tea at the spa prior to our treatment. Then we enjoyed a glass of wine back in our hotel room. The afternoon was starting off delightfully.

Before dinner we walked around Vancouver and found a wine sampling at Sutton Place Wine Merchant. My wife and I tasted a few varieties from West Kelowna from a winery called Kalala. We picked up a bottle of white wine for our night back in the hotel room.

We headed back to our hotel afterwards because we had a dinner reservation for 6:30pm at the Bacchus French Restaurant. They seated us in a quiet booth and we were given complimentary sparkling wine for our anniversary. We don’t normally indulge in fine dining, in fact this was really our first time ever. The waiter placing the napkins on our laps kind of fine dining. As much as we felt a bit out of place, the staff was friendly and courteous throughout the experience.

Our meal began with Amuse Bouche followed by a half dozen Creuse Oysters. The main course for myself was Yarrow Meadows Duck Breast with Duck Sausage Terrine served with Pomme Dauphine, Asparagus, Wild Mushrooms, Leek Fondue.

My wife enjoyed Beef Tenderloin “cooked to her perfection” served with sweet bread and broccoli purée. She asked for blue rare and that is exactly what she received.

Dessert was a couple of soft biscottis and a fruit gelatin. The dinner was delightful in every way possible. we decided to walk around Vancouver some more before retiring to our room.

We stumbled upon a gala event at the Nordstrom’s department store where my wife and I enjoyed some more complimentary drinks and she got her hair done. It was a fun last minute experience that cost us nothing but time.

We returned to the hotel afterwards to find a couple of gourmet cookies awaiting us. We were also treated to complimentary chocolate covered strawberries. We shared a bottle of wine and relaxed, feeling like the upper crust.

We didn’t think we could attend the Bacchus Restaurant again for breakfast. So we had it delivered to our room. The sun was shining as we enjoyed a meal overlooking Robson Square. A great way to end some distinguished culinary experiences.

We may do this type of night away again in the future when we need it. For now, the memory and relaxation was worth the time and money to get away from our regular lives. Vancouver City is a beautiful place to visit- now back to our country living where we can just take it slow.

Chicken And Rice Done Right

Some days you just have no idea what to do for dinner. what do you do?

The fridge door opens. Leftover rice. Ok. Seems like a good side dish. Open the freezer. A package of frozen spinach and chicken breasts. Now we’re getting somewhere. Why not combine all of these?

Josef- you are a genius.

After the thawing was done, the chicken was cubed and fried up. Throw on some spices during the cooking- because- spice up your life! Aromatic. Next step? Toss the rice into a cast iron pot. Because Cast Iron cookware is AMAZING! From the stovetop to the oven or open flame- cast iron kicks ass.

But I digress, the fridge rice needed to get mixed with the thawed spinach. Old rice needs a pick-me-up otherwise it stays crunchy. Why not add some water? Still missing something. A-Ha moment ensues!

In the pantry is that fantastic staple for last minute dinner plans- a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup! It adds exactly what you need to fill out a meal like chicken and rice. As I said- using cast iron is the best. A quick mix of all the ingredients and toss in the oven to heat it up. Let’s try 350° for 30 minutes covered. Seems reasonable.

Boom! Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Dinner was delicious. Everyone was happy. *pats self on back* Great last minute plan.

Pub Night Fundraising

Last night my wife and I attended a Pub Night Fundraiser. The fundraiser was for the Grade Seven Camping trip coming up in June. This is probably the third Pub Night we’ve ever attended with the last one being back in October of 2016. This time it was for our son and his classmates. We had to make this one.

The tickets included a beer, burger and fries. I wasn’t expecting much because of previous experiences at Pub Nights in other locations. But I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. I forgot how good the food was at Jimy Mac’s.

Image: Jimy Mac’s Facebook

Jimy Mac’s is a well established sports pub. It’s been around since I can remember. My first job when I was sixteen was across the street from them back in 1992. When I turned legal drinking age, it was only one of two locations nearby my home to go to. However, I don’t think I’ve been inside the pub for about fifteen years.

The Pub Night was fantastic. Our fundraiser section was packed. The burger was delicious- you could tell that the pub has done these fundraisers before. The service was outstanding by the wait staff. They were very attentive to the needs of our group. Not only was the pub well organized, but the volunteers of the event had set up a 50/50 draw, twoonie toss, and prize giveaways. All proceeds going towards the camping trip.

My wife and found a spot at a long table and were joined by some parents we knew and some we hadn’t met before. We had such great conversations that I completely forgot to take out my phone to snap some images. That is a sign of a good time.

Fundraising isn’t always fun or easy. But the event last night proved to be successful. I want to offer a big thanks to Jimy Mac’s Pub and the fundraising volunteers for creating such a wonderful night.

Enchilada!

For the past few days we’ve been planning on having lasagna. Today I started to brown the beef and went to the cupboard to get the lasagna noodles. You know, the noodles my children said we had in the cupboard? Ya. Let’s try feeding a family of five…

With two noodles?!?!

Okay. Time for dad to improvise. Google- help me! What do you do with ground beef that is already getting browned? You make enchilada pie of course.

Taco seasoning, salsa, frozen corn, some tortillas leftover from the other day, shredded cheese, and a can of black beans (thank goodness we always have canned goods in our cupboard!) As I started making our new dinner, everyone came in asking what I was putting into the lasagna. When the new dinner was announced- smiles came to their faces.

We will be topping the enchilada pie with sour cream and avocado. We have been really enjoying those avocados lately. I have been making poached eggs on avocado toast for my wife quite a bit. But that’s for another post.

Mexican inspired food is always a favorite in our home. I love the inexpensiveness of making these meals for the family. As well as the ease of creating tasty meals. It’s amazing how ground beef and shredded cheese can be spread out significantly.

Dinner looks and smells delicious. 20 minutes of prep and 30 minutes cooking makes this a relatively easy dinner.

Here’s the link to the recipe for tonight’s last minute meal: Kraft Enchilada Pie

No, I don’t get any kickbacks from Kraft. Or any other companies. I just love to share ideas that work.

Growing Food

We aren’t exactly the best people to ask advice for when it comes to growing your own food. One year we have the best luck growing beans. Another year we have peppers. Usually we have zucchini galore. Tomatoes Are almost out of the question. We got lucky one year however. But in the end, we do grow some foods.

I like growing the easy plants. The ones that really don’t take much effort. Which sounds lazy. But really it isn’t. Take green onions or romaine lettuce for instance.

Romaine lettuce can regrow. But only for a little bit. If you cut the romaine down to about an inch or so from the base and put it in water- in about a week and a half you have some leaves growing. That’s about as big as it will grow. It’s only enough to get yourself some tiny lettuce leaves for a sandwich.

Green onions are similar. Cut them down to about a half inch and place it in water. They will continue to grow for quite some time. You can trim them for use repeatedly as well. Eventually they wilt or lose flavor.

We have also attempted to grow an avocado tree from a pit. We can usually get a good start, but after it’s planted in a pot, we have a dead tree on our hands. No matter how many times we try and grow it. Hopefully one day we will be successful.

Potato Chips

I am a sucker for salty foods. I especially love potato chips.

My favorite is plain, unexceptional, salted ripple chips. My family each had a favorite as well- all trying to be differentiated from one another.

My son likes ketchup.

My youngest daughter prefers salt and vinegar or lightly salted.

My oldest daughter enjoys sour cream and onion.

My wife enjoys dill pickle.

Sometimes I pick up a large bag for each member of the family. Usually I just get a jumbo bag of salted chips and force my family to eat those. Okay, force isn’t the right word- they each the chips willingly.

For most of winter, we were eating a bowl of chips every night. Which was a bit much, so we went a few weeks without eating any. My wife wanted to only eat them on a Friday or Saturday from now on. But last night, I busted out favorite flavors for everyone. Not gonna lie, after eating a few chips, I felt unsatisfied. The fresh grapes we’ve been having lately seemed better.

Maybe it’s me getting older and my body telling me to eat better. But I think I won’t be buying chips as much anymore.

Breaking the Fast

I live very separate lives when it comes to eating breakfast. Part of me wants to eat a huge greasy meal that is sure to clog my arteries. Then there’s a part that wants me to eat healthily. Another part of me skips breakfast all together. I have no idea which is which until my day begins.

I love to cook.

Period.

And when I make breakfast- my family loves it. Especially on weekends. That’s when we are all at home together. Oftentimes my family is asking me if I can make them something to eat. From scratch-made waffles to vegetarian omelettes- I make it all delectable.

And my family devours it.

But those days that I have to be at work at 06:00am- I won’t eat anything until closer to 10:00am. By then my stomach is pretty empty and ready to enjoy food. Usually it’s a PB+J sandwich or some granola and yogurt. It also helps with the entire day. It keeps me from wanting to eat too much junk. If I eat too early, I usually want to forage and snack the rest of the day.

Driving Day

Today we embarked on a 12 hour road trip from our home to Grande Prairie, Alberta. It started off with us being an hour behind schedule. No big deal- I was able to... ahem... make up the time while driving.

We whipped through Kamloops with a quick stop for gas. Then off to Jasper for a late lunch and of course- trains. Plus amazing beer and food! We had nachos and Wild Boar Steam Buns all at the Jasper Brewing. I highly recommend the Boar and “Jasper the Bear Ale”.

It was a beautiful day to drive through the mountains from British Columbia to Alberta. We watched the sun set and the sky change colours. Absolutely stunning.

Now it’s time to unwind in the hotel room and mentally prepare for the next couple of days. A quick dip in the pool and finish my blog is a great way to end a 12 hour drive.