Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Drumheller's for dinosaur lovers

Accordingly, Drumheller has a dinosaur around every corner and built into every building. I've always wanted to drive around and find all the dinosaur sculptures in town (some of them looked freshly painted this year), but it seems like such a daunting task. There's no map of where they all are (that I'm aware of) -- we could literally be driving around the town for hours. It might be worth it, though. When I stayed there for a month, the locals said there was a giant pterodactyl somewhere in town that flapped its wings and had glowing eyes.

I should have taken more towny pictures, but it didn't occur to me until now. I guess I've just been there so many times, everything becomes less touristy and more, oh yeah. I know about the dinosaur coming out of the wall of the IGA. Whatever. So sorry about that.

You must leave town with some sort of geode. I mean, you have to. It's part of the rules.

Monday, August 30, 2010

fig jam

I love figs, but I rarely see fresh ones for sale. Through complete luck (aka I spotted a tray of them in someone's cart), we stumbled on some at Superstore last weekend.

After eating about six of them, we were already on fig overload and we still had almost a full flat left. I didn't want these to go to waste since they were very ripe, so I made fig jam.

This jam is the best jam ever. Hands down. I'm really sad it barely made a whole jar because that jar is already almost empty.

Step 1: peel and place in a pot with sugar, lemon juice, and salt

let sit at room temperature and stir periodically for half an hour

this is how they'll look after

Step 2: Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Continue stirring for about 25 minutes (or until it becomes noticeably thicker and jammy). This is how mine looked after 20 minutes. Isn't the colour beautiful?

Step 3: Gently mash any remaining chunks of fruit.

Step 4: Jar it.

Step 5: Spread it.

Step 6: Enjoy it.

Homemade Fig Jam
adapted from Kiss My Spatula

1 pound fresh figs
155 ml sugar (or 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup)
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

Peel figs and place in a medium pot. Add sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Mix and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. After 30 minutes, heat the figs until boiling. Keep at a nice steady, rolling boil (not sputtering), and stir constantly for 20-25 minutes or until the figs have deepened in colour and thickened considerably (jam consistency). Gently mash any larger chunks of fruit. Pour into a jar and store in the fridge.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday fixations

Last night, I had the most epic frying disaster. As you know, I'm not very confident when it comes to frying, but I thought this recipe might be easy to handle as a first go. It involved shallow frying, so I felt a little more secure attempting it since I wouldn't be having to fill a whole pot with oil.

Honestly, everything was going sorta ok at first. I filled up my pan with oil and heated it up. My test piece of tofu looked as though it was cooking, but it took a long time to get golden brown. I wasn't entirely sure I had the heat right, so I kept inching it up higher. By the time I finished all the tofu cubes, the smoke -- oh, the smoke! It was pretty hazy in here. Almost as much as outside. We were forced to open the windows (to let the fresh air in? We exchanged smoky for smoky, I guess).

I saw on a cooking show later that evening that they probably should have sat in the oil for three minutes per side. I was just being entirely too nervous, fidgety, and impatient.

So after that was done, I was supposed to take that tofu and stir fry it a bit with the vegetables I'd cooked earlier. In my infinite wisdom, I didn't want to use a fresh frying pan. Don't even ask me why. Like it's so hard to wash another frying pan. I don't get it either. So I thought, I'll just pour this boiling hot oil into a jar to cool and continue on with the recipe.

Yes. I did. I poured boiling hot oil into a glass jar like the dumbest person ever.

And yes, it did immediately shatter, spilling boiling hot oil all over the counter, down the cupboard doors, and on to the floor.

I don't know how many times I need to be taught this lesson but boiling hot liquid does not play nice with cold glass. At least this time it was just a washed out relish jar and not a precious antique. I think the next time I open a can, I'm going to keep it just in case such an occasion should arise again. "Fat Can," "Drippings Can" they now have a whole new (enlightened) meaning.

Now we haven't had much success with tofu. We're both...um...not that in love with it. But on those days when we've chosen to try to eat meat free, it's become something that's really easy for me to revolve a meal around. Usually I'll bake it, and the results are ok. I mean, they're not perfect. It still tastes like weird spongy tasteless egg, but it's got a little crunch around the edges and isn't so bad dipped in ketchup or tzatziki, so we manage. But whatever flavour I've put on it always disappears. I'm starting to think there must be a trick to making tofu taste like something other than tofu or all the vegetarians are lying to us, because I have yet to ever get any taste to adhere, soak in, or layer on to a piece of tofu. No matter how long I press it, how long I soak it, even if I baste it with something at the end of cooking. Nothing makes it taste like some other more delicious flavour.

This recipe, on the other hand, tasted quite delicious (and I skipped the step about stir frying the tofu with the vegetables. You know, cuz there was oil, like, everywhere). We could taste the salt and pepper more than the tofu. They were crunchy little cubes of salt and pepper (in a good way), and they were good on their own. And that's saying a lot. Yes, we dipped them in ketchup, but paired with only the vegetables, they were still really delicious. Really. I changed the vegetables in the recipe and only used mushrooms and green onions, but I loved the bit of brown sugar and soy sauce cooked in with them. It's such a simple way to make a delicious sauce. If the tofu had had a chance to mingle with that sauce, I'm sure they would have been even better. Now that I kind of have a better idea of how to go about shallow frying, I might just try this recipe again. Later. Next month. When I build up my courage.

Current fixations:

{ginger} Last night was also the first time I've ever bothered to buy and use fresh ginger. Why wasn't I buying fresh ginger before? I found a small piece which only cost me 11 cents, so there's no monetary reason not to purchase it regularly; and the smell is so good! All I did was smell it, actually. I loved it so much, I forced Idle Husband to smell it, too. I just kept going back to it and taking in another whiff of that bright fizzy scent. So good. I'd like that bottled into a perfume, please;

{military inspired coats} I think it's about time I get a new winter jacket, and I'd really love it to be one like these: Gap; Old Navy #1 and #2; Urban Outfitters #1, #2, and #3 except more Edmonton winter appropriate. I think they'd look super cute with a flower brooch or a really feminine scarf (preferably in really bright colours);

{Magpie's Cake} Her cakes are so amazing. They're simple, elegant, and artistic. I think they're so much more impressive than cakes that look like real-life things or cakes that are so huge you need five guys to carry them (which are both trends that are starting to get real old, real fast);

{straws} I seriously had dreams all night about getting some. Wow, right? I'm weird. I have some really fun drink ideas, though, and they just wouldn't be right without a straw! Maybe some of these; love these; reusable would be awesome; and these are just too cute;

{fun popsicle molds and grown-up popsicle flavours} I know it's almost fall and I shouldn't be thinking about popsicles (in fact, my nose is even cold right now), but I think they're starting to get really interesting and I like the idea of them as a sweet after-dinner treat. I have a popsicle tray which looks kind of like this except more like it was abandoned from a Tupperware party back in 1979. I think popsicles in this shape look much more grown up and sophisticated. I'm hoping there's still some to be found (maybe on clearance since no one other than a Canadian would ever dream of making popsicles in the winter);

{gifs} Maybe you've noticed, but I'm getting kind of obsessed with putting these together. I do all of mine right here. Also, don't you love it when a facebook friend posts pictures and has failed to edit them and there are three or more pictures in a row that are exactly the same except for one little detail? Going through those albums are so enjoyable because there are mini gifs everywhere (just page back and forth)! We get a huge kick out of it;

{unlikely things baked in muffin tins} I'm inspired by this and this, and I still want to make both of those, but I also find myself thinking up other things you wouldn't normally cook in a muffin tin. Maybe more on this later;

{cool videos} I almost fell off my chair laughing at this (don't miss out, there are three parts to it); there's a sweet new Simon's Cat animation; this was pretty cute;  yesterday, I discovered Supermarket Sweep on tv again! The hair! The glasses! The outfits! The host! The lame prizes! Crystal Pepsi! We totally set up a recording; I'm so obsessed with this song; and I don't know why, but I've watched this four times already. I can't look away, it's too strange;

{dinosaurs} I love them. They're so fascinating. We're definitely going to be checking out these places when we go on vacation next week! That also means I'll be taking an internet vacation, so I won't be blogging until we get back. But I promise to return with lots of interesting pictures!

whole wheat banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

smearing the frosting on was better than piping it

These are pretty good.

There's a winning endorsement.

I had two bananas sitting on the counter that no one wanted, and I've been mildly enamored with peanut butter lately. So what better reason could there be to make cupcakes?

These are only pretty good because they're kinda oily and the peanut butter frosting did not work out the way I hoped it would. Probably because I wanted these to be at least mildly healthy, so I omited or reduced most of the peanut butter, the milk, the sugar...pretty much everything that makes stuff taste good. If I find a better peanut butter frosting recipe, I'll let you know.

the frosting's pretty junk to look at, too

Banana Cupcakes
adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes

1 cup mashed bananas (two didn't quite make a cup)
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 oz butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix the bananas and lemon juice together in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the flour, soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In your stand mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add to that the egg and vanilla. Next add flour and buttermilk alternatively as you mix (it's good to end with flour). Mix in bananas and blend well.

Fill 16 muffin cups (make sure not to overfill these. They have a tendency to come up and out) and place in a 275 degree oven. Bake about 40-45 minutes.

Frost with a better peanut butter frosting recipe; or follow Ming Makes Cupcakes' recipe (the one for Cupcake #17) exactly. It probably has more potential than I'm giving it.

This is how best to eat it:

Cupcake sandwich!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

hazy day

Wow it's weird looking outside right now. I guess there's a fire in B.C.? I don't really know, but it sure smells like a campfire outside. It makes me want s'mores, like, big time.

sweet and sour chicken with cucumbers

As promised, I made sweet and sour chicken with cucumbers last night, and I even remembered to sprinkle on some blackened sesame seeds. I was pretty happy I didn't throw those out. They were one of the "spices" that came with my spice rack, and I took them out of the jar because I never used them. Ever.

The result? This was just as delicious as OPM's, and maybe slightly better for us because I didn't bread the chicken pieces.

The only thing I'd do differently is put the cucumbers in a little later. I didn't want to cook them completely, so I put them in for the last 10 minutes of baking time, but I think 5 minutes would have been better. I also couldn't figure out what to have for crunch so I paired it with white rice instead. It definitely needed a salty crunch factor, but I still can't think of what I could make at home for that. Maybe some homemade crackers? I don't know, but it was lacking just slightly because of that.

I also found the cutest basket at Value Village yesterday!

Check it out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I was kinda lazy yesterday. I don't know why. I just felt so tired. Then around 3, I went outside to check out the globe thistle (which looks kinda terrible now. I missed it) and water the tomatoes (if they needed it) and suddenly, I had this rush of energy. Well, maybe not super energy, but I felt like working outside. The weather was so nice. Not too cool, not hot at all, not sunny, it was just really nice.
I found this very pitiful poppy growing in the lawn. No wonder it looks like hell. I've mowed over it all season. This is oddly the colour I used to have on the farm. I wonder where it came from.

Psyche! This isn't actually in my yard. It's from mom's yard (wuh wuhhh). I planted this clematis a couple years ago, and it's just blooming now. It's so pretty!

This is what's in my yard. Yay. Mystery flowers on a bush that can't even support it's own weight. Awesome. Earlier in the year, I decided not to trim this (like I usually do), and it ended up flopping over on to the lawn and surrounding area. I chopped it down pretty good yesterday. I'm kinda tired of trying to mow under its branches.

Those flowers above turn into these berries (which is another reason why the branches get so heavy). I have no idea what this plant is. I'm just going to assume I can't eat those. That's usually smartest.

I don't know what this thing is either, but the colour is fantastic. It's starting to turn red at the top. Or it was until I cut all those branches off.

From all my trimmings, I cut a few of the prettiest stems from my shrubs and put them in a vase. I thought that by the time I was done everything, all the bugs would get out and I could bring them in safely. I don't think I had them in the house for more than 30 minutes when I could see these huge bugs climbing up the stems (and I could see them from across the room). I have no idea what bugs they were, but they were gross. My cute little bouquet of red branches and berries got tossed out the door pretty quickly after that.

Oh and I replanted a few of our smaller day lilies as test subjects in the front where the junipers used to be. I was kinda nervous about doing it just because of the time of year (hence my taking the smaller baby ones), but I think it'll be easier on them with the weather being cooler right now. Especially since these came from a shady spot, poor things. They've never flowered because they weren't getting enough sun. If they take, they'll have more sun than they'll know what to do with.

So after I get all that planted and all my branches raked up and in bags, these stupid solicitors from Direct Energy caught me. I was sweaty and covered in Deet and dirt and they want me to get bills and talk to them. Sigh. I really hate that, you know? Can you not see I'm busy? I'm working here? I'm obviously too dirty to be going through a filing cabinet (and I'm kinda anal when it comes to Deet. Especially. I need to wash that poison off before I touch anything). Had I been in the house, I wouldn't have answered the door.

Scenes from today: 

Tell me, is it weird to take a picture of someone's underoos hanging to dry on a vine or is it weirder that that's part of the view in my backyard?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

stupid camera, stupid meal

When we went to our first house meeting, we received a gift certificate from the home builders for dinner at The Sawmill or Tom Goodchild's Moose Factory. We've been saving it for a while, and we only just got around to using it this weekend.

Idle Husband had been to the Moose Factory for lunch many times before, so that's where we decided to go. I'd never been before, but let me tell you, it's a pretty classy (read: expensive) place.

As usual, if there's calamari on the menu, that's always what we start with.

The calamari was delicious. It wasn't at all chewy and it was seasoned perfectly. The tzatziki dipping sauce, on the other hand, was like...milk...no. Not like milk. It was milk. With herbs floating in it. So it was impossible to really dip the calamari into it without the tzatziki dripping off all over the place. Somebody needs a lesson in tzatziki making.

I don't know what was wrong with my camera (the one I keep in my purse at all times), but after the calamari, it just did not want to focus on anything. We had skipped lunch specifically because we'd be eating out, and after taking three pictures of Idle Husband's steak, it just wasn't fixing itself. So even though I realized it wasn't focusing, I didn't bother taking another 30 pictures per plate because we were starving. Sadly, blurriness is one problem I can't fix after the fact, so sorry for the lame pictures.

Idle Husband heard about filet mignon from some Gordon Ramsay show and has wanted to try it ever since. He finally got his chance. As promised, the meat was so delicious and so tender. It was really good. I'm so thankful he shared with me! I also got to eat his asparagus and carrots which were cooked perfectly, and honestly, right up there with the steak in deliciousness (yuck to peppers).

(ugh. terrible)
He also ordered a side of mushrooms for his steak which came all hot and sizzling in the cutest little cast iron pan (I need a set of these in my life!). They were really good, too, and slightly onion-y. I had some serious mushroom overload afterwards!

I ordered the chicken scallopini (which sounded so good on the menu), and I'm so bummed that I did. The chicken was all right, but bordering on overcooked and kinda flavourless; the angel hair pasta...who does this to angel hair pasta?! Someone actually thought, I'm going to take the most delicate, thin, beautiful pasta and dump way too much of the thickest, creamiest, most gelatinous sauce on it, and that will be perfection? Well, guess what? It wasn't perfection. It was kinda terrible, actually. I tried eating it (cuz I paid my damn money), but I ended up just picking out the mushrooms and calling it a day. It also looked like it had been sitting out for a while, you know? It had that weird film on it. I don't know how to explain it, but it just didn't look fresh (I think despite the blurriness, you can tell in the photo). Again, thank goodness for the carrots and asparagus. Best thing on that plate, hands down.

I'm so sad about this meal (especially because it was a gift certificate meal -- although the amount didn't cover dinner completely). They had a buffet which looked ok, but because I was starving, I had a feeling I would go overboard if I went that route. Now I'm super sad I didn't. At least then I could have tried a little of everything, and something probably would have worked out to be more delicious than what I ended up having.

Sigh. What a sad little meal. I definitely won't be going back.

Note: I would like to make my own chicken scallopini now. Just so I can see how it's supposed to taste. I betcha it's really quite delicious.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Raw Strawberry Pie

Remember my pie fixation yesterday? Well, I ended up hauling myself over to Superstore where I found absolutely no garlic ("We haven't received any for three days. We don't know what's wrong with them!" Oh. Ok. Good enough, then.), but a ton of clearance strawberries. I know, I know. I had already bought a whole clamshell of them the day before, but these were 50% off and, ok, sure they had a few questionable berries in them, but otherwise, they weren't that bad looking. Honest. So I bought another package, rifled through it for the good ones, and set out to make a strawberry pie that's been calling my name since...2005.

Whoa. 2005? I've been thinking about making this pie for five years?! Holy. I had no idea.

At least they had a nice adventure out of the cupboard today

Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up very well to slicing, so you won't find any presentable, sliced, money shots (I tried, you guys. I used my good china and everything), but what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in taste.

I found it really satisfying and fresh. It's not too sweet and it really showcases the strawberry's flavour. The crust is my absolute favourite part, but that's because of the dates. I'm so glad I finally had an excuse to buy a bunch of dates. I love them. I might just end up eating some straight out of the package later today. And yes, this is Idle Husband approved. After having to convince him it was a pie (he was snacking on the berries straight out of the pie plate in the fridge thinking they were just sugar covered berries for snacking purposes), he had two pieces and inhaled them like it was his job. I think that warrants a seal of approval.

Raw Strawberry Pie
adapted from Domino Magazine, premiere issue, spring/summer 2005

2 lbs fresh strawberries, tops removed, quartered
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups slivered almonds
1 3/4 cups pitted dates
1 tsp water

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and sugar in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Cover and let sit while working on the crust. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate. In a food processor, process almonds until they resemble coarse sand.

check out those little almond bits

Pour the almonds into the pie plate. Next, place the dates and the teaspoon of water in the food processor and process until the dates start to come together. They sort of form one mass and start swirling around the processor like that. Add the dates to your almonds. With your hands, mix the two together until they're completely incorporated and they hold together. Press the mixture into the pie plate as evenly as possible (this was probably the hardest part of the recipe).

At this point, I chilled my crust for an hour and let the berries sit a while longer in the sugar. At the time, I thought it would be better and would result in a less juicy crust, but now I don't think it's necessary (and it really doesn't matter in the long run).

Using a slotted spoon, remove the berries from the juice and place into your pie crust. Allow the pie to chill for 2 hours before serving.


FYI: I didn't discard any of that berry juice, either. I used it to make a quick strawberry syrup. I'm sure there's a better method, but after boiling it for a while, it wasn't thickening up like I'd have liked. I think I should have added more sugar, but I added cornstarch instead. So it has a mild chalky taste to it. It still tastes like delicious strawberries, but I'm not going to endorse it because of the chalkiness? chalkyness? Oh you know what I mean. Adding more sugar probably would have been smarter.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

substitution fail

with coconut and caramel sauce                        without                          

I whipped up some greek yogurt ice cream yesterday.
It's pretty tasty (and I like that it didn't make enough to feed an army), but it probably would have been better had I used actual heavy cream instead of the substitute (or had at least made the substitute properly).


It's pouring rain outside and I'm trying to decide what to do with myself. Normally, this would be a day I'd get myself on baking bread, but I already have two loaves crammed into the freezer and there's honestly no room for another two. I do have to make yet another flatbread recipe (will I ever find one good enough?!), but that gets cooked in my cast iron pan on the stove. I would really like to make panzanella sometime this weekend and I would also like to take another crack at that french bread recipe, so I could do that. But for some odd reason, all I can think about is pie.

I've never made pie from scratch before. Er. I mean. I've never made pie crust from scratch before. Which is kinda weird. I've made hand pies lots of times. I've made tart crusts. But never a pie crust -- and by that I mean the bottom, the filling, the top -- the whole shebang.

So I was thinking of making a strawberry rhubarb pie because I have a ton of rhubarb sitting around in my freezer (taking up space) and I bought another container of strawberries yesterday just cuz. But most of the recipes I've found have quick cook tapioca in the filling. I do not have quick cook tapioca on hand.

Then I had this brief jolt of excitement when I remembered one of my Domino magazines having a bunch of no bake pie recipes. So I ran downstairs and pulled every magazine that was between June-August. Amazingly, I actually kinda remembered which one it was when I saw the cover (it was their premier issue!) and there it was, in all its glory. Raw Strawberry Pie. Oh yum. Crust: 2 cups raw almonds; 1 1/4 cups pitted dates.

I have almonds, but I highly doubt I have two whole cups. I definitely don't have dates. Sigh.

Maybe I could sub in another crust! Graham cracker! I actually still have a bunch of graham cracker crumbs! But do I have 1 1/2 cups? Ummm maybe...but that's going to effect the whole taste of the pie and is it going to be as good? Maybe the crust should be almonds because that would hold up to strawberry juice seepage a lot better and wouldn't be as soggy, right?

Now I keep looking outside like, if I put on my converse sneakers my feet won't get too wet and I have a rain coat, so that's cool. I can just use my umbrella for in and out...and I'll just run to the store and get this stuff quickly. It won't take that long. Besides, like a stupid, I forgot to get garlic (because I'm still forgetting to get important things when I get groceries. Don't even ask me how I managed to get through a whole week without a stitch of tinfoil. I'm still shocked and amazed), so I should really just run back and get some because suddenly I'm like, three cloves left?! OMG! I want to put garlic in EVERYTHING, though!! What am I going to do?!

I just spent the last three minutes staring out the window...and I think I'm going to do it. I've stood in the shower. It's not so bad.

I just realized I must be coming across as quite nutty.
You live in the city. If you forgot to get something, just go back and get it.
heh. yeah.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010