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Brownie Brouhaha

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IMG_2581Brownies can be controversial, at least when it comes to my friends and family. Some factions say there needs to be frosting, others are in the cakey camp, while a few are stuck in the fudgey side. There is often heated debate about how Butterscotch Brownies (blondies) and Black Bean Brownies are not acceptable options at all. But, when I’m the one donning the apron I say nay to frosting and go for my tried and true One Pot Brownie recipe (please note: no pot is IN the brownies, they are mixed IN a pot).

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I have been using the same recipe since I started baking when I was eight (out of desperation as my mother wouldn’t bake or buy sweets as often as I wanted them). It has never failed me, though I have failed it on occasion. A couple of times, I MAY have over-baked the brownies until they were dried out. My problem solving brain and thrifty heart turned this loss into a win by making ice cream sandwiches with them!

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Kitchenette Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup creamed honey

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon Epicure Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Kosher Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan on the stove
  3. Mix sugar, honey and cocoa powder into melted butter
  4. Add eggs and and mix with a whisk
  5. Add flour, baking powder and salt and gently combine
  6. Stir in vanilla extract
  7. Pour into a greased 8-9″ pan or the Epicure Perfect Petites for 30 lovely little loaves
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean or just a bit crumby)

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Serve with fresh fruit (I had grapes, mango and raspberries) and a dollop of whipped cream (try not to over whip it like I did).

Which side of the brownie battle do you take or will you just take any brownie that’s available?

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Burdock and Co

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Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

Fresh Oysters, finger lime caviar, fresh breakfast radish, chickweed, apple & verbena sorbet, kasu emulsion

Trying a brand new restaurant is just about our family’s favourite thing to do and when the chef/owner happens to be Andrea Carlson (Sooke Harbour House, Raincity Grill, Bishop’s, etc), who is not only an a fantastic cook but a long time friend, we get downright excited! So, we made sure the three of us were at the corner of Main and E 11th Ave for the very first public service of Burdock & Co.

2702 Main Street

2702 Main Street

After admiring the space (the former home of Cafeteria), we sat down and ordered some drinks. I had one of the two non-alcoholic cocktails, from a list designed by Lauren Mote of Kale and Nori Culinary Designs, the Cascadian Cooler.

Apple & Fenugreek, Lime, Mint, Denman Bitters, Gingerbeer

Apple & Fenugreek, Lime, Mint, Denman Bitters, Gingerbeer

The menu featured dishes showcasing local and seasonal ingredients in imaginative combinations that made it difficult to narrow down our selections, so we ordered almost the whole menu to share family style!

Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

We started with the scallops and oysters (both requested by our 10-year-old son, Young Fresh Chef) which were delicate and delicious like a cool spring morning on the West Coast. We even nibbled on the cherry blossoms as instructed by our charmer of a server.

Urban Digs Egg, wild cress, hazelnut & blue cheese granola, brown butter & potato vinaigrette

Urban Digs Egg, wild cress, hazelnut & blue cheese granola, brown butter & potato vinaigrette

The flavour and textural combination of the poached egg and the savoury granola was my favourite of the night and I may have Mmmmmmmed out loud more than once! The peppery wild cress presented a nice contrast to the luxuriousness of the rest of the plate.

Fire Roasted Green Farro, spruce tips, black garlic, sorrel

Fire Roasted Green Farro, spruce tips, black garlic, sorrel

The vegan farro dish was my meat-loving husband’s top pick of the meal and the plate was scraped down to the ceramic glaze. The depth of flavour from the black garlic was earthy and sweet adding a soulful umami element to the farro.

Fried Chicken & Pickles, crispy skin, charred chili vinegar

Fried Chicken & Pickles, crispy skin, charred chili vinegar

Our son most enjoyed the fried chicken and he said that he could taste the love that was put into the preparation. The crispy skin was like chicken bacon and the accompanying pickled vegetables helped cut the richness of this dish.

Harvest Pork Belly Ramen, Candied Bacon, nori, fried egg

My husband and I were slowing down at this point, but the boy went full boar (pun intended) into the bowl of ramen.

Wheat Berry Risotto, sunroot, mustard greens, castelvetrano olives, Farmhouse 'Fermiere', smoked crema

Wheat Berry Risotto, sunroot, mustard greens, castelvetrano olives, Farmhouse ‘Fermiere’, smoked crema

The risotto was delicious and since the smoked crema would be good with almost anything, it just made the dish that much better. While this was a vegetarian dish, the dairy components gave it a rich taste and mouth feel.

Halibut, braised spring radish and hop shoots, pine mushroom and burdock tea, fried burdock, hop salt

While we should have been getting full after so much deliciousness, my fellas had their forks into the halibut before I could take a single photo! Like everything we tried, the dish was a tantalizing combination of ingredients with an excellent balance of flavours and was seasoned to perfection.

Gluten Free Cookies

Gluten Free Cookies

We still had a bit of room for dessert and we really enjoyed the gluten-free cookie selection by the soft glow of candlelight.

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We left with full bellies and hearts already plotting our return.

 

Burdock & Co

Open 7 days a week

from 5pm for dinner

no reservations

2702 Main Street

Vancouver, BC V5T 3E8

604-879-0077

email: eat@burdockandco.com

twitter: @burdockandco

website: www.burdockandco.com

Which dish pictured appeals most to your taste buds?

Olive Greek Salad Dressing

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Cooks always start by mastering the Garde Manger station, our home kitchen is no exception. I started my son, Young Fresh Chef, on salads and appetizers. My mother, Momette, has always made salad dressings from scratch and I’ve continued the tradition. Years ago, when I was making a vinaigrette with my son, he couldn’t have been any older than 6, he asked why I didn’t add some of the olive juice from the bottle of Kalamata olives that I was using from the salad. I’d never considered adding the brine as an acidic element, so I splashed some into the dressing and it was fantastic!

Olive Salad Dressing Ingredients

Later, when we told his dad, Exec Chef about our latest creation there was a glint in his eye that a new menu item was about to appear at his restaurant. It was the first time that our son had inspired a dish and he was as proud as physically possible to be a part of the creative process.

Lately, I’ve been trying to healthify (this is now a word) our food at home and one way is by cooking with fats from whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) rather than using extracted fats (butter, oil, shortening, etc). When trying to make a new type of salad dressing, I thought back to the flavours that I loved to put together and, of course, I thought of the olive juice salad dressing. Why not use whole olives instead of olive oil?

I decided to go with a Greek flavour profile, based around Kalamata olives. So, I threw together some fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a bit of feta cheese, some Kalamata olives, salt and pepper in a little jar and blended it together with my immersion blender.

Blended Olive Salad DressingI topped a salad of romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot and celery with some of the dressing and I couldn’t believe the amazing olive and feta flavour that was delivered with every bite. Usually, when I add whole olives to a salad I try to space them out to get maximum enjoyment. With the blended olive dressing, I felt like every forkful was filled with salty tang of Greece.

Enjoying Olive Greek Dressing

Hilltop Diner Cafe

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Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Sometimes you just want the classics: a clubhouse sandwich with roasted turkey, a juicy burger or a straight up breakfast. On a lazy Sunday, when this mood strikes us, we pile into the car as a family and take a leisurely drive to the Hilltop Diner Cafe in the middle of nowhere part of Langley. Picture perfect enough to be a constant shooting location for TV shows and movies, they even have a scrap-book that they love to pull out and show off, the food is just as authentic. But it’s the service that makes it the real deal, it’s casual but caring. They are a busy bunch being open 7 days a week from 8:00 to 2:30 since 1946. Their full breakfast menu is served until 11am and then they still have a small list of morning staples available, as well as their crazy mega burgers (with names like Everest burger and Anarchist burger they are ridonkulous) until they close.

Eggs, Farmer's Sausage & Toast at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Eggs, Sausage & Toast at Hilltop Diner Cafe

Since it is a bit of a drive for us, and it’s hard to hurry on Sundays, we haven’t made it for the full breakfast menu yet. I think I’m stuck on the clubhouse because of the in-house oven-roasted turkey that is so thinly sliced and nestled in the lightly toasted bread with the perfect amount of lettuce and tomatoes and beautifully crisped bacon. I switch between the excellent french fries  and the impressively fresh side salad.   All the sandwiches and burgers that we’ve tried have been exactly as we would want them to be. Their milkshakes and floats are fantastic and big enough to share and share and share. My other regret about the menu is that we STILL haven’t tried any of their amazing looking pies as we are always too full after our sandwich and burger feast. I guess we’ll have to keep going and keep trying things, it’s a tough life!

Hot Turkey Sandwich with Gravy and Cranberry Relish at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Hilltop Diner Cafe

23904 Fraser Highway

Langley, BC

(604) 514-9424

Open Daily from 8:00 to 2:30

Full Breakfast Menu served until 11am

Closed on Holiday Mondays

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What’s your favourite classic diner?

Icy Huggy Cake

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For our Young Fresh Chef’s birthday we had a skating party with friends and family. There was hot chocolate, marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles and Halloween crafts. There was also cake. For the past few years the deal has been that I make the cakes from scratch and my husband, Exec Chef decorates them. This way, he can take it to the restaurant to work on in his spare seconds and the boy won’t see it until the big reveal at the party.

Since we didn’t have much of a theme to work with this year besides ice and cold, I came up with the concept of making a cake that looked like one of the Papertoy Monsters that our boy had constructed from the book by Brian Castleforte (what a cool last name).

The featured creature on the book cover was one of the first Papertoy Monsters that Young Fresh Chef constructed, Icy Huggy. To my eye, he was the cutest monster and fit well with an ice skating party.

Vanilla cake was requested, so I worked on baking three 9X13″ cakes from scratch, while Exec Chef mulled over our son’s instructions to use as little icing as possible. The boy is known to scrape the majority of icing off any cupcakes or cake slices that come his way, he’s really more of a pie guy. Then he had a brilliant idea, cotton candy. Perfect for the blue fur on Icy Huggy! I remembered seeing blue cotton candy at the candy store at the mall.The cakes were then whisked away to be constructed and decorated for the party.

I tried to capture the birthday boy’s reaction when he saw the cake, but he was just a blur from all the excited jumping up and down. He was surprised, thrilled and impressed. He absolutely LOVED the cotton candy as icing substitute. For once he got have his cake and eat it too (no scraping needed).

What’s the most inventive way you’ve decorated a cake?

Maui Maniacs

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Maui Maniacs

Maui, Maui, Maui! I’ve been hearing nothing but lovely things about this island since I was a little girl. Last Spring it was finally my turn to see for myself. After scouring the internet and reading all the reviews I booked a one bedroom suite at the Hanua Kai Resort and Spa in Kaanapali. Then began the restaurant research, I emailed friends and family for recommendations and tried to read through the lines of online reviews. Going on vacation can be a lot of work!

The resort was gorgeous, right on the beach and well maintained. Duke’s Beach House is on the resort property between the three pools and the red sandy beach. We ate once at Duke’s and the best thing I can say about the food is that it was forgettable. Wish I could say the same for our first meal in Hawaii at Maui Tacos. Good thing that the resort was so fabulous, because the food hadn’t been that impressive. But, these choices had been more about convenience than anything.

While the grocery store across the road had decent local produce, there was a nice selection at a farmer’s stand by the ticket booth for the Sugar Cane Express. We took the Sugar Cane Train from Kaanapali to Lahaina for the day, another disappointing lunch at one of the interchangeable ocean front restaurants was fixed by a trip to Hula Cookies & Ice Cream where you get to design your own ice cream sandwich that can be enjoyed in the nearby park under the banyan tree.

On other visits to Lahaina, we enjoyed brunch at Mala Ocean Tavern and a lunch at a mixed plate place, can’t remember the name but we wanted to go to Aloha Mixed Plate. For afternoon treats we sucked back some Jamba Juice and couldn’t get enough froyo at Island Froyo. One more meh place and then we’ll move on to the good stuff: David Paul’s Island Grill looked good from the outside, but you shouldn’t judge a menu by its cover.

When we headed over to the fancy side Maui to check out Wailea our luck changed. We tried out a brand new restaurant called Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman. The decor was bright and fresh, the service was professional and warm, we felt right at home. The food was locally sourced, clearly fresh and prepared with care.

Based on our positive experience at Monkeypod, we made a reservation at Merriman’s the upscale sister restaurant located in the Kapalua Resort. It was a delightful experience with a completely open dining room and top notch service provided by our server, J.J. Again, the freshest ingredients treated with respect.My husband, Exec Chef, enjoyed it so completely that he bought a gift certificate on the spot for family members that would be honeymooning in Maui a few weeks later.

Another hit in the Kapalua Resort was the oceanic treats of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi, fantastic local fish and great service in a busy room. After some memorable meals we feel like we are on a roll, hitting our stride and walking on sunshine.

Our best brunch of the trip was worth the 45 minute wait in the balmy ocean breeze. The Gazebo is just that, a round roof over tables and a kitchen right on the beach. The fluffy pancakes are served with coconut syrup and I have to recommend  the fried rice as a must share plate.

One of our favourite spots on Maui was a little town called Paia. We had a nice dinner at Milagros Food Company, but the best part was shopping at Wings Hawaii, a lovely shop filled with beautiful jewellery and clothing all made in Hawaii.

We ended our trip on a high note with a dinner at Mama’s Fish House in Paia. It was a picture perfect setting for an Elvis movie and it’s been around since he was the king. While the view was amazing and the food was excellent, it is the only time I’ve heard Exec Chef say that a dinner was overpriced!

 Mahalo!

Estrella’s Montreal Deli & Cafe

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While the restaurant review website Dine Here is mostly good for laughs, rather than reliable restaurant recommendations, I have made a couple of welcome discoveries.

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit Montreal, but I feel I’ve somehow come a little closer since eating at Estrella’s Montreal Deli & Cafe in Langley. Their Reuben is fantastic, stacked high with their own smoked meat and stuffed with swiss cheese and sauerkraut. The Dijon gives it a kick and the rye has that touch of chewiness that keeps it all together. The pickle spear has a nice crunch and a well-balanced brine. The coleslaw is shredded finely and slicked with a sweet/vinegary dressing.

Young Fresh Chef and Exec Chef are both fans, but Little Chef skips the mustard. They both know to hand over their pickle spears to me immediately. Estrella’s has a selection of beverages, but Little Chef goes for the Cherry Coke. Yep, it’s a smoky slice of Montreal right in Langley.

Estrella’s Deli & Cafe

5932 200 St

Langley, BC

(604) 539-9988

Open Monday-Saturday 9:00-5:00

Closed Sundays & Holiday Mondays

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