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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

Popular Posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carrot Salad

Years ago during our first visit to Las Vegas I discovered carrot salad.  It was a delightful change. The salad was sweet with a slight tang, lovely crunchy texture and amazing flavour.  I've been trying to recreate that salad ever since, finally coming up with a close clone.  I just love easy recipes* but even more I love cloning recipes. 

carrot salad
We ate dinner at California's just off of Fremont Street in Las Vegas.   Carrot salad was an offering on the salad bar and I think that is about the only restaurant I've seen it in Las Vegas.   I know for a fact when I was first introduce to this salad at this very same restaurant there were no raisins in it.  It was the shredded carrots and dressing only.  So I set out to recreate the salad at home. 

California's in Las Vegas caters to the Hawaiian crowd.  I was sure there was a hint of pineapple in the salad.  Not a strong, in your face flavour, just a hint.  I don't put raisins in my carrot salad.  I clean then shred the carrots and stir in just enough mayonnaise with a couple of tablespoons of pineapple juice to create a dressing.   I don't add any sugar although some reipes have sugar and raisins added. 

*[Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Connector program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.]


Monday, May 30, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Adventurous Vacation Cook

Frugal Kitchens 101

I have been focusing on vacation kitchens for the past couple of Frugal Kitchens 101.  The Victoria Weekend aka May 24 weekend signifies two things here.  First, home gardeners strive to get their gardens planted.  Second, it is the official beginning of the camping and cottage season.  Across Canada many home cooks will be adapting to cooking outdoors possibly on an open fire or in the cramped confines of an RV or in a small cottage kitchen.  The common theme with all of these is using equipment you don't normally use.  More than likely it will involve cast-offs from your main kitchen and quite frankly this equipment is cast-off for a reason.  If you liked it, it would not be going to the cottage or camping kitchen.   This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 addresses an entirely different aspect of the vacation kitchen though.  Vacations are the perfect opportunity to take advantage of local produce, local foods and local customs.  When on vacation look for:

  • local roadside stands - Don't think just produce when checking for local farm stands.  Where we camped near Tobermory, Ontario there were several small roadside stands and homes selling locally caught whitefish.  Some sell local wild blueberries, honey and others local delicacies.  Meanwhile others sell local artwork and crafts with friendly folk that will gladly tell you where to get the best local produce.
  • local flea markets - Flea markets tend to be located in tourist type areas.  Not only do they offer great bargains on new and used items, virtually all of them have some type of bakery and produce section.  My experience has been that both selections tend to be less expensive than the local grocery stores.
  • local specialty shops - On one of our adventures we discovered the most amazing artisan bread baked in an outdoor over.  The sign was small enough to have missed it.  The bread was some of the best we have ever had and it was cheaper than store bought!  You may even find cheese factories and abattoirs in smaller towns and outlying areas.
  • local ethnic shops - There is a larger Latino population where our vacation home is which translates into savings for Latino foods.  Ethnic shops by default tend to be less expensive than grocery stores providing the perfect stocking up foods if you are able to transport them home as well.
  • factory outlets - Factory outlets are not advertised and in many cases the only way you will find them is talking to the locals.  They are well worth the stop though.  We always stop at the Dare and McCormick factory outlets when in the area.  The savings are substantial, often a third or less of what you would pay in the grocery stores.
  • know what the area is known for - Knowing what the area is known for will give you a clue as to what the cheapest food will be.  For example when we are in Wisconsin, the cheapest foods are dairy especially cheeses and milk.  When we are in Florida we get great deals on melons and citrus.  In Digby, Nova Scotia the food of choice is scallops.  These foods will be less expensive.
  • regional foods - Some foods are very much regional and that region can be quite narrow so take advantage of enjoying these foods when you can.  For example, peameal bacon is a southern Ontario delicacy not really found much anywhere else.  Boiled peanuts is very much a Georgian delicacy spanning down into northern Florida.  If you can stock up on some of these foods to bring home. Regional foods are what makes the vacation.  They may not be less expensive but if you save on your other food purchases they are well worth the expenditure buying to bring extra home. 


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

Regional dishes are always a treat to discover.  My husband discovered biscuits and gravy years ago on one of our adventures.  This dish is regional to the southern United States.  He loves them! Unfortunately he doesn't get them very often as I only make them a couple times a year.  It's not that they are difficult to make, it's more that they aren't exactly the healthiest breakfast. 

biscuits and gravy
My husband ordered biscuits and gravy with his breakfast at Carson Street Café.  The biscuits were light and fluffy, the gravy rich and creamy.  This is  very easy dish to make at home.  Use homemade biscuit mix or Bisquick Heart Smart™ baking mix (easy recipes*) for the biscuits .  Top the hot biscuits with white gravy.

White gravy is basically a thicker bechémal sauce made with the drippings from sausage, bacon or ground beef.  Brown the meat then remove from fry pan.  Drain the grease reserving about 1 tbsp of fat.  Heat then add about 2 tbsp of flour stirring constantly to form a roux.  While stirring, slowly pour in about 2 c of milk.  Continue stirring while cooking until the gravy is thickened.  Pour the gravy over hot biscuits.  Garnish with crumbled meat.  An alternative is to stir some of the crumbled meat into the gravy.

*[Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Connector program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.]


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hawaiian French Toast

There is no end to the selection of eateries under the canopy on Fremont Street in Las Vegas.  Most of the Fremont Street casinos offer deli style, buffet and restaurant dining.    Mermaid's is a small, slots only casino that offers such culinary delicacies as foot long hotdogs and deep fried Twinkies.  Fitzgerald's has a good size McDonald's and a Krispy Creme in addition to their buffet and restaurant.   The Four Queens has a Subway, Burger King, and Chicago Brewing Company for those wanting pizza in addition to their café (Magnolia's Veranda) and higher end Hugo's Cellar .  Some like the Golden Nugget offers a café, six specialty restaurants (steakhouse, seafood, asian, sushi, etc), the buffet, The Chocolate Box (gourmet chocolates) and a Starbucks.

Hawaiian French Toast
We ate breakfast at Carson Street Café  located in the Golden Nugget.  It is a wonderful restaurant with sides open café style, a railing separating diners from passersby.  The wait-staff are some of the friendliest there are.  The food is wonderful!

My husband and ordered our standard egg breakfast with a side of biscuits and gravy.  One of our friends ordered the Hawaiian French Toast.  My gosh, it looked so good!  The French toast was made using Hawaiian sweet bread then topped with maple syrup, fresh strawberries, banana and chopped walnuts.

Hawaiian French toast would be very easy to make at home.  The limiting factor would be finding Hawaiian sweet bread in areas where it is not popular.  The alternative is to use homemade Hawaiian sweet bread.  There are several recipes for this bread available online.  I will be posting the recipe I decide using here when I make the bread.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Mastro's Ocean Club in Las Vegas, Nevada

Mastro's Ocean Club in Las Vegas
Mastro's Ocean Club in Las Vegas, Nevada
May 15, 2011 

As foodies all aspects of food interest us including restaurant design.  We were amazed at this stunning restaurant so had to investigate a bit further.   The restaurant was the Mastro's Ocean Club.  Our party of four stopped to take pictures while viewing the posted menu.  One quipped that we wouldn't be eating there within hearing range of the maitre-de who asked if we would prefer take-out.  He was really a friendly chap so we chatted briefly.  We certainly were not dressed to dine there during that visit.  I have put the restaurant on interesting restaurants to try if we get the opportunity during our next visit to Las Vegas.

Mastro's Ocean Club is located at Crystal's in City Center on Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas.  This formal restaurant would be well worth visiting.  The mouthwatering menu specializing in steak and seafood is available online.  Be warned that Mastro's is on the pricier side so if you go expect to pay over $40 per entrée, salads just under $20 and appetizers $20 to over $40.  With wine and gratuity dinner for two will come at the $250 mark or more. 


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Coffee and Tea Stains

kitchen quick tips

Both coffee and tea leave unsightly stains in mugs and cups, tea pots and on reusable coffee machine filters.  Get them sparkly clean by rubbing with a damp cloth coated with baking soda then rinse with hot water.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina in Las Vegas

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cusina in Las Vegas

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina
May 9, 2011

One thing I enjoy about Las Vegas is sightseeing for celebrity chefs and their restaurants.  Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina is located inside Crystals at CityCenter on the strip in Las Vegas.  CityCenter is very impressive, tres chic!  It has an amazing wood floor, a wood staircase with tiled risers and elegant atmosphere.  There are shops, restaurants, spas and residents so well worth the visity.  Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina is on the upper level with a good view of the retail shops, perfect for people watching while casual dining .  The menu at Wolfgang's is available online.  It includes rustic Italian favourites and the pasta is handmade!    Private and casual dining are offered.  We did not eat there this trip as we arrived shortly after eating a large breakfast.  This restaurant is on my list of must eat at restaurants for our next visit.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Buying Food for Vacation Kitchens

Frugal Kitchens 101

Last week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discussed Vacation Kitchens.  When shopping for food at home I tend to frequent farmer's markets, farm stands and orchards.  Foods bought at grocery stores are usually in the largest size possible depending on the unit price.  During the growing season fresh produce from my garden supplements food purchases.  I have a very well stocked pantry with filled freezers and plenty of home canned foods to rely on.  A lot of the frugal practices do not work well for vacation homes.  Three key things need to be considered when purchasing food for a vacation home:  ownership, mode of transportation, and duration of the vacation.  Obviously if you are renting a vacation home you will not be able to store any left-over food and depending on your mode of transportation may not be able to bring left-over food home.  If vacationing outside of your own country there will likely be restrictions on what you can bring back into the country.

We own our vacation home in the sunny southern United States.  We are restricted as to what we can store when not there because we rent out home out so keeping anything in the freezer or fridge is not an option unless we are certain the home will not be rented out before our next visit.  The duration of our stays range from a week to a month so that affects the way I shop.  We travel by plane on shorter trips and car for longer trips.  There is very little I can bring back when traveling by plane as we have devised a system where we can completely avoid checked bags since we have clothes, toiletries and all other necessary items in our vacation home.  When traveling by car I have more leeway for bringing food from home to our vacation home.  On these trips I bring home canned foods and foods that are only available in Canada.

Each trip to our vacation home, I learn a few more ways of buying food as frugally as possible given the restrictions.  We always stop before getting to our vacation home to pick up the basics.  This includes: milk, coffee, pork loin, cheese, small plain yogurt, bread, lunch meat, condiments, fruit and vegetables for a couple of days and meat for the following day.  We tend to shop for groceries a couple of times for a week long visit but once a week for a month long trip.  We also eat out more for dinner when at our vacation home however the price of any food that has to be tossed is more than offset by what we save by not eating every meal out.  Here's a few things I do:

  • starters - Within minutes of opening up our vacation home and unpacking the groceries I have the pork loin in a zipper bag curing for peameal bacon and quart of yogurt on the go.  Peameal bacon is less expensive and lower in calories than regular bacon.  It can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner as well.  The yogurt can be used for breakfast or as the base for dips and salad dressing.
  • condiments - Condiments are expensive especially if you end up having to discard the left-overs. I buy the very smallest size that I can.  While it is higher priced per unit there is considerably less that will have to be discarded.  A limited variety of individual sized tubs (Heinz) and packets are available in the deli section.  We very seldom eat at fast food restaurants so I don't have any extra condiment packets from that source but I have found when ordering Chinese food where our vacation home is they send extra plum sauce and soy sauce so I keep those for home cooking.  I also save the condiment packages at home to bring down.  I don't get many but they fit in my purse which is handy when flying.
  • cheese - I keep the cheese selection to small packages and limit the variety.   
  • seasonings - This is a hard one because the smaller jars are expensive.  I found small .5 oz zipper packs of several dried herbs and seasonings in the ethnic section for under a dollar a package.  The brand name is Badia.  Aldi proved to be an inexpensive source for some seasonings.  I bought larger containers Spice Club of sea salt and pepper with built-in grinder for our use and the small salt & pepper shaker sets for the renters at Sam's Club.  
  • herbs - I am used to cooking with fresh herbs.  A bundle of cut fresh herbs cost about $2 or more in the grocery stores but I found potted herbs for $1.29.  The nice thing about the potted herbs is I have the fresh I want and I pass along the plants to our neighbours before leaving.  They are very much into gardening so appreciate the free plants.
  • flours/sugars/oils - I buy the smallest size possible or bring from home when driving down.  I have found it is less expensive to buy mixes for the limited amount of baking I do at the vacation home rather than individual ingredients for short trips.  However, all of these store well in our locked closet that isn't accessible to renters.  I put them into glass jars for storage when we aren't there to protect from any insects or humidity.
  • sundry items - We keep a good supply of sundry items (eg. dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc) on hand for our personal use.  I tend to buy larger containers of those.  We also keep a small supply of sundry items for the renters.  This is a courtesy to the renters so they don't have to rush out to shop but rather can get settled then shop the next day.  The dollar stores are excellent for the small sized containers needed for the renters.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prime Rib at Golden Nugget Buffet

One of our traditions before going to Las Vegas is watching the movie Vegas Vacation with Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo.  There is a great clip of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and Clark at a Las Vegas buffet.  As horrible as they portrait the buffet in reality most buffets in Las Vegas range from good to excellent even offering cooked while you wait items like omelets, eggs or stir fry.  Most also offer roast beef, pork, or turkey sliced the way you like it.  While there are fast food restaurants in Las Vegas, the buffets tend to be a better value for your food dollar.  They are all you can eat and include your drink of choice with some even offering complimentary beer and wine with the meal.  The food choices are considerably healthier for you than fast food.  There are appetizers, salads (make your own, pre-made), several choices for the main course, and a delectable array of deserts!  The only drawback is buffets encourage over eating.

Golden Nugget prime rib at the buffet
Las Vegas is a city where you can eat like a king for next to nothing and even sometimes for nothing by getting the meals comped.  Casinos will give you free complimentary meals, reduce or eliminate room charges and other free perks based on your play.  In addition to comps there are coupon specials for 2 buffet meals for the price of one and similar restaurant savings.  All drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic are free when playing.  If you don't feel like playing there are bars within the casinos when the price will range from cheap to expensive depending on the casino.

We stayed at the Golden Nugget, one of our favourite casino and resorts.  Their buffet is quite good!  Pictured is the prime rib at the Golden Nugget buffet.  The chef graciously posed for the photo shoot.  He was very friendly as was the majority of the staff throughout the casino and resort.  The dinner buffet costs $18.99 per person which is not a bad price.  However, my husband was able to get a comp so we ate free!  The Golden Nugget buffets offers a seafood and more dinner Friday through Sunday for $21.99 per person as well as breakfast ($10.99) and lunch ($11.99) buffets daily.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Insalata Caprese

We eat a lot of salads, usually as a side with dinner but sometimes as a full meal for lunch.  I love discovering the various salad offerings at buffets and salad bars.  The word salad often brings to mind the generic garden salad consisting of iceberg lettuce, tomato, and cucumber topped with an equally generic salad dressing (eg. Thousand Island, house).  However, salad need not be boring or generic.  There are so many salads to discover.

caprese salad
The salad section of the buffet at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino offers all of the ingredients for making your own garden or Caesar salads.  There is also a lovely offering of ready to serve salads.  I chose a colourful vegetable packed mixed salad (top) and insalata caprese (bottom right).  Insalata caprese is a salad made in the style of Capri.  It consists of tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella cheese, basil and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Insalata caprese is usually served as a starter rather than a side dish.

This is a very easy salad to make at home.  The version pictured had the buffalo mozzarella cheese shaped to mimic the grape tomatoes however the most popular presentation is tomato slices topped with freshly sliced mozzarella cheese, topped with a drizzle of olive oil then garnished with fresh basil leaves.  Another pretty presentation is to alternate the tomato and mozzarella slices ring fashion on a plate then drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil leaves.  It is one of our favourite salads when the garden is laden with tomatoes.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Clean-up

kitchen quick tips

Borrow a tip from the top chefs - keep your kitchen work area neat and tidy while you are working.  Clean-up as to work in the kitchen to save time and prevent injury.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Flowers by Executive Pastry Chef Claude Escamilla

chocolate flowers by executive pastry chef Claude Escamilla

Chocolate Flowers by Executive Pastry Chef Claude Escamilla
May 15, 2011

Part of being a foodie is enjoying all aspects of food.  When on vacation and road trips I am always on the look-out for great foodie finds.  I love finding sculptures made from food.  I will admit that chocolate is not my absolute must have food especially milk chocolate but I could not help appreciate the beautiful workmanship in these gorgeous massive chocolate flowers that span over two feet in size.  They are a creation by Executive Pastry Chef Claude Escamilla of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  The chocolate flowers are on display at City Center in Las Vegas.  Aren't they magnificent?  With a bit of practice these flowers could be made on a much smaller scale to decorate a homemade cake.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breakfast at Du-Pars Restaurant and Bakery

My husband and I very seldom eat a full, hot breakfast at home.  It's not that we can't but rather that we enjoy lounging sipping hot coffee on weekend mornings.  Breakfast usually consists of a piece of fruit and yogurt unless the kids are home then we make a full, hot breakfast.  The funny thing is when we were doing a lot of camping bacon and eggs for breakfast was the normal camp breakfast.  When we are traveling we usually enjoy a full breakfast and yet at our vacation home unless we have company we are back to fruit and yogurt.  During our recent vacation in Las Vegas we ate a hot breakfast each morning.

poached eggs with country fried steak
Our first breakfast was at Du-Pars Restaurant and Bakery located in the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino.  This is a must stop at restaurant ever since we have been going to Las Vegas.  Their food is scrumptious and service always very friendly.  Their prices are in the average range with breakfast dishes around the $7 mark.

My husband ordered poached eggs with country fried steak.  Country fried steak is a thin cut of steak that is coated in a bread coating then fried.  It is usually served with a white gravy made from the pan drippings.  The breakfast came with choice of toast and coffee.  Coffee at Du-Pars is a nice full blend that compliments the breakfast nicely.  Refills are free.

sunny side up eggs
I ordered sunny side up eggs for dipping toast into.  This is my favourite way to enjoy breakfast eggs.  Unfortunately, dipped eggs have been discouraged due to a possible salmonella threat from under cooked eggs.  I've eaten a lot of eggs this way and have never been sick although I have had a bout of sickness due to salmonella that was not food borne.  It wasn't pleasant but I survived and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

My meal was more than substantial, nicely cooked just the way I like my eggs.  The bacon was quite lovely too, cooked to crispy unlike many times when it comes a bit undercooked for my liking.  All in all it was a great breakfast to start our vacation with!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Vacation Kitchens

Frugal Kitchens 101

Over the years I have operated several styles of vacation home kitchens ranging from the bare basics camp kitchen to the somewhat small but adequately equipped RV kitchen to the fully functional, fully equipped vacation home.  Vacation kitchens all have a few things in common.  First they are generally but not always small with limited cabinet space.  Second, unless it is your own vacation home and even then equipment is limited to the basics especially with respect to kitchen equipment.  In most cases a dishwasher is not even going to be an option.  Despite the limitations of even an outdoor, bare basics camp kitchen there are very few foods that can't be prepared and that included home canning if the opportunity presents itself.  Today's Frugal Kitchen 101 gives a few tips on making the most of vacation kitchens.

  • less is more - We've camped and RVed in many areas where electric appliances would not go because electricity simply was not available.  We learned a long time ago that manual appliances would get the job done without electricity.  A manual egg beater performs just as nicely as an electric one but with a bit more effort.  Kids are always a great asset too especially when making fresh butter.  I'd pour the cold heavy cream into a jar then let the kids shake it until it separated into butter and buttermilk.  They thought it was fun and I got the butter I wanted.  I did the same thing with ice cream, turning it into a game with kick-the-can-ice cream.  Rather than use the electric yogurt maker I use at home I devised a make-shift cooler method to make yogurt.  
  • canning - Canning is possible even on a wood fire so if you are into home canning as I am don't let that stop you.  I have canned on the open fire, on a camp stove, on the RV stove and in the vacation home.  I have a fully functional kitchen at our vacation home and what is really nice is fruits and vegetables I might not be able to bring across the border, I can simply can then take home in the jars.  Canning while on vacation is a great way to take advantage of local produce in season where you are as well so don't discount it.
  • equipment - In most cases even with your own camping equipment, RV or vacation home you are going to be dealing with equipment you likely discarded from your permanent residence or it will be of a bit lesser quality than what you are used to dealing with as well as specialty equipment.  After all, your primary kitchen is going to get all of the best equipment.  The real trick with vacation kitchens is to learn to use the equipment you have available.  If it is equipment you have not used before (eg. you are used to cooking on electric burners but the RV has propane burners) do a trial run!
Vacation cooking differs from home cooking in that there are some convenience food items that while you don't normally use them at home, they make good sense when on vacation.  At the same time you still want to keep your food dollars in check.  Part of running any frugal kitchen, vacation kitchens included means you always get the best value for your dollar.  Here's a few tips:
  • condiments - Unless you are at your own cottage, vacation home or RV where you can bring home any extras, buy the smallest container possible.  In normal cases this does not sound frugal but if you can't bring it home or it will spoil if you leave it there the frugal choice is to by the very smallest container possible that will meet your needs while you are there.  Extra individual packets from fast food work nicely here too if you have them.
  • buy day to day - In many cases buying only the foods you will use that day is a better choice than doing a large grocery shopping and ending up tossing food out.  In the end it actually will save you money.  Buy only the foods that can be used up within a day or two.
  • simplify - I am used to an extremely well stocked pantry at home.  Every vacation kitchen I have had has had to be simplified to the basics out of necessity.  It's simply not feasible for me to have 50 or more seasonings that I have a home at my disposal in a vacation kitchen.  Simplifying to the basics just makes thinks easier and less expensive.
  • think fresh - Go with in season fresh fruits and vegetables as they usually are least expensive but think outside the box.  Most grocery stores have a small plant section.  I absolutely love fresh basil and grow many varieties.  During a recent vacation I bought a small sweet basil potted plant for $2.  I was able to harvest from that for the time we were at the vacation home then give the plant to a neighbour


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mini Keurig Coffee Maker

My apologies for a late post today but the reason why the post is late will be revealed at a later date.  I recently splurged on a new Keurig single serving coffee maker to replace the quickly failing Melitta One:One. After setting up the new coffee maker my first thought was this would be an ideal coffee maker for the workplace.  It would be quite easy for employees to buy their own K-cups then brew at work for a fraction of the cost of coffee shop coffee.  The K-cups are lightweight and easy to transport as well.  We left for the first part of our spring vacation to sunny Las Vegas the day after I bought the Keurig.  We used it that morning then unplugged it and we were off.

mini keurig coffee maker
Imagine my surprise when we checked into our room at the Golden Nugget to see a mini Keurig coffee maker!  There was a box of four K-cups beside the coffee maker.  The coffee was from Green Mountain so I figured I was going to put that box of K-cups into my suitcase to head home for a couple of our kids that like that brand of coffee.  We were traveling with another couple.  Thank goodness they pointed out that the box of four would be a room charge of $10.  Now I'm not stupid.  In Las Vegas there is no need to pay for any drink, alcoholic or otherwise so there was no way I was going to pay $2.50 per K-cup to enjoy coffee in my room.  I drooled over that coffee maker and the K-cups the entire trip then headed down to the casino for the customary Baily's and coffee before heading for breakfast.  The Baily's and coffee technically was free but I always tip $1 which I think is only fair when the waitress is doing be the favour of bringing me a free drink.

I have to say though that I am a bit disappointed.  We have stayed at the Golden Nugget several times and because we do a fair amount of traveling we know that many motel rooms have coffee makers complete with coffee packets free of charge.  It is nice to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee before putting on the day's face.  This is the very first time we have ever been 'charged' to have coffee in our room aside of room service.  On the higher end K-cups will come in at about 80 cents each so even at $2.50 each to use they were well overpriced.  The Golden Nugget is a higher end casino/resort.  This type of thing should be built into the price of the room if anything rather than an in your face money grab.  Don't get me wrong as the Golden Nugget treats us very, very good especially with respect to comps but somehow charging for coffee in the room is just wrong when you can go down and get one for free.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Las Vegas Here We Come

Blogger has been having a few problems but in case you hadn't figured it out we have been on a road trip to beautiful Las Vegas.  The next few posts will share some of the great foodie finds discovered there.  Keep in mind a lot of times being a true foodie home cook I am always looking for dishes tha can be easily recreated at home.  Our first foodie find did not disappoint.

chicken caesar wrap
Once we cleared airport security my husband and I along with our very best friends forever (seriously) stopped at one of the airport restaurants while waiting for our flight.  This is a favourite pass time for those flying.  What I noticed is a lot of the foods offered can easily be duplicated at home. 

I ordered the chicken caesar warp served with French fries and dill pickle slices.  Really it was more of a stuffed pocketless pita that would be ever so easy to duplicate at home.  The next few posts will  highlight some of the foodie finds we enjoyed.  Oh my!  They were delicious!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Outage

My apologies, Blogger the blog host for this blog has been down for the past twelve hours or more. During that time period you may or may not have been able to access this blog and if you could access the blog at times it was not possible to leave comments. Regular posting will resume as soon as the problems are resolved and the Blogger platform becomes stable again. In the meantime, your's truly is busy gathering lots of great foodie things to talk about in the upcoming posts. Oh my gosh, I think you are going to like a few of the foodie finds! I know I certainly enjoyed finding them to share with you so watch for those posts coming shortly.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Sweeten Your Garburator

kitchen quick tips

Don't toss those spent lemon wedges from salads and drinks.  Put them down your garburator to combat any odours.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My New Coffee Centre

Shortly after moving into this house, one of our adult kids moved in with us for awhile.  I set a coffee centre on the breakfast bar for easy accessibility.  I had the Melitta One:One coffee maker, a basket of coffee pods and jar of sugar there.  It was out of the way of the main kitchen counter space which is limited so less on the counter makes for more work space.  However, the One:One is best left set up ready to use as needed.  The One:One has be leaking for quite some time, gradually getting worse.  I finally decided to replace it. The leaking issue is a known problem with the One:One and the lack of availability of the coffee pods were deciding factors in me considering other brands of single serving coffee machines.

keurig gourmet coffee maker special edition
Of the main brands of single serving coffee machines, my two choices were Keurig and Tassimo.  A couple of our kids has a Keurig that they have been very pleased with.  Canadian Tire and Walmart (Canada) had the smaller Keurig Mini on sale for $89.99.  It lacked the extra features.  I figured if I was going to buy one, it would have the programmable feature.  Future Shop had the Keurig Special Edition (B60) on sale for $149.99.  Walmart had the Tassimo for $129.99, the Keurig Mini ($89.99) and a Mr. Coffee that uses the K-cups.  The price of the K-cups were consistent across all three stores ranging from $12.49 to $17.99 12 to 18 K-cups.

Pictured is the Keurig Special Edition (B60) purchased from Future Shop.  This is a large appliance in comparison to my espresso maker and the One:One.  I set it up on the closed end of the breakfast bar.  Two mugs and two K-cups stand ready for use.  I think I will add a small vase with flower to brighten up the spot.

k-cups and filter
My husband and I prefer percolator coffee so the percolator sees a lot of use.  However, a single serve coffee brewing system makes a lot of sense for those days when a full pot of coffee is too much.  It is an excellent appliance for entertaining as well.  Quite often only one or two want coffee so brewing a full pot is a waste.

Pictured are the K-cups.  A 12-pk sample came with the Keurig and I bought an eighteen pack of the Timothy's Midnight Magic.  K-cups are expensive coming in at about 79 cents each.  However, Keurig offers a reusable filter system consisting of a holder with lid (grey) and small mesh basket so any ground coffee can be used.  There are about 44 tbsp per pound in dry coffee.  A can of Maxwell House coffee is 969 gr or about 2.2 lb or about


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Filet Mignon

We are true beef lovers here!  While we eat other meats, poultry and fish, beef is by far the meat of choice.  However, we very seldom buy pre-packaged meat especially beef in the grocery stores.  In addition to the grass fed, hormone free half of beef we buy from a local farmer we have dealt with for years, we also buy fresh beef from a local Mom & Pop butcher shop. 

fresh cut filet mignon
My husband wanted to celebrate a special event last week.  He brought home three lovely, fresh prepared filet mignon steaks.  Filet mignon is the French term mean cute or dainty fillet.  The steak is a cut from the beef tenderloin.  It is wrapped in bacon medallion fashion.  In France, the term filet mignon refers to pork prepared in the same manner while filet de boeuf refers to the beef cut.

The fillet is the most tender cut of beef cut from the smaller tail end of the tenderloin.  An average steer or heifer produces four to six pounds of fillet, making it the most expensive cut of beef.  The cut and flavour of the filet mignon is well worth the price.  While frozen filet mignon steaks are available, these should be avoided.  It should be fresh cut, freshly prepared for premium flavour and texture.

grilled filet mignon
My husband allowed the steaks to come to almost room temperature.  This is important to get the right degree of doneness when cooking any steak.  If a steak is put onto the grill directly from the refrigerator, the outside of the steak will grill nicely but the inside remain cold resulting in undercooked steak.  Realizing the steak is undercooked for the desired doneness, many return the steak to the grill to finish cooking.  The end result is a charred, tough as leather steak.  This can be avoided by letting the steak warm first.

The filet mignon was served with grilled foil wrapped potatoes, sweet peas, mushrooms and tomato slices.  That is fresh cut chives from the garden on my potato.  I love chives!  The steak was sinfully delectable, well worth the cost and a perfect celebration meal.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Breakfast Isn't Just For Breakfast

Frugal Kitchens 101

In today's busy world many home cooks overlook the possibility of serving breakfast dishes for dinner.  However, breakfast offerings are perfectly acceptable dishes for dinner.  They are often quick and easy to prepare.  They tend to be relatively inexpensive as well.  Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on a few breakfast dishes that do double duty as dinner dishes.

  • eggs - The simple bacon, eggs and hash browns is a meal that is offered at most truck stops twenty four hours a day.  This meal is equally good as a dinner at home.  Omelets are an excellent dinner dish as are a variety of the egg based breakfast casseroles.
  • bacon - The dinner meat does not always have to be a meat that takes longer preparation.  We often have peameal bacon as the dinner meat.  It cooks fast and tastes great.   Even regular bacon can be used for the dinner meat.  It is wonderful cut into pieces then stirred into vegetables like cooked cabbage or mashed potatoes. 
  • sausage - Breakfast sausage links are quick to cook and work quite nicely as a dinner meat.
  • pancakes - Pancakes are a nice change of pace from other meat based dinner meals.  Kids really like the idea of having pancakes for dinner too.
  • waffles - Waffles can be served plain much the same as pancakes or they can be dressed up as the dinner meal or even turned into a dessert.  The possibilities are endless and they are sure to please.
  • hash browns - Hash browns are a nice change from the regular potato offerings.  They are quick and easy to prepare as well.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Canadian Made - Harvey's

Harvey's burger

There are very, very few fast food burgers that I like.  Most are too high in fat, carbs and salt but sadly lacking in flavour.  How the fast food restaurants could manage to ruin something as simple as a good hamburger is beyond me.  Well, thinking about it the all mighty dollar does have a factor in the equation with the fast food restaurants constantly trying to cut costs to meet the ever rising demands of consumers for cheaper priced burgers.

Years ago while still dating, one of our favourite burger joints was Harvey's.  It continues to be one of our favourites for fast food restaurants.  Harvey's a Canadian owned and operated fast food restaurant chain with locations concentrated in southern Ontario, southern Quebec, the Maritimes, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta.  Harvey's was founded in Richmon Hill, Ontario in early 1959 by George B. Sukornyk and Rick Mauran .  The first Harvey's opened on April 1, 1959.  Headquarters are located in Vaughan, Ontario.  It is the second-largest Canadian-established restaurant chain next to Tim Hortons, and is the fourth-largest burger chain in Canada.  The restaurant's popularity stems from having your burger your way.  The burger patties are char-gilled, placed on the wrapping paper then transferred to the loading station that is a choose your own topping counter with an employee ready to top your burger with your choices from a selection of eleven items.  It's quite similar to a Subway set-up with the employee on one side of the counter, customer on the other and delectable toppings in between. 


Saturday, May 07, 2011

Chocolate Crisps

There is an endless number of no bake bars recipes using dry cereals.  Some of them involve minimal cooking but all are easy enough to make that they are the ideal beginner's recipe.  Cereal bars tend to have few ingredients, most of them common pantry items as well.  They are the ideal treat for school lunches and yet are a favourite dessert item at many functions. 

chocolate crisps
Chocolate crisps takes advatage of the classical pairing of chocolate with peanut butter.  They are a delectible change from plain rice krispies squares and every bit as easy to make.  These squares are sure to become a family favourite!

Chocolate Crisps
source: modified from Jean Paré, 150 Delicious Squares (1981), Pp. 10

¾ c honey
1 c peanut butter
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c salted peanuts
3 c rice krispies cereal

Mix cereal and peanuts together in mixing bowl.  Combine honey and peanut butter in sauce pan.  Melt over low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Stir until melted.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal mix.  Stir to coat.  Press mixture into a greased 9 x 9 - inch baking dish.  Chill in the refrigerator until firm.  Cut into squares.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Peach Delight

The amount of home canning that I do seems to mystify many.  It's funny that one question that always pops up is "How do you use it".  Using home canned foods is no different than using store bought, commercially canned foods other than you have a larger variety to choose from.  For example, I canned spirited peaches last year.  I have to admit that I don't can many products containing alcohol simply because I prefer product I can serve to everyone including our grandkids.  Of the foods I can numbering between 1,200 and 1,400 jars annually, there are only three products that contain alcohol.  These are specialty products of which I can understand the question as to how to use the product. 

peach delight
The spirited peaches was a canning experiment this year using peach schnapps.  I only made a couple of jars to see if we liked them.  Since they do have alcohol in them serving these peaches with toast for breakfast didn't seem like a very prudent idea.  I made a peach delight using one of the jars instead.

Peach delight is very easy to make.  I used one sheet of store bought butter puff pastry but    homemade puff pastry can be used.  I cut the puff pastry into six squares then placed the squares in muffin tins and baked at 375ºF until golden brown.  I placed three or four slices of peaches over each pastry shell then topped with fresh whipped cream. 

Fresh whipped cream is a true culinary delight and ever so easy to make.  I use 35% heavy whipping cream in the food processor but a blender or egg beaters can be used.  The trick is to not over beat otherwise the fats will separate giving you butter and buttermilk.  We prefer the whipped cream unsweetened with just a light splash of vanilla to highlight the buttery smoothness.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Refrigerator Scuff Marks

kitchen quick tips
Scuff marks from containers and packages on refrigerator shelves and compartment sides come off in a snap using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Chives

Fresh herbs are a true culinary delight.  I grow over 40 varieties of herbs each year and quite frankly go into a panic at the though of have to re-establish my herb bed even though I have done four times now.  Each time the herb bed grows in size but I also grow herbs indoors as well.  I use herbs for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

chives
Chives is one of the first herbs to emerge in the spring.  This is a rather small clump of chives but left to its druthers will get quite large.  Chives next to members of the mint family is about one of the most invasive herbs in the garden.  It is self seeding as well as spreading.  The green onion-like foliage is an absolute delight as a garnish or for adding to soups, salads and stews.  It is available in a few varieties ranging from plain somewhat onion flavoured to garlic. 

Chives are one of my staple herbs!  I use them almost on a daily basis during the main growing season in the garden and weekly from cuttings on windowsill grown chives. They add a cheery freshness that can't be duplicated!

chives on potatoes
The recent warmer weather has the chives not only poking through the ground but ready for their first cutting.   I did up a rib roast on Sunday served with oven baked potatoes and the au jus.  The roast was delectable, the potatoes marvelous but the crowning glory was the fresh cut chives!

I like to cut the chives within a few minutes of serving time.  I cut them close to the ground in a straight cut.  Then I rinse well and pat dry.  I cut across the stocks at about a quarter inch intervals placing them in a mis en place bowl.  From there the chives are used as desired sprinkled over the desired dish.  When it comes to baked potatoes, chives are the perfect addition whether topped with sour cream or butter.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

An overlooked section of the grocery store is the aisle dried beans are on.  While many will toss a can or two of beans in their cart, they breeze right by the dried beans not realizing that if you want to save on your grocery tab, dried beans is the way to go.  Cooking dried beans from scratch is very easy and they taste better than canned beans.  Cooking from scratch on average costs about a third of the price of canned beans.  They are ideal pantry items as beans will keep well over five years without spoiling. 

chickpeas
Garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas.  They are popular in Middle Eastern cooking and the primary ingredient in hummus, a wonderful dish that can be used as a dip or spread.  Chickpeas are also a popular offering on salad bars.  They are high in protein, the perfect addition for salads, soups, stews and vegetarian dishes.  Chickpea flour is available as well made from ground chickpeas and used much the same as you would use other thickeners or flours.

Chickpeas are very easy to cook from dry and like all beans they taste so much better when cooked from scratch rather than commercially canned.  They are easily home canned as well and even home canned taste better than commercially canned chickpeas.  I usually use the quick soak method although you can soak the beans overnight if you want to. 

leg  Rinse chickpeas and cover with fresh water After soaking drain and cover with fresh water.  Bring to a boil.  Boil two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let sit one hour.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer until tender about 40 minutes.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Dreaded Cooking Rut

Frugal Kitchens 101
Every home cook has at some time experienced the dreaded cooking rut.  The cooking rut happens for many reasons with one of the biggest causes being the comfort zone.  It's easier to turn to a tried and tested family favourite meal rather than try a new dish that may not be well received.  Adding to the problem is some home cooks rely rather heavily on menu planning  or they have a system of a particular dish for each day of the week (eg. chicken on Sundays, fish on Fridays, and etc.).  Like many home cooks I have recently been in a cooking rut although not a full blown one.  It's been a long winter so homemade soup has been a weekly meal and while the soups differed the homemade bread and presentation remained the same.  Now that the weather is getting nicer the meal of choice is grilled steak and potatoes.  Cooking ruts can end up costing in that there is a greater temptation to eat out or buy take-out.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on a few of the ways I deal with cooking ruts.

  • inspiration - One of the most effective ways of breaking a cooking rut is finding inspiration for making a new dish.  Inspiration can come from a variety of sources.  
  • change one ingredient - Small changes in a dish can make a big difference.  For example if you always make mac and cheese with cheddar cheese try making it with a different cheese or stir in salsa for a change in pace.  What this does is make the dish feel like a new dish and creates a bit of a spark to tweak a bit more.
  • nix the menu plan - In many ways menu planning encourages the cooking rut.  I do not menu plan unless it is for a special occasion.  Rather I find cooking from the pantry helps to prevent a cooking rut stimulating creativity in the kitchen.
  • buy one new ingredient - This is one of my favourite ways of breaking a cooking rut.  I will purposely put one new food item in the grocery cart when I'm shopping.  It doesn't matter that I don't know what to do with it, it matters that I am going to learn what to do with it.  The neat thing is this tip does not have to cost a lot of money either.  I usually keep this type of purchase to under $5.  Occasionally I may go over that but not very often. 


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Canadian Made - Red River Cereal

Red River Cereal

I can remember many a morning starting the day with a steaming bowl of Red River Cereal.  This unique Canadian cereal is made from cracked wheat, cracked rye, whole and cracked flax.  It is 100% natural with not additives making it one of our hot cereals of choice even now.    I prefer it over oatmeal or cream of wheat Red River Cereal is named after the Red River Valley in Manitoba.  This wonderful Canadian cereal is not available outside of Canada although thanks to the wonders of the internet and global shopping that is changing.

The Red River Cereal company was established in Manitoba in 1924.  In 2004 is was bought by International Multifoods Corporation.  The Red River brand name is currently owned by Robin Hood Multifoods, Inc. of Markham, Ontario, a division of Smucker Foods of Canada Co.  The cereal continues to be 100% all natural.  Of interest if you notice on the box the COR 66 in a circle.  The COR number is somewhat like a factory number, a way of identifying where that product came from. 

In Canada, growers have various contracts.  For example, here some growers grow tomatoes for Heinz while others grow for Alymer.  In any given county there will be a division of the growers and who they are growing for.  A COR number is assigned  to the growers in a particular area by some companies.  Which means they can later identify the location where the produce was grown if there is ever a problem.  In this case the grains in the cereal came from the COR growers group 66.