A couple weeks back Sweetie and I decided it was time for a mini vacay. In all honesty, we’ve hardly been ANYWHERE on vacation pretty much since our honeymoon almost four years ago (during which we took the “go big or go home” route and spent a couple weeks enjoying Paris and London) (Paris FRANCE and London ENGLAND, that is – not Paris and London Ontario.) (Such places do exist here in Southwestern Ontario, so that all seemed worth clarifying.) (But I digress…)
Sweetie is a bit of a purist when it comes to camping. If he had things his way, we’d be out in the middle of some crown forest, foraging for berries and squatting in the bushes (ok, the foraging for berries part might be a bit of a stretch, since Sweetie’s a bit of a carnivore and he enjoys his campfire burgers and dogs, but the squatting in the bushes part? That part is probably [sadly] true.) I, on the other hand, rather enjoy running water and indoor plumbing (and not the pit-toilet kind – nosireebob – I need toilets that actually FLUSH thankyouverymuch) so a long time ago we reached a compromise – tent camping without the luxury of electricity or running water at the campsite, but in close proximity to real washrooms. It’s as “roughing it” as I get, and, well, it works for us. :)
Mornings at our campsite tend to look like this…
…yep. I’m a princess. And I don’t do anything in the morning without coffee first. Even if it’s instant. And, truthfully, this Nescafe instant stuff was kinda tasty! That contraption under the pot of water is Sweetie’s snazzy campstove. It’s tiny, and it runs off of methanol, I think. He’s a camping gadget guy – no Coleman stove for my dude. Nope. He’s all about small efficient little contraptions like this (you know, in case he’s ever backpacking out into the middle of some random forest – I’m sure he could cook a lot of berries on that there little stove.)
On this particular camping trip, Sweetie decided it might be a good time to take up carving. He read an article on the site The Art of Manliness on how a first good whittling project is to carve an egg. Here is the beginnings of Sweetie’s egg…
I don’t have an official “end” photo, because, well, things got a little bloody toward the end. True story. But an egg-shape did indeed materialize eventually!
And, just to backtrack a little, I suppose I should clarify that Sweetie tends to pick up random hobbies from time to time. So carving? Yep. That’s my Sweetie. That said, in all fairness, Sweetie’s dad is a very accomplished wood carver, so I’m guessing a bit of Sweetie’s desire to learn to carve comes from that. But I also think Sweetie just likes to learn new things. New… um… random… things… Definitely not a bad quality! And it’s what makes Sweetie the interesting person he is.
(The other benefit to Sweetie’s whittling-attempt? Those shavings make AWESOME fire starters.)
We also spent some time at the beach while camping. Being obedient little campers, in compliance with this sign we did not bring our martinis down to the beach.
I’m not really a lay-in-the-sun-for-multiple-hours kinda girl (and my pastiness is definite proof of that) but I rather enjoy just wandering around the beach and looking at things. The colours in the rocks along the waterline totally reminded me of the teals and grays and greiges in my house…
And I even managed to get Sweetie in a greencard (I think this may be the only picture of him on this site – consider this proof that he really does exist!)
See? My Sweetie is cute, non? :)
Post-beach drinkies followed, of course (since we were discouraged from bringing our swanky martini-glasses down to the sand.) Sweetie had beer…
…and I had wine (in my pretty blue camping cup, of course.)
(See the trees reflecting in my wine? I worked hard on this pic. :)
Sweetie resumed his whittling (it was around this point when things turned a bit gruesome) and I got caught up on my reading…
Yup. That’s right. Some people go camping with a good well-loved novel. Me? I bring the new IKEA catalogue and the most recent issue of Chatelaine. Potato, po-tah-toh. :)
When it got dark, Sweetie made a fantastic roaring fire – he rather rocks at the log-cabin approach.
And once we had a good bed of coals going, we made grilled-cheese pie irons for supper. Yum. And then, for desert, we had s’mores. But creative s’mores (since we’d both forgotten to seek out appropriate marshmallow roasting sticks pre-darkness.) The invention of “pie iron s’mores” resulted (and didn’t go too badly, truth be told!)
(Sweetie testing for marshmallow doneness.)
And a couple of drinks later, it was time for bed.
And that’s the tale of our quick little two-night camping trip! The next morning was pack-up and get-out day (so that someone else could use our fantastic little campsite the next night.) This camping trip didn’t seem nearly long enough, but we’re hoping to fit in some September camping maybe (if the weather stays nice enough into the fall.) Fingers crossed! I’m totally not a nature-girl (there were rather thorough spider-checks in the tent before bedtime), but there’s seriously nothing nicer than a couple days spent entirely outdoors.
(Um, with running water and real plumbing, of course.)
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I don’t barbecue. Propane plus flames equals a terrifying combination if you ask me. (Yep – I’m that girl.) Luckily, Sweetie loves to barbecue. And not just in the summer – he’s barbecued in the snow, the freezing rain, and in torrential rainstorms… He is quite a barbecuing trooper, truth be told. (And I’m a very lucky girl. :)
My (well, our) favourite grilled grub? Hamburgers. Joy-burgers, to be exact. Just a couple ingredients, but infinite yumminess. Once grilled to perfection (a la Sweetie) they look like this…
Here’s how all that deliciousness happens!
-1 large pound of extra lean or lean ground hamburger (aside – am I the only one who uses the term “a pound of hamburger” to refer to the package and not necessarily the actual volume/weight? Sweetie thinks this is weird. Growing up, any package of hamburger, even if larger than a pound, was “a pound.” SO, for this recipe, you can either use a traditional [ie: actual and, well, normal person] pound, or a large-ish pound [which for me means about 0.6kg])
-1 egg (lightly beaten)
-1-2 tablespoon of crushed soda biscuits (another aside: I love soda biscuits) or oatmeal (if you don’t have soda biscuits on hand) (but I always have soda biscuits on hand)
-1 tablespoon secret ingredient (keep reading for the dramatic reveal!)
1. Mix all four ingredients in bowl, and shape into tennis ball-sized balls (I usually get about 5 hamburgers from a large pound of ground beef.)
2. Flatten burger-balls between your palms, making the centre thinner than the outsides (this helps them cook better!)
3. Grill until fully cooked, inside and out (an undercooked burger is a sad burger)
4. Prepare on a bun (with lots of condiments.)
6. Rub tummy and smile. :)
And that secret ingredient? (Queue dramatic drum roll…)
…It’s Montreal steak spice! Which looks like this:
This is the President’s Choice version (available at Loblaws, Superstore, Zehrs and No Frills stores, and maybe others!), but Club House makes an identical spice (and I’m sure others do too – I think I’ve even seen it at the Bulk Barn in the past.) This stuff is AWESOME. And it will make your hamburgers peppery and garlicky and amazing. Really really. Really. Leaving you with this…
Yum… That there is summer on a plate, if you ask me. :)
So there you have it! My (no longer secret) barbecued hamburger recipe. Perfect for a summer supper (I love my burgers with plain potato chips on the side, truth be told, but the healthy adult in me recommends a lovely side salad.) (Unless you love plain potato chips as much as I do!) And equally perfect for a blizzardy day. So long as you have a die-hard griller willing to brave the elements (like my Sweetie.) (I really am a lucky girl! :)
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Have I told you yet about my most favourite recipe ever? No? Oh! Let’s chat, k? :)
I heart risotto. A lot. But I hate putting a lot of effort into food (which, sadly, risotto generally demands.) The solution? Microwave Risotto. Like, made entirely in the microwave. Really. This is the ultimate (ridiculously!) simple and (amazingly!) delicious comfort food. We eat it as a main course. We eat it as a side dish. I’ve brought it to work on potluck day. I’ve made this for company. I have this cold for lunch the day-after. It is SO GOOD.
I’m not sure of the exact origin of this recipe (if it’s yours, please tell me!) but I’ve been making this for years. It came through one of those email recipe chain letters (way back in pre-Pinterest times) – you know, those emails where some friend would add your name to some list and forward it to a bunch of other friends, and you then were expected to email a recipe to 5 people (who you probably didn’t know) under the promise that, like, a hundred-ish people would then send you a recipe within seven days. Remember those emails? Yeah. I didn’t really like those emails either. This is the only recipe I think I ever received from one of those recipe chain letters. Luckily for me, it’s fantastic. :)
I’m pretty sure the original microwave risotto recipe included mushrooms, not green peppers. But, well, I think mushrooms are squishy, so I use green peps instead. :) I’ve also substituted a couple cups of frozen broccoli/cauliflower (thawed), and that’s yummy too. Or I’ve added corn. Or I’ve added asparagus. This is a pretty casual recipe (if a recipe can be casual?) so I generally just use what I have on hand. It’s pretty hard to screw this up!
1-2 tbsp butter
Half an onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, washed (of course), seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic (or 1 tsp of the pre-chopped-in-oil stuff)
1 cup arborio rice (or some other short grain rice)
2.5 cups of beef broth (I usually just use bouillon)
Grated cheese (about a cup?)
1. Melt butter in a large bowl in microwave
2. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to bowl. Stir to coat with melted butter. Microwave uncovered for 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and beef broth to vegetables in bowl. Stir. Microwave uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring once midway.
4. Add cheese. Stir.
5. Eat. Enjoy. Marvel at how simple that all was. :)
And, when you’re done, this is what it looks like, all risotto-ed up…
In case it doesn’t look like there’s much in my bowl… ummmmm, yeeeeah. You’re right. I didn’t remember to take pics until the next day and this is all that was left from the night before. Ooops. So yep! It’s JUST that tasty. On the well-known comfort food scale of 1 to 10, this is definitely a 10.5. Maybe even an 11. It’s like happiness in a bowl. Like a big risotto hug. Sound weird? Trust me. Try it. You’ll see. :)
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I remember my mom once telling me that she’d never seen anyone peel potatoes like my grandmother. Having lived through the Great Depression years, my grandmother had perfected the art of peeling potatoes, removing very little more than just the peel. Apparently it was quite impressive to see. Ever since then I’ve strived to peel a mean tater. I can’t say I’m there yet (but it’s coming.)
(Does anyone else peel potatoes on a cut-open plastic bag? Or is this just something quirky that my mom and I do?)
We had Easter supper this year at my brother and his fiance’s house. We’re a potluck kindof family, so I was responsible for the potatoes. Specifically requested? My (er, Kraft’s) Mashed Potato Layer Bake. Two types of potatoes (sweet potatoes and potato-potatoes.) Sour cream. Cream cheese. More cheese. All layered up. Baked. Soooo good.
Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of sweet potatoes. I know – they’re GOOD for me. I get that. But there’s something about the consistency/flavour combo that doesn’t work for me (I kinda consider the sweet potato one of Mother Nature’s few fails.) And, plus, they look a bit funny – they’re a bit like the baking potato’s ugly cousin.
BUT, in this recipe, they’re good. So good, in fact, that Sweetie (also not a sweet potato fan) (which is one of the reasons why I married him – having similar food-likes/dislikes just makes things a whole lot easier. There’s nothing worse than sitting next to someone who’s eating a big chunk of salmon when you really don’t like salmon) actually asked me to make a double batch (so that we could greedily keep one batch just for us.) (And, yes, I know. Salmon is good for me too.)
So, since I was whipping up a big batch yesterday anyway, I thought I’d show y’all what they look like and how it’s done. Recipe courtesy of Kraft Canada (click HERE for the original recipe/pictures/raving reviews from other happy potato-makers.)
HEAT oven to 375°F.
PLACE potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each of the cream cheese product and sour cream to each bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash until creamy.
STIR half the Parmesan into white potatoes. Stir half the Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half each of the potatoes 2-L clear glass casserole dish. Repeat layers.
BAKE 15 min. Top with remaining cheeses; bake 5 min. or until melted.
And, in case you’re a visual person (like me!) here’s what that all looks like…
Sweetie added the wooden spoons on top of each pot. He says he’s heard this keep things from boiling over. In fact, neither pot boiled over. But the potatoes came close.
Once everything is all boiled up, mash. And mash. And mash. (I was so busy mashing that I forgot to take pics.) For the record, I’m not a particularly good potato masher (I tend to run out of patience/get tired before all the lumps have been de-lumped.) My dad, however, is a potato mashing genious. No lumps, perfect fluffiness… If you need awesome taters, definitely have a chat with my dad. :)
Things mashed (-ish), then add the other stuff (the “yumminess-makers”, if you will.)
And then the layering begins…
When you get to the third layer (more potato-potatoes over sweet potatoes), layering gets a little trickier (because the sweet potatoes are runnier than the mashed potatoes.) I’ve found that if you cover the sweet potatoes with little mounds of the regular potatoes, you can then spread everything out with a knife. It works pretty well. :)
A second layer of sweet potatoes later, and a wee bit more cheese too, and – poof – you’re done! :)
And – poof again! – there you have it. My entire yesterday morning in pictures LOL. :) I’m not gonna lie: this is a super time consuming dish to make (by the time I got the potatoes all peeled, boiled, mashed, mixed, and layered I think about 2.5 hours had passed) (true story) (and don’t even get me started on the sink full of dishes this receipe creates too) BUT it’s sooo worth it. And if you only make it for special occasions, it’s not so bad. :) And, well, if you have a dishwasher, that last complaint likely doesn’t apply to you (and, PS, I’m quite jealous!)
Hope everyone had a good (and delicious!) Easter!
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So I’m still getting the hang of this whole blogging thing. And a particular challenge (that I haven’t yet mastered) (obviously) is remembering what to take pictures of mid-process. Take this post, for example (since you’re already reading this) (thank you for reading this btw!): it’s a recipe. Which, from looking at other blog-posts from other much more experienced bloggers (ie: pretty much everyone in blogland) I think means I was supposed to take pictures of all my ingredients lined up neatly pre-cooking, and then a few action shots too (water flying dramatically off the potatoes as I furiously scrub, or Sweetie grating-away at a big block of cheddar) (since I’ve declared cheese-grating a boy-job) before the final reveal. Shamefully, I don’t have any action shots for this post. Or a “before” pic of what all my ingredients looked liked before being expertly combined with chef-like skill (teehee), magically resulting in the best and easiest potato soup ever (seriously, it is… just wait… the recipe is a’comin once I finish jabbering.) BUT, what I do have, is this lovely pic of yumminess. Let’s call this my “after” shot…
(For the record, there’s something a little odd about taking pictures of your lunch. And I’m obviously not particularly good at it [although I'm rather proud of that little gleam of sun that's shining off the bowl. I PLANNED that.] [K, no I didn't. It was a complete fluke. But a good one!])
Another admission? This isn’t my recipe. It comes from the good folk at Kraft (Kraft folk: you rock.) With a few changes that make it ours (and, well, yours too, if you’d like to try this!) Firstly, here’s the original recipe.
Looks yummy eh? And it IS. It’s SOOOO good. But, we had a few challenges with the original recipe. For starters, my microwave is archaic (it’s over 15 years old, which, in microwave terms, means it’s tired and grumpy and would really really like me to stop asking it to cook stuff, I think. But until it absolutely quits altogether, I just keep asking it to be a trooper.) (Label me “thrifty” but I hate throwing (quasi-)functional stuff out.) So while the Kraft recipe says to microwave the potatoes for a puny 5 minutes, plus an additional 6 minutes once added to the liquid, I found I was microwaving my taters for 30 minutes or so. Sometimes even longer if I had particularly ornery spuds.
Secondly, I just like to embellish recipes a wee bit. :) We love garlic, so a soup without garlic just seems odd to me. And we never have green onions on hand, but we always have corn (completely different veggie-family, I know, but quite yummy in this soup!) And cooking bacon is just far too hard and messy. I’m a pre-cooked bacon bits kinda girl (more expensive, yes, but absolutely worth every penny, in my mind, to have a bacon-grease-free pretty little kitchen.)
So, without further rambling, I present my version of Loaded Baked Potato Soup. :)
-3-4-ish baking potatoes (washed, obviously), halved
-1 can (10 fl oz/284 mL) 25%-less-sodium chicken broth
-1 soup can of milk (we’re a 1% family, but I don’t think it really matters what kind you use)
-two cloves of garlic minced (or, if you’re lazy like I am, a teaspoon of the pre-chopped stuff in oil)
-about a cup-ish (maybe a little more – I just pour it in) of frozen corn
-cheddar cheese (grated) for sprinkling
-bacon bits (bitted) also for sprinkling
-whatever else you’d like to add (Sweetie adds a dollop of sour cream to his)
METHOD (how very Grade 9 Science experiment-y eh?):
1. Cover halved potatoes (I leave skins on – apparently they’re good for you?) with water in a large-ish soup pot and boil potatoes until soft (10-15 minutes.)
2. Drain water. Mash up potatoes lightly (using a potato masher.) Lumps are a-ok. :)
3. Add liquids and garlic and corn. Stir everything together.
4. Cook on medium (giving it the occasional stir) until hot and yummy (5 minutes-ish)
5. Ladel into bowls and serve with the option of sprinkling cheese, bacon bits, freshly ground pepper, dill (ooooh! Dill is really good in this), sour cream (a dollop, not a sprinkling)… Whatever you’d normally add to your potatoes. :)
6. Eat. Marvel at how quick and easy this was and how yummy it all turned out.
Poof! And there you are. :) It probably only takes 20-25 minutes from tater-scrubbing to soup-eating. And it’s soooo good. One batch serves Sweetie and I for supper, with leftovers for the next day (so it probably serves 4.) It’s thick (kinda like liquid mashed potatoes) and super filling. Perfect for a blizzardy Tuesday.
Just to give you another angle (and to show off my crazy awesome soup-photography skills just a little more) here’s another look at my lunch…
Yummy goodness in a bowl. :) And again with the little bit of sun being all gleamy off the side of my bowl. Food-photography? I think you’ve been mastered. :)
PS – in case you’re marveling at how dirty my windows look in these pics, um, you’re likely right. But the dirt is on the outside part that I can’t get to without taking the storm windows off. Ever had to take storm windows off? If you have, you’ll understand why the outside of my windows look so dirty. (Regardless, sorry about that btw!) (Oooh! And try the soup – it’s GOOD!)Leave a comment