Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Dip with a trip to Whistler, BC

I have to admit... this past weekend...I didn't spend much time in the kitchen.  In fact, I even shared my Pizza on the BBQ recipe (meaning what cooking I did...was outside on the patio...), as we had some good friends and their kids over- It worked out perfectly!  Dinner was described as a Pizza Buffet, my "sous chef's" were the kids helping top the pizza's, highly recommend this for a fun patio party.  (pretty sure my household is now officially addicted to homemade pizza...oops!)  SO - for this short post, I thought I'd do a quick-n-easy, got a bit of a kick... appetizer that is perfect to make on the go: Jalapeno Popper Dip.   If you read my last post...I asked everyone to take a moment or two and go outside- WELL...I actually took my own advice, and enjoyed "the outdoors" over this past weekend. We live in such a beautiful place, it always amazes me that many do not take advantage of what's just around the corner.. up the street...or even a short day trip away.  Being that I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to visit Nita Lake Lodge, AND the sun was shining, we packed up the car...Duke Dog included...and off we went - why not right!?  

The drive up the Sea to Sky Highway is breathtaking to say the least.  Views of the Howe Sound, and mountain ranges are for sure a sight to see.  When we pulled up to the Lodge, right away I was impressed with the look and feel.  The warm welcome, let alone the gorgeous surroundings, (minutes from Whistler Village), and the food! Heaven!

Nita Lake Lodge & Creekside Village - Whistler, BC
With only a *hint* of snow left in the lower areas of the ski hills, we were able to let Duke off leash for a little bit (I know I know..ssshhh, so we let him off-leash in a public area...don't tell OK?! haha) - and besides... could you really say NO to this guy:

Ya - didn't think so, and after the couple hour drive, he deserved a good stretch of the legs as well!  One thing that is fantastic about Whistler, BC - it is SUPER Dog Friendly.  I was impressed.  He's been with us twice now, and both times... he's been treated like a king!  At Nita Lake Lodge, he was even given homemade cookies!  The food at the hotel is amazing - at what I would consider a reasonable price, something pretty rare in a "touristy" area.

food...patio...to die for at Nita Lake Lodge! YUM!
Of course, the potential for wildlife viewing in Whistler can pretty much be guaranteed.  Even on the trip into Whistler we had the pleasure of watching a momma bear and her 2 cubs eating alongside of the road.  On our way home from Whistler, we decided to take "the long way" home, and were treated to even more wildlife, plus phenomenal views.
 Our pit stop... was at a beautiful (albeit a little windy) Lake... water was literally a turquoise green colour!

Seton Lake
That is definitely one drive I'd like to do again some time.. so pretty! I also want to say THANK you to the lodge, as the trip wouldn't of been the same without our stop there.  The hotel, the food, just the over all experience was fantastic.  It's good sometimes to spend  time with just the person (and dog) you love...what better place to do it than in here.  Guess we should probably get back to the whole Jalapeno Popper Dip... this is one appetizer you could make ahead, store it in an airtight container in a cooler, and bring out whenever you need a quick snack.  Even better warmed in in the oven or microwave...served with Tortilla Chips!
Jalapeno Popper Dip
  • 1 container of Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 chopped fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- Mix Herb and Garlic Cream cheese with shredded cheese and chopped jalapenos
- Place in a heat proof bowl, sprinkle Panko crumbs onto a top layer
- Let sit for hour to allow flavours to blend

This dip is good served cold, however, best served warmed in oven @350F until bubbly (10-15min) or warmed in microwave, few minutes at a time, stirring when needed.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Pizza on the BBQ – living the outdoor lifestyle

The sun is shining, the birds a humming… and… the tummy’s a rumbling.  Who reaaaaally wants to turn on the oven on when there’s so much to do outside?  When the house feels like it’s a 100F?! NOT ME. During the warmer months (okok, maybe even during the not so warm ones as well), my BBQ is my cooking appliance of choice.  I believe I take after my dad in that respect.  He could BBQ anything…and it always came out mouthwatering delicious.  Well, Dad... how about this… Homemade Pizza cooked.. in a third of the time (compared to a regular old oven)… on the BBQ.  YEEEEEEUUUUP.  It’s going to be hard to look back now! Can you tell I'm super-duper EXCITED about this new-to-me-knowledge?!  The crust was nice and crisp on the outside…soft and doughy on the inside… as close as I’ve been able to come in mimicking the “fast food- greasy-pricey variety” - BUT without all the grease and price tag!  While the dough was rising, I even had a chance to take advantage of a beautiful spring evening and play a little bit with my point and shoot camera, it’s amazing how our yard has just come alive in what seems to be just a few weeks!
Now, I will not claim to have re-invented the wheel on the pizza dough.  I’m sure that everyone has their own style… own recipe…and own ways to make the dough restaurant quality.  I’ll share what worked for me…  as with all yeasted dough, a warm, draft free place along with a little time… works in your favor.  Of course, submitting this to Yeastspotting, without sites like this.. I wouldn’t even have a clue. 

Pizza on the BBQ
Pizza Dough
·         ¾ cup warm water
·         1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
·         1 tbsp olive oil (plus a bit more for coating bowl)
·         1 tsp sea salt (I love the bacon flavored version, but any sea salt will do)
·         1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
- Put the warm water in your stand mixer bowl and sprinkle the surface with the yeast. Let stand for 2 minutes to soften, then whisk with a fork to blend. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the olive oil and salt.
- Using your dough hook, then begin adding the flour gradually, until fully incorporated. The dough will be very moist and sticky.
- The dough should be moist and a little tacky. Shape into a ball.  
- Generously oil  a bowl, place dough in bowl  and turn the dough to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in size.  (mine took about an hour)
- Punch dough, cover, and let rise until doubled again.
While dough is rising prepare your toppings.  What I’ve learned with this whole “BBQ Pizza thing”, is that less is more.  The pizza cooks in under 8 minutes, and requires you not only to be ready with the toppings, however, that to ensure you have a perfectly cooked topping at the same time as your crust is golden brown and crisp, you need to make sure the heat of the BBQ can melt and cook your topping as desired.  For a reference, I’ve been using a small side plate as my guide.  1 for the toppings, and 1 for the cheese. 
- When you are ready to go, generously oil a pizza pan, and carefully shaping the dough, spread out onto the pan, cover and let stand for 10 mins.
- In meantime, turn your BBQ on, my grill has 4 burners, and to start I keep all 4 on high to heat it up as hot as it will get (above 600F)
-Turn burners to low, and place the Pizza pan, with the plain dough on the grill, lid down, for about 2 – 3 mins, or until the bottom is just starting to turn golden.
-Working quickly, remove from BBQ, generously oil top of crust, and flip the crust over.
-Top pizza as desired and return to the BBQ until cheese is bubbling, and crust is golden brown. (5 mins)
-Remove from grill, and let stand for 5 mins, slice and enjoy! YUM YUM!
Hints and Tips:
-          If the top of your crust isn’t browning as desired, brushing or spraying oil (or melted butter) along the crust will help brown it up quickly.
-          For the Pizza shown, I used spinach, red pepper, chorizo, black forest ham with a mixture of feta cheese and marbled cheese
-          Having everything ready, and outside next to the grill is absolutely necessary to ensure a fast cook
-          Pre-cook all meat toppings to ensure they are fully done when the rest of the pizza is cooked
Below are the pictures taken – with an old point and shoot camera – during the time the pizza dough was rising! 
This time of year is when Mother Nature seriously shines, all the new life, vibrant colors.  I’m lucky enough to have these all growing in our front and back yard!

Whatever you choose to do this weekend..try and take a moment or two  to get outside... For those on the West Coast... It's supposed to be a beauty!  Cheers!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Perfect Breakfast Sandwich and a toast to lasting memories...

Summer has FINALLY started… well, hopefully.  I mean, Mother Nature CAN be a tease… BUT I’m ok with that, as long as we have weekends like this past one.  This weekend marked a mini-anniversary for my extended circle of friends… we had our “5th Annual 1st Camping Trip of the Season” (say that 10x fast)…and though it wasn’t the first camping trip of 2012 for EVERYONE in the group… it was for me…and I believe a chunk of the 14 or so people that joined us.  Just like previous- (5 years and counting) - we gathered at Golden Ears Provincial Park and kicked off another season of enjoying the outdoors, catching up with friends…and THIS year…heading out and enjoying Aloutte Lake!  The sun was shining, the campfires were bright…and of course good times were flowing!  For the most part, meal planning is kept to a minimum, however, “they” do say breakfast is the most important part of the meal… SO, with that in mind, I thought I’d share our “Breakfast Staple”  when we are roughing it. Breakfast Ham & Egg Sandwiches.  These babies are quick and easy, no messy bacon grease to deal with, no long and detailed ingredients, and in my opinion taste BETTER than the fast-food, drive-thru variety.
I think a good friend of mine summed it up best, the first night around the fire… (forgive me if I jumble and stumble on how exactly it went) “Even though our daily lives take us on different paths in life, on this weekend, all our paths have crossed, and we are here to enjoy, cheers to good friends!”  Kinda cheesy I guess.. but in the… warm fuzzy sort of way.  It’s the truth; though we may not talk every day, though we may not SEE each other for extended periods of time… weekends like these make you appreciate and cherish those that are in your life. It really meant a lot for me personally, as though life throws curve balls at you… and sometimes you feel like you’re on a never ending rollercoaster….  It’s time spent like this past weekend that allows you to stop worrying about reality and just kick back and enjoy, even if for only a short period of time.   **kisses**hugs**andallthatmushystuff** to all of my friends, without you.. I’d be lost.
Our home away from home! ... with parking for the boats... fancy eh?! haha
With temperatures in the mid-high 20’s, there was no way anyone was keeping me away from the water.  It still shocks me that such a beautiful place is less than 20mins from my doorstep!
During the day we were out on the water front and anchored next to Gold Creek.  So beautiful… even IF the water was a little chilly… the brave ones still managed a quick dip.
Nights of course were spent around the fire.  I will remember weekends like these for a long time… and am alreading looking forward (and waaaay ahead) to the 10th Annual 1st Camping Trip of the season…  can only imagine what it will be like to look back over the previous trips! Haha. …..  okok, now on to the quick-n-easy breakfast, as with late nights, long days…and the occasional wobbly pop…. Breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea….
Ham & Egg Breakfast Sandwich
·         English Muffins ( I used extra crisp)
·         Eggs
·         Blackforest Ham, sliced
·         Sliced marbled cheese
·         Butter/margarine
·         Cooking spray (PAM)
-          Heat BBQ to medium/low temperature
-          Spray a mini-egg frying pan with Pam Cooking spray
-          Crack egg into frying pan, using tip of knife or fork, gently break yolk if desired (helps cook a little faster)
-          Cut English muffin in half, place cut side down on BBQ grill to toast
-          When Egg is almost cooked, and Muffin is toasted, flip muffin so tasted cut side is up and place slices of cheese on 1 half of English muffin.
-          Place a slice of ham directly on grill to lightly heat up
-          Butter 2nd half of English muffin and place heated ham on
-          When egg is cooked and cheese melted flip egg onto cheese topped half
-          Top with ham slice, and remaining half of English muffin
**Careful, sandwich is hot!  I personally am good with 1 muffin, however, depending on how hungry your group is, plan on 1 – 2 sandwiches per person…serve with fresh fruit.
I think this last picture sums up the weekend for everyone. A very happy…FINALLY TIRED…Duke Dog.  (Guess it’s exhausting - all that stick fetching, swimming and boat rides… whew!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spinach Lasagna Soup with a side of Rally

Roadtrips.  You either like em’ or dread em’.  Me…. After many  hours…days…WEEKS spent traveling via car growing up (thanks Mom & Dad), I can honestly say… I like them – (that’s IF I can stay awake long enough to enjoy the ever changing scenery)  Now, toss in some good old fast cars, rustic environments, dirt roads and a bit of dust…wooo… I’m in heaven!   This past weekend we decided to do a ROADTRIP down to the Oregon Trail Rally . What a gorgeous drive..what a fun, exciting weekend! 
We came home uber late Sunday night…after what seemed like visits to every rest stop from The Dalles, OR to Vancouver,BC  leaving those precious hours of sleep knocked down to a bare minimum… let alone meal planning…or even grocery shopping for that matter.  After a weekend of cheap “natural” beverages (gotta love cross border shopping)  and fast  food, a good, hearty – but light meal was in order so I served up my Spinach Lasagna Soup… Tuesday night. (Sleep won over Monday’s meal planning and making).

It’s made using ground turkey…only a few links of mild Italian Sausage to boost flavor, and to up to nutritional goodness, a whopping pile of fresh chopped spinach.  YUM YUM.  Just a pinch of cheese…and a handful of noodles quenched my pasta craving without all the heaviness of a regular lasagna dish. 
As always, the rally did not disappoint…..The setting with Mt. Hood in the background was breathtaking.
The cars...well as always - entertaining!  Fast turns, rocks flying....great racing!
For more information regarding the sport of rally, visit the Rally America Website or the Canadian Rally Championship Circuit… In the meantime… here’s a few more peaks at the events in Oregon this past weekend.
Of course...there's the cars that take a turn a little tight... or get a little loose.... oopps....Least this car stayed right side up!

If you ever get a chance to go and spectate one of these events…just do it.  Maybe I’ll even see you at the Pacific Forest Rally, held right in our backyard in Merritt, B.C every year in the fall.
Of course, if ANYONE was going to "stumble" upon a cool winery... it would be me.  You can't help but *giggle* when you read their labels.... and when it comes to naming, well... haha I think I can use another one in my list of nicknames.  "Outdoor Wino"... from Naked Winery - when do those cross border limits increase?! LOVED their fun, fresh wines.
Spinach Lasagna Soup
·         1 lbs ground turkey
·         4 links of mini-mild Italian sausage
·         2 cups fresh chopped spinach
·         3 garlic cloves, minced
·         2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
·         1 can diced tomatoes (I used Italian seasoned)
·         1 jar of favorite pasta sauce
·         1 tablespoon dried parsley
·         5 oven-ready lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
·         ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Remove casings from Italian sausage and break into small chunks, fully cook with ground turkey over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan.
- Break Lasagna noodles and set aside for addition later

- Add in minced garlic and chopped spinach, cook stirring well until spinach is wilted
- Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, pasta sauce – combine well and bring to a slow simmer
- Let simmer for 20 mins, or until lasagna noodles are cooked to taste

- Once noodles are cooked to your taste, set oven rack to top half of oven, and turn on broiler to high.
- Scoop out soup into individual servings, and sprinkle top with a pinch of the mozzarella cheese
- Place soup under the broiler until cheese is golden in colour
- Remove from oven and let sit for a couple of mins

Enjoy with a side of warmed up garlic breadsticks, or a fresh salad!  Leftovers are great the next day, just heat in a microwave!   One last picture of my favorite rally friends……   See you in Merritt!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Crepe Cake, a mini milestone

May 1 – it’s official – I’ve been at this “blogging thing” for 6 months.  I remember back in my “younger years” when you hit that 6 month mark it was like a mini-anniversary. A major milestone as far as young relationships go.  I'm amazed when I look at the stats, at just how many people are following, how many "hits" I'm getting per month on something that I’m really just enjoying and doing for the love of it.  For those that have followed me, and full on supported me in this new venture– from the bottom of my heartTHANK YOU.  For those just stopping on by…Hello!!  Haha!  But seriously, thank you thank you thank you. Hopefully I’ll continue to bring “stuff” that catches your eye, motivates, or at the very least provides some easy to read and entertaining posts!

NO, it’s not my Birthday…but cake is for almost any occasion right?!  AAAANNNND, being as though this lil’ blog of mine is celebrating that special first milestone … I thought I'd celebrate and make my own darn cake…  of course… It HAD to be fun. It had to be Different.  It had to be YUM YUM.  I've seen tons of different versions of Crepe cakes, and taking a little of this, and a little of that… I came up with my own version:  Chocolate Raspberry Crepe Cake.

Chocolate Raspberry Crepe Cake

This crepe cake does take some time to make, some parts need to be prepared and chilled, BUT it’s worth it, and really not all that difficult.  Oh, and *technically* this is a no-bake cake.  NOPE, just a stove top is required, and a medium sized frying pan. I think the WOW factor is there… and the taste - nothing short of divine.   Layers of light delicate crepes are smothered in whipping cream and sweet pastry cream... literally melting in your mouth.  The dark chocolate drizzle and sweet fresh raspberries finish off the perfect bite.  ...Rumour has it.. left overs (if any) are awesome for breakfast...just sayin'.  :)
Chocolate Raspberry Crepe Cake
For the crepe batter:
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch salt
For the pastry cream:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoon butter
Sweetened whipped cream:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
  • Fresh Raspberries
  • Melted Dark Belgium Chocolate (for drizzle)
Making the Crepe Batter:
- Cook the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns a light brown color. Set aside.
- In another pan heat the milk over medium high heat until steaming (do not bring to a boil). Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer mix together the flour, sugar, eggs, and salt until combined well.
- Slowly add the hot milk and the brown butter while mixing. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is ok)
To make the crepes, bring the batter to room temperature.
- Place a non-stick medium sized frying pan over medium heat.
- Spray with cooking spray
- Add 1/4 cup of batter and swirl it around until it completely covers the bottom of the pan. Cook until the edges turn light brown, loosen with a spatula and flip over.
- Cook the other side for only 10 seconds. Flip out onto a plate lightly sprayed with cooking spray (PAM)
- Repeat until you have 20 crepes, or run out of batter

Making the Pastry Cream:
- Bring the milk just to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (stirring frequently) Let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan combine the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch. whisk well to avoid clumping
- Slowly add all of the hot milk, whisking continuously.
Place the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, still continuing to whisk.
- Pour into a shallow dish, cover and press plastic wrap on top of cream to avoid it getting a skin on it, and refrigerate until chilled (can be chilled overnight along with the batter)

Making the Sweetened whipped cream:
- When ready to assemble the cake, make sweetened whipped cream. Beat the heavy whipping cream at high speed for several minutes until stiff.
- Add the sugar and vanilla. 
- Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and mix until smooth and incorporated.

Putting em’ all together:
- To assemble the cake, begin by placing a crepe down on your display plate or cake stand. 
- Spread a thin layer of the pastry cream onto the crepe.
 - Cover with a crepe and repeat with all twenty crepes, ending with the "best" looking crepe on top.
- Spread a thin layer of cream on top, and place fresh raspberries in middle of cake, layering as you wish
- Drizzle the dark chocolate in a random pattern as desired
- Chill for at least 2 hours. Bring the cake back up to room temperature slightly before slicing
The best part…the variations are endless!  Fillings and toppings can all be mixed up and changed. Instead of the Dark Belgium Chocolate used in this cake how about a caramel drizzle? Whipped cream and a lemon curd filling would work…. Oooo how about a chocolate hazelnut mousse…. Uh-oh – looks like I need to make another!