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Auntie Christine’s Household Hints! #2 – Vinegar!

Alrighty friends and neighbors! Short and sweet today – we have another handy household hint from Auntie Christine’s Heinz’s vinegar books!  Aunt Chris bought me a series of these handy household hint books written by Christine Halvorson. They’re filled with great, practical ideas to use everyday pantry items (vinegar, salt, baking soda) in great ways around the house!

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Remember, this is your regular, run of the mill white vinegar that you buy at the grocery store!

Today’s hint is if you have an ink stain on a carpet, rug or piece of clothing, you should blot the ink spot immediately (of course).  THEN, spray the area with HAIR SPRAY! Yes.. that’s right, bust out your can of “Beautynet” or whatever kind you use, and go to town. The hair spray should dissolve the ink spot and once it’s completely gone, work a solution of half white vinegar and half water to completely remove any residual spray!

A Chocolately, Pumpkiny TWO Ingredient HUG

Who doesn’t like two ingredients recipes? Seriously, I’m always curious about these ideas. I read the “recipe” and ask myself………. “really?”

Like, “Could it BE just that easy??”

Ok, I didn’t actually ask myself that. I just thought “Hey, seems like a cool idea that I need to try”.

I’ve tried other minimal recipe desserts before like THIS one. Oh, and  remember the CHEATER COBBLER? That one as was a two ingredient recipe as well. Both of those recipes turned out pretty damn well, I have to say. ESPECIALLY the Cherry Chocolate Cake. Oh lawdy, was it good!

So in the spirit everything pumpkin this season, I bring you another two ingredient, Thanksgiving/fall/pumpkin themed type recipe that seriously makes you want break out the sweat pants and fuzzy slippers, and get ready for the coming hibernation.

Alright! First up, here’s your ingredients!

One Chocolate Brownie Mix (any brand you prefer)
One 15 ounce can of Canned Pumpkin (or Pumpkin Pie Filling)

That’s it! I know, it’s easy isn’t it? I love easy!
(don’t go there.)

Moving on, here’s the photo of the ingredients:

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*NOTE: In the photo above, you’ll see that I bought the 540ml (18 ounce) can because that’s all they had. I weighed 15 ounces and it came to roughly 3/4 of the can.  Please keep this in mind when making your own, and adjust according to the can you buy.

Here’s how you do it!!

1. Preheat your oven to 350!

2. Empty the box of brownie mix and about 15 ounces of the pumpkin pie filling into the cake mix and mix together.

I know, pretty difficult so far, right?

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3. Now, you don’t need it, but I happen to seriously love anything pumpkin spice.

So you can add up to a teaspoon of pumpkin spice to the mix to “make it sing”

( I DESPISE that term, but it’s really the only word I thought appropriate to explain what I”m trying get across).

So I added 1/2 a teaspoon.

Twice. :)

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4. Next, pour the mixture into a parchment lined 9 x 9 or 8 x 8 pan. No parchment?

No problem!

Grease the hell outta the pan, and you’ll be fine.

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So the recipe that I followed which is here, calls for baking the brownies for 25-30 minutes until set. I found that I had to double that time to make it work, so you might wanna keep an eyeball  on the pan just to make sure it’s baked thoroughly. No one likes raw brownie dough…… I think anyway. Maybe it’s like a raw cookie dough concept?  Meh, not for this chick – I like my baked desserts… BAKED.

When a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean, you’re good to go.

Let cool COMPLETELY before you decide to frost or sugar these babies.

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Ok. So let me tell you, this isn’t your typical brownie. It’s more dense, and has a soft pumpkin flavor mixed with the chocolately goodness of the brownie. Be warned though, my gorgeous reader. If you like the flavor of chocolate, this chocolate brownie with the chocolate frosting can quell any chocolate craving you might have. HOWEVER, the denseness of these brownies from the pumpkin seem to almost intensify the chocolatey taste to the point that well,… it’s teetering on craziness.

I ADORE chocolate, and ONE small brownie with the frosting was enough to lull me into sweet, dreamy chocolate land, where one might be tucked into their chocolate bed and given chocolate kisses and yummy chocolate hugs sprinkled with warm pumpkin spices.

Yes. It’s like that.

JUST like that.

Yeaaahhhh.

It honestly seemed like a good idea at the time…….

So in the whole spirit of low carbing, sometimes I get these……..um…… “brilliant” ideas. Yes my dear readers, let me introduce you to “breaded” low carb mozza sticks!!

Yummmmy!
Easy Peasy, right?
Let me show you how!!

In one container large enough to fit your average mozza stick, place a few tablespoons of almond flour.

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In another container, one beaten egg.

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In the last container, place a few tablespoons of coconut flour, and season it really, really well. I used seasoning salt, pepper, and other seasoning that suited my fancy at the time…. cuz I AM fancy.

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In a nice, super hot pan with oil (don’t let it smoke), place your “breaded” mozza stick and keep an eye on it. Keep flipping OFTEN, so it can brown nicely on all sides.

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Yep. Goooooooooood idea on paper folks.

But really?………………………..

BIG FAT FAIL.

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JUST DON’T DO IT..
Back to the drawing board.

It all happened when I had to redeem my crappy friend status……..

EL CORTEZ
TEQUILA BAR + KITCHEN
10322 83 Ave NW,
Edmonton, AB

“Ugh, I forgot to phone you back” I texted to her, feeling like a bag of shit. “No worries”, she said ” You can redeem your crappy friend status if you meet me at a new spot tonight that I’ve wanted to try for a while”, Brandy, (my cool, smart, witty friend who is a great foodie as well) bargained. “Hell ya!” I said, after taking a peek at the online menu.  By the way, I need to give a big shout out to restaurants who put their menu’s online. There’s nothing worse than the moment when you realize you hate everything on the menu, and so now you have no choice but to just get drunk because booze is all you can to order. It really cuts on down the awkwardness.

El Cortez is a new spot that’s opened in the old Sweet 69 space on Gateway Blvd Northbound. Now, to be fair, I don’t know a lot about mexican fare, but my girl Brandy does. She spent time traveling around Mexico and the girl can make a wicked taco – not to mention knowing her way around an excellent ceviche.  She would lead the evening in the food selections and I of course, would just be funny, gorgeous entertaining self.

I arrived before her, so I found a comfy seat by the window (picnic table style) and took a look around. Let me tell you, the decor in this place KICKS ASS!! I’ve not seen anything like it, and would hazard a guess that the rest of Edmonton hasn’t either. Brandy said she read somewhere that the decor could be described like an old gangster setup, rough and tough, all grafitti’d up and expectant of dude with a handlebar mustache (think Danny Trejo kinda, in “Machete”) to come in with guns a blazin’,… but then his girlfriend comes in and throws in her girly touch to the mix. (That’s the gist of what she was saying anyway.) Take a look at this awesome decor. It’s literally an exciting sight for bored eyes that are SO done with looking at the same old sleek-clean-lines-wood-steel decorating that tries too hard in that  “I’m trying to be cool” way.

There’s no trying here, El Cortez decor IS cool.

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Oh, our server was super cool too. She did a great job. She had great suggestions  – I wanted a fruity type drink, so she suggested one that was on the menu. Unfortunately, they were out of the alcohol needed to make it. (Ummmmm… On a thursday night, you’re out of booze for certain drinks on your menu??) So, I picked another drink off the menu:

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Wooooeeeeeee!!!! I took a sip, and instantly feared talking in the direction of the burning candle. Flame thrower is not a good look for any girl. Boooooozy!!! If your idea of a cocktail is pure alcohol, then you may like it.  But my inner alchie is a pansy-ass so I didn’t like the drink. Finally, I settled on a glass of white which was again, one of the servers suggestions, and it was fine.

Appetizers:

TAQUITO:  Ahi tuna wrapped in a tortilla with wasabi avocado crema, onion, pickle, tomato and watercress.

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This appetizer was DELISH!! The wrap was warm and crispy, the tuna firm and succulent. The wasabi crema could have been a bit more plentiful on the plate, but what was there added a slightly spicy creaminess that helped tone down the pickle on the crunchy onion. It all worked together wonderfully. Was it worth the 17 dollars for the appetizer?  No. However, it was pretty damn tasty.

 

CEVICHE: Albacore tuna, sweet potato, roasted corn, cilantro, chilies with tortilla chips3
Snoooore. This ceviche limped along, trying to act all ceviche like, but just couldn’t cut it. We even tried to help it by asking for extra lime and salt, but it was just no bueno. It was bland with the occasional hit of sweetness from the corn and… sweet potato. Sweet potato in a ceviche? That was a first for us but we were willing to keep an open mind, and it just didn’t cut it. It was a miss for both of us. However, I have to say, the tableware in this joint is INCREDIBLY gorgeous. Every dish was served on a great piece of pottery that gave it an authentic feel. I want to have it.
 
Now.
 
Ok, moving on……
 
Salad:
 
Watermelon Salad: Squares of watermelon with jalapeno, shallot, water cress, and torched queso with a tequila lime dressing.
 
 
 
 
 
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This salad sounded so delectable in words. I was SO excited because really, I could be a watermelon kingpin. I’d love to have a watermelon empire if I lived somewhere hot, because I simply love watermelon so much. Unfortunately, it almost whispered “sorry” to me when the server brought it our table. Again, cool ass plate, but approximately five pieces of watermelon with barely “torched” (not really even melted) cheese on top. If by saying onion, they meant radish, then that part was good and crispy, but I saw no onion on the plate. The dressing was nice, but I think they put chili oil on the plate as well? Sorry, another let down.
 
Tacos:
 
We ordered three kinds:
1.Fried cheese, jalapeno and mango slaw with bacon bits and crema

2. Beef cheek, poblano mole, queso fresca, guacamole and radish

3. Smoked pulled pork, kale kimchi, fried peppers and crema

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1. The fried cheese (top) – It was not bad. Again, nothing really bad about it, but nothing spectacular either. The mango was nice with it but it just needed something to bring it up a level or two…

2. The beef cheeks (left) – This was very rich. Beef cheeks are luxurious and unctuous to begin with and with a rich guacamole, it was rich on rich. The radish wasn’t enough to cut the richness, but again,
if you like rich on rich, you’ll love them.

3. Pulled pork (right) – Nice! Smoky flavor from the sauce in the pork and a little crunch from the fried peppers. The kale kimchi was a little lost, but this was good in general.

So overall, the food was………. lack luster. It had some really amazing stuff (the taquito) and a dish that really made it stumble (the ceviche). In between all that, were the salad and tacos that were simply average.  El Cortez can’t survive on the decor alone, and I hope that the menu works out the blandish kinks.  Brandy and  I both decided that as it now, it’s a great place to go after work for some drinks and an appetizer, but as a great dining experience… not so much. I think the items on the menu are great, but they just really need to be tweaked in terms of flavor. That being said, if they get the menu right, coupled with that kickass decor and cool ambience, they could have a super popular spot would do really, really well.

El Cortez Tequila Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Aunt Christine’s Household Hints! – VINEGAR!

If anyone knows me personally, (and I know those who don’t, I do believe you’re missing out..), they would most likely know who my Aunt Christine is as well. I grew up in the country, a half mile away from her, and spent hours upon hours at her house  playing with my cousins when we were kids. Now, as an adult I still adore her (possibly more than when I was a child), and as anyone who knows her can attest, she’s one of the most generous people I know.

Now keep in mind, generous comes in many different ways with her.  For instance, every time I go south to the States she comes over and gives me some “funny money” (US Dollars) that she had just “hanging around”. When she comes across a great deal somewhere, instead of buying one, she’ll buy a few and end up giving me one of whatever it is. For my last birthday, she bought me a purple wig. Yep… I don’t know why either, but she’s great that way! I mean come on, who gets a purple wig AND a helium “Happy Birthday” balloon that sings the birthday song to you whenever you punch it???? I loved it!!

Ok, so moving on. At some point a year or so ago, she came over and gave me a super cool series of small books that she bought God knows where. They are basically 3 separate books on different uses for household vinegar, baking soda, and salt. Alright, obviously these hints aren’t exactly MY AUNTIE’S HINTS as the title of this blog post suggests, because the vinegar book is actually written by Christine Halvorson (NOT my Aunt Christine) but I kinda like the idea that she gave me the books, so it seems like they came from her…. like my logic?

Here’s the vinegar book:

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The books have a bit of a retro/vintage type of look to them, and are full of super cool little “hacks” or hints, to make life easier, and cost effective.The book suggests using Heinz’s brand name vinegar, however, I’m SURE any brand name of vinegar would work if not your not feeling fancy. Just be sure it’s the 5% acidity kind.

So, I thought when times are a bit slow around here (aka, I have nothing new to post), you, my dear readers, will get a handy dandy hint or two on how to use one of these household staples in ways that you may not have ever dreamed of! Well perhaps you may have heard of a few of these, but you can always pass the info (as well as this blog post..ahem) onto someone who might not be in the know. That way, you could be the hero for the day and be a smartypants ALL AT ONCE!

Win win!

So, we shall commence the schooling with the household vinegar tips. For the most part, these tips are referencing your run of the mill, white, grocery store bought, 5% acidity vinegar. A few tips will use apple cider, but that will of course, be prefaced.

Ok. Here’s two handy hints to get us started:

For cleaning your microwave:  If you microwave is dirty and greasy with old food particles and other grossness, microwave a glass container with one cup of water, and a 1/4 cup of vinegar for about 3 to 4 minutes. After the microwave is finished, leave it there for about 10 minutes without the opening the door. Then, open the door and simply wipe clean!

Laundry: If you add 2 cups of vinegar to the rinse cycle while washing cotton or wool blankets, it will remove any soapy residue and leave the blankets smelling clean (not of vinegar), soft and fluffy!

If you have any uses for vinegar, let me know and I’ll post them here!

If you’re interested in buying these books, here’s a place you can:
http://www.amazon.com/Heinz-Distilled-Vinegar-Helpful-Household/dp/141271365X

This Happened.. with a Tomato.

TOMATO PATTIES
(pictures below)

“Tooooo many tomatoes!!!!!!!”,  said you.

Is that what you’ve been saying lately as you survey your garden? A little over zealous when you planted your little starlet seedlings, hmm? I can hear it now ” Ooohh, I’m going to can/freeze/dehydrate tons of tomatoes, and I’m gonna make stewed tomatoes, salsa, and TONS of healthy sauce!”.

I know, because I said the same thing.

While the tomato plants on my side of the world aren’t quite ruby-red globes yet, (and I can see I have a shitload coming), I know in other spots of the world they are screaming to come off the vine. What do to with all of them is what’s playing on every well-intentioned gardeners mind.

So when you’re all salsa’d out,  you can’t stand the thought of ANOTHER can of tomato sauce, and every neighbor in a mile radius of you pretends not to see you when you offer them a basket like a Price is Right model,…….. try this recipe.

Oooh I’m telling you, this recipe is fanfreakintastic! If you like the combination of bacon and tomato………. wait… what am  I saying.. “IF”???? EVERYONE likes that combo and if you don’t, well, I’m breaking up with you, because I can’t be friends with people who don’t like a bacon tomato combo, I mean come on!!!

In an effort to eat less carbs lately, (namely anything starchy and white) I skipped the BLT sandwich idea. Here’s the better plan:

A good size tomato.

Slice thickly (3 slices).

Dredge the slices first in coconut flour, then egg, then in seasoned almond flour mixed with shredded parmesan cheese. You can choose any seasoning your beautiful heart desires. I chose a bit of seasoning salt, rosemary, lemon pepper seasoning and some garlic powder.

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Fry till golden on each side.

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Plate.

Dollop on a bit of sour cream, bacon and then finish with chopped chives (I used dill, because I didn’t have any chives).

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Oh sweet momma. The rich, tomato-y freshness that contrasts off the salty bite of the bacon, mixed with the creaminess of the sour cream, is a combination that could make the heavens open  and harps play Queen’s “We are the champions”. … Ok, maybe not THAT song, but something just as triumphant. Seriously my lovies, this recipe is amazing.

I’ve seen a different version of this miracleness made by what has to be one of the hottest chefs in Canada. Like.. SUPER hot. If you’re thinking Chef Chuck Hughes, you’d be right. Clean the drool off your lip, I know.. I know….. he’s so sexy right?  His version was to dredge the tomato in your standard flour egg and panko mix, and instead of bacon, he used pancetta.  So yeah… pancetta, shmancetta!!! Bacon works just as well if you’re not feeling fancy.

You could serve these as the headliner on your plate with a side salad, or they can easily play co-star as the side dish. This is a fresh, cheap, SUPER TASTY way to enjoy your summer bounty.  If you brought these to a barbecue in the neighborhood, I’m pretty sure you’d be the one most talked about…………………………………….. in a good way.

What are some of the ways you’re going to use your summer tomatoes? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Clarks is kinda Super, man..Hehe, I kill me.

Clarks Restaurant
Suite 170-130 Broadway Blvd,
Sherwood Park, AB

So you should know by now, my illustrious readers, that I like cheap. Not cheap quality mind you, but cheap price tags. I can appreciate quality in things and will happily pay for it. However, I can’t help but get all giddy and flushed when I find quality AND a cheap price in once spot.

I’ve been to this little gem called Clarks twice now in the last two weeks. Once for breakfast to meet a super cool friend of mine who sells sex toys for a living, (told you she was cool), and another time for lunch with my Mom. ( My mom doesn’t sell sex toys for a living, and while I thank God for that, she’s still cool.)

So I’m only going to review the lunch with Mom for this post because I wasn’t thinking to take photos of the breakfast I had with my cool friend, plus my Mom said “Hey, you should review this place”.

Smartypants.

Easy to find, this little spot has maybe 10 tables in the whole place, I think. Surprisingly, it was about half full at 12:30 in the afternoon, (thought it might be busier), but our server greeted us immediately when we walked in the door and brought us to a table. Taking our drink order and giving us menu’s she left us to decide.

The prices on this menu are amazing people! Mom ordered liver and onions (she could have ordered the senior’s size for $6.50 – one scoop of mashed potatoes with gravy, two pieces of liver, and vegetables – but she’s in denial about the senior thing I think – so she ordered the normal portion). She went on about how she hasn’t eaten liver for almost a year, and I reminded her that it’s been about 25 years since I’ve eaten it. I’d rather run naked through a cactus patch and bathe in a tub of vinegar than eat liver.

Ok, not quite, ….. but well, honestly?…… Maybe.

I ordered their house burger (can’t remember the name of it dammit!), but it had cheese, bacon and mushrooms on it with all the other burger paraphernalia, and fries. The price for that burger rang in at $8.99.

When the dishes came to the table, my mom seemed super pleased with her decision. She tried her first bite of the liver and looked up to the ceiling and said ” OH MY GOD” (all dramatic like),  with an added “this is the best liver I”ve had in a very long time!!”. The waitress came along and Mom repeated what she expressed loud enough for all the other tables sitting around us to hear, and then the waitress went straight away into the kitchen and you could her yell… “JUAN!! Hey JUUAAAAN!!! -The liver and onions are excellent she said!”.

She had started eating it by the time I took the photo.. sorry peeps, but here it is! :

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Mom figured the liver was slightly coated in a panko type coating and fried slightly crispy, but not like “shoe leather”. The gravy tasted home-style, the mash was smooth and creamy and she said the veggies were very good – fresh, not from frozen and  not overcooked. All this stupid excitement over the liver made me think I had to try it.

So I cut a very small piece and kinda dipped in some gravy.

It was crispy on the outside, tender, and still tasted disgustingly like liver to me. But I will admit, it was the very best of all the gross tasting liver I’ve ever had in my life.

For real – If you love liver,  you will love Clarks’ liver.

(Somehow that sounded weird, but you get what I’m saying)

My burger was pretty good. The patty was house made and slightly dense, almost overworked, but very tasty. The cheese and bacon were nice but it could have used a few more mushrooms. All in all, the portion size was more than worth that price tag. Hell, you’re gonna pay that same price pretty much at MacDonald’s and the patties there are like shingles.

Ma burgah pic:

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Our server was VERY attentive and incidentally, an older lady who’s been with the company for 22 years. This lady worked her ass off, was super friendly and made sure we were looked after. She was worth the generous tip, without question!

On a side note, their breakfasts are super decent (EG: 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 sausage, 2 bacon for $5.35.) and they have a huge variety of different Eggs Benedict if you’re looking for something other than the original.

I will definitely be going back to Clarks for breakfast or lunch. Apparently for dinner, it becomes a chinese food place, which is great, but I can’t comment right now because I’ve not tried it…………………………..

Yet.

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