27.7.11

Flanking your tastebuds... Okay that was 'corn'y.

As I type this post, Masterchef is playing on the TV in the background. Perhaps that, combined with Chef Kev's close proximity and the fact that I am typing up these instructions will make me a better cook. Maybe... Perhaps. And perhaps my flank steak will grow wings and fly.

Looky what Chef Kev made for dinner!




















Flank Steak and Basil Butter Corn Sandwich

The tip to making this sandwich sexy (yup, I said it - who doesn't like a sexy beast beef) is to marinate the steak overnight if possible (or at least for few hours).

Marinate the flank steak in a grilling sauce that has a nice combination of 'heat' (chilies, chipotle etc.) and 'sweet' (brown sugar, molasses, honey etc.). Ours was from winery I visited this past weekend - More on that trip later!

Next you'll want to start preparing your corn on the cob. Time this dish so that your steak and corn are ready at the same time. To get your corn on the cob ready, peel back the husk of the corn but leave it attached. Remove the corn silk inside and close 'er back up! Go make curtains out of your new silk (ha ha, who went looking for their loom? Bigger question, who HAS a loom?... anyhoo... ) Cook on medium heat on the barbeque (the corn, not your new curtains) for about 10-15 minutes turning as you go. The ears will burn but that is okay as you will be removing the husks. In essence you are steaming corn - keeping the sugars and moisture inside.

Cook your (now) marinated flank steaks on medium high heat on the barbeque for about 2-3 minutes per side. Your steak should be medium rare to medium. (Chef Kev note: Flank steak should not be cooked more than medium as it will become chewy).

Remove your corn and steak from the barbeque. Let your steak rest for about 5 minutes on a plate covered with foil. Yes, give your sexy steak a rest. In a saute pan, chiffonade fresh basil and let it melt with some butter on low heat. (Elaine: "What is chiffonade?" Chef Kev: "Google it." Elaine: type, type, type. Elaine {to you}: chiffonade is basically where you roll up your fresh herb and slice it thinly. Once unrolled you are left with long thin strips). Add salt and pepper and a bit of garlic powder. (Chef Kev note: do not use fresh garlic as it will over power). Melt together. The basil will infuse into your butter.

Cut the corn from its cob. Add to saute pan. Simmer on low heat for few minutes. Stir.

Lightly toast some open face Portuguese Buns on the barbeque.

Cut the (well) rested steak (slacker) against the grain in to thin strips. Doing so ensures it is not chewy as flank steak is very tough. Add some more of your marinade (obviously some that has not touched raw meat) so that your sexy steak is nice and sassy saucy.

Slice some jalapeno monterey jack cheese.

To assemble lay your steak on the bun and top with cheese and your basil butter corn. And you're (in the words of Chef Kev) "good to go"!

Lovin' the Chef? Check out all his tasty creations here.

26.7.11

Garden Gallery

You know what's kind of boring? The way our retaining wall looked in the back of our garden bed at the beginning of the summer.


And since 'boring' isn't the new 'exciting' I thought I should do something about it! I've always loved the feeling of an outdoor room and after redoing my chandelier, building the herb garden, refinishing those planters seen above and adding some bling I knew this wall needed some TLC (not the network but the old school acronym).

But have you seen some of the garden accessories out there? Mucho expensivo! Ouch. So, I hit up my fave consignment shop and scored! Big time! Here is what I left with and the price break down.




















A: shelves - $5.50 for both
B: square mirrors - $1.20 for both
C: large oval mirror - $7.00
D: plaque - $7.00
E: leaf candle holder - 90¢
F: brass bear $5.50
grand total: $26.60!

Not too shabby! My plan was to paint these all out in the colour palette I had come up with for our 'outdoor room'. Black (because it looks so sleek), white (because I likey), green (because of the piping detail in our patio furniture), blue (because it goes nice with the green and it matches the outdoor placemats I bought) and pink (because it POPS!). I know saying that something 'pops' is annoying and overused so I apologize. POP! POP! POP! I apologize again... and again... and again.

So, to carry out my big plan I needed to chose what colour to paint each item. To do that I had to figure out where each item would go so that I had the balance right when they got their new outfit. I didn't want my new finds fighting over who would be what, so I had to make the decision. Plus, they are not real so therefore can't talk (= can't argue).

I cut the shape of each out of newspaper and then hung them up in an order that I thought might work. After a bunch of configurations I had something I was happy with. So I sat back to study (might have had my feet up with a glass of wine during this process - can't confirm or deny) and decided what colour to assign each piece.
















Decision made, I had my own little painting party to celebrate!
























Do I know how to parrtaayyy or what!?

Once everything was sprayed and had dried, I hung it all up using my newspaper guides for placement. As each item was nailed in to place, the 'template' was simply pulled out from behind and discarded recycled. Then I stood back and had a good look.





















Hmmm... something was missing. It needed something more (which I will get to later).

I must point out that all my projects are done around toddler nap times, that little window of light after dinner, a full-time job, freelance design clients and of course being a mommy and wife. You can imagine that not all my projects get done in a day. By the time I got back out to 'fix' what was missing I had a 'situation'...


















And times this by two because as you may recall, there were two of these mirrors up there. OY.

While most of the world has been talking about their heat waves, we've been having an unseasonably rainy summer! This wood not only split but completely warped so there was no getting it back together. I tried a hammer, even coercion but when I could not get my 6'5" Chef Kev to get 'er back in, I knew the gig was up. Game Ova. Think of the noise at the end of a pac-man game. And then times that by two.

So, I racked the 'ol brain (which does not require a special tool) and searched through some closets and drawers. I found a black frame that I wasn't using (popped out the glass and took the back off so I just had the frame left) and then decided to pair that with a green-fake-grass-ball-thingy-that-I-was-going-to-spray-black (say that three times fast). So another painting party was held.























Up she went and now I was back to fix the earlier problem of 'something' missing. When I had originally studied the wall after hanging everything up I felt that - even though it had a lot of colour - it just wasn't dynamic enough. Then I recalled that I had some white plastic 'flowers' (best way to describe the shape even though they aren't really flowers at all) that I could trail up through the other elements. I had gotten them for a project quite a while back. They didn't work for what I had in mind, but were perfect for this!

After installing them, I was happy. So we went from this:










to THIS!


















I love how the old retaining wall feels like a fresh gallery wall now. Imagine the coziness when we have guests over and we light the candles up on their shelves. The big mirror reflects the light from inside and the 'room' is really starting to come together! Pair that with our twinkle lights and chandelier glow and I think the whole thing feels really inviting!

And did you notice my Geeky Beek? He came out for the 'After Party'.

Here are some close up details:










































Not bad for less than $1! I already had the paint and the candle...










































Okay, so this little blue bear just might be my favourite thing of all. My little two-year old - Chace - helped me pick him out while repeating "yook mommy" (look mommy) "ooh-dat mommy?" (what - or who - that mommy). On repeat. When I asked him if he liked it he said "yes!" (yes!) and ran away with it. A good sign. Little brass blue bear came home with us. And come on, he's playing an Alphorn. As a general rule I take home anything playing an Alphorn (luckily this marked the first time I'd come across one).



















































































Here are the white 'flowers' that I added for some whimsy. You like?




















And the black frame and green-fake-grass-ball-thingy-that-I-was-going-to-spray-black that replaced the damaged black mirrors.





























































Overall I'm really happy with it. Unexpected yet inviting. And inexpensive!

And here are a few other little things I added to my evolving 'room', you know, to keep the paarrtaaay going.










































Tea light candle holder/orb/cool thing that now hangs over the table.










































And a pretty little pink tea light holder that makes me think of pink stilettos. I didn't spray this, it came this shade. A perfect match - meant to be!

So that's the story of my gallery wall that took WAY longer than I thought it would. It changed, it rained, it warped, it evolved. But in the end our heroine was triumphant. Quite dramatic for a back deck. I wonder if Hollywood would be interested in making a movie about it? I have the perfect pink stilettos for the leading lady...

22.7.11

Buttah Chicken

Chef Kev returns with yet another palette pleasa! 2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate!? Picture me in a cheerlea... actually no. Strike that. No pictures please.

Except this one:




















S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that's the way we spell success! Okay. Done with random cheerleading dialogue now.

Butter Chicken

Chef Kev note and disclaimer:

Note: The key to a good butter chicken is have it thick and creamy.

Avoid the "sauce soup snaffo". Bad. Like fall-off-the-top-of-a-cheerleading-pyramid BAD. Okay, seriously, done now. Promise.

The disclaimer is as follows. Chef Kev wanted me to mention that this dish is "nothing too fancy" (speak for himself!) since he's not making his own spice blend, but that the great thing about this meal is that it's a wonderful "come home from work option" that tastes like a million bucks and is quick and easy to make.

There are many different butter chicken seasonings available in the stores. The one that Chef Kev used here comes with a chicken marinade as well as the sauce seasoning. This one had some good heat. Some seriously good heat. Like the kind that melts my laptop screen as I type my blog. If you like 'em milder then look for that option. Here are two of Chef Kev's faves. I bet you can't guess which one he used for this dish.





















Because he's a rebel, Chef Kev doesn't really follow the package instructions. What he does instead is outlined below. He has come up with (through trial and error) the closest match to what he enjoys in a fine Indian restaurant. Lucky me!

First off you make a pot of rice. I think you all know how to do that but if not here is how...
step one: type "www.google.com"
step two: enter "rice"
step three: hit return
Umm, I shouldn't joke because that's kinda how I make rice. But this is about Chef Kev so back to that. He recommends adding chicken stock or water (the chicken stock adds more flavour). Also add a bit of butter to the water. It prevents sticking and adds some flavour too.

If your Butter Chicken mix comes with a marinade do that step now. Cube your chicken before marinating.

Dice a white onion and let it sweat (soften) in a sauce pan with butter. Did anyone else just chuckle at the thought of sweatin' onions? I digress... Once your schweaty onions are ready add your marinated chicken. Cook until the chicken is half done and then add one can of tomatoe sauce (not paste or ketchup) and your seasoning. Then add some coconut milk or water and heavy cream. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes and add salt to taste.

Just before serving add chopped fresh cilantro, basil and chive. Serve to wife and reap accolades.

Lovin' the Chef? Check out all his tasty creations here.

21.7.11

Blogland Beauts: the premiere!




Since I'm a new blogger most of my readers so far have been friends and family (understandably). That being said, a lot of you might not be privy to the visual smorgasbord that is blogland. So, as a treat I decided to start a new feature that I plan to do once a week highlighting some great blogs, ideas, photos and writers that are out there. Each thing I feature will be something that has caught my eye over the last week.

Enjoy!

- - - - - - - -

First up is some wonderful Rosemary Lemonade posted by Krista over at Blue Eyed Yonder. Doesn't this just look SO delicious! Yum yum yum - and these photos, gorgeous. Is she talented or what!? And her blog is so sweet. This recipe is listed on her site - must try soon!



















































































- - - - -

Now that we are all nice and thirsty, let's head to the water. Rachel and Lily are friends, wives, mothers and vintage junkies extraordinaire! They have a wonderful blog, Birch and Bird and Lily recently posted a bunch of AMAZING waterfront wedding destination photos. Here is a sneak peak, but you will have to head over to check out the whole collection. Stunning.















































































I love that chandelier and those lucite chairs against that mountain backdrop... sigh....

- - - - -

And last but certainly not least is a recent post by Coutney over at A Thoughtful Place. Her bio reads that she is "enamored with all things pretty, organized, well-designed, and efficient". A kindred spirit! She featured these amazing designs by Pretty Smitten and... well I am! By both these amazing iPhone covers and Courtney's wonderful blog.






















- - - - - 

So there you have the first in my Blogland Beauts series. What do you think? Feeling inspired? I know I am!


20.7.11

Glittering Garden and a Geeky Beek

While working on my recent deck projects I realized my deck needed a little bling. Well, let's be honest, I wanted to put up some Christmas lights in the middle of summer. Kidding! (Well sort of. My love of Christmas is apparent here). But the bling was my main reason for this next project.

I thought a strand of little white lights would look great running along the underside of our retaining wall 'lip'. Just a small clean touch of lights to brighten the space on a warm summer evening.


















So, into the storage I went and resurfaced with a string of lights and a staple gun.






















But guess what? I underestimated how awkward the little lip is to get at and misjudged my lack of desire for stapling though electrical chords. Read that as: I'm chicken to staple electrical cords upside down into a 1" overhang of wood.

To rectify, I paid a visit to my local hardware store and somehow got coerced into picking up a snack for Chef Kev along the way. When I returned I had one pack of cable screws for my two pitstops. ... and some chips. Speaking of getting screwed (kidding Sweetie - hope you liked your chips) that's just what I did.





















Much easier!

I ran an extension cord along the side of the deck (behind my planters) and to the outside electrical outlet where I plugged it in to my automatic timer.




















I actually set this to the two hour setting since it doesn't turn on until dusk (which of course is much later in the summer than winter). 

And this is how she looked when done!




















And once it got dark... bling! bling! bling! I love twinkle lights!



































































































And now on to the second part of this post! 

As I went out to take the pictures of the lights as the sun went down I had the feeling I was being watched... not in a scary way but in a 'hey, look at me over here!' kind of way. And look who was peeking out from behind a hosta in my garden...










































A 'Geeky Beek' (according to his tag). Isn't he adorable!? The story behind him is that my parents and sister were out shopping and spotted this little Mr. Personality. They immediately thought of my garden – partly due to my chandelier redo found here – and partly because of a few other little things I have in the works (yet to be unveiled). So, they scooped up this little guy and stashed him in my garden two days ago. I love him!

Now he just needs a name... any suggestions!? And yes, even though he's pink he just seems like a male to me. I don't know why.

I pulled him out from his hosta hiding spot to get a few pictures of him. What a little cutie and he sure adds some whimsy to the garden. Thanks Mom, Dad and Tanya! XO.

































































PS/ If you're interested in checking out my other recent deck posts, visit here: The Great Grass Caper, Pretty in Pink, Herbalicious, Black is the new 'fake terra cotta'

19.7.11

Baby's Breath Believin'

The other day we had my parents and sister over for my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday Mom!) and while out grabbing some groceries I thought I'd pick up a few fresh flowers. I love making flower arrangements so generally look for whatever is relatively inexpensive and seasonal - I can often be heard saying "no need to wrap them, they're just for me". Then I come home and make a nice little arrangement for the occasion!

However, there were some pretty slim pickins' the othe day and nothing was striking a chord. I thought I may get a few gerberas but at $2.49 a pop I'd have to get quite a few for any impact. And then low and behold I spotted one of the ready-made bouquets for $12 that contained eight of them! I did some quick math and headed to the check out... but not before I grabbed some baby's breath too. YES, baby's breath! Why? Becuase I love a challenge.

I can hear you all saying "baby's breath? Are we talking about the same baby's breath seen in 1980's corsages along side a pink taffetta grad dress and mall bangs in a Sears portrait?" And to that I say "Yes. Yes we are." You see, I had a vision - a vision to make you all baby's breath believers. Convert you, if you will.

Forgive me that I don't have a picture of the bouquet 'before' but I'm sure you can all envision your basic generic grocery store bouquet comprised of a few different blooms and a truckload of filler. And if you can't then I beg you to forgive me anyway. Hey, I'm a new blogger, I forget to take 'before pics'. Cut a girl some slack.

To begin I took a vase that I had on hand and filled it with floral preserve (the little packet your bouquet comes with) and water. Any vase will do but for this arrangement I pictured something low and 'full'.









Then I made grid using regular satin scotch tape. The grid helps you plan out your arrangement as well as help hold your flowers up!











begin assembling (starting with your 'main' flower)...











Start to fill in your arrangement using complimentary blooms. If you don't have an eye for this sort of thing then the 'pre-arranged' bouquets are great because they already come with complimentary blooms and colours. You can see here is where I started adding my BABY'S BREATH for bulk. I liked that it was so light and airy yet helped fill out the arrangement. Plus did I mention that I like a challenge...










The bouquet came with one LARGE frond that was very pretty but would not work with this type of arrangement so check out what I did...

Step one: Snip












Step two: gather together by pushing up from bottom along stem and then tape:










step three: stuff:











I got four bunches out of the one frond. Not bad!

Next, take some of the filler leaves (you won't use them all most likely as these generic bouquets usually come with SO much) and add to the edges:









Another neat trick to making your bouquet look custom and designey (yup - a made up word for you) is to use a non-flower element. I had this little shimmery stick from Christmas that matched my palette so in it went!









Add some ribbon around the vase:











And you're done! Not bad for less than $15!











Here are a few close ups:




















Are you beginning to become a baby's breath believer?





















AND just to show you I'm not fakin' it for fun, here's another arrangement I did in the same vase back at Christmas.











Do you think you'll give Baby a chance? As Patrick once said: "No one puts baby in the corner". Happy flower arranging!
Blogging tips