Bean Burgers Yum!

If you've been reading a while you know that I was the mom who went crazy anal about making my kids' food when they were little. Or you just know me and that fact isn't surprising at all. But the one thing I did buy was some bean burgers from a local manufacturer. The Monster absolutely loved them. But they were expensive. Damn expensive.

I launched a search to make a good bean burger myself. And I searched and tested and searched and tested some more. And I had no success. Nothing seemed to work.  They were all too dry or too wet, so I gave up.

Then the Blog Aid: Haiti cookbook arrived. Catherine McCord at Weelicious included a recipe for garbanzo burgers in it. The old challenge poked its head out of my subconscious and forced me to make her burgers. And you know what? Success at last! 

Of course, I did adapt it a bit.  But that's because I had a 19 ounce can of chickpeas, not 14 ounces as in the original recipe. To compensate I added some pistachios when I was making the breadcrumbs and threw in some spices. The girls and I happily ate them, as did our vegetarian friend who was visiting. Even Hubby, the devout carnivore, ate them without grumbling. Much. But he did clarify that they were actually patties and did not deserve the name burger.

Garbanzo Patties
Adapted from the Weelicious recipe in the Blog Aid:Haiti Cookbook

Makes 12-15 patties

1 19 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small carrot, chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1-2 tbsp oil

1. Blitz the first 8 ingredients in a food processor until it is a consistent mixture.
2. Stir in the bread crumbs, pistachios, and sesame seeds.
3. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the mixture (it will be wet) into your hand and form patties. 
4. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Cook patties for 5 minutes, flip and cook 3-5 minutes longer.

Particularly tasty with Edgar Farms Asparagus Relish. Or a nice green salad.

A Perfect First Date

Do you remember when you were 16 and you finally got that guy you loved FOREVER to notice you and suddenly you were agreeing to go to the movies, without either of your parents driving you?  The excitement, the knots in your stomach, the agony over what exactly to wear?  And then a zit that appeared on your face the night before.

Or what about the first time your mother-in-law came over for dinner?  The fretting over the right menu, timing your dishes so that nothing was cold, and obsessing over whether the house was just clean enough? And then the dog upturns a plant and you have dirt everywhere.

Now, imagine that you've invited over two major foodies and fantastic writers. Oh yeah, and they're bloggers too and you know that they're going to write about and photograph what you made for dinner. Nope, no pressure there.Friday night we hosted Julie and her gang from Dinner with from Dinner with Julie and Aimée and her family from Under the High Chair. Seriously, no pressure whatsoever.

The Menu:
Watermelon and Jicama Sticks with Chili Salt
Hubby' Famous Arkison Burgers
Buffalo Hot Dogs
Grilled Peaches with Sour Cream Ice Cream
Cherry Hand Pies

It seemed like a pretty stress free menu. Or so I thought.

Since Julie did such a good job of summarizing our evening together - although she forgot the part where Danny, Aimée's husband took out Willem, Julie and Mike's son - I thought I would highlight the prep.  The nerve-wracking everything going wrong prep for when two major foodie bloggers stop by for Friday night dinner.

Let's start with dessert, because that's what I worked on first.  I lucked into some sour cherries at the market last week, so pie was definitely called for.  The Monster and I tucked into pitting the cherries while Smilosaurus had her last official morning nap. Sour cherries are ridiculously easy to pit, no tool required.  We just put our thumbs on either side of the pit and pulled the cherry apart.  Well, that's what I did.  The Monster apparently would start by biting off half the cherry, then picking out the pit.  And, ever helpful, she would put both halves of the cherry in the bowl.  So, in case I forgot to mention it on Friday night, the cherry pie had a little something extra in it.

Then there was the ice cream.  Sour Cream Ice Cream. I was brave and the three of us girls went off to get our groceries.  Sour cream? Check.  Half and half? Check. Heavy cream? Check. Frozen ice cream canister? Check. Blender? Check?

Coordination and space in the fridge?  Uh, no. I dropped the blender on the floor as I was trying to fit it in between a case of beers and some herbs.  It went everywhere! In fact, looking at that picture I realize that I still need to clean the sideboard.

The dogs had a field day cleaning the floor and The Monster cried for a half hour straight. Nothing but tears, nay, wailing, over spilled ice cream.  Thankfully Hubby came home in the middle of her crying so I could run out and buy more sour cream while she cried herself to sleep.
I also ran out to the market while the girls slept to pick up the corn, avocado, lettuce, beef, and the rest of our groceries for the week.  While unpacking I realized that of everything I picked up I forgot to buy peaches.  So, no grilled peaches for dessert. Sigh.

Instead I set to making the pies and getting everything else ready.  I had my pate brisee cold in the fridge. It rolled out wonderfully and I made my pies.  Then I went outside to get the yard a little bit in order.  And promptly forgot about the first tray of pies. I saved them from complete destruction.  And Julie even said she loved the idea of the juices oozing out of their pastry hold. I still scolded her for taking a picture of it. We just picked the really crispy bits off the edges.

Finally, and this was by no means a disaster, I ran out of ketchup. No ketchup is not cause for alarm, but I am firmly in the camp that burgers need ketchup. I was also anticipating toddler meltdown if their was no ketchup for the hot dogs. Just as I prepared to call my neighbour who is stocked for the war (I call her my emergency pantry) I remembered a bottle of homemade ketchup in the cold storage. And the reviews were so positive - except from my kid - that I might consider the effort again.

All was not horrible.  Indeed, some things went ridiculously well.  I made the chili salt for the watermelon and jicama sticks with my secret stash of dried chili from Baja.  I simple threw a handful of chili in a non-reactive frying pan with a clove of garlic.  Let it heat up until I could really smell the chili heat.  Then I blitzed the whole thing in a food processor with a little less than a cup of kosher salt. I think we all preferred it with the watermelon, and I'm pretty sure it would be good on mango too. Hubby and I thought that maybe the leftover salt would be good on some grilled chicken, but not too much.

Then there were the burgers.  Oh, the burgers.  These are the spec-i-al-ity of my Hubby, Morgan. I once made the mistake of raving over a burger in a seaside shack in Digby, Nova Scotia as the best burger I ever had.  I swear that if I hadn't recanted the statement right then and there we never would have married.

There's nothing special to the burgers.  Just good quality ground beef, lean ground beef.  Don't try to be healthy and by extra lean, your burgers will be dry. Lately we've been making them from Hoven Farms beef.  Very flavourful.  So take your beef and form it into a patty, preferably a large patty. Do not season the beef, don't add eggs or bread crumbs.  This is pure beef. Now you know why I only served a green salad on the side.

After a liberal dosing in CattleBoyz BBQ Sauce he cooks them slowly on the grill.  They stay juicy, they get a great crust, and they are perfection. Meaty, so juicy they drip off your wrists perfection.

So the floor was still sticky, the lawn never got mowed, and I highly doubt I made The Monster's bed after her nap.  Oh, and I did indeed have a brand new zit to greet our guests. None of that really matters if everyone is well fed and the company good.

The night was really as good as it gets when you've got 6 tired adults (long drives, gout, sleepless nights, and working too much) and 5 kids under the age of 4 to keep track of.  Note to self: build gates for the fence. We photographed our food more than our kids, we chatted and gossiped about other sites we visit, compared horrible neighbours, and we lubricated everything with Prosecco, Moscato, and beer.  It would have been lovely to sit leisurely around the firepit and actually have some girl talk among us bloggers, but sadly the Hubby's wanted our help with the kids. I think Julie and I might have to plan a weekend in Montreal, sans kids, to get that!

Make sure you check our Julie's review of the evening (including the recipe for the sour cream ice cream, and keep an eye on Under the High Chair for all of Aimée's vacation reports. And stay tuned here this week, I will actually share with you the recipe for Cherry Hand Pies.

Canada Day Picnic

Okay, so it isn't exactly Canadian to celebrate the nation's holiday with blue cheese. Well, maybe it is. Whether it is a Canadian, French, Italian, or Danish cheese it actually might be a perfect representation of Canada. Strong, diverse in flavour, and easy to get along with. You may like us or hate us, but you probably don't dislike the idea of us.

Personally, I am a huge blue cheese fan. The more the better, the stronger the better. In all its variations. The Monster isn't a huge fan herself, but she'll eat it in the dip form I served today. Smilosaurus was loving it.  Dispensing with the veggies altogether she simply plunged her hands directly into the dip and shoved them in her mouth.

We served this dip at The Monster's birthday party.  That definitely started a new addiction for me. If there were hot wings anywhere near me right now I would be gorging myself on wings and blue cheese dip.  And drowning a crappy evening in beer. I'll have to settle for being relatively healthy and dipping some blanched asparagus and carrots. Sigh.

The following recipe makes a thick dip.  If you prefer a thinner dip, or something that will stick a bit more to those hot wings use undrained or regular yogurt. Whatever you do, don't break up the cheese into teeny weeny pieces.  You want a few chunky pieces of cheese in every single bite. The sharpness will temper heat, provoke the taste of green, and make your tongue spicy, as The Monster describes the taste. And with four ingredients it is dead easy to make.

Blue Cheese Dip
(makes 1.5 cups)

1 cup greek style yoghurt (or drained, plain yoghurt)
1 tablespoon mayo
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chives

(To drain yoghurt place about 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cup plain yoghurt into a cheesecloth of paper-towel lines sieve.  Let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.)

Mix together all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with additional chopped chives.  Serve chilled.

There's a Party in the Park

In case you were wondering, birthday parties for a three year old are so worth the effort. She won't remember it, but I will forever remember impatience for the last month - drama included - and the high of having all these people there for her, the Happy Birthday Girl.  The drama on her part, and mine, was worth it.

With so much competitive parenting going on these days I would like to think I am immune to it. We've been to our share of birthday parties of late and inevitably we do take notes. Usually those notes revolve around ways to make the party clean-up easier and how to sneak some wine into a kid friendly venue.  Thankfully we have a great group of friends and family that were more than happy to simply come and hang out with us on a finally hot Saturday afternoon. There is a park across the street from our house, a rather convenient feature considering that we still have no yard.  So we carried over a few picnic tables, a couple of quilts, a mess of sandwiches, some bubbles and balls for the kids, and had ourselves a picnic.

I realize that this fruit porcupine is more than a tad over the top for a picnic.  It was a fantastic way to keep a now three year old occupied with prep work.  Skewering grapes, a new way to kill time and fruit.  Plus, there were no post slurp watermelon rinds to deal with.  Keep in mind that this is not a way to serve things if you have any distance to travel to your picnic.

Remember the asparagus?  Edgar Farms is still picking, so I'm still eating.  On my continued mission to indoctrinate, er... feed my friends good food I blanched some, along with some green beans, and served them with some Gull Valley cherry tomatoes and a homemade blue cheese dip.  For the few moments when I sat down I was parked near this platter. I'm not sure how many people tried the asparagus with me hogging the plate.

The rest of the menu included grilled veggies and Boursin on a whole wheat baguette, a recreation of the famous Italian Centre sandwiches (very well received and a soon to be picnic staple in this house), tabouleh salad, Holy Guacamole (We Got Chips), and some brewed iced tea and lemonade.  And don't forget the cupcakes!

Speaking of the cupcakes, I'm pretty sure that the was the only food most of the other kids ate. I think my friends were maybe prepared for me and my tendencies because most of them brought their own food for the kids.  Hey, I made peanut butter and jam sandwiches too! I thought it was pretty kid friendly with the fruit porcupine and veggies, but maybe that is only my kids? 

No party would be complete without a little entertainment.  No clowns or facepainting here. We had Uncle Paul juggling fire!  Sadly fire is not that noticeable at 4 in the afternoon.  I can tell you that it is very noticeable after a few beers and once the sun finally sets in the summer. Unfortunately the kids always miss that entertainment.

Happy Birthday Monster!