Restaurant Review: The Red Pepper

Last Saturday night Jordon and I went to the Red Pepper in downtown Saskatoon.  It was a quiet pre-Valentine’s Day supper and was a nice and quiet place to go.

We ordered a sizzling seafood platter that featured mussels, lobster, and shrimp.  We also split a beef and shrimp noodle bowl as well as a shrimp and coconut curry dish.   The food was excellent and the service was fast.  It wasn’t that busy but there was enough people in there that I was surprised at the speed.  The food came out fresh and piping hot and was all on our plates within minutes. 

The service was excellent although since there were no problems we didn’t need a lot.  Our drinks were replaced or topped up and we were checked enough times that if we needed anything, it was there but not enough to be annoying.

Service was one thing but how was the taste?  It was fresh and tasted like it was prepared by someone that loved to cook.  The food was exceptionally prepared and made a fun night even more enjoyable.

With being right next door to another Saskatoon favorite, Thien Vietnam, their food has to be excellent and it was.  At the end of a very filling meal, my thought was “I need to come back more often.”

Red Pepper Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Valentine’s Day

We went for our Valentine’s Dinner on Saturday night.  We wanted something casual so Jordon and I went out to the Red Pepper in downtown Saskatoon.  It was a nice quiet dinner for the two of us.  Good food, relaxed meal, and fun times.  I’ll post a review this week.

This morning I woke up to Jordon giving me a big plush Snoopy who is holding a Valentine. 

It's Snoopy!

Jordon also gave me a heart shaped pendant and necklace and some Toronto Blue Jays ear rings.  There was also a chocolate rose and some other chocolates.

I gave Jordon a large Nalgene water bottle and a book that documents abandoned places.  The photography is both beautiful and terrifying.

Some random weekend thoughts

  • Jordon and I went out to dinner at Red Pepper last night.  It was a nice day and the food was good.  I’ll post a review later this week.
  • It’s Jordon’s birthday in less than a month.  I am in pretty good shape as for my gift for him.  Mark knows what he is getting him.  Oliver’s gift for him has been ordered and I even know what the dog is getting him.  We are winning the organizational battle.  Now we just need to know where to take him for dinner.
  • Believe it or not, after screwing up almost every Father’s Day ever, I have a nice gift ordered for Jordon this year from the boys.
  • I bought Jordon a Gerber Scout knife last year and he has really liked it.  He carries it with him many days.  He had picked one up for Mark this year and then gave me one today.  I am not really planning to fight a grizzly bear with it but many times around the campground or on the road, I find myself saying, “Jordon, pass me your knife.”  Now I won’t have to.  Well I mean I will probably forget it somewhere and I will still have to say, “Jordon, pass me your knife.”  Now instead of just giving it to me, I will now have to explain where I left my knife and go get it.  Great.

Bear Grylls Scout Knife by Gerber

  • I escaped the worst crisis of my marriage the other night.  Jordon sprung slow TV on me out of nowhere.  The Norwegians are obsessed with it but he turned on an 11 hour real time documentary of a cruise down a Norwegian canal.   Luckily Netflix stopped streaming it but it’s working tonight.  I am like 8 minutes into it and I am so bored and kind of getting sucked into it.
  • Mark picked up a new lens from Don’s Photo.  He is a really excited about it.
  • Speaking of lenses.  Jordon is trying out a new Olympus wide angle lens.  He is thinking of making the switch from Pentax.  I am all in favor of that because it means that I get to use his Olympus lenses.  That being said, I think he will hold on to his Pentax system.  He still checks Pentax Rumors daily.  It’s like family to him.

Pasta Bolognese Recipe

Jordon’s mother made spaghetti all of the time growing up.  At 17 he said “enough” and never tried it again for almost two decades.  Even now he likes it but doesn’t want it very much.  This recipe is a way to serve it while still giving it a different flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Directions

  1. In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and taste frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
  5. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  6. While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.
  7. Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

In­ N Out Double ­Double Burger Recipe

This is a recipe for making a homegrown clone of what I believe is the best hamburger in the world.

Ingredients

  • 1 plain hamburger bun
  • 1/3 pound ground beef
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon Kraft thousand island dressing
  • 1 large tomato slice (or 2 small slices)
  • 1 large lettuce leaf
  • 2 slices real American cheese
  • 1 whole onion slice (sliced thin)

Directions

  1. Preheat a saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Lightly toast the both halves of the hamburger bun, face down in the pan. Set aside.
  3. Separate the beef into two even portions, and form each half into a thin patty slightly larger than the bun.
  4. Lightly salt each patty and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side.
  5. Flip the patties over and immediately place one slice of cheese on each one. Cook for 2­3 minutes.
  6. Assemble the burger in the following stacking order from the bottom up:
    1. bottom bun
    2. dressing
    3. tomato
    4. lettuce
    5. beef patty with cheese
    6. onion slice
    7. beef patty with cheese
    8. top bun.

Makes 1 hamburger.

Note

One of the secrets to duplicating this and other fast food burgers is getting the beef patties super thin—about 1/4 inch­thick. If you like, you can press the ground beef into uniform shapes onto wax paper and freeze the patties ahead of time. Freezing makes the thin patties easier to handle and they will hold their shape better.

Blue Crab Dip Recipe (Joe’s Crab Shack)

Joe’s Crab Shack is one of my favorite restaurants but they aren’t in Canada.   For those of you who love their favorite Blue Crab Dip Recipe, here is a copycat version of it that you will love.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups crabmeat (canned is fine)
  • 1/4 cup diced green onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced mild red chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon mild green chili pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Garnish

  • Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Combine the cream cheese with crab, green onion, chili peppers, salt and white pepper in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine.
  3. Spread mixture into the bottom of an oven­safe dish. Use a wide dish for this so that the dip is only about an inch deep in the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the surface of the dip.
  5. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese on top begins to brown.
  6. Sprinkle paprika over the dip, followed by fresh minced parsley. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers for dipping.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Slow-Cooker Ratatouille Recipe

Serve the ratatouille warm or at room temperature; as a side dish for grilled poultry or meat; as a bed for a fish fillet; on a sandwich; or perhaps over toast with an egg on top.  Using a slow cooker means that you can take advantage of all of these vegetables in season and not warm up your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (unpeeled; about 1 pound), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 medium Roma or plum tomatoes (about 1 pound), cut into medium dice
  • 2 medium zucchini and/or yellow summer squash (about 8 ounces each), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

  1. Place the eggplant in a colander set over a bowl or in the sink, and toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Allow to sit and drain for 30 minutes, then rinse the eggplant with cold water. Lay the eggplant on paper towels and pat with additional paper towel to remove as much water as possible.
  2. Whisk together the oil, tomato paste, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper in a medium bowl until incorporated.
  3. Combine the drained/rinsed eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and/or squash, bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme in your slow-cooker. Add the oil-tomato paste mixture and stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours or until the vegetables are tender, then uncover and cook for 1 hour more to allow some of the liquid to evaporate and the vegetables to meld further. Discard the bay leaf.

How a full spice cabinet can keep you healthy

From the Washington Post

How a full spice cabinet can keep you healthy

Spices and herbs add delicious variety to the foods we eat. But spices and herbs are much more than flavor enhancers — they are nutritional powerhouses. After all, spices and herbs come from plants, which means they are sources of plant phytonutrients. Many phytonutrients have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or even anti-cancer properties, and in the case of spices, these phytonutrients can be very concentrated. So spices do more than perk up the flavor of your food — they put a natural pharmacy in your kitchen.

For some Americans, one perceived impediment to cooking with spices is the dislike of spicy food, even though spices are not spicy hot, per se. Spices can make food richly flavorful and aromatic, but they make it hot only if you add fresh, powdered or flaked chile peppers. That heat comes with a few benefits — spicy hot food reduces the need for salt, plus it helps the body sweat and potentially remove toxins.

A handful of spices have enjoyed an elevated status, thanks to their potential to help decrease inflammation in the body: cinnamon, garlic, ginger and turmeric. None of these is a magic bullet, of course, but because they also help make food more flavorful and satisfying, there no reason not to use more of them.

The entire column is worth reading and has some great facts about spices I had no idea about.

Summer vacations plans are booked

Canada's 150th BirthdayI posted about our plans for the summer of 2017 and Canada’s 150 birthday earlier this month.  We made our plans, booked our holidays, and waited for the Parks Canada reservation system to open up for the parks we are visiting and camping in.  Then we got busy and put it off.

So last night Jordon sat down and booked our campsites at Grasslands National Park and then for the Lake Louise Campground for the Canada Day Long Weekend and then Johnston Canyon Campground in August.  Jordon had already booked out hotel for our 20th Anniversary at the Siding 29 Lodge in Banff.

Grasslands will be a lot of fun.  We are planning to hike up to the 70 Mile Butte and enjoy the dark sky preserve.  Then you look at the videos and photos and realize there is not a tree in the entire park.  Well actually there are two.  Two trees in an entire national park.  That seems crazy.  We’ll see if you can find them.

So when we booked our campsites, Jordon calls over Mark and goes look at the photos.

Campsite at Grasslands National Park

They are just gravel pads in the middle of the prairie with poles to hand a lantern on.  Nothing else.   It will be a lot different than when we were caught in a storm in Prince Albert National Park surrounded by breaking branches and trees.  At least there is no risk of “widow makers” on this trip.  Although I am not sure where I will hang my hammock either…

Of course we talked it over with Mark about going to a busier provincial park, Prince Albert National Park or to an empty Grasslands National Park.  The introvert in him chose Grasslands.  The idea of being in a vast empty park with about 40 other people has a large appeal to him.  Anytime there are more bison than people, introverts feel like they are winning.

The next trip to a national park will be over Canada Day when we are going to Lake Louise and using that campground as a base for hiking at Lake O’Hara.  We booked the last available campsite that weekend.  So for Canada’s 150th birthday bash, we will be in both Banff and Yoho National Parks.  Plans can change but we will do the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit.  I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

Finally in August, Jordon booked us into my favorite campground, Johnston Canyon Campground.  It isn’t powered but it is quiet and we had a great time staying there before.  Last year we were close to the showers and washroom (probably 100 metres away).  I told Jordon to get the same campsite as we did last summer because it backed on to the woods (and the train tracks).  One of the few campsites that was booked was the one we had last year which was kind of funny.  We aren’t the only ones that were thinking that way.

We did get the campsite next to it which is also nice.  We never thought of it at the time but being near one of only two showers, everyone walked by our campsite and with Marley there, many people would stop and pet the dog and therefore come and visit.  There was also two cycling clubs using that campground as there base of operations so the mornings were pretty active with cyclists getting ready for their morning ride, hikers like us getting ready, and families stopping by to see the dog and chat.

I loved the people dynamic while camping there.  No electricity meant no music or much noise.   When everyone is a stranger, no one really is.  It was fun.  I can’t wait to go back.  Finally, as someone who loves to hike at Johnston Canyon at least once during the trip, it is easier and quicker to walk from our campground to the trailhead then driving and parking. 

Jordon had told me that the lines to Johnston Canyon could be a mile long stretching in both directions.  I believed him but it is hard to fathom, especially on a weekday.  Sure enough, Monday morning, there were lines that were over a mile long in each direction.  We actually measured.  I was blown away.

The last thing to do for us is to book the bus rides into Lake O’Hara and I can’t do that until April.  Other than that, things are done and taken care of.

The Weekend

  • First the bad news.  Our furnace started to shake and vibrate on Thursday night.  It made a horrible racket.  I called Furnace Guys on Friday morning and he figured it would hold together through the weekend.  The fan has managed to work itself loose but it makes an incredible sound every time it fires up.  The good news is that it will be dealt with tomorrow and Jordon and I won’t have a huge repair bill.
  • My blood pressure is returning to normal.  No one knows why it was so high but the good news is that it is lower.  I am still on the medication and my cholesterol is slightly too high but other than that, things are working out.
  • In other good news, I bought some Spike, a multi-spice blend a few months ago and we ran out.  Superstore and Safeway are either out or don’t carry it any longer.  Finally we tried Co-op and they had it.  In fact that is where I may have found it in the first place.
  • Jordon bought me a new tablet / keyboard for Christmas but the screen was dead on arrival so we had to send it back.  My new one came today so Jordon spent the day getting it all set up.  I have an Android phone so there isn’t a learning curve but it is nice to have it all ready to go.  I am streaming classic jazz through Spotify as we speak.
  • Jordon predicted that evangelical support for Donald Trump would mean the end of the evangelical church in the United States.  Part of me wonders if this is just going to be the end of the United States.  Tell me again why if you are California why you stay as part of the union?
  • Jordon, Mark and I are still working out at Fit4Less.  I am not going to lie, working out and getting back in shape at my age is hard and painful.  In my last workout, I actually cried during part of it.  It hurt that bad.  As soon as I hit publish on this, I am off to do it again.
  • I am told the crowds will thin out in February as all of the people who just come to the gym and take selfies will have moved on and do something else.  Also, there are so many who are there and just sit on a machine and text.    There is nothing better than trying to do a circuit and you can’t because of people texting on the machine you want to use. 
  • I spent some time with Jordon as he did a gear shot for work.   I forget how much camera and hiking gear we have.