Friday, 21 November 2014

Slow Cooker Pho Ba (Beef Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Pho is my FAVOURITE meal in the whole world - really. If I ever have a chance to go eat out by myself, I alway choose Pho, Indian is a very close second.

Last week I went for a lovely Pho lunch with a friend. She suggested that I post my homemade version, so I dug out the recipe I got from a Hoi An cooking school and made some updates so I could make it from things available here (with some searching), so here you are!

Pho is a labour of love and takes some plan ahead! 

Pho Ba (Beef Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

3 lbs Marrow and Knuckle Soup Bones*
2 Onions, cut in half - leave skin on
1 fresh Ginger Root, about 4-5" long, cut in large pieces
5-6 Star Anise
1-2 Cinnamon Sticks
6 Whole Cloves
2 Whole Cardamom Pods
1-2 large chunks Rock Sugar** (to taste)
2-4 Tbsp Fish Sauce (to taste)
Sriracha or chili paste (optional)
Salt (to taste)

To get a nice clear broth, parboil soup bones. In a large pot, cover soup bones with water, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove bones and rinse with water. 

Add rinsed bones to the base of a large slow cooker and fill with water (about 8-10 cups) and cook on low for 8 hours. Skim off any impurities that float to the top.

While broth is starting to cook in slow cooker, place onion halves & ginger pieces on a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil in oven for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through until all sides are charred black. Remove outer charred skins and smash ginger flat to help release the flavour. Add ginger & onion to broth.

Combine anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom & rock sugar in a cheesecloth square. Tie in a little bundle and add to the stock. Add fish sauce, hot sauce and salt to desired taste.

Once stock has finished cooking, remove bones and seasoning pack. Strain broth through a fine strainer to remove any remaining impurities.

Serve piping hot over bowls filled with your favourite Pho ingredients:
Rice Noodles
Rare Beef (sliced thin will cook in the hot broth)
Bean Sprouts
Thai Basil
Lemon Wedges
Hoisin Sauce
Fish Sauce

This broth recipe freezes well.

Yum. I think I'm going to go make another bowl...all this writing is making me salivate!


* The marrow and tendons in these bones make the specific flavour of pho, regular soup bones don't seem to taste as good. Ask your butcher!
**Rock sugar is hard to find, I found mine at an asian market. You could just add regular sugar to taste instead, but it's not quite the same flavour.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Slow Cooker Herbed Roast Beef

I'm madly trying to use up my stash of local grass fed beef from last year as my new happy beef is expected to be ready really soon. I still have a few more roasts in the freezer, so it was time to make a big hearty meal for my family. Here's a nice roast with an Italian flair. Great with a  big glass of red wine!

Slow Cooker Herbed Roast Beef

6 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1/2 tsp dried Basil
1 tsp Fresh or dried Rosemary (Chopped)
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
2-3 lb Round Roast
1/2 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Beef Broth
1/2 onion, sliced thin

Make 6 incisions in roast on the top with a knife and insert garlic cloves.

In a bowl, combine vinegar, oil, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, pepper and salt in a bowl. Pat on the outside of the roast to coat.

Heat a skillet and sear the outside of the roast on all sides. Remove roast once is is nicely browned and place in a slow cooker.

While the pan is still hot, add onion and cook for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add wine & beef broth and boil for about 5 minutes. Pour over roast.

Cook for 2-4 hours on high depending on desired doneness.

Serve with delicious mashed potatoes!


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cheggnog (Chai Eggnog Latte)

This week we remembered and honoured those who are and have served their country. An emotional day for many especially with the death of 2 soldiers at home in the past few weeks. Although I have never served, many people around me have - both of my grandfathers, several friends from Canada & around the world, and my neighbours (I live near Canadian Armed Forces base) have served their country in peace and in war. 

I am grateful and I remember.

It seems like the day after Remembrance Day I get in the Christmas Spirit! I love Christmas. I start thinking about gifts and decorating. I feel free to get the eggnog rolling and the Christmas tunes pumping (Daddy Ladybug is not so happy about this). Holiday Joy is steaming out of my diffuser making it smell amazing and with the beautiful weather we've had this week the outdoor lights are even up (I promised to make the tree wait a few more weeks).

I thought I'd start the celebrations by sharing one of my favourite cozy curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire drinks. 

I worked at Starbucks last year and at Christmas my co-worker introduced me to my new favourite holiday drink - the Eggnog Chai Latte. I loved it so much I had to make it at home (of course!). So here's my homemade version of their Eggnog Chai Latte (aka cheggnog).

Cheggnog (Chai Eggnog Latte)

Per mug:
1 1/2-2 cups Eggnog
1 oz (2 Tbsp) Vanilla Syrup
1-2 Chai Tea Bags
Nutmeg and Sugar (optional)

For each mug, add vanilla syrup and tea bag(s) to the mug. Heat Eggnog using a steam wand, microwave, or stovetop to desired temperature. Pour in the mug and let sit for 2-3 minutes to allow the chai time to steep.

Sip & enjoy (add a little rum if you want!). 


Friday, 14 November 2014

Nana's Noodle Soup

Lady & Bug ask for Nana's Noodle Soup every time they want something comforting. At first I had no idea what this was and kept making my version of Chicken Noodle Soup, but they were never satisfied, then I happened to have Nana's version one day and I's all about the noodles and the surprising Anise!

Here's my attempt at Nana Ladybug's Noodle Soup, it's probably not the way Nana makes hers, but Lady & Bug are happy with it!

Nana's Noodle Soup

1 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
1 Chicken Breast, cooked & diced very small
1/2 Onion, diced very small
1 clove Garlic, minced
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups Water
4 cups Cooked Spaghetti, Chow Mein, or German Noodles crunched into spoon sized pieces
2 Anise Seed Stars (or 1/2 tsp anise seed)

Heat oil or butter in large saucepan. Add chicken, onion and garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add Chicken stock and water and anise. Bring to a boil (remove anise stars if used). Add pasta, heat through, and serve hot.

So many noodles with a slight anise flavour, so comforting and so yummy.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

BC Chicken & Homemade Chicken Nuggets

This weekend, I thought it would be fun to go to a new store to do our weekly grocery shop. While the grocery shopping experience was a bust with two major meltdowns in the store (yes I was the meanest mom in the world and wouldn't let them buy popsicles on a very cold day), we managed to learn something new in the process that quite honestly blew my mind and I'm sure I'm not alone, so I thought I'd share what I learned.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've been working to reduce additives, chemicals, and sugars - trying to live a more natural & healthy life. It's been a long process of learning to make more from scratch and making healthier choices in the store. I've been slowly changing us over to organic, local, and homegrown/homemade food. 

While we were shopping at Save On Foods, we saw some local chicken farmers called the Chicken Squad working to dispel some myths about the chicken farming industry. I don't know about you, but I've always understood that the meat & poultry available in my local store is full of hormones and steroids and that the chickens are force fed to get really fat. This has influenced my decision to buy mostly organic, thinking it was the healthiest choice for my family. I've been researching and learning about where my food really comes from and discovered that I've been given some misleading information. Did you know that the use of steroids and hormones has been banned in Canada since the 1960's? Really! I had no idea. This discovery has really made me think and I'm reconsidering my choice to not purchase regular chicken from the store.

The Chicken Squad even made a great little movie trailer to help spread the word (check it out at! Lady & Bug thought the action packed trailer was funny, especially the growing chicken! Bug even asked me if we could do that at home (of course I said no!). Instead I managed to calm the popsicle meltdowns with the promise that we would go home with our chicken and make our own Chicken Nuggets.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

4 Chicken Breasts
1 Egg
3 Tbsp Milk
1 Sleeve of Crackers (your favourite of course)
1 Tbsp Flour
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut chicken breasts into 1-2" bit sized pieces.

In a shallow bowl, combine egg and milk. Beat well to mix.

Crunch up crackers using a food processor or a plastic bag and a rolling pin. Add Flour, thyme, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, pepper & salt and mix well. This recipe works best if crackers have been crushed very fine (like cornmeal).

Coat a few chicken pieces at a time in egg mixture and then toss into a bag with the cracker mixture. Twist bag at the top and shake to coat. Place chicken on a baking sheet at least 1/2" apart and repeat until all the chicken has been coated with the cracker mixture. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F. Turn chicken over and bake for 5-10 more minutes until chicken reaches at least 165F internal temperature.

Yum! Lady & Bug (and Daddy Ladybug) approved.

Thanks BC Chicken Farmers for helping our family learn something new and for all your hard work so that we could have some really yummy chicken to make nuggets.


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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Decadent Mushroom Soup

We've been sick and soup is so cozy and comforting. I got tired of chicken noodle, so decided it was time to make a grown up soup.

If you love mushroom soup, this one's for you! Chunky pieces of mushroom and a wonderful decadent broth. It's easy to make, but feels fancy.

Decadent Mushroom Soup

2 Tbsp Butter
8 cups Mushrooms, Sliced (any kind)
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 cup Flour
3 cups Vegetable or Mushroom Stock
1/2 cup White Wine
1 cup Milk or Half & Half

Sour Cream & Parsley for garnish

In a large saucepan or skillet, melt butter. Add sliced mushrooms and onions and cook until they start to brown. Add garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and flour and cook for 1 more minute. Slowly add 2 cups of stock and stir until boiling and thick. Add remaining stock & wine and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. For a thicker soup, remove and blend 1 cup of soup and add back to the soup. Serve hot with cream and parsley.

Happy November!