Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest Post - Stock Fine Foods

Hey Everyone! I’m Amy, Minivan Stiletto’s little sister.  Jenny asked me to guest post for her while she is away in BC.  I’m sure she’s drinking wine for breakfast and passing out in the sun – that’s a good way to get a tan.
I love entertaining and trying out new products so I always found it frustrating when I had to drive around the city for certain products. I always thought, “How great would it be if this stuff could just get delivered to your door?”

So a couple months ago I launched an online specialty food store.  

It’s called Stock Fine Foods. The idea of this business is to deliver hard-to-find and higher-end products right to your door.  You’re not going to find the same products here as you would at Safeway.

Jenny suggested I feature some of my favorite products, well, that’s a tough one because I love all my products.  I wouldn’t be selling them if I didn’t.  But it made me think about a conversation we had a few weeks ago, she had asked me what was so special about specialty pasta.  I believe she even said somewhere about how she usually buys the cheapest or whatever is on sale.

Here's my answer:
Specialty Pasta is special mainly because of their ingredients. A lot of high-end pastas use only flour and water – and the absolute best flour and water you can find. The way these pastas are made is usually the same way it was made 100 years ago - By hand, with a lot of attention and technique

I find that for the most part anything made by hand is better than items mass-produced and it shows in these pastas.

Now if you can afford it – by all means use specialty pasta all the time, but that can get expensive. So try better pasta with simple pasta dishes like this Carbonara or an Aglio E Olio. These dishes will really let the pasta shine and show you how much a difference it can make.

Here is my absolute favorite Pasta:
Rustichella d'Abruzzo was founded in Italy in 1924 and they make their pasta today the same way they did the day they started.  Their recipe is very basic, durum wheat and fresh, natural spring water.

One of my favorite dishes to entertain with is this Carbonara. It is so easy to prepare everything before your guests arrive and then throw it all together right before you’re ready to serve.

Keep in mind, this recipe is not on the light side, you can tone it down a bit if you want, but if you are looking to impress your guests – it is a wow dish if done right.

4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 ½ cups whipping cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 large egg yolks
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and garlic and sauté until it is brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Set aside and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, cheese, yolks, basil, and parsley to blend.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghettini and cook until it is just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Drain.

Next, add the spaghettini and the cream mixture to the pancetta and garlic, return pan to a medium-low heat and toss until the sauce coats the spaghettini thickly, about 4 minutes (do not boil or you might end up scrambling the eggs).  

Season the pasta, to taste, with pepper and salt if needed (the pancetta and Parmesan will likely add all the salt you need). Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the lemon zest and serve.

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentils – Everyday Italian

Try this out! It is fabulous and super easy to make. As a special offer to Jenny’s readers I’m offering 10 per cent off your entire order. Use the promo code “minivan” and if you live in Calgary I am offering $5 flat rate shipping on all orders over $30.  Check me out, you won’t be disappointed.

Website link:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Source: purchased e-book and read on Kobo

Book summary (from
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

My thoughts:
I chose to read this book mostly because it is coming out as a movie very soon, and if Hollywood thought it would make a good movie, why not start wit hthe book right?  And especially since it is considered an American classic.

I really liked this book.  I have read very little set in the thism (1920's), but i thougth Fitzgerald did a great job in painting a picture as to what life was like back then - which is sometimes rare.  Often books written in their current time don't spend a lot of time describing the everyday - but he did a really good job.
It is a pretty easy short read - I recommend it for everyone.

I have not seen the movie yet, but I look forward to seeing how well Hollywood did with this book.

My ratings: 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Have you heard of Smashburger?
They opened their first location in Calgary back in May and their second location opens today in Royal Oak.
I was lucky to get an invite to a grand opening media event yesterday.
Here is the best part - it was for Mom bloggers and totally kid friendly.
Not only did they allow us to try anything we wanted on the menu, but they had a face painter and a pinata for the kids.

They also had an Stampede Burger Battle - 5 Calgary food writers / bloggers competing to make the best Stampede Smashburger. Julie Van Rosendaal (Dinner with Julie), Dan Clapson (Dan's Good Side), Gwendolyn Richards (Patent & the Pantry), Gabriel Hall (Le Voyage Gourmand) and Pierre Lamielle (Kitchen Scraps).

Pierre Lamielle

Gwendolyn Richards

Gabriel Hall
I found it entertaining, the kids not so much - they were much more interested in the face painting and running around.

All 5 contestants with their burgers (Julie's son was competing for her).

Anyway, Pierre won and I got a chance to meet some of my favourite Calgary food bloggers. It was pretty neat considering I have been following their blogs for years and stalking them all on twitter for quite some time now.

But onto the food itself:

I ordered The Calgary (beef) with a side of Smashfries, both were good, next time I would change my cheese to blue. Hmmmm, I love blue cheese and put it on a burger - yummy.

My sister Amy came along and had the BBQ Bacon & Cheddar and added on the mushrooms - she really liked her burger and ate the whole thing - her side was the fried pickels - honestly - they were only okay - I’ve had better.

Little Girl had the grilled cheese sandwich - she liked it, I didn’t try it.

Little Boy had a hot dog. This I did try and it was good, huge for a 3 year old, but good. Super bonus points for having hot dogs - lots of places don’t have them and that is the only thing he wants to eat when we go out.

The other bonus points are for the milkshakes. Made with McKay’s ice cream the kids sampled the strawberry and chocolate - although I did not try one myself - I will take their word for it - apparently they are super yummy!
We had a great time, I enjoyed spending time with some fellow Mom bloggers, the kids had a great time playing together and now I think we have to organize a big play date.
I will be back for sure, I have a few more burgers I need to try on the menu and I never got my milkshake.

Smashburger locations in Calgary:

Royal Oak Centre
#319 - 8888 Country HIlls Blvd NW

North East:
2770 32nd Avenue NE

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Soccer Superstar

After Little Girl's first soccer game she asked me why she didn't get a gold medal?
So I had to explain that she had to play a lot of games to get a medal not just one.

This past weekend she has a tournament, and every player got a medal.  It might not actually be gold, but she thinks it is, and if some day she makes it to the Olympics in whatever sport and actually gets a gold medal, I will bet you she treats it with the same attention and reverence she is treating her first ever "gold" medal!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Day of School

Last week it was Little Girl's last day of preschool!

I am happy to report she passed and is moving on to Kindergarten.  LOL

I am super bummed that school is over, I really wish preschool went right up until mid-August.  Not only does Little Girl love it, but it is also a great break for her from her brother and an wonderful way for her to spend some energy.

I know next year I will be singing a different tune - I know I will be happy there is no homework for a few months, but for now we both will miss it.

And now a few pictures for you:

First day of school - September 2011
Last day of school - June 2012

Little Girl and her super wonderful teacher!

Friday, June 22, 2012

On My Nightstand - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Source: purchased e-book and read on Kobo

Book description (via
Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

My thoughts:
I have had this book on my list to read for a while, I suggested it to book club but it wasn’t picked which is unfortunate because I think it is a great book and would lead to a wonderful discussion.

In the past few years I have this weird draw to historical fiction books set during and around World War II, maybe that was what attracted me to this story, or the fact that reading the description brought back a conversation with my father where he told me about the Japanese internment camps Canada and US had during WWII.
I also remember learning a little bit about them in school, but not much, maybe it was not highlighted because this was a part of WWII that we are not proud of how we acted?

Anyway, I really liked this book.  I told a story so often forgotten.  It was an easy read and kept me reading right to the end of the book.

My rating: 4 out of 5.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Through the Eyes of a 5 Year Old

While we were out at Allen Bill Pond on Sunday, Little Girl asked if she could take a picture with the camera.I am not sure if this was a mistake or not, becuse it was not just one picture, but more like 50 pictures she took over the course of our time there.

I have to say though, she is pretty good.  We just might have a future photographer on our hands.

I thought I would share a bunch of thse pictures with you all, I really love how she sees things differently than we do.

And becasue she did take so many, I have no choice but to share quite a few with you.  Trust me, I am not even posting half the pictures she took.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Allen Bill Pond

I don’t fish.
I have no desire to ever fish.
I don’t even really like eating fish.
Maybe that is why until now I had never been or even heard of Allen Bill Pond.

Tanya from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies told me about it saying it was a good place to go for a picnic and small hike, and close to Calgary.

And since Little Boy’s favourite food in the whole wide world is hot dogs, this is what I packed.

We got there early, good thing too – there are only 8 or 9 picnic tables and only 4 of them have fire pits and are close to the parking lot.

We had a great time, walked around the pond, watched some people catch a few fish, ate hot dogs, chips and Oreos and spent some good quality time together as a family celebrating Dad.

Click here for a map of the area showing you where exactly Allen Bill Pond is.
Click here for more information about Allen Bill Pond and the fishing.

You will find it enjoyable for all ages.  The path around the lake is mostly paved  there is one section where it is not, but it's still passable with a stroller or wagon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quick Korean Beef

Sunday night I am hanging out on twitter when someone posted a link to what they were making for dinner.  Of course I check it out and get linked to this recipe.
Score!  I now found my dinner plan for Monday night.

Monday night is soccer night, which means, fast quick meals that not only can be made super-fast, but also ones the kids like and we don’t spend an hour forcing helping them to eat.

This meal was a win for everyone in the family, make it as spicy as you like but mine was quite toned down since I wanted the kids to eat it as well.

Quick Korean Beef

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ - 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ - 1 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
1 bunch green onions

Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add ground beef and sesame oil.  Cook until almost finished browning and then add the minced garlic.  Finish cooking, and strain to remove excess oil.
Return back to heat; add brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and chili peppers.
Cook for a few minutes to help the flavours blend.
Remove from heat, and serve with rice, topping with green onions and toasted sesame seeds if desired.

I julienned some carrots and cucumber to serve with it, if you have pickled carrots, these would be even better.

Since I take pictures of my meal, Little Girl wanted to take on of hers.  Here is her meal, she has already eaten her cucumber - can you tell it is a favourite of hers.