At Home With Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups

If there’s one thing that I really enjoy, it is the total premium steakhouse experience.

I love the feeling of a steakhouse. I love the food served in a steakhouse and I love the professionalism of the servers, the dark wood decor, the larger than life plates and the heavy stainless steel cutlery. Best of all, I love the premium soups and steaks that are served in a steakhouse.

Simply put, I love the steakhouse experience.

Unfortunately I don’t get to visit a steakhouse as often as I would like with the kids’ busy after-school schedules and my wife’s never-ending commitments to work. So, it is really difficult to find time for us to get away to enjoy the steakhouse experience.

In fact, more often than not, this is what my dining room table looks like at dinner time. Unruly kids letting me know that they are starving while pounding on the table demanding food … Not even close to what a classy premium steakhouse looks like.

That’s why when the people behind Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups offered to partner with me so that I could bring the premium steakhouse experience into my own home, and to earn the title of the #KingofSoup…

I had to say YES!!

I received four packages of Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups all of which delivered the flavorful, slow-cooked taste of restaurant-quality potato soup straight to my table.

The soups are filled with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins that deliver exceptional taste and texture in every spoonful. Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups are available in four delicious flavor varieties: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli and Three Cheese Chipotle.

The best part? These soups can be prepared IN FIVE MINUTES!

But that thing about the #KingofSoup…as well as getting to sample great soups that are ready in five minutes, I am also in a contest with a bunch of other cool dads to see which one of us will be crowned as the King of Soup.

To be crowned the King of Soup we are each doing our best to convert our homes from regular homes into a premium steakhouse experience. To see more about who will be the King of Soup you can follow the hashtag #KingofSoup on Twitter or Instagram. I have to admit, I have some pretty serious competition in the run up to my coronation.

Literally five minutes and I had the Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups on the table.

To prepare the soup all I had to do was put four cups of water in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil and then add the steakhouse soup to the boiling water.

I whisked it a little, and then left it with the lid off to simmer for five minutes.

I let the soup sit for a couple of minutes to cool down and then served bowls of the Cheddar Broccoli Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups.

I added a little grated cheddar cheese, a pinch of chopped parsley, and the soup course of dinner was ready.

Honestly, the Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soup was amazing. It is a premium steakhouse quality soup with chunks of potatoes and broccoli, with a great cheese taste to complement the potato. I was very impressed with the soup – especially seeing as I was able to have it on the table IN FIVE MINUTES.

If you want to get social with Idahoan Foods:

Disclosure; As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but as always, my opinions expressed in this blog, are my own. 

Peanut Allergies; Big Changes

Did you know that there have been serious changes to the recommendations from the medical community about how parents should treat their very young kids around peanuts and products with peanuts in them?

The guidelines from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) are now recommending that children between the ages of 4-6 MONTHS be exposed to high-risk allergens like peanuts, eggs, and fish.

The Mom bloggers at the British Columbia Mom wrote on the issue of peanuts and little kids

Despite the recommendations that my daughter had grown up with, there was no evidence to suggest that dietary restrictions on first foods helped reduce the occurrence of food allergies in children. In fact, there was a rise in food allergies and so recommendations were made to introduce these potential food allergens around 6 months of age, and on a regular basis.

In fact, in Israel there are virtually no children with peanut allergies. Perhaps not coincidentally, from a very early age, children in Israel are fed snacks containing peanuts.

Contrast that to North America where for many years the medical community advised parents to NOT feed their children snacks containing peanuts and yet there has been no decline in the number of cases of children with peanut allergies.

Anyway, getting back to the issue, the Moms on British Columbia Mom wrote about how peanut butter is way too thick and gooey for a four month old baby and peanut butter cookies are not really good snacks for very young children because they are loaded with sugar, so they have partnered with Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs and are doing a giveaway of some of the peanut butter snacks that are suitable for young children.

Give them a visit – and I hope you win the Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs!

Gmail Phishing Scam

There is a pretty effective phishing scam going on over the last little while that primarily targets Gmail users. However, in this blog post there is advice that can be applied to basically any of the Internet tools we use, including Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (just kidding).

In case you don’t know, phishing is a way for nefarious characters (people up to bad things) to try and get access and control of your email or Internet tool without you knowing. Once they have access and control, they can send out more scammy-spammy-phishing emails under your name.

In the phishing scam that I have recently heard about, essentially what happens is that you receive an email from somebody in your contact list. Totally normal looking email from someone you know. In that email is an attachment, typically a picture or what looks like a PDF.

As Google mail normally does, the attachment is a small image in the bottom left hand corner of the email. When you se the attachment, you can choose to download the attachment, view it, or save to Google Drive. The key to this phishing scam is that the photo/attachment looks absolutely realistic.

Because the photo/attachment looks VERY legit, you click on it. The next thing that happens is that a new screen or tab will open up saying that in order to view the photo you need to log into your Google account.

This is where the problems begin because if you do as the new page suggests and you log into your account the second time, then your account is virtually immediately compromised. Or as we say, you’ve been hacked.

As a rule of thumb, whenever you see a screen asking you to log into a tool like Gmail or Facebook when you are already logged into your account, that is typically when bad things begin to happen.

With the phishing scam that’s going around Gmail right now it is often within minutes that your account is compromised. And then once your account is compromised, the hackers are able to send out more phishing scam emails from your account to all the people on your contact list.

The best way to protect yourself from these sort of scams is to realize that if you were already logged into your account whether it’s your Google account your Facebook account or your MySpace account, it is extremely unlikely that you need to log into your account again.

phishing scam
The Green HTTPS

Another thing to keep in mind is that in the address bar at the top of the page, the text should say something like “https://…” and that text will be in green letters. And, just in case you didn’t know, the “s” at the end of “https” means “secure”.

If it is some nefarious character who is sent out the phishing scam email then it may be that the “http” text is in black. Or worst-case it is red.

Red means stop.

phishing scams
phishing scams

Another thing you might notice is that the address on the second screeen, the scam-phishing screen, the web address or the URL is preceded by the prefix “data:text/html.” That is NEVER the case with the authentic Google login page.

These are all pretty small things that you have to be aware of. But that is how you can protect yourself online – pay attention to the details!!

So, in conclusion, there are three things you can do to prevent your email account from getting hacked:

  1. Don’t log into your account if you already logged into your account.
  2. If you see red or black font in the address bar stop and check; ask yourself if this seems safe.
  3. If you see odd looking text between the https:// and the words “account, pause and double check. It may be a phishing scam.

Paying attention to the details is the best protection to keep you from being hacked.

Electric Vehicles Part Two

Today’s post is a follow up to yesterday’s post about my interest in purchasing an electric vehicle such as a Nissan Leaf.

First, it is important to make a distinction between some of the electric vehicles that are on the market. Possibly the most talked about EV is the Tesla. But let’s be realistic – the Tesla is not a car that is priced in a range that will see it in that many driveways.

And the hype about Tesla bringing out a car for the masses? You can count on the new Tesla having a price of $50,000 or more in Canada. I am not sure that the masses will embrace a $50,000 electric vehicle.

Then there is the Chevy Volt – not what I would call a true EV. Having a gas powered engine is not in keeping with the spirit of the EV movement.

Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt

The Chevy Bolt – this one sounds intriguing. A potential range of 383 km on a full charge and 0 to 96 kmh in less than 7 seconds. Interesting.

Which brings me to another point; why do we need (or want?) cars that can do 0-60 in less than 3 seconds? Where does the desire for such performance come from? Do we really need a high performance race car to get from home to work? And back?

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf and the Kia Soul are the two other electric vehicles that are priced in the range that appeals to a fairly large potential market. As such, as I described in yesterday’s blog post, I took a Nissan Leaf for a test drive.

I drove from North Burnaby to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. I traveled on city streets until I got on the freeway at Sprott Ave. I had the heater on in the car, the defrost on as required, and the heated seats in use.

When I started the car the computer told me that I had 152 kilometres of range in the batteries.

Nissan Leaf Interior
Nissan Leaf Interior

I drove on the freeway at freeway speed and I was able to very easily keep up to the flow of traffic. When I needed to pull out and pass another vehicle, the Leaf accelerated quickly and easily. Honestly, there was no discernible difference between driving the Leaf and driving my usual car, a Toyoto Echo. If anything, the Leaf was more powerful

By the time I got to Grouse Mountain the on-screen display told me I now had 112 kilometres of range left “in the tank”. So that means I used 40 kilometres of juice to travel 26 kilometres.

In fairness, I was traveling at highway speed, especially up the steep hill known as “the Cut” in North Van and then up the hill from the highway to Grouse Mountain. It was quite steep terrain and I was hard on the accelerator to see how the Leaf would perform.

There was an available charging station at Grouse but the fact that there was a Tesla in the other spot and a massive pile of snow in front of the other spot making it so that the back of the Leaf would have been sticking out and impeding foot traffic … I chose not to park in the EV charging station plug in spot to charge.

I then went up Grouse Mountain and skied for three hours – three glorious hours of night skiing with minimal line-ups.

Upon our return to the car the on-screen display still said 112 kilometres of range was left. As we left, the range dropped. As you would expect.

The Cut
The Cut

At the top of the Cut I was told to take my foot off the accelerator and “coast” down the hill. At the top of the Cut I had 91 kilometres of range left. I kept up with the flow of traffic even with my foot off the accelerator because there was quite a bit of traffic on the Cut.

I did as I was told and at the bottom of the Cut the on-screen display said that I now had 101 kilometres of range! Coasting down that long hill added 10 kilometres to the range of the vehicle.

When I returned the Leaf to its parking spot in North Burnaby the on-screen display told me that the car still had 80+ kilometres of range left in the batteries.

To be honest, I forgot to write down the final number when I parked it but I do recall as I was driving up the street to the parking spot that it had more than 80 in range left.

So that means to travel 55 kilometres on a combination of city streets and freeway driving with heater and defroster on it took 70 kilometres of charge.

The real icing on the cake for the owners of electric vehicles at this time is the fact that by and large, the charging stations for electric vehicles are still free. So if you are able to plan ahead (there’s an app for that!), you don’t even have to charge your electric vehicles at home!

I have not yet driven the new Chevy Bolt nor the Kia Soul EV. The bottomline – there is an EV in my future. Which one…I am still undecided.

 

Electric Vehicles – Nissan Leaf

I am seriously considering the purchase of an electric vehicle and, as soon as I said those words to my friends they began to send me articles explaining how impractical and totally inadequate electric vehicles are.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

As a first step towards purchasing electric vehicles, this weekend I took one out for a test drive. Apparently the owner of the EV I took for a test drive had seen the video of my last test drive and did not want to go through a similar experience as the last sales guy so I was not allowed to video my latest test drive.

Other than the fact that the range on the Nissan Leaf is now approximately 150 kilometres (up from 100 kilometres four years ago), the fundamentals of the Nissan Leaf  have not changed all that much.

Let’s consider a couple of the anti-EV points:

First – There would not be enough charging stations if everyone bought and drove an EV. You may have to wait at a charging station before being able to charge your car.

True. However, that is the same as saying there would not be enough gas stations or a distribution network if everyone bought cars that burn diesel. Not everyone is going to buy electric vehicles. Or a diesel.

And further, the vast majority of people can plug their car in at home overnight and then have a full charge in their batteries for the morning.

Second – If you do run the batteries out of charge, your car has to be towed to the next place it can be charged.

True. However, if you have any ability to plan your day, you will not run out of charge. Yep, you have to plan ahead. Same as people who drive a diesel powered vehicle. A little planning helps you go a long way.

Anyway, the fact is that EVs are NOT for everyone. If you need a truck to haul your tools and work supplies around with you, probably no EV in your future.

If you live in Chilliwack and drive to UBC everyday, probably no EV in your future.

On the other hand, if you live in Surrey and drive to Burnaby or Vancouver, you would be well served by trading in your gas powered car and getting and electric vehicle. Not only would you no longer have to pay for gasoline and oil changes, you get to drive in the HOV lane and your tolls are lower!!

The fact is, electric vehicles (EVs) are actually very practical for many more commuters than most people realize.

My Thug Kitchen Inspired One Pot Spaghetti 

My turn to make dinner tonight so where do I turn for inspiration? To my Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook, of course. 

Thug Kitchen 101
One Pot Spaghetti

I love the flavours from their Skillet Beer Chili Mac – a one pot mac and cheese with beer and black beans recipe so I used that as a starting point for dinner this evening.

I put a Dutch oven with some grapeseed oil on a hot element and then added three finely diced onions to the pot. I let them sauté until they had softened up and then added some slices of yellow and red peppers to the pot. Once they were cooked down a bit I added in the spices; smoked paprika, chilli powder, and a little curry powder.

I let that heat up so the flavours of the spices could bloom and then I added three cups of veggie stock and a jar of tomato sauce. A little time to heat that up and then I put in the spaghetti. Brought it to a boil, reduced the heat so the spaghetti could cook, and left it cooking for about ten minutes.

Once the spaghetti noodles were cooked to al dente I removed the pot from the heat and folded in a quarter cup of nutritional yeast to give the pasta a cheese, nutty flavour.

And then just before serving the pasta I added a can of black beans to the pot of pasta. Of course before using the black beans I dumped them into a strainer and thoroughly rinsed them.

The good news? In less than half an hour I had dinner on the table and the one pot spaghetti was delicious, the kids enjoyed it, and I only had one pot to clean after dinner. Another winner inspired by the Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook.

New Year’s Resolutions. Sort Of. 

At the start of the new year many people make New Year’s Resolutions. I assume they do this for a variety of reasons but, I also assume they make resolutions in an effort to make themselves better people.

new year's eve
new year’s eve

I’ll be honest, I don’t do resolutions. Not because I don’t need to make myself better. I know that there are things about myself I need to work on but, I have never had much success with making ad sticking to New Year’s resolutions.

However, in an effort to make the world a better place I have resolutions or simple changes that you should make. And of course, I will attempt to adopt some of these changes as well.

First thing we can do to make the world a better place is to eat a vegetarian meal now and then. Simply give up meat for one meal.  Eating a plant based meal once a week will help make the world a better place.

Another thing you can do is to wear your jeans for a lot longer than you currently do without washing them.

There really is no need to wash jeans as often as we tend to do. You don’t even need to wash them once a week or every second week. True story, I’ve got a pair of jeans that I’ve owned for three years and I have worn them everyday for at least part of the day.

I have washed that pair of jeans three and I have given them three cold rinses. When you see me wearing those jeans you would never know it. They don’t stink. They don’t look dirty. And they are super comfortable.

You can’t even begin to imagine how much water I have saved the world by not washing those jeans.

The third thing you can do to make the world a better place is to NOT click on any Facebook link that says “AND YOU WON”T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!”

Typically things like that are Clickbait – a portal into a world of deceitful advertising that is full of advertising and scams and negativity that you really don’t need to expose yourself to. Don’t encourage these rubes and rascals. Ignore the clickbait.

And finally, the best thing you could do to make the world a better place is subscribe to my blog. All you have to do is go to the bottom of any of the things I post on the blog, write a comment and then click the “notify me of future posts” box. You know that this will make the world a better place.

That’s my list of new year’s resolutions or things to I will be doing to make the world a better place. Anything else you want to add to the list?

Metro Vancouver Festival of Lights

Over the Christmas season that recently ended we visited the light displays around Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake, the Burnaby Village Museum, and the Festival of Lights at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Botanical Gardens.

Festival of Lights
Lafarge Lake Lights

This year’s free light display at Lafarge Lake is even bigger and more beautiful than previous years because the display now goes all the way around the lake. It is lovely to walk around the lake and see the light displays.

festival of lights
Lafarge Lake Lights

My kids’ favourite part of the walk was the gnomes in the little mining tunnel near the south end of the lake. However, they were quite aghast to see one of the miners in the tunnel smoking a pipe.

Another important consideration before visiting the Lafarge Lake festival of lights – there are no public washrooms around the lake and the Evergreen Cultural Centre is often closed in the evening – plan accordingly.

festival of lights
Burnaby Village Museum

The Burnaby Village Museum is another free festival of lights definitely worth visiting. Sure there are lots of lights at the display but the really cool thing is the old-fashioned village that you can wander through. It feels like you have traveled back in time to a sweet old village; especially when the kids get to visit with an old-world Father Christmas.

festival of lights
Burnaby Village Museum

Of course the carousel at the Burnaby Village Museum is also an incredibly popular attraction for the young and not-so young. My kids love riding the carousel and are filled with joy, especially if they get their favourite horse on the carousel.

Van Dusen Festival of Lights
Van Dusen Festival of Lights

And then on the first day of this new year I went with my family to the Festival of Lights at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. The light display at Van Dusen is beyond compare. So many lights! It really is a marvel.

Van Dusen Festival of Lights
Van Dusen Festival of Lights

The light displays at the Van Dusen Gardens – simply put – spectacular. And they go on and on and on!! You can wander from one garden zone to another and each is decorated in its own beautiful and unique way.

Similar to the Burnaby Village Museum, at the Van Dusen Festival of Lights there was a carousel, but honestly, this was the one way that the Burnaby Village Museum event was superior. It is tough to top the carousel at the BVM, especially seeing as the BVM carousel is inside whereas the Van Dusen carousel is outside – and it was really cold on the evening we visited!!

Other pluses for the Van Dusen Festival of Lights – they have multiple warming stations located around the gardens, washroom facilities AND food trucks!

My favourite food truck at the festival was the Potato Tornado Shack. They spiralize a potato, skewer it onto a wooden stick, dip it into batter, and then deep fry it to a wonderfully soft condition … pure deliciousness.

They also serve poutine (with a vegan gravy) and smoked meat sandwiches. I sampled a small piece of the smoked meat and I can assure you, I will be tracking down the Potato Tornado Shack

To wrap it all up, like this Christmas season has been wrapped up, Coquitlam and Burnaby light festivals are both free. The Festival of Lights at Van Dusen cost $17.50 per adult and $10 per child 3-12 years of age.

Disclosure; I did not pay for my family’s tickets to the Festival of Lights at Van Dusen Gardens because I won the tickets in a contest/giveaway hosted by Raincity Mama on her blog Raincity Parent.

 

Blugenics Karen Phytoplankton

Canada’s newest superfood is microscopic, but its health benefits are huge. Phytoplankton – found in the ocean and considered the world’s original vegetable – is also known as microalgae, packed with omega fatty acids, vitamins A, C, D and K, beta carotene, dietary fibre, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, selenium, iron and protein.

Karen-Phytoplankton
Karen-Phytoplankton

The Karen brand of phytoplankton – a first-of-its-kind natural health product – is approved by Health Canada and according to company-led studies and anecdotal reports from those who consume it, Karen is effective in treating everything from digestive issues, inflammation, fibromyalgia and migraines to chronic pain, low energy and skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema.

The company behind Karen phytoplankton is New Brunswick-based Blugenics Innovations Ltd., which launched in November 2015. In one year alone, sales of its unique superfood have skyrocketed to $1.8 million. Company founder David Hunter credits Blugenics Innovations’ rapid growth to a remarkable discovery he made more than a decade ago when he decided to eat this “fish food.”

“At first I thought it was a joke, but when I agreed to try phytoplankton, it completely changed my life,” said Hunter, who was first introduced to the idea of eating phytoplankton while working at a fish farm, where phytoplankton was fed to shellfish.

For years, Hunter suffered from “barn-burning” migraines, chronic fatigue and severe allergies. Within days after taking phytoplankton, his health improved. “It affected me in such a profound way – I remember feeling as though I had my life back,” said Hunter, adding that his headaches and allergies are gone, his immune system is stronger and he sleeps better at night. “I haven’t had a cold in years,” he said.

Now, Hunter is on a mission to bring the health benefits of phytoplankton to all Canadians. Today, Karen phytoplankton is cultivated in a state-of-the-art facility that is certified according to strict global food safety protocols HACCP and ISO 22,000, meaning the product is non-toxic and entirely safe for consumption.

Recognizing that Karen is a “word-of-mouth champion” and that the majority of Karen users see the benefits within a couple of weeks, Hunter said the company’s focus is to get people to try the health food, offering Canadians from coast to coast a 30-day trial challenge with a full money back guarantee.

“Karen is a single ingredient superfood phenomenon similar to Quinoa, where you have this ancient product that is suddenly seeing a surge in Western society,” said Dr. Melanie Wills, a University of Guelph PhD student in molecular and cellular biology who is part of a team of researchers at Mount Allison University investigating the product’s effectiveness in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems.

Allergen-free, Karen is available over-the-counter at pharmacies, health food stores, and health and wellness centres across Canada in pure powder and tablet form for $49.99. A dermo-cosmetic moisturizing skin cream is available online for $59.99.

Add Karen Phytoplankton powder to smoothies, applesauce and yogurt, or simply mix it with water or juice and drink.

For a list of retailers or to order online, visit www.thekarenproject.ca.

BC’s Agrifood Products Offered to the World

A new international market development strategy is the latest item on the menu offering BC’s agrifood and seafood products to the world. The strategy aims to build on the record $3.5 billion worth of B.C. products exported in 2015.

B.C.’s top five 2015 agrifood and seafood export markets were U.S. ($2.5 billion), China ($343 million), Japan ($190 million), Hong Kong ($62 million) and South Korea ($54 million).

The strategy focuses on providing programs and services that support three key areas: market knowledge, generating investment, and building networks, that collectively support success for B.C. companies in the marketplace.

Research has demonstrated that businesses entering new markets need market knowledge to succeed. The strategy emphasizes that by accessing customized market profiles, cost-competitive analysis and advisory services, as well as attending market readiness seminars and workshops, B.C. companies can be better informed and prepared to succeed in attracting new customers in new markets.

The strategy also highlights the value of government investment in programs that fund the development of new products, practices or technology, help B.C. companies prepare for and participate in targeted international marketing, and support an internationally recognized food safety and traceability system.

The top five agrifood exports in 2015 were $294 million in natural health products and food preparations for manufacturing; $218 million in blueberries; $159 million in baked goods and cereal products; $131 million in mushrooms; and $124 million in chocolate and cocoa preparations.

Export success or failure can depend on the quality and reliability of information and the established contacts on the ground in the new market. The Strategy highlights the value that having B.C. Trade and Investment Representatives in 13 international locations can provide in helping connect B.C. companies with buyers and trade representatives in key markets, as can participating in incoming and outgoing trade missions, and tradeshows and promotional events.

The strategy identifies the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong as priority markets for B.C. exports, as well as 17 secondary priority markets, and others with long-term growth potential. The strategy includes goals and targets for export growth, the diversification of export markets, the development of export capacity, knowledge and skills, and the opening of new markets for B.C. products.

BC's Agrifood
BC Salmon

B.C. food businesses exported more than 600 types of foods to over 150 markets in 2015 with exports reaching a record $3.5 billion.

The B.C. government’s Export Ready Business Catalogue is also now available in Chinese, Japanese and Korean and has been distributed through B.C. government trade offices in all three countries. The guide represents B.C.’s diverse agri-food and seafood sector, and includes profiles of about 100 B.C. producers of fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat, packaged food, natural health products and beverage makers, ready to export B.C. products.