Friday, September 30, 2016

Preparing for Prince Edward Island

Sorry there hasn't been a new blog entry from me for the past couple days. I have been busy packing and preparing for the Chef Dez Culinary Tour to Prince Edward Island!

Our tour group will be spending 8 nights & 9 days in Canada's smallest province experiencing not only their cuisine, but also their history, architecture, art, music, and drink. Basically experiencing how they live on a daily basis and immerse ourselves in it.

We leave early tomorrow morning, so stay tuned as I will be making entries about our adventures!

Speaking of adventures, the itinerary for our Castles, Pubs, and Distilleries Tour of Scotland & Ireland is now up on my website at
This is a luxury tour that you will not see on any travel site. Contact Caryn Zimmerman ASAP if you are interested in joining us as there is very limited availability!

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What's with that Hair? Maybe I am just old!

These days people in general are more politically correct, and I feel that we, as a society, are more accepting of others than we have ever been before. I like to believe that I am of that same theory, but sometimes I encounter something that makes me do a double-take. Makes me stop in my tracks with my jaw wide open and say "What? Why?"

This doesn't happen to me that often, but I want to share one of these WTF moments with you. Yes, I am talking about Nick Cannon's hair in this photo from his hosting of America's Got Talent. Now, for the record, I have never been a fan of the "man bun" hairstyle that seems to have grown in popularity, but I have come to accept it... but this! This is... I am at a loss for words. What is this? When I first saw him with this hairstyle I couldn't speak. What in the world, or who in the world, made him do that to his hair? ...and more importantly, why? Is he hoping to be the leader of a new hair trend that is going to sweep the world. My dear Lord, I hope not.

Now, I am trying my hardest to understand and live life without judgement, but he is making it nearly impossible for me to do so. Now, for the record, I don't know much about Nick Cannon except that he is in this TV role and he was married to Mariah Carey, or is he still - I apologize, neither one of them are in the genre of music I prefer, so I don't keep track of these things. Nick Cannon however appears that he is a respectable, intelligent, and good looking young man - am I wrong with saying that? Again I don't know much about him. But I would have to question my son's sanity if he ever wanted to do his hair like that, or my daughter's sanity if she ever brought home a boy that had hair like that.

I know, I know, how narrow-minded I must be to place judgement on someone because of a hairstyle, but come on. Let's put the politically correct masks of our opinions aside for a moment and take a good look at that hair. I am sure deep down inside of you, when you first saw that "do", you said "wow, I like his hair" - I doubt it very much. Maybe you were a bigger person than I am and didn't criticize it aloud, but you did/do share my same thoughts... don't you?

Am I just getting old? Is stuff like this going to keep testing my acceptance level? Overall, I am a pretty accepting person I feel, but I guess this proves to me that I am not perfect? What are your thoughts on this? Am I just getting to be on old fuddy-duddy? Is the fact that I am even using the term "fuddy-duddy" prove that I AM old already? Or are you with me on these thoughts about this hair???

Until next time... Happy Cooking... and Happy Good Hair Days!

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Pub without a Steak Sandwich???

This event happened over a year ago, but it came up recently in a conversation. I went to a well known local pub with a friend for lunch. We had been there many times before and was always impressed with the menu and service. I had been working out in the gym quite a bit at the time and was looking for a protein meal with some greens, so I thought what better thing to order at a pub than a steak sandwich with a side salad.

No such luck. As we sat down with the menus, I searched and searched but no steak sandwich was to be found. When the server came back to our table to see if we were ready to order, I told her that I would like to have a steak sandwich, but I couldn't find it on the menu. She said "we had one, but this is a new menu and we don't have steak sandwiches anymore".

A pub without a steak sandwich? I couldn't believe it. We're talking about one of the most classic meals ever associated with a pub menu. Steak sandwiches and pub food are synonymous!

"You don't have a steak sandwich?" I inquired further.
"No, we don't" she said.
"Do you have steaks?" I asked.
"Not on the menu" she replied.
"So, that means what? You have steaks but you don't put them on the menu?" I asked.
"We have steaks, but we only use them for fajitas" she replied.
"Are they cut up steaks?" I asked.
"No, we cook them first and then slice them for the beef fajitas" she replied.
"So they are pre-cooked steaks?" I asked.
"No, we cook it when an order for a beef fajita comes in, and then we slice it for the order" she said.
"Do you guys have garlic bread?" I asked.
"Yes, we do" she replied.
"Great!" I said, "I will order a steak, some garlic bread, and a side salad. If you could put the steak on the garlic bread, that would be perfect. Medium rare please." I thought I had my problem figured out.
"I'm sorry we can't do that" she replied.
"If you can't put the steak on the garlic bread, don't worry about it" I replied, "I'll have them separate."
"No" she said, "You can't order a steak. They are just for fajitas."
Ok, now I was really confused. "Hold on a second" I continued, "You said you have whole uncooked steaks, correct?"
"Yes" she said.
"Well I would like to order one of those steaks on a plate, but just don't cut it up. On another plate I would like an order of garlic bread, and on a third plate I would like an order of side salad." I said.
"I can get you the garlic bread and salad, but not the steak" she replied.
"Why not?" I asked.
"The steaks are only for fajitas" she replied. "We can't serve it to you any other way."

At this point I was thoroughly frustrated, and I should have just left - or, am I in the wrong here? From my past experience working in restaurants and hotels, they should have just come up with a price for the steak and cooked it for me. This is not about the old cliché that "the customer is always right", this is about that if you have the food that a customer wants, and food safety isn't jeopardized in the process, and you can recover your food costs while making a profit, why don't you just make it for them?

Insert sarcasm here: I know, let's have a business that makes and serves food, and we'll bring in food that a customer may want, and we won't make it for them, even if they ask for it! Sounds like a sure-fire business plan to me! - No, I didn't say that to her. She has a job to do and obviously someone above her has given her instructions to answer the way she did. She was polite with her tone of voice but the conversation was going nowhere.

Ok, besides the sarcasm, am I out of line with my way of thinking? I was polite and never raised my voice, and tried to explain my thought process in the most matter-of-fact way that I could.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

I ended up ordering a burger with a salad instead. I meant to contact the management of the pub afterwards, but never got around to it. I guess word-of-mouth opinions will get back to them... or maybe it has? I should go back there I guess and try ordering a steak sandwich again. If I do, I will keep you posted with a blog update.

Until next time... Happy Cooking! ...and hopefully Happier Lunch Adventures!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Only $1.50? Are you kidding me?

One of the things we love to do on the weekends, if we have time, is go to yard sales or thrift stores. Yesterday while in Abbotsford we stopped at one of our favourite second-hand stores, Hidden Treasures. They are a great bunch of people there and we have gotten to know them quite well.

As I was approaching the book section I had an eery feeling that I was being watched. Sure enough, there I was being watched by me from a little green basket: Chef Dez on Cooking Volume Two. The price? Only $1.50.

This is not the first time this has happened where I find one of my books for sale second hand. The first thing I always do is check the inside cover to see if I signed it to someone. If no signature appears, then I know they bought it from an online bookstore. No real reason to do this, other than I am just curious to know its origin. This particular book was signed to "Jim & Rene".

Obviously my opinion is biased, I get that, but why would someone give up this book? Were they downsizing their cookbook collection? If so, then they probably never made some of the best recipes I have ever written that are in the pages of this book. If the book was there because they passed away, then I understand, but the person who had the sorrow filled job of going through their belongings obviously was too grief stricken to decide to keep this one book for themselves. I know, I know, my biased opinion is getting in they way again, but just please hear me out.

I have a huge collection of cookbooks myself. Some I have barely opened, but I have them there for inspiration if I need it. Never would I ever get rid of one of them without going through it in detail first. Ok, maybe I am being a bit over protective about one of my "babies" being tossed aside, because if I ever did get rid of a book from my collection I am sure the author would feel the same as I do. Regardless, there are so many recipes within the pages of this certain volume that are great and have made it into my "best of" cookbook, "The Best In Your Kitchen", with honours.

They are as follows: Colcannon, Dublin Coddle, Guinness Beef Stew, Guinness Cream Sauce, Guinness Sheherd's Pie, Hold My Chipotle Beer Pasta, Irish Soda Bread, Corn Date & Goat Cheese Salads, Greek Tabbouleh Salad, Grilled Potato Salad, Homemade Muesli, Lavendar Lemonade, Spicy Fennel Nuts, Cranberry Bread Pudding, Garlic Roasted Crab, Sweet Biscuits with Rum Flambeed Bananas, Grilled Meat Jambalaya, Mozza Stuffed Hamburgers, Peppered Cheese Bread, Pepper Steak Madagascar, Peach & Thyme Pork Chops, Tomato & Sausage Clams, Fiery Asian Grilled Pork Chops, Oven Roasted Tomato Soup, Easiest Mussels Recipe Ever, Drunken Pig, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Soft Polenta, Hop 'n Shrimp Gumbo, Minestrone, Banana Nut Muffins, Blueberry Bran Muffins, Ham and Cheddar Scones, Health Nut Pancakes, Popovers, Spiced Apple Loaf, Pineapple Salsa, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Bluberry Cobb Salad, Blueberry Bread Puddong, Blueberry Salsa, Grilled Blueberry Brie Chicken Sandwich, Grilled Vegetable Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette, Rack of Lamb with Blueberry Reduction, Beurre Blanc, Pan Seared Sage Scallops, Pasta with Butter Garlic & Cheese, Patricia's Mediterranean Chicken, Cheddar Sesame Crackers, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars, World's Best Cornbread, Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Red Wine Reduction, Pork Medallions in a Single Malt Pan Sauce, Louisiana Red Beans & Rice, Spanish Paella, and Cajun Grilled Flank Steak with Grits.

Wow, with a list that big you would think that would be all the recipes in this Chef Dez on Cooking Volume Two, but there are over 100 recipes in total in there. As I said, all the recipes above made it into "The Best In Your Kitchen" plus many more from my other volumes to make over 150 "best of" recipes.

Will someone please go rescue this book for only $1.50! If someone beats you to it, then please just do yourself, and your family, a favour and purchase a copy of "The Best In Your Kitchen" - you won't regret it.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Guacamole, AKA Avocado Salsa

Last night we were invited to a party and everyone was instructed to bring an appetizer. Being self employed and always thinking about marketing, I wanted to bring something made from a recipe in my new cookbook: The Best In Your Kitchen. My wife had one request: it had to be healthy. There goes my plan to make the Rosemary Maple Bacon Jam or the Artichoke Asiago Dip! My choice in the end was Guacamole.

If I was to describe guacamole to anyone that didn't know what it was, I would describe it as avocado salsa. That's pretty much it. Instead of tomatoes as your main ingredient in the ever popular standard tomato salsa, one would use mashed avocados. Everything else in the way of ingredients is pretty much the same.

When I go to the grocery store produce section and see the small pouches of guacamole mix hanging by the fresh avocados I cringe every time. I'm not looking to make green mush with some packaged flavourings added to it; my goal is to create something chunky and screaming with fresh flavours and textures. The solution? Obviously still buy the avocados, pass on the small guacamole packet, and pick up some fresh ingredients: lime, bell peppers, red onion, jalapeño, and garlic. Chances are you have everything else you need at home already: salt, pepper, a small amount of sugar, and I like to add some ground cumin too.

The first step is always to mash the avocado flesh with the lime juice. This fresh acid will assist tremendously in keeping the avocado flesh from oxidizing (going brown). Dice your bell peppers (I use both yellow and red ones), red onion, and jalapeño very small and mix them in. If you want it less hot, remove the inner white membrane and seeds from the jalapeño completely before dicing it. Squish the fresh garlic clove into a paste (better for combining its flavour thoroughly throughout the guacamole) and season to taste with the salt, pepper, sugar, and ground cumin. The sugar, although small in quantity, is important to balance the acid of the lime juice, so basically it tastes less sharp.

I always tend to leave out the white membrane and seeds of the jalapeño and add some sambal oelek instead for the heat. Firstly, you may be wondering what sambal oelek is, and secondly why would I do this? Sambal oelek is like dried crushed chillies (you know, like the ones you have in your spice cupboard) but in liquid/paste form. It is available down the imported foods aisle of almost any major grocery store and a great ingredient to have on hand. It basically lasts indefinitely in the fridge. If it is like dried crushed chillies, why don't I just use those? Because they need time to rehydrate to release their flavour and heat. Sambal oelek is instant flavour and heat.

I use the Sambal oelek instead of the seeds and membrane of the jalapeño to give my guacamole more complex heat flavour. The jalapeño flesh will still have some heat and flavour and the Sambal oelek will also add some. So basically you are getting flavoured spiciness from 2 different sources instead of just one, and to me it just tastes better that way.

My goal for writing this blog entry is to get you to look at avocados differently the next time you see them at the grocery store. They are currently on sale at Save-on-Foods (Overwaitea) stores for only 79 cents each, if you live in the BC/Alberta area. If you don't live here, go buy some anyway. Although they are high in fat/calories, it is a very healthy fat and very good for you in moderation. The only thing unhealthy about this appetizer I made was the tortilla chips I bought to eat with it - I knew I'd be able to work something unhealthy into my plan. ;)

Until next time...Happy Cooking!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Where are You Getting your Information From?

Life in today's world is overloaded with information. There are so many constant sources of information in our lives nowadays that, in many cases, it is hard to know what is real and what is not. A smart man I know has got me in the habit of always asking a very simple question regarding anything: "Where are you getting your information from?"

Before getting too involved, excited, distraught, or overwhelmed with "new" information in your life, take a step back and ask yourself that very same question. Sometimes we are too quick to react without first quickly analyzing where the information is coming from. If the source of the information could be biased or unreliable, then we need to know that first before investing our emotions any further. If it is information that you feel could be pertinent to your life or lifestyle, then further investigation is needed if the source's reliability is uncertain. If the information is not relevant to your life or lifestyle, then don't waste your time or energy with it.

Any information about literally anything can be filtered with this very simple question.
In the way of nutrition and making good food choices, there is one source that I have always trusted. Sure there are other sources, but if I was to admit to which one I remember the most for so many years, it would be: Diana Steele. How I first discovered her was on nutrition segments on the news, and she still does them. In fact it was just the other day I was watching her on the Global BC TV Noon News when I realized that it has been many years that I have been taking in advice from her. In my opinion, the tips and information she gives out are solidly reliable and none of her suggestions has ever struck me as extreme. Her and Adrienne Dall'Antonia are both Registered Dieticians and have a website at - check it out sometime. They even have an "Ask a Dietician" feature so you can make direct inquiries about specific areas that are relevant to you.

You may not feel that you need a dietician's advice in your life, but let's face it, we all eat food everyday to stay alive. Thus any good nutritional advice will be useful to some degree. Following a Dietician does not mean you are a "health nut" or that you have to eliminate all your bad eating habits (Lord knows I have a few of those); what it means is that you take in trusted information that will compliment your lifestyle to the degree and ways you feel is necessary. Any improvement in our eating habits is a good improvement, and it just makes sense to work towards a well-balanced diet the best way we can... as long as you know where you are getting your information from.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Working on a Car, but my Son Remembers the Food

It was 4-years ago on this very day that my youngest son Noah and I rented an engine hoist to remove the 289-V8 out of our 1965 Mustang father & son project. Although the body of this car had no rust whatsoever, the rest of the car pretty much needed a complete rebuilding from ground up. Now you're probably wondering why I, as a Chef, am writing about this in my food blog... well, like the title of my blog states, this is not just about food or cooking, but about life too... and in this case it IS about food, just keep reading.

He remembers this day very well. It was a special day for just dad and son to hang out together in the garage all day. My oldest children do not live in our house, my youngest daughter was at daycare for the day, and my wife was at work. Just me & Noah. One of the things that he liked the most about this day is that I let him choose what we were going to eat for lunch in the garage as we worked on the car. I told him he could choose anything he wanted and I would make it happen. He thought about it for a short time and says to me "I want us to eat chunks of ham off of knives just like pirates would, and drink root beer!" I chuckled, but honoured his wishes of this lunch choice - with my wife's recommendation that we include a vegetable too... which, by the way, we ate off of knives as well.

Whenever we talk about this particular day, the thing he remembers most is that lunch. He brings it up regularly. Food is life, quite literally because we need it to survive, but food is also life in the sense that it brings people together and helps to celebrate relationships that we cherish so much. For example, can you imagine a birthday party without a cake? Or what about a holiday celebration like Thanksgiving or Christmas without a feast? No, I can't either. Eating in itself is a celebration of the senses as well as nourishment, and so we remember these times so vividly - especially when that food is connected to a special time or occasion.

I could have easily just said to Noah that we will break for lunch and come inside and have something that we would normally have. Instead gave him the choice and thus created a wonderful memory.

What can you do today with food (or drink for that matter) to create a wonderful memory for someone? It could be just as simple as treating someone to a coffee, or as elaborate as surprising a loved one with their favorite homemade meal, or anything in between. Every day is full of choices in every aspect, and I know food is always one of those choices, at least 3 times per day. ;)

How's the car project coming along, you ask? Well, to make a long story short, we figured it would have been about 15 to 20 years before we ever got it done and a lot of that work was way over our heads, so we sold it and got a new project car (our decision together) that was at least drivable - a 1965 Pontiac Parisienne Custom Sport. This way we could take her out on drives while we were working on her. That switch in project cars started us on a very slippery path however, as it then lead us to getting a 1949 Chevy Pickup, and then into our current muscle car - a 1967 Barracuda, which we still work on together.

Anyway, think about your food choices today, and think about the people in your life. How can you make a difference to someone on this very day?

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Guinness beer - Love It or Hate It?

It is safe to say that my wife is not a beer drinker. With anticipation of our trip to Ireland and Scotland next summer (with the Chef Dez Culinary Tour group) I thought it would be a good idea to get her used to the taste of one of the most well-known beers from Ireland: Guinness. Also one of my favourites!
Chicken Wings made on my Big Green Egg
with a cold pint of Guinness

The problem: my wife doesn't drink beer, ever. In all the years I have known her I cannot remember her ever choosing to drink a beer. Does this mean that she hates the taste of beer? Not necessarily. There have been a number of occasions that I persuaded her to have a sip of my beer where she replied "not bad", but when my offer of a second sip came about, the answer was always "no thanks". So I figured that getting her to like, and even perhaps enjoy, the taste of Guinness may be a bit of a challenge... but one I was willing to tackle.

For me, Guinness is an amazing beer as long as it is direct from Ireland. For the average consumer here in British Columbia, Canada, as far as I know, this can only be done by buying it in cans, or being served a draft from a keg that was filled in Ireland. The bottles of Guinness, from what I understand, are bottled here in Canada with the same recipe, but not with the Irish water that supposedly makes it so smooth. I can taste the difference (from the last time I tried doing a taste test comparison that is) and much prefer the Guinness from a can - not that I drink it from a can, but that's how I purchase it. Guinness is both bold and smooth with a very creamy head that, when poured correctly, will be there until the very last sip.

For a non-beer drinker however, I am sure that this should not be the virgin choice to start this journey of beer appreciation. However, she surprised me. From the first sip she realized what I have known for years, and said "wow, that's a lot smoother than I thought". I smiled with hope that we were on the right course of action, and with the offering of a second sip, she accepted, and I knew we were. Since then she has not indulged in a whole pint herself yet, but has had at least a half of a pint so far in one sitting. The whole pint for her, I feel is just around the corner. Recently she stopped off at the liquor store and called me to ask "should I pick up some more Guinness?" - she sure knows how to talk to man! I will keep you posted on the progress.

Does this mean I do not consume any other Irish beers, let alone any other beers in general? Of course it doesn't. I enjoy many types, brands, and styles of beer. Guinness was chosen not only because it is one of my favourites, but also because it is arguably the most well-known Irish beer there is. Not to mention we will also be visiting the Guinness factory on our trip to Ireland and Arthur Guinness's Pub. For the record however, I also like Kilkenny (brought to us by the makers of Guinness by the way) and we will also be visiting the town of Kilkenny while we are in Ireland.

So, what about you? Do you love Guinness or hate it? What do you love about it? What do you hate? Maybe you're somewhere in between. I would love to hear your thoughts regardless, so please share with me.

As for the chicken wings we made on the Big Green Egg (pictured), well that's for another blog entry.

Til next time... Happy Cooking (& Drinking)!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What do you add to your chilli?

Chilli is one of those warm comfort foods that has become a favourite in our home. It also becomes somewhat of a blank canvas for us to experiment with. A good bowl of chilli is already thick, rich, and full of flavours but we always find ways to make it even more exciting. Common toppings for chilli are grated sharp cheddar and a good dollop of sour cream, as we had last night, but what else could one add? The possibilities are as vast as your imagination.

What you can't see from the photo of my dinner last night is the bed of fresh spinach leaves my wife put in the bowl first (she tends to play the role of my vegetable guardian angel). I then added a layer of rice and then the chilli, before topping it with the cheddar and sour cream. Fresh spinach is so healthy and the warmth of the chilli and rice made it wilt immediately and then was so easy to combine into the dish. It's very versatile like that - we try to add fresh spinach to many dishes for an extra burst of nutrients. Even just a meal of a grilled piece of fish or chicken can benefit greatly by being placed on a bed of fresh spinach. Again the spinach will wilt and make it so easy (and flavourful I might add) to incorporate spinach with every bite of protein.

What do you add to your chilli? Some other toppings that come to mind are: crushed tortilla chips, sliced black olives, and sliced green onions... but what else? What have you experimented with that makes your bowl of chilli even more comforting?

Monday, September 19, 2016

New "best of" Cookbook by Chef Dez - "The Best In Your Kitchen"

Photo courtesy of Dale Klippenstein
The official book launch for my "best of" cookbook, "The Best In Your Kitchen" was last week and it was a great success. This book is a collection of the best recipes spanning my career as a Red Seal Chef so far. There are also many new, never before published, recipes included as well. With over 150 recipes inside that have been tried, tested, and true by countless numbers of my readers, students, followers, and fans, this book will help you to be "The Best In Your Kitchen".

Pictured above is me with my beautiful wife and our two children at the launch. Unfortunately my two oldest children couldn't make the event. The book, totaling over 230 pages, is available for purchase on my website for $20 + $9.95 for shipping & handling to anywhere in Canada. If you live in the Fraser Valley of BC you can currently also purchase a copy (or more) from Lepp Farm Market in Abbotsford or The Farm Store in Chilliwack (Yarrow) for $19.99+gst. It is also available at Prime at

Photo courtesy of Food Network Canada
The book launch was held at Paliotti's Restaurant  in Abbotsford, BC, Canada. The owners Joe & Louise Paliotti welcomed us with opened arms as we have done a couple events there already. One of these past events was my appearance on the TV program Chopped Canada broadcasted on Food Network Canada. We organized a live viewing party and over 100 people showed up to cheer me on while enjoying some great food, drink, and company. For those of you who have not yet seen that episode, it is still available for viewing by clicking here:

The other event we held recently at Paliotti's was a "Chef Dez & Friends" evening where we entertained a number of guests with cooking from my Big Green Egg and information on Chef Dez Culinary Tours (more coming about these tours in future blog posts. The Big Green Egg portion of that event was sponsored by a local Abbotsford BGE Dealer: Blackwood Building Supplies.

If you were at the book launch of "The Best In Your Kitchen", thank you so much for your support. If have obtained a copy, or will be soon, and/or have purchased a copy as a gift - I appreciate it very much. I also want to say thank you to all the people that have been promoting the book in social media. If you choose to do this I would like to kindly suggest the following hashtags: #ChefDez and #TheBestInYourKitchen

Until next time... Happy Cooking!