Tuesday, July 24, 2007

wild animal kingdom: charitable starfish and waffles

Back in January, we openly admitted that one of our main goals here at starfish and waffles was the establishment of a media empire and, with it, complete and unfettered total world domination. Well, now that we've achieved this, it's time to give back - because as newly crowned media moguls, it goes hand-in-hand (paw-in-paw?) that me and the editor should also become philanthropists! Come on, it just makes sense, people.

The executive chairman of the starfish and waffles foundation presides over our inaugural donation to the World Wildlife Fund. We sincerely thank you for your continued support.

On this twenty-fourth day of July, I'm proud to announce that the first steps toward our vision of truly shameless philanthropy has been made a reality ... and, quite frankly, we could not have done it without you, the loyal readers of felix's daily starfish and waffles and dingobear photography!

Because of your regular visits and click support of our Google advertisements, today we happily made a $40 donation from our revenues to the World Wildlife Fund on behalf of the starfish and waffles foundation. Thank you for making the animal kingdom - the wild animal kingdom - a better place!

(Cue National Geographic theme music here).

End communication.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

summer steak-out!

Dear God, that's a terrible title for a post. But hey, it's summer ... so please forgive us if we relax our usual high standards of literary excellence (haha) just a little bit. Now where's the beef?

The hungry editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles is bullish on flank steak. Straight from the dingobear kitchen, our new Summer Flank Steak with Grilled Apricot & Veggie Skewers recipe is now available for a barbecue or grill pan near you!

Moo, I say unto you. That's right, MOO! Let's face facts, folks: nothing says summer like a juicy steak, hot off the grill. And who are we to argue?

Well, we're not ... which is why we, here at the dingobear kitchen, have been working hard to come up with a great new steak recipe worthy of summer and the starfish and waffles café.

After much toiling and many a ruined slab of beef, we're happy to report we finally have something - maybe even something good. The answer? Flank steak, a dubiously underrated cut of beef.

What we say: let others have their expensive ribeyes, T-bones, and filet mignons. The moderately priced yet full-flavoured flank steak is the trendy cut for Summer '07, and tonight, we show you how to grill one up to perfection. Serve side-by-side with a couple of our apricot and veggie skewers beside a bed of rice pilaf, and now you're grilling with fire, baby!

Summer Flank Steaks with Grilled Apricot & Vegetable Skewers
2 flank steaks, nicely marbled, each about an inch thick
1 clove of garlic
2 lemon wedges
steak spice
olive oil
2 apricots, pitted and halved
4 cherry tomatoes
1/4 green pepper, quartered
2 crimini mushrooms, halved

First things, first: prepare the skewers. To ensure even grilling, aim for congruency of sizes when skewering up your apricots, cherry tomatoes, green pepper and crimini mushrooms. Lightly brush with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt, and set aside.

If you're using a barbecue, fire it up. Alternatively, if you're like me and stuck in the balcony-less, barbecue-free confines of the inner city, this recipe also works well with a grill pan, so throw it on the stove and set the temperature to medium-high.

With flank steaks, I find that refrigerator cold and simple prep works best. Take your steaks out of the fridge and rub both sides with a fresh clove of garlic. Next, brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil. Sprinkle one side with salt, pepper, and steak spice.

Throw the skewers on the grill. Next go the steaks, with salted, peppered, and spiced side down on the grill. If you don't hear a sizzling sound, it means your barbecue or grill pan isn't hot enough yet. Salt, pepper and steak spice the previously unseasoned side of the steak.

Aussie-barbecue rules apply in the dingobear kitchen, which means you only turn your steaks over once in the grilling process. I like mine medium rare, so for a one-inch thick flank, that roughly translates into about 3-4 minutes per side.

Once done, remove the skewers and steaks from the grill, and let the steaks rest for at least 3 minutes before cutting, to ensure all of the flavourful juices don't run. Squeeze lemon juice from your lemon wedges over the skewers and steaks, to give your meal the perfect accent. Serve with a bed of rice pilaf and, of course, a cold beer. Enjoy!

For more original dingobear kitchen recipes, look down the left sidebar on the main page of felix's daily starfish and waffles.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

wild animal kingdom: backyard in time

I went home for the July long weekend and was really looking forward to some serious rest and relaxation. The editor had other ideas. Not wanting to risk a mauling, I wasted no time in heading out the door with camera in hand, in search of material for the next starfish and waffles post.

A single, wild poppy flashes its brilliant, fire-orange colour in the backyard behind the house I grew up in. (2007). I know what you're thinking: how can Felix use a poppy as the cover picture of a wild animal kingdom post? Has he gone mad? Well, I beg to differ. Come on, people ... think of the opium!

I grew up in a working class neighbourhood on the eastside of Saskatoon, which, for those of you who have never been, is a small Canadian city situated under expansive skies, smack in the middle of the prairie. Many of the houses on our street looked the same - modest bungalows cast in a sloped-roof shape, typical of what an average kindergarten student would draw with his or her crayons.

Each home's backyard, however, had its own character, and ours was no different.

In its heyday, our backyard was a lively place under the summer sun. I remember lawnchairs, baseball, and barbecued burgers on the charcoal-fired hibachi. There was vibrant vegetable garden, filled with lettuce, carrots, eggplant, snowpeas, potatoes and tomatoes. We had a crabapple tree that produced fruit so sour it would make your face scrunch ... but also strawberries so sweet that if you made a sauce with them to pour over vanilla ice cream, they would make your teeth hurt. And then, there were the creatures of our animal kingdom - the wild animal kingdom, of course!

(Cue National Geographic theme music here).

Behind our backyard, there was nothing more than a lonely, two-lane highway and an open field, so maybe that's why there always seemed to be an unusual abundance of wildlife even though we were within city limits. While cheerful robins hunted for worms on our lawn, meadowlarks would sit on the posts of the chain-linked fence and sing, ignoring the odd hawk which soared in the blue skies overhead. Occasionally, a gopher pop his head out from a hole, no doubt worried about the clever red foxes which stalked the tall grasses in search of prey. Within our vegetable garden, there were plenty of creepy-crawly insects for a kid like me to be afraid of - so much so, that I barely even noticed the rattling sounds of the rattlesnakes nearby ...

This past weekend, I wandered into the backyard where I grew up, with camera in hand. Things had changed. The hibachi was nowhere to be found. Our unstained wooden fence looked old and weathered. The vegetable garden and strawberry patch had long since been overtaken by aggressive wild grass, dandelions and mint. Everything was lush and green yet grown-in and wilder; it was a scene befitting of a Robert Frost poem. I decided I liked the less manicured feel of it all.

Beyond our backyard, it was the opposite. The endless open field was endless no more, as new house suburbia powered by the booming local economy extended its reach further than I previously thought possible. I wondered where the foxes had gone. I wondered about the rattlesnakes.

Just then, a robin flew in and perched himself on top of the fence. After posing for a picture, he chirped and merrily carried on with his day.

Well, at least some things haven't changed.

The cheerful American robin is the undisputed harbinger of spring and summer in these northern, Canadian latitudes. (2007). When I was nine, me, my dad and a buddy of mine rescued an injured, abandoned baby robin and tried to nurse it back to health - but to no avail. I cried when that fluffy little bird died. When I photographed the robin above, I wondered if maybe he was a distant relative of the other bird I once knew and had grown attached to.

A prairie dog (gopher) pokes his head out from a hole in the back corner of our backyard, to check out the strange intruder sporting a camera. (2007). A rather impressive prairie dog town has sprung up in the field behind our house ... if they have a hole on our property, does that make our yard a suburb? My mom's old vegetable garden was not more than three feet from where the gopher above is standing.

The ladybug was one of the few insects I wasn't afraid of when I was a little kid. (2007). The elusive one above was difficult to photograph as she was too busy hunting aphids to stay in one place.

The aforementioned buddy of mine, the one who had helped me rescue the baby robin, got married last weekend in a beautiful garden wedding. Congratulations, Lee and Keith. The staff at starfish and waffles wish you much luck and love in your lives together.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

gold mining vs. biodiversity in suriname

Many would be hard pressed to find Suriname on a world map. Surely, the estimated 12,000 working in illegal, wildcat gold mining in the isolated Amazonian rainforest of the northern South American nation would probably prefer to keep it that way.

A juvenile azure poison frog hops out of the mud, deep in the Amazonian rainforests of Suriname. Photograph by phrakt and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License.

However, anonymity became more difficult last month.

Researchers from Conservation International put the country in the spotlight by presenting findings from a 2005 wildlife expedition and 2006 follow-up survey that underscored an incredible degree of biodiversity in Suriname's pristine hinterland.

Highlights from the expedition include the discovery of a gorgeous, lavender-patterned frog that has never before been seen by scientists, as well as the rediscovery of the dwarf suckermouth catfish (Harttiella crassicauda). The catfish was previously thought to have been driven to extinction a half century ago by mercury contamination from local gold mining.

All in all, the expedition documented 467 species, over twenty of which have been tagged as new species. It is believed that many other new species are still waiting to be found ...

Click here, for the full story at ethicaltraveler.org.

Dingobear (a.k.a. Felix) moonlights as a volunteer newswriter for Ethical Traveler, a project of the California-based Earth Island Institute.