Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Good Year: Roasted Grape & Ricotta Crostini

I hope everyone has had peaceful yet super fun holidays.  Me and my mom slipped away to the country to visit my sister and her family and it was a blast.  It's been a long time since I played hide & seek for a good hour.  Funny how you can hide in the same spot and little kids still think you're the best.  "Auntie, where are you?" still rings in my head and warms my heart.  It was great being away, and the scenery was just gorgeous - some of my photos are at the end of the post.  Happily the cats didn't burn the house down and were quite glad to see me to have their food provider back again. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sweet Tidings! Brown Butter Ginger Cookies with Honey Mascarpone Cream

Two days before the big day, and I'm happy to report the unwinding has begun.  For the last several weeks the ol' nerves have been wound tighter than a Christmas Cracker.  No joke.  Just ask the handsome man.  But with the final catering gig out of the way, and an order from the boss not to return for two weeks, I'm able to finally feel merry about the season.  Yesterday I drove about town, not even bothered about the hideous road conditions in my city, and dropped off parcels of goodies to friends I haven't seen in so long.  Christmas hugs and wishes of good cheer felt so good.  I'm hoping the stress and anxiety of the last several weeks will wash away with a good dose of deep sleep, good food & drink and so much laughter my cheeks hurt.  And cookies.  This is really the only time of year when it's perfectly acceptable to have cookies at all meals.  Am I right or am I right? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

White Chocolate & Rosemary Cranberry Blondies

Allrighty then.  How's everyone doing?  Are you keeping it all together and finding a little merry along the way?  Me neither.  Oh, I jest.  Things are looking up around here, and in just 48 hours time I can release a huge sigh and begin a much needed vacation.  I have but a few plans, mostly involving pajamas and books and Mad Men Season 4 (I'm so behind!), and walks with the handsome man down some snowy path.  And chocolate; of course there will be chocolate.  Speaking of chocolate, let's just jump to the blondies, shall we?  I know you have a bazillion things to do, as do I, and I don't want to keep you from running to Costco, or wrapping up your mother-in-law's scarf or (ahem) making these lovely, lovely blondies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wish: Chocolate Shortbread with Cacao Nibs & Sea Salt

Every Christmas Eve, when it's quite late, with just the Christmas tree lights glowing in the corner of my small living room, I peel back the curtain and find a tiny star to wish upon.  It's super dorky to admit that to complete strangers, but maybe you do it too.  And it's a big wish.  Something I yearn for deeply, to come true in the next year or so.  Something that I need to happen to just make life a little better.  Given the wonderful things that I've been blessed with this year, I can tell you they come true, too.  This small moment, after all of the stresses of the season have passed, is what I think I look forward to most.  Now more than ever, in a world filled with so much pain and suffering, we need to have hope in our back pocket.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keep Calm: Chocolate & Maple Caramel Squares

Well guys, I'm in the thick of it.  While everyone looks forward to the yuletide season, I heed it with great amounts of hesitation and dread.  I think only if you have ever worked in the food industry, and maybe retail, will you get where I'm coming from.  I loved the Christmas season a lot more before I became a chef.  And that's the truth.  December kicks my ass to the North Pole, and frankly I would rather be there than here.  The hours are long and incredibly busy - catering parties; cooking hundreds of pounds of turkey; up to my armpits in stuffing; and don't even ask me how many pounds of potatoes need to be mashed.  Most days when I get home I'm too tired to do much but stare at the wall for a few minutes, gather the gumption to shower and re-heat something for dinner.  There are no parties or festive functions to attend; no going out for drinks with friends and right now there is a stack of Christmas cards awaiting my message and I don't know when I'll find the time to do it.  Today is my only day off and the week ahead is a real doozy, with at least 50 hours of work ahead of me, and a turkey dinner for 1200 people that will need cooking - by me.  I might be a total grumpasaurus right now, but trust me, come December 21 at 5:00 pm (the last day of work for 11 days!!!!!) there will be lots and lots of merry going around here.  Right now it's that date and that time that is keeping me going.  Well, that and this. Jimmy Fallon + Tracy Morgan = Best bad mood killer ever.  Plus a hot-toddy-a-day doesn't hurt, either.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pears & Blue Cheese

Inspiration for these pages seems to strike at the oddest times.  A couple of weeks back I found myself, yet again, in the chair of my dentist.  She's a great woman.  Wants me to call her Eunice.  She knows her way around a root canal like no body's business.  Yet, no matter how nice my dentist is, when it comes time for the massive needle to inject freezing fluid into my face, I'd rather be anywhere but there.  After what seemed liked an eternity, I was left alone with the latest issue of Fine Cooking to tide me over while the freezing did its thing.  Dentists aren't keen on drilling into your teeth unless they are positive you can't feel such torture.  Sweethearts, aren't they? Good thing I had such enjoyable reading material.  Just as my nose began to freeze, and then my eyebrow (so not joking about that - it was trippy) I spotted the salad.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Heirloom: Raspberry Jam Jams

For as long as I can remember, I've been eating Jam Jams at Christmas.  Every year mom puts these on her baking list, though as the years go on, the list gets shorter.   Jam Jams remain there, firmly in place, because not only are they a delicious cookie, they are a tie to the past.  This recipe is my mom's grandmother's and came with her from Russia, almost a century ago.  My mom grew up eating these cookies, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rise & Shine: Bacon & Egg Breakfast Tart

Bacon and eggs are classic.  They were made for lazy Sunday mornings, when you crawl out of bed late only because the cats have jumped on your head telling you it's time for food.  Theirs, not yours.  If you have kids instead of cats, it's probably the same deal.  After I crank up the heat, (because my house is freezing), and feed the fur babies, (because they are starving), I make tea and think about what I want to eat.  What will make me rise and shine today?   Either hot and healthy, or fancy and fatty, breakfast is what I like best about Sundays.  At least until Downton Abbey returns.  Seriously.  Who else is counting down? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chocolate & Orange Date Squares with Walnut Crumb

First off, let me just say that these are not your Grandma's date squares.  Yes, hers may be perfectly lovely, but traditional date squares have a bad rap for being just a little bit boring.  And these, my friends are far from boring.  Funny little thing about date squares:  out on the Canadian prairies, they are/were called matrimonial cake/squares.  And I totally know why.  Back in the day, date squares were packaged up, tied with ribbon in the couple's "colour" and given out as wedding favours.  I can still remember my Aunty's wedding in 1982.   My cousin and I were decked out in matching peach and white seersucker dresses (remember when we wore peach?) and my mom had also given me a Toni home perm and I thought I was coolest 9 year old around.  Cousin Sheryl and I sat at the guest book signing table (huge responsibility!), which also came equipped with a basket of date squares, wrapped up in their glory; a gesture of gratitude from the happy couple. Well, that and an open bar.  I don't know of any couples keeping up this tradition, but one taste of these bars and maybe matrimonial cake could make an appearance at a wedding near you soon.  If someone else remembers eating matrimonial cake, I'd love to hear about it!  If anyone else let their mom perm their hair, I'd love to hear about that, too.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cozy: Savoury Kale & Caramelized Onion Bread Pudding

It's (un)officially winter here in my neck o' the woods - the heavy parka and fleece lined boots have come out of the basement and flannel sheets have cozied up the bed.  The snow is deep and heavy and in the cold dark mornings my boots loudly crunch, and when I exhale you can see my breath rising to the stars.   Long winter nights stretch out before me, and with that comes a cozy house:  candles burn, twinkle lights twinkle, tea brews and keeps hands warm, cloves and cinnamon sticks simmer, the cats curl up in a cat nip-induced coma and the low hum of the furnace is the background acoustic.  And then of course there are the cravings, mainly consisting of cheese and chocolate.  Happily, wine goes with both.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Favourites

Hi everyone!  I hope wherever you are right now you are enjoying these November days.  Currently, there's a raging blizzard outside my window so it feels like the dead of winter here in Saskatchewan, though technically still fall on the calender.  No recipe today, but as it's a three day weekend I'm hoping to start my Christmas baking - so keep your eyes peeled for something sweet coming your way soon.  There's still plenty to inspire you though, as I'm happy to share some stuff I've been loving lately.  So get cozy, brew some tea and have a most wonderful weekend. 
xoxo Renee

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns with Maple Chai Buttermilk Glaze

I hope you aren't experiencing pumpkin overload....I know, I know, it's everywhere right now, but believe me when I tell you that these buns are pretty amazing.  So amazing, that yes, I kinda sorta devoted a Sunday to them, but with the first bite, I knew it was worth it.  And look at them, all gooey in their glorious glaze.  I know you want one.  As we enter into the eating holiday season (holy man tell me where 2012 went, please) these buns are good to have around, to feed loved ones at brunch or a late night snack, or let's be honest, any time is cinnamon bun time.  When I first told my mom I was making pumpkin cinnamon buns, she was like, why can't you just make regular cinnamon buns?  That's my mom.  Always asking the hard-hitting questions.  My response of wanting to try something new seemed to suffice.  I've never put pumpkin into a yeast product before and you know what?  It was worth it.  The dough is incredibly soft and lovely and easy to work with, all of the pumpkin-y spices are hanging out and having fun.  The glaze; oh boy, the glaze kinda blows my mind.  And who would have thought of steeping Chai in buttermilk?  Crazy? Crazy good!  So let's do this already!

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Confess: Roasted Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

 As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness - just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Over dinner a while back, the conversation turned to guilty pleasures, of the food variety.  Seeing as I was sitting with other food writers, it was a little I tell them the truth?  Do I tell them what has, on occasion, brought me great joy and comfort?  Do I spill the beans about my fondness for....Cheez Whiz?  I did and no one shunned me for the rest of the night, as everyone else listed something sinfully similar.  But it's true.  A jar of the orange stuff has been known to find its way into my fridge every couple of years, if I see it's on sale. (I like a good bargain.)  But before you lose all respect for me, be assured I don't spread it on celery or toss it on hot macaroni.  No, the only way I eat it is on hot, heavily buttered toast, as a bedtime snack while I'm in my pajamas and slippers and something trashy is on the television and maybe I have PMS.  Something about this cheezy toast makes me happy - it was a favourite when I was a kid and my mom would even pack it in my brown-bagged lunch, where it was devoured in the noisy lunchroom at noon.  Maybe I like that it takes me back to simpler days, when my glasses were big and I had a crush on Scott Baio; when I would rush home from school and watch Little House on the Prairie, then afterwards join my siblings around the dinner table, where we'd dish the details of our day and my mom would dish out hot, delicious food. Those days are so long ago, but somehow a little processed cheese takes me back there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Perfect: Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

At its point of perfection, an apple shouts, a pear whispers.  ~ Nigel Slater

I don't need to tell you what's happening in two months time.  If you've poked your head into any retail outlet, harmlessly looking for boots or pillows or cat litter, you've seen the signs for Christmas 2012.  In the olden days, you wouldn't see such stuff until after Halloween, but it's seems like every year the goods are coming out quicker and quicker.  Some of you may have already started (or finished!) your shopping, to which I give you a high five.  I'm not, nor will ever be one of those people.  Most days I'm lucky if my to-do list gets crossed off, and then I reward myself with tea and cake.  Fair deal.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sprouted Kitchen: Braised White Beans with Leeks & Bacon

My email inbox is often full of surprises.  Sure there are the requests to pimp out products, and hey, have you heard blah blah blah is happening, and hey can I advertise on your site, and so on and so forth.  Then there is the really good stuff, like when sweet strangers comment on a recipe, and when I was offered a job doing this, and when I was invited to go here, and when a classmate from over 30 years ago (I'm old, okay) dropped me a line to say hi, because she saw me making these on TV.  And then there was the biggie, the email that pretty much took my breath away, the one thing I still think about almost every day.  Email.  Almost like Christmas morning.  Almost.  So you can imagine my delight when I received an email from Ali at Ten Speed Press wondering if I would like a review copy of The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook to check out.  Yes!  Please!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Give Thanks: Maple Cream Cheese Pumpkin Roll

Everyday I give thanks.  For little and big things, like the butter on my bread.  The wet nose of a fat grey cat.  The voice of my mom, reassuring and kind.  The squeaks and squeals of my wee nieces, when I walk in the room.  The fit and feel of a sexy dress.  The sky above and the ground below and everything in between.  My hands and legs and knees and shoulders, who work so hard and are finally telling me to slow down.  Coffee, with cream and honey (I can't quit you).  A friend, cancer free.  Warmth of wool, wrapped around my feet.  Arms of my handsome man, wrapped around me.  It's these things that make my life full - though hardly perfect.  There are concerns and complaints that bounce around too.  Sometimes I don't know how to deal.  Sometimes I just bake a cake and do the dishes.  Sometimes I just pick up the orange cat and dance.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wonderment: Washington Organic Fruit Tour

 Bosc Pears.

Just over a week ago I returned from Washington State, after a four day excursion that saw me climb around orchards; tour an apple packing plant; get a preserving lesson from a pro - in Whole Foods no less (my first time there!); dine out in some of Washington's finest organic restaurants; hang out with some of this country's finest (and funnest!) food writers; and wander around Pike Place Market in awe and fascination, wishing I could take it all home with me.  And in a way I have.  I'm still tasting that organic Gala, picked off the tree, so sweet and crisp.  I can still smell the sweet apple pie preserves, bubbling away on the stove.  I'm still wishing I could find flowers here, like I saw there, with baby cabbages in them and everything.  And the coffee.  My God the coffee.  So delicious.  I have so much to tell you, but be warned!  The post is HEAVY on photos and text.  Like, I hope you don't get bored.  Please come along for the ride - it was a good one.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Apple, Rosemary & Cheddar Tart with Dulce de Leche Glaze

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influences of each.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Well friends, I'm back from my Washington Organic Fruit Adventure, and I have to say I had the best time.  My expectations were far surpassed.  Washington is a stunning state and I'm so glad I got to experience it first hand, if only for a few days.  Everything was divine.  Truly.  My mind was blown, happily so. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Transit: Spiced Nectarine Cake

 Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall.  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Happy second day of Fall everyone!  I hope wherever you are life is treating you very, very good.  This transitional time of year is one of the prettiest - when the leaves are turning amber and the light is warm and the subtle breeze of change is all around us.  Usually I'm a little maudlin right around now - having to put the garden to bed will do that to a girl -  but not this year.  Frankly I'm happy to see another season, ripe with new beginnings and adventures.  And how much do I love shopping for boots and sweaters and dark red lip gloss?  I'm happy to pack away the strappy sandals and sundresses for another year.  Bring on tea and snuggles under blankets and a brand new TV shows.  The beauty of the season is so short lived here - blink and the next minute it's gone.  The next few weeks are a treasure.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hungry: Food Basket Challenge 2012

If you're wondering why things have been a little quiet around here, it's because I've been living off of a food basket for one week.  No, I haven't been stricken financially (knock on wood), I was asked by the Saskatoon Food Bank to participate, along with 24 others, in the Food Basket Challenge - basically living off of the contents of a food basket, plus five pantry items and five dollars to spend on whatever grocery items I like.  For one week.  It was a terribly, terribly tough, especially given that I work with food, all day.  The smells of meat roasting drove me crazy. The sight of bacon on a cooling rack made me drool just a little.  Warm, chewy, chocolate chip cookies that usually have my name on them were just taunting me.  Day 2, I had to grill 60 steaks at a BBQ, when I hadn't eaten much all day, and then I went home to leftover dumpling soup with canned peas.  (No one should ever have to eat canned peas.) The worst bit was not being able to eat fresh fruit, or the goodness from my garden, though I did cheat and eat some Swiss chard.  On Day 4, I just needed something green that came out of the ground. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Best of You: Caprese Salad

Oh Summer.  It looks like the time has come for you and I to part ways.  It's always such sweet sorrow when we have to say goodbye; you stay away much too long.  I'm sorry we never had that much time together; me busy working too many weekends, so busy I never got the chance to dip my toes in a lake or go on a picnic or drive down dusty country roads.  It wasn't all bad though - remember those glorious, early summer days in Ontario, when we got lost in Detroit and I ate at Lynn Crawford's restaurant?  Yeah, that was fun, and who can forget the trip my handsome man and I took to Moose Jaw?  Yes Summer, you were fleeting, but you were savoured.  Every bit.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Worth It: Chocolate & Sour Cherry Cake

90 days.  90 days since there's been anything chocolaty on the blog.  Sure there was that Raspberry and White Chocolate Tiramisu, but we all know white chocolate doesn't really count in the chocolate world.  No, there hasn't been anything deep dark and delicious since the time that crazy good Pecan Caramel Fudge Pie made an appearance way back in June.  June!  Do you remember June?  Summer was just beginning to breathe; full of promise and sunshine and the excitement of holiday playtime.  I hope you played well and hard, friends.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kickin' It: Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing

So I did something weird and wacky the other day (I know, what else is new?).  I lifted myself high out of my rock solid comfort zone and put myself out there.  Like appearing-on-your-TV-set out there.  I told you it was crazy.  Here's the scoop - a few weeks ago I was contacted by one of the production assistants for the Marilyn Denis Show, letting me know that they are holding auditions for a food expert on her show.  Have you considered applying, he said?  Sure as hell not, I thought.  But then again, why not?  Lord knows cooking pro the last 13 years has racked up loads of experience and knowledge and I pretty much think about food constantly and love it passionately.  And maybe just maybe I'm ready for my culinary career to careen down a new path.  And really, there's nothing to lose; you never know would could happen.  And I like that.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Streusel-Topped Strawberry Balsamic Galette


I'm kind of at that place in my head (scary stuff) where I need to use all of the most amazing in-season fruit, right.  now.  before, it goes away again til next summer.  There are peaches on my counter crying to be put in a buttermilk cake, and cherries that absolutely must be combined with chocolate in any way, shape or form.  Plus apples, just picked last week that might make a mighty fine pie.  Not too mention that the nectarines have failed to make it home from the market, but I'm hoping to remedy that soon.  Too much fruit!  Too little time!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chipotle Roasted Corn & Quinoa Salad with Prawns

Today's post is short and sweet, kinda like the remaining days of summer.  In between picking loads of strawberries at the U-Pick, and doing loads of laundry, and checking on the garden and checking the clock I thought I'd squeeze in a quick post to tell you about this awesome salad.  Wait a second, back up Renee, what's the deal with watching the clock?  Well, by handsome man returns from his holidays tonight, in exactly 4.25 hours and I'm just a wee bit excited.  It's been a long long long nine days.  Funny thing is we both booked our holidays before we met way back in April, and the funnier thing is that we both went to the Windsor/Detroit/Toronto area for our time off.  Neato, huh?  It's just one of many good signs guiding our way.  Warning:  I could go all mushy and stuff on you in this post.  Just sayin'.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Apple Butter with Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

 One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the midst of winter.  
~ Henry David Thoreau

Food in jars.  Are you doing it?  Are you pickling anything pickle-able?  Do jars of jam rest on your windowsill?  Does the pop pop pop of the lids make you happy?  I'm not huge into preserving - though I wish I was.  If I were granted a few extra hours in a day and a few extra square feet in my kitchen I'd totally be pickling and jamming and boiling glass like no body's business.  But I'm tight on time and storage space so I just leave all that stuff to my sister, who's preserving anything she can get her hands on right now.  Poor thing accidentally dropped a jar of dills on her gorgeous hardwood the other night, so if you all have any tips on how she can get the smell out of her floor, let me know and I'll pass them along! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Runneth Over: Swiss Chard & Heirloom Tomato Tart

Holy cow these are busy busy times.  My garden is running over with goodness, the veg doing their thing and growing crazy fast and furious and making me wonder, yet again, why the heck I planted for a family of 12 when there is just me and my handsome man to feed.  But we'll eat loads of it fresh, then preserve the rest.   I'm almost a little afraid to go out and check the beans because I know they'll be out. of. control. and some massive blanching/freezing will have to ensue in the next day or so.  If you are bored and/or want a bag o' beans, come on by - I can use the help :) Speaking about out of control, my chard has gone bonkers crazy productive, and I know I'm not the only one.  A funny thing happened last week.  Within a matter of minutes two friends, from different provinces, one in real life face to fave convo, and the other via Instagram begged pleaded with me to post a Swiss chard recipe on the blog.  Seems like their favourite green has gone bonkers crazy productive too.  Less I disappoint those I love, I have a chard recipe for y'all today.  And it's crazy bonkers good. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer in a Bowl: Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad

How in the world is it possibly the first day of August?  Not to be all Debbie Downer on ya, but summer is half over, you realize that.  So, please tell me you are having loads of fun, okay?  That you are sucking in the sunshine and breathing out wisps of joy.  I hope you've walked on beaches and dug your toes in sand and eaten too many marshmallows, and maybe seen a falling star (or two) and made very.important.wishes, because they come true you know.  If you haven't done any of that stuff yet (me neither) don't fret, you still have time.  But summer won't last forever so read this post because it's very important you do, then get out there and soak in some summatime.  Slather on the SPF 45 first though, right?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blush: Raspberry & White Chocolate Tiramisu

So I'm at work today, doing work stuff, and all I can think about is going home and picking my raspberries. It's that season again kids, and I totally love it.  I pad out into the yard, bare feet and all, which confuses the hell out of my handsome man.  "You are not wearing shoes?" he asks in a bit of sweet confusion.  And I reply, blushing just a little, "no, I love the feel of grass and dirt underfoot."  He just smiles and nods.  And slips on my Crocs.  I head back to the hot spot, against the garage and there is the towering raspberry patch.  It has exploded since last year, which means I sometimes have to sit on the ground to catch all of the low low low ones, then stretch to get all of the goodness smack against the garage.  Most of them go into my bowl, but if I'm telling the truth to you, and I always do, a helluva lot go in the mouth.  I relish these fleeting days of scratched up arms and mosquito bites just to pick a basket or two of my favourite berry.  The taste of sunshine is worth it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Underdog: Apricot & Ginger Tarte Tatin

Given the circumstances, this tart should never have existed.  I was definitely having one of those days where nothing, it seems, was turning out, but because of my stubborn disposition I was not going to let this tart die an unfortunate death because I knew it would be glorious, and it was.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Show and Tell: Blueberry Buckle

...And just like that I find myself sitting at my computer in my little green den (yup, the same colour as my kitchen) scrolling through photos of my summer vacation.  How does two weeks fly by so damn fast?  Seems just like seconds ago I was cramming an already stuffed suitcase with last minute items and zooming away to the airport in the backseat of a taxi driven by the creepiest taxi driver ever.  Happily I arrived at Saskatoon International Airport unscathed, and seven hours later the Deschamps welcoming committee greeted me with open arms in Windsor, Ontario.  Over the course of the next 10 days I would eat and eat and drink and eat and eat like no body's business.  Throw in lazy days of floating in pool, excursions to Target, getting lost on Eight Mile in Detroit (yes, that Eight Mile), eating at a famous celebrity chef resto in Toronto, being somewhat interrogated/flirted with by a US border crossing guard, visits to three very different but equally inspiring art institutions, road trips through lush countryside and late night martini-fueled marathons of GIRLS and you have one helluva vacation.  All that and I ate avocado ice cream too.  There are lots of photos to bore show you and a kick ass blueberry buckle recipe to follow, so let's get going!

Friday, July 6, 2012

While I'm Away...

I'm taking a breather from the pool and the sun and the booze (tough life on holiday, hey?) to say hi from sunny sunny Windsor. While I am missing my garden (oh I hope I've not missed the lilies opening) and my handsome man (hi honey!) I'm having the time of life here.  No recipes from me today, just a list of things I'm loving lately.  I'll write again, once i get settled back into life at home.  There will be a jungle of weeds and emails and needy cats to tend to, but I'll fill you in on the trip in no time. 

First off, how glorious are my Oriental Poppies?  First year growing them and they've blown me away with their beauty.  So fancy and so fleeting.  

If you love Mad Men, you need to see this

Molly's street food. 

This roasted pineapple ice cream has my name all over it. 

This post cracked me up and was highly applicable, but there's no way in hell I will ever raise chickens. 

I'm hoping to have a bumper crop of kale just so I can make this

Butter. Made at home. 

Coconut milk and quinoa.  Cool.

I want this T-shirt 

Julie's Panna Cotta.  I've a fear of gelatin but will conquer it for this!

Nora Ephron's List.  What's on yours?  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bon Voyage: Berry & Basil Cream Scones

As you read this, I am probably flying over Canada, wracking my brain to see if I forgot the essential contact lenses, bathing suit, passport, cell phone charger and volume-boosting shampoo.  My destination is Windsor, Ontario where I'll visit one of my oldest friends in the whole world - Miss Stacylee.  She and I met almost twenty years ago in a studio art classroom at Concordia University in Montréal.  Bonding over 90210, Duran Duran, Woody Allen and Earl Grey tea (okay, we drank more than tea, but that's for another post, another time) we soon became kindred spirits and though we are separated by one massive country, I carry her heart with mine.  Seeing the face of an old friend at the arrivals gate is one of the best things ever and on July 1 there will be lots of happy tears and hugs.  Stacy has a pool, a well-stocked liquor cabinet, and two of the cutest little boys ever.  The eldest is giving up his bed for me.  I wonder if I'll be sleeping on Spider Man sheets?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oh Baby! Roasted Asparagus, Bacon & Cheese Tart

My food blogging pal Shelley, of the lovely Franish Nonspeaker, is expecting the arrival of dear sweet baby Ruby very soon, and a few of her friends decided to throw her a virtual baby shower.  Neat, huh?  Shelley was one of the first food bloggers I connected with almost right off the bat, in early 2011, when I was just a blogging newbie.  I don't think she's missed commenting on a single one of my posts, and that's a lot of posts!  So with our back and forth banter we've sort of gotten to know each other and I have no doubt that if I was in sweltering Austin today, this tart would come with me to her house, where we'd drink lemonade and talk about boys and babies and True Blood.  I'm hoping one day I'll have the honour of meeting Miss Ruby in real life.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Lovin': Strawberry, Rhubarb & Mascarpone Crepes

Today is the first full day of summer - hip! hip! hooray!  Saskatchewan summers are terribly short, so the thing is to make the most of them because before you know it we'll be bundled up in parkas again.  There's so much to love about right now, this time, this place.  My yard is bursting into colour and the most dramatic Oriental Poppies are beginning to open so like a total dork I stare at them constantly.  I know their moment to shine is fleeting so I'm savouring their beauty while I can.  There's a lesson in that, right there, which isn't lost on me.  The next 90 days will be jam-packed with bonfires, star gazing, picnics, ice cold beers, pool side margaritas, outdoor concerts, garden goodness, bare feet, sunburns, strappy sandals & sundresses, (old) friendly faces, ice cream and more ice cream, wishes on shooting stars, road trips, skinny dips(?), sand between toes, kids blowing bubbles, hammock afternoons and lots and lots of BBQ.  So much to look forward to I can't stand it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meeting: Mango Coleslaw with Maple Lime Vinaigrette

It's not everyday your new boyfriend meets your family.  In my case it had been almost 8 years since a person of significance met my mama.  Long time, but well worth the wait.  K and I have been romantically intertwined for the past two glorious months (we met on a blind date on Easter Sunday - how very urban legend, I know) and it was time for my family to see who has been making me so damn happy lately.  Ideally, it would have gone down in my backyard, over barbecue and booze.  But then the rains came and didn't let up.  My tiny house wouldn't have held all of the adults and little humans and hungry cats, so we packed up the food and took it over to mom's larger house, just three short blocks away.  Hugs and handshakes later, it was as I knew it would be. A perfect meeting.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Road Trippin': Pecan Caramel Fudge Pie

I feel like I've been gone from these pages for eons!  Okay, it's only been 10 days but feels like forever. I've missed you guys!  In case you missed it earlier, last weekend I was hired by Tourism Saskatchewan to be the chef for a group of travel writers and Tourism Sask staff, while we explored the Grasslands National Park area of southern Saskatchewan.  Two RVs were to be our home base for the four days while we were trippin the roads down south.  I knew it was going to be an adventure, because seven women traversing the prairie is always an adventure, but I had no idea it would be as adventurous as it was.  So let me get the dirty deets out of the way first.  The rental RVs we were travelling in were completely dilapidated and pieces of crap from the good old days of 1986.  I'm still in awe that we actually didn't break down on the side of the road somewhere.  One of them, we found out the first morning, did not have a working refrigerator, so most of my dairy and some meat was ruined. Boo to that.  But the biggest, baddest let down was having no running water the whole entire trip.  I'm not a camping girl, nor do I have any experience with RVs but I just assumed they came jam packed with water.  Not ours.  So we had to haul it and boil it for food prep.  I felt a little like Laura Ingalls Wilder, minus the petticoat and bonnet.  Needless to say, this threw a huge wrench into food prep, making cooking for seven take much much longer than it normally does.  But in the end, the food was made and was very warmly received and no one got sick (my biggest concern the whole trip) and I have an arsenal of stories I can whip out during a lull at dinner parties.  We all need those, don't we?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go Green! Lentil Salad with Sorrel & Asparagus

Don't you just love this time of year?  Anything green and leafy has been bursting with life.  The lilac hedge outside my window, the same window I gaze out of as I write this, is lush and terribly fragrant.  Even the grass I thought was dead seems to have come back to life.  Of course the creeping bellflower (the current bane of my existence) and other hideous weeds are having their fun in the sun too.  But let's not talk weeds when we can talk Good News:  my garden is finally planted!  However, I can't find kale seeds/plants anywhere!  A certain handsome man loves the kale like crazy so it is my current mission in life to find some kale seeds.  He has kindly offered to be my weeder (!!), so it's the least I can do in return.  For serious.  Who offers to weed a garden?  Oh love.  It must be love.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rhubarb Fool with Lavender Cream & Pistachios

I do this thing every year, every day, at this point in Spring - a walkabout around the yard.  I poke at perennials to see if they are still alive - most are but for some wild and crazy reason some don't make it.  (I lost Lamb's Ear and Globe Thistle and Purple Coneflower this year - what the hell?!).  If I were more organized and more nerdy I'd totally make a journal with drawings so I can remember where the hell I planted what, because I'm getting old and the short term memory is just not there anymore, though I can tell you who won the Stanley Cup in 1990 and what year Shakespeare in Love won the Best Picture Oscar.  If you're curious, keep on reading.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, garden nerd talk.  So in this walkabout around the yard, I'm always excited to go back to the veg patch - there is no action there yet - it's just a sad heap of wet, rotten leaves covering dirt until the Rototiller Man can come and work it up for me.  But there in the corner, thriving away in all of its big leafy business in my old friend Rhubarb - or the Barb as I lovingly call it. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crostini with Balsamic Strawberries, Ricotta & Pea Shoots

In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.  ~ Margaret Atwood

Today is Victoria Day in Canada, or the unofficial start to Summer.  Many of us climb into campers and cars and head out of the city to cabins or cottages or tents.  The "May Two-Four" weekend also brings back faded memories of binge drinking as a teenager, all those many moons ago.  These days I'm most happy sipping a nice juicy red on my patio, with no need to go barfing into the bushes, with my feet up, listening to bird songs.  Oh the perks of being a grown up!  I don't have a cabin or cottage or tent to go to, so I'm always home this weekend, hitting up garden centres and greenhouses and plotting and planning my growing season.  The hands are dirty and the heart is happy. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Into the Wild: Wild Mushroom & Asiago Risotto Cakes

I'm super thrilled to be the guest blogger over on the Mushrooms Canada blog today.  I created these Wild Mushroom & Asiago Risotto Cakes just for them, and mushroom lovers everywhere!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oh Mama! Brown Butter Blondie Ice Cream Sandwiches

My Mom really loves ice cream.  Growing up there was always a tub in the freezer, usually vanilla, but once in awhile there was chocolate or that funky Neapolitan which always caused me some confusion, because I hated the strawberry and just wanted the chocolate but in the end I'd just mix it up into a pile of goop anyway.  Today is Mother's Day and I whipped these lovely treats up this morning and after I'm done writing this post I'm going to surprise my Mom with a package of ice cream sandwiches.  I mean, it's the least I can do after 39 years of all that she's done for me and my siblings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grown Up: Brie & Bacon Grilled Cheese with Fig Jam

It's no big secret that I love me some bacon around here.  Like hard core.  It's even noted in my Twitter profile, along with butter and living room dance parties, to you know, dance off some of that tasty saturated fat.  While I'm still reigning things in when it comes to decadence, I'm nowhere near swearing off my good buddy bacon.  The thing is, if I'm going to have it, I'm going to make it count.  Rather than snarfing it off the baking tray, hot from the oven, and just wolfing it down like a crazy person, eating bacon is going to be a production, enjoyed occasionally and with fanfare- like dancing around the living room afterwards. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Skinny: Creamy Kale & Avocado Dip

There's been a little extra fat, or "snuggage" as I lovingly like to call it, hanging around my skinny jeans lately.  I know.  It's my own damn fault - eating crème brûlée everyday for like four days, and then the most gorgeous birthday cake ever held residence inside my fridge for another four days after the crème brûlée had vanished.  While I've been digging the indulgences, it's time to stop eating so much fat reign things in a little.  I like to be an everything in moderation girl, but let's face it, lately it's been over the top.  Just ask my skinny jeans.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

True: Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cup Crème Brûlée

"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose the other ages you've been." 
~ Madeleine L'Engle

When I was a kid I wanted to be Molly Ringwald.  Me and my sister watched and re-watched Sixteen Candles over and over until my brothers had had enough and confiscated both the remote control and VCR, not without us putting up a fight I might add.  We never got tired of the Geek and Jake and Long Duck Dong and the annoying little brother.  And the ending.  I mean how perfect is the ending?  Samantha finally gets to see Jake after her horrible sister gets married, and there he is looking all super hot in his super hot car.  On her sixteenth birthday no less.  I mean, come on.  What girl in her right mind didn't want to have a birthday like that one day?  She set the bar high, that Molly Ringwald girl.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Hi.  How are things today?  I hope you're all doing rather swell as the end of April approaches.  If you've been a regular reader here, you know all of the crazy good fortune that's been coming my way lately.  Sheesh!  This week there were requests for radio interviews and even a possible TV spot next week.  It's all super flattering and incredibly awesome, but for this sometimes shy girl who's used to typing away at her computer with slippers on her feet and a cat in her lap, it's almost a wee bit overwhelming at times.  No way in my wildest of dreams did I think writing in this space would lead to such wonderful opportunities and recognition.  Like I've said before, I'm bruised from the pinching to see if it's really real. 

My whole intention for this post was to write about some individual frittata cups I cooked up...but it turns out they were rather mediocre in taste and I didn't really love the way the photos turned out.  Frittata for the fail!  You all deserve nothing but the best in recipe content and visual content, so if it's crap I'm not going to post it.  And maybe I'm just feeling a teeny bit of pressure, now that I have had exposure and recognition as one of Canada's best food bloggers, to step up my game a bit.  I'm fully aware that this is pressure I'm putting onto my own shoulders, and it's silly even telling you all about it.  While I'm generally confident in everything I create on these pages, it is also tempered with a little insecurity.  Right before I hit "publish" I think to myself, oh God I hope they love this post as much as I do, and is that photo good enough, and did I really need to talk about my cats so much? 

So for the next few days I'm just gonna chill out, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.  Lucky for you I've got a list of all kinds of great stuff I've been loving lately.  Below are inspiring links or notes to words, sounds, images, recipes and events that have rocked my little world.  Expect a new recipe here sometime next week, but until then, have a great weekend!  xoxo Renee

1.  I so can't wait for the local strawberry u-pick to open just so I can make these and these.  Yum! 
2.  Blood, Bones & Butter is currently on my bedside table and I'm savouring every word. 
3.  This lipgloss is making me happy!  I'm not crazy about having toxins in my makeup, and because I have a massive addiction affinity for all things lippy, I love that this stuff is good for me. 
4.  God I love this song. 
5.  Tamar Adler in video and print.
6.  Brown butter, brown butter I love you brown butter.
7.  Blind dates.  Sometimes they can work out really, really well.
8.  Red wine and chocolate - two of my favourite food groups.  Imagine them in a cake!
9.  Stevie Nicks.  This July my friend Stacy and I are going to see her in Toronto.  Stevie Nicks!
10. If you are a cat person, you have to see this, and if you aren't then skip to 11.
11. Holy guacamole!
12. So I'm kind of addicted to Sons of Anarchy.  No, I don't have a tattoo or ride a motorbike or have any affiliation with a "brotherhood".  Plus I think I'll be Jax for Halloween.  Where can I find those all white sneakers?! 
13. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. ~ Jhumpa Lahiri
14. I stumbled across this lovely new to me blog; so exciting to see all of the crazy good food blogging talent out there.  I just have to scroll down my reader to be inspired every day. 
15. The photo below appeared in the April 14th edition of the National Post newspaper.  Super cool to see my name in the small print beneath my photo. Those breakfast tacos really are photogenic!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pinch Me: Curried Carrot Soup with Coconut Shrimp

Where do I begin?  This week has been insane - but in the best way.  On Friday I found out I won for Best Main Dish in the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Contest.  Remember that Lentil & Chickpea Curry with Coconut Milk?  That was the winning entry!  Lucky, indeed.  Thank you so much to Canadian Lentils for the recognition.  I'm super pumped, and that Amazon gift card is going to be put to good use:  new chef's knife, maybe an ice cream maker because I keep whining that I don't have one.  And books. Like this one, and this one.  And maybe the Drive soundtrack, if only to remind me of Ryan Gosling every time I hear it.  Le sigh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Little Blessings: Cream Cheese & Pistachio Cinnamon Twists

So I'm reading before bed last night, like I do most nights, and in the acknowledgements section of Still Life by Louise Penny (a great book if you dig crime fiction or if you've ever loved Agatha Christie like I do) I come across this:

I went through a period in my life when I had no friends, when the phone never rang,
when I thought I would die from loneliness.  I know that the real blessing
here isn't that I have a book published, but that there
are so many people to thank.    

Louise Penny nailed it, no?  I haven't felt the pit of loneliness for a very long time, but I remember it.    Sometimes the void was filled with chocolate or inadequate boyfriends and we all know the former is better than the latter.  Friendships truly are little blessings - be it old friends who knew you when you had the baddest hair and biggest glasses, or new friends you met over Twitter.  There's a bulletin board in my den, and it's absolutely plastered with photos of loved ones - from the faded pic of me and my sis sitting on our pet cow Susie when we were 3 and 5, to the latest pic of a sweet friend's little boys.  There is no room for lonely here.

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