Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yeasted Brown-Butter Waffles & How Ren Got Her Groove Back

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of.  If you find you’re not, 
I hope you have the strength to start all over again."  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

This post title sounds like it could have been an episode of the Oprah show, but bear with me.  There's a waffle recipe at the end of it.  I've never been on a roller coaster, but 2013 sure as hell felt like it.  Highs, lows, good, bad and everything in between.  It started off badly, with a break-up not unlike the Post It Episode.  Just swap in a text message and you get the drift.  I was very, very sad then very, very angry.  Looking back, it's hard to read those early 2013 posts.  My mind and my heart were all over the place, and at times the sadness was all consuming.  I leaned on my family and friends as much as I could; surrounded by all things that made me happy and gave me comfort.  The kind words left here were like a warm blanket - thank you.  I prayed for time to quicken so I could get out of the darkness.  Somewhere along the line, a few months in, I realized that the sadness and anger weren't doing much for my complexion nor my spirit.  When I looked in the mirror I didn't recognize the eyes staring back.  Bloodshot, tired, not bright and shining.  Enough was enough. I couldn't change what had happened, but I could change how I carried on, forging forth.  I went away for a bit, which helped tremendously.  A change of scenery always does a girl good.   And then there was that pesky gallbladder surgery to deal with.  Never had I been more afraid, but obviously, I survived to tell the tale.  The downtime also did me good - got me thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up; what I could change that would me happier.  As serendipity, or luck, or whatever you want to call it would have it, a phone call out of the blue changed my career path, and because of that one phone call I'm doing something I love so much.  There's plenty to be said about being lifted out of a rut - emotionally, professionally, mentally.  Once one thing falls into place, so many other good things follow.  And that's where I sit now.  As I cross the threshold of a new year tonight, I will for sure give a little whoop.  I did it.  I plowed through obstacles that at times seemed insurmountable.  With those last dying seconds before midnight, I will be grateful for it all.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle: Sparkling Cranberries

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, 
everything is softer and more beautiful." ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Christmas Eve is upon us.  Are you ready?  I'm not quite there, but I want to spare just a few minutes to wish you the sweetest of holiday greetings.  And to share these lovely sparkling cranberries.  I've made them as a garnish for cakes, and luckily they've lasted long enough to be dropped into glasses of prosecco tonight.  It's time to put our feet up, tuck into the cheeseball, have somewhat competitive (not combative) games of Yahtzee, and more than one viewing of Christmas Vacation.  My whole entire family is gathering together - the first time in five years - and I'm looking forward to seeing the twinkling eyes of the young and not so young.  I hope the magic of Christmas surrounds you and yours.  Renée xoxo

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reflector: Brown Sugar Shortbread with Toblerone Chunks

"After years in New York City, Georgia O'Keefe moved to rural New Mexico, from which she would sign her letters to the people she loved, 'from the faraway nearby.'  It was a way to  measure physical and psychic geography together.  Emotion has its geography, affection is what is nearby, within the boundaries of the self.  You can be a thousand miles from the person next to you in bed or deeply invested in the survival of a stranger on the other side of the world." 
~ Rebecca Solnit, from "The Faraway Nearby"  

I'm sharing this quote for a couple of reasons.  1) I've always been a bit obsessed with Georgia O'Keefe.  In art school I tried to emulated her style, with little success.  She was bold and brave and loved the sky, as do I.  Plus she lived to be almost 100.  I swear one day I will make a pilgrimage to New Mexico, that's how much I love her.  And I love how she ended her letters.  I might just have to copy-cat that.  2)  This past week was bonkers busy, with work and deadlines and me feeling a tad under the weather didn't help matters.  But I still managed to put 40 or so Christmas cards and packages in the mail.  Some were sent to old friends and new; across the globe and to downtown Saskatoon.  With each address I scripted - especially the ones with destinations so far abroad - I wondered if I would ever see that person again.  Circumstances wrangle us in so many ways, and while we come together for brief or long periods of time, in the end our paths won't always run parallel.  But those who make a lasting impression will always carve themselves into my heart.  That's why at Christmas, I'll always sit down with a stack of cards and a good pen.  While the greeting may be brief, the intention runs deep.  The holidays are about hope and blessings and goodwill (and good eats!), but for me I become a bit of reflector.  What I wouldn't give to have every soul I've ever loved in my living room.  But at Christmas, in a way, they are.  The faraway nearby, indeed.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

All Curled Up: Chewy Molasses Cookies

Greetings and salutations from the land of butter, sugar and flour.  My little green kitchen is in the throes of a baking marathon, so the next few posts are going to be about cookies and sweet things.  Hope you don't mind.  Yeah, didn't think so.  Lest you think I'm living on cookie dough alone, I've also been throwing together hearty soups and stews, though by the time I sit down to dinner the winter light has faded earlier and earlier, thus no snaps of my turkey and cabbage pottage, which tastes much better than it sounds.  I scribbled down a few notes so it may make an appearance here in January, when none of us want to go near anything with a carb.  But (thankfully) we're not there yet, are we?  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wild Mushroom & Bacon Crostini

This is a sponsored post - I was compensated financially.  However, you know I wouldn't tell you about something unless I really loved it.  And I love me some mushrooms.  

Everyone loves a good appetizer - especially at this time of year.  Heck, sometimes appetizers are my dinner.  True story.  Mushrooms Canada asked me to create a recipe using, you guessed it, mushrooms, and what better way to taste their deliciousness than in an appetizer.  Now, I'm a terrible entertainer.  I always leave things to the last minute, and run around like a silly person doing my hair while sweeping the floor.  It's not pretty.  What I love best about this appetizer is that you can make it ahead - a bonus for bad entertainers like me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Little Balance: Persimmon & Pomegranate Salad

Full disclosure:  I wasn't going to tell you about this salad.  A light, simple supper of fruit does not shout from the roof tops "killer blog post idea!", but here it is and for good reason.  This salad is kind of awesome.  I know you've seen persimmons in the grocery store and not known what to do with them.  I've been there.  You pick some up and let them hang out on the counter, glancing at them daily just to make sure they're still there.  A week goes by and you do a google search to find out if yours are ripe yet.  They are.  Now what?  Sure you could bake with them, or eat them with yogurt and granola, or dip them in chocolate, but they are also quite wonderful when paired with the other seasonal fruit - the bodacious pomegranate.  The ruby-like arils complement the persimmon's sweetness perfectly.  And heck, don't they just look so pretty side by side?  I've heard of people whacking the pomegranate to death to get at the fruit.  Such violence is not my style.  I like to remove the nubby top with a pairing knife, score the sides and pull the pomegranate in half.  There's something incredibly meticulous and pleasurable about peeling the membranes off the arils - one by one.  Time consuming, yes, but taking the time to enjoy the beauty of fruit - well call me crazy, but I call that fun - especially with a little Christmas music in the background and slippers on the feet and snow falling outside.  Sunday afternoon bliss. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Get Ready: Sticky & Boozy Chocolate Prune Cake

One month.  One month until Christmas.  Someone tell me how the heck that happened, and what exactly happened to the year 2013?  Maybe you've already sorted out your decorations and strung your lights or played a little Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack to get yourself in the mood.   Seeing as I have a wee kitten in the house who basically enjoys climbing on and destroying everything, I'm almost certain there will be no tree this year, unless I want to come home to one that's toppled over and my vintage ornaments in tiny pieces.  And that would make me sad, and I've already pledged that I will not cry this holiday season.  It never fails.  There is always some sort of meltdown-inducing incident and this year I'm not going to let it happen.  No puddle of melodrama for me, I swear on Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.   Sleep, exercise, chocolate and a little bit of booze will be my saving graces I'm sure, with hefty doses of good friends and Love Actually thrown in at the right moments (how is that movie 10 years old?!!).  Christmas isn't easy for everyone.  Whether you're working too much, or missing someone who should be by your side, or just consumed will all of the pressure and stress that somehow tags along on this holiday that should not be about any of that.  One month.  One month to get yourself ready, and my hope for you is no tears either.  Feel free to steal my route of self-medication.  Remember, there's not much that Colin Firth and caramel popcorn can't fix.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deep & Dark: Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Before we get carried away with all that is Christmas and Holiday baking, I must I must I must tell you about this banana bread.  I first made it a couple of months ago, thinking how nice it would be to pack along on my little yurt retreat.  And it was.  I broke off chunks of the bread while I sipped tea and relaxed on the deck, the wind rustling leaves overhead.  A brave squirrel ventured forth, but in the end he may have gotten only a few crumbs.  This deliciousness was also my dessert, as I wrapped myself in a blanket and read for hours, wind howling outside the yurt.  And I won't fib ya, it may have also been breakfast.  Accompanying good coffee, it was a mighty fine way to start the day.  Baking the bread recently, I felt like I was back in that time, that place.  Does that happen to you too?  One taste and your mind travels backwards.  Food and memory are forever intertwined; a way of rousing the good times when you may need a little comfort.  I hope you grow just as fond of this bread as I have.  It's got loads of deep, dark chocolate flavour; the pockets of melted chocolate are the best part, especially when the bread has the warmth of the oven still clinging about.  The crumb has a dampness to it, thanks to the buttermilk and banana.   A substantial loaf, one worthy of a good slather of butter if you're feeling ever so indulgent.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Everyday Magic: Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby

I don't quite believe it's already time to talk about gingerbread, but time (the trickster) it marches on, doesn't it?  Snow has already fallen, and while I do wish it didn't come so soon, it does add a sparkling beauty to the world around me.  When I step out into the world around 6 am most mornings (baker's hours, eeep!) there is a hush over the city while it still sleeps and I'm surrounded by an amber glow from the snow that has freshly fallen.  It kind of takes my breath away, this beauty.  I stand for a moment in the stillness, breathing in, out.  No doubt looking up trying to find the stars; stealing a moment in the stillness before I must carry on with my day.  Cycles of seasons never cease to amaze me.  Just a couple of months ago, there was a whirlwind of harvest activity.  In two more, we'll be fresh into another year.  There are bound to be all sorts of big and small and in-between moments ahead.  Little bits of everyday magic, too.  Girl talk over good coffee.  My mom's hands rolling dough.  The laughter of a kid down the street.  The quite roar of my kitten's purr while I rub his belly.  Fresh flannel sheets, still warm from the dryer.  Sleep that comes quickly, easily.  An episode of Sex in the City you've never seen before (and you thought you saw them all).  The voice of an old friend.  Whipped cream, still on the beaters.  Flakes of snow on an eyelash.  The magic that is eggs, milk, flour and butter in a frying pan.  And maple syrup.  Always maple syrup.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grilled Cheese with Apples, Arugula & Fig Jam

Oh goodness, I've been gone far too long.  We really need to catch up, don't we?  First off I'm happy to report that the foot is healing nicely; just a week or so longer in the sexy walking boot then I should be back to "normal" walking.  Cross your fingers.  This also means I can ditch the crutches and go back to work in a limited capacity.  Last week I went back for four days and it was great; good to get back into the rhythm of things again, though I'm still taking it easy.  Plus I needed a little more interaction with humans than felines, if you know what I'm sayin'.  Speaking of felines, I adopted another one, making me an official member of clan cat lady, or cat woman, as I like to call it.  My neighborhood is chock-full of strays at any given moment and there must be some secret code among them that says "hey, go to her house, she'll feed you and if you're super cute she'll take you in."  A couple of weeks ago there was a wee grey kitten among the bunch.  Tiny, adorable and in good shape, he was hanging around the yard, making his cuteness known.   I didn't have the heart to let him suffer through the cold nights, plus my fat orange guy already loved him to bits.  So a trip to the vet and a clean bill of health means he's now snug as a bug in my house, wreaking havoc like kittens usually do - climbing up trees and refusing to come down unless you open 8 cans of cat food and call their name in all sorts of sing songy ways. whilst cursing under your breath.  And then there is the constant counter jumping - I even caught him lapping up a bowl of Sriracha mayo while my back was turned for 2 seconds.  Apparently he liked it.  But these are the small things; he gives good cuddle and makes me laugh all the time.  He must have known I saved his life because he follows me everywhere.  In fact he's curled up beside me now as I type this.  I call him Rocky. 

But enough cat talk!  (The dog people probably already dozed off.)  In between adopting kittens and shuffling around the house, I made a sandwich.  A really great sandwich.  And I made it a lot.  And I would have told you about it sooner, except my computer was in the computer fixing place for 8 days.  You know when they say they'll have it back in 4?  Yeah, that.  But like most things, this is worth the wait.

Grilled cheese is the best comfort food.  Raise your hand if you love crispy, cheesy bread.  Seeing as these are the two most important ingredients, it's key to use the best you can find.  Good sourdough from your favourite bakery will suffice, as will a sharp, aged white cheddar, or any other cheese that packs a decent punch.  I sliced crisp, sweet apples and layered them in once I had buttered and broiled the bread in all of its cheesy glory.  A slather of fig jam and garnish of peppery arugula bring this into grown up grilled cheese territory.  Remember that other grilled cheese with fig jam?  Yeah, this is just as good.  Bacon lovers, yeah, I'm looking at you, feel free to add a few crispy slices if you like.  Amen.  Now you'll have to excuse me while I get the kitten off the bookshelf.  He's eating the plants again.  Oy.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apples, Arugula and Fig Jam

4 thick slices of fresh sourdough bread
4 tbsp butter
12 slices aged, white cheddar
10 thin apple slices
2 tbsp fig jam
2 handfuls of arugula

Butter the bread on both sides.  Fry all slices in a large pan over medium high heat, flipping over and frying the other side as well, just until golden.  
Remove bread from heat and place slices on a bakesheet.   Divide cheese among the slices.  Place under broiler and broil until melted and golden.  Remove from oven.  Put apple slices on 2 sides, dollop fig jam on the other two.  Put a handful of arugula on top of the apples and top with the fig jam cheese slice.  Cut in half.  Eat.  Makes 2 sandwiches.  Adapted from Flourishing Foodie

Seriously.  How could I say no to that face?  And those paws!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Favourites List

In light of my recent mishap, there hasn't been a whole lot of cooking in my little green kitchen.  At least not anything blogworthy.  You guys are surely pros at the toasted tomato sandwich and chicken soup.  I'm on the mend, slowly but surely, even hobbling around the house now and then without crutches.  Baby steps, right?  Before you know it I'll be bustin some moves again.  Cross your fingers.  In the meantime, I've rustled up a few favourite things to share with you.  I hope you are smashing through fallen leaves and sipping on pumpkin spice lattés and just generally getting your cozy on.  We'll talk again real soon. xoxo Renée

I took this banana bread along with me to the yurt.  So good! 

My friend Amy talked all things preserving on the Food Nerd Podcast. Love it!

Get your pumpkin on with these scones

I love Amy Poehler.  So much. 

Next time I feel a tickle in my throat, I'll be making this refreshing tisane

Want to infuse more tea in your baked goods?  Start here. 

I stayed up until the wee hours to finish this book

It's never too early to think about gingerbread.

This song is on heavy rotation in my house. I'm a little obsessed.  

I bought some arugula just so I can make this salad. 

I think all grilled cheese sandwiches should have fig jam. 

The prettiest beet salad.  Ever. 

Cocoa and popcorn.  Together forever. 

This Lip Sync Battle.  The best.  

This blog makes me laugh and crave sugar at the same time.  

If you've got stuff you're totally crushing on, let me know in the comments!  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fallen: Rustic Almond Pear Galette with Dulce de Leche

When I look back on the year 2013, I will have to say it was anything but boring.  I've never much cared for roller coasters, but this year is quickly becoming one.  You might recall that I recently returned from my yurt adventure, all rejuvenated and rosy cheeked.  Warm, fuzzy feelings of everything being right in the world set in.  It was good times.  Flashback to a week ago when, out on an innocent sightseeing Sunday, I took a tumble and fell, hard.  Too smitten with the South Saskatchewan River to watch where I was going, my foot caught in a rut and I, in all my uncoordinated glory, ended up breaking a bone in my right foot.  At first I thought it was a simple, yet painful sprain, but as the shock wore off the excruciating pain set in and yup, an X-Ray revealed a broken foot.  Oh my.  This was so not how things were supposed to go for me!  I had plans and activities and work to look forward to.  Now, I'm laid up with crutches and an oh-so-sexy walking boot that still scares the bejeezus out of the cats.  Seeing as I'm the pastry chef in a busy kitchen, work is put on hold indefinitely.  I've had to rely on friends to help do simple tasks around the house.  Let me tell you, it's pretty humbling to see someone else sweep your floor, do your laundry and take out your trash.  I'll never again take for granted these simple activities that I wish I could do for myself.  The broken foot has definitely cramped my independence, but given that today is Thanksgiving in Canada, I still have so much to be grateful for.  Like, of all the bones to break in the foot, I broke the right one, requiring only 6 weeks to heal instead of 6 months (that would surely put me over the edge).  I'm grateful to the friends and family to have stopped by with food, comforting words and offers of assistance.  The sign of a true friend is one who will clean the litter box without being asked.  True that.  I've no doubt I'll heal well; the pain and swelling are already decreasing.  Just be patient, the doctor said.  I nodded my head.  Just another one of life's adventures to look back upon when I'm 90 years old and shooting the shit in the seniors' home.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Petite Retreat: Buckwheat Porridge & Caramelized Apples

We need the tonic of wildness...We can never have enough of nature. ~ Henry David Thoreau
I needed it badly.  A getaway from the city; from my busy life.  It seems like ever since June hit I was running full steam ahead, with the new job and side projects and writing and well, life.  Taking a break from this space helped, but not quite enough.  I needed to remove myself from the everyday life and just retreat.  Luckily I knew of just the place to disappear to.  A while back a friend mentioned that she visited a beautiful forest lodge, called Flora Bora, that rented out yurts.  What is a yurt, you ask?  Read all about them here, for a far better explanation than I could ever give.  This place was to be my tonic.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Eat Your Beets! Beet & Cabbage Borscht

Breathe properly.  Stay curious.  And eat your beets.  ~ Tom Robbins

It's decidedly fall here.  Leaves are turning and falling almost simultaneously.  As much as I adore summer, there is something quite special about the smell and light and the feeling fall has.  Borderline melancholic with a good dash each of wistfulness and hope - that's how I think of fall.  With this new season there seems to be a shot at a fresh start.  Plans to make.  Pencils to sharpen.  Out of summer la la land and into a deeper focus of what's important.  Plus, lets not forget new TV season.  (Homeland tonight!).  In garden-land, things have quieted down considerably, and I'm happy for it.  My evenings no longer have to be about watering and weeding and harvesting.  Tomatoes are still on the vine and I watch the frost warnings like a hawk.  There are a few roots left - the beets and carrots don't mind the chill and are quite forgiving of my neglect.  It's put-the-garden-to-bed time, and what better way to use up the last of your hard work than with a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove.  See ya later, summer.  Fall is my new best friend and I'm bringing it on with borscht.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Last Hurrah: Baked Peaches with Almond Crust

It has been a ritual of sorts.  Every Sunday, for the past several weeks, I head to the farmers market.  There is a fruit truck there, you see.  And it beholds soft, fuzzy peaches from British Columbia.  I place about 8 or so in a bag - and they are all for me.  The kind-looking woman at the checkout knows.  You like the peaches, she says.  I  nod.  And she nods too.  Yes.  They are good.   And when they get home, they won't last the week.  I typically let them ripen on the counter until they smell just about right, and their flesh gives a little.  Then I bite into one and let the juices dribble down my chin, arms.  Sometimes this happens while I'm hovering over the sink (and I promise, I never eat over the sink, but I can't help myself) or it happens while sitting under my favourite tree in the backyard.   It's a ritual of sorts that is slowly coming to an end, because as goes summer, as go the peaches.  These last days of summer are numbered; the crisp mornings and faint cry of the geese overhead tell me so.  Just like a reluctant lover, no matter how hard you hold on, goodbye must be said.  Oh, but it was fun while it lasted. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Checking In: Caramelized Corn & Buttermilk Pancakes

Hey guys!  Happy September.  I'm just checking in to see how y'all are doing.  I've missed you (and this space) and it feels good to be back.  I'm still bonkers busy, but it's been good to catch my breath a little bit.   Today's post is still kinda short (and I hope sweet!) but I've wanted to catch you up on some stuff that's been happening 'round here.  Hopefully I'll be back shortly with something about peaches.  I've been cramming them in my mouth like they are the last thing to eat on earth.  It's good times!  But today let's talk about these corn pancakes. I had a couple ears of corn and an almost-expired carton of buttermilk, thus these were born, with the help of Deb.  I added in some pesto, chopped bacon, chives and even a few squash blossom flowers and they were simply marvelous.  Served with a fresh tomato/cucumber salad one night, then on a bed of sauteed kale the next, they were a hit, and re-heat quite nicely.  I bought more corn today, with the purpose of making them again.  Caramelizing the fresh kernels in butter is freaking fantastic.  Such flavour!  I love me a good savoury pancake, and this is the jackpot recipe.  Hope you think so too!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Time Out: Raspberry Dark Chocolate Coconut Scones

Life around here has been pretty nutty - what with me working 40+ hours a week at a job that I adore, but is incredibly busy and some days physically exhausting.  Add onto that a new writing gig I'm pretty stoked about and a tangled/overgrown garden/yard that is starting to look like some sort of prairie jungle, and let's just say I've got lots on my plate.  Or as my mom would say, too much.  Throw into the mix that fact that I never took any sort of summer vacation, (perils of starting new job in summer) and the outcome of all this craziness is that something has to give.  And you probably can tell what's coming, and I really hate saying it, but it's this space.  I have to step back for bit and take a breather.  A time out, if you will.  For the past two and a half years I've loved loved loved coming here at least once a week and telling you what the heck I've been up to in my kitchen.  I really have.  But lately it's been the last thing on the list of stuff that needs to get done and I feel badly for that.  Don't fret - I'm not going away for ever.  Never!  I'm only hoping to take about a month off to refresh, re-assess and relax.  Some days I would like to not even turn the computer on (imagine!!!) and park myself on the couch and watch three episodes in a row of Homeland and stuff my face with popcorn.  Plus, these summer days are waning, so fast, and I'd like to suck up their essence before it's too late; see more of my friends and family, go for hikes by the river.  Maybe even contemplate dating again.  I think this is called a social life.  Anyway, you get my drift.  You won't get rid of me that easily though, for I'm sure I'll be popping in briefly with a recipe and a photo or two - because I really do love it here and you know I'm still going to be cooking fabulous food.   Just not sure when I'll be back at full steam - I'm guessing once the garden is put to sleep and I've got a game plan on how to handle all of the blessings in my life, because all of this that is happening is so, so good, and I'm grateful for every second of it.  Thank you so much for understanding. I miss you already. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Grilled Turkey & Mushroom Pesto Burgers

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post, but you know I wouldn't tell you about 
something unless I thought it was completely and utterly fabulous.

Summer may be winding down (I don't believe it either) but grilling season sure isn't.  I'm so pleased to have partnered up with Mushrooms Canada and Turkey Farmers of Canada on their e-cookbook Get Your Grill On With Turkey & Mushrooms.  Inside are 20 recipes from really great Canadian food bloggers and I'm thrilled to be among them, sharing my Grilled Turkey & Mushroom Pesto Burgers.  You may remember the incredible Thai Turkey Salad Rolls with Enoki Mushrooms and Peanut Sauce I created earlier this summer to help kick off this great campaign.  Happily you can find this burger recipe there too!  It's got great built-in mushroom and pesto flavour and it's been a huge favourite all summer around here.  Grill On! 

For this and other delicious recipes you can download the free e-book from the Tasty Turkey facebook page here or the Mushrooms Canada facebook page here.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Swiss Chard & Corn Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

"All in all it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer - one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going - one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world."              
                                                                                   ~ L.M Montgomery

Thanks for letting Lucy Maud cover for me today.  My mind is elsewhere - mainly on the summer produce that needs picking just outside my door.  Beans aren't gonna blanch themselves!  Plus this week has been heavy with deadlines and work, and I'm just tying up a few loose ends before I head out of town for a bit. Finally my mini-vacay is here!  Not venturing far - just jumping in the car and going to see some of my favourite people in the whole world; key players in some of my never-to-be-forgotten-summers.  It feels like eons since I've hit the road; windows down, music loud, with just the horizon to drive into.  Well, let's rephrase that.  I hate hair in my eyes, so the windows are up.  Music is loud, but not that loud (I'm old after all), and I'll be squinting while driving into the sun.  But it's my road trip, dammit, and it's gonna rock.  

And so my going away present to you is this pizza - a great way to use up the ample amounts of chard you may be finding in your CSA or gardens right now.  Cooked with leeks, fresh corn and garlic, it makes a mighty fine topping.  Those cherry tomatoes are sweet like candy and really match perfectly with the fresh basil.  I had bocconcini to use up, but go ahead and use goat cheese or feta as a replacement.  It's pizza, so feel free to play around.  Use caramelized onions instead of leeks or kale instead of chard.  I won't look away if you add bacon either.  Might even give you a high-five.  If you serve it with a little balsamic reduction drizzled on top - well that gets you a fist bump. 

And with that, I'm gone like the wind. 

Swiss Chard & Corn Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

I used the same crust I used here.  It was even frozen for more than a month and still perfect. 
Rolled out to about 9x13 inches, it proved to be a great base.  That being said, feel free to substitute your go-to crust. 

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks, be sure to rinse them well
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes
6 cups Swiss chard
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels.  Leftover corn on the cob would be great too. 
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes, cut in half
100 grams bocconcini cheese, sliced
handful fresh basil leaves, torn

Roll out your crust so it's roughly 9 x13 inches.  Grease a bake sheet with olive oil and sprinkle a little cornmeal on top.  Place the rolled out dough on top of this.  Preheat oven to 450*F. 
Heat butter and oil in a deep skillet.  Saute the leeks until softened and starting to brown, about 10 - 12 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook another minute.  Stir in the chard and corn, cooking until chard is wilted and corn warmed through - about 3 minutes.  Let cool a few minutes - slice your cherry tomatoes and cheese while it is cooling.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella on top of dough.  Spread the chard filling on top of this.  I had about a cup extra which I saved for sandwiches later in the week.  Arrange the cherry tomatoes and bocconcini on top of the chard filling.  Slide into the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and melty.  Scatter fresh basil leaves on it once out of oven.  Slice into wedges.  Serves 3-4. 


Friday, August 2, 2013

Mid-Summer Favourite Things

Holy.  I mean holy.  When the heck did it all of a sudden become the mid-point of summer.  Not to freak y'all out, but time is ticking.  So. Let's keep things short and sweet.  It's the long weekend after all, and you're probably miles away from a computer.  My weekend is fine balance of work and play, and the garden is turning into quite the jungle, so it's time I pick the beans!  And the chard!  And the raspberries!  And if I have any gumption left there are always weeds that need to be shown who's the boss.  However, I just discovered I have free Superchannel for 3 months and wouldn't you know that Season 2 of Homeland is there, as is Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy.  I think both you and I know how much weeding will be getting done. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

Let me be weird for a sec and tell you about my fruit situation.  I know this is the riveting stuff you live to read about on your summer holidays.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Bowls of apricots and peaches, slowly ripening to their juicy glory on the kitchen counter.  Inside the fridge are small pails packed full of cherries - the sweet ones from the farmers market and sour ones - from the tree of a sweet friendWay out yonder at the rear of the garden are not one but two massive raspberry patches, that need daily pickings otherwise the birds or bugs will get to them before IAnd I hate having birds or bugs beat me to anything.  Then there is the rhubarb, that just. won't.  stop.   It's full on fruitpalooza in my house, but I'm not complaining.  This is the best time of year to be an eater.  This is what I long for in the deep dark depths of a frigid winter, when I can't possibly eat another apple or banana.  I'm a total greedy fruit hoarder right now, stuffing my chubby cheeks with the good stuff; making the most of it while I can.  I suppose you can say the same thing for enjoying all summer produce - it's really about embracing the present.  With so much bounty on our hands, it must be enjoyed and dealt with immediately.  You can't sit idle when you have rows of Swiss chard that need picking (ahem) or pails of cherries that need pitting (double ahem) or bowls of apricots on the verge of over-ripening.  To let it go to waste is just so sad.  These are gifts, here for but the briefest of moments.  I don't know about you, but I love me some presents; especially those I can eat.   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Afternoon: Kale & Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

            Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.  ~ Henry James

True, that.  I hope you are enjoying all of your summer afternoons so far.  We're creeping into late July, and someone please tell me how the heck that happened.  Already.  Do you get the feeling that you haven't done all that you've wanted to do, so far?  I do.  I feel like I'm falling behind on summer; chasing after it, pleading with it, to hold on for just as sec.  Wait for me.  Don't be in a rush.  And for God's sake don't leave before I've gone on at least one road trip, dipped my toes in a lake and curled up with just a book and a glass of iced tea.  Let me catch up to your lazy, hazy days.  I'm sorry I've been working like a madwoman, crazy early hours, with a bedtime that happens before the sun has completely left for the day.  That hasn't happened since 1983. Oh the travails of being an early morning baker.  I am, kind of/sort of, beginning to grow fond of the dawn's early light, and the serene stillness it brings.  There's still a hush over the city, save for the birds chattering away.  I slowly unwind from my slumber, pull a brush through my rat's nest and put the kettle on for tea.  Yes, there is a full work day ahead, but also a good chunk of summer afternoon left for me to do with as I will.  We've got time.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chill Out: Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Whoa Nelly.  I hope to all goodness that you had a better week than I did.  You know those days when all you really want to do is have a mid-day meltdown, throw yourself face-first onto the bed and cry your face off like a two year old? Yeah that.  For a few days last week that's pretty much what needed to be done.  Work was stupid busy, and suddenly our glorious, gluten-free bread which is essentially the talk of the town - the stuff that I make every day - well it stopped being so glorious.  In fact it was crap.  It wasn't rising properly and was a hollow crater inside.  Folks were coming far and wide for a slice and we weren't able to offer them any.  In case you aren't aware - baking gluten free is a different animal.  There's no bag of all-purpose flour to dip into and there you go, carry on with your recipe.  Na-ah.  Gluten free bread requires a carefully orchestrated symbiosis of flours and starches and gums and yeast and vinegar, and if one or more ingredients is defective, well you are in trouble.  I was in the shit.  After a couple of days of CSI: Gluten Free Baking Edition, we discovered the brown rice flour was stale.  Yes, stale.  It's lack of freshness destroyed the product and basically my soul.  Everyone was so kind and supportive, but this bread is essential to the restaurant and if it flops, then that's not cool.  The pressure I felt was my own, dumped onto these shoulders that can only carry so much.  But holy Jesus, the relief I felt when a batch turned out absolutely perfect, made with fresh brown rice flour.  I almost cried, yet again, but this time with joy instead of frustration.  Oh the learning curve of cooking and baking with entirely new ingredients.  As we discovered last week - it can be a steep one.  But this was a good lesson for me - yes about the flour - but also how I need to chill the hell out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blowtorch Optional: S'more Layer Cake with Salted Milk Chocolate Ganache & Seven Minute Frosting

So if that super long title is any indication, I indeed busted out the big guns for this cake.  While it is quite the production, it should also be noted that this cake is worth every dirty mixing bowl and spatula that will take up residence in your sink.  The lucky recipient was my sweet mama, who recently celebrated a birthday, and seeing as she's the one who gave birth to me and all, she gets a pretty cake on the day she was born.  It's payback time, I suppose, for all of those cakes over the years she bestowed upon me.  My favourite was always chocolate cake with swirls of fluffy white icing.  Tucked away in the cake layers were assorted coins, wrapped in tin foil, waiting to be pulled out by some lucky kid.  If you got the quarter you were golden!  And if it was your birthday and you got shut out, then there was probably some sulking, and possibly tears.  Not that I know this from first hand experience or anything.  Ahem.  Fast forward 30 odd years and while I didn't hide any money in my mom's birthday cake, I'm certain that the love she baked with all those years ago was matched by mine on this day. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

13 Things You Need To Eat This Summer

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. ~ Ada Louise Huxtable

It's true though, isn't it?  How long have we waited for the warm summer breezes to wash over us and carry away our worries and general maladies?  Now that we are in the throes of this most glorious time of year, I hope you are indeed wearing less clothing and generally feeling quite awesome.  Today we delve into the archives for a little summertime fun and food.  It was quite the trip to pick my favourite foods to eat while wiping away sweat from the upper lip.  Look how much my photos have changed!  We've come a long way, baby.  Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me.  I'll be back in a few with a brand new post.  I made cake!  And there may or may not have been milk chocolate ganache involved.  Believe me, you don't want to miss it.  Until then, happy 4th of July to my American friends, and don't forget the SPF. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bye Bye Google Reader...

I interrupt your lovely weekend festivities with a little news...just in case you aren't aware of it yet.  Today is the last day you can follow any blogs by using Google reader.  I'd hate for any of you to miss any of my posts so if you haven't done so already, do switch over to Feedly, which is what I've done.  Super easy, just the click of a button and all of your feeds are automatically transferred.  I like painless processes like this.  There are other options too, like Bloglovin, but I haven't given that one a go.  Also, don't forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (links to your right) for all kinds of blog updates and other fun info.  Now back to our regular weekend programming! 

P.S.  That peony just bloomed a few days ago and I can't stop staring at it.  If the ants didn't love it as much as I do, it would be in my house, in a vase, perfuming my place.  And below, don't you just love that great yellow cup I got at Homesense for just a pittance?  Put a bird on it! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When Bloggers Brunch: Shakshuka and Rosemary Foccacia

So what do you make when one of your favourite food bloggers comes to town?  This was my dilemma a few days ago when Dan came to my little house for a visit.  A Saskatoon ex-pat, and an all-around awesome dude, Dan is one of my favourite people in the whole world.  He does all kinds of great things for the Calgary culinary scene, and he's even started a program that teaches university kids how to cook.  Like I said, dude is cool.  So I do what you're not supposed to do when a guest you wanna impress is soon to be seated at your table:  I make recipes I've never made before.  For carefree entertaining, you're supposed to stick with the tried and true.  But not me.  I go into uncharted territory.  However three things brought me to safety:  1) The source.  It's Ottolenghi.  It's bound to be perfect. 2) It's eggs.  How hard can you mess up eggs? 3) It's homemade bread.  Even if it's not perfect, it's still perfect.  Plus I've seen shakshuka a million places around the interwebs and figured it was time to share it here.  So glad I did.  Unbeknownst to me, it's one of Dan's favourite dishes.  Also unbeknownst to me, we were practically wearing identical plaid shirts.  Great minds!  Great taste!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Roasted Rhubarb & Vanilla Bean Clafoutis

Hark!  It's finally here!  The first day of summer y'all!  I just broke so many blogging rules by my gratuitous use of exclamation marks, but whatevs.  Summer is here and I'm happy.  Considering I was buried under a cloak of never-ending winter, I need this summer.  And I need it to be good.  Thoughts of these sun-soaked days are what kept me going when there was 4 feet of snow remaining in my yard mid-April.  These are the days not to be taken for granted.  So get all up in your summer.  Roll around in it.  Breathe it in and let it take over you.  Make it the best short-term relationship you've ever had.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Change Is Good: Finding My Inner Gluten Free Baker

You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try.  ~ Dolly Parton 

Change.  It's good, but terrifying at the same time.  While we welcome and thrive in routine, every once in awhile a little upheaval is called for.  To grow professionally and personally, sometimes we have to take a big leap into the unknown and just hope to God that our instincts are right.  For the past year or so I've known that I needed to make some professional changes.  Considering how much time is devoted to work, I needed to make that part of my life better.  But how easy it is to coast along.  You get comfy and kinda forget what else is out there.  That is, until a phone call comes from out of the blue and your life changes forever.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't Freak Out: Chocolate Cream Filled Profiteroles

Tonight I watched a swarm of about 20 birds (don't ask me which ones - I'm terrible when it comes to birds) descend upon my birdbath in the rock garden.  I was just noshing on the last few leaves of my salad and suddenly, from out of nowhere, these feathered friends decided to take a bath together.  It was fascinating stuff.  Some would hang back and wait their turn before jumping in.  Others would bully the smaller birds into retreating.  I was kinda captivated.  For some reason this birdbath gets plenty of avian action.  In the morning, just after I've woken up and fed the fur babies their fancy feast, I take a peek out the window and more often than not there is a fat robin or even fatter blue jay splashing around like crazy.  I don't know why it makes me happy to see them having so much fun, but it does.  Especially when they shake all of the water off.  That's the best part.  Along with their wet heads.  I love it.  It's these small moments at either end of my day which grab my attention and hold it.  Little reminders, I suppose, that life is full of big and small and in-between moments, and for whatever reason the simple sight of a bird washing its feathers is enough to ease me into or out of that good night.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grilled Thai Turkey Salad Rolls with Enoki Mushrooms & Peanut Sauce

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post, but you know I wouldn't tell you about 
something unless I thought it was completely and utterly fabulous.

Can we all agree that one of the best things about summer is the food?  My oven basically goes into hibernation on those super hot days, and the grill is the way to go.  I'm so pleased to have partnered up with Mushrooms Canada and Turkey Farmers of Canada on their brand new e-cookbook Get Your Grill On With Turkey & Mushrooms.  Inside are 20 recipes from really great Canadian food bloggers and I'm thrilled to be sharing my Grilled Thai Turkey Salad Rolls with Enoki Mushrooms & Peanut Sauce.  These gorgeous rolls pretty much scream SUMMER, and I know they'll be making many repeat performances over the next few months.  Perfect little appetizers, or if you can't eat just one or two (like me) a highly acceptable dinner; ideally accompanied by a cool, frothy beverage and a patio table in the shade. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tomato Basil Salad with White Beans & Bocconcini

Do you ever have those days when you don't know what in the world you are going to feed yourself?  I see your heads bobbing up and down so I'm going to take that as a yes.  Lately I've been having plenty of those glassy-eyed glances into the refrigerator.  Chalk it up to a new gardening season going at full throttle and other fun extra-curricular activities occupying a good chunk o'time.  And then there are those days when I just. don't. want. to. cook.  There I said it.  I make a living feeding people and some days I find it hard to muster the energy to feed my own belly.  It's ever-so-tempting to stop by the pizza place on the way home, but I'm cheap take-out is expensive and I'm picky often not very good.  My well-stocked pantry and refrigerator save my bacon many a day, and before I know it a delicious salad like this comes together in under 15 minutesEasy.  And right now easy is good. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Flourless Banana-Chocolate Pudding Cakes with Whipped Coconut Cream

Sitting here, on this quiet Sunday evening, I find myself a little stuck for words.  No, nothing horrible has happened (yippee!) in fact I'm on the cusp of something fantastic (I think!), though I don't want to spill the details just yet.  Superstition and all that.  And no, it doesn't involve a boy.  This will continue to be a boy-free zone for a good while longer, though I can't remember the last time I shed a tear over the man who was so reckless with my heart.   I'm guessing that's a good sign the heart is in repair, ready for it's final tune-up.  Time really does have magical healing properties, doesn't it?  As does chocolate.  Both work wonders, in their own way.  No.  Good things are around the corner, I can feel it.  Stay tuned for future developments.  In the meantime, today I bring you banana-chocolate pudding cakes and a wee adventure on whipping coconut cream.  Let's dive in, shall we?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For the Gardener: Chipotle Spiced Lamb & Kale Tostadas

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

You can't see me right now but I'm totally doing a little happy dance.  Well, little wiggles in my chair, but that still counts.  Nope, not drunk (though I did have the best mango margarita this afternoon), but insanely happy that I've officially started gardening.  I busted out the garden gloves and the trowels and got friendly with some dirt today.  It felt good.  After what seemed like the longest winter in the history of the universe, I never thought I'd be so happy to uproot dandelions.  Just watching earthworms slither along the freshly turned over soil made me smile.  I'm a total weirdo, but after the winter I've had, you'd do the same thing.  I'm also super happy to have my post-surgery strength back, which means I don't have to be so paranoid about lifting anything over 10 pounds.  (Um, my cats are fat over ten pounds so I can finally squish them to bits.  I think this pleases me more than them).  Being strong again means all I want to do is make my yard pretty.  Which kinda means less time is spent in the kitchen, so food has to be quick and dirty.  And that's why today we are talkin' tostadas.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Skillet Cornbread with Goat Cheese & Fig Jam

May long weekend - the unofficial start to summer - is just around the corner, and loads of happy campers are preparing to head to the wilderness for a little escapism.  But not this gal.  Call me crazy but I'm a fan ofindoor plumbing; not sleeping on the cold, hard ground; and I believe in a decent barrier between me and bears.  I get grumpy if I'm damp and cold for too long, and I like washing my hair.  Daily.  I am what would be called a comfort camper, and that's probably why I don't get invited camping a whole lot.  But if you want to invite me to your cozy cottage by the lake (you have a shower, right?), I'd be down with that and even make you dinner.  My culinary skills make me a valuable houseguest - true story.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Lavender Compote

My mom taught me lots of cool things.  Like how to make a mean chocolate chip cookie.  How to plant a garden.  How to drive.  How to persevere.  How to not be afraid of the dark.  How to not take any crap,  from anyone.  How to keep it all together when the world is seemingly spinning out of control.  Mom is one tough cookie, and she had to be, raising four small kids all by herself.  After my dad's sudden death she managed to somehow not lose her mind, and in the end put forth unto the world four strong, smart, kind and good human beings.  My mom is my hero and honestly most days I don't know what I would do without her.  And if you ask my siblings they'll tell you the exact same thing.  Even when she drives me crazy (she's a mom - she's supposed to) my love for her is endless and my heart grateful for all of those times she dried my tears and cheered me on and watched me grow up into the woman I am today.  My love of good food is all her fault too because she let me dig up potatoes, pick the strawberries, eat the cookie dough, stir the pot and lick the beaters, and without those early culinary experiences I wouldn't be the cook I am today.  I learned it all from her. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Win! Warm Lentil, Bacon & Asparagus Salad with Fried Eggs

This is a sponsored post, but there is no shortage of love for lentils on these pages.  And you guys know me - I wouldn't tell you about something unless I really was in love with it.  So here we go!  

First things first.  May is Love your Lentils month (but I'm crazy about them the whole entire year - just scroll through my recipe index and you'll find the love) and to help celebrate Canadian Lentils has created a really fantastic contest.  Here's the part where I tell you about the good stuff:  the grand prize is a trip for 2 to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (my hometown!) and the heart and soul of the world's lentil production.  We love our lentils here.  Not only will you get to hang out in my beautiful city, but also take a tour with famous chef Michael Smith, stay in a posh hotel by the South Saskatchewan River for 3 nights, and you get $500 to spend on fun stuff while here.  All you have to do is enter your lentil recipe - you can be a blogger or a home cook - and just by voting you have a chance to WIN.  I won't bother you with all of the particulars - you can read them here.  But I urge you to enter, and while you're there, throw a vote my way too, because I really, really want to stay in that hotel (and meeting Michael Smith wouldn't be too shabby either.  Oh, and the cash, yeah, the cash, that would be nice.  And I've got a hankering to tour a farmer's field like nobody's business.)  So go vote!  Pretty pretty please and thank you. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mending: Lemon Poppy Seed Waffles with Crème Fraîche

I can't tell you how nice it is to be sitting at my desk again, with a cup of green tea keeping me company.  Happily, and with massive amounts of relief, I'm here to tell you my surgery last week was successful, and I'm on the mend.  Recovery has been slow, but each day I get more mobile as the pain is lessened.  Today is the second day with no pain killers (woo hoo!) and considering my gallbladder was removed via my belly button, I think I'm doing just fine.  Though now I'm beginning to feel rather house-bound, and probably talking to my cats more than is normal healthy.  So far they haven't talked back, so we're good.  I've not fallen into the trap that is daytime TV, but I would by lying if I told you I didn't watch the cast of Mad Men on Katie yesterday.  It's that Jon Hamm.  He pulls me in.  My PVR has been put to good use, catching up on movies I recorded months ago, and I'm reading so much I can't remember the last time I've devoted a few hours every day to a good book.  Sometimes I fall asleep with it on my face, but that's real life.  Meals have been simple, with friends and family dropping off food and groceries, and I'm so glad I stocked my freezer well.  Doctor's orders not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for 2 more weeks so grocery shopping is not in my near future.  Hopefully by the weekend I'll be strong enough to venture out and sip an iced coffee on a patio somewhere.  But until then I'm content I suppose, doing small things with ease and giving my body what it needs to make a full recovery.

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