Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Oh Joy! Chocolate & Espresso Yule Log

"The room was very still while the pages were softly turned and 
the winter crept in with a Christmas greeting."  ~ Louisa May Alcott

Happy first day of winter, friends.  It's a frosty one here this morning, with me in my slippers and a mug of coffee warming my hands.  There is much packing to me done yet as I leave for a few days to see my family and I couldn't be more excited.  From what I hear, my nieces want my assistance in building a snow fort, and are addicted to UNO, so I know what I'll be doing upon my arrival.  These are the best days, when all that really matters is just being together with those who love the bones off you.  As their little hands clasp mine, leading me to the piled up snow, that will be the best gift right there. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Merriment & Mayhem: Mushroom and Bacon Quiche

So, how's everyone doing?  Christmas is in one week, and I hope y'all are finding some merriment amidst the mayhem.  I just finished writing page 170 of my manuscript, so high five!!

 Everyone is super busy, so I'm here with just a quick little post about this mushroom and bacon quiche I made recently for the fine folks over at Mushrooms Canada.  If you've never baked a quiche using puff pastry as a base, you're in for a treat, because it makes the whole thing come together so easily.  The mushroom filling can be made up to 4 days in advance, so it's a time saver on really busy mornings (or evenings) over the holidays.  I used dried porcini, as well as fresh cremini and shiitake mushrooms in the quiche, and a good amount of chopped bacon.  You all know how much I adore bacon, and it happens to be best friends with mushrooms.  So, win!  I've reheated slices all week for my lunch, and as expected, it's still delicious.  Find the recipe over here on the Mushrooms Canada Blog.  And with that, I wish you happy last weekend before Christmas.  I'll have one last post before I leave to see my family.  You guys.  I made a Yule Log and you need to see it! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sweet Holiday Favourites and Glad Tidings!

This past week alone I've gone through almost five pounds of butter.  I guess you could say I'm back at recipe testing, AND baking up some favourite sweet things from holidays past.  I couldn't imagine Christmas without these Rosemary Oatmeal Shortbread, or these Brown Sugar Shortbread with Toblerone Chunks.  Last year I brought a tin of these White Chocolate & Rosemary Cranberry Blondies home to the family, and they were a surprise hit among the 6 and under crowd.  They'll be packed in my car again this year as I head home to see my fam jam in just 10 days.  I'm totally counting down the sleeps. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Baked Brie with Caramelized Pears and Bacon

"Nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness at home." ~ Jane Austen

This week was not how I intended it to be.  One week ago I had visions of powering through recipe testing for the book and getting a good jump on my Christmas baking.  None of that happened.  Instead, I woke up last Friday with what felt like knives hanging out in my throat.  No amount of honey or tea would soothe it.  Next day the tickle at the back of the throat started and so came on the incessant cough that stole my sleep for the better part of this week.  That, combined with congestion and aching bones kept me out of the kitchen and away from the computer, except for deadlines which had to be kept.  There's not much one can do with a foggy brain and aching body except cozy up on the couch and watch movies until you drift off, only to be awakened by the soft padding of kitten paws rearranging themselves on your legs.  This bit of forced rest has done me good - a reminder to not get too overloaded this holiday season.   Lord knows there will be busier days ahead, but if I need to take a break and watch Little Women, then so be it.   

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stuff I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Oh my gosh you guys.  How in the world is it Mid-November?  I feel like since I've been back from Montréal I've had either been sitting at the computer or standing in the kitchen.  It's all cookbook, all the time now, and guess what?  I'm already on the 100th page of my manuscript.  Holy cow.  It took awhile to figure out what the hell I'm doing, but I've managed to find my rhythm and figure out a system that seems to be working well.  I'll write for a couple of days in a row, then bake for a couple of days in a row.  And breathe, and take breaks and get plenty of sleep.  And drink lots of tea.  I'm so excited with what I've written so far.  Goosebumps, I tell you.  So yes, it's busy as all heck, and my tiny kitchen is feeling it.  Some days I'm amazed that I'm birthing a cookbook out of such a small space, with no dishwasher and about 3 feet of counter space.  God bless these organizational skills o' mine.  And the quiet chaos.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Good Times: Pizza Party

You know it's going to be a good night when your whole entire kitchen counter is covered in pizza.  That was the scene just last night, as five of my friends and I tried out Panago Pizza's six  new/featured fall pizzas.  It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.  Don't get me wrong - there are a couple of places in the city where I love popping in for their thin-crust, wood-fired artisanal pizzas, but every now and again I want to stay home, wear my pyjamas and have food come to my door.  Preferably pizza. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Saucy Spiced Beef & Lentil Meatballs with Linguine

I've unpacked my luggage (thankful a bottle of wine didn't break!), done the laundry, resumed my routine and yet my 7 day excursion to Montréal still is at the forefront of my mind, and will be for a long time, I imagine.  There's so much to tell, I don't really know where to begin.  This could be a long post, so go make a cup of tea and grab a snack (leftover Halloween candy maybe?) and curl up with me for a bit.   I suppose I should begin at that moment when I first saw the city I left so long ago.  We descended over soccer fields and rows of brick houses; trees with amber leaves still clinging.  A friend met me at the airport - I hadn't seen her since 1998, when I was a nanny for her small children - now grown young men.  What a way to age oneself - seeing kids you once used to read Goodnight Moon to now in University writing essays and all that fun stuff.  That afternoon and the next we walked and walked, me finding the rhythm in my step I once had when I was a fresh-faced young art student living away from home for the first time.  I saw some old haunts (my first apartment!), and ate all the good stuff you eat while in Montréal - almond croissants, bagels (oh the bagels!) and smoked meat sandwiches.  It was totally glutinous, but I figured since I was walking so much, the calories didn't count.  Logical thinking, yes?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Turkey and Black Bean Slow Cooker Burrito Bowls

I'm popping in to say a quick hello while I unpack from my trip to Montreal.  I had the best time, ever.  More on that in a later post, but today I wanted to tell you about these slow cooker burrito bowls I made recently with turkey and black beans.  Super easy and super good.  Just what we want for a weeknight meal, amiright?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On My Way: Coconut Cream Overnight Oats & Lentils

You guys.  Working from home is the best.  I've been doing so "officially" now for just a few days, and already I'm in love.  I can rise at a reasonable hour, have tea while catching up on the morning news, and work away at my computer wearing stretchy pants and my favourite sweatshirt from 1993.  Breaks consist of taking coffee outside while the cats run up trees and then I rake the last of the leaves, just to get a little physical activity in.   I think I might be loving breakfast the most, as it can consist of something more substantial than the yogurt and fruit I used to cram in before I left the house at an ungodly early hour. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Whipped Pumpkin Spiced Butter and Popovers

"In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible."  ~ E.G. Speare

I've been meaning to tell you about this whipped pumpkin butter all week.  Seriously.  But either something else came up or I got sidetracked with outdoor activities like cleaning eaves (yuck) and raking leaves (stop already) and putting my garden to bed (yes Mom, I emptied the rain barrels and drained the garden hose) or good friends from out of town came to visit so we stayed out a bit too late drinking wine and eating pasta.  And then some days I just didn't feel like turning my computer on. You get those too?  That's when all I want is a blanket and the remote and chocolate.  Always chocolate.  But here I am on a quiet Saturday night in mid-October, with a mug of tea (white tea with sage and cinnamon) and my undivided attention aimed at telling you all about this luscious spread you'll soon want to slather on every single carbohydrate in your house.   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Apricot and Pecan Stuffing for Turkey

Oh my gosh you guys.  It's October.  Already.  Which means there are only three months left in this year.  Holy cow.  Time has slid on by, hasn't it?  Usually I'm all melancholic about the upcoming fall and winter, but this year I'm embracing it.  For the first time in my life I get to devote my career to writing.  Like, come over here and pinch me already.  My seasonal pastry chef gig ends in a couple of weeks (that's right, no one golfs in Saskatchewan in the winter) which means my focus will shift to working on the cookbook as well as my regular food writing gigs.  I'm super pumped.  Not because I get to work in my pyjamas and sleep in past 5:30, but because I'm pretty much living out my dream.  That's a pretty big deal.  I'm also traveling to Montreal later this month, which I'm crazy excited about.  The annual Food Bloggers of Canada conference is taking place, and it couldn't happen in a prettier town.  Given that I used to live there 20 years ago, Montreal holds a special place in my heart, and it will be fun to revisit it with old and new friends.  And the food.  Oh lord the food.  Bagels, croissants, poutine - I'll pretty much be carb loading all week.  And I can't wait.  If you know of any must-visit places to eat and drink while there, let me know in the comments! 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Giveaway of Organic Goodness

Hey guys.  Just popping in to say hi on this last weekend of summer (!!!!).  How the heck?  Time is a flying, that's for sure.  Things are still bonkers busy in my reality so this post contains no recipes (check my Portfolio Page for current updates of stuff I've been working on, and I'm super eager to write here soon about cookbook stuff!).  I have good news though!  There's a chance for you to win a box full of organic goodness!  I don't do this sort of thing very often - I think the only items I've ever given away are cookbooks written by friends - but when Nature's Path contacted me about giving away a box of awesome stuff to one of you lucky readers to celebrate National Organic Week happening September 19th -27th, I wanted to say yes.  Many of the products in the box are in my pantry already, so it seemed like a natural fit for me to partner with them.  And, who doesn't love a box of delicious food arriving on your doorstep?   

I don't want to get into the whole organic vs. non-organic debate here; I think ultimately we make the best choices we can to feed ourselves and our families.  I always buy organic and fair trade coffee and tea; sugar and chocolate too if it's in the budget.  That being said, I do try to find out where my food comes from, who's growing it and what's in it.  I talk to the farmers who grow my potatoes and carrots (Hi Wally and Gail!); the folks who drive the fruit I love out from B.C.  Heck, I even had tea with a lovely local man who has an orchard of cherries and in turn dries them into a beautiful product.  I love local, always and forever.  I was fortunate to go on a series of farm tours a couple of weeks ago with other chefs and food writers, and after seeing a dairy farm, egg processing plant and a grain farm, I'm confident that the food Saskatchewan farmers are producing to feed not only me, but the rest of the world, is created with the utmost care and attention to safety and nutrition.  If you ever get a chance to tour a working farm, go for it.  You'll be amazed at what you'll learn.  Farmers are just so darn awesome.

For a list of Organic Week events happening near you, check the listings here

Okay!  On to the good stuff!  Should you be the lucky winner, you'll receive:

Nature’s Path & Friends #OrganicWeek Gift Box includes ($100 value):

·         Nature’s Path delicious granolas including Pumpkin Flax Granola and Coconut Chia Granola, as well as tasty and healthful Flax Plus Flakes Cereal .
·         EnviroKidz children’s cereal that moms and kids love, Peanut  Butter Panda Puffs Cereal.
·         Que Pasa Mexican Foods premium organic salsa.
·         Amy’s Kitchen Lentil Vegetable Soup - Full of vegetables, including green beans, tomatoes, and spinach in a flavourful lentil base. This soup is prepared with the same careful attention you use at home and is vegan, gluten free, and dairy free.
·         Camino Simply Dark Hot Chocolate - Created for the dairy conscious, Camino's simply dark hot chocolate is incredibly rich and delicious, and is literally made with dark chocolate as an ingredient for an extra indulgent taste.
·         Crofter’s Organic Jam - Native to North America, Crofter's blueberries are wild harvested in nearby Quebec. These intensely colored lowbush berries are far more petite and flavor-packed than the cultivated highbush variety common to the produce section at your neighborhood grocery.
·         Earthbound Farm OrganicFree product voucher good for any Earthbound Farm product
·         Ethical Bean Coffee - Every cup of Ethical Bean Coffee has been crafted with one simple objective in mind: To make the best Fairtrade certified Organic coffee on the planet. Period. Because as far as we’re concerned, doing something good should be rewarded with something that tastes spectacular.
·         Happy Planet Fresh SoupsFree product voucher redeemable for any Happy Planet Fresh Soup including yummy new single serve organic Portuguese Kale & White Bean.  Happy Planet Fresh Soups draw inspiration from cuisines from around the world and are made in small kettle batches in BC & Ontario. They have tons of delicious organic, dairy free and vegan options to choose from!
·         Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Hearts - Organic Hemp Hearts taste great, are easy to use and nutritious too! Packed with 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of omegas per 30 gram serving, they’re great in salads, cereal, yogurt and baking. Organic Hemp Hearts are paleo-friendly, vegan and Non-GMO.
·         PRANA Kilimanjaro Organic Deluxe Chocolate Trail Mix - Delicious vegan chocolate chunks, crunchy nuts and dried fruits to give you a snack that is perfect for all occasions. With chocolate chunks as the #1 ingredient on the list, this mix is guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth while also offering a savoury taste with ingredients like walnuts, salted almonds and cashews, Sultana raisins and naturally sweetened cranberries.
·         Pacific Foods Organic Mushroom Broth - Savory mushrooms, garlic and sea salt combine to make a fragrant, rich broth worthy of your favorite soups, risottos, pasta and or any dish of your desire.
·         Silver Hills Bakery - Free product voucher good for any Silver Hills product including new Big Red’s Bread - big in taste and packed with 21 ancient grains and seeds. 

That's some good loot!  I've made the hot chocolate, and it's delicious, especially with the requisite puddle of whipped cream.  For a chance to win, simply leave a comment telling me what you buy organic.  Random winner will be picked September 28.  Sorry, open to Canadian Residents only.  Be sure to leave contact info so I can get in touch with you if you win.  Good luck!!  

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Tale of Two Pancakes, Buckwheat and Corn

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." 
 ~ W.B Yeats

Before I start rambling on about where I've been and what I've been up to, I want to say a gigantic thank you for all of the kind words, messages and emails sent my way after I announced my book news last month (it's been a crazy month!).  I take these to heart and re-read them when I need a burst of encouragement.  It's a ride, this whole cookbook thing.  I've been testing new recipes for it, in addition to freelance recipe writing and my regular food columns.  Oh, and still putting on my chef's whites for my day job.  These hands are seldom idle, but how does that saying go?  Something about making hay while the sun is shining?  Yeah, I'm pretty much doing that.  I'm super fortunate in that I get to take the winter off from professional baking and have my primary focus be the cookbook and my other writing.  I've been padding the bank account like crazy this summer so that I can work from home this winter, and that has me very, very excited.  (If you've ever had to sit in a freezing cold car at 6:00 am, waiting for it to warm up so you can drive to work in -30C, you know what I'm talking about).  Alas, 'tis the way things are and I love every opportunity that presents itself to me.  Life is funny like that... how stuff just fits together and works when it's supposed to.  Timing really is everything. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

In Dreams: Saskatoon Berry Galette & Big Book News

 "Do anything, but let it produce joy." ~ Walt Witman

There I was, standing in my little green kitchen on the afternoon of February 13.  I had just put the kettle on for tea, as the wind was howling outside and I needed to warm up after coming in from the cold.  A few days earlier I did this, and frankly I felt like my life was at a crossroads.  I was excited and scared and aware that I was on a new path; I just didn't know what it was yet.  While the water was beginning to simmer, I scanned my phone for anything of interest.  Hmmm.  What's this?  An email from an associate publisher at TouchWood Editions.  She introduced herself, and thanked me for the wonderful review I did of this book.  She also said that if I had any ambitions of writing a cookbook, I should get in touch with her.  My heart skipped a beat.  Maybe two.  It does that when I get really excited.  I re-read that email a few times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.  And then I called my mom.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kitchen Sink Cookies & A Farm to Table Lentil Tour

I've always wanted to stand in a lentil field.  That's a fact.  It may seem like an odd goal to shoot for, but if you know me, you know how much I love lentils.  They are a major part of my diet at home, and I love coming up with creative recipes for the lentils.ca website.  So when I received the invitation to go on a farm to table media tour with the friendly folks at Canadian Lentils, you can just imagine my excitement!  Me, in a lentil field.  It was going to happen!  I was also super pumped to see some friendly faces (Ethan, Amy, Aimée, and Dan) on my home turf.  Food editors from Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Style at Home rounded out the troop, and our leader was none other than Chef Michael Smith.  Yes, that very tall, very handsome chef from P.E.I.  I was in most excellent company, to say the least.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Warm Mushroom, Bacon & Lentil Salad

This summer is already memorable for so many reasons - many of which I'll delve into later this month - but one thing that stands out already for me is the HEAT.  Oh man.  It's been so hot in Saskatchewan.  And dry.  I heard someone say that it rained more in Vegas than in Sask last month.  Yes, that dry.  So, when it's super hot the last thing I want to do is turn my oven on - I don't have A/C in my house, you see.  I make a lot of big, simple, creative salads like the one I'm featuring over on the Mushrooms Canada Blog.  It has all of my favourite things - mushrooms (of course!), bacon, lentils, arugula, garden fresh tomatoes and a fried egg.  Makes a killer light lunch or supper, or even a hearty breakfast.  Go grab the recipe here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Twelve Things You Need To Make This Summer

I've been scrolling through my recipe archives lately, and it's pretty neat to see how far I've come since 2011.  It's sort of like looking back at your high school yearbook and thinking oh god I really had glasses that big.  Oh, but there's some good stuff hiding in these archives.  I've pulled out some of my favourites that I know I must make this re-summer and thought you might be interested.  The next couple of weeks are busy busy - I'm road trippin' to see my mom and sis and sweet nieces for a few days, then heading over to Regina to meet up with other food writers from across Canada.  Canadian Lentils is hosting us for a couple of days - we'll be touring lentil fields, and a processing plant and having a hands on cooking demo with Chef Michael Smith.  I'm beyond excited!  I'll be seeing friends I haven't seen in a long time, and I get to show off my beloved prairie to them. A grand adventure is waiting to be had.  That's what summer is all about, right?  But before I leave I wanted to share these hot weather gems with you.  I'll be back with a new post in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, Happy Canada Day to all my crazy Canucks and Happy 4th to my American pals.  Talk to you soon.  Renée xoxo

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dive In: Spiced Rhubarb Skillet Cake with Streusel Topping

"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you're 65, or 75, 
and you never got your memoir or novel written; 
or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years 
because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; 
or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing 
that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness 
and staring off into space like when you were a kid?  
It's going to break your heart.  Don't let this happen."  ~ Anne Lamott

And just like that, we've shimmied into summer.  My God, I love it.  All of it.  Tank tops and late night thunderstorms.  Warm pools and lakeside picnics.  Fireworks and flip flops.  Peaches and more peaches.  Road trips and just-picked raspberries.  Cold beer and warm hearts.  Toes in sand.  Tomatoes on the vine.  The evening breeze through wide open windows.  Ice cream, always.  A bonfire's crackle and pop.  The smell of a forest.  The sound of early morning, when it's just you and the birds.  Tall glasses of iced sweet tea.  A good book and some shade.  The laughter of old friends.  The glide of a canoe.  The call of the wild.  The sun's rays on damp skin.  Floating on water.  Staring up at the sky.  What are you waiting for?  Dive in.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Canning Kitchen: Salted Caramel Pear Butter & A Giveaway

I first met Amy Bronee almost 3 years ago in Wenatchee, Washington's small airport.  Both of us had flown in on a media tour sponsored by the U.S. Organic Trade Commission and we couldn't believe our lucky stars that we were seeing such a beautiful part of North America on someone else' dime.  Over those few days in September, we wandered orchards, apple packing plants, and Pike Place Market together, bonding over our love of Coronation Street and good coffee.   I remember watching Amy thrive in her element when we were given a preserving lesson at a Whole Foods in Seattle.   This lady clearly loved to can.   Amy's passion for preserves was so visible, I had no doubt then that she would one day write a book about it.  And you know what?  She's done just that!  The Canning Kitchen is being released this month by Penguin and I couldn't be more proud of this lovely lady I'm fortunate to call my friend.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Savory Broccoli, Cheddar & Sausage Scones

One of my favourite things about cooking is taking a look in the fridge and using up what I have on hand to make a meal, snack or baked good.  Others may find it challenging, but I get a thrill out of it.  Some of the best things that come out of the little green kitchen are creative takes on leftovers or ingredients almost (but not quite) off.  The whole mantra "waste not, want not" is key in my household, and also the smart title of Cinda Chavich's new cookbook.  Cinda is an award-winning freelance journalist specializing in food, wine and travel writing.  She's also penned 6 other cookbooks including my favourites High Plains and The Girl Can't Cook.  I had the pleasure of cooking for her on this adventure three years ago, where we bonded over pecan pie and prairie sky.  A wonderful lady.  And she knows food.  Her recipes are creative and inspiring, and her latest cookbook offering is that and much more. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Catching Up: Popovers with Sour Cherry Balsamic Compote

You guys!  It feels like forever since I've sat down at my desk and said hi.  How have you been?  Do you believe it's the middle of May already?  The middle of May!  Things have been bonkers busy since I last wrote... New job(s)!  More freelance recipe writing!  I had a birthday!  Throw in the annual gigantic yard clean up and there's nary a free moment to brush the cats and call my mom, never mind translate all that's been happening to here.  Please forgive.  But you know what?  Everything is so good.  So good!  Taking that leap of faith and quitting a job that wasn't doing me any good was the best thing I could have done three months ago.  I love where I'm working and who I'm working with.  I love what I do and I know I'm lucky that I get to say that.  It's honestly such a blessing how things turned out for me.  Somehow the puzzle pieces of life just fit together when they are supposed to.  You can't force things if they aren't right.  You just can't.  But when things slide into place like they were meant to all along - that's the business.  Am I grateful?  You bet your boots. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rustic Fig & Honey Goat Cheese Tart

"The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness 
of which you are aware." ~ Agnes Martin 

The earth is quietly opening up around here.  Today I looked at the teeny buds on the lilac bush in the front yard, and on the apple and plum trees behind the house.  Tentative first steps of the beauty that lies ahead.  It's been a warmer than usual spring.  Typically there should still be snow lingering, but it's been gone for a couple of weeks now.  Even the grass is beginning to turn green, and the cats couldn't be happier.  Their little mouths chomp down voraciously on the fresh chlorophyll until they eat too much and...we all know what happens when cats eat too much grass.  I too have the spring fever and can't wait to don a new pair of garden gloves and begin peeling back the layers of mulch in the flower beds.  I'm always pleased to see the fresh growth underneath.  I silently congratulate the perennials for surviving another bitter winter.  Like us locals, they too deserve a pat on the back for enduring another multi-month Saskatchewan deep freeze.  As the cats roamed the perimeter, I sat in one of the dusty patio chairs hauled out from the garage and turned my face towards the sun (I wasn't even wearing a jacket!) grateful for another season of fresh, happy starts. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rose Pavlova with Raspberry Pomegranate Sauce

"And the Spring arose on the garden fair, 
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere; 
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast 
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."  ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Springtime in Saskatchewan.  You never know what you're going to get.  Yesterday, as I was photographing this pavlova, the windows were open, furnace was off, sandals were on - showing off my freshly pedicured toes, and the cats were roaming the perimeter of the place, no doubt scouting for any animal trespassers.  And today it's a blustery affair, with dark brooding skies and a mood to go with it.  Furnace is back on.  As is the winter uniform of leggings, slippers and sweater.  A stark contrast to the day that came before it.  A season still trying to figure itself out.  Which I get.  I think at the core that's all we are trying to do - figure ourselves out.  Over the weekend I watched the HBO series Olive Kitteridge.  If you get a chance, I highly encourage you to do so, too.  It's lovely to look at - the opening credits alone made me crave a doughnut and the woods, though not necessarily at the same time.  It's a story of a family and a small town, of lasting love and the turbulence of life over the span of 25 years.  I love movies and books where the characters age and every five or ten years you check in with them to see how they're doing and how they've changed and mistakes they've made.  Love it.  I won't give anything away, but this series packs an emotional whammy.  The last hour alone made me weep like a baby because it took Olive most of her lifetime to figure herself out.  And it wasn't too late.  It's never too late.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Le Sandwich: Croque Madame with Dijon Béchamel Sauce

Sometimes a sandwich can make your life.  True story.  And it doesn't have to be a particularly fancy one, piled high with vegetables and herbaceous spreads.  Honestly, just give me good meat and good cheese, tucked between good bread with a little bit of butter and mustard.  Forget the tepid tomatoes.  Forget the lettuce unless we are pulling out the stops and feathering in some arugula.  I like it simple.  Mainly because of all the time working in professional kitchens these past 16 years lunch often consisted of that:  good meat, good cheese, good bread, wolfed down while leaning against a counter.  This is the kind of stuff they don't show you on reality TV cooking shows.  (Oh, if there had been cameras following me around all these years, the tales I could tell).  Even at home with all of the time and ingredients available to me, I honestly just want some sort of combination protein and cheese sandwich, be it bacon and brie, tuna and cheddar, turkey and Swiss and more often that not I want it hot and toasted, oozing cheese all over the plate.  Only this time, eaten while seated. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Coconut Chia Pudding with Bluberry Ginger Compote

"One could not get enough of the nimble air.  Every morning I wakened
 with a fresh consciousness that winter was over."  ~ Willa Cather

Well my friends, we made it.  Another winter finished and into the books.  I know, I know, there's still snow on the ground and flannel sheets are still on the bed, but for all intents and purposes, spring is here.  Hallelujah praise the lord.  And I just did a few jumping jacks, scaring the bejeezus out of the cats.  Spring is my most favourite season.  I love the whole reassurance and resurgence that comes with it.  Just like the blades of green beginning to poke through the earth, so do new ideas, dreams, intentions and goals.  Not only is it the equinox today, but a super moon and a solar eclipse.  There are good things happening up there in the cosmos and timing couldn't be better for a little system restart.  What do you want to do with all of this rebooting energy swirling around you?  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On the Cusp: Grapefruit & Olive Oil Pound Cake

"Just say yes and you'll figure it out afterwards."  ~ Tina Fey

Cusp.  I like that word.  It's defined as the point of a crescent, like the moon, and a point that marks the beginning of a change.  Like, Renée is on the cusp of a new era.  Holy shit.  The past couple of weeks, well, the past month really, have been really terrifying and exciting.  I did something either totally brave or bonkers, though I'm leaning towards the former:  I left my job without another full time job to replace it.  Bold, ballsy, bad ass.  I did it.  Not a decision that came easily or quickly - impulsiveness isn't quite my style - but one I brewed over the past few months especially.  I won't bemoan the reasons for leaving, though I know we've all been in situations that aren't working, be they professional or personal, and the time comes when a departure is required, if for nothing else than our happiness.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Braised Lentils and Chickpeas with Kale & White Wine

I love me a good challenge.  It seems like every so often I take a deep breath and do something tremendously brave that both excites and terrifies me, and no doubt keeps my mother awake at night.  Sorry mom!  I've gone and done it again, and fingers crossed I'll land on my feet like I always seem to do.  More on this little shake up in a future blog post when I'm ready to spill the beans, but until then you'll just have to hold your horses.  Speaking of challenges, I've entered a recipe into another Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge and I'm super excited for you to try it.  White wine, paprika, kale, it's a one pot little wonder that will have you licking the pot.  Or wait?  Is that just me?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Roasted Carrot, Parsnip & Thyme Soup from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. Plus a Giveaway!

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.  Isn't that just the catchiest name of a cookbook ever?  Thanks to lovely Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites fame, you now have another cookbook you must add to your collection.  Thanks to the generosity of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, I'll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader.  I hope it's you!  If you don't win (sorry!) one click on Amazon, and away you go!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For the Lovers: Meyer Lemon & Lavender Polenta Cake

"Love is a fire.  But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house,
  you never can tell."  ~ Joan Crawford

Oh, that Joan.  But isn't it the truth?  When we fall in love we never know how it's going to turn out.  Perhaps it will only last 5 days, or if we're one of the lucky ones, 50 years.  All those butterflies and gushy smiles at the beginning often end with painful wails on the bathroom floor.  Not speaking from experience or anything.  But that's the chance you take when you enter into a new relationship - it can go either way - but the main thing is you want to take that chance.  You need to take that chance.  For a life without risk isn't a life worth living.  Maybe you'll have a fantastic few days together and never see their face again, or maybe you'll have heaps of grand kids who come over every Sunday and bake cookies with you.  That's the thing about life.  You just never know.  So for all of you out there taking another chance on love, this one is for you. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Searching For Saskatoons

If you ask anyone who grew up in rural or small town Saskatchewan about Saskatoon berries, they have a story to tell.  I'm not talking about the conveniently cultivated U-Picks, where you park your car, grab your basket and head towards your allotted row.  Oh no.  I'm talking about wild Saskatoons - those grown on bushes along river banks, in coulees and on hilly farmland across the Canadian prairies.  For generations, the Saskatoon berry has been a hardy prairie food source.  Aboriginal tribes picked, dried and pounded the berry with dried bison meat to create pemmican, the preserved staple of their diet.  Settlers too relied on this nutritious berry to provide essential vitamins.  Fruit from the western species Amelanchier alnifolia resembles a blueberry, but anyone who has braved the prairie heat and countless mosquito attacks in July can tell you they taste nothing alike.  Saskatoons have a musky, almost almond-like sweetness; the sophisticated older cousin of the blueberry. Their deep purple skins and juice stain the hands as you deftly pick off the gnarled bushes.  It can be a battle, because of the bugs and the heat, but you pick, filling up one pail and then another, because there is nothing quite like the wild Saskatoon berry.  Baked into juicy pies or preserved in jammy jars of the darkest purple, I swear you can taste their history in every bite.  

I grew up picking Saskatoons, as did my mom and her mother before her.  In late July, we would get together with my Auntie Jean and my cousins and drive out to Where The Saskatoons Are.  Finding wild Saskatoon berries is largely by word of mouth.  Someone tells someone where there is good picking, and the directions go something like this:  go south down the gravel road until you cross a bridge, turn east at the old Miller place then go another two miles until you see a clump of trees.  Searching for Saskatoons is always an adventure.  We were stuffed into a mini van, squished and stuck together like sweaty sardines, Duran Duran on the radio.  Once the berry bushes were spotted, we were sprayed heavily with bug repellent and each given a four litre ice cream pail and told to pick, not eat.  As if.  More berries went into our gobs than our pails, proof being the purple teeth at the end of the day. Those Saskatoons that did make it into the pails were accompanied by twigs and leaves.  Not child labour at its finest, we were then set free to run around and scare off all forms of wildlife except the chickadees who stuck around, cheering us on.  Our moms, the two sisters, picked pail after while while they confided and laughed with each other. My Auntie Jean had the best laugh.  Loud.  Goofy.  Happy.  From the depths of her belly, it would come out and grab you.  Hers was contagious.  And then it was gone.  On a frigid January morning in 1988, the small airplane she was on crashed, leaving her children without a mother, and my mom without her best friend.  After the untimely passing of someone so dear, life is never the same.  It goes on, but the absence of the departed lingers long after their light has gone out. 

I don't recall picking many Saskatoons after my Auntie Jean passed.  By this time I was into my mid teens, and summer afternoons were likely spent chasing boys and sunbathing.  Fast forward to my 20s and I was living in big cities, going to University, the dusty gravel roads a long distant memory.  In my 30s, I picked a few times.  Friends of a friend knew of a spot.  That's how it goes, you see.  Now, I live in the city named after the berry, but oddly enough I have yet to discover where the wild Saskatoons are.  It's my intention this summer to find a clump of Amelanchier alnifolia bushes, perhaps along the winding South Saskatchewan River.  Oh but so many factors are at play for successful picking.  There must be enough rain in June to yield a juicy berry, that is if they have been fortunate to survive the common late spring frost.  If they've survived the frost and drought and birds who like them too, Saskatoons hang heavily, in purplish black glory for a few weeks every year.  If I'm successful in finding such a treasure, I'll be doing what generations of prairie women before me have done.  My hands, stained and sticky will slide the inky berries into the ice cream pail secured around my waist with a belt.  If I listen closely, over the buzz of the mosquitoes, perhaps I'll hear the long ago echo of children playing and sisters laughing.  The chickadees, cheering me on.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chocolate Pistachio Energy Bites

Energy balls, bites, bars, whatever you call them, are everywhere.  And rightly so.  They are full of protein, fibre and other healthy nutrients that make the body run just that much smoother.  If you have a food processor, you can make your own in no time flat, well, maybe just 5 minutes.  Save a few bucks and customize them as you like.  For my latest article in Culinaire Magazine, I created these little chocolate pistachio gems.  Dates, figs, nuts, and yes chocolate are major players here, so you know already they are going to be delicious.  These are great for a post-workout fix, a snack while you catch up on GIRLS or breakfast as you're running out the door.   Head on over here for the recipe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Start Me Up: Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Quiche

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice. 
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning." 
~ T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!
I hope 2015 is off to a grand start for all of you.  It's only been six days, but I can feel it's going to be a good one - I hope you do too.  I've been in full-on reflective mode.  A new year always does that to me; thinking back to what all transpired within the last twelve months.  Plenty of good things, the jump for joy good things, but also those moments that had me do the ugly cry and curl up into a ball.  Oh the agony and the ecstasy of life.  But somehow, we dig deep, and just get through it.  No doubt with a little help from our friends.  And chunks of dark chocolate and cheese; and new seasons of favourite shows (Downton!  GIRLS!) and the odd glass of red wine.  And whiskers on kittens.  You get my drift.  It's all in the details.  The minute, seemingly mundane things that make up a life, a year.  As the year flashes back, there's no need to connect the dots right away.  Oh but we try.  The thing is, with as much gratitude as we can muster, to recognize that each new person and experience is another dot on our map.  I hope your map for 2015 is full of all things beautiful and glorious.  Cheers to beginning again.  

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