Thursday, April 26, 2012


How does your garden grow? I doubt it is as it is for little Mary. 

As my previous neighbours and family-friends can attest, gardening has never been my strong suit. I have bad allergies and 30 minutes of weeding can, in the worst cases, lead to massive hives and an afternoon spent on the couch, snacking on benedryl. Despite growing up with an extremely avid gardener, Momma R, I never really took up the spade but spent my weekends on whatever volunteer commitment or working or doing just about anything else other than the dreaded weeding.

This year, I really wanted to be intentional about gardening and learning and growing whatever I possibly could. My foray into preserving and canning last year led to a 2012 goal of wanting to preserve more and more. And what better item to preserve than one that you grew yourself! The wonderful farmers at the market would still get their support from me, as there are many things that I would not attempt or could not grow here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Roasted Chicken

Every person... well, every meat eating person... NEEDS to have a go-to roast chicken under their belt. It really is a necessity in my mind.

It is the crowd-pleasing dinner party item. It is the feels-like-home meal. It is comfort. It's leftovers can become soup when you need the warmth or a cure. A pot pie, if you're so inclined. Sandwich filler. Or warmed with the veg and gravy of its first meal, to make leftovers something to be celebrated. I could and really want to go completely over the top on this one (if I haven't already). Any day when I need a meal that is going to warm me, bring me comfort, make me feel like home, and break bread with people... I think of a beautiful roast chicken. 

It is the simplest thing to add to your culinary repetoire and you'll never regret it. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eat Alberta 2012: Your Real Food Survival Guide

Eat Alberta 2012: Your Real Food Survival Guide was a conference that already had big shoes to fill. The inaugural Eat Alberta in 2011, A Celebration of Our Local Food Heroes, was a resounding success and left attendees just buzzing and eager for more. Albertan foodies bookmarked the website, diarized reminders, and were poised and ready to jump at the first word of the sequel. It was like Harry Potter meets the saute pan. 

While we waited impatiently, I can only imagine the fervour and frenzy behind the scenes as the organizers pieced together this next event and satiate the foodie masses.

Well, a few short weeks ago, the email announcement for Eat Alberta 2012 went out. In a panic, I got online and secured my spot in my sessions of choice (though I struggled immensely in deciding on just four). Then... I waited... April 14th received a big red circle on the calendar and the kids counted down to foodie Christmas. 

I was enrolled in... Mushroom Foraging, Macaron Basics, Artisan Cheese Making, and Sourdough 101. And I was ecstatic. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Family Dinner

I love family dinners. When everyone has such busy and hectic lives, it is nice to slow things down every now and again with a nice meal, some nice vino, and share some stories. Obviously, the holidays lend themselves to family time and, as such, family dinners. I was already looking forward to that bit. But we tried to take things a bit further this time and we collaborated to create a family dinner that really became a family feast, with everyone taking on a bit of the responsibility for the menu and creating something that was truly special.

After a brainstorming session, we shirked the traditional ham or turkey. While we all loved the thought of either, we wanted to push ourselves outside of tradition and really challenge ourselves... thus landing on duck as our protein. Needing some sort of unifying flavour or attribute, we thought to link our various courses and components through the orange, as it would lend well to sweet or savoury application. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Gnocchi is one of those things that I have wanted to attempt for a very long time but never ever have... for some unknown reason. I certainly try my hand at a great many other complicated things and, despite many failings, try again... (read: macarons). And I wouldn't even think to put gnocchi in the same category as the oh-so-challenging macaron. Yet... I have not made gnocchi.

Well. I have now! And I've even made it again. It's so easy. Like making a big batch of pizza dough, portioning, and freezing it. Once you freeze these little potato presents, you can have a great dinner at the ready in a few effortless minutes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nutella Swirl Cornmeal Cookie

I haven't made happenstance cookies in ages. Sure, I made Christmas cookies but I haven't just had a random idea and stared into the pantry, hoping I had the ingredients, in ages.

I had been sitting on the couch, wanting some sort of sweetie treatie, and knowing that our mainstay treat (an ice cream) wasn't going to cut it. I wanted texture, definitely. I also wanted something sweet but not overly sweet. Those two things, I was sure of. The rest... subject to the addition or subtraction of my pantry.

No peanut butter cookie here. No chocolate chips either. It's a very sophisticated cookie with its cornmeal crunch, swirl of nutella, and heady spiciness of nutmeg. Feel free to tone down the nutmeg... but I rather liked it at this level. Nutmeg doesn't often get the chance to be a star. It's usually a small grating or small pinch or its the supporting cast member to a cinnamon star. No supporting role here. It is front, centre, and bold.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Flavoured Salts

Lately it seems that a significant number of my dining out experiences have involved an addition of beautiful and intentionally paired flavoured salts. As an accompaniment, they have taken whatever I was eating to another level, further emphasizing a particular flavour or element, and enhancing the dish wonderfully. On a purely aesthetic level, they add something unique to the plating or presentation of elements, whether artfully scattered on the plate beside your food or in tiny little dishes set on the table.

Why just add salt when you can add a citrus salt? Or a curried salt? Togarashi? Chili pepper?

The basic principle is to combine salt and seasoning in your food processor or blender. Blitz to combine. I used a ratio of one cup of kosher salt to about two teaspoons of flavour (be that the zest or paprika).

I combined salt with the zest of one lemon for a beautiful citrus salt. (If you haven't let the zest dry, then you'll want to let the combination air dry before sealing it away.) Good on chicken or fish, all sorts of veg, your favourite salad... Momma R wants to try it on fruit, like a beautiful ripe tomato.

The combination of kosher salt and two teaspoons of smoked paprika yielded an incredible flavour addition to meat or vegetables (or as I raved before... with pretty hard boiled eggs).

The combinations are endless... but such a little thing can add so much to your dish.
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