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Despite how things might sound, we don’t get out a whole lot, just Mike and I. Partly because of life and stuff, and being the parents of a 10 year old who would rather go to McDonald’s – but also because my job involves a whole lot of cooking. So lately we’ve been making an attempt to get out more, investigate new places and taste new things, and at the same time support our (currently stressed-out) independent restaurants. Of course eating out can be pricey, so as believers in both love and money we’ve been seeking out ways to try new spots without spending too much. Here’s how we’ve been attempting to maintain a manageable Visa bill.

Native tongues interior

They’ve been popping up around the city, offering great deals to bring people in before the dinner rush – we used to go to Cibo all the time after school (they have $5 pizzas weekdays between 3-5) but recently stumbled onto happy hour at Native Tongues, the new(ish) taqueria on 12th Ave beside the Beltliner Diner. Their happy hour and late night menu are available from 2-5 and 11-1, and you can get one of their antojitos (traditional street and market foods) and a beer for $15.

Native tongues interior 2

They make their own corn tortillas and everything too, of course. And the guac is amazing. But.

native-tongues-guacamole

I know it sounds crazy, but even though they specialize in tacos, the burger is my new favourite thing at Native Tongues. (Also: their donas -homemade glazed doughnuts.) I mean, just look at it – it’s smaller than your typical restaurant burger, with two patties, melty cheese and a brioche bun, packaged up with chips drizzled in not-too-hot sauce. (And when we went last week it was their Mealshare item. Bonus!)

Native tongues 3

That burger though. (And the red drinks? Hibiscus water!)

Native tongues burger

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buffalo chicken potato skins 1

For the record, I’m not a football fan. I am, however, a fan of the gooey-cheesy-crunchy-dippy food that seems to accompany it, particularly during the playoffs. I couldn’t help but get all caught up in it. I read somewhere that we’ll collectively eat around 1.3 billion chicken wings today, and it occurred to me that a potato skin would make the perfect vehicle for buttery-peppery Buffalo chicken topped with melty cheese.

So I combined the two.

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Puddle of chocolate cookies

Now that January is over and done with, I can trot out another batch of cookies, can’t I? They chewy, puddl-y kind that get even better if you leave the dough in the fridge and bake them off a few at a time, stretching them out over the better part of a week? I’ve become hooked on this method – of having a stash of dough at the ready to bake a few for those who could use some perking up, with the added benefit of smaller batches (read: fewer for me to gorge on myself). Bringing cookies is the best way to win friends and influence people, not least of all those who come home from school tired and hungry – and there is no electronic anything that will ever take the place of warm cookies welcoming you when you walk through the door. (It should be noted that this dough is just as delicious baked straight from the mixing bowl – refrigerating it for a day or two isn’t necessary.)

puddle of chocolate cookie dough
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Tuna Tostadas 1

I have a soft spot for the Earls Tin Palace of my teenagehood, the hip new restaurant that opened up on 4th St just in time for the ’88 Winter Olympics, when I was 17 and just starting to go out with my friends for cheese sticks, potato skins and mocha Kahlúa pie. Where we’d go as a family when we ate out, and which was gutted by mud and rebuilt after the 2013 floods. Lately we’ve been going for happy hour – for $3 sleeves of draught, half price wine and $2 tuna tostadas. This week they launched a new series of cooking videos – with recipes – and asked me to check out the first (tuna tostadas!) and give it a go at home. It’s not the sort of thing I normally make, which is part of the reason I was happy to give them a try.

There are enough elements in this recipe to dissuade the average home cook, but each is a breeze to pull together – and a few of them have shortcuts you can take.

tortillas

I do love cooking my own corn tortillas – it’s super satisfying to cut a stack of fresh ones into wedges and quickly fry them in half an inch of oil – all you need is a small skillet, not a deep fryer. As they turn golden, transfer them with tongs to a paper towel-lined plate and shower them with salt. Once you’ve done this, you’ll recognize the difference between warm, homemade tortillas and the packaged bagged kind, and will come up with excuses to make them all the time. (Try them doused in cinnamon sugar while they’re still warm, instead of salt! You can also cut them into strips to crisp up and scatter over soup or chili – and one package of tortillas goes a long way.)
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Alberta is a province of beer lovers, but although we grow some of the best barley in the world, until fairly recently capacity rules prevented small breweries from getting off the ground. Since the AGLC relaxed its laws, opening up the door for anyone to open a brewery if they want to, we’ve seen a steady flow of microbreweries doing what they do best. I love that so many home brew fanatics now have the opportunity to turn their passions into small businesses that bolster our local growers at the same time. There’s a new brewery tour that will take you and a group of potential new BFFs to a handful of the newest, even the smallest micro and nanobreweries around the city, traveling by cushy bus and even stopping for lunch along the way. Calgary Brewery Tours is the first of its kind in Calgary, a sort of grown-up crawl that’s fun and educational. At each stop, you get to meet the people behindContinue reading

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turmeric granola 3

I haven’t made an enormous batch of granola for awhile. I had been missing it. Not so much the jarful on the shelf as the panful on the stove, nibbled from by the small handful over the course of the day.

And then I was reading up on turmeric, that brilliant yellow powder that gives curry blends its colour and which appears to be a thing these days – another ingredient people are beginning to recognize for its nutritional prowess and find new uses for – and it occurred to me it would be a good addition to my usual granola. In its powdered form, it’s easy to work with – although fresh turmeric, if you haven’t seen it, looks a lot like ginger – it’s a rhizome; in the same family, but slightly smaller and with brilliant orange flesh once you scrape away the ultra-thin skin – much like an intense carrot. It’s not as sinewy as ginger, and so easy to grate or chop into curries or soup or simmer into tea. Turmeric tea – made with fresh turmeric or a paste of honey and the powdered kind, stirred into warm milk or hot water with lemon and a grinding of black pepper that supposedly aids in its absorption – has been used for centuries in cultures around the world to aid all sorts of ailments. Nowadays it populates Pinterest with such titles as MORNING LEMON DETOX.

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raisin bars 4

About a week ago I got onto the subject of church lady food – finger sandwiches and dainties of the I remember the small group of elderly ladies assembling on trays for my grandma’s funeral out in Ontario years ago, and I imagine have done on many occasions since – and it was decided that we should have a church lady-style wake for David Bowie. It was a pretty great way to spend a snowy Saturday night in late January.

Bowie wake 2

Late last year we assembled a sort of a cookbook club and called it Bite Club – it’s like traditional book club, only with food and cookbooks – isn’t the food the best part of book club anyway? So that was the group who came and brought egg and ham salad with pickles and mayo and the crusts cut off, cherry-cream cheese pinwheels, funeral potatoes, custard and lemon and Bakewell tarts, cookies and Shepherd’s pie and gingerbread, and an enormous tight pants peanut butter pie in homage to the Goblin King (and in reference to the state of our own post-pie pants).

Bowie wake 1

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Spice-cake

I love this old photo of a birthday cake I’ve been making for years – my mom and sister share a birthday, which was this week, and for as long as I can remember (since my mom was a kid, so far before that) they’ve had this spice cake with penuche icing. They’re the only ones in our family with a standard cake that cannot be strayed from – the rest of us jump from chocolate to cheesecake to ice cream cake to croquembouche – but they’re never even asked what kind of cake they want. I personally am a fan of the old-school wobbly layer cake slathered with buttercream. (We also have a tradition of making money cakes – with foil-wrapped coins between the layers. Is this a thing where you are?)

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bar-style-pizza-1

This! I ate it all.

To be honest, I didn’t really have a clue what bar-style pizza was until I happened to see a tweet from Serious Eats, and I happened to be starving, and the tweet happened to have an embedded photo of an ultra thin-crusted, cheesy, crispy-edged pizza in it. So I deduced that a bar-style pizza was more appy-sized, with thin, small wedges that were more convenient to eat with a pint. Thin enough to maybe fold in half, like people do in movies set in New York.

I thought I had a handle on pizza – I have my go-to crust recipe that I know by heart and like to make a day ahead to give the dough a chance to develop some flavour. I occasionally swap in a batch of chewy no-knead bread dough. I toss it on the grill sometimes, and I know the cast iron pan trick, and I’m down with pita pizzas – a staple of our childhood birthday parties. It never occurred to me to venture beyond the realm of my existing pizza knowledge – or to use a flour tortilla, which is far too thin and floppy. Right? Nope. Look at that edge! The secret: cast iron.

bar-style-pizza-3

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