You may have figured out by now that it’s birthday season around here – as in most families, our birthdays come in clusters, most of them in January and October, with two double birthdays included in this month. This weekend was the end of the January run, as B turned 10. He couldn’t decide between cream puffs and cake (takes after his aunt, he does) and so I made sunken chocolate cakes, their concavity perfect for a pile of cream puffs. Let me pause here before getting into the sticky details of spinning sugar and dribbling chocolate to use this as a segue way to introduce a fun new series my friend Jan and I have been scheming. Although there is no shortage of recipes on this world-wide interweb, what we love most about food is its ability to bring people together; not just families at mealtimes, but extended families – relatives and friends and strangers connecting around food, whether it’s a celebration or anContinue reading

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I just got back from a quick (36 hour) jaunt to Vancouver that included the opening of Whitecap‘s hip new office in Gastown (around the corner from Meat & Bread! And Revolver!), breakfast with one of my favourite people at the new Forage in the Listel, lunch on the steps of the VAG with one of my favourite food bloggers, and dinner at YEW in the Four Seasons (it was also Dine Out Vancouver) with Ned (whom some of you may know I did a few seasons of a not-on-Food-Network cooking show years ago). Which all sounds very glamorous now that I type it out here, and I suppose it kind of was, except that I’m really not all that glamorous, even when thrust into a swanky hotel. (I hope that didn’t come across as a humblebrag, but people have been asking what I was up to in Vancouver, and that was what I was up to… that and buying far too much coffee andContinue reading

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Sometimes I procrastinate. Shocking, I know. I’m doing it now. I should be writing a story about French cooking, and preparing for a foodstyling gig tomorrow, and I have overflowing shoeboxes of papers to file beside be, and instead I’m flipping through old New York Times articles and calling it research. But it has paid off, I think: I came across this old (13 years!) Mark Bittman story about roasting an entire chicken in 30 minutes. Without use of an 800-degree pizza oven. And the practical side of my brain convinces me that I really should make note of this now, lest I forget, or lose track of what it was that grabbed my attention in the first place, and never get the life-changing opportunity to learn how to almost flash-roast a chicken. Besides, I always love new ways to use a cast iron skillet. In the fall of 1999, Mark Bittman tipped us off to his little secret: kick-start your chicken by roasting itContinue reading

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So, you’d like some Heartland Cafe Raspberry Yogurt Muffins, you say? I didn’t at all mind stirring up a batch – they’re a perfect fit with my coffee and carb cleanse. If you haven’t had them, these are nubbly muffins, thanks to the old-fashioned (large flake, not steel-cut) oats, but despite the quantity of oats they don’t quite come across as what you might otherwise envision as an oatmeal muffin. They’re hearty without being heavy; the oats almost melt away despite not having been soaked first, which many recipes do. I’m not convinced quick oats would produce the same texture, although I’m sure they’d be delicious either way.

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Those who lived in Calgary in the 90s might remember a coffee shop on a corner in Sunnyside called the Heartland Cafe, in the space that now houses Vendome. One of the most popular baked goods on the wooden rack behind the cash register, along with hefty raspberry yogurt muffins, were big, grainy cookies loaded with nuts, seeds and dark chocolate chunks – they called them Nutri-Cookies. The term nutri applied in a very 70s manner; anything loaded with seedy, grainy things or served with sprouts or yogurt earned that label. When I acquired the Heartland Cafe Cookbook from a friend’s mum, the recipe called for a cup of margarine and as much brown sugar – decidedly not nutri, but definitely delicious, with a wonderfully fine texture. And yes – loaded with good things.

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As I may have mentioned before, salads aren’t my forte. Although I know that virtually anything has the potential to become a salad, or at least an element of one, spread out or layered or tossed, I can’t shake the old lettuce-tomato-cucumber combo of my childhood. Juicy pink grapefruits -the best of the year- were 28 cents apiece last week, and so I bought four. To populate my fruit bowl, as it turned out. While I love eating them, I’m not a fan of fileting the things. In this case, extracting the segments released enough sweet-tart juice to make a vinaigrette, with a glug of olive oil, splash of rice or white wine vinegar, dab of grainy mustard and a pinch of sugar. I came across the salad of butter lettuce, pink grapefruit and avocado, three ingredients I just happened to have at the same time – at Not Without Salt. It pushed me out of my spring mix rut. The deep ruffles of smooth,Continue reading

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Too soon? I know, a lot of you are still cleansing and juicing and shunning wheat and sugar. And the cranberry-orange flavour combo is decidedly December. But after a few weeks of hiatus, cranberry-orange loaves make their way back into coffee shop displays. Or do they? Am I remembering the early days of coffee shop-mania when cranberry-orange loaves, muffins and scones were de rigueur? Perhaps flavours, like green tea and pomegranate and chipotle, become trendy like skinny jeans and Uggs, and then fall from glory. If this is the case, cranberry-orange loaves were so 1990s. It was always Mike’s first choice, and I haven’t made a loaf for years. And so I did.

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On this day in 2011, I saved a recipe for African tomato and peanut soup with chickpeas, and it has been among the 400 or so others in my drafts folder ever since. This morning, I saved another recipe for African peanut soup with chickpeas. Cycles, anyone? I think I may be becoming predictable – requiring thick, spicy soup in early January as a physical and psychological ballast against the chocolate high that was December. I like that this is hearty and creamy without being cream-of-mushroom-soup-y; peanut butter enriches it and the sweet potatoes, which have been cooked to the point of falling apart, easily melt with the push of a spoon, making a thick base for the chickpeas to hang about in. It could be done on the stovetop, but I tend to overuse my slow cooker when it’s out, rather than clean it properly and put it away. I’m lazy like that – peeling and chopping multiple veggies is somehow easier than washingContinue reading

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Ok. Where were we? Recipes have been coming to me this month, the same ones jumping out like targets at a shooting gallery, daring me to make them. Before Christmas, my sister texted me a link to a recipe for shakshuka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – an Israeli breakfast staple that’s similar to the Basque Eggs in Pipérade that blew my mind years ago and yet I don’t think I’ve managed to make since. It’s the sort of simple, inexpensive, easy-to-pull-together dish everyone should have in their repertoire to pull out on a busy weeknight. Wait, it is! In just about every other country in the world – just not so much around here.

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