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I’m all set. Well, mostly. I have to start this post with a huge thank-you to Virtual Vino, a small Calgary company that operates out of Rocky Mountain Wine, Spirits & Beer, which is next door to Long & McQuade, so I’m always poking around while Mike shops for drum skins. I ordered and picked up all this wine last week, after discovering last year that doing so made December far easier, and saved a ton of time and money. But what I really appreciate is that they’re familiar with what I do, and they reached out and asked if I could help spread the word about they do by doing more of what I do—coming up with some holiday food ideas to share with you guys-and they would sponsor it. Because what I do it fits so well with what they do – curate good wines and package them up in fun six-packs you can peruse online, order at an amazing discount (the kindContinue reading

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If you look to social media, you’ll see that food boards are all the rage these days. With the Holiday party season coming up, it’s good to know you don’t have to cook a whole extravagant meal if you don’t want to—you can assemble all sorts of tasty things on a cutting board or platter, or whatever you can scrounge up from around the kitchen. There’s totally no shame in picking up cheese, charcuterie, olives, fancy breads… it’s all about enjoying your own party, right? Our annual Christmas party, as I may have mentioned in the past, has a theme of polyester and cheese – throughout the year, friends text me with photos of garish polyester finds they come across at thrift stores or in boxes in the attic – “I found my polyester and cheese outfit!”. Polyester is encouraged but not required, as people tend to party hop on December weekends, but the one rule is that everyone bring a chunk, wedge or tubContinue reading

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I’m a bit ashamed to admit I didn’t realize what a big deal green onion cakes are, and have been for decades, in Edmonton. They’ve become the quintessential market and festival food, introduced to the city back in 1979 by restaurateur Siu To. I’ve been meaning to make a batch using the masses of green onions that nearly took over my garden, and when I finally harvested them all (and replanted the bulbs for next spring), I took his lead to make my own. Yes! If you’re not familiar with them, green onion cakes are these crispy, doughy savoury cakes cooked in a skillet, made by rolling dough out, sprinkling it with masses of chopped green onion, much like you’d spread cinnamon-sugar over dough for cinnamon buns, then rolling, twisting, squishing – there are as many techniques as there are cooks making them. The process seems complex, but is simple once you get the hang of it—roll, sprinkle, roll, cut, squish, roll—there’s no need forContinue reading

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Have you been watching Jinhee on Top Chef Canada? She’s killing it. She always does. I met Jinhee years ago, when she was cooking over at Raw Bar, and everything she made was magic. She’s brilliant and humble and generous and kind, and I love that she secretly switched from accounting to cooking but didn’t tell her mom (back home in Korea) until she made it to the helm in one of the best kitchens in Calgary. While they were building Foreign Concept, she won the Gold Medal Plates semi-finals (which she went on to win, by the way), by cooking out of her apartment kitchen. (The restaurant was still under construction.) She has brought home the gold two years in a row, and silver the year before. Traveling through Vietnam last year, she fell in love with this Hanoi street dish – Cha Cá Lã Vong – cooked in a well used tin skillet over a small burner. It’s the only thing this particularContinue reading

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We took off for Tofino for spring break – a quick trip shortened considerably by a bout of pneumonia (I know!), and with my limited appetite and the abundance of good food to be had out there, I wound up not cooking much. But it occurred to me that these have been sitting in my drafts folder, not shared due to lack of photos, which is a shame because pork lettuce wraps are fast and easy and insanely good, and fit the bill if you have to come up with something gluten or dairy free, or to eat with your hands in front of the TV (but you still want it to have some sort of nutritional value). I cook the ground pork (cheap!) and veggies in a skillet, add enough hoisin sauce and cilantro to make it taste good, scrape it into a bowl and stick it on the table with a head of lettuce (if you’re feeling fancy, separated into leaves) – it’sContinue reading

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Confession: I do not own a fondue pot. And yet there are few things better than a bunch of friends sharing a pot of gooey cheese. When people ask about my favourite food, my answer – not that I could possibly choose one thing – it would depend on the day and my mood/location/appetite and the occasion and season – is inevitably something that contains some form of melted cheese. (Most of the time.) It’s the sort of thing that elicits the most enthusiastic response when presented to a room full of people. And what’s easier to serve with beer and wine? It’s so universally loved, our annual Christmas party has a cheese theme – in no small part because I love having miscellaneous ends to nibble and turn into baked dips and mac and cheese all winter long. It’s a dream, of course, when someone requests that I take some Quebec cheeses for a spin, and ships me a box. We celebrated its arrivalContinue reading

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Last week at this time we were collectively stress eating – and cooking – me doing my best to distract myself in the kitchen, simultaneously trying to come up with something munchy-snacky-comforting we could eat on the couch in front of the TV, when this passed through my Instagram field of vision. A pile of nacho-style fried wontons topped with salty-sweet bulgogi beef, kimchi and cheese sauce. Brilliance? I think so. First of all: the crispy wontons, which are simply wonton wrappers, halved and fried in a shallow skiff of oil in a small skillet (you don’t need much – and they cook up in less than a minute) which transforms them into a delicious cross between cracker and chip. I am so keeping this technique in my back pocket for those nights when we need some salt and crunch with structural integrity – they would do well with a hefty, cheesy baked artichoke dip. Mental note.

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Somehow, it got to be November. For the past 14 years, I’ve spent this first week out in Jasper at Christmas in November, and I have to admit I’m going through some severe withdrawal. I made a list of things that have been hanging over my head for far too long to take care of with this time that would otherwise be spend driving/dancing/eating/spa-ing – organize the basement! organize the office! get teeth cleaned! sort out the garage while it’s still nice out! – but while I am making some progress, it wasn’t doing much to fill the hole left by the usual ten days of festivities. And so when I was asked if I might go pick up some things at Willow Park Village and make some party food out of it, I said hell yeah, immediately invited some friends over and went shopping. Willow Park Village is a bit of a haul south for me, but I spent a lot of time thereContinue reading

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‘Tis the season for garden parties. My neighbour-friend has one of the very best back yards in the world – small and brimming with herbs, food and flowers, a fence made of repurposed pallets, hung with old tires with waterfalls of flowers cascading out of them. But mostly it’s the lights she strung up that start to glow as it gets dark, and the friends with guitars, chatting and strumming, and the tables covered with food because everyone brought something to eat. When I have to bring something to a party, I lean toward baked cheese dips, because they’re the very best to share with friends. And because S lives just two doors down, I baked mine in my cast iron pan and walked it over with a tea towel wrapped around the handle. It was devoured in under five minutes, was perfect with gin and tonics and prosecco drizzled with rhubarb syrup, and I came home to email everyone the recipe.

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