I feel like this a lot. A ginormous blonde girl growing awkwardly and taking altogether too much space in whatever room I happen to be in, all hunched and elbowy, sometimes with a bottle in her hand. (Which may or may not account for said feelings of ginormity.) I know you’re already acquainted with Alice, but here’s a new, edible incarnation of the story – Alice Eats: the Wonderland Cookbook. It’s here! I feel like this a lot too.

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Chocolate Barley Cake
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There’s something appealing about a snack cake, isn’t there? The fact that it’s relegated to the every day, rather than elevated on a plate for a Special Occasion – and it reminds me of those snackin’ cake mixes my mom rarely bought when I was a kid. (Thanks to her, I learned to make the One Egg Cake from The Joy of Cooking instead.) Also: I find a 9×13-inch pan liberating. A conversation about barley flour on Twitter today reminded me of this cake. (Yes, I talk about lesser-known flours – I commiserate with others who can relate to my cupboard full of ziplocks and containers and half-full bags of assorted flours and grains and beans and lentils.) We all tend to default to all-purpose wheat flour, but of the alternatives, barley flour is one of the more usable in my kitchen. It’s locally grown (barley is a significant Alberta crop), easy to find alongside the other flours on most grocery store shelves, high inContinue reading

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Lara bars 1

Second day of school. I offer this rebuttal: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! We’re making the leap from pie pans to lunchboxes. No biggie. It’s really not so bad – fall is my favourite time of year. I get all nostalgic and organizational and back-to-school pumped, without the teenage angst. (I’ve managed to hang on to my teenage skin, however.) Besides, right now I’m poolside (OK, the inflatable in my mom’s back yard that’s mostly a watery grave for hundreds of bug carcasses), Coke slurpee in hand, and the car thermometer reads 34 degrees. It’s still summer, despite these 6 1/2 hour interruptions in the middle of the day. The difference is I’m back to paying attention, to catching up and clearing out and organizing and noting deadlines in red on my calendar. Schedules constrict, expectations rise and all that. Aaaaaand I was just strafed by a sluggish wasp, who triggered me to grab madly for the bug zapper, upending my slurpee onto my laptop and into my shoe.Continue reading

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sriracha caramel corn 5
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Yeah, this happened. And I need to tell you about it. Although I’m somewhat of a wuss when it comes to spicy food, I always have a bottle of Sriracha in the fridge. It’s the red stuff that comes in a squeeze bottle with a rooster on it and bright green lid – known by those who aren’t quite sure how to pronounce it as rooster sauce. It’s spicy, but not overly so (about half the heat of a jalapeno pepper) and easy to use when you need to add a little kick to something. Anything, really. Even caramel corn. We used to make caramel corn ALL the TIME. It’s easy, once you’ve done it. Pop your corn. Simmer brown sugar, corn syrup (or Roger’s golden syrup or honey) and butter for 4 minutes. Stir in a teaspoon each of baking soda and vanilla, which will make it foam up like a science experiment and ultimately have a nice light crunch without sticking to yourContinue reading

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Jiffy pop 1

We ate popcorn for dinner last night. Having just completed three straight days of feeding the sci-fi celebs at Comic Expo (Gillian Anderson! Carrie Fisher! Linda Hamilton! Wil Wheaton! Ian McDiarmid! Weird Al! MacGyver!) breakfast, lunch and snacks, I could barely stand up straight and the dishes in the sink were piled up to about the ceiling, because we were crazy enough to do this before replacing our dishwasher, which HAS NO DOOR. And hasn’t since Christmas. Did I mention I also tested/foodstyled and photographed a cookbook in that dishwasherless time? (Aside: people keep coming over, looking at it, and asking – does it still work? Answer: yes, but it attempts to wash the rest of the kitchen at the same time.) I tore off the lid and the boys stared at it. “What is it.” (It was posed as a most unenthusiastic statement, rather than a question.) “Oh I know what that is – it’s popcorn. What’s everyone else going to have?” They thoughtContinue reading

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Barley Chocolate chip cookies 1
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When there’s nothing else you can do, bake cookies. I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the tiny kitchen of the palliative care ward my friend Rachael was in 5 years ago, for the strangers who shared our space for those days and weeks, who came and went and sat and walked the halls carrying hearts raw with sadness. We’d go downstairs to Starbucks in a weak attempt to refuel, and on one afternoon I kept walking, out the door and across the street to the grocery store, where I bought butter and sugar and flour and eggs. I rummaged through the kitchen normally reserved for families and friends of patients to store and reheat food brought from home, digging out a bowl, spoon and makeshift measuring cup. The apartment-sized oven coughed itself on, then released the aroma of baking into the stale hospital air, bringing with it a sense of comfort and calm. As I walked through the halls with a plateContinue reading

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When I was a kid, I thought only girls drank milk. This belief was almost certainly born from our dinnertime ritual: my mom would ask my sisters and I what we wanted to drink as we sat down to dinner. As we came to the table and sat in a row on the homemade wood (railway-tie, in fact) benches, she would say, “milk or water?” and usually we’d say milk, because it was more interesting than water, if not by much. My dad didn’t like milk. So most nights the four of us (two sisters, my mom and I) would drink milk while my dad had water. And then one night my uncle came to visit from the west coast, and he asked for milk with his dinner. It was so weird, this dude sitting at the dinner table, drinking a glass of milk like it was the most normal thing ever.

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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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