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It’s nice to have go-to recipes you can pull into service on those days when you’ve been invited somewhere for dinner, or someone could use a little cheering, or you want to score a few brownie points with your editors/doctor/teachers. Most of the time, I’d choose a brownie over a cake or cookie. But it has to be the right kind of brownie – dense and fudgy, with a crackly top. Generally I prefer no nuts in mine, nor chocolate chunks or chips, or even frosting. I like my brownies straight up, preferably warm, straight from the pan.

cocoa-brownies

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I know – it’s even more clich√© to compound quinoa with kale when January is still in single digits, but having eaten my way through most of the holiday leftovers, I’m now attempting to fill my bowl with things that are better for me than cheese and chocolate. (OK, I’m keeping the cheese.)

salad

Pomegranate arils (the juicy seeds, which you can eat whole) are common in grainy middle eastern salads, which I find gratifying to put together, and I’ve found if I have some quinoa (or barley, rice, wheat berries) precooked in the fridge, I’m more likely to use it. Don’t think of it as leftovers so much as dinner insurance. Or your own homemade convenience food. A ripe avocado in the bowl demanded to be used immediately, and kale is good and cheap right now – I keep buying bundles, then have to use it in order to reclaim precious fridge space.

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Miso roasted chickpeas 1

As the daughter of a gastroenterologist and fibre enthusiast, I have long been a fan of the bean, pea, chickpea and lentil. My BFF and I schemed up and wrote a book about them, in fact. (That I may or may not have ever mentioned won a Taste Canada award for best single-subject cookbook that year.) So I’m very excited that the World Health Organization has officially declared it the International Year of the Pulse – which is kind of a big deal. And a great thing for our Alberta pulse growers – did you know they grow in the prairies? In fact, Saskatchewan is the world’s #1 exporter of lentils. It’s true! (I love this Resolution of the General Assembly, with its very sincere and official-sounding words leading into each reason the world should love legumes: Noting, Desiring, Recognizing, Believing.)

Which is why I just got back from a couple days in Toronto – I went to help celebrate the launch yesterday, and catch up with some friends, and visit the Canadian Living Test Kitchen (squee!) and eat plenty of pulses.

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Kale & roasted squash salad

I know… it’s such a cliche to be serving up kale on the first Monday of January. But I had a bundle of dinosaur (or lacinato) kale in the fridge that needed using before I head out of town. I realize the last thing the internet needs is another kale salad, but I needed a kale salad. And I like kale. And I love roasted squash. And I love chopped, salted, toasted almonds scattered by the handful over things. And I had a jar of ginger-miso dressing on account of a magazine story I’m working on about miso. This is how dinner comes to be around here.

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Cheese fondue 1

My social media streams are full of skiing and skating, making me want to follow suit and hit the trails/rinks/slopes, but equally wanting to chip away at that pile I felt sure I’d tackle in comfort over Christmas week, in slouchy socks with spiked coffee and a half-eaten Toblerone at my side. It’s nice to feel extra accomplished by getting work done while on holidays, with barely a trickle of email, when you don’t feel guilty getting distracted by twitter and Facebook and Instagram because hey, I’m on holiday.

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Mandarin-Marmalade-2

If any of you are anything like me, you have a glut of Mandarin oranges in some corner of the kitchen, most likely because you, like me, keep buying them on sale and then running out of gumption to eat your way through that entire box. It turns out they’re delicious in smoothies, or pureed whole with vanilla ice cream to make a sort of orange creamsicle milkshake, but if you have a couple pounds to go through, it also makes a deliciously mild orange jam – not quite marmalade as the heft of it is juicy flesh rather than finely chopped peel – and if you stir a bit of vanilla in, it too tastes like an orange creamsicle.

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Eggnog-Irish-Soda-Bread-8

Happy New Year, friends! I’m back, still trying to fix this place up, but it’s an improvement, no? I hear the search functionality is not operating as it should, so I appreciate any feedback you can give as I try to complete this overhaul and get everything in working order.

If I could just call a time-out, that would be awesome.

eggnog-irish-soda-bread-2

But we still have to eat. The week between Christmas and the New Year we traditionally live on leftovers – chunks of cheese and crackers from Christmas parties, chunks of cake and tins of cookies that take up the countertop for the entire month of December, ham and turkey and mincemeat in the fridge. And eggnog – every year I buy it thinking we should have some, and every year no one drinks it. So I use it up in waffles and scones, and it’s perfect for baking with, being essentially sweetened, spiced milk. But here it is January 1 and I still have 2L of the stuff. It’s a dairy emergency. And when I have dairy emergencies – too much milk or buttermilk or yogurt about to be tossed – I make Irish soda bread. It can be made sweet, with eggnog and currants or raisins for breakfast, or savoury, with herbs and grated cheese, to perch on the side of a bowl of soup or chili, and it’s a welcome vehicle for mopping when it’s 20 below.

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Banff Avenue

Apologies for the radio silence – it’s been a crazy month, and I didn’t want to draw too much attention to this new space, to fully invite you in to poke around and give the grand tour, until everything in it was cleaned up and functional. (Hello, Christmas holiday project.) But honestly, it would be more like me to just sweep everything into the corners and open more wine in the hopes that no one will notice.

bear paw in banff

I’m also learning a slightly new dashboard while I go – and thought I’d start with a recipe-free post, before I learn my new plugin (that also enabled new search functionality – my priority!), and so I thought I’d tell you a little about Banff, if you aren’t already familiar with it, or even if you are. It’s one of my happy places – I’ve been driving the hour or so there since I was a kid, crammed into the rear of one of those backwards-facing navy blue and wood-paneled station wagons to go skiing at Sunshine or Louise. When we were lucky, we’d stay at the Banff Springs, and I still love nothing better when the weather turns icy and evenings start at 5 pm. While gravity and me are not the best of friends, who can resist an after-dark skate (or shimmy) on a frozen lake, surrounded by the rocky mountains? (It’s also an idyllic site for the ultimate toboggan hill, alongside.)

banff springs skating rink

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I’ve spent a lot of time in Edmonton this year – more so than usual – and because of this happy coincidence I’ve had the chance to eat my way around the city, which is a Very Good Thing. For a long time, Edmonton was known as the chain restaurant capital of Canada. This isn’t the case anymore – Edmonton is a city of great restaurants and farmers’ markets and local producers and coffee shops, and an impressive slowfood convivium. Some of my very favourite food people are doing their thing there, and I feel the need to share some of the things they make and do, in case you find yourself in Edmonton. I wish I could just tug on the highway and pull the whole city closer.

(Below are chefs Blair Lebsak of Rge Rd, Ryan O’Flynn of the Edmonton Westin, and Brad Haffner of The Local Omnivore, plating dishes for the A Seat at Our Table long table dinner about a month ago.)

Edmonton collab 2

Of course every time I travel, I spend more time researching where to eat – and what good coffee shops are easily accessible by my hotel or meeting places – than just about anything else, including planning/packing. This is becoming less necessary with Edmonton as I get to know the city better; whenever I go, I go to Corso 32 if I can swing it; I’m afraid I’m not doing the place justice with my pictures, hastily taken in a haze of good wine and hunger, but suffice to say it’s worth a visit. Even the plain pasta with butter and Parm W orders is better than just about anything I’ve ever eaten.

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