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Even though buds are popping out in the back yard as we speak, I’m in a comfort food state of mind – and really, for many of us grilled cheese and tomato soup are about as nostalgic as it gets. I got it in mind awhile ago to take the gooey toasted bread that typically lids a baked French onion soup and apply it to tomato soup using cheddar, and save us all the trouble of dunking our grilled cheese sandwich into our soup. I mean, look at it.

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The squash are here! Oh all the piles of squash, arriving during the second week of school, at precisely the same time leaves start falling, some so big you have to cradle them under one arm like a small child. Sometimes, there’s such comfort in predictability. Especially when it necessitates wooly socks. I called this butternut squash soup, but it doesn’t have to be butternut, which is familiar and easy to handle, readily available, smooth and far more clean and manageable when it comes to peeling and cubing than the gnarly monsters you see in farmers’ market bins at this time of year. But feel free to use any kind of winter squash you like – even if you can’t identify it. And because peppers are piled high at this time of year too, it seems fitting to deliver a double whammy of beta carotene. Also? I’m trying to cut back on my caffeine consumption, and I’m hooked on having something warm to sip outContinue reading

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It seems everything, garden-wise, is coming early this year. Asparagus was a full month behind schedule, peaches and nectarines (the best I’ve had) were ready to go in July when we drove through the southern BC interior, and blackberries were already ripe when we arrived in Tofino. We’ve been coming out to the coast for about 20 years (my parents built a house there 10 years ago) and last year was the first time blackberries were ready to pick before we headed home mid-August. This year they were even earlier, and – there were chanterelles to be had. I went out to forage for them one morning with chef Ian Riddick and a few of the chefs at the Long Beach Lodge, and Anita Stewart, who was in town to celebrate Food Day Canada. I can’t share the exact location – foragers are very protective of their spots – but although it had been dry, we hunted for pale apricot-coloured caps among the decomposing treeContinue reading

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It hardly feels as if we’ve had winter this year – sorry if you live somewhere where it does, with blizzards and sleet and such – but I actually love the winter, sticky snow and sleet and all. The coziness of it, the open invitation to hibernate, the lack of pressure to get out and do something while it’s nice out. Not that I’m complaining about the sunny days either – people have been hanging out on patios on the regular – it just feels weird. February is normally soup month, and root vegetables and winter squash. And now suddenly it’s March! And this brilliant red soup – made so by the combination of orange squash (or sweet potato) and purply beets – is bright and citrusy with orange juice, or a bit earthier without. That’s the beauty of soup – you can toss whatever it is that needs cooking into your pot without much need for precision.

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I only have the photo I took of this soup with my phone – and not a great one at that. Even then it had already been pilfered, skimmed of its sliced mushrooms, which looked so nice floating on the surface, and of its green onions. There wasn’t much left but shredded chicken, torn cilantro and a few strips of red pepper, but still I have to share. (It’s far prettier here, my launching point, although not quite the same.) Mike looked up from his bowl and said, “you must be happy with this one.” I kind of love that it has no rice or noodles – no filler. Although you could certainly pile some into your bowl and ladle the soup overtop. My kitchen is humming slowly along.. I have an oven now, and countertops! But no backsplash, and there are issues with the fridge that prevent me from actually emptying things into it. But we have ice! I’ve never had ice in myContinue reading

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The last hours of summer. Time yet for butternut squash soup? It can’t go without saying that the novelty of not having a kitchen has officially worn off. It’s no longer like camping, and I’m tired of having cold noodles swishing around my feet when I have a shower. (On account of doing our dishes in the bathtub.) No longer nestled in the protective bosom of summer, when people expect you to be at the beach and not answering your email, I wake up early every morning in a full-on panic that it’s September! It’s mid-September! It’s almost late September! and then kick my coffee consumption into overdrive, thinking that caffeine levels somehow incrementally translate to productivity. This of course is not the case, and by mid-afternoon I generally come to the realization that I’ve had approximately a litre of coffee and half a muffin, and dive into a pizza for dinner, swearing tomorrow I’ll do better.

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Working for the weekend is never as fun as when the Expo is in town. For the past few years I’ve been charged with keeping the celebrities and their agents well fed in the gold room – the past 4 days have been a bit of a crazy fun no sleep cooking marathon, but getting to hang out and chat with Danny Glover (who – have I mentioned? – kissed me), Bill Paxton, John Ratzenburger, Matt Smith and the like made it totally worth chopping eight thousand bunches of kale (for this salad, which C-3PO loved!) and peeling about as many sweet potatoes for pots of soup I’ll tell you about soon. But there was another soup – ham and split pea was requested by Barry Bostwick – ironically, I think I’ve posted twice about the Expo, and both times it was pea soup by request. Previously by Tia Carrere. (If I were to guess what a popular food request from big LA movie starsContinue reading

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cookbook writer. No lie. I know I’ve told this story before, of how I learned to read with a stack of cookbooks, and have had a few (or more) beside my bed ever since. And how my heroes were Elizabeth Baird and Lucy Waverman and Rose Murray and Jean Paré – all of whom were Canadian home cooks bringing good food to the masses, pre-Food Network and interwebs. Times have changed… recipes are rarely clipped out of the newspaper anymore, but more of us (so many!) are writing and sharing them. They’re emailed/pinned/liked rather than written on cards to pass along, which is perfectly okay, but I admit I’m a little nostalgic about it. What’s the future of cookbooks? When Elizabeth Baird wrote her first back in 1974, 6 cookbooks were published that year. SIX. These days there are so many, and they’re all beautiful. I can’t keep up. And here I am working onContinue reading

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This cold has grabbed me by the collar and slammed me up against the wall. And yes, I’m resorting to chicken soup, spiked heavily with lime. Which comes in very handy considering how much stock I currently have in my freezer. In December I shot fifty soups for the next Soup Sisters cookbook, due out this fall via Appetite by Random House. Teams of other volunteers were rounded up to cook as I styled and shot, but while most of the excess was delivered to shelters, the short days meant a loss of light and many containers came home with me to be photographed in my kitchen. As you can imagine there was plenty of leftover soup hanging around my fridge. This one stood out – it’s simple and tasty – just chicken, onions and broth, no noodles to interrupt by slurplily splattering all over your chin, necessitating extra Kleenex. But really what I love is the crumbled feta and sliced avocado combined with theContinue reading

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