Category Archives: Cooking

My Five: Favourite Online Recipe Finds

Macheesmo beef slow cooker tacos

I love scouring food blogs and online recipe websites for inspiration and ideas on what to make for dinner. I’ve made countless meals from many different sources and have found some repeat-worthy dishes that are definitely worth checking out! Here are five of my favourite online recipe finds.

1. Macheesmo’s Slow Cooker Korean Beef Tacos

We just bought a slow cooker and this recipe was our first foray into crockpot cooking. If every slow cooker recipe results in meat this tender, juicy, and flavourful, I’ll be taking that thing out of my pantry on a regular basis! With my favourite condiment, gochujang, enhancing the beef’s deep umami flavours and giving it a little bit of spice, these tacos were spot on. I can’t wait to scarf down the leftovers!

2. Pinch of Yum’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Rice Noodles

I only recently started following this ultra popular food blog, but I’ve already made a bunch of Lindsay’s recipes. Everything she posts makes my mouth water, and most of her dishes are high on flavour without being overly time consuming. My favourite so far was this asian inspired chicken salad – juicy poached chicken, chewy rice noodles, bright herbs, and a zippy dressing come together for the perfect party in your mouth.

3. Shutterbean’s Curried Chicken with Coconut Rice

This is a recipe I’ve made quite a few times, and I find myself craving it if I haven’t eaten it in a while. Cooking the rice and chicken along with coconut milk, aromatics, and some warming spices, makes for an easy one pot dish that will have you scraping for those brown bits at the bottom. It makes enough for eight people, but luckily it tastes just as good warmed up two or three days later!

4. Spoon Fork Bacon’s Blood Orange and Kale Salad

Just to prove that not everything I eat is asian-inspired, I’m putting this kale salad on the list. Actually, I’m putting it on the list because it’s the best kale salad I’ve ever had, and everyone who tries it agrees! I’ve made it more time than I can count and brought it to potlucks, work parties, and family dinners, and it’s been a hit every time. The tangy dressing balances out the bitterness of the kale, and the goat cheese adds the richness that turns kale haters into believers. I’ve tried it with a variety of different nuts and a few different types of kale, and it’s always tasted terrific.

5. How Sweet It Is’ Beef Enchiladas

I’ve made and loved a ton of Jessica’s recipes, but these beef enchiladas have probably been the biggest hit. I love how the tortillas slathered in chili-infused tomato sauce soften and absorb the delicious flavours of the beef, and the cheesy topping melts and browns beautifully. Enchiladas are the sassier sister to lasagna, and these ones pack a punch.

I’ve found so many other great recipes in the great wide internet, but these are a few that I wholeheartedly recommend. What are your favourite food blog finds?

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Easter Weekend at the Cabin

Drive home from Shuswap

I made the long drive home from the cabin with my brother today. It’s nice to be back in the land of wifi and reliable internet, but it was pretty hard to leave BC on such a beautiful, sunny day! We ate our lunch outside in Revelstoke in the warm sunshine and there was a brief moment where I contemplated staying right where I was instead of coming home to snowy Alberta.

Shuswap fire Shuswap wood pile Shuswap Julia breaking picnic tableShuswap vertebrae Shuswap buds

Signs of spring were all over the place at the cabin. Buds were starting to peek out of the ground and appear on the trees, and the dock was starting to float out in to the water as the lake level began to rise up to it’s lofty early summer levels. We did some work to get the outdoor areas ready for a new season of fun, including working in the garden and burning some leftover firewood. Someone also decided it was time to get rid of our old decaying picnic table so we got to do some demolition, which is always a good time.

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Shuswap canoeing

Although I’ve never heard him say it, I’m pretty sure that the cabin is as close to paradise as you can get for Benny. Instead of being stuck inside all day, he got to sprint along the beach and through the forest trails to his hearts content. Between my parents and brother and sister, he was pretty much lavished with constant attention, and he always had someone to play with. He even went for a canoe ride one day! With so much running to do and so many interesting things to smell, he was always absolutely exhausted at the end of each day. For a dog who seems to have never ending energy when he’s in the city, it’s amazing to see how truly tired out the cabin life makes him.

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Of course it was Easter weekend, so we couldn’t forget about the chocolate and amazing food. My mom came up with an elaborate rhyming treasure hunt on Saturday morning that lead us to some delicious goodies. I love that she realizes that her twenty something year old children are still kids at heart ;). That night we made an incredible easter dinner. The piece de resistance was a gorgeous glazed ham that came out beautifully moist and dreamier than I could have imagined. Can a ham be dreamy? I don’t know, but it’s the stuff that my dreams are made of. We also made roasted potatoes, butternut squash puree, kale chips, and steamed asparagus, which were all incredible as well. I missed taking a picture of the key lime pie we had for dessert, but trust me when I say that it was citrusy perfection. We always eat so well at the cabin, which, predictably, is one of my favourite parts of being out there.

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It’s good to be home, but I’ll miss the relaxed vibe, beautiful view, and quality family time until I get back to the Shuswap again.

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Brunch Parties

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I love having people over, especially when there is food involved. Dinner parties are the classic choice, but lately I’ve hosted a couple of brunch get togethers and I’ve really loved having people over earlier in the day! They’re usually a bit more casual, no one’s worried about spending a ton of time on hair and make up because you’ve all just rolled out of bed, and there’s no need to worry about appetizers or dessert.

Brunch Saturday twoBrunch mango mint lassis

Here are a few things I’ve learned about hosting brunch that you might find helpful should you ever want to give it a try.

  • Do as much prep as possible the night before. When you’re crawling out of bed in the morning, you want to have as little as possible to do before your guests show up. Don’t leave yourself a ton of cooking to do in the morning before everyone shows up and you will feel much more relaxed! Last Saturday, I made these baked eggs, which I’d made with success in the past, and I was able to do everything other than cracking the eggs in to the dish and baking them on Friday night. I also made these potatoes, which are always a hit, and I boiled the potatoes the night before so I just had to smash them and bake them in the morning. I also cut up a bunch of the fruit for the fruit salad so that I only had a bit of chopping to do on the day of. Zevi and I made a delicious baked caramelized banana french toast a couple of weeks ago that we just had to pop in the oven in the morning, which made things a total breeze. You never know what will come up, or how may cocktails you’ll have the night before, so being extra prepared is the way to go.
  • Master your coffee making set up in advance. Coffee is pretty key to most peoples’ wake up routine, so it better be on point! We normally use a two shot stovetop espresso maker in the mornings but that wasn’t going to suffice for a group of six people, so I had to use our Chemex. We’ve had the thing for years, but I’ve barely used it, so I was frantically googling tutorials and watching youtube videos on Saturday morning. The coffee turned out ok, but I wish I’d done a couple of test runs with the Chemex to get the system down pat beforehand.
  • Make something you love, but don’t be too ambitious. Your friends are counting on you to provide their first meal of the day, so maybe don’t try out that amazing looking souffle you’ve never made before that has a high chance of failure. Brunch should be fun, and you don’t want to be stressed about things not working out on a weekend morning.
  • Make something that doesn’t need to be eaten immediately. Things get a little unpredictable on a Saturday morning. Sometimes alarms don’t go off, or hangovers are raging, or people are just a little slow to get themselves out the door. Whatever the reason, it’s highly likely that someone you invited won’t show up on time, so making something like that’s best eaten right as it’s finished cooking, like scrambled eggs, can prove problematic. You’ll have more success and feel less stress with something that’s still great after sitting for a few minutes.
  • Most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff. I tend to obsess over what I’m going to make when I’m having people over, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but I try to remind myself that people really aren’t going to be that upset if their yolk isn’t perfectly runny or you burn a couple of potatoes. As long as you don’t give them food poisoning, your friends are going to be grateful for the opportunity to get together and chat above all else. Yes, it’s great to be mindful of the food you’re making, but in the end what you’re eating is secondary to the conversation.

The first meal of the day is often so rushed, so it’s fun to have the opportunity to sit down and eat something delicious in the morning. I’ve loved having people over for brunch recently, and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

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The Peruvian Cooking Experience

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On our last day in Arequipa it was time for some learning of the culinary variety. We participated in a cooking classs called the Peruvian Cooking Experience, hosted by hotel that was, conveniently, only a couple of blocks from our hostel. I’d been looking up cooking classes in almost every stop along our way but they’d all been way too expensive, so I was pretty excited when Zevi said he’d found one that would fit our budget. We had a lot of fun making two traditional Peruvian dishes with instruction from Lady (Lady is a legit name in Peru, as we were told a few times), the head chef.
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Four Foodie Things I Take for Granted at Home

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It’s funny the things you take for granted. Let me be clear, this is in no way a post expressing my longing for the comforts of home, because the very definition of travelling is leaving behind the familiar in favour of the unknown. But now that we’ve eaten in a few different spots and cooked in some hostel kitchens, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I take advantage of at home without a second thought. Here are a few of them.

1. Hot sauce: If you know me, you know that I am a lover of all things spicy. I like most of my food to be punched up with some sort of peppery condiment, and especially love those of the Asian variety, namely sriracha, and my all-time favourite, gochujang (thank you Roy Oh and Anju for introducing me to this delicious condiment). We’ve been to a few different grocery stores in Colombia, and so far there has not been one sriracha sighting. Considering that sriracha is almost as ubiquitous as ketchup in Canada these days, at least in the circles that I travel in, this is quite the shock. We’ve been lucky enough to have some great hostel breakfasts that have included scrambled eggs, but every time I eat them I can’t help but think that they would be so much tastier with a little of that red rooster sauce. I’ve seen and tasted a few other varieties of hot sauce in my time here, but none of them really measure up. These Colombians don’t know what they’re missing!

2. Free tap water: You sit down at almost any restaurant in Canada, and a gratis glass of water is pretty much a given. Sure, some restaurants are charging a dollar or two for fancy filtered water nowadays, but you’re basically guaranteed to pay a pittance at most for unlimited agua. Everything we’ve read has told us that the water in Colombia’s major cities is safe to drink, but free-flowing H20 doesn’t seem to be the norm in these parts. Perhaps we’re just not asking the right questions, and bottles of agua sin gas are usually in the one dollar range at convenience stores, but I do have a newfound appreciation for the bottomless water refills we’re privy to in Canadian establishments.

3. A well-stocked kitchen: Being on a three month trip means that there’s no way we can eat out for every meal. It would take a big bite out of our budget, and, as much as I love sampling new restaurants, it honestly gets tiring after a while. We’re generally trying to stay in places with kitchens so that we can whip up some cheap and easy fare for ourselves on most days. I love to cook, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so on the road, but things are a little bit different when you’re fixing dinner far from home. I can’t reach in to my spice drawer and pull out garlic powder and three types of paprika to spice up my taco meat. I can’t grab my razor sharp Knifewear knife and beautifully dice tomatoes with no squished fruit in sight. I can’t take out my julienne peeler to make zucchini noodles, and then serve them with a ragu that I’ve been simmering for hours in my dutch oven. This is all a bit over the top, albeit not completely unrealistic, but you really do have to be a bit more adaptable when cooking in a kitchen with questionable utensils and little to nothing in the way of pantry staples.

4. Vegetables: I often find myself complaining about the quality of the vegetables at my local Superstore. While they definitely aren’t just-picked-local-farmers-market quality, I think that my gripes will be a bit quieter now that I’ve had to try to shop for vegetables in Colombia. To be fair, the fruit in this country is far superior than what you can get in the average Calgary supermarket. However, the fresh veggie selection has ranged from poor to virtually non-existent in the various grocery stores we’ve visited, and as a person who actually (gasp) loves vegetables, this is a major disappointment. A girl cannot live on complex carbs alone, and I would sure love to see a head of kale on a store shelf. I won’t even complain if it’s a little bit wilty, I promise.

Colombia on the whole has been very good to us, and we’ve had some great meals here. I tried to fit my kitchen in my backpack with no success, so I came in to the trip knowing full well that we wouldn’t have the same culinary luxuries that we have at home. It often takes being away to make you realize how easy some things are when you’re at your home base. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of culinary curveballs will come at us next, and crossing my fingers for a few more vegetables at our next stop.

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A family dinner

The spread

One of the things that brings me the most joy in life is sharing a meal with others. Food is one of my greatest passions, and, to me, there is nothing like sitting down at a table with family or some good friends and revelling in the shared glory of a delicious bite. I love going out and trying new restaurants and discovering hidden gems in the Calgary food scene and beyond, but I get the most satisfaction out of having people around our table in our little house and serving food that we have made. It’s a lot of work to make a meal for a big group, but the effort is worth it when it comes time to enjoy it.

Appies are always necessary

Appies are always necessary

This past Sunday we had my family over for an easter/passover/togetherness celebration. My sister has just arrived back in town for the summer after finishing her semester in Victoria and my brother is also back at home after having worked at Revelstoke for the summer. It was a lot of fun to have all five of us (plus Zevi) laughing and chatting and enjoying each other’s company. There was even a singalong to Tiny Dancer with me on piano thrown in there for good measure.

The fam jam

The fam jam

Back to the food. I feel very lucky to be married to someone who enjoys cooking and eating. I won’t say that he loves it as much as I do, because my love for food borders on obsession (most of my reading material consists of food blogs, cookbooks and Bon Appetit magazine), but it is a passion that we can share, and for that I am very grateful. We worked together to prepare the meal we served on Sunday, and being able to share the work with him not only lightens the load immeasurably, but it also strengthens our bond. I think we make a pretty darn good team!

We started the meal with a traditional matzo ball soup. This is something that I first had made for me by Zevi’s grandmother, so it was really special to make it ourselves for the first time. There was a lot of time spent waiting while the broth bubbled and simmered, but that patience was well worth it, as we were rewarded with a subtly flavoured soup that was so much better than anything you can find in a can or a carton. Our matzo balls were fluffy and tender, and I would call it a pretty great showing for rookie chicken soup makers. I think Baba would be proud.

The soup

The soup in process. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the finished product.

The main course was brisket with crispy smashed potatoes and a simple salad. We made a home made bbq sauce for the brisket that really stole the show. If you haven’t made these smashed potatoes, I’m telling you, you need to drop everything and do it NOW! Crunchy on the outside and silky smooth on the inside, they’re everything you could ever want in a potato. I’ll be hard pressed to make them any other way now! Zevi made a spicy mayo with Franks hot sauce, chili powder, and garlic powder that was the perfect counterpoint to the salty starch nuggets.

Smashed potatoes ready for the oven

Smashed potatoes ready for the oven

Every time I have people over for a meal I am reminded of how rewarding it is to spend time preparing something for someone and then watching them enjoy the fruits of your labour (and enjoying it with them, of course). There are always lots groceries to buy and veggies to chop and dishes to do, but, in my mind, knowing that you did that work and seeing it all come to life makes it all the more worth it.

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