Mac ‘n’ Cheese Surprise

You know, it never occurred to me to ever post my mac ‘n’ cheese recipe on the blog before today. I’ve been making it for my family for so many years that it just seems like an every day dish…and it is an every day dish, but it’s oh so good! Since there are no boxed mac ‘n’ cheeses allowed in this house I’ve had to teach each kid how to make it our way.pulledporkmacncheeseIt’s pretty easy, though not as easy as the boxed stuff and it does make a bit of a mess but really who cares? It’s so cheesy and good that when the craving hits, I would dirty every pan in my house to make it.

Lucky for you, you only need one pan!

My Mac ‘n’ Cheese


2 litres salted water

3 cups macaroni

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1 tbsp yellow mustard (or other as you like)

1 tsp smoked paprika salt and pepper

2 cups coarsely grated old cheddar cheese


Boil the water. Add macaroni and boil until it is al dente. Drain and leave in colander. Place pot back on stove and add the butter over low heat. When butter is fully melted scatter flour over and whisk until combined. Add milk and whisk until no chunks of flour remain. Whisk occasionally until sauce starts to thicken. Add mustard, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.  Add cheese and whisk until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Return pasta to cheese sauce and stir well.macncheese

Now for the surprise…this mac ‘n’ cheese has a layer of spicy sweet pulled pork. Oh yeah.


I just happened to make slow cooker pulled pork yesterday and I had a tiny bit left over. Though I usually like my mac ‘n’ cheese straight up, I thought if I could combine it with pulled pork it could become something really special. Now here’s the thing. I never use a recipe for my pulled pork. I make it different every time throwing whatever suitable ingredients I have in the kitchen into the crock pot. There has been the odd time that the pulled pork wasn’t up to standards but mostly it turns out just fine. Here’s what I think I did for yesterday’s pulled pork.

Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker


4lb/2kg boneless pork shoulder

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic; minced

2 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 diced onion

3 mild banana peppers; seeded and cut into rings

1 small green chile pepper; seeded and minced

1 pickled jalepeno; cut into rings

1 peach; peeled, pitted and diced.

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup barbecue sauce (the one I used had a nice maple flavour)


Make a paste out of the oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and rub it into the pork shoulder. Brown all sides in a hot frying pan then place in slow cooker. Add diced onion, peppers, and peach. Mix up the remaining ingredients (including garlic) and pour over top of the pork shoulder. Cook on high for at least six hours then remove pork from the slow cooker and shred inside a pan. Cover with foil and keep warm as you reduce the liquid in a separate pot. When you think the liquid has been reduced enough, pour over pulled pork and serve.

To make the Mac ‘n’ Cheese Surprise, spread a small layer of mac ‘n’ cheese in the bottom of a tall ramekin. Add a layer of pulled pork, then another of mac ‘n’ cheese. Top with breadcrumbs and shredded old cheddar. Bake in 350 F oven for 30 minutes.

Blueberry Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs

So far this season I have bought 4 whole cases of British Columbia grown blueberries. I haven’t had much of a chance to do anything with them as they get eaten within a couple days of purchasing. Previously it was only my husband and I that like blueberries but now that my daughter has gotten over her perceived distaste for them, I have a difficult time keeping them in the house.

It’s really an unfortunate situation because I have so many plans for them! I would like to make a Blueberry Tart or maybe a Blueberry Gin Fizz, like One Tough Cookie did (isn’t that the best Blog name ever?).

Why not just make a whole meal out of blueberries? Serve the Blueberry Gin Fizz with this Grape and Blueberry Salsa grapesalsaThen enjoy the Blueberry Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs with a Blueberry Mango Quinoa Salad from This Fox Kitchen. This outstanding Blueberry Lavender Crème Brûlée by Wanda of Baker’s Beans would be the perfect end to any summer dinner.

A summer’s dinner of blueberry perfection. What would you do with a case of blueberries?

Blueberry Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs


8 beef short ribs

2 red onions; sliced

4 garlic cloves; chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp peppercorns

2 tsp coffee bitters (optional)

2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar

2 cups red wine (I used Shiraz)

1 cup beef stock

2 cups blueberries

1/4 cup brown sugar

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves


Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown in a heavy braising pan, then remove. Add onions and sauté until soft. Deglaze with wine until alcohol has cooked off. Add rest of the ingredients to pan. Cover and bake in 350 F oven for 3 hours. Serve with potato mash or polenta. blueberryribs

Ravenswood Brings the Big Zins to Stampede City

I took the c-train down to the city core, heading to a place I swore I’d never go…downtown during Stampede. As I peeled myself off of the sticky train seat and stepped out into the dense city heat, I could already hear the whoops and hollers mixed with the sound of country fiddling and clapping. Stampede is not my favourite time of the year but I do appreciate that it’s a part of our history and heritage.

Many businesses rely on the influx of out of town curious Stampede virgins and experienced Stampede goers, for many it’s revenue essential for survival. As an experienced Stampede fan, Joel Peterson doesn’t like to miss the party. The co founder, general manager, and winemaker of Ravenswood Winery  brought his ‘Big Zins’ from Sonoma, California to Calgary and hosted one heck of a Zinfandel roundup at The Cellar Wine Store.

As we sat around the table, I could almost imagine being around a camp fire, listening to the stories about how Joel grew up with parents who instilled in him a love for great wines and the ability to evaluate the characteristics during tasting. He went from being a microbiologist working in a lab in 1976 to one of the most outspoken members of the California wine industry today. Known as the ‘Godfather of Zin’, Joel (who is a relatively strict vegetarian) loves this robust red variety and focusses mainly on letting this varietal shine.

The Zinfandel vines supposedly arrived in New York in 1829 and the first plantings in California occurred in 1852. Today it is the second most planted red wine grape in California after Cabernet Sauvignon. It is most often planted (and blended) with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alichante Bouchet, Syrah, and Grenache. zinfandelWhile Joel spoke, we had the opportunity to try several of his delicious Zinfandels and none of them were ‘wimpy’. He likes to make his wines on the dry side with the alcohol content between 13.5-15 ABV. Three of the wines we tasted (2012 Ravenswood Tedeschi Vineyard Zinfandel, 2012 Ravenswood Barricia Vineyard Zinfandel, and 2012 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel) contained a majority of Zinfandel grapes (over 75%) blended with Carignane, Petit Sirah, and some mixed blacks. The common factors of using the same winemaker and the same grape varietal allow each bottle to reflect the terroir of the vineyard in which the grape was produced (Tedeschi, Barricia, and Belloni Vinyards).

As a contrast we also tasted a 2012 Icon Mixed Blacks single vineyard with only 21% Zinfandel, and a 2011 Pickberry Red which is more of a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec blend. As a special treat, Joel also brought a magnum of his 1994 Pickberry Red for us to taste. It was a special year for me as that was the year I became a mom…thereby increasing my need for wine. The universe is a funny thing.

While we didn’t have any food pairings, we did have a marvellous three course lunch catered by Chef Chris Grafton from Swine and Sow. We began with a Hotchkiss beans, heirloom tomato, smoked Gouda, roasted peppers salad with a basil purée. I thought the smoked gouda was a great addition and it went really well with the Icon. Our second course was so amazing I am still thinking about it…Maple espresso braised Angus Shortrib! Absolutely wonderful! The Summer Berry Pavlova was a wonderful way to finish the event.

JoelandmeI went home with a new appreciation for Zinfandel and for the patience and enthusiasm the winemaker puts into every bottle of wine. I also went home with my very own bottle of limited release 2013 ‘Besieged’ and some great swag which included a Ravenswood limited edition Stampede cowboy hat. I’ll think of Joel every time I wear it.

Native Tongues Taqueria

Last Wednesday I got tired of drooling over everyone’s instagrammed taco platters and decided to do something about the mean taco craving I have had since Native Tongues Taqueria opened on Canada Day. Hubby and I were on 17th last week, only a short five block walk from Native Tongues Taqueria located at 235 12th Ave SW. I thought that maybe they wouldn’t be too busy on a Wednesday night but boy was I wrong! We were told the wait might be as long as 45 minutes but since we had had a few recent nibbles, hubby hadn’t yet reached the pinnacle of his ‘hangry mode’. We added our names to the wait list. Our wait outside was rather pleasant as the weather was really gorgeous and after only about 20 minutes we were called inside and seated at one of the long communal tables.

This is a serious taco stand. The chairs are not ‘stay all night’ comfortable and you get to know your neighbours quite well. That said, there is a lot going on with the space, making it a feast for the eyes. The whole space is ‘creatively distressed’ with tinny Mexican style and decorated longhorn skull wall hangings. The distressed turquoise walls make a stark contrast to the blue and white tiled portions around the kitchen and bar areas and the height adjustable Grillworks artisanal grill is definitely a show stopper.

The menu is one long sheet of paper with ordering spaces on the end of each dish listing. You are meant to indicate how many of each dish you would like, bearing in mind that since the tacos range from $3.75-$4, this price should reflect that they are single tacos. Don’t be like the people next to us and order one of each and then wonder why you only get a small platter of tacos. There are also larger dishes, like the Barbacoa de Cordero (slow roasted lamb neck) and Chorizo Verde (house made herb and green chile sausage) that are meant more for sharing with a group. These larger dishes come with a stack of non-GMO corn tortillas made in the traditional way by chefs Cody Willis (founder and co owner), Ryan McNamara, Scott Beaton and JM Mailloux. Every day they take 20 kg of corn and soak it in an alkaline solution to remove the outer hull. The resulting kernels are dried, then ground into masa which is the traditional corn flour used for making tortillas. The freshness and authenticity are evident in the finished product because these tacos are indeed, outstanding.

We chose to ease into our feast by ordering the Chips y Guacamole, Elotes, and Esquites. I am awfully picky about my guacamole and this one was the stuff of legends, being deliciously creamy with a slight flavour of onion and lime; all topped with fresh jalapeños AND enough tortilla chips to finish the dip. Absolutely perfect.

guacamole2Chips y guacamole

I’m glad we tried both the Elotes and Esquites even though they seem to be essentially the same dish; the largest difference was that the corn kernels were left on the cob for the Elotes. They both had a similar crema/mayo sauce and were topped with queso, chile, cilantro, and lime.

corncollageEsquites y Elotes

Then came the tacos. We ordered one of each except for the Frijoles (next time…I promise!).  They came with salsa verde and salsa rojo and each had a substantial amount of filling for the size of the tortilla.

tacoplatterCrappy cell phone taco shot. Top left to bottom right: Hongos (mushroom), Lengua (beef tongue), Chorizo con Papas, and Carnitas (confit pork)

After those dishes, hubby declared himself full and I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to try more dishes, especially the grilled octopus (Pulpo). I guess that leaves some new dishes for the next time we visit and we will go again because I can’t stop thinking about their perfect margaritas, made with mezcal instead of tequila.

Native Tongues Taqueria

 235 12 Ave SW, Calgary

(403) 263-9444

No reservations

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Dinosaur Eggs AKA Spicy Meat Bombs

Sometimes you just find the best thing on the internet. Whether you’re into cat videos or ‘Hey Girl’ memes there always seems to be something for everyone. Want to waste an hour looking at Food Porn? No problem there’s always Tastespotting. Want to learn how to frost a cake in 5 easy steps? Pinterest is your friend. One of my favourite ways to kill time (if I have any to spare) is to check out blogs that are recommended by other blogs. It’s always a great way to pick up writing, cooking, and eating trends from across the country or around the world.

One of the most recent blogs that I found through a friend’s blog is Tony Meets Meat. Highlighting a no nonsense/no frills love of barbecue, this blog was really a refreshing change for me. With all my recent attention focussed on getting great vegan related recipes and in eating more healthy in general it was a refreshing change of pace. Our son’s birthday allowed me a little more freedom to go ‘hog wild’ and when I saw Tony’s post on Armadillo Eggs I knew that I just had to give them a try. I’m not one of those people that has to make tried and true recipes for company…if a dish sounds good to me I just make it. So far I’ve had pretty good luck with this philosophy.

I didn’t really follow much of a recipe, more like a ‘how to’ guide.

meatbombsThe Ingredients

Basically you buy fresh jalapeños, cut the stem end off and scrape the innards (including seeds) out. I used cream cheese in mine because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy velveeta. To stuff the jalapeños, I cut a strip off a block of Philadelphia cream cheese and inserted it into the jalapeño. Then I wrapped the jalapeño in fresh chorizo sausage. As an estimate I used approximately one chorizo sausage per jalapeño but I guess it depends on the size of your jalapeños. Try to make sure there are no cracks and the jalapeño is completely sealed by the chorizo. Then wrap a piece of bacon around the whole thing. dragoneggsI put my meat bombs on Aluminium trays and barbecued them for about an hour, maybe a bit longer. dinosaureggsThen I brushed barbecue sauce all over them and left them on the heat for another 10 minutes. Meatbombs1

I was a bit worried they might be too spicy for our guests but they turned out to have just the right amount of spice…except for the one the birthday boy had. He claims I gave him the spiciest one but I secretly think he was ‘more delicate’ than usual as he was hurting a bit from going out with his buddies the night before.

Grape and Blueberry Salsa

We haven’t really had a chance to get out of the city yet this summer. I know, it’s a really short window of opportunity here in Canada and not being able to go anywhere has definitely been frustrating. Sometimes I feel like this summer is slipping away due to work obligations and keeping up with official health services treatment for our daughter. It means a lot of trips to the Alberta Children’s Hospital and not a lot of fun trips out of the city. Today we dropped off the Pathfinder for some extensive work and it’s generally our ‘play’ vehicle…the one we use to pack up the gang to go for a weekend hike or camping trip. So really…we are stuck here but trying to make the best of things and keep busy/social by inviting friends and family over for backyard barbecues.

Yesterday happened to be our oldest son’s 21 st birthday. It hardly seems fair that our time with him has been so short…21 years has gone by in a flash! He was a great kid, very patient with us young and inexperienced parents. He has turned out to be a hard working, responsible young man. Sometimes maybe I wish he was a bit less hard working as we hardly ever see him and…speaking as someone who became a young mother and skipped ‘the 20’s’ I just don’t want him to miss out on what can sometimes be the most interesting decade of life. He’s always been one of those ‘inside the box’ thinkers. For his party, I invited his fiancée and her parents over for a backyard barbecue and asked him what I should serve. He chose the chili rubbed ribs I’ve been making for at least ten years and Grandma Kyle’s Frozen Ice Cream Cake for dessert. As the ribs are a family favourite I never, ever alter the recipe but one traditional dish on the menu was enough for me. I was able to tweak the ice cream cake recipe ever so slightly while still honouring his request.   Our meal was a mix of ‘inside the box’ with a little crazy thrown in and this salsa was part of the unexpected, but fun components of our barbecue.  It’s sweet and spicy and perfect dipping for a hot summer’s day at home.grapesalsa2

Grape and Blueberry Salsa


5 cups seedless green, red or mixed firm grapes

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 small jalapeño; seeded and very finely diced

1/4 onion; very finely diced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 bunch cilantro; chopped


Combine the onion and red wine vinegar and let sit while you cut the grapes into eights. Yes, it’s tedious but this is a salsa and it needs to go on a tortilla chip later. There’s a lot of fine dicing in this recipe but it’s worth it, especially when we’re talking jalapeños. grapesalsa1After the dicing is done, combine all the ingredients together and enjoy with tortilla chips.grapesalsa

Pork and Mango Red Coconut Curry

There are many meals that I make for my family that I don’t share. Does that surprise you? The truth is not every dish comes out looking fabulous or even edible for that matter. Not everything tastes perfect either…far from it! I am a firm believer in the saying ‘we eat with our eyes first’ and if you’ve ever raised a toddler you know that the first thing they do is scan the food and then decide if they will eat it or not…it is truly a behavioural function of our evolution. Naturally, when I choose a dish to blog about, it has to check all three boxes:

  1. It has to look appealing. Do you want to grab a fork or spoon and go for it?
  2. It has to taste good. Take a quick scan of my blog…do you see any recipes for broccoli? I happen to hate broccoli and have yet to find a recipe that will make me enjoy this vegetable. I blame my mother.
  3. It has to be achievable both in skill level and completed in the amount of time I have to feed my family. I’m not a trained chef, just an adventurous and enthusiastic home cook.

Over the course of the last three years my approach to finding ideal recipes has changed somewhat. Now that my daughter is vegan I look for dishes that can be easily altered to suit both a vegan diet and a non vegan diet. This pork and mango red coconut curry ticked all those boxes and was easily converted for her vegan diet.

I had three pork steaks in the fridge and the remains of a case of mangoes that I had picked up last Friday at the farmer’s market. We were doing pretty good just eating them as they were but with three left I knew they would need to be eaten sooner rather than later. I started a google search for Pork and Mango curry but none of the recipes that popped up caught my eye, so I directly searched a few blogs that I enjoy reading…turning up nothing. I used Pinterest as a last resort. When I search for a recipe, this isn’t always the order in which it happens…sometimes I use Pinterest first. After all, if we eat with our eyes, using a visually based social media platform to search out recipes is ideal. I found this lovely photo of a Thai Red Curry with Shrimp and Mango from MJ and Hungryman and thought it would be a good recipe for vegans and non vegans alike.

mangocurryPork and Mango Red Coconut Curry

  • 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk (Do not shake!)
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced into ½ inch cubes.
  • 3 pork steaks
  • 2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and and puréed. Save mango pits.
  • 1 red pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 3 lime leaves, bruised


  1. Scoop the cream at the top of the can of coconut milk (about halfway down), and add it to a large fry pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in curry paste and turn heat down to low. Simmer, without stirring, until fragrant and coconut cream starts to release oil, about 3-5 minutes. Add the rest of coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add mango pits and sweet potato cubes. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Take out the vegan portion here and set aside.
  2. In another pan sauté red pepper strips until just cooked. You could also add any other vegetable into the quick sauté… zucchini would be perfect (because my vegan loves them!) but I am allergic so I tend to avoid adding them. Add a portion of the peppers to the vegan red curry sweet potato and set aside the rest.
  3. Add pork steaks to the hot pan and brown each side making sure to season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and chop the pork into bite size portions. Add pork, red peppers, and puréed mango to the sauce in the large frying pan.
  4. Season with fish sauce and sugar (taste curry and add more fish sauce if desired). Add Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves, and remove from heat.
  5. Serve with rice. For the vegan portion, you can add whatever vegetables you would like or simmer in a 1/2 can of chickpeas or any bean for an extra hit of protein.




Blueberry Crumb Cake – Cool Summer Days Are Meant For Baking

Last week was a blessed, blessed reprieve from the unnaturally hot summer that we have been having here in Alberta and on much of the prairies. It felt so good to throw all the windows open early in the morning and not have to worry about running around and closing everything all up once the outside temperature overtook the temperature indoors.  It also felt good to get some cooking done. The first thing I did was pre heat the oven so that I could bake Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Crumble Cake. I had seen the cake on their Instagram feed and thought that would be a great way to use up all the blueberries I had. Once I started reading the comments I wasn’t so sure. One baker pointed out that flipping a crumb topped cake out of a cake pan was risky business and ended up with quite a mess in her kitchen. I reread the recipe and decided that since they were lining the cake pan with parchment paper, I could use a spring form pan and skip the flipping entirely.

I loved how decadent and thick the batter was when I plopped it into the pan. I couldn’t resist licking the spoon and bowl afterwards and to me, that is the mark of a good cake to come.blueberrycrumbcake1

Blueberry Crumb Cake (via Smitten Kitchen)

Preheat oven to 375 C. Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with a traced circle of parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan.

For the crumb:

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients together then cut in butter to make coarse crumbs. Set aside.

For the cake:

2 cups minus all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 2 2/3 cups fresh blueberries, clean and dry
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (55 grams) walnuts, chopped medium fine (optional but very tasty!)

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. With a mixer, beat butter, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add 1/3 dry ingredients and mix slightly, then add 1/4 cup milk and mix again. Repeat additions, alternating dry and wet, ensuring that you finish with the dry ingredients. Fold blueberries into thick batter until they are evenly distributed. Plop batter into pan and smooth surface as evenly as possible. Scatter chopped walnuts, if using, then sprinkle crumb mixture over the entire surface.

Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool slightly on a rack, then release the sides of the spring form and cool further. Or eat it. Whatever floats your boat.blueberrycrumbcake

At first I felt guilty about having a piece for breakfast the next day but then I just convinced myself that this cake is really just a large muffin in disguise.


Chickpeas in Star Anise and Date Masala (Vegan/Non Vegan Options)

Now that my daughter has turned vegan, and I specifically use that phrase ‘turned vegan’ because it makes me smile to think of her turning vegan after being bit by another vegan (let that sink in for a moment), she and I are constantly on the lookout for delicious dinners that can easily be modified to be vegan or to which meat protein can be added. Both of us keep an eye out on social media channels and alert each other when we find a dish that seems a likely candidate. She (celestialotter) is an avid Instagrammer (as am I) and one of her favourite local Instagram profiles to follow is ourdailybrett. Our Daily Brett is a purveyor of unique kitchen items, cocktail creating apparatus, and take home meals. Every day around 4 pm they post the ‘take home special’ on Instagram so that their downtown core working customers can swing to pick up dinner on the commute home. They do try to do at least one vegetarian option per week and sometimes there is a vegan option. The day they posted this Chickpea Masala with dates and star anise I was definitely inspired and I didn’t have to wait for my daughter to suggest that I make it for dinner.

I went straight to work. It was fairly easy to locate a recipe online and I had most of the ingredients because I always have a fully stocked pantry, complete with every kind of vegan protein imaginable. The New York Times version calls for black cardamom, one of the ingredients I didn’t have but I went with the recipe from Foodess because it used green cardamom. I find that many chickpea recipes call for way too many chickpeas so I automatically cut down the amount specified. I also didn’t have tomato paste so I substituted tomato sauce and cooked it down a bit longer. Other changes I made were adding two extra dates (I had eight left in the package), two extra cardamom pods, and cutting down the amount of cayenne pepper. 20150610_191039

Chickpeas in Star Anise and Date Masala (Foodess; adapted from Vij’s At Home)


  • 3 15-oz cans chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cup raw chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled) (I used 2 cans)
  • 2 cardamom pods (I used 4)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 medium-large)
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic (6 medium cloves)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste (I used 5 tbsp tomato sauce)
  • 6 fresh or dried dates, pitted and chopped (I used 8)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt (or 1 tsp if chickpeas are salted)
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (I only used 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 tsp ground star anise, or 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 cup water


1. Drain chickpeas, rinse, and set aside. With a knife, lightly crack the cardamom pods. With your fingers, peel back the shell to release the seeds; discard shells.

2. Heat oil in a medium pot on medium-high for 45 seconds. Add oinion and saute for 6 to 7 minutes, or until browned. Stir in garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until browned. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in tomato paste(sauce). If using sauce, reduce at this point until it gets a bit pasty. Add dates, cumin, salt, cayenne, black pepper, star anise and cardamom sees and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and water and heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until masala is well mixed with chickpeas. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

While the dish is superb as is, we portioned off half for my daughter, then added some spicy chicken meatballs in to satisfy the meat lovers in our family.

Spicy Chicken Meatballs

Mix 1 lb ground chicken with 2 tbsp spicy sweet chili sauce, 1 sliced green onion, 1/4 cup sliced cilantro, 1 tbsp miced fresh garlic, 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger, salt and pepper. Make into small 1 inch balls and fry until just cooked. Add to chickpea masala with a bit of water, cover, and simmer for ten minutes. Enjoy with rice and extra cilantro.


Italian Centre Shop Calgary

The Italian Centre Shop Calgary is a 13,000 square foot foodie heaven and it is within a 5 minute drive from my house. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this friendly Edmonton family had decided to expand their Italian/European market into Calgary, but here we are about a year later and this treasure trove of all things good is now open!

I had a chance to sneak a bit of a peek about a month ago when my daughter went for an interview at the job fair. While waiting, I met store manager Gino Marghella who immediately welcomed me like family and gave me a quick tour of each section within the market. The tiles were just barely in so it was difficult to imagine what it would be like…so when I walked in on friends and family night and saw this ‘Cathedral of Cheese’ I was completely floored. This is only a section of the 13’ high and 40’ wide cheese wall, after I counted there were actually 35 wheels of Parmesan and 80 wheels in total. cheesewallAfter I had recovered from the cheese wall, I spent a lot of time studying the grocery aisles beginning with the dried legumes. They covered almost an entire row and then there was the canned legumes…my daughter is going to have a fun time checking this section out! I haven’t always been able to find San Marzano tomatoes here in Calgary but now I have a steady supply, multiple brands to choose from, and all at a really decent price. This is half of the brands available. You can get them with or without basil added. italiancentre1Besides the legumes and tomatoes, the grocery aisles contain some really great European products that aren’t always easy to find such as cuttlefish ink, nettle syrup, 3 kg sized tubs of Nutella, regular and gluten free pastas (made with alternate grains), chocolates and sweets, and really great Rio Mare canned tuna. There’s a freezer section filled with many kinds of ravioli, frozen rabbits, and sauces. I spotted these bags of already pitted frozen sour cherries which I know will come in handy for pie making.

frozencherriesWhat I really liked was that the Italian Centre Shop tries to carry as many  local products as they can. In addition to the great European products, they carry Fiasco Gelato and Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. frozen pizzas. My foodie date, Danna, said that their frozen pizzas are really delicious.

frozenpizzasOnce I had gone through all the grocery aisles I ended up at the bakery which probably was a big mistake…everything looked so good! You can take away or order anything from tiramisu to mille feuille, lemon tarts, and nutella croissants. If that wasn’t enough sweets for you, the next counter contains a delicious array of tasty gelato and a professional espresso bar. The head barista was brought in from Italy specifically to train the staff using Kimbo espresso.  Hubby is really excited because he drives by the Italian Centre Shop is on his way to work. The espresso bar is open at 7:30 am so he can get his morning coffee and I’m excited because I can get him to pick up pizzas on the way home!

dessertbarcollageSpeaking of pizzas, the Italian Centre Shop pizzas were voted the number one pizzas in Edmonton so I am really looking forward to trying one. In addition to take away pizzas, there is a prepared food section along with other take home meals like lasagna and meatballs. During the event I tried these delicious mozzarella arancini in sauce. aranciniicsWhile I was talking to the server, another lady took an arancini and that was how I met Teresa Spinelli, daughter of Frank Spinelli who co-founded the Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton in 1959. She is a friendly lady who values her customers and community as family. The Italian Centre is a very active supporter of community in Edmonton and they intend to carry on this tradition in Calgary. As a start, ten percent of all the ‘Friends and family’ night sales was given to local Calgary charity Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids. “The more you give, the more you get back” was an all important philosophy that Frank instilled upon his children and Teresa lives by it to this day.

There is a large middle deli section that makes up the core of Italian Centre Shop. There you will find all kinds of imported and local cheeses and deli meats. They carry well priced grass fed, anti-biotic and hormone free Piedmontese beef raised in Lacombe by Messinger Meats. They also carry local elk, bison, and pork as well as Prairie Roots organic chicken from Bittern Lake. I am not much of an olive connoisseur but I was impressed with the gorgeous olive bar and I even found a ‘beginner olive’ to bring home. They are the round green olives at the bottom right of the photo, beside the grilled red peppers. olivebar


Last, but not least there is a decent sized fresh produce section with local and imported fruits and vegetables. There were trays of delicious figs, BC cherries, fava beans, and peppers grown in Lacombe…just as a small example of what you can find there. And, if you have an event coming up, you can order fruit arrangements, deli trays, and caprese bites along with your canolli.



Welcome to Calgary Spinelli family, I’m so glad you chose Calgary as your new home!

Italian Centre Shop

9919 Fairmount Drive SE; Calgary

Store Hours 9 am – 9 pm seven days a week.
Spinelli’s Bar Italia 7:30 am – 9 pm daily.



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