Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen in San Francisco – Part 2

The area occupied by San Francisco is not very large but there is a very high population density. Still, when you are walking up and down the seemingly endless hilly streets it feels like you are walking forever. We quickly became pros at catching the bus and ending up very near our actual destination and so we found the transit system(s) very efficient. On the Saturday of our trip our destination was the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  I had heard about Karl, the famous bay area fog, but so far every view of the bay that we had was outstanding during our trip. I was beginning to wonder where Karl had gone…goldengatebridgeWe spent a fair amount of time walking the bridge and admiring the architecture and beautiful views before we decided to wander around in the nearby Presidio park. I guess I really wasn’t prepared for how large it was and it took us a while to figure out the best way to get back to our hotel. What really amazed me about the park was that the area we hiked through was predominantly Eucalyptus trees. The early morning rains had congregated on the leaves, releasing the scent that had me immediately transformed back to Australia. Sometimes, even on holidays, it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and just enjoy nature.

Once we were nearly back at our hotel room we decided that with all the walking we had done we deserved a special treat so we made a small detour to see if Mr. Holmes Bakehouse was open. We were out of luck though, because it was 4 pm and there was the dreaded ‘sold out, see you tomorrow Holmies’ sign on the door. I think we spent the rest of the day in our room, then went out for a quick bite later that evening.

The next day (Easter Sunday) we awoke well rested with a new found energy. Since it was pretty early I begged hubby to wait in the cruffin line at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse…and he did! My queue hating husband agreed to wait over an hour to buy me a cruffin. It may be true that this cruffin fad has become really hyped up in the last couple of months with the break in and subsequent theft of resident baker Ry Stephen‘s coveted recipe book. Even with all the hype, there’s no denying that the cruffin (and everything else sold at Mr. Holmes Bakeshop) is a work of pastry perfection.

mrholmesbakehousePastry mugshots…so bad for you but sooo good!

We enjoyed the pastries in our room then caught the cable car to Easter Sunday service at the old St. Mary’s Cathedral right on the edge of Chinatown. The church is quite something and was one of the few buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake and devastating fires. I was a bit worried that we would have a difficult time finding restaurants open on Easter Sunday and so I planned for us to visit the R & G Lounge as suggested by Anthony Bourdain right there in Chinatown.randglounge

 Of course we had to have the famous salt and pepper crab dish. I found that it was extremely greasy and salty with very little pepper flavour. I was disappointed with the whole lunch except for the vegetable and fungi dish which contained seven different types of fungi. I think I was just happy to see vegetables for a change.  I felt a bit guilty about all the deep fried food we had eaten but since we spent the rest of the afternoon walking to, around, and from Fisherman’s Wharf…I wasn’t too stressed about it.Sealionspier39

Kid number one had mentioned that he really wanted to go the to the Aquarium of the Bay so we made that our afternoon activity. We also stayed for quite some time at Pier 39, mesmerized by the Sea Lions that lounged around on the floating docks. hibiscusmargarita

A quick snack of Dungeness Crab cocktail and a delicious Perfect Hibiscus Margarita (which had just won the Bay Area cocktail competition) at Fog Harbor Fish House and we were ready to tour the Aquarium. I am always enchanted by seahorses and jellyfish while kid number one was super excited to see an octopus. In all, it was a lovely Easter Sunday and the grand finale was our reservation at Bar Tartine. We didn’t have time to go back to our hotel and get my big girl camera so cell phone photos would have to do. I apologize in advance as they keep the restaurant quite dark, the photos are of really poor quality and do not do justice to the dishes we were served.

I read the entire Bar Tartine cook book before we left on our trip and was amazed at the ingenuity and innovative techniques. The restaurant prepares the whole menu from scratch, including the ‘soda’. When kid number one tried to order a coca cola, the server suggested their house made tarragon whey soda and he was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. I enjoyed my rhubarb and bronze fennel cocktail as well. I would never have thought to mix rhubarb and fennel. It was at Bar Tartine where hubby and I first enjoyed Moonlight Brewing ‘Death and Taxes’ CA Black Lager. From then on whenever we saw it on a menu, it was a ‘must order’. We didn’t do the tasting menu but picked some of the dishes to share between the three of us, beginning with some delicious Sprouted Einkorn Bread with Cultured Sunchoke & Sunchoke Oil. The boys tried the pickled pork sausage and buckwheat but were not impressed by the coarse texture and odd flavour of the sausage. BartartinefeastThen, we had the best Beef Tartare I have ever had. It absolutely blew my mind for taste and texture. It was served on toast, with tonnato sauce and bottarga. The next dish was our favourite (or close second…and I am thinking of the octopus dish from Contigo here) but yet it seemed so simple. Humble roasted and smoked potatoes which were given a final quick fry for crispness and served with black garlic and ramp mayonnaise. The beet salad with sorrel, marjoram, and feta was a fresh tasting herby take on a regular beets and greens salad, and the sorrel really made the dish. We did also order the sprouted lentil croquettes with kefir and yoghurt (not pictured; all house made) which we all adored despite there being no meat involved. Our only disappointment was the pork belly (top right). The snap peas, carrots, and mung bean sprouts were outstanding but the star of the show was poorly flavoured, had a weird grey tinge to it, and was so underdone that we couldn’t even cut it.  It wasn’t appetizing at all. Since all our dishes were quite small and mostly vegetable based we had room to end the evening on a sweet note. The nut stuffed dates with house lemon grass yoghurt were perfect.

We took a taxi back to the hotel, fully satiated and ready for a long snooze. If you visit San Francisco I highly recommend Bar Tartine for the full SF ‘experience’.


Summer of Sangria – Berry Rosé Sangria

I had my first taste of sangria last year on Canada day. It was a tough day because my dachshund, Louis, had run away the night before and was spending the holiday in the slammer at Calgary Animal Services. The sangria definitely helped and I was slightly consoled with the knowledge that he was safe. Perhaps if everything had been ‘business as usual’ I would have gushed over the sangria and asked for the recipe.

I had no further thoughts of sangria until I picked up this beautiful hand made in Poland glass pitcher at Homesense. When I saw it on the shelf in the store I knew it would be perfect for all our patio-sized summer cocktails. First up…sangria!sangria3Last night was the perfect night to sip sangria on our sunny deck and I was really excited to have some company to share it with.  My little sister was passing through on her way to a Washington music festival and I knew we’d only have a couple of hours to visit…I had to make it count! I love her free spirit and am always amazed at her ‘mature beyond her years’ attitude. She’s always someone I can count on for advice when things get overwhelming. I only wish that she lived closer to me.

sangria2Yep. Those are my little sister’s sunglasses

Sangria is bound to become my patio drink of choice this summer. How fortuitous is it that I revisited this tasty summer drink right at the beginning of patio season? Let me know when you’re coming over and I’ll mix up a pitcher full…


Yep, those are my toes!

Berry Rosé Sangria (epicurious)


1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/4 cup creme de cassis

1 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used blueberries and strawberries)

1 (750 ml) bottle chilled dry rosé (I used a 2011 Charles Melton Rose of Virginia Rosé from the Barossa Valley. I probably didn’t need to get that fancy)

2 tsp lemon juice


Add sugar, water, and creme de cassis together in a small pan. Bring up to a gentle simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the berries. Let cool until room temperature then add to pitcher. Add chilled wine and lemon juice and cover. Chill until you are ready to serve. Enjoy!


What Would Julia Cook? French Toast

Ah brioche. That golden loaf of goodness purchased in the spur of the moment…what would Julia cook? Why French Toast of course! I just couldn’t resist this perfectly golden and airy brioche from Yum Bakery at the Calgary Farmer’s Market and with the weekend coming up, I knew that the whole family would appreciate a special Saturday morning breakfast.brioche

Making French toast isn’t really rocket science so I don’t generally use a recipe. I just crack as many eggs into a flat pan as I think necessary (remember if you run out it’s easy to make more!) then add a splash of milk and some ground cinnamon. Since the yolks don’t need to be separated or even whole for that matter, this is a great time to practice your one handed egg cracking technique.briocheeggsAdd some butter to a hot pan and soak your bread for a minute or two in your milk/egg mixture, then flip. If you like cinnamon as much as I do you can sprinkle some more on top of the floating brioche pieces.briochesoakAdd the soaked pieces to the hot buttered pan and fry until they are golden.frenchtoastpan2When they are done cooking, sprinkle with powdered sugar and add your favourite syrup or fruit conserve and enjoy!frenchtoastplateWhile I was making the brioche French toast I decided to use up the older cinnamon buns that I had hanging around. They were a great variation on regular French toast.cinabunfrenchtoast

Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen in San Francisco – Part 1

Spring has finally sprung here in Calgary and I am finally out of ‘vacation mode’. My mind has made the switch back to reality and I can finally let loose a little and tell you all about our family trip to San Francisco. It seems funny to say ‘family trip’ because really there were only three of us that went. My oldest doesn’t take trips with us because he’d rather take trips with his future wife and in laws (yes I am still having trouble letting go!) and our daughter was on a school trip to Europe. It was just hubby, kid number one, and I for this whirlwind trip to the city by the bay.

I now understand why Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. This city is packed full of things to do and see, not to mention a mecca of sorts for us foodies. I had planned on mapping out important and not to miss eating spots before we left but I really only had a few in mind by the time our airplane took off. It really helped that I had a few food loving friends that had visited SF the week before and were very active on social media about it. Local food writer and awesome lady Gwendolyn Richards gave me a few ideas, as did long time friend and fellow food blogger, Noelle Chorney of Amazon in the Kitchen.  I may have also borrowed a few ideas from Anthony Bourdain, that dude knows his shit.

On our first full day in SF we began with some great coffee and breakfast sandwiches from a great little café around the corner (and up the hill) from our hotel.  One thing we noticed and became very grateful for was that almost all of the little cafés and restaurants had open wifi. It was very convenient for us travelers…why don’t we have this in Canada?  We didn’t have a lot of time to relax with our coffees as I had scheduled our Alcatraz tour right away at 10 am. We did a lot of walking before we figured out the correct spots to catch the bus (MUNI) but we eventually got on and off quite near Pier 33, just a mere 5 minutes before the tour was to leave. The ferry ride to the island was quite enjoyable, with warm temperatures and sunny skies we had an amazing view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. 002

At first I wasn’t really as excited about touring Alcatraz as the boys were but now I am really glad we went. We spent a good time on the inside (see what I did there?) and also had the chance to view the great art exhibit @Large by Ai Wei Wei. His portrayal of social and political prisoners in the Alcatraz setting was especially poignant. It was pretty late afternoon when we got back to the mainland and we were starving so we were happy there was no line up at Hog Island Oyster Co. We had a large tray of the freshest oysters possible and I got to eat my first sunny California avocado in this amazing avocado, fennel, and grapefruit salad. This photo of the boys is my favourite from the whole trip! After lunch we explored the markets at the Ferry Building then caught a virtually empty cable car back to our hotel to chill for the evening.hogisland

The next day was a big one! We did a lot of walking, beginning first in Chinatown then over to Molinari’s Italian Deli in North Beach for lunch. While the boy and I waited in line inside, I had a good look around and suddenly felt as if I were in a Godfather movie. This deli (around since 1896) is an institution and one of the few Italian sandwich shops left over from a time when the Italians ran everything and the Irish police were on the hunt. Everyone ate at Molinari’s. It took us a while to clue in that we needed a number…and even longer to figure out why everyone was standing around holding bread. To get your sammich you must first do those two things or you will be waiting forever! MolinarisAfter lunch we hiked up to see Lombard Street, the street that is famous for being the steepest in San Francisco. Having hiked up the first portion, I was happy to stay at the bottom and take pictures of the cars driving down the hill in a continuous zig zag while kid number one ran up one side and down another. Apparently he had energy to burn.  After Lombard street we grabbed the BART to the Mission area where we waited in a line outside of Omnivore Books so that I could meet David Lebovitz!! It was a true foodie fan girl moment. My only regret is not being able to fully browse those shelves, completely stocked with every cook book you could possibly imagine.

Since I knew we would be in the area quite late, I had decided to ask Mr. Lebovitz (via twitter the night before) what his local restaurant recommendation would be. Imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning and he had replied! I phoned Contigo immediately and was able to get a reservation for 9:15…pretty late but well worth it in my books! We ended up spending some time in Starbucks using their free wifi, then arrived at restaurant at our appointed time and starving…to find we had to wait another half an hour. Let me just say this…if you pay your bill you are finished your meal! It is so extremely rude to then decide to order dessert and digestifs while others wait for their table nearly fainting from low blood sugar. I really thought hubby was going to lose it but he didn’t and I am glad we stayed. We had one of the best meals at Contigo during our stay in San Francisco.

Contigo is a tapas style restaurant. Like most SF establishments it is tiny and extremely busy. I was a bit nervous about getting a ‘set menu’ that late in the evening because I thought their most popular dishes would be sold out already. The server assured us that the set menu only contained the most popular dishes and it did, thankfully, give us the most bang for our buck. There was no question whether or not we could eat that much food. We began with David’s recommendation…anchovy toast! anchovytoastcontigoThen Jamón Serrano Croquettes jamoncroquettescontigoNext up…Strawberry and Grilled Goat Cheese Salad…with fennel and kumquats.saladcontigoThat was a hard act to follow…This Pea and Mushroom Crostini wasn’t our favourite…but that tiny salad with fresh sweet snap peas was so good!peasontoastcontigoAnd then our favourite dish of the night (and most likely our whole trip) Grilled Squid with black rice, chorizo, and roasted artichokes.  Yeah I’m still dreaming about this dish.octopuscontigo

The Grilled Trout we had next was pretty delicious too because it had more of those sweet snap peas, Jamón serrano, and a really interesting green farro. I asked the server about it and apparently it is grown locally and has a very short season…which of course is spring!

troutcontigoOur last dish was a very common tapas dish but these Albóndigas made of Pork, Lamb, and Jamón in a rich sauce were without a doubt the best I’ve had.meatballscontigo

So, our first two days in San Francisco were packed with sunshine (yay!), lots of walking, sightseeing, and FOOD! Stay tuned for more posts on our trip to San Francisco….

Meyer Lemon and Ginger Marmalade

How is your weekend looking so far? Are you busy, or not so much? Ours doesn’t look too bad for a change so I think it will be a great time to complete some sorely needed spring clean up yard work and window washing. Hubby doesn’t know this yet but we ARE going to be busy! If you’re looking for a project to fill your weekend hours or get you out of yard work, this Meyer Lemon and Ginger Marmalade will fit the bill. It literally takes all day but in the end you have this marvelous marmalade to enjoy with your breakfast toast or scones.marmaladebread

This is my first foray into marmalade making and I would never have even tried if it weren’t for my dad. The last time we were at the farm for a visit he went on and on about my sister in law’s marmalade and how he couldn’t get enough of it. He was down to his last jar and hinted to her repeatedly that he was about to run out. Nothing. I don’t know how many times he told me that same story on our visit but I definitely got the hint. How hard could it be? It turns out making marmalade isn’t very difficult at all, just very time consuming.

I bought a huge bagful of Meyer Lemons and got to work. The recipe that I found instructed me to slice the lemons into halves lengthwise, then to sliver the lemons as thinly as possible with the pith and fruit still attached. This step alone took me at least an hour and I was so glad that I had just got my knives sharpened.marmalade

Though the pith and seeds are needed for the marmalade to set, I really didn’t like picking out the seeds after that first initial boil. I’ve seen some recipes that require the zest part to be added directly to the pan while the pith, flesh and seeds are all put into a cheese cloth bag for the initial boil. While it is extra work to remove the zest I would guess that it would be preferable to removing the seeds at a later time. No one wants seeds in their marmalade!

marmaladejarMeyer Lemon and Ginger Marmalade (page 89 The Art of Preserving)

makes  7 or 8 half pint (250 ml) jars


2 lb (1 kg) Meyer Lemons (do not substitute regular lemons)

8 cups (2 kg) sugar (or as needed)

2 cups fresh Meyer Lemon juice

1 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger (still very firm with tinges of pink)

1 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger


Begin by cutting the ends off of each lemon. Use a mandolin to slice the lemons as thinly as possible but if you have a crappy mandolin like I have, do it the old fashioned way with a sharp knife. Cut each lemon in half lengthwise, then proceed to cut into thin strips including pith and flesh.

Place the strips and their liquid into a pan with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes making sure to stir occasionally. Remove from heat.

Measure the cooked citrus and liquid and return to saucepan. For each 1 cup, add 1 1/4 cups sugar to the pan. Add fresh Meyer lemon juice.

*At this point make sure to have your jam jars and lids hot and sterilized. Place a plate in the freezer.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and boil rapidly, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the fresh ginger and continue boiling until slightly thickened. To see if your marmalade will thicken properly, drop a tsp of it onto the frozen plate. Wait a minute and if it thickens and wrinkles when you try to move it then it is done. If not, keep on boiling the marmalade until it will set on the frozen plate.

Remove from heat and stir in the crystallized ginger.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean (if needed) before you put the lids on. Make sure the lids are just slightly tightened.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath then remove and let the jars sit undisturbed overnight. Don’t worry if you get one or two that don’t seal. Just keep them in the fridge and use them within a couple of months.




Calgary International Beerfest Begins Today!

The day is finally here! Calgary International Beerfest begins today with a sneak peak event at the Libertine Public House. I can’t wait to go grab a few tastes of my favourite beverage tomorrow at the main event in the BMO Centre. With 250,00 sq feet of vendors and over 500 local and international craft beers I’m going to be a busy girl!

Summer is coming and what better way to find a couple new patio beers then by trying them at Beerfest? Buy a whole stack of sample coupons and try them all, just remember to take notes or you won’t remember a thing in the morning. One way I remember is to either swipe a coaster at the sample booth OR take a photo of the beer label with my camera. That way you’ll never be left wondering what the name of that wonderful unfiltered IPA was….

Trying new beers isn’t the only great activity at Calgary International Beerfest! You can also:

  1. Get an MBA (Master of Beer Appreciation) at Beer University run featuring Grainswest Magazine, CAMRA Alberta, Alberta Wheat, Hops Canada, and Olds College. Discover the history of beer, beer styles, what goes into beer and how beer is made all from the beer brainchildren of the local industries. Presented by ATB Financial
  2. Attend a Brewmaster Seminar hosted by Craft Beer Market (seminars are two tokens each and free for Beer Geek VIPsbrewseminarschedule
  3. Attend a Cooking with Beer Seminar hosted by Rickard’s. Learn from Calgary’s top chefs as they share industry secrets and teach you the finer points of beer pairings in a fun and friendly environment. Plus, you get to try the tasty samples that are prepared right in front of you.
  4. Sample food from over 40 of Calgary’s best restaurants
  5. Vote for your favourite brew to win a People’s Choice Award

Whew! All that and an authentic German Oompah Band…

Event Dates and Times

Friday May 1st: Beer Geek VIP 3pm to 10pm – General Admission 4pm to 10pm

Saturday, May 2nd: Beer Geek VIP 1pm to 9pm – General Admission 2pm to 9pm

BMO Centre on Stampede Park

Tickets available at all Brewsters, Sobeys Liquor, and Sobeys Grocery stores, as well as online at Alberta Beer Festivals.

 OR you can win a pair of passes from me! Comment below to be entered in a random prize draw. You must be 18+ to attend.

Lemon Paprika Chicken Legs

Firstly I want to really thank everyone for their kind words and notes of encouragement in response to my previous post. Supporting my daughter is exhausting and some nights I feel as though I have run a marathon. It means all the world to me that you all care so much and that gives me strength to continue. I have been a bit ‘all over the place’ in adjusting how and what I cook for my family so I’m not really ready to post anything we’ve eaten lately. Luckily I had this post half written before events transpired and I’m pleased to be able to share it with you. 

I will be the first to admit that I have a little bit of a ‘cheap’ streak inside me. It is very rare that I will buy anything at full price and I will spend ages looking for a deal on a needed item, especially if said item is expensive to begin with. I begin Christmas shopping early in the year so I can find the best gifts for my family and friends at the best prices. This is probably the only reason the only le creuset I own was given to me as a Christmas gift (by hubby who rarely buys ANYTHING on sale!). I would never have bought a le creuset for myself…until now. This purchase was definitely about me being in the right place at the right time and now I couldn’t be happier with my new 6.6 L le creuset roasting pan. Anyone who has a larger family knows that finding a roasting pan with a larger cooking surface is near to impossible.

I had one el cheapo clay with enamel pan that I bought at a grocery store and which cracked on the second time I used it. I managed to get about 10 meals out of it before those cracks had grown enough to nearly split the pan in half. In fact, after I took it out of the oven for the last time, I was very lucky it didn’t split into two, spilling hot oily chorizo and sweet potatoes all over my body. This le creuset pan is cast iron covered with the company’s very durable enamel. It’s not going anywhere and I will never have to worry about this pan splitting into two. So are you all wondering how much of a deal I got on it? It still is difficult for me to say that I spent $200 on ONE pan but at regular price this baby will set you back $400. Half price was just too difficult for me to pass up, especially when it is one of the pans I use most in my kitchen. Now I don’t have to worry that the cheap pans are going to break or contain chemicals that harm my family. One more thing…the clean up on this pan is super easy…just soak it in hot, soapy water and the food comes right off. I guess I’m starting to sound like I’m plugging le creuset (and I wish I was!!) but this is just me raving about a pan that I am totally and utterly in love with.

Here’s a super easy and delicious way to bake loads of flavour into chicken marylands. I like to bake the entire leg with bones and skin because it just tastes better. The meat remains moist and for those of you that like crispy skin, this recipe is perfect for you too. When I saw this recipe in the chicken category, I knew it would be the perfect recipe to christen my new pan.

paprikachickenVery few ingredients are required to make this tasty chicken

paprikachicken1And the technique is very basic

paprikachicken2 But the results are fabulous!

Lemon and Paprika Baked Chicken Legs (from


  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 6 chicken legs
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Pepper


  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the chicken. Set aside.
  3. With your fingers, gently lift the skin from the chicken legs without tearing it. Spread the lemon and paprika oil on the chicken flesh and skin. Season with pepper. Places the pieces, side by side, in a baking dish. Add the lemon wedges.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meat falls off the bone. If necessary, finish cooking under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the chicken skin is golden brown.
  5. Serve with the lemon wedges, rice and a vegetable of your choice.

OCD, Ethics, and the Ultimate Paralysis of Fear

6372013, eating ice cream in Paris. Rare to take a photo without one of them pulling a goofy face!

This day I’d like to share with you a little something different. It’s not entirely uplifting but maybe, just maybe there’s a little bit of hope at the end for all of us. You may have noticed my brief hiatus from posting on this blog. It was a natural pause for me because it occurred after our family trip to San Francisco until now.  I always find it difficult to get back into the swing of cooking and blogging after eating out and being served for so long and it’s normal for me to end up with a little bit of depression. This depression is somewhat paralyzing and regularly affects me after holidays but this time there was a bit more to it.

At the same time that we (hubby, kid number 1, and I) came back from San Francisco, kid number two returned from her school trip to Europe. She spoke animatedly about everything she saw, did, and felt.  When she finally went to bed I had a moment to reflect on her.  My daughter, the once healthy, brilliant, artistic teenage girl, had lost yet another ten pounds to her already slim 95 lbs. There was no escaping it anymore, no way to turn away and definitely no more taking chances on her promises of eating more.IMG_4251 (2)Let me tell you a bit about my girl:

  • She’s brilliant. A full International Baccalaureate student with a 95% average. She loves theoretical physics and learning about the world around her.
  • She’s artistic. As a young artist using different mediums she’s always been talented but now she excels. She has recently taken part in her first art showing, sold her first 3 pieces, and has been invited to take part in Market Collective here in Calgary as a ‘youth artist’.
  • She’s loving. This year for my 40th birthday she was able to track down (and make) the Chocolate Carrot Cake recipe that I’ve been trying to get for years. She’s taken over making Mother’s Day reservations from her dad (thank goodness!) and already has one made for Mother’s Day 2015.
  • She’s kind.  She regularly volunteers her time at various events within Calgary and at her school to help those less fortunate.
  • She’s athletic. Yes, it’s true she would laugh at this statement but she is athletic by sheer determination, not talent. She has a brown belt in Karate and is a regular runner.

But I’m worried. Her perfectionist and obsessive personality are taking over all of the things that I love about her.  What started out as ‘eating healthier’ and becoming fit in order to try out for a rugby team has taken over her life. Her restrictive eating is so severe that every meal has become a fight. I can’t help but think back to the days of when she was a toddler. She was never easy to feed, but at least if I waited long enough she would be hungry enough to try what was set out in front of her. Then came the time when she was within the ‘age of reason’. Our rule was always: try a bite, then another. In this way we eventually enjoyed normality at the dinner table…until last summer.

It began as a restriction of all refined carbohydrates and sugar. There was no reason to panic, everyone could use less carbs and sugars in their lives, including our family. I can’t imagine it was easy for her to begin this restriction as she was quite the baker, often baking cookies and not sharing them…

Then there was dairy. It became a fight to get her to drink even one glass of milk a day and even more difficult to have cheese on pizza, casseroles, or pasta (and by this time I am talking whole wheat pasta).

Then there was meat. I have often made meatless meals a weekly event and she has been quite appreciative but now any meal with meat in it becomes devastating.  I believe that her use of media; the daily visitation of vegetarian and vegan food blogs, and propaganda filled anti-meat videos has paired with her obsessive disorder has taken over her sense of preservation.  Her desire to obey her brain has overcome the desire to feed her body.

She insists her restrictive eating obsessions and her views on vegan-ism are two separate things. How can I even possibly begin to believe this is true? While it’s no secret that wholesale animal farming can often go hand in hand with inhumane slaughter, I know, as a farmer’s daughter, that the horrors shown on many agenda driven propaganda videos aren’t always the case. Humans evolved partly because they were smart enough to hunt and eat meat along with gathered seeds, roots, and tubers. Historically our varied diet gave us an advantage and once farming evolved we were able to evolve on a much larger scale. Organized societies, religion, discoveries in science, and art are all around today because farming enabled humans. As our populations grew farming became more intense, eventually leading to unethical practices such as caging, stunning, feedlots, and methods that increase production but cause animals to suffer in their short time on this earth.

Becoming vegan seems to be an ethical choice for many (including my daughter) but meat and animal products will always be served at my table. Animals specifically raised for the food industry would never have existed if it wasn’t for farming practices and they would never survive if suddenly every farmer was to turn them loose. I do believe that we, as consumers, have the responsibility to choose ethically raised proteins. We have the purchasing power to let meat conglomerates know that we won’t stand for inhumane practices. I guess you could say in a way that my daughter, through her illness, has made me aware of these matters.

If my daughter was well and in complete control of her compulsions, I would support her efforts towards a vegan lifestyle. It wouldn’t be easy but with proper menu planning she could get the necessary nutrients, proteins, and carbohydrates needed to live. Right now, we’ve arrived at a stalemate. Fish and shellfish are okay. Chicken is tough, beef is a no-go. I haven’t even tried pork yet. The stress of planning out meals to avoid tears has left me hating something I have once loved so much. Worrying about the damage her current diet and restrictions are doing to her body, her mental state (OCD and anguish over my insistence that she continue eating animals), and that age old question of ‘What to make for dinner’ (where the pressure is now multiplied by a thousand) has left me paralyzed. I am in a constant state of fear that I may lose my daughter and that my obsession with food, as a food blogger, is to blame.

I’m no longer standing by and allowing my daughter to restrict herself to death. Though I know there is a long and difficult path ahead for both of us, my love for her won’t allow me to stand by any longer. Last Friday was a tough, exhausting day of appointments and harsh realities.  I do expect things to get worse before they can get better because the sad reality is that help for this sort of condition only arrives when there is a full on five alarm emergency. Waiting lists and red tape often hinder therapy but my daughter is worth it. And so much more.

In My Kitchen – April 2015

Just an oh-so-quick peep into my kitchen this month. I’m sitting down and having my final cup of tea before we all head off to the airport. My daughter is going on an IB English literary trip to UK and France for 11 days and the rest of us are taking the opportunity to visit San Francisco during the Easter school holidays. Spring is in the air and our temperatures are mostly about zero degrees now, however, there is a nasty chinook wind blowing which is giving me a nasty pressure headache. One of the pleasures of living in Calgary is multiple atmospheric pressure changes due to the ever changing climate in a city near large mountains. I’m not the only one who gets these headaches and I’m very lucky that it only puts me in a horrible mood and not in bed for the day like some fellow sufferers. I’m a bit concerned about taking off with such a gale blowing and I’m hoping for a smooth take off for all of us today.

A local distillery, Eau Claire Distillery has released a special Spring spirit, ‘Spring Equinox’. It’s a lovely beverage featuring prickly pear cactus and other spring flavours. I had hubby stop by our local bottle shop and pick one up for me the very day it was bottled and shipped.


I did a bit of experimentation with a new flavour. Tonka bean is similar to vanilla bean, but not exactly. I ground some up and used some in hubby’s 40th Birthday Root Beer cake.
006I went to SAIT Culinary Campus  for the Catelli Western Canadian premier of Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta and brought home lots of swag. I was pleasantly surprised that the texture and flavour of the cooked pasta were pleasing and not like any other ‘alternative’ pastas I’ve tried in the past.
healthyharvestI was asked to take part in featuring Easter recipes from Ricardocuisine. Ricardo is a Canadian Chef/TV food personality with his own show and products. He most recently has launched a great magazine, Ricardo, of which I have already enjoyed reading three issues. This Pickled Egg & Beet Spinach Salad was so delicious!
Not really IN my kitchen but in SOMEONE’S kitchen at least…I met some Canadian celebrity chefs this month. Chef Lynn Crawford was at SAIT Culinary Campus to do the Catelli launch. Chef Lynn is hilarious and kept us giggling all night. She owns Ruby Watchco in Toronto, judges periodically on Chopped Canada, and has her own show on Food Network Canada called Pitchin’ IncheflynnThe other celebrity chef I met this month was Chef René Rodriquez, winner of Top Chef Canada’s fourth and final season. His popular Ottawa restaurant Navarra is a reflection of his travels and journeys to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Latin America and Spain. Chef René was at Jerome’s Appliance Gallery as part of the GE Monogram Canada wide Top Chef Canada tour.
johnmereneWhew, it was actually quite a busy month! Thank you so much to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen every month. I do really enjoy this little peek into what is going on in other blogger’s kitchens. Until next month…


Root Beer and Tonka Bean Birthday Cake

Every year, not long after my birthday, hubby also turns another year older. This year his 40th birthday landed on a Thursday and on one of the busiest days that I’ve had in a long while. The poor guy almost didn’t have a cake at all, which is a bloody travesty in my books. There isn’t anything I like to do more than bake a cake.  The actual cake that I had planned out in my mind was this Brooklyn Blackout Chocolate Stout Cake (from Ovenly in Brooklyn) that I had spied on David Lebovitz’s Instagram feed and I really wanted so badly to bake it. ovenlycakeAlas, it was never meant to be, the execution of said cake just didn’t play out. I thought I had planned everything out: eggs, check; cream, check; blocks of butter at room temperature, check; stout beer, check. Did you notice any really important ingredient missing from my list? Yep, that would be cocoa. In this house with a superbly stocked pantry I might add, I could not find more than two tablespoons of dark cocoa powder. Such is life when you have cooking teens that like to bake brownies, I guess. I knew that if I made a trip to the store, the travel would greatly cut into my window of time I had set aside for cake baking, that being between 8 am and 12:45 pm on that day. I put my Brooklyn Blackout Cake dreams aside and thought about what other cake I could make that wasn’t chocolate.

For once I didn’t want to do anything citrus related and it had to be a cake that I had the ingredients on hand for. I thought really hard about what hubby would like and came up with…rootbeer! Surely there would be all sorts of recipes on pinterest for rootbeer cakes. I had a look and quickly ruled out the classy {sarcasm} rootbeer ‘poke’ cakes and the ones that used boxed mixes. What was left after that was a lovely looking Root Beer Cake pin from Culinary Alchemy and I had just enough Hires Root Beer left from our recent trip to the Vintage Soda Company in Airdrie. I didn’t have any rootbeer extract on hand but I did have 3 cans of Hires so I set immediately to reducing one of them down to 2 tbsp of syrup. Did I mention that I finally began making this cake at 11:45 am? This left me 1 hour to reduce the rootbeer and get that cake in the oven. I decided to not worry about the recipe asking for cake flour and just went crazy with the sifter. I ground some tonka beans in my spice grinder and threw in about a teaspoon instead of using vanilla. 006

Everything worked out just fine. I got the batter into the pans with nary a second to spare…and maybe a moment too soon as I spied some lumps going into the pans which I quickly fished out. The minute I had the cake out of the oven and cooling on racks, I was out the door and on my way to my hair appointment. I had actually texted hubby in a moment of panic asking, “what would you like more for your birthday? A birthday cake or a beautiful wife?” HA! For the next three hours I tried not to obsess about how I was going to finish the cake because I knew I would be leaving for football as soon as I returned home. Somewhere in that time I was able to book us a table for two at NOtaBLE (which is conveniently located near the football field) and instruct our daughter on how to make vanilla butter cream. She saved the day by finishing the cake for me. rootbeercake3I dropped our son at the football field at the appointed time and met hubby at NOtaBLE for well deserved (and much needed) pre-dinner cocktails. After our delicious meal (he had the prime rib, I had pork tenderloin) we were able to watch the rest of the football jamboree. Our evening ended the way all great birthdays do, with cake! Despite the sorely needed extra mixing time the texture of the cake was gorgeous and we could actually taste the root beer.

Root Beer Birthday Cake with Tonka Bean (adapted from Culinary Alchemy)


  • 1 cup (226g) Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 1 1/2 (300g) cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (283g) AP flour (plus more for the pans)
  • 2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground tonka bean
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Hires Root Beer
  • 1 can Hires Root Beer reduced to 2 tbsp
  • 4 large Eggs


  1. Pre heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and tonka bean into a medium bowl.
  5. Mix root beer and reduced syrup in a small pitcher.
  6. Add flour mixture and root beer to the butter mixture, alternating between flour and root beer. Begin and ending with adding flour.
  7. Beat until smooth and no lumps remain. Divide evenly between prepared pans.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Be sure to cool completely before frosting the cake.

I’m not sure what recipe my daughter used for the buttercream but any recipe will do. She added some caramel sauce to the buttercream (as per my request) but it was quite sweet…you are best to go with a butter cream that is more ‘buttery’ as opposed to ‘sweet’. rootbeercake2





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