Sunday Soup – Roasted Asparagus and Garlic

It’s a cold, wet, rainy Sunday and I couldn’t think of anything better to make for lunch than this roasted asparagus soup. Last weekend was such a hot busy blur that it feels so good to just stay home and listen to the rain fall while re-watching Game of Thrones season 5. The season 6 premier is tonight and we are all just killing time until showtime. It’s not that difficult for the kids because they have finals to study for, but I am too excited to do anything at all. Cooking this soup really helped calm me down and the extra bonus is that I get to share it with you!

I had just under a kilogram of fresh Okanagan asparagus that my sister brought me last weekend, just waiting in the fridge to be used up. I’m really so jealous because she says it just grows wild in the ditches there…I think she must live in the promised land or something. Since the asparagus was on a ‘need to be used’ alert I decided the best way to eat it was all at once, in a soup.

I’ve been roasting asparagus for about 15 years now. My experiences with this vegetable had previously been quite grim so I had avoided cooking it in the most common way… by steaming. Then one spring we visited my hubby’s grandparents and his grandma showed me how she roasted her asparagus. I was hooked. Now I look forward to spring asparagus season every year.004
Roasting asparagus couldn’t be an easier. Just wash the stalks in a sink filled with cold water and drain. Splash olive oil over top and season well with salt and pepper. Spread the stalks in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray and roast at 450 F for 12 minutes. asparagusFor this soup I threw a couple of garlic cloves in with the asparagus. They don’t get fully roasted and caramelized, but they do soften in texture and flavour. It takes a while to blend the soup in batches, but the end result is so worth it!

asparagussoupRoasted Asparagus and Garlic Soup


  • 2 lbs (900 g) fresh asparagus
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock


  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Wash and drain asparagus well.
  3. Drizzle asparagus and garlic with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange asparagus and garlic in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray.
  5. Roast in oven for 12 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Peel garlic.
  6. Place 1/3 asparagus stalks and one garlic in blender with 1 cup chicken stock. Blend until smooth.
  7. Repeat with rest of asparagus and chicken stock. You will need to add some of this blended soup back into the blender to add the final cup of chicken stock.
  8. Warm soup up in a pot on the stove over medium heat it until it reaches your desired temperature. Do not over boil.


Calgary Poutine Week – The Gravy Bowl


What began in 2010 as a small poutine crawl has five years later morphed into a triumphant week long poutine party. For some of us, it’s better than Stampede. This year Calgary Poutine Week kicked off at Saturday’s Gravy Bowl where competing chefs teamed up with members of the Calgary Stampeders to create their dream poutines. If you know me at all, you know that those are two of my most favourite things right there: Football and Poutine. Though I must admit that it felt strange to me to be cheering on the boys in red when I’m a die-hard Saskatchewan Roughriders fan. We’ll just say that I did it for the love of poutine.

Seven heavyweight teams competed for the chance to win the 2016 Poutine Week Championship and man did these teams give it their all! Four referees from various fields of poutine expertise had their mouths full and work cut out for them while they deliberated on a winner. poutinejudges

The first two teams to throw down were Chef Matt Davidson (Blanco Cantina) with Stamps Quarterback, Drew Tate and Wurst Calgary Chef Rudy Schmid with Stampeders Defensive Back Adam Thibault. Now that my son plays DB for his midget team, we were secretly cheering on Adam and Rudy to take that cup home. They worked really well in the kitchen together and produced the mouthwatering Smoking Duck Poutine which included duck fat fries, cheese curds, green peas, speck gravy, truffle oil, topped with Duck confit.rudyadamCollageI thought Drew Tate would be a little more hands on with the Blanco Cantina Blanco Poutine Burrito (Shaved skirt steak, cheese curds, spicy Mexican gravy, house cut fries, coriander scented onions) but he seemed to let Chef Matt take care of the offensive play which he was tied up with a beer from Village Brewery. This is the only one that I didn’t get to try so I can’t comment on how good it was.mattanddrew CollageAs soon as the first poutines were out of the neutral zone, the next two teams were up and cooking. Chef Sean MacDonald (Market Calgary) and Rob Cote (Stampeders Running Back) were in it to win it. They took a page from the Market Calgary playbook and produced the most complicated (and most photogenic) poutine of the Gravy Bowl.  Their Carbonara Poutine came with a black pepper bechamel, peas, pancetta, curds, pea tendrils, parmesan and sous vide eggs. seanandrobcollage

Chef Xavier Lacaze of Briggs Kitchen and Bar teamed up with Tim St. Pierre (Stampeders running back) to make a deceptively simple, yet oh so refined Newf’s Poutine, topper with chunks of lobster and lobster cream sauce.  Roy threw the plates over the short pass, while Tim made the reception which became the winning touchdown right onto the judges table. briggsteamcollageHome field advantage went to Chef Roy Oh for his wonderfully spicey ‘Poutine for your Seoul’. This Korean curry tater tot poutine with classic curds, carrots, and green onion was my absolute favourite. Since I had brought my son along for this event, he learned quite early on to  wait until the judges had finished their portions, then politely ask for their leftovers. He sampled all of the poutines, but this one ended up being his favourite as well.

anjucollabAnother tater tot based poutine came from the kitchens of The Unicorn Superpub. Their twist on a classic dish was the Tacotine with golden tater tots, Quebec cheese curds, house queso cheese sauce, AAA Alberta chilli, fresh pico de gallo, lime cream fresh, cilantro & scallions, all served inside a crispy flour tortilla shell. Charlie Power, another Stampeder running back with good hands in the kitchen, powered his way through the line to serve up this first down(ed) poutine.

teamunicorncollageCam Dobranski (The Brasserie Kensington) and Rene Parades (Stampeders kicker) decided to go for the field goal on the last down with their Oxtail Poutine. Perfectly seasoned fries, rich red wine duck gravy, and unbelievable chanterelle emulsion…ah so good. They get bonus points for the appealing plating in my play book.camrenecollageBesides the fact that everyone went home with fulls stomachs and fun memories (I don’t think I’ll ever see so many chefs and Stampeders doing post-game shoju shots again!), the real winner is Mealshare. Mealshare is a non profit organiztion that pairs with restaurants in order to alleviate (or eliminate) hunger. For each mealshare item sold from a participating restaurant’s menu, one meal is donated to a youth in need. Poutine Week has been with Mealshare from the very beginning in 2013. With every poutine sold throughout the week, a meal is donated. Last year 5,000 poutines were sold in 7 days…quite an epic number of donations! With 2 days left, there’s still time to be enjoy a poutine (or two) and help out a great cause. For more information, check the Poutine Week website for poutine descriptions and participating restaurants.

Canadian Beef – Around Our Goofy Family Dinner Table

The funny thing about blogging and food blogs in general is that nearly everything seems to be perfect in that online world. What you see is photos of perfectly coordinated and stylized shots of impossibly gorgeous food and scenes of domestic bliss. I’m guilty of wiping a few plate edges and failing that, editing out the ‘ugly bits’ of photos so that they look more attractive. Most of the time, my extended family isn’t subject to this strange behaviour, but when they are present for my food blogger shenanigans, they are always kind enough to make the best out of the situation.canadianbeef1

When Canadian Beef asked me to write a sponsored post requiring a shot of my family enjoying beef at our dinner table, I was initially excited. Then my excitement turned to worry because the reality of our family table, on most week nights, isn’t what you see on your computer screen. As our kids were growing up we always made a point of being together for dinner, even on a week night with scheduled activities. Sometimes that meant eating at 4:30, other times we wouldn’t eat until 9 pm. Now that our daughter is vegan, she makes and eats her own dinner because she doesn’t want to wait to eat at 9 pm any more. Being busy with football nearly every night of the week has us perpetually delaying dinner time and our family table has become a ‘table of convenience’.

Last week a surprise phone call from my sister, who lives in Vernon, B.C., had me preparing the spare room for their weekend visit and thinking about what to serve for dinner.  Even though we both had our weekend fully (but separately) booked, I wanted to have at least one sit down meal (on a football-free night) during their visit.  The opportunity to serve and photograph our Canadian Beef family meal had presented itself.

On Friday, I bought the baseball cut beef sirloin from a local butcher and marinated it in garlic and red wine with a bit of salt and pepper. It really was the easiest thing to do. Ideally this marinating would be done overnight in the fridge but I only had 5 hours so I left the bowl of meat to marinate at room temperature. I knew that the beef was fresh from a local source but I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you don’t know where your meat comes from. Just before grilling, I threaded the chunks of marinated sirloin onto fresh rosemary sprigs.

006And here’s where the crazy family hi-jinx really started:

While hubby was grilling the beef, I was busy propping the table and setting up the camera for that perfect shot. My sister finished the Greek salad and kept an eye on the roasted lemon potatoes which I had set under the broiler and forgotten…

Then someone literally grabbed an olive and I freaked out (Never, EVER prop with an even amount of food items)!

By the time everything was on the table and ready for photographing, everyone was freezing because it’s April and at my request we were eating on the deck. They left to get their jackets and I had to wait so that I could get them into the family shot. canadianbeef4Then there was my annoying, yet loveable brother in law, who squeezed that lemon for what seemed like 5 minutes, while pretending to pick his nose and contort his face into all manners of disturbing poses. I don’t know how I managed to get any photos at all, I was laughing too hard!
canadianbeef2Then my eldest son says, “hey mom, come over here, this is a pretty great angle” and you know what? He was right!

Someone spent an awfully long time holding beef skewers…

After all the photos were taken, we were still giggling over how my brother in law is such an idiot while we ate our cold but delicious dinner.  Someone suggested we should have made a video of our Canadian Beef family dinner fiasco but I think some things are better left out of social media.

This dinner was fun and it drew us together as a family and gave us a shared memory that we can cherish for years to come. It was almost like we were back on our family farm, eating together out in the open prairie during Spring seeding while our laughter kept us warm in the crisp spring air. I was always in charge of looking after my sister, while mom cut the roast beef and covered the mashed potatoes with pan gravy. Keeping that connection between family, the food, and the land is so important for the future of farming and the future of our food system.

On my last visit to the Canadian Centre of Beef Excellence, I enjoyed a family style burger battle between local celebrities and their friends/families. There were so many great people there to support Canadian Beef as they revealed their new partnership with Canadian grown and raised country singer, Paul Brandt. He’s the ideal complement to the Canadian Beef brand and watching the videos make my heart proud to be Canadian and come from a farming background.

Thank you Canadian Beef for sponsoring this post, for bringing our family together one more time, and for supporting our Canadian beef farmers.

Disclosure: I was financially compensated for this post. As a former beef farmer’s daughter I’ve got my own opinions about Canadian Beef and I am pleased to be able to share them with you.

The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off

Macaroni & cheese. Beloved comfort food through the ages and blank canvas for creativity. What better way to showcase Canadian milk products and cheeses than to host a mac & cheese cook off between several of our country’s most creative chefs?

On April 8, four Canadian chefs flew to Toronto to compete in The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada. This yearly event had the chefs cooking their ultimate mac & cheese dishes for the chance to win the title of the ‘Grate Big Cheese’. Each chef brought their own creative regional spin to the competition and after much delicious deliberation, chef Alexandra Feswick (Chef de Cuisine The Drake Hotel; Toronto, Ontario) squeeked by with a win. Her Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese with cheddar, sage, mushroom, hazelnut, blue cheese, and Jerusalem artichoke had everything the judges were looking for.

Our regional competing chef, Nicole Gomes (Executive Chef Nicole Gourmet & Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver; Calgary, Alberta) was in it to win it with her Apple Beer Mac & Cheese. While her spin on this comfort food classic didn’t win the competition, I had the chance to serve it to my family and it was a winner in our home! We loved the combination of flavours from the beer (an IPA), the sweetness from the Golden Delicious apples, the bite from the dijon mustard (I always put mustard in my version of mac & cheese), and the combination of cheeses including locally produced Sylvan Star Smoked Gouda.


CanadianCheese 002The recipe had quite a few more steps and ingredients than my basic mac & cheese recipe.
applesauteSautéing grated apples in butter. Don’t they look like cheese?
sauceThe sauce was ultra rich and creamy, made with butter, milk, and crème fraiche.
CanadianCheese 0805 kinds of Canadian Cheese; Black River Medium Cheddar, Canadian Muenster, Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers, Sylvan Star Canadian Smoked Gouda, Canadian Raclette
macncheesecloseupTop with Panko Crumbs and Bake until golden!
CanadianCheese 140b

Below is the recipe for Chef Nicole’s Apple Beer Mac ‘n’ Cheese that I made at home. If you would like to try the recipes from the other three competing chefs, visit

Apple Beer Mac & Cheese

(Chef Nicole Gomes, Executive Chef Nicole Gourmet and Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver; Calgary, AB)


The Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups (750 mL) milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) crème fraiche
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) strong IPA beer (7%)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg

Pasta Apple Cheese Layer:

  • 3 cups (750 mL) mini lumaconi or elbow pasta
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (750 mL) peeled and gratedGolden Delicious apples (about 3 large)
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 2 cups (500 mL) lightly packed shredded Black River Medium Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Muenster cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Sylvan Star Canadian Smoked Gouda Cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Raclette Cheese


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°F).

In large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat.  Add flour and bay leaf and whisk until smooth; cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Whisk until smooth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat spoon, about 8 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat. Whisk in crème fraiche, beer, mustard, salt, and nutmeg. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Pasta Apple Cheese Layer: In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes under the package directions (this is important, 3 minutes is perfect because the pasta will cook more during baking). Drain and rinse lightly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in medium skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add apples and any accumulated juices; sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and oil; set aside.

Spread one-half of the pasta in 13×9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. Pour one-half of the sauce, top with one-half each of the Cheddar, Muenster, Five Brothers, Smoked Gouda, and Raclette cheeses. Top with one-half of the apples and stir lightly. Repeat with remaining pasta, sauce, cheeses and apples; stir lightly.  Sprinkle evenly with reserved breadcrumb mixture on top.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until hot, breadcrumbs are light golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Enjoy!macncheeseplate

5 Quick Mac & Cheese facts:

  1. Cheddar Cheese is the most popular cheese used for making mac & cheese in Canada.
  2. Want wine with you mac & cheese? The most recommended wine pairing is Burgundy wine.
  3. The world’s largest mac & cheese dish, made in 2010, weighed almost 2,500 pounds.
  4. There’s a crayola colour named ‘macaroni and cheese’.
  5. The first recorded mac & cheese recipe was from 13th century in Italy.


Sarap YYC Dinner at Bro’kin Yolk

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Filipino cuisine. My experiences include a less than traditional adobo from Jay at Eats of Asia, plus a portion of whole deep fried fish and a taste of leche flan one time when I picked my son up from his friend’s birthday party. One thing I do know for sure (here’s my Oprah moment) is that Filipino people really like to eat and they like to share what they are eating with friends and most importantly, family.

Filipino food culture is hugely under represented here in Calgary and even across the country.  Despite the massive Filipino community here in Calgary, there are really not many places to try authentic Filipino cuisine. Even though I’m quite ignorant of this demographic’s representation in our food community, I do remember seeing two places that serve primarily Filipino cuisine. There was (is?) a small Filipino food kiosk in the Pacific Place Mall and another small cafeteria style place in nearby Midnapore. I peeked in one time, lured by the smells of cooking curries, but everything was so unfamiliar to me that I left without ordering anything. I may have been a bit more adventurous if there hadn’t been a language barrier, call me crazy but I do like to know what I am eating.
Last night I had my Filipino food education. It came courtesy of the chefs of Sarap YYC; a collaboration of chefs working together to to bring Filipino cuisine to the forefront through pop-up, supper clubs, and guerilla events. Several young Calgary chefs, including Jay del Corro (Eats of Asia), John Nidua and Saturino Ong. Jr. ( both from Oohmami Pares House and Noodle Bar), Jeffrey Lazaro Carlos (Bro’Kin Yolk), joined together with Winnipeg chef Allan Pineda (from Baon Manila Nights and Baon Craft Lumpia) to celebrate contemporary Filipino food with a ten course dinner at Bro’Kin Yolk.

If you are wondering if I was a bit freaked out that the dinner had ten courses, I will let you know I was a bit intimidated. Then I remembered way back to that kid’s birthday party, when we went to pick up our son (after having dinner out), when we stayed to visit and ended up being force fed another dinner. Everyone who says that Italian nonnas are famous for making you ‘Eat! Eat!’, have never been to a Filipino family gathering. Actually, come to think of it, that is what last night really felt like: a family gathering.

melonmartinisWe were welcomed with these delicious Melon Martinis

Our first course was a very simple deconstructed Ukoy from Jeff (Bro’Kin Yolk). The original is more like a prawn or seafood omelet, but John wanted to serve this comfort food classic with a whole marinated prawn, sweet potato fritters and an unbelievable calamansi gastrique. The gastrique was so good, this dish was one of my top dishes for the night.
jerkchickenThe next dish was very difficult to take a photo of as the Pancit (noodles) were all along the bottom of the container. Allan, the visiting chef from Winnipeg, added a bit of a cross cuisine twist with the jerk chicken. The dish was just the right kind of spice for me and I loved the crispy textures that the fried lotus root and chicken chicharon added to the dish.
BrusselSproutsChef Jay was next and he brought his Gulay A-game with the perfectly roasted and caramelized Brussels sprouts, coconut caramel and patis (fish sauce) dish that he sometimes serves on his food truck.
bistekI had no idea that steak tartare was a popular Filipino dish, but this Bistek made from AAA Alberta beef had a bit of a more contemporary feel to it. The pickled red onions really cut the richness of the meat. As always though, there’s never enough toast!!
PFCWell. It’s true…I didn’t know ‘Pilipino’ Fried Chicken (Manok), but now I know…it’s damn good! We had three different styles of fried chicken in that tiny bucket and they were all amazing. This was also the first time I had collard greens (with coconut cream) and bibingka corn bread. This ‘southern’ trio was served in a whole new way by the chefs at Oohmami, entirely Filipino style!
WaffleBennyBro’Kin Yolk’s chef Jeff served us a version of Itlog (salted egg) in breakfast form! The Ube (purple yam) waffle with adobo duck confit was topped with a poached egg and salty beet chip. Let’s not forget that black garlic hollandaise! There are some rumours going around that Bro’Kin Yolk might open a second location in the deep south and I’m crossing my fingers that the rumours are true.
SalmontunaWhen the next course arrived, it was right about the time I was thinking that I would really welcome a palate cleanser. Kinilaw is a type of Filipino ceviche made with raw fish, in this case salmon and tuna. The fresh fish was ‘cooked’ with coconut vinegar instead of citrus juice like the latin American version. It was still light and fresh, the perfect palate cleanser that I needed to continue.
baoThe airy steamed Tosino (pork)  bao from Jay (Eats of Asia) were very familiar to me because I’ve eaten them on several occasions. They are a typical Taiwanese street food but when they contain 16 hour sous vide pork belly and pickled daikon, no one complained. In fact, the crowd let out a huge cheer when Jay declared it time for the pork belly to be served.
CrabFatRisottoAt the very end, it was finally time to eat rice. This Kanin course was quite spectacular with the rice cooked in butter, Parmesan, and crab fat. Did you know crabs had fat? They don’t. It’s a sneaky, better sounding term for the liver and pancreas bits of the crab. Somehow I knew there would be some nasty bits thrown into this dinner, but I will admit this ‘crab fat’ was pretty damn tasty.
dessert Unfortunately I couldn’t really eat the dessert as I’m allergic to undercooked squash. It looked wonderful though and I did try a bit of the pandan Leche Flan, the ube crumble, and the gastrique.

So now, thanks to Sarap YYC, I do know a little bit about Filipino cuisine and maybe next time I get the chance to order Filipino food from a vendor I won’t be so intimidated.

Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil – Cook the Book Fridays

I was so extremely grateful that my friends at the Cook the Book Fridays group chose a relatively quick recipe for this week’s CtBF. Still, I knew that getting away with assembling a quick tapenade seemed a bit too easy. Having learned my lesson from the last recipe which involved an all day process of baking a quick bread and a slow braising the stew, I made sure to review the tapenade recipe ahead of time. Aha! My suspicions were confirmed…David’s recipe required the extra step of heating the olive oil with rosemary. The process of heating and cooling oil would definitely add a chunk of extra time to this seemingly quick tapenade. Was it worth it? Probably. Did I already have herbed olive oil in my pantry? Yes! I went with that. Sometime in the future when the herbed oil runs out I will make my own because it’s a fairly easy process and I always have fresh rosemary on hand.

I’m going to be pretty honest here. I’ve never liked olives. So why…you might ask…would I vote for a tapenade recipe? I absolutely LOVE artichokes and my love for artichokes is so strong that I could handle a few pesky olives. David’s recipe doesn’t specify what kind of olives to use, he only mentions green and pitted. So I made a special trip to the nearby Italian Centre so that I could pick out olives that were slightly more tolerable to me. I had always thought olives were a ‘love them or hate them’ kind of snack, but recently (and because of the Italian Centre) I have discovered two kinds that I can tolerate. One is the really dry wrinkly black olive and the other is a bright green, globular one called a Nocellara olive. The Italian Centre was really a one stop shopping for this dish because they also carry capers and quite a few varieties of canned artichokes. I was pretty excited when they opened their store last year because they carry almost any culinary item and ingredient imaginable and they are only a 10 minute drive from my house. 134

After picking up the ingredients, I hurried back home to make the tapenade and hand shaped orecchiette. The dough I had set out to rest while getting the olives had to be rolled out and shaped before we had to leave for football. Time was running short! Even so, I took some liberties with the tapenade recipe, as I most often do. These specific liberties actually added on more prep time because they involved hand chopping every ingredient rather than chucking it all in the food processor. There are some things that just should not be made in the processor and tapenade is one of them (salsa is another). I’m kind of old school that way, plus I like my tapenade super chunky. Of course David mentions throwing the ingredients into a mortar but there was definitely no time for that. By the way, I tried to get the olive pits out by hand but that wasn’t working so I got out the cherry pitter. It actually worked really well on the Nocarella olives.135My attempt at making orecchiette was pretty lame so you won’t ever see a photo of it but I have plenty of photos of that amazing Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil. We ate it on the gorgeous rustic potato bread (also from the Italian Centre…they have an amazing bakery!) and warmed up with some leftover chicken on the nightmarish orecchiette for a quick dinner. It was delicious!147

Then we spent the next two hours watching our son’s football team win their first game of the season. 149

Generally our group respects David’s ownership of each recipe that we cook from My Paris Kitchen by not posting the recipes from the book. There are a few renditions of the tapenade floating around on the internet, including one on David’s site.

Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil (Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)


  • 1 can (14 oz/400 g) artichoke hearts; drained
  • 1/4 cup dried black olives; pitted
  • 1/4 cup Nocarella olives; pitted
  • 2 cloves garlic; minced
  • 1 tbsp capers; rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup rosemary oil ( you can buy pre made herbed oil or make some according to David’s directions)
  • sea salt


  1. Quarter and finely chop up the artichoke hearts, add to bowl.
  2. Very finely chop the olives and capers, add to bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix. Season accordingly with sea salt, if the olives don’t add enough saltiness for you.

To use as a ‘pesto’ on pasta, warm slightly and mix with boiled and drained pasta. Add warmed chicken if you wish.


Mexican ‘Tapas’ at Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence

Many people have told me that they love visiting Mexico. Though it sounds wonderful and the people are so friendly, I’d never placed it high on my ‘to visit’ list until I had a sampling of the lively flavours of Mexico at the Canadian Beef Experience Tapas event at the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (CBCE). I was blessed to be included among 24 Calgary based influencers invited to this delicious event.

The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence is the headquarters for Canadian Beef and serves as an important catalyst between the Canadian beef industry and the rest of the world. The centre allows them to showcase Canadian Beef farmers and to host, educate, and train global consumers under one roof. Recently eight of Mexico’s top chefs came to Calgary to learn more about our Canadian beef industry. They spent a week or so touring local farms and beef processing centres, then had the opportunity to cook with some of the best Canadian beef available. The flavours and techniques they used while creating the Mexican ‘Tapas’ showcased Canadian Beef in the most wonderful ways.

Team 1 –  Chefs Jonatan Gomez Luna and Fernanda Silva. Chef Gomez Luna and Silva worked seamlessly together to create an Inverted Tostada which was presented upon a rich mole and topped with pickled red onions, radish, and onion ash. The ‘wedge cut’ of beef that they used was a small cut near the rib area which they marinated, then cooked sous vide for 20 hours. The results were ultra tender beef that melted in my mouth. I would give anything to learn how to make that mole!team1collage

Team 2 – Chefs Patric Cros and Alexis Bostelmann used braised chuck flat (Montreal steak) to create this tapas based on sopes, a popular Mexican street food. Besides the chuck flat, they made tiny beef chorizo-style meatballs with Saskatoon berries and a hibiscus morita sauce. All those flavours went really well with the little sip of mezcal provided.team2collage Team 3 – Chefs Federico Lopez and Javier Plascencia were quite ambitious with their tapas, using two different cuts of beef and two separate tapas. The first was a small tostada that was literally a party in my mouth when I ate it.

javierandfedericoThere were so many amazing flavours in that carpaccio style petit filet. I loved the burned onions and garlic, jalapeño powder, and especially the pickled puréed blackened onions aioli with a burned radish relish. All these smoky flavours were highlighted with the finishing touches of mint, lemon & jalapeño with shaved toasted hazelnuts to finish.

The second tostada from Team 3 was marinated & grilled tri tip with cucumber, scallions, red onion, cilantro, & lemon. Again, it was a lively mouthful…especially heightened by the little slices of hot peppers used to finish the tostada. 
federico3aTeam 4 – Chefs Josephina santa Cruz and Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain really knocked it out of the park with their Mexican twist on Vietnamese Banh Mi. They braised, then shaved some chuck flat and served it marinated in soy sauce, star anise, pineapple juice and fish sauce. It was wonderful with the traditional pickled carrots, cucumbers, onions, and cilantro.

Dessert was a small sweet bite. Just a simple poached pear,  caramelized brown sugar and cinnamon, and creme fraiche. Just enough sweetness.peardessert

beefcoverChefs love to eat Canadian Beef too!

Carbonade Flamande et Pain D’Epices – Cook the Book Fridays

It’s Sunday morning and the dishes are piled high in the kitchen. The empty beer bottles have been rinsed and are draining before being placed in the recycling. My house has a wonderful hint of the smell that filled the rooms all day yesterday and I still have a huge smile on my face from a night well spent with friends. Once again, food has brought people together for an impromptu dinner party at my home and I am ever so blessed.

Friday afternoon I sat down with David Lebovitz‘s My Paris Kitchen to read the recipes for the Cook the Book Fridays cooking club. It was perhaps a rookie mistake to think that I could just begin cooking and have the Carbonade Flamande ready for dinner that same evening…nope there was no possible way that was going to happen unless we ate the stew somewhere around midnight. So I made the executive decision to delay baking the Spiced Bread and cooking the entire recipe until Saturday. Sigh. This is only the second ‘Cook the Book Fridays’ assignment I have taken part in and I’m already breaking the rules.

The Spiced bread recipe seemed straight forward enough and I was pleased that it was more like a quick bread than a yeasted bread. I began the boiled honey and sugar portion while hubby was making our breakfast omelettes and it was suitably cooled by the time I was able to get back into the kitchen. The smell of the spices in the baking bread (whole anise, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, ground nutmeg, and cloves) had us reminiscing about the Christmas gingerbread we had enjoyed only a few short months ago. Spicebread
Upon reading the recipe introduction, in which David states that there seems to be a resurgence in pain d’epices popularity due to it’s accompaniment with foie gras, a personal food memory was triggered. I remembered that we did have some tiny pain d’epices toasts with foie gras on our trip to Paris!

I don’t really know how or why anyone would have a loaf of this bread just sitting around ‘mellowing’ for days, because it is virtually impossible to ignore it sitting there on the counter. I’m quite sure we will be having the rest of it toasted and with additional honey for breakfast this morning.

When I read the quantities of meat required for the stew I knew that there was no way the three meat eaters in this house would be able to finish it in one sitting, or even several sittings. I was in a bit of a quandry about inviting others over to share the meal with us as the flavours were a bit ‘out there’ and maybe not suited to North American palates. stewnbeerIn the end it was a needless worry because our guests enjoyed heaping bowls of stew on top of a pile of creamy mashed potatoes. There was enough for five adults, then later when my teenage son invited 5 friends over, there was enough for them too! We enjoyed the dinner with some more of the Alley Kat Amber Ale that I had used in the recipe, then we enjoyed some more after dinner was over…

breadstewI placed the bread in the stew mustard side down but was able to flip them over when I realized my mistake!

Though I had my reservations about placing the spiced bread in the stew, the final flavour was actually quite pleasant. I really don’t have a decent photo of the final stew because it was quite…non-photogenic! I do think that I would make this recipe again, perhaps the next time I have my entire family visiting because the recipe makes a huge portion of stew.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

An Award Winning Dinner in the Making – Junos 2016

Our whole city is abuzz with anticipation that this year, as 2016 has been designated the ‘Year of Music in Calgary’. Many local music and related institutions are having significant anniversaries this year including:

  • 60th anniversary of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
  • 10th anniversary of Sled Island
  • 30th anniversary of High Performance Rodeo
  • 50th anniversary of Alberta Ballet

and several new places to enjoy music will open their doors this year:

  • The new DJD Dance Centre
  • The new Bella Concert Hall
  • Opening of the National Music Centre

But the biggest news on the Calgary music scene is that our city is hosting the 2016 Juno Awards…and soon! 045
Juno week kicks off March 28 with a concert presented by Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) which benefits Canada’s music education charity, MusiCounts. Then there’s the JunoCup (hockey tournament), JunoFest (a two night event celebrating music in 15 venues across the city), Juno Fan Fare (Artist meet & greets), Juno Songwriter’s circle, and on April 2….the Juno Gala Dinner & Awards where approximately 35 JUNO Awards, the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, and the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award are presented.

This year the Juno Gala Dinner & Awards (presented by SOCAN) will be extra special because it features an amazing menu designed by Juno award winner and celebrity chef Roger Mooking. Chef Mooking worked closely with the Juno committee and local producers to bring a special taste of Alberta to this year’s Gala Dinner. The following dishes are sure to showcase some of the best products that Alberta has to offer:

junocollage‘Tomato Surprise’, ‘Alberta Love’, ‘Cracked Caramel and Brownie’- photos credit Nikolai Cuthill

Tomato Surprise‘ features a confited Sunset Campari tomato hidden under a selection of baby greens (Boston, Kale, Arugula, and torn fresh Basil) and the amazing sourdough from Calgary bakery, Sidewalk Citizen. The sourdough will be hand torn and transformed into Spiced Croutes. The dressing underneath is Roasted Garlic Nuh Gana, a Roger Mooking classic.

Spiced Croutes (Recipe Copyrighted by Roger Mooking, 2016)

Yield:  4 servings

  • Sidewalk Citizen Staple Sourdough Loaf
  • ½ Tsp Ground Cumin
  • ½ Tsp Garlic Powder
  • ¼ Tsp Sweet Paprika
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • ¼ Tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350F.  Slice sourdough loaf widthwise into ½” thick slices.  Mix all ingredients together and using a pastry brush, distribute mixture on 4 slices of sourdough.  Toast bread in oven 6 minutes.  Let cool on baking tray.

Alberta Love‘ features Blackened Bison Tenderloins, which have been generously donated by Canadian Rangeland Bison & Elk Inc. The tenderloins are coated in a mixture of spices, then seared off and finished in the oven. A lively citrus Chimichurri forms the base of the dish, while Parmesan Crusted Fingerlings and Grilled Lemon & Chili Oil Bok Choy complete it.


Blackening Spice and Bison Tenderloin Prep (Recipes Copyrighted by Roger Mooking, 2016)

  • 2 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard Powder

Combine all ingredients and mix together thoroughly.  Set aside for steak preparation.

Tenderloin Yield:  1 Serving

  • 6 oz Bison Tenderloin
  • Salt
  • Blackening Spice

Score tenderloin ¼” deep in crosshatch pattern.   If using skirt steak, do not score. Sprinkle with salt and add generous amount of blackening spice to both sides and rub into meat.  Pan sear over high heat or grill over high heat.  Sear or grill until the spice rub blackens and sticks to steak, flip and repeat.  Cook until medium rare.  Clean pan or grill between batches.

Cracked Caramel and Brownies‘ features mousse flavoured with coffee from local coffee roasters Phil & Sebastian, Sautéed Bananas and Cracked Sponge Toffee. Together they combine with a super chocolatey gluten free brownie to create the ultimate Juno-worthy dessert.

Phil & Sebastian Espresso Loose Mousse (Recipe Copyrighted by Roger Mooking, 2016)
  • 4 large Egg Yolks
  • 1/4 C Granulated Sugar
  • Pinch of Fine salt
  • 2 1/2 C cold heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbsp finely ground Phil and Sebastian Honduras Coffee beans
  • 1 Tbsp Icing SugarIn a medium sized bowl whisk together yolks, sugar and salt until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
    In a saucepot, combine 1C of heavy cream and ground espresso, scold the cream and allow the coffee to steep for a two minutes.  Strain through a fine chinoise or a cheese cloth making sure to squeeze out all the moisture.
    Slowly and in 3 equal batches, transfer the hot cream into the yolk mixture while whisking.  Once evenly combined, place bowl over a double boiler and cook to anglaise stage.  Transfer to a clean vessel and cover with plastic touching the surface.  Allow to cool fully then transfer to fridge to cool.
    Beat 1 C of heavy cream to soft peaks.  Fold heavy cream into chilled anglaise mixture.  Chill.
    Beat remaining 1/2 C of heavy cream with icing sugar to soft peaks for garnish.

Guests at the Juno Gala Dinner will also have their choice of official Juno beverages including Steam Whistle Pilsner (a Canadian craft beer brewed in Toronto, Ontario), wines (Mumm Napa Sparkling, Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc,  and Campa Viejo Rioja), and specially crafted cocktails. Mike Moorehouse (brand ambassador from Corby Spirit & Wine) used the official whisky (J.P. Wiser’s) and vodka (Polar Ice) in the cocktails, and named them after songs from two Juno nominees.cocktailcollage

Cool With That – Brett Kissel (Country Album of the Year nominee)

  • 2 oz J.P. Wiser’s (official whisky of the Junos)
  • 1/2 oz McGuinness simple syrup or homemade
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • Garnish: lemon zest

Method: Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake hard until well blended and chilled for about 5 to 6 seconds. Fine strain over ice in glass. Squeeze a lemon zest across the drink to release the oils, give it a twist and place it in the drink.

Downtown – The Sheepdogs (Rock Album of the Year nominees)


  • 1 oz Polar Ice (Official vodka of the Junos)
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 2 oz fresh grapefruit
  • Garnish: wedge of grapefruit


Method: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-blended for about 5 to 6 seconds and fine strain into ice filled rocks glass and garnish with wedge of grapefruit


20 Minute Instapot Meatballs and Spaghetti

I was reading the Spring 2016 issue of Ricardo Magazine during football practice last night. This particular issue is filled with all sorts of Canadian food related statistics and I found many of them quite interesting. From the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, it seems as though we Canadians have many differences in our food preferences and styles…but the most overwhelming statistic to me was that 40% of all Canadians start planning dinner at 4 pm. Oh, man…does that sound familiar to me! That 4 o’clock panic when you open the fridge and try to scrape something together before you taxi the kids off to wherever it is they have to be. It really hit home that I am not alone in this world, or country.

I am always looking for recipes that are tasty and can be made within an hour or less but most of the time I just wing it with what is in the refrigerator and see what happens. On Sunday my son had football from 5:30-7:30. Such a difficult time; it is too early to eat before and then when we got home everyone was starving and hangry. Plus, we always watch The Walking Dead together as a family before the teens head off to bed. So basically I was given half an hour to make dinner. Challenge accepted!

Luckily I still have jars of my home made passata and that sauce, along with the beef mince, grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and other pantry staples became the ingredients for my Instapot Meatballs and Spaghetti. meatballingI enlisted some help from the family, shouting out ingredients to be retrieved from the basement (sauce), pantry (Spaghetti, spices and herbs, bread crumbs, garlic, and onion), and fridge (grape tomatoes, eggs, beef mince) while I started a pot of salted water for the spaghetti and set up the Instant Pot. I added all the meatball ingredients and mixed them up, then got hubby to form the balls while I added all the sauce ingredients to the Instant Pot. When all the meatballs had been dropped into the Instant Pot, I closed the lid and added 15 minutes to the manual timer. 075Then I boiled the spaghetti. Fifteen minutes later we were eating and enjoying our meatballs and the latest Walking Dead episode.


20 Minute Instapot Meatballs and Spaghetti


  • 1 jar (plain, basil added, or garlic added) passata (2 cups; about 500 ml.)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 10 good sized fresh basil leaves; chiffonade cut
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes; sliced in halves
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 lb minced beef
  • 1/4 onion; very finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic; minced
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • spaghetti


  1. Add first seven ingredients to an Instant Pot.
  2. Add next seven ingredients in a mixing bowl and combine well using a spoon. Form a large tablespoon full into a meatball and drop it into the sauce. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
  3. Using the manual feature on the Instant Pot, add 15 minutes to the timer and make sure the pressure is set to high.
  4. Cook spaghetti in salted boiling water according to package directions.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,354 other followers