Pork Carnitas Black Bean Soup

I heard recently that soup swaps are the new cookie swaps. While I am unsure that soup will EVER replace cookies, swapping soup among friends is a great way to have a handy lunch in the freezer for those days when you are feeling under the weather or just plain lazy. I usually fall into the latter category and I really have to admit to you all that I absolutely hate making lunch. For me, it’s the worst meal of the day because it has to be small, yet satisfying and most of the time when I cook, I like to go big. Since I work from home, it’s easy to look up from my keyboard and notice that it’s 2 pm and I haven’t eaten any lunch, or worse yet…anything at all and suddenly I am starving! Usually I end up making scrambled eggs and toast because it’s easy and filling and I refuse to have canned soup in the pantry. Now that I’ve done my first soup exchange, my freezer is stocked and there are no excuses.


The soup that I made for our Bite Club exchange took very little time to make since I had some leftover Pork Carnitas in the fridge. This is a quick, meaty and warming soup for those very cold days when you wish you were on a sunny beach somewhere. Since I was making it for an exchange, I didn’t add any spice to it but I think you could add some chili flakes or float a cut chili in the soup as it’s cooking. Alternatively, add some hot sauce just before you eat it for that extra kick.

Here are some tips on hosting/participating in a soup swap.

  1. Limit the number of people. 6 seems to be a good number as not many people make more than 6 litres of soup at a time.
  2. Make sure everyone knows what kind of dietary restrictions/allergies are required.
  3. Include the recipe for your soup, reheating instructions, and if any extra stock will be needed for serving it.
  4. Freeze your soup in 1 litre portions ahead of time.
  5. If you use glass jars to freeze your soup, make sure there’s a LOT of room for expansion. No one likes glass in their soup.
  6. Here’s a great chance to use up all of your ‘Ukrainian Tupperware’. Reuse margarine and yoghurt containers.
  7. Don’t cheap out. No, I don’t want your 500 ml of soup for my full litre.


Pork Carnitas Black Bean Soup


  • 4 lbs pork shoulder; trimmed OR pork steaks
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oranges; zested and juice of
  • 2 limes; juice of
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced


  1. In a small bowl, mix herbs, spices, and salt together. Rub into the pork and season with pepper.
  2. Place pork in a slow cooker and add citrus juices, zest, and minced garlic.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the pork and enjoy!

For the soup… (makes 6 litres)


  • 6 cups shredded pork carnitas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion; diced
  • 2 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 8 cups (2 L) chicken stock
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 14 oz cans black beans; drained and rinsed
  • hot sauce (optional)


  1. Add oil to a soup pot and sweat the diced onions on medium heat until they become translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a few more minutes.
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano and sauté for a minute or two.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add stock and let the soup come to a boil.
  5. Add pork and black beans, return to a boil.
  6. Serve or portion into containers for a soup swap! soupexchange

Along with my dish today I’m excited to be sharing delicious 30 minute meal recipes from fellow Canadian blogger friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Tried and tasted food straight from our kitchens.

Salmon and Papaya Lettuce Wraps @ Everyday Allergen Free
Easy Coconut Curry @ Maple and Marigold
Big Salad & Avocado Dressing @ Allergy Girl Eats
Lemon Chicken Soup Orzo @ Mommydo
Kid’s Vegetarian Chili @ Off The Porch

Methi Murgh – Chicken in Fenugreek Curry

With the beginning of a new year, there have been a slew of new challenges proposed by various foodbloggers. A few of them have caught my eye, including one from Dana Sandonato (Killing Thyme) entitled ‘Recipe Nod’. Recipe Nod is a monthly challenge which involves cooking a recipe developed from an another (assigned) blogger and then featuring it on your blog. Quite a few of us from Food Bloggers of Canada have signed up and I’m anxious to see how everyone does with this challenge.

My assigned blogger was Chef Heidi Fink who has been teaching cooking classes in Victoria, BC since 1999. She has worked as Executive Chef at ReBar Modern Food and currently is an instructional assistant in the Professional Cook Program of Camosun College. I don’t know where she finds the time to write a blog, but it’s filled with inspiring recipes for a wide range of cuisines. Almost immediately, I knew which recipe I wanted to recreate in my own kitchen. The bright contrast of green in yellow of her Methi Murgh lured me in for good! I had actually been wanting to cook this dish for quite a while, but had never found a recipe that I was willing to try.methimurgh4

Chef Heidi’s recipe seemed approachable so I set out to find some fresh fenugreek/methi. You can make this dish with dried methi, but I really wanted to try it using fresh for the first time.  I was a tad bit worried that it was a bit too early to be looking for this pungent spring leafy vegetable/herb and in the end, I had to make a trip up to the far north east area of Calgary. I began at my favourite Middle Eastern market, Basha International Foods, and came up empty handed. I was a little worried that if they didn’t have it, it would be impossible to find! On a side note here, I was texting my Indian friend Lin all during the ‘Great Methi hunt’ and she was very concerned that I wanted to cook this dish. She never told me why outright (though she did tell me I would need a seat to myself on the bus), but eventually I came to realize what she was getting on about.methi

Back to the hunt.  Dejected, I decided to search one more nearby place for the methi; Superstore. You would think that as a chain, Superstores would all carry similar items, but no. Our Superstores in the South East of the city were all ‘fresh out’ of methi, which I took to mean that none of them ever carry it because of how demographics work in our city. As I walked in to the Sunridge Superstore, I was astonished to find the very first produce display ten feet from the door held a huge, fragrant pile of fresh green methi. The first thing I did was laugh out loud, then I proceeded to bury my nose in the pile and breathe deeply. It’s a wonder I didn’t get kicked out right then! I picked two bunches and went through the ‘express’ line. That’s a story for another day.pasteThe recipe is pretty straight forward, though I did have some trouble because I halved the recipe.  I don’t have a really good blender so I attempted to make the ginger/garlic paste in my food processor. The amount was too small and it would not blend together, even in the smaller bowl. I gave up and threw everything into a mortar, where I pulverised it with a pestle. It was the same situation with the methi/cilantro mixture. If you don’t have a high end blender or something that will successfully blend a small amount (with little moisture), the old mortar and pestle is the way to go. Plus, it’s more traditional.

Eventually, the ingredients came together quite nicely and the whole house began to fill with the aromas of the dish. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly…the whole house began to SMELL. I quickly ran around, shutting all the bedroom doors and put away the last of the laundry to keep it fresh. I texted Lin and she just LAUGHED at me while she explained that in India, this is one of many dishes that are cooked with the windows open. Unfortunately, this was not possible here in Canada during the dead of winter, so I think the next time I cook this dish it will be summer. I will cook this dish again, because we all enjoyed it quite a bit, but we do have some boundaries. Eventually, after a couple of days either we got used to the smell, or I ended up drowning it out by making a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade. I’m not sure which one it was but I can’t smell it any more. methimurgh3

Methi Murgh – Chicken in Fenugreek Curry 

A recipe by Chef Heidi Fink based upon a recipe from the cookbook A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey.


  • 3/4 cups fresh fenugreek leaves, OR ½ cup dried fenugreek (methi)
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 1/2 large onions, peeled, halved and cut into fine half-rings
  • 2 – 1-inch cubes fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapenos or serranos, stemmed and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup, packed, fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup, packed, fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala


  1. Soak the fresh fenugreek leaves in a large bowl of salted water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and dry them before you chop them up.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a large pan, add the onions and sweat them until they begin to caramelize (about 30 minutes).
  3. Place ginger, garlic, half the salt, and jalapeno in a mortar. Bash with a pestle until it becomes a paste then add in the ground turmeric.
  4. Add paste to caramelized onions in pan and sauté until the oil floats on top and the mixture is lightly browned, 5 minutes.
  5. Add the yoghurt, other half of the salt, and chicken pieces and stir, scraping the pan for any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Cover and gently simmer for 15-18 minutes.
  7. Combine half of the fenugreek/methi, cilantro and 4 tbsp water in a mortar and bash until it makes a watery paste.
  8. Add green paste to the pan and stir in. Cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  9. Finely chop the remaining fresh fenugreek/methi. Add this to the pan along with the fresh dill. Stir well and simmer 3 to 5 minutes more.
  10. Taste to adjust the seasonings – you may want more salt. Sprinkle the top with garam masala and serve immediately with basmati rice.


It’s very difficult for me to follow a recipe exactly how it was written but I really wanted to recreate Chef Heidi’s recipe as closely as possible. The only real change I made was to reduce the peppers to one from the original three. Since my jalapeno had quite a bit of heat, I was very happy with the amount of spice in the final dish after this adjustment.




Coconut Lime Layer Cake

I’ve missed it…gah! My very special, only comes once a year bloggiversary! Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen turned four on January 14th and I guess I’m totally in character with being four since I got distracted and played around instead of focusing on making a very special cake. I don’t know how many four year olds make special cakes (other then play doh or doo doo cakes) but when you’re a blogger, being four calls for a real hones-to-goodness fancy cake. After all…’a party without a cake is just a meeting’, right?coconutlimelayercake-4I DO kinda sorta have an actual excuse for the late party, though. Before Christmas I won a Rodelle Instagram challenge and the prizes were pretty sweet indeed. First prize was a signed copy of Tessa Huff’s gorgeous book ‘Layered’ which is smack full of cake porn. I mean, really it’s January right? Who needs cake porn? Well…I sat down one morning and read the book from front to back and I was hooked. I think I gained ten pounds reading it, but I was so impressed, I knew that I had to make one of the cakes in the book ASAP. In addition to Layered, I was also waiting for a baking package from Rodelle and getting a little worried that it hadn’t arrived yet. I sent a message to their PR firm and found out it had been ‘undeliverable’ and got sent back. They Fed Ex’d it to me and I got it two days later, the same day that I had finished reading Layered. I don’t know about you but I believe in coincidences, serendipity, karma, and all those other terms that explain to us that the universe is listening when we speak.coconutlimelayercake-5The little box of awesome baking supplies contained bottles of: pure organic vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, and pure organic vanilla paste (YUM) as well as a jar of Rodelle’s amazing Dutch Process Cocoa which I used to be able to by in bulk at Costco. I hate it when you get used to buying something awesome at Costco and they suddenly stop carrying it. If I would have known, I would have bought a couple of cases and stored them!coconutlimelayercake-7
The cake was pretty easy to bake, though I questioned the method at first. I usually cream butter and sugar together, then alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures. This one had the dry ingredients being added first and the butter incorporated later. Finally, when the wet ingredients are added the batter comes together. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the cake and I’m not sure if it was the method or a consequence of high altitude baking. What I did REALLY like was the Swiss Meringue Buttercream because it had just the right amount of sweetness. It was fun to make the meringue and has a really nice texture for decorating that becomes more stable after cooling.

Coconut Lime Layer Cake

(closely based on Coconut Mojito Cake in Tessa Huff’s ‘Layered’ pg. 216)

-makes a 3 layer, 6 inch round cake


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp coconut extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter; room temperature and diced


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease and flour 3-6 inch cake pans.
  2. Stir together the egg whites, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl.
  3. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt into a stand mixer bowl. Attach paddle mixer.
  4. Add butter and remaining milk and mix on low until the ingredients are moistened. Turn mixer on high for another minute.
  5. Decrease mixer speed to medium and begin adding egg white mixture, one third at a time. Make sure to scrape down sides of bowl as well.
  6. Evenly divide between the three pans and smooth batter surface.
  7. Bake 23-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pans.
  9. Level cake tops using a serrated knife before assembly.

Lime Curd (my recipe)


  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (zest your limes first, then add them all to the bowl)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • green food colouring (optional)


  1. Fill a saucepan with a couple of inches of water and fit a bowl inside to make a double boiler. Add yolks, sugar, lime juice, zest, and cream and whisk together. Add food colouring if using. Bring water to a slight simmer.
  2. Cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture just reaches a boil (do not let boil).
  3. Remove from heat and gradually add butter until it has all melted. Strain curd through a fine sieve into a bowl.
  4. Cover surface with plastic wrap and let cool in fridge.
  5. Freak out because your curd is too runny, throw it all back into a saucepan.
  6. Mix juice of one lime and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and add to runny curd.
  7. Heat until mixture becomes hot enough to thicken, taking care to mix well so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
  8. Cover surface with plastic wrap and let cool in fridge.

Coconut Vanilla Swiss Buttercream (Tessa Huff)

(makes about 3 1/4 cups; enough for a 3 layer 6 inch round cake)


  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter; at room temperature and cubed
  • 1 vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream


  1. Place egg whites and sugar in mixer bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water, turn burner to med-high heat and set the mixer bowl inside. Check to make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the surface of the water.
  3. Heat the mixture until it reaches 160 F or 70 C; whisking once in a while to keep the mixture from separating. Scrape down sides of mixer bowl for any stray sugar.
  4. Once mixture reaches 160 F, place on mixing stand and whisk on high speed for 8-10 minutes or until there are medium to stiff peaks.
  5. Once there are medium to stiff peaks and the mixture is at room  temperature, switch whisk for paddle attachment and begin adding the cubed butter a couple of tablespoons at a time while mixer is on low.
  6. After the butter is all incorporated, add the coconut cream then the vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  7. Turn mixer on high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth; 3-5 minutes.coconutlimelayercake-3


Pink Grapefruit Endive and Avocado Salad with Prosciutto

I couldn’t believe how long it took me to choke down my last salad. As I chewed those greasy greens…my mouth was basically masticating of it’s own volition with the rest of my body slumped in joyless determination; I felt my mind take over, willing me to just…stop. Sitting there munching mechanically on my less-than-stellar lettuce, grape tomato, and cucumber salad combo that I had topped with one of the nastiest bottled salad dressings, I made a promise to myself: no more quickly thrown together, boring, revolting salads!  platedressing
It’s been a week or two and the pain is still real. I’ve binned that olive oil lime dressing and tried to move on but it’s not that easy. That lettuce is still sitting in the fridge taunting me for a ‘quickie’. Luckily my fridge also contains some brighter, more attractive winter salad ingredients such as pink grapefruit, Belgian endive and always…the unctuous avocado. I know for a fact that this seductive threesome get on really well together and all they would really need is a touch of sweetness and a smidgen of salt to let those flavours really shine. So yeah, I could have totally made this a vegetarian/vegan salad by adding some salty (and visually appealing pistachios) but a girl’s got to have some fun, am I right? Bring on the crispy prosciutto is what I say!
The irony was not lost on me when I realized that it probably took me longer to think about and build this salad today, than it took me to photograph it and eat it. I didn’t mind because eating such a pretty salad, that also tastes wonderful was well worth it. I’m worth it. I am worth more than a ‘quickie’ salad and you are too.


I know what you’re thinking….that you don’t have time to make this salad, but it’s really not that difficult and you don’t even have to make it as pretty as these ‘food blogger quality’ photos above. In fact I served the leftover ‘odds and ends’ to my family later for dinner; all the loose bits of endive, slightly brown avocado and broken grapefruit. As long as I topped it with the crispy prosciutto and that light and easy dressing…no one said ‘boo’ while they were shovelling it down their throats.

Pink Grapefruit Endive and Avocado Salad with Prosciutto


  • 1-2 pink grapefruits
  • 1 tbsp rosemary infused olive oil
  • 1 tsp shallot; very finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Belgian endive
  • 1/2 ripe yet still firm avocado
  • 1 slice prosciutto
  • a sprig of fresh young rosemary


  1. Slice the ends off of each grapefruit, then slice into even rounds. Trim the skin and pith off around the edges of each slice until you are satisfied with the shape of each grapefruit slice. Arrange on plate (or skip all the way to *7)
  2. Squeeze some of the unused grapefruit and strain into a jar. You should have 3 tablespoons of strained grapefruit juice. Add shallots and olive oil to the jar. Season with salt.
  3. Slice Belgian endive cross ways in slices similar in thickness to your grapefruit slices. Take care to leave a few tightly intact and arrange on top of the grapefruit slices, placing the largest one in the centre. Keep the very tips of the endive to scatter around the plate later on and try to keep one whole to place in centre of avocado nest.
  4. Half the avocado and remove the pit. Peel carefully and thinly slice avocado cross ways. Arrange in an attractive pattern on top of the central endive slice, creating a bit of a nest. Place endive tip in avocado nest.
  5. Cut up prosciutto slice and fry until crispy. Scatter over salad.
  6. Spoon dressing over salad and scatter some young slivers of rosemary over all. Season, as always. Enjoy.

*7. Add chunks of pink grapefruit, avocado, and endive to a salad bowl. Make the dressing. Throw in some rosemary and crispy prosciutto. Toss with dressing. Season, as always.



Spiced Beef Matzo Pie

Sometimes cooking and writing alone at home all day can get lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to do so but as with any ‘work from home’ career, it’s easy to let yourself wear pyjamas all day and go all day without any other physical human contact. It’s so easy to get lost in dramas and lives online and never leave the house and not feel anything until the loneliness washes over you like a steamroller. I’m a bit of an introvert at heart so I have to force myself to join meetups and groups to get myself out of the house. Since I’m not a naturally awesome (yeah, I’m awkward) conversationalist, I tend to chose groups where I know there will be like minded people present. It just makes meeting someone and talking to them that much easier.

About a year ago, local chef and food writer, Julie van Rosendaal, threw out the idea of having monthly cooking club meetings via Facebook. The intent was to gather food lovers together monthy, to cook a variety of dishes using a theme, cookbook, or specific chef. A few names were kicked around and Bite Club was born.  The first meetings were a ‘get to know you’ sort of style, with ‘biteclubbers’ bringing cherished family recipes. Monthly topics are discussed via the Facebook group and members often take turns hosting at their homes. img_20160314_1807262So far we’ve had a French cooking themed Bite Club, as well as other meetings featuring the food of  Rick Bayless, Julia Child, and Dorie Greenspan. We’ve also cooked from books written by local authors; A Spicy Touch (Noorbanu Nimji and Karen Anderson) and Yassin’s Kitchen (Yassin Jallow). I’ve been following Julie’s social media feed for years and (being a fellow pie enthusiast) I’ve always wanted to participate in a pie social, like the ones she hosts several times a year. My wish came true this year on pi day (March 14!!) as we gathered together with 20 plus pies in the basement of a local church, I recognized the diversity of our wonderful group. We had everything from pear tart to whoopie pies, Saskatoon pies, Peanut Butter Pie, Banana Cream Pie and even a couple of savoury pies. matzopie
One of the savoury pies was mine. I knew there was the high likelihood of sugar overload so I decided to bring a meat pie and for some reason, even though I have no fear of pastry, I decided to try making a crust using matzo crackers. I googled ‘matzo pie’ and several different recipes came up and I chose Molly Yeh’s recipe because it looked the closest to what I was going for. I think next time I will include some mashed potatoes or lentils to make the filling a bit more stable as I found it was a bit messy when cut into individual portions.  matzocollage

Spiced Beef Matzo Pie (from My Name is Yeh)


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • black pepper

5-6 sheets matzo
egg wash: 1 egg lightly beaten with a splash of water
fresh parsley, pea tendrils, or micro greens for serving


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºf.
  2. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the onion, carrots, and a pinch of salt. cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and seasonings. Cook, breaking up the beef with a spoon or spatula, until it is fully cooked and no longer pink. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

For the crust –

  1. Grease an 8” cake pan and set it aside. Soak one matzo in warm water for a few minutes until it has softened (I kept a kettle of hot water nearby to replenish as the water cooled) but does not break up into mush.
  2. Dampen a clean tea towel and place the soaked matzo on the towel, covering with the other half of the towel. This allows the excess water to redistribute and get soaked up by the towel.
  3. While your next matzo is soaking arrange the previous matzo in the greased pan, breaking up as needed and allowing the matzo to overlap the edge of the pan (you will fold it over later).
  4. Once the pan is fully lined, pour in the beef mixture and pack it down firmly.
  5. Cover the top with more soaked matzo, pressing the edges to seal, and then brush it with a healthy coating of egg wash. It doesn’t have to be pretty as the pie if flipped over once it’s finished baking.
  6. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate. Top with parsley or micro greens and serve.

*NOTE: I found the filling rather loose and will try to make it a bit more resilient by adding 1 cup of cooked green lentils the next time I make this pie. I bet you could use mashed potatoes too!023

Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts

Christmas is family time. It means the constant state of being together, deciding who gets to sleep in which bedrooms (and on the blow up mattresses), endless Crown Royal Cokes, the repetition of the cooking/eating/cleaning cycle, getting boozed up on Bailey’s then going sledding, and our family’s favourite past time; playing cards. Sometimes on a particularly frosty night, we set up multiple games on folding tables, then build a round-robin type series from which players drop out as they are needed to cook or clean. The unspoken initiation into our family relies on one’s card playing abilities…if you are a quick study, it means immediate respect. If you have trouble catching on, or take forever to decide what card to play you will be the subject of good natured ribbing FOREVER (right hun?). We can’t help but build up an appetite doing all that drinking and card playing, so in addition to the appetizer themed meals, and classic turkey dinner, there’s card snacks.

nutsnbolts1My mom is pretty crazy about licorice, and my dad likes to pilfer the Christmas goodie tray that stays out all day long (and is constantly being refilled by your truly), the rest of us like salty snacks like peanuts and pretzels. When I was a kid I remember my aunt gifting us a giant ice cream pail full of her home made Nuts ‘n’ Bolts. We piled through them pretty quickly and they were a huge hit. Eventually they disappeared and my mom attempted to pick up the slack by making her own version. Even though everyone enjoyed them, she stopped making them too (it might have had something to do with having to make all the other appetizers she makes every year and being a bit overwhelmed, something I can now relate to!).


With our daughter coming home from University of British Columbia this year, we’ve decided to have Christmas here in Calgary so she can relax in her own bed and cuddle with the dogs. Who am I kidding? We want her all to ourselves! Usually when we say we want to stay home for Christmas, everyone drives the ten hours to Calgary and I play the host to 13 people for about a week. While I love having my extended family around, it does get exhausting. I’m looking forward to a bit of quiet time with just our little family this year, maybe we’ll play a round or two of cards just so we can feel a bit closer to our long distance family. Just to make sure we’re well fed at all times, we’ll be snacking on these Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts in between hands.

Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts


  • 2 cups dry roasted peanuts
  • 4 cups pretzels; twists or sticks
  • 3 cups bugles
  • 2 cups cheerios or other grain cereal
  • 2 cups shreddies
  • 2 cups mini ritz crackers or goldfish, etc.
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter; melted
  • 1 package Ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tsp True Lemon/True Lime/citric acid powder
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup dried dill


  1. Dump the first six dry ingredients (or your personal substitutions) into a large roasting pan or roaster.
  2. Melt the butter in a large mixing cup and then add the Ranch dressing mix, citrus powder, Worcestershire sauce, and dill into the cup. Mix well.
  3. Pour some of the butter mixture over the dry ingredients, mix well then repeat so that all the dry ingredients get a bit of seasoning.
  4. Bake at 275 F, mixing every 20 minutes until the mixture is dry. The time depends on what pan you are using, the roaster I used had higher sides, so it took 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Store in an airtight container.


Bite Size Berry Cheesecakes

You know those old-style community cook books? The ones that have all sorts of strange, but wonderful and notoriously bad for you recipes? I wonder why no one makes them anymore…do you think that websites like Allrecipes and food blogs in general have just replaced the good old fashioned community recipe book? I still consider myself a ‘spring chicken’, as my grandma used to say, but I am old enough to remember my mother submitting recipes for a couple of different community driven cookbooks. When I say ‘community’, it’s in the broadest sense of the term because two of these books were published by different branches of our family. My mother’s mother (or ma mére as we all call her even though she’s my grandma instead of my mother) had many brothers and sisters on the Ruel side of the family and after several huge reunions they decided to compile all the dishes they shared at each family function into one handy book. In it were several recipes for ‘never fail’ pastry, the Black Bottom Cupcakes that I make for every super bowl party, my mom’s Tomato Soup Cake, and MY Creamy Mushroom Linguine. I guess since it was published in 1997, I was already a mom (and a half!) and so entirely domesticated. Never in my dreams would I have imagined that mom and I would have recipes published in one book! Now that I am thinking about it, I think it was probably my very first original recipe.
032I have several of these ‘community’ cookbooks that I drag out every year at about this time, one from the Herzog side of the family with my grandma’s buttertart recipe and another from the Shellbrook Elementary Playground Fund Raising Committee which holds one of our family’s longest lived Christmas traditions (which has been around since our buttertart munching days); the Petit Cheesecakes. There have been years when I never thought making these was going to be possible, like when we lived in Perth, Australia and I had no clue whether or not I would be able to find the special ‘Nilla wafers needed for the tiny bite sized bases. I must have checked every store until I found them and then I realized that year, more than ever, we appreciated this little bite of home after we had finished stuffing our gobs with Western Australian rock lobster instead of turkey and before snorkelling at the beach instead of sledding on the family hill. In a place of uncertainty and of new experiences, this little bite brought us closer to home and the loved ones we missed terribly. cheesecakes

I usually make these quite a bit ahead of time, because they freeze extremely well and the recipe makes a lot so that when you’ve noticed that half of them have disappeared from the freezer container, there are still enough left over to share with the family on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. I freeze them without the berries or pie filling and just take them out of the freezer and top them up just before we eat dinner. They have just enough time to thaw, though if you forget and do it after dinner, no one will care because they are just as good frozen.

Bite Size Berry Cheesecakes 


  • 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese; softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 boxes ‘Nilla wafers
  • 1 can cherry or blueberry pie filling (or assorted fresh berries)


  1. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla until fluffy.
  2. Separate small baking cups (like the ones used for homemade chocolates or mini muffins) and place on baking pan.
  3. Press a Nilla wafer into the bottom of each cup.
  4. Place cream cheese mixture into a piping bag and fill each cup 2/3 full.
  5. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes. Freeze until needed or top with a tsp of filling (or fresh berries) and serve.029

The Guild Calgary – A Different Beast

There’s a different beast on the Calgary food scene…a beast from the east!  The Guild officially opened in the historic Hudson’s Bay building during busy Stampede season way back in July.  Kind of a balls-y move but after six years of dreaming, planning, and extensive renovations the Oliver and Bonacini owned restaurant required a grand entrance.

And what a grand entrance it was. For the entire Stampede, The Guild had a large smoker going out on the huge 175 seat covered patio with a pared down ‘pop up’ menu. The smoky aromas were a great way to introduce passers by to the basic philosophy of the restaurant; hearty cuisine with a huge focus on locally sourced proteins.  Hubby and I attended the Stampede party splash-out held in the restaurant’s basement; a below ground haunt of epic proportions with dark corners, sexy brass accents, and gorgeous wall frescoes of skeletal bird and reptile illustrations mixed with large red roses. The subterranean space, combined with the gorgeous wall blooms and exclusive Eau Clair Distillery Sub Rosa Gin and Vodka, is now open as a 160 seat Stephen Avenue ‘speakeasy’ named Sub Rosa.


We waited a month or so before visiting for dinner, our anticipation building with each passing day.

The main entrance is, for the most part, understated…though it shares a transparent display of various hanging meats with the main dining room. Once you enter the main dining area, it’s a totally different story as  your view sweeps downward and across the entire multi level room below. To the left (and looking out onto the patio and street) there are large windows which shed light onto the nearby tables of the top tier. Looking central (and down a few stairs) are cozy black leather banquets with brass accents throughout.  To the right, a row of regular tables are set across the terrazzo tile, one of the only recognizeable remnants of the original Hudson’s Bay. The feel of the room is that of art deco meets modern industrial and you can view the open kitchen from any seat in the large room, thanks to the theatre style multi level seating. The large semi circular bar becomes an opening act, through which the open kitchen (the main feature) can be viewed.  The action is mainly centred around the central wood- and charcoal-burning parilla grill which became a project on it’s own…adding a million dollars to the final cost of the restaurant. It’s central location, grill style and massive size required a specially designed system and a lengthy fire code re-write.

The menu is a mix of old school favourites, bright new flavours, and comfort food.  We’ll just say that with all the meat on the menu (slow roasted pig’s head, tomahawk rib steaks for two, and a 28 ounce porterhouse) that parilla grill will certainly get a good workout!
escargotThe garlic basil roasted Escargots are not often found on many local menus but it’s a dish that my husband is sure to order every time he sees it. He was quite pleased to have them all to himself, but for some reason he thought he should be sharing my Gin & Tonic Salmon! This very popular dish is comprised of softly smoked and gin cured organic salmon morsels with cucumber, tonic gel, crème fraîche, and Irish Soda Bread crumble. It was way too delicious to share.
salmon1All the meat is 100% locally sourced (except for the salmon!) which allows chef Ryan O’Flynn and crew to showcase the best Alberta has to offer. The menu has a daily Lambtastic Farms feature, which happened to be this Lamb Stew on the day that we visited. The lamb was so tender and juicy while the red wine sauce was rich and well seasoned…it was only missing a bit of bread for dipping.
lambIt’s a shame that this Brome Lake Duck Confit and Lentils dish is no longer on the menu, but maybe it just didn’t make the cut. The duck was perfectly brined and nicely confited, however I could have used a few more of the roasted carrots (one is never enough!!) and felt that it needed much more of that delicious burnt orange sauce to pull it together.
duck1Our starters and main dishes had left us feeling pretty satiated, but with gentle prodding we were able to enjoy this outstanding Crown Royal Whisky Bread Pudding. It was everything a bread pudding should be; soft and squishy in the middle with crusty outer edges and surface. It was rich and creamy, with a bit of pucker from the Saskatoon Berries and sweetened by the Crown Royal caramel sauce. We ate the entire dish clean.
breadpuddingWith friendly service and an engaging atmosphere, both hubby and I were very happy with how our visit to The Guild went. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cozy spot with a craving for comforting roasted or grilled meat dishes and great cocktails.
2016-08-09 001 057The Guild

200 8 Avenue SW; 403-770-2313

Mon – Sat: 11am to 1am
Sun: 11am to 10pm



High Tea at Brasserie Kensington

There’s a new trend appearing here in Calgary and though High Tea has been around for centuries, a recent resurgence of this British tradition is happening in and around our city. High Tea has been available at both Fairmont Banff Spring and the Fairmont Palliser for some time, but this year they received the ‘Royal treatment’ to celebrate the Canadian visit of Their Royal Highness’s the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex. This surge in High Tea’s popularity has prompted other local restaurants to include it on their weekend menus, with several more to follow suit. topshot

Tomorrow will be the first official seating of High Tea at Brasserie Kensington with service beginning at 2:15 and running until 4:30 pm. This time in the afternoon is generally very quiet for most restaurants, but rather than closing in between brunch and dinner services, chef Cam wanted to offer something a little bit different; and different it is! In the most traditional sense, afternoon High Tea can be quite stuffy and formal, and though there’s a time and place for this sort of dining adventure, the Brasserie Kensington is not it. Chef Cam has taken the best parts of high tea (vintage fine tea cups, piping hot Earl Grey, finger sandwiches, clotted cream and scones) and redefined them according to Brasserie Kensington’s relaxed style. Instead of cucumber sandwiches, you’ll find Duck Confit Banh Mi finger sandwiches and Truffle Deviled Eggs. savouries

This new Brasserie Kensington offering has also become a vehicle for local collaboration between Chef Cam and Jonathan owner of The Naked Leaf, a tea shop located right across the street. Learning about teas and how they pair with food has been an eye opening experience for Chef Cam and he’s looking forward to many more collaborations to come. Of course, when I order tea, 98% of the time it just has to be Earl Grey so I’m not sure what it would take to get me to try another with my High Tea.highteatips

Of course, High Tea would not be complete without bite sized sweets. For the month of December, Chef Cam has created a stunning array of holiday themed dainties, including Gingerbread Cake, Snowflake Sugar Cookies, and Hazelnut Mousse. There is also a selection of specially created tea-based cocktails for sharing or drinking all on your own. cocktail

High Tea at Brasserie Kensington will be $35 per person, with $1 from every high tea purchase donated to a local charity. For the month of December, donations will be made to the Veteran’s Food Bank, but a new charity will be selected each month.

Brasserie Kensington  1131 Kensington Rd. NW; 403-457-4148

The Naked Leaf #4 1126 Kensington Rd. NW; 403-283-3555


Nanaimo Truffles

Have you ever taken part in a Christmas cookie exchange? It is the absolute best way to sneak in some holiday time with friends and fill your freezer with a nice assortment of goodies. All day bake-a-thons are fun too…I used to get together with three other ladies every year where we would each bring the ingredients for two recipes and bake all day. We would blast the tunes, open the wine (or shake up some cocktails), gossip, and by the end of the day we would have eight different kinds of goodies to bring home. Those were back in the days when our kids were small and we all lived in the same area, now they’ve all grown up and we’ve scattered across the city (and Canada) like spilled nonpareils.

For the last couple of years, I’ve donated my pre-Christmas baking frenzies to bake sales…but this year, sadly those seem to have disappeared too. Luckily, I am part of a casual cooking group here in Calgary called ‘Bite Club’. Yes, I know the first rule about ‘Bite Club’ is you do not talk about Bite Club*, but humour me for a moment. It’s comprised of a lovely bunch of talented ladies, with a couple of men including Pierre Lamielle, a personal chef for hire, Chopped Canada champion, illustrator, and all around funny guy. Meetups usually occur on a monthly basis at a different home and there’s usually some sort of theme involved, whether it’s a particular chef, theme, or a specific cookbook. In the past, we’ve had ‘bring your favourite family recipe’, Rick Bayless, an ‘Haute Dog’ party, an Indian feast based on recipes from A Spicy Touch and even a ‘church lady’ wake for David Bowie. It’s so much fun to see how creative everyone can be and the variety of food is usually pretty impressive. The smart ones among us bring containers so they can bring leftovers home.

Last night was our first Christmas cookie exchange based upon Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies. Since there were around 30 of us packed into Julie van Rosendaal’s tiny little turn of the century home, we didn’t aim to bring 30 dozen cookies to swap. Thank goodness!! Instead we just brought as many as we wanted to trade for (plus some for snacking on). I didn’t have a chance to buy the cook book yet and I needed to create some content for the blog so I came up with a Christmas treat of my own. What if I took the ingredients that I would use to make a Nanaimo Bar and shape it into a truffle? A soft yellow centre flavoured with Bird’s Custard Powder, surrounded by the coconut chocolate layer, and dipped in chocolate…
nanaimoyellowWell I am telling you it is possible!! It was very time consuming and probably slightly more time than I would spend on a cookie exchange, but the results were worth it. Would you believe I’ve never actually made Nanaimo Bars before? Despite the pleas from my family, it’s never happened. I think they are going to be happy this year because I doubled up the recipe and only brought half to the cookie exchange. The rest will be waiting in the freezer, ready to be placed on Christmas dainty trays.
I did learn something last night at the cookie exchange. Julie’s sister, Anne, is a chocolatier and she told me that I could just leave the coconut oil out of the melted chocolate. If you do leave it in, these truffles should be kept chilled at all times. They will be solid at room temperature, but will melt quickly in your hand.
012I bought the little chocolate covered quinoa puffs at Bulk Barn. If you get a chance, and you have one nearby you should definitely stop by for a great selection of baking ingredients and decorations. I could spend a lot of dough in that place!
026Lastly, it was such a fun night. I came home with 3 dozen interesting cookies to share with my family, such as Chocolate Chili Sablés, Lemon Crinkles, Chocolate Crinkles, Lemon Brulée Cookies, Chocolate Tahini Cookies, and a few really tasty savoury cookies. It was a great way to sample so many cookies from one book and now I think I have a cookie hangover!

Nanaimo Truffles


  • 3 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter; melted
  • 3 tbsp whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp Bird’s Custard Powder


  • 1 cup graham crumbs
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup pecans; very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter; melted
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder


  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate; chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup chocolate covered quinoa balls or other decoration


  1. Combine first four ingredients together and shape into 2 cm balls. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for a couple of hours.
  2. Combine next five ingredients in a large bowl. You want the mixture to be crumby, but also able to stick together.
  3. Remove tray from freezer, grab a handful of the chocolate mixture and place a yellow ball in the middle. Compact into a larger ball with the chocolate mixture covering every bit of the yellow centre.
  4. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, (repeat with each yellow centre) and freeze for four hours, or overnight.
  5. Place a glass bowl over a boiling pot of water and add the semisweet chocolate and coconut oil. Stir until smooth and glossy.
  6. Using a long skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and turn to coat. Keep on turning until the chocolate has slightly solidified.
  7. Carefully slide the ball off the skewer onto a parchment lined baking sheet, keeping the skewer blemish on the top.  Sprinkle chocolate covered quinoa balls over the skewer hole to cover.
  8. Repeat until all balls are covered and place tray in fridge or container for freezing.


*Bite Club = Fight Club…you know, with Brad Pitt! Sadly he does not belong to our Bite Club.

Once again, I’m delighted to join a group of talented Canadian Bloggers in the #CANRecipe Challenge with December’s theme “Christmas Classics”. canrecipe-1

Find more #CANRecipe Christmas Classics here:


Dipped Oreos @ The Inspired Home

Mulled Wine @ Maple and Marigold

Bacon Fried Rice @ Allergy Girl Eats

Coles Pudding @ Off The Porch

Chocolate covered Whiskey-Soaked Figs @ Everday Allergen Free

Shortbread Cookies @ Mommydo