Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friends, readers and fellow foodies:

After five years, I'm taking a little break from my beloved blog. I started this blog back in 2006 as a way to become a better home cook, a better writer and photographer. I wanted a way to keep track of all my favorite recipes and to be able to find them easily again. I also wanted to learn more about social media and become an active participant in something that was clearly here to stay.

Since then, blogging has become is a creative outlet and it's become a connection to the local food community. I've met new friends and been able to share my passion with others who are equally passionate about food. I've even inspired my sister to start her own food blog.

I'm taking the next few months to off, now until the end of the year, to free up a little time to try something new. You can now find me blogging on Cook Culture's website. I'm really looking forward to this opportunity as it perfectly combines my love for food and writing.

Thank you so much for reading and for all your comments over the past five years. I hope you continue to check back and browse through the archive of my favorite, tried-and-true recipes. Below are some of my favorites... see you in January 2012!


Goat Cheese Mushroom Caps: white or brown button mushrooms filled with goat cheese and topped with a breadcrumb mixture of toasted pine nuts, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, parsley and day-old bread.

Chickpea Goji Berry Salad: A deliciously hearty salad of chickpeas, mandarin oranges, almonds, goji berries and feta cheese. A lunchtime favorite!

Hungarian Mushroom Soup: one of my oldest, most trusted recipes. Need I say more?

Polenta Squares with Tomato Sauce: polenta with veggies (or Italian sausage) and tomato sauce is one of my favorite dishes, especially when I'm in need for a good dose of comfort food.

Rustic Potato and Tomato Tart: Another long-standing favorite, it's a guaranteed crowd pleaser that looks fabulous and tastes even better then it looks.

Spicy Chipotle Grilled Chicken: I've never been a big meat eater, and chicken especially I find bland and boring. That said, this recipe is fantastic! It's great year-round and for any occasion.

Homemade Granola: the reason I love this recipe so much is the amount of cinnamon that's added to it- two full tablespoons. It's easy to buy granola but you'll always, always, feel better about making and enjoying a bowlful of homemade cereal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Event Alert: Flights & Light Bites

Autumn is all about celebrating the harvest on Vancouver Island... and about finding fun things to do help distract from the increasingly colder and shorter days. This is why I'm excited about the series of tastings and pairings that the Hotel Grand Pacific has put together. Starting this month, the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria is offering a series of tastings and pairings on Saturday afternoons, from 4 to 5 pm.

Each session has a theme, including seasonal beers, mead, cocktails made with tea, whiskey, dessert wines and Eaux de Vie (I'll let you look that one up). To accompany all these tasty sips, there will be tasting plates with items such as charcuterie, cheese, olives and nuts, depending on the pairings. Another thing I like about these are they are $20 a session.

October 15, 2011: Tea Cocktails
Come out and taste four of the hotel's signature tea cocktails, and learn how to make tea infusions to make your own cocktails at home.

October 29: Mead
Tugwell Creek's Bob Liptrot will lead a tasting of five of meads, including flavoured and sparkling varieties.

November 12: Seasonal Beer
You will sample four different winter and holiday brews, including seasonal offerings from Driftwood and Phillips Brewing, and two international specialty beers.
January 14, 2012: Scotch, Whiskey and Bourbon
A special preview before the Whisky Festival, guests will taste a range of whiskies from the delicate and floral, through to the big "Peat Monsters."

January 28: Eaux de Vie
Participants will taste their way through some of the world's most famous eaux de vie, including Calvados, Pineau des Charentes, grappa and Poire William.

February 11: Dessert Wines
Just in time for Valentine's Day, this session will focus on different styles of dessert wines from around the world.

Tickets are available in advance through calling the restaurant at 250-380-4478. Tickets will be available at the door, however, buying in advance is recommended.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feast of Fields 2011 on Vancouver Island

Nearly 900 people gathered at Marley Farm in the Mount Newton Valley for FarmFolk CityFolk's 14th annual Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island. The wandering gourmet harvest, with its emphasis on local, seasonal and organic, is considered by many to the best festival of the year.

As people arrive at the farm, they line up to get their wine glass and napkin, check out the menu, and get ready to spend the next four hours strolling a country farm and enjoying some of the best food and drink Vancouver Island has to offer.

Every year, there's always were a few local bands that play throughout the day to- help set the mood and provide a little foot stomping music. On the farm this year were The Sweet Low Down and Jane's Way (pictured below).

With a guest list of nearly 900 people, chefs are busy long before the gates open preparing enough samples for everyone. The chefs from the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort had their hands full preparing their offerings: savoury cones with hand peeled shrimp, basil pesto and Natural Pastures Camembert Cheese, and sweet cones with white chocolate mousse with Nanoose Edibles marionberries and dark chocolate walnut bark.

Vin Coco Patisserie, a locally owned chocolate and pastry shop in Victoria, upstaged everyone as they showed off just how fun, sweet (and rock and roll) food can be.

There were a number of new participants at this year's Feast of Fields including The Oak Bay Bistro. Serving up Driftwood Wort and molasses cured wild salmon, dill seed buttermilk cracker and candied apple relish, the bistro offered delicious bite-sized finger food rivaled only by its presentation.

One reason Feast of Fields is so much fun is because it draws people of all ages. To help make it affordable for families, there's a discounted ticket price for kids under 12. Although a word of warning, your kids may be more interested in what's in the swamp than on their plate.

Feast of Fields is a annual fundraiser for FarmFolk CityFolk, a non-profit society that works year-around to cultivate a local, sustainable food system. During the festival, executive director Nicholas Scapillati (second from right) shared a few moments with Bev Marley (far right), the host of this year's festival, and Ryan Vantreight (second from left) who first introduced Bev to the festival's organizers so many months ago.

Of course, Feast of Fields wouldn't be possible without the many volunteers and people behind the scenes. Friendly, helpful and always smiling!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir

With the turn in the weather over the past few weeks, I've starting thinking about some of my favorite comfort meals - soups, chili, stews - pretty much anything warm and different than salads. This beet and fennel soup recipe comes by way of my friend Nicola, who discovered a taste for fennel seeds after trying my roasted cream of tomato soup. Nicola sent me this recipe after finding it in a magazine a couple of month ago and her instincts were right. It's delicious!

The one thing I love about beets is the depth of flavour they can add to a dish, whether it's a salad, roasted vegetables or in this case soup. The combination of caramelized onions and fennel with beets and finished with kefir is stunning. The soup is full of colour, flavour and is a nice change from the usual soups I tend to make. If you're looking for something a little different, than take a leap of faith with this recipe and try it soon. You won't regret it!

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir (serves 3)

Source: Bon Appetit

tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped (leave out the rough core)

1 1/2
teaspoons fennel seeds

large (2 1/2- to 3-inch-diameter) beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 cups low-salt vegetable broth

cup unflavored kefir (add more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion, chopped fennel, and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

Add cubed beets, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until beets are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in blender. Return to same saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup unflavored kefir, Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New York: earthquakes, hurricanes and amazing food

One week ago today I got back from my trip to New York and I've had a hard time thinking of anything else since getting back. Routine life feels just a little duller. It's a beautiful, stunning city that's vibrant and full of culture and activity. The buildings are iconic and the cityscape is so much more breathtaking than I had imagined. I felt so blessed to walk down the streets and be part of the city if only for a while.

In case the city wasn't exciting enough, there was both an earthquake and a hurricane while I was there. Being from the west coast, the earthquake wasn't anything new and actually I didn't feel it. I was walking through Chinatown where the sidewalks are uneven and the ground rumbles from the subway below. People around me felt it but there were too many new things competing for my attention for me to notice. The hurricane however, was harder to miss. The subway system shut down, my flight to Toronto was cancelled and there was palpable concern in the air. But in between natural disasters, I did as much as I could and had some amazing meals along the way...

Mario Batali's restaurant in Greenwich Village was amazing. It's in an old carriage house bordering the village and residences. Trying not to be intimidated, I sat at the bar and enjoyed a spectacular dish of Pappardelle Bolognese with a glass of red wine and Warm Cherry Cake “Sottosopra” for dessert. It was by far one of the best meal's I've had.

A charming yet modern burger and shake joint that's suspended within the city at Battery Park. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, shakes and frozen custard - all with a local, urbanly hip twist. The order line-up was an hour long but well worth it: a tasty little meal in the park, the chance to rest my feet and the people watching! I had a chocolate shake and the Second City Bird Dog, which comes with relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, banana peppers, celery salt and mustard.

While my sister tipped me off to Eataly before my trip, I ended up coming across it quite by accident (while on my way to check out the Chelesa Hotel). Eatlay is one the largest artisan Italian food and wine marketplace in the world. I wandered the store wide-eyed and literally drooling checking out all the sauces, olive oils, dried goods and produce. Heaven! They even had the dried, sugar powdered cherries I've been looking for. They have an unusual taste to them, slightly sweet and highly addictive.

The Fairway Market on the upper west side is by far one of the best grocery shops I've been in. Huge sections dedicated to cheese, meats, olive oils and produce... and so many different tins of San Marzano tomatoes. More than once I seriously considered packing my suitcase full of them to bring back with me. On our last day in New York, my friends and I went straight for Fairways to pick up some groceries for a delicious little brunch in Central Park. One of the best things we did during our stay!

During my second day, I wandered down Central Park West, past the New York Athletic Club to Sixth Avenue and down to the great Rockefeller Centre. I'm a fan of the show 30 Rock so I was looking forward to seeing the plaza in person and taking the NBC studio tour, which is led by an NBC page. In between checking out 30 Rock and when the start of the tour, I went to a nearby bakery for a quick americano and croissant. The coffee was good and the croissant was even better but the simple awareness of where I was and taking it all in was a sublime feeling. I will go back!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Your Guide to Feast of Fields

Vancouver Island's Feast of Fields will be upon us in less than six weeks and it's shaping up to be another good one. Another exceptional one. This is my favorite food event of the year because it always takes place on a beautiful, scenic farm, with local food and drink of every variety and with people who goes are all passionate about the same thing, namely food. Here are the details:

Marley Farm in Saanichton is the host of this year's Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island. The farm is located on 42 acres including five acres of vineyards with lots of open grasslands, fields and heritage fixtures. There's also horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigeons and it's just the place to spend a lazy, late summer day. Location is 1831 Mount Newton X Road.

One thing Feast of Fields is synonymous with is a wandering gourmet harvest. Spread over the farm, there will be farmers and chefs, vintners and brewers serving up generous samples of the very best food and drink they have to offer. Right now, there are 55 participants with more coming in every day. New this year are:

Choux Choux Charcuterie, Victoria's charming yet traditional, European-style delicatessen
Fruition Paletas, with their fresh fruit popsicles and ice cream bars
Intrigue Wines, from the Okanagan Valley started by Gray Monk’s co-winemaker Roger Wong
The View Winery, from Kelowna which first began as an apple orchard five generations ago
Kulu Restaurant, serving up Asian fusion cuisine from Gladstone Square in Fernwood
Moon Under Water with samples of their session ales

The festival takes place all afternoon, from 1-5 pm, and I recommend arriving promptly to get the most out of your day. Take 10 minutes at the start to walk around the farm, get the laid of the land and size up some of the offerings. The day requires a little finesse and strategy when it comes to taking it all in. Start with the tasty food samples, perhaps honing in on some of the seafood or bbq bites. Enjoy some of the many beers and wines, and later in the day take in some of the sweet delectables. The chocolate.

The festival sells out every year, and is expected to do so again this year. As the saying goes, to avoid disappointment, don't delay. Tickets are $85 for adults, $15 for children ages 7 to 12, and free for children under 6. They can be purchased online at online at or in person at Muffet and Louisa in Victoria. If you want to try your hand at winning a pair, click over to Green Muse to enter their ticket giveaway now until September 8.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Apricots baked with almonds and honey

Spending Sunday morning at a farmer's market is one of my favorite things to do. I like to go when the day is young, full of possibility and when the produce is fresh and at its best. In an attempt to take full advantage of summer's bounty, I felt like a kid in a candy store this morning - loading up on Lapin cherries from the Okanagan and not one but two boxes of B.C. apricots.

This recipe for apricots baked with almonds and honey is a great way to bring out the sweet jammy flavor of ripe apricots. Slice each fruit in half to remove the pit and place on a baking sheet with finely chopped roasted almonds and then drizzle with honey. Bake until soft, golden and fragrant. Try serving with yogurt or ice cream and garnish with mint if you have some around. This makes for a nice light summer dessert, perfect on an August evening.

Apricots baked with almonds and honey (serves 2)

6-8 ripe apricots
handful of roasted unsalted almonds, finely chopped
yogurt or ice cream
mint or golden raisins for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Slice each apricot in half and remove pit. Place each half on a baking sheet with the centres facing up. Top each half with finely chopped almonds and drizzle with honey.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until soft and golden. Enjoy warm with yogurt or ice cream. Garnish with mint and golden raisins.