Thursday, March 29, 2012

Release the Bees!

Yes it is time to put your mason bee cocoons out there even though it is so bloody cold. The males will emerge once it has warmed up. This Saturday The Queen Bee will be appearing at a special event to celebrate the release of the mason bees at an amazing garden in Coquitlam. The speaker's lineup looks fantastic.

Here is a link to the website for the Inspiration Garden. Sharon Hanna will be talking about her new book about kale!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Making Paletas at Home

Over the Spring Break I borrowed this book from the library titled Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice and Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson. I presented it to my son and suggested we try some of her recipes.

The first recipe we made was for caramel paletas made with cajeta. I couldn't find cajeta in the neighborhood, but East/West had dulce de leche from Argentina, so we used that. You combine all the ingredients in a saucepan so they dissolve and mix together and then put them in the fridge to cool before filling your popsicle molds.

The other recipe we made featured bananas roasted in their skins and then blended with brown sugar, cream, cinnamon, and vanilla. The bananas are so sweet and caramelized you don't really need the brown sugar. If you were using plantains you might want to add sugar.

And here you can see the final product, which was consumed with mucho gusto while watching vintage episodes of "Get Smart".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tacos of Happiness: La Tacqueria on Cambie

It's that wonderful mid-afternoon snack of happiness: two tacos and a long, tall glass of horchata from La Tacqueria on Cambie. The concept is simple: choose you fillings and choose tacos or quesadillas for your meal. The staff are efficient and friendly. The decor is fresh and funky.

So far my favorite tacos are the Carnitas (pork confit with pickled red onion) and Rajas con Crema (roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn, sour cream and Mexican cheese.)

Even the blackboards are cute! It's a small place and seating is limited, so it's just a place to catch a quick bite and move on.

Don't forget to load up your tacos with the fixings: salsas in squeeze bottles, and those amazing pickled onions of happiness.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Malarky Reading March 21 at the VPL and More Dates!

My dear friend and colleague Anakana Schofield is launching her new novel called Malarky. It is a fascinating exploration of the inner life of an Irish woman who is fearlessly working to try to understand her son's past. If you are in Vancouver you can hear her read at the Vancouver Public Library on March 21. or you can attend the book launch at the most excellent Co-op Bookstore on April Fool's Day from 3-6 pm. I will be singing and playing my uke for the first time in public!

If you are in Toronto, you can catch her on Wednesday May 16th, 2012 at the Northern District Library at 12:30pm or later that evening at the North York Central Library at 7:30pm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Staycation Baking

After all my experiments with gluten free baking I had to go back and get a fix of baking with wheat flour. After all, it is Spring Break and my son won't eat most of the gf experiments. He requested we make Alton Brown's pretzel recipe which was a lot of fun.

I made some blood orange sticky buns and decided to use the dough recipe to make buns with saffron and cardamon. These remind me of my mom's Easter bread she bakes in coffee tins or braids and bakes with Easter eggs on top. My mom makes really good bread and buns.

I also made some lime curd which tastes good on the saffron buns. I find that making the curd with honey gives it a deeper flavor. I used honey infused with lemon verbena leaves.

My son loves muffins so I made a couple of batches. These are orange carrot chocolate chip. I like using and reusing those silicon cupcake "papers".

This morning I decided to make oatmeal cookies and I added one half cup of hemp hearts to the recipe. Next time I'd add some hazelnuts as well. Considering it snowed this morning, it's no wonder I am celebrating Spring with a baking marathon! Oh look, the sun has just come out. It's time to head out into the garden!

Pssst: Speaking of baking, check out Amy Jo Ehman's charming story of a bakery in a small prairie town called Consul, Saskatchewan. (You'll have to scroll down one post.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where to Eat in Saskatoon: Weczeria

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.
--Harriet Van Horne

I was so lucky to be able to celebrate my recent birthday with my dear family at Weczeria in Saskatoon. It was a fantastic night and I regret that the lighting was low so my photos can't do justice to the event. My partner and I fell in love with Weczeria many years ago when it opened off Broadway and it has now moved into a larger space due to popular demand.

I made sure to make the reservations weeks in advance. The place was already just short of absolutely full at 6 pm when we arrived. You can see here on the blackboard how they keep track of how many bunnies are left to serve. One of those was mine!

The back room is my favorite part of the restaurant with its cool bottle chandelier. I want my living room to look like that!

We had a bottle of Sumac Ridge Gewurtz and I also had a lovely festive sangria in a jar.

The menu is a la moment, written up on a blackboard as it is as ephemeral as seasonal ingredients. My sister had the pickeral with mushrooms, farrow and almond cherry crumble. I snatched a few bites and loved the chewy, nuttiness of the farrow and thought it went well with the fish. The cherry crumble added a brightness to the dish with what I assume is those local sour cherries again.

We also had this lovely green salad over roasted carrots with hazelnuts and raisin purée. I love the idea of having a green salad grounded with a base of roasted root vegetables.

I had the bunny braised in beer with caramelized onion puree and gnocchi. Sorry, I was into that rabbit so fast I forgot to take a photo. It became an instant all time favorite for me. And for my birthday dessert I had the creamy butterscotch pudding in a jam jar with brownies on the side. Oh yeah. Cooked with abandon and eaten with abandon.

Kudos to chef Daniel Walker and his team for a fabulous meal and for their well-deserved success.

Saskatoon Sweets at Calories on Broadway

Going to Calories on Broadway in Saskatoon makes me feel like I've returned home. This is because the restaurant was like a second home to me as I lived across the street, habituated it regularly and two of my best friends worked there. Many a fabulous calorie has been consumed here in my university days with a side order of gossip and giggles.

I can't believe the Saskatoon Soaps are still running. It must be the longest running live improvised soap opera on earth.

There's a new hat shop across the street, so mom bought a new cap to celebrate Spring. There's also a really cool new eco-shop called The Better Good.

My sister scored the best choice of the lunch menu which was this grapefruit salad with cubes of sweet potato topped with a little bit of lobster.

I went for my old favorite, the California club on wild rice bread. It wasn't quite as good as I remembered it, but we noticed the kitchen seemed to be in training mode and they were not having a good day. It happens. The waiter also seemed to be paying attention to tables with nubile young women to the detriment of other tables with women past a certain age. Ahem!

The best part of lunch at Calories is choosing the desserts. The ritual of perusing the case which is full of old favorites and some new sweets.

You can also take home their jams, chocolates, pickled mushrooms, and bread.

Here's a new one, with caramel sauce from the old favorite Schmoo Torte.

Choices, choices!

This is what I went for. Sour cherries grown in Saskatchewan are a new source of inspiration for local chefs. We took home some sour cherry brownies which I can vouch for.

You know you want to say it ten times fast: Shmoo Torte Shmoo Torte.....

A classic cheesecake.

Another old fave: the turtle square.

Here's the dessert plated up. Angel food cake is very popular in Saskatchewan. They even have angel food cake buffets at square dancing events.

I ended with a green tea almond latte. I liked the concept, but it was entirely too sweet for my taste. I'm sure you could tell them to dial down the almond syrup. It looks very pretty though, doesn't it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring Baking Experiments

I've been experimenting with some gluten free baking. I do love buckwheat brownies. The earthiness of the flour goes really well with chocolate.

Ules was assembling little ships off the coast of Florida on our vintage tablecloth.

I also made some matcha coconut moths and bergamot glazed lemon sugar cookies made with Beta 5 bergamot marmalade. I tried using that gluten free AP flour that Bob's Red Mill makes, but I don't like the crumb, the taste or the gaseous side effects, so I stuck with buckwheat flour for the sugar cookies.

Market Signs

Part of the fun of the winter market at Nat Bailey is the variety of colorful signs. Click on the photos if you want to enlarge to see the details.