Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dog Days of Summer

As the month of August draws to a close, us West Coasters are left scratching our heads wondering when summer started and trying not to be too bitter. In all honestly it has only been a few weeks since the weather began acting the least bit appropriately for the warmest season of the year. And I plan on taking full advantage of the good conditions to cram as much summer in as possible. This includes camping, country fairs, trips to the beach, BBQs galore…and of course the ultimate summer picnic.

According to Wikipedia, a picnic is defined as a “pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors (al fresco or en plein air)”. Stemming from the French term pique nique, the concept of dinning in the open air is one that has been around for centuries. Typically it involves a communal contribution and sharing of food, and can involve a cookout (hot food prepared through grilling) or simply consist of cold items such as sandwiches. Some people also believe that if you say the word “picnic” you are increasing the chance of showers by 42%. Food for thought.

Despite temperamental weather conditions that border on lame, British Columbians are fortunate to have gorgeous surroundings that offer a plentitude of picnic spots. We opted for a day in Crescent Park, and in terms of food I decided to go for a more retro menu that consisted of fried chicken, biscuits, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and good ol’ fashioned brownies.

The timing for our picnic corresponded with my receiving a shipment of sample eco-friendly disposable palm leaf plates courtesy of Marx Foods, which are the latest trend in tableware with a conscience. No one disputes the negative effect of traditional plastic or polystyrene plates and utensils on the environment, but sometimes going disposable just makes more sense (especially when feeding a large group). Nowadays consumers can choose from a wide selection of reusable or recyclable options; including paper plates, ceramic dishes, bamboo or a variety of plant-based renewable materials. So what makes palm leaf plates a good option? They are a durable, upscale option of disposable party plates that are made from naturally discarded sheaths of the leaves of the Adaka palm tree. That’s right – the materials used to make these dishes are collected from the forest floor, so no tress are required to be cut down.

All in all I found the palm leaf plates to be nice and sturdy, and I appreciated their rustic appearance (each plate is unique with its own individual pattern). They would be great for entertaining purposes as it lends a more upscale and interesting twist to your gathering, but unfortunately the price point is rather high which could be a deterrent. I like how the dishes (and utensils!) are compostable and thick enough to cut directly upon the surface. But because each dish is unique, they are not always flat which can be irritating as it means the plate can be rocky.

In conclusion our picnic was a success! The food turned out amazing (see links for recipes below), the pesky critters stayed away and didn’t ruin any of our fun, the palm leaf tableware was a hit and everyone left the park full, happy and satisfied. Doesn’t get much better than that folks.

Click here to read about how the palm leaf plates are made!

Fried Chicken
Macaroni Salad


Muffin Monday: Rum & Raisin Muffins

Let’s get this party started!

Rum flavoured muffins first thing in the morning means there is no excuse not to enjoy Mondays. Only problem is that along with goat cheese and pears, my palette has a disdain for raisins (only like them in raisin toast) and rum (details are hazy but it involved overindulgence on my 19th birthday).


I knew I would have to alter the recipe to suite the prejudices of my taste buds. At first I thought oh it would be great if I added crushed pineapple, some coconut, macadamia nuts, mango purée, and let’s not forget about chocolate chips. I realized I was getting a tad carried away when my hubby pointed out that no matter how many other ingredients I added it wouldn’t make the raisins or rum disappear. Good point. Thanks sweetie. You probably saved me from a muffin disaster.

What I did decide to do was add ½ cup of chopped walnuts, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, and not being able to bring myself to add regular raisins (baby steps people!) I opted for golden raisins instead. Fearing the muffins would be rather bland and unexciting, I also made an eggnog cream cheese icing. Hey no judging! If we can use alcohol in a muffin recipe why not take it to the next level.

I used my go-to cream cheese frosting recipe and added a dash of LorAnn eggnog flavoured oil. A little goes a long way with this type of flavouring, which is 3-4 times the strength of regular water/alcohol-based flavourings or extracts. (NOTE: you can purchase the LorAnn eggnog flavoured oil through my online store for $2.19 USD. Be sure to check out the other great flavours that are available and let your culinary imagination run wild!)

So how did this week’s muffin experiment turn out? Sinfully good. They tasted like a rum and eggnog latte – which was kinda cool. I can’t imagine these muffins without cinnamon or nutmeg, and am happy with how the spices added to the overall flavour. As for the raisins, they held a strong (but not unpleasant) taste of rum, but then again I did let them soak for four hours. By the time I added them to the batter there was no liquid left. The walnuts were another great addition and broke up the intensity of the raisins which I found overpowered the muffin. I would recommend adding half of the suggested amount. Sometimes less is more. Except in the case of my icing where the more the merrier is unquestionably the case.

I realize that these treats turned out more like a cupcake than a muffin by the time I finished tinkering with the recipe, but then again if you’re adding booze to your morning muffin chances are you’re not going to complain about a dollop (or two…or three…) of icing.

For a copy of the recipe for Rum & Raisin Muffins, please click here

NOTE: I will be away next week so unfortunately will not be able to participate in Muffin Monday, but be sure to check Baker Street’s site to see what deliciousness is being cooked up by the other foodies!

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.


REVIEW The Food You Crave: luscious recipes for a healthy life

By Ellie Krieger

Cookbook review written by

The Food You Crave is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

“To get people to eat well don’t say a word about health, just cook fantastic food for them.” Ellie Krieger

This quote perfectly sums up how I feel about Ellie Krieger’s cookbook, her recipes and overall approach to healthy eating. As a person who loves food, you’re not going to make me a fan of healthy eating by reciting facts and stats or scaring healthy food onto my plate. But give me healthy food that tastes incredible and I’ll be putty in your hands. The Food You Crave (published by The Taunton Press, $28.00 USD) will make a healthy food convert out of you without any bitter feelings of deprivation. The objective of the book is to take food you crave (such as pancakes, pasta, even sinful desserts) and recreate them in a healthier way without sacrificing any of the taste. So whether you happen to be lusting after creamy mashed potatoes or chocolate pudding, Ellie provides healthier alternatives that will satisfy your cravings.

This book follows the author’s food philosophy of Usually-Sometimes-Rarely. Anyone notice there is not a “never”? That is because Ellie’s approach to healthy eating does not include depriving you. Her goal is to teach you how to use ingredients that are typically off-limits when it comes to healthy eating, and use them strategically and in small amounts for maximum flavour impact. The Food You Crave is chockfull of creative recipes that are full of flavour and straightforward to prepare. The photography is fresh, and each recipe comes with a complete nutritional analysis. It also contains a list of essential nutrients for a healthy diet, along with suggested pantry items.

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, food writer and host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. Her passion for food came early, and at the tender age of two she could polish off a whole chicken by herself! An international modeling career introduced Ellie to new tastes and flavours, influencing her approach to cuisine and nutrition and giving her recipes an exotic flair.

Pick-up a copy of this book, flip through the pages and prepare to be inspired into healthier eating habits. With the stack of dessert books on my desk waiting to be reviewed, I know I will continue to turn to Ellie Krieger’s book! Balance – it’s all about balance.


Muffin Monday: Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins

Peanut Butter:
A popular food paste made from dry roasted peanuts.
Snickers Bars:
Brand name candy bar consisting of peanut nougat topped with roasted peanuts and caramel, and covered in milk chocolate.
Nigella Lawson:
English food writer famed for her (ahem) sensual approach to food.

So what happens when you put all three of these phenoms together? You end up with Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins. Yup – they are as good as they sound!

The list of ingredients consists of everyday pantry items, and in fact the only thing I needed to pick up from the store was the Snickers bars. (Growing up, Snickers was never my ‘go to’ chocolate bar…I much preferred Mars bars. What was your favourite childhood chocolate bar?)

Add and mix (dry ingredients), add and mix (peanut butter), add and mix (liquid ingredients), add and mix (Snickers pieces), pour into muffin tin and bake. Done and done. This recipe was simple to throw together and perfect to make with kids. Come on – someone besides you has to steal little bites of the chocolate bars, right?!

It should come as no surprise that these muffins turned out great, the classic flavour combination of chocolate and peanuts once again proving why they work so well together. The denser texture of muffins (as opposed to cupcakes) worked well for this recipe, and allowed for it to not be overly sweet. Getting the wrapper off the muffin proved difficult once the melted caramel cooled, but seriously who is going to complain about that anyway?!

Next time I would like to try experimenting with this recipe a bit, perhaps by using peanut butter flavoured Snickers or even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would also avoid using natural peanut butter, as I find for baking the results just aren’t the same and tend to be denser and less melted.

For a copy of the recipe for Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins, please click here

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.


REVIEW: Canada: the food, the recipes, the stories

By Anita Stewart

Cookbook review written by

Canada: the food, the recipes, the stories is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

Something that Canadians have always struggled with is a clear definition of our national identity. With a country as rich in cultural, historical and geographical diversity as Canada we often succumb to a general description of being a multicultural melting pot. But our country and people are so much more complex than this rather generic description, and as a result we are continually seeking ways to better pay homage to the richness of the true north strong and free.

The same struggle to define Canadian culture can be extended to our food as well. What is traditional Canadian cuisine? With culinary influences that span the globe (including European inspiration on the east coast to the west coast’s Asian fusion), it is not easy to pinpoint the quintessential nature of Canadian food.

Anita Stewart is a renowned authority on Canadian cuisine, culinary activist, educator and food writer. Author of 14 books, Anita’s passion for showcasing the diversity of Canadian cuisine can best be described as contagious. She is also the creator of Food Day Canada®, an annual mid-summer celebration that promotes Canada’s rich culinary heritage.

Canada: the food, the recipes, the stories (published by HarperCollins Publishers, $34.95 CDN) brings together recipes from the past with the latest food trends. Each chapter is based around a traditional Canadian ingredient, including Maple, Honey & Molasses, Corn Beans & Squash, Salmon, Fish & Shellfish, Meat & Poultry, Gran, Potatoes, Dairy & Eggs, Fruit & Nuts.

Canada is part cookbook, travel guide and historical textbook that allows you to get to know the people behind the food. Initially when I bought the book my intentions were not culinary! I thought it would be a great coffee table book perfect for flipping through as a resource guide but that the recipes would be ho hum. What a pleasant surprise to discover each of the recipes I tested turned out fabulous. I can’t wait to cook from it some more! Patriotism never tasted this good.


Muffin Monday: Doughnut Muffins

Yup that’s right folks…us Muffin Monday bakers got ‘saddled’ with the chore of having to make Doughnut Muffins. What can I say? It’s a tough gig this food blogging business.

Once again the recipe came from, and because of the success of last week’s Spinach Feta Muffins I was excited to try another muffin from this site.

So how would I describe this recipe? Easy peasy. Seriously – muffins don’t get simpler than this recipe which is a basic batter muffin.  In a nutshell? Ya mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls before combining. Told you it was easy! (Click here to read more about different muffin methods, tips for perfect results and storage suggestions…all info courtesy of Baker Street).

In the end I decided to jazz things up a bit: I made half of the muffins plain and dipped them entirely in melted butter and the cinnamon sugar topper, while the rest of the muffins ended up with a dollop of raspberry jam in the middle and an exterior coating of confectioners’ sugar.

These muffins definitely satisfied my sugar cravings but were kinda dangerous to have around our house. Talk about too much temptation! Especially as I have a stack of dessert cookbooks waiting to be reviewed. Like I said before; tough gig this food blogging business!

One word of advice I would give is that these muffins need to be eaten hot out of the oven. Once they are cooled they lose most of their deliciousness, which is unfortunate for someone like me who likes to make a batch of muffins and have them last over the course of a few days.

For a copy of the recipe for Doughnut Muffins, please click here

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.


Let them eat pie!

By contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

We are well into summer; why wouldn’t I be obsessed with meat pies?

I blame my endless production of winter comfort food on the weather. Anyone who lives on the West Coast knows what I’m talking about! Up until a couple of weeks ago we had not been graced with more than half a dozen spring days let alone any long lazy days of summer. Thoughts of picnics with crispy fried chicken and potato salad, or a late afternoon barbeque holding an overstuffed burger out from the front of your shirt in order to save yourself from the usual mustard coloured stain down the front have been far from top of mind.

Okay where was I? Oh yes…meat pies.

Personally, I love meat pies and have been making them ever since I was a kid and first learned to make pastry. Nowadays, I often try to shake it up and add new elements to my recipe repertoire. This penchant for changing things up all the time to avoid boredom has resulted in a collection of morphed recipes that originated from classics. For example; often I add curry and turmeric to my chicken pot pies. I have also been known to use Ras el Hanout and grated orange zest to beef pot pies. I love classic French Canadian Tourtière, Shepherd’s Pie and English Steak and Kidney Pie. I love Jamaican Patties, Scottish Pasties, Indian Samosas, American Pizza Pops and even Chinese Barbeque Pork Buns which arguably are a kind of pie (okay let’s not fight – they are a pastry).

Whatever type of meat pie happens to be your favourite, the best part about making them is that they are super versatile and hard to screw up.

My Mother used to make a fairly simple single crust meat pie called “Cheeseburger Pie” which was a weeknight dinner staple in our house. Whenever we walked in the door and inquired about what we were having for dinner and she told us Cheeseburger Pie, we would all cheer!

I can still envision her tattered recipe card, written in her beautiful hand.  Stained withy decades of use, I know I still have it somewhere and while writing this I have vowed to dig it out to remind me of those long ago family dinners.

Now as for the pastry potion of this program, I am a firm believer in good pastry. I believe in making my own from scratch and I believe in using shortening for pastry. No butter crust for this girl – especially in a savoury pie.

If the idea of making pastry strikes fear into your heart, there are variety of decent ready-made pie doughs available so you don’t have any excuse: hang the weather and go make meat pies!

Here is my basic pie crust recipe along with a few of my favorite meat pies (including my Mom’s kid pleasing Cheeseburger Pie):

Jax’s Basic Meat Pie Crust
Jax’s French Canadian Tourtière
Jax’s Chicken Pot Pie
Mom’s Cheeseburger Pie

Muffin Monday: Spinach & Feta Muffins

Savoury is a genre of muffins that up until now I have not experimented with as I usually prefer to take a more sweet approach. But this week’s recipe (from was for Spinach Feta Muffins. Definitely nothing sweet going on here!

Be warned that this recipe is a tad more time consuming but well worth the extra effort, perfect to make on a lazy Sunday morning. The recipe calls for self-rising flour which is flour premixed with chemical leavening agents, meant to produce a consistent and even rise in baked goods. Because I couldn’t find self-rising flour…anywhere…I made my own by mixing 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour with 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. It worked out great; muffins rose (hallelujah!)

I decided to sauté the fresh spinach along with some diced onion, which gave the muffins a great caramelized flavour. While I did opt to include sundried tomatoes I used only half of the suggested amount fearing that ½ cup would make the muffins too salty when combined with the feta. The addition of dill was subtle but added a lot of depth to the muffin, the salty chunks of feta tasted great alongside the spinach and tomatoes. These muffins taste great served warm or cold, and would be perfect to serve for brunch or to bring along to a potluck. Yet another success for Muffin Mondays!

For a copy of the recipe for Spinach Feta Muffins, please click here

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.



By Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson

Cookbook review written by


Flour is available for purchase through our online store or at your local bookstore

Have you ever come across a cookbook with which you instantly hit it off and know that the two of you will be the closest of friends forever? A book that can do no wrong in your eyes and so you place them on a pedestal from which they never fall? This is the case for me and famed Boston pastry chef Joanne Chang’s Flour (published by Chronicle Books, $35.00 USD).

Co-written with Christie Matheson, this book is a collection of recipes from the Flour Bakery which first opened in Boston (MA) back in 2000. The drool worthy photographs of Keller + Keller help to create a whimsical, almost retro feel to the book that takes nothing away from the professional quality of the recipes. Each page is full of Joanne Chang’s passion for baking and her continued fascination with the transformations that take place when you combine simple ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and butter. It is written in a casual manner, full of personal memories and anecdotes that will put even the most inexperienced baker at ease while preparing pâte feuilletée for the first time. Helpful baking tips are written in a clear, descriptive manner making intimidating techniques relatable for bakers of all levels. Lists of fundamental baking equipment and pantry essentials are also included, and ingredient amounts for recipes are given in both volume and weight measurements.

The cookbook market has always been inundated with baking books. So what makes Flour stand out from the herd? Clearly written recipes that produce successful results and include a variety of treats that range from a simple peanut butter cookie to more high-falutin’ creations such as Hazelnut-Almond Dacquoise. I dare you to open this book and instantly not want to make everything. In fact, I double dog dare you.

With the recipe tests for this book I opted for a commercial classic treats theme that included making Oreos, Pop-Tarts, and Fig Newtons. However I have also made the Raspberry-Rhubarb Muffins (delightful), and Flour’s Famous Banana Bread (is there a support group for addicts of this recipe?!) along with many other recipes – all of which turned out perfectly.

I read on The Kitchen that walking into Boston’s famous Flour Bakery is like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and that the bakery’s cookbook is like winning the golden ticket. Not having had the pleasure of visiting a Flour Bakery I can only imagine the sweet pleasures held within its walls, but cooking from the bakery’s cookbook definitely made me feel like I won the lottery