Monday, April 30, 2012

This Week's Cauldron: Easy Salmon Chowder

Yesterday Hubs and I visited the Hell's Gate Tram in the Fraser Canyon, about a 2 hour drive outside of Vancouver. As part of working in the hospitality industry, Hubs gets a 'passport' to visiting popular tourist attractions in the Greater Vancouver area, for free, including a guest!

It is our plan to explore as many of these attractions as possible before the end of May and I will be reporting on where we are visiting or where we have been regularly!

Our trip at Hell's Gate included the tram ride over the mighty Fraser River, which was roiling a few hundred feet below. On the other side of the canyon, was an interpretive centre featuring pictoral  stories about the discovery of the Fraser Canyon by explorer Simon Fraser as well as a gift shop, fudge factory and cafe.

It was here at the cafe that we stopped for a quick lunch before heading off to another nearby attraction. The Hell's Gate Cafe is known for their house made salmon chowder and this one was absolutely delicious! There is a place and a time for a rich creamy chowder and on occasion Hubs and I like to indulge, but diets dictate what is 'better' for us and thus, we usually abstain from this type of meal - but unable to resist the look and aroma of this thick creamy soup, we closed our eyes and dug in!

When we got home, Hubs asked me to make him a good hearty soup this week that has some extra protein (for his work lunches). It has been a while since I made a fish chowder and as we were still in virtual utopia after eating the Hell's Gate Cafe salmon chowder I thought I would make a 'Manhatten' style salmon chowder and omit the heavy fat contained in cream as well as thickeners such as flour and starch. The simple carbs contained in thickeners can elevate blood sugars which can contribute to inflammation and higher cholesterol. So eating it in moderation is an important way to avoid elevated problems...

Salmon is high in protein and rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are great for the heart and overall health. This chowder is high in protein with lots of salmon and low in carbs - only two potatoes - but with additions of tomatoes, celery and red pepper for some healthy Vitamin A, C and K plus calcium and folate.

This soup is definitely a meal in a bowl- thick and hearty, yet light as there is no cream. I did not miss the richness, instead I was able to have more than a small bowl and not fret about calories or added fat. It is a snap to make - in less than 30 minutes -and tastes absolutely delicious!!

Easy Salmon Chowder
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
1/2 onion chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
About 100g (4-5 slices) nitrate free natural ham, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, diced
4 cups fish stock
4 cups chicken stock
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tins wild sockeye salmon, skin and bones removed (reserve brine)

1. In large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots, onion and garlic; cook 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. Add celery, red pepper and ham and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add thyme and potatoes, reduce heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes; add stocks and tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, covered about 10 minutes until potatoes are soft; break salmon into chunks and add to soup, stirring gently. Serves 6.

Happy Monday Everyone: Its DAY 6 of my give-away - have you entered for a chance to win yet...?!

My very first give-away is going to be over this Wednesday - check out the page HERE to see the fabulous prize package  - there is still time to enter!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunday Morning: Pesto Chicken 'Tortilla' Quiche

I have always loved pastry, and I must admit making a good pie crust is one of my fortes...But sometimes I just don't feel like taking the extra effort on a Sunday morning to make a complicated breakfast/brunch. 

Making pastry does require some extra work and to me Sunday mornings are all about enjoying time and relaxing over something good to eat without stress- so this week I really wanted to share with you a secret for a delicious Quiche recipe made not with pastry, but with a flour tortilla as the crust.

In my typical waste-not-want-not mode, I investigated what ingredients in the fridge might be ready to be used up: fresh kale, cremini mushrooms, leftover (med-free) chicken tenders, goat's cheese, basil pesto and a few grape tomatoes that were very ripe. 

It only takes a few minutes to make the filling and bake-time is quicker than a traditional pie crust - this recipe is so easy and delicious, I know you will agree - it is absolutely fabulous!

This is what the quiche look like before they go into the oven - you can see the tortilla looks uncannily like pastry... 

The filling bakes up just like a traditional quiche and the result is a delicious fusion of chicken and pesto with smooth creamy Chevre (goat's cheese) and a subtle bite from the Parmesan cheese. The addition of kale provides Vitamin A and high anti-oxidant properties!

Pesto Chicken 'Tortilla' Quiche

1 Tbsp butter
4 large flour tortillas (plain)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb raw chicken tenders (about 8, cubed)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh kale, chopped fine
6 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 Tbsp basil pesto
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
6 eggs, beaten (reserve 1 Tbsp)
4 Tbsp milk (or cream)
3 Tbsp  grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp Chevre (goat cheese)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
6 grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced

1. Heat olive oil in skillet; add chicken tenders and fry until cooked through; add onion and continue to cook until onions are translucent; add kale and mushrooms and cook an additional 4-5 minutes; add pesto and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
2. Brush 4 small pie dishes (5"-6" diameter) with butter. Fill large shallow bowl with warm water and dip each tortilla in water for about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels and press into pie plates. Divide chicken mixture among four pie plates; set aside.
3. In bowl beat eggs with milk or cream, salt and pepper and Parmesan. Stir in parsley; pour into prepared pie plates. Top with Chevre (1 Tbsp per quiche) and tomato slices. Trim tortilla edges. Brush edges with reserved egg. Place pie plates on baking sheet and bake in 350 F oven for about 25 -30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

And please don't forget to enter my give-away HERE if you haven't had a chance to yet!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail and Day 3 of my Give-Away!

Its Friday...again - Yay!!!

First off thanks to all of you who have entered my give-away and who joined my blog as new members. I appreciate everyone who visits my blog and new members are always welcome! Also thanks for your comments -these really help me understand what's working and what isn't!  Its only Day 3 of my first ever give-away and I have had many entries already -  keep them coming - as you can see, the prize is a really good one - the give-away ends next Wednesday night.

Now down to business: who doesn't like chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream...? This special dessert has been one of my favourite comfort foods growing up, because when I was living in Germany the closest I could get to a chocolate cake was of the Black Forest variety. I found myself often craving the simple combination of a good chocolate cake layered with fluffy chocolate (or white) frosting!

I don't indulge much in chocolate cake anymore, but on occasion it really is the ultimate satisfying chocolate treat! I decided to create an Adult style chocolaty drink, including all of the elements of a good chocolate cake with what I had on hand and I think you'll agree, like eating chocolate cake, you may not be able to stop at just one...

The Chocolate Cake Martini 

2 ounces Creme de Cacao
1 ounce Vanilla Vodka
1/2 ounce Bailey's

Cocoa nibs
Chocolate fudge sauce
Whipped Cream

1.Finely chop cocoa nibs and sprinkle on small plate in a large circle; dip glass rim in chocolate fudge sauce, then in cocoa nibs. Set aside.
2. To cocktail shaker, add 4-5 ice cubes, Creme de Cacao and Vodka. Shake until well blended. Strain into prepared Martini glass. Slowly pour Bailey's over the back of a spoon into the cocktail - it will sink to the bottom. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a cocoa nib.

Cheers - now you can have your cake and drink it, too!!

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Welcome to my very first give-away!

The Give-Away Pack!
Its finally here! I am so excited to launch my very first give-away here on my new blog! These past two months have been so much fun and I really wanted to thank you for your frequent visits by offering you a chance to win this fabulous prize pack I have compiled!
The first of three parts to my give-away package is an awesome cookbook titled: Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole. Janice is a former chef and restaurant owner and currently a food editor, food stylist, recipe developer and cooking instructor, who lives in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Janice writes a blog about raising three hens in her backyard called Three Swingin' Chicks and just recently published this fabulous cookbook/memoir of suburban homesteading including great recipes using fresh eggs!
I have always been fascinated by the idea of owning chickens - and if it weren't for our two dogs (who love to chase anything small and furry or feathered) and Hubs, who believes we don't need any more animals in or around our home) there would certainly be a chicken coop resting behind our garden shed...
The second item is a SIL-ECO silicone baking mat, which is made of non-stick silicone and takes the place of  parchment paper or tin foil. I absolutely love mine especially for cookie baking!
The third item in my give-away is a handy Kitchen Helper, a collection of 11 pages of charts and guides from temperature conversions, to equivalent measures and weights, to emergency substitutions, roasting time tables and a fat, cholesterol and calorie chart. And...its made out of vinyl so it will last. It also has a magnet so you can stick it onto your fridge and always have it at your fingertips!

So here's how it works:
The give-away runs from 12:01 AM Wednesday, April 25th to 12:01 AM Thursday, May 3rd (EST). You can enter directly below! Click on 'Rafflecopter give-away', then 'enter to win'. Follow directions to obtain entries. There are several ways to get additional entries for the give-away. The more you participate, the more entries you will get!
I would like to thank everyone who is following my blog, as I appreciate all of you who are visiting, but currently this give-away is open to Canadian and US residents only. I hope to expand my next give-away to include my International viewers as well!

Good Luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Very First Give-Away Starts Tomorrow!

Its almost here: my very first give-away!

My blog has been up and running for almost two months now and I continue to be amazed at how much fun this is! Not only do I have a creative outlet to funnel my love of cooking, writing, photography and decorating, but I have followers from all around the world to share this with...SO COOL!!
I am super excited to announce my first give-away, starting at 12:01 tonight (Wednesday, April 25)! You won`t find out what the give-away is just yet, but I want to let you in on a hint: all (3) items will greatly enhance your cooking endeavours!

One of the reasons for choosing to kick things off on a Wednesday (aka. hump day) - I don`t know about you, but I tend to need something to help me stay engaged throughout the week...but the more important reason for this day is that April 25th marks the birthday of Norma, (Hubs`mom), who sadly passed away almost 25 years ago next month...
Norma was an amazing baker - not in a decadent `petite four` or fancy Torte sort of way, but if you can imagine any type of comfort food baking it was in Norma`s repertoire! Think butter tarts, shortbread cookies, pound cake, puddings, and by far, the best banana loaf on this planet! ( and yes, I have the recipe... aaah sorry that one is TOP SECRET!)

I think of Norma often, imagining time I would have spent with her in her kitchen learning her baking secrets and quizzing her on childhood stories of her son (aka. Hubs)...what fun that would be! So in honour of and out of respect for my late mom-in-law Norma - ``Let the games begin...tonight!``

P.S. Check back later today for my official give-away post!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Creamy Tomato Rice Soup

Today I am feeling a little like 'old mother Hubbard'. Tomorrow is my big grocery shopping day and I realized that I have been really diligent this past week in using up the food in the fact so much so, that I didn't have much left to make this weeks cauldron for Hubs' lunches.


...So I turned to the pantry...

There I found a can of diced tomatoes, a jar of organic roasted garlic pasta sauce and a Tetra-pack of chicken stock. The only left-overs suitable to put into a soup were a small container of basmati rice from last night's dinner, a small bunch of basil and some creme fraiche...

So this week's cauldron features: Creamy Tomato Rice Soup!

This recipe is a snap to make and takes only about 20 minutes start to finish (even if you have to cook the rice first...)

Creamy Tomato Rice Soup
1 can diced tomatoes (with juice)
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 jar roasted garlic pasta sauce (my favourite is Simply Natural, organic)
1/4 tsp garlic pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea salt, to taste
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1 small bunch basil, chopped fine (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 ounce dry Vermouth
2/3 cup left-over basmati rice
2 Tbsp creme fraiche (or cream or sour cream)

In large saucepan, combine tomatoes, chicken stock, pasta sauce, garlic pepper, cayenne, salt, basil and Vermouth and bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Add rice; stir in creme fraiche. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sunday Morning Apple Pie Pancake 'Apfelpfannkuchen'

I can't wait for Sunday mornings, when Hubs and I can linger over a cup of hot tea and catch up on the past week's occurrences, and set our path for the forthcoming week.

When I was in my late teens, after I graduated from high school, I was part of a circle of foodie friends. We took great delight in experimenting with recipes we would prepare for each other, usually for Sunday Brunch. There seemed to be less risk (and definitely less cost) involved in preparing a breakfast/lunch item than having the group over for a full fledged dinner party. Not much could go wrong, it seemed, in preparing soup, an egg dish, or even a pancake...

There was an unspoken expectation that I would come up with something German, with my heritage and all, and so one Sunday I recall preparing my rendition of a traditional German pancake. The batter is a bit different than a French Crepe, in that it is heavier in texture. But it made the cut and still remains one of the more popular breakfast items in our house today. I often get requests to share the recipe, so I'll open up my recipe book and post it here for you to try. Not only is it dead-easy, its really good!

For the pancake batter, you will require the usual suspects: eggs, milk and flour, but no baking powder - as mentioned, these pancakes have a denser texture.

To get that yummy apple pie flavour, I add apples, currants, cinnamon and nutmeg, which I sautee with some butter and brown sugar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     The fruit should be cooked until it is nicely caramelized, about 10 minutes. This makes the apples really sweet and the currants soft, and gives the spices a chance to unfold.

The pan should be really hot, so when the apples are done, crank up the heat for a few moments, then  add the batter, which has been whipped up in the blender - kind of like a Yorkshire pudding batter...

Now you bake it in a 400 F oven for about 20 minutes until it is puffed up like a giant Yorkshire.

Serve the finished pancake immediately, as it will deflate pretty quickly - and if it does, don't worry, that will not take away from the flavour or texture!

I like to top the Apple Pie Pancake with confectioner's sugar, raspberry jam and a fresh lemon squeeze - but you can certainly have it the more North American way, with maple syrup - no matter which way you choose to embellish - it's equally delicious!

Apple Pie Pancakes 'Apfelpfannkuchen'

1 1/2 cups un-bleached flour
1 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs
Pinch sea salt
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Tbsps currants
4 Tbsps unsalted butter
2 Tbsps brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg

Confectioner's sugar
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Raspberry jam
Maple syrup

Heat butter in oven proof frying pan over medium heat. Add apples, currants, cinnamon and nutmeg and sautee until apples are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, place eggs, milk and flour in blender and blend until frothy. Increase temperature of pan to high for a few moments. Pour batter into hot frying pan and place on middle rack into preheated 400F oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until pancake is puffed.
Serve immediately, sliced into wedges. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dollop of raspberry jam and dust with confectioner's sugar. Alternatively, top with butter and maple syrup. Serves 4.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail!

Its Friday again - are you ready for a chill drink to get you set for the weekend...?

When I was a child, my favourite ice cream treat was a creamsicle. I could barely wait for Saturday morning, when Dad would give us our 10 cent allowance. Yes, you read it right: 10 cents! I was only 5 years old then, and in those days 10 cents could buy you a whopping 10 penny candies at the corner store.

Accompanied by my brother and sister, we would traipse the two blocks to the local Mini-Mart to spend our coveted cash. The decision as to what to buy did not come easy. A bag full of candy was always tempting, as I could spread it out over the day, at least, if not the entire weekend. My brother on the other hand could not wait to devour his treat on the way home from the store and inevitably finished his bag of candy before we reached the nearest intersection. He was quick to try and bribe me to share mine, which to his dismay I politely declined. My sister preferred a pop, usually a Pepsi in a glass bottle, which she sipped from a long striped straw, slurping as we walked the two blocks back to our house. On a hot day, my choice was always a creamsicle. I carefully removed the paper wrapper and slowly licked my way through the orange popsicle layer to reach the creamy vanilla ice cream centre buried inside.

And while I am feeling nostalgic today on this beautiful warm sunny Friday, I thought I would share my adult version of a creamsicle, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I do. need to walk to the corner store!

2 oz vanilla vodka ( or add 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract to regular vodka)
1 oz coconut rum (Malibu)
2 1/2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice ( about 2 large oranges)
2 oz coconut cream (the thick cream on top of the coconut milk when you open the can - do not shake the can before opening)

Shake entire contents in cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, if desired and an orange twist.


Thursday, April 19, 2012


I didn't post yesterday, because it was Hubs' birthday! I was so wrapped up in menu planning... and had to get to the finishing touches on our master bathroom renovation...I spent the morning painting the walls as our carpenter was coming in the afternoon to install the lighting and hang the mirror. I felt like I was in a revolving door yesterday exchanging my cooking apron for my painting smock several times during the day! I can't even tell you how happy I am that the job is done at last and I am loving the final result! (will post photos)...

I had offered Hubs the choice to go out for his birthday dinner or have a special dinner at home that I would cook for him - and he chose...dinner at home, with a request for Greek! Some of you may have read my post Greek Revival where I featured a Greek dinner including Greek inspired Steelhead Trout. Last night's dinner included Greek lamb and chicken Souvlaki (kebabs), rosemary and lemon roasted potatoes, Greek salad, beans and carrots and of course pita bread with hummus and tzatziki dips. I plan to do another feature on Greek food later in the spring when Vancouver celebrates Greek Days at the end of June. So please come back and check out some more great Greek recipes, including those from last night's dinner!

Now for dessert...

Today I am going to share the recipe for Hubs' birthday cake. If you have never made an Angel Food Cake from scratch, then you don't know what you are missing!!! I have been guilty of buying those packaged Angel Food cake mixes for years and have to admit, up until yesterday, I had never made one from scratch...
Our foodie friends from Victoria spent the weekend with us last weekend and brought some local culinary treats like fresh pea shoots, natural bacon, kiwis and organic free-range eggs. I had just bought two dozen in my last grocery shop, so I now had 3 dozen eggs in the fridge! An Angel Food Cake requires 10-12 fresh egg whites, so this seemed like a great opportunity to use one dozen, at least. But what to do with the remaining egg yolks...?

I was craving something tart, as the last cake I made Almond Meringue Dream Cake, featured sweet strawberries in the cake and on the side...a quick check into the fridge fruit drawer yielded several fresh lemons!

Plan A: lemon curd

A good lemon curd requires fresh lemon juice and several egg yolks, so I was on my way to using my ingredients wisely. The leftover egg yolks would be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in a freezer bag for future use. And what about the frosting? I have to be mindful when I make cakes, because of the whole cholesterol thing for Hubs - but in making an Angel Food Cake, I was eliminating much of the cholesterol, right? But then adding it right back into the lemon curd...hmmm...Well it is his birthday and it is OK to treat yourself now and again!

* Note to self: Add another tab at the top of blog to include "Guilty Pleasures"...

I decided to make a decadent frosting using whipping cream, lemon curd and mascarpone cheese. Hubs will love it even though he will only indulge in a very small piece of birthday cake, whipping cream and all...I will let myself enjoy a small piece as well (due to my previous health issues) and the remaining cake will go to the boys: Mr. S and Mr. J...who will gladly devour it and lick the plate to boot!

P.S. This is seriously good cake!

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone

For the cake:
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 3/4 cups pure cane sugar (ground fine in coffee grinder or food processor)
12 egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the lemon curd:
1 cup pure cane sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 4 lemons ( lemons yield more juice when they are at room temperature)
3 eggs
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling and frosting:
2 cups chilled whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 454g tub mascarpone, chilled (Italian cream cheese)

For lemon curd: Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter; whisk until melted. Transfer 1 cup curd to a small bowl for spreading on layers. Reserve remaining curd for frosting and filling. Press wax paper directly onto surface of both curds. Chill for several hours or overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.)
     For cake: Position rack at bottom of oven and preheat to 375F. Sift flour and 1/2 the sugar with salt and set remaining sugar aside. In bowl of electric mixer combine egg whites, water, vanilla and cream of tartar on low speed. Beat at medium-high speed until foamy, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add reserved sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and repeat until sugar is incorporated and soft peaks form. Sift flour mixture over top of egg white mixture, dusting just until covered. Gently fold into egg mixture using a spatula; repeat until flour mixture is incorporated. Carefully spoon into an ungreased tube pan (taking care not to deflate batter - you want volume.) Bake 35-40 minutes, or until cake tests done (when inserted half way between the inner and outer wall of the cake pan, the skewer should come out dry).
*All tube pan cakes should remain in pan until thoroughly cool. Invert tube pan over neck of a bottle, taking care to balance it evenly. Let it remain there until cool. Loosen edges of cake using sharp knife and invert onto cake plate; cut horizontally, twice to create 3 layers.
For the Filling and Frosting: Beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until soft peaks form. Set aside. In another bowl, beat mascarpone until light and fluffy; add to remaining lemon curd; whisk until blended. Fold in whipped cream.
Place bottom cake layer onto decorative cake plate. Spread with 1/3 of the (1cup) of lemon curd, then with about 3/4 cup of lemon-mascarpone filling; repeat with second and third layers, ending with a layer of lemon curd on top layer. Spread remaining filling over sides and top of cake (reserve about 3/4 cup filling to pipe a decorative deign on cake top, if desired.) Cover with cake dome and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Happy Birthday Hubs!!
xoxo M

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Tribute To Spring Veggies: Asparagus

Last week I let you in on some of my plans for the remainder of April, including a great give-away happening next week...stay tuned to see what great prize package I am giving away to one lucky winner right here on my blog! For my Spring Vegetable Tribute, I am going to begin with Asparagus (not Artichokes, even though A-r comes before A-s - because...when I was at the market yesterday looking for some beautiful artichoke globes, they were unfortunately sold out. So check back later in the week for a fabulous recipe using these members of the thistle family.

My early knowledge of asparagus was only of the white variety. As a youngster growing up in Europe, I had my share of those fresh milky-white spears, prepared in a wide variety of interesting and delicious ways.

Unlike green asparagus, the white variety is buried in soil to prevent photosynthesis and therefore remains white. It is thicker than its green cousin, but sweeter, however it requires peeling as the outer skin is tough.

It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I was introduced to green asparagus in its natural habitat. This was around the time I had met Hubs when he had taken me to the Okanagan to meet his parents for the very first time...(I was a wreck...).

Armed with plastic bags, he had convinced me to take a hike with him into the dry hills above Naramata on Lake Okanagan, where we would find green asparagus growing wild amongst the cacti and knapweed. As an aspiring foodie, this sounded like heaven - the romance of hunting and gathering like our forebears and at the same time getting away for a little one-on-one time with my new beau...

It was a very hot May long-weekend, and I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and with legs bare, I soon discovered I had taken my life into my hands traipsing through land mines of blooming cacti. As I was ascending the hill, my running shoe knocked a cluster of those piercing cling-ons and one firmly attached itself to my calf. I can't even tell you the pain that pulsed through my leg as I screamed for Hubs to come to the rescue. He had discovered a patch of healthy young spears just up the hill from me and was busy cutting the stalks into his plastic bag...

The spines on an Okanagan cactus protrude about an inch and I can tell you that full inch had bored straight into my calf...I had an immediate flash-back of a similar sea urchin spine attached to my big toe while snorkelling in the waters of former Yugoslavia. Aaah!!! As I held back tears of agony, (girls, you don't want to cry too early in a relationship - save the big tears for something better than a cactus sting) - Hubs came to the rescue and the search for the infamous asparagus officinalis continued. Despite my injury I was intrigued by the process of foraging for real live asparagus in the wild right behind Hubs' family home. By the end of our adventure we had collected two produce bags full of wild asparagus, which we cooked up for dinner that night. No pain, no gain, they say!

Asparagus is one of those really versatile vegetables - the flavour is as unique as the texture and recipes for asparagus are in the millions. In our house, we eat a lot of asparagus - mainly the green variety, as the white tends to be available only in the spring and the price point is quite a bit higher than the green. Asparagus has been traced back about 20,000 years to ancient Egypt and has been used in medicinal, nutritional and aphrodisiac practices. It is high in folate (important in the prevention of heart disease, birth defects, and Alzheimer's) and potassium; it's high in antioxidants and vitamin C, which helps the body produce and maintain collagen; high in fiber and a natural diuretic. Asparagus water is a good astringent for the use in treating and preventing acne and blemishes.

Some of my favourite methods for preparing asparagus are grilling and broiling. If you are broiling, then place the asparagus in a single layer, or in bundles onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Tie off each bundle with a scallion that has been lightly blanched. Drizzle with olive oil and tarragon and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt (or Kosher salt). Place in the middle rack under the broiler for about 20 minutes or until al dente.

A nice way to grill asparagus, is wrapped in Prosciutto ham, then grilled over a hot BBQ until just charred. Serve sprinkled with shaved Asiago cheese as an appetizer, or side dish.

I steam my asparagus in an upright steamer - essentially a tall narrow pot with a metal basket and lid. Once you trim the woody ends off the asparagus spears (I break the ends off by bending the spear towards the base until it snaps, instead of cutting) they will stand upright and therefore cook more evenly as the base requires more cooking than the tip.

Asparagus loves sauce and one of my favourites is a home made Hollandaise or Bearnaise sauce. I don't make it very often, as Hubs has to watch his cholesterol, but if you are in need of a great one, check out the recipe below. I once found a great sauce recipe for asparagus in Canadian Living magazine, which included Dijon and stoneground mustards, and cream. It was To. Die. For. Because of our special dietary needs, Hubs' high cholesterol and my previous breast cancer, I have to avoid heavy cream altogether. But - you will notice I will on occasion include cream in a recipe, as it is still one of my guilty pleasures and once in a while it is ok.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon juice
Dash nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/4 cup boiling water

Cream butter until soft and smooth. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, then lemon juice and seasoning. (Put in a bowl that can be set over hot water into the fridge until ready to use). Just before serving, set over hot water (not boiling), stirring constantly while heating. When hot add the 1/2 cup boiling water very gradually until desired thickness. Makes about 2/3 cup.

For Bearnaise Sauce: omit the nutmeg, substitute 1tsp tarragon vinegar for 1tsp of the lemon juice, add 1Tbsp crumbled, dried tarragon and substitute dry white wine for the boiling water ( heat the wine). Same method as above.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Almond Meringue Dream Cake

Ok, so I had this dream the other night: I was baking some meringues...yes, I was thinking about food in my dreams - I just can't help it,  my muse stands by me even as I sleep...anyway, I was preparing the meringue and I was searching for a cookie sheet, which, for some unknown reason I could not find (I own 6). You know those dreams that turn into borderline nightmares when you can't find something important, or try to scream and nothing comes out of your mouth...?


Well, the only pan I could find was a springform - you know the one with the removable bottom -  ok so I find the springform and at the same time my mixing machine is running at high, whipping up something (at this point I have no clue what it is...). I peer into the mixing bowl (in slow motion, you know how in dreams sometimes moving around physically can be such a task?)...and there is this golden yellow cake batter twirling around the beater at hyper-speed.

I know. I think I may need therapy...

I have an idea. I'll pour the cake batter into the springform pan, then top it off with the meringue and bake both elements together! No need to look for another pan, that tedious task I was involved in while searching in vain for that cookie sheet (in my dream, of course).

When I woke up, my pillow was on the floor and I was holding my book-light poised to stir something...I could only hope that I was neither talking in my sleep, nor moving around as if  I was actually baking a cake, because my guess is Hubs would certainly have had me committed...


Sometimes dreams are lost upon waking as they have found a place to hide deep inside that part of the brain that is on permanent hiatus and sometimes they remain vivid and clear as a bell even several hours or even days after the dream occurred. I was making an omelette the next morning and was beating egg whites, when the dream suddenly came back to me. I grabbed a pen and paper and began reciting the details in my head, then jotting down notes on the ingredients and coming up with this recipe for Almond Meringue Dream Cake!

I mixed up my favourite yellow cake batter, then the meringue - the same basic recipe I use for Pavlovas and pulled another favourite recipe I use for filled cream puffs (French pastry cream). This cake is so light, only uses 4 eggs and looks impressive - as though you bought it from a pastry shop...

Almond Meringue Dream Cake

For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure cane sugar
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pure almond extract

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
1 cup berry sugar (or finely ground cane sugar)*
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup natural sliced almonds (with skins)

For the filling:
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
1 tbsp corn starch (I use tapioca starch as most corn products are GMO)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

1 pint fresh strawberries, about 1 cup chopped, the remainder sliced
1 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp orange juice
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease two 8" springform pans or cake pans with removable bottoms; set aside.
2. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time beating well between additions. In separate bowl, blend flour and baking powder. Add alternately with milk that has been mixed with almond extract. Spread into pans.

1. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form; gradually add sugar, 1 tbsp at a time beating well between each addition. Continue to add sugar and beat until meringue is thick and glossy.
2. Spread 1/2 the meringue over each cake batter layer, drawing up 'spikes' in the meringue with an off-set spatula. Sprinkle with almond slices and bake for about 40 minutes, or until meringue sounds hollow when tapped. Remove cakes from oven and immediately run a sharp knife around the meringue, then loosen the rim of the springform pan; cool completely on wire racks.
* If you don't have berry sugar, you can grind the cane sugar in a coffee grinder - it will dissolve into the egg whites faster and easier.

French vanilla pastry cream:
1. Combine sugar, tapioca starch and salt; gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil and thickens; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer. Stir a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolk (in a separate bowl); return to hot mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; add vanilla. Cover the entire surface with wax paper (I use soy wax paper as it contains no petroleum); cool. Beat until smooth; fold in whipped cream.

Remove cakes from pans and place one layer on decorative cake plate. Spread French pastry cream over first layer; Sprinkle with chopped strawberries; apply second layer. Dust with confectioner's sugar and garnish with a fresh strawberry. Serve with sliced strawberries that have been marinated in confectioner's sugar and orange juice, as well as a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Serves 8.

Everyone needs a sweet and guilty pleasure...!

Yam, Potato And Corn Chowder

Happy Monday everybody!

Once again I made too much yam and potato mash with Sunday night supper...well, I did it on purpose though. So...? why not over-make lots of something, so that it can be incorporated into something else? I love the idea of cutting corners where meal preparation is concerned, don't you...? The theory of cooking once - two meals... YES - bring it on!

Soup, oh how I love thee... I cannot count the ways...I just can't seem to get enough of creating different renditions using left-overs from the fridge or from previous meals. Its a challenge I take on each week as I prepare the cauldron for an amalgamation of culinary delights simmered in stock for that perfect body-warming liquid. There is always something kicking around to add to a soup, right? So last night's yam and potato mash turns into today's Yam, Potato and Corn Chowder -  in keeping with my weekly soup cauldron for Hubs' lunches. I truly am lucky that Hubs never tires of eating home made soup!

Soup has been around for thousands of years, in fact it has been traced back as far at 6,000 BC! In those days, before proper cooking vessels like clay pots, soup was cooked in animal hides or water tight baskets made of bark or reeds and the liquid was heated by adding hot rocks. Ok, I don't know about you, but I am feeling pretty good about my stainless steel pots and GE gas hot rocks required in this kitchen! Can you imagine heating a pile of rocks over an open fire, then transferring them (probably burning your pinkies in the process) to a dried out deer skin full of water, then adding your herbs and maybe some meat only to let the whole thing simmer until the rocks cooled, then start the whole process again until you were finally rewarded with an early rendition of Soup?! I can think of much better ways to spend my time...

The word soup comes from the French word soupe, which was derived from the Latin word suppa, meaning 'bread soaked in broth'. Have you ever wondered where the expression to sop up soup or stew came from? Sop comes from a Germanic source meaning a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew. There's my soup 101 lesson for the day...

I created this healthy and delicious chowder, by using the leftover yam and potato mash for the base of my soup, then adding in some nitrate free bacon and corn kernels as well as South-Western spices to give it some added kick. The result is a creamy, yet still chunky chowder that's light as well as hearty - the perfect take to work lunch...or in my case stay at home lunch! 

Yam, Potato and Corn Chowder

About 3-4 cups leftover yam and potato mash (or leftover mashed potatoes)
4 strips nitrate free bacon (fat trimmed), fried until crispy
1 tomato, diced
1-1/2 tsps cumin
Dash cayenne pepper
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
3 scallions, sliced
4 cups low sodium chicken stock (I use Pacific Organic, but you can use your favourite brand)
2 cups frozen corn kernels
Bunch fresh cilantro

1. In stock pot, fry bacon over medium-high heat until crispy; add tomato, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes; add chicken stock, mashed potatoes (and yams if using), corn kernels and scallions.
2. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 1 hour. Add about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, stir to blend. Garnish with additional cilantro.
Serves 4-6.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sunday Morning Poached Egg In A Nest

In keeping with my penchant for using left-overs, I put together a really yum recipe for a faux Eggs Benedict- like brunch item and called it Poached Egg In A Nest. If you saw my post yesterday with a recipe for potato skins, I noted to keep the potato pulp (scooped out from the baked potatoes) for another recipe...Well I decided to convert that left-over potato pulp  into a potato cake, which looks uncannily like an English muffin...hmmm. For those of you who are eating wheat-free, this is a really satisfying way to get your egg on toast/muffin without actually using bread...on the other hand, if I am scaring you into submission and you are in dire need of more fat and sodium, then please feel free to load this baby up with your choice of a good hollandaise sauce...

The potato cakes are a snap to make. I mixed the potato pulp with an egg, chives, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and formed them into patties using an egg poaching mould. Then they are baked in the oven and finished off briefly under the broiler.
I have beautiful rainbow chard growing in abundance in my vegetable patch, so I sauteed some of those lovely greens with some butter and tarragon and added them as a healthy accompaniment to the potato patty to create a cute nest for the poached egg. I love smoked turkey as an alternative to ham - so I put two generous slices under the poached egg for some extra protein.

Just add a side of fresh fruit salad (I combined fresh pineapple, kiwi, grapes and strawberries for a play on tart and sweet) and you have a delicious and beautifully easy Brunch to enjoy on a lazy Sunday!


Poached Egg In A Nest

1 cup potato pulp, mashed*
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp chives, chopped
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and pepper to taste

4 poached eggs
8 slices nitrate free, naturally smoked turkey
3 cups Swiss chard, washed and sliced into ribbons
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Dash cayenne pepper

1. In mixing bowl, combine potato pulp, egg, chives, Parmesan and salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties using a metal egg poaching mould. Carefully place patties onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Broil at high for about 2 minutes, until lightly toasted.
2. In the meantime, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; saute chard in butter until just wilted. Add tarragon, salt and pepper and continue to cook, until wilted, but still bright green, about 5 more minutes.
3. Heat turkey slices in pan over low heat until warmed through.
4. To assemble: Place potato patty on plate; surround with chard; layer turkey slices on patty; top with poached egg and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

*This recipe is a great way to use up mashed potatoes, but if you don't have any left-over, then boil 3-4 medium potatoes that have been peeled and cut into dice. Drain and mash. Add to recipe as indicated above.


Friday, April 13, 2012

The Hockey Play-Offs Have Begun...And Great Finger Food Has Arrived !

Since the first play-off puck officially dropped this week, I had to put together a new repertoire of Guy Food to satisfy the palettes of the group that congregates at our house several times a week during the play-offs. Between Hubs, our two teenagers, and their friends we usually have 8-10 spectators crowded around the Big Screen TV to watch Canada's beloved game...

A good number of us enjoys a few 'brewskies' while cheering on our favourite team, so my plan is to lay out the perfect complementary platter of goodies: what goes better with beer than the proverbial chicken wing?

I am fortunate that this group of guys has a keen appreciation for my cooking and thus I can put pretty much anything I have created in front of them and they will happily gobble it up.

Gotta love...Guys...

My first recipe features Thai Chicken Drummettes (drummettes are larger than chicken wings) that have first been marinated in a spicy Thai marinade, then coated in a crispy Panko breading and convection-baked in the oven. Served with a Thai peanut sauce for dipping, this finger food is a real hit. I'll let you in on a secret about the dip...I have discovered this great brand of Asian and Indian mixes (curries and dips) by Asian Home Gourmet. I use these if I am in a pinch and don't have the ingredients or the time to make a sauce or dip from scratch. They are not only free of preservatives, MSG and artificial colours, but they are a really good, tasty substitute.

Unlike hot wings, or any chicken wing in a sauce these crispy babies are not messy to eat, but they do have a little bite to them, so keep some refreshing drinks on hand, beer or otherwise...

This recipe coats 10-12 drummettes, so if you are serving a larger group, just double or triple the recipe. I estimate about 4-5 drummettes per person, if accompanied by other finger food. I had a group of 8 this past game night and prepared 3 dozen drummettes. 

Another guy food favourite is Potato Skins. I used to work at the Keg Restaurant years ago and one of the most popular appetizer menu items were these delicious spud snacks. I have prepared a slightly lighter version of these goodies, but feel free to pile on as much cheese as you deem appropriate for a group of hungry guys...

My favourite dip for potato skins is apple sauce. Maybe its because I am used to eating it on my potato pancakes. In any case, I feel its a great complement to this appy and always offer it on the side for those who wish to add it. The second  sauce I made is a garlic chive dip - chives go well with baked potatoes and the dip includes sour cream, so it makes the skins taste a bit like a traditional baked potato...yum!

For our group I baked 12 small to medium sized potatoes, which yielded 24 skins. 

The crispy skin of the potato, topped with bacon, cheese and chives finished with a delicious dollop of apple sauce or garlic chive dip is a delectable, satisfying, super easy to make no-mess finger food! 

I served a large tossed green salad as well, because I like to add in greens wherever possible. A Caesar salad would also be a great addition to this menu. 

Thai Chicken Drummettes: (single recipe-can be doubled or tripled)
1 dozen chicken drummettes (I use medication-free chicken)

For the marinade:
1 Tbsp lemongrass puree (available in the fresh herb section at the supermarket)
1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce (it has no artificial colour or preservatives)
1 Tbsp oyster sauce (no MSG variety)
1 tsp Bragg's soy sauce
4 Tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce

For the crust;
1-1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 Tsp garlic pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup unbleached flour (or gluten free flour)
pinch sea salt

1.Whisk marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Rinse and dry chicken drummettes and place in a large freezer bag. Add marinade and toss to coat. Marinate in fridge for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, flipping often.
2. Using three pie plates, place flour and salt in the first plate, beaten egg in the second plate and Panko crumbs, garlic pepper and sea salt in the third plate. Remove drummettes from the marinade and roll each one first in flour, coating evenly, then in egg, then in Panko crumbs. Place on a rack on a cookie sheet (this will keep the crust crispy). Convection bake at  350 F for about 30 minutes, or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced.

Thai Peanut Sauce
1/2 package Asian Home Gourmet Thai Peanut Sauce Mix
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Dash sesame oil
1 Tbsp chopped scallions

Blend all ingredients well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Potato Skins
12 small to medium potatoes, baked, halved and 2/3 of the pulp scooped
 out (save for another recipe)
1 250g package of grated cheese, any variety (I used low fat cheddar and mozzarella)
5 slices naturally smoked nitrate free bacon, chopped and fried until crispy, then drained on a paper towel
4 scallions, sliced

1 small jar unsweetened apple sauce

1. Place potato skins on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cheese and bacon bits. Bake in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, until cheese has melted and skins are heated through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately.

Garlic Chive Dip
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch scallions, washed and trimmed
3 sprigs fresh parsley

1. Place scallions, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, mayonnaise and 1/2 the sour cream in a small blender (I use the magic bullet). Blend until smooth.
2. Whisk in remaining sour cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chicken And Red Lentil Soup

If you have been following my blog for the past month, you have probably noticed that I like to use healthy, unprocessed (whenever possible) low fat and low sodium ingredients. In addition, I always try and use everything perishable in the fridge before it spoils - I just hate tossing out perfectly good food - its a waste of money and an insult to people who are not as fortunate as we are. I am not saying I never throw things out - yes it happens, but as a rule I use what I can before it spoils and if it can't be eaten, I will put whatever is appropriate into the compost.

This creates a fun challenge for me, because I do shop in bulk to keep the freezer and pantry well stocked. Buying fresh items like produce, dairy and meats requires some meal planning and it can be easy to forget things, especially if you have a spare fridge in the garage or many times have you opened a container and peered into a miniature version of the Canary Islands...?

I will often plan a meal on the day, based on what needs to be used up in the fridge or pantry. As I have mentioned before, I try and make a large pot of soup at the beginning of the week, so Hubs has healthy lunches to take to work. This week I made a delicious soup with some ingredients I had on hand, like raw spinach, celery and carrots as well as some leftover boiled potatoes from Easter Dinner that needed to be used up. I added in a bag of red lentils and some chicken tenders I had in the freezer (I separate the tenders from the chicken breasts and freeze them on a cookie sheet, then store them in a freezer bag for future use).

The result was a hearty, creamy (no cream) soup that everyone in my house enjoyed.

Chicken And Red Lentil Soup

8 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 potatoes, diced (I used left-over boiled potatoes)
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over (watch for small stones)
1 Tbsp dried marjoram, crumbled
2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
Small bunch parsley, about 8 sprigs, chopped
8 chicken tenders, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil

1.Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes; reduce heat to medium and add garlic; stir to blend with onion; cook until garlic is golden, but not brown (or it will turn bitter); add celery and carrots and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
2. Add lentils; stir to combine; add chicken stock, marjoram, sea salt, pepper, potatoes and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.
3. In the meantime, cook chicken tenders in olive oil over medium heat until just cooked through; add to soup; add chopped spinach and parsley and stir to combine. Serves 10.

* If you use raw potatoes, then add them at the same time as the celery and carrots.
**The red lentils cook down really quickly to create a nice smooth and creamy texture, without having to add cream.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Life With Pooches

I have two wonderful dogs, a 13 year old female Wire-haired Dachshund named Frankie and a 6 year old male Yellow Labrador named Cooper. Whoever came up with the phrase 'Man's Best Friend', may not have had the foresight to realize that women and canines could obviously be best friends, too...Duh!

Frankie is our adorable little souvenir we brought back from Germany (close to the Czech Republic border) when she was just three months old. The story behind how we got her and how she ended up here in Vancouver is a long and amusing one...

As a start, let's just say 'Hubs' had never bought into the idea of bringing a young puppy back to Canada, while schlepping copious amounts of luggage through several airports, toting two boys under the age of seven and all the while flying stand-by...

Little did he know that I had already paid a deposit to the breeder who was situated - according to Hubs - in 'former Czechoslovakia', a full 3 hour journey each way from our home base near Munich. Ok, so I did kind of pull the wool over him (already armed with a puppy kennel cleverly concealed in my luggage and conveniently filled with gifts for our hosts) - upon my departure from Vancouver two weeks prior.

I was lucky to get past customs when asked what I was bringing into the country...umm - just some maple syrup, smoked salmon and a dog kennel...


Once in Germany, the challenge for me had been to find a puppy old enough to have had all vaccinations necessary to enter Canada without going into quarantine...and not let anyone know about it...

Brimming with excitement, the search began almost as soon as our plane touched down in Munich.

You see, many moons prior to this trip, I was the proud owner of one handsome male Wire-haired Dachsy named Dusty when I was a young girl growing up in Germany in the 1970's. Five years after our return to Canada, Dusty was hit by a car and killed. The devastation that followed for me as a 15 year old is the time, before boys, he was the love of my life (also my dearest companion, since he was a gift from my parents when they separated when I was just 11).

From that day forward there was, in my mind, none other than a Dachshund.

I was determined to one day return to Germany and come back with an equally beloved, short-legged scruffy pooch, commonly known as a Wienerdog - but which Hubs liked to refer to as an overgrown guinea pig with fur...

What I haven't told you is that my travel companions - my mother and two young boys, not Hubs, as he was scheduled to arrive two weeks after us had already made a trip to the breeding kennel and picked out our little pooch. It was all we could muster to keep the details of the journey to 'Czechoslovakia' under wraps when we finally picked daddy up from the airport. With great credit to the boys - as I know they squirmed with excitement to share the news - the subject didn't come up until four days after Hubs' arrival...

...Just as he was getting over his jet lag and not quite as cranky- the news finally leaked.

I can still remember his eyes bulging as he turned his back to the boys and looked straight at me mouthing:

You bought...WHAT?

Don't get me wrong, Hubs is one of the most grounded people I know and his response was based more on his practical thinking than on his dislike for Weinerdogs...I have to admit I had the same annoying images in my head: the four (five including the dog) of us racing to the departure gates with only minutes to spare (an unfortunate non-perk of being an airline employee, getting a stand-by boarding pass at the 11th hour), not to mention the question of whether the dog would rest quietly in her kennel under the seat for a nine hour flight across the Atlantic...

But my rationale put those thoughts aside, and replaced them with cosy images of our new family member curled up in bed with the boys back at home.

Hubs was more concerned with how we would not only keep the boys entertained on the flight when they weren't sleeping, but how we would divert the attention from our seat row with a whining dog in a cramped kennel. I already had plans to keep Hubs well sedated with rye and gingerales, the boys occupied with brand new travel games and an extra blanket to wrap around the pup when I would sneak her out of her kennel for a snuggle.

In the end I persevered (well I did at one point turn in desperation to begging) and the day before our departure for Canada the four of us drove our compact rental car to 'Czechoslovakia' to pick up Frankie, who was ready for her new adventure infested with fleas and throwing up straw.

I know...

You can probably imagine how pleased Hubs was to receive this runt of the pack looking like she was a victim of the mange and sitting down every few moments to scratch...

I just held my breath. Hubs bit his tongue. The boys squealed with delight.


A quick visit to the vet for last minute shots and a routine check-up revealed a genetic flaw in our new pup - it seemed her bite was off and according to the vet she would need either braces or corrective surgery to properly feed herself...

Ok if the darts that came from Hubs' direction had been real, I most certainly would have been lying bleeding on the floor of the veterinary clinic.

With a half smile I gazed at him and chimed:

"For better or for worse honey...?" 


There are moments when I consider myself extremely lucky to be married to Hubs and this was definitely one of those moments. Braces for a dog? We knew all too well that both our boys would at some point require orthodontic appliances and there was no way we could afford to treat three family members, especially the one with fur and four legs...

Check back with me later for the next instalment of My Life With Pooches...

In the meantime check out this easy recipe for healthy doggy biscuits I made today. They are made with gluten-free buckwheat flour and I love the addition of garlic as an antioxidant, rosemary as a natural preservative and parsley as a breath freshener; the egg and olive oil condition the skin and the chicken stock and cheese add to the yummy flavour!

Garlic And Cheese Doggy Snacks

1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup low fat cheese
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock

Blend dry ingredients including cheese. Add moist ingredients and mix well, first with a spatula and then by hand. When dough is well blended, divide in half and roll each half out to 1/4" thickness. Use doggy bone or heart shaped cutters in various sized depending on the size of your dog.

Bake at 300F for 30 minutes for small biscuits, 40 minutes for large biscuits; they should be firm to the touch and golden brown. Yield depends on size of cookie cutters. Approximately 36 small and 22 medium biscuits.

Bon Barketit!