Cooking Classes


Lilac Sugar

Lilacs are in bloom for such a short period of time and I simply adore them. I have cut them to bring into the house. But did you know they are an edible flower? I could make lilac jelly or simple syrup to make a lilac lemonade. But my kitchen time is limited at the moment and I have chosen to simply make lilac sugar. The bouquet of the lilacs will be absorbed by the sugar and this can be used with sugar cookies or other desserts.

Pull the blossoms from all the green parts and discard green parts. Wash and dry. I used my lettuce spin dryer and then laid them out on a pan for a couple of hours. Toss with sugar and put in a jar with a tight lid. I will let this sit for about a month.

UPDATE: I didn't have the patience to wait until the washed blossoms were completely dry so now I have very crystalline sugar. I am going to keep it (why not?) and whiz it in the blender. Now I have unwashed lilac blossoms pulled from the green parts in a jar of sugar. Only one bug so far!

Then let your imagination run wild. Floral scented sugar has so many interesting applications. Think about tea!


Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Rather than making pasta your meal why not return to the pasta course. I love polenta but rarely indulge. It is better as a side dish or separate course rather than the meal, in my opinion. This is an adaptation of a Bonnie Stern recipe. Tarragon is fresh in the garden and there is no better time than now to start adding it to my meals. You could easily add green vegetables such as asparagus or peas to this dish. Don't be shy with the salt when you are seasoning the polenta. It does need a bit.

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms     serves 2

1 c. milk
1 c. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. whipping cream
1/2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tbsp. white truffle oil
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated

Bring water, salt and pepper to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook gently, sitrring occassionally, covered, on low heat abut 20 minutes or until polenta is tender and comes away fromt he sides of the pot. Add cream, butter, parmesan and truffle oil.

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 lb cremini, sliced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 T butter
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Heat oil and add shallots, then mushrooms. Cook on medium high until liquid evaporates and the mushrooms tart to brown. Add salt, pepper, butter and tarragon.

To serve:
Place polenta in a shallow bowl and top with mushrooms. Grate parmesan cheese over all and garnish with fresh tarragon.


Avocado and Romaine Salad with Soy Sauce Vinaigrette

I think I mentioned on a previous post that my fancy dancy oven up and died. It has been completely disconnected from gas and electricity so making food for myself has changed. I know salads, fresh vegetables and fruit and cheese and bread are healthy but I did not realize I would have a craving for hot food. Too bad, so sad.

I saw this idea of avocado with soy sauce on Pinterest. Tonight I decided to add it to my romaine salad. It was so delicious. I would never have thought to pair soy sauce with avocado.

Avocado and Romaine Salad with Soy Sauce Vinaigrette 

1 avocado
2 green onions
1/2 tomato, diced
1 T soy sauce or tamari
1 T. lemon juice
2T olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
romaine lettuce

Place romaine lettuce on individual plates or in a large bowl. Top with chopped green onion and tomatoes.

Cut avocado in half and place cut side down on plate. Slice 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. Drizzle with lemon juice, soy sauce and olive oil. Place sliced avocado on romaine salad. Drizzle all the soy sauce and olive oil vinaigrette over the lettuce. Garnish with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.


An Agricultural Journey was my vacation this year

A few weeks ago I motored from my home in southwestern Saskatchewan to the Okanagan Valley to attend the Slow Food Canada conference. The journey took me through some new and some familiar countrysides. This is a pictoral documentation of my agricultural journey. There were so many more points of interest. I was going to call my Alberta segment 'bison, boar and beans' but I have no pictures. Stopping every half hour becomes inconvenient. In Alberta I only have sugar beets and the wind farm. Each picture has a caption to describe.

Above is a field dedicated to sugar beets. These huge machines harvest the beets.
An irrigation canal south of Medicine Hat close to Taber

Irrigation apparatus near Taber, Alberta.

A wind farm in southern Alberta near Pincher Creek.

Nectarine blossoms near Osoyoos, BC
Nectarine trees near Osoyoos, BC
Mr. Harker of Harker Organics explaining the king flower concept of producing the best fruit.
The Harker Family with the 100 year old apple tree planted by the first Harkers.
Farmers' Market vendor. I bought his chipotle peppers. They smell sooo goood.
Vineyard at Summerhill Wines in Kelowna, BC

Green house made from old irrigation pipes, bent and covered with plastic at Covert Farms, Oliver, BC

Beautiful vineyard outside Oliver, BC overlooking Okanagan Lake at Covert Farms.
In the valley north of Cache Creek is this ginseng farm. They are a major world producer.


Truffle Pigs Cafe in Field, BC

Truffle Pigs Cafe was established in 1997 and I can remember the time. It was a go-to spot when driving through the Rockies on the Trans Canada Highway. We would even drive more than an hour from Calgary to enjoy the food. I ate there soon after it opened and it was wonderful. Last week I was once again making that journey and I delayed lunch until I could once  again dine at Truffle Pigs.

The ownership changed about 5 years ago but that does not seem to have affected the quality of the food. Apparently the new owner previously owned the little food spot across the street. Somehow it is a relief when someone who really knows the clientele and locale buys a restaurant. There is no 'break in' time required. They can step right into place.

This is taken from their website and describes the joie de vivre of this place. "Take a Toronto ex-pat and a northern Ontario gal, one a former anthropologist and the other a gourmet coffee pioneer. Mix with uncanny palate-pleasing propensity, hand-made pastries, and a knack for presentation. Crack a beer or pop a bottle. Add two drops of passion and a dash of dedicated staff. Surround with a quirky small-town cast at a Rocky Mountain lodge in Yoho National Park. Shake vigorously. Take a swing at the gong."

As they say on television, "You Gotta Eat Here".
I love all the flying pigs!

I must remember this lodge as I make my journey through the mountains.

There is a lovely patio.
This salad was absolutely delicious but so much larger than I was expecting. It was a meal!
Wild Mushroom Cream Soup with Rustic Bread

Tourist and Information Centre

Can you imagine living here? I can. And I would love it.

Just another scenic location in a village with only scenic locations.


Buffalo Mozzarella, true genius

I know that this salad is old hat to most of you but I still feel my shoulders drop, the outside world disappear and life stand still with my first bite. Buffalo mozzarella is quintessential Italy and Italy is slow and delicious and delicious leads me right back to buffalo mozzarella. The surprise is that this cheese was made in Canada. It is so delicious and fresh.

My fancy dancy kitchen oven has been gracing me with 50 loaves of bread every week all summer long that I sell at the Farmers' Market. Well, poor thing, just got up and died. Of course Kitchenaid cannot make anything simple for the repairman that has seen everything, except a Kitchenaid steam assist oven. Days, weeks and, I can hardly breathe when I say it, but months are passing as we try to get this machine back to work.

At the moment the entire back side is ripped apart, gas disconnected, electricity disconnected yet it has been graciously pushed back into place awaiting the correct oven element. Yes, I did say correct. Kitchenaid apparently has a difficult time reading its own manuals and sent me one that is far too large! So I sit without a pot to cook in. Perhaps it is destiny. I am ready to start my spring diet of salads and smoothies but somehow when it is forced upon me it isn't quite so exciting.

Caprese Salad

buffalo mozzarella
fresh basil
sea salt
balsamic reduction

Thickly slice tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Chiffonade the basil. Arrange tomatoes on a plate and season with sea salt. Top with slices of buffalo mozzarella and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve.


Veal Scallopini with Brown Butter and Capers

I am home again from a most amazing food holiday in the Okanagan in British Columbia. I attended two conferences back to back and ate like a queen for an entire week. I must say that coming home is a step down. You will read more about these events in my upcoming posts. I am still unpacking and sorting all the notes I took.

Whilst passing through Calgary I did have an opportunity to do some shopping. I was delighted to find veal at the Midtown Co-op. This is my favourite grocery in the city. Tonight I cooked veal scallopini aside rapini. Neither of these foods are available in my little town in Saskatchewan. Such a treat. You must try this recipe for a special meal. It is so simple with flavourful results.

Veal Scallopini with Brown Butter and Capers   from
  • 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound thin veal scallopini (less than 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained small capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over high heat until hot, then add oil and heat until it shimmers.
Meanwhile, stir together flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then pat veal dry and dredge in flour, knocking off excess.
Cook veal in 2 batches, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
Discard oil from skillet, then add butter and cook over medium heat, shaking skillet frequently, until browned and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar, capers, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Return veal to skillet just to heat through, then sprinkle with parsley.


Bean Scene Coffee Works

The Food and Wine Writers'
Workshop in Kelowna, BC gave us a lot of fodder for our blogs! This coffee shop is an amazing example of people who care about their customers, their city and the earth. They won the  Award for the Most Environmentally Innovative Business in 2012.

They accomplished this with an entirely new way to deal with the smoke produced while roasting beans without using electricity. It was a creation of John's through repurposing an old fuel tank. Brilliant. And the sludge remaining fertilizes their flower beds.

John Anderson and Deb Synnot are the masterminds of this business. John handles the coffee and Deb, the bakery. Everything is from scratch with the best quality ingredients.

Each drink is made by hand, one at a time. All of their equipment is calibrated to world barista championship standards. All baristas are required to compete in house to win a chance to attend international barista championships.

John's tips on buying and storing coffee are simple. Buy only what you will use in 8 - 10 days. Grind fresh for every cup or pot of coffee. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. That's it!

If your finished coffee does not taste good the three main reasons may be the grind, under dosing (ie not enough grounds) or your equipment. Heat extracts flavour better than cold but leave your hot coffee to sit for a minute and let it cool so you can taste the flavours.

There is so much more to learn. The blends, the matching with foods and the roasting give us so much more knowledge to enjoy and serve great coffee.
Customer service is front and centre.
Roasting beans

One very interested member of our group. She had the only seat in the place.
Rice pudding breakfast

Beautiful artisan cappucino


Litlte Horse Lodge at Green Lake, BC

Highway 97 follows the Old Cariboo Gold Rush Trail in British Columbia. The gold rush of 1862 - 1865 brought a steady stream of men and families hoping to find their fortune. This part of the country is steeped in lore and memorabilia of those days.

Now there are dude ranches, health spas and fishing lakes for the new generation of seekers. Some are seeking their fortune, others are seeking a slower pace of life in this area of wilderness. My father moved here about 25 years ago and at age 87 still enjoys puttering around with his tools and antique cars. He is also still a member of the volunteer fire department at Green Lake. I find it amazing that much of our rural areas in Canada are protected by volunteer fire fighters.

Many Friday's during the winter the group will meet at Little Horse Lodge for lunch. Take a turn off the highway at 70 Mile House and follow the signs to Green Lake. I should have taken a picture of everyone's meal because they were beautiful in their rustic and huge servings. Above is a Club House sandwich with a hearty bowl of bean and beef soup. Paul was unable to finish his sandwich and like me, he packed half of it home for a snack later. Below is my Beef Dip au Jus with French Fries. The quality of the food has come and gone over the years but they are definitely on a roll with some good grub now.

Highway 97 has stops at many of the Gold Rush era spots and stunning wilderness beauty. It connects with the Alaska Highway 97 from where it gets its name. Although the new highway has little resemblance to the old trail it is still a destination route for the adventurous.

Picture courtesy of Little Horse Lodge


Kelowna Farmers' Market - Make It, Bake It or Grow It

 This is another Farmers' Market and this one is in Kelowna. The season is still early so there are very few produce items. This was an activity from the Food and Wine Writers' Workshop that I was attending. I have still not arrived at home. Look forward to several posts of the amazing meals we had at both conferences.


Virtual Supper Club - Cooking with Rice and Grains

The Virtual Supper Club's theme this month is cooking with rice and grains. I am always looking for new bread recipes so this really caught my eye. I loved the sound of sour rye bread. It takes a shortcut by using yogurt rather than a sourdough starter. This is much easier.

This recipe was a complete success. The flavours are sublime. Neither the caraway nor the onion dominate but it is well balanced with the flavour of the flour. I followed the recipe exactly and the bread rose beautifully. I have never brushed the bread with egg yolk before. I have used an egg white wash or a milk wash but this egg yolk wash produced a rich and shiny crust.

The only think I did differently was that I baked it in my steam oven. I baked it at 400F for 25 minutes with steam being injected throughout the early part of the cycle. The crust is amazing. I love the saltiness of the kosher salt. What can I say? I love this recipe. I think I will add it to my Farmers' Market menu this summer.

This month's menu is like a potluck and mostly main dishes. There should be lots of ideas here for you.

Check out the rest of the menu by clicking on the links below:

Sandi -Whistestop Café Cooking    Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms
Jerry - Jerrys Thoughts, Musings and Rants Spelt Salad with White Beans and Artichoke 
Val- More Than Burnt Toast      Turkey Jasmine Rice Meatballs with Baby Bok Choy
Susan Linquist –The Spice Garden    Barley Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Pine Nuts and Raisins
Roz - La Bella Vita    Risotto Milanese

Hearty Sour Rye Bread

2 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. chopped yellow onion
3 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. warm water
1 1/4 c. low fat yogurt
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. white pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/4 c. bread flour, divided
1 1/4 c. stoneground rye flour
cooking spray
1 tbsp. water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
kosher salt

Heat olive oil in pan and add chopped onions. Saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. When done, cool completely.

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add yogurt, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Add egg. Stir well with a whisk.

Add 2 c. bread flour and rye flour to this mixture, 1 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Stir in sauteed onion. Turn onto a countertop and knead until smooth and elastic. Add bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and the countertop.

Place dough in large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Spray dough, also, and cover to rise in a warm, draft free place for about 45 minutes or until doubled. Punch down and let rest for 5 minutes.

Knead 5 times on the countertop and shape into a 7 inch round loaf. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush bread with egg yolk and water. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Make 3 slashes on the top of the loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when rapped.

Let cool for about an hour before slicing.