Cooking Classes


Day Trip to Sask Winery

Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery is truly an oasis in the prairies. They are nurturing their vineyards and also growing rhubarb suitable for winemaking. They buy local berries and honey for wine and mead.
The tasting is a social experience laced with humour and fact. 20,000 visitors arrived last summer. That is phenomenol considering the off the beaten path location. The vineyards are in a sheltered location in a semi-arid prairie. 
 This is the view from the restaurant terrace. Peaceful.
While driving through Saskatchewan on the Trans Canada Highway, pull off at Maple Creek and visit this gem.

Driving home we found this pasture with a very large flock of goats. It is unusual in this part of the country. There were a few sheep in the crowd.


Picking up my organic flour from Schmidt Mills

Maple Creek is only an hour away and the Schmidt Farm is another 30 minutes. They specialize in organic flours and grains. These farms are quite a drive from town and after having lived in a big city for so long I can't imagine living in such an isolated way.

This has been an organic farm for quite some time. They sell their products to One Degree Organics. You can see their story here.

Product ready for delivery. These are the one ton sacks of flour or grain.
This is my second visit to the mill and I am learning more each time. Perry tells me that even though organic flours are becoming more popular there are fewer mills for cleaning organic grains.

In addition to growing and milling, they have a fabrication facility and manufactures milling equipment. It is always a pleasant day when I pick up my flour.


Day Trips Can Provide Unexpected Pleasures

Abandoned brick Dutch Colonial style farmhouse near Claybank, SK
Stopping for lunch on the steps of Catholic church in Claybank, SK circa 1929

Scotch Thistle
Remnants of useful things from Claybank Brick Plant

Scotch Thistle

Coneflowers were everywhere.

Sage and Coneflowers.


Day Trip to Saskatchewan Badlands near Avonlea

These amazing badlands are only a 15 minute drive from the brick plant I wrote about previously. However, they are on private land and so well hidden that you would never guess their presence by driving past on the highway.

We stopped in at the museum in Avonlea, a village in the midst of fertile grain fields. Access to the badlands is by guide only. I felt it was a tad brazen but I wondered if perhaps someone could take us within the hour. Lucky us. Marilyn, a lovely senior and previous church minister was our guide. While we enjoyed a deliciously cold ice cream later, she admitted we were her first solo guide trip. She did an amazing job.

Wild animal tracks. Know what they are?     Deer.

We walked around the perimeter of the badlands area in about an hour and a half. Around every turn was a new formation that was even more amazing than the last. This landscape was laid down 35,000,000 years ago, long before the ice age. Erosion is constant. One of the more recent events was an earthquake in 1909. I inwardly marvelled at the lack of human footsteps and then Marilyn told us that with each rain they are washed away.

This feels like a temple you might find in Greece or Egypt. Without any special historical or designation of national importance, we are free to wander around this site as we please. It is quite amazing. We are so fortunate to have a landowner who respects this special place enough to forbid entry without a guide. It only cost $10 each.

Verdella took a little break. Without any shelter from the sun and with complete shelter from the wind, it was desert-like.

This area was a very special place for the plains Indians. There were seasonal creeks in the valley and good shelter. They created caches for storage and tipi depressions were plentiful on the prairie above the valley.

Plants are survivors. This aster is growing in bentonite clay that is volcanic in origin. It absorbs water easily in spite of its seemingly rocklike characteristics. It is a very marketable commodity. Ground bentonite is used in cleansing clays at spas. There area a number of marketable uses and I am so happy this area has not become a quarry.


Day Trip to National Historic Site Claybank Brick Plant

The plant was built in a depression in the landscape.

This part of the country has hidden surprises. They keep their treasures a mystery. The signage was minimal. In fact we drove right past.

The history is so fascinating. It began 35,000,000 years ago. Long, long ago before the ice age. The area was an inland sea. Different soils were laid in tidy layers. Fortunate for so many people, especially during the Great Depression, a very special clay was laid down here.

Ceiling of one of the several kilns.
I say especially during the Great Depression because this was one of the few places on the Canadian prairies that you could find a job. Leafing through the 3-ring binder of registered employees reveals families that made this their profession, immigrants that found themselves in the middle of nowhere and others simply happy to have a job. The wages were low and the work was hard.

The Claybank Brick Plant opened in 1912 and was continued to be developed until 1937. It operated continuously until 1989.

The clay was a rare kind that was ideal for refractory bricks. These are fire wall bricks. They were used by NASA at Cape Canaveral. This was one of only two of this type of brick plants in Canada. They also produced face brick that graces the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and a myriad of other building across North America.

Upon closing, A.P. Green Refractories Canada offered the site to the Government of Saskatchewan. It became a National Historic Site in 1997.

Today it is a quiet place to spend a sunny day. The bunkhouse is actually hardly my impression of a bunkhouse. It is a three storey brick building that house workers and other staff. Across the way you can see the entrance to an old root cellar. You can visit the on-site clay quarry.
Drying tunnels for the bricks.


Chai, Moroccan Mint Tea and Small Bites

Cream Tea, High Tea and Afternoon Tea describe formal tea. Cream Tea is served in Devon and Cornwall, England and there is an ongoing feud whether you put the clotted cream or the strawberry jam on the scone first. High Tea means that tea is taken in the dining room and therefore served on high tables.  Tea enjoyed in the garden is called Afternoon Tea and is on low tables.
All these details aside, the common thread is that dainty sandwiches and sweets are served with tea. In this modern era we would be as likely to serve green tea, herbal tea, chai or Moroccan mint tea. Sandwiches are now mini pitas or crostini and dainties might be fruit skewers or mini phyllo tarts.
Medjool Dates stuffed with chevre or feta is drop dead delicious. Garnish with orange zest and it is ready to go. These little pitas are made by quartering the mini pita bread and stuffing with a curried egg salad. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Mixed Nut Phyllo Tarts
This is much less work than making your own pastry and lighter than purchased unbaked pastry shells. Use any mix of unsalted nuts you have on hand. When working with phyllo pastry, I brush some melted butter on the countertop so the first sheet doesn’t move around.
1 c. maple syrup 
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter, cooled 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. coarsely chopped mixed unsalted nuts 
1 pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 c. melted butter 
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine maple syrup, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Set aside.
Lay out 1 sheet of phyllo pastry on your countertop and brush with melted butter. Set another sheet over the first and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have 5 sheets of phyllo layered. Cut into 3 inch squares.
Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with oil. Press phyllo squares carefully into the pan. Fill with maple nut filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to12 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and shells are golden. Cool in the pan for a minute or two then remove and cool on rack. Makes about 48 tarts. 

3 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked open with the back of a spoon
6 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 in. slice of fresh ginger 
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. loose black tea leaves 
4 c. water
1/2 c. half and half cream 
1 to 2 tbsp. light brown sugar, cane sugar or honey, according to taste 
Place spices and herbs in a medium size saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes.
Add tea leaves and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium for 5 minutes. Add cream and sugar. Stir for about a minute, over low heat, until steaming. Strain and pour into a teapot or cups. This can be made ahead and reheated. It will keep several days in the refrigerator. Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Moroccan Mint Tea  
1 tbsp. loose Chinese gunpowder green tea 
5 c. boiling water 
3 to 4 tbsp. sugar, or to taste 
1 large bunch fresh mint
Put tea in teapot and pour in 1 c. boiling water, then swirl gently to warm pot and rinse tea. Strain out and discard water, reserving tea leaves in pot.
Add remaining 4 cups boiling water to tea and let steep 2 minutes. Stir in sugar to taste and mint sprigs and steep 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve in small heatproof glasses.


The Canadian Food Experience Project - Regional Canadian Food



Thank you Val at A Canadian Foodie for inspiring us all to explore our Canadian cuisine. For myself it is proving to be a time of naked truth and reflection. I look forward to all the other participants entries this month. Val will post a collection from all 70 participants on her blog on July 15. Do plan a visit. It is so interesting. Our theme this month is 'regional Canadian food'.

Where I now live is not the part of Saskatchewan where I grew up. As a result I become very confused. One would think we are all the same. It isn't so. I cannot believe the subtle differences that a 5 hour drive can make. The subtle differences include the diversity in ethnic cultures, the climate and growing season and as a result the type of farming. After all, we farm in Saskatchewan.

When I moved to Swift Current I became a fast friend with my back door neighbour. She farms, she is a hobbyist photographer and I happen know her son who lives in Calgary. Small world. It is no secret that I love to cook. Soon after meeting my new neighbour I was invited to deliver food to the field as the men were harvesting. Actually, it was their Thanksgiving dinner. Can you imagine a more fitting place to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner than in field being harvested. Cool.

This was my introduction to flat pie. I have since come to realize that flat pie is common in my new home town. Flat pie is pie made in a sheet pan, hence flat pie, and is easy to take out to the field. The pastry to filling ratio is greater so one must roll the dough very thinly. One day I invited Verdella to teach me how to make this pie. Peaches were in season. We rolled pastry, sliced peaches, sprinkled sugar, baked and ate. Awesome!

Verdella’s Peach Flat Pie
1 pastry recipe
8-10 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 c. sugar, or to taste
3 tbsp. cornstarch
To peel peaches, cut an X on the bottom of the fruit then blanch them in boiling water for about 1 minute and chill in ice water. The peel will come off easily. Slice, remove pit and place in water with 2 tbsp of lemon juice added so they don’t darken.
Roll pastry large enough to cover a 9” x 13”  rimmed sheet pan. Lay pastry over the pan and gently press into place. Drain and toss sliced peaches with sugar and cornstarch. Arrange evenly over pastry. Roll the top crust and place over fruit. Trim pastry if necessary before tucking it under and crimping the edges. Cut vents. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes and reduce to 350 F and bake 35-45 minutes longer.
Verdella’s Perfect Pastry
5 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 lb. lard
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cold water
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in lard with pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. In a liquid measuring cup, combine vinegar and egg. Add cold water to make 1 cup in total. Gradually stir into flour and lard mixture. Add only enough to make the dough cling together. Knead gently until it all clings together. Shape into 4 flattened balls or if making flat pie, shape into 2, wrap with plastic and chill 30 – 60 minutes or freeze until use.
This is enough pastry for 2 – 9 inch pies or one flat pie.


A Visit with Cross Canada Cyling Trio

It has been almost a month since Katie, Sophi and Dino stayed with me on their Cross Canada cyling adventure. What a fun visit with 3 complete strangers. I met Sophi's aunt at a writers' conference only a couple months previous.

I was excited for their arrival in spite of the fact I had my busiest cooking weekend so far this summer. It was opening day for our farmers' market and the following day I was catering a luncheon for 40. I wish I had more time to socialize.

The best I could offer were Cheddar & Jalapeno scones, a simple supper and Stele Artois.  We chatted until I had to get back to baking bread. Dino gave us a demonstration to show the change in her calves since the trip began. I am sure they articulation will be much more accentuated by the time they reach Newfoundland. Katie & Sophi pondered the multitude of curious questions from friends and acquaintances upon completion of this feat.

They showered, they giggled. They prepared for their departure. It was a pleasant surprise to see them at the farmers' market but a second visit was a sign of something wrong. Dino had a bent spoke and the repair was lengthy. They needed to stay another night.

They are now in Ontario and have just left Wawa. The destination is St. John's, Newfoundland by the end of September. Amazingly, they are only halfway at Wawa.
The girls made dinner. That was so welcomed as I had spent the entire day at the market. We had this lovely baby spinach salad with sauteed portabella mushrooms and herbed goat cheese.
This asparagus soup was the star. I loved the garnish of crispy asparagus heads. Sophi made these dishes from intuition. An intuitive cook is a lucky person.

You can follow their blogs     Sophi & Katie at wanderersonwheels
                                                Dino at A A Rock Cycling Across Canada


Summer Potato Salad with Cedar Planked Steelhead Trout and Herbs

Summer time is for simplicity and one dish meals on those lazy, hot days. I try to eat all my farmers' market purchases before the next market rolls around. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

I boiled some new baby potatoes, shelled fresh peas, snipped garden tarragon, parsley and chives and decorated with edible flowers. Then I tossed with flaked cedar planked steelhead trout and mayo. This one dish meals took all of 15 minutes.


Stuffed Squash Blossoms Appetizer

Squash blossoms are a rare summer treat that I adore. You can use your imagination in their preparation. Look in your icebox and cupboard to dream up a new idea.

Squash Blossom Appetizer

8 squash blossoms, stems removed
1/2 c cream cheese
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 small clove of garlic
2 tbsp cream
1 egg
1/4 c milk
1 c pastry flour
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil

Mix egg with milk and flour. Set aside. Puree the cream cheese with chives, garlic and cream. Set aside.

Use a small pot and fill with about 1 inch of oil. Heat to 350F.

Meanwhile, stuff the squash blossoms with 1 - 2 teaspoons of cream cheese mixture. Twist blossom end to close so filling won't spill out in the hot oil. When all are stuffed, roll each one in the flour and milk mixture. Drop carefully into hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pot. Turn once. Fry until golden and remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve immediatly. Garnish with sea salt and fresh herbs.


My dear Aunt Edith

Edith Pearl Hewitt, born July 12, 1910 died February 4, 2013 at Weyburn, SK at the age of 102 years. Edith was predeceased by parents Joseph and Maud Taylor, her husband Robert Hewitt; sisters, Margaret Evans, Kathleen Tressider; brothers, Elmer Taylor and James Taylor; stepchildren Russell Hewitt, Loy Hewitt, Evelyn Finnie, Hazel Parry and Douglas Hewitt. Edith is survived by her stepdaughters Irene Tully of Brandon, Roberta Richardson of Vernon, B.C. and daughter-in-law Jean Hewitt of Carlyle; numerous grandchildren, great- grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Edith was born in the Nesbitt, Manitoba area in 1910. She married Robert Hewitt in 1934 and they lived in the Wildwood District south of Carlyle. In 1937 Edith and Robert moved to Nesbitt during the difficult drought era. In 1949 Robert became ill and they returned to reside at Wordsworth. Edith and Robert also spent many years at their cabin at White Bear Lake. Edith was very involved with Moose Creek United Church. She was the organist for many years as well as being Treasurer for the Moose Creek United Church. Edith celebrated her 100th birthday in the summer of 2010 and many of her family travelled from far and wide to be in attendance. She lived on her own until the summer of 2011 at which time ill health necessitated a move to Weyburn. She will be missed by her family and friends as she had a remarkable life as there are few who were able to see and do the things she did. Donation in memory of Edith may be made to Moose Creek Heritage Fund. Graveside service will be held on July 12 in the Moose Creek Cemetery. Arrangements in care of the Orsted Funeral Home

Tomorrow is the day of the graveside ceremony for my Aunt Edith at our little country church. I have so many fond memories of her. When I was a young child and wanted to sing in the church choir, Aunt Edith would pick me up every Sunday. Actually, she was my great aunt. She was the church organist and was sure to be there. Every memory of Aunt Edith is warm. The smile you see in this picture was always on her face. She was a kind and loving person.

I remember visiting just a few short years ago at another family funeral. She had won the Reader's Digest Lottery! I think is was $100,000. She was 97 years old. I didn't know anyone actually won that lottery. I thought it was a scam. Good for her.

I miss you and will always remember you.


Lamb Roasted on Embers

Sarah showing off the grilled side of lamb.

Massaging with spices from Turkey.

Grilled ribs.

Burgers for the kids.
I wish that 40 years ago someone would have told me that my school friends would be friends for the rest of my life. I see it for myself and I can now watch it unfold for my nieces and nephews.

I think I would have listened. Perhaps I should tell them.

My friend Sarah, who is my namesake, hosted a most amazing 40th Anniversary Party for her parents, Greg and Adele. I went to university with her mom and we were roommates one year. We both graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics. Adele was the consummate student. I remember her studying until 4 am many nights. I could barely stay awake past midnight.

Adele and Greg farm north of Regina near the Qu'Appelle Valley in a most beautiful part of Saskatchewan. They live on the family farmstead and are a Century Farm. That means the family has had this piece of land for over 100 years and have continuously worked the land. It is a milestone in our part of the country. It is a point of pride. After all, farming is not the easiest business.

A stone granary.
Sunset over the corrals.
The 'Four Musketeers', as we should be called,  enjoyed the event. Betty, Glenda, Adele and I graduated together and spent a lot of time together while in university. We are together again. Glenda was Adele's bridesmaid and she wore 'the' dress.
Good for her that she can still wear it! I wore my Bulyea Hotel ball cap. Bulyea is a village near the farm. I bought that at their 25th anniversary party. Betty and I 'slept there'. I am here to say that any ideas that you may have about a village hotel are true. I cannot believe we crawled into their bed. Others did not. But I have the cap as a badge to wear at every anniversary party into the future.

Lane out to the main road.

Sarah now lives in Gramma's house in the same farm yard. It is a quaint home and just lovely. I am remiss in having only taken pictures of the pièce de resistance. Sarah roasted a half lamb over embers. She had seen lamb roasted in Uruguay. It was a 4 hour slow roast and turned out perfectly. Sister-in-laws and friends supplied a multitude of salads. Sarah also grilled burgers, ribs and chicken wings.

The weather could not have been better. It was hot without wind or rain. The farm is blessed with several shade trees.

Quaint barn. A wonderful view from the original farm house.

I was delighted to bring a large box of saskatoon and white chocolate scones. They provided an easy breakfast for those who stayed over or camped in their beautiful yard.