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Sunday, May 31, 2009

new and improved

My blog has been re-vamped, check out the sexy new site here!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

a taste of summer

I woke up to the sun crawling under the curtains in my bedroom, peaking their ways through the cracks and the fine white fabric.

I threw on my bathroom and stumbled into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, and broke open the tupperware to the freshly baked goods inside.


There is nothing more decadent than freshly baked goods in the morning. I wrapped my mouth around some coconut oatmeal bars, and then one of the rich oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies. Satisfaction.

I love to be in my family home in the summer. I have been spending most of my time downtown because of work, but head home whenever I have a day off.

My boyfriend and I stayed up late the night before, roasting a wild spring salmon which we served with rhubarb compote. We had the coconut bars drizzled in syrup for dessert, then read tarot cards for fun while finishing our wine.

The next day I didn't work until the evening so I took my time, enjoyed my morning pastries, and stewed the rest of the rhubarb to make a syrup for our morning pan-crepes this weekend (recipe and explanation of a pan-crepe to come).

I walked by the water long enough to get a mild sunburn, a healthy reminder to stock up on sunscreen, and was enamored with the heat that's finally come.

Back at home I lay on my deck reading cookbooks in the sun, warm, content, invigorated with ideas of what to cook next.

I made it back downtown in time for work, served tables with a smile on my face and left with some cash on my pocket.

The days of summer nurture my soul like the sun on cold skin. I feel myself becoming more and more alive, fitting perfectly into my own skin and sure of myself once more.

Spring was delicious but summer is mouth watering, and I look forward to every warm day to come.

wild salmon with rhubarb compote

Spring Salmon with Rhubarb Compote

Fresh wild salmon
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 finely chopped red onion
3-4 cups rhubarb

1. Reduce the rice vinegar, sugar, onion and ginger on the stove
2. Add the rhubarb and simmer together for 30-45 minutes (we burnt it a little which was still delicious)
3. Sear the salmon on one side (3-4 minutes)
4. Finish cooking salmon in the oven (5 minutes)
5. Plate salmon with compote and enjoy the delicious blend of flavors!

coconut oatmeal bread

Coconut Oatmeal Bread
(Adapted from Krista's Coconut lime bars)

1 cup oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond breeze
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 cup toasted sweetened coconut (for topping)

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl
3. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl
4. Add wet to dry and stir until just combined
5. Pour batter in a greased 8x8 pan
6. Bake for 25 minutes
7. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack
8. In the meantime, mix the powdered sugar and lime juice until you get a glaze like consistency. *Pour over bars and spread to edges
9. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and cut into bars

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

real food for real women

If you want to see me get angry ask me how I feel about low-fat yogurt.

Not only does it frustrate me that women are targeted with low-fat yogurt commercials as it being a "guilt-free" snack, but most of it tastes like cardboard.

I don't think food should ever be associated with guilt, which is difficult as a woman constantly being plagued with diet products that are supposed to make our lives easier.

The truth is, a product packed with chemicals and artificial sweeteners will not make your life easier. In fact, it will generally fill your body with things that aren't good for it and leave you unsatisfied.

Fat does not make you fat. Eating the wrong foods in large quantities does. It is sad that many people would feel more comfortable reaching for a 100-calorie Doritos snack pack than an avocado because of the fat and calorie content. We forget how good real food can make us feel and the long-term effects it has on our bodies and minds.

Food is one of life's greatest pleasures and our bodies are the best thing we've ever been given. Shouldn't we enjoy the two harmoniously?

This is a subject close to my heart as I want all women, and men, to get the most out of food. It's too good not to. I have gone over some basic foods that misrepresent themselves and have offered up some healthier options. I asked Meredith from Pursuing Balance, who is finishing her studies to become a dietician, to put her two cents in.

Low-fat Granola Bars vs. Larabars
low-fat granola bars

While some granola bars seem like a great snack option because they're low in calories and have ingredients like granola in them, they may not be your best choice. Most granola bars sold in grocery stores have extremely long ingredient lists including corn syrup and mystery ingredients you can't pronounce. I generally try not to buy anything with over five ingredients and was very excited when I discovered Larabars. These bars usually contain three or four or natural ingredients like dates, nuts and coconut. They are high in fiber and healthy fats and are a life saver to carry around with you. While they may have double the calories and be higher in fats, the calories are coming from all-natural ingredients that will energize your body, satisfy your taste buds, and carry you further through the day.

Meredith says: It is so important when looking at nutrition label to not only focus on the numbers (calories, fat grams, etc), but also on the ingredients themselves. You would be surprised at how many non-food products are listed as ingredients in processed food. High fructose corn syrup is in everything -- bread, ketchup, fruit preserves, granola bars, cereals, salad dressings . . . and it's been linked to obesity, type II diabetes, and fatty liver. Next time you are in the grocery store, try to find a bread that does not contain HFCS. It takes a while, doesn't it? And goodness was I surprised when the only fruit preserves I could find without it was the "low sugar" variety! Even Fiber One bars, which seem like a great, healthy option, contain HFCS. I much prefer Lara bars, which have short, completely recognizable lists of ingredients that I feel comfortable putting in my body.

Light Salad Dressings vs. Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
bottled salad dressings
olive oil and balsamic

I've seen many fridges are stocked with a bounty of bottled dressings. I've dabbled in a few and while some are tasty enough, the ingredient list tends to be outrageously long. As someone who loves food and is crazy about vegetables, it seems a bit of a shame to pour all of these things over something that's perfect as it is. It takes just as long to drizzle a small amount of olive oil, which is great for your skin and body, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. If you want to take your salad a step further you can reduce your balsamic vinegar into a syrup on the stove, or throw in some crushed garlic and mustard for an extra kick. It is always a shame to see bottled dressing on the table when it's so much fun-and a more natural alternative-to go gourmet and make your own. I say toss the bottles, pick up some great olive oil and balsamic vinegar and taste the difference.

Meredith says: Here is an ingredient list for a lite dressing. : HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, VINEGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, CORN SYRUP, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAT 2% OF MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, PAPRIKA, CITRIC ACID, XANTHAN GUM, POLYSORBATE 60, DRIED GARLIC, VITAMIN E, NATURAL FLAVOR, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5. Now, keep in mind that ingredients are listed by weight, so the HFCS is what makes up the majority of this dressing. Instead of buying into this science experiment, I like to make my own lite dressing of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and rosemary.

Diet Coke vs. Sparkling Water
diet coke

I have a confession: I love diet coke. I grew up on it and spent a long time kicking the habit. While there can be nothing better than a chilled pop on a hot day...there actually can be something better. Diet coke tends to leave a strange film on my teeth and leave my head and stomach in limbo afterwards. Drinking Perrier or San Pellegrino with a squeeze of lemon quenches my thirst just as well, or better, without throwing unnecessary chemicals into my body. As a cheaper alternative I'm also a big fan on the poor man's Perrier, club soda with a squeeze of lime.

Meredith: Some studies indicate that artificial sweeteners (found in many diet foods, such as yogurt and soda) can lead to an increase in caloric consumption. Basically, your body presumes that when you are eating something sweet, it will also be a high energy (calorie) food. In the case of artificial sweeteners, however, the body becomes confused because that sweetness does not equal energy (calories). This makes you more likely to overindulge later because your body has trouble regulating the amount of calories being consumed and signaling satisfaction. Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to slow metabolism in laboratory rats. These factors can lead to weight gain.

One thing I do want to point out about aspartame is that according to the American Dietetic Association and a global panel of food safety experts, current aspartame consumption (4-9 mg/kg/bw/day) is safe. The acceptable daily intake level is actually about 50 mg/kg/bw/day -- about 20 cans of diet soda per day. The studies that indicated cancer involved pumping lab animals just full of the stuff, and as you know, too much of anything is bad!

Low-fat Yogurt vs. Full-fat Plain Yogurt
low-fat yogurt
plain yogurt

And last, but not least, the great yogurt debate. I once asked a young man in the grocery store where the Mediterranean yogurt was. "You mean the one that's 10% fat?" "Yes, that would be the one," I replied. Some people have told me not to get them hooked on the stuff because of the fat content. But it is more than worth it. It is rich in good, natural fats and probiotics and tastes like heaven. Unlike liquidy, sweet low-fat flavored yogurts, it is rich and full and you only need a small bowl. It is wonderful with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and terribly satisfying. Any time I've had low-fat yogurt I've needed at least two or three portions to feel remotely full and I never feel satisfied by the taste. I'd much rather have the taste of a rich and creamy indulgence in my mouth than aspartame and chemicals, which will end up making me eat more in the long run.

Meredith says: Most processed foods (diet or not) contain large amounts of phosphorus. In excessive amounts, phosphorus can inhibit calcium absorption, causing a detriment to our bones and teeth. This is an excellent reason to limit processed foods in the diet.

"Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don't eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. ...There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn't recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these."

— Michael Pollan, Unhappy Meals, New York Times Magazine

*Here is another helpful link on how to navigate the grocery store

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

midnight baker

I love to bake at odd hours.

The other night I baked a strawberry apple crisp at midnight. In France I once stayed up until two in the morning making plum jam. The other morning I work up before five and baked bran muffins. Last night after dinner the urge hit again, and I set off to make some incredible oatmeal cookies. Late after midnight I was still scraping the last cookies off the pan to cool.

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm happiest in the kitchen. When my hands are touching good ingredients and making something wonderful I am terribly content.

I don't have a major sweet tooth but I love batter off the spoon and I melt for anything fresh out of the oven. After I've satisfied those urges I take great pleasure in sharing what I've made.

Some cookies have gone to the restaurant, others to my boyfriend's work and the rest will go to my hairdresser, my dad and of course some for us as well.

Since I can't personally deliver the cookies to all of my readers, I will share the recipe so you can bring the warm smell into your own kitchen.

chewy oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 chopped large bars of good swiss chocolate (chunks make everything better)

1. In a large bowl, combine butter, shortening and sugars.
2. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
3. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
4. Add to creamed mixture; mix to blend.
5. Stir in oatmeal and raisins.
6. Drop a tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheet about 2-inches apart. Cookies will spread!
7. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes.
8. When you take them out of the oven they will be very soft, so carefully put them on plates or leave on cookie sheet to cool before moving to rack.
8. Remove to a cooling rack.
9. Indulge!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I had the pleasure of going to EAT! Vancouver, a food and cooking festival this weekend.

I'm not going to lie, I was looking forward to this event months in advance. The idea of a room filled with gourmet food, samples, cooking demonstrations and celebrity chefs is almost too much for me to handle.

Upon arrival I strategically planned a tour around the whole event to taste everything before deciding what to buy. The samples were abundant and I quickly filled up on fresh sushi, mushroom scones, crackers and barbados hot sauce, all-natural desserts and chocolate.

I even got to see one of my favorite Food Network stars live! While I am completely enamored with Ricardo and his show, the set-up wasn't great and I quickly got back to shopping.

food network stage

One of the great things about sampling so many different things is I got to discover a few great new products. I left the event with a bag full of goodies, some free magazines, a full belly and a big grin on my face. It's always good to eat.

Mrs.May's all natural nut snacks. These packs have sweet little clusters of slow roasted nuts and are absolutely delicious. I eat a ton of nuts to keep my energy levels up and to make sure I get enough calories when I'm on my feet all day. These are a great thing to sneak into my bag before work.

omega crunch and vanilla
Watkins vanilla extract and Omega Crunch shelled flax seed. I love the Watkins old fashioned packaging, but they also make a great product. I can always use a good vanilla to throw into my oatmeal, pancakes, baking and even smoothies and tea. I've already put quite a dent into this and probably should have bought a bigger bottle. The Omega Crunch flax seed is equally delicious, especially on top of my oatmeal in the morning. I'm very serious about staying in good digestive health and am always looking for ways to get for flax and fiber into my diet. This product is crunchy and sweetened with maple syrup. It gives a great kick of flavor and is even good as a crunchy snack by the spoonful!

gourmet mustard
And last but not least, Mrs.McGarrigle's mustard, yet to be sold in stores. They had such a wonderful selection of kinds to taste that I knew I had to get some. Mustard is great for salad dressings and marinades, and the flavored ones are great for taking a sauce to the next level. I chose my favorite of the lot: chipotle lime, hot whiskey, honey tarragon and wasabi lime.

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big fish, small fish, cardboard box

One of the best dance moves I learnt in Northern Ireland was "Big fish, small fish, cardboard box."

Basically you stretch your arms to the shape of a big fish, then a small fish, then move your hands into the shape of a cardboard box. Throw in some quick moves and techno music and you've got it going.

Yesterday my boyfriend called me from work with a recipe that made him think of me. It was a John Bishop's recipe for Ahi tuna and kale with a grainy mustard white wine sauce. Kale, tuna, grainy mustard and wine are very high up on my favourite things. Especially kale.

delicious kale

I picked up a beautiful piece of tuna and the fresh produce from Granville Island market and took the little ferry back into the city. Back at home I prepared a pre-dinner hummus using blended chickpeas, olive oil, white wine vinegar, herbes de provence, cayenne and sea salt and pepper. This smooth bowl of heaven was better than any store bought hummus we have tried (and we have tried quite the range).


For the sauce we reduced white wine, grainy mustard (we used honey tarragon), shallots and honey into half on the stove. Once it cooled down we popped in in the blender and added half as much oil as Bishop asked for.

olive oil

I tend to like my sauces a little more acidic, especially with fish, and avoid too much oil when possible. The sauce was a little bland so I threw in a few cloves of garlic and some sea salt and pepper which finished it off nicely

taste test

We sauteed the kale in butter, ginger and garlic and left it to steam while I began my barbeque lesson. The doors of heaven are opening and the angels are singing, I now know how to barbeque. The endless possibilities make me quiver in excitement.

first time on the bbq

I seared the tuna for two minutes on each side on a high heat, leaving it beautifully cooked to medium rare, the pink flesh of the tuna bright on the inside.

ahi tuna

Everything came together beautifully: the steamed kale, the seared tuna and the white wine sauce were light yet hearty, salty and savory. We drank a nice local B.C wine, Mission Hill, with our meal and were both happy with the results.

Since I love new recipes as guidelines for my own I'm excited to play around with this recipe, maybe next time with a miso glaze and crunchy baked kale!

Bon appetit!

ahi tuna and kale

Ahi Tuna with Kale

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp coarsely chopped shallots
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp grainy mustard
1/2 cup olive oil (I used more like 1/4 cup or less)
*garlic if desired

Reduce ingredients (without olive oil) to half on the stove by bringing to a boil and then simmering. Allow to cool and then slowly blend and add in olive oil.

Tuna and greens:
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 bunch kale (no stems)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat bbq to a high heat then saute butter, garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add the kale, wet from rinsing, and let it steam with the lid on. Season with salt and pepper. Rub the tuna steaks in vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper and grill to medium rare (2-3 minutes per side).

Put all the goodies together and enjoy with a fine local wine!

If you have any leftover tuna and dressing use it for a salad the next day! The seared tuna is great cold and the dressing makes for a wonderful vinaigrette over some romaine and fresh vegetables.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

constant craving

I am head over heels with the ocean, the mountains and the sunshine that has started to pour itself like warm butter over the city.

The days are a healthy balance of work and pleasure and I find myself very happy here.

But I still have a constant craving, a yearning in my belly for a warm croissant and a strong black cafe on a patio outside in France.

The summer months always make me yearn for my second home, where I have spent many sun drenched days walking country hills and indulging on sweet seasonal plums.

I am craving the slow days of the South of France and some faster days window gazing in Paris.

For now I don't want to be anywhere but here, but it won't be too long until France whispers my name again.

cafe culture

'I just made love to an almond croissant. We skipped the small talk. I picked it up from the local Patisserie, and held tight all the way home. Should we do it in the park? No, no, I wanted it in my apartment, lying on a plate, and enjoyed in privacy. I could barely contain myself. As I crossed the street the weight in my hand whispered to my taste buds the pleasure that was to come. It was so much heavier than a plain croissant, it’s body full of rich filling, it’s outside smothered in slivered almonds and icing sugar. We took the stairs, if only to prolong the excitement. Once we were back in the apartment I undressed it from it’s paper packaging. I set it out on a plate, grabbed a knife, and took it to my bed. I opened it up, the soft, buttery, marzipan filling exposed. I cut off pieces and sent them into my mouth. Every bite was better than the last. Every taste exploded in my mouth. I tried to push away other thoughts and focus all my attention on my pastry. Eventually I finished every bit of its long body, the sweetness still lingering on my tongue. It’s gone now. We never said goodbye. But I know we’ll meet again.'

-A piece of writing from when I was living in Paris

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

happiness is a choice

I will be the first to admit I have been very lucky in my life.

In my twenty-two years I have lived well, travelled far, eaten like a queen and have loved and been loved immensely.

There have still been many times when I have chosen not to be happy. As a teenager I dwelled in my unhappiness, vented it out in poetry and always wished for something more. As I climbed out of that uncomfortable stage I learnt, and am still learning, what truly makes me happy. Now I choose to dwell in happiness.

Life is not perfect and I am far from, but it is so rich once you let yourself take a bite. I choose to enjoy every beautiful day, to eat the foods that give me pleasure and keep me healthy. I choose to be kind to people because it makes me happy.

For our anniversary my boyfriend and I took off to Granville Island on an unbelievably warm and sunny day. We grabbed some coffee, sat in the sunshine, and walked the docks and admired all the boats. I decided that one day I will retire on a beautiful boat with a well stocked bar. We ate seafood on a patio underneath a bridge and wandered the island. We stopped into an arts and crafts store where he bought me jewelry from a local artist to celebrate. Her simple designs and thoughtful messages made it hard for me to resist.

I chose a pair of earrings, one says Love and the next says Life, and a necklace with the message 'Happiness is a Choice'. These messages ring deep for me because in the past couple of years, and most strongly in the past few months, I have decided to love life to its fullest and allow myself to be happy.

That night as I served tables, my necklace dangling down my neckline, I had a constant reminder of what's important to me. I had one table who I talked with at length about health and happiness, and they told me I was probably the best waitress they'd ever had. It was a wonderful feeling to put something out there and feel it come right back.

I will not always be happy and I will always let myself cry when I need to. But for the most part I want to love my life and allow myself to get the most out of it. I want to continue to dream, travel, love life and choose happiness.

granville island
beautiful sunday
sandbar patio
Enjoying a Granville Island patio, blanket included!
korean hot pot
About to dig in to a wonderfully spicy Korean hot pot...

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

there's no place like home

For the first time in years I am home.

I have been back in forth to Vancouver many times, but never for long enough to take it all in. I am usually running around trying to make the most out of my short stay and see as many people as possible.

But this time I'm letting myself settle a little, I'm enjoying walks by the water, drives into different parts of town, and yesterday I enjoyed a walk through Vancouver's glorious Stanley Park.

Nature is the best therapist I know. It is mood enhancing, thought provoking and calms something inside of me that rarely settles down.

I felt so lucky yesterday, walking along the ocean then climbing up into the park trails with my boyfriend. The trees were giant and alive all around us in vibrant shades of green. Large tree stumps left over from storms looked like little forts out of story books, and the whole park felt like a fairy tale.

With all the ways to spend a Saturday, this has to be the best. After a good walk through the park and a relaxed lunch on the patio I was ready to go serve tables for the night with my mind in the right place.

I took on my first party at the restaurant, made a few mistakes, but did a good job overall and came home late at night with some cash in my pocket.

After a lot of stress and heartache about where I stand in life I am starting to feel good about it. I'm earning a bit of money, working towards future goals and taking in the scenery while I'm at it.

sea wall
rock art
size of the trees
speed walking!
Speed walking to work up a sweat!
stanley park

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

love on the sidewalk

There was a public love note on the sidewalk this morning. It was hard not to follow the arrows and smile...