Dragon Bowls


Bowl full of yummy!

I should be packing, but…  I was introduced to this delicious quick dinner at my SIL’s parent’s house in Canmore a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to make it ever since. She based her version on a recipe in one of the Whitewater cookbooks, this is my attempt to recreate her adaptation.  And yes, I’m procrastinating.

It’s so good because it’s so simple – and even though it’s no longer salad season, it’s a delicious way to get fresh veggies, when what I’m really craving is pasta and cheese and not lettuce….  (we’re expecting the first snow of the season tonight…)


  • 2 cups rice of your choice – brown, white, jasmine, basmati…
  • 1 can light coconut milk, well stirred + enough water to make 4 cups liquid
  • 4-5 good sized carrots
  • 2-3 beets
  • Spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t ginger, minced
  • 1 T canola oil
  • Naam miso gravy. Naam is a famous “healthy options” restaurant in Vancouver.  I cut down time by using their bottled miso gravy, but if you’re feeling ambitious, there are a few recipes out there on the web you can try – just google Miso Gravy. Reports on any good homemade options are welcome!  The Naam version is vegetarian and GF, but not vegan, but the various recipes on the web seem to be easily vegan-ized if needed.  I can get the Naam version in Calgary at a health food store, but I’m not sure how widely available it is outside of the west though…
  • Slivered almonts

Start cooking the coconut rice using whatever your preferred cooking method is (I don’t have a rice cooker, so used the stovetop method.)

While the rice is cooking, shred the carrots and beets – I used the coarse side of a box grater, but if you’re cooking for lots, the shredder attachment on processor may be your best friend – I’ve also seen these awesome gizmos that make veggies into fancy spirals, but since I’m trying to divest myself of stuff vs add more, I’ve resisted getting one…  Keep them separate for best presentation effect, but they’ll eventually all get mixed in together, so feel free to not.

Cube the tofu into bite-sized chunks, heat up the oil to a fairly high heat, add the ginger and garlic and after about 10 seconds (the ginger and garlic should smell AMAZING), add the tofu and keep it moving on high heat until it’s nice and golden brown.

At this point, the rice should be ready.  Spoon some rice into the bottom of a bowl,  and add some of the tofu.  Let everyone add their own spinach, shredded carrots and beets, top with almonds and miso gravy.

I got about 4 meals out of these quantities, but it’s easy to cook more rice/tofu or shred more stuff if you are particularly hungry, or need to feed more people.

Keep leftovers in separate containers, and just reheat the tofu and rice, and then add the toppings.

Back to the great cleaning-out-of-cupboards…!


French Onion Soup with Gruyère and Thyme


OK,  so I’ve had a busy few weeks.  I’m fighting a cold (and winning I must say…) and trying to wrap up a whole lot of projects at work before I leave for Prince George, family and Christmas next week, while trying to keep myself reasonably well-fed while I clean out my fridge.    Luckily, all of these things came together in  a moment of inspiration on Sunday, as I looked at a bag of cipollini onions I’d picked up at the market a few weeks ago because I liked the name, and needed to use up.

So I made French Onion Soup.  Luckily it was on Sunday, because the recipe I used rather optimistically stated that it would take just 25-30 minutes to caramelize onions – it took me well over an hour.  Anyhow, I finished the rest of my leftovers last night (pizza made with Lina’s bruschetta if you must know – it was delicious), so tonight I finished making the soup with the all-important final step of broiling it in a heatproof bowl, with ciabatta sprinkled with Gruyere on top.  Yum.

This is adapted from an Epicurious recipe, which was adapted from somewhere else.  This makes enough for two servings (which means I can eat this again tomorrow – hooray!), but you could easily double or triple for more servings.

  • 1 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly cut lengthwise.  I used a combination of mostly red and yellow cipollini, with a yellow cooking onion added because one of my cipollinis had gone soft, and I wasn’t sure the cipollinis would have enough “bite” for this recipe.  Apparently the classic onion for this is a Vidalia if that helps you shop…
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 T port
  • 2 cups beef stock, reduced salt or salt-free if possible.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2-inch-thick slice of ciabatta bread cut in half (or use thick slices of baguette.)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy 5 quart saucepan over low heat.  Add onions, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until onions are a deep amber, sticky mess.    This will likely take a while – it took me over an hour to reach that stage, so plan to fold laundry or something while you are doing this. I set a timer for 5 minutes, and stirred every time it went off.  Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up – you don’t want them to burn or to fry crisp – it’s a long slow process, don’t rush it!  On my stove I used the “simmer” setting for a while, but turned it up just a tiny bit after about 30 minutes, because I wasn’t convinced they were ever going to caramelize.  Watch closely if you do this!

Sprinkle the flour over the onions, and cook for a minute or so, stirring so that the flour gets mixed in with the onions.  Ha – I just noticed that I used 2T and not the recommended 1 teaspoon here.  I’d go somewhere between the two – say 1 tablespoon – mine was bit thick, but I don’t think one tsp would be enough – I know that this soup is traditionally more like a broth, but the bread floats better when it’s a bit thicker.

Add the wine and port, and stir it in.  Let it bubble together for a minute or two.  Then add the stock and water, bring to a boil (whisking it all together so it doesn’t get lumpy), reduce to a simmer, and let it all meld together in a simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Stir it once in a while so it doesn’t stick to the bottom or get lumpy.  Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf, and taste it, adding more salt or pepper if necessary.  At this point, I stuck it in the fridge for a few days, but you can proceed directly to the next step if you’re not making it ahead.

Preheat your broiler.  Ladle the  hot soup into two ovenproof soup bowls.  Toast the bread either in your toaster or under the broiler, and float the bread on top of the soup – you should have most of the surface covered with 1 1/2 inch thick slices of bread.  Sprinkle half of the Gruyère over each bowl, and broil for a minute or two until the cheese melts.

Can’t wait to eat this again tomorrow night!

Maybe if you’re lucky I’ll have a picture tomorrow.  The lack of daylight is seriously hindering my ability to take decent pictures of food – everything looks like it’s straight out of a 70′ Better Homes and Gardens…

A lesson in recipe interpretation


I don’t have a recipe tonight, just an observation.

When attempting a new recipe that appears in a photocopied recipe book from a country like Thailand, it is probably quite authentically Thai, and I would be well-advised to remember that, unlike the creators of these recipes, I am of Irish descent, and hence anything more spicy than potatoes will singe my eyebrows.  And that two Thai chilies is probably about 1.5 chilies too many in this particular case.

Once I determine the correct spice level for my sensitive Irish palate, I’ll share what I’m sure will be an excellent Thai Coconut Soup recipe.




Joe and Shelley’s Chocolate Ganache


This is the ganache recipe I used to fill and frost Joe and Shelley’s wedding cakes.    This was so good that one guest expressed a wish to experience the ganache in a more…  multi-sensory way.   It was one of the more memorable compliments I’ve ever received on my baking!

I’ve cut the quantities, as I have trouble imagining anyone besides me needing a ganache recipe that calls for 4 kilos of bittersweet chocolate.

This makes enough to frost one three-layer cake.

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 20 oz good-quality bittersweet or dark chocolate.  I used Bernard Callebaut dark, but any good chocolate will work.  (I’ve used Lindt as well.)

Finely chop the chocolate in a food processor or by hand – I did it by hand, using a heavy knife and a big, new, cutting board.  If you do it by hand, make sure to chill the chocolate before you start, and don’t use your hand to move it around – it will melt, and you’ll lose a lot of chocolate to the cutting board.  Also, make sure your cutting board doesn’t carry the remnant odors of onions, garlic, or any other food you might not want your ganache to smell like, as the smell WILL transfer.  Personally, if I was to do it again in those kinds of quantities, I’d use a food processor.

Bring cream to a just-there simmer in a 4-5 quart saucepan.  Remove from heat, and whisk in the chocolate until smooth.  Transfer ganache to a bowl, and chill, covered, stirring occasionally about 4-5 hours.  If ganache becomes too thick to spread, let stand at room temperature until slightly softened.  If you make the ganache a day ahead of time, you’ll need to give it 2-3 hours at room temperature to get it back to the right consistency.

To frost a 3 layer cake:

Use 2/3 cup of ganache for each filling layer.  Once assembled, chill until layers firm up.  Spread a thin layer over the cake to seal in the crumbs, chill 30 minutes, and then use remaining ganache to frost.

p.s. – if anyone has a digital photo of the cakes, pass it on, and I’ll put it up!



Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Old Cheddar and Muenster


So.  I had this amazing cream of cauliflower soup at Gus’s cafe in Cochrane a few weeks ago, and I thought “How hard can it be to make this?  So, I started on a recipe hunt, and was frankly disappointed at the results.  I knew what I wanted – something thick, and chunky, and savoury and flavourful, but most were variations on “boil cauliflower in stock, puree”.  That wasn’t going to cut it, so I made up my own version, with some assistance from the bechamel sauce in the “Rebar” cookbook , as well as some cheese that I needed to use up, which seemed like it would be nice and melty.  And voila, Lisa’s Rebar-inspired Creamy Cheesy Cauliflower Soup happened like magic…

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (pinky-finernail sized or smaller, and include any bits that come off when you’re chopping, it adds texture!)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed  (I used 1% because that’s what I had in the fridge – skim or 2% would work too, but I wouldn’t use homogenized – this will be plenty rich without it…)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced thyme
  • 4 tablespoons minced oregano
  • 4 tablespoons minced Italian (flat) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups grated cheese – I used about half old cheddar and half muenster, but feel free to improvise here. 

Saute the onion and salt in 1 T olive oil about 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add garlic and saute for a few minutes more.  Remove pan from heat, and stir in chopped herbs.

In a largish pot, melt the butter and flour together, stirring constantly, until it’s bubbly and golden.  Slowly whisk in the warmed milk, stirring constantly.  Let this simmer, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick, for about 10 minutes or until thickened.

While that is cooking, steam the cauliflower in about 1/4 c of water (I used the microwave) until it is tender-crisp – you want it cooked, but not too mushy.

Stir in the grated cheese, herb, garlic, and onion mixture, and stir until the cheese melts.  Add in cauliflower with it’s cooking liquid, and heat through.  Adjust thickness if needed by adding either more milk or a bit more cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

I suppose you could use broccoli either in addition to or instead of the cauliflower, but I have a bias against broccoli that I can’t explain, but if you’re partial to it, go for it….

This is even better on day 2!

Potato Leek Soup for recovery

Potato Leek Soup for recovery

So, I’ve been out of commission for a few weeks with a nasty virus (people keep asking if I’ve been tested for West Nile – answer, I can’t exactly remember, but I think they likely did…)  Said virus landed me in isolation in hospital for 5 days, on IV antibiotics and antivirals while they tried (unsuccessfully) to figure out what I had.   After 5 days of hospital food, I was sent home 5 pounds lighter, with no appetite, and virtually no energy with which to cook anything to tempt my tastebuds.

So I defaulted to my favourite simple soup, even though it’s 30 degrees outside.  Originally I think I learned this from James Barber aka”the Urban Peasant,” but it’s so simple it barely needs a recipe.  Because there are so few ingredients, I try to use the best leeks and potatoes (local and organic) – better tasting ingredients really will equal better tasting soup.   For two small servings you need:

  • 1 large potato, russet or Yukon Gold, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp butter

Saute the leek in the butter until it’s soft.  Add the potato, and just enough water to cover the potatoes and leeks.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are basically falling apart, 20-25 minutes.  Puree with an immersion (hand-held) blender, and thin with either cream or milk, or a bit more water.   I like the smoothness that a bit of cream brings to the soup, but you can get that with just a splash of cream if you’re watching fat/calories, or use more if you’re feeling splurge-y.

Add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste – I like Mr. Beard’s description, which I seem to recall said “Add twice as much pepper as seems reasonable.”

If you want pretty swirly patterns in your soup, put  few tablespoons of  sour cream in a squeeze bottle,  shake it well and draw a corkscrew on the top of the bowl, and then draw lines from the centre outwards with a toothpick/chopstick/knife.

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones


Campsite at Two Jack Lake

I went camping in Banff a few weeks ago with my friend Eva, along with her husband and their three lovely and hilarious girls.  They’ve been road-tripping for a month, so I thought I should bring something homemade for them.  I had a couple of pints of blueberries that I needed to use, so I made these to take along for breakfast the next day.  The girls were a very appreciative audience, and we polished off two batches in very short order.  Apparently they’ve been asking her to make them since they got home, so this is for Eva, Dan, Jessica, Kiana, and Sydney!

Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour (not self-rising)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick or 1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen – if using frozen, don’t thaw them first, just stir them into the batter frozen
½ cup buttermilk
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg lightly beaten for egg wash
½ teaspoon  vanilla extract
Sugar in the Raw (aka turbinado sugar), for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with either a Silpat or parchment paper.

Whisk together flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  Gently stir in blueberries.

Whisk together buttermilk, 1 egg and the vanilla. Drizzle over flour mixture, and stir lightly with a fork or rubber spatula until dough comes together but a small amount of flour remains in bowl.  (note, I had to use a few extra tablespoons of buttermilk to get it to stick together – flour actually changes it’s ability to absorb liquid depending on the humidity in the area, and I think Calgary must be about twice as dry as wherever this recipe was developed…!)

Turn out dough onto a work surface, and gently knead dough once or twice just to incorporate flour. Transfer dough to baking sheet, and pat into a 1-inch-thick round.  Cut into  8 or 12 wedges, but don’t pull them apart. (the slices will just let you pull it apart easily once it’s baked)
 Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with  sugar.  Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer to wire racks to cool. Scones are best served immediately but can be frozen for up to 1 month and then thawed and reheated in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

We finished off our visit with a hike up Johnson’s Canyon to the Ink Pots.  The weather was fabulous, and it was a great hike.  Yes I can hear all you locals saying “it’s too busy!”, but there’s a reason it’s busy – it’s a nice little hike, with lots to keep kids interested on the way up (Waterfalls!  “S” Shaped Trees!  Catwalks!  Caves!)  and a couple of cool mineral spring pools at the top.   All in all, it was a pretty great way to spend the weekend…