22 November, 2011


Why, hello there.

(If only I could have Jian Ghomeshi say that in his dreamy voice for you.)

You may have been wondering where I am of late. I have some good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Okay, bad news (let's get it out of the way). This is my last post on Backseat Gourmet. I know, but it needs to be done. That's where the good news comes in.

#1 I'm pregnant! Yeah! Or mostly yeah. I don't enjoy being pregnant and with the demands on me physically of this pregnancy and mothering two crazy wild girls something had to give. But at the end I get a little creature that is so, so wanted and already loved by all.

#2 My first book is coming out in March! I managed to post through the writing of the book, but the promo and planning is also a lot of work. Combined with the freelance work I've got it means more demands on what little time I have, with what little energy I've got (see above).

#3 I'm still posting recipes and food related posts on a consolidated blog: Dining Room Empire. I will try to have a regular schedule of 1 food related post, whether that is a recipe or adventure or rant per week. While you are checking out new sites, you could also review my portfolio site. It includes links to my writing and a gallery of quilts.

This was not an easy decision. I've really enjoyed this blog, my readers, and the opportunities that have come out of it. But I'm not superwoman, despite my best efforts. So, thank-you dear friends and readers. Please join me at Dining Room Empire and we'll continue the journey together.

PS I've got a yummy recipe for Cranberry Vanilla Muffins with Orange up there...

21 October, 2011

Peeling Horseradish

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember. (from Soule Mama)

28 September, 2011

Colour Days

The Monster is now in Kindergarten! (Yes, this deserves an exclamation point. That's how we both feel everyday.) One of the first lessons they did was a focus on colours. To be honest, we thought this seemed a little simple, but I found her looking at colour everywhere, learning Spanish vocabulary, and seeing my personality manifest itself in her. There was a great need for colour coordination during these two weeks of school.

It was completely her idea to colour coordinate her snacks.

Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Pink/Purple-Rainbow-Brown-Black & White

At the beginning of the week or on the way to the market we would brainstorm the coordinated snack options. The only one I was stumped on was black and white cookies. For one, I was too lazy to make them right after baking brownies for Brown day. And two, while I've got no problem with sweets I didn't think she needed them two days in a row. Thank goodness for Twitter. She was intrigued by the squid ink pasta in cheese sauce, had to have blood sausage explained to her, and threw up her nose at a black bean dip. It was an easy settle on black berries and feta.

She loved sharing her snack with the class and ate it every single day. Win-win!

20 September, 2011

Backseat Adventure - Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Down a street lined with offices, carpet stores, and body shops you can find, arguably, the best bakery in Calgary. It isn't so large that the smell of fresh bread comes through your air conditioning. But the line of cars and bikes outside the nondescript entrance on a Saturday morning, opposite the line of smashed up cars, is your giveaway that you've arrived.

Then you step in the door. It all seems so sterile and clinical because you walk right into the kitchen. There are bags of flour, sometimes loaves being kneaded, large ovens, and racks of trays. Then you see Aviv and his partner. The warmth emanates from them before they've even smiled a greeting. Before you've finished saying hello a hunk of bread, buttered and salted, is placed in your hand. And before you've finished that bread you're already calculating just how much of the other goodies you can fit in the paltry one shopping bag you brought.

If you're lucky you arrived at the bakery location early enough to grab a danish, cinnamon bun, and a cheese stick. Or maybe a scone is more your speed. Or, if you are my family, all of the above, plus a brioche, some bread, and a macaron from M for Macarons (They share the commercial kitchen space).

If you're really lucky, and you are my husband, and you ask nicely for raspberries there will be danishes covered with a crabapple and maple syrup cream topped with raspberries waiting for you when you arrive. And you will buy 4 of them.

Taking a weekend trip to see Aviv has become such a family ritual for us that it is the first thing the Evil Genius asks about once her Saturday morning cartoons are on. Sadly, for her and us, she does not sleep in that much, so we have a few hours to wait until the 10 am opening. My kind of bakery - it's not open ridiculously early. But don't wait too late or you might find yourself fighting over the last baguette and that's it. Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is only open 10-2/3 on Friday and Saturdays.

If you can't make the weekend trip to the bakery there are still options for gathering the incredible goods. In fact, you can find their stuff all over town! I first met Aviv when he started out delivering bread to offices off the back of his bike. My office all became addicted to his bread and I've been following him since. He still does office deliveries. He's also got a pop-up cargo cart that sets up downtown (check out his Twitter stream for times and locations) as well as selling at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Market on Wednesdays in season. For a full list of locations that sell his amazing products check out his site.
We are still making the journey as a family to the bakery. We love the chance for a visit, to buy more bread that one should eat in a day, a journey that takes us away from the manufactured markets and yuppie food we're used to finding. This is honest food, served by enthusiastic and kind people. It is kneaded and baked with love, full of the best things that can be found around Calgary (from Silk Road spices to crab apples from down the street). And damn, it's all so good.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
5524-1A Street SW

14 September, 2011

Corn and Swiss Chard

There was a stirfry contest between myself, an elderly neighbour, and my three year old Evil Genius. I was losing. Taken down even in my dreams.

My stir fry was watery and being taken over by corn and swiss chard. A watery stir fry is unforgivable, but I won't apologize for the corn and swiss chard. It is a tremendous late summer/early fall confetti combination. Even if it meant that my kid beat me in a cooking contest.

The first time I made this it was with the first corn of the season because I wasn't sure the kids would be up to tackling corn on the cob. I've since been proven wrong, but this is also such a popular dish in the house that we've been having it at least once a week since the corn arrived. Technically, I've been having it twice because any leftovers serve as an excellent bed for poached eggs in the morning.

This has been an excellent dish to take advantage of our CSA chard, garlic, and herbs. When I combine it with some Noble Meadows goat feta and use Mighty Trio Organics Flax Oil instead of Olive Oil it makes a completely Alberta dish.

Corn, Swiss Chard, Feta, and Mint
Serves 4 as a side dish

3 cobs fresh corn (0r 1 cup frozen niblets)
1 bunch swiss chard
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Shuck the corn, being careful to remove the silks. Standing the corn straight up on a cutting board, slice off the kernels. Set aside.

Remove the center rib from the swiss chard. If they are thin or you chop them small, you can use them here. Otherwise, discard or set aside for another use. Roughly chop the leaves.

In a large frying pan with a lid toss the swiss chard with a generous pinch of salt and the water. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, covered. Uncover and add the corn. Toss well. Keep uncovered and cook for another 3-5 minutes until any remaining water is evaporated. Stir frequently. Add the oil and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Place in a serving dish and top with the feta and mint.

31 August, 2011

One Year

I can usually hear the footsteps the second the feet hit the ground. A tiny body sliding out of her giant bed, stepping around the dog sleeping on the floor, blankets and Tiger in hand. She sometimes opens the blinds, the creak of the roller a dead giveaway, just to make sure it's morning. Then she stomps down the hall. It sounds like stomping, even though she barely weighs 30 pounds. Her hand grasps the knob on the door to my room. A short turn and she peeks in. If she sees me awake she quickly pops in the room, slams the door behind her, props her crap on the bed, and climbs in.

She usually doesn't say a word. Not until she is settled and snuggled beside me. Her face is glowing with a morning smile and she practically purrs with delight. We lay like that for a what is probably only seconds. Then she pops her head up.

"Mama, can we bake today?"


One year ago I marked my first day as a stay at home parent. My husband left for work, to return more or less almost 4 months later. I was thrust into the role of full-time parent with no regular paycheque. It was an initiation, almost hazing, that no college student would ever survive. 24 hours a day, alone, with my kids.

Being home with my kids was never a reality I imagined. I was going to either save the world or make a lot of money working hard. For a while I thought I could combine the two. Then these little creatures emerged, growing with me, and encouraging a sense of self I never knew was there. Our family changed and the needs of the whole outweighed my desire to save the world. Instead I needed to work on just saving us.

So, here I am. A year in. Much calmer now - most days - and still working on keeping us all sane. I've had to revise my own expectations about what can be achieved by the family and by me, in our time. I've also blown apart my own thoughts about the pleasure this would bring me and the peace it gives my husband. I still wonder what the hell I'm doing and I don't love it every day. But I like it. A lot.

In this past year I've developed a whole new relationship with the girls, worked to define this new thing with my husband, and searched for a balance to my own desires and goals. It's been HARD. And that's not counting the disappointments, struggles, grief, and disorder that the last year also brought.

And I wouldn't change a thing. As hard as this life is, it is better. Much, much better.


Peach pie, lemon cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies, bread... We're baking it all. Practically something new every day.

The Monster isn't as thrilled with being in the kitchen as she used to be. If there is the prospect of chocolate she will join us. Otherwise, The Evil Genius pulls up her bright orange chair, rifles through the cupboard for her apron, and says to me, "So, what should we bake today, Chef?"

With the Monster starting Kindergarten this morning I see even more baking in my future. That kid will have the best snacks in her heart covered backpack. Full of love and most likely chocolate.

Nectarine, White Chocolate and Cardamom Scones
(adapted from the basic English Cream Scone recipe in the original Five Roses Flour cookbook)
Makes 16-18 kid-size scones

1 nectarine, chopped into 1/2'' chunks
3 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups flour (you can mix whole wheat with regular, but don't go 100% whole wheat)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup cold butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon mat.

Make sure your nectarine and white chocolate are chopped. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour. Frankly, we use our hands. 3 years olds are very, very good at this. You could also use a pastry cutter. Stir in the nectarine and white chocolate

Reserve 1 tbsp of egg whites in a small bowl, then beat the eggs with the cream. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will be wet and sticky. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet. Leave 1'' between scones.

Brush the tops with reserved egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 10-13 minutes until lightly golden.