Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Launch Party for The Canning Kitchen

Image: Lillie Louise Photography
What an incredible June it has been for me with the launch of my first cookbook The Canning Kitchen. So much has happened and it has taken me quite a while to get around to sharing the stories. But wonderful stories are always worth sharing, whenever they're finally told, so I'm sharing the party that kicked things off. This is a long post, so I'm starting with a few words followed by lots of photos, which tell the story best anyway.
 
The adventure began with a book launch party on publishing day, June 9th, at The London Chef. I am a guest instructor at this beautiful cooking school and caterer in downtown Victoria, so it was a natural choice for the launch party. I knew they'd do a lovely job with my preserves, but when I arrived I can honestly say they had exceeded my expectations. The food and drinks were gorgeously displayed with a rustic charm using burlap, tin buckets, crates and mini potted cacti, which just so happened to match the dress I was wearing. It was meant to be!
 
Friends and family arrived and things quickly became a whirlwind of smiles, sips, nibbles and conversation. I enjoyed a glass of spiked lavender lemonade while signing special notes to my guests in the copies they had purchased from Bolen Books on site.

After a while, everyone gathered around while Mr. Feedbag gave a lovely speech about what it was like to live through the writing of the book. He said such sweet and funny things about the months of canning, writing and photo shoots in our small kitchen. I said a few words too, then everyone dug into the strawberry sundae bar, which was a complete hit using the strawberry sundae sauce from The Canning Kitchen.

The whole event was so much fun and felt like the perfect send off for the rest of the book tour, which continued the very next morning with a 6 a.m. flight to Toronto. That was a whirlwind adventure, but for now here are more photos from the launch. Thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate!
 
Images: Lillie Louise Photography
Images: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Images: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography

Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
Image: Lillie Louise Photography
 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cream Cheese Pepper Poppers

 
I'm doing something tonight I've never done before. I'm speaking to a group of business professionals about something that's so simple that it's sometimes complicated - being yourself. 
 
A friend asked if I would come present on a topic, any topic, so I said I'd be happy to. I thought maybe I'd talk about blogging, or maybe writing or following your passion, but I wasn't sure what I could offer business owners on those topics that would be truly useful and wouldn't sound like one of those motivational posters. So, I decided to just be myself, and talk about the value of using your true voice, being vulnerable, admitting to mistakes and discovering how authenticity can strengthen relationships, whether it's with friends, family or clients.
 
That's always what I've tried to do here. Be me. I think my readers kind of know me pretty well by now. I don't get overly personal about my family in this space, but I think I've given you a pretty good idea of what makes me laugh, what excites me and how I think about cooking and love and life from my little west coast island kitchen.
 
More important that what I have put on the pages of this blog I think is perhaps what I have left out. I have never tried to be something I'm not. I have never pretended to be a chef. I have too much respect for that line of work to pretend I have earned that title. I have never pretended to be better than any other home cook. I have always felt like we're in our aprons together, you and me, side by side. I have never pretended to be anything or know anything I didn't. Partly because I think that's dishonest, but mostly because I know you're smart! People can spot bullshit a mile away. Plus, I don't want to be liked for something that isn't actually me.
 
That's the best thing about a blog, you see, is it's just you and your stories and if people don't like it they won't read it. Everyone left at the end of the day is there because, well, they like being there. That's quite a nice thing.
 
I may not be a natural presenter for business functions, that's yet to be determined, but one thing I'm a natural at is sharing recipes and stories. So, here is one for you. For the last couple summers these stuffed cream cheese peppers have been my favourite veggie dish to toss on the grill. A friend first made a version of these a couple years ago and I have been enjoying them in various incarnations ever since. Here they are written up as a recipe - now officially named Cream Cheese Pepper Poppers - for your own grill. I hope you give them a try this summer as is, or with a few different ingredients. Whatever you decide, just be yourself.
 
 

Cream Cheese Pepper Poppers
Makes 4-6 side dish servings or a platter of appetizers

1 lb (450 g) sweet bell peppers
3/4 cup (175 mL) cream cheese
2 cloves or garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
Handful of chopped fresh herbs such as dill, basil or cilantro as garnish

Trim off and discard pepper stems. Slice the peppers in half lengthways, scraping out and discarding any seeds.

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, garlic, chili flakes and pepper. Spread into pepper cavities, dividing equally among all the halves.

Preheat the grill to medium heat. Arrange the stuffed peppers on a vegetable grilling pan or a double layer of aluminum foil. Grill for 5-7 minutes with the lid closed just until the under side of the peppers is beginning to blacken. Serve warm.

What's your favourite veggie to toss on the grill? Are you able to be authentically you in your day to day life? Are there times when you wish you could be more yourself?


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cheesy Shiitake Arugula Omelette


Omelettes are quick and healthy and manage somehow to work both as casual comfort food and more sophisticated fare. Add in some crispy shiitake mushrooms sautéed in butter and breakfast, lunch or dinner just got pretty special.

I'm guest blogging today over at Mushrooms Canada. Head on over to get my recipe for this Cheesy Shiitake Arugula Omelette.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pickled Radishes With Whole Spices


Today I'm sharing a recipe for crisp and peppery pickled radishes. These are lovely for spring and early summer when radishes are in season and at good prices. They're incredibly easy to make and go nicely with picnic favourites like salads and sandwiches, as well as family barbecue favourites like burgers and steaks. Make a couple jars today and keep them in the fridge for up to three months.

Head on over to Produce Made Simple to get the recipe.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Apricot Almond Oat Bars

 
I love baked things that are good for me. In the world of sweet treats that's practically an oxymoron. Pulling these oat bars from the oven is like getting away with something badass. It's like laughing in the face of all the rules, being all 'what ev, rules,' as though that comes completely naturally to me, and trying to ignore the voice inside that's whispering, "Eat them ALL."
 
Okay, perhaps I'm over thinking this.
 
These tasty bars start with wholesome butter. Butter is BACK, baby! In fact, the healthy eating people are back-tracking on low fat guidelines altogether. Good enough for me. To the butter, I cream in some honey and vanilla. Then to bring it all together, I stir in some ground almonds, rolled oats and a little salt. And just to make them even more tasty and gorgeous, some chopped dried apricots get stirred in at the end before the whole mess gets pressed into a baking dish to go in the oven.
 
Easy and delicious, I love these for breakfasts on the go, packed lunches and pre-run snacks.
 
Get the recipe below and go ahead - break the rules...




Apricot Almond Oat Bars
Makes about 1 dozen bars

3/4 cup (175 mL) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 mL) liquid honey
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) rolled oats
1 cup (250 mL) ground almonds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
2/3 cup (150 mL) chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a 9-inch (2.5 L) square baking dish and line with a strip of parchment paper, allowing extra to hang over the edges (this will help you lift the bars out later).

Using a stand mixer or electric beater, cream the butter and honey until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla (the mixture will look curdled now, which is fine). In a separate medium bowl, mix the oats, ground almonds and salt. Add to the wet mixture and mix just until evenly blended. Stir in the apricots.

Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish, packing down firmly. Bake in the centre of the oven for 28-30 minutes until medium golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely in the baking dish. Once cool, lift from the dish using the parchment paper. Cut into squares.

NOTE: For perfectly shaped bars, refrigerate the cooled block of bars for one hour before cutting. Otherwise, enjoy the crumbly, buttery bars as they are.

Do you have a favourite healthy baked treat?