Wet winter nights in Vancouver call for hearty and delicious dinners.  Soups hit the spot for me, more often than not.  The flavours simmer, develop and merge.

I love that you don’t have to have an exact recipe. You can use whatever you have in your fridge, freezer and cupboard.  As long as you don’t mind sampling along the way I think you can create simple pleasures in a big pot of soup. I loved the freshness of this soup.  Truth be told, it was anything that would even come close to a “daily catch” as I had everything in the freezer, but you gotta use what you gotta use.

As this came together (before I added the seafood) I thought it needed a little “thickening” up, so I threw in about a handful and a half of rice, just to add to the body of the soup.  Be sure to make some big croutons or crusty bread to sop up all the goodness. You won’t want to leave any behind in the bowl – I guarantee it.


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
6 cups chicken broth
bay leaf
1/2 cup short grain rice
1 cup frozen calamari rings
8-10 prawns
1/2 cup small scallops
4 oz red snapper, cut into 2 cm wide strips (be sure it is deboned!)
dash hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat up the EVOO, once hot add the thinly sliced fennel.  Allow to soften as it begins to sweat, add garlic.
  2. Allow garlic to saute for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, this will bring out a little more the natural sweetness of them.
  4. Add broth and bay leaf – bring to simmer.
  5. Add rice, simmer for about 20-25 minutes until cooked threw.
  6. Add snapper, 2 minutes later add the rest of the seafood.
  7. Season with hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Garnish with parsley (optional)


I’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks, and away for most of it.  Part of the time away had us camping.  Camping means cooking over an open fire – no ands, ifs or buts about it!  Before we left, I went through garden and harvested some wonderful young, fresh vegetables: chives, beets, and their greens, radishes, peas, baby bok choy, Swiss chard, spinach, an assortment of lettuces and some itsey bitsy baby carrots.  Coupled with some amazing mains: grilled salmon, steaks, risotto and bbq’d chicken, it was a decadently tasty and yet somewhat healthy food adventure.

However, once I got home all I wanted was to stay out of the kitchen.  I think cooking outside on the open grill felt so relaxing, peaceful…crammed in the world’s smallest kitchen was a little depressing for a few days – I know, whine whine whine…tonight I finally ventured back in.  Looking for inspiration, I took a walk to the garden after work tonight and looked for what I could pick for dinner.  The peas are in full harvest, they are that perfect crisp and sweetness.

I decided to pair the peas with sweet shrimp (with black sesame seeds to add the “spotted element”) and tender baby mushrooms.  Served over wild and brown rice, a nice sweet and savoury summer meal.  In no time flat!

spotted shrimp saute 2


1 lb peeled, deveined raw shrimp
1 egg
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/8 cup corn flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp veg oil
1 tsp sesame oil
4 cloves minced garlic
5 slices ginger
2 cups tipped sugar peas
1 cup baby mushrooms, halved
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black bean sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster sauce
1 Tbsp honey

1 cup rice
2 cups water


  1. Cook rice according to directions for your preferred methods.
  2. Combine flour, salt, pepper flakes, garlic powder and black sesame seeds.
  3. Heat vegetable and sesame oil in skillet over medium high heat.
  4. Meanwhile, pat shrimp dry. dip shrimp in cornstarch, then into whisked egg and finally into flour mixture.
  5. Once oil is hot. not yet spitting, add ginger, stir in garlic let saute for a minute, as usual careful not to burn the garlic.
  6. Once starting to turn a nice light golden, colour, both the ginger and garlic, add coated shrimp, let cook for a minute, toss and then add in peas and mushrooms.  Allow everything to come together and saute.
  7. After shrimp has turned golden and opaque add cooking wine, wait about 30 seconds to burn off the alcohol.  Stir in remaining sauces: soy, bean, oyster and honey.  Thicken for a minute or so.
  8. Serve over rice.

Serves 3-4

I often get quite…appreciative? Sentimental? Reflective?…about food.  The flavours and variety we have access to is overwhelming in comparison to even 30 years ago.   Meat and potatoes – the standard of days gone by, crosses our table far less than it did when we were kids.   It’s not a criticism of our moms.  Rather, it is a reflection of where we live, and truly when we live.

Living in the Pacific Northwest I feel like we have an amazing abundance of cuisine to choose from.  Within in two blocks of our place we have the following options: Thai, French, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, not to mention the regular North American  cuisine to choose from.  I love that.  I love that I can go to one of these restaurants and on my way home stop at the little grocery store right next store and can pick up almost any ingredients I need to make my version of these delicious cuisines.

Dinner was a super simple affair.  Make your own sushi cones, we had left over tuna that I had to make something with.  So out on the table went some sushi rice, nori cut up into smaller pieces, avocado, tuna, cucumber, crab meat etc…but I wanted to add something warm to the mix.  I love short beef ribs when we go out for sushi, TB isn’t as much of a lover.  So I rummaged around in the fridge and freezer and decided to try my hand at some super simple shrimp dumplings.  And here they are…


10-12 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined – tails removed
2 green onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground ginger – fresh would be better…but we were out
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 white egg
6 button mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons Sambal chili garlic sauce
24 wonton wrappers – I used circle cut


  1. Combine all ingredients excpet wonton wrappers in food processors, puree.
  2. Remove and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a sauce pan with a steam basket on it, bring water to a low simmer.
  4. With a tablespoon measure scoop out mixture and wrap in wontons, gently pinching edges together.
  5. Steam in basket lined with lettuce leaves to make sure it doesn’t stick, until cooked thru – about 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with sesame oil and soy sauce to use as a dip.

Sometimes I love how a recipe comes together as a result of what is the fridge/freezer.  Every few months I get on a let’s clean the cupboards kick…creations with what is on hand.  This is one of those 15 minute meals provided the right leftovers/ingredients are hanging around.

One of the best things about pasta is that it always tends to lend itself well to a mis-mash of ingredients.  And while the photo is less than spectacular, we were certainly satisfied in our carbohydrate food induced coma.


1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce
1 cup overnight roasted tomatoes/garlic mixture
salt and pepper to taste
12-15 large shrimp
4 mini bocconcini balls (fresh mozzarella), sliced
your choice of cooked pasta, enough for four- we went with linguine, from the old standby homemade recipe


  1. In a medium sized pot, bring wine and stock to a low boil.
  2. Add pesto sauce, cream and the tomato/garlic mixture.  Bring to a low simmer, add shrimp.
  3. Once shrimp is cooked through, has turned pink, add cooked pasta to the sauce, and stir.
  4. At the very end, stir in bocconcini.  Serve with fresh basil as the garnish…we didn’t have any.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

As I mentioned a few posts before, I recently went through and purged my collection of cooking recipes, selectively cutting out (scrapbooking) those I thought I might want to make.  This recipe appealed to me because we LOVE sushi, and TB LOVES sesame seeds – so why not make it?

This weekend when we were down at Granville Island we stopped by our favourite fish n’ chips place, Go Fish.  Right in front many of the local fisherman dock their boats and sell their catch (just wait for the spotted prawn festival!), and there in massive block print was BC TUNA, so I thought why not?  I wandered down, and sure enough they had sushi grade tuna, it wasn’t yellow fin however, what the recipe called for, but it was still great!

TB really liked the dipping sauce. I liked it, but I think I may be partial to something a little more salty and full of heat… like wasabi and soy sauce.  However,  I certainly don’t feel like the recipe is a write off, rather I think it just needs some tweaking, perhaps a little more soy?  And perhaps more red pepper flakes.



For the Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons miso paste (recipe called for white miso, but we already had regular paste in the fridge)
1/2 cup carrot juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (juice from half an orange)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced

For the Tuna
3 tablespoons white  sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 lb sushi grade tuna
1 tablespoon saflower oil


  1. Make the dipping sauce: combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk until miso disolves.  Sprinkle with sliced scallions.
  2. Make the tuna: combine sesame seeds in a shallow dish.
  3. Press tuna pieces into seeds, turning to coat each side.
  4. Heat oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add tuna, and cook each side until white seeds are golden, aout 20 seconds a side.
  5. Transfer tuna to a paper towel lined plate for about 1 minute.
  6. Cut each piece into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  7. Serve with dipping sauce.

4 servings
*  *  *
per Serving:
243 calories
5 g fat
1 g fiber

These prawns are tasty, and so simple.  With sticky rice or stir fried veggies, or a big green salad with sesame soy dressing – any way you serve it, they taste great!  A nice, relatively healthy dinner for a night in.


1 lb shelled and de-veined prawns
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tsp kosher sea salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 tbsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Serrano or jalapeno pepper
2 large green onions, chopped


  1. Pat prawns dry, lay out on a layer of paper towels and place two other paper towels on top to continue to absorb moisture.
  2. In a shallow bowl combine, cornstarch, pepper, salt and five spice.
  3. Mix prawns with the cornstarch until all are fully coated.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
  5. Place prawns in skillet, single layered.
  6. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes, until golden brown and spotted on underside.
  7. Flip and cook second side for another 1 minute.
  8. Remove prawns from pan.
  9. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of oil in pan, add garlic, green onions and pepper.  Allow to cook for about 1 minute until fragrant, just before garlic browns.
  10. Add prawns back to garlic mixture and cook through one more minute.
  11. Remove from heat and serve.

I haven’t posted in almost three weeks now. An eternity in the blog world. Believe it or not we have been eating in more than ever, meaning I have been cooking more, but somehow posting less. One of the reasons I have been cooking so much more is that I have decided to be more organized with my meal planning. Every Sunday I have been sitting down, deciding on various meals for the week, ensuring there will be leftovers for lunch and then off to the grocery store and trying to one shop for the week, not running down at least once a day.

I know that this is not an earth shattering means of organziation, and most people probably do this. But I have ignored it before because I felt it “boxed me in”. Didn’t allow me to be creative and make what we felt like. Now I see it more like I have all the ingredients in the fridge for multiple meals and can make one of five, so there is choice, just not as broad as previously.

Onto this meal…when I was in Mexico a few weeks back, I fell in love with grouper (the fish). I am sure they cooked it in butter and that was it, but it was fresh, tasty and mild at the same time. I typically enjoyed it crumbled over a big green salad. Since being home, I have craved fish tacos. So tonight in 15 minutes we whisked together some delish halibut fish tacos and a chipotle/avocado yogurt sauce.

fish taco


1 avocado
1/3 cup non-fat yogurt
1 chipotle pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
juice from one lime

1 tsp kosher salt8 oz deboned fresh halibut
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp butter

4 or 5 small whole wheat tortillas

1/2 cup shredded cabbage (I used green, but red would be good too!)
1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1 carrot shredded
1/2 tomato diced
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup shredded havarti cheese


  1. In a food processor combine: avocado, yogurt, chipotle pepper, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and first amount of salt. Reserve.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Season the fish with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Cook fish 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Flake fish a few minutes later.
  5. Heat tortillas in the pan.
  6. Assemble tacos: tortilla, sauce, halibut, toppings.

Makes 5 – 6 inch tacos
6 WW / tortilla

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