Friends got married last weekend.  They are a fantastic match and I am so happy for them!  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, but it wasn’t so hot that the men sweating in the sun, or the women had make up melting off their faces.

In February I was asked by the couple to make their wedding cake. I asked what they were thinking about. They wanted simple.  Good, because who are we kidding, while I enjoy baking I am no pastry chef!  I have made small cakes that serve 20-40 at most, not 150.  So I said yes, and offered the cake as my wedding present to them.

The cake was simple. Three tiers, three layers of cake in each tier. The bottom tier was chocolate brownie cake with a vanilla cream icing, and raspberry filling.  The middle tier was simple vanilla cake with a chocolate/Baileys (yes, can you say yum!) icing and the raspberry filling again.  And the top tier was chocolate/vanilla cake combo with the various fillings as well, kind of the uber tier.  The whole thing was covered in a vanilla buttercream with fondant.  Brushed with pearl dust to give it an iridescence that you can’t really see in the photos and finished off with ribbons in their wedding colours.  The cake topper was made by the bride’s mom – a personal touch to the couple.

3 tier wedding cake with ribbon

wedding cake cutting

sliced vanilla wedding cake

So congratulations to Robbie and Cate!

May their years together be long and plentiful, full of love, laughter, and of course…good food!
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Ages ago I had seen recipe after recipe in the blogosphere for kale chips. I was a skeptic. I mean, really?  You take a delicious and relatively sturdy green and it becomes a tasty, crispy savoury snack?  Well finally last weekend, I grabbed a bunch of Kale and decided to try my hand at it.  There were tons of recipes that offered bits of cheese melted onto the kale as it dried, or basic salt/pepper combos etc.  I am on a bit of an Asian fusion kick right now, so I decided to mix rice wine vinegar and sesame oil with a tiny bit of olive oil.  The key to this whole process is moderation – moderation of flavours as they intensify as the leaf dehydrates.

I made the mistake in my first batch to add some salt before they came out of the oven.  They were just a little too salty for me. I waited the second time and found they didn’t need salt at all.  If this intrigues you, try googling a variety of recipes. You can make these in your oven (like me) or if you happen to have one, a dehydrator.

sesame kale chips

Ingredients:

4 cups kale chopped into 2 inch pieces, stem removed from leaf
2-3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if you have it, I found I didn’t need it, but my sheet was in pristine shape)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, and salt, and toss with kale leaves. Place in a single layer on cookie sheet and place into oven.
  3. Bake 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through until crispy. A hint on a few sites was to not overcook or allow them to become completely brown as they will taste bitter.
  4. Taste one, and lightly salt – I used a seasoned wasabi salt which was a nice touch.  Enjoy!

Months have gone by.  To list all that has happened in that time doesn’t make sense here. So instead, we will discuss food.  And for me, food is often associated with memories.  Is there anything more comforting than the smell of muffins wafting from the oven on a weekend morning? I had a bunch of nearly over-ripe bananas that desperately needed to be used up.  Whipping up some fresh muffins meant a grab and go breakfast for the week ahead, and a relaxing start to a bright and sun filled Saturday morning.

The twist to these muffins was a little sweetened coconut.  I used a recipe found on Simply Recipes and just slightly modified.  In less time than it took the oven to pre-heat to 350F the batter was ready.  So if you find yourself with 3-4 ripe bananas I recommend trying these.

Ingredients
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)
1/4 cup sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the sugar, egg, coffee and vanilla.
  3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
  4. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts and sweetened coconut.
  5. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Cool on a rack.

makes 6 jumbo muffins (seen in the picture above) or 12 regular muffins

adapted from Simply Recipes


I’ve been trying to be better about using my leftovers.  I don’t know about you, but I can easily make a meal, have enough leftover for a few meals…but I get bored.  I have a hard time eating oh let’s say turkey three days in a row.  I mean there is only so many turkey sandwiches you can eat right?

Knowing that I should finish up the turkey my mom sent back with me when I last visited her.  I thought I would serve it up in a pretty different way (for me any ways).  I’ve never made taquitos before.  A favourite neighbourhood restaurant here in Vancouver is Las Margaritas. We love their taquitos.  So into the kitchen, rummaging into the cupboards and fridge looking to see what was on hand. It’s getting sparse since I am getting ready to head to Mexico for two weeks, so I wanted to make due with what I had…and I have to say, the result was tasty tasty!  A yummy dinner with a side of guacamole and some salad.

Ingredients:

2 -3 cups turkey shredded, obviously you could substitute with chicken
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
2-3 pinches Mexican chili powder
1 pinch cumin
salt and pepper
6 medium sized corn tortillas

vegetable or canola oil for frying (!)
6 toothpicks or small skewers.

Directions:

  1. Mix turkey, water, cheese, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper together.
  2. Take 6 corn tortillas and wrap them in a tea towel, place in microwave for 45 seconds to soften them for rolling.  (NB if you don’t do this step, like I forgot to do the first time, you crack your tortillas and they don’t stay rolled up.)
  3. Place2-3 tablespoons of the mixture and place about an inch or two from the edge in a straight line.
  4. Roll into the shape of a cigar, secure into place with a tooth pick.
  5. In a large dutch oven, cover the bottom of the pot with about 1/2 inch canola oil – I couldn’t find my thermometer, so I heated for about 5 minutes on medium-high/high and then put a little piece of tortilla in the hot oil to see at what point it would be ready. To know, it will have browned.
  6. With metal tongs, place 3 tortillas across the bottom of the pan, rotate/roll them over, allowing 2 minutes per side.  Watch it carefully you don’t want the oil to smoke and burn it.
  7. Remove taquitos after 4-6 minutes to a plate covered with a paper towel or two.
  8. Season taquito with a little chili powder and salt (optional, but if you choose to do this be sure to do it when fresh out of the oil)
  9. Allow oil to return to temperature, and repeat process with remaining 3 taquitos.
  10. Serve with fresh guacamole.

Serves 2-3.


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.

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

  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’m back!  It’s been almost six weeks of no posting.  Life has thrown some curve balls at me this past month, but here we emerge, at the end of January, ready to move forward.

I’ve been away for the last ten days in Maui for a good friend’s wedding.  It was stunning.  I’ve never been to Hawaii before, and after this trip, know I will have to go back.  There is something to be said to escape reality. To leave the grey and the rain. To relax in the sun, lie on a beach and have a good time with friends. It was hard to come home, but if nothing else, it reminded me of the importance of holding onto the zen that is vacation. To not get hung up on the little things. To look for that which you are appreciative of and express gratitude for it.

A group of six of stayed together for the first week on the island.  It was tight quarters, but still an excellent time with friends.  We opted to not eat out for every meal.  We all enjoy the same sort of fresh and delicious foods and thought that we might as well cook together and enjoy the stunning view from our lanai.

My friend T has been making this super fresh avocado and tomato salsa for a long time now. I believe her mom made it for her (hope she doesn’t mind that I post it).  As it rained outside this afternoon I thought I would make a little bowl of fresh goodness to chow down on.  The key to this is the creamy avocado, fresh lime and seasoned with salt. Don’t leave out the salt – you can be tempted to, but instead start slowly, it will not only pull out the moisture from the tomatoes but also intensifies all the flavours.  Oh, and this salsa, best served with a big lime margarita…


Ingredients:

5 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
salt to taste
1/2 sweet yellow onion, minced
2 perfectly ripe avocados
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 jalapeno finely minced
juice from 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Combine tomatoes and salt, set aside as you chop the rest of your veggies.
  2. Once everything is chopped, mix and then squeeze lime juice over top.
  3. Mix and taste, does it need a little more salt?  Enjoy with tortilla chips.



A few weeks ago I attended a food photography workshop presented by Jackie Connelly, guest blogger here at Bakergirl Creations.  My digital camera is a Canon SD750, a seven megapixel compact model.  It’s handy and simple to use.  But I have to be honest, as I was getting ready to head out the door to the class I was stressed out thinking to myself that I so didn’t belong there.

Shyly I entered into the back of Campangolo Restaurant on Main Street.  Unsure of what to expect and hugely self-aware of my lack of training and knowledge of even basic functions on my camera, I decided I needed to suck it up and do the best with what I had.  Even though Jackie has been writing photography overviews on this site for a few months now, we had never met, so this class was also our first introduction.  Funny how that can work out eh?  She was relaxed and knowledgeable.  She shared real tangible suggestions for the participants.  Regardless of your skill level, or equipment prowess she tried her best to support and encourage.

I enjoyed the opportunity to just play.  Because I really just take photos of the food we eat, I am usually just rushing through the set up and picture so I can eat moderately warm food.  I use the basic indoor/foliage macro settings on the camera.  It doesn’t really allow for any adjustments for exposure to any specificity.  Depth of field doesn’t exist, or so it seems.  And the camera, as best as we all could tell automatically chooses a focus, so that really is out of my control.  But I got to play with light source, using reflectors to fill in light, or adjust.  I got to “play” with the food, stage it, arrange it.  Shoot from the side, from the top.    I got to watch how others set up their shots.  Suggestions were made and support was given.

Using "Indoor Light" Setting

Using "Autowhite Balance" Setting

Using "Auto White Balance" Setting

An example of the playing are the two shots above.  Nothing changed but one setting.  Yes they could have a better focus and they could have more DOP. But even learning about a simple function that makes the picture even a little more interesting and lively was a nice perk of the experience.

Strawberry Ice Cream in Natural Light

Another shot that I had fun playing with was this strawberry “ice cream”.  I say it with quotation marks because it really was a combination of lard, corn syrup food colouring and icing sugar…how crazy but at the same time, cool is that?  Jackie’s recipe for this can be found here.  The light for this was entirely natural.  I was pretty happy with it, but could have tried in some way to have warmed it up I am sure.  I loved the textures of the shot.  The rough scoop marks on the ice cream, the smooth class. The tiled and wood background, there is clear definition.

I played around with different angles, light sources.  I played with exposure, got to know my tri-pod better and truly just got more familiar with my camera.  Looking back at some of my first blog posts and pictures I took (with the same point and shoot that I have now) I was pretty pleased with the development and approach I am starting to use.  For a walk down memory lane, check out some of my not so “hot  shots”:

Almond Roca
Pantry Chili

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

…kind of makes me want to go back, make the recipe exactly as is, and then re-shoot…looking forward to keep working on it now as I start to know a little bit more of what to look for!

Jackie is having another workshop in January.  The details for it and how to sign up can be found on her site.  If you are interested to see some pretty phenomenal shots by a much more advanced photographer take a look at Oana‘s post re: the class and be sure to click through to her photo link.