Sunday, December 28, 2014

we eat well in edmonton

Edmonton is a little big city of about a million way up on the 53rd latitude (north!).

There is a real pride here in what we can grow, including sweet, crunchy carrots and creamy Mozart potatoes for mashing.

But what I love is how many talented chefs we have in this city who dream up rootbeer brisket sandwiches and Grizzly Gouda perogies in white onion cream with bacon and warm dill slaw. And – the list goes on.

I was honoured to be part of CBC's recent round up of the best places to eat in Edmonton, along with Twyla Campbell from Weird Wild and Wonderful and Adrienne Pan, a serious diner and fellow CBC journalist.

Our comprehensive list is here . . . and if you want to see even more of my favourites, remember you can always hop on over to hop & go fetch it.

Hop & go fetch it is a lot bigger than just Edmonton  I've got cities all over Canada, U.S.A., Germany, Greece, Scotland and Japan.

What are your favourite places to eat  wherever you are?

Here's to eating well in the new year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

peppermint lavender balm

I have never made a cosmetic balm before.

When I pull out the double-boiler, it's usually to melt chocolate.

But I kept coming across these recipes for homemade vaporub and I couldn't get over how nice it would be to make a balm where I could pronounce all the ingredients.

After a little research, all I needed was one trip to the health food store to get the ingredients.

I decided on peppermint and lavender essential oils because they are intriguing and I thought they would make an intriguing little balm.

Then I found little travel jars at the drugstore, and set them out as potential vessels.

That's all the prep I needed. I chopped up the remains of a clean white beeswax candle from the farmers' market and fired up the double boiler.

Soon enough, I was melting coconut oil and olive oil, and watching the beeswax melt into translucence before dropping in my essential oils.

And that was that. My very own peppermint lavender balm that took all of ten minutes to brew up.

So far, it's been cool and comforting on a scratchy nose and dry knuckles.

And you know the best part? I made it myself.

one year ago: jane's pecan puffs
two years ago: hot lemon honey tea
three years ago: spiced ginger mounds and cheesy grapes
four years ago: butter lettuce for a break and tipsy rum balls

peppermint lavender balm
slightly adapted from oh lardy

5 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil*
2 tbsp. beeswax, chopped up
10 drops peppermint essential oil
12 drops lavender essential oil

If you're using a glass jar, sterilize it by washing it, rinsing it and then pouring boiling water into it. Let sit 10 minutes before pouring the water out.

In a double boiler or metal bowl suspended over simmering water, melt the coconut oil and olive oil together. Add the beeswax and stir to melt. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peppermint and lavender oils.

Either pour directly into your prepared jar or use a little spoon to pour into smaller clean plastic or metal containers. Let cool. Use on dry skin or rub on your chest or soles of your feet to help you sleep. Store at room temperature if you'd like it softer.

*Oh Lardy says you can also use another carrier oil, such as evening primrose or sweet almond.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

shortbread peppermint pattie cookies

This cookie is undeniably messy.

You'll just have to get over that.

I mean, let's think about shortbread. The best shortbread has so much butter packed in that it's just waiting to scatter all over your best black sweater. But we deal with that because we love that buttery taste.

So you take that buttery, scattery shortbread and you use it as a sandwich to hold a creamy, dense, chocolate-covered peppermint patty. And what do you get?

One of my very favourite Christmas cookies.

Also: a cookie that must be eaten on a plate.

I remember encountering these at my grandma's house when we were visiting for Christmas. I think I looked at it for quite a while, dumbfounded. I mean, this was a brilliant, brilliant idea. How had I never seen it before?

I made it my business to eat as many as I could. I don't know how Grandma came up with it  maybe it was suggested in a magazine or maybe she thought it up herself. I don't think she used a special shortbread recipe, just her regular, no-nonsense shortbread that also got topped with little bits of maraschino cherries in other forms.

Somehow, I forgot about these cookies for almost 20 years, but this year I ate a chocolate-covered peppermint pattie at work last week and suddenly realized it needed a shortbread sandwich around it.

So I went into my gluten-free kitchen and whipped these up. Don't tell  they look so fancy  but they were very quick to make. Now I also know why Grandma, who was a very practical woman, liked making them.

one year ago: annie's sundried tomatoes
two years ago: potato chip cookies and cheese ball
three years ago: roasted tomato soup and asiago lace and dominosteine and christmas treats
four years ago: walnut slugs and spicy cajun almonds

gluten-free shortbread peppermint pattie cookies
inspired by my grandma, elizabeth mitchell
bakes 13  14 sandwich cookies

note 1: Here's the gluten-free shortbread recipe, but if you don't need to be gluten-free, go with your favourite basic shortbread recipe. Make sure you do the sandwiching while the cookies are still warm, so they slightly melt the peppermint pattie and make it stick.

note 2: I'll try to get you weights soon!

1/2 c. cornstarch
1 c. brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
1/2 c. icing or confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter
13  14 small chocolate-covered peppermint patties (I like York)

Prepare a pan with parchment paper or a silicone lining.

Stir the cornstarch, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, icing sugar and salt together to form one flour. Cut the butter into 6 or 8 pieces and drop into the bowl. Blend together until it forms a dough.

Shape into balls that are slightly smaller than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Place on baking sheet at least 1.5 inches apart. Press down with a fork slightly to make a fat pattie. Chill at least 10 minutes.

Bake in 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 18  20 minutes, until the edges have just the tiniest hint of colour. Don't overbake.

Leave the cookies on the pan but place the pan on a rack. In about 4  5 minutes, get out a cutting board and carefully put the cookies on it upside-down. (They are in a fragile state right now.) Gently press a peppermint pattie down on one shortbread cookie and gently press another shortbread cookie on top. Place on rack to cool.