Monthly Archives: May 2016

a wedding

I have been a little preoccupied this weekend with a wedding! Our oldest son got married on Saturday and I am bursting with pride and joy. Too tired for much other than a few pictures and just the reminder to soak it all in!


friday favourite – foothills gin

Gin season is officially here (who am I kidding, it never really ends) and I tried a new one last week that leap frogged up to a Friday favourite.

I love the descriptions on gin bottles almost as much as the contents. Parlour gin from Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley, just outside Calgary, Alberta on the edge of the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, has a great one. “… Freshly farmed local ingredients, balanced and masterfully  distilled in small batches provide  unparalleled taste and enjoyment.” Sure. Whatever you say.

I love the combination of local botanicals that are often the signature of craft distilleries. Parlour gin includes the obligatory juniper berries, and usual suspects of lemon peel, angelica and orange flower…plus the interesting additions of rosehips, saskatoon berries, coriander, lavender flower, cinnamon and ginger. Wow. Sweet, spicy, citrusy, floral.






local asparagus lasagna

When the first crop of asparagus arrives in May, I used to always splash some olive oil on and grill it. Now I’ve got an even better way to eat the tasty spears.

This asparagus lasagna, with a cream sauce full of goat cheese, is amazing. You could add layers of other veggies if you want – or just enjoy the creamy asparagus and pasta goodness.

Wash asparagus, snap off the tough ends, cut off the tips (set aside), and cut the rest in 1-1.5 inch lengths. Toss it with some olive oil and salt and roast in a 475F oven until tender. Set aside. I only use one bunch, but it could definitely use two.


In a large pot, melt 1/2 cup butter. Whisk in 1/2 cup flour, and simmer, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in 4 cups vegetable stock and simmer until thickened.

Stir in 3/4 lb. (340 g) chevre (I used plain and an herb chevre) and zest from half a lemon. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble lasagna in a 9 x 13 pan: 1/3 sauce, layer of pasta, 1/2 the asparagus, 1/3 sauce, layer of pasta, rest of asparagus. Top with layer of pasta, remaining sauce, asparagus tips and 1/4 cup parmesan.


Bake uncovered at 375F for 40 minutes or so until top is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling.


This recipe is “What’s Cookin’s Famous Asparagus Lasagna” by Jo Fillery, as it appeared in In The Hills, May 16, 2012.

summer starts in Canada

It’s May two-four weekend. Victoria Day. The first weekend when we start to celebrate summer. Named in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday, it also shares the honourable distinction of referring to what use to be the standard size of a case of beer in Canada.

The risk of frost is “usually” gone and gardeners flock to nurseries like beer bugs to a vat of Labatt’s. Weeds come out. Mulch goes down. Fireworks go off.  And BBQs buzz with the ceremonious sizzling of steak to bring on the few short months that make up summer.

Here’s what happened around my yard this long weekend.

Thanks Victoria for a memorable break in your honour.


friday favourite – captain cooper


Pets are priceless, and my golden Cooper just became worth a lot more to me. Less than a week ago he came down with a nasty bout of pneumonia. Yes, pneumonia. In a dog.

After three long days and nights in an emergency vet clinic on a cocktail of oxygen, IV fluids and antibiotics, he’s home, resting up for when warm weather finally arrives. He is always my favourite, and this week’s friday favourite because he is on the mend!


foraging for ramps

Well, I call them wild leeks, but you might know them as ramps or Allium tricoccum. Pungent deliciousness that mother nature offers up in the spring as one of the first wild edibles, wild leeks bring a strong flavour that mixes onion and garlic in a powerhouse bulb about the size of green onion.


For years on early spring hikes, I’d try and dig them up with my fingers. I’m (slowly) learning to be a smarter, better equipped forager. I packed a garden trowel for my hike this past weekend, returning to a route where I’d seen leeks last year.

I harvested a healthful handful. And that’s an accomplishment. They don’t dig up very easily. They love wooded areas, often snuggling in against downed tree limbs, with roots that run deep into a hearty layer of decaying leaves.

I’ll be turning this bunch into something like this (wild) leek and potato soup.


ready for the road

Something in our genetics includes long distance driving. It’s not for everyone, but all five siblings in our family, and many of the next generation, love to drive.

And given the 800 or so kilometres between our two cities, there have been endless trips from the U.S. to Canada and back again. Over the years, we’ve perfected the road trip experience – well, our version of it that is usually focused on the destination.

Map from Guelph, ON, Canada to Worcester, MA

Here’s what we’ve found as successful road trip tips. See if they might work for you.

  1. Leave early. Six a.m. is a great target time, even earlier in the summer months. The roads aren’t busy and starting out with the sunrise gives an energy to the first few hours of the trip.
  2. Pack food. This seems obvious, but a good reminder to pack all the foods groups. A bit of healthy crunch (carrots, celery and peppers), some sweet, some salty and some junk. Well, other than the food groups that the border folks will confiscate, but I can never remember which ones those are.
  3. Dehydrate. Yup, that’s right. Purposely dehydrating helps line the pee stops up with the gas fill ups, and no more. And there’s lots of time to rehydrate at the other end – where a gin and tonic is always waiting.
  4. Use a laundry bin. Don’t stress about packing a suitcase, and give the border security full view of everything you are bringing. Just pack your clothes in a laundry hamper and toss it in the back of the car.
  5. Find the right entertainment. I used to listen to music on the whole trip. And every time, I would have James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James on just as I passed Stockbridge, MA. Then I tried books on tape. My favourite are murder mysteries that last about 7 hours. I am trying to figure out whodunit and boom, the trip is done.

We are heading out on a road trip in a week or so to my nephew’s wedding. Can’t wait to do that trip again.


friday favourite – adventure

Judith is a bright, funny, sassy 70-year-old woman that I met years ago in exercise class. We periodically meet for lunch – I always enjoy her insight and wisdom. Last week I opened the local paper and found an article about her upcoming adventure.

She joined the Peace Corps and is leaving for Uganda in a few weeks!


We met for lunch. I have a soft spot for the Peace Corps (and CUSO, the Canadian counterpart). I met my husband in Sierra Leone in 1983 when he was in Peace Corps and I was there with CUSO. We recently returned to Sierra Leone, you can read about it in my travel blog.

What a bold, courageous move for Judith. What an adventure. She is my Friday favourite!


meddling with muffin recipes

For years, I’ve made the same muffin. When I find a recipe that works, and I like, I tend to stick with it. I also tend to adapt it just a little, with what I usually have on hand. Customizing it for my kitchen, I guess.

Anne Lindsay’s Oat Bran Banana Raisin Muffins from her 2003 New Lighthearted Cookbook  had been my go to. Of course, I renamed them blueberry, bran and banana muffins. I substituted wheat bran for the oat bran, blueberries for the raisins, and kept the banana part. I wrote about them here.

Recently, I flipped to the next page in the well-worn book to the Oatmeal-Carrot Muffins. They’ve become a new favourite to bake and freeze for mid-week breakfasts.

In large bowl, pour 1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt) over 1 cup oats. Stir to mix, cover for 10 minutes.

Mix together 1 cup grated carrot, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 egg and rind of one orange. Stir into oat mixture.

In separate bowl, stir together 1 cup flour (white, whole wheat or combo), 1/4 cup white sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt and 3/4 cup raisins.

Stir into carrot/oat mixture until just moist. Fill large muffins tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 F.


coffee and community

I haven’t been to the local library for years. I have a healthy obsession with buying books at the local independent bookstore in town.

I found my way back to the library a few weeks ago on a Wednesday morning. Lots has changed. Like the grocery store and Home Depot there is a now a self-checkout.

And better still, I can grab a cup of java, served up by an amazing and inspiring local project call J.O.E. Watch their short video here.

coffee bubbles

I’ve become a regular again at the library. For the books, the jokes and java from the J.O.E. folks, and just to sit and watch a little slice of the local community happen.