Yes In My Back Yard


As we get closer to the holidays, hamper drives, toy collections, and cold weather clothing donations are on the public radar. But the rest of the year, though the need remains, donations subside, until the holidays come again.

That’s why year-round gestures can make such a difference. Starting a spring or summer food drive, making monthly donations to a food bank or shelter, donating clothing and other wishlist items to places like Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter – these are a few of the ways that can help people stay healthier and safer throughout the year.

Day-to-day gestures matter too, like Nelson the Seagull‘s suspended coffee program. Not only do they get food or a hot drink into the hands of someone who would otherwise go without, but it also keeps year-long needs in the public consciousness. And it benefits people who are often shut out of participation, or even acknowledgement, in the neighbourhoods where they live. The opportunity to be seen as a customer instead of a problem is no small thing. It opens the door to conversation and comfort, in place of isolation.

Today, while meeting a friend for coffee on Commercial Drive, I noticed that Renzo’s Coffee was participating in a pay-it-forward project created by four students through the City Studio program. Yimby Vancouver is a week-long experiment in paying it forward at four Commercial Drive cafés.

It’s not just about coffee, either. You can pay for any menu item, have it noted on one of Yimby’s cards, and pin it up on the board outside the café. Then, someone in need can turn the card in at the register.

I’d love to see this become a permanent program at businesses on the Drive and throughout the city. For now, you can participate until November 28th at Renzo’s, Eternal Abundance, Café du Soleil, and Babylon Café.

Holiday Book Reviews – Pierogi Love


I received a review copy of Pierogi Love from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

The ladies of my mother’s CWL chapter are famous for their food. They get together and cook, for weddings and funerals, community dinners and seniors’ luncheons. They’re mostly over seventy and have decades of experience in the kitchen. They often share the specialties of their backgrounds with each other – they’ve cooked German, Irish, Filipino, Ukrainian, Italian and more together.

Not surprisingly, the most popular dishes they serve are old fashioned comfort favourites. At their annual Christmas craft fair last weekend, they served pierogies with fried onion, thick slices of sausage, and generous helpings of sour cream. They got together a few weeks before the fair and handmade every one. They were delicious, with a perfectly traditional potato and onion filling.


I’ve always wanted to be there when they have one of their pierogi-making bees, but it hasn’t happened. So, when I was given the opportunity to review Casey Barber‘s new book, Pierogi Love, I jumped on it.

Inside, I found some traditional recipes, like potato and cheddar, sauerkraut, and sour cherry. But the rest of the recipes are a world away from those – spinach, ham, and Gruyère; saag paneer; fig, goat cheese, and black pepper. Barber’s recipes take inspiration from flavours around the world, while making sure there’s something appropriate for occasions from tailgate parties (try her Elvis pierogies) to dinner parties (start with mushroom, goat cheese, and chive). Not all books live up to their subtitles, but this one does. It’s full of “new takes on an old-world comfort food.”

It’s also one of the best-designed cookbooks I’ve had my hands on this year. It’s a compact hardcover, with lovely photos, and patterns and colours that repeat charmingly throughout the book. Most of the recipes don’t require you to turn pages and the book stays open to the page you’ve chosen. Cookbook designers take note.

I was given permission to share one recipe with you and it’s a delightful one. However, if you want the recipe for the dough, you’ll have to buy the book. You really should.



Making lemon curd is an impossible exercise in patience for me. Though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it tastes best when chilled, I absolutely cannot stop myself from sneaking warm spoonfuls fresh from the bowl. (I have the same problem with homemade tapioca pudding.) But the overnight chill process is crucial here to get the curd to the right consistency. Make the curd 1 day before assembling your pierogies, and work quickly when filling them so the curd stays cool and thick. If you see it start to warm and soften, put the curd back in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, then carry on.

Makes approximately 24 pierogies

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 small to medium lemons)
  • ½ cup (3 ½ ounces, 100 grams) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 small cubes
  • 1 batch Basic Sweet Dough

Whisk cornstarch and water in a bowl. Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and zest in a heatproof (stainless steel or Pyrex) bowl. Set bowl atop pan of simmering water; do not let bowl touch water. Whisk until liquid turns from sloshy and translucent to opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until liquid thickens into a silken curd consistency, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes—do not let the curd come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble. Remove bowl from heat. Add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Strain curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Roll out dough and stamp into rounds. Place 1 teaspoon filling on each dough round; brush with egg wash, fold, pinch, and seal as directed. Deep-fry, boil, and/or pan-fry pierogies.

Do Ahead: Filling can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.


What’s not to love about a supple dough that comes together quickly and seals its contents just as easily? I’m not a dumpling pro, but almost all of my pierogies turned out beautifully. Barber’s instructions are thorough and her dough recipes are gold – you should be buying the book for that reason alone.

Only one of my not-quite-expertly constructed pierogies leaked when boiled, and that one only leaked a very little. I cooked about a third of them and the rest are in the freezer. (I’m planning to take them over to my parents’ place to surprise my lemon curd-loving Dad.)

The best pierogies are as enjoyable for their covering as they are for their filling and that’s certainly true here. The lemon curd pierogies use the sweet version of Barber’s basic dough. It’s not overly sweet and caramelizes beautifully when pan-fried.

Lemon curd and I are old friends, but Barber’s instructions are clear enough for a beginner to follow, so there’s no reason for intimidation at all. And the results are wonderful – thick, pillowy, sweet and tart. I have leftovers in the fridge. I’m not sure if they’ll go into a tart or not. Given how many spoons there are just lying around in the kitchen, I might not be able to resist the temptation of eating it straight from the bowl. But that’s a question for later.


I served the pierogies dusted with icing sugar and lemon zest, but they don’t really need any extra adornment. There is a nice balance between sweet and tart, the crunch of the caramelized dough and the softness underneath.

Image courtesy of Casey Barber
Image courtesy of Casey Barber
Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Pierogi Love to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here: Win a copy of Pierogi Love*

Now that I’ve (mostly) gotten the hang of making pierogies, I’m tempted to start filling the freezer with them. In fact, I had to take my tape flags out of the book, once I realized I’d marked almost every page. Once my freezer is full, I’d love to have a pierogi party, with plates coming out of the kitchen one after another, savoury to sweet, with flavours from around the world.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the comfort food lover, the tradition-twister, and the party-pleaser.

Come back next week for a review of a book that celebrates the fruits of the land on which we stand.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 7 X 5 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show


Trade shows have a reputation for tedium, full of dry seminars for industry professionals, stationery samples, and towers of stale danishes.

But, imagine walking onto a trade show floor and almost immediately being handed a latte from one of your favourite local coffee chains. Then, spending the rest of the day sampling coffee, tea, chocolate, pastries and cocktails. All the while, competitions rage along to determine the best baristas and latte artists.


That’s what visiting the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show is like. There was an enormous array of coffee roasters and tea importers from around the world, with suppliers of everything a coffee shop or tea room could want.

A month later, I’m still sorting through and absorbing the materials I brought home from the show, but I have a few highlights to share with you, along with some thoughts about the show and what it means for the state of hot beverages in Vancouver.



I was a tea drinker for years before I ever touched a cup of coffee, so I was especially excited to see so many fine teas, highly qualified blenders and sommeliers, and the Tea Association of Canada at the show. I often drink coffee when I’m out, and as much as I enjoy it, there are many occasions when I wish I felt comfortable ordering tea, instead.

It can be difficult to find a good cup of tea in Vancouver, unless you’re at a tea room. There’s nothing worse than being served tea that’s improperly prepared, of poor quality, or both. Vancouver began solving its coffee problem in the 80s, so I’ve usually stuck with that at most of the places around town. (There’s one local coffee chain that particularly comes to mind – they have beautiful tea, chosen and blended by a talented team, but they pour almost half a cup of loose tea into a bag when they make a large cup. The tea is undrinkable and the leaves wasted.)

This is becoming less and less the case now, with the new generation of coffee shops focusing on the quality of everything they serve. They’re sourcing wonderful teas and preparing them precisely, making my decision of what to order very hard indeed.

This attention is reflected in the strong showing tea made at the show. Many of the conversations I had over the course of the two days left me feeling optimistic about the future of tea throughout Vancouver. Just as barista culture, artisan roasting, and the renaissance in brewing has elevated the quality of coffee in Vancouver, the influence of tea merchants and next gen coffee shops is elevating tea here, too.

So, you can expect to see more top shelf tea at coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. But you should also expect more good quality tea at your grocery store, too. Though the emphasis at the show is on providing products to the industry, there were a number of retail brands in attendance at the show. I saw whole leaf tea, organic and fair trade brands, sommelier blends and more at the retail kiosks. The future of tea is bright in Canada.



For coffee, the future is already here, from discerning local roasting companies to innovative coffee shops. There was a dazzling display of machinery at the show, reminding me that coffee has a lot in common with cars – people love to look at race cars and long to bring an affordable version home. There were beautiful espresso machines, tap systems for everything from cocktails to sodas, and technological wonders.

But what’s really exciting now is that all the innovation we’ve seen in coffee brewing is ready to come home with you. Just look at this page on KitchenAid’s website, if you don’t believe me. Expect high quality coffee from local roasters to show up throughout the restaurant industry, while siphon and pour over machines appear on kitchen counters.



One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was being introduced to products that were trying to find a foothold in Canada. There was tea from Nepal, chocolate from Ecuador, coffee from Brazil, and BKON’s Craft Brewer – an amazing machine that can infuse flavour into alcohol in seconds or brew a perfect cup of tea at precisely the right time and temperature. These were just a few of the exhibitors who were working to establish themselves here.



Edmonton’s Blue Hour Tea and their “sticky teas.” Premixing chai with Alberta honey is something different and delicious.

I’m hoarding the last of the samples I got from Lumbini Tea. Beautiful, whole leaf, flavourful tea is something to be savoured.

I was impressed by Trumps Fine Food‘s gluten-free collection. Producing tasty gluten-free goods in volume is difficult to pull off.

6 Mountains‘ Pu Erh tea was beautifully presented and served amidst the chaos of the trade show floor. It truly is the king of tea.

I learned a lot at the show and I’m looking forward to following up on leads for future stories, which I hope to share with you in the new year.


In the meantime, I’m getting ready to visit the Vancouver Tea Festival. They’re at the Croatian Cultural Centre this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday. If you’re in Vancouver, though, you can find out for yourself. You can buy tickets to the Festival on their website, along with tickets to their educational sessions.


I received a media pass to attend the trade show and competitions at The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show, nevertheless, all opinions are my own.

Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots


I received a review copy of True to Your Roots from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who loves root vegetables, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized I haven’t made the most of them. There’s a whole world of recipes beyond mashed potatoes, roasted roots, or even celery root purée.

I’ve been trying to correct that over the last while, discovering that sunchokes are fantastic whether they’re roasted or puréed in a soup, roasting radishes or shaving them paper thin onto baguettes thick with butter, shredding beets and carrots for hippie salads or baking them into cakes.

I’ve also been turning to cookbooks for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More are favourites and include ideas for working with root vegetables, as does Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. But Carla Kelly’s True to Your Roots focuses directly on root vegetables, providing a variety and creativity that’s usually reserved for showier fruits and vegetables. It’s also a vegan cookbook.

I’m not vegan, but I’ve striven to make the majority of my meals vegetarian or vegan for most of my adult life. When you’re trying to eat more meatless meals, it can be frustrating to find recipes for vegetable soups, mains, or side dishes relying heavily on meat stocks, eggs, or dairy. Until fairly recently, it was also hard to find vegan recipes that moved beyond a 1970’s palate. True to Your Roots solves both problems.

This is Carla Kelly‘s fourth cookbook – so far, she’s created vegan handbooks to bake sales, slow-cooking, and picnics. This book’s focus on a class of ingredient gives Kelly the freedom to roam across meals, cuisines, and techniques. She includes flavours from across the globe, while providing a range of familiar recipes alongside ones that twist expectations or go in entirely new directions.

I especially appreciate her guides to using vegetables that are often unfamiliar to home cooks in Canada and the U.S. It’s important to know that yuca and tropical yams should never be eaten before they’re fully cooked and it’s useful to know that horseradish is at its best when used shortly after being grated.

Kelly’s recipes go beyond root vegetables’ reputation as heavy, calorie-laden, comfort food material, but there are definitely comforting dishes included in the mix. Her potato biscuits are fluffy and satisfying, her burgers are substantial and flavourful, her soups are rich and homey. I couldn’t resist sharing her twist on a comfort food favourite of mine. Now, I’m thinking about mashing more potatoes just so I can make it again.




This is my take on the traditional Irish colcannon. Adding avocado may seem strange, but it’s really yummy and gives a creamy richness to the dish. (If you’re not a fan, simply leave it out.)

Makes 2 servings



1 tsp neutral-flavored oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded kale
1 cup (250 mL) leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large frying pan on medium, heat oil and saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add kale, cover, and steam for 3–5 minutes, until bright green and tender.

Add potatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until just lightly browned, stirring so potatoes don’t stick or burn. Remove from heat and stir in avocado. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Next time you have mashed potatoes for dinner, cook extra so you’ll be ready to make this dish the next day.

RECIPE CREDIT: True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You by Carla Kelly. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography


I served the kalecannon with stuffed portabella mushrooms, which made a complete and filling meal. The twist of using kale in place of cabbage brings freshness to a familiar dish, while the addition of avocado makes it creamier and richer than dairy ever could. The avocado didn’t overwhelm the other flavours, as I’d feared. Instead, it subtly melded all the flavours together.

I had some left over, which I heated up in a frying pan the next day. I think I liked it even better – the extra caramelization of the potatoes was especially nice.


Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of True to Your Roots to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here: Win a copy of True to Your Roots*

I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of what this book has to offer. I’m looking forward to trying condiments enriched with root vegetables (Sesame Horseradish Dipping Sauce), world cuisine favourites reimagined (Yuca Empanadas with Avocado, Plantain & Black Beans), and familiar foods with a twist (Celeriac Brownies).

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the root lover, the root-nostic, the root-phobic, and anyone who wants to eat closer to the earth.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s full of pockets of goodness.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 5 X 3 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms


One of the nicest parts of autumn has become recipe sampling for my annual Holiday Cookbook Review series. I’ve been digging into this year’s selections for a while now and I love how the range of what I cook expands, as I learn from each of them. They also inspire me to get more creative on my own, dreaming up accompaniments for some of the recipes I try, based on what’s in the pantry and at the fresh markets.

These portabella mushrooms are a good example. I was looking for something to serve with Carla Kelly’s Kalecannon, from her new cookbook, True to Your Roots. There were some beautiful portabellas in the store where I picked up the ingredients I needed for her dish. I chose some vegetables that would make a nice filling, picked up some Daiya shredded vegan Mozzarella, and seasoned the dish much as my Irish grandmother would her Sunday roast. Well, I’m not sure she would have added chili flakes, but they were a nice addition.

Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4 portabella mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) rosemary
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme
a pinch of chili flakes
1 small zucchini, coarsely diced
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely diced
1 small tomato, coarsely diced
salt and pepper
Shredded vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Clean and trim the mushrooms. If the stems are particularly large, I remove them and dice them with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.

Put the cleaned mushrooms on the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat, add a pinch or two of salt, then cook the onion and garlic until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the rosemary, thyme, and chili flakes, then stir for a minute or so.

Add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, and diced mushroom (if using) and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

When the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, divide the filling equally between them and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.

Sprinkle the shredded vegan cheese on each of the filled mushrooms – I like to be generous. Bake for 5 minutes more, or until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.


You’ll note that you get a preview of the Kalecannon from True to Your Roots in the photo above, which I’ll be telling you all about on Thursday. It’s the first of seven weeks of cookbook reviews that will help you cross some names off your gift list, right up until the last minute.

Even better, I’ll be hosting giveaways for five of the seven books, so you could end up with a gift of your own.

G-W Portraits: Terrence Feng


It’s hard to tease apart the DNA of a good neighbourhood, but I’m certain that one can’t survive without local businesses that are as engaged as its residents. That’s true of Grandview-Woodland’s business community, especially the grocers, retailers, and restaurateurs along Commercial Drive and Hastings.

It’s certainly been true of the owners and staff of Kin Kao Thai Kitchen. Since they opened in February of this year, they’ve done a roaring business with patrons from across the city. But they’ve also become great neighbours, who always remember your name and your favourites from the menu and are happy to say hello when they run into you around the Drive.

Their food has become a regular habit at our house and they’ve been especially careful and thoughtful around Kevin’s gluten-free and vegan requirements.

Now that they’ve been denizens of the Drive for the better part of a year, I thought I’d ask Terrence Feng, one of Kin Kao’s owners, to share his thoughts about Grandview-Woodland.

You can find out more about Kin Kao on their website and in the review I published when they first opened. We love them for dinner and takeout, but don’t forget to try their lunch and brunch menus.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

Cottage Cooking Club – October 2015


This month’s theme for the Cottage Cooking Club is Oktoberfest. I didn’t make it to any Oktoberfest celebrations this year, but as you can see, I did enjoy a seasonal pumpkin lager. I also enjoyed all the harvest vegetables. Thanks to El Niño, the produce stands are full of a variety of early to late autumn produce, which makes delicious eating easy.

Along the way, I prepared two of this month’s CCC selections and both were wonderful.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry


You know a recipe is a keeper if you’re being asked to make it again as soon as it’s gone. This curry lasted us three meals and kept getting better each day.

It’s also a healthy dish, full of fresh garlic, onion, and ginger, with spices like tumeric and cumin – all things that are being touted as immune boosters. There’s only a little fat in it and it’s vegan to boot.

We’ll be having this dish whenever cauliflower looks good at the market.

Roasted Parsnip, Green Lentil, and Spinach


The recipe in the book uses watercress, but it’s something that I find can be elusive around here. It’s one of those things I try to buy when I see it, as I never know when I’ll run across it again. This month was not a lucky one for me when it came to watercress, so I used wilted spinach in its place. The only other deviation from the recipe I made was to dice some of the onion cooked with the lentils and mix it back in, along with the dressing. It’s a trick I learned from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s dressed lentils are another favourite from this book. The lemon and mustard dressing suits lentilles du Puy perfectly and pairs well with the wilted spinach and roasted parsnips, too. Ah, I thought of another change I made – to make the dressing vegan, I substituted a little sugar for the honey.

I made more roasted parsnips than I needed for this dish, as it’s my favourite way to eat them and I wanted leftovers. Which reminds me, I added in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary when I was roasting them – I promise, that’s the last tweak I made to this recipe.

We’ll be repeating this dish, too, though given what I’ve written above, I’m not sure it will ever be exactly the same twice.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.