Dorie’s Cookies – Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

I baked up a storm the last two weekends, helping stock the bake sale table at the craft fair my mother organizes every year. I made three selections from Dorie’s Cookies this year, including the Cranberry Spice Cookies that were one of this month’s selections. I took out some squash that I’d frozen to make the variation of the Sweet Potato Pie Bars, but my mother got hold of it and turned it into several delicious creations of her own, instead. Luckily, I’ve got a really big squash ready to roast, so I’ll make those bars some time before the holidays.

Peanut Brownie Sablés

I also made the Peanut Brownie Sablés and the Melody Cookies (in snowflake form!), along with several batches of cookies from other cookbooks and recipe cards. I managed to taste a couple of cookies along the way (thank goodness for broken cookies!), but I was in production mode, so didn’t take great photos of any of them.

Melody Cookies, masquerading as snowflakes

I am going to have to make all of these again, at a time when they’re not earmarked for sale – they were all so delicious that I was sorry all I got was a share of the very few broken bits when they were unpacked. The Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies were especially lovely, because they’re not sweet – amongst all the sugar bombs on the table, they made a nice contrast. I loved the way the butter and cranberries played against the spices. It’s a perfect cookie for a grown up dessert tray or a grown up cocktail nibble.

Cookie Mix and Match Bake Sale Table

I may not have gotten to eat many cookies this weekend, but I’m going to steal one of their ideas for my next cookie swap – the mix and match table was a huge hit!

November’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

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A Medley of Taste – Simply Delish Soup and Salad

Calico Bean Soup

As I told you on Tuesday, Kevin and I did some shopping at the Fraser Valley Food Show last weekend. We’ve been happily eating our way through our finds ever since.

Today, I have something of guest post from Kevin, reviewing one of the products he was especially eager to try, Simply Delish Soup and Salad:

Simply Delish Soup

On Saturday April 2nd, I went with Teresa to the Fraser Valley Food Show. As someone who has been celiac since my birth in 1971, and who has been vegan for almost a year and a half, I was a bit skeptical about finding much that I would like at the show. I say this even knowing full well how much things have changed for people with celiac disease since the 70s and for vegans in the last five years.

The place that immediately caught my eye was Simply Delish Soup and Salad. Their display booth was outstanding. I couldn’t stop looking at their pre-packaged soups, as they looked incredibly pretty. I believe everything but one item was both gluten-free and vegan. The service was friendly but not overbearing. Brad was very helpful in explaining their product and I thought it was cool he was aware of Teresa’s One Wet Foot blog. I ended up leaving with their Calico Soup.

I initially thought that $9.00 was a lot to pay for this pretty package of beans and spices. Once I realized how much soup it makes, I realized I was wrong – it makes a lot of soup for $9.00. Teresa even helped me do some quick math about how much it would cost otherwise. Usually one pays a lot extra for convenience, but not here. The soup couldn’t have been easier to make – just put it into a slow cooker and add water. As someone who likes convenience with vegan/gluten-free cooking, I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved the simplicity of this.

Often with pre-packaged vegan and gluten-free food, not only is it over-priced but it’s also loaded with unhealthy ingredients. This soup couldn’t be farther from that – the nutrient value is extremely high in this soup. I can’t recommend this soup enough. I was happy to hear that Brad & Chelsey sell their product in Vancouver, as we plan on having much more of it in this household.

Medley of beans in the slow cooker

I agree with Kevin’s assessment – we enjoyed a delicious soup with minimal effort – we threw in some diced celery and carrot, as we had it on hand, but I suspect it would have been just as enjoyable without. I also added some salt just before serving. Brad and Chelsey don’t add any salt to their products, which I appreciate for two reasons – salt makes dried pulses tough and I like to control the amount of salt in our food. We like just enough salt in our food to enhance the flavours.

There’s a place for soup mixes like this in our lives – made with healthy ingredients, guaranteed gluten-free and vegan, great as is while easy to customize, and perfect for days when hands on cooking isn’t feasible. They’re a great addition to our pantry.

Overhead shot of calico bean soup

We received no consideration for our review of this product. It’s part of an occasional series of posts highlighting locally made products that we buy and enjoy.

Food in the Fraser Valley

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It’s become a habit of mine to kick off the spring season with a visit to the Fraser Valley Food Show. I’ve told you about it before, and this year was just as enjoyable.

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This year I brought my partner for the first time, so much of our time was spent exploring the Gluten-Free Living section, so much so that we came home with bags packed with products we bought to try. I’ll be featuring a few of the ones we like best in upcoming blog posts.

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I was on my own for the sausage-tasting, since my partner is vegan, but there was plenty to occupy his time before we reconvened in the wine, beer, and spirits tasting area. I ate my way through about ten excellent offerings and was hard pressed to choose a winner, so I’m not sure how the judges, who tried many more, could come to their decisions. You can see the list of winners here.

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Here are a few of the highlights for me this year:

Nextjen gluten-free flours

Ravens Brewing Company Dry Irish Stout

Wayward Distillation House‘s Unruly Gin, Vodka, and ‘Depth Charge’ liqueur

Nuoc Cham Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Onnick’s Blueberry Farm‘s bottled iced teas

Stapleton Sausage Co.‘s duck sausage with blueberry, made with Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry duck

ZipGrow Farm Walls

Hanes Hummus

Simply Delish Soup and Salad gluten-free soup mixes

That’s just a sampling of what we enjoyed at this year’s show. I’m hoping to do a little exploring of some of the farms and makers in the Fraser Valley this year, so stay tuned for more!

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I attended the Fraser Valley Food Show on a media pass, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

Eat Local: A Singularly Delicious Pairing

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I was a guest of Kingfisher’s for the evening, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

Beer has come a long way in BC. Not all that long ago, a beer and a meal meant mass-produced lager and a wan remembrance of English pub food.

These days, it’s an exciting prospect. With excellent breweries popping up around the province and many restaurants’ laser-focus on the best of local food, there’s no predicting what will happen when they come together.

Last month, I benefitted from such a collaboration between Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill in Maple Ridge and Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery. The occasion was the pouring of a very special stout and the carefully constructed tasting plate my brother, Chef Sean, dreamed up to go with it.

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Driftwood’s Singularity Russian Imperial Beer is delicious bottled, but it’s even better when it’s been cellared. Ted Hume, one of Kingfisher’s owners, opened a cellared barrel of the 2014 vintage and invited guests to enjoy it with Chef Sean’s tasting plate.

We had a glass of a more recent vintage, which is everything I love about stout – full of flavours like coffee and chocolate, refreshing and filling all at once. This stout has an extra layer of flavour imparted by the bourbon barrels it’s aged in, too, making it even deeper and darker than I’ve come to expect. As good as it was, the cellared beer was astonishingly better. It needed to be sipped and savoured, more like scotch than beer, and the flavours were even more complex and pronounced. As Driftwood representative Asia said that night, it’s a challenging beer to pair.

I may be biased, but Chef Sean’s tasting plate met the challenge perfectly. He started with a brioche crostini with bacon in a bourbon-caramel sauce, dusted with pecan. Then, lamb sirloin with a port-cherry demi glaze over blue cheese infused mashed potatoes. Finally, a beignet with dark chocolate sauce, sprinkled with brown sugar. Sipping the beer between bites, these dishes enhanced and were enhanced by the Singularity. The only thing I could have asked for was a second round.

Ted and Asia were kind enough to talk more about the event, the night’s offerings, and the synergy between Kingfisher’s and Driftwood’s philosophies, in a Periscope interview that I’ve captured here:

This synergy extends beyond the presenters of the evening, right onto the plate. Bacon from Gelderman Farms, brioche from A Bread Affair, blue cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, and more were showcased in this meal, companies that put as much effort into collaborating with restaurants as they do the quality of their products.

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It made for a room full of happy eaters and drinkers, including my mother and me – though we didn’t order a second round, we indulged in a few more plates of food (including some fabulous crab cakes and a tiramisu so wonderful I forgot to photograph it).

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A Year-end Round-up

Favourite Posts

A round up of popular posts on the last day of the year may be a blogging cliché, but it’s nice to look back at what’s resonated with people, especially when some of the top posts of the year reach farther into my blog’s history.

It’s not a surprise that this top 16 draws primarily from my cooking community posts and from posts with a local focus. Those are the twin pillars of my blog, after all.

I’m looking forward to where this blog will take me in 2015, but looking back, I’m quite happy with where I’ve been so far. A very happy New Year to you all. I hope 2015 brings you health, happiness, and adventure.

And so to the list:

16. FFWD – Tuna Rillettes

I’m starting out at the bottom of the list, in true late December countdown fashion. Sixteenth of over 350 posts is still pretty impressive, though. This post is about one of my favourite Dorista snacks of 2014. Tuna rillettes are addictively good, whether used as a dip or a spread.

15. FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Most of the Doristas who made this came away enamoured with the carrots cooked in carrot juice that anchor the dish. This post also includes a primer on sustainable seafood and a rich, cocktail snack of a quick bread.

14. The Bounty of the Valley

The Fraser Valley isn’t just the place where chefs, bakers, and makers get their ingredients. These days, there are more and more businesses springing up that are making the Valley a destination (or keeping Valley foodies closer to home). The Fraser Valley Food Show has become a showcase for some of the best the Valley has to offer.

13. FFWD – Celery-Celery Soup

The name of this soup piqued my interest, so it makes sense that readers would be curious, too. If you don’t know what to do with the celery root you see in the markets, this would be a good place to start.

12. West Coast Christmas Show

Another event in the Fraser Valley, proving you don’t have to commute to find great, local goods.

11. FFWD – Chanterelles with Cabbage & Nuts

One of my favourite 2014 French Fridays dishes, this is going to appear on my table every fall when the wild mushrooms start showing up in the markets.

10. FFWD – Visitandine

A simple cake and a great way to use up egg whites, especially if you’re making lemon curd. I make sure there’s always one of these in my parents’ freezer in case they need a dessert on the double.

9. FFWD – Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

This is one of the very first posts I made on the blog and it’s been in the top ten ever since. The cake has become a favourite in my family and beyond, making rum a more prized commodity around here than it ever was before.

8. Vegetable Quinoa Soup with the Taste of Little India

The photos for this soup are about as Pinterest-y as I get, which is why I think this one made the top ten. Besides, who can resist the promise of the name?

7. Eat Local: Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

I love talking about the local food scene and Kingfisher’s has a great food philosophy – two of the reasons I think this post was popular. The third? You got to meet my brother, Kingfisher’s Executive Chef.

6. Patate Alpino

I’ve been experimenting with working with brands a little bit on the blog and this is a post I’m rather proud of. A recipe inspired by the Italian side of the Alps and some French Fridays leftovers, this dish could become a dangerous habit for anyone in reach of a good Italian deli.

5. Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club, organized by the wonderful Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness has become a highlight of each month for me. Cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gets me out of the rut of my usual approach to vegetarian cooking, which is how I like to eat at least 60% of the time. I think more people are getting interested in meatless meals, so I’m not surprised this post made the top ten.

4. Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

The French Fridays crew is in the last few months of cooking through Around My French Table, so when our fourth anniversary of cooking together lined up with the release of Dorie’s new book and her birthday, we decided to celebrate. With previews of recipes from Baking Chez Moi, birthday wishes, and fond reminiscences, this was part of a very special round up of posts.

3. Almond-Orange Tuiles – A French Fridays Fail

It’s a commonplace that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. I think that’s why this post climbed so high into the top ten, along with the fact that we can all relate to less-than-perfect results in the kitchen and everywhere else.

2. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

This post from early 2012 has been consistently popular, perhaps because the word Nutella is a magnet or maybe because braided brioche is the cutest bread ever. I know I like the reminder of what a good team brioche, marmalade, and Nutella make.

1. Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

My post on the kick off of another round of Tuesdays with Dorie was my most popular post of the year. How could it not be? Delicious cookies, a re-energized community, and a visit with Dorie Greenspan – no wonder it’s Number One.

Eat Local: Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

Sean

Meet Chef Sean McCarthy. He’s the Executive Chef at Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill. He also happens to be my little brother. In the photo above, Sean’s showing off some of the sunchokes the restaurant receives in their farm box of produce each week. He’d heard about the difficulties the Doristas had in sourcing this vegetable and wanted me at least to know that I should have talked to him before running around all over town looking for them. Lesson learned. Having trouble sourcing an ingredient? Ask a chef. They know where to find everything you might need.

Sean brought the sunchokes out to show me a couple of weeks ago when my mother and I stopped by Kingfisher’s for lunch after visiting the West Coast Christmas Show in Abbotsford. I don’t get the opportunity to visit the Fraser Valley often enough, so I wanted to make the most of my trip.

Views

You’re used to me extolling the virtues of farmers and local, seasonal food, so you shouldn’t be surprised that my brother shares those values, along with the owners of Kingfisher’s. They take every opportunity to showcase the local goodness around them, like the Gelderman Farms pork loin chop I chose for lunch, which Sean paired with roasted carrots and fig jus. I also got to try a draught from my own neighbourhood with my meal. One of Kingfisher’s rotating tap selections was Bomber Brewing’s Choqlette Porter, a variety I have a hard time passing up.

Food

Kingfisher’s menu is quite varied, so my mother was able to choose a favourite from farther afield, the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, then we finished with pumpkin crème brûlée. In general, though, you’ll find the menu dotted with the provenance of the products they’re using, both in the restaurant and behind the bar. It’s the kind of establishment that’s taking hold across our region, building community with its customers and suppliers and introducing eaters to producers.

Now, this can’t strictly be a restaurant review, since I’m the chef’s sister. But what I’d like to mention is that it’s Buy Local Week and that’s a perfect opportunity for you to seek out just this kind of restaurant in your own neck of the woods. You’ll be supporting a local business that supports local businesses in turn and you might just discover your new favourite butcher, farmer, or brewer along the way.

West Coast Christmas Show

I attended the West Coast Christmas Show as a media guest, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

Decorations

Last weekend, Abbotsford’s Tradex transformed itself into a winter wonderland of gifts, family activities, and holiday entertainment. The West Coast Christmas Show had come to town. And the Fraser Valley rushed in the door to welcome it. I was glad we went first thing Saturday morning, because by lunchtime, the crowds really started to arrive.

Gifts

I wasn’t surprised, because the show was justifiably popular. Over the course of our time there, we found handcrafted gifts, all the treats and ingredients you could want for the holidays, and Christmas decorations, flowers and wreaths – along with more gadgets than I’ve seen since last year’s Home Show.

More food

Here are just a few of the things that stood out for me:

Frost Bites Syrup Co. broad range of flavours
Sharon Hubbard‘s whimsical castles
Edible Gardens‘ line of balsamic vinegars
Clearbrook Coffee Company – nothing like locally roasted beans
a paper {life}‘s creative quilling
It’s For the Birds‘ seedcakes

Kids

I was also impressed by how much there was for kids to do at the show. While their parents may have come for the cooking demos and entertaining tips, there were also workshops galore for the small set, along with attractions like Santa’s mailbox and a beautifully set up model train.

More Gifts

Events like this have convinced me that for Fraser Valley residents, there’s no longer any need to drive into Vancouver for trade shows and artisan showcases anymore. What isn’t being produced in your own backyard is coming to meet you at showcase centres like the Tradex.

Food

And there are more attractions to come for the Fraser Valley this holiday season. I was able to get a sneak peek at one of them while I was visiting the Christmas Show. North Pole BC‘s Festival of Christmas opens its doors at the Tradex on November 28th and I got to have a little look around at what you can expect. I even caught Santa napping beneath the Christmas tree.

Preview

The Bounty of the Valley

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I attended the Fraser Valley Food Show as a guest on a media tour, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the Fraser Valley, in a typically suburban neighbourhood, with 1/4 acre lots, corner stores, and tiny drive-in shopping centres that housed things like the local library and bank branches, along with bakeries, hardware stores and a Greek-Italian steakhouse or two. If we hopped on our bikes, we could ride out to where the farmland began, but it was mostly hobby farms and horse barns. The working farms were farther away.

We weren’t completely divorced from those farms, though. We were lucky enough that there were what we called ‘farm markets’ at intervals along Fraser Highway, stocked with local fruit and vegetables. My parents preferred to shop there over the supermarket, while also keeping an eye out for seasonal goodies like Chilliwack corn, fruit stands, and ‘U Pick’ berries. So, long before farm-to-table became de rigueur, we knew how lucky we were to live in such a fertile place.

But the Fraser Valley has more to offer than just the building blocks of good meals. From charcuterie to chocolate, from bread to beer, there are more and more businesses offering the kind of food and drink that’s been celebrated in hotbeds like Brooklyn or Portland. And the Fraser Valley Food Show does a good job of showcasing the range of what this region has to offer.

Sausage

I went on Saturday, just in time to beat the line for the Oktoberfest Sausage Tasting. I found it hard to choose amongst the nine or ten sausages I tried – they were all wonderful, some with a slow heat and others with a meaty savour. I certainly would have hated to be one of the three judges for the competition round. They had to sample 112 different sausages before coming to a decision about handing out multiple ribbons and trophies. You can see a list of the winners here. I suspect it might make a good basis for a self-guided tour of Metro Vancouver sausage makers.

Competition

The rest of my day was spent exploring the stalls, listening to speakers, and sampling, sampling, sampling. The Gluten Free Living show was particularly interesting to me, as my partner has celiac disease and we’re always looking for good gluten-free staples. There were lots of great prepared foods there, of course, but there were two things that really impressed me. First, all the exhibitors at the Food Show were knowledgeable about whether or not there was gluten (or allergens) in their products, whether they were in the gluten-free area or not. Secondly, there were some interesting ingredients on offer, like Nextjen gluten-free flour mix. It’s great to be able to buy a box of gluten-free cookies or pasta, but for someone who likes scratch cooking and baking, base ingredients that are safe and easy to use are an exciting development. And buying local makes it even better.

As for all that sampling I did, well, I’m going to give you a short list of some of the things that stood out for me this year. It won’t be comprehensive, because there was a lot of good stuff to eat, drink, and buy.

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Eat

ChocolaTas’ Chocolate Ganaches

JD Farms’ turkey sausages

Fire Belly’s pepper sauces

Drink

Shuswap Infusions’ teas

Parallel 49’s Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest beer

Glutenberg’s Chestnut Brown Ale

Campbell’s Gold mead and melomel

Learn

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go to an event like this, I find myself a little intimidated by the line in front of the All You Need is Cheese demonstration area. I don’t know if it’s because we got to the Food Show a little early, but there was only a short line on Saturday. So, I ducked in with Mary from Vancouver Bits and Bites and Cathy Browne. (It was so nice to meet you, ladies.) In a short time, we had a tasting of seven different cheeses across several categories. Many of them were BC cheeses, too. I learned a thing or two and my taste buds were primed for heading over to the Wine, Beer, and Spirits Tasting.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ned Bell’s presentation. He spoke about his cross-Canada cycle trip in support of sustainable seafood and then he showed us how to break down a salmon, while giving us tips and information on how to work sustainable seafood into our diets. I wasn’t aware that land-based fish farming is one source of sustainable seafood and I certainly hadn’t thought about the cost savings involved in buying a whole salmon, breaking it down, and freezing it in portions. You can find out more about Bell’s ride at Chefs for Oceans and here’s a link to my go to resource for information about sustainable seafood, Ocean Wise.

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My only quibble with the show is that I’d like to see them showcase more local restaurants in their Bite of the Valley category. I’d love the opportunity to sample small plates from any of the great restaurants that put the food produced in the Fraser Valley to such good use. It would make the show a complete journey from farm to plate.

FFWD: Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken – A Catch Up

This week’s recipe is Chestnut and Pear Soup, but that’s not what I have for you today. Instead, I’m going to tell you about a recipe the gang did earlier this month, a roast chicken with an unusual twist. I’ll also tell you a bit about what I was getting up to instead of sourcing chestnuts and making soup.

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Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken is cooked for about an hour on high heat, starting on one side and then flipped to the other mid-roast. I used carrots, potatoes, and a few cloves of garlic to prop up my bird and stuffed it with half an apple and half an onion. Along with a cup of white wine (courtesy of the Doristas who attended IFBC), there was about two cups of jus, even it was boiled and thickened a bit, while the bird was resting (on an angle) under a foil tent. This method makes for a tender, juicy bird and no leftovers. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, too. It was a perfect one pot meal.

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Now for the reason I’m not going to be tackling this week’s recipe until Sunday. Post-harvest season has traditionally been a little lacklustre for some of the agricultural vendors of the Fraser Valley. So, the farmers have gotten creative. This Wednesday, my mother and I headed over to Krause Berry Farms for their customer appreciation night. It included bakery samples and wine tastings and a first look at this year’s Christmas food and craft offerings. Each year it seems the Krause family expands their retail complex, allowing the farm to offer their produce in new ways. Now, you can enjoy meals, cooking classes, wine tastings, and more throughout the summer, fall, and holiday seasons. It’s a survival strategy in a market with a narrow margin, but it’s also enriching the cultural landscape out in the Valley.

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The next day, we visited Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm to pick out (and taste) some honey wines for upcoming holiday meals. They’re taking part in the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour‘s Passport to Christmas, which offers substantial prize draws to visitors of six or more of the farms on the list. It’s a great way to promote off-season visits to farm retail outlets and allows for some great early Christmas shopping, too. I’ll be back to visit some more of the participants before Christmas, for sure.

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I admire the way that farmers are finding ways to survive in this economic climate, while making the Valley a much more interesting place than I remember it being when I was growing up there. I also like the opportunity to see where all the local food I’m touting comes from. It’s grounding in the most literal of senses.

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You can find many other blogged descriptions of this FFWD recipe here: Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken