November 2009

Food and Food: Edmonton29 Nov 2009 05:38 pm

While I have found the stereotype of journalists requiring a lot of coffee is often true, one cannot live on coffee alone. Unfortunately, weekends tend to be a wasteland in terms of food downtown, which is where the newsroom is.

Things got brighter when Healthfare opened a new outpost few weeks ago, however. The restaurant is not only open weekends, it serves breakfast and healthy food to boot. A location opened on the southside of Edmonton a little while back, and the restaurant has now expanded downtown.

healthfare downtown edmonton

healthfare edmonton downtown

The interior is bright and minimal, with funky lights and definite “green” slant. And I don’t just mean the murals.

The restaurants feature low flush toilets, reclaimed wood tables, recycled plastic chairs and energy efficient lighting, paired with eco-friendly packaging. They even deliver using a hybrid vehicle. There is also prominent caloric information, displayed serving sizes and a computer station where you can get guidance on what to order, based on your body type and energy requirements.
healthfare downtown edmonton

Nutritional Information Station. A bit hokey, a bit helpful. Healthfare is also currently working on a system that will allow people to text in their orders. I like their technological stance. The restaurant was opened by an electrician, so this stuff doesn’t really surprise me.

The menu items were planned out with help from a registered dietitian, and feature breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are soups, sandwiches, salads and ricebowls, as well as egg sandwiches and granola. I have now visited Healthfare twice, to mixed results. First, I’ll admit it is a bit pricey. A sandwich runs $9 or so. A bowl of soup $5.

healthfare downtown edmonton

My first visit, I got a chicken peanut lime rice bowl, $8.99

Or so I thought.

What I actually got was the beef orange rice bowl. Sigh. Not off to a good start, guys. I didn’t have time to run back and get my actual order.


The veggies were a bit limp and overcooked, and the beef was a bit chewy, although flavourful. I had to really dig for the rice, too. It was buried at the bottom. I enjoy brown rice, however, and liked it in this dish. It’s nuttiness and nutrition wins me over. The meat can be replaced with tofu.

healthfare veggie goat cheese sandwich

My next visit, was slightly better. I got a few items for myself and a coworker. We both got the sandwich and soup combo for about $12. I regretted not getting the avocado laden Healthfare Club after seeing my coworker’s, but was satisfied with the goat cheese veggie. Savoury goat cheese with some eggplant, peppers, onion and zucchini and a bed of green leaf lettuce. The bun was, well, it was a low calorie bun as far as I could tell. They have a different texture and I think are a bit dry and bland. I think this sandwich would be great grilled.

There seem to be four soups constantly available. Butternut squash, carrot ginger and spicy tomato were highlighted both visits, with the fourth being a wildcard. On this day: curried lentil.

healthfare soup

The soup was flavourful and well seasoned, but I found the broth a bit thin. I just might be used to Mike’s thick lentil dishes, though. What most impressed me were the lids for the packaging. Walking back to the office usually turns things upside down in bags, and gives them opportunity to leak. Both the soups made it back totally dry and intact.

healthfare soup

About a cup of soup in the smaller size for $2.99.

The food was good, but not knock-my-socks-off good. A solid choice for lunch. It is mostly nice to know there is another option available downtown, especially on Sunday.  I look forward to trying the sweet potato fries and steel-cut oatmeal one day.

10279 Jasper Avenue
(also located on the southside of Edmonton, 10865 23 Avenue)
downtown hours:
Monday – Friday 6:30am – 9pm
Saturday 9am – 7pm
Sunday 10am-5pm

Food and Food: Home Cookin'27 Nov 2009 09:55 am

I eat a lot of sandwiches as meals. Perhaps because they’re easy, perhaps because they are infinitely customizable. Some favourites (made at home) include egg salad, BLTs, and grilled cheese. Purchased favorites are the pita pizza/sandwiches from Sunbake Pita and banh mi from Van Loc.

I had my first muffuletta when I was but a wee girl, or so the story goes according to my parents. Most recently, I had an authentic one while in New Orleans in 2001 (hardly recent!). I also had a crawfish po’boy, while wandering about.  These sandwiches are regional favourites, are packed with numerous ingredients, and filling. VERY filling.


I made a muffletta this weekend. It’s kind of wrong to just make a single sandwich, and it’s a thing best done to an entire loaf of bread.

An olive salad must be prepared, and meats acquired. They are layered thickly and compressed down.

First I started by hollowing out the loaf of french bread. Round breads or flatter breads are advised for this sandwich.


Then I made the olive salad. This is extremely customizable, but mine included kalamata olives, green olives, pepperocini peppers, roasted red peppers, roasted cauliflower, green onion, celery, garlic, carrots and parsley. Add lots of olive oil and pepper and let it marinate for a bit. It will last for some time in the fridge, so you may want to make a larger portion for future sandwiches. Like ajvar, it’s great on many things.


Layer after layer of meat was added. I included ham, mortadella and genoa salami, along with provolone and mozzarella cheese.



Sliced into chunks and warmed in the oven until the cheese melts, this is a hearty meal.

Food and Food: Home Cookin'25 Nov 2009 08:31 am

I don’t know why, but for many years I shied away from bolognese on restaurant menus. Perhaps I thought the sauce was plain and unsophisticated: I mean, meat sauce when you can have a fancier, harder-to-make cream sauce? Perhaps I was reliving bad memories of overdosing on bolognese in Belgium many years ago.

However, lately it has become a favourite pasta sauce. Although my recipe is far from authentic (many believe “true” bolognese should use white wine, not red, and uses very little tomato), it it still very good, and fairly easy to cook up.

lamb bolognese

lamb bolognese

My soffritto of carrots, celery, onion and pancetta, frying in a helping of butter and olive oil.

lamb bolognese

Chubs of meat are not the most attractive packaging. Plus they have a tendency to burst open into a wormy snake of meat when you cut into them.

lamb bolognese
My recipe only requires a cup of red wine, leaving a lot left in the bottle. I freeze a cup for use later, and drink some while cooking or use it in other cooking in the days after.

lamb bolognese
At $3.49 a can, these tomatoes were not cheap, but I tried them to see if there was a discernible difference. I think it is worth it to get tomatoes low in sodium and sugar, so that I can control the end flavours a bit better. Here, I am using kitchen scissors to cut the whole tomatoes into smaller bits.

lamb bolognese
I also spent a bit more on a different brand of tomato sauce. The ingredient list is a long one, as you can see. The paste and tomatoes had the added benefit of not tasting metallic.

lamb bolognese

Mike’s bowl on left, mine on right. I did go back for seconds, though. I serve a healthy serving of sauce with a chunky, chewy pasta such as orecchiette that helps scoop up the meaty sauce, and top it with cheese and parsley.

lamb bolognese

Lamb and Veal Bolognese

This will make several cups of sauce, which is good to freeze and serve with fresh pasta later, or just eat on its own. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe, so feel free to adjust amounts if need be.

  • 0.635kg (1.5 lbs) meat. I used a mix of veal and lamb, but you could use beef and veal or pork.
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, cubed. I just buy a chunk from the deli and cube it at home
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup red wine you like (don’t cheap out, although it may be tempting)
  • 28 oz. can tomatoes, whole and cut up or diced
  • can of tomato paste
  • cayenne powder, chili flakes to taste
  • herbs,  dried or fresh
  • salt and pepper

Set large pot on medium high heat, allow to warm up. Add diced pancetta, cook while stirring until it browns. Add splash of olive oil and butter, throwing in diced carrots, celery and onion. Allow this soffritto to soften and brown, about 10 minutes.

Add your meat, let brown. I normally add my spices at this point, cayenne or chili, dried thyme, oregano or basil. Crank the heat to high, and add the wine while scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Turn heat down to medium, allow to cook down for about 10 minutes, and add the tomato paste and entire can of tomatoes and juices. Allow to come to a boil, and simmer for as long as you can stand it, at least 45 minutes, but longer if possible.

lamb bolognese

Food and Food: Home Cookin'23 Nov 2009 01:39 pm

For the past few years, Mike has gone hunting with his godfather and friends south of Edmonton. He wakes early, comes home late smelling of the outdoors, and, every year but one, has returned with a deer or a moose, stocking our fridge and freezer with delicious wild game.

We enjoyed some of the venison this week, as Mike prepped and cooked the backstrap. I wasn’t home for most of the preparation, but I do know there was an all day marinade in spices, beer and leftover red wine, then a rub. It was seared, then finished in the oven. The marinade was cooked down into a rich sauce, and we had it sliced into medallions, with big fluffy loaded baked potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.

searing venison

I hope you’ve not heard anything negative about deer, but if you have, it should be ignored. When prepared correctly, venison is flavourful and savoury, tender – not tough – and very lean.

I think we’ll try venison stroganoff and stew soon, and make some sausages.


Fixin’s for a loaded baked potato. Butter, old cheddar cheese, sour cream and salty pancetta bits.



Food and Food: Asia and Food: Edmonton22 Nov 2009 10:58 pm

Viphalay Laotian + Thai Restaurant
10724 – 95 Street, Edmonton
Open everyday, 11am – 9pm

I’m not sure if it is the colder weather or my parents talking about their annual winter move to southeast Asia, but I have been nuts for Thai and Laotian food lately. The flavours, spices and variety have been on my mind quite often. As as result, Mike and I have eaten at both Syphay and Viphalay in the past couple weeks. These are both restaurants that feature mixed menus of Thai and Laotian food.


Busy Friday night at Viphalay

The restaurant was busy on a Friday night at prime time, but we were still seated quickly as the waitress snatched a “reserved” sign off of a table for an obviously unfulfilled reservation. It was a bit chilly sitting next to the door though, as people were constantly filing in and out, picking up eat-out orders and coming in to dine.

We ordered some old favourites, like beef lahp salad and a hot red curry. Viphalay insists on serving sticky rice that is fresh, and so you must order it earlier in the day. That was a bit inconvenient, but I admire their dedication to fine foods. It’s the classic accompaniment to lahp, and makes it easy to make morsels of sticky rice and spicy-sour beef to pop into your mouth.

singha beer mug

Mike ordered a Singha beer, which came in an extremely authentic style: an icy mug. Sometimes in Thai beach bars you will get your frosty beer in a beer koozie, and in mall beer gardens, a tabletop keg with an ice core, but usually it’s the icy mug. This simple step made me incredibly happy.


Side condiments of crushed dried red peppers and fermented chili garlic.

I had an ulcer for many years and was unable to fully enjoy spicy foods (not to mention the fire in my tender mouth) when I lived overseas but am now starting to ramp up my ability to eat them. We got a hot red curry, with a side of pungent fermented chili and garlic…which I avoided. Mike enjoyed it, though.


The forgettable BBQ beef. “Don’t eat the flower,” requested/told the server.

The food came out quickly and was great. The only thing I would avoid was the BBQ beef. They were quite bland and I found the curious curls of meat a bit tough. I still couldn’t stop popping them in my mouth, though.


Condensed milk roti roll

To finish, I could not avoid the siren song of the street cart favourite, roti, for dessert. These carts are all over Thailand, selling a thin crispy crepe of sorts, both chewy and crispy, sweet and a touch salty. Although there are an incredible variety to get now, including Nutella, raisins, peanut butter and so on, the gold standard is a combo of honey and banana or just condensed milk and sugar. I had no idea there was a place in Edmonton selling this hard to find treat, but I will return when I get my next craving, for sure. They are normally served up flat on a paper plate, sliced into squares, but little was lost in Viphalay’s artsy presentation.

Viphalay is a wonderful restaurant, serving up genuine Southeast Asian cuisine and hospitality. It was all I could do at the end of the meal to not ask for the cheque in the standard Thai manner: “Check bin, ka.” I will most certainly return.

Fiery lahp gnua and red curry with chicken



Thai iced tea candies with the bill, in what looked like a mango wood bowl.

Food and Food: Home Cookin'21 Nov 2009 06:31 pm

I got an email at work a few weeks back, asking for volunteer bakers for our upcoming bake sale to raise money for the United Way. In previous years, I have been too busy doing schoolwork to ever take part in such a thing. I mean, I guess I could make my standard chocolate chip cookies, but when I bake, I like to go hard.

And so I did.

Wanting everything to be fresh, beautiful and delicious, I spent a week buying ingredients, prepping items and packaging them. It culminated in a session that went until 3:37am (That was when I Tweeted that I was going to bed, anyhow). The end products were many, although I regret not making more of some things.

Some things were really easy to make more of, like brownies and Nanaimo bars. If you’re making them already, it’s easy just to double up the recipe. In the end I made:

  • chai shortbread (Last minute addition when I had pounds of butter and icing sugar left over. They were really light, and not too sweet.)
  • Two pans of VFBs: Very Fudgy Brownies, some with pecans
  • A dozen brownie “cupcakes” with espresso buttercream (These were an afterthought, and could have been better in my opinion)

I made a mix of single sell items and a few “combo” packs of mixed items. I was told to price high which made me anxious nothing would sell, but what the hell; I used quality ingredients and it was for charity. I didn’t stick around to see what sold best, so not sure what to do for next year.


The kitchen was a god damned mess for most of the night.


The brownie “cupcakes” were pretty dense and nauseatingly rich. I hope anyone who bought one split it up and shared before they went into diabetic shock. I could barely bring myself to taste anything I baked I was so sick of sweet treats by the time I was done.

Immediately after dropping off the baking at work, I drove to meet my dad for savoury phở at King Noodle. It’s kind of a curse to not want to eat much of my baking, but probably a good thing, too.



I didn’t want to use Ziplocs and had some vellum and cardstock left over from another project, so gussied these up a bit.  My mom, who had just been in Las Vegas and Phoenix for 10 days just before the sale, brought back some beautiful treat packaging for me. There is so much more available in the US for that kind of stuff. I put some Nanaimo bars in little boxes, cookies and brownies in bags and mixed items in boxes.

A co-workers vanilla raspberry cupcakes. I regret not buying anything myself from the sale!

The sale was in the atrium at work, where it gets quite warm. So I brought an ice tray for the very delicate melty Nanaimo bars.

Some more of the goods brought in. There was so much variety!

The bake sale raised about $400 for the United Way. I probably won’t be able to bake for another few weeks, but will be back on the horse just in time for Christmas.

Food16 Nov 2009 07:59 pm

This summer, Mike and I were crazy for penny candy from 7-11. Mandarin orange gummies, citrusy gummi bears, oversized soda pop gummies. Only once did we get gum. It was this kind:

bologna gum

How could we resist? First, there was playground potty humour: “Blow Your Lunch?” AND it was bologna flavoured?!?!? This was something right out of Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for me: Three-Course Dinner. Remember? The gum that tastes like tomato soup, roast beef and baked potato with blueberry pie for dessert? Never mind that it turns you into a blueberry.

But, perhaps you have already noticed what we neglected to.

That’s right, “fruit flavored.” We might have been the only people who bought this who were disturbed by the fruit flavouring. (That honestly is weirder to me than meat gum.)

So, this candy sat on our sweets shelf until tonight when I was putzing around and decided to crack it.


bologna gum

…it actually cracked. 🙁

I made a video of this brick hitting the table, but it’s so disturbing I cannot post it. I’m sorry. Hard to say if it was hard when we bought it, or it hardened over the summer. Probably the latter. I hope.

bologna gum

I love the attention to detail, though. Inspected by the Dept of Bubble Gum! Unlike those lousy non-DBG approved jawbreakers.

7-11 really is where dreams go to die.

General and work (kinda)16 Nov 2009 06:12 pm

It’s not often I blog about work. I’m kind of shy about it, and I do not often do work tangible enough to share with people.

I have been busy this month trying on a new job for size: video editing. I’ve done some edits in the past, but this one was special. It was a bit long and complicated, and I was telling a story I did not know much about going into it. So I did what I do best: researched. I read about Afghanistan, the war there and Canadian soldiers.

Finally, over one and a half hours of footage was whittled down to 15 minutes, then again down to 9. It’s long, but I hope I have highlighted Warrant Officer William MacDonald’s story well, and tried to keep it moving. He’s an eloquent speaker and incredibly modest about his achievements. I’m proud of this video (It even features my voice in a cameo appearance!) and I feel more educated on the war in Afghanistan.

You can read more about W.O. MacDonald and his experiences in Afghanistan in Ryan Cormier’s story, here.

Additionally, as I do not feel the content often fits my own personal blog, I sometimes moonlight as a blogger for my colleague and friend Ben Gelinas’ blog, Button Mash. Last week I wrote about the best and worst hair in video games: Game character hair requires much Dippity Do

My favourite part was ‘shopping hair dos onto the characters. You’ll have to visit the blog to see them, though. 

Food: Home Cookin'11 Nov 2009 07:57 am

This recipe came out of pure desperation. Duchess Bake Shop is closed Mondays and Tuesdays (and holidays!) you see, and I forgot to visit Cobs yesterday. Besides the meatloaf baked the night before, I had very little food in the house.

I had planned on making blueberry muffins, but I am not a big sweets-in-the-morning type of person. I realized I had some rosemary ham and a huge brick of cheese in the fridge, so I made the best of the situation and experimented. Here’s my attempt at savoury muffins. They turned out quite well, and it’s so nice to smell baking in the morning.

This is a smaller recipe, so double it if you have more mouths to feed.

savoury muffin tops

Cheddar-Ham Muffins

In a large bowl, mix:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt

In a smaller bowl, mix:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp melted butter


  • 1/4 cup shallots, green onion or regular onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced ham or back bacon, or even regular cooked bacon
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry, and fold in ham, shallots and cheese. Fill muffin tin or silicone cups with batter.

Bake 14-16 minutes, or until tops start to brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 6 muffins.

Food: Home Cookin'10 Nov 2009 11:47 am

curried meatloaf

Is there anything as classic as homemade meatloaf? I guess that depends on your upbringing, but for me, meatloaf is it. My mom would always make it when she was never sure what to do for dinner, and why not? It’s astonishingly easy as long as you have the right kind of meat and a thermometer.

I’ve been experimenting with tweaking classic recipes lately, including home made macaroni and cheese (which I adore) and now meatloaf. I do not often use my oven to make many dinner items, avoiding things like casseroles and roasts. Instead I rely on the stove top. Both of these recipes use the oven, and I’ve forgotten how easy it is to throw something in there and pull out dinner an hour later.

This recipe originally came from Mike’s mom, and I only changed the kinds of meat to go in and added some spices.

Curry-Spiced Meatloaf

  • 0.680 kg (1.5lbs) of a mix of beef, veal and pork. I used striploin, pork shoulder and veal leg cutlets, since that is all Superstore had. And it still turned out well! Typically the cuts should be a bit fatty so the loaf remains moist.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 cup grated cheese, preferably old
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garam masala (I use this in everything now, even on popcorn)
  • 1/2 cup raw carrots, grated
  • 3 slices fresh bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grind the meat, or combined pre-ground meat in a bowl with all other ingredients. Pack firmly into a loaf pan (I used the wonder pan, and it was fabulous) and top with a mixture of:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Bake for 60 minutes, up to 90. Cooking time will vary depending on the pan you use, so it is importanty to use a thermometer – it is much easier. Pull it out of the oven when the meat is well done, or at 160°F. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

curried meatloaf

When my grandmother died just over a year ago, I received two wonderful things from her: a vacuum and a meat grinder. This meat grinder is probably from the early 1970s, and it works amazingly well. I hope it would warm her heart to know I was using it.

curried meatloaf

curried meatloaf

I used Edmond Fallot dijon mustard and this Old Fashioned Ketchup on the top. The ketchup was from Strathcona Country Kitchen, purchased at the City Centre Farmer’s Market. Not too sweet and kind of tangy.

curried meatloaf


curried meatloaf

Food: Home Cookin'01 Nov 2009 06:40 pm

cuisinart immersion blender from costco

I have two new reasons you should own an immersion blender, and both are delicious.

As I often mention, Mike and I live in an average sized apartment with (what feels like) an incredibly small kitchen. We do not have a lot of space for appliances, so the ones we do have must do double or triple duty. Except for the tea machine, that is. We’re even contemplating getting rid of the toaster and microwave to get a toaster-oven.

While I long for a KitchenAid stand mixer (I use my mom and dad’s instead), standalone food processor and blender, I often just use the immersion blender in the place of all three of these. Shockingly, you can do a lot with this single, slim tool and its various attachments.

I got mine for about $80 at Costco a few years ago. It’s the Cuisinart Smart Stick and it came with a few attachments. It only has one speed, so it’s not as awesome as it could be, but it is used to make everything from hummus and baba ganoush to whipped cream and mayonnaise.

As the weather turns cooler, I often find the blender very useful for making soups, especially these two:


Raw Tomato “Soup” with shaved fennel and jalapeno

Good tomatoes obviously make the difference here. I was skeptical about this recipe as it sounded overly snooty (it is a Charlie Trotter recipe, afterall) and cold soups are obviously more of a summer deal, but this was incredibly smooth, rich and flavourful with a bit of crunch from the fennel. The immersion blender and a sieve played a role.


  • 2 large, red heirloom tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  • fennel, thinly shaved
  • 1/4 cup peeled, seeded, and diced red tomato
  • 2 teaspoons brine from olives
  • 2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 micro fennel sprouts or fennel fronds

Using the immersion blender, I combined the tomatoes, chile, cucumber, and sherry. This purée is pushed through a fine-mesh sieve and seasoned. The real magic is in the garnish: spoon the soup into bowls. Top with shaved fennel, fronds, tomato and jalapeno. Drizzle olive brine, vinegar and olive oil on top.


Raw tomato soup with poached eggs over mushrooms two ways and toast points. This sounds like a complex meal, but it took less than 30 minutes to make.

raw tomato soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This has to be my single favourite recipe this month. What do you need? A bag of precut squash from Costco, four cups of stock, an onion and spices. Plus the immersion stick!

  • 2 lbs of diced squash of your liking. I buy the precut bags because I am very poor at cutting squash down and getting the maximum flesh out.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cups of stock, vegetable or chicken
  • If you like, you can add carrots, celery or apple
  • Spices to your liking: I use garam masala (1 tsp), cayenne pepper (1/4 tsp), cinnamon (1/2 tsp) and nutmeg (1/4 tsp).

I roast the squash in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 450 degree Fahrenheit until it begins to brown. This step is completely optional; I just prefer the way it adds depth and flavour to the soup.

In a pot, I heat up some olive oil and sautee and brown the onion. When soft and caramel colour, I toss in garlic and any additional add ins, like carrot or apple. (If you skipped the roasting step, add the squash now, and sautee a bit longer, until the squash is soft.) In goes the roasted squash, with a liberal dusting of spices. I’ve included measurements, but I never use them. It’s my failure as a cook.

Sautee a few more minutes, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for atleast five minutes, but for as long as 20. Immerse blender, blend until smooth. Finish with a splash of cream, croutons or a grilled cheese sandwich.

curried butternut squash

Curried butternut squash soup with grilled cheese. This soup can take as little as 15 minutes to make, but the version I prefer runs about 25 minutes. It depends on your taste buds and patience/hunger level.

I should note much of the pottery in these photos was made by Mike, including the bowls and a vase.