Edmonton Tourist: Common Ground

img_4356

I have talked before about not-for-profit business. The first one that comes to mind is  Judy Blume’s book store Books & Books. I love the idea of providing goods and services for the community rather than to line the pockets of billionaires…but that’s not what this is about and I don’t want to get into capitalism with you. I heard about a coffee shop in Sherwood Park (east of Edmonton and about a 7-minute drive from my house) that was community-based AND a nonprofit!

Community is a big topic and is something I live daily at work, at home and in my city. I went to Common Ground’s web page to find out more about it because I wasn’t interested in supporting something that was contrary to my values. Values are a big thing for me and I am choosing to spend my money differently. This line stood out for me:

“In getting to know the community through a research project and many conversations, it became clear that what Sherwood Park is really looking for is community and connectedness.”

Aren’t we all? There is a trend happening that is taking place in people’s communities. Less social media and more face to face connections. People use social to connect with people far away who have common interests or for various other reasons but this is creating a disconnect. Humans are social beings and need face to face connections. At least I do. The premise of this coffee shop is connections. There is a community space for meetings or gatherings. It is run by volunteers. There is a kindness board to share a coffee for those who need one and there is a wall of games to help make lasting connections.

img_4357

The irony of this visit isn’t lost on me. I reconnected with a friend from my teaching days (it feels like a lifetime ago). She is a regular blog reader and reached out suggesting coffee. I loved that idea and while it took time to get a free spot in my busy summer, we finally settled on a date that worked for both of us. It was wonderful to reconnect, talk about our shared history but also discover new reasons to connect in the future.

img_4362

The tables are large, suitable for meeting new people or meeting up with large groups. The treats are delicious and the tea was good (oddly I didn’t have coffee). There are open mic night and music in the evenings. The windows let all the light in and help to create an inviting atmosphere. I only wish this place was walking distance from my home. It’s almost enough for me to consider moving back to Sherwood Park…Almost.

img_4358

I hope this place has a long and healthy effect on its community. You will probably see me sitting there visiting with people on occasion – come by and say hi if you do! Support local and support nonprofit! It goes a long way to strengthing healthy communities.

Common Ground: Community. Coffee. Cafe.

150, 161 Festival Way
Sherwood Park, AB

Monday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Stat Holidays: Closed

Edmonton Tourist: Jāceck Chocolate Couture

img_4381

I won a gift card to Jācek Chocolate Couture because I entered a giveaway promoting @yegwalkway Edmonton Commonwealth Walkway. If you haven’t been, go because it’s cool. There is a post from me coming up soonish that explains how it works. Annnnywhoooooo……

I won a gift card for my favourite chocolate maker and chocolatier.  Jācek explains the difference here. 

Chocolate Maker: The Chocolate Maker is essentially the fabric-maker, sourcing raw materials (cacao), and making chocolate from the cocoa bean. To view this process, click here.

Chocolatier: The Chocolatier is essentially the dressmaker, purchasing chocolate made by the Chocolate Maker, and using their technical skills to blend, temper and complete the process to create the final bonbon (truffle) or chocolate bar.

When I was in Sherwood Park, I made an extra trip to this place. I walked into the shop and all I could smell was roasting beans. If you have not experienced it, I think heaven smells like that. Both the roaster and refiner in working today. Jācek’s chocolate process goes from bean to fine chocolate and that includes roasting the beans in house. The square box on the left is the roaster.

img_4377

I wondered around the shop trying to decide what to take home with me.

img_4378

I landed on the Jackie -Caramelized milk chocolate with sea salt. Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 4.49.51 PM

Sipping Chocolate because if this is anything like the hot chocolate I had in Europe it will be AMAZING.

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 4.51.11 PM.png

And a custom box of 12 from the chocolate collection 

Because this is an award-winning chocolatier, when in Rome…. or Sherwood Park, whatever….

All you need to know about that is 3 were salted caramels covered in dark chocolate and the rest were picked because they were pretty. I am sure they will be the best things I ever tasted.

What I loved about this place on a Tuesday morning and not a Saturday is it was empty. I always get the best care and service when I come here but this time I had their undivided attention so I could ask everything. She was helpful and told me all kinds of things like, sign up for the newsletter so I can get pre-order the advent calendar….ummm yes, please! And she told me all about the tasting classes that I think I will take my mom to for her birthday – don’t look mom! We chatted about wine and coffee pairings and simple whole mouth feel. When I was done, she gave me a spiced something chocolate sample – whole individual chocolate and OMG is there nothing these people do that is terrible?

img_4379

If you haven’t been, go. If you have been, ammirite? If you see me at a tasting come say hi. If you see me on a park bench with chocolate on my mouth, keep walking because I am not sharing this.

Edmonton Tourist: The Moth Cafe

img_4178

I had a date with one of my favourite humans. We get together sporadically and explore the city. Our plan was to visit the art walls of Edmonton that are popping up all over the place but first, we needed (?) wanted (?) desired coffee.

img_4182

The Moth is a plant-based cafe located at 9449 Jasper Ave. It has a smallish parking lot but there is street parking all over the place downtown. I had never been, but I had seen it all over Instagram from my vegetarian friends. There was even a post from a friend who was laying in a hammock that resided in the cafe’s corner. Sadly the hammock is gone to make way for more tables. Thankfully for us, the extra table gave us a place to sit on the stage because this place was packed. To be fair, it was Sunday morning and all kinds of people are at great cafes on a Sunday morning for brunch.

img_4180

There was lots to choose from but only one real choice for me.

img_4179

I had an almond milk latte and a piece of pumpkin pie because pumpkin pie is the BEST! My friend had a coconut milk latte and a peanut butter chocolate cupcake.

img_4168

img_4167

The coffee was fine but the pie was the best thing I have ever eaten and I think of it often. Thoughts like….what was that secret ingredient that made it taste so good? cream cheese? lemon? silken tofu? I have no idea, but I wish I was Chris Morocco and could recreate it.  I love it so much, I think I will call them and order a whole pie for the weekend’s non-thanksgiving dinner. My friend’s cupcake was fine but she loved her coffee. Overall I hear great things about the food in this place and I would definitely go back.

img_4166

Edmonton is a foodie’s paradise. The Moth Cafe is another great place to sit, eat and visit on a Sunday morning. I am sure you will find me there on another day. Come by and say hi, bring a fork so we can share.

Pie

It is a big weekend here in Canada. Most people will celebrate Thanksgiving, and by celebrate, I mean eat turkey and pie. I invited my parents to join us for Thanksgiving dinner back in September. They are continuing their adventures overseas and are currently in France somewhere near Versailles.

Thanksgiving Days Past barely registers a blip on my radar. We always went to my grandmother’s home and family would come from across Canada. It all changed once my grandfather died. I didn’t really want to go anymore because the dynamic was different. I still went for a few more years, but then I stopped getting invited, so I stopped asking to come. There are three times a year when I think of grandpa most, Canada Day, his birthday and Thanksgiving. Those were his favourite holidays.

I am back to loving the holiday dinner again. It was wonderful having my parents join me and my family. We sat around the table and ate turkey, cabbage rolls, stuffing, carrots and homemade rolls. I destroyed the cranberry sauce by burning it to a crisp. There was a time when that would send me into a panic, and I would make the hubs run to the store for fresh supplies. This year I said, “oh well, no cranberry sauce this year”. This proves to me that my meditation practice and mindfulness techniques are working for me.  I did make homemade pies because pies are my superpower. I am much better at baking than I am at cooking. Some people say there isn’t a difference, but I disagree. I do think some people are good at one or the other.

I am a baker.

Usually, I am somewhere in British Columbia in the fall and manage to visit a pumpkin patch and purchase a few sugar pumpkins, my favourite for pies. I travelled to Smokey Lake Pumpkin fair looking for said pumpkins but honestly, the pumpkin selection was terrible. The alpaca wool selection was AMAZING! If you are looking for wool, that is the place to be, if you are looking for sugar pumpkins, not so much. I heard a rumour Safeway has some sugar pumpkins – or at least they are called pie pumpkins, I will investigate the difference but I have tins of ED Smith pumpkin in my pantry so I think I will just simplify my pie for the weekend. After all, Thanksgiving is over for me.

I have had requests for more recipes sprinkled into my blogs. So dear reader, I share my Pumpkin Pie with you. But first – pie alternatives.

Pie alternatives

  • You can bake the pie filling in a casserole dish or pie tin without the crust for a gluten-free experience or for those people who just don’t want the crust. This is one of the few pies that will still behave like a pie without the crust.
  • Sprinkle white sugar over top and use a torch to brulee it. The secret to a great crackle top after you torch one layer, add another layer of sugar and torch it again.
  • Crush pecans or your nut of choice and sprinkle on the bottom before adding your pie filling. I like to toss the nuts in maple syrup.
  • Adding ¼ cup of cream cheese adds richness and tang if that’s your thing. Sometimes I like to do this and will include orange zest.
  • Pie filling spread over phyllo pastry and rolled into a log. The spiral it into a greased pie dish. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar. You’re welcome.
  • Add pie filling to your cinnamon buns before you roll them up for baking. This takes cinnamon rolls to the next level.

 

Pie things to keep in mind:

  • The type of pumpkin you use is important. If you are not roasting sugar pumpkins, then use ED Smith or Libby pumpkin purée. NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING. The difference is huge and worth it.
  • Use one tin of evaporated milk and supplement with whole milk or half and half. I have used full cream, as in whipping cream and that was decadent. Never use skim or 1% milk, the pumpkin custard needs fat.
  • Crust – I use butter to make my crust, cold butter. I blind bake by docking the crust and using pie weights – I use kidney beans I use over parchment paper – I reuse the kidney beans for every pie crust blind bake, I think my beans are several years old.
  • Crust part II – feel free to use a frozen deep-dish crust. I do sometimes because it’s quick. To make it taste like homemade, thaw completely and transfer into your pie plate. Same rules as above.
  • Always bake your pies on a baking sheet. It saves your oven from spills but more importantly it helps brown your bottom.
  • Nutmeg is the devil… I never add it

Pumpkin Puree

Cut and seed pumpkins. Cut into manageable chunks and place flesh side down in a roaster. Add one cup of water to the bottom. Preheat your oven to 400F and place the pumpkin on the center rack for one hour. When done it will be fork-tender.

Remove flesh from the outer shell and mash in a bowl. It is at this point I place into two cup mason jars and process. I make about six jars of pumpkin. My pal Captain loves pumpkin, so I always reserve some for him. Apparently, pumpkin is good for dogs and they love it. Don’t add salt or sugar until you are ready to use in recipes.

 

Pie Filling (for 2 pies)

 

4 eggs

1 can (398 mL) EDSMITH Pumpkin OR two cups of your own fresh pumpkin puree.

2 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar

1 tbs (5 mL) ground cinnamon

2 tsp (1 mL) ground ginger

1/2 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 ½  cup (175 mL) milk. Use one tin of evaporated milk and top up with milk or cream of your choice.

Beat eggs lightly in a medium bowl.  Add the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt – stir until well combined. Blend in milk. Pour filling in pie shell. Whisk together egg and water – brush the egg wash on crust.

Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue baking 30-35 minutes longer or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool. Best served the next day – this lets the spices mingle. I serve with brandy cream (whipping cream, brandy and icing sugar – all to taste and whip until soft peak stage).

Saskatoon Berry Crumble

When I was little I went camping at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park with my aunt and uncle. It was just before they had their first baby. I guess they were trying out what it would be like to camp with kids. Obviously exhausting – have you met me and my brother? Imagine two Tasmanian devils spinning around like a Bugs Bunny cartoon for three days. My uncle took us on a hike to pick berries while my aunt ‘made lunch’ a euphemism for “OMG I am going to wring their necks if I don’t get some quiet time and NOW.” Or she just dropped to her knees and fell asleep. Either way, we are A LOT.

This moment in my life was the first time I ever picked berries and ate them off the tree without fear of being poisoned. I always thought I would die by quicksand or fruit poisoning. Obviously, I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island and Disney movies. I found some raspberries that day, but mostly saskatoons (also known as June or serviceberries). We went back for lunch and had a bowl of berries with thick heavy cream. Damn – that is the best way to eat them. Or one of the best.

IMG_3751

I came home on Friday to a one-gallon pail of saskatoons sitting on the kitchen counter! The hubs took a pail to the dog park and spent about an hour cleaning off only one bush. (The City of Edmonton has planted various fruit trees around the city. I have found crab apple, pear and saskatoons. I have heard of a secret grove of Apricots in the river valley that I am still looking for – although it may be a myth.) I immediately went to work cleaning the berries.

IMG_3749

Back in the dark days, I had a friend who canned just about all her food. She would harvest berries and wild mushrooms, then work in her garden to supply food for most of the winter. She taught me about cleaning berries to minimize the amount of protein or bugs found in your desserts. Her method was simple, in the pail of berries add two tablespoons of vinegar and fill with water until the berries just begin to float. Let soak for one hour. The spiders will immediately climb to the top. I scooped them out and set them outside. FREE THE SPIDERS PEOPLE! Then any little flies or worms will also float to the top but they will be dead – drowned or pickled – whichever – I skimmed those off then rinsed the berries one handful at a time and placed them in a colander to drain. Once completed I placed on a clean towel to dry.

At this point, you can do one of two things, place in the fridge to chill and use up during the week or place on a parchment-lined cookie tin to freeze individually. Then place in an air-tight container. They will keep in your freezer for at least six months – may be longer but they don’t last that long in my house. If you just put berries in a bag and freeze before you individualize them, they will juice and you bet a big block of berries. You then have to use them all at once when they thaw. Individually, you can have one or ninety.

I decided to make a pie. But I didn’t feel like making a crust. So I made a crustless pie and called it crumble. After eating my crustless pie, I decided I will likely never make crusts again because they are never as delicious and straight-up filling. Here is my recipe for Saskatoon Crumble, or use your favourite pie crust and make a few pies.

Saskatoon Berry Crumble (or pie)

This recipe uses 1 gallon of berries. It divides well. Most berries can be substituted.

Ingredients:

Filling

  • one gallon of cleaned berries
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 8 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp of butter – not margarine or oil or spray – butter.

Mix together the sugar, flour, salt and zest of lemon. I add a layer of berries and a layer of dry ingredients and give them a toss to evenly coat the berries. I do this in stages to coat everything.

IMG_3750

Butter a 9 x 13 pan or larger if you have one. Get into all the corners and up the sides. If you skip this step or aren’t thorough, you will be frustrated with berry stickage.

Pour your berries into the pan in an even layer. I used two smaller pans so I could give some to my papa bear. But this will make four human-sized square pans for freezing, sharing or eating – the choice is yours.

IMG_3753

Streusel Topping

I use this recipe for peach pie, apple pie, strawberry- rhubarb and all my cobblers. I think a double crust is too much crust. When I make a pie I use 1/4 of this recipe. I increased it by 4 for this crumble thing.

  • 1 cup of butter – not margarine – use the good stuff. I like salted but unsalted is fine – just add a pinch of salt to the bowl.
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 2 cups of flour.

IMG_3752

Everything goes into the bowl and get your hands in there. You want this to be a crumble so don’t mix it with a spoon. Use your thumb and forefinger and mash/slide the two together. You want the butter-sugar mixture to look like small peas or coarse sand.

Pour over your berries and lightly pat it to the berries so it forms a crust. Alternatively, you could just use your hands to distribute evenly and call it a day. I prefer a crust-like texture and have deep regret that I didn’t do this. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet because you will get spillage and berry pops. If you can’t be bothered, that’s your deal and at Christmas, you will wonder why your oven is smoking. Your welcome.

IMG_3754

Bake in a pre-heated 375 Degree oven for 35 – 45 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream or heavy cream or plain. I also like it cold for breakfast.

IMG_3758

Let me know what you think. The lemon zest is the secret ingredient.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Bountiful Farmers’ Market

There is a new indoor market in Edmonton I was curious about it. I have been to other cities with indoor markets like Seattle or Vancouver. I like the atmosphere of these places. Edmonton has a year-round indoor market in Old Strathcona. The Strathcona Farmers Market is busy and bustling with long-time favourite vendors. The new Bountiful Market is similar but not as bustling as the other ones I had been to. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the lack of people crashing into me. I think this is because of the wide isles. The number of people there had to be as many as found in Strathcona. The cars were parked as far as the eye could see in either direction on 97 street plus the parking lot was full.

The place smelled clean and not of fish or farm. It was bright and airy with a variety of stalls that I hadn’t seen before. Often you go to the City market or 124 street and you can find the same vendors. This all seemed new.

I arrived as it opened with my pal Andie in tow. Our first stop was coffee for here but I just looked around and chatted with her when she wasn’t chatting with people she already knew. People say I know a lot of people but Andie knows twice as many as me. The crowds hadn’t begun to build so it was easy to talk to vendors. I liked the way the stalls were built. Each had a frame and a sign. It was consistent and pretty. I had no idea how important that was until I experienced it. It made the space inviting.

IMG_3619

Most vendors were set up for taste samples. I tried everything from gin – deep regret that I didn’t buy it. I will need to go back to buy some- to gelato. There were pretzels and perogies plus endless fruit and vegetables. The flower vendor had the loveliest peonies available. It made me think of a friend of mine and her lovely garden. She should consider selling cut flowers at different markets.

IMG_3620

We stopped often and spoke to everyone. I sampled things that were delicious and tried some things that I wish never entered my mouth. But that’s how it goes and why you should taste before you buy. My taste isn’t for everyone.

IMG_3626

It excites me that we have another indoor market in Edmonton and on the south side that’s close to me. Soon all the stalls should be filled and then this place will really be hopping!

You can find it here:

  • 3696 97 Street, Edmonton
  • 9am – 5pm every Friday, Saturday, Sunday — all year.

For more information visit Bountiful Farmers’ Market and say hey to the Trouble Monk people, their gin is delicious.

Peasant life

IMG_E7968

I read a column in the New York Times by Ann Patchett. If you have never read any of her, treat yourself and put one of her books on your reading list this year. When I read her columns, it’s like chatting with one of my pals. I thoroughly enjoy her style.

She wrote My Year of No Shopping in 2017. I read it then and revisited it over Christmas week 2018. She discusses how she outlined her year of no spending. No clothes, which seemed hard for her, she stopped various other spending but allowed books (although you can visit your local library) and discussed gift giving. She decided to only give books except for her editor who married and thought that a book wasn’t right for that situation. But if someone gave me a book for my wedding, they would be at the top of my list of favourite people. Can you imagine a collection of lovely books to start a library of your own as a newlywed? It sounds divine but that might just be me.

I gave no spending some serious thought in 2017. Then I met my friend. She sets aside several weeks throughout the year to live frugally. She calls it Peasant Week. The biggest change she makes is to not buy groceries for an extended period and uses up all the food in her freezer and pantry. I am guilty of having a well-stocked cupboard and replenish it often. She has a monthly allowance and does not spend over that limit – ever. She has a budget. $xxx for gifts comes off her paycheque monthly along with other items that come up unexpectedly throughout the year. All of this is because she has a goal of retiring at 55. Her house will be paid off and she has some tidy investments so she can live the life she desires. That isn’t saying she doesn’t love every moment of her life now. She is humble and grateful and refuses to do chores on the weekend because those are her play days. That is what she calls them, play days. She will only do what feels fun on those two days and does all her chores after work throughout the week. Her life is lovely.

I did that to some extent only with a different goal in mind. It wasn’t about saving money for me, only at first but that changed over time. I went through a financial crisis and curbed travel spending for three years. (But Tourist, you travelled a lot in the last three years! I did, but I will get to that.) My goal was to live a simple life not complicate it by financial obligations. I have to admit it was hard watching friends travel to Disney when I could not. I unfollowed most acquaintances on facebook because I needed to change my thought patterns of jealousy and envy to appreciation and gratitude. Hard to be grateful for what I have when I am longing for what I don’t have.

Simplify is what I call it. I simplified everything from facebook followers to items in my home.

The first thing I did was join a facebook group that gave things away, didn’t sell them. That was important to me. It wasn’t about the money. It was giving things to people who needed them far more than I did. It was about helping people who are starting out in life. I gave away a dumpster full of things. A side benefit, I don’t miss a thing. I have more to give this year. I want to come home to a minimalist house. I live with three other adults. two of them have a hard time parting with things because they don’t know what to do with it. We are also working on that, so this is a process. I have all the time in the world to remove things, there is no rush. I check the site daily to see if anyone is looking for something when I have it, I give it. Simple. Occasionally I see something I need. Like a crockpot. I never had one before and am grateful for one!

Before the tree comes down this year I am getting out four small boxes to sort. One for my son, he has a collection of Santas for his grown-up tree starter kit. One for my daughter, she has an angel grown-up tree starter kit. Decorations I want to keep for a small adult tree of my own and then a give-a-way pile. I do not need an entire storage room of Christmas decorations. clutter around the house stresses me now. Those will go to a new home or Good-will.

Last summer my daughter went to Disneyland. Her first adult trip without her mom. She had travelled with her school and for work, but this felt different. She stayed on Disney property and understood how much I wanted to do that. She knew how much I love the soaps and creams so she saved them daily and brought home a giant bag full of sample sizes. I have travelled a lot for work and was gifted trips when the hubs retired. I collected some of those fantastic smelling items and brought them home. I enjoy ‘free’ souvenirs. When she returned, I went through my cupboard and discovered several bags of these things. I consolidated all of them and decided I needed to use them up instead of buying any new product. Five months later I am one-third of the way through the bag of beauty products. I haven’t bought anything including toothpaste since August. Toothpaste will run out next month but the soap and shampoo will last me until summer.

I brought this lifestyle into my work-life. We had a Secret Santa exchange. There were three rules, one for each week:

  1. The first gift must be from the dollar store and cannot cost more than $3.
  2. The second gift must be something from your home that you no longer use and can be re-gifted.
  3. The third must be home-made.

Surprisingly, everyone participated. People received amazing things. Re-gifting was magical. It felt like we did more with less. This was a huge validation for me. I did the same thing with items in our warehouse. I used up what we had before we bought new. That is important to the bottom line, but more importantly to the environment.

As I think about 2019, I know I don’t need any new clothes. I would like new boots, but mine are fine and not worn out yet. I had a hole in my puffer jacket but taped it with black electrical tape and now its fine for at least another winter so it will take me through until 2020 and I will reassess then.

I have more sheets and towels than I know what to do with, so I will sort through those and put them in the give-away pile. I went through appliances and utensils and gave them to my nephew, but I think I can do better. My pantry is the real challenge for me. I will work my way through the freezer and see what I can do with those items. I want to start a standing garden so I can easily harvest my own food. I think that will be my project for this year. I will focus on food.

Back to the “but you travelled extensively Tourist, what gives? I thought you didn’t want to spend money on travel?” Truth and I didn’t spend money on travel – sort-of.

img_4280

My hubs was given a lovely retirement gift of travel. Boom, that was how I travelled. I have a new job that lets me travel across Alberta. Boom, I saw parts of the province I had never been to before. On my down time while away for work, I would explore the towns and areas. Alberta’s Coulees are gorgeous. Prairies are beautiful. I learned that appreciating your own backyard has significant benefits and is just as beautiful and wonderful as exploring towns and villages in Europe, Australia or the US. People travel far and wide to come here. I live three hours from a world-class destination. I am lucky. I get to see Northern Lights regularly – as in ALL THE DAMN TIME. Very few people will ever see those in their lifetime. Grandpa was right, Canada is awesome.

2018 taught me about appreciation. The more I appreciated what I had, the more I received. It was crazy but true. People gave me stuff for being kind. I won things like small lottery wins, books, dinner out and movie tickets.  I learned joy doesn’t come from things, it comes from experience. Help those who need it. Don’t put a price tag on things, just give it away because you can. You will receive more in ways you never thought possible.

Abundance is a gift.

Happy New Year, may 2019 be abundant for you.

Perfect Poach

It was a Christmas miracle. The most perfect poached egg I have ever created. My daughter let me know it was better than the one she had for breakfast Christmas Eve morning at a restaurant. It was visually beautiful, tender and tasty. All the things you hope for your own poached egg when making Eggs Benedict.

Fun Fact: In 1894, Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street broker, who was suffering from a hangover, ordered“some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce” at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. *Does anyone know what a hooker is in reference to hollandaise? A vessel? A measurement? A gal to join at breakfast?

I have been trying for years to achieve the perfect egg to lay across my back bacon (Candian Bacon for you out-of-towners. No, we do not call it Canadian Bacon, its back bacon and its nothing like bacon. Its ham.) I have tried the vortex method – stirring the water to create a vortex, but you can only cook two eggs at most using this method. I have tried baking them in ham cups in the oven, delicious but easily overcooked plus I miss the tang from the vinegar in the cooking water. My eggs always come out shaggy. Then one day I found the secret!

I was watching Bon Appetite on Facebook – I love the test kitchen videos. Brad from It’s Alive is hilarious. Priya is new but is my favourite. I love Carla and her blind instructions. Andy is just really great to look at. Don’t even get me start on Claire and her series on replicating store-bought stuff. She made Skittles from scratch people, FROM SCRATCH! Then there is Molly. She is pretentious, but she is always right, so I listen to her. She was bang-on about the Caesar salad so I figured she would be correct about eggs benedict for a crowd. Who can poach a dozen eggs at once? Molly can. She is a genius.

You can watch the video like I did. I didn’t expect it to be so spectacular. Cracking the egg over a sieve was amazing. You lose the watery bits of the egg white but not enough to lose the egg.

IMG_1807.jpg

I dropped it into the water (laced with salt and vinegar). It was just six eggs I was making, only three of us for breakfast Christmas morning, I cooked them for longer than three minutes. I like my eggs almost firm. My girl likes them runny – so that was fairly easy until her egg kept cooking and wasn’t running at all. So she will get a three-minute egg when I make Christmas Breakfast for my parents when they return home from Europe.

IMG_1808.jpg

LOOK AT THAT PERFECTION!!! This was an egg without the sauce. I made more the next day and used up the back bacon and added cheese. I put another half English muffin on top and called it a breakfast sandwich. Eggs done this way are magical.

Thanks, Molly!

 

Honey

I had a boyfriend once who called me honey.  We were casually dating and called each other normal names then boom, he called me honey and I felt weird about it. It was as if that was the name he used for his wife. Turns out I was right.

Honey was a favourite food of my son. Part of that had to do with his relationship with Winnie the Pooh. If honey was good enough for Pooh Bear, then honey was good enough for him.  Plus eating local honey has the added benefit of building up your immune system to ward against hay fever.  

I love honey. I especially love local honey. So much so that I think I want to become an urban beekeeper.  Save the bees, eat local honey and grow an amazing garden. All things I think I want for me. Or at the very least it is a romanticized version of what I want for me.  

Disneyland had this great popcorn cart over in Pooh Corner. They served honey popcorn. The smell was amazing. Warm honey gives off a pleasant sweet fragrance that has a blend of clover mixed in. The popcorn was a crisp and sweet blend of honey caramel. I loved it. It was one of my favourite treats available at the park until it was gone. Now they appear to have just a plain popcorn cart, but it has been years since I have darkened the doorstep of any Disney Park, but I like to do little things that remind me of great vacations past. 

After I first tried the honey popcorn at Pooh Corner, I went home to try to recreate it. It took me several attempts but I finally got the proportions right.  It has become my signature recipe that I make only once a year.  Usually, my mom makes the popcorn for me and I do the rest. Making popcorn is not something I am good at but I figured out another way to do it while she is in Ireland.  Here is my Honey popcorn the way Pooh Bear likes it. Don’t blame me if you have a sudden urge to play Pooh Sticks or search for Heffalumps and Woozles. Eat at your own risk. 

Robyn’s Pooh Corner inspired Honey Popcorn

  • 4 qt popped popcorn (I use Orville’s microwave with butter and salt)
  • 1 cup nuts (almonds and pecans are what I prefer but anything will work)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (I have used dark brown but light gives a better colour)
  • 1/4 cup of honey (local clover honey not creamed – regular drippy honey)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla (the best you can get your hands on. The Barefoot Contessa is correct)

Pop your popcorn and place it in a prepared roaster. I spray it with pam but if you don’t so that, grease it or you will be frustrated when its time to stir the popcorn. Sprinkle nuts over the top of the popcorn.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sugar and honey. Stir consistently until it comes to a gentle boil. Turn heat down to medium and let it gently boil for 5 minutes without stirring. You do not want the sugar to become grainy – so leave it alone! After 5 minutes, remove from heat and add vanilla. It will bubble up and appear angry. Beware. Then give it a stir to incorporate the vanilla throughout. 

Pour over popcorn and nuts, stir until well coated. Bake at 250 F for 1 hour. This is the secret to the perfect texture. Skipping this step makes the popcorn soggy and gooey. Every 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir. The honey caramel settles to the bottom and you want it to coat the popcorn evenly. Cover your counter with parchment paper. Once the popcorn is done (one hour in the oven!!!) turn it out on the parchment to cool. This prevents it from sticking to the pan. Soak the pan in water for easy cleanup.

Variations: I have substituted pure maple syrup for the honey. Maple popcorn is decedent. It is expensive but so good.