It Never Gets Old at Fort Edmonton Park

Michael and I were invited guests to attend Sunday Brunch at Fort Edmonton Park this morning. With a bright blue Alberta sky, a crispiness in the air, I couldn’t think of a nicer thing to do.

Arriving at Fort Edmonton on the off-season is in itself an adventure. YOU GET TO DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE IN THE PARK. It felt naughty, and if you let your imagination get to you, it felt a bit like time travel. Until you see all the other vehicles, then the dream bubble pops.

We arrived inside the hotel and gathered at the bar and was offered coffee. Not long after we were ushered inside the dining room, passing by the overflowing tables of brunchy goodness.

The dining room is spacious with lovely tables for two next to the the window, where we were sat. There are tables that can seat larger groups towards the back of the room, with the middle filled with tables for four. If you have space issues as I do, you will find it is easy to move throughout the restaurant.

The buffet is also laid out quite nicely. At the apex is the lone, patient omelette chef at his station, where he can work two omelettes at a time. Next grouping was the salads, which is adorable. I’m sure there are people who eat salads at brunch. I promised myself this morning that I would have some salad, followed by fruit and be done with it. Alas, my eyes were drawn instead to the baked tomatoes, bacon, sausages, and eggs Benedict. There was also chicken, pasta and salmon.  Lastly, just before the seating entrance stood the carving station with another patient, friendly chef along with his large prime rib of beef.

Our protein laden selections were delicious. The bacon, in particular, did not disappoint. Michael and I never cook the stuff at home, so when we eat out, we are always on a quest for the best bacon. We thought this was pretty good. The sausages as well were plump and tasty. A surprise was the baked tomato. I have a life time of disappointing baked tomatoes behind me, and except for some delicious buffet fodder I had in London decades ago, this is the first time I found something comparable. Cooked enough so warm, yet not overcooked to be mush. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese made these sweet and delicious. The chicken was tasty, and the prime rib was everything one could hope for buffet beef.

Michael indulged in an omelette and found it satisfying. He was also all about the potatoes, and sang their praises – crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, and still served hot.

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From the dessert table, a centre piece was this brain-cake. I took a miss on it, but once it was cut, I did an inspection. It seemed to be harmless cake, but there was a rumor it contained bacon. Although I didn’t eat it, I thought it was quite fun and cleverly done.

I did have a selection of fresh fruit and wedge of cheesecake, which I had to slice into a smaller piece. It was a tad bit frozen yet, but once it was plated, it was cool and quite edible at the table. I also tried, for the first time ever, a strawberry dunked in the white chocolate fountain. I had to consider this for a while because I have always been vehemently opposed to the chocolate fountain because they are not at all attractive once people get into them. Today, however, I was the second person in, and was pleasantly surprised at how fun and satisfying it is to smother a strawberry in drippy white chocolate. I promise you, if there weren’t people around I would have filled my empty coffee cup with the stuff.

About coffee. Coffee was abundant and smelled delicious. Michael and I are tea drinkers though and were offered a selection of teas, it seems, once everyone was offered coffee. (Does that sound huffy?)

Now, we were guests of Fort Edmonton, and are grateful to have been given the experience. I don’t like to speak badly of anything, but one thing that we will never let pass by without comment is a bad tea experience because nothing could be simpler to do. Michael and I are all about tea. And what goes with tea? Milk. Fort Edmonton had no milk. Creamers yes. Milk no. We asked and two servers kindly and apologetically responded that there was no milk. I peeked out the window to see how far we were from the barn and, perhaps, a resident cow. Is it a deal breaker? Of course not. But tea is such a simple pleasure and when you are used to it a certain way, anything else pales the experience. What saved the moment was the mimosa. Because if you know me, the second thing I’m about is booze. Even if diluted in orange juice.

Bottom line: Would we go as paying guests? You bet. In fact I have already been looking at our calendar to see when we could round up family members to go as a group. The price is reasonable at $35.95. The food quality is good, and the location unique. Should mention that guests are invited to walk throughout the park, and on a beautiful sunny Sunday, what could be nicer than wandering around in the fresh outdoors enjoying the scenery?

What you need to know:

Accessibility: Those with limited mobility can drive right up to the hotel. Ramps are available to get in the hotel.

Price
Adult/Youth (13 yr old+) $35.95+GST
Seniors (65+) $30.50+GST
Children (4-12) $22.95+GST
Children (Under 4) Free

Brunch Menu Highlights (from today’s experience):

Freshly sliced fruits
Chocolate fountain with strawberries, marshmallows, squares for dipping
Assorted pastries
A toast station
Freshly baked morning bakeries with cream cheese, butter, and preserves
Market fresh vegetable crudités and dip
Salad bar
Omelette station
Bacon!!!!! and sausage
Baked tomatoes
Roasted/fried potato in wedges and cubes
Roasted seasonal vegetables
Eggs Benedict
Penne pasta
Roasted chicken legs and thighs
Poached salmon
Carving station with a delicious prime rib roast
Assorted cakes, pies, mousse, and cookies
Chilled juices, freshly brewed regular, decaffeinated coffee and selection of international teas

 

 

Sir Winston’s Fish and Chips

It’s not often I’ll post a blog about a place without at least one picture, but last night a regular dinner out turned into such a fun experience, I thought I’d give it a plug – without a picture.

If you are looking for authentic English fish and chips, do yourself a favour and visit Sir Winston’s Fish and Chips. It’s located at 10505 51 Ave NW (same strip mall as London Drugs, and adjacent mall to the Italian Centre Shop). I had a perfectly pulled Boddington’s. Okay, I had two perfectly pulled Boddington’s. We both had fish (halibut) and chips.

The fish was fresh, meaty and delicious, the batter light and crisp. The chips are proper English chips – thick cut, perfect for malt vinegar and ketchup. We are both fans of the homemade coleslaw. The one-piece was more than generous for a single serving.

Our server is charming and fun. Both owners are enthusiastic and want happy customers. I was charmed by the Big Ben salt and pepper shakers. For those ex-pats, check the feature wall and table tops for authentic linen tea towels and find your county/country, family name or flag.

This place is more than fish, and we look forward to our next visit for butter chicken or steak and kidney pie. Sir Winston’s decor has been updated by the new owners. The atmosphere is casual, with a vibe between pub and restaurant. It is family friendly, and a comfortable place to sit and enjoy a meal. TV’s are strategically placed for those into sports.

Prices are reasonable, for both fish and pints!

Sir Winston’s Fish and Chips
10505 51 Ave NW, Edmonton
(780) 430-7170
Delivery available through Skip the Dishes

Chutney’s Indian Grill

Craving Indian food but don’t feel like the mental wrestling needed when visiting a buffet? You know what I mean. You go in thinking “I’ll just pick a little bit of this and that and call it a night”. Nuh-uh. Next thing you know you are trying to discreetly unbutton your fly to allow for tummy expansion and breathing space while wondering at the Very Same Moment, if you should have one more piece of naan to sop up the remains of the butter  sauce on your plate because, afterall, you are paying $25 and need to get every penny worth of food.

As you drive home you berate yourself for eating too much and swear for the 1,000th time (say it together now) “I’ll never do that again”. Once you are home you burst out of your clothes, flake out on the couch and commence a few hours of nothingness while your body sighs deeply and gets to work to try to digest the overload of food.

Edmonton now has a terrific option for those craving delicious Indian food, but don’t want the commitment of a food coma afterwards. Chutney’s Indian Grill offers delicious, fresh-made Indian food for those looking for a healthy guilt-free eating experience.

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Chutney’s Indian Grill just opened. The decor is colourful, bright and with clean lines. There is abundant tables and chairs, as well as a few high stools at a counter.

To order, it is the now familiar line where you start on one end to select your option – burroti (a marriage of roti and burrito), bowl or salad. Next you choose your starch (rice or quinoa), followed by protein (chicken, beef, tofu, chickpeas). Next up is the difficult decision of sauce – butter, tikka, dahl, or vindaloo. Next, select your favourite veggie toppings and finally, your favourite chutney.

For a place called Chutney’s, they do not disappoint in their chutney selection. Everyone’s palate is guaranteed to find a chutney to suit them. From a dark tamarind, to a bright cilantro to a sticky (and yummy) mango peach to a fiery hot cranberry red chili.

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Michael and I were intrigued and anxious to try the burroti. The dough is fresh and cooked right before your eyes on the DoughPro 400 – an amazing machine that turns a ball of raw dough into a piping hot roti in the blink of an eye.

I chose a combo of quinoa, chickpeas, veggies, vindaloo and mango chutney for my burroti. Although I am the furthest thing from a vegetarian, I do try to pick vegetarian/vegan options now and again to give my body some hope and encouragement of a better life of enlightenment and spirituality (it really means I need the extra fibre in my diet).

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The burroti is then wrapped in foil. Novice that I am, I sat down, unwrapped mine and was ready to dig in with fork and knife. Owner Harvey came over in the nick of time to explain how to keep it wrapped, pull the foil back, and eat your portable Indian meal as you would a donair. Amazing!

Michael was enraptured with the entire experience. He could have stood in front of the DoughPro 400 all night if I didn’t drag him away. Although he looks a little perturbed having his picture taken with a burroti in his face, he was as impressed as I was with the delicious flavours.

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We really enjoyed ourselves this visit. We think this is a great idea and wish Harvey and his crew the very best of success.

Chutney’s Indian Grill can be found in the deep southeast corner of Edmonton at 4316 – 17th Street. Check out their website at Chutney’s Indian Grill and then go visit them.

 

 

Crepes

Crepes (pronouced cray-ps by me, and crips by a delightfully sassy Sarah Carey of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food) were on my mind last night. I had a bowl of left over sliced strawberries, and a fresh container of cream. Whipping cream.  Although nothing is quite as delicious as strawberries and cream on its own, I felt, despite the overwhelming oppressive heat of the apartment, I would make crepes. For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to make a nice cool crispy salad like most people do on hot days.

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I pulled out my blender, and plopped in:

1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk (for those of you who know I am lactose intolerant, I used lactose free milk)
4 large eggs
3 tbsp melted butter

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I whirred until well blended, then put the blender jar with the crepe mixture in the fridge to rest 20 minutes.

Then, for the next 30 minutes, in the oppressive heat of the apartment, I stood next to the hot stove making about a dozen or so crepes. Crepes are super-easy to make, they just require your attention.

I slightly butter the crepe pan (any flat pan will work), heated to medium (level 5 on my cooker). I add a bit of butter, then use a paper towel to wipe it off. Then I pour in about 1/4 cup of batter. Wobble the pan in a wobbly manner to help distribute the batter in a round shape and to try to cover the pan. It needs to be thin.

The crepe is done when the edges get tinged brown and pull away from the pan. Flip and give the other side a bit of a cook. It takes only seconds, so watch carefully.

As you pull them off, stack on a plate. Some sites will say to layer them between parchment or wax paper. Don’t bother with the fuss. They stack well on their own and come apart easily.

Now that you have a stack of crepes, the real fun begins. I had the strawberries and cream. All I did was slightly whip the cream so it was thick. I added sliced strawberries, a sprinkle of sugar, and a dollop of the cream. It looked something like this this:

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Which rolled up perfectly into this:

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This morning I thought why not expand my crepe horizons and try the ham, cheese and egg crepe as shown in the Everyday Foods video. Why not? Really? What can I lose? My egg. That’s what I can lose. This is how it turned out:

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This is how it was supposed to look:

MarthaStewart Photo via:  Martha Stewart

Clearly, Martha uses staples to keep the corners of her crepes perky.

Crepes, once cooked, can sit in your fridge for a few days. They can probably be frozen too, but I doubt you’d have any left over to freeze.

 

 

 

 

Narayanni’s

Tucked off Whyte Avenue at 10131 81 Avenue is Narayanni’s, serving gourmet South African Indian cuisine made by the Naidoo family.

The restaurant is located on a street with plenty of free angle parking. The building was built over 70 years ago as Adndt’s Machine Shop. From the outside, it has that classic Old Strathcona feel about it, but once you step inside you are greeted with a sparkling clean, tasteful and subtly designed space with nice sized tables, sturdy chairs and room to breathe.

In the centre of the room is a circular serving area where the buffet is displayed. Michael and I visited Narayanni’s on Wednesday night for the Wednesday Night Buffet at the unbeatable price of $15.00 per person.

As this was our first visit, we did a tour of the buffet before making selections. On this night, the buffet featured:

Papadams
Cucumber Raita (yogurt dip)
A colourful mixed salad
Basmati rice
Vegetable Curry Soup
Grilled Chicken Masala
Curried Potatoes with Peas and Green Beans
Chana (Chickpeas) with Mushrooms
Chicken Curry
Tofu CurryRice Pudding

Warm, delicious roti was also available and was brought to the table to us.

We started with the vegetable curry soup. The flavours in the soup brought my tastebuds to life. Michael and I both exclaimed if that is all we ate that night, we would have left happy campers. But we didn’t stop there, of course. We got up again and filled our fresh plates (emptied plates were swiftly taken away).

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I sampled all the food on the buffet. The potatoes with peas and green beans, the chana with mushrooms, the chicken curry, the grilled chicken masala, and the roti, ohhhhh that roti, was so delicious. There was good strong level of spicy heat in the curries.  A bit more and I’d be fanning my mouth, but it just took us to the edge, still allowing all those beautiful flavours through.

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I did learn this evening that South African Indian cooking does not have the cream sauces I’ve become used to seeing in Edmonton. For someone like me with an intolerance to dairy, it was very special to be able to eat virtually anything on the menu without having to ask “does this have dairy?”. There was the raita (yogurt), but that was easily identifiable. The post-dinner chai tea and rice pudding were made with almond and coconut milk on request.

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Narayanni’s food is all made fresh, no preservatives. They source local, organic, free range, and in season food. They have a large assortment of gluten and vegan menu items, and feature a Tuesday Vegan Night Buffet for $15.00 per person (cash only). There are a variety of different buffets for different nights of the week. There is also a lunch buffet for the seemingly impossible price of $12.00 per person. Please check their website for times, prices, and when cash is only accepted as this changes throughout the week.

If you are looking for an indulgent, flavourful, healthy, feel-good to toes your meal, I highly recommend trying Narayanni’s. You will be made to feel welcome and at home.

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Dixie Lee Chicken

This post has two purposes. One, to introduce you a new fried chicken place. Two, to tell you what I did to do to make this blog post happen – from conception, to research, to testing, to sitting in front of the computer Googling “how much water will I need to drink to remove all the exceess salt in my body”. It all starts innocently enough.

I’m sitting at my desk at work, toiling away, ensuring I am giving tax payers value for their money. In walks a co-worker, opening the conversation with this:

“Hey Cath, can I talk to you? I have a non-work question”.

“Sure!” I say. I have sufficiently toiled, I can take a five-minute break.

“What’s that new chicken place called on Whyte?” is the gist of the question.

“What new chicken place”, asks I.

“On Whyte, where the Cheese Factory is”, is the answer.

I had no idea, but being the helpful sort of person I am and because I have a network of Foodies on my Twitter feed, threw out the question to the Twitterverse. No one responded within .5 seconds, so we resumed our conversation.

We had a short chat about Korean fried chicken, fried chicken in general, and by this point, the craving for fried chicken was firmly planted. I know me. These cravings don’t go away until fed. I haven’t quite mastered the deep breathing, go for a walk, drink green tea and meditate to stop these cravings in their tracks. No, instead, I do research on all things fried chicken. I dreamt of fried chicken last night. But then, the night previous I had a dream that K.D. Lang stopped by to talk to me while at an open air concert and she told me that I am a lesbian….

….. anyway, my point is, just because I dream of fried chicken, doesn’t mean I need to eat fried chicken. I just finished watching Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food which was interesting, and left me with these simple words that will help eat healthy: “If it’s advertised on TV, don’t eat it”.

As it is, I have never seen an ad on TV for Dixie Lee Chicken. (I will always find a loophole).

This morning I received rescue from Sharon Yeo of Only Here for Food. She suggested the place we were looking for was Dixie Lee Chicken.

With my husband home sick with a  bug, after some basic nursing and cooing, I went into to work to complete a project. A project tax payers would be proud of. We’ll not mention the Facebook post while I was at the office, expressing my pleasure of being able to still stick the Bugles I found in our staff lunchroom on the ends of my fingers….

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…. I decided I’d indulge in some fried chicken for lunch. Off to Dixie Lee I went.IMG_5122

Dixie Lee Chicken is located at 8943 82 Avenue Edmonton. It is in the same strip mall The Cheese Factory was, and continues, to be part of (although they are now just a retail shop).

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Dixie Lee Chicken opened in Bonnie Doon one month and one week ago. There is plenty of angle parking in the front of the building and adjacent side street. The shop is clean, has a comfortable amount of open space, and plenty of seating.

I was greeted by a friendly person. I placed my order and was told to wait about five minutes. In those five minutes, I observed that the seating area was clean, and busy. There were a few tables still available had I decided to eat in. The Cheese Factory etched window is visible inside Dixie’s space.

I was delighted when a couple who arrived after me were speaking fluent French with the lady at the counter. I love Bonnie Doon for that reason. Although I don’t speak French, I love that our country is bilingual and love hearing it.

There was lots of interest in Dixie Lee. As I was waiting a number of people came in to check out the menu and the space.

I had ordered the five-piece fried chicken (no fries thanks), and a small coleslaw. Just as my order was due, a fellow came out from the back and asked if I would mind legs and wings – he’d give me more of those if I did. I happily accepted because those are my favourite pieces anyway, and left with a box of 8 juicy pieces, plus one plump breast.IMG_5120.jpg

After a meandering drive home, and a peek to check on Michael’s vitals, I sat myself down with my box of chicken and tub of coleslaw.

The chicken was still crispy and juicy. My only experience previous to this was Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chicken-on-the-Way in Calgary, and Mary Brown‘s. I match this closest to Mary Brown’s. But better. Mind you, when I had Mary Brown’s, I was also following the Jenny Craig diet, and had just spent $120 for Jenny Craig food for a week, and decided to buy Mary Brown’s chicken that same evening on my way home. That supper was laden with guilt and shame.

*melancholy sigh*

The coleslaw. Dixie Lee’s coleslaw is sweet, has a nice crunch, and tastes delicious. A bit more liquidy than I’m used to, but completely edible and enjoyable.

Dixie Lee will cure all your cravings for fat, salt, and sugar in one fell swoop. If you are going to blow your diet, do it right, and do it big. I recommend Dixie Lee’s in Bonnie Doon.

 

 

A Taste of the Real YEG

For those who don’t know, YEG originally, and is still, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code for the Edmonton International Airport (EIA). Back in the day when I was in Travel Agent School, I had to memorize all the airport codes in the world, which served me well in my 10 years with Time Air, Canadian Regional and Canadian Airlines. After I left, I would only show-off my IATA airport code skills when travelling or writing in short hand, but now it has found a whole new use in Twitter. You are probably very familiar with #YEG after all. The fine people at EIA invited a bunch of us food bloggers out for a Taste of EIA, give us a sample of what’s available, and give us some interesting facts about the EIA to share with our readers. I pause here to make special mention of the pen we all got at the bottom of our swag bags. It is a pen of q-u-a-l-i-t-y… it has a real weight behind it, and came in a fancy velvet-like pouch. No, you may not borrow my pen. IMG_3992 Anyways, now that I’ve identified that I can be easily bought with a promo pen (quality promo pens, mind you), let’s get on with food experience! Come this way….

First stop – Chili’s: We were greeted with a table full of Very Large Alcoholic Drinks (they knew I was coming).    I selected the Coronita Beer Caesar, which is a new offering at Chili’s. You’ve seen the margarita’s with inverted beers, yes? Well, this is the same thing, but in Caesar form. It was delicious. IMG_3962 I also tried a wee bit of a Platinum Presidente Margarita – a big sized traditional margarita that is hand-shaken and served over ice. IMG_3969 For food, we were provided plates of delicious deep-fried goodness – onion rings, southwestern eggrolls, chicken wings, dry ribs, tostada chips, and the show stopper…. White Spinach Queso – which is white queso (cheese) and chopped spinach topped with shredded Monterey Jack, house-made pico de gallo (salsa), fresh guacamole, queso fresca (more cheese) and chopped cilantro, and wait for it….. served warm. This oooey gooey splodge was crazy delicious. Lactose intolerance be damned. I ate it anyway. IMG_3971 Second stop – Heineken: If you want to try something that is unique to Canada, try the Heineken lounge. It is the only one in Canada! And they serve more than beer. The menu offered some delicious food options, and around the table we had a generous serving of good old Mac ‘n Cheese (not the Mack Male and Graham Hicks kind either, but they would have been welcome), beside this was a decidedly smaller serving of cheese on a cheese board… but who wants to load up on cheese before a flight anyway? Also spotted was a chicken satay, waffle fries, a salad, a burger and my dish, the chicken curry served with pillowy soft naan, basmati rice and a mango/apple chutney. It was good, filling food.

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Last stop – Caffe Sorrentino’s: Now Caffe Sorrentino’s is interesting. As you pass by it, you might think they just serve coffee, gelato and a few beers. You would be wrong. They serve DELICIOUS coffee and gelato, yes, but they also serve grilled pannini, soup, salad, pasta, breakfast and desserts. By this time though, all I wanted was a decaf Americano, which was one of the best decaf/caffeinated Americano’s I ever had. So much so, I have decided to switch to Sorrentino’s downtown at Edmonton Centre East instead of Starbucks for my coffee fix. Arrivederci Starbucks (but I’ll still see you at Omega). IMG_3986 My blood orange sorbetto was a perfect sweet end to the evening. Was this it? No! Despite being full to bursting, who could say no when we were presented with an assortment of delicious desserts… I scored a dark chocolate layer cake which had to come home with me because at the table I poo-poo’d the idea of eating more that evening (but naturally the moment I got home and tea was poured, split the cake with Michael and finished it off in less than 30 seconds). I am not a fan of dense chocolate cakes, and although this LOOKED dense, it was quite light and not too sweet. It was perfect. I have become a new fan of Caffe Sorrentino’s. I look forward to my next visit. IMG_3989 Although I can’t speak for all Edmontonians, I suspect most of us race to the airport, race through security, race to the gate, and then sit and wait and fiddle with our phones for 45 minutes or more until our flight is ready to board. Next time, I will try to arrive a few minutes earlier and relax over a coffee and enjoy a nice meal before boarding. EIA has made the departure lounge a thing of beauty. Although they still have an abundance of the ubiquitous airport seating, they have also brought in comfortable seating where you can sit by yourself, NOT next to someone who carries all their luggage plus a cello plus a cat in a carrier and tries to read the free National Post while talking on their phone and eating a bagel. There is also cafe-style seating for those who want a table without having to buy a meal. Best of all, is the indoor vertical garden. It’s a 1,400 square foot Living Wall with 8,000 different plants which helps purify the airport’s air. You will find this right next to the Heineken Lounge, the Belgian Beer Cafe and Sorrentino’s. My thanks to EIA’s delightful Jacquie and Gillian for the invitation, as well as to fellow bloggers, Edible Woman, Marlow Moo and The Tiffin Box for the great company.

Elk Island National Park – A Birthday Picnic

It’s 30C and smoky today. Environment Canada advises the air quality is poor and to lock ourselves into our homes with doors and windows closed. We could do that. But today is Michael’s birthday and burning eyes and scratchy throat be damned, we are going out into the environment and celebrating.

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Trail head at Amisk Wuche Trail 5

With some help from Facebook friends, came up with a simple picnic and headed 30 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 16 to the beautiful Elk Island National Park. I made a pathetic attempt at researching Elk Island National Park’s history to dazzle you with information, but their website buries it in a dark corner, I couldn’t find it in less than 5 seconds. So I moved on. I will let you know what I know about this place.

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Fragrant Yarrow with Bug

What I know About Elk Island National Park

1) It’s a National Park. Buy a pass. It’s worth it. Sing O Canada.

2) There’s an island.

3) Bison are visible. Elk are not.

4) It’s beautiful. Those of you who have thrown out your:  Paper coffee cups, Coke cans, cigarette butts….. I sit here and silently scold you. Yes, my hand is on my hip and I’m wagging my finger at you.

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A Cattail in the marshy bits

We arrived and stopped in at the interpretive centre at the entrance. It’s always nice to speak with an interpreter and learn something new. What did we learn today? A bison’s head ALONE can weigh 600 lbs. In total, they can weigh over a ton!! Thankfully they are docile creatures and won’t eat us. But we sure like eating them!!! Nothing like a bison burger! Hm. Maybe not appropriate to discuss here while describing a National Park dedicated to educating and protecting these beautiful beasts, so let’s move on.

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Michael. Pointing. Because that’s what he does.

After leaving the interpretive centre we, and about six other vehicles headed north. We lost one or two on the Bison Loop, a side road which affords excellent bison spotting opportunities. It is a thing of wonder to see were these creatures roam, but no deer or antelope play.

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Here we see where the green stuff that “health nuts” pay money for to make them mighty comes from*. Notice the trail the water fowl leave behind. (Disclaimer: Do NOT drink this. It is NOT healthy).

Further along, we lost the remainder of our fellow travellers at the turn for Astotin Lake. Michael and I originally planned to join the multitudes here. Astotin Lake is beautiful. Meandering pathways, lots of picnic tables and shelters, nice washrooms, a beach, a playground… it has everything for the active family. Instead though, we headed further north to the Amisk Wuche Trail 5 picnic/hiking trail site.

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Looks easy enough to cross in a picture. But understand, I’m wobbly on concrete. I felt enormously smug once I got across. Mighty. But within seconds realized we were in an area jumping with baby frogs. I got the heebie jeebies, and any Might was replaced by suppressed shrieking and requests to “KEEP MOVING” lest one of the frogs decided to jump on my face.

We had this part of the park to ourselves. One clean washroom, one picnic table, and one 2.9 km pathway through beautiful trees, shrubs, wetlands, meadows, floating walkways, tricky walkways that made us feel tough and rugged, all surrounded by beautiful yarrow, young raspberries, cattails, purple vetch, the sweetest song of the White Throated Sparrow singing Oh Canada Canada Canada to us, while baby frogs jumped out of our way and little orange butterflies led us through the pathway taking our mind off the constant buzz of mosquitos and busy bees buzzing near our ears.

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Nice graffiti found in the wilderness.

At the end of our hike, we still had the place to ourselves. The heat and the mosquitoes prevented us from doing anything naughty that might bare a bum (not us! never! we’re old now!), so we unpacked our little picnic and had a feast of cheese, salami, crackers, olives, iced tea, sparkly water, and sweets. The idea of packing a bottle of an icy cold white was attractive, but per the previous sentence, we’ve gained some common-sense in old age and didn’t want to risk a ticket for open alcohol or bare bums in a National Park.

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The Italian Centre Shop proved to be a one-stop picnic provisioner. The cherries are amazing. Go and buy some if you haven’t yet.

Michael was delighted with the walk and the picnic, and particularly tickled with the many birthday wishes he received through Facebook via my page (he’s steadfast in his Luddite ways, and Facebook is something he continues to ignore).

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The bag you see there was Michael’s gift from a staff Christmas party. Called the 6-pack, it is intended for those who drink protein drinks and take supplements, and eat de-skinned chicken breasts, and edamame beans (for fun). I cleverly used the supplement container for sugary sweets found at Bulk Barn. As you can see, it made Michael happy.

He’s now settled in front of the TV watching Fawlty Towers, eating his birthday cupcake, whilst I sit here and drink the wine meant for the picnic and write this post, listening to iTunes radio marvelling at music I’ve never heard before.

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Added this picture only because the candy looks so pretty.

Happy birthday Michael Declan. Thank you Margaret and Stanley Walsh for creating this beautiful man.

Patricia Street Deli

Wherever you are right now, whatever you are doing, stop. Start planning your first/next trip to Jasper, Alberta.

Jasper has mountains:

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Jasper has humour:

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Jasper has trains:

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Jasper has snow in May:

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Jasper has tourists:

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Jasper has trails to hike in those mountains:

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Jasper has wild animals:

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Jasper has rare orchids:

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Jasper has more mountains:

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But most important of all, Jasper has the Patricia Street Deli:

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Undeniably the BEST sandwich we have ever eaten, we found here at the Patricia Street Deli. You will find it tucked in and behind a building at 610 Patricia Street. Blink and you will miss it.

The sandwiches are made to order, the ingredients fresh, the staff super friendly, and owner makes you feel like you’ve been friends forever and conversation just picks up from where you left off the last time (even if there wasn’t a last time).

We found this place via Trip Advisor and were not disappointed. I had the roast chicken (they pick the chicken breast off the roasted chicken right before your eyes) sandwich with cranberry mayo because it came highly recommended. Michael had roast beef. They were wrapped in paper, and put in a brown paper bag for our picnic lunch.

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We found a nice picnic spot on the way home, pulled in, found a nice table and set out our lunch. The bread was fantastically fresh. The chicken fresh, the sweet of the cranberry and the tartness of the mayo came together beautifully. Michael didn’t really say much about his, but that’s because his mouth was full and kept grunting out mmmm mmmmm mmmm sounds. When I told him I was writing this blog this morning, he started drooling. We are planning our next trip to Jasper. For the mountains? Sure. But really to experience the Patricia Street Deli again.

Mug Meals

Mug meals. Make your meal, in a mug. In the microwave. What could be easier?

I was approached by Robert Rose Inc. a publisher of cookbooks and given a choice selection of cookbooks to review. One of the choices, and I’ll admit the least appealing of my selections, was one titled, “250 Best Meals in a Mug“. My initial thoughts were negative because I felt an individual meal for one, in a mug, is not very helpful when there are two people living together in happy harmony. I also thought the meals would be unappetizing, made with processed pre-made foods, and not very pretty to look at.

However, in the spirit of my Twitter account tag line @walshcooks, “Everything. At least once”, I thought I better give it a try. So I did. Am I ever glad I did.

The first recipe I tried was poaching an egg. In a mug of water.  With a bit of vinegar. In the microwave. Because of special laws and regulations I cannot share the method with you because that would be WRONG in the eyes of the publisher and the author. But I can tell you this. It was as simple as putting a bit of water in a mug adding a drop of vinegar and adding a cracked egg. Then putting it in the microwave. The result of my first attempt was PERFECT, providing you like a hard egg yolk. My second attempt had a softer yolk, which is my preference. Poached eggs are vexing, and I’m more than happy to continue my quest for the perfect poached egg. Here’s a picture of my first poached egg attempt using the instructions in the “250 Best Meals in a Mug” cookbook:

P1020484P1020487P1020488The thing of it is though, even if you aren’t a fan of a hard-cooked egg, but ARE a fan of egg salad sandwiches and want to make an egg sandwich for your own lunch, you could purposely hard-cook your poached egg, and in more than minute and less than two minutes, you could have the perfect cooked egg for the sandwich, without the bother of listening to Julia Child by boiling up a bunch of eggs, take them off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 17 minutes, and then peel and peel and peel the eggs.  You couldn’t use this meal in a mug method for a church lunch of egg salad sandwiches. Nope. But for YOUR lunch, at work that day, you could.

And this is where I get really excited. The recipes in this cookbook are perfect for taking to lunch at work, especially when you have to worry only about your own lunch because you have an independent spouse who can forage the wilds for his own lunch. If he actually decides to eat lunch that is. My hubby is able to survive on a single banana and cups of tea until supper time. AND he remains civil, fun-loving and humourous. I’m grouchy five seconds after breakfast and counting the seconds to my morning snack. I digress.

The next recipe I tried from this cookbook was “Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint”. Here’s a professional photo:

SpicedLentilsYogurtAlmondMintMealsMug
Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

And here is the official recipe, I got permission you see. So let me hand you off to the author, Camilla V. Saulsbury:

Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint, page 164, Meatless Mains

Zesty tomatoes and chiles, warm spices and earthy lentils are the stars of this lively vegetarian mug. A trio of toppings − yogurt, almonds and fresh mint − heightens the wow factor.

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 cup rinsed drained canned lentils 250 mL
1⁄2 can (10 oz/285 mL) diced 1⁄2 tomatoes with green chiles, with juice
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin 2 mL
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger 1 mL
1⁄8 tsp hot pepper sauce 0.5 mL
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt 15 mL
1 tbsp chopped roasted salted almonds 15 mL
2 tsp chopped fresh mint 10 mL

Suggested Accompaniment
Warm naan, pita or flour tortilla

In the mug, combine lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until hot. Top with yogurt and sprinkle with almonds and mint. Serve with a suggested accompaniment, if desired.

Tips
If available, you can use vacuum-packed lentils in place of canned ones. They are typically found in the produce section, near the tofu products.

Canned black beans or pinto beans can be used in place of the lentils.

An equal amount of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, or minced fresh chives, can be used in place of the mint.

Freeze the remaining tomatoes in a small sealable freezer bag for future use. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

Prep Ahead Option
Combine the lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce in the mug; cover and refrigerate. Measure the yogurt, almonds and mint into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back. I feel so… pure…. giving credit where credit is due. Now. The moment you all are waiting to see. How did MY version work out? Here’s the real life version pre-cooked:

P1020492 I need to explain that I don’t have a mug (16 oz) big enough to make these meals in. But I do have a 2 cup Pyrex that works beautifully. I also couldn’t find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I used one of the many abundant cans of plain diced tomatoes I have in our storage cupboard sort of in Mormon fashion, “just in case” of alien invasion, end of man-kind, Revelations sort of action. I mean, a girl has to be prepared, and nothing says prepared more than a storage cupboard full of canned diced tomatoes. Anyway… as I have many cans of diced tomatoes, I didn’t really try that hard to find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I picked up a small tin of jalapeno peppers in the Mexican section of the grocery store. I diced these up and added it to the diced toms. I mixed the stuff up, stuck it in the microwave and cooked it. Here’s the end result (without the yogurt… I’m on a dairy free kick right now):

P1020493And this is where I got really excited. I mean REALLY EXCITED. I’m always looking for satisfying healthy options to eat at lunch. I’m not a fan of left overs. But here, after trying this recipe, I had my lunch. As you can see in the picture above, I dumped the lentils into a Glad-ware container, and took it to work for my lunch that day. It was perfect! Not as pretty as the professional photo, but it was delicious, satisfying and super-easy to make.

This is going to be a long blog. I hope you stay with me. Because I am honestly super-excited about this whole prospect of meals in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and taking it to work for your lunch!!

The next recipe I tried, and was even MORE impressed with was…. Pesto Chicken Couscous… (and I now hand it over officially to the publisher/author):

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Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Pesto Chicken Couscous, page 46, Fast & Easy 4-Ingredients or Less

Keep a jar of basil pesto in the refrigerator − it will guarantee a multitude of tasty meals in minutes, 24/7. Need proof? Try this delicious couscous and chicken mug.

16-oz (375 to 500 mL) mug
1⁄2 cup water 125 mL
1⁄2 cup couscous 125 mL
1⁄2 can (5 oz/142 g) or 45 mL water-packed 1⁄2 chunk chicken, drained and flaked
3 tbsp basil pesto
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 15 mL

In the mug, microwave water on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until water is boiling. Stir in couscous. Cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chicken and pesto. Microwave on High for 1 to 11⁄2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Variations
Pesto Chickpea Couscous: Replace the chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) drained rinsed canned chickpeas.

Red Pepper and Pesto Chicken Couscous: Add 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chopped drained roasted red bell peppers (from a jar) with the chicken.

Tips
Either regular or whole wheat couscous can be used.

Freeze the remaining chicken in a small sealable freezer bag. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

You can replace the canned chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) diced cooked or deli chicken or turkey.

Prep Ahead Option
Measure the couscous into a small airtight container; store at room temperature. Measure the chicken and pesto into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. canned chicken creates too much of a negative visceral reaction, so I opted instead to buy one of those pre-cooked chickens you see/smell at the entrance to Safeway. To you, mass cooked Safeway chickens might cause an unpleasant visceral reaction, so IF you have the time and money, cook up your own free-range, hormone free, angel kissed chicken, and use the left overs for this recipe.

I loved this recipe, and didn’t tire of it. I made if for three lunches in a row, and can’t wait to make this recipe again. Here’s how it looked in my reality:

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The couscous
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The chopped pre-roasted Safeway chicken
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The best Pesto I could find in Safeway. Of course, the BEST pesto ever is the pesto you make yourself, or buy from Strathcona’s Farmers Market.
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Quite pleased with my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. This is pre-warmed.
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This is post-warmed, with fresh Parmesan cheese in the handy Glad-ware tub to take to work for lunch.

Now…. best for last. This probably isn’t the best idea to take to lunch at work, but say you are excited because you have a Sunday brunch planned with your spouse, friend, secret lover and suddenly it’s cancelled! SHOCK. And all morning you have been anticipating something rich and delicious which is typically brunch-ish. Well. Here’s what you do….. back to Camila:

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Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

French Toast, page 85, Breakfast

I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not just for the usual reasons, but also simply because the offerings − from bacon to cheesy eggs to cinnamon rolls − are so scrumptious. French toast proves my point. With the help of a mug and the microwave, it’s now an any-day option, even on the busiest mornings. Don’t forget the syrup!

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 tbsp granulated sugar 15 mL
1⁄8 tsp salt 0.5 mL
1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon 0.5 mL
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup milk 125 mL
1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract (optional) 1 mL
11⁄4 cups bread cubes (preferably stale) or small plain croutons 300 mL

Suggested Accompaniments
Confectioners’ (icing) sugar; pure maple syrup; butter

In the mug, use a fork to whisk sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) until very well blended. Add bread cubes, stirring and pressing them down into the custard to absorb the liquid. Let stand for at least 15 minutes (so the bread absorbs the liquid). Press bread down with a fork to compact.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes (checking at 11⁄2) or until firm to the touch and liquid is absorbed. Serve with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.

Variations
Orange Marmalade French Toast: Replace the sugar with an equal amount of orange marmalade.

Buttermilk French Toast: Replace the milk with buttermilk, and replace the cinnamon with a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Banana French Toast: Reduce the milk to 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) and add 1⁄3 cup (75 mL) mashed very ripe banana. Replace the sugar with packed brown sugar.

Tip
Add up to 2 tbsp (30 mL) raisins or chopped dried fruit, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) miniature semisweet chocolate chips with the bread.

Prep Ahead Option
Whisk the sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) in the mug, then add the bread cubes; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. O.M.G. this works so well. Now…. my pictures just don’t do it justice at all, but O.M.G….. PMSing? Craving richness? Sweetness? Butteryness? I can’t tell you how perfect this is, how easy it is to make, and how yummy and satisfying it tastes. Here’s my pictures:

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Pre-cooked mush
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Post-cooked mush on presentation plate.
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Split for sharing, buttered and maple-syruped to sooth the most ornery of dispositions.

I tried something new by following the recipes in “250 Best Meals in a Mug”, and am deeply satisfied and thrilled to have learned how to make instant meals (for one). I hope you will give these recipes a try as well.