30 day challenge

beloved market bag

I love my market bag. In fact, I love it so much that it has inspired me to create my own 30 day challenge; not to quit smoking, not to lose 10 lbs (but now that I mention it…), not to stop swearing (*%&#@ no!), but to not accept plastic bags with any purchases I make during the month of July. Even if I should get caught without and have to fill my arms full, spilling over with fresh produce, rice milk and tampons; then that will teach me to be more prepared next time. Our household shares three market bags which hang beautifully on our kitchen wall . I keep one in my car…yes I did say 'car'…I know, I know, one step forward, one step back. One small step for man, one giant leap for…..oh, nevermind.

Plastic bags are ugly; both for humans and the environment. At the time of this post, the estimated number of plastic bags consumed worldwide so far this year was 246,997,149,168 and counting. Reusable cloth bags are cool; again, both for humans and the environment. While visiting the Portobello West Market last weekend, I came across a beautiful line of reusable bags by Vancouver’s own Bring Your Own Bag. Made from 100% cotton, these eco-chic reusable cloth shopping bags "provide people with the best selection of reusable shopping bags that combine fashion, style, quality, and awarenes". I will be letting you all know how things went on August 1.


yummy honey

blackberry honey


bees, beards, and bob blumer

Bob Blumer's bee beard at the Honey Bee Festival

.....Oh yeah……and honey, and lots of it. Last weekend my friend, Robert and I went to visit The Honey Bee Centre in Cloverdale, B.C. We were there to attend the two day Honey Bee Festival, to taste and purchase some of the most gorgeous honey I’ve ever experienced, and to witness Robert’s friend, Bob Blumer, participating in the ‘bee beard’ competition. Why would Bob do such a thing? Because he was filming an episode for his t.v. program, Glutton For Punishment, which can be seen on The Food Network in 2008. This whacky feat was accomplished by placing a queen bee on a wire, which was then placed around his neck. In turn, pheromones emitted from the queen bee attracted the worker bees. By the end of 13 minutes, Bob was sporting quite the lively beard. I say ‘Better him than me!’

honey combe

The Honey Bee Centre make and sell their own honey right on site. With more than 16 varities to select from, it was difficult to decide which ones to purchase. I finally chose the beautiful raspberry honey and also the ‘burnt’ fireweed version; meaning that it had been accidentally burnt during its filtering process. The resulting product is a sweet, deep brown syrup that has a concentrated, carmelized flavour. So YUM! Stay tuned for my festival inspired recipes…


why jamie oliver rocks my world

Jamie Oliver inspired zucchini salad

I hope that ‘Jules’ woman knows how good she’s got it. As far as I'm concerned, that adorable man/boy of hers can do no wrong. When Jamie Oliver is not busy overhauling the British public school lunch program or driving around Italy in his VW van to cook with all those fabulously lively Italians, …..where can you find him? These days he is airing his latest and (I think) greatest series yet, Jamie At Home. Each episode focuses on a food item grown from his own garden; beans, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and so on. For each program he presents 4 or 5 different dishes which showcase that particular ingredient. When he picks from his garden on what are sometimes grey, drizzling British days; with his slightly crumpled tweed blazer, woolen hat, knee high rubber boots, enthusiastic shiny blue eyes, pink hued cheeks and blonde tousled ‘bed head’ hair (am I the only one who can actually SMELL the dew on his scarf?), calling everything ‘lovely’….I can’t wait to see what he is going to cook next. And he never disappoints. His recipes are, well, brilliant. Last week his episode on zucchini inspired me to create this similar salad of my own. What I like best about it is his use of the common vegetable peeler to create these beautiful, long ‘ribbons’ of colour and texture. It is an ideal ingredient for soaking up the flavours of the anchovies, basil and lemon rind. The walnuts and grated parmesan are the perfect finish to this dish.

Khun Rikon vegetable peeler

Diane & Jamie’s Zucchini Ribbon Salad

In large bowl:

1 small yellow zucchini, peeled into ‘ribbons’
½ red pepper, finely julienned
2 fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
2 green onions, finely sliced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
½ c roughly chopped walnuts
1 tbsp grated fresh lemon rind


3 anchovies, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp grain style Dijon mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for garnish

To make dressing, put anchovies, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small dish. Mix well with a fork. Blend in olive oil. Pour dressing over salad ingredients. Toss together and place on serving platter. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little drizzle of olive oil.


cherry time!

our own cherry tree

As a child growing up in the suburbs, our garden was never used for growing food. It was a place one would find flowers, shrubbery and a green lawn to play on. The food we ate came from…..the store! Now that I am a grown-up (sort of) I am amazed to be able to go outside our kitchen door and pick fresh cherries right from the tree that hangs over our deck. To me, it is nothing short of a miracle to be living in a city and able to eat from our own land. Especially when, all year long, that cherry tree stands there quietly, minding its own business, asking nothing of anyone and then, viola! It bears fruit. “How’d dey do d’hat?” Today before lunch, when I finally got a grip on the whole ‘miracle of nature’ thing, I grabbed myself a chair and an umbrella with a hooked handle and proceeded to harvest the fruit. It was hardly a bumper crop. However, I did manage to pick enough to make up a batch of my mother’s ‘lazy buns’, adding to her recipe fresh grated orange rind, cinnamon, and the cherries…..did I mention that they are from my back yard? These scones are wickedly delish served while still warm, with butter, good jam and a side plate of fresh chilled orange slices.

fresh picked cherries

June’s Lazy Buns

2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup butter- soft
1 cup milk
1 cup halved and pitted cherries
1 tbsp fresh grated orange rind

Preheat oven to 400*. In large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Cut in butter with 2 forks or a pastry blender. Mix in milk, then cherries and orange rind. Drop batter onto greased cookie sheet, or use parchment paper (about ¾ cup batter per scone). Bake for 15 minutes.


the frugal renovator

These days, our culture seems obsessed with acquiring the perfect dream kitchen. Home owners are dropping big bucks like never before, in order that they may be ‘out with the old and in with the new’…new wood cabinets, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, granite countertops, designer tile, fixtures and faucets.

One year ago, as I surveyed our own drab and tired looking kitchen, I knew it was time for a change, time to tap into the room's unrealized potential. The kitchen itself is quite spacious and sees a great deal of use. Everyday it is utilized by 4 roommates, one cat, and a constant flow of guests and visitors.

As a humble renter, I had neither the cash nor the desire to blow my wad on such extravagance. Sure, I love an inspired environment to cook in as much as the next, and I knew there must be some cost effective ways to create an enjoyable, attractive and functional culinary space by simply working with what we had.

Here is where I got excited. I am often THRILLED when necessity breeds invention. I do not see such limitations as restrictive, but rather as an inspiring challenge. I decided on a working budget of $150 and one week of my labour to complete the project. The job list went as follows:

Removed cupboard doors from all upper cabinets and painted them white.
Painted dark wood on fridge white. Painted dark brown accent walls white.
Cost: $10 for paint brushes and trim tape (paint and primer were free- a donation from my parent’s basement)

Added a bar to the back side of the kitchen island. The bar was also restained.
Cost: $15 for hardware and stain (bar and 3 stools were moved from another space in the kitchen, with big help from my roommate, Michel, and his trusty powerdrill)

Purchased and installed matchstick blinds that were ‘customized’ to fit windows using our garden clippers.
Cost: $75 for 2 blinds (Asian import store)

Replaced yellowing track lighting with white ones. Luckily, we already had dimmers on all our kitchen lighting. This is a very simple and effective way to create ambiance. Dimmers rock!
Cost: $8.50 for 2 (second hand from M.C.C. Thrift)

Replaced ugly brass pantry door hardware with new stainless.
Cost: $15 for 4 pulls (Ikea)

Set up a cookbook wall.
Cost: $11 for 2 shelves (Ikea. Again, with help from Michel)

Edited glasses, utensils and dishware to get rid of the clutter and have ready access to the good stuff. Suddenly, our bright red porcelain sink no longer seemed an oddity when accented with a few newly unearthed red dishes. I even discovered a beautiful, deep orange Le Creuset soup pot hidden in the back of one cupboard, barely used.
Cost: (free)

Cost: $6 for 1 picture frame (artwork free)

The project was completed both on time and on budget (spent $140.50, plus $10 for beer). The results have exceeded my expectations. Our new kitchen is light, airy, cheerful and highly functional. It is now a beautiful room that is a pleasure to spend time in; creating, cooking, gathering and entertaining. It is especially satisfying to me that such a successful transformation could be done with so little.


holy garlic

Sylvia's fresh garlic
Sylvia's fresh garlic

This was the vision that met me on Sunday night when I arrived at my friend Sylvia’s for dinner. She had harvested the garlic from her garden that same day, and was leaving them out to dry on her barn red picnic table.