Vanilla, the Best Baking Perfume

What ingredient for baking is in majority of our cupboards? For me it is vanilla. How do you even describe the smell to someone who hasn’t experience this subtle fragrant from the species of the vanilla orchid? I would try to say it has warm floral notes.



It is one of the most intense and complex spices. If you buy pure vanilla extract it can be up to $55 for an 8oz bottle, it’s the second highest priced spice, saffron being number one. Vanilla has taken over the gift scene as well – vanilla scented everything, right down to scented garbage bags, really? Why can’t we savor the smell for the best things, like baking.

Vanilla is used in many baking recipes and besides chocolate chip muffins, banana bread is my number two favorite baking treat.

Mom’s Banana Bread
4 small bananas’ mashed (I used brushed bananas)
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup of butter
2 eggs
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Shake of salt (1/4 tsp if that)
½ cup of walnuts or chocolate chips – this is up to you.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees’.
Mash banana’s, mix in all liquids then sugar and rest of the ingredients. Pour into a pre-greased loaf pan, place in oven for about 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle starts to crack a little. This is when I know it’s done, but I also use a toothpick to see if the bread sticks to the toothpick, if it does, another five minutes in the oven.
Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes then gently remove from the pan, slice, add some butter and enjoy!

Until Tomorrow, Keep on Typing…



Unagi ~ A State of Mind or Fish?


Unagi is a total state of awareness, only by achieving true unagi can you be prepared for any danger that may befall you. ~ Ross Geller, Friends.

I loved the first time I saw this episode, anyone else remember Ross’s quirky sayings?

Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel, especially the Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica. Unagi is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, often as kabayaki. I know Unagi from going to sushi restaurants. My first experience was with the traditional dish of bbq unagi over a bed of rice – simple, delicious and nutritious. Now my husband and I order single pieces of unagi at our favorite sushi restaurants or pretty much any sushi establishment. It’s a light and refreshing treat.

Sorry for the shorter post today. Foods starting with the letter “U” is a good challenge, especially one that I can relate to. What does that mean for me? I’ll be experimenting with new foods like Uttapam, a pancake type dish with main ingredients cooked into the batter.

Until Tomorrow, Keep on Typing…



True to Tofu

Toe-what? I thought the first time I heard about tofu. Coming from a meat and potatoes family, my knowledge of vegetables was a side dish for our traditional turkey dinners. When I met my first vegetarian friends this was when I first heard about a tofurkey. Excuse me? Was exactly what I said when one of her other friends were making fun of my friend’s meatless lifestyle choice. I learned it was a meat(less)loaf form made with tofu. Years later I can say I’ve had tofurkey and made correctly it does taste like turkey. Amazing what you can do with food.

Tofu is also known as bean curd,  it is a food cultivated by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is a component in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Tofu can be soft, firm, or extra firm. Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. ~ Thank you, Wikipedia.

There is always a package of smoked tofu in our refrigerator. It is one of our favorite proteins we use in many of our plant-based recipes. We currently can’t get enough of this amazing Sugar Snap Pea and Carrot Soba Noodles

We substitute the soba noodles with Wun-Tun noodles and add grilled smoked tofu for a little extra kick. I make the full recipe and there is always enough for leftovers. I hope you enjoy!

Until Tomorrow, Keep On Typing…

Swimming up Stream

Growing up in Nova Scotia, you would think I would be a custom to seafood. Ironically, my mother didn’t like fish, so we were limited to the seafood that came across our plates. When I moved out West over twenty years ago I was pleased to be able to buy salmon and cook it for myself. When my mothers ask what I am making for dinner and I share a BBQ Salmon I can see her nose curl up. The funny thing is I do the same thing about eggs. I guess we all have our hang-ups with certain foods.

There are so many varieties of Salmon: Sockeye, Chum, Chinook, Coho, Pink, and my personal favorite, being from the East Coast, the Atlantic Salmon. Now that I live in BC, I am surrounded by over five types of salmon and salmon fishing is a big business on the West Coast. Our dining room in the hotel I work for offers a pink salmon entrée and every time someone orders the dish, a dollar is donated to the Pacific Salmon Foundation. This non-profit foundation is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon and their natural habitats in British Columbia and the Yukon.

My husband and I are dedicated to a plant-based menu but we do eat seafood from time to time. Both of us being from the East Coast enjoy Salmon and we have married a vegetarian fried rice dish with baked salmon. We put the salmon in a tin-foil pocket with butter, dill, and lemon. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes depending on the size)

Thug Kitchen Five-spice Fried Rice:

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into dice-sized cubes
2 tsp grapeseed, sesame or avocado oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha or chili paste
4 cups cooked short grain rice
1 cup bitter greens, chopped ( we use spinach )
1/2 cup sliced green onions (optional)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed


  1. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat.
  2. Add the sweet potato and two tbsp of water and stir-fry, stirring often, for about 5-8 minutes until the potato is tender and starting to brown.  Add more water if the potato starts to stick.
  3.  Add yellow onion and carrot and continue to stir-fry for another 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  4.  Add the 5-spice powder and garlic and stir-fry for 1-2 more minutes.  Remove all vegetables from the pan, cover and set aside.
  5.  Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, and Sriracha in a small bowl. (Sometimes we double the amount – it’s really good!)
  6. Heat the remaining oil in the wok over medium heat.
  7.  Add the cooked rice and stir-fry until warm, approximately 5 minutes.
  8.  Add the sauce mix and the vegetables, plus the peas to the rice and mix well.
  9.  Stir-fry for another 1-3 minutes.
  10.  Fold in bitter greens and green onions
  11. Top with baked salmon.

Serve and enjoy!

Until Next Tomorrow, Keep on Typing…

Raspberry Kisses

I love picking raspberries. The way you have to gently pull the berry off the branch for the sweet and tangy berry full of more vitamin C than an orange. Other fun facts about raspberries: They are super high in fiber, they have a good amount of folic acid, are high in potassium, vitamin A, and calcium. These little berries make a great base for smoothies giving your taste buds a little zing!

When I was a young girl growing up in Ontario, I would visit my grandparent’s farm on a weekly basis. Their farm was a working farm, including rows of acres of raspberry and blackberry bushes. My elders would send me outside to “play” which meant to go pick raspberries or strawberries for my grandmother to make a pie or whatever sweet desert she would create for us. I loved those times in the raspberry and blackberry bushes. The tips of my fingers would start to get stained with the red and deep purple colors of the berries. I think I ate more berries than filled the quarts they gave me to fill to keep my pre-occupied, big imaginary mind entertained.

I dream about those raspberry bushes at my grandparent’s farm. I wrote about them in a short story, Conversations With You, was one of my first published short stories. I don’t have a raspberry recipe – I use the tangy berry in my smoothies or use a topper on ice-cream. I am now inspired to look for a great recipe that I can share with you. Time to look through my cookbooks!

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

What is Quinoa?

qui·noa  ~ pronounced ˈkeen-wa’
When I first heard of quinoa I had no idea what it was. I think I must have pronounced many different ways. As many as I get with my first name, I get everything but Marion-Ann from time to time. Just last week I had a woman say, Marion-and-ann – that version makes me shake my head every time.
Quinoa is an interesting grain to work with. I didn’t know it was part of the spinach family and it is gluten-free ~ a bonus for everyone looking to eat healthier. My first time making quinoa didn’t turn out so great, it was moist and had no flavor. After a few practices and spices and the right dressing, I finally was able to get the grain to a fluffy texture that both my husband and I enjoy. Sometimes I will add couscous with quinoa for different textures and flavors. That’s what cooking is all about, having fun!
I found a great salad recipe for this diverse grain, it’s full of flavor and is good to bring to any potluck. Thank you too, Two Health Kitchens for providing this easy recipe: Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

For the Love of Pasta

I use to stay clear of pasta due to the fear of gaining weight, silly, I know. My first introductions to pasta were spaghetti on Sunday nights. My mother made spaghetti sauce from scratch. I have fond memories of watching my mother stir the ingredients together in the large brown crock-pot. As I got older I was allowed to shake in each spice that contributed to the great aromas of sauce that lingered throughout the kitchen. The second pasta I became familiar with was cold pasta salad at family pot-luck get-togethers. I don’t really have any fond memories of pasta salad, it always looked like there was too much mayonnaise on the noodles and chunks of ham and celery. Yuck! Says my six-year-old ego.

Pasta became a staple in my diet when I moved away from home because it was cheap and easy to make. When I worked in the Canadian Rockies at the luxury hotel I started to make my own dinners before work. After a while, the staff cafeteria becomes redundant. In the winter after I would come back from a two to three-hour cross-country ski adventure I would make a quick penne dish filled with grilled peppers and simple butter and garlic sauce. It filled me, gave me the energy I needed to run around during my evening shift in the dining room. When I started to train for my first marathon I ate pasta when I would start running longer distances as part of my training. Carbs are a great way to give you energy for race day.

Now we enjoy pasta in our regular weekly menu. Sometimes it is full-on spaghetti, but we make our sauce without ground beef or turkey. We use veggie ground and has the same texture as beef or turkey. Some weeks I will make old-school baked macaroni & cheese with a mix of sharp, old and Monterey jack cheese. For the first time last week I made stuffed cannoli and it turned out great!  During the spring and summer season, we like to make pasta salads, something simple and light. I found a great recipe that trumps my child-hood chunky ham pasta salad. It is from Jamie Oliver, this recipe is quick and delish! I have changed the ingredients of what is used in the recipe, it’s all about the dressing that keeps me going back for more.

Serves up to six people.

11 ounces small shell pasta (we like bow tie, penne or fusilli)
1 garlic cloves (optional)
1 red or yellow pepper, diced. Or both if you like.
1 carrot (shredded)
½ cup purple cabbage or spinach
1 Roma tomato, diced
1⁄4 cup fresh basil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
Throw in the pasta and garlic and simmer for about 5 minutes or until al dente and drain.
Put the garlic to one side for the dressing.
Put the pasta in a bowl.
Ass the tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spinach, and basil and add to the bowl.
Dice the garlic to almost a paste
Add the vinegar, oil and seasoning.
Drizzle this over the salad, adding a little more seasoning to taste & Enjoy!

Until tomorrow, Keep on Typing…