This post will be short and sweet savory, so I'll just get straight to the point:
walnut sauce blows my mind.

A little while back, I had mentionned how I went to a restaurant where I was introduced to this mouth-watering delight served over linguine. I came home deciding that I would make this one day too. However, I decided that I needed to do more than just copy what had been served to me. I needed to take it up a notch. So I asked myself this: "how can I make something rich and creamy even more decadent?" And then it dawned upon me: put it on top of puff pastry. Win. Win all around.

Last week started off on quite a poor note for me: on top of having to deal with a broken bed and a wintery slap in the face in the form of an ice storm,  I had to deal with some less-than-pleasant stomach issues which landed me in the dreaded waiting room of a health clinic. The cherry on top of it all: I was instructed by my new doctor to stay away from both gluten AND dairy for "a couple of weeks."

Is he aware that gluten and dairy are the basis of my comfort-food diet every winter?
Is he aware that the temperatures dipped below freezing this week?
Is he aware that denying me of bagels and cream cheese is not good for my mental health?

Attempting to keep my mental health in check - for the good of everyone around me - I decided to make the best of things and turn this into a cooking challenge! (While grinding my teeth and forcing a smile!) At first, it was tough to think up ideas. (On that note, it's also been tough trying to ignore the brand new chocolate milk container and the three containers of yogourt in my fridge. But I digress). I began to get quite creative in the kitchen.

And that my friends, is where my fabulous coconut shrimp stir-fry was born.
I must admit, I had some inspiration from my good friend Lisa, so thank you!
The boy and I both reached for seconds. And then thirds. We then had to restrain ourselves, because I was insistent on getting a photograph in before it was all devoured...

I've never liked lettuce.

Being a vegetarian for so many years, this fact has often startled people.  Each time that I tell someone that I dislike lettuce, the reaction that I receive generally follows the same pattern. It begins with a baffled, "but how could you not like lettuce?" And is often followed by " So I guess you don't eat salad, then?"









Ah, how I love receiving that follow-up question. Each and every time, I'll respond with, "actually, I love salad." I then adore watching the person's facial transformation - twisting mouth and furrowing brow - as he or she becomes even more confused. If the person does not immediately conclude that I am simply delusional, I will begin my usual - salads-don't-need-lettuce rant.

Salads do not (always) need lettuce.

Now, you may have heard that you don't make friends with salad, but I think that that is only because most people are doing it all wrong. There are so many vegetable possibilities out there - all you need is two or three of them, and you've got yourself a salad. Lettuce-free.


My two favorite salad combinations are: 1. Cucumber, tomato and celery and 2. Spinach, dried cranberries and almonds. Lately, however, I've been on a more exotic/experimental gourmet salad kick. I started the week off with a fabulous concoction of pan-seared red pear slices, brie and chopped walnuts. And then, yesterday, I picked that - as I discovered today at lunch - is even tastier once it's been marinating for a while. Unlike lettuce salads that become soggy a day later - this salad maintained it's crunch beautifully.

Go ahead and make some friends.

Rice wraps.
If you haven't done so already, I strongly urge you to get on the bandwagon.




Light and easy to work with, rice wraps are a fail safe go-to anytime that I need a quick-fix meal. Thanks to their neutral taste, they can be stuffed with pretty much anything that you desire. I could imagine them filled with any savory meal that you'd normally eat as a salad - for instance, some seared strips of steak and raw spinach. Or, for the vegetarian, tofu, ginger, carrots and sprouts. You can even venture to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and make desert rolls, filling them with a fruit salad and dipping them in chocolate. When I make them, my preference has generally been sushi-inspired. The other day, I had a fishepiphany - why don't I make a bagel-inspired one? I am from Montreal afterall...

Ah! There she is - the above photo was taken pre-wrap, of course. A true beauty: avocado, alfalfa sprouts, Coho smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasted sesame seeds. As a bonus, since the rice papers each contain only 45 calories and 0 grams of fat, I was able to enjoy all of the best parts of my Sunday morning bagel, without any of the usual carby guilt. 

My favorite part about these wraps is that they look ridiculously impressive - and only take a couple of minutes to throw together. For real: this little baby took me three minutes total! A three minute masterpiece.... I'll now title this blog post accordingly. 

Look out, boy - I am currently infatuated with another. 

Though I hate to admit it, I accidentally fell in love... While I long believed that I hated the nut, our paths crossed one faithful night. It was tough at first to crack him, but once he came out of his shell,  I felt completely satisfied. He was more tender than I had imagined, and though at first a little bitter, he became surprisingly sweet in the end. Lately, I've been going to him for a late afternoon pick-me-up...


O, Walnut, how I lust for thee...


My mother used to keep walnuts in our pantry. I'll never forget them - I don't know what on earth she used them for, but they were there for as long as I can remember - chopped up and stored in a recycled glass jar that was in the shape of a teddy bear. One day - most likely out of rainy afternoon boredom - I decided to grab a handful out of the jar to eat as a snack. Now, perhaps they had gone rancid, perhaps they were simply stale, or perhaps my palette had not yet fully developed... but all that I can recollect is a vivid memory of my immediate heaving and spitting straight into the garbage pail.

For years afterward, this popular nut remained banished from all that I cooked, baked, and consumed.

Recently, I visited a small Italian resto on St. Denis. I was deep into conversation when the waiter showed up to take our orders. As per usual, I hadn't yet taken a long enough glance at the menu to know what I wanted - feeling pressured as everyone sounded off their choices, I ran a split-second menu scan, spotted the words "cream," "mushrooms," and "pasta."
Done and done.

Half a litre of wine later, a horrifying plate was placed in front of me:  I received a dish of pasta covered in... you guessed it... walnuts. Now, I do not like handing anything back at restaurants - if you've seen the movie Waiting, you'll understand why. Moreover, I was not going to let my (relatively new) friends think that I, Allison the Foodie, was a picky eater. So - I dug right in, fully ready to paste on a fake smile (all while I prepared a napkin in my lap, for secretive spitting purposes...)

And that's when it happened. That was the turning point.
I. Like. Walnuts.

Later that week, I attempted to replicate the mushroom walnut cream sauce (which I did, fabulously, by the way), and served it over a spinach and mushroom tart. Sorry to break your hearts, but you won't be getting the recipe for that today. You can blame the boy, and I guess you can also blame it partially on myself - we polished that sucker off before I could even fathom taking a second photograph. (Or writing down what the recipe.) Oops.

Instead - I bring you something tantalizing - an autumn twist on a year-round staple. You may have been searching for a superior banana bread recipe for years, and just haven't found one. Or, perhaps you already have your own recipe for banana bread, and you're wondering why you should switch away from your tried-and-true.  Here are a few reasons why this bread is awesome: three huge bananas, whipped butter, cinnamon and vanilla. And now, here are a few reasons for the health conscious people: fibre(fruits, nuts), protein(nuts), vitamins(fruits), and a ton of added fat-free moisture - in the form of diced apples.

Yeah. That's right. I put diced apples in my banana bread.
Do it. I dare you. You won't regret it.

I. Cooked. Meat.

After eight years of dragging my feet along the omnivore's bandwagon - picking at bacon crumbs, sipping chicken broth, dipping my potatoes in gravy and pretending that I didn't know that my favorite cheeses contained rennet  - I've finally hopped back onboard. I am officially a full-fledged meat eater.

Well, almost.

I decided that if I was going to begin eating meat, that I would eat actual meat - none of this poultry nonsense. I have no interest in feathered clucking creatures that cook up dry and boring.
My first choice sin? None other than the ethically controversial, ridiculously expensive, perfectly tender, succulently juicy milk-fed veal. Drenched in a mushroom, shallot and white wine sauce, served alongside cheesy asparagus spears and complimented beautifully by a spinach and sunflower seed salad with a sweet balsamic vinagrette, I may have just cooked the best meal of all time.

Go on now, stop drooling and make it for yourself tonight! Novices, don't be intimidated - you'll soon discover that cooking veal is fast and easy, and the final product looks (and smells) ridiculously impressive.


Dear: Vegetarianism,

We've had a good long run. Seven solid years. You've been with me through the good and the bad. You've helped me avoid heart disease, food-borne illness, and you've been an all-star in the battle against constipation. I can't thank you enough for everything.

But, I have to tell you something.

Veg, dear sweet love, I've been lying. To you, and to myself. This is really hard for me, so I'll just cut to the chase, rip off the latex-free bandaid.

I've been seeing Bacon.

It began one day, innocently, with some bits in a salad that I'd ordered. I didn't know that it was even in there until it was too late. But, even though it was an honest mistake that I couldn't have avoided - I felt completely guilty. I came home and cried into my pillow, vowing to stay away from the temptation forever more.

Soon after, I realized that my guilt came from more than my unknowing consumption. Eating those little bits brought me intense pleasure. It was a dirty temptation that I had a hard time resisting, but I promised myself that I'd never go all the way.

But now, the occasional tryst has grown into a full-fledged affair that I can no longer deny. I'm sorry that you had to find out this way.

I'll always love you.
Ta-bou-lee. Ta-bou-leh. Ta-bou-lay. However you'd like to pronounce it, this refreshing summer salad is a great way to get out of a romaine & iceberg rut. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, tabouleh is a middle-eastern/Mediterranean parsley-based salad often tossed with chopped tomatoes, onions and a generous amount of olive oil.
I became inspired for this little toss during a recent trip to my local supermarket. Seeking dinnertime inspiration, I was rummaging through the produce section when I paused in front of an item that I would have normally dismissed as boring and/or useless: an abnormally large variety of parsley.  Five different types, in fact. Really? Do people REALLY need that much variety of an herb that serves a garnish, often tossed aside, never to be consumed? I started to think that maybe I have been missing something. I decided that this little green leaf was going to make it onto my plate tonight - and not just as a back-up dancer, but as the star of the show. "Parsley!" I said (to myself, and possibly also out loud), "You have been under appreciated." (Then I began to wonder if under appreciated was indeed one word, two words, or not a word at all. But I digress.)

Soon afterward, I found myself making tabouleh.

I did not use a recipe, just ingredients that I had on hand and an idea in my head of what tabouleh should be. I chopped some grape tomatoes and decided to add something a little unconventional, but not too far off the rocker: a handful of diced cucumber. Traditional tabbouleh has grains mixed in, and I just happened to have a little bit of millet that I've been meaning to use up. Very soon, I scooping bite after bite onto my favorite crackers, indulging in the aromas of a delicious summer salad.

I've always had a thing for macaroons. Perhaps it's because they always come out at this time of year, so they remind me of warming weather and budding trees. Perhaps it's because they are often the only cookie on the Seder table that doesn't taste questionably like cardboard. Or, perhaps it's because I've never quite known what they are made of... and I've always been intrigued how a cookie that is seemingly made entirely of coconut could taste so strongly of marzipan. In the spirit of all things homemade, this year, I've decided to make my very own macaroons.And then I decided to play around with them & flavour them up. First, almond extract. Then, vanilla.

And then I found a jar of matcha.

Oh yes, I did. I made matcha macaroons. You can stop drooling now. Because they are incredibly easy. And fast. And you are going to make some too. Right now. Chag Semeach!









I've always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you'll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I'm a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they're doing. Though I wasn't paid to say that, I'd just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn't mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]

All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.

That's when I hit the vodka... 

Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate... yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee's naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, but this year, I quietly promised myself that I would learn as many new skills as I can. This vow came in an effort to better myself as a teacher and an artist... and may also have been slightly backed by my desire to add some pretty pictures to my portfolio. So far, I have explored watercolour painting (frustrating, yet so pretty when it's done right), charcoal drawing (tried once before, but the mess has always kept me away), metal embossing (time-consuming but relaxing), and most recently, knitting (just because it makes me feel so crafty). My artistic explorations have also extended into the culinary realm: until recently, I hadn't expanded my baking repertoire further than simple cakes, cookies and muffins, always sticking to traditional, simple recipes. I've decided that it's time to change that. I've decided that I am going to eventually learn to bake all of the basics as described Michel Roux's "Pastry: Savory & Sweet"

I am not doing this Julie & Juila style, though the book may have inspired me somewhat, but I am doing this because of my friend Lisa, who has recently commenced pastry school, of which I am quite envious. I've therefore decided that Michel Roux will be my teacher, and "Pastry" will be my textbook. I will be assessed by my partner, who has no qualms telling me if something is dog-gone awful - though, let's be honest, it rarely is -  and will be evaluated by my brother, who is perhaps the world's pickiest eater. I will share my explorations with you, dear readers (hi mom!), and perhaps you'll get to learn a thing or two along the way!

I have started with the most basic pastry, and, according to Roux, a sturdy one - Tart Dough, or Pate Foncee in France. I filled it with a homemade custard - a massive, chunky flop the first time around - and a delicious wild blueberry filling with a hint of cranberry (definitely a keeper.) So, without further adieu... I present to you a delectable, buttery, custard and blueberry tart. Savourez!
Springtime: It's almost here. The weather is warming, the trees are budding and the sweet aroma of cow-dung fills the air. Ah yes, there is something about cow dung (or perhaps it is melting doggy doo) that triggers something nostalgic in my brain.

I love spring! I love the colours, the warmth and the fashion. Most of all, I love spring because it means that summer is just around the corner! And summer means that my garden will be in bloom. I love being able to go into the backyard and pick a myriad of vegetables to fill up my salad bowl. I love the endless vine-ripened tomatoes, the fresh chives, the large zucchinis and the abundance of mint leaves. The only downside to gardening in the North is the limit to the kinds of fruit that can be grown. Oh, how I long to have a citrus tree. Alas, until I live my dream life in a warmer climate, I'll have to settle for the lemons at the supermarket.

Incredible things, lemons are. Their smell triggers memories of being a small child and watching my mother dust the living room table. Yet, I still want to eat them. And how! I love to squeeze a little lemon into my iced tea (a summer favorite), over a nice piece of grilled salmon (another summer love), or into a light dressing (to pour over my garden vegetables). But, give me lemons, and I will make cake.  Actually, give me a new mini bundt pan, and I'll jump around until I can make many little cakes! I have a soft spot for exciting new kitchen gadgets. And pans. And spatulas. I love spatulas. Enough daydreaming, let us bake cake!
However you pronounce it, Quinoa is one little superfood that packs a nutritious punch.

If you're a foodie, you're probably familiar with the grain-like substance, often served warm in place of rice, or tossed into a chilled side salad. A little bit fluffier than couscous and slightly larger than millet, quinoa is surprisingly not considered a grain. Quinoa is in the spinach family, which might explain it's nutritional power: quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains all ten essential amino acids - and, it is the only known plant source that does so. This makes it an excellent choice for those of us who follow a meatless diet. Quinoa is gluten-free, low in calories and is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate, zinc and dietary fibre.

Quinoa can be found in most supermarkets either in the organic/health food section or alongside the grains and rice (usually next to the couscous.) If you're not in a prime grocery location, you can always buy quinoa online. 

What I like most about quinoa is the pseudograin's versatility: quinoa has a rather neutral flavor on it's own, which offers up the opportuntiy to toss it with whatever your tastebuds are craving, or whatever you have lying around in your fridge! You can serve it sweetned topped with cinnamon and raisins (think rice pudding), spiced up with chili or curry, robust with pesto, or refreshing and light with lemon, rosemary and dill. I made a slightly creamy version using some leftover sour cream and goat cheese and I added some extra colour and crunch with steamed broccoli and chopped fresh basil. So, what are you waiting for? Get it onto your plate today!

Could it be? The words cake and healthy in the same sentence? While I'm usually quite indulgent when it comes to desserts (nothing beats the consistency created by creaming fresh butter and sugar), and I am often the first to dismiss "low-fat" recipes (never a fan of the spongey texture), this is one nutrition-packed loaf that'll have you going back for seconds! Possibly one of the most flavorful cakes that I have ever baked, this sweet delight was a pleasure for the senses. Moist to the touch, with a sweet aroma that'll warm up your winter blues... you must be wondering what this magical creation is made from. Well, the secret doesn't lie in artificial sugar, nor does it involve butter substitutes. The secret is an ingredient that many of you may have laying in your pantries just itching to be used up: good old fashioned cream of wheat. When you mix this unusual ingredient with some yogurt, you get a fluffy cake that is low in calories, low in fat, high in calcium and multivitamin-enriched. Glaze it in a honey syrup and you've just added some sweet antioxidants. Sprinkle on some almonds and you'll boost your protein intake and you'll benefit from some heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Finish it all off with a touch of almond extract and a sprinkle of sweetened flaked coconut and your tastebuds will love you forever. But enough talk... let us eat cake and feel good about it too!

I've had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don't see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce - caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert - a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a "heavy bottom" saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina's life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.

Although I'm mid-rushing-around-getting-ready to go out, I just HAD to come on here and tell the world about my fabulous concoction. Want a nutritional powerhouse breakfast that you can whip up in under a minute, no fancy tools required? Or how about an afternoon snack that'll kick plain old yogurt to the curb? Well, here it is, readers of the interweb!

Apple Cinnamon Yogurt

1 cup plain yogurt (I prefer the unsweetened kind)
1 tbsp honey (or more to taste)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 apple, sliced

Just mix it all up and enjoy!











I have a serious disability: I am completely unable to go into a grocery store and buy only one item. Even if I only go there with the intention of buying one thing - I won't take a cart, and won't even grab a basket... I just can't help myself! The bright fresh produce, the meal ideas racing though my mind as I stroll down the aisles... It's all too good. Tonight, it started with flour. I needed flour. Simple. Quick. Flour. I know what aisle it's in. I could have gone straight there. But it was all over when I saw the strategically placed peaches. On sale. I could use some fruit! You know, I should probably look at what else is on sale, just out of curiosity... what's this big red flashy sign? 99 cents a pound for butternut squash? Well, I have always wanted to try it. But what would I do with it? I'd figure that out later.

And then, I had a gourd epiphany.

Butternut squash cake. Don't wince. Don't cringe. Don't question. Just try it. Love it. And never doubt me.