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Alice Munro’s “Dance of the Happy Shades”

13 Mar

I hosted Book/Food Club at my home on February 25 to talk about Leslie’s book choice: Alice Munro’s first published collection of short stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, published in 1968. It won the Governor General’s Award, and we could see why.

Although the title of the book has the word “happy” in it, and although the stories are beautifully written, happy they are not. The food that she describes in the stories tended toward the plain and dismal, so I remained true to the food references but I engaged in interpretation to honour her beautiful writing.


In some of her stories, the mention of food was straightforward: pickles, cheeses, rolls, apricots, raspberries, pears, grapes, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers.


However, I fancied up the “cabbage & carrot salad with raisins” that was in the story Postcard. I went to one of my favourite sources, Alive magazine. The February 2016 issue had an intriguing Kohlrabi Slaw. I see kohlrabi in stores, I have painted kohlrabi at a farmer’s market, but I have never eaten kohlrabi. Until now. It is good.

veggies in Annapolis Valley, NS Sept 2015

Watercolour sketch of kohlrabi and tomatoes by Marlena Wyman

Here is the recipe:


Page 105, Alive magazine, Issue 400, February 2016

I also chose an interpretation of the salmon loaf that was mentioned in the story Postcard, and I combined it with the potato salad from the story Sunday Afternoon. My ever-dependable Jamie Oliver provided me with that inspiration from his Jamie at Home cookbook.


The full table for Dance of the Happy Shades. Potato Salad with Smoked Salmon is lower centre.

Here is Jamie’s superb recipe. I couldn’t find crème fraîche so I substituted sour cream, but I did find fresh horseradish root at the Italian Centre Shop.


Page 186, Jamie at Home cookbook by Janie Oliver

The Walker Brothers Cowboy story mentions lemon, orange & raspberry concentrate for making refreshing drinks. I settled on Okanagan Sparkling Ripe Raspberry juice and Gerolsteiner carbonated mineral water. The wine was a new organic wine that I had not tried before: Villa Theresa’s Merlot from Italy.

I also could not resist including gorgeous Clementines from the Italian Centre Shop. They carry such beautiful food at that market.


Because this Book/Food Club fell between my and Pat’s birthdays, Leslie kindly offered to bake us a birthday cake. Fortunately, two of the stories featured birthday cakes. Leslie recreated the pink on white” birthday cake with strawberry ice cream from the Day of the Butterfly story.

Since Neapolitan ice cream had also been mentioned in one of the stories, and as one of the birthday girls, I felt entitled to express my loathing of that particular type of ice cream, especially the sickly-sweet fake flavour of the strawberry layer. I found a food blogger’s post about Neapolitan ice cream that contains too many expletives to repeat, but he calls it “I hate my friends” ice cream.  Don’t get me wrong, I love real strawberry ice cream made with real strawberries and with chunks of real strawberries in it. It’s just that fake berry flavour is one of the worst. However, Leslie came through, and how!


Pink and white birthday cake (with candle holes)

I think I terrified Leslie sufficiently, because her splendid scratch-baked strawberry cake was made with real strawberries, iced with cream cheese icing containing real strawberries, and served with Sicilian brand strawberry ice cream made with – yes – real strawberries! Thank you Leslie.


We enjoyed birthday cake in front of a warming fire provided by our new wood stove (the mighty Osburn 900).

Happy Book/Food Club we.

Posted by Marlena Wyman aka Truly Scrumptious



Bouillabaisse at Bauline East, Newfoundland

28 Aug

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East Coast Cottages & Cabins, Bauline East, Newfoundland (this link gives info and more photos)

(Note:  I apologize for the quality of some of the photos in this post. While I was photographing a Jigg’s Dinner that we ate earlier on our trip, in my excitement I dropped my camera into the gravy on my plate. It hasn’t been quite the same since – a good cleaning is in order!)

We have stayed in the rustic, charming and cozy East Coast Cottages & Cabins a couple of times this trip. The first time we stayed with some of our visiting family and shared The Barn and The Bunky. The orange cottage is also available, and if you really want to rough it, you can stay in the tipi.

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The Barn


The Barn is a studio layout, with bed, living, dining and kitchen in one room.



The Bunky


Inside the Bunky

For our second visit, The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company and I stayed in The Barn. Our kind and congenial hosts, George & Chabela and their son Lukas, did all they could to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable.

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We were treated to homemade muffins and jam in the mornings. The Barn has a kitchen where we can make our own meals, but when I noticed the brochure titled “Chabela’s Cuisine”, I wanted to make sure we booked at least one supper with our hosts, who live in the yellow house on the property.

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Chabela at work in her kitchen

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I couldn’t help noticing George’s collection on a shelf at the end of the kitchen. Those who know me are familiar with my attraction to cabinets of curiosity. (such as the one I created with my friend Chris Westbury)

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I also couldn’t help noticing the lovely chanterelle mushrooms that out hosts had gathered that day. Sadly, Chabela did not have time to include them in our meal, but you can’t have it all!


However, I was not disappointed by the meal she had in store for us. A beautiful bouillabaisse of fresh locally-caught cod and scallops in a tomato broth with onions, garlic, fennel bulb, fennel seed, and orange juice & zest, topped with chopped fresh parsley. The fennel and orange zest added a lovely surprising mid note to this hearty soup. A toasted slice of Chabela’s homemade whole wheat bread was immersed in the broth, the toothsome crust adding texture.  We were offered seconds and we accepted without hesitation.

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A gorgeous salad followed: local spinach, beets, red onions, herbed goat cheese, and caramelized pecans with an olive oil balsamic vinegar dressing. Chabela makes the caramelized pecans and keeps a supply on hand if she is able to successfully hide them from her family.

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An animated conversation with Lucas and The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company

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George keeping the wine and water flowing

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Dessert, served with ice cream and rhubarb compote, was a selection of homemade brownies, peanut-butter-chocolate cookies, and lemon curd squares. I selected some of each, thank you very much.

We finished the evening with fennel tea and further interesting, enthusiastic conversation. Thanks to our hosts!

Bauline East is a little gem of a community – remote enough to offer quiet reflection but close to sights and attractions and right on the East Coast Trail. The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company went on some leg-muscle-burning hikes while I sketched the harbour. This is now on our list of top favourite places that we have stayed!


Sketch of Bauline East Harbour by Marlena Wyman


Posted by Truly Scrumptious


Book/Food Club: Theresa Shea’s “The Unfinished Child”

26 Apr

Book/Food Club read Edmonton author Theresa Shea’s “The Unfinished Child”, for our get-together that I hosted at my house on April 16th.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

Shea sets the story in our home town of Edmonton, Alberta, and we recognized the places and restaurants that she mentions. I put together a table full of tastes from the book, supplied by Edmonton markets, and prepared in my Edmonton kitchen.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

The author mentions that Marie made a special tuna salad for her friend Elizabeth’s visit, so I made a Canned Tuna “Ceviche” from an on-line recipe that I found at the Skinny Taste website. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, since canned tuna can be rather undistinguished, but it was very nice, especially with the freshness that the lime and cilantro provided. This would be lovely to eat on the deck in the summer.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

Marie also made grilled cheese sandwiches for her children, so I created a gourmet grown-up version using camembert, pear slices and fresh basil leaves on sour dough rye. The bread was from my local and favourite bakery Buns and Rose, who make all kinds of fantastic breads and baked goods. They are just a block from my house which could be interpreted as either good or bad.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

The author had Marie eating saltines when she suffered from morning sickness. I fancied them up a bit with some locally made jams.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

Dessert was fashioned after Elizabeth’s hosting of an afternoon tea for Marie: banana bread and lemon tarts with cheeses and fruit. I also baked walnut chocolate chip cookies that were baked for Elizabeth by Marie’s children.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

I decorated the table with a vase of roses. When Margaret went to visit her Down Syndrome daughter Carolyn at the Poplar Grove institution, she always brought her a rose.


Photo by Marlena Wyman

I will leave you with this gorgeous painting by Down Syndrome artist Michael Wasserman.

Michael Wasserman

Painting by Michael Wasserman

Now everyone, go read a book and eat something!

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Bryce’s Jellied Salad

17 Mar

This is the second recipe that our nephew Bryce made during his stay at our place. When we found out that Bryce had never had a jellied salad, we had to remedy that right away. Jellied  salads are a part of prairie potluck heritage, boy! He was also pretty stoked about making one after I showed him my book The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks. Jellied salads certainly have their place among some of the most regrettable foods.

jellied salad

We thought we would try for something slightly less horrifying than this. Although I think we might go for a horrifying one around Hallowe’en.


I have a lovely copper fish mold, so that was our starting point. Bryce sliced and diced some healthy carrots and apples. Note the pineapple in the background – apparently that is one of the fruits that doesn’t work so well in a jellied salad. It won’t let the jello set.


Then he arranged the carrot and apple slices in an artful fish-scale pattern. A dried cranberry served as a fish-eye.


We used regular unhealthy orange “flavoured” jello, and added some San Pellegrino Limonata instead of cold water. Fancy.

Now, this is the tricky part. Bryce poured in just enough jello to barely cover the carrots and apples, so they wouldn’t float to the top and ruin his carefully planned design. Then the mold went into the fridge for about 45 minutes until it set. Leave the rest of the jello on the counter for now. Don’t worry – it’s not like it’s going to go bad.


The rest of the jello can be added after the first layer is set and then the whole thing is chilled in the fridge for about 4 hours or until completely firm.


To help release the mold, run a knife around the edges and put the mold into warm water for a few seconds. Not too long or it will start melting.

Voila – beauty jello mold, Bryce.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious for Baker Bryce.

Giving Thanks to Gertie: Part II

27 Oct

1  the Thanksgiving gang

The Edmonton branch of our Thanksgiving family: Brother-The-Younger, The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company, Fourth-Niece, and Second-Nephew. Yours Truly behind the camera.

As posted in Giving Thanks to Gertie: Part I, we enjoyed a varied and thankful Thanksgiving. Our family celebrated Thanksgiving in various spots around Alberta, B.C. and New York. The Edmonton Branch of the Truly Scrumptious family came to our house for Second Thanksgiving. First Thanksgiving (with a turkey) was enjoyed with the Edmonton Branch of The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company’s family.  Much to be thankful for.

2 feast

A portion of our feast featuring our Heritage Chicken Pot Pie and some of our historic collection of hand-painted Medalta Hycroft “Calico” dishes, from the factory in Medicine Hat Alberta

The Feast consisted of the following (All local and organic where possible. Exceptions were made – we do our best):

Heritage Chicken Pot Pie made by the Local Omnivore

Ham with cranberry glaze. If you boil the ham for half the cooking time, changing the water twice, and then roast it for the remaining time, it will be very moist. I spread a homemade cranberry relish on top for the last ½ hr of cooking and served more of the cranberry relish at the table.

Mashed skin-on potatoes with butter & cream (The-Man-With-Whom-I-Keep-Company did a Vitamix mash on these)

Roasted sweet potatoes, carrots (from my garden), onions and garlic with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger root (wash and cut up veggies – drizzle with olive oil – add spices and give it a shake – roast for about 1 hr at 375 or until veggies can be pierced with a fork – turn veggies half way through)

Roasted beets (from my garden) with rosemary (wash, leave on skin, root end and 1 inch of stems – drizzle with olive oil and add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, salt & pepper – same roasting instructions as above). To serve the beets, I like to leave on the skins, roots and stems. They look sort of alien, and they taste good too.

Spinach, tomato and avocado salad with balsamic olive oil dressing

One-pot bread (Jacques Pepin’s recipe – at 02:05

Just Add Wine: Road 13 Honest John’s Red 2011 from the Okanagan Valley was a nice accompaniment brought to the table by Brother-The-Younger

3 my plate

My fully loaded plate

Brother-The -Younger also provided dessert:

Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin-Mince-Meat Pie with whipped cream. Pumpkin-Mince-Meat Pie is a Mom specialty. Brother-The-Younger described his pie preparation: “I carefully surveyed the supermarket aisles for the finest in canned pumpkin pie filling, mince-meat and frozen pie crusts”. Nonetheless, he did construct them and bake them at home and they were fab.

4 Zoe & the pumpkin pie

Fourth-Neice wasting no time serving the pumpkin pie

Since we had both a savoury pie and a sweet pie at dinner, while we were eating we talked about having a Pie Dinner some time just because there are so many types and definitions of pies:

Savory: pot pies, meat pies, Tourtiere, Stargazy pie, Cornish Pasties, Empanadas, Shepherd’s pie, Quiche, Pizza pies, Calzone

Sweet: fruit pies, custard pies, Moon Pies, Whoopee Pies, the politically incorrect Eskimo pies, hand pies, Boston Cream Pies…never mind – just go to Wikipedia’s List of Pies.

5 Thanksgiving tradition - Zoe & Bryce

Fourth-Niece assisting her brother in the  Aerosol Whipped Cream Thanksgiving Tradition

In this time-honoured tradition that began at Brother-The-Younger’s house, after everyone has dispensed aerosol (real 20% M.F) whipped cream onto their pies, Fourth-Niece and Second-Nephew dispense it directly into their mouths. Respect the whipped cream – nozzle must not make contact with mouth.

7 Thanksgiving tradition - Bryce

Second-Nephew post-tradition 

We are thankful for a Thanksgiving that was both fun and exceptional in so many ways.

8 Thanksgiving sketch

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Food and Friendship

5 Feb

Food and Friendship
I love this kitchen

I once again have to admit something about myself – I am truly The Erratic Cook! I seem to need to be in my messed up little kitchen to pull off some of my culinary masterpieces. Put me in other kitchens even those that are so much bigger and nicer than mine and I am off my game. Although I would absolutely love to have a perfect gourmet kitchen of my own, I realize that it would still be messed up and erratic. This confession brings me to this blog.

My Music Man and I were invited to spend a weekend with our friends Sharon and Greg in their beautiful home. We were pampered with extreme hospitality! What a treat! We have been planning this since summer and finally got together. I had promised them a dinner that the T & A Team would prepare in their awesomely beautiful kitchen and of course blog about it. We enjoyed a weekend of good food, good drink, good conversation, and good music, with these good friends. They treated us so well we considered not leaving.

Our hosts

Did I say beautiful? I mean extraordinary home. So nicely designed and the kitchen OMG!!! I have mentioned previously how tiny my kitchen is so imagine my excitement when I knew I could come and cook in this huge and organized gourmet kitchen. I felt a little overwhelmed by the beauty of it, and kinda forgot what I was doing at times, or it might have been the wine…but I could seriously get used to it, in fact I think I could cook better once I got used to all that space and the awesome appliances. Two ovens can you imagine! OMG what a treat!!

Me and my Music Man rockin the kitchen

Anyway, I could go on and on but I will give you the menu – no recipe this time just the menu of the dinner we prepared:
Salad of Roasted Beets on Arugula with almonds and goat cheese.


Main course – A Variation of Surf and Turf;
BBQ’d locally raised organic grassfed beef – New York Strip topped with Blue Cheese Butter and/or Sprinkled with Steak Spice.
Baked Steelhead trout seasoned with Turkish Baharat and lemon zest
Turf and surf

Side of Roasted baby potatoes seasoned with Herbes de Provence

Calabrese bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping

We didn’t have room for dessert but it would have been chocolates and blood orange slices.

So, I experimented a bit and strayed from what I usually do with this meal. Some changes – good, some just ok. You gotta experiment right? My friends were receptive guinea pigs.

1. Lesson learned – Only buy the baby arugula, I couldn’t find the organic wild baby arugula I usually get and the salad just wasn’t the same, and I forgot to throw in the orange bits – makes it juicier. (I will blog this recipe another time)

2. This was the first time I used the Turkish Baharat on the fish, it has a lovely flavor, I just didn’t sprinkle enough on.
Turkish Baharat Ingredients: black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, mint, rose petals, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom.

3. BBQing in the winter is a challenge anyway and BBQing grassfed beef presents even a bit more of a challenge as it generally cooks 30% quicker. I enjoy my steak medium rare so I usually undercook it afraid of ruining it, then end up putting it back on! However, Greg has a handy little gadget that sends the temperature and doneness of the beef to your phone! Isn’t technology great! I gotta get one of those!


4. Note to self: Never forget to use garlic! Garlic is one of my always go to items, and I forgot it… oops.

Blame it on too much wine or too much sparkling conversation, whatever, we all enjoyed the meal, it was tasty, but next time I really need to cut loose in that beautiful kitchen and bring my erratic cook out and wow them with a bigger and better masterpiece! If they will let me… Thank you so much Sharon and Greg for such a wonderful time. When an opportunity to spend time with good friends comes along you gotta take the time and enjoy! Our lives get crazy busy, but enjoying a weekend like this is what it’s all about.
Sharon and Greg

The wine:
We enjoyed these two reds

The wine

Township 7 Merlot/ Cabernet Savignon

Music choices:
My choice – usually I chose a food related song this time it is a friend related song
I like The Gipsy Kings version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me

My Music Man’s choice
Hot Tuna – Keep on Truckin

So until next time
The Erratic Cook

Spring Greens with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

23 Jul

It’s probably about time I do a write-up about the first recipe that graced our blog.

This is my go-to-salad. My co-worker/friend, Maria, introduced me to this salad years ago. Her husband, Rob (he was her boyfriend at the time) and her, so kindly invited me over for dinner one late evening as I was leaving university. They made this salad along with lasagna, which happens to be some of the best lasagna. It’s a recipe that Rob’s Mom makes. Wish I was privy to the recipe. At least I am privy to this salad recipe, but I guess it’s not privy anymore if I’m sharing it with the world. This salad is to die for! Such flavour in the dressing and the contents of the salad are very well paired.

I often make this salad when I have people over and they all salivate over it. Trust me, it will be your go-to-salad too!


Yields: 8 servings Time:   15 minutes

12 cups spring greens
1/2 cup goat cheese (or feta)
3/4 cup pecans or sliced almonds
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup Craisins (optional)

1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

To prepare salad, place spring greens in large salad bowl and place goat cheese, pecans, strawberries, and Craisins (optional) on top.

To prepare the vinaigrette (best prepared the day before), mix together all ingredients except olive oil until well blended. Add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixed. Serve dressing on the side.

Source:            Whitewater Cookbook
Restaurant:     Fresh Tracks Café, Whitewater Ski Resort, Nelson, BC

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