Comfort muffins, the best almond butter, smoked salmon and lamb with a twist

I thought I would share a handful of my latest recipes for Pete’s Fine Foods.

First, there are these peanut butter and jelly muffins, made even more exquisite with the addition of all-natural peanut butter and rose-scented raspberry jam

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins |

Then, there’s this salted mocha almond butter, which essentially evaporated as soon as I pressed “off” on the food processor.  It was that good.

Salted Mocha Almond Butter |

I was challenged to make dishes that included smoked salmon and lamb, which I’m going to admit are not my favourites.  I took it upon myself to make each in a way that sounded totally irresistible.  I made these amazing open-face smoked salmon sandwiches with a huge pile of quick-pickled vegetables.  

Open-face Smoked Salmon Sandwich |

And then there were these lamb. halloumi and fennel skewers with a honey mint glaze.  The flavours in this dish were so beautifully balanced – earthy lamb, salty cheese, slightly spicy and aromatic fennel, the high notes of peppermint, and the sweetness of honey.  Perfect.

Lamb Skewers |


Byron Bay Breakfast Sandwich

On the days when my world focuses on getting my little girl’s winter jacket and boots on in time to make it to daycare, or on keeping her occupied with a chair pulled up to the kitchen counter and a pile of flour or salt to dig her hands into while I make dinner, it’s hard to imagine that ten years ago or so, my days were about taking people scuba diving in exchange for room and board in a gorgeous little hippie town in Australia.

Byron Bay Breakfast Sandwich |

My days started at 4a.m.  I would sleep with my running clothes tucked next to me in my bottom bunk in the room I shared with the other divemasters.  That way, they would be warm and close at hand as I wriggled into them.  I would slip out into the warm, dewy morning, and glance across the tops of the palm trees level with my second-floor balcony overlooking the dive shop pool, equipment room and driveway.  Quickly down the stairs and out the heavy back gate, I would start to run, finding my pace as I wound up the steep road towards the lighthouse.  I would always stop for a few minutes when I reached the top of the hill; the vantage point was the best in town from up there, and it wasn’t unusual to see humpback whales breaching in the waves below, just asea from the floating raft of surfers catching rides on the point break.

I always spread my arms wide as I ran somewhat haphazardly down the hill; because I could, and because it felt good.

I would shower quickly upon my return, curling my waist-length hair up into a bun and treading to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.  It was at this time in my life that I started drinking tea, milky and sweet, savoured every morning while doing a crossword puzzle.

I was always the first one to arrive downstairs, before it became the hub of action that equipped and shipped out divers for the 6a.m., 9 a.m. and 12p.m. boats.  I would check over the red-and-aluminum rigid hulled inflatable pontoon boats, testing the two huge motors and making sure there was enough fuel.  I would grab my dive gear and hoist it up over my head and into the boat, tucking it away near the bow, where I would later sit, watching over the nervous divers clinging to the gunnel ropes as we roared up over the surf break.

Byron Bay Breakfast Sandwich |

Getting everyone kitted out and the dive boat loaded was always a feat of logistics, as was keeping them safe once we arrived at the beach and launched the boat into the waves.  My knuckles were always raw and deeply scarred, as it was my job to hold the boat steady, clasping the ropes that circled the outer edge of the dinghy as the hull rose and smacked down in heavy surf before using all my energy to jump into the boat that was, at this point, floating head-height in the water.

The divers were often a little shell-shocked as the skipper accelerated over the incoming break; a good amount of horsepower and often a bit of air time was needed to safely clear the surfer-strewn waves before we were on our way to the little island just offshore, where we would be anchoring and jumping in.

My stories of my dives there – of surfacing amongst humpback whales, sharing a tiny cave with a grey nurse shark, of swimming with sea turtles the size of a dinner table – those are stories for another time.  It goes without saying that every day I spent leading dives around that reef was a new adventure.  It was good, hard, physical, exciting, demanding, rewarding work, and I loved it.  Obviously, for the months I spent there are still etched in my memory as some of the best of my life.

When we returned later on in the morning, I would do my best to streamline the unloading and reloading of the boat so that I would have time to pop over to the little cafe across the street to grab breakfast sandwiches and lattes for myself and the rest of the crew, some of whom were returning from the ocean, wet and salt-speckled, and some of whom were just waking and padding down the stairs to the dive shop with  sun-bleached bed-messy hair.  

Byron Bay Breakfast Sandwich |

They were the best breakfast sandwiches I’d ever had, with a thick slice of back bacon, an ever-so-slightly-runny egg, a slice of cheese, and a smear each of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce on a crusty ciabatta bun.  The need for one of these sandwiches was usually quite great after a night spent at the local pub listening to the same guy play the same cover tunes on his guitar, drinking rum and cokes and dancing amongst other tanned, board short-and-tank-top-clad bodies.  Here I learned a particularly sage bit of wisdom:  there is no cure for a hangover like a saltwater swim and a greasy breakfast sandwich.  

I think of this time in my life often.  Not to be counted one ounce less valuable or exciting than the adventures that fill my life now, I am so thankful to have these memories to look back on.  I hope maybe my daughter thinks I’m kinda cool when she’s old enough to hear the stories of my travels, and more so that she has wicked adventures to relive in her memories one day too.

To make the sandwich:

Fry up a few slabs of good-quality bacon and an egg or two, over easy, until the yolk is still soft when poked, but not jiggly.  Slice open a fresh, crusty baguette or ciabatta bun, and spread with mayonnaise and some homemade barbecue sauce (recipe to come later in the week).  Throw on a slice of cheese, the bacon and egg, and press together the sandwiching slices of bread.  Wrap in foil for the most authentic takeaway breakfast sandwich experience.  Eat while sipping a latte and feeling the salt water drying on your skin.


All-time Favourite Harvest Recipe #3: Triple Decker Sandwiches

I think the fact that my favourite recipes all harken back to my childhood and adolescence is no coincidence:  my folks are both soil scientists and, as you can imagine, avid gardeners.  The garden of my childhood home spans three properties in our tiny Manitoba town, and in addition to dozens of beds of beautiful flowers, mature fruit trees, a pond, a small but deceptively abundant raspberry patch, corn plants that positively tower over my 6″3′ husband, there is a healthy amount of yard-space dedicated  to the cultivation of fresh lettuces, spinach, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and more. 

Triple Decker Sandwiches |

It was always this way, and this time of year at our house always meant that there would be mounds of fresh garden produce piled on the kitchen counter awaiting inclusion into our favourite recipes.  It’s the same now that I have a home of my own:  though my garden is small in comparison, the nurturing of plants is a given, and every year my yard is resplendent with life – despite having been assigned to tasks like counting seeds as a child and promising all who would listen that any garden of my adulthood would be inanimate.

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Haskap Bacon Sandwiches…and a guest blog for Taste of Nova Scotia

Check out my latest blog for Taste of Nova Scotia!  I traveled to LaHave Natural Farms in rural Nova Scotia to visit the one of the province’s first haskap berry farms.  This little berry is making waves around the world – it’s most certainly going to be the next “superfood.”

I took this superfood and paired it with another superfood….bacon!  I caramelized bacon in haskap juice and served it on thick slices of fresh local bread with haskap quark and greens.  

You can get the recipe here!

Haskap Bacon Sandwiches |

Meatball Subs with Almond Basil Pesto

This time last year, my daughter, who was six months old or so, loved to be snuggled to sleep.  Well, she still does, but a year ago she really did.  I would lay her across my lap on her blue and green fish-printed nursing pillow and nurse her until her eyes closed and she relaxed into the fluttery, light sleep of babies.

I learned the hard way, many, many times that ever-so-carefully transferring her to her co-sleeper at this point would inevitably wake her up, and necessitate that I start the entire process over again.

Meatball Subs |

So I would wait the half hour, or hour, or two hours until she finally seemed to have entered a deep sleep before sliding her onto the bed beside me.

Every night last summer, I put on my pyjamas at 8p.m. or so and snuggled my girl to sleep while scrolling through Pinterest on my iPad or writing down recipe ideas.  The sun still shone through the bedroom window and I could hear kids playing outside, and imagined a day when I’d be able to sneak back downstairs and have a glass of wine on the front porch with my hubby.

I’m not sure what was so alluring about that glass of wine on the porch, but some nights, despite the love and awe I felt for the little blonde baby on my lap, my desire to be not there, doing something that reminded me of the days before motherhood, was so strong it brought tears to my eyes.

Meatball subs |

A wise woman (also my doula) told me that it takes two to three years to transition to parenthood.  So even though sometimes my longing for the days before was so strong it ached, I knew that I was okay, that this was a part of it.  I knew that there would come a day when I could have that glass of wine.  Or watch multiple episodes of Girls while eating peanut butter cookies.  Or what have you.

Readers, those days are here at last.  A summer full of late-night porch-sitting to the sound of peepers and the “shhhhh” of the baby monitor stretch in front of me.  Time to put my feet up on my hubby’s lap and have a conversation.

Meatball subs |

I am inspired by another food blogger that I have recently started following – Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.  I await her posts with baited breath, and I aspire to create such beautiful food, to write such compelling and relatable prose.  Most weeks, she writes “dates with my husband,” a description of the one evening a week that she and her partner protect to share a beautiful meal, their thoughts, and their dreams (and sometimes episodes of their favourite television show).  She recently signed a book deal for a cookbook themed around these dates – I cannot wait until I can buy it.   One of my favourite date night recipes she has shared was for these meatball subs, and I couldn’t resist making them.

Meatball subs |

These sandwiches were pungently garlicky, and the nutty basil pesto played off the tomato sauce – a match made in heaven.  They would be perfect, peeled of their aluminum foil wrappers and paired with a glass of wine on the porch some warm summer night while the baby’s asleep.

Meatball subs |

Here’s what you need AND what you do:

for the pesto –

  • 2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup arugula (I didn’t have any so I used spinach…still tasty!)
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste.  Stir in the mayo, and season to taste.

For the meatballs –

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced finely
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Saute the onions in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil until they’re soft.  Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your hands or a spoon to work them together.  Place the second tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  As the pan heats, begin to form meatballs (about 2″ in diameter) and sear them until just browned in the oil.  Once seared, set the meatballs aside.

for the tomato sauce –

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar

Use some of the pan juices from the meatballs to saute the garlic until soft.  Add the tomatoes and then add the meatballs back in.  Allow them to simmer over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes.

for the sandwiches –

  • Melty cheese of your choice – I used goat cheddar
  • Sub buns

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Cut a sub bun in half and load in your meatballs and big dollops of the pesto and top with cheese.  Wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Meatball subs |


Recipe slightly adapted from Not Without Salt.