Packing For A No-Cook Picnic


Some people’s weekend plans involve trips to Italy. Mine do not. No matter. I’ll still be dining al fresco.

I’m planning a weekend picnic with the boy. On the menu — a no-cook selection of goodies like cheese, fruit, cured meats, a baguette and, of course, a nice bottle of wine. The idea comes from this book on picnics, which my lovely friend Melissa gave me before I got married.

Author Sara Deseran has some delicious pairing suggestions for cheese (I’ll highlight my favourites below). I’m heading to the Italian store this afternoon to pick up a few combos. What do you think? Any additions?

  • Parmesan or Manchego cheese with apricot jam or figs.
  • Blue cheese like Gorgonzola with sliced apples or red grapes
  • Mild, soft-ripened cheese like Teleme with cherries
  • Tangy goat’s milk cheese with fresh figs, honey and walnut bread
  • Roquefort with toasted walnuts and ripe pears
  • English-style Cheddar with chutney and pickled onions or pickles
  • Shaved pecorino with fresh shelled fava beans

There you go — some delicious outdoor eats, no flight required.


Photo via here




The new National on 10th

We like beer. We like good food. And we like rooms with good vibes. This is why Chris and I have been regulars at National on 17th — and will quickly become regulars at the new National on 10th, which just opened its doors. Last week, we were invited to join our Calgary media friends for an opening celebration that involved snacks such as corn dogs and fried pickles, not to mention beverages like pinot grigio and the infamous Hound Dog Hooch, made with wheat beer, lemonade and vodka. I obviously set aside my non-drinking ways for the evening. Bonus points for Stephen, Calgary’s top dog bartender, who handed me a Hound Dog Hooch made with gin instead of vodka. He knows the way to my heart.

The new National, which resides in the former Whiskey, is beautiful. We loved the high ceilings, strings of warm light, wooden barrels, secluded booths and long tables for making friends. What we liked even more? The ping pong tables and the soon-to-be-opened bourbon room — a sexy room with vintage nudes on the wall. And I can’t wait for the lower-level, 10-pin bowling alley to open. I may have been in a bowling league in elementary school. So cool. I know.

National on 10th

National's kitchen

Ping pong at National

Congratulations on the great new space, National friends.



Kale and Baked Tofu Salad

There are good weekends and there are bad. This last one definitely fell into the latter. So, I’m going to keep this short and focus on one of the highlights of the last few days — this Kale and Baked Tofu Salad. It’s full of bright colours and peppy flavors. And my avowed tofu-hater of a husband even called out from the couch to say that, “dinner smells fantastic!” Then again, he thought I said that I was making bacon, not baked tofu.


Kale and Tofu Salad


The recipe is adopted from this one in Clean Eating. I had to make a few adjustments based on the contents of my fridge.

Here you go!


  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 14 oz firm pressed tofu, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup 100% orange juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp walnut oil
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • 1 small field-grown cucumbers, diced
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 475ºF. Mist a ceramic 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add tofu and set aside.
  2. In a blender, blend garlic, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, ginger and walnut oil until smooth. Remove ¼ cup mixture and pour over top of tofu. Toss to combine and spread evenly in dish. Bake, turning 3 to 4 times, until golden and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, add kale and pour remaining mixture over top. With your hands, massage kale to coat thoroughly until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cucumbers, avocado, carrots, scallions, bell pepper, cabbage and edamame and toss to combine. Add tofu and toss to combine. To serve, top with sesame seeds.

80th & Ivy Spring Menu

Sometimes a meal is so good that it deserves its own blog post. My dinner at 80th & Ivy last week is one such meal.

I’ve eaten at 80th & Ivy before and always enjoyed the food, but I wouldn’t say it blew my mind. Having been invited in last week to sample the restaurant’s new spring menu, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The dinner that we were treated to was nothing short of phenomenal. My friend (and previous roomie) Jen and I could not get enough. We devoured every bite of food — I think to our server’s surprise — and could not stop saying things like, “MMM! This short rib is so tender,” and “Whoa, this chocolate mousse is AMAZING with the orange and raspberry stuff,” and “I should stop eating now but I just can’t,” and “Damn. I should have worn stretchy pants.”

The dinner came in three parts. First, the tuna tartare with deep-fried wontons. Delicious.

Tuna Tartare at 80th & Ivy

Next, the beef short rib with gnocchi. When it arrived, I said to myself, “Only eat half of the dish. You will feel much better afterwards.” Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Beef short rib

Last, the chocolate-covered mousse with orange something-or-other on the inside and raspberry coulis on the outside. Here’s how it arrived at our table:

Chocolate Mousse -- The Before

And here it is after our attack. Disclosure time: we took a picture with some dessert left on the plate, basically to make ourselves seem less like animals, but then continued to eat it, post-picture.

Chocolate Mousse -- The After

The whole dinner was insanely good, from start to finish. Well done, 80th & Ivy.

Apres dinner and on a full-blown sugar high, we hit opening night of The God That Comes, Hawksley Workman’s new show at Alberta Theatre Projects. I’m a long-time Hawksley fan — Lover/Fighter is one of my top 5 albums of all time* — so I loved his one-man-show performance. Jen found the show a little too, uh, experimental, although she did agree it was entertaining. If you’re into Hawksley and want a fun night out, the show runs until April 7.


*I have not written an official Top 5 list, but I’m pretty sure Lover/Fighter would land a spot.



Power-Packed Chocolate Muffins

One of the greatest things about not drinking* (I’m now a month into it!) is that I’m up mega-early on weekends, as in 6:30 a.m. I’m like a little Energizer bunny, organizing my place, writing freelance stories, getting errands done and working out. Two weekends ago, my Sunday morning also included some baking; I tried Oxygen Magazine’s Power-Packed Chocolate Muffins for the first time. I love having healthy snacks around for before or after my morning workouts. With roughly 180 calories and 9 grams of protein each, I thought these muffins would be a good option.

Healthy chocolate protein muffins

Let’s not pretend: If you’re expecting a chocolate cupcake, you will be disappointed when you bite into one of these. They’re not very sweet, but the raisins give them a satisfying zing. I enjoyed eating them all week, so much so that I made another batch on Saturday morning. If you’re a carb-lover who wants a healthier muffin, give this recipe a shot.


*On Friday night at Cucina, my resolve broke when Tilly, the fantastic and lovely manager at Cucina, brought complimentary glasses of Blue Mountain wine to our table. I thought, “Why not have one glass, to celebrate the one month sans booze?” So that’s what I did, savouring every sip and getting back to my no-boozeness immediately after. I have just over two weeks to go until I head to NYC — when I’ll give myself the green light to drink again. Not drinking is feeling so good that, when I do start again, I suspect it will be rather limited.