ELBOW FALLS

Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow FallsElbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
Elbow Falls
I don't know about you guys, but I'd been thinking about Christmas since the end of September. By this point, I'm entirely over anything holiday related and am ready to get back to real life. Instead of boring you with photos of us opening gifts and eating dinner, here's some photos from the mountains.

CHRISTMAS BAKING

Black Pepper Truffles
Black Pepper Truffles
Black Pepper Truffles
Black pepper truffles
Salted Caramel Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Salted Caramel Almond Thumbprint CookiesSalted Caramel Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Salted Caramel Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Salted caramel almond thumbprint cookies
Eggnog FudgeGift Boxes
Eggnog fudge // Treats boxed up
Treat Boxes
Treat Boxes

My friends and I have been doing Christmas dinners for as long as I can remember. Over the last few years, I've taken the onus in hosting them at my home. As favours, I give out a box of home-baked treats. I've been scouring the web for months now to determine what I'd make this year. I'd say that this year is probably the best yet. At the very least, this years offerings featured the most unique and varied goodies. I won't lie… It takes a whole hell of a lot of work to put this together, but I love doing it. My guests seem to look forward to it each year, which is really what keeps me going.

Here's what I made this year:
Ginger molasses cookies
Cranberry & pink peppercorn shortbread cookies with dark chocolate ganache filling
Candy cane chocolate cookies
Salted caramel almond thumbprint cookies
Marbled cheesecake brownies
Lemon bars
Candied orange and ginger bark
Black pepper truffles
Eggnog fudge

Happiest holidays!

THE DECEMBER PLAYLIST

December - Hoar Frost

The December Playlist

Avocado, Baby - Los Campesinos!
A Song Is a Weapon - Stars
Three Headed Woman - Boy & Bear
Compliment Your Soul - Dan Croll
This Is Why We Fight - The Decemberists
Every Night - Josef Salvat
Don't You Want Me - Bahamas
Just Like Heaven - The Watson Twins
Beloved - Say Lou Lou
Bad Blood - Bastille
Boardwalks - Little May
Past In Present - Feist

Streaming available via Rdio.

WISH LIST


And you thought the Internet was saturated enough with holiday gift guides…

Admittedly, mine is a lot more boring than some of the others I've seen, and arguably more so than the one I posted last year. Amazingly enough, I've acquired six of the nine items items I posted, and ended up purchasing Bean Boots instead of SORELs (everyone owns SORELs). I tend to think of these lists/guides as more of "things I want but will never actually get," so last year is pretty impressive. I know, I know, not only is my list boring this year, but it's also totally chiming into the utter materialism that is the holidays. Yeah, whatever. I'd like to say that I won't ask for anything and the holidays will be all about spending time with friends and family this year, but in reality it's the opportune time for me to mooch off my parents. Yep, I said it. Unfortunately, my folks know that my brother and I take major advantage of them at this time of year (as evidenced by the Vario grinder and Vitamix I acquired last year…among other things), and have declared that this practice will not be occurring again this year. Ok, that's fine.

Really though, I do want this year to be more about spending time with friends and family. Christmas last year sucked so badly. We were dealing with my grandmothers illness, or, more like my brother and I were not dealing and my mother and the rest of her side of the family were damn messes. There was no Christmas dinner with the family. I cancelled my dinner with my friends for the first time in five years. The holidays were entirely about materialism and they were just not good. My plan is to take it easy this year. Work little, but not much. See my friends. See my family. Share meals, share laughs. Make memories. Yeah, there will be some gift giving, but it will mostly be about catching up.

To uh, get back to the list though… I've been trying to nail down a skincare regime for a couple of months now. My skin type has somehow managed to change on me (hormones, maybe?) and it's been a struggle to find the right products. When you do manage to find the right stuff though, man does it ever feel good. I look back at the copious amounts of makeup I used to wear everyday and I just can't imagine that these days. At some point since high school graduation (four years? Time flies!) I've conjured up the confidence to ditch the ten-pounds of eye makeup for every day wear, but a little shadow is the first thing that I'm bound to opt for when I get a little gussied up. Honestly, how laid back my style has become over the last few years shocks me. I really am a jeans and t-shirt girl, as suggested by this list. In addition to the goodies posted above, I'm yearning for some pullover sweaters, J Crew pyjamas and maybe a pair of leather riding boots.

Link back to your own wish lists in the comments! For some strange reason, I love to see what sort of shit people are after.

PUMPKIN SMOOTHIE

It was national pumpkin day a couple days ago, and while I missed posting the day of, Ive been trying out my fair share of pumpkin recipes as of late. Lunch is far from my favorite meal of the day. I'm never home for it and have failed to pack anything more than an energy bar with me to bring to school. Smoothies are the perfect go-to lunch, as I can quickly make and consume one before leaving for class.

Sharing a smoothie seems like a little bit of a cop-out, but I am all about easy-to-make food right now. Not only that, but there is a serious art to smoothie making. Add a little too much of one thing and it ends up throwing off the whole thing. This is not one of those. I was worried that the pumpkin would make for a smoothie lacking in sweetness, but the banana more than makes up for it. If you're into really sweet, feel free to add in a bit of maple syrup or whichever sweetener does it for you.

Pumpkin Smoothie

PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE | Serves 1

1 banana
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Sunwarrior)
Knob ginger, chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
Ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

THE OCTOBER PLAYLIST

October Playlist
Excuse the mega post withdrawal. Things have been stupid busy around these parts (I know, I know....SO busy, see "9"), and the blog has inevitably taken a backseat. By the end of the month, I'll have finished all but one of my midterms, so here's to hoping that by that point I have a second to catch my breath. I have yet to start that fall to-do list of mine, but hopefully soon. I feel like I'm running out of time to get it done before the first snowfall (knock on wood)!

Some cool things have been going on around here. Last week, I attended a debate between AB NDP leader Brian Mason and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. It was a very casual setting, but so awesome to see. Today is also municipal election day in Calgary, so I made sure to head out and vote.

Other than that it's been a lot of school and a little work. Business as usual, I guess.

As for the mix, I've been pretty terrible at keeping up with all things "new" music. This is mostly old with the addition of some new releases...A Cults, Lorde (she's growing on me) and Tired Pony track. Now that the season is visibly changing, I find that I've been opting for what I have dubbed cool weather music. That being slower paced, singer/songwriter type stuff (although you wouldn't really know it from this mix).

Enjoy.

Playlist via Rdio.

SALTED CARAMEL APPLE MACARONS—WITH WANDERLUST

My favorite time to make macarons is when the weather starts to cool. My favorite time to bake anything is, really. When it's not so terribly warm that turning on the oven just contributes to the heat. Although I'm a fan of summer produce, the apples, pears, figs and squash that come out this time of year are wear my heart really lies. While they are good on their own, adding a bit of cinnamon here, some nutmeg there really does emphasize the flavors.

These are salted caramel macarons. They worked shockingly well, and I imagine they tasted delicious as they were snatched up in no time. The shell contains freeze-dried apples, and the filling a salted caramel with partially dried apple bits throughout. They are a great introduction to those fall flavors that I love so much.

The recipe can be found over at with wanderlust.

BLACK BEAN + SWEET POTATO HASH

Black Bean Sweet Potato Hash
Black Bean Sweet Potato Hash
My abilities in the kitchen are limited to my ability to follow a recipe to a tee. I am a much better baker than I am a cook, likely because of the free-flow that comes with putting a dish together. Baking has specific rules and regiments, and is so much more about the chemistry. When cooking, I often doubt my palette, which is more or less unrefined. It comes with practice, this cooking thing does.

This dish was a happy accident. I had scheduled another meal in its place and decided on a whim to abandon the meal. Crunched on time in the evening, I thew together a few simple ingredients that I had on hand. Ever so pleasantly, it turned out well. I've made it three times since (all in the same week).

As mentioned above, cooking has a definite free-flow. If you don't have edamame on hand, use whichever vegetables are available to you. I imagine corn or any vegetable with a bit of tooth would be great.
Black Bean Sweet Potato Hash
BLACK BEAN & SWEET POTATO HASH // Serves 2

1/2 sweet potato, cubed
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup black beans
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut sweet potato into bite-size pieces. On a sheet of tin-foil, toss the sweet potato with 1 tsp olive. Roast for 30 minutes. In a pan, heat remaining 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent. Add cumin and cayenne, and coat. Add black beans, edamame, and sweet potato to the pan, and cook for five minutes, or until edamame is cooked through. Taste, and add salt and pepper dependent on preference.

MEALS THIS WEEK

I have been making a point of meal planning in an attempt to get some variety into my diet. I have this really terrible way of stumbling upon a great dish and eating it to death. My school schedule means that I am home before supper time three times a week, leaving ample time to be creative in the kitchen

Yoga Pot
Yoga Pot

We had this meal on an achingly hot day. Terrible preparation on my part. It was tasty and filling. There is a lot of spice and flavour that goes into this dish. I skipped the lentils and served mine over quinoa.

Chickpea Cutlet
Chickpea Cutlets with Mustard Sauce // Cracklin' Cauliflower

I had a bit of an obsession with seitan when I first discovered it. I have yet to find it anywhere in-store here in Calgary, so I made my own. This recipe for chickpea cutlets is from Veganomicon. I expected something very unlike what this recipe turned out to be; more of a chickpea fritter, I suppose. What it is, is a sort of mock meat with a chickpea base. It's the kind of recipe that I imagine would be good for someone who has recently become vegan or vegetarian and still misses the bite of meat. For me, the consistency was foreign, and honestly a bit odd. The flavour was there — the texture not so much. I've had Whole Foods version of Cracklin' Cauliflower on numerous occasions. It's a bit spicier than this version, which is more about flavours that you would commonly find in Indian cooking.

Burger and Soup
Portobello Burgers and Corn Chowder

Le me start by saying that I am not much of a mushroom or soup girl. Mushrooms, because I can't cook them, and soup, because its boring. This supper made me appreciate mushrooms and soup. The burgers are from Sprouted Kitchen, and the soup from "Small Plates & Sweet Treats." I made the burgers to please my mother and the soup to please my father (plus, a chilly day called for soup), and walked away a happy camper myself. My thoughts on what made the soup so good is the coconut milk. Hands down.

Black Bean Hash
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Hash

Confession: I ate this three times this week. I was supposed to have a black bean quesadilla one evening, but on a whim decided to abandon the plan. This dish was born out of a desire to clean out the fridge, and it just so happened to turn out heavenly. Isn't that the most pleasant surprise? The ingredients are simple as can be, and I imagine that the recipe is versatile depending on what you have on hand. I'll share the recipe soon.

Tempeh and Mung Beans
Pan-fried Tempeh and Mung Beans

This is my favourite meal of all time. It comes straight from Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Everyday." It is simple. It takes almost no time to put together, and it lasts me a days worth of leftovers (I cut the recipe in half).

What were your favourite recipes this week?

THE SEPTEMBER PLAYLIST

The September Playlist

I can hardly believe that we're already almost through September. Not only that, but a month through the semester. When I think of September, I think mostly back to my year living in Victoria. There is a true fall in Victoria. Everything was still green, as it was most of the year, but the leaves were changing color and the temperature cooled down. It was chilly enough to have a warm coffee in the morning, and to wear something more appropriate to the season (sweater weather!). Here in Calgary, we haven't seen many signs of fall just yet. We've finally gotten a small bout of summer weather, scorching as it is. It's coming though, fall. I can hardly wait.

The September playlist is found on Rdio.

WITH WANDERLUST

WW

Today marks the official 'launch' of my new blogging project with Gabi. The site is called with wanderlust, and it is going to be a compilation of stories, recipes, and the like. Our general theme is the twenty-something condition, which I think is safe to say that a good chunk of us suffer from. While we are definitely still in the works of getting the nitty gritty details down with with wanderlust, a few items have already been posted that I'd love for you to check out.

Head on over to with wanderlust to let us know what you think, and make sure to follow us on Bloglovin!

EARLY AUGUST DINNER

August 9, 2013 Dinner
August 9, 2013 DinnerAugust 9, 2013 Dinner
August 9, 2013 Dinner

This one is long overdue. In early August, I had a few friends over for a market fresh dinner. It's not often that we are all in the same city and available to get together... Usually only once or twice a year does this actually happen. It'd been a year or so, and we were well due to catch up.

Early in the day, Gabi and I took an adventure to the Calgary Farmers Market to collect our produce, made a stop at the liquor store, bakery, and cheese shop. I spent the afternoon cooking up the meal (I have yet to master the art of good hostessing or collective cooking). I made some of my favorite dishes as well as a few new ones. We all met later in the evening for some good food, drink and conversation under the summer sun.

LIBERTY LOOP TRAIL

"Liberty Lake Loop" Liberty Lake, ID
"Liberty Lake Loop" Liberty Lake, ID"Liberty Lake Loop" Liberty Lake, ID
"Liberty Lake Loop" Liberty Lake, ID
"Liberty Lake Loop" Liberty Lake, ID
As previously mentioned, one of my big three requirements when traveling is a good hike. This year I've taken a really liking to hiking, and have made a point of going on at least one in whichever city I am visiting. I had a relatively hard time trying to find a moderate hike in the Spokane area. I wanted a half-day hike, and most of what I found were short hikes with little to no elevation. More like a walk, really. Blame it on my lack of knowledge about geography, but I wasn't sure what kind of terrain I'd encounter in Spokane. Turns out it's less mountainous and more hilly, so that's that.

I stumbled upon Liberty Lake Loop, which seemed to be my best option. The hike is 8.9 miles with 1,251 feet of elevation. It is located in Liberty Lake Regional Park, which is roughly a thirty minute drive out of Post Falls. Entry to the park is $2 a head, and there is also a campground. The is a parking area followed by a short walk down to the campground. The trailhead isn't very well marked, and we ended up having to ask for directions. The trail seemed way too easy for the first mile or so. There was little elevation, and I wondered out loud it this was going to be a shoot-you-up-the-mountain type hike. It most certainly was! Shortly after, we reached an area that was marked as being eroded and not suitable for walking. After checking some trail websites, the sign seems to be meant to keep day walkers out and hikers in. The next couple of miles were a series of very steep switchbacks uphill to the waterfalls. There is a viewing area once you're halfway up. I didn't realize that it was the only viewpoint on the trail, so we didn't bother to take photos. My bad! It didn't look nearly as spectacular as some of the photos online made it out to be. Nice, but the air was thick that day. We trucked on uphill and came across the waterfalls. Again, I think it was a case of timing, because they were more stream like than a fall. Online reviews note that spring is the best time to see the falls, likely due to winter run-off. Nevertheless, while they weren't exactly spectacular, the falls were still a sight. The main highlight was the cedar forest. Once you've reached the top, the trail evens out for a while until you reach a series of signs. One leads up to a Scouts cabin, another back to parking, and another reading More Hiking. We figured that was it for the loop, so we followed the parking sign. There are no switchbacks on the way down, so we found ourselves jogging most of the way. Once we reached the bottom, we discovered that we ended up on the Equestrian Route, so I'm not entirely sure if we actually did the entire hike. Other websites agree that yes, we did. The More Hiking route would have added another four miles on to the hike for a total of 11 miles.

We left the rest of our crew to their own devices for the day, which turned out to be a good idea. While it wasn't an incredibly challenging hike, the switchbacks were quite trying at times, and it takes at least an in shape individual to do the hike without complaint. Pros of the hike were the falls and difficulty. Cons were the lack of viewpoints and the HEAT, which I suppose was our own fault for starting late in the morning and wearing too much clothing.

FIRE ARTISAN PIZZA

Fire Artisan Pizza Spokane, WA

Fire Artisan Pizza was my culinary saving grace while in Spokane. After three days of eating terrible fried chain-restaurant dinners, on the final evening we had a family meal at Fire to celebrate my dads birthday. Oh, I could go on and on with lovely things to say about Fire, but we'll leave it at four words: it's delightful and delicious.

Fire is located in the heart of downtown Spokane across from the Davenport. The building boasts high ceilings, modern decor and an open kitchen. When we arrived late afternoon, the space was relatively empty, which was a surprise as I expected it to be bustling on a Saturday. We seemed to have come at an opportune time, because shortly after being seated near the front of the restaurant, other patrons began flooding in.

Fire Artisan Pizza Spokane, WA
Chocolate chip cookie - Fire Artisan Pizza Spokane, WA
Fire Artisan Pizza Spokane, WA
Fire Artisan Pizza Spokane, WA

Our waiter was cheerful and offered some great wine and beer selections. We skipped the appetizers (although in hindsight I would have liked to try the Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Salad) and dove straight in to the pizza. Two vegetarian options being Billy (goat cheese, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olives, tomato sauce, fresh arugula* - $14) and Crimini (crimini mushrooms, thyme, garlic olive oil, mozzarella cheese - $13). Two meat options being Camino (roasted chicken breast, Kansas City bacon, red onion, aged white-cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, chipotle bbq sauce, finished with fresh cilantro and habenero sea salt - $15) and Thai (mae ploy, mozzarella, roasted chicken breast cashew satay sauce, serrano chilies, green onions, finished with cilantro, cashews and sriracha - $16). The pizzas cooked up in minutes, and I think that we were all surprised by which pizzas ended up being our favorites.

When I looked at the menu ahead of time, I was unimpressed that they had only one dessert option: a Bitter Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie with Gray Salt and Ice Cream. We were going for a birthday after all, and a chocolate chip cookie seemed an underwhelming way to end the evening. I couldn't have been more wrong. My brother was excited about the cookie, so were ordered one and split it between us four. Oh, my. The cookie was thick in the centre and still warm when it arrived at our table. On top was a giant scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. The salty-sweet combination of the ice cream, chocolate chip and gray salt was a huge hit, and I'm so glad that we got dessert. We left the restaurant with full bellies and smiles on our faces. My only complaint about Fire was the lack of cocktail list. While I was content with my wine, I was hoping for some unique cocktails, which I think would have gone well with the vibe of the restaurant.

In Spokane, Fire is located 816 W Sprague, and they also have a location in Coeur d'Alene.

Fire Artisan Pizza on Urbanspoon

* Pizza descriptions taken from fireartisanpizza.com
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