A Tour Down the Eaten Path

Not So Much A Pick-Me-Up

Remember how awesome it was when high-speed dubbing came out on cassette decks? It was a BIG deal. You could make a mix tape in half the time. You still had to listen to every song, but it sounded like the chipmunks were singing them insanely fast as they recorded.

I feel like my life during the last few weeks has been on high-speed dub at school and at home. Everything is great, but I am beat. I got home tonight from a visit with my pals, one of whom is up all the time with her (lovely Lou) 5 week old, my other buddy who gets home from working at the club around the time I get up to go to school and the last one who is killing herself trying to break in new Dr. Martens. We’re all beat and it’s all in the name of love, in one form or another.

I won’t lie. The chocolate espresso scones didn’t wake us up but they were nice to nibble on while we chatted and tried to keep our eyes open.

Make these. Eat them. Get some rest. I’ll be lights out in 10 minutes. True story.

P.S. Posts this month might be a little lean due to my school schedule but I’ll do my best to keep up with one post a week.

Chocolate Espresso Scones 

1 1/3 cup cake flour

1 cup +2 Tbls bread flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 Tbls baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter

1 1/2 eggs

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup espresso

4 squares Lindtt 70% dark chocolate

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make espresso and combine with chocolate, stirring to melt. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl sift together flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda.

Cut butter into dry ingredients using your fingers or a hand held pastry blender if you have one. You want the butter to be about peas size. Add eggs, milk, yogurt, and espresso chocolate mix. Bring together gently. When flours have barely dissolved mix in almonds and chocolate chips. Do not over work the dough.

Shape into a round ball and using a rolling pin roll out into a circle about 3/4 -1” thick. You can use round cutters or simply cut triangles. If you have any left over dough re-roll it and shape. Place each scone on a parchment lines sheet and bake for 16-17 minutes.

Orange Almond Cream

3/4 cup double cream

zest of 1 orange

1/4 tsp almond extract 

1 1/2 Tbls. icing sugar

Whip cream for literally 3 seconds, you can over whip it quickly. Fold in zest, extract and sugar.

Serves scones with a dollop of flavoured cream.

Photos and recipe by Maggie Murphy

Life After 30

When I was in university, my good pal and roommate would say things like ‘I can’t eat these chocolate covered raisins before bed or I won’t be able to sleep’ and ‘Onions make me burp’. At the time I would say, ‘That’s cock-a-maimy Ulsky!’ and go right on eating those chocolate covered raisins before bed.

I was an idiot. Whether Ulsky knows it or not, she was the first person that made me think about the impact of food on my body. I used to be pretty oblivious about what foods were affecting me physically in both a negative and positive way. Now that I’m into my early 30’s I can’t seem to escape the signs. This is awfully difficult for a lover of food and Ulsky remains the healthier eater. I’m a work in progress.

Dairy beats the crap out of me and I STILL put cheese in this salad. I tend to negotiate with myself a lot. For example, I won’t buy ice cream so I can put cheese on my salad. For all of you responsible lactose intolerants or celiacs, this salad would also be excellent without the cheese and panko. 

Kale is one thing I don’t have to worry about. It’s fantastic and jam packed with stuff that makes you feel good. If you’re down on kale and/or are avoiding it because you anticipate it having the flavour of a tree leaf, I implore you to try it in this salad. You can even eat it before bed.

Lemony Kale Salad

1 Large bunch of Kale

1 cup pecorino romano, finely grated

1/2 cup toasted panko

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

For the Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 red chili pepper, finely diced

3 Tbls lemon juice, fresh 

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp chili paste

salt/pepper to taste

Wash and cut away kale from its center stalk. Chop roughly into small pieces and place in a large bowl. 

In a separate bowl, whisk all ingredients for the salad dressing together. Pour 4-5 tablespoons of dressing over the kale initially and toss. The salad should be lightly coated not dripping in dressing. Heavily (I can’t help it! I love cheese) sprinkle the top with the pecorino romano, toasted panko and pine nuts.

Serves 4

Photos and Recipe by Maggie Murphy

Bread Days Are Here Again

I’m kicking myself for not having done this post during the holidays, missing out on the opportunity to name it ‘Home for the Challah-days’ or something along those lines. If my family knew how good this Challah french toast was, they’d kick me too. Sorry guys!

This traditional Jewish bread, has a sweet buttery taste despite its lack of dairy; its dense texture making it hands down, the best bread for french toast. 

Baking it at home versus in my schools commercial kitchen with massive mixers, proofers and ovens, felt alien. However, after a few batches I’ve fine tuned the process and come up with a fairly effective proofing method which is explained in the recipe below. 


200g water

7g active dry yeast (20g fresh yeast)

500g bread flour

100g egg yolk

38g sugar

2g molasses

10g salt

62g vegetable oil

1 egg (for egg wash)

Pour luke warm water and yeast into mixing bowl. If using active dry yeast, let it stand for up to 10 minutes before adding all of the other ingredients. Attach the hook and mix on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Speed up the mixer to medium for 5 minutes. Remove from bowl and round into a smooth ball before covering with a lightly damp tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes. 

The total amount of dough should be just over 900g and you’ll need to scale the dough into smaller equal portions. I scaled 3 pieces at 200 grams each and 3 at 107 grams each, for two loaves of bread. If you don’t have a scale just eye ball it as best you can. Round up each piece of dough and cover with a damp towel for another 10 minutes.

* Move the oven racks to the bottom and middle position. Heat your oven to 175 degrees.

Roll out each piece of dough just slightly (4”), making fat logs and cover again for 10 minutes.

* Turn off the oven once it hits 175 degrees.

Roll out the three 200 gram logs evenly to about 9 or 10 inches long. You don’t want them too skinny, ideally about 3/4” thick. Squeeze one end of the three long dough logs together and make a braid with the pieces. Do your best to make the ends look symmetrical and don’t pull as you braid as it will disfigure the shape of your loaf. Squeeze the bottom three strands together when you’re finished braiding. Repeat with the smaller remaining pieces but adjust the size of your long strands to about 7 inches in length.

Move the braided loaves to a parchment lined baking tray. Place them diagonally with a few inches separating them as they will expand during proofing and baking. Brush both loaves with one coat of egg wash. Place four coffee mugs with similar height on each corner of the pan. Cover the pan with a damp tea towel, tucking the towel beneath each coffee mug so the towel cannot touch the dough. 

Test the residual heat in your turned off oven. You don’t want to cook the bread but you want a nice light warmth to help the bread proof. 

If the oven is giving off a mild warmth, put an empty muffin tin on the middle rack and then place the baking tray with the tented challah on top of the muffin tin. This is to avoid cooking the bottom of the challah while it’s proofing as the rack will have retained a lot of heat. Proof for 40 minutes before removing from the oven.

Keep the braided loaves under their tent and put on the counter while you heat the oven up to 400°. Remove the coffee mugs and tea towel and egg wash both loaves a second time before putting in the oven to bake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is a dark golden brown.

Makes 2 loaves

Challah French Toast 

3 eggs

3/4 cup half and half cream

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 Tbls orange blossom water

zest of one orange

Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a wide mouth dish so that you can dip/soak the bread.

Slice the challah into thick pieces. Soak each piece in the egg mixture for 2 minutes a side. 

Heat up a large non-stick pan and melt a knob of butter. Fry each piece of egg soaked challah until both sides are a golden brown. 

Serve with syrup, icing sugar and fruit.

Serves 3-5 

Challah recipe adapted from Wayne Gisslen

Challah French Toast recipe and photos by Maggie Murphy

Last Dinner of the Year

Each New Year’s Eve, we go out for a fancy dinner. The restaurant is always one that we’ve not been to previously and this year we chose Alloy. They offered a set four course plus desert menu, with two options per course.

At the risk of looking tacky but sacrificing my pride for the sake of blogging, I whipped out my camera after each course was delivered. My husband deserves an award for his patience during these snap shot meals, though I suppose it’s reward enough when he finally gets to dig into his food.

As if the complimentary champagne wasn’t enough, I ordered the Alpen cocktail made with elderflower, bacardi limon, apple vodka, mint and egg white. It was a good sipper cocktail; creamy, sweet and minted.

We both agreed that the roasted vegetable consume with sundried tomato dumpling and chili oil was a great start to the meal.

The second course stole Murph’s heart away with a seared Hawaiian Ahi tuna, citrus gazpacho, micro greens and tempura hot peppers. Alloy should sell those tempura hot peppers by the package as snacks. They’re amazing!

The third course shone for me with wild prawn & roasted poblano pepper cakes, coconut mango cream, mango salsa and cilantro oil. Murph enjoyed the roasted Brome Lake duck breast with apple and potato croutons, sauteed bitter greens and calvados emulsion. 

Half way through the fourth course of grilled beef tenderloin, Atlantic lobster and mascarpone sausage, pomme puree and barolo demi glace, I was starting to feel full.

But there’s always room for desert and the Kahlua Espresso Bean creme brulee, white chocolate biscotti and Mexican vanilla whipped cream was the perfect way to finish off a great meal.

Dinner was such a treat and the service was excellent. Now we just have to buy a deep frier so we can make our own tempura hot peppers.

We rang in the New Year with good friends and crashed in a bed covered in flannel sheep sheets, loaned to us by a gracious 3 year old gal pal. If the way you spend New Year’s eve is an indication of how you spend the rest of your year, it looks like we’re going to eat well, spend time with people we love and sleep like babies. Sounds good to me.

Happy 2012!


Photos by Maggie Murphy

Holiday Out-of-Towners

Each Christmas, Murph and I pack a bag and head north to his family farm for a few days. We arrive in the yard, Murph opens his door and I can hear him begin to draw a deep breath as he stands. He drinks the fresh air like a thirsty traveler. There is something about air at the farm which is entirely different from city air. It’s cleaner, sweeter, filled with the scent of earth and space. It washes away the imagined soot and grime of the city from our lungs; the hustle and bustle from our bones. 

Before the rest of the crew arrived this year, I pulled my boots on and took a tour around the farm with my camera. In the peace and quiet I listened for the farm to speak.

We spent Christmas eve opening gifts, eating, laughing and enjoying each others company. The boys started a scotch related tradition a few years back; it coincides with my custom of inhaling the perfume of Johnny Walker Blue through the early hours of Christmas morning. That sweet, sweet country air from the mouth of my sleeping husband.

In the morning we pack up, hug goodbye and join the highway parade going south beyond Calgary. We find my family anticipating our arrival. Instead of gifts we each bring a new board game and something delicious to eat (insert surprise face here). This year was Dad’s garlic butter on toast with cheese and bacon, Dave’s cream cheese and pickled asparagus bites, Rose’s homemade tomato soup, my veggie samosas with mango pear chutney and Angus’s wine and cheese pairings. Mom tops it off every year with her dynamo Christmas day dinner. 

Half of us lace up for the boxing day hockey tournament (I warm the stands), we have parties with good ol’ friends, crank up the music and play as many board games as we can.

There is never enough time and before I know it the tidal wave of Christmas has come and gone; a new year lay just around the corner.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy