Spiced Pecan, Cheddar, and Apple Salad

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It’s the holidays, and if you’re like me you’re desperate for some salad. To be clear – this is a salad I make year-round, but there’s something about the apple, and the nuts, and the tangy cheddar that just works so perfectly with winter dishes. I’m a let’s-put-berries-in-salad kind of person, so when the berries start to look a bit sad at the supermarket, I turn to this.

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The Rebar cookbook that this salad is from is fantastic. I don’t recall when I first came to own this cookbook, but I definitely remember having it when I lived in northern Canada. I’ve made many recipes from here, and they are different and delicious all at the same time. Things like curried chickpea soup and chocolate zucchini cupcakes. When I made our wedding cake, it was the carrot cake with white chocolate-cream cheese icing from this book. When I was vegetarian, I turned to this cookbook, and now that I’m not I still keep coming back.

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Pip’s Favourite Doggie Treats

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Today is Pip’s birthday. He’s 2 years old! In honour of his special day, I made his most favourite doggie treats. They’re full of dog-friendly, healthy things like flax and turmeric. The turmeric also gives them a lovely, sunny glow. I’m pretty sure Marcus would have eaten one if I didn’t explicitly tell him they were doggie treats. I grew up never having a pet, except for my sister (haha!). I always, always wanted a dog, and even through university thought about how I could try to make it work with a pet and school and a social life. When I lived up north, I volunteered at the local SPCA walking the shelter dogs. Even then (and even more unrealistic), I tried to find a way to make it work with a dog. When I moved back to Calgary, the timing was right. A work friend of Marcus’ was fostering a puppy – Pippin – and she forwarded some pictures to Marcus.

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We fell in love with Pippin the puppy. Pippin Lucifer Henry – because he only gets called his full name when he’s bad – came home with us, and now he’s the boss. Pippy has long, soft, fluffy fur. He’s tan, with a white patch down his chest, and dark bits in his ears. His teeth are extraordinarily white for a dog, we think it’s because he likes to chew on sticks and bark. His ears are floppy and like velvet. When Pip hears something interesting, the little fur on top of his ears perk up. When he’s relaxed and happy they lie flat against his head. His tail is ridiculous. He basically has a squirrel attached to his rear.

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Breakfast Banana Splits + Rosemary Granola

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Along the theme of most culinary experiences in my life, I grew up eating breakfast banana splits. I think my Dad made them up – did you, Dad? – although a quick Google search tells me there are many versions and ways to interpret this dish. This was the ’90s so I feel confident in my declaration that Dad made them up one day.

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You can use store-bought granola if you wish. The thing is, granola is sooo easy to make. Really! You just dump everything in a bowl, give it a stir, bake it and you’re done. Granola is so super flexible too. Any granola ingredient, those in this recipe included, can be easily swapped out based on taste or what you have in the pantry. Here, I use currants, but you could use raisins, cranberries, cherries, or another dried fruit. Same goes with the nuts. I used slivered almonds and cashews, but walnuts or pecans would be wonderful. I had hemp hearts and flex seeds in my cupboard, so those went in. I love, love coconut so had to include coconut chips as well. Coconut flakes would sub fine, or you can omit them altogether.

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

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I like quinoa. A lot. It has a very slight crunch, and I like the little spiral in each of the grains, which is the translucent germ that appears once cooked. Quinoa is good with other proteins, like salmon or chicken, and also good in things like pancakes or muffins. You can use a stock or broth, or just plain water to hydrate it. Quinoa is high in protein, healthy, and filling. It’s also an amazingly mispronounced word, to my great delight, hence this commercial.

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I think the first time I ever had quinoa, it was made by my Mum, and it was probably this very dish. It’s crunchy, it’s earthy, and with the tomatoes and lemon, it’s acidic. Between Mum, Sister, and me, we could out-tart anyone on any given day. We like our citrus.

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Best Blueberry Muffins

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I come from a family of muffin eaters. When I was growing up, it was totally normal (and expected) to wake up to a house filled with the wonderful aromas of a freshly baked breakfast. And not just on the weekend, I recall many school day mornings waking up to just-baked muffins or scones. I thought all kids had that going on at home.

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In a weird way, I feel like muffins run deep in our veins. When I was growing up in BC we would make Saturday or Sunday morning runs to Muffin Time if noone felt like baking that morning. This is before the days of Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts for my American friends :). When you walked into Muffin Time, the first thing you’d see was the back wall behind the cash register filled with dozens and dozens of kinds of muffins. Dad and I would always go and bring some back for Mum. Sorry Sister, you weren’t around yet! The Muffin Time muffins were huge, with lovely crusty tops that you could pull off the bottom. Fantastic. At home, my Mum always makes the banana muffins, and my Dad does pretty much everything else in the muffin-scone family. I learned how to make biscuits from him, and scones, and homemade bread. He’s the baker in our family, and this recipe was first made by him.

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