Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Go Barley


Recently, I had the opportunity to work alongside a lovely woman by the name of Linda Whitworth who is on a multi-city tour promoting the health benefits of cooking with barley.  The grain which is commonly (and lovingly, in our house) associated with beer making has been recognized with the health claim that barley fibre can positively contribute to your wellness by reducing your cholesterol level.   I look at this as a bonus because cooking with barley, simply tastes good!

There are many ingredients that I might not ever cook with, were it not for my work as a food stylist.  Barley is a good case in point. I keep barley in our pantry for a single family recipe Hamburger Soup.  But now that I know the difference between pearl and pot barley (the former is “polished” longer than the latter), and have had the pleasure of baking with barley flour, barley and barley flour will always have a place on my shelf.

First up were Yoghurt Barley Fruit Scones.  I made mine with raisins but I would love to try them with blueberries next time.  I tucked one away for D to try with his supper.  He asked me to please, please make these all the time.

I had to make another substitution as I could not find rhubarb around at this time of year so I made the Rhubarb Pecan Muffins with tart cranberries instead.  The topping on these muffins was amazing (and another cholesterol reducer too with the inclusion of quick oats).  I plan to mix up a bag of this crumble topping to keep on hand in the freezer to put onto a variety of muffins.  I am making banana muffins this afternoon.  I often call my muffins “cupcakes” and serve them for dessert.

The recipe that Linda made on set was this gorgeous Black Bean and Barley Salad.  It was so simple, so healthy and so delicious-win, win, win!

But my favourite of the day was the Barley Jambalaya.  It was so good, that I literally can’t stop thinking about it and just talked myself into making it for mandatory Sunday supper this weekend.

The recipe links here are from the newly launched website that Linda was in town to promote:  Be sure to bookmark it as it is chock full of amazing recipes.

Kath’s quote:

Keep open house, let fidlers play.
A fig for cold, sing care away;
And may they who thereat repine,
On brown bread and on small beer dine.”

from the 1766 ‘Virginia Almanack’

Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2013, Day 2-First Beach Day


This morning it is -36 degrees (with the windchill) and even though I was going to write about barley recipes this morning, I really need to go back to my time on Isla.

Even though I typically sit under a palm tree once I arrive at North Beach, I am always anxious to get there.  So on this second day, I pack up my Sudoku, book, sunscreen, etc. and head down to where I know that my brother and my Isla family will be accumulating.  There was a time when we would all be assembled at Sergio’s Playa Sol, a place where we met many of our Isla friends.  Now though, most of the gang gather at the back of the beach where the palms provide shade and they lug down their own beach chairs.  I played musical chairs for a while and then decided that I could not stand it anymore and headed to Chedraui (later that afternoon) to see if I could purchase one.  I did not stay long at the beach for fear of harming my freckled skin and instead wandered through Centro, checking out who had built or painted what.

This assessment takes me many days to accomplish.  You can likely see that my eye and camera is drawn to anything turquoise.  I am quite literally obsessed with the colour ever since I began traveling to the Caribbean many years ago.  My family is very patient with me as I have found a way to incorporate the colour into almost every room in our home.

I already know that I would like this mural size wave from Ikea for my birthday…….

The afternoon passes quickly with unpacking (I am always too excited to spend the time in my room on arrival day) and work that must be completed even though I am on vacation.  I am not complaining, having my own business gives me many more days of leisure than I deserve.

My mobile office for week #1 (so don’t cry for me Argentina).

My adventure at Chedraui was an interesting one.  I decided to walk there and it was a long and hot one.  When I arrived, I will admit that I was a little bit grumpy.  I headed to the spot where I knew that beach chairs had been in the past, crouched very low and lo and behold, found one solitary chair at the back of the shelf.  I set it up, right then and there, to ensure that it was in working order and then wandered off to make my next purchase of an alarm clock for our room at Casa el Pio.

I love that time has little or no meaning for me on Isla.  I can usually judge the time of day by the height of the sun or the grumblings of my tummy BUT I do not enjoy waking up in the middle of the night and not knowing if it is an hour after I turned off the light or 4 or 10 in the morning!  So this purchase was intended to enhance my sleep, not disrupt it.  It too, was the last one on the shelf.  In fact, I had to put the “floor” model in my cart, as they had scads of the make that cost almost 4 times the price, but only one at what I would deem a reasonable price.  So I determinately head to the check out, pleased with my seletions.

When it comes time to ring up the chair, there is much discussion amongst the clerks that there is no price tag on the chair.  A number of them go to the shelf to acquire what they explain to me is the code in order to ring it in.  They return with a supervisor who tells me that it is impossible for me to buy the chair and says that in fact, the chair is not for sale.  Well for 1) I have trekked down here in the hot sun and am in no mood to be denied, for 2) I do not want to spend two weeks stealing brief sits in a chair while others are swimming or off to the bano and for 3) the chair is right here in my hands!  After literally a dozen staff members are involved in the dispute, half of them taking my side and smiling brightly to reassure me that they are going to help me buck the system and buy the prize, I am successful in purchasing the chair.  And for a great price-less than the rental of a beach chair for a day on Playa Norte.

As I triumphantly leave the store, I decide to treat myself to a cab ride back to Centro.  On Isla, the cab drivers give you a brief and friendly honk of their horn to inquire if you are wanting a ride and this occurred as soon as I stepped out of the store.  It did not deter him that he was on the far side of the street, headed in the other direction, he simply spun around to make my loading the cab with packages easier to accomplish.  Unfortunately, when I emptied my cart, it started rolling down the incline at the front of the store.  Luckily, I was able to snatch it before it ended up in the traffic on the street but not without consequences.  Someone else’s empty cart, also started to roll and was headed right towards the cab.  I was already occupied retrieving my cart and could not stop this one and the cab driver was furious at me because the cart chipped the paint on the car (even though I had successfully prevented my cart from causing a major vehicle pile up).  So my feelings of triumph were short lived and all I wanted to do was get back to my casa and open a cerveza.

By the end of the afternoon, I was feeling better and wandered down to the shore.  I always try to capture the sun going down on the island.  The sunsets themselves are magnificent but it is more than that.   I can understand how the Mayans lives were dictated by the sun and I suppose that this is my way of acknowledging and respecting this.

When evening arrives, we have to make our most taxing decision of the day-where to go for supper? Sister #3 and I have debated which place on the island has the best frutti de mare pasta.  In her opinion it is Angelo’s but in my mind, the winner is Brisa Grill.  So, we head there for the test.

Our friend clinking cervezas with me here, is named Donna back home but on the island we call her Dona.

I do admit, that I remembered the seafood as being more plentiful.  Sister #3 is not disappointed, just content with her preference of Angelo’s.

In the mean time, I was more than pleased with my choice of pesto shrimp linguine.  I savoured the meaty prawn at the forefront of this photo and sliced into into to so many forkfuls, that it was like eating a baby lobster tail.

Others in our group sampled the coconut shrimp.  We informally perform an assessment of the Island’s best of this dish too.  I give Brisa’s Grill high marks for their unusual presentation.

My brother who is not as avid a seafood eater, opted for the ribs.  Quite honestly, he was still hungry when he finished eating this portion.  I suppose we should not fault a restaurant built right next to the ocean and the shore, to do a mediocre job of ribs.

I cannot specifically recall what we did that first evening but I would imagine that it involved a stroll down Hidalgo to wave or chat to friends.

Kath’s quote: “Sometimes I pray to Cod for the veal-power to stop playing with my food words, but I fear it’s too bread into me. For all I know, the wurst may be yet to come.”-Mark Morton

Love-that is all.

Watch, Learn & Cook with Food Musings & Canada Beef: Pan-Seared Steaks


My family was shocked to find out that I love soggy French fries.  My favourite fry is typically accomplished when a potato is freshly cut and not allowed too much time in the frying pie.  If it is floppy when you spear it with your fork, I am a happy camper.  When not cooked to crispy, I think that the sweetness and fleshiness of the potato shines through.

They were appropriately surprised because most other foods that I eat, I like crunchy.  If there is cheese or sauce stuck to the bottom of a casserole dish, I am in heaven by scraping it off with a spatula and popping it right into my mouth.  I think that this comes from being one of six kids when I was growing up.  I was the oldest daughter, so I was often in charge of dishes and scraping these little treats up while doing dishes, was my “consolation” prize, as it were.

I think that this is why I love a pan-seared steak.  I know that grilling is the healthiest way to cook a steak so that the fat runs away from the meat but let’s face it; fat is what makes a steak taste good!  I would rather give up a creamy sweet than pass on a juicy steak.  My Dad taught me how to perfectly sear a steak.  I bet that I was no more than nine or ten at the time.

His technique was exactly like the one in the attached video by Canada Beef with one exception: he would always sear a steak in butter and not oil.  He declared that the nutty saltiness of the butter was the perfect enhancement to the hearty taste of the steak. And,if you serve the pan-seared steak on a piece of garlic toast, you have an even easier time of capturing all of the crispy bits and juices to savour and enjoy.

Canada Beef has all kinds of recipes and references on their beef info website.   So if you have never learned to perfectly pan-sear a steak, you can learn right on their site.  And, in order to make food video watching super easy in the kitchen, Canada Beef is giving away 5 Ipads!  Click here to enter their contest (closes March 31, 2014).

Kath’s quote: “The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook.”-Julia Child

Love-that is all.




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Isla Mujeres 2013 Arrival Day


There are many topics that I could write about today but I choose to start my recollections of our wonderful time on Isla Mujeres.  This is the snowy scene outside my window at this moment. This is a good day to think tropical thoughts….

From my journal:

“Feeling wonky, as is sometimes the case on arrival day as I had to be up at 4 am and of course I didn’t have the best sleep.  The flight went quite quickly: got some work done and watched Argo.  Cancun was a zoo!  Wasn’t on Isla until 1:15 ( I think Donna said) and that was with no waiting for the ferry.  Just long enough to for me to buy everybody a beer for the ferry ride over.”

I get such a kick out of the ferry ride to Isla that this year, I crossed an extra couple of times, just to savour the trip more often.

We knew that Jill from Casa el Pio would be waiting for us, so we quickly pulled out bags over and then headed right out again to meet Sister #2 and Miquel for lunch before they headed in the direction of Punta Sur to their little beach place.  With an easy consensus, the meeting place was Bally Hoo for our traditional first lunch of fish and chips and inaugural island cervezas.

Sister #2  had coconut shrimp.

Sister #3: fish tacos.

And I, fish and a fantastic little salad.  Bally Hoo is perched on stilts right in the water, adjacent to the docks where the sport fisherman tie up their boats and clean their catch.  Perhaps this is why their fish is the freshest I have ever tasted, literally sparkling in your mouth.

My first view of “fisherman’s” beach from Bally Hoo.  Ah Isla, I have returned…..

We stopped in at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some supplies for the room: milk for my morning coffee, yoghurt for breakfast, more cervezas for any time of day and a Chilean Merlot that I had never sampled before.  It was so good, that the entourage of vinto tinto drinkers that accompanied me, stocked up too and for a while, the grocery store was sold out.

Casa el Pio would be home for the first half of my stay.

I love the crisp white and blue of the casa.  It reminds me of the Greek islands.

As my roommate settled in, I had my first walk around the seawall

and then to take in the lengthening shadows of the palms by the naval base.

Dinner that night was at Brisa Mexicana so we could watch the Oscars.

Breaded fish.

Seafood pasta.

I saw that they had pork chops on their surf and turf menu and they were kind enough to accommodate my request for them.  But who was I kidding?  They were tasty enough, but could not come close to Fredy’s 2 bone pork chop which I was craving.  I took half home for a next day sandwich.  Casa el Pio has a little fridge for left overs, that is also stocked with welcome cervesas and a shot of tequila!  They generously provide the coffee and filters for a great cup of joe, too.

But not surprizingly, we didn’t last long.  Fairly soon after the best supporting awards, we decided to head back to our cozy beds.  I thought that we might possibly be able to watch a live stream of the rest of the award show, but it really did not matter.  We were tired, but more than that: we were anxious for sleep so that we could wake up to our full first day on the island.

Kath’s quote: “There is poetry in a pork chop to a hungry man (person).”-  Philip Gibbs

Love-that is all.

Spring-Let it Be So(bey’s)!


This time last year, Winnipeg was in full fledged spring mode: the snow was gone, the sun was warm, flip flops were donned, gardens were being tidied and Adirondacks pulled out of the garage.  This year on the prairies, well, not so much.  The sun is in a different place in the sky and does feel a titch warmer than the weeks previously but OMGoodness, we have a long way to go.  I literally cannot see if my van is still parked on the street for the height of the snow drifts!  And, the worst is still to come because all that snow and ice has to go somewhere when it melts (memories of the flood of 1997).

My Window Box

But because I have always maintained a Katie Scarlett O’Hara attitude, I’m not thinking about that right now, I’ll think about that tomorrow.  Right now I am focused on the spring that is yet to come and how I might beckon it closer in my home, kitchen and dining room.  We are in the midst of renovating our basement family room and the colour that most reminds me of spring is a fresh, young green.  Perhaps this will get the nod for the new wall colour.

The tastes that most remind me of most of spring are cilantro and lime!

So besides planning on preparing cilantro chicken very soon, we are going to unshovel the barbecue to start grilling again.  I have salmon fillets ready to go for this evening.  And this week so that we could remember our favourite treat from last summer-I roasted whole unpeeled beets in a little bit of canola oil with a glistening of sea salt.

I am sure by now that you all know that I am a Sobey’s “Better Food Lover”, but enough about me.  You’re Invited to the #LoveSobeys Refresh Your Flavours Twitter Party!  Join us on Twitter and tell us how you’re getting your taste-buds ready for spring.  Share your best ideas on the freshest tastes of the season and every tweet gives you a chance to win a Sobeys gift card. Up to $1,200.00 in Sobeys gift cards are up for grabs.

Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time: 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. CDST

Where: On Twitter, using the hashtag: #LoveSobeys

Join me and other Party Hosts:

Andrea Tomkins (@missfish)     Mardi Michels (@eatlivtravwrite)     Laura O’Rourke (@LauraORourke)     Maria Lianos-Carbone (@amotherworld)     Tammi Roy (@MyChaos)     Heather Nolan (@mmmisformommy)     Rebecca Stanisic (@bitofmomsense)     Gina Bell (@eastcoastmommy1)     Jen Banks (@Jen_Banks)     Jody Arsenault (@MommyMomentBlog)    Kathryn Lavallee (@mommykatandkids)

How to Party?  It’s easy to join in—just sign in to Twitter at party time and find “#LoveSobeys”. Chime in to the conversation with your thoughts and suggestions for better food ideas by simply adding “#LoveSobeys” to the end of every tweet. Each tweet gives you a chance to win a Sobeys gift card (up to $1,200 in Sobeys gift cards will be given out). Check out the twitter party rules and regulations and be sure to R.S.V.P by scrolling down the link here.

P.S.  I would never recommend something for you, my loyal readers, that I would not use myself and I just can’t tell you how impressed I am with Sobey’s.  I had to go grocery shopping for a food styling job, after I started this post this morning.  I am feeling like I might be catching a cold, so I wanted to make the errand really easy on myself.  For one, by going first thing in the morning, there were very few customers there and I didn’t have to jostle around other carts and be squished into the aisles.  There was lots of staff on and that was a really good thing as I needed help finding rhubarb and barley flour.  At Sobey’s, they don’t just tell you an aisle number, they accompany you to the place on the shelf where they anticipate finding the product.  If they are unsuccessful, they will check with a manager instead of saying “we must be out of it”.  When there was no grated Monterrey Jack cheese, the fellow restocking the dairy shelves, suggested an alternative and then accompanied me to the deli section, where another staff member grated it for me-at no extra charge!  A deli item on special caught my attention and when I asked what the flavour was like, he sliced off a piece for me to taste.  The cashier cheerfully, tallied my two separate orders and payment and another person bagged my groceries for me exactly like I would have done myself, with dairy in one bag, meats in another, etc.  I love Sobey’s -they make food shopping enjoyable again!

Kath’s quote: “Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” -Al Bernstein

Love-that is all.


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