Rosemary Olive Oil Pita Crackers

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I didn’t realize how much I missed cooking until today. As I’ve travelled, went home to my parents’, and stayed with friends over the past 3 months I’ve cooked a little bit here and there, but I haven’t really had the time or space to devote an evening to it. Of course, I’m extremely grateful for all of the experiences and the hospitality that I’ve had, but there is something to say for spending an evening in the kitchen, making whatever I please.

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I don’t move into my new place for another week, but am currently housesitting for my best friend Erin’s family, so I have their whole lovely house to myself until Saturday, and I am taking full advantage of the kitchen (isn’t the light so nice in there?!) I spent hours yesterday perusing Erin’s mom’s cookbook collection, and I am absolutely smitten with Ottolenghi, a beautiful collection of middle Eastern recipes created by two chefs from Israel with restaurants in London (so sad I didn’t know to check them out while I was there!) They also have two other recipe books, Jerusalem and Plenty, which are almost equally as amazing, and a fourth coming out in October, Plenty More, and I’m slightly obsessed and will be buying all four of them as soon as I can justify it.

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The first recipe that I decided on was Olive Oil Crackers, because they looked interesting and I’ve been meaning to try making homemade crackers for a while right now. The original recipe uses cayenne in addition to paprika, and they don’t have any rosemary, but my friends mom has an amazing garden that I am certainly not going to take for granted.

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The crackers didn’t turn out exactly like I thought they would. The pictures in the book make them look more like chips than crackers, so I most likely didn’t roll mine out quite thin enough on account of I didn’t have an actual rolling pin (I really tried, though!) However, they are the best pita crackers I have had in my whole life (no lies), and while I will try to make them thinner next time for the sake of authenticity, I am thoroughly happy with my results, and I think you will be too. I had them as a snack with some tzatziki sauce (store-bought… oops) and they were perfect, but I can see them being lovely served with anything from hummus to cheese to fig jam.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Pita Crackers 

Adapted from Ottolenghi 

Makes about 25 (large) crackers 

2 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp Baking Powder

Scant 1/2 cup Lukewarm Water

5 tsp Olive Oil, plus extra for brushing

1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Paprika

1 1/2 tsp Fresh Rosemary

1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt for sprinkling

1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the sea salt to form a soft dough. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Work the dough until you get a firm consistency, then cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 425. Turn the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work surface. Using a sharp knife, cut off walnut-sized pieces (roughly 1/2 oz/ 15 g each) from the dough. Roll out each piece as thinly as possible with a rolling pin, dusting with plenty of flour. They should end up looking like long, oval tongues, almost paper-thin.

3. Place the crackers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake  for about 6 minutes, until crisp and golden. Let cool on baking sheets, and use spatula to remove from pan when ready to serve.

Hola, España

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Okay! I’ve finally (semi) gained control of my life and feel like I can sit and write all of these things I’ve been saying that I would. SO here it goes:

One of my best friends, Shelby, and I spent the first week of our vacation in Spain – and honestly, it might have been my favourite week of my whole trip. Spain is beautiful and hot, there are tons of things to do, the food (and wine!) was seriously amazing everywhere we went, the culture and history is interesting, and everyone we met was always relaxed and fun (in fact, I would especially recommend Spain if you’re travelling Europe alone). Plus, the easygoing pace of life just makes my soul happy.

Madrid 

We landed in Madrid on a warm Sunday afternoon, made our way to the hostel, and then went about seeing as much of the city as we could during our extremely short stay. One of the biggest highlights was the Mercado de San Miguel, a bustling indoor food market that was set up mainly as small, to-go restaurants. It seemed to be popular with both locals and tourists (so you know it’s gotta be good!) We ate fresh burrata, drank our first (of many…) glasses of sangria, and had some mussels.

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Madrid was extremely easy to walk around (we only kinda/sorta used a map) so we ended up checking out countless squares with interesting statues, market stalls, and boutiques. We also got to check out El Retiro Park, which was enormous and would have been the perfect spot for a picnic. At night, we went out to a few bars on a pub crawl with our hostel, which ended up being an awesome time (like I mentioned, the people at the hostels in Spain were the coolest). The next morning, we ate some mandatory chocolate y churros at Chocolateria San Gines, which we were told was the best, and it was honestly dream-like. My mouth is actually watering.

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Even though our stay was short, I was very pleasantly surprised by Madrid. We were there in early June, and it wasn’t overly hot or busy for my standards. It was a beautiful, intriguing, bustling city that I will definitely explore a little more when I get a chance.

Valencia 

We took a train to lovely Valencia, on the East Coast of Spain (it was a very expensive train, so I would not recommend that so much – but remember, we still were Europe newbies at this point). On our first evening there, we went to a supermarket to pick up a few things since our hostel didn’t do breakfast. This turned out to be a slight struggle, because we didn’t know that there was a certain way you had to buy produce (weigh and print out a label for your bag all the way in the produce section) which resulted in a bit of confusion. It also rained quite a lot on our way back, but I didn’t mind that too much. That night we checked out our hostel bar and met some really lovely people (including a girl who I had mutual friends with from back home, and am meeting up with on Thursday!)

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On our second day, we rented bikes and explored the old riverbed Turia (turned extensive, beautiful park), the outside of La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, some of the main squares and cathedrals in central Valencia, and the beach. The bikes turned out to be a really great idea, because despite a flat tire incident (never a dull moment!) we ended up covering a lot of ground and felt like we really got a great impression of the city. The beach was probably one of my favourite parts of the city. It was massive, the sand was incredibly soft, the water was warm and perfectly green, and it was not busy at all considering the balmy weather. Although it was quite a far bike ride (at least 30 minutes) there were bike lanes the whole way and the city is quite flat, making it an easy ride. One thing to note, though, is that you have to pass through a not so nice area for a couple of blocks before the beach. I am not one to feel out of place or unsafe very often, but I was kind of glad to be on a bike (you can also take a bus to the beach).

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We found the best place for dinner and drinks right around the corner from our hostel. Mercado Provenzal had a huge selection of extremely cheap tapas (1-5 euros/each) and beer and sangria was under a euro (!!!) The portions were small (as expected) but we got to try a bunch of dishes and all were really yummy. Plus, the people working were incredibly friendly and talkative, and the interior was really cute. I would have gone back every day if I stayed for longer! (Side note – I believe the restaurant actually has other locations in Spain as well.) The next morning, we checked out the Mercado Central, a huge indoor market with stalls upon stalls of jamon iberico, fresh seafood, dried herbs, leather products, paella, and produce. I was in heaven, and had I been by myself would have walked around for hours and inevitably missed my bus (you’ll learn later that Shelby is much more responsible than I am, and I struggled a bit with being on time for things after she left… oops!)

Overall, I loved Valencia. Near-tropical weather, being on the ocean with a beautiful beach, and the fact that it didn’t feel overly touristy or busy made it super appealing. I think it would especially be good for a family, or for people who want to be in a city, but not feel cramped or surrounded by designer stores (like some bigger cities might feel to some). It also might be a nicer place to live than Madrid or Barcelona would be, for the same reasons and more.

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Barcelona 

For our first night in BCN, we had a lovely, very homey dinner at our hostel and then headed out for Mojitos – quite possibly the best I have ever/will ever have, at an old, intimate, artsy bar called Cocktail Bar Juanra Falces. The place was certainly interesting, but it was quite expensive and had a mostly adult clientele. The next morning, we peaked into a few shops around Passeig de Gracia before heading out on a walking tour (Sandeman’s New Barcelona tour, to be exact) around the cities charming Gothic Quarter. The tour was about 3 hours long, but we saw and learned SO much more than we would have by ourselves (normally, I’m a big fan of the self-guided tour). The Catalan culture and history is fascinating, and I don’t think I need to tell you that the architecture everywhere in the city, but especially in the gothic quarter, is completely beautiful. Next, we got some much needed gelato at a place called Chocolat-Box and then strolled around La Rambla (holding onto our bags for dear life, of course) and then headed back to the hostel for a night out on the town.

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We spent our final day in Spain strolling around Parc Guell, which was one of the coolest places we visited on the trip. The views overlooking the city and the surrounding hills was breathtaking, and the Gaudi architecture is so unique and intriguing. It was quite busy, but the park was big enough that it wasn’t hard to separate yourself from the crowds of people as long as you aren’t in the monumental area, which we bought (7 euro) tickets for before we went so that we didn’t have to wait in line. We also checked out the exterior of La Sagrada Familia. It is honestly like nowhere else I have ever seen and could even imagine, and I would definitely recommend going, even if you usually stay away from the more touristy sites. I was actually a little disappointed after the fact that we didn’t pay/wait in line to see the interior. For dinner, we went to a tapas bar called Cerveceria Catalana and had patatas bravas, calamari, beef tenderloin, and an eggplant dish, which were all seriously amazing. Something interesting – that night was Spain’s first match in the World Cup series (that one where Netherlands kicked their butts!) and we expected the streets to be full of excitement. They weren’t. Apparently, Catalonia does not associate with Spain’s national team. The only place that was playing the game was our hostel! We ended our week with another night on the town, this time mainly at a shot bar called Espit Chupitos – a bar that sold (you guessed it…) shots for 2 euros each. The selection was literally endless, and many of them were lit on fire – we even roasted marshmallows over one of them! It was packed with tourists, as you would expect, but it ended up being a blast.

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Barcelona, if you couldn’t tell, may have been my favourite stop of the whole trip. Yes, it was busy and huge and kind of hard to navigate. But, you guys, it was SO beautiful, the energy that they city had was captivating, and I think I could go for a month long vacation (or longer?) and not get bored. We thought that we would have a decent amount of time to explore the city, but I felt like I missed out on so many things. We didn’t make it to the beach, or Barceloneta, or the Olympic Park, or any food markets, or any of the hills surrounding the city that you can hike up. I will most definitely be returning, hopefully soon, to discover more of the amazing things that this city has to offer.

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Home / Farewell Edmonton!

I’m baaackkk! I’ve been home from Europe for about two weeks and have been crazy busy with making the big move to Calgary to start my new job (I got here on Monday!). But don’t worry – I’ve started to compile all of my photos, and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some here. I’ll also be telling stories, sharing my favourite places to eat/shop/explore, and whatever else happens to come up. So please don’t mind me while this blog temporarily shifts to more of a travel focus, as opposed to recipe sharing. I promise there will be lots of new, exciting things going on (at least I think so!)

For now, in honour of my last weeks in Edmonton having passed, I’m going to share some of my very favourite places in the city – in case you happen to live there, or ever stop by, or are maybe just curious about the sorta places that get me excited. I personally find Edmonton to be very underrated – yes, it gets very cold in the winter, yes, some parts of it tend to be a bit dirty, and no, it’s not very close to the ocean or the mountains or anything else overly exciting. But there are some really, really lovely spots, and although I am very excited to get to know a new city, I’m a little bit sad to leave.

In no particular order:

1. The City Market Downtown (aka the 104th Street Market) – this market is quite big, by Alberta standards, and my favourite venders range from The Cheesiry to The Violet Chocolate Co. to fresh flower stands. Dogs are allowed, and even though I do not currently have one, I love seeing everyone else’s. Plus, the samples that some of the stands give away are insane – I’ve gotten a full sushi roll on more than one occasion! I can hardly think of a more perfect Saturday morning activity.

2. Duchess Bake Shop/Duchess Provisions – This place speaks to my soul, I swear. They have the best macaron’s I have ever had (and yes, I just got home from Paris). They also serve a huge selection of other world-class (seriously) pastries – brioche, pies, florentines, and galettes, and lunch options such as quiche, soup, and sandwiches and good coffee/tea. Plus the interior is fancy and adorable and I love it. It’s always busy, but for good reason. The adjacent store sells hard to find baking ingredients, cookbooks, and baking tools. I used to have a strict rule of visiting every time I was in the area (also a lovely and very “happening” place on 124th street) but then I moved closer to it and I thought that it might start getting excessive. Still, I come here pretty often and it will be one of the places that I insist on going whenever I’m in town in the future.

3. The River Valley – According to the website, the beautiful, expansive Edmonton River Valley includes 22 major parks and over 150 km of trails. It’s the perfect place for a jog or a picnic, or for cross country skiing in the winter. There are endless spots to explore, and it adds a lot of much needed green space to the city. I’ve always lived really close to the river valley, and I hope I can find a place near one of the rivers in Calgary!

4. Oak & Fort/Noul – I would guess that at least 50% of my wardrobe comes from one of these stores on Whyte Avenue. The clothing is on trend, good quality, and affordable, plus the stores themselves are really cute, and the staff are always helpful. Thankfully, an Oak & Fort just opened in Calgary, and they have online stores now, otherwise I might feel seriously deprived.

5. The Italian Centre Shop – (The Little Italy location, of course). This is a specialty grocery store with 3 locations in the city, but the best one is right downtown. It has a huge deli, a great cheese selection, an olive bar, a bakery, tons of European food products (not just Italian) that can be hard to find elsewhere, and all sorts of other little delights. Also attached is Spinelli’s Bar/Cafe, where you can get a (super fresh, super italian) slice of pizza, 2 pieces of biscotti (the best you’ll ever have) and a large cappuccino (very comparable) for under $10. Most of the food is made to order, and it is all crazy delicious and cheap. In fact, it might be the best value cafe in the city.

6. The Old Strathcona Antique Mall – Over 100 antique dealers have permanent booths set up in this huge antique mall, and I love spending an afternoon browsing through old knick knacks, furniture, and art. There really is something here for everyone, and most of it is really reasonably priced. Plus, they sell Sara’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, which might be the best in the city.

7. Leva Cafe – I’ve been coming here for four years, since I moved to Edmonton, because it’s really close to the University, in a very quaint residential area with tree-lined streets and charming old houses. During the day, it’s a casual, order at the counter kind of place, but in the evening it gets ever so slightly more formal (and they are open late, making it the perfect place to share a bottle of wine on a warm summer night). Pretty much everything they sell here is amazing (seriously – one time I ordered toast with butter and it was the most perfect thing ever) but I would most recommend the coffee (a lavender latte, if I’m being specific), pizzas, gelato, and tiramiso. And also their breakfast and salads. So yeah, basically everything.

8. Whyte Avenue – This charming avenue a few blocks south of the river has a little bit of everything. The interesting part of it stretches for about 6 or 7 blocks. It’s always bustling, especially in the summer, with street performers and quite few festivals hosted here throughout the year. I’ve also seen horse drawn carriages going up and down it around Christmas time. The shopping is above average, the food options are numerous, and the nightlife is lively. It’s really close to the university, so I’ve spent a lot of time around here over the past few years, and it’s one of the coolest places in the city.

9. The Sugarbowl – This is my go-to brunch spot in the city.  It’s always busy, so expect to wait, but the food is amazing and the atmosphere is great. My pick is their eggs benedict (which is on cornbread – yum), but their cinnamon buns are massive and totally delicious. They also have a pretty impressive list of beers on tap, and their dinner options are very good as well.

10. Transcend Coffee – Okay. I know there are technically 2 other cafes on this list, but a good cup of coffee in a nice atmosphere really just gets me excited. Plus, transcend sources and roasts their own coffee beans, and they are particularly delightful. While I love other popular cafes like District Coffee Co. and Elm Cafe almost equally as much, they are the kind of places where I would usually stop in quickly. Transcend is the perfect place to bring your laptop and textbooks to study, or a novel to sit and read, or a date to chat with and stay a while. Their baking tends to be hit or miss for me, but it certainly beats most other cafes. I’ll definitely continue to buy their beans when I visit the city!