Chasing Tomatoes


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Re-post: Elusive, part 2

When you last left me, I was standing outside a bakery. The lights were off and inside, I could see a girl wiping the counters. It was all I could do not to grab the door, shake it, and wail...


I went home and dejectedly ate a cookie instead. Stupid universe. How long does the whole birthday thing last? If you finally get your cake 2 days AFTER your birthday and you buy it yourself, does it count? Or am I perpetually stuck a year behind now? (That might come in handy next year when I turn 40. I can still say I'm 39 then. Remember that.)

On Saturday I rose late and sat for a good hour in my pajamas, drinking coffee and blogging. There were lots of plans for the day, from housework to groceries and cooking, coffee with my bestie, and more.

I almost forgot about it but finally, around 11 am I grabbed the phone and called the bakery to ask them to put one aside. They are popular, those little bits of chocolate goodness.

"I need a SMALL cake," I specified. Even we, the die hard chocolate lovers, can't eat a large one ourselves. Nor should we, without plans to exercise strenuously to burn off the thousands of calories that would be coursing through our bodies.

Two hours later I arrived at the shop, cooler in hand, ready to pick it up. I was meeting my friend for coffee, and the cake would need to sit in the car for awhile. No point in risking it melting if the car was warm, right?

The teenager behind the counter didn't seem to understand me.

"I phoned, around 11, and asked one to be put aside. Chocolate ganache." I explained, for the third time.

Oh please let them get it right. Please, please tell me there are cakes. Please. I will just cry now if they don't have one.

She came out with a box and rang me up. That box looks a little big. Is it? No, oh no...

"I asked for a small one. That's a big one. Do you have any small?"

She sighed and went into the back to look.

The universe is conspiring against me. I looked at my shoes and heaved a sigh of resignation. Am I desperate to pay $25 and buy the big cake, even though we really don't need it? I guess I could freeze it.

How can it be so stupidly HARD to get a birthday cake?!

She arrived back with a small box in hand, and I resisted the urge to snatch it from her hands, hold it high over my head like the Stanly Cup, and dance a jig right there in the coffee shop. I could have kissed her. MY cake. My BIRTHDAY cake. FINALLY!

Later that afternoon, with the cake lovingly tucked into a cooler and waiting in the car, I sat by the ocean sipping coffee with my best friend. The friend who had read my tweets where I longed for chocolate cake, and so kindly gifted me with this so I will never be unprepared again.

Now I had my cake and could bake it too! Then just to be sure, she handed me SIX (yes, SIX) bars of Green and Black's Organic Chocolate, with a Lindt bunny. I have enough chocolate in this house to last me until next Easter.

That evening after an amazing dinner, we sliced into the cake and savored each decadent bite. As I sat there, finally content that my birthday had been sufficiently celebrated, I tweeted that it was so good I was tempted to lick the the plate.

@mrshotmom tweeted me back immediately, to remind me that it was my birthday after all, and plate licking was entirely acceptable.

Really? Do I? It's sort of rude. But this was a hard won cake. I had to fight for it this year. Glancing at John and Kevin trying to get every last crumb off their plates with their forks, I finally lifted my plate to my tongue and gave it a long, slow, lick.

"What are you doing? That's gross!" John snorted

"Hey. It's MY birthday and this was one HARD won cake. I figure I can do whatever I like. And while we're talking about this, let me tell you one thing." I paused and set the plate down, looking John in the eye and speaking slowly, carefully, so that he wouldn't miss a thing.

"I will ALWAYS want a cake."   (he never forgot that. Every year after, there was cake)

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Re-post: Elusive

My birthday is tomorrow. It will be the first birthday I've ever spent without my husband since I turned 21, and the sixth without Anne. This story always makes me smile because sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to get yourself a birthday cake. My 39th birthday proved to be one of those.

I'm not sure what it is about birthday cake. Whether it's the candles, the delicious treat, or the fact that it acknowledges a birthday, I don't know, but I love everything about them.

Whatever it is, cake is definitely the best part of my birthday and a celebration just isn't complete without one.

For years, I used to bake my own birthday cake but the last few years I got bored with that. Besides, there's a fantastic bakery in town that makes chocolate ganache cakes, with are my very favorite. Dark chocolate sponge, layered with rich ganache, they are the most decadent and delicious cakes I have ever eaten in my life.

My birthday came, and I went to work with a teeny bit of anticipation that somewhere in my day, there would be cake. Hopefully chocolate. Let's be honest; I expected cake. It's a birthday for God's sake, isn't that just what happens?

So when I spotted a chocolate cake sitting there I jumped a bit inside with excitement because wow, maybe there will be TWO birthday cakes! Talk about indulgence! Isn't that the best way to end your 30s? Isn't it great when people celebrate with you and acknowledge your birthday? Doesn't it make you feel special and loved, appreciated and all warm and fuzzy?

The cake wasn't for me.

Deflated, I sucked it up. I'm a big girl, and I realize that not everyone cares if it's your birthday. I accepted a piece of the impostor cake, choked it down, and reminded myself to grow up. It's not that important. Deal with it. Besides, I'll have MY birthday cake later that evening with the most important people in my family, right?

Later that evening, Hubs took me and Jake out for dinner to our favorite restaurant where we dined on delicious cheesy pizza, tall glasses of Coke, and laughed about our day. This is what birthdays are all about. I'm getting to spend it with the two best people in my life over a great meal!

"See you at home!" I called to John when we left. My cake is hiding in his car, I thought. I'll bet he stopped at the bakery on the way here and got it. I wonder which kind he bought? I hope it's chocolate ganache. Oooo, I'll have some with a cup of decaf, we'll all chill out on the couch in front of the TV and it will be the BEST way to end a birthday.

My mouth was practically watering with anticipation.

We arrived home and I began fixing coffee, when I heard Hub's car pull into the driveway.

Okay, get ready to squeal and give him a kiss, because going to walk in with the box any second.

The door opened and I could hear him coming into the kitchen.

Get the coffee ready. I can't wait to...

When he rounded the corner, he froze when our eyes met. I just stood there, looking at his hands and then back at his face, my mouth gaping in shock.

He wasn't holding a box.

"Didn't you...I mean...isn't there... cake?" I squeaked. My expression must have shown how upset I was. He looked confused.

"But you said not to buy you a cake. You said that they might give you one at work and you didn't need two. You said that it was okay!" Hubs was horrified. He would NEVER forget to get me a birthday cake but somehow, we miscommunicated and he thought that I didn't want one. What? How did that happen? Was I really that stupid? I don't remember saying that, but he obviously got that impression somehow, so what the hell happened?

All I know is that we sat there that evening watching TV, and all I could think about was chocolate ganache cake.

The next day we had a meeting at Kevin's school and as we sat there talking about IEPS, computers, and math class but all the while, in my brain, chocolate ganache cake was calling.

"So we're covering fractions and Kevin.."

One chocolate ganache cake divided for three people doesn't mean we each get 1/3 because it's so rich but usually we each get 1/4 and then fight over the last 1/4. But the big cake is too big and we never can eat it all so....
It was hopeless. I wanted cake, dammit. Finally after what felt like forever, we were pulling away from the school but instead of turning right to go home, I turned left.

"Where are we going?"

"We're getting ourselves some birthday cake," I parked at the bakery and turned to face Jake, who was eying me like I had suddenly lost my mind.

"Don't other people usually do that? Who buys their own cake?"

"I do. I'm 39 and if nobody else is getting me a birthday cake, I'm damn well buying my own."

Kevin grinned in delight.

"Really? Will you share? Will I get some?" I could see his teenage brain already cutting up the cake and deciding how much everyone would have.

"Of course! Just stay here, and I'll be right back," jogging to the bakery front doors, part of me hoped that they would even have chocolate ganache cake left. I might have to settle for something else. No matter. Tonight my friends, we will dine on cake.

At the bakery doors, I stopped dead. Wait a minute, the lights are off. It can't please don't tell me...


You've GOT to be kidding me. Is this a conspiracy? The bakery is closed? Is the universe telling me that THIS year, I'm not destined to have cake even if I plan to buy my own? be continued

(Will Karen ever get her birthday cake? Or will she forever be in the birthday Twilight Zone, searching for it? )
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Sunday, February 4, 2018


On January 25, 2018 our beloved John passed away from complications caused by a virus. It was absolutely unexpected, sudden, and left our family reeling.

I have gone from learning how to be an empty nester to now, being a widow. It's a very strange place to be. I was with John my entire adult life and married to him for 24 years (our 25th wedding anniversary was this summer). Learning how to cook for one is... very different.

Food was/is love in this house. From his favourite cookies to chicken stews and apple crumble, almost everything on this blog was created in my kitchen with my family in mind. It's impossible to think of cooking only for myself, but I think it's important to continue. You will see me back here soon, creating things because it is exactly what John would have wanted. Even in grief, I still find solace in my kitchen.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Goodbye, For Now

Over the past week, my family has been struggling with some news and it is with a heavy heart that I'm going to close down Chasing Tomatoes indefinitely. I thought that maybe I could maintain this space but I realized today that I can't be tied to writing when my family needs me now more than ever.

You will still find me on Instagram, Twitter, and my personal Facebook pages.

Thank you so much for all your support, love, and opportunity over the years. I've learned so much and had so many great experiences that I'll never forget.

Much love to you all. xo
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Friday, September 1, 2017

Wheat free Fruit Crumble

fruit crisp

Fruit crumbles are probably one of the easiest desserts you'll ever make, and a fantastic way to use up leftover fruit. What drew me to them initially was that I've never been a fan of pastry, so a traditional pie has never been my thing-not to mention that pastry making was kind of my nemesis for awhile as I learned and practiced how to make it.

Years ago we used to go to a little restaurant that would have all kinds of crumble choices; peach and raspberry, pear and cranberry, apple, and more. Feel free to play around with whatever fillings you want to create with this recipe-it's pretty open to whatever your heart desires! In the pictures I made plain apple and then apple and blueberry, because I had berries to use up but not enough for a solid blueberry on it's own. You can change the amount of sugar in the filling (more if you want, less if you want, none if that's how you roll), and even the thickening agent. Some fruit needs a little help to not become watery, such as frozen blueberries. Some is pretty thick from natural pectin all on it's own.

The amounts for the filling is also open to interpretation. Generally, I fill up my dish nearly to the top before piling the topping over the fruit, making sure to cover every little space. It may look completely overfilled and impossible at the time, but remember that the fruit will cook down. I love to have a good amount of fruit to hold up against the oatmealy topping.

Fruit crumble is fantastic not only as dessert topped with creamy vanilla ice cream, but I am known to eat it for breakfast with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt. Hey, it's fruit and oatmeal, why not?

Yield: a 9x9 inch baking dish (or about 6 servings)


Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup whole barley flour (if gluten free sub the barley and sunflower flours for gluten free flour)
1/4 cup sunflower flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup rolled oats


5-6 cups of fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp barley flour, all purpose flour, or 2 tsp tapioca starch (gluten free)

Apple, peach, or pear

4-6 medium/large apples OR peaches, OR pears (try a combination!), peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp barley flour, all purpose flour, or 2 tsp tapioca starch (gluten free)


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Find a 9x9 inch ceramic dish, or you can use two smaller dishes and make 2 different kinds of crumbles if you like.

cutting in

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the oatmeal and then, using your hands, squeeze clumps of the mixture together to make some chunks of topping. You want there to be some so that when it cooks you'll have chunks of filling that become almost cookie-like. Put the bowl in the fridge so that the clumps harden up a little.


3. Next, prep your filling while the topping chills. Toss it all together and fill up your baking dish.

unbaked crisp

4. Pull the chilled topping out of the fridge and pile the oatmeal goodness over the fruit, covering it all to the edges. Place the dish on a pan so that it catches any overflow and  place in the center of your hot oven.

5. Bake the fruit crisp about 50-60 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling and soft. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

blueberry crumble

6. Try not to eat it all one go.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Honey Mustard Harissa Chicken Breasts

finished chicken

I love easy chicken recipes, especially ones that can be made ahead and set aside for later. These chicken breasts are fantastic re-warmed on a hot late summer night, sliced and tossed into a salad, or tucked into a bun for a sandwich. The best part is the topping uses only 3 ingredients, so you can make it when you don't have much else in the house.  I love to have a little extra honey mustard sauce on the side at the table for dipping.


2 chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp of good dijon mustard ( you can sub some whole grain mustard if you want)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 - 1/2 tsp harissa, or smoked paprika if you don't want a little heat. No harissa? Try a pinch of cayenne


1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a small baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in your dish.

2. In a small bowl, stir together mustard, honey, and harissa. Pour evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

honey mustard chicken

3. Bake the chicken for about 20-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer in the center registers 165 F. make sure to check after about 10 or 15 minutes-if the sauce starts to get a little too browned in the pan, add about a tablespoon of water.Baste it once or twice while it's baking.

4. Once the chicken is cooked through, let cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving. Drizzle the pan juices over top and serve with a little extra honey mustard sauce at the table!

baked chicken
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Spiced Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cups

Last week I was missing in action, mostly the result of some nasty allergy experiences. When I have a bad one it usually sets me back for a few days or up to a week, and instead of playing catch up I decided to let things go. You were fine, right? Of course you were.

Anyway, moving on!

oat cup2

Being diagnosed as allergic to wheat, corn, soy, and rice really limited the snacks I could eat, and sometimes a girl just needs something, you know? Enter these oatmeal cups. Not really a true muffin, they kind of are like a cross between a granola bar and a muffin - a little more toothsome and more texture than a muffin, but not as chewy as a granola bar. I tuck them into my bag for a snack when I need a pick me up, and both my guys kept raiding the freezer and eating my stash as soon as they discovered how good they were. I eat them after the gym, as a grab and go breakfast with some sausage patties, or will likely tuck them into my bag once school starts as a midday pick me up. 

Don't get scared when you make these. They look totally impossible, like there's too much liquid and there's no possible way that they will turn out, but they always do. You can sprinkle the tops with some mini chocolate chips if you like, or leave them plain.



3 cups rolled oats-not quick or minute oats  (Only Oats if you are gluten free)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (wheat or corn free if you need)
2 mashed ripe bananas
2 Tbsp light tasting olive oil
1 tsp vanilla (optional: skip if you are corn free)
2 cups of 2% or whole milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Prep your muffin tins with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the rolled oats, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder.

3. In a different bowl or large measuring cup (I like to use a big 4 cup Pyrex one), whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in the mashed banana.

4. Pour the works into the bowl of oatmeal and give it a good stir. It's going to be weird and liquidy.

5. Divide the mixture among the muffins cups. I use my cookie scoop to make it easier, so an ice cream scoop would likely help. The mixture should fill about 15 of them or so. You want to make sure that they have lots of oats along with liquid, because the oats will suck up the liquid and become soft.

unbaked oat cup 2

6. Sprinkle the tops with mini chocolate chips if you like,  and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and set. Let the cups cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pans and cooling completely on a wire rack.

7. Once they are fully cooled, you can freeze them in a sealable freezer bag for about a month and pop into lunch bags or defrost in the microwave as needed.

Oat cups

Adapted slightly from The Merchant Baker
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