Chasing Tomatoes


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Supporting Local: Help the Sons of Vancouver

I met the guys from Sons of Vancouver the last time I went to Eat Vancouver with my friend Maria. We stopped at their booth and tried the amaretto, and decided then and there we had to buy a bottle.

I normally am not a fan of amaretto, but this is different. Notes of apricot and vanilla make this liqueur something so unbelievably delicious. It's my go-to for pouring over ice cream, adding to sauces or cheesecake, putting in my tea, or just having a sip of now and then.


What makes me so happy to use it is that it's also made locally. I believe that it's really important to support local business, especially when their product is this amazing.

Sons of Vancouver distillery is a small craft distillery located in North Vancouver, BC. They've been quite successful, producing a No. 82 Amaretto, vodka, and a really interesting chili vodka. Turns out, they need some new equipment. Their products are doing so well they are having a hard time keeping up to demand and have started an Indiegogo campaign.

I highly recommend that you check out the campaign and pick yourself up some of that delicious amaretto If you are in town, because it's hands down my favourite liqueur ever. 

 Disclosure: I wasn't paid to share this with you, I just love my amaretto THAT much!
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

10 Back To School Lunch Hacks

School start up is only a few days away here in BC and with that, many people are talking about school lunches. How do you do lunch? Do the kids pack their own? Do you throw it together in the morning, or pre-pack it the night before?

I work as an educational assistant and noon hour supervisor, so I actually hang out with the kids on a daily basis during lunch time and see what's going on in the classroom. You are in the right place for the inside scoop!


Let's start with equipment! 

1. If your child is in kindergarten or grade 1, make sure they can open the containers themselves. Waiting to get a staff member or helper to open containers can be a problem and they are slow eaters, plus they don't have a lot of time.

2. Label EVERYTHING. The lunch bag, the containers, the water bottle, backpack, shoes, their clothes, EVERYTHING. I can't tell you how many times we had two backpacks, lunch bags, or water bottles that were exactly the same and nobody knew which one belonged to who. Or the child left it on the playground, and it winds up in the abyss of the lost and found. A label makes things easy for everyone. I'm a huge fan of Mabels Labels, but any good quality durable label will do.

3. Don't forget ice packs. A little food safe info: you need to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When something that should be cold warms up to the danger zone of between 4 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius , it has about 2 hours before it will start growing bacteria that can cause illness. (See Safe Food handling here). Ice packs help keep things cooler, especially when it's still sunny and warm out. Freezing yogurt tubes and juice boxes are also a great idea. If those yogurt containers come back at the end of the day, they should be discarded-along with any leftovers if they had school lunch (known here as hot lunch) Always have a few ice packs so one is frozen and ready to go when you need it.

4. Utensils are gold. Seriously, the biggest complaint we have from kids is that their parent forgot a spoon or fork, and often schools don't have any to give out. There are two solutions for this. The less planet friendly one is, buy a box of plastic forks and/or spoons that you keep with the lunch boxes, and just tuck them into the lunchbox (the front is ideal). The more plant friendly one is you go to a thrift store and get a bunch of utensils, label them, and keep them in a container right near the lunch bags. This way it doesn't matter if they lose the fork because it's not one of your good ones, but with the label the chances are it will be returned.

5. Invest in a good thermos. Kids LOVE thermos lunches. I've never heard one complaint about them, ever. Fill it with pasta, soup, stew, noodles, and they will gobble it up.

 Now onto food! 

1. Keep it simple. No seriously, let me say that again: KEEP. IT. SIMPLE. Don't worry about your kid having the 'cool' lunch or the latest marketed sugar filled treat, or that the sandwich has to look like a cartoon character. The very most important thing about school lunch is that your kid will eat it in the allotted amount of time, which is sadly not that long.

2. Keep the conversation going. With your kid, that is. Don't make school lunch a big, "I slaved over that lunch and you darn well better eat it". If kids hate what you packed and are afraid to tell you, they'll likely toss the lunch in the garbage can when we aren't looking. I used to get my son to 'rate' his lunches, and didn't take it personally when he didn't like something. A polite, "You know, I don't like mustard on my sandwiches" is also learning how to advocate for yourself in a reasonable way.

3. For smaller kids, make things bite sized so it's easier to eat. Little hands find big portions daunting, so if you keep it small with lots of variety, they are far more likely to eat it. I've seen so many kids try to wrangle a huge sandwich, only to give up and dump it later. Try prepping things for lunches ahead of time (during dinner prep is good) so that you can just grab and go.

4. Deconstruct things! Some kids don't like their food mixed or with sauce, so if you pack sandwich ingredients separately, they may either build their own or just eat it all, in parts. The biggest complaint I get about sandwiches is always that there's jam, butter, mayo, or mustard. The second biggest is that it's soggy.

5. Lastly, don't assume anything. Kids are amazing when it comes to food-most will list fruit or veggies as their favourite things to eat. Take them with you to the produce section and allow them to choose some things to try at home, and then if it passes the test, add them to lunches. Kids don't like cooked peas? Try raw sugar snaps with a bit of dip. Sometimes it's not the veggie itself, but how it's prepared. In my cooking class if kids say they don't like a particular veggie, we try it prepared a different way and most of the time, they love it.

Hey, we know packing lunches is hard. We're there with you! We have to pack them for ourselves, too and rejoice when it's hot lunch day.You have an advantage though; teach the kids how to make their own lunches, and then you can sit back and relax eventually.

Now that's a hack!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chick Pea, Tomato, Avocado and Tuna Salad with Feta

The weather has been scorching here, and the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. That's where this salad comes in-you simply open a few cans, chop some things, and pour the works into a bowl. It's really simple, and was so tasty we were shoveling spoonfuls into our mouths.

If you have a sulphite allergy you have to be very careful with fish; generally most seafood and fish are dusted with sulphites on the boat to keep them from going bad. According to Eat Right Ontario, sulphites are allowed on canned tuna. Read your labels! If in doubt, just leave out the tuna, and a couple hard boiled eggs might be nice substitution. I used Clover Leaf tuna, and on their site is this handy chart that informs you of the allergens that might be present in their products. When I wrote and inquired, they said that none of the tuna is dusted with sulphites either on the boat or in the processing plant. Yay!

chick pea salad

Salad (serves 4)

one 19 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed well
one can of Clover Leaf Skipjack in water Tuna
2 cups mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 green onion, minced
1 avocado, peeled and chunked
8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 oz feta cheese (I use Tre Stelle)


1/2 fresh lemon
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey
pinch salt
pinch pepper*


1. Toss all your salad ingredients into a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Measure the dressing ingredients into a mason jar, put a lid on, and shake it until well blended. The honey might settle to the bottom, so you may need to get a spoon and give it a good stir. Drizzle it over the salad and toss again.

3. Season if you need to. I added a little more salt, but the feta adds enough.

I served this with Cobs Turkish loaf-the one topped with salt and pepper. YUM.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Roasted Tomato Bruchetta Toasts


This weekend, greenhouses in the Fraser Valley are giving you a peek into how they produce the very vegetables we love at BC Veggie Day! Last year I visited some greenhouses in Abbotsford and it was fascinating to see just how all those sweet peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and tomatoes are grown right here in the Lower Mainland. Head out to a farm on Saturday between 10 am and 2pm to meet your local farmer, see their operation, and ask questions! (list of the farms that are open is right here). We'll be out at Bakerview Greenhouses and Randhawa Farms.

Grown locally without herbicides or pesticides, these GMO free veggies and easy to turn into something really tasty for your family, just like these roasted tomato and pepper bruschetta toasts I came up with. I love roasting tomatoes to intensify the flavours, and then mound them up on some good crusty bread. You can actually roast the tomatoes the day before and put them in a sealed container in the fridge if you like, then the next day just toss them with the other ingredients and proceed. A light dinner will be on the table in no time!  You can change these up and add cooked and crumbled bacon or feta cheese, if you like. I like them just as is. This recipe makes enough for 2 people as a meal with a side salad or something.


1 1/2 cups halved grape or mixed color cherry tomatoes, roasted.
1/2 cup sweet red pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 finely chopped green onion
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Demi sized loaf of Cobs Turkish bread (split in half), or 2 good sized ciabatta buns


1. Butter and toast the bread under the broiler. Set aside and turn off the oven.

turkish bread

2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the roasted tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, Parmesan, green onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil all together. Mound on the toasted bread. Place the pan back into the hot oven for a few minutes to warm through.

roasted tomato

3. Serve immediately!

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Catelli's Gluten Free Lasagne Noodles

About six months ago, the kid of the house spread his wings and found his own place to live. It's been really weird not having kids in the house, especially when I'm cooking. When I'm used to making things that serve 4-6 people (because boys in their early 20s eat as much as a small village), I'm down to two people now, one of whom eats barely anything at all.

Cooking is weird, now.

When Catelli sent me these new gluten free lasagna noodles, I was quite interested in trying them-especially to make some freezer lasagnas for Kevin on my next visit. What's a visit from Mom unless she brings you food, right? Splitting up a lasagna recipe into smaller trays just makes a lot of sense when the recipient is a single person.


First let's take a look at the noodles. At first I had no idea they were of the no cook, oven ready variety. Oh! Really? There's pros and cons to this kind of noodle. First, the obvious-it takes away the step of having to boil noodles,which cuts on prep time. This time of year, we can always cut down on prep time.


The only con to the whole oven ready idea is that I like to fit noodles to the pan, and when they are hard it makes the job more difficult. I ended up breaking them and trying to fit them in as best I could. Cooked noodles are easier because you can just trim them, oven ready means you have to break them and try to fit them in.


The recipe on the back of the box is easy enough to follow, and doesn't really require that many ingredients. The best part is I was able to put it together rather quickly! The trick is, use lots of sauce and make sure the noodles are covered well.


Soon they were ready for the oven, and the most delicious smell filled the house as they baked and bubbled away. The noodles softened right up just like they should and the finished pasta looked absolutely amazing. The best part is, people who are gluten free could enjoy a cheesy lasagna and not have issues with the pasta. This might be a great dinner to whip up during the holidays when you are on the run. You'll find the recipe right on the back of the Catelli box (or right here online)!

Most people don't like gluten free pasta, but from what I've tasted with Catelli's offerings, they are just like regular pasta. You can't even notice a difference, and we really like them-which is great, because one of our family members is gluten free.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Win Rice for Days with Minute Rice

Some time ago I was sent a case of Minute Rice ready to serve cups. At first, I admit I scoffed a little. Cups? Rice? Why not just cook some up? Rice isn't hard to make, and it's probably more economical to just make it as usual.

Then, school started up and I was back to juggling two jobs, where I barely had time for anything. One day I made some chicken rogan josh ahead of time, grabbed one of the cups to go, and threw it in my bag. When you have only 15 minutes to heat dinner and eat, you need something fast.

I don't mind fast, but I want dinner to taste good too and that rice? Perfect. Heat, stir, eat it right out of the cup or like me, stir it right on it. Either way, it was SO easy.

Thus began my love affair with these rice cups. At work, I just toss one in the microwave along with my dinner and in a minute there's hot, tasty rice ready to eat. There's no weird ingredients. Nothing but really tasty rice. You can get flavoured cups (Mexican, Chicken, etc) , but so far my favourite is the plain basmati or whole grain.

What makes this product so great besides the lack of strange ingredients is that it's shelf stable so I can throw it in my lunch bag and then microwave it when I need it. The convenience alone has made this product totally worth it for me, and I've bought more even after the packages sent to me were long eaten. Seasoned delicious rice when you don't have the time to boil it yourself really is a nice option to have in the cupboard.

Lucky for you, I have some rice to give away! For older kids to put in their lunch bag and mix with stir fry or curry, or even to give the younger ones something quick to heat up as a side dish to their dinner, these rice cups are super handy. I highly recommend them, and honestly I'm surprised myself-I never expected that I would be so excited about them.

That alone tells you more than anything else could.

So, what can you win? Try out some of these cups yourself. You can win THREE cases of them just by entering below! This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec.

What's with all the sponsored things and giveaways, you ask? Well, I had promised to do a few things awhile ago before things got really busy here. I'm preparing for a blog hiatus, but before I go, you might as well have a little fun.

I have loved blogging, but right now my jobs away from the computer are taking over. I'm working with kids, both in the kitchen and out. Some time Chef Michael Smith quite pointedly asked when I'm writing a cookbook, and it's about time I started. This school year I'm back in the kitchen cooking with kids, and I think it's about time I get my hands dirty. I'll still be around, especially on twitter, but this place is going to be very quiet while I got immerse myself in the kitchen.

Enjoy, friends. And Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Back to School Lunch with Snapware (and WIN!)

As a noon hour supervisor and educational assistant for the past 23 years, I have seen a lot of lunches. Big ones, little ones, fun ones, and everything in between. Often I get ideas for my own lunch from what I see kids bringing, and it's always interesting to see what the kids enjoy to eat. I've also picked up quite a few tips and tricks for school lunches that I'd love to share!This post is sponsored by Snapware, who sent me some containers to try in  my lunches and you're going to have a chance to win some as well at the end of this post!

1. Kids will eat more fruit if it's bite sized and they don't have to work for it.

They will struggle with a whole apple or a juicy orange for a few minutes and then discard it, and bananas usually get squished. I like packing something like cubed mango and grapes cut in half so they don't have to use any of their precious play time wrestling with peeling something; instead they get right to work. I really loved this mango and grape combination-it was a departure from the usual and really tasty.

mango and grapes

Try buying Greek yogurt, spooning it into a small container, topping with frozen blueberries and a bit of honey. The blueberries will keep the yogurt cold as they thaw, and by recess just stir it all together and eat!

2. Easy to open and handle containers are important-and don't forget the spoon!

I've seen kids struggle to snap containers closed before because they can't line the tabs up just so, which is a problem for little ones. I love Snapware containers because you don't have to line anything up, they just snap closed however you have the lid on. They come in lots of great sizes, pack really well, and are really easy to open and close-a huge benefit for little ones who sometimes struggle with containers. Spoons are the number one thing parents forget to pack. Try going to a thrift store and getting a bunch, then label them. That way it isn't a huge loss if they are left behind.

3. Lunch is a busy time, so make it count

Try to pack things that are easy to just grab and eat-a large, messy sandwich may look inviting but often kids will take a few bites and give up. Some of those pre-made lunch 'kits' at the store look like fun but most of it ends up on the floor. Try wraps, or grab some English muffins and make 'pizza' to pack the night before. Change it up! We made pizza with BBQ chicken, some peppers and mixed cheeses. They are delicious cold and so easy to eat. Just toast the English muffins, slather with equal parts bbq and pizza sauces, top w/ leftover chicken and a sprinkle of green onion, then cheeses and diced sweet peppers if you want. Bake at 400 F for a few minutes until bubbly, let cool to room temperature and store overnight in the fridge. Tuck into lunch the next day.

BBQ chicken pizza

4. Don't forget the veggies!

Kids love raw veggies, especially cut up and sent with a good dip. Hummus is a healthy alternative and high in protein to get them through the afternoon. You can even tuck it into the cup of veggies and nor worry about it dripping all over because it's thicker and won't spill out if it's firmly positioned in the cup. Try sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, raw peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. Involving the kids by having them choose which veggies they want in their lunch will make it more likely that they will eat them. And if they only eat the dip? Well, hummus is healthy so you don't have to worry. Maybe include some pretzels!

veggies & dip

5. Include a sweet treat for fun

Who doesn't like a little something sweet in their lunch? I included chocolate toffee meringue cookies but you can get creative-try making your own tasty snack mixes with dried fruit, chocolate chips, and cereals like Cheerios or a bit salty with pretzels. Kids would have fun coming up with different flavour combinations!


How can you win your own 16 piece Snapware set? The set includes some amazing glass and plastic containers just perfect for use in your kitchen and in lunches. I absolutely love mine and use them in my lunches all the time. It's easy to win, just leave a comment below telling me what is your favourite thing to have in your lunch!

This contest is open to USA and Canadian residents only.  Good luck!

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