Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and Baccala

Every Christmas Eve of my life (except THIS ONE!) has featured these two simple, yet remarkable dishes. Written on a recipe card and handed down through the generations, I now hold the key to unlocking this beautiful family tradition. Why didn't we have our classic Christmas meal this year? Because I've been making the Italian menu for years and wanted to learn to make the traditional "American" meal.. turkey, dressing, cranberries and the like. Unable to control my desire to master ALL of our family traditions, I begged my mom to show me the "American" ropes. She did and it was excellent. But now I want my Italian Christmas! So.. weeks later, we find ourselves here, on this piece of internet real estate - eating Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Walnuts and Baccala.

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Southern Biscuits and Ribbon Cane Syrup

I have an eternal memory of my grandfather grilling sausage patties in a cast iron skillet, the smell of biscuits wafting through the living room and into the downstairs bedroom where I arose, sleepily making my way to the dining room. Soft scrambled eggs were placed on a rose printed platter and onto the table that now sits in my mother's kitchen. My grandmother would come in with hot coffee, sporting a long caftan style robe with her ever-loving beehive and offer us homemade pear preserves, fig jam, or ribbon cane syrup to go with our biscuits. It was always a no brainer for me. Preserves took a backseat... I could have homemade preserves anywhere in the city, but ribbon cane syrup? No. That was a treasure only the deep south could offer.

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Janet's Christmas Pudding

Janet and I have been friends for about a year now, and I've always admired her acceptance of everyone and her thirst for knowledge. Energetic, kind and enthusiastic are a few words I would use to describe Janet, and it's too fun that her bright smile and bouncy blonde curls fit her personality, perfectly. Last year, when I was sharing with her my desire to turn The Living Menu into a storyboard or, rather, a collection of people's lives, I was beyond thrilled when she agreed to let me in on a piece of her own life - her family's traditional English Christmas Pudding.

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Emma's Root Vegetable Hash

In my heart, The Living Menu has always been about people, and although the blog started as a hobby to chronicle some of my favourite recipes and destinations, I envisioned this piece of internet real estate to be about people and their traditions. Today, that dream has come alive, thanks to Emma, who has so generously shared her story and one of her favourite recipes.

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Homecoming 2015

My friend once described returning home to Texas as "receiving a big ol' hug", and she's right. That beautiful, simple and yet complicated state extends her arms from the west and north and pulls you into her center whispering, "Hello, Sugar. I'm glad you're home." People who grow up elsewhere are often baffled by the enthusiasm and loyalty that Texans have for the Lonestar state, but there's something about the big hair, polished nails and everlasting lipstick that sticks to your bones and heart - just like chicken fried steak.

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The Village Meat Shop's Lamb Chops

This morning I woke up to a text from my friend, Erin, at The Village Meat Shop. She told me they had some lamb they wanted me to try so I hopped in the shower and sped to meet her, wet hair dripping down my back. Her husband, Andrew, met Raph and me at the door and presented us with a cooler filled with beautiful, fresh lamb, newly wrapped in vacuum-sealed packages. I sifted through the container and nimbly selected the lamb chops while we talked about our plans for the weekend. As we left, Andrew called out, "Take a couple of pictures!" Laughing and waving our goodbyes, we formulated a recipe that could be executed in 30 minutes.

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Bridal Tea for Sarah

When your sister-friend asks you to throw her a bridal shower tea party in a historic building that rivals Downton Abbey, you put the kettle on faster than the Dowager Countess can outwit your intelligence. I wanted to throw a party so memorable and reflective of Ms. Sarah that she would feel all the love I have for her rising like steam from a tea spout.

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White Bean and Radish Salad

I have a friend who is a really adventurous cook. She's not afraid to try new recipes and often has THE BEST menus, ever. She made a white bean and radish salad from Bon Appétit, and it was to die for. I found the recipe and modified it to suit my dinner guests' tastes, so this adaptation was born.

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Pumpkin Spice Brownies

Last week I visited the cutest little café where a strawberry blonde barista with adorable freckles named all of the sweet things on display. She sold me on the pumpkin brownie, saying, "It might just change your life," and I had one of those Garden State, sitting in the waiting room listening to The Shins and falling in love, moments.

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The One About Skinny Jeans

I believe the last of the good weather may be upon us. They're predicting snow on Saturday and I'm pretty much not ok with that at all. I love snow and hot chocolate and that the air that smells like fireplaces alive with warmth, but it means that I have to put away my summer dresses and isn't that reason enough to be at least a little bit sad? I'm not giving up on fall, but I have to be realistic. Winter is coming. In previous years, I have faithfully avoided skinny jeans, opting for baggy jeans and skirts resembling trash bags to keep the wind out. In Texas, I hid my aversion well because very few days called for bundling up. I didn't even know about the concept of layering until I moved up north. But now that I'm in Canada, soggy jean bottoms and oversized boots poking out awkwardly from under a hefty bag are dragging me down. Why all the fuss, you ask? Because somewhere between grade school and adulthood, I assumed my legs were too big for skinny jeans.

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The Accidental Pilgrimage

What's the point of living in this part of the world if you can't hunt down a changing leaf on a major public holiday? It was Thanksgiving in Canada last week and being a couple of transplants with no family near by, we decided to take a road trip. We arrived in Quebec City and got to Googling.

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Run For The Cure

I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up to volunteer at this year's Run For The Cure. I anticipated a joyful celebration of life and a whole lot of pink, but I also couldn't shake the gnawing feeling that I would be confronted with death and the inevitable questions that come when life and death are standing closely together. Am I living enough? Am I loving enough? I lost my grandmother to cancer when I was 13. She smoked a lot and the cancer started in her lungs, but throughout the years moved to her breasts, then to her brain, then back to her lungs again. Most of my memories of her involve hospital beds, a shaved head and her unwavering smile. The cancer was tough, but she was tougher. She fought for years until one day, everyone told her she didn't have to fight anymore.

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Oh September Oh October

The summer flew by and I find myself wondering how the leaves have changed, already. September said she had a whole 30 days, but I'm not sure I believe her. Anybody else feelin' me on this? Then again, September really went out with a bang. Last Monday was National Coffee Day and that made for a good week. One pumpkin spice latte and a handful of pumpkin timbits in, and I think October's going to be ok.

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Tanzania

Every place we visit has something to teach us. The world offers us beauty, charm, perspective and humility. And we don't have to be world travelers to become experts in patience… ever been to Costco on a Saturday? As much as it hurts, I like life lessons because they add a layer of depth, but even the growing process is a choice, isn't it? Tanzania taught me a few things that I cannot keep to myself.

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Lupini Beans

Lupini beans need to be cared for. You can't just treat them like a regular ol' bean. They need a little time and attention, but they will respond with so much love.

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Radiantly You Lavender Vanilla Scrub Review

My college buddy, Angie, is a natural mama. In her house if it ain't natural, it ain't happenin'. So when she contacted me to review a product she loves, I thought - Ok, it's either going to be amazing or it's going to be like the homemade stuff that I've tried a million times to make and is more of a GBTS (Go Buy That S***) than a pinterest worthy DIY. Turns out it's the first one.


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My Catholicism

My husband and I grew up at opposite ends of the world. When we met and then married, many people wondered how we would be able to bridge the cultural divide. There are a few obvious differences when talking about "us."

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Ginger Dawa

Winter is beautiful. The snow is crisp and everything looks clean. Christmas shopping is underway and families are preparing to gather. 'Tis the season, and all is well - until a massive head cold tries to manifest and steal your Christmas joy. Sickness leaves us winter wondering :/ how we're going to make it through the most wonderful time of the year. Well I have a word for you, cold, that is comprised of four letters. DAWA.

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How To Live Right Now

These days, I find living in the here and now incredibly difficult. Winter weather has a way of bringing out the introspective side of moi. I'm always waiting for the next best thing. Or the next worst thing. When the sun is shining, I can't wait for more sunny days or I begin planning the next trip, outing, margarita - whatever. When it's cold and blue I watch French films and think about how cultured the world is and how I'm stuck in a house, surrounded by snow. Where does this come from? Does it make me ungrateful? No, I don't think so. Because I am always so thankful that I have a warm home with plenty to eat and people who love me. So then, if I'm not ungrateful, what is it? Could it be fear of pain?

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Thanksgiving

I'm getting used to celebrating Thanksgiving in October. This is Canada, after all. Thanksgiving here is all about appreciating the harvest and being thankful that there will be food for the winter. As transplants, Raph and I don't often "celebrate" anything per se, because we haven't known how to do it without family around. But this year's different. We're making an effort to have traditions, and hey, we couldn't be more ready.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookie Bites

Yum. I needed a cookie to meet my needs. No flour. No sugar. No butter. And of course, absolutely delicious. I couldn't exactly find one, so I made one up! I'm telling you, this one's a winner. Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea and dessert, this healthy little delight is a welcomed addition to fall.

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Pumpkin Spice

It's pumpkin season! The air is crisp, the comforting aroma of burning leaves wafts into the house from the farms at the outskirts of town, and advertisements for pumpkin patches are popping up at every corner. Here at The Living Menu I've decided to dedicate the month of September to our giant symbol of fall - the pumpkin. But before I can step foot into a patch, I have to get the pumpkin spice mix ready. Pumpkin + Spice = Heaven.

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

Come summer, green takes center stage. Be it the lush trees, soft grass, leafy vegetables or your neighbor's wardrobe, green reigns supreme. That is, unless you live in a desert climate. But roll with me. I want to talk about herbs! Seasoning food with a fresh sprig of this or that should be mandatory this time of year, but why stop there? Why not make a dish almost entirely based around those herbs? I mean seriously, when parsley is reduced to a garnish, I cry a little on the inside.

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Pilau

Pilau. Oh glorious Pilau. My husband introduced me to this traditional dish that is always but not exclusively served at celebrations. It's like, the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. Ginger, cloves and a few other spices make this dish rich in flavor and a favorite in our house because Rapha can't wait for "special times" to eat it. Are you curious, yet?

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Purple Asparagus and Farmer's Markets

The great thing about living near farmers is that come spring, they are ready to feed the local public. This year, my goal is to visit as many farms and farmer's markets as possible and to introduce as many new foods to my pallet as I can find. Over the weekend, I ventured to a market and stumbled across jumbo green asparagus. Have you ever eaten asparagus that's been cut the same day?

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How To Treat A Sunburn , Texas-Style

This time of year is filled with sunshine, warm weather, long evenings and fireflies. (In this part of the world, anyway.) Not to mention BBQ, bike rides, water sports and ouch! Sunburns! What are we supposed to do when our skin gets fried? A lot more than you think!

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Quinoa Muffins

I have a husband who looks at "health food" as scary stuff. He refuses to eat brown rice and is extremely suspicious of quinoa. I understand his aversion to brown rice; it is a little chewy. But quinoa!? That said, I am determined to find a way for him to help me eat the giant bag of quinoa that I purchased at Costco.

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Fried Green Plantains - Patacones - Tostones

These may not be the healthiest things on the planet (they are deep fried!), but they are delicious and tropical and cultural, so I can't help myself. A plantain belongs to the banana family, but is eaten as a vegetable instead of a fruit. They are high in Potassium, Vitamins A and C and are high in fiber. The skin is thick, the flavor changes throughout maturation and they usually aren't eaten raw. When green or yellow, they are starchy and bland. When they turn brown or black, the flavor becomes sweet and smells more like a banana.

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Self-worship and Body Image

We have become a culture of "self-worshipers." Turning against and mutilating our bodies is a well-designed plan of diabolical nature, I'm convinced. Instead of caring for a person's soul, character, or personality... the thing that makes a person a person, we are obsessed with ones physical appearance alone. The result being that we are tempted to become less creative and less empowered - having been reduced to mere flesh. As a people, we have forgotten who we are.

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Diana Krall

Last night we saw jazz singer Diana Krall perform live. While waiting for the concert to begin, I leaned over to Rapha and whispered, "I think my heart is going to burst out of my chest." I love this woman's music. I remember having a conversation about her album styles with my 7th grade science teacher. He must have thought I was young to have such an interest. I should have been listening to Backstreet Boys. But I have musicians for parents and jazz was always playing in my house. Anyway, I've loved her music for a long time.

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Avocado on Toast

I don't know about you but I love to snack. It's so easy to grab chips or a chocolate bar, but I hate the way it makes me feel afterwards. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for eating treats, but if I have to get work done or want to be in a good mood, I try to avoid the processed stuff. Instead, I go for a piece of heavily toasted whole grain bread and lather on half of an avocado - sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of lemon. Not enough?

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Shrove Tuesday

The day before Ash Wednesday - parties, rich food and celebration before an austere and sacrificial 40 days. In Texas, we call it Mardi Gras and it is complete with delicious food, booze and of course.. Mardi Gras beads. But, we try to leave the crazy stuff to the folks in New Orleans. ;) In South America this day is known as Carnaval. Dancers dress in bright colors and parade through the streets and the people party into the wee hours of the morning. Canada is no stranger to this pre-Lenten tradition. It is called Shrove Tuesday and they celebrate with pancakes!

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