Every January we take a 1 week vacation to our lovely West Coast Gulf Island - Salt Spring Island, B.C. at a cabin on the lake. (next year we are planning 10 days!)
We arrived to a frozen tundra of 7 degrees below Celsius (very cold for our West Coast) This is a picture of the frozen lake with a fresh layer of snow.
We came prepared....oh yes we knew it would be cold, so we brought extra layers of warm clothing and were kept warm by the fireside each nite.
This was off of the deck of the cabin:
Despite the cold we had a wonderful time.  Each year, we end up in a different cabin.  Nothing fancy by any means, but cozy, warm, and as usual with the bare bones essentials.  As a result we always pack kitchen necessities from home:
I can not survive without a few of my favorite utensils and favorite pots too.  My sister bought me the "Copper Chef Pot" for Christmas.  Wow do I love this pot.  It is non stick, does not harm the environment, and you do not need any oil or butter in the pan for any cooking.  It can go from the stove top right into the oven - so handy.  Then, miraculously I found a Paderno Pot  (my favorite cook ware) - the perfect size for 2 at a second hand store for six bucks!  They both came with us to Salt Spring.
Now onto the food:
The first night on arrival we are always too hungry and end up forgetting to take any pictures.  We had lovely strip loin steaks, risotto, steamed veggies and had very happy tummies.
Can you believe we actually had Risotto from a box??  I can't...and it was delicious, gluten free, all natural with no preservatives or any other junk.  No sponsorship here, just sharing something we luv.
I also brought a small crock pot with me to make Katie's crock pot pork chops in a mushroom sauce. Please check out  Katie's blog Thyme For Cooking for the original recipe. I have made a number of Katie's recipes now...they never disappoint. It was delicious - again served with steamed vegetables and potatoes:
Day 3 was French Night.  Oh yes, we so indulge when it comes to food, wine and dessert when on vacation.  After all it is only once a year.  Plus there were enough leftovers on day 3 for the next days dinner - so good.
Next up:  Beef Bourguignon.  Now if you read my blog you will know I am a freak about vegetables of any kind in soup or stew and this meal was no exception.  Yes it began with shallots, mushrooms and of course red wine....this lovely French Wine:
Oh my goodness.  I always make a beef stew the same way:  brown the beef in small batches, add in sliced shallots, mushrooms sauteing until golden.  Then a good splash of wine.  For some reason, this was the best beef stew/bourguignon we have ever had.  Was it the wine?  Maybe.  I think if was my new Copper Chef Pot.  We will try this again once home to compare.
Here is the dessert we had many a night:  Organic English Toffee - the best ever and locally made on Salt Spring Island:
Day 5 we went out for dinner to our favorite local restaurant....and again forgot to take pictures - dang!  I had a lovely pesto prawn gluten free pasta dish with a most delicious Caesar Salad with Lemon Supreme (recipe for down the was seriously good - you will think you have died and gone to heaven)  Dh had the gluten free Fettuccine with a garden salad....we were stuffed.
Day 6 A simple roast organic chicken breast with more of the same Risotto and steamed vegetables.  We also had a salad as well, however, all we had was mixed greens with tomatoes.  Having roasted some yellow beets, they went on top of the salad - it was perfect.
Day 7, on our last day,  we headed out for gluten free pizza - such a treat.  DH had the Hawaiian, mine was the artichoke sun dried tomato - Yummmm!
Although this picture does not do justice, the full moon this night was amazing shining on the frozen lake: (now minus 9 degrees Celsius - brrrrr)
Now for a little confession.  At Christmas time I very naively bought my dear husband a puzzle.  The thought behind this so called brilliant idea was that we might have some fun putting together a lovely puzzle while on vacation.  Three of our favorite things:  a library, a black cat, sitting on a Persian rug (we recently bought a large Persian rug for the living room)
Ahhh haaaa...painful....just downright painful.  Not only was this a 1000 piece puzzle ( you so need the room to put this together ) but the pieces are really small - this is a very advanced puzzle.  We are novices here...yes simple novices.  So...I have made the decision we either:
1)  quietly pack this puzzle away and give it to someone who has the skill we so lack, or
2)  we painfully spend the next 10 years trying to put it together.  The vote is still out - it has yet to be decided.
Dear Salt Spring Island:  We loved our week away and can't wait to come back next year.  Maybe we will be brave enough to bring the cat in the library puzzle with us once again.  Wait...did I just say that?  Mercy, think I need to give my head a good shake!

This is a recipe I have been wanting to make ever since last Spring!  Our little town of Sooke, B.C. now has three fabulous Restaurants, plus one Cafe that serve Gluten Free Food!  Yeahhhhh!  We have a small population of just over 10,000 people, so to have this many Restaurants to choose from, we are in heaven.
This recipe was inspired from a most delicious dish, served at The Stone Pipe Grill Restaurant in the heart of Sooke. If you ever get to visit Sooke, B.C. this is a Restaurant you will definitely want to check out.  Apparently one of the Chef's is a Celiac, and bless his heart, he has created many recipes on the Menu that are Gluten Free.  This mashed Yam and Potato dish is divine.  I do not know what his ingredients were, but I do know he used a touch of Cinnamon, and I think he might have used one of those "Cheffy potato ricers", (because seriously, this tasted like silk) which I do not have - I made up for it with butter....yes I did use a crazy amount of butter.  He serves this dish with the most beautifully cooked Steak on top, with a five layer vegetable dish - Divine.  Every time we go there, this is the dish I order - to die for.  And I always forget my camera - Dang!
Thank you Gluten Free Chef at The Stone Pipe Grill - a wonderful inspiration!
This dish is really about the balance between the Yukon Gold Potatoes and the Yams.  You don't want too much of either - balance is the key here.
2 medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large Orange Yam peeled (mine was ginormous, about 7 inches in length by 4 1/2 inches thick, so I cut it in half)
good pinch of Himalayan course grain salt
4 heaping Tblsp. butter
2 finely minced garlic cloves
1 Tblsp. finely minced Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
2 Tblsp. Yogurt Cheese
pinch of fresh Nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the potatoes, and yams, slice and place in a pot with enough water to cover.  Here is a picture, so you get the idea of ratio between potato and yam: (the potatoes were cut bigger than the yams)
Bring to a boil, add the salt, cover with a lid, and turn down to a simmer, cooking until tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the butter and garlic to a pan to melt, keeping on the lowest heat, for about 10 minutes until the garlic is nicely infused in the melted butter, then remove and set aside. (not sure if you can tell, but this was a lot of butter - trust me here, you want lots of butter)
Mince up the Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, and add to the yogurt cheese, then set aside.
Once the yams and potatoes are tender, drain the water, and add in the melted garlic and butter, mashing well.  Then add in the Parsley Yogurt cheese mixture, pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, continuing to mash until soft.
We had this served with Danish Frikadeller and mushroom gravy....this is a dish we will be having more often - so good!

With our last day on Salt Spring Island, we decided to take in the Foxglove Organic Farm Tour/Festival.  A gorgeous day awaited us.  You can check out their website here.
Here are a couple of pictures of the main house - sadly, we could not take photos of the front of the house as there were a gazillion people everywhere:
Love, love the Cedar shake!  Here is another view:
The pristine, beautiful Foxglove Farm is a 120 acre organic farm.  It also is an Educational Centre and a retreat on the ever so beautiful Salt Spring Island.  The farm produces:  berries, asparagus, melons, greens, a wide range of root vegetables as well as orchard fruits.  They also grow their own grains, legumes and have an area for their pastured laying hens.  Not to mention the lovely setting that borders on Mt. Maxwell Lake.
After having lunch (I had a gf. grilled sausage with salad, dh had wood oven baked pizza) we headed on over to the farm tour.
Here is one of their strawberry fields - they grow in two year successions:
Our tour guide Michael, talked about the many challenges with our West Coast Weather.  This worries me.  You see, Salt Spring Island has a Mediterranean Micro Climate.  It is THE place to grow fruit and vegetables.  Where I live in Sooke, B.C. we are right on the Coast.  So subject to fog, cooler weather, and some heavy winds and rain.  Always a challenge.  But for Salt Spring Island??  Global not only real....but very much present and so it seems.... affecting everywhere.
I am forgetting myself here...onto the tour:  Next we visited some Vegetable fields, where the talk was on composting, companion plantings and soil enhancement.  The farm's emphasis, is in using good manure, compost, and sustaining the soil naturally, so absolutely no chemicals.  With this rich lovely soil, and proper planting, pests are not an issue.  I love that!
By this time the tour was 3/4 of the way finished.  It was extremely hot out...neither myself or DH wore hats!  We caved in the heat - and headed back to the main area for gelato, and some of the best Raspberry Cider I have ever tasted!  So refreshing after a day in the sun - this really was a fun day, with lots of education, and I would definitely recommend an organic farm tour for anyone, anywhere.....but of course,.... especially on Salt Spring Island.  If you ever get a chance to visit, I am sure, you will be as charmed as we have been for the last 15 years.  Can't wait to go back!  By the way...this is in not a  sponsored all of my posts (unless specified otherwise) these are just my happy opinions.
With this we say:  Bye Salt Spring, Bye Foxglove Farm, Bye Maiya and Mia, Bye Cottage Resort....we love you...till next time - xoxoxo

Day two.  The weather got even better - thank the heavens, because the guys were playing an outdoor venue.  Well, semi lightly covered, but still an outdoor venue.  Will have to get pictures next time...dang...none of them turned out!
We spent the day visiting a few of my favorite stores on the Island - always a treat.
Previously, in the morning, I decided to marinate some chicken thighs.  Have you seen this?
This made a fabulous marinade for chicken.  I do find toasted sesame oil a bit heavy for a salad dressing - but just my opinion.  For the chicken I used, 4 farm raised chicken thighs, skin on bone in, 1/2 a  sliced onion, 2 sliced garlic cloves, juice of half a fresh lemon, and about 1/2 a cup of this OrganicVille Sesame Tamari Vinaigrette - allowing the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.  Very tasty!  I could have made my own, but we already had packed so much food with us, I opted for some convenience.
Now onto cooking the chicken.  I have never actually fried chicken before.  I decided to fry the chicken in a little melted butter in a non stick frying pan.  The chicken took about 45 minutes cooking time, turning fairly frequently to get a nice even brown coat.  Much easier than I thought.
As the cooking was well underway, we suddenly had unexpected guests arrive:
Let me introduce you to Maiya on the left, and her sister Mia on the right.  (hope I got the right order here)  These two lovely sisters are Australian Shepherd dogs.  The sweetest personalities you could ever imagine.  They noodle around the resort in unison - making sure that all is well with the resort and their guests.  So adorable.  They greet you when you arrive, and they are there to say goodbye when you leave.  We fell in love with these two sisters.
Our front door was open while the chicken was cooking.....their noses led the way.  So I thought maybe they would like an organic carrot.  Our dog loves them.  Nope.  They turned up their noses and looked the other way.
So then I decided to give them a tiny piece of cheese each. (I know you should not feed a dog cheese - but it was tiny, and I had to give them something)  They ate the cheese then waited patiently.
By now it was getting darker out.....the girls were not going to budge!
Finally dinner was ready.
We had steamed some delicious new potatoes and had a fresh farmer's market salad:
As we sat down to eat, the adorable sisters remained on the door step.  I wish I got a picture, but the little sister - Mia sat with one paw up....looking forlornly.  Enough to melt anyone's heart.  So DH sliced up a piece of chicken for them to have....the rest is history.  They arrived each morning once we were up and about and then each evening at 5:30 p.m. on the dot!  These girls know a softie when they see one.
After dinner, once again we headed down to the lake:
Another beautiful night.  There was a multitude of dragon flies gracefully flying about.  After taking twenty some odd pictures, DH finally captured this spotted one with the camera - these guys move fast!
Day three coming up next....Foxglove Organic Farm Tour!

We had the most lovely three days on Salt Spring Island - good food, beautiful weather, great music, and it was wonderful to see some of our friends we have not seen since last year.   The ferry ride from Swartz Bay in Victoria B.C. is about 35 minutes to Salt Spring Island.
Once we arrived at our resort destination, we had a lovely rustic cabin on the lakefront of St. Mary's Lake.
Forget Me Not Cabin.  Sweet, cozy, and an amazing view:
We always stop at the market to buy fresh produce, fish, meat, etc. as I prefer to cook myself.  Well, we decided to have Coho Salmon the first night as I had packed some fresh Pesto.  Then I realized, there is no oven - just a two burner stove, with the fridge underneath:
There was a communal BBQ...(I am super fussy- especially because as being a Celiac, I can not risk gluten contaminaton) so, not gonna go there!  Meanwhile, how to cook the salmon?  Time to think outside of the box.  There was a frying pan, with no lid, and of course, I did not bring any tinfoil.  Onto poached salmon....something I have never made before.  I wanted to season the poaching water - so I used lemon, onion, rosemary, salt and pepper - pretty much all I had on hand.
Once the fish was placed in the simmering seasoned water...what was I going to use for a lid?  This stainless steel bowl did the job beautifully:
Then about 7 minutes later we had lovely poached salmon with pesto, and fresh garden vegetables:
This is the second time we have stayed at this lovely cottage - next time I will bring my own knives, frying pan with lid, plastic wrap, and some tupperware.  All the food we cooked still turned out great - it pays to think outside of the box when cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen!
Then after dinner, we took a walk in the pretty forested pathways:
It was such a lovely night - I miss it already!
More food and getaway pictures to come......

I seem to be on a soup roll lately, so here is a most tasty vegetarian soup, and a Recipe review.  Soup just seems to soothe my soul, I could eat it everyday!
Last week I went to our local cafe/bistro/bookstore.  I was delighted to discover, all of their soups are gluten free, their salads are super fresh, and they even offer a few gluten free baked goods. It is so heartwarming to finally see more and more restaurants offering gluten free food.
The soup and salad I had was so delicious.... it inspired me to come home and make my own.   If ever you get to spend the day in Sooke, British Columbia, check out the Reading Room Cafe. It is located in the heart of Sooke, at Evergreen Centre.   Have a nice lunch, then meander through the open doors to check out some great book selections.  A lovely way to spend the day.  Wished I remembered my camera!
This is the only time of year we can get fresh okra - it is a small window, so when I see it, I make sure to buy it fresh.  Zucchini would also be a good option in this soup.
3 1/2 cups homemade Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Seasoning Blend - I used this one, or use your favorite
Olive oil
1 diced onion
one 28 oz. can of Whole tomatoes, sliced into 1 1/2 inch pieces - include the juice
2 large carrots diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
6 fresh okra, trimmed then sliced into chunks
3/4 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 large Bay leaf
Juice of a quarter of a lemon - or half if you want more lemon flavor
Heat up a dutch oven on low medium heat with a good drizzle of olive oil.  To the pan add in the diced onions, celery, and okra.

Saute for about 6-7 minutes, then add in the carrots, cumin, seasoning blend, salt, pepper and bay leaf, continuing to saute another 5 minutes.
Pour in the tomatoes and juice, stirring to combine.  Bring to a simmer.

Then add in the vegetable stock, lid on, and bring to a simmer.  Turn the heat to low, and simmer, cooking another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, measure out the lima beans and corn, into a bowl, allowing to defrost until the vegetables have finished cooking.  After 20 minutes, check for seasonings, and add in the lima beans, lemon juice, and corn just to heat through.  Serve hot, with a fresh salad.

With our frosty evenings - still in April!, this lentil curry soup was a must have!  Normally, I never use a recipe when I cook.  In fact, when I first began blogging, it took a lot of concentrated effort to remember to use measurements.   And soup is no exception.  Also, if ever I do use a recipe of any kind, I always change it. Then the other day I saw this recipe for this most delicious soup.  I realized I had now looked at this recipe 4 or 5 times.  It intrigued me...I had to make it, and I made it exactly as written.  A rare day indeed!  The only thing I did do to Chef Fatima`s recipe was to cut the amount in half - it made a lot of soup!
If you like cilantro, coconut milk, lime, homemade stock (vegetable or chicken), and lentils ....... you will love this!  Please check for this great recipe....thanks Chef Fatima!

We had a lovey getaway, on Salt Spring Island.  It was quick, and busy as DH was playing music two nights, back to back.  But I love it there - any chance to go and I grab it!  The first night, we ate dinner at the outdoor seaside Restaurant where the guys played.  I ate a delicious, grilled prawn skewer with brown rice, and a lovely salad.  This is where things began to drastically change.

My second to last bite, I had this searing pain on the inside of my bottom lip.  I knew instantly, that it was a blister...cross contamination.  Here is the weird part.  Immediately, I felt disorientated - like really disorientated.  Probably the worst I have experienced to date.  It was unbelievable.

This "brain fog" lasted about 24 hours.  I knew the inevitable was coming - that within hours, I would not be leaving the bathroom.  The next morning, I was still in a brain fog.  And I was angry.  Really angry.  With this brain fog, came an unexplainable, extreme anxiety which just made me feel like crying.  I am not a crier - but when this happens, it feels unbearable. I had to keep telling myself, it would pass, I just had to get through it.

That day I barely ate anything, yogurt, water, and some soup broth.   Finally, by the evening things improved a little bit, however, I did not venture out to hear the guys play.  I was weak, exhausted, and still had some brain fog.  I went to sleep at 8:30 pm - and slept almost 9 hours.  Unheard of for me.  But when I awoke, now day 2,  I knew I was starting to get better.  The brain fog was lifting, the anxiety was gone,  the blister in my mouth was on the mend, and the intestinal pain was gone.

Finally.  I have eaten at this Restaurant for years - without a problem, but now, never again.  Cross contamination is just too great a risk.  Either we will eat at our cottage or B&B, or we will eat at a Restaurant that has a gluten free menu.  Hence, there are no pictures of our Lakeside cottage.  I was too out of it!

Now for the good news... I have now found two new Restaurants that offer gluten free food.    We had a lovely lunch at the Salt Spring Island Inn, a delicious baked tomato soup, with chive butter on toasted gluten free English Muffins, as well as a lovely crab dip with corn chips.  There was a lot to choose from on the menu:  chicken tenders, muffins, soup, halibut and chicken burgers, sandwiches on gluten free bread and much much more.  Happy Days!

The 2nd cafe is a place called Cafe Talia.  They too have gluten free soups, salads and sandwich buns.  As well as a number of desserts.  This was such a relief, to know I can travel to this lovely Island and eat at a Restaurant that has gluten free food.  Now onto our last night there - thank the heavens for organic rib eye steak - by now I was starving!

This was one thick steak that DH and I shared.  Wow.  The flavor, texture, tenderness was unbelievable.  I cooked it in a brown butter garlic sauce - in this gorgeous pan:

This cast iron pan I am thinking is about 30 years had the best finish on it, that was a real pleasure to cook with.  I set it on a medium heat with a few huge dollops of butter, and some sliced organic garlic cloves.  Let it simmer, just until it started to get golden, then watched it carefully, and once I saw a slight browning of the butter, took it off the heat and poured the butter and garlic over these lovely steamed farm fresh veggies:


Although it was not fun suffering from cross the process, I did find two new Restaurants that offer a Gluten Free Menu.  Happy, happy days....there is more and more awareness out there in the world, and best of is slowly becoming a safer place for those of us that can not have gluten.

I love love this salsa! The recipe comes from a chef, at a lovely restaurant called the Rock Salt on Salt Spring Island. Every time we visit, that is where we will head for breakfast or dinner. Every time I eat their salsa, I always think it is the best I have ever had. It is so refreshing, and light tasting. I kept thinking, there is something else going on in this salsa, but could not figure it out. Well they shared the recipe! You can find it here. This makes a large amount of salsa - great for a big crowd. I did not change anything in the recipe except to add in some extra cilantro, being the cilantro lover I am! This salsa is on the runny side....honestly, I could drink it! And the ingredient that is key: lime juice and zest. It is not a hot salsa, but you could always add extra jalapeno to kick it up a notch. So far, we have been eating it with eggs, on toasted gluten free bread with a sprinkling of goat cheese, turkey ranch burgers, nachos, even right out of the bowl!

Also on this trip, was the restaurant the guys played their music at called the Tree House Cafe.

It is a wonderful, whimsical little place....that actually has a tree in the middle of the outdoor space!

We are always guaranteed there will be something gluten free on the menu: delicious chicken corn burritos for dinner.

Then on our last day here, we headed to a secluded tiny beach to hang out for the serene, quiet and beautiful, one of our favorite beaches.

Can't wait to get back to this lovely Island Getaway!