February 9, 2011

Well, better late than never!

Before Christmas I embarked on the difficult task of making Latvian gingerbread (Piparkukas). With the help of two great friends, the lengthy process was complete with good conversation, knife mastery and champagne. My dad was very well known for making the thinnest cookies (think potato chip thin) and I did my best to fill his shoes. Although my standards were set extremely high, I think that our end result was pretty good.  

This is another secret family recipe (sorry!), but please enjoy the photos (thanks Lisa!). Please also excuse my messy “bed head”. It was a Sunday.

My cat Isla is always a big help in the kitchen 🙂


Lettuce Wraps

January 3, 2011

Well I guess the holidays are over and it’s back to the grind tomorrow morning. Did Christmas really happen? Is someone playing a joke on me? Seriously?

In all honestly, I really needed the break. From catching up on glorious sleep to spending time with family and friends, I’m feeling pretty good.

One of the highlights of my Christmas break was having the chance to catch up with two of my favourite people, Maija and Anna. For dinner I decided to make my version of Asian Lettuce Wraps, inspired by a meal that I had ordered from a restaurant a few days earlier. While the restaurant version was really great, I definitely thought that it was something I could easily replicate at home. With a simple marinade and some fresh veggies, the meal came together really nicely.  It was so good and so easy, that I made it again for dinner tonight.  


  • 4 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese black been and garlic sauce (found in the Asian section at the grocery store)
  • 2 tbsp Oyster sauce (found in the Asian section)
  • 3 tbsp Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 chili or 1 jalapeño, chopped (discard the seeds if you don’t like the spice)
  •  Juice of 1 lime


  • Thinly sliced chicken or beef (shrimp also works well, but needs less marinating time)

Toppings (use whatever you like)

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Carrots, julienned
  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Cilantro
  • Rice
  • Chili or peanut dipping sauce (store bought)

Stir the marinade and add your sliced protein. Mix to coat. Let the meat marinade in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

When ready to cook, simply heat some oil in a frying pan (or wok) and place the meat (with the marinade) in the pan. Cook through and serve with your favourite toppings. Roll this all up in a lettuce leaf and you are good to go!

***I added sliced peppers to the mix and cooked up some rice so that I can have a killer stir-fry lunch tomorrow at work.

 Countdown to my next vacation is on! And GO CANADA GO!

Family Secret

December 29, 2010

Pīrāgs: All that is Latvia in one bite.

Small, unique, determined, traditional, patient, familial, proud and most importantly, delicious!

The simple combination of dough, bacon, ham and onions has infinite international variations, but there is only one form of Pīrāgs. This recipe has been passed down generation after generation and there are no duplicates.

While I adore perogies, calzones, pelmeni, shumai and all the other “bacon and dough combinations”, there is absolutely no substitute for this traditional Latvian bundle of joy. Not only is this recipe incredibly delicious, it holds a significance that can only be defined by blood, family and tradition. Pīrāgs are served at funerals, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, New Years… you name it. Pīrāgs are part of Latvian culture and they are absolutely amazing.

Funny thing is that every Latvian family has a slight alternation, or small “secret”. I’m completely biased and truly believe that my 87 year old grandma, Velta Ligers, holds the ultimate Pīrāg secret. In the Latvian-Canadian community, you often hear the saying “my grandma’s Pīrāgi are better than yours!”.

My grandma’s Pīrāgi, really are BETTER.

While us Latvians love to celebrate tradition, there is always room for a little competition…

2010 has been an intense year for me. I have learned to really value my family and friends because you never know when you’ll have to say goodbye.

Recently, my mom and I travelled up to my grandma’s house to try and put her famous Pīrāgs recipe in writing (she has been doing it by heart for 80 years). My grandma (i.e. Nanny) holds a big place in my own heart and I love her dearly.  

I think we succeeded in capturing “some” of her secret touches. While my Pīrāgs will never be as good as Nanny’s, I’m proud to have learned her recipe and I will continue to carry her secrets. After trying to do this on my own for the first time, I have a hard time understanding how she is still able to do this recipe to such perfection. It’s extremely labour intensive, strenuous and long, but it’s rewarding.  

Sorry folks, there will be no recipe to follow these mouthwatering shots. This one’s a family secret.  

Pulled Pork and Winnipeg

November 7, 2010

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Winnipeg, a little confused about what time it actually is. With the extra hour of sleep and change to Central Standard Time, I’m just feeling a bit off. With an early morning Breakfast Television segment, I also should probably be sleeping. I’ll suffer the consequences for my actions tomorrow at 5am.

I’m also here watching reality TV and eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Pretty low, I know. Please don’t judge me.

I’m typically the type who loves taking the opportunity to venture around new cities, test out the local grub, but it’s dark and deserted out there. At no disrespect to the city (I’m sure that you are lovely), I’m going to sit this one out.  

As I sit here shamefully stuffing my face with junk, I thought I’d at least try and do something productive and put up a post. This one’s pulled pork, another Sunday night favourite in our house. Pulled pork is an incredibly easy recipe, just needs many hours to cook down. Here’s how it goes…

Spice Rub

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp oregano

Trim off all the extra fat from a pork shoulder (best cut for this). I actually like to trim as much as possible. Mix all these ingredients together and rub them all over the trimmed meat. If possible, refrigerate with the rub on for a few hours, or overnight.

Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with a thin layer of oil and heat on high. Sear the meat on all sides so that the shoulder is a golden brown (even a bit black) all around. Place in a slow cooker or in a 325 degree oven for an hour to continue building a crust.  

After an hour, add 2 cups of beef broth and 1 1/2 cups of your favourite BBQ sauce and cover the Pork Shoulder with foil. Let cook for another 3 hours. After 3 hours, the meat should start to fall apart at the touch of a fork. I like to cook it for another 1-2 hours after this, for ultimate “pulledness”.

Don’t forget to top your sandwich with some homemade creamy coleslaw.

Sure beats a bag of chips…


October 25, 2010

I’ve been really busy. Life is busy. I appreciate (or try to appreciate) each day.

Work, birthdays, friends, family, house, boyfriend, yoga and cooking fill up 100% of my time and I love it. The only thing that I can think of that’s missing is more time. That’s why balance is really important and to be honest, I’m still working on it.

I guess I’ve always had the whole concept of “time” on my mind. While moving into our new house, I discovered an old diary of mine. The first entry was a poem I wrote on October 6, 1999 titled Seconds:


Time lost in each second is time which has disappeared. Lost in the midst of thoughts, only leaving the ticking echo that is often not heard.

I was 15 and probably freaking out about something, feeling ignored. Or just being a teenager.

Now that I look back at it, I would prefer to interpret my poem the complete opposite way. I think everyone could probably do a little bit of a better job appreciating the ticking clock and what life is all about. I’m lucky enough to have learned what this is all about from my dad.

Anyways, that’s my super cheesy life lesson for today.  

Time can also produce delicious food. Like meatballs!

Meatballs are another one of those meals that are pretty easy to make, but do take a little energy and time. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine and play some tunes and they will be ready in no time (no pun intended). I always like to make a huge pot so that there are plenty of leftovers. I also live with two boys.


  • 1 package ground beef (turkey, chicken or pork)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 carrot stick, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 10 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • Chopped fresh parsley (to taste)
  • Salt, pepper and chili flakes (to taste)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)

(Tip – instead of chopping all the veggies, I just throw them all in a food processor until they are finely chopped. A couple of pulses and you are done)

Heat the oil in a pan. Sauté the chopped veggies until soft. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, parmesan and parsley. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Get down and dirty with your hands, they are the best tool for this. When the veggies have cooled enough to touch, stir the mixture into the meat. Mix really well. If the meat looks dry, add a few drops of water for moisture.

Heat up the tomato sauce in a large pot so that it’s ready to go for when you need it. I like to leave this going on medium low heat.

Start forming your meatballs. When all your meatballs are formed, heat a large pan on medium high and gently brown the meatballs on each side (GENTLY lay them in a single layer in the pan and GENTLY turn them). When browned, add them to the simmering tomato sauce. Don’t overcrowd the pan. You may need to do this in batches.

When all of your meatballs have been added to the tomato sauce, cover the sauce with a lid and let simmer for 45 minutes on medium low. Mix every so often to avoid burning on the bottom.

Serve with your favourite type of pasta and garlic bread.  Mmmmmm….

In other news – Rob Ford, REALLY?

A for Apple

October 2, 2010

Weekend excursions out of the city are always nice, especially during this time of year. Even though the weather wasn’t the greatest today, I still really appreciate the colourful leaves, cool air and fall harvest.  

A few of us headed to our most trusted apple orchard, Applewood Farm, for some picking fun, tractor excursions, wine tasting and pumpkin selecting. Needless to say, we had a blast.

Applewood Farm

Taste Test #1

Tractor Ride



I came home and was craving something warm, comforting and festive and decided to make stew (sorry Michelle, I’ll have to make it for you another time xxox). This was the perfect main to go with the bottle of Strawberry Cider that I bought for Adam and I.

Now…time to curl up on the couch and watch a good flick. Peace out.

Beef Stew

  • Stewing Beef
  • 4 Cups Beef Broth
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tbps Flour
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 2 tbsp BBQ Sauce
  • 2 Carrots (sliced, quite large)
  • 1 Celery Stalk (chopped)
  • 4 Potatoes (sliced, quite large)
  • ½ Onion (sliced, quite large)

Start by mixing all of the spices, except for the bay leaves, in a large plastic bag. Add the cubed stewing beef to the mixture and shake to coat the meet.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and place the coated beef in the pan, browning on all sides. Once brown, remove from pan. Bring the beef broth to a boil in an oven proof pot and add the Worcestershire, BBQ Sauce and Bay Leaves. Add the beef and turn off the stove. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, sauté the carrots, celery, potatoes and onion in the same pan that you used to fry the beef. Add a couple ladle fulls of the beef stock and scrape off all the brown bits, while sautéing the veggies. Keep stirring for 5-10 minutes and set aside.

Transfer the pot with the beef stock and beef to the oven and let cook for 1 hour. After one hour add the sautéed veggies to this pot and let cook in the oven for another hour.


The Garden is Back

September 26, 2010

I don’t even know how long it’s been since my last post, but I am happy to announce that I am ready to pick up where I left off.

The past few months have been incredibly difficult. After a 15 year battle with brain cancer, I lost my father on August 31, 2010. My dad had been in and out of the hospital since February, when we learned that his cancer was back. He underwent lengthy treatments, physiotherapy and attempts at rehabilitation. His last few months were spent in palliative care at Bridgepoint Health. Being just a few minutes away, my visits were very frequent.  It gave me so much joy bringing him home-cooked food, his favourite chocolate and pictures that made him smile. He was the most courageous, giving, thoughtful and sincere person I have ever known. His strength and passion for life, no matter how limited, is something that I will never forget. There isn’t one day that has gone by that I don’t think about him. I really miss him, but know that he is finally free. Thank you to all of my beautiful friends and family for being so supportive.

Cooking has always been my go-to hobby of choice. It helps me relax, keeps me busy and is my way of being creative. I owe much of my passion for food to my dad. He cooked a lot and was pretty good at it. He didn’t complain when I started taking over the family kitchen. He did, however, give me hard time about keeping it clean. He was also a great dishwasher.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Sunday is my favourite day to cook and today was no exception. I scored an incredible deal on a pork loin big enough to feed a party of 12 for less than ten bucks at the grocery store…perfect for braised tacos. We’re huge fans of Chipotles and I think I did a pretty darn good job replicating their pork carnitas. Braising meat is incredibly simple, you just need time. That’s why doing it on a Sunday is perfect! We’ll also have enough leftovers for lunch (probably until Friday).

Rub Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp chili
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper

Mix all of these spices up in a bowl and rub it into the pork. I like to cut the pork into smaller chunks to speed up the cooking process a bit. This also creates more surface area for the rub. I also cut off much as much excess fat as I can. A little is ok, but I don’t like my braised meat too fatty. This is also a great technique to use with pork shoulder.

For extra flavor, slit the pork in various locations and stuff these slits with chopped garlic and ginger (2 cloves garlic and 1 tbsp ginger is plenty).

Place the coated pieces of meat in a casserole dish and cook uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes (do not add any liquid or anything else to the casserole during this step). This initial cooking time creates a bit of a crust on the pork before the braising step, as well as a ton of extra flavour.

After 45 minutes, add water to the casserole to fill the dish about 1/3 of the way to the top. I like to add a little bit of beef OR chicken soup base to the water for extra flavour, but this isn’t necessary. Cover the casserole with foil and cook in a 325 oven for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, the meat should fall apart at the touch. Pull it all apart using two forks and top your taco the way you like it! Today, I made coleslaw for extra crunch.

Here’s one of my favourite pictures of my dad and I, summer camping as a kid

Baked (Not Fried)

May 20, 2010

Thank you Mother Nature! Warm sunshine and blue skies are finally upon us. I live for the summer and can never get enough heat, dresses, sunglasses, ceasars and patios. What else could a girl want?

Summer weather also means bikinis, tank tops, shorts and lighter meals. Taste, however, does not need to be sacrificed! By choosing to bake things instead of frying, you can really control the amount of fat that you put into your meals.

I’m a huge fan of Asian food and more specifically, dumplings. I personally believe that the wonton wrapper is one of the greatest inventions in the world. The super basic mix of flour and water has infinite possibilities and I find that pretty amazing. Believe it or not, my grandma was the first to introduce me to these delicious wrappers by making a Latvian-Asian fusion dumpling stuffed with ground meet and onions, toped with mustard and vinegar (sounds weird I know, but a true comfort food for me). Now, I think I go through at least two of the double packages of wontons every month.

One of my all-time favourite snacks is a baked wonton wrapper. Simply brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil, lay the wontons on the baking sheet in a single layer, brush a little more oil on top of them and sprinkle with salt (I like sea salt for this). Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden and crispy and dip them in your favourite sauce. It really does not get any easier than that.

The recipe below uses the same concept, but adds a few extra steps. These mini eggrolls are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and veggies and makes the perfect appetizer or side dish.


  • 1 small package ground beef (or chicken, turkey, pork, whatever!)
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp soya Sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot chili sauce (optional)
  • 1 double package wonton wrappers

Start by chopping all your ingredients so that you have everything prepped and ready to go. Brown the meat in a frying pan and drain off any excess fat. Add all the chopped veggies (be sure NOT to add the bean sprouts) and sauté on medium high until they soften. Add all the sauces and sauté for another couple of minutes until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit. Stir in the bean sprouts right at the last minute and turn off the heat.

Now it’s assembly time!

I like to work on a cutting board and be sure to keep a cup of water beside you to seal all the wonton edges after you stuff them with the mixture.

Place a tbsp of the mixture on a wonton, dap the edges with water and fold them in. For different folding techniques, just search eggrolls in YouTube. It’s really easy and you can just use whatever method works for you (even create your own!).

Similar to the wonton chips, just brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil, place the finished eggrolls in a single layer and bake in a 425 degree oven until golden brown. A definitely crowd pleaser!  

Protein Salad

May 19, 2010

Howdy y’all!

Thank you to everyone who has been asking about the status of my blog and requesting updates! It’s been quite the hectic month and unfortunately, I had to put my Garden of Eat-in on the back burner. From coast-to-coast work travels and countless events to house searching and family, I just haven’t had the time to get anything up.  I really hope to get back into the normal swing of things as things settle down a little.

To keep the energy levels up and the heart happy I highly recommend making super simple salads with lots of veggies and proteins (especially as the weather gets warmer). In the salad recipe below, I used toasted walnuts (one of the best plant sources for protein and antioxidants) and edamame (for extra protein and isoflavons). You can’t go wring with this one!

Super Simple Dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey

 Add on’s:

  • Sliced Red Peppers
  • Toasted Walnuts
  • Edamame (I buy the kind already shelled and frozen – just boil them in salted water for about 4 minutes and drizzle a tsp of sesame oil and lime juice on them for extra flavour)
  • Cucumbers
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Romaine

Stuffed Shells

March 23, 2010

For whatever reason, I’ve been really taping into my inner Italian.  After all, who can resist the infamous FWPP (fashion, wine, pasta and pizza)? And yes… I did just make that up.

This week, my Sunday night dinner project had stuffed pasta shells on the menu.  I decided to fill them with a Bolognese/lasagna style meat sauce, complete with copious amounts of mozzarella cheese. Is your mouth watering yet?

I was extremely pleased with the result and really enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today. The assembly did take a little bit of time, but the end result was well worth it!


  • 1 package extra lean ground beef (or chicken, sausage, turkey…whatever you prefer)
  • 1 bottle tomato sauce (to avoid sodium induced jar sauces try this recipe by Jamie Oliver)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • ½ an onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by placing all of the veggies that are coarsely chopped into a food processor (if you don’t have one, you can use a grater, but this method will take much longer). Mix until all the veggies are finely chopped.

In a deep pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the veggie mixture for about 5-10 minutes on medium high to build flavour.

Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Add the can of tomato paste and sauté for another 5 minutes to keep building on this flavour.

Add the ground beef and stir until browned. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring from time to time. Let the mixture cool a little bit before handling and then stir in 2 cups of the grated cheese.

Cook the large pasta shells according to package directions.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a large baking dish or casserole.

Spoon in about a tbsp of the mixture in each shell and then place in the baking dish, in a single layer. Once all the shells are stuffed, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top (add more if you wish). Bake for about 20 minutes until all the cheese is melted and golden brown.

I served them with asparagus that I roasted on a cookie tray for ten minutes while the shells were in the oven. I drizzled them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a tsp of dijon mustard, a minced garlic clove and salt and pepper.