A Day in Saskatoon With Love Your Lentils

food, sightseeing, and the ever-popular Chef Michael Smith

A Day in Saskatoon With Love Your Lentils

In June, I was invited to join the lovely people from Lentils.ca, the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, winners of the Love Your Lentils contest, and Chef Michael Smith in Saskatoon for a fantastic day of seeing the city, learning about lentils, and sampling some of the best food the city of Saskatoon has to offer.

Every year Lentils.ca holds a contest to see who can come up with the best dish featuring lentils. Michael Smith and his team recipe test the top 10, and winners are announced. It's a pretty great way to get the word out about an ingredient that we grow right here in Canada and a lot of people don't know much about. Lentils are known as pulse, or seeds of the lentil plant. We often tend to group them with dried beans, but fortunately lentils don't need a long pre-soaking before cooking like beans do.They are much faster to prepare, especially the split versions! Often lentils are viewed as exotic, and Lentils.ca are trying to change that because when we grow this many in our own country, we should take advantage of the health and economic benefits! (check out the great recipes at Lentils.ca)

The first stop of our day was at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market where you can find vendors selling everything from fresh meats to produce, home made jams, baby food, and fresh baked goods. We couldn't help but make a stop at the Prairie Pie Company and sample their fresh berry smoothies. It was refreshing to see that I'm not the only person who takes photos of my food! Besides, it's never too early for pie, right? (That's Chef Michael Smith, by the way. He loves to tweet.)

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

We wandered, sampled, and chatted with the vendors. I wanted to buy all kinds of things and bring them home but I don't think they would've survived a plane flight.

The next stop was Saskatoon's Western Development Museum. If you've never visited the museum before, they boast a fantastic 1910 Boomtown exhibit which is an indoor replication of a Saskatchewan town in the early 1900s. When I first visited the museum as a 14-year-old, I enjoyed it but didn't really appreciate the history until this visit over 20 years later. My grandmother immigrated from Russia to Canada very close to this time period as a young woman in her twenties and settled in Saskatchewan to start a family. I have always considered myself lucky to have farming in my history as it's taught me a lot about where food comes from, but to go back and see the source was very humbling.

Soon we were hungry again, and it was off to Calories restaurant for lunch and, what else but some lentil dishes?

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

On the way, I got to chat up Davene, one of the winners of the Love Your Lentils contest. Her winning dish, Canadiana baked beans, is a twist on traditional baked beans but uses lentils instead. As Michael Smith noted, it's a great idea that is pretty obvious—who doesn't like baked beans, right?

Davene writes at the blog Eclectic Kitchen and told me how she came across the contest online and noticed that she only had a week to create something to enter, but decided to just go for it. What could go wrong? Davene's blog is about good food being evolved into something tasty, and was started so that she could share her recipes with friends and family. I'd say winning a nation-wide contest and being given a thumbs up by Michael Smith really is a fantastic blogging beginning, wouldn't you?

Once we were fortified with food and drink, we took off to learn more about lentils. How are they grown? What kinds are there?

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

Did you know that lentils grow in pods? Or that Canada is a leading world lentil producer, especially in Saskatchewan? It's interesting to actually see the plants, talk to the farmers, and realize that we have something very special right here in Canada. I had no idea there were so many kinds, or how they were produced. Lentils even give back to the soil, as they actually put nitrogen back into the soil.

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

All that lentil talk soon made us thirsty so we were off to visit the Lucky Bastard Distillery to sample some vodka, gin, and specialty liqueurs. The story behind The Lucky Bastard is really awesome; man wins lottery, and opens distillery! How cool is that? Again, I wanted to stuff my suitcase full of their amazing products but I didn't think they'd surivive my flight. I can't even find their wonderful spirits in BC, so that alone is a reason to travel back to Saskatoon.

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

Eventually it was time to eat again (why do I always feel like I'm eating non stop on these trips?) and we found ourselves at the beautiful Boffins Club where we were served the winning lentil dishes created by Davene and Michael, along with succulent duck, wine, and so much I could barely move by the end. The dishes were amazing, and I can see how both Davene and MIchael won the contest! Lentils are far more than some sort of health food, they are, quite simply, really tasty. However for me, the best part of that evening was still to come; I happened to sit down at an empty part of the table and at first thought that I'd be on my own with nobody to converse with, so I almost moved. I was assured that someone would likely sit with me, and at the very last minute decided to stay.

Photo by David Stobbe at StobbePhoto.ca

No sooner did I take a sip of water and collect my thoughts than who else but Chef Michael Smith joins me, and I have to tell you, having dinner conversation about kids, real food in schools, and cooking made that dinner one of the most inspiring and amazing experiences I've had in a very long time. I came away with new resolve to advocate for real food at school, to pick up my blog at Chasing Tomatoes, and to really truly do what I love. As a blogger, I had been struggling for a long time trying to find writing inspiration and this one dinner provided that in spades. Sometimes, you find inspiration when you least expect it. I happened to find it eating lentils with a really fantastic Chef.

Disclosure: Thank you so much to the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Lentils Canada for inviting me to be part of such a wonderful day. They very kindly covered all my expenses and made it a wonderful weekend!



Blueberry Pudding Cake Recipe

the perfect summertime dessert

Blueberry Pudding Cake Recipe

Blueberry pudding cake

Right now in Chilliwack, you can't go anywhere without practically tripping over a blueberry stand. Sweet, dreamy blueberries are in season and ready to be whipped up into whatever your heart desires! You can make crumble bars (similar to the Starbucks versions), sneak them into muffins, tumble them over sugar cookie pizzas, or bake a pie.

I vote for all the blueberry recipes. Can you tell I'm a little obsessed?  Berries are my favourite fruit and since their season is short, I spend a lot of my summer buying boxes and either freezing them or making jam. Often my biggest challenge is turning them into something before my family eats them all!

This dessert is a summer version of a pudding cake, with a light lemony cake layer on the top and a juicy blueberry bottom. It's reminiscent of crumble, which I love, but if you aren't a fan of oatmeal this may be more your taste. Served warm with ice cream, it's a really great dessert that I'm sure your family will enjoy. Mine practically licked the bowls and asked for more. If you notice that in the photos it doesn't seem to make that much, it's because I halved the recipe. You can do this and it will serve four nicely. Just use a 32 oz/1 litre glass baking dish and reduce the baking time a little to about 45-50 minutes.


Pudding layer

3 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)

Cake layer

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk


 Pre-heat oven to 350 F. In a buttered 2 liter glass baking dish, toss berries with 1/3 cup of sugar. Set aside.

 Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light colored and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and lemon rind, mixing well.

 Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Add to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk and using 3 portions of flour, 2 of milk, mixing well after each addition. Scrape batter evenly over the blueberries and smooth the top.

 In a small saucepan, mix the 1/3 cup sugar left over from what you tossed with the blueberries with lemon juice and water. Bring it to a boil on the stove, the pour gently over the cake. Do NOT STIR it! What happens is the liquid sinks through the cake batter, giving you a moist cake on top with a lemon blueberry bottom.

 Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes until golden and set. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Scoop out portions into a bowl and serve with ice cream, or even some whipping cream.The cold ice cream is a perfect foil against the warm blueberries and tender cake.

Makes 8 servings

Adapted from Canadian Living


Easiest Chicken Recipe Ever

go from prep to the table in only 15 minutes

Easiest Chicken Recipe Ever

Quickest Chicken

When it's too hot to cook or on nights when I just don't feel like cooking anything, I make this chicken. To be honest, I often call it "No-Brainer Chicken" because it's so easy and fast to make. You barely even need any ingredients! The chicken can be stuffed into sandwiches or wraps, sliced over salads, or sometimes I serve it with potatoes and a vegetable. Feel free to play around a little with the flavours here, too. I've swapped out the thyme for freshly chopped rosemary or dill, or revamped it and used used smoked paprika, fresh thyme, and an orange. Fast and easy, it gets from stove to table in about 15 minutes and allows you to make something quick that still has lots of flavour.

Dinner really can be a no-brainer.


3-4 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves 
fresh cracked pepper and salt
a fresh lemon
handful of fresh thyme, leaves stripped off and chopped
olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers

 First of all, you need to flatten the chicken a little so that it will cook more evenly. It's not important to make it super thin, but you want it all about the same thickness. Chicken breasts usually have a thicker part and a thinner end. Thinner always means it will cook faster. Dry the chicken off with paper towel. You don't want it all juicy and wet.

 Cover your cutting board with a layer of either waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. Lay the chicken on top. Cover the chicken with another layer of waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. I put a thin plastic cutting board on top of my good, thick wooden board. I don't want raw chicken goop in my good wooden board. 

   Smack the chicken gently with a rolling pin until it's about the same thickness all over. It should be about 1/2 inch thick or less all over. Don't over do it or you'll have mashed chicken. 

 Remove the top layer of plastic wrap, parchment, or waxed paper. Sprinkle the chicken with cracked pepper, salt, chopped fresh thyme, and some lemon zest. Use lots if you want! Drizzle with a little olive oil. You can, if you want, get creative here and swap around fresh herbs with spices from your cupboard and a kind of citrus fruit such as orange, lime, or lemon.

 Get a frypan good and hot over medium heat, with a little olive oil in it. Put in the chicken, pepper/herb side up. You want it hot enough that the chicken will sizzle, but not so hot that it's smoking. If it's smoking you need to turn down the heat. Fry the chicken up on each side for about 3-4 minutes until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest. 

 Toss the garlic cloves into the pan at the end once you've removed the chicken, giving them a good stir and watching carefully, turning down the heat if you need to. Saute them until softened, and then spoon from the pan over the chicken.

Serves 3-4