My Tribute to Mom – Maple Bacon Mac’n’Cheese

This post has been rattling around in my head for well over a year.  I wish I had written it sooner.

Those of you who follow my social media feeds know that from time to time I like to make Macaroni and Cheese and my version happens to include Maple Cheddar and Bacon.  I am particularly proud of it because I don’t really develop my own recipes but usually follow recipes to the letter, and this one is completely my own.  Well, except for one inspiration, my Mom.

When we were kids my Mom made this simple but tasty dish.  Back then it took a lot of time because she grated all the cheese by hand. That was before you could buy bags of grated cheese, and this dish takes a lot of cheese.  She would work until her hands got sore and then she would ask one of us to finish.  The other thing that posed a challenge was how picky our family is.  Half of us like onions and half do not so she made half the dish with and half without, faithfully making a mark with the cheese so we would know the difference.  And of course she always made cornmeal muffins to go with it, for me they just go together now.  On our birthday’s Mom always made our favourite meal, this one, hands down, was mine.

Cornmeal Muffins

Then I grew up and moved out.  I forgot about the Mac’n’Cheese in the excitement of my first apartment and new life.  But soon enough I was craving it again and I asked Mom to show me how to make it because the recipe was all in her head.  She of course did and we made it together.

From time to time I would start making it at home but forgot what was next so I would call Mom and she would guide my way.  I never wrote it down because I kind of liked  an excuse to call her and talk about life as well as the recipe.

And then as I became more familiar with the recipe I started to think why shouldn’t I try a different version of this.  I made it with the onions, next was trying it with different cheese, then I thought a Tex Mex version might be fun with peppers.

Tex Mex Mac'n'Cheese

All of these were good but it wasn’t until I discovered Maple Cheddar at Sylvan Star Cheese that I stumbled upon my next great inspiration.  I thought, wouldn’t a little bit of this be great in the cheese mix and, oh , what goes well with maple, well bacon of course.  Then I started to test a little with Mom’s recipe and soon enough I came up with the winning combination.

Maple Cheddar and Bacon

And now I make this all the time. It’s the perfect thing to serve when I have company. I can make it all ahead of time and then when my guests come I can pop it in the oven and enjoy their company while supper bakes.  It is also really great to make on a gloomy Saturday afternoon to bring comfort and joy to your day.

In a way this recipe is a lot like my Mom. It’s not very complicated but when you put it all together it has a lot of heart and shows a lot of love. I wish I had written this post sooner.

Before Oven Maple Bacon Mac'n'Cheese

Maple Bacon Mac’n’Cheese

1 package of Maple Bacon (or any kind of bacon)

4 cups of dried Elbow Macaroni

1 cup grated Maple Cheddar

1 large bag of shredded Cheddar (I like Medium Cheddar and sometimes I have 2 bags on hand)

Non-stick cooking spray

2 cups Milk

2 tablespoons Bread Crumbs

Salt and Pepper to taste

You will also need a 9” X 14” casserole dish

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Fry bacon in pan until it is crispy. When it is done remove from pan and put on a plate lined with paper towel to blot the grease. Leave the bacon and let it cool.
  3. While you are making the bacon, put a large pot of water on to boil. Throw a pinch of salt in the water. When water reaches a full boil put the macaroni in the water. Boil the macaroni using the instructions on the box. Stir occasionally. Don’t let the macaroni get too soft. When it is done cooking drain macaroni in the sink with a colander. Let the macaroni cool.
  4. While the macaroni is cooling, grate maple cheddar and leave to the side.
  5. Take cooled bacon and chop or break into bite sized pieces and leave to the side.
  6. Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  7. Now start to build the dish. Start with half the macaroni; lay it in the bottom of the casserole dish until it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the surface evenly with salt and pepper. Then evenly sprinkle half the bacon on top of the macaroni. Sprinkle ½ cup of maple cheddar on top of the bacon. Take half of the bag of shredded cheddar and spread evenly on top of mixture.
  8. Repeat step number seven and build a second layer. Depending on how much cheese you like you may want to have a second bag on hand so you don’t run out.
  9. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over entire surface of second layer. You don’t want to have too much, 2 tablespoons should be enough.
  10. Pour milk evenly over the entire dish to bind the ingredients together.
  11. At this point you can cover the dish and put in the fridge until you are ready to cook or put in a pre-heated oven to bake. You will need to leave it in the oven at 350° for 45 minutes or until the cheese on top is brown and golden.
  12. Take out and let cool for 5 minutes then enjoy.

Maple Cheddar Mac'n'Cheese with Cornmeal Muffins


Reflections and Break

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a food post and unfortunately it’s going to be a bit longer still. You see, we lost my Mom exactly two weeks and one day ago. 

Going through the motions you don’t have time to appreciate what is going on until after and you have a chance to process. Like I can’t believe the last time I actually saw my Mom was in Washington the day of my sister’s pinning ceremony. Or the last time I talked to her we talked about what she wanted at her funeral. Yes that was the last conversation we had. That was two days before she passed and she wasn’t feeling well. She said she had to go but I made her hang on for just a couple more seconds so I could tell her “I love you”. I’m so glad those were my last words to her. 

And so we move on. I’ll still be posting periodically on my social media feeds but for now I’m going to take a break from the blog. 


Canmore Uncorked Culinary Symphony

This week I experienced something amazing, a unique collaboration between chefs and musicians.  The event was called Culinary Symphony, a Multi-Sensory Dining experience and it was one of the signature events of Canmore Uncorked.  I wish you could have been there but instead I will try and take you along the journey that was planned for us courtesy of Canmore Business and Tourism.  The music was supplied by Quartetto Gelato while our dinner was prepared by Lead Chef James Holmes, Chef Mike Pigot, Chef Jason Meyer and Chef Oscar George Bayne.

Culinary Symphony Cherry Blossom Cocktail

At the appointed time we entered the theatre and it was like we were transported into the wilderness.  The birds were chirping as Quartetto Gelato took the stage to start the first Act, “Spring Forest Floor”.  After getting us warmed up we were served the first course representing dirt, snow and tree.  The interesting thing is there were candy pop rocks on our plate.  I of course was taking pictures so I didn’t taste them first but heard them.  With the lively music and the sound of candy popping in everyone’s mouth I felt like I was being taken on a jaunty walk through the woods with twigs snapping under foot.

Culinary Symphony Spring Forest Floor

Assortment of Wild Greens, Marinated Mushrooms, “Dirt” (Granola, Ground Walnuts, Pistachios, Cocoa), “Snow” (White Chocolate, Rye Bread), “Tree” (Sticks, Verjus Dressing, Berries) They said nothing about pop rocks!

After a short break our lively walk continued with the second act “Morning Dew”.  The music was frisky, at one point drifting into AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. The food was a perfect match to the playful mood.  Strains of an earthy aroma wafted from the bowl, almost like the heavy dew lying on the grass at the break of day.  Then, like dew, the sun rose and the moisture melted away brightening the day.  And that was demonstrated through the bright consommé with beets and apples.

Culinary Symphony Morning Dew

Reserve Angus Beef Carpaccio, Fennel Apple Golden Beet Consommé, Micro Greens, Dehydrated Apples, Apple Honey Mustard (Grainy Brassica), Cubed Raw Candy Cane Beets, Red Beet Coulis.

As can happen on a spring day in the mountains the mood turned dark and stormy.  This was to prepare us for act three, “A Blind Walk Through the Mountains”.  To us, this meant a blindfold and no utensils to eat our food.  The plate was only described as “Salty/Umami”, “Citrus”, and “Savoury/Sweet”. This made for a fun game with our tablemates as we attempted to figure out what these three treats actually were.  Then, at the end of the course, when the blindfolds came off the storm ended.  The music guided us to a peaceful resolution from the mystery that began the act.

Culinary Symphony Blindfold Surprise

Following into the fourth act, “Riverside”, the lights warmed to mimic a sunny late afternoon.  The music took a romantic turn welcoming us to the next plate.  The Albacore Tuna Sashimi was cut perfectly and as it melted in my mouth I felt transported to a lazy ride down a river in a canoe.  Like a day you never want to end, this is a course that I never wanted to end.

Culinary Symphony Riverside

Albacore Tuna Sashimi, Charred Pepper Puree, Feta Aioli, Micro Mint, Compressed Watermelon, Fried Pickle Red Onion Strings

But alas, the afternoon does come to an end and if you are lucky it leads into contentment, where you can enjoy delights as your reflect back on your day.  The final act “The Orchid at Night” was decadent and sensual.  The Nieport Late Bottle Vintage Port paired with our ice cream bar was the perfect finish.

Culinary Symphony The Orchid at Night

“Ice Cream Bar” (Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Gelato Center, White Chocolate & Vanilla Bean Coating), Oreo & Ginger Snap Crumble, Orange Marscapone Quinell, Bourbon Soaked Sour Cherries, Smoked Vanilla Syrup.

I can safely say I have never had a dining experience like this before.  The evening was a triumph and I enjoyed the celebration of nature, a spring day and love.  Thank you to the whole Canmore Uncorked Team, I can’t wait to see what you come up with for next year!

Culinary Symphony Team

I was lucky enough to win tickets to this event from Canmore Kananaskis Tourism, but it must be said, all opinions are my own.

Pasta Winner and Canmore Uncorked Food and Drink Festival 2015

Before I get started, I want to say congratulations to Jonnie B who is the winner of the pasta giveaway I held last week.  This Team Lasagna guy is going to get a chance to try out the new Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Rotini, Spaghetti and Spaghettini.  Enjoy!

Here is what I have learned this week, I don’t know anything about Canmore.  Here is what I have decided.  This year I am going to spend less time in Banff and more time learning about Canmore.  And here is why.

Last week Tourism Canmore Kananskis came to Calgary to give us a sneak peek of their Canmore Uncorked Food and Drink Festival.  This year’s edition starts on April 7 and goes until April 19.  For those of you who are fans of Calgary’s Big Taste you should check this out as the concept is similar.

Canmore Murrieta's Canmore Uncorked Prep

A variety of restaurants are offering set-price menus and different price points for lunch and dinner.  To get a comprehensive list you should check out the Canmore Uncorked website at

Sage Bistro Canmore Uncorked Prep

The crew from Canmore Murrieta’s have their take on PB&J available as one of their appetizer options.  If you get a chance to try this you should as PB not only stands for Peanut Butter but Pork Belly.

Canmore Murrieta's PB&J

Roasted Peanuts, Strawberry Balsamic Puree, Maple Braised Pork Belly and Apple Slaw

Another outstanding choice is Sage Bistro and one of their options for an appetizer, Three Arancini Risotto Balls.  This one tastes even better than it looks, trust me!

Sage Bistro's Three Arancini Risotto Balls

Three Arancini Risotto Balls with Butternut Squash, Sage, Pine Nuts and a Sylvan Star Gouda Brown Butter Béchamel Sauce.

Also included as a part of the festival are special events like Progressive Dinners, The Big Brunch and a Culinary Symphony.  I am particularly excited to attend the Culinary Symphony because the meal will feature food paired with the music of Quartteto Gelato playing live.  I have never heard of anything like this before and I am very excited to experience this event.  I’ll let you know my thoughts next week.

So yes, I had no idea Canmore had so many interesting restaurants and culinary stops.  If I don’t get a chance to try them all at Canmore Uncorked I am going to have a heck of a time exploring all year.

Canmore Uncorked Apron

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta and Giveaway

Some of you may not know this but I used to be married to an Italian.  During that time I made a lot of pasta, and I was lucky because it is an easy meal to make.  Even though it is a simple thing to do I think I got my greatest satisfaction when we had his Dad over for dinner and he told me my meal was bellissima.

So naturally when I was invited to try Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta I wanted to give it a taste.  This new line of pasta was recently introduced to Western Canada and to help get the word out they enlisted Chef Lynn Crawford. She has been on the Food Network lately as a judge for Chopped Canada but I am particularly fond of her Pitchin’ In series, where she connects with local producers and makes them a meal from their food.  And yes, next time I seriously spend some time in Toronto I would like to check out her restaurant, Ruby Watchco.

Chef Lynn Crawford introducing Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta

But I get side tracked.  I was not able to be at the event in Calgary and cook with Chef Lynn however, through the magic of technology, I was able to see the presentation on our computer at home. What I got to see was an introduction of the five grains that make up the pasta, some known and some not so well-known.  There is a mix of Quinoa, Amaranth, Teff, Sorghum and Millet which pack the noodles full of fibre and nutrients.

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Rotini, Spaghetti & Spaghettini

And the presentation of course included cooking the pasta, which led to my favourite part of the broadcast, my friend Jo-Anna over at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs doing her best Chopped Canada impression.  She helped make the Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi dressing and knocked it out of the park!  It looked amazing so of course I had to try making it for myself.  The people at Catelli were able to make that happen by sending me the recipe but more importantly, sending me some of the product to test.

Jo-Anna from Pretty Life in the Suburbs with Chef Lynn Crawford

I’m going to post the recipe below but here are some things I learned while cooking this in my kitchen.  First things first, I would have failed the Chopped Canada test.  I took way too long shelling the edamame and next time I would buy the pre-shelled variety you can get in the frozen food aisle, that is if fresh is not available.  The other thing is that I was not able to find Black Sesame Seeds when I was at the grocery store and I didn’t have time to go elsewhere.  That was not a problem though because I knew I had regular Sesame Seeds at home so I just toasted those up and used them instead.

Last the pasta was super easy to work with and the salad tasted bright and fresh.  My kid didn’t like it but my husband said he definitely wants this again, in the summer time for supper.  I will be glad to make it again for him.

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing 

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 8 min

Servings: 4


1 pkg (340 g)              Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains Spaghettini

2 cups (500 ml)           snow peas, thinly sliced diagonally

1 cup (250 ml)             shelled edamame

1                                  small English cucumber

2 cups (500 ml)            napa cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup (250 ml)             red pepper, cut into matchsticks

3                                  green onions, thinly sliced

1                                  ripe avocado, sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml)            cilantro leaves

2 tbsp (30 ml)              black sesame seeds

Ginger-Wasabi Dressing:

1/4 cup (60 ml)            seasoned rice vinegar

3 tbsp (45 ml)              canola oil

2 tbsp (30 ml)              soy sauce

2 tbsp (30 ml)              lemon juice

1 tsp (5 ml)                  lemon zest

2 tsp (10 ml)                brown sugar

2 tsp (10 ml)                sesame oil

1 tsp (5 ml)                  grated fresh ginger

wasabi to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Rinse under cold water until well chilled; transfer to large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a pot of boiling water, cook snow peas and edamame until tender-crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water until well chilled; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, halve the cucumber lengthwise and use the end of a spoon to scoop and discard seeds; cut cucumber into julienne strips.
  4. Ginger-Wasabi Dressing: Whisk together rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Season with wasabi to taste.
  5. Add cucumber, snow peas, edamame, napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions and avocado to noodles; toss with enough dressing to coat.
  6. Garnish with cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.

Tip: If you have time, you can chill the noodle dish by refrigerating for 1 to 4 hours.

Per serving: 590 calories, 19 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 710 mg sodium,

84 g carbohydrates, 145 g fibre, 13 g sugar, 21 g protein

Catelli Chilled Noodle with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

You made it to the end!  So how about the giveaway now?  The prize is a year supply of Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta.  The only stipulation is that you must be a resident of Canada.  To enter click the Rafflecopter link below and it will guide you.  I will contact the winner on Monday, April 6.  Good luck everyone.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Because I didn’t think you wanted to look at pictures of my computer screen, I borrowed some pictures from the photographer that was at the event.   Also, even though I was sent free pasta all opinions are my own.  The photo of the salad above the recipe is mine and the one below the recipe is a supplied photo.

Tasty Treat Thursday – Breakfast Burritos

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for something fun, so how about something fun?

Those of you who follow me on social media know that every Thursday in my office is Tasty Treat Thursday.  We started it back in the fall and it really is a chance to sit down with each other outside of the daily grind. We only take 15 minutes as a group to relax, chat and enjoy some delicious food.  It may be the treats that bring us together but it’s the conversation and the small break that keeps us going to the end of the week.

How it works is someone different from our team is assigned a week.  As a result, we have had a lot of boxes of donuts come in but there are some talented people (or wives of people) in our group.  Some weeks we have been spoiled and have had personal sized bags of baked goods come in.  We even had one week where we pigged out on popcorn.

Jelly Modern Donuts

Kernels Popcorn

I think my favourite of all was the week one of my coworkers had her teenage son bake some cookies.  One batch turned out and I was pretty impressed.  However, one batch did not so instead she brought in some fruit and spring rolls to make sure we had enough food.

Cookies by Davis

Spring Rolls from Western Coffee Shop

A couple of weeks ago it was my turn.  Of course I have been thinking about what I would do since the list was announced back in October.  I had so many things come into my mind but then my world fell apart when my Aunt died and I was tired.  I thought maybe I could go buy some pastries from Corbeaux and be done with it.  In fact I even mentioned that a couple of weeks before my week came but the scornful looks I received at that comment were priceless.  No pressure!

All inspiration had left me, anything I had thought of before simply wasn’t good enough.  I had a few limitations as we don’t have a proper kitchen in our office, only a microwave, so whatever I brought would have to be made ahead of time.  I also wanted to have a savoury treat as something different.  Then I started scouring Pinterest for ideas.  I was on the Food Bloggers of Canada board and the bright light popped through the clouds when I saw fellow bloggers Jo and Sue’s Avocado Breakfast Pizza recipe.

I would be cooking for about 20 people in a limited kitchen.  I thought making enough food for that many pizzas would be difficult so I decided to change it up.  I took all the parts from their recipe and made Build Your Own Breakfast Burritos instead.

I stayed true to Jo and Sue’s concept, just increased the number of ingredients.  I fried up a whole package of bacon, used a dozen eggs and mashed half a dozen avocados.  I cheated a little and bought shredded cheese and tortilla shells.  Shhhhh.  I did make my own salsa though.  I posted that one a while back; you can find the recipe here.

Because I love the sweet I had to bake something for everyone too.  I had quite a few black bananas in the freezer so I decided to keep it easy and made my reliable Banana Bread recipe from Spilling the Beans.  The recipe for that is on the blog too, you can find it here.  The only thing I did differently, because I had some kicking around that I wanted to use up, was add half a cup of butterscotch chips in at the end.

Banana Bread with Butterscotch Chips

After spending the time in my kitchen the night before to get everything ready I felt prepared.  I got to work on Thursday morning, warmed the eggs up in the microwave and set it all up buffet style.

Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito Buffet

Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito Ingredients

When 9:00 am rolled around my co-workers came into the kitchen to eat their treats.  And everyone loved them.  I was content drinking my cup of coffee and eating my own plate watching everyone enjoy their food.  There is nothing better than sitting back and watching people relax knowing that you helped facilitate that.  And for me, that was the real treat.

Tasty Treat Thursday Breakfast Burrito and Banana Bread

Snow and Family

A little over a month ago it happened.  It feels like yesterday and yet it still feels like it happened a life time ago.  My Aunt died.

Here it is another blog post without food.  I’m sorry guys and I promise not to dwell on it but I need to get this one out before I can carry on any further.  And it’s going to be long.

I have so much in my head but I don’t know where to start.  The problem is I have lots of things to say but I still have people like my Mom and other family members who read my blog.  Not that I would say anything that would offend them but some in our family are very private, and this past month has been an intensely hard month for our family.  Yes I need to share but I also need to respect them.

Here’s what I can say, February has been difficult for me.  My Aunt died and we had the funeral in Newmarket and we grieved together as a family with my Aunt’s friends and colleagues.  There is so much around that but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

But there have been so many other things going on, little things that aren’t necessarily happening to me personally but because of the rawness of my emotions they hit closer to home.  Like Michael Green dying in a car accident the week following my Aunt’s funeral or my Mother-in-Law having to put down one of her dogs last week, or even yesterday, finding out that Leonard Nimoy passed away.  All very sad things, plus a multitude of others that I haven’t mentioned, that make me feel heavy.

However, I am trying to find the bright spots.  I need to thank my friends in the food community for being so very good to me.  Wanda at Bakerbeans and Bernice at Dish “N” the Kitchen have been supporting me with positive notes when I need them.  And my dear friend Patricia over at Miss Foodie’s Gourmet Adventures keeps sending me invites to food events.  I finally caved and we had the most amazing Brazilian Steakhouse experience at Pampa last week.  I was a mess that day but I really needed that.  Ok, I guess there is a little about food.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

Of course my family has also been incredibly supportive but my husband is the best.  He can’t even fathom what I am going through but still, he is there.  Letting me go through what I need to.

And that leads me back to my Aunt’s funeral. There are two things that stick with me.

The first of these is snow.  I love my cousin Kristine; she is an artist with words.  On her blog, she has captured in this one post entitled The Hardest Part exactly how I feel.  Once you read this you may understand why I had such a hard time with snow when I first came back from Toronto and why I was longing for sunshine.

The second of these is how we all stick together as a family.  Yes that has changed a lot over the years and what that looks like today is very different from when we were children.  But the foundation for where we are now started back in the day and a lot of that came from my Aunt.

When we were sitting around reminiscing after the funeral we shared so many stories from this one trip my Aunt and cousins made out “West” when we were kids.  We did SO many things even though we didn’t have any money, but it didn’t matter.  My Aunt always convinced my Mom to throw all eight of us in the back of the car and away we went.  Everything was an adventure, EVERYTHING!  Ask me, and I’ll tell you because there are too many things to mention here.

And this doesn’t even take into account the trips we made out “East” when we were all at my Grandparent’s house.  If you thought eight kids in the back of a car is a lot, you should see what it is like when there are eleven!  Yes, that’s how many of us there are.

Because we did all that we are closer now somehow.  And even though on the day of my Aunt’s funeral it wasn’t possible for us all to be physically together we knew, we all were there for each other, as family.  My final memories of the funeral, well, of the place we said goodbye to my Aunt, were us as family.  We were there by ourselves, gathering everything up, taking care of the practical things.  And then when there was nothing left, we took great care with each other as we hugged and said goodbye and went our separate ways.  Going apart but leaving together as family.  I am so lucky to have this family.

So that’s all I have to say.  Mom, I know you are reading so I hope what I said is ok.  I wish I had a picture of all eleven of us to show but in its place I would like to share this great picture of the eight of us during one of our adventures that one summer when we were kids.

Jasper Tramway Throwback

If I could have one last goodbye I would say, thank you Auntie for filling our hearts and lives with happiness, wonderment and curiosity about life.  I am so thankful the last time you were out “West” we were able to make a trip together out to the mountains.  It was a special day and it is one I now will hold forever in my heart.  For the rest of my life, when I sit on the banks of Lake Minnewanka I will think of you.

Love Heather

Aunt Isabel at Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka