Today I will be going into the kitchen of Dara from the Cookin’ Canuck blog. I discovered Dara’s blog over a year go and love to read it. Cookin’ Canuck has a vast variety of recipes, everything from Challah Bread to Spicy Stir-Fry Bok Choy with Giner & Soy Sauce and you will love to look at her large amazing picture as you drool over them.
Not only does Dara have an amazing food blog but she is also a consultant for families who wish to set up intensive behavioral programs for their children with autism. Very inspiring! I really enjoy reading her blog and hope you do too.
How long have you been cooking and who was the person who encouraged you to come into the kitchen and learn about food?
I have always been interested in food, particularly eating it. When I was in my teens, my parents set me the task of making dinner one time per month. This inspired me to start looking through cookbooks and experimenting with different recipes. However, they eventually had to ban me from making my go-to meal of baked potatoes with an array of toppings.
My mum is a wonderful, instinctual cook who likes to use ingredients from around the world. She grew up in Jamaica, and she and my dad lived in Malaysia for the first few years of their marriage. As a result, I was exposed to a lot of different flavors at a young age.
Why did you start a food blog?
My friends were always telling me how often they ate out at restaurants and, when they did cook, how they found themselves cooking the same dishes over and over again. So, I decided to put some recipes on a blog to give them some ideas.
While my blog is still packed with easy, weeknight recipes, it has changed somewhat. I love to play around with different ingredients, flavor combinations, and techniques. The best part is sharing the resulting dishes with my family and friends.
Like me, you seemed to have lived all over the world. I am Swedish but lived in Asia and now in the US. When I have cravings for some good food it is 99% of the time Asian and I think it is due to my upbringing there. What about you, how does your international upbringing equate to your food cravings?
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada; lived in New York City for several years; and now live in Salt Lake City with my husband and two boys. So, I don’t have too much experience with living in varied places. However, I have been lucky enough to do a fair amount of traveling – Europe, Africa, Australia.
Growing up in Vancouver gave me the opportunity to be exposed to many different cultures. Vancouver is the home to North America’s third largest Chinatown, plus there is a bustling Indiatown. Everywhere you turn, you find ethnic markets and restaurants. From the influence of my mum’s cooking to the availability of international ingredients and cuisine, I became hooked on flavors from different countries and cultures.
From all the places you have lived, how did you end up in Utah?
My husband and I have a consulting business in which we treat children with autism. We were living in New York City and, as much as we loved it there, we found that we really missed being closer to the west coast and our families. We had a lot of clients in Utah, so we made the move.
Do you have a signature dish? What is it and how did you come up with it?
I can’t say that I have a signature dish, but some of the things I cook regularly are risotto, pasta with a mascarpone cream sauce (my comfort food), and Korean sweet potato noodles, rolled up with chicken and vegetables in spring roll wrappers. That idea came from a Korean friend of mine. As much as possible, I try to cook with ingredients that are seasonal. A couple of years ago, my husband built a raised vegetable bed. My two boys love helping us plant and harvest vegetable. It’s a challenge to get to the cherry tomatoes before my 6-year old has pops them all into his mouth.
What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
I’m not really a gadget person, but there are two things in my kitchen that I simply cannot do without. Really good, sharp chef knives (I use Wusthof knives) and All-Clad stainless steel pans. These things alone make cooking so much more enjoyable for me.
With the holidays coming up – is there something special that you make each holiday that is sentimental and you always have to make? What is it and why?
As you can imagine, I do a lot of cooking and baking for my blog. We have some new favorites, such as Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt. However, there are a few family dishes that we make every year without fail.
The first is my dad’s bread stuffing. On Christmas Eve, many years ago, my mum was curled up in bed, with a bad case of bronchitis. The next night, we were due to host the annual family Christmas feast and neither my dad nor I had ever cooked anything more complicated than sandwiches or scrambled eggs. I walked into the dining room to find my dad surrounded by open cookbooks, diligently searching for a holiday-worthy stuffing recipe. He looked like a college student hunkering down for a long night of cramming for a tough exam. That diligence produced a stuffing that has become a family classic.
From my husband’s side of the family, there are a few “must-have” treats. We make several batches of my mother-in-law’s wonderful crockpot applesauce every year and serve it alongside the Christmas turkey. Also, it would not be Christmas without the spritz cookies, in the shape of wreaths and Christmas trees.
What are three things people don’t know about you?
Uh-oh. Is this full confession time? First off, I am someone who likes to take risks on occasion. I have bungi-jumped two times, one of them being a 350-foot drop from the bridge by Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The other day I promised my eldest son that I would skydive with him when he is old enough.
The second thing is that I’m an only child. For me, this means that I have a very close relationship with my parents. The other thing it means is that I enjoy my alone time. Even if it means stealing away for ten minutes to read a book, I need that time (several times each day) to recharge my mind. If I don’t get that time, look out – my crabbiness comes out.
Thirdly, I am a pile-maker…paper piles. Much to my husband’s annoyance (though he’s really very patient with me), I have piles of paper in various locations of the house. What’s in them? Random notes I’ve written myself, cooking magazines, my kids’ school work – you name it, it’s there. I haven’t told my husband this yet because I don’t want to get his hopes up, but I think my New Year’s resolution will involve dealing with those piles. I’m sure to find all sorts of important information that I thought I had lost!
What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like it prepared?
This is an easy one. Mushrooms…in any form…as often as possible. My favorite way to prepare them is to sauté them until slightly caramelized, then toss them with a little soy sauce. I can down a whole bowl of mushrooms prepared that way.
What makes you drool when it comes to food?
Describe your death menu. (Last meal before you die)?
Going along with the salt and soy sauce theme, I would have to say sushi. Preferably provided by Tojo’s in Vancouver – melt in your mouth fish, innovative flavors, and beautiful presentations.
What advice would you give to other food bloggers?
First of all, you have to love what you do and what you’re writing about. If you don’t, you will become bored or frustrated very quickly.
When I first started blogging, I became aware of how many food blogs there are, and the prospect of making my blog stand out in the field was daunting (still is). As I visited more and more blogs, I started to ask myself what qualities made me come back repeatedly. The formula, in my opinion, is three-fold – innovative recipes, great photos, and entertaining, honest writing. While I still have a long way to go in each of these areas, I have concentrated my efforts in making strides forward in each of these areas.
Thanks so much for featuring me on your wonderful blog!
I wanted to thank Dara for letting me in her kitchen! Thank you!