We at Calgary is Awesome were absolutely thrilled when the Calgary Public Library asked us to be part of their One Book One Calgary campaign, which featured Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome (based on his blog 1000 Awesome Things) this year.

Fellow CIA editor Sarah has done a great job as their beat writer, covering some of the awesome programming offered by the library over the past month. I was tapped by the library to offer two programs – Chef’s Awesome Eats and The Book of Awesome: Calgary Foodie Edition.

In the former, I managed to cajole a few local chefs (namely John Jackson from CHARCUT, Darren MacLean from downtownfood and Roy Oh from Anju) into sharing a few simple recipes that I could share with some library goers. In the latter, I created some dishes based on some of the awesome things in the Book of Awesome (I did cheat and use the blog – some of the awesome things in the book are pretty unhealthy! :P) Both programs sought to highlight local ingredients, shops and restaurants that I love, while trying to do a cooking demo with nothing much more than a cutting board, knife and a few mixing bowls! (It was only later that I found out that I could’ve plugged something in if I’d asked…)

The programs went great! All the recipes went over well, and it was nice to see a few repeat faces at both programs. I unfortunately didn’t take any photos, but thanks to my friend Terry who came out and live-tweeted one of the sessions, I have a few.

In case you missed it, here are the recipes!

CHARCUT Tomato Jam on Sidewalk Citizen Crostini & Sylvan Star Smoked Gouda

Though I asked the chefs to share simple recipes that they would make at home, Chef John Jackson generously shared the recipe for the house ketchup they make at CHARCUT. Since it would be kinda gross to just give people a spoonful of this at the demo, I served it on crostini made from a baguette from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery – just slice the baguette really thin (you’ll get about 50-60 slices), brush with a bit of olive oil then stick it under the broiler for a minute per side – and a slice of smoked gouda from Sylvan Star Cheese.

CHARCUT’s House Ketchup/Tomato Jam (by Chef John Jackson)
Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (1 cup/250 mL)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ lb (680 g) fresh tomatoes, diced or 1 x 28 fl oz (798 mL) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sugar
  • ¼ cup (65 mL) vinegar
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) black pepper
  • 4 pickled lemon peels* (or zest of 1 lemon with 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp salt)
  1. In a pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is evaporated and the mixture is thick. Remove thyme sprigs and pickled lemon peel before serving.

*A helpful member of the audience told me you can find pickled lemon peel at Lebanese stores around the city. It’s also not difficult to make your own.

Chef Darren MacLean's Cold Sichuan Noodle Salad with Chicken

Chef Darren MacLean does Asian-French fusion small plates at his restaurant, downtownfood, so he sent over some Asian-inspired dishes. I baked up some chicken thighs purposely for this recipe, but I think it’d be a good use of leftover chicken… or one of those roast chickens from the deli in a pinch. The spices used in the “aromatic soy sauce” are the same used in five spice powder, minus the cloves. You can probably just use a spoonful of five spice powder if you don’t have all those whole spices on hand. If you are looking to get the whole spices, I highly recommend Silk Road Spice Merchant in Inglewood/the Calgary Farmers’ Market. They bring in a lot of high quality and rare stuff, yet their prices are comparable to the stuff you find at the grocery store.

Cold Sichuan Noodle Salad with Chicken (by Chef Darren MacLean @ downtownfood)
Serves 4

Aromatic soy sauce

  • 1/3 cup (85 mL) dark soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup (170 mL) water
  • 6 tbsp (90 mL) brown sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1 lb cooked chicken meat, shredded or cubed
  • 150 g ramen or wheat noodles


  • ¼ cup (65 mL) chopped green onion
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced ginger
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) soy sauce
  • Dash sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a small saucepan, bring ingredients for aromatic soy sauce to a boil and simmer, stirring, until brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain and let cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together cooked chicken and soy sauce. Set aside.
  3. Cook ramen noodles and cool in ice water.
  4. While ramen noodles are cooking, mix together dressing ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Toss with cooked ramen noodles.
  5. Place seasoned chicken on cooked noodles.
Chef Roy Oh (@ Anju) 's Tteokkbokki

While Chef Roy Oh does more modern, fusion dishes at his restaurant Anju, the recipe that he sent is true Korean street food, consisting of tteok, or Korean rice cakes, with a few other ingredients in a spicy sauce. I went to a tiny Korean/Japanese grocery to try to find all the ingredients – now I know what B. must feel like when we’re shopping for Chinese food together! I tried to keep things hot in an insulated Thermos pot my mom bought me when I was in university, which she claims “finishes cooking your food” but it didn’t really work out that way and I think some people got undercooked rice cakes (sorry!)

Tteokbokki (by Chef Roy Oh @ Anju)
Serves 4

  • 3 tbsp gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper powder)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1+ cup water
  • 500 g tteok (Korean rice cakes), separated into individual pieces
  • 250 g (about ½ package) flat odeng (Korean fish cakes), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 4 green onions, cut into 2” slices
  • Roasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. In a medium saucepan, mix together gochujang, gochugaru, sugar, soy sauce and garlic. Add water and heat mixture on medium-high until boiling.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add in tteok, odeng, onion, carrot and most of the green onions (save some for garnish). Add more water to cover, if necessary. Cook until the tteok is soft and chewy, about 5 minutes, longer if using frozen tteok.
  3. Remove from heat and garnish with remaining green onion and sesame seeds before serving.
Grizzly Paw Grapefruit Tea Punch

I was originally inspired to make a beverage by “the sound of ice cubes cracking in a drink”, but then thought the logistics of bringing a bunch of ice to the library was probably a little too complicated so instead turned to “ordering off the menu at fast food restaurants”. I used to work fast food in high school and one of the “off-the-menu” things we did was mix orange pop and iced tea together – this is the grown-up version of that.

I really wanted to highlight a local beverage and the sodas from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company in Canmore fit the bill. Of course a visit to Canmore is great, but you can find their sodas at Bite Groceteria in Inglewood, and their beers at several liquor stores around the city.

While I wasn’t allowed to serve alcohol in the library, I think a splash of rum, Grand Marnier, peach schnapps or peppermint schnapps would work great in this recipe!

Grizzly Paw Grapefruit Tea Punch
Makes about 6 cups

  • 3 cups (750 mL) water
  • 3 tea bags or 1 tbsp (15 mL) loose tea (black or green)
  • 2 bottles Grizzly Paw Grapefruit Soda
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
  • Grapefruit/orange slices, fresh mint (optional)
  1. Make iced tea: In a kettle, bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags or loose tea. Steep for 2-3 minutes, then remove tea bags or strain out tea leaves. Let cool to room temperature before placing in a pitcher or punch bowl in the fridge to cool completely.
  2. Just before serving, add soda and lemon juice, stirring lightly. Pour into individual glasses or serve in punch bowl with citrus slices and/or mint for garnish.

As I mentioned previously, some of the awesome things in The Book of Awesome were not the most healthful – “Putting potato chips on a sandwich”? “When there’s leftover cake in the office kitchen”? “The last crumbly triangle in a bag of potato chips”? (There might be a theme here.) So I cheated and went and looked on the blog and found “Wrong colored foods” – I’ve always been the one at the farmers’ market gravitating toward the purple carrots, orange cauliflower, white peppers and of course, golden and candy cane beets! Wrong coloured beets are doubly awesome because they don’t stain everywhere like the regular red ones.

I know it’s odd to make a creamy beet salad because beets by themselves are so gorgeous, but I really wanted to highlight Bles-Wold and their Greek-style yogurt (“Reading the nutrition label and eating it anyway”) This is an excellent late-summer recipe as there might still be some local dill (mint is also good) in the stores while the beets are just starting to come in. Alternative serving suggestion: if you have big enough beets, omit the orange juice from the dressing, slice the beets cross-wise and spread a bit of the dressing between the slices. Drizzle orange juice on top.

Creamy Roasted Beet Salad with Orange-Dill Yogurt Dressing
Serves 4-6

  • 2 lb (900 g) golden or chiogga (“candy cane”) beets, trimmed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Greek yogurt (Try Bles-wold Greek-style yogurt if you are into “Reading the nutritional label and eating it anyway”)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375?F. Wrap beets in foil and roast until flesh can be pierced easily by a fork, about 1-1½ hours. Let cool until able to handle, then “rub” skins off beets and cut into chunks. Place beet chunks in a medium bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, dill and orange zest and juice. Toss with beets, add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with dill, if desired.
No-Cook No-Bake Salted Chewy Chocolate Cookies

One of the awesome things in “The Book of Awesome” is salt. Naturally, I thought of… dessert! Salted caramel, or a sprinkle of salt on chocolate chip cookies has become super-trendy these days. (I still think I’m the only person in Calgary who thinks the Salted Caramel at Village Ice Cream is too salty!) I wanted to make some no-bake cookies, but most still involved boiling a syrup on a stove! Fortunately, a search on the internet found this, which evolved to become the recipe that I presented in the library. If you have a nut allergy, I think ground flax seed would be good in this… quinoa flour or unsweetened coconut might work too. Regular flour might not be a good idea as the recipe isn’t cooked, so would taste starchy. For those with dairy allergies, unfortunately I don’t know of a good dairy-free alternative for condensed milk – sorry!

If you don’t have fleur de sel (which I know is super-expensive), use sea salt or even kosher salt so you get the nice big flakes/crystals, which add a bit of texture. It also won’t have that distinctive iodine taste that you would find in table salt.

No Cook No Bake Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Fleur de Sel
Makes about 30-35

  • 1½ cups (270 g) chocolate cookie crumbs
  • ¾ cup (90 g) almond meal, or about 50 blanched almonds, ground
  • ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (50 g) cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp (7 g) instant coffee
  • ½ cup (125 mL) condensed milk (about ½ can)
  • scant ¼ cup milk
  • Fleur de sel
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients except milk and fleur de sel.
  2. Add milk slowly while stirring the mixture, until mixture clumps up into a dough.
  3. Rub a bit of oil onto your hands to keep dough from sticking. Break off pieces of dough by the teaspoonful and roll into a ball between your hands, then flatten slightly. Place on a parchment-lined tray or plate. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.
  4. If the balls are sticky, place in the fridge for a few hours. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days.