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Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

CIN 5 Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

I was in Jasper this weekend. How beautiful is this place? And yes, I met Molly Ringwald. And sang 80s karaoke, and lost my voice almost completely, rendering me unable to manage a squeak across the table to Molly at dinner. And I made Sriracha caramel corn and Nutella brownies and that Pixie Stick sandwich Ally Sheedy made in the Breakfast Club. I’m still recovering.

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But even with all that pink 80s glam, one of the best parts was getting outside, soaking in the outdoors in all its greatness. (And yet going to bed on ironed white sheets – is there anything better?) The drive up to Jasper from Calgary on the Icefields Parkway (highway 93) is one of the most beautiful in the world – you pass somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 ancient glaciers and ice fields, emerald lakes, frozen waterfalls and the odd assembly of elk or bighorn sheep. The 10,000 year old Athabasca glacier is the highlight; as kids, we’d take the ice explorer – like an enormous Tonka truck with disproportionately large tires – right up onto the ice to stomp around.

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It’s noticeably smaller these days (although still thicker than the Eiffel Tower is high), but no less stunning, especially when the wind blows snow off the peaks above in great billowing waves. Calgarians tend to be nervous about driving the 93 in the winter because its altitude can bring unpredictable weather. This is the clearest I’ve seen it – dry roads, glaciers to gawk at, and still half-frozen waterfalls, albeit with fewer ice climbers on them.

Maligne Canyon Collage 1 Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

Once you get to Jasper, Maligne Canyon is worth a stop – in the winter, you can even do a guided ice walk – a stunning, dramatic series of waterfalls, underground streams and-smooth water-churned grooves in the limestone. The canyon is only two metres across at some points, with a 50 metre drop.

Maligne Canyon Collage 2 Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

Apparently the Maligne valley is one of the most extensive karst regions in the world, full of caves and geological formations created by rushing water eroding soluble rock.

Maligne canyon Collage 585x437 Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

The canyon itself is carved into the Palliser Formation, a layer of limestone deposited in a shallow tropical sea by lime-secreting plankton about 365 million years ago. It’s a stunning walk – totally manageable after a late night of cocktails and karaoke – and the short bridges aren’t too terrifying if heights make your arms and legs feel like overcooked spaghetti.

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Chipmunk Collage Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

(Chipmunks need to take a load off and have some snacks too.)

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I always have the best intentions when it comes to nutty, seedy homemade granola bars. I imagine myself making a batch and wrapping them individually for packed lunches and to stash in the glove compartment to ward off impulse detours through the drive thru. And to pack in my gym bag, if I had a gym bag. But in reality the only time I manage to make a batch is during those final hours before a road trip, most likely as a procrastination measure to avoid finishing all the things that need finishing, and the essential things, like laundry and packing. But snacks are important too, right? Especially when hikes are in your future, and car trips involve long stretches of highway where the only stops are to gasp and take photos.

food bars 1 Peanut Butter Trail Bars at Maligne Canyon

Road Trip Peanut Butter Trail Bars

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose, whole wheat or oat flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, peanut butter, milk, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined; add all the additions you want to add and stir just until blended.

Spread the batter into a 9×13-inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Makes 12-18 bars.

I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.

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March 17 2015 | eating out and going places | 6 Comments »

A Calgary Christmas Crawl

downtown A Calgary Christmas Crawl

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves stuck in gridlock in an underground mall parkade on the afternoon of Black Friday. This was not planned, and it was not joyful. I’m not one to hit the malls for such occasions, nor set my alarm to go shopping on Boxing Day. I flirted briefly with online shopping, which saves you a trip out, but makes me feel badly for Otto, our FedEx guy, and sitting alone with a credit card by the glow of my laptop is too solitary for the season, and somehow takes away the thrill of the hunt. I do love the bustle of Christmas shopping – of seeing neighbourhoods decked out, of the camaraderie of crowds with the same happy goal. Even when there are lineups and you find yourself crushed in the food court, tired and hangry in search of sustenance in the form of ginger beef, it has a certain Christmas Vacation appeal. So we decided to do our own Christmas crawl – to visit some of our favourite local shopkeepers, many of whom rely on the holiday season to get them through the rest of the year, and to be jovial and jolly and neighbourly and Dickens-esque. And while I don’t often share Calgary-centric stuff here (since not everyone lives close by), it’s a city I’m fond of and proud of, and if you haven’t been, perhaps you’d like to visit.

bay 585x438 A Calgary Christmas Crawl

I grew up here, so have a sense of nostalgia about the place – I love downtowns in general at Christmastime, especially when there’s an old Bay building and a CP hotel, but the Palliser has a special place in my memory. Growing up, my dad’s office was attached to the building – and the Calgary tower – and some years we’d come down to have dinner at the Rimrock on Christmas eve, hoping to score a seat by the fireplace. It’s the Palliser‘s 100th Christmas this year, and possibly, if rumours are true, the last for the Rimrock, and so we started our crawl with the Palliser as home base for a night, lucky enough to snag a spot beside the fireplace for the Yule Love It buffet lunch.

buffet A Calgary Christmas Crawl

We started out watching the zamboni grooming the ice in Olympic Plaza, then hit the Glenbow gift shop – where they sell tons of locally made ceramics, jewelry and paper crafts as well as books and smart games – and good cards. (If you’re looking for a totally different sort of a gift, you can also adopt an artifact-artwork and objects from the Glenbow’s collection, from war medals to love letters.)

glenbow A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Next – a stop at The Cellar for bottles of Gin Rummy from the new Eau Claire Distillery – a seasonal offering of barrel-finished gin and rum with the flavours of spiced fruitcake. (And a bottle of wine for the room.) Another unique gift idea – a membership in their Wine of the Month Club; two different themes (“Tried & True” or “Off The Beaten Path”), 6 different wines, delivered monthly for $150.

The Cellar A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Christmas cards written on Friday night by the pool. Right? (Being self employed, neither Mike nor I get company Christmas party, so we decided to have our own. And my idea of a good time is lounging somewhere super festive with W.) Usually I take any opportunity to hit the Oak Room for a classic cocktail (Fairmonts always make a perfect whisky sour), but on this particular visit we were lucky enough to experience the penthouse level Gold Lounge, with snacks, sweets, canapes and the most extensive honour bar I’ve ever seen – complete with a vintage copy of the Mr. Boston cocktail guide for reference. No need to leave the hotel.

Palliser collage1 A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Back for breakfast in the same spot – waffles, pastries, bacon and eggs, fruit, charcuterie and all the espresso I can drink – fuel for a day of shop-hopping.

breakfast A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Our first morning stop – after perusing the Bay for the annual pair of slippers for Mike’s mom – was the new downtown SAIT Culinary Campus, which has plenty of student-made baked goods, jams, preserves and condiments that make great gifts while supporting local student chefs.

SAIT A Calgary Christmas Crawl

And over at Holt Renfrew we came across one of our favourite bakeries – Yann’s Haute Patisserie – with a macaron pop-up that will be there until Christmas eve. Who needs chocolates when you can bring a box of brightly coloured festive macarons?

macarons A Calgary Christmas Crawl

From downtown we hit Inglewood – my ‘hood (although technically, I live on the other side of the tracks, in Ramsay), stopping first at Wilde Grainz bakery for mince tarts they make using a 100 year old recipe from the UK, shared by a dear friend. You can pick up a jar to make your own, or bring home slabs of dark fruitcake and shortbread.

Mince tarts A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Across the street, Reworks Upcycle Shop has the most awesome assortment of things made from other things – my current favourite are these skateboard cheese boards, wine racks made out of pipes, and road sign trays, which Santa was kind enough to deliver to me last year.

reworks 1 A Calgary Christmas Crawl
reworks 2 A Calgary Christmas Crawl

These wine stoppers made out of old doorknobs and taps and locally screened tea towels have become by go-to gift to attach to a bottle of wine (or Irish cream made in High River). And this side table made out of old skateboards? Want.

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Further down 9th Ave, Kent of Inglewood is open – for all your holiday hatchet needs.

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Darcy and Greg at DaDe Art & Design Lab have beautiful things – besides art and furniture, they always have unique handmade ceramics by local artists.

DaDe A Calgary Christmas Crawl
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And right now the guys from Monogram Coffee has a pop-up in their space, offering up wonderful coffees (as well as a subtly spiced, not-too-sweet alternative to the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte) and baking from Pretty Sweet.

monogram A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Next door, one of my favourite shops in the city is The Uncommons – so much cool/fun stuff there, including my favourite Calgary-made tonic

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Which would pair well with a homemade gin kit. Make your own at home!

gin kit1 A Calgary Christmas Crawl

On the other side of DaDe, Savour Fine Foods is one of my favourite Calgary kitchen stores. They carry Staub and Le Creuset, along with tons of fun kitchen toys, stocking stuffers, and delicious things like these infused pure maple syrups from out east.

savour fine foods A Calgary Christmas Crawl

Across the street, Oliviers has been making chocolates and candies in Calgary for over 100 years; they’re known for their massive hand-made candy canes, but also have a huge selection of novelty chocolate, sugar-free chocolates, and caramel corn that rivals Poppycock. Also – if you’re tired of chocolate Santas, you can get a chocolate Buddha.

Oliviers A Calgary Christmas Crawl

And there are vintage dishes, linens, purses and Christmas decorations at Pretty Little Things!

pretty little things A Calgary Christmas Crawl

From there, we popped over to Britannia, to the new Village Ice Cream location, to pick up some pints of their festive flavours – peppermint! eggnog! salted caramel! And next door, Britannia Hardware is one of my favourite spots for kitchen toys.

village ice cream 2 585x438 A Calgary Christmas Crawl
village ice cream 1 585x438 A Calgary Christmas Crawl

What are your favourite festive spots at this time of year?

This post was sponsored by Travel Albertaa great partnership, since I love showing off this province so much. And thanks to the Fairmont Palliser for hosting our stay! As always, all the content is 100% my own.

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December 09 2014 | eating out | 17 Comments »

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