a peek inside the fishbowl

I spoke on a panel at the BConnected Conference on Sunday and stayed for the rest of the day. If you were there you already know how what a fantastic experience it was (and you know I don’t say that lightly). I was part of a media panel with some local media rock stars I admire: Katherine Dines, Ian Mendes, Catherine Clark and moderator Christy Laverty. Our 45 minute session sped by and then I had the rest of the day to absorb the wisdom of others.

One of the things I was inspired to do after the conference was brush off my ol’ Pinterest account. For the next while I’ll be spending a bit of extra time cultivating and refining my boards, but here’s the thing … I don’t just want to pin more stuff, I also want to act on them. It makes no sense to keep saving recipes and never actually make anything. And not just recipes, but crafty ideas too!

So every week or so I’m going to pull something from my boards and challenge myself to make it and find out if it’s actually pinworthy. Here’s where you come in. I want YOU can make it too. And if you blog about it or just tweet a photo, please make sure you leave a link so I can see how yours turned out.

My first challenge was this recipe for Thai Cashew Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce. I have been eyeballing this recipe for ages. I love how colourful it is, and a quick glance at the ingredients hinted that it would be pretty good. Basically, it has ALL THE FLAVOURS.

The original post doesn’t look quite the same as my batch, close, but definitely not the same. (I’m ok with this.) Here’s mine:

May 4 #dailylunches - Thai Cashew Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce

Here’s what happened.

I was originally going to make half of this recipe, but I got a bit excited at the outset and forgot. (It serves 8-10. Ha ha!) I made the proper amount of rice but I used brown jasmine rice instead (and hello, what a great idea to boil it right in the coconut milk!) and used a bit less carrot than was specified. I eyeballed and only grated two carrots in the food processor and it seemed to be ok. But the cabbage. Whoa. The recipe calls for one cabbage and I used about 2/3 of a head I had in the fridge. THAT IS A LOT OF CABBAGE PEOPLE. And when you shred it up you will realize (a) that you’re going to need the biggest mixing bowl ya got and then (b) you start wondering (scratch that, HOPING and PRAYING) your family is going to eat it. I also used half an onion and one red pepper. But that’s the beauty of this recipe. You can improvise a little with your favourite veggies it will still work.

The taste, well, it’s fantastic. It has the right balance of crunch – that’s the cashews and cabbage – and the peanut ginger sauce is to die for AND may result in a Serious Plate Licking. (I hope my neighbours didn’t see me.) I totally recommend this dish for a summer BBQ. It’s vegetarian, but you can also add chicken or shrimp to make it a bit more substantial. Did I mention it makes a lot? :)

So was this recipe pin worthy? YES.

Is it pinworthy?

Want to follow my recipe board on Pinterest? You can do so right here. And if you try this recipe yourself, don’t forget to let me know! I’d love to hear how your batch turned out.

04 May, 2015

Can we work together to make #EveryPlateFull ?

By andrea tomkins in Yaktivism


It is estimated that this summer, 918,724 Canadians will rely on food banks to provide over 26 million plates of food. The sad reality is that donations to food banks decline during the summer and food banks are unable to keep up with demand.

From May 2 to 8, food banks across Canada will come together to participate in the Every Plate Full Food Drive with an inspiring goal: to fill the plates of every Canadian who is hungry this summer.

Every dollar raised buys three meals for Canada’s hungry.

You can show your support by posting a picture of an empty plate on social media with #EveryPlateFull and a link to www.everyplatefull.ca from May 2 to 8. The goal is to have thousands of empty plates posted – fine dining, everyday kitchen, chipped, brand new and even paper. Anything goes! Participants are asked to tag their friends and ask them to post a plate and make a donation through www.everyplatefull.ca to a participating food bank or provincial food bank association.

You in? Show me your plate by leaving a link in the comments. :)

02 May, 2015

Moment of bliss #020

By andrea tomkins in Moments of bliss

The view from here

It was Friday afternoon and I had a list of things I should be doing. Work, or housework, for example. We were having friends over for dinner and there were Many Things Left To Do. And then there was laundry – there is always laundry - but I took advantage of the sunny day and walked down to the village for a coffee instead. I considered turning around and marching straight home but I decided to park myself on a bench and enjoy the moment. With the sun on my face, I watched the people go by and enjoyed my brew. I went home soon afterwards, taking the long route, with nothing but my thoughts and an empty coffee cup.

02 May, 2015

Weekend reading: May 2 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

01 May, 2015

A peek at this week

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

You know what makes me really happy? Good food, a sunny day, a good wander, and taking photos. I need to do this more often.

Ottawa as seen through giant jellyfish tentacles

Fern frond unfurling

Apples at Nicastro's

Piper wants out.


Until now I have generally steered clear of gluten-free products because, historically-speaking, I haven’t had much success finding anything I liked. It was no biggie, really. No one in my family has issues with gluten so when I shopped for bread, crackers, or pasta I just bought our usual stuff. However, we DO know people who have allergies and health issues as it pertains to gluten, and have had these people over for dinner. So the issue of gluten-free dining hasn’t been completely off my radar.

Awhile back I was approached about trying Catelli’s GF pasta*, and I accepted, along with a Serious Degree of Severe Skepticism. Would it be dry as dust? As palatable as a cardboard box? Or would I be pleasantly surprised? Well, spoiler alert, it was the latter. This stuff actually tasted good! It’s a blend of four grains – white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa – and here’s something that’s good to know, it’s produced in a gluten-free facility.

There was also a contest. My mission was this: to come up with a recipe, which will be judged by Chef John Higgins, Director of Toronto-based George Brown Chef School, judge of The Food Network’s Chopped Canada and former personal chef to the Queen Mother (!) according to “creativity, taste and overall culinary experience.” First prize is $5000, and since everyone in my family couple could use a new bike I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. I am crossing my fingers that Chef Higgins chooses my recipe. To be honest I am a little worried because I opted to take a more traditional route instead of something a more offbeat that taps into certain food trends e.g. a GLUTEN-FREE KALE FRUIT INFUSION SMOOTHIE WITH BLACK QUINOA SPRINKLES. This is not that. I chose tradition, and family dinners, and kids at the table, instead of jumping on a food trend. :)

If anything, Mark has declared this recipe to be “a keeper.” He can be a bit fussy, so even if I don’t win I’m happy to have a new pasta recipe in rotation around here… whether our GF friends are coming over for dinner or not. :)

Read on for the recipe I submitted:

Jacked-up gluten free pasta

Jacked-up and gluten-free roasted veggie and cheese pasta toss

Roasting the vegetables really brings out their flavour in this recipe, and using a jalapeño Monterey Jack elevates the flavour combo a bit. If you think it might be too spicy for the kids, use regular Monterey Jack cheese instead.

You will need:

A couple splashes of olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1 red pepper, cut in half and de-seeded
250 g package of Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños, grated
½ cup pancetta
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup whipping cream
60 g baby spinach, roughly chopped
chopped basil for garnish
350g package of Catelli Gluten Free fusilli
Salt and pepper to taste


1) Preheat oven to 400F. Brush cookie sheet, tomatoes and red pepper with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes.

2) While vegetables are roasting, sauté pancetta and garlic in a large frying pan until pancetta is cooked through. Add chopped baby spinach and toss until just wilted. Set aside.

3) Prepare pasta as per package directions until it is al-dente. Reserve ½ cup of water before draining. Return to cooking pot.

4) When the vegetables are roasted, peel skin from the red pepper. (It’s easiest if you let it “sweat” in a paper bag for five minutes!) Chop into smaller pieces and add to the pancetta and garlic mixture. Mash the roasted tomato with a fork and add that as well. Stir to combine and add vegetables to cooked pasta.

5) Using the same frying pan, quickly add the whipping cream and the ½ cup of reserved pasta water and heat on medium. Add grated cheese – keeping ¼ cup aside for garnish – and stir until it has melted. Add to pasta and vegetable mixture, stirring well to combine.

6) Serving options: Spoon pasta into casserole dish and garnish with remaining cheese and basil (as picture above) or divide between four plates and top with remaining cheese and basil. Serve with a tossed salad.

* Opinions, as always, are my own. I was given a case of pasta (!) with which to experiment for this recipe. I used one box, kept a couple, and am donating the rest to the food bank because I felt that was the right thing to do. :)


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Arctic Voices, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Sustainable shopping at terra20 - Ottawa

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

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  • Camping at Bon Echo, part 1 >> a peek inside the fishbowl: […] Bugs and hiking – and hiking with bugs! […]
  • andrea tomkins: It is a great combo! The dressing is the real kicker here. Don't skip it!
  • binkee: I WILL make this. People laugh when I tell them I LOVE cabbage. Cabbage and cashews...what a combo.
  • andrea tomkins: That sounds awesome Javamom. Those little things can make a big difference!
  • Javamom: This post made me want to share something that came up in our household recently. An interesting fundraising event came home from one of the kids'
  • andrea tomkins: Hi Cat! I don’t have any additional information, sorry. I suggest you contact the City of Ottawa for more information. Or maybe the Councillor for
  • Cat: I have just started taking my dog there for a walk. I heard from a passer by that a house construction company has recently purchased that land. This

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of the Kitchissippi Times and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

The #dailylunches project – 1000 lunches and counting

Every day I eat lunch and take a picture. Here's the latest:

Created with flickr badge.

Click the photo for details: what it is, where I ate it (if it's worth a mention!) and how to cook it (if there happens to be a recipe). You can also read more about this project right here.


  • So I was feeling a bit ranty and wrote this post about raising children in an age of zero privacy in the hopes it will start some conversations! Please leave your two cents right here.

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  • My latest post on the MediaSmarts website is up, and it's about family social media accounts. (Yes! It's a thing! And I think it's pretty neat.) Is this something you do as a family? I'd love it if you left your two cents on the topic.

    - #
  • I'm sharing some of my favourite lunch-related items over on the terra20 blog today. Whether you're packing a lunch for work, for your kids, or just eating at your desk at home, I bet there is something there for you. Check it out!

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On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

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