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Saanich Spinach Artichoke Cheesy Dip - Fall Fun and Food Series · Sunday November 21, 2021 by colin newell

Saanich Spinach and Artichoke Dip - it's hot!

On a dreary Saturday night, in the midst of fuel shortages, a stubborn pandemic, civic unrest and rivers of atmosphere… or is it the other way around? It is nice to quaff a glass of red wine with a simple hot dip made with basic and nourishing ingredients. Enter the Spinach and Artichoke Cheese dip. It’s hot. It’s cheesy. It comes out of the oven bubbling like the Big Island volcano we miss so much! – You can serve it on (or with) bread, a baguette, pita, corn chips or you can spoon it right out of the glowing casserole dish into your asbestos lined mouth.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch fresh spinach
8 ounces (or 250G) softened (room temperature) cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
14 oz (about 2 cups) drained artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 package pita bread


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large saute pan over medium low heat, add oil, garlic and pepper flakes and slowly saute for about five minutes or just until the garlic starts to brown.

Add dry fresh spinach, toss around and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes over medium heat until wilted and cooked. Remove to your cutting board, dab dry with paper towel and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl place cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup Parm-Reg, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Depending on how soft the cream cheese is, there will be a bit of muscle involved here. Spend 3 minutes or so – but don’t overly mix or blend as you will lose some of the texture of this dip.

Fold in the cooked spinach, artichokes and 1 and 1/2 cups of the Mozzarella cheese and scrape into a flame-proof / high temperature baking dish that is 8 × 8 × 2 inches.

Sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until hot, bubbling and slightly browned on top.

While the mixture is baking, heat a grill pan on high and once hot, place one whole pita round on at a time. Cook for a minute or two on one side, flip and cook again on the other side. Remove to a cutting board and cut into wedges and serve on the side of the dip.

If you are hungry or in a hurry, crack open a bag of low salt corn (nacho) chips and toss them in a bowl. The upside is, the cooler chips will absorb some of the Earth mantle heat of the molten cheese dip reducing the risk of scalding or life altering burns. The dip pairs well with wine or beer.

Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident who loves his food and his coffee and is constantly on the prowl for tasty recipes ready for home preparation


Instant Pot Pasta Sausage Tuscan Pasta · Sunday October 24, 2021 by colin newell

Instant Pot Pasta dishes - fast and delicious

Since I was introduced to the Instant Pot around 4 years ago, I have never tired of the ease of use, the time saving attributes and the sheer tastiness of many of the recipes.

This pasta dish is among my favourites.

It is quick, fast and easy – and oh so delicious with a big glass of red wine and some of the chewy focaccia bread that I make regularly.

At the heart of this dish are pork sausages, but you can source any kind of sausage including plant based. You can sub in chicken. Add a few sliced artichoke hearts. Whatever you have on hand. This is, after all, the building blocks of quick pasta recipes. Don’t have penne pasta? Consider Fusilli, Rotini and many others. Explore. Have fun!


Two cooked and sliced caramelized Leek and Onion sausages
1/2 Jar of sun-dried tomatoes – 1/2 cup or 75G
Heaping tablespoon of mince garlic
Tablespoon of Italian seasoning
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
16 ounces of Pasta (Penne)
1 container of low sodium chicken broth – (4 cups)
1 bunch of spinach
1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1.5 cup of cream cheese (Chive infused)


In the Instant Pot stir together chicken broth, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper.
Stir in sausage and pasta – and try to submerge pasta down into the broth (do not stir!)

Set to 5 minutes quick release.

After quick release, add Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese and spinach. Mix.
Put lid on and let steam for 10 minute – with warm setting on.

After 10 minutes, stir and serve. Bon appetit

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and food-beverage writer/influencer – active in the city, Province and country since the late 1980’s


Staying sharp, on the edge, where you have to be - with Cutluxe knives. · Tuesday October 12, 2021 by colin newell

Stay sharp - on the edge - where you have to be - with a Cutluxe knife!

Life is a series of celebrations, transitions, reflections and predictions. And if all these things have one thing in common it would be the daily cooking rituals that we look forward to.

For me, the food experience is 1 part doing to 2 parts preparation to 4 parts planning. It is a rhythm as reliable as gravity and predictable as the sunrise.

After all, the gathering of ingredients and culinary creation is a major part of everyone’s life.

Let’s face it, we need to eat. The process of these things take time. And in a life as rushed as it is, there is no reason on Earth that the tools should have any form of compromise.

It is no coincidence that our country kitchen has the most hardware in it. Whether it is a reliable gas stove, a tireless refrigerator, kitchen accessories like a VitaMix and an Instant Pot, well thought out work surfaces and kitchen tools… like knives. The kitchen is the hub of all things.

Because in the midst of the food experience, it often comes down to you and the blade that you hold in your hand.
A steady hand and a well balanced Chef’s knife, paring or cleaver – regardless of which, there is no room for error or sacrifice.

We had the opportunity recently to sample a blade or two from Cutluxe – knowing full well that there are few people harder on cutting implements than I am, I was more than happy to accept a paring knife from the Artisan series.
I found the Cutluxe knives were well packaged and razor sharp out of the box. The paring knife has great balance and weight and feels good in my right hand. After 2 – 3 weeks of steady sous chef duty (lots and lots of veg!), I put the blade under my microscope and noted, at most, 1 or 2 microchips in the steel – and not yet ready for a sharpening with my Steel.

In my kitchen I am a pretty dedicated Wusthof and Henckels user – so trying something different was refreshing. I enjoyed the Cutluxe knife enough that I would not hesitate to sample some more of their products.


Pasta Puttanesca by the numbers - authentic Italian cooking series · Friday September 3, 2021 by colin newell

Pasta Puttanesca by the numbers

I was raised on Spaghetti and meat balls. Tomatoes are my blood. Decades on, I take the greatest delight in genuine Italian cooking. My mama was raised in an Italian-Canadian enclave in Montreal and she knew her stuff. Here in the 21st Century, I have expanded on my childhood knowledge by digging deeper into the cuisine.

Click on the photo for some screen filling action!

Enter pasta Puttanseca. It is a simple dish with a storied past. I’ll let my readers draw their own conclusions as to the myth versus the reality – but on dreary days, this is one of our go-to recipes for a quick and satisfying meal with the minimum of fuss, quick preparation with ready ingredients… made better by the addition of my incredible sourdough focaccia bread


1/8 c. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 (14-oz.) diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1/8 c. capers
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Serving for 2 of boxed spaghetti or bucatini
Chopped parsley, for garnish
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving


Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant – about 1 minute.
Add anchovies and cook until fragrant, another minute.
Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water (heaping tablespoon of kosher salt to water) to a boil.
Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions, until al dente; drain. Toss spaghetti in sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Serve with a fat glass of Red wine and my incredible Focaccia bread – You’ll thank me later.

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert exploring the powers of the internet since 1996 – his treatise on caffeine has cured many a case of insomnia over the years…


Winter Storm Muffin re-mix - healthy fibre muffins · Wednesday September 1, 2021 by colin newell

I have been doing most of my own baking since I was 12 years of age – And although I do not have a cookbooks worth of experience, I have come up with a few good things.

These are a Daylight Saving Time classic to get you over the shock of the time change, get your train out of the station on time (I have no idea what that really means!) or keep you happy, healthy (and by design) more regular than sunrise.

One recipe that I have been making for over a decade is my Winter Storm muffin recipe – and I do reference it quite a lot on my blog as it has evolved some – so here is the remix:

The Dry – mix in a large bowl

2 Cups Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups All-purpose Flour (I often sub out the White flour for 4 whole wheat – yes, it’s healthier)
1 Cup Each; Rolled oats, Corn meal and (oat or wheat) bran – sub in Muesli if you have it.
(A variation for me is using 3 cups of All-Bran for a classic Bran muffin or a sugar free granola mixture)
1/2 to 1 Cup dark brown sugar (I now use 1/2 cup Demerara sugar and/or 1/8th of a cup of black strap molasses for intensity)
1.5 Tbsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Magic Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 – 1 Tbsp Organic Saigon Cinnamon
1/2 whole fresh ground nutmeg

The Wet Mix

3/4 Cup unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
3 Eggs
1 Tbsp Organic Vanilla
2 Cups Almond milk OR 2 Cups Goat’s milk OR Yoghurt
Almond milk (sugar free) is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk
and if you like an interesting flavour consider some organic Goat’s milk – great for the lactose intolerant among us.

Add Wet to Dry Mix – Do not over-mix.
I use a Kitchen-aid mixer. Stress on the over-mixing. You do not want to work the gluten in the flour in any way.

Add from 2 to 4 cups of the fruit of your choice – I use finely chopped mango, or apple, or fresh Turkish figs, blueberries, rhubarb or anything in the way of frozen fruit medleys – the sky is the limit. If the fruit falls from the sky, even better.

Another option is 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (any kind) in lieu of single cups of fruit.
A couple of times the mix seemed a little dry after the liquid was added.
Solution: Add a shot glass (2 fluid ounces) of your favourite juice; Orange, Cranberry, Lemon – whatever you have.

Pam spray 2-3 Muffin tins (I use a 12 and a 6)

Use an Ice Cream scoop for loading up the muffin tins – paper definitely not needed!

Bake for 24 minutes in a 375 degree oven or a few moments less in a 350 degree convection oven.– check for degree of done with a toothpick.
Poke the muffins. If the picks come out clean, you are good to go.

Let cool in pans for about 2-3 minutes and then air dry on cooling grid for 10 minutes. Makes about 18-20 freezer ready muffins. Ziploc freezer bags are suggested for long term storage. And by long-term I mean 2 weeks because these muffins don’t hang around!

Colin Newell has been a Victoria resident and food writer for over 25 years – His website has kept readers wide awake since 1995.
Winter Storm Re-Mix Muffins