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Fresh Fig and Blueberry Bars in the Springtime · Saturday April 18, 2020 by colin newell

Fresh Fig Dessert Squares - with Blueberries!

We had some fresh figs gifted to us a Christmas time – they were fresh frozen and in the freezer. It was time.
These are, arguably, amongst the tastiest fruit squares that we have ever made. By themselves, with just the fresh figs, they are mighty tasty – by adding the antioxidant rich blueberries, they get a bit of balance and unlike date squares, they are less “instantly filling…” and you can eat more than one at a time!


For the crust
1/2 cup butter softened
1/4 sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cup fresh figs chopped
1 cup dried blueberries

For the topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer until well blended.
On low speed, beat in 1 cup flour until soft dough forms.
Press dough in bottom of pan and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until center is set.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, cook filling ingredients over medium-high heat 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until figs are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Blueberries will get rehydrated.

Spread over crust.

In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour, the brown sugar and 3 tablespoons butter, using pastry blender or fork, until crumbly.
Stir in oats and pecans.

Sprinkle over filling.

Bake 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and topping is light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and talker on the subject of coffee, cocktail and food culture. He created the website some 25 years ago and still loves that hot frisky beverage.


COVID 19 Chapter 1 A great business neighbour Root Cellar · Tuesday March 17, 2020 by colin newell

This letter was sent out by Root Cellar Market within the last few days – it’s brilliant – it deserves a full read.

So these are interesting times, and before I forget, we have adjusted our business hours and will be closing at 7pm effective immediately.

Also…your specials are at the end!

As I knelt on the floor of my store today, marking off the recommended ‘social distancing’ boundaries for our till line up, trying to infuse a bit of lightness into our customer’s day by writing friendly reminders on the floor… I had one of those ‘is this real?’ moments. Am I really kneeling on the cement floor as customers walk around me, asking people to respect personal space for the safety of others. I never thought I would write #personalspaceisthebestspace in relation to the running of my grocery store… but here we are, all of us, in this together.

Root Cellar - Stay Calm - Carry On

Before I lose you with my long winded message, I’d like to speak to ‘panic buying’. Please STOP. We aren’t seeing it here, and for that we are grateful. This causes unnecessary stress on the supply chain, on staff in stores, and renders others without. I want to assure you that we do not have supply chain concerns, we will be here for you, with food on our shelves. You will however, notice a few compromises being made in our store due to lightened staff levels, we ask for your understanding as we prioritize everyone’s health and safety by having fewer staff on shift at any given time, (for example, we will not have baggers on our tills, and you will see a few less options here and there in order to accommodate our increased sanitation procedures).

There’s no course for this in business school (I didn’t go). But should there be? Probably not… what there should be is a course on trusting your instincts, in engaging with your team & your customers to ensure that their needs are met and their fears are abated. This is what we are focused on right now. On ensuring that we are doing ALL that we can within our resources to represent our space as local entrepreneurs, as grocers, as friends, family and parents with the utmost integrity.

We assure you from the bottom of our hearts that your health & safety is of our utmost priority. We are grateful that as a small business we can respond with immediacy to our rapidly changing circumstances. Today for example, following the provincial news briefing, we immediately removed all customer seating from our store. Thanks for coming, but please move along, for the health and safety of all.

Our current circumstances and recent call for all to ‘social distance’, will deliver quite a blow to our island economy, first to the small businesses that define our culture here in Victoria. As a member of the small business community we feel that it’s our obligation to urge you to make mindful decisions when choosing where you spend your dollars.

We can only speak for our own store, where our customers thus far have impressed us beyond belief with their overwhelming support, and their rational shopping habits, allowing us to manage the slight increase in sales volume without making huge compromises.

Think also of your grocery list as you write it, we are a small business, so is Fatso Peanut Butter, so is Golda’s Pesto and Saltspring Jam, not to mention the farmers growing this season’s local produce, about to be abundant. These companies need sales, need healthy staff, and need our support to stay afloat. We cannot IMAGINE a world without these products (among so many others) in it but the fact of the matter is that when life resumes normalcy, many of our favourite places to shop & eat, and our favourite products to buy may not exist when that time comes.

We urge you as always to vote with your fork and with your dollars. Our community of small businesses, growers, makers, bakers and shakers needs us right now. Mindfulness is contagious.

We all need to eat, and though many of you have gone out of your way to stock your pantries, the need for food, particularly fresh food will be ongoing. Many cannot afford to stockpile, others prefer not to, a lot will just want a reason to leave the house.

Please be aware that our staff have been trained to be mindful of social distancing when going about their daily tasks. You are less likely to be approached while shopping; please know that we want to chat with you and lend a hand, but as a result of our efforts we may appear less friendly than usual, we assure we are not!

We are currently open 8am-7pm, 7 days a week. Our busiest hours of operation are from 11am-5pm, with our highest customer counts from 2-5pm. Avoid these shopping times if you can.

We are strongly suggesting that the first hour of the day 8-9am is the ideal time for the elderly or vulnerable to do their shopping (if they don’t have someone to do it for them). Our customer volume is low, our staff levels are high and our store will have been freshly sanitized. We will not turn you away but If you are a low risk individual we suggest that you honour this window of time if you are able, out of respect for those in our community that are comforted by this accommodation.

Shop alone, not as a couple or a family if you are able. The fewer bodies in our store at any given time, the lower everyone’s rate of exposure.

Doing it right - in the Blenkinsop Valley

Make your shops larger and less frequent. If you have always been a 3x/week shopper, consider becoming a once a week shopper. Just plan ahead.

Shop for your friends, family & neighbours, (particularly the vulnerable) take turns running errands for each other, again, the less bodies in circulation in the community the greater impact we are having on flattening the curve.

Use a shopping buggy instead of a basket, ‘social distancing’ isn’t human nature. The nature of a shopping cart’s size will ensure distance between you and other shoppers & staff.

Clean your hands before and after leaving the store, be mindful that coming in with clean hands reduces risk for all staff and customers sharing the space. We have a well equipped customer bathroom available, and a limited supply of sanitizing stations.

Amongst the constantly changing social climate, we want to take a moment to remind you that we are still running our Island Food Caring Campaign. While this may feel like a nuisance, we urge you to consider the vulnerable, the hidden hungry in our community during this unsettling time. Imagine, if on top of the instability we are all experiencing, you also didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. Everyone’s food sustainability commitments are being tested right now, we stand firmly planted behind ours, and pledge to DOUBLE ALL CUSTOMER DONATIONS to Island Food Caring made between now and March 22nd at our tills. Those in need, need us more than ever. I am a huge fan of the beautiful words below … we need to BE THE HELPERS right now.

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Sourdough Bread 101 - Chapter 1 - Cheese Bread · Saturday January 25, 2020 by colin newell

Cheeky Cheesy Savoury Bread 2020

Welcome to 2020 – a New Year and hopefully lots of adventures on the blog – by the time you read this, you may have heard some of my fellow bread makers on the CBC talking about the resurgence of bread making at home. If you are just checking in now – as in today – well, that feature is still in development.

Sourdough – My starter goes back to around 2008 – as handed to me in a ziploc bag by friend and colleague “Corey” – despite my best attempts and neglect, I have yet to kill my sourdough starter.

We’ll call this chapter 1 on the subject despite the fact that I need to offer a complete tutorial on sourdough breads and starters — that is, if you are not inclined on looking up a myriad of resources about the subject online and on But, for my own edification, I should really write it all down in my own words if only to get a better understanding of the subject. It’s not rocket science but things can go awry if you don’t observe a few cautions about the subject. Anyway – let’s get to it with this little recipe.

50 g OR ¼ cup Sourdough starter
365 g OR 1 ½ cup + 1 tsp warm water
280 g OR 2⅓ cups bread flour
200 g OR 1¾ cups all purpose flour
20 g whole wheat flour
Option: Use 500g bread flour and skip the variety of flour types.
9 g OR 1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
Optional – 50 g OR ⅓ cup sliced pickled Jalapenos
135 g OR 1 heaped cup Sharp cheddar cheese cubed into ¼ inch
Optional – 12 g OR ¼ cup minced chives


In a large bowl add starter and water and mix well.

Saturday evening – Add all purpose, whole wheat flour and bread flour combine everything and set aside for 30 minutes -

Me – I actually just used all bread flour – but mixing up the different grain types is ok.

Add salt and mix again and set aside for another 8-12 hours in a room with an air temperature of 17-23 Degrees ©

Sunday morning – mix in cheese, jalapenos and chives then shape and transfer to banneton or steel bowl.

Proof at room temperature or in fridge for 4 – 8 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 450F. Transfer the dough to a suitable oiled steel or glass (pyrex) bread pan.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450F and then reduce the temperature to 425 F and bake 25 minutes.

Bake until loaf develops a golden colour + when you tap the loaf it makes a hollow sound or registers 95C-210 F internal temperature.

Cool the loaf for 10-15 minutes – cut it into slices and enjoy.

Colin Newell has been a Victoria resident and coffee expert for 25+ years and dabbles in food and cocktail culture.


Instant pot living - General Tsao chicken · Sunday January 27, 2019 by colin newell

I am a sucker for tasty ethic cooking – whatever it might be. This fairly liberal interpretation of General Tsao Chicken in the Instant-Pot is a good example of one of those dishes. It is cheap to make. You can make it quickly. You can feed a large horde with just one or two Instant Pots. Dig in. Enjoy!

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Spiked Sourdough Hybrid Dinner Rolls · Monday March 12, 2018 by colin newell

Victoria B.C. Sourdough Hybrid Rolls

I have a Sourdough starter that goes all the way back to 2008. I did not create it but got a sample a couple of years ago – and I have managed to not kill it.

Which is astounding because I hurtle every form of abuse and indignation in its general direction; starvation, neglect, disinterest… etc. OK, maybe it’s not that bad because it lives on.

For those who don’t know what a sourdough starter is: In its simplest terms, it is flour and water (those are ingredients that you provide…) The environment (or the World around you…) provides the “natural” yeasts. It is easy to say that they “exist” within the flour that you provide, but yeasts (and molds) are everywhere around us.

And in my case, my Sourdough starter which was created in a neighbourhood around 12 km away from where I live must have evolved after it was relocated. Which is to say, while there are “yeasts” everywhere, they are not all the same and they each (collectively) impact different flavours on the different creations (breads, rolls, scones, even pancakes!) you come up with.

So: Sourdough starter is flour, water and a wild yeast that, yes indeed, creates a ferment. Ferment creates alcohol and gas, which is the leavening that we are looking for.

The ferment in the bread making process also fundamentally changes the flavour and the structure of the gluten in the finished product. I could devote 100 pages to what is going on with bread starters and natural bread making. It’s all on the internet but I will integrate my spin on it here if anyone is interested (use the comment field!) Anyway. Onwards.

This recipe is a “spiked” sourdough – meaning there is some powdered yeast that is going to accelerate the process – significantly – reducing some of the nutritional benefits of the longer “ferment”.


1 cup sourdough starter
1 1⁄2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar or 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 -4 cups flour (1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat.)
butter, melted

Lightly oil two 1/2 dozen muffin tins (or 3 for smaller rolls)
In a large mixing bowl combine starter, water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil.
Stir in flour, adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is manageable.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well.
Place dough in a bowl and cover, set in a warm place to double in size.
When double, punch dough down and with lightly floured hands, form into rolls.
Place in muffin tins and let rise until doubled then bake approximately 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Last 5 minutes of baking, brush with melted butter and return to oven.

These are mad delicious right out of the oven – this recipe makes 12 big rolls or 18 slightly smaller rolls. You can freeze them as well, but trust me: They are not going to last!