Category Archives: food

A passionate foodie

Allow me to introduce Jackie McLean, a creative “foodie” who loves to experiment in the kitchen. Jackie recently came up with a waffle recipe that earned her an invitation to appear on the Rachel Ray show! She wasn’t able to travel from her home near Pittsburgh on short notice to be there in person, but she made a video of herself cooking the recipe and part of it was shown on TV.

On my blog I usually focus on creative Canadians, so “where’s the Canadian content?” you might be asking. It just so happens that the inspiration for Jackie’s waffle recipe came from Montreal, a city she loves, so I’m giving her honourary Canadian status! And I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about her passion for cooking and creating recipes.

Jackie, what’s the story behind your waffle recipe?

Mike (my husband) and I went to Montreal for his 50th birthday, and we took along a “must-go-to” list from one of Rachael Ray’s shows. On one particular day we went to Creperie Chez Suzette in old Montreal. I had this amazing lunch – a crepe with chicken supreme inside and on top of it. It was out of this world. The crepe was delicate and the chicken supreme was flavorful, with the peas that popped in my mouth… my taste buds leapt for joy.

It sounds like a very memorable meal!

It was a very special day, I was meeting a pen pal of mine, Audrey and her boyfriend Roger for the first time later that evening. There were many mushrooms in the dish and I love the flavour of mushrooms but cannot handle the texture of biting into one… maybe it was the excitement of what was to come later that I could tolerate the mushrooms for one day!

The inspiration - crepes for lunch in Montreal

When we returned home I tried recreating the dish a few times. At first I made the recipe as a crepe, like the dish I had in Montreal, but I had no patience for the crepes! Then, after seeing a Rachael Ray show about waffles I got the idea for a savory waffle, and I tried a few times until I found one that was a hit in my book.

Do you often experiment with recipes?

I have always loved to cook. At times I have something in my head and I just create and make a dish, and other times I use a recipe, but I never use a recipe 100%. I look at it and read it over for an idea then look around at what ingredients I have or what I think I have may make it even better. I am famous for taking one recipe and combing it with another and creating a whole new idea. I always say a recipe is like a science experiment. A little of this, a little of that, and hey, wonder if I add this what would happen? Ya never know until you try, right? I ask questions, and at times I even guess, and many of my guesses have turned out very succesfully. There have been a few not-so-successful guesses, but I have been able to cover them up! And the biggest experiment is sharing ideas with friends. It’s amazing what dishes have been created by having a conversation with a friend or co-worker.

Jackie often texts me photos of what she's cooking or baking. This one came with a tip to try adding bourbon to apple pie!

Do you have a favourite utensil or gadget that you couldn’t live without?

It would have to be my kitchen knives. They are my pride and joy, especially my 8 inch Santoku. I am lost if I do not have them to use. My favourite appliance is my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When remodeling our kitchen last year one thought that was key in our plans was that there would be room so that my mixer could sit out on the counter all the time for easy access. As for gadgets, my most used is my hand held Chef’n Fresh Force Citrus Juicer. I constantly seem to need fresh lime or lemon juice in a lot of dishes and beverages, and this gadget is the best quality and is incredibly easy to use and clean. Everyone should own one. And one last item I cannot live with out in my kitchen is a box of vinyl gloves. These are the best for handling hot peppers, or handling messy items, or items you may cook for loved ones that you happen to be allergic to yourself. It’s an inexpensive investment that goes along way and saves your eyes if you cook with hot peppers.

I asked Jackie about her favourite flavours, and I love how her answers were as much about memories and loved ones as they were about food.

I have a few favorites that hold cherished memories and bring me happiness:

  1. Thanksgiving dinner feast with all the works ~ roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, gravy, cranberries, mashed potatoes, squash, mom’s creamy lime jello salad, her pumpkin pie, apple pie and oh, those amazing blackberry pies…
  2. Chicken Riggies, Utica Greens, Fried Dough, State Fair Chicken, State Fair Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches, Tomato Pie, Italian Rum Cake, Hemstrought’s Half Moon Cookies, Finger Lake Wines, Dinasour BBQ Sauce…. oh the foods of upstate New York, how I miss them so. Central New York food is what influenced my tastes growing up – cooking with my parents and grandparents and going out to eat, attending many festivals and state fairs and cooking at campgrounds with my folks. The world of food was opened to me in Central New York where I ended up attending college for Food Service Administration/Restaurant Management.
  3. When it comes to comfort food, my favourite that takes me back to many meals w ith my parents and grandparents is homemade perogies swimming in real butter and sauted onions and good quality kielbasa with good old fashioned yellow mustard to dip the juicy meat into. Every time I have that dish I remember many Christmas Eve dinners after midnight mass, sleepover dinners and grandma’s house. Just last year I went to my favorite spice store, Penzeys, and happened to pick up a Polish spice (Krakow Nights). The first time I used it I actually felt a presence in my kitchen, as if my grandmother was standing there with me approving that I finally found her secret spices. My kitchen smelled just like her home on Post Street in Clinton, New York. When I was growing up I had many meals there, helping her cook. When cooking can take you back to a place and time, you know what is being made is made with love.
  4. I will add the best dessert ever was while on vacation with my father. We went to Emeril’s down in Orlando and I had a slice of Banana Cream Pie. I have never had a slice of banana cream pie like this before in my life!
  5. One of my signiature items to make is a jalepeno carrot cake with margarita icing. Ever since making my first homemade carrot cake I have never eaten a boxed one since. Again, this recipe came from reading an article, then many trials and errors, and still to this day I keep trying to change it up and make it better because I always feel I need to, even though my friends say it tastes great.

Cheddar chive cornmeal waffles.
Imagine how good these would be with chili!

You always seem so interested and curious about trying new foods and flavours, what’s your most interesting recent discovery?

I would have to say it’s been the discovery this past year of using my waffle maker for other than just morning waffles. And that a pinch of baking soda makes a much smoother batch of iced tea.

Now that’s one I haven’t heard, I’m going to have to try that!

with cookbook author Katie Lee


Savory Herbed Waffles with Chicken Supreme

Chicken Supreme:

1 – 10 oz. package of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp seasoned salt
¼ tsp. black pepper (I prefer shallot pepper)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup dry vermouth (dry sherry works great too)
1 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs (thyme, rosemary & sage)
2/3 cup milk
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
chopped fresh parsley for garnish – optional

Melt butter with olive oil over medium high heat in a deep sautee pan on stove. Add onions and saute till soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic & fresh herbs sauté 1 minute. Stir in flour, seasoned salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly, Stir in dry vermouth, broth and milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in vegetables and chicken. Heat through. Serve atop savory herbed waffles and garnish.

Savory Herbed Waffles:

2 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs ( thyme, rosemary & sage)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 ¾ cup milk
1 ¾ all – purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
8 tbsp butter, melted
coarse sea salt for garnish

Place the fresh herbs, garlic and milk in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and allow the herbed mixture to steep for 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pour herbed milk mixture over dry ingredients, then whisk in eggs and butter to thoroughly combine.

Cooking your waffles will depend on your waffle machine. Ladle generous amount of batter into waffle iron using your particular iron’s cooking directions. Cook waffles till desired doneness.

When using a rotating waffle iron, use a middle setting and about 2/3 to ¾ cup of batter. Once the waffle is complete put waffles on a platter or cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and place in your oven to keep warm till all waffles are made and ready to serve.


Place hot waffle on plate, sprinkle with sea salt, top with chicken supreme, garnish with chopped parsely and enjoy!


all photos courtesy of Jackie McLean


Pumpkin Tea Biscuits

Today I did some baking for my book group, which has been reading “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand. I can see why the book has received so many accolades; it’s wonderful… and it goes beyond the story of a horse, it’s the context of the 1930s and the lives of all the characters involved that make it such an interesting read. I can’t really add anything new to what’s already been said about the book but will just say that if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

If you’re familiar with the story of Seabiscuit you may recall that his stable mate was a palomino horse named Pumpkin. What could be more fitting to bake, then, than Pumpkin Tea Biscuits! I made them for my book group, even though none of the other members will actually be able to taste them… we have an online group with “virtual meetings.” It’s the thought that counts, right?

I ended up combining a couple of different scone and biscuit recipes to come up with my Pumpkin Tea Biscuits, and they turned out beautifully. The glaze is optional, but makes these a lovely sweet treat with a cup of tea.

Pumpkin Tea Biscuits

Preheat oven to 425 F (if you have a convection oven, set it to 400)

Toast 1/3 cup chopped pecans in a dry pan, and set aside. (This is my favourite part… I love the smell and flavour of toasted pecans and use them whenever I can!)

Mix together in a large bowl:

2 cups flour
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Cut in 1/2 cup butter, and set aside. (I used to do this with two knives but I finally have a food processor, which does the job a hundred times better, in a matter of seconds)

In a separate bowl, whisk together:

2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup half-and-half or light cream
1 large egg
2 tbsp. honey

I used some amazing Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey that our Australian friends brought us. It’s got a unique flavour, and I love the label, too.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and add the pecans.

Form the dough into a ball, but don’t over-mix it. Put it on a lightly floured surface and knead it just a few times. It’s important not to over-work biscuit dough.

Cut triangles with a knife, or cut out circles with a round cutter or a glass. If you use a cutter, do as my mum always said and push it straight in and lift it out, don’t twist it. This helps the biscuits come out flaky.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12 – 14 minutes or until the biscuits start to turn light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

For the glaze, mix together:

1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp. milk
I added about 1/4 tsp. of Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice. You could also use some nutmeg and cinnamon.

Drizzle the glaze over the biscuits, and enjoy!


Software tester by day, in her off hours Jo-Anne is a creative baking ninja! (talk about multi-talented: she also has a black belt in kickboxing and Shotokan karate and a brown belt in Yoshukai karate) She recently opened her own catering business, Yummy Yume (yummy – English for delicious, and yume, pronounced “you may” – Japanese for dream).

Jo-Anne is one of my co-workers, and when she experiments with new recipes or techniques, like the two-tone waves of blue and silver frosting on the cupcake shown below, she sometimes brings them to the office for us to sample.

How would you describe what you do?
I take seemingly boring ingredients, add some creative magic and transform them into dreamy confections.

How long have you been interested in baking and cooking?
Since I was 7 and I realized that you didn’t have to follow the exact package directions on KD and Mr. Noodles.

Toasted marshmallow on Belgian chocolate with malt icing

Was there anything in particular that got you interested in the first place?
Wok with Yan Can – I used to watch that show all the time.

What has been the most challenging part of starting your own catering business?
Finding enough counter space – I am limited by my own kitchen right now, so I will have to do renos or find another kitchen.

These lemon cupcakes topped with guitar cookies were a hit at Mike's birthday party last year!

What is your favourite utensil or tool to work with?
I just got a bamix for Christmas – this is awesome! I can make homogenized sauces and velvety soups in seconds. I also love my double sided silicon spatula – it’s great on my non-stick pans.

What are your favourite flavours?
I love the spicy, earthy medicinal flavours of cinnamon and cardamom. Something about those flavours is very comforting. I also love the tangy taste and smells of citrus.

Peanut butter bacon cupcake with maple buttercream

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the foods and flavours of other cultures. When I travel, I only eat food from that culture.

What’s one of your creations that you are particularly proud of?
That’s a tough one. I’d say it’s a toss up between the Black Swan cupcake (a cupcake complete with a pair of black swan’s wings) and the Thomas the Train goes to Candy Land cake (a cake I made for my nephew with limited equipment).

Cupcake inspired by the film "Black Swan" for an Oscars-viewing party last year

What is something you haven’t tried yet, but would like to?
I would really like to try making French macaroons and different flavoured cream puffs.

When are you going to bring more cupcakes to the office?
You know you are my QA department!

All non-watermarked mouth-watering photos courtesy of Jo-Anne Redublo

The Spices of North Africa

Recently, I was the lucky recipient of a gift certificate for a cooking class at The London Chef, a new cooking school downtown. Having walked past and peeked through their windows several times, as well as going in for a browse of their pantry of items for sale, I was really looking forward to the experience.

The class I chose was “Spices of North Africa.”  Upon arrival, Chef Dan Hayes offered us all a glass of wine (which was refilled a couple of times during the evening). Then he started to make the highlight dish of the evening, Morroccan Lamb Tagine. While doing so he included a lot of tips, and a demonstration of knife sharpening in which the proximity of the flying blade and his fingers was dangerously impressive. I’ve also never seen someone chop an onion (or anything else) so quickly and perfectly outside of The Food Network… it was a treat to observe such skills in action.

Many of the spices used in the dish were passed around for us to see and smell. Obvious care has been given to choosing the best available ingredients, as even salt and pepper are not “just” salt and pepper, but sea salt from Cowichan Bay and fresh pepper that’s toasted and ground every morning. One of my favourite parts of the evening was when we smelled ground cumin, then watched as cumin seeds were toasted and ground so we could smell the difference…. I’m still thinking about that aroma, it’s my new favourite spice.

In no time at all there was a Lamb Tagine in the oven, and we split into six pairs and headed to our stations to start the hands-on part of the evening.

First we charred an eggplant on the stove, then popped it in the oven.

While it was baking we made hummus, and although it seemed to be made of just typical ingredients, it was possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

Then toasted flatbread triangles, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and paprika.  Out came the eggplant, which was scooped, mashed, seasoned and turned into baba ghanoush.  After plating our first creations we all went to sit down and enjoy them.

Back to our stations – time to make chicken kebabs. With careful attention paid to hygeine (in each pair their was a designated chicken-toucher and a non-chicken-toucher) we tossed the meat with mint, thyme, lime juice, chili flakes and paprika. Onto skewers and into the pan they went, and soon we were tucking into heavenly, juicy morsels.

The final dish was couscous, prepared with sultanas, almonds, ginger, chili and cilantro. Oranges were squeezed over it, and it was served with the now-finished tagine. I must have been overcome by the amazing aromas, because I completely forgot to take a picture of the tagine, the highlight of the evening! Back at the dining table, we spooned couscous into bowls and ladelled the tagine over top…. delicious.

The whole experience was informative, professionally-presented, and a lot of fun.  Although the tagine was demonstrated, rather than hands-on, it wasn’t intimidating at all… I realized, I can do that! I’m already planning a North African-themed dinner party. Thanks again to Chef Dan Hayes and everyone at The London Chef! I can’t wait to go back. Hmm…. what will I learn to make next?

Dessert: an oatmeal-raisin cookie, which I enjoyed with tea after I got home

Lemon Prawn Linguini

Yumm…… we made one of my favourite dinners tonight, Lemon Prawn Linguini.  It’s quick, delicious, and couldn’t be more simple to make.

Lemon Prawn Linguini

Linguini (or your pasta of choice)
1 garlic clove
juice of 2 or 3 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
freshly-ground pepper
8 to 12 prawns, shelled (remove or leave the tails as you prefer)
Fresh basil

Start cooking the linguini according to the package directions. While the pasta is boiling,start heating about 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan – this will be for the prawns. In the meantime, make the sauce. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it around the inside of your mixing bowl, then discard. The sauce won’t be cooked, so this way you get the flavour without the bitterness of raw garlic pieces. Grate zest from one of the lemons, then juice them all and add to the bowl. Add the oil and whisk until well blended. Then whisk in the zest, cheese and pepper. I don’t actually measure anything when I make this sauce – you can’t really go too far wrong, and you can use more or less lemon juice or cheese depending on your preference.

When the oil is hot, and a few minutes before the linguini will be done, add the prawns to the pan. Cook for 90 seconds, turn, and cook 90 seconds on the other side. If you like, sprinkle some seasoning on the prawns while they’re cooking. We like using Epicure Chili Lime Sansel, a nicely zingy salt-free seasoning.

Drain the linguini and toss with the lemon sauce. Spoon onto shallow bowls or plates and place the prawns on top. Garnish with torn fresh basil, and sprinkle with more cheese if desired.

We had this tonight with one of our favourite salads – spinach, apple, toasted pecans and smoked cheddar. I like mine with ginger-sesame dressing.


Pasta e Lenticchie

When it comes to cooking, we’ve been on an Italian kick lately.  We’ve been watching Buddy on “Kitchen Boss”… lots of easy, homey Italian recipes. The other night we made Pasta e Lenticchie – pasta with lentils.  You can get the recipe here.

This soup is delicious! And easy to make. We had some parmesan and romano rinds so put them in as the recipe suggests… they never fully melted and had to be removed when the soup was done, but the cheese added a bit of tang and a delicious aroma.  We made a double recipe, so there are several more servings in the freezer to look forward to.

A bowl of this soup, topped with shredded parmesan and freshly ground pepper, with a slice of rustic bread and a glass of red wine…. the perfect meal on a blustery February night.

Summertime and the blogging ain’t easy

Well helloooo….. I’m back. Maybe because it’s summer, or because our computer has been kinda slow, but I haven’t had much inclination to update here in quite a while. Time to do something about that, so here’s a random peek at some of the things I’ve been doing and what has been inspiring me lately:

Rainier cherries.

Have you tried them? The yellow ones? They’re delicious. Sometimes when I’m at the market, though, I get distracted by the colours and shapes of the fruits and vegetables, and I’m thinking more about how I would like to paint pictures of them than how I will prepare or eat them. I’ve been thinking about painting fruit lately, and taking photos….

….. seems like every time I come home from the market with fresh fruit, I get my camera out.


I was inspired to make this simple dessert when we had a friend over for dinner. Raspberry jello, chocolate mousse, whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Need I say more?

Flowers in the sunshine.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos of flowers, and also thinking about painting them. These are some sunflowers from a friend… I loved the way their faces looked in the late afternoon sun.

Growing things.

These are some herb and tomato seeds I planted. I made quick markers using little wooden spoons I found, that cost only a few cents each. I’ve also been trying some different types of flowers and plants to see what will grow well, mainly on our north-facing kitchen windowsill, and in our west-facing sun room.

Malabrigo Lace.

This yarn is scrumptious. Even though I used natural light and did everything I could to get the most accurate colours, the photo still doesn’t do justice to its blue-green beauty.  Incredibly soft, and light as a feather…. I have been inspired to start knitting the lovely “Featherweight Cardigan.” Seems a little odd to knit in the summer time, but a few friends and I just started up a new little group and are meeting twice a month, so I’ve been inspired to get the needles and yarn out again now and then.

Baking with bananas!

I am on a quest for the perfect banana bread or muffin recipe!  I’ve tried out a few, and have put my own twist on some of them (with varying success). I did discover that butterscotch chips go well with banana and make the kitchen smell heavenly.  Also that using the oven in the evening during a heat wave is a bad idea, but substituting spiced rum for vanilla is a deliciously good idea. I have more experimenting to do…. I’ll keep you posted.


I’m back!  It’s been a while… I went away for a mini-vacation, visited family, went on some winery tours, and celebrated my birthday.  Before going away and after coming back, things were pretty busy… so all in all, not much time for being creative.

I did, however, have the opportunity to do a little creating in the kitchen.

While I was visiting my sister, she gave me one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks for my birthday. She had another of the books, in which I spotted a recipe for Palmiers, and immediately decided we would make them!

Also called Elephant Ears, Palmiers (French for “palm tree”) are sometimes plain, or sometimes have sugar or cinnamon added, but these ones are savoury.  I’m not sure how they got their name… I can’t really make out either palm trees or elephant ears in the shape, to me they look more like round-bottomed hearts. Whatever the name, they’re delicious. This recipe includes some of my very favourite flavours.



from Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, Ina Garten

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup pesto, store-bought or homemade
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
kosher salt

Lightly flour a board, and unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it’s 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto.

Then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sun-dried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. (to toast pine nuts, just put them in a dry saute pan on the stove and stir or shake them frequently, watching closely so they don’t burn… they’ll toast quickly) Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt (that seems like a bit too much…. just season to taste).

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again toward the center until the folded edges almost touch.  Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover both rolls with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them face up, 2 inches apart, on pans lined with parchment paper (we didn’t have parchment paper so used non-stick baking spray, and it worked just fine).

Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.


If possible, I recommend serving them as we did… outside, in the sunshine, with a good bottle of wine, and loved ones around the table.

Apricot Cinnamon Scones

Good Friday morning, the wind whistling outside, some black tea with vanilla, and Apricot Cinnamon Scones warm from the oven.  No “real” baking here… it’s a mix from Hazelwood Herb Farm.  For a just-add-water kind of thing, they were actually quite tasty. Who says you have to bake from scratch all the time?

Chili con corny

I’m not exactly known for my culinary skills, but every now and then I do have my little successes in the kitchen.

On the weekend I was craving cornbread, so decided to make some… and nothing goes with cornbread like chili, so I made that too. Just a simple one with ground turkey, kidney beans, tomatoes and tomato paste, seasoned with Chili Lime Sansel (a salt-free seasoning blend from here) and some chili powder to kick it up just a bit more.  I used Mike’s trick of adding some low-fat cottage cheese at the end.  I’m not a big fan of cottage cheese (or sour cream, yogurt, or anything else in the curdled dairy food group) so I added it quickly and stirred it in before I had to really look at it too closely…. but it does make the chili creamy and yummy.

As for the cornbread, it came out nice and grainy, but moist… just what I’d been craving. I couldn’t resist trying a piece as soon as it came out of the oven.

At dinner time, Mike came up with another last minute finishing touch…. honey-thyme butter.  (about a tbsp. or two each of butter and honey, and maybe half a tbsp. of thyme, mix & spread on warm cornbread.)  Heavenly!


3/4 cup (175 ml) cornmeal
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) flour
1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
1 tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1 egg
1/4 cup (50 ml) vegetable oil

Mix the cornmeal and milk in a small bowl, and let it stand for 10 minutes. While it’s waiting, mix the dry ingredients in a larger bowl. Add the egg and oil to the cornmeal mixture and combine well, then add the cornmeal mixture to the dry ingredients and combine just until mixed – don’t stir it too much.  Pour into an 8×8 inch pan, or muffin tins (fill 2/3 full).

Bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes.

Promptly cut a piece, perhaps put a pat of butter on, and enjoy while it’s warm.