The Mixings for a Muffin

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I actually spent part of my time making muffins last summer for a baking and catering company called Art to Eat. We would supply local coffee shops with their fix of buttery goods, and it definitely taught me a few lessons about making muffins and baking in general. First off, never over-mix the batter. This will result in a flat muffin, which will therefore be denser, which isn’t a good descriptive word for a muffin. Second, uniformity is very important, especially when adding things like nuts, dried fruits, and berries. No one wants the muffin with one berry, covered with hardly any topping, that is half the size of its neighbor. Third, topping is not something that should be skimped. So many people put a nice little dash on top of their muffins, but as that muffin rises and expands that dash turns into a tiny dot on the very peak of the muffin. Cover the whole top of the muffin with a generous amount, and it will thin out to an attractive evenly sprinkled top. I had to watch for all these things while I worked (in the sweltering heat beside two gigantic ovens), but I never had to worry about amounts. I had memorized the recipes designed by the owner, and simply followed them verbatim. After a while you get a feel for what consistencies you like better, and what flavours you want to see more of. So, this summer, I decided to branch out and make my own recipe. Ten minutes into making it, however, I was nearly positive that it was never, ever going to make it onto this blog.

It was about 9 o’clock at night when I decided that what I was craving was a crumbly, moist muffin made from the berries we had picked from our garden bushes. I figured it takes me about ten minutes to whip up a batter, then 20 minutes to bake, so a half hour from that thought bubble I could be enjoying a warm, buttery pre-bed snack. Mistake number one- I didn’t get that snack for an hour, by which time I had heated our kitchen to a nice swelter, which made getting to bed a little stickier and sweatier than I had previously imagined. I also decided that I was really going to wing this recipe, flying on a whim, to see if I really had a chops to create a baking recipe with my minimal experience. Mistake number two- if you are getting ready to attack a creative endeavor, I recommend taking a moment to come up with a solid direction, then checking to see that you have ALL OF the supplies you need. You will see why. So there I was sashaying around the kitchen, pulling out bowls and whisks as arcade fire played at an appropriately obnoxious level, totally blissful and unaware of the future. I decided that this was going to be a brown butter batter with sour cream, the two things that we never did at my work that I’ve always adored. The first step towards my muffin was making the brown butter, something that I have done before, but not in a while. I eyeballed a half-cup and tossed it in my pot, turning up the temp and throwing on the lid. Looking around I realized that my camera had migrated back to my bedroom, so I pranced down to grab it, finding time while I was in my room to rearrange some things on my desk, highlight a recent parking ticket, and turn on my computer. Then I realized, oh man that butter is on high heat and I’m checking out my room with the high speed of a lame donkey. After scrambling up the stairs with camera around neck, I came just in time to pull the butter off the heat. Not too bad- after clearing the foam I recognize that it is a) not burnt and b) there’s funny stuff floating in it. Some of the milk solids had darkened considerably and separated from the fat, but after pulling one out and giving it a taste and finding it to be not unpleasant in taste, simply appearance, I shrugged. It was a compromise, but the butter still smelled fantastically hazelnut-y, so I deemed it useable (actually I don’t think this hindered the product in any way, so don’t fear if you make the same mistake!). Incident saved! Next step: combine the dry. I reached for the crumpled bag of flour that is kept on the bottom shelf, not really able to see it, and…it was not there. We had no flour. I was caught aback- I cannot remember EVER being out of flour! It is just one of those things that I’ve never had to replenish, it just always magically appears in abundance from the storage room. Okay, time to regroup. We have no flour. I look further into the cupboard and find a questionable substitute: cake flour. Definitely better than combining all the odds and ends of slightly stale, often off tasting gluten free varieties we keep for when Grandma comes around, but not completely ideal because cake flour basically contains very little gluten as well. I figured a fine crumb to the muffin is better then no muffin at all, so out came the measuring cup. The other dry ingredients popped in the bowl with no qualms. The wet came together well too, until I reached for the egg carton and smashed the top of the shelf with it. Too light! There were no eggs. A bummer, but not the end of the world, my dad is an egg white man so I just borrowed a good few spoonfuls of those. With the milk, the same thing happened. Too light! There was no milk. Substituted with almond milk, we have been saved again. At this point, though, I was looking at a lumpy pile of compromises, unsure whether I should bother spooning them into the trays. At this point, however, I was hot, tired, and not quite defeated, so I mixed in the berries, spooned out, and topped those muffins. I sat down at the counter and thought “What have I done?”

The first thing I noticed about the finished product was the smell. Hazelnuts were toasting away on the topping, and the air was full of the sweet, spicy scents of cinnamon and nutmeg. It smelt, well, quite fantastic. They were rising into nice little domes, the topping was spreading out nicely, and they didn’t look all that much like the freaks they were. When it came to tasting them, I was slow to. So, of course, I got my dad to have a piece. He told me that they were very good, but I’m thinking, hey, he’s my dad, I think he has to say that. Then I tried one for myself. Surprise! Flavourful, moist, and a little decadent, they were like an individual bloom of coffee cake because of that sour cream addition. The brown butter taste was fantastic, and the berries popped right out of the crumb into your mouth. All those little shortcomings disappeared into the final product, and had I not known any better, I would have said they were made the same as any of the other muffins I’ve sold. So, after that tale of multiple disasters, I present to you, a muffin that is actually (believe me) worth trying.

Little Berry Browns

These muffins are not a nuts-and-granola variety; they actually come from the land of give-me-cake.

½ c butter
1 c sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
¼ c milk
2 large eggs
1 c sugar
2 ½ c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 c berries (I did 50/50 blackberries and blueberries)


¼ c hazelnuts
4 Tbsp oats
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
approx. ¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
small pinch of salt

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Select a small saucepan and shave (cut into small pieces so that it will melt faster) all your butter into it. Put it over medium-high heat, allowing it to melt down completely and bubble until it turns a rich brown colour. Pull it off and check it if you can’t see through the foam that may form, to make sure you don’t burn it. When the colour is right and you can smell a hazelnut-like nutty scent (this is the easiest characteristic to look for), pull it off the heat and set aside to cool.
2) Meanwhile, stir together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and sour cream in a medium sized bowl. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, sifting or whisking so everything is well combined.
3) While the butter is still cooling, mix together the topping in yet another bowl, this time just a small one. First, chop the hazelnuts to your desired consistency- I created a mix of relatively large chunks and small slivers so that the hazelnut flavour was spread around, but there was still a nice bite every once in a while. Toast in a dry pan over high heat for just a few minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Throw into bowl, and add the brown sugar, oats, and spices, mixing with your fingers to combine (careful the nuts aren’t too hot!). Set aside.
4) When the butter is slightly cooled, slowly whisk it into the wet ingredients with a small, steady stream. With a spatula, drizzle all of your wet mix onto your dry mix. Fold very gently with your spatula, until all the dry ingredients are almost moistened, then add the berries. Fold a few more times until you can’t see any more flour pocket and the berries are well distributed. The key to a good muffin is a gentle hand when mixing- the batter shouldn’t be smooth.
5) Grease your muffin tins, or position your paper/silicon liners. Spoon the batter, putting a bit in each tin, and then top them all up until they are even. Sprinkle on the topping, making sure you use all of it so that as the muffins expand they still have a nice coating. Fill any empty tins with a bit of water to prevent warping.
6) Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, checking for a toothpick to come clean when it is placed in the thickest part of the muffin. This batch made 16 muffins that taste best when they are fresh out of the oven!


Guaranteed, with Garlic.

There are things in our lives that we know we will always return to. Places, people, ideas, emotions, and sensations that linger with such intensity that all it takes is a wisp of a memory to bring us right back. For my summers to come, I know that every single one will have me on Hornby Island at some point, the place where I learned to walk, mountain bike, snorkel, bead, braid, and properly relax. Every time I take a toss at creative writing, I come back to the same idea of writing a book about a twin who can see her life through one eye and her sister’s through the other- confusing, useless, and ultimately a very cliché concept that I want to abandon, it nonetheless springs to mind as a ‘good idea’ no matter how far I try to stray from it. Biking always brings me back to the days when the world revolved around me and I thought I was probably the fastest kid in the whole world when I was on my tri-coloured ‘speedy’ bike. Little things like this string our lives into an understandable mesh, gelling the changes that constantly happen as we grow. To continue this cliché, that is what this garlic sauce does. It has real chemical properties that make the sun brighter, colours more brilliant, cats cuddlier, dogs smell better, and waists grow smaller (trust me, I’m a future scientist). This is mostly due to the fact that it makes you push aside your main protein so you can devour your vegetables. This is true magic. I have been known to eat just one big plate of vegetables with this sauce, with a little extra brush of Parmesan, and call it a night. Once you try it, you will always come back to it. I promise.

Best Garlic Sauce

This is a sauce that will turn you inside out. For garlic lovers ONLY, it’s not subtle, and that is a very nice thing. Raw and roasted, this is garlic perfection.

¼ c Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Dijon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 head roasted garlic **
1-3 cloves raw garlic, pressed (adjust the number of cloves to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp spike (optional, but very highly recommended- a blend available at most grocery stores, this is the je ne sais quoi that makes this dish special)

1) In a blender, combine all the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Use on your very favourite veggies. Suggestions below.

**Roasted Garlic: This is a very easy way to tame the flavour of garlic, and a nice technique to learn. Soon you’ll be throwing roasted garlic in every imaginable sauce and spreading it on toast if you aren’t already! First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Take a whole head of garlic and pull all the outer layers or skin off, just using your hands, so you simply have the outer layers of the cloves (don’t worry if you miss a bit). Now, cut off the very top of the head of garlic, just a half-inch or so, exposing the individual cloves (this will make it easy to remove). Get a generous sized piece of tin foil and put the head on top. Drizzle it with a touch of olive oil, and wrap up the whole situation. Throw it in the oven for 30-35 minutes, testing by pressing the cloves and making sure they are soft.

Beans on Beans Salad

If you’ve never tried making fava beans before, this is a nice, simple way to really get the flavour, then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth all the peeling!

Several handfuls of Green beans (really to suit as many people as you are serving)
10 Fava beans (or more)
3 Radishes
½ a recipe Best Garlic Sauce

1) First, you want to peel the fava beans. This requires two peelings- first, remove the tough pod covering the beans. Then, peel the white layer off of the edible green bean. Some people recommend blanching if you find it too tough to remove, but I find that a ripe bean should peel relatively easy. Give yourself a bit of time because it might take longer than you expect. Next, string the beans by cutting the ends with a paring knife, and pulling the fibrous string that seals the two sides of the pod between your thumb and the knife.
2) Fit a steamer on top of several inches of water, and set on to boil. As soon as you see steam, add the string beans. Wait 3 minutes and add the fava beans. Let both beans steam until tender but still crisp (test by snapping or eating- should have some give, but still pop). Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to slice thin, round discs of radish. This will create a nice colour and shape contrast, while giving a fresh, peppery flavour.
3) Remove beans from steamer, arrange on platter, spoon on dressing, and serve.

Grilled Zucchini “Steak” Salad

This is a simple “combine it yourself” salad platter, one of my favourite ways to serve the greens. It’s called “steak” because that’s how you cut the zucchini, plus this dish with the sauce has been known to push a side a steak or two in it’s day…

1 medium sized green zucchini
1 medium sized yellow zucchini
1 fennel bulb
3 radishes, sliced into rounds
½ raw red onion, sliced
¼ c goat feta (or regular feta, whatever your fancy!)
handful of torn basil leaves
½ a recipe Best Garlic Sauce

1) Wash all your veggies well, and get your barbeque heated up to medium-low.
2) Slice your zucchinis in half once across the center, and then two or three times laterally so that you have big “steak” slices. This will keep them from sliding through the grill.
3) Slice your fennel bulb either in half or thirds. This is also going on the grill, so you want to have some nice surface area without it falling apart. If your worried its going to come to pieces, go on the safe side and simply half it. Brush the fennel and zucchini with a little olive oil.
4) Pop the fennel and zucchini on the grill. Give it a couple minutes on each side to soften and get some nice grill marks. Meanwhile, slice your radishes and onions. Arrange on a plate with the feta and basil, leaving a big spot for the grilled veggies to go. Pull the fennel and zucchini off the grill when it still has a good shape, but has softened a touch. Chop the fennel down a bit into bite sizes, and half all the zucchini slices.
5) Arrange the zucchini and fennel on the platter and top with the garlic sauce. Serve as is!

It’s a veal-y good burger, I say.

We’ve all heard the stats, but here’s a little reminder. 576 calories, 32.5 g of total fat, and 742 mg sodium. That fat content is the same as eating 3 tablespoons of butter, and it’s all in one Big Mac. Burgers have had a bad rap lately as the saturated fat police have come out to play. The thing about this burger-off-the-menu theme is the problem with the fact that burgers are delicious. Moist and melted with cheese, bun toasted and dressed, there is something classic about the ever-tantalizing burger. So why not make your own patties? It’s a nice alternative to having to hunt out the “good ones” from the chorus of hockey puck beef, and this way you can play with the seasonings, pulling out your favourite flavours and knocking out the ones you aren’t too crazy for. The problem that comes out when you mention homemade burgers is that they are often too dry, round little balls that taste more like you should be covering it in pasta sauce, and less like you should be swaddling it in bread. So, the goal is something moist, succulent, and a cut above frozen varieties. Why not try a veal burger? Veal meat is tender without being high in fat (no greasy burger!), because it has less connective tissue due to not having full muscle development (Note: veal is meat from a calf). The taste is often described as ‘fine’, but I can’t really narrow it down from there- it has a je ne sais quoi quality, while still passing as perfectly acceptable protein to finicky eaters (including my brother, even). This makes it a nice burger substance to work with. Be careful though- you don’t need a lot of cooking time. Grill the burger carefully, until just done, and let it sit for a few minutes before serving to finish cooking in its juices. While we’re making low fat burgers, you might as well stay on the healthy train, because here is a recipe for sweet potato fries that ACTUALLY works and just so happens to be fat free! I adapted it from a recipe for plain old fries, and love it for it’s crispiness, and full flavour. I serve these with a bit of cilantro mayo (one of two ways I will actually eat mayo-the other way is on a toasted tomato sandwich) and a bit of roasted corn to round the whole meal out. Truly a barbeque feast for champions. Don’t forget to throw the beer in the fridge before you start cooking, because then this meal will truly soar.

Veal Burger

This makes a bistro-style burger that is plenty generous-feel free to substitute any fresh or dried herbs to your fancy!

1 slice of bread, blitzed in the blender, food processor, or simply torn into small pieces
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp oregano
½ tsp mustard powder
1 lb ground veal
all the fixin’s (4 buns, 4 slices cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion (raw or cooked), pickle, etc)

1) Combine the bread, milk, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl, letting the bread soak up some liquid. Add the egg and spices, stirring well to combine.
2) Add the veal, using the best mixing tools: your hands. Squish the mixture between your fingers until all the liquid and spices are fully incorporated, and you have a uniform look burger.
3) Divide into 4 patties (they will be quite a nice size). To prevent a rounded patty, always go for an even thickness, and then press down in the middle with your thumb to make a little indent. If you have a good-sized round cookie cutter, filling it with the burger mix to an even level is a great way to get a perfect patty.
4) Oil your grill, or ready your barbeque. For a medium-cooked burger, you are going to want to cook for about 5 minutes per side. I wouldn’t recommend any longer then this, unless you’re one of those crazy people that likes things ‘well done’.

Sweet Potato Fries

I got this trick from Oprah. Go figure! If you want regular fries, substitute 2 medium sized potatoes and 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning for the curry powder.

2 large egg whites
1 Tbsp curry powder (or to taste-I like mine to have a lot of curry on there) or Cajun spice
4 sweet potatoes (small in size)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub your sweet potatoes squeaky clean (I keep mine skin-on, but you can peel them here). Cut them into pieces roughly the size of your pinky- they will shrink up a but, so if you like meatier fries, increase the size and cooking time a touch.
2) Beat the egg whites until very frothy. Toss sweet potatoes to coat. Add flour and spices, tablespoon at a time, until everything is well coated. Grease a pan well (WELL), and spread them out into a single layer. Bake 30-35 minutes, until crisp but not smoldering.
3) Serve with a little cilantro mayo, recipe below!

Cilantro Mayo

This makes just a little container of mayo, which I found perfect for the ammount of fries, but then again, I’m a stingy dipper! Double or triple if your dip generously!

3 Tbsp mayo
1 crushed clove garlic
½ tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
1 tsp fragrant dried coriander
1 tsp garam masal

1) Mix all in a dish, adjust to taste, and serve!

BBQ’d Corn

This is more a method then a recipe. Select your corn- at the store/market/wherever you buy your corn, make sure you pull back the husk a bit and check to see that the kernels are plump and juicy. Reject any dry-shrivelies. I like peaches and cream corn, not just because of the name- it is simply a creamy, delicious variety. At home, pull back the husk, but leave attached to the bottom. Remove as much of the stringy silk as possible, and pull the husk back around. Wrap each ear of corn in some tin foil, and throw on the barbeque for about 20-30 minutes, just off of the direct heat on medium. Check for doneness by piercing a kernel, making sure its soft enough for eating. Cooking the corn this way gives it a bit of smoke flavour, and really bring out all the natural corn goodness. Roll the ears on your brick of butter, sprinkle with some seasoned salt, and serve. Leaving the crisp husks on makes for a nice presentation, but make sure you have a bowl for people to put them in.

The basics: Compliments of biscuits.

Throughout my days of watching the food network, reading a variety of food blogs, and skimming cookbooks, I have learned that a lot of people feel most inspired when they ‘get back to their roots and follow the traditions of their culture”. This makes very good sense to me- not only is it educational, you also have a very emotional attachment to your heritage no matter how much or how little exposure you have to it. While this seems like a very practical theory to apply, I’ve hit a relatively unsurpassable obstacle. The thing is, I am part Irish, Scottish, English, and Chinese, with no set religion. This would make my cuisine the bumbleberry of the food world, the sort of mish-mash dishes that people call ‘unfocused’. What should I pick this day of the week, is my palate particularly Chinese, or do I have a hankering for fish and chips? Some people just pick their most obvious cultural background, the one they were most exposed to, and run with it. However, most people get stuck in the melting pot section of the multicultural library. As far as identifying myself as a Canadian and going that food route, everyone has a lot of trouble saying what that means. Does that mean I should pick up some bacon on my way home and pull the prawns out of the freezer? What about the recalls of us, the microwave generation, do those count? DQ ice cream cakes and chicken fingers instead of garden’s and flour covered hands. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right to me.

So I’ve thought long and hard, and here’s what I’ve decided: it doesn’t really matter. I can cook, believe, and celebrate any way I want. Maybe I’ll pick up some discount Christmas decorations after blowing out my Menorah, right before I start collecting supplies for Chinese New Year. I’m born on the Day of the Dead, so why not turn that into the best two-day celebration on this side of the coast. Who says you can’t serve your fish with a tempera batter, topped with some hodge podge. While I enjoy figuring out my favourite parts of my heritage (and everyone’s around me because hey, I’m no more attached to mine at this point then I am to theirs), I am going to eat biscuits. These are the simplest, most basic form of baking, with a different version available in every language that we know. So enjoy! Wherever your relatives called home, I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down a little piece of the present.

Basic Baking Powder Biscuits

The all-time-never-fail-no-surprises classic. See below for my family favourite variation from who knows where in the world.

4 c flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 c butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 c milk

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cubed butter, and stir to coat. Next, cut the butter in using a pastry blender or two knives, until the butter resembles crumbs the size of split peas (approx ¼ of your pinky fingernail size).
2) Make a well in the flour-butter mixture. Pour in milk ¼ c at a time, stopping when the dough is just moistened and holding together (I usually end up using only 1 ¾ c milk). Save any extra milk for later.
3) Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead lightly, until dough stays together well. Using a rolling pin or old wine bottle, roll out until its approx 2 cm thick.
4) Using a round cookie cutter, cut as many round out as you can. Reroll the scraps, and repeat until you have used all the dough. Brush the tops of the biscuits with any remaining milk.
5) Put on an ungreased pan (I recommend parchment paper if your pans tend towards the sticky side of ‘non-stick’) and bake for 20-25 minutes, checking for a nice golden top, and a bottom that slides easily when nudged.

Cheese Fan-Tans

This, I like to say, is the ‘better biscuit’. It is cheesy with a few spices thrown in, which is always a welcome combination. Experiment by changing to your favourite combination of spices, or use my blend. This biscuit has been with me through regattas, camping, Mondays, and term papers. It is great any and every time of the day.

1 recipe baking powder biscuits
1 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp garlic, granulated
2 tsp basil
paprika for dusting
softened butter for spreading
2 c cheese, grated

1) Prepare biscuits as you normally would in steps 1-3, adding the spices into the flour mixture in the first step.
2) Take your 2 cm thick dough, and shape it into a rectangle. Slice this square into 4 roughly equal slices, lengthwise. Spread each slice with a thin layer of softened butter.
3) Pick the largest slice for the bottom, and spread it with a layer of cheese (thick or thin, whatever floats your boat). Stack another slice of dough on top, and layer that with cheese. Repeat with the next slice of dough, and top with the last slice.
4) Vertically cut the dough into approx 2 cm slices. In a well-greased muffin tin, squish the slices in by pushing the middle away from yourself and pulling the ends together, creating a half-moon type shape. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, the idea is cheesy-layered biscuits with a rustic shape. Sprinkle the biscuits with any extra cheese and the paprika (which will roast nicely in the oven).
5) Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking for a golden top with bubbling cheese. Serve!

** Note: fill any empty muffin hole with water to prevent warping of the tin. This will also help keep its neighbors moist!

Salmon (And then some).

I said that salmon would come around, and here it is. Salmon is quite the delicacy all around the world, with its fantastic oily flavour (full of all those good fats) and beautiful pink flesh. Here’s the thing about salmon: it is very easy to make because it already has so many fantastic natural flavours. Look for fillets that don’t have a fishy smell, and whose scales are intact. Light seasoning or sauce is all that you need before a light fry/BBQ/bake, and dinner for royalty is ready. However, the absolute worst, most terrible thing you could possibly do to this angel of the seafood world is overcook the flesh. Overcooking creates a terribly dry, hard to swallow experience that warrants a moment of silence for the lost lovely salmon. Pull it off the heat the SECOND you think its done- it will continue to cook a little bit more in its own juices and you can always cook it a little bit more. When you pull at the flesh with a fork, it should flake easily and the meat will be a pink instead of its former red. I like to keep my middle a little red, because it is just so juicy and scrumptious, but I’m sure that a health warning would tell you otherwise, so your call. Skin on or skin off- I keep skin on if I’m doing a ceder plank salmon (soaking a piece of wood and putting it on the BBQ- the BEST way to have salmon, will have a recipe soon when Sebastien brings some home!) or pan frying it, because I love how the skin keep all the juice in. I also like to eat the skin- it is super rich in flavour, and after seeing it on a sushi menu a few times I’ve decided that its normal and don’t want to turn back. It’s such a rare treat anyways, might as well eat all of it! If you do decide to BBQ to fish, I recommend foil if you don’t have a cedar plank, otherwise you could lose all kinds of precious pieces of fish to the flame. Here’s a simple Dijon recipe with a pan sear, very easy!

Dijon Pan-seared Salmon

1 large salmon fillet (or two medium, three small…you get the picture. Try not to get too small of pieces however, because they will dry out very quickly and require a lot of close attention)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 clove garlic, minced very fine
2 tsp rosemary
1 Tbsp wine (can substitute a little water)

1) Mix the mustard, garlic, and rosemary in a little dish, set aside. Check the fish for bones- some fillets come boneless and some you have to do it yourself. If the bones are close to the surface of the flesh they are relatively easy to remove, but if you are having a hard time pulling them, they will slip out extremely easily when cooked. Remember that you left them in if you choose to, otherwise you will have a crazy choking hazard!
2) Spread the sauce on the raw fillet. Try to do this at least 20 minutes before cooking time, but don’t worry if you miss the window. Let it rest with the sauce at least 10 minutes.
3) Heat a pan to medium heat. How do you know it’s hot? Drop some water on it- it should sizzle and dance immediately. Place your fillet in, flesh down. Let it cook for about three minutes, then check for a little crust forming from the sauce heating. When you see this, flip. If the flesh still looks very raw (this will depend on the thickness) now is the time to drop that little bit of wine in the pan and throw on a lid to steam. If the flesh looks like its cooking already (this will happen for a very thin fillet), skip that step and just eye it for doneness.
4) Pull of the heat when flesh is just flaking and pink. Check for bones, just in case, and serve!

The other stars of this meal were the vegetables. Not ready to be pushed into the back of the palate, I called on fennel and carrots to capture the attention of the captive audience. Caramelized in a honey sauce, these are salty, sweet, lemon-y goodness in a pan. I served them with a generous handful of fresh basil torn in a nest of “smashed” baby potatoes. To finish, I tossed some delicious goat cheese feta from Saltspring Island over the whole lot- salmon, veggies, potatoes and all. Drizzle with a little reduced balsamic (See: And so it Begins (with bocconcini) blog post for the recipe!).

Caramelized Fennel and Carrots

I would start these veggies first, because they are going to need about 20 minutes to get to their delicious caramelized state.

8 small carrots, cut lengthwise into ½ inch slices
1 fennel bulb, cute into ½ inch rounds
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp tarragon
1 tsp cracked black pepper

1) Heat a pan to medium-hot. Melt the butter, and add the lemon juice, honey, and tarragon. Throw your veggies in when the sauce is melted and mix.
2) Lightly brown the veggies, and then reduce the heat to low. Let the veggies sit and stir occasionally for twenty minutes, letting it caramelize to a sweet, sticky syrup.
3) Stir in the black pepper, pull off the heat, and serve!

Smashed Potatoes

This is a neat way to do new potatoes differently when you tire of having them simply with butter.

12 (or so) baby potatoes- roughly the same size for equal cooking time
2 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp salt
2 tsp milk + 2Tbsp butter

1) Put a pot of water on to boil. When it’s rolling, add the potatoes.
2) Boil until tender enough to put a fork through the potato. Pull off the heat, and strain. Return the potatoes to the pot. Add the milk, butter, salt, and herbes de provence, and grab your potato masher (or just a wooden spoon if you don’t have one). Here is the “smashing” part: mash it up until its partly mashed potatoes, partly whole potatoes. This is nice because you can still see the skins on the new potatoes and have some texture to it, but is nice a creamy from the addition of the milk.
3) Serve!

Cookies go sailing!

It is officially salmon season. Yes, there is a recipe for salmon coming right up, but for now, I will tell you what salmon season means to me: cookies. Dozens upon dozens of cookies. You see, Sebastien sets sail, with his Dad and friend Marc, and to keep energy levels up, cookies must be present. Prawn season consumed about 16 dozen all together- so far they are being set up for salmon with only a several dozen, only because I have done the unimaginable and strayed from my classics. In our family, there are generally four types of cookies, and those are ginger snaps, double-chocolate chip, crispy oatmeal, and peanut butter. Seeing as Sebastien is allergic to peanut butter, that leaves us with having 16 dozen of three different kinds of cookies. Sometimes I throw in the occasional raison variety, but for the most part I have stuck to the basics. This season, however, having the food blog has got me thinking about straying out of my comfort zone. So here we have it- spice molasses, snickerdoodle, mocha swirl, brandy snaps, and brandied cranberry. The three recipes I would definitely repeat are the snickerdoodles, brandy snaps, and brandied cranberry (these were the star of the show).

The spiced molasses was the darker, more intense cousin of the ginger snap, and I must say, it was like swallowing sweet spicy secrets. The thing is, I could only eat half a cookie before I’d had enough. After a while, the bold molasses taste became a little much. This bummed out my cookie munching experience, so if I repeated these I would definitely make them smaller and see how it goes from there.

The snickerdoodles had the most ideal cookie shape, appearance, and texture (crisp edges, soft middle, oh thank heaven). For those not familiar, this is a cookie where cornstarch is used as a binding agent, and it is coated in cinnamon sugar. Not the worlds most exotic or exciting, but very childhood reminiscent of the perfect lunchbox cookie.

Mocha swirls were the kind of cookie I wanted to take into a back alley and pummel. Not a good picture to have when dealing with sugar ‘n spice ‘n everything nice. The dough was dry, crumbly, and yet awfully sticky, making it the worlds worst substance to roll out and shape. I eventually gave up on perfect little swirls and just kind of squished the cookie together. In baking, they were completely unforgiving of any imperfections, as all they did was brown a little. The way they look going in, is the way they look coming out. The texture was less cookie and more mock-shortbread, and the flavour was a nice full mocha. The whole point of this one was to get an attractive cookie, but I must say, they would taste best iced. I don’t recommend bothering to make this one.

The brandy snaps looked very tricky and finicky, but they actually took the least amount of time and dishes to make. The mix is done in one pot on the stove top, and then spooned onto cookie sheets and baked until crisp, then rolled into little flutes. They look very fancy and attractive, so you only have to count on 1-2 per person at a dinner if you wanted to serve them with a little fruit and cream. Very quick, and a nice result.

The brandied cranberry cookies were the star of the show. Festive and flavourful, they were the sister of the classic raison who pulled out a silk gown and draped herself in Christmas lights. In every bight you got a little crunch of toffee, the squish of a white chocolate chip, the tang of brandy, and the smell of fresh nutmeg. As a bonus you get a lot of brandy back from soaking the cranberries, so you can help yourself to a drink while they bake. Completely lovely, these cookies are about to join the official four in the Jackson cookie bible.

Here’s the recipes for the snickerdoodles, brandy snaps, and brandied cranberry. The molasses cookies you can find on, and as for the mocha swirls, I don’t dislike you enough to even tell you where they came from.


This is a very basic, classic cookie. This recipe was taken as a very close adaptation of Shauna Fish Lydon’s interpretation of this cookie. You can find her at

4 Tbsp butter (room temperature, so take out at least 2 hours in advance)
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/3 c granulated white sugar
1 egg (room temperature, so take out with butter)
1 c flour
1 Tbsp corn starch
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
Cinnamon Sugar
¼ c sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat butter until white and fluffy, then add the two sugars. Continue beating until sugar is incorporated the mix is fluffy. Add egg, and beat until smooth.
2) In another bowl sift or whisk together flour, corn starch, baking soda, and cinnamon. Beat this dry mixture into the butter mixture in three rounds.
3) Form dough into small balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
4) Bake for seven minutes, and check. Mine were small enough that they were done at this point, but if the edges don’t look like they are beginning to crisp and the middle is still wet, keep baking and check in two minute increments until done.

Brandy Snaps

The only large dishes used to make these cookies are one saucepan and two baking pans, which is really nice. They also take hardly any time and use very common ingredients, making them very convenient if you want to quickly make a dessert that looks impressive and everyone will like. Serve with some fresh fruit and whipped cream.

¼ c butter
2 Tbsp golden syrup
1/3 c light brown sugar
¼ c flour
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2) Put the butter, syrup, and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Remove from heat and add the flour and ginger, beating it in with a wooden spoon until well combined. Don’t overbeat this one, so stop as soon as you don’t see any more flour lumps.
3) Measure out 1 Tbsp of mixture per cookie, and drop onto parchment lined trays. Leave 5 inches between each cookie, because these will spread like crazy (I only put five cookies per tray).
4) Bake for 5-7 minutes until light brown and bubbly. Wash the saucepan to ready it for melting chocolate. Pull out and let sit for 20 seconds or so, until you can touch them without getting burnt.
5) The recipe calls for you to roll the cookie disks around the handle of a wooden spoon, but I actually found that I could fit them properly around my wooden spoon because it thickened towards the end. To improvise, I simply rolled them around themselves without any support, and found that they stayed perfectly. You do have to move quite quickly while these cookies are still pliable. If you find that they are crisping and cooling, pop them back into the oven for a couple minutes.
6) Melt the chopped chocolate in a saucepan by putting the pot on low heat and constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Pull off heat as soon as all the chocolate has liquefied. Dip both ends of the rolled brandy snaps in the melted chocolate, and place back on parchment paper to cool. Serve!

Brandied Cranberry Christmas Cookies

This is a very close adaptation of a recipe from by the talented Garret McCord, whose own blog is I decided to add a little spice, increase the brandy a touch, and back off a little flour for an even chewier cookie.

I c brandy
1 c dried cranberries
1 c butter (room temperature, so take out at least 2 hours in advance)
¾ c white granulated sugar
¾ c light brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature, so take out with the butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp brandy
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of cloves (fit as much between your forefinger and your thumb as you can manage, and toss it in: this is obviously a very loose measurement, but the idea is you just want a little bit)
2 c flour
1 c chocolate chips
½ c crushed toffee (I used the crumbled inside of Skor bars, which you can buy in the baking aisle, but this is optional)

1) Pour the brandy over the cranberries in a small bowl, and place them in the fridge for minimum one hour (I let mine sit over night because I was baking first thing in the morning). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2) Beat butter until white and fluffy, then add the two sugars. Continue beating until sugar is incorporated the mix is fluffy.
3) Add the vanilla, and measure out two teaspoons of brandy from the liquid you are using to soak the cranberries. Add the two eggs, and beat well until everything is incorporated.
4) In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add to the wet mix, beating it in three rounds until just mixed.
5) Strain the cranberries (saving all that good brandy for a later occasion) and fold them into the mix along with the chocolate chips and toffee pieces.
6) Shape into balls the size of your choice (I use an ice cream scoop for consistent, medium-large balls), and place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, with plenty of room for spreading.
7) Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges brown but middle still has a nice softness.
8) Use within five days, or freeze (does anyone ever even have this problem).

Macadamia Memories

You are all going to think that we eat nothing but chicken in this family, because here comes another chicken recipe. The thing is, we recently got a whole whack of chicken from a fundraiser and it is just EXCELLENT chicken (Cowichan Bay Farms). So you might see a little chicken cycle going on, but have no fear, you will experience different protein varieties very soon! Back to the recipe at hand, however, for it has a little meaning behind it. My parents just came back from Hawaii, with my little brother and a friend of his (this is what happens while I slave at home! Ah, ‘tis the life of a uni student…). It’s my parent’s third trip to the islands, and I went there myself with them two years ago. I can see why they keep going back; lush and balmy, Hawaii is not just a place for lazing about in a beach chair. Gorgeous hikes in the tropical out back and hours snorkeling various beaches were the highlights of the trip. When my parents brought back salted macadamia nuts (plus a few chocolate covered ones!), I knew I was pretty close to being transported back to the tropics. I remember having many dishes of macadamia-coated fish, so why not try the same recipe on chicken? Served with a little mango salsa, I really didn’t see how this could go wrong. I cut the chicken into strips so that delicious crunch can be appreciated with every bit. Plus, lets face it; this is tropical chicken strips for adults. Enjoy!

Macadamia-Crusted Chicken Strips

This recipe is a versatile beast. Switch chicken out for white fish, and change up the macadamia nuts for almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and even pistachios for the adventurous. The nuts, whichever you use, create a nice buttery crunch, the cereal a light pop, and the breadcrumbs good texture. This makes quite a bit of mix, so keep any extra in a container in the cupboard for later use!

4 pieces of chicken breast, cut into strips
1 c macadamia nuts, ground (I used the blender, but a chef’s knife or food processor would do the trick as well. Don’t worry if the texture is not completely even: some bigger pieces provide a nice texture.)
1 c flour
1 c breadcrumbs
1 c crushed corn flakes, special K, or other crispy cereal
1 ½ tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika
zest of 2 limes
2 eggs, well beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) In a bowl, combine macadamia nuts, flour, breadcrumbs, cereal, pepper, paprika, and lime zest. Line up two deep plates, filling one with the beaten eggs and the other with the flour mixture. Dip chicken first in the beaten eggs, then coat well with the flour mixture, making sure it gets in all the nooks and crannies. Place on a cookie sheet to bake, to help keep it nice and crisp. Repeat with all other pieces. Sprinkle any extra egg-y mix that you’ve rolled your chicken in on top, as that won’t keep. It will toast up nice, and you can sprinkle it around on your veggies that you serve it with.
3) Bake, starting with the timer at 8 minutes, then check for doneness. My strips took 10 minutes and were still nice and moist, but depending on the size yours may be done a little quicker.
4) Serve with mango salsa.

Mango Salsa

This salsa is good on everything. Pork with mole, white fish, maple salmon, cinnamon tenderloin, tortilla chips…like I said, everything. It is very simple to make, with only a few ingredients, and the taste is so bright and refreshing.

3 ripe mangoes, cored and chopped (Cut off all the soft bits around the hard middle, peel, and chop)
½ large red onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, cilantro (approx 1 generous cup)
1 jalapeño**, chopped and seeded
juice of one lime

1) Combine all ingredients into a bowl. Serve!

**Jalapeños get their heat from the seeds, so to get all the flavour and a lot less spice, take out the seeds. If you want a little sweat on your forehead, leave the seeds in! Also, VERY important: WEAR GLOVES when you chop jalapeños. We keep a rubber pair under the sink for spicy suckers like this because, as I can attest to, the spice will stay on your fingers literally for a couple days. I remember having biscuits the day after chopping jalapeños and I thought they were ridiculously spicy, but it turns out that it was just my fingers…also, your eyes will thank you. Nothing says good morning like washing your face with your hands after a night of chopping chilies.