That Jerk Can Stuff It. And So Can November.

Or as I like to call it, The Shoulder Season Black Hole of Despair. November is awful. Unless it’s the month you move to your beach house in Costa Rica for seven months (in which case, do you need a personal chef and also I do windows), it’s generally like some terrible punishment from the gods for too many summer cocktails or frolicking in too many piles of golden leaves in October. Frolicking is hard in November. Or I should say outdoor frolicking is hard. November has always been my month for indoor frolicking. Last year, I unapologetically hibernated the entire month and it was glorious. See, you can do that when you’re an actor who’s between contracts (that’s code for “unemployed sixty-five percent of the year”). At one point I didn’t leave the house for five days, and when I did it was to walk down the hill to meet some friends for lunch. An hour and a half later I was back home and back in my softpants, licking Nutella lollipops from tablespoons. It was the best week of my life.


Anyways, hi there, I wrote a blog after seven months. And so far this November is turning out a little differently. I’m totally knocked up and word on the street is you’re supposed to get out and exercise and not stay in the house drinking wine and eating steak tartare all day. So there’s my usual fall routine out the goddamn window. I kid, I kid, I’m happy to do all of the above (uh, not do, I mean) as long as the baby grows into a dentist who will look after me in my pensionless old age (oh god what have I done). So this fall is all about not drinking, but it is about eating and enjoying the food I’m actually “allowed” to have. That means braising and cooking the shit out of everything, which kinda comes with fall anyway. I admit to questioning the wisdom of not eating raw cookie dough (I also freely admit to breaking that pregnancy rule numerous times), but let me tell you something, maternity pants ARE FUCKING AMAZING.


Jerk chicken! I love it, I make a lot of it. I’m pretty sure my recipe would be considered mediocre in any part of the Caribbean, but it got me through the coldest July on record in St. John’s. Even on those days it was almost too cold to barbecue. It’s so weird even to write that…a day too cold to barbecue in July. On my birthday this year I had to wear slippers and turn the space heater on in the kitchen while I was baking my birthday cake (What? Like I would trust anyone else to do it). This was after my morning run, when I passed kids in the Bannerman Park outdoor pool, swimming in six degree weather while the poor lifeguard was on deck wrapped up in a blanket and wearing a toque. Why do we live here.


This recipe for jerk chicken stuffed flatbread is a mishmash of a bunch of my favourites. It’s inspired by a Jamie Oliver stuffed Egyptian flatbread using leftover chicken or lamb with spices like za’atar, sumac, cumin and paprika. I’ve been making it obsessively since I discovered it in my copy of Jamie’s America, using homemade flatbread instead of the authentic Egyptian store-bought stuff (not to be found here as far as I know). No rules with this one, really. I usually have a stash of flatbread dough in the freezer that comes in handy when there’s meat in the fridge that needs to be used. On this particular five-degree summer day there was leftover jerk chicken, so things got a little bit Caribbean-Middle Eastern-fusiony. With a glass of French rosé to drink on the side to completely mess with my head. I was cold and slippered in my kitchen, space heaters on bust, obviously thinking of warm sandy places and picnics in parks, blissfully unaware that soon I wouldn’t even be able to drink to keep warm.


If you have enough leftover jerk chicken to fill a cereal bowl, you’ll have enough to make one giant flatbread. Shred the chicken, add one egg, and some extra fresh thyme and chillies if you like. Season with salt and pepper (because the edge will be taken off the already-seasoned meat when you add the egg) and combine. If you’re using this flatbread recipe (always my go-to, dead easy), break the dough into four portions and set aside two, putting the other two dough balls in the fridge or freezer for later. Flour and roll the two pieces out into a circle that’s not quite as big around as the frying pan you’ll be using to cook them. Place the filling on one, carefully spreading it out with an inch or more to spare. Don’t overstuff, or bring filling too close to the edge or your flatbreads will leak when you roll them together, or come apart when you flip them in the pan.



Place the other rolled-out flatbread on top and seal around the edges. Gently, very gently, roll the two together. Your goal isn’t to flatten everything, just to get it all to stick together a little for easier flippage. Heat some butter in a frying pan and cook the flatbread slowly over a medium heat until golden brown on each side and when you’re pretty sure the egg mixture in the middle is cooked through.





These are good on their own, with a salad, with rice, and whatever dipping sauce turns your crank. I’m a big fan of a green harissa on the side, or just plain yogurt will do. Yogurt is good mixed with harissa as a dip, the homemade or the store-bought stuff. Try the flatbread on the barbecue sometime too, just make sure you brush both sides well with olive oil so it doesn’t stick to the grill. We had leftover leg of lamb in the fridge one random week in June, which will tell you the state of affairs in town this past summer. It was so cold I braised a goddamn leg of lamb in the oven for four hours and still had to turn the heat on in the kitchen.


I mixed the stuffing with an egg and the Jamie Oliver za’atar-sumac-cumin-paprika mix. One teaspoon of each or so, with some salt and pepper (mind your salt of you’re using store-bought za’atar, sometimes it’s already seasoned). It all depends on how much meat you have, and play around with any spice mix you like. Middle Eastern, Jamaican, Mexican, whatever mood you’re in. Unless you’re feeding vegetarians or gluten-frees, you can’t go wrong with spicy meat stuffed in dough and cooked in butter or on the barbecue. You definitely won’t go wrong on a cold day in November, or if you’re feeding a pregnant lady.

Unless you only make one, that is.





Gluten-Free Nutella-Berry Pancake Stack

This is almost good for you! Well not really, but sort of? Blaaah who cares. Not that I think eating gluten-free is an automatic ticket to good health like we’ve been led to believe by people wearing hot pants and living in California. But you know, it’s nice to shake things up a little bit without flour. I kind of look at gluten-free eating like I look at tofu. Here it’s “oh my god tofu I love it and I have to eat it because I’m a vegetarian.” In Korea, everyone eats it because…it’s tofu and it’s part of a regular diet, whether you eat meat or not. I think eating gluten-free can be a part of everyone’s food routine and we don’t need to make a big deal about it. Unless of course you’re celiac in which case you do need to make a big deal about it no matter how many naysayers roll their eyes at you. We’re all so food-judgey. Don’t even pretend you haven’t rolled your eyes at a vegan who won’t eat honey because the bees make it. I certainly did, until I asked a vegan, “So like, what the hell is up with that.” And they told me bees regurgitate it (eeewww). I said, “holy shit, really?” and decided at that moment to respect vegan eating habits while continuing to eat bee spit on my toast in the morning.

Yes, these two-ingredient pancakes are gluten-free but let’s just calm down and call them pancakes, shall we? These have been all over the internet for ages, and here I am putting my two cents’ worth in and some Nutella and raspberries on top of that. Raspberries are heaven and the perfect berry to go with chocolate, sorry strawberries. As for Nutella….well, me and Nutella go way back. Though not as early as you’d expect. Weirdly, you could get it where I grew up in Labrador, but here’s the thing: my sisters and I had no idea it even existed. Robin came home from a sleepover at a friend’s house one morning, and in ten-year-old speak said the equivalent of “Holy fuck I just ate spreadable chocolate on bread at Sarah’s house FOR BREAKFAST. It’s called Nutella.” I remember my eyes growing wide and “Oh god Mom can we get some,” coming out in a strangled whisper. Mom said no because she’s a genius and knew that if her kids started eating chocolate for breakfast (especially this one) it would be game over. I would never have been that European poster child for Nutella. I would never have had a thin layer of it on a piece of artisan sourdough, kissed my Maman on the cheek and grabbed my soccer ball to go frolic in flowery meadows. I would have stayed inside and eaten Nutella lollipops by the tablespoon in front of the television until I developed juvenile diabetes. As an adult I try to subscribe to the “everything in moderation” diet. While it’s true I’ve eaten hashbrown casserole more times in my life than Swiss chard (and that would be zero times I’ve tried Swiss chard) I’m trying to get better with the moderation thing as my body hurls itself toward middle age. Which I hear is like, 67 now right? Thankfully, almost thirty more years before I have to get super serious. Onwards! To the pancakes!

You need two eggs and one banana. That’s it. The trick is to put everything in a blender and whiz it together until smooth. The blender is kind of key here because once everything is whizzed up and full of air it will give the illusion of real live pancake batter. You can mash if you like, but your pancakes won’t really be pancakes so much as scrambled eggs with mushy banana. The two-ingredient rule stops here if you like. I like to add cinnamon, and you can toss in a teaspoon of sugar if you’re going to eat the pancakes plain. If you’re going the Nutella-raspberry route, or smothering everything in maple syrup, it’s not (entirely) necessary.

Heat a bit of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Not extra virgin olive oil – that’s too heavy and will make your pancakes taste like salad. The oil needs to be light. Coconut is fun, and it’ll make everything a bit more tropical-tasting. Never a bad thing, especially around these parts. When the oil is hot (not smoking), ladle a small amount of the batter into the pan, or pour it directly from the blender. Don’t make them big like crepes, because the batter is a little delicate and they can be hard to flip. Be gentle, be patient, and when they’re dark golden brown, turn them over. Preferably with a cookie spatula if you have one. They’re small and easy to manoeuvre and will make getting under the half-cooked pancake much easier.

Two eggs and a banana make a surprising number of pancakes, so it’s probably best to make them all in the one go and keep them warm in a low oven until you’re ready to assemble. From here it’s all freestyle pancake stacking. Piled as high as you like, with as many berries and Nutella as the stack can handle. I used frozen raspberries that I’d thawed beforehand, so don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on the fresh ones. Buying frozen when berries are out of season is always your best bet anyways. Melting the Nutella a little bit first in the microwave will help with drizzling.

A yummy breakfast stack of gluten-free goodness. Or just plain goodness. Also delicious drizzled in bee spit, if you’re not in a chocolate sort of mood. Happy Spring!!

The First of the Spring Chickens

I can’t believe I’m about to write this…but…winter hasn’t been that bad?? “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY!” scream all the Haligonians and our pals on the west coast of the island who got pummelled Day After Tomorrow style. To that I will say, our hearts are with you! And goddamn, we’ve been there so I’m relishing the well-deserved break. It’s amazing how cheerful it is to walk around in sub-zero temps when you can do it on a sidewalk and not in the middle of the road. A BIG thank you to St. John’s city council for getting some of your collective shit together! And now for the love and honour can we please talk about your demolition policy? I won’t be bringing you a plate of cookies for that stunt. Anyway, I also finally broke down and bought a winter jacket that covers my bum. Between that and a Christmas vacation spent in softpants while inventing martinis, I have solved winter.

So, with high hopes and crossed fingers, I’m going to come out and say it. We’ve seen the worst of it. In the likely event of a savage storm in April, spring is still in the air and not even Sheila’s Brush can stop it. A storm in April is laced with a bit more hope than a storm in December, am I right? (I could be wrong. St. John’s could be a mess right now, I’m not even there. I’m on tour and writing this from a hotel room in Marystown, pantlessly drinking pinot grigio and watching a marathon of 19 Kids and Counting. Before you judge me, let me explain that there’s a dart tournament happening at the hotel so I’m not responsible for my actions. It’s either put on cheap aftershave and drink Coors Light in the hallway, or barricade myself in my room. And come ON, Jessa’s getting married and she’s NEVER EVEN BEEN KISSED so this is kind of a big deal. As a side-side note, if the Duggars watched We Need to Talk About Kevin like I just did on Netflix, I’m pretty sure their show would have been called One Kid and We Are Fucking DONE.)

However, comfort food season? Nowhere near over! It’s no secret to anyone that I love a roast chicken. A roast chicken dinner on a Sunday is the number one reason I could never be a vegetarian. Word on the street is that a whole roast cauliflower is now a thing for a veggie Sunday roast. Which is excellent! And a great idea for a meat-eater on a weekday! But, with nothing but the utmost respect for my vegetarian and vegan pals, I would probably have Ted Cruz and his dad over for tea and cakes before I’d bake a cauliflower for my Sunday Roast.

(Ok, ok, all jokes aside, this looks kinda good.)

This recipe is my offering for St. John’s Winter-Spring. Depending on the mood of the weather gods, this shoulder season can last anywhere from March to June. If we’re lucky, winter-spring will be over by April, just in time to start cooking chickens on the barbecue while drinking beers on the back deck. In the meantime, this recipe still falls in the category of comfort food, but will seriously make your house smell like a place where no shovelling is required. Winter-spring. Sprinter? Wring? Yeah, the last one seems more fitting.

Moroccan Roast Chicken with Harissa Potatoes

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Combine the following spices with 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil: 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt. Rub this mixture all over a whole chicken, including the inner cavity. Stuff with a handful of fresh mint leaves and 4 or 5 preserved lemons. Place in a roasting pan with 4 whole peeled cloves of garlic and 1 roughly chopped onion. Fill roasting pan with 1 cup water and half a bottle of white wine, taking care not to pour over the chicken, and just in the side of the pan. Cover and cook chicken for one hour. Remove from oven, baste, and return to oven uncovered for another half hour until chicken is cooked through and skin is crispy, adding more water to the pan for the last half hour if juices are evaporating too quickly. When chicken is done, move to a plate and let rest. Mash the onions and garlic in the bottom of the roaster with a fork or potato masher and bring to a boil with the drippings over the stove to make a sauce. Strain through a fine mesh sieve if you like, but that’s optional.

For the potatoes: Clean a 2-pound bag of baby red potatoes and cut them in half. Toss potatoes with 1 tbsp harissa, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 3 tbsp olive oil, and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven with the chicken for the last half hour. Give them a good toss and return to oven for another 15 minutes while chicken is resting. Sprinkle with more lemon juice to taste before serving.

You’ve probably never put fresh mint in a chicken before, and neither did I until I found a bunch in my fridge that needed to be used and did it on a whim. It works! You’ll only get the slightest hint of it, but it goes beautifully with the salty citrus from the preserved lemons and the Moroccan(ish) spices. I’m not even sure if this recipe qualifies as Moroccan; more than a few would argue that cooking a chicken in wine for an hour before roasting it isn’t right at all (you could just use water if you like, hahaha). But just do it for the sauce. Sweet mother, the sauce.

If you can’t find preserved lemons, don’t sweat it. Regular will do just fine. Here’s a neat Jamie Oliver trick: parboil a large lemon or a couple of smaller ones for five minutes and then prick them a few times with a knife before stuffing them in the cavity. It’s like a hot lemon juice flavour bomb for your chicken. This may be my kitchen safety paranoia soaring to new heights, but be careful when handling the hot lemon. I hold it with a pair of tongs and prick the lemon at a bit of a distance. I can’t think of anything worse than boiling lemon juice in my eye. Well, maybe Stephen Harper winning the next election. I would take hot lemon juice in the cornea before I’d see that happen. I’m looking at you, Alberta. With my one good eye.

Serve up the chicken and potatoes with the sauce and a sprinkling of cilantro if you like. Very easy, very good.

Kind of like the summer we’re all hoping for.

Top Ten of 2014

I’m a sucker for a fresh start. I enjoy a good New Year’s Eve, and like most, I try taking a deep breath and starting again. When I mess up I’ll give it another go at Chinese New Year. Another deep breath on April Fool’s Day to fool myself into starting my resolutions in the spring, then solstice, fall, any given Monday, first day of December to get a jump on things before New Year’s Eve, aaaand here we are, full circle. So chickens, if 2014 didn’t turn out quite as you expected, now’s your chance for a fresh start. In the meantime, to contribute a little something to your procrastination, here’s another annoying top ten list to peruse while you’re poking around online. Instead of starting War and Peace like you said you would on day one of your new life. After all, there’s always Monday.

Tiramisu Ice Cream

I still wonder why I waited so long to get an ice cream maker. I think deep down I knew it would ruin me for life. I think I knew once I took the plunge I would never again feel the same about ice cream that comes from Sobeys. Don’t get me wrong, there have been (and probably will be) plenty of occasions when all I want to do is stay home on a Friday night and pound the face off a tub of heavenly hash. I’m only human, after all. But have you ever really paid attention to what’s in store-bought ice cream? Especially the low-fat stuff? What are modified milk ingredients exactly? Why is it called polysorbate 80? I definitely wouldn’t be able to spell carrageenen if I was competing in a spelling bee, so I probably shouldn’t eat it. Here’s what’s in real homemade ice cream: milk, eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla. With the obvious embellishments for your preferred flavour. If you’re still not convinced full fat homemade ice cream is the way to go, just look at the weird watery puddle that’s left when your store-bought ice cream or frozen yogurt melts against a hot piece of pie. Pie deserves real ice cream and goddammit, so do you.

Check out this recipe for Tiramisu (holy shit, I know!!) ice cream from the gorgeous Playful Cooking. It’s super simple, and when you casually say to your guests. “Whatever, I made homemade tiramisu ice cream for dessert it’s no big deal,” they will lose their minds. I’m sometimes a little fussy about coffee in things that aren’t hot mugs, so when I made this I omitted the coffee and sprinkled some espresso powder and a teaspoon of vanilla-infused rum on top of each individual serving. The second time, I added a tablespoon of the rum and half a teaspoon of espresso powder to the mix before freezing the ice cream. Either which way, it’s a beautiful recipe, and extra special if you make homemade ladyfinger biscuits to go alongside.

Middle Eastern Roast Chicken

The most decadent roast chicken I made all year, and that’s saying something. There are a few different elements but it’s dead easy and so completely worth the effort and please, please try it. I omitted the rosemary and didn’t miss it. And wow, that green harissa is really something. As always, this flatbread recipe. What a deadly way to mess with people’s heads when you invite them over for Sunday Roast.

Hot and Sticky Roast Quail

If I could have lunch with one food personality, it would be Nigel Slater. Preferably sitting at a wrought iron table in an English back garden surrounded by low-hanging trees. With two really nice bottles of very cold white wine. He is just the loveliest. I recently read his book Toast, and fell a little bit more in love with him. If you cook and you don’t have The Kitchen Diaries, you’re missing out on a very tasty time.

Sometimes I’m intimidated by meat that’s not chicken. Hell, sometimes I’m intimidated by chicken. I used Nigel’s recipe the very first time I cooked quail, and it stripped away all intimidation. So don’t be scared, and don’t be precious about it just because quail is something you associate with fancy restaurants. They’re like mini-chickens that don’t take near as much cooking time (and quail is supposed to be a little pink when you cook it, so raw chicken paranoia is significantly reduced). They’re notoriously difficult to debone, so just use your fingers and be careful of the little bones. The Tragically Hip were actually singing about quail, not chicken.

Set aside 4 oven-ready quail. Mix 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons light soya sauce, half a teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons grainy mustard. Toss quail in the mixture, using hands to ensure everything is coated well. Let everything marinate for an hour or so if you have time, but cooking straight away works too. Roast in a 425ºF oven in a pan that’s big enough the quail don’t touch. Cook the quail for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

(Adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, HarperCollins 2005)

Spiced Lamb Chops

I get a little pang sometimes when I eat lamb but it’s my favourite and I can’t stop so I deal with the guilt. Usually by marinating, roasting, and then eating it. We bought a French rack of lamb for a treat one night and I had no idea what I was doing, but this is what happened. I’m glad I wrote it down because it turned out to be salty, spicy, tangy, tender meat that you could tear off the bone with your fingers and it tasted like street food from somewhere warm.

Marinate in fridge for 4 hours or so – a slightly scored French rack of lamb rubbed with this spice rub/paste:  1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 cloves finely minced garlic, juice from half a lime. Let lamb come to room temperature. Sear on all sides in a hot pan and then roast in a 400ºF oven for 12 to 18 minutes. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, and carefully carve individual chops. Really nice with saffron rice and sprinkled with sumac.

Farmer’s Market Mini-Donuts

There is nothing on earth like an old-fashioned cinnamon sugar donut. For me, they’re right up there with the perfect piece of pie. But you know what? They’re really hard to find. Think about the last time you saw a cinnamon sugar donut. Unless you’re making them yourself, it’s probably been a while. I would even forgive Tim Hortons its shitty coffee if it had a proper donut (no hard feelings Tim, and thank you for helping me stay awake on long road trips). The St. John’s Farmer’s Market is shut down for the season, but when it opens again in the spring we all should go every weekend to support it because it’s one of the best things to do in the city. And there is a stall with a lovely man and woman who make fresh donuts. Fresh as in you can watch the little clouds of batter pop out of a machine and slide into a river of hot oil, bobbing along until they’re gently flipped over to finish frying and then tossed in whatever toppings you like. How could something so beautiful be bad? Sometimes, they put a few extra in the bag for you. Or maybe the woman was alarmed by how my eyes glazed over while I was watching the donut show and wanted me out of there fast. Maybe she’d never had a 38-year-old woman ask to be adopted into their happy little donut family, I dunno.

Portuguese Chicken and Potato Balls

I love Portugal. I can’t say that as someone who’s traveled the country extensively, only as someone who spent three days there one November. Portugal has the bluest sky I have ever seen, the best coffee, food, wine, and people. It’s the kind of place I’d like to plunk myself down, in a little apartment with a patio overlooking a nice street where I would drink wine and cook good food for a month or two. I want to learn more about Portuguese food and eat more of it, because everything I’ve tried makes me feel happy, like I’m already on that patio with a couple of glasses of wine in me. On a quick trip to Toronto last February, Didi and I stayed with two of our favourite friends, Renee and Dana. They live in Little Portugal, and for lunch Renee ran out and grabbed a Portuguese roast chicken with rice and potato balls. I’m the first person to admit that Toronto took a long time to grow on me, but I kind of get it now, and I love that every neighbourhood is its own little town. St. John’s is getting better and better when it comes to food, but I really envy my Toronto pals their ability to run out and grab whatever they feel like eating that day. And why the hell did it take so long for me to find out potato balls existed?

Slow-Roast Persian Lamb

Again, with the lamb. A shoulder this time, braised in some spices and pomegranate molasses. I like how lamb can be a formal affair or one of those things you can pick apart with your fingers and eat between flatbread. I think that’s how most of the world eats it anyway. And if they don’t, they should. This recipe is super easy and the meat comes out tender and tangy, and maybe like something you’ve never tasted. We had it with homemade flatbread, rolled out in the shape of round tortillas so it was almost like eating a lamb taco. Two sauces; a yogurt-cumin-cucumber and that green harissa I’m obsessed with, but I put a bunch of mint in it to go along with the spinach and cilantro. Really, really good. With beer, on a Sunday afternoon in front of the television.

French Macarons

One of the scariest (and most delicious) things in the world, finally scratched off my baking bucket list, mostly thanks to my friend Joanne of Paradise Cakery. Macarons aren’t rocket science, but they are baking science. Don’t make them when it’s raining out, do it with a friend, and be prepared to eat the mistakes that will happen until you finally figure it out. Turns out they’re not so scary after all.

Banh Mi

These are so delicious. And really no big deal to put together unless you want to make your own buns. All the stuffings are fairly simple, so just go buy some baguettes if you want a quick fix. Carby, comforty, and spicy. A good recipe to add to your “How to Make it Through a Winter in Town” collection.

The Clemontini 

(I know, isn’t that a great name? What’s most impressive is it only took two of these to think of it.)

And finally, not counting as food, but counting as something I would like to bathe in, a martini recipe that we may have inadvertently invented. Or inadvertently adapted. Either way those last two sentences would be hard to say after 4 or 5. It’s a martini we made just a few nights ago that’s inspired by a drink I had my first time at Raymonds. What? If you paid $200 bucks to get dehydrated at an Eagles concert, don’t even look at me sideways. Anyway, that whole glorious night is a little fuzzy, but there was one standout drink that was something like fresh lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, apple vodka? Or maybe it was plain vodka, whatever. A few nights ago I wanted a fancy boozy cocktail and the hazy Raymonds memory returned to me. After I wept, I googled around and found lots of recipes for lemon rosemary martinis, but Justin suggested using some of the clementines in the fridge. Or as I like to call them, “the only reason I don’t get scurvy at Christmas time.” I mean, who eats an apple or broccoli between December 25th and January 1st? It’s clementines or booze/chocolate/cheese and if you’re eating kale this time of year, we probably can’t ever be friends. And if you think I’m the only one staving off scurvy with booze, you are very much mistaken.

Put all this in a martini shaker with ice. Enough for two.

1 1/2 oz freshly squeezed clementine juice
1 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz rosemary simple syrup
1 oz vodka
1 oz green apple vodka

(For rosemary simple syrup: over medium-high heat bring to a boil 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 4 springs of fresh rosemary. Simmer for a minute or so until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool and strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding rosemary. Keeps in fridge for a month. Like it’ll last that long. Double the batch if you’re expecting company.)

A little plastic citrus juicer will do wonders, and an electric citrus juicer will make quick work of a pretty tedious job. Not a juicer juicer, more like the one you see above. And hey hey, constant exposure to citrus will burn your hands in the same way lime juice cooks seafood in a ceviche. Gross. So, even a cheap plastic juicer might be a wise investment, especially when you end up loving these things and you want freshly squeezed juice on hand all the time. They’re kind of pretty dressed up with sugared rosemary springs, or a slice of clementine. This is a nice sweet-tart-booze mix, but up the booze by an ounce if you like. If you only have plain vodka, up the simple syrup by a half-ounce. Have some fun experimenting, it’s not like you’ll throw out any failures.

Happy eating in 2015! I’ll see you at Chinese New Year for deep breathing and another fresh start.  xo

This Is Me Trying To Be Excited About Fall.

Remember August? When we were still full of hope for what was left of summer? Remember when I had this grand idea of having barbecues and cocktails and ice cream every day off? Yeah…I remember that too. Well, a little. It’s kinda fuzzy because of all the cocktails I had to drink inside because it was too goddamn cold to barbecue or eat ice cream or do anything besides drink in the kitchen wearing track pants, in front of the window so the rain could disguise my tears.

I laugh now when I think of my misplaced hope, and I’m practically rolling on the floor clutching my guts when I remember thinking, after my shows had opened and my days were finally free, “July was great! August will be great too! We are on SUCH a roll here! Woo-hoooo!” And then I think back to that August night when it was 6 degrees with 70 kilometre winds and we did The Merry Wives of Windsor outside for an audience of eleven. I thanked the gods that evening for my woollen breeches; the same breeches I had loathed a few weeks earlier when I was a walking ad for Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Sadly, that was as far as the gratitude got me that night. I looked out at the audience, wrapped up in their winter hats and blankets and sleeping bags. It looked more like Everest base camp than an outdoor summer theatre crowd. I wanted to scream at them, “WHY ARE YOU HERE??? GO HOME, WEIRDOS!” I even cursed my ancestors. “WHY DID YOU COME HERE? WHY DID YOU TRY AND CARVE OUT AN HONEST LIVING FOR YOUR FAMILY HERE, WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST STEAL A LOAF OF BREAD AND END UP IN AUSTRALIA???”

Granted, I was being a little dramatic at the time. It was the combination of Shakespeare and hypothermia. Couldn’t be helped, really.

So, yeah. Fall, hey? It’s really something else. Especially when it happens in August. Oh, July. You were such a terrible, terrible tease. With your sultry evenings and barbecue smells on warm summer breezes and your radio call-in shows with people complaining about the heat. Happy now, arseholes? Before you know it you’ll be shovelling your car out and falling on icy sidewalks and calling Radio Noon to rant about the snow. Probably after you’ve thrown rocks at passing school children and kicked a bunch of puppies.

This year, I’m refusing to be an arsehole (for the record I have never kicked a puppy or thrown a rock at a child except that one time but it was a snowball and he did it first). I’m going to embrace the fall and coming winter. I will skate, ski, snowshoe and toboggan my way into a winter wonderland of goddamn happiness. After I run out and buy aforementioned skates, skis, etc. Or possibly rent. Borrow. Or stay in with a whisky hot toddy and a giant pile of this chicken.

Sticky Kicking Chicken

(From Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, HarperCollins, 2013)

8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
Olive oil
2 tbsp sweet red chili sauce
2 tbsp raw sesame seeds

(I was out of sweet chili sauce and used plum sauce. Still very yum.)

On a large sheet of parchment paper, toss the chicken with salt, pepper, and the five-spice powder. Fold over the paper, then bash and flatten the chicken to 3/4-inch thick with a rolling pin. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and cook chicken, turning after 3 or 4 minutes, until nicely charred and cooked through. Do in batches if necessary. Drain away any excess fat from the chicken pan, put back on the heat, drizzle with the sweet chili sauce and toss with the sesame seeds.

This is super fast, easy, and delicious, and the five-spice powder will make your house smell like Christmas. That’s good or bad depending on how you look at it. A bit of both for me; bad because I dread the holidays, good because it reminded me of being a kid and my Nan’s house. Which outweighed the bad. So I guess that makes five-spice powder a good thing. I’m glad I just figured that out and that you were able to come on the journey with me.

My favourite part of making this recipe was (obviously) the beating of the chicken. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a joke on a cooking show about “taking out your aggression” when you’re flattening the shit out of some kind of meat, I’d probably have enough money to buy an actual meat mallet instead of using a rolling pin. There’s a myth out there that women use meat mallets or rolling pins to take out aggression on ex-boyfriends, shitty bosses, stuff like that. I wish nothing but the best for my ex-boyfriends! Honestly! Except that guy who ran off and got married and emailed me on Christmas Eve to tell me about it. He can suck it. Anyway, when I’m flattening meat I do it extra loud to frighten the two Boston Terriers who live next door. Not that they’re not adorable (in that ugly small dog kind of way), but I like to scare them with sudden noises, just like they scare me with their sudden vicious barking when I’m taking my afternoon sofa naps.

Hey, check it, I just googled Boston Terriers for a laugh and according to Wikipedia, “both females and males are generally quiet and bark only when necessary. Their usually sensible attitude towards barking makes them excellent choices for apartment dwellers.” Hahahahahaha! HA! Some Boston Terrier owner was definitely drunk Wiki-editing. Now I have to log on to Wikipedia and create an account or whatever the hell and amend that to “generally bark only when breathing or when neighbours in attached houses are taking afternoon sofa naps. Their attitude towards barking makes them excellent choices for those living near the arctic circle. And polar bears.”

I’m kidding, I love those sweet little bathmats. Hey neighbours!!

So chickens, I begrudgingly wish you a very Happy Fall. Or, as my friend Susan says “I’m calling it autumn from now on. Fall sounds too depressing.” Either way, enjoy it. Embrace the braising, stews, curries, and afternoon sofa naps. Before you know it, summer will be here!

And you’ll still be doing pretty much the same thing because you live in Newfoundland.

August: Barbecue, Booze and Ice Cream

For a lot of people, summer started on June 21st. Even though (if I’m recalling correctly) it was one of those “whatever summer is totally here I don’t care if I have to wear a winter coat with my flip-flops” kind of day. Now that I’m thinking about it, June was pretty goddamn miserable. People had hushed conversations behind closed doors about the infamous Summer of 2011 and June-uary and sweet baby Jesus, would 2014 suffer the same fate? After the worst winter in St. John’s history (that’s not me being historically accurate, but holy shit come on), the city lived in dread of a summer with a similar theme. Me, I kind of roll with the seasonal punches. After spending ten summers in rural Newfoundland, I’ve come to expect the worst and the absolute best. This is my very first summer in the city, and I’m just happy to be here, happy to have sidewalks for a few months, and happy to be living a stone’s throw from Moo Moo’s Ice Cream.

But back to June. June was gross. Not as gross as May, and I still can’t even talk about the apocalyptic April we had, but let’s talk about July. The weather gods came out from behind the bushes, blew their giant weather-trumpets or whatever and yelled, “JOKES YOU GUYS!! July is gonna kick ass.” And it did. It was glorious, hot, sticky, like a little piece of Hanoi plopped right down on top of us for a few weeks. The lines grew longer at Moo Moo’s, tattooed men everywhere took off their shirts, and outdoor cats were all shag this please let me back in the house to seek shade under the coffee table. And my personal fav: Radio Noon was swamped with callers phoning in to complain about the humidity, which is like, so hard because you have to shovel it. Oh wait. You don’t. So go join the line at Moo Moo’s and then run through a sprinkler or something crooked arses.

The best weather the island has ever seen started just about the time I headed into full-time rehearsal. The first day the humidex hit thirty was the first day I had to spend eight hours in a rehearsal hall trying to bash Shakespeare into my brain. Normally, being inside on beautiful days makes me insane, but I was enjoying the work and never once wanted to run away and go swimming. The second part’s a lie of course – the best place to be when it’s thirty degrees is in a lake and not in a dress rehearsal wearing wool breeches and knee socks. But I never complained once (out loud) and enjoyed evenings on my back step eating barbecued hot dogs and drinking beer. We finally opened at the end of July and I made a conscious decision to start my honest-to-goodness summer in August. The month when everyone suffers from Summer Panic Disorder. You know, when you try to squeeze in everything you wanted to but never had time for in June and July. This month I’m trying to soothe my SPD with lots of barbecues, booze, and ice cream. There’s a loose plan in place to attempt a new recipe from each of the above categories and write about it every week, but I guess that will depend on how many mojitos I get in me before passing out in front of the computer.

(And hey if you’re out around Cupids this month and want to see me get disembowelled by King Henry and subsequently make out with him fifteen minutes later, check out Perchance Theatre’s schedule here.)

Week 1: Jerk Chicken with Coconut Rice and Green Harissa
               Mango Sorbet
               Cilantro Negroni


Jerk Chicken  (adapted from

1/2 cup malt vinegar
2 tsp molasses
2 tbsp dark rum
The juice from one large lime
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 fresno chillies, with seeds, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
4 green onions, chopped (or a handful of chives)
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp ground allspice
4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pack of 8 or 9 chicken thighs

(Bone-in thighs with skin is fine. Jerk is always better on the bone, but I took the skin off. Keep it on if you have a great barbecue and are confident in getting the chicken skin nice and crispy. If not, then eww, skin off please.)

Put everything except chicken thighs in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Place chicken thighs in a large bowl and pierce several times with a fork. Mix in jerk marinade and leave to marinate in fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight of you can swing it. Grill on your barbecue, low and slow, until chicken is slightly charred and completely cooked through. Save the leftover marinade, boil for a good ten minutes (it had raw chicken in it, remember?) and use as a sauce, or even to baste the chicken while barbecuing. I cooked mine on the stovetop with a cup of homemade chicken stock and it was great – really intense – but great.

God, I love this chicken. The perfect recipe to use up all those spices you normally only use at Christmas. Relatively inexpensive if you’re cooking for a crowd, easy to grill on a shitty barbecue like ours, and the leftovers are the best. It’ll make your neighbours jealous because your backyard will smell like a market stall somewhere in the Caribbean. A quick note about the chillies: I went with fresno peppers, which are pretty mild on the hotness scale, but I wouldn’t be opposed to jalapenos next time if I was feeling brave. Jerk chicken is normally made with Scotch bonnets which terrify me. I love spicy food, but I’m no hero. Go nuts on the bonnets if you like, and then report back to me about how work was the next day, or how your corneas were after you accidentally touched your eye.

Jesus, the dictionary says there are four different ways to spell chillies can we get our collective shit together please.

Coconut Rice  (from the side of the box of Mr. Goudas Coconut Milk Powder)

4 cups water
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup coconut milk powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp of you favourite Caribbean hot sauce

Heat up water in a medium sized pot. Add coconut powder, stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil. Add rice, stir to blend in and reduce heat to medium low. Add hot sauce, salt and pepper. Gently stir with a fork to blend in all the flavours. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 16 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender to your taste.

Yum. And not too spicy, even though I used this lethal hot sauce that we bought in St. Lucia last year. But with only half a teaspoon for the whole pot, it was pretty smooth sailing. Slightly creamy from the coconut milk powder, but in a good way, and not a bad rice pudding kind of way.

Green Harissa  (adapted from Rachael Ray,

1/2 of a large bunch of fresh cilantro (stems too!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 fresno chilli, seeds in, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 large handfuls of baby spinach
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste.

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and season as necessary.

There are so many great things about this recipe I can barely contain myself. It can be used as a salad dressing (thinned with a little more olive oil), an accompaniment to any Middle Eastern dish (uh, works with Caribbean too), as a healthy dip for veggies, flatbread, grilling chicken or fish, or even spreading on sandwiches. I made this a few weeks ago and I’m obsessed with it. You know when you buy a big container of baby spinach at the beginning of the week with the intention of eating a salad every day? And then you get to the end of the week and you realize all the McCain Superfries in your freezer are gone but the spinach has started to wilt? This recipe is for you. Same goes for the big bunch of cilantro you bought and then forgot about in the produce drawer. Everything pulses into one little compact bowl of excellent.

All the above served with Anna Olson’s flatbread recipe. Takes no time to make and almost tastes like naan from you favourite Indian restaurant. Make a huge batch and freeze, or freeze the dough in individual portions, ready to thaw and roll at a moment’s notice. Great with or without the coriander seeds.

Mango Sorbet  (I totally made this up and it’s pretty deadly)

1 600g bag of frozen mango
Juice from half a lime
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp vanilla-infused rum

Thaw frozen mango on a cookie sheet, then puree in a blender. Mix sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. Combine mango puree, sugar syrup, lime juice and rum, and let mixture cool in fridge for two hours or overnight. Freeze in ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

This is the BEST. And not bad for you because you don’t need a whole lot of sugar to sweeten the mango. You could probably get away with 1/4 cup sugar if you like. Rum is optional, but it keeps the sorbet from getting too hard and adds a lovely flavour that isn’t boozy or overpowering. Not that I don’t enjoy overpowering booze, but best to leave out if kids will be tasting, or pals who aren’t too fussy about alcohol (???). Lots of vanilla rums out there, but I make mine by saving scraped out vanilla pods and putting a few of them in random bottles of liquor. Rum, vodka, haven’t tried whisky yet, but you get the idea. Best to tell guests about that trick if your liquor is out in the open, because vanilla pods sometimes resemble stick insects, or preying mantises.

My friend Susan gave me the sweetest little case of dessert salts for Christmas, and because I was a few Negronis in and feeling adventurous, I thought one might be nice for the sorbet. Decided on the vanilla-cardamom, even though it strayed more into a spicy Indian flavour instead of spicy Caribbean. But hey, we were already all over the map with North African harissa and Italian Negronis so woo-hooooo summer. Himself wasn’t too fussy over the salt on the mango sorbet but I looooved it. That’s how I said it after my fourth Negroni. Hi Mom.

Feel free to take a chance on the red mangoes at Sobeys, but I’ve never had any luck with them. No matter how perfect they look or smell, I always end up with a soft and stringy mess. Chunks of frozen mangoes are fresher and more reliable in the mango off season (obviously all year round in Newfoundland). Different story if you can get your hands on the little yellow ataulfos; they’re usually available here in the spring, sometimes into summer, and they are insanely good and perfect for sorbets, salads, curries, and eating over the sink with your hands like a monkey.

Cilantro Negroni (from a random Martha Stewart magazine Didi gave me)

Muddle 3 cilantro sprigs with 1/2 tsp of superfine sugar and 1 orange wedge in a glass. Add 2 oz Campari and ice. Add 4 oz club soda (or sparkling water, something fizzy). Stir. Makes one.

Almost as fast as cracking a beer. Bitter, but nice. If it’s too bitter for you, add a bit more sugar and one more wedge of orange. But jeez calm down it’s Campari it’s supposed to be bitter. A lime wedge thrown in is nice too. Best with a floppy hat and oversized sunglasses.

If you’ve managed to make it through this post, you deserve a good stiff drink and an ice creamy treat. Put on your floppy hat and sunglasses and go barbecue some meat before the sidewalks disappear. Me? I’m off to get disembowelled in my woolen breeches.

Happy Summer!!

Baking is my Cardio

As a human being, I find a lot of things terrifying. Coffee grinders, flushing toilets on airplanes, Peter MacKay, etc. As a baker, the list is considerably less terrifying. I’d choose making my own puff pastry over peeing on an airplane any day (especially when it involves bringing your own Tim Horton’s coffee cup I’m looking at you Air Canada Express). I would most certainly choose puff pastry over hanging out with Peter MacKay, who would probably be quite pleased to see me back in the kitchen, let’s face it. However, the list of baked goods I’ve yet to attempt is pretty long. I’m not terrified so much as intimidated, and kind of lazy. For example, I know that making pie pastry makes me cry, and drinking coffee for two hours in front of the Food Network doesn’t. Hence, I often choose the latter. But just like working out, sometimes it takes a good buddy to motivate you to get your ass on a treadmill, or in this case, turn off the television, turn on the oven and make some French macarons.

I’m fortunate enough to call Joanne Middleton of Paradise Cakery a very dear friend. We’ve known each other since our high school days in Labrador West. We were hard core teenagers, who expressed our rebellion by baking deep dish pan pizzas while listening to The Phantom of the Opera and daydreaming of opening our own bakery-cafe. Our parents were puzzled by the fact that we weren’t drinking in the woods like every other teenager, and only became suspicious of us after we almost burnt Jo’s house down by baking pizza in a wooden-handled frying pan. Yeah, we were pretty bad-ass. I have a distinct memory of hanging out at Joanne’s house the night before my very first date. We rented The Scent of a Woman, ate popcorn, swooned over Chris O’Donnell, and rewound the tango scene five times. Joanne helped me pick out the Northern Refections t-shirt that would best suit my red glasses and high-waisted jeans and gave me advice when I asked her questions like “What do I do if he tries to hold my hand while we’re watching Schindler’s List?” Go ahead and laugh, but I couldn’t ask the internet for advice BECAUSE IT DIDN’T EXIST. And there was one theatre in town with a single movie playing at a time. But I had a pretty deadly collection of Northern Reflections t-shirts, so it wasn’t an entirely deprived teenagehood.

Joanne’s been running her cakery for about as long as I’ve been writing a food blog. She’s rocking it, and I’m still trying to turn off the television and cook things instead of watching them. A couple of months ago we decided to stop putting off the baking date we’d been talking about for ages and actually do it. The day was almost sabotaged by a pothole the size of Mike Duffy’s expense account that nearly took the arse out of my car on the way to Paradise. But the baking gods were smiling down upon me (the city of St. John’s certainly wasn’t) and I made it to Joanne’s place in one piece.

We had tea and chatted for an hour and a half before we even got started. Pretty normal for the two of us, but obvious that we were delaying what we thought would be a disaster. What happened next was a pleasant surprise for both of us. Maybe not so much for Joanne, who tackles new recipes the same way I tackle cookie dough ice cream and a Say Yes to the Dress marathon. Jesus, I know, I can’t help it. I have a weird love of watching women pay thousands of dollars for the same strapless mermaid dress over and over again. It somehow justifies me dropping fifteen bucks on a wedge of fancy cheese.

Paradise Cakery French Macarons (adapted from Canadian Living)

1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 egg whites, room temperature, completely free of yolks
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp meringue powder

Optional: very small amount of gel food colouring paste or 2 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder

Filling: buttercream icing or jam of choice

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Before starting, ensure that the bowl and whisk you are using for the egg whites are entirely clean and free of any grease. Wiping around the bowl and whisk with a folded paper towel dampened with a dab or two of lemon juice will do the trick. Trace 1-inch circles, 1-inch apart onto parchment paper cut to fit onto baking tray. Place sheet, marker side down, onto baking tray. In food processor, pulse icing sugar and almonds until very fine. Sift through a fine sieve into bowl; set aside. Discard any coarse leftover grinds. Sift cocoa powder into almond mixture (if using). In a large bowl, beat egg whites (with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer) on medium speed until foamy. Tint mixture with gel colouring (if using).

With mixer on high seed, gradually beat in granulated sugar and meringue powder until stiff peaks form (when you take the whisk out of the bowl, the beaten egg whites will not flop around but rather stand on end…think lemon meringue pie). Fold in almond mixture, one-third at a time, with a large spatula, until blended. Mix only until almond mixture is blended in. Using piping bag fitted with a one-inch tip, pipe mixture onto the 1-inch traced rounds of the parchment paper. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Bake until puffed, smooth, and cracked around the bottom edges, 12-14 minutes. Let cool on pan on rack. You will know when they are fully baked when you try to lift one off the parchment paper and it lifts easily without sticking. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Spread or pipe a little of your favourite buttercream or jam on one side of the macaroon and sandwich it together with another.

They taste wonderful the day they are made but they turn into heavenly delights if they are left to “age” in an airtight container overnight. Just make sure not to crowd them in your container of choice. To make-ahead, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

We took a deep breath, took our time, followed the recipe exactly…and the macarons were lovely. Maybe not perfect in the way that we would beat a pastry chef perfect, but light and fluffy and crispy-chewy. The purple ones fell a little flat, but only because in our excitement we forgot the food colouring and put it in a little too late (after the almond mixture was folded into the egg whites instead of after the beaten whites were foamy). Not a complete tragedy, just a whole lot of purple flat clouds of awesomeness to snack on while we waited for the pretty ones to bake. The cocoa managed to make it in at the right time, and if there was a problem with the chocolate macarons, I couldn’t figure it out after eating eleven of them.

This is the pared-down, simplified macaron recipe that maybe you’ve been waiting for. Also, the gluten-free treat of your dreams or the dreams of your pals who are gluten intolerant. Show up on their doorstep with a little box of these and you’ve basically reached hero status. Don’t make them when it’s raining or too humid, apparently that affects the texture or the egg whites, or something. Yeah, science hey? Pretty weird. Save the rainy days for the gym. Or cookie dough ice cream and Say Yes to the Dress.