Lessons from Culinary School, Main

Honey Brined Chicken

If you’re anything like me, then you love the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. It’s comfort food, right?? But, if you’re also like me, you get into a rut – plain old chicken, but still that yummy smell!

Plain no longer! This week at chef school I learned (among other things) the secret to brining! So here we go!

300 ml Vermouth
240 ml Kosher salt
140 ml honey
1 onion sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
45 ml black peppercorns
15 ml celery seed
3 sprigs Rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs parsley
7 bay leaves (broken a bit)
1 chicken – about 2.5-3 lbs

Mix all the brine ingredients together


Bring to a boil in a large pot with about 2L water


Cool the brine mixture to room temp – hint, if it’s cold outside, just cover the pot and place outdoors!

Rinse the chicken, and submerge in the brine. I used a small bucket for this. Cover it!!!! Brine overnight, or 6-8 hrs. (Absolute minimum 4 hrs.) it’s important that you refrigerate the bucket of chicken while its brining…. If not, a trip to the ER is going to be in your future – can you say “food poisoning”?


Thoroughly rinse the chicken and place it in your roasting an, or whatever you want to use! I massaged it with some delicious Olive Oil and a bit of salt & pepper. Feel free to add herbs!


Roast it in your oven at 375 for 25 minutes, then lower the temp to 325 and continue for an additional 45 minutes (or until your chicken is cooked, the juices run clear). Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Here’s my chicken still in my LeCreuset. We gobbled up way too much and way too fast to get a good picture of it sliced so pretty!

Enjoy! And Happy noshing,



Vegan Stuffed Peppers – Guest Post!!

Vegan Stuffed Peppers – a healthy (and delicious) choice!


I am very happy to share the following post and recipe from Jay Wood.  While I am not a vegan, I can appreciate a good recipe when I see it!  This one looks like a winner and I know I’ll be testing it in my own kitchen soon!

Guest Post by Jay Wood  (www.jaywoodphotography.com)

For those of you unfamiliar; the term “vegan” was coined in the 1940s by Vegan Society founding member Donald Watson, who derived it from the first three and last two letters of Vegetarian ‘because Veganism starts with Vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.’  Like Vegetarians, Vegans refrain from eating meat but take it further and don’t include any bi-products from animals such as dairy or eggs either.  A vegan diet is a purely plant-based diet.

There are plenty of benefits to enjoying a plant-based meal for those who normally enjoy meat-based meals.  For example; in this recipe you can benefit from all the protein needs that are normally met through a meat diet, but with less cholesterol, saturated fats, and calories.

One of the main ingredients in this recipe is black beans. When measuring the 15 ounces of Black Beans used in this recipe against the same measurement of ground beef,  black beans contain the same amount of protein, with no cholesterol, no saturated fats, but high fiber (ground beef has no fiber) and phytonutrients (which may help prevent disease). Ground beef contains no phytonutrients, and actually contain heterocycilic amines (which may increase the risk of cancer).

So having mentioned this, I’d like to share this recipe with you, and then layout some of the benefits of the ingredients afterwards.



1 Medium red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

2 Tbs Safflower Oil

1 Cup finely chopped cucumber

1 Tbs ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)

2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes

1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 Cup Quinoa

3 large carrots, grated (1 cup)

3 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs & seeds removed

Peppers all prepped and ready to be filled with the quinoa mixture
Peppers all prepped and ready to be filled with the quinoa mixture


1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cucumber, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sautÈ 1 minute. Stir in drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping quinoa mixture, wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake 1 hour. Uncover, and bake a further 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates.

The great part about cooking this is that the Quinoa mix has a southwest aroma to it , which I thoroughly enjoyed during the preparation.  Those final 15 mins of baking without the foil was great because it made the tops crispy which added a nice alternate texture to the dish.

* I personally added some frank’s hot sauce to the tops of mine, because I like it spicy.

Nutritional Benefits:


  • Complete Protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids
  • Almost twice as much fiber as most other grains.
  • Lysine (mainly essential for tissue growth and repair)
  • Riboflavin (improves energy metabolism and aids with relieving migraines)
  • Manganese (antioxidant)
  • Also a source of Iron, Carbohydrates, Calcium, potassium, sodium and Magnesium
  • Lowers Cholestrol
  • Reduces high blood pressure and diabetes

Black Beans:

  • Aids with digestive tract
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Cardiovascular Health
  • Cancer prevention
  • Nervous system health


  • Phytochemicals (improve working of Vitamin C in body boosting immunity)
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Prevents cancer
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Helps reduce inflammation, and heal infections
  • Reduce risk of gastric Ulcers
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A


  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-Aging
  • Vitamin A
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Reduces Cholesterol
  • Helps prevent stroke


  • Iron
  • Aids in digestion
  • Boosts immune system


  • Promotes joint health, relieves gout and arthritis pain
  • Helps cure diabetes, reduces cholesterol and controls blood pressure
  • Aids in weight loss and digestion


  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Prevents DNA damage
  • Reduces risk of Heart disease
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Potassium
  • Niacin (helps fight depression)
  • Fiber, Magnesium, phosphorus and copper
  • Calcium
  • Reduces risk of cancer
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Help reduce chronic pain & inflammation


  • Strengthens immune system
  • Vitamin C
  • Helps protect against Heart disease
  • Vitamin B6
  • Regulates Blood sugar


  • Capsaicin (controls diabetes, relieves pain, eases inflammation)
  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6


Thank you Jay, for sharing one of your favourite recipes with us!  I know I’ll be giving this a try for sure!

Enjoy, everyone!

Happy noshing!


Pizza Pasta – A perfect marriage of taste!

About a week or so ago, we had a farewell party at our home for my daughter and her husband.  Steve is doing some military training and will be off to Gagetown, NB on Saturday.  😦  Kirstie is pregnant.  She’s having our first grandchild. The thought of having her a thousand or so miles away was tough but I’m ok, I can deal!  We wanted to give them as well as family and friends an opportunity to say goodbye.  We invited lots of people, and as usual, some didn’t rsvp but showed up. No problem… just a “food” issue!  How many do you prepare for?  Yikes.  Well, everyone got fed so that’s a good thing.

The menu revolved around finger foods and small appetizers; meatballs in a sweet & spicy sauce, bacon wrapped jalapeno meatballs (’nuff said… yum!), fruit with Kirstie’s favourite fruit dip, veggies & dip, cheese, individual quiches, etc., and the one dish that was devoured as quickly as it went out…. and as my husband kindly pointed it “it’s not a finger food”… Pizza Pasta!

Imagine combining two of your favourite foods into ONE dish!  Can you say “party in your mouth”?  I found the recipe on Chef Michael Smith’s website so full credit goes to him.  Of course, anything that comes out of Chef Michael’s kitchen is always yummy good and simple to make.  By the way, Congratulations to Chef Michael on being awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal!  You make Canada proud Chef!  [of course, my son Jason also received one!!!… he makes his MOM proud… as well as Canada!]

Okay, back to the party!  ….

Pizza Pasta is the perfect marriage of two wonderful dishes into one!  Speaking biblically “the two shall become one” and in this dish, that is exactly what you get!  What makes it so unique is the roasting of the ‘pizza’ ingredients in the oven before adding the pasta.  This isn’t a dish that you can whip up in ten minutes, so if you make it, plan for some roasting time, about an hour for those tomatoes and onions to reach their delicious roasted best!  Up for the challenge? It’s really quite simple!

The recipe has a copyright on it, so I can’t just reprint it here… sadly…. but I am happy to provide you with the link: what I can do is run through the list without being “specific”… I hope that bypasses copyright?  If not, Chef Michael, forgive me, but it was AWESOME!

Now, before you click away on the link above and leave me (sniff sniff) – let me continue…..

The best part, as I said was the roasting.  Below is a beautiful picture (natch!) of the roasted tomato sauce before I added the pasta.  The aroma that wafted through the house was UNBELIEVABLE!  It took so much willpower not to just get a fork and dig in as it was!

Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!
Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!

So, here’s what I did:

Start by preheating the oven to 400 F.

I took about a pound of spicy pepperoni and chopped it up.  Michael says 1″ pieces but that’s a bit big, so i did it a bit smaller than that.   Then I cut up two relatively large onions – don’t go nuts here looking for the two biggest onions you can find. Just cut two onions. If you have small ones, use 3.  You get the idea.  You should cut the onions in half, then quarters, then eighths.  Okie dokie? Following me?  Good… let’s continue….  Michael suggests 4 pints of cherry tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes and used about 3 pints.  Suggestion – go with Chef Michael’s 4 pints of Cherry tomatoes – juicier!  You’ll need that later.  Then he tell us to peel a whole head of garlic and slice it all in half. Check.  Did that one!  LOVE LOVE LOVE my garlic!  When it’s roasted it loses a lot of its pungency so don’t be afraid of it, use it!  Toss all of these ingredients in a large bowl with 3 tbsp of dried oregano and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I didn’t measure.  I just tossed and coated.  My bad?

Turn these ingredients from your bowl into a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish.  This is where I used my most fave – my Pampered Chef dish.  It’s big, it’s deep, and it’s pretty enough to put on my table afterwards! What would I do without Karen? My fave PC Consultant who keeps me well stocked!  Okay, once in your own fave dish, pop it into your preheated oven and bake!  After about 30 minutes, stir it up and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.  About 1 hour or so in total.  Your tomatoes, onions, and garlic will be beautifully roasted and the pepperoni will be darker and aromatic!  Oh I can smell it all over again.. Getting hungry?  Yuuuup!

While this is in the oven roasting away, you can get started on the pasta!  Now, again, Chef Michael says use 1/2 a package of penne. I wanted to feed lots of people so I used a whole package.  What I learned was Chef Michael is the professional and I am not!  Use 1/2!  Unless you want to cook the whole thing and save 1/2 for another time?  Go ahead.  Remember – you need to cook pasta in salted water – pasta has very little flavour, so seasoning the water with salt is a good thing!  When it’s tender, drain it but don’t rinse it!   You want that starchiness!! Reason? Helps the sauce stick to the pasta!  Oh Chef, you are so smart!!

So, recap… roasting is done.  Pasta is done.   Turn your oven to broil now.

Stir the hot pasta into the hot ‘sauce’.  Now… HERE’S where it gets even yummier!  Take about 4 oz of cream cheese. I used light.. after all I AM watching my waist! (no I’m not) Cube the cream cheese and stir it into the pasta/base mixture.  Is the smell driving you wild  yet?  If it’s not… you are not a true pizza/pasta fan!  😉

Top the whole thing with shredded mozzarella – As much as you want!  You-know-who says 3 cups, I think I used about 3 cups too.

Ready to go under the broiler now!
Ready to go under the broiler now!

Pop it back in the oven under the broiler until it’s bubbly and looks a little golden on top.   Keep an eye on it – it won’t take long – about 5 minutes or so.

What you are left with is a creamy, yummy, pasta dish that tastes like PIZZA!  I wish I had a picture of the finished dish, but the second it came out I was too overcome by its beauty and aroma, but the second it came out it went on the table and was eaten pretty quickly!

So really, the “time” is in the oven roasting.  Cutting those little tomatoes in half didn’t take long.  Chopping up the pepperoni didn’t take long.  Peeling the garlic… ugh… thankfully I do have a garlic peeler so it didn’t take long either.  The beauty part of the larger pieces of garlic is that if someone really doesn’t want to eat it, the pieces are large enough that they can be picked out and set aside by your guests.  Serve this with some fresh garlic bread (if you aren’t in garlic overload yet) and maybe a nice green side salad and you’ve got a fabulous dish.

For us, we just gobbled it up on its own!  Like pizza! Only on a plate… and with a fork.

Well, that’s it. I hope you try it, and that you enjoy it.

Oh… final parting words….  Turns out that my daughter is NOT moving to New Brunswick with her husband – crazy military – he’s still going, but should be back about a week before her due date!  Yikes… hope she’s not early!

Coming up next on the blog: a Valentine Day giveaway that involves – you got it, CHOCOLATE!  Make sure you tell your friends to start following so they can get in on the chocolate action!!

Until then,

Happy noshing!


Happy Easter… and Kitchen disasters!

Well, Happy Easter everyone.

HE IS RISEN!  (He is risen, Indeed!)

Four of the kids made it home for Easter Dinner – we missed Adam but overall, we had a nice visit together as family.  Cooking on the other hand, was a bit of a challenge.  My oldest son, Jay, has recently embraced a vegan diet. The menu for today was ham.  Hmmm, what to do!  After making sure I had all the ingredients I needed, I prepared my ham – with scalloped potatoes, carrots, and asparagus.  I also made – for Jay – “Paradise Island Black Bean Burgers”, courtesy of “Eat Clean Diet, Recharged” (Rbt Kennedy Publishing, Tosca Reno Author.)

But first… I need to tell you about my ‘disaster’.  I set my oven and off we went to church this morning.  Came home and found out that although the timer on the oven went fine… it didn’t cook a thing! My oven failed to turn on!  ARGH!!!!  So, the scalloped potatoes and ham were nowhere ready to be had!  So frustrating!  Immediately turned everything on… and started to plan… what could we eat while we waited now?  Easy….

While we wait for our daughter and son-in-law to arrive, we were getting a little hungry so I made a quick appetizer – Kale Chips.  So yummy!  Basically chop fresh kale, toss lightly with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and bake in the oven until they are crispy. These were so yummy!  We ate all of them!

Next… I prepared the vegan dish for Jay.  The day before I had cooked up some brown rice and put it in the fridge.  Mixing 1 cup of cooked brown rice together with 1 cup of black beans (I used the PC Blue Menu ones, rinsed!) mashed.  Added 2 tbsp of mashed cooked sweet potatoes and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  So far, so good.  Then, to that I added some chopped green onion (just the whites) some cumin (1/2 tsp) chili (1 tsp) oregano and basil (about 1/2 tsp each) and 1/4 tsp salt.  Mix it all together and form in to 4 patties.

Popped these into a non-stick pan with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and browned each side – basically until heated through.

These smelled wonderful!  Jay was impressed – served it up on Ezekiel bread.  Jay added ‘burger fixings’.  The burgers were a smash hit.  He ate one while we waited on and on for the scalloped potatoes……  my disaster….. the milk in the potatoes boiled up and over and made a mess in my oven.  (It’s currently in self-clean mode).

With everyone at the table… we enjoyed a delicious Easter Dinner together – 5 of us enjoying Ham and potatoes and the extras, and 1 enjoying his vegan meal.

I hope you and those you love enjoyed the day and reflected on its meaning!   Happy Easter – He IS risen!

Happy noshing!

Paradise Black Bean Burgers
(Eat Clean Diet, Recharged)


Any more chicken and I’ll sprout feathers!

For the past week, I’ve pretty much had nothing but chicken! Chicken for lunch.  Chicken for a snack.  Chicken for dinner.  Chicken, chicken and more chicken.  My hubby went away for the week and so on Monday night I just bbq’d up a week’s worth of chicken!  I think I’m about to sprout feathers!  Not the case tonight.  Tonight I’m making a delicious bison tenderloin with a zesty coffee rub for dinner.  I wish I could claim it as an original recipe, but alas, it is not!  It is, however, from the Eat Clean Cookbook (2009, Tosca Reno, Robert Kennedy Publishing, p243).  Because my weigh-in today was so positive (down 3.6 lbs) I am inspired and encouraged to keep on going…sans poulet!

I visited the Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket and picked up a few things to keep me on track and eating clean.  One of the items in my basket was a delicious Bison Tenderloin.  I love Bison.  The flavour is very mild and the meat is so lean! If you absolutely love beef tenderloin, I’d highly encourage you to try Bison!  Your family won’t notice the difference, except that it’s pretty much fool-proof – it’s so lean and tender!

So, to cook our bison, I’m using 10 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole.  Yes… 10… T-E-N.  We’ll also be using the best quality EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil… now that you know what it stands for, I’ll use EVOO in my blogs from here on), and of course the Zesty Coffee Rub.

With my oven good and hot (400F / 200C) and the bison at room temp (important!) lightly coat your roasting pan with the EVOO. If there is any visible fat on the tenderloin you should remove it.

Next, make slits in the bison and slide in those cloves of garlic!  Yummy.  You should SMELL my kitchen!  Awesome!

Now, let’s make that zesty coffee rub! Must admit, I was skeptical at first…. coffee? on my tenderloin? Bah.  Actually, all the spices together with the coffee, well, it just smells awesome!  Can’t wait to taste it on the finished tenderloin.  So, here we go.  You’re going to need:

2 TBSP of finely ground fresh coffee beans, 2 TBSP freshly ground black pepper, 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt, 1 TBSP ground cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder (I know…. you think we’ve already used enough garlic!  Trust me on this one!!!!) and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Mix all these together in a bowl until it looks like everything is really combined well!   I rubbed the meat, really gave it a good massage (as instructed in the cookbook!) using up ALL the rub.  Be sure that you haven’t missed any of those hidden little places!  Get it all in there!

Place your bison into the prepared roasting pan and roast for about 40 minutes.  Bison is so yummy, and really as long as you don’t over-cook it, it will taste so amazing!!!!

So, it’s ready to come out of the oven now.  I’m going to let it stand for about 5 minutes and then slice it thinly.  I’ve prepared some herb and garlic roasted baby potatoes with small onion (there will be NO vampires visiting our home tonight!) and some steamed green beans.  I opted to leave the green beans plain.  This meal is seasoned enough!

Okay, picture time, then we’ll eat this yummy smelling dish! (confession – I already nibbled a bit of the bison, it’s A-MA-ZING!

This meal is considered “clean” and very healthy for you!  Enjoy it without any guilt!  🙂

Until next time,

Happy noshing!