The people at Canadian Beef are once again offering a scholarship to Eat Write Retreatthis year. I tried to win one last year, but sadly the random selection gods were not smiling on me. I’m giving it another shot this year with an extra beefy recipe.

This recipe for Tourtiere, a French Canadian meat pie, is adapted from this recipe by Martin Picard. If you’ve ever seen The Wild Chef you know Martin is a little special, and if you’ve seen this episode of The Layover you know he takes Celine Dion very seriously. But to really appreciate Martin Picard, you need to eat at Au Pied de Cochon, his restaurant where traditional French Canadian meals are turned extraordinary (mostly through the addition of copious amounts of foie gras). I managed to get reservations to the PDC Cabane a Sucre for this season and to get myself ready I decided to try this recipe.


The original recipe called for pork, but I swapped the pork shoulder for blade roast and the ground pork for beef. The results were very, very good. Using two kinds of beef creates a nice combination of textures, and the different cooking methods for each adds layers of flavour. This is not a recipe that can just be made on a whim, it’s really a two day affaire. I made the crust and the filling on Saturday, then assembled the pie on Sunday. I hope all the beefy goodness is enough for the random selection gods.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Today was a rough day at work. A new VP for my division was named a couple of months ago, and as always a change at the top means changes throughout. My department wasn’t directly impacted, but someone I worked for for years has been shuffled out. I respect her very much as a manager, and over the years I had come to see her as a friend. She has always been there to listen and offer advice. I’m not worried about her, but I am sorry to see her go. I hope our office friendship has what it takes to be a real friendship.

The announcements and the feeling of uncertainty change always brings has me pretty down. It’s the kind of day that calls for comfort food. Shepherd’s Pie is a favourite of mine, one of those dishes that soothes the soul. I based this vegetarian version on a Chuck Hughes recipe. I’ve made this a few times, each with a little change. Originally I used goat cheese then switched to feta. I’ve also gradually be upping the sweet potato to regular potato ratio. I think all of my adaptations have led me to something pretty tasty.

Combining the sweet potato with regular potato allows the sweet potato flavour to shine through while the regular potato cuts down on the moisture. I really like the combination of lentils and spinach with the mushrooms, and I truly believe feta makes everything better. Well, almost everything.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • olive oil for frying
  1. Soak the lentils in 2 cups of water for 1 hour. Drain then set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, fry the onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add two cloves of garlic and fry until you can smell the garlic. Stir in the lentils, then cover with two cups of water. Add the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary, along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes (you can taste the lentils to test). Drain the lentils and set aside.
  3. In another medium pot, cover the Yukon Gold’s and sweet potatoes in cold water and add salt to taste. Place over medium heat, bring to boil and cook until both kinds of potato are tender then drain. Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk, then crumble the feta and mix it in. Set aside
  4. Heat the onion to 400F
  5. While the oven is heating prepare the spinach and mushrooms. In a medium pan, fry the mushrooms with the final clove of garlic until browned. Stir in the spinach, season with salt and pepper, then stir in the lentils. Remove from the heat.
  6. Spoon the lentil mixture into a baking dish, then top with the mashed potatoes. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown.

Roasted Potato and Radish Salad

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

It’s been awhile since I last participated in a Daring Cooks Challenge. The last few months have been quite hectic, and the challenges just didn’t fit into my schedule or my menu.

This month’s challenge was a different story. Potato salad is one of my favourite summer side dishes and as soon as we planned a hamburger night I knew I’d have to make some. I headed to the market to find some inspiration, but it’s still a little early in the season for most vegetables here so the only thing that caught my eye was radishes. Their bright pink colour just spoke to me.

I decided to roast the potatoes to give this recipe a twist on a traditional potato salad, and wonder what would happen if I roasted the radishes as well. I quick Google search told me that radishes can indeed be roasted. So my salad was planned. It’s quite simple, but since I was experimenting, I didn’t want to throw too much at it. My mom repeatedly requested bacon bits, as “a little bacon never hurt anyone”, but I decided to stick to the healthy aspect of the challenge. In the end, I don’t think it needed bacon, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt. After roasting, the radishes lost their peppery flavour. Instead they were actually quite sweet, sort of like a roasted turnip.

In the future, I think I might do a combination of roasted and raw radish, to get both the sweet and peppery taste. The raw radish would also add a little crunch.

Roasted Potato and Radish Salad

  • 2 lb new potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 lb radishes, cut into bite size pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Toss the potatoes and radishes with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour onto a baking sheet and roast for 45 minute to 1 hour until they are cooked through and lightly browned.
  3. Let the potatoes and radishes cool slightly, then pour them into a bowl. Add the parsley and red onion.
  4. Make the dressing: Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad then toss to combine, making sure the salad is well dressed.
  5. Serve warm.

Chicken with Vegetables & Spinach And Ways to Help

Last week when I decided to cook this dish, I planned to write a silly little post about the pot holes in Montreal, or “nids de poules” as they are called in French (chickens nests). But then Japan happened. Seeing all the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami made writing about a few bumps in the road seem so petty.

People around the world are looking for ways to help. The easiest thing to do is to make a donation to a non-profit that is helping in the area. Which non-profit to donate to is always a tough call. The safe choices like The Red Cross have high overhead costs, and the smaller organizations may not be legitamite. Because of their reputation, I choose to donate to organizations like The Red Cross or Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders); they may have more overhead but they are trusted, well known organizations.

If you are looking for another way to help, Sabrina from The Tomato Tart is hosting an Online Bake Sale to help Japan. Check out her post if you want to donate goods or bid.

If you simply want to donate, here are a few links.

In Canada:

The Canadian Red Cross

Medecins Sans Frontieres



In the United States:

The American Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders



And now for the recipe…

Chicken With Vegetables and Spinach

  • 2 chicken legs
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper and thyme to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • fresh spinach
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Clean and pat dry the chicken legs. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the onion, garlic cloves, bell pepper and potatoes with oil so that everything is coated. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
  3. Place the vegetables on a large baking sheet in an even layer. Place the chicken legs on top of the vegetables. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the pan. Place the pan on a burner on high, pour the wine into the pan and deglaze (scrape up all the brown bits).
  5. Place the chicken and vegetables on a bed of spinach and top with the wine sauce.


Simple, Comforting, Delicious: Roast Chicken

It’s amazing how quickly stuff can accumulate. I’ve been in my current condo since 2006. It was my first place so all I had when I moved in were the basics. My budget was pretty tight in the beginning, so I stayed with the basics for awhile. As time went on and I got more comfortable, I started buying some of those “nice to have” things. Then I started buying the “don’t really need by it’s so darn cute” things. Now as I’m decluttering and simplifying for my next move, I’ve realized that I’m bursting at the seams with stuff.

I know most of it is unnecessary, but just putting things in a box is difficult. It’s easy to become attached to stuff. Memories and emotions get all mixed up with possessions. I know that by choosing to sacrifice square footage in order to be in a better location, I’ve also made the choice to simplify. I need to start embracing that.

Simplicity can be a very good thing, like this one pan meal of roast chicken and vegetables. Low on effort and dirty dishes but high in flavour, this is one of my favourite things to make when life gets a little too hectic. Just chop up some root vegetables, toss them with oil and pour them in a pan, put some seasoned chicken on top and roast. I used chicken legs, but if you’re feeding a crowd a whole chicken be used in the exact same way, just use a deeper pan.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

  • Chicken Legs
  • Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Carrots, cut into chunks
  • Leeks, cleaned and sliced into large pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Put the potatoes, carrots and leeks in a pan. Drizzle with some olive oil, then season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Toss until the vegetables are evenly coated ( I used my hands)
  3. Season the chicken legs with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Coat with a small amount of oil, then sprinkle with paprika.
  4. Place in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and the chicken is cooked through. (Test the chicken by piercing it with a knife and seeing if the juices run clear)


Gluten-Free Breakfast – Poached Eggs with Spinach & Home Fries

Earlier today we celebrated Sasha’s second birthday. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fun I had at a child’s party. Turns out toys are fun for grown ups too. I have to tell you I am incredibly proud of myself for not breaking my sugar-free/gluten-free fast. Turning down the birthday cake was a lot easier with a gluten-free buddy, and I discovered that another party goer was in the process of eliminating gluten to test for intolerance. We both agreed that snacks and breakfast are the toughest meals of the day. She’s tackling the situation the way I did the first time I eliminated gluten, by replacing her usual foods with gluten-free versions. Although that works it is very expensive; a small loaf of bread is anywhere from 5 to 7 dollars in Montreal.

(I love the spots on organic eggs)

This time I decided to tackle the situation by actually changing the way I eat. Gluten free bread is a poor substitute for the real thing, so I see no point in eating it. The question then becomes, what to eat for breakfast? This meal is one of my solutions. I was inspired by Janice’s Bistro Style Egg Sandwich, but replaced the English muffin with oven baked home fries. This breakfast is great for a Saturday morning. It’s filling and delicious and pretty easy to make if you have a little time. I used a poach pod to poach my egg as none of the traditional methods ever work for me.

Poached Eggs With sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms and Home Fries.

  • Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 mushrooms per person
  • A large handful of baby spinach per person
  • Eggs

For the Potatoes:

  1. Slice the potatoes in half and peel them.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes. Potatoes should be slightly less than cooked through.
  3. Cube the potatoes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight if you are planning ahead (this step is important, it leads to crispy fries)
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  5. Toss the chilled potatoes with olive oil to coat and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bake for 20- 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes at least twice so that the are properly browned.

For the Spinach and Mushrooms

  1. Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Cook the sliced mushrooms until browned.
  2. Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

For the Eggs

  1. Crack an egg into a lightly greased poach pod.
  2. Fill a medium pot with about 2 inches of water. Heat until simmering. Gently place the poach pod in the simmering water. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cover.
  3. Cook the eggs for 4 to 7 minutes, depending on the desired doneness (that might not be a word).

Place the spinach and potatoes on a plate, and top the spinach with the poached egg. Season with salt and pepper.