Peach & Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I’m in the process of moving right now, which means every spare moment I get between work and sleep is spent enveloping my belongings in bubble wrap and stuffing them into various boxes strewn across my apartment.

It also means purging – something that a lot of people embrace when it comes time to move. I’ll admit decluttering can be a bit freeing. By getting rid of the crap you carry around, you’re admitting that you’ve moved on. You’re accepting that you’re no longer the person you were when you kept these things. It’s almost like a physical reminder that you’ve changed.

But for the most part, I find this emotionally tiring. I attach emotions to these obscure objects – a fleeting memory or feeling is associated with every receipt or grubby pair of shoes found lurking in my closet.

This shouldn’t be difficult for me by now: this will be my sixth move in as many years. But it doesn’t get any easier, the act of dismantling my home, stuffing it in a truck and transporting it somewhere new.

This is an exciting move, though, one of new beginnings. For the past year, I’ve been holed up in a tiny basement apartment in a dreary suburb outside of Toronto. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of living in a basement before, then you know what I mean when I say I’ve been suffering from the “basement effect.” Quite simply it’s the result of living two feet from the furnace, underground, with two prison-size windows providing the only measly bit of natural light available.

So obviously I am extremely excited that in less than three weeks, I will be above ground, within the actual city limits, in a beautiful apartment with real windows in a real Toronto neighborhood.

But at the moment, that doesn’t make packing any easier.

I go in bouts, where one of my different packing styles (hoarder or purger) takes over, and I’m either saving every little do-dad and dust bunny, or I’m considering chucking my passport because I haven’t used it in two years.

All of this packing and purging is taking a toll on my eating habits, as I haven’t had a whole lot of time to prepare balanced meals, and, quite frankly, most of my pots and pans are in boxes right now. As a result, I’ve been eating a whole lot of oatmeal. First it was straight-up oats and milk, then I quickly tired of that and added some cinnamon and chopped apple. That was a hit for week or two, and now I’ve moved on to this beautiful and oh-so-sweet baked version.

It’s extremely easy to make, and will keep in the fridge for a week, so you’ll always have it on hand when you need an energy boost (or, in my case, dinner).

Peach & Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Makes 12 servings.


Large rectangle baking dish
Medium mixing bowl
Measuring cup and spoons


Olive oil cooking spray
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup chopped fresh, jarred/canned or frozen (thawed) peach slices, drained
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp pure maple syrup, plus additional for garnish
1 tsp vanilla yogurt for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mist a large rectangle baking dish with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flaxseeds, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Transfer to dish and shake to distribute evenly. Top with peaches and blueberries. In bowl, whisk milk, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup until combined. Pour over top of oatmeal mixture, gently hitting bottom of dish on your counter a few times so milk distributes into oats.

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden and edges begin to brown. Let cool. To serve, cut into squares and top with additional maple syrup and yogurt, or serve in a bowl with milk and sugar.



Melt Your Heart Blueberry Oat Muffins

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when your parents stop being just your parents, and become something a little bit more. If you’re anything like me, it happened around the same time that you started seeing little bits of Mom and Dad in your everyday motions and movements, in the little things that ultimately make you who you are.

As funny as it may sound, I first noticing these niggling bits of my parents in me when I adopted my cat, Suzie. I would, and still do, run back home after leaving for work to make sure – for the umpteenth time – that I did indeed turn off my hair straightener, lock the door, or put away all the sharp knives. Yes, it’s part OCD, but it’s also done out of love, because I know I’d never forgive myself if something were to happen to my little furry baby.

And because of this, I’ve now gained a new respect for my mom, who countless times throughout my childhood, would turn the car around not long after we left home so she could make sure her curling iron was off. It was annoying and frustrating at the time, but now I feel like it’s a common ground, shared between two very close friends.

My dad and I are two and the same – from the way we bob up and down when we walk to the way we always reach behind the product we want on a store shelf to select the second package in the row. It’s in the way we obsessively fixate on the most benign things, to the point where we bite our nails nervously while standing in front of our dressers every morning trying to decide what to wear. I’ll admit, these were once things that I teased my dad for doing – my teenage self likely made the occasional snarky comment when he refused to grab the first box of rice on the shelf at the supermarket. But now it’s just another quirk that I share with my dad, another reason to laugh when we catch each other doing one of these ridiculous things.

Now, where I once saw two authority figures in my life, I see two people whose words I covet and whose arms I seek the deepest of comfort in. They’re my parents, yes, but they’re also my friends, the people who I know I can always depend on, who see through any facade I try to present and always demand the truth from me.

And I think the real defining moment, when the relationship really started to blossom into what we have today, was when I realized that this dependence and comfort isn’t one-sided. I’m starting to see that just as much as I long for and need my mom and dad, they also lean on me, and depend on me, just like close friends.

I found this recipe in my grandmother’s archive of goodies. I’ve long been a fan of blueberry muffins, and the combination of gooey rolled oats and creamy buttermilk bring these muffins to the top of the recipe pile in my kitchen.

Melt Your Heart Blueberry Oat Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins.


Medium and large mixing bowls
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Rubber spatula
Muffin tins
Wire cooling rack


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup brown sugar or Sucanat
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and well drained


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a medium bowl, combine oats and buttermilk. Let stand until needed.

3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar until well combined. With a spoon, stir egg and butter into oat mixture and mix well. Add oat mixture to flour mixture all at once and stir until just moistened. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries; do not overmix.

4. Pour batter into greased muffin tins, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake on middle rack for 15 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Remove from oven and let cool in tin for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool completely on a wire rack.



Creamy Potato & Ham Soup

It’s been almost a year since I moved away from the East Coast to Toronto – a year that has been by far my most difficult, stressful and terrifying, but at the same time incredibly satisfying.

I’ve had a hard time remembering what my life was like before the move – from the layout of my third-floor Fredericton apartment to the events of the days leading up to the moment where I packed my life in a silver Honda Civic and left everything I knew behind.

I think part of me had blocked it out, to protect myself from getting homesick or feeling out of place in my new home. But lately, as the one year anniversary of my move approaches, snippets of my old life keep creeping in.

It happens unexpectedly, when I’m least prepared. Today it was the smell of an old sweater I hadn’t worn or washed since I moved, still carrying the floral scent of the dryer sheets I used to use.

Yesterday it was the aromatic chance encounter of fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh-made French bread – a heavenly pairing that will always make me think of the farmers’ market down the street from my old apartment.

Once it was a whiff of incense and the distinctive twist of a muscle that, when I closed my eyes, made me swear I was back in my old yoga studio on Fredericton’s sleepy Queen Street.

As I let these memories trickle their way into my consciousness, other things are edging their way back. I can finally remember the drive my mom and I made to move me to Ontario last March, which up until now was just a blur of random gas stations and candy wrappers. I can remember my first week at my new job – the heavy feeling in my stomach of both excitement and fear. And just this afternoon, I was able to fully recollect that moment after the taxi came to collect my mom, leaving me to walk back alone to the strange apartment that was to be my home.

It worried me when these memories first started coming back. I was afraid that it meant I was getting homesick or unhappy. But ultimately, I think somehow I’ve finally come to realize that my memories are not a series of unconnected dots to be filed away by year and forgotten, but rather a timeline of who I am and how I came to be here. These memories are something I should appreciate, because I owe them who I am today.

I decided to make a good, traditional East Coast potato soup after spotting a bag of PEI potatoes at the grocery store last week. I took them home, quickly released them from the familiar Cavendish logo bag, and took a good whiff. You might think all dirt smells the same, but I swear the minute those spuds hit my nose, I was home.

Creamy Potato & Ham Soup
Serves 6.


Large stockpot
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Slotted spoon
Small bowl


1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 lb cooked ham, chopped
5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
6 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup table cream (18%), divided
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, as desired
Chopped green onions for garnish, as desired


1. In a large stockpot, heat oil on medium. Add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and onion turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add ham and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until any liquid released from ham is absorbed. Stir in 5 cups broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups potatoes and transfer to a blender. Add 1/2 cup cream to blender and blend until smooth; mixture should be very thick and creamy. Scoop mixture into a small bowl and set aside. With slotted spoon, remove remaining potatoes from pot and transfer to blender. (TIP: If you want a chunkier soup, leave a cup or two of cubed potatoes in pot.) Add remaining 1/2 cup cream and blend until smooth.

4. Reduce heat to low, return all blended potatoes to pot and stir well to combine. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and milk to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and cook (do not simmer or boil) until heated through. Top each serving with cheese and green onions, as desired.



Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Swiss Cheese Sauce

Hello, prosciutto. Where have you been all my life?

If, like I was until just recently, you are sheltered enough to have never encountered this most delectable of meats, let me explain.

Prosciutto is to ham what Parmesan is to cheddar, what clementines are to oranges, or what a thick, juicy AAA sirloin steak is to ground beef. It’s like once upon a time, someone just decided to take a slice of ham and cure it into heaven.

I’m talking about thin, salty slices of smoky, tingle-on-your-tongue pork that doesn’t need any dressing up or garnishing. Actually, one of my most memorable prosciutto experiences was the Jambon Buerre at a cafe called Bonjour Brioche in Toronto’s Leslieville. As the name suggests, it’s simply a baguette slathered in butter and topped with a generous stack of heavenly ham.

It’s hard to believe that up until just a few months ago, I had absolutely no idea what prosciutto was – if I’d ever heard the term, I likely associated it with some uppity cheese dish that wasn’t really my style. But no, there is nothing uppity about prosciutto. The total opposite, in fact, as the whole premise of its inception was to keep ham tasting fresher for longer by curing it with a mixture of salt and oil. Pretty simple, and incredibly tasty.

There really are no boundaries when it comes to prosciutto. You can even eat it right out of the package, if the mood strikes. You can put it on pizzas or sandwiches or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use it to wrap other incredibly tasty foods, like I’ve done here. You can get a little carried away with all the prosciutto wrapping possibilities – I’ve seen it wrapped around everything from cheeses to mangoes. But my personal favourite way to cook with this Italian gift is to wrap it around chicken – it makes the perfect mouth-watering blanket for tender cuts of juicy chicken.

To get the maximum flavor, I sear my wrapped chicken breasts in a bit of oil to create a flavorful crust. This crust also helps lock in the juices for the next step, baking the chicken, to ensure every inch of the breast is cooked through while still maintaining the perfect tenderness.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Swiss Cheese Sauce
Serves 2.


Cutting board
Plastic wrap
Large stainless steel or cast iron skillet (not nonstick)
Measuring cups and spoons
Metal tongs
Baking sheet
Small saucepan
Wooden spoon


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of visible fat
Pinch each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
2 tsp olive or canola oil
Olive oil cooking spray
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 slices Swiss cheese, torn into pieces (or about 1 cup shredded)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place 2 slices prosciutto horizontally, one higher than the other, on a cutting board and place chicken smooth side down over top of prosciutto. Fold prosciutto over chicken to wrap completely. Wrap each in plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes; this helps the prosciutto stick to the chicken.

3. In a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Once oil starts to ripple, add chicken and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 more minutes.

4. If using a cast iron or all-metal skillet (no rubber on handle), simply transfer skillet to oven. If your skillet has a rubber handle or is not oven-safe, line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Add chicken to sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, prepare Swiss cheese sauce: In a small saucepan, melt butter on low heat. Gradually whisk in flour until thick and well combined. Add milk a little at a time, whisking well between additions, until smooth. Increase heat to medium-low and cook, whisking often, until bubbles start to form and mixture thickens; do not bring to a full boil. Stir in cheese and cook until melted and sauce is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. To serve, drizzle Swiss cheese sauce over top of chicken.

TIP: This dish is great served with a hearty leafy salad, or if you feel like really indulging, I love it with a classic sticky risotto.



Butter Tarts

My friend Emily once told me that there’s something to be said for subservience in a relationship.

My automatic reaction was to dismiss her. I’ve been raised to resist dependence, particularly on a boyfriend, and the idea of being subservient seemed, well, rather archaic.

But I keep coming back to this, the skill (yes, it’s a skill) that allows you to concede absolute control to someone else. I just can’t seem to do it – I can’t release my grip on the reins, even when I’m passing them over to someone I trust completely.

It’s taken me a while to come around to the idea that this is not always a redeeming quality. Sure, it’s great to be independent, but at some point, I’m going to have to let go.

This little problem of mine has been a constant handicap. For starters, the thought of going in a cab paralyzes me for the simple fact that I am nowhere near in control. Sadly enough, this also happens to apply to when my boyfriend, TJ, is driving.

My backseat driving is only the half of it. I get so bad that if TJ even tries to do something spontaneous (and dare I say, romantic), I panic. If I haven’t planned, mapped and predicted the day’s events, I can become a bit hysterical.

Which, I’m realizing, is not only affecting my own sanity and quality of life – it’s paying a pretty heavy toll on TJ, too. He can feel powerless, like he’s constantly sitting in the passenger’s seat of our relationship as I drive along as planned. Needless to say, this has caused issues.

So as much as it pains me (and that women’s studies degree I have lurking in my back closet), I am finally conceding that yes Emily, there is a lot to be said on mutual subservience in a relationship. And there certainly is a lot to be said on not just having trust, but actually showing it.

So let’s get talking.

Butter Tarts
Makes about 12 tarts.


Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Pastry blender
Plastic wrap
Muffin or tart tin
Cutting board
Circular cookie cutter
Medium saucepan
Wooden spoon


5 1/4 cups pastry flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup all-vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white sugar
Olive oil cooking spray

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs


In a large bowl, sift flour. With a pastry blender, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles pea-sized pellets. In a small bowl, combine water, salt and sugar until granules dissolve. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add water mixture all at once. With a fork, stir mixture until water is completely absorbed. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Mist a muffin or tart tin with cooking spray. On a flour-dusted board, roll out dough into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness. With a floured round cookie cutter or the rim of a glass (circle should be large enough for pastry to fit in tin cups), cut dough into circles and line tin with pastry; if desired, cup tart shells in the palm of a rounded hand to form into a flower shape before placing in tin. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter on medium-low. Add sugars, corn syrup, vinegar and vanilla. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly to prevent mixture from burning, until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in eggs, one at a time. Divide mixture among tart shells, filling each 3/4-full. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.


New Brunswick Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

They say time goes by a little more slowly on the East Coast. The people are calmer, the traffic less hectic, and nobody ever really seems to be in a rush to get anywhere.

The stores aren’t open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – in fact, you’ll be lucky to buy a loaf of bread if it’s past 5 pm on a Sunday. It’s what some people might find inconvenient or old-fashioned, but real Maritimers know that there are far more important things to be doing on a Sunday night than scurrying around supermarkets or shopping for handbags. Things like piling wood into your basement for the coming winter, fixing a pot of tea for your family or taking a drive to see your grandparents.

I always used to think that made the Maritimes boring. The fast-paced cities – the ones that rarely seemed to sleep – were exciting to me, a girl from a town so small it seemed to be in permanent doze mode.

But I’m starting to re-evaluate my scathing regard of Maritime life. I’m learning to appreciate that maybe 110 per cent isn’t the be-all-end-all, that maybe firing on just one cylinder isn’t all that bad.

This occurred to me recently while sitting on a two-hour flight back to Toronto, after a solid two-and-half weeks home on the East Coast.

Being home took some adjusting. The very first night back in my old bed, I couldn’t get to sleep. I tried stacking all the pillows under my head, I alternated between laying on my side, my stomach and my back, and I even tried counting backwards from 50.

Around 2 am, it finally hit me: the room was completely, utterly, disturbingly silent. There were no sirens, no traffic, no central air blowing through the vents. There was just my breathing and the occasional crackle from a stick of wood in the stove downstairs.

Total silence. After months of constant white noise, my body couldn’t handle it anymore.

The next day, I woke up to the sound of the kettle whistling downstairs – my dad preparing his morning tea. A very Maritime thing, tea is. City people would much rather guzzle their caffeine in more concentrated and therefore time-efficient forms, from paper cups labeled with Starbucks.

The remainder of my day, and all the other days I was home for that matter, was spent puttering around the house and going for walks through farmers’ fields along the marsh. That’s another great thing about the East Coast – you can walk freely on another man’s property without a suspicious eye targeted your way or a patrol car sidling up beside you.

I ate supper at an actual dinner table at a reasonable time of day, rather than my 8 pm routine of balancing a plate of supper on my knees as I distracted myself with television. I dialed it back a bit, took a few longer breaths, and actually tilted my head upward to see the stars. And, just once, I swear I actually heard snow fall. It was exhilarating.

But rather than get too nostalgic, I’ve been doing my best to incorporate the things I liked best about being on the East Coast into my life here in the city. I’ve been forcing myself to leave work on time so that I can go home and eat supper at a reasonable hour – at the dinner table of all places. I smile at bus drivers and strangers whenever I can, I say “thank you” as often and as heartfelt as possible, and most of all, I’ve been drinking a heck of a lot of tea.

Because it doesn’t really matter where I lay my head at night – in my heart, the East Coast will always be home.

This recipe is adapted from one my dad clipped out of the local newspaper I used to work for. It’s an even sweeter twist on the classic sugar cookie, incorporating my favourite of all genuine East Coast ingredients, pure maple syrup. A dusting of warm cinnamon really does the trick to make them the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of black tea.


Small and large mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden spoon
Pastry cutter
Large baking sheet
Wire rack


1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp white sugar, divided
4 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 tbsp pure maple syrup


Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp white sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and remaining 1/2 cup white sugar. Cut in butter and stir in maple syrup. Form into small 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon mixture to coat (If mixture won’t easily form into balls, drizzle in additional maple syrup and pack well with your hands). Place cookies on a large baking sheet, leaving 1 to 2 inches between each. Bake for 15 minutes, until bottoms are light golden and tops begin to lightly crack. Let cool on sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.



Frying Pan Cookies

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I really, really love to cook. And, if you’ve ever seen me cook, you know that when I do, I like to utilize, in the words of my boyfriend, “Every goddamn dish in the house.”

I also happen to be one of those people who, when completed a task, likes the mess to go away on its own – I’m done with it. I don’t want to look at crusty baking sheets and flour-spattered counters for more than five minutes after the cookies come out of the oven – but I also really, really hate doing dishes.

In my fantasy world, this is where I’d be saying something cheeky like “This is where my boyfriend comes in,” and I don’t blame you for jumping to that conclusion yourself (unless of course, you know TJ…).

So instead of using this space to praise my thoughtful boyfriend, who always rewards my baking and cooking by offering to do the dishes, I’m going to take this time to complain about the fact that somehow, mine seemed to have skipped that gene that everyone else’s boyfriend seems to have – that gene that makes men know that in the end, they’re far better off if they just break down and wash the dishes.

Watching TJ do the dishes (on those rare, fleeting occasions) is a painful, agonizing process. First comes the nag from me: I turn on my sweetest possible voice, bat my eyelashes a few times in his general direction, and ponder, ever so slightly, if he would mind doing the dishes.

Then comes the grunt of acknowledgement from his side of the room.

…Forty minutes pass…

This is when I start to get grumpy. I probe him again, a deeper, darker inflection to my voice as I ask him again, if he could do the dishes.

It continues like this until either a) I get really angry and start doing them myself, or b) he gets the hint and finally walks over to the sink, washes a dish or two, then gets bored and goes back to whatever foolish thing he was doing before, leaving me to either a) nag him again, or b) do them myself.

So you can see why a recipe called Frying Pan Cookies caught my eye when I was sifting through a pile of my grandmother’s old recipe cards a couple of weeks back. Cookies you can make in one simple skillet? I was hooked.

I’ll be the first to admit that the cooking method is not the only unconventional thing about these cookies. They’re not really cookies at all, actually, more like sweet little balls of sugar, Rice Krispies and chewy chunks of dried fruit. But they’re fun to make, yummy to eat and, most important, all you need is one glorious, easy-to-clean skillet.


Large frying pan
(Okay, you also need measuring cups and spoons and a wooden spoon to stir. But that’s it!)


2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped dried cherries, cranberries or dates (for less sweetness, go for unsweetened)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies (I used the red and green kind to be festive!)
1 1/2 cups dried shredded coconut


In a large frying pan, add 2 eggs and 1 cup sugar. Mix until well combined. Stir in dried fruit, butter and salt. Place on low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and Rice Krispies. Let cool slightly. Spread coconut out on a large cutting board. Form Rice Krispie mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in coconut.

Tip: If you have trouble getting the cookies to bind, sprinkle just a few drops of water onto cookies and roll into balls with damp hands.


Blueberry Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast

To say I’ve been lying all these years wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

I kind of always knew I wasn’t allergic to eggs. I mean, I spend a good 95 per cent of my free time baking, which for the most part means licking spoons and scraping bowls of egg-heavy batter. Technically, if I actually was allergic, I’d be a speckled mass of hives – or worse.

It’s kind of like that awkward period in your life when you know that Santa Claus isn’t real, but you go along with it anyway. Maybe it’s to protect your parents from realizing that they’d left the Sears receipt inside the present, or maybe it’s because you really, really want to hold onto your childhood, but either way, you just stay silent to maintain the status quo.

Well, it’s kind of like that. Basically, when I was a kid I got sick, and my doctor prescribed me a medicine called Bactrim. During those same few days, I also tried eggs for the first time. I hated both. Luckily for me, my body didn’t seem to agree with one of them, and I broke out into a series of itchy, blotchy hives.

My mom, always one to err on the side of caution when it came to her children’s well-being, banned both Bactrim and eggs from my reach. I didn’t complain – eggs were kind of gross and so was the syrupy medicine.

So that’s how I came to claim my egg allergy. No matter that over the past 20 years, I’ve enjoyed innumerable egg-laden cakes and batters. Not once have I even so much as had to scratch an itch afterwards.

I’ll admit I’ve used my so-called allergy as a crutch, letting it get me out of having to try foods that I simply didn’t like, particularly those wretched, fart-smelling hard-boiled eggs that would occasionally get forced upon my plate.

I’ve turned down many attempts by friends and family to get me to try an egg and “see what happens” – and despite what I may have told them, it’s not because I was afraid of breaking into spots. I just never liked the look, smell or taste of them, but to explain that to the rest of the egg-loving world has always been too difficult.

And then it happened. I was fumbling through a cookbook of mine this summer when I stumbled upon a picture of tangy cream cheese sandwiched between two thick and gooey slices of bread, topped off with a sprinkling of fresh berries and whipped cream.

Sweet lord, I thought. This is what I’ve been missing.

It started out slow. First, I made chicken fried rice, and actually made a point of trying the little chunks of eggs. Then I went even further, ordering scrambled eggs with my waffles when my boyfriend took me out for breakfast.

But this recipe is the final straw – the final admission that I, Gilean Watts, am 100 per cent NOT allergic to eggs. In fact, I’m kind of addicted to them. So much that for the past four weekends in a row, I’ve started my Saturday with a great big plate of scrambled eggs. I even crave them at weird times, like at bedtime or at 1 AM on a Friday night.

It’s crazy, I know, to be going on about the beauty of eggs, but they really are my new favourite food. To celebrate my introduction into the world of eggs, I’ve created a recipe for one of the most indulgent egg dishes, French toast.

But this isn’t just any old French toast. I’ve stuffed mine with a velvety mixture of cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, sweet vanilla and a handful of my beloved blueberries. Then I topped it all off with a simple blueberry and maple syrup sauce. Be warned: this recipe is addictive, indulgent, and very, very rich. For a twist, try adding different fruit and berries to the filling. This morning, I stuffed thin slices of banana between the bread with the cream cheese filling and blueberries – it was amazing!

Blueberry Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast
Serves 2.


Small saucepan
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden spoon
2 small mixing bowls
Large pie dish or other wide, shallow dish
Rubber spatula


1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp flour
Dash cinnamon
4 thick slices bread
1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
Olive oil cooking spray

1/2 cup cream cheese (1/2 brick)
1/2 tsp sugar
Dash cinnamon
Splash vanilla extract

Blueberry Reduction
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup


In a small saucepan, combine Blueberry Reduction ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for  10 minutes, until thick and reduced.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk egg, milk, 1 tsp vanilla, flour and dash cinnamon. Pour into a large pie dish. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high and coat with cooking spray.

In a separate small bowl, mix cream cheese, cinnamon, sugar and splash vanilla with a rubber spatula until softened. Spread on 2 bread slices. Press 1/4 cup blueberries into cream cheese filling, dividing evenly among slices. Top each with remaining bread slices. Dip in egg mixture, letting each side sit in mixture for only 3 to 4 seconds. Immediately add to skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to serving plates.

Remove blueberry reduction from heat and stir in maple syrup. Drizzle over top of French toast, dividing evenly. Serve immediately.



Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve always had a thing for Italy. The rolling hills, the winding lagoon, the architecture, the music – I could go on, but I’ll stop it at what’s most important – the food.

What I really love about Italian food is its simplicity – you’ll rarely find an Italian dish that requires more than five or six main ingredients. That’s because Italians cherish quality over quantity – it’s evident in everything from their sturdy, centuries-old homes to their penchant for fine leather. You won’t find any crummy subdivision houses or “skim milk” there, at least in my fantasy version.

Even the integral ingredients are basic and mild, yet rich in flavor. Take olive oil, for example, with its subtle hint of fragrant olives and smooth, buttery consistency. There are few things in this world I enjoy more than free pouring a few tablespoons of olive oil into a warmed saucepan and watching it shimmy its way around the bottom, greeting every corner of my pot.

And then there’s the cheese. I praise the day I discovered fresh, fragrant blocks of Parmesan cheese – until then I’d only ever had it in a can, all dried out and awful like you find in the pizza-in-a-box kits. To this day, I still can’t stand the sound of the flavorless little chunks of powdered cheese shaking around in those godawful green canisters that used to lurk in the back of my parents’ fridge.

My most recent Italian discovery is one I try to limit – only because I know if I allow myself to actually buy it at a market rather than enjoy it fleetingly at a restaurant, I will most definitely fall into a salty ham addiction and end up hospitalized for high blood pressure, all 400 lbs of me. Prosciutto, I’m looking at you.

I could go on and on about breads and pastas and meatballs, but I think this recipe pretty much sums it all up. Rich with flavor and texture, this Italian Wedding Soup is kind of addictive and a total reward for minimal effort.

I came up with the recipe after a year of eating as much of it as I could at restaurants – and once from a can, which I don’t recommend. As I was making it, and tasting as I went along, I noticed something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what. It was lacking some kind of thickener, but also a bit of a bit of tanginess – that’s when I realized I’d forgotten to add the eggs. I suggest adding them gradually to get the perfect consistency – and don’t let the soup come to a boil after you add the eggs. And, for the love of God, don’t forget the cheese. It’s the best part.

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 4 – 6.

Mixing bowls
Wooden spoon
2 large pots



1 lb lean ground chicken
1/4 cup grated yellow onion
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced

*Note: This recipe yields a few more meatballs than needed for the recipe. Add them all for a heartier soup, or boil the amount you’d like to use in the soup, and freeze the rest while raw. Pull them out the next time you want to make Italian Wedding Soup, which if you’re anything like me, will be sometime next week.


1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup acini de pepe or orzo pasta
2 eggs
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Italian bread, optional


In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Mix well, then form into small 1-inch balls. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add meatballs and boil until they are cooked through and float to surface of water, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.

In a separate large pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion, garlic and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic begins to brown. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in Parmesan. Gradually stir mixture into soup until combined. Add meatballs and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with additional Parmesan. Serve with Italian bread.



Cookie Dough Ice Cream and Chocolate Sugar Cookie Bowls

Working for a food magazine that promotes healthy eating kind of means you have to, well, you know, eat well. Practice what you preach and all that.

It hasn’t really been a huge shake-up in my life, this conscious decision to embrace healthy foods. I’ve always been a pretty decent eater, more often inclined to eat fresh, whole foods than pre-packaged goodies.

Case in point: When I was eight or nine years old, my bedtime snack of choice was green beans – a big old can of boiled and buttered green beans. Healthy, right?

My sister likes to jokingly accuse my parents of having reserved the healthy food in the fridge for me, relegating her to the packages of chips and cookies that lurked in the cupboards of our childhood. I would deny it, but I can vividly remember my spoiled-little-sister grin when my dad would announce the Red Delicious apples were “only for Little Miss Bean” (I swear my nickname had nothing to do with my green bean snacking…).

So I’ve been eating especially well lately – it’s hard not to when you spend a good part of your day at work reading and writing about the dangers of eating poorly. I’ve even cut back on baking, that weekly ritual of creaming butter and sugar that my boyfriend swears caused him to lose his “hockey body” – whatever that means.

The results have been encouraging. My skin’s cleared up quite a bit, I have enough energy to run regularly and my boyfriend’s lost more than 20 lbs. I’ve been proud of my new lifestyle, boasting to my friends and family how they ought to try it too.

That is, until tonight.

Somehow fate would have it that just as my healthy lifestyle started to really pick up, I would stumble upon a photo of these dastardly delicious cookie bowls, ingeniously made by flipping a muffin tin upside down and covering the convex moulds with dough. Something deep, deep inside of me insisted that I had to have them.

And then, of course, I had to find something to put in the bowls, and what better than creamy homemade vanilla ice cream? And it only made sense to stuff the leftover cookie dough into the ice cream maker too. Doing otherwise would have been a flat-out waste. Right?

I have to promise myself that this temporary relapse into gluttony is just that – temporary. That once I get my fix of these crumbly cookie bowls and smooth and creamy ice cream, I’ll get back on track.

Here’s to hoping…

Cookie Dough Ice Cream and Chocolate Sugar Cookie Bowls
Makes about 9 bowls and 1 litre ice cream


Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Electric hand mixer or stand mixer
Rubber spatula
Cutting board
Rolling pin
Kitchen knife
Muffin tin
Ice cream maker


Cookie Bowls
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp potato starch
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Olive oil cooking spray

Ice Cream
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups half and half
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chip cookie dough


Prepare cookie bowls:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. With an electric hand mixer, beat until fluffy. Alternatively, use a stand mixer on medium speed.

While mixer is running, add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift flour and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating after each addition. Fold in chocolate chips. Reserve 1/2 cup dough, and form remaining dough into a large ball.

Dust a cutting board and rolling pin with flour. Turn dough out onto board and roll into 1/4-inch thickness.

Turn a muffin tin upside-down and mist with cooking spray. Cut out circles of dough large enough to cover the inverted holes of your muffin tin (TIP: I use a pizza cutter, as it allows me to make smooth circles). With a spatula or the flat edge of a large knife, lift circles of cookie dough from board and place over top of inverted muffin tin holes, cupping dough around holes to form a cohesive cup. If needed, patch any holes or tears with additional batter. Remove excess dough from around the cups.

Bake for 10 minutes, until edges begin to turn golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully pry cookie bowls from tin. Turn right-side-up and transfer to cooling rack.

Prepare ice cream:

(NOTE: Most ice cream makers require you to freeze the ice cream maker bowl for up to 12 hours before use.)

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except cookie dough. Turn ice cream maker on and pour cream mixture into bowl of maker. Churn according to maker directions, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, form reserved cookie dough into pea-size balls. Ten minutes before ice cream is complete, add cookie dough while maker is running.

Spoon ice cream into cookie bowls and, if desired, garnish with additional chocolate chips.