Foraged food: Quick pickled Japanese knotweed

Sweet and savoury pickles easy to make and versatile!

One of the things I would love to learn more about is safely foraging for food. There are so many wild edibles out there, if only one knows where to look. Last year, a friend gifted me a bag full of foraged Japanese knotweed and I had fun pickling it several different ways. Here are two of my favourites.


For three one cup / 250 mL jars, prepare the brine by bringing to a boil in a small saucepan:
• 1 cup (250 mL) apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup (250 mL) water
• 1 tablespoon (15 mL) coarse kosher salt

Savoury Pickles:
Pack one wide mouth 1 cup / 250 mL jar with cut knotweed (I stood the pieces up on their ends). Add to the jar:
• 3 slices fresh garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) hot red pepper flakes
• 1 teaspoon (5 mL) brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coriander seed

Pour in enough hot brine from the saucepan to fill and put lid on jar. Let cool on counter to room temperature then refrigerate.

Sweet Pickles:

Pack two wide mouth 1 cup / 250 mL jars with knotweed as above. To each jar add:

  • 3 slices fresh ginger root (no need to peel it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) bruised cardamom seeds

Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar to the remaining brine in the saucepan and heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.

Pour brine into the two jars; top up with a bit of water if you need more liquid to fill completely. Let cool on counter to room temperature then refrigerate.

The pickles are ready to enjoy in 48 hours and should keep in the fridge for about a month. Scatter them on salads or rice dishes or enjoy as you would other pickles (on a charcuterie board, with sandwiches, etc.).

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Quick lemon-thyme loaf

Thyme adds a tasty twist to a classic favourite

I adore all things lemon and this speedy sweet bread is one of my go-to recipes. The addition of  fresh thyme leaves makes this loaf extra-special, providing a nice pop of flavour, particularly in the sweet glaze on top. Easy enough for a weekend brunch, this loaf is so delicious you could also serve it at a fancier event like a tea party or bridal shower. It’s great for gifting too!

quick bread made with lemon and thyme



  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sour cream
  • 1 3/4 cups (415 mL) flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder


  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) water


  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 4 inch (20 x 10 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Make the batter using a stand or electric hand mixer. In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Add sour cream and blend in.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add in, half at a time, to the butter mixture and blend in. Spoon into the loaf pan, smoothing the top with the back of the spoon or your dampened fingertips.
  • Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  • While loaf bakes, prepare the glaze. Put sugar, zest, lemon juice, thyme and water into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat so it simmers and reduce by half (about 6 – 8 minutes). Strain the hot syrup into a jug or glass measure to make it easier to drizzle.
  • As soon as you remove the baked loaf from the oven, poke holes all over the top with a toothpick then pour the warm syrup slowly and evenly over the top. Press a few small sprigs of thyme into the top of the loaf; as the glaze cools, the thyme will adhere.
  • Let cool for 20 minutes then lift out of the pan by the edges of the parchment paper and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.
  • Well-wrapped, the loaf keeps for 3 days at room temperature or 3 months in the freezer.

Makes one loaf.

quick bread with lemon and thyme

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Apple pie rings

Pretty, portable and tasty treats!

I love it when I serve a dessert that delights people with its visual appeal and its taste. When I told recent dinner guests we were having apple pie for dessert, I’m quite certain they did not expect it to arrive at the table in this form. Perhaps they thought I was going to offer them these apple-cheddar biscuits that taste like pie, but I had another trick up my sleeve. These are fun to make and eat; I think they could be ideal for a summery picnic or potluck meal. Delicious on their own, they are even more delightful served with a scoop of ice cream.

apples cinnamon and puff pastry


  • 2 large or 3 medium-sized apples
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Wash apples and slice crosswise into 1/4 inch (6 cm) thick slices.
  • With a one inch (2.5 cm) round cookie cutter or a sharp knife, remove core, making a circular hole in the centre of each slice. Don’t worry if the apple slice splits – you can still use it. Set cored apple slices aside.
  • Combine cinnamon and sugar in a bowl big enough to hold the largest apple slice. Set aside.
  • Roll lightly floured puff pastry out between two sheets of parchment paper to form a rectangle approximately 10 x 16 inches (24 x 40 cm).
  • With a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips – you should get approximately 18 – 20 strips.
  • One at a time, dip both sides of an apple slice in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  • Poke the end of one puff pastry strip through the centre of one apple ring. Gently wrap the pastry around the apple (going through the centre hole each time, leaving gaps between the wraps. Place wrapped apple rings on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

  • Bake for 22- 25 minutes, until pastry has puffed and turned golden brown.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 18 – 20 rings depending upon the size of apples.

cinnamon sugar apples puff pastry

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A festive, flavourful brunch menu

Show Mom you care with a delicious feast!

Truth be told, most Moms do NOT want to be served breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. I can state from experience that it’s more than a little nerve wracking to be told one must stay in bed later than one would prefer, forced to listen to an array of mysterious, possibly messy and/or destructive, sounds coming from the kitchen. Then there’s the panic induced by the sound of young (or older) children trying valiantly to carry trays of food and drink up the stairs to their awaiting mother. It’s a sweet idea but honestly, let Mom do Mom (tea and reading for me, please) for the first hour or two of the day and then treat her to a scrumptious, lovingly-prepared brunch instead. I’ve got a few ideas for you below; search on ‘breakfast’ or ‘brunch’ on this blog and you’ll find loads more recipes that are sure to tickle Mom’s tastebuds. One more tip: be sure to leave the kitchen spotless after brunch is over – that is a gift that never goes unappreciated.

Here’s your tempting Brunch menu; click on the titles to view each recipe:

Smoked Salmon and Strawberry Salad

Salad with smoked salmon, strawberries and goat cheese makes a great brunch or lunch dish.

Apricot Cardamom Cream Scones

No-fuss mini frittatas

Blueberry Cardamom Popovers

Breakfast Blueberry Popovers

Melon and Bacon Salad

Whole wheat gingerbread waffles

whole wheat gingerbread waffles

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Scrumptious smoked salmon spread

Entertain with ease thanks to this tasty make-ahead treat!

Have you ever played the hypothetical “deserted island food” game? In a nutshell, you identify one (or several) foods that you would be quite content to eat every day for the rest of your life, should you become stranded on a deserted island and have to rely on a limited selection of food. I’ve always maintained that my deserted island foods would be baguette, smoked salmon and salad. I think I’m ready to modify that list just a little, and substitute this smoked salmon spread instead. It’s so easy, so delicious and best of all, you can make it up to 48 hours before serving. It’s a huge hit whenever I offer it to friends and family, often leaving me wishing I’d made a double batch so I could enjoy a more substantial portion.  I’ve served this at cocktail parties, book clubs and family brunches and there are never any leftovers. I guess that’s the highest praise a cook can hope for.

Smoked Salmon and cream cheese spread


  • 4 oz (120 g) package of smoked salmon, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped green onions or chives
  • 1 tablespoon (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • Few grinds fresh black pepper
  • Garnish: sprigs of fresh dill


  • Pulse all ingredients except dill together in a food processor until thoroughly blended.
  • Transfer to a serving dish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow butter and cream cheese to firm up and help the mixture solidify a little.
  • To serve, garnish with dill. It’s delicious spread on sliced baguette, crostini or sturdy crackers.

Makes approximately 2 cups (500 mL) of spread.

Smoked salmon spread

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A Tex-Mex roundup for Cinco de Mayo!

Feliz Cinco de Mayo, amigos!

May 5 is a holiday celebrated  in parts of Mexico and the United States in honour of a military victory in 1862 over the French forces of Napoleon III. Here’s a roundup of tasty treats perfect for your Cinco de Mayo party – click on the titles below to link to the recipes.

tex-mex collage.jpg

All are quite fast to make and can easily be scaled up to suit whatever size of gathering you’re planning. They’re all terrific for summertime entertaining, at home or at the cottage!

Fast and flavourful enchilada dip

Tamale pie with chive cornbread topping

Tamale Pie with Cornbread Topping

Grilled Mexican-Style Corn (Elotes Mexicanos)

Elotes Mexicanos

Tex-Mex style steak and cheese sandwiches

Fabulous fajita skillet casserole


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Ham and cheese waffles

Awesome alone but even better for eggs Benedict!

Anyone who knows me knows I am infatuated with waffles. I love sweet variations, served with fruit and maple syrup, of course, but lately I’ve been playing around with savoury waffles too. These cheddar and onion beer bread ones were a huge hit, as were these chive cornbread waffles. But I have to say, this latest variation really hits it out of the park. Light, fluffy and crammed with flavour. I can see using these waffles in all sorts of inventive ways (grilled cheese sandwiches, perhaps). I like to measure out the dry ingredients the night before, as well as prepping the chives, ham and cheese and tucking it into the fridge so that the assembly time in the morning is super speedy. Like most waffles, these reheat beautifully in the oven (or even in a toaster) so you can cook them ahead of time if you prefer.


  • 1 1/2 cups (365 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter (60 mL) melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons (20 mL) finely minced chives or green onion tops
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped ham
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated extra-old Cheddar cheese


  • Preheat waffle iron; preheat oven to 300F and place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir milk, egg and butter into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chives, ham and cheese.
  • Brush waffle iron plates with vegetable oil or your favourite cooking spray. Pour appropriate amount of batter (amount will vary depending on your waffle iron) onto preheated iron this quickly and gently spread it to the edges with the back of a spoon.
  • Cook until waffles are golden, 6 – 8 minutes.
  • Repeat with remaining batter, re-greasing waffle iron between batches. Serve immediately or keep warm on wire rack in preheated oven for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Makes approximately 8 waffles, depending upon your waffle iron.

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