Tamale pie with chive cornbread topping

A tasty twist for Taco Tuesday…or any day of the week!

I recently ventured down a delicious and inspiring internet ‘rabbit hole’. After typing the following into my search engine: ‘what is the greatest recipe of all time’, I took a deep breath and scanned the first few pages of the 67,600,000 hits that were presented. Among them, I spied an article from Bon Appetit magazine talking about a dish I’d never heard of before: cornbread tamale pie. Well, I thought, I’ve enjoyed tamales before and I adore cornbread; this might be an interesting experiment. It was better than that – it was actually a glorious explosion of flavour and quite possibly my new favourite comfort food. Another great thing about my version of this dish is that you can make the filling ahead of time (it could even be prepared then frozen), so all you have to do is whip up a batch of cornbread batter, pop it in the oven, and dinner will be ready in no time at all.

Tamale Pie with Cornbread Topping


Meat Filling

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped green pepper
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and very finely minced
  • 1 pound (454 g) ground chicken, turkey or beef
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste *
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Tex-Mex blend cheese

* I keep a tube of concentrated tomato paste in the fridge at all times. They’re super handy for when you just want a few tablespoons.

Cornbread Topping

  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) buttermilk (or regular milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely minced chives (or green onion)


  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Make the filling by warming the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, green pepper and jalapeños. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground beef to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir well to ensure that the spices and the tomato paste are evenly distributed. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning after it has simmered.
  • While meat mixture simmers, prepare the cornbread topping.
  • Make the cornbread topping by whisking the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter.
  • Pour the wet ingredients over the cornmeal mixture along with the chives and stir together just until incorporated.
  • Stir the grated cheese into the meat mixture and spoon it into a 9×13-inch baking dish, levelling with the back of the spoon.
  • Pour the cornbread batter over the filling, using a spatula to even it out on top. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Allow the tamale pie to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

tasty tamale pie with cornbread topping

Posted in family-friendly main dish, Make Ahead, Meat, Tex-Mex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Maple and Five Spice roasted chicken

A flavourful and aromatic dish!

As an eager experimenter in the kitchen, I was really happy when my kids started to embrace a wider variety of flavour profiles. I love Asian food and now, they do as well. This dish is so flavourful and aromatic that your whole house will smell wonderful whenever you prepare it. I like to serve the chicken with mashed potatoes which soak up the delicious pan juices beautifully. My recommended wine pairing is La Crema’s Sonoma Coast 2015 Pinot Noir; its notes of berries and stone fruit blend extremely well with the orange, maple and five spice elements in this dish. If you enjoy the flavour of five spice, readily available at most large grocery stores or online through Cardamom and Cloves, you may also enjoy this five spice duck recipe.



  • 4 bone-in, skin on chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 mL) coarse salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) very finely minced fresh gingerroot
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) five spice powder

Pan juice

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chicken broth

Maple Glaze

  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) melted butter
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice vinegar


  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rectangular baking pan with tin foil and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine melted butter, salt, garlic, ginger and five spice powder.
  • Rub mixture over the skin of the chicken breasts. Place chicken in baking pan and roast for 20 minutes.
  • While the chicken roasts, make the pan juice by combining juice and broth; set aside. Make maple glaze by combining ingredients in small bowl; set aside.
  • After chicken has roasted for 20 minutes, add broth and juice mixture to the pan then baste the chicken with some of the maple glaze.
  • Baste with glaze every 10 minutes, adding more broth if needed to maintain liquid in bottom of pan.
  • Roast chicken until cooked through to 170F; this should take 50 – 60 minutes, depending upon the size of the chicken breasts.
  • Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Transfer pan juices to a jug and pass at the table.

Serves 4.


roast chicken with maple and five spice pinnable

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Spiced lamb meatball stew with orzo and vegetables

A hearty meal that’s both healthy and flavourful

I often find myself craving particular dishes or ingredients because characters in a book I am reading are enjoying them. Recently, a novel set in England fostered in me a keen desire for lamb meatballs, and thus, this dish was born. It’s a super flavourful meal that is surprisingly quick to prepare; the lamb meatballs provide a beautiful pop of flavor and texture and the tender vegetables blend perfectly with the brothy orzo (pasta). You can shape and cook the meatballs ahead of time and refrigerate until just before serving time; the vegetables can similarly be prepared ahead of time.

lamb meatball stew with pasta



  • 1 cup (250 mL) soft breadcrumbs (about 1.5 slices of fresh bread, crusts removed)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white wine
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt and pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds (600 g) lean ground lamb

Vegetables and orzo

  • 2 cups (500 mL) unooked orzo pasta
  • 4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped Spanish onion
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon each (1.25 mL) fresh ground pepper and kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) dried red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Crumbled feta or grated mozzarella (for garnish)

lamb meatballs with pasta


  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place a wire cooling rack on top. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
  • To make the meatballs, place the breadcrumbs in the bottom of a large bowl. Add white wine and massage it in with clean hands until the breadcrumbs are thoroughly dampened.
  • Add the ground coriander seed, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and ground lamb to the bowl and combine well with your hands. Shape into small meatballs (1 inch / 2.5 cm) and place on wire cooling rack set over lined baking sheet.
  • Bake meatballs in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside (transfer to a bowl and refrigerate if not assembling dish within the hour).
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Add the tomatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, basil, red pepper flakes salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add meatballs, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, while orzo cooks.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Do not drain the cooked pasta as you want the broth in the finished dish.
  • Transfer pasta and cooking liquid to a large bowl. Add the tomato and meatball mixture and toss gently to combine.
  • Spoon into individual bowls; top with cheese and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 – 6.



Posted in lamb, Pasta, Soups and stews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brown butter salted caramel blondies

Rich flavour and chewy texture a standout combination!

I love all things chocolate but have to say that few treats can beat a good blondie, in my opinion. Rich and satisfying, blondies share the chewy texture of brownies, but rely simply on butter and sugar for their distinctive flavour. As an experiment, I tried making a batch this week with brown butter and it was a huge hit with my eager taste testers. Of course, the addition of salted caramel baking chips may have swayed them a little too; they were the same testers who devoured a whole pan of oatmeal shortbread squares with salted caramel chips. This recipe is delicious with regular melted butter, but I highly recommend taking a few extra minutes to brown the butter. You’ll be glad you did.


  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) salted caramel (or butterscotch) baking chips


  • Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, being sure to leave some paper hanging over the sides as handles. Set pan aside. Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Stir constantly to cook the butter until it turns light brown in colour and gives off a bit of a nutty aroma, about 3 – 5 minutes. Note that it will foam as the water in the butter evaporates so it will be tricky to check the colour unless you lift some of the mixture up from the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to burn the butter and as soon as it has browned, transfer butter to a heatproof bowl and let cool to lukewarm (you can speed this up by putting the browned butter in the fridge, but do not let it solidify).
  • In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one), beat together brown sugar and brown butter. Add eggs and vanilla and beat again until well blended.
  • Combine flour and baking powder then add to brown sugar and butter mixture. Beat until blended.
  • Add salted caramel baking chips to the batter and fold in with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and spread so it fills the pan evenly.
  • Bake 23 – 25 minutes until top is glossy, just beginning to crack and feels firm to the touch.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour in the pan. After 1 hour, lift out of pan using parchment paper handles and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cut into squares and serve.
  • Put leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

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All about apples

So many delicious possibilities for this versatile fruit!

I’ve loved cooking with apples since I was a young child. Helping my mom make applesauce, dozens of pies, apple jelly and loads of loaves didn’t seem like a chore because I knew I’d get to enjoy eating these delicious treats all winter long. When my own kids were little, I loved taking them apple picking and they always had fun afterwards choosing what we would make with the beautiful fruit we brought home. However much we picked, it never seemed to be enough! Here are some of my favourite apple recipes developed over the past few years. I’m off to the orchard now to stock up so I can make each of these dishes again and again.

apple picking

Mini shortbread apple tarts with salted caramel

Mini tarts with a shortbread base, spiced apples and salted caramel

Caramel-apple skillet cake

Caramel apple pan cake

Kale salad with apples and cheddar

Kale salad with apples

Sweet apple salad

a nutritious, delicious meal in a bowl

Pickled apple slices

Caramel apple muffins

Posted in baking, Breakfast, Fruit, pickles, Salads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Japanese-style seaweed salad

A make-at-home version of a restaurant favourite!

It’s amazing how tastes change over time. A generation ago, you’d never have found little kids in North America devouring dried seaweed as a schoolyard snack, but it’s all the rage now. I love that seaweed has become a mainstream product, not only because it’s super tasty but also because it’s a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamin C, iron, calcium, fibre and more. Seaweed salad is also all the rage right now in Japanese restaurants and it’s super easy to prepare at home. As an added bonus, you won’t be ingesting yucky food colouring and other preservatives typically added to commercial seaweed salads to give them their unnaturally bright green colour. Homemade seaweed salad is a healthy alternative but it’s advised to consume in moderation given the levels of iodine that are naturally found in seaweed. If you enjoy making simple Japanese dishes at home, you might like these Sushi Salad Spoons or fun Sushi Nachos as well.

Japanese-style seaweed salad

At most health food stores, you can buy packages of different varieties of seaweed – the only one to avoid is toasted nori which is what’s typically used for sushi. I used wakame, arame and pretty purple dulse and it was a great combination of colours and textures. You might also find bags of seaweed salad mix which includes several varieties and would be a great choice.

dry wakame arame and dulse for seaweed salad

Wakame, arame and dulse make a great combination of dried seaweeds to use in salad.


  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed dried mixed seaweed, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use tamari for gluten-free version)
  • 4 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup slivered green onions (scallions)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Seaweed salad


  • To soften the seaweed, soak it in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes.
  • While seaweed soaks, make the dressing. Put the ginger root, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and salt in a jar with a tight lid. Shake to blend well.
  • Drain the water off the seaweed and squeeze out excess moisture with your hands. Dry the bowl (or use another one) then put seaweed in the bottom. Drizzle 2/3 of the dressing to start, toss well and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed and add more dressing, just a bit at a time, until the seaweed is well coated but not soggy.
  • Sprinkle green onions and sesame seeds over top and serve immediately.

Makes 4 small servings.

Japanese style seaweed salad

Posted in appetizer, Asian, Salads, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tempting, tasty tomatoes: a recipe roundup

A few ideas for a favourite fruit (or vegetable)!

That whole ‘tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable’ thing has always been a bit of a brain-bender for me. I mean, I get the science behind it; botanically speaking a fruit is a ripened flower ovary and it contains seeds. By this definition, tomatoes, plums, zucchinis, and melons are all classified as fruits. Regardless of how you choose to classify them, tomatoes are delicious, nutritious and farmers’ markets across the land are bursting with them right now!  Here’s a roundup of some of my favourite tomato recipes. I plan to make all of them this weekend! Just click on the titles below to access the recipes.

Fresh heirloom tomato salsa with cucumber and avocado

Heirloom tomato salsa


Chèvre and chive stuffed tomatoes with crispy prosciutto

Tomato salad with basil and brie


Tomato and goat cheese tarts

Tips for preserving tomatoes

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