Category Archives: Project Food Blog

Foodbuzz Challenge #4: Picture Perfect


This week I received a review copy of culinary legend Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook release, Around My French Table. As soon as I spied the front cover I began to drool, and knew immediately that should I make it to round four of Project Food Blog that this would be the recipe I would choose for my post. Tasked with documenting (through photos) a recipe that instructs readers in a step-by-step format, I wanted to create something that was visually interesting and made people want to leap into their kitchens and make it for themselves. I’m happy to say that I did advance to round four (thanks for all the support!), and that I did make the cover recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book. Only thing left is to find out if my post is inspiring enough to have you try the recipe!

The recipe pictured on the cover was for chicken in a pot (click here for the recipe). The whole concept of cooking a chicken in a casserole dish sealed tight with a flour and water dough mixture placed around the edges of a Dutch oven, was a technique I had never seen before let alone attempted. I was intrigued!

First order of business – preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

While oven is preheating, peel half of a preserved lemon. This proved to be embarrassingly challenging and in the end I had to resort to brute force in order to pop the lemon out of the jar. NOTE: a preserved lemon (or citrons confits) is a Moroccan and Middle Eastern specialty, and involves making deep slits into lemons which are subsequently marinated in a brine of salt and lemon juice for a minimum of three weeks.

Chop the lemon rind into small pieces. Next, bring water and sugar mixture to a boil and add the lemon peel. Cook for 1 minute; drain and set aside.

Okay now it’s time to prep all that veg!

This includes chopping celery into 1 inch pieces…

…separating (but not peeling) 4 heads of garlic…

…and peeling 16 mini white onions. Yes – peeling those lil’ itty bitty onions are just as much of a pain as it looks! But they are definitely worth the effort as they become lovely and caramelized and just pop in your mouth.

Next, peel and slice carrots and yams into equal sized chunks, approximately 2 inches.

Whew – veggies are prepped and ready to go!

Sauté vegetables in Dutch oven over high heat until starting to brown. I found it useful to do this in two batches which was more time consuming but ensured all veggies browned nicely.

Remove vegetables from the heat and stir in herbs and reserved lemon peel.

Heat a skillet over high heat and add the chicken, browning on all sides and seasoning with salt and pepper as it cooks. I used a pair of tongs to turn the chicken which worked quite well.

Nestle the browned chicken in the Dutch oven, surrounding it with the vegetables. Mix together the chicken broth, white wine and olive oil mixture and pour over the chicken and veggies. Set aside.

Mix the flour and hot water to make a pliable dough.

Using your hands, roll the dough on flour dusted surface into a rope that is long enough to go around the entire rim of the Dutch oven. If the dough breaks, simple press back together.

Press lid into dough to seal the pot. Place in the oven and bake for 55 minutes. NOTE: being sceptical that a chicken this large (4 lbs) could cook in such a short period of time, I left it for longer and the chicken turned out to be overdone. Luckily the sealed pot technique kept the meat moist, but the bottom line here folks is to trust Dorie. She knows what she’s talking about!

Okay at this point it is important to do three things:

First, arrange for take-out food for the kids because earlier in the day you decided to take them to the pumpkin patch and didn’t get home till much later than planned and apparently an hour is just too long for them to wait.

Next, clean up the disaster in the kitchen. If you have no mess to clean up because you are one of those people who are always annoyingly vigilant about cleaning up as you go, kindly keep this information to yourself.

Now take the remainder of the white wine and pour yourself a nice big glass. It’s well deserved!

And finally, be sure to take a moment to put your feet up and relax. Gotta love recipes that allow for some downtime!

Once the chicken is done, Dorie recommends using a screwdriver to help pry the lid free. However, I found the lid lifted easily on its own. Be careful not to get burnt by the steam when breaking the seal, and be prepared for intoxicating smells to waft through your kitchen. No need to sound the dinner bell…they will all come running to the table!

We carved the chicken in the kitchen and brought the pot of vegetables to the table, sopping up the delicious sauce with chunks of fresh bread.

This meal is the epitome of comfort food. The simple flavours let the ingredients speak for themselves, the casual nature of the meal allowing guests to connect with their food in a true spirit of togetherness and camaraderie.

Simple. Tasty. Perfect.

In celebration of CookThatBook’s one year anniversary, next week I will be giving away a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” to one lucky reader! Stay tuned for more details. Book courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son, Ltd.

Follow Project Food Blog for contest updates and to find out who will be the next Food Blog Star! Voting for the fourth round is from October 11-14. (NOTE: you will need to create a Foodbuzz profile in order to vote. This just takes a minute so please don’t be deterred!)

Foodbuzz Challenge #3: Luxury Dinner Party


Dear Martha,

I’m sorry you were unable to join us for dinner this past weekend. We even set a place for you at the table in case you managed to show up last minute. Not to rub it in or anything, but boy did you miss out!

Recognize the place card?! We downloaded one of the clever little templates you have up on your website!

The theme for the night was Greek. When devising the night’s menu I wanted to ensure that people were not thrown entirely out of their culinary comfort zone, but that they were still given an opportunity to experience some unfamiliar flavours and dishes. This is partially the reason why I opted for Greek cuisine, as most people have tried at least some aspect of this type of food yet it still left me with room to expand the scope of dishes served and include some lesser known items.

Here’s what was on our menu for the evening:

To start the night off with a bang; saaaaannnnngriiiaaaaa! Everyone brought a bottle of red wine to go into the communal sangria bowl, which was a fun way for people to contribute to the festivities. (For a copy of Mr. Spock’s Winter Sangria, click here).

To be honest, the beginning of a meal is my favourite part and sets the tone for the evening. I try to include food that is not fussy, tastes delicious and needs to be eaten with your hands. I remember reading in one of your magazine issues that starting off the night with finger food is a good way to have people really connect with their food. Couldn’t agree more!

There was a nice variety of appetizers, including Roasted Feta with Olives & Red Peppers, Garides Saganaki (shrimp with tomatoes & feta), Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), Spanakopita & Tzatziki (Traditional Greek Spinach & Feta Cheese Pie), along with an assortment of crackers, grilled pita & Greek olives. (NOTE: to view individual recipes please click on each dish).

Dolmades were the one thing I was unsure about, yet they ended up being the most beloved item of the night. These little guys had so much life compared to the slimy, tasteless deli prepared offerings we’ve had in the past! Have you ever made Dolmades? Perhaps we could swap recipes some time…

The whole idea of connecting with the food was continued by adopting a casual, family-style approach of dinning. Just because you’re throwing a luxury dinner party doesn’t mean you need to necessarily eat in an overly stuffy manner with the correct fork at the correct time. It is important to me that my guests feel relaxed and have an opportunity to take pleasure in the food!

So what did we serve as the main? You’ll kick yourself for not making more of an effort to join us when you hear that Mr. Spock served up a glorious – and you know I don’t use that word lightly when referring to food – Rotisserie Oregano-Crusted Leg of Lamb (click here for the recipe). It was absolutely heavenly, roasted to perfection and full of flavour. He chose to use a bone-in leg of lamb, which he deboned and marinated overnight. The next afternoon my handy hubby trussed the meat back around the bone and slow cooked it on the rotisserie. To go with the lamb I served Roasted Greek Potatoes and a Greek Salad, both of which were incredibly tasty (click here for the recipes).

To finish the meal we enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean Almond Cake served with Amaretto Cream, a nice dessert which was not overly sweet. The best part? Leftover cake which we devoured for breakfast the next day!

As the ‘queen of entertaining’ I’m sure you have an infinite number of hosting tips, but here’s a list of the things that I found useful while executing my dinner party:

  • Wear comfy shoes – never ever underestimate the crippling power of uncomfortable shoes. Footwear can make or break your evening as a host!
  • Prep! Prep! Prep! I tried to make as much food as possible ahead of time so I wouldn’t be stuck slaving away at the stove all night. Your guests are here to socialize with you and should not have to endure your absence while you toil away out of sight, nor should they have to smell the results of all that toiling! (NOTE: The night before the party Mr. Spock marinated the lamb while I made the Spanakopita and Mediterranean Almond Cake. The next morning was dedicated to making the Dolmades and prepping the shrimp for the Garides Saganaki, leaving as little food prep as possible for after the guests arrived).
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate. Okay so this is something that my inner control freak always struggles with, but in the end I realize that as much as I might think I have superpowers I am not a culinary immortal like you. Most guests are keen to help!
  • Wear an apron and avoid browning potatoes in hot oil while sporting a new silk dress. I had to learn this tip the hard way.
  • Clean up as you go. This is how I stay sane during the unavoidable craze of cooking a large meal.
  • If you are limited on kitchen space try and use a BBQ or rotisserie in order to free up as much oven space as possible. Another option is to convince your gracious in-laws to let you throw your dinner party at their house!

Anyways my dear friend, this letter ended up being much longer than I had originally anticipated. Everyone sends their love and wishes you had been able to partake in the weekend’s festivities.

Hope to catch up with you soon!

Follow Project Food Blog for contest updates and to find out who will be the next Food Blog Star! Voting for the third round is from October 4-7. (NOTE: you will need to create a Foodbuzz profile in order to vote. This just takes a minute so please don’t be deterred!)

Foodbuzz Challenge #2: The Classics

NOTE: you can vote for this entry here

As stated on my Project Food Blog profile, the best way to describe my foodie heritage is a combination of corned beef and cabbage along with callaloo and macaroni pie. Any guesses? I come from a mix of Irish and Trinidadian heritage. So when I read the second challenge put forth to us food bloggers, I knew I wanted to make one of Trinidad’s most popular national dishes: curry chicken and dal puri roti.

Having been born and raised in Vancouver (Canada), I was not overly exposed to this particular cuisine. There has never been a large population of Trinidadians living in my neck of the woods, especially in comparison to cities like Toronto, Montreal or Brooklyn. This made finding authentic curry powders and other Trini ingredients a challenge. Most often we would have to wait until my father would come back from a visit to Trinidad, armed with a suitcase full of the latest calypso tracks, West Indian curry, sorrel leaves, split pea powder, and even roti made fresh by my grandmother along with her famous black cake which we always saved and served at Christmas. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how my father managed to get through customs! Each time he returned home he brought with him a suitcase full of Caribbean culture and flavour.

With the majority of my Trinidadian relatives living a world away, I grew up watching my mother make dishes like curry chicken as it had been taught to her by my grandmother. There were times she would attempt to make dal puri roti from scratch, but each time it only ended in tears and a steady stream of curses. I think she is being polite when she describes the process as “heartbreaking”. The challenge with this type of roti is in being able to roll it out and avoid having the filling break through the dough. If you were lucky enough to overcome this hurdle, the next obstacle was getting the roti to puff beautifully on the griddle or ‘tawa’ in order to produce an end result that was light and fluffy. My mother’s frustrations taught me at an early age that it was best to avoid making roti. Eventually even she stopped trying.

So for the purpose of this challenge, Mr. Spock and I decided to make our own curry powder and dal puri roti from scratch. The first thing I did was dust off a cookbook. Surprised?! Didn’t think so! The particular book I chose as my guide was Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago by Ramin Ganeshram (available online here).

Curry is a staple in Trinidadian kitchens. Locals will often say that in their country people will curry anything given a chance! But the important thing to note is the difference in flavour to East Indian curry. I find the curry powders from Trinidad tend to be milder, their flavour more rounded and slightly sweet due to the absence of hot peppers. This omission is due to the preference of most Trinidadians for adding fresh hot peppers and hot pepper sauce to taste, using heat more as a condiment as opposed to an ingredient.

The results of our efforts was amazing.

Nothing was missing. The aromas were all there just as I remembered! I’m thinking that what made the difference were the ingredients left out from a typical East Indian Madras style curry powder, including cinnamon, allspice, ginger, garlic powder and saffron. (If you have any thoughts or suggestions on the topic of curry powder, I would love to hear your comments!)

My grandmother always used to tell my mother that the most important thing to do when making curry chicken is to marinate the meat beforehand, at least 24 hours. So we found a recipe for green seasoning in Ramin Ganeshram’s cookbook and let the chicken rest overnight. Rather than a liquid marinade, green seasoning consists of a thick paste of fresh herbs and garlic.

Cooking the chicken was straightforward, most of the work having been done the day before when making the curry powder and green seasoning.

We made a curry powder paste and cooked it in some oil with chopped onion before adding the chicken, covering with chicken stock and simmering for an hour. Easy. Simple. And the taste? Devine. This was hands down the best chicken curry I have ever tasted. It was full of robust flavours, the freshness of the green seasoning in no way getting lost in the spices from the curry powder. Every flavour worked together in harmony.

There are different types of Trinidadian roti, but dal puri is the most popular by far. It just so happens to be the most difficult to make. If done properly, the roti will inflate with steam during the cooking process.

At the end of the day I’m proud to say that my initial foray into the world of homemade roti was a success! It tasted great, although there was definitely room for improvement on my technique. Next time I would like the roti to be thinner and lighter in texture. But I guess the point is that there will be a next time; because there definitely will!

I hope this post has given you an insight into the rich culinary culture and flavours Trinidad has to offer!

Follow Project Food Blog at for contest updates and to find out who will be the next Food Blog Star! Oh and remember to vote. Preferably for me! (NOTE: you will need to create a Foodbuzz profile in order to vote. This just takes a minute so please don’t be deterred!) Voting begins September 27th and ends September 30th.

Foodbuzz Challenge #1: Ready, Set, Blog!

Things are definitely starting to heat up over in the Foodbuzz community as thousands of food bloggers prepare to participate in the first-ever Project Food Blog, an interactive competition comprised of a series of culinary related blogging challenges. At the end of the 12 week competition one blogger will emerge victorious and be crowned the next food blog star, winning the coveted grand prize of $10,000 as well as a yearlong feature on the Foodbuzz website.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with myself and chat about my participation in this exciting contest:

Jasmine, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me!
My pleasure.

So tell me, what made you decide to throw your hat in the ring for Project Food Blog?
I knew as soon as I saw the info for Project Food Blog that the competition would be fierce and challenge me to go outside of my blogging comfort zone, but I also knew it would be a wonderful way to meet new food bloggers and discover some great foodie websites. The idea of pushing myself and taking on blogging challenges that I might not necessarily have done on my own (a video post – yikes!) was instantly appealing. And let’s be honest – the grand prize up for grabs ain’t too shabby!


Many blogs don’t survive their first year. Often people will start out strong with the best intentions, lose momentum, and then taper off completely. Your blog on the other hand seems to be growing exponentially! How do you manage? One person can only do so much. You seem at times over committed, under resourced and on the brink of insanity with the amount you have on the go.
Wow – I don’t think I could have positioned that any better! Yes I find it challenging to keep up to date on my blog while working on various freelance assignments, mothering two small children and trying to have a life of my own on top of it all. Yes there are days when I just sit and sob into my coffee wondering how I’m going to get it all done. What grounds me is remembering that I started this blog for me because food and cooking are my passions and where my interest lies. It also helps that I have a supportive husband who after a long day at the office doesn’t mind playing photographer, editor, and recipe tester!

An important part of my blog are the celebrity and professional chef interviews. Pictured above are my interview essentials.

There are so many food blogs! In your own words, what sets you apart and why should you be the next food blog star?
Because of the vast number of food blogs in existence, I think it is imperative to have your site be a true and honest reflection of who you are as a person. What you see on my blog is who I really am, not a carbon copy of someone else. The things that define me as a food blogger are my passion for food, love for cooking, and obsession with cookbooks. I am committed to providing readers with honest accounts of my culinary attempts in the kitchen when testing cookbooks, even if that means having to include humbling confessions of user error! I also try and include interviews with professional chefs and cookbook authors as often as possible. This is an extremely popular aspect of my blog, and is one that provides interesting insights into the food industry.

At the end of the day I would love to build my website to the point where it becomes a true dialogue; a place to exchange ideas, share passions, laugh at culinary mistakes and celebrate the successes.

Here are some of the cookbooks that have made it to my VIP Kitchen Shelf; a limited space reserved for my favourites.

You have been a big inspiration for me in my kitchen. What was your motivation for creating a food blog?
My out of control cookbook collection was the original impetus! With two small children at home I found myself searching for a project that went beyond my roles as wife and mother – something just for me. One night I found myself staring at my cookbook collection, thinking about how the majority of my obsession had never been used. It was at that point I decided to create a food blog as a means of actually doing something with my cookbooks besides simply collecting them. They needed a purpose in life! As a result, I came up with the idea of starting a blog dedicated entirely to the review of cookbooks. One by one I would make my way through the stacks of books taking over my house, testing three recipes from each book, recording the results and providing an overall review to share with others.

Mr. Spock (a.k.a. your husband) really wants a commercial grade meat grinder. Don’t you think that’s creepy?

In your blog you say cookbook reviews are from the perspective of an average home cook. Do you have any formal food training?
I am by no means a professional chef nor do I consider myself to be a culinary expert of any sort. Simply put, I am a stay at home mother of two who happens to be a food groupie!

How many cookbooks do you actually own?!
That’s a good question! While I have never done an official count, I somehow seem to keep having to buy additional shelving to house them all! It’s ironic because initially I thought my blog would force me to cull from my cookbook collection but instead it seems to just keep multiplying.

Voting for entries on the first challenge will kick off September 20th, and contestants will be whittled down over the next 12 weeks via exciting challenges related to food blogging. Follow Project Food Blog at for contest updates and to find out who will be the next Food Blog Star! Oh and remember to vote. Preferably for me! (NOTE: you will need to create a Foodbuzz profile in order to vote. This just takes a minute so please don’t be deterred!)