Talking eggs with Leanne Cusack of CTV Ottawa

I was pleased to be invited to Ottawa yesterday to talk about eggs and Easter with CTV News at Noon host Leanne Cusack, St-Isidore egg farmer Marcel Laviolette and chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering. (Video links below!)

Having worked for many years as the Food and Nutrition Specialist for Egg Farmers of Ontario, I’m always happy to talk ‘eggs’ with anyone who will listen!

Eggs with Leanne Cusack at CTV OttawaMe with egg farmer Marcel, host Leanne and chef Jason

Here in Canada, we are fortunate to have a system of supply management in place that ensures our eggs are fresh, local and readily available. Within this system, there are over 1,000 Canadian egg farmers caring for the hens that lay the eggs we enjoy year round, and revere especially at this time of year when eggs are not only eaten, but decorated and celebrated.

Eggs have long been considered a symbol of life, birth and renewal, concepts celebrated especially during spring and Easter (although bunnies and chocolate do their utmost to vie for attention at this time!). People in ancient civilizations used to give gifts of eggs to one another at spring festivals. And according to mythology, it was believed two halves of an egg formed heaven and earth.

Prized for their nutritional quality, culinary versatility and delicious flavour, not to mention all the craft and decorating possibilities they possess, it’s fitting to showcase eggs anytime of the year, and really appropriate to do so this week as Easter approaches!

Here are links to the video segments with Leanne – part 1 and part 2, and to Easter recipe suggestions and egg decorating techniques from Egg Farmers of Canada.

Oh, and a list of the nutritional attributes of eggs, in case after watching part 1, you’re wondering exactly how eggs help our eyes do what they’re supposed to do!!

Tabbouli-style Salad a quick meal when life is busy

This recipe is one of my fallback favourites. (Rather fitting, given the season.) It’s one of those treasured recipes or meal solutions I turn to when in need of (make that desperate for!) something quick and easy and I’m too rushed for time or lacking energy to be super creative about what’s going on my plate. September is an exceptionally busy time of year for me so I’m always on the look-out for ways to save precious minutes in the kitchen. This salad is one of those time and energy savers for me.

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad is made by cooking beaten eggs in broth, then adding couscous. While the couscous cooks for a few minutes, I chop up whatever vegetables I have on hand and whip up a simple dressing. Everything then gets combined along with fresh herbs, if I have some on hand.

This salad can be served as a main dish or a side, and either warm or chilled. I make it frequently, especially when life is busy (like these days!), or when I need a fast, easy contribution to a potluck. It’s simple and it tastes good, and after making it so often, the method and ingredient proportions are etched in my brain.

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1-1/4 cups (300 mL) chicken OR vegetable broth
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) couscous
2/3 cup (150 mL) regular OR low-fat Italian salad dressing
2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lemon OR lime juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder
2 cups (500 mL) diced fresh vegetables (e.g. cucumber, carrot, sweet pepper, celery, zucchini or seeded tomato)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro, mint OR parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Slowly add eggs in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Cook for a minute or two, whisking constantly, just until eggs are set. (They will look curdled.) Remove saucepan from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or cup, combine salad dressing, lemon juice and chili powder, stirring well to break up any lumps of chili powder.

When couscous has stood for 5 minutes, stir it to separate grains and break up any clumps. Stir in vegetables and cilantro. Pour dressing over couscous mixture; toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cover and chill until ready to serve.

* Try substituting another vinaigrette-style dressing for the Italian dressing.
* Couscous can be found in most grocery stores and bulk food stores. If desired, instant rice can be substituted.

Still have eggs leftover from Easter?

You can find great egg recipes at Egg Farmers of Ontario’s web site – I’ll admit I’m a tad biased about the site since I work for EFO. But at this time of year, or anytime you want information about eggs or egg recipes, it’s a great site to visit.

Once you’re on the site, click on “Real in the Kitchen”, then “Basic Egg Cooking Techniques” for ways to enjoy those hard-cooked eggs you coloured for Easter. Hard-cooked eggs will keep for about a week in the refrigerator so if you decorated some for Easter, you will want to be eating them soon.

In fact, it’s a great idea to always keep hard-cooked eggs on hand. Just cook them at the start of the week, and you’ll have eggs at the ready to enjoy all week long as a snack, or sliced into a salad or onto crackers or a bagel, or made into egg salad, devilled eggs, or even pickled eggs. 

For recipe ideas for fresh eggs, select the “What’s in Your Fridge?” or “Recipe Search” features on the web site.

Chocolate or dyed….it’s Easter egg time!


With Easter a few days away, chocolate, coloured and cooked eggs are a natural choice for snacking or crafting!

I’ll admit to indulging in a Cadbury Caramilk Egg or two in this pre-Easter season. Yes, their caramel centre does make them overly sweet and the chocolate may not be the finest quality available, however at this time of year, these eggs call out my name!

The craft of colouring shell eggs is also a sign of the season. This chart from McCormick, maker of food colours, will help you create a rainbow of perfect hues for dyeing raw or hard-cooked eggs. Think watermelon, jungle green, plum, canteloupe, fuschia…….

A St. Patrick’s Day menu – snake free!

Although I like to watch Survivor on TV, I could never participate in the game. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that there are always snakes slithering or swimming about in whatever location the show is filmed.

I’m not a fan of snakes. I figure the game of Survivor could probably use Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. He is said to have rid Ireland of snakes and is commemorated annually on March 17, the date of his death in 460 A. D.

How he actually performed this feat is the stuff of legends. A popular explanation is that one day St. Patrick created a nice cozy box and invited the chief snake to climb in. The snake took a look at the box and deemed it too small. A heated discussion ensued. To prove he was right, the snake crawled into the box. Quick-thinking St. Paddy slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea!

To this day, Ireland is said to be snake-free (lucky Irish!), and some insist that the rough waters of the Irish Sea are caused by the boisterous attempts of the snake still trying to free himself from the box.

On March 17, whether you wish to celebrate a snake-free Ireland or the pleasure of swilling green beer, take the opportunity to indulge in some hearty Irish cuisine. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and rutabagas figure prominently in Irish cooking, as do lamb stews, and braised meat and corned beef dishes. Accompany the main dish with potato bread or soda, and finish the meal with a sweet custard or apple cake, and an Irish coffee.

Irish Stew
(Makes 8 servings)

If lamb shanks are not available, thick shoulder chops can be substituted.

8 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each (5 mL) dried thyme and rosemary (or 1 tablespoon/15 mL) chopped fresh
2 bottles (341 mL each) stout-based beer
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tablespoons (45 mL) packed brown sugar
3 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Half a rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

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The Ultimate Brownie? You Decide!

The Ultimate Brownie

Who doesn’t love brownies?

I suppose if you don’t like chocolate, you might not care for brownies.

Whoa! Back up! Who doesn’t love chocolate?

As hard as it might be for some of us to fathom, there are people in this world who are indifferent to chocolate. They can take it or leave it. Quite easily. Without much care or thought. Some of those people may even prefer to ignore chocolate altogether. Don’t pity them, however. Consider how much more this leaves for the rest of us!

But back to brownies.

Recently I found a recipe for The Ultimate Brownie on the Desserts/Baking website. I’ve never understood the idea of an “ultimate” anything because what might be the best ever version of something (e.g. brownies) to you may very well be a just okay version of that something (e.g. brownies) to me. And vice versa. If you claim something is the “ultimate” or “world’s best” or “greatest ever”, you’ve set up some pretty high expectations as to what that something will look like, taste like, feel like, act like, and so on, depending on exactly what that something is. So many things in life are subject to an individual’s taste preferences, perceptions, biases, and experiences that I’m always hesitant to label anything (and in the context of this blog, a recipe!) with the moniker of “ultimate” unless it’s been highly rated by more people than just me.

That said, I did try The Ultimate Brownie recipe, and it was pretty good! Thick and fudgey (my preference as opposed to cakey), it would rank fairly high on my scale of “best brownies ever eaten”. I’ve posted the recipe below.

Speaking of things “ultimate”, I’m also posting a link to the website of my colleague, cookbook author Mairlyn Smith and her healthy Decadent Brownies recipe. It’s from her and co-author dietitian Liz Pearson’s best-selling book, Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health…and don’t forget the chocolate (Whitecap Books, 2007). Mairlyn’s recipe uses whole wheat flour, canola oil and cocoa powder.

As well, here’s the link to the recipe for Fudgey Special Dark Brownies on Hershey’s website; it’s made with cocoa powder and Chipits. If you make the brownies in a 15 x 10-inch (38 x 25 cm) pan instead of a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) pan, you can cut the brownies into heart shapes for Valentine’s Day. On the Hershey’s website you can also find chocolatey recipes for mousse, cookies and truffles. Perfect fare for giving to all your loved ones and sweeties! Assuming they all like chocolate, that is!

The Ultimate Brownie
(Makes a 13 x 9-inch/33 x 23 cm baking pan)

8 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped into chunks
1 cup (250 mL) butter, cut in chunks
5 large eggs
3 cups (750 mL) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
2-1/2 cups (625 mL) chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

In a saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and butter, stirring frequently; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed for 10 minutes. (Mixture will be thick and pale yellow in colour.)

Stir in chocolate mixture. Fold in flour and salt until just mixed. Stir in nuts. Pour into a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) baking pan.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The brownies should be moist in the centre.


  • Measure all ingredients carefully. Measure flour and sugar in a dry measuring cup. Scoop flour into the cup and level the top with a blade of knife.
  • For easy removal of the brownies from the pan, line baking pan with aluminum foil or baking paper. Grease foil or paper, then add batter.
  • Brownies can be iced, but it is not necessary as they are sweet and decadent enough on their own. If desired, top with chopped nuts and semisweet chocolate chips before baking, or drizzle with a white chocolate glaze, or sprinkle cooled brownies with icing sugar.
  • This recipe is very similar to the Blockbuster Brownies recipe inside the box of Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate squares. That recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) butter, 6 eggs and 1 cup (250 mL) chopped nuts. The batter is baked in two 8-inch (2 L) square pans at 350F (180C) for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Brownies freeze well.

For more brownie recipes, visit Brownie Lover’s Diary.

Pancakes, Plain or Chocolate Chipped

A few co-workers and I prepared a pancake lunch yesterday at work. We used a basic Buttermilk Pancake recipe courtesy of Carolynne Griffith, the chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Egg Farmers of Ontario. The pancakes were tender, light and fluffy, and enjoyed by everyone. For the chocolate lovers in the group, we made one batch of pancakes with chocolate chips. They were exceptionally delish! (The Triple Chocolate Pancakes from my February 4th post would also have gone over well with the chocoholics!)

Here’s the recipe, with the chocolate chip variation. (We omitted the sugar in the recipe.)

Buttermilk Pancakes
(Makes about 16 pancakes)

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) melted butter or cooking oil
Cooking oil
Butter and maple syrup

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar (if using), baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add buttermilk and butter; whisk to combine.

Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients; whisk just until combined (batter should be lumpy).

Heat a small amount of oil on a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. When the surface is hot enough, spoon about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) batter per pancake onto the skillet, spreading batter into a circle. Cook until edges appear set and bubbles form on the surface, about 1-1/2 minutes. Flip and cook second side until browned, about 1-1/2 minutes.

Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup. Or, transfer to a baking sheet or heatproof platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and keep pancakes warm in a 200F (95C) oven. Continue cooking remaining batter, brushing griddle with a small amount of oil as necessary to prevent sticking.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes: Prepare dry ingredients, adding 1/2 cup (125 mL) chocolate chips. Proceed as directed above.


  • This recipe can be doubled or tripled.
  • If batter is too thick, thin with a small amount of additional buttermilk.
  • Freeze any leftover pancakes up to 3 months. Reheat on a baking sheet in a preheated 350F (190C) oven. Pancakes can be also be reheated in the toaster or microwave. If using the microwave, be careful not to overheat as they will become rubbery.

Triple Chocolate Pancakes

Triple Chocolate Pancakes

Got your pancake recipe ready for tomorrow, Pancake Tuesday? Consider celebrating with an extra special recipe for Triple Chocolate Pancakes!

With cocoa powder and chocolate chips in the batter, you may think you’re making a cake or brownies, but don’t be tempted to pour it into a cake pan and slide it into the oven. We really are making pancakes. Just chocolatey ones, finished off with a good drizzle of chocolate syrup. Some might consider this chocolate overload. For chocoholics, this may be the best way (the only way??) to eat pancakes.

If you don’t have a nonstick frying pan or griddle, you will need to grease your pan with a small amount of cooking oil, butter or margarine before making each batch of pancakes. I like to cook a test pancake to check my pan’s heat.

To serve all the pancakes at one time, keep cooked pancakes on a heatproof plate in a 200F oven until all the batter is cooked.

If you want to take these pancakes completely over the top, serve them with vanilla or chocolate ice cream. In season, sliced strawberries are a great addition. Instead of chocolate syrup, the pancakes can be served with maple syrup.

This recipe is easily doubled, or more appropriately tripled! Any leftover pancakes will freeze well.

Triple Chocolate Pancakes
(Makes 12 3-1/2 inch pancakes)

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cooking oil, butter or margarine
Chocolate sauce or hot fudge sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add milk and oil; whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients; whisk just until combined. There should be some lumps in the batter.

Heat frying pan or griddle over medium heat (adding a small amount of oil to grease surface if using a nonstick pan) until a few drops of water scattered over surface sizzle and evaporate. Drop about 1/4 cup pancake batter per pancake onto pan, spreading batter slightly. Leave some room between pancakes; they will expand a little during cooking.

Pancakes are ready to flip when the edges appear set and the top is full of bubbles; this will take about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook second side until lightly browned, about 45 seconds to 1 minute.

As pancakes cook, serve them immediately or keep them warm in a 200F oven. Continue cooking remaining batter.

Serve pancakes with chocolate or hot fudge sauce.