French Meringues (made easy, thanks to movita beaucoup)

Do you know movita beaucoup? If the answer is yes, then please proceed reading about how she helped me make beautiful French Meringues on my second try. If the answer is no, then get your butt to her website RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE

Here's what happened. This is from my Facebook page on New Year's Eve:

I was hoping to set up a really beautiful, all white photo shoot with gorgeous French meringues, but it turns out, you can't make regular lemon pie meringue, pipe it onto a cookie sheet and make these little French dainties. They brown in about 3 minutes and stay ooey gooey no matter how long you leave them in the oven. Oops.

movita's reply:

No. No you can't. But had it worked? You would have been a Meringue Pioneer. Also, meringues are my most favourite baked treat.

From that point, I knew I would require movita's guidance to get it right the second time.


Was there even the teeniest, most slim of chances that it might have worked?


Whelp, the meringue most people use on top of pie is light and not very stable - so it all depends on the type of meringue you use. Swiss meringue is one of the most stable AND it can be consumed in three ways: right after whipping (it's food safe as the eggs have been heated to 160F), baked or in swiss meringue buttercream! It's my favourite!

So, here, with help from movita, is a recipe for French Meringues that worked for me on the first try. Some of my meringues cracked, but a) they look really pretty when they're backlit in a photo and b) they tasted amazing, so I didn't really care too much about that. I piped some short and flat like a French macaron with a little hat, and I piped others taller and fatter like a little meringue mountain. I used movita's beautiful meringue recipe, but modified it to use Meringue Girl's egg white to sugar ratio. I also added vanilla. They're pretty quick to make (other than baking time) and so pretty. Make them if you can!

French Meringues

4 egg whites, room temperature, weighed

sugar, double the weight of the egg whites

1/2 tsp vanilla

- preheat oven to 200ºF - line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

- grab a hand held whisk and a pot that the bottom of your stand mixer bowl fits into snugly - place 1-inch of water in the pot and bring it to a slight simmer on the stove - the water should be barely simmering - combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, mix on medium-low speed until just combined and a bit frothy, about 1 minute - remove the bowl from the mixer and place the bowl over the pot of barely simmering water - mix the egg whites with the hand held whisk for 3-4 minutes - you don't have to whisk the whole time because trust me, if you do, you will feel like your arm is going to fall off - just keep the whites moving so they don't scramble - remove whites from heat after 3-4 minutes and rub a bit between your fingers - if the sugar still feels gritty, return the bowl of whites to the pot and keep mixing until sugar dissolves - once sugar is dissolved, remove whites from heat and dry the bottom of the bowl with a tea towel

- return bowl to stand mixer - with whisk attachment, mix whites on medium-low speed for 1  minute and then crank up the speed to medium-high - I used speed 8 on my Kitchen Aid - mix meringue for 7-10 minutes until thick, glossy and doubled in size - I found the meringue doubled in size around the 5 minute mark but wasn't really thick and glossy until 9 minutes of mixing - I added the vanilla at the 8 minute mark

- movita uses an ice cream scoop to scoop meringue into dollops on the baking sheet and then uses a small spoon to coax the tops into peaks  - I used a piping bag - use whatever you fancy - just remember, the bigger the meringue the longer they take to dry out inside - scoop/pipe meringue onto parchment lined sheets and bake 1-2 hours until crisp and dry all the way through - if they start to brown at all, take them out of the oven - when movita's meringues are done, she turns off the heat, and lets the meringues sit, in the oven, for an hour unless, as I mentioned, the meringues are turning brown - if that happens take them out STAT.

 My small flat meringues were dry and crisp after 1 hour and 10 minutes in the oven - the taller fatter meringue mountains took 1 hour 30 minutes - just eat one to check for doneness - when all is said and done, if yours are chewy in the middle, don't worry, they'll still be delicious! I ate about 50 meringues in 3 days - some dry and crisp, some chewy in the middle, and I have zero regrets.

Jeremy Charles : January CHEF'S BOX for

Roasted Beet Salad with Apple Cider and Birch Vinaigrette Please visit my friend, food stylist extraordinaire, Kathy's blog for the beet salad recipe -

Roasted Beet Salad with Apple Cider and Birch Vinaigrette

Please visit my friend, food stylist extraordinaire, Kathy's blog for the beet salad recipe

If you happen to live under a rock (ha! pun intended), Jeremy Charles 'is easily Canada’s most important chef at this point'.  At his restaurant, Raymonds, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Chef Charles is 'using indigenous ingredients and local traditions, but (they’re) mixing these with a new-Nordic-inspired understanding of how best to transform the bounty around them.' Raymonds won 1st place in enroute Magazine's 2011 'Best New Restaurants in Canada', and 1st place in's 2014 Top 50 restaurants in Canada.

Oh. And Jeremy Charles was also named #48 in Maclean Magazine's 2014 Power List of The 50 most important people in Canada. 

No big deal.

So when Foodie Pages asked Kathy from eathalifax! and I to make, style, and photograph Chef Charles' recipes for his January CHEF'S BOX, well, to say we were thrilled would be a bit of an understatement. If you're not familiar, Foodie Pages is '...your online farmer`s market where you can buy delicious food and wine directly from Canada's best small-scale local and regional producers'. Every month, they feature a new CHEF'S BOX - '...a monthly subscription service that delivers small batch Canadian foods to your door, hand-picked by a top Canadian chef'.

Jeremy Charles personally selected these 5 artisanal ingredients from to be featured in his CHEF'S BOX:

Orange Rosemary Syrup (200ml) from Tangled Garden (Grand Pré, NS) – Glaze poultry, drizzle on fruits and cheeses, mix into cocktails or soda water. 

Bakeapple Fruit Spread (150ml) from The Dark Tickle Co. (St. Lunaire-Griquet, NL) – The bakeapple is Newfoundland's most cherished wildberry and this spread is 100% fruit with no refined sugar.

Dark Birch Syrup (125ml) from Gourmet Sauvage (St-Faustin-Lac-Carré, QC) –  Remarkably delicious with scallops, great on meats, fish, yogurt, ice cream and in salad dressings. 

Sea Salt (40g) from Newfoundland Salt Co. (St. John’s, NL) – Chef Jeremy’s favourite sea salt, used in his restaurant, these light and flaky crystals are born of sea water collected off the coast of Newfoundland. 

Low Sugar Dried Cranberries (100g) from Terra Beata (Lunenburg, NS) – The juice is left IN, preserving the vitamins and tangy taste. Wonderful in baking, salads, trail mix, cottage cheese, pancakes, stuffing, Brie . . . the possibilities are endless. ***pictured below on duck breast***

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Parsnip Purée, Kale and Orange Cranberry Jus

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Parsnip Purée, Kale and Orange Cranberry Jus

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Parsnip Purée, Kale and Orange Cranberry Jus

Recipe by Chef Jeremy Charles, Executive Chef of Raymonds - serves 4


2 large duck breasts, skin on (approx 500g each)

8 large parsnips, chopped and peeled

2 tbsp. honey

1 L milk

2 fresh bay leaves

1 L reduced duck stock (or chicken stock if duck is not available)

4 shallots, chopped

1 cup Terra Beata dried cranberries

6 Tbsp. Tangled Garden orange rosemary syrup

1 bunch fresh thyme

¼ lb unsalted butter

1 bunch dinosaur or black kale

Newfoundland Salt Co. sea salt for seasoning

Pepper for seasoning


Duck Breast

1.     Score the duck breast (skin side) by breaking through the skin only. Make 5 or 6 parallel marks then do the same diagonally. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: Scoring the duck breast for cooking helps to render out the fat from the skin more effectively. It is best to score the skin of the duck breast when cold, as it becomes more difficult once the skin warms up.

2.     Preheat oven to 350F.

3.     Use a medium sized frying pan and place the duck breast, skin side down while the pan is still cold. Cook over medium heat for 7 min to render the fat. Once fat is rendered, the skin should be crispy. Remove the duck and drain the fat.

4.     Add 3-4 tbsp. of butter and fresh thyme to your hot pan. Return the duck to the pan and baste for 2-3 min.

5.     Finish the duck in the oven for 3-4 min. The duck should be med-rare.  Let rest for 5-7 min over stove top (warm area). Do not cut into right away or duck will be dry. Slice to serve.

Parsnip Puree

1.     In a medium sized saucepan, add parsnips and cover with milk, bay leaves, salt, and honey. Simmer on low heat (do not let milk come to a boil), for 25 to 30 min until parsnips are cooked through. Strain parsnips while preserving some of the liquid.

2.     Add the cooled parsnips to a blender for 3-4 minutes with 2-3 tbsp butter.  Add as much of the reserved liquid to reach a smooth consistency. Keep warm and covered.


1.     Separate leaves from spines.

2.     Blanch and sauté with butter and salt.

Orange Jus

1.     Sweat shallots in a skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add 4-5 tbsp butter and sauté for another 4-5 minutes on medium-low heat.

2.     Add your reduced duck or chicken stock and continue to reduce until volume is reduced by half.

3.     Add 6 tbsp. of orange and rosemary syrup, adding more to taste if desired.

4.     Drain and add cranberries to the jus.


1.     Plate parsnip puree with kale greens beside.

2.     Place duck slightly over puree.

3.     Top with orange jus.

As if that wasn't enough, Foodie Pages is running a contest to send two lucky Canadians to St. John's, Newfoundland. The grand prize will include a full tasting menu and wine pairing by Chef Jeremy Charles. Click the picture above for details.

Oh! And one more thing - if you enter the promo code KELLYNEIL at check out, you'll receive $10 off of your first Foodie Pages purchase.

East Coast represent!

The Coast's November 20, 2014 issue - Run this town

When Melissa Buote contacted me and said she was 'working on an issue for The Coast on women working in the food industry in Halifax', I had no idea that the intent was to include me in a list of 28 movers and shakers in the Halifax food scene. I was blown away when I saw the online edition this morning.

From the November 20, 2014 online edition of The Coast - by Allison Saunders

This time last year, Time published a cover feature titled Gods of Food that came under major fire, and rightly so, for its serious lack of women. It's "pantheon" listed 13 "gods," nine of which were men or groups of men, and its international chef family tree was 100 percent pure dude.

In response, Eater interviewed Time editor Howard Chua-Eoan, who defended the magazine's choices by saying bumbling things like, "we just went with the basic realities of what was going on and who was being talked about," and "we did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef," and then "the media covers the industry. I don't think the media has to advocate for anything." 

So, if the media isn't advocating for anything or anyone, what are we doing?

Yes, there's been a longstanding gender bias in the world of food and drink, but when Melissa Buote and I started thinking about what it would look like if we were going to report the "basic realities of what's going on" in Halifax's food industry we came up with the idea for this feature. We started making a list of pioneers, ambassadors and newcomers—owners, chefs, servers, food lovers—who we admired, who we were excited about. Some were people we'd covered before, others we thought deserved some spotlight, and when we stepped back and looked at our messy scrap of paper full of names it was clear that our food scene is not dominated by men, at all. 

So this year we've replaced our New Restaurants issue with a feature celebrating 28 rad women in local food and drink. Lists are trouble, and we totally recognize this. We don't consider this list to be an ultimate one, we have dozens of amazing names that we couldn't fit into this feature, but it's a snapshot of who's making Halifax a great place to eat and drink.

Please visit this link to read all about the other 27 incredibly talented women on the list.

Light Painting : then and now + a how to


I first read about light painting in 2007. I was fairly new to photography and intrigued, so I took my camera, tripod and off-camera flash into the backyard, set everything up, lit one of Sean's antique oil lamps and got the pictures you see above.

Ha! They make me laugh so much. Looking back, I clearly didn't grasp the concept of 'light painting'.

My favourite Facebook comments on these shots were 'By the power of Greyskull!' and 'What the hell are you up to? Is this some freaky pagan ritual you two nut-bars have started?'. I can only imagine what our neighbours were thinking.

Fast forward seven years.

I made this picture last night, in the dark, with a flashlight:


The pie plate, glass plates, fork and spoon were downstairs from a shoot last week waiting to be brought back upstairs. The pink ribbon was tied around the box my wedding anniversary flowers came in last weekend. I had the ribbon on top of the pile because I loved the colour and I didn't want to throw it away. On a whim I tied it around the fork and the spoon and thought it would make a pretty still life. 

Here's how I made this picture and how you can make your own:

You will need:

- an SLR camera

- a tripod

- a piece of black velvet for your background (you can use whatever you want but black velvet gives a true rich black)

- props 

- a small flashlight

1. Lay your black velvet out and arrange your props.

2. Set up your camera on your tripod and compose your shot in the camera.

3. Set your camera to ISO 100.

4. Switch your camera to 'M' (manual) if it's not there already. Set your shutter speed to 15 -20 seconds and your aperture to f16 - f22. Once you get started, you're going to want to play around a bit with the amount of time you leave the shutter open.

5. Turn off all the lights - close curtains to block out streetlights. 

6. Carefully make your way over to your camera (use your flashlight!) - press the shutter on your camera and then use your flashlight as a 'brush' to 'paint' light over the areas of your props you want to highlight.

I did about 10 shots altogether - some of them I left the shutter open for 15 seconds, some I left open for 20 seconds. I used my 85mm 1.2 lens which only goes as high as f16 so the final shot (above) that I liked the best ended up being:

Canon 85mm 1.2L lens - ISO 100 - 20 seconds - f16

It literally took me 15 minutes to set up, take my shots and upload to my computer. SO FUN!!!!