Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

Posted on: March 30th, 2014 by Carla Johnson 2 Comments

Elmira maple syrup festival 2014 logo

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival here in Waterloo Region, Ontario. It is run by over 2,000 volunteers and over 70,000 visitors are expected this year to this one day event. Oi!

I’m super excited to be part of the action this year at “The World’s Largest One Day Maple Syrup Festival.” Hope you can join me Sat., April 5th on the Cooking Stage at 9:45 am. I hear rumours that I might be in the Pancake Flipping Contest too! Should be hilarious, indeed!

It would have made my Mennonite Grandma’s heart warm to know I’m spending quality time in solid Mennonite country. Here’s to good people and good times!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival 2014 Cooking Stage schedule

Once you tried “Cooking With Sin,” you never go back! ;)

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Who Let the Dog Out? #3 – Maple Orange Chicken with Mandarin Ketchup

Posted on: March 23rd, 2014 by Carla Johnson No Comments

“It’s just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn’t it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal.” ~ John Grogan

The 3rd & final in a series of 3 dog “tails” written by Chef Janet Craig of The Satisfied Soul.

When I moved to Belleville, Ontario, I started catering dinner parties at a lot of larger homes in the county that were on the waterfront in very rural areas. One party had this little Sheltie and I was alarmed when my server opened the back door and let him out. This property was 5 acres in the middle of nowhere and I asked, “Did you ask anyone if you can let the dog out? Is the yard fenced? Do they have an invisible fence? OMG! What is the dog’s name?” Quickly, I picked up a lamb chop and waved it outside whistling like a jackass and fortunately, he returned.

While we avoided trouble that time, we may have done some damage later that night. While I was pulling a chocolate soufflé out of the oven, a chunk of it flew out of the pan. Before I could stop him, the dog snapped it out of the air while it was still piping hot. My server and I gave each other that “Oh no!” look. I immediately got him some cold water, but he didn’t even react. He seemed very happy with his illegal treat. :cool:

Carla Johnson author Cooking With Sin Who Let the Dog Out?

Who Let the Dog Out? #3

Maple Orange Chicken with Mandarin Ketchup


Maple Orange Chicken

 4 chicken breasts
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp Noilly Pratt Vermouth
1 tbsp grated orange rind
1 tbsp fresh orange juice

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place in a resealable freezer bag.

2. Combine maple syrup, Vermouth, orange rind and juice. Pour over chicken in bag and let stand 1 hour in fridge or up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from marinade and grill chicken for 6-7 minutes on each side, covered, giving the chicken a quarter turn three minutes into cooking of each side. When chicken is cooked through, and no pink remains, remove from heat,

Mandarin Ketchup

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained (approx. 2 cups)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
pinch cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Noilly Pratt Vermouth
2 tbsp maple syrup
hot pepper sauce, to taste
garnish – sliced green onions and toasted almonds

 1. While chicken is marinating, combine remaining ingredients except garnishes, in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Pour into a medium saucepan and cook over med-low heat for 40-45 minutes or until reduced by half. (Measures about 1 cup sauce.)

3. Serve warm or cold.

To Serve

Slice the cooked chicken and drizzle with the Mandarin Ketchup. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and toasted almonds to garnish if desired.

Chef Janet’s final thoughts:

Chef Janet Craig Cooking With Sin Maple Orange Chicken 2

I have an older Rottie mix who was a rescue dog and I realized the other day when I let her out on the deck, how old & frizzled she looked (much how I feel some days). She gave herself a shake and smiled at me over her shoulder and I realized like my clients, that dog was everything to me.

So I have had the pleasure of working in some great homes but I think the doggy part of the clientele is still the most fun.

Thank you for letting me share my stories and recipes. Maybe our paths will cross someday.

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

“Drive Thru” Rye & Ginger Lamb

Posted on: March 15th, 2014 by Carla Johnson No Comments

“Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.” ~ Compton Mackenzie

Note to my non-Canadian visitors: In the Great White North here, we call our whisky “rye” because it has rye grain added to the mash and a “Rye & Ginger” is a popular drink. My hubby keeps his rye in the freezer. See the video at the end of the post.

Abandonned car wash drive thru lamb cooking with sin Chef Janet Craig

Written by Chef Janet Craig of The Satisfied Soul

It was as mild, sunny afternoon, after cooking at a client’s house, when I passed a “drive thru” car wash and thought I should go in. After chatting to the cash wash guy about cooking – he noticed the uniform – I drove in. Relaxing and reading my notes, I was suddenly jolted alert. Coming right through the water was the wash guy! He jumped out of the curtains in the actual car wash and banged on my truck, shrieking, “You are in “Drive,” Lady!!!” (instead of Neutral)

“Jeez! It said Drive Thru,” I thought.

Now I know why I was going through so fast!! I just thought I was being very efficient! He probably was worried about the Beemer in front of me!


It’s been a long chilly winter, but the maple syrup will be running soon. Here is a great Canadian recipe.

Abandonned car wash drive thru lamb cooking with sin sm

Rye and Ginger Butterflied Leg of Lamb


2 tablespoon (25 ml) Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon (25 ml) Maple syrup
¼ cup (50 ml) rye
½ cup ginger ale
2 teaspoon (10 ml) grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoon (10 ml) ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) cayenne
3 lb (1.5 kg) butter flied lamb leg
Freshly ground pepper to taste


1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup (50 ml) ginger ale
¼ cup (50 ml) rye
2 tablespoon (25 ml) maple syrup
2 tablespoon (25 ml) Dijon Mustard
1 cup (250 ml) chicken or beef stock

1. Combine mustard, maple syrup, rye, ginger ale, ginger, cumin and cayenne in a small bowl. Brush over lamb leg. Season with pepper. Marinate in zip lock bag overnight in refrigerator.

2. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

3. Place lamb, fat side up, on rack in a roasting pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, basting occasionally or until juices runs slightly pink.

4. Place lamb on a carving board and tent with foil, letting it rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile make sauce.

5. Discard all fat from roasting pan but 1 tablespoon. Stir in flour, then deglaze the pan with the rye, scraping up meat bits. Stir in ginger ale, maple syrup, mustard and stock. Bring to boil, boil 3 to 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

6. To serve, carve into thin slices and drizzle sauce over lamb.

How to Make a Rye & Ginger

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Bourbon Sauces

Posted on: March 9th, 2014 by Carla Johnson No Comments

After sharing her Vermouth Pork Blade recipe on the last post, Connie found these recipes in a Jim Beam Bourbon Culinary Collection cookbook she had. I have to say they look wonderful.


Cooking With Sin Bourbon Sauces Jim Beam Connie Campell

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

“Bring Joy” Drambuie Cream Sauce

Posted on: February 17th, 2013 by Carla Johnson No Comments

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” - Craig Claiborne

What exactly is a “foodie?” The word gets used a lot and was even spoofed in a recent TV ad for Boston Pizza. So, I googled it and found this:

“Noun 1. foodie - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)”

That’s pretty much what Diane Smith Stewart said too. Recently I met Diane through mutual friends and when I asked her about food and cooking she said, “I love to bring joy to others using food!” She loves everything about food. She loves trying new pairings, new cooking techniques and presentations and she is always looking for a new food or recipe from a part of the world she hasn’t yet experienced.

I like Diane because she also really enjoys *sin.* She loves great wine and the finest of spirits. Her favourite drink is the Rusty Nail, a mix of Drambuie and Scotch. It’s possible the name Drambuie came from the Gaelic phrase dram buidheach which means “the drink that satisfies” and I think that suits Diane perfectly.

Carla Johnson Cooking with Sin

Diane & Dwayne - photo credit Diane Smith Stewart

Diane has been married to Dwayne for 20 years and they are not looking back. They are busy parents supporting all the activities of their two teenagers, 18 year old Sarah and 15 year old Cam. They do all that while running two Vancouver businesses, one of which provided the official snow removal services for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.  Yes, their lives and full and gratifying.

Diane and her daughter. Photo by photoart by Simpson

When she celebrated Robbie Burns Day with friends a couple weeks ago, she whipped up a Drambuie cream sauce for the haggis. Diane is an organic food person. She grows some of her own vegetables and supports local producers, so she made sure she served her sauce with the most delicious, savoury haggis she could find.

Diane also said her sauce is wonderful on ice cream and you might want to eat it straight from a spoon. “But,” she says, “try not to drink it all before supper!!”

“Bring Joy” Drambuie Cream Sauce

½ cup Drambuie
¾ cup heavy cream

1. Place Drambuie in saucepan, bring to boil and reduce by half (about 10 minutes).

2. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Heat to warm, do not boil. Serve.


How to Make a Rusty Nail

Slange Var!

Carla Johnson Cooking With Sin

One of the Diane's gorgeous cakes

You might enjoy more Cooking With Sin recipes for Robbie Burns Day on “Ode to the Haggis” Burns Nicht.