Monthly Archives: February 2007

Behind the scenes at One Roast Chicken > Search engine phrases

Behind the scenes at, I can track lots of cool things about my website and blog. For example, I can tell you that visitors arrive from all over the world (France, Hong Kong, India, Italy). And some people stay on the site for 30 seconds, while others wander around for 5-15 minutes.

Best of all, I can view the words people have entered into their search engine, before they arrived at my site. The frequency of a request lets me know that people really, really want to know something. After I analyze these search engine phrases, then it’s my job to make sure that the website (plus these weekly letters) answers the most commonly searched questions.

#1 SEARCH PHRASE > How long do you cook a roast chicken > How long do you roast a half-chicken?

I’ll assume that we’re talking about an entire chicken with skin and bones, or an entire half-chicken, because boneless meat would have a different answer. The time required to roast a chicken is dependent on two things: the temperature of your oven + how big the bird is. There’s a bit of math involved. Set your oven to 375°F (190°C, Gas mark 5), and then multiply the number of pounds by 20 to find out how many minutes to cook it for. If the weight of your chicken is measured in kilograms, then you multiply by 44 instead.

For example:


Multiply by

Number of mins to roast at 375°F

3 pounds


60 minutes

3½ pounds


70 minutes

4 pounds


80 minute



Multiply by

Number of mins to roast at 375°F

1.3 kg


57 minutes

1.5 kg


66 minutes

1.7 kg


75 minutes

My last chicken was 1.46 kg x 44 minutes = 64 minutes. This math works every time.

#2 SEARCH PHRASE > Grocery store recipes roasted chicken > supermarket meals roast chicken > things to do with store bought roast chicken

It seems like lots of people are searching the internet asking this same question over and over. At my house, we can usually get three meals from one roast chicken: hot meat the first night, sandwiches the next day, and then chicken broth is made from the bones for a fabulous chicken noodle soup.

Leftover roast chicken is great in a simple quesadilla (flour tortilla + chunky salsa + grated cheese + chicken). I also used leftovers to make curried chicken at least once a week. Best of all, once you separate the meat from the bones, and shred it into little pieces, you can put the roast chicken into a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer. Later, when you’re craving a salad topped with roast chicken, or a quick homemade soup, you will have cooked meat on hand, ready and waiting.

In addition to the more useful search phrases above, I’ve recently had a few search topics that are more basic, and perhaps even a bit funny…

#3 > Are brown bananas OK to eat?

Yes. But personally I think they’re icky, and I prefer to make them into banana muffins.

#4 > Is it OK to eat frozen fruit?

Yes. You can use frozen fruit in a yummy fruit smoothies. I freeze blueberries in the summer in one-cup bags and then pull them out to make muffins and pancakes through the winter months.

#5 > Is there an expiry date on lasagne noodles?

I don’t think so … does dried pasta go bad?

#6 > Where is the expiry date for Corona beer?

How did this person end up at my site? And anyway, I wouldn’t let a beer expiry date keep me from drinking it – does beer go bad?

#7 > What can I do with ham that has gone bad?

(Can you imagine searching the internet for this?) There’s really only one suitable answer: THROW IT OUT!


There are other search phrases that I’m keeping for future letters, such as “recipes to impress new girlfriend” and “homemade frozen tv dinner recipes.” Someone landed on my site after searching for “lonely lunches.” Yes, I’m definitely going to have to write about that.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just drop me a line 🙂
You can always reach me at

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

What’s for dinner? HMR: Home Meal Replacements

On a recent trip to New York City I discovered a very large Whole Foods Market, a grocery store chain, where one full floor is devoted to precooked and pre-made meals. Hot and cold buffets. A guy served mashed potatoes and meatloaf next to a girl with a huge roast pork, her carving knife ready to go. At first I thought the whole thing was quite incredible — all the colours and smells. Look at all the variety! Look, they even sell bread in little baby packages of only four slices! How cool is that?

But instead of being inspired to eat and sample all these diverse meals, I was quite depressed. I knew from research that this had a name. A nice industry “marketing” name. Ready?

It’s called HMR. Home Meal Replacements. Here’s what the National Restaurant Association says: “Consumers want to enjoy high-quality meals at home but don’t have the time (or the desire) to cook. Solution? Home meal replacement — takeout meals that diners can eat at their own dining-room tables … Because many want foods that they would cook themselves if they had the time, [the store’s] menu leans heavily toward American comfort foods” (source).

So why does this make me feel deflated?

Because they’re taking your money. And lots of it. Mashed potatoes and meatloaf? These two in particular are cheap cheap cheap to make, and pretty easy to prepare. These guys are taking your money in big giant handfuls. It’s not like getting a great curry takeaway that you really can’t easily make at home — these guys are selling you potatoes. They are selling you meatloaf.

Oh, it pains me. The experience of being in that Whole Foods Market on a busy Saturday afternoon was both “Wow look at all the food” mixed with generous portions of “Is this what we’ve come to?” Are we really all soooo busy that making meatloaf is just out of the question? Are we really reduced to buying dinner from a guy wearing a beard-net at the grocery store? Isn’t the grocery store for groceries anymore?

What would gramma say? I can call her up if you like. Nanny Teresa would say: “If you’re too busy to get dinner on the table, then you’re too busy.”

Shelley would say something a bit gentler, like … making and eating food is the best fun you can have with your clothes on. The difference between EATING and DATING is one letter. There’s no easier, faster, healthier, cheaper way to impress yourself (or someone else) than to make dinner. What did you do today? I made roast chicken with rosemary. I made pork tenderloin with baked tinfoil carrots. I made roast vegetables and couscous. I made homemade cream of mushroom soup.

Here’s a simple dinner: heat some tomato based pasta sauce, add a few bottled marinated artichokes (cut up), and few teaspoons of capers. Add some red chilli flakes if you want it spicier. Serve over boiled spaghetti with grated parmesan. It’s hot and cheap, salty and lovely.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu
Owner & Head Chef

Survey + free apple pie recipe

I am hard at work on a new book for One Roast Chicken, and rather than guess what people want, I decided to ask you — since you’re someone who is interested in cooking, you like tips and tricks, and you’re always looking for easy ways to get dinner on the table.

I have a free gift (bribe) for you!

I’ve created a short survey that’ll take you less than 2 minutes to fill out.

> Survey link
> Link to survey on webpage

And as a thank you (bribe) for filling out this survey, I will send you a FREE copy of the recipe I’m working on: Dutch Apple Pie. This recipe is nearly done, and I’ll send it to you for FREE as soon as it’s ready (value $5 Cdn).

Here’s the catch.

I’m only going to share this gift with the first 100 people who complete the survey. This means you’ll have to ACT FAST if you want to be one of the lucky people who not only gets to share their brain with me, but who also gets the reward of APPLE PIE!

After 100 Apple Pie recipes are given away, the survey will shut down. So you better do this right now — take two minutes of your time and scroll down to the survey. You’ll get your copy of the Apple Pie recipe as soon as I finish eating it, err… finish testing it.

> Survey link
> Link to survey on webpage

Thanks in advance for your feedback and help 🙂

Bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu
Owner & Head Chef

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 3)

Part 3

In the first two parts of this story, I was telling you about my misadventures in trying to impress my (then) boyfriend with an elaborate puff pastry dessert for Valentine’s Day.

In the completion of the Valentine’s Day story, I’m going to show you the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled.

To make cream puffs, I started by making a batter of butter, water, flour and eggs. It starts off looking like pancake batter, but a little thicker. Then you heat it up. I’ve never heated batter before. It’s all very strange.

So I kept stirring, not sure what was happening, and then it started to pull into a coherent ball of dough (or several smaller balls)

These are the puffs cooking in the oven from the first trial in January. They turned out to be too big and after we ate a few we threw the rest out.

They sell sponge cakes at the grocery store… but only in the summer. It was impossible to find one in February … so I make my own from scratch (it was fine but not lovely, next time I’d add some flavouring, like alcohol!).

Again, I could have bought instant pudding and used Cool-Whip. But at the time I believed the future of my relationship was at stake. So I made the custard from scratch.

My pastry bag still had left over puff pastry batter in it, so I used an icing squirter-plunger-thing and just kept refilling it.

I heated up sugar to make caramel. It really smells like burnt marshmallows when it’s overdone, so I tried to stop before I smelled campfire (but was unsuccessful).

I put the rest of the pudding-cream mixture in the flan and tried to make it look smooth and lovely.

Using tongs, I dipped each filled puff into the sugar sauce, and placed on a tray to cool. They became rock hard at this stage. Once the flan had been filled, I arranged the choux buns around the edge of the flan, just inside the rim and decorated with strawberries.    


This year, for Valentine’s Day … well, we’re married now, so perhaps the pressure is off? Nah, I’m still in super-impress mode. I think it’s a setting I can’t turn off 🙂

I’m going to make Tiramisu with Brandy Custard (yes, again with the homemade custard, although I like the idea of brandy, and I think I’ll buy the ladyfinger cookies at the Italian market, I won’t try to make those from scratch). I’ll take pictures, and share my success (or lack thereof) after February 14th.

PS/ I know someone out there is going to scold me for not giving you the recipes for the the above Gateau-St-Honore. It was a pretty advanced adventure, even for me, but if really really really want to see the recipes, I’ve posted them here.

PPS/ If you want to see a Flash slideshow version of the above images, including a few bonus pictures (such as the shot of what my kitchen really looks like when I’m cooking), you can visit this link.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at


Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 2)

Part 2

In the first part of this story, I began to tell you about my adventures in making Gateau St Honore for the first time — a complicated, multi-stage dessert. In January, I was making the puff pastries in advance, as a trial run, to ensure that on Valentine’s Day the whole thing would come off without a hitch. Only problem was that on my first attempt at making puff pastry, I discovered that the inside of each puff was raw…

I’ve spent the time cooking these things, and when they’re done, I open up each one while they’re still hot. Let me describe what the inside of these puffs really look like. Once I split them open, I find a lump of uncooked batter that smells suspiciously (very strongly) of eggs. It resembles scrambled eggs, in fact.

So I diligently scrape out the scrambled eggs, as the Julia Child recipe says I will have to. I scrape it with my fingers, from each and every puff (1). It’s disgusting. It is so grim, in fact, that we eat a few of them and throw the rest of the trial batch in the garbage.

Distressed, I call my mother long distance. My mother can be difficult. One area where I can generally talk to her (and not get into an argument) is on the subject of food. She’s a good cook. She has 20 years more cooking experience than I do. And she’s from the south shore of Nova Scotia so she’s got this “easiest is best” mindset.

Mother says: “Use the recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book.”

She always says this. When in doubt, use this book. It’s like my grandmother, who says “put a little ozonol on it,” like that’ll solve all problems. Rash, heartburn, broken arm. Well, if you’re my mother (let’s call her Sherri, since that is her name), well if you’re Sherri, you use the Purity Cook Book to solve all of life’s problems.

I try to argue with her that the four remaining recipes I have (including Purity) are identical – all include more flour than Julia (therefore the batter would arguably be less eggy). And I figured if I made the puffs smaller the second time, I’d solve the scrambled-eggs-centre problem.

But Sherri is insistent that the Purity book is old fashioned, and therefore more reliable. What about my collected Gourmet edition I’d gotten for Christmas? What about the new edition of the Joy of Cooking? No, Sherri says, stick with Purity.

She then says something snarky like “I’ve made almost every recipe in that book, including the pickles. And every single one of them has worked out.”

Well, doesn’t that sound like a challenge? Maybe one day I’ll take a page from The Julie/Julia Project, and I’ll make every recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book just to see if my mother might be exaggerating. Maybe someday, but not today.

I did use the Purity recipe on Valentine’s Day to make the cream puffs (2). I’m sure it’s the same as the Joy of Cooking or Gourmet. But really, I had to do what my mother told me to do.

I might be 40, but I’m not stupid.

Stay tuned… in Part 3 you’ll get to see all of the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled… and I’ll let you know my plans for Valentine’s Day this year 🙂

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at


Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef