Chicken Salad on Focaccia and Blueberry Cornmeal Cake


I spent a few hours in Claresholm – sunny small town Alberta – eating well this afternoon. Having driven out to deliver my bowl to the highest bidder I stayed for awhile, chatting at the kitchen table, listening to ABBA and being fed lunch by U, who went so far as to make homemade mayonnaise for her open-faced chicken salad on homemade focaccia. (Which, by the way, was far better than any I’ve ever made. And she didn’t even know I am a particularly enthusiastic fan of chicken salad.)

Hers was a fine and uniformly chopped, crunchy, flavourful blend of chicken, toasted almonds, celery, green onions, wee bits of purple onion and tart apple, all dressed with the aforementioned homemade mayo. It’s the sort of thing I adore, and yet it never occurs to me to actually make. Of course, this is also precisely the kind of dish that tastes far better when someone else makes it, when you haven’t been the catalyst that brings all those ingredients together, and don’t really know exactly what’s in there or how it came to be. (The fact that there are also no dishes to wash is a bonus.)

For dessert she baked a high, dense, not-too-sweet lemon-scented cornmeal cake studded with blueberries and topped with floppy whipped cream – right up my alley. (She said it came from The Wednesday Chef, but I couldn’t find anything like it there – you may have more luck if you go poke around.) I ate two pieces, drove home, pointing my camera out the window at the grain elevators, and walked in the door at 5:30. M and W had Raisin Bran for dinner.

Over lunch, our conversation kept veering back to the role our food plays in our everyday lives, in ways deeper than we often consider, particularly when it comes to feeding the family. The mom of teenagers, U had some wise words; most notably, you can tell your kids I love you seven times in a row, but it won’t matter as much as a panful of warm cinnamon buns coming out of the oven when they get home from school. I am already dreading the day that W decides snuggles are uncool and shrinks from hugs and kisses; it’s a good thing fresh baking is such an effective delivery method. U even times hers so that they are being pulled out of the oven as the kids arrive home from school, for maximum sensory effectiveness. Such a seemingly simple thing, and with such an impact. Not much else makes one feel so worth the effort, and there is something to be said for that feeling, particularly when one is distracted by the task of growing up.

I don’t have her cinnamon bun recipe, but she did generously pass on her formula for focaccia, which is deeper, softer, richer and less pizza dough-like than my standby. We ate it torn in chunks and dragged through a puddle of olive oil and balsamic. I could have easily polished off the entire loaf, had it been within my reach.


Ulla’s Focaccia

Recipe link


May 15, 2009


2 packages rapid-rise yeast

2 cups warm water

3 cups purpose flour - add more to make smooth and slightly sticky dough.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper


1Additional olive oil, Parmesan cheese, ground rosemary and salt for topping.

2Combine yeast with warm water; let stand until foamy - about 5 mins.

3In bowl combine flour, cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper and stir in the yeast mixture. Mix until dough forms. On lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover, let rest 5 minutes. Coat 9 x 13 baking pan with olive oil. Evenly press dough into pan.

4Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using thumb press indentations about 2 inches apart into dough; do not press through to bottom. Drizzle with about 1/4 cup olive oil, allowing it to pool in indentations. Bake 15 minutes or until almost golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with rosemary, Parmesan cheese and kosher salt and bake an additional 5 minutes.

5 Cool on rack for 15 minutes and remove from pan.


One Year Ago: Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce


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52 comments on “Chicken Salad on Focaccia and Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

  1. Carolyn
    May 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Cookies are my go to for showing love and making people feel better and baking them (and eating bits of dough) along the way is very theraputic for me, as well. Dinner on Friday night was the usual — pizza and salad. It’s cold and rainy in my part of Ontario this weekend, so there won’t be much grilling in my backyard.

  2. Sophie
    May 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

    MMMMMM…it looks that you had a lovely afternoon!! Yummie, indeed! I love to make my own mayonaise too: it is more delicious! That foccacia & that cake look georgously yummie!! I will look for that recipe for the cake!! MMMMMM…..

  3. Robin
    May 16, 2009 at 4:13 am

    When my son comes home from college I always have Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies for him (his favorite cookie). I have rolls of the cookie dough in freezer/refrigerator and can pull them out and bake as needed.

  4. Heather
    May 16, 2009 at 4:16 am

    I had popcorn last night. LOL It was a long week including me getting up at 5 am for 5 days in a row to work out. I was beat.I also had a Bloody Caesar in celebration of the 40th anniversary. :)

  5. Christina
    May 16, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Loved this post! Being home with 3 young children (2 being boys) I too often think about when they grow out of the “I only want mommy” stage. Your post really speaks volumes to me and my life! Like my mother and grandmother (my moms mother), I show love with food. If I like someone, the first thing that comes to mind is “I wonder what kind of food is their favorite?”. Being a stay at home mom, not having much extra money (since we, a family of 5, live on my husbands income) cooking/baking for people is one of the only ways I think of show my affections. I never make the same thing for everyone. Tom (my husbands boss who treats our family so amazing), I’ll make Ginger Sesame Almond (which I normally will only make at Christmas but because he’s so wonderful I’ll make them anytime for him). In return he’s sent home beautiful homemade bread for me! My Dad I’ll make cookies, chocolate chip. My husband, I’ll make Peanut Butter Pie (he’s not much of a sweet tooth but he LOVE PBP). What I make really depends on the person. I love to cook and bake for people, it’s definitely my “thing”.
    Thanks for this post Julie! I loved it!

  6. supersu
    May 16, 2009 at 4:44 am

    honestly-anything that doesnt require the microwave is considered ‘i love you’ food around here!

    anything heavy on cream, butter, or cheese qualifies instantly too!

    happy long weekend to all! (even if it is raining/SNOWING!!!!!)

  7. margaret
    May 16, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Friday night dinner for my kids and their friends sleeping over was simple and quick: spaghetti with tomato sauce and Italian sausage meatballs. Regular pasta and gluten free to meet everyone’s needs. When baking for my loved ones, primarily the kids, it’s chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, brownies, puffed wheat squares, lemon squares, lemon saskatoon muffins.

  8. K-Line
    May 16, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Beautiful photos. That cake is right up my alley!

  9. natalie (MI)
    May 16, 2009 at 6:14 am

    My husband is a salty kind of guy. So… chips and homemade guac/salsa says “I love you” like no other. My 4 year old… sweeter the better…. cookies etc. However, it is really LOVE if it isn’t homemade (sigh) and is in the form of a sucker or jelly beans. So, I guess it isn’t what I would choose (brownies/flourless chocolate cake etc.) or breakfast cookies to show love but what they would want. Now, if someone wants to show me LOVE coffee and chocolate will go a long way!

  10. glenda
    May 16, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Supper last night – barbequed pork chops, greek pasta/spinach salad, broccoli salad, garlic bread.

    and food that says i love you? Whatever that person’s ‘favorite’ is; traditional/seasonal and predictable celebratory food; a dining room table laden with food and surrounded by family and friends – they all say ‘we love you’ and you are worth it!

  11. Elaine
    May 16, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I usually go for condiments or dips–something I can pack in jam jars and give with homemade bread or some nice sausages–because they’re portable, keep well, and who doesn’t like a wee jar of homemade mustard?

  12. Ellen
    May 16, 2009 at 8:25 am

    cookies or a special breakfast :)

  13. Cheryl
    May 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Hmm, that’s a good question. I have to admit that I think that almost anything I make says that, but I’m not sure my Hubby would agree. But it might be time to whip out the salt cookies because he did point out those were the best cookies I’d ever made.

    I so want to be that mom that has fresh baking when my kids come home from school! The mom that their friends are jealous of. The mom that will play with them after dinner to work off all that butter and sugar. The mom that doesn’t care that muffin top might have a second meaning because she feeds them muffins all the time. The mom that they remember coming home to.

  14. Leah
    May 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I make them a pie. My favourite at the moment is rhubarb strawberry. Growing up my mom always made my dad several peach pies when peaches were in season because peach pie is his absolute favourite. It always seemed like such a loving gesture to me, so now I’m passing it on. I’m actually on my way out to cut some rhubarb to make my dad a rhubarb strawberry pie!

  15. Carol
    May 16, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Pancakes! My brother used to make them for us on Sunday morning. I started making pancakes for my husband on the weekend – he used to travel a lot so it was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning: drinking coffee , flipping pancakes and catching up. I now make pancakes for my children – my son actually woke me up at 6:00 AM this morning to request them. Not only do they love eating pancakes, but they love measuring the ingredients, counting the eggs and mixing the batter – they are very upset if they miss on out this part. For a treat I will even make pancakes for supper, including all of the sides such a bacon and berry compote.

  16. robin
    May 16, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Ulla’s food looks SO good! I love chicken salad, and her’s looks amazing. I totally agree… everything tastes better when someone else makes it.

    I love to make cinnamon rolls. People insist they are purchased from cinabon. The last batch I made, I delivered to a friend who was entertaining a house full of people for the weekend. I thought it would take a load off her mind to have breakfast in the bag. Though, I don’t know how much help I ended up being as they were instead devoured for dessert.

    We didn’t do dinner last night. I was warding off the last of a stomach flu and this morning it was 90 degrees before I even got in the shower. So no ovens are going to be used in this little house… and probably not for a few months! So I will be glad to see what kind of “love” food the rest of you mention, particularly if it doesn’t require baking :O)

    Thanks for the chance at a giveaway!

  17. Donna
    May 16, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Comfort food around here is cookies – usually chocolate chip. The recipe is from an old Purity Flour cookbook – and I always have to double the batch. Oatmeal, peanut butter, ginger snap cookies and brownies are all popular – but nothing beats the chocolate chip cookies.
    On a cold, miserable day (like maybe next Monday) homemade chicken or turkey soup with dumplings goes over well.
    Must try the fococcia…

  18. Jen C
    May 16, 2009 at 10:00 am

    This is all making me so hungry! And I just finished eating…….yikes! I like to make people a chicken parmesan (chicken breasts, chunks of mozza tucked throughout in a yummy homemade tomato sauce), plus a salad ready to go and a loaf of cheese or garlic bread. That way they get the complete meal and it’s ready to go. I’m actually making this for some friends of ours today as they are moving and this is my way of helping without having to move (because moving @#$@%).
    Happy May Long everyone!

  19. Mary
    May 16, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Not much for dinner as I had to work. But I have been to Pikes Place Market (last summer). I recollect people, people, people… a really good lunch close by, flowers for sale (big bunches of sweet peas) and the very first Starbuck’s. Oh yay and people, people, people… Worth the visit to the aquarium close by.

  20. Ella
    May 16, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Could the cake be her twist on Looks like a delicious adaptation!

  21. robyn
    May 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I make sangria for the people I love. But probably not a good snack for the kids when they come home from school.

    We should go to Seattle together!

  22. Litsa
    May 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Last night we decided to finish some leftovers. My husband got the last of our home made spanakopita, while I finished off the Trader Joe’s truffle flat bread. We also shared some red grapes.

    To make people feel good I have been experimenting with no-knead bread variations. This weekend I am going to create chocolate raspberry bread, by mixing in some cocoa and sugar into the dough, then swirling raspberry jam through it after the first rising. Keep your fingers crossed…

  23. Allison
    May 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    we love warm comfort food around here to make us feel loved. A warm pot roast with potatoes, gravy and some veg does the trick. A hot berry or apple crisp to finish off makes a perfect loving dinner.

  24. Margaret L
    May 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I make cookies for my young neighbors and their kids in my cul de sac. (Me and my hubby are the geezers on the block and we see way too many pizza boxes out front on garbage day.) Yes, warm cookies, straight from the oven, just like my kids got when they arrived home from school. Sometimes I make chocolate dipped strawberries and give out as well. My young neighbors are so nice, I like to make treats for them.

  25. Elizabeth L.
    May 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Wow! That lunch looks amazing.

    In our home, comfort food comes in many guises, but one of the best is beef stew in the slow cooker. Everyone comes home to amazing aromas. Homemade bread in the bread machine (for the kids) and no-knead bread for the adults (beyond good!) makes everyone happy.

    The best, however, is lasagna. When we watched “Ratatouille”, I asked my (11 yo) son what dish would he remember the most from his childhood. When he replied “lasagna”, I couldn’t help but cry a bit. Of course, no matter what he said I would have been a bit weepy, but that is what making good memories is all about (If you haven’t seen the movie–rent it. One rather odd chef I know said he couldn’t watch it because there were RATS in the kitchen. It’s a movie….)

  26. Elizabeth L.
    May 16, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    ps-the 11 yo boy still wakes up to hugs and cuddles every morning. Of course, he then wants to wear shorts when it it 0 degrees and constantly forgets his retainer, and I do not dare embarrass him with a kiss or hug at school. His smile, however, when he has his favourite chocolate chip cookie is worth all of the new ‘rules’!

  27. amelia
    May 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    usually something sweet since I’ve got such a sweet tooth, ie brownies, cookies…

  28. Avery
    May 16, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    You must see the “flying fish” market at Pike’s Place, if you ever get the chance to go! You can spend an afternoon just watching them alone.

    We just had our first bbq of the season: homemade “beet burgers”, chunky salad, grilled jumbo shrimp, grilled asparagus and for dessert… banana cream pie (unfortunately not homemade)!
    Believe it or not, one of the things that I’ve been making lately when Mike has a stressful day is your chocolate chip cookie bars! There’s nothing like dunking a still-warm cookie into cold milk at the end of the day…

  29. Melanie
    May 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Is it mere coincidence that we made pork satay one year to the day that you made it??? I think not… ha ha ha ha
    We don’t have a special “pre-long weekend” meal but it was great to have food on sticks (especially with a pile of garlic in it!)

  30. Melanie
    May 16, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Whoops – I forgot about the second half. My husband and kids love having home made cookies around the house. With a new baby to distract me (and the ever present sleep deprivation) I forgot how easy they were to make. The other night I whipped up some of Jean Pare’s Oatmeal Chocolate chip cookies- huge batch – needless to say, they were gone in two days! But boy, was I popular! Yay mom!

  31. Jenn
    May 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    My first year away from home was especially, especially tough. The only thing that made it better, was my Mom’s bi monthly visits down to visit me, with her special chicken soup. I have never, ever been able to find a chicken soup which tastes like my Mum’s.

    The other thing I love making is fresh challah (dipped in aforementioned chicken soup) or, in a pinch, eaten dipped in a pinch of coarse sea salt, with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

  32. Lindsay
    May 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I think banana loaf it the perfect food to make someone feel loved and comforted. Its gotta be warm and have melty chocolate chips in it.

  33. Rose
    May 17, 2009 at 2:23 am

    The comfort food I like to make the family is blueberry scones. They’re quick and easy and so good. We gather around the island with coffee and finish off a pan of scones.

  34. Luann
    May 17, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Raisin chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are the mainstay feelgood around here. It’s hard not to eat them for breakfast.

  35. Sue (London, ON)
    May 17, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Cookies. I love to bake any and all kinds of cookies for my teenagers. I would say they love oatmeal chocolate chip the most; however One Smart Cookie’s cornflake cookies are my 18 year olds most fave!
    Friday night we went to a greasy pub just over the river in Michigan. The place was a bit of a dive, the beer was cheap and the food greasy. And I mean all of that in a good way!
    My new favourite recipe that I made Friday to share with friends & family over the weekend is from Grazing – Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake. YOWZA!! Thats deeelish! Thanks Julie

  36. Erica B.
    May 17, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Great topic for FSF I love reading everyone’s responses. :)

    I have been known to overnight my sister a care package of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and brownies when she’s been in need of a long distance hug. (She’s in Toronto and I’m in Calgary) For my oldest nothin’ says lovin’ like a big pot of chicken noodle soup.

  37. DJ
    May 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Funny you ask what we make to show our love. I just finished reading your post to my husband and we were agreeeing with you about the value of homebaked goods. We have a 8 year old daughter and she often raves about her dad’s homemade bread (he bakes it every weekend), my cuupcakes or pretty much anything else I make….I know we’re very lucky.
    One of my family favs is a shortbread sandwich type cookie with almond buttercream icing in between. It has been passed down from my great grama. To us they are the ultimate “show-me-you-love-me” food!

  38. Angela
    May 17, 2009 at 9:07 am

    My 16 year-old son requested macaroni and cheese and apple pie for his birthday. It’s a meal that warms the home literally and figuratively. It’s tough to make apple all the time but the mac & cheese I can whip up when needed to show a little love. A simple bean and cheese burrito, quickly browned the pan for a little crunch also seems to make my no-longer-little-guy feel well attended to.

  39. Joni
    May 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I actually found Pike Place Market a bit disappointing when I went a couple of years ago, except the fish mongers — they’re great!!

    I love to make cookies for people, or brownies, or a yummy homemade lasagna.

  40. Julie
    May 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I just had pizza on Friday night. But I make fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, gravy, sweet tea and brownies to make people feel special… is also what I will make for myself, if I am feeling a little homesick.

  41. Manon from Ontario
    May 17, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Don’t count me in for free stuff Friday…

    Just wanted to say that today I made a vegetable soup, your banana muffin with chocolate chip recipe, trying out making your no knead bread, and I also made a mega fruit salad, which the kids will chow down within a week.
    Tonight for dinner I’m making your Maple Apple pork loin with roasted potatoes and mashed carrots and parsnips, yummy.
    If the bread goes well tomorrow, I’ll make another, until I’m totally addicted.
    Hope all goes well, a bit nervous.

    Hope you have a great weekend.


  42. Theresa
    May 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    A greek birthday feast. Souvlaki chicken skewers,rice, warm whole wheat pita, tzatziki, hummus, greek salad made with whole black olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and 3 colors of peppers…. and a bit of red onion.
    Dessert was plain cheesecake with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. To drink? Too much!

  43. margo
    May 17, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I homeschool my kids (two graduated, two still here)… so I reward my 15 yo son for getting himself out of bed in timely fashion by making him a breakfast bagel… (he says mine are so much better than his), and fresh Starbucks breakfast blend coffee! I love to bake and cook for my family and especially as they grow up and leave home, they shower me with their appreciation! Each family member has his or her faves, and they always get to choose the entire menu for their birthdays.
    This weekend my daughter was in a drama production, so for the potluck cast celebration afterward, I took a colorful summery-looking bean /corn/ avocado / mango salad all flavored with cumin, cilantro, lime juice, and chili powder; and a fruit pizza for my 20 yo son’s friend’s birthday.

  44. Kirsten
    May 17, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Probably anything along the cookie, cake, etc. line would qualify as I love you food around here (especially if it’s chocolate). The kids also appreciate something for breakfast besides cereal or toast. My grandfather used to make blueberry muffins when we visited. I still think of him when I smell them baking in the morning, and my kids think they’re pretty great as well.

  45. Sherry
    May 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    It is either my chicken pot pie or broccoli cheese soup to make someone feel loved. My Mom for Mother’s Day even asked if I could make her the broccoli cheese soup as a gift. I did and it was so sweet how happy it made her.

  46. Tagyn
    May 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    We always make special birthday cakes decorated in a theme for the birthday person- I hope the kids remember the love that goes into them.
    I also like to make rice krispie squares for the kids which are fast and yummy. When the kids are a bit older I expect I will come up with something a little fancier to impress them when they get home from school!
    Julie- I have been making your scone recipe a lot and everyone loves them!

  47. Kathryn
    May 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Not Friday night dinner, not weekend dinner, but the pulled together at last minute lunch because I was meeting family to open the cottage:

    V8 carrot soup, baguette with tuna salad.

  48. angela
    May 18, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    when ppl come to visit, i always have a pot of fresh coffee waiting for them and usually banana bread made that day or pumpkin white chocolate scones.

  49. Barbara
    May 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I bake brownies or chocolate chip cookies, or make soup. And the entire time I’m preparing the food I’m thinking how I care about the person and how I’m sending them love, and want them to feel better if they are ill or sad.

  50. Barb
    May 19, 2009 at 5:56 am

    I make something different for everyone. It depends on the person; might be an old favorite or something new and trendy we have been hearing about. Dinner Firday: chicken fingers and coleslaw.

  51. Tina
    May 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Feel good foods would have to be homemade chocolate pudding for my 3 year old, chicken leek & potato soup for my husband, and sticky date pudding for anyone!

  52. Vivian
    May 19, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I like to go the distance with some kind of eggs Benny…depending on where you are or have just come back from…like Victoria, with West Coast crab or black cod.

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