Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cookbook Review: 3 Times a Day

Recipe 1: "Lemon & Olive Chicken with Feta Couscous"

The chicken, onions and garlic are nicely browned and its time to add the pitted olives, but I realize as I fish the green olives from inside the jar with a fork, that I have no idea how to pit an olive!

I roll my eyes and think, "Too late now! I am just going to have to wing it." I sigh when I remember the recipe calls for a quarter cup of the purple olives and a quarter cup of the green ones.

Thankfully, I have opted only to use as many olives as is required to remain relatively true to the recipe. I am plotting to sneak this dish past my husband, who claims to detest olives of any kind.

My fingers get to work on the slippery olives.

I am hoping the pit will just pop out, but no, the flesh of the olive seems reluctant to part with the pit that hides at its centre. Mutilated pieces of olive fall into my measuring cup.

"At least I won't have to do much chopping," I think attempting to console myself.

The chicken dish I am trying out is from the French Canadian cookbook 3 Times a Day.

3 Times a Day is a great title, don't you think?

If you were to see it on a generic list, you might wonder what the book suggests happen three times each day. Once you know it's a cookbook, the answer is clear: it's eating three times a day.

As a teenager Quebec singer/songwriter Marilou Champagne began her career in the entertainment business where the pressure to be thin is enormous. Though she loved cooking and food, Marilou struggled with anorexia into her early twenties.

Marilou's pledge to herself to eat at least three times a day was part of the healing process. She also started a blog with her husband Alexandre to share her journey toward a healthy relationship with food. Marilou began experimenting with table setting, food styling and creating recipes. Alexandre, who had a passion for photography, took the pictures.

The blog quickly found an audience in French Canada. The cookbook Trois fois par jour followed and sold 200,000 copies in French. Three Times a Day is the newly released English version.
(Listen to Marilou and Alexandre tell their story in a CBC radio interview with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter.)

Back to my chicken.

The next hurtle turns out to be the cream sauce. I grate the lemon zest, squeeze the juice and add the chicken stock. Then I pour 15% cream over my beautiful looking chicken only to see it curdle.

I let out a scream of pure frustration!

The two older dogs quickly hustle out of the kitchen and down the hallway to cower. Little Piper runs all the way to the top of the landing to hide.

Damed if I will let this chicken recipe defeat me!

I fish out the cooked chicken, rinse it off and start over again. Using a little extra chicken stock to compensate for the pan juices, I brown more onions, add garlic and yet more olives.

Was it the lemon juice and cream in combination? The recipe offers the option of 15% or 35% cream. This time I opt to use 35% cream just for good measure.  In a separate bowl, I mix the chicken stock and the lemon juice really well and stirring vigorously, I add the cream. Yeah! No curdling!

A couple of minor deviations from the recipe: I used chicken breasts instead of thighs. The meat of chicken thighs would be even more juicy, but breasts happen to be on sale. I also added some dijon because I love the look and taste of those little mustard seeds.

So how did the chicken taste in the end? The answer is DELICIOUS!

The lemon adds a light, fresh note to the cream, which is rich and sweet.

The olives contribute a subtle flavour, but they are not so in-your-face that my husband called me out for using olives. In fact both he and my son loved the chicken, when I served it later that evening.

The side dish is a couscous with crumbled feta cheese. The fast, simple dressing for the couscous uses dried Oregon, dijon mustard, a little vegetable oil and tons of fresh parsley.


Recipe 2: "My Favourite Chocolate Cake"

The next thing I wanted to try from 3 Times a Day was a recipe for a very decadent looking chocolate cake.

Perhaps because I was always a working Mom or maybe because we were a small family of three, I could count on one hand the number of times I have made a cake from scratch! It takes the three of us forever to make our way through a big cake, so I have always favoured homemade cookies or squares instead.

But cakes are perfect for special occasions and for entertaining guests, so I have always felt that there was something missing from my small repertoire of desserts. 

One of my culinary ambitions has become a search for the ultimate chocolate cake recipe; one that is both easy to pull-off and tastes amazing.

Could this be the recipe?

The icing

One of the interesting things about this particular chocolate cake recipe is that it uses mayonnaise as a secret ingredient in the cake batter rather than butter or oil.

I could see why the moment I whisked the mayonnaise into the mixture of beaten eggs, sugar and vanilla. The combination of ingredients was so light and foamy!

The icing on the top of the cake calls for a pound and a half of butter, so it goes without saying that it's good. (Marilou suggests in the recipe's introduction that this is not the healthiest dessert, but is instead a cake intended for special occasions like birthdays.)

The cake in the book is topped with red raspberries. I thought that it looked so pretty, I wanted to top my cake in the same way.

So how was the chocolate cake? It was lovely!

One minor thing: the cake recipe calls for the addition of a 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips. If I make it again, I'd leave the chocolate chips out. I didn't like, and this is purely personal, the change of texture the chocolate chips made in the cake. But if you like surprises, you may find that the little pieces of dark chocolate are an unexpected delight. 

Is this the ultimate chocolate cake recipe I am searching for? It is certainly a candidate! But it's early days yet. I want to try other recipes out, before I settle on one.

If you would like to give this recipe a try, you can find it here. I'd love to hear what you think!

Visit the Trois fois par jour website where you can find recipes in both English and French. There are a number of wonderful recipe videos, but unfortunately they are only in French. The website has links to the Trois fois par Jour shop and French language magazine.

3 Times a Day is available through Amazon and Chapters.


  1. Was the cake moist? I want to stick my head in the computer and take a big bite!

  2. It was moist. I managed to get the perfect raspberries to go on top too. Raspberries and chocolate! Yum!

  3. Good to see my buddy Piper! The old Mayo-in-the-cake recipe - really 1950s - and also really delicious. I'm with you on the chocolate chips - I want my gateau to taste like gateau. If you want a good dessert recipe book with lots of easy old-fashioned cakes - try The Wooden Spoon cookbook, Marilyn M Moore. No glorious photos sadly, but dependable delicious cakes. B. p.s. 200k copies sold in Quebec - now that's incredible!

    1. It is a little too incredible Barbara. It is actually 200,000 copies sold in French. I went back and fixed my error. Thanks for letting me know about the Wooden Spoon. I'll have to look for a copy.