The Main Menu: A conversation with readers that has been going on for 36 years

Jan Main has been writing The Main Menu and sharing recipes with local readers for 36 years.


Fifty years! Wow! This is the start of the 50th year for Beach Metro News/Ward 9 News.

It seems like such a short time ago, I gathered up my courage, a copy of my resume and my small son, Timothy, for a walk to the Ward 9 News office at the YMCA location on Kingston Road – 36 years ago! How can that be?

(Beach Metro News now has its office on Gerrard Street East. The name of the paper was changed from Ward 9 News to Beach Metro News in 1988).

“I wonder if you would accept my resume, in the event you may need another food writer in the future? I teach cooking in the area and love to write.”

“We’ll keep it on file. Thanks for dropping by.”

The telephone rang the following Monday. Ward 9 News needed a writer – starting time – immediate. Hired. I was ecstatic!

The articles always seemed like a conversation with my readers. Such a pleasure! I loved bumping into people on my daily walks and getting feedback.

Invariably, these conversations led to inspiration for more stories and recipes. Recipes galore! There has never been a shortage.

In celebration of the paper beginning its 50th year this month, I have asked readers for their favourite recipes. It was fun and delicious to see and taste once again the ones they chose. Happy eating and happy 50th year to Beach Metro News!

Chicken with Honey and Lavender

Claudia Wood, an avid cook, met me in Azzarello’s about 34 years ago, “Are you Jan Main? You write for Ward 9 News?”

This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship which shares a common passion for food.

Claudia says this lavender chicken, an original recipe from Foodland Ontario, is her “Go to” recipe. When asked about her supply of lavender, she suggested ordering it from Weir’s Lane, Lavender Apiary, 105 King St. W. Dundas Ontario, telephone 905-627-9208. Of course, if you grow lavender in your garden, you can dry the blooms and use them provided they are insecticide free!


1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon rind
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp (20 mL) food -grade dried lavender
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) liquid honey (local)
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
2 lbs (1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon rind, oil, garlic, lavender, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove 2 tbsp (25 mL) marinade and set aside.

Add the remaining marinade to a heavy freezer plastic bag then add the chicken thighs massaging the thighs with the marinade. Refrigerate an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Remove the chicken thighs to a 13 x 9- inch (3 L) baking dish. Arrange in a single layer, spooning some of the marinade over thighs. Discard remaining marinade. Bake chicken covered for 30 minutes. Baste with pan juices about half way through cooking.

In small bowl, whisk the reserved marinade with the honey and mustard until smooth. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F (190 C). Brush the chicken with the sauce and bake about 14 to 20 minutes, uncovered until internal temperature of the thighs reaches 165 F (74 C) or the juices run clear.

Serve immediately, or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Sherried Mushroom Soup

Deb Chapman, lay pastoral assistant at St. Nicholas Church, Warden and Kingston, served this mushroom soup at a course taught at the church. The soup created a hum of contentment as the participants downed the contents of their bowls.

2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
12 oz (375 mL) button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) leaf thyme
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry sherry
1/4 cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1 can (370 mL) evaporated milk, 2 per cent or whole

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Cook mushrooms, onion and garlic until mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme and sherry. Cook uncovered until liquid is evaporated about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle mushrooms with flour. Stir in to make a smooth mushroom paste Gradually stir in chicken stock; cook stirring over medium heat until soup is thickened.

Stir in bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if necessary, this will depend on the amount of salt in the chicken stock. Stir in evaporated milk. Discard bay leaf.

Soup may be kept for 2 days covered and refrigerated. Makes 4 servings.

Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Liz Schumann, a constant reader of Beach Metro News, chose the oatmeal square as one of her fast and tasty favourites. It is one of my most frequently requested recipes and a tribute to my Mother, Daphne Cargill who originated it.

Liz suggested grating an orange rind over the square before sprinkling it with the chocolate chips. It transports the squares from yummy to sublime or as my mother would say, “Morish!”

1/2 cup (125 mL) melted butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL quick oats
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweetened flaked coconut
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 orange, rind grated over the square (reserve orange for other use)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 C (180 C). Line an 8- inch or 9- inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In large glass bowl, melt butter, stir in oatmeal, sugar, coconut, vanilla and salt until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over prepared pan and press down lightly. Bake 10 -15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove to cooling rack; immediately sprinkle with grated orange rind( if using); sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Allow chips to melt. Spread with knife and decorate with tines of fork.

Cool completely before cutting. Makes 16-20 squares.

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