Baking it Forward

By & | January 07, 2017

About this recipe

Isn't it ironic that the more we're connected, the further apart we seem — at least in this always-on, social-media world. And with the trend to migrate from smaller communities to cities, often leaving family and close-knit social networks behind, urban life can be isolating.

One year ago, Deb Abbott made a conscious decision to change that, using her skills and passion for cooking to connect with people — one homemade quiche, jar of jam and box of brownies at a time. Abbott, an avid home cook, canner and staunch supporter of local food, started a personal project she calls baking it forward.

Once a week for the past year, she would surprise someone in her life with homemade treats or a ready-to-eat meal — small gestures to make life a little easier or to brighten their day. Sometimes the lucky recipient was an unfamiliar neighbour who had just mowed the lawn of a shared green space, a favourite farmer who had been working around the clock to fend off weeds and drought, a young family with lots of children and little time or a friend battling cancer.

For Abbott, the idea of paying it forward was instilled from an early age. Abbott lost her father when she was just nine years old, but he had already taught her a valuable life lesson — the notion of paying it forward and helping other people whenever you can.

"Even though he didn't have a lot of money, he was a strong proponent of helping people before you help yourself," says Abbott. "A lot of the antiques I have in the house are things he would get as trades for doing services for other people to help them out."

Discovering her Instagram posts of her baking it forward project, Abbott has made a lasting impression on us too. It's all about "neighbours helping neighbours and friends helping friends," says Abbott. "If I inspire just one person to bake it forward once in a while that will be wonderful."

Abbott shares her well-tested recipes for soda bread, chicken pot pie and thumbprint cookies at And if you're inspired to bake it forward, please share your experience too.
Tag your photos using #bakingitforward and @edibleottawa.


Thumbprint Cookies - makes 3 dozen

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans, finely chopped
Homemade or good quality strawberry or plum jam for the middle of the cookie

Use a food processor to finely grind the pecans.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add in sugar, beating until fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour and salt; add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in the pecans. Cover and chill dough for at least an hour. Once chilled, shape the dough into one inch balls, placing the balls onto a greased cookie sheets one inch apart. Press thumb gently into centre of each ball, leaving an indentation. Fill the indentation with jam. Bake for 17 or 18 minutes (or until lightly browned). Cool for one minute on cookie sheet, then remove to wire racks and cool completely. 

Soda Bread

1¾ cup flour (you can use all white flour or half whole wheat and half white flour)
¼ cup flax meal (or increase your flour by ¼ cup)
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raisins or dried figs
½ cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup low fat milk

Preheat oven to 425F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. in a mixing bowl, mix the flour, flax meal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts together. Add in the milk and mix together until well blended. Turn the mixture onto a well floured work surface and knead in the flour until mixture is no longer sticky. Shape into an oval and mark a cross in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Bake for 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

Chicken Pot Pie  

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 thin slices Serrano Ham, julienned 
1½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
8 small chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces
1 cup white wine (optional)
5 cups chicken broth 
3 tablespoons corn starch
4 cups mushrooms (assorted) cut into bite size pieces
8 sheets phyllo

In a large pan over medium heat, sauté garlic and Serrano ham in olive oil until the garlic becomes translucent. Add in the chicken and thyme, and cook until the chicken has browned. Add in the wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add in the chicken stock. Cover with a lid and bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for another 12-15 minutes. Add in the mushrooms. Dissolve the corn starch in a little water and add to the pan to thicken the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish (9 x 12).

Preheat oven to 425F

Lay out the phyllo sheets one at a time and brush each sheet evenly with olive oil. Scrunch each sheet into a ball and place over the chicken mixture. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the phyllo sheets are lightly browned. Serve with a salad or mashed potatoes and green beans. 

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