Archive for Winter Comforts – Page 2

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

There is something so tummy warming about the combination of squash with curry! The roasted red pepper drizzle is a nice, colourful touch. There is a very small amount of milk or cream to give the soup a bit of body and a bit of richness and a bit more deliciousness.

DSC_0518 nx2Makes 6 Servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp. curry powder**  if you wish to make your own, see below
½ tsp. each salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 cups cubed (1” pieces) butternut squash, peeled, seeds & stringy bits removed
1 large potato, peeled & cut into ½” dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock** if you wish to make your own, see below
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup homogenized milk or creamo

Garnish: Red Pepper Puree (see below for recipe)

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat; add the onion & saute´ until just softened; add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt & pepper; cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until all ingredients are softened.

Add the squash & potato; stir until well coated; add the stock, lemon juice & tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover & simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes or until veggies are very tender. Remove from the heat & allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

Using a blender or food processor, puree the cooled soup in batches. (I find the blender makes a finer puree).

In a clean pot, heat the soup mixture until hot over medium heat; add the milk or creamo & heat through but do not boil, as the milk or creamo will curdle. Ladle into warmed serving bowls and garnish with a drizzle of the red pepper puree.

Red Pepper Puree:

While the soup is simmering, roast 2 red bell peppers** click here for method. When cool, peel, remove seeds & membranes; puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve if you wish. Set aside until ready to serve the soup.

If you would like to make your own curry powder, click here.
If you would like to make your own stock, click here.

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Chicken Or Turkey Salad With Pears

The first time I made this salad was for the chairman of the organization I worked for. Later in the day he made a point of taking me aside and thanking me for “the best salad I have ever had”. Well, that’s definitely one big pat on the back! By the way, we love it too! The Honey Tarragon Vinaigrette simply makes the salad. This is something you can make with either freshly cooked or leftover chicken or turkey.

Makes 6 Servings

8 cups assorted greens (I really like the greens at Farmer’s Markets, they are so very, very fresh & keep well)
2 cups julienned cooked chicken or turkey
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
2 firm ripe pears (Bosc, Anjou or red skinned pears such as Red Sensation, would look great)
3 oz. blue cheese
DSC_2463.jpg nx21/3 cup walnut pieces or halves, toasted**
Herbed croutons (recipe below)
Fresh dill sprigs

Honey Tarragon Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp. dried tarragon or 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
¼ – ½ tsp. salt (to taste)
1/3 cup combined walnut oil & EVOO

Make the dressing:

In a blender combine all ingredients except the oils. Slowly drizzle in the combined oils, with the blender running, until the dressing is thickened. You can do the dressing the same way, using a bowl & whisk. (Place the dressing into a jar and store in the fridge until needed, shake dressing to combine before dressing the salad).

Herbed Croutons

1 cup cubed day-old white of whole wheat bread
2 Tbsp. EVOO
½ tsp. each dried thyme, tarragon & salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with the EVO, herbs & salt. Place in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until crispy but not too hard. Set aside until ready to make the salad.

Assemble the salad:

You can place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl, but I have to say it is much prettier to assemble the salads on 6 individual plates.
Place the greens onto the plates; arrange the turkey or chicken on top of the greens. Cut the pears in half & remove the cores. Slice the pears & place them around the chicken, tucking into the greens here & there. Crumble the cheese onto the salads; top with some of the walnuts & croutons; garnish with thin slices of red onion & a sprig of fresh dill. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

To see how to toast nuts, click Toasting Nuts.

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Red Wine Braised Oxtails

Oxtails have to be one of my favourite things! They are so tender, unctuous and just plain lip-smacking good! This is a recipe I have made for years with a tweak here, and a tweak there along the way. Years ago oxtails were very inexpensive…not any more…I guess they have been “discovered”…never mind the stories that there is only one tail per animal and that is why the prices have gone up! Great with a baguette or mashed potatoes or even some tubular shape of pasta (what I do with the leftovers). Can be made the day before & reheated over medium-low heat until hot or in a medium-low oven.

DSC_9690 nx2For the Oxtails:

4 lbs. oxtails cut into 2” pieces (have your butcher do this for you)
A combination of EVOO & canola oil for browning the meat (approx. 2 Tbsp. each)
4 medium carrots, peeled & cut into 1” pieces
1 rutabaga peeled & cut into 1 ½” pieces (or you can substitute the same amount of white turnip)
2 cooking onions cut into ¼” dice
4 stalks celery, trimmed & cut into 1” pieces
1/3rd – ½ cup dried Porcini mushrooms
3 cups beef stock**
1 cup dry red wine
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

To thicken the sauce: 3 Tbsp. beef stock & 1 Tbsp. potato starch.

Make the Oxtails:

Place the dried Porcini in a small bowl & add ½ or so of warm water; allow them to soak until soft, approximately 20 minutes. Squeeze them dry, roughly chop & set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Blot the oxtails dry with paper towels & season with salt & pepper. In a large saute pan on top of the stove, heat the oils over medium heat; when hot place the oxtails in the pan & brown them well on all sides. Remove them, as they are browned, to a large plate. If there is more than 2 Tbsp. oil left in the pan remove the excess. Add all the chopped veggies & saute them for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Add the dried Porcini & stir for a minute; add the wine, beef stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme & parsley; season with ½ to 1 tsp. salt & ¼ tsp. pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil; return the oxtails to the pan, cover & place in the oven to braise for 2 ½ – 3 hrs. I always think longer is better.

Remove the oxtails from the oven. Make a “slurry” with the beef stock & potato starch, stirring in half at a time until you reach the thickness you like; season with additional salt & pepper to taste & serve.

If you would like to make you own beef stock, click here.

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Mary’s Spaghetti Sauce

I’m pretty sure this was my very first experience of Italian cooking and I have to say it was love at first bite. I simply had to have the recipe so I could make it at my house.  Now…my family were not big into garlic and certainly nothing spicy…so that cayenne was quite the surprise with everyone gulping plenty of water while consuming their spaghetti! Next time I had to leave out the cayenne…not any more!  We lived a couple of doors from my friend Colleen and her family and I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up.  Her mom, Mary (a great cook), got the recipe from one of her sisters-in-law (both were of Italian heritage.) Over the years the original has been tweaked but the basic taste I fell in love with is still there!

Since learning a lot more about Italian cooking I have wondered if the long simmered chunks of beef were originally intended to be removed from the sauce, set aside to be served as the secondo (second course) with the remaining sauce tossed with spaghetti for the primi (first course).

Makes Enough Sauce for 1 1/2 lbs. Spaghetti

1 ½ lbs stewing beef, chuck is a great choice
4 Tbsp. EVOO
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 –  28 oz. tin Italian plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands, slosh tin with 1 cup water to rinse & add to sauce OR a bottle of passata
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon, or more to taste
¼ tsp. ground cloves, or more to taste
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper or peperoncino
Salt & freshly ground black pepper


Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add EVOO & heat until hot but not smoking. Add the stewing beef and turn the meat in the EVOO until coated. Cook for 5 minutes until all the meat is no longer red. Add the onions & sauté until softened but not browned. Add the garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper or pepperoncino; sauté for a minute; stir in the tomato paste & cook for 1 minute. Pour in the crushed tomatoes & the cup water from the tin; season with salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot & simmer for 4 – 5 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Note: you can substitute lean ground beef or a mixture of ground beef & ground pork for the stewing beef.  The sauce will take 2 hours to cook instead of the 4 or 5 hours for stewing beef.

If you choose, you can add some or all of the following: chopped green pepper, sliced mushrooms, finely chopped celery, grated carrot, oregano, parsley & ½ cup or so of red or white wine wouldn’t hurt either.

Scallops Wrapped With Bacon

A New Years Eve favourite that may be a “blast from the past” but everytime I make them I am always reminded that some things never lose their appeal! I recommend that you use top quality fresh scallops; Finest at Sea,** here in Vancouver, is an excellent source. I like to make a slightly spicy creamy cocktail sauce to serve with the scallops but tartar sauce or even a spicy mayo. made using some chiplotle chilies would all be good, or in a pinch, use bought cocktail sauce.  If your scallops are very large, you may want to half them to make smaller appetizers.  If so, get twice the amount of bacon.

Makes 21 Appetizers

DSC_6149 nx21 cup unbleached flour
1 ½ – 2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
21 SEA scallops
1 egg beaten with 1 cup milk
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
21 slices good quality bacon
21 toothpicks

Creamy Cocktail Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Heinz chili sauce
¼ cup prepared horseradish
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Combine the above ingredients; cover & place in the fridge until serving time.

Make the Scallops:

Place an oven rack on the level closest to the broiler element. Heat the broiler.

Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray & place the bacon slices horizontally on each sheet. Place one of the sheets of bacon under the broiler & broil the bacon until it’s cooked halfway through, approximately 2 – 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bacon. Remove from the oven & place the bacon on a large paper towel lined tray. Cook the second sheet of bacon in the same way, placing on the paper towel lined pan with the previously cooked bacon.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Lightly grease two 9” glass baking dishes or a 9 x 13” glass baking dish with cooking oil. Combine flour, salt, paprika, pepper & garlic powder in a shallow dish. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish.

Rinse & pat dry the scallops with paper towels; roll them in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess flour. Dip into the egg-milk mixture & then roll in the breadcrumbs. Lay a scallop at the bottom of a slice of bacon; roll up & secure with a toothpick & place in the greased pans. Continue in the same manner with the remaining scallops.

Place the scallops in the oven and bake until the bacon is crisp & the scallops are cooked through, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Don’t overcook them or they will become tough.

Place on a warm serving dish & serve with the sauce of your choice!

For locations of Finest at Sea, please see my Source List.

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Christmas Spirits?

DSC_2126 nx2We’ve got our tree!

We love going to our favourite “lot” every year and picking out the “perfect” tree. The first year my Husband and I were together we drove all over town looking for “that” tree! Oops… the law was laid down and “we will never be doing that again”. Did I mention that we ended up back at the first place we went to! Yikes.

The following year I was given a time limit to choose the tree! We have it down to around 10 minutes and only look at a few because “they are all nice”. After spending time chatting up our tree guy, Mario and his family and after wishing everyone buon natale, we are off home with our little beauty.

Aah, the aroma of  a Noble fir; just close your eyes and sniff, wonderful.  Up go the twinkly lights and decorations, off goes the living room lighting, on comes the little electric fireplace. It’s a little fairyland and I simply adore it!

A number of years ago, early one morning around 3:00am we heard a crash? Sounds like it’s coming from the living room! OMG, it is coming from the living room! The tree fell over! So, clean up the broken decorations, right the tree; not too much damage. Back to bed; fall asleep. Crash…it did it again!  Do the whole clean up thing again. Whew, this time it stayed up!

We think it was a signal of things to come  in the new year because there was a huge change in my career! Guess it will remain a mystery forever. Our building was constructed around 1929, hmm…wonder if it was the ghost of the Del Rey paying us another visit?   Could be…strange things have happened here every once in a while!

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Brunch Baked Eggs

Here’s another do ahead brunch dish for a stress free host, you can be enjoying your  Blood Orange Mimosa while brunch is baking!  I don’t know about you, but around the holidays when entertaining can get crazy, we need all the do-aheads we can get our hands on. This can be made vegetarian by leaving out the ham.  You can either bake in a 13×9″ pan or make 8 individual servings using ramekins.

DSC_2334 nx2Makes 12 Servings

6 cups shredded cheese, divided in half (a mixture of Monterey Jack, Old Cheddar, Gruyere)
¾ lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ medium onion, chopped
¼ cup (approx.) red bell pepper, thinly sliced
¼ cup butter
8 oz. cooked ham, cut into julienne strips
8 beaten eggs
1 ¾ cups homogenized milk (do not use low fat)
1/8 tsp. Tabasco
½ cup unbleached flour
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives, basil, tarragon or thyme or a mixture of two herbs
1 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley

Sprinkle 3 cups cheese in the bottom of a well greased or sprayed 13 x 9 x 2” baking dish. In a large frying pan, cook the mushrooms, onion and red pepper in the butter until the vegetables are tender but not brown; drain well. Cool a bit, then place vegetables on top of cheese.

Arrange ham strips on top of vegetables. Sprinkle with the remaining 3 cups of cheese. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

An hour before baking, remove from the fridge. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, herbs & parsley. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the baking dish. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Variations:  substitute 3 cups of aged Cheddar for 3 cups of Monterey Jack Cheese.

Blood Orange Mimosa:  freshly squeezed blood orange juice and bubbly wine!  So good!

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My Tourtiere

Just because we’re not from Quebec doesn’t mean we don’t love this fragrant savoury pie with its herbs & spices that’s become an absolute must at our house over Christmas!  I have revised, changed and added over the years and it just keeps getting better and better. I’ve made the filling using a mixture of ground turkey and ground pork and even with just ground turkey; pretty good they were! I often make the filling and freeze it until needed. If you can get your hands on fresh pork lard, do it, it makes wonderful Tourtiere pastry! All you need are some nice chutney’s or relishes and a salad!

Makes 2 –  8” Pies

_dsc0006-jpg-nx2Tourtiere Pastry (see below)


¼ lb. salt pork, diced into ¼” cubes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 lbs. ground pork shoulder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. each chopped celery leaves & flat-leaf parsley
1/8 tsp. each mace & ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried savory
½ tsp. dried sage, rubbed
1/8 tsp. each ground cloves & cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 ½ to 2 cups low-salt beef broth
3 or 4 slices day-old French bread (or more) cut into ½” cubes

Sauté the salt pork until crisply browned. Add the onion & fry until onion is transparent; add the remaining ingredients; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the mixture from the stove. Stir some of the bread cubes into the mixture so that it absorbs most of the juice, adding more if necessary. There should be a bit of liquid unabsorbed; season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper.  Cool mixture to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Divide the pastry in half.  Divide each half into one slightly larger & one slightly smaller piece.  Roll out the larger pieces of pastry and fit into the bottoms of 2 – 8” pie plates (I prefer glass as it gives a nicer bottom crust). Divide the meat mixture between the pie plates. Roll out the top crust (an inch or so larger than the pie plate), dampen the rims of the bottom crust; then place the top crusts on top of the pies;  trim if required.  Seal the edges and crimp decoratively, cut 3 or 4 slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape; place in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and continue baking 25-30 minutes until the crust is nicely golden, crisp & piping hot. Let pie rest for 15 – 20 minutes before serving.  Leftovers can be frozen. Sometimes I have a whole pie left, so I just freeze it and reheat in the oven until hot.

Tourtiere Pastry

4 cups sifted unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 cup Tenderflake lard, very cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) hard butter
2 large eggs, beaten
6 Tbsp. cold water, approximately

You can make this in the processor, I always do. If your processor does not accommodate the full recipe, simply divide in half. Otherwise do by hand cutting in the lard & butter with a pastry blender.

Sift the flour & salt onto a piece of wax paper. Place into the bowl of the food processor; add the lard & butter & process until the mixture resembles fine oatmeal. Combine the beaten eggs with the cold water; add to the processor while it is running and process until the dough starts to clump. If needed, add more cold water a bit at a time. Be careful not to overprocess.  Remove dough from processor, form into a ball, flatten into a disc & chill  for 30 minutes before rolling out. Or you can do what I do and make the pastry the day before and store in the fridge until required. Let it soften just enough to roll it out.

If you would like to make a really nice chutney, click Spiced Fruit Chutney. If you are into canning, I highly recommend making Mary’s Green Tomato Relish in the summer. It can be used for so many things.

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Fettuccine Alfredo As It Was Meant To Be

Some time ago I read how Fettuccine Alfredo was first created, using only butter and cheese.  So you can imagine my delight when one day I saw Italian butter at our favourite cheese shop, Les Amis du Fromage!  Wow, I could hardly wait to get home and make some Alfredo.  Of course, there’s no question but Alfredo demands fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle.  The Italian butter really rocks this dish! We have been able to get our hands on New Zealand grass-fed butter that worked out very well.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

1 lb. fresh, fettuccine/tagliatelle noodles**3 egg pasta dough
4 oz. Italian butter, unsalted and very soft (if you can’t find it…cultured, unsalted butter also works quite well)
2 – 3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated + extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pasta serving bowl in an 180 F oven.

Cook the fettuccine noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water for about two or three minutes, test for doneness after two minutes. At the same time, mix the softened butter in a bowl with the grated cheese until the cheese almost dissolves, forming a smooth cream. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta leaving just a small amount of water and toss the noodles with the Alfredo sauce in a heated serving bowl, adding pasta cooking water as necessary to create a creamy sauce; adding more cheese as necessary.  Season with freshly ground black pepper & serve immediately.

A creamy, cheesy dish of goodness enjoyed occasionally @#5.

To see how to make your own pasta, click Food Processor or Stand Mixer Pasta Dough.

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Bourbon Spiked Pumpkin Soup

Fall is definitely here!  Think pumpkins, squash and best of all Halloween! What better way to begin a fall dinner than with a bowl of creamy pumpkin soup? I tend to use milk for a lightened up version, but you choose, depending on how rich and how thick you would like your soup! It makes a great first course with either poultry or pork.

_DSC1084.jpg nx2Makes 4 – 6 Servings

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, finely minced
1 cup tinned pumpkin puree,** (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 cups chicken stock (either homemade** or tinned low salt chicken broth)
½ – 1 cup whipping cream, creamo, half & half or homogenized milk
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Small pinch of ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. bourbon (or to your taste)

Garnish: Sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds** & chopped parsley

Make the Soup:

In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat; add the onion & sauté until softened but not brown. Reduce the heat; stir in the pumpkin puree & cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes; season to taste with salt & pepper. Stir in cinnamon. Add the cream, creamo or milk & heat through until hot. Don’t allow to boil, or the soup will curdle. When hot, stir in the bourbon.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream, the pumpkin seeds & the parsley.

If you have time & a pumpkin hanging around & want to make your own puree, click Making Pumpkin Puree.  Note on the type of pumpkin…a sugar pumpkin is what’s recommended not a Jack o’Lantern as they are too watery.

If you would like to make your own stock, click Making Stock.

If you would like to see how to toast the pumpkin seeds, click Toasting Nuts.

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