Archive for Winter Comforts – Page 3

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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Honey Pear Crostini With Melted Brie

Simply  a wonderful combination of flavours for a delicious fall appetizer. Local pears, some fresh rosemary and a bit of melted brie. I make a stash of the Honey Pear Preserves to have on hand for a quick appetizer.

DSC_5570 nx21 baguette
3 Tbsp. EVOO
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
8 oz. Honey Pear Preserves (recipe below)
8 oz. Brie, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Cut the bread into ½” slices. Stir together the EVOO, garlic & rosemary; lightly brush over one side of each slice. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for approximately 5 – 10 minutes until crisp & light brown, turning once.

To Assemble The Crostini:

Spread Honey Pear Preserves on the oiled side of the read; top with Brie & pecans. Bake at 425F approximately 3 minutes, until Brie has softened. Serve warm.

Honey Pear Preserves:

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

2 – 3 lbs. firm, ripe pears (Bartlett or Bosc)
1 unpeeled lemon, quartered & sliced thinly
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup honey
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Core & finely chop the pears, to measure 4 cups. Place in a 4 quart pan. Add the lemon slices to the pot with the sugar & honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in the chopped rosemary. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until thick & “sheets” off a metal spoon, stirring frequently. Store preserves in a sterilized jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge until ready to use.

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Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Oh yum…it’s pumpkin time again! These pancakes will definitely fit the bill on Thanksgiving morning!  You can easily cut the recipe in half if you only want 8 pancakes.

DSC_5360 nx2Makes Approximately 16 Pancakes

2 cups unbleached flour (you can use 1/2 cup wholewheat flour)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup tinned pumpkin, or homemade pumpkin puree**
½ cup melted butter
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Vegetable oil for brushing the griddle

Note:  sometimes I change up the spices using 1 tsp. ground allspice & 2 tsp. ground cinnamon instead of the coriander seeds and tablespoon cinnamon.

Either warmed or room temperature, pure maple syrup

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt & coriander seeds. In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients, except the oil, until well combined. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Preheat the oven to 180 F. Place a platter in the oven when it reaches temperature.

Heat an electric griddle on medium heat; if yours goes over the stove burners, heat it over moderate heat. Heat  griddle until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over the surface, then lightly brush with some oil. Working in batches, pour scant ¼ cups of batter onto the griddle, forming 4” rounds & cook the pancakes until golden, 1 – 2 minutes, or slightly longer, per side. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to the platter & keep warm in the preheated oven. Serve the pancakes with the syrup.

If you would like to make your own pumpkin puree, click Making Pumpkin Puree.

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Phyllis’ Leek & Pancetta Tagliatelle

My “take” on a Lorenza de’Medici recipe. We think the addition of pancetta and a splash of white wine to the sauce makes it even more delicious.  I often make half the recipe for our primo which goes especially well with lamb marinated in my go to marinade for lamb.  And I hone in on local leeks, which are so sweet and delicious, to make this tasty, light sauce.

DSC_6712 nx2Makes 4 Servings

3 Tbsp. EVOO (or a combination of EVOO & unsalted butter)
2 lbs. leeks, cleaned & thinly sliced**
4 oz. pancetta cut ¼” thick & cut into cubes
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chicken stock
Pinch of grated nutmeg
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 egg pasta dough** or 12 – 16 oz. dried egg tagliatelle

Heat 1 Tbsp. EVOO in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the pancetta cubes to the pan & sauté until lightly browned, but not crisp, remove & set aside.

If there is more than 1 Tbsp. oil left in the pan, remove the excess. Add the remaining oil or a combination of oil & butter to the pan, adding the leeks when the oil is hot. Sauté, stirring for a few minutes, until they are translucent; season with salt & pepper to taste. Add ¼ cup water, lower the heat & simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil & warm a large pasta serving bowl.

When the leeks are done, add the cream, white wine, stock & nutmeg to the pan. Heat through; cover and keep warm on very low heat until ready to toss with the pasta.

Cook the pasta until al dente; reserve ½ cup or so of the cooking water. Drain the pasta in a colander. Add 3 Tbsp. Parmigiano to the sauce & stir to combine. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan, tossing & adding pasta cooking water if it appears too dry. Toss for about 1 minute; season with salt & pepper if required. Place the pasta into the warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, passing the remaining Parmigiano.

If you would like to make tagliatelle/fettuccine, click Food Processor or Stand Mixer Pasta Dough.
To see how to clean leeks, click How To Trim Wild (Ramps) And Regular Leeks.

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There’s Something About Canning

It’s the season once again to haul out our jars and get canning and preserving! And I am so glad to see a resurgence of interest in people taking it up!  Domenica Marchetti has recently published a new book “Preserving Italy” that’s filled with delicious recipes.

DSC_4424 nx2The household I grew up in had a pantry stocked full of  Mom’s labours; all kinds of jam, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets (with beets from our garden), relishes, mustard pickles (Dad’s favourite), canned cherries from our trees in the backyard, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, pears, applesauce and so on. For some reason all this work had to take place on the hottest days of the year! It seemed that there was always loads of produce and fruit showing up, people had fruit trees in their yard they were giving away, or  friends and neighbours who would bring back stuff from the Okanagan that had to be put up for the winter, right now! Then, of course, there was the salmon canning every year…I don’t like salmon…couldn’t stand the smell and couldn’t be in the house when it was being processed in that huge pressure cooker!

I  remember Mom and I staying up all night peeling those little silver-skin onions for pickling later that day!

So, you can imagine, when I left home to be on my own, I really missed all the wonderful treasures stored in our basement storage room (aka the cooler). It seemed to me that if I wanted some jam I had better damned well learn how to make it! I worked in a fruit cannery for a couple of summers when I was in my teens and I wasn’t about to eat bought jam!

DSC_3296 nx2I don’t do much canning anymore and I kind of miss it, especially when I see all the wonderful produce and fruit at the Farmer’s Market each week. Memories of sitting on the back steps on a sunny morning, peeling a big bag of pears someone had given us, about to be turned into spicy pear chutney or trying to come up with something clever to do with that big bunch of Italian prune plums a friend left at the back door, other than jam; not that I don’t love plum jam. In the end they became a star anise flavoured Asian plum dipping sauce!

A sight to behold and what a sense of accomplishment…all those glorious sparkling colours of jams and jellies in their cute little jars, dill pickles resting for 6 weeks, relishes and dark, spicy chutneys to serve with meat pies or on a sandwich or with cheeses…yum! Yes, there really is something about canning!

If you would like the recipe for the relish, click Mary’s Green Tomato Relish.  For the recipe for the Zucchini Marmalade, click here. For the recipe for my Dill Pickles, click here.

If you are looking for a recipe, send me a comment and I will get right back to you!

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3 Mediterranean Dips

I just crave these dips in the summer. Transports me straight to the Mediterranean! Good pita and some great wine; just about perfect. I think dips are a wonderful thing to take to a party or get-together in the summer. Great with my Greek lemon-oregano chicken or marinated lamb. You might want to drain the yogurt the night before for a nice thick Tzatziki.

Phyllis’ Tzatziki

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

_DSC2041 resize2 cups Plain Yogurt (I like Liberte Mediterranean, but a good thick Greek yogurt would also be great)
½ English cucumber
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. EVOO
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

Take a large piece of well rinsed cheesecloth (Julia Child always recommended rinsing to remove the medicinal aroma of cheesecloth). Line a metal sieve with the cheesecloth. Place the yogurt in the sieve; place over a bowl and cover. Allow to drain in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Grate the cucumber and place in a sieve over a bowl; salt the cucumber & allow to drain for about 20 minutes. Remove yogurt and place in a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as possible, using your hands, and add to the yogurt. Smash the garlic and sprinkle with a little sea salt. By pressing & spreading with the back of a chef’s knife, puree the garlic & add to the yogurt mixture. Add the lemon juice, EVOO, Dijon mustard and dill. Blend well. Place in the fridge for an hour or so to blend the flavours. Season with salt if required and serve with pita bread or as a dip for kebabs or anything else that takes your fancy! Tzatziki will keep for a few days in the fridge.


This is another wonderful dip from the Mediterranean. It is not only delicious with warm pita bread but I also use it for sandwiches & wraps.

Makes about 3 cups

1 19oz tin chick-peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed & drained
½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
1/3 cup EVOO
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground cumin
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup cold water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tahini can be found at most grocery stores, usually in the ethnic section, or at any Greek grocery store.

Place chick-peas, tahini, oil, lemon juice, coriander & cumin in the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth; transfer to a bowl. Stir in garlic, parsley, water, season with salt & pepper. Hummus is a good keeper and will last a number of days in the fridge.

Baba Ghanouj

Boy do I love this! It just screams summer. Serve either with warm pita or as a spread on a wrap. Try and get some fresh, local eggplant for this if possible.

Makes about 3 cups

2 large eggplants (2 ½ lbs. total)
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
2 – 3 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with ½ tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 – 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. EVO
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Garnish: Smoked paprika and a drizzle of EVOO

Tahini can be found at most grocery stores, usually in the ethnic section, or at any Greek grocery store.

Turn oven to broil. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and broil 6” from heat, until very soft, turning occasionally. Cool 20 – 35 minutes. Cut eggplants in half and remove the flesh, discarding the skin. (I usually strain the cooked eggplant pulp for 30 minutes to remove excess liquid). Place in food processor with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin & salt until combined well. Season with salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving plate or shallow bowl, drizzle with EVO, sprinkle with a few pinches of smoked paprika and then scatter on the parsley.

If you would like to make the chicken to have with the tzatziki, click Greek Lemon Chicken.

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