Archive for November 2013

Those Epicurious Readers!

Do you ever read the comments on Epicureous from people who have made the recipes?

Just for fun a I thought I would. OMG…who are these people?

Often the commentors say that they made the recipe but changed up and/or swapped out all kinds of ingredients and then say that they didn’t think much of it, then give it 2 forks out of 4 rating for heaven’s sake!

DSC_5681 nx2Take the pear, apple, quince, crostata for instance, which I have made. One substituted rhubarb for the quince, another my personal favourite, created a filling using apple, pineapple, raisins and a bit of Vidalia onion! Really? Another used Pillsbury’ refrigerated crust instead of the delicious, crispy butter crostata crust specified in the recipe. How about substituting currant juice for the apple cider in the recipe? What?? And then there was the person who thought they would increase the amount of filling. This is a crostata people, not a deep dish pie for goodness sake!

People…make the damned recipe as is!  Think of those hard working recipe developers and testers slaving over a hot stove to create something especially delicious and then folks change a number of ingredients in the recipe to make something completely different.   And when you do change up things,  please don’t “review” the recipe because you did not make it!  Sheesh!

If you do decide to make this crostata, my only comment would be to watch it carefully and if it starts to look too dark, lightly lay a piece of tin foil on top and continue baking.  Here’s the link:  Apple, Pear and Quince Crostata.

This recipe for Cannoli is awesome just the way it is. My guess is that some of you may be tempted to substitute dried cranberries…don’t even go there! Here’s a recommendation, I made the cannoli for our friends who are well known for their innovative restaurant, they loved them and so did we! Here’s the link:  Dried Cherry and Ginger Cannoli.


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This Weeks’ Menu Ideas


It’s the time of the year when we seem to be running off in all directions!  All those invitations come rolling in, housecleaning to be done, decorating to be done…whew!  I won’t even mention the shopping!  It’s my turn to get out there next week but I find if I can avoid the malls it makes things a lot more pleasant!  With slightly more than a month to go until Christmas, if you are like me, you are probably trying to keep things on the simple side and lightened up a bit before the holidays are upon us with all the delights they have to offer.  Here are a few menu ideas for you to enjoy!  Pour a glass of what takes your fancy and cook up something delicious.  Some of the recipes could be made on the weekend, ready to be heated up one night during the week!  Put the music on and begin cooking!

While we don’t often eat pasta as a main course, sometimes when a good ragu, or vegetarian pasta comes along, why the heck not?  Pasta is always so darned comforting!  Make a big green salad and there you are!

garofalo pastaTurkey Ragu for Pasta

Tuscan Veal, Sausage And Porcini Ragu for Pasta

Red White And Green Lasagne

Chanterelle Mushroom Tagliatelle

You can never hurt my feelings with a really good roast chicken.  I always pray for leftovers!  There are so many things you could choose to serve with the chicken, from mashed potatoes, barley pilaf, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or a really great salad!

DSCN0480Phyllis’ Roast Chicken

Potato Turnip Mash With Buttermilk

Barley Pilaf

Danish Red Cabbage

Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta

Potato Latkes With Sweet Potatoes

Braised Carrots With Crisp Sage

Pear And Coronation Grape Salad

And who doesn’t like a big steaming bowl of homemade soup to come home to on a miserable night?

Mushroom Beef Barley Soup

Tomato Beef Barley Soup

One of things we really enjoy at our house are main course salads and here are a few of our favourites to choose from!  All you need is some multi-grain rolls or homemade biscuits and you are all set!

DSCN2661 wall of lettuce resizeShrimp Salad

Spinach Salad

Cobb Salad

Homemade Biscuits

What to make for Sunday breakfast/brunch?  Well, here’s an idea:

Phyllis’ Mouth-watering Buttermilk Waffles served with Apple and Dried Fruit Sauce

Sausage Red Pepper Kebabs served with eggs

Scroll the Fall Dessert section if you are so inclined!


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A Bouquet of Roses

Sunday, November 17th, a very important day!

DSC_0036 nora's roseMy mom would have celebrated her 93rd birthday this year and I wish we could spend the day together. I would make her a cake. Most of the time it was my job to make the birthday cakes because nobody liked bought ones! This time I would make her an orange chiffon cake with lots of candles on top and serve it forth with loads of whipped cream, that would make her very, very happy. I can still see that little sneaky smile start as she reached for more of the white, fluffy stuff. Mom loved homemade goodies and was always game for taking home any leftovers!

Earlier in the day, we would go to the track to watch the horseraces. God how she loved to watch the horses…she grew up on a farm and her dad had horses. She actually talked me into going to the track when I said I wasn’t interested…what can I say…I am so glad we went a few times together. She got me hooked too! I can see her sitting out there right now, watching the horse’s parade by, then making her selection and then one of us would go and place her bet! She adored it! The last time we watched a race together, it was the Belmont on T.V., a few days before she passed away, it was amazing to see how focused she became when the race started. We even placed bets!

Nora scanned 1 nx2 ver2She loved hockey and watching “Dancing with the Stars” but I think she would fall in love with “Battle of the Blades”; they partner up figure skaters with hockey players, right up her alley so we would do that together too! Mom would absolutely go nuts! Don’t forget the cheese flavoured “Doritos”, she was crazy about them!

Last, but not least, I cannot forget that we simply “have to” play cards; the only game I could even get remotely into was Crib, so Crib it was! Of course, I would have to count her cards for her because she had trouble with that in the last year or so…but damned if she didn’t win a lot time! I wonder if she would have known if I cheated? Probably! It really used to piss my sister off that she would lose to mom, a lot!

Happy Birthday Mom…I love you!



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Our Mentors

Thank goodness for PBS and their T.V. cooking shows in the ‘70’s, 80’s and ‘90’s.  What would I have done without them! Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey “first you take the chicken”, Anne Willan, Keith Floyd (for his infectious joy of food and sense of the ridiculous), Lorenza di Medici and Lidia Bastianich to name a few. They may have not been “true” mentors in the sense that I never worked side by side with them, learning from them but nevertheless, for a self-taught chef their programmes were invaluable and I absorbed information and techniques like a sponge. Julia gave me the courage to try and learn French cooking techniques and moved me to buy and cook from Mastering the Art, Volumes I and II. I am forever grateful to Jacques for his tips and techniques that really work! Lastly, I should credit my mom for trusting me with cooking weekend dinners for the family! I wonder if she realized that she gave me the gift of confidence in the kitchen and a willingness to try things without fear.

DSC_5705 nx2Over the past month we have lost chefs Marcella Hazan and Charlie Trotter. Seeing the Facebook comments on the passing of these two “giants” tells me that I how much impact these people have on us through media or otherwise.

I was somewhat burned out after working as a cook/chef for 15 + years, so a shift of focus away from food and cooking to achieving a diploma in interior decorating, something I had always been keen to do, sounded like a good idea; I did it! But then fate intervened and we went to Italy for 3 weeks in 2007. With a jolt, I was brought back to my food “roots”. I was in love…amazing produce, amazing products to work with and most of all amazing talented people who made “magic” with the bounty available to them. I had always been crazy about Italian food but until that trip had no real understanding of the cooking styles of the different regions. I am now! I can’t wait to cook there again!

I will never forget our first trip to Panzano to visit Antica Macelleria Cecchini. A few years previously we had been given “Heat”, a book by Bill Bulford. If you haven’t read the book, Bill writes about his time spent working at the Macelleria among other things. It rang a bell! Friends of ours send us wonderful postcards when on a trip, that I keep for reference, so I got them out and looked through the ones sent from Provence and Italy in 2003, yup there it was, he wrote about the fabulous time they had visiting the Macelleria! When we went in that first time, Dario was in the middle of preparing a pig for porchetta (it’s so delicious) and I was mesmerized; I could have stood there all day watching him work.

Almost in the blink of an eye mio passione had been restored to its former glory! It seems to me that cooks are all about sharing their passion with us so we can continue to expand and grow.

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Time To Re-decorate? Part 5

For a printer friendly version of this blog, click here.

A question often asked is “how do I combine fabric patterns?”  One of my totally favourite things is choosing fabrics. I could and have spent hours and hours finding interesting mixes; what fun!

pollack nx2In a room use one large, one medium and one small print and then some solids.

Add a fabric of a solid colour that is common to each pattern; just keep in mind your chosen style and what textures and patterns would apply.

A few examples:

Use of two fabrics that are identical to each other except one has a dark background and light pattern while the other is the opposite.

Use the same pattern in a different colour, again keeping in mind your colour scheme.

Using one floral and one geometric by choosing patterns that have the same colours or colours that work well together, again being mindful of your chosen colour scheme.

Applying patterns with the same theme but have a different scale, i.e. plaids that have a different scale.

Using two similar patterns of a similar scale that have the same colour or colours that complement each other.

When mixing several patterns; the application of the same or very different pattern sizes. The colours must match exactly. Use a minimum of three to five patterns.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines and get decorating. My hope is that this guide will give you the tools you need to begin your project! I would love to hear from you or answer any questions you may have. Good luck and happy decorating!

If you are selling your home and are looking for someone to “stage” your home, contact my friend Suze at Suze Interiors here in Vancouver or their other location in Collingwood, Ontario.

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What Been Cooking The First Week of Fall?

As I look outside my window, I can see that the warm weather has definitely left us for a while!  We had a gorgeous October and spending a few days in Portland where it was quite warm and really sunny (except for morning fog) really extended our summer!

_DSC1440 resize stock partsIt’s damp, grey and drizzly today and I don’t know about you but in my books that calls for a steaming bowl of soup for dinner!  One of my favourites (barley lover that I am) is Mushroom Beef Barley soup.  Don’t you think a couple of slices of delicious soda bread or warm from the oven, homemade biscuits would make a great addition?  Me too!

If you are in the mood for a braise, click the link to a scrumptious recipe for  Veal Shortribs; it’s what I’m making for our dinner tonight!

Or, if your tastes are leaning towards a great tasting, beautiful main course salad, why not try my Chicken or Turkey Salad with Pears?  Start the meal with a  bowl of Roasted Winter Squash Soup and you’ll have a really terrific fall/winter dinner or luncheon!  I often make the salad when I am having guests over and everyone always really enjoys it and I especially like the compliments!  Who wouldn’t?

Enjoy and happy cooking!

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