Archive for December 2013

A Christmas “Lunch”

The “family” is coming to an early Christmas dinner a few days before Christmas.  Just the five of us this year but nonetheless…we want to have a “proper” feast!

DSC_0140 nx2I’ve been working on the menu and of course, it always seems that it’s the veggies that seem to present problems!  This person doesn’t like that and someone else doesn’t like something else…you know what I mean! Luckily, pretty much everybody will eat carrots!  No Brussels sprouts for us, sadly!  One year I made my fabulous braised kale and of course it was an issue!  What do you do when your brother only eats green beans, corn, carrots, and on a good day, peas!  Exactly, you go to the market and buy imported green beans!  I console myself with the knowledge that we pretty much eat only seasonal veggies the rest of the year!  You gotta do what you gotta do!  I like to keep things relatively simple because who wants a worn out host?

Last year was the first time I made Sticky Toffee Pudding!  Can’t believe I’ve gone all this time without having tried this incredible pudding.  What the heck was I thinking?  So…it’s become the go-to dessert for the holidays!  And, you will never guess…when we were at Costco the other day, we saw ready-made ones!  WHAT…the package said they are made by an “authentic Englishman from Austin, Texas”…WHAT!

Our Christmas Menu:

DESSERT:  Sticky Toffee Puddings With “Faux Clotted Cream”

So get the Christmas Crackers out, set a fine table, open a wonderful bottle of wine and enjoy!  From our house to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and an amazing 2014!


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What’s Been Cooking Lately…


Well, the push is on!  Phyllis, the elf, has been baking up a storm, menu planning for Christmas and New Years, making lists, inviting guests, accepting invitations, putting up  the decorations and last and perhaps not the most fun, cleaning the house!  Just a few stocking stuffers left to get and the gifts are ready for wrapping.  These days we like to keep that piece simple, so much less stressful!  Even the stockings are hung!

Things have changed a lot over the years.  Every year on Christmas Eve we held an open house with people coming and going until the wee hours and then we had to put everything away!  It was great, so much fun and everyone enjoyed the traditional Christmas Eve Quebec Tourtiere, plus all the appetizers and Christmas baking!

This week, the Christmas music has been going full stop to keep me pumped while making German stolen with marzipan inside, putting together goodie tins for gift giving and so on!

A few items you may want to make now or include in your  upcoming menus:

special ocaasionMy Go To Quiche (great for a brunch)

Toasted Hazelnut And Cranberry Salad

Cranberry White Chocolate Cake

Pasta With Spicy Beef Tomato Sauce

Cantucci di Prato


Don’t forget to relax, breath, make an eggnog, light the fire, turn on the fairy lights and enjoy yourself…after all it’s the holidays!  While you are enjoying a coffee with your feet up next Saturday morning, Dec. 21st  at 9:00 am, tune in to listen to “Dave Cooks the Turkey” on the Vinyl Café with Stuart Mclean on CBC 1.  Check for the station in your area.  In Vancouver it’s either 690 AM or 88.1 FM.  This is one of the funniest stories we have ever heard and think you will find it hilarious too!  Check it out!

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Baking Day And Christmas Memories

It’s the time of the year I always look forward to so I can head to the kitchen and bake my traditional goodies for Christmas, plus a few new things to change it up a bit.

Memories always arise when the house fills with the aroma of Mom’s shortbread, mince tarts, Christmas cakes, and stollen for our German friends and us. Christmas baking has always been a big part of my life, from my mother’s goodies that we loved so much, to giving gifts of Christmas baking to family and friends. As I write, the scent of mince tarts is permeating the house. I can hardly wait until tea time to sample one (only one, I promise).

One of the executives I cooked for, would come into the kitchen and help himself to the homemade shortbread in the fridge (often when we weren’t looking), that we included in our Christmas “goodie” trays. When I sit down to knead my shortbread dough, my thoughts turn to our cat Arthur. He would hang around gobbling up the bits of dough that would fly out of the bowl and land on the floor. Now I have to clean them up myself (I use a broom!)

When I was a kid, the only time we had butter in the house was for holiday baking. Of course, it was a very special turkey sandwich that we ate on Boxing Day, made with butter and not that awful margarine. I can still taste the butteryness of that sandwich, leftover turkey, leftover stuffing (yup), white bread and leftover cranberry sauce. Simply the most wonderful turkey sandwich ever!

My Mom made the “best” turkey stuffing. She told friends that once the turkey was cooked, she could toss it in the garbage and just feed the family the stuffing because they adored it! Years ago, when my sister was doing the Christmas turkey dinner at her house, she got Mom to make the stuffing for her! Psst…it’s was the bacon dripping!

And once on our own, we created  traditions for our families and friends. The making of Tourtiere, accompanied with a wonderful Spiced Fruit Chutney and Mary’s Green Tomato Relish, Bread Stuffing With Italian Sausage and Pears and Cantuccini to dip into Vin Santo. A couple of years ago I made Tuscan Stuffed Dates. Yummy! They are now a part of my annual repertoire.

Every Christmas Eve, before we go to bed, my husband and I listen to “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas and then on Christmas morning while having our Blood Orange Mimosa’s, we listen to our“Dave Cooks A Turkey” CD by Stuart McLean, one of the funniest stories I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. A true classic!

Merry Christmas Everyone! Buon natale, tutti!

**If you would like to make some of my favourite Christmas treats, please go to:

Spiced Fruit Chutney
Mary’s Green Tomato Relish
Bread Stuffing With Italian Sausage And Pears
Tuscan Stuffed Dates

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Winter – What’s In Season???

I know for a fact that Panforte is definitely in season! This is a traditional Italian confection that is a speciality of the town of Siena, Italy. You can buy the imported ones from Siena here, but it’s just not the same. A couple of years ago while wandering around Arezzo, Tuscany we found some in a shop. It was heaven! Redolent of spices and candied fruit, the texture was softer than the ones from Siena, I could have eaten the whole piece myself, sharing was a challenge. It was awesome! Rise Artisan makes a really good version, in fact we thought it was comparable to the Panforte we had in Tuscany!  You can find Rise at the Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium or at Sweet’es in Kerrisale.

Enough about treats in December and on to seasonal produce we can make delicious, comforting meals with. There is still a lot available out there and we are having a great time cooking up a storm! Think stews, soups, roasted vegs. Now, it’s not so bad is it?

  • Beets – from golden to red
  • Brussels sprouts – they just get better & better the colder it gets
  • Carrots – sweet and delicious
  • Kale – various types (Lacinato is my personal favourite)
  • Leeks – great for soups or…
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions – red & yellow
  • Parsnips – like Brussels sprouts, parsnips like it cold
  • Potatoes
  • Turnips – sweet & a favourite of mine
  • Pears – Bosc, Bartletts & red varieties
  • Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage & Thyme

**If you would like to check out Rise Artisan, please go to My Source List.

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