Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12: Chocolate Espresso Cookie

This year, the Savour Sisters registered to be a part of the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It brings together an international group food bloggers to participate in a massive cookie exchange. This year the event partnered with Cookies for Kids' Cancer, with each participant making a donation in addition to their cookie contribution. In addition OXO matched our donation. A huge thank you goes to Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil, and Julie from The Little Kitchen for all their hard work in organizing this great event. I would also like to thank the fantastic bloggers that sent cookies to us, check them out:

The Goodie Girl - Halifax, NS
Sweet Twist of Fate - Toronto, NS
Gourmet Housewife - Saskatooon, SK

This was the cookie that we shipped this year.

This recipe rolls our two favorite flavours into one awesome cookie. Dark chocolate and rich espresso in the same tender bite - absolute heaven! Chocolate chunks add this brilliant gooeyness and depth. Since this dough is so rich, we make the cookies on the small side.

Keep this dough in the freezer, that way anytime you have need for a little chocolate fix you can just bake off a pan.

If you would like to take this recipe up another notch, replace the vanilla with peppermint extract. WOW!

Makes about 3 dozen.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 package Starbucks Via Medium Blend instant coffee (substitute 1tablespoon of instant coffee)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the top of the double boiler melt the bittersweet chocolate.  Add the espresso powder and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4. In a large bowl,  beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla.
5. To this sugar mixture add the melted chocolate mixture, then add dry ingredients until just combined.
6. Add in chocolate chips.
7. Spoon heaped tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake 12 - 14 minutes, rotating half way through cooking. Cookies are done when edges are dry.
8. Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Note: Be careful these cookies burn easily and will turn bitter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11: Spiced Mixed Nuts

Sometimes you are just looking for that special treat to bring to a party, or to give out as gifts to coworkers or friends as a hostess gifts. These nuts have a fantastic flavour; a little salty, a little sweet, and a mixture of fresh and dried spices for a little kick.  They are super quick to put together and store really well in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. For this recipe we chose our favorite combination of nuts for flavour and texture, but you can choose to add your personal favorites, or using less expensive products.

For 1 pound of finished nuts. (You will probably want to double or triple this recipe so you have lots on hand)

4 cups of mixed unsalted nuts (we used, cashews, almonds and pecans) 
1 teaspoon corriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons butter3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake until nicely toasted, approximately 10 minutes. 
3. While nuts are toasting, put coriander and cumin in a large fry pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant.
4. Turn the heat to low and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Stir constantly until the sugar is fully melted, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Warm a large bowl by running under hot water and drying with a tea towel. Add the warm nuts to the bowl and pour over the topping mixture.
6. Stir until nuts are well coated.  Let nuts cool completely before packaging. 

Note: The warmed bowl makes the coating process easier.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10: Classic Pecan Bars

I have to admit, this is my absolute favorite Christmas treat. I would rather have these than any other cookie, candy or square. It took four trial runs in order to get this recipe to be exactly what I wanted. Most recipes for pecan bars are too sweet, too soft, or don't have enough pecans. In this recipe there is a crisp and tender short crust that isn't overly sweet, and the topping has a wonderful rich caramel flavour and tons of pecans. I know that this will become one of your holiday staples as well.

Makes 20 squares.

For the Crust:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the Topping:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add salt, flour, and baking powder, and mix until combined and the dough starts to form a ball.
4. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9"x 9" cake pan. 
5. Bake dough for 20 - 25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Set aside and let cool for at least 15 mins.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
7. Toast the pecans on a cookie sheet by baking for 8-10 minutes.
8. In a medium saucepan, mix butter, sugar, corn syrup and salt. 
9. Cook over high heat until the mixture reaches a boil, stirring constantly. Let mixture boil for 1 full minute.
10. Remove pot from heat, stir in vanilla and cream then toasted pecans. (The mixture will boil up when vanilla added.)
11. Pour topping over the crust, making pecans are spread evenly and crust is covered.
12. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The topping will be bubbling across the entire surface of the bars.
13. Let the bars cool fully before slicing.  Run a pairing knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the topping.
14. Store in an airtight container. These bars freeze very well, but need to be thoroughly defrosted before serving.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 9: Pfferminskeuchen - Long Name, Awesome Cookie

Between the pages of one my grandmother's cookbooks are dozens of little scraps of paper with recipes written on them. There all kinds of cookie and square recipes, all from her friends or family. In this particular cookbook there were multiple copies of a recipe for Pfferminskeuchen or Peppermint Cookies. This is a traditional Mennonite cookie that is light and puffy with a crisp thin crust. Each recipe is a little different, some of them were written in German, but all of them made huge batches of cookies! This is a traditional Mennonite cookie that is light and puffy with a crisp thin crust. It has a mild peppermint flavour but it is the peppermint icing that really gives the cookie a holiday feel.  We have created this recipe as a compilation of all the recipes from my grandmother's book, we also updated it add some more flavour, as well as making the size of the recipe more manageable.
This recipe calls for some unusual ingredients. First, peppermint oil, which can be bought at many cooking and baking shops, however I use peppermint extract and it works beautifully. Secondly the recipe calls for baking ammonia or ammonium bicarbonate, which is the leavening agent that gives the unique light texture.  I have found it at several cook shops like Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver. I found a few online stores that claim to carry it as well. 

This recipe makes approximately 60 - 3" cookies.
Note: The dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight before baking.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon baking ammonia, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour (plus some for rolling)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
6 candy canes, crushed (optional)

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well.
2. In a second bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
3. Dissolve baking ammonia in hot water making sure there are no lumps. (This will smell, don't worry)
4. Into the egg mixture, add sour cream, peppermint oil and baking ammonia, beating each in well.
5. Add dry ingredients into wet until well combined.
6. Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate overnight.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
8. Prepare aluminum cookie sheets, by greasing and dusting with flour, tapping off all extra.
9. Take one of the dough balls at a time, and roll on lightly floured surface, until 1/4" thick.
10. Cut cookies using small round cookie cutter or drinking glass.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should still be pale, but lightly golden on bottom. (This will really stink, it's OK, don't panic)
12. Cool cookies on wire racks. Cool completely before eating.

For the Glaze:
1. Mix icing sugar, milk and peppermint in a bowl. Icing should be thin like crepe batter.
2. Dip cookies in glaze to coat the top. Use finger to wipe some of the excess off, so glaze isn't too thick.
3. Sprinkle with crumbled candy canes if desired.

Please Note: Baking ammonia smells awful, both when you open the jar and you may want to hold your breath when opening the oven, however, it is perfectly safe and leaves absolutely no taste once the cookies are fully cooked.  Based on some online searching online, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder plus 1 teaspoon baking soda but the texture will not be exactly the same. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7: Not so Rummy Rum Balls (Gluten Free)

What is Christmas without the classic rum ball? It seems that every family has their own recipe. Some are rolled in icing sugar, or nuts or the traditional chocolate sprinkles.

This recipe is special in a couple ways, firstly it is gluten free, using ground almonds instead of flour or cookie crumbs, and secondly, there is no rum in my rum balls!

Personally I am not a fan of rum, its too sweet, and I don't like it paired with chocolate as much as other liqueurs. Last year, while making holiday treats, I came up with the idea to make rum balls with Canadian Club Whisky and I was thrilled with the results. You will be too!!  I keep these in the freezer and let them thaw for about 30 minutes before serving.

Makes about 40 - 1" balls.

2 cups of ground almonds
2 cups icing sugar
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, grated
2/3 cup Canadian Club Whisky
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles or sanding sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together until well blended.
2. Add the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the whisky. Mix well.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Roll the dough in small 1" balls. The dough will be quite dry, but the warmth of your hands while rolling will help the balls keep together.
5. Dip the balls in the remaining whisky and roll in sprinkles. You may have to press the sprinkles in place.
6. Let balls set up on plate before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Tip: you can also roll the rum balls in toasted ground almonds or icing sugar, if you don't have sprinkles, but you will not need to dip the balls in whisky first.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6: The World's Greatest Shortbread

There is nothing more to say about this recipe other than it is quite simply the world's greatest shortbread. It melts it your mouth, has a rich buttery flavour, and a delicate texture. Our mother has made this recipe every year for as long as we can remember, and Christmas wouldn't be the same without it. This is the cookie our friends and family beg to have included in care packages and the first to disappear of the platers of treats.  She got the recipe from a newsletter put out by Sussex Realty in the mid 1980's. She still has the original newsletter, butter stained and dirty, but that just demonstrates how well loved this cookie is. We haven't changed or adapted this recipe at all, because there is nothing that could be done to make it any better.

This is a sliced regrigerator cookie. We usually shape the dough into logs and keep it in the freezer until we need it. These cookies store well at room temperature, but there is nothing better than when they are fresh, so better just to slice off a pan full and bake when you need them.

Makes about 2 dozen.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 cup butter
pecan halves or glace cherries for decoration (we prefer pecans, but the cherries are Christmas colours)

1. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. Using a hand blender or Kitchen Aid, mix in butter. Blend for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into halves and form into 2 logs, by wrapping in wax paper. Once wrapped make sure the logs are squared off and nicely shaped.
4. Refrigerate over night.
5. Slice the cookies into 1/4" cookies, place on cookie sheet lined with parchment.
6. Place pecan half or 1/2 glace cherry on each cookie.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes, until slightly browned


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5: Chocolate Mint Frangos

In thinking about the recipes that we wanted to post on this blog for the 12 days of Christmas Goodies, we were reminiscing about our favorite holiday treats of our childhood. One of my favorites was a recipe for a decadent treat that were called Frangos. They were a type of frozen mint chocolate tart named for the famous Fredrick & Nelson candy that you can find at Macy's in the US.  Susan doesn't remember them much, but I distinctly remember going down into the basement and digging for them in the freezer when no one was looking.  Mom doesn't remember where the recipe came from and I couldn't find any reference to this awesome desert, so I created this recipe purely based on my memory of the flavours. What I ended up with was an indulgent frozen chocolate mint mousse on a chocolate crumb base. Just as good as I remember, but now I don't have to sneak around to get one.
Makes 12.

24 Chocolate Biscuits (I use Mr. Christie brand)
1/4 cup of butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 eggs
1/4 cup cold brewed coffee (you can substitute milk)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 pinch salt

1. Put paper liners into a muffin tin.
2. Put the biscuits in a ziploc bag and crush the chocolate biscuits finely.
3. Melt the butter in the microwave and mix into the chocolate crumbs.
4. Divide the crumb mixture and press firmly into the bottom of the muffin cups. Put aside.
5. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Set aside.
6. Separate eggs, putting yolks into a bowl with the coffee and sugar. Put over the double boiler and wisk constantly until mixture it has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon.
7. Add egg mixture into the melted chocolate and set aside to cool to room temperature.
8. Whip the cream to soft peaks and mix in peppermint.
9. Make sure your beaters are clean, then whip the egg whites and salt until the soft peak stage.
10. Fold half the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten, add the rest of the whipped cream, then the egg whites, folding very carefully.
11. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the muffin cups. Freeze until solid, about 6 hours. Store in the freezer until needed. Let soften for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4: Ginger Orange Spiced Apple Cider

At this time of year, its important to slow down and spend some quality time with friends and family. We developed this recipe as an alternative to the classic apple cider. It is lighter, less heavily spiced version. It has the wonderful flavour of fresh ginger and orange brandy. Don't worry about driving home after enjoying either, the alcohol is a small amount and will cook off while it simmers.

Serves 4.
4 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
4 slices of fresh ginger (about 1")
6 tablespoons orange liqueur (we use Orange and Brandy by Grand Marnier, or Cointreau)
1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients.
2. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
3. Remove cinnamon and ginger pieces and serve.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? What makes this season so special for you? Tell us, we want to hear from you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3: Savory Cheddar Crisps

Since when does every holiday goodie need to be sweet? Sometimes you just need something savory, cheesy, and rich. Enriched with cheese, herbs and spices, these rich buttery crackers boast an exceptional flavor and crunch that simply can’t be duplicated by store-bought varieties. (Think little yummy fishy-type crackers, but for grown ups.)

Makes 4 dozen crisps.

3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (preferably "cold pack" like Imperial or Black Diamond)
1 teaspoon "Franks Red Hot" or Tobasco sauce
3 tablespoons rosemary, finely diced
1 1/2 cups flour
5 cups Rice Crispies cereal

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and cheese.
3. Add tabasco and rosemary. Blend well.
4. With a spatula fold in flour and Rice Crispies until well combined.
5. Roll dough into balls 1.5" in diameter, place on ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Flatten balls slightly with a fork.
7. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes until lightly browned.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2: Chocolate Bark with Fruit and Nuts

You can't have the holidays without lots of chocolate. That's just the way it is, but sometimes the store bought stuff is just lacking. This recipe is so easy, and so fast. You can be finished in under 15 minutes including the clean up. We love making batches of this bark, packaging it in pretty cellophane bags and giving it as hostess gifts, or to coworkers as presents. And the great thing about this recipe is that you can change the goodies you put in the bark to suit your personal tastes.

Makes Lots! (Trust us you will need it)

20 oz chocolate (We prefer a combination of 12 oz semisweet, and 8 oz bittersweet, due to the sweetness of the fruit)
1/4 cup candied ginger, diced as small as possible
1 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, unsweetened (not Craisins)
1 cup pecans
2 cups almonds, with skins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place pecans and almonds on the cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake for 5-8 minutes to toast. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. Chop the ginger and apricots, and put in a bowl with the cranberries and cooled nuts.
4. Cut the chocolate into rough chunks, and place in a heat proof bowl.
5. Using the double boiler method, melt the chocolate until about 3/4 melted. Take the bowl off the double boiler and let the residual heat melt the rest of the chocolate.
6. Add the fruit and nuts to the chocolate, reserving about a 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top of bark.
7. Spread the chocolate mixture out onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bark should be about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture and press lightly into warm mixture with spatula.
8. Let the chocolate cool, for about 30 minutes then put into the refrigerator to set fully.
9. To store, break into large chunks and put in airtight container. Keep in refrigerator or freezer.

Note: As a general rule, the better the chocolate, the better the results, but to balance cost with flavour we enjoy the taste of Baker's brand.  The one thing that will not work is using chocolate chips.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1: Bacon Ginger Cookies - Best ginger cookie ever!

One of the flavours most associated with the holidays is ginger. Warm and spicy, ginger cookies come in all kinds of forms, crispy and chewy, there one to suit everyone's tastes. I discovered this amazing idea to add bacon to ginger cookies while reading a Martha Stewart magazine a couple years ago. I used it as an inspiration for my own version. A lot of people have turned up their noses at these cookies, but the flavour wins them over every time. The bacon just added a fantastic crunchy, salty treat.  If you love things that are sweet and salty, these are the cookies for you. (Plus you know anything with bacon in it, has to be good.)
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


8 slices of thick-cut smoked bacon, cut into 1/4" cubes (Hint: if you freeze the bacon for 30 mins it is easier to slice neatly)
2 1/4 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar for rolling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Fry the diced bacon in a large frying pan on medium-low heat to render all the fat and make the bacon very crispy without burning. This should be done slowly, it will take about 15 minutes. Carefully spoon bacon onto paper towel to dry, but reserve all the fat in a bowl and let cool. (You should end up with 3/4 cup of bacon fat. If you didn't get enough fat, make up the difference in butter.)
3. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together; flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Put aside.
4. In a second bowl, mix butter and cooled bacon fat and both white and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
5. Add the egg and molasses to the sugar mixture. Then add the dry ingredients mixing slowly until just blended.
6. Add the crispy bacon bits and fold into the batter. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
7. Roll the dough into balls approximately 1" across, roll the balls into the turbinado sugar.
8. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a fork.
9. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, rotating the pan once. The cookie is done when it starts to crisp on the outside but is still soft in the center.  Cool the cookies on a rack until completely cool.

Note: This dough freezes brilliantly! Make ahead of time and keep the doughballs in a ziploc bag, when  you want to bake some let them thaw out before rolling in sugar and baking. The finished cookies freeze very well too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Peas

The health experts say that we need to have lots of fiber in our diets while keeping the calories down. How can we accomplish this without sacrificing flavour? With a beautiful barley risotto! Barley is a fantastic grain that has a low Glycemic Index, and because of its density and starchiness makes a wonderfully rich and creamy risotto. We paired it with spring peas and asparagus to lighten it up and keep it fresh.

Barley takes longer to cook than arborio rice, but doesn't need to be monitored quite as carefully, just don't let the amount of liquid in the pot get too low.

Note: Use pearl barley, not pot barley or the dish will take over an hour to cook and need much more liquid.

Serves 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh english peas (you can also use frozen peas)
12 spears of asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces. (the thinner asparagus is best)
2 tablespoons italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons goat cheese (like Chevre)
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to simmer, reduce heat to low and keep warm
2. In a large fry pan, saute shallot and garlic in olive oil until softened, do not brown.
3. Add barley, a pinch of salt and pepper and stir, coating the barley well, this will take about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add 1 cup of the warm stock to the barley, cook on medium heat, stirring often until nearly absorbed.
5. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently.
6. Barley is done once it is al dente, and surrounded with a thick creamy sauce. 
7. With the last addition of stock add the peas, asparagus and season to taste.
8. Stir in goat cheese and parsley to add some tanginess.
9. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lemon Ice Cream with a Twist

Who doesn't love ice cream? The really good stuff, but who wants to pay a fortune for a little tub?  Most people would be willing to try making ice cream at home if they had an ice cream machine, well we don't have one, but still managed to make the most amazing desert without one. It does take a little time and supervision, but the results are well worth the effort.

This ice cream is rich and creamy, the lemon flavour is pronounced but not overwhelming and cuts the richness of the ice cream.  But the secret to this recipe is the fresh grated ginger that infuses the custard base with a wonderful warmth and zip.

Serves 8.


3 cups half-and-half cream
1 cup white sugar
5 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
    • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger (fine)
    • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1.  Combine half-and-half, sugar, ginger and lemon zest in a saucepan, bring to simmer over low heat. Continue stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.
2. Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes.
3. Put egg yolks into a large bowl and beat with a wisk till fluffy.
4. Very, very slowly pour cream mixture into the eggs whisking briskly so as not to cook the eggs.
5. Put the mixture back into the saucepan, cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture can coat the back of the spoon. This may take a while, but do not rush the process or you will break the base and make scramble the eggs.
6. Transfer to a large bowl; cover. Refrigerate till cold.
7. Stir the lemon juice into the cold ice cream mixture until well blended.
8. Transfer base into a 9 x 13" cake pan. Place in freezer.
9. Stir well every hour with a whisk, breaking up all the frozen bits on the edge of the pan. 
10. When well set,  transfer ice cream to a lidded freezer container, and freeze for 4 hours to ripen flavors before serving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet 'n Spicy Roast Squash - Butternut miss it!

Roasted squash is fantastic vegetable, but if you want to add a little kick to recipe and add some flavour, this recipe is for you. Subtle sweetness from the brown sugar and cayenne pepper for a little heat makes a really satisfying addition to this great gourd.  You could also use acorn squash as an alternative.

Serves 4-6 (depending on the size of the squash)

1 whole butternut squash
1/8 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
1. Peel the butternut squash using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, trim the top and bottom, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/2" cubes. Put in a bowl, and toss with vegetable oil.
2. In a second bowl, mix together sugar and all the spices. Toss the squash into the spice mixture coating evenly.
3. Put the squash on a cookie sheet and roast for approximately 30 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Savory Stroganoff

I don't know about where you live, but here in Vancouver, it has been raining non-stop for weeks. It is grey and dark and miserable. And when the weather turns like this each year it's time to pull out recipes that are warm and comforting and make your soul happy. 

A beautiful beef stroganoff is one of our favorite fall dishes of all time. Tender strips of beef and mushrooms cooked with onions and sour cream and served over noodles make up this classic recipe. The best thing about this dish is that because the meat is braised in the oven over time, you can use less expensive cuts of meat which have more flavour, and just need time for them to become tender. We used Top Sirloin, but stew beef would work just as well. 

What is your favorite comfort food? Let us know in our comments section below. 

Serves 6.

3 pounds of beef (Top Sirloin, Round Steak)
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup Vegetable oil for sauteing, approx
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste (you can use catchup in a pinch)
2/3 cups sour cream
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Broad egg noodles, cooked

1. Slice the steak into thin strips across the grain. Strips should be 1/4" thick.
2. In a shallow dish or plate, put flour and add a pinch of both salt and pepper.  Dredge the meat in the flour mixture, shake meat to remove any excess.
3. In a frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable, add a single layer of meat, and brown both sides. Do not cook the meat through.
4. Put the browned meat into a large oven proof pot. Continue browning until all meat is done, add more oil as needed.
5. Saute onion, celery, and mushrooms in the same pan until translucent, and lightly browned. Add veggies to the meat.
6. Deglaze the pan by adding 1 cup of the beef broth and bring to the boil. Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add liquid to the pot.
7. Add the rest of the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste to the pot. Put pot in oven with lid and bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until meat is tender.
8. Put pot on the stove and bring stroganoff to a boil. Sauce may need to be reduced through boiling until it is the consistency of thick gravy.
9. Take stroganoff off the heat and add sour cream. Stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
10. Serve on broad egg noodles.   

Quick Tip: To make the meat easier to slice, firm it up by putting it in the freezer for 30 mins - 1 hour.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Appies with a Twist - Pesto Cheddar Straws

Have you ever had a last minute event to go to and have no idea what to bring? Have no time to put together a snack when friends show up for a visit? Need a little something to go with a bowl of soup of a salad for dinner?  Well we totally have the solution for you.

These beautiful and delicate puff pastry straws are super easy to put together, but look like you slaved over them for hours.  I keep puff pastry in the freezer all the time, its cheap and super easy to work with and so versatile.

These little sticks store well in an air tight container, and will last a couple days.

Makes approximately 18 twists.

1 piece of frozen puff pastry, thawed (1/2 box)
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, whisked for egg wash
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. On a floured surface, roll the thawed puff pastry to approximately 10" x 18"
3. Spread half the pesto onto the pastry, leaving .5" on each edge.
4. Fold the pastry in half, (10" x 9")
5. Roll the pastry again to 10" x 18", lightly salt and pepper the pastry, then place grated cheese on half the pastry. Fold the pastry over the cheese.
6. Repeat steps 2, 3, 4.
7. Roll the pastry out one final time, to 10" x 18".
8. Brush the pastry lightly with the egg.
8. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut strips about .5" wide.
9. Twist the strips 2 or three times and place on cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, till the pastry is golden brown, and puffed.

Try this technique with other fillings, like cinnamon and sugar, ham and cheese, or jam.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beautiful Baked Apples

It's apple season! Every market has bins and bins of beautiful crisp apples at this time of year. Everyone should have a baked apple recipe in their dessert repertoire because they are quick to prepare, requires no special ingredients, and are just so delicious that you will want to have them every night!  You can also change the recipe depending on your tastes, add raisins or dried cranberries, nutmeg, whatever you like.  The best apples to use for this recipe are baking apples, they are more tart and become soft when cooked. Try McIntosh, Empires, or Granny Smiths. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4.

4 Apples
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup pecans or walnuts
1 Tablespoon spoon cinnamon
1/4 Cup softened butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash and remove the core from the apples. Place in an oven proof dish.
3. In a bowl mix the rest of the ingredients until well combined.
4. Spoon the sugar mixture into the centers of each apple.
5. Bake until the apples are soft. Time will range from 30-60 mins depending on the type of apple.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Light, flaky and tender that is what a biscuit should be like. A good recipe for a biscuit is worth it's weight in gold, for it's versitility.  From a basic recipe you can add herbs and cheese,  fruit, sugar and spices and you have something totally different and perfect each time.

These biscuits have cheddar and chives to complement the Potato and Leek Soup.

Makes 12 Biscuits, 3" in diameter.

2 Cups flour, sifted
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/3 Cup shortening
2/3 Cup milk
3 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 Cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
1 Egg for egg wash.

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. Using a pastry blender or fingers, cut in the shortening until it is the consistency of peas. Add chives and cheddar cheese.
4. Add the milk and mix gently with a fork until just moistened.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, kneed gently until the dough forms a ball. Do not over kneed.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to about a 1/2" thickness.
7. Cut the dough with a round biscuit cutter, or glass about 3" in diameter.
8. Brush the biscuits lightly with egg wash.
9. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Biscuits should be fluffy and golden brown.

TIP: You can use this same recipe and replace the cheese with fruit like cranberries or raspberries. Remember to add 2 Tablespoons of sugar to the dry ingredients. You can also add a little lemon or orange rind for extra flavour.

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

The weather has definitely turned here in the West Coast. Gone are the sunny brisk days that we had all the way into mid-October. We have finally set into real fall weather. The leaves have turned colours and have fallen to the ground, and when we think of what to have for dinner we start thinking of heartier meals that are warm and comforting.

Potato leak soup is one of those dishes that is really easy to make, and contrary to popular opinion, our version is very low in calories, as we only use a little milk to finish. The richness comes entirely from the starch in the potatoes for thickening.  Now what makes this recipe rustic? Simple actually, I don't have a blender or an immersion blender so getting the soup perfectly smooth just isn't possible. Plus, who doesn't prefer their soup to have a little texture?

Serve this with fresh cheddar biscuits. See the recipe here.Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Serves 6.

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Leeks
1 Medium Onion, diced finely
3 Stalks Celery, diced finely
1 liter Chicken Stock (home made or store bought)
6 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes (1 - 1.5 Lbs), peeled and cubed
1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped finely
1/8 Cup chives or green onion, chopped finely
1 cup 2% milk (you can add cream if you prefer it to be richer)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large stock pot, add oil and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and celery and sweat for 5 minutes. Do not brown the veggies.
2. Trim the root end off the leeks and slice in half lengthwise.  Wash the leeks very thoroughly as there will be dirt. Once clean, slice the leeks finely and pat dry. Add to pot and continue to sweat the veggies for an additional 5 minutes.
3. Once all the veggies are soft and translucent, add the potatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are well cooked, about 30 minutes.
4. Depending on how smooth you want your soup, puree with an immersion blender, pass through a chinoise, or mash with a potato masher.
5. Add more stock, or some water if the soup is too thick.
6. Add milk, herbs, and season with salt and pepper.
7. Let simmer for 5 more minutes, till hot through, and serve.

This soup can be made a day or two ahead and reheated. It may need some water or additional milk to thin it out. It does not freeze very well, as it tends to separate and looks less appealing, but even after freezing it tastes delicious.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turkey Pot Pie - The Leftover Edition

In our family we absolutely love turkey! It is not unusual for us to have a 20-24 lb turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas. With that much turkey we were guaranteed to have lots of leftovers, but the question becomes what to do with it all? And what about all the extra veggies and gravy?  Well this is a really easy turkey pot pie recipe that uses up all those leftovers and tastes awesome.  

Unlike most pot pie recipes, we don't make a cream sauce, ours uses leftover gravy, stock and milk for lots of natural flavour and none of that gloppy texture.  Feel free to add your own favorite fresh herbs and whatever other veggies that you like. 
Serves 4.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup stock (turkey or chicken)
1 cup milk
1 cup turkey gravy (leftover or purchased)
3 teaspoons tarragon
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons oregano
3 cups of cooked, cubed, turkey
2 cups fresh / leftover veggies (carrots, peas, broccoli, beans)
1 piece puff pastry, thawed
1 egg whisked for egg wash.
Salt and Pepper

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until translucent. Do not brown.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the sauteed veggies, stir combining the flour into the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, making a roux.
4. Add the stock and milk, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened.  Add the gravy, stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick add either stock or milk to thin.
5. Add the herbs, and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Add the turkey and veggies to the the sauce, stir to combine. Let simmer on min, while you prep the pastry.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4" thick.
8. Put the turkey sauce mixture into a casserole dish.
9. Lay the pastry over the casserole dish, tucking the pastry around the filling. Trim the edges of the pastry, leaving a margin of 1" or so over the edge.
10. Brush the pastry with an egg wash and pierce the pastry for the steam to escape.
11. Bake approximately 45-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
12. Let the pie set for 5 minutes before serving.

Tell us..What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving? Any special family recipes?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brussel Sprouts With Clout!

No vegetable can cause grown people to wrinkle their noses and exclaim their disgust like the poor, misunderstood brussel sprout. People who haven't even tried them declare that they are horrifying, vile, nasty things. To those people, I say you have no idea what you are missing!

Now maybe your mother, or grandmother boiled the little buggers till they were grey and you had to eat them with a spoon. And to all of you, I am so sorry! But please don't blame the brussels, blame the cook!  Give them another chance.

So how do you go about making the best brussel sprouts ever?  Simple...add bacon and hazelnuts!  This recipe is so easy, and can be prepped all in advance of your holiday meal. So why not give these poor baby cabbages another try, I promise you will not be sorry.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts.
Serves 4.

1 lb Fresh Brussel Sprouts
6 slices bacon
1/4 cup Hazelnuts
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Put the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  If the nuts still have the skin on them, put the nuts on a clean dish cloth, fold the cloth over the nuts and rub the nuts in the towel until the skins peel off. Chop the nuts roughly and put aside.
3. Cut the bacon into small pieces and put into a fry pan. Cook the bacon slowly over medium-low heat to crisp the bacon and render out all the fat. When the bacon is cooked, scoop it out and put it on a paper towel, reserving all the fat.
4. Trim all the brussel sprouts, by cutting all the stems and removing any wilted leaves.  Slice the sprouts in half.
5. Toss the sprouts in the reserved bacon fat and season with salt and pepper. Put the brussel sprouts on cookie sheet or other baking dish.
6. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring half way through. Sprouts are done when they have some roasted colour and al dente. You do not want to over cook them, they should still have some crunch.
7. When cooked, toss the bacon and nuts into the sprouts and serve.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gigi's Chocolate Zucchini Cake

When we were kids, our mom used to grow zucchini in the back yard, and in the summer we had tons and tons of zucchini to eat. This recipe is an updated version of our Grandmother's Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Moist, tender, and freezes beautifully. You can also bake this in a 9" x 13" cake pan and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 1 cake  in a 9" x 13" x 2" pan or
2 standard loaf pans

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1  teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (packed)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease the pan with either butter or vegetable oil.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and soda, spices, salt and cocoa powder.  Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. (2 mins)
4. Add vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix till well blended.
5. Add in dry ingredients, blend lightly but thoroughly.
6. Add zucchini, chocolate chips and pecans, stir in manually just until incorporated.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 50 - 60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thai-riffic Salad

We absolutely love Thai food, and while it may seem complicated it really is fairly simple if you keep a couple basic principles in mind. The key to all Thai food is the balance between sweet, salty, hot and sour flavours, all you have to do is balance them to your personal tastes.  We created this salad using basic pantry ingredients, no need to go out and buy a lot of unusual ingredients.  This salad is fantastic with grilled steak sliced thinly on top. Serves 4 as a side dish.

For the salad:

1 cup snow peas (sliced thinly)
2 cups bean sprouts
1 red pepper (seeded and sliced thinly)
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
2 green onions (sliced)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts 
1 cup of cucumber (in chunks)
1 carrot (peeled and grated)

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha or chili sauce
1 lime (rind and juice)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Mix the snow peas, bean sprouts, carrot, red pepper, cilantro, mint, green onions, and peanuts in a large bowl.
2. Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, chili paste and lime juice and zest in a small bowl. Taste and adjust for your taste.
3. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss.