Thursday, December 3, 2009

Create delicious holiday breads and buns – put your bread maker to work!

For 100 points in the Efficient Baking Category: Julia Child, Queen of French cooking stated unabashedly that she used all five of hers—daily! Help line “Tennessee Lily” scolded Yours Truly for overusing hers, griping “y’all know they’re not for industrial use, huh?” If you answered, “What is a bread maker?” you’re one clever cookie. And if you own one, now is the perfect time to put it to work. A festive party bread or basket of hot rolls makes a superb host gift or a delicious addition to any meal—morning, noon or night. After all, who can resist the sweet charm of a toasted, slice of Italian Pannetone bread or the delicious aroma of freshly-baked milk dinner rolls?

You could create bread the off-grid way and have all the dirty bowls, spoons and stress to prove it. Or, you could just assemble all of the ingredients in a bread maker pan and let the bread maker do the work. The machine warms the ingredients, mixes the dough and bakes the bread, usually within a four-hour time slot. Just enough time for you to watch the Sound of Music for the 112th time, go tobogganing or plug away at outdoing your neighbour’s inflatable Santa display. If your bare hands still need a creative indoor workout, choose the “Dough” menu option on your bread maker and shape the dough into loaves or buns, let them rise and then bake your sculpted masterpieces in the oven.

Remember the golden rules for successful bread baking—ingredient temperature is key and make NO substitutions. Although the bread maker warms the ingredients for you, don’t put very hot or very cold ingredients in the pan; lukewarm or room temperature is best. Hot liquids will kill the yeast and very cold dry ingredients will inhibit rising. While you don’t need to know the entire periodic table, good bread is all about good chemistry. Yeast, sugar and salt, may sound like boring party guests but in the bread scenario each plays a vital role in getting a rise out of the dough. Never omit or adjust any one of them or your loaves will flops.

Note: Need help choosing or using a bread maker? Got bread baking questions or need recipes? Put “bread baking” in your email subject line and email me at I’ll be happy to help you out.

Try these tried and true bread recipes to get you started:

Sambuca Pannetone (Italian Christmas Bread)
(Bake in the bread maker using the Sweet or Specialty option)
1/3 c currants
1/3 c diced dried apricots
1/3 c Sambuca liqueur

1 c water
6 tbsp butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ c dry milk powder
31/3 cups Canadian all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast (Bulk Barn)

3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp slivered, lightly-toasted almonds

3 tbsp sugar for glazing

In a small bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in the liqueur for 1 hour. Drain well and reserve liquid. Set aside. Place the ingredients [except the nuts and fruit] in the bread machine pan in the order given. Set the pan in the chamber. Set the bread maker to the 1 ½ lb loaf size. Choose Specialty or Sweet as the menu function. Press start. When the “add ingredient” beep sounds, open the lid of the bread maker and add the drained fruit, pine nuts and slivered almonds. Close lid. Once the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the machine to a cooling rack.

Prepare a glaze by combining the reserved liqueur with enough water to make ¼ c. Place in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Brush the warm bread with the sugar mixture and let cool to room temperature before slicing.

German Partybrot Buns

(Use the bread maker Dough option)
This recipe will win you rave reviews! It can be used as a base and shaped into many types of buns. It is also a good recipe to teach children how to knead dough and basic math division skills.
1 c milk
4 tbsp butter melted
2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
4 c all-purpose white Canadian flour
2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast (Bulk Barn)

1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp milk mixed with a fork
1 tbsp EACH sesame seeds and poppy seeds

Assemble all ingredients in the bread maker chamber in the order listed. Select the “Dough” cycle and press start. When the dough cycle is finished, remove dough and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes under a tea towel.

Divide the dough into 19 equal pieces. Cover with tea towel while shaping each piece into a smooth ball. (To shape a ball: knead each dough piece gently with your thumbs: push dough away from yourself, fold over and turn. Repeat until smooth and satiny. Pull dough from the bottom to top of ball and push into the centre of the ball, like a mushroom. Roll between palms for a smooth, round ball. Cover dough while working.

Grease a spring form pan (about 9 ½-10 inches in diameter) with a little cooking spray. Arrange the shaped rolls in the prepared pan by making an outer ring of 12 rolls and an inner ring of six rolls, placing the last roll in the center of the two rings. Cover the rolls loosely with spray-greased saran wrap. The wrap should be placed grease side down touching all of the dough but loose enough around the edges to let the dough to rise and expand freely. Cover with a tea towel. Preheat oven to 350F. Let the dough to rise on a cookie cooling rack over a pan of hot water placed over the vent burner of the oven while the oven is preheating. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30-40 minutes. Set timer and don’t allow rolls to over rise or they will “fall” before you bake them.

When fully risen, carefully remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle alternately with sesame seeds and poppy seeds (like a checkerboard pattern). Bake in 350F oven on upper middle rack position for 25 minutes. Turn around pan after 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom of pan. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing sides from spring form pan. Slide (don’t lift) buns from pan bottom to cooling rack. Cover loosely with tea towel. Serve warm or wrap when cooled in heavy tin foil to reheat or for transport.

Sweet Holiday Wreath
1 ¼ cups milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 2/3 cups white flour
1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast

2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
2/3 cups raisin

Optional Sweet Icing:
Combine ¾ cup icing sugar, 1 tbsp milk and ¼ tsp almond flavourings. Chopped 1/4 cup each red and green cherries.

Measure ingredients into the bread pan in the order given. Insert pan into bread maker and choose the Dough setting. Remove dough when complete and divide in half. Roll each half into a 14”x9” rectangle. Spread each half with butter and half of the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Gently pat down into dough. Roll up jellyroll style beginning at the wide side. Pinch edge to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down shape into a ring on a spray greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Pinch ends together. With sharp, long kitchen scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals. Turn each section on its side. Cover with spray greased wrap and tea towel and let rise in a warm, humid draft-free place (over a pan of hot water or on top of the fridge) until double (about 35 minutes). Repeat with other half of dough. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Cool 15-20 minutes and decorate with sweet icing and chopped red and green cherries, if you wish.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pears: Homer’s “Gift of the Gods” are in season now

The shapely, juicy pear is making an appearance on your local fruit stands now. Known for her voluptuous shape, robust colour, sweet buttery flavour and ripening sensitivities, this charismatic member of the rose family is also a very shrewd little character. Left to ripen too long on the vine, her skin will remain flawless while her inner flesh spoils and turns to mush—unbeknownst to the grower—buyer beware. From cradle to table, miss princess pear must be handled gently to avoid bruising her tender flesh. At home she should be stored in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator to prevent her from spoiling. In keeping with her fragile, sensitive nature, her flavour is best when she is “cool.”

Throughout time, the enigmatic pear has intrigued philosphers and upheld the sensual element in many still-life oil paintings. Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped, "There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat”, while Homer referred to her as, “A gift of the gods.” Originating in Asia thousands of years ago, the Romans were the first to successfully graft new pear varieties, including the Bartlett pear, now by far the most popular pear in North America. Of the five major varieties grown in Ontario today, the Anjou, Bosc and Flemish Beauty pears are at their peak right now. Anjou and Bosc pears are especially suited for cooking because they hold their shape when heated. And of course, a fresh pear of any variety makes a superb snack containing about 100 calories and lots of fibre, Vitamin C, potassium and folacin.

Today, the pear is complimenting unique gourmet salads, appetizers, soups, main entrées and desserts. Her flavour pairs well with: sharp cheeses (blue, stilton, goat or gorgonzola), game meats (duck or goose) and nuts (almonds, walnuts and pecans). Try these recipes to pique your interest. Bon Appétit until next week!

Pear and Gorgonzola Chicken
2 boneless large, thick chicken breasts
5 oz Gorgonzola cheese (frozen)
1 Bosc pear
½ cup crushed walnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp whipping cream
Preheat oven to 400F. Lay chicken breasts flat on cutting board. With a small sharp knife, cut horizontal pockets into chicken breasts or flatten chicken with meat pounder (place mixture on top, roll up, secure with string or metal skewer). Cut 3.5 oz of frozen Gorgonzola cheese into ¼” dices and place in a mixing bowl (reserve remaining 1.5 oz Gorgonzola for sauce.) Peel and cut pear into ¼” dices and add to Gorgonzola in mixing bowl. Add crushed walnuts and stir.
Stuff mixture into chicken pockets and secure with small metal skewers. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Place in 400F oven for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. While chicken is baking, reduce the 2 cups of chicken stock to a ½ cup by boiling rapidly. Reduce heat and whisk in remaining 1.5 oz of Gorgonzola and 2 tbsp whipping cream. Boil for 2 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened and keep warm. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for five minutes. Scrape bits and jus from the bottom of the baking sheet into sauce. Cut chicken in ½” slices and arrange on a serving plate. Strain the sauce and ladle on top of chicken breasts.

Maple Pear and Stilton Cheese Salad

(The beauty of this recipe is its quick assembly. Many of the ingredients can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated in sealed Ziploc bags of Ziploc plastic boxesfor quick salad preparation any night of the week)

For the dressing and pears:

-1/3 cup Maple Syrup

-1 ½ tsp Balsamic vinegar

-3-4 firm Bosc or Anjou pears

Mix together maple syrup with balsamic vinegar in a plastic container (Ziploc Box) just big enough to hold 3-4 sliced pears. Core and thinly slice 3-4 firm Bosc or Anjour pears and place in the maple syrup mixture in the container (Ziploc boxes work well.). Seal lid well. Turn and shake the container 4-5 times to coat the pears. Set aside. These can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, if necessary. The juice from the pears mixes with the syrup and balsamic vinegar and makes a very sweet dressing to be drizzled (later) over the greens.

For the salad:

Thinly slice

-3-4 dried figs and

-½ of a red or some other colourful pepper.

-Crumble up 1/3 cup Stilton cheese.

-¼ cup sugared pecans* (buy at the Bulk barn or make yourself with the recipe below)

2-3 handfuls of Organic Greens (sold in boxes or bags in the Veggie section at Loblaws)

On a large platter, place handfuls of organic greens. Sprinkle sliced figs and red pepper slices over top. Drizzle about 1/3 of the pear mixture juice over top. Place 8-10 pear slices on top. Sprinkle Stilton cheese over top. Finish by sprinkling 1/3 cup of the cooled sugared pecans or walnuts over top. Do not toss this salad--serve in this layered arrangement. An alternate? Substitute green Granny Smith apples for pears and a mild white cheese for Stilton.

*Spicy-Sugared pecans/walnuts recipe

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans or walnuts

1/8 tsp EACH: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar.

Stir nuts in melted butter in fry pan. Heat 3-4 minutes on medium heat and until heated and very light brown. Remove from heat. Mix spices and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over nuts and stir well. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminium foil. Place nuts in an even layer and toast at 300F for 10-12 min, stirring at 3 min intervals until brown. These burn easily so watch them carefully.

Mâche, Pear & Avocado Salad with Sesame Rice wine Vinegar dressing

4 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh peeled ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp grainy dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces Mâche (about 1 small box) (greens sold in a plastic box the salad section of the grocery store) or other organic greens
2 Bosc or Anjou pears, cored and cut into thin slices
1 avocado cut into cubes
4 small green onions cut in half lengthwise (you may grill, fry or broil them to bring out more of the flavour if you wish)

In a small bowl, blend all the vinaigrette ingredients together thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss the Mâche with half the dressing. In a smaller bowl, toss the pears, avocado and onion with the remaining dressing. Arrange the Mâche on salad plates and top salad with the pear, avocado and onion mixture. Makes 4-6 servings.

Pear Tart

1/4 cup cornstarch
½ cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups non-fat milk
1 tsp grated lemon peel
¼ tsp grated lemon peel
¼ tsp orange or almond extract
1 baked nine-inch tart shell
4 Anjou or Bosc Pears, cored and sliced
¼ cup apricot jam, heated

Mix cornstarch and sugar; whisk in eggs. Scald milk; slowly whisk hot milk into egg mixture; return to heat. Stir while cooking until thickened. Stir in peel and extract. COOL. Pour into baked tart shell. Arrange sliced pears on top; brush with warm apricot jam. Chill if you wish then serve.
Note: For a quicker and lower fat tart, use a nonfat vanilla pudding mix instead of preparing the above custard.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Enjoy Glorious Peaches—available now!

Make no mistake, that cute little chin-soaker of a peach eying you from her basket at the fruit stand is not just another pretty face! Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, full of fibre and only 40 calories, the Romans’ “Persian Apple”, has served the world as a fast-food, backpack snack for over 3,000 years. Ms. Peach first appeared in ancient China where she became a symbol of fertility and affection by overcoming all odds and growing with gusto in eroded and overgrazed land. Next she peeled over to Russia and Persia (Iran) about 1,000 years later where, in the true spirit of viral marketing, she cropped up on popular Asian trade routes after Chinese traders discarded their leftover peach stones along the way.

My guess is, if Miss Peachy could speak she would have a few juicy secrets to tell about some powerful men in history who surrendered to her charms. Now Miss P, did Alexander the Great die of “the drink” or something more sinister? But before the Big Guy’s demise around 323 BC he debuted her to Greece where she basked and flourished in the warm Mediterranean sun. For centuries afterward, she carried on globetrotting across Europe, hob-knobbing with the palates of royalty at every pit stop, stemming a sea of admirers in every port. Louis XIV became so addicted to her, he seeded a pension for his sole French peach supplier to ensure he’d never do without! Throughout France she became a symbol of womanly beauty with names like Belle de Vitry and Téton de Vénus. Go ahead, quench your curiosity and check your French-English dictionary for the intimate details! Ontario peach varieties still bear enticing, feminine monikers like Harrow Diamond, Garnet Beauty and Early Redhaven. By the 1500’s, Spanish explorers cultivated a huge fan club for this little gemstone, among North America’s native people. Her popularity spread across the US and into Canada as more European settlers arrived and planted orchards.

Today, the peach grows in over 60 countries. Synonymous with rare beauty, luck and abundance, T.S. Eliot asked, “Do I dare eat a peach?” and Steve Miller sang, “I really love your peaches, wanna shake you tree!” No need to submit to a dare or to a shakedown. There are plenty of peaches on fruit stands now—ready for your enjoyment!

Try these simple peach recipes to complement your next meal.

Elegant Peach Appetizers

3 large freestone peaches

12 slices proscuitto, turkey or chicken breast

¼ lb Cambozola (or your favourite strong-smelling cheese)

25 large mint leaves

lime or lemon juice

Leave peaches in skins, slice in half and remove stones. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Cut meat slices in half lengthwise. Leave rind on cheese and slice into 24 pieces, 1” long and ¼” thick. Press cheese into peach wedge, cover with mint leaf, wrap meat slice around the centre of the stack with a bit of the mint leaf and cheese poking out the side. Arrange on a platter and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over top. Serve right away. Makes 24.

Chic and simple Poached Peaches in a Raspberry Sauce

4 ripe, firm peaches

¼ cup Cointreau, Amaretto or orange juice

¼ cup white sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup raspberries or blueberries

1 tbsp lemon juice

Biscotti biscuits (optional)

Halve peaches, remove pits. Place cut side up in a shallow 10” microwaveable dish. Pour liqueur over peaches. Cover and microwave on High for 4-6 min or until peaches are tender. Cool for 15 min. In a 4-cup glass measuring cup or bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Pour liquid from peaches into cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in raspberries. Microwave uncovered on High for 2-4 min (stir twice partway through cooking.) or until mixture boils and thickens. Stir in lemon juice. Serve two peaches in each serving dish and spoon sauce over top. Place a ginger or other biscotti biscuit on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Peach Blueberry Crisp (adapted from "Smart Cooking" by Anne Lindsay)

Tip: to peel peaches...first make sure they are ripe and just a little soft! Place them in a large bowl and cover them with boiling hot water. Let soak for 5-7 minutes. Drain. Run under cold water. With a sharp knife, gently coax the peel from the peach flesh. The peel should come off easily. Word to the wise: Mind your knife and your fingers during this part, peaches can be slippery little devils when wet!

6 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon


1 cup quick-rolled oats

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tbsp butter (room temperature)

In a large 8-cup baking dish combine peaches and blueberries. In a small bowl combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; add to fruit and toss to mix. Combine rolled oats, sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over top of fruit mixture. Bake in 350 F oven for 25 minutes until mixture is bubbling and fruit is barely tender. Topping should be lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bonzo for Buckwheat

M is for Marathons and the month of May is your time to shine! On your mark. Get set….Eat. Eat your buckwheat! Scarf down a few of these Marathon Buckwheat Energy Bars and you’ll be sailing over the finish line, celebrating the time of your life.

Buckwheat is a good source of dietary fibre, high in minerals and nutrients like iron, B vitamins, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorous and loaded with potassium. Potassium, also found in bananas, helps to regulate blood pressure and plays a key role in good muscle function. If you dare to invite buckwheat to your next pre-marathon brunch, lunch or dinner beware of his defensive alter-ego personality. Make no mistake, he is not a wheat and, he will emphatically correct anyone who dares to even remotely connect him to the wheat family. He is gluten-free and proud of it! Just so you know—and don’t offend his lineage—buckwheat grains are triangular shaped seeds from a grass-like herb. The name is from the German word for “triangular seed”. The hulled, raw seed is known as a “groat” and the dried, toasted groat is called Kasha. Buckwheat flour is made from groats and can be used for pancakes, bread, muffins and yes, pre-marathon energy bars. Mr. Buckwheat flexes a high-quality protein and boasts lysine and several essential amino acids not found in most grains. Lysine helps the body absorb and conserve calcium, lower cholesterol and improve the formation of collagen, necessary for healthy bone, skin, tendon and cartilage growth. Aside from being a fountain of youth, Buckwheat’s got a sweet spot too and doubles as an allergy-free puff-daddy by night. His nectar is used to make Buckwheat honey and pillows stuffed with his aspirated buckwheat hulls guarantee sneeze-free slumbers for folks allergic to feathers, dust and pollen. Just recently, Canadian researchers found new evidence that extracts from the buckwheat seed could help in the management of diabetes. Diabetic rats that dined on buckwheat seed extracts managed to lower their blood glucose levels by 12 to 19 percent. Yet another reason to celebrate with another round of buckwheat pancakes!

Aside from being an all-around healthy choice, Buckwheat’s a home-grown, Canadian boy too, well-established as a special crop, grown and raised on Canada’s eastern prairies since the late 1960’s. Today, about 70% of Canada’s total buckwheat is produced in Manitoba, with Ontario and Quebec growing the rest.

Interested in cruising for Buckwheat? You’ll find him in bulk and health food stores and some grocery stores. I found him (Buckwheat Flour) in a Bulk Barn bin in Ottawa, brought him home and adapted this recipe from an old Canadian Special Crops Association website. Google Buckwheat recipes and you'll find oodles of recipes to spark your imagination.

Marathon Buckwheat Energy Bars
1/3 c Buckwheat flour
1 ½ cups very finely chopped nuts [I used this combo: ½ c peanuts, ½ c almonds, ¼ c walnuts, ¼ c pecans]
¼ c coconut
1/3 c sesame seeds
1 cup chopped raisins or dried apricots [I also tried ½ c raisins and ½ c chopped mixed Christmas fruit]
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c butter
1/3 c Buckwheat honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together Buckwheat flour, nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, raisins and cinnamon. Melt butter and Buckwheat honey together in the microwave on high for about one minute. Stir well, then stir in vanilla. Mix flour mixture and honey mixture together. Stir until well blended. Lightly spray grease an 8”x 8” cake pan. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Turn pan around at halftime and lower temperature to 325 F if edges brown too quickly. Allow bars to cool in pan after baking. When cooled, cut into squares/bars. Makes 16 bars if cut into four rows and four columns.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Toast to the Roast! Elegant, easy to prepare and delivers wonderful leftovers!

Gosh, you missed the Genie Awards held here in Ottawa at the Aviation Museum last Saturday night? Guess who scooped the Genie for Best Canadian Romantic and Crowd-Pleasing Entrée? Here’s a replay… “Would the lovely, aromatic and lip-smacking roast please rise? Yes, you Miss Roast Beast. Probably one of the most under valued (yet frequently nominated) and misunderstood dinner entrées of all time. Throughout time, swanky restaurant menus have labelled you with lavish French names and snooty price tags, giving patrons the impression you’re a rare breed; pernickety, upper crust and far too difficult to successfully cook at home. Balderdash, nothing could be further from the truth! You are quite simply, easy to prepare, easy on the eyes with a few herb sprigs sprouting from your layers, very capable of feeding large hungry crowds and the gold medallion winner in the scrumptious and versatile leftovers division.”

Move over Mr. Paul Gross, armed with a good roasting pan, meat thermometer, garlic and a few other spices, you simply can’t go wrong by cooking a blockbuster roast your guests will rave about. A quick, all-over rub down with sliced garlic cloves turns a prime rib of beef into an entrée dinner sensation. A pork roast soaked in yoghurt, mustard and garlic and rolled in nuts and breadcrumbs delivers a moist, tender and flavourful main entrée guaranteed to get you at least a few return dinner invites. For the lamb lovers in your crew, nothing will outshine an easy roast leg of lamb that’s been left languishing overnight in a marinade of chardonnay, garlic, rosemary and black currant jelly. Served with a medley of roasted or mashed vegetables, “au jus”, fresh rolls, candlelight and a little vino, your “Roast Manifique” could be worthy of a three-digit price tag at any “Hy-brow” Ottawa restaurant, or a …Genie. Try any of these simple recipes at home and give yourself a few bonus points for being a smart and frugal cook!

A few roast tips:
· 1 kg x 2.2 = weight in pounds
· What’s your poison? Always use a meat thermometer (inserted in the thicket part of the meat) to check for doneness
· allow ¾ of a pound of meat per person
· Beef, lamb and bison roasts may be served rare. Pork and chicken must be thoroughly cooked. Your meat thermometer will provide suggested minimum cooking temperatures for most meats.

Lamb avec gelée de cassis (lamb with currant jelly)
(This is a superb roast to marinate overnight and roast the next day—meaning less work for the cook the day of the big event!)
4-6 servings
4 lb bone in or rolled leg of lamb
2 cups dry white wine
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
¼ cup black or red currant jelly

At least 6 hours or 1 day before, place lamb in a Ziploc bag. Mix all ingredients together and pour over lamb in bag and then place in dish large enough to hold it. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours, turning several times. To roast, preheat oven to 325F. Place roast in shallow roasting pan. Pour ½ c marinade over roast, saving the rest of the marinade. Roast uncovered for 2 ¼ hrs or until meat temperature registers 140F. During roasting, pour ½ c marinade over lamb every 15 minutes. When it is all used up, baste with pan juices. If lamb browns too soon, tent loosely with aluminums foil. Remove lamb to platter and cover. Skim off and discard any fat. Boil pan juices gently, uncovered and stirring often until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Strain and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1 more tbsp currant jelly if you wish. Serve with sliced lamb.

Roast Prime rib au poivre
8 servings
1 9 lb prime rib beef roast (about 4 ribs)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp mixed whole peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Tip: To crush peppercorns place them between two sheets of waxed paper, and then a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin or glass bottle. Or, crush them in a coffee grinder.

Position oven rack in centre of oven and preheat to 500 F. Place beef fat side up in shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle beef all over with salt. Mix mustard and garlic in small bowl. Spread mixture over beef. Sprinkle 2 tbsp crushed peppercorns over mustard mixture. Place roast in oven and reduce heat to 350. If crust begins to brown too quickly, tent the roast loosely with foil. If you prefer rare beef, allow 15-20 minutes per lb. After 1 1/2 – 2 hrs, check temperature. Meat thermometer inserted to the centre of the roast should read at least 140F for rare beef, 160F for medium; or 170F for well done.

Surlonge de porc aux amandes rôties (Pork with almonds)
For the marinade, whisk together in a small bowl:
¾ cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp pepper

Place roast in a Ziploc bag
1 3 lb boneless centre-cut pork loin roast.

Pour marinade over roast in bag and then place in dish large enough to hold it. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours, turning several times.

For nut mixture coating, mix together
1 cup finely chopped almonds
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Scrape off most of the marinade from the roast, then roll roast in the nut mixture and press into the roast. In a shallow baking dish or roasting place, place roast. Cook 40-45 min per lb until meat thermometer reads 170F (about 2 hrs for a 3 lb roast).

Bison roast à la mélasse orangée (molasses and orange juice)
Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat
1 tbsp olive oil
Add and cook, stirring until just beginning to colour:
1 1/3 minced onions
3 tbsp minced garlic
Stir in and bring to a boil:
1 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest (orange peel)
½ cup light or dark molasses
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted then crushed
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp salt

1 1 lb boneless Bison roast

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered until the glaze is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Brush glaze over 1 lb boneless Bison roast and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Keep remaining marinade to brush over roast during cooking. Place roast in shallow roasting pan. Preheat oven to 450F and roast meat for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325F, basting meat occasionally with glaze. Cook until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 130F for rare (8-10 min per lb), 140F for medium rare (10-12 min per lb). Be careful not to overcook or the meat will be dry and chewy. Remove roast from pan and cover to keep warm. Add to the pan:
1 ½ cups beef bouillon or stock
¾ cup red wine
Boil, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced to about 2 cups and slightly thickened. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and serve with roast.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cointreau-Laced Hot Cross Buns Via the Breadmaker

Fruit and Cointreau glaze mixture:
1/3 cup Cointreau
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark raisins
¼ cup mixed citrus bits (lemon/orange) or glazed fruit mixture
1/3 cup currants
Soak fruit in Cointreau for 30 minutes or more. Drain and reserve liquid.
In the breadmaker pan, assemble these ingredients:
1 cup 2% or whole milk
2 eggs
1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted, cooled butter
3 ¾ cups Canadian all-purpose flour
¾ cup Canadian Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
(Add spices then lightly stir into flour)
1 ¾ tsp breadmachine yeast

For glaze: 3 tbsp sugar mixed with reserved liquid.
For crosses: ½ cup icing sugar mixed with ½-1 tbsp milk.

Place the breadpan in the breadmaker, choose the Dough cycle and press start. When the “Add Ingredient” alarm sounds on the breadmaker, add the drained fruit. When Dough cycle is complete, remove dough and let rest under a tea towel for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and flatten slightly. [To shape into buns: Pull dough piece from the side and tuck underneath, like a mushroom, several times. On a breadboard, cup the round under the palm of your hand, with your fingernails lightly touching the board, and roll the round in a circular motion until a smooth ball is formed.] Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. To prevent a skin from forming on the dough, be sure to keep pieces covered that are to be shaped AND those that have been shaped. Once all pieces have been shaped, cover them loosely with spray-greased plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a humid, warm, draft-free place until doubled in size. They may take 1 – 2 hours to rise completely because spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger can inhibit the rising process. Once risen, flatten each round very gently and brush with milk. Bake in the oven at 325 F for 15-20 minutes, turning at halftime. Watch out they burn easily. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Fruit Glaze: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan mix the reserved fruit liquid with 3 tbsp sugar. Heat on low, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. With a pastry brush, brush over slightly cooled buns.

Icing for crosses: After the buns have cooled, decorate with crosses. Mix ½ cup icing sugar ½ -1 tbsp milk. Mix in milk with sugar, gradually. It should be like a smooth paste that you can drizzle from the end of a fork.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spice up dinner with a few off-the-wall veggies!

Pssst…I dare say? This Parsnip Cake with Ginger Cream Icing is even more delicious than carrot cake!
A few lonely, overlooked vegetables are vying for your attention at the vegetable stand. You know the wallflowers. Most are green, some are colourful, they grow in or close to the ground, and are usually quite frost hardy. Some look warty and, when boiled most smell earthy and rooty. Others grow hairy sprouts if left unattended on the counter for too long. Due to poor accessorizing tastes on the part of cooks, many suffer from low self-esteem issues. You’ve probably met a few of these veggies, glanced at them sorrowfully and promised to bring one home for a meal, next time. You remember them well from your childhood—Brussels sprouts, parsnips, rutabagas, cauliflower, etc. The ones you were told to eat but discreetly fed to Fido instead. (Hey, no one wonder his coat was so fluffy and he lived so long!) But the bland “boil, salt n’ serve” presentation just didn’t turn you on. I can’t imagine why?

Time for a veggie fashion accessory consult, no charge! Fasten your seatbelt for the spin, these once boring veggies are now vogue, sporting fall dress up twists that could be winning you rave dinner reviews. Cauliflower—wallflower no more—is prancing about in nothing but cheddar and thyme crumbs. The lowly parsnip is outdoing its poor cousin (the carrot) in cakes and spicing up world-renowned Irish wines and beers. Le petit choux, otherwise known as the Brussels sprout, is basking in lemon sauces and toasted almonds. Why not host a “haute and heavy” veggie fashion event like none other before!

Try these recipes at your next gathering:

Delicious Parsnip Cake with Ginger Cream Icing
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (packed) shredded peeled parsnips (about 3 large)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

1 pkg (250 g) light cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
½ tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan or two 8” or 9” cake pans to make a layered cake. Combine flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in large bowl; whisk to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, milk, and 1 tsp vanilla in medium bowl to combine. Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients; stir until just combined, don’t over mix. Stir in parsnips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan(s). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cake(s) completely in pan on rack. Remove from pans.
For icing:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in fresh ginger and 1/8 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until icing is smooth. Spread over cake. If making a layered cake place one-third of icing on one cake and place the other cake on top and ice the entire cake. Tip: Place the first cake upside down on the cake plate, ice, then place the other cake right side up, on top. The two bottoms of the cakes will be stuck together. The cake will look more symmetrical and the top layer is less likely to slide or shift.
Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Cauliflower with sharp cheddar and thyme crumbs
1 large 3 lb cauliflower* head, cut into 2-inch florets
(*broccoli or Brussels sprouts may be substituted)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped scallion greens
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (Use croutons crushed into breadcrumbs in food processor if necessary)
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook or steam cauliflower until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain cauliflower well in a colander and place in a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour. Cook over low heat, whisking for 3 minutes. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese, mustard, scallion greens, thyme, salt, and pepper, whisking until cheese is melted. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower and stir gently to combine.
Breadcrumbs: Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan, remove from heat. Pour over crumbs, add 1/2 tsp thyme and toss to coat. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over cauliflower. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.

Lemon-glazed Brussels Sprouts with Slivered Almonds
About 3 cups medium Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed

1/4 cup butter

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp grated lemon peel

1/4 c slivered almonds
Steam or boil Brussels sprouts in a large pot until tender crisp (about 9 min). Drain in colander. Dispose of water. Using the same pot, over medium heat melt butter and whisk in lemon juice. Whisk to form a sauce. Stir in Brussels sprouts and coat with sauce. Cook, continuously stirring over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until sprouts brown slightly on the edges and glazed with sauce. Stir in slivered almonds. Place in serving bowl, sprinkle with lemon peel and serve
Makes 6 servings.

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Completely Sweet Valentine's Day Supper

Feeling McLovin’ and looking for a unique way to impress your dude or dudette this Valentine’s Day? Why not flash a peace sign, zip down to Montréal and enjoy a one-night stay at the exact same suite John Lennon and Yoko Ono lounged in during their 1969 Give Peace a Chance bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Yep, for a mere $2,000 CDN, or one very large coffee tin full of toonies, you and your sugar pie could enjoy a leisurely stay in legendary suite 1742 complete with souvenir Jo-Ko PJs, a bouquet of white flowers, wine, breakfast and dinner as ordered by the famous nesting lovebirds 40 years ago. Just imagine!

Or, you could KISS (keep it simple sweetheart), save those under-the-bed toonies for junior’s tuition and host your very own love-in with a simple “I wanna hold your hand” dinner at home—sans les enfants. Just select your favourite lounge crooner “romantic hits”, set a peaceful table for two—complete with flowers and candles—and serve up a Lovin’ Spoonful Valentine’s meal all of your own. Start with a heart-friendly cranberry and feta salad and follow that number with a medley of sesame carrots, red peppers and sugar snap peas, rosemary-roasted red potatoes, maple-nut crust baked salmon and a dessert of frozen vanilla yogurt laced with crushed hot-cinnamon hearts. Best of all, this meal can be prepared in advance or quickly assembled at the last minute, giving you lots of “quality time” to spend with your sweetheart! But before the chopping and romantic fireworks begin, agree on who is Chef or Sous-Chef and Give Peace a Chance.

Cranberry Feta and Roasted Walnut Salad
4 cups mixed greens
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tart, sliced apple

½ cup toasted walnut pieces mixed with:
1 tsp each melted butter, sugar and cinnamon

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon or old-style mustard
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Toss nut pieces with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Bake for 5-6 min at on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet for 325F. Let cool. Layer salad greens in a large, shallow salad bowl or on a large serving platter. Whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard and pepper in small bowl. Slowly add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until well blended. Pour over salad greens. Toss gently to coat. Sprinkle cranberries, cheese, sliced apples and cooled walnuts over top. Serve immediately. Tip: Double or triple the dressing mixture and store in a glass jar, unrefrigerated. Keep large batches of the other salad ingredients in Ziploc bags in the refrigerator for quick salad prep. Imagine, you'll be getting your greens... every night!

Sesame Carrots, Peppers and Sugar Snap Peas
1 cup mini carrots
1 cup washed and trimmed sugar snap peas
1 red pepper thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Steam carrots for 5 min. Add peppers and snow peas to carrots and steam for another 3 min or just until tender crisp. Drain water from pot. Over low heat, in the same pot toss carrots, peppers and peas with 1 tbsp sesame oil. Sprinkle 2 tbsp sesame seeds over top and mix well. Serve immediately.

Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes

6-8 small red potatoes
2 tbsp rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coarse salt
Wash potatoes (leave skins on) and slice in half. Boil for 12-14 min. Drain. Place potatoes in a foil-lined 13x9” baking dish. Mix together olive oil and rosemary. Pour oil mixture over potatoes and toss gently with a pastry brush. Sprinkle pepper and coarse salt over top. Bake for 45 min at 425 F (stirring at halftime) until lightly browned

Salmon with Maple-Nut Crust
This recipe is for one large tail piece of salmon with the skin on. The tail of the salmon is always the sweetest and leanest.
1 large tail piece of salmon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup almonds, pecans or shelled pistachios

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with tin foil. Wash and dry salmon with paper towel and place skin side down (flesh side up) on the sheet. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Mix together syrup, curry and mustard. Chop up or crush nuts. Preheat oven to 425F. Spoon half of maple syrup mixture over fillets then sprinkle with nuts. Spoon remaining maple mixture over nuts. Cover the exposed areas of the sheet around the fish with tin foil pieces—this keeps the oil from splattering and burning. Bake in centre of oven at 425F for 35 min.

Crushed Hearts Vanilla Frozen Yogurt (pictured above)
3 cups very slightly melted and softened Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream
3 tbsp crushed cinnamon hearts, reserve 1 tbsp
1/4 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate bits
2-4 rolled wafers or chocolate biscuits
Chocolate syrup (optional)
In medium sized plastic tub mix frozen yogurt, 2 tbsp crushed cinnamon hearts and chocolate bits together well. Place mixture in the freezer. To serve, use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon and spoon into glass bowls. Garnish with rolled wafers or chocolate biscuits. Drizzle with chocolate syrup (optional). Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp crushed cinnamon hearts. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Warning: This article contains scrumptious nut recipes. Enjoy.

If food groups had zodiac signs, nuts would most certainly be Aquarians. For centuries, in late January and most of February—when the stars shine for Aquarians—great Aquarians have graced civilizations with their visionary strengths and compassion for humanity. Abraham Lincoln, please rise! On the light-hearted side, and true to air-sign Aquarian form, nuts are eccentric, versatile, feisty, flavourful, wholesome, sexy and the life of any party; holding their own as a sultry cocktail nibble or playing an alluring adjunct to any appetizer, salad, entrée or dessert.

Being world travelers, intellects and diplomats on the food front for hundreds of years, nuts pride themselves on their lively, ancient roots and colorful health-promoting virtues. Some even fire up amorous thoughts and spark romantic relations! Egyptian pharaohs hankered for almonds in their special breads and the Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. The Greeks thought walnuts resembled the human skull and brain and believed the its healing properties could cure any kind of headache. Hmmm…something to keep in mind the next time your head is throbbing and the kids are driving you nuts? Today, we know walnuts contain a significant amount of omega-3s and that a handful (1/3 cup) a day will keep the cardiologist and neurologist away. Looking to improve your love life twinkle-toes? Skip the oysters and wolf down a handful of zinc-rich pecans—daily. Zinc helps the body produce testosterone, a key hormone for igniting “the mood” in both men and women. Most of all, nuts are healthy lifesavers thanks to their high caloric, protein, vitamin and mineral counts. Brazil nuts are rumoured to have saved the lives of starving Spanish troops in the 1500’s when a smart Spanish colonial collected thousands of Brazil nuts and fed them to his tired and hungry army.

Need a little incentive to get yourself in a nutty mood? Try these carefree nut-laden recipes and you’ll be feeling like a quirky, fun-loving Aquarian in no time:

Chic and Simple Walnut Tart

This recipe is so tasty and elegant; folks might think a patisserie made it!


1 ½ cups white flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup cool butter cut into cubes

Combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Turn into a 10 or 11” flan pan with a fluted edge. {It’s worth buying such a pan if you don’t have one. This recipe is that good!} Spread the loose mixture evenly over the dish, then press it up against the sides and firmly pat it into an even layer on the bottom. The crust will be fairly thick. Cover the edges loosely with a strip of tin foil. Set oven rack to the middle position. Bake the crust at 350F for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool a little while you prepare the filling.


3 large eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped walnuts

With a wire whisk or electric mixer, beat the eggs until thick and foamy. Then beat in the sugar a little bit at a time, whisking well until sugar is dissolved. Stir in walnuts. Pour filling into partly baked crust and spread evenly. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes (turn halfway through) or until set and nicely browned. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool completely before serving. Slice into thin wedges and top each slice with a walnut half. Sift icing sugar over top, if desired. [You may also freeze the wedges. Just let them thaw on a rack at room temperature for an hour or so before serving. Don’t reheat.]

Christmas Nuts

[Any time of the year, these are nuts are a great addition to a goat cheese salad with apple or pear wedges]

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 300 F. In heavy skillet, warm the butter and sauté the nuts over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes until light brown.

In a medium bowl, put the spices and sugar and stir until well combined. Toss the nuts with the spice mixture. Pour the nuts into a foil-lined, lightly spray-greased, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, for about 10-15 minutes (stirring often) or until nuts are drier and spices adhere. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.

Curried Cashews

[For a tasty side dish, add these nuts to steamed green beans, Brussels sprouts, rice or couscous]

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups raw cashews

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp garam marsala (optional)

pinch cayenne

1 tsp salt

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (if a drop of water sizzles in the oil, it’s ready) add the cashews.

Stir fry the cashews for 3-5 minutes until just golden brown. Watch carefully and stir frequently to prevent them from burning. Note: they continue to fry after being removed from the pan. Remove to a large, flat, rimmed cookie sheet lined with paper towels to soak up the oil. In small bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, cayenne and salt and garam marsala. Pour the drained nuts into a large bowl, sprinkle spice mixture over the warm cashews and toss well to coat. Makes 2 cups. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.

Almond-crusted Brie

1 (8-ounce wheel) Brie cheese

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the top rind off of cheese. Place cheese on a pie plate or round glass baking dish with a rim. Spread apricot jam across top of exposed cheese. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of jam. Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the almonds begin to brown. Serve warm, with slices of granny smith apples, crackers or crusty bread. Makes approximately 8 servings.

Take stock: Boost your savings with your own delicious home-made soups.

Yikes! The yo-yo stock market is hammering your portfolio and you’re looking for belt-tightening measures to increase your liquidity? Time to diversify. Skip the soup lines at your usual lunch joint, buy chicken, beef or vegetable stock and make your own hearty soups for your workday lunches. Guaranteed your piggy bank will fatten up in a hurry while you slim down—skipping the standstill line-dance ritual in favour of a vigorous run in the park. Vigorous, because you’ll be so darned giddy and energized with all the money you’re saving. No need for the Tummy Fat Savings Account (TSFA) now!

Your blue chip scheme will involve a weekly upfront investment; spending time with a large stock pot, employing a big, sharp knife and diversifying mutual veggies. Other one-time investments may include: outlay for glass containers to store and reheat your lunch shares, a hand-held immersion blender—the kitchen weapon of choice for quick and convenient soup making—and maybe a slow-cooker. Don’t bother blending your soups with a food processor or counter-top blender. They often overflow (spewing soup all over you and your kitchen walls) and compel you to transfer hot liquid back and forth between several pots—a messy, risky, inefficient venture in my books!

By Day Four of your new investment plan, you’ll begin to hear and feel a healthy Return on Investment; extra toonies jingling in your pocket and the need for suspenders to hold up your ever-loosening pants loaded down by a heavy wallet. By Day Five, you’ll go public and share your “secret” with like-minded stockholders. On Day Six you’ll be issuing soup dividends on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Day Seven issue credit to yourself for launching a healthy, grassroots investment scheme and take your savings to the bank! Back to Day One again and you’ll hear about serious corrections in the markets; do not pass go, stick to your strategy, and try these delicious soup recipes.

Carrot Soup
3 tbsp butter
6-8 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin circles
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 med onion, chopped
2 med potatoes, peeled and diced
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp chopped ginger
2 tsp smooth peanut butter
1 tsp curry
¼ cup sour cream or yogurt

Melt butter in a large pot, add carrot, garlic and onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in potato, reduce heat to low, cover and sweat vegetables about 4-5 minutes. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Season to taste. Reduce heat and allow soup to simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Puree soup with hand held blender. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt. Garnish with herbs.

Tomatoe Soup

1 med onion, chopped finely
1 small carrot, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter
2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes. Whole tomatoes are fine, but chop them up.
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup heavy cream or half&half, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
Basil to taste
Heat butter in soup pot on med-low heat. Add onion and carrot, and sprinkle with salt. Sautee until onion and carrot are soft. Add canned tomatoes, including liquid. Turn up heat to med-high. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Reduce heat and add flour. Mix well to get rid of lumps. Cook for two minutes. Add chicken broth, cook until soup is hot, not boiling. Using a hand held blender, blend soup until it is smooth in texture. Add some of the hot broth to the cream. Mix well, then pour cream into soup. Add basil. Cook until soup is desired thickness.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock or broth
4 cups half and half
1/4 cup sherry, port or Madeira or Riesling wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped or dried parsley and basil to taste.
Melt butter in soup pot on med-low heat. Add onions and salt. Sautee onions until they are soft. Add mushrooms, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add flour in a bit at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add broth a bit at a time, stirring constantly. After enough broth has been added to make everything liquid, add the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. The flour will thicken the soup a bit. Add cream, pepper, basil and parsley. Gently simmer the soup, without boiling for about ten minutes, to allow the flavors to mix. Add the sherry, port or wine; stir and serve.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoe Soup

*May also be slow-cooked for 2-3 hrs in a soup pot on the stove, stir every 15 min.
2 dried New Mexico Chili (mild) peppers
2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (optional) diced jalapeno pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
4 cups peeled, ½” cubed sweet potatoes
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups corn kernels, thawed if frozen
1 tsp grated lime zest (peel)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 roasted red peppers cut into thin strips (bottled are fine)
finely chopped cilantro
Soak chilies in boiling water for 30 min. Drain, discard liquid and stems. Pat dry, chop and set aside. In a skillet, heat oil over med heat. Add onions and cook, Stir until soft. Add garlic, jalapeno pepper, salt oregano, and reserved chilies. Cook for 1 min. Transfer to slow cooker pot, add sweet potatoes and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook in slow cooker on low for 8-10 hrs OR on high for 4-6 hrs. Purée with a hand-held blender in the slow-cooker pot. Add corn, lime, zest and juice. Cover and cook another 20 minutes until corn is tender. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with red peppers strips and cilantro.

Red Lentil and Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

2 cups red lentils
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black peppercorns
a few drops hot pepper sauce (to taste)
1 28 oz can tomatoes, including juice
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 14 oz can coconut milk
optional: finely chopped cilantro

In a colander, rinse lentils thoroughly under cold water. Set aside. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft. Add garlic, turmeric, cumin seeds, salt, peppercorns and a few drops hot pepper sauce. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in carrots, lentils, lemon juice and broth. Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours until carrots are tender and mixture is bubbling. Stir in coconut milk and cook on HIGH for 20-30 minutes, until heated through. When serving, garnish each serving with cilantro, if using.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Toast to 101 years of great Canadian grains

Once upon a time in 1908, right here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm, a humble, talented chemist and sideline flutist named Charles Saunders invented something spectacular—the Marquis Wheat—the best wheat in the world! Word spread around the world about his dynamo wheat and thousands of people immigrated to Canada’s prairies just to grow it. Wheat quickly became one of Canada’s leading exports and we Canadians were given the best tasting bread and pasta products on Earth! On this 101 year Anniversary of the Marquis Wheat, let’s toast Charles Saunders, Canada’s unsung hero of the world’s breadbasket and inventor of the world’s most, cold-weather hardy, gluten-packed, high-quality wheat. Gluten is a protein in wheat that gives bread volume and texture. Today, many of our grains are derived from the Marquis wheat and are used around the globe in “cream of the crop” flours, pasta and beers. Canada rules the roost in the wheat and grain growing industry and our production standards are the highest in the world. Nine of our provinces grow wheat, mostly for export. We grow many other grains too like rye, barley, and oats as well as various seed and cereal crops.

Grains give us essential vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, and iron. Whole grain and whole wheat products are also an important source of fibre in our diets and whole grain breads are a great way get your fill of “good” carbs.

So if Christmas made you the lucky owner of a breadmaker, I would highly recommend you borrow or buy this book to get you started: Canada’s Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes (ISBN 0-7788-0003-2). Purchase your ingredients at the Bulk Barn or Kardish where many varieties of grains and baking products are sold. Use all-purpose Robin Hood or Five Roses—no need to use Best for Bread flour—our Canadian flour contains enough gluten to make fine, voluminous loaves! Need help using your breadmaker? Email me at and I would be happy to help. In the meantime, here are a few selected recipes from the book:

Five Seed Rye Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 ½ cups water
¼ cup skim milk powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp shortening
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup rye flour
¼ cup EACH flax seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds
1 tsp EACH caraway seeds and fennel seeds
1 ½ tsp bread machine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Basic Cycle* . For an attractive topping sprinkle a mixture of the seeds overtop the loaf during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Pilgrim’s Multigrain Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 1/3 cups water
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup buttermilk powder
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup wheat or oat bran
3 tbsp wheat germ
1 ½ tsp breadmachine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Basic Cycle*

Maritime Brown Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 ½ cups water
¼ cup skim milk powder
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp shortening
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup wheat germ
1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Whole Wheat Cycle*

*If you choose, any of these breads can be shaped into loaves and baked in the oven. You’ll need two small loaf pans. Select the Dough option on the breadmaker when you begin and follow these instructions when the dough is ready to be shaped.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Cover one piece with a tea towel while you roll out the other piece to an 8x10 rectangle. Roll up this rectangle—like a jelly roll and pinch the seam. With the side of the palm of your hand, press down on the edges of the roll at either end, tuck ends under and pinch to seal. Fit the roll (seam side down) into a greased or non-stick loaf pan. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in middle of oven. Let dough rise in pans, covered loosely with greased saran wrap and a tea towel in a warm, humid, draft-free place for about 30-35 min or until doubled in size. To bake, brush loaves with milk and sprinkle a few oats on top. Bake rack for 20-25 minutes or until browned. If a knock on the bottom of the pan sounds hollow, the bread is done! Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 min. Remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack, uncovered for 1 hour. After this, cover with a tea towel and continue to cool before storing or slicing.

More devilishly simple winter salads

Discover your supernatural salad powers-invite a few unusual suspects to the mix!

Go exotic and imagine yourself creating a salad with characteristic ingredients as charismatic and enigmatic as the guests you would invite to a fantasy dinner party. Begin by thinking of your salad as “insalata”, Italian for “salad”. The word sounds so devilishly close to “insolent” it will give you all the creative license you need to think beyond the usual sad-sack, pre-mixed salads in the grocery store. Next, imagine yourself in a Mediterranean light, crafting a work of art so unique and delicious your family and friends will exalt you to the heights of “Leonardo Insalata.” Start by creating a bed of greens (romaine lettuce, watercress, organic mixed greens, etc) and adding your favourite chopped fresh or grilled vegetables. To mystify and sweeten your creation, add unexpected embellishments like sliced pears, apples, or figs. Need a crispy-crunch fix? Toss in few spicy or sweet nuts or seasoned croutons. For a final mystery complement, consider inviting dashing, unusual salad guests like crumbled Stilton cheese, capers or proscuitto to prompt the question, “mmm…just who and what is this?” Drizzle your favourite oil and vinegar dressing over top and toss well or serve in a layered design.

Now set the mood and let the “insalata” begin. If weather permits, eat “al fresco”—keep your parka on—it means, to eat in the open air or outdoors. Buff up the cutlery, fill the water goblets, drape the table with a linen cloth, and light the tea lights. After ditching the dishtowel from your shoulder and casually whipping off your work-in-progress apron, place a clean, white napkin over your right forearm and go about your humble abode to personally invite each family member to an introductory dinner course of (whisper) “Insalata”. Stand back, your mystery starter will have your dinner guests scrambling for the best seat at the table, eagerly awaiting your work of art and then jumping from their chairs for more. Sotheby’s take note!

Try these salads to pique your interest:

Maple Pear and Stilton Cheese Salad

(The beauty of this recipe is its quick assembly. Many of the ingredients can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated in sealed Ziploc bags for quick salad preparation any night of the week!)

Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup with 1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar. Core and thinly slice 3-4 pears and place in the maple syrup mixture in a sealed container (Ziploc boxes work well.) Turn and shake the container 4-5 times to coat the pears. Set aside. These can be stored for 2-3 days, if necessary.

For the salad:

Thinly slice 3-4 dried figs and ½ of a red pepper.

Crumble up 1/3 cup Stilton cheese.

¼ cup sugared pecans* (buy at the Bulk barn or make yourself with the recipe below)

Organic PC Greens

On a large platter, place four large handfuls of organic greens. Sprinkle sliced figs and red pepper slices over top. Drizzle about 1/3 of the pear mixture juice over top. Place 8-10 pear slices on top. Sprinkle Stilton cheese over top. Finish by sprinkling ¼ cup of the cooled sugared pecans over top. Serve with a large salad spoons. Do not toss. Serve in this layered arrangement. Tip: Young children prefer this salad with green Granny Smith apples instead of pears and a mild white cheese instead of Stilton.

*Sugared pecans recipe

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans

1/8 tsp EACH: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar.

Stir nuts in melted butter in fry pan. Heat 3-4 minutes on medium heat and until heated and very light brown. Remove from heat. Mix spices and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over nuts and stir well. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place nuts in an even layer and toast at 300F for 10-12 min, stirring at 3 min intervals until brown. These burn easily so watch them carefully.

Light and Healthy Mandarin & Spinach Salad

For the salad:

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 red or orange pepper sliced into long, thin segments

1/3 of a medium-sized red onion, sliced in long thin pieces

1 small can drained Mandarin orange segments

6 –8 cups washed and trimmed spinach

For the dressing whisk together:

¼ c honey

3 tbsp cider or other fruit vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp poppy seeds

In a large salad bowl toss together all ingredients, except red peppers and nuts. Drizzle one-third of dressing (or more to taste) over top and toss. Sprinkle peppers and nuts over top and serve.

Speedy Gonzales Artichoke & Hearts of Palm Salad

2 tins whole, drained artichoke hearts – chopped in large pieces

2 tins whole, drained hearts of palm, chopped into large pieces

Use Farm Boy Lemon garlic marinade or whisk together your own:

¼ c olive oil

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix chopped artichokes and hearts of palm in lemon garlic mixture and serve in a medium sized serving bowl.