New Feature: Measurement Guide

31 03 2009

I’m debuting a handy new page for cooks: a Measurement Guide.  These charts can help those of us who can never remember how many tablespoons in a cup or how many grams in an ounce.  You can print them and keep them in the kitchen or tuck them into your favourite cookbooks for quick reference.

Click here to check out the Measurement Guide or use the tab at the top of the page.





Spring – At Last!

20 03 2009


Today is the first day of Spring!  It’s time to enjoy longer days, warm afternoons and the promise that summer is just around the corner.  We’ve survived the worst weather of the year and it won’t be long until the markets are piled high with fresh local produce.  Unfortunately, for people in northern regions the weather will continue to be unstable for a while.  It can be warm and sunny one day only to be stormy and snowing the next.  While this can be challenging as a cook, it also allows us some flexibility.  We can still make hearty braises and stews or we might choose salads and lighter fare.  Think of it as the best of both worlds.  

Coming soon: new recipes using classic spring ingredients such as rhubarb, asparagus, ramps (wild leeks), cherries and strawberries (not all together, of course!). In the meantime,  you can re-visit some of my favourites from last spring:

Quick Strawberry Jam and Easy Drop Biscuits

Asparagus Soup

Spring Cocktails


Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Guinness Stew

17 03 2009


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to celebrate all things Irish, whether you have Irish roots or not.  Guinness stew may be a bit of a cliché but it’s easy, delicious and very economical.  This recipe requires some time to prep the ingredients (there are a lot of vegetables to be chopped) but once everything is in the pot your work is pretty much done. If you’re entertaining, it tastes even better the day after you make it.  Serve with mashed potatoes, some soda bread and of course, a pint of Guinness.

This particular recipe is a bit of a hybrid – it’s a cross between a traditional Irish stew and a French Beef Bourguinon.  Pearl onions can sometimes be found with the frozen foods or you can peel fresh ones.  When selecting turnip, be sure to use actual turnip and not rutabaga, which is more bitter tasting and much harder to peel.  The chive sour cream is optional but it adds a nice finishing touch to the stew.

Guinness Stew with Chive Sour Cream

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1-1/2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-1/2″ cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 4 rashers of bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (about 1-1/2 cups carrot pieces)
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (about 1-1/2 cups turnip)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 fl. oz. can whole tomatoes, including the juice
  • 440 ml / 15 fl. oz. Guinness beer (just under 2 cups of Guinness)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 10 medium sized white (button) mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cups whole peeled pearl onions (about 25 onions) – fresh or frozen
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large bowl, toss cubes of stewing beef with flour until all pieces are coated.  Set aside.
  2. Heat a stockpot or enameled cast iron pot on medium heat.  Add bacon and cook until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes.  Remove bacon bits with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Do not drain bacon fat from the pot.
  3. Add beef cubes, diced onions, celery and garlic to the bacon fat.  Sauté until the beef is browned and vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add carrot chunks, parsnips and turnip.  Stir mixture and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add thyme and rosemary and stir until combined.
  5. Add worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, Guinness and beef broth to the pot.   Bring mixture to a simmer.
  6. Cover pot with a tight lid and simmer gently for one hour.  After an hour, remove cover, add pearl onions and mushrooms and return bacon bits to the stew.
  7. Continue to simmer uncovered for another 45 minutes.  The beef should be tender and the vegetables cooked through.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a dollop of chive sour cream.

Chive Sour Cream

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 Tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Salt, to taste

Combine sour cream, chives and salt.  Stir until thoroughly mixed and serve with stew.

Guinness Stew with chive sour cream

Guinness Stew with chive sour cream

Bon Appétit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

Welcome to March!

2 03 2009



We’ve finally made it through the dark, cold months of January and February and spring is less than three weeks away. However, March is a study in contrasts – it can be as wintery as January or as spring-like as May within the same week.  This can pose unique challenges to a cook when planning menus and shopping for groceries. The best idea is to be flexible and eat what suits the weather and your mood on a given day.  If it’s a warm spring day maybe a salad with fresh greens, herbs and roast chicken will fit the bill.  On a snowy cold day, a braise or stew might be more appealing.

One dish that is flexible for the shifting weather is soup.  It can be refreshing and light or warming and comforting.  With summer just around the corner, many people are interested in lower fat dishes.  I recently wrote an article for Suite discussing how to prepare lower fat soups without sacrificing flavour.  Whether you’re serving it as a starter course or lighter main dish, soup is a  great addition to the menu.

Click here to read  How to Make Flavorful Low Fat Soups.   The recipe in the article is for Butternut Squash Soup, however, you can use your creativity to come up with your own signature soup such as asparagus, tomato, carrot or mushroom.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!