Happy Halloween!

31 10 2009


I have to admit that I’m not too into the Halloween spirit this year (I’ve been under the weather this week) so I don’t have anything new to post in honor of the holiday. However, last year I created a couple of special drinks for the occasion: the Vampire Slayer and Witch’s Kiss.  I also gave some suggestions for spooky snacks that you can serve the adults once the little ones have finished making their rounds.  You can read it here: Spooky Snacks and Cocktails.

As for me, I’ll be handing out candy to the neighbourhood kids and watching the hockey game tonight.  Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!



Enjoy a Witch's Kiss cocktail to celebrate Halloween


Soup for the Sick

28 10 2009


It’s almost November and flu season is already upon us.  There has been a lot of talk (hype?) in the media lately about seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus.  I wasn’t paying too much attention until yesterday, when I woke up with a sore throat, stuffy nose and body aches.  I spent two months last winter battling a horrible flu bug (I even lost my sense of taste and smell for a few days which is a nightmare for a recipe developer!) so I’m anxious to get well soon.  

So if you or someone you love comes down with the flu, why not whip up some soup?  It’s warming and soothing and can help provide vitamins and nutrients.  We often lose our appetites when we’re sick but somehow soup still seems to hit the spot. Obviously canned soup is easiest but none of the following are difficult, especially if you use a good quality prepared stock.

Meanwhile, I’m stocking up on popsicles, lozenges and cold medication while awaiting my flu shot next week.  I made a batch of chicken noodle last night and it was the perfect thing to soothe my throat and fill me up. Serve with toast and a mug of lemon tea.

Autumn/Winter Soup Recipes:

Chicken Noodle – This is classic ‘sick’ food for a reason: it’s filling, warming and comforting.   

Peppery Leek and Potato – One of the simplest soup recipes I have.  Reduce the amount of pepper if your patients have tender throats.

Cabbage Roll Soup – The perfect soup if you need something with a bit more substance.  

Butternut Squash Soup – If you’re interested in soups that are lower in fat but still have a lot of flavour, look no further than my primer on How to Prepare Flavourful Low-Fat Soups.

Mushroom Soup – It’s rich and decadent but oh so delicious for mushroom lovers.

Bon Appétit and Good Health to you All!


Chicken Noodle Soup

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

16 10 2009


This is one of my favourite fall desserts.  It’s decadent and rich so it’s ideal for cold evenings when we’re craving something comforting.  Pears are in season right now so it’s the perfect time to give it a try.  It works best with bread that is a couple of days old so it’s a great way to use up stale bread that would otherwise go to waste.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com where it was granted an Editor’s Choice award.  

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Makes about 6 servings

  • 4 cups (about 5 thick slices) stale bread such as ciabatta, challah, etc. with crusts cut off and cut into 1- 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 large pears, cored and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup halved pecans
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Caramel Sauce – see recipe below


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a standard sized loaf pan. Layer half of the bread cubes on the bottom of the loaf pan and sprinkle with half the pears and half the pecans.
  3. Layer the rest of the bread cubes over the pears and pecans. Sprinkle with the remaining pear pieces and pecans. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, vanilla, brown sugar and eggs. Pour custard mixture over the bread/pear/pecan layers. Press the top of the pudding down so that everything gets well soaked. Set aside to let custard soak in for about 15 minutes before baking. (Note: the pudding can be assembled a few hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake).
  5. Bake pudding for 30 to 45 minutes or until the pudding is golden brown on top and custard is cooked through. Serve with caramel sauce (see below) and vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce

This is a versatile sauce that is also great with cake or ice cream.  Use caution when working with the hot sugar mixture.

Makes about 1 cup of sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In a small saucepan heat cream on medium heat.
  2. While cream is heating, in a separate large saucepan, heat sugar and water on medium-high heat. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Watch the mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden brown but do not whisk. Gently swirl the pan occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat once it turns a medium brown colour. Quickly add butter and heated cream, whisking as you pour it in. Be careful – the mixture is very hot and will bubble up a bit as the cream is added.
  5. Add salt and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Whisk until smooth. Pour sauce over bread pudding or your favourite dessert (it’s great on vanilla ice cream!)

Bon Appéit and Enjoy!


Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Cabbage Roll Soup

13 10 2009


I love cabbage rolls but I don’t always have the time or energy to do all the prep work required to make the filling, prepare the rolls and make a sauce.  This soup is a great alternative – you get all the flavour of cabbage rolls with very little effort. As an added bonus, the ingredients are very inexpensive so you can feed a crowd on a budget.  Serve with fresh crusty bread and you have the perfect meal for cool fall days!

Cabbage Roll Soup

Makes about 12 cups

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 Tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1 lb. (450 g) ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ head of green cabbage, chopped (about 9 cups)
  • 14 fl. oz. (398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup long grain rice
  • 4 cups (1 litre) reduced-sodium beef OR vegetable stock
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large stockpot or enameled cast iron pot, heat oil on medium high. Add ground beef. Break up with a spatula and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Remove ground beef from the pot, put in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add cabbage, onion, garlic and thyme to pot. Sauté on medium heat until softened. The cabbage will reduce in volume as it cooks down but you may have to stir it around so it all gets exposed to the heat.
  3. Once the cabbage mixture has softened, add ground beef that was set aside, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Stir until ingredients are thoroughly combined and bring soup to a gentle simmer.
  4. Add rice. Cover soup and let simmer on medium heat until rice is fully, cooked, about 15 minutes.
  5.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Variation: for a vegetarian option, you could eliminate the ground beef and increase the raw rice by ½ a cup. Use vegetable stock instead of beef.


Cabbage Roll Soup - it's not too pretty to look at but it's delicious, filling and budget-friendly.

Cabbage Roll Soup - it's not too pretty to look at but it's delicious, filling and budget-friendly.



This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

9 10 2009

Holiday turkey

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving.  While it’s pretty much a given that turkey will be on the menu for most people, my favourites are actually the side dishes.  We always have cranberry sauce, potatoes, gravy and dressing (stuffing), but the other dishes can vary.  Perhaps some simple carrots with butter, mashed sweet potatoes or some butternut squash might accompany the bird this year.  Here are some great recipe ideas you can serve with your holiday meal:

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Corn Scallop

Butternut Squash Gratin

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons

Potato – Sage Dressing

Cranberry Sauce

Braised Garlic Swiss Chard

Mushroom Soup

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette

Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs

Celery Root Slaw

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

And of course, don’t forget dessert!

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline

Apple Caramel Tart

Harvest Strudel

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt

Apple Pie

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

A Sad Day for Gourmet Magazine Readers

5 10 2009


Various issues of Gourmet magazine through the years

Various issues of Gourmet magazine through the years

I was shocked and saddened  to learn this morning that Gourmet magazine will cease monthly publication following the November 2009 issue.  Founded in 1941, Gourmet has been a great resource over the years for delicious recipes and well written, thoughtful articles about food and travel.  

I first discovered Gourmet when I was living in Montreal in the mid-90s.  I was just learning to cook and my passion was growing. My husband and I were poor students so I had to find ways to learn about cooking that didn’t cost much.  I clipped recipes and articles from the newspaper and looked for cheap used cookbooks.  One day I was browsing the used bookstore in my neighbourhood and spotted a stack of old magazines.  Someone had been moving and brought their collection of Gourmet back issues from the 1980s to the store – they were on sale for $1.00 each.  Jackpot.  I bought an issue and took it home, savouring every article, recipe and photograph. Each week I would return and buy another issue, taking it home to try out some of the recipes or experiment with a new technique.  

In later years, I regularly bought current issues of Gourmet, including the most recent one.  Unfortunately, I ran short on storage space and did a purge of all my old cooking magazines a couple of years ago (I didn’t want to end up like the people on that show Hoarders). However, I saved any that were particularly memorable and clipped articles and recipes that were of interest (it took two days for me to go through every old magazine I had – it was a huge task but also a fun trip down memory lane).  Luckily, many of the articles and recipes from Gourmet are archived at Gourmet.com and epicurious.com.

I realize that times are changing but I hope print magazines don’t disappear entirely. I love to enjoy a good magazine on rainy days, by the pool, on airplanes, at cafés, while waiting for appointments or as bedtime reading.  They’re portable and you can clip out your favourite articles. The internet is great for a lot of things but it can never replace print media. It’s a sad day indeed.

Here are a few of my other favourites that are still around (for now).  Support your favourites so we can save print media from extinction!


Food and Wine

Cook’s Illustrated

Bon Appétit

La Cucina Italiana (English version)

Fine Cooking