Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.

Weekend Party Trick: 60-second appetizer

November 20, 2009


The challenge: make a great looking appetizer that tastes fantastic in less time than it takes to wiggle into your party clothes.

The solution: Fruit and Nut topped Camembert

1 wheel Camembert or Brie cheese
Liquid honey
1 handful Back to Nature Raisins, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Pecans and Apricots blend

Place the cheese on a platter and drizzle with some honey. Mound some of the trail mix on top. Drizzle with a bit more honey and serve with grapes, apple slices and crackers.

Need a wine match? Try an off-dry Riesling for white drinkers or a light, fruity pinot noir for a red choice. Can’t decide between red or white? Prosecco is a great match, too!

Now that you’ve seen my favourite party trick, tell me about yours!

Quiche me if you dare

November 12, 2009

quicheIt’s that time of year again. Time to pull out your cocktail party clothes and brush up on current affairs because the holiday season party invitations are going to start rolling in!

Or, maybe you’re thinking of hosting a holiday shindig. If so, chances are mini-quiches are on your list. They’re a party time stand-by but unfortunately, so many of the bought frozen quiches are just awful! Yet, people keep tossing their good money away by buying them. Such a shame when they are so very easy to make ahead, freeze and then heat in the oven when you need them.

All you need to do is whisk together
8 eggs
4 cups (1 litre ) 35% cream

Seriously, that’s it. Then, toss some yummy stuff like cheese, ham, salt, pepper, mustard, green onions and such together and divide them evenly between blind baked tart shells. Fill with the egg mixture and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) until the filling is jiggly and just barely set. Cool to room temp, place in zip top bags and freeze until needed. To serve, bake from frozen on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350ºF (180ºC) until the crust smells toasty.

Cookies for Santa

December 24, 2008


When I was a little girl, my brother Vincent and I always left out both a treat for Santa and one for the reindeer before we let our parents nestle us snug in our beds on Christmas Eve.

Every year it was the same menu, a glass of milk and an assortment of my mom’s holiday baking for Santa. On the plate we’d place a date square and both a hermit and a chocolate nut drop cookie. (I think all the recipes came from the Five Roses Cookbook!) Although Santa’s health wasn’t a concern, our snack choice for the reindeer was always a healthy one: carrots.

What happens at your house? Should Santa expect a surprise or will your children give him the same thing as last year? Or, do you offer Santa unconventional refreshment? (For instance, I know of a mother – a lover of coca cola – who always encouraged the children to leave Santa a coke to wash down his cookies.)

The joy of grilled cheese

January 11, 2008

If you aren’t dieting, the cold, crisp days of January are the perfect time of year to enjoy one of my favorite childhood lunch combinations: cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese. Although I’ve developed many recipes for tomato soup over the years, I’m always content with Campbell’s condensed cream of tomato soup (in fact, the Soup-at-Hand version of that soup is always on reserve in my office in case of soup-related emergencies). I’m more particular about grilled cheese sandwiches though.

My grilled cheese doesn’t have to be fancy but it must be made with real Cheddar and real butter and the bread, if white, has to be crusty and fresh. That said, I usually use whole grain sandwich bread at lunchtime. By the way, A is today’s mystery letter but let’s get back to grilled cheese, shall we? Over the holidays, I sliced a baguette into thin disks and made appetizer-sized grilled cheeses for the kids who attended our Christmas Eve soiree and these two-bite sandwiches were a hit with kids of all ages!

When making a grilled cheese sandwich, please remember that slow and easy wins the race; you can’t rush a good grilled cheese. My preferred method is to keep the heat under a heavy bottomed skillet medium so that the inside of the sandwich becomes molten and the outside doesn’t go beyond golden. If using a panini press, leave a cheese-free border around the edge so that the melted cheese doesn’t ooze out and burn.

I’ve made grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced cheese and with shredded. You can get good results with either but I’ve found that for most home cooks, it’s easier to shred the cheese than to slice it evenly.

Although I always dip my grilled cheese sandwich in ketchup (the soup isn’t tangy enough for me), I can acknowledge that there are other good condiment options such as sun dried tomato pesto, branston pickle and Bengal chutney that can be spread right inside the sandwich before grilling to make a very tasty lunch!