Petits Fours

Homemade Eggnog Latte

Putting my seemingly endless stock of eggnog to good use for my morning coffee. Simply warm up about a cup of eggnog per person in a small saucepan over low heat and add to a shot of espresso for a homemade eggnog latte. Freshly ground nutmeg and a shortbread cookie round out the holiday indulgence.

Holiday Fresh Herb Wreath

I had an extra wreath to use this year, so decided to add some fresh herbs, including mint, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to it to make it especially fitting (and fragrant!) for the door in my kitchen. Just spritz with water every day to keep it fresh and replace the herbs here and there as needed.

Red Wine Punch

I love whipping up a punch for any party because it helps guests serve themselves and saves you from spending the evening manning the bar (or the kitchen counter). To make this festive version I used a bottle of a shiraz/cabernet sauvingnon blend, a bottle of sparkling rose and two small bottles of sparkling strawberry-flavoured apple cider. I infused it with rosemary, bay leaves and mint, then made a giant ice cube (to prevent a watery mix) with a cake pan with apple cider, water, cranberries, pomegranate seeds and more herbs. Another tip is to have lots of napkins nearby, along with a decorative coaster for your ladle in order to avoid a dripping mess.

Traditional Meat Pie Tourtiere

I’m always experimenting with meat pie recipes this time of year. I tried this one and was able to get two pies out of the meat, which is great for freezing and warming up later…especially after a full day of running around with holiday shopping and errands.

Ultimate Lobster Sandwich

Roasted Tomato Aioli

Lobster BLTAbout a month ago, I had brunch at Rock Lobster here in Toronto for the first time. After ordering their delicious B-L-L-T, a triple-decker BLT sandwich with lobster, I was inspired to re-create it at home. There’s no need for subtlety here– I’ll just come out and say it– it was to.die.for. So indulgent, in fact, that I almost felt guilty eating it. Since the holidays are an ideal time to excuse indulgence, this would be an amazing treat to make for a small group of guests (or just yourself!) for Christmas brunch.

I used frozen lobster tails, which I defrosted then boiled in very salty water for five minutes, cooled and shelled. You could also use canned lobster meat, available in many grocery stores, which would make the process a lot easier and faster. The other keys to making this sandwich drool-worthy is good quailty, thick-cut bacon, fresh, thinly sliced bread (I bought an unsliced, white sandwich loaf so I could cut it extra-thin), and a flavour-packed tomato aioli in place of actual tomatoes. For the latter, I used this Bobby Flay recipe, which is fast, simple and leftovers can be stored in the fridge afterwards for use in omelettes, other sandwiches or even as a side for steak.

Ultimate Lobster Sandwich

Roasted Tomato Aioli

1 large plum tomato
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Splash of aged sherry vinegar
Splash of Tobasco (optional)

Slice the tomato in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon to remove the seeds. Place cut-side up on a baking sheet and roast at 450°F until tender, about five minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and cook the onions and garlic until soft, about five minutes. Mix in the paprika and cook for thirty more seconds.
Combine onion mixture, mayonnaise, vinegar and Tobasco (if using) and the roasted tomato in a blender or food processor with some salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour so all the flavours meld together.

Sandwich

4 small (or 2 large) lobster tails per person
3 very thinly sliced pieces of fresh white bread per person
2 thick slices of bacon per person
Roasted tomato aioli
Butter
Fresh dill

If using tails, start by boiling and shelling all lobster and removing to a bowl. Place bacon on a baking sheet and broil until cooked, but still tender, about ten minutes.
Heat a knob of butter in a pan over medium-high heat, and toast each slice of bread on each side and remove to a plate. After all the bread has been toasted, heat another knob of butter in the pan and saute all of the lobster pieces until warm, and season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the sandwiches by spreading one slice of bread with the roasted tomato aioli and placing the bacon overtop (slice it to fit). Cover with another slice of bread. Place the lobster meat on top, then sprinkle with some fresh dill. Top with a final slice of bread and ENJOY!

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal with Chia Seeds, Hemp Hearts and Pomegranate

Baked Oatmeal with Greek Yoghurt and Honey

I recently made this baked oatmeal for a casual holiday brunch, and now I plan to make it at least a couple more times over the holidays. It’s fast, filling, and you can completely switch up the flavors depending on what ingredients you incorporate into the base. I added in a mix of hemp hearts, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds, plus you could sprinkle in some some cocoa nibs or even small chocolate chips if you’re looking to please a sweet tooth or some kids at the table. I served it with Greek yoghurt, pomegranate seeds and honey, but again you could experiment here with options such as almond milk, crème fraîche, whipped cream, maple syrup etc.

You can make the oatmeal in advance, keep it in the fridge and bake it off when needed. Once baked, you can also keep it in the fridge and warm it up throughout the week–perfect for the holiday rush!

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup natural hazelnuts, chopped and lightly toasted (or pecans, walnuts etc.)
1/3 cup Muscovado sugar (or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup etc.)
1/4 cup hemp hearts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups almond milk (or regular milk)
1 egg
3 tablespoons chia seeds
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 bananas, sliced
1 cup blackberries (or figs, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 pomegranate seeds

Grease baking dish (about 10 inches) with butter or coconut oil. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar (if using, instead of syrup or honey), salt, spices, hemp hearts, baking powder and half the nuts. In another bowl, mix together the milk, syrup (if using, instead of sugar), egg, chia seeds, half the butter, and vanilla.

Place an even layer of sliced bananas along the bottom of your baking dish. Follow with about two thirds of your berries. Cover with the oat mixture, followed by the milk mixture (pour it all around the dish to make sure it evenly covers the oats.) Top with the remainder of the berries, nuts and the pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.

Cover and refrigerate for later, or bake uncovered at 375°F for about 40 minutes. Drizzle with remaining melted butter and serve warm with Greek yoghurt and honey.

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Holiday Gift Guide 15

1. Crystal Tree Ornament, $60 at Tiffany & Co.

2. Kate Spade Cheers! Silver Street Bottle Opener, $30 at Indigo.

3. Le Creuset Mugs, $50 for set of 4 at Hudson’s Bay.

4. Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, $20 at Amazon.

5. A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in my Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson, $23 at Amazon.

6. Scottie Dog Toy, $12 at Harry Barker.

7. Dolce & Gabbana Sicily Small Leather Tote, $1180 at Net-a-Porter.

8. Frank & Oak 13″ Leather Laptop Case in Tan, $115 at Frank & Oak.

9. Chambord Royale, $40 at LCBO.

10. Vintage Chess Set, $30, and Dominos Set, $16 at Indigo.

11. Rifle Paper Co. Monarch 2015 Desk Calender, $16 at Rifle Paper Co.

12. Lanvin Rose Gold-Plated Cufflinks, $185 at Mr. Porter.

13. Hudson’s Bay Company Gordon the Teddy Bear, $40 at Hudson’s Bay.

14. Leather Flask, $54 at J.Crew.

15. Marquis by Waterford Sparkle Iced Beverage Glasses, $115 for set of 4 at Hudson’s Bay.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

The only time I’ve ever had Beef Stroganoff was when I was working at a fancy women’s clothing shop during university and used to pop up to the cafeteria-style restaurant in the upstairs plaza for lunch. It was a very decadent dish to have midday, but I remember it being enormously satisfying and have often thought about making it myself.
Now, for such a classic dish (there are “Stroganov” recipes that date back to 19th century Russia) there are endless variations to be had, so when sourcing out something classic that wouldn’t feel too dated, I turned to someone who I know I can always trust–Jamie Oliver, of course.
This dish is a perfect comfort dish as we head into the holiday season, and is surprisingly quick to whip up–which is perfect for before say, trimming the tree or writing out all of those holiday cards. The real key is the quality of steak that you use. Since it’s the star of the dish, it’s imperative to choose a nice cut of meat that will be tender and juicy and a pleasure to eat. I used top sirloin steaks, and you can easily get away with using one steak per two people.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stroganoff
(makes 4 large portions)

2 top sirloin steaks
1 large onion
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
350 grams fresh mushrooms, sliced (a variety of type is nice)
500 grams pasta “ribbons” or egg noddles
300 ml sour cream (just over 1 cup)
fresh dill

Slice the steaks crosswise into one centimeter strips, then cut each strip lengthwise into two more strips. Season all of the meat well with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the entire onion.
Drizzle oil of your choice into a large pan over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add in the steak strips and brown for a few minutes on all sides (work in batches, if necessary). Remove steak to a separate plate and set aside.
Add more oil to the pan and place over low-medium heat. Add the onions and paprika and cook until soft but not browned, about ten minutes. While onions are cooking, cook pasta in a separate pot according to package instructions. After ten minutes, add the mushrooms to the onions and cook until done, about three more minutes.
Add steak and sour cream to the pan and mix well. Remove from the heat and season well with salt and pepper. Add in strained noodles to combine, or serve the sauce over the noodles in each portion. Garnish with a healthy portion of fresh dill. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Dutch Peppermints Souvenir TorontoSome adorable holiday-ready mints I picked up at this year’s Souvenir Holiday Pop-Up Shop.

Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary

Dangerously scrumptious roast potatoes I roasted in duck fat reserved from this dish. So good – but definitely a seasonal treat only!

Egg and Cheddar Scone

A delicious egg and cheddar scone from my favourite neighborhood spot Baker & Scone.

Bacon Wrapped Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin for a cozy night by the fire.

Fall Salad with Apples and Buttered Hazelnuts

Apple Spinach Salad with Toasted HazelnutsThis time of year often brings on the mood for tucking in with a warm, comforting dish that goes well with a glass–or bottle–of full-bodied red wine. It’s barely November and the grey, damp days have already seen some of my favourite cold-weather dishes pass through the kitchen, including meatloaf, spaghetti Bolognese and roast beef. To encourage myself to get back to some lighter fare, I decided to whip up a side salad that would still feature some seasonal flavours. It especially pairs well with roast lamb or pork, or even steak.

Fall Salad with Apples and Buttered Hazelnuts

2 bunches fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1 red delicious apple, thinly sliced and quartered
handful of hazelnuts (skin-on), chopped
2 tablespoons butter

Dressing
1/4 cup shallots, diced
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup olive oil

Prepare the dressing ahead by mixing together the shallots, vinegars, sesame seeds and paprika. Combine with sugar, then slowly whisk while adding in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and add in chopped nuts. Toast while stirring until fragrant and lightly golden, about four minutes. Remove to a bowl and let cool.

If serving right away, pour desired amount of dressing over the spinach leaves in a serving bowl. Toss well to evenly coat, then arrange apple slices and toasted hazelnuts on top. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin Bread ingredients

Bobby Flay Punkpin Loaf

Bobby Flay Pumpkin Bread

Anyone else obsessed with Beat Bobby Flay? No? Okay, just checking. I’m not sure how or why I started watching it, but now whenever I see that it’s on I get a little adrenaline rush to tune in. Anyway, anyone who has seen even a couple of episodes would know that Flay definitely has a flavour profile that he sticks to on a regular basis. I wouldn’t say baking and pumpkin are completely reminiscent of that, but since he’s been on my television so often lately, I decided to give this pumpkin bread a whirl. The texture is lovely thanks to the very light batter, but I would probably up the spice content by as much as double next time. I also added a half teaspoon of ground cardamom, plus about half a cup of lightly toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (canned or roast your own)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
raw pumpkin seeds for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and powder, and all of the spices. In another large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter and oil until light and fluffy, about one minute.

In the large bowl, add in the pumpkin and mix until combined. Add in one egg at a time, and beat until just incorporated. While still mixing, slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the batter, along with the water, alternating between the two.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9 or 10-inch loaf pan and top with raw pumpkin seeds. Bake at 350°F for one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Pan-Roasted Herb and Garlic Lamb Chops

Pan Roasted Herb and Garlic Lamb Chops

After giving up our barbecue, I resigned from making my favourite lamb chops on the grill, assuming I wouldn’t be able to replicate the same flavours in the oven. However, now that the weather has turned, pan-roasting them is ideal, especially since prepping them with this herb and garlic rub creates an excellent crust and flavour combo. These ones I got from the butcher were quite small, so they didn’t take too long to roast (just under ten minutes), but you’ll definitely want to add in extra time for standard or large-sized chops.

Herb and Garlic Lamb Chops

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rack of lamb (ask your butcher to divide into ribs)

Combine the thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl and massage onto both sides of each rib. Let sit for at least half an hour.
Add a small amount of oil (olive or coconut) to a cast iron skillet over high heat, then brown each rib on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Once browned, transfer the pan to the oven at 400°F, and roast until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

Spanish Rice with Lobster and Shrimp

Spanish Rice with Lobster and Shrimp

I think of this flavourful dish as kind of hybrid between risotto and paella. The salmoretta sauce that you serve overtop has a lovely, light flavour that could easily be re-purposed alongside other fish or chicken dishes to give them a little extra kick.

While the lobster and shrimp are obviously an indulgent accompaniment to the rice here, the recipe would also work very nicely done with chunks of sauted chicken and/or chorizo instead.

Spanish Rice with Lobster and Shrimp
(serves 2-4)

1/2 tsp. saffron
1/3 cup boiling water
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1/2 Vidalia onion, peeled, cut into wedges
1/2 long red chili
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced shallots
225g shimeji mushrooms
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup Albufera or Arborio rice
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
250g lobster, shell(s) removed
1 cup shrimp, shells removed

Steep the saffron in boiling water for 20 minutes. Strain and discard the saffron. Make a salmorreta sauce by placing the tomatoes (cut side up), onion wedges and chili on a baking sheet and brush with one tablespoon of olive oil. Place under a pre-heated broiler until brown and blistered, about three minutes.

Skin and seed the tomato and chili and add to a food processor with the vinegar, parsley and cilantro. Turn it on and add about four tablespoons of olive oil slowly, until it’s incorporated. Season with salt as needed.

Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add shallots and mushrooms and saute until softened, about three minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups of stock and the saffron water and bring to a boil. Add in the rice, season with salt and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, adding in the remaining stock, until rice is cooked through but still slightly firm, about fifteen minutes.

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in garlic and cook for one minute. Add in shelled lobster and shrimp and saute until pink and cooked through, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove seafood, then add garlic butter to the rice.

Serve rice in individual dishes, top each with salmorreta sauce, lobster and shrimp, and a few cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Recipe from Lucy Waverman for The Globe and Mail.