Archive for November, 2008

I am just about to begin my Christmas baking. The following is a list of items to be made. I will be posting only new receipes, anything already posted should be in the correct category for easy reference.

Over the year, I have been saving pretty (clean) boxes, bags and such to recycle and hand out to good friends. I have to be aware that one of my good friend’s daughter has a walnut allergy, so no walnuts or pecans (she can eat peanuts and almonds!), so none of the recipes will contain those nuts!

JT is doing the shopping today for the ingredients so I will likely start this weekend! To help determine how much of everything I will need, I created this little chart in excel:


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JT surprised me with a short weekend to Ontario’s wine country. We stayed at Sterling Inn (which I would recommend). The only draw-back would be that it is a bit out of the way with no view of the falls (we’ve stayed at most of the major towers and have had spectacular views of the falls). But it is a boutique hotel, with a fantastic restaurant and nicely decorated rooms (our’s had a steam shower – about 5 feet by 10 feet – it was HUGE!). It also has a spa within the hotel, which makes travel to and fro quite comfy even in winter. It snowed lightly on Saturday night, while we drove around to see the Festival of Lights!

On Saturday we toured wine country and picked up a couple of dozen bottles of wine and this very cute gadget which I will be previewing upon Paul and T’s visit (hopefully on the 5th!). On Sunday we each had a massage…very romantic weekend!

room2 fireplace1 sitting-area1

bathroom11 bathroom21

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Toronto’s First Snow Fall


Why do people lose their minds during the very first snowfall? My god, we only got 4cm and there were over 400 accidents on city roads!

The plus side is that it is very pretty and starts to put us in the right mood for the season! Put on a fire and pull out that Barolo you’ve been saving.


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We’re had my best friend Kim (from university) and her husband Michael for dinner last night, and planning a meal for them is always a challenge. Kim is allergic to gluten, potatoes, and soy; Michael doesn’t eat anything with nuts or onions or anything that is very different! The dinner was a huge success and I was relieved!

I always try to make interesting, but safe meals (safe meaning Michael will eat it!) and that’s when I thought of a contemporary twist on Chicken Cordon Bleu! The first time I had Chicken Cordon Bleu was at my future (at the time) mother-in-law’s home; they were store bought, with chunks of ham and swiss cheese stuffed into a breaded, seasoned chicken breast. I can still taste the salt! My version will not be as bad for you, and it will be home-made.

The Menu:

Hors d’oeuvres: Sesame Crackers and warm Caramelized Onion Cheddar Dip (I used roasted garlic for this version)

Appetizer: old fashioned shrimp cocktail with Wasabi cocktail sauce (ketchup, wasabi (to taste) and about 1/2 tsp fresh micro-ground ginger)

Chicken Cordon Bleu with a creamy mushroom sauce
Cauliflower and white bean mash
Asparagus with butter and garlic

Dessert: Molten chocolate cake with a berry sauce.

Sesame Crackers (from Elana’s Pantry)

These are delicious!



  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond flour, salt, sesame seeds, eggs and oil until well blended
  2. Separate dough into two halves
  3. Line two large (12 x 16) stainless steel baking sheets with parchment paper
  4. Place one half of the dough in the center of each lined sheet
  5. Cut another piece of parchment paper and place it over one of the balls of dough
  6. Roll dough out between the two pieces of parchment paper, until it is ⅛ inch thick and covers the entire baking sheet; remove top paper and repeat process with the other piece of dough (Note from Eva: use a flavoured olive oil)
  7. Cut the dough with a knife or pizza cutter into 2 inch squares
  8. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
  9. Cool and serve

Makes 96 crackers

Contemporary Chicken Cordon Bleu


  • 4 5-6 oz skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts.
  • 8 slices of Proscuito
  • 8 slices of smoked cheese (I used Manitoba Smoked Cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (home made or low sodium)


  1. Butterfly the chicken breast. Put one into a zip lock baggy and lay as flat as possible. Flatten the chicken using a meat pounder (flat, not ridged) to an even thickness. Repeat for all chicken breasts.
  2. On each chicken breast place two slices of Proscuito and 2 slices of cheese to cover the breast.
  3. Roll tightly with remaining Proscuito, securing with butcher string. Store in refrigerator until required.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F.
  5. Using a well seasoned cast iron skillet with a squirt of Pam, brown chicken rolls on all sides.
  6. Add wine and chicken stock, cover with foil and finish baking in oven (until chicken juices run clear). Reserve liquid, if any.
  7. Serve sliced into 1/2 inch slices on a bed of Cauliflower and White Bean mash.

Cauliflower and White Bean Mash

I got the idea of mixing white beans with cauliflower to beef up the creaminess of the cauliflower (and white beans won’t change the colour of the cauliflower!).


  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1kg)
  • 25g dried white or navy beans (prepare according to package directions – use water to rehydrate)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup sweet Mayan onion


  1. Steam cauliflower and garlic clove until very soft (steaming as opposed to roasting to preserve the whiteness).
  2. Prepare white beans according to directions, add onions and cook until everything is soft.
  3. In a food processor, process cauliflower and white beans mix and garlic to a fine paste.
  4. This is a very important step: Strain the processed mix through a fine sieve (this step will remove the bean skins which will be coarse and ensure the mash is really creamy and smooth!)
  5. Keep warm over a bain-marie. The steamed cauliflower should have enough liquid to make a thick creamy mash, but if it is too thick, add a bit of chicken stock.

‘Creamy’ Mushroom Sauce (adapted from Epicurious)


  • 1 cups home-made or canned low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 ounce dried forest mushroom mix rehydrated in 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp brandy or cognac
  • 1/2 cup low fat cream (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. The night before, rehydrate forest mushrooms with water in refrigerator.
  2. Strain the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter, reserve.
  3. Rinse hydrated mushroom carefully (these are often very sandy, so rinse well). Set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a cast iron sauce pan, add onions and cook until soft.
  5. Add 1/2 the sliced brown mushrooms. Cook until soft. The mushrooms will release quite a bit of water, this will help make the sauce!
  6. Add the garlic and then add the reserved mushroom liquid and reserved chicken liquid.
  7. Transfer this mushroom mix into a blender and blend until smooth, add cream. You may add chicken stock until desired consistency is achieved.
  8. Strain through a fine sieve, set aside. Discard bits.
  9. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter in the sauce pan. Add the forest mushrooms and remaining sliced brown mushrooms. Cook until soft.
  10. Add brandy or cognac and cook until alcohol has burned off.
  11. Pour the reserved strained mushroom sauce into the pan and mix thoroughly with the chopped mushrooms.
  12. Add fresh chopped parsley.
  13. Serve in a warm gravy boat and allow people to help themselves.

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Sweet Onion Confit

This is an adaptation from a recipe from Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello on Food Network US. It’s caramelized onions that are so delicious and sweet, I make huge batches and freeze portions! It is a great staple for dips, pizza bases etc.

Sweet Onion Confit


  • 6 large mayan onions (vidalia also work)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar or cider vinegar also work)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine


  1. Thinly slice onions (I use a mandolin).
  2. In a heavy bottom pot (that can be put into an oven), slowly simmer the onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft.
  3. Preheat oven to 250°F
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to steamy simmer, stirring well.
  5. Cover with a parchment paper lid that has a 2-inch hole in the center to allow the steam to escape but protect it so that it can cook low and slow. Press the parchment paper down to touch and cover the onion mixture. NOTE: the parchment is the cover, DO NOT cover with the lid, you’ll retain too much moisture!
  6. Place the covered pan into a 250°F oven and bake for 2 to 3 hours or until the onions have softened and the liquids have reduced to a sticky gravy that clings to the onions. I like to stir occasionally.
  7. Allow to cool completely and portion out about 1/2 cup portions into zip lock bags and freeze.

This confit has a variety of uses but my all time favorite is the base coat on a goat’s cheese and crumbled sausage pizza.

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This recipe is out of Inn on the Twenty cookbook. I’d had this bread many times when we’ve eaten at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan…it is absolutely delicious and worth the effort.


Makes 2 loaves


  • 9 oz chopped walnuts
  • 1 3/4 oz blackstrap molasses
  • 2 cups warm water (105°F)
  • 1/3 oz dry active yeast
  • 3 1/2 oz whole wheat flour
  • 1lb 10oz organic bread flour
  • 3/4 oz salt
  • 6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces


  1. Combine walnuts, molasses, water and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
  2. Add flours and salt and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed and knead for 5 minutes.
  3. Add butter, a piece at a time and continue to mix until incorporated – about 10 minutes.
  4. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock down. Divide dough into two equal balls and shape into rounds, smoothing the top.
  6. Cover and allow to rise for 30 more minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F. Shape dough into loaves or leave as rounds. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush lightly with water. Let rest for 20 more minutes.
  8. Brush with water once more. Place bread in oven and reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 1/2 hour before cutting.
  9. Serve with sweet (unsalted) butter.

Tip: Make the dough the day before and allow to rise in the refrigerator (make sure you oil well, because the fridge is very drying). Cover bowl tightly with cello wrap.

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I had a brick of feta left over from the spanakopita exercise so I whipped up a delicious appetizer on Sunday for cocktail hour. Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph it – next time! I made up the recipe per cap, so it’s easy to extrapolate!


  • 2-3 mushroom caps per person (about 2″ in diameter works well for appetizers or 1″ for bite-size portions
  • 1 tbsp greek feta per cap (1 tsp per cap for bite-size portions)
  • 1 tsp plain fat free yogurt (1/2 tsp per cap for bite-size portions)
  • finely minced garlic to taste (I used 2 cloves roasted garlic that I mushed to a paste for five 2″ caps)
  • 1/8 tsp finely crumbled Pancetta that has been crisped per cap
  • finely shredded lemon zest (very small amount)
  • finely minced parsley, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (choose one with sides as the mushrooms exhale an enormous amount of water).
  2. Crumble feta, add all ingredients and mix to a creamy consistency (something that will hold its shape)
  3. Clean mushrooms and remove stems (save for soup or discard).
  4. Stuff each cap densely with the mix so that it’s just to the top of the mushroom.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until mushrooms are soft and the feta is lightly golden in colour.
  6. As an appetizer, serve on a bed of arugula drizzled with a lemon olive oil dressing, or just as bite-sized caps as hors d’oeuvres.

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While at Paul and T’s during one cocktail hour, T served Spanakopita and they were wonderful! It inspired me to make some and freeze them – I used to always have these around but they are rather laborious so I haven’t made them in a while. They are worth it! This recipe originally came from somewhere, but I no longer recall where…it’s in my head!

This recipe makes about 70 cocktail-sized spanakopitas!


  • 1 box Phyllo Pastry (454g)
  • 2 bags spinach (~450g)
  • 2 medium zuchinni
  • 1 large sweet onion (mayan, or vidalia)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 240g Greek Feta
  • 2 well beaten eggs (this is not necessary, so it may be omitted)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1/2 cup olive or canola oil (reduce this if you are watching the calories)
  1. Chop onion finely.
  2. Grate unpeeled zuchinni
  3. Remove green from garlic (someone said that this is what causes heartburn) and chop finely.
  4. Trim tough stems from spinach and wash thoroughly (no need to buy baby spinach, as this is cooked thoroughly!)
  5. In about a tbsp of olive oil, sweat onions until translucent.
  6. Add zuchinni and cook down.
  7. Add spinach about a handful at a time, it will cook down (resist the urge to season, as you will be adding feta which is quite salty, so you’ll want to season after you taste the mix with the feta!).
  8. When the spinach has cooked down, add the garlic and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  9. Add the dill and oregano and stir through.
  10. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly.
  11. When entirely cooled, fold in the crumbled feta. Taste, and season with additional sea salt (and pepper, if desired).
  12. Add beaten eggs and mix thoroughly.
  13. Refrigerate while you prepare the phyllo. Phyllo is very thin dough; it dries out easily so it is best to keep a clean, damp cheese cloth to cover when not in use.
  14. Take one sheet of phyllo and brush with oil. I prefer to cut my sheet into about 2″ widths (these make the perfect 2-bite sized appi’s).
  15. Using an 18-8 mini ice cream scoop, scoop out spinach filling onto one end of each strip.
  16. Start rolling into a mini triangle by folding up one corner to the opposite side and continue to fold until complete. Brush finished triangle with additional oil on both sides.
  17. Continue these steps until all of the filling has been used (I lucked out this time and only had about a half sheet of phyllo left to discard!). I like to freeze unbaked spanakopitas on a cookie sheet and then transfer them into a zip lock baggy. This way, I can take out as many or as few as I need for any occasion!
  18. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake as many as you need for about 20-30 minutes from frozen (or 12-15 minutes fresh, but don’t thaw the one’s you’ve frozen!), or until lightly browned.
    Eat carefully as the filling is extremely hot!


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These babies are best with the milk and dark chocolate chunks as below, but as we all know, pure chocolate chips will suffice in a pinch! It does seem like a lot of chocolate, but it’s well worth it. The beauty of these cookies is that they are thick, and riddled with chocolate all the way through, so every bite has some chocolate!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 8 oz milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
  1. Prehaeat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand), cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  5. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing until just combined.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
  8. Using your hands, shape knobs of dough about the size of a large walnut into balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets (I prefer to use a 1/2 oz dual handle ice cream scooper which is about a size 60). Stagger the rows of cookies to ensure even baking.
  9. Bake 12 to 15 minutes for smaller cookies, 14 to 17 minutes for larger cookies, or until the tops are light golden brown. If the cookies are neither firm nor dark when they are removed from the oven, they will cool chewy and soft. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Can be stored in air-tight container for 1 week or freeze in a zip lock bag and defrost as required!

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Thankfully, we survived with much celebration, laughter and camaraderie with our very best friends, the Dorans! JT and Paul played golf twice (the weather was amazing 20+ everyday!!!) and T and I shopped and shopped and shopped!

On Saturday, the boys piled into a van and drove to Soldiers Field in Chicago to watch a Bears game. By piling into a van, I’m talkin’ 7:30am…they arrived downtown around 9am and begin the festivities. By festivities, I’m talkin’ Tailgating! The girls took the train downtown and joined the tailgating party around 10:30. We were ceremoniously greeted with Manhatten’s (1 part southern comfort, 1/2 part dry vermouth and 1/2 part sweet vermouth, topped with an olive) they are rather a unique taste and should be consumed in moderation, otherwise may result in the biggest, foggiest head you’ve ever experienced! We had one (believe it or not, but I wanted to be sober for shopping!).

Tailgating consists of a carefully choreographed grilling, eating and drinking experience. Then, about 30 minutes before the game, you blink, and the entire festivities are cleaned up and put into the trunk (to be reintroduced after the game, of course!) It was extremely civilized and the food was good. Fortunately the weather was spectacular; I could not have seen me enjoying it as much if it were cold and rainy!

JT and I contributed Bargain Basement Barb’s chocolate chip cookies and they were a hit. I will post the recipe tonight, with photos, of course (I may have held back 4 for this purpose!).

I had great shopping, a new coat, jeans, a cute little jacket, a sexy dress, shoes and a few great kitchen gadgets! Of course, we brought home two 1.75L goose-co’s and 6 bottles of our favorite wine.

We arrived home at 6:30pm last night…a 9+ hour drive. We are hoping to do it again soon!

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