Archive for December, 2010

Trifle is a terrific dessert to serve to a crowd during the holiday season. I had always wanted to make it, but most recipes call for purchased ladyfingers or sponge cake, which are off-limits in our house because they contain additives and preservatives. Then I found this recipe for Cranberry Trifle in one of my older cookbooks, The Canadian Living Entertaining Cookbook. The sponge cake is made from scratch, and is then combined with a delicious honey orange cranberry sauce, luscious custard and loads of whipped cream. Add added bonus: The cake and sauce can be made a month in advance and the trifle can be assembled two days before serving.

Cranberry Trifle

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, be sure to use pure vanilla extract (not artificial).


Sponge Cake:

4 eggs, separated

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp grated lemon rind

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¾ cup cake-and-pastry flour

¼ cup water

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce:

3 apples, peeled and finely chopped

Juice of 2 oranges

1 stick cinnamon

3 cups cranberries

Grated rind of 1 orange

2/3 cup honey

2 tbsp orange liqueur


2 cups milk

2 cups light cream (half-and-half)

8 egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

2 tbsp vanilla


Juice of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange liqueur

2 tbsp dry sherry

2 cups whipping cream

2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds


Sponge Cake:

In mixing bowl, beat egg yolks for about 5 minutes or until pale yellow. Gradually add sugar, beating for 5 minutes or until mixture has doubled in bulk and falls in ribbons when beaters are lifted from bowl. Stir in lemon rind and vanilla. Alternately add flour and water to yolk mixture, mixing well after each addition.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold ½ cup into yolk mixture. Fold in remaining whites. Line 9-inch square baking pan with waxed paper and grease the paper. Pour in batter and bake in 325-degree oven for 45 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack. Cake can be wrapped and frozen for up to 4 weeks.

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce:

In saucepan, combine apples, orange juice and cinnamon; bring to boil and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring and mashing apples with fork. Stir in cranberries, orange rind and honey; return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberries pop and sauce thickens. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Remove cinnamon and stir in liqueur; chill. Sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 weeks.


In saucepan, bring milk and cream just to boil; remove from heat and set aside. In mixing bowl, beat egg yolks for 3 minutes or until thickened. Gradually add sugar and cornstarch, beating until thickened and mixture falls in ribbons when beaters are lifted from bowl. Whisking constantly, pour in warm cream mixture in steady stream. Return to saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes or just until mixture comes to boil and has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set pan in cold water to cook quickly. Cover surface with waxed paper; chill. Custard can be refrigerated or up to 2 days.


Break cake into small pieces and place in large glass serving bowl. Combine orange juice, liqueur and sherry; sprinkle over cake. Spread one-third of the cranberry sauce over cake. In separate bowl, whip cream; fold half into custard. Spread half of the custard mixture over cranberry mixture. Repeat cranberry and custard layers once more. Spread remaining whipped cream over top. Dollop with remaining cranberry sauce; sprinkle with almonds. Refrigerate until serving time or for up to 2 days. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

From The Canadian Living Entertaining Cookbook

We always make a few batches of these delicious glazed nuts for the holidays. The sugar and honey make them shiny and sweet, while the rosemary, salt and cayenne add savoury flavour. The recipe calls for almonds, walnuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, but use whatever combination you like, providing it adds up to eight cups of nuts. You may want to make two batches, because they won’t last long!

Honey-Rosemary Glazed Nuts


Non- stick vegetable oil spray or oil to brush on baking sheets
2 cups almonds
2 cups walnuts
2 cups natural unsalted cashews
2 cups dry roasted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp Maldon sea salt or coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with non stick spray or brush with oil. Place all nuts in a large bowl. Mix brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup is smooth. Pour over nuts and toss well to coat.

Divide nut mixutre between pans. Bake until deep golden and thickly glazed, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Cool nuts on sheets, occasionally loosening and separating nuts with spatula. Can be made 5 days in advance. Store airtight at room temperature. Break nuts apart, if necessary, before serving.

From the November 2005 issue of Bon Appetit

I am not a baker. To me, baking is among the black arts, calling for a precision, dedication to form and an intuitive understanding of such terms as “fluffy” and “soft peaks” that I do not possess.

But it is Christmas, so I try to make an effort. Last year, I saw a recipe called “The Best Shortbread” in the November 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It didn’t look too difficult, so I decided to give it a try. I prepared the ingredients carefully, including the butter. Because we use butter without preservatives, and because we use so little of it, I keep it in the freezer. And frozen butter is the same as cold butter, right?


The dough would not form and I ended up throwing the entire mess into the garbage. Then I made it again, with cold butter, and it was very, very good.  I made it again this week, and it turned out beautifully, so I’m sure that it will work for you.

This recipe uses oat flour, which you make by whirling rolled oats in the food processor until they are very fine.

Pulse rolled oats in a food processor to make oat flour

It also uses a springform pan to shape the dough. I couldn’t find a 2-inch cookie cutter, so I used a glass to cut out the centre and a ball of aluminum foil to fill the space.

Press the dough into a springform pan collar

This shortbread has a lovely texture and it’s not too sweet. I hope you enjoy it. To avoid additives and preservatives, be sure to use a butter that does not contain colour.

This shortbread has a nice crumbly texture and isn't too sweet


Use the collar of a springform pan to form the shortbread into an even round. Mold the shortbread with the collar in the closed position, then open the collar, but leave it in place. This allows the shortbread to expand slightly but keeps it from spreading too far. Wrapped well and stored at room temperature, shortbread will keep for up to 7 days.


½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ cups (7.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (also known as icing sugar)

½ tsp table salt

14 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/8-inch slices

Special equipment:

Stand mixer

Springform pan (9 or 9.5 inch)

2-inch oven-proof cookie or biscuit cutter


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pulse oats in spice grinder or blender until reduced to fine powder, about ten 5-second pulses (you should have ¼ to 1/3 cup oat flour). In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oat flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Add butter to dry ingredients and continue to mix on low speed until dough just forms and pulls away from sides of bowl, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place upside-down (grooved edge should be at top) collar of 9- or 9 1/2-inch springform pan on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (do not use springform pan bottom). Press dough into collar in even 1/2-inch-thick layer, smoothing top of dough with back of spoon. Place 2-inch biscuit cutter in center of dough and cut out center. Place extracted round alongside springform collar on baking sheet and replace cutter in center of dough. Open springform collar, but leave it in place.

Bake shortbread 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees. Continue to bake until edges turn pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven; turn off oven. Remove springform pan collar; use chef’s knife to score surface of shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through shortbread. Using wooden skewer, poke 8 to 10 holes in each wedge. Return shortbread to oven and prop door open with handle of wooden spoon, leaving 1-inch gap at top. Allow shortbread to dry in turned-off oven until pale golden in center (shortbread should be firm but giving to touch), about 1 hour.

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool shortbread to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut shortbread at scored marks to separate and serve.

From the November 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated

If you are looking for a new twist on lamb chops, try this recipe from the November 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. Lamb chops (I used loin chops) are sauteed on top of the stove.

Lamb chops are sauteed

While the chops rest, quickly saute grape or cherry tomatoes in the same skillet.

Then saute cherry or grape tomatoes in the same skillet

The chops are then topped with the tomatoes, red onion slices, feta cheese and freshly chopped oregano. I served the chops with roasted fingerling potatoes and a chiffonade of Brussels sprouts.

Lamb chops with red onion, grape tomatoes and feta, served with fingerling potatoes and chiffonade of Brussels sprouts

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, be sure to use fresh lemon juice, because lemon juice concentrates contain sodium benzoate. Also check the ingredients of the feta cheese to ensure it is additive-free.


½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, divided
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
4 lamb shoulder blade chops (each ½ to ¾ inch thick)
1 10- to 12-ounce container grape tomatoes
½ cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
½ cup paper-thin red onion slices


Whisk ½ cup olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, 2 tablespoons oregano, and ground cumin in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer ½ cup dressing to large bowl; add lamb chops and stir to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add grape tomatoes to remaining dressing in medium bowl; toss to coat.

Sprinkle lamb chops with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté lamb chops until browned on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium, depending on thickness. Transfer lamb chops to 4 plates (reserve skillet).

Using slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to same skillet (reserve dressing from tomatoes in bowl). Sauté tomatoes until skins begin to wrinkle, about 2 minutes. Top lamb chops with tomatoes, then feta, red onion, and remaining 1 tablespoon oregano. Drizzle with reserved dressing. Serves 4.

From the November 2010 issue of Bon Appetit

Lagman is a lamb stir fry from Uyghur, a cuisine Lucy Waverman featured in the September 24, 2010 edition of The Globe and Mail. According to Waverman, Uyghur food originated in China’s Xingjian province (formerly East Turkistan) and is a fusion of East Asian techniques and ingredients with a significant Turkish influence. I had never made a stir fry using lamb, so thought I’d give it a try. It was excellent, with great flavour, texture and colour. Cut the meat off a lamb sirloin chop; you can also use beef or chicken if you prefer.

Slices of lamb are stir fried with vegetables

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use tamari instead of soy sauce. Tamari uses a natural preservative—alcohol—instead of sodium benzoate. I couldn’t find all-natural beef stock, so I used Imagine Organic Chicken Broth, which worked well.

Lagman served over noodles



2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce

½ teaspoon dried chili flakes

½ teaspoon sugar

½ cup beef stock or water

1 star anise, broken up


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces (375 grams) thinly sliced lamb

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped ginger

1 cup sliced onion

½ red pepper, sliced

1 mild green banana pepper, sliced

1 cup thinly sliced carrot

2 cups diced tomato

3 cups sliced Napa cabbage

12 ounces (375 grams) udon noodles

¼ cup coriander sprigs


Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl. Heat a wok over high heat until very hot. Add oil and gently swirl to coat. Season lamb with salt and pepper and add to pan along with garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute or until beginning to brown. Add onion, red pepper, banana pepper and carrots and stir fry until vegetables soften (about 2 minutes). Add tomato and cabbage and stir fry for 2 minutes or until cabbage has wilted. Stir in sauce, bring to boil and boil for about 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Drain and add to wok, stirring to combine with vegetables and sauce. Sprinkle with coriander sprigs. Serves 4.

From the September 24, 2010 edition of The Globe and Mail

I am very fortunate to have been asked by my friend Ivonne, who writes the terrific Cream Puffs in Venice blog (  to review cookbooks for the Daring Kitchen website. My review of  Ad Hoc at Home, by celebrity chef Thomas Keller is now posted there.

Ad Hoc at Home is a beautiful book, and it contains many useful tips. The recipes are complex, however, so be ready to invest some time and effort. To read my full review, visit

Here are photos of the recipes I made from Ad Hoc at Home. The recipes for Rainbow Chard with Raisins, Pine Nuts and Serrano Ham and for Porterhouse Steak with Herb-Shallot Butter are already posted on this blog. If you are interested in the recipes for the other dishes, please let me know.

Buttermilk fried chicken

Rainbow chard with raisins, pine nuts and Serrano ham

Porterhouse steak

Red potato and green bean salad with creamy pepper dressing

Corn on the cob with lime salt

If you are looking for a quick and tasty side dish for chicken, pork or lamb, look no further than roasted squash and cauliflower. The preparation couldn’t be easier – just toss wedges of acorn squash and cauliflower pieces in oil, salt and pepper. Add a few hot pepper flakes if you like. Then simply roast in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Toss the squash and cauliflower with oil, salt and pepper

The squash and cauliflower become tender and caramelize, which concentrates the flavour. You can, of course, do one vegetable or the other, but together they provide great taste, colour and nutrition.

Roasting caramelizes the vegetables


1 Acorn squash

1/2 head cauliflower

2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot pepper flakes (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (this step is optional, but makes clean-up easier). Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Cut the halves in half lengthwise, leaving you with four wedges. Cut the cauliflower into florets about 1 or 2 inches in size. Toss squash and cauliflower in bowl with oil, salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes. Arrange on baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender and caramelized. Serves. 4.