Wednesday, December 22, 2010

dreaming of spending the holidays in italy - recipe: veal tenderloin stuffed with leeks, sausage & chevre

Winter in Italy. That simple three-word phrase sounds just divine. I wish I could say that I was about to fly off to Europe for an extended winter holiday but sadly, this is not so.

However, I can at least try to pretend that I’m in Italy through my culinary adventures. Winter in Italy was the name of a cooking class taught by the very talented Pam McDonald several years ago at Dish Cooking Studio in Toronto.

I was an employee at Dish while working my way through chef’s school and I was fortunate enough to work alongside Chef Pam as her assistant in many classes.

One of my favourite classes featured a delectable Italian menu which included a radicchio & chicory salad with sautéed mushrooms & shaved parmesan; scalloped fennel & potatoes, sautéed rapini with pine nuts & raisins, veal tenderloin stuffed with leek, sausage & chevre and pears with sweet mascarpone cheese.

In addition to sharing valuable tips and tricks for the kitchen, Pam suggested a unique entertaining idea involving fresh rosemary: extra sprigs can be tossed into a wood burning fireplace for a delicious, natural, yet oh-so-frugal aroma!

This veal tenderloin would make for a stunning entrée on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Buon Appetito!

veal tenderloin stuffed with leeks, sausage & chevre
recipe courtesy of Chef Pam McDonald,
owner of “more than food” cooking school in Toronto
(serves 8)


  • 2 (two) tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ (one-and-one-half) lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 3 (three) leeks (white parts and ? green), quartered lengthwise, well-rinsed, dried and sliced
  • 6 (six) oz. soft mild chevre
  • 1 (one) tbsp fresh thyme, washed and chopped
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3-4 (three to four) lb. veal tenderloin
  • 3 (three) cloves garlic
  • 1 (one) zest of lemon
  • 1 (one) cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (two) tbsp olive oil


  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking up the meat with a fork, until the meat begins to lose its pink colour. Add the leeks and cook until the leeks are tender and the meat begins to brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in the chevre, breaking it into small pieces. Cook until the chevre melts. Season the stuffing with thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Remove the silverskin and any excess fat from the tenderloin. Slice the tenderloin down the middle and open as you would a book. Place the tenderloin between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound the meat gently until approximately ¾ (three-quarters) to 1 (one) inch in thickness. Place stuffing on one tenderloin and cover with another tenderloin. Secure by tying with kitchen string. Repeat with remaining tenderloin.
  • Mince the parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil. Pat this mixture over the top of the veal. Place on lined pan and roast uncovered for 40 minutes at 450° F.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

brussel sprouts for the holidays - recipe 1: red & green salad - recipe 2: shredded brussels sprouts with bacon and nuts

Tis the season for potlucks, parties and paunches. I’m kidding about the paunches but seriously, if a girl isn’t careful… Which brings me to my point: as much as I love cheese, chocolate and cheese (I love cheese so much that I had to mention it twice), I think that most of us appreciate a few healthy yet delicious menu items, especially at this time of the year.

My Mom has been making this delicious salad for years and its red and green appearance is perfect for holiday entertaining. I didn’t care for it as a kid – Brussels sprouts, cabbage and blue cheese just didn’t appeal to me, but I have certainly grown to love it. This recipe doubles and/or triples easily if you’re feeding a crowd.

red & green salad
from “Pure and Simple” by Marian Burros, 1978
(serves 6)


  • 3 (three) tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (two) tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1½ (one-and-one-half) tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (one) large clove garlic, pressed
  • ¼ (one-quarter) small head red cabbage, coarsely shredded
  • 10 (ten) raw Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 (one-third) cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 (two) tablespoons chopped green onion


  • Mix together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic.
    Beat or shake to blend well (dressing can be made ahead).
  • Gently stir dressing into cabbage and Brussels sprouts just before serving, along with cheese and green onion.

dana’s tip

If you’re not a fan of blue cheese or cabbage but are willing to give Brussels sprouts a try, consider making this delicious shredded Brussels sprouts recipe which was featured in the LCBO “Food and Drink” magazine a number of years ago. Shredding the Brussels sprouts and cooking them for a short amount of time disguises them – not only in appearance but in taste (they aren’t nearly as strong in flavour as traditional steamed sprouts). I often substitute the pine nuts for whatever I have in my cupboard – think almonds, pecans or walnuts, and I leave out the bacon and nuts altogether if I want to save some calories. As will be the case in January!

shredded brussels sprouts with bacon and nuts
(serves 8)


  • 1½ lbs. (750 g) Brussels sprouts
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
  • 6 slices prosciutto or pancetta or regular bacon, chopped
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) pine nuts
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Remove root end and core from Brussels sprouts, cut in half and thinly slice.
  • Heat oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Add bacon. Sauté until beginning to crisp. Add sprouts and sauté for 3 minutes. Cover pan and cook 2 minutes longer or until sprouts are crisp-tender and bright green.
  • Toss in pine nuts, sauté 1 minute and season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the perfect hostess gift - recipe: grand marnier pecan christmas cake

Sometime between Labour Day and Halloween, I start thinking seriously about what my hostess gift will be for the upcoming holiday season.

It has to be edible and it can’t take too much time to prepare, because this is by far the busiest season for me at the store. I have a ritual of sorts – I dig out my boxes (and boxes) of holiday cookbooks and magazines to see if I can drum up any new inspiration.

I dog ear several of the pages and always ask my husband David for his opinion. We’ve been together for 10 years so you think I’d know better than to ask him, because his response is always the same, “Sure, sounds good to me.” To which I reply something along the lines of: “But what do you think, do you like the idea?” To which he replies: “Sorry honey, I just can’t get too excited about this sort of stuff.”

Fair enough. Truth be told, a good part of the fun is the first step — looking through the various recipes and “dreaming” about what I might create and how I will present it. In all honesty, I’d say about half the time I’m successful in actually making the particular item, and the other half of the time, I end up giving gourmet gifts from my store.

Here’s a delicious fruitcake recipe that I plan on making this year (the key word being “plan”).

It’s rich and sinful but worth the calories. The recipe comes from my mother and it’s been years since she made it — which is giving me an extra push to make it because she is sure to receive one!

grand marnier pecan christmas cake


  • 1 lb. golden seedless raisins
  • 1 lb. pecan pieces
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier


  • Preheat oven to 250 F.
  • Butter the inside of a 10-inch, 12-cup tube pan.
  • Sprinkle liberally with flour and shake out excess. Combine raisins and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with all of the flour and salt. Toss with your hands until blended. Set aside.
  • Place butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  • Start beating and gradually add sugar. Cream mixture well and add the egg yolks one at a time, beating constantly.
  • Blend the soda and water together and add it to the butter-egg mixture. Beat in the Grand Marnier. Pour this mixture into the nut mixture and blend together with your hands. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them in with the hands. Continue folding until whites are not apparent.
  • Spoon and scrape mixture into prepared pan smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for two to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from pan shortly after it is baked.
  • Wrap and store in the fridge at least 10 days. It also freezes well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the best chocolate chip cookie recipe - recipe: kelly's chocolate chip cookies

"Kelly baking?” That’s what my little guy John asked me last weekend when I told him that we were going to visit our good friends Kelly and Marc, and their children Avery and Callum, for a Halloween party.

Even John, at just two-and-a-half, knows when to expect good eats.

David and I met Kelly just over a year ago, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that she’s an incredible and generous baker. In the short time that we’ve known her, she’s treated us to a heap of goodies.

We’ve been fortunate enough to sample many of her creations including her mouthwatering muffins, cupcakes, vanilla cake with cream cheese icing, lemon bars, and last but not least, her fantastic chocolate chip cookies.

Rest assured that this is not just any old chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is, by far, the best chocolate chip cookie that I’ve ever tried, hands down.

A few nights ago, Kelly dropped off a batch and a new Curious George video for John. She stopped by the shop today and I managed to work up the courage to ask her for the recipe (and permission to share it with all of you!).

I’m so pleased that Kelly said yes, as many wouldn’t dare to share an amazing “signature recipe” such as this one.

Trust me — add this cookie to your holiday baking repertoire or at the least, cut out the recipe for a rainy day in the future. These are amazing with a glass of milk or for a decadent treat, try them with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

kelly’s chocolate chip cookies

makes 16 jumbo cookies or about 32 regular sized cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cooled, melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips Method Preheat the oven to 325F.


  • Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
  • Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about three inches apart.
  • Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

an adult halloween treat - recipe: pumpkin gnocchi with walnut sage cream sauce

Although I'd never describe myself as a pack rat, I’ve noticed that I have a hard time parting with certain things: any “artwork” made by my son John, greeting cards, and, to nobody’s surprise, recipes.

I’ve collected an astonishing number of recipes over the years. I have about 15 binders, each sorted by course or theme (soups, salads, entrees, food as gift, Mediterranean and so forth), a file folder system for recipes from magazine clippings or the newspaper, a “sacred” recipe journal which is used only for family or cherished recipes, a box of recipes from the cooking classes that I’ve taught over the years, and a large bin for recipes that have yet to be filed.

And as I’m typing this I realize that I haven’t yet described my system for my food shop and catering recipes. Don’t worry, I won’t.

Every so often, I thumb through the various recipes for inspiration. I recently reviewed my “Fall/Halloween” binder (I’m not crazy, just organized, right?) and a couple recipes jumped out at me.

The first was “scary” Halloween spiders — these will be a fun snack for John to enjoy on Oct. 31. The second was pumpkin gnocchi with walnut cream sauce.

While at chef school at George Brown College, I took full advantage of their amazing magazine collection, and must have photocopied at least 300 recipes. This is one of those recipes, and I can’t believe that it’s taken me almost 10 years to make it because it sounds so delicious.

I’ve adapted the recipe, using a combination of pumpkin, russet and sweet potato, adding garlic, shallots and sage to the cream sauce and a touch of gorgonzola to finish.

Feel free to omit the gorgonzola if you don’t like blue cheese — but don’t tell me because then I will think you’re crazy.

This would be a great grown-up meal to enjoy on Oct. 31. Don’t be afraid if you’ve never made gnocchi before. Even though you’ve likely only ordered it in a restaurant, it’s not at all hard to make at home.

pumpkin gnocchi with walnut sage cream sauce
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine


  • 1 10-ounce russet potato, to yield about 1 cup mashed russet
  • 1 14-ounce sweet potato, to yield about 1 1/3 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree from can or pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 -2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream (35 per cent)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely ground in cuisinart
  • 3-4 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • finely grated parmesan
  • cheese or gorgonzola to finish

method (for gnocchi)

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
  • Cook sweet potato and russet potato in microwave until soft, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly and remove and discard potato skins. Place peeled potatoes into a large bowl, add pumpkin. Mash with potato masher or wooden spoon until smooth. Add parmesan cheese, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of flour to the potato mixture, stirring with a spoon until incorporated. Knead dough, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough.
  • Note: I used 1 1/2 cups of flour in total, and used the remaining 1/2 cup for dusting.
  • Cut dough in 6 pieces. Form one piece of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope on a lightly floured surface.
  • Cut rope into 1/2 inch pieces. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough. Gently press fork tines into each piece of gnocchi to make ridges on one side (like the ridges on peanut butter cookies). Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets.
  • Add one-third of gnocchi to a pasta pot of well salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl or dish off the heat. Cook all gnocchi in the same manner.

method (for sauce)

  • Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat until foamy.
  • Add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add cream, cook for 3-4 minutes until frothy and slightly thickened. Add ground walnuts, sage and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add gnocchi to sauce and stir to combine. Divide amongst six plate, if serving as a main course, or eight if serving as a first course, and top with parmesan and/or gorgonzola cheese.

scary halloween spider snacks


  • peanut butter
  • round crackers
  • pretzel sticks
  • chocolate chips or raisins


  • spread some peanut butter onto a round cracker
  • fan 4 pretzel rods on each side of cracker for the legs
  • top with another round cracker
  • spread a bit more peanut butter on the top cracker and use 2 chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

a milk substitute for soup - dairy free creamy leak & potato soup - recipe: dairy free creamy leak & potato soup

Yes, you read the recipe’s title correctly. And yes, it is possible to make a delicious, creamy soup that is also dairy-free. Here’s the trick — cashew cream.

Have you heard of it? In a nutshell (pardon the pun) this “cream” is made by soaking raw cashews in water overnight, and then blitzing them in a food processor, blender or “vita-mix” until a thick, cream-like mixture is obtained.

Cashew cream is no stranger to vegans, who abstain from consuming all animal product. This miracle ingredient was made popular by the talented vegan chef, Tal Ronnen.

It is easy to change its consistency. If you want a thick cream, add less water; if you’d rather have a thin cream, add more. Thick cream is great in desserts, and as a substitute for cheese in ravioli and mac and cheese, while thin cream in perfect in soups and sauces.

Chef Ronnen refers to it as “the magic ingredient that makes it easy to live without dairy.” I’m surprised at the number of people that I’ve run into lately that either cannot eat dairy (allergies and intolerances, nursing mom’s whose babies react to it, vegans) or who are trying to avoid it (vegetarians who are trying to cut back on dairy, people who have suffered from heart attacks or other health issues and are watching their saturated animal fat intake).

And to those of you without these restrictions, cheers to a creamy, decadent, guilt-free soup!

Speaking of soup, please consider stopping by the shop this Friday, Oct. 15, from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. for our second annual fall fundraiser. Dana Shortt Gourmet is located at 55 Erb St. E., in Uptown Waterloo (across the street from the “old” LCBO store).

This year, we are featuring a “soup sale” fundraiser to raise money for National Service Dogs (NSD). We’ll have a wide selection of soups, fresh baguettes and crackers on sale and 100 per cent of the profits from the items sold will go to NSD.

National Service Dogs is a local charity that is committed to enriching the quality of life and enhancing the independence of children and families living with autism and special needs by providing them with specially trained Labrador and golden retrievers.

The money raised this Friday at our fundraiser will be used to help a sweet little girl named Tessa.

For more information on National Service Dogs, visit

dairy free creamy leak & potato soup
serves six


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (you could use chicken stock as well)
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cashew cream, see recipe below


  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Saute leeks, onions, garlic and celery until just golden brown, about eight to 10 minutes.
  • Add potatoes and vegetable stock to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil; then simmer until potatoes are soft and cooked (about 25 – 30 minutes).
  • Add cashew cream, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Puree soup in blender (or using a hand blender) until creamy and smooth.

Tal Ronnen’s cashew cream

  • makes about 2 1/4 cups thick cream or 3 1/2 cups regular cream
    prep time: 10 minutes, plus soaking overnight.
    note: extra cashew cream freezes well.
  • For more information on cashew cream, visit:


  • 2 cups of raw cashews (not cashew pieces, which are often dry), rinsed very well under cold water.


  • Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  • Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by one inch.
  • Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.
  • To make thick cashew cream, which some of the recipes in this book call for, simply reduce the amount of water when they are placed in the blender, so that the water just slightly covers the cashews.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

a tapenade tribute to zia - recipe: zia maria's olive tapenade

David and I recently received an invitation to his incredibly sweet, Zia (Aunt) Maria’s 75th birthday party. Unfortunately, the party was over a thousand kilometres away in Thunder Bay.

However, along with the invitation, Maria’s daughter, Gabriella, sent some great photos and a request that those who could not attend the celebration share a memory or two of Zia.

It will come as no surprise to the regular readers of my column that most of my memories involve food! Maria is an amazing cook — I’ve written about her before — and we definitely bonded over our love of the kitchen.

Maria has an “old-school” cold room. Growing up, our family’s cold cellar was mainly used for pop, beer, canned goods and perhaps a few jars of pickles or chili sauce that someone had made for us.

I think that my jaw literally dropped when I walked into Zia’s cold room for the first time. It was full of large jugs of homemade wine, vinegars, jams, preserved vegetables, fruit, tomato sauce, hanging prosciutto and the like. I was in heaven — in fact, no trip to Thunder Bay is complete without a walk through what I like to call the “food shrine”.

I have many special memories of Zia and our time together but there are two that stand out in my mind — the first is the day last summer, when she met John for the first time. We spent the day in her backyard.

She has the vegetable garden of my dreams! We watched John run around and stuff himself with her freshly harvested raspberries and peas.

The second memory goes back a few years, to when Zia and I spent the day in her kitchen together. We used her second kitchen, located in the basement of her house. Zia and I spent the day preserving jars of food.

We made a few different items, but the one that brought the biggest smile to my husband David’s face was Zia Maria’s famous olive tapenade. We can never leave Thunder Bay without at least one jar of it, and I was thrilled to have the recipe in my hands after our day together.

This tapenade is great on crackers, flatbread or a sandwich. One of David’s favourite snacks is a fried egg on a toasted sesame seed bagel (ideally from City Cafe) topped with this tapenade and a splash of hot sauce.

zia maria's olive tapenade


  • one 375-ml jar of pitted black olives
  • one 375-ml jar of pitted green olives
  • one 14-oz can of artichoke hearts in water, well drained
  • one 375-ml jar of roasted red peppers, well drained
  • 1/2 tin of anchovies in oil
    (use a couple tablespoons of anchovy paste if you're a bit leery)
  • two or three cloves of garlic
  • peeled fresh parsley, to taste (I use about half a cup)
  • fresh basil, to taste (I use about half a cup)


  • Add all ingredients into the bowl of a cusinart and mix/pulse to desired texture (pulse longer for a smooth texture, shorter for a chunky texture).
  • This will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
  • Serve a la David on bagels, or spread onto baguette slices, top with some goat cheese or mozzarella and bake in a 350F oven until hot and cheese is melted. Also good on pasta — just add some olive oil to thin it out a bit.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

birthday cake memories - recipe: knotty pine’s buttered almond cake

I recently celebrated a birthday. It’s tradition in my family for the birthday guy or gal to give strict instructions on what he/she would like Mom to prepare for the “feast”. This year was a bit different. My brother Adam hosted the dinner and my Mom helped by baking a cake.

Adam treated us to baby back ribs, his famous spicy potato wedges, Caesar salad and Herrle’s corn-on-the-cob. Mom surprised us with a version of the Knotty Pine’s buttered almond cake. Does anyone else remember that amazing creation?

Enjoying that cake four times a year, on each of our birthdays, was another tradition that held fast until the bakery closed down a number of years ago.

Mom recently found the recipe online. Apparently, we aren’t the only ones missing this cake! If you don’t want to go to the effort of making the from-scratch cake recipe, cheat and use a yellow cake box mix — I won’t tell.

Whether you make the cake yourself or not, the best part of the cake is the icing. In fact, I recently dressed up a banana loaf with this icing for a pot luck — yum.

Knotty Pine’s buttered almond cake
(recipe found online)

ingredients: cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup shortening 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups milk

ingredients: cream filling

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 pinch salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond flavouring
ingredients: buttered almond icing
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 6 tablespoons table cream
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

method: cake

  • Cream butter and shortening together.
  • Add sugar and beat until mixture is smooth and light.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to creamed mixture. Mix gently until well combined.
  • Pour batter into two 10 inch or three 9 inch round cake pans that have been lightly buttered and lined with wax paper.
  • Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Let cool on racks for about 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely.

method: cream filling

  • Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in the top of a double boiler, being careful not to scald.
  • Make a paste of remaining milk, cornstarch, sugar and salt.
  • Add egg yolks and stir until well mixed.
  • Add a little hot milk to egg yolk mixture to warm it, then stir into milk in double boiler.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until filling is thickened and smooth and there is no raw starch taste — about five minutes. Stir in flavoring if desired.
  • To prevent a skin from forming on top, cover with plastic wrap and stir occasionally during cooling.

method: buttered almond icing

  • Heat butter and margarine in a small skillet or heavy saucepan until foam on top turns a golden brown.
  • Stir occasionally. Do not over-brown or the flavour will be burnt rather than roasted.
  • Cool slightly.
  • Place icing sugar in mixing bowl and mix in cream, then gradually stir in browned butter, scraping pan well.
  • Beat until icing is smooth and creamy.
  • Assembling cake
  • Slice each 10-inch layer in half horizontally. Do not split nine-inch layers.
  • Top one cake layer with filling and repeat, topping with final cake layer.
  • Cover top and sides of cake with a thin layer of icing.
  • Immediately add almonds to top and/or sides of cake and refrigerate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

coconut sauce from the eastern seaboard - recipe: coconut lime sauce

published: september 1, 2010

David and I were fortunate enough to take two, one-week vacations this summer. The first was a fabulous trip in July to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio (yes, Ohio) which I featured in my Aug. 18 article.

We’ve just returned from our second trip, which was to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Yes, Delaware. I’m amazed at the number of people (read: everyone) who were shocked by our choice of vacation destinations.

All I can say is that Rehoboth was highly recommended by a good client and it’s been featured in my favourite magazine, Coastal Living, several times.

Because of its location on the eastern seaboard, Rehoboth Beach is a popular summer destination for New Yorkers, Baltimoreans and Philadelphians.

The two snags to Rehoboth being so popular are the crowds and the traffic. But, like most everything, there is much good to accompany the bad. In addition to the beautiful beaches, Rehoboth has great shopping (with no sales tax!) tons of fun activities and of course, great food. Also, there is certainly no shortage of amazing restaurants to choose from.

We narrowed down our faves to two fantastic restaurants: Adriatico, a family-run Italian restaurant just off the strip, and Big Fish, an incredible seafood restaurant located on the main highway as you enter the city of Rehoboth itself.

We ate at Big Fish three times in one week! It’s so popular (for good reasons) that the line-ups start at 5 p. m. and even earlier on rainy, non-beach days.

Highlights included pecan crusted tilapia with a coconut-rum sauce, grouper with mushroom sauce, ridiculously tender calamari with a duo of dipping sauces, citrus swordfish, caramelized salmon and a plethora of delicious sides, including sautéed summer squash, redskin mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and our fave, “Neva’s famous potatoes”, which are grated scalloped potatoes loaded with cheese.

Here’s my take on their fabulous coconut sauce, which is delicious drizzled onto baked or grilled fish and rice. You can also use this as a stir-fry sauce.

coconut lime sauce


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 2 garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or
  • very finely chopped 1 14-oz can of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons tamari or light soya
  • sauce 1 lime (zest and juice)


  • Heat canola oil in medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Be careful not to burn. Add the coconut milk and sugar to saucepan, stir.
  • Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce until it thickens and is reduced to about one-and-a-half cups. This should take about six or seven minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the tamari and the zest and juice of one lime. Stir to combine.
  • Note: For a spicy version, add a half to one teaspoon of thai red curry paste while cooking the garlic and ginger mixture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

off the beaten path - recipe: shrimp burgers

David, John and I just got back from a family vacation to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. Explaining that we were vacationing in Ohio elicited a few raised eyebrows from friends and family, to say the least.

What can I say — David lets me plan our vacations and I like checking out places that are a bit off the beaten path. I wanted to go somewhere new, I wanted it to be on the water, and I didn’t want too long of a drive — those of you with children under five will understand why.

Geneva-on-the-Lake is dubbed “Ohio’s first summer resort”, an old fashioned lakefront getaway that has something for everyone. We loved it.

The condo that we rented was perfect — comfortable and tastefully decorated, with amazing views and amenities, including a hot tub, outdoor play area, beautiful flower gardens and a heated pool with an incredible view of the expansive lake.

On top of all of this, we were within walking distance to a state park, paved trails, two miniature golf courses, arcades, a waterslide park, wineries and of course, restaurants.

The condo owners were kind enough to leave us a handful of menus from their favourite local restaurants.

Not to be missed was Alessandro’s, an authentic Italian trattoria; Lakeside Winery, known for their local perch dinner; Madsen Donuts, nothing fancy, but by far, the best donuts I have ever eaten; and Eddie’s Grill, an authentic old fashioned hamburger joint that hasn’t changed much since opening in the 1950’s.

Eddie’s was a hoot — it offered a nostalgic atmosphere with an open kitchen and served yummy food to boot. David and I came up with three main reasons why their burgers tasted so good:

  • the ultra soft sesame seed buns
  • the finely diced onions
  • and their house made sweet pepper tapenade (ok, relish).

We ate there three times in one week. No kidding. As you can tell, we loved it!

Vacations are certainly the time to indulge, but can be a strain on the waistline. Now that we’re back to reality, these delicious shrimp burgers fill the craving with far less fat and calories.

shrimp burgers - (makes 6 burgers)


  • 2 litres water
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn niblets
  • 3 tablespoons celery, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3-4 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, prefer ably fresh (from about 2 slices bread)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs canola oil, for pan frying


  • In a large saucepan, bring the water and Old Bay seasoning just to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and let stand until the shrimp are pink, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain, then chop coarsely.
  • In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, corn, celery, scallions, parsley, and lemon zest. Stir in the mayonnaise and breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold the egg into the mixture.
  • Shape the mixture into six patties. Coat the burgers in bread crumbs. Place them in the fridge to cool before frying.
  • Heat canola oil (about two tablespoons) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the burgers from the refrigerator and gently lay them in the pan. Cook until both sides are browned, about three minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  • Serve on buns with your favourite condiments, such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, caramelized onions or tartar sauce.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

easy hazelnut cake can be made gluten-free - recipe: hazelnut cake (aka the easiest cake ever)

My Mom, son John and I were recently invited to spend a day at the lake with our lifelong family friends Mae & Clair Rogers as well as their daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Joseph Stemmler.

My grandmother and Mae were good friends, as were their mothers. Mae is like a ‘special aunt’ to my mom, and she is certainly special to my brother Adam and me, as she was our much beloved part-time caregiver for a number of years.

The Rogers’ and Stemmler’s are the most calm and kind people I know. When we pulled into the driveway of their Habermehl Lake cottage, they were waiting for us, waving and smiling. You’d be rather hard-pressed to find them harried or stressed.

They treated us to a delicious lunch consisting of creamy Italian chicken, steamed rice, a delicious tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette, Mae’s jellied pineapple, carrot & nut salad, and marinated vegetables.

As we were 'oohing' and 'aahing' over the food, Karen explained that she wanted to serve an easy, make-ahead meal so that she could spend her time catching up, not cooking. The chicken was made in a slow cooker while the rice did its thing in a rice cooker. Everything else was prepared in advance.

It is my opinion that your guests can sense your mood upon arrival, and if you’re stressed, rushing around and/or exhausted, they’ll be bound to feel at least a little bit guilty. This is just one of the many reasons why I’m a firm believer of preparing make-ahead menus when you’re entertaining at home. The whole point is to relax, have fun and enjoy the company of your guests. As the “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten frequently states; “your guests aren’t going to have more fun if you spend a week making the food!”

After a relaxing boat ride (but also very exciting, as this was Johnny’s first time in a motor boat!) we sat at a cozy outdoor table to enjoy dessert. The dessert was a delicious hazelnut cake with ice cream and fresh berries. I sheepishly asked for the recipe (not everyone likes to share!) and Karen promptly made a photocopy for me.

This cake is called “the easiest cake ever” because it contains only 5 ingredients and it’s prepared in a blender! It can also be prepared gluten-free. (it calls for only 2 tablespoons of ANY flour – and when I tested the recipe, I used rice flour with great results).

It was a memorable day – full of reminiscing and laughter all at a relaxed pace; in part made possible by simply prepping the meal the day before.

hazelnut cake (a.k.a. the easiest cake ever)


  • 1 (one) cup hazelnuts (skins left on)
  • 2 (two) tablespoons flour (any kind – use rice flour for gluten-free)
  • 2½ (two-and-one-half) teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ (three-quarters) cup sugar or honey
  • 4 (four) eggs


  • Preheat oven to 350º F.
  • Place nuts in a blender and blend on high speed until they are finely ground.
  • Add all other ingredients to the blender and blend until everything is incorporated.
  • Pour batter into a parchment lined 9” by 9” square cake pan.
  • Bake at 350º F for 20 – 30 minutes. Test with toothpick.
  • Serve with ice cream or Devon cream or whipped cream and berries

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

in case of emergency - recipe: "emergency” granola bars

I recently read a blogger’s list of summertime favourites — it included the likes of bare shoulders, sleeping without covers, and tomato & mayo sandwiches.

Of the many items on that list, a good road trip was nowhere to be found. A road trip is definitely on my summertime list. Who doesn’t love a quick afternoon car adventure or a lengthy drive to a much-anticipated vacation spot?

Last weekend, David, John and I were invited to a friend’s cottage in the Huntsville area. It’s safe to say that David and I were both a little nervous about how John would take to being car-bound for three-plus hours on highways 401, 400 and 11.

We played it safe and packed a few new toys and lots of yummy treats in case of an emergency — the emergency being rather loud verbal protesting by John, in case you’re wondering.

I’m both pleased and proud to announce that little John did very well in the car, although that didn’t stop us from devouring the yummy “emergency” treats like these granola bars anyway. As it turned out, David was more in need of pacifying than John...

Because granola bars are inexpensive and easy to make, as well as easy to eat on the run, they make for perfect road food. This recipe was adapted from the Whitewater Cooks granola bar recipe. I added cocoa powder, various seeds and dried fruit for richness and texture.

'emergency' granola bars


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit — cranberries, blueberries, for example
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 3 and 1/2 cups oats


  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 13” by 18” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large frying pan, toast the coconut, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds over medium heat until coconut is light golden and seeds are glistening. Set aside to cool.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Next, add the peanut butter, vanilla and cocoa powder until whipped and well combined. Next, add in the maple syrup and corn syrup until combined.
  • On medium low speed, add in the coconut seed mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that everything is well-mixed.
  • On low speed, add in the oats, dried fruit and chocolate chips.
  • Pour the granola mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and pack down the granola until it is spread evenly across the pan.
  • For crunchy granola bars, bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown; rotating the pan every 10 minutes or so. Let cool slightly and cut into 30 squares while still warm.
  • For chewy granola bars, bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden, rotating the pan once after 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into 30 squares while still warm.

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