Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I somehow doubt anyone is exactly dying to peruse the world of food blogs tonight, so I'll keep this short. Besides, on the off chance you aren't doing anything tonight and have these rather random ingredients hanging around, you'll have some nibblies to take with you if you decide to go off mumming after midnight!

Both of these variations on the classic cocktail "glazed nut" were inspired from Dinah Corley's Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself and Wrap with Style. I was generously given a copy of this book to try out and let me tell you - I made 3 different things for gifts this holiday season, and each one was such a hit I got requests to make them again, just because! If you do a lot of gifting (like me), or are a crafty type of person (like my aunt), this book will be a frequent source of inspiration, instruction and information. Bonus: the resource list at the back gives you all sorts of places to find nifty containers and decorations!

But back to these nuts. Yes, there are about 4 gazillion of these recipes out on the web, but I fell in love with the heady combination of sweet, savoury and hot spices cloaking Corley's Mumbai Nuts. I had to change the recipe somewhat to compensate for my oven (which didn't go low enough for the book's directions) but I think the idea shone through. I also bought mixed nuts in bulk to save the fuss and bother of mixing "precise" amounts of each (not to mention to save cash along the way!). They were such a hit, in fact, that I took the theory and played around with a Japanese combination of ingredients for a sushi-loving friend of mine to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summat for the Kids

I didn't get a chance to share with you all the "kid friendly" treat I put out for the people - including my panforte and anything-but-shortbreads-and-chocolate chip cookie-hating sister - on Christmas Eve and tucked into the children's treat bags before the holiday itself rolled around, so what better time than now?
I knew that most of the extended family, especially the men (surprisingly) are die-hard chocolate lovers, and even those that don't are hard pressed to pass up a good brownie. These were a little bit on the "adult" side anyways, since I used the delicious 70% bittersweet Lindt bars I picked up on sale as both the "melted" and half of the "chip" components and tossed in some cherry-flavoured dried cranberries too. I didn't want to use nuts, since I wasn't sure what the attendees would either like and/or be allergic to, but some smashed Mini Eggs added a bit of crispness to the batter and lightened up the dark chocolate a touch. I wasn't disappointed - both the batch for the holiday at home and the pan I brought to my hairdresser's disappeared without hesitation. At the salon, one woman even dropped a square, where it landed in her boot, and she grabbed it right out and scarfed it anyways!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Fishy Feast

Most of you by now know that our half-Italian family goes a bit crazy on Christmas eve when it comes to hosting the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. Ironically, my (non-Italian) mother is really the only person in the house (besides me) who likes more than two types of fish or seafood! Since I don't "count" in group menus due to my diet (not that it would matter anyways in a cast of 5!), the resulting menu tends to have a lot of vegetarian "filler" sides like broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, salad, cheese lasagne or cannelloni, bread and angel hair marinara.

Over the years, my seafood loving Mom has been able to incorporate a little bit of variety into the "fish" portion of the meal. While still nowhere close to seven types of water-bound creatures, usually about two recipes work their way onto the table for the guests to enjoy. This year, one of my mom's most popular fish recipes once again made it's appearance, no doubt due to the fact that it's both a very special occasion dish (Salmon! Butter! Challah! Cream!) and that it serves a ton of people. Or in the case of our family... 8. We lucked out cost wise by buying the sides of wild Pacific salmon on sale at Costco a month or so ago and freezing them until the day of, but regardless it's not a penny-pinching recipe by any stretch. It is more than worth it, though - if you need to impress anyone, this is definitely one to make. 
Mom’s Spectacular Stuffed Salmon
Serves 16
3 tbsp salted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, halved
2 cups soft Challah (or country-style) bread crumbs
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 lb fresh cremini or shiitake mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup buttermilk
2 sides (2 ½ lbs each) skinless wild Pacific salmon, pin bones removed
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a roasting dish.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt 3 tbsp butter.
  3. Add onion and garlic and cook over low heat until onion is beginning to turn golden. Remove garlic and discard, set onion aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the Challah crumbs, parsley, dill, lemon juice and mushrooms with the cooked onion. 
  5. Pour buttermilk overtop and mix thoroughly to evenly wet mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Place one piece of salmon in the bottom of the dish and spread evenly with the stuffing. Top with the remaining side of salmon, pressing down lightly.
  7. Scald heavy cream and pour over the fish, then season with salt and pepper and cover.
  8. Bake 35 minutes, until flaky, basting with creamy pan juices every 10 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 402.4
Total Fat: 23.6 g
Cholesterol: 150.9 mg
Sodium: 150.9 mg
Total Carbs: 4.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 40.1 g

Equally decadent and pricey was a newcomer to our kitchen - a recipe I devised for my mom after she returned from a business trip to Moncton raving about a baked haddock and seafood casserole that she had eaten at an establishment called the City Grill. She had been craving to know just how the dish came together, and after a quick peek at the menu and hearing her description of the meal as being "crispy and buttery on top, then tiny scallops and pieces of shrimp and a fillet of haddock underneath" with "not much spicing, maybe lemon" I had the bare structure of the meal. A dash of wine, some butter and - gasp - Ritz crackers ensued and by the time it all came together my mom was raving about how it not only looked identical to her high-end meal but tasted even better!

Baked Haddock and Seafood
Serves 6
1 lb haddock fillets, cut into 6 pieces
4 oz bay (small) scallops
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup white wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
Zest of ½ lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F, line a roasting pan with parchment.
  2. Lay fish fillets in a single layer on the bottom of the dish, then top with scallops and shrimp.
  3. Pour the white wine and lemon juice overtop of the seafood.
  4. In a bowl, toss butter, cracker crumbs, garlic powder, black pepper and lemon zest.
  5. Sprinkle over the seafood.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, then turn the broiler to HI and broil 2 minutes, until browned.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 280.7
Total Fat: 12.3 g
Cholesterol: 69.5 mg
Sodium: 276.3 mg
Total Carbs: 9.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 17.4 g

Friday, December 23, 2011

A "Strong Bread" for Us Weaklings

Well, I definitely asked for it. Call it a Murphy's Law of a sort - after all my detailing of our holiday climate being anything but "wintry", we woke up today to a bitterly freezing, windy and slightly grey day. Still no snow - but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it holds off at least until Boxing Day! I'm definitely a weak soul when it comes to the chilly weather too, at any given time you can bet I'll be wearing at least a long-sleeved shirt, if not a sweater or two. I even work out in long pants and an athletic jacket!

In the past few months I've become aware of another level of weakness I've managed to accrue - brittle bones. Though I already knew I was osteoporotic in my hip and shins, it never occured to me before that the effect of decalcification impacted my entire skeleton, not just those two bone groups. In the middle of helping my mom make her delicious apple pie (specifically wedging the apples) a pop, clunk and searing pain through one side of my chest signalled something totally alien to me - a broken rib. I never thought I'd have in my lifetime, let alone at 23 years old, any sort of fracture, and I'm sorry to say it took me well over a month filled with painful breathing, bending and twisting to get it checked out. So no contact sports for me, even though it's mostly healed up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warming Up

Well, this year may not be the coldest winter on record. In fact, it's a balmy 5°C right now - on December 22! In Toronto at least, the "honour" of cold days goes to January 4, 1981 when it hit −44.7°C (−48.5°F). But it is still winter. I'm not going outside anytime soon in a T-shirt and shorts, and while I'm glad we're not digging ourselves out of mountains of snow I still get the yearning to embrace the "come in from the cold" activities of cocoa and cookies after an afternoon of tobogganing.

Thankfully cookies and cocoa are not overly dependent on sub-zero temperatures for enjoyment. I brought a bit of internal comfort to the mint-chilled stomachers of yesterday's cookies with some tiny, spicy versions of my favourite "breakfast food" - the cinnamon bun.

Taking a long-overdue page out of the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine, I changed up chef Anna Olson's shortbreads by using cream cheese in the dough (instead of making the frosting traditional on the yeasted buns), swapping buttermilk for the heavy cream, and decorating the finished slices with a tangy buttermilk drizzle so that they looked more like cinnamon rolls and less like ordinary pinwheel cookies. Since I knew the switch from a dough based on butter to the cheese would cause the dough to be a bit more delicate to handle, I bumped up the sturdiness and flakiness of the recipe with shortening and froze the rolls thoroughly before baking them off. Finally, to the filling of half the batch, I added two tablespoons of ground pecans - something for my pecan-adoring mom to discover. The end result was a sweet, slightly tangy and spicy bite of all the best things a cinnamon roll offers - and because I made them tiny, having a few with that cup of cocoa is totally A-OK!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Makes 75
1 cup flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 packets stevia
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp cornstarch
(optional - 1/4 cup ground pecans)

1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Whisk together flours, stevia, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.   
  2. Cream cream cheese, shortening, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until fluffy.  
  3. Beat in dry ingredients.   
  4. Divide in half, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour before rolling out.
  1. Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough into a large rectangle (about 1/8 - 1/4" thick). Spread half of the filling evenly over rectangle.
  2. Roll up from the long side. Repeat with second piece of dough.
  3. Wrap each and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Rolls into 1/4" thick slices and place 1" apart on sheets.
  6. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes. Cookies will be just starting to turn golden.
  7. Cool completely on the sheet before removing.
  1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. Drizzle over baked cookies and allow to set.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 42.5
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 2.5 mg
Sodium: 8.9 mg
Total Carbs: 8.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.5 g

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cooling Down

This year it looks like Christmas is going to arrive in a flurry of... mist. Personally, I'm not complaining - you don't have to shovel rain - but the lack of chill in the air and snow on the ground has been causing a little bit of apathy in my social circle. Rather than break into the chilled New Year's Eve champagne early, I brought out the good old "Thin Mint" cookie to cool everyone down a bit  at the salon I go to.

Of course, I wanted to bring something that all the stylists and their clients could enjoy. I know from experience that getting through any holiday when you can't share in the same gastronomic delights as everyone else is more than a little difficult, and when it's ChrismaHanuKwanzaa the treats abound in all the buttery, creamy, nutty, eggy cookie and sweets sense. So rather than bring in my standard (and delicious on their own) Thin Mints, I re-tooled the recipe to make it gluten free, nut free and vegan. While these aren't beacons of health (they're cookies!) they were the perfect decadent touch to the day. I enjoyed making and sharing them (both the chocolate-coated and naked ones) as much as the recipients enjoyed eating them!

Christmas Gloom and Goodies

We're almost through the horror that is the holiday season madness. In five sleeps, the insanity of Christmas Eve will be upon us, and in six, the hubbub of Christmas Day will be here. Those who know me and my general aversion to all things "holiday" never hesitate to call me a Scrooge, or drop an ever so passive-aggressive "guilt trip" comment about how they wish I would be more active in all the festivities. Well, call me a Scrooge, call me a downer, but I just don't have the energy to deal with 40 seniors (or almost-seniors) at a house party, even if they somehow share a blood line with me. Not only am I at least 20 years younger than anyone else attending, I have nothing in common with them - not least being my diet. It's one thing to have a cut-and-dry allergy or food preference (i.e. my second cousin is deathly allergic to nuts and eggs, my great uncle will not eat any meat but roast beef cooked until grey), but explaining the intricacies of how I went from being the most die-hard carnivore, butter and cheese fiend to being totally unable to digest those same items is difficult even at the best of times, and downright frustrating having to repeat the same story year after year. The worst part is that the conclusion of the plot is always the same vague trail-off - we still don't know, and I've given up on wasting time and energy seeking out an answer. It's not their fault, I know, but all the same, family Christmases just aren't the joy and bliss for me that they are for the rest of the clan. 
I'm not alone in this mentality. My sister feels generally the same way, although she has the benefit of having always been the "picky child", so nobody questions her abstinence from the buffet line. Teaghan also has the luck of being an overall "louder" and more boisterous person than I, which allows her to be a bit less of a wallflower at these occasions.

After all that, you'd think I'd be first in line for a flight to Timbuktu come November 1. But I do love one thing about the holiday season - all the prep leading up to it. I adore wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, arranging menus, and of course all the baking! There is no better excuse to break out the fun "goodie" recipes than the festive season, and this year I had a fair amount of new ones I wanted to try out!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quite Convenient Cupcakes

Apparently, today is National Cupcake Day. Clever, situating a holiday around one of the cutest (and ome would say sneakiest) delivery devices of fat and sugar on the planet. I also find it slightly ironic that a day as decadent as this one is right smack dab in the middle of the "stuff your face" season, where really we should all be trying to keep our diets in check (or at least practicing moderation!).
Then again, when have I been one to eschew the goodness and happiness a baked good can bring to the world? Thankfully, I didn't have to make yet another sweet treat to share with the blogosphere - I had a recipe in my files I had been meaning to post for ages and now had the opportunity to bust it out! Remember back when I was busy waxing poetic about this year's Autism gala cake, packing any fora I had available with step by step, "new parent"-esque photos? Well, somewhere in the middle of all that kerfuffle I managed to squeeze out a dozen of these gluten and casein free goodies for donation as well.
Why gluten and casein free? Well, although it is not a cure for the anomaly (I hesitate to call it a "disorder" or "disease" as I know many individuals who are fully capable of independent and contributory living), numerous research reports have detailed the benefits of excluding these proteins from the autistic diet. Given that my standard cake contribution to the event is anything but GF/CF, and knowing that a good portion of that evening's attendees were relatives (if not parents) and caregivers of autistic individuals, I wanted to donate something that they could bid on and take home for their entire family to enjoy without worry.

Sadly, these deliciously orange-packed cakelets are not entirely a creation of my own design. That honour goes to the Gluten Free Goddess Karina, who's blog I spent many an hour paging through looking for a goodie that would be simple enough to pull off and elegant enough to dress up for a gala performance. When I saw her exquisitely detailed recipe for Frosted Orange Creme Cupcakes I knew I had my star. A couple mini-tweaks and a piping bag later the cupcakes were done, frosted and sparkling in their monotonal orange glory. The lack of colour differential was no mistake on my part either. One of the things I picked up over my year at holistic nutrition college was that many people who fall on the Spectrum of autism related disorders have issues with overstimulation from external triggers, not the least being the food on their plate. Last year, a group of food bloggers held an awareness event to that effect, so you can check out the associated blogs for more info if you're interested.

So enjoy these fruity, sweet, tangy cupcakes - regardless of whether you're in need of the modifications or not. Their flavour is perfect for any season and you don't need a special occasion to dig in!

Orange Crème Cupcakes – GFCF
Makes 12
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
juice of 2 oranges
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with ¼ cup warm water
1 tbsp pure vanilla
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup potato starch (not potato flour!)
½ cup arrowroot starch
½ cup sugar
3 packets stevia
¼ tsp sea salt
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp guar gum
zest of 1 orange

¼ cup shortening
1 tbsp Southern Comfort
zest of ½ orange
3 drops natural yellow food colour (optional)
2 drops natural red food colour (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp orange juice (as needed)
Orange sprinkles or sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a twelve cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. With electric beaters, beat oil, honey, orange juice, egg replacer and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and beat on medium speed for two minutes.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (I found 20 to be perfect), until slightly tender but not squishy.
  5. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool on a wire rack. 
  1. Beat shortening, Southern Comfort, orange zest, and food colour (if using) on medium high until smooth.
  2. Sift in the sugar slowly until incorporated. Add orange juice as needed to make the frosting smooth and creamy.
  3. Pipe frosting on cupcakes and sprinkle with decorations.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 251.6
Total Fat: 6.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.2 mg
Total Carbs: 47.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 1.2 g

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ah! (Four) Gingers!

GF, Corn-Free, Vegan
Gingerbread Cutouts
The outward look of my family is one that really makes you marvel at the weird things genetics can to to offspring. If you were to see my grandparents, mom, dad, sister and I together in a group, you might pick out that my sister and my dad had something in common, or that my mom and grandma have a similar fine cheekbone structure. But me? Well, I look almost nothing like my immediate relatives. I'm a fair bit taller than any of my female blood relatives (though my male relations are tall, so I got a boost there). Unlike my sister, who has an enviable swarthy, almost olive complexion and a face structure that allows her to pull off any hats or glasses she tries on (even really, really bad ones), I'm pale, apt to burning after 15 minutes in the sun and the only reason I wear hats or glasses at all is to avoid skin cancer and see more than 6 inches in front of my face (literally). I'm also the only "ginger child"... the "red sheep" of the family if you will. As a kid, I hated it, since along with my chronically red face it meant that all the "cool" clothes in the store looked awful on me, but I've come to embrace, and even love, the genetic anomaly I've been given.

Of course, I really started to defend my redheaded appearance after the Harry Potter movies started coming out, sparking a round of "ginger" jokes. Ironically, I don't actually know any other natural redheads, but at the same time I believe that we're all just as loveable as the rhizome that our colouring is (mistakenly) named after. Since when you look at the colour of a ginger root, it's a mousey brown when the peel's still on it's gnarled frame, and after it sheds the paper-like layer it's a gorgeous, straw-blonde. So why the association with redheads, I ask? Why don't we get called "PEI beaches" or "topazes"? That makes just as much, if not more, sense than "gingers".
Homemade Candied Ginger

Anyways, I've taken advantage of all the flavours and variations the ginger root has to readily offer the home baker this holiday. From grating the fresh rhizome to using ground, dried powder, dicing sugar-coated candied slices, folding in chunks of sugar-soaked crystalline spice and even making my own candied ginger and ginger caramel a la Alton Brown, it's been in no short supply here! I rounded up the goods from the past week of bakery into this one post, for everyone's holiday cheer - especially my good friend and past teacher Verity, who is the biggest ginger fan I know!

And for those of you wondering, the title is adapted from a line in the (very awesome) A Very Potter Musical.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Preserving Health

Baking with my mom can be like pulling teeth. I love her dearly, but when it comes to making something together that the rest of the family is going to be eating, God forbid that any recipe "tweaking" or changes to the written recipe of any sort happen along the way. She doesn't trust recipes of my own design for family fare either. Other blogs? Magazines? People on TV? No problem. Her own daughter though? Not so much. Le sigh.

I regret to say that while yes, these rolls (sent to YeastSpotting) are of my own design, and that my mom loves the recipe enough to serve them for our Christmas Eve shindig, they are the product of a lie. I told my mom that they came out of a French cookbook I read through at Chapters the other day, after she mentioned a week or so ago that she was looking for a good whole wheat dinner roll for the holiday meal. She agreed we could make the recipe - if we made a test version first. That was no problem with me, of course, but it also involved me giving Mom a little "education" on sourdough, whole wheat and soakers. The woman taught me how to bake as a child, but it was white flour basics and our once-a-year Challah. Let's say I've evolved a little bit.

I feel guilty as heck for having to make up the story to get Mom's approval, but in a way I also am somewhat let down that I had to in the first place. C'est la vie. Her mental health is preserved, and given the rest of the world that's on her shoulders right now it's a small plus. If I'm going to Hell for the white (or whole wheat) lie, at least I'm making the trip in a bread basket, and hopefully with some of these yummy buns tucked alongside me.

Faux "French Health Rolls"
Makes 15
1 cup active sourdough starter (feed it a couple times before making this)
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tbsp instant mashed potato flakes
¼ tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp raw sugar (I steal the packets from Starbucks... shhh!)
2 ½ cups flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp whole flax seeds
  1. The night before baking, cover 12-grain cereal with hot water and let stand overnight.
  2. The morning of baking, lightly oil a 9 x13” pan.
  3. In a sturdy bowl, combine the sourdough starter (which should be vibrant and frothy), water, potato flakes, yeast, and sugar.
  4. Begin beating in the flour, adding ½ cup at a time until dough is manageable.
  5. Knead for 2 minutes. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
  6. Drain the soaked grains and combine with the salt, melted butter, lemon juice and flax seeds.
  7. Knead in this mixture until well dispersed, then continue kneading 8-9 minutes until supple.
  8. Place dough in a bowl, cover and set in a warm place to double in size, about 2 hours.
  9. When dough has doubled, punch down and with lightly floured hands, form into 15 rolls.
  10. Place in the oiled pan and cover. Allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  12. Bake the pan of rolls for 20 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 218.0
Total Fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 4.1 mg
Sodium: 13.4 mg
Total Carbs: 41.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.0 g
Protein: 7.0 g

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spicing Up the Season

It's no secret that, as a recent grad, I'm a little strapped for cash this holiday gift-giving season. That said, I'm also one of those people that can't help but want to give my family and friends the "best" of everything - they've been so kind, understanding and generous to me over the years that I could never begin to repay them, but I at least set out to try.

Luckily, the best gifts are always those from the heart - and I'm well practiced at giving those! From when I first realized the process of "giving" at holiday and birthday times, I began concocting things I could bring to the event. Even though my parents would foot the bill for "proper" gifts from the store for the friends and family, I would find a way to do something of my own. My three year old self thrived on giving my relatives hand-drawn stick figure-and-scribble pictures (with a bow stuck to them) as presents, and once I started Home Ec in elementary school it was pretty much a guarantee that the last project of the year would become the first thing wrapped for my parents.

These days my giving list has changed somewhat, though the number of recipients has stayed more or less the same. The major difference over the years is that I've begun to refine the items I make to give away, focusing on my cooking and baking strengths (which should be obvious from this blog!) and finding a way to package them attractively (in an upcoming book review you'll see how a real gifter operates! One of my "themes" for this year's gifting stems from the bounty and variety of things my garden gave me over the summer. Grape jam, green tomato chutney, green tomato-carrot-beet mincemeat and roasted "everything" sauce were simmered, stewed, stirred and canned, awaiting their chance to be gilded with ribbons and bows and given away along with the prerequisite baked goodies (one of which you know is a constant, the others as yet are unshared!).

When I set about making that Sweet Garlic Pomodoro Sauce, I found that I had more tomatoes than I really wanted at my disposal. Instead, I set about making this rich, sweet and spicy tomato preserve laced with touches of ginger, cinnamon and lime. I decided on a blend of recipes that I had from books and two delicious looking blogs that translated into a mix of dark brown sugar, chili flakes, pineapple sage, lime, ginger and cinnamon that the tomatoes cooked in until they were a rich, thick, caramelly mass. I scaled down the recipes (thank you Excel!) and it made exactly 1 cup, perfect for the two tiny jam jars I had. I think it would be fitting for a cheese and cracker plate, or stirred into steamed broccoli and asparagus for a weeknight side.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twice the Tasty Tarts

Now that December's come around and brought the flurry of parties, open houses and other shindigs along with it, I wanted to share a few of my recent successes when it comes to things yummy and portable. Unfortunately, I've been a pretty big fail the past few days when it comes to taking decent photos of my cooking, and making sure the photos I have taken actually save onto my hard drive - so you'll simply have to picture the goodies yourself!

Tartlets are pretty much a perfect party food, since you can put almost anything in a pastry shell, bake it (if need be) and voila - appetizers or desserts in half an hour. Its hard to pass up two-bite nibblies, and when it comes to the appetizer table tartlets beat out chips and dip hands down - if for no other reason than they are their own dip cup and chip in one! I was trying to figure out a good bring-along treat for an early-season get together with the family and found these phyllo shells at the local grocery store. My mom loves phyllo anything, and originally wanted to buy a premade fig and brie appetizer in the flaky shells, but once I pitched this to her and make them, those storebought pastries were long forgotten.