Monthly Archives: November 2011

Muffin Monday: Bread Pudding Muffins

Things have been pretty hectic around here lately, which unfortunately has resulted in a couple of skipped Muffin Mondays. Luckily I am able to live vicariously through my fellow food bloggers each week. I love reading their muffin related adventures! We have all really become such a close knit community – all brought together through a shared passion for muffins. Go figure.

Speaking of passion for muffins, let me tell you about this week’s Bread Pudding Muffin recipe. It’s fantastic! At first read I must admit to having been intrigued but not overly ecstatic, but they turned out so well that by the end of the afternoon only two lone soldiers remained out of the dozen baked. Not telling how many I ate.

The recipe comes from the cookbook The Best of, and really allows for your creativity to take flight. The ingredients are mere suggestions, leaving you with plenty of room to experiment with the type of bread (French, Broiche, Challah, Croissant, Italian, or Panettone would all work well), choice of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, currents, dried cherries or blueberries…the list is endless). You could even try swapping out the cream for eggnog which I am definitely going to try next time, and lemon or orange zest would provide a nice punch of flavour.

For my muffins I ended up using a couple of gorgeous loaves of egg bread studded with raisins and currents and a sweet blueberry filling. The results were incredible! I loved the eggy texture of the muffins which were very reminiscent of a bread pudding, the extra chunks of bread thrown in at the end provided a nice texture, and the vanilla, brandy and cinnamon all worked together beautifully to create what has now become my hubby’s favourite muffin.

For a copy of the original recipe for Bread Pudding Muffins, please visit Baker Street’s site and be sure to check out what the other food bloggers have baked up this week!

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Interview – Julie Van Rosendaal & Sue Duncan

The latest project for Calgary-based broadcaster, blogger and cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal, is a cookbook collaboration with her good friend Sue Duncan. The subject matter? BEANS!

Full of humorous stories and anecdotes, Spilling the Beans is an informative guide to everything bean related that will help guide you towards a healthier, fiber filled lifestyle. Julie and Sue provide you with the tools and knowledge on how best to prepare and cook a variety of beans, lentils and grains. Recipes range from appetizers to desserts and are sure to please established legume lovers as well as the rookies.

Julie and Sue were recently at Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store, where they spent the evening cooking up tasty dishes from their new book. I got a chance to sit down with them before their class to chat about Spilling the Beans.


Food & Wine Magazine: November Cover Recipe

Cider-Glazed Turkey with Lager Gravy

Rating: 5 out of 5 (the moistest, most golden turkey EVER!)

Initial Thoughts: Just breathe. You are a talented cook. Think of it as a giant chicken. Visualize the deliciousness. Breathe.

THE TEST: No matter which magazine I’ve committed to making cover recipes, the November issue is always at the back of my mind throughout the year. You know it’s gonna be a turkey. Usually a whole bird. Probably something that involves a new and exciting twist on the traditional. And as someone with limited experience cooking turkeys…let’s just say the intimidation level is high.

My fears? That it will be too dry. That it will taste – well, boring. That I will spend $60+ dollars on a turkey that people hate and it all goes to waste. That it will burn. That it will be undercooked. That it will take longer to cook than specified in the recipe and by 9pm my guests are famished and grumpy, the side dishes cold and dried out or wilty.

Growing up it was usually ham or a turkey breast roll that graced our holiday table, so I don’t have any family secrets to lean on or inherited turkey master genes. I must rely completely on the recipe and hope for the best! So when I saw this year’s Food & Wine Magazine’s Thanksgiving cover recipe was developed by none other than Iron Chef Michael Symon, I relaxed. Slightly.

By the way, did anyone else notice the recurring theme of apple cider this year?! Aside from Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appétit featured a cider based turkey as did Canadian Living. Guess it must be apple cider’s five minutes of fame.

Believing that brining a turkey makes the meat rubbery, Chef Symon prefers to salt it well and refrigerate overnight. After last year’s success with Bon Appétit Magazine’s Salt-Roasted Turkey with Lemon & Oregano, I had complete faith in this type of preparation. As the turkey sits, the salt draws moisture to the skin and while cooking creates a flavourful liquid that seasons the meat and keeps it moist.

After stuffing the turkey with an assortment of flavour inducing ingredients (including a granny smith apple, jalapeño, head of garlic and fresh sage leaves), cheesecloth that’s been soaked in cider-infused melted butter is draped over the turkey breasts and legs and kept on for the entire cooking period.

Trust me when I say it makes your house smell incredible within minutes of putting the turkey into the oven.

Some of the butter splashed onto the bottom of the oven while cooking, causing smoke to immediately billow up. Solution? Sprinkle table salt over the spill and voilà – no more smoke. (Thanks Mom for a great tip that has saved me countless times!)

Preparing the gravy takes some time, the process rather lengthy and involved. In fact, the instructions for making the gravy takes up more space in the recipe than the directions for the turkey! You start by sautéing the turkey neck, wing tips and giblets, and then make a roux before simmering the lager spiked gravy for approximately 1 ½ hours. Once the turkey is finished cooking, add the drippings to the gravy and season with salt and pepper. NOTE: the recipe calls for seasoning and cooking the turkey liver and puréeing it to add to the gravy. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go that far and my results were still delicious, although I have heard that the liver can add great flavour.

THE RESULTS: In Canada we have our Thanksgiving holiday in October, so because of the cover recipe challenge I end up hosting what my friend Ashley calls “Fakes-giving Dinner”. It’s become a fun tradition! I love having friends and family over on a random night for a full on turkey dinner…it’s a pleasurable excuse to cook up a big meal and has become a semi-holiday in our house.

After removing the crispy cheesecloth once the turkey had finished cooking, our eyes were greeted with the most glorious, golden turkey EVER. People kept commenting that it was so perfect looking it almost seemed fake!

The meat was moan worthily moist. The breast meat so juicy you would swear you were eating chicken! The richness of the butter was perfectly complimented by the slight hint of sage, and the gravy was full of robust turkey flavour. It was poured liberally by everyone over their entire plates! Mr. Spock ended up adding a dash of freshly grated nutmeg to the gravy which was fantastic and added a nice depth. A score of 5 was awarded by everyone, including my 1 ½ year-old niece who up until this point had been staging a nice hunger strike.

Big thumbs up!

Cover Recipe:
Cider-Glazed Turkey with Lager Gravy

NOTE: This month’s wine pairing once again comes courtesy of our resident wine expert, Kendall Harris, who’s suggested pinot noir by The Show was a HUGE hit at our table! Light and waaaaaay to easy to drink, this wine paired perfectly with the richness of the meal. Thanks Kendall!


Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three

Kendall Harris shares her adventures in the wine world as Wine2three on Twitter & Facebook. She is WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Advanced Certified & is currently developing a weekly wine series on ShawTV, where she is a full time reporter. Join her on Facebook – click LIKE at for regular fun wine info!

Pinot Noir is a classic wine pairing with Thanksgiving Dinner, for several reasons. The Pinot Noir grape is a thin-skinned grape, resulting in a lighter-bodied wine that matches beautifully with lighter meats like turkey. Pinot Noir also typically displays flavours of cherry and raspberry, which go well with Thanksgiving’s ubiquitous cranberry sauce. I recommend The Show’s 2010 Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown in the cool Leyda Valley in Chile, which is becoming renowned for its Pinot Noir. This particular wine is made by three well known American winemakers who call themselves the Three Thieves. The idea is they take their “Show” on the road and travel the world, “stealing” (buying at a great price) the best grapes from the best winemaking regions to make award-winning wines. This wine has a beautiful, smoky bouquet, with flavours of wild cherry, rich plum, and hints of spice. It’s elegant, smooth and delicious, and for less than $20 in Canada, it’s a steal from the Three Thieves!  

As part of my culinary New Year’s resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.

NOTE: If any of you would like to follow along with me and join in on the fun, I’d love to compare notes! So pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking. Be sure to send your comments and photos to

The mission of Food & Wine Magazine is to find the most exciting places, new experiences, emerging trends and sensations in the culinary and wine industries. From travel and entertaining to luxury and design, this magazine brings an energetic and stylish take on food and wine. For more information on Food & Wine Magazine, please visit


Muffin Monday: Gingerbread Muffins

Welcome to the third week of the holiday edition of Muffin Monday! This week’s recipe? A simple version of Gingerbread Muffins courtesy of Betty Crocker. It is quick and easy to prepare, the spicy aroma guaranteed to get your sleepyheads up and at ’em even on the coldest, darkest of November mornings.

I happen to love gingerbread and was hoping that there would be a gingerbread muffin in the mix. There’s just something about the dense, sweet, treacle spiced taste of gingerbread that goes hand in hand with the holidays. Baking these muffins made my house smell incredible. I had to really…really try hard not to start belting out Christmas carols. All in good time.

Wanting to really showcase the flavour of gingerbread in these muffins, I ended up adding a plethora of additional spices beyond that which was called for in the recipe: 1 Tbsp ground ginger, ¾ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp ground cardamom. I also added ¼ cup of strong coffee which I find really dials up the flavour of the molasses and spices, similar to the way it does with chocolate. It also helps to keep the muffins nice and moist. As for the topping, I opted to add crystalized ginger and a drizzle of melted white chocolate.

The result? Perfection.

These muffins turned out incredibly moist with a great texture that included the perfect proportion of density vs. fluffiness, and that lovely treacle flavour that always reminds me of the holiday season.

Is there a particular flavour or food item that represents the holidays for you? I would love to hear what gets you to fa la la la la your way into the spirit of the season!

For a copy of the original recipe for Gingerbread Muffins, please visit Baker Street’s site and be sure to check out what the other food bloggers have baked up this week!

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.


Interview – Joanne Chang

I bet you can count the number of pastry chefs with a Harvard degree in applied mathematics and economics on one hand. In fact, you can probably count them using just one finger.

Joanne Chang.

Born in Houston (TX), Joanne’s passion for food was the impetus for an unexpected foray into the culinary world. In the year 2000 she opened Flour Bakery & Café in Boston (MA) that immediately began attracting legions of loyal fans. Joanne has since opened two additional Flour bakeries along with Myers + Chang, a restaurant she opened with her husband Christopher Myers and which she describes as being a funky indie diner with food inspired by Taiwanese soul food and Southeast Asian street food.

In 2010 Joanne released her eagerly awaited cookbook – Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery & Café – and is currently working on a second book. She also writes articles and reviews cookbooks for Fine Cooking Magazine.

Confession? I have long admired Joanne Chang. Basically she inspires me to the point that I want to move to Boston and study pastry (shhh…don’t tell my hubby!) So when I recently had the opportunity to interview my pastry hero I jumped at the chance.


Okay so I’ve got to ask: how do you go from applied mathematics and economics to pastry?!
Well, I didn’t go straight into pastry. After graduation I spent two years working as a management consultant with no plans to go into the food industry whatsoever, but at the end of my second year I found myself at a crossroads and was trying to figure out what to do next. Because I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do, I thought I would spend a year doing something that I had previously enjoyed strictly as a hobby – cooking – and see where it might lead. So I ended up getting a job at a top restaurant in Boston working for famed chef/restaurateur Lydia Shire, which came about after I sent letters to various establishments basically saying that I had no experience or a professional culinary background but that I love to cook and would be willing to start anywhere. Working with Lydia I got my first glimpse into the world of professional pastry, and a year later I began working at Rick Katz’s bakery called Bentonwood.

What was it initially about pastry that held such fascination for you?
I really loved the controlled aspect of pastry. I appreciate the precise nature of pastry; there’s a lot of math and science involved which obviously resonated with my background. And to be honest I really enjoy eating sweets! I could eat pastries all day long.    

You first got into the food industry by sending out letters to chefs you admired. This was before the whole celebrity chef phenomenon, and so have things changed? How much of an importance do you place on culinary education vs. good ol’ fashioned experience in today’s market?
At the time that I sent out my letters people didn’t really do that sort of thing. Cooking professionally as a career wasn’t something that was on people’s radar to the extent that it is today. Nowadays the food industry in general is much more high profile because of celebrity chefs and the Food Network. Because I didn’t go to culinary school, our stores don’t have any food specific prerequisites for hiring. But because of today’s significant amount of interest in the food industry, I find we have to go through our non-experienced applicants with a finer toothed comb than was necessary when I was just starting out. A lot of people without experience tend to have a glamourized image of what it means to cook professionally, whereas in the past this desire to work in the culinary world came more from a genuine love of cooking.

I love how your book is so personal, and through your recipe introductions and personal anecdotes readers come away feeling as if they really know you. What was your initial vision for this book?
The end result of my book is pretty much what I had initially envisioned! Because I became a pastry chef indirectly, I can still remember what it was like learning how to make all of these pastries. So my goal was to create a book where I could share my love for pastry and passion for baking. Every recipe that I put in the book is very personal to me. A lot of people who cook seem nervous about baking, and I wanted to break down these perceived barriers between cooking and baking and show how a good recipe and learned technique can make a baker out of anyone!

You occasionally review cookbooks for Fine Cooking magazine. In your mind, what makes a cookbook great?
I definitely like the stories, learning where the recipe comes from and why the author thinks it’s worth including in their book. To be honest, I have a problem with baking books that don’t use weights (metric measurements). Personally, metric cookbooks signify to me that recipes have been calibrated and written in a precise manner allowing for the baker to achieve optimal results.

Your recipes are so exact and show the level of thought that goes into them…for example the banana bread calls for 3.5 bananas. I’ve tried making it with that extra half and it’s just not the same! What does it take to get a recipe to this point of perfection, and once you’re happy with something do you leave it alone forever or occasionally tweak it? People want to make the food that they buy at our stores. It’s the reason they buy the book in the first place! So the recipes in the book are what we make in our bakeries. That being said, we’re making batches of 28 loaves of banana bread so everything had to be calibrated to work for portions more applicable to home cooks. If you divide our banana bread recipe by 28 you end up with 3.5 bananas and so I didn’t want to mess around with that number! I often hear people complain that they love a particular restaurant or bakery and bought their cookbook but the results never turn out the same. It’s not that the author is trying to be deceptive – it’s just that there is a lot of adjusting that needs to happen when you take a recipe that is meant to be made in larger quantities and scale it down for readers. Trust me – it’s not an easy task!

Good thing you’ve got that background in math!

In your book you take complicated pastries that can take years of training and experience to perfect, and break them down into instructions that make them less intimidating for the home cook. How difficult was it to make your recipes home cook friendly?
It wasn’t overly difficult; it just took a lot of time. Throughout the whole process I kept having to think about why we do things a certain way. I’m naturally a very specific person, so approaching a recipe in this manner was fairly easy for me to do. It didn’t feel completely alien!

Last year was supposedly the year of the cupcake, this year is being labeled the year of the pie…do you believe in food trends? If so, what are your predictions?
I don’t think anyone can deny that cupcakes have become a major trend. The media works really hard to push trends and people seem to naturally gravitate towards the idea of food trends. Personally, I am a pie pusher! Hopefully we’ll see pie start to really increase in popularity with the masses. Love pie.

You once mentioned that one of the most challenging pastry items to make has been the infamous croissant. Have you mastered it yet? What’s the secret?
The tricky thing about croissants is that there are so many variables that can affect the final product; temperature of the butter, temperature of the water, temperature of the air, etc. When you make croissants every day or every week you are able to intuitively know how the dough and butter need to react, how your fingers can manipulate the dough for the look you want, the proper way to lineup the butter and dough layers for maximum flakiness.

What is your favourite thing to make?
That’s a hard question to answer! There isn’t just one thing I like to make the most above and beyond anything else. I enjoy making carrot cakes, I love tackling croissants, shaping brioche…actually there’s very little I don’t like to make when it comes to pastry!

How do pastry chefs not weigh 5,000 lbs?! I have a number of dessert cookbooks to review and I’m scared for my waistline. What goes into recipe development for pastry chefs? (When I asked this question to Gale Gand she said no one believes her when she says she comes home from work STARVING!)
I think when you work with pastry all day long and have access to it all the time there is less of a need to consume as much of it as you can! It will always be there so you don’t really feel any pressure to overindulge. I also think that doing pastry is such a physical job (lifting bags of flours, manhandling huge sheet trays, on your feet for 8-12 hours a day). It’s a very physical job! People underestimate how much hard work is involved in this profession.

Would you consider writing another book?
Actually I’m currently working on a second book right now! The working title is Flour Power: recipes from our kitchen all day, and it basically consists of breakfast, lunch, dinner and special occasion recipes. It has more of a focus on savoury foods; lots of sandwiches, soups, dinner ideas that have become signature items at our Flour Bakeries. But don’t worry – there will still be lots of pastries!

To read the cookbook review for Flour, please click here

To read more of our interviews with professional and celebrity chefs, please visit the Sound Bites section

REVIEW Canadian Living: The International Collection

By Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Cookbook review written by contributing writer Aimée White

Canadian Living: The International Collection is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

For additional information on this book please visit Random House Inc. 

Canadian Living
 has come out with a brilliant new cookbook, titled The International Collection: Home-Cooked Meals From Around the World (published by Random House Inc., $27.95 CDN). Its premise is a beautiful one. In the opening pages, Canadian Living’s Food Director, Annabelle Waugh, explains how a multicultural team of first and second generation Canadians assembled the contents of this cookbook in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen. Not intentionally, but simply because they represent a microcosm of present-day Canada: a rich array of cultures, ethnicities, and traditions. In Waugh’s words, “Canadian cooking has been largely built upon a foundation of recipes that were brought to this country by immigrants… [their] cooking styles have become integral parts of the beautiful mosaic that makes up Canada’s culinary culture.”

The goal of this cookbook is to introduce a rich array of home cooked, international dishes into Canadian kitchens but without going broke at speciality food stores in the process. The idea is to make foreign dishes accessible and attainable, and that’s definitely a goal I can stand behind. There is just so much to explore in international food culture, and Canadians can benefit greatly from the traditions and recipes that new (and not so new) Canadian families bring with them.

As you can see by the yellow sticky notes in my first recipe test, there are countless recipes in this book I’m dying to try! Canadian Living provides a wide variety of recipes that represent every region of the world. One element of the book that really stood out to me was on the very last page:  12 regionally inspired or country-specific menus drawn from the recipes in the book. These meal plans are great inspiration for people who may not have dabbled much in international cuisine, or if you just don’t have enough energy or time to think about putting together a plan of your own at the end of the day. And let’s be honest, that can happen!

Unfortunately there were also a few minor things I didn’t like about this cookbook, including the fact that I didn’t love the overall layout of the recipes. Several of the recipes I looked at worked in reverse order of the ingredient list when explaining the method. The method was also written in paragraph form in the middle of the page, with ingredients on the outer margin. At times it made for recipes that didn’t read smoothly or feel intuitive. There were also many occasions when I wished the recipes included details on preparation time. I walked through many of the recipes in my head in order to get an estimate on time, and on more than one occasion I guessed wrong.

That being said, in terms of the general content and layout I really liked the fact that they made two mains sections: the first being for every day mains, the second category being for entertaining. A nice distinction, because there really is a difference is most cases.

At the end of the day, once I got past the layout of the recipes I saw that they were well-written and informative. Each one I tested met with great success, which is a credit to both the recipe writers and the editors. I would thus highly recommend buying this book. It is diverse enough to challenge even the most adventurous cook, while still being accessible enough for a newcomer to international cuisine. It’s an excellent collection of recipes and a cookbook with heart; a winning combination if you ask me.

For a sample recipe from this cookbook, please click here