Monthly Archives: December 2011

Liquid Holiday Cheer

By The Stay-At-Home-Chef

Eggnog has always been one of my favourite holiday consumables. I adore the intense flavour of nutmeg, the rich and velvety texture that just begs for it to be added to pretty much everything. Cookies, pancakes, French toast, trifles, cupcakes…you name it and I’ve probably added eggnog to it at some point. But by far my most coveted way of enjoying this holiday treat is in a glass mixed with rum and a splash of Amarula (my brother-in-law’s secret ingredient).

While I have been a fan of eggnog ever since childhood, it is something that I have never attempted to make myself. To be honest, the whole raw egg thing kinda freaked me out. But by all accounts homemade is best so I was determined to give it a try this year. Then I picked up the winter issue of Edible Vancouver which included a recipe for old-fashioned eggnog. After speaking to our contributing writer Helena McMurdo who photographed the article and raved about the recipe, my mind was made up: the time had come for me to set aside any qualms and whip up a batch of nog.

Now I should add a disclaimer that whenever you consume raw or lightly cooked eggs there is a possibility of exposure to salmonella bacteria, which can be particularly harmful to more vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, pregnant women or others with weak immune systems. For more information on this topic along with some handy dandy egg safety tips, you can visit The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s site.

Now that the nitty gritty is out of the way, let’s get back to the recipe!

Kera Willis is the person responsible for my new appreciation for eggnog, and it is her family recipe that is included in the Edible Vancouver article. The process involves whipping egg yolks with sugar, to which you can then add the alcohol of your choice (rum is the most common option although brandy is also a coveted addition). Whipped egg whites are then folded into the yolk mixture, and the whole thing is finished off by folding in a litre of whipped cream along with some freshly grated nutmeg.

The results are incredible and to be honest I’m not sure if the English language has enough adjectives to accurately describe its perfection. Impossibly velvety, this eggnog is unlike any I have ever tasted. The level of creamy goodness is so far beyond that of regular commercial variety eggnog you can’t really compare the two. The texture is incredibly thick and rich – the ultimate boozy milkshake! It is perfect for sipping, savouring and moaning over this holiday season, and we will definitely be making another batch to ring in the new year in style (and taste!)

For a copy of the recipe for Old-Fashioned Eggnog please visit Edible Vancouver

Food & Wine Magazine: December Cover Recipe

Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots & Lemons

Rating: 4 out of 5 (interesting, innovative & tasty)

Initial Thoughts: Huh. This doesn’t look much like the gooey, sinfully decadent dessert I was expecting. Come to think of it; there hasn’t been a sweet cover recipe all year. What be up with dat?!

THE TEST: Even though this recipe falls into the non-dessert category, my disappointment was short lived because – well – LOOK!

Isn’t this a gorgeous looking roast?!

The recipe is courtesy of Jeff Cerciello, chef at Los Angeles’ Farmshop restaurant. It is straightforward to prepare but has several steps, which although not time consuming definitely need to be done ahead of time. At the center of this dish lies the fiery North African spice paste harissa, which along with olive oil is rubbed into a bone-in leg of lamb after garlic is shoved into slits across the surface of the meat. Homemade preserved lemons are made by curing lemon slices in salt and sugar, and are then laid on top of the lamb along with fresh thyme and baked in the oven. Just before the meat is finished cooking to your desired level of doneness, dried apricots and oil-cured black olives are thrown in for good measure.

Is now a good point for me to interject with my deviations from the recipe? Okay good.

Even though I was most excited about the cured lemon slices, for some reason when it came time to prepare the lamb I completely spaced on them until just before throwing the lamb on the BBQ. Personally, I blame my distraction on the four different types of Christmas cookies I was baking, homemade eggnog I was making and photographing for an upcoming blog post, not to mention parenting two little girls who have been home from school for a week and are verging on near hysteria over Santa’s impeding arrival.

I also decided to have Mr. Spock fire up the BBQ as the oven was occupied by the aforementioned cookies. While it turned out well, I think braising the meat in the oven as called for in the recipe would work much better for this dish. There was a level of moistness and tenderness that was missing from the BBQ.

Because there were only three of us dinning the night I made this recipe, instead of cooking an 8-pound leg I prepared two itty bitty boneless leg roasts. I also seemed to have overestimated the expiry date on my dried apricots. Who does that?! But I still topped the lamb with the oil-cured olives, which added a nice saltiness to the dish.

THE RESULTS: We all agreed that this was a recipe we’d definitely make again in the future. To be honest, I’d like to try making it without all of my inadvertent deviations. In particular, I imagine the cured lemon slices would have imparted a nice, tangy bite that was missing. I would also avoid cooking it on the BBQ, even though the flavour of the char did compliment the smokiness of the harissa nicely. And the salty olives, spicy chili paste and rich lamb would have been perfect with the sweetness of apricots, rounding out the overall flavour profile.

I loved the creativity of this recipe and can’t wait to make it again!

Now I’m going to hop on over to Aimée White’s blog to see what she thought about this month’s cover recipe. Aimée prepared this dish weeks ago for her sweetie’s birthday! I LOVE having her ‘virtual’ company in the kitchen each month cooking up cover recipes, and can’t wait for us to discover what 2012 holds for us with F&W. If any of you would like to join us, the more the merrier!  And don’t forget to check out Kendall Harris’ wine pairing suggestion – it’s been a long time since I had a merlot and this one is great! 

Cover Recipe:
Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots & Lemons

NOTE: This month’s wine pairing once again comes courtesy of our resident wine expert, Kendall Harris, whose suggested merlot by Rodney Strong was perfect with the rich lamb and fiery spice from the harissa. Another great suggestion Kendall!

Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three

For this particular dish I recommend trying a Merlot. A nice fruity Merlot; something widely available and well-priced like the classic $22.99 (CDN) version from Rodney Strong of California.

Here are the factors to be considered: with spicy food, the general rule of thumb is to pair it with a sweeter wine such as Rieslings or Gewürztraminer. Spicy Food does not suit spicy wines so for this recipe which is high on heat, a spicy Shiraz, Malbec or Zinfandel are not the best option.

I suggested a red wine because this is a weighty dish, and I wanted a fruity wine (which is sweeter tasting than a really dry red wine) to complement the spiciness of the lamb. This California merlot is a soft fruity choice that I’ve had twice and loved, and it’s widely available.

Hope you like it!

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!


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


COOKBOOK REVIEW Nigella Christmas

By Nigella Lawson

Nigella Christmas is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this cookbook please click here


Cookbook review written by

Nigella Lawson is a successful cookbook author, television host, and New York Times contributor. Hers is a household name known across the globe, famous for her – shall we say ‘racy’? – approach to food. Nigella often receives criticism for her lack of formal culinary education, but with a total of eight hugely successful cookbooks she obviously knows a thing or two about food.

Nigella Christmas (published by Hyperion, $50 CDN)  not only provides you with the culinary arsenal needed for the 25th, but contains recipes and menu ideas that will see you through most of your special occasion entertaining needs. There are many dishes that would be perfect to serve at cocktail parties, birthday dinners, Easter and Thanksgiving celebrations.

The book is built around Nigella’s signature casual approach to entertaining, and acknowledges the fact that for a lot of us mere mortals the holidays can be a stressful, crazed time of the year. Instead of spending the entire Christmas season slaving away in the kitchen, Nigella’s goal is to provide us with the tools that enable us to lounge in the living room looking gorgeous and sipping a fun cocktail (or two). Everything is based on the idea of planning and cooking ahead as much as possible, in order to ensure minimum stress and maximum enjoyment.

I like the make ahead and freeze ahead tips included for each recipe. The photography (by famed British photographer Lis Parsons)  is attractive and festive, inspiring not only culinary related delights but design and gift wrapping ideas as well. Some people find the red and green print a bit over the top, but to those people I say a big loud ‘bah humbug’. It’s a Christmas book! The kitschier the better. At least in my humble opinion.

At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I have to admit I found myself getting frustrated with the frequent recipe conversions I needed to make. Being a UK publication, the good ol’ metric vs. imperial issue was at hand. But my exasperation did raise an interesting question: do folks outside of North America get equally frustrated with our measurements? Would love to hear what you think! Are listed measurements in cookbooks an issue for you or not?

A common complaint people have about this book is in regards to the long recipe intros. While I agree that they are long and full of flowery language, that’s kinda how Nigella rolls so if you don’t like that style why buy her book? Personally, I appreciated the fun, personal anecdotes that include information on the recipe’s origin along with past mistakes Nigella has made and from which we can learn.


Christmas Cookbook Giveaways!

Bet that got your attention, didn’t it?! Who doesn’t love free cookbooks, and as a special gift in time for the holidays our CookThatBook team will be giving away a copy of A Field Baker’s Guide to Christmas Cookies by Dede Wilson & Gourmet Gifts by Dinah Corley to two lucky readers. The books come courtesy of our friends at Thomas Allen & Sons Ltd., the oldest family-owned and operated agency publisher in Canada. You can find out more about them by visiting their website.

The draw will be made on December 16th so hurry – the big day is approaching fast and we want to make sure these books go to good homes! To enter your name for a chance to win either A Field Baker’s Guide to Christmas Cookies or Gourmet Gifts, please leave a comment below telling us about your favourite holiday cookie. Don’t forget to include which book you’d prefer to receive.

Want additional chances to win? ‘Like’ us on Facebook and/or retweet the following on Twitter: Just entered to win FREE xmas cookbooks via @cookthatbook

In continuation of the spirit of giving, a number of our fantastic CookThatBook contributors have submitted a holiday recipe for you to try. Be sure to check out the tasty Christmas treats being whipped up in their kitchens!

Ashley Astells – Eggnog Cookies

Jacqueline Twa – Chinese Peanut Butter Cookies 

Anuradha Sharma – Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

Helena McMurdo – Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Aimée White – Mexican Wedding Cakes

Stay-At-Home-Chef – Chocolate Mint Cookies

Kendall Harris – Dessert Wine Pairing

Happy Holidays!
from everyone at CookThatBook

Muffin Monday: Baklava Muffins

This week’s recipe comes from domestic goodness Ms. Nigella Lawson, and is one that has received rave reviews online. Ironically it also happened to be a recipe that I’ve had bookmarked for ages. Go figure! I was finally gonna get my chance to give it a try.

Combining the exotic, spiced flavouring of Baklava within a muffin form, the recipe basically layers a straightforward muffin batter with a filling of walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. The chopped nuts and syrupy nature of this famed dessert came through nicely, although without the signature filo pastry I found it reminded me more of a streusel muffin than baklava. But it was still good! Really good.

Wanting to dial up the beautiful spiced flavour that I love in baklava, I decided to use eggnog as my liquid ingredient (you could also use buttermilk or a combination of plain yogurt and low-fat milk). The creaminess of the eggnog made these some of the most moist muffins I’ve made to date!

I also opted to use some lovely blood orange infused syrup that my brother-in-law dropped off after confessing he would have no idea what to do with the stuff. Score! I loved the slightly tart orange flavour which imparted a fantastic tang without becoming too overpowering. I can’t wait to experiment further with this syrup – fancy holiday cocktails anyone?!

For a copy of the original recipe for Baklava 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.



By Krystina Castella

A World of Cake is available for purchase through our online store or at local book stores. For more information on this cookbook please visit Storey Publishing.


Cookbook review written and photographed by contributing writer Helena McMurdo

Krystina Castella, an art college professor, was inspired to begin work on A World of Cake following a bake sale she helped organize on her college campus. She asked her students to bring various cakes to sell and was surprised by the array of baked goods that her international students brought to the table. She became aware of just how narrow her definition of cake was and thought it would be an interesting project to explore this further. The result? A World of Cake.

Published by Storey Publishing, LLC($24.95 USD), this book is a 320+ page comprehensive look at cakes from around the world. It explores the subject matter through recipes, along with the various traditions and history that surround cake.

Some of the interesting and helpful features of this book include:

The world tour of cake holidays – in this introductory section, the author lists cakes under months of the year and pairs them with well-known and some lesser-known holidays. This is a great feature to inspire you if you are unsure of what to make or if you just need an excuse to bake a cake. Why not consider a French Opera Gateau for Bastille Day? Or perhaps some Zeppole for the Feast of St Gennaro?

The author lists traditional cakes for specific holidays, as well as other cakes whose suggested serving occasions are a bit more of a stretch. For example; I’m not exactly sure what Scottish Dundee Guinness Cake has to do with Super Bowl Sunday but I suppose any excuse for cake is a good one!

An international tour of cakes – the book is organized into geographic regions with several cakes being selected from each region and identified by their country of origin.  If when you think of cakes you think of France, Germany, Austria you will indeed find some of the well-known and famous cakes from these countries. I was much less familiar with the cakes of a host of countries from Asia and Africa, and some of the techniques used like steaming and frying. Most of all, I enjoyed the thoughtful excerpts at the top of each recipe that provided a better understanding of the traditions associated with each cake. There are also informative pages called ‘World Tours’ that focus on individual themes. For example; Christmas Cakes or Street Cakes which look at the traditions from various countries within that genre.

Layout and directions – for the most part I like the organization, layout and directions of the book. The recipes are well typeset with subheadings for cake, icing, filling, as well as preparation and assembly. Because many of the recipes have several steps, I found this to be a helpful feature. One thing I would have liked to see called out separately was the pan type. I often found myself digging through a recipe to find out what pan to use. The book also contains helpful sections about general baking and cake making tips, which as an infrequent baker, I found helpful as a reference.  Occasionally I found the specific details of the process to be lacking but for the most part the instructions were clear.

If you love to bake and are looking for new inspiration, this is the book for you. I was amazed by the sheer multitude of cakes, many of which were entirely new to me. But I was also very happy to find familiar favourites for which I had been lacking recipes.


Muffin Monday: Chocolate Brownie Muffins

Chocolate Brownie Muffins?! You had me at ‘chocolate’. Then sealed the deal with ‘brownie’. And won my heart with ‘Nutella’ as a listed ingredient. There would be no resistance to such a scrumptious sounding recipe – not in this household.

Instead of regular chocolate chips, I opted to use mint chocolate chips as I figured it would be a great flavour combination for this muffin. Other than this change, I have to admit that I stuck to the recipe. It sounded pretty near perfect so I was excited to taste the results. With the addition of sour cream and Nutella I figured it would be rich and moist and oh so lovely.

Not the case.

I am a little puzzled why my muffins turned out to be dry and disappointing. I did opt to make mini muffins fearing regular sized versions of such a decadent treat would be too intense. I did over bake the first batch but even my second attempt – while definitely better – were still rather sawdusty. Not sure what went wrong but I’m interested to see how the other Muffin Monday bloggers made out with this recipe.

Perhaps a generous dollop of Nutella in the middle would have increased the extravagantness of these muffins. Or a nice ganache spread on top. In the end I gave up on the idea of a third attempt and instead went and made another batch of last week’s Bread Pudding Muffins. Mmm…they were just as good as I remembered!

For a copy of the original recipe for Chocolate Brownie 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.


COOKBOOK REVIEW Spilling the Beans

By Julie Van Rosendaal & Sue Duncan  

Spilling the Beans is available for purchase through our online store or at local book stores. For more information on this cookbook please visit Whitecap Books


Cookbook review written and photographed by contributing writer Helena McMurdo

When it comes to beans; I have good intentions. I have them in my kitchen but I might as well confess that mostly they serve to make my glass storage jars look good. Yes, I know that beans are good for you – which is why I have them in the first place – in the hopes that I’ll make something with them someday and become a better person. It’s not like I don’t enjoy them when fed to me but given the choice between a chicken breast and some lentils (technically a pulse) and barley (a grain) I’d go for the chicken breast every time. Part of this stems from the fact that I know what to do with a chicken.

Thankfully there’s a new cookbook on the scene to help ease me out of my bean rut. With Spilling the Beans, authors Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan have succeeded in making even a reluctant bean eater like me change my tune. This book provides a host of simple recipes that make it easy and enticing to cook with beans and answers the fundamental question of “what on earth do I do with these things?”

Julie Van Rosendaal is a resident of Calgary (AB) and the food correspondent for The Calgary Eye Opener on CBC Radio One, co-host of TV’s Just Food and the food editor for Parents Canada magazine. Many readers will know her from her award-winning food blog; Already an accomplished author, her previous titles include Grazing, Starting Out and One Smart Cookie. For her latest release Julie has teamed up with her good friend Sue Duncan, who lives in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. You can learn more about Julie and Sue in the recent interview conducted by our very own Stay-At-Home-Chef (click here for full interview).

Although titled Spilling the Beans, this is really a book about beans AND grains. Julie and Sue explain that beans and grains work well together as a protein source because beans contain the amino acids that grains lack and vice versa. Beans are high in fibre, low in fat and full of nutrients. These benefits, along with those of whole grains, are discussed more fully in a small section authored by Julie’s father who happens to be a gastroenterologist. This is all well and good – but what will the recipes be like? Will I want to eat any of this stuff?!

Flipping through the book, I was pleased to see that there are lots of recipes that caught my eye right off the bat – from Savoury Hand Pies with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives and Lentils to scrumptious sounding snacks like Roasted Chickpeas & Pecans with Bacon & Maple Syrup. Even Black Eyed Pea and Kale Soup sounded great to me – yep I was feeling myself get healthier just by turning the pages.

The book contains a useful introduction that covers the various types of beans and bean definitions, legumes, pulse etc. as well as information on grains and how to cook them. The rest of the book is organized into chapters for various meal types. In addition to what you might expect (salads, soups, one-dish meals), there are also less expected sections including those for breakfast, sandwiches and even an extensive section on baking with beans. Did you know that you can make bread with beans? Or how about some waffles?

I see the recipes as falling into three broad categories – those that feature beans (i.e. with other ingredients), those that contain hidden beans and those where beans are the stars. I have mixed feelings about the hidden bean dishes. While I don’t believe in the ‘hide the vegetables from your kids’ school of thought, admittedly I don’t have kids and have never spent any time pleading with a six year-old to eat their broccoli. I can see how ‘hidden beans’ help add nutrition in areas we might not ordinarily see it. My preference would be to eat the dishes where beans are the star and where they are allowed to shine. Lucky for me, there are lots of those recipes in this book.

The recipes are simple and easy to understand and prefaced with summaries or anecdotes which bring a personal touch to this book. The authors encourage modification, a feature I always appreciate in a cookbook, and provide solid bases from which to work. Dishes have many different flavour profiles including those found in Indian, Mexican, French and Italian cuisine. And don’t think that because this book talks about beans as a source of protein that it means that it excludes meat dishes. Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Lentils & Barley, Pulled Pork & Beans and Roasted Sausages with Braised Lentils are just some of the heartier examples. There is plenty here for vegetarian and carnivore alike.

I think this is the type of book that you could cook from every week and always have something new and delicious to try.  The meals are simple, easy to prepare and surprise, surprise – they taste great.  This book is a great way to turn good intentions into real meals.