Monthly Archives: January 2012

COOKBOOK REVIEW Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals: 250 Fun & Fast Recipes

By Food Network Magazine

Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals: 250 Fun & Fast Recipes is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this cookbook please visit HarperCollins Canada 


Cookbook review written & photographed by

Put together by The Food Network, this cookbook (published by Hyperion, $24.99 USD) is a compilation of quick and easy dishes all geared towards busy weeknights when a lot of people find themselves reaching for takeout menus. Recipes offer a wide variety of options that are easily adaptable depending on dietary requirements or specific food cravings.

Helpful hints are scattered throughout the book, such as tossing cooked pasta with milk to prevent it from getting gummy. Works like a hot damn! However, if you purchase this book specifically because of the blurb on the cover that says it includes kitchen tips from Food Network stars, prepare to be disappointed. The insertions are not so much tips as personal trivia, which may be interesting to Food Network fans but is rather misguiding from the consumer’s perspective.

Side dish suggestions are often included at the bottom of recipes, allowing you to easily complete your meal. I tried a number of side dishes, including the Tomato-Basil Lima Beans, Bacon-Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Black Bean Salad. All of them were fantastic.

Not sure what to do with the leftovers? At the bottom of some of the recipes you will find a variety of tasty options, which are also designed to help you use up a particular ingredient that may have only called for a sparse amount.

If you are familiar with The Food Network Magazine, you will recognize the Mix & Match feature which offers a variety of different flavour options for the same basic recipe. For example; with chicken soup the book outlines a Mexican, Italian or Asian option outlined in a flowchart layout.

For those with more visual tendencies when it comes to preparing food, you will be happy to hear that there is a corresponding photo for each recipe. Even the index is arranged with a thumbnail pic of each dish. The overall layout and photographic elements are all bright and fresh, making you feel as if you’ve just stepped into a clean kitchen full of great light.

I really, really enjoyed reviewing this cookbook. Everything I tried turned out great, and I will definitely be keeping this one within easy reach for those busy weeknights. I appreciate the level of detail that went into the recipes as well as the overall layout. Highly recommend this one folks!


Bread – back to basics

Written by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

As we sailed slowly into the small harbour, I noticed someone on the hillside making their way down the steep slope. This person had a giant load of what I guess you could call brush on their back; a huge pile of gnarly twigs and small pieces of assorted types of wood. It was quite a load – the person looked almost bent over double with the large pile on their back.

Finally we got the sailboat docked and made our way slowly up to the restaurant, hoping they had ice to fill the glasses of our desperately needed gin and tonics. As we were quick to learn, ice is a commodity in these small harbours in southern Turkey.

We were part of a group of 12 nearest and dearest who had sailed from Greece through the islands into the South Western area and the small ports of Mediterranean Turkey. Small rocky ports with magical names like Datcha and Bodrum and Maramis, the area they call the Turquoise Coast where the Aegean and Mediterranean meet and mingle.



Food & Wine Magazine: January Cover Recipe

Nacho Burgers

Rating: 5 out of 5 (incredibly fresh & full of exciting flavours)

Initial Thoughts: Hallelujah – no diet food!

THE TEST: Each year I cringe at the thought of starting a new year with the clichéd diet. It’s so been done before. As a result, I stage my own private revolution and keep eating as per our family status quo. Don’t get me wrong; there is no more eggnog in our fridge or boxes of chocolates on the counter as per the whole month of December. But I like to think overall we eat a healthy, balanced diet. Everything in moderation, right?!

So when I saw the first cover of the year for Food & Wine Magazine I breathed a sigh of relief. Bobby Flay’s juicy, cheese sauce drenched Nacho Burger was right up my ally. Although for the record I did resist making fries and opted instead for this fantastic Black Bean Salad. See? Balance.

There are three elements to this burger: patties, salsa, and cheese sauce. The patties themselves are simple, consisting solely of ground beef (with some olive oil and s&p for seasoning). Both the salsa and cheese sauce are straightforward to prepare, taking hardly anytime at all. I ended up making the cheese sauce just before firing up the BBQ, which allowed the sauce to cool and thicken while the burgers were grilled.

THE RESULTS: Wowsa. Now this is a burger I will definitely be making again. And again.

In terms of flavour there is a lot going on, but what I loved was how everything turned out incredibly balanced. The freshness of the salsa complimented the creamy richness of the cheese sauce, the crumbled nachos added a great crunchy texture while the pickled jalapeños provided a subtle amount of heat and pickled tang. When dealing with such powerful ingredients keeping the patties simple and pure is the only way to go. Genius move.

I enjoyed having the traditional burger toper (cheese) in a sauce format, and next time would try using jalapeño Monterey Jack for some extra heat. And the salsa? Definitely my favourite part of this recipe. It was so fresh and bright! I loved the use of chipotle chili which provided heat traditionally achieved with a fresh jalapeño or serrano chili, but also lent a nice smokiness through the adobo sauce. Confession? I made tacos the night after making these burgers just so I had an excuse to whip up another batch of this salsa. Seriously good.

Now I’m going to hop on over to Food, Je t’Aimée to see what Aimée thought about this month’s cover recipe. Both of our significant others were ecstatic when they saw this month’s cover and couldn’t wait for us to test the recipe. If any of you would like to join Aimée and I each month, the more the merrier! And don’t forget to check out Kendall Harris’ wine pairing suggestion – it’s one of our favourites.

Cover Recipe:
Nacho Burgers

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


NOTE: This month’s wine pairing once again comes courtesy of our resident wine expert, Kendall Harris, who rose to the occasion to provide us with an excellent pairing suggestion that just might be my new beverage of choice when it comes to burgers!

Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three
I was thrilled to be asked to pair a wine with this gourmet burger recipe. All too often people hear burgers and think beer! But when you taste this delicious recipe when paired with a bold, fruity California Zinfandel I think you may be converted. The Zinfandel grape is as American as a good hearty burger, having been one of the earliest grape varietals planted on California soil by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and it continues to thrive today. I can recommend the Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel from an area of California called Lodi, which is well known for its Zinfandel production and hosts an annual ZinFest every Spring. This wine comes from vines with an average age of 85 years old, so you’re literally sipping a bit of American history! You’ll smell and taste some big, beautiful fruit – black cherry, wild strawberry and rich plum, with a hint of vanilla. Burgers and Zinfandel may just become your weekend preferred pairing!

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! 

Muffin Monday: Blueberry Muffins

As readers of this blog will know; I kind of have a ‘thing’ for blueberry muffins. As a child I fondly remember making batch after batch of blueberry muffins, but sadly the family recipe has since gone missing and all I have to go on is that it came from Robin Hood Flour and was called Maid Marian’s Muffins. In my mind it was the ultimate muffin – and I was hoping this recipe would replicate the fond memories I had of its blueberry goodness.

Very straightforward and easy, this recipe does not deviate from the norm except it does call for adding a tablespoon of dry ingredients to the blueberries. This is a fantastic trick to ensure your berries don’t bleed into the batter and are evenly distributed. It is a genius move and one that I will definitely use again in the future.

The only change I made to the recipe is that I opted to add the zest of one lemon to the batter. I love the added tang of citrus to my blueberry muffins, and in the past have also been known to dip the muffin tops into a combo of melted butter, sugar and lemon zest. Sinful – purely sinful.

These muffins were simple and pure. It’s a great recipe and I loved how moist they turned out with the addition of plain yogurt. Was it my ultimate blueberry muffin? Not quite – my search continues but in the meantime I highly recommend whipping up a batch of these beauties as it’s the perfect way to start a Monday morning.

For a copy of the original recipe for Blueberry 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.


Muffin Monday: Crusty Cheese & Onion Muffins

After nine weeks of sinfully extravagant holiday muffins, it’s time to hide the chocolate and cream cheese. Well…maybe not quite. We’ll have to see what Baker Street has in store for us – you never know! But kicking off a new year of muffins is a savoury recipe from Home Baked, by Australian Womens Weekly.

© 2012 CookThatBook

The recipe for Crusty Cheese & Onion Muffins is unlike any I’ve tried before. Be warned that there are quite a few steps involved and the preparation takes longer than with your typical muffin batter, but the results are well worth the effort! To be honest, I was ready to shake things up a bit in the muffin department.

First up? All-purpose flour and butter are mixed together with a touch of water until the dough can be formed into a ball, which is then placed in the freezer till firm (approximately 30 minutes). Meanwhile, get the frying pan out because we’re gonna sautée us some onions! I added bacon, finely chopped rosemary and some roasted garlic for kicks. The smell was tantalizing.

© 2012 CookThatBook

Once the onion mixture has had a chance to cool, it is mixed with self-raising flour, cheese (I opted for cheddar), chives (I used green onions), an egg, buttermilk (I had to use half and half as I didn’t have any buttermilk), and vegetable oil. The batter is spooned into a greased muffin tray, and topped with an interesting combination of leftover onion mixture, cheese, and the frozen dough from earlier which is grated into the mix.

© 2012 CookThatBook

Fresh out of the oven and slathered with butter, these muffins were incredible. The texture was perfect; super moist with the most delightfully crusty tops. I loved the fragrant punch that came from the rosemary, and the bacon and garlic all took this muffin to the next level. Even though the half and half substitution ended up working well, I could see how using buttermilk would have added a nice tang that would have complimented the muffins well. Next time.

© 2012 CookThatBook

For a copy of the original recipe for Crusty Cheese & Onion 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.

© 2012 CookThatBook

COOKBOOK REVIEW Fabulous Brownies

By  Annie Rigg

Fabulous Brownies is available for purchase through our online store or at local book stores. For more information on this cookbook please visit Thomas Allen & Son Ltd.


Cookbook review written & photographed by contributing writer Anuradha Sharma

When it comes to brownies I know most people like to stick with their tried-and-tested recipes, which are usually quick and tailored to their own palette. Their idea of experimenting is trying a different nut or substituting spices. I know this for a fact because I used to be that person.

But people change. Nowadays I rarely go back to the same recipe twice! And as for brownies, I say life’s too short to stay in the comfort zone. Experiment. That’s my new mantra when it comes to food. So now that you are aware of my enlightened approach to cooking, it should put into perspective my excitement when CookThatBook asked me to review a cookbook dedicated entirely to brownies.

As you flip through Annie Rigg’s Fabulous Brownies (published by Ryland Peters $15.95 USD), you will come across a few cute ideas that can take your basic brownies to the next level. But my happiness was short lived because there are only 27 recipes. Honestly, I was expecting more.

I had to pick three recipes to test for the review and I wanted to make sure there was a variety of different brownies; something for everyone. A simple Salted Caramel Brownie to keep you warm on a rainy day, luscious Gingerbread Brownies for some late night indulgence, and delectable Cupcake Brownies which are perfect for not sharing.

Now you should know that when it comes to brownies, there are three things that I absolutely need to have present:

1. A cracked top

2. A gooey core

3. Easy to bake

Overall while I did like the book, there were some issues. The photography by Laura Edwards is good but from a design perspective I found not enough importance was given to the layout of the recipes. Personally, I think cookbooks must have a clean design with a decently sized, readable font. This book falls short on both counts. And even though the recipes themselves provide great inspiration for experimenting with new and exciting brownie flavours, I was disappointed in the limited number of recipes.

The instructions are fairly simple but the author provides no tips for serving suggestions or storage. Sure, there is one short line included in the introduction that tells you the brownies should last 4-5 days at room temperature but this is not a universal rule. For instance, I think the brownies with ganache would be better stored in the fridge or at least kept in a cool place.  A variety of flavors and combinations would have taken this book to the next level.

There were definitely some nice decorative ideas, such as the Brown(ie) Owls which are absolutely adorable and the Whopper Brownies which would be a surefire hit with the kids. There’s no denying this book contains lots of inspiring ideas guaranteed to expand your typical brownie repertoire. I just wish there were more.

In conclusion, everyone loves brownies. They are the ultimate rich, gooey and pure indulgent treat. With three recipes down, I’ll be surely trying more and eating my way through this book one brownie at a time while adding to my brownie repertoire. But is it the ultimate brownie book I’ve been waiting for? Not quite.


Meet Contributing Writer Anuradha Sharma

Baker Street is the alter-ego of Anuradha, a woman who works all day as a television producer, takes care of her husband and dog, has no culinary background, and is still inspired to experiment and bake. She is also the creator of Muffin Monday, a weekly fun filled initiative for food bloggers.

We are all excited to have An join our team! As CookThatBook’s newest contributing writer, she will be dedicated to reviewing dessert specific cookbooks so check back often for some sweet reviews!

Visit Anuradha’s blog Baker Street 

You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook