Monthly Archives: February 2012

Food & Wine Magazine: February Cover Recipe

Red Kuri Squash Soup

Rating: 5 out of 5 (healthy & simple food in its purest form)

Initial Thoughts: Even a soup avoider such as myself must admit to the allure of this beautiful bowl of squash goodness. Quintessential comfort food.

THE TEST: This month’s cover recipe was part of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Star Chefs’ Dream Recipes” feature, which took ten superstar chef-philanthropists and highlighted two of their best recipes. The criteria? Delicious, healthy and affordable. Along with the recipes, this article also profiled each chef’s charity of choice.

© 2012 CookThatBook

The cover recipe for Red Kuri Squash Soup comes from legendary food icon Alice Waters, whose recipe epitomizes her belief in food needing to consist of the “freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally”. The listed ingredients are few, and really allow for the food itself to be showcased. Quality product is given a chance to shine, something that is too often forgotten in our fast paced lifestyles.

© 2012 CookThatBook

THE RESULTS: This soup was simple and pure in taste, the food taking centre stage and really driving home the point that you can’t beat quality ingredients. Each spoonful held a piece of the overall experience; from going to the farmer’s market and buying the produce to cooking it slowly over the stove with a book in one hand (I really did have a book in my hand while stirring the soup!) Everything slowed down and we were able to share and appreciate in the moment of being together and savouring a delicious meal.

© 2012 CookThatBook

I loved the roasted fennel and pecans that topped the soup and gave it a nice texture, and subtle anise flavour complimented the sweet squash. Could more flavour have been added by cooking the squash in stock (vegetable or chicken)? Would some spices or a herbed crème fraiche concoction of some sort added to the overall depth of the soup? Probably. But that would defeat the purpose, don’t you think?

For more information on Alice Water’s supported charity, The Edible Schoolyard Project, please click here 

Cover Recipe:
Red Kuri Squash Soup

© 2012 CookThatBook

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

© 2012 CookThatBook

NOTE: This month’s wine pairing courtesy of our resident wine expert, Kendall Harrisstood up well beside the softly flavoured soup and in no way did it overpower the food. The Barbera grape is one that my hubby and I were unfamiliar with previous to this recipe test, but we enjoyed this uniquely flavoured wine that even my zinfandel-loving husband appreciated. We will definitely be picking up more bottles of this one!


Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three
There’s nothing more wonderful in the wintertime than a hearty soup, a light but filling meal that demands a warming red wine. I suggest a lighter red wine, one that won’t overwhelm this gorgeous soup. Pinot Noir is one possibility, but let’s expand our palates and try a grape called Barbera which hails from Italy – a place where they know a thing or two about pairing food and wine!

I can recommend a lovely Barbera d’Alba (Barbera grape from the region of Alba) by Ca’ du Rabaja. Barbera is a light skinned grape, so the resulting wine is light in body – a perfect companion for this soup. The first thing you’ll notice with this wine is a lovely, vibrant acidity, which is a recognizable characteristic about many wines from Italy (that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and what makes Barbera a very food-friendly wine). On the palate, you’ll notice bright cherry fruit and an intriguing hint of spice, along with an overall lightness that makes it a perfect pairing for this recipe. If you can’t find this specific wine, hover in the Italian section of your local wine store and look for the word “Barbera” on the label; you may see Barbera d’Alba or Barbera d’Asti…same grape, different areas, but both are lovely, refreshing red wines that would be a delightful match for a warming winter soup.

This month’s wine pairing suggestion is Barbera d’Alba by Ca’ du Rabaja 

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: Berry Cheesecake Muffins

As soon as I saw that this week’s recipe was for Berry Cheesecake Muffins, I decided to go all out and inject as many calories as possible in my variation. The way I see it – go big or go home!

© 2012 CookThatBook

Now I was recently reading on Bakers Royale, an interesting debate about whether or not cheesecake is an acquired (i.e. grownup) addiction. What do you think? As a kid I used to LOVE cheesecake, my favourite flavour being plain New York style with cherry pie filling spooned overtop. Yum! So in honour of what I’m going to now consider being the advanced palate of my younger self, I designed these muffins in a similar fashion.

© 2012 CookThatBook

The recipe is straightforward, and involves a standard muffin mix (fat is in liquid form) that incorporates wet and dry ingredients separately with minimal stirring. Layered in between the muffin batter is a mixture of cream cheese and icing sugar – a little nugget of goodness! Once the muffins were cooled, I cutout a small hole in the top and added a spoonful of cherry filling before topping each with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. To finish the whole thing off I sprinkled crushed graham cracker crumbs overtop.

© 2012 CookThatBook

Voilà – a decadent start to the morning!

© 2012 CookThatBook

Each bite feels like a little bit of heaven in your mouth. The overall flavour of cheesecake really comes through in both taste and texture, and I drool just thinking about the loveliness of the cream cheese centre (especially warm out of the oven). The palate of my younger self was most definitely satisfied.

Happy Muffin Monday!

© 2012 CookThatBook

For a copy of the original recipe for Berry Cheesecake 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: Triple Chocolate Muffins

With Valentine’s Day just one sleep away, Baker Street’s gift to us Muffin Monday bakers was a decadent, chocolicious delight that will leave you moaning and groaning with pleasure. The recipe is from Bake at 350, and I knew we would be in for a good treat when I read the following off her site:

Muffins = legally sanctioned cake for breakfast

Yup – me and this recipe were going to get along just fine.

Now one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes comes from a gem of a cookbook called Quinoa 365, which uses quinoa in place of all-purpose flour. The quinoa is cooked and then blended smooth, and I am not kidding when I tell ya no matter how strange it may sound the results are incredible. So wanting to give this recipe my own spin, I ended up making a gluten-free version using this technique of cooked quinoa.

© 2012 CookThatBook

Basically you want to bring 2/3 cup white/golden quinoa and 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes. Cool before blending 2 cups of the cooked quinoa along with the muffin recipe’s remaining wet ingredients. NOTE: you may need to add more or less of the blended quinoa in order to achieve the desired thickness in batter, but be warned that it will be a tad runnier than typical muffin batters.

© 2012 CookThatBook

The results of these muffins will quite literally knock your socks off.

© 2012 CookThatBook

Rich, moist, and oh-so-chocolatey-good, these muffins virtually fill all of your senses with the essence of an ingredient that is considered by many to be a gift from the gods. Originally I was going to dip the tops in a dark chocolate ganache but after tasting one straight out of the oven I realized they were perfect just as they were. What can I say? Sometimes less is more.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

© 2012 CookThatBook

For a copy of the original recipe for Triple Chocolate 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: Cranberry Carrot Muffins

Next to the quintessential Blueberry Muffin, I’d have to say that the flavour combination of cranberries and orange would be my next muffin of choice. There’s just something about the tart and fruity nature of this particular type of muffin that appeals to my palate.

This week’s recipe (from The Food Network) provides a nice twist on traditional orange cranberry muffins by adding carrots. I opted to steam and purée my own carrots, but feel free to use the jarred variety if you can’t be bothered to make yours from scratch. Having been recently gifted a lovely looking jar of Orange Brandy Cranberry Sauce, I decided to use this in place of the cranberry relish called for in the recipe. I also puréed an entire orange and added it into the mix, wanting to really ramp up the orange flavour beyond zest.

While these muffins are more of a labour of love, the results were great and I would definitely make them again. Crispy tops paired with an intense orange flavour and cranberry zing, these muffins were unbelievably rich and moist. The carrots were barely detectable in the same way they are when used in carrot cake. I adored the cranberry sauce, but next time would add twice as much and maybe even throw in a few fresh cranberries for good measure. The Demererra sugar sprinkled on top gave the muffins a lovely crunch while providing a level of sweetness that balanced out the tartness perfectly.

While these muffins would be great at Thanksgiving, there is no reason to holdback making them throughout the rest of the year. Like now. Go.

For a copy of the original recipe for Cranberry Orange 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 – Chef Mourad Lahlou

Interview conducted & written by contributing writer Helena McMurdo

Photo courtesy of Deborah Jones

Mourad Lahlou is the Chef behind San Francisco’s Aziza, where his cuisine marries the traditions of Morocco with the fresh local ingredients of the Bay Area and the advanced culinary techniques employed by only the most modern of chefs.

Virtually self-taught, he learned to cook “accidentally” while at university, trying to recreate the dishes of his childhood Morocco and longing for a connection to home. Eventually abandoning his studies to open a restaurant with the support of friends and his former professors, his restaurant became a success almost overnight and took him from economics major to major chef. Today, he is known as the Chef behind the innovative cuisine at Aziza and has a Michelin Star to boot!

I spent an hour with Mourad recently when he stopped in Vancouver on a whirlwind trip to our beautiful city to talk about his first book; Mourad: New Moroccan. Nostalgic and passionate, he shared childhood memories of his upbringing and the place that food holds in his culture. Inquisitive and curious by nature, he also spoke about his somewhat trial-and-error process and new techniques he’s employing in his kitchen. It was a pretty inspiring conversation and I ran home to start my preserved lemons so I’d be ready to start cooking! I left feeling that even I could learn to hand-roll couscous and with a wonderful reminder of the very important role that food plays in all our lives.