Category Archives: Contributing Writers

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


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.


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.


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




She Said; She Said

Written by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa and Stay-At-Home-Chef

JACQUELINE TWA: I have to admit that I am a food television junkie.

I love to watch it any time…anywhere. In fact, I once told my editor that I thought watching the Food Network was like watching soft porn. She quoted me on that comment without naming me – now I am outing myself.

As part of my addiction to food television, I became deeply immersed in the MasterChef show this past summer. I love the idea that someone who does not cook professionally can compete in this arena!

Confession? I often fantasize about standing in that studio sweating it out to win some fabulous prize and to raise my brow at Gordon Ramsey’s comments. The brow raise? Practiced daily. I also have to admit that I have a secret (well not so secret now I guess) crush on Joe Bastianichbut the skinny Joe; not the Elvis version.

In my fantasies no detail is too small when it comes to envisioning each challenge and how I would prepare every dish. Of course in my mind I win each challenge with my flamboyant culinary skills, and not only do I look slim and youthful in every shot but Gordon keeps telling me over and over how I am ‘da bomb’. However, all fantasies came to a screeching halt during the one episode challengers were asked to create a soufflé.

Although I had a basic idea of how to make a soufflé, I had actually never made one. Oh the shame. The gourmet gauntlet had been thrown down and I had no choice; I would have to master the soufflé.

Now I have many friends that I consider to be great cooks – I like to mentally categorize them as my “Foodie Friends”. One of my dearest foodie buddies, is none other than my editor Jasmine (Stay-At-Home-Chef). Jasmine and I share a passion for food and a passion for our families. She is my touch stone on all things food. Spending time with her is always filled with fun and laughter! I have to keep reminding myself that she is over 15 years my junior. It just feels like she has been in my life as a trusted girlfriend forever.

Back to soufflés.

I called Jasmine up and asked if she had ever made a soufflé before.

Dramatic pause.

The answer? Nope! So with our heads hung low in foodie shame, we agreed to get together and conquer the art of making a soufflé.

The day we cooked together in Jasmine’s warm and inviting kitchen with her gorgeous daughters running about was magic. There is something about peering through the window of the oven – wondering if our soufflés would rise and meet our expectations – that reminded me of Christmas morning as a kid.

In short? Our soufflés were an unqualified success. Now keep in mind that our little guinea pigs were 5 and 3 years of age! Leave it to a food blogger to not only have her kids eating soufflés at such a tender age but to give us decent feedback!

So, the final step in my imaginary quest for food supremacy was done and another item checked off my bucket list – or ramekin list in this case!

Next up, I compete in my imaginary triathlon without breaking a sweat!


STAY-AT-HOME-CHEF: When my dear friend and contributing writer Jacqueline Twa called me up and demanded to know if I’d ever made soufflés, I knew the gig was up. My cover as a ‘foodie’ was about to be blown apart. Why? The truth was that I had never made a soufflé.

In my mind, soufflés were only attempted by true professionals with a minimum of 500 years’ experience in a highly coveted culinary institution. Their reputation for collapsing immediately after removal from the oven is the main reason why I have never attempted them before. And who can blame me?! I figured they were stereotyped as hair pullingly difficult for a reason. So I stayed away.

Until now.

When Jax responded to my confession by saying that she had never made a soufflé either, I began to feel better. When she suggested the two of us get together and give these fickle custard and egg white concoctions a try, I felt way better.

We decided to make both a sweet and savoury soufflé. Savoury wise we opted for Ina Garten’s Blue Cheese Soufflé. It is fairly straightforward (am I allowed to use the word ‘straightforward’ when describing soufflés?!) but be warned there are lots of steps. We ended up rereading the recipe numerous times just to make sure we hadn’t gotten off track amid all of our culinary nattering. And let me tell ya staying focused was no small feat! When Jax and I get together and talk food it’s like watching a high intensity sport. In fact, a friend once told me she likes to just sit and observe the two of us in dialogue!

For our sweet soufflé, we ended up going the chocolate route with a recipe by Real Epicurean. Immediately we were struck by the fact that there were a lot less steps and ingredients involved compared to Ina’s recipe. Being complete food nerds, we quickly became excited to see if the results would be markedly different too.

Soufflés are made from two basic components, specifically a French crème pâtissière base (flavoured cream sauce) and egg whites beaten into a meringue. The base provides the flavour while the egg whites create that fabulous lift.

While a successful soufflé should emerge from the oven gloriously fluffy and puffy, it will fall after 5-10 minutes so don’t worry if this happens! Both our savoury and sweet experiments rose beautifully (check out our in oven picture…we were extremely proud of our babies!)

The Blue Cheese was definitely our favourite (not surprisingly our little taste testers preferred the chocolate). Greasing the ramekins and sprinkling with parmesan cheese prior to adding the soufflé batter, resulted in this amazing crust that was salty and crisp. The blue cheese tasted wonderful and in no way did its strong flavour dominate the dish. The texture itself was perfect; light as air and lovely and rich.

The chocolate soufflés were also a hit, although I felt there was something lacking in the flavour department that left it a little one dimensional. Some cinnamon or a sprinkle of sea salt would have been fantastic, or even a pinch of chili pepper for a little burst of heat. Being lactose intolerant, poor Jax had to leave the tasting part up to me and the girls.

All in all our cooking adventure was chalked up as a great success. Hmmm…wonder what our next culinary Kilimanjaro will involve. Suggestions?!


By Donna Hay

Cookbook review written and photographed by contributing writer Helena McMurdo


Seasons is available for purchase through our online store or at local book stores. For more information on this book please visit HarperCollins

Australian food stylist, cookbook author and magazine editor, Donna Hay, brings together the best of Donna Hay Magazine in her book Seasons (published by HarperCollins, $39.99 CDN).

As the name suggests, this book is organized in terms of seasons and hits the mark perfectly when it comes to the foods we crave at particular times of the year. Fresh, bright flavours in spring, grilled seafood and fresh salads in summer, warm soups and comfort food as we move into autumn and winter. I have had this cookbook for nearly a year and still love to pick it up and browse through all of the culinary delights held within the pages.

My favourite things about this book include:

The photography – I don’t mind telling you that I first purchased this book because of the photography alone. Even if I had never ended up making a single recipe from this book I probably would have still been happy with my purchase! Honestly, I think I gained weight just by leafing through the pages. Outdoor settings featuring picnic and other outdoor meal scenarios are interspersed with beauty shots of dishes, styled with a rustic and authentic appeal. Although I know they have been crafted with the utmost of care and attention to detail, the pictures appear to give the reader the impression that real life is happening – granted a very beautiful, farmhouse, countryside, back to nature type ‘real life’ packed with exquisite kitchen towels, oodles of parchment paper, delightfully aged baking tins, messy spoons and perfect natural lighting.

The simplicity – The photography belies the simplicity of the dishes, with most recipes using just a few ingredients and for the most part are easy to understand and execute. The results are solid.

It’s adaptable – Many of the dishes are also spring boards for further inspiration. For example; I modified a fantastic goat’s cheese and fig tart recipe with some mushrooms and red peppers due to lack of figs. Using the same main ingredients and basic method, my efforts resulted in a whole new meal that was satisfying and delicious.

Desserts – I am not really a dessert person, at least I didn’t think I was until discovering this book. Seasons makes me want to make dessert all the time, and I fear I’m already feeling the results as I try to button my skinny jeans.

The photography – Did I mention the photography?!

There is not a lot of detail in the recipes themselves, but most of the dishes are so simple further explanation is hardly required. At 317 plus pages, the sheer volume of recipes in this cookbook will keep me busy for years to come.

© 2011 Helena McMurdo


Meet Contributing Writer Helena McMurdo

Helena McMurdo works as a freelance design project manager, and writes and photographs a blog called Endless Picnic chronicling her culinary and travel adventures in Europe and North America. Born in Spain and raised in Canada, after spending several years in Ireland she returned to Canada six years ago and continues her culinary adventures in Vancouver. Her palate continues to be inspired by world cuisine and home grown favourites alike. She is a recent photographic contributor to Edible Vancouver; a magazine devoted to local food.

Visit Helena’s blog at Endless Picnic
You can also follow her on Twitter

COOKBOOK REVIEW Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices

Edited By Barnaby Dorfman, Sheri L. Wetherell & Colin M. Saunders

Cookbook review written by contributing writer Aimée White

Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

As much as I dislike the winter and being overly cold, there’s just something magical about putting on the first scarf, fleece jacket, or chunky, woolen sweater of the season. Something that makes you inch a little closer and talk a little lower. It’s also a convenient time of year to get back into books of all kinds. You know; the ones left neglected while the summer sunshine shone. Are you feeling guilty like me?

Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook (published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99 USD) is one such book which I’ve been dying to give some attention. It’s an interesting choice for my inaugural review, it has to be said, given that the book is written by 100 home cooks and not simply by one author.

“This book is for all the food bloggers and home cooks of the world. Your passion inspires us and we thank you,” (Foodista). 100 different palates. 100 different personal bests. 100 different recipe-writing styles and flairs in the kitchen. It’s difficult enough to give an overview and rating on a cookbook from one author, never mind one hundred, but choosing, testing, and eating three recipes from this cookbook was such an enjoyable venture. It was one I was able to share with several people close to me, including the wonderful friend who gave me this cookbook, who just happened to be in town during the testing period.

My overall impression of this cookbook is that it’s an excellent purchase if you’d like to up the ante in your kitchen with an eclectic array of challenging recipes, as well as support your blogging community. There’s an excellent assortment of dishes from around the world, as well as some new takes on classics. My guess is that, quite naturally, each blogger probably wanted to put in their most interesting or impressive recipe. As a result, I will say that for most recipes you’ll have to take an extra run to the supermarket or to a speciality food store. Very few of the recipes could be made sans an ingredient run – even with if you happen to have a very well-stocked pantry (if I may be so bold as to classify my pantry as such!) In that sense, the cookbook may not be the best for beginners. But if you want to take your cooking up to the next level with some tried and true personal bests and favourites from some amazing home cooks, this book is for you.

On an editorial note, I wished they had placed the photos of bloggers next to their recipes rather than indexing them in the back of the book. I often recognize some of my favourite bloggers by their avatar or logo, and not always (immediately) by the name of their website.  Having the photos with the recipes would create a stronger association and connection between the featured blogger and the recipe. That being said, it was great fun flipping through and seeing those familiar faces in the back and admiring them for having their recipes published in this great and inventive compilation.


Meet Contributing Writer Aimée White


Aimée White has a BA in Political Science, a Masters in the same, and a deep and abiding love for creating and eating beautiful food. Aimée returned to Canada at the beginning of 2011 – after several years of living, working, and eating abroad – and is thrilled to be home: she now owns an oven for the first time since 2006 and can steal Mason jars from her mother’s house on a regular basis. Aimée is chronicling her adventures in her Nova Scotian kitchen in her blog – Food: Je t’Aimée – and trying to find new and creative ways of combining her passions in the city she grew up in.


Visit Aimée’s blog at
You can also follow her on Twitter

Let them eat pie!

By contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

We are well into summer; why wouldn’t I be obsessed with meat pies?

I blame my endless production of winter comfort food on the weather. Anyone who lives on the West Coast knows what I’m talking about! Up until a couple of weeks ago we had not been graced with more than half a dozen spring days let alone any long lazy days of summer. Thoughts of picnics with crispy fried chicken and potato salad, or a late afternoon barbeque holding an overstuffed burger out from the front of your shirt in order to save yourself from the usual mustard coloured stain down the front have been far from top of mind.

Okay where was I? Oh yes…meat pies.

Personally, I love meat pies and have been making them ever since I was a kid and first learned to make pastry. Nowadays, I often try to shake it up and add new elements to my recipe repertoire. This penchant for changing things up all the time to avoid boredom has resulted in a collection of morphed recipes that originated from classics. For example; often I add curry and turmeric to my chicken pot pies. I have also been known to use Ras el Hanout and grated orange zest to beef pot pies. I love classic French Canadian Tourtière, Shepherd’s Pie and English Steak and Kidney Pie. I love Jamaican Patties, Scottish Pasties, Indian Samosas, American Pizza Pops and even Chinese Barbeque Pork Buns which arguably are a kind of pie (okay let’s not fight – they are a pastry).

Whatever type of meat pie happens to be your favourite, the best part about making them is that they are super versatile and hard to screw up.

My Mother used to make a fairly simple single crust meat pie called “Cheeseburger Pie” which was a weeknight dinner staple in our house. Whenever we walked in the door and inquired about what we were having for dinner and she told us Cheeseburger Pie, we would all cheer!

I can still envision her tattered recipe card, written in her beautiful hand.  Stained withy decades of use, I know I still have it somewhere and while writing this I have vowed to dig it out to remind me of those long ago family dinners.

Now as for the pastry potion of this program, I am a firm believer in good pastry. I believe in making my own from scratch and I believe in using shortening for pastry. No butter crust for this girl – especially in a savoury pie.

If the idea of making pastry strikes fear into your heart, there are variety of decent ready-made pie doughs available so you don’t have any excuse: hang the weather and go make meat pies!

Here is my basic pie crust recipe along with a few of my favorite meat pies (including my Mom’s kid pleasing Cheeseburger Pie):

Jax’s Basic Meat Pie Crust
Jax’s French Canadian Tourtière
Jax’s Chicken Pot Pie
Mom’s Cheeseburger Pie