Biscuits de Noël

I don’t bake cookies very often.  There are so many more exciting desserts to be made this time of year – chewy fruit-filled meringues, fancy tarts, densely rich pies and, of course, the boûche de Noël.  Cookies seem so… dare I say, ordinary.  And, with so many store-bought varieties, well, sometimes I think, why bother?  But that is a very one-sided way of looking at it, isn’t it.  Cookies are exciting, both in their own right, but more so in feelings they evoke and the excitement of what they represent.  Especially if they are the biscuits de Noël.  In that case, there really is no choice – they must be homemade. Continue reading “Biscuits de Noël”

7 Winter Cocktails to Drink Now

Let’s play a little game.  Imagine, for a second, that it’s a few days before Christmas.  Your significant other has surprised you with tickets to the symphony (or Opera… or John Legend’s Legendary Christmas Tour… you choose!).  It’s a bitter cold evening; snow is in the forecast.  The wind cuts through your jacket with its icy fingers as you walk with your lover, arm-in-arm, toward the warm lights of the theatre doors.  Your partner feels you shiver and presses closer as the doorman throws wide the massive glass doors and you step into a whirlwind of theater-goers; the room is a dizzying and disorienting blur of tuxedo blacks and showy holiday evening gowns.  You arrive a little early so your partner takes you by the hand and whisks you through the swirling crowd to the bar at the far end of the lobby where the smell of tobacco and Dior J’adore hangs in the air like the London fog.  You are handed a beautifully crafted cocktail menu, curated, you’re told, by none other than the theatre manager himself, who dabbles in the art of mixology on the side.  Each drink is designed to chase away winter’s cold and lull you into a state of ultimate contentedness against the symphonic backdrop of the evening’s performance.  The only question now is, which one will you choose? Continue reading “7 Winter Cocktails to Drink Now”

Kolaczki Cookies

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a very wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate… and if you don’t, I hope you had a fantastic weekend.  We discovered on Thanksgiving day that our refrigerator wasn’t keeping things as cold as it should.  Actually, I had suspected that was the case for a few weeks, when I kept having to turn the temperature down, but since I’d packed it full of food for the holiday it became very apparent that only the bottom of the fridge was maintaining a constant temperature. Continue reading “Kolaczki Cookies”

Whiskey Alexander

When it comes to dessert, I’d much rather have a glass of wine with a bit of cheese than a piece of cake.  If I’m feeling fancy, we might even make cocktails instead.  You know I love whiskey and whiskey-based cocktails and this is one of my favourites.  It’s a variation on a Brandy Alexander, made with whiskey, crème de cacao, vanilla, cream and nutmeg.  I love to entertain with this recipe.  It’s wintery and sweet, and with a touch of nutmeg, perfect for the holidays or just dessert on a Friday night.  Choose a good quality whiskey, but one that’s not too expensive.  I like to use a local whiskey from Leopold Bros, but if that’s not available, Tullamore D.E.W.  – a subtle and smooth Irish whiskey (for only about $30 USD a bottle) – is a great alternative. Continue reading “Whiskey Alexander”

Cardamom Orange Cake

On Sundays we often drive into the city to have dinner with my parents.  They still live in my childhood home in the charming neighborhood where I grew up.  I love that my children now play in my old bedroom and in the garden where I once planted flowers.   My brother selects the wine for our dinners, and I always bring dessert.  I’m lucky to have this outlet with which to dispense and disperse all of the sweets I like to make, otherwise my husband and I would be terribly fat!  This past Sunday morning we woke very late.  The sunlight that normally streams through our bedroom window and falls in a band of warmth across the bed was completely eclipsed by thick, cold November storm clouds. Continue reading “Cardamom Orange Cake”

Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes

The feasts before the feast

Happy November!  I love these few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving when the anticipation of the holidays begins to build from a mild hum to a full-blown roar.  November is, quite possibly, the month in which I spend the most time in the kitchen, and that couldn’t make me happier.  My thoughts of food start to shift from pumpkin-spice everything in October, to warm and wintery and extravagant meals, fit for a king.  In our house, Thanksgiving recipe-testing begins and the menu starts to take shape.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll have many “mini-feasts” as I test and try out new recipes and new combinations before finalizing the Thanksgiving menu.  November is the month of feast after feast. Continue reading “Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes”

Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

L’opéra d’automne

The lake is changing quickly these days.  Fall has stepped firmly into the spotlight .  I always say, Fall arrives as a whisper.  She is the Prima Donna of a grand opera.  She arrives quietly through the back door and slips into her dressing room with nothing more than the rustle of her petticoats.  In the theatre there’s a whisper of her presence, a rumor, an electricity in the air, and though no one has seen her, she is felt by everyone.  She keeps it that way for a while, perhaps only for her own vain amusement, as Prima Donnas are known to do.   She works on her own time, at her own pace, primping and prepping behind the scenes, and everyone follows suit.  No one dares to question her punctuality as she waits in hushed wings, keeping her presence secret until she, and only she, is ready to step onto the stage.  Her grand entrance is a crescendo of gold and bronze and brilliance and luster as she arranges herself in the centre of everything and all eyes fall upon her.  Though she had been there all along, the audience watches in awe and stunned silence as the music begins to swell.   Continue reading “Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes”

Bone Broth Beauty Elixir

We all know that beauty starts with good health.  The first signs of disease or imbalance in the body often reveal themselves through our skin.  And good health starts in the kitchen, so it’s safe to say, then, that beauty starts in the kitchen. Continue reading “Bone Broth Beauty Elixir”

Pots de Crème au Chocolat

A homesick American

On a dim side street that cut through the buildings like a crack in a rock there was a nondescript little candy shop.  It wasn’t too far from our apartment on Viale Italia, in Livorno, and I passed it frequently on my way to the market. You could easily  have walked right by without noticing but for the aromas that slipped beneath the door – apparitions of caramelized sugar and bittersweet cocoa.  Though I didn’t often stop in to buy anything (willpower, you know), just knowing it was there was reassuring.  I was quite homesick during that first winter abroad and everyone knows that a little chocolate is the best cure for homesickness.   Continue reading “Pots de Crème au Chocolat”

Mushroom Risotto

Food as art

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the kitchen is a world-class art gallery.  The exhibits change with the seasons, but one thing remains the same – each dish is reminiscent of a work from one of history’s most influential artists.  We could say that there are dishes that resemble the cubism of Picasso – those meticulously constructed fusions with ingredients whose union seems surprisingly controversial, yet somehow work together perfectly (think Kimchi Tacos).  There are the Michelangelos – well thought out Renaissance masterpieces.  They don’t overstep the boundaries of artistic license or realism, and their refined elements take time and a steady hand to prepare (Christmas dinner?).  There are the Jackson Pollocks – abstract impressionist dishes that evoke all the feels (butternut mac & cheese?).  And then there is Risotto. Continue reading “Mushroom Risotto”