I do think there’s something so comfortingly nostalgic in a simple sheet cake. Like the cakes our mothers use to make before Instagram, when it didn’t really matter how pretty or trendy or photogenic or impeccably styled the food was. There was no such thing as an ombré, eight-layer, tiered, naked cake because, in those days, a cake was as much a frosting delivery device as it was a celebratory exclamation point. Don’t get me wrong, I love the creative cake movement. But in the days of sheet cakes, what was really important was that there was an occasion worth celebrating, and what better way than with a thick slab of heavily frosted cake. Continue reading “Carrot and Pineapple Sheet Cake”
A Christmas tradition
Of all my Christmas memories, the ones that involve food are the most vivid, timeless and magical. There are certain scents and flavours that epitomize the holidays, of which, mine were an eclectic mix. Every year my mother made caramel pecan rolls on Christmas morning and the aroma of toasted nuts and sugar would float through the house as we opened our Christmas presents. In my stocking I would find a little bag of pistachios, a tin of marrons glacés and a chocolate covered orange. Treats that only ever showed up around the holidays. We often spent Christmas in New Mexico, where piñon smoke perfumed the dessert air and my grandmother would make biscochitos, a traditional New Mexican Christmas cookie, filling the house with rich notes of anise and cinnamon. In my mind, this melange of flavours and aromas is woven into a Christmas tapestry that hangs squarely on the wall of my memories. These are the flavours that say Christmas to me. Continue reading “Cinnamon Orange Star Bread – A Christmas Tradition”
December began in a flurry of icing sugar, clouds of winter-white whipped cream and cool peppermint candy canes. My mother’s birthday was last week and I make her a peppermint bonbon tart every single year. It’s her very favourite. The recipe has been in our family forever – or at least since the gelatin-dessert-crazed sixties – and I absolutely love it. My grandmother used to make this tart for my mom when she was a girl. The recipe was eventually passed to me, as the designated dessert enthusiast of the family. I made my typical, modern adjustments and adaptations (replacing shortening with butter; freshly whipping the cream; etc.) while keeping its vintage charm. Continue reading “Peppermint Bonbon Tart”
It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US. I like to take this week, not only to plan the menu and shop for the big meal, but also to tackle all my fall cleaning tasks. Replacing old blinds and washing the curtains, polishing the furniture and the silverware, scrubbing the baseboards and cleaning the ceilings in the bathrooms, changing the linens from summer to winter – it all makes the house feel cozy, bright and ready for a stream of holiday guests. Maybe it’s weird, but I absolutely love fall cleaning, even more than spring cleaning. There’s something so completely satisfying in making the dull and dingy shine again. For Christmas one year I was given a book called, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, and it’s still one of my favourite books today. It’s like a cookbook, but with instructions on how to properly clean anything and everything in your home. Continue reading “Normandy Pork with Apples”
These delicately embossed gingerbread cookies are the perfect way to welcome the festive season! I’ve always loved the look of embossed rolling pins, and this one from Embossed Pin is so pretty with a whimsical forest scene that’s perfect, not just for Christmas, but all winter long. And it’s really starting to feel like winter around here. The light is different, it has an iridescent quality as if the sun is shining through shards of ice, and we’ve had three major snowstorms already. But the house has never been cozier, especially when gingerbread is baking and the kitchen is filled with the blissful scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Isn’t this the most magical time of year?! Continue reading “Embossed Gingerbread”
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit of a history nerd – especially when it comes to my favourite branch of history: Cocktail History. I find it fascinating to delve into the mystery and legends surrounding the Golden Era of Cocktails. (And by “Golden Era” I, of course, mean prohibition era, whence all the best cocktails originated.) It’s always useful to have a few fun facts up my sleeve about what I’m serving, if only to pull out as a bit of small talk to liven up the conversation should it happen to run dry.
In the canon of classic cocktails, the Sidecar tends to get a bad rap or is simply overlooked as a stuffy libation lost in the smoke from bars of the past. I’m not sure why – maybe it’s because no one on Instagram has endeavored to make it “cool” again in the way they have the Negroni or the monotonous Margarita, but it seems to me that the Sidecar has been pushed to the side in favour of more socially lucrative drinks. Strange, because a drink with such an elegant blend of fine French liqueurs seems like it should warrant a little more “Insta-attention,” don’t you think? Continue reading “The Sidecar”
We were snowed in for three days last week, with work closed and school canceled, which is very unusual for October in Colorado. A light dusting of snow is expected and welcomed, but it’s equally expected to melt in the sunshine the next day. To have snow on top of snow on top of snow with subzero temperatures for days on end before Halloween is completely bizarre. In the end, we had over a foot of snow outside our back door. I don’t think anyone really took the weather forecast seriously. I mean, this is Colorado and, while we are well-equipped to deal with snow in the winter (where it belongs), we also like to brag about our 300 days of sunshine every year and joke that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. I hope this latest storm doesn’t portend a harsh winter. Continue reading “Pumpkin Black Bean Soup”
“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” –Morticia Addams.
There are “normal” hand pies, and then there are my Halloween hand pies. I’m not a huge Halloween person, actually. Out of all of the holidays, it’s one of my least favourite. Of course, there are elements of Halloween that I love – the earthy magic, the subtle eeriness, black cats and classy black candles paired with winter-white pumpkins, carving Jack O’Lanterns with my kids, the sense that the veil between this world and the next has been lifted for just one enchanted evening – but I try to carry this magic with me throughout the whole year, not just on Halloween. What I don’t like is that here in the US the holiday has been distorted and come to symbolize something dark, morbid and evil. It’s used as an excuse to be tastelessly gory with violent images decorating houses and bloody costumes, or it’s a reason for people to simply act ridiculous. I don’t want to sound old-fashioned here but, to me, Halloween is deeper than just a child’s holiday. It means Samhain bonfires and forest magic; harvest celebrations with apples, pumpkin and corn; the turning of the seasons; light to dark; a night to feel closer to family and friends who have passed on; and for the little ones, trick or treating! (Little ones only!) In my opinion, the guts and gore take away from the etherial mystique that surrounds Halloween, and they’re anything but classy. Continue reading “Halloween Hand Pies”
This traditional garlic soup is similar to a vichyssoise, with the leek being replaced by garlic and sweet shallots. It’s my cure-all for everything from relieving a simple headache to treating the full-blown flu. Garlic has so many antibacterial, antiviral and medicinal benefits, I’ve always said it’s better than antibiotics. For ages, women have kept their families healthy by making healing garlic soups to fend off sickness and disease. Don’t let the whole head of garlic in the soup turn you off – as it cooks, it becomes sweet and buttery, and the bite is tempered by puréed potatoes and a splash of milk. Continue reading “French Garlic and Potato Soup”
Yesterday my husband and I made a little bet. He said it couldn’t possibly snow this early in the season. It’s not even Halloween yet!
I said, “Anything’s possible.”
It felt more like December than mid-October, with the snow falling in giant flakes outside the kitchen window, and there’s nothing I love to do more when it’s snowing outside in December than to bake holiday cookies. So I queued up my winter playlist (which includes a few Christmas songs for good measure) and set about baking these fun little Halloween treats. And that’s how I happened to be carving Jack O’Lantens while listening to Christmas music yesterday.