The Sidecar

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”

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

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”

Halloween Hand Pies

“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”

French Garlic and Potato Soup

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”

Cinnamon-Sugar Jack O’Lanterns

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.”

I won.

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.

Continue reading “Cinnamon-Sugar Jack O’Lanterns”

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Bourbon Bacon Jam

Butternut squash soup is one of my favourite fall dishes. It’s quintessentially autumn – from the colour, to the flavours, to the aroma of warm spices simmered together in a broth made velvety by the purée of winter squash – which stands alone as something I look forward to making all year round.   Kind of like my favourite sweater, it’s reliable, but too warm for September.  I wait patiently for the “sweater weather” of October to arrive, when I can finally pull it out of the closet on that first blissfully cool autumn night.   Though our favourite sweaters may be worn and threadbare in places, I would never suggest that they should be changed or improved upon in any way. They are perfect as they are.  That’s not the case, however, when it comes to cooking.   When I’m in the kitchen, I’m always looking for ways to kick up the flavours a bit and that’s exactly what happened with this recipe. As I was stirring the pot it was almost as if I had an Angel sitting on one shoulder and the Devil on the other. . . Continue reading “Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Bourbon Bacon Jam”

Earl Grey Hot Toddy

I’m kicking off the weekend with an Earl Grey Hot Toddy and a few good books.  Old books are my weakness.  I can’t resist. Sorry e-readers, nothing beats holding a real, hardbound book in your hands.  The weight.  The texture of each page between your fingers.  The smell of a time long forgotten, pressed between the pages and preserved in the spine.

It’s been my dream, ever since I was a little girl, to have my own library, overflowing with antique books.  All of the classics – Hemingway, Twain, Longfellow, Capote, Hugo, Verne, Mitchell – really, I could go on forever! Continue reading “Earl Grey Hot Toddy”

Pork Tenderloin with Plums

One of the easiest ways to elevate an everyday dish to something elegant and refined is by adding a little dried fruit.  I love to cook with fruit in both savory and sweet dishes.  When paired with roasted meat, it brings a subtle richness and a depth of sweetness that you can’t get from anything else, especially when using dark dried fruits like raisins or prunes. Continue reading “Pork Tenderloin with Plums”

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

I call this an old-fashioned cake because anything cooked in a bundt pan feels old-school and vintage to me, but I was surprised the read, recently, that the modern rendition of the bundt pan has only been around since the 1950’s.  Of course, the traditional, tube-shaped cake, called Kugelhopf, that inspired its creation has been around for ages, originating in Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t until the 50’s that the design was brought to the US and the first bundt pan was cast by the founder of the Nordic Ware company in Minnesota. Continue reading “Old-Fashioned Apple Cake”

Zucchini pain d’épices

Pain d’épices is a traditional French quick bread, rich with honey and warm spices. It’s often served around the holidays but, since it bears such a noticeable resemblance to American banana bread and zucchini bread, I love to serve a variation of it in late summer when the garden is overflowing with zucchini. Continue reading “Zucchini pain d’épices”