Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I first heard about these cookies on Oprah.  Hugh Jackman  brought a box for every person in the audience of the original Australian Arnott's cookies while on her show promoting the movie "Australia". So it seems Pepperidge Farm has brought the Tim Tams to the U.S. according to the linked article, they are available at Target stores until March 2009.  If you can, go out and buy them, they are sooo good.  Chocolate covered thin layers of cookie and chocolate creme in the middle!  ONLY 11 Tim Tams in a package...stock up.



My parents and I had gone out to dinner two nights in a row in Omaha and needed a break from dining out. So we stayed in and Mom made beef and veggie stew.  Veggies invited into the pot included: parsnips, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and potatoes.  Perfect on a cold winter night with family.  Or you could make it tomorrow and eat it while watching the hockey game at Wrigley Field.  What?!



I just cannot get enough of my Mom's cooking when I am in Omaha.  Another one of her meals I cannot get enough of:  Chicken Enchiladas.  These were a little hotter (spicy) than normal due to the peppers sprinkled on top, but it cleared my sinuses before I hopped on the plane back to Chicago that night.  I did take a picture of an individual enchilada on my plate, but it wasn't styled and art directed by my Mom so it didn't make the cut!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Dinner: Dessert

Christmas Cookies!  Two fabulous words. First, clockwise, sugar cookies in the shape of train engines, boxcars and cabooses.  Trains are a big thing in my family, well, on the male side of the family.  Don't get me started.  Next are salted peanut chews (YUM!!!).  These are one of my favorites and Mom made many, many batches of these for the wide variety of bake sales during my high school years. The pumpkin cake/bread with a cream cheese filling and the peppermint chocolate cookies round out the rest of the canape plate.  I was able to take some of these cookies back to Chicago and yes, there are still some left...but who knows for how long!


Christmas Dinner: Baked Ham & Potato Pie

The menu this year in Omaha for Christmas dinner was baked ham and potato pie.  The first 2 images of potato pie are pre-oven.  Even before it's baked it looks delicious.  My Mom got this recipe from a Susan Branch cookbook.   Susan Branch is an illustrator which makes her cookbooks wonderful to peruse.  There's something great on every page, an illustration, a small story, a cute saying and of course a recipe.  


Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

My Mom found this recipe in a past holiday issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine.  As with most of Martha's creations it was a very involved process and time consuming, but like the true chef/baker/Mom, she pushed through and made these yummy cookies above.  It's a chocolate cookie topped with white chocolate and crushed peppermint candy canes.


Pears & Pumpkins

Back from Christmas in Omaha and I've got a plethora of food to blog about.  My first night at the parents' house and their friends stopped by with an annual gift of pumpkin cake/bread filled with cream cheese and dusted with powder of my favorites. This year they also brought Asian Pears with them as well.  They are crispy and delicious.  The pears can be pricey, my local market has them priced at $2.69 each and 1/3 the size of the ones above.


Lamb Spinach Feta Pasta

Taking a break and having some comfort food before the New Year's extravaganza. Multi-grain fusilli with lamb sausage, spinach and feta cheese.

Shout out to Francis who gifted an excellent bottle of Chilean Santa Alicia Merlot to accompany the meal.


Fresh Squeeze

I love fresh squeezed orange juice! It's good in the morning, and it's even better in the evening with a shot of vitamin V. I've been wanting to get a citrus press for a while, and then I found a nice one from Breville. No more lugging home juice from the market on Saturday morning... now I lug home oranges.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Chocolate Banana Vanilla Crème Brûlée

The last batch turned out so well, we decided to make it again. This time with a layer of chocolate and sliced banana. To make the chocolate layer, separate 1/3 of the warm custard and blend with melted dark chocolate. Pour the chocolate mixture into the ramekins first, layer the banana (pressing them into the chocolate) and then top with remaining custard. Full recipe.


Sunday, December 28, 2008


If I had a restaurant, I think this open face sandwich would be on the menu. It combines leftovers from the past few days, and it wouldn't have occurred to me, if I hadn't had this collection of ingredients. I baked the Walnut bread with the fall-aparty pot roast to heat it through. Then I topped it with chopped spinach and drizzled the whole thing with leftover orange chipotle sauce from the duck. S'nice.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Strata & Broccoli Salad

We usually have strata for breakfast, but tonight it made a great dinner with a side of broccoli salad. Both recipes are from old-school cookbooks (hey, no pictures!), but I found similar versions on epicurious. The strata recipe can be modified endlessly, and it should be used only as a reference. The one step missing from this version, is soaking the bread (stale works best) in a 1:2 mixture of white wine and milk. Layer it up with whatever you like.

The broccoli salad has been a favorite for years, and this version only varies from the original with the dressing. Here's a better version of the dressing: 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon, 3 tbsp honey & 1/2 cup raisins.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

I picked up vanilla beans at the market, but I wasn't really thinking of crème brûlée at the time. This afternoon when we decided to made dessert, and wanted to use the vanilla, it seemed like the obvious choice. The recipe is quite simple, but I decided to leave out the ginger. Delicious!


Beef Braised in Red Wine

Fusilli had a great idea for a cookbook – make ahead meals. It would be a collection of recipes that benefit from resting for a few days before being reheated. For example Beef Braised in Red Wine. For three days it's been sitting its own saucy goodness... waiting to be warmed up and enjoyed. The sauce was skimmed, and boiled down to make a nice gravy and then poured over the beef and garlic mashed potatoes. A dollop of sour creme with fresh horseradish added a nice bite.


Christmas Dinner – Duck with Orange Chipotle Sauce

My goal each holiday season is to avoid eating turkey. I know I'm in the minority on this issue, and I've suggested alternate meal options on many occasions. Each time I suggest an alternative, I'm met with a similar response – no! Perhaps I should suggest the infamous deep fried turkey.

Last night (Christmas Eve) was turkey night... but tonight it's duck! I picked up two beautiful Muskovy duck breasts at Whitehouse in the Market to make Broiled Duck Breasts with Orange Chipotle Sauce. It's not a complicated recipe – most of the work goes into the sauce. Broiling it in a roasting pan with some water in the lower pan kept it from smoking too much, and it made the fat on top nicely caramelized and crispy. To serve, it was sliced thin, and topped with the sweet & spicy orange chipotle sauce. We had it with a side of roasted butternut squash.

What would you rather have, turkey or duck?


Cheese & Boredom

It's holiday season, and that means I'm sitting around eating cheese. While I'm eating cheese, I'm usually thinking about why I haven't been smart enough to book a trip somewhere far from the pull of seasonal/family obligations. Obligations like eating turkey and driving around in bad weather. Call me crusty, but I don't like to celebrate "designated" holidays. There's just too much pressure to have fun and get into the spirit. Why can't acts of kindness, baking and binge drinking be part of our day-to-day routine?

The holidays aren't just about uncomfortable moments with family, it's also about being bored. When I'm bored, I like to bake. I'm stocked up with holiday cheese like Riopelle and Manchego so I made walnut bread to go with. This version has a seven-grain cereal mix and a blend of whole wheat and white flour. It tuned out light and fluffy.

I've also included a pic of the Marimekko apron I got for Fusilli. It's the classic poppy pattern and I decided to wear it while I was doing the messy flour/kneading bit at the beginning. I think pink is my colour?


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

two kinds of flatbread

It's just mere days before Christmas, I haven't finished my shopping, I haven't started my laundry and I'm supposed to be flying out to freezing cold Alberta TOMORROW! So, the only kind of bread I have time to bake is flatbread. I don't know why I never made this before, it is *so* easy! Flour, salt, water and/or oil, roll and bake! And check out how I burned that piece of spelt flatbread, but I think it looks quite rustic. Almost like I was slaving in front of a wood burning oven! *Almost*. I did set off the fire alarm from the smoke that came out of the oven when I took that piece out. Anyway, I sprinkled the FBs with Sicilian sea salt as well as variety of other toppings such as rosemary, fennel seed, caraway seed and flax seed. To be served this evening with some Manchego and a cheese I've never tried before- Epoisses, a stinky soft cheese recommended by my cheesemonger.


Food that's multifunctional

Take these ingredients:
- olive oil
- water
- peppermint
- lemon

All things you can eat or drink, right? Add some Sodium Hydroxide (a.k.a. LYE- an ingredient commonly found in drain cleaner) and what do you get? Olive oil soap!

C and I made this batch around 5 weeks ago and it's been curing ever since, but tonight we packaged them up just in time for Christmas.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Hibernation Chicken

I'm officially hibernating... driven into my cave by weather no sane person would voluntarily endure. I ventured out on Saturday to get food and see if anyone else was out. Despite the snow there were lots of people trudging around the market – some of them even seemed happy. I stocked up with enough food to get through the winter and headed home.

Tonight I roasted a chicken based on a recipe from the Balthazar cookbook. First, make an herb butter with softened butter, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Push the herb butter under the skin, rubbing any extra around the outside. Trust me, there'll be extra... on your hands. You have to do it with your hands so be prepared for butter fingers. Brown the chicken on both sides and then finish it in the oven. The herb butter makes it moist and herby. The fennel and sweet potato were also browned in a pan and then roasted.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lemon Penne with Broccoli & Bacon

I'm thinking about changing our name to Broccoli & Bacon – I'm totally obsessed with the combo. In fact, I almost made broccoli wrapped in bacon, but I decided that would be too weird. Bacon wrapped things always sound better than the end result.

I made a light sauce with white wine and lemon juice, and then topped it with lemon rind to add some brightness. The Peperoncini from Terroni brought the heat.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

More than just cookies...

Every year around the holidays, the Chicago photographer, Lisa Predko shows up with fabulous holiday cheer in the form of cookies that she makes for her clients/friends.  The cookies are delicious and are usually chocolate chip and/or white chocolate chip macadamia nut and because they are so yummy they do not last very long.  It's not just the cookies that are fabulous but the amazing photo she comes up with every year to put in the top of the great boxes she gives too. I think I have about 4 or 5 of the photos (you can see 2 of them on her website, click on "page 3") and their boxes saved from previous years. One of the boxes holds various recipes I've collected over the years and one of the other boxes holds wine/champagne corks I've kept for fun or from special occasions.  One of Lisa's cookie photos even became part of my holiday decorations this year. It's taped to the inside of my door with Chicago's Snow & Graham mittens as garland. You'll notice in this year's picture from Lisa that the Santa from the previous year's photo is in the background lounging on the sofa. 


Friday, December 19, 2008

Cookie Friday December 19

This sent in by Nadia, an active Cookie Friday cookie-eater, enjoying the Skor bar cookie at her desk on this blustery Friday December 19. It's too cold to go outside, stay in and eat cookies! (All natural peanut butter and grape jelly featured below. My pal Broccoli takes the loveliest shots!)


Thursday, December 18, 2008


What does it mean when you wake up feeling hung-over, but you know you're not? Too boot, I had a craving for a greezy breakfast sandwich! Uh-oh, I think I might be preggo.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Steak Frites

I'd never make it as a vegetarian. I'm not a huge meat eater, and I love my veggies, but when I get the craving for a steak, I can't imagine a substitute.

This afternoon, after lunch oddly enough, the craving hit me. Right after work I went to the market and found a beautiful tenderloin roast from Top Meadow Farms. I was also craving a salsa or something tangy to go with the steak frites. I settled on a purée of sautéed shallots, arugula and horseradish. Once it cooled, I added plain yogurt to smooth it out. On the side, instead of potato, I roasted yams. 

C’est fantastique! Non?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Roasted Arctic Char and Fennel

I was looking for something with fennel and fish... f&f. When came across this recipe it reminded me of another favorite s&a, so I had to try it.

This recipe is so easy, it's ridiculous. There are only three ingredients... if you don't count olive oil, salt and pepper. 25 minutes after you start, you'll putting dishes in the dishwasher and thinking about dessert.


Avocado Tree

We had an "Avocado" coloured fridge when I was growing up. I doubt that has anything to do with my fondness for these little beauties, but let's say it does.

I'm posting this because I like looking at them as much as I like eating them. What other fruit is purple on the outside, and lime green on the inside? I guess a Kiwi, but not quite.

Someday I really need to live somewhere that I can have an avocado tree in the yard. Actually, I really want a few 'food' trees... orange, grapefruit, lime, pomegranate and avocado. Coconuts would be good too.


Breakfast Bellini

I opened the fridge Saturday morning, and to my surprise, there was an open bottle of Prosecco next to the OJ. It was a magical moment... I swear I heard a bell.

Before I could reach for the bottle my voice of reason reminded me that it was 10am.  I thought about if for a moment, but I felt since it was Saturday, my VOR should eff-off.

Technically this is not a Bellini, but it's what I had in mind. Cheers!


Monday, December 8, 2008

baby pies

I was inspired by the Best Pie Bake-off 2008 on the Kitchn and made mini versions of this rustic pear tart using frozen puff pastry. Le Gourmand makes my all-time favourite pear custard tart, as well as an apple version, but this recipe comes close for being homemade!


Favorite Thing: Peppermint Ice Cream

ONE of my favorite things at Christmas time is Peppermint Ice Cream.  My friend Maggie turned me onto this yummy delight above.  This one includes chocolate chunks with the chunks of peppermint.  Since it only comes out at Christmas's okay to buy the WHOLE shelf in the freezer section, right?


Broccoli's Bacon Mac & Cheese

Cupcake's recent post had me hankering for mac & cheese. Tonight I made my own version, which included broccoli and bacon. It turned out, but  not nearly as saucy as I would have liked.


Parmesan with a twist

Anyone who's been to Terroni will recognize this little wonder. I've always wanted to get one for home, but until today I had no idea where to find it. Sobeys!


Mom's Reuben Sandwich

The Reuben sandwich is said to have originated in Omaha, maybe that's why I love it so much. But really I think I love it because of my Mom's version.   She made the one above the first night I was in Omaha for American Thanksgiving.  Fresh from the oven bread filled with: Sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, corned beef, and swiss cheese...I can't wait for Christmas in Omaha.  


Mom's Macaroni & Cheese

With the weather getting colder and colder.  I'm finding myself calling my Mom more and more for her comfort food recipes.  A few weeks ago I got her macaroni and cheese recipe and made the above adding fusilli pasta to it.  But I think what makes this recipe so good is that my Mom adds finely chopped onion to it!  Once the macaroni and cheese is in the oven baking the aroma is amazing!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

3 Day Weekend Birthday

Last month I celebrated my birthday...for 3 days.  Unfortunately, Daniel Craig did not make an appearance in person, only in magazine form *sigh*.

Friday:  For a pre-birthday celebration my friend Nidhi and I went to The Bristol for dinner. The food there is fantastic and I can't wait to go back and have what Nidhi had for dinner that night!  Order the Monkey Bread Pull Apart with Dill Butter and Sea Salt to start. Nidhi had the Grilled Skirt Steak with Blue Cheese Ravioli (YUM) and I had the Grilled Salmon with Garlic Almond Sauce and Grapes (Also YUM).  We then wandered down Damen Ave. to duchamp (formerly Meritage Wine Cafe) for a cocktail and then down to Lemmings for a nightcap. Perfect pre-birthday eat/pub crawl through Bucktown.

Saturday:  For my actual birthday my sister-in-law, Julie, drove in from Indiana to take me out to dinner.  We started the afternoon at Macy's on State Street.  That Saturday Macy's revealed this year's Christmas store window displays and had put up the 150th Anniversary Christmas tree in The Walnut Room.  The theme this year is "Believe" featuring FAO Schwartz toys.  We gazed at the tree from the wine bar where we each enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and shared a chocolate flight.  Yum!  We then headed back to Bucktown to Hot Chocolate.  Dinner was delicious...though I can't think of what we had for the savory part of the meal since the dessert blocked it out:  A Study in Chocolate Cake.  

Sunday:  I met my friends Tyllie and Kari at bin wine cafe in, yes, Bucktown again.  Coffee, various flavors of Mimosas and brunch...yum.  We then went to Mandy B's and got 2 cupcakes me one is not enough...esp. on your birthday weekend. 


Come passe il tempo libero?

How do I spend my free time?
Sipping a modified Sprizz called Braci e Baci (Hugs & Kisses) and doing my Italian homework. It helps to do it at Mercatto, where the bartender might help you with irregular verb conjugations.


Hybernation food

Is it just me or does anyone else like hybernating these days? Between the cold weather and the troubled economic times it seemed easier to stay in for dinner on saturday night, although I did reluctantly end up venturing out to Ted's on College street for an apres-dinner drink.

I intended to keep this mushroom barley pie vegetarian, but when I was at St. Lawrence Market on Friday afternoon, I spied some Berkshire bacon and couldn't help but toss in a few slices. I can never say no to bacon. Sorry, vegetarians.