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It’s a Christmas miracle! I’ve been talking about launching a podcast for years, and I finally did it – it’s done, it’s up! Anna Olson was in town promoting her new book, Set for the Holidays, last month, and I knew that she a) would be a perfect first conversation for the kind of podcast I had in mind, and b) totally up for sitting down for a chat with me. And! As a bonus, it was Christmas, which meant a self-imposed deadline: after recording it, I’d have to get it up before the holidays. It was a steeper learning curve than I thought – beyond the editing itself, which involves multiple tracks, smoothing out hot posts and awkward cuts, balancing the EQ and all that jazz, it weirdly enough is not as simple to upload a piece of audio as it is to post a video on YouTube. We talked to some pros who were far more elaborately set up than we are (GarageContinue reading

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A week or so ago (why is time moving so FAST?!) I spent a day getting on top of holiday prep, thanks to Virtual Vino, and got so caught up in the possibilities of what can be done ahead that I stopped at about 2600 words and promised to follow up with a few ideas about how to get a head start on all the cooking obligations of Christmas Day. Everyone wants a luxurious breakfast without cooking, and a stress-free dinner that doesn’t require spending half the morning getting the turkey in. And the orchestrating of sides and appetizers and dessert can be exhausting. But really – feeding everyone for the whole day doesn’t have to be daunting, even if you don’t have everyone pitching in to get dinner on the table. So much can be done well ahead of time, and doesn’t necessarily require freezer space. First! Order wine. I love having a couple well-curated six packs on standby for parties and dinner duty.Continue reading

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I’m all set. Well, mostly. I have to start this post with a huge thank-you to Virtual Vino, a small Calgary company that operates out of Rocky Mountain Wine, Spirits & Beer, which is next door to Long & McQuade, so I’m always poking around while Mike shops for drum skins. I ordered and picked up all this wine last week, after discovering last year that doing so made December far easier, and saved a ton of time and money. But what I really appreciate is that they’re familiar with what I do, and they reached out and asked if I could help spread the word about they do by doing more of what I do—coming up with some holiday food ideas to share with you guys-and they would sponsor it. Because what I do it fits so well with what they do – curate good wines and package them up in fun six-packs you can peruse online, order at an amazing discount (the kindContinue reading

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Full disclosure: I’ve never really been a bread pudding fan. I want to love it, but haven’t really – until I tried this one, the version I made with Elizabeth Baird when pitch-hitting for Emily Richards one weekend at Christmas in November. Partly it’s due to the bread that was the starting point – a divinely light, buttery panettone baked by a company in Edmonton that’s nothing like the heavy, dense loaves shipped from Italy with a year-long shelf life. You don’t need to seek out this particular loaf – a mish-mash of raisin bread, fruited holiday bread and even croissants or cinnamon buns would work well here. And the finished pudding would be delicious for a holiday brunch or even dessert – they upped their bread pudding game with a crazy simple marmalade sauce you whisk together in about three minutes and pour overtop – spiked with brandy or Grand Marnier, if you like. This is easy to cover up and take with youContinue reading

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In general I’m not a very gadgety person, but there are a few kitchen tools I can’t be without, and one is a stand mixer. I was asked to take an Oster® Brand stand mixer for a spin (see what I did there?) and used it as an excuse to also test out a dessert I’ve been meaning to try for ages – a rolled meringue roulade, which sounds far more fancy and sophisticated than it actually is. A roulade is really anything rolled up, and in this case, meringue is spread out and rolled into a log around tart berries and cream – essentially the same ingredients as a pavlova, which just might be my favourite dessert ever. As much as I love plum pudding and the chocolate bundt cake old family friends bring over every holiday, after a big turkey dinner I don’t want something heavy – I love the sweet-tartness and acidity of something made with meringues and tart fruit and cream.Continue reading

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Yeah, I like to bake during the holidays. And every year I make stollen. It’s a dense, sweet German fruited bread, yeast-risen although some refer to it as a cake. The best thing about it is ease of shaping – you pat the dough into a rough oval, fold it over itself (and a log of marzipan, if you like), brush with a little beaten egg for a glossy sheen, and bake it until it’s deep golden. Then you get to shower it with icing sugar from a shaker or through a sieve, which is one of my favourite things. And no matter how wonky you think you’ve made it, it always comes out looking (and smelling) awesome. Use any kind of dried fruit, but make sure it’s moist, or it will suck the moisture out of the dough—if your raisins are like little dried-out pebbles, cover them with hot water, tea or even booze and let them sit until they plump up a bit,Continue reading

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Currently bedside: Nigel Slater’s latest, The Christmas Chronicles. He’s one of my all-time favourite food writers, and Christmas is my favourite time of year, and the two are packaged together perfectly. (Here’s a taste from the Guardian.) I love how much he loves the “crackle” of winter, just like I do, how he finds the cold brisk and invigorating. He makes me want to get up early and write by candlelight, then build a fire and slice crisp apples into a pot and simmer them with warm spices, a clementine and some brandy while a pork belly roasts in the oven. He perfectly encapsulates why I love these short, cold, cozy days, particularly in early winter – and even (especially?) the grey ones. Who better to refer to when seeking out a new fruitcake? Over the years, I’ve short-sightedly been thinking of fruitcake in black and white, or light and dark, always drawn toward the dark, sticky fruitcake of my childhood – specifically the oneContinue reading

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I associate trifle with Christmas – my great aunt Maud (who was British) used to make trifle – the kind with sponge cake in the bottom doused in sherry or brandy, a layer of fresh or tinned fruit, Bird’s custard and whipped cream on top – but it’s truly a year-round dessert. This is my aunt Maud’s trifle bowl, the stand long since broken off – I decided to bring it back this holiday, after chatting with a friend’s mum visiting from Worcestershire about trifle and the Great British Bake-off and the jelly-vs-no jelly debate (I say no jelly). It can be as summery or wintry as you like, and it still seems festive to me when made with a quick sponge roll spread with blackberry jam from the height of summer. If you’re not familiar with trifle, it’s a British thing traditionally made with layers of custard poured over sherry or brandy-soaked sponge cake, jelly roll or ratafia (similar to amaretti) and jam, stewedContinue reading

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Ever wonder what would happen if dense gingerbread and dark fruitcake got together? This. It was called coffee fruitcake in a 2005 issue of Gourmet, but doesn’t taste like coffee – you could swap orange juice, or grape juice, which is what my mom used when she made fruitcake decades ago. Or anything, really – but the coffee really does intensify the deep, slightly bitter gingerbread, which contrasts well with the loads of dried currants and raisins. You could, of course, stir in some other dried fruit – I was tempted to add slivered dried apricots, figs and cherries, and may next time, but it is tempting to stick with the ease of just raisins.

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