There’s a new trend appearing here in Calgary and though High Tea has been around for centuries, a recent resurgence of this British tradition is happening in and around our city. High Tea has been available at both Fairmont Banff Spring and the Fairmont Palliser for some time, but this year they received the ‘Royal treatment’ to celebrate the Canadian visit of Their Royal Highness’s the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex. This surge in High Tea’s popularity has prompted other local restaurants to include it on their weekend menus, with several more to follow suit.
Tomorrow will be the first official seating of High Tea at Brasserie Kensington with service beginning at 2:15 and running until 4:30 pm. This time in the afternoon is generally very quiet for most restaurants, but rather than closing in between brunch and dinner services, chef Cam wanted to offer something a little bit different; and different it is! In the most traditional sense, afternoon High Tea can be quite stuffy and formal, and though there’s a time and place for this sort of dining adventure, the Brasserie Kensington is not it. Chef Cam has taken the best parts of high tea (vintage fine tea cups, piping hot Earl Grey, finger sandwiches, clotted cream and scones) and redefined them according to Brasserie Kensington’s relaxed style. Instead of cucumber sandwiches, you’ll find Duck Confit Banh Mi finger sandwiches and Truffle Deviled Eggs.
This new Brasserie Kensington offering has also become a vehicle for local collaboration between Chef Cam and Jonathan owner of The Naked Leaf, a tea shop located right across the street. Learning about teas and how they pair with food has been an eye opening experience for Chef Cam and he’s looking forward to many more collaborations to come. Of course, when I order tea, 98% of the time it just has to be Earl Grey so I’m not sure what it would take to get me to try another with my High Tea.
Of course, High Tea would not be complete without bite sized sweets. For the month of December, Chef Cam has created a stunning array of holiday themed dainties, including Gingerbread Cake, Snowflake Sugar Cookies, and Hazelnut Mousse. There is also a selection of specially created tea-based cocktails for sharing or drinking all on your own.
High Tea at Brasserie Kensington will be $35 per person, with $1 from every high tea purchase donated to a local charity. For the month of December, donations will be made to the Veteran’s Food Bank, but a new charity will be selected each month.
Brasserie Kensington 1131 Kensington Rd. NW; 403-457-4148
The Naked Leaf #4 1126 Kensington Rd. NW; 403-283-3555
Have you ever taken part in a Christmas cookie exchange? It is the absolute best way to sneak in some holiday time with friends and fill your freezer with a nice assortment of goodies. All day bake-a-thons are fun too…I used to get together with three other ladies every year where we would each bring the ingredients for two recipes and bake all day. We would blast the tunes, open the wine (or shake up some cocktails), gossip, and by the end of the day we would have eight different kinds of goodies to bring home. Those were back in the days when our kids were small and we all lived in the same area, now they’ve all grown up and we’ve scattered across the city (and Canada) like spilled nonpareils.
For the last couple of years, I’ve donated my pre-Christmas baking frenzies to bake sales…but this year, sadly those seem to have disappeared too. Luckily, I am part of a casual cooking group here in Calgary called ‘Bite Club’. Yes, I know the first rule about ‘Bite Club’ is you do not talk about Bite Club*, but humour me for a moment. It’s comprised of a lovely bunch of talented ladies, with a couple of men including Pierre Lamielle, a personal chef for hire, Chopped Canada champion, illustrator, and all around funny guy. Meetups usually occur on a monthly basis at a different home and there’s usually some sort of theme involved, whether it’s a particular chef, theme, or a specific cookbook. In the past, we’ve had ‘bring your favourite family recipe’, Rick Bayless, an ‘Haute Dog’ party, an Indian feast based on recipes from A Spicy Touch and even a ‘church lady’ wake for David Bowie. It’s so much fun to see how creative everyone can be and the variety of food is usually pretty impressive. The smart ones among us bring containers so they can bring leftovers home.
Last night was our first Christmas cookie exchange based upon Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies. Since there were around 30 of us packed into Julie van Rosendaal’s tiny little turn of the century home, we didn’t aim to bring 30 dozen cookies to swap. Thank goodness!! Instead we just brought as many as we wanted to trade for (plus some for snacking on). I didn’t have a chance to buy the cook book yet and I needed to create some content for the blog so I came up with a Christmas treat of my own. What if I took the ingredients that I would use to make a Nanaimo Bar and shape it into a truffle? A soft yellow centre flavoured with Bird’s Custard Powder, surrounded by the coconut chocolate layer, and dipped in chocolate…
Well I am telling you it is possible!! It was very time consuming and probably slightly more time than I would spend on a cookie exchange, but the results were worth it. Would you believe I’ve never actually made Nanaimo Bars before? Despite the pleas from my family, it’s never happened. I think they are going to be happy this year because I doubled up the recipe and only brought half to the cookie exchange. The rest will be waiting in the freezer, ready to be placed on Christmas dainty trays.
I did learn something last night at the cookie exchange. Julie’s sister, Anne, is a chocolatier and she told me that I could just leave the coconut oil out of the melted chocolate. If you do leave it in, these truffles should be kept chilled at all times. They will be solid at room temperature, but will melt quickly in your hand.
I bought the little chocolate covered quinoa puffs at Bulk Barn. If you get a chance, and you have one nearby you should definitely stop by for a great selection of baking ingredients and decorations. I could spend a lot of dough in that place!
Lastly, it was such a fun night. I came home with 3 dozen interesting cookies to share with my family, such as Chocolate Chili Sablés, Lemon Crinkles, Chocolate Crinkles, Lemon Brulée Cookies, Chocolate Tahini Cookies, and a few really tasty savoury cookies. It was a great way to sample so many cookies from one book and now I think I have a cookie hangover!
*Bite Club = Fight Club…you know, with Brad Pitt! Sadly he does not belong to our Bite Club.
Once again, I’m delighted to join a group of talented Canadian Bloggers in the #CANRecipe Challenge with December’s theme “Christmas Classics”.
Find more #CANRecipe Christmas Classics here:
Dipped Oreos @ The Inspired Home
Mulled Wine @ Maple and Marigold
Bacon Fried Rice @ Allergy Girl Eats
Coles Pudding @ Off The Porch
Chocolate covered Whiskey-Soaked Figs @ Everday Allergen Free
Shortbread Cookies @ Mommydo
I didn’t grow up with a Baba to teach me how to make cabbage rolls, but I did grow up eating them. I think local Babas (Ukrainian grandmothers) took pity on us, because once in a while a tray full of home made, hand rolled goodness showed up on our counter. My Grandmas were of French, German and Hungarian backgrounds, so their cooking came with it’s own special perks, like home made tourtière, sauerkraut and poppy seed roll. My Hungarian Grandma did actually make a casserole she called ‘lazy cabbage rolls’ which she seasoned with a liberal amount of paprika! I suspect that my mom ‘had no time’ for such time consuming dishes, though she would spend all day making a batch of her fabulous home baked bread and sewing.
When I was finally ready to begin rolling my own cabbage rolls, I asked for instructions from some Ukrainian relatives and friends but I never really found a recipe that contained the flavours that I liked. Since many of them suggested using canned tomato soup as a sauce base (and I am morally opposed to cooking with a can of soup), I knew that it was up to me to experiment on my own. One bit of advice that found very helpful was to boil the whole cabbage (core removed) in a large, salted stockpot of water. The cabbage leaves separate and soften, making it much easier to roll them over the filling and ensures that they are soft and tender in the final dish.
These cabbage rolls feature a good amount of dill, an herb which grows abundantly in my mother’s garden. There’s dill in the filling and in the tomato sauce not only because it tastes great, but because my mom is always drying and giving me jars of her dill. I’m expecting another jar of it to show up in my Christmas stocking again this year…
There’s really no need to include the roasted red peppers, I just added them because I had some in the fridge that I needed to use up. You can omit them from the sauce, if you wish. What really makes a difference in taste though, is using a high quality tomato sauce or passata (not tomato soup!). I make my passata every fall, it’s one of my least favourite but most rewarding three days of preserving because enables us to enjoy the taste of summer tomatoes all winter long.
Times are tough and I’ve come to realize that besides death and taxes, the only true industry that survives and thrives is brewing. Beer has been constant throughout human history, it’s one of the oldest beverages produced dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC, according to Wikipedia. So, it’s no wonder that when the economy tanks (and doesn’t look like it’s rebounding any time soon) people turn to what is familiar and comfortable. This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to start a microbrewery but surprise, surprise…beer consumption is up these days as well. Beer is (relatively) cheap to drink and acts as a social lubricant. These days it’s less about ‘drowning your sorrows’ at a lonely bar with a glass of scotch on the rocks, and more about commiserations and ideas…uniting against a common problem and most importantly, supporting local.
This thriving ‘beer economy’ has attracted others to our city as well and that’s okay. Friendly competition is always a good thing, it keeps the brewer’s honest, provides jobs, and helps our local economy. Our local brewers are a tight group, who gather quite frequently for collaborations and cask tappings. A few them have told me that there’s room for everyone’s brews here in Calgary, though for the most part the arrival of Mill Street Brewery has created a mixed response. Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery has arrived and opened a Calgary brew pub in a prime location on 17th Avenue SE. It’s a great place to hang out with friends before a Calgary Flames game or concert because it is literally blocks from the Scotiabank Saddledome. Even though everything inside is new and shiny, the brewery building has a bit of a history and is known among Calgarians as ‘The Costigan House’. This 100+ year old mansion was home to several prominent Calgarians (the first of which were John Ryan and Ada Costigan), before being utilized as a boarding home, and finally as a series of nightclubs (ending as The Republik). The significant renovation on this historic home kept most of the exterior feature characteristics, while completely changing the interior. Along the east side, there is a ‘garage-like’ addition which houses a retail store and a brewery, boasting all Canadian made Stainless Steel vessels which are visible from the street and through the large windows on the lowest floor. The muli-level pub has seating for 225, with another 160 seats added during patio season.
Mill Street Brewery’s first location opened up in Toronto’s Distillery District in 2002 serving their Original Organic Lager which continues to be their biggest seller, making up 60% of their beer sales. Four years later they expanded the brewery to include a brew pub, then opened an Ottawa brew pub in 2012. 2016 was their biggest year yet with brew pubs opening in St. John’s and Calgary. Each location has a selection of year round core brews (Original Organic Lager, 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager, Tankhouse Ale, West Coast Style IPA, Cobblestone Stout, and Stock Ale) in addition to seasonal brews (Lemon Tea Beer), Special Brews (like the Belgian Tripel, Betelgeuse), and location-specific brews. In Calgary that means the Chuckwagon Wheat, Basecamp Stout, Twin Tips IPA, Honest Bucker Pale Ale (among others) on a rotating/seasonal basis. While the core brews are produced in Toronto under the direction of brewmaster Joel Manning and shipped to all other locations, the Calgary microbrewery (overseen by brewmaster Bennie Dingemanse) produces roughly 30-40 kegs per week in house.
But this is a FOOD BLOG so you probably want to know about the food at Mill Street Brew Pub. I’ve been a couple times already and I’ve been quite impressed with the food. It is definitely not your regular ‘pub grub’ as it is much more refined and regional than you would expect. Executive Chef Glen Manzer also creates some of the dishes using beer brewed on location, which I always love to see. So far the stand outs for me have been the Wedge Salad, Barley Mushroom Risotto, Wild Rice Pudding (with 100th Meridian Caramel), Mushroom Bruschetta and the Nanaimo Bars!
In all, I think Mill Street Brew Pub is a welcome addition to the Calgary beer scene and will add value to 17th Avenue SW scene. Brewery tours are available daily after 4 pm, though I would call ahead to double check availability. If you want to take some swag home or fill a growler full of your favourite Mill Street Brewery beer, both are available at the retail store from noon to 9 pm daily.
Mill Street Brew Pub219 17th Avenue SW; (403) 454-6871
For those of you wrinkling your foreheads at this post title, allow me to explain. Cookinotti is the ultimate indulgence. It’s basically ginger spice cookies crushed up and made into a spreadable paste, similar in texture to smooth peanut butter. Yep, spreadable cookies.
Cookinotti is but one brand of this wonderful, spreadable cookie indulgence that originated in Belgium and spread in popularity across Europe, eventually landing on North American shores a few short years ago. At one time, Belgians began to crush spice cookies (Speculoos) and sprinkle them on top of buttered toast. Eventually some genius had the bright idea that they should combine the two and speculoos spread was born. Since spice cookies contain any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and lots of butter…the logical conclusion that any cookie (or gingerbread) lover would make is that they are perfect for the holiday season. And so I present to you…Cookinotti Biscotti.
For the second year in row now I’ve been privileged to attend the prestigious Gold Medal Plates evening in support some of my favourite Calgary chefs and Canadian Olympians. The net proceeds from the event are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support high performance programs such as Own the Podium. The foundation makes it possible for Canadian athletes to live their Olympic dreams, supporting them while they train and prepare for Olympic competition.The evening is a great mix of entertainment, elevated cuisine, and charity; with the funds raised through both a silent auction and regular auction. Some of the auction items include trips such as ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’; where the winning bidder is wined and dined along with Canadian Olympians and celebrities like Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Barney Bentall, Anne Lindsay, Devin Cuddy, and Sam Polley. New this year was an Iceland trip with Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies)…imagine hanging out in Iceland with Ed and Catriona LeMay Doan (Olympic double gold and bronze medallist in long track speed skating). It would be so surreal! There always are quite a few athletes in attendance and it’s a great opportunity to meet them and find out exactly where they get their inspiration and drive from. Training for the Olympics is often quite a lonely journey and I think it’s comforting for them to know that their fellow Canadians appreciate all their hard work and dedication.
For me though, it’s mostly about the food. I’m going to be honest here and say that my favourite part of GMP is supporting my favourite chefs and seeing them achieve greatness. Often, a parallel can be drawn between the training a chef goes through and the life of an athlete, because it takes just as much hard work and dedication to be the very best. Add talent to the mix and greatness, through Gold Medal Plates, can be achieved. Calgary is but one stop in the Gold Medal Plates country-wide circuit, with the fundraising competition taking place in 12 Canadian cities: Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, St. John’s, and Halifax. The winners from each city travel to the final competition in Kelowna (February 3-4, 2016) where the Canadian Gold Medal Plate Champion is crowned. We haven’t had a GMP podium finisher from Calgary yet, so here’s hoping 2016 is our year!
I like to arrive early to get photos of them in ‘action’ while they finish the final preparations for the 600-700 plates that they will assemble in just under two hours. Believe me, it’s no small feat and there seems to always be a last minute adjustments or crises. The photos I took last year were mostly action shots, but this year I was able to get most of the teams to stand still for a group shot. Many faces show exhaustion mixed with anticipation and hope…a reflection that I’ve also seen on our Canadian athlete’s faces during Olympic competition. Above all, what I see is desire to win gold.
Calgary’s podium chefs and their dishes for 2016 were:
3 – Chef Michel Nop – Redwater Rustic Grille (Vintage Group)
Chef Michel is a young, bright guy with a talent for plating and annoying people for fun. I’m not sure why he left Paris for Calgary, but I am glad he did. His dish was a combination of intriguing flavours; both new and classic. The combination of the rich Foie Gras & Unagi Pressé with Granny Smith Apple Gel, buttery brioche purée, and sweet pistachio praline was a huge success with the judges. This gorgeous plate earned him a bronze medal in the competition. 2 – Chef John Michael MacNeil – The Belvedere
All great chefs grow and evolve through experiences and Chef John Michael MacNeil is no exception. His love for Spanish cuisine led to several trips to this exciting country where he became even more inspired. A brief stage with Chef Antonio Park of Park Resto in Montreal (a chef known for creating absolutely gorgeous dishes with influences from all over the globe) also broadened Chef John’s scope of influence. Now back in Calgary, he’s in charge of The Belvedere, a plush fine dining restaurant in the heart of Calgary. His dish, Sous vide bison cheek, la Ratte potato, apple wood smoked chanterelles, brined carrots, and parsley purée earned him the Silver medal at the Calgary event. I thought it was an amazing example of how a dish with fairly simple ‘meat and potatoes’ ingredients could be elevated into the highest cuisine using culinary technique.
1 – Chef Jinhee Lee – Vintage Chophouse (Vintage Group)
Chef Jinhee Lee has made a lasting culinary impression on our city. Her artfully skilled plating matches the subtle, yet harmonized flavours of her dishes that she has served at various Calgary restaurants, including Raw Bar (located in Hotel Arts) and most recently at Vintage Chophouse. Her dish ‘Cha ca la Vong’, a turmeric fish mosaic, was inspired by her travels in Asia and a particular restaurant that she loved in Hanoi. Her beautiful dish was full of contrasts in texture and flavour and it was most definitely a gold medal dish.
The other Calgary chefs selected to compete were:
Chef James Waters – KLEIN / HARRIS Restaurant
The dishes were judged by several prominent Calgary chefs and previous Gold Medal Plate Calgary winners; Senior Chef Judge Michael Allemier (Instructor at SAIT), Chef Matthew Batey (GMP Calgary, 2015), Chef Ryan O’Flynn (Canadian Culinary Champion, 2015), Chef Dave Bohati (GMP Calgary 2014), alongside Kathy Richardier (Publisher and Editor Calgary’s City Palate Magazine), national GMP head judge James Chatto. Each dish was judged out of 100 points, based on visual presentation (20%), texture (10%), technical achievement (10%), taste (40%), wine compatibility (10%), and wow factor (10%).
Walking into Cured Delicatessen in Haysboro, is like walking back 30 + years into my childhood for me. With one mere step inside the modern, yet classically styled deli, I breathe deeply and find myself transported to our family’s closest small town butcher and sausage maker, Shellbrook Meats. We didn’t head to town very often; only when mom was missing something extremely important (like milk), dad needed a haircut, or had an appointment at the bank. There was never any ‘fun’ reason to go to Shellbrook and the 45 minute car trip was excruciating, but at the end (oh, the sweet end!) there was always pepperoni. It’s the most perfect pepperoni on earth…to this day, when my parents come to visit me in Calgary, they bring me a couple of kilos of that meaty goodness. Lucky for me, they are coming for a visit next week…fingers crossed!
So, what happens when they haven’t visited in a while? Where can I get my pepperoni and sausage cravings satiated? The newly reopened, friendly neighbourhood deli: Cured Delicatessen. It feels like it has been around for so long, and in a way it has; opened as the original ‘European Deli’ in 1955 (in Mount Royal) it later moved to the Haysboro location and became a treasure trove of familiar tastes to German, Hungarian, and Dutch customers. If a business is still going strong 60 years later, you know they are doing something right.
Current Cured owner, Dale Greene wasn’t always a sausage fanatic. He trained at SAIT, worked at various Calgary restaurants, eventually ending up as the bakery manager at Sunterra market. Like all great enterpreneurs, Dale saw that there was a demand for quality cured meats using traditional spice blends with no gluten, artificial preservatives or binders. Sausage making isn’t generally a profession that you just stumble onto. It takes years of training and because it’s a craft, it’s best to learn from a master. Enter Karl Mueller, the former owner of Mountain Sausage in Lethbridge whose style is mostly German, focussing on ‘all the wursts’…and that’s okay with me!
Armed with the required sausage knowledge, Dale, along with his wife Shaine, began looking for a ‘meat loving’ community where they could open a business and raise their young family. Just as the links of a coil of sausage have a beginning and an ending, so too does the life of a business. The owners of the Haysboro European Deli were ready to retire and Dale leapt at the opportunity to buy the deli, also inheriting the sausage appreciating customer base. He aims to keep old favourites around, like the ‘Roundie’ (which is basically a large Kaiser bun sandwich filled with deli meats that has been around since 1955) while at the same time playing with new flavours, like chocolate chorizo.
In addition to the over 2000 pounds of cured meats and sausages that are made over the course of a month, there is a small, but mighty lunch menu including the aforementioned Roundie, a daily ‘tubesteak’ or grilled sausage with toppings, breakfast sandwiches, charcuterie board, and schnitzel sandwiches. The weekend brunch menu is slightly smaller, with a wider variety of breakfast type dishes as one would expect. I’ve tried the Chicken and Waffles on several occasions now, and I’m in love with the combo of chicken Kaarage, chocolate chorizo, and marmalade. It’s the perfect combination of savoury, sweet, and bitter…
I’ll use any excuse to go to Cured. For example, before I even began writing this post, I texted my hubby to tell him I was making a trip there for sandwich meat. I really didn’t have to ask him what he wanted because I knew already the answer would be what he texted back in reply, ‘motadella’ (I knew that he meant slices of the delicious mortadella stuffed ham). I think I will pick up some of the Hippy Dippy Bologna too, because sometimes I just need a slice of bologna and if I can get it nitrate free, then all the better! Then there are the landjagers, the bratwursts, the truffle salami…
8409 Elbow Drive SW; 403-244-0570
Hours: Closed Monday
Tuesday-Saturday 8:30 am – 7 pm
Sunday 8:30 am – 2 pm
Have you ever noticed that you always have leftover canned pumpkin purée after you make your Thanksgiving pie? The cans are a whopping 795 ml, but every darn time I’ve made a pie I’ve only ever used around 500 ml. I have finally come to realize that the ONLY reason to have that little bit left over is so that you can also make pumpkin muffins or cookies! Why stop at just a pie when you can bake those same flavours into another treat?
While we’re on the subject of canned pumpkin, did you know that many brands are one of or a mixture of butternut, Hubbard, Boston Marrow, and Golden Delicious squashes? I read this article from the Kitchn and was completely floored. I always buy E.D. Smith here in Canada and this year I made a point of reading the label which said 100% Pure Dickinson Pumpkin. I realize that there isn’t much of a flavour difference between squash and pumpkin but sometimes there may be a bit of a textural difference. Of course none of this really matters if you’re the type to make your own sugar pumpkin purée. In the past I’ve peeled, cubed, steamed, and puréed my own pumpkin, but my hands break out in an itchy rash due to my squash allergy. Yep, I said squash allergy. It turns out that I can eat fully cooked pumpkin (and squash) purée because the heat denatures the protein in squash that I causes my reaction. I can’t eat raw, grilled, or under cooked pumpkin, squash, or zucchini. Since there really isn’t that much of a difference between home made and the canned purée, besides a whole lot of work and a bit more money, I’ll be sticking with the canned version from now on.
Spiced Pumpkin Walnut Cookies
Beat butter in an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add about half of the flour, then add the eggs, baking powder, spices, vanilla, and baking soda. Beat until thoroughly combined, then add remaining flour and pumpkin purée. Drop by rounded teaspoons on a prepared cookie sheet and bake at 375 F or until the edges are lightly browned. They are quite cake-like in texture so it’s nice to have a little drizzle over the top, such as this Apple Brandy Caramel Sauce (recipe). Makes 30.
There are those who would never dream of giving up their slow cookers and those who still have theirs sitting in the original box gathering dust in the basement. I am, for the most part, ambivalent towards my slow cooker because I’ve used it to make some great meals and some really disappointing ones. I haven’t ever really become addicted to using it on a regular basis but I will admit that on busy days, it’s oh-so-satisfying to be able to work undisturbed or attend events and football games, knowing that dinner will be ready and waiting.
The slow cooker is an appliance suited to the lifestyles of busy families everywhere, so the gals at Best of Bridge knew what they were doing when they named their newest cookbook release; The Family Slow Cooker. Speaking of ‘gals’, did you know there’s been a regime change at Best of Bridge? The original eight Ladies of the Best of Bridge, who formed this highly successful Canadian publishing brand (having sold over 4 million copies since they began in 1975!), have decided it’s time to put their feet up and pass the baton to a new circle of friends. Long time friends Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Sue Duncan, and Julie van Rosendaal were chosen as the new generation Best of Bridge ladies and will each bring their own flavour to the brand, while still honouring the original motto ‘simple recipes with gourmet results’. These slow cooker dishes are made with ordinary ingredients found in any grocery store, while the simple to use recipes (and hilarious one-liners) are meant to keep cooking in the kitchen fun.
Football season in Canada means long hours in chilly temperatures, metal bleachers, and late dinners. I’m so glad my review copy arrived just as football season began because after a couple of hours of being frozen to the bone, it’s so nice to come home to a warm and hearty slow cooked meal. I gave my husband the review recipe list and asked him to pick a few tester recipes, thoroughly expecting him to choose the Braised Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Rosemary, but he went with the Chicken and White Bean Stew with Pesto because he knows I don’t enjoy lamb. Wasn’t that nice of him? I thought the recipe looked way too simple but I gave it a try and was surprised at how well it turned out. One of my pet peeves about doing stews in slow cookers is that I find everything begins to taste the same after 6 hours. The addition of pesto at the end is a GENIUS move by the BOB ladies because it adds a whole other layer of flavour and brightness to this stew. It’s opened up a whole new world of slow cooker possibilities and makes me think that other stews could be improved by simple herb pistous or even a spicy chimichurri.
I picked the next recipe, Caramelized Onion Pasta Carbonara, because I was curious to find out if the onions would really caramelize in the slow cooker. Again, this recipe seemed too easy and we were all suspicious that there was no bacon involved. The recipe introduction stated ‘you won’t miss the bacon’, so I had to test it out. The onions were just on the edge of burning because I was stubborn and started them on the high setting, but after I gave them a stir and switched the setting to low, they turned out quite nicely. Finishing the recipe in the slow cooker on high was really easy and the temperature was just perfect for cooking the eggs and melting the Parmesan. We all really enjoyed this dish, though we all agreed that I could sneak in just a little bit of pre-cooked bacon the next time I make it.
‘A comforting stew, flavoured with basil pesto’
Combine chicken, celery, carrots, garlic, onion, potato, zucchini, red pepper, cumin, beans and stock in a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours or until thickened and stew-like. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in pesto. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan. Serves 6.
Reprinted with Permission from Best of Bridge; The Family Slow Cooker
Combine onions, oil, and butter in a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until golden, stirring once or twice if you’re around and think of it.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water. Dump the drained pasta into the slow cooker and turn it up to high. Drizzle eggs over the top and toss with tongs, adding a splash of pasta water to lubricate things, until pasta is saucy and eggs are cooked. Add Parmesan and pepper; toss until heated through. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Reprinted with Permission from Best of Bridge; The Family Slow Cooker
Best of Bridge – The Family Slow Cooker; 384 pages; $29.95 US/CAN; Pulished by Robert Rose Inc.; October 2016
Have you noticed that your family tends to ‘cycle’ their preferred fruit intake, meaning they’ll eat all the bananas (apples, pears, etc.) that you buy, then suddenly move on to another favourite? Mine certainly does! The uneaten fruits sit in degrading in the bowl for days, sometimes weeks until I find some way to use them up. I’m not complaining because if there were never any ‘distressed’ fruits, I wouldn’t be able to bake any apple sauce, apple butters, muffins, or fruity quick breads.
The latest fruit to be cast aside, doomed to all fruit bowl eternity, are pears. Fall is the perfect time to pick up a box of pears in the Okanagan and that is exactly what we did. I thought the three of us polished them off quite efficiently so I bought another round at the grocery store. Truth be told, these pears were still from the Okanagan and probably from very close to where we bought ours…but either the boys were tired of pears or they weren’t as treasured as the first box that we bought directly from the orchard. I had four pears in various states of disarray to cook with and I was up for the challenge! I grated them all up and decided to make a double batch of this Spiced Pear and Yogurt Bread.