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Baked Camembert with Herbs & Honey

During the summer months, I’m all about easy appetizers that can be pulled together in a minute and a half and brought out to the patio with a cold bottle of rosé. Cheese is almost always my go-to, and we have so many amazing Canadian cheeses to choose from. I’ve even been known to slide a small wheel of Brie or Camembert into the oven while it’s hot for us to nosh on with a chunk of baguette and plate of charcuterie for dinner al fresco. It’s real fast food.

I thought of this because of the abundance of herbs currently in my garden – you don’t need a recipe so much as an easy formula: slice the top off a small wheel of Camembert or Brie, put it into any sort of ramekin or heat proof dish, top with a few sprigs of fresh herbs (like rosemary and thyme), a drizzle of oil and a good grinding of black pepper.

Slide it into the oven (or onto the back shelf of the barbecue, where you keep buns and such warm) until it’s gooey, and serve with crusty bread, tiny potatoes, or really anything you might eat with cheese. It’s even amazing as a side with a grilled steak. It’s easy being cheesy!

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Spicy Tahini Dressing

Cauliflower is such a great vegetable — it’s substantial enough to anchor a vegetarian meal and also makes a hearty side to go alongside a piece of grilled fish or meat. The other handy thing about cauliflower is that the flavour is mellow enough that you can use it as a vehicle for a number of different sauces, be it a classic cheese sauce or something hot and spicy. We love cauliflower with a garlicky tahini dressing, made even more flavourful with a dash of hot cayenne pepper. Read More

Homemade Lemonade

Summertime is beverage season, and while I’m not against the occasional slurpee, there’s too much in the way of Kool-Aid, pop and other sugary drinks that are so heavily consumed throughout the hot summer months. My standby is homemade lemonade, jazzed up with fresh herbs, ginger or sliced cucumber. Lemons are classic, of course – but limes and even grapefruit can be added to the mix to shake things up a bit, so to speak.

To make your own lemonade concentrate, bring equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. (I usually do a cup of each.) Stir to dissolve the sugar, and if you want to add flavour, grate in some fresh ginger, toss in a few stalks of chopped rhubarb, or a handful of mint, rosemary or thyme, and strain before serving.

Your lemonade concentrate will keep up to a couple weeks in the fridge; to make a pitcher or glass of lemonade, add water or sparkling water to taste, and a handful of ice. (This concentrate also works well with lime juice, and makes a fine mojito or addition to a gin & tonic.)

Watermelon + Feta Salad with Mint

There are few summer salads I enjoy as much as one made with chunks of cool, crunchy, sweet watermelon and salty, briny feta, punctuated with leaves of fresh mint from the garden. It’s as easy as salads get, and looks amazing on a shallow platter on the table. Because watermelon has such a high water content, the salad is refreshing – and easy to get on your fork, unlike spring greens on a hot day.

I like to drizzle mine with a balsamic reduction, which you can make yourself by simply reducing balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until it reduces by about a half, or buy by the bottle at most grocery stores. It holds onto the watermelon and feta better, without getting runny like straight up vinegar can.

Watermelon + Feta Salad with Mint
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  2. 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  3. a small handful of mint leaves (or baby basil)
  4. balsamic reduction
  5. freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Arrange the cubed watermelon on a shallow platter and scatter with feta and mint or basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with pepper, and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Quick Carrot Apple Salad

The extended family came over for an impromptu dinner tonight – my nephew made burgers, and I scoured the house for something to make a salad out of. We had no greens, or kale, or anything green, really – but we had tons of carrots, and I remembered a grated carrot salad we ate at various events when I was a kid, and so I tried to recreate it. It was easy to grate two large carrots, dice an apple, add a handful of raisins and dress the whole thing with rice vinegar, salt and pepper, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of mayo. And it turned out to be delicious on burgers, too.

Quick Carrot Apple Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large carrots, coarsely grated
  2. 1 apple, chopped
  3. 1/4 cup raisins or currants
  4. 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  5. 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  6. 1 tsp. sugar
  7. salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Coarsely grate the carrots into a shallow bowl. Add the apples and raisins, rice vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper and toss to coat the carrots and apples well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready for it. Serves 6.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Almond Cilantro Pesto

This time of year we crave things that are fresh and green and it doesn’t get any fresher or greener than a homemade herb-packed pesto. This pesto is made of easy-to-find ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes — whenever you need a little something extra to go with a springtime meal. Serve it with grilled chicken or fish, with hot pasta (or in a cold pasta salad), as a sandwich spread, or even as a dip. Read More

Liege-style Waffles

On a trip to Waterton last weekend to help kick off the third annual food festival (it’s on now, until June 4!), I was thrilled to finally visit Waffleton, the new(ish) waffle shop founded by the creators of Wieners of Waterton. Not only do they have divine buttermilk waffles made with batter they raise overnight, they also make real Liege-style waffles, which are dense and chewy, made with rich, buttery brioche dough and pearl sugar. I’ve always wanted to give them a go, and so I finally managed to – they’re easier to make than you might think, and definitely worth the effort. If you can’t make it to Waterton (a wonderful summertime destination), make some at home like they do at Waffleton – topped with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Liege Waffles
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup milk, warmed
  2. 1 pkg active dry yeast (about 2 tsp)
  3. 2 Tbsp sugar
  4. 3 large eggs
  5. 1 cup butter, melted
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1 cup pearl sugar
Instructions
  1. Put the milk into a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar and yeast. Let stand for a few minutes, until the yeast gets foamy.
  2. Whisk in the eggs, butter and vanilla; stir in the flour and salt and stir or knead with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until you have a soft, sticky batter. Cover and let rise for an hour, until doubled.
  3. Stir in the pearl sugar. Preheat your waffle iron and cook about 1/4 cup at a time for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Makes about 1 dozen Liege-style waffles.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Chocolate Beet Cake

Like zucchini, many of us see an abundance of beets over the summer, and no family can live on borscht alone. We love boiling and then pureeing beets and tucking them into a cake for extra moistness, colour, and flavour. If you go for a non-chocolate cake the beets will turn it a nice pink flavour, but beets and chocolate go together so well, we couldn’t resist melting some chocolate chips for this bundt cake, which can easily be carted along on a picnic. Read More

Olie Bollen

This seems like a classic Best of Bridge recipe – homemade doughnuts made from a recipe handed down over generations. After all, you only make doughnuts when you have friends and family around to eat them. Olie Bollen are traditional Dutch apple and raisin fritters – the easiest kind of doughnut to make.

There’s no need to roll and cut them, you can simply drop spoonfuls of dough into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp. Experiment with other fruit in season, too – ripe peaches are delicious, just pat them dry if they’re overly juicy. This recipe comes from a friend of a friend of a friend, who says it was her grandmother’s specialty. Serve them as an after school snack if you have extra hungry kids in the house, or for brunch when you’ll have more people around the table. They’re best warm, doused in powdered sugar.

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Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts Carbonara

Pasta carbonara (also known in less fancy circles as “bacon ‘n’ eggs pasta”) is delicious, but in the springtime, it’s nice to lighten up the classics with some green veg. This version of carbonara brings in Brussels sprouts and asparagus for some spring flavour. If you have a food processor, use it to get your sprouts nice and thin — if you don’t have one handy, just trim off the ends and loose outer leaves (and wash them!) and slice them as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Read More

Maple Walnut Granola

Homemade granola is a virtuous thing. A handful of it will ward off hunger (I keep a ziplock baggie of it in the car at all times) and layering it with some homemade or local Bles Wold vanilla yogurt and frozen berries will give you the healthiest breakfast imaginable. It also makes great muesli, if you stir it into some yogurt along with a grated apple, and pop it in the fridge overnight. Homemade granola also makes a great gift, encased in a big glass mason jar. And it’s far more expensive than most granolas you find on store shelves.

Best of all, you can customize it with dried fruit and chopped nuts, and flavours like vanilla or maple extract, cinnamon or ginger, according to your taste.

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Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots and Coconut Milk

As ready as we are to ease into spring, in a lot of the country it still feels like oatmeal season. Warm up those cool spring mornings with a slow cooker full of creamy oatmeal that you put on to cook the night before, just before bedtime. This recipe, from our latest book The Family Slow Cooker, makes a nice big batch that can be reheated throughout the week for a quick and easy hot breakfast. Read More

Asparagus Soup

Spring has sprung, buds are starting to appear and green things are poking out of the ground. Which means in Alberta, it’s almost asparagus season. While asparagus from California or Mexico is generally available year-round, it doesn’t compare to that which is grown right here – it’s not exactly a common back yard crop, but our soil conditions, lack of pests and cool climate produce tender, sweet stalks. (So long as it doesn’t snow immediately before the May-June harvest.) Some of the best asparagus is grown out in the Innisfail area, so as soon as you see it hit the market, it’s best to eat as much as possible while we can get it.

Here’s a way to preserve asparagus for a time when we won’t be able to get our hands on the local stuff – asparagus soup is simple, delicious hot or cold, and perfect to make if you happen to get a wrinkly bunch.

Asparagus Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Tbsp. each butter and canola or olive oil
  2. 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  3. 2 leeks, chopped (white and pale green part only) and then washed in a bowl of cool water
  4. 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  5. 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  6. 4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 1/2 cup half & half or heavy (whipping) cream
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan or smallish pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and leeks and cook for a few minutes, until they start to soften. Add the potatoes, asparagus and stock and cook for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.
  2. Purée the soup in the pot using a hand-held immersion blender, or do it in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Add a little extra stock or water if it seems too thick. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.
  3. Serves 6.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

How to Roast a Turkey

Easter is coming up quickly, and many families roast a turkey instead of a ham – it’s perfect for feeding a crowd, and provides an excuse to make (and eat) stuffing! If you have a turkey on your menu this weekend, here’s a refresher. We took some guidance from local experts Darrel Winter and Corinne Dahm, who have been raising free range turkeys in the small hamlet of Dalemead, 20 minutes south of Calgary, since 1977, in the same house Darrel grew up in.

Thawing: To quickly thaw a frozen turkey, place it (still wrapped) in a deep sink or a large container, such as a cooler or Tupperware bin, and cover completely with cold water. Allow 1 hour per pound of turkey (2 hours per kg) to thaw. Alternatively, sit it in a large roasting pan (to catch any drips) in the refrigerator and allow 5 hours per pound (10 hours per kg) – keep in mind that large birds can take days to thaw.

Stuffing: Spoon stuffing loosely into the cavity of the bird just before roasting; never pack it tight or stuff your turkey the day before. When you’re ready to eat, remove the stuffing before carving and if you like, pop it in the microwave for a few minutes to ensure it’s thoroughly heated through. Alternatively, bake your dressing in a casserole dish alongside your turkey, and stuff a handful of fresh herbs, a halved head of garlic and/or lemon into the cavity instead. Unstuffed turkeys will cook more quickly.

Seasoning: Place the bird breast side up on a rack in roasting pan, pat dry with a paper towel and rub the skin with soft butter or canola oil. Season the skin and inside the cavity with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, cayenne, thyme, rosemary or your favourite herbs and spices. If you’re using one, insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful to not touch the bone.

Roasting: Cover loosely with foil or a lid and roast in a preheated 325° oven. The general rule of thumb for oven cooking a stuffed turkey at 325° F is 15 minutes per pound (30 minutes per kg). If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven – once an hour is sufficient. Begin checking for doneness about one hour before the end of the recommended roasting time, and keep in mind that fresh turkeys cook faster. Uncover about an hour before the end of the cooking time for crispy, golden skin. Your turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into meaty part of the inner thigh reads 180° F for a stuffed turkey or 170° F for an unstuffed turkey. Temperature is the best indication of doneness, as the juices may still have a slight pink tinge.

Resting: Cover your turkey loosely with foil and let it stand for at least 15 minutes while you make the gravy – this will help retain its juices, keeping the meat tender and easier to carve.