It’s holiday cookie season! This is one of our annual must-haves – Russian Tea Cakes, otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cakes or in our house, Mom’s Nut Balls. They’re bite-sized shortbread balls made with finely chopped pecans or almonds (some even use hazelnuts), rolled in icing sugar while they’re still warm, which creates a sort of buttery frosting on the outside. Whatever you call them, they’re irresistible – and look delicious on a cookie tray, or bundled up in cellophane and tied with ribbon to give as a gift. Since they last well and are nice and compact, they’re also perfect for cookie exchange parties – it’s one of my go-to recipes.
I am very much a fan of the brownie – the dense, slightly chewy kind, with a crackly top – I think I’d choose one over a slice of cake any day. So last night, when our friend, food writer Gwendolyn Richards, showed up at an event we were cooking for with a pan of her brownies with sea salt and lime, I took note. (And a brownie.) They were exquisite.
This slow cooker version of one of the most popular Bridge recipes of all time is just as easy and just as delicious as the classic. And (sacrilege!) we’ve phased out the can of cream of tomato soup. But not to worry, we’ve also included instructions on doing it the much loved, old-fashioned way if you’d still like to use the tomato soup.
Our newest book (and the first with the new trio of ladies), The Family Slow Cooker hit stores at the beginning of October and to celebrate, we hit the road to preach the virtues of slow cooking. A couple dozen TV appearances (in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto), radio interviews, and print media stories later, we’re back at home (in Calgary for Elizabeth and Julie – and Vernon for Sue) looking back at pictures of our book tour adventures. Here are some photos of highlights we hit along the way:
Sue and Julie kicked off the tour making some pulled beef at BT Vancouver – they’re SO much fun here! Always a blast.
Elizabeth and Julie appeared on Your Morning in Toronto on Friday, talking about desserts you can make in your slow cooker – recipes from the new Family Slow Cooker cookbook, which is in stores now! We made coffee pots de creme, using the slow cooker in place of the usual bain marie (hot water bath), to ensure a moist, gentle heat, but we also had our Chocolate Caramel Pecan Upside Down Cake on display – a gooey treat that bakes up perfectly in the slow cooker – and slides right out, after it’s done!
The edges of the pecan layer will get chewy, the center stays softer. This cake will make a lot of people happy!
If you find yourself with leftover pumpkin puree this season, here’s a cake for you. A moist, delicately spiced cake slathered with cream cheese frosting – not too much, we went with the exposed sides look – that’s perfect for this time of year. And the layers freeze well, so you can pack them away for the holidays. As a bonus, frozen cake layers are easy to frost, with minimal crumbs!
- 3 medium oranges
- 2 lemons
- 11⁄2 cups cold water 375 mL
- 1 bottle (6 oz/170 mL) preserved ginger
- 6 cups granulated sugar 1.5 L
- 1 bottle (6 oz/170 mL) maraschino cherries, drained and chopped (add extra green cherries as well — colorful!
- 1 pouch liquid pectin
- Wash oranges and lemons. Slice paper thin. Discard seeds. Put into large kettle. Add water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until rinds are tender and transparent. Stir occasionally.
- Drain ginger, saving syrup. Chop ginger finely. Add sugar, chopped ginger, ginger syrup and cherries to orange-lemon mixture. Turn heat to high and bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Continue stirring and skimming for 5 minutes.
- Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch (0.5 cm) headspace. Wipe rims and seal with two-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Check seals and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.
- Makes about ten 8-oz (250 mL) jars.
Need something quick, warming, and full of veggies for dinner this busy holiday season? Broccoli-cheese soup is always well received at our house – and it’s a great way to use up a bunch of broccoli that may be starting to get droopy. For a vegetarian version, swap vegetable or onion stock. It’s simple to chop the broccoli (cauliflower would work well too – or a combination of the two) and toss everything into a pot to simmer when you get home from work and school. By dinnertime it’s ready to puree – use a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot – and serve with crusty bread or cheese biscuits. Comfort food for busy, chilly days!
- Vegetable oil, for cooking
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup half and half cream
- 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
- In a medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil along with the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 4-5 minutes, until soft.
- Add the flour, season with salt and pepper and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and broccoli and bring to a simmer; cook for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender.
- Add the cream and puree with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot. Add the cheese, let sit for a minute, and puree again until smooth. (Alternatively, puree in batches in a blender.) Season with salt and pepper, if it needs it. Serves 6.
Did you know that you can make custard in a slow cooker? These little pots de creme look fancy and impressive, but they’re quite easy to make — especially in the slow cooker.
Let’s face it – the best part about a turkey dinner is the leftovers, particularly turned into a sandwich. Combining the turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries in Pillsbury Crescent dough turned out to be a delicious idea – like a sandwich, only better! Read More
The minute it gets chilly enough to turn the furnace back on, I want to warm the house up with the oven, and get baking. I particularly love pound cakes, for their dense, moist texture, adaptability, and a sturdiness that makes them ideal for packing into lunch boxes. I had an extra lemon rolling around in the fridge, so the first pound cake of the season was lemon.
I love that this is the sort of cake that requires no decoration, and can be nibbled by the thin slice while you do other things.
Some of our favourite older recipes (including many in the Best of Bridge back catalogue) included canned soup, which is an ingredient that many of today’s cooks shy away from — it just feels better sometimes to take the extra step and make things from scratch. We were making an old pork chop recipe that calls for a can of Alphabet Vegetable Soup and figured we could make it ourselves. This soup is thick — as it would be coming straight out of the can, which makes it ready to go into your favourite vintage recipe. If you’d rather eat it as a soup, simply thin it with more chicken stock or water.
I don’t have many kitchen gadgets, but I love my ice cream machine – it’s so easy to make your own, and experiment with interesting flavours and fresh fruit in season. My go-to formula is so simple it doesn’t require eggs, or making a custard (which must be well chilled before using) – it’s just cream, sugar and fruit. I find strawberry irresistible when they’re in season – here’s an easy recipe we make over and over.
Stampede can be a crazy time of year if you live in Calgary – if you’re feeling rushed, you can make this cowboy-inspired version of the famous Best of Bridge Christmas Morning Wife Saver, and slide it into the oven in the morning to feed your hungry cowpokes.
Even when it’s not stampede, a simple strata makes for a fantastic brunch – and it’s a great way to use up stale veg or leftovers from the fridge – bits of sausage, ham, bacon, veggies and even cheese ends can all be transformed into something delicious.