Everyone needs a good gingerbread recipe in their repertoire; this is a classic, and can be used for gingerbread men or any other shape. If you want to hang them, poke a hole with a straw near the top of each cookie before baking, and slide a string or ribbon through after they cool. Decorate with royal frosting, which will harden and not be sticky. To make chocolate gingerbread, swap about 1/3 cup of the flour for cocoa.
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in the molasses. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, soda, allspice and salt. In three additions, stir the dry ingredients into the molasses mixture, stirring until the dough is smooth. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a well-floured surface, roll out one disc at a time to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on their size, until slightly darker golden around the edges and set. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Nuts and bolts are a holiday cocktail party staple, we can’t imagine the season without them. It’s fun to experiment with different flavours — sweet, spicy, curried — but we also like sticking to this classic, dressed with Worcestershire and plenty of butter. Since our ovens are usually full of cookies, flaky appetizers and other goodies over the holidays, we like turning to the slow cooker to take care of the nuts and bolts. You have to be around to stir the mixture so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the crock, but they do cook up fairly quickly (compared to other slow cooker recipes at least).
This recipe appears in our book The Family Slow Cooker (which also includes a sweet snack mix) and can be easily adapted to use up whatever cereal or crispy snacks you may have on hand. We often leave out the peanuts out for friends who may have allergies and to keep the mix school safe. Read More
Hot chocolate is a staple around here, but we sometimes get tired of the usual cocoa mix (cocoa + icing sugar) swirled into warmed milk. Since we’re all fans of peanut butter and chocolate, years ago I tried swirling a spoonful of creamy peanut butter into hot chocolate, and it was a hit. Rich and delicious, it’s enough of an energy boost to take with you in a Thermos to the ski hill, skating, or when you come inside after some snow shovelling or snowman-building.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
- 2 oz good dark chocolate, finely chopped (or a small handful of chocolate chips)
- marshmallows (optional)
- In a saucepan, stir together the sugar and cocoa to get rid of lumps; stir in the water until smooth, then whisk in the milk over medium-high heat. Heat until steaming. Remove the pan from the heat and add the peanut butter and chocolate. Let it sit for a few seconds, then blend it with a hand-held immersion blender. Or for individual cups, divide the chocolate among the cups and pour the warm milk overtop. Whisk until perfectly smooth. Add marshmallows, if you like.
There are some recipes that are so essential to individual families’ holidays that the thought of doing Christmas without them is just unfathomable. In Elizabeth’s family, that recipe is for Olive Cheese Balls — little puffs of cheesy shortbread wrapped around green pimento-stuffed olives. Elizabeth’s mom always made them for her annual Boxing Day party and now Elizabeth makes them for her own early December open house to kick off the season.
These were a staple in the ’70s (when Elizabeth’s mom would have first discovered them) — there is indeed a version called Olive Cheese Balls in the very first Best of Bridge cookbook. The original ladies called them Olive Cheese Puffs and suggested using gherkins or cocktail onions in place of the olives and spicing things up with a half teaspoon of paprika (a little bit of cayenne would also work). Whichever way you go, these freeze beautifully — freeze them after they’ve been fully baked and then reheat them until the dough softens up and the olives inside are warm. Read More
Banana bread is a staple at all of our houses, but we always like to sneak in a nutritional boost wherever we can. This loaf is made with overripe bananas (the ones that tumble from the freezer whenever you open the door) and barley flour – along with regular all-purpose flour, it adds a delicious nuttiness and boosts fibre even more than whole wheat flour would. You can find it alongside the other flours in the baking section of most grocery stores, and once you try it you’ll find yourself using it in pancakes, cookies, muffins, cakes – and as a bonus, it’s Canada’s third largest crop (after wheat and canola), and more than half the barley grown in Canada is right here in Alberta.
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup barley flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- a handful of chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, fresh or frozen blueberries (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, mash the bananas, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla with a potato masher - don't worry about getting all the lumps out. It will look sort of cottage-cheesy.
- Add the flours, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined; add any additions and stir just until blended.
- Spread into a buttered 8”x4” loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes, until golden and cracked on top and springy to the touch.
This time of year we crave a good belly warming soup — and homemade soup is even better if you let it simmer away in the slow cooker while you’re out skiing or playing in the snow. The feeling of coming how to a warm crock of soup is one of the best parts of winter.
This recipe for Dill Pickle Soup is from our 2016 book The Family Slow Cooker. While the flavour may seem odd (yes, you do put the pickle brine right in the soup!), it’s actually surprisingly hearty and delicious. Give it a try — you can adjust the amount of brine you use to your own tastes, but we think the more brine the better! Read More
My sister works with plenty of great cooks, but Samarna stands out as a truly exceptional home cook – she invited me to her kitchen earlier this year to cook, and made the most amazing ground meat kebabs – like large meatballs she shaped in the palm of her hands. They were simple, but delicious – you could make them with ground beef or lamb, and mix together a quick tzatziki to dip them in or dribble overtop. The perfect kind of food when you have a few extra people at the table.
- 2 lbs ground beef or lamb
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 bread slice, finely crumbled with your hands
- 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger & garlic paste
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 green chili, seeded and chopped
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh cilantro for garnish
- In a large bowl, mix the meat, onion, bread crumbs, ginger-garlic paste, spices and salt with your hands. (When well-blended, the meat will change colour, becoming a little darker.) Shape the meat mixture into oval kebabs about the size of a small egg. Fry in oil in a shallow pan until they’re lightly brown all over. Set aside.
- In a pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the onions, stirring constantly, until golden. Add the ginger-garlic paste and stir for a few seconds. Blend the tomatoes and chili and stir them in. Add the spices in the order given, stirring after each. Fry for two minutes, then add 2 cups of water, reduce heat, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir well and reduce heat to low.
- When the water has evaporated and oil has risen to the top, add the kebabs. Fry for a minute and add another two cups of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes, turning the kebabs every few minutes. When the oil has risen to the top again and the gravy is the consistency of Greek yogurt, serve topped with cilantro.
Like a lot of readers, we love so many of the original ladies’ entertaining recipes. For example, no matter how cooking trends change, if there’s a dish of Jelly Meatballs on a buffet table, we’re going to grab a toothpick and eat at least a couple of them. Simple and convenient to make, the jelly ball may just be the perfect holiday appetizer.
When we put together our Family Slow Cooker book last year, we wanted to include some of these original recipes, cooked up in a slow cooker for even more convenience. The original Jelly Balls recipe, which appeared in the Winners Book (and can still be found in the Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks Volume 2) were cooked in a pot and then served in a chafing dish, but this version is done completely in a slow cooker. We also use frozen fully cooked meatballs to make things even easier. If you want to add some heat, throw in a couple of tablespoons of sambal oelek with the jelly. Read More
With so many veggies at their peak in the fall, it’s a great time to make a hearty bowl of chowder. This recipe makes great use of leftover roasted turkey and stock, too – often we’ll just use a meaty stock that has not been strained, rather than measure out leftover roast chicken or turkey. This soup is equally delicious with leftover chopped ham in place of the chicken.
As with most soups, ingredients can be played with and measurements are approximate – use what you like, add more carrots if you like carrots, add a handful of baby spinach (we did, when we reheated the leftovers) or chopped kale or chard. Soup is infinitely versatile, inexpensive, and can be frozen for a quick meal down the road.
- canola or olive oil, for cooking
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 cup leftover shredded roasted chicken or turkey
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 L chicken stock
- 1-2 small thin-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and diced
- 1 cup sweet kernel corn
- 1/2 cup half & half (or to taste)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Drizzle some oil into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until soft. Add the chicken or turkey, sprinkle with the flour and thyme and cook, stirring, for another minute. Stir in the stock, add the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the corn, and cream if you’re using it, and allow the chowder to return to a gentle simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4.
- 1/2 cup dry bulgur (cracked wheat)
- 1 cup boiling water
- big handfuls of fresh parsley and cilantro, leaves pulled off the stems and coarsely chopped (a bunch or two)
- a smaller handful of mint and/or dill
- a small handful of chopped toasted walnuts
- juice of a big, juicy lemon
- a good drizzle of good olive oil
- if you like: tiny tomatoes, crumbled feta, shaved cucumber
- Put the dry bulgur into a bowl and pour the boiling water overtop; cover with a plate and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Pour off any water than hasn't been absorbed (I like to do this in a sieve, shaking it to make sure all excess moisture is gone) and transfer to a bowl and set aside or in the fridge to cool.
- Add the herbs, squeeze over the lemon juice and a good glug of oil, toss and add the toasted walnuts (and anything else you think would taste good). Serves 4-6ish.
Many people overlook fresh herbs as a potential salad ingredient – classic Middle Eastern tabbouleh is a notable exception, loaded with flat-leaf parsley, grains and typically cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s a perfect candidate if you have all three growing in your back yard (or at their peak at the farmers’ market), but if you want to make use of a wider variety of herbs, this leafy, herb-heavy bulgur salad is packed with green goodness: parsley, cilantro, mint and dill, but you could use anything you have on hand and love.
This salad is simple to make – bulgur is simply soaked in boiling water, so you can plug in the kettle and don’t even need to put a pot on the stove. A squeeze of lemon gives it a brightness and brings out all the green, herbal flavours, and a drizzle of olive oil adds richness, healthy fats, and smooths everything out. We added a handful of chopped toasted walnuts, but pine nuts would be delicious too. Feel free to add tomatoes and cukes to make it more like a classic tabbouleh.
This is the time of year that we start thinking not only about winter and fall comfort food, but also about making sure that others in our community have something warm and wholesome in their bellies. Food banks across the country are about to kick into food-dive mode and thankfully, many of us are feeling more generous with our cash donations and canned goods as we get closer to the holidays.
Right now the Calgary Food Bank is in the middle of an event called OctoberFeast. Participating restaurants in Calgary have accepted a challenge to create dishes that use two or more ingredients from the Food Bank’s list of most needed items, which includes things like pasta, soup, canned fruits and veggies, canned fish and meat, peanut butter, rice and cereal. Some of our favourite local restaurants like Alloy, Avec Bistro, Naina’s Kitchen, Tavernetta, Without Papers and The Beltliner Diner are all participating and they’re really putting out some great dishes. The dishes will all be available until October 15 (that’s the end of this week!) Read More
Need a new idea for a crunchy Thanksgiving salad using wintry vegetables? Sure, you could go the kale route, but why not try chopped napa cabbage and thinly sliced or shaved jicama or kohlrabi? Both are fresh and crunchy; kohlrabi is a brassica vegetable and once peeled, tastes like the inside of a broccoli stalk. Jicama is a root vegetable that doesn’t look like much, but is so snappy and fresh tasting you’ll find all kinds of uses for it, from veggie platters to salads.
Measurements here are up to you – use as much of each ingredient as you like, depending on your taste and how many you have to serve. If you like, top with chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, too.
- finely sliced Napa cabbage
- thinly sliced, slivered or julienned jicama and/or kohlrabi
- thinly sliced celery (leaves too)
- julienned apple
- crumbled feta
- toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. grainy mustard
- 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
- 1 tsp. sugar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pile the veggies in a shallow salad bowl or on a platter, saving the walnuts to scatter on top. To make the dressing, shake all the ingredients up in a jar and drizzle overtop; toss gently to coat. Top with walnuts and serve. Serves as many as you like.
While it can be fun to dress up a piece of grilled meat with a nice marinade, sometimes we like just seasoning meat with salt and pepper and then throwing it on the grill. That said, sometimes it’s nice to have some sauce on the side if your meat needs a little extra flavour.
This fresh-tasting garlicky green sauce is great to have on hand for nights when you’re grilling up a quick steak, pork chop, chicken breast or piece of fish. The fresh herbs got with almost anything and it adds a bit of summer brightness to a backyard meal. It lasts in the fridge for up to a week and whips up in minutes. If you have any leftover, serve it as a dip with raw vegetables for a quick appetizer or snack. Read More
Although it still feels like summer, and we still eat outside when it’s sunny enough, fall is definitely here – back to school time makes me crave those classic dishes from my childhood: shepherds’ pie, chili, classy chicken, and spaghetti loaded with sauce. When we start getting back into the groove of fall schedules, I like to make a habit of preparing twice (or more) as much dinner as we need, and freezing the surplus for an almost instant dinner on another night. A classic bolognese is the perfect candidate for the freezer – and makes use of fall veggies in season, like garlic, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, if you’re inclined to add any. Or roughly chop a bunch of veggies and skip the meat altogether for a vegetarian bolognese.
This recipe is fairly small, but can be doubled or even tripled for a larger batch – or bulk it up with extra veggies and tomatoes. Often when I have overripe tomatoes I’ll toss them in the freezer whole, then add them to sauces later.
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 slices bacon or pancetta, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef, or half ground beef and half ground pork
- 1 28 oz. (798 mL) can diced or whole plum tomatoes, drained
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- a few basil leaves
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup half & half (optional)
- In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and bacon in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the lumps of meat until no traces of pink remain. Add a splash of wine if you like, and cook until the liquid evaporates.
- Crush the tomatoes with a fork and add them along with the balsamic vinegar. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for half an hour to an hour, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Add the basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste, stir in the half & half and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese at the table. Serves 4-6.