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Easy Cream Scones

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When I have cream in my fridge that’s starting to go south, I turn them into a batch of scones. Dairy products are among the most often tossed of the food we buy that goes to waste – and most of it makes a pretty fine scone. Milk, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk – they’re all great for baking, and often interchangeable. But I love these super simple scones made with heavy cream – there’s no butter, which makes them easy to stir, pat and bake – but you’ll never miss it.

This basic scone recipe also makes a great blank canvas – try adding fresh, frozen or dried fruit, chopped chocolate, or grated orange or lemon zest.Read More

Snickerdoodle Bars

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We love the simple deliciousness of classic snickerdoodle cookies. They’re easy to make, but do you know what’s even easier? Making a big pan of snickerdoodle bars! Pour the batter into a pan, bake, and slice into bars for lunch boxes or to keep on hand when friends drop in for coffee.Read More

Sausage, Kale and Chickpea Soup

Sausage, Kale and Chickpea Soup
This hot and hearty soup makes for a cozy weeknight supper - serve it with crusty bread.
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Ingredients
  1. Vegetable oil
  2. 1 lb mild or hot Italian sausages 500 g
  3. 3 garlic cloves, minced 3
  4. 1 onion, chopped 1
  5. 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) whole tomatoes, 1 with juice
  6. 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, rinsed 1 and drained (2 cups/500 mL)
  7. 6 cups Chicken stock (page 286) or 1.5 L? ready-to-use chicken broth
  8. 1⁄2 tsp dried thyme 2 mL
  9. Pinch hot pepper flakes Pinch
  10. Salt and black pepper to taste
  11. 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped 1 (about 1 lb/500 g)
  12. I’m going to retire and live off my savings. Not sure what I’ll do in the second week.
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Squeeze sausage out of its casing into the pan and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, for 3 minutes. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring, until sausage is browned and onion is soft. Scrape into a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, stock, thyme, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper. (If the stock doesn’t fully cover the other ingredients, top it up with water.) Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until soup is slightly thickened. Stir in kale, cover and cook for 10 minutes, until wilted.
  3. Serves 6 to 8.
  4. Tip: Change the taste of the soup by varying the type of sausages you use. Sweet Italian sausages or bratwurst will give the soup a mild taste, whereas spicy Italian sausages or chorizo will completely transform the flavor. If you’d like something lighter, try turkey or chicken sausages.
  5. Variation: For an even more substantial meal, cook up about 8 oz (250 g) of dried penne or other short pasta and add it to the soup before serving.
Notes
  1. I’m going to retire and live off my savings. Not sure what I’ll do in the second week.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Our New Favorite Flatbread

Our New Favorite Flatbread
This is really fun to make on family night. Yes, the salad goes on top - use your fingers!
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Ingredients
  1. 4 mild Italian or herb-flavored 4 pork sausages
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil, divided 45 mL
  3. 4 6-inch (15 cm) Greek-style pitas 4
  4. (no pockets), naan or
  5. other flatbread
  6. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  7. 2 red-skinned apples, thinly sliced 2
  8. 4 oz mild blue cheese, such as 125 g
  9. Cambozola, sliced, or Stilton,
  10. crumbled (see tip, opposite)
  11. 3 cups packed arugula or baby spinach 750 mL
  12. 1⁄4 cup chopped toasted pecans 60 mL
  13. (see tip, opposite)
  14. 2 to bottled honey Dijon 30 to
  15. 3 tbsp salad dressing 45 mL
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Remove sausages from casings and crumble. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes or until well browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Place pitas on 2 large baking sheets. Brush tops with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange apple slices on pitas, followed by a layer of cheese. Scatter sausage on top.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and edges of pitas are browned.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss arugula and pecans with salad dressing. Cut each pita into quarters, then place on serving plates and push the pieces back together. Top each pita with arugula mixture.
  6. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Notes
  1. Tip: Toasting nuts, seeds and shredded coconut helps to bring out their flavor. Although you can toast them in the oven, we have more success - and fewer burnt nuts - on the stovetop. Spread nuts, seeds or coconut in a dry nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, shaking or stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Tip nuts onto a cold plate to stop the cooking process and let cool completely.
  2. Variation: For more kid appeal, replace the blue cheese with shredded sharp (old) Cheddar. You can also substitute canned peach slices, thoroughly drained, for the apples.
  3. Variation: Mango, tangerine, pear or other fruit-flavored salad dressings also work well with this recipe.
  4. Variation
  5. Orange Dijon Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil, 1 tbsp (15 mL) cider vinegar, 1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar, 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) Dijon mustard and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss with the arugula and pecans instead of the bottled dressing.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Potato, Kale & Ricotta Galette

Potato kale galette 1

We love kale, and are always looking for new ways to do potatoes. We’re fans of creamy scalloped potatoes; thinly sliced spuds layered with cheese and cream, but sometimes it’s too heavy – this is a perfect compromise, and a great way to get your greens.

Sautéed kale cooks down dramatically, allowing a large serving between layers of soft, crispy potato. This version is subtle, with garlic and ricotta; try an Indian-spiced version by ditching the ricotta and spiking the kale with ginger and curry powder or garam masala as it cooks.Read More

Butter Tart Slice

Butter tart slice

Butter tarts are our all-time favourites, but we don’t always have time to make the pastry, roll, cut and fill individual tarts. Butter tarts in bar form is the perfect solution; this past weekend, having to bake for a gathering, they were quick to mix up and bake. And here’s a secret: when you’re making squares that have a sticky filling, like butter tart squares or lemon bars, if you freeze the whole thing in the pan before you slice them, they’ll cut much more cleanly. Let them sit on the countertop for 20 minutes to thaw – or if you’re bringing them with you, they’ll thaw en route.

Butter tarts are traditionally made with currants, but these call for coconut, raisins and/or pecans – a delicious combination on a buttery shortbread crust.Read More

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake

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It’s January. It’s cold. It’s time for some good old fashioned comfort food.  This soul-satisfying classic is reassuringly familiar and easy on the budget – which  in the face of skyrocketing food prices and holiday Visa bills, is welcome in our kitchen any time.  Our  modern rendition of tuna fish casserole includes a nutritional boost of broccoli in a creamy basil sauce but still has all the comforting goodness you remember. Feel free to substitute  low sodium chicken broth and low-fat mozzarella to make this even healthier but if you can,  treat yourself to some good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s complex flavour will take this to a whole new level of gourmet comfort food. And if you can’t find fresh basil, dried is just fine. We’ve included the substitution for it below the recipe.Read More

Pulled Pork

 

 

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Whether you’re cooking for two or serving a busy family, slow cookers make easy work of creating delicious and soul-satisfying meals. We love being able to switch on the slow cooker in the morning, head out the door and then arrive home to a house filled with the mouthwatering aromas of dinner. 

 Shredded, or “pulled,” pork is the perfect slow cooker food and we think the BBQ flavours taste extra special in January when we all need a reminder of warm summer days. Enjoy!Read More

Eggnog French Toast Bake with Cranberry Sauce Syrup

Eggnog French Toast Bake

Do you still have a few leftovers from a late Christmas celebration? This indulgent brunch dish is designed to use up leftover holiday eggnog and cranberry sauce. If you don’t have any eggnog left in the house, substitute with 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/2 a cup of whipping cream (and you can always buy canned cranberry sauce if you don’t have any homemade leftover).Read More

Chocolate Peppermint Crackle Cookies

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Earlier this month, Mary, Julie and Elizabeth gathered at the Cookbook Company Cooks with a few dozen Best of Bridge fans for an epic baking party to raise money for the Calgary Food Bank. (Huge thanks to Gail for letting us use her space, and to Calgary Co-op for donating all the ingredients we needed!) We put a pot of mulled wine on the stove and had a blast of an afternoon baking together. Among old classics and new favourites, this was a new discovery we came up with that’s sure to stay in our holiday baking repertoire.

Chocolate Peppermint Crackle Cookies

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. peppermint extract (or substitute vanilla)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

extra sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, shortening and sugar for a few minutes, until light. Beat in the egg and peppermint extract.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir until the dough comes together.

Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in a shallow dish of sugar to coat. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes, until cracked and set around the edges, but still soft in the middle – they’ll firm up as they cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

chow mein cookies, no-bake cookies

Chow Mein Cookies

chow mein cookies, no-bake cookies

These no-bake cookies are a snap to make and come in handy when you need an extra treat to put into a box of holiday goodies. And they seem to be a favourite for many people — when we posted about them last week on our Facebook page, readers told us that they’ve been making these at Christmastime for years. There’s just something about the mingling of the flavours from the butterscotch and chocolate chips and the crunch of the noodles that make these little stacks of sweetness so nostalgic for so many people.

You should be able to find chow mein noodles in the Asian food aisle of most grocery stores — they typically come in a large plastic bag. Feel free to add other goodies like salted peanuts to the recipe (decreasing the amount of chow mein noodles or coconut to make sure there is enough melted chip mixture to cover everything). We kept the basic recipe here nut-free to make it safe for anyone with nut allergies.Read More

Peas and Greens

Peas and Greens
This delicious slow cooker recipe is a combination of black-eyed peas and greens and it's a great dish for busy weeknights. Just add some whole-grain bread and dinner is served
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tbsp vegetable oil 15 ml
  2. 2 onions, finely chopped 2
  3. 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and 1
  4. thinly sliced on the vertical
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced 4
  6. 1⁄2 tsp salt (or to taste) 2 ml
  7. 1⁄2 tsp cracked black peppercorns 2 ml
  8. 1⁄4 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground 1 ml
  9. (see tip)
  10. 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) diced tomatoes, 1with juice
  11. 2 cups drained cooked black-eyed peas 500 ml
  12. (see tip)
  13. 1 tsp paprika, (see tip)) 5 ml dissolved in 2 tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  14. 4 cups chopped spinach or Swiss chard 1 L (about 1 bunch), stems removed
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and cook, stirring, until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, peppercorns and fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Transfer to a medium to large (31⁄2- to 5-quart) slow cooker. (Mixture can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days at this point.)
  2. Stir in peas. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until peas are tender. Stir in paprika solution. Add spinach, in batches, stirring after each to submerge the leaves in the liquid. Cover and cook on High for 20 minutes, until spinach is tender.
  3. Serves 4
Notes
  1. Tip: To prepare fennel, before removing the core, chop off the top shoots (which resemble celery) and discard. If desired, save the feathery green fronds to use as a garnish. If the outer sections of the bulb seem old and dry, peel them with a vegetable peeler before using.
  2. Tip: Toasting fennel seeds intensifies their flavor. To toast fennel seeds: Place in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a mortar or spice grinder and grind.
  3. Tip: For this quantity of peas, use 1 can (14 to 19 oz/398 to 540 ml) drained and rinsed black-eyed peas, or cook 1 cup (250 ml) dried peas.
  4. Tip: You can use any kind of paprika in this recipe: Regular; hot, which produces a nicely peppery version; or smoked, which adds a delicious note of smokiness. If you have regular paprika and would like a bit a heat, dissolve 1⁄4 tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper in the lemon juice along with the paprika.
  5. Tip: If you choose to halve this recipe, use a small (11⁄2- to 31⁄2-quart) slow cooker.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Light Coconut Christmas Cake

fruitcake 2 

‘Tis the season for holiday baking – and fruitcake is generally the first thing on our list. Sue and Julie have been baking fruitcake together every Christmas since they were teenagers – and although our traditional recipe is a dark fruitcake from the Joy of Cooking (it’s in the 1997 version – some earlier versions have a completely different recipe, which isn’t quite the same) – but this year we thought we’d give light fruitcake a chance.

We ordered some nice organic dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots), candied ginger and coconut in our Spud Box, and turned it into two loaf cakes – one for our annual Christmas party, the other to unwrap on Christmas day. We used to use a myriad of fancy pans for our fruitcakes, but sometimes they didn’t survive re-entry – loaf pans make it easy. (If they do crumble, turn the pieces of broken cake into a base for a rich, festive trifle, topped with custard and cream. No one will notice!Read More

Chicken & Barley Soup with Greens

chicken soup

As the weather turns chilly, cold season is creeping up -it seems everyone is coming down with something, or has a cough or a case of the sniffles. Chicken soup is a generations-old remedy used around the world to fight colds and flus and generally make those who are under the weather feel better – and taken care of. Making a pot of soup from scratch is not difficult – a good thing if you’re the one who’s coming down with something.

When we do roast chicken for dinner (even one from the deli), we like to leave some meat on the bones for a meaty stock that’s easily turned into a hearty soup; and around the holidays, there’s almost always chopped roasted turkey in the freezer to add to soups like this one.

This is a slightly heartier version of a classic chicken noodle soup; using barley instead of noodles boosts fibre and other nutrients, but you could swap regular egg noodles too. They’ll take less time to cook – about ten minutes. The addition of greens makes it even more nutrient-dense and rich in vitamin C – a good thing when you’re trying to beat the sniffles.

Chicken & Barley Soup with Greens

canola oil, for cooking
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3-4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped, or 1-2 cups leftover roast chicken, chopped
1 L chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup pearl or pot barley
1 sprig thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
a handful of fresh or frozen baby spinach or torn kale

In a large saucepan or small Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes, until soft; add the chicken and cook for a few minutes, until it turns opaque.

Add the stock, barley, thyme and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer; cook for 30 minutes, or until the barley is tender. Remove the sprig of thyme, season with salt and pepper as needed, and add a handful of baby spinach or torn kale to the pot and stir until it wilts. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.