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
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
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
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.
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
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil 15 ml
- 2 onions, finely chopped 2
- 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and 1
- thinly sliced on the vertical
- 4 cloves garlic, minced 4
- 1⁄2 tsp salt (or to taste) 2 ml
- 1⁄2 tsp cracked black peppercorns 2 ml
- 1⁄4 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground 1 ml
- (see tip)
- 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) diced tomatoes, 1with juice
- 2 cups drained cooked black-eyed peas 500 ml
- (see tip)
- 1 tsp paprika, (see tip)) 5 ml dissolved in 2 tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cups chopped spinach or Swiss chard 1 L (about 1 bunch), stems removed
- 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.)
- 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.
- Serves 4
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tip: If you choose to halve this recipe, use a small (11⁄2- to 31⁄2-quart) slow cooker.
‘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
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.
We’re coming up on the last day of this year’s Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, and are sad to see it end! This year the three of us (Julie, Sue and Elizabeth) were invited to present together for the first time. I’ve been a presenter here for the past 14 (!!) years, and both Sue and Elizabeth have attended as guests, but this was the first time we were all together, chatting about food and demoing some Best of Bridge recipes to a crowd that’s mostly from Alberta, and who grew up eating and cooking from Best of Bridge.
It’s a gorgeous place, if you’ve never been – 200+ cabins including the main lodge, on a 700 acre property wrapping around the stunning Lac Beauvert. The charming village of cedar chalets are connected by picturesque paths, populated by friendly wildlife and the occasional and when a little snow falls, it’s even more picturesque.
And of course, the guests are fantastic. We do sessions every day, along with seasoned presenters like Michael and Anna Olson and Elizabeth Baird and Emily Richards, along with new faces including Massimo Capra, Christine Cushing and Roger Mooking. We even had a kitchen party (or three), where Michael grilled a mountain of pork chops and Anna made a bacon-heavy Caesar salad and sticky toffee pudding.
Of course the food is amazing, the champagne and cocktails always flowing, and the stone fireplaces always lit. We’ve become far too accustomed to cocktail hour by the fire – which is even more of a blast when we get to catch up with our food writer friends from Toronto, or meet and get to know guests who return from year to year.
(Iconic food writer, past Canadian Living food editor and Order of Canada recipient – and all around amazing lady – Elizabeth Baird came up to congratulate Elizabeth on her new Best of Bridge gig, and it was the best moment of her life.)
We’ve learned plenty of great new recipes for the upcoming holiday season – and are heading home inspired! Keep an eye here and on our Facebook page and Instagram and Twitter feeds for some Christmas yumminess. ‘Tis the season!
- 1⁄3 cup apple juice 75 mL
- 1⁄4 cup liquid honey 60 mL
- 2 tbsp soy sauce 30 mL
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil 30 mL
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard 5 mL
- 4 green onions, chopped 4
- 2 cloves garlic, minced 2
- 1 tbsp grated gingerroot 15 mL
- 2 lbs pork tenderloin 1 kg
- Glazed Apples
- 1 tbsp butter 15 mL
- 1 tbsp liquid honey 15 mL
- 1 tbsp lemon juice 15 mL
- 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced 2
- Put marinade ingredients into a large sealable plastic bag and mix. Add pork. Seal and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. Remove pork and place in shallow dish. Pour marinade over.
- Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 40 to 50 minutes. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.
- To glaze apples: In frying pan, heat butter, honey and lemon juice together. Add apples and toss to coat. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Slice pork and spoon glazed apples over top. Enjoy!
- Serves 4.
- 5 to reduced-sodium chicken broth 1.25 to
- 51⁄2 cups or Homemade Vegetable Stock 1.375 L
- (see recipe, page 90)
- 6 slices bacon, chopped 6
- 1 tbsp butter 15 mL
- 1 onion, finely chopped 1
- 11⁄2 cups fresh or thawed 375 mL
- frozen corn kernels
- 2 cloves garlic, minced 2
- 2 cups short-grain white rice, such as 500 mL
- Arborio (see tip, opposite)
- Salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 500 mL
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 250 mL
- In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil; reduce heat and let simmer. Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, sauté bacon over medium-high heat until lightly browned but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat and wipe out pan with paper towels.
- Add butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Sauté onion and corn for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add rice and stir to coat. Return bacon to pan and add 4 cups (1 L) of the broth, 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) salt and 1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) pepper. (Remove the remaining broth from the heat.) Bring rice mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover, stir thoroughly, then stir in tomatoes. If liquid is mostly absorbed, add another 1 cup (250 mL) broth.
- Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is still slightly firm to the bite. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and enough of the remaining broth to make it creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes or until rice is tender.
- Serves 6 to 8.
- Tip: If you use a salt-free stock or broth, you may want to add more salt. Salt is, in any recipe, a matter of personal preference, so feel free to increase or reduce the quantities we suggest. Before adding more salt at the end of the cooking time, be sure to taste the dish first, as the bacon and Parmesan contribute quite a lot of salt.
- Tip: Short-grain rice is essential to a smooth and creamy risotto. You won't get the same velvety finish if you try to make risotto with long-grain rice, such as basmati, converted or jasmine. Short-grain rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli, is sometimes labeled "risotto rice."
There’s no substitute for an old-fashioned pot roast. Its appetizing aromas, wafting through the house, are every bit as good as the meal itself. This easy-to make version using a slow cooker, features a can of tomato soup which creates a sumptuous gravy. Serve it with plenty of creamy mashed potatoes to soak up the sumptuous sauce. Imagine coming home after a long day at work to this comforting and perfect pot roast….bliss
- 1 boneless beef pot roast, chuck, 1
- blade or cross rib (3 to 4 lbs/
- 1.5 to 2 kg)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil 15 ml
- 2 onions, thinly sliced 2
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced 3
- 3 large carrots, cut into chunks 3
- 2 cloves garlic, minced 2
- 1 tsp dry mustard 5 ml
- 1⁄2 tsp dried thyme 2 ml
- 1⁄2 tsp cracked black peppercorns 2 ml
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 30 ml
- 1 can (10 oz/284 ml) condensed 1
- tomato soup
- 1⁄2 cup Hearty Beef Stock (page 43) or 125 ml
- ready-to-use beef broth
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar (optional) 30 ml
- 2 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar 30 ml
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 15 ml
- Pat roast dry with paper towel. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add roast and cook, turning, until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large (minimum 5-quart) slow cooker. Reduce stovetop heat to medium. Add onions, celery and carrots to pan and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, mustard, thyme and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Sprinkle with flour and stir. Add tomato soup and broth and cook, stirring, until thickened. Pour mixture over roast, cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until meat is very tender. Remove roast from slow cooker and place on serving platter. Stir brown sugar (if using), vinegar (if using) and Worcestershire sauce into pan juices. Pour sauce over roast or serve in a separate sauceboat. Serve piping hot.
- Serves 6 to 8.
- Tip: There is no added salt in this recipe because the tomato soup is fairly high in sodium. Taste the sauce once it is assembled and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste
Both the frosting and the blondie are scrumptious. You’ll have a tough time deciding which you like best so why not have more of both?
- 2⁄3 cup butter, softened 150 ml
- 2 cups packed brown sugar 500 ml
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 ml
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 500 ml
- 2 tsp baking powder 10 ml
- 1⁄4 tsp salt 1 ml
- 1 cup chopped peeled apples 250 ml
- 3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts 175 ml
- Brown Sugar Frosting
- 1⁄2 cup butter 125 ml
- 1 cup packed brown sugar 250 ml
- 1⁄4 cup milk or cream 60 ml
- 2 cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar, 500 ml sifted
- Blondie: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
- Grease a 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) baking pan. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture on low speed, mixing until blended. Stir in apples and nuts, mixing well. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake until set and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
- Brown Sugar Frosting: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring mixture just to a boil then remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, mixing until smooth. Spread evenly over bar. Let stand until frosting is firm enough to cut. Cut into bars or squares.
- MAKES 20 TO 54 BARS OR SQUARES
- Tip: This frosting is very soft when first mixed, which makes it very nice to spread. It firms up on cooling.
- Tip: Choose apples that are crisp, tart and not too moist. Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Spartans are good choices for this recipe.
- Variation: Omit the frosting if you prefer a plain apple walnut blondie.
- Variation: If you’re not a fan of nuts, omit the walnuts.
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil 60 ml
- 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice 30 ml
- 2 TBSP cider vinegar 30 ml
- 1 TBSP grainy or Dijon mustard 15 ml
- 1 TBSP liquid honey 15 ml
- 5 cups loosely packed kale 1.25 L
- 8 large Brussels sprouts ends trimmed
- 1 small apple diced
- 1⁄3 cup crumbled feta cheese 75 ml
- 1⁄3 cup chopped pecans, toasted 75 ml
- (see tip, below)
- Dressing: In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and honey.
- Salad: Pull the kale leaves off the stalks and discard the stalks. Stack and thinly slice the leaves. Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise and thinly slice. In a large bowl, combine kale, Brussels sprouts, apple and feta. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with pecans.
- Tip: Toast pecans in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until pale golden and fragrant. Let cool before adding to your salad.