Wednesday, December 30, 2009


If you believe in Santa Claus, you might not want to read this posting.......  A recent article in Science Daily (December 16, 2009) has questioned whether Santa exists.  It is based on an unhealthy lifestyle, working conditions and the stress of having to deliver gifts to 152 million homes in 24 hours.  Furthermore, these researchers from the University of Gotenburg in Sweden feel that Santa could not live at the north pole because there is a lack of reindeer pasture at the north pole.   Because of Santa's big round belly and red face, the researchers feel he is at risk for both a heart attack and a stroke and he likely has high blood pressure.

These researchers figured out the number of children (based on religion) that Santa would have to visit - 380 million.  They used the average of 2.5 children per house and got 152 million home visits on Christmas Eve.   Over a 24 hour period, that equals 900 visits per second.  To park his sleigh, climb down the chimney, distribute the Christmas gifts, shove some cookies into his mouth, take a swig of milk and then leave the building, his sleigh needs to cruise at the speed of 90 km per second or about 265 times the speed of sound.   Furthermore, the acceleration needed to accomplish this requires a g-force of 14 million times Earth's gravity.  Fighter pilots become unconscious at 7g's.   A further challenge is how many reindeer are really required.  To pull all of these presents for the 380 million children and knowing that a reindeer can pull 200 kilos, Santa would need 1.9 million airborne reindeer to pull his sleigh.  Finally.... the estimated speed of Santa's travel would make him and his reindeer explode and burn up-up.

I think we all need a bit of magic in our lives, so whether or not you believe in Santa, it is good to dream and wish for things that are magical.   The above picture is a male partridge who along with his female mate, come for an afternoon feed of bird seed each day in our backyard.   They are magical to watch.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


It is sometimes a challenge to figure out the many ways to cook or use leftover turkey.  I made a 12 pound turkey on Christmas day and there were leftovers.  Thank goodness I didn't cook the 17 pound turkey that I have in the freezer.  I made up a care package for one of my guests and still had a bag of sliced meat left.  I did freeze the bones to make turkey broth.  

In case you are wondering why there is tin foil sticking out of the bird, the rationale is that I use that to help pull out the dressing/stuffing from the inside cavity.  I learned this trick several years ago from a wonderful cook.  I take a large piece of tin foil, fold it over so that it is double strength and line the bottom of the inside cavity with the tin foil.  The foil will go up the sides a bit.  I then stuff the dressing inside the bird.  I always make more dressing than what can go inside the turkey and the extra dressing gets wrapped into tin foil pouches and baked for the last hour with the turkey in the oven.   Once the turkey is ready to be carved, I pull on the tin foil that is sticking out and the tin foil and stuffing comes out in one piece.  I no longer have to 'scrape' the inside of the bird to get all of the stuffing out.  I know that some cooks use a metal cage that fits inside the bird and holds the stuffing.  

After eating turkey two days in a row, it was time to do something else.  I made turkey vegetable soup today and besides using the turkey I also used some of the leftover mashed potatoes in the soup.   I still had leftover turkey so I decided to check a number of cookbooks and websites for something that would catch my interest to make for supper tonight.  As a break was needed from eating more potatoes, I thought of making a pasta based dish.    The following recipe was adapted from the pioneer woman website and a number of changes were made.  You can improvise and use a variety of vegetables.  I used spaghetti sauce as the tomato base but you can also use canned or fresh diced tomatoes.  I used whole milk and some whipping cream which is unusual for me to have in the fridge.  I bought whole milk, half and half and a cartoon of whipping cream today as I am making ice cream tonight.  One gift that I received is an electric  ice cream maker and I am curious to test it out.

This pasta dish that I made tonight is quite good.  I likely added too much chopped fresh parsley but I didn't mind the taste.  The recipe makes three servings.

Spaghetti with Turkey, Vegetables and Tomato Sauce


1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium onion, diced
5 mushrooms, chopped
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce
1-2 cups of leftover turkey, chopped
½ cup whole milk and 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream if you have on hand
1/4 cup chicken broth (more if required)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/2 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh chives (or other herbs) chopped


Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.
Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add mushrooms and tomato/spaghetti sauce.  Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add spinach and turkey.  Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over low heat until heated through, and then turn off heat.
Place drained pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan. Pour sauce over the top. Add chives. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Some recipes are handed down through the generations with subtle changes being made by the individual cook.  I never learned to make stuffing or gravy while growing up.  Stuffing and gravy wasn't a staple in my childhood home so there was no transferring of these recipes between the generations.  I learned to make stuffing and gravy by watching others and following recipes.  I like stuffing that has more than just bread, melted butter and poultry seasoning in it.  One stuffing recipe that I make frequently when making turkey is from Canadian Living.  This recipe is flavourful and it always a hit with guests.  I haven't made too many changes from the original Canadian Living recipe.  I do dry out the bread in the oven before cubing it.  I find using dried bread makes the stuffing less mushy.  I make more stuffing than what can be put in the turkey so what can't fit into the turkey gets wrapped in tinfoil and baked during the last hour with the turkey.  Once I take the stuffing out of the cooked turkey, I mix it in a bowl with the stuffing baked in tinfoil.



3/4 cup hazelnuts or almonds
3/4 cup butter
2-1/2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 apple (unpeeled), diced
4 tsp dried sage  ( I use mixed poultry seasoning)
1-1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp each dried rosemary and salt (I use less salt)
1/4 lb sliced pancetta, prosciutto or smoked ham, diced
14 cups or one loaf cubed multigrain or whole wheat bread
1 cup chopped fresh parsley

On baking sheet, bake nuts in 350°F (180°C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until fragrant.  If using hazelnuts, rub vigorously in tea towel to remove skins; coarsely chop. Set aside.
In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; cook celery, onions, garlic, apple, sage, pepper, rosemary, salt and pancetta for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place bread, parsley and nuts in bowl; add celery mixture and toss well. It is now ready for stuffing the turkey. Stuffing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 week; if frozen, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before continuing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


This is the time of year that I find more socializing and eating is accomplished than any other time of the year.  Depending on your culture and traditions, a number of different religious holidays are celebrated.   I am always looking for different appetizers to serve to company.  I have the usual standbys - cheese, hummus, veggies, dips, crackers and smoked oysters.  A friend introduced me to another kind of appetizer several years ago, it is a 'thumbprint cheese tart'.  It is easy to make and quite delicious.  It is challenging to not keep eating these once you make a batch of them.  The ingredient list is short but it takes more than ten minutes to make.  I should make these tarts throughout the year but for some reason I only make these during this time of the year.



2 cups of grated cheddar cheese, old cheddar is preferred
1/2 cup or 4 ounces of softened butter
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
chili pepper jelly


Combine all of the ingredients except the pepper jelly in a bowl.  Combine well so that the softened butter is well mixed.   Chill the dough/mixture in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes.  I usually empty the dough/mixture onto two pieces of saran wrap, wrap it up and chill it this way.  Take a heaping teaspoon of the dough/mixture and spoon it into mini muffin pans.  Press your thumb into the dough, pat it down and make a well in the middle.  It should look like a mini tart.  Take 1/2 tsp of the jelly and place it in the well of the tart.  I use a combination of red and green pepper jelly.   Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Makes 4 dozen.


I made a new mincemeat recipe mid November and it has been in the fridge 'ripening' since then.  I finally tasted it yesterday and it tasted good so I decided to make tarts this weekend.  This afternoon I made 30 tarts plus a small pie.   I did not make my own tart shells and used three inch store bought tart shells.  I had originally made two ice cream pails of mincemeat and have only used one.   I likely will freeze some of the mincemeat to use at a later date.   Here is a photo of a some of the tarts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I usually make a big pot of soup every weekend with the goal to have the ability to take soup for lunches for work during the week.  This soup craving is more of a fall/winter/spring occurrence than one occurring during the summer.    Of course you have to have some variety as after eating the same soup for five days in a row, you likely will want a change the following week.  I probably have about eight to ten different kinds of soups that tend to be my favorites.   In a perfect world one would freeze a number of containers of soup so that you could rotate recently made soup with frozen soup for lunches.

Provided below is one of my standard soups.  I made a big pot of it this past Sunday.  You can vary the vegetables based on what you have in the fridge or freezer.  With having a garden and of course growing zucchini, I shred garden zucchini each year and freeze it in two cup portions.  I tend to add shredded zucchini to many soup recipes.



1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup lentils
1/3 cup pearl barley
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 small potatoes, chopped
5 to 6 frozen or fresh tomatoes, if fresh chop them up
2 cups of zucchini, shredded or chopped
10 cups of water
4 tsp chicken bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil or dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice


Heat oil in a large pot and sauté onions, celery and garlic until golden brown.  Add carrots and potatoes and sauté for a few more minutes.  Add a little bit of water if vegetables are starting to stick.   Add all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for an hour.   Stir occasionally.   Add lemon juice and discard bay leaf. 

Adapted from “Meal Lean i Yumm” by Noreen Gilletz

Sunday, December 13, 2009


One of my favorite chefs is Bonnie Stern.  I have a number of her cookbooks and keep them on the small book shelf in the kitchen along with a few other 'go to' cookbooks.  What I like about her style of cooking is that it is not complicated, the recipes are practical, she does heartsmart cooking and she has personality.

Earlier this year I bought one of her latest cookbooks - "Friday Night Suppers".  The recipes cover a variety of meals from different countries, are quick, include seasonal recipes, provides variations and are reproducible in your own kitchen.  She has many photographs of the various recipes which were taken by her son at her home.   In profiling different countries, Bonnie Stern will do a whole meal based on the specific country.  We had a dinner party to attend last night and I was asked to bring a dessert.  I decided to make one of her dessert recipes on Friday night.  I knew that if a complete disaster prevailed, there would be an opportunity to buy/make something else on Saturday.  I know that some people are hesitant about making new recipes and serving them to guests as there could be the potential that the recipe doesn't turn out.  I am more adventurous and will experiment.  What is hard sometimes is that if you make a new recipe and if it is something like a cake, you can not taste test it ahead of time.   Who wants to bring a cake to a dinner party with a piece missing?

I decided to make an apple cake after looking over the cookbook.  This recipe originated with Bonnie Stern's mom.  I followed the recipe and did not improvise.  I also decided to follow the directions and line the spring-form pan with oiled parchment paper.  This is a very good tip.  After the cake has cooled and you open the latch to the metal form that goes around the cake, it is very easy to peel off the parchment paper from the cake.  The cake says intact and then you can place it on a serving plate.  The cake was a hit.  The cake reminded me of a cross between a cake and a cobbler as the apple mixture is in  middle.  I will definitely make this recipe again.



2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup orange juice
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
4 to 5 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 tbsp coarse sugar, optional


With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a bowl until light.  Beat in oil.  Beat in orange and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to egg mixture and stir until combined.

In a third bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, apples and nuts.

Spread about half of the batter in an oiled and parchment lined 9 inch spring-form pan.  Spoon apples on top of this batter.  Drizzle remaining batter on top of the apples.  The batter on the top layer may not cover the apples completely.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  If the cake is browning too much, cover loosely with foil and reduce oven heat to 325 degree F.  Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Recipe from “Friday Night Dinners” by Bonnie Stern.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I like to try different recipes using beans.  I am a big fan of chick peas and will look for a variety of ways to use them in recipes.  Most of the recipes I make using chick peas are appetizers, salads, soups or some kind of stew.   Moroccan stew can be made in a variety of ways and if you goggle it, you will find a number of recipes.  Several years ago I found this recipe on a blog site posted by someone called Mandy.  This is one of her all time favorite recipes.  I made a few modifications in the measurements.  You can add more amount of spices than what I have listed in the recipe.  The original recipe called for 2 tsp of chili powder, I only used one.  I also used 2 heaping tbsp of peanut butter.  I was also generous in using lemon juice.  This is a great tasting stew for several reasons.  I think the peanut butter, sweet potato and spinach really adds to the taste.



1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup diced celery
1 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups chicken broth
3 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
19 oz can of chick peas, drained
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp dried ginger
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 large bag of fresh spinach


Heat oil in a large pot, add onions, celery, green pepper and garlic.  Sauté for five minutes.  Add all of the remaining ingredients except the peanut butter and spinach.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered for about an hour.  Stir occasionally.   Add the peanut blend and blend in.   Remove about two cups of stew and place in a blender or food processor.  Add the puree back to the stew.   Add the bag of spinach to the pot and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  According to the recipe, a cup of stew is about 2 weight watchers points.  The recipe makes a big pot of stew.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Have you ever thought about the treasures you find and collect?  The extra special item you may find at store or a garage sale that brings you joy or makes you smile because it was a find?  Do you share your treasures?  But not all treasures are material in nature.   Treasures can be the time spent with loved ones; it can be allowing time for yourself to unwind, be lazy or self-indulgent; or it can represent an experience that you will treasure forever.

My dog loves his treasures and they are scattered around the house.  They include different kinds of balls, tugs, kongs and other descriptive names for a toy.  He also has a toy box which is suppose to be  the depository for his treasures.  The dog has discovered that treasures can be found when he is out walking with me.  We have found tennis balls and other toys left by other dogs along the walking paths.  There is one house that backs a walking path that we use.   This house does not have a back fence and a black lab lives there.  This dog has wonderful toys which my dog has discovered.   I let the dog off leash on certain portions of the path and he finds great joy in checking out some of the backyards that are not fenced.  He makes a direct beeline for this backyard where the black lab lives.  More often than not he comes running back to me with the great treasure in his mouth.   He will trot around with the toy in his mouth, his tail held high and a big grin on his face as he is so proud of myself and wants to show off the treasure he has found.

Last year I introduced myself to the owner of this house and black lab and explained how my dog will help himself to her lab's toys.  My dog is not the only neighbourhood dog who indulges himself in these treasures.  There is at least one other dog who follows a similar pattern.

My dog would love to keep these treasures he finds but he can't have everyone else's toys.  The typical routine that has been developed is that I let him trot home with the treasure in his mouth, bribe him once at home with a cookie to release the toy, quickly grab the toy and put it high up on a shelf in the garage or put it in my car.  That day or the following day I will drive over to the house and drop the toy off by the front door.   These people are very good natured about other dogs borrowing their dog's toys.   It is good to share your treasures....

Saturday, December 5, 2009


You could probably bake a different kind of cookie every day for a full year and not have to repeat the same recipe twice.  I have never tried that and you would need a few people people in your household to keep up with the cookie supply.   One of my favorite cookies is biscotti.  I like biscotti because it is a dry cookie and makes a great cookie for dunking in tea or coffee.  Biscotti, which is Italian in origin, is similar to mandelbrot (almond bread), a jewish dry cookie.  Before there was biscotti, I was making mandelbrot.  There are some small differences in the ingredients.  In the recipes I have, biscotti uses less oil.  Both of these two cookies requires twice baking.  After the first baking, the baked logs are sliced and put back into the oven to dry.  Here is one of the recipes I have.  I have adapted this from


1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup sugar or splenda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries or chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts or chopped almonds

1.              Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2.             In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries/chocolate chips and nuts.

3.             Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12x2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky; wet hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.

4.             Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F.

5.             Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.  Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This weekend I made a great spinach salad.  What made this salad taste so good was likely the dill sprinkled on the salad and the dressing.  I took the salad to a pot luck supper and it was a hit.  You can add more almonds or strawberries to the salad than what is provided in the ingredient list.


10 ounce bag of spinach, chopped
6 to 7 strawberries, thinly sliced
5 fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
a handful of almonds, chopped
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup filled half way with water
1 heaping tbsp splenda or sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion flakes
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
pepper to taste


In a large bowl, combine spinach, strawberries, green onions, mushrooms, almonds and dill.

In a glass or plastic jar that has a lid, combine the oil, vinegar, water, splenda, garlic powder, onion flakes, mustard, poppy seeds and pepper to taste,  Shake well.  Pour dressing over salad and serve.  Makes about 6 servings.