Christmas

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Fig and Olive Tapenade
Fig and Olive Tapenade  - TheMessyBaker.com I almost feel like I'm cheating on this one. It's far too easy to be this tasty. But on second thought, it's a perfect illustration of Eric Akis's approach to food. It delivers what he calls "obtainable goodness", is suitable for all levels of cooks, and uses ingredients you can find at the average supermarket. It's also addictive, although I don't think that's part of his mandate. This recipe is from Eric's seventh book, Everyone Can Cook Everything (Whitecap 2012), a compendium of his first six. As I struggle to get the manuscript of my first cookbook completed, it's really hard not to hate him. But one taste of the tapenade and all's forgiven.
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Canada’s Favourite Recipes
Elizabeth Baird's Home - TheMessyBaker.com I could tell you I have always dreamed of being invited to Elizabeth Baird's home, but I'd be lying. The thought was simply too grand to have ever occurred to me. Seems I have been thinking small without knowing it. Last week, I had the honour -- and I use that term sincerely -- of having lunch with authors Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird. In Elizabeth's home no less. The reason? A quiet launch of their newest co-authored book, Canada's Favourite Recipes (Whitecap 2012). For context, Elizabeth Baird and Rose Murray are two of Canada's best known and well respected cookbook authors and food writers. It's no exaggeration to say Elizabeth Baird is a household name. All my peers own at least one cookbook she either authored or edited with Canadian Living. Rose is no slouch either. She likely contributed to the aforementioned books. In addition she has at least 10 solo cookbooks to her name. Both as a team and as individuals, these two women have  been shaping the Canadian culinary landscape for more than three decades via their delicious yet approachable recipes. And I lunched with them. In Elizabeth's home. As guests arrived, I snooped about the main floor. If I could have stolen a paint chip from her front office, I would have, just to prove that it is, in fact, close to the colour of my kitchen. Fortunately, I had my iPhone
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Recipe: Salted Orange Toffee Crisps
Last year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't do any Christmas baking. Not so much as a single shortbread came out of my kitchen. But this year? I'm making up for the loss. The rumballs are rolled, the eggnog is chilling and now it's time for some serious sugar. Luckily, Anna Olson recently released a new book devoted entirely to baking -- Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share and Enjoy -- so should I suffer from Bakers Block, I will have a muse to help me. Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the muse Anna after one of her demonstrations. I promised to try to stump her with your toughest baking questions but Anna's been studying. I'm not sure if I was more impressed with the accuracy of her answers or her her ability to zero in on possible solutions without a lot of background information. I'd have been demanding to know about the humidity, altitude and the position of Mercury. Here are the questions you asked and Anna's answers. Immediately following, we'll have a cookie break.  I'm sharing a recipe to one of Anna's amazing cookies -- one she let me sample even though they were just for display. They've got orange, toffee and salt all in an icebox cookie. Life is complete.
Homemade Eggnog and Eggnog Ice Cream
Recipe: Homemade Eggnog
Homemade eggnog and eggnog ice cream. One recipe. Two results -- The Messy Baker.com I’m trying not to be resentful but a certain celebrity llama has more Twitter followers than I do. And his first name isn't Dali. To be fair, the llama is a talented goat herder, so I can see the appeal. Why all the fuss over a shaggy camelid? Polka Spot belongs to the Fabulous Beekman Boys — along with a polydactyl barn cat, 160 goats, two sheep and a cheese cave. They all reside on a 60-acre farm with a 210-year-old mansion. I’d be insanely jealous if I didn’t know how much work 60-acres and 640 goat hooves require. The only low-maintenance item on that list is the cheese cave, and I'm sure there's more to that than simply maintaining a thermostat.
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Recipe: Walnut Rumballs
Walnuts are the hard-done-by, neglected middle child of the nut family. Between the mature and established almond, with its fancy frangipane and marzipan pastes, and attention-grabbing, TV-diva baby of a macadamia (I'm looking at you Roseanne!) walnuts are easily overlooked. Sure, you can find them huddled in a corner with the maple syrup, but have you ever picked one out of a bowl of mixed nuts at a party? Or seen them chumming with the popular butters like cashew butter, peanut butter and  -- here we go again -- almond butter? I thought as much. Being the hard-done-by, sometimes-neglected middle child in a family of nuts myself, I can relate. Like walnuts, I can be a tad bitter (and who wouldn't be given the circumstances?) But warm me up and give me some chocolate? And we can be quite the charmers.
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Happy Thanksgiving: How to Carve Poultry
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! Since I can't join you in person and help out  with dinner, I thought I'd share a video that could make your holiday meal run a bit more smoothly -- or at least save your good table cloth from some unnecessary grease spots. While the turkey roasts, take 3 minutes and learn how to carve the bird like a pro. The poultry-phobic might want to bookmark this post since the instructions work perfectly for Christmas, birthdays, Sunday family dinners or any time you serve roasted poultry -- be it duck, turkey, goose, chicken or itty-bitty Cornish hens. So sharpen those knives and have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving! PS: For those who shun Black Friday, stay warm and cozy inside and take advantage of  Rouxbe Online Cooking School's Cyber Monday Deal. See below for details.
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Recipe: Butter Rum Pound Cake
I was going to post this on Monday, September 19th, official Talk Like a Pirate Day. But I used up all my lame pirate jokes back in 2006 when I needed a tie-in for my rumball recipe. Despite getting so tipsy spliced t'mainbrace sampling the rum-laced glaze that I came this close to bellowing out a sea shanty, this will be a straight up, pirate-free pound cake post -- which is only fitting since Camilla V. Saulsbury shouldn't share the lime light with anyone, let alone a scurvy, one-eyed bilge rat. What makes Camilla so special? Not only did she create 750 muffin recipes a while back, her new book, Piece of Cakehas 176 tasty and easy-to-make variations. Carrying the one, that's 926 recipes she's come up with in one year. I'm chuffed when I come up with three variations on galette. How's she do it? Spin a flavour wheel? Pull herbs out of a hat? No, According to Camilla, it's a "savant thing" she's done all her life. In college, her classmates thought she was a meticulous notetaker, but in reality she was scribbling down flavour ideas during lectures. Higher education has never been put to such good use.
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Recipe: Accordion Potatoes
It has been brought to my attention that I have been writing a bit too much about chocolate. As if there's such a thing. However, I don't want to give you a false impression of my eating habits, so I will change the topic (briefly) to non-chocolate things. Since woman cannot live by chocolate alone, I (occasionally) make other foods. In fact, I baked potatoes last week. See...
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Recipe: Cranberry and Apple Cake
Listen to Ina. She is wise. When the Barefoot Contessa says use a 10-inch glass pie pate, use a glass pie plate. When she says use fresh cranberries, use fresh cranberries. But you know me. I never listen. Or more precisely, I don't always think ahead. I dive into recipes head first, often to find the culinary waters muddy, turbulent or shallow. With company arriving and frozen cranberries going begging, I made the best choices I could under less than perfect circumstances. So, when faced with using a 9-inch glass pie plate or a 10-inch ceramic pie plate, I pulled out the larger dish. When forced to choose between using frozen cranberries or producing no dessert at all,  I opted for frozen fruit. And while I stand by my decisions, I paid a price.
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Frozen Lemon Pavlova
This recipe proves two things. One: Candied flowers can last. Two: Size matters. As to the first point, I sugared these violets in April. The last of the batch I created for a Canadian Gardening article, they remained perfect, crisp and crystallized in their tiny plastic container. For 3 months. Take that dratted summer humidity! As to the second point?  When I made this a sublime dish a few years ago, my tiny kitchen quickly turned the situation ridiculous. Meringues cooled in the dining room while dirty dishes circled in a holding pattern over the living room coffee table. With no counter space left I whipped the cream crouching on the floor as my hand mixer splattered dairy product on the walls. Upon presenting the dessert, I'm told I punctuated the birthday greetings with "Never Again" instead of heartfelt exclamation marks. "Happy Birthday, Dad Never Again  Hope you like the dessert Never Again May all your birthday wishes come true Never Again." But this is what Mom wanted for her birthday dessert. Since I can refuse her nothing, this is what I made

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