Recipes

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Black Forest Chocolate Cookies
Sneaking in under the wire. It's still Groundhog Day. And all I can think of is Bill Murray sitting in a Punxsatawney diner, stuffing his face full of donuts with impunity. According to the groundhog, we have six more weeks of winter coming, which makes me want to stuff my face with donuts, too. Only I know that if I do, I won't start the next day as if nothing happened. Impunity for gluttonous digressions is not part of my Groundhog Day reality. Wanting something decadent, but reasonably healthy, I decided to make some chocolate cookies. Looking in my cupboards I found what I needed. Cocoa is always low-fat, dried cherries are full of antioxidants and nuts are good for you. Add a glass of milk and it's practically a whole meal.
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Vegetable Tagine
In the comment section recently, Leslie asked about eggplant. She's tired of it drowned in tomato sauce or swimming in oil.  Joe Girard of Rouxbe Online Cooking School provided some great answers, but even his professional advice didn't get me off the hook. I'd promised Leslie I'd look into other ways of cooking it, and a promise is a promise. During my research I came across a tomato-less, non-oily recipe that included eggplant. Best part? I didn't need to salt the eggplant and leave it for a half hour to draw out the bitter juices. Now Leslie, I know this doesn't exactly fit your request for eggplant "in a more natural state", but the weather's been so cloudy and miserable lately, I couldn't resist this warm, sweet Moroccan dish. You can almost taste the sunshine...
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Slow-Cooked Beef with Red Wine
I sat beside Ricardo, Canada's most popular culinary celebrity, at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards a few months ago. He's got his own Food Network show, Ricardo and Friends, three cookbooks and a self-titled magazine -- all in two languages. When he was seated beside me I was simultaneously thrilled and panicky. What would I say to him after hello? Turns out I needn't have worried. He sat down, rubbed his palms on his impeccably tailored suit, looked at me and said, "I'm so nervous." Throughout the  2 1/2 hour award show, Ricardo proved to be just as charming as his television persona. When Elizabeth Baird took the podium, he leaned over and said, "I love her. I just her. She was so good to me." When I didn't understand one of the nominated French cookbook titles, he translated. And when his book, Ricardo: parce qu’on a tous de la visite: cuisiner en toutes circonstance, won gold for best French language cookbook, he was genuinely thrilled. After all, this collection of recipes wasn't thrown together in a rush to appease adoring fans. It took 3 years to compile the seasonal photographs. Fortunately, they made an English version of the book, Ricardo: Meals for Every Occasion. I love that he addresses the fears of hosting without talking down to hear readers or offering Martha-esque presentation advice. Instead, his chapters revolve around soothing the "feeling of dread brought on by the sound of the door bell." This guy admits what every host politely denies -- "Having people over for dinner is tough. You dirty tons of dishes -- mostly the nice, fragile stuff that doesn't go in the dishwasher. You get stains on your best white tablecloth. You discover a pile of potato chip crumbs under the sofa cushions." Does he resent the imposition? Not at all. He embraces it.  As he says, "After all. We love 'em to pieces." You don't need to have company to enjoy his delicious, not-too-challenging recipes. Ricardo covers soups, salads, mains, desserts, drinks, snacks and breakfast., but delivers them in chapters entitled:
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Vanilla Cupcakes
Why the pretty cakes? I'm celebrating.  I finally hit Murphy where he lives. Thinks he can break my oven on Christmas morning and get away with it? No way. Sure, he wagged a $300 repair bill under my nose and then pulled it and the rug out from under me by making the parts obsolete. I admit, I was shaken at the prospect of months of nothing but stove top dinners and crockpot suppers. But I looked Murphy straight in the eye and said, "Bring it on!" How did I do this? With a little help from cyber-pal and fellow food blogger, Cheryl Arkison of Backseat Gourmet. When I served up Spicy Green Beans, lamenting my fate, Cheryl was the voice of reason and suggested I find a used one on Kijiji. Ki-what-what? It might be a nonsensical name, but the site delivered! In less than four hours, the replacement was sitting in my mudroom. Within four days it was installed. And all this happened for less than the estimated cost of repairs. Take that Murphy! I was so happy I emailed Cheryl with my thanks. Her response? "In a long convoluted way you have the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop to thank for your new stove." Okay. Thank you Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop. And thank you Cheryl. Dying to know the back story, pop on over to her blog and find out why Kijiji Rocks!. In the meantime, here's my gratitude expressed in cupcakes.
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Leftover Apple Roasted Chicken Soup
Here. Sit down. Put your feet up and enjoy a bowl of soup. While I encourage you to admire the bowl from my sister (another Christmas present) I defy you to remain polite as you sip this soup. You'll want to shovel it into your mouth quickly so you won't have to share. But don't. There's plenty for all. Besides, it's worth savoring. I'd like to tell you I slaved over this rich orange soup, tinkering for hours with the proportions. But I didn't. In fact, I made it last night while cooking two other dishes. I tempted fate by turning on my haywire oven long enough to roast the mini pumpkin that had been chilling on my window sill for months. I then pureed the cooked vegetable into the slurpy, sloppy drippings from last Sunday's Apple Roasted Chicken.
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Slow Cooker Refried Beans Dip
There are two problems with refried beans. One: They tend to be very fattening. Two: They look like something that came out the back end of a flatulent donkey. This slow-cooker recipe solves the high-fat issue. The lovely dish my sister's boyfriend gave me for Christmas solves the other. Look at the sensual, distracting curves. See the bright red tortilla chips? Isn't it festive! Ole! You hardly notice the brown glob in the centre. The resulting "refried" beans have the depth of flavour you get from the authentic version but without the frying or the fat. Make them as spicy or mild.  Use Pinto or Romano beans. Toss in some black beans if you like. Serve this dip with some sour cream, guacamole, salsa and chips. Or slather some on a burrito. It's up to you. No matter how you eat them, just serve them in a very distracting bowl.
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Raspberry Hot Chocolate and a Book Giveaway
When I was a child, my father used to make an ice rink in the back yard. He'd pile us onto the toboggan and pull us around to flatten the snow. Then, night after night, he'd zip up his navy blue snowmobile suit and disappear into the dark. When he came back in, his mittens would be coated in ice and his nose and cheeks would be bright red. The fix? Hot chocolate. When the rink was finally ready, after what seemed like weeks, mom would lace  up our skates, stuff us into an envelope of winter wear and send us out to slip and slide the afternoon away. We'd return with numb toes and ice-encrusted lashes. The cure? Hot chocolate. Today, as I face yet another snow shovel, I find myself craving this drink -- only a grown up version. As luck would have it, Dominique and Cindy Duby, chocolate artisans from Vancouver, have released a new book focusing entirely on chocolate. And their hot chocolate recipe is a raspberry version. And  raspberry is the only chocolate flavour  my lemon-loving dad likes. So I figure this was meant to be. I had to try it.
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Spicy Green Beans
Wouldn't you know it? The week I post my culinary resolutions, my gas range rebels. The stovetop works just fine, but the oven fluctuates wildly,  making baking a crap shoot with wheat and a roast chicken dinner  the poultry equivalent of Russian roulette. And the real kicker? My stove's so old a replacement thermostat is no longer available. Since I want to replace my aging 24-inch range with a 30-inch version (which requires moving cupboards in a 145-year-old kitchen with plaster and lathe walls) it's not going to happen until spring. Something tells me it's gonna be a looooong winter.
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Marcy Goldman’s Apple-Raspberry Patchwork Crostata

We have a tradition in our house. One of us usually kicks off the new year with a kitchen disaster. Last year, I discovered dried beans can, in fact, go stale. This year? I botched the pastry. Crostata no less. What else? I learned the hard...

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Rosemary, Raisin and Pecan Crisps

I can't believe I'm about to make these again. The recipe makes a two loaf pans' worth and the entire batch is almost gone.Bored with plain crackers and still hyperventilating from the sticker price on the artisanal crisps, I was thrilled to find a knock-off...

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