Category Archives: Holidays

Amuse Bouche. Crispy Bite of Sage with a Soft Stewed Apple and Spicy Sausage. Perfection!

The concept of an amuse bouche is so fabulous, isn’t it? An appetizer before my appetizer? A perfect bite of deliciousness that keeps me wanting more? I’m in. 

I haven’t had an amazing amuse bouche in recent memory; in fact, I think the last note-worthy one I had was at Nougatine in NYC: it was a watermelon-jalapeno gazpacho if memory serves me correctly. The whole meal was amazing, but a great amuse bouche really sets the stage and gets you excited for the remaining courses. So obviously I had to try my hand at one. I was watching my girl-crush Laura Calder on food network Canada, and she has a very similar appetizer recipe served with toothpicks. 

Forgive me for the repetitious ingredients lately: I’ll be more exciting once these wintery/holiday ingredients are used up. Bear in mind too that this could be made in larger size for a side or regular appetizer, maybe served on some celeriac puree?

Start with your apples. Dice.

Get some hot sausage going in your pan (medium/high should work). I removed the casings and tore the sausage into very small bite-sized pieces, but feel free to slice it too. Make sure they get nice and browned on all sides.

Once they’re browned adequately remove them and set aside. Put your diced apples into the same pan; add a pat of butter if you think it’s necessary.

Splash of wine to deglaze the pan and lift all those yummy brown bits

Bit of cinnamon

Bit of sugar

Now let the apples soften until they lose some of their crispness, but still have a nice bite. Then remove and set aside. Make sure to scrape all that delicious sugary sauce out and onto the apples. 

Now for the sage

Heat olive oil in the same pan on medium. Throw a tiny piece of bread etc into the pan, and if it sizzles, it’s ready for the sage. Tear off individual leaves of sage and pop them in. They only need a few seconds per side to get crisp, then remove and place on a paper towel. I sprinkled just a touch of salt on the sage leaves before plating.

Now assemble. Even better if you have those large, wide-mouthed appetizer spoons to put this on. Place 1-2 pieces of sausage, 1-2 pieces of apple, and a crispy fried sage leaf on each serving. Make sure to drizzle with any butter/sugar sauce left in the apples.



Filed under Appetizers, Holidays

Classic No-Bake Cheesecake with a Graham Cracker Crust in a Springform Pan with 4-hour Refrigeration Time? Who Has Time? Behold: Cheese Blob.

I love cheesecake. Really. I eat it when I’m happy, sad, stressed….basically whenever I can find it. But I’m not gonna lie; I have very little patience for baking in general because of all those long waits and measuring precisely. There have been times when I’ve actually made cheesecake and then proceeded to eat so much of the filling that it no longer filled the designated pan. So today, I really, really wanted cheesecake. That said, I really, really wanted cheesecake now. So I figured I’d make it look semi-classy and serve it with fondue forks so everyone could dive in after spearing a berry. It was a total hit. Laziness for the win.

  • fresh blackberries (or whatever fruit you prefer)
  • 10 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3rd cup sugar
  • teaspoon of pure vanilla, or use fresh vanilla seeds
  • 3/4th a cup of heavy cream
  • shortbread chocolate cookies (depends on the size. I used 6)
  • about a tablespoon of butter
  1. Wash and dry your berries
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together, and then add in the vanilla
  3. Whip the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold it into the cream cheese mixture. (Taste it here to make sure it’s sweet enough for you – I tend to prefer it more tangy)
  4. Mash your shortbread cookies with a rolling pin or other heavy object. Then melt your butter and add it in so it forms coarse crumbles.
  5. Arrange your berries on a platter. You can refrigerate your cheese cake filling until you need it (I used it right away). Put dollops of the cheese cake filling in the middle, and sprinkle with the ‘crust.’ Serve with fondue forks! You could also serve this in individual dishes for a less messy presentation 😛

Leave a comment

Filed under Dessert, Holidays

Mmmm Homemade Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream. Sinfully Awesome.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve (technically Christmas now) and I can’t sleep due to extreme excitement. I adore Christmas. My parents always managed to make it so completely magical that I can’t wait to pass on these traditions to someone else, someday. Even now that my brother and I are grown, we come home from school to a house decorated from top to bottom in various Christmas paraphernalia. Each step on the staircase has a little mini christmas tree on it. The towels in the bathrooms have all been replaced by green and red ones. I made a latte this morning in a coffee mug with Frosty the snowman on it. When I tried to toast a bagel today, I reached for  a plain old white plate and was met with my mother’s fierce stance upon turning around. “Use the Christmas plates, dear,” and she handed me a plate lined with golden stars. 

I think my favorite memory of Christmas has to be the “little tree.” See, in my house, there were two trees. The big tree (the one with all the presents from my parents/family etc) and the little tree. The little tree was extra special because only Santa could put gifts under there. The little tree was upstairs, whereas the big tree was downstairs, and it was right outside of my bedroom door. There were never any presents there until Christmas morning, and they were always wrapped in completely different, magical-looking paper that my parents acquired from god knows where. Some years it was metallic and shiny yet crinkly looking, almost as if it had travelled from the North Pole. On each present, in an equally metallic/unearthly looking ink, was either my name or my brother’s, written in calligraphy. Santa had wonderful penmanship. 

On Christmas morning, my brother and I would excitedly run out of our bedrooms to see the little tree. Then, we would carefully take a few of the presents, go to my parents room, and sit on the end of their bed taking turns opening them. See, my parents were always equally astonished at all the wonderful things Santa had brought us, making us open them slowly so they too could relish the moment. And the presents were so, so neat. I suspect that when my parents travelled for work, they made a habit of picking up really odd little things that would be impossible to find in our home town. Everything looked hand-made and probably created lovingly by elves: toys, puzzles, even things that had our names individually carved into them. 

After the little tree was opened, we would all head downstairs to eat some breakfast (and make coffee for my poor parents who were probably up until the wee hours of the morning wrapping). On the table, we would see the remnants of whatever we left for Santa the night before. Once, we left a carrot for the reindeer who did the best job that night, and (I still have no idea quite how they did it) there were two GIANT reindeer teeth prints still in it. My brother and I stood with mouths agape when we saw that. 

Following breakfast, we opened our stockings. Had more tea and coffee, munched on delicious things we’d received, and then opened the big tree. There was none of this let’s-open-presents-as-quickly-as-we-can-all-simultaneously business. We opened them individually, one at a time, taking turns. It prolonged the process into the late afternoon, but we truly loved every minute of it. 

I loved when we were all done, sitting in a mound of wrapping paper and looking at all of our new things, when my Dad would make homemade hot chocolate for us to sip. I used to lurk right behind him, watching him make it so I could get the first glass. It’s delicious, rich, and feels like home. Let’s make some 🙂

Start with some whole milk. Of course you can use 2% here too, but I wouldn’t recommend going much lower than that or it tends to be a little thin. Just measure out as much as you need. Keep it warm over low heat.

 Couple pinches of cinnamon

Bit of vanilla

Pinch of salt to help accentuate all the flavors

Now for your chocolate. This is a matter of taste; I used Lindt 70% dark, and for two people I only used 4 squares. However, add the squares in a couple at a time and taste as you go. How rich do you want it? Whisk the chocolate until it’s incorporated into the milk. Give it some time and do it over a low heat.

Now add in sugar to taste. Put in about a tablespoon and taste it; if you want more, add in another. At this point adjust any other flavors you want; more cinnamon? Vanilla? Chocolate?

Ok keep it on low and stir often. Now for the whipped cream! The amount depends on how many mugs you’re making.

Splash of vanilla

Bit of sugar to sweeten it up.

Now whip it until it reaches stiff peaks!

Soooo hard to resist eating this with a spoon.

Let’s assemble..

I shaved a bit of chocolate on top for extra prettiness 😉

Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • whole milk
  • dark (70% or so) chocolate
  • vanilla
  • sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • couple pinches of cinnamon
  • whipping cream (35%)
  • shaved chocolate for garnish, optional
  1. Heat some whole milk on low heat in a saucepan. The amount you need depends on how many people you’re feeding. Count on two cups per person
  2. Put in a couple pinches of cinnamon, pinch of salt, splash of vanilla, and sugar to taste. Whisk to incorporate. Then, add in your chocolate squares. I did about 2 squares per person. Whisk until it’s all melted and then taste it to determine if you need more chocolate or sugar.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whip as much whipped cream as you need for garnish. Add in some sugar to taste, and a splash of vanilla. 
  4. Serve! Grate/shave some chocolate on top for extra pretty points. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beverages, Dessert, Holidays

Puff Pastry Round 2: With Chevre and Spiced Pears

Whew. Holidays + exams = stress. I combat this by eating my feelings. It works out well for me; not so well for my wardrobe. I suspect you’ll find me posting some “lighter” options in the next upcoming weeks 😛

Have I mentioned how much I love puff pastry? This stuff is magical. I have never attempted to make it homemade, however, after being assured by many professional chefs that it is quite a project. Plus, there are so many wonderful frozen options it seems like an unnecessary one. This particular puff pastry is the best I’ve come across, and I wish I could post the name but I can’t recall it and additionally the package isn’t in english. I first ate it at a close friends’ house and his Mum graciously sent me home with a few packages for me to try out. And now I’m addicted. 

The beauty of this puff pastry appetizer is that it’s just sweet enough to be a very simple, rustic dessert too. I wouldn’t turn it down for breakfast either, but that’s just me.

Here it is! Make sure it’s completely defrosted before you get started. I am the least patient human on earth; but it doesn’t work out well for anyone 😛 Roll it out as thinly as possible; you’ll probably have to keep flouring up your board and rolling pin.

Grab yourself a yummy pear (or more, if you’re cooking for many people!) and dice him up. Oh; and if you have wine, please drink it. It’s the lesser known advantage of cooking; you’re supposed to always have wine in your hand. 

Heat a pan over medium low, and get a hunk of butter going in there.

Everybody in! (ok just the pears)

Now for a couple grinds of nutmeg

Bit of cinnamon:

Andddd a bit of brown sugar!

Let those guys hang out until they soften (but aren’t mushy)

When they’re good to go, set aside and let them cool a bit. Grab some chevre. In this case it’s better to go with an unflavored variety.

Take a little bit and place in the middle of your section of puff pastry. Remember; make whatever shape you want!

Hm. That guy above needs a tad more chevre. Let’s add more. Sprinkle him with a bit of salt and pepper. Just a pinch of both. Then add on your pears.

Now, beat one egg in a small bowl, and brush the edges with egg wash. Then, make him into your desired shape!

I demonstrated it a bit better here

Ok! Now bake him at 375 for about 20 minutes (but keep an eye on it; when the top is pretty and browned it’s good to go)

Let’s check out the goods

Oooo look how flaky this is. It was delish. And this is how mauled it looked after I got into it. So much for picture perfect presentation 😛

Puff Pastry with Spiced Pears and Chevre

  • puff pastry, thawed
  • pears; the firmer the better. In this case it’s ideal to buy slightly under ripe fruit so it doesn’t get mushy as it cooks
  • butter
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • chevre
  • 1 egg
  1. Roll our your thawed puff pastry on a cutting board or flat surface. Use flour to make sure it doesn’t stick, as needed.
  2. Dice up your pear(s)..the amount depends on how many you’re cooking for.
  3. Heat a pan over medium-low, and add in a knob of butter. Add in your diced pears.
  4. Add a couple grinds of nutmeg (or a pinch of the ground variety), a few pinches of cinnamon, and about a 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. Bear in mind, this was for one pear. Just adjust as needed and please taste as you go. You want it to be slightly sweet and noticeably spiced to contrast the chevre.
  5. Let the pears cook until slightly softened but still maintaining their shape, set aside.
  6. Add in about a teaspoon of chevre to the centre of your puff pastry shape, and season it with salt and pepper. Put on another teaspoon or more of the pears (make sure to drizzle  a little of the butter yumminess over it all)
  7. Beat one egg in a small bowl and brush the edges of the pastry with a pastry brush, then seal them to close. Brush the outside with the egg wash to make sure the top gets pretty and brown.
  8. Bake it off at 375 for about 20 minutes, but this varies depending on your chosen shape and your oven. Keep checking on the browness. I baked it on parchment paper but you could just grease a cookie sheet or use a silicone based sheet. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Appetizers, Dessert, Holidays

Easy Holiday Appetizers: Cheddar, Apple and Pancetta Wrapped in Puff Pastry

These are very yummy, and extremely easy. There’s nothing like the combo of spiced apples and pork with the addition of a sharp bite of cheddar. Mmm.

Start with some pancetta. Look how beautiful it is! Such pretty colors. Now, bacon would work just as well in this appetizer, but I preferred to use pancetta here because it isn’t smoked. I find that while bacon is damn good, the smoky flavor can compete a little too much with other flavors from time to time. 

Now, dice up the pancetta and put it in a pan over medium. I put in a tsp or so of olive oil to prevent sticking. Pancetta is lower in fat content than bacon so I like to be cautious.

Let those guys get nice and brown, and then remove and set aside.

Now, dice up a pretty granny smith apple. I like granny smith for this because of the tart bite.

Now, put a knob of butter into the pan you used to brown the pancetta. Don’t scrape out the brown bits! They’ll add to the yumminess in the end.

Add in your apple

Ok, now add in a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. I didn’t measure; I just use the palm of my hand. Here’s the cinnamon:

Annndd the brown sugar!

Now let those guys saute up for about 5 minutes or so: you want them to still have a bit of a bite, not to turn into applesauce. Keep trying them and adjust the seasoning if you think it’s necessary.

Grab yourself some great quality cheddar. Here’s mine; but it’s a matter of taste.

Add a few slices to your rolled out puff pastry

Now add on your sauteed spiced apples. Not too much! Remember they have to close.

Now for your pancetta

Perfect! Now just beat up one egg in a small bowl, grab yourself a pastry brush, and brush all around the edges with the egg wash. This’ll help the ends stick together.

I chose to make these really rustic and adorable looking, however, there’s no reason at all why you can’t make yours look far more professional. There are tons of shapes to make! Use your imagination

Now, into the oven with him! 375 for about 20 minutes or until he’s a gorgeous golden brown


……I think I’ll have to make these again very shortly.

Puff Pastry with Pancetta, Spiced Apples, and Cheddar

  • puff pastry (a brand of your choice)
  • 1-2 granny smith apples (depending on the number of mouths you’re feeding!)
  • 6-8 slices of pancetta
  • great quality cheddar, medium or old
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • egg
  1. Slice your pancetta into bite size pieces, and saute them over medium heat with a tsp of olive oil until brown. Remove, set aside
  2. Dice your granny smith apple(s) into bite size pieces. Add a knob of butter to the same pan used for pancetta and add in the apples.
  3. Season the apples with about a tsp of cinnamon and a tsp of brown sugar (or more/less to your taste). Let them saute until softened but they still have a bite. (Taste for doneness around 5-6 minutes)
  4. Roll out your puff pastry. Cut into desired shapes
  5. Add a couple small slices of cheddar to each puff pastry portion. Top with a spoonful of apples, and a few pieces of the pancetta. 
  6. Beat one egg in a small bowl, and using a pastry brush just brush the sides of the pastry to act as a glue. 
  7. Seal up your pastries, and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. I put them on parchment paper, but you can grease a baking sheet or use a silicone baking sheet.


Filed under Appetizers, Holidays

Homemade Eggnog!

This. stuff. is. HEAVEN. My Dad made homemade eggnog for us every Christmas when I was growing up, and as far as I could tell he did it off the top of his head. I’ve been looking for a recipe that resembles his and the closest I came was with Alton Brown’s. I realize that the idea of an egg-drink doesn’t sound too appealing, but please try it. It’s utterly delicious, rich, creamy, and epitomizes the holiday season 😉 I’ll completely admit: when people claim they hate eggnog, I’m that annoying person who pipes up with “have you tried homemade eggnog?” But they are *really* different animals. Give it a shot, even if you hate the store-bought variety. 

Start with four eggs

You’re going to need both heavy cream and whole milk. Just focus on the amount of calcium you’ll be getting and forget about the fat + calories 😉

Ok now separate your four eggs, putting the whites into a mixer or bowl large enough that you can use a hand mixer.

Add in a touch of sugar to your whites to help with the whipping process. When the whites hold stiff peaks you’re good to go.

Now, remove the whites into a bowl or something and set aside for a moment. Add the yolks into the mixing bowl now (it’s ok if there’s still some residual whites hanging out in there)

Now, add in 1/3rd cup of sugar and whip the yolk + the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. 

Once those are whipped together, then add in your cream and milk and just whip until it’s all incorporated.

Now add in some freshly grated nutmeg (here’s me with my nutmeg grinder)

Now, add in the egg whites you put to the side and whisk to incorporate.

Here I added in a touch of vanilla; this wasn’t part of the original recipe but I love vanilla.

Ok! Give it one last whisk for good measure, and pour it into a clear serving guy. (I like clear; you can see the teensy bit of layering in the drink and the pretty flecks of nutmeg)

Mmmmmm now for MY TURN TO TRY IT. So exciting

The only changes I made to the original recipe were: I added in vanilla and I don’t like booze in my eggnog. Don’t ask me why because I love booze in general. But, for some reason with this drink I feel like it hides the eggy-milkshakey-deliciousness. 

Recipe Here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Beverages, Dessert, Holidays