Set for the Holidays with Anna Olson, EPUB, 0147530814

  • Print Length: 344 Pages
  • Publisher: Appetite by Random House
  • Publication Date: October 16, 2018
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0147530814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0147530813
  • File Format: EPUB

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Copyright © 2018 Olson Food Concepts Inc.

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Appetite by Random House® and colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

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ISBN: 9780147530813

eBook ISBN: 9780147530820

Book and cover design: Scott Richardson with Rachel Cooper

Cover design: Rachel Cooper

Photography: Janis Nicolay

Prop styling: Catherine Therrien

Endpaper ornaments: Pepin Press—Graphic Ornaments

Published in Canada by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.

www.penguinrandomhouse.ca

 

 

v5.3.2

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To Michael, thank you for bringing comfort and joy to every single day.

 

 

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Happy Holidays

 

MENUS & MEALS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

(AND ALMOST EVERY DAY)

Holiday Cooking Basics

Festive Brunch

Entertaining a Crowd (Hors d’oeuvres, Snacks and Shared Plates)

Cozy Supper with Friends

The Main Event

An Elegant Evening

When It’s All Over (Leftovers and Lighter Meals)

Savoury Supporting Acts

 

BAKING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

(AND ALMOST EVERY DAY)

Holiday Baking Essentials

Seasonal Pastries and Sweet Breads

Holiday Cookies

Fancy Bars and Squares

Classic Chocolates and Confections

Festive Pies and Tarts

Celebratory Centrepiece Cakes

Plated Puddings and Other Elegant Desserts

Sweet Supporting Acts

Acknowledgements

A Note for My British Readers

 

 

hen does your holiday season begin? Mine starts with the first pumpkin pie I bake. I don’t bake a pumpkin pie on a regular Tuesday night when it’s just Michael and me at home, so the aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon drifting through the house means the weather is crisp and cool and we have guests coming over.

I look forward to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with the same eagerness and excitement as I did when I was a child, but my focus has changed from receiving gifts to giving them. And these days that means making the extra effort to connect with friends and family in a way that is different than at any other time of the year.

When we host at holiday time, I take extra care when planning the menu, decorating the table (and the house) and thinking about what will please our guests the most. But what really brings “sparkle” to the holidays is the authentic joy that arises when everyone is relaxed and enjoying each other’s company over good food and good conversation. And isn’t that the spirit of the holiday season?

In this book, I’m sharing my joy with you—and since my joy is expressed through what comes from my kitchen, it is the recipes along with the helpful hints, stories and good memories that help my holiday season sparkle. You can’t have sparkle if you have stress, so I’ve provided lots of tips for planning and making things ahead, ensuring that your food is delicious and beautifully presented, and that you can focus on being with your guests.

Part one of the book is organized by occasion, with menus included for almost every event during the festive season. With holiday entertaining, I tend to book the date and confirm the guests first, then plan the menu. The occasion dictates the shape of that menu (be it a cozy dinner with friends, or a big family feast, or an open house, or something in between), so instead of sending you willy-nilly through the book to piece a meal together from the different chapters, I have neatly organized each chapter by the occasion itself. There are also recipes for the in-between moments when you need a break from the feasting and the frenzy, as well as new ideas for how to reinvent your leftovers.

Naturally, a great deal of this book also covers holiday baking. No wonder I love this time of year! In part two there are recipes for cookies and cakes, of course, but also for breads, savoury bakes, chocolates and confections, and gifts from the kitchen. Homemade gifts show thought and commitment—and many of these recipes are perfect for making in large batches to share with family and friends.

Throughout the book, you’ll see a few different symbols to help you quickly spot key features of a recipe. Those that are particularly giftable have this icon; and those recipes that are Vegetarian , Vegan and Gluten-free are also noted, so you can plan inclusive dishes and meals for everyone you love this holiday season.

My true holiday wish for you is to find your “sparkle.” If mistakes happen, just move on, knowing that your friends and family will forgive you. Find joy in the kitchen, express your love through the dishes you make and have a delicious festive season!

 

 

osting family and friends is a key part of the holiday season, but with so much tradition and expectation woven into festive meals, it can be a stressful time for cooks. To help take the pressure off food planning, I’ve presented the chapters in this first half of the book as themed menus. Whether you’re making a classic holiday meal such as a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner or preparing little bites and shareable items to entertain friends, I’ve got you covered. Follow the whole menu or pick and choose individual dishes, combining them as you like.

Before you start cooking, here are some essential tips, tools and ingredients to have at hand over the entertaining season to help make it more manageable.

 

 

PREPARATION

 

WRITING LISTS—Writing a shopping list, followed by a prep list, gets me organized and in the spirit to host my event. I set up my shopping list by the key areas in the grocery store: produce, proteins, dairy and dry goods. Then I comb through my recipes and write the needed items and their quantities under each heading. This way I’m not zig-zagging around the store. I arrange my prep list by time: what I can prepare ahead and freeze, what to do one to two days ahead and what to prepare the day of the event. Even little tasks like chopping parsley make the list (because, once I cross them off the list, I feel a sense of accomplishment).

BLANCHING—Green vegetables such as broccoli and green beans take no time to cook, but they can take up space on the stove and require your undivided attention when you are at your busiest, trying to get everything to the table on time. For that reason, I often blanch green vegetables a day or a few hours ahead of time.

To do this, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat, drop in the washed and trimmed green veggies and cook until al dente, or just under your desired doneness. Immediately drain the vegetables in a colander and run cold tap water over them until cooled to stop the cooking and to set the green colour. Drain, allow to air-dry completely and store in a resealable bag or airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, toss them in a saucepan with a little butter over medium heat for a minute or two before serving.

REHEATING—When I create my holiday menus, I think about how to ensure all my dishes will be ready when I need them, and how to avoid the issue of too many pans and not enough burners, or a lack of space in the oven. A key part of this is making parts of the meal ahead of time and reheating them at the last minute. In each recipe, I’ve provided instructions on what to make ahead and when and how to reheat it, if applicable.

SEASONING—Savoury cooking involves a lot of seasoning, but when a recipe says “season to taste,” what does that mean? Salt maximizes flavour. For example, with just the right amount of salt, a cooked carrot tastes more like a carrot than an unsalted one—but it should never taste salty. I recommend using a coarse sea salt and adding it a pinch at a time, tasting until you are happy with the result. Black pepper heightens flavour and adds contrast. For example, adding pepper to the Roasted Squash and Tomato Bowl with White Beans, Spinach and Olives brings out the natural sweetness of the squash, which balances the saltiness of the olives and the acidity of the tomatoes. Use a pepper mill to grind it right into your dishes, a little at a time.

The golden rule when it comes to seasoning is to taste the dish before it goes to the table.

 

 

STORAGE

 

Real estate for food storage is at a premium around holiday time, so storing raw and prepared foods takes a little organization.

FRIDGE—For food safety, always store cooked foods (especially those to be served cold) above raw, and vegetables above meats, wherever you can. I empty one of my crisper drawers and store my turkey in it, away from other food and right at the bottom of the fridge. I just pull out the drawer and give it a good wash after the bird has gone into the oven.

Keep dips and spreads in resealable containers and blanched vegetables in resealable bags that can be wiggled into small spaces. Be sure you don’t block the vent toward the back of the fridge—it lets air flow throughout your fridge, so the entire fridge stays cold and items at the back don’t freeze.

FREEZER—Wrap your foods well in resealable freezer bags or in plastic, or other freezer-safe containers, and try to store baked goods and delicate items away from more aromatic ones. Even in the freezer, a garlic kielbasa will transmit its garlicky taste and smell to everything around it—especially to baked goods, which absorb odours very quickly. Remember to label and date all your packages, and include reheating or cooking instructions if you can so you don’t have to dig up your recipe later.

PANTRY—I transfer packaged dried goods such as rice and beans to mason jars once they are opened, which keeps the food airtight but also visible. I also trim specific cooking instructions from the package label and drop them into the jar.

 

 

TOOLS

 

These tools sit at the ready in my kitchen, for whenever I get the urge to cook, and are particularly handy when I’m prepping for the festive season.

BOX GRATER—I use a basic model with large holes, small holes and a slicer for grating cheese and vegetables and even for grating cold butter when making a crumble or scone recipe. Use the grater attachment on your food processor, if you prefer.

KITCHEN TIMER—This tool is a definite MUST, whether it’s an app on your phone or an old-fashioned wind-up or digital clock. When baking cookies and cakes, I always set my timer for a few minutes before the stated time for doneness, just so I can check on their progress. I also set my timer when I know I want a deadline to stop working in the kitchen so I can tidy up, set the table or change out of my yoga pants before my guests arrive.

OVEN-TO-TABLE SERVING DISHES—Many wintry and holiday dishes (such as Roasted Carrots and Parsnips, or Croque Monsieur Bake) can go right from the oven to the table, which means fewer dishes to wash! Ceramic bakeware makes this job easy, so I keep a few of these presentable dishes on hand. Glazed dishes need just a quick soak and most will wipe clean without a problem.

PEN, PAPER AND STICKY NOTES—Even with hundreds of apps and digital devices available, I still prefer sticky notes for writing lists, labelling bowls and storage containers in the fridge, and assigning each recipe to its platter or dish before a dinner party so I don’t forget anything.

RASP—When a box grater is too big for the job, this slender file with fine cutting points is what you need. It’s ideal for finely grating garlic cloves, grating ginger or citrus zest, or making a fine snow from Parmesan cheese. And unlike a garlic press, it’s a snap to wash.

ROASTING PAN—If you’re in charge of the Big Feast, you’ll likely need a roasting pan. Be sure that it fits in your oven with enough room for air to flow around it. I like a heavy steel or enamel roasting pan without a lid. If you can, avoid using a disposable aluminum foil roasting pan—it can collapse under the weight of a turkey and you can’t make the gravy in it on the stovetop after the bird comes out of the oven. If you must use disposables, double or even triple the foil pans to give them more strength and structure.

SCALE—Just like in baking, weighing your ingredients for cooking will give you more consistent results than measuring them by volume. I provide measurements for both weight and volume, and though savoury cooking is generally more forgiving than baking, I invite you to give weighing a try—it’s a tidy and more precise way to measure. I favour a digital scale because its small, flat shape stores easily in my kitchen; it is also easy to read and reset to zero (tare) with each new ingredient addition. A spring scale has the benefit of never needing batteries, but it can be more difficult to read and takes up more space.

SHARP KNIVES—A set of sharp knives makes slicing, dicing and carving easier—and you’ll be doing lots of all of these around the holidays. A good chef’s knife is best for dicing vegetables and preparing basic meats, a serrated knife is perfect for cutting bread and fragile cakes, and a slender carving knife is ideal for slicing roasted turkey, ham or beef. A paring knife is perfect for cutting foods in your hand, and a vegetable peeler is indispensable for removing thick skins. It’s a myth that having your knives professionally sharpened will damage them. In fact, you’re more likely to damage them—or hurt yourself—if you use them when they’re dull. I never put my knives in the dishwasher—to avoid harsh detergents and them being damaged—but wash and dry them by hand instead, and put them away as soon as I’m done (and remember never to drop a knife into a sink of soapy water).

STORAGE CONTAINERS—I use stackable glass containers for prepared foods because they last a long time (compared to plastic) and, quite simply, I can see through them, so I know what’s there. Most are made with tempered glass, so they are sturdy, but even so I prefer not to keep them in the freezer.

TEMPERATURE PROBE THERMOMETER—An instant-read probe thermometer is a display screen atop a slender skewer and is considered more reliable than other kinds of meat thermometers. You can move it to different parts of the roast to check them for doneness (which is especially important when cooking turkey), and unlike larger thermometers, they don’t leave large holes in the meat from which flavourful juices can leak out.

TRIVETS AND COOLING RACKS—With all of the hot pots and pans on the go around the holidays, you need a place to put them. Wire cooling racks offer a sturdy base for your roasting pan when there is no room on the stove, and a few table-friendly trivets come in handy when you need to set a casserole dish onto a buffet or dining room table.

WINE TOOLS—Depending on your level of wine appreciation, you might need just a few basic wine tools, or maybe a few extras. A rabbit-ear corkscrew is the easiest to use because it requires little leverage to extract a wine cork from the bottle. A waiter’s corkscrew (my preference) is the most compact, but it takes a little practice to use. Aged wines can sometimes benefit from decanting, but in general, red wines rarely require it and white wines never need decanting.

Two other items I like to have on hand are foil wine pourers, which, when rolled and inserted into the wine bottle, prevent any drips, and a Champagne bottle stopper, to keep the sparkles in our sparkling wine for a day or two after opening.

 

 

INGREDIENTS

 

APPLES—Apple varieties will vary according to the time of year and where you live. Try to stick to local apples, wherever you are—you’ll be happier with the taste and texture. In this book, I specify an apple variety when it makes a difference; otherwise, the choice is yours.

BUTTER—When I bake, which generally requires a lot more butter than cooking, I prefer to use unsalted butter (see this page); that way I can be in charge of the salt (since the amount of salt in salted butter varies by brand). I also find that unsalted tends to be fresher and sweeter tasting, ideal for baking. For cooking, for example when sautéing vegetables or starting a savoury dish in a pan, I use unsalted or salted interchangeably.

CHEESE—For a full lesson in building a cheese board, check out this page. For “cooking” cheese, I try to keep a few on hand: medium and old Cheddar, Gruyère, Asiago and Parmesan.

CRANBERRIES—Fresh cranberries keep for quite a long time, so you may find them in your grocery store until Christmas. That said, frozen cranberries are as easy to work with and produce exactly the same results as fresh. For frozen cranberries, measure them straight from the container and thaw by letting them sit on the counter for an hour—they won’t let out too much juice, and if they do just drain before using.

HERBS—Certain herbs dominate the winter season. Thyme is one of my favourites, as it builds flavour for so many soups, stews and sauces. Rosemary is also common, and sage is the herb we identify with classic holiday dishes such as stuffing and gravy. The key is to cook them into your dishes—you would never serve them raw, sprinkled on food as a garnish at this time of year. I prefer to use fresh herbs, even in the winter, because I find their flavour brighter than dried. The one exception I allow myself is oregano. There is something pleasing and familiar about dried oregano in certain dishes.

MAPLE SYRUP—Maple syrup adds a subtle sweetness and shine when just a hint of sweetness is needed in savoury dishes. Honey has a specific flavour—which I like for a few of my recipes (such as my Hazelnut Orange Panforte)—but in many cases its flavour can be overwhelming or its texture too sticky, and I prefer to leave granulated sugar to my baking. So maple syrup feels just right. And it’s vegan! You can substitute maple syrup for honey in an otherwise vegan dish.

MILK—I use 2% milk in most of my cooking and baking. Whole milk is a treat but, honestly, I always have 2% in the fridge because that’s what I like in my coffee and tea. 2% milk can be swapped with 1% for similar results, but please avoid using skim, especially in baking. The little extra milk fat in 2% adds more than you might imagine, including moisture, so that cookies and cakes don’t crumble.

OILS AND VINEGARS—A decent extra virgin olive oil is essential for drizzling and finishing dishes, and as with wine, you may have your preferences by taste or country of origin. Generally, the farther south the source of the olive oil (Greece, southern Italy), the more intensely peppery the oil. An inexpensive extra virgin olive oil is sufficient for cooking.

A white wine, red wine and decent balsamic vinegar will all provide acidity for vinaigrettes. I also like to have rice vinegar on hand, not just because it is perfect for my Asian dishes but also because it is not as intensely sour as wine vinegars. It is suited to more delicate recipes, like my Avocado Yogurt Dressing and Dip. Having said that, if you only want to stock one vinegar, choose white wine vinegar for its clarity and mild acidity.

ONIONS—In most cases, a regular cooking onion is all that is needed in any dish where it will be cooked. For a milder flavour, shallots and leeks are more delicate. Onions and shallots should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place (never under the sink), and leeks and green onions should be refrigerated.

POTATOES—In my recipes, I specify which type of potato will work best. Russet potatoes contain less starch, and so they are wonderful for roasting and mashing. New potatoes have more starch, so they are best for boiling. Yukon Golds are ideal all-purpose potatoes—they are lovely boiled, chopped into salads, or served mashed or roasted. As with onions, store potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place.

ROOT VEGETABLES—We inherently understand that root vegetables are a part of winter menus, because they store so well over the season. Their natural sweetness and complexity round out a winter meal. Unless you have a root cellar, refrigerate your carrots, parsnips, beets and celeriac (celery root). A waxed turnip can be stored with your potatoes until you cut into it—then refrigerate it.

SALAD GREENS—In the winter, traditional lettuces—which are either grown in a greenhouse or imported from abroad—can be expensive or taste flat. Instead, I am drawn to winter greens—leaves with a little more structure and substance but with a hint of bitterness. Think frisée, radicchio, Belgian or curly endive and, if I’m buying hothouse greens, spinach or oak leaf (feuille de chêne). In my recipes, I balance the full-bodied taste of these greens with a bit of sweetness from fruit.

SALT—When I bake, or need to measure a precise amount of salt, I use fine sea salt. When I am seasoning to taste or dressing a salad, I prefer flaked sea salt because it’s easier to pick up with my fingers for just a pinch. When I’m salting water for cooking pasta, vegetables or potatoes, I use a less expensive coarse pickling salt.

SPICES AND SPICE BLENDS—As in baking, spices have an important place in savoury cooking. Spice blends such as Chinese five-spice or ras el hanout add complexity and sometimes even a kick of heat to roasted root vegetables, for example, and the warmth from chili powder and cayenne heightens their sweetness.

 

 

FESTIVE BRUNCH

 

 

HOSTING A BRUNCH CELEBRATION is one of my favourite ways to entertain at holiday time. With a little extra time off, guests are alert and energetic (and I am as well), and there’s something just a little bit decadent about eating a large, celebratory meal in the morning or at midday. Plus you can have the dishes done and your feet up on the couch (leftover ham sandwich in hand) while it’s still light out!

Because you’re hosting earlier in the day, what is really important is a little bit of planning. Part of enjoying your brunch is not getting up at 5 am to start preparing, so write a list of everything you can make the day before and keep the morning for last-minute necessities only.

 

WINTER SUNSHINE SMOOTHIES

VIRTUOUSLY RICH HOT CHOCOLATE

MULLED APPLE CIDER & MULLED RED WINE

 

SPICED HOLIDAY GRANOLA

MONTEBELLO BAKED MAPLE BUCKWHEAT CRÊPES

BAKED HAM WITH ROASTED APPLESAUCE & HORSERADISH CREAM

POTATO AND EGG SALAD WITH SNAP PEAS

OAK LEAF SALAD WITH TOASTED BUCKWHEAT KASHA, GRAPES AND BLUE CHEESE

 

served with (your choice of)

BLUEBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE SCONES (TO START)

RASPBERRY JAM DANISH WREATH (TO START)

PANETTONE OR BUTTERY SOFT DINNER ROLLS (WITH THE HAM)

 

LEMON CRUMBLE LOAF CAKE (TO FINISH)

AN ASSORTMENT OF COOKIES (TO FINISH)

CHOCOLATE BARKS (TO FINISH)

PECAN BUTTER TART CHEESECAKE (TO FINISH)

CHOCOLATE ORANGE BUNDT FRUITCAKE (TO FINISH)

 

 

Raspberry Jam Danish Wreath; Oak Leaf Salad; Roasted Applesauce; Montebello Baked Maple Buckwheat Crêpes; Baked Ham; Blueberry White Chocolate Scones; Potato and Egg Salad

 

While I love cooking and baking with local, seasonal ingredients, tropical fruits are at their peak in mid-winter, so craving a taste of sunshine is not unreasonable. Bananas, mangoes, pineapple and citrus all have fantastic flavour and blend healthfully into a smoothie that brightens any wintry morning!

 

 

WINTER SUNSHINE SMOOTHIES

 

 

SERVES 4 AS BREAKFAST, 6 TO 8 AS A START TO BRUNCH • PREP: 5 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

This smoothie recipe can be made and refrigerated a few hours before serving (any longer than that and the banana will start turning brown), although the ice or frozen fruit will thaw, so stir it to return to its smooth state.

 

2 cups (500 mL) plain yogurt (fat-free is OK)

2 medium bananas, diced

1 cup (150 g) diced fresh or frozen pineapple

1 cup (150 g) diced fresh or frozen mango

2 navel oranges

3 Tbsp (45 g) almond butter

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Ice cubes (optional)

 

1. Place the yogurt, bananas, pineapple and mango in a blender and squeeze the juice from the oranges overtop.

2. Add the almond butter, vanilla and cinnamon. If using fresh pineapple and mango, you may want to add a cupful of ice cubes to cool everything down.

3. Purée on high speed until smooth and serve within a few hours.

 

 

HELPFUL HINTS

Almond butter is a tasty way to add flavour and a little extra protein to your smoothies. It does mute the sunshine yellow colour, but it’s a worthy compromise. Or add half an avocado for a healthy, rich and creamy option.

I find that the banana sweetens this smoothie enough that I don’t need to add honey or sugar. And I do prefer regular yogurt in this—Greek yogurt is just too thick.

 

ADD SPARKLE

Add a splash of coconut milk for a piña colada flavour.

 

 

Skim milk powder is the secret ingredient to making a thick and creamy hot chocolate without the added fat. To serve more than one person, simply multiply the quantities by the number of guests.

 

 

VIRTUOUSLY RICH HOT CHOCOLATE

 

 

SERVES 1 • PREP: 5 MINUTES • COOK: 10 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

The dry ingredients for this recipe can easily be made in larger batches and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

 

2 Tbsp (30 mL) instant skim milk powder

1 ½ Tbsp (12 g) good-quality cocoa powder (regular or Dutch process)

1 ½ Tbsp (18 g) granulated sugar

1 ½ cups (375 mL) 2% milk

Snowflake Marshmallow, for garnish

 

1. Stir the milk powder, cocoa powder and sugar together in a small dish. Whisk in ¼ cup (60 mL) of the cold milk to blend.

2. Pour the remaining milk plus the cocoa mixture into a small saucepan and slowly bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens a little. Ladle into a mug and serve topped with a snowflake marshmallow.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

Batches of the dry ingredients work wonderfully for gifting, wrapped in a cellophane bag or a mason jar tied with a ribbon. Make sure to package the mixture in multiples of 5 Tbsp (75 mL) and tell the recipient to mix 5 Tbsp (75 mL) for every 1 ½ cups (375 mL) of milk.

 

 

So many scented candles try to replicate this smell of apples, citrus and spices, but to no avail. And why rely on artificial scents when you can so easily create the real thing while mulling cider in your own kitchen? Better yet, you’ll have a warming beverage to share with family and friends. (A candle can’t do that!)

 

 

MULLED APPLE CIDER & MULLED RED WINE

 

 

SERVES 6 TO 8 (CIDER) & 8 TO 12 (WINE) • PREP: 5 MINUTES • COOK: 20 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

Although you can make mulled cider or wine ahead of time, there is no real time saving as you will want to reheat it before serving—and, truly, it’s all about the aroma as it steeps. I chill any leftovers to enjoy the next day. The chilling mutes the spices a little, so it’s a bit milder tasting.

 

CIDER

8 cups (2 L) fresh unsweetened apple cider

WINE

2 bottles (each 750 mL) red wine—any type

2 oz (60 mL) brandy

¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar

1 navel orange, unpeeled and cut into rounds

1 mandarin or clementine orange, unpeeled and cut into rounds

3 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

4 green cardamom pods

 

1. Pour either the apple cider or the wine, brandy and sugar into a large saucepan and add the citrus rounds. Drop in the cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pods. Bring to just below a simmer over low/medium heat, uncovered, and warm through, letting the spices and citrus infuse into the cider or wine.

2. Before serving, remove and discard the spices. Ladle the cider or wine into glasses or mugs and place a slice of citrus in each glass as a garnish (and for nibbling). The cider and wine can be kept warm over low heat on the stove throughout the brunch.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

Be sure to use fresh apple cider rather than clear apple cider or apple juice in this recipe. The cloudy, brown mire really does make a difference to the flavour. Look for fresh apple cider in the produce fridge of your grocery store or at a local farmers’ market. Need to upgrade this cider to a more adult version? Pour a little spiced rum into the grownups’ mugs and get back to opening those gifts!

 

 

A good homemade granola should not be limited to the holidays, but the combination of spices and the addition of crunchy cocoa nibs in this version make it feel festive. Better yet, it has no refined sugar and less fat than commercial brands—two reasons I prefer to make my own granola. Serve it with plain yogurt for breakfast or a snack.

 

 

SPICED HOLIDAY GRANOLA

 

 

MAKES 7 CUPS (1.75 L) • PREP: 10 MINUTES • COOK: 25 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

You can store the baked granola in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

 

2 cups (200 g) regular rolled oats (not instant)

1 ½ cups (150 g) sliced almonds

½ cup (50 g) unsweetened, flaked or shredded coconut

½ cup (65 g) cocoa nibs

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

5 Tbsp (75 mL) pure maple syrup

¼ cup (60 g) virgin coconut oil, melted

¾ cup (100 g) dried cranberries

½ cup (50 g) diced dried mango

 

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2. Toss the oats, sliced almonds, coconut, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup and oil and stir well to coat evenly. Spread this mixture in an even layer on the baking tray and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring twice during cooking, until the almonds are toasted and light brown.

3. While the granola is still warm, stir in the dried cranberries and mango and let the granola cool on the tray on a wire rack.

4. Pour the cooled granola into an airtight container. For gift-giving, package it in cellophane bags of at least 1 ½-cup (375 mL) capacity tied with a ribbon, or scoop it into mason jars.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

Switch up the nuts and dried fruits with your family favourites. Chopped hazelnuts in place of the almonds are decadent, and raisins and dried apricots in place of the cranberries and mango are colourful and tasty. You could even stir chocolate chips or other candied chocolate pieces into the cooled granola (and serve it more like a movie-time snack than a breakfast food).

 

ADD SPARKLE

The crunch and flavour of this granola make it perfect for coating a goat cheese log for a cheese board, sprinkling on top of a salad or garnishing a soup, like Leek, Potato and Celeriac Soup.

 

 

Years ago, one late November weekend, Michael and I visited Château Montebello, a large log-cabin resort on the Ottawa River near Papineauville, Quebec. We were guest chefs for a special event and we stayed afterwards to rest and take in the hotel. I remember most fondly the spectacular breakfast spread, which included buckwheat crêpes. The earthy crêpes were rolled and baked in a sea of maple syrup so that their edges were crispy but their centre was soft and sweet. Friends who’ve been more recently tell me that dish is still on the menu, and that it is just as memorable.

 

 

MONTEBELLO BAKED MAPLE BUCKWHEAT CRÊPES

 

 

MAKES 6 EXTRA-LARGE (10-INCH/25 CM) OR 12 REGULAR (6-INCH/15 CM) CRÊPES • SERVES 6 TO 12 • PREP: 20 MINUTES, PLUS CHILLING • COOK: 45 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

I prefer to make the crêpes the day before my brunch, then baste and bake them the morning of. You can even roll and baste the crêpes with butter in the baking dish a day ahead as well, but save pouring the maple syrup over them until they are about to go in the oven. If you’d prefer to make them well ahead of time, stack the cooked and cooled crêpes, wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before using. Never refrigerate crêpes—they will dry out and crack when you try to roll them.

 

CRÊPES

½ cup (75 g) buckwheat flour (light or dark)

⅓ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour

1 cup (250 mL) 2% milk

2 large eggs

¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

½ cup (125 mL) sparkling apple cider (or beer or club soda)

ASSEMBLY

¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup (250 mL) pure maple syrup

 

1. For the crêpes, whisk the buckwheat and all-purpose flours together and then whisk in the milk, followed by the eggs, melted butter and oil, until smooth. Chill the batter, covered, for at least 2 hours.

2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Right before making the crêpes, whisk the apple cider (or beer or club soda) into the batter. Heat a crêpe pan or other non-stick pan on medium-high heat and brush it with a little melted butter.

3. Ladle about ¼ cup (60 mL) of the crêpe batter for extra-large crêpes (half this for small) into the centre of the pan and lift the pan, swirling to coat it thinly and evenly. Cook until the edges of the crêpe begin to brown and the surface of the crêpe loses its shine, about 90 seconds.

4. Use a spatula to flip the crêpe over and cook for 10 more seconds before transferring it to the prepared baking tray. Repeat with the remaining batter.

5. Stack the cooled crêpes on top of each other (no need for parchment between them).

6. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). To assemble the crêpes, brush the base and sides of a casserole dish (wide enough to fit all the crêpes) with a generous amount of the melted butter. Roll up the crêpes individually and nestle them closely in the dish side by side. Brush the tops with any remaining melted butter and then pour the maple syrup overtop.

7. Bake the crêpes, uncovered, for 25 to 35 minutes, basting with the syrup in the dish occasionally, until the edges become browned and crisp. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

Buckwheat is a naturally gluten-free seed, and the buckwheat flour makes these crêpes tender and delicate. Light buckwheat flour has a mild flavour whereas dark buckwheat flour has an earthy nuttiness to it—making it a perfect companion to maple syrup.

 

ADD SPARKLE

Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top or toss a sliced apple in the maple syrup and bake it on the crêpes to make them more of a dessert.

 

BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS

Use buckwheat crêpes (also called galettes) to make a savoury breakfast. After spreading your crêpe batter in your crêpe pan, crack an egg in the centre and break the yolk, spreading the egg around so it cooks at the same rate as the crêpe. Add a little ham and a sprinkle of grated Swiss cheese, fold the crêpe into a square et voilà: galette complète!

 

 

When I was growing up, the ham went into the oven earlier on Christmas morning than I would get up to open gifts. It was likely the smell of the ham baking that coaxed me out of bed, rather than the thought of getting the gifts I had asked for. These days, I bake a whole ham for the leftovers. Once I’ve had as many sandwiches as I can manage, the rest gets diced up and frozen in small containers—it’s a great staple ingredient for many meals (see When It’s All Over).

 

 

BAKED HAM WITH ROASTED APPLESAUCE & HORSERADISH CREAM

 

 

SERVES 16 TO 20 (OR 8 TO 10, PLUS LEFTOVERS) • PREP: 10 MINUTES • COOK: 4 HOURS

MAKE AHEAD

The recipe itself is a make ahead dish, since the 4 hours the ham spends in the oven leaves you free to take care of your other festive duties. (And technically the butcher who cures, smokes and cooks the ham is taking care of the heavy lifting.)

 

6.6 to 8.8 lb (3 to 4 kg) bone-in smoked ham or picnic pork shoulder (see note below)

½ cup (125 mL) fresh apple juice or apple cider

½ cup (125 mL) water

Grainy mustard (gluten-free, if needed), for serving (optional)

1 recipe Horseradish cream, for serving (optional)

1 recipe Roasted Applesauce, for serving

 

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

2. Remove and discard any netting on the ham before placing it in a roasting pan. Score the top of the ham (parallel lines or criss-cross, if you wish), right through the fat. Pour the apple juice (or cider) and water into the bottom of the pan and bake the ham, uncovered and basting occasionally with the juice, for about 4 hours, until it reads 170°F (77°C) on a meat thermometer. Set aside.

3. Transfer the ham to a cutting board and carve slices across the grain. Serve with a dollop of the horseradish cream and/or grainy mustard (if using) and my delicious Roasted Applesauce.

Photo on this page

 

 

HELPFUL HINTS

If you’re in charge of making the main meat dish for Christmas and you’ve never roasted beef or turkey, offer to make a ham—all of the work goes into a ham before you put it into your grocery cart. However, do buy a good one, and if you are cooking for someone with gluten intolerance, be sure to check that the ham is gluten-free (some cured meats are not), and check that the mustard you use is as well.

A hot potato dish can seem heavy and stuffy at brunch, whereas a potato salad is the perfect fit. This creamy potato salad perfectly balances with the texture of the ham (the same way hot scalloped potatoes do) and the green of the dressing and the peas complements the ham’s pink colour. The addition of hard-boiled eggs makes it even “brunch-ier.”

 

 

POTATO AND EGG SALAD WITH SNAP PEAS

 

 

SERVES 8 TO 10 • PREP: 20 MINUTES, PLUS CHILLING • COOK: 20 MINUTES, PLUS RESTING

MAKE AHEAD

This salad holds up best when it’s assembled pretty close to when you want to serve it, simply because it is so prettily arranged. You can boil the potatoes and the eggs and make the dressing 1 day ahead and refrigerate them in separate airtight containers for last-minute assembly. Of course, leftover assembled salad still tastes just as good as fresh.

 

3 lb (1.5 kg) fingerling or other miniature potatoes

2 Tbsp (30 mL) rice vinegar

Salt and black pepper

8 large eggs

2 ½ cups (250 g) sugar snap peas, trimmed (or 2 cups/280 g frozen garden peas, thawed)

1 recipe Avocado Yogurt Dressing and Dip, chilled

4 green onions, thinly sliced

 

1. Cut the potatoes in half (lengthwise, if using fingerlings), place them in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a rolling boil, uncovered, over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl. Sprinkle with the rice vinegar and a little salt and pepper, toss and then let cool completely. Place the cooled potatoes, uncovered, in the fridge to chill.

3. Place the eggs, in their shells, in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover immediately and let the eggs sit for 25 minutes in the hot water. Run the eggs under cold water for a minute then drain and refrigerate.

4. To blanch the snap peas, bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking. (Frozen peas do not need to be blanched after thawing.)

5. To assemble, toss the chilled potatoes with the Avocado Dressing, snap peas (or thawed garden peas) and green onions and season lightly with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the salad onto a serving platter. Peel the eggs, cut in half and arrange over the salad. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the salad (and eggs) and serve.

 

 

BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS

This salad is a year-round staple for me, and I even enjoy it as a quick lunch all on its own: protein from the eggs, carbs from the potatoes, green vegetables in the peas and a healthy dressing…check!

 

 

Oak leaf (feuille de chêne) is a hothouse variety of lettuce that looks pretty on a Christmas brunch table, especially alongside a little radicchio. The hint of bitterness from the greens, the touch of sweetness from the grapes, the salt and creaminess from the blue cheese and the crunch from the toasted kasha all add up to a beautifully balanced salad.

 

 

OAK LEAF SALAD WITH TOASTED BUCKWHEAT KASHA, GRAPES AND BLUE CHEESE

 

 

SERVES 8 • PREP: 10 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

When making a salad to serve at any party, I always wash and trim my greens beforehand. They refrigerate well in a resealable bag or a bowl with a lid, with a damp paper towel placed in the bag or on top to keep everything crisp.

 

1 head oak leaf lettuce, trimmed, washed and dried

1 cup (250 mL) chopped radicchio leaves

1 ½ cups (375 mL) seedless red and/or green grapes, cut in half

4 oz (120 g) crumbly blue cheese

⅓ cup (80 mL) French Vinaigrette

½ cup (125 mL) Toasted Buckwheat Kasha

Salt and black pepper

 

1. Arrange the oak leaf and radicchio leaves on a serving platter or individual plates.

2. Top the greens with the grapes and crumble the blue cheese overtop. Spoon the dressing over the salad and then sprinkle it with the toasted buckwheat kasha. Finish with a little salt and pepper to serve.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

If you can’t find oak leaf lettuce, a 50/50 blend of Boston and romaine, plus the radicchio, makes a balanced and colourful alternative.

 

BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS

Turn this salad into a tasty Cobb salad by topping it with diced leftover cooked turkey, a little crumbled bacon and some sliced avocado—a fantastic main course for lunch or dinner.

 

 

ENTERTAINING A CROWD

(HORS D’OEUVRES, SNACKS AND SHARED PLATES)

 

 

CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAY entertaining season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, and even beyond, is all about the snacks, the nibbles and the starters—which is why this is the biggest chapter in the book. It’s always easy to make your favourite recipes over and over, especially when time is tight, but why not try something new and different?

Whether you’re having a few friends drop by or you’re hosting a seasonal open house (this page), here is a wide range of options to cover any occasion. I’ve also included a few ideas for savoury baked goods (this page to this page) you can give as gifts, plus a menu for a Sunday get-together for sports fans (this page). Get snacking!

 

CHEESE BOARD

MICHAEL’S SIGNATURE CAESARS

CLASSIC OAT CRACKERS

CHEDDAR AND CHIVE SHORTBREADS

BLUE CHEESE, WALNUT AND DRIED APRICOT SHORTBREADS

BACON AND PARMESAN GOUGÈRES

JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD MADELEINES

WINTER CRUDITÉS WITH DIPS

ANNA’S FAVOURITE CEREAL SNACK MIX

 

MINI TOURTIÈRES

SPINACH, MUSHROOM AND PARMESAN SQUARES

LOBSTER MAC ’N’ CHEESE SQUARES

SAUSAGE DRESSING SQUARE

MINI CHICKEN SCHNITZEL SLIDERS

BBQ TURKEY BAO

CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN WINGS

CHICKEN CARNITAS

MICHAEL’S SUPER MEATBALLS

 

 

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings; Michael’s Signature Caesars; Winter Crudités with Dips; Chicken Carnitas

 

 

you are hosting a group of friends for a holiday open house, or a gang is coming by for an afternoon of watching sports, you want the right combination of snacks and treats on hand. Here are my tips for those types of gatherings and two sample menus to get you started (one a little bit fancy and festive, the other more dive-in casual). Don’t feel that the suggested items are mutually exclusive though; I love a good crispy chicken wing, and would happily serve them at my open house (wearing a sparkling outfit, and with extra napkins on hand, of course).

 

 

HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE

 

PLAN A MIX OF ITEMS. People will be arriving at different times, so choose a mix of dishes, including many that can sit out at room temperature (such as Bacon and Parmesan Gougères), some that can come straight from the oven in small batches (Mini Tourtières) and others that are served cold and can be re-stocked from the fridge as needed (Avocado Yogurt Dressing and Dip).

MAKE AND BAKE AHEAD. Prepare as much of the food ahead of time as you can. I’ve provided make-ahead tips for all the recipes in this book, so you’re not running in circles on party day.

ESTIMATE QUANTITIES. Professional caterers count on three pieces per person, for every hour they will be at a cocktail party, so I use the same guide.

LABEL POTENTIAL ALLERGENS. Place a tag listing the name of the recipe and its ingredients beside each dish in case you are not on hand to answer questions.

GO BUFFET-STYLE. Letting guests serve themselves allows you easily to circulate and refill platters as needed. This open house menu includes Platters, which can be put out and remain out in accessible locations, and Plates, which should be assembled (either with a single item or a mix) and passed once around the room before being placed in a convenient spot. Set out bowls of pickles and pickled chili peppers so people can add them to their plates.

SATISFY A SWEET TOOTH. Set out a few sweets to start, for those guests who pop in early and leave early, but bring out all your treats a third to halfway through the party (to make sure kids—and all guests, really—have something savoury before they get to the sweets).

Check out Set a Stunning Dessert Table and Build a Butter Tart Buffet for fun ideas to have guests help themselves to a sweet treat.

 

 

SPORTS SUNDAY

 

BRING THE SNACKS OUT IN STAGES. If you put everything out at once, it will all be devoured before the end of the first quarter. I put out one or two small-bite items, and then bring out the larger items as the “main course” at halftime.

HAVE EXTRA CONDIMENTS ON HAND. Mustard, hot sauce, pickles, chili peppers and sour cream are all appreciated with this sort of food.

AND OF COURSE…PROVIDE LOTS OF NAPKINS!

 

 

Sausage Dressing Square, Spinach, Mushroom, and Parmesan Squares, Lobster Mac ’N’ Cheese

 

Menu

 

 

PLATTERS

CHEESE BOARD WITH CLASSIC OAT CRACKERS

BACON AND PARMESAN GOUGÈRES

and/or PUMPKIN SEED MULTIGRAIN BREAD

WINTER CRUDITÉS WITH DIPS

 

PLATES

BBQ TURKEY BAO

MINI CHICKEN SCHNITZEL SLIDERS

LOBSTER MAC ’N’ CHEESE SQUARES

MINI TOURTIÈRES

SAUSAGE DRESSING SQUARES

SPINACH, MUSHROOM AND PARMESAN SQUARES

 

SWEETS

LEMON CRUMBLE LOAF CAKE

ASSORTMENT OF COOKIES (ESPECIALLY LEMON TWINKLES, GINGERBREAD CRINKLES, CHOCOLATE CRINKLES)

ASSORTMENT OF BARS AND SQUARES

EARL GREY TIRAMISU TRIFLE

CHOCOLATE-GLAZED BAKED PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS

 

 

Menu

 

 

ANNA’S FAVOURITE CEREAL SNACK MIX

WINTER CRUDITÉS WITH DIPS

CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN WINGS

 

PICKLED HOT AND SWEET PEPPERS

MICHAEL’S SUPER MEATBALLS

(WITH MINI BUTTERY SOFT DINNER ROLLS TO MAKE SANDWICHES)

CHICKEN CARNITAS

SPICED SWEET POTATO WEDGES

 

BUTTER TART BUFFET

 

 

cheese board is now such a common way to start a gathering that it can feel like a challenge to make yours stand out. These tips will help you build a cheese platter that has everyone talking—and diving in for more.

SELECTION

An odd number of cheeses looks best on display. Choose 3 types for a small gathering (4 people), 5 for a medium-sized group (6 to 8) and 7 for a large party (10 to 16).

 

Balance your flavours and textures first and then see if you can sneak in some colour variance (colour variety looks good but it’s not as important as taste and texture contrast). This means including a few styles and ages of cheese, and some different milk types (goat, sheep, cow) for variety. The basic types to include in the mix are:

 

 

SERVING

Except for fresh types (which should be served chilled), all cheeses are at their best at room temperature. Pull your cheeses out of the fridge 1 hour before you plan to serve them.

 

Give each cheese its own knife. If a knife with blue cheese on it touches another type of cheese, it could spread the blue mold from one to another. This isn’t harmful, but it doesn’t look appealing.

 

Label the cheeses to guide your guests if you are not around to ask. You can keep it simple by listing only the name, or you can show your cheese acumen by listing the type of milk (goat, cow, sheep) and the place of origin.

 

Give the cheeses space! Arrange the cheeses on various platters so they have room to breathe and so that your guests can get to them more easily. Set condiments and accompaniments near, but not smothering, the cheeses.

 

Present crackers or bread on a separate dish or plate, or if on the board, not touching the cheeses. The moisture from the cheeses will soften the crackers.

 

Enjoy cheese with neutral-flavoured bread and crackers (like Classic Oat Crackers) that won’t detract from its flavour.

 

 

ACCOMPANIMENTS

Choose some of these classic add-ons for your cheese board: raisins, Medjool dates, dried cranberries, dried apricots and fresh or roasted nuts.

 

Playing on these flavours, consider adding Maple Toasted Pecans, Cranberry Sauce or Roasted Applesauce. Foods with a subtle sweetness balance the salt in most cheeses.

 

 

WINE PAIRINGS

Choose a wine that complements the cheeses you are serving. Try the following pairings:

 

 

WINE

CHEESE

 

Sparkling Blue cheeses

Light, fruit white wines (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc) Fresh cheeses

Slightly sweet white wines (Riesling or Gewürztraminer) Aged washed rind and hard cheeses and blue cheeses

Heavier white wines (Chardonnay) Most cheeses (a good choice if you are having a wine and cheese party or a tasting)

Light-bodied reds (Gamay and Pinot Noir) Most cheeses (a good choice if you are having a wine and cheese party or a tasting)

Heavier reds (Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) Intensely flavoured or aged cheeses

Sweet wines (icewine, sweet Sherry and Port) Intensely flavoured cheeses

INNOVATIVE IDEAS

Try topping a whole, small wheel of Brie with a layer of Festive Red Berry Compote and baking it in a dish at 350°F (180°C) for 10 minutes.

 

Cheese and chocolate? These make a fantastic match. Try grating good-quality dark chocolate over a wedge of triple crème Brie and letting it sit for 30 minutes. The complexity of the chocolate against the rich, salty creaminess of the Brie is stupendous.

 

Toss mini bocconcini with Raspberry Olive Tapenade and serve in a dish with toothpicks. Just watch…no one can stop at just 1!

 

 

Flavouring your vodka with crudité-style vegetables serves two functions. The vegetables flavour the vodka, giving your Caesar a fresher taste, and the veggies absorb the vodka, making a perfect (and potent!) crunchy garnish to the drink.

 

 

MICHAEL’S SIGNATURE CAESARS

 

SERVES 1 • PREP: UNDER 5 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

Make the vodka at least 2 to 3 days (and up to 2 weeks) ahead to allow the flavours to meld, and the vegetables to still be crunchy (and potent). The vegetables can remain in the vodka for up to 2 weeks, and then discarded (they lose their flavour after that).

 

Celery salt rimmer

Ice cubes

1 oz (30 mL) jardinière vodka (see recipe below)

1 to 2 tsp Prepared Horseradish

2 to 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 to 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce

1 cup (250 mL) good-quality Caesar mix (seasoned tomato juice with clam juice)

Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers, for garnish (optional)

 

1. Dip the rim of a 12 oz (360 mL) glass in water and then in the celery salt rimmer. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add the vodka, horseradish and Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces. Pour in the Caesar mix to fill the glass, add a swizzle stick and garnish with the jardinière vegetables and pickles, skewered or on the side.

 

 

JARDINIÈRE VODKA

 

MAKES 2 CUPS (500 ML) FLAVOURED VODKA • PREP: 15 MINUTES, PLUS 2 TO 3 DAYS CURING

 

4 cups (1 L) loosely packed fresh vegetables: cherry or grape tomatoes, julienned celery, carrots, zucchini, red bell peppers

1 jalapeño pepper (optional)

1 clove garlic (optional)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

6 whole black peppercorns

2 cups (500 mL) vodka

 

1. Have ready a 4-cup (1 L) mason jar with a sealable lid.

2. Arrange the vegetables (and jalapeño and garlic, if using) in the mason jar and add the thyme and peppercorns. Pour in the vodka, seal the jar and chill for 2 to 3 days.

 

 

So, I’m a bit of a cracker fiend. Seriously, I could sit with a dish full of crackers and be perfectly content with them as a snack. These oat crackers are ideal companions for cheese because they add texture, hold a nice portion and don’t compromise the flavour of the cheese by being overly seasoned. If you are cooking for guests with gluten intolerance, be sure to choose certified gluten-free oats and oat bran.

 

 

CLASSIC OAT CRACKERS

 

 

MAKES ABOUT 3 DOZEN CRACKERS • PREP: 20 MINUTES, PLUS COOLING • COOK: 25 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

You can store the baked crackers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Do not freeze or refrigerate.

 

1 ¼ cups (125 g) regular rolled oats (not instant)

1 ¼ cups (125 g) oat bran

½ tsp salt

1 cup (250 mL) boiling water

¼ cup (60 mL) vegetable oil

 

1. Measure the oats, oat bran and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the rolled oats are finely ground. Add the boiling water and oil and pulse until smooth (the mixture will look like thick porridge, which is truly what it is). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature—it will thicken up as it cools.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface (no need to flour it, although rolling on a wooden cutting board is best) and roll to just under ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick. Use a 2 ½-inch (7.5 cm) round cookie cutter to cut out crackers. Lift them onto the prepared trays with a palette knife, ½ inch (1 cm) apart.

4. Roll and re-roll the dough as many times as needed (oats do not contain gluten and therefore you are not compromising the tenderness of the dough) until you have cut all the crackers.

5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crackers just begin to brown at the edges. Cool on the tray. If gifting, stack the crackers and pack them snugly in a box or tin, or wrap in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

Ensure these crackers are crisp before you serve them. Hot out of the oven, it’s too hard to tell, but if they aren’t crisp enough when cool, you can always pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes.

 

 

These delightfully tender savoury shortbreads are great with a bowl of soup or stew, as a base for an hors d’oeuvre or on their own with a little pepper jelly. They also make a fantastic homemade host gift.

 

 

CHEDDAR AND CHIVE SHORTBREADS

 

 

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN SHORTBREADS • PREP: 15 MINUTES, PLUS CHILLING • COOK: 20 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

You can store baked shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or make the shortbread dough and freeze it, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before slicing to bake.

 

1 ½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar

¼ tsp black pepper

½ cup (115 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 oz (180 g) coarsely grated old Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups/500 mL)

2 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh chives

½ cup (60 g) sesame seeds

1 egg white, lightly whisked, for brushing

 

1. Place the flour, sugar and pepper in the bowl of a food processor with the butter and pulse until the mixture is rough and crumbly and no bits of butter are visible. Add the Cheddar and pulse until evenly combined. Add the egg yolks and pulse again until the dough shapes itself into a ball.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in the chives by hand (if you add them in the food processor, the dough will turn green). Shape the dough into 2 logs about 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) across, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Place the sesame seeds on a large flat plate.

4. Unwrap the dough, brush the logs with the egg white and then roll in the sesame seeds to coat fully. Slice coins about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick and arrange them on the trays, about ½ inch (1 cm) apart.

5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom. Let cool completely on the trays. If gifting, stack the cookies and pack them snugly in a box or tin, or wrap in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

My friend Lisa shared a great trick for ensuring logs of dough keep their shape in the fridge. Shape the dough into a log just a touch smaller in diameter than an empty paper towel roll. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, slip it into the cardboard roll and chill or freeze. The cardboard protects it from denting or flattening on the side it is resting on while it sits in the fridge.

A few stacks of these shortbreads add sparkle to a charcuterie plate. Slices of prosciutto or other cured meats are a tasty complement to these buttery cheese coins. To make an hors d’oeuvre that can be passed around on platters, ruffle a thin slice of prosciutto over each shortbread.

 

 

BLUE CHEESE, WALNUT AND DRIED APRICOT SHORTBREADS

 

 

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN SHORTBREADS • PREP: 15 MINUTES, PLUS CHILLING • COOK TIME: 22 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

You can store baked shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or make the shortbread dough and freeze it, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before slicing to bake.

 

1 ½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp (12 g) packed light brown sugar

¾ cup (75 g) walnut pieces

6 Tbsp (90 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 oz (120 g) blue cheese, crumbled

¼ cup (35 g) sliced dried apricots

2 Tbsp (10 g) sliced candied ginger

½ cup (75 g) poppy seeds

1 large egg white

 

1. Place the flour, brown sugar and walnut pieces in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until no longer visible, then add the blue cheese and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Add the apricots and candied ginger and pulse in briefly, just to combine, but so that the pieces are still visible.

2. Shape the dough into 2 logs about 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) across, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Place the poppy seeds on a large flat plate.

4. Unwrap the dough, brush the logs with egg white and roll in the poppy seeds to coat fully. Slice coins about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick and arrange them on the trays, about ½ inch (1 cm) apart.

5. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom. Let cool completely on the tray. If gifting, stack the cookies and pack them snugly in a box or tin, or wrap in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon.

 

 

HELPFUL HINT

A decent-quality, but not too expensive, crumbly style of blue cheese works here, like the type you would crumble onto a salad. If it’s too creamy, like St. Agur or Gorgonzola, the shortbread won’t hold its shape when baked.

These cheese puffs, known as gougères in French cuisine, are made using a classic pastry called choux paste (the same dough used to make éclairs and profiteroles). They’re a great holiday staple because they can be made ahead and frozen, and used in a number of ways: as a base for a piped cheese or smoked salmon hors d’oeuvre, as a bun for a slider, as a substitute for croutons on a salad, as a garnish on a bowl of soup or simply as a nibble on their own.

 

 

BACON AND PARMESAN GOUGÈRES

 

MAKES 4 DOZEN PUFFS • PREP: 15 MINUTES • COOK: 30 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

These puffs need to be piped and baked while the dough is still fresh and warm, but once baked, they freeze incredibly well. You can freeze them, well wrapped, for up to 3 months, and then re-warm on a tray in a 325°F (160°C) oven for 12 to 15 minutes. You can store baked puffs in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Do not refrigerate them or they will dry out.

 

6 slices cooked smoked bacon, well drained

1 cup (250 mL) 1% milk

¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter

1 ¼ cups (185 g) all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1 cup (110 g) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

½ cup (50 g) finely grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp chili powder

1 egg yolk whisked with 1 Tbsp (15 mL) cool water, for egg wash

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°F) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

2. Place the bacon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is the texture of crumbs. Remove and set aside (no need to wash the food processor bowl).

3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and use a wooden spoon to vigorously stir the paste mixture for about 2 minutes, until it pulls away from the pan. Scrape into the food processor bowl and let sit to cool for 5 minutes.

4. Break the eggs into a cup. While pulsing the food processor, add the eggs about 1 at a time, quickly pulsing to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl between additions.

5. Add the Gruyère, Parmesan, chili powder and cooked bacon and pulse well until the cheese is blended into the paste. Spoon this mixture (it will still be warm) into a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip, or use a small ice cream scoop.

6. Pipe or scoop the batter into 1 ½-inch (3.5 cm) rounds on the prepared baking trays, 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) apart. If the rounds have little points from where you lifted up the piping bag, dip your finger in cool water and pat them down.

7. Brush the gougères with the egg wash and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown and are light when lifted off the tray. Allow the gougères to cool for at least 10 minutes on the tray before eating. They are best enjoyed warm but can be eaten at room temperature.

 

 

Classic madeleines are sweet little cakes baked in shell-shaped molds. These savoury versions are a tender cornbread-style nibble, perfect to serve with cocktails. If you don’t have madeleine pans, bake the batter in 24 greased mini-muffin cups instead.

 

 

JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD MADELEINES

 

 

MAKES 18 MADELEINES (OR 24 MINI MUFFINS) • PREP: 10 MINUTES • COOK: 12 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

Madeleines are best eaten fresh, but toasted day-old madeleines are delicious with soups or salads in place of crostini. You can freeze baked madeleines, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. Thaw them at room temperature, arrange them on a baking tray and re-warm, uncovered, in a 325°F (160°C) oven for about 8 minutes.

 

⅔ cup (110 g) cornmeal

¼ cup (30 g) cornstarch

2 Tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar

1 tsp chili powder or mild smoked paprika

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp fine sea salt

⅔ cup (160 mL) buttermilk

2 large eggs

2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

1 cup (150 g) frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced (or 6 slices of pickled jalapeño, chopped)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease 2 madeleine pans.

2. Stir the cornmeal, cornstarch, sugar, chili powder (or smoked paprika), baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs and oil together. Add all at once to the dry mixture and whisk until completely smooth. Stir in the corn and jalapeño.

3. Spoon the batter into the madeleine pans, filling them right to the top.

4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the madeleines begin to brown at the edges. Let the pans cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then tap out the madeleines to serve warm, or let cool to serve at room temperature.

 

 

ADD SPARKLE

Whether baked as a madeleine or a mini muffin, these bites make a great base for an hors d’oeuvre. Wrap them in a slice of prosciutto, or split them open to make a mini sandwich or slider.

 

 

You can’t live on cheese alone at holiday time, so a crudités platter is sometimes a welcome sight. A colourful array of vegetables adds sparkle to a buffet table, and I don’t stick exclusively to raw vegetables. Cooked mini potatoes and blanched green beans are accessible and tasty in the winter.

 

 

WINTER CRUDITÉS WITH DIPS

 

 

SERVES 8 TO 12 • PREP: 15 MINUTES • COOK: 12 MINUTES

MAKE AHEAD

A platter like this is ideal for preparing ahead. Blanch and cut up all of your vegetables and pack them in resealable bags or airtight containers. I put a damp paper towel directly on the veggies to keep them crisp. All of the dips can be made ahead of time and chilled in airtight containers.

 

1 lb (450 g) mini potatoes

1 lb (450 g) green beans, trimmed

2 or 3 recipes chosen from Raspberry Olive Tapenade, Michael’s Blue Cheese Dressing and Dip, Buttermilk Ranch Dressing and Dip and/or Avocado Yogurt Dressing and Dip (this page to this page)

½ bulb fennel, sliced

1 English cucumber, sliced

1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced

6 to 8 mini carrots, scrubbed and cut in half (or 2 regular carrots, sliced on the bias)

6 to 8 radishes, cut in half

6 to 8 mini zucchini, cut in half (or 1 large zucchini, sliced on the bias)

½ lb (225 g) button mushrooms (cut in half, if large)

1 pint (275 g) grape tomatoes

 

1. Have ready 2 or 3 dipping bowls, and a platter large enough to hold all the vegetables plus the dipping bowls.

2. Place the mini potatoes in a saucepan of cold, salted water and bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, cool and chill until ready to serve.

3. Bring a second saucepan of cold, salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and blanch for just 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking. The beans will be bright green but will still have crunch. Chill until ready to serve.

4. Place the dips in individual bowls and set them in the middle of the platter. Arrange the vegetables around the platter. Chill until ready to serve.

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Get set for holiday season success, with more than 100 savoury and sweet recipes from celebrity baker and chef Anna Olson.

When does the festive season begin for you? For Anna, it’s with the first pumpkin pie of the year. Pumpkin pie isn’t something she bakes on any old evening, so it signifies something very special when she does: the start of the holidays! In Anna’s house, the holidays are a time for coming together with family and friends, celebrating traditions, and making some new ones, too. In this festive cookbook, Anna shares the recipes she most loves to make during the holiday season–for occasions like a festive brunch, entertaining a crowd, a cozy supper, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, an elegant New Year’s evening–and sensational sweets such as holiday cookies, celebratory centerpiece cakes, festive pies and tarts, fancy bars and slices, and much more!

With every recipe is a spoonful of pracical and supportive advice, uncluding menu planning, make-ahead preparation, and hundreds of other hints and tips. Set for the Holidays will help add sparkle and take away stress from your holidays, so you can navigate the season with confidence!

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