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This rich dish is immoderate comfort food at it’s very best and is guaranteed to warm up the family in the cold months to come. Ask my stepson, Douglas, who considers it the ultimate mac and cheese – the cheesier the better! (Feel free to experiment with different cheeses: Edam, Asiago, Manchego, Stilton, fontina or pecorino). Douglas loves to get in the kitchen to cook up a batch, but he’s not so thrilled when it comes to the clean-up. Luckily, this doesn’t generate too many dirty dishes, which seems to be key when getting teens interested in cooking.

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 3/4 tsp (13 mL) sea salt
  • 1 lb (500 g) penne
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp (12 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded aged cheddar cheese 
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Swiss or Gruyère cheese 
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled Cambozola or chèvre 
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts (4 L) water to a boil; add 2 tsp (10 mL) of the salt. Add the penne and stir a few times until it comes to the boil. Cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. (It should still have a little resistance when you bite into it.)

In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat just until warm (do not let come to a boil). In another saucepan, melt the butter; whisk in the flour and let the mixture bubble for a few minutes. Pour in the warm milk, whisking, and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the mustard, nutmeg, remaining salt and pepper; simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheddar, Swiss and Cambozola cheeses. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pour into a 13- x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and bake until golden and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

CocktailEvery year I make a signature cocktail for our big holiday get together, this year it was the Perfect Peartini! This mix is so fresh and the pear puree and lime juice make it the perfect balance of tart and sweet. I have given the measurements for 1 drink but you can multiply as needed to make a big batch in advance. Then, when it’s time to serve, just pour over ice or shake and strain as you desire. Cheers!

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 oz cointreau
  • 2 oz fresh pear purée
  • squeeze of fresh lime juice


Besides gingerbread and eggnog, nothing says Christmas to me like the combination of chocolate and orange – could be a certain classic confection that pops up all around the grocery stores this time of year! I prefer these though and I love making them for friends and family during the holiday season. They’re delicious to serve with coffee after dessert as an extra little treat and perfect to package up and take as a hostess gift.

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 2 cups (500 mL) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) light corn syrup
  • 4 seedless oranges, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz (250 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, 2 cups (500 mL) water and the corn syrup; bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add the orange slices; let stand for 1 hour. Drain syrup.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

On a baking sheet fitted with a cooling rack, arrange orange slices in single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200°F (100°C) and let oranges dry in oven for 4 hours. Or turn off the oven and let dry overnight. Peel oranges off the cooling rack and set aside.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt 6 oz (180 g) of the chocolate, stirring often with a rubber spatula, until melted. Remove from heat and blend in remaining chocolate, 1 tbsp (15 mL) at a time, allowing it to melt after each addition. This tempers, or cools, the chocolate to the proper temperature for dipping. If you want to test it with a thermometer, it should read 88 to 90°F (31 to 32°C).

Dip the orange slices in the chocolate; shake off excess and place on a waxed paper–lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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