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  • Easter, Birthdays, and Cookbooks – oh my!

    April is such a fabulous month because everything, including us two legged creatures, comes out of hibernation. And it’s about time! Although we’ve had a very mild winter here on the West coast – Spring skiing in February? - it’s been an incredibly long winter for all of our friends back East. I know we’ll all be relieved to see the rains (and snows) retreat and the temperatures start to rise.

    Now as everything in the garden wakes up, the Cherry trees on our street have their full party dresses on, and the crocuses, narcissus, hyacinths and tulips are in full bloom. With all this colour around us, it’s time to stop wearing black and grey and put a little “Spring” into the wardrobe as well as on the plate. Local produce is starting to show up at the farmer’s markets signaling an end to the long run of tubers and roots and the beginning of the fresh Spring hues of green leaves and ruby reds.

    I don’t know about you, but I go crazy for leeks, asparagus and rhubarb at this time of year, and this month I’ll be sharing interesting ways to feature them: stay tuned for Asparagus Soup with Home-Made Crème Fraiche, and Perfect Rhubarb Crumble amongst other delicious delights.

    Easter is late this year falling on the same day as my birthday. I think I’ll bow to the Easter Bunny and not count this one…yippee, no getting older this year! I will however still enjoy my birthday feast: Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Olive Tapenade Crust and Crispy Golden Rosemary Potatoes will be on my menu along with my mother’s Heavenly Pie - an ethereal combination of meringue, cream, and lemon curd.

    On top of everything else we are doing the photo-shoot for my new cookbook on Desserts that will be out in the Fall. Stay tuned for teasers from that on our Facebook page and Twitter!


Planning the Holiday Feast

Today is the big day! I’ll be braving the crowds and hitting the shops in anticipation of the feast ahead, and the next four days will be spent cooking, baking, prepping and sampling as we prepare to host the annual Christmas dinner at our house. The first step for me is always to establish the menu, from there I can build the shopping list broken down by departments and shops, and if all goes well I should have it all by the end of today! Add to this the traditional Christmas crackers, napkins, and champagne and I should be all set! What are you serving up at your house? I’d love hear what kinds of traditions you all share! And if you make any of the recipes below, please let me know how you get on and how your crew liked them.

Place setting for Christmas



Icebreaker Martinis


Mulled Winter Nuts


Coconut Prawns with Mango Tango Sauce



Chestnut, Leek, & Pancetta Stuffing

Dried Cranberry Relish

Bourbon Glazed Ham with Winter Fruit Stuffing

Cheesy Potato Gratin

Minted English Peas and Carrots

Carrots and Parsnips Roasted with Indian Spices

Grilled Fig & Pancetta Salad

Roasted Brussels with Lemon Zest, Capers, & Parmesan


Maggie’s Upside Down Pear Cake 

Crispy Chocolate-Dipped Orange Slices






Christmas Mandarin Orange Marmalade

This time of year always has me wanted to stand on the corner and shout, “The citrus is here! The citrus is here!” Whoever says that the darkest days of winter don’t bring us freshness hasn’t been thinking of the little balls of liquid sunshine that grace the market shelves when winter sets in. This recipe utilises the most seasonal of all and if you’re looking to give some home-made holiday gifts, look no further. With this recipe you may even start a new tradition. It’s so pretty and delicious, your friends will be hoping to receive it every year. But be warned, you may have to double the recipe to cover your entire gift list.

Makes 2 cups (500 mL)

  • 3 mandarin oranges – preferably organic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar

Remove rind from mandarins and zest from lemon and julienne finely. Remove pith from lemon and discard. Chop the flesh of the lemon and mandarins.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the mandarin rind, lemon zest and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.

Add the lemon and mandarin flesh to saucepan and continue simmering, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the sugar, increase heat to high and boil rapidly, uncovered, until syrup forms a gel, about 10 minutes for a small batch. Remove from heat. Pour into a sterilized glass jar, seal and let cool. Refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Chestnut, Leek and Pancetta Stuffing

The big day is just a few sleeps away and if you’re like me, your shopping list for your feast is about a mile long by now. And though the thought of fighting the crowds at the grocery stores seems a bit daunting, I actually love being out and about this time of year, listening to the happy buzz of people all making plans with family and friends. For us, Christmas will be spent up in Whistler this year where we’re hosting a large number of guests for dinner with a 23 lb turkey taking centre stage – and what’s a turkey without the stuffing?! This is one of my favourite dressings: salty pancetta mixed with the smoky sweetness of canned chestnuts, it’s about as traditional…and delicious!…as it gets! I usually cook my stuffing inside the bird, but for those of you that like to cook a batch by itself, I’ve given instructions for that as well below.

pancetta stuffing
Makes approx. 20 cups

  • 1 (1 1/2 lb) sourdough loaf, cut into 1/3-inch dice (18 cups)
  • 1 lb coarsely chopped pancetta slices (about 3 cups)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 3 cups chopped celery
  • 4 cups chopped onions 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 24 oz jarred /canned peeled cooked whole chestnuts, halved
  • 2 cups pitted prunes, quartered
  • 2 cups turkey stock ,warm

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Scatter bread in a single layer in 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 12 inches) and toast, stirring once or twice and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden and dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl.

Cook pancetta in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and heat until melted, then add celery and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 12 minutes. Stir in sage, salt, and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add pancetta mixture along with chestnuts and prunes to bowl containing bread. Whisk together stock and eggs, then stir into bread mixture until combined well. Transfer to turkey or to baking dish (stuffing will mound above dish).

If cooking outside of the turkey, bake loosely covered with a buttered sheet of foil (buttered side down) 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake until top is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more.

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