Cooking Classes


Stilton Stuffed Baked Pears

  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. (2 ounces) crumbled Stilton cheese
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 8 peeled Bartlett pears (about 3 3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 c. apple juice 
  • 1 tbsp. port

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Combine sugar and butter in a small bowl, and stir until well blended. Add cheese, cranberries, and walnuts. Stir well.
  3. Cut off stem end of each pear just above where the fruit begins to widen and reserve top. Remove core from stem end, and scoop out about 2 tablespoons pulp from each pear half to form a cup, using a melon baller or spoon. If necessary, cut about 1/4 inch from base of pears so they will sit flat. Place the pears in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Fill each pear with about 2 tablespoons sugar mixture, and replace top on each.
  4. Pour apple juice and port into baking dish. Bake pears at 375 F for 30 minutes or until tender. Plate the pears and pour the juice and port mixture into a pan. Reduce to about half and spoon over pears. Serve warm.


My Cookie Cutter Obsession

I have no idea when it happened. It wasn't while I was in university in the College of Home Economics. I was a health freak before it was fashionable. Cookies did not touch my lips unless they were gall darned good.

I have never been a cookie freak but now I have a cookie cutter obsession. I am a search for a round cutter with a scalloped edge for cutting butter tart crusts. It is an older style and I am having no luck.

This set is my newest purchase and I found them in an antique shop. I love the rectangular cutter with the fluted edge. It speaks the perfect sugar cookie to me. A perfect sugar cookie with a sugary top.

Above it is a donut cutter. As a kid on the farm we didn't have this luxury. My mom made doughnuts by cutting them with a drinking glass and the hole was cut with a thimble. I am not a huge donut fan but it is nostalgic. The round fluted one means nothing to me but it was a package deal.

I would love to see your favourite cookie cutter. If you love cookie cutters visit Monique at  La Table de Nana . She has many amazing ones. I would like to see her collection one day. If you are up to it everybody, why don't you post a comment with a picture of your favourite cookie cutter? I would love to see all the ideas and hear your stories.

Marjie at Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet you must have a stash of cookie cutters. And what about you Roz at La Bella Vita Cucina or Valerie at More Than Burnt Toast. My there are so many great food bloggers. You must have a favourite cookie cutter.

This is my Canadiana collection. I had planned to make the large maple leaf for Canada Day but that didn't happen! Next year.

These two sets are my  miniatures. Autumn and Christmas miniatures. I like to use them to cut vents in pie crusts or to make pie crust decorations for a pie top.

I bought one of these for a friend who raises bees. Of course, I had to get one for me, too. You can see how much it has been used!
Cookie cutters for doggie treats. I have only used the bone shape.

I had an obsession with stars a few years back. I liked to make a variety of sizes for Christmas gift giving. I would decorate sugar cookies all in white with icing, glitter and dragees. Star of David of course would be with white or blue glaze.
These are my regular sized Christmas cookie cutters. As with the stars, I had a need to have a mitten cookie cutter. Did I use it yet? I don't think so. This year.
This is my most frivolous cookie cutter. And least practical. I used this with children. Not a good idea. The handle of the teapot is so thin that it breaks. This is merely a decoration.
And who doesn't need a set of simple circular cutters. They are my most practical and most used.


June's Barbecue in September

I am a substitute teacher at a nearby Hutterite Colony. It was tough to get the children onside in the beginning but as we all learn sooner or later, food is the language of camaraderie and trust. It was not until we had a barbecue that I won them over.

That was three years ago. We were so disappointed in June when the weather did not cooperate and we did not have our annual barbecue. I must have said something like, "Well we can always do it in September!"

Trust children to remember every word and promise. September it was and today was the day.

We have always done the usual, hamburgers and hot dogs. This year they decided they would like to grill a chicken. I decided Chicken Under a Brick. They  l...o...v...e...d  it!

As an aside, I do not take any pictures. I turn over my DSLR camera to them. These images are from their eyes. Every year I am amazed by the wonderful pictures they take. These are not cropped and minimally altered, only for exposure.

Here is our day in pictures.

Jacob trying to light the 'chimney' with more charcoal.

Annie is only in Grade 4! Eek! She is making the milk shakes with my VitaMix blender. I am showing her how to use it.

The aftermath of making milk shakes.

Jacob the barbecue meister.

Annie made all the veggie packets for the grill. Labelled because some don't like carrots :)

Someone dashed off for a better photo-op.

Boys on the Colony do not have the opportunity to cook. In another life Jacob would be a chef.

Me with the German teacher. He is also the gardener and has an exhausting summer. He brought us some lovely golden melons for our lunch.

If they are not all filled by now they will be soon. Night and day harvesting season.

Knive as art.

Marinating our spatchcocked chicken.

Timely lesson on salmonella poisoning.

I love the feeling of movement in this picture.

Emma and tomatoes.

Blurred in the foreground is the Shopping Bag math game. Guess how we use it? They love it.


Hot Herb Garlic Ricotta Dip

Do you see a milk theme in my last couple of posts? Yes, well, I don't remember the exact details but I had a surplus of milk back in the spring and tried a bunch of new recipes to use it up. I have held back until now because the recipes and pictures were being published. Well, finally that has happened and they are mine again and I can share as I wish.

Ricotta has way fewer calories than cream cheese. No guilt enjoying this cheesy spread!

I posted a few years ago about making ricotta cheese at home. Nothing could be easier and I thought a refresher would be in order. One thing I have learned over time is that if you strain your milk vinegar mixture and get a lot of whey and it appears to be very milky then simply add more vinegar and let it sit longer. The curds will come but the milk may need more acid.

Homemade ricotta is fresher and half the price of the ricotta I can buy at my grocery stores. I always make it now but one does need to plan ahead.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
I like my curds dry so I let it strain overnight in the refrigerator. Planning ahead is required.

8 c. whole milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
Bring the milk to just scalding temperature and turn off the heat. You can tell when it has reached scalding because there will be little bubbles in the milk around the inside of the pot.
Stir in vinegar. Put lid on and let sit for an hour. Carefully strain the clotted curds through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. 

Hot Herb Garlic Ricotta Dip

8 oz. fresh ricotta
olive oil
fresh herbs such as rosemary or oregano
sea salt, to taste
In a small ovenproof skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom over medium heat. Add a few cloves of sliced garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to color, then immediately top with a layer of ricotta about an inch thick. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake in a 375 F oven until bubbling on top, about 20 minutes. Top with finely chopped herbs and sea salt. Serve immediately with toasted baguette slices. (Adapted from Bon Appetit)



It does take a certain level of om to make a lovely yet simple meal. Try throwing vegetables together when you are harried and it doesn't yield the same results. I know that from a meal I made last week. I can count on one hand the number of friends that have visited me in the five years since I moved away. That alone should provide motivation to make a nice meal when dear friends drop in on their way across Canada.

Farmers' market season is officially over for me even though next week is the final market of the year. After making over 2,000 scones 'a mano' this summer I hang up my apron until next June. What begins as a meditation and therapy gradually becomes a chore that brings on near nausea and loathing by the end of the season.

Even making a simple and enjoyable meal takes on a feeling of apathy that you want to fight but at the same time are helpless to resist. Such is the end of market season. Thank heaven that all things end and there is new.

Chatting with another vendor today told me that she feels the same. However, we both agreed that being a farmers' market vendor is like having a case of retrograde amnesia. The winter gestation is greeted with expectations of newness every spring. The anticipation is so strong that we plan and replan our new ideas until they can come to fruition and greeted again by the wonderfully appreciative market goers. I must say that I am impressed how many people take the time to thank me for what I do. I cherish that.


Italian Cheesecake

At the risk of making enemies I am not a cheesecake fan. I find the traditional New York style far too rich for my liking. And the unbaked type, well, they don't even count in my books. But this Italian style is delicious. It is not overly rich and has delicate floral undertones with the golden raisins nicely complimented by the dark rum.

Carefully bake this in a bain marie or it may separate. If you are not familiar, a bain marie is a water bath. Use something like a roasting pan that is larger than the cake pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches the same level as the cheesecake mixture. When finished baking remove from oven and let cheesecake cool slowly in the water bath.

Italian Cheesecake        Adapted from Lidia’s Italy in America

2 tbsp. softened butter
1/2 c. ladyfinger crumbs
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 tbsp. dark rum
5 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. drained fresh ricotta, at room temperature
1 c. mascarpone, at room temperature
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts 

Preheat oven to 325 F . Brush a nine or ten inch springform pan with butter on the bottom and sides. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Butter the parchment paper. Coat bottom and sides with ladyfinger crumbs. Excess can stay on the bottom of the pan. Put raisins in a small bowl and pour rum over, let soak while making the filling.

In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat eggs, sugar and salt at high speed until foamy and the sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes. Puree ricotta, mascarpone and zests and add to mixer. Drain raisins, set aside and add leftover rum to the mixer, mix on medium until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold in raisins and pinenuts by hand.

Put springform pan in the bain marie, smoothing the top with a spatula. 

Place on the lowest rack in the oven and bake until edges are set and golden but the centre is still a bit jiggly, about 1 hour.  It will continue to cook as it cools. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Serves 10 – 12 persons.

Oven Baked French Toast

Brunch is one of my favourite meals but one I rarely partake in. I found a Christmas pannetone in my cold room, long past its prime freshness. A dry bread or sweet bread is best for this overnight French toast. The bread soaks up some of the eggy goodness and then it bakes up like a souffle. If you want a nice presentation quickly take it straight from the oven to the table. After even 15 minutes it has fallen.

I bought the reproduction Medalta Pottery casserole dish and was dying to try it. Next time I would use a more shallow baking dish. It will cook faster and you will have a higher ratio of crunchy topping. The pecan crunchy topping drizzled with maple syrup should not be omitted.

Baked French Toast

Butter, for greasing the pan
8 eggs
5 cups whole milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
Day old bread such as French bread, cinnamon buns, brioche
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
1/4 c. maple syrup

Generously grease a 9”x13” pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks or cut into cubes and evenly distribute in the pan. Use enough bread to completely fill the pan. Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. If you are using an unsweetened bread you may want to increase the sugar.

Cover pan tightly and store in refrigerator, overnight preferably.

Top with coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot out of the oven with more maple syrup and fresh berries.


Indian Summer and thinking about Tennessee

As Indian Summer has arrived the nights are chilly but the days very hot. It's the time to clean up the garden and beds and prepare for the winter ahead. I can't help but think of my time in Tennessee at this time of year especially. I miss it.

The diversity of plants in the Smoky Mountains is hardly surpassed throughout the country. Every season has a display and there is no better time to visit than autumn. As it is diverse in plant species it is diverse in elevation. I drove into the Smokies in November to witness this array of colours. The mountains are so high that at the top I was barely travelling at 15 mph. The fog was thick and the road switching higher all the time.
There are 1600 species of flowering plants alone, including 100 native trees and over 100 shrubs.  There are 450 varieties of bryophytes which are the mosses, liverworts and hornworts and 50 ferns.

I miss the Smokies and forever thankful I had the opportunity to spend a few months in the South.


French Onion Soup for the Soul

You can see a pattern here. I am gradually coming back to my blog. More importantly as the season of the market ends I can come back to your blogs. You and I cannot imagine the work it is to be a farmers' market vendor. I am definitely making changes for next summer. First of all I will purchase another freezer. Since I make my doughs in advance and freeze them the extra storage space will allow me to make in advance so I can take a week off from preparation from time to time and have a life. The other item I am purchasing is a commercial mixer. To date everything has been mixed by hand ... breads, scones, pies. Granted everything cannot be done in a mixer but if I can even do half it will be a huge boost to my ever so tired arms and hands.

I loved this soup. It was inspired by a recipe from Chef Micheal Smith. I love my little Le Creuset individual cast iron pots. They make dinner service a classy event.

It's cooling down out there and warm food is coming into favour.

French onion soup
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 c. brandy or fortified wine such as Madeira
4 c. chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 slices hearty bread or large croutons
2 c. shredded Swiss, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese

Caramelize onions until they are a deep golden colour. Add brandy. Turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the additional liquid has evaporated.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 15 minutes or so.
To serve, preheat the broiler in your oven. Toast the bread slices to add flavour and help absorb the soup. Cut rounds out of the toast, large enough to fit your soup bowls.
Ladle the soup into four ovenproof serving bowls. Top each with a slice or two of toasted bread rounds, enough to cover the top of the soup. Cover the bread with an even mound of shredded cheese. Broil until the cheese has melted and browned. (Adapted from Chef Michael Smith)


Grilled Peaches & Serrano

I am looking back on summer. I had no time for blogging and even little time for experimenting with food. This is one of my favourites from August. I wish I had put it together earlier in the season. Nectarines would probably work as well. This clear white honey is acacia honey and has a decidedly neutral flavour that complements both the tartness and sweetness of the peach and the saltiness of the serrano. A few sprigs of fresh tarragon add a pleasing complexity. Even the burnt skewers add another layer of flavour.

I no longer peel my peaches in most uses. I like the added texture and appearance of the fuzzy skin. This is a nice addition to a charcuterie plate or a first course at a barbecue. Perhaps even brunch. I think I'll serve it at brunch. And yes, the peach has a tartness that comes with grilling.

Grilled Peaches & Serrano

fresh peaches, cut in thick wedges
serrano ham, thinly sliced
fresh tarragon
short wooden skewers

Wrap each peach wedge in serrano and secure with a wooden pick that has been pre-soaked in water for 30 minutes. Grill over medium hot charcoal on each side until grill marks appear. Plate and drizzle with your favourite honey. Garnish with fresh tarragon leaves.


Chanterelle and Corn Chowder

Wild chanterelles are the most coveted of mushrooms. They are delightfully aromatic, beautifully shaped and highly nutritious. They are picked from forests across the country between mid-July to mid-October but Saskatchewan chanterelles are special.
“They are premium because they grow in a semi-arid climate. Saskatchewan chanterelles are dry, perfect round shapes, small size, clean, velvet touch, and the aroma is unbeatable. You don't need to see them but you can smell them when you walk into the forest,” boasts Elisabeth Poscher, professional forager and owner of Prairie Infusions out of Love, SK.
Areas with more rainfall produce large, water logged, floppy chanterelles. Saskatchewan chanterelles are small and dry, because it rains briefly then it's dry, so they come in a hurry and then stay dormant in that shape until it rains again briefly, then they grow a bit more. The drier the climate the more concentrated the chemical compounds in the plant. That is why their scent and flavour are so intense.
Chanterelles are rich in carotenoids and Vitamin A, for eyesight and dry skin. Burbot liver and chanterelles have the most concentrated natural food sources of Vitamin D. Wild edible mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing properties. They enhance the immune system and assist in reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Elisabeth ships them from northern Saskatchewan all over the country and I was so glad I placed my order. This chowder is the perfect autumn lunch.
Chanterelle and Corn Chowder
2 strips smoked bacon, finely chopped
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium celery stalk, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
3/4 lb. chanterelles, coarsely chopped
 1 c. fresh corn kernels
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. fresh thyme, leaves only
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 small bay leaf
1 qt. mushroom or chicken stock
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice or more to taste 

Cook bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat until just starting to brown, 3-4 minutes, then add butter. When butter has melted, stir in onion, celery and garlic. Cook until tender and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add chanterelles and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes or until mushrooms are softened and tender. Stir in corn and potatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables in pot and stir to coat them with the flour. Add thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Add stock, stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove bay leaf. Stir in cream and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed. Makes 6 cups.


Early Frost and Harvesting my Herbs

 It's that time of year. The time when an early frost promises to decimate your garden. I should have harvested my herbs earlier but here I am holding out to the bitter end.

What would you do with these herbs? I have curly parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. The parsley will make a tabouli. What else!

I think I will make a grape and rosemary focaccia. Rosemary would be great dried so if I have any left over I'll dry it.

The thyme will also be great dried. I think I'll hang it to dry and save for winter roasts.

But what about the oregano and sage? I could dry the sage but the oregano isn't that highly flavoured. I could freeze it. What could I make with my fresh oregano and sage? Ideas welcomed.
These trimmings will go into my freezer bag for making stocks.