Thursday, December 19, 2013

11 Imaginative Recipes to Reinvent the Humble Brussels Sprouts!

Normally when I write a food column like this I have made at least a few of the recipes in it, but not this time.  Hopefully the opportunity will arise over the holidays to try a few of these in the family menus, but if I get one in I'll feel grateful. WHY? My family are just not fans of most of the cabbage family, especially when cooked.  I, however, crave every member often and in large quantities. The latest salad mix I get for myself involves kale and raw Brussels Sprouts - nirvana!

      Fun Fact - Who put the Brussels in 
      Brussels sprouts? The Belgians, 
      of course. The sprouts were first 
      cultivated in large quantities in Belgium 
      in the late 1500s, and introduced to the 
      U.S. in the 1800s.

When your husband in particular goes to great lengths in front of the kids to explain all the reasons he doesn't like a vegetable, it's sure to have a strong impact.  But I have come in recent years to feel that with all the fusion and modern recipes out there, that there must be some way to make Brussels Sprouts that my family can enjoy at least in a small way.  Enter the internet and newspaper.  What great resources.

It all began with an article by  for called Ingredient of the Week: Brussels Sprout. Nine glorious recipes to try - a few with real potential.  As someone who grew up with frozen vegetables and at my husbands request, still offer them - I was very excited to give these a try.  They are from a variety of sources, so offer a wide range of taste possibilities. Top on the list to try first are - Roasted with Guyere Cheese, the warm salad and the quick saute.

Then the top recipe I actually found just yesterday in the Vancouver Sun. Karen Barnaby's recipes have a high success rate for me, so I chose to put it first. Everyone seems to have different taste preferences when it comes to any food, so there is never any guarantee, but the last few of her recipes I have tried were hits with the whole family. Now to see if her take on Brussels Sprouts can bring my family from the dark side into the light and where they can embrace the humble sprout.

Image by Richard Lim, Vancouver Sun
Tamari Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Makes 8 servings

From Karen Barnaby - Executive Chef and Food Columnist for the Vancouver Sun. Tamari is a dark, and usually wheat-free soy sauce. When these ingredients are roasted together, the tamari and sesame oil lose their distinctly separate flavours and become unified into a rich and roasty blend.

¼ cup (60 mL) tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
3 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved if large
4 tbsp (60 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Cover a large, rimed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then a sheet of parchment paper that has been trimmed to fit. Spread the Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet. Drizzle the tamari and sesame oil over them and toss to coat. Roast, shaking the pan every 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are crisp and browned, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the butter.

Image by Gwendolyn Richards/Postmedia News
Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
3 to 4 servings

Gwendolyn Richards of Patent and the Pantry has learned to love her “vegetable nemesis” by serving them shaved on pasta with pancetta and toasted pine nuts - a recipe she found at The Kitchn

Ingredients -
1 lb (500 g) brussels sprouts
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
6oz (170g)pancetta, diced or cut into strips
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (50 mL) chicken broth
1/2lb (250g)spaghetti
1/3 cup (75 mL) pine nuts, toasted
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and remove the toughest outer leaves. Shred them in a food processor, using the slicing attachment, or slice them carefully on a mandoline or as thinly as possible with a knife.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, until fairly crispy and cooked through. Clear some space in the middle of the pan and add the shallots. (If you don’t have enough room in your pan to create space, you can remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add it back in when you add the sprouts.) Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute or so. While the shallots are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the brussels sprouts and the chicken broth to the large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and toss all of the ingredients together. (Go easy on the salt initially because pancetta can be quite salty.) Cook, tossing occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the skillet. You can add a splash of the pasta water (or more broth) if the mixture seems dry. Add pine nuts, toss everything together, season to taste and serve.

Image by Matthew Mead, AP Photo
Creamy Brown Rice Risotto
Serves 4

While this article was obviously written by one person, there is no chef credit - just the Associated Press.  It offers 2 version, only one of which includes Brussels Sprouts - the second can be found at the link provided.

Risotto, the creamy Italian favourite, is traditionally made with white rice. This version swaps the white rice for whole grain brown rice, and incorporates a tart apple and quartered Brussels sprouts

1 cup short grain brown rice (or brown sushi rice)
2 cups water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 pound Brussels sprouts, quartered AND 1 firm tart apple, peeled and diced

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the rice and water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, leaving it covered. The rice will not be completely cooked and there will be some water in the pan. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp. Use a spoon to transfer the prosciutto to a plate and set aside. Do not wipe out the skillet. Return the pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat and add the rosemary and onion. Saute until starting to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and apple OR the asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the wine and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to deglaze the pan. Add the rice and any liquid in the pan. Add the chicken broth and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the liquid has thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, then cook for another minute.

Top with crisped prosciutto, then drizzle with balsamic glaze just before serving.

Image by Matthew Mead/Associated Press
Gruyere Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pepitas and Dates
Serves 6

Alison Ladman writes, “Whatever you do this holiday season, don’t spoil your spread with underdressed vegetables.” In Ladman’s recipe, roasted Brussels sprouts are dressed with Gruyere cheese, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and dates.

2 pounds Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas), toasted
1/2 cup chopped dates
Heat the oven to 400 F.

Spread the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender and well browned. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and dates.

Image by James Ransom
Momofuku’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4-6

Adapted from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meeha, this recipe was found on Food 52 and notes it is by Genius Recipes. It will add a much-needed spark to your winter diet and any holiday spread.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette-
1/2 C fish sauce (adjust to taste -- some fish sauce brands are saltier)
1/4 C water
2 Trice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 C sugar
1garlic clove, minced
1 to 3red bird’s-eye chiles, thinly sliced, seeds intact

2 T very thinly sliced cilantro stems, plus 1/2 cup leaves
3 T chopped mint
2 lbs. brussels sprouts (smaller ones are better)
Grapeseed or other neutral oil as needed, as needed (lots for frying, little for roasting)

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients, cilantro stems and mint in a bowl, and set aside. Peel away any loose or discolored outer leaves on the brussels sprouts, trim the dry end of the stems with a knife, and cut the sprouts in half. Cut any especially large ones in quarters. Do not wash, especially if frying the sprouts. If roasting, and you must, dry very well.

To roast the brussels sprouts (recommended): Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or just enough to evenly coat the bottom of the pan) in 2 oven-safe wide skillets (12 to 14 inches) over medium heat. When the oil slides easily from side to side of the pan, add the brussels sprouts cut side down. When the cut faces of the sprouts begin to brown, transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking, about 15 minutes. Alternately, if you don't have 2 large skillets or are cooking more sprouts for a larger crowd, roast them in the oven: toss them with 1 tablespoon of oil per pound and spread them on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Roast in the oven, checking for browning every 10-15 minutes, tossing them around with a spatula only once they start to brown nicely.The sprouts are ready when they are tender but not soft, with nice, dark brown color.

When ready to serve, divide the brussels sprouts among four bowls (or serve it all out of one big bowl), top with the dressing to taste and cilantro leaves, and toss once or twice to coat.

Image from The CP/HO - Almond Board of California
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Seeds
6 Servings

No obvious credits for this article either - my assumption based on the photo credits is the Almond Board of California. Roasting brussels sprouts brings out their nutty flavour. This side dish is perfect to serve for winter entertaining. The inclusion of pomegranate seeds gives it a festive flair. Topped with toasted almonds, this colourful and flavourful dish would be perfectly at home on a holiday table.

1 kg (2 lb) fresh brussels sprouts
50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
175 ml (3/4 cup) sliced almonds
1 tsp (5 ml) coarse sea salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly ground pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds

Place rack in the centre and upper third of the oven. Heat oven to 190 C (375 F). Trim bottom off each sprout and slice in half or in quarters; place sprouts on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and sliced almonds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, removing pans once or twice during baking to stir and toss brussels sprouts.

Transfer sprouts to a large bowl and toss with pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Image by Brett Gundlock/National Post
Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Almonds
4 Servings

This delicious salad, lively with citrus, comes from Bottega, the hottest new restaurant in Yountville, Calif., owned by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello. Marcona almonds, from Spain, are already roasted and salted (and irresistible). (Shared by Bonnie Stern on the National Post website)

½ lb (250 g) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1⁄3 cup (75 mL) toasted almonds (preferably Marcona), coarsely chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely grated
¼ cup (50 mL) grated parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano) or pecorino
1 tbsp (15mL) chopped fresh chives, shallots or green onions
1 tbsp (15mL) finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or 1 tsp/5 mL grated fresh lemon peel)

2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
¾ tsp (4 mL) kosher salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil

Slice Brussels sprouts as thin as possible, by hand or with a mandolin. Toss lightly with almonds, eggs, cheese, chives and preserved lemon. For dressing combine lemon juice with salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss with salad. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Brussels Sprouts Braised with Maple Syrup
(No image available)
4 to 6 servings

Denis Cotter, author of the vegetarian cookbook For the Love of Food, serves these sprouts with mashed potatoes laced with smoked cheese for a vegetarian meal. The maple syrup is a Canadian/Irish fusion touch he must have picked up in Stratford, Ont., where he spends a lot of his time.

12 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blanch Brussels sprouts in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, rinse in cold water and pat dry. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet and add onions. Cook about 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, orange peel, maple syrup and soy sauce, cover and cook 2 minutes longer. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Image by ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen/Postmedia News
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon and Pecan Dressing
Serves 8

Raw, thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, and green onions are tossed with crisp bacon and pecans, and a warm, mustard-garlic vinaigrette in this salad recipe from the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen.

1/2 lb (0.25 kg) Brussels sprouts
6 cups (1.5 L) torn romaine lettuce
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced green onions
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped bacon
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup (50 mL) oil
3 tbsp (40 mL) white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) whole grain mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) freshly ground pepper

Trim off the ends of stems of Brussels sprouts; discard ends. Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. There should be about 2 cups (500 mL). Combine Brussels sprouts, lettuce and green onions in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare dressing, cook bacon and pecans in a medium frypan over medium heat until bacon is browned and crisp. Remove from heat. Remove bacon and pecans with a slotted spoon; drain bacon and pecans on paper towels. Drain off all fat from frypan. Return frypan to low heat. Add oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic; cook, scraping to loosen browned bits, for 30 seconds. Return bacon and pecans to frypan. Stir in salt and pepper.

Pour dressing over Brussels sprouts mixture and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Image by Matthew Mead/AP Photo
Quick Sautéed Brussels Sprout with toasted Walnuts and Lemon
Servings: 6

The Tamales — chefs Sue Fenniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the co-hosts of their own show on the Food Network once upon a time — slice the sprouts very thin, then quickly sautee them. 3 to 5 minutes in the pan and they’re good to go. This recipe has turned haters into believers over and over again.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the walnuts in a pie plate and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant and are a shade darker. Trim the Brussels sprouts and discard any damaged outside leaves. Use a food processor fitted with the thin slicing blade to shred the sprouts.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sprouts and lemon zest, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. The pan will seem very crowded in the beginning, but the Brussels sprouts will shrink down quickly. Season with salt and pepper, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and the walnuts. Serve right away.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

A bonus recipe from A Little Piece of Sunshine. Don’t like Brussels sprouts? This recipe just might change your mind about these mini-cabbages.

Ingredients - 
1 pint Brussels sprouts
5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Trim off the ends of the sprouts, remove the outer leaves. Place in a pot of boiling water and let boil for 4 minutes. Set aside. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and place the pieces on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. (You can also cook bacon in the microwave.)

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and butter to the pan. After the butter has melted, add the sprouts and cook for 3 minutes, just until the sprouts have started to brown. Add the bacon back to the pan and toss gently. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vancouver Community College (VCC) - Chloe Liu, Paper Dolls and Candy Clouds

by guest writer Jenica Chuahiock - Tattle, Tales N' Things

When Chloe Liu was a little girl, she fashioned women from paper. They were imperfect in their own right, yet as beautiful as anything crafted by little hands. Of course, they came with dresses, all whimsy and fragile. She would live-off her paper dolls, who could wear all the clothes she could not. But that was okay, because in due time, she will be designing outfits any real fashion idol would want.

“When I was young, I liked to play with paper dolls. I would make clothes for them by drawing and cutting them out,” says Liu. “Because I was just a little girl, I couldn’t wear some stylish kinds of clothes, so I made what I liked for my paper dolls. And in the course of time, I found my dream.”

Liu was convinced she wanted to be a fashion designer the moment she could cut the outlines of her paper dolls’ dresses. She was born and raised in Guang Zhuo, China, where she spent her adolescence practicing the arts. In high school , she spent most of her free time outside of class to learn how to draw and sew. By 2007, she and her family had moved to Canada, where Liu’s fashion career was about to begin.

After attending several fashion shows, Liu found her calling in Vancouver Community College (VCC), which she judged to be the more creative institute for fashion. It was a tough journey for Liu, whose lovingly supportive parents sold their restaurant in Saskatchewan to move to Vancouver. And even in classes, she struggled to take-in lessons taught in English. Though in the end, Liu’s talent shines through as she releases her first fashion collection.

“My inspiration came from colorful candies in the forest.” says Liu, whose fantasises still runs as wild as child. “I had imagined I was lying on the lawn looking up the sky one day, and I saw many colors and shapes of clouds. They reminded me of candies.”

To imitate the playfulness of candies in her collection, Liu used fine silk, which she and her parents dyed themselves, along with wool and jacquard fabrics. The colors swirling like marbled rainbows and light as air. Liu’s collection, full of vibrance, flowers and ruffles, dares to put the giddy fun back in fashion. She enjoys the flamboyance and quirkiness of her designs, admitting that it is mostly for evening wear or stage wear. It is for the fashion daredevils. She laughs, and hopes that one day Lady Gaga would wear them on stage.

Although Liu is happily working as a company stylist for now, she has big plans in the next few years, perhaps a future in Chinese fashion, or online enterprises. Whatever the outcome, Liu is determined to keep up with the fashion world.

“The fashion world is big, I can’t say I can bring new things to fashion,” says Liu. “But I want to be myself. Fashion design is happiness to me. In my mind, fashion is always moving. You can’t just stay in the same place to design the same pieces. A successful designer can design anything. “

For more information on the Fashion Design program at VCC go to

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taste Makers Present: ALL WILL BE REVEALED

by guest writers Sara Desaulniers and Katherine Kingston Humphrey
All images courtesy of Streetside Fashion

On Saturday November 30th, Taste Makers by Trish P unveiled their new retail collection at the beautiful Sol Sun Belt Cookery. The dazzling venue went hand in hand with the modern and trendy designs of the collection, featuring “Out of this World” prints. The event was sponsored by: Taste Makers By Trish P., StreetSide Fashion, Urban Decay Cosmetics, Locals Only Crew and CC Equipment Sales LTD.

The evening was full of energetic lively fun, with bumping beats by DJ Goofio. It was a mix of professional, polished execution as well as an easygoing and friendly atmosphere. Some familiar faces could be picked out from the crowds, such as Mark Abenir (Designer), Paige Sierra (StreetSide Fashion), and Viv Leacock (Actor). It all began with cocktails and delicious appetizers - catered by Sol Sun Cookery followed by a fashion short written and directed by Mr. Invisible. 

Then the Taste Makers collection hit the runway.The models and the garments they showcased boasted statements of confidence and resilience, as well as an empowering message for women. After the fashion show, the public had the opportunity to view and buy the exciting collection before it hit the streets. It was apparent that the line was locally based, emanating the city's lifestyle, and that Trish was completely conscious of the consumer when she designed the collection. The selection had a timeless feel designed so people of all ages, shapes and sizes could wear the clothing comfortably. 

I personally had the opportunity to work with Trish and the Taste Makers team; it was truly inspiring to work with such a committed and passionate group of people. This close knit community worked incredibly hard; making sure that every last detail was perfect. Taste Makers represents the ambition, passion and teamwork of the Vancouver independent fashion scene as well as the art community as a whole.Taste Makers embodies the values of perseverance and family. The brand's creator, managers, models and media interns make up a deep-rooted partnership and friendship, which acts as the glue that holds the entire outfit together.

The evening also featured a charity fundraiser with donations accepted at the door. Taste Makers and Locals Only Crew were able to donate $600 to BC Children’s Hospital.

To learn more about Taste Makers or to shop their online store go to

Holiday Baking - Cranberry Bars!

Last season I tried a Cranberry Apple Bar recipe.  You can check it out in my article Kamikaze Baking Part Two - Something New.  I did like them, but wasn't totally wow'd, so giving two new recipes a try this year. What to chose as there are literally hundreds of mouth-watering recipes out there?

When selecting a new recipe consider where it fits in. Is it a dessert for one night or part of your holiday baking. If the first, you need to decide what works with the dinner menu. If the latter, then consider what else you have that will be going on the combined plate. Does it add colour, texture or a new flavour.  I like to have at least one offering with fruit and cranberries are definitely holiday and add a great tartness. Lemon bars are another I might look into this year if I have time.

The two below were chosen because they are quite different from each other. The first uses dried cranberries and is the only one I'm making this year with white icing.  I love that they were cut in triangles - something I might adopt with my other bars. The second is a more traditional streusel created with fresh or frozen berries. This appealed to me as it wasn't too gooey - just a nice layer of filling.

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I love when someone takes a commercial recipe and tries to make it a little healthier. Gina Homolka of Skinny Taste was asked if she could please create a lighter version of Starbuck's Cranberry Bliss Bars – a blondie cookie bar with chunks of white chocolate chips and dried cranberries, topped with sweet cream cheese icing, tart dried cranberries and white chocolate drizzle. And she did!! Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars have a quarter of the fat (5 grams) and less than half the calories (149). Now remember those numbers only apply if you cut them the recommended size and eat just one! HOHOHOHOHO! (I tried them out and not hard at all, but my dried cranberries weren't as bright and colourful. They never do look just like they do in the pics.)

Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars
Makes 30 bars

2 cups all purpose flour (Gold Metal)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted*
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend. In another bowl, whisk the sugars with the butter, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two additions until the batter is very well blended. If the batter looks more “crumbly” than smooth, add just a drop of water at a time (ONLY if needed) until it smooths out.

Fold in white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup cranberries. Spread batter onto the baking pan using the
back of a measuring cup to smooth evenly. Bake 10 - 14 minutes, until the edges are light brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Don't over-bake or your bars will be dry. Let it cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting; in a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until well-blended. Frost bars and sprinkle with remaining cranberries. Drizzle with the melted white chocolate. When the chocolate sets, cut into 15 large squares (5 cuts by 3 cuts with the knife). Then cut each square in half diagonally to create triangles. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*To melt the chocolate, place in a microwave safe cup and heat 15 seconds; stir. Another 15 seconds; stir until the chocolate is melted. (I usually melt chocolate in bowl set onto a pan of simmering water. With the variation in microwave power, be careful if you use this method).

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The second, from a website called Fine Cooking, is credited to Nicole Rees. In looking down the list of reviews - always a good idea - the biggest suggestion was to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup in both the streusel and the filling. I prefer things not overly sweet so embraced those changes.  Other recommendations I took to heart were just a little orange rind in the filling and even a little orange liqueur or orange juice - so I went with those suggestions as well. (Note - I always worry about fussy recipes. I have a kitchen scale, but not one that is that accurate.  Fortunately I stumbled along missing a few steps and adjusting to my style as I went and they still came out fine. When substituting ingredients - weighing is the only way to go.  For a regular recipe, slight variations are how you make it your own. So don't be intimidated.)

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars Recipe
Image by Scott Phillips
Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars
Makes 35 bars

TIP:For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.
Position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.

For the crust and streusel:
10-1/2 oz. (1 cup plus 5 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
3/4 cup granulated sugar (original recipe was 1 cup)
3/4 tsp. table salt
2 large egg yolks
14-1/4 oz. (3 cups plus 3 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the cranberry topping:
12-oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar (original recipe was 1 cup)
Suggestions to add - 1-2 T of orange cognac/liqueur or orange juice and a small amount of very fine orange rind. I mixed these in after removing the topping from the stove to cool.

Make the crust:

Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 9 T sugar (just over 1/2 cup - original recipe 3/4 cup), and the salt. Whisk in the egg yolks. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan (remember we pulled out a 1/4 cup of sugar), and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

Bake the dough until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.

Make the streusel:

With your fingers, combine the remaining 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar (original recipe 1/4 cup) with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.

Make the cranberry topping:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium high and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be sandy). Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without over browning the crust.)

Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot, or even outside in winter.) When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares. The bars will keep at room temperature for one week.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chicken Marbella, Lemon Barley Pilaf and Orange, Walnut, Spelt and Olive Oil Cake

The last week of November 2013, Executive Chef and Vancouver Sun columnist Karen Barnaby posted an article called, "Shedding Light on Hanukkah." With it she shared four recipes that would make a three course meal - Beet, Pear and Fennel Soup; Chicken Marabella; Lemon Barley Pilaf; and Orange, Walnut, Spelt and Olive Oil Cake.  With such a busy fall season, I have lost the habit of cooking and wanted to reignite my imagination.  Trying new recipes like these seemed the perfect choice - especially ones that ask me to step outside the box.  This recipe puts brown sugar on the chicken - something I would never do normally.  I decided that I would try the soup another day.

All but the pilaf can be prepared the night before which works great for my life. When trying a new menu like this, the first step is always to make a complete shopping list to avoid frustration. Then when you get home with the groceries, separate out the ingredients you will need for each dish. First I put the chicken in the marinade. Then I whipped up the cake, baked it and set it on a cooling rake. The next day the chicken and the pilaf baked together in the oven. All I had to do was add a vegetable or salad. The cake is dusted at the last minute with icing sugar and served with a mixture of Mediterranean Yogurt and honey.

The response to the chicken and cake was great. Barley Pilaf was a stretch for my family but it turned out to be a very tasty dish in my eyes.  I added some colour with carrot and red pepper, though.  The cake - as is any cake not made from white flour - is a bit denser and dryer. The Yogurt and Honey mix is the perfect addition. Another option would be Vanilla flavoured Mediterranean Yogurt.

Chicken Marbella
From The Silver Palate Cookbook (1982)
Serves 8

20             Large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on or off (I took the skin off)
6              Cloves garlic, minced
2 T           Dried oregano
1 tsp         Sea salt (I used regular salt)
½ C          Red Wine Vinegar
½ C          Extra-virgin olive oil
1 C           Pitted prunes
½ C          Pitted Spanish green olives (I used sliced instead of whole)
½ C          Pitted Kalamata olives (I used sliced instead of whole)
2 T           Drained capers
6              Bay leaves
¾ C          Brown sugar
1 C           White wine 

Place the chicken in a large, non-corrodible dish (or extra-large ZipLoc Bag). Whisk together the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Pour over the chicken and toss well. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight or up to two days (I don't know that I would leave it for 2 days. Overnight is my max from a safety standpoint.)

Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking dishes and spoon marinade mixture over it evenly. Tuck the prunes in between the chicken pieces so they won't burn. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. The chicken is done when it exudes a clear yellow liquid when pricked with a fork at the thickest point.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a little of the pan juices and pass the remaining pan juices separately.

The pilaf without added vegetables
Lemon Barley Pilaf
This simple pilaf goes very nicely with the Chicken Marbella and can be baked in the oven at the same time. I looked at a few other recipes and like the addition of a little diced carrot and red pepper to give this colour. My additions are noted at end of the recipe.

4 T         Extra-virgin olive oil
3 C         Thinly sliced onion
2 C         Pearl barley
4 T         Lemon juice (1/4 cup)
4 C         Chicken broth
1 T         Sea salt (I used regular salt)
6            Sprigs fresh thyme
Grated zest of 1 lemon 
Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

My additions to add some colour - 
1            Large carrot, peeled or scraped and finely diced (cook with onions)
1/2         Large red pepper, finely diced (add last 10 minutes of baking)

In a large, ovenproof pot that has a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is golden brown.

Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Add the barley and stir to coat it with the onion. Add the lemon juice, chicken broth, thyme and salt. Bring to a boil and cover with the lid. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to one hour until the barley is tender. Remove from the oven and stir in the lemon and pepper. Check and adjust the seasoning.
Note: Zest the lemon first, then squeeze it for juice. One and a half lemons will yield about 4 tbsp (60 mL) of juice.

Orange, Walnut, Spelt and Olive Oil Cake
A simple cake that benefits from being made the day before. Wrap tightly and let sit at room temperature. Makes 8-10 servings (Note - I assumed Spelt would be a gluten free option. Not so. It has a lower percentage of gluten, but definitely not for someone with a Celiac Disease.

4             Large eggs
1 1/2 C    Chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
2 C         Whole spelt flour
2 tsp        Baking powder
1/2 tsp     Sea salt (I used regular salt)
Finely grated zest from two oranges
1 C          Sugar
1/4 C       Brown sugar, packed
1/2 C       Fresh orange juice
1/2 C       Extra-virgin olive oil Icing sugar
1 1/2 C    Plain, Mediterranean style yogurt
2 T          Honey 

Submerge the eggs, straight from the fridge, in a bowl of hot tap water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat the oven to 350F (175C). Spray a 10-inch (12.5 cm) springform pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and spray the paper.

Place the walnuts and 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the spelt flour in a food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Slowly add the sugars and continue beating on high speed until thick, pale yellow, and doubled in volume, four to five minutes. Lower the speed and gradually add the flour mixture, then the orange juice and olive oil. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping down the inside of the bowl. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack. Release the pan sides. Carefully invert the cake onto platter and remove the parchment paper. The cake may be made 1 day in advance. Wrap tightly and keep at room temperature. Sift icing sugar over the cake. Combine the yogurt and honey and serve on the side.

Note: Zest the oranges first, then squeeze them for juice. Two large oranges will yield ½ cup (125 mL) of juice.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Aiona Alive West Coast Launch

"You do all the right things; you eat right to nourish 
your body, you exercise to stay strong, so why put 
products on your skin that create the very problems
they claim to eliminate?"

Image by Zed Studio7
Aiona Alive West Coast Launch was held November 30th in Joseph MacKinnon's beautiful Waterfall Building near Granville Island. It may have been raining outside, but as soon as you entered the courtyard, you could see the warm glow of bright lights through the feature glass wall beckoning. Produced by LuvNGrace Entertainment and sponsored by Modern Working Woman, the crowded event was full of interesting displays. Special guests in attendance included most of the cast of the successful dramatic TV series Arctic Air, including series star Adam Beach.

Lisa Strong and Karen Maurage
Image by Harry Leonard Imagery
Let's start with Aiona Alive. It is a revolutionary new skincare line that restores, replenishes and balances the skin. Products are 100% natural with 2 key ingredients: live collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA). The face and body masks create a wearable, breathable moisture mask that help make-up stay on longer saving you both time and money. The line is a collaboration between 2 amazing women - talented, warm and generous spirits - who worked together to find not only the right scents, but the most beneficial oils.  They are -

Lisa Strong - The Founder of Aiona Alive and head makeup artist for Arctic Air - she has been makeup artist in the film industry for over 20 years. During that time Lisa gained considerable knowledge of the detrimental effects that chemical laden skin care products and cosmetics have on the skin. With this knowledge she was instrumental in the development of Aiona Alive, a skincare line that is completely free of synthetic chemicals and is biologically live.

Karen MauragePartner in Aiona Alive, had been working with essential oils to create her own massage oil blends and personal scents for many years when she and Lisa were introduced. They immediately recognized the potential in one another and knew that they would be working together. 

Images by Xelha Photography

This evening held a more open format. Guests mixed and mingled in the main gallery or in the side bar area, while several great exhibits were placed strategically around the circumference of the room. These included - beauty make-up demos by Sappho Cosmetics, Aiona Alive skincare demos, live painting and completed works by Yves Decary and Natalia Krioutchkova and a very cool live photo shoot by Harry Leonard Imagery. Five weeks before the event, photographer Harry Leonard took images of model Annika Ruberg after which she was placed on the Aiona Alive skin care program. Then she was re-photographed by him at the event both before and after makeup application. What a great way to show the product's benefits.

Left image by Harry Leonard Imagery - Right image by Zed Studio7
Several people kept the evening flowing -  Christopher Mark Steffler (Mercury Management) rocked the role of host, Stephanie Deering aka DJ Lizzy spun a great set of music all night and Rachel Ryall graciously poured drinks for the large crowd. A feature wall offering the art of Richard Roblin provided the perfect backdrop for the myriad of photographers in attendance to snap images of guests, celebrities, models and more. Door prizes were awarded as the evening progressed and the event had a charity focus as well with proceeds benefitting My Sister’s Closet - a social enterprise of Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS).

Left and centre image by Xelha Photography - Right image by Dan Poh
Later in the evening, fashion designer Nancy Perreault showcased a beautiful selection of gowns on models Monika Bartnik-BougheyChantal BenzLeeta Liepins and Galina Sanaeva. Hair for the models was created by Genevieve Masson of L'Atelier Salon. Then the evening ended in a very special way. Aiona Alive partner Karen Maurage was called to the stage where she received a marriage proposal from her significant other - James A. Lazaruk. Congrats. The answer was a tearful YES!

Image by Zed Studio7
Want to know more about Aiona Alive?  You can check out their website, facebook page, follow them on twitter or contact Strong or Maurage at the phone numbers below.