Friday, December 19, 2008

Fig and Walnut Tapenade With Goat Cheese

Every time I make this appetizer, people rave about it. It's deceptively simple to make, though. I've tried mixing up the herb and nut combinations for fun. As the recipe suggests, pinenuts are nice replacement for the walnuts. And if you don't have thyme, rosemary is pretty yummy.

Enjoy! It's a great holiday appetizer!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My First Ever Whole Fish

Vince and Cristina initiated me into a completely new culinary realm this weekend. The cooking of a whole fish. The experience was pretty funny (the pictures below will tell that story).

Unfortunately, I can't really share any wisdom on how to do it because all I really did was observe. Although I did learn from Cristina that when you're choosing a fish, you should try to find one with very red gills and no clouding in the eyes.

Preparation seemed to involve a careful cleaning, some oil, spice, and onion both inside and on the fish, and finally baking at 400.

The end result was really delicious, but pretty laborious to eat. There seemed to be a lot more inedible carcass than meat.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Bouquet of Swiss Chard

On Saturday, Jase and I were visiting a craft sale that included a booth selling local fresh produce. On our way out the door, the farmer handed us this gorgeous handful of chard (as a bonus present!), with yellow, pink, orange and red stems. Since we didn't have a big enough bag, we ended up walking down Commercial Drive with the chard in hand, and also riding the bus with all this plumage. What a conversation starter...everyone wants to talk about rainbow vegetables and their beauty.

After Jase was gone, I had nothing but the chard to comfort me in his absence. So I simply steamed the leafy greens (and reds and pinks and yellows and oranges) in a bamboo vegetable steamer. I added a little sesame oil and soy sauce...

...and Jase, it was delicious!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day of New Food!

Yesterday I was delighted to discover that my 12 year old nephew and I share many of the same tastes in food!

The day began with me introducing him to Smoked Tofu...
...and turns out he liked it. And so, we made our sandwiches for the day with Smoked Tofu, Deli Sprouts (which he had also never tried, but liked!), Dijon Mustard and Extra-Aged White Cheddar--all on Uprising Bakery Sprouted Grain Bread.

Jase claimed it was the best sandwich he had ever had (which I did not force him or bribe him to say). I suspect he has a future as a foodie, which pleased me to no end.

After we made our sandwiches, we collected autumn leaves and took a gigantic skytrain tour. We ended up at Commercial Drive, where Jase said he'd enjoy exploring a cheese shop...hello La Grotta del Formaggio, the coolest Italian cheese shop in town! We chose a Lemon Stilton and an Applewood Smoked Cheddar and got a foccacia to go with it. (Jase especially loved the lemon stilton, and we had it in our salad later that evening).

We passed by Elizabeth's Hungarian Bakery, where Jase chose something he had never tried before (an Apple Danish with sugar powder on top) and I opted for the pecan tart.

Being so close to Grandview Park on a lovely day, we planted ourselves on a bench and ate our picnic: the smoked tofu sandwiches, the cheeses and the desserts (which we are eating in the photo at the top of this post).

To top it all off, we stopped at Sunshine Market on the way back to my place where Jase suggested we try some chestnuts. Another new food experience! Because I could not find the nutcracker, Jase promptly figured out how to get at the meaty chestnut deliciousness by hammering them with the blunt end of an axe. That motivated me to find that nutcracker real fast.
Jase just reminded me that we have some more chestnuts we could smash and eat, so I'm gonna wrap this up and go chow down.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi

This was my dinner tonight. And it was so good. I have Cristina to thank for this dish.

Here's a very abridged recipe:

Two 10oz packages of frozen spinach
Defrost spinach
2 tbsp of butter in pan
Medium heat
2 tbsp of chopped onion
Let turn golden
Throw in spinach and saute for 4 minutes or so
Transfer to mixing bowl
Add 1.5 cups ricotta
Add 1 1/3 cup flour
4 egg yolks
2 cups parmesan cheese
Grated nutmeg

Make the little gnocchis
Boil until they float
Put in buttered baking dish
Sprinkle with parmesan
375 for 5-10 minutes


The sauce is explained in another post.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods (just like baked macaroni). It seems like it should be a complicated thing to make, but it's not really.

Tonight I was inspired by one lonely left-over eggplant and a couple of haggard-looking tomatoes. Here's what I did with them.

Sauce (I learned this from Cristina)
I peeled the tomatoes. (I usually just pour boiling water over them in a bowl, and in one minute the skins begin to split are really easy to peel off.) I chopped them up, threw them into a sauce pan with some butter, fresh basil, chili flakes, half an onion (unchopped), and salt.

I let these ingredients simmer together on medium-low while I prepare the rest of the meal.

I sliced the eggplant up and sprinkled salt on each slice, let them sweat, and dabbed the moisture off with a paper towel. After that, I dusted each piece with flour, coated with egg, and then covered it with bread crumbs. (I use panko crumbs, the Japanese kind, because they fry up so nicely.)

I heated about a inch of canola oil in a frying pan and tested with with crumb or two before putting in the eggplant slices in.

Once the eggplant is fried and the sauce has simmered for a while (45 minutes?), I poured a layer of the sauce into a casserole and then placed the breaded eggplant in the dish in one layer. I put a bit more sauce on top, and finished it off with a layer of mozzarella and dried oregano and basil.

I put it in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes.

Tonight I was lucky because I had some leftover fresh pasta noodles. A very yummy and filling accompaniment for my eggplant.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Compost Bucket

Within minutes, the vegetables formerly attached to these peelings were mashed and blended into a gazpacho (this recipe was only a loose guide) that looked like brownish mush. Beauty in the throw-aways...

Farmer's Market Fruit Salad

As if there weren't enough reasons to love the local Farmer's Market...check out this bountiful late-summer fruit salad! Part of this charming continental breakfast for two. What do we have here? A lucious peach, a tasty plum, a crisp apple, some tangy blueberries and a velvety pear. The recipe? Chop up aforementioned fruit and put it in a bowl. As you can clearly see, the colourful salad really brings to life an otherwise unassuming breakfast of boiled eggs and toast (though still classic and delicious)!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The World's Best Sandwich

We took a bit of a blogging hiatus this summer, but rest assured we ate MANY amazing meals.

It's time to get back in gear, though, and so I thought I'd ease myself in with a quick and easy post about my all-time favourite sandwich. I think the first time I had this sandwich, I was in an Ottawa restaurant. That was ages ago, though, and the version I make today probably doesn't resemble the original at all. But that doesn't matter to me because I think my version is perfect!

Roasting zucchini and eggplant
I slice the eggplant and zucchini thinly and sprinkle some salt over it. I let it sweat for a bit, and then dab off the moisture. Then I brush on a garlic and olive mixture and bake it in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Sundried tomato pesto
This part is usually different every time I make it, but tonight I had sundried tomatoes marinated in oil, walnuts, fresh thyme, and Parmesan on hand. They all went into the Cuisinart, and I mixed them into a paste.

The rest
Of course, it's important to choose a really delicious bread. Tonight's sandwich was made from a lovely pumpkin seed loaf. For greens, I used arugula: delish, peppery, herby. I toasted the bread, layered the fixings on, including asiago cheese. I always use asiago in the World's Best Sandwich. I think it's important.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sunny Sangria

Wow. I cannot stop making this stuff. And you can see why...yes, I see you now running to your fridge for ingredients, eager to join in on the bliss! But what ARE the ingredients for this luscious summer refreshment? It's the simplest sangria imaginable and I can tell you all about it in mere moments:

*a couple limes
*some low-quality red wine (preferably chilled)
*club soda (also chilled)
*an ice-cube or two

Squeeze a bunch of the limes and add sugar to the juice until you think it tastes pretty good. Pour some of that yummyness into a wine glass. Add a respectable amount of the wine. Top it off with club soda. Don't worry too much about the proportions, you really can't screw this one up, it's so good. But I generally go with about 1/4 lime, 1/2 wine, 1/4 club soda. Toss an ice cube into that bad boy and you're good to go. Viva summer!

Creative tip: If you add enough sugar to the lime juice to make it a bit on the thick side, and then add the wine too it really slowly, you might manage to make it layer, which looks gorgeous.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Citrus Quinoa Salad

I surfed the net for something to bring to an evening BBQ on the beach and this salad intrigued me. I didn't have all the ingredients, but my roomate Carla did (thanks, Carla!).

Turned out to be pretty delicious, and a lot of folks liked it. I'd recommend it. I wouldn't skip out on the "optional" toasted almonds...they really added a wonderful flavour.

And of course everyone can imagine what I think about adding raisins to the salad instead of the figs (boo! yuck!).

Oh, and one more thing...I used fresh orange segments instead of canned mandarins. I mean, duh.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Counting the Costs--A Mindful Meal

This Mother's Day, and in honour of mothers, we hosted a food event designed to help us make a little go a long way, in the hopes of cultivating mindfulness and showing a small gesture of solidarity during this time of global food crisis.

For example, I was deeply troubled by a recent email from my friends Odee and Monica whose family (sister) is in the Phillipines: "The family now only eats 2 meals a day, instead of 3, in order to cut down on their rice consumption. A 50 kg bag of rice used to cost 800 pesos ($16). Now, it's 2000 pesos ($40). (For scale, the average annual household income is about $1,500.)"

This is not far removed, people, these are our friends and neighbours.

So what did we do? Here's an exerpt from the email I sent out to a group of friends:

"How about an evening of solidarity? A team of us (myself, Cristina, and Claire) will go shopping for a meal that people contribute a mere $2 for. So, if 10 people want to participate, we take $20 and try to prepare a meal for 10 with that budget for example. We could try to make it as delicious as possible, and I suspect we all might be frustrated by the limitations, which is okay too. We can take this as a challenge, and learn how to eat well during this approaching food crisis! We were also thinking, if you'd like, to opt to pay $10, and we'd donate the remaining $8 to the foodbank or another worthy cause."

We ended up with 12 people committing to dinner, and therefore $24 to work with. I was pleased to do most of the photo-journalism while two of my favourite chefs did the food planning, calculating and preparing :). That is to say, Claire, Cristina and I brainstormed some options of what to make, emptied our wallets of everything except $24 in cash (no plastic for back-up!), and then hit the aisles of Save-On-Foods and their impressive Bulk Food section.
I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone, but we quickly discovered that rice, a legume-style protein and some sort of cheap vegetable dish would be our best bang for buck. We meticulously weighed out 1500g of rice...I was advocating for 100g per person, plus a little extra in case we had unexpected guests. The rice amounted to just under $4.00 at 25 cents per 100g. Next, we chose dried yellow peas at 43 cents per 100g (compare to red lentils at an outrageous 45 cents per 100g!). So we got about 800g for $3.35. We were doing well with our staples, so we hit the veggie section before we got attached to any particular spices or other "frills"...

As you can see there was hardly a moment where Cristina was not calculating, Claire was not weighing and comparing, and I was not lustfully eyeing the bulk-chocolate section...

Anyway, we realized, after all this precision, that we had the budget for a curry inspired by one of Claire's favourites, potatoes in spicy tomato yogurt sauce. We could scarcely believe we had room in our budget for yogurt, but we did find some good stuff on sale, and actually it wasn't even much of a stretch to squeeze the $3 product in there. We were suspecting by now that $2 a person was actually rather generous.

After these decisions, we reached Claire and Cristina's playland: the spice section (Please hold your references to "Girl Power"... Okay, they do kind of remind me of Sporty and Posh).

We acquired the necessary spices...cumin, coriander, serrano (don't ask me), sea salt, a cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and so on. Most spices amounted to less than 30 cents each. Those that Claire had at home, we budgeted for, but did not buy. In other words, we did not give ourselves the liberty to just raid Claire's spice rack, each spice used had to be accounted for in the tally. We also did this for the oil (we allowed ourselves $2 worth of oil). I was very strict about no cheating by adding flavours randomly. Just ask the Spice Girls.

In the end, we even had enough for 7 bulk-section teabags, and 3 apples for dessert! Our final total was right around $23.65 (I say "around" because the calculating of the cost of each spice was determined once we got back to Claire's).

This is what we were working with... is our triumphant receipt and math scribbles to prove it...

...and this is the delicious (and ample) meal that resulted...
Before we began eating, we reflected on how the food crisis is affecting much of the world, including ourselves both directly and indirectly. I read from Pema Chødrøn's Practicing Peace In Times of War: "What I'm advocating here is something that requires courage--the courage to have a change of heart. The reason this requires courage is because when we don't do the habitual thing, hardening our heart and holding tightly to certain views [and ways of living], then we're left with the underlying uneasiness that we were trying to get away from. Whenever there's a sense of threat, we harden. And so if we don't harden, what happens? We're left with that uneasiness, that feeling of threat. That's when the real journey of courage begins." (p. 28-29).

I guess I felt like sitting with my affluence and my privilege in the midst of this food-shortage makes me uncomfortable in a profound way, and I want that feeling to change me, and make me a more compassionate person on this planet.

So everyone ate until they were full, and we had $100 to put towards a good cause (which I am in the process of wiring to our friend Bart in Kenya, who is helping run a lunch program for kids there). And look, we even had left-overs...

We realized the real challenge would probably be to feed that many people on 50 cents a person. Or to buy only local, or only organic. We decided there were probably many themes that would challenge us to create more mindful meals. I know I learned a lot, particularly from the shopping experience, and I already feel like I am observing my $7 wedge of asiago cheese with suspicion. (Can it really go the distance for me?...oh, but its taste! How I crave it, like an unsuitable crush!)

Please leave your comments for what you'd like to see us do next...or what you'd like to do with your own community!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Poker and Paska

It is an Easter Tradition where I'm from to make a sweet, eggy bread called "Paska". This Easter (admittedly, a while ago now), I invited about 10 hot and savvy ladies over for Poker and Paska night. The poker part is not part of the tradition, but there is a first time for everything.

To start, we admired my Mom's lucious Paska recipe...

I don't enjoy typing recipes out, and this blog is for fun. So read the recipe card above, and then basically after that part, you add about 5-6 cups of flour, as seen here......and then knead the heck out of it. Let it double in bulk, about one hour and play poker while you're waiting. Win big money. When you don't win big because I took all the winnings, you have the chance to take out your frustration by punching down the dough. Then form it into shapely loaves and let these rise another hour while, you guessed it, playing poker...or standing around as so elegantly demonstrated below.

Finally, you end up with beautiful loaves of Paska, that can be admired, or devoured on the poker table, which is what we did, while dipping chunks of it into bowls of creamy icing (as seen at the first photo on the top of this post). For the icing recipe, you must consult the Mennonite Treasury. Or post a comment and I'll give it to you. And for the record, 16 loaves of paska came out of my oven that week, so pretty much everyone I know participated in the bounty.
For more info, Anicka found a sister blogsite with more instructions on paska-making...

Can't wait 'til next Easter already.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baked Macaroni

Baked macaroni ranks right up there with my all-time favourite comfort foods. There's never a time when I don't feel like eating it. I've made it so many times now that I don't remember how or where I learned this recipe, I just seem to know it in my bones.

Make the topping
  • 1.5 to 2 c bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients, adding butter last. Set aside in a bowl.

Make a mornay sauce
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/4 diced onion
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1.5 c warm milk
  • 2 c grated cheddar
  • salt to taste
Melt butter and saute onion until translucent. Gradually stir in flour. Let sizzle for a bit. Add milk gradually, whisking all the while. On medium-low heat, whisk once in a while until the sauce thickens. Once thick, turn burner off and add cheddar. Mix until the cheese is melted.

Cook the macaroni
  • 2 c macaroni
Boil the macaroni for 6-7 minutes. Should be al dente.

Layer cooked macaroni and sauce in a buttered casserole dish. Pour in remaining sauce and stir until all pasta is coated. Pour on topping and pat down a bit.

Bake for 35ish minutes at 400ish. I usually keep it covered until the last 5ish minutes.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roasted-Vegetable Panzanella!

What a fabulous use for day-old bread. This salad was the perfect solution to all the manna that we produced during our bread-making class. A simple recipe that I would definitely make again!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beautiful Bread

Yesterday I took a bread-making class at the Cook Shop. We ended the class by taking home some unbaked whole wheat bread dough. And I just baked mine this morning. I'm pretty proud of this petite little loaf. It's so beautiful. And that's really all I have to say about it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Brunching With Da Ladies

Brunch was revived this morning after its brief hiatus. As usual, this morning's brunch was as much about the comfort we draw from one another's company as it is about the food. Nevertheless, the food always delights and this morning was no exception.

Cappuccinos, fruit juice, Anicka's famous scones, grapefruit, and smoked salmon hash were on the menu this morning, and I'm delighted that Anicka reminded me to copy down the scone recipe for posterity. So without further ado, here it is: the best scone recipe you'll ever taste.

Anicka's Famous Scones
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1 2/3 c flour
  • 1 1/3 c oats
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 stick butter + 2 tbsp

Mix the egg and buttermilk first.

Then mix all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter and mix with your hands until pea sized. Don't overmix, warns Anicka.

Add the egg/buttermilk mixture to the dry stuff and gently knead. Form the dough into a 6" circle and cut into wedges.

Bake for 20-22 minutes at 400 (for us, they were done in 16 minutes so watch them carefully).


Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Long Overdue Post on Delicious Indian Curry

Okay, here it is. My my all-time favourite curry recipe. Always a crowd pleaser!

(Catherine, do you have any photos of this?)

Whole Potatoes in Spicy Yogurt Gravy

  • 12 even-sized small boiling potatoes (2 lbs all together)
  • 7 tablespoons Indian vegetable shortening or light vegetable oil (try a bit less)
  • 1.5 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 0.5-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Mughal garam masala
  • 2 cups chopped or pureed fresh tomatoes (or 1 cup canned tomato sauce)
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt (use 1 teaspoon or less)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

1. Peel potatoes, and prick them with a thin skewer or knife in 4 or 5 places. Put them in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to cook them.

2. Heat 5 tablespoons of the shortening in a large non-stick pan that can hold all the potatoes in one layer over medium high heat. When the shortening is very hot, drain the potatoes, pat them dry on paper towels, and add. Fry them until acquire several tiny browned spots and a crust (8-10 minutes), turning and tossing them to ensure even browning. (This is an essential step, as the browning prevents the potatoes falling part during prolonged cooking.) With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl.

3. Add the rest of the shortening to the pan along with the onions. Fry until the onions turn caramel brown (about 15 minutes), stirring constantly so they do not burn. Add ginger, and fry for an addition .5 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric red pepper, mughal garam masala all at once, and stir rapidly for 15 seconds. Add tomatoes, yogurt , salt, and the fried potatoes (in one layer), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer very gently, cover, for 35 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked. Check during cooking to make sure the gravy is not sticking and burning. The gravy should be thick enough to coat the potatoes. If it looks thin and runny, increase heat and boil rapidly, uncovered, until reduces to the desired consistency. If, on the other hand, the gravy is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.

4. Add cream, stir, and simmer until heated through. If you want the dish to taste milder and subtler, stir in a little more shortening. Check for salt and serve.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Indian Inspired Outstandingness

Uploading this picture caused me to drool and swoon all over again. On a recent ski-trip to Mt. Washington, 15 friends decided to divide up the dinner preparations. John, Claire and I schemed an Indian-themed dinner...Claire made something yummy that I don't know the name of at the moment (help, Claire!) involving delicious potatoes and golden onions and tomato and all that good stuff. She also made an OUTSTANDING mint chutney that I hope she will blog about. And let's not forget those Naan crackers:

John made Nepal's national dish, Dhal Bhat, mmmmmmm. I made Green Onion Chick Pea Curry from Vij's new cookbook (below). Very easy and incredibly saliva-worthy. Before I post the recipe, observe John, Claire and I in perfect culinary can tell, we can hardly tell what's happening we're so blissed-out.
Okay, so here's the recipe:

Green Onion and Coconut Chickpea Curry
1/2 cup canola oil
1Tbsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions (1 large)
12 oz tomatoes, chopped (2 medium)
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp finely chopped giner
4 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeno peppers
3 cans (15-16 oz each) chickpeas, drained
1 cup coconut milk, stirred
7 oz green onions, green parts only, in 1/4 inch pieces

Heat oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add onions and sauté 8-10 minutes, or until they are brown. Stir in tomatoes, salt, ginger and jalapeno peppers and stir well. Sauté for about 5-8 minutes, or until oil glistens on tip. Stir in chickpeas and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Stir chickpeas at least once while they are simmering. Add green onions, stir and simmer chickpeas for just 1 minute more, then turn off the heat.

That's it! Thanks to Ange for giving me the recipe and for the sacrifice it entailed (read: ripped and spilled-on pages)to her copy of Vij's Cookbook.

Behold! Some of our appreciative diners, indulging in a plate of heavenly goodness.
In summary, I'd highly recommend making Indian-inspired food. As if you couldn't have guessed.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Crack Cookies (aka Rochelle's Gingersnaps)

Rochelle's gingersnaps have quite the reputation. After polishing off a batch of these highly addictive little morsels, Alison and Kristing dubbed them "crack cookies." It's a name that's stuck. Now, there's no actual crack in them per se, but Alison and Kristin are pretty convinced that some kind of mind-altering chemical reaction happens when you eat them. Watch out.

Wet stuff
  • 3/4 c butter

  • 1 c white sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 c molasses
Dry stuff
  • 2 1/2 c flour

  • 2 tsp baking soda

  • 2 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix everything together in the usual cookie way. Then cook 'em: 350 for 9 minutes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Joy in the Simple Things

I know what you're thinking...I couldn't possibly make delicious home-made bread like this unless I took all day to do it and even then I would be frustrated. But you are wrong. This post contains three recipes that are unbelievably simple, and have been a big hit with guests. The three recipes are:
1. Quick Beer Bread (that's right, beer)
2. Pear Custard Bars
3. Pomegranate-Blueberry-Clubsoda Splash

1. Quick Beer Bread (featured above)

Check it out, this is how easy it is:

One 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 81/2 x 41/2-inch loaf pan.
Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups light or dark beer (but not stout), cold or at room temperature, but not flat
Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center and all the way to the bottom of the pan comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

For some, myself included, it is somewhat of a sacrifice in the moment to pour beer anywhere except into a glass or my own mouth, but in the end it is worth it.

2. Pear Custard Bars

(from the now-famous "Simply in Season" cookbook)

The crust:

1/3 cup / 75 ml butter (softened)

1/3 cup / 75 ml sugar

Cream together with an electric mixer or vigourously by hand.

3/4 cup/ 175 ml nuts (chopped...I use almonds)

Stir in and press into an 8x8-inch / 2-L baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350F / 180C until lighly browned, 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

The custard:

8 ounces / 220 g cream cheese (softened)

1/2 cup / 125 ml sugar (NOTE! I use about half this amount of sugar)

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla. Pour over crust.

The pears:

3 cups / 750 ml fresh pears (peeled and sliced)

Arrange over filling.

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

(I also like to had a tablespoon or two of whiskey or cognac...just to keep with the prudent-use-of-alcohol theme of this blog entry.)

Combine and sprinkle over pears. Bake in preheated oven at 350F / 180C for 25-30 minutes.

Now, to make them into "bars" you are supposed to cool for 45 minutes, then cover and refrigerate at least 45 minutes before cutting. Store in refrigerator.

But I like to serve it hot with ice-cream! (see photo....mmmm....)

3. Pomegranate-Blueberry-Clubsoda Splash

In case you can't figure out this liven-up-any-dinner-party gem yourself, go buy some SoNice pomegranate-blueberry juice, pour a bit in a glass, and top off generously with Club Soda. Oh yes, and the add-your-alcohol-of-choice would be vodka or gin. But honestly, I just lap it up alcohol-less, it's really that yummy.

And finally, here is a photo to prove just how satisfied your post-eating dinner guests can be (and such a good-looking bunch to boot!)