Archive for the 'appetizers' Category

12 Days of Recipes: Cranberry-Mandarin Christmas Preserves

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Baked brie with Christmas preserves: it’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast, probably.

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I’ve embraced this season of chocolates, cookies and leftover party food as in place of our regular meals, or at least as supplements. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten more baked brie in the last few weeks as I have all year – and I’m counting on more tonight.

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About twenty years ago, I was in my early twenties visiting a friend in Saskatoon – she lived in a corner bungalow that back then cost so little these days I could probably put it on my credit card – and she had two small kids, a work and soccer schedule, and the whole scenario seemed so grown-up, especially when we decided one day to make a big pot of preserves to divvy into jars and hand out as Christmas gifts. We came up with this mishmash of holiday flavours – citrus, cranberries, nuts and spice – and made a special run to the store for some liquid pectin, which it turns out we didn’t really need. It tasted like Christmas, and we sat on stools in the kitchen and ate so much of it spread on crackers that I had to curl up on the couch afterward. (We may have been chasing it with Bailey’s.)

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I’ve been meaning to make it again, and came across the old jotted-down-on-foolscap recipe, which it turns out (now that I know better) needed a lot of tweaking. It is perhaps the simplest preserve you could make, the high-pectin cranberries taking care of any jelling that needs to happen. It’s also a great way to use up those smooshy Mandarin oranges that seem to abound in every box. It’s sort of a holiday preserve cure-all; it’s not really jam, but is great on toast. It’s delicious warmed and poured over ice cream or cake, or spooned into the middle of those little shortbread thumbprint cookies. And of course – on top of a wheel of Brie. (Slice the rind off the top of a wheel of brie, put it in a baking dish, top with big spoonfuls of these preserves and bake at 350 or so until it starts to get all melty. That’s it.) And it keeps for ages in jars in the fridge or freezer – I imagine you could process it for longer shelf storage, too – I packed mine into Weck jars and will be bringing it along to Christmas parties for the next couple weeks.

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Speaking of processing – this process was sped up by pulsing the oranges and lemons into a chunky mash in a food processor. It was part of a quest to come up with holiday recipes for fun kitchen appliances at London Drugs – and they have another $100 gift card to give away to one of you for your shopping pleasure! (Disclaimer: it doesn’t have to be for anyone else, you could just shop for yourself.) I should also mention that it’s my belief that kitchen appliances make perfectly suitable gifts – I know a lot of men are told they should be buying jewelry or some such, and that home appliances come with some negative domestic implications, but I for one would choose a waffle iron or coffee machine over diamonds any day. Just sayin’.

To enter, leave a comment here! If you’re heading to a Christmas party (or hosting one) this weekend, what was your favourite thing to eat? And if you’re hunkering down at home and avoiding those minus a hundred temperatures, what have you been eating curled up on the couch?

Cranberry-Mandarin Christmas Preserves

5-6 Mandarin oranges or 2-3 regular oranges
2 small lemons
4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Grate the zest off the oranges and lemons into a large saucepan or small pot. Peel the fruit and break (or slice) the insides into chunks (quarters are fine) into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, just until chunky. Add to the saucepan with the zest.

Add the sugar, cranberries, raisins, cinnamon and allspice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture thickens and becomes more uniform in colour and the cranberries pop. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks, if you used them, and stir in the pecans.

Store in jars in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes about 6 cups.

* This post was generously sponsored by London Drugs as part of their #LDHoliday campaign, but the words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!

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December 07 2013 | appetizers and preserves | 92 Comments »

12 Days of Recipes: Spiced Nuts

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The countdown has begun. It’s officially that time of year when I convince myself that a slab of dark fruitcake is akin to a power bar, and thus a perfectly acceptable breakfast. (Note to self: make dark fruitcake.) That said, I do try to offset the copious amounts of shortbread and salted caramel with healthy stuff, like nuts. Spiced nuts taste (almost) as Christmassy to me as anything (nearly), and when charged with coming up with recipes to use some of the small appliances they have at London Drugs, all I could think about the T-falActifry, beyond the obvious curiousness about its ability to cook a batch of fries using only a spoonful of oil (it works!) is I BET THAT COULD DO ROASTED NUTS.

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Never mind chestnuts roasting on an open fire – who can find chestnuts, anyway? – how about spiced nuts roasting as a metal arm gently churns them, something I’m unable to effectively do at the stove, thus my reputation for burning hundreds of dollars’ worth of nuts every year?

You toss the lot into the top of the Actifry and turn it on, and let them gently roast as the machine evenly distributes the spices and acts like a giant electric potpourri. As it turns out, you can’t do deep fried things in it, but it apparently makes a mean chicken wing, and of course the aforementioned French fries. Which are perfect for – ahem – turkey dinner poutine. Oh yes.

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Of course you could as easily do these in the oven – something I’ve been doing for years. But. This time I have an actual T-fal Actifry sitting in my front hallway, generously supplied by London Drugs to give away to one of you! I hate to limit this one to Calgary only, but it would be a monster to ship, and I’m already feeling sorry for all the overworked delivery people at this time of year.

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Spiced nuts are of course great to have a stash of on hand for parties and gift-giving; I like to have a jar on the shelf to chop and scatter on salads, too. The recipe doubles or triples easily if you want a larger batch. You can make them now and keep them to nibble throughout December.

To enter to win this fab Actifry, leave a comment here! Let us know what you’re cooking up this weekend, or whether you’re leaving that up to someone else and going out.

Spiced Nuts

2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil or melted butter
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cups unsalted mixed nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, cashews and almonds
2 tsp. flaky sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Pour the oil into a small ramekin and add the garlic; swish it around and set aside for a few minutes, then remove the garlic clove.

In a medium bowl, toss the nuts with the garlicky oil and spices until well coated.

Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and golden. Alternatively, cook in the Actifry until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.

Makes about 2 cups.

* This post was generously sponsored by London Drugs as part of their #LDHoliday campaign, but the words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!

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November 29 2013 | appetizers and snacks | 150 Comments »

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