Archives for November 2010

2010 Holiday Gift Guide: My Top 10 Cookbook Picks

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved cookbooks. As children, my sister and I would nestle on the sofa, The Encyclopedia of French Cooking opened between us, and we would turn it carefully, page by page, scrunching up our noses over the sautéed chicken livers and sighing over the Raspberry Charlotte and Grand Marnier soufflé. I didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, but I knew I wanted some.

My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was eleven. Pies. I think I made every pie in the book. It was the beginning of what has become a carefully chosen and beloved collection. I never tire of cookbooks. Even though digital recipes from blogs and websites are a huge inspiration and now a normal part of everyday life, I still love to flip through cookbooks, be they old favorites or new acquisitions.

Cookbooks make a fantastic gift for anyone who finds cooking a muse instead of a chore, but with so much selection out there, how does one choose a cookbook that will be used for years?

This following is a list of some of my absolute favorite and most useful cookbooks. I say ‘some’ with all honesty, as it was very hard to narrow the list down to ten, while keeping it diversified. Diversity is key, however, as the dear ones on our Christmas lists are all so different.

For the eco-conscious to the romantic recipient, here are my top ten cookbook recommendations to gift this year. A few are hot off the press and others have been around a tad longer, but are just too good to leave out.

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Two Versatile Homemade Chocolates for Gifting

Written by Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity

I always love making homemade edible gifts to give to people over the holidays. I do, however, try to keep them simple so that they’re not an added stress to an already busy holiday season, so that you can make your loved ones feel special and still be able to actually spend time with them.

Homemade chocolates are a perfect gift to make because not only do they store well in the freezer (if someone is already overloaded with goodies) but they are extremely easy to make and do not require a candy thermometer.

You can get the kids involved too, giving them a fun project on those cold days when you’re all stuck inside. I’m sure they’d be proud to give a batch to their grandma knowing that they had a hand in making them (Grandma will like that too).

I share two of my favorite homemade chocolate recipes below, which are both easy and versatile. For each, I’ve provided a basic recipe along with some of my tried and true flavor combination as well as ways that you can adapt it to make it your own.

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How to Host a Pizza Party


1. Decide to throw a party. If it happens to be your little sister’s twenty-fifth birthday, so be it.

2. Invite friends who like pizza. (Warning: pretty much everyone does, so plan for a houseful.)


3. Make a big bowl of Honey Pizza Dough. OK, make that a GINORMOUS bowl. Don’t worry, you can always freeze the leftovers. (I think I did 8 batches)

4. Roast a several pounds of Roma tomatoes for Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pizza Sauce. This stuff is so good, you almost don’t need any pizza toppings. Almost.

5. Rock as many or as few pizza toppings as you like. (See suggestions below. I went with ‘many’, as you’ll see.)


6. Set up a station for roll/tossing/stretching pizza dough. Find all the pie pans in the house. Provide parchment paper, scissors, olive oil and a rolling pin or two.


7. Preheat the oven to crazy-hot. Like 450 degrees. Invite guests to shape their pizzas.

8. Snap some photos. Sigh. Wish you were twenty-five again. Pour a glass of wine.


9. Set out the prepared pizza toppings. Pictured above: diced sauteed bacon, sliced grilled chicken breast, baby shrimp, broccoli, pepperoni.

Toppings II: sauteed zucchini, diced feta, sauteed leeks, cherry tomatoes, sliced Vidalia onions.
And more toppings…diced colored peppers, Capicola, diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives, mushrooms, apples, pears, Gouda, oven-roasted tomatoes.


10. Encourage guests to create their own pizzas.


11. Get creative. Half pesto, half roasted tomato sauce…


…finished with shrimp, red onion, mozzarella and colored peppers on the pesto, and sauteed leeks, apples and Gouda on the tomato sauce. A.Ma.Zing.


12. Do not laugh at ‘stuffed crust’ attempts. Even if you think that looks like a lot of crust.


13. OK, go ahead and laugh.


14. Eat pizza, pour more wine. Laugh a lot.


15. Berate your friends for not eating more. Attempt to make up for it with another slice or three.

A Virtual Thanksgiving (Recipe: Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits & Herbs)

The very best holiday meals are those where friends and family gather together and everyone brings a dish. These lovingly-prepared contributions compose a complete meal that would otherwise be a lot of work for one poor soul, and represent a community effort where all can benefit, i.e. feast!

This week, a few of my food blogging friends and I are doing just that: we’re throwing a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party and you’re invited. The talented Liz brought us together and we promise to make you hungry each and every day as this progressive meal unfolds all week long. Of course, we hope to inspire you as well.
(Aren’t I lucky? Although we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, I couldn’t turn down this dinner invitation from such a fun bunch of girls, so I’m helping myself to seconds on dressing as we speak.)

Shaina and I are collaborating today to bring you the main feature: the turkey and stuffing. Although we’re both theoretically attending the dinner, we’re cooking our contributions separately because we both feel pretty strongly about how the bird and the dressing go together. Ideally, not at all.
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Holiday 2010 Gift Guide: My Top Ten Stocking Stuffers for the Kitchen

Being the planner and organizer that I am, I’m thinking about Christmas presents already! Most of my family lives either internationally or across Canada, and so I like to get their boxes out by early December. That way I know gifts will arrive on time, plus then I can focus on other important tasks – like baking gingerbread with the boys and getting my season’s greetings in the mail.

So, in the name of organization, I’m bringing you a holiday gift guide for the kitchen in three parts – big items, stocking stuffers and cookbooks – to help you can get some ideas and recommended resources for the cooks and bakers on your list (or your wish list).

Last Friday we looked at my Top Ten ‘Big Ticket’ Kitchen Items, now I want to give you the top ten smaller tools I reach for every day while cooking and baking. They are absolutely essential for all that I do in the kitchen and making the task of preparing three meals a day much simpler.
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