Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Today was spent playing 'Memory', assembling puzzles, eating Christmas cookies and leftover Black Forest Trifle, tromping through the snow and sledding down hills, coming home for hot cocoa, and eating turkey leftovers for dinner.

We're really, really enjoying the holidays.

I've been taking a much-needed blogging break....but did manage to throw together a little video to wish readers happy holidays. Please stop by Simple Bites to receive holiday greetings from the whole family...

There's also been Classic Tourtière, a pretty Citrus Salad (which got picked up by both Glamour and Gourmet. !), and a lengthy, personal and much-loved recap of my holiday cookie swap.

Here's hoping your holiday was a special one.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mince Pie and a video demo

When Danny walked in the door Friday afternoon, he leaned on the door frame, and was completely overcome by an enormous yawn. While his mouth gaped, I laughed at him, because the yawn said it all. It was the end of a long week, a long couple of months, and the beginning of holidays!

It's Christmas vacation!! Well, for Danny, anyway. I'm still hard at work, one of the downsides of working from home. One doesn't just tidy a desk, flip the answering machine to 'away' and take off for two weeks.

I took last night off though. Once two exhausted little kiddos were asleep, Danny made lattes and I baked off a mince pie, (a total cinch, thanks to jars of homemade mincemeat in the fridge and chilled pie crust) and we retreated to our cozy loft to chill and chat about the whole two weeks ahead.

We're looking at a surprisingly relaxed holiday season, mostly because we haven't just moved (one year ago) and I'm not attempting to invite every single person we know over AND attend every event on the calendar.

Sometimes, I do the right thing.

Let's talk about this mincemeat, though.

You may recall I made a Canadian version of this traditional holiday pie filling last year, which I went rather ape over. Seriously, the homemade stuff cannot compare with store bought. Shocking, I know.

This year, I was planning on making more, but hadn't picked up all the ingredients. In fact, a few days of serious snow had me put off grocery shopping altogether and I avoided exiting the house as much as possible. (Thanks goodness for Skype and *high-five* to all work-at-home peeps!)

So here I am one recent morning, with very few groceries, entertaining a Montreal Gazette reporter and photographer in my home for an interview/photo shoot (for a future feature, not out yet) when the photog mentions that his editor wants him to shoot a cooking demo video as well.

Oh. OK. A little notice would have been nice. I scrambled together ingredients for mincemeat and we shot the clip below in one take. A few hours later it was up on the Gazette website, and my mincemeat was stashed in the refrigerator for the holidays. Not a bad morning!

A few notes from the impromptu cooking demo:

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup is too much. I should have said 1/4. But then again, I like my mince on the tart side and not too sweet.
  • I listed cognac as an option for the alcoholic ingredient. I meant brandy. Please don't use cognac! Rum, whiskey or port are also great options.
  • I prefer currants to raisins, but didn't have any in the house.
  • You can grate the apple if you like a finer mincemeat.
Head here for the full recipe.

Do give the recipe a go, then tuck it between two flaky layers of pastry and enjoy the best pie of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winners, all of them

That you all for your patience; I know I've slacked off terribly in announcing the winners to my Phaidon Press cookbook giveaway.

I won't make you wait another minute. There are two winners, as promised:

Congratulations to....

Damaris Santos-Palmer of Kitchen Corners who said:

"I really hope I win this because I seriously want the kids cookbook so bad. Currently I'm enjoying Crazy About Cookies by Krystina Castella. So good!"


Sam of Gastronomists Weekly who said:

"I am currently baking my way through The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. Loving it and learning a lot about bread in the process :)."

Congratulations, ladies!! You have both been notified by email.

A warm thank you to each and everyone who entered the giveaway. I really wish I could award cookbooks to each of you. (please Santa!)

There was also another winner this weekend. Yesterday I hosted my annual Christmas cookie swap and we voted for the best cookie. Twelve girls each contributed the 'Best Cookie of their Lives' and let me tell you, the competition was fierce.

The wining cookie is pictured at the top of the post, Spice Cookie Sandwiches with a Lemon-Mascarpone Cream.

I was happy award the lovely Jess with her prize: The Gourmet Cookie Book. Congrats, Jess!

Look for a full report of the cookie swap soon. It's Here! It's Here!

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Cookbook Giveaway (or three)

This giveaway is now closed. Check back soon for the winners!

Lest you think all the giveaway fun only happens on that other blog of mine, allow me share a very special giveaway opportunity with you today.

Friends at the most amazing Phaidon Press are helping me to give away three of my absolute favorite cookbooks to Under the High Chair readers! Not one, but TWO winners will receive all three cookbooks you see below. Oh yeah! For a couple of readers, your cookbook collection is about to get a lot richer.

Say, did you know Phaidon Press was named as the Best Cookbook Publisher in the World at The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards earlier this year? I know! I just love them. Now here is the awesome thing about these three cookbooks from Phaidon and why I'm so excited to feature them in this giveaway...

There's a cookbook here for everyone.

The young cook.
The home cook.
The gourmand.

No matter where you fit in those various stages of culinary mastery, one of the following cookbooks are sure to fit you like a glove.

The Silver Spoon for Children

Yippee! Finally here is a cookbook for my kids with nary a sprinkle or mini-marshmallow in sight. Instead it is full of over forty well-balanced recipes that feature wholesome ingredients such as beans, fish and vegetables. All dishes are depicted with absolutely charming step-by-step illustrations that present cooking as fun - and it already holds the attention of my 5-year old.

Noah pounced on The Silver Spoon for Children the second it arrived. He sat down and proceeded to read it for nearly thirty minutes. Have I mentioned he's five?

He then had me read him the recipe for Rigatoni and Meatballs, while he followed along with the illustrations, his finger slowly spanning the page. Well, that was that, we had to make dinner together that very night and we did.

Only we changed it up for spaghetti and meatballs. (Yes, I'm teaching him substitution and adaptation early.)

There's no question that this is the cookbook that will nurture every seed I have already planted in my boys and help inspire a lifetime love of cooking.

What to Cook and How to Cook It

This cookbook is the next best thing to having a personal chef demonstrating right in your own kitchen. It really is the ultimate step-by-step illustrated cookbook for adults; each recipe is depicted with clarity and demonstrated with as many as eight photos, leaving little room for question.

What to Cook and How to Cook It IS perfect for beginners, but also compelling for experienced cooks as well. I love its clean, simple layout; somehow it makes the task of preparing dinner seem relaxing.

Recipes are classics: Cinnamon Buns, Barbecue Ribs, Apple Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese.

You find all of your favorite comfort food on the pages of What to Cook and How to Cook it, and with such tantalizing visuals, you'll be opening this cookbook frequently.


Title: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
Author:René Redzepi
Photographer: Ditte Isager

It sounds like the sappiest thing to say, but this cookbook took my breath away when it arrived. I believe I tweeted:
"NOMA! Just received this astonishing cookbook?artwork?manual? from Phaidon. Almost want to weep at the beauty of it. #coffeetablestatus"
After one rapturous trip through the cookbook and its extraordinarily beautiful photos, I immediately cleared a place of honor on my coffee table for Noma.

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine is the new cookbook from chef René Redzepi, a chef who's passion is to create something from nature. His Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, holds the prestigious title of, well, The Worlds Best Restaurant. Yeah, serious stuff.

Will I ever cook from it? Never say never, so I'll say probably, one day. Will I frequently flip through it, sigh over the photographs, find inspiration in the essays and draw from chef Rene's refreshing philosophies of food and nature? Absolutely.

Boasting 365 pages, 200 photographs, 90 recipes, and an education in Nordic cuisine, Noma is THE most sensational addition to my sizable cookbook collection this year.


The prize package includes the following cookbooks from Phaidon Press.
Two winners will be selected to receive the prize package.

How to enter:

Let keep this simple, shall we?

Leave a comment to enter this giveaway answering this question: "What cookbook are you currently enjoying?"

This giveaway will end Friday, December 10, 2010 and 11:59 pm. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The First Gingerbread of the Season

Some people hmm and haw over the type of Christmas cookies to make each year, flipping though stacks of magazines and surfing endless recipes sites in search of the perfect holiday cookie that will surpass all baking efforts from subsequent years.

Not I.

It's gingerbread for me. Every year. The little spiced men and I have exchanged vows and we're together until death do us part. Or snack time, which ever comes first.

Now that I have children who are old enough to really get into the cookie decorating, it's all the more reason to bake up an enormous batch of gingerbread cookies.

Last Friday was a ped day for Noah, and in hindsight, Mateo and I had prepared a double batch of gingerbread cookie dough the day before. Ten cups of flour, a pound of butter - we didn't mess around.

We woke up to fresh snow on the ground, perfect for our holiday project. Spurred to action by the prospect of fresh gingerbread and inspired by the Christmas card setting outside the double patio doors, I extricated three boxes of Christmas decorations from a closet and - Diana Krall's holiday CD tootling away - flew around flinging ornaments, wreaths and bells about the place in a festive fashion.

Our friends arrived for the cookie decorating fun in a bundle of pink and purple outerwear and we got down to business immediately.

Between my friend Tavia's cookies and our gingerbread, we had over ten dozen cookies to decorate that would be later donated to a children's function at church. OK, minus those that would not make it past the little decorators.

Still, eight dozen cookie to decorate is nothing to sneeze at.

Our little bambinos seemed up for the task, so we equipped them with the appropriate tools (colored Royal icing, sprinkles, and Popsicle sticks), then sat back and let them go to town.

Incredibly, they stayed put for over an hour, and turned out some darling little cookies.

The final product! Minus the two dozen or so that were consumed. There were many casualties among the gingerbread army.

I finally had to tell Noah enough. Enough! A few minute later I saw his hand reach out and select another one.

Me: "Noah! Put that back. I said you've had enough cookies!"

Noah (cradling the gingerbread lovingly close to his cheek): "Let's just pretend it's not a cookie."

Boy, do I ever wish that worked.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies
This recipe is from Nick Malgeiri and you can find the original recipe HERE.

Makes about 24 large cookies, depending on the size cutter used (Aimee's note: I probably got 8 dozen small cookies, but I roll mine thin so they crisp nicely.)

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup molasses
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Stir well to mix.

2. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beater.

3. Lower speed and beat in about half the flour mixture. Beat in all the molasses then scrape bowl and beater. Add the remaining flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, and beat after each addition until it has all been absorbed.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape half the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to about a 1/2-inch thickness.

Wrap the dough securely and repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or for up to 3 days.

5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

6. Unwrap one of the pieces of dough and cut it in half. Rewrap one of the halves and return it to the refrigerator.

7. On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floured cutter to cut the cookies. As they are cut, place the cut cookies on the prepared pans with about 1 inch between them on all sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Save, press together, and reroll scraps (they don't need to be chilled before rerolling).

8. Bake the cookies until they become dull and dry looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 12 to 15 minutes. If you overbake the cookies, they will be very dry. Slide papers from pans onto racks to cool.

9. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

For the decorating, I used Martha's recipe for royal icing, which calls for meringue powder. I recommend using this over egg whites if you are decorating with/for children.

Also, a touch of almond extract in the icing improves the taste quite a bit.

Happy December and happy baking!


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