It’s two weeks to Christmas, so time to get baking and mixing.
With extra family and friends dropping by over the next few weeks, you’ll want to have some special treats to serve them, both sweet and savoury.
Remember if you’re having a group over at some point during the holidays to plan on offering some dishes that you can prepare ahead of time, so you can enjoy yourself while your guests do.
You’re probably also thinking about gifts for your favourite fellow food-lovers, and there is a wonderful variety of great cookbooks out there today, with new ones arriving on the shelves every day.
I’ve reviewed a few possibilities in recent weeks, but there are some that I haven’t been able to get to yet, which might also interest you.
That includes fellow food columnist Jennifer Schell’s book, The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine and Cheese Maker, which includes recipes from the Okanagan’s finest chefs, as well as matching beverages from the valley’s winemakers and brewers, along with local cheeses and breads.
As you plan your special meals for the coming weeks, remember to source out local spirits, wines, ciders and beers as we now have a burgeoning industry in all of them, right here.
When planning menus, take your inspiration from local on-farm operations such as Function Junction at Highway 33 and Springfield Road (open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons now); Graziano, Gatzke, Davison and of course, the Kelowna Farmers’ And Crafters’ Market. Many have their own websites with details of their operations.
Whatever you make, enjoy preparing foods from the heart, garnished with your love for friends and family and you can be sure it will be appreciated.
For more ideas of seasonal dishes for every meal of the day, turn to the winter section in Jude’s Kitchen, a collection of 200 of my favourite recipes inspired by local ingredients, many paired with B.C. VQA wines by renowned wine writer John Schreiner. It’s organized by the season, because that’s how I cook, so what’s available locally in each season ends up on my table.
It’s available at local bookstores, wine shops and the B.C. Wine Museum, and I’m sure it would be received with delight by your favourite cook.
Elise’s Jewelled Cookie Slices
My friend Elise is a great cook and I have many recipes from her excellent collection, as well as lots of great memories of Christmas baking sessions together—including one where she made a gingerbread house with my two daughters when they were little. It was really something!
1/3 c. (75 ml) butter
1/3 c. (75 ml) sugar
1/4 c. (60 ml) packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla
1/2 c. (125 ml) chopped candied fruit
2 tbsp. (30 ml) slivered almonds
1 1/2 c. (375 ml) flour
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking powder
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml) baking soda
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml) nutmeg
Beat butter and sugars. Add egg & vanilla, mix well.
Stir in fruit and almonds. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.
Spread evenly in a foil-lined loaf pan, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Remove dough from pan and cut into slices.
Place on greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Two-Cheese Spread or Stuffing for Vegetable Cases
Use this to fill hollowed-out cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, or serve to spread on cucumber rounds, melba toasts, crackers or mini bread slices. You can make this a day ahead and the flavours will improve. If you’d prefer the onion flavour to be less pronounced, add it just before serving, and garnish with a few shreds too. You could also chop up pecans, walnuts, ripe olives or sweet pickles and add to this for a slightly different texture and flavour, or garnish it with one of them.
8 oz. (250 g) cheddar cheese
8 oz. (250 g) cream cheese
2 tbsp. (30 ml) dry sherry
1 tsp. (5 ml) dry mustard
1 tsp. (5 ml) hot sauce
1 tsp. (5 ml) fresh-ground black pepper
1 minced green onion
Grate cheddar (sharp gives the best flavour, but you can use low fat cheddar and cream cheese) and combine with remaining ingredients in a bowl.
Use a spatula to scrape into a small serving dish and surround with toasts and crackers or little breads; or scoop some into bite-sized vegetable cases to brighten the appetizer tray with some colour.