To Warm Our Tummies [Roasted Pear and Apple Sauce with Whiskey and Brown Butter]

Our tummies have been craving warmth lately. Bowls of soup so scorching the billowing steam is almost opaque, cups of coffee that turn the tough skin of our fingers pink while cradling the mug from table to lips, spoon-hugging chili with a heavy-handed spatter of spice that causes the skin of my eyelids to sweat and this, pear and apple sauce. Right off the stove, foolishly, so it sears the skin of our throats as it goes down.  

This is the stuff of dreams. The type of treat you wait until no one is looking and lick the sides of the bowl. It has a texture similar to the Mott’s Applesauce of my childhood, but boasts a flavour far more mature. The fruit, roasted in a mixture of brown sugar and warm spices, develops a nutty caramelization around the edges that gives the sauce such a brilliant richness. Of course, the addition of fragrant brown butter and smooth, woodsy whiskey doesn’t hurt either. A hit of lemon balances everything out so it isn’t so rich you can only handle one bite. 

Using a mixture of pears and apples, especially the sad bruised ones you won’t eat, ensures a nice round flavor. I used gala, macintosh, and empire apples and d’anjou and bosc pears. Feel free to use whatever you have so long as it’s good and (borderline over) ripe. 

Roasted Pear and Apple Sauce with Whiskey and Brown Butter
makes about 5-6 cups

I like adding milk to my sauce because it makes it tastes richer and lingers a bit on the tongue. Feel free to use cider or water in it’s place if you’d like. 


3lbs mixed apples and pears, sliced in half + cored 

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
1/8 tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp Canadian whiskey
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch sea salt

1/3 cup 2% milk

To garnish
toasted pepitas
brown sugar
cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Place sliced + cored pears/apples on a high-sided baking sheet or roasting pan cut side up. Sprinkle with brown sugar and spices and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until a knife goes easily through the center of the fruit. 

While the apples and pears roast, place the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Let cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until butter is brown and nutty. Pay close attention so it doesn’t burn. There should be golden flecks of milk solids - that’s where all the flavour lives! Once it’s golden brown and fragrant, pour in the whiskey, lemon juice and salt and swirl everything around a bit to combine. 

Place the roasted fruit (skins and all), the butter/whiskey mixture and the milk into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth (or less if you prefer it chunky). Serve with toasted pepitas and extra cinnamon/brown sugar if you’d like. 

 

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There I Stood [Rum-Spiked Caramel Apple Cobbler]

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So there I stood. Apples in one hand, looking slightly worse for wear, and a jar of rum-spiked salted caramel, previously used for candy apples, in the other. I knew the two would go together, having just used them in combination, but I wanted to do something a bit different. Something special and unexpected.  


Before I knew it, my knife was steadily gliding through the apples as I watched them mound in a heap beside me. I glanced over periodically at a recipe from Dara at Cookin’ Canuck as reference and tossed the apples into a sizzling, buttery pan with warm spices until golden and fragrant. The caramel glazed the bottom of a pie dish waiting to bubble up and snuggle sweetly into the buttery apples. This was going to be something. Hopefully something delicious, but one never can tell when the words baking and experiment meet.

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If you can imagine an apple cobbler, sweet and gooey and mounded with buttery biscuits then you’re almost touching on what we have here. But this, this was something else. The boozy caramel hugged tight to the apples and caramelized around the edges of the biscuits making this some sort of cobbler meets caramel apple hybrid dessert. And really, what could be better than that? Very few things, my friends. Very few things. 

As we inch closer to the Christmas holidays, I’m making notes of the sweets and savories that worked in my favor so I might share them with friends and family. This one is at the top of my list to make again and again. I hope you might invite it to your table, as well.

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Rum-Spiked Caramel Apple Cobbler
adapted from Cookin’ Canuck
serves 6-8

If there is a premade caramel you really like, you could use that in place of the homemade stuff but make sure it’s of good quality as it will make a big difference in the overall flavour of the cobbler.

2 tbsp butter
4-5 large gala apples, enough to fill your pie plate 3/4 full.
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup rum-spiked caramel, recipe to follow
buttery biscuit dough, recipe to follow

Preheat oven to 450.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and toss in the apples, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Cook until apples are soft and starting to brown. 

Pour the caramel into a pie plate and arrange the apples evenly over the caramel. 

Flour your fingers and pinch off even pieces of the biscuit dough that are about 2 1/2” around. There should be about 6-7 biscuits. Place the biscuits over the apples. Pop in the oven (on a lined cookie sheet in case the caramel bubbles over) for 30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. 

Scoop into bowls and top with ice cream or whipped cream! 

Rum-Spiked Caramel
adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
makes 1 large jar

*special equipment: a good kitchen or candy thermometer. 

Feel free to halve the recipe if you don’t want leftovers. 


1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup
5 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pinches sea salt

Place all ingredients in a very tall pot (this caramel bubbles up a lot) over medium-high heat with the candy thermometer clipped to the pot. Don’t stray far, you should be mixing fairly frequently. Cook until caramel reaches 250, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly. 

Buttery Biscuit Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup cold buttermilk

Whisk together the flour, baking powder + soda, sugar and salt.  Use your fingers to mush the butter into the flour mixture until it has a coarse, mealy texture. Pour in the buttermilk and use a fork to pul together until a wet dough forms. Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the apples.

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Be Gracious, Eat Well. [Spiced Apple-Rosemary Sparkler]

Happy Thanksgiving to all celebrating today! I don’t want to muck up your day with too many words and thoughts (I’m sure that’s better left to your great Aunt Bea) so I’ll keep it short and sweet - May you be thankful for all you have, eat and drink well and embrace those around you.

I leave you with a sparkly, festive cocktail that you can make with things many of you may already have on hand for the holidays. The combination of dry Prosecco and the sweet, warmly spiced and herbaceous syrup is heavenly. Save any leftover syrup to spoon into soda water or over oatmeal. 

And as Corey Mintz reminded us in the NYT, the food is less important than the company and a little bit of graciousness. 

Spiced Apple-Rosemary Sparkler
makes approx. 4-6 cocktails

1/2 cup apple-rosemary syrup (recipe to follow)
1 bottle dry Prosecco
apple rounds, to garnish
rosemary sprig, to garnish

Fill 4 (or more) Champagne flutes with 2 tbsp (or more if you like it sweeter) of the apple-rosemary syrup. toss in a slice of apple and a small sprig of rosemary and top with prosecco. 

Apple-Rosemary Syrup
makes approx. 1 cup

3 large apples (empire/cortland/macintosh), sliced thin or diced
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cinnamon stick (1/4 tsp ground)
2 whole cloves
1 2” piece lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil without stirring. Turn down to a simmer, stir and let cook for 20-30 minutes or until everything is softened and syrupy. Strain into glass jar. Keeps for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 

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It’s The Holidays - Chill Out! [15-Minute Grainy Sausage Apple & Fennel Stuffing]

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If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, you’re probably feeling that all too familiar cocktail of nerves, excitement and yes, maybe a little exhaustion. 

Planning for the holidays is tough, often prolonged work. You mull over menu items, figure out dietary restrictions, shop, prep vegetables, appetizers and side dishes, spend a full weekend cooking and then, just like that, it’s over in a matter of bites. And maybe, like me, you sometimes feel a bit guilty that all that time spent stressing out could have been better spent in good company, chilling out, sipping a glass of wine with visiting family and planning a menu that came together extremely quickly, but still deliciously. 

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I make this stuffing almost every year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The main ingredients are all plenty flavourful making it less necessary to pump it full of extra spices and ingredients. Using less but making the most of the few things you are using is the easiest and most satisfying way to swap those kitchen hours for chill-time. The stuffing comes together in a hurry and bakes quickly so you can spend your holiday being Thankful instead of exhausted. 

Grainy Sausage Apple & Fennel Stuffing
makes 4 servings

I recommend dicing all the ingredients fairly small so the cooking time is reduced on them. If you have more than 15-20 minutes, feel free to make veg/bread/sausage a bigger dice. 

Recipe can easily be doubled/tripled. 


1 1/2 cups cubed Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1/2 large onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large Gala apple, small dice
1 fennel bulb, small dice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
4 cups multigrain bread, cubed
1/2 - 1 cup chicken/veg stock
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425. 

In a large pan over med-high heat add the sausage, oil/butter, onion, garlic, apple and fennel. Saute until onions are translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add in the parsley and thyme. 

Pour vegetable mixture over the bread cubes and add enough stock to moisten the mixture, about 1/2 cup to start. Stir in the egg. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes or until mixture is golden brown and fennel is cooked through. 

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This is a sponsored post. Hillshire Farm sponsored it and compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Comfort Food Makeover with Turkey Farmers of Canada [Caramelized Brussels Sprout & Turkey Casserole with Kale and Aged Cheddar]


It’s getting cooler around these parts and we’re starting to crave all those rich, braised, cheesy recipes that have been tucked away since last winter. I have a small dusty box of casserole, pasta, soup and braised recipes I keep on hand for just this occasion, but to be honest, I’m growing tired of them.  Sometimes there just isn’t enough cheese in the world to be satisfied by the same bowl of macaroni and cheese for 5 years running.

When Turkey Farmers of Canada approached me for a Comfort Food Makeover campaign they were working on, I thought it the perfect excuse to revamp some of my old standbys. This Brussels sprout and turkey casserole dish has officially been added to the recipe box and will be filling our gobs as often as we can take it this winter. It’s got everything you’re pining  after in one bowl: bitingly sharp aged cheddar that’s melted and gooey, caramelized autumn veggies, big rigatoni noodles to hang on to all that creamy sauce, protein-packed turkey breast, some sweet apple to cut through the richness and bright lemon to wake everything up.

Head on over to their website to get the recipe! 

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The Best of Brussels…Sprouts [Autumn Skillet Pizza]

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Some tragedy struck the area of Ottawa I grew up in yesterday. It’s hard to wrap your head around why these things happen, but more than that, it’s heartbreaking to see the city I love permeated with grief and sadness. Today I sit, one ear attached to the radio speakers, waiting for the news we all know is coming but no one wants to hear. My heart is heavy for the families and friends of the people who passed.

I had wanted to talk more about this pizza in depth, but it just doesn’t feel proper today. Give your people a tighter squeeze and be glad you get to see their faces at the end of a long day. 

Instead, I leave you with some brilliant Brussels sprout recipes from my favourite bloggers. 

1. Warm Brussels Sprout Toss from The First Mess
2. Garlic-Cauliflower Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout Leaves & Lemon Zest from Reclaiming Provincial
3. Sweet Potato and Brussels Skillet from Love and Lemons
4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Peanuts from Souvlaki for the Soul
5. Cream Braised Brussels Sprouts from Orangette (these have literally changed my life for the better. Literally)

And now, for my Brussels sprout recipe. 

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Autumn Skillet Pizza 
(Brussels Sprout, Sausage, Apple & Roasted Potato)
adapted from How Sweet Eats 
makes 2 pizzas

The type of sausage you use on the pizza is important here. It should be high quality and full of flavour. I used Seed to Sausage's Apple/Sage sausage and it couldn't have been better

If you don’t have a 12” cast iron skillet, split dough into 3 parts (for an 8” skillet) or just make a regular size pizza on your pizza stone or baking sheet. I only divided the dough into 2 pieces for an 8” and it yields more of a deep-dish pizza…so if you’re into that sort of thing, have at it! 

Crust: 
1 1/8 cups warm water
3 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
fine cornmeal (for dusting your skillet with)

Toppings:
5-6 baby potatoes, sliced thin 
pinch or two crushed red pepper flakes, optional
olive oil
salt
2 cups Brussel sprout leaves
1 cup cooked sausage meat
1 large apple (whatever is fresh and slightly tart - I used earligolds), sliced into rounds (seeds removed)
1 ball mozzarella, pulled into bite-sized pieces

Crust: 
In a small bowl, mix the yeast, honey and olive oil and give it a quick stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes or until frothy. 

Set aside 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour and mix the rest of the flour and salt together until a ball of dough starts to form. Knead lightly in the bowl to collect the rest of the flour and dump onto a lightly floured (using the reserved 1/2 cup) surface. Knead, adding more flour as necessary so it doesn’t stick, and knead until a smooth and elastic, 5 minutes.  

Place the ball into a lightly oiled bowl, making sure the dough-ball is moist with oil, cover and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, 45 minutes-1 hour. 

For potatoes: 
Preheat oven to 400. 

Lay sliced potatoes on a baking sheet making sure not to overlap. Drizzle with olive oil, crushed red pepper (if using) and sprinkle with salt. Roast until edges start to curl and turn golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool until ready to top pizza. 

To assemble pizza: 
Preheat oven to 475-500 (if your oven will go that high). Place your skillet in the oven while it preheats. 

Punch dough down and divide into 2 equal pieces. Place one on a floured surface and roll out to fit a 12” cast iron skillet. Dust a peel with cornmeal and place your dough on it. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Top with half the Brussels sprout leaves, half the sausage, apple rounds mozzarella and roasted potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Remove your skillet from the oven and dust lightly with cornmeal. Slide your pie right onto the pan and pop back in the oven. Let cook until golden brown, 20-30 minutes and finish the last minute of cooking time under the broiler to crisp toppings and cheese. 

Repeat for second pizza or do two skillets at a time. 

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Knock Out That Cold [Spicy Kale Ginger Lemonade]

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There is something ominous lurking around. 

A dirty, nasty cold/flu that seems to be knocking my friends and family out one by one. I woke yesterday with a sandpaper throat and what felt like two corks in my sinus’. Immediately I started trying to knock it out before it did me in. 

Water (a lot of water), raw garlic (mashed into yogurt), oil of oregano and two full glasses of Green Juice later, and I seem to have come out victorious. I had plans to share a galette today, but in the spirit of health, I thought I’d share the recipe for the green juice that I’m adamant saved my ass from this TKO cold. 

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Spicy Kale Ginger Lemonade
based on Café My House's version

The ingredients are pretty rough here. Taste and adjust based on what you like best. This method is for those not lucky enough (like myself!) to have a juicer. It takes a little more time but it’s well worth it. 

1 bunch kale (curly or lacinato), rough chopped
1 large apple (2 small), skin on, cored and rough chopped
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 english cucumber, rough chopped
large handful flat-leaf parsley
2” ginger, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 - 1 cup water

Place all ingredients in a blender with the 1/2 cup of water. Blend until everything is combined in a sludgy mess. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the blender into the strainer. Using a spoon or a potato masher (I have the best success with the masher, but it’s whatever works for you) and work the juice out of the pulp until it’s fairly dry. Taste and add more lemon if needed. Chill the juice or pour over ice and serve.

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Finding Burgatory [Bison-Apple Burgers with Sage-Jalapeno Pesto & Smoked Blue Cheese]



Brace yourselves. I’m about to share something with you that I don’t divulge often. It’s something that is usually met with double-looks and wide eyes. Some conclude I’m crazy, others simply write me off as a friend. Are you ready for this? 

I don’t really love burgers.  [….I’ll wait for your eyes to return to normal size.]

 
Are we good? I hope so. 

I just…don’t. They are big and awkward, messy and fall-aparty. Too many restaurants serve them with buns that are rock hard, causing the patty and toppings to spill out the back end. The same can be said for patties that are flavourless, over-cooked and resemble softballs made of ground beef. Unappetizing at the best of times. (It should be said that I have not visited Black Cat Bistro for Burger Tuesdays OR Absinthe Café for their Benevolence Burger….yet).

Upon finding some beautiful ground bison from La Maison Du Gibier, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. My goal, to make a burger that fulfilled my needs. A patty as flavourful as it is moist, seasoned properly, seared to a perfect crust on the outside but slightly pink in the center. A thin bun that is buttery and soft, with a good crunch when toasted. Toppings that compliment but don’t overpower the meat or fall out the second you touch the burger. All very simple needs, but they seem to be lacking from so many burgers these days. 



I was entirely happy with the way the burger came out. The recipe came together quickly and with ease. The perfect weeknight burger, to be sure.  The apples gave the bison a slightly sweet kick, while the pesto and smoked blue cheese gave it that bit of extra depth and saltiness needed to take it over the top. A successful experiment in my burger diaries. 

If you have an aversion to burgers as I do, perhaps even if you don’t, you must give this burger a chance. It might be just the ticket you need to find your burgatory. 

 
Bison-Apple Burgers with Sage-Jalapeno Pesto & Smoked Blue Cheese
serves 4

Note on Bison:
Finding a quality bison is half the battle here. Choose a locally sourced meat from a butcher or market you trust. 

Note on buns:
I used some thin and butter onion buns from Rideau Bakery. I like a thin bun that’s soft, but use whatever you like best. Brioche buns would be delicious, too.

Note on cheese:
If you can’t find smoked blue cheese (often referred to as ‘Blue Haze’), a Danish blue cheese will work well, too. 

Burgers:
2 lbs ground bison meat
2 small apples (1 large), peeled
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1 tsp sea salt 
fresh ground pepper 

Pesto:
1 jalapeno, seeded, rough chopped
1 cup fresh sage, loosely packed 
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper

To Serve:
Sliced tomatoes
Smoked Blue Cheese

For the Pesto:
Place everything but the Parmesan, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 



For the Burgers: 
Grate the apples into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to smoosh everything together until it’s just combined (try not to overmix). Form the meat into 4-5 patties and make a small indentation in the center (this helps the burger cook evenly). Sprinkle the patties with a bit more salt right before frying.



Lightly coat a cast iron pan in vegetable or canola oil and heat over med-high until oil is shimmering. Place patties in the pan, 2 at a time, for 2 minutes on each side. They should be beautifully golden when you flip them. 

Toast up your buns, place a patty on each and top with a slather of the pesto, a few crumbles of blue cheese and a slice of ripe tomato. Serve with an ice cold wheat beer like Erdinger. 

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