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1/23/2015

Chef ElizabethEveryone looks for shortcuts in the kitchen especially during the weeknights. I suggest you pick up a package of broccoli slaw or even prepared coleslaw and have it as a staple in your kitchen. It is affordable, the work is done, and it is delicious.

When I'm busy on the farm, I like to have prepared broccoli and or carrot slaw in my fridge. I find that I reach for it all the time to add color, freshness, nutrition and crunch to my dishes.

broccoli slaw 

There are two main ways to use Broccoli Slaw:

  1. Make a Slaw: by that I mean dress and season it, and use it as you would any coleslaw – eat it as is or get creative and use it as a topping or filling.

slaw

  1. Use it Raw: by that I mean no dressing – use broccoli slaw as a mixed vegetable to add flavour, color and crunch and, yes, nutrients. You can chop it or process it and use it as a nutritious filler for your meat or fish loaves.

burger and slaw 

Or try one of these suggestions:

  • On top of grilled chicken, pork, beef
  • As a “bed” for grilled chicken or seafood
  • On top of burgers or hot dogs
  • As a garnish for chili
  • Use in fish or crab cakes
  • On top of a lobster roll
  • As a filling in po' boys
  • Inside a submarine sandwich
  • Inside a fish taco
  • Add golden raisins or dried cranberries like Mom used to
  • Add to rice or quinoa
  • Mix with kale for a nutritious salad
  • As a topping for pulled pork
  • Inside a tortilla wrap
  • Add it to soup
  • Add it to or top a bowl of pho
  • Inside salad rolls
  • On top of any salad
  • As a slaw to serve with salsa and tortilla chips
  • As part of a stir fry
  • Mix it with Asian noodles and dressing
  • Chopped, it can be used in a veggie “burger”
  • Chopped, it can be used inside meatloaf, burgers or meatballs
  • Chopped, use it inside stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls

Santé,
Chef Elizabeth
Read more at my website.

Chef Elizabeth in the snow 



1/13/2015

Chef ElizabethThe holidays are over, and we all have eaten lots of heavy food. A deep freeze has hit my area, and I am looking for ways to remind me of summer. I love avocado and I make guacamole all year round. It is so versatile, and on cold days, it is delicious on top of your favourite chili con carne or vegetarian chili for that matter. 

You can also serve it alone as a dip as you find in restaurants. Guacamole  is a quick and refreshing appetizer. It is a family favourite, and my girls always fight over the last bit of guacamole in the bowl.

The hardest part of this dish is getting the avocados at just the perfect point of ripeness. One hint is to buy them fairly firm and let them ripen for a few days. Most of the time I find if they are soft at the store, they are probably over-ripe. I always buy a few extra just in case one is rotten or one is under ripe. Why Roma tomatoes (also known as plum tomatoes)? Because they are less watery and have more flesh than seeds.

Check your jalapeno peppers to see how hot they are because the heat can vary wildly from pepper to pepper. Remember you can always add more heat, but you can't take it out. Also remember to carefully clean the cilantro, as it tends to be very dirty.

Jalapeno peppers from my garden . 

I prefer guacamole without garlic but feel free to add a minced clove or two if you like it that way. As a chef I have tried all sorts of ways to keep it green, and I have found it is hit and miss. I have added a bit of water to the top and one time it worked and the next time it didn't. If you cover the top of the dip with plastic wrap, it might stay green, no promises. Guacamole is best eaten the same day.

Suggested Ways To Use Guacamole:

There are lots of ways to serve guacamole … you can basically substitute it for mayonnaise.

Guacamole is traditionally served with Mexican dishes such as fajitas, tortillas or fish tacos. Guacamole is also fantastic on burgers, hotdogs or chicken breasts. Why not try it on toast with eggs, use guacamole as a sandwich or wrap spread, in a salad dressing, with fish or fish cakes, as a dip for shrimp or as part of your deviled  egg filling? Guacamole makes a great topping for baked potatoes, soup or chilli.

Gucamole and Chips 

Chef Elizabeth's Guacamole

4 ripe Haas avocados
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper, taste a piece to see how hot it is
1/2 cup finely diced red onion (1 small onion)
1/2 cup washed and chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium Roma tomatoes diced

1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and, using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl.

2. Mash gently with a potato masher, whisk or a fork. Try to leave some larger pieces of avocado in the guacamole as it adds more texture.

3. Add the lime juice, jalapeno pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, and pepper and toss well. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt, pepper or lime juice.

Serve with salsa and tortilla chips. This goes really well with a cold frosty drink such as ice cold lemonade or beer. An easy treat for Super Bowl 2015!

Guacamole on a burrito.

Fresh ingredients equals fresh flavour. 

Santé
Chef Elizabeth



1/5/2015

Chef ElizabethToday is January 3, 2015. It is the start of a new year and new kitchen adventures. This morning, as I was making coffee, I l started to empty the dishwasher and I discovered I had no room for glasses in my crowded cupboard. I decided to take action. I wanted to have time to get outside and snow shoe around the property! But I had a kitchen to start organizing.

 

Winter FunAfter the holidays my kitchen is a disorganized mess, and it is time to organize. Kitchens tend to get cluttered and often you will find you have three or more of the same item. We all have busy lives and time is at a real premium. Being organized is your best friend; it is getting there that is all the work. I hate the "organized" word because it seems to me that the minute you purge, tidy, clean and organize it is all messy again.

Last night we were finishing up the last leftovers from the holidays. This morning I am facing a dozen Christmas coffee mugs, a huge amount of plastic containers and a series of platters and baking dishes that are impossible to stuff into my drawers. I came up with a list of things to do to get my kitchen back on track so that things are where they need to be, and I can find them when I am cooking or baking.

In the French restaurant tradition, we have a term called “mise en place,” which roughly translates as “everything in its place.” This is done so that when service starts everything is close at hand. I have found that “mise en place” gives you the freedom to be creative because you are not running around looking for things. This means not just your food but also your equipment. Make sure you have a knife block and canister holding your most used utensils close by as you prep and cook. This makes cooking much easier.

Winter Maples

Many people have told me they hate to bake because it means too much time trying to locate items in their pantry. Organizing is a way of taking inventory to see what you have, what you have too much of, or what you may need. Before you know it your counters are filled with appliances and your drawers are stuffed with all sorts of good-for-one-job gadgets. You may be surprised at how few kitchen utensils you really need.

Snow Covering the Front Yard

As a professional vhef, I have a large and busy kitchen; all the drawers are packed and I have stacking plastic containers to hold baking tools I have collected for decades. I refuse to give them up. However this Christmas, I decided I needed more space. I went through the entire collection of small appliances that I never use – ice crushers, juicers, can openers and salad spinners. I placed them in a plastic tub and told my daughters to go through them and the rest will go to a second-hand store.

Try to find the time to do one chore; it is overwhelming to try and tackle all the jobs

Here Are A Few Suggestions on Organizing Your Pantry and Kitchen

Keep a kitchen journal: As you know, I always suggest keeping a kitchen journal – it's a practice I began decades ago as a professional chef. Keep notes about what you need, what needs to get done, your menu planning and a log of meals cooked. It will become a handy reference and a keepsake.

Label, label, label: I have a sharpie and labels at the ready. Label your dry goods, your fridge goods, and especially label and date your freezer goods. Freezer food all starts to look the same after a while. In professional kitchens, we are required to label and date all food. It makes sense for health and safety, for food cost control and for eliminating waste.

Consider purchasing a vacuum sealer: I recently purchased a vacuum sealer to extend the life of food and to control costs. Vacuum sealers have one disadvantage: The sealer takes up quite a bit of shelf or counter top space. I think it is well worth having one.

Purge your cupboards of mismatched plastic containers. Try to buy one brand that stacks together; it will save you from cleaning up the avalanche that tumbles out of your cupboards.

Purge your table ware – dishes, mugs, glasses, linens – your food wrap and don’t forget your utensil container. It will save you time; there is nothing I hate more than trying to find places for things. Place your most used items in a spot that is easy to reach.

Purge your pots and pans, they take up so much space. I recently won a pair of Eaziestore stacking stock pots and I love them. Pots and pans are a huge space waste, so buy just a few good quality multi-purpose pots and pans.

Clean out your freezer and fridge: Discard expired food; you might be surprised what you find!

Clean your appliances and clean behind them, and, yes, vacuum or dust the coils.

Sort through your wine or liquor cabinet and decide what you will never use – you can use bits of leftover wine for cooking. I have tried making vinegar so many times and it never worked out. If you have odd bits of alcohol taking up space, considering making vanilla. It is simple: Add a vanilla bean or two to pure alcohol and let steep. Or use up some of the liqueurs when you are baking.

Clean out under your sink and figure out what cleaning products you have. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher.

Sort through your pantry and group things together as they are used, such as baking items or oil and vinegar. Try to keep spices at eye level in alphabetical order; I  know it is tough.

Purge your pantry: Check for expiration dates and donate what you don't want or need to a food bank.

Be brave and clean out your “EVERYTHING junk drawer.” Empty it all out into a large container and only put back things you regularly use. If you can't decide, put things into a zip-lock bag, label it and put it away until you are ready to sort thorough it. I find myself doing that on a regular basis when I can't find a single thing. Buy a drawer organizer and use it. Throw out all the odd pieces of junk you have collected. You will never use the twist ties or corks.

Chopped ProfilePurchase: Every kitchen is unique and some have more room than others. The smaller the kitchen the greater the need to be streamlined and organized. Consider purchasing some of these organizing tools to make you life easier: Drawer separators, lid racks, unde-the-sink organizers, pot racks, a dish towel rack, a magnetic knife holder, lazy Susans. There are stores that specialize in these organizing tools. Good old Ikea sells quite a few. Just remember to consider if you have the space before purchasing.

I hope this helps you start your 2015 Kitchen Journey.

Santé,
Chef Elizabeth



12/31/2014

Chef ElizabethI have just finished preparing a four-day feast for my family, and now the farmhouse kitchen is somewhat tidy. I still have tins of shortbread cookies and five types of cakes strategically placed and easy to reach. I wanted to write a few kitchen resolutions for 2015. As someone who spends most of her time in the kitchen, I'd like to share some of my resolutions. My goal for 2015 is to continue sharing my passion and knowledge. I want to give back. My dream of starting a community kitchen and studio was dashed by fraud; however, I will continue to work towards that dream.

From My Farmhouse Kitchen 

You may have your own resolution – please share them with me. I love connecting with people through food.

RESOLUTIONS

Waste less food – buy less, buy what you need and eat it.

If you have excess produce, donate it to the local food bank.

Experiment with new ingredients – a new vegetable, protein, spice or flavor.

Experiment with new cooking methods: wrap fish in greens and steam, or make cheese.

Donate to a food bank or offer to volunteer.

Share your kitchen with family and friends; begin a “dinner club.”

Master one dish you always wanted to.

Start a casserole, cookie or cake swap, any time of the year.

Pack a picnic and enjoy the outdoors all year round.

Write a recipe by hand and share it.

Revive one of your family’s cooking traditions.

Cut one thing out of your diet that you KNOW is bad for your health.

Commit to the entire family sitting down at the dining room table to share a meal as often as possible.

Buy local and support local farmers and businesses.

Participate in a Community Share Agriculture (CSA) program.

Join the Seed Savers Exchange.

Join a food initiative that you believe in. Such as World Vision or Heifer International.

Read labels and know where your food comes from.

Visit a pick-your-own farm and can something for the winter.

Start a small vegetable garden. A few herbs or tomato plants is a start.

Start a food journal

Feed the bees and butterflies with flowers.

Remember food is love and food makes memories and those are the most precious things we have.

Happy New Year! May 2015 bring you health, prosperity and joy in the kitchen!

Cheers

Santé,
Chef Elizabeth



12/31/2014

Another Christmas has come and gone and the last of my holiday guests left after an enormous feast. I spent two hours cleaning up and putting food away, and finally got to sit in front of the fire and relax. It was a very busy few days here and I am exhausted. I had all of my children under my farmhouse roof for the first time since I bought the farm two years ago. That made me very happy.

FarmHouse Christmas

Today it is snowing … it rained for Christmas and that was a huge disappointment. When my daughters arrived, I had to find umbrellas to keep their perfectly wrapped packages dry. I had my trombone ready and bugled them in. My eldest daughter cringed and smiled at the same time.

So what does a chef prepare for the holidays? Just about everything. It is the busiest time of the year for me.

FarmHouse Christmas food 

FarmHouse Christmas cakes

This is what was on my Christmas 2014 menu: On Christmas Eve I baked five cakes: Buttermilk Ginger Cake, Almond Cranberry Cake, Butter Rum Cake, Chocolate Cointreau Cake and Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I made a double batch of shortbread cookie dough. It turned out that I did not have enough oven space or time to get them baked until Boxing Day. That is what I did instead of running out to fight throngs of shoppers hunting for a bargain. In Canada, Boxing Day is like Black Friday.

I also baked a Quiche Lorraine, poached shrimp with cocktail sauce, goat's cheese marinated with garlic and olive oil, and freshly picked rosemary from my garden, artichoke spinach and cheese dip, a cheese and relish tray, marinated olives, and guacamole with salsa canned last summer.

FarmHouse Christmas goose 

I had promised my daughter’s boyfriend that I would prepare duck – that was five years ago – and this year I finally got around to it. It was a huge success … only the men ate the duck. The seasoned and roasted duck was served with divine “confit” style of vegetables. Mini potatoes, carrots and onions were roasted alongside the duck. Every chef knows that duck fat is liquid gold … the French secret to delicious frying. I also served a green salad that is the dish the women ate. I was delighted with the leftover duck fat and used it the next day when braising the ham and roasting the turkey.

FarmHouse Christmas food on table 

For Christmas morning it was farmhouse pancakes and fruit compote, my classic scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit. There was plenty of hot coffee and eggnog or cider for those who wanted it. I, of course, had a wee bit of champagne as we opened our gifts. It was around 2 o'clock by the time everyone was fed. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend had stayed up for hours decorating the tree. They did a splendid job. I finally got the turkey in around 4 p.m. Dinner was served just after 9 p.m. Yes, I know, very late.

FarmHouse Christmas Quiche 

Christmas dinner was epic. I served Madeira braised ham, stuffed turkey, green beans, whipped potatoes, wild rice, green salad, homemade cranberry relish that no one seems to eat. There was no room left for dessert but I whipped some cream to serve with the cakes.

My company stayed for three days, and I continued to cook. We had guacamole again – no one ever gets enough of it … there had been a fight late the night before as my daughter's boyfriend found the guacamole stored away in the fridge and ate it all by himself. Isabel had been counting on eating that herself.

FarmHouse Christmas Shortbread 

On Boxing Day I finally got to the shortbread and that took about four hours. I made a video of how to cook shortbread. It is full of hints, and I am calling the upcoming video series “In the Kitchen With ...”

For dinner, it was roast prime rib and Yorkshire pudding with broccoli and cauliflower gratin and all the leftovers, if anyone was inclined to eat them. We really enjoyed the prime rib with its garlic Dijon rub and the puddings were perfection. Yes, the house smoked up with the pudding cooking, but that is all part of the fun. Opening the kitchen door to let out the grease and let in the icy cold. No fire alarm went off.

FarmHouse Christmas Pumpkin Muffins 

It came time to leave and as family was gathering their presents and looking for lost ones, I made pumpkin blueberry muffins for them to take on the road. Farmhouse pancakes and compote were also waiting. My son loves them, and he took a stack to eat while playing his new game system in the game room.

The girls were busy getting their presents in order. The men sat and waited – impatient to get on the road. Although determined to get on the road by 1, the overly packed car left shortly after 3. Smiles were on everyone’s face as I serenaded them out with my trombone. Then I turned and walked back into the house with tears in my eyes. I was sad, very sad. I hated to see them go, I realized they all had lives that they were anxious to get back to. Things had changed and that made me wistful.

After my children left, I spent hours cleaning and repurposing food, and made stock and soup for a quiet fireside meal. In the winter I love to eat by the fire. I am always chasing heat, as this place is so large. I try and heat up one or two rooms and leave the rest to the cold. With my entire family here the whole house was warm. 

I did not have too much time to be lonesome for the laughter of my children; I had my brother and his three children and their fairy godmother arriving for a late lunch.

I baked a chocolate Bundt cake, I deboned a double turkey breast and stuffed it, and also made bacon-wrapped pork loin with mushroom cream sauce. I served peas and broccoli, and a green salad with marinated tomatoes. While showing Shirley my farm, I left the wild rice with my niece to finish cooking. As I returned to the kitchen there was smoke and Annie was scraping the burnt rice out of the charred pot. No matter – there was plenty to eat and drink, and we had a wonderful time talking about Christmas memories.

FarmHouse Christmas food bacon wrapped pork lpon 

Yesterday was another clean-up day. and I have lots of fresh memories to keep me company as I pack away Christmas 2014. Now I am looking back at my year and reflecting on my life lived and on lessons learned.

FarmHouse Christmas nutcrackers

Happy New Year!



12/19/2014

Chef ElizabethSanta is coming, and it turns out I am Santa running a country bed and breakfast. When the family arrives for Christmas it is a four-day event. There is so much to do here and instead of getting the tree in last night, I was busy sucking on a syphon to clean the 75-gallon fish tank. I had no choice, the water was turning black. The tank is full of the outdoor pond rescues – gorgeous but what an enormous amount of work. Living on a farm, there are always circumstances out of your control, not just the weather. Outside in the truck is a snow-covered Christmas tree that needs to be dragged in and decorated. The fun part starts when we try and fit it into the stand. It always need to have the stump re-cut.

I sit here typing and my mind is wandering off to worry about all the things that I need to get done. It reminds me about how I feel when the garden needs to get started and then maintained – it is all in the guilt. What won't I get accomplished this year?

Will it be a white Christmas? If not, then what will we do? I like the outdoor activities. Who do I have to tell that they get to sleep on the blow-up bed that happens to have a slow leak? How do I get all the gifts and meet everyone’s expectations? I do not know how my mother ever made Christmas happen with eight children. I do recall helping her shop for my younger brother and sisters. I made sure to buy them lots of puzzles and books, just what they didn't want.

cake 

Christmas for some people is focused on shopping, that is the part I enjoy the least. This is the time for food, family and sharing. I plan out for months what I will cook and then I end up making the same food everyone wants. Tradition comes first. This year I mentioned to my eldest daughter that I was not going to make turkey. I had decided to go ahead and make individually stuffed chicken breasts. This was because I was still recovering from the $65 Thanksgiving turkey that took me three days to make stock out of. I wanted to do something easier this time. Well, she was very disappointed and so I am off to look for a frozen turkey that is on sale. I can't believe the prices – when I see $47 on a sign for a turkey I get sticker shock.

I have started the baking and this year I do promise to make shortbread. Last year I did not get the time as we lingered too close to Christmas Day in Colorado. I did get the coffee cake and rum cake and gingerbread cake on the menu. It is a personal tradition for me that I look through all my cut-out and collected Christmas recipes. I really enjoy looking back at what I thought would be delicious 30 years ago and that list has not changed much. Christmas baking is about taking more time to make more elaborate and hence thoughtful baked goods. I have a long tradition of learning how to bake both from my English godmother Clara and my European housekeeper. I still have the hand-written recipes that were passed down to me. For the European cookies, I had to write them out myself, as she never used traditional baking measurement utensils. My mother used to boast that she had never made a cake. She was not my go-to baking resource. But no one made gravy like her – even though it was ready long after all Christmas dinner was on the table. This goes back pre-microwave and getting hot food for 25 dinner guests was no easy feat. Lesson, as long as the gravy is hot the meat can get warmed up.

The festivities start on Christmas eve – what is on my table? Always shrimp, various cheese, blue, goats, cheddar and a baked Brie. The appetizer platter is served with nuts, breads, olives and my pickles. I also make sausage rolls, hot artichoke and spinach dip. New to the menu thanks to my sous chef Roland, fresh guacamole and our home-canned salsa. I made about 60 jars in the fall and it has become a family favorite. We decorate the tree – well, my eldest does and puts the tree topper on – the ceramic angel in a red dress. My girls love the Shirley Temple drink, any excuse for a maraschino cherry they say. Spiced and mulled cider is on the stove. For me its champagne … with a few cranberries floating at the top. For the men, it is ice-cold beer. We all head to bed after a night in front of the fire and after opening up the one and only mandatory gift – pajamas!!!  Some people like to do the ugly Christmas sweater contest – for us it is the PJs. I get to pick them all out! 

I haul out the coolers and leave them on the front porch to handle all the beverage overflow. I have had one or two bottles of pop and beer freeze on me. Be careful but take advantage of the cold if you can. I learned last year the hard way that you can’t leave food on the porch. It turns out that the country raccoons wake up for Christmas dinner.

After exchanging gifts in the morning, breakfast preparation begins. For me it's when my labour of love starts. Breakfast is always one of the highlights of the day. As we have all gotten older, we sleep in much later. Hence it is never really breakfast, it is brunch. I make the same breakfast every year – my scrambled eggs are a favourite. Last year I added a second cook to my kitchen and now Roland does the pancakes. I like to buy a ham, marinate it and roast it and use it for breakfast or snacks – croque monsieur over the holidays. There is never any ham left.

While making and serving brunch, I am also cooking the main dinner. I always have two meats, and this year I am considering beef wellington -– but the price of beef makes it out of the question. So it will be the traditional turkey and roast ham. I make six to 10 side dishes because I love the variety and my girls like sides with less fat – so they get steamed fresh vegetables. I have to have my cauliflower and broccoli gratin and wild rice. I make cranberry sauce and serve it in antique molds that my mother bought me when I was about 13 years old.

I always like to set and decorate the table right after cleaning up brunch.

Each year I create a family Christmas card and personalize each one with a message. These cards are placed at each table setting. We must have Christmas crackers at the table that we open before we prepare to eat. We laugh and sit with the silly hats on, reading out the wretched jokes and trying to decide who got the cheapest trinket. I say grace and talk about my blessings. We take our time, sip our wine or water, tell jokes, share memories and feel full. Dessert is optional, but add vanilla scented whipped cream and no one can resist. I recently bought an ice cream maker, and I think I may just make some fresh ice cream. Ice cream makers have been known to put as many pounds on you as that bread maker. Besides, counter space real estate is at a premium – so too is fridge and freezer space. This often limits just how much I can prepare and store. After Christmas space is no problem as I send plenty of bags and plastic containers (buy some to have on hand) full of food. I make a white bean soup with the left over ham and it is a huge hit and a great meal for days afterwards.

I am headed off to try and pick out some gifts for the people I love. I have to scrape the ice off the car, shovel the long long farmhouse drive way and chase the wild turkeys away.

xmas 

This year, Christmas will be like all the other years – something will get left undone, a present will be forgotten, a gift ordered on line won’t arrive, an unexpected gift will arrive, some one will fall in the snow, or get hit by a snow ball, someone wont get the present they dreamed of, an antique ornament will come crashing down, someone will step on a piece of the ornament, the entire string of lights wont work because one bulb is out. The tree won’t stand straight or it may fall down, we will argue over how many Christmas songs we listen to, red wine will spill on the white tablecloth that was hand made and we all will eat too much and promise to never eat again … and we will have a wonderful Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Sante
Chef Elizabeth

See more travels, adventures and recipes at my blog

me 



12/12/2014

Chef ElizabethI believe it is never too late to start getting ready for Christmas. Why not make a double batch of these delicious cookies and have them at-the-ready in your freezer? When impromptu guests arrive or an unexpected gift is in order, you (and your friends) will be thankful for your very smart thinking.

One of my strategies is to pick up gifts all year round when I see them on sale. The hardest part for me is waiting until Christmas to give them to my family and friends.

I also bake a few things to have around the farm when the very busy season gets started. I like to have cookies in the freezer to pull out in an emergency. I find that most people’s lives get so full of seasonal activities it is hard to find that quiet spot to bake some of your favourite Christmas cookies. Christmas cookies are usually time consuming and that is what makes them so special. Every family has its own tradition.

In my family, Christmas is Cookie time. I have been baking for Christmas for many years and one of my family’s favourite cookies are Classic Shortbread. Who doesn't love shortbread?

When I was a young girl, I was lucky enough to have my British godmother teach me how to make shortbread. Her dough was perfect, Clara never wasted a scrap, and she cut out her cookies meticulously with her special cookie cutter. Clara topped all of her cookies off with pieces of glacéed red and green cherries. I loved the green ones. Christmas is a time when we use ingredients we never use at any other time of year. I can’t recall the last time I saw anyone buy citron or glacéed fruits. No one seems to make plum pudding or Christmas cake anymore.

Yes, I know that one piece of cake has been doing the re-gifting circuit for years.

I am sharing with you my family’s favourite Shortbread Cookie

Lots of shortbread recipes are out there and over the years I have tried all of them including a recipe that calls for toasting the flour first. This is the recipe that I love above all others. I use an electric mixer, but if you like you can do this by hand in a bowl. Just make sure that your butter is soft.

Hint # 1
You need FRESH ingredients – there are few ingredients in the recipe so they all need to be fresh.

The real trick is to use the very best pure vanilla that you can find. Make your own – it is easy and far cheaper. I simply combine pure alcohol – I prefer rum or vodka – you can choose one you have on hand. I place 2 fresh vanilla beans in a small jar and cover with alcohol and let it sit for a few days. I shake it when I remember to distribute the vanilla seed. I also store vanilla beans in my sugar jar.

Hint #2
Chilling the cookie dough for 30 minutes makes it easier to roll out.

Hint #3
Roll the cookies more thinly than you think you should or how you have in the past. These cookies are rich and crispy.

Hint #4
You can use whatever cookie cutter you have on hand – a small glass jar worked for me for years. My suggestion is that you do not use a cookie cutter that is complicated with lots of points where the dough can get stuck. Those cutters are for the more workable sugar cookies.

If you are baking these cookies ahead, decorate with chocolate after you bring them out of the freezer.

They store well at room temperature in a tin cookie tin – yes, I insist on that. Nothing else keeps them as crisp. Use good old-fashioned wax paper to line the bottom, to create layers and to fold on top.

cookies 

Farm House Classic Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time:
45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 24 to 36 cookies
Difficulty: Medium

1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (almond is delicious as well)
3  3/4 to 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (you will require flour for kneading)
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Decorating:
White sugar or sanding sugar
4 to 6 ounces of high quality chocolate, finely chopped (semi sweet works best)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together 3  3/4 cups flour and the salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Remove dough from bowl and place onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic or wax paper and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3-by-1-inch finger-shaped cutter. You can use whatever size cookie cutter you have, however, baking time will vary. I use smaller cookie cutters: 1-to-1  1/2-inch fluted square or round cutters.

Place the cookies on a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pierce each cookie three times with a sharp fork.

Hint: At this stage if you chill the rolled out dough for around 10 minutes, the cookie edges will be sharper after baking. But it is not necessary.

If desired, dust with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature.

Decorating:

This is where you can do whatever you want to the baked classic shortbread cookies.

After the cookies have cooled, I melt some high quality chocolate – it can be white, milk or dark – in the microwave for a few minutes. Watch this closely and stir often. I line a baking rack with parchment paper. I then take a fork, dip it into the chocolate and then run the fork all over the top of the cookie. You can also just dip half the cookie in the melted chocolate.

To melt the chocolate: Place half of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier. This prevents scorching.

Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

Merry Christmas!

Sante,
Chef Elizabeth

elizabethWatch me on Chopped Canada, Season Two Episode Three.

And, see more of my adventures on my blog BuckysView.com.





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