Posts Tagged ‘Pecans’

Kuri squash soup

A well-prepared soup always pleases guests. On top of this, many soups are very easy to make, and once you have one simmering away as your guests arrive, you can easily finish assembling the rest of the meal without worrying about it. Soup is, in my mind, a perfect entrée that sets the mood for a nice evening meal (entrée translates to “opening/entrance of the meal”, contrary to the “entrees” which have become the main course name on English menues).

Here, I am sharing the recipe for a soup I had the pleasure of making not only for Catherine, but also for her parents, when we had a dinner party last weekend. Despite our busy schedules both as clinical clerks living in 2 different cities, we managed to cook a very fine meal which we’re both excited to share.


Ingredients – 6 servings

  • 1 kuri squash (aka hubbard squash), sliced in half and seeds removed
    • 2 sprigs rosemary
    • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 leek, light part only, washed and diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth of your liking
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 small dollops crème fraiche
  • 100g pecan halves
  • 1/2 package fresh sage leaves
  • 1 Tbsp butter


Heat the oven to 375F and place the squash prepared with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprig of rosemary in each on a baking dish.  Roast for 40 minutes approximately. This can be done even the day before you make your soup

To make the soup: prepare the leek, and heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a large soup pot with a lid over medium heat. Once the butter is bubbly, add the leek, and cook, stirring occasionally and otherwise keeping the lid on until leeks become soft. Add a little more butter if necessary if they begin to brown too fast before softening.

Once the squash is roasted, slice it and cut off the peel as much as possible (a little that remains is fine and will just increase the fibre content!). Add the squash to the leek mixture, and stir. Over this sprinkle your nutmeg, pepper, bay leaves, and a few pinches of salt.

Add the stock and bring to a slow boil, covered. Once it is boiling, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, leaving off the lid for the final 5-10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, and then blend the soup in a blender or with a hand blender, until fully smooth.

When you are almost ready to serve the soup, heat the pecans in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, and toast carefully so they brown but don’t burn.  Coarsely chop the sage in the meantime, and when the pecans are almost ready, melt the other 1 Tbsp of butter in with them, and add the sage for 1-2 minutes once the butter is bubbly, just long enough for it to crisp up a bit and to flavour the butter.

Serve the soup with a dollop of crème fraiche and a spoonful of the pecan-sage-butter topping in each bowl.



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After all of my travels last year throughout the world, I must say I was interested to find in Canada some of the basis of many meals and cooking techniques I also found in other places. I also grew more aware of what foods are available in Canada, and what exactly Canadian food is. If this is not a Canadian recipe, then I do not know what is!

As I cooked the first batch of dried blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup for my village in The Gambia, I realized I’d shared a true Canadian flavour with my hosts. Maple syrup.

This recipe draws on inspiration from the Joy of Cooking’s classic sponge cake recipe. I love the recipe as it is delicious while also being totally dairy-free and also oil-free, which makes it a crowd pleaser as long as no one has trouble with gluten or wheat.

I invented the icing, inspired by a rich but complementary cream cheese base, and made unique with pecan butter and maple extract.

I hope you like these as much as Catherine and all my friends did – they sure disappeared fast! It was such a pleasure to finally bake something for Catherine as we are in the same city for just about a month! I think we should take advantage of proximity while we can.

Ingredients – 12 cupcakes

3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks (save the whites in the fridge, they will be used in a few minutes!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amber (or any other you have) maple syrup
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp maple extract (optional)

3 egg whites

Ingredients – maple pecan cream cheese frosting

2/3 cup pecans

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tsp maple extract
pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. To make the cupcakes, sift all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for about a minute, until they begin to thicken. Gradually add in the sugar and maple syrup, and beat for a further 3 minutes on high. Add in the extract, and then beat in the boiling water.

Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. You can do so with a beater on low or with a whisk (my preference). Using clean beaters and a chilled bowl, beat the egg whites into medium-firm peaks.

Carefully incorporate one quarter of the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, and then add the remainder when it is light and airy. Do not over-mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners, filling them to 3/4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, until a toothpick poked into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

To make the pecan cream cheese maple icing, start with making the pecan butter. If you have a food processor or blender, place the nuts inside and allow them to be processed until they become coarse pecan butter. Add in the cream cheese and butter, and continue to mix until everything is smooth. Add in the sugar and extract, and continue to pulse.

If you do not have a food processor, just buy some pecan butter and mix it in with the other ingredients in a bowl using a fork and then a wooden spoon once it is broken up.

If the icing is too runny, add a bit of icing sugar, or refrigerate! You can garnish the iced cupcakes with pecan halves if you like!


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Brunch is unquestionably my favourite meal.  Always eaten in the company of your favourite people, this is my excuse to go crazy with delicious breakfast and lunch foods.  I only wish I had an excuse to make scrambled eggs with smoked salmon every morning!

And when it comes to brunch, cinnamon buns top the list.  I find shopping at a mall dangerous because of the alluring waft from Cinnabon’s tantalizingly placed near the exit.  I’ve concluded that it is an unavoidable Pavlovian conditioning linked to my  mother’s Ford genes. Despite my love of these gooey treats, I had yet to actually attempt baking them.

I have been eyeing Whitewater Cooks’ cinnamon bun recipe for a while, so last weekend I invited a few friends over to brunch as guinea pigs.  Having never before worked with active dry yeast, I found the recipe easy to follow.  The alluring waft of cinnamon began with the second rise.  While the buns were nice and cinnamon-y, my one complaint is these buns were not quite as gooey as I desired.  More butter perhaps next time?

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

Whitewater Cinnamon Buns

(makes 12 buns)



1/3 cup butter at room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup milk

1 1/8 cups warm water

2 Tbsp active dry yeast

5-6 cups flour plus extra as needed


1/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup raisins



In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and salt.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix in the milk, dissolved yeast mixture and flour, 1 cup at a time mixing until smooth.  Add enough flour to make soft dough.  Turn onto a lightly floured board.  Knead dough until smooth and springy, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. Place in a large greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough.  Roll out into a large rectangular shape, about 12 by 18 inches.  Brush with melted butter and remaining brown sugar.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, pecans, and raisins.  Roll lengthwise into a long log, and slice with a sharp knife into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place slices in a greased 9 by 13 inch pan about one inch apart. Let rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a 350 F oven for approximately 45 minutes.  Let cool and ice with your favourite butter icing.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine



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Thanksgiving is perhaps my favourite holiday of the year.  I love the crisp air and colourful leaves and changing of the season.  More than any other holiday, I love the meaning behind this tradition – to reflect upon and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  And importantly, it’s a great excuse to cook up a turkey feast to be served with good wine and eaten with good company!

Pumpkin Pie waiting to be eaten

If I survive my thesis proposal defence this Friday, my friend Alex and I will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for just over a dozen friends this weekend. No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without pumpkin pie.  Last weekend, I celebrated “Fake Thanksgiving” (one can never eat too many Thanksgiving dinners) – and decided to use the opportunity to test Silver Palate’s pumpkin pie recipe.   Perhaps the only thing better than one pumpkin pie is two.

Like any Silver Palate recipe, this pie was decadent, spiced to perfection and filled with a scary amount of cream (who would dare count calories on Thanksgiving anyways?). When I doubled the recipe, I had extra purred pumpkin, so I just added the extra to the filling, and the pie was extra pumpkiny.  One dangerous find was caramelized roasted pumpkin seeds from the Halifax market, which added a lovely crunch.  Served with whipping cream, this recipe aced the test, so I’ll definitely be whipping up another two pies this weekend for the real deal!

Silver Palate’s Pumpkin Pie

(makes one 9-inch pie)


3 eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 cups canned pureed pumpkin (make sure you buy unseasoned pumpkin puree)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup half-and-half

1 unbaked pie crust

For garnish, pecan halves and toasted pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 450 Farhenheit. Beat the eggs and both sugars together in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy.  Stir in the pumpkin puree, spices, and salt and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the cream and half-and-half.

Roll out the pastry on a slightly floured work surface and line a 9-inch bake pan with it; trim and crimp the edges.  Pour in the filling.

Bake the pie for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 Fahrenheit and bake until the filling is set and slightly puffed (a knive inserted in the center will come out clean), another 40 to 45 minutes.

Arrange the pecan halves decoratively around the edges, pressing them lightly into the warm filling.  Cool completely before cutting.  Delicious served with whipped cream!

– Catherine

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What in the world is Canadian food?  Well, it’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, because a friend of ours from Denmark asked us to make him some Canadian food.  That was more of a challenge than I thought it would be!

My family’s roots in Canada are not long; I am first-generation Canadian on my mother’s side, and second on my father.  This means we do not have long-standing “Canadian Recipes” that have been passed down generation to generation.  Catherine, on the other hand, may be able to speak to that.

What exactly is Canadian food?  In a course this past week (human nutritional ecology), we asked the question of what are and why do certain foods become culturally defined?  Sometimes, such as the famous British Christmas Pudding attests to, it is a cultural recipe by the making: in this case the government decided it was time to bring the nation together with a dessert.

In Canada, however, the situation is very different.  We are, by nature, a diverse bunch of people who have been living on this land of ours for very different amounts of time.  There is lobster on the East Coast, smoked fish in the great lakes and the West Coast, Ukranian/Polish food in the prairies, Inuit food in the North, poutine and other dishes in Québec… so I struggled to decide what to make.

In the end I decided that I would have a theme running throughout: maple syrup, because this food has been a part of this land for much longer than it even was known as Canada.  There were sweet potato fries dipped in maple syrup, maple-walnut ice cream, and butter tarts with maple syrup and pecans. Today, I am sharing the butter tart recipe.  I adapted the recipe from Canadian Living’s Best Butter Tart recipe from a magazine clipping I had from a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy them!  They are absolutely delicious, with a wonderfully flaky crust and oozing with maple deliciousness.

Ingredients – 12 tarts


-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 Tbsp granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
-1 egg yolk
-1 tsp vinegar
-1/3 cup ice water, plus more if necessary


-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2/3 cups maple syrup
-1 egg
-2 Tbsp butter, softened
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 pinch salt
-1/2 cup chopped pecans


To make the crust, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.  Cube the cold butter and keep in fridge to make sure it is as cold as possible.  Cut it quickly into the flour mixture, until pea-sized butter lumps and a few bigger ones remain. Then mix the egg yolk with vinegar and 1/3 cup water.  Quickly mix this into the flour mix with your hands, and form it into a ball as fast as possible without kneading.  Form it into a disk and let it rest at least 1 hour in the fridge in plastic wrap.

To make the filling, heat the maple syrup over medium-high heat, and let it boil down until it is about 1/2 cup in volume, close to 5 minutes of bubbling. Watch it carefully as it easily bubbles over.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, cooled syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of wax paper or onto a well floured surface.  Cut into 12 squares.  Butter a muffin tin, and place the squares in each muffin container.  Drop some pecans into each, cover with syrup, and drop a few more pecans on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for between 12-17 minutes, until the tips of the pastry are golden and the middle is bubbly.  Remove from the oven once they are cooked, and let cool at least 30 minutes before removing them from the muffin tin (syrup will end up everywhere if you are impatient… I can attest to this!).  Enjoy with afternoon tea or for dessert.  These are an absolute treat, and judging by their name, I was expecting far more than 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter.  But then again, my background is French…


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February’s Bon Appetit had a glorious photo of brownies with the disclaimer “Best-Ever Brownies” on their cover.  This was quite the bold statement, seeing as any good chef has a secret brownie recipe (mine is the Ford family secret recipe for Chocolate Chews).  As someone who is in evidence-based health care (epidemiology), this presented an important challenge: how can one ensure that the brownies are truly the “best-ever” unless one repeatedly tests them?

After three trays of brownies in less than two weeks, I can vouch that Bon Appetit’s claim of “best-ever” possesses a significant element of truth.  If you like deep chocolaty brownies that are incredibly moist and smooth (the very pinnacle of decadent), then these brownies are for you.  They literally melt in your mouth and seem to evaporate.  Served with ice cream and strawberries, this makes for a perfect dessert.  I suspect I’ll be making many more trays in the upcoming months!

A few notes about the batter: it is partially cooked over the stove, resulting in a rather odd texture.  Do not worry – by the time the brownies emerge from the oven, they will be just lovely. I also substituted pecans for walnuts because I love how beautifully pecans complement chocolate, but I think this recipe would be delicious too using other nuts or sans nuts.


Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Pecans

(16 squares if you are a better person than me and follow Bon Appetit’s suggested serving size; I myself would advise dividing into 4)



½ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter

1 ¼ cups sugar

¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons water

¼ teaspoon salt (if used unsalted butter)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour

1 cup pecan pieces



Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil in an 8×8 inch pan.

In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Allow to simmer until foam has subsided and small brown specks appear in the butter, about five minutes.  Remove from heat, and immediately add the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, water, and salt.  Whisk until smooth.  Allow the mixture to cool for five minutes, before beating the eggs in one at a time, fully incorporating the first egg before adding the second, until the batter is glossy and thick.  Add the flour, and then beat the mixture at least 60 times.  Incorporate the pecans.

Cook for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean minus a few chocolate clumps.  Allow the brownies t cool fully (or, if you are impatient like me for my first two trays, your brownie will not cut cleanly, but will still taste absolutely delicious).


–       Catherine



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