Category French

Farm-To-Table Fresh Asparagus: Andrews Scenic Acres

Olive is happy to report that local field asparagus season has begun! Despite the looming storm clouds, I was determined to drive out to Andrews’ Scenic Acres yesterday morning to do something I’ve long wanted to do: pick my own asparagus. It turned out to be a beautiful morning.


It is early in the season and the asparagus has just begun to come up alongside the rhubarb. Farmer Bert Andrews says the asparagus season will run from now to about mid June; the first of June will likely be the ideal pick-your-own period. The pick-your-own rhubarb season will run from now to about the end of June.


The asparagus field looks like a a little comical with single spears poking up up from the ground, here and there. In the photo above, you can barely see them poking up along the horizon.


To ensure the asparagus will grow back again next year, cut the asparagus about one inch below the surface of the earth; it’s easy and Andrews’ will supply you with a knife. Wear rubber boots and protect yourself from mosquitoes.

Harvested Asparagus

You can’t get farm-to-table fresher than picking your own. I couldn’t resist trying a spear raw: it tasted green and robust and sweeter than the raw spears I have tasted from the grocery store. If you are tempted to try one of the many raw asparagus salad recipes that are trending right now, I recommend picking your own asparagus and eating the salad as soon as possible the same day.

I decided to treat my Dad to a bundle of ready-picked asparagus that Farmer Bert Andrews (below left) brings in from Simcoe County while his asparagus is still so early in the season. Manager Stephanny (below right) helped me pick out a bundle of Andrews’ ready-picked rhubarb; I’ll turn it into stewed rhubarb to eat with my breakfast yogurt. Oh my, how Olive loves spring!


Farmer Bert Andrews and Manager Stephanny

I prefer to eat my asparagus the day I buy it but it will keep in your fridge okay for a few days if you stand the stem ends in a jug of water or wrap them in a damp paper towel and cover the bunch in plastic wrap. I snap off the woody ends where they break naturally and wash each spear under cold, running water, paying special attention to the head where sand and grit get trapped. For tips on choosing, storing, and preparing asparagus visit Foodland Ontario.

My preferred method of cooking asparagus is oven-roasted. Oven-roasting caramelizes the asparagus and I find I don’t need to serve anything with it but a squirt of lemon juice. My Simple Oven-Roasted Asparagus recipe is here:

But what better way to celebrate the start of the local asparagus season than with a splurge of hollandaise sauce? A dear friend (and fabulous cook) recently gave me a great recipe for an easy and delicious blender hollandaise sauce. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the recipe.


Andrews’ Scenic Acres (established in 1980) and Scotch Block Country Winery (a fruit winery opened in 1999), is family operated and grows a wide variety of pick-your-own or fresh picked fruit, vegetables, and flowers. The barn market sells jams, jellies, pies, tarts, honey, maple syrup, juices and frozen fruit. House-made frozen yogurt and ice cream is made from farm-grown fruit. Family fun and harvest festivals.

Andrews’ Scenic Acres
9365 10th Sideroad
Halton Hills, Ontario

Telephone: 905-878-5807

Please call to confirm dates and time open.

Open daily: May 3rd to November 1st, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Open November 1st to December 31st, Saturday and Sunday plus the week before Christmas: 11am to 5pm.

Andrews’ Scenic Acres also sells their farm fresh produce at several local farmers’ markets. Click here for a list:



Easy Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

This recipe was passed on to me by a dear friend and fabulous cook. Use a blender or food processor for best results.


3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon of water
3/4 cup unsalted butter
Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground white pepper, freshly ground black pepper, or ground cayenne pepper.


  1. Place butter in a small saucepan over low heat to melt.
  2. Plop water and egg yolks in a blender or food processor; blend for about 90 seconds.
  3. Turn the heat under the melted butter up to medium high, just until the butter starts to bubble.
  4. With the blender motor running, slowly pour the hot melted butter through the feeder tube in a thin, steady stream (don’t include the milky, foamy bits); sauce will thicken at this point.
  5. Again with the motor running, add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper through the feeder tube. Unplug the machine and taste to adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately with steamed asparagus, steamed artichokes, steamed new potatoes, poached eggs, or roasted fish.

Though the eggs are lightly cooked by the hot butter, as a safety precaution follow all food safety guidelines concerning the consumption of raw eggs.

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Fun, Festive Finish to the Holidays: Almond Pithivier from Patisserie D’Or

Here is a fun, festive way to finish the holidays: an Almond Pithivier from Oakville’s Patisserie D’Or. Also known as Galette des Rois (cake of kings), Almond Pithivier originates from Pithiviers, France and is traditionally served on January 6th to celebrate the Epiphany (when the three kings arrived to celebrate the birth of Christ).

Almond_Pithivier Patisserie D'Or

Patisserie D’Or handcrafts their all butter puff pastry which enrobes a delicious frangipane (almond cream) filling; hidden inside is a small porcelain figurine. According to tradition, the person whose slice holds the hidden trinket is honoured as King for the Day and gets to wear the paper crown. The figurine is small; tread carefully until you find it.


Found! My son is King for the Day; we are at his mercy. Good thing midnight soon approaches!

Available in plain almond, apple almond, or pear almond. Includes hidden porcelain figurine and paper crown. Purchase frozen, defrost for 30 minutes, and follow the easy baking instructions. It bakes up beautifully.

Please call ahead to ensure availability. Check my Grocery Store Directory for contact and location details for Patisserie d’Or.

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Crêpes Audrey

I served these elegant make-ahead crêpes to my Mom one Christmas morning, while the sun was streaming in and illuminating her graceful face. She titled her head in her usual loving way and gave a simple, gentle response: “exquisite” (she was my biggest fan). I immediately named them Crêpes Audrey and have served them on Christmas morning ever since.


Crêpes Audrey are filled with either spinach and béchamel or ham and mushrooms – I double the recipe for my crêpe batter and make both fillings, so my guests can choose either or one of each. The filling is spread thin enough to be able to fold the crêpe over twice. Because they are topped with a poached egg, these crêpes aren’t covered in heavy sauce. The end result is a delicious, light crêpe that will tide you over until Christmas dinner.

Instead of fussing on Christmas morning, I make these up to one week in advance. Make the crêpe batter first, let it rest in the fridge while preparing the filling, and then make the crêpes. Once the filling and crêpes have cooled, stuff the crêpes and freeze them; defrost overnight in the refrigerator. On Christmas morning gently bake them; meanwhile, poach one egg to adorn each crêpe and voilà, everybody is pampered and clean up is a breeze.

Here is a photo of my beautiful Mom holding me as a newborn, with the light streaming in the same way it did that morning I served her my crêpes. May your heart be filled with the love of your family on Christmas morning. Merry Christmas everyone.

My Mom and I

Kathryn’s Crêpe Batter

Makes 6 crêpes using a 10” crêpe pan. Needs 1 hour resting time.

When visiting our Montreal family, we can always count on a delicious breakfast: Gabriel’s omelet or Kathryn’s homemade crêpes, and really good coffee. But the best part is, enjoying it with our lovely nieces.

One crêpe batter recipe makes enough crêpes for one recipe of Spinach Béchamel Filling or one recipe of Ham & Mushroom Filling. If you are making both fillings, double the crêpe batter recipe. The finished crêpe should be thin, so just add a little batter to the pan and quickly tilt the pan to swirl the batter evenly across the surface of the pan. Don’t worry if your first crêpe is a bust; this batter makes about seven crêpes – the first crêpe is often a trial crêpe that won’t turn out perfectly.

I have used both an inverted crêpe pan (which makes ultra thin crêpes) and a 10” cast iron crêpe pan (which makes the crêpes slightly thicker). For Crêpes Audrey, I prefer to use the cast iron crêpe pan – the slightly thicker crêpes are stronger and won’t tear as easily while filling and folding. Kathryn doesn’t add the melted butter, but I have more success with my crêpe pan if I do.

Dry Ingredients:

⅞ cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled not spooned and leveled)
¼ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil for brushing crêpe pan


Choose either Mixer Method or Blender Method to prepare the batter and then proceed to the Cooking instructions.

Mixer Method:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt; mix with a whisk until combined thoroughly; set aside.
  2. Place melted butter, milk, and eggs in a large bowl; using a mixer, whip until blended. Add flour mixture; mix on low speed until batter is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary.
  3. Place batter in refrigerator to rest for 1 hour. Bring to room temperature for 15 minutes before proceeding.

Blender Method:

  1. Place melted butter, milk, and eggs in a blender; blend until combined. Add flour and salt; purée until batter is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of blender with a rubber spatula when necessary.
  2. Place batter in refrigerator to rest for 1 hour. Bring to room temperature for 15 minutes before proceeding.


  1. Preheat crêpe pan over medium heat; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Whisk batter until smooth. While protecting your hand with an oven mitt, grasp handle of crêpe pan and tilt pan slightly off heat; add a scant ⅓ cup of batter (¼ cup for a 9” crêpe pan) to the centre of the hot pan and quickly and continually tilt pan in a circular motion to swirl batter evenly and thinly over surface of pan; as soon as surface is coated evenly, return pan to heat. Cook until underside of crêpe is golden, about 1 minute. Using a heatproof spatula, loosen the edges of the crêpe, then slide the spatula under the crêpe and flip crêpe over; cook until second side is golden, about 1 minute. Carefully remove cooked crêpe with rubber spatula; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or cooling rack.
  2. Repeat with remaining batter, lightly oiling pan if necessary, placing cooked crêpes in a single layer, and separating any additional layers with parchment paper.

Crêpes Audrey

Makes 6 servings of 1 or 2 crêpes each.


6 prepared crêpes and 1 batch of Spinach Béchamel Filling
6 prepared crêpes and 1 batch of Ham & Mushroom Filling
6 eggs for poaching

Spinach Béchamel Filling:

Stuffs 6 crêpes.

Spinach Ingredients:

1 package (1 lb/454 g) pre-washed fresh baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon olive oil

Spinach Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; add half of spinach and sauté, continually turning and lifting bottom spinach leaves to top, until volume reduces and there is room to add remaining spinach; add remaining spinach and sauté, turning and stirring quickly and constantly, until all spinach is just wilted.
  2. Transfer spinach to a colander set over a bowl; press with back of spoon to drain out all excess water. Place drained spinach on a cutting board and chop roughly; set aside. Wipe pan clean to use to make béchamel.

Béchamel Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup milk

Spinach Béchamel Filling Directions:

  1. In same large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat (watch carefully to prevent butter from burning). Add flour; whisk constantly until mixture just starts to turn golden and fragrant (like the smell of shortbread baking), about 1 minute. Immediately but slowly add milk, whisking constantly; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes – mixture should be bubbling but not burning bottom. Whisk in salt. Remove from heat; fold in cooked, drained spinach leaves, blending thoroughly.
  2. If freezing, let filling cool before stuffing crêpes. Spread about 2 tablespoons filling over half of one crêpe. Fold in half and then in half again to create a triangle. Freeze in resealable freezer bags, using parchment paper to separate overlapping crêpes, up to 1 week. When ready to bake, defrost stuffed crêpes in the refrigerator overnight. See Stuffed Crêpes Baking Instructions below.

Ham & Mushroom Filling:

Stuffs 6 crêpes.

Sautéed Mushrooms Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 package (8 oz/227g) washed, sliced white mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Other ingredients:

½ cup grated old cheddar cheese
100 grams thinly shaved black forest ham

Sautéed Mushrooms Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat; add mushrooms; sauté until mushrooms release all of their water and turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add butter, thyme, salt, and pepper; sauté, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden brown and thyme is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool before filling crêpes.

Ham & Mushroom Filling Directions:

  1. Divide ham evenly between 6 crêpes; lay a thin layer of ham over half of each crêpe. Top with a thin layer of mushrooms. Sprinkle lightly with cheese. Fold crêpe in half and then in half again, creating a triangle.
  2. Follow freezing instructions for Spinach Béchamel Filling. When ready to bake, defrost stuffed crêpes in the refrigerator overnight. See Stuffed Crêpes Baking Instructions below.

Stuffed Crêpes Baking Instructions:

  1. Defrost stuffed crêpes in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325°F. Place crêpes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet; cover with foil. Bake just until crêpes are hot throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place on a serving plate. Top with a well-drained poached or fried egg and garnish with a lemon wedge, if desired. Serve warm.


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Olive’s Keep Calm & Carry On Christmas Survival Guide: Christmas in Paris – Easy Chic Brunch

Christmas in Paris

My friends and I have gathered together for Christmas brunch every single year since record albums were the coolest Christmas gifts.  This year, I decided to treat them to Christmas in Paris – one of my friends opened up her lovely Georgetown home and I threw together an easy, chic brunch with a French twist. I gathered ready-made gourmet treats from local artisans, made a couple of recipes ahead of time (inspired by a famous Parisian pastry chef and a French cookbook writer), and prepared two showstopper, easy-assemble salads. Throw on a scratchy recording of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose et voilà, it’s Christmas in Paris through rose-coloured glasses.

Champage with Wild Hibiscus

Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Rose Syrup served in Champagne:

Wild Hibiscus in Rose Syrup When you combine Christmas and cherished friends at the same table, it’s time to pull out all the stops. I served some extra special treats to nibble and sip on as hors d’oeuvres. Rose syrup is the flavour du jour in Paris and this jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Rose Syrup contains 15 handpicked wild hibiscus flowers packed in syrup made from the natural essence of two dozen Bulgarian roses. Place one flower in the bottom of a champagne flute, add some rose syrup, pour in the champagne and watch the bubbles unfurl the flower – it reminds me of the skirts flying at Le Moulin Rouge. Available as a limited edition production from Crafted Décor in Streetsville and Florence Meats in Oakville.

Pierre Hermé's Olive Sablés

Pierre Hermé’s Olive Sablés served with White Wine or Champagne:

These aren’t just any savoury cookie – they are an utterly surprising savoury French shortbread that will have your guests shocked by the initial sweetness (from the icing sugar), enamoured by the incredible tenderness (from the potato starch and grated egg yolk) and then, when the salty and fruity notes (from the oil-cured black olives and olive oil) hit the stage, you just may hear gasps followed by utterances of ooh la la…as if you were watching the latest Parisian haute couture creation walk down the runway in the city’s top fashion house. In fact, the recipe comes from famous French Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé, who is widely acclaimed as the “Couturier of Haute Pâtisserie”.

I made the dough well in advance and rolled it into logs, then froze them. When ready to bake, I took one log out at a time a few moments before baking, then sliced from frozen and baked. The recipe turned out beautifully – you simply must have it in your repertoire. How does a local gal comme moi get her hands on Pierre Hermé’s recipe? I found it in Dorie Greenspan’s charmingly chic cookbook, Around My French Table, which is available to borrow from the Mississauga Library or to buy from  It’s on my Christmas wish list – I hope my husband is reading my blog posts!

Spirit Tree Cidery's Pâté & Evelyn's Crackers

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery Pâté with Ice Cider & Shallots and Evelyn’s Currant in the Rye Crackers served with Sparkling Pear Cider:

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery Pâté with Ice Cider & Shallots is a superb pâté. Luxuriously smooth and creamy, it’s packed with the flavour of all natural ingredients: chicken livers, clarified butter, shallots, port, brandy, ice cider, Calvados, apple syrup, eggs, and spices. It’s frozen in adorable little 165g ceramic pots. I picked it up from Spirit Tree Estate Cidery a while back and stored it in my freezer, ready for Christmas entertaining. Just defrost overnight in your fridge.

Evelyn’s Currant in the Rye Crackers are the perfect match for this pâté: a hearty yet delicate cracker made with preservative-free, all natural ingredients including dried currants, fennel, anise, and caraway seeds and best of all, 100% heritage organic rye grown and milled by Ontario farmers. Evelyn’s Crackers are made by “cracker heroes” Dawn and Ed – find out what makes them heroes here:  Available at Whole Foods. For other locations throughout Ontario, click here:

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery Sparkling Pear Cider Spirit Tree Estate Cidery Sparkling Pear Cider is a refreshing choice for those who are looking for something non-alcoholic: fresh pear, just a hint of sweetness, bubbly, and light.  It’s perfect for special celebrations.  Also available in Sparkling Sweet Apple Cider. Spirit Tree’s Mulled Apple Cider containing chopped fruit and spices would be another great choice and very festive. If you would like to learn a little bit more about Spirit Tree, read my full post here: Spirit Tree Estate Cidery: Savour the Quality.

For the main meal, I laid out an impressive line-up of store-bought gourmet goodies and two easily prepared dishes I made myself that just needed just some minor last minute preparations.

Proscuitto Wrapped Cheese Stuffed Warm Fig Salad with Arugula

Prosciutto Wrapped Fresh Figs Stuffed with Cheese on Arugula

Serves 6

This showstopper, palate-pleasing salad is a cinch to assemble à la minute. The sweetness of the figs and vinegar plays against the salty prosciutto, creamy tang of the blue cheese, and peppery punch of the arugula. If you don’t like blue cheese, feel free to use brie or chèvre instead. I used a beautiful combination of Date Crème Vinegar and Hazelnut Oil that I picked up at Crescendo World of Oils Vinegars and Spices in Toronto’s Distillery district – but extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze are also terrific.


6 fresh figs, sliced in half from stem end to blossom end, keeping stem halves intact
1/3 cup your favourite creamy mild blue such as St. Agur or Devil’s Rock (or chèvre)
6 slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
6 handfuls of baby arugula (or your favourite greens)
Hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
Date Crème Vinegar or balsamic glaze
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Smear cheese on cut side of each fig half. Wrap each half with prosciutto. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator up to 4 hours before serving or bake immediately, according to the following instructions.
  2. Arrange cheese side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in 425°F oven until prosciutto is crisp and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the greens with some salt, pepper, and oil; spread greens out on a pretty platter; place figs on top and drizzle figs and salad with vinegar. Serve warm.

Quiche Lorraine (with potato, gruyère, and bacon) from Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, butter croissants from Patisserie d'Or, Vodka Infused Smoked Salmon from Cousins Gourmet Market.

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery Quiche:

Make sure you search out the very best handcrafted quiche you can find. Spirit Tree Estate Cidery makes delicious quiche. The Quiche Lorraine is full of hearty flavour from bacon, potato, thyme, and swiss cheese. The Tomato & Spinach quiche has intensely flavoured wood-oven-dried tomatoes, sautéed spinach, thyme, and clumps of soft chèvre, all suspended in a lovely egg custard. I purchased both quiches frozen, stored them in my freezer, and baked them from frozen on the day of the brunch. I haven’t tried their Mushroom & Potato or Cauliflower quiche yet but they sound tempting.

If you can’t make it out to Spirit Tree, good quality quiche can also be found at The Hot Oven in Etobicoke, Cousin’s Gourmet Market in Port Credit, Black Forest Pastry Shop in Oakville, and Kate’s Town Talk Bakery in Streetsville (Kate also sells a really tasty Spinach & Cheese pie – another one of my favourites). Wherever you choose to purchase your quiche, be sure to call ahead to place an order in advance.

Vodka Infused Smoked Salmon:

Drape some luxurious smoked salmon on a pretty platter and garnish with lemon wedges and perhaps, capers, sliced onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. My absolute favourite is a locally produced Vodka Infused Smoked Salmon that I buy from Cousin’s Gourmet Market in Port Credit and have also found it at Domenic’s in the St. Lawrence Market. It is so tender, that it almost melts in your mouth.

Artisanal Croissants:

What would Christmas in Paris be like without really good croissants? I picked up frozen chocolate and butter croissants handcrafted at Patisserie D’Or in Oakville, stashed them in my freezer, took them out to rise overnight, then baked fresh the morning of the brunch –you can’t get easier or more delicious than that. Boy did my kitchen smell heavenly! These croissants have a buttery flavour and a nice mouthfeel.

And now for the grande finale…

Macarons from Whole Foods

French Macarons:

Buy a colourful assortment of the very best French macarons you can find. I picked up these little beauties from Whole Foods, made by La Fournette Bakery: mango, passion fruit, vanilla, raspberry, pumpkin, chocolate, pistachio, and my favourite – hazelnut.

Ispahan Parfait

Ispahan Parfait

Serves 6

This showstopper fruit salad was inspired by the beautiful flavour combination of raspberries, lychee and rose, created by famous French Pastry Chef, Pierre Hermé, as a macaron flavour, and now all the rage in Paris. You won’t really notice the rose syrup in this gorgeous and healthy parfait – just a hint of je ne sais quois. Make both the rose syrup and the pistachio dust in advance (you can even freeze them if you need to). Combine the raspberries and lychees with the syrup at the last minute, or earlier on the day of serving, if necessary. Spoon into pretty glasses and top with yogurt, almonds, and pistachio dust just before serving. Feminine, festive, and fusion-French, it’s perfect for my girlfriends’ Christmas brunch.

If you don’t want to make your own rose syrup, you can order an exquisite Wild Rose Petal Syrup from Forbes Wild Foods, a Canadian company that supplies sustainably-harvested wild foods from the Canadian wilderness to restaurants, hotels, stores, and on-line customers. To order on-line click here:

Oh to be in Pierre Hermé Paris at Christmas time.


1 can (560mL) whole lychees in light syrup
1 package (6 oz/170g) fresh raspberries
¼ cup reserved lychee syrup from above can
5 teaspoons Rose Syrup (see recipe below)
½ cup vanilla yogurt – such as Sheldon Creek Dairy’s Greek-style Yogurt (see note below)
6 teaspoons raw slivered almonds
3 tablespoons Pistachio Dust (see recipe below)


  1. Drain lychees into strainer set over a medium bowl to reserve lychees and lychee syrup; slice lychees in half. Place lychees in a second medium size bowl. Add raspberries to lychee fruit.
  2. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup lychee syrup and 5 teaspoons rose syrup; add to lychees and raspberries and toss gently. Divide fruit evenly amongst 6 small pretty cups; spoon in a little syrup.
  3. Place 1 spoonful of yogurt on top of each cup. Top each with 1 teaspoon of slivered almonds and then 1/2 tablespoon pistachio dust. Serve immediately.

Rose Syrup:

Makes just over 1/3 cup.

You’ll need rosewater, which you can find in Middle Eastern grocery stores such as Adonis. Store your rosewater and rose syrup in the fridge.


1 cup water
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater


  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced and become syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and rosewater. Let cool completely.
  2. Store in a covered container in refrigerator for a few days or freeze in an airtight container for longer storage. Defrost in fridge before using.

Pistachio Dust:

So pretty sprinkled on fruit salad, especially on raspberries or strawberries at Christmas time.


1 cup shelled raw pistachios


  1. Using a mini processor, grind pistachios into a fine dust. Store in an airtight container in freezer until ready to use.

Sheldon Creek Dairy Fresh Milk & Greek Style Yogurt A little decadence is called for here, so look for the richest yogurt you can find. Spirit Tree Estate Cidery sells a luxuriously creamy Greek Style Vanilla Yogurt from Sheldon Creek Dairy, made with pasteurized whole milk, light brown cane sugar, vanilla extract, and bacterial culture – and nothing else! Sheldon Creek Dairy’s pasteurized Cream Top Whole Non-Homogenized Milk is nutrient-rich, all natural, and has cream that rises to the top of the bottle and separates (how milk was made before we homogenized it): shake it in the bottle for creamier milk or spoon out to add to your coffee.  Sheldon Creek Dairy is owned and operated by the den Haan family whose herd of cows graze the pastures of the Sheldon Valley, in Loretto, Ontario. Click here for other retail locations:

For further details and locations of suppliers featured in this post, check my Grocery Store Directory or Farmers’ Market Directory.

To further enhance the mood, you may wish to play the following music suggestions:

White Christmas Michael Buble & Shy’m

Noel Blanc Coeur de Pirate

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Fall Colours: Provencal Stuffed Baby Peppers

One fall, after taking his daughters on a lovely trip to Provence in the south of France, my father requested a Provençal-style Thanksgiving dinner. After such a memorable trip, we were more than happy to oblige. We spread out the sunny Provençal tablecloths that we bought at the market in Uzès. Then we laid out a delicious feast of roast turkey (and called it Dinde Rôtie), Potatoes Savoyard (Jane Rodmell’s Cottage Life’s Summer Weekends Cookbook), Cauliflower Gratin (Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris), Sweet Potato & Sage Brûlée (Lucy Waverman, Food & Drink Holiday 2007), and these pretty stuffed peppers, inspired by Laura Calder’s Tomato-stuffed Peppers (French Food at Home).  Colourful, flavourful, and oh so darling, they pair nicely with a glass of wine and a Provençal state of mind.


Provençal Stuffed Baby Peppers

Makes about 36 halves

The brainchild behind this recipe is Laura Calder. I changed her recipe slightly, using baby peppers and cherry tomatoes instead of big ones, my olive purée instead of the stronger tasting tapenade, and added goat cheese for creaminess and a touch of panko bread crumbs for a slight crunch. Make the olive purée ahead of time, so there is less to do at assembly time.



1 ½ lbs. mini sweet bell peppers, in a colourful medley of orange, yellow, red

1 pint cherry/grape tomatoes in a colourful medley of orange, yellow, red

1 bunch of fresh basil, stems removed

¼ cup Black Olive Purée (see recipe below)

1 small package (130 g) soft, unripened chèvre (goat’s milk cheese)

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut each pepper in half, lengthwise from stem to tip, leaving the stems intact on both halves; remove and discard the seeds. Place pepper halves, cut side up, on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet; roast until the peppers are slightly tender but still hold their shape, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven; let peppers cool slightly but leave them on the tray and leave the oven on at 375°F.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and pulp. Turn halves upside down to drain while peppers are roasting.
  4. When step two is completed, place 1 large basil leaf or two smaller basil leaves in each pepper half.
  5. Place 1/8 teaspoon of olive purée on top of basil; carefully spread out the purée a little.
  6. Place a tomato half, cut side up, on top of the olive purée, choosing a contrasting-coloured tomato for each pepper. If tomato halves are too big, cut them in half lengthwise again.
  7. Place ½ teaspoon of goat cheese in each tomato half.
  8. Repeat with remaining peppers.
  9. Sprinkle the panko bread crumbs evenly over the top of the peppers.
  10. Drizzle the peppers evenly with olive oil.
  11. Return pan to the oven and bake until cheese is soft and bread crumbs are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, to taste. Serve warm.


sundried_moroccan_black_olives Black Olive Purée

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

Inspired by a Patricia Wells recipe (Olive Purée from Nyons, The Provence Cookbook), this spread is similar to tapenade but doesn’t include the strong flavours of capers, anchovies, and mustard which I find overpowering. Here, the olives are the star. I use thyme and rosemary (instead of herbes de Provence) and I throw in a garlic clove just for good measure. Oh, wouldn’t I love to get my hands on the Nyons olives that inspired Ms. Wells to create her recipe! Instead, I use the wrinkly but meaty, sun-dried black olives (such as the flavourful, sun-dried Moroccan olives that Longo’s currently carries in their olive bar). Whatever you do, don’t use totally flavorless canned black olives. Use this spread sparingly because it is quite salty.


2 cups best-quality sun-dried black olives, pitted

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 clove of garlic

2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, if required


  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor or blender. Blend to a thick paste; if too thick, add oil and blend again.
  2. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and cover; store in refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for longer storage. Defrost before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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