This time of year I find there are two kinds of people I meet: those who are just starting their festivus-for-the-rest-of-us party circuit or or those who are winding down their winter fun. Because of geography and the my bi-provincial existence, I sit squarely in the former category. We’ve been catching up with friends, attending Sagittarius birthday dinners or Christmasy work functions here in Edmonton. Next week we’ll be eating, laughing and kitchen dancing with more family back in British Columbia.
Throughout all of this I’ve realized just how important it is to keep things simple when it comes to preparing festive foods. Whether you are going to a potluck, hosting a pre-Christmas dinner with the in-laws or just chilling with your family or friends, it makes sense to stay on the easy train, rather than the mega-intricate (and stressful). So grab a glass of your fave festive nog, sit down, peruse and choose a recipe (or seven) from my mini round up below.
Saskatoon Berry Coulis
This is a fantastic addition to a cocktail, vanilla ice cream, pancakes or cocktail. The best part: if you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan or some parts of B.C., chances are you can buy this from local farmers markets or might have your own frozen stash in the freezer.
Here’s a super easy sauce recipe that you can use right away or fortify with a bit of booze to make it last a while.
1 cup of frozen Saskatoon berries
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of cane sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp of lemon juice
Pour your frozen Saskatoon berries into a small to medium sized pot, add water. Cook on low until the berries are thawed and the water turns deep, dark purple. Mash the berries with a potato masher. Add sugar. Stir, increase heat to medium. Take a vanilla bean, slice lengthwise down the vanilla bean, scrape out tiny black seeds. If you don’t mind your coulis a bit chunky, you can chop up the remaining bean and add to the coulis mixture. Bring everything to a boil, turn to low and simmer. Add lemon juice. Simmer until coulis thickens, dropping off your spoon about as fast as maple syrup would. Let cool. If you like it chunky, leave as is. If you like it smooth, puree in a blender. Add to your favourite berry-centric cocktail, use as a topping for ice cream or pancakes. If you want to store the mixture in your fridge for more than five days, add .5oz of vodka to the mixture when it’s cooling down to fortify it (so it will keep longer).
Prairie stone fruit: Sour Cherry Clafoutis
Until March of this year, I was a Clafoutis virgin – I had to recipe test for an article I was writing last spring on sour cherries, which I had also never tried. Double whammy taste bud voyage into the unknown. The resulting journey: a boozy, sweet but tart dessert. Check out this super simple recipe and mini history of sour cherries in Alberta.
Seasonal side dish: Brussels Sprouts
Did you know that the Netherlands is the world’s largest Brussels Sprouts grower, not Belgium (as you might guess from their name)? Me neither until I wrote about them for Avenue Magazine here. Check out this super simple wine/garlic/brussels sprouts recipe from super popular Edmonton smokehouse Meat.
The Technicolour Starter: Beet & Mixed Bean Hummus
Jeremy and Adrian of Vancouver food blog The Food Gays churn out some pretty photogenic and wolfable food. This bright pink hummus is no exception. We have a million pounds of beets in our freezer so this is a perfect use for them and gains you pretty points at the next festivus potluck.
Westcoast Bestcoast Simple Salmon Crostini*
1 can of wild salmon (don’t buy it unless it explicitly says wild on the can)
1/4 cup of room temperature cream cheese
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons of Herbs to taste (think chives or dill or tarragon)
pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/4 red onion finely chopped (optional)
1/2 whole wheat baguette
Slice the baguette in 1 cm slices, butter them and cook in the oven at 300F for about 10-15 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Drain the juice from the can of salmon, use a fork to flake out the fish into a medium sized bowl, de-bone as you flak. Mash/fluff salmon with the fork. Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, herbs, red onion and mix well with the fork until the mixture is light and fluffy, like a dusty rose mousse. Add lemon juice and pepper, stir well. Cover and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let the flavours mesh. Once the salmon mousse has set and the crostinis are cool. Spread a heaping teaspoon on each crostini. Feeling fancy? Garnish with a caper or sprig of dill or parsley. Serve on a platter as above (see top photo).
Festive Chocolate Mediants
If you want to bring a host gift that looks and tastes WAAAAY fancier than it is, try Edible Woman’s chocolate mediants recipe. They are one of the lowest effort desserts I’ve ever made for the most amount of compliments. They’re best stored in the freezer, out of sight
Vermints: the Organic Alternative
If you’re tired of uber-saccharine Christmas candies, I would suggest grabbing a tin of VerMints. A 100% organic company, VerMints comes in yummy flavours like chai, ginger mint and wintergreen. Their cinnamon mints are better than the bright red hearts you get at valentines and the chai mints are a perfect after meal alternative. VerMints has a cute contest going on right now. VerMints is running a social media contest, asking customers to share who they would like to kiss under the mistletoe for a chance to gift them a year’s supply of VerMints.
If you’re looking for a modest little package of VerMints enter my holiday give-away below. The folks at VerMints sent me some goodies to share with you dear readers. To enter you need to do two things:
- Subscribe to my mailing list in the left hand menu <<<
- Share your favourite, easy festive treat in the comments below. I’ll draw the winner on January 2 and mail your mints soon after.
Giveaway winners will receive a Four-pack of VerMints: Wintergreen, GingerMint, Cafe Express and Peppermint plus a couple of cards from my fave Edmonton Calligrapher Justine Ma. Talk about starting the year off right!
While we’re talking festive foods, check out my article for Lipstick Lifestyle on Canada’s regional festive foods from Newfoundland to Alberta and the Yukon.
In case you missed it: these six winter-y cocktails would pair well with any or all of these festive dishes. I’ve been alternating between the Navidad Negroni and The Flying Fig for a couple weeks now.
UPDATE: Congrats to Suzanne – the lucky winner of the VerMints giveaway.