Red Wine Lemonade With Blood Orange Juice

Bird's eye view picture of two red wine lemonades with blood orange juice cocktails garnished with blood orange slices. The glasses are on a stark white background and are filled with ice and are completed with a metal straw.

If you haven’t tried red wine lemonade you’re missing out. I know, I know, everyone is always immediately skeptical of this unexpected combination but trust me when I say it’s delicious. Think of red wine lemonade as sangria’s less distinguished—yet equally refreshing—younger sibling. Popular in Spain, where it’s known as tinto de verano or “the red wine of summer.” This simple wine-based cocktail is traditionally made with inexpensive wine and sparkling lemonade and served over ice. Unlike sangria, this blood orange red wine lemonade can be made just before serving, no soaking of fruit required! In this version of red wine lemonade, the blood orange juice adds a not-too-intense hint of musky sweetness. The resulting blood orange red wine lemonade is a gorgeous, budget-friendly cocktail that can be made by the glass or in large batches for a crowd.

Bird's eye view of blood oranges for red wine lemonade.

Red Wine Lemonade With Blood Orange Juice

Yields:

1 Blood Orange Red Wine Lemonade (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

Ingredients:

6 oz. inexpensive red wine (I like to use a fruit-forward wine such as Merlot, Malbec, or Beaujolais)

3 oz. sparkling lemonade

Juice of half a blood orange (I’ve also used my Blood Orange and Rosemary Simple Syrup when I’ve had it on hand)

Ice

Slice of blood orange for garnish

Special equipment:

Highball glass

Bar spoon

Method:

Pour the red wine, sparkling lemonade, and blood orange juice over ice in a highball glass. Stir until combined with a bar spoon. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

What I’m listening to

No matter which band he’s in, Stephen Merritt of The 6ths and The Magnetic Fields can sum up the highs, lows, and devastations of romance like no other songwriter that I can think of.

Even though I met you only recently
I find myself falling in love with you
I don’t know quite how to put this decently
But what’s the chance that you could love me too?

Who who who who who
Has made my dreams come true?
And turned my gray sky blue
Why it’s you you you you you
Woo woo woo woo woo
Like amorous lovebirds do
Who made my world seem new
Tis tis you you you you youYou make me feel like I’m seventeen again
You make everything beautiful seem true
I can’t wait to go to sleep and dream again
‘Cause every dream I dream’s a dream of dreamy little you

Who who who who who
Has made my dreams come true
And turned my gray sky blue
Why it’s you you you you you

Woo woo woo woo woo
Like amorous lovebirds do
You make my world seem new
Tis tis you you you you you

The 6ths – You You You You You


Honey-Roasted Tomato Spread

A glass jar containing savoury roasted tomato spread with a spoonful of roasted tomato spread in the background. The dishes rest on a white tablecloth.

Let’s face it, unless you live in a warm climate year-round winter tomatoes will always be things of underwhelming mediocrity. So what’s the antidote to several months of off-season tomatoes? You take a tried-and-true cooking method like slow-roasting and you add a generous drizzle of honey (and sundried tomatoes just to be sure). Blitzing the slow-roasted honey-coated tomatoes with a few other familiar savoury ingredients results in a spread so full of deep tomato flavour it may as well have been made with tomatoes cut fresh from the vine.

What to do with honey-roasted tomato spread

  • Make a sophisticated yet simple pasta dish: Prepare your favourite pasta noodles as directed, reserving a scant cup of salted pasta water before draining. Add the honey-roasted tomato spread to the hot pasta, using about 2 tablespoons of the spread per serving and thinning it with the pasta water. Top with more chopped olives, fresh oregano or basil, and plenty of good parmesan.
  • Add to grilled cheese: Spread a thick layer of honey-roasted tomato spread onto one half of a grilled cheese as it’s being prepped. Fresh cow or buffalo milk mozzarella, Chèvre Noir (or other aged goat cheddar), and Taleggio are all excellent pairings.
  • Use as a cheese or charcuterie accoutrement: Honey-roasted tomato spread can be used as-is or piled onto a thick layer of labneh or Greek yogurt.
  • In egg dishes: Either use as a topping for eggs or incorporate it directly into omelettes, quiches, and frittatas.
  • With roasted chicken and pork: A spoonful of honey-roasted tomato spread will do wonders to liven up roasted chicken and pork. Alternately, rub the spread directly onto the poultry or meat to infuse it with delicious Mediterranean flavours.
Two spoons resting on a decorative plate. One contains honey-roasted tomato spread the other capers.

Honey-Roasted Tomato Spread

Yields:

1 generous cup of honey-roasted tomato spread

Ingredients:

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes (or any other small, sweet tomatoes)

8 cloves of garlic, papery skins removed and left whole

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 sprigs of fresh oregano

2 Tbsp. olive oil + 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. honey

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

8-10 kalamata olives, pits removed

1 tsp. capers, in brine or salted and rinsed

2 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and roughly chopped

Special equipment:

Sharp chef’s knife

Cutting board

Measuring cups and spoons

Roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet

Parchment paper or silicon baking mat

Kitchen tongs

Food processor

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275° Fahrenheit/135° Celsius.
  2. Line a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  3. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, and oregano evenly across the roasting pan or baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle the tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the honey, and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Use your hands to toss everything together, making sure the oil and honey are evenly distributed.
  5. Roast the tomatoes for 60-90 minutes, gently stirring the contents of the baking sheet with a spatula.
  6. The tomatoes are done once they’ve collapsed and have developed a jammy texture.
  7. Remove the remaining sprigs of fresh herbs and scrape the tomatoes and garlic cloves into a food processor (make sure you get any pan juices, too!).
  8. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive, lemon juice, kalamata olives, capers, and sundried tomatoes. Blitz until the mixture is thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides with a spatula.
  9. Transfer the honey-roasted tomato spread to a sealed container or glass jar and store for up to 2 weeks.

I am a monster, but I am also in love with Austra (they’re no stranger to Music With Dinner). Despite feeling like I’ve taken a swan dive into a drowning pool, I can almost feel the truth of “I don’t feel nothing, anymore.” Everything about this song is my current truth as I’m experiencing it. The energy of this song is frenetic and uncomfortable, the vocals are questioning, searching, resigning. In what feels like several weeks of oscillation between overwhelming sadness and total loss of feeling, the euphonic depth of Austra’s Future Politics is the perfect, darkest cloak to hide behind.

Austra – I’m A Monster

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Sandwich

Note: This post is a partnership between Music With Dinner and Abeego beeswax food wraps. I’ve been a huge fan of Abeego products for the past year but for the sake of transparency I did receive free product for the purpose of this blog post.

This make-ahead vegetarian sandwich is one of all-time favourites. It has all the qualities I look for in a vegetarian sandwich: It’s super crunchy and refreshing, you can find all the ingredients at the grocery store or your local deli (or you can make your own), and you can make these vegetarian beauties ahead of time. Just assemble, wrap, and refrigerate.

Abeego is my go-to food wrapping material for several reasons. It’s exceptionally breathable, self-adhesive, and can be reused over the entire course of a year. I have to admit, my absolute favourite thing about Abeego is opening a fresh package; I’m instantly transported back to being a first grader at the Waldorf school (where we made a LOT of beeswax candles). You can follow them on Instagram to learn all about how Abeego beeswax wraps can be used to keep food fresh for longer than you thought possible!

Everything you need to know about the best make-ahead vegetarian sandwich

  • The trick is in the layering! My favourite vegetarian sandwich can be made 24 hours before you plan on eating it as long as the correct procedure for layering is followed. The cream cheese, hummus, and tzatziki act as a barrier between the bread and the vegetables.
  • Follow this crucial step: Drain the sliced cucumbers and roasted red peppers on a clean tea towel for at least 15 minutes before adding to the sandwich.
  • Use a hearty and slightly chewy bread like ciabatta or sourdough (if you’re making this to eat right away you can use any kind of bread or pita you like).
  • Feel free to add marinated artichokes and mushrooms, olives, pickles of any kind, and sliced cheese. Just be sure to drain any wet additions on a tea towel before using.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Sandwich

Yields:

Enough for 2 large sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 ciabatta buns or 1 small ciabatta loaf

1/2 sweet red peppers, cut into thin strips

1 carrot, grated

1/2 cup thin cucumber slices

2 jarred roasted red peppers

Plain cream cheese, Neufchatel if possible

Hummus

Tzatziki

Special equipment:

Cutting board

Sharp chef’s knife

Reusable food wrap (such as Abeego beeswax food wrap)

Method:

  1. Cut the ciabatta in half.
  2. Spread cream cheese on one side of the sandwich, and then again with a thin layer of tzatziki. Spread a generous layer of hummus on the other side of the ciabatta.
  3. On the cream cheese and tzatziki side add the sliced sweet red peppers, cucumber slices, roasted red peppers, and grated carrots. At this point you can either eat the sandwich immediately or it can be wrapped up and eaten the next day.

What I’m listening to

There’s something about this version of “Cool Water” that makes me cry. It’s so perfectly textured and carefully layered; there’s something about it that makes me feel deeply underwater. I know people are critical of Joni Mitchell’s 80s catalogue but I LOVE her husky voice and careful detachment. More than any other artists else I can think of, Joni Mitchell’s lyrics, music, and paintings make me feel like all of my surroundings are secretly works of art.

Joni Mitchell – Cool Water

Savoury Yogurt Bowl with Chickpeas and Roasted Vegetables

Round, shallow white bowl with a layer of Greek yogurt on the bottom, chickpeas, and roasted peppers, zucchini, and shallots. The dish is sitting on top of a brightly coloured batik tablecloth.

I love full fat plain Greek yogurt. I love it in salad dressings. I love it as a base for homemade frozen yogurt. I love it as a dip. I love it in breakfast parfaits. But you know what I’m especially loving lately? A savoury yogurt bowl.

Making the perfect savoury yogurt bowl: Everything you need to know

  • The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings so you can feel free to flex your improvisational skills: Shredded chicken or pork, crispy diced tofu, sautéed greens, roasted vegetables, julienned fresh vegetables, chopped nuts, toasted seeds, nut butter, antipasto, refried beans, crumbled or grated cheese, tahini, pulses, hot sauce, tapenade, and any other topping you can dream of will work well on top of a savoury yogurt bowl.
  • Savoury yogurt bowls are incredibly easy to meal prep for several day’s worth of lunches or dinners. Keep each element separate and mix just before eating. You can also make the chickpea salad and roasted vegetables with Ras El Hanout in advance and store them in the fridge for a meal that comes together in less than five minutes.
  • Greek yogurt is a fantastic source of protein, making it ideal if you don’t eat poultry, meat, or fish.
  • Unlike a grain bowl, there’s no prep necessary (other than the toppings). Just grab a container of plain full fat Greek yogurt and you’re halfway to a satisfying meal.
  • Turn a savoury yogurt bowl into a simple yet elegant dinner by pairing it with a crisp green salad and fresh fruit.
Clear glass divided lunch container with three sections. One contains fresh blackberries, one contains roasted zucchini, red pepper, and shallots, and one contains chickpeas with a dollop of yogurt. The container is sitting on a colourful batik print table cloth.

What is Ras El Hanout?

Ras El Hanout is a North African spice blend containing (amongst other spices) cinnamon, cumin, ginger, peppercorn, rose petals, coriander, paprika, and dried chilies. A few years ago a friend brought some back for me from Morocco and I’ve been a fan ever since. Can’t find it at your local grocery store? Check your local specialty cooking or spice shop or buy it online. Because of the spice blend’s earthiness, warmth, and gently astringency, I love to use Ras El Hanout on roasted chicken, as a rub for white fish, in citrus-based salad dressings, and sprinkled on popcorn with melted butter.

Round, shallow white bowl with a layer of Greek yogurt on the bottom, chickpeas, and roasted peppers, zucchini, and shallots. The dish is sitting on top of a brightly coloured batik tablecloth.

Savoury Yogurt Bowl With Chickpeas And Roasted Vegetables

Yields:

3-4 generously sized savoury yogurt bowls

Ingredients:

Full fat Greek yogurt

Chickpea salad with lemon parsley dressing (see recipe below)

Roasted vegetables with Ras El Hanout (see recipe below)

Black sesame seeds

Nigella seeds

Dried red chilies

Special equipment:

3-4 shallow bowls

Method:

Add two to three dollops of Greek yogurt to each bowl. Top with the chickpea salad and then the roasted vegetables with Ras el Hanout. Liberally sprinkle with black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, and dried red chilies.

Clear glass divided lunch container with three sections. One contains fresh blackberries, one contains roasted zucchini, red pepper, and shallots, and one contains chickpeas with a dollop of yogurt. The container is sitting on a colourful batik print table cloth.

Simple Chickpea Salad With Lemon Parsley Dressing

Yields:

Enough for 3-4 generous savoury yogurt bowls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh parley

2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Juice of half a lemon (or, a generous tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Special equipment:

Can opener

Medium-sized salad bowl

Measuring spoons

Food processor, blender, or mini-chopper

Spatula

Method:

  1. Add all of the ingredients except for the chickpeas to a food processor, blender, or mini-chopper and blitz until smooth. Taste for seasonings and readjust if needed.
  2. Toss the chickpeas with the salad dressing in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Set the chickpeas aside until you’re ready to assemble the savoury yogurt bowls. This salad can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, keeping in mind the pungency of the garlic will increase substantially.
Clear glass divided lunch container with three sections. One contains fresh blackberries, one contains roasted zucchini, red pepper, and shallots, and one contains chickpeas with a dollop of yogurt. The container is sitting on a colourful batik print table cloth.

Roasted Vegetables With Ras El Hanout

Yields:

Enough for 3-4 generous savoury yogurt bowls

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then into fairly thick half moons

1 red pepper, cut into chunky strips

4-5 shallots (depending on size), peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Special equipment:

Sharp knife

Cutting board

Large rimmed baking sheet

Measuring spoons

Parchment paper or silicon baking mat

Long-handled tongs

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread the vegetables in a single layer over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
  3. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and evenly distribute the Ras El Hanout and kosher salt, massaging the oil and spice mixture into the sliced vegetables.
  4. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, using long-handled kitchen tongs to stir everything three or four times throughout.
  5. Once the vegetables are lightly browned and soft they’re finished. Set them aside until you’re ready to make the savoury yogurt bowls or keep them covered, in the fridge, for up to four days.
Round, shallow white bowl with a layer of Greek yogurt on the bottom, chickpeas, and roasted peppers, zucchini, and shallots. The dish is sitting on top of a brightly coloured batik tablecloth.

What I’m listening to

Jazz from a strange celestial place. Hypnotic jazz. Give me some really good vibes jazz. Jazz for drinking a glass of wine and chopping up shallots. The kind of jazz that could score a montage of people coming home on Friday evening after work. As the late, stupendously great Carol Channing sang, “Cause I’m a jazz baby, little jazz baby that’s me.”

Alice Coltrane – Something About John Coltrane

Instant Pot Chicken Stew with Crispy Radishes

Pureed vegetable base topped with shredded chicken breast, crispy radishes, and pulled chicken breast in a square white dish.

I’ve got to admit, it wasn’t love at first use with my Instant Pot. Especially when it came to braises (something for which the Instant Pot is often praised). My short ribs and pot roast kept coming out stringy no matter how much I tinkered with the settings and the time. I was convinced the Instant Pot would become a gigantic beast of an ill-used kitchen gadget, taking up what felt like my entire kitchen counter. However, I found my opinion changing the day I began developing this recipe for Instant Pot chicken stew. It calls for an entire chicken so you’ll have leftovers to make stock; just throw the bones and remaining flesh into a resealable bag and toss it into the freezer for future stock-making.

The Instant Pot is perfect for stews and this chicken stew is no exception. The Instant Pot comes with a trivet but frankly, I’ve never had any luck creating a true “rotisserie style” chicken using wet heat. This recipe yields fall-off-the-bone meat, an ultra-creamy base (without any dairy!), and is finished with a simple pan fried crispy radish topping. Rich, comforting, and pleasantly peppery from the radishes; this is one Instant Pot recipe that I keep returning to.

Pink bunch of radishes with green leaves on a pink background.

Making Instant Pot chicken stew with crispy radishes

  • Use a small chicken weighing between 3 and 5 pounds for best results and a shorter cooking time (this will also ensure that the chicken fits in your Instant Pot).
  • Make sure you brown the chicken on all sides in a generous amount of olive oil before pressure cooking – it will add plenty of flavour to the chicken, the stew as a whole, and the vegetables (particularly the radishes!).
  • Since I am rarely organized enough to take homemade chicken stock out of the freezer in time (and since I don’t own a microwave), I use Better Than Bouillon’s Roasted Chicken concentrate every time I make this recipe. If I have any white vermouth or dry white wine kicking around I’ll add a splash of that, too.
  • The stew vegetables can be pureed or left as-is depending on your preference. If you’re planning on skipping the blending component I would cut them into smaller pieces before adding to the Instant Pot.
  • Try to find healthy radishes with their greens still attached. Radish greens are delicious when cut into a thin chiffonade and added at the last minute.
  • This recipe for Instant Pot chicken stew works best if all chopping prep is done beforehand. Turn on some music and get your mise en place on!
Orange chicken stew base topped with crispy radishes, pulled chicken breast, and parsley. The stew is in a square white dish sitting on a red and white patterned plate. The background is red and loose parsley is scattered over the scene.

Instant Pot Chicken Stew with Crispy Radishes

Yields:

4-6 servings, depending on the size of the chicken

Pink radishes on pink background.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, skin left on, untrussed, and giblets removed

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Roast chicken seasoning (optional)

Olive oil

1 bunch of radishes, washed (cut the radishes into a fine dice and cut 6 radish leaves into a fine chiffonade)

Fresh parsley, minced

3 cups chicken stock (or a combination of chicken stock and white vermouth or dry white wine)

3 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 sticks of celery, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 shallots, peeled and halved

6 cloves of garlic, smashed but left whole

1 Tbsp. corn starch

Juice from 1 lemon

Special equipment:

Instant Pot

Cutting board

Sharp chef’s knife

Long-handled kitchen tongs

Silicon or wooden spoon

Whisk

Immersion blender

Method:

  1. Begin by generously seasoning both the inside of the chicken and the outside with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and optional chicken rub or seasoning.
  2. Set the Instant Pot to sauté on medium heat and add another drizzle of olive oil.
  3. Using long-handled kitchen tongs, carefully place the seasoned chicken breast-side down in the Instant Pot and brown for 5 minutes. Repeat on all four sides of the chicken until the outside is crispy. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add the diced radishes to the hot oil and continue cooking until they become crispy (about 5 minutes). During the last minute of cooking, add a sprinkle of kosher salt and the radish greens. Use a long-handled spoon or spatula to remove the crispy radishes from the hot oil and set aside.
  5. Finally, add the carrots, celery, shallots, and smashed garlic to the Instant Pot and cook for a few minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in the stock or stock and white vermouth or dry white wine mixture.
  6. Place the browned chicken back into the Instant Pot, nestling the bird in with the vegetables and stock. Set the Instant Pot to manual and pressure cook (using the slow release) until cooked. I use small chickens so they usually take about 19-20 minutes once the Instant Pot has come to pressure. This handy chart is great for determining Instant Pot cooking times.
  7. Once the Instant Pot is done cooking the chicken, carefully remove the lid and transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board. You may find that the chicken falls away from the bone almost immediately, so make sure you get any small bones out of the vegetable and stock mixture.
  8. Remove about a 1/2 cup of stock from the Instant Pot before blending the rest of the stock and vegetables until smooth (or as smooth as you’d like) with an immersion blender.
  9. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved stock until it forms a slurry. Pour the slurry into the blended vegetables and whisk until combined and the mixture begins to thicken, adding the lemon juice to brighten up the entire dish.
  10. Plate the Instant Pot chicken stew by ladling the base mixture into a shallow bowl. Add the cooked chicken, a generous scattering of crispy radishes, a handful of minced parsley to serve.
Small jar full of diced radishes and radish greens on pink background.

What I’m listening to

Sol Seppy, AKA Sophie Michalitsianos, has only one album but it’s one that I’ve been listening to faithfully, hoping we’ll get an encore, ever since it debuted. Dreamy, whimsical, heavy, hopeful, shoegazey, a quietly stunning thing of intense beauty. A former touring member of Sparklehorse, Sol Seppy never fails to improve any mood or and space. An album that feels like it has a beginning, a middle, and a somewhat magical ending: This might just be what you need most as the January blues settle in.

Sol Seppy – Wonderland

Easy Pear and Blackberry Sauce

Pear and blackberry sauce is layered with white skyr and granola to make a colourful parfait.

I’m always overbuying fresh fruit. I know, I know (I know) – buy produce as needed and err on the side of less not more in order to prevent food waste. But sometimes fruit just looks so beautiful sitting on display at the grocery store that I’m able to convince myself that yes, I can eat three pomegranates and an entire box of clementines by myself in one week (my husband likes to eat apples and that’s about the entire extent of his fruit repertoire). What inevitably ends up happening is one of two things: I freeze what can be frozen or I make a fruit sauce such as this super easy pear and blackberry Sauce.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of eating fresh applesauce you know how vastly superior it is to the jarred stuff. Pear sauce is made the exact same way as applesauce and offers plenty of not-too-sweet flavour that pairs well with foods that are sweet, tart, and even savoury. Blackberries give the sauce a gorgeous rose colour and a layer of deep jamminess reminiscent of a particularly fruity Beaujolais (and in fact, you could skip the clementine juice and use red wine in its place).

A white and blue china dish holds bright pink pear and blackberry sauce, a pear and blackberry parfait made with skyr and granola sits next to the dish in a clear glass. Both dishes sit on a purple background with colourful paper tassels.

Making Easy Pear and Blackberry Sauce

  • This easy fruit sauce recipe is a great way to use up pears that are veering into very mushy territory. This is something which I find particularly useful as I find that pears always seem to go from hard-as-a-rock to unappetizing and way, way too soft within the stretch of a single day.
  • Likewise, you can use that carton of blackberries that’s been languishing in the back of your fridge for the past week. Wash the berries just before using with a very gentle stream of cold water, removing any moldy or berries that are too far gone. Incidentally, strawberries and raspberries are also delicious in this fruit sauce.
  • Frozen blackberries can absolutely be used in this recipe and can be added while still frozen.
  • For fruit sauces (and rice pudding) I like to use a flavoured tea bag in place of the traditional cinnamon and nutmeg. I’ve been doing this for a while and it always adds a lovely warmth without being overwhelming (I like to use Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice).
  • You can use a food mill, food processor, or immersion blender to get a wonderfully smooth texture. If you like your fruit sauce extra smooth you can push it through a sieve with a spatula after it’s been blitzed.
  • This pear and blackberry fruit sauce will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray and add the frozen fruit sauce to smoothies.
A white and blue china dish holds bright pink pear and blackberry sauce, a pear and blackberry parfait made with skyr and granola sits next to the dish in a clear glass. Both dishes sit on a purple background with colourful paper tassels.

Easy Pear and Blackberry Sauce

Yields:

4 servings (or more, depending on how the sauce is being used)

Ingredients:

2-3 very ripe pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup blackberries

Juice of 2 clementines or 1 orange

1 Tbsp. honey

1 apple cinnamon teabag

Special Equipment:

Sharp chef’s knife

Cutting board

Small lidded saucepan

Food processor, food mill, or immersion blender

Method:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small lidded saucepan.
  2. Over medium-low heat and with the lid on, allow the fruit to cook down until completely softened (this takes anywhere from 8-15 minutes depending on how ripe the pears are).
  3. Bring the cooked fruit to room temperature and refrigerate for a few hours or ideally, overnight (with the teabag still in).
  4. When you’re ready to blend the fruit and any residual juices remove the tea bag and blitz until smooth.
  5. Serve the pear and blackberry sauce cold or hot.

Ideas for Serving Easy Pear and Blackberry Sauce

  • In a parfait layered with skyr or Greek yogurt and your favourite granola or muesli.
  • Drizzled onto French toast (maple syrup is optional but it is fantastic).
  • With pork chops or pork tenderloin.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds and let sit overnight for a super satisfying but not too heavy breakfast.
  • Stirred into regular or overnight oats.
  • Add a teaspoon of pear and blackberry sauce to a glass of sparkling wine and give it a gentle stir before serving.
  • Freeze and add to smoothies.
Pear and blackberry sauce is layered with white skyr and granola to make a colourful parfait.

What I’m listening to

It’s a nasty afternoon out there in Vancouver today. I’m talking sideways rain, high winds (forget about using an umbrella, I already tried it), and thick grey rainclouds that are completely blocking the mountains from view. In other words: perfect weather for drinking tea and listening to Billie Holiday. I love the Pacific Northwest and I love the rain in particular and now that I’m home from running errands in the blustery weather I can sit at home and wrap myself up in her music like a comforting blanket. So if you’re reading this and it’s raining may I suggest you do yourself a favour and make some easy pear and blackberry sauce while listening to some Billie Holiday?

Billie Holiday – Don’t Explain

Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Slate serving dish piled high with pan seared maple Brussels sprouts and bacon.

I haven’t always cared for Brussels sprouts. In fact, I am somewhat ashamed to say, the entire cruciferous vegetable family is fairly low on my list of likes. I will, however, make an enthusiastic exception for these maple glazed pan seared Brussels sprouts with bacon. I mean, with a name like that how could I not?

Growing up, my mom loved making herself a big plate of lightly steamed sprouts that she would then drizzle with a generous amount of melted butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper. This was a special meal for her to enjoy in bed while she read a copy of House Beautiful magazine and I have her to thank for my love of eating weird things like an entire head of iceberg lettuce in bed with something good to read and a cup of tea. I’ll admit that my opinion of Brussels sprouts has shifted towards semi-favourable over the last decade and I believe I have only the Maillard reaction and this recipe for sweet and peppery pan seared and maple glazed Brussels sprouts with bacon to thank. Besides, what’s better than the addition of maple syrup and bacon to pretty much anything?

Tips for the best maple glazed Brussels sprouts

  • Use the biggest cast iron pan you have: I have a 12″ cast iron pan that weighs about 500 pounds (I live in constant fear that one day I’ll clumsily drop it onto my foot) and I use it almost every single day. It’s the perfect size for large dinner parties and family get-togethers; once I’m done washing it with warm water and a soft cloth I store it in the oven to save precious counter and cupboard space along with my baking sheets and Silpat collection.
  • Keep a steady temperature. Cast iron pans are fantastic at maintaining a steady temperature but it’s important to know that they also cling to that heat long after they’ve been removed from the heat. For this reason, I like to cook these maple bacon Brussels sprouts at just a smidge over medium heat (this is also helps to ensure the sprouts are completely cooked through).
  • Trim your Brussels sprouts with care. Trimming Brussels sprouts is hardly an exciting job but nonetheless it’s one that needs doing. I claim this time as my own and listen to audiobooks or music (of course) and consider careful trimming of any kind of vegetable an exercise in mindfulness.
  • Give the bacon a head start. Whether you use thick cut bacon or pancetta, it’s important to give it a head start in a hot pan to a) render more of its tasty, tasty fat and b) get it nice and crispy. If using regular bacon I suggest cutting it with kitchen shears directly into the hot pan.
  • Use real maple syrup: I have a childhood weakness for Eggo waffles with corn syrup and butter so I understand the appeal of non-maple syrups but for these maple bacon Brussels sprouts you really want that maple flavour to shine through.

Maple Glazed Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Yields:

Enough for 4-6 servings as a side dish

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, cut in half with the bottoms trimmed (remove any yellow or slimy outer leaves)

4-5 slices of extra thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces (or the rough equivalent of Italian pancetta)

3 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil

3 Tbsp. maple syrup

Pinch of kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Special equipment:

Large cast iron skillet

Measuring spoons

Wooden or silicon cooking spoon or spatula

Method:

  1. Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat for several minutes before adding the cut up bacon. If your cast iron pan isn’t 100 percent seasoned you can drizzle a small amount of neutral oil into the pan before the bacon is added to keep it from sticking.
  2. Cook the bacon for 5 minutes or until it’s just starting to crisp. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the bacon fat. Lower the heat to medium.
  3. Mix together the oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the Brussels sprouts and bacon. Stir every couple of minutes but not too often, you want that lovely browning to start happening and this requires patience.
  4. Once the Brussels sprouts are beginning to brown in spots and the oil and maple syrup mixture has simmered down to a thick glaze they’re done. You can serve these maple bacon Brussels sprouts straight from the pan or transfer them to a serving plate (just be sure to place the pan on a sturdy trivet to avoid burning a whole in your tablecloth, not that I would know anything about that).

What I’m listening to

Do you ever listen to music so powerfully nostalgic it feels like your heart is breaking? Like you’ve left childhood and can never go back? I’m sure there’s a beautiful Scandinavian word that describes this exact phenomenon, but for now I’ll have to describe it as a deep yearning for things past. As someone who was born in Stratford, Ontario (where Loreena McKennitt lives and makes music) her music has always been an integral part of my life during the winter months. Her album To Drive The Cold Winter Away is stunning and mysterious. It makes me think of snow and candlelight and Waldorf Advent calendars and eating large amounts of winter clementines. Are you looking for something to listen to that’s borderline Christmas but not quite? If so, give this album a try. It’s beautiful, it will make you feel like a small child again, and it will warm your spirit through and through.

Loreena McKennitt – Snow