Christmas Pudding Black Oaks Style

The story goes that Great Grandmother Cole had secret recipes for melt-in-your-mouth puddings and cakes. Fortunately for us, her grandson, Albert Cole, found the book and over 60 years ago created a spectacular Christmas pudding based on his grandmother’s recipe.

Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding has the key flavours of Sultanas, Raisins, Currents, Brown sugar, Molasses and Candied Citrus Peel, Apples and Spices but it’s free from alcohol, nuts and gluten and because Cole’s suet is made with Palm Oil it’s perfect for Vegetarians.

I steamed the 112 gram pudding, but added the alcohol back spooning over a mixed topping of Double Devon Cream and Criollo Chocolate Salted Caramel Liqueur.  Um, yes, yummy.

117 g Single Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

112 g Single Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

While it’s not unlike me to wear something stretchy for Christmas dinner, I always think dessert is overkill.  I offer two sizes to serve to your guests with the requisite Chocolates, Shortbread, grapes and cheese with a lovely Tawny Port that I know you will also have lurking about.

Pudding Servings – The individual puddings can be steamed in a large pot all at once and inverted one pudding per plate.  Alternatively, break the pudding apart and split the contents into two small juice glasses layered with the topping much like a Trifle.

Topping Servings – The same amount of topping can go on the individual or the layered style pudding, but it’s really up to you.  I used approximately two Tablespoons of Double Devon Cream whisked into a generous Tablespoon of liqueur.   One bottle of cream 170 grams serves serves four to five portions of this recipe regardless of the pudding serving.

I going to update this recipe when one of my vegan friends steps up to recommend an ready made alternative to the Devon Cream, but so far I think making your own is the best.  There are many syrups that can be substituted for the liqueur like Starbucks® Caramel Syrup which is equally at home in coffee and in cream.

Meantime I am so happy to have found this Cole’s product at my local Metro in Mississauga.  I’m a terrible baker and hate to miss this traditional British dish the one time I crave it … Christmas!

Cleaning your Komini Cast-Iron Pan



1.  Season your pan before you use it [see my previous posts].

2.  Don’t let your cast-iron pan sit in water, ever.

3.  After cooking, let the pan cool just enough for handling then wipe out with a cloth or paper towel.

4.  If there are still bits sticking, use a non abrasive scrubber with a little hot water.

5.  Wipe dry.

6.  Re-oil using a tiny amount of any food grade oil.

Tip:  I like Spaghetti Scrubbers, but my sister mails them from San Francisco and I’m not sure she’ll do that for you 🙂

Tip:  Unlike Teflon or Enamel Coated surfaces, Cast Iron is naturally bumpy.  Get to know the difference between food and the natural surface.

Criollo and Rooibos Tea – A Warm Hug

When you have osteoporosis you are constantly thinking about how to minimize injuries without dampening your active lifestyle.  Several years ago, I shifted from alpine skiing to snowshoeing.  My ex-husband worried that if we weren’t skiing together that it fractured the family experience, but I pointed out that at the end of the day we are all invigorated and, with rosy cheeks, sharing our war stories whether they be about Double Blacks, the Snowboard Park or Snowshoeing.  The marriage eventually ended, but the aprés alpine tradition continued.


Glencairn Whisky Glass with a measure of Criollo Chocolate Salted Caramel Liqueur and Rooibos Steeped Tea and a side order of Rocky Mountain Fudge.

In the 90’s, apés ski usually consisted of hot cocoa for the kids, beer for the guys and Blueberry Tea for the gals.  Fast forward to today, I’m in loVe with extreme snowshoeing [off trail] and still want something non-caffeinated, hot and sweet to warm the cockles.

While working on recipes, I decided to add a dollop of Criollo Chocolate and Salted Caramel Liqueur to my favourite Rooibos Tea from Steeped Tea.  First the Roan red colour of Rooibos is pleasant to look at and second the fragrance compliments the liqueur’s caramel sweetness perfectly.

I love the look of a Warm Hug in my Glencairn Whisky Glass [with a maple leaf on the bottom] or in a traditional brandy snifter, but I need ideas on how to finish it.  Anyone?

ps should you be admiring it, that’s my Moroccan Tea Pot in the background from OneEarth

Making Great Stock

I had occasion, having prepared for and undergone an endoscopy last week, to thaw and drink some homemade chicken stock.  I was so grateful that I had taken the time to make it because the ingredients were full of ingredients that are healthy and yummy.  The jury may be out on whether chicken soup actually has healing properties, but I think most people will attest that hot chicken soup is good for the soul.

Soups always start out with a solid foundation of stock and here is my simple recipe for chicken stock.  Don’t toss that carcass, even the store bought hot chickens have some upcycle value.  Take off all the fat and skin and cover it with water in a roaster.  Add bay leaves, chopped celery and carrots and black peppercorns.  Skim the scum in the first couple of minutes for clear stock.  Continue to simmer until the fluid volume is one-half to one-third.  Cool, strain and freeze.

Colorectal, Stomach and Esophageal cancer runs in our family.  Screening is the best way to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks.  According to Cancer Care Ontario, If it is caught in its earliest stages there is a 90% chance that you can be cured of this cancer.  Early detection also avoids more invasive forms of surgery, like the removal of portions of the colon.

Sources: Cancer Care Ontario & Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, Quality-Based Procedures:  Clinical Handbook for GI Endoscopy, March 13, 2013 [Updated September 2013]

Chicken Soup Really Is Good for a Cold, By Melissa Schorr,, Read: November 30, 2014

Criollo and Scotch – The Jem

I don’t like fizzy drinks or anything too sweet, but give me a quality spirit or a lovely glass of wine and I’m a happy girl.  I’d been hooked on Red Velvet from Cupcake Winery and for the holiday season they offered a sample bottle of Criollo Liqueur with purchase.  There’s nothing more fun that experimenting with food and drink recipes which I’ll offer up until I run out of ideas.

Mix your favourite Scotch with Criollo Chocolate Salted Carmel Liqueur – served neat, the way I prefer it, or on the rocks. Since this liqueur is very sweet, you don’t need a lot.  It’s a great option when when you don’t want dessert ~and~ an after dinner drink.

We called our grandmother, Nanny, but I often referred to her as the Dragon Lady.  She always wore a dress, her hair in a French chignon and her signature red varnish on her long nails.  Born in 1900, Nanny was stylish, relaxed, fun, intelligent and the first female entrepreneur in our family.  She apparently loved Dixieland Jazz and Lethbridge beer, but the only time I saw her drinking was on special occasions and holidays and it was always Scotch.  I offer up in her honour, The Jem shown in a vintage, passed down to my Mother and passed down to me and only used for Scotch.


If you are looking for the perfect glass to give with a bottles of Criollo and Scotch, I loVe these classic 13 oz barware glasses made in Italy by Luigi Bormioli

Scallops Komini Style

There appears to be, like myself, a number of Komini pan fans lurking about.  Here is a quick video of my husband Rick using our 10″ cast iron pan to sear sea scallops.  The scallops were served with a risotto made with my homemade lobster stock and we had a simple salad of spring greens after.  I don’t eat scallops or shrimp too often, their populations seem to be so fragile and like with much that I eat, I want to shop local at least the USA or Mexico, but Thailand and China?  If I don’t know the companies practices for farming, harvesting or staffing, it’s hard for me to pony up.  I’d rather go without.

When we do buy, cook and eat scallops or shrimp, it is a wonderful thing.   The grave aside, Rick is sauteing the scallops in butter on high heat of the smallest burner of our very sexy Lacanche stove and using the tongs to feel if they are cooked through and hot.  As I said, I cannot BBQ so I do not get how they are cooked, just that I appreciate that he does it well.

Facts and Tips for Foaming with Almond Milk

I don’t need to remove dairy, but I believe that moderation of any single food, except Old Dutch potato chips, is a good idea.  This year I wanted to reduce my intake of cow’s milk and introduced almond, rice and soy milks into my diet.  Reading the nutritional information and articles on these milks, there were obvious benefits, but I wanted to know how I could use these products showing them at their best.  I don’t believe that you can convince your taste buds that soy is “milk” anymore than rice, in texture and in taste, can substitute for wheat in bread.  You just always feel ripped off.  I believe you have to try new products in and of themselves.   Does that make sense?

From our local store, Organic Planet,  I bought Natur-a Original Almond Milk for my daily latte using two shots of home-brewed Starbucks Espresso with half cup* of organic 2% cow’s milk .   I wasn’t sure I liked the taste of almond milk in coffee, but was that just habit?  I was also having trouble with the flat performance during foaming and asked for help from Donna Karjalainen of Natura Foods.  She turned me onto Toronto’s Dark Horse Espresso Bar Barista Trainer, Georgia Henry, and this is what I learned.

If you were a Barista, you would know that the goals of steaming are to heat any milk to a pleasant temperature [61-63 C for most people] and to create a lush foam.  Air is introduced to the milk, so the proteins move toward it, which creates the bubbles. Foam is created by the proteins in milk trying to “escape”.  Who knew?

Fact 1 – With cow’s milk the heat breaks down lactose, making cow’s milk sweeter.   Since the sugars in almond milk are mostly sucrose (from cane sugar) this chemical change doesn’t happen.  Ah ha that’s why I couldn’t reconcile the taste.

Tip 1 – Almond milk should be steamed a bit cooler, as the extra heat it doesn’t help to increase the sweetness and ruins the bubble.

Fact 2 – There is no getting away from it, the presence of more fat, E.g. 3.25% vs 0% , creates a better bubble, a good luscious foamy bubble.  However, since most people’s goal is generally less fat, we have to accept that the foam-ability of almond milk will also be lower since it’s generally lower fat than cow’s milk.

Fact 3 – Most important is that almond milk is sensitive to heat and not only will it separate, but the foam will collapse.  Sort of like cow’s milk curdling when added to coffee that is too hot.  Georgia added, “It doesn’t mean the almond milk is off, but it gets chunky and the foam separates.  It isn’t attractive to look at and the texture is compromised.”

Tip 2 – Georgia  recommends that less air and controlled heat should be introduced to produce the best texture almond milk has to offer.  E.g. don’t leave the milk steaming and walk away to put in your toast.

Fact 4 – Georgia also said that during testing sweetened versions of almond milk performed better than unsweetened where temperature changes are concerned.  I went back and bought the natur-a Almond Vanilla and natur-a Organic Soy Cappuccino and saw an improved foaming performance.
Tip 3 – If you want a better foam, use a higher fat, sweetened version of almond milk.
It’s not surprising that when the amount of sugar, fat and calories rises … in anything, so does the pleasure.  Whether your dietary concerns are disease, weight, lactose, yeast or ethics you know what your body needs and when.  For me this experiment resulted in using unsweetened almond milk only in my oatmeal  … but, once or twice a week I’ve fallen in love with the natur-a Soy Cappuccino and an extra shot of espresso as a great way to launch my work day.

An unexpected benefit, after a taste of my steaming hot latte my 24 year old son is now dropping by daily to join me for a natur-a Cappuccino Soy or Vanilla Almond Milk latte.  It only last 15 minutes, but I’ll take it!

*half cup before foaming

Halloween Cocktail Presentation – Dos and Don’ts

I don’t think I need to tell you how to make a cocktail, but I did spend some time looking for ways to present them at the Halloween table.  I do think it’s fun to make one special cocktail and/or mocktail as guests come in the door ~ after that they are on their own.

My favourite drink growing up was when our Grammie simmered Choke Cherries with sugar.  She’d strain off the juice into ice cube trays.  Once frozen, she popped three in a glass and topped up with 7-Up.  We called it Cherry Up and it was awesome.  Here I used Organic Sour Cherry juice, but it was nothing like the exciting drink I had as a kid.   I added a striped paper straw [from Dollarama] to liven things up, but I think adults might be disappointed so leave it for the kids as a Halloween novelty.

photo 1

Here is a presentation for a “sweet” vodka cocktail with the glass rimmed in black sugar and decorated with a mini bone* from Michaels.  However, the trial proved that the black sugar has a dark green base which dissolves upon contact.  Unless you want your guests mouth and teeth looking like Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean, I’d leave it off.

photo 4

I love the cross bones ice cube below of Sour Cherry juice for a small party.  Don’t bother with the skull as it quickly dissolves into a lump.  The cross bones are very fussy to pop out and the cocktail must be given to the guest immediately, but the shape is unmistakable and I love the way the juice bleeds slowly into the drink.

photo 5

I think my favourite for the black and red series is the simple gummie eyeballs for sweet cocktail and a peeled onion for savory one.  I’m crushed that the black sugar was a bust, it looked so cool on the glass.

photo 3

*with adults this size bone should not present a choking hazard, but I boiled my first