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chocolate fudge

chcolate fudge - homemade holiday giftI cannot recall the last time I made fudge.  It was a family favourite growing up and around the Christmas holidays, there was always some to be had.  My mom always had the pantry and freezer full of cooked goodies.  The laundry room became the storage area for fruit cake, plum puddings, cookies, squares not to mention tins of Ganong chocolates.  It was an out-in-the-open treasure chest that as a kid I could not ignore (a few times caught with my hand in the cookie jar).  Continue Reading →

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DIY ferrero rocher

diy ferrero rocherI’ve mentioned it before.  I don’t really have a sweet tooth but if there’s one chocolate that halts me in my footsteps, it’s ferrero rocher.  While I am not a fan of milk chocolate the combination of hazelnuts wrapped in what reminds me of nutella (yum) along with a crisp wafer…I’m salivating just thinking about it!  Making your own chocolates is a labor of love and I was curious to see if I could replicate my own ferrero rocher.  I went sleuthing for a DIY version on the internet.  Turns out there are quite of few. Continue Reading →

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hot cocoa mix – a cinch to make!

hot cocoa mixAh, the annual holiday gift giving is upon us.  Our brains go into overdrive thinking of things to buy and our bank accounts take a beating.  I sometimes think we’re much too over-the-top with our purchases; the needs vs. wants dilemma.  In the past few years I’ve adopted gift giving from the heart which means homemade.  For the kid in us, making your own cocoa mix is not only a cinch to prepare, you also get the added benefit of knowing what’s inside.  This hot chocolate recipe is so good you’ll wonder why you hadn’t made it before. Continue Reading →

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Homemade Limoncello

Easy To Make LimoncelloThis recipe is 4 years in the making! When we lived in Bangkok, we heard about a new Italian restaurant that had recently opened down the street from where we lived. Yay! Eager to sample the menu Mr S. and I made our way there. OPUS Wine Bar was open only a few days when we arrived.  We were warmly greeted by Alex Morabito (designer and manager of OPUS) and were then offered a glass of Prosecco (complimentary I might add) while we waited for our table to become available. That icebreaker was all we needed and the evening was off to a wonderful start.  Continue Reading →

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Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

cranberry & pistachio biscottiBiscotti (twice-baked), is an Italian cookie that is formed into a log shape, baked, sliced and then toasted to a crisp texture.  This has to be one of the easiest desserts to make.  Cranberry and pistachio are a perfect duo for this biscotti recipe by balancing the sweetness of the dough with a bit of sour from the cranberries and salt from the pistachio.  Traditionally biscotti was made with hazelnut and aniseed and recipes date back as far as the 13th century. Continue Reading →

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DIY Rosemary Salt

rosemary saltI love gearing up for the Christmas holidays as it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  People seem a bit kinder, smile more and the feeling of mutual respect resonates more during this time of the year than any other.  Not to sound the alarm bells, but there are only 46 days before Christmas!  Thinking of that perfect holiday gift can be tricky especially as one gets older.  We have so many ‘things’ that tend to never see the light of day – who needs to add to that?  I enjoy being able to make hostess gifts for those who love to cook as much as I do.  DIY rosemary salt is so easy to make and you can customize it to suit it to the taste of your friend or family member.  Homemade gifts come straight from the heart and they don’t need to break the bank nor be arduous. Continue Reading →

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Pretzels Dipped in White Chocolate and Crushed Candy Cane

prezels in white chocolate candy cane by The Culinary ChaseI’m in the holiday bake mode!  This is ‘the most wonderful time of the year‘ for me.  I am in my element as I bake, cook, and roast all leading up to the 25th.  Forgive me if I sound mawkish but I love Christmas.  I love how people seem a bit kinder, smile more and generally are in the Christmas spirit of rejoicing.  Out of all the entertaining we do throughout the year, the days leading up to Christmas are the most special for us.  I am always fine tuning the party menu and looking for ways to shorten my time in the kitchen so as to enjoy the company of our guests.  When I saw that Shutterbean posted white chocolate peppermint pretzels I knew this would have to make a debut in The Culinary Chase’s kitchen!  I have to admit I’m not a big fan of pretzels and while they aren’t high on my list of party foods, dressed up like this, how can I resist?

white chocolate, melted
pretzel sticks
candy canes

Use a rolling pin or tin can to gently crush the candy cane in a large zip-lock bag.  Once this is done you’re ready for the assembly line. Dip pretzel stick in melted chocolate and let drip off. You may want to shake gently to remove excess chocolate. Roll in crushed candy cane until coated then lay on top of waxed paper. Repeat process. The chocolate doesn’t take long to harden.

pretzels by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  Make sure the candy cane isn’t crushed too finely as the chunky mint bits are lovely with the chocolate and saltiness from the pretzel. Perfect for a school party, gifts for the person who has everything, or for your paper boy.  Enjoy!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extractI had been meaning to stop by the historic farmers’ market. I told my husband that I wanted to go there for a specific reason but when I arrived that reason escaped me until I spotted a table across the way decked out in spices. Yes! Now it’s coming back to me. Costas Halavrezos, former host of Maritime Noon, sells spices at the market and recently unveiled his book, Seasoned. I wanted to drop by to say hello as Costas interviewed me years ago when I was living in Hong Kong. I also wanted to grab a copy of his new book.  I introduced myself and immediately the connection was made.  This time the tables were turned as I was asking him questions about his spice venture and how he started.  Costas has a nurturing demeanor and I can’t imagine anyone not getting the spice bug once you speak to him.  He’s so passionate about the spices he sells and it’s not a hard sell either.  I always feel elevated when I speak to another enthusiastic person especially when it comes to food.

vanilla beans by The Culinary Chase2 to 3 Madagascar vanilla beans (pods)
1 cup vodka (you can also try rum or bourbon)

You can find vanilla beans in most grocery stores or from your favorite spice shop. Look for dark, supple, oily beans. Make sure the jar you use is super clean…you don’t want other flavors latching on. Using a sharp knife, score half-inch from the top to half-inch from the bottom of the vanilla bean but do not cut through. Place scored beans into a jar and top with vodka making sure beans are submersed. Place in a cool, dark place for one month, shaking it once a week. When you use it, just remember to top it off with more vodka.

vanilla collage by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: The extract can be stored for up to one year but replace the vanilla beans 3 to 6 months as they tend to lose their flavor. Don’t discard the old beans. Use them to flavor sugar.  As the holidays are just around the corner, wrap this up and give it to your baking buddies. Enjoy!

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