Red Velvet & Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Red Velvet & Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Sunny Anderson
An adult brownie that is not too sweet but will satisfy any sweet tooth.  These brownies are as pretty as they are delicious. Enjoy!

Serves: 8


Red Velvet Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 oz full fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 8 by 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Brownie layer: In a large bowl combine the butter, the sugar, vanilla, brandy, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions. Whisk the eggs into the cocoa mix. Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Stir in the walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.

3. Cream cheese layer: Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

Macaroons are a great gluten free cookie for the holidays and this one combines 2 of my favourite flavours, coconut and chocolate. They are easy to make and not overly sweet....which I love.  Enjoy!

Makes: 36 cookies

14oz sweetened shredded coconut
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted


1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.

2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

3. Scoop tablespoon mounds of the coconut mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Transfer the sheets to cooling racks and let the macaroons cool completely on the sheets.

4. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top of each macaroon and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to set the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate, Ginger & Pomegranate Molasses Cookies

Dark Chocolate, Ginger & Pomegranate Molasses Cookies
Recipe by Dragon

These holiday cookies have an intense and spicy chocolate taste. The pomegranate molasses gives the cookies a sweet and slightly sour edge that compliments the dark chocolate. They have become my favourite holiday cookie this year. Perfect to serve with coffee, tea or even a glass of brandy. Enjoy!

Makes: 3 dozen

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soften
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg room temperature
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
Sanding sugar

1. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg and molasses.

2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, all spice and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the butter molasses mixture and mix until it forms dough.

3. Mix the chocolate chips into the dough. Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour.

4. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Scoop out the dough and shape into 1 inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on 3 parchment lined baking sheets. You might need to bake these cookies in batches depending on the size of your oven.

5. Flatten the balls slightly and sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes rotating the sheets half way through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Raspberry Freezer Jam
Recipe by Dragon

This is the best raspberry jam I have every had. It is cooked and has no pectin because I like raspberry jams to be less sweet (pectin requires more sugar). I also think freezer jam preserves the flavour and colour of the raspberries better. This jam stores in the freezer for up to a year and refrigerates for up to 3 weeks (that's why I use small jars). I also like seeds in my raspberry jam but you can always strain them out, if you wish, before freezing it. Enjoy!

Yields 4 cups

3 cups raspberries
3 cups sugar
Juice of a lemon
Pinch of salt

1. In a bowl, gently mash the berries but leave big chunks.

2. In a large pan over medium high heat, combine the berries (and juices) and sugar. Stir well to combine.

3. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 10 minutes, skimming out any foam as it boils. Remove the pan from heat. Add the lemon juice and salt.

3. Pour in sterilized jars (leave room at the top to expand). Allow the jam to cool completely before sealing the jars.  Store in the freezer for up to a year or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Portuguese Chestnut Soup

Portuguese Chestnut Soup
Recipe by Dragon.

I have fond childhood memories of roasted chestnuts at family gatherings in the Fall/Winter. It was my job to peel them and I could never resist sneaking one or two. The smell of roasted chestnuts fills the entire house and if I could bottle that scent, I would. This delicious soup is another way the Portuguese enjoy roasted chestnuts. The cream is my addition to the traditional recipe but I think it compliments all the flavours. In a pinch you could use packaged chestnuts but it will pale in comparison to the taste of freshly roasted chestnuts. Enjoy!

Serves: 6

500g chestnuts, roasted (see below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more to garnish
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Peel the chestnuts. Chop 6 chestnuts and set aside to garnish. 

2. In a large pan over medium high heat, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes to soften the onions.  

3. Add the whole chestnuts, stock, parsley, cloves and bay leaves. Season with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the chestnuts are tender.

4. Remove the cloves and bay leaves. Puree soup in batches in a blender (caution hot!) and return the soup to the pot. Stir in the brandy and cream. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

5. Pour the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with reserved chestnuts and a drizzle of cream. Serve with crusty bread.

Roasted Chestnuts
Recipe by Dragon. 

Fresh plump chestnuts
Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Score the chestnuts with an X and place them in a baking sheet with the X facing up.

3. Using a water bottle, sprinkle the chestnuts with a little water. Sprinkle with salt.

4. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until they are toasted and fragrant. Peel and enjoy.

Slow Roasted Vegetable Salad with Blue Cheese and Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette

Slow Roasted Vegetable Salad with Blue Cheese and Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe by Dragon

I love warm and cold salads and this one is especially lovely. Roasting the vegetables brings out their sweetness and they are perfect with the bitter greens and sharp blue cheese. The thyme balsamic vinaigrette brings it all together into a beautiful winter salad. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

6 red peppers
2 red onions, sliced into 6 pieces
6 garlic cloves
4 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups salad greens
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below)

1. Set your oven to broil.

2. On a baking sheet, place the peppers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Make sure each pepper is well coated in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Char the peppers in the oven, turning them until the skin is completely charred. Place peppers in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The steam will loosen the skins. When the peppers are cool, scrape the skins off with a knife and set aside. Cut eat pepper into 6 to 8 pieces, depending on the size of the peppers.

3. Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a roasting pan, combine red peppers, onions. garlic and thyme sprigs. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Roast the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes or until the onions are caramelized and softened. Let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.

5. In a large bowl, add salad greens and season with salt and pepper. Add some of the vinaigrette (as much as you like) and toss to coat lightly. Don't over dress.

6. To serve, divide the dressed salad greens among the plates. Spoon some of the roasted vegetables on top of the salad greens and drizzle some more vinaigrette over the vegetables. Top with blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe by Dragon

Makes: 1 cup

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup olive oil (you may need more depending on strength of your vinegar)

1. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine vinegar, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper. Shake well. Add oil and shake vigorously until well combined.

2. Keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Potato Latkes with Caramelized Onions & Bacon

Potato Latkes with Caramelized Onions & Bacon
Recipe by Dragon

Another treat for the holidays or any time of year. Latkes are crispy potato cakes that just beg for toppings. I like to flavour latkes with herbs and top them with caramelized onions and bacon. The Greek yogurt adds a touch of sour to compliment the sweetness of the caramelized onions but you can always use sour cream in a pinch. These are always a hit when I make them. Enjoy!

Serves: 6-8

5 cups Yukon potatoes, washed and grated
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

Caramelized onions (recipe below)
Crisp Smokey Bacon, cooked and cut into matchsticks
Greek Yogurt
Fresh Parsley, finely chopped

1. Rinse the grated potatoes to wash off excess starch. Squeeze out any excess water and dry them with paper towels. You want them as dry as possible so they will be crispy. 

2. In a large bowl, combine potatoes with the garlic, chives and parsley. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and mix well to combine. Add the egg whites and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. In a large frying pan on medium heat, add enough oil to come up 1/4 inch up the side of the pan. Add butter and heat until the butter is melted. Scoop out 1 to 2 tablespoons (depending on how big you want them) of potato mixture and add to the pan, pressing down to flatten it so it will cook evenly.  Repeat this 3 times so that you are frying 4-6 latkes at a time. You don't want to overcrowd the pan. Fry for about 4-5 minutes per side or until they are a dark golden brown. Adjust the heat as needed to fry evenly. Place the cooked latkes on a paper towel lined tray and sprinkle them with a little salt  (optional). Place them in a low oven to keep warm while you continue frying.

4. Serve the latkes topped with caramelized onions, crispy bacon, a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Caramelized Onions
Recipe by Dragon

Makes 1 1/2 cups

3 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. To a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and butter and heat for 1 minute. Add the onions, a splash of water, a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the onions cook, stirring occasionally. After the onions have some colour, reduce the heat to low.

2 Let the onions cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are a rich, dark golden brown color. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar (to taste) and deglaze the pan. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Let the onions cool then store, covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Lemon & Spinach Orzo

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Lemon & Spinach Orzo
Recipe by Dragon
Photos by Rob Brady and  Angelina Noccetti

If you love lemon as much as I do, this is the recipe for you! Lemon is celebrated in every component of this dish and it is complimented by all the other ingredients. What I like most about this dish is that it is both elegant and comforting....something I strive for in all my dishes. Enjoy!

Serves: 4

For the Chicken
   zest of 1 lemon
   1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
   1 tablespoon dried oregano
   3/4 cup olive oil
   1/4 teaspoon salt
   2 tablespoons fresh oregano, leaves
   3 cloves of garlic, minced
   4 large chicken thighs
   Salt and Pepper to taste

  Lemon & Spinach Orzo
     2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
     2 tablespoons olive oil
     1 teaspoon salt
     zest of 1/2 lemon
     1 cup orzo
     juice of 1/2 lemon
     1 cup fresh spinach, torn

   Roasted Lemon Slices (see recipe below)
   Fresh oregano leaves

1. Prepare the chicken: Preheat your oven to 375F.

2. In a bowl, combine lemon zest & juice, dried oregano, olive oil and salt and whisk to emulsify. Reserve half of the marinade in another bowl to sauce the chicken at the end. To the remaining marinade add oregano leaves and garlic.

3. Pour the marinade over the chicken and rub it all over the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken (skin side up) on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through and golden.

4. Prepare the orzo about 10 minutes before the chicken is done. In a medium pan, add stock, olive oil, salt and lemon zest and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer and add the orzo. Stir occasionally, until the orzo is tender about 10-12 minutes. Don't let it get mushy.

6. Add the lemon juice and spinach and cook for another minute to wilt the spinach. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. You will need to serve this immediately. To serve, ladle some orzo on a plate and top it with a roasted chicken thigh. Spoon some of the reserved lemon sauce over the chicken and top the chicken with a roasted lemon slice and oregano leaves.

Roasted Lemon Slices

   1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
   olive oil
   pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on it. Brush the lemon slices lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

3. Roast the lemons until slightly dry and beginning to brown around the edges, 15-20 minutes. Let the lemons cool completely.

Feta, Lemon & Herb Phyllo Cigars

Feta, Lemon & Herb Phyllo Cigars
Recipe by Dragon

With the holidays fast approaching here is a simple and delicious appetizer to make for guests. Feta is one of my favourite cheeses and it works well with fresh herbs and lemon. The honey mellows the salty Feta without making it too sweet. These cigars can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead. Just cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to bake. Make lots because these won't last long. Enjoy!

Makes 32 cigars

14 oz feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
zest of a lemon
2 teaspoons honey
2 large eggs, beaten
16 sheets phyllo dough
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Honey to garnish
pine nuts, toasted to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine feta, herbs, zest and honey. Add the eggs and mix to combine. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper. You probably won't need too much salt because the feta is already salty. Refrigerate the feta mixture until needed.

2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Keep phyllo sheets under a damp towel so they don't dry out. Set 1 sheet of phyllo on a work surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Set a second sheet of phyllo on top. Cut the phyllo lengthwise into 4 even rectangles.

3. Spread 1 tablespoon of the feta mixture along the short end of each phyllo rectangles, leaving some room on each side. Roll up the phyllo, tucking in the sides one-third of the way up to enclose the filling, then continue rolling up the phyllo to form a cigar shape. Transfer the cigar, seam side down, to a baking sheet and brush the surface with more of the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets and feta mixture.

4. Bake the cigars for about 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through for even browning. Drizzled with honey and sprinkled pine nuts before serving. Serve the cigars warm or at room temperature.

Barley & Tomato Risotto with Marinated Feta

Barley & Tomato Risotto with Marinated Feta
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

My love affair with Ottolenghi continues with this gorgeous dish. Healthy, flavourful and unforgettable. I've adapted this recipe by using some different herbs and adding lemon juice and butter at the end. I also make this version a little wetter than the original. This has become one of my most requested dishes. Enjoy!

Servings: 4

1 cup pearl barley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small celery ribs, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
4 slices lemon peel
1⁄4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 can (14oz/) chopped tomato
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups passata
1 tablespoon dried oregano
300 grams feta cheese, loosely crumbled
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt & pepper to taste
3 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Rinse the barley well under cold water and leave to drain well.

2. Melt the butter and 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a very large frying pan and cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over gentle heat for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, bay, lemon peel, chile flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata, and a small amount of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When ready, the barley should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed.

3. In a small bowl, add oregano, feta and remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and mix gently to combine.

4. Once the risotto is ready, remove from the heat and add lemon juice and butter. Stir until the butter is melted. Check and correct for seasoning and then divide it among four shallow bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 of the marinated feta including the oil, and a sprinkling of basil leaves.

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
Recipe by Dragon

I love this time of year because I get to make warm nourishing soups! I'm partial to pureed soups because to me they are comforting and can be enjoyed in a bowl or sipped in a cup. The sweetness of the butternut squash is balanced beautifully with the tart apples and smoky bacon in this soup. A dollop of Greek yogurt also tempers the sweetness of the butternut squash and adds a little creaminess to the soup. Enjoy!

Serves 4

6 slices smoked bacon, cut into matchstick pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
5 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Greek yogurt, to garnish

1. In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve. Leave the bacon fat in the pot.

2. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add olive oil, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf to the pot and cook until the vegetables have softened.

3. Add the cinnamon and cook for another minute.

4. Add potatoes, apples and butternut squash. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the broth and increase the heat to high. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Discard bay leaf.

5. Puree soup in batches in a blender (caution hot!) and return the soup to the pot. If you want a thinner consistency, add water. Adjust the seasoning of the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If you want, add a little more cinnamon but not too much.

6. Serve the soup topped with Greek yogurt and reserved bacon.
Dragon's Kitchen - Copyright 2007-2010