Gift of food can include homemade or store-bought specialty items

Kasey Wilson offers up three recipes that will make perfect gifts this holiday season

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This is the first in a series of delicious food gifts that you can make in your kitchen to give to friends this holiday season. Whatever your time and inclination, you can prepare a gift of food that includes homemade and store-bought specialty items.

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A jar of Festive Red Berry Compote is a welcome gift, even more so if a wheel of brie is included.

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Or give my friend Chef Kathy Casey’s Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Cookies, cooled and packed in cellophane bags with the recipe tied to a ribbon and gifted with a tin of Earl Grey tea. It takes just a couple minutes combining a few ingredients to make Casey’s simple yet fabulous Double Red Wine Vinaigrette. Fill a gourmet bottle and attach the recipe along with instructions on how to serve with seasonal greens.

Why not share your kitchen with a friend or two and double or triple recipes while splitting the costs, efforts and results and perhaps sharing a glass or two of comfort and joy.

Anna Olson’s Festive Red Berry Compote

This fruit compote smells like Christmas as it simmers — the aroma of cranberries, raspberries and pears melding with orange zest and spices is better than any scented candle. Serve it as a sauce for a chocolate cake or as a topping for pancakes or waffles. It works well with savoury dishes too: bake it on top of a wheel of brie and serve with crackers.

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1 cup (250 mL) frozen cranberries

1 cup (250 mL) frozen raspberries

1 pear, peeled and cut into small dice

½ cup (125 mL)) granulated sugar

2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated orange zest

½ tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon

¼ tsp (1 mL) ground ginger

¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves

Place fruit, sugar, zest and spices in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally until the pears are translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Let the compote cool in the pan to room temperature. Scoop the cooled compote into an airtight container and chill until ready to use.

Note: To take this compote from naughty to nice, add a splash (or more) of Grand Marnier after you take it off the heat.

Refrigerate and use within three weeks.

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Makes about 2 cups

Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Cookies

A wonderful not-too-sweet cookie with big flavour. Try making with rosemary for a different variation.

¼ lb butter, softened

1 ½ tbsp (25 mL) finely minced lemon zest

1/3 cup (75 mL) icing sugar

1 ¼ cups (300 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves (preferably lemon thyme)

1 tbsp (15 mL) honey

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter, lemon zest and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour and thyme and mix until just combined. Add the honey and mix until the dough just comes together.

With lightly floured hands, roll the dough into a 2-inch-round cylinder and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled.

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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Slice the dough evenly into 12 slices with a sharp knife and place the rounds on a baking sheet. Bake shortbread in the middle of oven approximately 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are pale golden.

Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Makes 12 cookies

Merlot “Double Red Wine” Vinaigrette with Seasonal Greens

This dressing is intense, flavourful and super with robust greens such as arugula, Belgian endive or and radicchio.


1/2 cup (125 mL) merlot red wine

1/2 cup (125 mL) red-wine vinegar

1 ½ tsp (7 mL) Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp (2 mL) finely minced garlic

1 tbsp (15 mL) finely minced shallots

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper

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1 cup (250 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

½ tsp (2mL) minced fresh rosemary

Mixed Seasonal greens, as desired

Sliced Red Onions (Optional)

Sliced Oranges (Optional)

In small noncorrosive saucepan, combine wine and wine vinegar.

Bring to boil over high heat. Continue boiling until liquid is reduced by half to measure 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Place cooled wine reduction into medium bowl. Add mustard, garlic, shallots, salt and pepper and whisk together. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking continuously. Mixture should be nicely emulsified.

Refrigerate until needed. Whisk well before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 cups vinaigrette

Add about 1 tbsp vinaigrette for every packed, heaping cup of greens.

Dressing is big-flavoured, so not much is needed.

Toss well until each leaf is coated. Add more dressing or greens to taste.

Kitchen Hack: Sugar Shake

Line a small bowl with a 5-x-5-inch single layer piece of cheesecloth. Add ¼ cup of icing sugar. Tie the cloth closed with unflavoured dental floss, kitchen twine or twist tie. Use to dust cookies, cakes, waffles, or hot chocolate.

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