Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cucumber Canapés with 2 Cream Cheese Fillings

What a wild start to December that was with a week of giveaways. Nine readers won amazing prizes to put under their own Christmas trees, and now I'm looking forward to getting things back to normal around here on Family Feedbag. And by 'normal' I mean fresh, new recipes!
These cucumber canapés are so pretty and delicious. I love the combination of crunchy and creamy, and if you have guests over the holidays who are gluten-free or vegetarian, they'll love these tasty little bites at a cocktail gathering or as a pre-dinner appetizer.
Choose from two fillings: Herb & Garlic or Roasted Red Pepper. Then choose your garnish: Snipped fresh chives or frico crisps made with Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese. To save time, the cucumbers and fillings can be prepared up to a few days ahead so you can focus on getting the house ready for your guests on the day. I know I'm not the only one who has to do the last-minute bathroom wipe down and de-crumb the dining room floor because the kids are slobs.
I served these earlier this week when I hosted a trunk show for my friend Mandy of Sugar + Candy Designs. It was my first foray into hosting more often, which is my resolution for 2015. I made one batch of Herb & Garlic and another batch of Roasted Red Pepper (recipe below), and while Mandy sold her beautiful handbags in the shop she set up in my living room, our friends gathered around, chatting and enjoying the nibbles.
Life is good when friends come together over good food... and shopping.
Cucumber Canapés with 2 Cream Cheese Fillings
Makes 28-30 canapés

2 large English cucumbers
3/4 cup (175 mL) cream cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

For Herb & Garlic filling, add:
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
a handful of fresh dill
zest of half a lemon
For Roasted Red Pepper filling, add:
1/4 cup (60 mL) roasted red pepper pieces
1/2 tsp (2 mL) mild chili powder

For garnishes, choose one:
a few fresh chives, snipped
frico (made from 1/4 cup/60 mL firm cheese such as Parmesan, Asiago or Romano, baked in small mounds on a non-stick baking sheet in a hot oven until bubbling, and allowed to cool completely)

Peel the cucumbers and trim off the ends. Slice the cucumbers into 3/4-inch (2cm)-thick rounds (you can get about 14 rounds per cucumber). Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop a hollow into each round, being careful not to go all the way through (you can save these half cucumber balls for salads). Set aside the cucumbers.

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sour cream and salt. If making the Herb & Garlic filling, add the garlic, dill and lemon zest. If making the Roasted Red Pepper filling, add the roasted red pepper pieces and chili powder. Pulse until smooth.

Fill the cucumbers with the filling (a plastic squeeze bottle with the tip cut off can make this simple and tidy). Top with your chosen garnish.

TIP: Each filling is enough for 28-30 canapés. You can prepare the cucumbers and fillings up to a few days ahead and store them in the refrigerator. The frico can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Assemble the canapés the day you need them, and keep refrigerated before serving.
What small bites will you be serving this holiday season?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Winners announced!

What a fun week of giveaways here on Family Feedbag as part of my 2014 Best Christmas Gifts for the Home Cook wish list! Every one of these wonderful gifts was up for grabs, and you left your comments on blog posts all week in the hopes of nabbing one for under your own tree. Thank you to all the wonderful companies who contributed these prizes to help spread the holiday spirit.

Here are the winners (selected using

1. Rebecca Gunderson of Langford, British Columbia
A Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Cookie Tray, an All-Silicone Spoonula and Giant Snowflake Cookie Cutter with Star Cutouts.

2.  Airiyel Sjoden of Houston, British Columbia
A 1-year subscription to Ricardo magazine.

3. Amanda Seebeck of Dorval, Quebec
A Home Canning Starter Kit from Bernardin.

4. Krista Convey of Nanaimo, British Columbia
A package of 5 silicone baking tools from Trudeau.

5. Brenda Penton of Kippens, Newfoundland
The Gourmet Pasta Press attachment from KitchenAid Canada.

Cayla Naumann of Victoria, British Columbia
The Roto Slicer w/shredder attachment from KitchenAid Canada

Michelle Little of Montreal, Quebec
The Citrus Juicer attachment from KitchenAid Canada.

6. Natalie Buchmann of Victoria, British Columbia
A copy of Family Meals by Michael Smith (Penguin Canada).

7. Anne Bury of Calgary, Alberta
A copy of Gatherings by Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal (Whitecap Books).

I am in the process of contacting all the winners and arranging for shipment of your prizes.

Congratulations to all the winners, thank you to the sponsors, and thank you to everyone who entered by leaving your thoughtful comments. May your spirits be bright this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Christmas Gifts GIVEAWAY - Gatherings

Confession time. Hosting makes me really nervous.

Maybe it's the thought of something going wrong with the food, or realizing at the last minute that I don't have enough cutlery/napkins/small talk, or just that I'm actually a closet introvert that panics at the thought of a bunch of people in my house. I'm not sure. But it is something I'd like to change about myself, and there are two people who have inspired me to make hosting with confidence my personal resolution in 2015.

The newly-released cookbook Gatherings by my friends Jan Scott (Family Bites) and Julie Van Rosendaal (Dinner with Julie) is part of my Best Christmas Gifts for the Home Cook 2014 wish list. I have spent the past week posting giveaways for every item on that list here on Family Feedbag (you can still enter them all!), and giving away a copy of Gatherings to one of you feels like a really special way to wrap up the festivities.

With recipes and hosting tips for kids birthday parties and showers, Gatherings goes even deeper into home entertaining with practical, fun ideas for sleepover parties, retro game nights and even a pie party. Wait, what? Yes, a pie party. No need to wait until a certain holiday to host a get together. Gatherings will have you wanting to bring friends together over good food any time at all.

I have this theory about trying out new cookbooks, that if you try a recipe hidden deep somewhere in the book, especially if it's one of the few that doesn't have an accompanying photograph, and it's good, then you can bet the rest of the book is good too. I dug deep into Gatherings and found the Book Club chapter, which includes lovely ideas in the short essays 'How to Start a Book Club' and 'How to Host a Cookbook Club,' as well as a long list of 'Recommended Food Literature for Book Clubs.' Across the centre fold from that list, I found a yummy-sounding recipe for Garlic Bread Focaccia.

So I made it.

No surprise, of course, the focaccia is awesome. Jan and Julie know how to bring people together with good food, and I'm looking forward to trying out more of their recipes in Gatherings and putting their party planning tips into action in my own home.

To enter to win a copy of Gatherings (Whitecap Books), leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favourite kind of gathering to host, or one you would like to host for the first time. BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you win.

Canadian residents only. One entry per person. Contest closes on Thursday, December 11th at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. Winner will be contacted directly and announced on

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Best Christmas Gifts GIVEAWAY - Family Meals

The week of festive giveaways continues! There's no way all the goodies in my Best Christmas Gifts for the Home Cook wish list would fit down the chimney, so while Santa gears up for the big day I'm giving away each gift on the list, one day at a time, right here on Family Feedbag.

The best teachers are the ones who make us believe in ourselves. That's what Chef Michael Smith does for home cooks. For years, he has shared with us his back-to-basics cooking style on shows Chef at Home and Chef Michael's Kitchen, filmed in his home kitchen on beautiful Prince Edward Island, and broadcast on Food Network Canada and in more than 100 other countries. Smith is the author of eight cookbooks, he is a judge on Chopped Canada, and his website has even more home cooking fun with informative videos filled with practical tips. There's no doubt about it - a large part of my home cooking knowledge is down to him.

I'm excited to be giving away a copy of Michael Smith's newest cookbook Family Meals (Penguin Canada) to one of you! This beautiful book has 100 recipes that Smith loves to make for his own family. With ideas for breakfast and brunch, the lunchbox, slow cookers, cook ahead ideas, and more, Family Meals will keep you inspired in the role of family cook, which Smith describes as "...always rewarding, often inspiring and occasionally a chore. But never optional." Wise words.

To enter the giveaway of Family Meals, leave a comment on this blog post telling me your all-time favourite family meal. BE SURE TO LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck!

Canadian residents only. One entry per person. Contest closes on Thursday, December 11th at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. Winner will be contacted directly and announced on

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Best Christmas Gifts GIVEAWAY - KitchenAid attachments

For a home cook like me, finding something from KitchenAid under the Christmas tree can best be described as... well... a major freak out moment. I remember unwrapping my KitchenAid Stand Mixer at Christmas 7 years ago - the palpitations, the hyperventilating, the excitement sweats. I had just started a family, and to me the Stand Mixer represented lasting quality and timeless design, and I knew it would be a treasured tool in my kitchen for years to come. 

I use my Stand Mixer to beat up cake and muffins batters, cookie and bread doughs, dips and more with the included accessories. But there is a whole world of other things that can be made with its powerful motor, using the wide range of KitchenAid Stand Mixer attachments. The list of attachments is long, and keeps getting longer, and for someone who already owns a Stand Mixer, an attachment makes a fantastic Christmas gift.

On Monday, I included KitchenAid Stand Mixer attachments on my Best Christmas Gifts for the Home Cook wish list. And, as part of a week of wish list giveaways here on Family Feedbag, KitchenAid Canada wants to give away THREE Stand Mixer attachments to Family Feedbag readers! Yes, three of you will win an attachment!

Here's what you could win:

Gourmet Pasta Press
$249.99 from KitchenAid

Turn your kitchen into a pasta-making workshop with the pasta press that attaches directly to your KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

Available online.

Citrus Juicer
$49.99 from KitchenAid
Use the power of your KichenAid Stand Mixer to juice citrus fruits quickly and easily.

Roto Slicer w/shredder
$99.99 from KitchenAid

This slicer and shredder makes unbelievably quick work of shredding cheeses for pasta or pizza, slicing vegetables for stir fry, shredding carrots and cabbage for slaw and much more.

Available online.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post telling me the colour of your KitchenAid Stand Mixer. BE SURE TO LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you win. 

Good luck!

Canadian residents only. One entry per person. Contest closes on Thursday, December 11th, 2014 at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. The first randomly-selected winner will get their first choice of attachment, the second randomly-selected winner will get their choice of the others, and the third randomly-selected winner will get the remaining attachment. Winners will be contacted directly and announced on