Versatile recipes make hosting a breeze

While holiday entertaining has its rewards, it can also be a hectic job. This year, host with ease by relying on versatile and simple-to-make recipes.

These Perfect Pair Pear Puffs work splendidly as a crispy, creamy and completely delicious appetizer or brunch treat.

Perfect Pair Pear Puffs

• 3 medium, firm pears
• 1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
• 1 package (397 g) Tenderflake frozen puff pastry, defrosted
• 1 egg

• 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) grated Swiss cheese
• 1 tbsp. (15 ml) freshly grated ginger
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) Cambozola or goat cheese, crumbled
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200 °C).

2. Peel pears and cut in half. Remove seeds, leaving stems intact. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the inside of the pear and set aside. Brush the pear with lemon juice and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cut side down.

3. Remove the pastry from the package and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the pastry to a 10 x 12” (25 X 30 cm) rectangle. Cut pastry into 6 equal rectangles. Cover each pear with a piece of pastry, cutting away excess pastry using a sharp knife. Pierce several holes in pastry using a fork.

4. Whisk egg with 1 tbsp. (15 mL) of water and brush egg wash on pastry.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

6. Preheat broiler to high.

7. Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a small bowl along with reserved pear. Turn pears cut side up and divide filling between each. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble. Serve immediately.

Tip: Use excess pastry to form decorative leaves and adhere to pears using egg wash.


Bake gingerbread with a twist

recipe-winter2014-gingerbreadGingerbread is an iconic holiday treat. This year, why not update this favourite tradition with a beautiful gingerbread pie? Ingredients like molasses, brown sugar and nutmeg deliver festive flavours in every bite, and cute pastry gingerbread men add a whimsical and stylish final touch.

Gingerbread Pie

• 2 frozen deep dish pie shells, defrosted
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup (150 ml) unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup (150 ml) brown sugar
• 3/4 cup (150 ml) whipping cream
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) molasses
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) cornstarch
• 1 tsp. (5 ml) ginger
• 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cloves
• 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt
• 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) milk
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipped topping
• White icing

1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. Bake one pie shell according to package directions. Remove the second pie shell from the foil pan and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 2” (5 cm) gingerbread man-shaped cookie cutter, cut 8-10 pieces and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

3. Heat butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until bubbly. Whisk in cream and molasses and stir until it begins to simmer.

4. Whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, spices and salt in a small bowl. Slowly add a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Add the egg mixture back into the hot cream mixture and continue to stir over medium heat until thickened and just starting to boil.

5. Pour the filling into the baked pie shell. Cover the surface with plastic wrap directly on the filling and chill until set, at least four hours.

6. Decorate the gingerbread man pastry shapes with icing. Arrange shapes on top with whipped topping just before serving.