Archive for October, 2009

Santa is a Star

Posted by Linda Bodo of Absolute Bodo
November 2009 Edmontonians

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Dear Santa:

Please enjoy the customary gratuities placed on the mantle. I took the liberty of placing the wingback by the fire to tempt you to take a short break between stocking stuffing and aerial deliveries. Take no notice of the growling terrier wearing the fake antlers; she’s just guarding the bone under the tree which she unwraps routinely. I understand Rudy’s allergies are acting up again so I’ve left some Ho-Ho-Hotrivin on the hearth which should get that nose glowing again. Heard about the low elf-esteem issues at the workshop and trust you managed to resolve their concerns without compensating production.
So, the Missus put you on a high-fibre, low cholesterol diet after the unfortunate incident in the neighbour’s flue last year? And you have backed off eggnog and given up your pipe? Delighted to hear you have been looking after yourself Santa—Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without you. You are, after all, the star of the season.
Thanking you in advance for the exotic package parked on the driveway (you overlooked that request last year). Hugs to the Missus, and best wishes for an environmentally conscious, low stress and healthy celebration during the winter solstice holiday.



.5M of 150cm fabric (body)
.25M of unbleached cotton (face)
Washed mohair/doll hair
.8M ribbon
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Large brass bell, 4 small bells
Wood star
Craft paint (optional)
Tassel or loop of cording
1 wreath (3” diameter)
Hot glue sticks
Blush and small brush or Q-Tip
Fine felt pen
Paper (tracing pattern)


Sewing machine
Glue gun
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  • Enlarge pattern as outlined onto paper.
  • Cut two star bodies from fabric and one face from cotton.
  • Sew stars together with 1/4” seam allowance. Trim tips off excess on each star point and cut into each inside node.
  • Position face on wrong side of body and outline. Cut slit inside marked face profile slightly smaller than outline.
  • Turn star inside-out through slit. Stuff body firmly and hand-stitch slit closed.
  • Apply blush to face for cheeks and felt pen for eyes as illustrated on pattern. Do not press too long with pen on fabric as ink will bleed.
  • Hot glue face to body over stitched slit.
  • Sew large bell at top of star and small bells on remaining points.
  • Hot glue hair around face for hair and beard.
  • Slide wreath onto ribbon and tie around waist to create belt. Insert cinnamon stick into belt and glue star on top with hot glue.
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Santa Snacks

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
November 2009 Edmontonians

Nov09-Christmas Cookies-3 resizedChristmas is a magical time for children. The Christmas tree, the lights, hanging the stockings, writing a letter to Santa and getting a reply. For me, the best part of Christmas Eve, next to hanging the stockings over the fireplace mantel, was creating and making a special snack for Santa. My mom explained the jolly old elf had so much work to do, delivering the toys on Christmas Eve, that it was the nice and proper thing to do.
So year after year, I left Santa a glass of milk and one of mom’s giant chocolate chip cookies or mincemeat tarts out, and a bunch of carrots—didn’t forget the reindeer. And, sure enough, on Christmas morning there would only be a few crumbs and empty glass left on the table. Score. Big time.
This culinary adventure grew as I got older, and became the creative genius behind the snack. In some families, it has become quiet the tradition with everyone creating somewhat elaborate snacks for Santa.
The origin of this tradition, according to folklore, dates back to the 1930s when good children would leave a little something to say thank you for the gifts, and naughty kids would use a snack to bribe Santa into leaving something for them.
Today, many families host Christmas Eve parties. We invite a few friends over after the church service and I usually make a seafood feast… anything from appetizers to a full entrée depending on my mood—that is, how exhausted I am after running around all day. Before we eat, it’s a simple matter to get the kids to plate up a few sautéed prawns or pan-seared scallops to leave for Pére Noel. This negates the need to prepare something special if you’re pressed for time. Other people use the occasion to spend an evening cooking with family.
One of my favourite cookbooks is the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen’s A Holiday Collection. It’s jam-packed with recipes that will get you in the spirit of the season. The kids will enjoy decorating the more traditional shortbread and sugar cookies for Santa. But, I thought I’d give a couple of ideas from the cookbook for Santa snacks that go beyond Christmas baking. Use your imagination and enjoy.
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Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
November 2009 Edmontonians

This can be used as a spread or dip.

8 oz brie cheese
8 oz cream cheese-softened
2 Tbs. dry sherry
2 Tbs. finely chopped toasted walnuts

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  1. Remove rind from Brie. For easy removal put brie in the freezer for 30 minutes before peeling rind.
  2. After you remove rind, cut brie into cubes.
  3. In a food processor combine brie, cream cheese and sherry. Process until smooth.
  4. Transfer into two serving dishes. Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Serve with fruit bread or celery. It will hold for up to two days in the refrigerator or you can freeze it for up to a month.

Makes up to 15 servings.
CHEFS NOTE: You might like to experiment with a liqueur like GM instead of sherry… or maybe a wine. Play with it and have fun!

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Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
November 2009 Edmontonians

48 fresh white button mushrooms
8 oz. cream cheese softened
3 Tbs. crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbs. chopped pecans
1 Tbs. finely chopped green onion
1/4 tsp. basil crumbled
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

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  1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve for another use.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed beat together the cream cheese, blue cheese, pecans, green onion, basil and pepper until blended.
  3. Stuff the mushroom caps, mounding slightly.
  4. Place mushrooms on a slightly greased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
  6. Do not freeze
    Makes 10-16 servings

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Fabulous Fungi

Posted by Linda Bodo of Absolute Bodo
October 2009 Edmontonians


They attend conventions in the round on manicured lawns or slumber in the rich loam of oak tree roots until rudely awakened by well trained snouts. They’ve been used for culinary, ritualistic and psychedelic purposes since prehistoric times. They can be stuffed, sliced or sautéed to complement recipes… or slyly recruited as murder accomplices. Who would have known that the gilled fungus we refer to as the mushroom has such a varied and colourful résumé?
While not all varieties of mushrooms are welcome in our yards, concrete replicas can lend a whimsical statement to any landscape. The vermiculite content and detachable cap produce a lightweight ornament simple to relocate and store.

MATERIALS for 12 mushrooms
Hollow plastic baseball bats 14” – 26”
6” – 12”-plastic bowls of various shapes/depths
2 large bags Vermiculite or Perlite
4 – 25kg bags play sand
40 kg bag type 50 Portland cement
Duct tape and electricians tape
24’ rebar
3’ – 1 /2” PVC pipe
Spray silicone/vegetable oil (release)
Acid stain
Concrete sealant
Plastic pails

Drill with concrete paddle
Cut-off saw with metal-cutting blade or angle grinder
Tape measure
Utility knife or band saw

2 parts water
3 1/2 parts cement
3 parts sand
3 parts Vermiculate or Perlite
Cement becomes caustic when mixed with water: Wear long sleeves, gloves, eye protection and a respiratory mask when mixing ingredients together. Work outdoors when possible, or in a well-ventilated area inside.


  • Remove grip and top of bat, cut bat in half lengthwise. Hold both pieces together and hinge with duct tape along outside seam of one side of bat. Open mould and spray interior with release. Close mould and duct tape along other side.
  • Seal top of narrow neck of bat with duct tape and cut a small slit in centre of seal to accommodate rebar needed in next step. Wrap bat mould with electricians tape.
  • For each stem, cut rebar with cut-off saw or angle grinder 6” longer than mould. Insert rebar into mould, pushing 1 1/2” through slit at sealed end. Demark rebar with tape to indicate alignment to correct any shifting when cement is poured.
  • Fill bucket with sand and bury neck of mould.
  • Cut PVC pipe 1/2” shorter than a bowl’s depth to create mushroom caps. Seal one end with duct tape. Spray bowl interior with release.
  • Mix up concrete recipe in pail, starting with all the water first. Add dry ingredients one cup at a time and blend thoroughly with paddle until mix resembles coarse oatmeal. Spoon mix into bat mould and massage into neck by gently churning rebar until concrete has fallen into place, adding more if necessary. Position rebar in centre of mould and tape into place.
  • Pour concrete into bowl, press PVC pipe into centre taped-side down with 1/2” of concrete between the bottom of the bowl and pipe. Ensure pipe is level and keep concrete mix out of PVC opening.
  • Cure 24 hours. Remove stems and caps from moulds and apply acid stain according to manufacturer’s instructions. Use mild detergent to rinse and scrub off residue. Repeat stain/wash process until desired effect is achieved.
  • Dry 24 hours, apply two coats sealant. √

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Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
October 2009 Edmontonians

Chefs John Berry and Sonny Sung

Chefs John Berry and Sonny Sung

You either love them or hate them. But there’s no denying it: There is a growing interest in this province about all things fungi. You see them when you walk through the Rocky Mountain foothills and Southern Boreal Forest. They come in all shapes and sizes, with some of the most vibrant colors you’ll ever see. Wild Alberta mushrooms.
There are thousands of different species from microscopic size to basketball-sized puff mushrooms. And this is where it gets tricky. A good number of them that are edible… some will make you really sick… others can be fatal. To say you have to know what you are picking to eat is an understatement.
This is where Edmonton’s Mycological Society—often simply referred to as the Mushroom Club—comes in. Founded in 1987 as a non-profit society by Professor Randy Currah and Helene Schalkwijk-Barendsen, it is the only such club in the prairie provinces. It provides education to promote an understanding and appreciation of the Kingdom Fungi.
“People shouldn’t go willy-nilly picking and eating mushrooms in the bush. You should go with experienced pickers or join a group such as ours,” according to President Martin Osis. He says they offer lectures, walks, mushroom hunts and a NAIT class that involves learning how to use and cook these delectable morsels.
Osis laughs when he calls mushroom picking “the intellectual outdoor activity. You have to put your brain into gear. If you like problem solving, this is for you because you’re finding a fresh, edible product, and you’re always finding something new.” He likens it to an Easter egg hunt. “You’ll never know what you’re going to find.”
Sorrentino’s Corporate Chef Sonny Sung agrees. He says a lot of people don’t understand mushrooms or how to use them. Add to this the fact that we don’t see many specialty mushrooms in our grocery stores.
“I really love to work with them, experiment, spend a lot of time on menu development… a lot of time perfecting in the kitchen.”
People tend to overlook the medicinal properties of mushrooms. That’s right, they’re just not fungus. According to Chef Sonny, “The Cancer Institute of Japan states that the Hon-Shimeji mushroom, which grows on wood, contains medicinally active ingredients with strong anti-tumor activity.” What’s more, he adds, some mushrooms contain anti-oxidents; some are good to fight gout, and others have been found to help in the fight against breast cancer.
Due to public demand, Sorrentino’s launched the Annual Mushroom Harvest 15 years ago, on the heels of the highly successful Garlic Festival which raised enough money to build Compassion House. It’s a great way to try some fantastic mushrooms that aren’t always available in our markets. It’s also a good way try exotics that sell for anywhere from $60 a pound to $500 a pound. Alberta grows a Pine Mushroom in the Fort McMurray and Smoky Lake regions. Here they cost $10 a pound—in Japan, they sell for $400 a pound.

Chef Sonny has created an incredible menu for the Mushroon Harvest. He was kind enough to share this single-serving recipe:

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Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
October 2009 Edmontonians


1 oz. extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. chopped white onions
8 oz. Carnaroli rice (or Arborio)
3 oz. lobster mushrooms diced 1/4 inch
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated
1 Tbs. butter
5 pieces of grilled shrimp
2 cups or more of chicken stock
sea salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add oil to heated sauté pan.
  2. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add in rice and sauté until husks are coated and heated through.
  4. Slowly add in chicken stock, a few ounces at a time and bring to a simmer. Stir until liquid evaporates.
  5. Repeat adding more liquid until it’s all gone and risotto is to your desired doneness.
  6. Add the diced mushrooms.
  7. Cook until all of the liquid is evaporated.
  8. Add cheese and toss.
  9. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add butter and toss. Rice should be creamy not dry.
  11. Spoon the rice in the center of a bowl and garnish with shrimp, fresh herbs and more Parm-Reggiano cheese.

If mushrooms are your passion, make sure you mark your calendar for the 16th Annual Mushroom Harvest in early September next year. Can’t wait? You’re in luck: Sorrentino’s Annual Truffle and Wine Dinner happens November 4th. For tickets and details, call Priya Bhasin at 780.474.6466. √

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