New Year’s Eve Fare: Blackened Sirloin with Sparkling Prosecco

Prosecco with edible creaturesThis week, we’re focusing on New Year’s Eve with some great ideas to spice up your special event.

When planning a cocktail or dinner party, we like to keep things simple and fun to ensure the food and beverage will be a success.  We try to find recipes that can be prepared in advance, so that we’re not doing too much right before the party. And we love to serve something at the start as a signature beverage – guests love this and it’s a great way to get the conversation flowing.

When we’re hosting an event, whether it’s a cooking class or dinner party, we always acknowledge our guests with a toast at the start of the evening. A toast is special, a way to thank your guests for coming, to say, we’re so glad you’re here with us. The first thing we do when our guests arrive is greet them with a glass of bubbly Prosecco.

1 The Champagne is Flowing!Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine from the region of Veneto. Its classic flavor carries notes of citrus, almonds, honey, melon and pear, and you can find a nice variety to choose from in our local liquor stores. Clean and crisp with small bubbles, Prosecco varies from slightly dry to dry, and is always well-received.

Prosecco is a friendly wine – not too big, not too small, it’s just right. Festive, fun and affordable, Prosecco  can be enjoyed during any part of a meal. But, we love to serve it at the beginning.

This makes it the perfect choice to serve with our featured food recipe, Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce.

We love this dish as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres because it’s guaranteed to be a success with your guests – nearly everyone loves beef. Plus, it’s a great way to add some heartiness to the traditional cocktail fare.

The secret to this recipe is in how you cook, and slice, the meat. Coating the steak with freshly ground pepper and searing it before roasting help create a blackened effect. Cook the sirloin to a perfect medium rare, and then cut the steak as thin as possible – the thinner, the better. The medium-rare temperature preserves the flavor of the sirloin, and the thin slices help ensure that every bite is tender.

This recipe can be made up to two days in advance

We serve our Blackened Sirloin with homemade Horseradish Cream Sauce, which can also be prepared ahead of time.  This simple, yet amazingly delicious, condiment is always a crowd-pleaser and Tony often jokes that I serve beef only as an excuse to enjoy the horseradish cream sauce.

To serve, place the sliced sirloin on a platter and garnish with thinly sliced red onions and capers. Serve the horseradish sauce on the side.

We first shared this recipe with our readers in December 2012, many of whom now count this recipe among their top party favorites. It is a perfect way to ring in the new year, and we hope it becomes a favorite for you, too.

Click on the link below for the recipe.

Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Serves: 12 for hors d’oeuvres

2 10 oz. top sirloin steaks
1 cup fresh coarse ground black pepper (½ cup per steak)
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. olive oil, (1 tbsp. per steak)

For serving: 1 red onion and capers

Lightly sprinkle meat with salt and then coat completely with pepper. Spread the pepper onto a plate or baking dish and press the steak into the pepper on all sides until coated.

Heat a sauté pan over high heat until hot, then add olive oil. Let the oil become hot then place the steak in the pan. If your pan allows, you may cook more than one steak at a time. Sear the steak for two minutes on all four sides (two minutes per side), then remove meat from pan, transfer to a baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 350°F.

For medium rare (the ideal temperature for this recipe), keep in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  Immediately refrigerate until cool enough to wrap each steak in plastic, and return to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight if possible. This recipe can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

Within two hours prior to serving, carve the meat as thinly as possible and place onto serving platter. Cover the platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with thinly sliced red onions (cut into rings) and capers, and serve with horseradish cream sauce on the side.

Horseradish Cream Sauce

Serves:  10 – 12

1 pint sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 -3 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, and add more horseradish, lemon, salt and pepper as desired. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy with beef tenderloin, prime rib, or a great steak.

Tony’s Tip:  Prepare at least 2 hours before serving for best flavor. This sauce is a great accompaniment to beef, and can be made several days in advance. Will keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Christmas Favorites: Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallow collage 2

Tony and I were the coordinators for our son Giovanni’s 5th grade class Christmas party this week, and one of the biggest hits on our treats menu – with the kids and parent helpers alike – was the sweet little homemade marshmallows we served with steaming cup of hot cocoa.

Several of the kids – both boys and girls – even asked us for the recipe, so we’re featuring it today as our Christmas Favorite.

Every time I make marshmallows, I’m surprised and delighted by how easy the process is, and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. To make them, you will need a stand mixer, candy thermometer, three packets of unflavored gelatin, granulated sugar, powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ or icing sugar), corn syrup, water, salt and vanilla. That’s it. And some patience, too, because this recipe requires the marshmallows to sit for at least 12 hours or overnight before they’re ready to eat.

The result is a sweet treat filled with charm and whimsy, and they make a perfect holiday or hostess gift when presented in a clear bag tied with colorful ribbon. Homemade marshmallows have a wonderfully airy texture and delicate flavor, and taste so much better than a store-bought version.

You can play around with the shape to create different sizes and styles – I love to use a small heart-shaped cutter or cut them into strips to tie them in little knots.You can also add food coloring (I prefer the gel variety) and/or flavored extracts like peppermint and almond, and my favorite presentation is light pink with vanilla extract. They store well in an airtight container for at least two weeks and look darling no matter their size, shape and color.

So bring a little charm to your holiday fare with this sweet recipe and happy cooking!


Homemade Marshmallows

1 cup cold water, divided
3 ¼-oz. packets unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
Food coloring as desired
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted, for coating pan and dusting marshmallows

Grease a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with unsalted butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Generously sift powdered sugar over the paper to coat, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. In the bowl of your electric mixer, add ½ cup cold water and then add the three packets of gelatin. Allow to sit until gelatin softens, about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cook the remaining ½ cup of water with the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Cover the pan and boil for about two minutes, then uncover and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Adjust the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees, or the “soft ball” stage, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Using the whisk attachment, turn your mixer to its lowest setting and slowly add the hot liquid to the softened gelatin. To avoid hot splatters, gradually increase to high once the syrup has been added. Whip the mixture until very thick and stiff, about ten minutes, then add the vanilla and any food coloring and beat until combined, about a minute. When ready, the mixture will have tripled in volume and the sides of the bowl should be lukewarm.

Use a spatula to scrape the marshmallow cream into the prepared pan and spread into the corners the best you can. At this stage the marshmallow mixture will be quite sticky, so dip the spatula into water if needed. I found it easiest if I just dipped my hands in water and used them to smooth the mixture into the pan.

Dust the marshmallow with another heavy coating of sifted powdered sugar and leave uncovered to set at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or overnight. To remove from pan, run a knife around the edge and then use a spatula to gently lift an edge of the marshmallow.

Use your hands to turn the marshmallow out onto a baking sheet dusted with powdered sugar, paper side up. Remove the parchment paper and dust the top with more powdered sugar. Use a sharp knife, scissors, pizza wheel or cookie cutter to cut the marshmallow into desired shape.

Fill another baking dish or pan with 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar and toss each cut marshallow in to coat, then use a small sieve to shake off any excess sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Christmas Favorites: Norwegian Krumkake

The holidays are a wonderful time to reconnect with our ancestral heritage, and for Gio and me that means making some of our favorite Norwegian specialties. In addition to the Norwegian meatballs and gravlax that we serve at our Christmas Eve feast, we love to make Norwegian krumkake to feature on our sweets table.

My mother made krumkake every Christmas with a traditional stove-top iron, but I just couldn’t get the feel for it so I broke down and purchased an electric iron a couple years ago. I’m so glad I did, because we love it. It’s safe to use with kids (under supervision), and nearly every krumkake cookie comes out perfectly made. I’ve included the details for our electric iron below, in case you’re interested in finding one of your own. Enjoy!

Sarah’s Norwegian Krumkake

3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom and/or vanilla
½ cup melted butter (one stick, unsalted)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour
¼ cup heavy cream (optional to adjust level of thickness)

Directions: Beat eggs until thick (about 2 to 3 minutes with an electric mixer). Add sugar gradually. Add flour and melted butter alternately, ending with flour. Add cardamom and vanilla and mix to combine.

Put one teaspoon of batter on hot krumkake iron; when edges are slightly browned, remove with table knife and shape over a wooden cone or spoon handle. If the batter gets too thick, a little cream may be added to thin it.


  • Cardamom is a common ingredient in Scandinavian baking, but this distinctive spice is quite expensive and unfortunately has no substitute. We have made this recipe with and without it (but always with vanilla), and found both versions delicious.
  • For added flavor, add a ½ teaspoon of almond extract.
  • Krumkake can be served plain, but is also good filled with fresh berries and whipped cream, or dipped in chocolate. Gio loves to spread a little Nutella inside before eating.
  • Adjust the amount of batter used to control the size of the krumkake cones. When served by itself, we prefer larger cookies, but if setting out on a platter among other goodies, we recommend making small cookies.
  • The electric iron we use is called the Krumkake Express 839, made by Chef’s Choice.

Christmas Favorites: Panettone Bread Pudding

Today’s Christmas Favorite features a traditional Italian fruitcake called Panettone, which originated in the city of Milan. Not to be confused with our American version of fruitcake, Panettone is a light, moist, flavorful cake more like a bread, with candied orange peel, lemon zest and raisins.

Panettone is wonderful served in slices after a meal, or even for breakfast. On this occasion, however, Tony uses it to spice up a traditional comfort dessert, with his recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding.

“Panettone is the King of Christmas Cakes in Italian culture,” according to Tony. “In Etobicoke, the Toronto neighborhood where I grew up, the grocery stores and bakeries would be stacked with huge displays of Panettone. Big, bright boxes in every color, tied with fancy ribbons, all ready to give to your friends and loved ones. To me, Panettone signifies, hey, Christmas is here now.”

Soaking the Panettone in the wet ingredients before baking ensures that every piece of bread is moist. To further ensure the outcome, place your baking dish in a water bath to prevent the bread pudding from burning, curdling or drying out during baking.

For this occasion, we served the bread pudding with fresh berries and a dollop of our Honey Vanilla Ice Cream. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce.

Tony’s Panettone Bread Pudding

7 large eggs

1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ lbs. Panettone, cut into cubes

Early Preparation: Pre-heat oven to 300° F

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Panettone cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the baking dish. This water bath will help to prevent burning, drying out or curdling of the mixture.

Bake at 300° F for one hour. When ready, the top should have a nice, golden crust. Place a toothpick into the center of the dish to test for doneness. Remove from oven and allow to cool for fifteen minutes before serving, if serving warm.

To Serve: Cut into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream and fresh berries. Or drizzle some of Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top for some added comfort.

To Store: Wrap tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days. Reheat in the microwave to warm it up before serving.