The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 12.13.06


The Spirit of Christmas is in your kitchen

So you can finally get into the spirit of the season…a few years back, I posted this humorous list of Martha Stewart Christmas project ideas and the list is still landing in e-mail boxes everywhere. Some things are timeless.

How to be ready for Christmas

Dec. 13: Collect dentures -- they make excellent pastry cutters, particularly for decorative pie crusts.

Dec. 14: Install plumbing in gingerbread house.

Dec. 19: Adjust legs of chairs so each Christmas dinner guest will be same height when sitting at his or her assigned seat.

Dec. 20: Dip sheep and cows in egg whites and roll in confectionery sugar to add a festive sparkle to the pasture.

Dec. 21: Drain city reservoir; refill with malted cider, orange slices, and cinnamon sticks.

Dec. 26: Organize spice racks by genus and phylum.

I'm including two recipes that readers have requested every year by e-mail. One is for an easy to "prepare in advance" Christmas morning breakfast and the other is for a traditional non-alcoholic fruitcake as a gift recipe.

And all this time I thought fruitcakes were so passé…

Sweet and Spicy Fruitcake

3 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped dried figs
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3-cup fruit jelly (apple is good)
2 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease two 3-cup ovenproof bowls. Line bottoms and sides with foil; grease foil. In a large bowl, combine walnuts, figs, apricots, chocolate chips, and 1/4-cup flour and mix well.

In a small bowl, mix at low speed sugar, eggs and butter until well blended. Add remaining ingredients, including flour. Beat until blended. Toss mixture with dried fruits and nuts in large bowl. Spoon into prepared bowls and cover with greased foil. Bake 40 minutes; uncover and bake another 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove to wire racks and cool.

Brush cooled fruitcakes with melted fruit jelly and sprinkle each cake with finely chopped dried apricots. Store in cool place for up to three weeks.

Apple-Raisin French Toast Casserole

1-cup brown sugar
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2-cup butter, melted
3 apples - peeled, cored and sliced
1/2-cup raisins
1 large French baguette, cut into 1-inch slices
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Grease a 9x13 inch-baking dish. In a large bowl, mix together brown sugar and 1teaspoon cinnamon. Mix in melted butter. Stir in apples and raisins until evenly coated. Pour into prepared pan. Arrange bread slices in an even layer over apples. In the bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Pour over bread; making sure every slice is fully soaked. Cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Remove dish from refrigerator while the oven is heating. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove cover, and bake 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.