About the Author

Bonnie Stern

Books by this Author


Soups, Spreads, Salads, Hors d'oeuvre, Pasta and Much More
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Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking

Along with a warm heart and a generous spirit, for me, cooking is an essential element in turning a house into a home. But the essentials of home cooking are different for everyone. They change as we go through different stages of our lives -- whether we’re single, cooking with a partner or feeding a family. They also shift and adapt according to what is happening in the food world. Back in 1973, when I opened my cooking school, who would have thought that we would one day be eating calamari and sushi at all, let alone preparing it at home? People are traveling around the globe and bringing back taste memories that they want to have again and again. Markets sell the ingredients, and magazines, food shows and cookbooks offer the recipes. Home renovators are designing kitchens with restaurant-quality equipment, and every week a wonderful new gadget appears that makes cooking even easier. So why not cook?

I have witnessed many of these changes from the front lines, and visits to markets and restaurants around the world have influenced the way I cook, too. I have also learned a lot from the renowned teachers and chefs who have come to teach at my school over the years, from my association with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in producing three HeartSmart™ cookbooks, and from my students and customers, who always keep me on my toes with their questions and comments.

This book is a reflection of the way I am cooking now. It contains new recipes inspired by my recent travels and restaurant experiences, as well as some of my classic standbys and childhood favorites.

Along with the recipes, I have included thoughts about some aspects of food and cooking that are essential to me, such as seasonal foods, healthful cooking and cooking for children (as the mother of “selective” eaters, I have always been intensely interested in this subject, and it explains why I can never have too many chicken or pasta recipes, and why my fridge always contains iceberg lettuce!).

With the availability of so many restaurants, take-out options, catering and prepared foods, home cooking may seem almost unnecessary. Yet these days it is more important than ever. Though I am frequently away, my favorite place to be is home, and I think a lot of people feel the same way. So even frantically busy people are making the time to cook and eat dinners at home with their children and friends.

There are good reasons for this. Few things are more important than what we put in our bodies, and home cooking provides the best opportunity to choose the ingredients that go into our food. And we all want to spend more time with the people we care about. What better way than to linger over a meal with good conversation and good friends?

The essentials of home cooking may be different for everyone, but there is one thing that never changes, and that is using the freshest and best-quality ingredients and preparing them with care.

Bonnie Stern

My husband says these cupcakes make him feel as though he is five years old again. They have an amazing deep chocolate flavor, and they freeze well. For an old-fashioned effect, swirl the icing on top of the cupcakes; for a more modern look, pipe it.

You can bake the batter in two deep 9-inch (23 cm) pans and make an old-fashioned layer cake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. We sometimes also make mini cupcakes (you should have about seventy); bake them for 10 to 12 minutes.

1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa, sifted
2/3 cup (150 mL) chopped unsweetened chocolate (about 4 oz/125 g)
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
1 cup (250 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 cup (250 mL) milk

Chocolate Icing
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, cut in small pieces
12 oz (375 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa, sifted
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk, approx.

1. Combine cocoa and unsweetened chocolate in a bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Cool.

2. In a large bowl or bowl of electric mixer, cream butter with both sugars until very light. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour to butter mixture alternately with milk in three or four additions, beginning and ending with flour.

4. Fill 24 well-buttered or paper-lined muffin cups. (Fill muffin cups three-quarters full; cupcakes will not rise as much as muffins.) Bake in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack before icing.

5. For icing, in a large bowl or food processor, beat butter until light. Beat in cooled melted chocolate, cocoa and vanilla. Beat in icing sugar. Add milk and beat until very cool and creamy. (Add more milk if necessary for a creamy texture.) If mixture is too warm and thin to spread, set over a bowl of ice; it should thicken very quickly as you beat with a wooden spoon.

6. Swirl or pipe icing on top of cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes

3 lb (1.5 kg) plum tomatoes (12 to 15)
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried

1. Remove cores from tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze out excess seeds. Place cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet (cut a tiny slice off bottoms if necessary so they will sit upright).

2. Drizzle or spray tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Roast in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until some juices have evaporated and tomatoes are starting to brown on the bottom. Arrange tomatoes attractively on a serving plate.

Serve warm or cold. Makes 24 to 30

2 cups (500 mL) basmati rice
2 tbsp (25 mL) ghee or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) curry paste
1/4 cup (50 mL) tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) water
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

1. Rinse rice well and soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain well.

2. Heat ghee in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.

3. Add curry paste and cook for a few minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer. Add tomato sauce and cook, stirring, for another few minutes.

4. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed.

5. Add salt and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 6 servings

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Friday Night Dinners

Friday Night Dinners

also available: Paperback
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100-Mile Diet Dinner

Serves 8

Although I always buy local meat and poultry, and I try to buy local produce as much as possible, I had no idea what I was in for when I agreed to host James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith (authors of The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating) at my book club. We take a lot for granted when we use rice, sugar, olive oil and lemons, for example. In the end even James and Alisa found it hard to believe that we had cooked the entire dinner with local ingredients (though I have to admit we extended the range to 150 miles at times).

It was an eye-opening exercise. We managed to chase down local canola and soybean oil, learned that the largest salt mine in the world is in Goderich, and found a great flour mill in Arva – all close to Toronto.

The challenges of eating locally vary depending on where you live. Everyone has to make compromises, and don’t forget, “almost” all local is good, too.

My biggest tip for cooking locally? Keep your ingredient lists short. Or have a 100-mile potluck dinner, so everyone can share the fun and aggravation!

Except for the kale, which should be sauteed just before serving, this entire menu can be prepared ahead.

Smoked Trout Spread

In southern Ontario, trout is the only local fish that is commercially available year round, although fresh whitefish, pike, perch and pickerel are also sometimes sold (Rick Blackwood of Mike’s in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is a great source of information about local fish).

We made our own mayonnaise using local oil, but you could use yogurt, instead.

Serve this with bread or crackers.

8 oz (250g) smoked trout, bones and skin removed
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 tbsp (25mL) chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp (25mL) chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup (125mL) mayonnaise or yogurt, approx.
Salt to taste
Apple cider vinegar to taste
Sprigs fresh dill or chives for garnish

1. In a food processor, combine trout, celery, chives, dill and 1/4 cup (50mL) mayonnaise. Process on/off until mixture just holds together, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Add salt and/or apple cider vinegar to taste.

2. Serve garnished with fresh dill.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml)

In a food processor, combine 2 egg yolks, 1 tbsp (15mL) apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp (5mL) dry mustard and 1/2 tsp (2mL) salt. With machine running, very slowly add 1 1/4 cups (300mL) vegetable oil through feed tube. (You can also do this in a bowl with a whisk, adding the oil drop by drop at first and graduating to a thin stream.)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (375mL).
Braised Lamb Shanks with Wine and Herbs

Although this recipe contains tons of garlic, the long cooking time makes it unexpectedly mild and sweet. You can serve the lamb shanks on the bone or remove the meat in chunks (to avoid scaring guests with what looks like a huge hunk of meat).

Peel fresh tomatoes by cutting out the core, cutting a cross on the bottom and blanching for 20 seconds in boiling water. Cool under cold water and remove the skins, or use a soft skin peeler.

8 lamb shanks, trimmed
1 tbsp (15mL) salt
2 tbsp (25mL) vegetable oil
3 onions, coarsely chopped
12 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups (500mL) dry red wine
2 lb (1kg) fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 128-oz (796mL) can plum tomatoes, with juices
1 tbsp (15mL) fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp (2mL) dried
2 tbsp (25mL) coarsely chopped fresh parsley, optional

1. Pat lamb dry and sprinkle with salt.

2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown lamb well on all sides, in batches if necessary (this will take about 10 to 15 minutes). Remove from pan.

3. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook for a few minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by about half.

4. Add tomatoes and thyme and bring to a boil, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Return shanks to pan. Place parchment paper directly on surface of lamb. Cover with lid and cook in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until meat is very tender.

5. Remove shanks from pan. Skim any fat from surface of sauce and discard. Puree sauce in a food processor or blender and return sauce to pan.

6. Remove lamb from bones in large chunks and return to sauce. Heat thoroughly. Garnish with parsley, if using.

Makes 8 servings
Caramelized Apple Crêpes with Maple Syrup

Local maple syrup and apples are legendary in Ontario. If you don’t have maple syrup, use honey, which is available locally in most places. I find most apples are good for cooking if they are very apple-y and not too tart or crisp.

2 tbsp (25mL) butter or vegetable oil
6 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut in wedges
1/2 cup (125mL) maple syrup
10 cooked crêpes (pages 272—273)

1. Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

2. Add maple syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until apples are tender and caramelized.

3. To assemble crêpes, place crêpes, nicest side down, on a work surface. Divide apple mixture among crêpes. Roll up and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

4. Before serving, warm crêpes in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

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The Best of HeartSmart Cooking
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Asian Tuna or Swordfish Burgers
Many people want to eat more fish, but they want it to taste more like meat. Chopped tuna and swordfish make great fish burgers because of their firm, meaty texture.

Serve these in the bun with grilled red onion slices.

Makes 6 servings
2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb (500 g) boneless, skinless fresh tuna
2 egg whites, or 1 whole egg
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh whole-wheat or regular breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) hoisin sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce
1 tsp (15 mL) dark sesame oil
6 whole-wheat or regular sesame seed buns

1. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add green onions, ginger, garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, or until fragrant.

2. Cut fish into chunks and pat dry. Chop coarsely in a food processor. Add egg whites and breadcrumbs and chop until just combined. Blend in cooled garlic mixture, salt and pepper. Shape into 6 patties, about 1/2 inch thick.

3. To prepare glaze, in a small bowl combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.

4. Grill burgers for a couple of minutes. Turn and brush with glaze. Turn and brush once more, cooking burgers for a total of about 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through but still juicy. Serve in buns. Serves six.

Per Serving: 326 calories, 25 g protein, 10 g fat (2 g saturates), 39 mg cholesterol, 32 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 730 mg sodium, 462 mg potassium.
Excellent source of Vitamin A, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B12
Good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Iron

Balsamic-Maple-Glazed Lamb Chops With Sweet Potatoes
This is a great way to use a less-expensive balsamic vinegar, as it becomes sweeter when it is reduced (save your better-quality vinegar for salads).

Makes 8 servings
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
3 lbs(1.5 kg) sweet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
8 shallots, peeled and halved
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp (5 mL) salt, divided
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
2 cups (500 mL) balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp (45 mL) maple syrup
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece orange peel
16 thin lamb rib chops (about 2 1/2 to 3 oz/75 to 90 g each), trimmed

1. Brush large sheet of heavy-duty foil with oil. Arrange sweet potato slices, overlapping slightly, over centre of foil. Sprinkle sweet potatoes with shallots, rosemary, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt and pepper. Fold over foil and seal and place package in or on barbecue. Cook for about 35 minutes, turning package once or twice. (Package can also be baked in a 400 degrees F / 200 degrees C oven for about 35 minutes, or until tender.)

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, orange peel and remaining 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is syrupy. You should have about 1 cup glaze. Discard orange peel. Reserve 1/4 cup (50 mL) of glaze for garnish.

3. Pour 1/2 cup (125 mL) glaze over chops and rub in. Grill lamb for 2 minutes. Brush with 1/4 cup (50 mL) glaze, turn and cook for 2 minutes longer for medium-rare.

4. Drizzle plates with reserved glaze. Serve chops on a bed of sweet potatoes.

Per Serving: 257 calories, 14 g protein, 7 g fat (2 g saturates), 45 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 220 mg sodium, 514 mg potassium.
Excellent source of Vitamin A, Niacin, Vitamin B12
Good source of Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
The lemon flavour in these light and delicate pancakes is wonderful to wake up to. Dust the pancakes with a little extra sifted icing sugar before serving, if you wish.

Makes 6 servings (about 20 3-inch / 7.5 cm pancakes)
1 cup (250 mL) light ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) grated lemon peel
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 tbsp (15 mL) soft non-hydrogenated margarine or unsalted butter, melted
4 egg whites
1/3 cup (75 mL) lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 mL) sifted icing sugar

1. In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, egg yolks, flour, sugar, lemon peel, nutmeg and melted margarine.

2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Stir one-third of whites into ricotta batter. Gently fold in remaining whites.

3. Heat a large, lightly-oiled non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add batter to pan in large spoonfuls, flattening batter slightly with back of spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until just cooked through.

4. In a saucepan, heat lemon juice and stir in icing sugar. Brush lightly over tops of cooked pancakes.

Per Serving: 194 calories, 10 g protein, 7 g fat (2 g saturates), 120 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrate, trace fibre, 118 mg sodium, 120 mg potassium.
Good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B12

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HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends

HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends

Great Recipes, Menus and Ideas for Casual Entertaining
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