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4 warm winter recipes from "The Lemon Apron"

Jennifer Emilson, creator of food blog, The Lemon Apron, shares four delicious winter recipes from her new cookbook that celebrates the seasons.

Winter recipes from The Lemon Apron | Nuremburg Lebkuchen

Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for Jennifer Emilson to find half a pig spread out on the kitchen table of her family’s apartment. Her parents, born and raised in Germany, were “foodies” before it was even a word, and cooked most meals from scratch.

Her parents’ love of rustic, wholesome cooking continued to rub off on Emilson when the family moved to Amherstburg in Southern Ontario. In their backyard, which doubled as a mini farm and orchard, Emilson and her sister ate raspberries they picked from the patch, smoked fish and made (and sampled) wine in oak barrels in the basement.

What began as an Instagram account of “the odd dinner dish or pie, amidst a sea of cats sleeping,” turned into a cooking blog called The Lemon Apron. Out of her condo-sized Toronto kitchen, Emilson shares her cooking journey, from her mom’s nostalgia-fuelled potato pancakes to goat curry with dumplings inspired by her Jamaican roommates.

While she has no formal culinary or pastry training, Emilson credits her curiosity, tenacity (“fancy word for stubbornness”) and the energy of Toronto's food scene with her success.

Emilson’s dishes are rustic, comforting and delicious — but they’re not difficult, she promises. Each recipe is split into simple steps and has been tested in her own kitchen. From crisp winter-inspired coleslaws to German Christmas cookies, there’s a feel-good recipe for any gathering this season. Put on an apron, grab a sous chef, and get stuck into dinner.

In association with IWBC

The Iconic Wineries of British Columbia (IWBC) is a collection of winemakers who are passionate about winegrowing in the rugged, beautiful Okanagan Valley. They farm in that part of the world not because it's easy, but because the high stakes, glacial and volcanic soils, and cool climate combine to make some of the most exciting wines on earth. From Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, renowned for its 40+ years of winemaking excellence, to the Winery of the Year-winning CedarCreek Estate Winery in North Okanagan, these wineries champion organic and sustainable practices, resulting in exceptional wines with a sense of place.

Winter slaw with orange yogurt dressing

With this recipe as a guide, it's easy to use your favourite veggies and toss them with a citrusy yogurt dressing.

Serves 4

Preparation time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Slaw Base

  • Red or green cabbage, shredded
  • Broccoli, thinly sliced
  • Carrots, shredded or thinly sliced
  • Celery, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Fennel, thinly sliced
  • Sugar snap peas, thinly sliced

Orange Yogurt Dressing

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1–2 Tbsp orange juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed

Optional Slaw Toppings

  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 persimmon, cubed
  • Citrus segments
  • Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or chopped nuts, for garnish

Method

  1. For the slaw base: Refrigerate prepped vegetables in separate sealed containers for up to 1 week (pour enough cold water into containers with carrots, celery and fennel to cover before sealing to keep them crisp).
  2. For the dressing: Whisk together the yogurt, honey and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in all of the orange juice or whisk in 1 Tbsp at a time for desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pink peppercorns. Refrigerate in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  3. At least one hour before serving, place about 6 cups of prepped vegetables in a large bowl; let dressing come to room temperature and shake well.
  4. Toss salad with desired amount of dressing until well combined. Cover and let stand in fridge until flavours are well blended. Toss salad gently with desired optional toppings. Garnish with seeds or nuts.

Cinnamon and sumac sautéed brussels sprouts

Level up this cruciferous vegetable with flavour-popping spices for an easy side dish.

Serves 4

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, root-end trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground sumac
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Method

  1. In a large nonstick sauté pan set over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring occasionally to avoid charring, for about 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same pan set over medium-high heat, add ⅓ cup of water and the brussels sprouts; cover tightly and cook about 8 to 10 minutes or just until tender, stirring once to keep them from scorching on the bottom.
  3. Add the butter, cinnamon, sumac, salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes, stirring often. (If the water has evaporated before the brussels sprouts are fork-tender, add a few more tablespoons of water).
  4. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest and juice; cook for about 30 seconds or until the brussels sprouts are fork-tender or are still firm but offer little resistance when pierced with a knife. Larger brussels sprouts may take more time, of course, so you may want to add another teaspoon of butter and a few more tablespoons of water.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle the pine nuts over top and serve.

Mum’s chicken and rice

For a cozy dinner, dig into this hearty dish — perfect comfort food if you're having friends over to your place.

Serves 4

Preparation time 30 minutes

Cooking time 65 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 6–8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken stock
  • Olive oil cooking spray (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the paprika, thyme, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, lemon zest, onion powder and garlic powder. Set this seasoning mix aside.
  3. In a large ovenproof skillet or braiser set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, in batches if necessary. Sear chicken for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or just until golden brown. Transfer to a plate; let cool slightly. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the fat from the skillet.
  4. Set skillet over medium heat. Add the onions; sauté for about 10 minutes or until they just start to soften. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the celery and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes or just until softened.
  5. Meanwhile, once the chicken thighs have cooled, pat away any remaining fat and rub the seasoning mix over all sides.
  6. Add the rice and remaining butter to the skillet; stir to coat. Place the chicken evenly on top of the rice. Pour the stock and ½ cup of water around and between the chicken thighs, but not over top of them. Increase the heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 seconds.
  7. Cover with a lid, or seal tightly with foil and bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes. Remove the lid or foil. If you want the skins to be crispy, spray the chicken with a little olive oil cooking spray. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the internal temperature reaches 165 F. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. If serving from the skillet, gently fluff up the rice around the chicken. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Nuremberg lebkuchen

Warm spices are the shining stars in these cookies, one of Germany's most popular Christmas treats.

Makes 34

Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ oz marzipan
  • Lebkuchen spice blend
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup packed candied orange or lemon peel
  • ½ cup pack of mixed candied peels
  • 1 ¼ cups ground hazelnuts
  • 1 ¼ cups almond meal
  • ½ cup finely chopped blanched almonds
  • 7 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate
  • Sliced almonds (optional), for decoration

Spice Blend

  • 2¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground anise seed (if you can’t find ground anise seed, simply crush whole anise seeds using a mortar and pestle)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar. Grate marzipan into the bowl. Beat again until well blended and slightly frothy. Add the lebkuchen spice blend [head to foodism.to for recipe], salt, lemon zest, candied peel, ground hazelnuts, almond meal and almonds. Switch to the paddle attachment or use a wooden spoon to mix until well blended.
  3. Measure a sheet of parchment paper that will fit your baking sheet. Using a marker or pencil, trace circles, 2 ½ inches in diameter and about ¾ inch apart. You should be able to draw about eight circles. Spoon about 1½ Tbsp of cookie batter onto each circle. Using a small offset spatula or your finger dampened with water, spread the batter to just fill the circle, leaving batter slightly mounded in the centre.
  4. Bake on the centre rack of oven for about 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffed. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies cool completely.
  5. Repeat the measuring and baking steps as many times as needed with the remaining cookie batter, using a new sheet of parchment paper for each batch.
  6. Once all cookies are cooled, coarsely chop chocolate and place it in a metal bowl set over a larger pot of simmering water; melt chocolate, stirring, until smooth and glossy. Let cool for 1 minute. Using a silicone brush, spread chocolate over tops of cookies (be sure to get into every nook and cranny). If desired, decorate cookies with sliced almonds, pressing lightly into the chocolate. Let cool.
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