Christmas Pudding

This year I wanted to try something different and twist up my Christmas baking routine. Instead of ginger cookies and German zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), I went for Christmas pudding — a classic British Christmas sweet that dates back to the Victorian era.
I went online and watched a few YouTube videos (like this one here) and recipes that helped me figure things out. I actually made two Christmas puddings, and for the second one — that I’ll bring to my Uncle’s house on Christmas day — I strayed and made up my own version. Here’s the recipe — along with lots of photos to help you out (I find that helps if you’ve never made something before).



  • 1 cup dried chopped dates
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup dried sultanas (raisins)
  • (*** note any 3 1/2 cup mixture of dried fruit will work. You can use dried apricots, currants, raisins, dates, even figs)
  • 1 cup sweet vermouth (the red kind)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup organic flour
  • 1 cup golden sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 grated organic apple
  • the zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 sprinkles of nutmeg

Here’s how it’s done: 

1)  Mix the dried fruit together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour the vermouth over it and mix with a wooden mixing spoon. Cover and let sit for 2 hours – 3 days. The fruit will take up the vermouth flavour (*** note you can also use brandy or rum instead of the vermouth, but just use less (1/2 – 3/4 cup) as it has a much stronger flavour).


Soak fruit in sweet vermouth, brandy or rum for a a minimum of 2 hours. 

2) Add the remaining ingredients to the dried fruit and mix batter well – it will resemble a cake batter. Grease a mold or pudding basin with butter – I used a cake pan that I bought at a flea market in France. It turned out to be the perfect size.



Use a larger grater for the apple, a smaller one for the lemon zest (the lemon pee). 

3) Pour the mixture into the greased mold and pat down lightly. Next, cut a round piece of waxed paper to cover the cake mold – leave about two inches over the sides – and grease it. Place it over the mold (greased side down so the pudding doesn’t stick to it) and then cover it with tin foil. Using a string, tie the foil so it is as air tight as possible and so no water can get in while the pudding steams.



This was the only string I could find. It did the trick, but a smaller string will certainly do.

4) Take a large pot (your mold needs to fit in when the lid is on the pot) and place a saucer upside down on the bottom of it to rest the cake mold on (the mold can not touch the bottom of the pot, or it will burn). Place the filled cake mold on it and fill it with water about 3/4 up the sides. Place the lid on and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer or very light boil (I left mine on setting “1”).


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5) Simmer/ steam for 3 1/2 (3.5) hours with the lid on, checking to make sure there is enough water in the pot — at least half of the mold/ pudding basin should be covered. Let cool for at least 45 minutes, and then turn the mold over and tap until the pudding falls out. It should be the perfect shape of the mold you used and slide right out!


6) Enjoy — typically with brandy butter or egg nog cream or whiskey cream. I didn’t bother with a butter or cream — I like it enough on its own and I’ve never been one for icing or sweet sauces. That said, I do think a nice cream would marry well with this quintessential Christmas dessert!


Celebrating An Ancient Culinary Tradition

This article was published via THE HUFFINGTON POST – you can read it here (November 11, 2016).

I’ve never tasted anything quite like the dessert I was exposed to last Thursday at The Depanneur on College Street in Toronto. My day was pleasantly filled watching the Syrian ladies of The Newcomer Kitchen roll up their sleeves and create a three-course meal for their popup dinner that takes place every Thursday of the week.

Shortly after walking in the bustling kitchen, I discovered that the menu de jour consists of Fatayers, a savory, open-faced pastry filled with either meat (in this case beef) or a cheese and black sesame seed mixture, a bulgur dish with lentils that sounds incredibly healthy, a cucumber salad much like Tzatziki and something called Harissa for dessert.

The kitchen is sizzling. At one table about five women quickly chop onions and carrots for the main bulgur dish, some of them succumbing to watery eyes, while three others huddle around a large square bin discussing how to make the Fatayer dough. Speaking in Arabic in a serious, yet still warm tone, I have no idea what they are saying. All I know is that getting the dough to turn out right is one serious affair in this kitchen.

Soon enough two ladies are kneading a large white ball of dough. I notice that one woman is fluttering between the groups — I soon learn her name is Rahaf and that she develops the pop-up dinner menus each week. She explains she’s going to start to make Harissa, the dessert. A few of the women come closer to help her. One of them reads the ingredients in Arabic from her smartphone, the others help her measure the flour, the semolina, tahini, water, and more.


Instead of using milk, the ladies measure out skim milk powder. I ask Rahaf why, and if that’s the way it’s done in Syria. She tells me the “new generation” prefers using milk powder for this recipe because it’s easier. But there’s also another reason: “Even the taste, the flavour, it’s better,” she adds. Rahaf tells me she did a lot of baking at home, learning many things from her mother.

The woman beside her nods and says she would bake often alongside both her mother and her mother-in-law. She tells her mother liked to make Harissa in winter, which would be about as cold as it gets in fall in Toronto. After most of the batter preparation is done, one of the women reaches for two glass bottles. I realize from the packaging that one contains rosewater, the other orange blossom syrup. “We have many versions of this recipe,” says Rahaf as she measures out the rosewater and orange blossom syrup using a teaspoon.

I learn the Harissa dough needs to sit before it’s baked. Rahaf tells me the cake is usually eaten alongside a tea-like beverage back in Syria, the name of which I’ve never heard before. My curiosity for this exotic dessert grows and, even though I know it will be a while before it’s done, I can’t wait until it’s finished baking.


I eventually sit down and talk with Len Senater, the owner of The Depanneur and the key person behind the Newcomer Kitchen, which has been running since March of this year. The history of the initiative unfolds before me, and I learn how Len was inspired to reach out to the Syrian community after hearing grim stories of them being stuck in hotels on the fringe of Toronto earlier this year. Len right away wondered what living in a hotel for weeks and weeks without kitchens would mean when it came to eating and cooking. “I was like what the hell are they eating? Are they going down to the Esso and just grabbing themselves some Doritos? It just sounded terrible,” he remembers.

Len quickly put together an ad-hoc group of volunteers and got to work. He envisioned opening up the Depanneur’s fully stocked kitchen, which has been open for five years now, to the newcomers so they could cook for themselves. The volunteers tried to reach out to the Syrian newcomers, first trying the settlement agencies, before one of them met Rahaf and her husband at an event.

Rahaf, who speaks English very well, was able to explain the idea to other women—and it wasn’t long before a group of Syrian women and children were headed to The Depanneur. For some it was the first time they’d ever left the hotels, came downtown or used public transit. Almost instantly the women took over the kitchen and spectacular food started flying out of it. They then sat down for a meal, and Len witnessed a transformation in their faces from when they first came in. “All the sudden they came to life,” he recalls, “it was amazing.”

The women came back the following week, and within a few months The Newcomer Kitchen and the concept of popup Syrian dinners was born. Each Thursday of the week, a three-course menu is offered with pickup (or food delivery courtesy of Foodora) between 6 – 7 pm (tickets for the dinners are available on The Depanneur’s website). As Len tells more about the project, which he views as eminently scalable, I can tell it’s enveloped his heart and soul. Since the project he’s certainly added more Syrian dishes to his recipe repertoire.

“This [Syrian cooking] tradition isn’t owned by restaurants and fancy restaurants and cookbooks, celebrity chefs and T.V. shows,” he says. “It’s owned by the mothers and the grandmothers who’ve been making these dishes for generation after generation.”

Before I leave the Harissa is done baking. Rahaf smiles and hands me a plate holding a square piece with a blanched almond right in the centre pointing up. I take a bite—it’s gooey and divine and was surely worth the wait.


An NYC Photo Album

This past weekend I attended Rotary Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York. I’ve always wanted to visit the UN headquarters — and I’m so glad I went. The overall goal of the organization – to have a peaceful world – is one that I admire and believe in wholeheartedly.


Rotary UN Day 2016


Nonviolence sculpture in front of the United Nations, New York.

I also had a few days to explore the city and went to the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park and 5th Avenue the next day.


The Museum of Modern Art


A special exhibit on refugees and displaced peoples around the world by artist Reena Saini Kallat.

After the MOMA I headed down 6th Avenue and stopped at Magnolia Bakery. I had no idea, but this bakery is apparently quite famous and was even featured in Sex in the City and the Devil Wears Prada. To be honest, the cupcake brought back memories of my cake mix days in high school — so I was sort of let down by the caramel cupcake  I chose.


Inside a Magnolia Bakery.


A cupcake from the busy Magnolia Bakery

After that I headed to 5th Avenue — I walked past the Rockerfeller Building and Saks 5th Avenue — two famous landmarks in the Big Apple.


Police on horses near the Rockefeller Building (and those famous yellow cabs).

And then I continued  on to 5th Avenue and stumbled upon some protesters in front of Trump Tower. Not everyone is happy about the outcome of this year’s election.


Demonstrations on 5th Avenue in response to the outcome of the 2016 election.


Demonstrations on 5th Avenue in response to the 2016 election.

On the next day I did a tour of the UN. Anyone can go – you just need to sign up online, bring your passport and go through security about an hour beforehand. A vibrant mural inside bore the words “Do Unto Others As Your Would  Have Them Done To You”.  I thought about how if we all lived be this saying, our world would very likely be a more peaceful and just place.


Mural, United Nations HQ


United Nations headquarters in NYC.

3 Must-See Food Films

A few weekends ago I attended an environmental film festival called Planet in Focus here in Toronto. It was my first time attending, and the caliber of films selected truly impressed and inspired me. At the festival some amazing films about food were selected. If you are concerned about what you eat and our food system, I highly recommend checking out these 3 films:



Filmed at the 2015 World Fair/ Expo in Milan, Italy, last year, this film explores the world of social gastronomy, an emerging concept revolving around equality in food access. The film covers a project in Milan that brought in top chefs from around the world to cook for the homeless under the leadership of Brazilian chef and philanthropist Massimo Bottura. The film does a fabulous job at exposing the raw life of the city’s struggling homeless while also featuring tremendous culinary footage as some of the world’s best chefs prepare delectable-looking dishes from leftover ingredients from the World Fair. The film’s beautiful food footage goes through your stomach to bring the homeless into your heart.

Director: Peter Svatek, National Film Board of Canada and Seville International



This documentary is a well-rounded look at a question many are asking: how will be able to feed 10 billion people by 2050? Director Valentin Thurn has done the research for us. He traveled the world and interviewed many individuals with answers — some more optimistic than others — to that question. From staff at a seed saving project in India, to a plant breeder for Bayer, to a scientist working to create “meatless” meat (yes, you read that right), to an insect farm in Thailand, to a giant poultry processing plant in India, to a hydroponic vegetable factory in Japan, 10 Billion: What’s On Your Plate provides a candid look at our diverse industrial food system. This film will definitely broaden your food horizons and leave you thinking.

Director: Valentin Thurn, Alte Celluloid Fabrik GbR



This film explores the incredible and overlooked world of seeds in an up-close and downright beautiful way. Featuring multiple images of colourful and stunning seeds — from plants like beans, vegetables and “Indian corn” — amidst stories of unique (and well-known) individuals around the world working to save seeds for generations to come, the film explores an important issue: our shrinking supply of life-giving seeds. A cautionary tale at the core, the film gets to the point in the beginning by reporting how up to 96% of the vegetable seeds available in 1903 have disappeared. This documentary issues a wake up call to the corporate take over of seeds and the dwindling diversity of the world’s seed bank. You will never feel the same about seeds again — guaranteed!

Directors: Jon Betz & Taggart Siegel



September 21st is a very special day around the world: it’s the International Day of Peace. According to Wikipedia, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution (sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica) in 1981 declaring the third Tuesday of each September be devoted to

“commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

On the Tuesday, September 21st, 1982, the first International Day of Peace occurred with the theme of the “Right to Peace of People.” The following year, in 1983, the UN’s secretary general of the time announced a “Culture of Peace” in the 21st century to make peace a practical reality for the children of the world and future generations. The Culture of Peace is based upon the belief that “since wars begin in the minds of men [and women], it is in the minds of men [and women] that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

This Culture of Peace program still exists within the UN – although many claim that it deserves and needs more attention and resources that it actually receives.

It wasn’t until 2001 when September 21st was decided as the official day for the International Day of Peace each year. The United Nations general assembly adopted a resolution that the 21st of September would be the special day devoted to peace, whereby all Member States are invited to:

“commemorate, in an appropriate manner, the International Day of Peace, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”

Let us take a moment on September 21st, 2016.

Let us celebrate how far the world has come for peace, and let us not forget the hard work that has been done to get us there.

Let us honour those who served for our freedom, both past and present

Let us hope for a world with non-violence and freedom for all

Let us hope for a world with responsible and just leaders that respect human rights and are willing to work towards the global ceasefire

Let us hope for humanity, for a world in peace.

World peace is of very high importance for The Peace Shop – and striving for global stability is one of the main goals of the social enterprise, which is why 10% of profits are donated to the Foundation for Food and Peace. This foundation will support global peace education and peacebuilding initiatives. We also aim to promote peace through our peace designs.


A Great Quote

I watched Tony Robbins speak on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday — and he said a beautiful thing:

-Love is the oxygen of life.-.jpg

There is also a documentary about him on Netflix. It’s called “I AM NOT YOUR GURU”. I recommend checking him out. He really inspires me, and I hope to meet him someday.

Tony teaches us to follow our passions, to be strong, to be hopeful and to just get off our buts and do something!

Thank you, Tony



A New Online Store for Peace ☮

About a month ago I launched an online store for peace. I wanted to do more for peace than just blog and research about it. I luckily met a talented designer and we’ve been working together to create designs for t-shirts (for men, women and children), bags, postcards and more.


I BELIEVE IN PEACE TANK TOP – available in four sizes. Smooth and soft cotton. Click here to view this in the shop.

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FLAMINGO ME TANK TOP. Also smooth and soft cotton. Click here to view this in the shop

So far it’s been an exciting venture. I have decided to create a Foundation for Food and Peace and have 10% of all profits go to this Foundation to support food security (access to the right food is a necessity for peace), peace and peacebuilding. The plan is to support charities and other organizations on the ground that are involved with peace education and conflict resolution. I wanted to provide people with a way to truly support peace — through both their clothing and through giving.


YES PEACE TOTE BAG — durable and unique! Click here to view this in the shop.

Check out the store and let me know what you think!

Yours in Peace,