When looking for a simple dish with a twist, I often turn to my Essentials of Home Cooking cookbook. Bonnie Stern is not known for owning a swanky restaurant. She’s not known for a famous cooking show. But she is known for being a great Canadian cookbook author who appeals to the home cook.

Her recipes vary from weeknight easy to special occasions and encompass a number of different cooking styles. Regardless of the style, most of the recipes are simple and easy-to-prepare (two important criteria in my often hectic life).

Essentials of Homecooking is divided into eight sections: appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, side dishes, all-day breakfast (who doesn’t love that?!?!), cookies and desserts. Below I will share with you three menus that continue to be favourites in our home.

Weekend Dinner With Friends

  • Thai Shrimp Dumplings with Orange Chile Dipping Sauce
  • Korean-style Miami Ribs
  • Edamame and Green Bean Stir-fry

This meal takes a little longer to prepare but most of the prep can be done ahead of time so you can enjoy this dinner with your favourite people. For the dumpling wrappers, look in the refrigerated section of an Asian food store. I visited the new Oriental Market on Dougall Avenue near the Zehrs.

“Something Quick Before The Early Show” Dinner

  • Caesar Salad
  • Sesame Salmon Burgers with Spicy Mayonnaise or
  • Grilled Chicken Club Sandwiches with Avocado Mayonnaise

For the salad, I usually make a lighter version by omitting the raw garlic and mayonnaise. Instead, I use roasted garlic and top with tomatoes.

Chicken Club
Grilled Chicken Club


Family Dinner

  • Sugared Walnuts with Fleur de Sel,
  • Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Pizza
  • Hummus and pita chips
  • Arugula Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Olives
  • Roast Chicken
  • Double Potato Gratin
  • store bought fruit pie (sorry but I’m not a baker)

When my husband’s family comes over for dinner, there are usually more than 12 of us. Typically, we enjoy a few glasses of wine or champagne before dinner so we need plenty of appetizers. As for the main course, I try to make something a little more traditional to suit everyone’s palate.

If you are looking for Fleur de Sel (which is great for salads, sprinkling over grilled steak or the sugared walnuts below) try Far Flung Foods at Market Square, 2109 Ottawa Street or Remark Farms, 2727 Howard Avenue.

I hope you enjoy Bonnie’s recipes as much as I do!


Jordana confesses to being a cookbook junkie who spends the weekend pouring over recipes, planning meals and shopping at Market Square on Ottawa St. When she’s dining out, she enjoys everything from fancy-schmancy tasting menus to hot buffalo wings and a beer. Jordana has a well fed husband and a dog.