Alison Gillmor

  • Life after Joffrey — now what?

    Offering more proof that any "Save the Date" cards for Westeros nuptials should be immediately tossed in the bin, Game of Thrones featured another lethal wedding last week. This time, at least, the right person died. Unlike the killings at the Red Wedding, which caused so much vexatious viewer sorrow, the death of Joffrey Baratheon was met with untrammelled Internet joy. The unlamented 15-year-old monarch was an unfortunate bundle of adolescent impulses and absolute power, sort of like a murderous medieval Justin Bieber. As his uncle Tyrion memorably said: "We've had vicious kings and we've had idiot kings, but I don't think we've ever been cursed with a vicious idiot boy-king."
  • Noah flooded by weirdness

    Spinning out two-and-a-half hours of intense, overheated drama from some brief chapters of scripture, Noah is not a straight-up Bible story. But filmmaker Darren Aronofsky does hold tight to a kind of nutty conviction. Noah isn't exactly a good movie. It's uneven, unwieldy and occasionally mesmerizingly awful. But it's heartening to see a big-budget Hollywood film that's so idiosyncratic. Noah isn't bad in that boring, standardized, written-by-committee way. It's bad in an original, earnest, what-the-heck-was-that way. Deeply serious, incredibly silly, this awkward, effects-heavy movie somehow manages to rise up on the waters and float.
  • Breaking up is hard to do

    It recently became clear that famous people don't divorce the same way as the rest of us. The first sign is that they don't even call it divorce. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, once the shiny embodiment of the classic actress/pop-star celebrity pairing, are splitting after 11 years. They formally announced the end of their marriage on GOOP, Paltrow's painfully precious lifestyle blog, but were careful not to use the D-word. They prefer the term "conscious uncoupling."
  • What's up, doc?

    In response to Carol Robinson's request for a straightforward carrot cake that could be baked in a standard loaf pan, we have a recipe for carrot-raisin loaf from Linda Snider and another for Better Homes & Gardens' best-ever carrot cake from Heida Bottrell. There seems to be a (perfectly friendly) controversy in the carrot cake world over whether to add crushed pineapple or applesauce. Here we have recipes for both. As well, one recipe uses oil, while the other uses butter, so you can take your choice there. You can also add nuts or raisins as you like. This week Kathleen Hughes is looking for a recipe for a dish called Gypsy pear soup, which used to be served at the Bistro Bohemia. And another reader was wondering if anyone has a recipe for Paska bread that can be made in the bread machine.
  • Remembering the bad old days

    Call the Midwife, which follows a rather jolly group of young nurses and Anglican nuns who deliver babies in the impoverished East End of postwar London, has been called the anti-Downton Abbey. Returning this Sunday for its third season, Call the Midwife is prestige period drama with an unexpected edge. British commentator Caitlin Moran has termed it "the most radical piece of Marxist-feminist dialectic to ever be broadcast on prime-time television."
  • Mornings sweeter with healthy breakfast treats

    We got a lot of reader response to a recent recipe for Red River cereal bread, which is partly a testament to prairie loyalty -- Red River cereal is a traditional made-in-Manitoba food -- and partly a tribute to its terrific nutty taste and texture. This week we have some Red River cereal muffins, adapted from a Robin Hood recipe. And we still have an outstanding reader request for Red River cereal crackers -- the recipe used to be printed on the side of the red box -- so please send that in if you have it. Meanwhile, in the ongoing saga of tasty breakfast bars, Marge sent in a recipe for homemade granola bars with almonds and cranberries. This week, Carole Robinson has a request for simple carrot-nut loaf baked in a 20- or 22-cm (8- or 9-inch) loaf pan. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to recipeswap@freepress.mb.ca, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
  • Generation clean

    I love cleaning manuals. In fact, I can often be found curled up on the couch reading one when I should be washing my baseboards. These handy guides offer practical tips for specific problems. But they also tell us more about everyday life than many history books.
  • Sugar-free eats still treats

    For anyone looking to cut back on sugar, it can be hard finding recipes that work well with sugar substitutes like Splenda, a sucralose-based artificial sweetener that's derived from sugar. Sandra Skelly lives with diabetes and is always looking for good low- or no-sugar desserts. She finds that not all recipes can be adapted to sugar substitutes like Splenda, but some can, including this recipe for warm berry sauce. And Sue Feldman sent in a sugarless recipe for peanut butter brownie cookies, also made with Splenda.
  • Whatcha baking, honey? Something delicious?

    My first cookbook, given to me when I was a child, was a collection of recipes inspired by the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Every single dish contained honey (or "hunny," as Pooh would say). I wish I could find it now, in response to Joanne Marchand's request for a basic cake recipe that uses honey rather than sugar. I did manage to experiment with some honey-loving recipes, one for a standard chocolate layer cake and the other for vanilla cupcakes.
  • Schopenhauer on the bayou

    I resisted True Detective for a while. The HBO series, which follows sunken-eyed loner Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and his supposedly straight-shooting partner Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they investigate the death of a lost girl named Dora Lange, seemed to be trying too hard to hit the obligatory marks for overwrought cable-TV crime shows. There are the damaged, difficult men. There are the elaborately staged murders, clearly the work of one of those symbolically inclined serial killers. And there are the women, mostly sidelined in the usual roles: wife, troubled teenaged daughter, prostitute, stripper, corpse.
  • Step aside men — it's Claire's show

    Netflix released the second season of House of Cards last weekend, offering 13 binge-worthy episodes of backstabbing and score-settling, scandal and spin, duplicity and double-crossing. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), now the American vice-president, pretends to take political stands while pursuing a purely personal agenda of power grabs and payback, usually involving fake-folksy billionaire Raymond Tusk. This alpha-male posturing seems like the least interesting part of the series. Build a bridge, don't build a bridge. Who cares?
  • Moist muffins deliver dose of fibre with apple flavour

    Last December, I was corresponding about Christmas cookies with Dolly Kuzyk, and she mentioned that for holiday occasions she always brings sugar cookies and scuffles. I had to ask what scuffles were. Dolly not only explained, she sent me her mom's recipe for these tasty little cinnamon twists. And Recipe Swap has been on a bit of a muffin kick lately. In response to Linda Perrin's inquiry about the muffins sold at the Reh-Fit Centre's cafe, Marcy Mazur sent in a recipe for double apple bran muffins. These aren't the muffins served at the Reh-Fit, but Marcy did find the recipe in the centre's newsletter, and they are very healthy. Containing no eggs and very little fat, they get fibre from wheat bran and omega-3s from flaxseed, and the sweetening comes mostly from applesauce. Her family loves their moist, dark taste.
  • He's losing his charm

    About 15 minutes into The Monuments Men, I started to wonder whether it's possible to be too charming. George Clooney? Charming. George Clooney in uniform? Utterly charming. George Clooney getting the gang together for one last caper in war-torn Europe? Oops, maybe charm has just shot itself in the foot. Getting reckless with the multi-hyphenates, writer-director-producer-star Clooney is trying so hard to make this film likeable that almost nobody likes it. The critics are cranky (the current Rotten Tomatoes rating is a dismal 34 per cent), and audiences aren't much happier (their RT score comes in at 56 per cent).
  • What is lost when an actor dies

    When the terrible news broke that Philip Seymour Hoffman was dead, the work that came first to most commentators' minds was Capote. That role won Hoffman his 2006 Oscar. It was also the performance that many Winnipeggers thought of as somehow specially ours, because the movie was filmed in and around our town. The film follows author Truman Capote as he writes his 1965 "non-fiction novel," In Cold Blood. On the surface, it seems impossible that Hoffman, who usually comes off as a big, shambolic guy in a perpetually untucked shirt, could become Capote, who even in middle age retained an almost elfin quality.
  • Which Wolf is it?

    Of all the Oscar frontrunners, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is the most polarizing. Is it, as one rapt critic writes, "a delirious, manic, push-the-limits comedy of gaudy amorality?" Or possibly, "as hot and wet as freshly butchered meat: every second, every frame of its three-hour running time virile with a lifetime's accumulated genius?"
  • Left out in the cold

    The Oscar nominations were released on Jan. 16. When the ceremony airs on March 2, I'll be looking at the winners, all happy and shiny and standing next to George Clooney. But my heart will be with Llewyn Davis, the loser protagonist of the latest Coen brothers film, as he walks down a grey winter street in a thin coat, holding a cat he doesn't even like. Inside Llewyn Davis, which follows a musician's dismal week in the 1961 Greenwich Village folk scene, is a masterpiece of melancholy, a beautifully crafted anatomy of failure.
  • Those were the days

    Maybe there's something about Downton Abbey that encourages nostalgia, but I remember that first season, which took place before the Great War, as a golden summer of good TV writing and gorgeous Farrow & Ball paint colours. The second go-round was wacky but fun (temporary paralysis! double amnesia!). By the third season, with key characters starting to bolt, DA felt more like a raucous drinking game than a posh TV show: If you took a shot of dry sherry every time Lord Grantham made some disastrous mistake, you'd be as drunk as, well, a lord by the time he lost his wife's fortune in a dodgy Canadian railway scheme. The season four premiere garnered the show's highest ratings ever. But for me, this season has been mostly boring, with occasional moments of awfulness, as with the shocker storyline in last week's episode. At this point, DA is neither truly serious nor enjoyably trashy. I decided to revisit the first season, now available on Netflix, partly for old time's sake, and partly to see how and why the show has changed for me.
  • Nigella revels in all her imperfect glory

    It wasn't so long ago that the life of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson seemed like one long round of London premières, leisurely Sunday lunches, and molten chocolate babycakes. Then came the June release of photos of then-husband Charles Saatchi with his hands around Nigella's neck, a quick and terse divorce proceeding, and a "mortifying" cross-examination during the December fraud trial of her two former assistants. Suddenly, pictures of Nigella licking spoons and stirring her spaghetti puttanesca were crowded out with images of an unhappy, abusive marriage and allegations of drug use and runaway spending. So, Nigella's life is not perfect.
  • Hearty, healthy options to start the day right

    For many of us, the new year comes with resolutions to eat better. Alice Gamble wrote in with a request for a cracker recipe that used to be printed on the side of the Red River cereal box. We haven't found that one yet, but in the meantime, I turned up a good recipe for Red River Cereal bread. First produced here in Manitoba in 1924, Red River Cereal is a porridge mix of cracked wheat, cracked rye and flax that has become a bit of a cult food, both for its health benefits and its slightly nutty flavour. (I read many posts written by expatriates who rely on Canadian friends to bring them packages when they visit.) Also this week, Judy Shkolny's request for grab-and-go healthy breakfast cookies was answered by Marj Birley, who sent in a family recipe for cookies packed with dried fruit and fibre.
  • Small space, big meals

    This Christmas, my husband gave me a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Author Deb Perelman is a New York-based food writer (she also blogs at smittenkitchen.com) who offers meticulously tested recipes, warm and funny writing, and a generous, unpretentious attitude to food and cooking. I love all of that, but what really impresses me is that Perelman's glorious recipes are produced in a kitchen the size of a Ford Fiesta.
  • 2013: A binge-worthy year

    Pop culture. It's good, it's bad, it's shamefully interesting. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the most memorable moments of 2013. SO, NOT ALL GOOD, THEN: Notoriously food-phobic celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow releases a new cookbook. Warning against dairy, meat, wheat, sugar, fat, chicken eggs, deepwater fish, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and soy, it is (somewhat ironically) called It's All Good.
  • Twelfth day of cookies features shortbread

    WE wrap up this year's Christmas cookies with a rich, buttery shortbread studded with cherries and chocolate, from Jeanette Johnston of Keewatin, Ont. I'd like to thank everyone who generously took the time to send in their favourites, and I'm sorry I couldn't fit everyone's cookies into 12 days. Thanks to Carole Tattersall, Pat Gerbrandt, Linda Watson, Carol Gillis, Berenice Keryluk, Sheila Papove, Donalda Johnson, Janet Mead and her 4H club, Sylvia Cassie, Mari-Jean Nachtigall, Susan Chodirker, Diane Holigroski, Jodi Overton, Edna Mroz and Karen Makowski. (I hope I haven't left anyone out.)
  • Krunchy Kiss cookies

    THANKS to Emily Lucko for today's recipe, a no-bake cookie that relies on the ever-popular combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

    Krunchy Kiss cookies

  • Jewelled cookie slices

    FRUITCAKE cookies are a popular Christmas choice for many bakers, as they offer the tastes of fruitcake without all the trouble. Thanks to Susan Chodirker, Berenice Keryluk and to Myrla Smederovac, whose recipe is below.  
  • Potato chip cookies

    Adding potato chips to cookies might sound kooky, but they give crunch along with a hint of salty-sweet taste. That mix of salty and sweet is very trendy right now, but this is actually a traditional recipe, ideal for using up stale potato chips. I've received several versions of this cookie over the years. (Thanks to everyone who wrote in.) This recipe is from Marla Guest of Portage la Prairie, who calls her cookies "Isabels."  

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