Showing off my White Chocolate Coconut Rum Cheesecake with pride at The Creative Cook in Bracebridge.

I recently had the pleasure of teaching two holiday cooking classes at The Creative Cook in downtown Bracebridge. I’m proud to call Bracbridge home, and was delighted to be the first chef to teach in their brand new ’boutique style’ cooking school.  Inspiring folks to get busy in the kitchen is my passion.  I’m blessed to be a ‘lucky’ one, and make a career out of doing what I love.  Over the past year, I’ve focused on other areas of my career (in food) and made the decision not to make teaching a priority.  I did not realize how much I missed teaching, until I found myself in front of a ‘live’ audience.  I’ve had an exciting year sharing my passion on TV – it has been a big learning curve, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the daily challenge.  Some segments/days are better than others, but hey, that is life, right?  Here is what I’ve been up to the past year (click on each title to watch segment): Canada AM, Breakfast Television, CHCH Morning Live and Rogers Daytime York Region

Stay ‘tuned’ as I will be making a few appearances at The Creative Cook in the next few moths (click here for more information).  In the meantime, here are some of the tasty recipes I developed for my Holiday Entertaining Class.  Even if you are not a seasoned cook, I guarantee you will be able to recreate these dishes with ease.  From my kitchen to yours, Happy Holidays!!

Caramel Covered Brie with Dried Cherries and Nuts


Nuts, dried fruit and homemade caramel + Brie = Holiday Magic!

This divine ‘starter’ is a guaranteed show stopper. It presents as beautifully as it tastes, and will have your guests raving for days. Serve as an appetizer, or as a cheese course with Port for an after dinner nibble. 

1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

1/4 cup (60 mL) corn syrup

1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda

1 cup (250 mL) mixed salted nuts

½ cup (125 mL) dried cherries (or cranberries)

2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh rosemary

Pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)

9 inch (1 kg) round double cream Brie wheel, slightly warmed

Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepot. Cook over medium heat stirring only once or twice until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Continue to cook for about one minute without stirring. Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Stir in nuts, dried cherries, rosemary and cayenne. Place Brie wheel on a wooden cutting board or platter and pour caramel mixture over Brie. Serve with an assortment of crackers and fresh fruit.

*Note: this recipe was inspired by my days working as a recipe tester and developer for Dana McCauley & Associates in Toronto. Follow Dana on twitter @DanaMcCauley

20 Minute Seafood Chowder

Hosting a holiday soirée? Garnish each bowl with smoked oysters (found in the canned fish section of your supermarket), chopped capers and roughly chopped fresh dill for a fast and festive starter.  


No fancy chef/knife/kitchen skills needed to recreate this amazing chowder. Christmas Eve never tasted so good!

3 cups (750 mL) fish (*or, vegetable or chicken broth), divided 

3 tbsp (60 mL) cornstarch

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter or oil

1 onion, diced

1 small carrot, chopped

½ tsp (2 mL) each; dried thyme and sea salt

hefty pinch nutmeg and cayenne

2 cloves garlic, minced (*or to taste)

1 jar (236 mL) clam juice

½ lb (250 g) boneless skinless salmon, chopped

1 can (142 g) can whole baby clams, drained

1 (227 mL) can water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped (about 1 cup (250 mL))

½ cup (125 mL) 35% cream + 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated lemon zest

Whisk 1 cup (250 mL) broth with cornstarch and set aside.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and cook onion and carrot until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.   Add thyme, salt, nutmeg, cayenne and garlic.  Add remaining 2 cups of stock and clam juice.  Bring to a boil.  Add reserved stock/cornstarch mixture, salmon, clams and water chestnuts.  Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.  Stir in cream and lemon zest and and cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and serve.  Makes about 6 cups (1.5 L).  

Coconut White Chocolate Cheesecake

A perfect end to a holiday dinner party.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) mixed nuts

¾ cup (175 mL) sweetened shredded coconut

2 tbsp (30 mL) melted butter

2 (250 g – each) bricks cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup (125 mL) sour cream

2 tbsp. (30 mL) granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ vanilla bean, scraped (use paste only) OR 1 tbsp. (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate bar, melted

2 tbsp (30 mL) quality dark rum

2 tsp (10 mL) pure coconut extract

Garnish: lightly toasted coconut and finely chopped white chocolate and fresh berries.

Pre-heat oven to 300 F (150 C).  Place nuts and coconut in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until nuts are roughly ground.  Add butter and pulse until combined.  Press mixture into the bottom of a parchment paper lined 9 inch round springform pan.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.  Place cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and eggs in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl when needed.  Add vanilla, melted chocolate and rum (if using) and coconut extract.  Pulse until combined.  Pour mixture evenly on crust and bake in center of pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set, but still slightly jiggly.  Turn oven off, open oven door slightly, and let cheesecake cool in oven for one hour. Remove and cool completely in refrigerator.  Garnish center of cheesecake with toasted coconut, chopped white chocolate and berries.  Makes 12 servings.  

Charmaine is a regular guest on Rogers Daytime York Region and food writer for Running Room Magazine sharing DSC_1081her love and enthusiasm for all things food, cooking and running.

Charmaine is a proud ambassador of Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon: a celebration of Women & Fitness, come join in the FUN June 6th, 2016.  Hope to see many of you at the start line in 2016!  Click here to register.

Most importantly; Charmaine is the mother of two active boys, Tyler & Colgan.

Charmaine understands the importance of preparing healthy, wholesome dishes all while keeping budget and time in mind. For more tasty recipes visit

Follow Charmaine on Twitter @runnercharb