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Hump Day heaven

By January 27, 2016 Recipes

Did you miss me, my dear readers?
Wonder what hole I slipped into?
It’s called LOVE AND SUGAR, baby-that’s what. Read More

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Toasted pecan shortbread

By December 24, 2015 Recipes, Rituals

Family reunions and feasts are part of many rituals, as is ditching both for a sandy beach and a margarita. How you end the feast is as individual as the gorgeous light show up and down our city streets.
We’ll be having chocolate mocha yule logs at our Christmas dinner mostly because it’s the only time of year I’m crazy enough to make them.

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If you prefer something simpler, these buttery gems are just the thing to enjoy with your cognac. They’re as simple to make as any cookie recipe in your collection. The trick is to chill the dough, then slice up the little sticks of dough quickly and bake.  Don’t forget to toast the nuts ahead of time.  Leave some for snacking later. You can eliminate the chocolate dip. You can also ditch dessert altogether and go straight for the hard stuff. Santa understands.

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Toasted Pecan Shortbread

What you need:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • ⅔ cup golden brown sugar, packed

  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

  • sea salt flakes

  • 4 oz bittersweet good quality chocolate, melted

 

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What you do:

  1. Beat butter and brown sugar together in mixer thoroughly. Add vanilla and mix again.

  2. Sift flour and salt together in separate bowl. Add to mixer with speed on low and then increase speed to medium to blend.

  3. Stir in toasted chopped nuts.

  4. Turn the dough out onto wax paper and form it into a rectangle about one inch thick, 6 inches by 8 inches. Wrap the block up tightly with plastic wrap and chill for two hours. You can also make it a day ahead and just leave in fridge until you’re ready to bake.

  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Move oven racks to top and bottom third position in oven.  Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment.

  6. Cut the chilled dough lengthwise into two equal pieces, then cut crosswise into slices about a quarter inch thick. Place on cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Press a few flakes of sea salt on each cookie.

  7. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating pans midway through baking. Let cool on racks.

  8. Melt chocolate in double boiler set over simmering water. Dip each shortbread into chocolate, or if you prefer, drizzle it over. Let it dry before adding to your holiday cookie plates.

For all my readers: I wish you plenty of music and merrymaking, be it a with a modest repast or a magnificent spread.

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Don’t forget the pets.

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I hope Santa is good to you all. Hope your toys don’t require batteries.  Whatever your quibbles, however weighty your beefs, leave them outside with the snark chorus.

Merry Everything.

 

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The last of the peaches

By September 30, 2015 Recipes

Last day of September and the construction crews banging daily behind my house are doing their best to rob me of the joys of the season. Ha! Not so fast.

Their blasts have yet to shock the garden.

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IMG_4984Ok so I can’t open my windows to let in some of this awesome crisp air. Let’s do something instead with all these stone fruits loitering around my counter. Hello peaches!
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Peaches are everyone’s BFF. They brighten an ordinary picnic and steal the spotlight at ice cream parties.*

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Here they won’t disappoint in this easy tart. It’s a little Hump Day Heaven. This is the tart to eat when storing away the flip-flops and sighing about socks. Fall is my friend; socks not so much.

Who-knew-you-were-so-easy-Peach-Tart

Serves 8.

Adapted from Amanda Hesser

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What you need:

for tart base:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fruit filling:

  • 6 medium size peaches, pitted and sliced into ½ inch segments. No need to peel.

for topping:

  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

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What you do:

  1.  Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. Whisk flour, salt and sugar together in medium bowl.
  3. Add chopped toasted pecans.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together both oils, milk, and both extracts.
  5. Pour wet mixture into flour mixture and blend gently with fork until dampened only.
  6. Press into an 11-inch tart pan and pat dough gently until it covers the bottom and sides of the tart pan.
  7. Arrange peach slices in circles over the base or whatever pattern you like.
  8. Make topping: combine sugar, flour and salt in small bowl, then add the butter. Using your fingers, work the mixture into fine crumbles then sprinkle over the peaches.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until juices are bubbling. Cool on rack and serve at room temperature.

Notes: I love the crunch of toasted nuts in my tart crusts, but you can certainly omit them. If you omit the almond flavouring, add another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract for depth.  Add wild blueberries if you have any leftover. And yes, not everyone has an 11-inch tart pan kicking around. You can use a smaller one and just cut back on the peaches. Add more peaches if you want-the idea here is to make this your own. Plop some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on each slice if you wish. If your peaches are end-of-season ripe, you won’t need either.IMG_3127

* One of the recipes my subscribers received in my buzz sheet. Have you signed up yet?

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Picnic pouch for Pop

By June 19, 2015 Recipes

Knee-deep in strawberry season and we’re prepping for picnics. The Friendly Greek has few requests for Father’s Day, but a picnic with the ladies of the house would be considered a win.  Strawberries on the menu in any form and everyone is silly happy. A ride in a vintage car?  Oh baby.

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Read More

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Maple heaven

By June 4, 2015 Recipes

I’m mad for maple. If you make me choose, I’d sneak a mickey of the stuff over sensible survival gear when the apocalypse comes. Okay, okay, you know that already by now as I’ve doused it on blueberries and apple and twirled it in ice cream.

Crucial for all of these is not simply a good syrup, but a great one.  We’ve got a stash of syrup bottles in the fridge, from bourbon to vanilla bean, because, hey, why stop at one? Read More

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Tart taster

By May 26, 2015 Recipes

Sweet is all well and good until it’s tipped over into mawkish yuck. Consider that a life lesson for just about everything. Read More

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Mini mouthfuls

By May 13, 2015 Recipes

Spring menus are meant to be easy. Better to be outside, not toiling away for hours in the kitchen when we get home from work or released for the weekend. This is the week I aim to embrace spring trees around the city and beyond, before wind and rain bring them down.

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Ha ha ha, said the busy worker bees. Green grass means GO.

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Well then, pack some of these.

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Mini Vanilla Cupcakes

Picnic-perfect, road trip ready, these fluffy tops match the petals outside.
What are you waiting for?

 

Makes 30 mini cakes.

What you need:

CAKES:

  • 2 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup (1.5 sticks)  unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk

ICING:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3½ cups icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray mini-muffin pans with baking spray. Even better, use muffin liners that size.
  3. Cream butter and sugar for 4 minutes in mixer until fluffy.
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
  5. Add vanilla to butter/sugar mix, then eggs one at a time. Mix well after each.
  6. Reduce mixer speed and add dry ingredients and milk, alternating each, ending with flour. Combine until just blended after scraping down bowl as necessary.
  7. Spoon into muffin tins, filling only two thirds of the way.
  8. Bake 12-15  minutes until tops are light golden and tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool on rack for 5 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely before frosting.
  10. For icing: Cream butter and add icing sugar, one cup at a time. Add salt and vanilla. Blend well. Add one tablespoon of milk at a time, blending after each, until icing is creamy. For stiffer icing, add more icing sugar. For creamier icing, add more milk.
  11. Decorate with piping bag.

Best to eat on day they are made but will keep for 2 days under cake dome.

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Apricot-Blueberry Crumble

By May 6, 2015 Recipes

Fresh apricots are so rarely available in Canada that I almost always miss them when they show up. This week’s quick grocery shop resulted in these babies coming home with the other staples. Apricot recipes are favourites in this house, including a showstopper birthday cake, and a killer meringue layer mess that never lasts long.

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Green buds beckon so easy crumble it is, a crunchy fruit bite to welcome my oldest daughter home from her first day on the summer job. Family dinners with young adults in the house are a kick. Spring is hectic enough so I’m up for grabbing the moments where I can. Did I say yet that a full house makes me about as happy as these trippy tulips?

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If you love easy two-step recipes, this one’s for you. Bake up the topping on a free day and store in your freezer.  It’s also great on yogurt. When you’re ready for a quick dessert, spread it over the fruit and pop it into the oven for a quick bake.

What you need:

for the crumble top:

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1 ¼ cups rolled oats

¼ cup rice flour

¼ cup toasted flaxseeds, coarsely ground

⅓ cup raw sugar

½ teaspoon nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

 

for the fruit filling:

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1½ pounds apricots, cut in half, stones removed

½ cup blueberries ( I used frozen wild berries at this time of year-let them thaw a little before adding in)

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cornstarch

¼ cup lightly toasted slivered almonds

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

 

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Place the oats, rice flour, ground toasted flaxseeds, raw sugar, salt and nutmeg in a food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed throughout the grain mix and the mix is all crumbly.
  3. Spread the topping over the parchment-covered baking sheet in an even layer. Bake 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, stir the mixture, and bake another 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Can be made ahead and stored in freezer in ziplock bag.
  4. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  5. In a large bowl, toss together the apricots, honey, cinnamon, cornstarch, slivered almonds, vanilla and almond extract. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes
  6. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Scrape the fruit and all of the juice in the bowl into the dish and spread the crumble topping over the fruit in an even layer.
  7. Bake 20 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Add a dollop of yogurt, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream if desired. Serves 6.

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Baking notes: It is really worth it to toast both the flaxseeds and the slivered almonds.  Both can be done in a baking sheet in a 375 F oven for about 5-10 minutes.

 

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Looks good but does it schmeck?

By April 21, 2015 Recipes

There are few tests as reliable as leaving a batch of warm cookies on the counter and finding them gone an hour later. The taste testers in this house love these simple chewy bites of buttery goodness. They require nothing but pantry staples. Even better, cooks who hate cleaning up will be happy to know this one requires only one pot.

I’d suggest their inclusion in your first spring road trip or picnic—chances are, they won’t make it that far.  For that, you can thank one of my favourite baking sources, writer and philanthropist Edna Staebler.

Read More

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Lemon sunshine cupcakes

By April 11, 2015 Recipes

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

-A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

 

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Have you turned your face to the sun yet today? Done the happy dance? These lemon cupcakes, with a surprise burst of lemon curd inside, will bring it on at first bite.

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Lemon Sunshine Cupcakes

These are a great weekend baking project and fun for kids or an extra baker to participate. Start by making the lemon curd and storing it in the fridge. Then make up the cupcakes and let them cool before you add in the curd. The icing is a speedy step and you can save that to the end, right before serving.  The surprise filling inside is best kept secret-it’s worth it to see the smiles of your tasters! The ingredients are all things most have on hand in their pantry and produce an irresistible flavour.

serves 12 (and have napkins on hand for delicious lemon drizzles)

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What you need:

for the cupcakes:

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup homo milk
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Lemon Curd

for the lemon curd:

  • finely grated zest of 4 large lemons
  • freshly squeezed juice of 4 large lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into pieces

for the icing:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons homo milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • yellow sprinkles or dust

What you do:

for cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
  3. Combine sugar and zest in small bowl by rubbing between fingers until sugar is fragrant.
  4. Beat butter and sugar/zest mixture together in mixer for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each, and beating well after each addition.
  6. Add vanilla.
  7. Add flour and milk, alternating, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until blended.
  8. Add lemon juice.
  9. Divide batter into 12 cupcake liners and bake for approx. 18 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
  10. Cool on wire rack.

for lemon curd:

  1. Combine sugar and zest in small bowl by rubbing between fingers until fragrant.
  2. Put lemon juice, sugar/zest mixture, and egg yolks in medium pot and cook over medium/low heat until thickened, about 12 minutes.
  3. Remove pan and press plastic wrap directly onto lemon mixture. Let cool to room temperature and then store in fridge. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

for the frosting:

  1. Beat butter in mixer until creamy then add icing sugar, with mixer on low, 1 cup at a time.
  2. Add milk, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until smooth.

to assemble:

  1. Using a melon ball spoon, round out a small hole in centre of each cupcake and drop in 1 teaspoon of lemon curd.
  2. Pop the top of the cake piece back on. Don’t worry if curd is running over as the whole top will be covered with frosting.
  3. Ice the cupcakes any way you like and add sprinkles for fun.

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Like all cupcakes, they are best to eat fresh on the day of baking but you can store them in fridge for a day or two. Let them sit at room temperature for awhile before serving.

Happy Baking.

 

Lemon lovers inspired to make another dish with your favourite flavour? Try this fantastic tart.

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