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Fondue seems to be a thing again – perhaps because it’s not only a dish but an event, bringing people closer together around the table and giving them something to do – fishing for hunks of bread swimming in cheese, or strawberries in chocolate… or marshmallows in warm toffee. Yup. Why should chocolate get all the attention? Swirling together some butter, sugar and cream couldn’t be easier – it’s inexpensive, and if you root through your cupboards, I’m betting 90% of the things you find would taste divine dipped in sticky toffee. (Try the cheese popcorn. Do it!) And if you’re not in the mood to have a small crowd over for fondue, you can keep a jar of it in the fridge to pour over ice cream or baked apples, or to dip into with a spoon when you’re aching for a little something sweet.

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I made these last weekend, when we were invited over at the last minute to have dinner in our friends’ back yard. I wanted to make a pie, but there wasn’t time – and my crammed freezer had half a package of frozen tart shells left over from something or other that I kept having to move so I could close it, so I decided to solve two problems at once. Most berries are sweetened and thickened with sugar and flour or cornstarch before being baked in a pie; in this case, the tart shells get a quick 10 or so minutes in the oven to get toasty while you simmer some berries on the stovetop with those same ingredients, reserving half the berries to stir in at the end so that they burst and pop and retain their juice. You then satisfyingly spoon the berry filling into the tart shells, and you’re done.

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I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and working more hours than is probably good for me (or those I live with), and there have been extra obligations that have all added up to too much of everything, and not nearly enough sleep and W. And so on Friday we spontaneously decided to hop in the car and take off somewhere where there wasn’t a computer, or a neglected garden/back yard/basement that needed work, where we could just hang out for a night and play cards and eat Cheezies and sleep in. I find car trips therapeutic – to an extent – and am particularly fond of hour-or-two long excursions during which I can either answer my email in the car as Mike drives (I get a crazy rush out of dozens of emails whooshing out of my outbox when we arrive at an internet connection), or unplug and gaze out the window at rolling fields. As much as I love the mountains, I feel comfortedContinue reading

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So yeah, it’s been a crazy week. A week ago tonight I was making pasta with Jamie Oliver in London – and shared a plate of the pasta he made with him, even – and I need to tell you about it. How, everyone asks, did I come to be in London on an otherwise regular Monday night, wilting stinging nettles to mix with ricotta and mascarpone and stuff into fresh ravioli, alongside one Jamie O? He has a partnership with Sobeys, who as part of their Better Food for All campaign launched a healthy eating/living challenge for which the grand prize was a trip to London to do a private cooking class with Jamie himself. They chose two winners from across Canada (both from out east), and then asked me to come along for the trip, just to tweet and Instagram and generally report on it all. Which, of course, I was thrilled to do. I hadn’t been to London since I was twenty-one,Continue reading

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Saskatoons are far from in season, I realize – but blueberries are close. And local saskatoons can be had by the bagful from the freezer at the farmers’ market. This is about the time of year I start wanting pie – more so than my usual every day pie craving, that is – and berry pie in particular; one that will preferably release purple juices into my vanilla ice cream. A saskatoon pie also makes for a nostalgic sweet for mothers in law in the hospital, where the desserts that arrive on the nightly dinner tray rhymes with hell-O and comes in a plastic cup. This isn’t the prettiest pie I’ve made – I had slightly less pastry than I needed, left over from another baking project – but someone once said that the best kind of pie is the kind that’s on the table. I don’t worry about the oohing and aahing, so long as it tastes delicious.

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I have a confession to make: these. Those peanut butter-butterscotch chip-rainbow mini marshmallow lovelies that remind me of parties at my great Aunt’s house, when she put out plates of dainties that included these and Nanaimo bars – the ones I’d swipe the quickest. I still do. I used Easter as an excuse to make them – everyone needs some pastel colours in their weekend, right? – because I still haven’t managed to reconcile the fact that I’m a grownup and I can make a batch of peanut butter marshmallow squares anytime I want and eat the whole thing myself in front of the TV. It gets worse: I love them frozen. Like so many desserts of their ilk, I have in the past attempted to hide them from myself in the freezer, falsely thinking that their frozen state would deter me from eating them until they’re gone. (This doesn’t work with brownies, either.) Frozen, the marshmallows take on a chewy texture, the butter andContinue reading

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I made this last year (as you’ll see by my old kitchen table) and then forgot to post it until it was well past mincemeat season. And although I only have one mediocre photo I didn’t want to lose it altogether – it’s so delicious, and different from any other cookie or bar I’ve made. It’s more bar than pie, despite its wedge shape, and the rubble of butter, sugar, flour and almonds that make up the base and topping is the perfect vehicle for all kinds of preserves, lemon curd, fig jam – you name it. But I particularly like it as a means of getting mincemeat to my mouth without having to bother with tarts. And I imagine it’s not just me left with half a jar of mincemeat in my fridge this week.

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sticky toffee pudding 2

OK. Since everyone is so grinchily anti-fruitcake – and Christmas pudding is essentially dark fruitcake – how about a nice moist, sticky toffee pud? This one is baked, so you don’t have to mess about with a pudding mold and cheesecloth and steaming… technically it’s more of a cake, but what’s in a name? It’s milder than gingerbread, loaded with soft dates and fragrant pear and doused in caramel, which should make everyone suitably jolly. Traditional sticky toffee pudding is made with dates – I’m a fan of the big, soft, sticky Medjool dates you can find in the produce section of most grocery stores; they’re nothing like the hard, dried-out dates of my childhood, or the bricks of dates you can still find in the baking section that require chiseling with a kitchen implement. They’re simmered with water, then added to a basic butter-sugar-egg mixture along with a grated pear – it’s that time of year when I buy too many pears, which thenContinue reading

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Tonight, I bring you a special PSA in the form of Nutella brownies. I’ll be brief; there’s no need for superfluous words and platitudes when they so clearly speak for themselves. Everyone’s busy. (Can you tell I was painting today?) But we still need to bake, right? It’s an hour until December… it’s officially baking season, whether I have a hood fan and backsplash or not. (Not.) When it’s thirty below outside, the best way to warm the house is by oven – I’ve discovered if you put it on your to-do list, it feels like you’re accomplishing something. I’ve seen these drifting around the internet: 3 ingredients = Nutella brownies. All good. They’re as easy as they say – under 10 minutes of actual stirring, and one bowl to wash, which is a good thing when you need something delicious but don’t have a day to dedicate to baking.

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