This rhubarb… it just won’t stop. My own patch is becoming more impressive than I expected, but the stalks are still small and spindly (my theory is that it’s because I coddle and water it, and rhubarb thrives on neglect), but when I sigh with envy over friends’ enormous red plants with umbrella-sized leaves, I remember that the thin stalks are perfect for chopping and stirring into scones, muffins and cakes that resemble the surface of the moon. And lemon bars! Which everyone I know adores, and are made even better, if you can imagine it, with a scattering of pink rhubarb over the base before you add the filling. Double tartness! I make these with cranberries and coconut at Christmas, and it’s one of our favourite things.

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I can’t remember the first time I made these. I make them every year – and now, on the verge of cookie month, when I went to look up the recipe here, I couldn’t believe I haven’t shared it yet. Sorry, guys. For fans of the sweet-tart, these are it – a double whammy of pucker, with a layer of cranberries suspended in lemon filling. A smattering of coconut adds some sweet chewiness. I like that I can make them ahead of time and stack them in the freezer – in fact, freezing them first makes it easy to cut them cleanly, and they thaw nicely while sitting out on a plate. All they need is a shake of icing sugar.

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I’m always intrigued by other peoples’ birthday cake choices. There are those who stick with tradition and get the same thing every year, and then those who are more opportunistic, seeing it as their one annual chance to request the most extravagant ice cream cake/croquembouche/peanut butter pie/tower of brownies/cupcakes/crepes/cream puffs (all previous choices of mine, yes) imaginable. Yesterday was my nephew’s 26th, and being a salty-over-sweet kind of guy, he thought about it for a few minutes, then remembered a coconut lemon tart he had had at a dinner out at Feast Tofino earlier this year, and not being able to find the source of said tart, I decided to come up with one based loosely on 1) his memory, and 2) our favourite Key lime pie out here at SoBo. And here’s something else: did you know you can whip coconut cream the same way you whip heavy cream? It’s true. And it tastes like coconut. It’s true. I’m sorry you’re welcome.

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Although it hasn’t felt like winter for a long time around here (sorry, Toronto), Meyer lemons can still be found – there’s still time. Those yellow-orange, smooth-skinned lemons that came to be out of the union of a regular lemon and mandarin are milder, smoother, less harsh than a traditional lemon – but if there are none to be found, any old lemon will do. (And will in fact give your curd more pucker, if that’s what you’re after.) There is something nostalgic about a tiny lemon tart, even if you haven’t grown up with them, nor have a grandma who happened to make lemon curd. They feel like they should go with afternoon tea parties and tiny silver spoons, and yet that’s an occasion I rarely take part in, all the men in my life even less so, and yet they tend to be the ones to dive into a plate of lemon tarts as if they haven’t eaten in a week.

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I keep buying bags of lemons, thinking one day I’ll make a pan of lemon bars. They used to be in regular rotation – I’d make them so often I knew the recipe by heart – sometimes plain, sometimes with cranberries, coconut, blueberries or chopped rhubarb scattered over the base before the filling went on top. Everything goes well with lemon – especially a buttery shortbread base. I offered to bake a few things for a small memorial service – a little something to go with coffee and tea – and lemon bars seemed a good fit. The occasion reminded me of my grandma’s funeral, and of the small group of ladies in the old, high-ceilinged, whitewashed church kitchen, baking and arranging small squares – dainties – on trays. Nanaimo bars, matrimonial slice, those peanut butter marshmallow bars, butter tarts, triangles of egg salad sandwich on white bread and tuna on brown. I imagined how many times they had done this over the years –Continue reading

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I decided this morning that it was spring enough for lemon ricotta pancakes. Unfortunately this meant it was also spring enough to pull on our rubber boots and head out to the mud pit that is our back yard armed with garbage bags and poop scoops and attempt to make it a little less like a slushy poo Slip-n-Slide. The top layers of the glacier behind our house have melted, leaving a thick, icy, dirty underbelly, complete with pieces of Lou’s blankies, socks, kitchen utensils that have been missing since Thanksgiving, and Star Wars action figures half-embedded in ice. (Mike needed to boil the kettle and pour it over Han Solo in order to retrieve him. It was almost like carbonite.) It’s a good thing we were so fortified by breakfast. Remember when I told you how enamoured I was with recipes as a kid? That I had my own recipe box, and took notes, and tore recipes out of magazines? At the time, lemon-ricottaContinue reading

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