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Cereal is the new It ingredient. Sweet and crunchy, sometimes loaded with what are now known as “cereal marshmallows” and trendy in and of themselves, its retro appeal has made it a key ingredient in everything from marshmallow squares to ice cream sundaes. As a kid, I begged for the sweet stuff, but never got it – we were stuck with plain Cheerios (which, surprise! I still love) and anticipated a box of our choice on camping trips or our birthdays. These days fancy cereals have become more of a special treat or late night snack, and somewhat of an obsession for W. In London, we scouted out both locations of the Cereal Killer Cafe, where you can order from a wall of imported cereals, choose toppings and flavoured milks, and take your bowl to the back room, where they have tables and chairs, tube TVs and even single beds with cartoon sheets you can sit cross-legged on to dive in. (It’s all about theContinue reading

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This feels like a bit of a copout, but I’ve been meaning to mix up a batch of puffed wheat squares (a very prairie thing) and eat the whole pan myself for awhile now. And I think if anyone came across a plate of these on the kitchen counter, they’d eat them. I’d like to say I grew up eating puffed wheat squares, but I didn’t – hopefully W will not suffer the same fate. I’d make them more often if puffed wheat was a thing I normally kept in the house, but when I think to buy a bag, I remember that a panful takes about ten minutes to stir together. Well worth it.

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I love homemade doughnuts, but don’t often make them. And when I think about it, when I do make them it’s the small pieces I end up picking at and nibbling – the holes and the scraps, with interesting shapes and lots of craggy edges and crispy bits. Which is why I’ve decided that for the aforementioned reasons, and the fact that the vast majority of the population does not own a doughnut cutter, fritters are the way to go. In fact, fritters are a quick alternative to muffins, quickbreads and all manner of breakfast baking; the batter takes a few minutes to mix up, and there’s no need to preheat the oven – the fritters themselves cook in just a few minutes, not 20 or 30. I can justify most morning baked (and fried) goods. Making them saves time! When most of us think of fritters, we default to those sticky, bigger-than-doughnuts apple ones you see at coffee shops, or the corn fritters thatContinue reading

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How many of you wind up with self-composting pears every. single. time. you buy them? I’ve been known to make or bake something just for the sake of saving something from being tossed. It’s a bit weird, but it’s also a bit of a game – and most of the time I wind up making something I wouldn’t have otherwise. Like this carrot cake-loaf (let’s call it a loaf because it has less sugar than a typical cake, and is baked in a loaf pan), made with the grated overripe pear pictured below. It turned out to be perfect timing, because the three of us are hopping on a plane tomorrow and heading to London (!!) for a week. It was my Christmas gift to M + W, who have never been overseas, and I got a steal of a deal last fall. And because the snacking options are generally overpriced snacks at the airport or from the little cart on the plane, we’ll packContinue reading

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We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.) There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped greenContinue reading

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Yes! You can turn mashed potatoes into doughnuts. As if you needed another good reason to make more mashed potatoes than you need – these doughnuts are what you make with the leftover mashed potatoes you haven’t yet eaten with butter and salt. So… the leftover leftovers. The recipe comes from my friend Caroline, who sings and plays in a retro pop rock band called the Lovebullies, and whose family makes enormous batches of these mashed potato doughnuts every Christmas. Christmas doughnuts seem like a great idea to me – not only are they delicious, you could, if you were so inclined, probably hang them on the tree. And making doughnuts is more of a production than one would generally take on on a regular weekend – which is really what the upcoming holidays are all about. Staying in your PJs until noon, and spending an hour making homemade doughnuts, to be doused in sugar and eaten with large cups of coffee and hot chocolate.Continue reading

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When there’s nothing else you can do, bake. I feel like baking the world a batch of cookies. Is Halloween far enough in the rear-view mirror to warrant a chewy peanut butter-chocolate chunk cookie? Related: If I add some oatmeal, does it classify more as lunchbox/afternoon snack than holiday cookie platter fare? We’re about to embark on cookie season, but although this is the very friendliest kind of cookie, it’s not particularly festive. (Or is it? For the record, a stack of these would be well received by me any time of year.) Peanut butter and chocolate are two of my favourite things, together even better. Chewy in the middle, with a crispy edge and big puddles of chocolate. This is the type of workhorse cookie I bake when I need a good stash of something to have on hand for the hungry and sad, for lunches (W’s school has no nut allergies), and to freeze for another day when we might need more ofContinue reading

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Lou loves turkey dinner too. There’s so much in the way of turkey scraps, mashed potatoes, veggies and gravy in our fridge – not to mention gallons of stock – that I couldn’t not turn some of them into treats. Dogs are the very best kinds of beings to cook for – they’re infinitely grateful, and care not at all about the texture of the cookies you make, or if they’re a few days old. You needn’t worry about dog cookies being chewy or crispy or soft in the middle – the harder they get, the better. And you can turn anything your dog loves into a cookie – peanut butter, tuna, cheese… even a can of sardines (so good for their coat!) – but turkey dinner leftovers blend into a perfect, non-offensive-to-the-human-baking-them sludge that can be turned into treats of any shape or size.

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Back in the nineties, cranberry-orange everything was all the rage in coffee shops – and when we went to those first few that began taking over our Saturday mornings, Mike always ordered cranberry orange in muffin and loaf form. Although it’s not as common a flavour combination these days, it came to mind on Sunday morning as I puttered around the kitchen and although I didn’t really need to bake anything, slush was falling from the sky outside and I wanted to warm up with the smell of something baking. Also: second coffee.

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